The Enigma

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mumbai Diaries

I am embarassed at the title of this post co-inciding with a lame movie but then when in Mumbai, it does sound apt and right!

Mumbai is a great city. Am not quite sure of its heritage and stuff, but am amazed by the passion for life it infuses in people, the opportunities it opens up to people and the optimism it fills in everybody. This is one city where I have seen people have such a hard-working lifestyle. It has life in every stretch of it. It is all about people. Some working, some clubbing, some wasting their life and some making it!

But then, on the flipside, its goddamn expensive and unliveable. Dirt, filth, traffic all make it such a frustrating experience going out anywhere in Mumbai. The glitz and glamor of the city may inspire many people, but to me the negative points overpower them all. Delhi is anyday a much better place to live in.

The interesting and intriguing part of Mumbai is that it challenges the person in you to make no rooms for assumption, and look for achievement. Be it in the most mundane things like travelling in a local, or something related to a life-making deal at work, it always puts in front of you a group of over-powering, mean bunch of people who would deter you in any other part of the country. But in this city, the 'Ye to Mumbai Hai' feeling raises above all and instigates the fighter in you to realise your own potential. That is a major contribution something as unrelated as a city can do in your life, if you ask me.

Also, Mumbai is a city of night. As darkness engulfs the streets, the life in the city changes. The music, the people, the whole environment changes. It gives a whole new meaning for work hard and party harder. If you have the right bunch of friends, Mumbai is something that you can never get enough of.

The soul of the city is in making everyone feel it as their own and as they belong here. It is something I haven't seen in any other city I have been to so far. As far as my affair with it goes, I have loved my life in this city so far, but as a city I dont rate it high. The essence of a city to me is in making you feel like settling down in it, and Mumbai is far away from that point for me and many people I know. But then, there is something intriguing in Mumbai that makes you want to have some more of it.

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The world's a nice place, but with a lot of unanswered quandaries which we are let out to find an answer to! Most of the times, you do not know what you seek, and settle for what you get. You do not know, and generally do not think of what life would have given you had you not taken a certain decision you did. It did happen to me that some decisions defined a certain path of life, and I almost assumed that is what life is. But then, as destiny would have it, I got a chance to explore it further and now am amazed how much lay there unexplored.

The sight of the mind is confined to the rulebook of the life imposed on to us by the immediate society - family, friends, teachers etc etc. The realms of what we could do, what we are destined to do or what we could just take a shot with no cares on success or failure are just not thought of. This is probably a country thing, or just my assumption. But it is true, not just in my case but most cases I have seen.

One thing that appealed to me strongly when I watched The Social Network was that the United States, as a nation, gave much more independence to radical thought and ability to explore. Not that I complain someone stopped me from any of it, but that was a setup that left me in awe.

What is the boundary to what we can do? What is the boundary to what life can offer us? What are the joys and sorrows of life that are made for us? These are questions we all have at the back of our mind, but dread to ask or if we do not dread, we have no clue who to ask.

Life never threw at me lemons I could make lemonade of, but it always threw at me demons I had to face or succumb to. If everything went as expected, it wouldn't be half as fun! And while this uncertainity and unexpectedness goes on, I continue to have fun on the run!

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Friday, December 31, 2010

Ring Out The Old, Ring In The New

The lines of Alfred Tennyson are so well-etched in my mind and I recollect them at the juncture of every change in life. In fact, the only lines or learnings that I recollect in life are those that I have assimilated in my childhood. I do not recollect or relate Solid State Physics or Organic Chemistry to my life as much I relate Pythagoras Theorem and lines like 'Water, water everywhere'. Have I stopped learning after a certain point of time in life and have been just dragging on since then? It amazes me.

Its December 31st, and the town is abuzz with talk of New Year Resolutions. Before making a resolution for the coming year, I remind myself to sit back and reminisce on what happened to the resolutions that I made last year. It was only one - To write more regularly; how regular was in contemplation then and things haven't moved much since then. But for the sake of posterity, I thought I would just ring in a post on to this blog before I ring out the year.

The year has been fantastic. Professionally the best so far! With just a few years down, I know that doesn't make much of a sense, but lets say it has been an immensely satisfying year. And the best part has been ONE MORE CITY! Mumbai has been amazing. From helping unleash my own potential to realising what an organisation to getting back into the bratpack after bearing the shackles of being a disciplinarian for over two years has been a welcome change. It has brought back the memories of Delhi, Gandhinagar and Lucknow which defined me. While Gandhinagar inspires me to understand a person before judging one, Lucknow does to live life with a heart. Delhi inspires the foodie in me, helps me eye power with an awe, defines festivities, instills the dreams to fly high and Mumbai inspires me to work hard and harder to get to it. The seamlessness Mumbai demands is something that gets me going.

With a predecessor being good, the successor starts off with an onus of delivering even higher. But I shall not put that burden of expectation on 2011; rather, would give it time to unfold at its own pace and engulf me into it and offer me more and more pleasures of life. No resolutions, no welcome bangs, no expectations. You are on your own! Bring it on... The only resolution is to write continuously which positively I shall!

Happy New Year!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009


We talk of equality, especially of the sexes, to a great extent. Its almost a style statement to say you believe in equality in sexes of late. Every other person - male or female- talks about equality of sexes with so much conviction, one tends to believe it indeed exists.

I was at a distributor's daughter's birthday party last noon. As it has been over the past few months, I was interacting with a bunch of retailers, a part of my team and some relatives of the host. Everyone was singing praises of the host because both his off-springs are daughters and he is still happy. What the hell. A girl child at home is a bad omen or what? What makes them think a person with two daughters and no son should be unhappy?

I know of couples who have had 4 children for the sake of a male child. I feel so sorry when you judge a child at birth itself. I dont judge who is better, cos at the end of the day, we are all parts of that puzzle we need to make sense of and each of us contributes in our own unique way. But it is the prejudices of people which should have been erased but are still intact, which enrages me. A male, no guarantee of what he grows up to be, is considered a gift and female, a curse.

When I was at a Madarassa in the interiors of UP, and saw a well dedicated to throw your girl child at birth and kill her, I was thankful that people in my state were not that backward-thinking. But we are no better. I have listened to spine-chilling stories of how girls in the houses of my team or my channel partners were killed, or got married against their wishes or discontinued studies. The stories are so heart-breaking you tend to forget if its happening to a man or a woman, you feel sorry for yourself that all these are happening in the world you are a part of!

Frankly speaking, an urban woman gets much more than what she should in the name of equality. I have always been a firm believer than when you believe men and women are equal, there ends the matter, no more concessions should be extended towards either parties. Exceptions and explanations can make another post.

Coming back to the rural setup, a woman has still not progressed. In a sales setup, a woman has no place, and a female MT from a reputed B-School is talked about cheaply because she is a woman and has chosen sales. Pity! The mothers, wives and sisters of all the people I meet in the up-country locations have a similar profile -discontinued studies somewhere in high school, got married before they could vote, and have been living the normal routine in the kitchen ever since then. Nothing has changed. No Equality. And we are still fighting over seats for women in buses, shorter queues for them at movie halls etc etc...

