I have moved my Blog to www.UmairQayyum.com

Hello folks,

Please visit my blog at www.UmairQayyum.com.

See you there.



The hyper competitive world of smart phones

Without any exaggeration, most of my friends who own an iPhone think that, invariably, it is the most popular phone in the world (OK, maybe there is a little bit of exaggeration,  only because I have an Android phone 😉 ). My reaction is a smile. Lets look at some numbers. 

Nokia sold 15 times as many phone globally as Apple sold the iPhone. But it is worth pointing out that they both brought in the same amount of revenue.

Amen to Apple’s pricing power.

Smart and Dumb Phones combined:

Top five mobile phone vendors globally in 2009 were Nokia, Samsung, LG Electronics, Sony Ericsson and Motorola. 1.13 billion mobile phones were shipped globally in 2009, down 5.2 per cent from the 1.19 billion units shipped in 2008.


I researched the device manufacturers who support Android, and so far I counted the following with the Android OS:

  • Acer
  • Bluelans
  • Dell
  • Highscreen
  • General Mobile
  • HKC
  • HTC
  • Huawei
  • Lenovo
  • LG
  • Motorola
  • Samsung
  • SciPhone
  • Sony Ericsson
  • Qigi

I am sure I missed a few. Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 is by far my favorite (from the spec sheets and pictures). 1GHz processor, 4″ WVGA touchscreen and an 8MP camera (woohoo!).  The smallest and newest player would be INQ mobile with the Android OS.

Smart Phone Market Landscape:

Nokia shipped 20.8 million smartphone, RIM shipped 10.7 million and Apple shipped 8.7 million phone is 4Q 2009.

Worldwide market share numbers are: (Source: Gartner)

  1. Nokia (39%)
  2. RIM (21%)
  3. Apple (17%)
  4. HTC (7%)
  5. Samsung (3.5%)

Interesting predictions from IDC about the smartphone landscape state that smartphone shipments worldwide will be 390 million by 2013, a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 20.9%. Nokia will still be the market leader worldwide, while Android phones will grow from 700,00 in 2008 to 68 million in 2013, a CAGR of 150%.

Price War: Nokia announced an across the board price cut of upto 10% last month, which is a clear signal of things to come. Nokia expects the smart phone market to grow by 10% in 2010. It is important to note that in the 3Q2009, Nokia’s market share dropped below 40% in the smart phone category for the first time.

Brace yourself for a price war and great deals in 2010 smart phone market. And how about the Google Tablet UI pics on Chromium (chromium.org) website. ‘Things’ just got interesting.


Would you rather be smart of lucky?

“The lucky person passes for a genius.” Greek Poet Euripides (480-406 BC)

The billionaires of this world, arguably will the first people to admit that ‘pure dumb luck’ played an equal if not a bigger part in being where they are now, in addition to their smarts. The only exceptions would be if you are born in one of those “Oil rich families” or heirs of billionaires, in which case you can indulge into the luxuries of gold and silver platted cars, yes, I said gold and silver platted cars !!

The world now has 793 billionaires, down from 1,125 a year ago (as of 2009)

I am assuming money (money ->quality of life -> independence -> opportunity to help others) is a driving force behind a lot of human actions. Although, it is very cliché to say that, one has to be at the ‘right place at the right time’, but I truly believe that is half the battle. The other half has to do with being smart about a lot of things, hard work, realizing what motivates you and never regret that you didn’t give your all, most of all being opportunistic.

After the traditional “Kelley clap” for his retirement and last lecture last month, Prof. Mike Metzger (aka. Mad Dog), said that best answer any candidate ever gave him to the question, “What do you wanna be doing 5 years from now?” was, I don’t think that way, I just do the best I can in everything I do and opportunities present themselves.”

Therefore, my message to my friends (who are probably the only people who read my blog, mostly because I ask them to), work hard, specially in these tough economic times, be opportunistic and finally, be very LUCKY !! 🙂

In a world of matrix organizations

I sat through an invigorating case discussion in the Marketing Strategy class last semester (Dec 2009) about marketing organization structure. The case was about GE Plastics set in 1985 (wow, thats a long time ago, I was only 2). So, I started thinking, how do can compare functional vs product based vs matrix marketing organizations? Which one of these structures is the best? Like all two-word MBA answers, the answer is “It depends”. Most or (all) the ‘stuff’ I will talk about was learned in the above mentioned Marketing Strategy class last semester by our beloved Welshman at Kelley, Prof. Neil Morgan.

Where as functional roles such as technical marketing, channel marketing, branding, marketing communication, product development/management can make use of functional experts in each ‘silo’, the overall redundancy across various product groups can prove to be very inefficient. In the case of product based marketing organization, each product group will typically have complete P&L responsibility and an incentive to efficiently bring the product to market going through all the necessary steps. The trouble is that there will be tremendous overlap of personnel with expertise in certain aspects of their products, but not necessarily a functional area.

The solution to this problem; the best of both worlds by creating a matrix organization. This structure is predominant in growing medium-sized and larger corporations. In an ideal world, we all can well imagine that there is huge upside of having a various product managers work with project managers, and all of them working with engineering and R&D team on various tasks. One can argue, there is visibility and ‘availability’ of expertise. The potential problem is spreading yourself too thin on a zillion task forces and projects for ‘advice’. At the end of the day, you start and finish the day without touching your office, because your only commitments were meetings. The grid-structure has the potential of multiple command structures with limited accountability. This 2005 article highlights some interesting “challenges and strategies of matrix organizations”. Our class discussion was specific to the  marketing organization, but it can be generalized for a company.

