Saturday, December 23, 2006

Choosing the right blog service

A couple of months back, I began parallel publishing my blog here, and on wordpress.

I planned to use both for a while to see which would be more comfortable to use.

I also wanted to know whether the same content gets different traffic on different locations/environments - ie - blogger versus wordpress.

There was a difference:

1. Wordpress is far simpler to use, with most inputs being click, drag and drop. Including what I find most convenient - "open in new window" for links. In blogger, I needed to go into the html of each link and add the relevant code to open in new window.

2. I believe the new blogger (no more beta) has this function, and I can shift to the new look. But I believe I will lose all my customisations - links, counters, banners, etc and I would have to redo all of them in the new format. I don't have the time or energy to do that.

3. Tracking? Wordpress has a built in stat counter and traffic tracker, although quite basic. Since this is not a professional venture blog, basic stats are good enough for me. So score one more for wordpress.

4. Visitors? They're more or less the same on both locations - although search engines will rank my pages lower as they will discover duplicate content in two different locations (why? how? I'm not sure, but this is a fact I am told).

I now also have my own domain name so you can simply type that in (and bookmark it) to arrive at my blog.

At the moment you will automatically get redirected to my wordpress blog. Until I can figure out which specific software to use.

I'm just thinking aloud. I wrote it down, just in case it helps anyone out there who has a similar debate going on in your head!

Fighting the "Keyhole View" of Advertising & Public Relations

When I "left advertising" last year, to "broaden my horizons and find new ways of communicating to the new world of consumers", most advertising folk I knew didn't have a clue as to what I was talking about.

Admittedly, even I wasn't sure what was out there, and what all I would have to learn (and unlearn), after being in the business of communication for 16 years!

The only thing I knew for sure, is that there is life beyond the 30 second TVC, the 100cc print ad, and the use of cricket instead of a real strategy.

I also knew that 'service industry' doesn't mean providing lip service, but means providing professionally thought out solutions the brand needs, not necessarily what the client personally wants.

In the 16 months since, I have quite literally gone back to school. Learning all about new consumers, new media, and new and exciting ways of communication.

I believe I have learn't a lot more 'new things' in the last 16 months, than I perhaps did in 16 years inside some of the largest agencies in the country!

Meanwhile my contemporaries in advertising, can at best describe my work as "doing his own thing" still not having a clue as to what I'm talking about.

  • When I say I work with new media - the reaction is "oh, you make websites"

  • When I say I am an independent consultant - they say "oh, you do freelance advertising"

  • When I say I give clients a 360 degree perspective, it's "oh, you do below the line, DM and stuff??"

Well, I am "doing my own thing", which is actually a combination of all of the above, plus and a lot more! Minus of course, the late nights, messy meal times, working weekends, and minus pandering to the egos of amateur 'professionals' and clueless 'know-it-alls'.

The last two categories above of course, make up the bulk of the business today, and unfortunately drive the perception of advertising.

So what drove me up the wall? What drives senior people like me and even much higher ups to either put up their hands and walk away in disgust, or set out on their own to try and do things the way they believe it should be done?

I believe, there are four things the advertising industry in general needs to address/lacks:

  1. Perception

  2. Perspective

  3. Planning

  4. Processes

While these elements exist in clusters - among certain individuals, among certain agencies, and among certain clients - the numbers aren't enough, and don't have the critical mass to make a difference. At least, not yet.


First and foremost, in order for our business to "grow up" and change the perceptions people have of us as 'overpaid, overhyped yarn spinners' we need to change our own perceptions about ourselves.

Yes, we have to stop reducing our importance by calling ourselves 'advertising professionals'. Or just 'PR professionals'. Because then we will be just that - a cog in the wheel of the overall marketing and communication machinery.

We need to see ourselves, and project ourselves, as overall strategic and communication professionals. And provide overall comprehensive solutions, which are unbiased by the kind of talent we have on our payroll, even if it means we have to find a third party to implement a program. (It's better to earn a referral fee, than earn a fee from something that isn't required in the first place).

I do believe advertising and public relations have to work together, not independently. It's apalling for me to think that most of the time the ad agency doesn't know what the PR firm is doing and vice versa for most shared clients. And you can forget them working together on a campaign!

The point is, when we can advise and recommend solutions to our clients, irrespective of whether we ourselves implement them or not, respect and trust for us will naturally grow.


In order for the business to grow intellectually and effectively, rather than just financially, we definately need to broaden our perspectives.

We need to know more about the new age consumers, around new age media, and about the constantly emerging technologies that constantly change the aspirations, habits, and goal posts of both consumers and their media.

We need to have a perspective on these things today, as well as how it will and can evolve as soon as 3 months down the line, as well as a whole 2 years on.

Traditional SEC categorisation, TRP and Reach to my mind are just lame crutches of the intellectually challenged. And ass-covering excuses for mediocre performance.

We need to wake up to hits, eyeballs, word of mouth, peer to peer influencers, user generated media, and motivating factors beyond food, clothing and shelter.

We need to recognise that the internet, radio and peer to peer media are not "innovations" but a way of life today, and should be a part of every good communication program!


It's amazing how unplanned our business it. Right from work flow within the office, to programs executed across audiences. Not surprisingly, we tend to be ad hoc and project demanded, rather than productivity driven.

With the right perspectives and perceptions (insights) we need to balance out current sales needs versus constant brand needs.

We need to plan, because quite simply as a studio manager used to tell us - if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

This point is no rocket science, simply a reminder service :)


This is usually the bane of every creative person, and account executive, and client. This is a "creative" business, isn't it? How can innovation be processed??

And how can we follow process when everything is needed yesterday?? Right?

Wrong! Because creativity and innovation are not something that will come fall in your lap. They are things that have to be pursued, nurtured and polished.

Creativity and Innovation are a science as well as an art.

And since there is no formal training, or text books for us in the business, each one of us comes with our own brand of thinking and way of working. Not surprisingly, we have the maximum issues around subjectivity, we keep the most bizarre working hours, and deadlines are like traffic lights on New Delhi roads - meant to be ignored.

Processes can help bring some order to our disorder, action instead of anarchy, and satisfaction of results instead of surrender to rubbish.

Process makes life easier - for those who know their jobs, and especially for those who don't. Don't fight process, harness it.

Processes also weed out the weeds in our fields of talent. A VP I once worked it, was a great proponent of 'chaos theory'. Only this was his cover for not knowing his job, not doing any work, and his inability to define roles and responsibilities. Chaos helped him pit people against people, and hence keep anyone from noticing that he was all crap!

So beware of those who fight process!


If we as an industry don't want to be seen as 'narrow minded' and with "keyhole vision", we need to unlock our minds and open our doors to change.

We need to get out of our independent silos of advertising and public relations and discover how to blend the power of the two - where paid communication and unpaid-for hype work together.

We need to constantly and consistently find whatever it takes to give our clients greater impact. In whichever medium we think relevant. Targetting whoever we think is important, including those within client's organisations!

We need to aspire to a stage where we're not depreciated as a commoditised service provider, but instead appreciated as a specialist solutions partners.

Is that so hard to see?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Santosh Desai, Advertising, and The Way We Are!

A couple of days back I read that Santosh Desai was leaving hardcore advertising. Not surprising I thought, for a man of his thinking and abilities, he probably felt stifled at McCann. And he probably would have felt the same in any other agency.

Then this morning I read an interview with him in AgencyFaqs, where he vented his frustrations on what he called the "narrow and one-track mindedness" of the industry he's spent 20 years in (a large part of it, where he was the boss!)

