Friday, September 23, 2005

Man's Best Friend

A few days ago, a movie caught my eye while surfing through Golden Screen Cinema's website - a Japanese film called All About My Dog.

So off I went yesterday with my other half to GSC MidValley. When I said "two for All About My Dog, please", the guy at the counter hesitated and said he'll be right back. Next thing I know, he says the show's cancelled. Huh, why? Coz there's no customers, he said. Eh, you've got two standing right in front of you, lah, gundu! Fortunately his supervisor walked past at that point and relented. Woo hoo, we're gonna have the cinema all to ourselves! Not quite, in the end there were another three. Must be a record of some sort, five persons in a cinema.

For those dog lovers among you, you must catch this show before they take it off soon. It was very weird, but at the same time very affecting. If you've grown weary of the cynical, self-centred world that we live in, this might make you shed tears of knowing some are still capable of simple, pure love. It also reminds of innocence lost, and dreams forgotten.

If you're the type who loves what Hollywood's been feeding us, then this might not be for you. But if you're looking for something different and memorable, then this comes highly recommended.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Mr Proton, You're Fired

I'm a big fan of The Apprentice, and often couldn't help but think that our local managers would benefit from getting a dose of Mr. Trump's weekly business lessons. Despite the theatrics and obvious made-for-tv contrivances, I felt there were always genuine business lessons to be drawn from them.

The saga of Proton's decline must be familiar to most people by now, and so far they have blamed everybody (including the consumer) but themselves. Worst of all, a very senior retired national leader (you know who I'm talking about here) has brought in a nationalistic angle into the argument, further clouding the real issues.

I think the first lesson that our soon-to-be-number-two national carmaker (Perodua is poised to overtake it at the end of this year) can learn is that you don't build products that people do not wish to buy. The current Proton Wira is at least 7 generations behind the Mitsubishi Lancer it was based on, and consumes as much petrol as my 2 litre Korean car. The Gen-2, while a genuinely good car, was hampered by poor positioning and marketing. A large number of Proton buyers are in the smaller towns, and few uncles and aunties felt comfortable buying something that looks more like a sports car than a family sedan. A large number of Proton buyers are family people, and for them, the Gen-2 was just not practical enough. If Proton had brought out a more conservatively styled family sedan based on the Campro, I'm sure it would have been a roaring success.

The second lesson is NOT to assume that you know what the market wants. What's this deal with launching cars that has only manual transmission, no ABS and no airbags anyway? Even Perodua fell down on this aspect, they readily admitted that they were caught by surprise that a full 70% of the MyVi buyers actually went for the most high end model (with ABS and dual air bags). Surprisingly, Proton repeated the mistake with the Savvy, and is now belatedly giving an auto transmission option. The Malaysian consumer has moved on, educated on a steady diet of information from cable tv and the Internet, while the car makers still assume we are ignoramuses.

The third lesson is not to alienate the consumer by blaming THEM for not buying your car. So, not buying Proton is not nationalistic? Come on! If Proton feels that the consumer is unfairly judging them on past quality problems, then why not put its money where its mouth is and offer an extended warranty at no extra charge. The Koreans did the same with the Hyundai Sonata, where the US consumer went "Oh, its a nice car, but I don't know whether it'll be as reliable as a Camry". Hyundai put their doubts to rest by offering 10 year warranties. Yep, you read that right, 10 years.

The fourth lesson is understanding that for many people, buying a car can also be an emotional thing. Many people were taken by the Kelisa's looks when it first came out, and now the same goes for the MyVi as well. I remember staring at the Kelisa whenever I spotted one when it first come out, it looked so, well, huggable. Nothing from Proton so far has ever evoked this.

The final lesson is that if you never learn and change, you'll be fired, i.e. kaput. There's an article in The Star today that says the analysts suspect right now Proton is in a negative cash flow situation. Any half decent accountant will tell you that if this goes on, the company will just bleed to death.

I do appreciate Proton for having provided me an opportunity to buy a car at an affordable price, but the time for self pity and finger pointing is long past. Wake up, Proton, or you're fired.

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