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Sunday, May 1

Information vs. Inspiration

I was at the adtech New Delhi conference couple of days back. An impressive constellation of speakers. Much to learn and network!

However, one familiar drone/ murmur amongst the audience was "not enough insights man!", the information shared is available in public domain - "not enough new information/data dude"!

I have a slightly different take on this. I believe the marketing fraternity in India is at par in terms of information access and knowledge accumulation. As a nation/ marketing fraternity we have a huge appetite for data. But once we get that data, our record in acting on that data is not quite impressive.

What we most need NOW is :

(a)To act on that information to create new products & services, to create a meaningful engagement with people, to create better service experience and so on...
(b) And not just wait endlessly for a constant stream of new insights but start using the ones that we already have!!

(c) Not be paralysed by analysis but take action steps & be prepared to take some risk
(d) We need to 'get inspired' by ideas, case studies, cross -category happenings. And we have enough of those on our collective hard disks!

(e) The TRUTH and many of the answers are out there. We just need 'big ears' and an honest intent on doing something about it.
(f) Nothing much will ever be gained if social media/ digital marketing isn't imbibed into the DNA of our company.

This small video of Ford Motor company is a great short inspirational clip of how even lagging Detroit used SM/ digital marketing to it's advantage. From a loss-making icon Ford really turned itself around. But for that it took some inspired steps - from the CEO to the shop floor engineer to the fans and the blogger community!

Sunday, April 17

Digital Ecosystem for your Brand? Now what's that!!!

Just came back from a 3 hour breakfast at Roots Cafe - great poha, chilla jasmine tea and early morning drizzle...And the sight of two cute kids wallowing in the small rain water puddle...Wish I was 4 again:-)

Penning down few thots in the head on digital eco-system...While consulting clients through my Social Media consultancy - Once Upon A Time, I very often try to explain the need for a digital/online/social media eco-system...

Of course they don't always understand the need for it, grown up as they are on a 'one-size-fits-all' mass media diet.

Here are few of the guidelines - some learnt by personal experience curating the content for Cinnamon Stays, my UnHotel brand and some from Guy Kawasaki's book Enchantment...

1. Is your brand/platform/POV worthy of an eco-system? Is your product, service, ideology boring/ bland - then try to fix it first!You cannot build an enduring community/ eco-system around stuff that people hardly care.

You can buy lots of online, SM ads and people may even like those so that you have a tidy fan base but that's all a mirage.

In the new world, spend the most time on having a worthy cause. Anna Hazare has one. He doesn't really need a SM plan, calendar!!

2. Create Meaning. Give consumers, readers something meaningful to do.

What does that mean - Take the very popular Vodafone ZooZoo campaign. Let's visit it's fb page. While they seem to have done a reasonably good job of a solid fan base and daily interactions! They have just about tapped the tip of the iceberg...

More can be done in terms of getting ideas from consumers who love zoozoos(crowd-sourcing). Ideas to improve customer service for eg.

We are heading towards Social media fatigue and the way to keep your fans and consumers engaged are not cute viral videos and contests only but a more meaningful exchange on a daily basis.

3. Welcome criticism. This one makes most clients go paranoid. How can we allow negative comments? Lets delete the dissatisfied consumers rant. Lets ignore him(he is anyways a statistical rounding off error!!) Or even lets punish him for publicly criticizing my brand!

Recently I spent close to 20 days getting a complaint resolved by a major telecom brand. I used SM to first complain and rant and later protest and berate the brand. Yet the over-all response from the brand was hopelessly unwelcoming!!!

I guess my lifetime worth for that brand is very high. No amount of mass media 'song-and-dance' interruptions will now ever change my stance. They just blew a big chance to engage and enchant a vocal consumer...The life-time damage of an ignored customer is very high in the new connected world.

So while many brands are very busy measuring the total count of positive and negative feedback on online platforms, they mustn't just be complacent by knowing the statistic on a nice power-point slide.

The strategy to deal with online criticism should be exactly the opposite.

Lets engage the dissatisfied lot(of course we can't do much about the non-genuine ones). Let's figure out smart ways to 'welcome criticism'. This requires a culture change at the company, not just sophisticated measurement tools!! That's what brand management 2.0 will largely be about - a culture of welcoming criticism(via Guy Kawasaki). What are you doing about it?

Tuesday, April 12

Jugaad Studio - the culture, craft and creativity mash-up!

This project has been very close to my heart for more than 2 years now...After being in 'skunkworks' for a long time, Jugaad Studio - an ideas, design and merchandising company begins life on facebook TODAY 6:00pm.

Jugaad Studio is an ideas, design and merchandising start-up! There are two of us to begin with. My friend Yogi - the artist and designer and myself - the conceptor and curator of ideas - some cute, some quaint, some crazy!

There are so many good design studios around us. We will try to focus on the popular culture space - Bollywood, cricket, music, etc. And serve up delicious dollops of mashed up concepts - on tees, as posters, on mugs and the moon:-)

We will share & sell our ideas and finished products on the fb link above. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 7

I Want One Million Fans. I Want Them Now!

If you are in new media/digital media/ social media, one of the briefs which you may get from some clients is - I want 1 mn fans! Having a large fan following in itself is not a crime:-) But few crucial questions that tend to be blatantly ignored are...

1. To Follow What. The bigger question to answer before the 1 million number is 'what cause to follow'? Is the product or the over-abused passion points - cricket, Bollywood, music worth following especially on say the facebook page of the brand.

You can use media monies to buy fans. But they won't be worth much if you haven't answered the central question of 'to follow what?' And this requires a deep think and strategic alignment with your long term marketing plans. Else it's a tactical gimmick.

Gloat over the short term gain. But that's where the game will end.

2. A Facebook Fan is Not Really A Fan:-) Facebook is a funny country. It works on lazy likeonomics. To unlike is too much of work. To be a fan is effortless. So fans accumulated like a bargain hunt don't really count for much if they are not truly engaged. It's obvious but often over-looked - when nurturing your fan base, go for quality and not quantity alone!

3. The New Definition of ROI. Just because Social Media has the word 'media' built into it doesn't make it akin to a mass media platform. It's fundamentally different. Because it's 2-way, people-to-people interaction and has a complex web like multi-way talk & feedback system unlike the fixed channels of mass media! The 'investment' must be in 'interactions'. A fundamental difference from our mass media upbringing.

What we should really be obsessed with is the 'level-of-interaction'. Once we have got our brand in the middle of the most interactive conversations, then an ROI on the efforts makes sense. But before that all talk of ROI is a lot less meaningful...

As businessmen, entrepreneurs and brand owners, let's obsess about making our brands social and not just do social.

For questions, queries, business please connect with me on mannsinha@gmail.com
I run a brand 2.0 consultancy called Once Upon A Time and use social media to promote my hospitality brand -Cinnamon Stays with small success! The lessons learnt are personal and over the last 5 years!!

Social Media is a lot like farming. It requires time, patience, perspective, nurturing and passion! The cold hunting instincts are less effective here:-)

PS. The picture above is that of the San Francisco Scooter Girls - a girl riding community. It was founded on the belief that women have their own place in riding culture that's very different from the traditional biker scene.

The SF Scooter Girls website features photos of each member showing off her highly personalized ride. Disco bikes. Flower-covered bikes.

And although these women can choose to ride any manufacturer's scooter, their passion for Vespa, even though they have no affiliation with the company, creates a strong brand statement on its own. Scooty - few learnings from here?!

Wednesday, April 6

Join In the Biggest Social Campaign of Our Time!

Some facebook updates from friends, few tweets and I am getting absorbed into what could potentially be the biggest social campaigns of our time!

This isn't a social (media) based campaign but facebook, twitter, youtube are for sure putting this anti-corruption campaign on steroids. This is also a taste of the shape of disruptive change to come - a converging of social media, mass media(parts of it) and grassroots movement - the likes of which we witnessed recently from Egypt to Libya!

