Book Reviews
Book Review of ‘The Attacker’s Advantage’
Go on the offensive, advises the respected management guru Ram Charan
 
Successful business founders are usually disdainful of management gurus. But not of the rare exceptions such as Peter Drucker (of an earlier era) and Ram Charan (today) who command near-universal admiration. Charan was a born in a cobbler’s family in a dusty town of Uttar Pradesh and went on to become a world-renowned business advisor, author and speaker working with the top managements of GE, Bank of America, DuPont, Novartis, 3M, Aditya Birla Group, Tata Group, Wipro, etc.
 
Charan, an engineer from the Banaras Hindu University, got an MBA and doctorate from Harvard Business School, where he graduated with distinction and was a Baker Scholar. 
Over the past 35 years, Charan has authored as many as 16 books, many of them bestsellers. In all, he has sold over two million copies in more than a dozen languages. Execution, which he co-authored with former Honeywell CEO Larry Bossidy in 2002, remained for more than 150 weeks on the New York Times’ bestseller list.
 
His latest book, The Attacker’s Advantage, has a lot of fascinating insights one of which is the rise of the ‘Math Corporation’, which refers to the use of computer algorithms to create a sharp business edge. In many businesses that have substantial digital interface, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, information technology is an important weapon. This will get accentuated with better analytics, use of sensors, cloud computing and application of mobile technologies. This is just one way business is changing. Who would be best-placed to deal with it? Those who have the following characteristics:
  1. Perceptual acuity
  2. A mindset to see opportunity in uncertainty
  3. The ability to see a new path and commit to it
  4. Adeptness in managing the transition 
  5. Skill in making the organisation steerable and agile
 
All this is explained in the four parts that the book is divided into. The first part sets the premise (The Fundamental Leadership Challenge of Our Times), where he argues, based on firsthand knowledge, of how quickly the ground can shift beneath a business leader’s feet, especially in a developing nation. He believes that while uncertainty has always been with us, the current times are unprecedented—uncertainty is structural. 
 
To deal with this, he suggests developing, what he calls, ‘perceptual acuity’ to see around corners and detect, ahead of others, those forces—especially people, who are the catalysts of change—that could radically reshape a company or industry. This forms Part 2 of the book. He cites the example of India’s Tata Communications in this regard.
 
At the same time, revolutionary changes also offer immense opportunities. Charan advocates having the mindset to see opportunity in uncertainty. For this, CEOs have to define the path and go on the offensive. This is explained in Part 3. 
 
The last part is devoted to making the organisation agile and steerable by aligning people, priorities, decision-making power, budgeting and capital allocation, and key performance indicators to the new realities of the marketplace. To do this, companies must break free of internal constraints and acquire new expertise, even at the cost of severing ties with past money-makers. If they can do this, CEOs will be able to create something ‘new and immensely valuable’ in a very short time.  
 
Each chapter ends with a checklist of questions that summarise the talking points, making the ideas easy to remember and refer to. For managers at all levels, this would be a very educative book. 

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Nifty, Bank Nifty, Sensex in a downtrend – Thursday closing report

Nifty likely to head steadily lower

 

We had mentioned in Wednesday’s closing report that NSE’s CNX Nifty may move sideways but a close above 8,750 may pull the benchmark further higher. The 50-share index opened Thursday almost at this level and immediately rose higher. After hitting the day’s high, the benchmark moved lower. However, at around 2.25pm, it gave up all its strength and fell further. At the close of the session, Nifty hit its day’s low and closed near to it.
 
The S&P BSE Sensex opened at 28,805 while Nifty opened at 8,749. Both the indices hit a higher high at 28,979 and 8,788, respectively. Sensex hit a low of 28,412 and closed at 28,470 (down 152 points or 0.53%). Nifty moved lower to the level of 8,615 and closed at 8,635 (down 51 points or 0.59%). Bank Nifty too moved almost in the same manner. It opened at 19,346 and from the high of 19,373 fell to the low of 18,740 and closed at 18,811 (down 336 points or 1.76%). NSE recorded a volume of 85.71 crore shares. India VIX fell 2.03% to close at 15.1975.
 
The Indian government will reportedly table coal and mines bills in Rajya Sabha later in the day. The Ordinance replacement Bill related to auction of coalmines and mines and minerals will lapse on 5 April 2015 and will need to be replaced by the Bills by that time.
 