Friday, August 14, 2009


When we say the powerful call it shots in this country, its true. I always thought our society had been emergin towards decentralisation of power so much tht the word power will soon lose its sanctity cos evryone wud b as powerful as any other.
But alas, no. Powerful ppl still exploit the powerless. The major disparity in power, esp in rural India, comes in wealth. The respect a rich guy wud gave a poor guy, howevr little tht was n whtevr reason it was for, in a Delhi or a Hyderabad was no whr to be seen for me in a Barabanki, a Kursi or a Nalgonda for me. The poor are still ants, stomped upon evryone above them.
Today a poor, young employee came running to me n complained that a rich, middle-aged guy punched him. Reason: my guy was dng his job, which included business ideals which did not comply wid the rich guy's whims! I thot an apology 4m the rich guy wud b the solution, n got it. I knew it was half-hearted. When he was mvng out, I cud c the glitter in his eye tht he emerged unscathed.
Thr was still a frustration, wid no solution to it. A slave to social networks tht I am, I thought my feelings wud b shared thr, n I always thot thtz wht these n/ws r 4, but I realised my network is full of blokes who can poke fun at someone's pain and get away with it. Injustice here too. These blokes, probly even am one such, are lost in comforts of life and cant understand the pain of a guy wrkng his ass of to earn a meagre 3K a month. Probly v all r like tht. This is the power of comfort tht has blinded us to the feelings of others.
Thtz when I realised I cud hv some power too, n summoned it. The brat is now behind the bars n the glitter is now in the eye of my boy who smiles thinkin this is justice.
But at the end of the day, thrz still frustration. LOTS of it. Whtz right? Whtz wrong? Have I misused my power? Do we all do it all the time? Dont we understand power?
Ppl r not the right ones to answer these, as twitter taught me. Probly its time. Time can only answer, n till then probly v all need to file our queries in these blogposts.
Thr is still frustration in me, but atleast a solace tht something has come out of me.
PS: Sorry 4 all the (mis)formatting n the shortcuts in typing, am bloggin 4m a mobile.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Here I am

Time has passed quite briskly, or else how could one explain the difference in timestamp between this and my previous post? Feels like I had taken this short break from blogging, but then when I log back on to twitter I feel like one of those shady characters who are imprisoned for several years, and when finally released are amazed by the speed at which civilisation has moved ahead leaving them aeons behind. Bloggers seems to have done that to me. Several things have changed, but then treading through alien lands is nothing new to me, at least now!

While in college, I always looked forward to having a job. I would imagine my salary getting credited, and how thrilled I would be to get that money and spend, and all that childish crap one goes through in college. Ya, it did and does happen sometimes but then the job I looked at from my college boy eye is entirely different from what I do for a living now. This is much more challenging, and much more intriguing.

Job has kept me busy and off from several things. College was much different. I now interact very less with my friends. Definition of fun has now emerged to be a quiet dinner and a sound sleep. And ya, even funnier part of my life is acting very serious all day. I havent yet realised if I appear serious, or am serious or act that way for the heck of it to eke out a living. I just be so, and at the end of the day, manage to pull through all the requirements of my job!

That apart, my job has brought me another step closer to the rural hinterlands. Several times earlier, I had tiny stints/rendezvous with the rural life, but never as close as this one. I now live in a small town, and commute every day to several remote villages where my non-A/C Maruti 800 is quite an item! That - not the recognition - has added some zing to my job.

Its been very long since I typed more than 160 characters. I send out 10s of SMSs everyday and an equal number of tweets. Probably that has kept me from missing blogger. But then, how many ever T20s and ODIs you watch, a test is a Test... Real Class! Probably that is what Blogger to me is!

When I think of what exactly is the meaning or reason for this post, or will I continue blogging, I have no answers... All that I know is that Here I am, after a long time... And what was I doing all this while?! Enjoying life, job and the monies! :D And ya, what made me break my sabbatical? This post - after a good 2 yrs on this blog!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

God... Save this country!

Isnt the world so full of pseudo-intellectuals? Everyone wants to be a ‘wanna be’, and takes pleasure in giving you the feeling of ‘oh, you are too desi, I am firang’ kinda attitude. This reflects in every aspect of behavior of many 15-28 yr olds, male or female, earning or studying, intelligent or dumb. They seem to show off their English Quotient at every drop of a hat!


The first identification of this sect is at their sniggering anything bollywood. They are like ‘Oh… you still watch bollywood bakwaas?’ They watch The Dark Knight time and again even if they don’t understand it, all because they have a hangover that they are cool. They tune into English channels on tv, no matter how hurting to the eye the transmission is… They groove to any English song, only cos they are above desi masala numbers you know… They always have this ‘cooler than thou’ look on their faces! God save this country from such people!


There is very good probability that you, one of those I still like to stumble upon deserted blog kinds, reading this stuff belong to that. These are people who laugh at you when you say Singh is Kinng is worth a second watch, and instead go watch a dumb ‘The hero is here to save the worldHollywood non-sense. Okie, I agree Singh is Kinng is not a masterpiece, but it is just a case in point.


These are people who have completely given into the western culture. They seek solace and acceptance in the fact that they are aping a cooler culture. But then, I strongly feel this society, this public, this streets, this crowdy streets, this over-the-top Bollywood numbers is what our society is. You may not appreciate it, but if you feel alienated from it, you don’t belong here and you are welcome to go find yourself non-sense that fits your bill as cool!  If you don’t identify with this society, this country, please buzz off from here is my sincere advice to all these people… This Independence day, I wanted the country to be free of this breed, but alas, it is only multiplying… God, save the nation!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Why... So... Serious...

Isn’t Heath Ledger amazing?! I have been in the Dark Knight hangover ever since I saw the film last weekend. My office desk is full of Why… So… Serious… posters now! :D

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Khatron Ke Khiladi

Akshay Kumar is the man of the moment, and the past year or year and a half in Indian entertainment has had his name written bold and wide. Probably, that is when he could sense the scent of the mega opportunity called TV and ventured on to host Khatron Ke Khiladi. It was definitely not a small deal, monetarily or in terms of scale. Viacom launched their brand new GEC Colors with this show as the trump card.

Finally when the date did dawn, what did we get? A mediocre fare! Mediocre stunts, mediocre babes and a mediocre Mr. Kumar. Hope things will only get better from now.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Roti, Kapda, Makaan aur Mobile


Mobile is the buzz word of the country today. It so happened years ago that when someone purchased a mobile, it was news in the entire colony and when someone wanted a new mobile connection, they had to pay for receiving calls too. Then mobile slowly made its presence felt in day to day chores, and mobile starting popping out of many pockets. This was the time when having lost my dad’s mobile, I was dead scared to face him and called my sister to ask her if we could trace lost mobiles back.

Cut to present, mobile is anything but a luxury. Mobile is something that started off like an Armani, and is on the verge of being a jockey, with absolutely no offence to any of them. Mobile never seemed to be a necessity in the country to the depth of justifying the title I put, but the advent of lower tariffs, cheaper handsets made it what it is today.

In villages with no toilets, no schools, no hospitals, we have mobile stores today, and I honestly don’t know if I should be proud of it or feel a sense of self-pity for my country! :S Is mobile really that much a necessity as we perceive and make it out to be? Is it really that indispensable, at the cost of what the family could have at the cost of the mobile especially in rural India?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Back 2 Blog

Its B2B time, people… Back to Blogging… Have been away from it, thanks to office restrictions. Now, am back, thanks to blog thru mail and Prasoon :D

Its been quite a while and life has changed completely in the midst. Have been working on Rural Markets for about a month now, and must say, my first brush with job is really really fascinating. Walking down the streets of villages gives you so many lessons, no am not talking Swades style, but am talking true MBA style. It throws open many many opportunities, many bullet points to throw in presentations, and many ideas to work on. More than all of that, it throws open to you an entirely new world, a world where no rules exist. All the sales lessons, MBA sophistication (if any) go for a toss when you get your hands dirty (literally! :P) It tells you that whatever you thought was the world waiting out there for you, it is anything but what you expect it to be. The world has surprises to throw at you, eternally, and all of them are rich, invaluable lessons for life.


The best part of going to the villages is the travel. Travelling through those roadways buses, sitting in those 8-seater tempos carrying 17 people, jeeps carrying 20 – 22 people… Its all been amazing, the best part being the interactions with different kinds of people adding inputs and information to my work.


Work beckons! More later…


PS: This is a pilot mail. If this mail thingy succeeds, would resume blogging full time! :D

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tagged by Reva!

