Sunday, September 23, 2007

Belgium's new national airline: Jet Airways

Thanks to some good old mismanagement and corruption, Sabena, Belgium's national airline, stopped existing in 2001. Leaving Belgium with no major airline flying international routes.Thus making Belgium a rare 1st world country with full fledged national carrier.

Along comes ever expanding JetAirways fueled by massive demand from India and manages to make Brussels it's European hub. A first by any airline from Asia. From here JetAirways will send flights to all over India: Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, etc and will also connect major cities in North America New York, Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco, etc.

Further Jet Airways forges a tight alliance with Brussels low cost carrier, Brussels Airways, which flies all over Europe. Creating a perfect hub and spoke system for connecting all of Europe with 2 important regions: India & North America.

This gives Jet Airways the same power as a European national carrier like Lufthansa or Swiss Air or KLM. Truly remarkable because all over the world the airline industry is highly protected and international airlines cannot set up a base. The commercial implications of this for Jet Airways can't be imagined and will be felt very deep into the future. Jet Airways, Indian government and Indian business will be able to capatalise on this in many ways and Belgium is sure to become India's beachhead into Europe.

I would even argue that Jet Airways is better positioned than Lufthansa or KLM to reap benefits from having a European hub, because Brussels has fantastic train connections to London (under 2hrs by Eurostar) and air connections into Africa where the French and Belgians were active colonists.

To begin to understand this, one has to look at the numbers. To start with, by Dec 07, Jet Airways will operate 10 flights a day from Brussels. This will soon be stepped up to 35 flights a day. Brussels Airways operates over 90 destinations out of Brussels which are now tightly connected into Jet's flights. Simultaneously, Jet Airways is making arrangements to operate daily flights from Brussels to Shanghai, Dhaka & other Asian destinations. When those come through, its going to be even more flights out of Brussels. The target is to soon handle 1 million passengers and 60,000 tons of cargo out of Brussels.

How much can Jet Airways grow from here? Last year Lufthansa handled 55M passengers and in 2008 this will go upto 60M. There is absolutely no reason why Jet Airways cannot grow into an airline of Lufthansa's size, especially since it now has 2 hubs: India & Belgium, something which even mighty Lufthansa does not have.

There is one small problem: Belgium may break up into 2 states as the Dutch and French speaking population can't seem to get along. This will cause all kinds of economic difficulties for Belgium and may cause Jet's careful plans to spin out of control.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The 9 year life of an Internet application

Ok, I'm quite over Facebook. I think their killer feature applications with feeds has actually turned into the latest form of spam. My feed is full of junk and nothing useful.

On the plus side I am connected with tons of friends and I never have to worry about losing contact. But that's about it. Status is passe, because everyone's updates are so boring. Photos is passe, because have ODed on them. Wall is still OK and good way to notify the whole gang.

For the last few months I have been using Smallworld. And now everytime I meet the slightly older, slight better off individual, they automatically ask me "are you on Smallworld". Not a word about Facebook.

Its not just the exclusivity of Smallworld that's appealing. Its the trusted opinion. If Facebook users rate a nightclub, you're never sure what its all about because the users are such a mixed bag; but if Smallworld users rate it, you can be sure that its more or less in line with your tastes. Ditto with questions and answers. Ask a question and Smallworld answers tend to be normally what you're looking for.

Is this the beginning of the end for Facebook? Could very well be. Smallworld will be the 1st community catering to high end lifestyle needs and a small but important group will split from Facebook to Smallworld. Then we might find that another community catering to under 21 with lots of gaming breaks off another chunk from Facebook. And so on.

The splitting off phenomena is known as divergence. As a product matures, new products emerge catering to a more specific group within that user base. In the old days this took decades, but in rapidly moving Internet times, the cycle is down to 9 years:

Year 1 - 3 Product emergence
Year 4 - 6 Product's best years. Emergence of new divergent competitors
Year 7 - 9 Product's decline. The rule of the divergent competitors
Year 10+ Product stays and can be kept profitable, but its difficult.

Moral of the story: Best time to launch a new product, when the competing product is doing its best. Needless to say the new product must be divergent and highly innovative.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Britney Spears and Filmfare awards

The papers this week were full of the horrible and embarrassing performance that Britney Spears put on. So when I received a link in my email to check out the video, I couldn't resist.

I watched the whole video and kept search for the embarrassing moments when Britney was awkward and made a fool of herself. There was nothing. Then it struck me: Aah, as per International standards she was plump and a bit out of tune, just a teeny weeny bit. But I had been watching Indian live shows at things like the filmfare awards where all the actresses are FAT and completely out of sync and wear the most ghastly clothes.

If this was India and this was Britney's performance, it would have been hailed as the greatest Indian live performance ever.

So its Indian standards vs US standards; and its only when you watch US standards impartially do you realize how low Indian standards actually are.