Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tomato Sauce 1 Rupee

Which marketing wizard would come up with this brilliant idea?

For a pizza that costs you about 250 bucks - you cannot throw in a ketchup sachet free. Please pay me a rupee for that. How pathetic can you get Dominoes? I rarely eat pizza - I believe it is a health hazard - but this is the pits. Maybe you should charge the tissue, the loo and, and for washing the plate too, eh?

Monday, August 30, 2010

The two trick pony

I woke up a little late to this, but a great post by Churumuri 

And speaking of which I am reminded of this

Friday, August 27, 2010

EVM Fraud video

An eye-opening ideo from Atanu Deys Blog (Do read this post). Take a look.

Friday, August 20, 2010

E-commerce in India

Nice post at VC Circle on a meet discussing the e-commerce situation in India and whethere it is at an inflection point. It is reflective of how my e-com experiences have been in India.

A few years ago, a friend of mine ordered one of those fancy massage gadgets from one of those online portals whose design goes from bad to worse with each redesign. We had to collect the parcel from the nearby post office. Collect it, we did and we surprised. Except when opened the
packet, it was broken into a couple of pieces and there was some clause about them not being responsible for damage enroute. Chastened by that experience first I was glad it wasn't me and then I vowed never to buy anything online.

Then a few years later, I had some points which I could redeem and I ordered a book that took half a million emails and phone calls and then some more effort akin to fighting a lion barehanded. It arrived within my lifespan and I was glad that I did arrive. Online buying seemed to be like those the photographers who promised to take pictures of you at tourist spots and send it by post - and rarely did.

In India the rule of thumb was that anything that you paid money upfront carried a risk of non delivery. Even shares.

Much water has flown under the bridge since then. And online is still far from becoming a way of life, but there are a good set of trusted service providers.

In my mind, ICICI and IRCTC were the prime reasons for building trust in online services. To this, a third element - credit card and ATM cards - have played a role in making online successful.

The first tickets I booked on IRCTC were delivered in a customized envelope within two working days and it surprised the hell out of me - I never visited a railway station for booking since then.

ICICI bank seemed to have a neat online interface (not the best, but any online interface beats going to the bank) and ICICI direct worked very well too. My dad reconciled each ATM transaction with his bank statement and satisfying himself that the banks did not debit him something he had not withdrawn.

Today most tickets can be booked online, including movie tickets. Flipkart is very good with books (havent tried their mobile phones though). Banking is almost entirely online and I hate it when I need to go to the bank - the live customer service experience is inevitably worse than the online one. This is true in general for most other interactions I guess.

But I am of the generation that took the e-commerce easily. But I am not entirely sure about m-commerce yet! Thats a generation gap? Perhaps

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Patriotic Songs

Many years back, while in school, Independence Day was celebrated with a patriotic songs competition. Each class put out its best singers boys and girls to sing the patriotic songs in chorus and the peons on the drums and other sundry musical instruments.

Each class prized its singers and cheered them with all their heart. Most of the songs were Hindi film songs bar a few. And it was always Dulhan Chali that won the first prize.

The singers had an added incentive - they got to cut classes and practice and as audience we got to hear many classes practicing for the 10 days before the event. We would cajole our teachers to give us 10 minutes free in every lecture so that the team could practice. I was always a cheerleader all but once I did get a chance to be a chance of that famed chorus of singers - my moments of fame as a voice in the chorus of about 15 children.

Its about 20 years since the last time I attended the school function. But seeing the state of the nation today, these songs seem hollow. I mean, the songs are good, but they are pointless.

Hum honge kaamyaab - perhaps, but 60 years later, we are still not kaamyaab against many basic problems. And we seem to battle corruption as a monster that only grows in scale each year. And with pork barrel schemes, the taxpayers money is almost just flushed down a black abyss of corruption.

Dulhan Chali? 60 odd years later, the bride is anything but a bride. She seems haggard and old and too tired to take on the world. I could go on and on, but the optimism in these songs belies what we continue to see year on year.

