Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Perfect Weekend - Humble Beginning

While in college I don’t remember ever waiting for a weekend. There everyday was like a weekend, and every weekend was like any other normal day. Simple, if there are impending assignments, deadlines, exams the weekend is spent in the library, and if there is nothing of that sort any day could be a Sunday.

But well, it does not work that way in corporate life. Here after a whole week of sweating out in the hot sun, one starts to wait desperately for the weekend. Sometimes the wait begins from Wednesday itself.
So here was this awesome weekend I had, and I am sure it is going to be a memorable one for a long time to come.

It all started right from Friday evening. After a whole day of sales on the streets of rajendar nagar, I was dead tired and just wanted to crash on the bed. I reached home at about 8:30 just to discover that the maid has not come. So no dinner! Ah! I was too lazy to actually order something. Chuck the dinner, I am sleeping. And wroom I am on the bed dead asleep.

P calls, and some others too, but I don’t care. I am too asleep to even listen to the “twist” ringtone on my N72. Doc tries calling and messaging but I am not part of this external bliss. I am deep into slumber. At about 1, I hear bangs in my room, and the light on! A huge body is standing in front of me, and is ready to pounce on me. Oh! My Gawd! Is there a bull at home? Nah! It was Doc.

Doc is home, and after his tries of waking me up get futile he tries abhinav, and is successful. After exchanging the initial pleasantaries (read expletives) and the hugs (read fights), and a smoke, we come to a conclusion that we all are hungry. But well, no food in the kitchen. Doc has this crazy plan – lets go to comesum.

So, now while we have the much required night snack at ComeSum, you too go grab yourself a bite.

Coming up with the subsequent continuation soon..

Thursday, September 24, 2009

FASTFORWARD - Marketing channel

In this ever-changing digital environment, it can often be tough for businesses and marketers to keep up and maintain relevance to consumers. To help this out, google has partnered with The Wharton School to launch Fast.Forward. This site is full of helpful content, including more than 100 videos from leading industry experts — like google CEO, Eric Schmidt — and academics like Jerry Wind, Lauder Professor at The Wharton School, AAAA CEO Nancy Hill, offering their perspectives on the changing world of marketing.

it elaborates on how to build community and customer bases in the digital landscape, through extensive videos. The Channel shows communications professionals how they can evolve to cut through the noise and spam, and build loyal audiences with tech savvy people.

Through short videos from some of the top industry minds the group hopes to challenge marketers to take risks and create better campaigns. For now, the site comes up short as the videos appear to answer questions in a very general manner with few specifics in terms of tactics and strategy. The most promising component of the site appears to be the "Free Tools" section with a list of resources including links to a website optimizer, search insights and 3rd party trends data from Facebook and Twitter. Right now, all of those links are dead.

The first rule of marketing: test your product.

As consumers become more and more technologically savvy, businesses and marketers have worked quickly to keep up. As a result, many companies are left questioning what they aren't doing that they should be, or what they should do next to stay in front of the right people, in the right place, at the right time, in an increasingly digital world.

A similar initiative by the UK marketing team of google, survival of the fittest already exists in partnership with London Business School.

More importantly, the videos also take a look at the implications of those changes for marketers and consumers. These experts tackle topics ranging from the importance of innovation and insights, to the new definition of speed. On the flipside, we also have videos from interviews with everyday folks, where we learn about the roles advertising and online content play in their daily lives.

In addition to the library of videos, the brand channel offers a "barometer" gauging consumer confidence levels and links to free tools designed to help marketers understand the online world a little better, as well as information on the Future of Advertising. A Wharton-led, research-based project, the Future of Advertising aims to explore and address a number of the business and marketing challenges in the current "Advertising Reality", while developing new models and empirical generalizations for advertising.

the event section aims to cover major marketing meets and events, coming up with some interesting behind the scenes footage.

So if you're interested in hearing what others really think about "advertising", if you want to check out what's happening at Advertising Week, or if you have your own opinion that you'd like to voice, check it out.

IDEA to airtel - with the same number

Mobile Number Portability (MNP), which has been on the anvil for long will finaly be implemented by the beginning of the next year. It would allow subscribers to retain their mobile telephone number while discarding one service provider for another.

