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The 7 pillars of Netflix Culture

Generally speaking I am not very good with sitting through long presentations, certainly not one that is 126 slides long. But this was riveting. Why?

Simply because it is so precise, therefore effective and efficient.

Yes it is 126 slides long but the lessons contained is such that you could probably read at least 10 Management books, go through a couple of extensive management trainings with special emphasis on strategic thinking and still fail to grasp or condense all the points that are so precisely formulated here.

Netflix has obviously spent quite a bit of time and effort in putting together this ‘bible’ for their organization. In fact this could very well be a road map that can be adapted and adopted for MOST organizations.

A snapshot of the Seven Aspects of Netflix Culture & their corresponding bullet points are:

1. Values are what they value – Judgement, communication, impact, curiosity, innovation, courage, passion, honesty, selflessness.

2. High Performance

3. Freedom & Responsibility

4. Context, not Control

5. Highly Aligned, Loosely Coupled

6. Pay Top of Market

7. Promotions & Development

Space to grow

To know when to go away and when to come closer is the key to any lasting relationship.
~Doménico Cieri Estrada

You can’t plant a seed and then wait around, hovering over the newly planted seed, waiting for it to grow. The seed will sprout when it is ready to do so. Apart from watering every other day or so, there’s nothing much that you can do to make it grow faster.

Relationships are the same. You need to give relationships time and space to grow. This applies for both professional and personal life.

You have been to a business mixer and you meet someone new.  You have exchanged your business cards and /or sent each other emails expressing a desire to be of mutual benefit sometime in the future. The future is not going to come any faster if you deluge them with emails and updates on your activities. Unless there’s a clear case of win-win situation in further follow ups, the first meeting is not very likely to grow into something more meaningful anytime soon. But you can keep your new contact in mind and put them in touch with opportunities that you come across later which you think maybe interesting for them.

Which one of these two scenarios do you think is more likely to end up into a fruitful long-lasting relationship?

The same applies to personal situations. Way too often, I meet people who want to be counted as friends from the very first meeting onwards. To me being called a friend as lightly as that means nothing. Friendships don’t grow out of thin airs. They grow out of consistency, mutual respect and desire for that friendship from both parties. For me …. Friendship is earned, not awarded.

In romantic relationships, specially new one’s people often make the mistake of thinking that somehow now that they have gotten together with the special someone, their lives are going to smash together into one new glorious master piece. Wake up and smell the roses. You had a life before you met him and he had a life before he met you. While the intoxication of a new relationship can be quite overwhelming, resist the temptation to behave as if it’s the only worthy thing that is going on in your life. Don’t lose touch with your friends or families, don’t forget to keep taking time for yourself and to pursue your own interests and hobbies. You need to do it for yourself and he needs to do it for himself.

When both of you have separate hobbies, careers, friends, interests, the conversation that you have when you are together will be that much more richer. If you ditch everything and everyone else in favor of a new relationship, you might find yourself stranded alone when the relationship doesn’t work out. Or even if it does, chances are that you might find yourself feeling bored or stifled.

The principle of planting and waiting for the seed to grow is applicable for almost everything in our life. Your career, your education, your efforts into new ventures… you do your part, then you wait patiently for the results to come.

When my problems are not really problems

I know I came home last year from a field visit to one of our projects out in the Char areas and I quit complaining about water shortage. When I don’t have water coming out of the taps, I know that it’s only because someone forgot to turn on the pump that will fill in the overhead tank.

I quit complaining when there were ‘too’ many electricity outages, at least I know that it will be back in hour.

I quit complaining when I had to travel through hot streets in the summer, I know that I will be in the office, cooled by an AC within an hour.

Every time I even thought of complaining, I thought of all the women I had met. Women who walk for miles to collect drinking water for their families. All the people who live without electricity and all the gadgets for convenience that it brings. I thought of the heat in the char, the sun on top and the sand beneath my feet. Day after day, year after year, families survive harsh conditions like these.

Me, I had first world problems, that are not problems. So I quit complaining and started doing more of what I can do to help solve these problems for the millions of people whom I may never ever meet.

Do your part – we can all make a difference.

 

Eating organic

Given the amount of toxins and hormones in our food, it comes as no particular surprise that other bloggers are now also blogging on the danger of these food and also on how to afford to eat organic. One of the best blog on this is by Ashley over at her blog “The Frugal Model”. The link to her “10 easy ways to eat organic and healthy on a budget” is given  below:

http://thefrugalmodel.com/2013/10/25/10-easy-ways-to-eat-organic-and-healthy-on-a-budget/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheFrugalModel+%28The+Frugal+Model%29

Her advice is sound but mostly applicable for the readers in US. But you can take that advice and tweak and use it in just about any country 🙂

1. Check the websites of your favorite organic supermarkets for coupons.Wholefoodsmarket.com/coupons has weekly coupons for your favorite organic products.