Perhaps I am growing old, but to me, atleast on this Independence Day, the songs seem hollow...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Build Your Career

In the olden days, you got into a company, joined at some nondescript junior level and from then on, you path in the company was set out in stone. You joined as an officer, became senior officer and then after some years you moved in as an assistant manager and then so on and so forth until you got bored of the company or vice versa or you retired or your company folded up. That was the traditional way of building a career. Start in accounts, die in accounts. Start in marketing, die in marketing.

Not any longer. The new way of building a career is entrepreneurial. It is all about you owning your career, deciding what you want to do and picking up the opportunities that appear along the way. This may appear to be different from the way you thought it out to be. Even when companies offer a career to you in their shining advertisements or powerful powerpoints, they really offer you a job. A career is never handed over, you are typically handed down a job - the rest as they say, is upto you. Once you get the job, you figure out the way to handle it as a career. Those who succeed make it, the others move on.

So, how does one build a career. It is as simple as taking on the opportunities that show up - very similar to what an entrepreneur does. Sunil Mittal of Airtel was into hawking generators once upon a time. He spotted an opportunity in telecommunications and then there was no looking back. The founders of Infosys were working at Patni computers and figured that they could start their own company in the IT outsourcing space. These are the big examples we know. But many a successful career can be built with such an entrepreneurial outlook within the firm itself. For instance, a new business unit could need exploration and there may not be anybody with that exact skillset to run it. Who will raise their hand to be counted?

In many a firm that you will be part of there will be opportunities - seen and unseen, stated and unstated, risky and risk free. There will usually be takers for all the seen, stated and risk free. There will be very few takers for what is either unstated or unseen. Sometimes you
create those unseen and unstated opportunities yourself and take it up. This is even more tricky. Here, you would have to create a business proposals and swim upstream, against the current and then having jumped through all these hoops, do the hard work of proving everybody else wrong once again.

At other times, there could be champions for these roles at every firm - the mavens who drive the culture of an organization. They will be the people who see numerous opportunities go untapped, numerous chances being missed and apart from them, nobody will see it. Sooner or later, they will assign this "cloud" of a job description to somebody. Many a time, it will not succeed, but there will be many a times when it will succeed. And if you can make rain out of the cloud, you are the rainmaker...

Sometimes these opportunities may start off as feasibility studies or skunk projects or a proof of concept that requires quick execution skills. And from there, sometimes, it morhps into a real possibility - now given that this happens - it can grow bigger than your "current" day job. And at that point, many of us chicken out. So, a finance person undertaking a marketing project suddenly finds it to be bigger than what he can chew - and then there are two options.

You can either make this new description your current job description or give off the new work to someone else. I have seen entire units being created this way and the newbie who started off on this being installed in a good position or in a influential position of this new venture.

Companies appreciate people who stand up to be counted - at moments of crisis or at times when they want to try out something that they know has a risk of failure. There are many broken pieces in companies which beg to be turned around. And usually nobody wants to touch them. And that's another way to build your career. Try it out, give it your best shot - if they turn around great, if they don't after putting in an agreed quantum of work, they did not deserve to be there anyway. At any rate, you have saved precious time and money to your firm and that is usually appreciated.

Look at your career from an entrepreneurial perspective. Dont limit yourself by your education or your experience. Or, like Tarzan, use those two as the first roots to swing from and then keep swinging away in your career. The whole idea is to not get blinkered in ones quest for a career. Many a finance person remained stuck in finance (substitute finance with a vision of your choice) when he could have done very well in a field of his own interest. If you enjoy what you do, give that a chance in your career.

Look at your career as your business. See it as a mix of opportunities that come your way and the ones you pick up. And once you pick something up, don't look back on what you left, but focus instead on what you have on your hands...I can promise you a far exciting journey this way.

(An edited version of this was published in Advancedge in Aug 10)