Thursday, December 22, 2011

Confusion all around!

Private Post

Yet another leaf in the chaos and uncertainties of Corporate Life


Friday, November 25, 2011

Another Eurotrip

Time for another Eurotrip and in last 3 years, what I missed most of all was definitely the company of the most beautiful lady I have ever met. Although it would be difficult to meet up with her this time around but her memories are still pretty much alive. As a matter of fact, for last 2 hours, I am listening to all the most romantic songs, including James Blunt- You are Beautiful, which reminds me of her the most.

I am in Paris from 28 Nov to 1 Dec and in Rome from 1 Dec to 3 Dec.

Clearly much shorter trip than previous one and I dont expect to live that experience anytime in the future as well. Last Eurotrip was an experience of a lifetime!!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Talent-less or Belief-less?

Yet Another Private post after long time.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Unsuccessful attempt at creating history

Everybody loves to create a history! .. Right?
More so for good reasons :)

I wanted to, my boss wanted to and there were some others who wanted to! And guess what, this time we thought we even had an idea to make that happen.

The idea obviously had a number of assumptions and to test those hypotheses and assumptions was the first thing, we got on to. We initiated a market research for the purpose and the research findings added to the excitement until this morning, when the world turned upside down. Out of the listed 18 hypothesis, 17 were showing hints of being valid and the overall picture seemed rosy! Everybody was excited! I, for that matter, had even gone to the next level and had started thinking about details on execution of the project! 

But that was not what universe wanted :) [ It is damn easy to put all the blame of your failure to universe without feeling bad about it ;) ]

As it turned out, something which we thought was a given information and not an assumption turned out to be incorrect and the whole premise of the new business idea got lost. 
Now looking back, it looks silly to have assumed something like that and to have it assumed as a 100% correct information was a blunder.

Anyways, it has reignited the spark of doing something great in the minds of a lot of people and lets hope that most do that.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lesson of a lifetime- How not to run a business!

As the cliche goes and as the experience of our lives make us feel on a regular basis- "The life is full of surprises". We like some of these surprises and we hate some of them but no matter what we feel, they always teach us a new lesson in our lives. It is just like the popular paradox that "Information lies in uncertainty"

Disclaimer: I am going to talk about the company I am working with and since a small post like this could have big implications for the company, I will avoid getting into details and would be using pseudonyms at places.

As you guys know that I work for a big giant company and being a giant, it has both its pros and cons. One which can be classified under either is the uncertainty it throws at you. Till a few months back, I was working with the core business of the company and everything was rosy. No matter senior or junior, every individual is given due respect. Almost everybody believe they are contributing to the company and almost everybody take their job seriously. People seem to know what they are doing and they enjoy doing their work. Well, normal day to day cribbing is of course part of any job but overall people seem to like their job. So that was the story till a few months back and then there was a surprise waiting for me - Transferred to one of the new businesses!! Well very clearly I did not like and still do not like it but these last 2 months have been full of observations and have taught me a lot. It has been a brilliant lesson on how not to run a business!

To put it very bluntly, the current business I am working with is in real bad shape. There is clear lack of leadership and lack of clarity in the role business has to fulfill in overall company's strategy. There is lack of clarity in business objectives, in expectations from employees and even the top management looks lost in disarray. Nobody in the company has any clue on why the business was started, why it is still running and what is the line of thought on the business. Agreed that the purpose of the business may not remain constant over the years and may evolve with time but it is important to have a future vision for the business and to map the same with higher objectives of the organisation. Being a product company, you are expected to know atleast answer to following questions-
What is your product?
What is the proposition that you are trying to sell?
Who is your customer (Target Group)?
What is the potential (gap) in the market that you trying to tap?
What is your technological capability for this product / service?
..(many more)..
And most importantly, Why are you doing this business?

