Saturday, December 29, 2007

Communalism, secularism

A great series by Arun Shourie. I dont need to link to this, but in case you have missed this, it is worth a read and thought...

Part I: Hindutva and radical Islam - where the twain do meet

Part II: What more is needed to stoke reaction?

And the piece de resistance, today

Part III: The vital difference

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Branded Toothpaste

How to inflate the value of toothpaste? Just "brand" it,with what are, really, copyrighted images. (Of course, theres a lot more to it). But this is a case study in itself.

You have the choice, to buy toothpaste at about 3 times of the cost if it comes in a simple tube without these images...

After all, its your choice...on how you want to make your kids brush their teeth.

Raman on Modi

If you have been following the papers, this story is now old hat. A man, who, atleast going by what I read in print had done nothing right. There, were, of course, rights and wrongs, but going by what was written and broadcasted, in reams, he had done mostly wrongs, but the hustings proved that he had done, mostly right. The papers chose to ignore, or to not highlight the mans incorruptibility, ability to drive development, stop power theft (how important is that) and provide a strong administration and a secure environment and instead focus on a very small aspect of his tenure, that too, partially. (Thanks Churumuri, for all the links)

Now the question is what can this man become? Theres been denial, sour grapes and quite a few other emotions.

And heres B Ramans take on it. A very interesting analysis, because quite a few people I spoke to, agree with this, perhaps not very tacitly, but they do. And that could make for a very interesting future in Indian politics...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tracing back our roots..

I had recently been to my wife's ancestral village in Pallipuram and realised that they are amongst the very few "villages" left in the true "gramam" style (I hope I am wrong here).

The link describes in how these gramam's are by style. In a nut shell there are two rows of houses on either sides and in the middle is the temple (mostly at the end of the houses or at the middle).

These temples hosts lot of functions/festivities and see big involvement by the villagers and there in lies the serenity and the atmosphere - as they call it in cricket parlance and of course our heritage.

There are similar other villages close by like Kalpathy, Noorni and others. Kalpathy - of course has been declared as a Heritage village but I believe much needs to be done. These villages are now being steadily changed thanks to real estate prices. As one enters into the Noorni gramam - one is greeted by concrete villas as opposed to the earlier gramam style houses.

Builders are now offering river view flats in Kalpathy - interestingly these gramam's were always by the river side !!

My wife's grand parents sold their house in Pallipuram, My neighbors grandparents sold theirs in Kalpathy and my own grand parents sold theirs as well.

Whatever the compulsions behind each of these sell-offs (high maintainence costs, need for money et al) what is true for sure is that our next gen have lost the roots. When you want to show your next gen - the roots of their grandparents - we will have nothing to show - and they will have no clue where they came from.

Shouldn't we (our gen) be doing something about it, other than just sit back and think about it. Perhaps we could all see to it that preserve it as well as we can...and there are some ideas on how to do it...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Milk in tetra pack is a good idea

Especially when the unit size is 200 ml. So, the next time you are travelling, pack a few of these.

Wonder why no one thought of it till now?

So, all you cheapo caterers out there, especially at railway stations and tourist centers, this is a threat to those watery concoctions you pass off as tea.

Of course it is not a real threat, but it is a welcome thing for all those travelling with kids or for those who want their cup of milk.

Now, if only we could figure out how to heat it in a train :)

Long tail, Indian IT

Sure, the long tail has been a much spoken subject for a while now, but yesterday a thought crossed my mind.

This is an area with clear potential for the Indian IT industry. Indian IT can take advantage of its multi location strategy to position itself as the service arm/product arm/maintenance arm for niche software. By having a central location or two, it can support products across the globe. And it doesnt have to be just old and defunct products. It can very well start off by launching smaller and more specialized products and reach out even a small set of customers spread across the globe. It can also acquire specialized products and be the one stop shop for them thanks to their reach. And, like restoring specialized cars or building specialized machinery, it can get to charge good rates for them too. So, how about a long tail division?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Subhiksha, second thoughts

Subhiksha, as it started off was and continues to be a contrarian in the retail market in India. Its strategy of going near catchment areas, having smaller shops and self service with a simple 10% off on the MRP was the perfect strategy to get shoppers. No air conditioning, no fancy-schmancy doorkeepers - just simple value for money.

Yet, over time its strategy seems to have floundered. The big thing wrong about them is their lack of choice. Their stores are small to begin with and ever so often seem to run out of stocks. Given that they stock a selective number of items and brands, this is a disaster. Because each time I go to their shop, I get only part of my shopping done and then I have to go to another shop to finish it. Choice is big - second only to bargaining. If you dont let me bargain, let me choose. Compare and contrast. Hold two items in two hands and compare it till you decide. No choice doesn't leave customers feeling very good.