So, airtel today, wait aircel has come up with pocket internet – SHIFT! Four days and boom I am on a different network. It would take a maximum of 12 days in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam and north eastern circles, though.
March 20, 2010 is stipulated to be the deadline for this to be implemented all across the country.
Ofcourse, there would be charges for the shift, and some other formalities, which I guess is completely worth the pain.

Brand loyalty is on question, and the consumer is the ultimate winner. The fight for ARPU (average revenue per user) is going to get more fiercer, and the telecom is to see some interesting times ahead.

I so thank TRAI for this initiative, though delayed. I had bought an IDEA sim long back in 2003, when other players were not all that good in network. But boom! What happens, as time passed by, other players came up with good exciting offers, and IDEA was still with the old times.

NIGHT call free, SMS at 1ps, and so many such offers which my college friends took full advantage with very good returns on the personal front. But I just lagged.

Why? I did not want to change my number! Now I finally can get out of idea’s hold.

I guess the next initiative of the government should be to absolve inter state roaming issues too. India is one country, and calling someone from kerala to JnK should be the same, as calling someone in the next room.

Maybe atleast, TRAI could come up with number portability inter state. So, for a person like me, who would keep shifting states would not have to change the number with every state.

All this would just increase the churn among the operators, which is at a very high level even now - 4.5 per cent per month in india, which roughly means that more than half India's over 400 million subscribers change operators in a year.

All for the good of the consumer!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Getting social

Trust rediff.com to stir the best of the discussions. There was a story recently on someone gaining access to a celebrity’s social network and how it played havoc with the victim’s life, while she was busy shopping in London.

Thus a discussion page started, about the pros ad cons of social networking. Look at some of the comments:

You need to select your password which is impossible to guess...and should also be alphanumeric and contain special characters which make the haccker's job a little difficult. Being a non-dictionary word is recommended

Well for an online identity a password is a must. The social networking site recommends the same. The issue here is, the hacker (or hacker as you would cal them) need not guess the password. There are system bots and other such malicious software which could leak the password too, without any importance given to the complexity of the password. It be “bharat”, or “gh56&*$hu”.

This would no doubt keep continuing till a biometric system is much in vogue. Already many computers are inbuilt with finger print recognition, so that could be enabled with passwords too.

Wide Spread Porn is circulated.

Every thing in the name of social?

Authority must look into curb it.

Wide Spread Porn" its there everywhere...

its a mentality bor...

intenet/social sites are just a modern medium..

Authority cannot do anything as they could not stop pros in last 100 years..how do you expect them to stop something that is already there in the society.. go ahead and legalize it accept it you problem will be solved

Right said my boy. Porn would exist, and I don’t see any reason for it not to. Yes, on sites which are meant for children NO. But well, every site has an agreement form to be signed up declaring that the user’s age is above 18. What else could the site authorities do? Physical verification?

And like we in sales say,

Undercutting is like prostitution, it would always exist, no matter what!
Similarly porn to internet, the sooner we realize the better it is.

Except email address do not disclose any other contact details in social networking sites

Why email address? I get large amount of junk mails everyday. (I do get genuine business enquiries and thats why I had advertised it) But there is always a danger that it may be misused

Never ever give away your official email ids on these forums. Email ids are free people, so why not create a special id only for these spam mail generating websites?

Social networking is a wonderful thing online, and has helped a lot many people to reconnect and unite. There is bound to be misuse, but then simple measures can help us to be away from them.

Monday, September 07, 2009

management funda in reaching the station

I am sitting here at the busy railway station and writing this article, waiting.

After sleeping at 3AM, on a Saturday night what time do you expect one to wake up on a sunday morning? Not before noon atleast, no matter what. The just gone Saturday was no different. We started drinking right from 10PM, and went on and on. After finishing off all the stock in the huge 165 litre refrigerator at about 2AM, Kapil gets this idea to go out for an ice cream. Not that we wanted to eat an ice cream, but just for the heck of it. We agreed.