Welcome change from posts I have been writing, I have been tagged by Reva to answer a few questions. This coincides with my finishing MBA in a week, does that imply me to stop writing what I write and get back to tag days?! :P

Anyway, here is the questionnaire I had to fill (Major Project lingo does that to u! :P)


Tashan. Seen it just a cupla days back. Dont ask me how it is... That will need another post altogether! :P


The Joy of Selling by Steve Chandler. Its a mini-series on his take-aways on Selling and Sales Management. Fun read!

Flash :D Teen Patti, anyday! Amazing fun to burn all the midnight's oil and a little dough! :P An ideal Last semester getaway that has proven itself twice for me... Now that orkut also has it, everyone should try their hands at it! Strongly Recommended, people!

Maxim? :P Vogue? I mean... Come on... Do I look like someone who reads magazines?! Its all online, baby! 8)

Freshly ground coffee... Thats the best smell I have ever felt. After that comes the scent of paper in a new book! :D

Imagine a soundless space. Just the flutter of air the fan is cutting through! No light too... Just sleep... Nirvana! :D

You wake up early in the morning and push yourselves very hard to make it to the class or exam or whatever, and realise that it has been cancelled or rescheduled. Try beating that! :P

When can I sleep again?! :D

Saddi Dilli is THE place for Fast Food... From Kathi Zone to Chataak Chaat to Currims and Nizams, I love them all! :D Btw, the fastest food joint that I always haunt is my Hostel mess. No matter how hard I try, I cant spend more than 5 minutes there! :P

Spend it! As simple as that! :P

Heck! No... Nothing on my bed except me! :D


Will take this offline! :P


Sleep! :D Trust me, you dont get to do that in an MBA!

Broccoli what?

Ahem Ahem! Why fiddle around with rare resources?! Let the poor thing be!

Hyderabad, Warangal, Gandhinagar, Delhi.

Soccer never had a partner until IPL happened!

Reva... She is a bundle of good things! An awesome friend, so full of life. She is one who lives her life to the fullest! Amazing girl!

I just checked. Nothing. Why? Did you keep something?!

Definitely! None else but me, me and me again! :D

Night Owl, Nights are always productive, arent they?! ;)

Sunny Side Up! :D Tasty and Bright! :D

Home... Sweet Home... Heavy Lunched, and lazing around.. Whatelse do u need in life?! :D

Is American Pie on the list?

Chocolate Chip Rocks, Cookie and Cream is awesome!

Amod or Megha!

And I am tagging...

Amod, Steve and Megha! :D

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Cricket Redefined!

Welcome the new era of Cricket in India, dear Indian Cricket fan! While you embark on this journey, let us inform you that things are not going to be same anymore. Do not save your pop corn for an Ishant-Ponting encounter any more, for they are going to pat each other on their backs as part of being members of the same team. Boundaries are redefined now. Dada will call the shots of when to hand the ball to Akhtar so as to tame down Sachin!

Come April 18th and the curtains shall rise to the most extravagant cricket bonanza we cricket buffs have been waiting with bated breaths for! Bangalore shall host the first IPL match between Bangalore Royal Challengers and Kolkata Knight Riders (the Royal Challengers website surprisingly doesn’t mention this in their schedule though)

What does IPL mean for young India? Its cricketing buzz redefined. Many cricket-bored fans have been complaining that Cricket is losing its sheen to Football in the country, especially in the urban areas like Bangalore. Probably, IPL will get back all those club-crazy youth to cricket. It is BCCI’s magnum opus for you to watch over a beer with friends. It is their way of showing the world how worthy is Indian Cricket, for IPL has made a ‘crore’ look very tiny now!

With websites filled with fan clubs, team anthems, discussion boards and team portfolios for individual teams, IPL is all about segregating the Cricket Crazy Nation that we are into Clubs and creating entertainment in them. So, does the buck stop at cricket? Oh come on… You must be kidding to say an Yes! With the likes of Vijay Mallya, Shah Rukh Khan, Priety Zinta, Deccan Chronicle helming various clubs, do you expect it to be a pure cricketing contest? So, where does it stop? What all does this flavor of cricket try to encapsulate? Thats a question time shall answer, friends, for given the item numbers and fashion shows at ICL that have been in the news last couple of weeks, you never know what the maestros of entertainment at IPL shall unveil to us soon. IPL has brought Cricket to Music Channels, Daler Mehndi to Cricket, and created several ways to flaunt your loyalties - team anthems, logos, ring tones, jerseys and the show is yet to begin! While Kolkata Knight Riders seem to have been creating the buzz since the word Go, others like Deccan Chargers, Royal Challengers are catching up pretty fast!

What does this mean for local club-hosts? IPL is the hub for popularisation of local content. It is an opportunity for promoting tourism in the country. Imagine local tourist agencies coming up with a Heritage Tour of Delhi for Kolkatans who come visiting to cheer their Knight Riders! Imagine all those local, not-so-famous bands of Hyderabad performing for their Chargers during one of those IPL matches. The canvas is ready, and we are waiting eagerly to see how the drawing comes about!

All in all, come what may, there is unlimited entertainment on the cards - both on-field and off-field - for all of us in the coming months. Lets see how the cookie crumbles!

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Thin Line

The core of advertising today lies heavily on Cognitive Dissonance, according to me. Cognitive Dissonance in Advertising, if I were to concisely put it, is the process of making the customer feel incomplete without your product. Through a flurry of PoP materials, TVCs and other advertisement channels, pre-purchase intentions are created in the customer's mind by creating a sense of incompleteness in the customer without the product. To me, an amazing example of Cognitive Dissonance well used in the Indian context is the Tata Safari's campaign of 'Reclaim Your Life'.

But many people I have met and spoken to tend to associate Cognitive Dissonance with 'Emotional Appeal' in Advertising. This is more so, I guess, because Indian Advertising hasn't been bold enough to employ Cognitive Dissonance for long and has always relied on the Power of Emotions to bond with the customer. Both Cognitive Dissonance and Emotional Advertising use the basic premise of attacking human emotions. While Cognitive Dissonance creates guilt, regret, want or will in the customer, Emotional Advertising strikes a chord with every emotion in the book and makes the customer bond with the product. It is important for Direct to Consumer Advertising to have an emotional element, but it could choose between creating a dissonance or just plain appeal to the customer's emotions. But, with marketers trying hard not to even dream of making the customers unhappy, Cognitive Dissonance has taken a backseat and Emotional Advertising has been ruling the roost.

At the first look, we tend to look at the Emotions and by default tend to file them under the 'Emotional Appeal used in Advertising' Category. This is also because Cognitive Dissonance is slowly setting in in Indian Advertising, and isnt too blatantly used as of now. Dissonance has also set into the market because of the wider Customer base and his nascent needs and his unexpressed realisations of incompleteness which he doesn't let out into open for the fear of embarassment. While Fairness Creams segment has long relied on Dissonance creation, there are several others entering the fray big time now.

There was always Dissonance creation through Advertising, more so because many products need it to be created to be sold but we never realised them clearly and always took that to be Emotional Advertising. One campaign I feel that uses Cognitive Dissonance is Ambuja Cement, while many feel its Emotional Appeal. In fact, probably it is one of the advertisements that ends on The Thin Line that separates Cognitive Dissonance and Emotional Advertising.

Rather, I would file Cadbury's Diary Milk under the Emotional Category for it touches not the product, but the emotions of life, that of happiness, and joy. Ambuja Cement more or less speaks only of the product, and makes you look at your own walls. It could have been in the Dissonance category, but it is a product that is purchased only one at least in the Indian market. We dont cement our walls every year.

The Thin Line between Cognitive Dissonance and Emotional Advertising must be clear when we compare similar but Emotional ads with the already mentioned Tata Safari Dicor ad. The ads that fall into a similar category are that of Smirnoff - The Life is Calling. Where are you? campaign- and Bajaj Avenger - Feel Like God campaign. These products portray emotions of celebration and ego, and they do not put the customer into guilt or grief. They put the customer into thinking what he could have been doing now had he had that brand.

