I'm a Social Media Entrepreneur, Professor of Digital Marketing, Author of 5 books, Podcaster and an Organic Farmer.

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Lessons from the Aviation Panel at CNN Asia Business Forum

 

The 2nd edition of CNN Asia Business Forum took place in Bengaluru recently. The event had two clear focus areas. The first was centered on the burgeoning Aviation industry and the second focused on Digital & Technology.

I was particularly looking forward to the panel because I had an opportunity to study in-depth the three panelists that were part of the panel. 1) Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director of SpiceJet, 2) Phee Teik Yeoh, CEO of Vistara Airlines and 3) Kanika Tekriwal, CEO of JetSetGo.

Earlier in the day, I had recorded interesting conversations with Ajay Singh of SpiceJet and Phee Teik Yeoh of Vistara Airlines as part of the ‘Movers & Shakers’ Podcast that I host on The Hindu Businessline. This helped me get an inside view of their businesses and their career growth. To me, listening to the panel discussion looked like a seamless extension of our conversation.

Here are the key takeaways I gained from the panel discussion.

Richard Quest, the ebullient business anchor at CNN, kickstarted the panel by saying the Airlines industry is a good way to become a millionaire. How so? Well, if you are a billionaire and you start an airline, you’ll soon lose enough money to become a millionaire. And am sure everybody in the audience was thinking of Vijay Mallya.

What I loved was how Ajay Singh countered that. SpieceJet is an example of success. True, SpiceJet was losing Rs.3 crores a day (yes, a day) under SunTV’s Kalanidhi Maran. But after Ajay Singh bought back the company he founded, he was able to turn it around in less than 3 years to a stage where the airline is now making Rs.1 crore profit every day. That is a fantastic turnaround.

Phee Teik Yeoh, the CEO of Vistara, the airlines founded by the collaboration of Tata Group and Singapore Airlines mentioned how external factors destabilize the growth of an airline. He took the example of airline fuel. India has one of the most expensive airline fuels and this year alone, the cost has increased by over 50%. This can eat into the profits of the airline and wipe away the thin margins.

Phee Teik agreed that the market for high-end business travel was not as high as they had expected. Vistara launched a few years ago and they positioned themselves as the choice for corporate executives. They had allocated a significant number of seats for business class and premium economy. Due to poor demand, they now had to cut back on the premium seats and increased the number of economy seats. This proves the fact that India is a price sensitive market.

Ajay Singh added a very valid point. The discerning Indian flyers want the following: 1) Fly from their city or town directly. 2) Pay as little as possible. 3) Fly on Time. If these three factors can be met, then they are happy. Anything else, like gourmet food, leg space, good looking staff is not as important as one would think.

Kanika Tekriwal, who built an amazing business on leasing the private airlines, was bullish on the future. It is interesting how she runs her business. She found that many rich individuals who had private airplanes were finding it very expensive to maintain them and they were losing money. That’s when she approached them offered a solution that will not only take care of the planes but also earn them a profit from their planes. She has her own set of pilots, mechanics, and crew who take care of the planes. The people who hire the private planes can do so without the need to invest high capital for the planes but yet enjoy the luxuries of private travel. With the number of millionaires mushrooming in India, and with not much competition, she sounded very positive on future prospects.

Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable session. What I loved was the display of entrepreneurship and street smart approach that the panelists displayed while narrating their story.


Jeff Bezos’ Two Pizza Rule for Team Size

Heard the Two Pizza Rule at #Techspectations event which I hosted in Kochi. The two pizza rule is by Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, to limit team meetings to  8 people or less.

The goal of the two pizza rule is to increase productivity and prevent HiPPO phenomena that often occur in large groups which tend to discourage creative thinking. HiPPO, which is an acronym for the “highest paid person’s opinion,” describes the tendency for lower-paid employees to defer to higher-paid employees. 


More Lessons on Improving Productivity via Deep Work

This is a continuation of my habit of jotting down key learning from the podcasts I listen to everyday. Today, my fitness band says that I walked 9kms for 1 hour and 53 minutes. This also means that I listened to that much duration of the audio book. That’s a good one fourth of the book, ‘Deep Work’ that I’m listening to.

I carry a piece of paper and a pen during my walk and jot down the points that I find useful. Here is a synopsis of those important points.

Schedule Blocks of Time for Different Work:
What Cal Newport suggests is to pre-schedule important work into your calendar. You can do this by blocking off time for important activities. For example, every day I walk in the morning while listening to an audio book. By blocking the time between 6am to 8am, I ensure that this time is only allocated for exercise and audio books. Should any other task come my way, I will ensure they don’t happen in this preset time. This ensures continuity of my daily exercise. Another example could be that I schedule everyday between 12 noon to 1 pm for new business proposals. Then I ensure that no meetings or conference calls happens during this time. This ensures that I churn out new business proposals every day which is crucial for generating new business.

Rinse and Repeat: This type of scheduling is particularly useful for pursuing large or complicated tasks. By allocating a set time every day, you make sure that you can chip away and make daily progress towards the end goal. A good example is my reading habit. While I buy lots of books, I really suck at reading. Especially, big books like the ‘Deep Work’ which is over 70,000 words. However, since I integrated listening to this audio book as part of my daily walking routine, I was able to finish listening to the entire book within 6 days.

Decide Your Schedule in Advance:
Cal Newport suggests that blocking time off for certain tasks should be done well in advance. Even better if its done on a regular basis so that you follow a rhythmic pattern and over a period of time, it becomes a habit. By imbibing this practice and making it a habit, you no longer need to exert any extra effort to get it done. It becomes second nature to you.

Trust Your Structure:
Once you decided on your schedule, just trust it. Don’t question it and just follow the structure. Initially, this would be uncomfortable and it’s important to anticipate that discomfort. This way, you don’t get put off. It’s also important to be flexible. You don’t necessarily have to follow the schedule strictly. Make small leeway and keep making small adjustments so that you feel comfortable following your schedule.

Reduce Shallow Tasks:
A shallow task is something that does not add much value to your overall goal. For example, checking your Facebook often, constant messaging on WhatsApp or binge watching YouTube without an objective are all things that you can slowly reduce. You don’t have to cut it out completely. But be conscious of where your time is going and slowly but surely reduce those time-wasters. The best way to do that is by tracking where you spend your time daily.

Reduce Travel & Time Wasting Commitments:
Don’t let others control your time. Feel free to say no to any requests that take your time. Be polite but firm. Travel can be a huge time sink. Think of the opportunity cost. Accept it only if you can greatly benefit. If not, politely refuse.


Set a Senders Filter for Emails:
All of us spend an inordinate time on email. Cal Newport suggests to put a ‘Senders Filter’ which puts the onus on the sender. The idea is that you set the expectations well in advance to the sender. Will write a more detailed blog post on this interesting topic tomorrow.

 


New Year’s Eve Potluck Dinner



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