Yours truly, UQ

MBA from the Kelley School of Business

On my flight back from San Francisco to Columbus last Saturday, I was reflecting on the true value an MBA education adds to the resume and more importantly the personality of a business professional. I can probably write a book about it, but I am sure no one wants to read my boring book (not now at least, maybe in 5 years 🙂 ). Here are a couple of things from my experience and understanding which make sense to me to this time.

Prestige: The prestige of top business schools around the world, arguably, is the alumni network. With LinkedIn gaining critical mass, MBA alums (or non-MBAs) are almost always trying to help out current students like myself (in turn often unintentionally promoting the business school brand that is on their resume). This is a ‘natural’ and a global phenomenon. In addition to geography, alumni performance and support seem to be the biggest factors in most firms’ decision to recruit at a particular school.

Personal Interaction with Alums: In my 18 months at business school, I have been fortunate to be a part of a vast network and have gained valuable insights (not to mention the relationships which have translated into interviews with great firms). I can name almost 50+ alums that I have spoken with at various stages for a variety of reasons. Predominantly, the response has been great, the advice has been sincere and experiential, and we all talk about the university and its amazing campus in the same tone.

Value of Education: Don’t get me wrong, the value and application of the MBA education is very broad and not to be confused with the networking aspect. The critical thinking and analytical skills, in addition to the frameworks to breakdown a tough situation in a methodical and scientific way, are the highlights of a few skills I have learned. The two most fascinating and unique classes have been the spreadsheet modeling classes with Prof Wayne Winston. In addition to the fact that Prof Winston is one of the most lively, liked and funny professors at the school, the material, modeling tricks and the breadth and depth of issues we cover in the two classes is unparalleled. In addition to my finance classes (with lots of formulas and numbers which wakes up the engineer in me), I think that these analytical skills are very important to ‘excel’ (pun intended) in challenging post-MBA business roles.

Bay Area “Tech Trek” Jan 5-8: During my recent visit to the Bay Area (my preferred geo for post MBA employment), my classmate UrbanTurbanGuy and I were very lucky to sit down for coffee/breakfast/lunch with 7 or 8 very accomplished IU Kelley MBA alums, with decades of work experiences ranging from the industry gorillas to the disruptive players. Their long-term perspective, advice and encouragement is exactly what the doctor ordered in these tough employment conditions.

The Bay Area culture is unique and the people are even more unique. Look out for a post on the details on this “tech trek” later this week.

Yours truly,


Relationships (in business)

I had a very informative “informational interview” with an IU Kelley Alum, now a senior exec for a Big 3 (McK, Bain, BCG) firm. I asked him if he could name the single biggest business skill that has helped him reach where he is in a very short period, a skill that any aspiring leader (i.e. myself and most MBA students) needs to practice and master.

He said,”You have to be lucky, and know that you have been lucky”, followed by,”Relationships: building and maintaining relationships with your clients and customers.” As an example he said that when he started out at this company as an entry-level consultant, he worked on projects with Sr. Managers and Directors. Now the same folks on the client side are Sr. VP and C-Level executives. The ability to establish and flourish strong professional relationships facilitated his firm’s growth and his career growth.

Another IU Kelley Alum I had the privilege to speak with over the past summer, said something on the same lines. He became President of a $2B+ division at 40 or 41. According to him, he found people who trusted him and took a calculated risk of putting more and more responsibility on his shoulders. That was one of his ingredients for career growth.

Hard skills are important, and arguably a pre-requisite for career success, but as one very senior corporate executive, when asked to breakdown importance of soft and hard skills in corporate success, said the ratio is 85:15 for soft skills vs. hard skills, skills that contribute to you taking the next step and differentiating yourself among your very competent peers.

My previous business partner and I often discussed the importance of relationship building and relationship management during my 2 years of work with the telecom startup.

Which one or two skills do you think a business leader cannot do without?


Can Google spell the death for the telcos?

It would not be a surprise if in five years from now, the major cellular giants of planet earth are going head to head vs. the internet search engine giant. No contract phones, unlimited and cheap data plans, devices with interoperability between all major wireless protocols, using some platform provided by Google (device, Android OS, websites), and all point to $$ from ads to Google. VoIP with a reliable 700-800 Kbps data connection makes for a crisp voice call. With WiMax and LTE promising upwards of at least 30Mbps, quality and reliability might not be a worry. Who needs ‘airtime minutes’ again? Not me 🙂

Brief History: Google announced in the summer of 2007 that it would bid a minimum of $4.6B for the spectrum, the ‘reserve price’  set by the FCC. The four openness provisions suggested in the announcement were the first hint that Google wants the consumers to win. FCC mandated two of these provisions. Now it is clear that the Google phone (rumored as aka. Nexus One by HTC) was in plans all through the years. Google lost the bid, but got what it wanted, a provision through which the consumers can use any phone on any network.

Series of events: Android OS with T-Mobile G1, followed by GoogleVoice, and possibly an “unlocked” Google branded phone (see this WSJ report from last week). Migration towards cloud sevices, unification of identity and services even on the current smart phone devices, and the value add of the traditional voice networks starts to decrease.

We are on course for internet to swallow the ‘legacy’ phone system.

This brings me to Newtons third law, only my application is for a Porter+Drucker+Newton perspective. The competitive advantage of the larger cellcos (or telcos), which is very capital-intensive and infrastructure driven (very successful Verizon’s “theres a map for that” ad campaign is a proof), is being eaten up by the cloud movement. How will the cellular giants evolve and adapt? Who will they ‘partner’ with? Where is the third leg of competition coming from?

Your thoughts …