Monday, January 26, 2009

Scalability of business

Just read Anurag Srivastava's note (on facebook) dealing with scalability of business and life in general.

He writes
" .... what keeps one going is not the regular earnings that you get from the business which in a typical year is predictable - but possibility that there can be a time when all things will go right and will payoff exponentially. Every one who gets into business does it with that hope - that if all things go right - there will be a windfall ..."

I am not very sure about the comment about the "typical year" claim - all of us have seen how the markets crashed within a very short time. We are talking about black swans here. He seems to look only for the positive abnormalities but (probably because he is a die-hard optimist) prefers to overlook the tough times.

Though the expectation part is very valid - no one wants to do something that will remain mediocre all along. Its only the faint hope of greatness that drives the men.

Further he adds
"... where the business scales up purely on creation of a design or an idea that gets replicated easily and you get paid for every unit that gets produced by anyone through a license. So the Chinese might have factories which make the Nike shoes and scale up production as per what Nike wants and make incremental profits - Nike has to design and market those shoes to make exponential profits without too much extra investment on capital or humans. Ideas and intellectual property is scalable , bodies are not. Running a hotel is not scalable but the format/franchises are ..."

Here he makes a very interesting point. All of us knew it somewhere at the back of our heads but it still is a revelation when one first gets to see it articulated. Its the idea that can bring a turn around. In my opinion, the distinguishing feature of a scalable business is the fact that an additional unit is not accompanied with diminishing returns.

PS- More on business scalability in the manufacturing sector here.

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