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January 31, 2011

Best marketing practices - USA - Part - I

If you want to learn the flair of marketing you have to visit the Mecca of marketing the USA. USA is a place where everything in the world is marketed. Americans can market the things better than it where the idea or products originated. For example Yoga originated in India but it was made famous in the United States of America.

Cemetery space selling: A hard working South Asian Indian in California had a dapper visitor. The visitor introduced himself and said that he was selling space. The Indian asked him about the details. The sales man said he was selling cemetery space. The Indian recoiled in horror. Like al of us death is a taboo topic got the Indians. Death is something that is natural and it is inevitable. But no one thinks about it. But the sales man went on to give out philosophy. He said “who will take care of you when you move away (see he is not using the word death, Insurance sellers please note). You have to provide a decent burial for yourself. You can come for a visit and see your resting area yourself. We do have a installment scheme where you an pay monthly.

"You can use our service not only for the burial but annually too. We can see that agarbattis (excuse me he said agarbattis – this sales man has really done his home work). are lit on your Samadhi every year. You can a have a floral service too.”

The Indian was not all convinced. He tried putting away the brash sales man by asking him to meet him at a later stage. As the sales man started to pick up his things he gave a broad smile and said “our cemetery plots are according to vaastu (a Hindu tradition of space design to promote harmony with natural forces). I can see that you are given a north east facing space at no extra cost”. The Indian almost fainted at the depth of the salesman’s knowledge about his customer. The sales man even though not successful in transacting a sale proved a valid point about in depth call preparation before meeting the customer.

News paper advertisements

Masthead: This is the logo or the name of a newspaper that is published in a specific style and in specific font. For example the names of THE HINDU, THE DECCAN CHRONICLE or the TIMES OF INDIA are referred to as Masthead. As the name of the news paper is the one that is first noticed it is called the masthead.

Ear panels: Usually there are only small two advertisements that are published next to the Masthead. These are usually the height of the masthead and are of one column centimeter in width. As the name of the news paper is referred to as the masthead the advertisement are perceived as ears of the masthead and they are called ear panels.

Solus: The first page is the costliest real estate in the new paper. It is the first thing that the readers focus in the first thing in the morning. Usually there is only one advertisement that is allowed in the first page. As only one is allowed it is called the Solus (single). As there is no other advertisement allowed the newspaper will charge a 100% premium for placing an advertisement on the first page. The Solus is placed on the right hand side bottom of the first page.

NEWS: When asked how the word NEWS got originated most people are stumped for an answer. The answer is very simple. NEWS comes from North, East, West and South. NEWS gives us information about what is happening from all parts of the country and the world that is why it is called NEWS a acronym of the first letter from the words  North, East, West and South.

Advertorial: Most readers are very skeptical about advertisements. They are all seen as a pack of lies that the advertisers are thirsting down the throats of unsuspecting and gullible readers. The end result is that the advertisements are seen as nuisance and at best are barely tolerated. Most of the press advertisements are ignored. But the newspaper revenue comes from the advertisements.

So the newspapers have devised a system that hoodwinks the readers. They allow the advertisements in the form of news items. The entire advertisement reads liked a news item as if a news reporter is reporting business news.

But as there are watch dogs like the ASCI and the INS watching it with a hawk eye the newspaper puts a statutory warning at the end of the article and calls it the advertorial. It means an advertisement that reads like an editorial. Advertorials should be used with extreme caution and wisely as the readers catch up with the novelty of the concept and start treating them like regular advertisements.

January 28, 2011

Best Indian Sales Promotions

Sales promotion is that short term inducement given to the buyers to go and procure the product immediately. Given below are some innovative sales promotion techniques used by Indian companies.

CELLO: This Indian company that makes insulated products for daily use like lunch boxes and water bottles did a very unique sales promotion campaign. The campaign requested the customers to register with the company. All the registered participants were told that they might be receiving a call from the marketing department of CELLO.

The catch was that when the representative from the Cello company calls the customers has to say CELLO instead of HELLO. This led to rousingly funny situations where many people in Hyderabad were lifting their phone and saying CELLO instead of HELLO much to the bemusement of the regular callers. But the point was well made by CELLO and it gave all the registered customers a discount. A definite win-win and an example of what can happen if people think with clarity of purpose.

Point Detergent Powder: An Indian company that sadly no longer exists. Point was very famous with all youngsters in the seventies. Point detergent powder package carried board games, puzzles and other things (pictures of birds and animals) that kids loved to cut and keep.

One cut out that I keptfor a long time was the cut out of the cricket pitch with all the positions marked. Point gave us 11 small fielders to place and change according to their field positions. In the era of radio commentary it was a brilliant tool of making the listeners understand and enjoy the game of cricket.