The bottom line is that an advertisement falls into the Cognitive Dissonance or Emotional Appeal categories not based on where the customer or viewer puts the ad or brand, but where the ad or brand puts the customer! :)

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bhagwan Inc

Am neither religious nor an atheist. I believe in god as a supreme power whom you revert to when you feel you need support, strength, motivation, inspiration and all the other siblings of theirs. Sometimes I find god in solitude, sometimes in music, sometimes in my parents, sometimes in friends and so on. Idol worship is definitely not my cup of tea, but I understand that it is a way of reaching out to that supreme power for many a fellow Indian.

I was appalled a couple of days back when on a trip to Tirupati I realised that God is no more that divine power or that idol people worship, it is a business now. The only thing I would expect from a pilgrimage with family is to have a look at some exquisite temples, some ancient cultural anecdotes to listen to and some soothing sanskrit chanting and to see people around and feel amazed at how they could travel all those miles to stand in serpentine queues, wait for long hours and then when offered a half-a-minute rendezvous with god's idol, they just close their eyes, pray for a second and move away or rather mowed away by the security guards. And ya, the catch is that if you are ready to donate a few kgs of gold, a few bundles of notes, then you can hang around a couple of minutes more.This happens in almost all temples, in every corner of every city.

But, this seems to have taken too big a turn now. The Kalyanam of Lord Venkateshwara in Tirumala temple now has a commentary in English. Though my sister applauds the move, I think otherwise. What do you think people go all the way to Tirumala for? To pray god in peace, get mesmerised in the divine chantings and take home a feeling of satisfaction. For people like me, the feeling of a pilgrimage sinks in when you hear those indecipherable sanskrit chants and try to fathom some of them, and through the proceedings and anecdotes understand a few intricacies of culture. But now, the peace that one could incur through that vedic chanting, that divine peace of a puja atmosphere is now replaced by English commentary that keeps telling you what the Lord is doing on the stage in the ceremony, or rather what the Pujari is doing on his behalf. I felt disgusted to listen to that English commentary because it only means a loss of identity for a ritual. It makes me feel that all this religion, pilgrimage etc etc are all fake, they are just ways to promise god to those dollar wielding Indian diaspora who are ready to shell out expensive gifts to god.

We need not explain the unknowns about what our religion and culture are, mainly because the main part of a religion and culture come from the local flair attached to it. The day we lose that, we are just selling our religion which is what seems to be happening now. This is nothing better than all those venom-spewing quotes by politicians creating religious differences.

All we need to see what else does money make people do... These are days of customising god to suit the most wealthy customers the name of religion could lure!

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love is in the air

and why not? It shud be... Because Love is not just about sublime emotions and unexpressed feelings any more, it today is a huge market for Indian marketers. While there are debates worldwide on how India has a turbulent V-Day, the truth is the V-Day market is booming by the day.

Earlier, it was the organised florist chains that sketched for us the picture of the V-Day market, with figures of 50-60% of their annual Sales coming in only on V-Day. A report in the news paper yesterday quoted 'Ferns n Petals' business last year on this day as 1.5 Crore, which is huge by any standards. It was only Archies and Ferns n Petals that offered the customers unique products for V-Day until recently. It was only roses that did great business till last year. That doesn't mean that roses have lost sheen this year, what with the sale expected to reach Rs. 25 Crore today. Who knows, as I write this, there must be 100s of red roses changing hands all across the country.

But now, India has arisen to a new V-Day, and firms like banks and airlines have queued up to woo the valentines' day pairs. I really dont understand if the couples of the country looking for a romantic retreat would really utilise such offers or would rather worry about being beaten up by organisations protesting against Valentines' Day. Thats too much of thinking to do. So, I leave to you guys and bask in another Valentines' Day where I romance myself! :P

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Phone On. Caller Tune On.

Make way Telemarketing, Reliance Communications is here with new idea of selling the time each of its subscriber's phone rings as a Classified space. Seems a nice business idea for Reliance ADAG, they have tried it and succeeded with their own in-house Reliance Power. In a step up to the Reliance Power IPO, Reliance Communications has gone ahead and set the default Caller Tune of millions of its customers to the Reliance Power tune. Call any Reliance customer who hasn't apriori activated his caller tune service and you would get to her the Reliance Power jingle. This has a two fold effect. First, if the customer likes the caller tune or just ignores it, his callers would get to listen to Reliance Power. Advertising for Reliance Power achieved. Second, if the customer dislikes the caller tune and decides to opt out of it, Reliance ADAG would ask you to be patient for 72 hours as your request is under process. So, the customer would, out of frustration or to save face, just dial * when he is listening to someone's caller tune he likes. That means one more customer for the Caller Tune Service, most probably! Some astute way of selling, I tell you!

The tune, unfortunately, is so incoherent on the phone and makes the caller feel low of the person he has called. It has happened to me, so its experience speaking. Reliance ADAG in an effort to maximise its chances at the bourses, has left no stone unturned. Somebody lists the onslaught here. It is agreed that Reliance Power is going to rewrite what DLF has written, and it is a boon for the retail customer and blah and blah... But, shudn't there have been some ethics come into play when they planned their advertising?

In the era of opposition to Telemarketing, and formation of DND registries, Reliance has just opened up a new door for vouyuer marketers. The customer was neither consulted nor given an option to opt out of the service after it had begun. It is ironical to see that to copy a caller tune, you just have to dial a *, but to remove it you have to wait 72 hours after calling the Customer Service by which time the due damage could have been done. It is intelligent marketing and money making strategy, but too much of an intrusive one at that.

Apart from the woes of being a Reliance customer at such a juncture, I must actually be awed by how intelligent Reliance ADAG is when using its businesses to brand one of its businesses. Radio, multiplex, Telephone initially might seem not in fit with Capital, Finance, Power, Insurance etc... but the value they bring to the table to build the brand of something relatively unknown like Reliance Power tells us the positivity of a diverse business basket. Thanks to the existence of so many channels of Reliance ADAG, the folks have been able to cut corners and keep the figure of ad spend for Reliance Power to just Rs. 20 Crore. Just 20C for something not less than 9K Crore. Now, that's RoI.

But from the customer angle, the woes remain. A customer care that doesn't help, a company that doesn't provide information of opting out, and millions of customers knowing not where to go. That is Reliance Communications for you!

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Small and Standing Tall

Thats what I felt after I witnessed the little wonder - Tata Nano. The Media Day of the 9th Auto Expo was jam packed right from the first hour, and the only stall everyone was very eager to get into was that of Tata Motors. The Nano was unveiled by Mr. Ratan Tata, in the company of Mr. Kamal Nath.
The Press Conference was amazing. Everyone was so keen to have a look at the car, and there was one man everybody was in complete awe of - Ratan Tata. He is one person who stood by what he started out to deliver. With the launch of his One Lakh Car, I thought he would be touted as the Robin Hood - II of India Inc, with the first being Dhirubhai Ambani, but he turned out to be an entirely different thing with what he said and what he gave. When he said he has compromised on profits despite shooting raw material prices, and sealed the answer with "because a promise is a promise", the nation bowed in respect to him.
Coming to the car, it surely is a Common Man's Dream. In the Auto Expo itself, when we were on way to the stall where the Nano was on display, we stopped at AMW Group stall, and seeing a deluxe autorickshaw model there, we thought the Nano would be something like that. Many in the country speculated that the Nano would be a li'l better version of the omnipresent Bajaj Auto Rickshaw. But, Tata surprised everyone for Nano comes second to no car in styling. Though when you study the interiors, you feel like it isnt as tough as most of the other cars are. But, for a car of one lakh, we dont expect an SUV, do we?
One main question I wanted an answer for was the category of the vehicle. Was Tata a dreamer or a visionary? Is he a man who had a dream of a one lakh car and produced it for just about anyone or is he a visionary who looked to expand the car market exponentially? The answer was very clear. He definitely is a visionary who has opened the gates for a gigantic growth in Indian Car Market. For all those, like me, who wondered if Tata Nano could be a second car, the answer is a clear NO.

