I was reading the “Idea Watch” article on the latest issue of HBR, an article on Social Media based Marketing and the misconceptions about “Influencers”. The article goes on to describe Marketing in a B2C scenario and describes at a high level the difference between correlation and causation – and how correlated behaviour may not have changed an apriori tendency and hence not considered to be an “Influencer”.
This led me to wonder about influencers in other contexts, including that about a scandal that has rocked my favourite cricket team…
My favourite cricket team is the Chennai Super Kings, a team in the Indian Premium League – probably the richest and the most entertaining cricket leagues in the world. Captained by the charismatic captain of the Indian national side, who is known for being Mr. cool in adverse conditions on the field too, the team enjoys great popularity and has probably been the most successful team, being the only team to win the championship two times and having reached the playoff stage of the tournament every year since the start of the league 6 years ago.
The son-in-law of the owner of this team has recently been arrested for betting. Betting is illegal in India.
The more intriguing part is that this arrest has come as part of an ongoing probe against a set of players for “spot-fixing” – a term used for players throwing away parts of the game as against match-fixing, wherein players throw away an entire game – for money.
It is not clear if the team owner bet on his own team to win or lose – for, obviously, it is easier to influence a loss than it is to predict a win. If he had bet on his team winning, it may be called self-belief in some quarters, but it can at-least pass off as bravado, albeit illegal.
If he had bet on losses or setbacks in a game for his own team, given that he is privy to the team details, he could have committed a second offence of defrauding the book (with the connivance of the book keeper, in this case) – going by circumstantial evidence.
But, whatever it may be, we can all agree that there has indeed been one count of illegal activity (betting), in this case.
Influencing An RFP
A long time ago, I was involved in drafting up an RFP for one of our customers. This was in an upcoming technology area of that time in which the customer did not have requisite skills within their organisation and they required our organisation to supply the skills. I do not recall if we were paid for the service rendered – that was not my concern but that of the Account Manager – but, I do recall that we were allowed to respond to the RFP!
From a sense of fairness, I had tried to be as general as possible in drafting the RFP. The drafted document was released and we bid against a standard set of quality competition – and I would like to believe that when we won the deal it was not a quid-pro-quo for helping in the drafting of the RFP, but because we had what it takes to deliver to the requirements. Imagine my surprise (and naïveté, perhaps?) when a friend who works for a competitor met me in a social setting and complained to us of having fixed the RFP to ensure that only we would win!
Sour grapes? Or was the purity of the turf sullied here too?
After this incident, I have started seeing similar patterns in other situations too – for e.g. a Middle East operator wanted to consolidate their Video Head End and the RFP had generous references to IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) – at the time of the RFP, only a European supplier had an IMS based video solution! This seems to be a rampant phenomenon!
Are we all sullying the turf too?
In one of my earlier jobs, I was involved in setting up a new production facility for telephone exchanges. One of the tasks I had to execute was to procure equipment for the new facility – one amongst those being, what we call dumb terminals, a VDU and keyboard contraption that enables us to interact with the embedded software on the controller card of the exchanges.
The procedure of the organisation required me to draw up full specifications in a particular format and go for at-least a limited tender. Now, I was not knowledgeable about this item – they were bought out components procured from vendors identified by C-DoT. But rules were rules…
So, I actually invited the vendors one by one – three of them were on approved vendor list – and had a series of meetings with them to understand various statements made on their data-sheets to come up with a spec that I could sign off.
The vendors got an opportunity to lobby with me – it was a sizeable order – and would frequently share comparison statements of their product vis-a-vis their competitors although all I needed was technical understanding of features & characteristics. Of course, I had politely declined gifts and lunch invites – but needless to say that the entire process was influenced by the information shared by the vendors!
One of the vendors turned up after the process was complete and shared his unhappiness for not winning the order for all the efforts he had put in (he had been told that I am seeking an education, all along)!
Was this a a case of sullying the turf, once again?
Once again, during the same period when I was into planning the new facility, I got an idea that we could use the metallic card cage used in the system assembly for creating ESD protected transportation within the factory. The mechanical assembly had to be sheathed in an appropriate cabinet fitted with wheels and also be available in smaller form-factors. This is not a bulk order considering the fact that larger orders have been issued for the regular assembly work – it was not a repeatable order either.
So, I chose a vendor from amongst the list of approved vendors to work with – we had a wavelength match and the vendor was willing to put in the additional effort to deviate from his regular manufacturing and assembly processes. I didn’t go to any other vendor – so it was not even a limited tender. With appropriate internal approvals, we went ahead with the design and procurement.
And, once again, a few other vendors came back to me complaining that they were not consulted!
Concluding On A Light-hearted Note
Except in the case of the spot fixing above, where I get a clear understanding that something illegal has happened, I don’t know if the other cases involved wrongdoings – definitely not illegality!
Here is a dialog from the movie – “Pirates Of The Caribbean”:
William Turner: You didn’t beat me. You ignored the rules of engagement! In a fair fight, I’d kill you!
Jack Sparrow: Well, that’s not much incentive for me to fight fair then, is it?
But then Jack Sparrow, is a pirate, and one who is, according to some, not good at being one either.