The “HAPPY” Framework
Business environments, especially in Asia and Africa have tremendous opportunities. However, attractive large macro-economic numbers also hide challenges that companies need to navigate. These challenges include regulations, politics, market risks, infrastructure, labor, cultural and communication issues.
The key question is how best to operate in these regions. A useful way forward is to use the HAPPY framework. These consist of guidelines that can be used to good effect and are based on Leo Tolstoy’s wise writings. Tolstoy wrote that “Happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. The HAPPY framework consists of five strategies that are used by many successful, “happy family” companies in the region. This is summarized as:
Huge and diverse regions:
Huge and diverse regions at different stages of economic development. Businesses cannot treat each country or even state within each country as if it were the same as another.
These countries and regions not only have different languages and per capita consumption patterns but also have differences that are deeply cultural. Businesses must be aware of different traits and practices. Even within India a marketing strategy that works in say Delhi may need to be modified for more effective selling in Chennai or Mumbai. Treat each country like a huge continent and cater your services to the requirements of each region.
Companies should stay away from politics. Governments and ruling classes change. To succeed in the long term businesses should remain neutral to different political forces.
Politics is always local and often fractured. It is so easy to try and “fix” a problem using “contacts”. However, aligning yourself either through design or ignorance, with one or another of the many political parties results in major risks. Parties are voted in and out of power. A strict meritocracy, clear guidelines and sufficient involvement by managers on the ground can mitigate these risks.
Human Resources must be focussed on. Finding the right and good people is not easy. Take time and spend resources finding excellent managers and your business has a better chance of success.
Control over Human Resource practices allows for the right people, based on merit, to advance. This reduces local politics and issues and makes the company a preferred environment in which to work.
Stay incorruptible. Many of these countries have difficult environments. These are not always so honest. The best strategy is to always operate within both the law and your conscience.
It is a myth that one must succumb to corruption to operate in some of these countries. It is the unfortunate hurry with which companies function that makes them look too easy solutions. A few officials are corrupt; however, this is also a global phenomenon. Staying non-judgmentally resistant to corruption may result in initial delays for approvals, but in the long term, it leads to a positive precedent being set.
These countries are inherently high growth. Once the pandemic ends, even if it takes much more time, the young demographics in these regions means that companies can take advantage of pent up demand. This requires however flexibility in product, service and marketing.
The above five HAPPY factors are common to most successful international companies. As in most things in life, getting there takes effort and time. The rewards though are many. From increased revenues and profits to attracting dynamic executives who can then add value to a company’s total operations. To survive and grow in an integrated global world, companies should deepen business interests in many of these high growth economies. Using the five HAPPY family suggestions can help reap big benefits.
© Kaikhushru Taraporevala