The pricing, the styling, the fuel efficiency and every other parameter goes on to say it is for everyone of us who wanted a car but couldn't afford it. For families tired of carrying kids on their bikes, for bachelors who saved less and spent more and hence could gather enough dough to buy a car for themselves, for the elders who had little savings but wanted a decent journey with no hassles. The car is entirely for city. Decent performance parameters, and good looks.

All in all, a total winner. Make way for the Nano. :)

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Small Wonder

As the clock ticks and the date draws closer, excitement is in air and no one can wait for Ratan Tata to pull the sheets off his dream project - The One Lakh Rupee Car. Much has been talked about the car and the dream of Ratan Tata across newspapers, TV, blogs and the anticipations knew no bounds. The auto industry in India is abuzz with so much of activity of late, and the one lakh car could only mean it getting spicier and spicier. The choice of models, price points, companies and configurations could only mean tougher sales, but challenging opportunities.

Coming back to the One Lakh car by Tata Motors, there have been innumerable debates on what its effects on the Indian passenger and traffic would be. I shall keep those for another day though. The most fascinating thing to watch out for in the One Lakh Car would be the magnitude of its effect on the Indian Consumer. Will it be another Maruti 800? It is being touted as the "People's Car", and there has been a reported slump in bike sales in the previous quarters. To me, that is an indication that the market is ready to lap up a car that is priced marginally above the bikes and they are ready to forego bikes for this one car, if it delivers on what it promises to be.

Speculations are rife about the design of the car. The implications of the car being rear engine, the expected mileage etc etc have been beaten to death. Autocrust gives a neat detail of what the car is about here, and also carries an image that looks authentic. The implications of the car on the Tatas shares would be another interesting thing to track. The Tatas are a group that shall be unfazed through anything that happens to the car though. But, Ratan Tata could turn a Dhirubhai Ambani with this by giving the common man affordability for a car. He might just provide a choice to put in the money Ambani made the common man save.

The advantage Tata carries is his ease of operations, distribution, marketing and sales because of the gargantuan group that he has. The production plans for the car are impressive, and there needs to be nothing said about Tatas ability to sell and the acceptability they enjoy in the country.

With the car made and done, comes the question of making it closer to the public. People's Car would make it sound cheesy, and Janta or something similar would make it sound like Laloo has made it, not that he cant make cars but lets keep him to the trains for now. Speculation is one for the name too, and it remains to be seen what it shall be called. In fact, even if it would be named something, I feel people will still call it the One Lakh Car for a few months to come! With the price at one lakh, it could as well be called IndiOne, like the hotel venture of Tatas.

The One Lakh car obviously means an entirely new market, an entirely new segment of customers who could be in newer geographies, definitely newer social segments where the car marketing never treaded into. That would mean Tata has to come up with a strong, yet economically feasible marketing plan. The first step would be through proper and prompt advertising. Rediffusion has already bagged the contract, and it remains to be seen what they do of it. Another important aspect would be the effect this one lakh wonder could have on other Tata offerings like Indica, Indigo etc...

All said and done, this is the most-waited unveiling of any product in the country in the recent years. And if you thought, this was the only car in this range, think again and read this.

More action is slated at the Auto Expo 2008, Delhi to be kicked off on the 10th of January 2008 at Pragati Maida, Delhi. Do look at Maruti's soon to be launched concepts - The Swift Sedan and The A Star. And people, automobiles and Auto Expo is not all about cars, and it could be a surprise, shock or just a piece of news but there's going to be a 1.68L cycle.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Zooming ahead on the fastrack!

Winning brands are those that evolve with the times, and Tata group is probably one body which has imbibed this principle in its truest spirit. The group is synonymous to what we call Indianness. Every Indian has some respect, faith and credibility in the name 'Tata' in the country. Right from salt to software, they make everything and very good brands in each of the category they are in.

One such brand which doesn't actually need the name of Tata anymore is Titan. Titan has evolved from being one of Tata group's brands to a major brand in itself. Titan is probably one of the most trusted brands in India. It once partnered with Timex, and when Timex left the Titan umbrella in around 1997-98, Titan introduced Fastrack with the positioning of "Cool Watches From Titan". From then on, Fastrack had no looking back in terms of brand recall.

Today with the caption of 'How many you have?', Fastrack is one of the must-be's in every youth's wardrobe in the country, be it a watch or eyegear. With its trendy watches and cool eye gear collection, Fastrack is probably solely responsible for bringing Titan closer to the youth. From where Titan seemed like elegant and for professionals to where Fastrack seems like trendy, sporty and casual, it is all marketing acumen at work, something which Titan is very good at. Fastrack has always been maintained closer to the youth. Be it using Narain Karthikeyan to promote it then, or a tie-up with MTV or launching trendy eye gear, Fastrack has always tried to reflect the fast evolving youth segment of the country.

In my opinion, Fastrack is probably the only brand in the country which enjoys unparalleled acceptance from all the strata of the society. Had there been any other brand in place of Fastrack which offered cheap, affordable watches at Rs.500 and also trendy, sleek, suave and sexy watches at more than Rs.10,000 it could have lost one of the sections of customers for the others would have identified more with it, and thus despising one group. But with Fastrack that dint happen, and that is largely because of its clear distinction in its products at various levels, with the quotients of style, attitude upping at every level thus catering to different segments of customers and keeping them locked in to the brand.

Not only the products, there is something innovative in everything Fastrack does. Today, when social media is the rage of the nation, especially the youth, no youth brand could have used it better than how Fastrack is doing it. In association with Blogworks, Fastrack has floated this website where there are regular updates, announcements, trivia and contests about the brands of Fastrack. The best thing about marketing your brand this way is that it helps the customer stay connected to the brand. The world is today connected by, stumbleupon, feedburner and co. I would rather read a feed on my feed reader than go and watch some commercials on the tv, and that is what fastrack is cashing in on when it is using this medium.

Check out various options on that website, and am sure you would agree that Fastrack is using social media too well to keep its brand on the fastest track! With products like Neon Disc range of clocks, Campus Collection Eye Gear etc... the best way to connect to the audience is none other than social media, and kudos to Fastrack for having realised that and mastered it.

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Connect and Disconnect

What makes a good ad? To me, it is proper product exposure, which means atleast 60% of the air-time showing or explaining the product, and proper connect between what the product is for and what is happening in the ad. But then, as they say, there are always exceptions.

With a break at hand and some spare time for the tube, this ad of Havell’s Cables caught my attention. Havell’s is an electronic goods brand that generally relies on humor in advertising, and Lowe never seems to let them down. Their ad for Havell’s CFL lamps is an example. The lamp ad scores well on both the parameters I would rate a good ad on! However, Lowe-Havell partnership this time tried an emotional one for the Cables, and if you ask me, I would say it did succeed, no matter how much it scores on those parameters.

The ad, one of Lowe’s first releases after Balki took over as Chief Creative Officer, revolves around the traditional mother-son relation, and is set in a construction site. It is way too early to have a youtube video I guess, so here’s the storyboard, and more info on the ad from the makers and the clients. You may rate it weird, but you will sure be wired by Havell’s. The next time you would think of fire-resistant cables, am sure Havell’s would enjoy Top of Mind recall. So, full marks to Lowe there.

Talking of disconnect between products and ads, one ad that failed according to me is Mintrox. With a caption of Life eej Hard, there is neither reference to mint as a candy or advantages of mintrox in the ads except mentioning it again and again that mintrox is like a rock. This product of Parle Agro is advertised by CreativeLand Asia. Probably in a bid to be different, the makers lost the connect! It looks more like a desperate attempt to combat the Chlormint, Polo advertising campaigns.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jen awarded me the Egel Nest Blog award. Thanks for the award, Jen!

Amidst exams and other pressing commitments, it is hard to reflect upon anything interesting. All you have in mind is stupid portions, deadlines and other plebeian things. It is difficult to transcend the obvious, but then that's life.

