Wednesday, July 09, 2008

iPhone, Rogers and Genghis Khan

Most successful leaders have this in common: They love to be loved but don't mind being hated. The name of Genghis Khan enjoys god-like status in some parts of the world. But it would not be surprising to his devotees to find that others would revile the historical man. It is a part of the game of being a conquering hero that your own people will probably love you and those you vanquish will paint you as a baby-on-bayonet rape and pillager.

As a child living at one end of the legendary Silk Road I had heard stories about the great Genghis Khan. I was even named after him. Even though I've been called Jake since coming to Canada my real name is a derived form of Genghis. But growing up in the west I noticed that his name was often associated with a less than heroic narrative.

Billionaire Ted Rogers is a captain of industry well known by Canadians as a leader in the realm of telecommunications. Shareholders in his Rogers Communications love him while his competitors likely don't. His customers however seem to despise him. Owing to actual or near monopolistic positions in various businesses people have had to grudgingly make monthly payments to his companies while seething and hoping for some competitive horizon to level the field. As it turns out Apple's iPhone will only be offered for service on the Rogers network and they've taken up their monopolistic position by gouging their customers with exorbitant data plan rates. What has resulted is an explosion of displeasure that expresses itself in countless thousands of Internet postings decrying their rapacious opportunism.

While reading through some of the thousands of comments on (which became I noticed a pattern among the more colourfully metaphorical postings. There were countless references to the "raping and pillaging" of customers or how Rogers has engaged in "a scorched earth approach" to the sensibilities of the Canadian wireless consumer. These kind of characterizations are usually reserved for other types of leaders. The Genghis Khan brand is finally getting some reprieve for his name and legacy in the west through films like The Mongol but it has taken the better part of a millennium for this to come about. Maybe Ted Rogers doesn't mind being hated but he should take note and realize that the rehabilitation of the image of such a leader could take a very long time; longer perhaps than shareholders are willing to wait.

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