Something Fishy — Quotidian — 367

(Transcript of video originally posted 04 Jan 2022)

We’ve seen this before, haven’t we? If we give a fish to a man, he may eat for a day. But, if you teach him how to fish, he will have a livelihood for a whole lifetime. Such a powerful quote..! Some say it is from a Jewish philosopher, some say it is an old Chinese proverb.. If one doesn’t know the origin of some quote, they immediately call it an Old Chinese Proverb. This could be that, I don’t know. But there are some questions I have about this philosophy.. About teaching a man how to fish.. Let us see.


This… teaching a man how to fish… I see two problems with it. I am sure you have identified them yourself. Here is Problem Number One.

Where will he fish? Is he not eating because he doesn’t know how to fish, … or… is he not eating because he has no “place” to fish, like the richer people around him.. There is a shortage.. Do you see what I mean?! Where does he fish? The second problem is..

If he fishes in the same lake as I am fishing already, will he start competing with me? This is something we have encountered already. In the Hippocrates Oath. A doctor should take care of the people who taught him or her how to do medicine.. Take care of him also, was the beautiful concept we saw the other day. So, .. there is probably a better approach than teaching fishing.

Useful from the perspective of economics too.. Is sustainable and prevents wastage too.. Probably we should get him to start a fish farm. As, if he starts producing fish instead, he can not only feed himself, he can feed a whole village amply! Because many people will come fishing. Get the point? Teach a man how to fish…!

This is Squid Game. Some of you might have watched it on Netflix. I did. Too much blood. But it was interesting. They will bring a lot of interesting examples on team dynamics. To participate or not. To be first or last. To join hands with a friend or an enemy. To work together or not. To cooperate or compete. A lot of beautiful dynamics. Many years ago, they did a research in a village in Brazil. There were two types of fishermen in that area. About 10–20 kilometers apart, between the two localities.

The first location was a fishing village with a lake. The other village was near an open ocean. Those that ventured out into the open ocean, they invested on large vessels. They can’t go out there in small vessels. They joined hands. Some of them did sailing, some of them did navigating, some did the actual fishing, some were mechanics, they joined hands. And, they probably go once a week. They come back with a large haul, and divide.

The ones in the lake though, they compete. Small boat. They try to go earlier than everybody else. They try to stay longer than everybody else. If a special fishing spot comes up, they try to keep it from everybody else. There is competition. It is clearly evident.. Why there is competition in one place and cooperation in the other. There is competition in the lake because there is a limited availability of resources. The fish don’t appear magically from somewhere. There is a limited number of fish in the lake. We have to DIVIDE that between ourselves somehow. In the ocean though, it is all unlimited, and the more you cooperate, the more everybody gets to take home. Fixed mindset versus growth mindset. We have seen many examples of this earlier, here is another example.

There was this book that came a decade or so ago, called the Blue Ocean Shift. Written by two famous authors — Mr. Kim and Ms. Mauborgne. They say that there are these two types of markets, types of domains.

One is the red ocean.. Why is it called the red ocean? Small fish, big fish, lots of fighting, small fish eaten by the big fish, a shark frenzy as they say, bloodied waters. Are you going to dive into that… Or…

Blue ocean. Open space. There is nobody there. It is peaceful. It is calm. Waiting for a harvest. Inviting you. Yes, there may be risks. But, at least, these sharks aren’t there. These established players aren’t there. Water is not already red. It is not a feeding frenzy already. Are you going to dive into that? That is the choice the authors offer us — Red ocean or Blue ocean. She came up with a six-part approach itself — probably we will see it in the next Quotidian about how to make this shift. But, before that, the red versus blue, what indeed are the differences? Shall we take a look?

These are the differences that I see. The first is in the marketplace itself. So, if you take the example of Netflix? What were everybody else doing? They were doing movies, theatres, big budget launches, artificial scarcity, ticketing, you get it only if there is stock of that movie, you get to watch it only until the last day of the movie, these guys said, here is a blue ocean approach. Let me just make it available for anybody, wherever they are, however long they want it, a shift, a paradigm shift. They changed the marketspace.

How about competition? At a time when the taxiwalla and the autowalla are fighting, at a time when the taxi stands protect themselves with unions, at a time when drivers refuse to accept rides if they are not suitable for them, Uber came along and said, stay where you are, there is a mobile phone in the driver’s hand, there is another in your hand, we will disintermediate, send the middle man away, we will get you in direct contact, and it will be mutually beneficial. So, there is no competition at all, when Uber started, they were the only guys, Blue Ocean!

How about demand? One way is to divide the existing demand between you and me, like a Pizza Hut and a Pizza Corner fighting among themselves. The other approach is to create brand new fresh demand. Existing customers versus unexplored new customer territory. A hotel used to typically mean vacationers, those willing to spend a lot of money, to stay in a posh room, to have waiters come to their room at their beck and call. Airbnb changed that whole expectation. They said, there may be people who don’t want to use a hotel room to stay. They want to just leave the baggage and go siteseeing. Why spend so much? They just want a ten-square-feet room to crash! Airbnb created new demand. Blue Shift!

How about this value-versus-cost tradeoff? In the world of Android, it is such a dilemma what phone to buy. This phone has a better camera. That other phone has a longer-living battery. This one has a better screen. That one’s screen can be folded. This ongoing tussle between the value we get from it and the cost we give for it.. It is such a careful balance that is constantly being weighed. On the other hand, if you go to the Apple ecosystem, What phone to buy? One phone only. The latest phone. It is costlier. But, it provides higher value. You can do both. This freedom and opportunity that allows you to do BOTH, becomes available to you only when you are in the Blue Shift. If you are in the Red Ocean, you are forced to cut some feature, lower some price, balance something, a lot of push and pull, you will have to keep doing that. In the Blue Ocean, you don’t need to do that, because there is no competition. You can set your price, you can demand that this will be the value I offer, pay me that cost. Great example for that is this Amazon Prime Air that has come up recently. Drone Delivery. Amazon benefits greatly from it, because they don’t need to send humans to your place. A great benefit for us too. And, nobody else has started doing Drone Delivery yet, either. Beautiful Blue Shifting for Amazon.

And finally, we shouldn’t forget the client and customer. How does the customer behave in the Red Ocean? She keeps looking. Should I go here, or there? This hotel or that hotel? This phone or that phone? This taxi or that taxi? Keeps comparing. Keeps the company or the business on its toes. What if they run away to some competition some day? Just because of some interesting offer? That complex dilemma doesn’t exist in the Blue Ocean. In the Blue Ocean the company actually decides which kind of customers to attract. They fire a customer. We don’t need you. We need only customers of one particular type. There is this hotel chain called Citizen M. They don’t have a concierge. No reception desk. Nobody to run to your beck and call, the moment you ring a bell. But, they provide great value in other forms, like amazing food, very low cost ticket, beautiful real estate. They provide all this, and save by cutting corners in things you rarely anyway use. Yes, some customers may not like it. We don’t want such customers, says Citizen M. They created another Blue Ocean for themselves.

Do you see the beautiful difference between the Red Ocean game and the Blue Ocean game?

Anyway, in summary, whether you are in a lake, or in the ocean, and among oceans, whether you are in the red ocean or in the blue ocean, you have to anyway learn to swim, shouldn’t you?! Please learn the game of swimming, of keeping your head above water!

Thank you! And yes, we have done 3, we have done 4, we will meet again on eighth! Thank you!



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Rajendran Dandapani

Rajendran Dandapani


Business Solutions Evangelist at Zoho Corp. President at The Zoho Schools Of Learning.