Not surprisingly, the interview was flooded with comments in the last 10 hours (16 comments until the writing of this post). While most commentors praised his insights and commended his decision, not surprisingly some of them accused/asked Santosh what he did to change things?

While it's a valid question (and something we all should ask ourselves, when we complain)... but I was apalled by the gall of anyone to suggest that Santosh did nothing to change the business!

Not to discredit the others at McCann India, but the stature which the agency has today, hasn't just fallen out of the skies with some divine intervention... nor can you say any one person alone (as some would say perhaps Prasoon Joshi) changed the face of the agency.

Before the arrival of these two gentlemen, McCann's creativity and strategy was at best mediocre (For example, remember the atrocious work done for Coke in the early days before the Santosh-Prasoon team up?)

Then there's Account Planning. I cannot thing of too many people who brought so much respect to the function as Santosh did. He even made Creative Directors in other agencies look at their planners in new light. And even got a lot of them to consider making planners their 'equal partners' in creativity!

I think we need to give Santosh a lot more credit than he's being given.

At the same time, what gives anyone the idea, that he's done here? And that he won't make a difference to the business as "a client" - from the 'outside' that is.

Most of us won't admit it, but most agencies are completely driven by their clients' thinking. Their resistance to learn and try new things comes not from their own lack of interest, but rather what they think the client believes and would resist! As wierd and uncomfortable as it may sound, this is the reality. The more experimentative our clients, the more experimentative are their agencies.

And finally, if we simply absorb Santosh's comments with the right spirit, we may actually be able to do something positive about it. With or without our clients' help!

Note: I would like to acknowledge that we're not as bad as it may sound. There are still a whole bunch of people around here, with the balls to fight and make a difference - the folks at Ogilvy, for example... and A Advertising, The Shop, to name just a few. And a whole lot of unheard of others who are doing new and interesting things, inside and outside of their agencies.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Advertising, PR, and the art of saying "No"

The phrases "No, can't do!" or "thanks, but no thanks!" don't quite figure in the vocabulary of advertising, marketing and public relations people, do they? And I mean when it is in the context of standing up for what we believe in, or refusing business because it goes against our values, professional instincts, and the interests of our people.

Well that's the power of money, and the sad-but-true belief that "if i don't do it their way, someone else will".

I am perhaps the most flexible of professionals when it comes to listening to the other point of view (more now, as an independent). But I am also a strong believer in saying "no, can't do" (and have done so, again more as an independent).

The point is however, saying "no" for the right reasons:

  • If you're culturally mismatched or professional work styles differ, it is the obvious thing to say no.

  • If the client has a history of "bad relationships" say no, there's no way you're going to change that.

  • If there is no mutual professional trust and respect, say no. Note, personal trust and respect has nothing to do with the professional side - he/she may make you feel good at an individual level, but professionally you and your teams will suffer.

  • If anyone treats your people badly (being rude, unfair, aggressive, etc) stand up for your people. And don't work with companies who think people are transitory and meant to be used (typical lousy statement: hey, if they can't handle it, they shouldn't be in the service industry!)

  • If you cannot take on something, due to lack of resources/time/whatever, say no and state the reason honestly (leave a window open). Don't say yes, because then everyone will suffer.

I am sure everyone has good reasons to say "no", and "thanks, but no thanks!"

But it's not just about saying "no", you have to be sensitive about it, and do it right:

  • Lay out the groundrules in the very beginning of a relationship. Outline your expectations and belief systems from the beginning. Understand the other side as well.

  • If you see a crisis coming, or know you're going to say no, give the client a 'heads up' as soon as possible, so they can make alternate arrangements. It would be worse, if you leave them in the lurch.

  • Say it to the point person in the client's side, not down the line and expect them to carry the word upwards. Say it one-on-one, with dignity.

  • Don't go public with messy stories or gory details. State differences of values if you have to in press and the public at large. Take your people into confidence, make them feel proud of what you've done, but discourage them from tom-tomming the act in public.

  • Don't do it at the drop of a hat, do it after great consideration and talking to your people to know how much is too much. Let your people decide how much they will take, before they risk being broke!

And to the above, I personally work with the target that my biggest client should never exceed 30% of all my business. If it does, I am in deep shit! The point is then to build other businesses, to ensure I'm never being used, or live in the fear of having all my eggs in one basket!

And that, is the greatest support you will have, if you ever want to say "no" ...yes??

Friday, December 15, 2006

Adrant offers "fake blog apology" service to marketers!

Marketers who create blogs and try to pass them off as genuine user blogs will more often than not get caught! Adrants now offers a customised "fake blog apology service"! Read about the service (and about some fake blogs exposed) here.


The Indian Economy: News That Caught My Eye # 2

Infosys in the Nasdaq-100 Index: On 18th December 2006 Indian IT giant Infosys (market capitalisation on nasdaq - $5.6 Billion) is set to join the likes of Adobe, Apple, Cisco, Dell, eBay, Google, and Microsoft in the Nasdaq 100 Index - becoming the first Indian company to do so!

Infosys is one of the great Indian companies (like Tata) that has a spotless reputation in India, and ranks among one of the most aspirational organisations to work for.

Business wise too, they've grown from strength to strength, and this recognition is the icing on the cake - though people at Infy insist this is just the beginning!

Meanwhile their PR machinery is working overtime, though redundantly, because most media is falling all over themselves to get soundbytes from them. Now that's what I call reputation!

Auto Industry shows 16.4% growth: In the period April to November 2006, India Inc produced 7.4 million vehicles - recording an increased production of 17.52% four wheelers, and 15.02% higher two wheelers. With domestic sales of four wheelers rising by 20.68%, and two wheelers up by 14.43% (the rest of the increase went into exports)

All this growth is good, though I'd say no thanks to advertising - because advertising in the auto sector in India (two wheelers in particular) continues to be pretentious, insightless, and should send most of the relevant creative directors into hiding (except perhaps, those doing the Tata Motors, Bajaj, and TVS work).

The US - India Nuke Deal: Last week the US congress voted overwhelmingly (330 Ayes, 59 Nays, 44 abstentions) to pass the legislation allowing nuclear trade with India, ratifying to the world India's outstanding responsible stand and record in nuclear power management.

Unlike countries like Iran, North Korea and our neighbour Pakistan, India has never postured or threatened anyone with its capabilities, but has focussed on its positive uses.

Capability proven, responsibility recognized and promised, India inc including the Tatas and Reliance Energy can now look forward to expanding their capabilities into nuclear energy in the near future.

Mobile User base crosses 14 crore (14,00,00,000): Indians love to talk. And the mobile phone providers (GSM, WLL and CDMA) have raked in the benefits, adding a whopping 6,700,000 subscribers in November alone. GSM service providers like Airtel and Hutch lead the market, not just offerring basic services but a host of value added services as well.

Not surprisingly, marketing and advertising in this industry is very active and noticeable, with brands like Hutch (courtesy Ogilvy) consistently creating fabulous slick looking and premium feeling campaigns. Airtel also has its act together, but has a more lower mass appeal.

Kerala ties up with Red Hat: The state government of the south Indian state of Kerala (which recently tried to ban Microsoft for some ideological reasons) has joined the free software bandwagon, and is officially opening its doors (blatantly aligning?) to Linux. It's trying to woo Red Hat into setting up facilites and support for the state government and state run schools in Kerala.

My only point is, when state governments are in a habit of banning companies - which literally amounts to banning growth through free trade - I would think twice before investing there.

West Bengal threatens to slip back into the red: This eastern state of India has long sufferred at the hands of communist parties who have consistently paralysed growth and chased companies out of the region, in the name of 'taking care of the interests of the common man'.

