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Business Wants to Fight VUCA

Source | LinkedIn : By Ramesh Srinivasan

Last week, at the annual meeting of the company’s shareholders, Mr. Harish Manwani, the Chairman of Hindustan Unilever, pointed out something that has kept us all enthralled over the past 3-4 years. He said:

  • “We live in an era where the world’s largest car travel company does not own a single car.
  • “A company that provides tourist lodgings across 34,000 cities in over 190 countries does not own a single cubic area of space.
  • “A company with retail sales of over US$ 100 billion does not own a single retail shop.
  • “Uber, Airbnb and Amazon are…..thriving across diverse markets displacing some well entrenched players with their disruptive business models.”

Few months ago, Anand Mahindra, the Chairman of Mahindra Group, a leading manufacturer of automobiles in India, admitted that Uber’s campaign against ownership of private cars is a big threat to his business.

The American military coined the acronym VUCA to describe the difficult world of geopolitics. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Business being a mere microcosm of the larger world, we find VUCA has permeated all parts of global trade as well. It is intense war, with the enemy not known, difficult to predict anything, all past successes rendered irrelevant, nothing that anybody can be sure about. There is no User Manual to understand the situation, and everything can change, and will change.

Given that most disruptive companies use technology as the backbone of their business, corporations are willing to give technology a disrupting role in implementing their strategies. Staying clear-headed and not getting dazzled by technology for technology’s sake calls for looking and calling for ideas that adequately and appropriately factor in answers to the following qualitative parameters:

  • “Shoot where the can will be, not where it is”: That is a dialogue from the movieGangster Squad where the senior member is giving sagely advice to a younger member in the squad who has been unsuccessful in shooting down beer cans that are thrown up for target practice.

All businesses have their own trajectory of growth and acceleration. Technology should serve a ‘future’ point on that trajectory. Investment in drones and robots are “where the can will be” for Amazon.

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