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如何在竞争劣势中鼓舞士气

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Sanjay Chheda, head of Microsoft Corp.'s consumer and online business in Asia, faces one of the more difficult challenges in his industry. In a world where Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. command more than 80% of Internet searches, Mr. Chheda must find a way to popularize Microsoft's Web services or be left with a shrinking piece of the online-advertising pie. In Asia, he also faces stiff competition from search engines such as China's Baidu.com Inc. and NHN Corp.'s Naver.com of South Korea, which dominate their local markets.

Mr. Chheda's first stint with Microsoft was in the summer of 1991 as an intern working on Microsoft Word word-processing software for Windows 2.0. Microsoft Word was then the underdog to the popular WordPerfect, now owned by Corel Corp. Mr. Chheda watched how Microsoft rallied as a team to defeat Goliath, and he kept this sense of mission with him as he rose through the ranks.

Since joining Microsoft 17 years ago, Mr. Chheda has held a variety of jobs across marketing, product planning and program management, most notably as Microsoft's chief deal-maker, responsible for acquisitions, strategic investments and new ventures, and later as head of its Windows Mobile software business. He now manages Microsoft's consumer software and online units across Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea, India, China and Australia.

He played a key role in the recent launch of Bing, a new search engine Microsoft hopes will win over fans with language tweaks targeted at users in Asia. Mr. Chheda will oversee Bing's regional rollout in the coming months, focusing on Japan, China and Australia. His teams also will work closely with units in China, Japan and India to gear the search engine to the needs of users there.

Mr. Chheda, 42 years old, an American, was born to Indian immigrant parents near the northern New York state city of Buffalo, and went on to earn economics and computer-science degrees at the University of Pennsylvania. After a stint in a junior analyst program at Salomon Brothers, the now defunct investment bank, in New York City, he enrolled in the MBA program at Stanford University. When Mr. Chedda joined Microsoft in 1992, he was one of just 11,000 workers. The company now employs more than 95,000 people.

Wayne Ma spoke with Mr. Chheda in Singapore. The interview has been edited.

WSJ: In this challenging economic environment, have you had to cut costs?

Mr. Chheda: We've had to get our costs in line with revenue; the best way to do that is to share information and explain to people why we're doing it, rather than saying, 'Here's your cost cut, live with it.' If you help them understand the objective and treat them as equals and partners in the business-planning exercise, you get the support of the team and also can harness their creativity.

WSJ: What did you learn from your experience in investment banking [at Salomon Brothers] and is Microsoft still looking for merger and acquisition opportunities in Asia?

Mr. Chheda: At Microsoft I worked on several acquisitions and deals, including the IPO of the travel Web site Expedia.com. From my investment banking years, I knew how to integrate new businesses to create value, and I knew how to work with bankers on transactions.

Microsoft is certainly looking at strategic opportunities in Asia, but it might not always take the form of an acquisition. Because the environment has gotten tougher, everyone has been looking for opportunities to partner and grow market share without increasing costs. Valuations are also more reasonable, and that makes some deals more attractive. There are probably more opportunities to do deals and partnerships than ever before.

WSJ: What do you look for when considering job candidates?

Mr. Chheda: I've held many jobs at Microsoft, and they often involved the company taking a bet on me to do something I perhaps didn't have the full suite of experience to do. It might be a smart bet for a company to give someone with enough of a track record the chance to step into a role they might be somewhat unqualified for. Some of the best decisions I've made were taking bets on people; It's been satisfying to watch them thrive against a new set of challenges.

WSJ: Do you think an MBA is important?

Mr. Chheda: You can't get nuts-and-bolts skills at educational institutions. That said, getting an MBA is a great way to prepare or enhance a career in business, and I'd strongly encourage it to anyone who is considering. However, I'd tell them to first go out and get substantial work experience. You can learn so much more in your academic program if you come into it with more context.

WSJ: How do you motivate employees when you're the underdog in the online-search market?

Mr. Chheda: People need to believe we have a plan to get back to leadership, and it's also important that they understand our commitment and strategy. We face some stiff competition today and better competitors than ever. But Microsoft has a long history of succeeding against competition. I love to tell the story of Word for Windows 2.0, because most people don't realize that Microsoft wasn't always the winner there. At the time, we knew our product was going to be better than WordPerfect's product, and we were going to tell that story to the world. We're a company that's good at rallying and responding to the competition.

WSJ: What have been some of your biggest challenges?

Mr. Chheda: There were some countries where our financial performance wasn't fully what we wanted, and I had to go in and take a look at our sales structure. In one example, we were trying to launch too many aQuantive [Microsoft online advertising] products at the same time. I learned that if you have a small team trying to sell too many products at once, you're not going to succeed. Focus on doing a couple of things well and gaining acceptance for them before reaching that critical mass to add new ones.

WSJ: How do you communicate with your employees across Asia?

Mr. Chheda: Some face-to-face contact is essential, especially when you're ramping up and getting started in a new role. You really need to spend time with people in a somewhat unstructured way to learn who they are, how they work and what their interests are. If you invest in that personal connection in the beginning, it makes it so much easier to connect on issues over the phone or video conferencing. In Singapore, we do video calls with each employee in each country every month, reviewing their business performance. We also do a video conference with each country's leadership team.