Fortunately, over the last half decade or so, we saw a positive change in attitude, stemming from the progressive thinking of the previous and current Chief Ministers - Jyoti Basu and Buddhadev Bhattacharjee respectively. We have begun to see dramatic changes in the state, which until recently looked like something time had forgotten.

New IT parks, new industry and hence new prosperity was beginning to show.

Which is why perhaps the Tata group chose West Bengal as the location for their prestigious new car project. Only to now find themselves at the mercy of archaic thinking communist forces who once again are resorting to strikes, and going on a rampage trying to stop the project from taking off!

These people have no clue as to the damage their actions will cause to the people they claim to be protecting. And how it will effect further investment in the state. Whatever their issues are, need to be resolved in a slightly less violent and more civilised manner than what they're doing right now.

Sprite sells more than Coke! India is full of surprises - and perhaps the only part of the world where the Coca Cola company sells more Sprite than their flagship brand Coke! This is besides the point that their largest selling brand is a third name - Thums Up - which they acquired from an Indian company many years back! The final tally of cases sold by Coca Cola India - Total, 215million; Thums Up, 50million; Sprite, 40million; Coke, 32million.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What Women Want (And Men Don't)

In the 2000 classic "What Women Want" starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt - Mel, a hotshot (but arrogant MCP) creative director comes out with brilliant advertising campaigns targeted at women because he develops the ability to read women's thoughts, and hence know "what women want!"

But when you're not Mel - and you often cannot read women's words (leave alone thoughts) how to you communicate and connect with them as a marketer and communication professional?

Well Dr Luan Brizendine offers some insights in her recently published book "The Female Mind". She conclusively (and scientifically) states that women talk more than men - an average of 20,000 words a day, against just 7,000 words spoken by men.

She also says the inherent genetic difference between men and women's brains makes women more talkative. And women love to hear their own voices - they get a buzz out of it, and devote more brain-power to chit-chat.

Don't get me wrong, I love to hear women chit-chat. It's fascinating. And as a communicator, and lover of long-copy I find women beautiful audiences to communicate with.

Men on the other hand are less patient and more action driven. Quit the talk and show me the money (or honey in many cases!)

So as a communicator in the new world and new media, what would I do?

  • Create more interactive plans when talking to women. Use great layouts with happy and soft imagery that's inviting and involving. Use chats, q & a, discussion forums, and explain all the tech stuff easily, patiently and respectfully.

  • Provide racier, more visually stimulating and action oriented programmes for men. Galleries, games, perspectives, and just lay out lots of techy stuff for men and wait for them to figure out and feel good about it.

  • Use more audio and text based communication tools for women online - podcasts, long explanatory and involving text.

  • For men, use videos, flashy imagery and interactive tools.

  • Expect that women will get involved for longer durations and will be more loyal to your programs (will stick to you through think and some thin).

  • Be prepared that men will be in and out, and remain flirtatious in nature, and need greater "what's in it for me" (men are like that only)

  • Of course, treat both with equal respect and don't treat either like an idiot.

And if you want to learn how to hold the attention of your male and female audiences in any medium, and keep them loyal for life, follow the paths of the two great masters - Jay Leno and Oprah Winfrey.

Yes, Jay with his slam-bam-shooting-from-the-hip one liner style is brilliant with men!!!

Oprah with her soft-earnest-we-are-with-you style brings out the women loyalists like no other :)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Wal-Mart, Julie Roehm, Draft-FCB - the highs and lows straightened out

I (like a whole lot of us) have been following the abovementioned story from the time Draft-FCB got the Wal-Mart business... when George Parker exposed the internal memo at Ogilvy... then when Draft-FCB 'released the lions'... right up to the discovery a couple of days back that Wal-Mart fired Julie Roehm and has put the business up for a pitch again!

Well, between comments and opinions from George Parker and (in George's words) a whole lot of other 'wankers' the story rivals any Sidney Sheldon plot, or for those familiar with India it resembles bollywood masala, minus the singing and dancing around the trees (though in this plot we do have certain cats doing it in the bushes!).

But if you're finding it tough (as I did) to figure out the real meat of the story minus the masala - then Bob Garfield is the one to bare it all for you - including the whos, whens, and insights on the whys.

As a communication professional, this plot offers plenty of learning (besides what Bob explains):

  • Business partnerships aren't any good, if you're mismatched culturally.
  • Don't hire people just because they did (or are supposed to have done) a great work elsewhere. Question if they can deliver similar results, and not just deliver similar campaigns for you.
  • And finally, as we all know - winning an account is usually easiest part of our business - keeping it and keeping it happy is the toughest part!

Read the Bob Garfield perspective here. And the George Parker perspective here.

Random Useful Thought # 002

Being a client to an advertising agency or public relations firm automatically authorises you to make changes in the campaigns they present. But it doesn't automatically qualify you to be right!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

UPDATE: Content Theft!

Okay, the issue of illegal mirroring has been sorted out. Here's how:

  • On discovering the illegal mirroring of my wordpress blog at byindia, I wrote an email to both byindia and web2corp, a US based company that recently bought byindia.

  • Within a couple of hours, I received an email from no less than the CEO of web2corp, expressing his concern and desire to fix the problem.

  • I pointed out the mirrors to my site, as well as the mirrors of bothack, my treasure and ekawaaz - bloggers like me who faced the same problem.

  • Within an hour of my second email, the offending mirrors disappeared and I got another email from web2corp saying they'd identified the problem, and I quote - "a script, a webbot spyder, that in fact was attempting to scan content of bloggers and create accounts in ByIndia. That is also the reason it was so canned looking (ie. carlin, cala, cais, etc.) and why they were new blogs in ByIndia. The only possible reason here is sabotage assuming that bloggers such as yourself would be angered by the activity and bash ByIndia verbally. We have immediately patched the platform to reject such auto-posting. ByIndia's blogs are not new, as they were established in early 2005 and have always been the most popular aspect of the product before our involvement just a few months ago." He goes on to add that he will hope me and other Indian bloggers will visit ByIndia as they're proud of the products and hope it wil become a destination they will be proud of in years to come.

Okay, so we give them the benefit of the doubt - that they did not realise this script was running amok in their system. let's say we'll believe the sabotage theory that some external force (competitors) managed to slip this into their system to anger us bloggers. And let's just appreciate the fact that they responded so quickly and efficiently to fix the problem - and leave it at that.

Though I would double-check every new and existing blog on ByIndia (which incidently I hadn't even heard of until yesterday!) to see if it isn't a Mili Vanili!

So back to my role as Noshtradamus (the real one), let me sum up the learnings here:

  • It's very easy in this day and age for content to get ripped off, so you got to keep your eyes and ears open - also enlist the help of online support/protection groups such as Creative Commons

  • Do a web/blog search on your own subjects every now and then to scan for plagiarism and as I discovered - blatant rip offs!

  • If you have a problem, spread the news, and you'll more often than not discover you aren't the only victim - get together and act!

  • Always contact the offending party immediately and give them the first chance to explain. If they're multinational, or companies based in the US or Western Europe, they will most likely be quick to respond and sensitive to your angst - hence they will do something to help you out (unless they're shady bastards who had done it deliberately).

  • And finally, if you're investing in some company operating half way across the world - do your homework well. Because if you don't do due dilligence, you could just end up acquiring a lot of crap! That's common sense, isn't it?!

Now I can get back to my regular posts, and try to recover the time lost in clearing this mess!


Monday, December 04, 2006

Stop Thief!

