In a much-watched Wall Street ritual, Warren Buffett will release his yearly letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway this weekend, marking the informal kickoff of annual-report season. The task shouldn’t be hard: Berkshire stock returned 21.4 percent in 2010. Other letter-writers aren’t so fortunate, such as BP CEO Bob Dudley, who will have to explain away the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. NEWSWEEK turned to annual-report consultants for suggestions on spinning some of the thorniest corporate issues.
What do a $2,500 Tata Nano, a $250 Acer Netbook, and a $1,000 General Electric handheld electrocardiogram device have in common? According to Vijay Govindarajan, a professor at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, all three are examples of "reverse innovation"—a concept that's becoming the next big driver of globalization. "Historically, American companies innovated in the U.S. and took those products abroad," says Govindarajan, who coauthored a Harvard Business Review article on the idea with Dartmouth colleague Chris Trimble and GE chairman Jeff Immelt in October. "Reverse innovation does the opposite: companies now innovate in poor countries and bring the products to the U.S."Because they're designed for emerging markets, these products—like the Nano, a tiny automobile designed for India, or the GE EKG, priced far below a conventional unit—are dramatically less costly, making them appealing to frugal consumers in developed countries. Reverse innovation will also grow as...
Why America is falling behind and how to fix it.
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For Dr. Doom, a Crash Worthy of His Warnings
When you walk through a FOR SALE house with a real-estate agent, you expect to hear gushing about the "solid bones" or the "great potential." But as I toured listings this year while covering the deepening housing crisis, I heard a different line of patter. "Hold your breath," advised one agent, taking me into a basement with a mold-infested indoor pool that left my sinuses burning. Graffiti on bedroom walls, missing appliances, boarded windows, even crime-scene tape—they're becoming the norm as foreclosed houses swamp the market. By some estimates, there are now more than 1 million foreclosed homes for sale, and with prices still falling, more homeowners are going "underwater"— owing more on their mortgage than their home is worth—every month.Touring a foreclosed home is like watching an episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" in reverse. You can imagine the heartwarming scenes of family life that once played out inside, but now you're left with only a dwelling that's been...