So, after an ice cream and then a conference call in the balcony, we managed to sleep at 3AM. I set an alarm on my N72 for 6AM. What? 3 hours. You want to wake up at 6AM on a Sunday morning? Have you gone crazy?
Nah! I have a train to catch.

I am going to Chandigarh for a week for my upcountry stint.
Next day morning, at 6AM sharp the alarm started ringing on my cellphone. I have on purpose set a very irritating tone, so that it drives me crazy and I get compelled to wake up. I have been using this technique, and this very tone, right since my MBA days. I also always keep the mobile a little far from the bed, such that I would have to get up from the bed to switch it off.

But damn the snooze option on the mobile, I picked up the phone from the dressing table, put it on snooze and went back to sleep! I kept doing this for the next half an hour, or probably a little more.

At about 6:40, I happened to glance at the clock on the mobile screen and I was like,” what the fuck?.. I am Late!”. The train is scheduled to depart at 7:40, and the station is a good 45minutes journey by an auto. I am doomed.

I completed the morning ablutions in a whisker, changed and after bidding a good bye (I just shouted to the sleeping mates informing them that I am leaving), I left home. As usual, Malviya nagar is the only area in Delhi probably, where the auto guys feel more comfortable travelling without any passenger on their back seat.

After some negotiations (against my favour), and convincing (more of begging!), one auto guy agreed to come over for 90 bucks. The normal journey is charged at about 70 something. I did not really have the time to negotiate. This is at 7:10, and the train departs in another half an hour, there is no way that I could reach the station.

I kept pressurizing him to drive fast, and I urging him again and again. I had an unlit cigarette in my hand, which was not getting lighted due to the high speed of the auto, and the flowing wind, but I was more concerned about the speed of the auto. i just kept holding it.

I was so wishing that there be some system (or its failure), like in the movie SPEED, where the bus should not be below a particular limit of speed else it would blow up.

After about 10 minutes I ask him, “bhaiyya, aur kitna time lagega?”

He replies, “yahan se.. kam se kam 20 minute to lagenge

That makes it 7:35. That would imply that I will have to miss the train. No! this can’t happen, and I realize I have to convince him hard. This talk happens at a red crossing, and I light the cigarette taking advantage of the lack of motion in the auto.No, I want the damn thing to be in motion, in full throttle.

I again tell him in a desperate manner, “bhaiyya jaldi please, fast. Meri train 7:30 ko hai

(Management funda: keep some buffer for yourself)

Even in sales or any field for that matter, every level of the hierarchy has some extra buffer target for himself, and sets a slightly higher target when apportioning his target to the sub-ordinates.

He replies, “Arrey, aap to late ho jaenge sir. Thodi jaldi nikalna tha na!

This is how a saleman would reply while taking note of his targets. He would try his best not to accept the target, and keep cribbing that it is too high. Acceptance of defeat even before the war has started.
Now he is started zooming the vehicle but I am not convinced.

Yeah, as if I don’t know that i should have started early. Now I have got late, and lets do something about it. I try using the next funda of management.

(Management funda: Incentivize!)

I try making him believe, without making it explicit that he would get more money if I reach in time for the train.

It seems to be working, he has set the vehicle in full throttle, but probably he could do more. Now getting to the next principle,

(management Funda: Motivate and make him accountable.)

I try sweet talking to him, without disturbing his concentration on the road. I tell him inspiring things like, “Bhaiyya, ab aapke saath hun to aapko time par pahunchana hi padega. yeh aapka farz banta hai”.

I try to make him realize that it is like a question of his competency. These are the moments when his true skills are under test, and I also try to make him proud of his years of experience (18 years in this case). Ultimately, he is made to believe that his passengers should reach in time wherever they want to, and this becomes his most important KPI (key performance indicator). This is the pride of work that he lives for everyday, drives an auto all day.

Now the final nail, the traffic signals. He is still forced to stop at the signals, though it serves no purpose. It just delays my journey to the station.

(Management funda: authorize!)

I request him to jump traffic signals, and assure that I would pay the fine if any. I convince him that there are no cops around, and even try to keep in good humour by joking that all the policemen would be busy sleeping on their beds, afterall it is a Sunday morning.