Recently watched a movie on football, and many scenes in the movie made me ruminate about the sense that Rudyard Kipling's inspirational poem 'If' makes in such situations. Fished for the poem, and here it is:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

The poem is a time-less classic, and continues to inspire to date. There are many anecdotes about it at the player's entrance to the Wimbledon Central Court where it is inscribed. It is a great lesson for life, I especially love the line 'If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken'. Hope you guys enjoy the poem!

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Metrosexual Men, eh?!

The Man, The Machine... to The Man, The Mush... Herald the dawn of the new metrosexual man of the country. Indian male once carried the persona of being a hard worker, someone who cared for his family and his pocket but the last thing he cared for was his face. Times are changing, and now the man, who suavely terms himself metro sexual, or at least those who would like to get bracketed into that cadre give great importance to their looks today. To me, it seems sad that people tend to knot Metro sexual status with their looks.

Back to our topic, probably the marketers of various consumer goods companies were running short of ideas, they created a new segment in Men targetting them for fairness. As if asking Indian women to be fair to be beautiful wasn't atrocious, they took it up a step further and are asking men to be fair to be handsome. And who better than our 'I am here for every kind of ad' SRK to promote this nonsense. Probably to cash in on the urban men, they even have a website. I seriously have no clue what it is for! There is none to blame for this phenomenon but the Indian consumer. Ethics and emotions apart, it is an interesting Brand segment to study.

Late back in 2004, HLL(then as it was called) realised 20% of the users of its product Fair and lovely were men, which as per Fair and Lovely's total sale of Rs. 500 Crore amounted to Rs. 100 Crore. That was too lucrative a market not to pay heed to! The phenomenon was observed by other companies like Cavin Kare and Emami too, but it took time to come up with brands and when they came out, they all flooded the market at about the same time.

HLL started thorough market scrutiny for Men's fairness cream market in 2005, which can be found in this report. Finally, in 2005, Emami came up with Fair and Handsome and Kaya Skin Clinic was one of the pioneers in getting men into the fairness circle. Fortunately or unfortunately, my geographical orientations aside, Southern states were the first and biggest markets for these products. Today Fair and Lovely, Fair One included, almost every Indian brand has ventured into Men's Fairness care segment.

Male Vanity hasn't ended at that place, though! Players like Nivea have entered this sector with specialised 5-action fairness cream, and is cashing in on male grooming as a whole. Other players like Garnier and Set Wet are raking in the moolah using the mantra of Male Grooming. Grooming though isn't as pathetic as fairness.

The good and bad aside, one great thing about this phenomenon is that this is the best brand finding I have seen in the recent times. The nascent need of the customer, however justified or unjustified, was always there and the companies realised and are riding high on the boom and setting their cash boxes on an overloading jitter. Now, ethics, emotions and other things aside, this sure is an awesome case of what great Marketing is all about!

For all those men, fair and unfair, out there, watch out... Its your turn to be pampered now!

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

5 Star

Supriya Narang tagged me to write a 5-minute monologue, called FMORT - Five Minutes of Random Thought - where I think random things and punch on the keyboard about whatever is going on in my mind. One of my friends, Vijay Pratap Singh, way back in 2004 asked me to close my eyes and randomly write whatever my mind is feeling like on a piece of paper. It is a great stress-reliever, he believed and today, we believe.

Okie, now for the tag. Its 2204 hours on my watch and Shoot!

Where do people get these ideas of tagging from? Is it their urge to think of a new tag or are they so vela that they think of such things? Dont they think of what would happen if the tag never caught on, and people dint reply? I appreciate their efforts, indeed. As Richard Branson's book title goes, 'Screw It, Just Do It' should be our motto.

Airlines in India are a big pain in the ass. I have succumbed to all types of delays, cancellations and the woes always continue. And coming to India, I am a patriot but I think we are bloody racists. Though we say we are at the recieving end of racism, we infact practice racism, and the worst kind of it I must add. How many times have to had an air-hostess or a steward on board who has a grayish complexion? How many times have you been a victim of people prefering people of their state, caste, religion or color over you? This is omnipresent. We need to change a lot.

Guys just cannot stick to their seats in a flight :S In a goddamn two hour domestic flight, they want to go to the loo five times, as if it was the best place to be on a Boeing, and ask for weird things like Fruits after a meal. Is the air hostess your wife or are you in a marriage, pal?! :P

Diwali preparations itself were awesome in Delhi. I realised what exactly festive mood is. Shopping, every car loaded with gifts, every face on road smiling, every street lit up... Wow... That was a feast to the eye, just that I could do with a little less traffic! :P

okie, the bell rings... Time's up...

My Five Minutes to fame are over, and my five victims as under:

Rahul Pallerla muuuhaaahaaahaa
Saraswathi Mukkai
Abhishek Deshpande
Revati Ananda

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Brand Brouhaha

To me, Branding is the most important aspect for a product. All said and done, a Brand is a Brand is a Brand as it is often said. There are no two ways about it. We all need brands. Brand is that luxury you would want to have and rest in once you earn high through hard work and persistence. We inch up organisations, our products inch up consumer minds, we want to translate that success into acceptance and the fallout is BRAND.

Many people often regard Branding as an exercise that just happens, and do not give any importance or relevance to it. However, these people are talking of brands, not Brands. To make Surf is one thing, to make Surf a synonym to detergent and erasing the mention of detergent powder in a billion Indian minds is another. Just any name would make a brand, but a firm commitment, belief, trust and faith maketh a Brand. Yet, people think Branding is something very simple and nothing very important.

For all those people, Branding Asia puts things in perspective. The homepage itself tells how rigorous a Brand Building process is, and how objective and quantifiable it is. From building Brand Equity to identifying Reputation Drivers for a brand, the article covers it all and so well. It is a must-read! However, it is their methodology. So dont blame me if you were looking for a generic methodology.

Coming to Brands again, the same site lists down The Great Asian Brands. It is a disappointment to see not many Indian companies in the list. There are many companies from Singapore. Considering many cities in India are larger than Singapore, I think it is high time we realised how important Brand Building is for us. According to me, one factor why Indian companies haven't been too active on the global front, save for a few exceptions of late, is that there are no strong Indian Brands. Today, when Vodafone comes to India, we welcome it with both hands open for we know Vodafone is a reputed brand.

In this list, there are two Indian companies, Wipro and Hindustan Unilever Limited. HUL, as a die-hard fan like me would say, is the mother of all Indian companies in Branding. As mentioned in the same post earlier, Surf is the biggest of all Indian brands according to me. The order of the day needs to be more companies focussing on Branding like HUL, I guess. One look at the businesses of both these companies throws up a good number of common businesses, especially in the initial days of Wipro. So, does that mean Branding is business-specific? :S There is another viewpoint too, and that is the point that both these companies have been in operations for long, and have hit a chord with Consumers through Consumer Goods first. Does that mean time is also a factor for Branding?

Branding now seems like a never ending pot of questions... Try to find your own... Till then, Happy Branding! :)

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Monday, October 22, 2007


An In-Store Consulting Survey, as shown in Economic Times today says the following:

The average time spent at a chocolate aisle in a typical Supermarket in India is 22 seconds according to the survey. It also says that regular buyers spend, on an average, 39 seconds. Does that mean, as ET questions, that Chocolate has become a "grab-and-go" product? I wonder if it really has!

One of the most interesting products to study in the Indian Markets is Chocolate. Chocolate has been a confectionery item in US for long, but in India, it was considered a luxury item, or rather a gift item for long. There were also strong biases against it, for it was considered to kill appetite, be bad for teeth and gums. Added to all this, it has also been branded a children's product. But, against all this, chocolate as a product has come out strong and appeals to all segments of the society today.

