Control content, control data, control the world – the AT&T buyout of Time Warner

AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner makes strategic sense for the shareholders of AT&T. The only surprise is that early rumours of Apple buying over Time Warner did not come to pass.

AT&T are primarily a telecommunications company. They already control the data flows and analytics and understand all the little things that make people/customers tick. However, what they’ve not had is the content that their customers require and monetise the flow of content to the people who need it most.

Through the acquisition of Time Warner, it reduces AT&T’s transaction cost of providing the content to customers which is supported by superior data.

It’s akin to an infrastructure company laying pipes to bring water to households actually now providing the water along with the pipes they already have rather than have a separate company providing the water.

Why content matters

You have data on the information and content your customers require. However, you cannot act on the data yourself if you do not control the development of the content and intellectual property (IP). You can either try and create the content on your own or simply buy the largest available content provider available for sale.

This is what AT&T have done and it allows them to suddenly use the data and deliver even larger profitability to their shareholders by giving their customers the data they seek.

HBO (think Game of Thrones, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Sopranos, etc), CNN, DC Comics (Superman, Batman, and the new UN ambassador, Wonder Woman), Hulu (Netflix’s rivals) are all now going to be under AT&T’s control.

This will allow them to control the entire spectrum of services they provide to customers and create an ecosystem (of both infrastructure and content) that may be difficult or unfeasible to leave for any customer.

Big data just gotten bigger

You know HOW your customers access information. You now know WHAT information your customers seek. Bring the two together and you create superior propositions for customers which rivals are unable to match.

The advertising potential also has now grown exponentially as AT&T monetise the data analytics and provide superior insight to advertisers.

Bringing the fight to the competition

The moment Google and Facebook moved from being search engines or networking platforms to becoming media and content companies with their own telecommunications infrastructure, the fight was on.

Facebook and Google are already providing Internet and call facilities. They also started buying or developing content facilities (Youtube acquisition by Google or Facebook Video/live).

This mean either existing telecommunications companies get into the business of content development or acquisition or they themselves get acquired. I suspect this was a major impetus for AT&T in their decision to buy Time Warner.

What next?

It’s always easy to bite, but it’s important to be able to chew and swallow. It remains to be seen how well the merger itself works. Most mergers are fraught with complications, from realising business benefits to cultural differences.

It will be interesting to examine Apple and Google’s next reactions. Google have developed their own hardware (Pixel) and Apple have long wanted to get into the business of content and IP.

Perhaps a takeover of Netflix by Apple in the offing?

The unassuming flower – The books that shaped the life of APJ Abdul Kalam

 

apj-kalam-my-journeyI recently read Abdul Kalam’s (the 11th President of India and one of India’s greatest sons) biography, ‘My Journey – Transforming Dreams into Actions,’ which was a brief book about his early childhood, his development and anecdotes about how his life was shaped.

In the book, Abdul Kalam touched on the topic of books that shaped his worldview. I wanted to share his thoughts about books and the ones that shaped his life as he himself said: “the transfer of thoughts and ideas, ideals and principles is a part of the circle that is life.”

Abdul Kalam describes books having always been “close companions” in his life life and how he used them to help him“understand the world.”

The works of Leo Tolstoy, Walter Scott and Thomas Hardy were constant companions of Abdul Kalam. He also was moved profoundly by the poetry of T.S. Eliot, Lewis Caroll and Wlliam Butler Yeats.

He however highlighted a few books that had a last impact of him.

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The first was ‘Light from Many Lamps,’ which was an anthology of inspiring stories by various authors and edited by Lilian Eichler Watson. He describes the impact this book had on him as thus: “If I am ever in danger of being swept away by my own emotions, this book brings about a balance in my thinking.”

 

 

thirukkuralThe second book was the Thirukural by Thiruvalluvar, a collection of Tamil rhyming couplets.

Written over 2000 years ago, the Thirukkural is arguably one of India’s greatest written work and discusses the human condition, ethics, morality and virtue.

He describes this particular kural (or rhyming couple) as one that has influenced him profoundly:

 

உள்ளுவ தெல்லாம் உயர்வுள்ளல் மற்றது

தள்ளினுந் தள்ளாமை நீர்த்து

(Think of rising higher. Let it be your only thought.

Even if your object be not attained, the thought itself will have raised you.)

 

 

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Finally, the religious texts of India, including the Quran, the Vedas and the Bhagawat Gita were also instrumental in Abdul Kalam’s development.

He considered that these religious texts “all hold deep philosophical insights into the plight of man and have helped me resolve many dilemmas.”

