Thursday, December 17, 2009

Retail & an Old B-plan

Few years back (in 2005), I made a small business plan for a competition in my college (DCE). The venture had to be based on a use of the internet.

The idea was fairly simple - a 'local' website with info, community and online sale from neighbouring stores. I lived in Dwarka (a sub-city in Delhi) that time. So, the concepts was that I could go on a '' and get local info like-
- best deals on grocery, retail etc
- hotel menus and contact details
- opportunities for car pool (could post and use)
- info on local events
The ads from local stores could keep the site running.

The grocery needs are mostly repetitive in any household. The website would provide you the opportunity to buy from different stores sitting at home and order a free home delivery.

Some more facts:
1. Recently, I have been reading a book called "Why We Buy" from one Mr.Paco Underhill, who proclaims that without the impulse buying at stores the sales would plummet. Making my plan - a not so good one.

2. Retail research at Euromonitor says that internet sales in UK have already started to increase at the expense of direct sale. A favorable trend for my plan!

3. Justdial has this (amazing) database and service where you might as well get the store's number and call them! (but you wouldn't know stuff like best deals and car-pools)

4. Also, with the increase in population of senior citizens, this would be much more comfortable for them / their caretakers to shop. Ok maybe the senior citizens 5 yrs hence will be more net-savvy. (Although I could totally imagine my grandfather, who is quite net savvy, ordering grocery online)

So, is this an idea whose time has come? or maybe it will take another 5 years?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ranbir Rocket Singh - Actor of the Year

This being the initiation types week at IIM-I, 5 of us decided to go all the way to Indore (from the campus at Rau) to watch 'Rocket Singh'

The movie is well-made and enjoyable. Ranbir's performance truly stands out. The script falters a bit, but on the whole, it manages to keep the interest of the audiences going. I was quite surprised by the mostly empty seats at INOX Indore.
Supporting actors
Ranbir has been a revelation for me with his latest movies - Wake up Sid, Ajab Prem ki Gajab Kahani and now
Rocket Singh. In fact, Wake up Sid seems to be the coming of age for Ranbir, something like Dil Chahta hai was for Saif.

What impressed me most about the film and Ranbir's performance was the simplicity with which both touch your heart.

Going by reports that the film hasn't really hit the sweet spot at the box office, Ranbir may not be the Salesman of the Year (considering the way he was selling the film to us), but I'd say he could well be the 'Actor of the Year' OR more aptly, the Revelation of the Year.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Indian Traveler

On my flight from Mumbai to Indore, I once again noticed some characteristics of the Indian (air) Traveler. And since all this seems to be a pettern I thought it worth sharing.

Ok, so unlike the train traveller, this guy doesn't feel the need to ask his fellow passengers the station they would be getting down at, and the ensuing conversation etc. etc.

In fact, the Indian (traveler or otherwise) comes across as rather impolite. Wonder why almost no one answers a "Good Morning" or "Welcome" from the flight attendants?

Train travelers are no less. Loud music playing form cellphones is a common phenomenon. I don't know if I am the only one who doesn't like it, but no one stops them. Get earphones people!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Amateur Marketeer on Social Media

A couple of years back I wrote an article on the effect of social networking. ( ) Back then, orkut was the new craze and chat rooms were just going out of fashion. I wondered if companies would start hiring people by looking at their profiles OR would people start living alternate lives in virtual 3-dimensional worlds!

However, the net was shaping up another surprise. People got more interconnected than ever before and started to talk to each other and share pictures, videos and most importantly - opinion. Today, almost no net-savvy user buys products without researching for it on the internet. Whats more? The research always includes user-reviews, friend recommendations, opinions on orkut communities etc. I recently decided to watch the movie Ingulorious Bestards when a ‘friend’(someone I barely know, but is on my friend list) announced on facebook that he loved it!

Such phenomenon throws up new challenges for marketers. No matter what the advertisements say or what the product’s official website says, customers are still likely to make their decisions based upon user-reviews from people they may or may not know. To make matters worse, there are the customer complaint websites which provide enough outlets for people who do not like a product or service to voice their concerns.

Let us be honest, every marketeer has (or soon will) ask himself, “can this huge media opportunity be ‘managed’?!” With the huge number of users generating content and ever increasing outlets offered by the internet; I’m afraid it can’t.