The list of these questions would actually be much longer but the most important of all these, is the last question which asks a very basic question on the intent and expectations of the organisation from the business. Unfortunately the current business doesn't have a clear understanding of this intent. People have tried to do various things over the years to build business strategy but in absence of the clarity, this has only harmed the business more. You can draw a parallel to software development- The quality of software would be much better if the development team understands the requirements from the client before developing than to try to match it to the requirements later in the form of patches. Client here is the top management with business team as development team and software is the business itself. Now since the client doesn't understand and can't articulate his/her requirements properly, the business strategy is made in patches and is not efficient eventually. 

As a result, it opens up a big box of problems for the business- probably bigger than Pandora's. Till some time back, the focus was limited on the business and so were the investments. Although the business is in focus nowadays, lower confidence in business amongst top management has led to very cautious investments. This is always a catch 22 situation as you cannot develop competencies without investments and investments require long term commitments to the business. 

It also suffers a crunch of good human resources and has seen the highest level of attrition against any other business in the organisation. My boss once made a nice comment about a sinking boat in one of his presentations. He asked  if it would make more sense to patch a perpetually sinking ship or to build a new one. Picking from there, I think people do have another option, which is to change and board some other ship and when people chose this option it creates further problems with the business as now remaining ones are not sufficient enough to build  a new boat. Despite assurances from top management, people will tend to chose changing boat option as they already have lost faith in top management. 
A classical case of game theory- Person who leaves improves his payoff; Person who stays loses; If all leave, boat sinks and new boat doesn't get built (Organisational objective fails). If all stay, boat gets built but then others have run far ahead by the time your boat is ready. So to maximise their returns, everybody tries to leave and in doing so, the organisational objective doesn't get met.

Managers are too scared to take any business decisions fearing that any mistake might just fall onto them in future. Whole business has gone into a defensive mode and it is just about passing on blame to others for all the failures than to look into ways to improve and correct the wrongs. We have to realise the fact that at the time of establishing a new business, there has to be some tolerance for the mistakes because if you are not making any mistakes than may be you are not exploiting potential good enough. Moreover, the business being a new business, employees are not even the experts in true sense and they will make certain mistakes in the process. 

No offense to the business manager, but I also see a negative approach towards marketing in this place. People see marketing as some kind of magic which can cover for all your inefficiencies and in-capabilities. What these guys fail to understand is that there are some basic requirements any marketing team has- 1) To have a product to sell (Consistency) 2) Strong manufacturing and back-end (Production/Operational capabilities) and 3) Directions on selling strategy (Business Objective).
Unfortunately all the three seem to be missing here!!
It seems like these people are still living in the stone age of marketing - "Production Approach". Just to quote   from a discussion with one of the customers recently- The customer had a requirement of higher shelf life of the product than we were offering and the business manager was talking about uselessness of the marketing team if the product could not be sold off within the stipulated life of the product. Customer's comments about consumer preferences were discarded outrightly on account of food safety and blah blah.. I wanted to speak out and clear it up with business manager but obviously you cannot do that in front of a customer. I felt so helpless.
To put it into perspective, we cannot even blame business manager for this naive argument as he has worked throughout his life in a monopolistic business where market is defined by the company itself and marketing has had limited role to play. The problem is that he sees this new business through the same lens.

Interestingly, people currently running the business are skeptic of the business restructuring team, thereby creating a hostile environment in the company. So many times, the business team has been asked not to interact much with the restructuring team and there have been instances of people getting treatments for showing up in related meetings. Well, one thing is absolutely clear - With the current state of affairs, the business is not going anywhere and also, with current state of affairs, there is no rationale to keep the business running. However, there are some brilliant ideas on which we are working at currently and if any of those clicks, it would be a new beginning for this business and it might just redefine the industry as well (Touch wood).

Keeping the fingers crossed. It is either gonna be big or a wrap.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Political Death of a Non-Political Leader

The post was written long back - 13-Jun-2011 (Published 27-Jul-2011) but somehow I forgot to publish it then and for the same reason, some of the facts and logic may sound uninformed as lots of developments happened post this article.