 

From the Quran, he narrated how an excerpt from verse 35 of Surah An-Nur (‘The Light’) had a particularly profound impact on him,

نُورٌ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ ۗ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ

“Light upon light. Allah guides to His Light to whom He wills”

From the Bhagavat Gita, Abdul Kalam narrates the words of Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the battle of Mahabharata (during another vision of the garden where all the flowers which blossomed in the morning now fall to the ground)

See the flower,
how generously it distributes
perfume and honey.

It gives to all,
gives freely of its love.

When its work is done,
it falls away quietly.

Try to be like the flower,
unassuming
despite all its qualities.

 

Abdul Kalam once wrote a poem which he used to recite to young people he met which best describes his feelings about the written word:

Books were always my friends
Last more than fifty years

Books gave me dreams
Dreams resulted in missions

Books helped me confidently take up the missions
Books gave me courage at the time of failures

Good books were for me angels
Touched my heart gently at the time

Hence I ask young friends to have books as friends
Books are your good friends.

This was the legacy of the great Abdul Kalam.

“Hard work and piety, study and learning, compassion and forgiveness – these have been the cornerstones of my life.”

Former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam Died At Age Of 84

 

 

A Man’s A Man For A’ That by Robert Burns (a Tamil Translation)

Speech delivered to the Mother Club (established 1801), Greenock Burns Club.

6th October 2016, Greenock

Good evening everyone

My name is Reza Ali.

I would like to first thank the honourable members at the Mother Club for allowing me to be here this evening.

It is indeed my privilege and my honour to be able to address this esteemed audience.

I must also of course thank the boss and my mentor, Raymond Jack, for his support and for inviting me to my first Burns Supper earlier this year which was an eye-opening experience.

I live between Singapore, Glasgow and London but am originally from the southern coast of India, from Tamil Nadu. Not unlike Robert Burns, I also come from a line of farmers!

I was based out in Glasgow for a big part of last year on work and during the time I had the opportunity to explore the different parts of Scotland and it was on one of those trips that I visited Ayrshire and explored Robert Burns’ home and got drawn into the fascinating life and times of Rabbie Burns. His depth and breadth of writing from nature to hardship to love to family demonstrated a mind and soul that was as unique as it was brilliant. His ability to recognise and more crucially to empathise with the nature of the human condition is something is what makes Robert Burns truly great.

It was then I came across the poem ‘A Man’s a Man for A That’ and was drawn to its messages of universal brotherhood, liberty and social equality.

It is also my view that Rabbie Burns’ egalitarian world view is the perfect antidote this deeply divided world needs.

It was with this in mind that I embarked on this journey of translating ‘A Man’s a Man For A That’ into Tamil as I thought promoting and propagating the virtues and ideals espoused in this poem will benefit the wider community. Tamil is the language of my birth, an ancient language, and one that is still spoken by over 70 million people today. It is my hope that this Tamil translation can be further improved by my peers and also further bring the genius and the universal and timeless messages of Robert Burns across southern India.

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With the Executive Committee of the Mother Club (L-R: Bill McCready (Past President), me, Jim Donnelly (President), Jamie Donnelly (Senior Vice President))

Robert Burns, ராபர்ட் பர்ன்ஸ்

A Man’s A Man For A’ That 

மனிதன் என்பவன் மனிதனே அதற்காகவே

(The full translation and a brief history of Tamil can be downloaded here:)

அங்கே, யாரேனும் ஏழ்மையான ஆனால் நேர்மையானவர் உள்ளனரா,

வறுமையின் காரணமாக அவர் தலை தொங்குகிறது, அதற்காகவே.

நாமும் கடக்கிறோம் அந்தக் கோழை அடிமையை,

வறுமையை விரும்ப மாட்டோம் அதற்காகவே.

அதற்க்காகவே, அதற்க்காவே.

நமது கடின உழைப்பை மறைதுவைப்போம் அதற்காகவே.

சாதனை என்பது நமக்கு தங்கத்தில் முத்திரை பதித்த முகமே,

அவன் தங்கமே அதற்காகவே.

நாம் நமது வருமானத்தில் சிறந்த உணவை உண்டாலும்,

சாம்பல்நிற முரட்டு கம்பளியை அணிந்தாலும்,

முட்டாளுக்கு கொடுங்கள் பட்டாடையும், திராட்சை ரசத்தையும்,

மனிதன் என்பவன் மனிதனே அதற்காகவே.

அதற்காகவே, அதற்காகவே.

அவர்களின் ஆடம்பர பகட்டைக் காட்டிலும்,

நேர்மையானவன், ஏழையே யாயினும்,

அவனே அரசன்.