"If the Bill (Coal Mines) gets passed (in Rajya Sabha) then there would be auction of 15-20 coal blocks. It (the auction) will start in April-end or the first week of May," Coal Secretary Anil Swarup had said in an interview.
 
The OECD, in its latest Interim Economic Assessment of the world economy, said that India is expected to be the fastest-growing major economy in the world over the next two years.
 
After reviewing progress of various urban development programmes, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the economic growth model of a city should form an essential part of its smart city vision. 
 
The Indian rupee strengthened against the dollar and reached its highest in two weeks on Thursday.
 
Mutual fund houses have said that tax benefits for retirement solutions should be provided on the lines of the new pension system (NPS), as they are planning to enter pension funds sector in a big way. 
 
Coal India, the country’s largest coal producer, is likely to miss its output target of 507 million tonnes (MT) by over 10 MT in the current fiscal on account of various delays at the level of states in operationalising mines.
 
Coming back to Indian stock markets, Just Dial (10.73%) was the top gainer in ‘A’ group on the BSE. The gain was with a brokerage house maintaining its buy rating as it foresees the performance of the stock to continue to do well. PMC Fincorp (9.91%) which has been the top loser in the group in past two sessions was among the top two gainers today. Its board of directors will meet on 26 March 2015, to consider and pass the necessary resolution for an increase in the overall limit of investment by foreign institutional investors from the existing permitted limit of 24% to 49%.
 
KPIT Technologies (5.47%) was the top loser in ‘A’ group on the BSE. It reduced its March 2015 quarter guidance due to cross currency headwind.
 
State-run GAIL (2.19%) was the top gainer in the Sensex 30 pack, while Axis Bank (2.50%) was the top loser in the pack.
 
On Wednesday, US indices closed sharply higher. US Federal Reserve's policy statement indicated that the US central bank would move cautiously in lifting key interest rates. It said that the increase in interest rate may be considered only after the central bank is “reasonably confident” that inflation will return to its target and the job market improves further.
 
Except for Nikkei 225 (0.35%) all the other Asian indices closed up. Hang Seng (1.45%) was the top gainer.
 
European indices were showing mixed trading, while US Futures were trading in the red. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that the return of growth and a fall in unemployment levels in the euro zone showed that much progress had been made in the bloc, but the debt crisis had not been completely overcome.
 
 

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Graft, poor governance behind antibiotic resistance globally
In a first of its kind research, Australian researchers have linked antibiotic resistance with poor governance and corruption around the world.
 
"We found that poor governance and higher levels of corruption are associated with higher levels of antibiotic resistance. It is a finding that will be surprising to most people in the field of medicine," said lead researcher professor Peter Collignon from the Australian National University's (ANU) School of Medicine.
 
The increase in antibiotic-resistant infections is one of the greatest threats facing modern medicine.
 
The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, also found that a country's level of antibiotic resistance is not related to its wealth.
 
"Countries with higher levels of corruption often had less rigorous and less transparent processes, with less effective controls over areas pertinent to antibiotic resistance," said study co-author and associate professor Sanjaya Senanayake.
 
These include factors that affect antibiotic usage and the ways antibiotic-resistant bacteria spread via water, foods and poor infection control.
 
In countries with greater corruption, antibiotic usage may also be much higher than what is recorded.
 
"If governance and control of corruption can be improved, this can be an important factor in reversing high levels of antibiotic resistance," Senanayake noted.
 
The team also found resistance levels were higher when healthcare was performed by the private sector.
 
"This may be because clinicians in the private health system are subject to fewer controls when it comes to both the volumes and types of antibiotics used," Senanayake emphasised.
 
Poorer countries should not regard antibiotic resistance as an inevitable consequence of their financial situation, noted co-researcher professor Premachandra Athukorala.
 
"If governance and corruption issues can be better addressed, it is very likely that major reductions in levels of antibiotic resistance will result - this will also lead to many other benefits worldwide," he pointed out.
 
Antimicrobial resistance is an urgent global health priority.
 
The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes it as a looming crisis in which common and treatable infections are becoming life threatening.
 
The research suggests that addressing corruption and control of antibiotics could help lower antibiotic resistance and save lives.

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