Case studies are one of the most crucial forms of learning in B-school curriculum. Be it mergers and acquisition, launch and success of a new product line, branding strategy, some management fiasco and others, if we look back, we can find hundreds of management incidents in the past, that hold the potential of making a strong case in our books.
Case studies are not always success stories; they are also stories of failure. They help us understand the fast changing set of market realities and managerial challenges, shifting consumer expectation and the race to meet them.
Though there would be many, but I picked up these 5 corporate incidences/cases, that not only make excellent study material for B-school learning but also are the reflection of the uncertain nature of business. Some of them startled us; some amused us, while some are just classic examples of excellent management strategies and success.
Success in an infant industry is the story of Flipkart. A start up launched in 2007 with an investment of just Rs 4 Lakhs has come to grow into the first billion dollar company in Indian e-commerce. Flipkart exploited vast consumers segment waiting to enjoy the comfort of shopping online. The company’s core value lies in the operating mantra: “Don’t count your customers before they smile”!
Major factors leading to Flipkart’s success are:
- Strong backend operations with its own warehouse and inventory management system.
- Consistent customer service with focus on speedy resolution of delivery and faulty product issues. It is interesting to know that the co-founders of the company feel that discounts cannot replace the customer’s satisfaction of prompt service and efficiency.
- Innovation is next. Offering options for cash-on-delivery and credit card payment at the door step provide further choice and comfort.
- Flipkart succeeded in adding the ‘surprise and delight’ factor for customers. They are treated to offers that are most suited and relevant to their preferences. The company’s Big Billion Sale was an aggressive step towards the same direction. Many criticized the retailer for jumping way too ahead without much preparation for the challenge. Though Flipkart fumbled in managing site traffic and product demand-supply gap, it maintained its goodwill by sending an apology with explanation letter to all its customers. It made adequate amends and managed to won back its loyalists.
#Flipkart’s rules of success are simple and clear – Engage customers using novel ideas, quality products and seamless service.
The much talked about corruption scam that took place in Satyam Computer Service – one of the most promising IT companies in India – startled the investors, foreign clients and Indian masses. This builds a famous case for corporate governance and fraudulent auditing practices. The company misrepresented its accounts and misled the market by lying about the company’s financial health.
Satyam’s founder and then chairperson Ramalinga Raju manipulated company’s accounts for close to seven years before confessing in January 2009. Satyam inflated its profits and revenues on paper, which led to increase in company’s share prices and boosted its market capitalization.
Since, most of the figures shown in company’s balance sheet were fictitious; the company was left with very less cash. Interestingly, Satyam paid INR 186.91 crore as tax over seven years on fictitious interest income from non-existent fixed deposits.
As per Raju’s confession, he needed and used the funds to acquire thousands of acres of land in Andhra Pradesh to make his mark in the booming realty market.
The 14000 crore worth Satyam fraud is the largest corporate scam in the history of India. The company was finally taken over by Tech Mahindra and with Indian government’s intervention a number of young workers were saved from unemployment. On 9th April 2015, a special CBI court sentenced Raju to seven years in prison.
#Satyam was a scandal waiting to happen. It requires learning for anyone engaged in global services outsourcing and off shoring, the importance of openness and transparency.
The Mumbai Dabbawala story
This famous case of operations and supply chain management is used by many B- schools in India and abroad including Harvard. Recognized with Six Sigma level of accuracy, their model has earned them admirers from Britain’s Prince Charles to entrepreneur Richard Branson. So what is so unique and desirable about this case? Let’s see:
The dabbawalas in Mumbai have collected hot meals during lunch from customers’ often distance homes, and carried them to schools and offices across the city. They are known to use a unique delivery system that has been smooth, reliable, and has survived even extreme conditions.
Their whole process is linked closely to Mumbai’s railway system. It sets the speed and helps in scheduling the delivery process. The coding system that they use is simple and convenient for all the dabbawalas. They have specific code for the neighborhood where the dabba is to be delivered, a bunch of characters denoting the office address and the dabbawala who will make the delivery, and finally, a combination of colour for the railway station of origin.