2. Join different organic markets social media pages for coupons and promotions, or check on sites like Savingnaturally.com  or Earthfare.com for updated coupons.

3. Take some time to plan out your meals for the week according to the organic foods that are on sale or that you have coupons for.

4. Make your own organic snacks like kale chips, chia pudding and smoothies. You can find super easy recipes online that will save you from buying expensive store-bought products.

5. Frozen produce is always cheaper than fresh, especially if it is out of season. This is the same for frozen fish – which can be just as tasty and a fraction of the price.

6. Buy local produce when it’s in season and then freeze it so that you can eat it year round. For example, in the spring and summer spread berries on a sheet pan and freeze overnight and then store in jars for the fall and winter.

7. Double recipes for soups and stews and freeze the leftovers.

8. Since meat and dairy are the most important to buy organic, reduce how much of this you eat if you can’t afford organic. The easiest way to do this is save meat for your dinners only (choose high quality and smaller portions).

9. If you like chicken, buy a whole chicken to pay less per pound.

10. Buy unpackaged foods like oats, nuts, dried fruit and lentils in bulk dispensers. If you’re buying spices like this, bring a measuring cup so that you only buy exactly what you need for your recipe

 

Thoughts on BoP market development

I wrote this while sitting in on a discussion on “BoP Markets and development” arranged by CDCS  I was listening to the presenters debating on whether BoP should be defined as the Bottom of the Pyramid or the Base of the Pyramid. After the coffee break several organizations (NGO’s, private sector company and Government research institute) presented their success stories on how they integrated their beneficiaries into formal markets or increased the margin of profit for the people they work with.

All the time that I was listening to these discussions, I kept thinking and writing these points down. The points turned into paragraphs covering several pages. When it was my turn to talk, I closed the notebook and tried to stick to my main points. I am sure that I didn’t cover everything in my very brief talk but then thought that this would make a rather good blog post J so bear with me while I regale you with all the things that I was thinking about while experts and people with far more experience in this Aid sector discussed their thoughts on how to integrate the BoP population into formal markets.

 

“The challenge is in treating the BoP not as beneficiaries but as customers and consumers. Farmers, small traders and middle men are also profit oriented. In fact they are probably far more profit oriented than you or me simply because they do not have the luxury of an assured salary at the end of the month.

The economies of scale and the style of management at the BoP level is different and needs recognition and subsequent adjustments to our approach. But let us not forget that for these people profit matter and they too are business and profit oriented.

At the BoP level, lack of knowledge and information is something that is often discussed. While we do agree that advancements made in research does not always reach the intended beneficiaries, what we tend to forget is that there is a vast untapped reservoir of knowledge at this level too.

People do not survive by being lazy. We are hardy, resilient people and that is testament to our own ingenuity, our thrust to survive and our entrepreneurial spirit. The economy of this country grows at a rate of 5-7% per year, this happens despite all of our issues and challenges. In a country of 160 million people, this progress affects all of us.

In the embassy’s experience, we have found that the private sector are interested in engaging with the BoP markets. The problem is usually that they are not sure on how to engage in a sustainable, profitable manner. This is an opportunity for the NGO’s who are working at the BoP level. They can be the bridge that connects the BoP with the profitable economic activities of the private sector.

In order to successfully bridge this divide there needs to be a shift in the mindset. NGO’s need to treat their funds the same way that businesses do, as capitals which once invested must have as high a ROI (return on investment) as possible. When every dollar is made to count, sustainability is possible.

Can we (the Aid agencies, NGO’s etc.) say that we love money? That we love to make money, talk money and create more wealth for all those we work with? No one grows alone, growth will affect everyone and there will be spill over effects.

In business, networking and cooperating are old accepted ways of working. This is used by businesses to create vertical and horizontal linkages. NGO’s could learn something from this – most NGO’s are interested in receiving funds and working on their own. If however, they could instead adopt the same modus operandi, they could capitalize more on each other’s strength and past experiences. Instead of just sharing knowledge, we could concentrate on instilling a sense for business and profits in an eco-friendly, sustainable way that benefits the producers, consumers and our environment.

The hardships we face for me are similar to growing pains. How long does it take for a human being to mature? This country is still young, only 42 years old. We have a relatively young population who are of the digital generation. Born at a time when tv, radio already existed and now in the technological age most people are connected, even if it is by a simple mobile.

For a country this young, this connected, it is an opportunity. Dr. Kabir spoke of the young population who are migrating to the big cities and even outside the country because they do not want to be involved in the drudgery of agricultural labor. These youngsters may be interested in going back to agricultural activities if they can make just as much money if not more and if farmers receive the recognition they deserve, because it is on their back-breaking labor that this country is standing.

