Between the Lines

The stories behind this issue’s stories.

A Passage to India
In many ways, Bangalore, India is wildly different from any city that I’ve traveled to before. It’s a complex and challenging place where Western conventions just don’t apply. Yes, cattle really do roam downtown intersections. So do bicycles insanely overloaded with sugarcane.


But the offices — and most of the workers — at the technology companies that I visited there couldn’t have felt more familiar. Wipro Ltd. may represent “The New Face of Global Competition” (page 90), but it’s a recognizable face. At Wipro’s big stucco-and-glass Electronic City campus, developers do their thing on three-year-old Acer PCs atop sleek blond-wood desks in battleship-gray cubicles with white-board trim. They email and Google with high-speed Internet connections. And they can crank out PowerPoint slides like nobody’s business.

At Wipro’s headquarters, the dress is all khakis and button-down shirts (brightened by the occasional woman’s sari). Some workers cycle and bench-press in a modern fitness center. Others whack tennis balls or shoot hoops outside. They can find all manner of biryani and nan in the company cafeteria — but they also can order pizza and a Coke. (One night after work, a group of employees took me to the local TGI Friday’s. Chimichangas and Foster’s Lager at an American outpost in southern India: How much more global can you get?)

So at Wipro, how do you know you’re in India? Except for the massive time-zone difference, you really don’t. And that’s by design. Wipro aspires to become a world-class company, and that means making its “Indian-ness” invisible to customers in Seattle and London. That, in the end, may be the most painful casualty of the global economy: In plain-vanilla cubicles everywhere, knowledge workers are sipping gourmet coffee, laughing wistfully at Dilbert, and posting to Keith H. Hammonds

How Now, Purple Cow?
A big part of what separates Fast Company from other business magazines is our energetic approach to design, and a big part of our design is how we approach photography. As the magazine’s photo director, I’ve traveled the world in search of the right locations, and among the subjects that I’ve worked with are some of the best-known people in the business world.

But this issue’s article “In Praise of the Purple Cow” (page 74) was something of a first for me. The subject of the photo shoot was June (shown with me above), a 7-month-old heifer that belongs to the Vail Farm in Lagrangeville, New York. June has won awards for her good looks and positive disposition, and she comes from photo-friendly stock: Her mother actually traveled to New York City to be photographed in a studio, so June is following in her mother’s hoofsteps.

Alas, we chose another approach to the design of Seth Godin’s piece, so June’s photos don’t appear in the story. But there was no denying the cow’s cooperative demeanor. She truly stood out from the herd. Alicia Jylkka


Face It: Here’s How Trends Get Set
I’ve often wondered how an event or an idea evolves into an actual trend — something that’s embraced by the early adopters and eventually commercialized in the marketplace. I got an insider’s take on the making of a trend when I interviewed Melinda Davis, a pioneering cartographer of contemporary culture and a woman who’s in the know when it comes to “Desire: Connecting With What Customers Want” (page 86).

In a talk that she delivered to a group of marketers from the tony precincts of the luxury-goods industry, Davis described how the masses decide what’s hot or not. “A trend begins with an Alpha event,” she said. “One guy thinks of one great thing.” Such an event occurred last February, at the opening of a retrospective on Andy Warhol at London’s Tate Modern gallery. “Salman Rushdie and Mick Jagger were there, and Rushdie began autographing people’s faces. There was nothing else to write on. Not to be outdone, Jagger started autographing people’s chests. Within three weeks, the habitués of the hippest clubs in London were turning up with graphics and messages scrawled across their bodies.” Davis calls this the “Beta moment” — the critical instant at which trend-setting types seize on something that an Alpha has created and begin to disseminate it.

It was in those London clubs that the vogue for “body messaging” — the art of using on-the-body graphics as a kind of personal-branding statement — began to flourish. These days, fans at rock concerts plaster the name of their favorite band member across their forehead. Spectators at the 2002 Winter Olympics branded their cheeks with flag decals. Apparently, the impulse to use one’s body as the ultimate canvas has passed the acid test for every trend in the making: Body messaging has gone mainstream. Bill Breen