微软公司(Microsoft Corp.)亚洲区消费者及在线业务部的负责人桑杰.切达(Sanjay Chheda)正面临着科技行业中一个难度很大的挑战。目前,谷歌(Google Inc.)和雅虎(Yahoo Inc.)霸占着互联网搜索领域80%以上的江山,而切达必须找到一种方法,扩大微软在互联网服务方面的影响力,否则就只能坐视自己在网上广告这块大蛋糕中的份额越来越少。在亚洲,他还面临来自本土搜索引擎的激烈竞争,如中国的百度(Baidu.com Inc.)和韩国NHN Corp.的Naver.com,其在当地市场都占据着主导地位。

切达与微软的第一次亲密接触始于1991年夏,他作为实习生参与开发了Windows 2.0操作系统下的Microsoft Word文字处理软件。当时,Microsoft Word不敌热门软件WordPerfect,后者现属Corel Corp.公司所有。切达目睹了微软的团队如何薪火相传,精诚合作,上演一个又一个神话中“大卫王击败巨无霸Goliath”的故事。他在微软的职位不断提升,而自己一直抱有这种以小胜大的使命感。

自从17年前加入微软公司以来,切达在许多部门工作过,比如市场营销、产品规划和软件管理等,最为人所知的是其作为微软的首席交易促成者,负责并购交易、战略投资和新创业务,后来还负责运营向合作公司销售一些手机和其他电子设备的嵌入装置。现在,他管理着微软在东南亚、日本、韩国、印度、中国和澳大利亚市场的消费者软件及在线业务。

在微软最新推出的搜索引擎“必应”(Bing)上,切达扮演着一个关键角色。微软公司希望能凭借其针对亚洲用户的语言互通方面的优势,吸引更多的用户。切达将在未来几个月负责“必应”在亚洲市场的推出,并把主要精力放在日本、中国和澳大利亚市场上。他的团队还与中国、日本和印度的微软子公司密切合作,调整搜索引擎以更好地适应当地用户的需求。

42岁的切达是美国人,父母是印度移民,他出生在纽约州北部城市布法罗(Buffalo)附近。他在宾州大学(University of Pennsylvania)获得经济学和计算机学的双料学位,曾在现已不复存在的纽约投行所罗门兄弟公司(Salomon Brothers)提供的一个初级分析师项目中实习过,后来去斯坦福大学(Stanford University)攻读MBA。1992年,切达加入微软公司,当时公司员工总数仅11,000人,现在已经超过95,000人。

《华尔街日报》(以下简称WSJ)记者Wayne Ma在新加坡采访了切达,下文是经编辑过的访谈摘要。

WSJ:在这个充满挑战的经济环境下,你是否不得不考虑削减成本?

切达:我们得量入为出,最佳的实现途径是充份沟通,告诉大家为什么要这么做,而不只是说“这就是你的成本消减目标,看着办吧”。要帮助员工理解公司的目标,在制定商业计划的过程中平等对待每个人,就像合作伙伴一样,这样才能获得团队的支持,充份利用好他们的创新能力。

WSJ:你在(所罗门兄弟公司的)投行从业经历中学到了什么,微软公司还在亚洲寻找购并机会吗?

切达:我在微软参与过几个并购交易,包括旅行网站Expedia.com.的首次公开募股(IPO)等。在投行工作期间,我学会了如何整合新的业务以创造价值,懂得该怎么和参与交易的投行人士共事。

微软当然会在亚洲寻找各种战略机会,但不一定是以并购的方式进行。由于经济不景气,大家都在寻找合作的机会,在不增加额外成本的情况下扩大市场份额。此外,目前的企业估值也更为合理,使一些交易更具吸引力。和以往相比,现在也许有更多的交易及合作机会。

WSJ:在招聘新员工时,你看重的是哪些方面?

切达:我在微软的很多部门工作过,在很多情况下,公司认为我虽然没有从事该岗位的全面经验,但依然能够胜任。因此在我看来,公司让一个历史表现较好的员工有机会从事一些看似并不适合的工作,反而是一招妙棋。我做过的一些最好的决策就是用对了人,看着他们能在一系列新的挑战中成长起来,会有一种成就感和满足感。

WSJ:你认为MBA学历重要吗?

切达:教育机构是无法给予你实战经验的,但MBA是一种准备进入商业领域或提升职业生涯的良好途径,对于正在考虑这个方向的人,我持鼓励态度。不过,我建议先工作一段时间,汲取足够的工作经验。有了更多的经验积累,你在学习MBA时就会有更大的收获。

WSJ:“必应”在搜索引擎领域还是一个“小弟弟”,你如何激励手下的员工?

切达:大家需要有这样一个信念,我们要重新登上头把交椅,同时他们也要理解公司的目标和战略举措。现在,我们面临的竞争更激烈,对手比以往任何时候都更强大;但微软有一个战胜竞争对手的长久历史。我很喜欢讲Windows 2.0操作系统下Word软件获得成功的故事,因为绝大多数人都不知道,微软并不总是赢家。当时,我们清楚自己的产品比WordPerfect更好,就致力于把这个消息告诉全世界。微软这个公司善于应对竞争,并在竞争中取胜。

WSJ:你面临过的最大挑战是什么?

切达:我们的财务状况在一些国家不尽人意,因此我必须重新审视那里的销售结构。举个例子,我们曾经想同时在几个国家推出很多aQuantive(微软的在线广告产品),后来我意识到,如果只有一个小团队,但想一下子销售太多的产品,就会欲速则不达。一次做好一两件事情,获得大家的认可和接受,就能逐步从量变走向质变,推出更多新的产品。

WSJ:你怎么和亚洲的员工进行沟通?

切达:面对面的交流非常重要,尤其是刚步入一个新的工作角色时。你需要在不经意的场合多和员工交往,了解他们的为人、工作方式,以及兴趣爱好等等。如果你一开始就加强这种人际沟通,今后就能在打电话或开视频会议时更容易地讨论事情。在新加坡,我们每个月都和亚洲各市场的每个员工举行视频会议,评估他们的业务表现。此外,我们还和每个国家的主管团队通过视频交换意见。
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