And why brands can rarely hope to achieve this kind of response is that it's really difficult to have a real, convincing unadulterated cause at the centre of a brand campaign - one that resonates. That people strongly feel about. That people can empathise with. Not the year end 'care for blind people', 'save the tiger' scam ads!

Hope many more marketing guys realise that social media works more for 'social reasons' and not solely as the media platform that they would like it to work as!

I also hope some of the biggest creative names in the country would lend their talent and support to this 'social campaign' and join in! It would be a pity if they waste all their immense talent on brrr, the beach in Goa and beer:-)

Tuesday, April 5

The Art of the Start

That's the name of the Guy Kawasaki Book. Love the name - Art of the Start. Wish I would have thought of it first:-)

Anyways, what I want to share today are some simple lessons that I learnt running my(our - with my wife) start-up - Cinnamon Stays! Originally written as an fb comment almost a year back.

So here are some tips that you may find useful....

5+1 lessons that I would like to share (commonsense in hind-sight)

1. There is no right time to start a business. One can never be too early. In my case it wasn't too late either. The important thing is to take the plunge...That's half the work done.(Honestly)

2. Our degrees and fancy designations and the corporate egos we accumulate over the years are the biggest deterrents.

Think like the neighbourhood grocery store guy. Do not analyse too much! You can't get all the answers by analysis alone....

3. The brand can wait. It's maybe strange coming from someone having spent 15 years in agencies, around brands. What I re-learnt in past 4 months...
The brand is the clean loo...
The brand is the on-time pick-up...
The brand is the putting a 80 kilo 'barf ki silli' in the tank to jugaad fix the boiling hot water tank:-)
The brand is conversing with the guests and lending them the book you just finished reading. Your brand actually is quite different from what you read in a book...

The logo and the stationery can wait....

4. Belief is important. Belief that you will succeed no matter what - even when friends snigger behind your back, when family questions your intelligence, when you are down on the last reserves of some hard earned money

5. Ask for help. For contacts. For leads . For networking. There are cynics out there and then there are successful people who want you to succeed.

5+1. Social Media is not a fad. It works! It has worked for me!! We have spent negligible money on mass media(didn't have much anyways:-) But managing social media is an art more than science especially for start-ups. You can only learn by taking the plunge in SM....

Facebook, twitter, stumbleupon, LinkedIn, flickr, Trip Advisor have all contributed to building Cinnamon as a fledgling hospitality brand.

Today Cinnamon is rated No. 1 on Trip Advisor. We get business through Facebook, twitter and Trip Advisor...Did I have all the answers for Social Media marketing when I started? Certainly not! But I have learnt vital lessons along the way!

So for any entrepreneur, wanna-be-entrepreneur, individual, small brand owner I offer the Cinnamon lounge as a meeting place...930 to 530 weekdays and extended hours weekends:-)Happy to help with my SM expertise!

I can help jump-start your social media strategy through my second start-up - Once Upon a Time - a story telling and brand 2.0 consultancy. Happy to share - the art of the start!

Monday, April 4

Welcome Oberoi Gurgaon!

Was chatting with my friend Girish from Webitude. The Oberoi Gurgaon fb page came up in the chat for some reason which I forget. Triggered off some thoughts...

While the Oberoi page is far better than many branded fb pages, 5 suggestions which I feel can make their fb storyline better.

1. There is little 'Oberoi' story on the page. Facebook is most effective when the conversation thread is like an episodic, gradually unfolding brand story. The page currently has a stream of PR statements:-)

2. I find the grandeur and warmth of the 'Oberoi' brand missing! Period.
Part design of the page, part the selection of the picture/(s). Would the brand have been this callous if they were designing an expensive brochure which few read these days!

3. Related point, I find no 'Oberoi' personality on the fb page. It's important for any brand. Critical if you happen to be a hospitality brand.

4. You now have a participative community not an audience. Treat them with respect. And that means making an effort to answer each and every query like a friend. Fans on fb are not mere numbers to be hoarded in your bank account:-)

5. Go local. Where's Gurgaon on your page? The best social media engagements are those that are personal, micro, local. It's simple but a point that many brands miss...

Nevertheless, am a great fan of the 'Oberoi' brand. Welcome to Gurgaon and I plan to visit threesixtyone - your all day restaurant!!!

Sunday, April 3

Nestea - Embed some 'social' into this campaign!

Like the new Nestea TVC... first squirrels(kitkat), and now Kangaroos(nestea)...what cutesy animal for Maggi now:-)

I guess the missing(till now) link here is the 'conversation between generations' that the campaign can evoke using digital media. With my limited knowledge about the brand, I still feel that real long-term success for Nestea will demand a behaviour change from consumers that mass media(read TV) alone can't deliver...

For the marketing team the key question will be - Think how you can embed 'social' into the heart of your new campaign....That will lead to an engaging, episodic storyline for the brand!

Thursday, March 31

Once Upon A Time the World was Different

Once Upon A Time I was just a happy planner doling out power-point slides by the dozen:-)

And then 'one day', actually over many days and a few months, the first idea - Cinnamon Stays(which had nothing to do with ads, or planning) took shape. Read the Cinnamon story here. Our small hospitality brand built through social media is rated No.1 on Trip Advisor now!

Emboldened:-) three weeks back I started my second company - Once Upon A Time - a story telling and brand 2.0 consultancy.

Once Upon A Time is a consultancy built for a branding/ marketing world that is changing faster than we can comprehend or make sense of. A world in which perhaps the old rules of messaging and branding are not working as well as before. A world where we may have new tools and metrics, but lack the required shift in mindset...Check out OUAT on fb!

OUAT will be a journey of shared learning and unlearning. And I plan to help brands(more small than big) discover their stories, their voice, their personality -one post, one conversation, one tweet at a time...

Through OUAT I plan to consult on stuff that I understand - strategy, social media, consumer insights in a digital & networked world and collaborate with individuals and companies on related stuff...

So, today I was happy about Swapan's (Seth) new company -ThisContent- a content and conversation management one. Similar to OUAT, sans (overtly) the story bit. Though I assume the story part would be implicit in it.

Happy that somebody of Swapan's experience launches a content and conversation company. Because many marketing managers/ brand heads still continue to be in these states -

1. What the f*** is social media state
2. Paralysis by ROI state
3. Get-me-fans, track-my-brand-name-mentions state and so on...

The deeper shifts to a conversation, dialogue, trust and recommendation-led consumer world is lost on many...But the future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed:-)

Contact me on mannsinha@gmail.com or call/ sms 9650400466 for (a)social media led projects, (b) social media consultancy assignments, (c)'immersion into social media' workshops, (d) 'branding on facebook' sessions and most importantly (e)a step-wise 'how to make your campaign/marketing/ brand social' guide!

Friday, November 5

What's Ching's Secret?

There was an ET article on brands doing well in social media. True to mass media understanding of social media, it was a bit sketchy, a bit rudderless & reflected the general lack of understanding of the social landscape.

My friend & fellow digital road warrior - Shubho has done some analysis on his blog here...That in turn inspired me to have a dekko at Ching's Secret, Barista Lavazza and Just Dial Facebook pages...

Here's my analysis and ranking of these 3 brands on a 5 point scale where 5 - excellent and 1 - very poor.