 Cadbury’s Gems cricket game: In a country like India that is mad about cricket it is but natural that the next sales promotion tool also gets linked with the game of cricket. Cadbury’s gems came out with an idea of supplying the customer with a pop up bottle full of gems. The bottle can be used to play very innovative gamed of Indoor cricket. For cricket mad Indians who can play cricket even with a printed book (it is very essential that the book should have page numbers!) the ploy was a huge success.

Two large people on a Luna:In India Luna (a sort of motorized cycle) was very popular. It was cheap, easy to ride and gave good mileage. But the only problem was that they were considered to be fragile and for thin people. Luna came out with a campaign where they show cased two extremely big people riding on the same Luna. The message was loud and clear. Luna can take the load of two extremely large people. Customers who make booking on the same day were given a discount.

Kinetic Honda: Similarly Indians did not take very kindly to the concept of Auto start, gear less scooters. In their view the only macho scooter was the Bajaj Chetek. It was heavy, unwieldy, noisy, had to be kick started and above all had GEARS. Most people dismissed the Kinetic Honda as sissy scooter. They claimed that it was made of plastic and that it would disintegrate into pieces if it was driven for long distances.

To prove them wrong Kinetic Honda was put to the acid test by the Kinetic motors. They made the Kinetic Honda to go around in circles in a Pune Stadium for 24 hours without a break. The drivers used to change every two hours and while the drivers were changing the engine was kept on. Even the petrol was filled when the engine was running. Kinetic Honda proved all its detractors wrong by running without a hitch for 24 hours thus proving that it was a light weight, modern and technologically advanced scooter.

Best Indian Print Ads (LET TIMES OF INDIA OF WAIT, Ads that smell, ads that you can touch and feel, Talking press ads, Moving mazagine ads)

Advertisements are a very good way of expressing one’s creativity and the biggest challenge is to design a print advertisement keeping in mind the medium's cons which are the fleeting exposure, the clutter, the problem of cheap quality of paper and of printing. Let us examine 5 press advertisements that have stood out and become the talk of the town.

TIMES of INDIA: The old lady of Boribunder, TIMES OF INDIA always stood for innovation and bold thinking. So it was not a surprise to credit the top most innovation to this grand old lady of Indian Media. Most Readers were amused to see the masthead of TIMES OF INDIA become LET TIMES OF INDIA WAIT for ……………… The words LET and WAIT were of the same font and size of the mast head itself. .Most purists objected to the idea of the masthead becoming a part of a advertisement but like the adage goes “it is all about money - honey”. Even the old lady had to bow her head before the lucre of money.

SMELLING ADVERTISEMENTS: In many cases the press advertisements are visual in nature and leave the reader cold because he/she can't feel, touch and experience the product. One innovation that is very appealing is found in many foreign fashion magazines. The perfume and toiletries advertisements feature glossy photographs of models, perfumes and a patch of rub on. The reader can rub his finger on the rub on patch and smell his finger. And presto to he can smell the perfume. Talk about effective product demonstration. But care should be taken to see that the smell is nice and does not leak and spoil the entire magazine.

Telugu Diwali special publications over do the perfume part by dousing the entire magazine with Paneeru (a sort of perfume). The end result is a magazine that stinks and leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.

TOUCH AND SEE ADVERTISEMENTS: In the case of comparative advertisements it is very difficult to believe the veracity one's claim with another especially when the claims are based on perceptions that are very difficult to explain. Ariel tried a very innovative campaign to show that it washes better than its famous competitor. They claimed that their detergent is better than that of the competition by sticking small bits of cloth washed by its famous competitor and a small piece of cloth washed by Ariel itself. Needless to say the cloth bit washed by Ariel was cleaner, brighter and better looking. Like the saying seeking is believing.

TALKING ADVERTISEMENT: the biggest problem with the press advertisements are that they can't speak and they can't move. Both these issues have been addressed. First let us examine the talking advertisement . THE TIMES OF INDIA had featured the talking advertisement. That particular day’s edition of TIMES OF INDIA (Delhi edition) was split into two sections: a 26-page news section, and a 10-page wraparound.

The opening page of the wraparound carries this announcement: " THE TIMES OF INDIA and Volkswagen have created four pages of content as part of a special media innovation. Don’t miss reading and listening to this ‘speaking newspaper’.” On the last page of the wraparound is a full-page Volkswagen advertisement for its new model Vento.

As the page is opened a light-sensitive speaker—yes, a light-sensitive speaker— weighing no more than a mere 10-15 grams and stuck on the extreme left panel in the advertisement , belts out the line in a loop:

“Best in class German engineering is here. The new Volkswagen Vento. Built with great care and highly innovative features. Perhaps that’s why it breaks the hearts of our engineers to watch it drive away.