Disclaimer: I have tried to be neutral on the below topic and not take any sides but otherwise I support Baba Ramdev/Anna Hazare on the case of corruption and black money laundering

Before anything else, let me congratulate Anna Hazare (& civil society) and Baba Ramdev (& his supporters) on believing in Gandhian ideology in 21st century and expecting culprits to take actions against themselves just because someone is on a hunger strike. I don't know if they will be successful or not but I respect them for that and totally support the cause.

While Government's reaction to Anna's anshan was a complete sham, what they did with Baba Ramdev seems worse. Baba's protest started very strong and had put Government in trouble. The impact was likely to be stronger than Anna's protest considering that Anna was a lesser known figure in masses till a few months back while Baba could easily be nominated amongst most influential people in India.
With the public support that Baba had, he probably could have brought a revolution in real sense, which would have atleast impacted the political strength of Congress and their autocratic government. Congress realised it and took a calculated risk to weaken Baba's strength (and popularity.. and following.. and credibility) amongst the masses - first by Lathicharge in Ramlila ground and then by framing him into various tax evasion charges. The Government did a great job at managing the press (most probably by buying them!!) diverting all the attention from multi crores stashed by its ministers in Swiss banks to the number of companies running under the name of Baba's trust - The letter Baba had written to PM and the background searches on Baba's aides.
Didn't the Government knew about the companies of Baba before this incident? Dint they knew the history of Baba's men? Why dint they object to it before? What prompted Lathicharge on peaceful protest in Ramlila ground at midnight? Who takes responsibility of thousands (including women and children) stranded on Delhi roads at 1 o'clock in the night?
All know the answer. All know the reason. But is anybody doing anything about it?

Amidst all this chaos, Government executed their plan well killing Baba's protest efficiently and sending a message to Anna of similar actions against his protests. In the process, what was also killed was Baba's reputation and trust amongst the people.

To put it short-

The start was terrific. Public response was fantastic but then this aint no 1947. Expecting somebody to take action against himself just because someone's gone on a hunger strike sounds a bit outdated. Government probably tried to buy him out - did not work - Baba had to save his reputation. Eventually lost the money, the trust of the followers and the reputation.
Political Death of a Non-Political Leader!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Ek raasta hai zindagi..

There is an old Shashi Kapoor song-
Ek raasta hai zindagi.. jo tham gaye to kuchh nahin..

B4U music was playing the song this morning.. heard it after a long time and never before I had realised the depth in thoughts behind lyrics of the song! Such a beautiful composition and such a wonderful analogy!!

Just think of life like a highway.. You dont know the end point but what you know is that as much farther you keep on going, the scenery gets better, the climate gets better and it gets more and more enjoyable as you go along. You only have limited time and hence, you try to move faster. From time to time, there are side roads and deviations on the road - You don't know whether it would be a shortcut or a longer one, you also dont know if the journey on that road be more enjoyable or less but still you are faced with a decision to make- whether to take deviation or continue on the same road.

The highway is your life.. the more you slog the more money you can earn (Yes it is about the money most of the times) and more equipped you are to enjoy life.. so you run faster to cover more distance in lesser time..
The deviations are the career choices you make, about which you dont know if those would be right or not but you have to make those decisions.

Most of the times in your life, you strive to do better in your life and you put in efforts to get there. You make sacrifices (of not enjoying the ride in present) believing that better moments would come in the future.

Ye kadam kisi muqaam pe jo tham gaye to kuchh nahin..
Everybody has a different threshold and people set different targets where they would stop on the highway and enjoy the ride. There are small villages on the way where they sing and dance like in Bollywood movies but you skip most of those for the item number by Yana Gupta!! Some settle for Munni some for Sheila while some even for Razia

Nobody knows whats there at the end of the road.. it is the journey that matters not the end.
The fun of life is not in achieving everything but in enjoying and celebrating what you have achieved before you get on to the next milestone!

~~Written in a hurry (in 5 mins).. Needs editing~~
~Sorry if it sounds total arbit! [:P]

Monday, March 21, 2011

Curious Case of 'Stage Fright'

As I also talked about in a post sometime back, a lot of the stuff I never thought would happen is happening. One learning from this is clearly that never try to plan your life. You will never realise when you took a diversion from the path you chose till you reach yet another landmark, which was not to come your way!

