Leading Your Business Through the Great Economic Power Shift
RH Business Books, 2013
Every few years there appears a business book that dictates the discourse; changes the spoken language and that too will pass. Business is all about winning the consumers and outwitting the competition. This needs a sharp sense of where the world is moving and how one could spot opportunities. Consultants are better placed to spot these trends because their core business is in being voyeuristic about others’ businesses; understanding the levers of success and transmitting it. Gurus attain their position because of their universality of view rather than the specificity of a context. Ram Charan’s latest book is to be seen in this light.
The world of business is constantly looking at markets to be penetrated, markets not saturated, markets with purchasing power and markets with enthusiasm and appetite translating a pent up desire into an actionable purchase. These markets are not only to be identified but doing business in those settings is to be learnt. Like Ruchir Sharma’s "Breakout Nations" that looked at how economies function, and how to spot long haul performers and Rama Bijapurkar’s “We Are Like That Only” which contextualizes the opportunity, Ram Charan’s “Global Tilt” is designed to combine both – identity the opportunities and then offer nuggets on how the opportunities could be encashed.
Ram Charan identifies that the opportunity set is moving away from the North to the region below the thrity first parallel - South. That is the Global Tilt. In this Tilt North’s assumption is that it is moving into the so-called emerging markets from a position of strength. This needs to be rechecked. It is somewhat similar to the comment Muhammed Yunus made when Grameen tied up with Danone to supply low cost fortified curd in Bangla Desh. Yunus called this Social Business and said that Danone was convinced about the “purpose”. Somebody asked him if he was sure that Danone was not using Grameen, he turned around and said “Why do you think Danone is using me, and not that I am using Danone?” This is the line of argument that Ram Charan offers: Identifying vulnerabilities and proving how this current belief of a position of strength is really a weakness in the long run.
This is an interesting argument. If a company were to occupy a new market, it would need a partner in order to understand the new territory and get feet on the ground. The “occupier” has technology, experience and product. However, access to markets are provided on a partnership basis with the partner with “territory” having a major stake. While the “occupier” company looks at this as a door ajar, to be pried open to get full access, the host actually welcomes the guest to get access to the technology, and eventually a steep learning curve ensures that the partnership progresses with a position of equal strength.
What Ram Charan further states is that the governments themselves have these policies laid out; the governments of emerging economies are smart; they will eventually give the “occupiers” a run for their money. I am not sure that all emerging economies, have a well thought national competitiveness strategy. As he rightly identifies capital, human resources, and ownership of corporations is becoming seamless; without nationality; becoming mercenary. It is natural that the businesses move to locations that provide the best arbitrage. According to Ram Charan the new “occupiers” are countries like China, India and countries of the South; markets could be the universe; is something that the emerging “occupiers” the countries from the south seem to be doing much better in regions like Africa, while it should have been a natural destination for the traditional “occupiers” from the North.
Basically Ram Charan’s thesis ends there. He adds one more term repeatedly used in the book: outside-in future-back strategy. Look at the business diapassionately and place yourself up on a timescale and review your current. His book ends when he proposes that economic power has shifted from the traditional regions to emerging regions. This essence is in the first 24 pages. Beyond this he moves on to explain the financial world to the reader, rather ineffectively. The rest of the book is written in a somewhat preachy condescending tone which is more of a to do and a not-to-do list. Random examples pop up every now and then to justify and illustrate a grand universal phenomenon that he tries to explain a concept. The book is a great example of how a good tight article for Harvard Business Review can be pulled stretched into 300+ pages. In places the book also becomes incoherent and verbose.
As to the longevity of the Tilt theory, before a new fancy term replaces it – your guess is as good as mine. Given the stature of the author, people will talk about it for a while, before he or somebody else invents a new buzz word. My estimate is that the Tilt theory will last about six months.