I just discovered a blog which is blatantly copying my name and the content from this blog of mine- word for word, link for link - and posting it under the name of someone called carlin (see here) >(link removed, not giving them any hits from here)


If you search this service of free blogs from you will find copies of a whole lot of other blogs there. With my limited exposure to the blogs blogosphere, I have in half an hour, found half a dozen blatant copies of other blogs there. I have already contacted the bloggers I know to warn them! And I would urge you not to believe that all the blogs under byindia dot com are from genuine bloggers!

I'm figuring out what this is all about, and will post here soon to let you all know.

Imitation is sometimes the best form of flattery - but this is thievery!


e-serve advertising: faking it big time!

When I first saw the new television commercial for e-serve Citigroup Global Services being aired in India, I thought I'd missed something - because no one could have actually made make such a crappy ad!

Then suddenly I saw it again, and again! Realisation dawned: I wasn't missing anything, but the ad was missing everything - logic, intelligence, credibility and class!

The commercial features a guy walking up to the camera and saying "e-serve is now citigroup global services and everyone's excited. Don't believe me, listen..." and then he goes on to sing and clap the same line to a bunch of toddlers, who (being innocent gullible toddlers) get caught up with the excitement of the clapping and start clapping themselves... "see! everyone's excited" he ends with a smugly pompous look on his face.

Yeh. That's one ad. Another has the guy mouth the same line and then hold up the mike below a screaming-with-excitement-bungee-jumper. "see, everyone's excited" he says again.

Obviously the company's trying very hard to convince people that e-serve becoming citigroup global services is a good thing. But couldn't get anyone to be really excited, even for their ads! Leading to this big-time faking-it script.

It's not just me - last week's Economic Times Brand Equity panel has also panned the ad as "Bekaar" (lousy). And I quote "Looks like someone at the agency took the client brief of drumming up excitement very literally. But if you need to be told by some guy on TV that 'everyone is excited' it doesn't speak much for the excitement. Or for Citigroup, for that matter."

Hello! What were you thinking??!


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Random Useful Thoughts # 001

In any discussion, debate, brainstorm, argument, or wherever you're faced with thinking contradictory to yours, pause for a moment and say to yourself: "Perhaps the other person is right"

Then think seriously about it. Who knows what new mindspace you discover.

Note: More random thoughts and beliefs that have worked for me, will appear on this blog - randomly :)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Blogging India Means Business

In a recent research study conducted by Microsoft (MSN and Windows Live) it was found that India's blogosphere is unique in the region with blogging driven by men with an interest in business, politics and entertainment. (What else is there?? porn is entertainment, right??).

Your Average Indian Blogger: A summary of this research would indicate that your average Indian blogger is a young male with a passion for self improvement and entertainment, who spends 5 hours a week reading others and updating his own blog, which gets about 11 hits a week...

Footnote to above: Blogs as part of a media plan for advertisers in India? Not a killer idea right now, but could be worth the investment because space will come cheap at the moment [to advertise on this blog which gets many times more hits than the national average, click here :) ]

Preferred Content: According to the study, the most read/preferred content is technology, followed by news and education, indicating our society is clearly in a progressive, growing mode. Not surprisingly, blogs written by business leaders were found to be the most interesting as they provided great learning.

Footnote to above: So will we suddenly see a rush of wannabe-blogger-CEOs quickly reaching for their wordpress and blogger accounts? (Oops! Or as Microsoft would hope, rush to open a Windows Live Spaces account!). Well, only time will tell, and dude - you need much more than 5 hours a week to get a decent blog going!

Alternate Media: The interesting point to note is that 45% of respondents in India trust the content of blogs, and see it as an alternative to conventional media like print and television. (I also read somewhere else that a EuroRSCG/Columbia study found that 53% of journalists use blogs to find ideas, and 43% use blogs to do research and ratify facts!).

Footnote to the above: A scan of the leading Indian printed business papers will show you that the Business Standard gave this report a tiny 2 columns by 10 cm space, and The Economic Times gave it slightly better 4 columns by 15 cm space... On the other hand, neither the BS Blog, nor the ET Blog have made any reference to this very relevant research!

Microsoft and this research: This study undertaken by Harris Interactive on behalf of Microsoft, and was conducted across seven markets in Asia and covered 25,000 people.

Footnote to the above: If you thought Microsoft ignores public opinion, think again. This study probably cost them a load of money, and is not likely to directly increase the use of their Windows Live Spaces (which one MS spokesperson attempts to push almost as a powerful tool for aspiring bloggers and advertisers). But hey, they're Microsoft, and this could be just the tip of something much bigger planned!


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

India's Hidden Gems

While we and the world talk about Indian IT, Indian BPOs, our growing global competitiveness and our expanding local consumerism, we usually fail to recognise other industries and indicators of potential.

In the last year or so, I've spent a lot of time studying the Indian economy and its various industries - and have discovered a whole new world of potential and opportunity - in areas we take for granted (like hospitality and construction), as well as in places you would not expect (our sewage for instance!).

I am talking about companies that have grown from nothing, with nothing to back them except the ideas and passion of their owners. I'm talking about entrepreneuers who have toiled silently over the years, and have gained success to become market leaders in their fields, without most people even knowing they even exist!

To my mind they're the hidden gems of India, which when polished will shine out bright not just in India - but in the world as well.

Most of them are around 10-15 years old (Note to myself: I must study the social and economic climate in those days to see what were the triggers). Today, they've attained a critical mass and have reached a tipping point - where with minor tweaking and adjustment in either infrastructure, positioning, or communication, they will rise out of anonymity into certain fame in the years to come.

Here are some random choices:

InterGlobe - established in 1989 as a travel agent, InterGlobe is today one of the leading companies in airline and aviation management, travel related services, travel technology (including a BPO), and hotel management. It not only manages over 15 of the world's leading airlines in India, it has now entered the fast growing area of cruise-lines in India. To top it all, InterGlobe recently launched an ailine called IndiGo, and placed an order of 100 aircraft from Airbus! With the two-way traffic of business and leisure travellers growing faster than our population, any guesses if these guys are in the right business?!!

Enhanced WAPP - Started in 1996 by IITian Rajesh Jain, WAPP is today a relatively successful (and market leader in some cities) company in water and waste management in India. Water and waste are such a problem in India, and essential to the success of any civilisation - there's no doubt you've got to watch out for this company being flush with success!

Spectral Services - Ever wondered how a century old luxury hotel can run smoothly in the middle of a lake - with the electricals, plumbing and all mechanical infrastructure working to 5-star efficiency? Well, it's what these folks do - they're MEP consultants (mechanical, engineering, plumbing consultants) who work closely with architects and have helped put together efficient buildings including the homes of some of India's richest Indians as well as landmarks such as the Bahai temple in New Delhi!

These are just a few names - look around India and you will find hundreds of other such companies keeping the economy moving and thriving silently. Providing products and services that don't shout out with multi-crore multi-media advertising or pr campaigns. But result in equally happy consumers.

I believe the next revolution in India will be here - infrastructure, and services. Because as India strives to become an economic superpower, and the world moves in to take advantages of opportunity India - who do you think is going to make us all work and live comfortably?!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hi, I'm Vendor No. XYZ-123

"I spend many hours a day counselling your CEO, my company just designed a programme that is expected to avert a crisis in your lives, and change the fortunes of your company. But hey, I'm just a vendor and supplier, like your plumber, travel agent, and your friendly neighbourhood newspaper boy!"

It's amazing how in this day and age, marketing consultants, advertising agencies and public relations firms get clubbed under the head of "vendors and suppliers" by the clients we work with - for their accounts and other financial purposes.

We all strut around claiming to be partners in the success of our client's business, yet few of us take affront to this misnomer, or expect changes in this area.