1. Intent
Ching's Secret - The top management buys into social media. Lives and breathes it. The only brand to talk about the ET article on its fb page the same day!!
Rating - 5

Barista Lavazza - Looks like the social strategy is still at the marketing department level. Top management says - Lets see what happens, then we will scale up guys!
Rating - 3

Just Dial Social media for these guys is just another mass media channel. Judging by the quality of the strategy, it's still quite low on intent.High usage of the medium, low social intent of the brand.
Rating - 1

2. Content
Ching's Secret- Recipes is a great long running idea. Cooking is a bestseller conversation topic, immenselty shareable. Doesn't really matter if the recipes appear cut-n-paste. Content repurposing is part of the social media strategy.
Rating - 5

Barista Lavazza- The content is still small print ads dressed up insufficiently as conversation!
Rating - 3

Just Dial- Very boring and repetitive, It's a shame because with a product as engaging and diverse as Just Dial they could have really capitalised on content. Bollywood and sports however keep the people involved on the page...
Rating - 3

3. Engagement & CQ(Conversation Quotient)
Ching's Secret - Pretty high engagement and CQ. Is genuinenly a social brand and not a pretender. Not trying hard at all. The frequency of content upload matches the social vibrancy of both the brand & fb!
Rating - 5

Barista Lavazza - Quite average. Again promos pretending to be brand conversations & driving social currency.
Rating - 2

Just Dial- Below par. The comments by 'fans' are solely for/ because of Bollywood. Zero engagement with the brand Just Dial.
Rating - 1

4. Community
Ching's Secret - Lots of traction and not merely transactional.
Rating - 4

Barista Lavazza - Casual connect.
Rating - 3

Just Dial - Akin to people at a railway platform. High traffic. zero connect.
Rating - 1

5. Voice & Personality
Ching's Secret- Has a unique voice , has a sense of humour. Very human , very Ching , very consistent!
Rating - 5

Barista Lavazza- Quite artificial, very mass media tonality. Quite 1 way...
Rating - 3

Just Dial - The voice & personality of a bulletin board with pictures:-)
Rating - 1

While putting this post up, I commented on the Ching's Secret fb page a little before mid-night and pat came their reply...That's some impressive commitment to social media and consumers as people. These guys truly walk the talk!

Cheers and Happy Diwali

Tuesday, October 19


Just stumbled upon what appears to be the promotional website of the UTV film (Jhootha Hi Sahi)- JohnAbraham.com...

I quite like the simplicity and the peek into a celeb's life content. In one video John talks about his Tulsi chai(he drinks some 40 cups every day!!)

There is a very simple idea of 'pairing with John' where you can upload your picture and be paired with John:-)

I guess where many brands struggle to understand the conversational nature and playful content of social media, this JA site gets it right...Am bookmarking it for reference...

Monday, September 6

Friday, July 9

Logan Loves India But Does India Love Logan or the Ad:-)

The new TVCs of Mahindra Logan are so bad that it makes the car look good in contrast! Honestly, for a solid ugly car that was doing good mostly in the taxi circle this new found love for India is laughable...Need Hajmola Sir!!

Friday, April 2

From Social Media to Social Conciousness

It's a nice long weekend and Neo and I are at Cinnamon. Him drawing on some clay pots! And me trying to unwind and forage for ideas and inspiration.

One of the things that has niggled my mind for some time is how to better use social media for social causes, community service, bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots, create a better work environment, create more meaningful work for everyone, make more meaningful connections and not just the quantity of connections...

So, in the morniing when I stumbled upon this profound and brilliant article by Umair Haque on the HBR site, thought of sharing it...

He talks about the "message" of the Internet's social revolution as being more meaningful work, economics, politics, society, and organization. Social media promises radically more meaning: to make stuff matter, once again, in human terms, not just financial ones.

Yet, Haque points out most "social media" strategies have one or more of three goals: to "push product," "build buzz," or "engage consumers." None of these lives up to the Internet's promise of meaning.

They're just slightly cleverer ways to sell more of the same old junk. But the great challenge of the 21st century is making stuff radically better in the first place — stuff that creates what he calls thicker value.

Umair talks about the 7 social strategies that are turning yesterday's zombieconomy upside down - Character, Creativity, Control, Culture, Clarity, Cohesion, Choreography - They're what he looks for when evaluating investments, innovations, and ideas across the social mediascape.

A must read, immerse and act!

Thursday, February 11

Merchant Clark, Cecil Hotel and a 30 year dream...

It's been a hell of a long time away from the blog. I feel guilty, anxious...and the fingers feel a bit rusty!! So where was I and what kept me so busy for almost 4 months!

Here's the story. A story of a small dream that first took root in the eyes of a 6 year old/ maybe 5. That's me. A dream that sort of has had a gestation period of 30 long years!!

Merchant Clark. When I was of Neo's age(that's about 6 yrs) I had learnt a new word Merchant which I thought was a cool word(cool and merchant sounds weird I know:-) and there was this 5 star hotel in Patna called Maurya Clark. So my little innocent dream was to open a hotel for travellers called Merchant Clark which would be the finest hotel in the country.
I don't think I ever shared this story with anyone. Locked in my head for 3 decades...

And that's where the dream/ desire stayed for the next 30 years. School. College. Engineering. Servicing. Creative Planning. Consultancy. The journey through life. But the dream like the stickiest of post-its never left me. I had ideas but no money. Ideas but no time. Some money but no team. Team but no consensus. And the dream gathered moss...Thick green, slippery moss...

Dare to dream. And then I read this fascinating biography of Rai Bahadur M. S Oberoi by Bachi Karkaria some years back. Of how Sr. Oberoi dared to dream. As the hotel bell-boy had the audacity and ambition to pawn his wife's jewellery to buy the Cecil hotel from the gora owner.

And the dormant thoughts of starting a hotel/ service brand again floated in my mind...I remember finishing the last pages of the book in the wee hours of morning. Warm tears on my cheek. Of life passing by. Feeling inspired. But that was the max that happened again. Work. Life. Sceptics. Naysayers. More work. Energy sappers. More Life. I-know-why-it-won't-work well-wishers...Tum to planner ho. Business-pehle-kiya-hai gyan!!

And then when I shifted to Gurgaon mid last year, between lazy beer sessions and some back of the napkin calculations, the truncated idea of a service apartment/ brand(prequel to the grand hotel) started taking shape...

It took a dedicated/ passionate team of four, four months and a couple of lacs to turn the 30 year old idea into a small reality! Our service villa - it's an apartment in a villa called Cinnamon Corporate Stays(it's got 5 interesting rooms - Green, Grand, Unwind, Doodle and Puraani Jeans and a bit of story everywhere.) Far from perfect but it's happened...

Cinnamon for us/me is a story of belief. Belief that stuff happens when you push it hard enough. Stuff can happen when you really wanna make it happen. That stuff happens not in a grand planned way but in the most random way when you least expect it to happen...

It took me/us a lot of time to convert the idea into reality. To convince a small team to move ahead when budgets and time were huge constraints. It's still some months to break even. But it's there. Our first brand/ service. Not to a client's brief but to ours. And it has been sweat, passionate obsession and bloody tiring. Especially with a full time day job! But immense lot of help, support from my team.

Along the way, I picked up a couple of lessons in brand building. This time around not between the pages of a book, but between visits to Lajpat Nagar and worrying about the leaking tap and the 'garam chai'. But more about that later...

Today I just wanted to share that it's important to hold on to your dreams. However, weird, wild and wishful. And sometimes it may take up to 30 years for a dream to shape up...But don't let any one's laughs or cynicism get you off-track.

If you really want something bad enough, the universe conspires to help you...Paulo Coelho saheb was right in his book Alchemist...At least even if I fail. I will have a story to tell my grandchild around the fireplace...LOL

You could check us out here. But in case you are travelling to Delhi/ Gurgaon and want to stay in a cosy little place mail us at cinnamonstays@gmail.com

We would be happy to host you...Cheers

Saturday, October 10

Hip Hop Grannies and Generational Mash-up

One of the entities under The Futures Company is Yankelovich - a leading consumer research company that has helped marketers understand consumer values and behavior since 1958. It has also done pioneering work in 'generational marketing'!