நீ பார்க்கலாம் எஜமான் என்றழைக்கப்படும் கனவானை,

விறைப்புடனும், கர்வத்துடனும் செல்பவனை

பல நூற்றுக்கனக்காநூர் அவன் சொல்லை வணங்கினாலும்,

அவன் முட்டாலன்றி வேறில்லை.

அதற்காகவே, அதற்காகவே.

அவரது பட்டமும் பெருமையுரைக்கும் நாடவும் மற்றும் அனைத்தும்,

சுதந்திர புத்தியுள்ள மனிதன்

அதைப் பார்த்து நகைப்பான் அதற்காகவே.

ஒரு இளவரசன் உருவாக்கலாம் ஒரு வீரனை,

ஒரு கனவான், பிரப்பு, அதற்காகவே.

ஆயினும் ஒரு நேர்மையானவன் எல்லாவற்றிக்கும் மேல்,

நன் நம்பிக்கையை, அவன் அதற்காக குறை செய்யக்கூடாது.

அதற்காகவே, அதற்காகவே.

அவர்கள் தங்கள் கடப்படுகளுக்காகவும் அதற்காகவே.

மற்றும் உணர்வு மற்றும் பெருமை மற்றும் மதிப்பும் வலிமையும்,

தங்கள் உயரதிகாரம் மேல் என்று அதற்காகவே.

நாம் அனைவரும் பிரார்த்தனை செய்வோம் அது நடகட்டுமென்று,

எல்லாவற்றிற்கும் அது நடக்கட்டுமென்று அதற்காகவே,

உலகமெல்லாம் உள்ள உணர்வும், மதிப்பும்,

அதற்கான பரிசை பெற வேண்டும், அதற்காகவே.

அதற்காகவே, அதற்காகவே.

அவையனைத்தும் இன்னும் வருமென்று அதற்காகவே.

உலகிலுள்ள எல்லா மனிதர்களும்,

சகோதர்களாக இருப்போம் அதற்காகவே.

6 leadership lessons from the first men to reach the South Pole.

(Adapted from blog post originally posted on August 4, 2014)

I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful city of Oslo and the Fram Museum, which houses arguably one of the world’s most important polar ships, the Fram.

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Roald Amundsen’s cabin in the Fram

The Fram ship was captained by Captain Roald Amundsen as he led the first men towards the South Pole during an era considered the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. This was an era of intense rivalry and competition as men and nations were competing to be the first to achieve feats of exploration.

The rivalry between Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott are legendary as both men vied with one another to be the first to reach the South Pole.

Amundsen won and earned the distinction of being the first man to reach the South Pole. Scott who managed to reach the Pole later met with a tragic end and never made it back to his camp.

There are numerous accounts about their journeys and the historical reactions that followed both Amundsen and Scott’s achievements.

I want to highlight the six leadership lessons one can learn from Amundsen’s approach to his trip to the South Pole.

  1. Clarity of mission
  2. Clear and consistent leadership
  3. Attention to detail
  4. Constant preparation
  5. Avoid arm-chair expects (and get the right people into the team!)
  6. Luck – is what you make of it

 

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Flag used by Roald Amundsen

1. Clarity of mission

Amundsen was very clear that his primary objective was to be the first man to reach the South Pole. He expended his energy, his thoughts and his efforts to this one single endeavour.

On the other hand, Scott’s agenda was never very clear and he wanted to conduct scientific research, exploration and also reach the pole but nothing was clear defined. One example was when Scott and his team were returning from the Pole, defeated and already running low on supplies, he decided to stop at the top of the Beardmore glacier and deemed it fit to ‘geologise’ and subsequently add more than 15 kilograms of rock to their loads, which slowed them down further and precipitated the crew’s sad demise.

Amundsen was very clear about what his expedition’s objectives were and what his own ambition was and set out to dispassionately attain it.

A confused mission and vision will ultimately confuse your team and lead to misaligned goals and values which will scupper any business or programme.

 

2. Clear leadership

Scott was a product of his times and was extremely formal, conventional and hierarchical and this is what the English establishment demanded this of anyone who was leading an official British mission.

Amundsen on the other hand was an extremely competitive, relentless and focused individual who was also hugely innovative and was ruthlessly direct in his leadership.

As an example, most of Scott’s team (which was made up of sixty five men) was was picked by various external parties. Within that team included a Captain Oates with whom Scott clashed with on numerous ocassions. Oates was never silent about his conflict with Scott either which only served to undermine Scott further.

Amundsen on the other hand handpicked 19 men for his lean Fram expedition. In his team was a Hjalmar Johansen who was a noted explorer too. However, there was an incident where Amundsen made a mistake in setting off for a trek too early. This mistake almost cost the life of one of the men and Johansen publicly berated Amundsen in front of the other men. Amundsen dismissed Johansen from the expedition to preserve the unity and integrity of the team.