Not surprisingly, we're treated as such, especially by the finance and accounts departments! During the last 17 years in the business, I have only heard of such shabby treatment. But in the last 17 months as an independent, I have experienced this first hand.

Clients expect work and results overnight, but take their own sweet time in making payments - often leaving you at the mercy of accountants, to whom you are just another vendor! Junior people down the line in Client organisations have no respect for experience or levels on the other side - because quite simply they're paying and you're vending!

While this is sad but expected, what's worse is how we in the business ourselves often treat the people we work with. I once received an email from the finance head of a PR firm, and the mail neither had the courtesy of a hello or anything, and as I said earlier was addressed to everyone including the guy who books their plane tickets, their telephone service provider, and of course me and their other communication "vendors"!

The text of the whole mail:

"Per our corporate parent ***, ******* is required to notify our suppliers of ***'s code of business conduct and corporate social responsibility policy as it relates to the sale of goods and/or services sold to us. The complete details of this policy can be found at the following website: (url here)
Please take note of the policies stated therein."

That's it!!! That was the whole mail! Well if a PR firm interacts with its "suppliers" this way (perhaps unwittingly), how do you expect clients to be any better!?

Think about it. Do something about it!

Note: Not all clients are like this. I have experienced/heard of great respect being given to our fraternity by companies like Whirlpool, Reckitt-Benckiser, Pepsi, ITC, IBM, Microsoft, and Tata Motors. I imagine there are more. And may their tribe increase!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Innovation vs Creativity. Organizations vs People

I just read a fascinating interview by The Strategist Team of Business Standard, with Luc de Brabandere who is an author of many books, and Paris based Vice-President of Boston Consulting Group.

In his interview, Luc talks about the differences between Innovation and Creativity (eye opening stuff here). He opines why organisations cannot be creative, but should aspire to be innovative. Creativity is a very individualist thing, which innovative organisations should encourage.

Luc also holds forth on a belief I have long held, even when I worked as an advertising creative director - "Creativity mushrooms from day-to-day realities and from seeing things from a drastically new viewpoint, angle of thought process"

Creativity as I've always believed, has to be worked at, and you cannot sit around hoping it will hit you on the head as it flies past.

You can read the entire interview on AgencyFaqs here. You can also read more about this subject in an article by Luc in Management Consulting News here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

New Media and what not!

When I tell people that I help companies understand new media, and how to use it to their benefit, most people look at me and say - "by new media you mean the internet, right..? what else is there??!".

In the beginning, I used to get stumped by the ignorance behind this assumption. I used to be apalled by the fact that even seasoned communication professionals in advertising and public relations think:

a) there's nothing more to new age communication than the internet, and

b) that there's nothing more to the internet than websites, banner ads and email!

Well, yes there is more, and I will attempt to briefly summarise what I know and share as part of my day job.

In my mind "New Media" is anything that can be used as a tool for communication with new age consumers and audiences. It just so happens that the internet occupies a huge part of their lives, followed by the omnipresent and omnipotent mobile phone... that's new media too!

In fact as much as we use tools born out of new technologies, I would classify innovations in conventional media as new media too. As long as they acquire the dynamism that can match the unpredictable free-flowing behavioral and consumption patterns of our audiences today.

So portable billboards that follow their audiences, rejuvinated conventional radio channels, cell broadcasts, multimedia streaming by bluetooth to handheld devices... they all are new media.

And when it comes to the internet, the usual suspects like websites, chat rooms and blogs aside, you should look at social networking groups, messenger services, wikis, and community generated hang outs - like youtube. The list is endless and evolving even as you read this post.

The amazing thing about new media, is also that it's a great internal communication tool. For example, did you know:

1. That you can make real time, online Powerpoint presentations with sound and you speaking to anyone, anywhere in the world, using MSN Messenger... which is actually yours to download for free!

2. That you can make audio visuals that look and sound as good as a slickly produced film, using MS Powerpoint?

3. That you needn't invest in any expensive Intranets and/or ERP systems, if you simply change mindsets and create of culture checking and responding to email promptly?

I'm just skimming the surface here... really! You won't believe it, but most of us use our PCs (or a Mac) like we use our minds - at just about 3% of their actual potential or capacity! And to maximise the potential of your PC, you don't need any fancy computer science degrees. You just need the desire to learn, supported by a whole lot of curiosity.

Think about it. Explore that PC on your desktop or lap. But if that's too much to ask, you know who to call!


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

KFC Advertises to Aliens!

It took me a while to figure out if this is a joke or its serious - a KFC image of Colonel Sanders, allegedly visible from the moon! I still don't know. Check it out here at Innocent Bystanders. I especially love the comments!

Oh... now I know why this blog is so interesting. The authors claim that they're not bloggers, but commenters! Nice tagline - "anyone can blog... commenting is hard" (hmm... that explains the few comments on my blog!).

Worth checking out... and they're not paying me to say all this!

Footnote Added: I just noticed the original news report is from Reuters, here.

The Indian Economy: News that caught my eye this week!

8% Growth: According to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (and hints from the Indian Finance Minister) the Indian economy is expected to grow by 8% in the financial year ending March 2007. This comes in the wake of plenty of new capital investments, high credit growth, and improved profitability in the corporate sector.

11th largest 'services' exporter: While overall growth this year is expected to stay healthy, the services business in India is growing by leaps and bounds. According to the WTO's International Trade Statistics, Indian services exports have grown by 41.6% to 56.1 billion USD versus 39.6 billion USD last year!

Indian Insurance companies have reason to smile: While the Indian government is planning to hike FDI in the insurance sector, there are indications that the government is also planning changes in the Insurance Act, which currently mandates that the local promoters in joint ventures with international insurance companies have to compulsarily reduce their stake from 74% to 26% within 10 years. This is good news for Indian companies like Bajaj, Max, HDFC and ICICI who would perhaps want to remain in the business and go solo instead of living under the shadow of their JV partners. FYI, the Indian insurance industry is growing at a rate of around 20% every year!

Taj Group checks into Ritz-Carlton, Boston: Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, one of Asia's largest and finest hotel groups (headquartered in Mumbai, India) has entered a definitive agreement to purchase The Ritz-Carlton, Boston from its current owners, Millennium Partners for around US $170-million and close the deal in January 2007. Read the full story here.

For more information/other news around India and its economy, check out IBEF, The Economic Times, Business-Standard

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

David-Bates-Enterprise: Menage a trois or trouble?

I just received an sms alert from my friendly industry spammer, about a David-Bates-Enterprise merger. Yes, David, Bates, Enterprise... I've double checked the article it pointed to, and you can see for yourself.

For those of you who don't have the context of Indian advertising agencies - this is the wierdest merger anyone of us here can imagine! Because the three entities seem to have nothing in common!

The first union which took place a while back was a typical Indian arranged marriage - where some elders in their wisdom decided to get two very different people married, saying "we know what's best for you. Once you're married, you'll sort out your differences, make adjustments and create a good family. Love? What's love got to do with it? Once you're married, you'll learn to love each other in good time!"

So the two agencies - Bates and Enterprise - one a middle-class-generally-boring-boy of no particular lineage, married the hot-and-popular-westernised-babe from Mumbai.

Being a typical Indian marriage, the boy was put in charge, and the girl was expected to "adjust" and live up the the "new family name" of Bates Enterprise!

Not surprisingly, they had their internal issues (read ego problems) of adjustment, culture, priorities... the works! ...but like most Indian couples they are still living together!

Now along comes this dude David. Yes, david is another dude! Cool, clever, Fun, everything the middle-class boy (and now marriage) is not! David's been independent, standing up against the big boys in all areas (David vs Goliath in real advertising life!)