It's pretty cool that I am now working on projects with the Yankelovich dudes and getting a hang of 'generational marketing'.

Now one of the concepts on which we are currently working has to do with generational mash-ups. The grey zone where generational values, attitudes and behaviours seem to be cohabiting.

The 'Hip Hop Grannies' from China are a good example...

Generational Mash-ups. Maybe marketers for Lifestyle brands, travel, well-being should study this space of 'generational mash-ups' to unlock new spaces!

Cool Grey/ Silver.There also is a market for cool stuff for the elderly. From spectacles and watches, to hi-end fashion, the wallet-rich elderly are good targets not just for expensive but 'expensive and cool' stuff. It's just that we seldom look at them in a mashed up way! My 65 year old father has started wearing 'shorts', is now comfortable wearing the colour 'red'(no longer just greys and khaki for him) and I think sometimes uses the word 'cool' when he speaks to Neo!!

Baba Ramdev & AOLCloser home Baba Ramdev, Shri Shri Ravi Shanker and others are already transforming the lives of the elderly. And while they aren't exactly hip-hopping, there is a sea change in their attitudes and aspirations which mainstream brands may not be tapping into.

The kapal-bhaati and anulom-vilom have energised the minds of the elderly. They might be willing to experiment more than we imagine. Mascots - Zohra Sehgal. Amitabh!

Power of TV. While one of the most powerful media of our times - TV has been chained to saas-bahu and now the reality trash, there could be a welcome space for subjects around generational mash-ups...

Every time somebody or something crosses a neat boundary or silo, interesting/ provocative things happen/ can happen...

Friday, October 9

Kreatve Inside

At my company, am a part of a 'creative committee'...Currently, we are doing an all office audit of what are some of the creative stuff we have done in the recent past... Since the entire exercise was about being and acting creative...tried making a video out of it. It hasn't come out that well though. Limitations of the video making site!

But found playing with video and images liberating. Thanks animoto.com! It also helps sell the ideas better. Planning to tool around a bit this month. Maybe start with a video for Neo's birthday, a short film(maybe) on a story I wrote a couple of years back, a creds for the Millennials study that I am working on and also some new business video conversation-starters... But first maybe a video post on 'social media fatigue':-)

Monday, October 5

Wednesday, September 30

Finally the Outliers!

Finally I bought my own copy of the Gladwell book - Outliers! I just waited endlessly for the paperback and a discount(both together). Blink had made me cautious! Just managed to read some 3 chapters in a moving car!

As with the Tipping Point,interesting observations replete with loads of stories, often repetitive to perhaps make the book fat enough for 200 pages:-)

I loved the point(in hindsight quite obvious) that he makes about the highly successful guy in any category investing in about 10,000 hours of practice compared to the not-so-successful(but equally talented) guy putting in half the number of hours...

Picked up a few quotes from the net which Gladwell Saheb has made:

1. The closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play!

2. When I wrote Tipping Point, my expectation was it would be read by my mom and that was it ... I had no notion I was creating a kind of public document. Now I realize I have a bit of a podium, so it seems silly to put the podium to waste.

3. At the end of the day, I'm just a journalist. I spend my time talking to people who tell me things, and then I write them down. I'm necessarily parasitic in a way. I have done well as a parasite. But I'm still a parasite.

4. People are experience rich and theory poor. My role has been to give people ways of organizing experience."

And a lot of the experts are theory rich and experience poor:-)

5. No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich.

Well am 1 month into it(rising around dawn). Feeling rich a little...am I?

6. Hitchcock began making his best movies in his late 50s. Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, and many others did their best work very late in life. Sometimes success isn’t recognized until late in life. That’s not uncommon.

Javed Akhtar, Gulzar Saheb too!!

7. Google is the answer to the problem we didn’t have. It doesn’t tell you what’s interesting or what’s important. There’s still more in the library than there is on Google!!

So true...okay will leave it at that!

Sunday, September 27

Tweet What You Eat and Other Thots

Was having an end of day quick chat an with ex-planner-colleague on twitter. She is a great user of the service, I an on-and-off user/critic/admirer:-)

And then in the morning discovered this small factoid about 'How Twitter may help you shed some extra kilos!'
Slim people worldwide are now posting their healthy food diet on 'Tweet what you eat'! Suddenly some ideas pop up in the mind on how we could use twitter(maybe they already are being used)

A ramble at the end of the day!

1. The Great India Discount Tweet. Tell where the biggest discounts are. With where it's convenient to park:-)

2. The 10pm what-movie-am-I-watching-tweet. One always keeps looking for people to do some post-movie-chat!

3. The weekend 'where-am-I-lunching-today' tweet or what's-great-on-the-menu tweet

4. The know-your-gadget-better tweet for the tech-challenged. Learning about the new gizmo one tweet at a time!

The trick I guess is to be more useful in a less and less obtrusive way

Thursday, September 24

Faults of Argument and Parallel Thinking!

One of my colleagues had a great argumentative mind. He would impeccably find 'fault' with every concept and idea. And yet, having found the 'fault' in reason/concept, he would fail miserably in building something new.

As I look back at many of the professional relationships I have had in Indian advertising, am amazed at how good many of us are at finding faults in other people's arguments and how little time(in relative terms) we devote to co-creating some idea/ concept!!

In case you are interested in this line of thinking, you could browse through Edward De Bono's book - Think! Before it's too late.

De Bono says...

1. With the traditional argument or adversarial thinking each side takes a different position and then seeks to attack the other side. Each side seeks to prove that the other side is wrong. This is the type of thinking that was established by the Greek Gang of Three (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) two thousand four hundred years ago.

2. Adversarial thinking completely lacks a constructive, creative or design element. It was intended only to discover the 'truth' not to build anything.

Value is never really created by only the adversarial mode of thinking! You get an ego boost. That's all about it...

3. But there is another, more constructive form of thinking called 'Parallel Thinking'. With 'parallel thinking' both sides (or all parties0 are thinking in parallel in the same direction. There is co-operative and co-ordinated thinking. The direction itself can be changed in order to give a full scan of the situation. But at every moment each thinker is thinking in parallel with all the other thinkers. There does not have to be agreement. Statements or thoughts which are indeed contradictory are not argued out but laid down in parallel.In the final stage the way forward is 'designed' from the parallel thought that have been laid out.

4. A simple and practical way of carrying out 'parallel thinking' is the Six Thinking Hats method which is now being used widely around the world both because it speeds up thinking and also because it is so much more constructive than traditional argument thinking.

5. As you may already know, the "Six Thinking Hats" is a powerful technique that helps you look at important decisions from a number of different perspectives.

While we all know these things, rarely do we put them into practice! The different hats and what they stand for are here...Am meeting a friend for some idea-generation for his new venture, so let me wear the yellow(positivity) and green(creative) hats and meet him...cheers

Friday, September 18

50 Things That Are Being Killed By The Internet

We the technology-awed populace always view all technology as being better, faster and taking us to a better place. The internet seems like no exception. Yet, every new technology also takes away something...

Stumbled upon this interesting article 50 Things That Are Being Killed By the Internet at PSFK. Have a read...

Gleanings enmeshed with my thots on some of them...

1. Punctuality. Before mobile phones, people actually had to keep their appointments and turn up for lunch on time. Texting friends to warn them of your tardiness five minutes before you are due to meet has become one of throwaway rudeness of the connected age.

This is going to be a huge conflict area between generations. My father runs his life by the hour, I am far more comfortable keeping things fluid all the time!

2. Memory. When almost any fact, no matter how obscure, can be dug up within seconds through Google and Wikipedia, there is less value attached to the "mere" storage and retrieval of knowledge. What becomes important is how you use it – the internet age rewards creativity.

Today, if you have a story, the facts and the props are available for free on the net. However, as an agency planner and now a trends and futures consultant, I find this aspect liberating!