Just to put it on record, although I have made a number of stage appearances for singing as well as public speaking all throughout my life so far (and have a number of certificates and awards to boast of!) but I always had 'stage fright'. At this point of time I cant really explain how I managed nerves at those times but I just did. Be it the assembly news reading or the assembly articles/speeches in school times, the classroom presentations in DAIICT or IIM Calcutta or even the project presentations and knowledge sharing presentations in my first job, I was always nervous performing in front of larger audience thinking about whether I would be able to deliver it upto levels of expectation or not. I may even have messed it up at times. The bottomline is- I was never confident at it but just managed to sail through riding on right amount of practice.

It would probably be too soon to make a declaration that I have overcome that fear but I feel much more confident now and the transformation I have seen in myself over the last year feels amazing. Last few presentations I have made and the kind of articulation/improvisation I have been able to do in those gives me a great satisfaction at personal level. The most important part is the start of the performance- Once the start is on track, there should not be any issues going ahead. I have experienced a different kind of satisfaction after delivering last few presentations and speeches. Recent two meetings where I talked smoothly (with absolutely zero preparation) to external audiences of over 250 and 150 people each, without skipping any beats should support my claims. Not to forget managing the unrest caused by somebody else in one of these meetings - which was also called 'Most uncivilised crowd ever seen' by an uninvolved spectator.

I am sure that if you haven't met me and have known me only through this blog, you would have been carrying a different impression altogether. Same holds true for all those who have sought some advice from me for interviews. It looks so strange that the person who gives gyan to people on public speakings and on how to crack interviews, was not a confident speaker himself! Anyways it was just the same gyan which came to my rescue. Sometimes reading one's own blog helps!! :)

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Spoiling the Concepts

Just like most of the sequel movies have a problem with carrying the legacy of a brilliant concept and a superhit movie, today even the advertisements seem to have fallen into the same trap- Dragging the concept too far.

Two advertisements I am referring to here, in particular, are Vodafone and Idea ads. I have written about the two in my earlier posts as well and I was all praise for the two. Even now I think those were the two brilliant concepts advertisers had come up with but now the new extensions of these seem to drag it too far and end up even spoiling the concept built around the brand.

Vodafone, to start with, brought the brilliant concept of Zoozoos and executed it well to make those imaginary creatures a part of brand identity. It connected so well with the end consumers that I wouldn't be surprised if it fares best amongst all brands in "recall tests". People just loved it. Young girls replaced Barbies and Hannah Montanas with zoozoos. But why did it work so well?
1. Zoozoos were attractive (and not ugly) [Hygiene factor]
2. Zoozoos were cute! [Cute creatures are liked by majority audience- Hygiene factor]
3. Their acts were built around common man theme
4. The communication was simple!! [Most important factor for success of zoozoo campaign]
The whole concept was built around 15-20 second short videos with zoozoos communicating some very simple message - be it consumer responses to e-cards or mobile recharges or be it the festivity of winning something (or being recognised) as in "Man of the Match theme".

Now, if you have seen the current series of zoozoo ads, you would feel the difference. I even doubt if you have noticed the message in the advertisements or even if you have noticed the advertisements at all. There are many problems, as I see, with the current series of ads.
1. The message is too complicated - Hard to understand what is going on
2. Subtitles- Nobody is so interested in your brand / ad that they would go on reading the subtitles!! (I don't understand how come creative agencies with so much of experience came up with the idea of putting subtitles in an ad)
I cant speak of general public on this but I would make an effort of reading subtitles in a short video only in select few cases -
I) If the ad seems too funny and I have a feeling that those subtitles would add to the fun. May be something of Laurel Hardy or Charlie Chaplin sorts!
II) If I am too interested in the brand that I dont wanna miss out on any damn thing about it, in which case, I would expect some meaningful message coming out of those subtitles.
III) If the content is written in a font which is hard to resist- Not so much applicable to subtitles though but something like L-shaped popup banners in middle of cricket matches (Sorry I dont know what it is called and Google is of no rescue this time)
Unfortunately Vodafone ads don't come close to either of these.
3. Common man doesn't relate to it at all and the cuteness is all lost in these overly complex acts.