As a saving grace, his name seems to be the first in the title. The question is, will David's belief systems also get priority in the way they live? Will he get to call the shots, or will he have to quit being enterprising and step back with abated energy?!

I have nothing against each of the individual agencies - in fact I hold the leaders at the helm of each entitiy in high regard:

Mohammed Khan, in my mind is the guru of classy and cool advertising in India;
Subhash Kamath, a great servicing guy and leader to have for your team;
Josy Paul, the unassuming yet brilliant creative guy of contemporary Indian cool.

Each has the substance of a classic advertising person, as against the maverick flash-in-the-pans of today. But each is a name to reckon with, and a leader in his own right. Each has a following, and has nurtured a culture that is distinct from any other (and each other).

The basic question is, will this menage a trois of clashing cultures result in a fantastic threesome, or simply end up to be a menage a trouble?

I wouldn't bet any money on it. But with due regard for the three gentlemen mentioned above, I'd put a little money into a temple and pray for them.

God help you guys! My best wishes are with you.


Monday, November 13, 2006

The New Highways of Progress

It's a proven fact that the progress of a nation, usually follows the progress of its roads and highways. Take Europe and the United States of America for example... they developed and gained from superhighways long before most parts of the world. And on the other side of the globe today, the Golden Quadrilateral Highway Project of the Indian government is changing the economic landscape and influencing the distribution of industries in India.

As we all know, highways and roads facilitate free-flowing movement and spread of people, goods, even mindsets - hence decantralises national/state economies from the conventional ports and capitals to inner counties and rural areas. And on this rides the spread/growth of knowledge, entertainment, lifestyles, and this raises the overall standard of awareness and living.

Good Highways and Roads are not only good for companies, but also their customers.

Likewise you'll find the information superhighway, a.k.a the Internet, with its bits and bytes is taking on the role once monopolised by concrete and cement.

Here's a quick overview as I see it:

1. Highways open up roads to previously unheard of places. The internet allows you access to companies and consumers you'd probably not meet even with 6 degrees of separation.
2. The spread of higways allows companies to design and develop new manufacturing, distribution, and sales maps. Likewise the spread of the internet allows you to source new material, knowledge, partners and consumers, anywhere in the world!
3. Highways have both drivers and passengers. Likewise, the internet has those driving, and those who just go with the flow.

I think you now get the idea (that is if you didn't already know this).

So what are the golden rules, to keep in mind when using the new information superhighway? Or how can companies/brands maximise the potential of the internet?

1. Know the layout and plans: Understand the internet: its users, its technologies, its growth, its spread.
2. Define your destination: Where do you want to go? Define your goals, define what you want to achieve: research your consumers? open a new line of sale? just promote sales? know the competition? find/solicit partners? Manage reputation? What?
3. Know the risks of highway travel: Is your car/company ready for it? Are you fit for the drive/do you have a good driver? Have you done your homework on the terrain - is it a desert, forest, mountains, what?
4. Identify the other travellers: What is their agenda? Where are they going? What is their mood? Is the highway friendly or hostile towards you?
5. Identify the pit stops and the highway patrols: In case of trouble, do you have a plan A and plan B? Do you know what evasive/engaging actions you can take?

Net-net (pun intended) the new information superhighways are just like the highways of old. They're all over the place, and going through all kinds of terrain. They're full of all kinds of people, with all kinds of agendas. Some are your friends, some enemies, but the most are unknown players.

To sum up this little intellectual journey:
1. If you want your company to grow, you cannot afford to sit at home.
2. If you're stepping out onto the information superhighway (the internet), it's better to be a driver in control, than a passenger who is swept along wherever the others are going.
3. If you are going to drive within the internet, you better learn to drive as well as, if not better than the other guy.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Indian BPOs: Private or Porous?

One of the largest new business opportunities in India is Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). And one of the largest ethical and legal issues we have in India today, also has to do with BPOs - which is Privacy and Identity Theft.

A lot has been written about the issue, with many companies and even the government talking of measures to curb this menace which is irritating at its harmless best, and is dangerous at its criminal worst.

While there are international laws, and all the right noises being made about action being taken in India, I would like to comment upon it from a social and cultural perspective, and address the "harmless irritating side" of BPOs and telemarketing.

At the basic physical level, India is a very crowded and overpopulated country. There are people constantly around you, nudging you, rubbing shoulders with you, and poking their noses into what you're doing. It's an accepted fact of life.

At the next and higher level, is Indian culture of being friendly (even to strangers) and being hospitable (a guest is equal to God). The belief and oft used phrase "Hum unhe jaante hain" ("we know them/him/her") is a great bridge between family, friends, and even strangers.

Which is why it will not be amiss if you drop in at your neighbour's house unannounced, or have relatives move into your house without advance notice, or for that matter if you offer water and food to even strangers that knock on your door in India.

The result is a society that believes in no personal boundaries, no personal space, and basically no right to privacy.

Now this mindset is very well when it comes to a society and a way of life (even though you may hate it) among friends and family, but is a disaster when it comes to doing business and operating in a professional world.

But most people (companies as well as telemarketers) don't know where the boundaries lie. And that is first and foremost an issue of culture and organisational ethics, rather than the law.

For example, for the past four years I've been getting calls on my cellphone from people asking from my wife. On probing, I always discover they're all telemarketing calls from a bank, auto insurance, or car dealers.

The first time it happened, I remembered that when my wife bought her Mitsubishi car, for some forgotten reason, she had given my cellphone number as hers. On further probing the callers, I discovered the first caller on behalf of the auto-loan company, had previously worked for the Mitsubishi dealer where my wife bought the car! Subsequenly the lady moved on to (and shared the list with) other companies who added my number to their database!

The point to note is, the lady wasn't apologetic, but tried to make small talk and act familiar, just because she'd spoken with us once in the past!

It's not amusing anymore!

Moving on from irritating, is the next danger of familiarity - which leads to loss of business for many companies.

The other day in Gurgaon, I was in the same elevator as two well dressed young execs. They were going to meet the CEO of a company in that building and this is how the conversation went:

Exec 1: So you know this guy!?

Exec 2: Yes, he was my Platinum Card client at A***

Exec 1: Wow, that's cool! So he will take the card?

Exec 2: Yeah sure, I call up all my A*** clients and tell them I'm now with A** **** and get them to meet me for five minutes... "Woh hame jaante hain" (they know me). And I force them to take the new card!

Exec 1: Wow!!

It troubled me to no end, that here was this guy, boasting aloud in a crowded lift about something that wasn't just unethical, but illegal as well!

If either of the banks have figured out the *** names and want to know more, write to me, I'll give you the guy's name and place of visit as well!

The first bank obviously spent a lot of money to acquire that client (or maybe not), and here was this jerk washing it down the drain! It also troubled me because I am a large customer of the second bank, and I feared that my personal information could be sold further as well!

It's obvious that neither the first bank (or auto company) or the second had made any effort to establish the concept of data theft. And that what these people were doing is illegal. Perhaps they'd even let slip in their interviews that they had the database, which is why they were hired in the first place!!

I believe these two incidents reflect the core issue behind our porous BPOs. Of how core human values if not put the right context, can mess with organisational and business values.

Moral of the Story: If India and Indian BPOs want to be taken seriously by countries, companies, and customers, they have to first put a culture, work ethics, and belief systems in place.

Organisational and Social pressure, will prove a better preventive deterrent than the law.

The law should at best used as punishment for error!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

IIT Alumni - Helping build India through Innovation

They're acknowledged worldwide as some of the brainiest people on this planet. They appear in boardrooms, as well as comic strips around the world.