Whatever be the scenario now, the statistics brought out by In-Store are quite a revelation. I think it is mostly because of the positioning of the chocolates in India. To me, Chocolate is the only product segment where there is a unique place for every chocolate, and even competitors have unique features that make decisions easier. Also, since Chocolate being a confectionery, the buying patterns are influenced by promotions and tag lines according to me. I would never eat anything other than Perk when Preity chuckled from behind a billboard biting into a Perk! :D

Coming to the statistics back again, I feel it is so because when we Indians shop for a chocolate, it is either because kids ask for it, or we have an unusual urge for it. I termed the urge unusual because, either it is once in a bluemoon when we pick up the first chocolate we can see or our fave brand or else it is an addiction like some of my friends have. A friend of mine was one of the reasons why the storekeeper at college made maximum profits selling Dairy Milk! :P So, both these categories have not many decisions to make. They directly buy the product.

Coming to others, they are driven either by promotions or identities carved due to them. Dairy Milk comes with 'Kuchh Meetha Ho Jaaye', while Kit Kat asks you to 'take a break'. More or less each product has a place of its own in the consumers mind. When I go to buy a chocolate, I am most of the time decided about what I am going to buy. If I am not, when I reach there, I pick up the one whose pack is most lip-smacking! There are no two ways about it. Probably, that is the reason the Indian Consumer also spends so less time at the chocolate aisle.

The next time I go buy a bar, I shall time it ;) :P Do you have any other reasons for buying chocolate? or is your buying pattern any other, then please do mention as a comment! :)

PS: Talking of chocolate, something we should read is here. Probably it will make us think twice before we buy a chocolate next time! :S

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Social Media

Blogs are the best form of Social Media today. For those who weren't initiated on this, look here. The application is best reflected in this article by Mark Collier. From likes of Google which launch their products on the blog, to the likes of Fake Steve Jobs which are a good corporate read, Social Media has changed Information Media in every way possible.

When I was trying to look for things to zero in Social Media on to Blogging, I stumbled upon this. To me, Blogging is Personal Branding, and I have mentioned this a few times in my blogs too. They are the most effective ways of Branding for an individual.

Can we elevate this level of Personal branding to Community Branding, especially in terms of creating awareness, competencies and opportunities for progress? Yes. We Can, and here is one opportunity. Though I am unsure if I would be contributing to this cause, due to pressing professional commitments, I wish everyone who wants to be a part of this the best return on their invested efforts! :)

By the way, they held a quiz and I got this:

What Kind of Blogger Are You?

Try it!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Brand Mahatma

Mahatma Gandhi is a great person. It is no mean task to unify a country with so many diversities, introduce several new concepts like Non-Violence, Untouchability to them and yet be accepted as a leader. He achieved this, and probably much more. But, somewhere down the line, we mapped the person on to wrong things. Rather, appreciation and recognition are due to him not exactly for what he stood for India as, but for things which we attribute to him.

Somewhere down the journey in the past 60 years, we forgot that Gandhi means a foreign returned law student who gave up his studies for the love of the country, and followed his ideals of Swaraj. We forgot he was the one who delayed several things on the course of our independence. We forgot he was the one who got into deliberations at every drop of a hat and made Independence a long awaited moment for us! No offence to him for that. In fact, it was no mean task to sustain the enthusiasm and patriotism of a million or more Indians for so long and also after that, what with India going for a partition and indulging in riots after that. Had it been a revolutionary, he would have made sure it didn't get partitioned. That is because he would have not been a mute witness to blood of his brethren going under the sword of geographical boundaries so soon. He would have made sure every drop of blood that his brothers and sisters gave for the Independence of their motherland was accounted for and the returns recorded in the form of a Unified India. That would have meant, no T20 Final between India-Pak :P Jokes apart, it would have meant a different world today!

Though that is the grudge, rather dissatisfaction, of a youth who would have wanted 100 years of Independence today than this 60 yrs we are enjoying, it is nothing against Gandhi. Obviously, I and you weren't around then to judge things and try and do things. He did, so give him that merit!

The sanctity of a Brand lies in the outrage it garners at being questioned. The mirror of the success of a Brand lies in how sacrilegious its followers deem questioning or maligning it. By these terms, Gandhi is by far the Biggest Brand in India. All dailies of today are full of Gandhian news. We are so blind in his worship, we do not even want to look at 'what if not Gandhi' scenario. I do not mean he is not worth worshipping in any sense, but I do strongly feel that he doesn't need so much of adulation today, or even that day for that matter.

The success of a man, according to me, in this society is best reflected by how religiously his children pray him. To me, my dad is a super hero. But, Gandhi wasn't to his sons, at least not to all of them. Right from the likes of Chanakya, every teacher has taught this society to take care of home first and then get on to the world. Did Gandhi do that effectively? I am no one to question this vigorously, though!

To me, something I cannot reconcile to, is the fact that we want the youth of today to follow Gandhiji. With due respects to that man, I don't think that should be the case. If he was right, he was the best, probably that was in his times. Today, I do not find him fitting in the role of a contemporary Unifier of the Country. We all have read our share of Gandhian literature. How many of us think if the same words were told today, same philosophies were reiterated today, they would unify a nation? Times have changed. I do not advocate dishonesty or violence. In fact, I feel they were never exactly Gandhian virtues. Every mother in this country has taught her child not to lie, and not to indulge in fights. It wasn't something Gandhi gave us, what he had to give us was ideas of Swaraj, Non-co operation etc...

I earnestly feel we pray this man for the wrong reasons. If you do want to pray him, pray him for the right reason. That will help people learn better from him, and for god's sake, don't demean or look down upon people who don't pray him as religiously as you do. Let people evolve...

All said and done, Happy Birthday Gandhi!

To cut down on pleonasm, here's a link to my post on the same topic, same day two years ago:

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Meddling in the Middle...

Ya, I was! In the middle of the weekend, on the midnight of Saturday, I have been wondering what to do, and I remembered something I wanted to do... Answer Jen's tag! :D

The tag asks me to do certain things, with my middle name, unfortunately which I don't have! So, taking a cue from Saraswathi, I decided to use my second name, but it's longer (Kodithala) than my first name (Naresh). Lazy bugger that I am, I chose my first name to expand each of those letters into qualities. This is where I have been meddling in middle, between what Jen told and Saraswathi did! :D

Now, this tag asks me to pick my middle name and map my attributes to each of its letters, and then tag an equal number of others. Here is me doing the honors:

N - Narcissist - I am a die hard narcissist people! I love myself. I believe in 'Love thyself, then only any one else'. I believe satisfaction and loving your life are important to lead life happily. Otherwise, there is no point doing whatever we do. After all, it is us we live for primarily, right?! This is like being in a business, a company must look to increase its own revenue and hence profits, even before its staff happiness, shareholder's value etc... Once it is self sufficient, everything else will fall in place. Hence, people, be narcissistic!

A - Available - Whatever, whoever, however a friend might be, if I consider him/her important enough, there is no way I am unavailable to them. I dont care how frequent people stay in touch, but if I respect them or like them, no way I ditch them! I like standing up to committments and responsibilites. I take pleasure in making friends happy! But ya, it takes a lot for someone to come into this bracket. Though I am socially well on-the-move always, not every friend comes into this bracket, and who come in, don't need to be told. The situations speak for themselves! :D

R - Ruminating - I don't chew the cud, obviously! I reflect deeply on everything, every one, every instant, though not instantly, but overtime. I ruminate so much on people that I feel everyone does good things, and bad things happen only unintentionally. I dont get frustrated or excited easily. I focus on stuff and then take my decisions.

E - Easy Rider - Keep Smiling... Live Life to the fullest. There is no use fretting and frowning. A smile is the most beautiful thing on this earth, no matter whose face it adorns. I firmly believe that one who can smile amongst adversities is the toughest man, and I always try to be on!

S - Sleepy - I am a log! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

H - Hard Working - Seems oxy-moronic, eh?! But its true. I believe in hardwork . If hard work is combined with right amount of passion, there's no stopping and I believe that is what we need to look for! Seems preachy, but utterly true!

So much for knowing Naresh ;) Now on to others...

