Whenever someone begins with a sense of inclusion while building a vision, it is almost certain to be great. We see this in the way human history has unfolded. The concept of vision in the history of modern business is new, but not so in the history of sustained spread of ideas – from the way the message of Christ, Mohammed or the Buddha spread. Each one had something for the ordinary people; the more they included them, the wider was their spread.
That may seem out of context in the pages of a business magazine. Not so. While building a business vision, the same rule applies. Look at the reason for Reliance becoming a household word. Dhirubhai Ambani’s business vision was to benefit faceless retail investors. And so he built ‘inclusion’. Jamshetji Tata built ‘inclusion’ with the families of people who worked in his enterprise. An inclusive view of the stakeholders was key to Tata’s vision.
The way to build ‘inclusion’ is to extend your zone of concern and influence to people who are twice removed from you. Think of the customer’s customer. Think of the supplier’s supplier and see how your business can benefit them. Netscape Explorer is a great example of a technology vision through ‘inclusion’. Thousands of copies were given away free by Marc Andreessen and company to developers at the beta stage. In turn, it became an extended developer community’s mission to make the product deliver great functionality.
In the early 1990s, Intel started the ‘Intel Inside’ campaign, when the company figured out that a desktop in any office could hold only two workstations. So, if they were to power the computing need for offices, Intel’s growth would be limited to the total number of office desks available. It is then that the company created a vision to bring computing home. The move called for branding, something like a processor chip that none of us ever sees.
Intel’s subsequent success has been stupendous. Today, even children hassle their parents to buy only a Centrino or a Celeron or whatever latest chip Intel announces. Through its campaign, Intel made sure that its growth was not limited to the design of computer original equipment manufacture. Inclusion is the reason for Walt Disney’s success. Inclusion has converted the once infamous Las Vegas from a gambling haunt into a family destination today.
Sometimes, great visions begin with questioning the present state of things. In any developed country, a bypass surgery costs close to $100,000. In India, even after adjusting downwards for purchasing power parity of the rupee, the cost would still be prohibitive for ordinary people. To someone like Dr Devi Shetty, founder of Narayana Hrudayalaya, it was unacceptable. So he started a vision that said it is possible for ordinary people to benefit from the state-of-the art healthcare. He questioned the cost of every procedure and looked for innovative solutions like the Yeshwaswini scheme. Under it, farmers in villages pay Rs 5 a month and get complete coverage for all major surgeries. The scheme is not run on benevolence. When you aggregate the small savings of a large base of small people, it is staggering. Refusal to accept a seeming anomaly, an inherent deficiency, and a point of justifiable deficiency in a product or a service leads to great vision. Why should a bank have pre-determined working hours? Why should computers cost upwards of a thousand dollars? Why should long-distance calls be differently priced from local calls? Why should a clean hotel room cost upwards of Rs 5,000 for a business traveler? Why should vehicle servicing be a daytime business?
Great business models have been delivered right here in India. Having said that, not all great vision is born out of deeply questioning the present state of things. Many great visions are children of discontinuity. They flow from the unknown future. In the next issue, we will talk about that one.