Sunday, January 10, 2010

The decade in retrospect: Story of innovators, imitators and idiots

As we closed on a momentous decade, I wonder what impact the events of the decade will have on our future. In retrospect, I can summarize the decade (borrowing from Warren Buffet: as the story of three I's..that of Innovators, Imitators and Idiots.

The decade started with the waning euphoria of new dot-com economy and ended with probably the greatest recession seen since the great depression of 30's. On hindsight the great financial disasters (dot-com bubble or the sub prime crisis) are marked by some great innovations.

Analyzing the dot-com bubble, Innovators in Netscape, AOL, Google, Yahoo and Amazon redefined the way internet was perceived. Traditional heavy-weights like Microsoft, Cisco and Time-Warner realized the potential of the new economy started imitating to a great extent. However things go awry when the idiots arrived, whose avarice undid the very innovation they were trying to use to get rich. Easy money flowing in from IPOs, venture capital funds were spent on massive advertising campaigns without giving any thoughts to the long term commercial viability of the product at hand.

The decade also saw, some of the greatest financial product innovation from the traditional investment banking firms of Wall street. In the process the world economy got intertwined as never before. The world economy grew at a scorching pace in the later half of the decade till..the over indulgence tool over. Early warnings were overlooked and we saw some high-risk transactions on already high leveraged market. When reality caught on..the fall was steeper than anything in recent memory.

Both the above mentioned events have a lasting impact on the ways of doing business. As we look forward to a new decade, I am sure there would still be innovators. There would still be smart imitators who would be willing to cash on the innovations as they happen. However it would be interesting to see what the idiots learnt from the previous decade.

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