As per Comrade Jen's orders, we need to look for 6 gullible people, and here's the list:
Rahul Pallerla, my evergreen tag victim!
Shikha Tomar She always surprises up her sleeve for me...
Reva Ananda Is radio her middle name?! :P
Diwakar Kaushik This shall be interesting...
Abhishek Deshpande Needs a break from CAT prep and hence the tag ;)
Amod Verma Welcome back to active blogging! :P

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Communicating a Rebranding...

Bangalore was rechristened Bengalooru, Madras to Chennai and Calcutta to Kolkata. We do not know if this list is saturated. We do not even know if it has crossed the nascent stage. What we know is things have happened, and the transition has been gradual but steady. While we still struggle to acclimatise ourselves to Bengalooru, we are pretty ok with Kolkata, or so is the case with me!

These to me are all several cases of Rebranding. To build a Brand is one thing, and to rebrand it is another. It is like rediscovering self. It is like reinventing the basic premise of your product, and communicating it to the customer. The biggest challenge of a rebranding exercise, according to me, lies in the fact that the consumer must be communicated both the things that your product hasn't changed, but its name has changed. The consumer must not just realise this, but the earlier name of the product must be erased entirely from the consumer's mind.

Hindustan Unilever Ltd. did it efficiently for Super 501 and Rin Shakti. Both of them were big brands in themselves, but HUL used its trump card of Rin Supreme to erase these names from the consumer mindspace. But, that is an entirely different thing because Rin has always been lapped up more happily by an average Indian Consumer than Super 501 or Shakti. The garb of Rin Advanced meant Super 501 customers felt they were now buying Rin at the same price, which means a superior brand at the same old price and Shakti was anyway just a tag. Shakti or Advanced dint make quite a big difference to the product. To put it in a nutshell, Shakti and Super were brands, while Rin is a Brand. To understand this statement, you need to read Strategic Brand Management by Keller.

Coming to another end of rebranding, we all know Hutch was a big Brand in India, thanks to its advertisements and the curiosity factor they always maintained. Now, Hutch has been taken over by Vodafone. I would save the acquisition for someone else to post upon, and focus on their rebranding. I always wonder what it would take to reinvent Hutch, what it would take to erase Hutch from the minds of Indian consumer. This is more relevant because Hutch entered Indian markets not just as a telephone operator, but as an aggressive and innovative advertiser. Most of us know and prefer Hutch more for its ads! The Brand Hutch rang in the kid, the pug even before coverage and Value Added Services.

So, obviously when Vodafone wanted to change the name of Hutch to Vodafone, we were all waiting for the huge makeover, and it has finally happened. And how is it? Vodafone has gone on a 'no stone left unturned' effort to make sure Hutch is properly rechristened Vodafone in the minds of Indian consumer. Vodafone might be a great Brand globally, but in India, it is a newbie! To ensure they register themselves properly in the Indian minds, they have done something we have never seen. They have monopolised Star Network for 24 hours with their ads. The rebranding exercise is speculated to last another two months.

Is this costly? Something very much unlike what HUL did with Rin? The obvious answer would have been a Yes. But, according to sources it isn't. The expenditure is announced to be much lesser than the speculated Rs. 500 Cr. Given the multi billion dollar deal, this definitely isnt a big deal for Vodafone to come up with what it wants! The CAS rule that applies to Star Network could also be a reason behind this. Earlier, companies like HUL have demanded upto 35pc discount from Star TV for the same reason.

Now, the million dollar question would be 'Will the overkill of ads kill the brand?' I feared it would. It doesn't seem so. My mom, whose instincts I believe, told me today it wasn't too much of a burden. With her being a big fan of Star Network, am sure many others would feel so too! I haven't watched it on tv, so I cannot comment personally, but I look forward to what people think about it.

I have seen the ad though, on youtube. It seems interesting, and intelligent. If you ask me why, I would say it is because they have cleverly maintained the thread of Hutch in the ad. Hutch entered the market with a pug and a kid, with an orange color logo. When the logo was later changed to pink, the logo was subsided and the kid and pug maintained to keep the brand recall high. Now, to change it to Vodafone, they have maintained the pug, and focussed on it long enough for the customer to realise it is a Hutch ad, and then said 'Change is Good'. To a Manager, this is THE golden gospel. So, my ethics tell me it is good! :P Though the charisma of this ad doesn't match up to older ads, it sure appeals!

To what extent, to how many people and for how long is to be seen. Will the pug turn out to be the 'lambi race ka ghoda' for Vodafone?! Wait and watch...

PS: Will Vodafone cancel all the pending payments customers owe to Hutch? ;) Not to worry though, am a Reliance loyalist! :D

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Before you jump to conclusions, 69 is not what you think. I mean you might be thinking its just another number ;), but it isnt... It is a new philosophy in Marketing.

Today, on the 22nd of September 2007, during the Consulting Symposium, one of our esteemed speakers, Mr. Mrityunjay Mishra, from Juxt Consult mentioned about Web Chutney and their Viral Marketing initiatives. Though Viral Marketing and Webchutney are nothing new to most of us, there is something new that webchutney has come up with. I am sure all of you, or most of you, know this and this. We have been seeing and enjoying these things for so long.

Now, Web Chutney has come up with the theory of 69 Marketing. The basic premise of this philosophy is that ' if you give it to the customers, the customer will give it back to you'. This is done through four things:

  • Viral Marketing
  • Corporate Blogging
  • Consumer Centric Marketing
  • Linking Strategy

Further information about the philosophy can be found here. I strongly recommend this book. Its a fabulous read! You will read it cover-to-cover once you start it!

Also of interest is the Web Chutney blog.

Cross posted at: Dawn of DMS

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Good n Bad

To me the matters of good and bad seem like a sine curve when it comes to advertising. What's good is good, what's mediocre is mediocre and again, what's bad also seems good for people tend to get iconoclastic and relate to that bad piece of advertising, or sometimes these bad pieces of advertising appeal to the inner, concealed selves of human beings which we try to hide from the public eye.

Many people chastise Bingo for its unconnected ads, but then its a success story. To many people, it seems a bad piece of advertising, but if the primary motive of advertising is to boost sales, which I believe, one must admit Bingo is good! One real good, simplistic and wonderful ad to me seems to be the Reliance Classic Color Mobile with FM wala ad. The ad shows people grooving to the beats of latest chartbusters, and conveys the message damn well! That is one good thing to me...

Coming to bad things that click, when I asked people to write down some ads they liked and some they disliked, many of the girls said fairness cream ads were what they hated to the core, for they glorified fairness as beauty. But, to a marketer, these ads are runaway successes so much that it has made big companies roll out entirely new product lines catering to fairness creams for men segment.

Talking to bad advertising, one ad that I feel hasn't done justice to the product is Nokia 6300. Just the other day, a friend and I were discussing about the ad and while I felt the product exposure should have been in some other way, he felt that an ad is pointless when you are showing the product after 3 shots, and that too just a snapshot of it. There is absolutely no justification why they call it stylish. I have seen the phone, and I must say its a piece of art, but the ad doesn't tell me anything about it. This is definitely bad, according to me!

Again, Amul Macho ad has recieved lots of brickbats for its sheer eroticism, so much that the government has asked it to be put off the air. Many people dislike the ad for it seems B-Grade or even lower, but the sales figures speak otherwise. There are equal number of people who enjoy the ad as those who dislike it, as the article suggests. This suggests that though the ad is considered bad by a segment, if it has hit upon its target segment, it obviously is a hit. Again, by our assumption of a good ad being that which wins sales, this must be good.

So, when we judge ads, what is good and bad? What is a good piece of advertisement and what is a bad piece of it?! Should ethics be involved in advertising, or what should be the prerogative of advertising? As the Hutch Delhi Half Marathon punchline goes, Daudne ke liye bas dil chahiye! (You should just have a heart to run!), I say bechne ke liye bas dil chahiye! (same for sales!) So, I think we must all put aside our judgements about ads and just appreciate those ones that bring in the customers. After all, what is a good ad that doesn't win customers?!

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