They're the alumni of the various Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in India, and they're getting together for a PanIIT Global Conference 2006 with the theme "Inspire to Involve and Transform India".

There's no doubt that most of these alumni of various IIT are in a position to make a difference to this country, what's amazing is their constant endeavors to do so!

The 3-day conference has a diverse variety of relevant sessions planned - including those that help understand the Indian economy, infrastructure, outlook, as well as specific areas for growth including energy, environment, bio-technology, and information technology - with a perspective on how IITians can make a difference both starting from the grassroots level and heading for the top audiences/industries.

Read more about the conference here, or keep watching this space.


hero versus baap!

This is my second post in recent times on the automobile industry in India. While I talked about the superbike dilemma the last time, this time I want to share my thoughts on the actual - current battle of the bikes going on between the supposed hero number one, and whom I think is the real baap (hindi term, for big daddy) of two wheelers in India.

Let's leave names aside for the moment, because the point I want to make is not really about the two companies, but about how companies can go completely wrong if they don't think right, or get the right marketing advice. I want to talk about how belief systems, and individual styles can make or break a company. (And how on earth can anyone with millions of rupees to spend on marketing and advertising, not have this basic commonsense in place!?).

Enjoy the ride, this is how it is, with two companies in the same business:

  • Both started out as family owned two wheeler manufacturers, long before liberalization appeared in the Indian lexicon.
  • Both were owned and run by patriarchs, who were bloody good at making their products, and going about their business.
  • Both were very successful, and respected by the industry.

    Cut to: the last 5-7 years.

  • One patriarch has handed over the reigns to his younger sons. One still keeps the reigns to himself.
  • One hires professional marketing and advertising agencies which are "very different" in thinking from them. One hires a bunch of agencies that are "like minded".
  • One gives its agencies a free hand and trusts their judgement. One makes every campaign a pitch between all its agencies.
  • One company's agencies come out with fresh and new ideas. One company's agencies are always second guessing what the company wants, in order to get the business.
  • One company has a variety of strong brands in its portfolio. One company is struggling to find variations of the one product promise it invented 20 years ago.
  • One company is clearly a winner in consumer minds. One company is ahead in sales, but just about.

Who do you think will win in the long run and become the brand of the future?

Note 1: Thinking shown above, is standard equipment in a professional setup. The results of actual marketing efforts however, always depends on individual riding styles.

Note 2: I have no vested interests in either of the two companies. I have however competed against both in the distant past.


real happiness = delivery, not just promises

One of the facts of business and marketing is that you promise on what you deliver, at the time you say you'd deliver.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case of perhaps one of the most talked about, most previewed and most awaited products in the last couple of years - the Airbus A380.

We have seen episodes of it on Discovery Channel and every other news/features channel, seen interviews with various airline heads talking about their huge orders for it, and heard so much about it from Airbus itself... since a really long time now...

But constant delays have plagued the much awaited (and certainly exciting) new aircraft - so much so, that after many big customers threatening to cancel their orders (like Emirates), FedEx has actually gone ahead and cancelled a huge order with Airbus, and moved to Boeing.

Moral of the story: It doesn't matter how big you are, or how great your product is... you keep your customers on hold, the competition will end up talking to them!

Read the story and get the details here.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Talent & The Boss's Perspective

I received a couple of email (why email?? stop being shy, and post your comments, folks!! make this blog a little more interactive upfront) with regards to my previous post on Talent. In that post, I pointed out that problems within a company, can invariably be traced back to leadership, and bad bosses.

Most of those who wrote in, agreed with me and shared their own "boss experiences" (too explicit to print here). However I got the feeling, they assumed I was just out to trash "bosses" - which is far from what I had in mind, having been a "boss" myself for the last 10 years!

The fact is, I always took ownership of problems and tried to address them the best way I could - with inputs from my own bosses (thank you Abhinav, Nirvik, Arvind, Nitish, Sanjeev) and the people that worked under me (thanks Sam, Arun, Shikha, Suruchi, Partho...).

The truth is, I promise you, I always knew any problem within the team, was usually do to some action or inaction of mine, giving rise to my belief in the "Boss" theory.

At the same time, the influence of my own boss was strong in my own dealings with people (my no. 2 problem theory, coming soon)! I sometimes did or said things I wouldn't have done (good and bad) which weren't me!

So when they were angels, the sun shone out of my you know what, but where they ****ed with my mind for their own agenda - I ended up being a pain in the you know where!

Net Net, here are some do's and don'ts I learned along the way, which should be of great help to any Boss to read, and a great tool to judge the one above you!

Good Bosses Should:

  • Define Roles of everyone and respect their boundaries (if you want smooth functioning at all times)
  • Speak Politely to everyone, irrespective of rank (being rude or gruff doesn't make you powerful, it makes you pathetic!)
  • Always profile your teams and their experience with external customers (It assures customers of stature and solidity, rather than solo seconds from you)
  • Encourage people below to learn your own job and what you do (how else will bosses move up to higher things?!)
Good Bosses Should Not:

  • Don't ever use "I" in presentations, unless you're specifically asked for your personal opinion (experience tells us, most people who say "I did this" usually did not!)
  • Don't snap fingers or use hand gestures to call or dismiss anyone (hand signals are for the physically challenged and traffic police)
  • Don't encourage so called "harmless gossip" or any form of "backbiting" (if you show it's okay to bitch about others, you're licensing them to bitch about you!)
  • Don't sleep with juniors, and certainly not with married ones (it ain't you buddy, it's the position - but then for many it is the only way, right??)
That's my two bit worth of learning about being a good boss and managing talent with the right spirit and true professionalism.

Feel free to add to the list, by posting comments below (not by sending me email!)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Talent? What Talent!?

At the ICCO Global Summit 2006, one of the sessions was "Talent: Our Greatest Asset". The Speaker was Jeffrey Fuller of Mercer HR Consulting, and the Chairperson (though I expected him to do a session as Speaker) was Bill Rylance - Asia-Pacific President & CEO of PR firm Burson-Marsteller.

My homework on Jeffrey Fuller told me we'd get a great global perspective on talent issues and management. And that this talk will not only touch upon human insights, but be backed by logical, scientific thinking as well.

My homework was correct, I wasn't disappointed, and neither was the audience, by the sense I got in the hall. Jeffrey had covered most of the issues to do with talent.

Then Bill Rylance asked his first question. And gave the whole subject another angle, which may have been at the back of a lot of minds, but hadn't ever been put so bluntly before.

As masterful as he is known to be, Bill Rylance pulled an ace out of his perceptive hat, and kind of said "all this is very well, to take care of people and their issues - but how do you deal with the fact that more often than not the root cause of all the problems and issues facing a company, is actually a bad boss?!"

And with that single statement, he made a point that talent becomes irrelevant, when bosses become terrible!

A silent hush ran through the audience, and I am sure everyone thought of their own boss immediately, and how almost every problem they faced, could be traced back to him or her!

It is true, and I am sure you all agree that the culture, the emotions, the workstyle of an organisation all depends upon the management and the environment it creates.

Good management, can nurture people and create positive productive, healthy believers.

Slack management, can create confusion, promote laziness and lower productivity, and at best mediocre performance.

Terrible management, will create chaos, hostility, lowered production, and many clusters of discontent!

In my seventeen years, I have had the honour and privilege of working with some of the finest bosses in the country - Sajid Peerbhoy, Abhinav Dhar, Nakul Chopra, Nirvik Singh, Arvind Wable, Nitish Mukherjee and Sanjeev Bhargava are the ones I can thank for nurturing and helping me grow - emotionally, as well as intellectually. Sure, we had minor issues like in every relationship, but we're all still friends today.