He zooms, and I am at the station at 7:35 sharp! Huh! 5 more minutes left. Thanxs for the buffer time . It is so really important. We should probably have a complete elective on this in B-Schools.

I run towards the platform, asking passersby which platform is the shatabdi on.

It is on platform 2, or rather it was. I run towards the platform. I am on the foot over bridge and I can see the train moving! I run at the top of my speed, with two bags hanging on my shoulders, and screech down the stairs. still puffing!
..3 and a half hours later..
it is 11:15AM and I am still at the station waiting.

Well, at the Chandigarh station!, waiting for Rajeev to pick me up. Yes, I did catch the train!

Now all ready for one complete week in upcountry parwanoo away from the hustle-bustle of city life.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Awesome Monday

Its been more than a month here at Delhi, and after those initial hiccups I am now completely enjoying the stint. The days are filled with learning the nitty gritties of the processes and systems in selling chocolates. And the weekends are filled with loadsa fun and frolic. The campus setting is all recreated, what with the same bunch of people staying up together – every night is a potential party night.

Especially the past two weekends have been really awesome, and am sure its going to stay memorable for a long time to come. This post is about the awesome Monday that I had last week.

Early in the morning I was woken up at 4AM (my gawd! Who wakes up at that time? Not even the birds!), and after getting ready into my formal attire we start off to the New Delhi railway station at about 5. The train was to departure at 6:15AM, and we reach the station well in time. After the train departs, I wonder what to do?

Go back to malviya nagar, and start for gurgaon later? No point in this, as I would have to start as soon as I reach home. So a better option would be to get going to guragon (my office for the day, as discussed), though it is quite early to office. I take a bus to Dhaula Kuan, and then take another crowded bus from there to IFFCO chowk in gurgaon. I manage to reach gurgaon at 8 itself, while the office starts at 9:30 something.

After hanging around, and having breakfast at a roadside eatery, and tea and smoke, at about 8:45 i enter the office to find all staring in a strange manner. It was just the maintenance staff doing the cleaning, and by their looks it was apparent they did not recognize me. When I start settling down in my boss’s cubicle a guy comes running towards me.

sir, kaun ho aap?” (who are you?)

Okay, now that was pretty straight forward.

I reply calmly, with a smile on my face, “mein yahin par kaam karta hun” ( I work here)

Another guy comes in, and remembers serving me countless cups of tea, and thus confirms my appointment.

After lazing around there for some time, and a visit to the bathroom I try settling down in the cubicle. Right then, I get a call from boss, who asks me to come down to rohini instead.

Great! I check on googlemaps on my mobile, and it shows rohini being 40km away form where I am right now. It would take atleast 2hrs to reach there and that too after blowing up a considerable amount of money on travel, and a sojourn in the crowded public transport.

Can I do something about it? No! So, well a sleep starved myself gets on into a rickshaw to get to IFFCO chowk. Now another irony here is, I don’t know the best way to reach rohini. I was initially thinking of reaching Dwarka, take a metro back to central delhi and change for the metro to rohini. Nice option it seemed.

Luckily the shared cab I got into was going to azadpur, and my googlemaps (to which I remained hooked during the travel), showed that it is on my way to rohini. On confirmation with the driver and paying an additional 10 rupee, I could still sit in the cab. I get down at wajirpur (thank you googlemaps), and then catch an auto from there to the distributor point where I was supposed to reach.

At the distributor point I am in for a shock – it is locked. Oh! How could I forget, this market remains closed on Mondays!

I call up my boss again, who then asks me to come down to prashanth Vihar instead. Awesome! The map showed that to be comparatively close. I walk out from the market to the main road, and try loking for empty autos to ply me there. I could just find a rickshaw, who argues of coming only till madhubhan chowk. I was helpless, and I had to take it.

At madhuban chowk, after crossing the huge traffic signal lights there, and the metro above, I get to the other side of the road. I am again looking for an auto or a rockshaw to ply me till my final destination (hopefully). After a wait, and walk, of about 15mins in that hot sun I finally get a rickshaw. And after asking a zillion people, and travelling randomly I finally locate one of the sales officers, and get assured. Yes, I have finally reached the required destination.