3. Dead time. When was the last time you spent an hour mulling the world out a window, or rereading a favourite book? The internet's draw on our attention is relentless and increasingly difficult to resist.

All former dead-time is now pottering time - twitter, flickr, youtube, fb, sms, mobile chat, gtalk...And we are more busy than ever before, our reflection time has dropped to an all time low!

Just because the pipe of our conversations is broader and the flow 24X7 hasn't guaranteed that better stuff is flowing through those pipes. Although, the more plugged you are, the more you can scan the global brain for ideas and inspiration.

4. Mainstream media. While in India, print might be growing and TV getting higher TRPs, for some of us mainstream media has been quietly marginalised over the last few years.

- We don't miss the week-night news. In fact haven't watched the weekly bulletin which were so much a part of life a decade back.

- Right now we are consuming a mash-up of mainstream media and new media. This may be the intermediate step before some of us totally migrate to newer forms of digital media(personalised, customised, on-demand)Already, in the Western markets, free news and the migration of advertising to the web threaten the basic business models of almost all media organisations.

Mental post-it : What else is being killed by the internet, new media? Isn't it an interesting thought to stay with for a while...

Tuesday, September 15

Brand New From Bagchi

Just ordered the new book by Subroto Bagchi- The Professional on flipkart.com. Triggered by reading an ET interview of Subroto - How do you align knowledge with customer needs? Bagchi says - There are three layers of knowledge - technical, experiential and existential.

Most Indian firms and professionals are very good in technical skills. You are given a set of specifications and you deliver the best project, but that’s about it.

However, if you look at what Nissan did years ago while exploring to enter the European markets, they were focused upon the experiential aspect of knowledge. Nissan sent some 200 engineers to Europe with each driving almost 2,500 kilometers across different roads to understand what it takes to be a motorist in Europe. The engineers came back and then defined a design. This is like stepping into the shoes of your customer.

But this is not all. You also need to get into the mind of your customer, which is all about existential knowledge. Companies such as Sony and even Narayana Hridayalaya are great examples of such companies. Since each of these knowledge layers is separated by a glass ceiling, we need to break free.

Looking forward to reading the book...

Sunday, September 6

Thums Down!

Thums Up 'Got It' from Campaign India on Vimeo.

This post had been languishing in the draft mode for a while now. Am talking about the now-not-so-new Thums Up TVC.

As a fan of the drink(surprisingly a very infrequent drinker) and it's commercials over time, I found this new departure from the usual action-packed thrill quite uncalled for.

Unconvincingly elucidated by the team behind it on afaqs and campaignindia, I failed to see what's so excitingly different.

Akshay doesn't quite know whether he has to play the action hero or the comic man. The battered BMW with billowing smoke is a total waste even on the 36in LCD! The orgasmic oohs and aahs after every sip of TU is quite irritating. The extras in the story all need lessons in acting...I can imagine Akshay laughing all the way to the bank without performing any stunts...

While the promise of showing - 'Action in the imagination' might look appealing on paper/ power-point, this rendition is a dud!

Hope the next ad brings the action back. Guys I want to see the action. People love carbonated sugared water brands only for the action and imagery(at least I do). Don't believe what a few morons say in an FGD sitting in a dark b-grade hotel room:-) And I feel so strongly because TU is amongst those rare Indian brands that we have managed to build and consistently sustain over the years .

It's so easy to mess with what you have and take it to 'the next level'. The really difficult task is to stay exactly where you are and yet have engaging stories to tell time and again!

Why we don't have iconic youth brands?

Thursday, September 3

Pi-shaped Talent

As I wade through the workplace, transitioning from agency planning work to consultant work there are interesting shifts that are taking place in the sort of work that I do. And also in the way that work happens. More complex work - with a fine balance of 'analysis', 'logic', 'creativity' and 'ambiguity'. Geographically spread out work. Talent hot groups. Being a part of many such groups at the same time...Some you lead; in some you learn. In most you collaborate and build upon each others work. Multi-tasking, learning, forgetting...

And all this work requires a very different sort of talent than needed in the past! Eduardo Braniff in this Adage.com article describes beautifully these pi-shaped talent that's needed in this creative collaborative economy.

Pi, the Greek letter, describes talent that is broad in its interests and expert in two areas, if not more. As a decimal representation, pi never ends or repeats which, when used to describe talent, means no two "pi talents" are alike. And, as a circular constant, it is inherently about well-rounded talent. Though a constant mathematically, the only thing constant about "pi talent" is the rate at which their attention changes and ambitions evolve.

Excellent article. Do read it and share view-points...

Monday, August 31

What's age got to do with it?

In the afternoon today, I got a full primer on PlayStation from Neo(age 6)(who lectures me regularly on mobile and video games, thinks am way behind on the learning curve...) and then a lil later my father(age 65) wanted me to help him install skype!! My younger brother is quite a blogger and a web 2.0 expert!! Quite a digital savvy family balanced only by the combined tech-unsavviness of my mother and mil:-)

As the Internet turns 40, our one preoccupation that all technology products and services will only have the youth as early adopters, practitioners and evangelists will be put to test regularly...Just when I was mulling over these thoughts over a crazily busy fortnite, my planner buddy Meraj sent me this NYT link - Who’s Driving Twitter’s Popularity? Not Teens. Worth a read and some reflection...

Archiving some nuggets from the article..

1. Surprisingly(actually not so surprisingly, if you pause to reflect) many teens in the US(do we have data for India as well?) are not that heavy users of twitter. As one of them says - "I just think it’s weird and I don’t feel like everyone needs to know what I’m doing every second of my life". Well am not teen by a wide margin but have similar thoughts about twitter...

2. Though teenagers fueled the early growth of social networks, today they account for just 14% of MySpace’s users and only 9% of Facebook’s. As the Web grows up, so do its users. The notion that children are essential to a new technology’s success is now proving to be largely a myth.

3. Adults have driven the growth of many perennially popular Web services. YouTube attracted young adults and then senior citizens before teenagers piled on. Blogger’s early user base was adults and LinkedIn has built a successful social network with professionals as its target.

If I look around at my digital habits and behaviour and many of my friends, the digital adoption curve doesn't always co-relate to our age in some simple linear fashion...On the other hand, India will be different because we are crazily young in age and outlook(as far as statistics go).

On another note, this reminds me of my interview with Javed Akhtar in Bombay when he brushed aside all this fanatical obsession of marketers with youth - "Aap logon ne youth ko hauaa bana rakha hai. Youth ko yeh chahiye, youth ko woh chahiye. Arrey saheb, youth ko toh khud he nahin pata ki usko kya chahiye:-)"

Thursday, August 20

A trip to Chanderi

Few days back, I spent a day in the sleepy 'kasba' of Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh. A 'kasba' famous for it's 'Chanderi sarees'. It also has lot of Rajput and Mughal architecture. It's the birthplace of Sangeet Samrath - Baiju Bawra (1542-1613) a dhrupad singer. and the court musician of Raja Mansingh of Gwalher...It was nice ,this journey back in time...

Saturday, August 15

My Son's Father : 5 Things I Re-Learnt From Neo

I was a bit apprehensive how my son, Neo would adjust to this city shift - Bombay to Delhi. He took less than 24 hours!! Children are that adaptive...I have tried to spend more time with him these last two months...It's amazing how you can learn/ unlearn/ re-learn tons of stuff from your kids. In their innocence and curiosity they often make profound comments and observations....Here's what I picked-up!

1. Look beneath/ look around. I remember it was one of the first few weeks in our Gurgaon house, he ran upto me to show something, Dragged me to the 'backyard' and asked me to look at 'the thing'. With my well trained planner eyes I kept searching for 'a thing' a 'big physical thing' while Neo wanted me to show how tall the grass had grown!!

He often stops me and shows me an unusual flower, the full moon, a bird on the wire, ants in the bathroom...