They operate in self organized teams of 25 individuals each. The most experienced ones act as supervisors while also delivering their dabbas. Every dabbawala individually negotiates with his customers.
Might sound surprising but a good reason for their success is very less reliance on technology and utmost dependence on human capital. They are highly motivated because they realize the importance of their work. If they don’t deliver, a person somewhere ends up missing his lunch. For them, delivering food is like offering service to God!
Relying on their efficient and full-proof logistic system, Flipkart recently decided to partner with the Mumbai Dabbawalas to navigate the city streets.
#Their success model is basically based on few simple concepts of work ethic, community culture, honesty, integrity, discipline and time management.
Vijay Mallya’s “dreambird” Kingfisher came under huge financial mess caused due to some uninhibited and high risk decision making. Launched in 2005, Kingfisher was grounded in late 2012 because of bankruptcy and non-payment of loans. On closing, the airline owed more than US$ 1 Billion to a consortium of 17 banks.
So what caused the demise of the glamorous airline despite having gained brand visibility and a loyal customer base?
- Lack of direction: Kingfisher was initially launched as value added airline. It later positioned itself as low cost airline after it launched Kingfisher red (the spun-off fleet of Air Deccan).
- Acquisition of Air Deccan to launch oversees operations failed. Most attempts to gain visibility on high traffic international routes (like Bangalore to London; Bangalore to Silicon Valley) did not yield healthy results. Also, with the takeover of crisis-ridden Air Deccan, Kingfisher suffered a loss of over INR10 billion (US$160 million) for three consecutive years
- The airline also suffered due to frequent changes and absence of any long term CEO or MD.
- In 2011, the airline’s fleet size was reduced as many of its aircrafts were grounded due to faulty engines. Even as the engines were overhauled, changing market conditions and rising fuel severely affected the yields.
- Withdrawing from the low fare segment (Kingfisher Red), in order to divert its customer base to its premier segment (Kingfisher), did not help either, as the consumers would prefer other low cost flyers.
#A combination of external and internal factors hit the airline and it continued registering losses year after year. Mallya’s various attempts including suspending international operations, hiking fuel surcharges and seeking foreign investments by some oversees airlines failed as well; but lack of vision and firm positioning strategy, not understanding the consumer behavior, were the primary reasons, that the airline was unable to ever revive operations.
Conceptualized in 2007, club type format of cricket, IPL, with all ingredients of success, is the perfect example of controversy marketing. BCCI’s IPL generated a level of excitement and stupor usually seen in football, basketball and baseball franchises. Other than the large number of cricket crazy Indian fans, what else IPL did to become a global brand name?
- Its value proposition is fast paced action and a 3.5 hour movie like entertainment. With high stakes involved IPL has showed the commercial potential of Twent20.
- IPL has a global appeal. The international star players influence the level of support and interest. For instance, Shane Warne’s contribution to the Rajasthan Royals is much talked about with appreciation in Australia.
- Media exposure was a crucial factor in the success of IPL. The season receives continuous coverage in local, national and international press even during the closed season.
- Involvement of bollywood celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Shilpa Shetty as both franchisers and promoters brought in lot of glamour and razzmatazz to the series. These people are a brand in themselves in India.
- IPL marketing strategy brings a lot of spice through auctioning of franchisees and participating players, cheerleaders, opening ceremony and live concerts. Even the commentators use phrases to attract and please sponsors, making them pay more.
#Into its eighth season now, the IPL extravaganza has grown leaps and bounds. IPL has also seen itself engaged in various controversies of corruption, match fixing and mismanagement. With stakes held so high, IPL season 8 calls for a controversy free season with pure entertainment in the form of cricket; it could be achieved with better administrative efficiency, strict oversight and increasing awareness among the players.
Contributed by Isha Jajodia (class of 2010, IBS Gurgaon)