Let us assume theoretically that some marketeer had the budget to buy off ad-space on practically every website. Still, people will write what comes to their minds. A big web-banner next to the worst review from a customer would surely be little else than farcical. Therefore, at least on the social media: ‘the truth shall prevail’!

We have official Tata Nano communities on Orkut, Facebook and maybe soon on Twitter. Rather than imposing our thoughts, we let our customers express themselves and listen to them intently.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


‘Sammy’ directed by Lillete Dubey was staged at the Mahindra and Mahindra Theatre Excellence awards. Sammy is 'The name that shook an empire'. And judging by the standing ovations it received at the Shri Ram Centre Auditorium, it is leaving audiences touched and shaken.

The play is based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi. The beauty of the play is that it takes you through the journey of Gandhiji from ‘Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’ to ‘Mahatma’. It tells the story of Gandhiji’s life starting from South Africa to his death.

To explain the meaning of the word "Sammy", the title of the play, the scene dissolves into Mohan standing besides the Police Superintendent's wife Alexander who, a few minutes earlier had saved him from the mob. Mohan asks her if the crowd knew what the word Sammy meant. "Yes, of course. Most of our indentured labor comes from India and most of their names end in Sammy, Ramasammy, Narayanasammy, and so on." "The word is Swami", Mohan corrects her. "But that is not important at a time like this," says Mrs. Alexander. "But it is. Because it means master or teacher," says Mohan turning to the men who are standing about watchfully and says, "Thank you, gentlemen. I shall endeavor to live up to that." Indeed, a masterly way of explaining the title of the play.

In the play, Gandhi talks to, consults and even debates with his own ‘inner voice’ played by Ravi Dubey (back on stage after 20 years). The technique is not that new, but it is the way the playwright uses it and the way the two actors Ravi Dubey as the Mahatma and Joy Sengupta as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi project it, that makes all the difference. Joy Sengupta has performed the role of Gandhi to perfection. Especially, as the Gandhi in South Africa, he is flawless. Little wonder then, that he bagged the best actor award for this role.

The conversations with the ‘inner voice’ are simply great. They bring about the inner voice Ganhiji has referred to in his autobiography which helped him make many decisions. He actually turned to it for advise. .... "But how can an ordinary person like me tackle such a vast crowd?" asks Mohan. "Reach out to them, take away the blindfold and they will see...they called you Sammy," without completing the sentence the Mahtama (inner voice) withdraws.

The two-hour drama of Sammy takes a look at lesser-known incidents of Gandhi’s life in South Africa. The script is a veritable guide, which will make people learn — and unlearn — various aspects of Indian history and yet entertain. The cast includes stage regulars Vijay Crishna, Denzil Smith, Zafar Karachiwalla, Anu Menon, Joy Sengupta and Asif Beg.

Back at home in India the play touches upon some of the most important milestones in our struggle for independence like the Champaran agitation, the Dandi March, the massacre in Jalianwala Bagh, and the charkha as a weapon to fight the British. The pros and cons of the movement itself are discussed between the Mahatma (the inner voice) and Mohan.

The relationship of Gandhiji with Kasturba are brought to light by some incidents and dialogues. Important to note is the fact that Gandhiji was very direct and straight-forward regarding this. His vow of celibacy and the need to discuss it with his wife are also touched upon.

Neha Dubey, in the demanding role of Kasturba is like a breath of fresh air with her English showered with a Gujrati accent. She also portrays the later stages of the character’s life with the required change in body language and voice. She was my favorite in the play marked with stellar performances.

He had an effect on many Indian leaders of the time. The changes in Nehru and Sarojini are brought out quite well.

In my opinion the play suffered a little with too many black-outs in the second half, but those were inevitable to show different scenes. The set was done quite intelligently to aid this.
The play has some excellent repartees and evokes good humor too. It is an excellent and more importantly a memorable play even from the last rows of the balcony!!

(Partap Sharma's best known plays include "A Touch of Brightness", "Power Play", "Begum Sumroo" and "Zen Katha". He is also a novelist and no mean actor, who won the National Award in 1971 for his performance in Phir Bhi.)