2. Play and learn. Like all kids, he has an insatiable appetite for play. Kids want to play in the morning, while eating, while studying, before going off to sleep...In play they learn. Playing UNO, snakes and ladder, cricket, ludo and Monopoly has made me wonder how we can inject more play at work. Increasingly a lot of work that we( at least I do) is conceptual and creative. Being too serious and working like a factory shift has diminishing returns beyond a point. It's the play value at work that adds that extra bit!

3.Do you know my friends?It's important for him that my wife and I remember all his friends names(often I fail miserably)- Bombay school friends, Bombay Ashiana building friends, Gurgaon school friends, the colony friends, the school bus friends...

What I feel is in all the lip service that a lot of marketing pays the DM mailer often reads - Dear loyal customer, the call centre guy often calls up from your mobile company to find if you are a post-paid or a pre-paid customer!!

If it's a relationship you care, remembering names is important. Period.

4. M and H.The other week-end I had taken Neo to the Qutab Minar(achcha tower hai he kept on saying), he suddenly points out to some similarity he found between the Hindi letter 'mm' and the English alphabet - 'H'. I wondered why this thought never came to me.

Is it because our analytical minds have been trained to spot the differences more than focus on similarities...Kids are good at recognising patterns. And it would help if we could learn to relax our grey cells and hunt for patterns in unlikely places.

5. Deliver-what-you-promise. It's very important for Neo that I walk the talk. If you have promised a bedtime-story, it must be told. Neo would wait upto an hour with sleep-filled eyes to hear a 'Ram-aur-Shyam' story from me.

Kids I have realised can teach us an awful lot...Next time before we brush them aside - Accha chup raho, abhi tum bache ho - maybe it would make more sense to lend them a ear!

P.S. The picture is that of a 'digital drawing' that he made on my laptop:-)

Monday, August 10

Truth Well Sold(?)

I had avoided 'Sach Ka Samna' by default till I was caught in the cross-fire of a water-cooler conversation at office and therefore decided to watch a few episodes. And I was hooked onto the show for the next 2 nights...

As NYT described it's original Fox US avatar -'Moment of Truth' - this is indeed a cash-prize competition that is neither a game of chance nor a test of knowledge. It’s a pseudo-psychological trial by ordeal in which the contestants trade candor for money.

1. Of course the show has rocked the parliament and the MPs have made high decibel noises and sung the familiar - hamari sanskriti, hamara samaj' song. I guess the film-maker and nominated MP Shyam babu(Benegal) made the more sensible comment -

“Sach ka Saamna is demeaning to human beings and obviously has high TRPs. It is like someone stripping publicly to get paid for it, spectating in these cases is involuntary, like pornography it is demeaning to your own sense of self-esteem. When an act is in private it is different but TV is a social medium watched by public at large and 90% of it is about family viewing.

However, government must have no serious role in this, we need to create a self-regulatory body of channels with equal number of people from the civil society, TV industry and the casting vote should rest with civil society,” he said.

2. I quite agree with the 'personal pornography' part of it. I mean in the 3 episodes that I watched, the cross-dresser(Bobby Darling), a middle class HW(who it appeared as if she came prepared to dump her husband on national TV) and a UTD(uncle trying to be dude) who owned up to being unfaithful to his wife and in the process lost all the moolah as well - seemingly normal people were hell-bent on stripping themselves on national TV and on 2/3 of the cases got zero money for all their 'reveal'!

3. The way the questions get tougher and 'nosier', no sane guy can ever reach the booty of 1 cr without losing his/her spouse, alienating most of his/her family...I would love to know the actual motivation of the studio participants or maybe I am just too old fashioned for these reality-shows...

4. Dressing up. All game shows are by definition mercenary, but producers go to great lengths to try to dress up contestants’ greed as altruism(that's the facade that the public loves).

A man wants the money to buy his wife the diamond engagement ring he could never afford. A young woman wants to help her ailing mother buy a home.

These shows also use loving-wives, aging parents and smiling-siblings as advisers or cheerleaders to add some human warmth and humor to a prosaic and dumb contest.

5. No matter how profound Rajeev Khandelwal tries to act(in his new hair-cut that makes him look more like Apurva Agnihotri) and bandies casually - Yeh hai 'Agni ka hawan kund', 'aapki agni pariksha' and other such lofty pronouncements...SKS is plain crass American programming at it’s best.

This made-for-TV-and-TRP show is junk, voyeuristic, highly manipulative and addictive. Like a cheap porn mag, it’s good for limited use but eventually ‘people like us’ would drop out or so I think:-)

Already after a diet of 2 episodes on TV and another 2 on youtube, I think I know what the fare will be...Evenings are too precious to be squandered on people’s dirty linen washed in the national bathroom!

The danger is not what SKS does to viewers. It's a late-night show and one has the freedom to not-watch-it; the real danger is the precedent that it sets for future programming. And while Mr. Benegal thinks that our TRP obsessed TV channels are capable of self-regulation, I seriously doubt their intentions!

Sunday, August 2

Big Idea : Nano Ganesh

Had read about Nano Ganesh a couple of days back in ET. The relevance and the desire to share the story got amplified post a telecom client mtg!

It's a story about the leap-frogging India. The other India(read rural)that is also growing exponentially in technology adoption and aspiration but often doesn't feature prominently on the radar of big media!

It's a story of innovation amongst farmers in Anand’s Sojitra, a village cluster, about 30 km east of Ahmedabad. On a sleepy summer afternoon in Sojitra one Bhavesh Patel makes a game changing call from his Nokia E-75, but says nothing and hangs up. “Will it come?” asks one of the villagers. They were all eagerly waiting for water to flow into their fields from a reservoir 10 km away. Patel had just activated the pump set at the site by making the call.

The inventor of this mobile-phone enabled gadget however named it Ganesh first and them prefixed it with ‘Nano’ after Tata Motors decided to relocate its Nano factory to Sanand, near Ahmedabad.

Santosh Ostwal, the Pune-based founder of Ossian Agro Automation has developed the gadget that’s revolutionising irrigation in farms across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Around 7,000 farmers are already using Nano Ganesh. Ostwal hopes his impending north India launch will take the number to one lakh in two years.

Ostwal is taking advantage of low mobile tariffs and handset prices. Among many of the USPs of the device are its price tag at $15 - 55 apiece, and ease of use.

The idea has its roots in Ostwal’s childhood when he spent time with his grandfather, a farmer who grew oranges. His village didn’t have a television set; even electricity was a luxury. The senior Ostwal had to walk deep into his orchard late at night, with a stick and a flickering oil lamp to water the trees. “He developed infections on his feet and had to lose one of his legs.

That set Ostwal thinking whether he could do something for farmers so that they wouldn’t have to walk into the fields to water the saplings or plants!

A good education helped him become an engineer and got him a job at Telco. He quit in the mid-eighties, and started working on his idea. 10 years later he had developed the 'Nano Ganesh'.

Ostwal’s simple application is already winning him accolades the world over. Nokia recognised his work at the All Innovators contest in Barcelona last year with a cash prize of $25,000 and promised to distribute his mobile application to consumers worldwide!!

Thursday, July 30

Big Idea : From Jayanti Janta Express to Soleckshaw

The big breaking news on Brand Equity yesterday was the scam-ovation by Publicis. Anyone who had spare time for such inanities(and that includes me:-) would have read the article/ expose by Brand Equity written in a breathless adolescent tone!

Anyways this post is about a quiet and real innovation that I found tucked as a story in the newly launched India edition of Technology Review - the MIT's magazine on innovation!

The story was about a solar powered rickshaw - perhaps the only non-polluting commercial vehicle in India and the sole means of earning a livelihood for over 5 million people!

