Virgin Atlantic v/s Jet Airways and FC Kohli

I had a distinct hope that I would be able to write more ever since I discovered email blogging, however the chaotic work day can keep one away from it. So it is a triumph of human (read laziness) over technology to help write this one. The reason I wrote this is because, this idea struck me in a Eureka moment in the shower. Before I get there here is what happened. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of listening to Dr F C Kohli, widely regarded as the Father of the Indian IT industry. To the surprise (and chagrin of a few) of many in the audience, he ritually ripped apart the advantages of the Indian IT industry over China. He did make sense. The whole idea of the talk was not to demoralise but to rally everyone to move towards the greater goal.. and he was successfully too!!. But that is not the idea of this blog either.

One of the things that FCK mentioned was the convergence of hardware and software. Acc to him, anyone has a hardware advantage, would finally win the software war. He had a fair point. The best example was the increased convergence (read collapse) of software into hardware in the mobile phone industry. As you see these days, most of the software is now hardware, and phones are becoming more powerful thanks to all the embedded software. I lingered on it for some time, but it looked plausible.

On my way to India, I flew Virgin Atlantic. I am a flying Silver member. It is a decent airline, but not a great airline – unfortunately, they don’t live to the Branson image; but that could be a separate blog. One of the USP for Virgin is the onboard massage in business class. The masseuse is very effective and the experience is good. The food is ok, the private seats which resembles a small coffin is good provided you get a good one. I had a bad one – the table would not work plus it was too warm to be comfortable. Anyways, the point is, the massage is the USP and in my view, it is difficult to beat that, since you need special work area to be created onboard for the masseuse. In all, there is a good entry barrier for competition.

On my way back, I flew the India based new Jet Airways. Its got a young crew and a young fleet of airlines. The food is good, they have movies on demand and lives upto Young India’s reputation. I liked it. The full flat bed in business is very good, and the goodie bag handed out was awesome (Virgin has lost out on all this now) The only thing standing between Virgin and Jet was the massage. As I was struggling with the plethora of buttons that control the bed, I found a little button – A MASSAGE button!!!. Jet had gone ahead and integrated massage functions into their business class!!!!. No longer was I required to wait for the appointment with the Virgin’s masseuse, I could have my massage when I wanted, as much as I wanted. A true winner. FCK’s words came to my mind. This is true case of software being built into the hardware. Now take a guess which airlines would be my choice for my next trip. Question, will hardware help win the software war?

(This blog was part of my ‘Caught in the crossfire‘ blogs in 2006)


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