The agricultural contribution percentage to the GDP may have declined but the agricultural sector is still the largest employer. The food security of this country and its future population very firmly rests on the shoulders of these farmers who toil in the field, day in and day out. We need multi-sectoral cooperation, to create economic, social, policy level impacts that will be needed for sustainable development.

To the NGO’s I say this – change your mindset, become more business oriented in order to keep pace with the changing times.

To the private sector I can only say – your business rests on these farmers too. It is their output that becomes your input. In order to compete, to become players in the global economy, you need to take care of your supply chain for your own survival and profit. “

 

Market access via text messages for farmers

Market Development, Market Access, Value Chain Development – these are the buzzwords in Development Cooperation these days and there’s no end to the lessons learned around the world on this subject. This particular for-profit venture in Kenya, MFarm, has proven to be effective in giving access to the market for small holder farmers using existing technology of mobile phone and mobile money transfers. The innovation is in getting these small-holding farmers to come together and offer their aggregated product for sale to bigger buyers. Collectively their bargaining power improves for both selling their product and buying inputs for their use. The fact that this is a “FOR PROFIT” venture is probably its biggest advantage – this ensures viability and sustainability in the long-term. For-profit ventures don’t sit so easily in the NGO world, organizations are still skeptical and hesitant at exploring partnerships with the private sector.

Personally, since I am from the private sector and also from a project management background, I tend to evaluate everything in monetary terms and return on investments. Almost like an in-built homing device that is constantly humming to find sustainability in economic performance. I truly believe that no matter what we do, if the economic returns are not profitable to our end users/beneficiaries etc. then after the project withdraws, the fund is gone, whatever result was achieved will be lost.  Poor people simply do not have the luxury of doing something because it is best-practice, they are short of money and time with only a limited amount of effort that they can put in to achieve the things that they need to keep themselves afloat.

This venture proves that money works. It works for the small-holding farmers, it works for the people running the platform and it has grown from just 2,000 user to over 7,000 in just a couple of years.

You can read the full article here:

http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/06/startup-uses-sms-to-give-farmers-shot-at-fair-prices-market-access/

MFarm is a for-profit organization, taking a transaction fee for every deal done using its platform.  This has allowed it to grow the number of users from 2,000 in early 2012 to 7,000 now. A study in central Kenya with 600 farmers showed that farmers could double their sales by using MFarm.

“MFarm can lower costs [of supplies] and offer better margins for farmers, but the other value proposition is a consistent market,” says Abass. “It’s not just about the prices but also knowing if a buyer will be available.”

Furthermore, the network can be used to disseminate information relating to international regulations—for example, information about any pesticides that might be banned. “There are so many things you can do with the technology once you have trust,” she adds.

Abass is now focused on the export market and has been in the UK to speak to large retailers who are keen to be more responsible in the way that they source their products.

“They want to have social responsibility,” Abass acknowledges. “By sourcing produce through MFarm, they are playing a vital role in development and securing a consistent supply that is not dependent on middlemen.”

In addition to taking a transaction fee, MFarm has also been selling its data to research organizations looking at consumer behavior and food scarcity.

 

When agriculture meets social media in rural Vermont

What happens when agriculture meets social media? So far, from the all lessons learnt and stories that we have been getting, the results can be outstanding, regardless of whether we are talking about Farms using cutting edge technologies in Vermont USA or small holding farmers connecting to their markets through text messages.

Follow this link to read the full exchange between Hootsuite and Alison Kosakowski when they  connected to discuss why teaching farmers the value of using social media to promote agriculture is important and how HootSuite can help.

http://blog.hootsuite.com/mydash-agriculture-social-media/

Alison Kosakowski comes with a background on PR where she championed advertising and communications campaigns for international brands like Playtex, Hasbro, Sharp Electronics, and Maersk. She moved to Vermont and is now learning and sharing her adventures on the farm using the social media. She is currently the Marketing and Communications Director for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, managing events, PR, and all of the Agency’s media channels (print, web, social). Her job is about building a brand for Vermont Agriculture.

Excerpt from the interview is given below:

SM: Why is it important for farmers to learn how to market themselves, especially in social media?

AK: If you are selling directly to the public, you need to build awareness for what you offer. What makes you different and why should customers choose you? Social media can help farmers develop a relationship with their customer base by allowing them to tell their farm’s story, share experiences and communicate their value proposition.

On a very practical level, social media is an affordable way to reach consumers. The margins in farming are tight, so paid media is not always an option.

SM: What are you teaching them to share in social media?

AK: The first step is to communicate what’s for sale and where people can buy it. This seems basic, but if potential customers don’t know what you have to offer, and where they can get their hands on it, you won’t see any lift from social media.