After 100 years of the rickshaw era, scientists at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research(CSIR) New Delhi have found a pollution-free solution to end the bane of this large population by developing the Soleckshaw.(All this rickshaw talk reminded me of the rickshaw that used to ferry me to play-school - it was branded Jayanti Janta Express branded on the train that ran between Howrah and Delhi passing through Patna!!)

Soleckshaw is driven partly by pedal and partly by electric power supplied by a battery that is charged from solar energy. The initiative has come as a small step towards improving the life of 800 million people who are living below the poverty line, including 5 mn rickshaw pullers.

Though the good ole 'autos'(driven on fossil fuel)are also an economical means of transport and used by millions, Soleckshaw with its zero carbon footprint promises cleaner environmentproviding quality of life for rickshaw-pullers without any reliance on fuel...

Hope the Soleckshaw happens. Hope it gets the requisite push by the govt. And some corporate good Samaritan also takes up the cause...

And hope the conversations in big media are a little more about game-changing innovations and a lot less about scam-ovations!!

P.S. A piece of trivia - this is the chaar sau beeswan post of Indiadrant:-)

Monday, July 20

Conversations with Consumers

Working around shifting is a moving goal post! As soon as one completes one area, a totally new one stares in your face and quietly takes the weekend away.

Last week, I attended many FGDs for a client project. While I am not an ardent admirer of this research tool, a lot of our insights are mined this way. Was giving some tips to my junior. Sharing the same...They are not in any particular order/ emphasis.

1. Capture more verbatims(as many as possible) - the actual consumer quotes. There are two purposes it serves.
(a) it's more evocative /rich/ has a nuance which may have been overlooked earlier
(b)it helps you later to weave a better narrative...

(Remember the first notes are like an FIR. Just write all the stuff, don't analyse at this stage or try to give structure to the discussion/ thoughts.)

2. Even before one enters into a GD as observer/ moderator, it's important to have a POV. Don't be rigid on your point of view(POV) but ask questions to vet it/ or drop it.

3. Compare stuff - with what you know before the FGD and what gets said during the FGD. I believe research is a dynamic, on-going conversation which we must have with consumers/ people. Also they are just 6-8 normal people in the room. You don't have to treat their word as gospel. They are capable of lying, speaking rubbish, rant because they are bored...Over time, one learns to separate the wheat from the chaff!!

4. The Importance of the Deviant/ Stray Comment
- Never underestimate the importance of the small comments, stray comments. They can lead you to places your original discussion guide couldn't have/ never intended!

5. Stories
Capture real life stories as vividly as possible. They are rare. They are true. They often are stranger than fiction...They give you a glimpse into the shifts and the drifts as nothing else can.

Then later during the analysis phase try to find out what - the motivations were
- Why they recounted those stories.
- Any hidden/ deeper meaning.
- What could a brand/ your brand learn from that story.

Good researchers and planners are story collectors and raconteurs!!
Keep mulling over the thoughts. Reflection when the FGD is done is very important. Research(any research) is not a power-point to be made, presented and archived...It's an on-going conversation with the consumer and with oneself!!

Sunday, July 12

Osianama and gymming the mind

Just came out of a four hour brainstorm with a friend. Am helping him start a new creative venture! It has been a serious Sunday so far:-) But starting this week am signing a no-work-on-Sunday bond with myself and then stick to it...Had bookmarked this interview of Neville Tuli yesterday in ET where he was discussing this art show Jashn Osianama in the capital! You may want to browse through the interview here!

Jashn-Osianama — is Tuli’s curating effort and is a new festival for the visual arts which juxtaposes, some of the world’s most refined, subtle and expensive art works with simple artifacts of popular culture
; with Japanese Samurai art, Tibetan Thangkas, Rajasthani and Pahari miniatures, vintage world film memorabilia, political propaganda, magic memorabilia, antiquarian and modern photography put alongside modern and contemporary art from the Indian sub-continent.

Most of the stuff that Neville talked I found very interesting. Sharing it with shards of my random thoughts.

1. He focussed on the need to create an 'art space' which everyone feels “is ours”. Intellectual intimidation should not be to a point of making people feel insecure about even entering a space where art is on display.

For a generation which is almost lost in the labyrinth of malls and commercial space, it may not be a relevant question:-) but I guess some body's got to think of the museums and not just the malls!

2. Creativity is a birthright and is a part of every mind but it takes a little effort to trigger this creativity? Viewing opportunities, where prior knowledge is definitely not a pre-requisite are critical. Once that opportunity is grasped, people will slowly begin to realise that a visual is like a piece of text, it needs to be read because it has its own grammar and language. This reading requires learning and education. Since visual is not text and is therefore not equated to knowledge they become an easier form to seduce a newcomer into the art space

It's a fine point. I think I have refrained from entering art spaces on many a occasion because of this intimidation that Neville talks about. That and the self created expectation and pressure of prior knowledge!

3. Tuli believes there is an urgent need to build new institutions to occupy the energy of people, to ensure that their families participate, so that there is no numbing of minds, give opportunities to occupy the mind which is a muscle after all and if not exercised will rust. “There is so much boredom in daily Indian life, edutainment is the new ‘fashion’ word across the world but India has not even begun this process. Right now what is the choice you have? Kambakkht Ishq?

And perhaps we need it the most in 'Kambakkht Gurgaon' where the malls and the 'firang sounding' towers and the ubiquitous theka do not leave any/much space for art spaces for the community!

Sunday, July 5

Bye Bye Mumbai, Hello Delhi

After 6 years of a sort of dream stint in Mumbai, last week I packed my life and belongings in 105 cartons and headed north to Dilli!!

It's been a busy week settling down in Delhi(actually Gurgaon)! One needs planning skills of a different kind getting a new home started...Finally this evening I am connected to the web again thanks to Airtel broadband.

Trying to catch up with the world having missed much of the debate and action around Cannes, the run-up to the budget and Wimbledon!!

While I chug back into the blogosphere, read a nice post recommended by blog-buddy Neil Perkin on Creative Paralysis by Dave Trott. I love collecting stories like this in my head. Here it is...

When Bill Shankly(one of Britain's most successful and respected football managers)managed Liverpool he had a very gifted young striker playing for him. This young star worked hard, trained hard, and studied the game.

In one particular high-pressure match he found himself with the ball at his feet and only the goalkeeper to beat.

He thought about everything he’d learned.

Should he wrong-foot the keeper and go round him?

Should he bend the ball around the keeper into the top corner?

Should he try a power shot and hope the keeper can’t hold it?

Should he hold up the ball so he could lay it off to someone in a better position?

While he hesitated a defender took the ball off him and booted it upfield to the other end of the pitch.

When the young striker eventually came off the pitch, Shankly asked him what had happened.

The striker said he’d been trying to pick his best option.

Shankley said, “Look son, if you ever find yourself with the ball at your feet and just the goalie to beat, stick it in the net and we’ll discuss all your options afterwards.”

I often think advertising is like that.

We’ve got young copywriters and art director getting confused by concentrating on complicated things that aren’t their job.

So they can’t do the simple job they should be doing.

Instead they spend all their time thinking about brand theory, new media, cultural memes, and social latency.

Now maybe brand theory and the all rest has some relevance for planners.

But that’s their role in the team, not ours.

It’s our job to stick the ball in the net.

And that’s simple, or it’s nothing.

Now, I don't follow football at all and I have recently left advertising, but loved this story for it's simple and powerful lesson...

Looking forward to Monday and the start of a new and exciting journey! Must rummage through my notes for some other post ideas.
Neo's Ben 10 overlooks our packed samaan:-)And while I hardly drove my old war-horse Lancer, felt nostalgic about selling it off:-( I was particularly fond of its blue-green-silver colour and the front grille. I don't know why I am sharing it, but I guess it was important to say it one last time! And our new home...actually a small independent house in Gurgaon, quietly redefining my Bombay sense of space!