Similarly for the "Get Idea" campaign-
It started off brilliantly with Abhishek Bachchan series of ads. It was noticed well. There was subtle humour in it and the phrase caught on brilliantly amongst people. The phrase "No idea", per se, is one of the most commonly used phrase and now people have added the "Get Idea" part to associate humour with that, which has definitely brought up a healthy TOM (Top of Mind) recall for the brand. Previous ads of social awareness ("What an Idea" campaign) were also noted well in the people. Amongst the latest campaigns, the "Champions of the World" is a nice campaign to have from a long term point of view, where a few years down the line, Idea can bring all these campaigns together and make a good impactful theme based on its association with legends of the game. As for now, the message "To keep cricket clean" although likely to connect well with Indian public, somehow looks more like a teaser campaign to some better advertisements on the theme (I hope that is the case!). Amidst so many glories is the current fusion of "Get Idea" and "Champions of World" campaigns, which doesn't make a good ad.
Again, it stretches the "Get Idea" theme way too much. I see two major problems with the ads-
1. Unlike other ads in "Get Idea" theme, these ads don't connect with common man. It all looks so superficial while the previous ones cashed in on the "close to realty" factor.
2. "Champions of world" are good cricketers but they might not be good actors. Forget everything else and just listen to the way they say phrases of the central theme -"No Idea" or "Get Idea" and compare it closely to the way Abhishek Bachchan said those words. You will see the difference it makes to the whole advertisement.

When we make a sequel, there are 2 important factors-
1. The novelty factor, enjoyed by first version, is already gone
2. When advertisement campaign was first , creatives had brand communication as topmost priority while in sequels they are burdened with additional responsibility to build creativity into it and the focus is lost to a) the advertisement theme and b) creativity around the theme. Somehow the message, which should be first priority, takes a back seat.
Anyways, I claim no expertise in advertising and above mentioned views are my personal thoughts, you may or may not agree with. Personally, I have been a big fan of advertisements of above two companies and just hoping to see some good advertisements from them.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Ugly face of reality - Corruption

Be it sports or the corporate, be it politics or even the education, one thing which is common to all these days is "Corruption".

There was some news going around after I wasted one complete day watching the India-England WC match, which said that Shane 'Octopus' Warne had predicted the result long before the match even started. It could only mean 2 things - 1. Either Octopus gifted its power to Warne before dying or 2. Match was fixed and Shane Warne knew it [which BTW would happen if he himself is involved as well]. Everybody knows and it is irrelevant to comment on the probability of a match ending in a draw but against all odds Mr. Warne had a hunch that it was that one in a billion case and the match is going to end in a tie. Even if you look at the way players played- the field settings, the bowling spots, the batsmen shots and even the high swings in the match - all point to just one thing.

Match fixing is not something new to the cricket and frankly I am not even bothered about that but this match fixing and spot fixing is just another form of the widespread corruption, which is deteorating the value system in the country. People hardly care about its impact on the society and are just focussed on minting money for their own good. Not to offend anybody but the hard truth remains that all of us are responsible for this state of our country (and largely the world).

Hawalas, Cash changing hands, favours for cash are forms which are not new to any of our systems. Still so many deals and hawala cases are pending in various courts. Politicians take money/favours to make changes in policies and obviously cases pertaining to commissions in tenders etc. are often heard of. Corporates are not to ignored either. People try to mint company's money by channeling it to them (through hawala/Cash), without bothering about the ideal corporate approach towards a problem.

All those lectures and classes we hear about "Corporate Governance", "Ethics in Business", "Social Responsibilities" are nothing but sham.

---To be continued--
Feeling sleepy. Will try to complete it tomorrow.

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