Beyond that, every farm has a story. If customers wanted anonymous food, they’d go to the supermarket. I encourage farmers to talk about what makes their products special, to share information about how they farm and to allow their farm’s personality to shine through.

Many farmers are brand new to social media, so my first task is usually helping them understand and set up the basic channels, like Facebook and Twitter. I help them identify a voice for their business, create a basic “editorial calendar” for posts, and understand the ways in which they can use these channels to create customer loyalty, grow awareness for their business and drive sales.

The whole interview is practical, full of great pointers and laced with humanity. It gives you an insight into the people at these farms that she is promoting… quite an achievement in my view. Take the time to read the entire article, its well worth it 🙂 and you can follow Alison on Twitter @VTFarmGirl.

Doing business with the Netherlands

This post is to answer some of the most common questions I face from my professional network on a very regular basis:

What do you do, really?

Well, I am the Advisor for Food Security. Want more information on what we do in Food Security? check us out in the following link: http://bangladesh.nlembassy.org/services/development-cooperation/food-security.html

What does the Embassy do?

The embassy does a LOT of things. The main areas of activity are:
• political affairs
• economic affairs
development cooperation – this includes policy & program support on Food Security, Water Management, Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights. Gender and Governance are cross cutting themes.
• consular affairs
• press and cultural affairs.

To get information on Services offered, go here: http://bangladesh.nlembassy.org/services

Want an update on the activities of the Dutch Embassy in Bangladesh?

Follow us on this link: http://bangladesh.nlembassy.org/

I want to do business with Netherlands, how do I find information?

Check out the information in the following link: http://www.minbuza.nl/en/you-and-netherlands/doing-business-with-the-netherlands.html

How can I get more information on Private Sector Development Instruments?

The PDF is 8.3 MB and contains information all the instruments available from different Dutch Ministries to promote business between Bangladesh & Netherlands: http://bangladesh.nlembassy.org/appendices/partners-in-progress.html

http://bangladesh.nlembassy.org/services/trade-information/economic-services/development-cooperation-matchmaking-facility.html

How can I get more information on doing business with Netherlands?

For Funding and other support services check out http://bangladesh.nlembassy.org/services/trade-information/economic-services/funding-and-other-support-services.html

Dutch Trade Day 2013

Dutch Trade Day Flyer

I am excited about this year’s Dutch Trade Day because we are focusing on Agribusiness and as most of you might have already gathered, business excites me 🙂

So we have the following features for now:

FYI – Dutch were the 3rd biggest business investors in Bangladesh in 2012. This year we hope to surpass that position 😉

Our embassy has an excellent team in Economic Affairs who will help you to expand your business, whether you are a Dutch looking to invest in Bangladesh or vice versa. So register and participate!!!!

What is courage?

Courage is the little voice that says at the end of the day, I will try again tomorrow

This is what courage is for me. Not the absence of fear, but to be able to move forward, despite the fear. To fall nine times and to get up for the tenth time, that’s courage. And this is what I saw in the farmers that we visited last week during my field trip to the North West of Bangladesh. It takes an enormous amount of courage to incur recurrent losses in crop and to still go on plowing and harvesting, hoping that this year will be different.

One of the project that we visited has organized these farmers into groups. They have been taught some business skills, production scheduling, when to plant, what to plant, how many farmers will plant a particular crop. By scheduling who produces what and when, they now have better control over the procurement of their inputs, e.g. seeds, fertilizer, pesticide. By scheduling how many farmers will plant a particular kind of crop (usually horticultural item i.e. vegetable) and by spacing out harvest times, they have learnt to avoid the pitfall of flooding local markets with a lot of produce all at the same time. By developing market linkages both for inputs and outputs, they now have better price control over both their buying and selling.

Another group of farmers have gotten together and developed Collection Point. Thus enabling the villagers all around to bring their produce at the same place. The aggregation of produce has brought in more buyers and thus ultimately better prices for each individual farmer who uses the collection point.

Most of these farmers have been trained in the use of organic fertilizer and natural pesticide. According to most of the farmers we spoke to, their costs reduced and their production increased. They were rather vocal about the fact that this year they have not made a loss in selling their harvests due to a combination of factors like production scheduling, better market linkage, reducing costs etc.  At this rate apparently most of them calculate that they will be able to get out of debt in another 2-3 years and that is very encouraging news.

In the faces of these farmers, I see courage. It is farmers like them who are keeping city folks like me fed. Their toil, their sweat, their hard work is what keeps the wheels running. To be able to do something for them, to help them get to the next level, the next improvement, the latest technological innovation in agriculture – to be able to give something back by working with them, for them, it’s an honor. It’s an honor and a challenge that I look forward to for the upcoming years.

I know I had disappeared for the past ten days or so, but this trip and its subsequent follow-ups took up a lot of my time and I don’t want to let my heroes down 🙂

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