Sunday, December 18, 2016

Weekend reading links

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart beat Drake, Beyoncé and Adele to become the year’s biggest-selling artist, according to Billboard, shifting 1.25m CDs in five weeks.T
This, thanks to Universal’s recent 200-CD compendium Mozart 225, released to mark the anniversary of his death at 35 in December 1791. 

2. Who is the most successful business leader of our times? In the real world, the choice would be a struggle between the likes of Lee Iaccoca, Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jaime Dimon, and Mark Zuckerberg. In an ideal world, the choice is simpler. Arguably, Amancio Ortega, the founder of Inditex, the owner of Zara, and with a personal worth of nearly $80 bn! 

He defies all the conventional moulds of successful business leaders and went against the grain of outsourcing and off-shoring, and Inditex has been the standout performer among its competitors for many years now. I had blogged earlier about the firm's strategy of iterative adaptation. Surprising that management gurus who swoon over Jack Welch's ruthlessness or Steve Jobs' disruptiveness gloss over the profound wisdom of iterative adaptation. 

3. Talking about management theories, Economist does a brilliant take down. It shows that the four basic ideas that underpin management theories - business is more competitive than ever, we live in an age of entrepreneurialism, business is getting faster, and globalisation is both inevitable and irreversible - stand on clay foundations.

4. The recapture of Aleppo from rebel hands after four years of very violent fighting should count as a seminal moment in global geo-politics. Even as the US was busy grappling with Donald Trump, Russia, Iran, and Turkey have proceeded to carve out a historic diplomatic achievement, and entrenched themselves as important arbiters in the region for the foreseeable future. It may be the beginning of a truly multi-polar global order. 

It is estimated that the five year civil war has displaced more than half the country's 21 million population, nearly 5 million as refugees, and left over 450,000 dead. 
It is all too easy and tempting to denounce President Obama for not intervening decisively to bomb Bashar Al-Assad's forces even when they crossed the red-line and deployed chemical weapons against the rebel held areas. If the US had intervened more forcefully, it would only have played into the ISIS hands, strengthening them and hastening their progress. Apart from mutilating Syria and Iraq, it would also have left President Obama with no choice but to embrace the politically suicidal option of having boots on the ground to prevent an even more toxic brand of barbarism. 

When all possibilities are equally bad, it is not a bad idea to stand aside. It may be slightly easier, when, on relative barbarism at least, Assad comes out better, if only slightly. The brilliant Robert Fisk has this excellent article that highlights the duplicity associated with the mis-concieved angst at the recapture of Aleppo.

5. India's export engine is in reverse gear. Ajay Shah points to this,
From Q4/2013 onwards, the compound average growth rate of exports (of non-finance non-oil listed companies) has been minus 17.5% per year.
The FTP with the target of doubling trade to $900 by 2019, clearly unrealistic ab-initio, is in shambles. 

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