Their vegetable shop is almost similar. It is one thing to have a small shop, it is another thing to look worse than a vegetable market. Even the market has simple decent baskets that help you select produce. It is one thing to put up an appealing display, it is another thing to put a display that is totally repellent.

So, going by my experience with this shop over the past more than a year, I change my view from what I had here, to what my compatriot had, here. The simple thing for them is go back to their basics which seems to have been lost along the way and yes, do stop selling mobiles. I come to Subhiksha to buy groceries, not mobiles and they are not the same.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Subhiksha sells mobiles

And they have a TV spot for it too. I wonder why and what is the whole idea of selling mobiles.

From what I have seen of their store near where I live, I would feel confident of their ability to sell mobiles if they sold what they started off with well - grocery, pharma and vegetables. The whole ambience of their store is wrong - it is almost as if you are selling mobiles alongwith grocery - so what if they are (nearly) commodities?

Lunch from 2-3

I walk into an opticians at 1.45 pm. "I need an eye test done"

"Its lunch hour sir, for the optometrist from 2 to 3"
"But it is just 1.45"
"If you wait till 3, we can get it done"

And they had no Plan B. When you are building a brand on a high street, you need to be prepared to expect a customer at any time or close your shop with a board saying, its lunch time.

Reminded of my last visit to a sarkari bank...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Titan - an Indian brand

Titan, a name that is synonymous with watches today. It is tough to imagine how in the world of Casios, Seikos and to a lesser extent, the HMTs the brand has made a name for itself. But it has. Titan was launched at a time when cheap watches were flooding the Indian market. Of course HMT was nearly on its last legs then, but to elevate watches made in India from the fuddy duddy image to something snazzy has been Titans doing all throughout. The ride has not been smooth and the company has gone through its share of troubles while building the brand to what it is today.

The brand has been built bit by bit. First and foremost, a Titan pretty much stands for reliability, durability and to a great extent style. My personal ownership experience has been so good that I barely look beyond Titan when I think of watches (I do wish that their designs were a little more sporty, but other than that, they are still very good.). And it is not just me, according to estimates Titan has something of a 65% market share in watches (Brand Equity, ET, today and Tatas site).

The brand is not focused on a single segment either. It has brands that pretty much straddles the entire spectrum of costs. The Edge, a slim watch launched recently is a head turner for sure. Indeed the Edge has got such a reputation that it has had a rub off on its other non "Edge" watches - even when they arent so slim. Raaga, their womens range (re)launched recently has impressive designs on offer.

They have made a smart move into Tanishq, their jewellery brand using some of their design acumen. That brand is going great guns too. (Not sure what they are doing in eyewear though - but I am going to give it a try.)

What prompted me to write this piece was their Heritage collection that uses design aspects from ancient India. The designs that Titan sells is the epitome of ancient India while at the same time it has the promise of modern India - reliable, durable and stylish. Sure, they are pricey, but who said stuff from India had to be cheap? This collection does not live in a state of denial about our heritage, indeed it showcases them. For long gifts from India have been the usual idols, pen sets and cloth items. India was never seen a country to gift a watch or a calculator from. Titan, I believe can change this - even as it shows other brands how to build with India on their minds and create a distinctively different brand identity for themselves.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Retail and a suburb

To see the retail revolution in action, one of the places that you might want to visit is a suburb of Bangalore known as Marathahalli. Many years back, for some reason, companies opened discount stores there - it was not an easy place to reach - atleast in comparison to the city. So, you had Megamart, a Titan seconds showroom (it had a name - no longer operative) and quite a few others. The idea was that companies sold stuff at a discount on the outskirts of the city and M'halli was a popular shopping haunt. Over time, the city has grown enough for M'halli to stand up and be counted as a suburb of Bangalore - indeed Bangalore has grown much beyond.

But this place is now a hub of retail. Where there was a Megamart, now there are two. Futures group picked it up as a place to have not one, not two, but three of its stores there. Brand Factory, Hometown and now Staples Future office. I did not realize that Staples Future office was a Futures group venture. The area is now in its ascendancy into the retail mindspace - and there is a lot of space out there. There are more stores opening in that area - it can well be a retail laboratory where shops of all types co-exist, atleast for now. Of course, traffic is a nightmare, there isn't enough parking space. Bus services are quite frequent since it falls enroute to a work destination - ITPL. But watch out for Maratahalli, it could well trounce the city in terms of footfalls.

On that note, I am off on a break (I already am on a blogging break). I will be back...