One may argue that Amundsen could have taken a different tact or approach. Ultimately, for an expedition into a great unknown, there has to be absolutely clarity and trust.

Constant undermining of leadership would have led to mistrust and confusion and in the end cost lives.

As the National Geographic  puts it very eloquently, “Amundsen was also a man of towering ambition, prey to the same dangerous dreams and impulses that drive all explorers to risk their lives in wild places. Amundsen’s greatness is not that he lacked such driving forces but that he mastered them.”

It is vital that whilst there is space for disagreements and diversity of thought within any team, once a decision has been taken, it has to be followed through by everyone and anyone seeking to undermine a decision after it has been taken has to be either counselled or removed from the business.

3. Attention to detail

The clarity of the big picture is important. For any project or mission to succeed, the attention to detail, regardless of how minute, is also crucial.

In the case of Amundsen, he had a laser-like focus on every aspect of the Fram expedition – from the food chosen to the mode of travel to the choice of clothing.

Amundsen knew that in order to travel the distances they were targeting, they had to be able to get around quicker than if they were to do so purely on foot. To this end, Amundsen spent considerable time perfecting their ski equipment and footwear. This was something Scott’s team did not do sufficiently and towards the later stages of Scott’s expedition, this proved to be fatal.

Amundsen also spent considerable time with the Inuits and adopted fur suits along with their windproof outfits. The Inuits also wore their clothing loosely to reduce sweating (which helps retain body heat and also prevent freezing of clothes).

Even the way the fuel cans were sealed played a big role in the Antarctic expeditions. Scott had used incorrect washers for the fuel cans which led to evaporation of the fuel – which is a critical component in turning ice to water for drinking. Amundsen had worked this out earlier and had ensured that the cans were sealed properly to prevent any loss of fuel.

Food was an important component in the expedition which Amundsen paid a great deal of attention to. Amundsen, following his time with the Innuits, understood that an exclusively meat diet consisting of penguin and fresh seal meat was vital to remaining healthy. Although this wasn’t understood scientifically then, fresh seal and penguin meat provided enough Vitamin C to prevent scurvy (an ailment that afflicted sailors in those days and which was fatal in the long run if not treated).

On the other hand, a number of historians have indicated that the lack of good nutrition was one of the many reasons for Scott’s failure. They also tended to overcook the penguin and seal meat  (to remove the ‘fishy’ taste) which destroyed the Vitamin C present in them. Amundsen’s indifference to palate meant that his expedition ensured that they ate very unappetising biscuits (made from oatmeal, yeast – with enough Vitamin B, beef fat and pounded dried beef!) and which provided them with essential roughage. Again, this is something the British expedition team chose to ignore.

As Geir Klover, director of the Fram Museum in Oslo, explains, “”Amundsen had a tremendous reputation. He was a meticulous planner, easily the best organised explorer of his generation.”

The attention to detail, especially for major campaigns, is absolutely critical in not only determining the success or failure of the campaign, but between life and death.

 

4. Constant preparation

During the winter months, Amundsen and his team spent the days optimising their equipment, their clothing, their logistics and working to improve their efficiency. It was an extremely focused team with a clear view of what needed to be done to achieve the task at hand.

Scott’s team spent the time engaged in a series of meetings, lectures, reviews, and reading. This led to missed opportunities for the team to review their practical and operational needs and performance.

A clear vision, decisive leadership and attention to detail are matters which determine how well a team is prepared for a mission.

The need for constant preparation is vital and whilst it is easy to slip into a routine of meetings, conferences and discussions, without preparing for the tasks at hand, it will be near impossible to do a great job.

 

5. Avoid arm-chair experts (and get the right people into the team!)

Amundsen had one of Norway’s skiing champions in his team (despite the fact he wasn’t an explore or mountaineer). He also ensured that he had canine experts and dog handlers to choose the best dogs for his journey.

Scott chose not to use dogs – which he thought was more noble. This was also counter to the prevailing view in Britain in those days that dogs were of dubious value as a means of Antarctic transport (which was subsequently proven to be false).

To further compound matters, Scott had also instructed a member of his team who knew nothing about horses to choose the ponies for the expedition. The ponies chosen were of poor quality, age and condition and which only served to hinder Scott’s expedition.

Amundsen also made it a point to engage with the right people and subject matter experts (such as Fridtjof Nansen – another famous Nordic explorer) as he formulated his journey towards the South Pole.

6. Luck – is what you make of it

Amundsen summed it up best when he said:

“I may say that this is the greatest factor—the way in which the expedition is equipped—the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it.

Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.”

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