Sunday, September 1, 2013

It had lost the game long ago . . .

". . . [T]he Hail Mary hardly stood a chance. BlackBerry had lost the game long ago." [How BlackBerry fell, The New Yorker, 12th Aug 2013] "In retrospect, the company was facing an inflection point and was completely unaware . . . Shares of BlackBerry peaked in August of 2007 . . . Seven months earlier Apple had introduced the iPhone . . . Executives at BlackBerry decided to let Apple focus on the general-use smartphone market, while it would continue selling BlackBerry products to business and government customers . . . One of the companies that pioneered the smartphone market may soon end up selling itself as scrap . . . But the story of its past six years has been one of missed opportunities . . . The company failed to recognize that the iPhone could hurt it . . . Overlooked the threat of low-cost competitors in Asia . . . A new line of high-end smartphones failed to resonate with consumers, having arrived far too late with very little to offer . . . BlackBerry's Hail Mary pass (in January 2013) when the company launched . . . its most serious attempts at high-end smartphones that would actually be attractive to everyday consumers, failed to sell as well as the company had hoped – roughly a fifth of what Apple sold during the same period."
There are several dimensions to this story that would describe what the 21st century world is and precisely because it is moving at warp speed, even those in the thick of it could fail to recognize those inflection points. It is a story not only for businesses but also for economies, and yes, including the Philippines! For example, we had so much faith in ourselves that we've had missed opportunities running over decades. And I am as guilty as every Pinoy, perhaps more so, because those inflection points coming from our neighbors were occurring before my eyes during the decade I was a regional manager for an MNC. Take Singapore. It was a tiny market and in our case it was managed remotely by our Malaysian subsidiary. In more ways than one Singapore has bested New York as a choice location in ease of doing business, like lower taxes, and why the co-founder of a major tech company relocated to Singapore, even surrendering his US citizenship. And he's not alone. 
And I would say it again; the real damage to PHL inflicted by our parochialism and our celebration of oligopoly is it turned us into economic laggards – i.e., starved of investment, technology, innovation, etc. – which come hand in glove with pervasive poverty! And not surprisingly, we are treated like scrap as in human trafficking? OFWs may be several notches above but their sob stories would capture the concern of then Archbishop Tagle, yet PHL economy is riding on their backs?
And there are more dimensions to the BlackBerry story. One of them is the imperative of academe and industry partnership. And not surprisingly, UP is unable to pursue the level of partnership like those in developed economies, i.e., our largest enterprises that make us proud are conglomerates whose core businesses are franchises and concessions! Translation: we’re not accumulating knowledge and experience in global competition because our success stories are not founded on the imperatives of the 21st century: investment, technology, innovation, education and training, product development and market development. [N.B. Exchange rates and/or tariffs are concerns for developed countries that have market dominance given their very little room for growth – i.e., it dictates their posture in global trade; while developing countries given their lower cost structures and low market penetration have room to grow if their products have perceptible value-added – i.e., it explains my Eastern European friends’ newfound global reach, because they focus on developing high-margin products not on exchange rates or tariffs like we do in PHL. “Bring ‘em on!”]
I try to find the time in Eastern Europe to reach out to academe precisely because as one marketing professor told me, "It takes forever to get our syllabus updated and we are still heavily into classical marketing." I had discussed Maslow's hierarchy of human needs being at the heart of product architecture modeling and innovation and its implication on market segmentation or targeting markets by income levels – which Apple has upended as the fall of BlackBerry would bear out
PHL, sadly, had lost the game long ago . . . too? Would we be far too late with very little to offer . . . too?

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