Social Software

(published in edition 003)

(and Tata World magazine May 2006 edition)

Recent times have witnessed a deluge of ‘social sites’ on the Internet. And if you are reading this, in all probability you are a happy member of one of such websites as Orkut,, Flickr, Hi5, Friendster, Gazzag…the list is endless.These community websites are helping people across the globe stay connected. Such is their popularity that it has been the cause behind yet another revolution on the Internet, by the name of ‘social software’.
Taking it to another level are websites like ‘Second Life’: a 3D virtual World entirely built and owned by its residents where people live alternate lives.

On the outside, this looks like a simple and easy way to find your friends online, send messages to them and stay in touch. But a deeper look at it reveals amazing realities. It is leading to radical social change. In fact many researchers and psychologists are busy studying the psychosis of online social networks.

Let us look at the situation as a scientist would do. From the Random Graph theory, we know that if you take a set of nodes, like say people, and link them randomly, you will end up with a complex graph where anyone can reach anyone. In fact, the theory of six degrees of separation says anyone on this earth can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. The theory was first proposed in
1929 by the Hungarianwriter Frigyes Karinthy in a short story called Chains. Later, this was proved to be true through interesting experiments done in 1967 by American sociologist Stanley Milgram and later by Duncan Watts.

Watts' research and the advent of the computer/information age, has opened up new areas of inquiry related to six degrees of separation in diverse areas of
network theory such as power grid analysis, disease transmission, graph theory, corporate communication, and computer circuitry.

On more general terms, being on a ‘social site’ is almost like having another set of peers altogether. It also means gaining greater acquaintance with people you barely know otherwise. Also, from the graph theory (and common sense), people having larger number of friends can grow their networks faster because it means so many more connections from each node. So, like it is usual, the rich keep getting richer!

The ‘growth’ of the network occurs due to sparsely linked clusters of people. Studies have been done on ‘strength of weak ties’ which basically imply that your two best friends will know each other well and similar connections would lead to higher ‘cohesion’ in the group or in other words higher chances of interlinking of people and more people knowing each other. This is basic idea behind the ‘Friend of Friend’ type connections, in case you are familiar with them.
More importantly, these click-connections would eventually have everyone on the internet connected to everyone else! This would transform the way people think of cultures different from their own; leading to a more cohesive and tolerant world: a global village.
Well, that does seem a little too far away right now but it wouldn’t be surprising if companies start giving interview calls right away on an orkut or a friendster!! Hi5 to that!

Written in winter of 2006

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

SLUM DOGs & Millionaires

whats all this nonsense about the movie Slumdog Millionaire selling slums!

Ok.. actually this post was supposed to be a review of the AMAZING movie that SM is. And this was supposed to come even before the Golden Globe nominations. But now there is the incessant need for controversies for the news media and all so... they have a scoop here. The saddest part is that many 'experts' on TV channels admitted NOT having seen the movie but still went on to give their comments. Mister! if you haven't seen the movie, why the hell do you have to come on a TV show and tell us what you 'think' is there and what you 'think' is right!

Anyways, media will be media!
Yes, I saw the movie before its release... I plead guilty of having downloaded it, but I will make it up to the producers by watching it in the theatre (again). :)

First, let me clarify that the movie does not sell slums, it sells HOPE... and an amazing script, some excellent direction and very endearing performances by..... by..... the Child Artists... (bdw why does the cast list not include them) all of them were absolutely fabulous.

Second, I don't care what ANYONE says or believes about India, whether they think its a slum or an IT hub or a country of snake charmers, I DON'T CARE... because India is NONE of these and ALL of these.

India is India's soul, (that should not be so hard to digest!). And what the movie shows is a truth. But I say 'a' truth and not the 'only' truth. India exists at different levels... there is the India of prosperity, there is the India of caste-ism, there is the India of super-geniuses, there is the India of malnutrition and there is also the India of world class hotels and multinationals... so which India should be portrayed in a movie??

None. Don't even care to answer that question, coz its at the liberty of the artist to portray anything; real or imaginary.

One movie cannot create the India in the minds of the people of the world.

Watch SM for the story that signifies hope and opportunity. And not for what some 'gora' will think about us when he watches it. We don't care what you think, we know who we are!

There was no need for any controversy at all (like Freida Pinto said in an interview...) there is a scene where Jamal's elder brother shows a multi-story under construction and says... "see.. this used to be our slum." That's another truth.

In India, anything is possible.