Wednesday, 28 May 2014

"Face" up to Depression

A few weeks ago, many of us in the UAE came across a story that aroused all sorts of emotions.  It was the case of sixteen year old Abhimanyu Sadasivan's suicide.  Abhimanyu for those of you who are not aware of the case, was a student at the Indian High School in Dubai and lived in Sharjah.  On March 2, 2014, he jumped off his building's roof and took his own life.  What had stirred up even more emotions was the fact that he had written a suicide note when taking his chemistry exam on February 25, 2014.

There was uproar as many thought the school should have realized earlier.  There was uproar as many thought it was something that had happened in their school / community / city / country.  There was uproar because there was an underlying feeling of guilt most people probably felt but were too ashamed to talk about as they realized it could've happened in their own home.
Abhimanyu Sadasivan. Picture: The National.

Depression kills. 

It is as simple as that but it is something we as a society don't like to talk about.

I don't know Abhimanyu, his family, his friends or anyone who knew him personally but to blame the school solely is wrong.  The school has a part to play, but so does everyone know was associated with Abhimanyu as it seems he was depressed and with a support system, may have overcome his depression.

The uproar or guilty feeling many people felt in the aftermath of Abhimanyu's demise is related to the fact that most of us probably know someone who is depressed.  Most of us avoid bringing it up or talking about it because we are in a society that values "face" and the image of the "face."  I assume most of would rather be the person who saved a life than who preserved a "face" and as difficult as that may be a task to manage, it can start by talking a little emote openly about depression.

I'm not subject matter expert and I'm sure there are many people who could do a far better job in explaining the symptoms of depression, the types of depression and how to help someone deal with depression but we have to be receptive to educating ourselves about it.  To do that, we should have the courage to discuss depression.

To those of you in the media, I'd implore you to start writing more about it.  This editorial in the Guardian about the Elliot Rodger case should serves as a basis to start.  You have the power to educate us in saving or transforming a person's life.

To the rest of you, take a look around.  Guilt is something you feel after something tragic has happened, satisfaction is something you feel when you know you've done a job well.  If you see an opportunity to change a guilty moment into one of satisfaction for both yourself and those around you, why hesitate. 

It's sad when we lose young people in our community but instead of passing blame, let's see what are lessons learned that can avoid a tragedy like this from happening again.  In this particular, instance, let's talk depression and "face" up to the fact that we can defeat it.

Thank you Bindu Rai (@bindurai on Twitter) for your back and forth exchange on this topic with me when I had first posted the link about Abhimanyu's demise.  It helped clear my mind and create a the context for this post.  

The National had a series of articles on Abhimanyu and can be read at the links below.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Sony: Should I stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go?

Ever felt like you've been at a party longer than you should've stayed?  There is that awkward feeling that creeps in and then you realize, you should have left much earlier but now that you're here, why don't you stay till the end?  Then you start thinking again and realize, actually, why do you need to stay till the end.

That's probably the question Sony should be asking themselves when it comes to their television business and this last paragraph from a Financial Times story, nails it!

Have a read if you can, it is worth it.

Amazon's Barriers to Entry in India, Middle East & China

It's been fascinating in the last few months to see how valuations for e-commerce sites have shot through the roof not only in developed markets like the United States and Europe but across emerging markets like India, the Middle East and China.

In India, we keep hearing about Flipkart, which this week raised US$ 210,000,000 after an investment vehicle owned Russian investor Yuri Milner reaffirmed their faith in India's burgeoning e-commerce market.  As Flipkart's CEO said in this Financial Times article, it is a "vote of confidence" as Milner was an early investor in Facebook, Twitter and Spotify.  We also heard this week of a merger in India between Flipkart and fashion e-tailer Myntra.

In the Middle East, has probably ruled the roost as far as headlines and funding has gone.  They are the largest e-commerce site based in the region and recently received US$ 75,000,000 in funding from South African investment house, Naspers (read more about it here).  Souq have invested in creating local logistics, warehousing, procurement and payment gateways across most of the Middle East and a few years ago, Souq swallowed up it's sister concern, fashion e-tailer, (again, you can read about this here).

China is another market that has taken a fair share of the headlines in the e-commerce space.  Names like Alibaba and Tencent are becoming more familiar outside of China and stories of the success that smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi have had with their online go to market route have had their fair share of coverage in the international press.  I don't know whether it is true to say that Alibaba has grabbed 80% of the e-commerce market in China as one headline claimed, but it is fair to say, the local e-commerce brands have prospered.

Which brings me back to the point raised in my headline.  Amazon has been the incumbent behemoth of the e-commerce trade.  We've heard and read about e-commerce crossing borders.  We've been told we're in a global marketplace.  However, for Amazon to say they want to grow, they need to be in markets like India, China and the Middle East in the long term.  At the moment, the only way for them to be anything more than a bit player is to make a significant acquisition in each of these regions as these are not easy markets to do business in and they're a little late to the party.  It can be argued that none of these e-commerce players other than Amazon are truly profitable but you get a sense they are all holding in for long term.

Amazon has received a fair amount of heat this week for their predatory practices  when they made it difficult to pre-order J.K. Rowling's new book due to a dispute with the publisher, but this is just a sign of things to come.  There seems to be no shortage of cash from investors at this stage and if we are to see a Walmart-type effect in the online arena, Amazon will probably have to dig deep, pay out to buy their piece of the action and then we could start to see the real predator in action.