I get a call from my friend, who announces her arrival to lucknow. Wah! I am just crisscrossing aross NCR, and within this time people have reached lucknow. The time it takes for me to office, is as good as the time taken to reach lucknow. Well, such is life!

The destination I reached was a food court called rameshwarams. Yes, we generally have our meetings at such places, and that day was the time for mid year review. I just sit on my laptop trying to interact with the sales officers, and trying to complete the work assigned.

After about 4 hrs there in the food court, discussing random stuff ranging from stock markets to the trip to manali, and also working in between, I get to talk to my boss at about 4.Well, the lesser I talk about the meeting the better it is.

At about 5, after being dropped to the metro station I set out home. I reach home at about 6:30 and find my cell phone battery down. Damn! Last one minute probably and I try caling up TB (my room-mate), but before he could answer, the battery is dead. It so felt like that scene in hindi movies, where a person is dying in the lap and is uttering something very important earnestly, but before he could say the actual thing he is dead falling on the lap of the holder, mostly with the eyes open.

Now no keys for home, TB had said he would be going to the snooker parlour. And I don’t know where it is. I have a pair of keys that Abhinav ( another of my room-mate) had given me a week back or so. I go home with a heavy laptop bag on my shoulders and hoping that the key would do the job. Nah! How could life be so simple?

After trying hard, and even going to the terrace and having a smoke hoping that TB would be back by then I give up.

I had to use some salesman jugaad (more about it in detail in the ensuing posts) to get through this. I could not be waiting for ever for TB. I walk down to Sharmaji (the tea stall owner), and hav a tea. I was looking for a dispenser hung somewhere with mobile chargers. They are such a common site in malls. But well, why would any pug following company set one up here in this housing locality.

Then an awesome idea strikes me.

Sharmaji, aapke paas mobile ka charger hai kya?”, I shout to the tea stall owner.

He gets all eager to help and asks his wife to check. The disappointment on his face when his wife finds one was apparent. He obviously did not want me to mess up with his things, lest I spoil them. He anyways gives the charger to me.

Alas! Why did nokia have to change their charger specifications? This one was of a thick pin, while my mobile jock accepts the thin one.

Now if you are still wondering why could I just not call up TB? Well, blame the mobile phones In the good olden days we would all have a small pocket diary having all the important numbers, but no more. The contacts were all in that dead phone. It seriously set me thinking, what if my mobile dies a permanent death someday. I would really land up in tough times.

I again get this rockstar idea, trying to convince myself – “come on dude.. you are a salesman.. use salesman jugaad

I ask,or did it sound more like a demand “sharmaji, ek baar apna phone dena”.

Sharmaji, who by now was relieved that I had left his charger did not know that I had more serious plans. He replies,

sorry sir, isme balance nahi hai.”

Okay, I am not interested in using up your balance.

nahi mere paas bhi number nahi hai.. mujhe to kuch aur chaiye”, i chuckle.

Very reluctantly he hands me over the phone, and just stands beside me. This phone really means a lot to him probably. I am sure, even a stock broker would not take his own phone so seriously.

I start removing the battery, and sharmaji screams as soon as I open the compartment of his phone.

yeh kya kar rahe ho.. kharab ho jaega!”, he is visibly worried.

kuch nahi hoga. Aapka phone sahi salamt aapko wapas kar dunga”, I try explaining him calmly.

Yes. The salesman jugaad has worked yet again. I call up TB from my mobile having sharmaji’s battery, and TB gets back home in 5 minutes. I can now go home in peace to open doors.

After such a frustrating day, a person sure needs some vent out. I change into shorts and go out with puneet to CCD. After a relaxing black coffee, without sugar (no! not inspired from love aaj kal, I am addicted to this right since my 4 seasons days in vizag), it feels completely calm.

I am ready for the next day, ofcourse after a good night’s sleep. It seems like days since I have slept.

Thus ended an eventful Monday, after a very good weekend. Now you know where the term Monday morning blues came from