And having not been obsessed with 'boss problems' of my own, I had the luxury of noticing other people's bosses around me - in different business divisions, in client offices, in partner agencies, and even boss's bosses! There were a few good ones I came across - Ravi Kant (Tata Motors), Anil Kapoor (FCB), Sanjeev Chaddha (Pepsi), Marise Kumar (Whirlpool) and Prema Sagar (Burson-Marsteller) are the ones I'd rank as great bosses and people to work with.

You can always get a sense from body language of Bosses, as to how good or bad they'll be. As well as know from the body language of those around them. Relaxed and good people, always have relaxed and good people around them - and together they do a great job growing themselves, growing their companies.

So while we must do all we can to manage our people well like Jeffrey suggested, the fact is as Bill pointed out - if we really want to do justice to our talent, we need to begin at the top!

The Great Indian "Superbike" Dilemma

Every couple of weeks I open a newspaper or magazine in India, to see these gorgeous photographs of superbikes (like the one above), with accompanying headlines like "the superbikes are coming!" and alternately "the big bike question" (ET AutoMania, 2nd November 2006).

Enticed enough by the visuals, I end up reading the article, only to discover either:

1. The "superbike" planned by some company or the other is a 180cc or at best a 220cc (!) wannabe superbike.

2. The article interviews half a dozen top executives from Bajaj, Hero Honda, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki about them introducing real superbikes (500cc and above), only to conclude that Indian roads (!) are not ready for these superbikes, and they will not be successful (?)

Give me a break! Being a superbike fan, I am not even going to address the first point, because you have to be daft to put "220cc" and "superbike" in the same sentence (yuck, it hurts to even say that!).

As for point 2) the conclusion that Indian roads are not ready and they won't be successful, shows either a complete lack of understanding of the market/consumer insights, a lack of guts and something lower, or simply reflects a case of "sour grapes"!

Let's consider each element of the case against the launch of superbikes in India, one by one, and see what makes sense, and what does not:

1. "Indian roads are not suited for superbikes"

- It is not about the road, silly! It is about the bike and the passion to ride one!

- Indian roads are as good or as bad as roads in Bangkok, Johannesburg, Lima, Mexico city and Rome, to name just a few. And we haven't heard them complaining, have we?

- The point is, these bikes will never be used for day-to-day-commutes to places like Chandni Chowk or Lower Parel. But they will be used for thrill seeking and statement making.

- For the thrill seekers, places like Delhi-Gurgaon Jaipur highway, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the Hyderabad-Secunderabad Tank Bund will do. For some, even two spins through Phoenix Mills and the malls in Gurgaon will give the desired satisfaction!

- Anyway, most of these bikes are best enjoyed at night, when the toy bikes and cars have gone home to bed, and every street becomes a super-highway!

2. "won't be successful"

- How do you define success? Compared to the 100cc, 100kmpl motor-bicycles that are consumed by the millions in this country?

- You've got to be more realistic. Even in the rich countries they don't sell as many superbikes as perhaps one Hero Honda dealer would sell in New Delhi!

Now, for my perspective, on what would help - not rocket science, but a little common sense!

1. Belief Systems: First and foremost get your own mind in order! Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

2. Honesty: The problem isn't the roads, it's the numbers - if it does not make business sense for you, say that. If taxes and laws are killing, explain. Don't blame the roads and other irrelevant aspects. If you identify the problem correctly, you will always find relevant solutions.

3. Understanding your audiences: You have two kinds - the passionate money-bags and the passionate money-lacks.

- With the passionate money-bags, eliminate the fears (put there yourself, and by your peers) of bad roads, and sell the bikes which you have so lovingly created.

- For the passionate money-lacks, just organise the finance! I rememember, the BMW 650 launched many years ago cost as much as 3 cars at a time when people couldn't even afford 1! And when I went to a Yamaha showroom last year to see their proposed Royal Star, I was told I would have to cough up around 900,000 rupees without any chance of finance! I may be bike looney, but ain't bloody loaded, so help me out here!

India is a vibrant dynamic country. The economy is booming. And the kids here (18 to 40 year olds) are ready to take on additional financial EMIs, if you promise enough social and emotional ROI.

If this gets the wheels in your head moving, puts serious superbike plans into gear in your company, I along with plenty others will be delighted. And if you decide to give me a call to help out with the strategy, I'd be ecstatic!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Careful, the blogs have ears!

There's no doubt that bloggers are proving to be more than a handful for the high and mighty (DELL, Neil French, Kryptonite for example).

Which is why companies and company executives better think carefully, before they act stupidly (or arrogantly, aggressively, arbitrarily, whatever...)

While you may think your "employees" are just plain and simple sloggers, a lot of them are also bloggers; their friends and relatives are bloggers, and bloggers can become your floggers when really pissed... actually make that 'when even mildly pissed'!

Here's the latest example of how a great company (which I normally admire), goofed when sending out a supposed morale boosting memo to its people who just lost a pitch. George Parker gives us the spoken and the unspoken words!


The Changing Face of India

The Master of Ceremonies (MC) at the ICCO Global Summit 2006 held in New Delhi this October, started the session "The Changing Face of India" by mis-pronouncing the name of one of India's most respected journalists - TN Ninan (Pronounced Tee En Nine-un, not Neenaan as the lady announced).

While Ninan rightly expressed his irritation, I couldn't help but smile at the symbolism of the incident:

Firstly, it reminds us that despite the years of cultural assimilation and progress, India is still a very culturally diverse country - there is no "typical Indian" and most Indians know very little about, and what makes the person in front of them tick!

And as communication consultants, when you add the factor of a constantly evolving economy to this constantly stirring society, it is most likely that the moment you reach within an arm's length of understanding your consumer, he's going to do a character twist and wriggle out of your mental grasp!

The second symbolism I felt, was even though we all consider Ninan to be 'famous' journalist, he's actually not that familiar a name among the general audience.

And in that reflects another truth of the new India today, which is similar to the rest of the developing world: Media is evolving, the erstwhile giants of print and television have a much lesser impact on society than before, and they have to compete with upstarts like the internet, and surprisingly even the resurgent radio!

Thirdly, the way Ninan reacted, also reflected the changing face of India - he was quick to ask aloud "who the hell is Neenan!??" and then he went on to ignore the MC as she tried to wrap up the session at the end of its allotted time, taking his time to make the points he had to.

The new Indian doesn't give a damn about the voice of authority (no pun intended), is not afraid to raise issues that could even affront someone in power, is ready to stand up and defend their individuality, and will do whatever it takes to get their voice heard!

As I started chewing on the symbolism, my thoughts were further fed by R Gopalakrishnan, Executive Director of Tata Sons - one of the most respected companies in India. He pointed out that India's consumption pattern resembles that of developed nations. And urbanisation is on a fast track that not only connects large cities, but is making inroads into rural India as well.

If you ask what are Indians spending on? Well, Mobile Phones, Televisions, Cars, and Computers are some of the products harvesting the seeds of this increased spending.

They're all tools of communication, getting around, and connecting people. And Indians are seeking out these in large numbers - not just the standard vanilla variety, but in the form of individually customised sundaes! Mobile phones that do a lot of things in a lot of languages, not just televisions but interactive televisions, and all kinds of cars for different occasions.

The point is, the changing face of India is culturally diverse and constantly diversifying, attention spans are fleeting and flying all over the media space, and of course media isn't only "the media" anymore.

That's what I took out from this session at the Summit. The rest of the presentations in this session were just feel good presentations for Indian audiences, and provided fascinating (and inviting) facts for the foreigners.

To know more about India and all the fact and figures, check out India Brand Equity Foundation or Confederation of Indian Industry