Monday, June 15

Big Idea - Green Livelihoods

It's been a hectic fortnight. Looking for a flat/ house in Gurgaon. Sometimes you can be spoilt for choice:-)

At the airport, leafing through the latest Outlook Money with the cover story on 30 businesses under Rs. 5 lacs, stumbled upon this innovative 'green company' Bamboo House India!

Bamboo House India, a social enterprise, started by two First Generation Entrepreneurs, Aruna Kappagantula & Prashant Lingam in 2008 aims to use Bamboo as an economic driver for providing sustainable livelihood opportunities to rural & tribal artisans in the Bamboo sector through market linkages.

BHI is striving to create a chain of bamboo showrooms across the country which shall promote & market all bamboo based products under one roof starting from Bamboo pens to Bamboo Housing Structures!
Do check out their products here!

Their vision is to create a long term sustainable non-migratory business model for rural and tribal artisans in the Bamboo sector by using locally available raw material i.e. bamboo and develop contemporary life style products to suit the market tastes and demand rather than being consigned to age old basketry items.

I am trying to get in touch with Aruna and Prashant. Starting this month, I plan to devote 10-15% of my time to support, help market and evangelise such efforts. In case you know of any social-enterprise that is in need of marketing, strategy, branding, design support, please direct them to me. I would be happy to help them!

Wish BHI best of luck in their innovative and sincere effort to create green livelihoods!

Thursday, June 4

Jonathan iVe - design sutras

Read this piece on the world's 100 most creative people on fastcompay.com on my feed-reader! Perhaps predictably the fabled Apple design head Jonathan iVe tops this list.

This week as I slip into a new job and a project on the Millenials, for some strange reason, I am pulled towards design and design related thots.

Few design sutras from the article gleaned from Jon's profile.

1. Design According to Ive - "There's an applied style of being minimal and simple, and then there's real simplicity. This looks simple, because it really is." (Wired)

2. Referring to the Apple design team - "The memory of how we work will endure beyond the products of our work." (Interview for Design Museum,2003)

3. "Very often design is the most immediate and explicit way of defining what products become in people's minds." (Interview for BBC, 2002)

This is such a profound revelation. Often in most agencies, planners(me-in-the-immediate-past included) waste a lot many hours unlocking the meaning of the brand only to discover that the design maybe at variance with the meaning. More frightfully, the design and the brand communication happen in separate silos. Brand communicators and the design guys are frequently not in sync with each other.

4. "With technology, the function is much more abstract to users, so the product's meaning is almost entirely defined by the designer."

And it's so strange and sad that product design in many companies is totally delinked from marketing's hunt for meaning.

5. "Something like the iPod is a melding of design and user experience and marketing and pop culture, and you don't achieve that without coordination throughout the company. And for that you need a CEO who gets it."

Mental note - Must catch more of iVe's interviews on the www.

Friday, May 29


I was planning to hold this post till sunday night when I would have blogged my departure from Mudra/ Tribal DDB.(Not that 48 hrs makes much difference:-) But since DigitalMedia already got wind here...here are the details!

Sometimes, mid-way through a job, your role starts mutating in a way which may not be to your liking! So, I decided to hang my digital boots which were getting a bit sooted(I hope there is a word like that) with analog dust.

I am joining The Futures Company as Principal Consultant. The Futures Company has been formed by the coming together of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich. This WPP entity is a pretty cool global trends, futures research and consultancy company. Got offices in the US, UK and India!

And am shifting base to Delhi/ Gurgaon. Will start the Delhi innings from July 1st week.

The blog stays, the rants stay...even though I may not be privy to agency insider information:-) Banking on my small group of friends inside agencies. And while I don this new hat of a consultant, I think I will remain an account planner(in spirit). The hats are quite interchangeable!

Wednesday, May 27

Room 16

Have been away in 43deg heat of Delhi and then the much cooler environs of Bangalore over the past two weeks...Away from the keyboard and therefore Room 16 has had to wait!

Essentially, it was a chance comment from a young friend of mine at BBH India that has led to this post. Apparently, BBH internationally has a day when John(Hegarty) and Simon (Sherwood) meet the youngsters in the agency and discuss the business, the future, trends, technology, life and more...

It's the day when grey hair learns from young grey matter. In fact at RMG(David) Josy, Kumar and I regularly used to interact with young students(mostly from Xaviers) and used to discuss new business pitches, difficult campaigns and other stuff...

All of 'us' learnt a lot from 'them'. I remember using our David play-school to crack the Flying Machine and Excalibur campaigns and even a couple of new business pitches.

At the rate at which technology is changing and stuff is happening around us, it now pays even more to learn from the 21 and the 16 year olds. And therefore Room 16 or 21 is a must for the Rooms 36, 46 and 56...

So what are the thumb rules for interacting with Room 16/21.

1. Experience needs to learn a lot from curiosity and play. Today the flow of knowledge between experience and the inexperienced can almost be the same. Agencies can learn a lot from a formal Room 16 day! Unfortunately the sr. management at many agencies at most times is insulated from the Room 16/21 guys!

2. It's okay for Room 36/46/56 to admit "I don't know!" Can you teach me? At work I continue to learn a lot from junior planners and young students. Young bloggers and designers. Often they are more connected. They come across more 'cool stuff'. They are invariably closer to the 'edge', the stuff at the periphery!!

3. Access to Room 16 is not restricted to a room. Even if one is running a very small agency, today one can connect with Room 16 virtually. Room 16 is available on gmail, fb, linkedin...It just needs an honest ear and some patience...

4. Room 16 Yellow pages. The folks in HR must have a sort of yellow pages for the diverse and invaluable talent of the Room 16 to 21 guys. Imagine the gains that the company can make if it taps into this for client projects and more. And believe me it is not a very costly affair to manage this! But of course it costs a lot of time and precious attention.

5. Room 16 are digital natives. This fact alone makes interacting with them a big plus for Room 36 and beyond. In fact recently I got sound advice from Room 6( my son Neo) who proudly stated that - "Papa ko toh computer game khelne ke liye kitaab padhna padta hai, lekin humko toh khelne se hi pata chal jaata hai!!"

While I was putting this post, read this article by Rishad Tobacowala in Brand Equity today. Do read it here if you haven't already!

Rishad makes a couple of very important points.(Putting him almost at the top of my growing interview list)
(a) (the Room 16/21 guys)are highly energetic, motivated, and driven individuals who are creative, accountable and hungry to learn and they have very high standards they hold themselves to.

They want the answer to three questions on any assignment.
Q1. What are we hoping to achieve?

Q2. Is there a better or cheaper way to get the same outcome?

And Q3. How can results, outcomes and they themselves get better? Answering these with a) because we have always done it this way, or b) we cannot do it that way because that is too much work and will change our business or c) the boss says so, are not considered answers worth considering.

(b) Provide access to information and tools.The Room 16/21 guys can access information and opinion with one click on their web browser or phone in their personal lives and they expect this open access to information and empowering tools at work. Anything that slows down or anyone that hoards is resented while those that provide access are celebrated.

(c) Run the workplace in some ways as a model University. There is a reason that more and more companies call their physical locations “campuses”.

This is because in many ways an ideal workplace for the Room 16 generation represents a continuation of their University days. It is a place for them to continue to learn, to contribute and to grow. And like any great University they want access to superb facilities, good mentors and teachers and strong fellow students.

In school the end result may have been grades, passing examinations, dissertations and learning. While at work it is revenue, profits, new products, patents and more. They want an environment that is challenging but also one where they can challenge the status quo.

The Room 16 generation thinks differently, behaves differently and has already started to demand big changes in the way society, business and individuals interact. Is your company/ agency prepared for the Room 16 generation? Is mine:-)

How many 16 year olds do you know/ understand? How many do I know/ understand!!!