“The new Volkswagen Vento. Crafted with so much passion, it’s hard to let it go. 

“Volkswagen. Das Auto.”

Talking Press advertisement of Vento carried in TIMES OF INDIA 

THE MOVING PRESS ADVERTISEMENTS: In October 2008, to commemorate the magazine’s 75th Anniversary, Esquire published a limited edition digital cover that featured electronic ink with moving words and flashing images. In 2009, Esquire launched an augmented reality where actor Robery Dopney Jr’s avatar can be controlled using QR code barcodes printed in the magazine.

Esquire magazine Advertisement 

January 27, 2011

Marketing terms - TGIF, Pink slips, WYSIWYG, GIGO and Reverse snobbery

TGIF: Thank God It’s Friday. A small message that started flashing on the computer screens of geeks became a brand in itself. TGIF also became a sort of a build up in the offices for winding up for the week end. 

Pink Slips: The hated word has become the bye word for firing. The pink slip is the worker’s ultimate nightmare – being fired from the job without any warning and without any ceremony. It is a bang bang thank you madam!

WYSIWYG: What You See Is What You Get. Taken from the field of Information Technology. It means that the person gets what he sees. Nothing extra. Often cited in the service industry as the proof of delivery of what is seen and not what is imagined or perceived. One can always argue that WYSIWYG is the basic tenet of service and that the customer expects more than WYSIWYG. But in markets where WYSIWYG is not possible the delivery of What You See Is What You Get itself is seen as delivery of excellent service.

GIGO: Garbage in Garbage Out. It means that if the input is not good the output will equally be bad. In sales management this can be understood as - if the quality of selected sales people is not good, if they are not well motivated, trained and if they do not execute the sales process professionally and the output or the result which is sales is not going to be good.

Reverse snobbery is the phenomenon of looking unfavorably on perceived social elites – effectively the opposite of snobbery. For instance, poorer members of society may eventually consider themselves to be friendlier, happier, more honest or moral than richer members of the society, and middle-income members of society may stress their poorer origins.

For example when everyone starts to wear cheap ready-made suits the reverse snobs might start wearing shabby cotton or denim suits signaling that their suits are costly and are for one season only unlike cheap ready made suits that can be worn for many seasons.

January 25, 2011

World's best OOH advertisement (Hate dropped calls!)

Most people feel that television advertisements are the best when it comes to promoting the products. They feel that out of home (OOH) advertisements are to be despised and at best ignored. But Out Of Home or hoardings as they are popularly called have many advantages. 
  1. OOH is the only medium that does not come to the reader. The reader has to go to the OOH. In other words the people are forced in many cases to notice them. OOHS are placed in strategic locations.
  2.  OOH advertisements come with magnified appeals. The hoardings are very big in size. They are very much in the face and can attract immediate attention because of their huge size.
  3.  To the bored commuters OOH come as relief. They are a source of entertainment and information.
  4.  OOH is a great source of reminder advertising. The advertisement seen on the TV, read in the news paper gets reinforced with the OOH advertisement.
 But care should be taken to see that the OOH campaigns are visual in nature and topical. The best example of topical OOH advertisements is the campaign that is run by AMUL. The campaign has become so famous that people wait with baited breath to find out what is the topic that the AMUL girl will be focusing on.

Given below is one advertisement that I found on the internet. It had that Oomph appeal or the surprise element. It features people looking at a hoarding that says “Hate dropped (and next to the word dropped is a huge hole in the hoarding)”. At the base of the hoarding is the cutout of the word calls that has dropped from the hoarding to the ground. It takes a few seconds for the viewers to comprehend the advertisement which is “Hate dropped calls”. The art director has cleverly used the dropping of calls to literally drop the word itself from the hoarding to create very powerful visual imagery.

World's best advertisement for a social cause (stopping cigarette smoking)

The next in line of honor is an advertisement that I saw and remember as a student of MBA at Osmania University 26 years ago. The advertisement is given below for your perusal. This dramatic visual (hats off to the visualizer and the photographer) a study in simplistic clarity of thinking. 

It has a pistol with its magazine thrown open. Instead of six bullets there are six cigarettes. The gun is fired and one of the cigarettes is thrown out of the gun. The message is simple and clear. Cigarettes can kill and they can kill as certainly and as effectively and efficiently as a bullet that is fired from the gun.

This is one dramatic message that hits the jugular. Every smoker knows that each time he smokes he is reducing his life span by 6 minutes but the visual representation of the gun and the cigarettes brings the horrors of cigarettes smoking into the conscious mind and makes it stay right there. It will sit like a fat Sumo wrestler in the conscious mind and will pinprick the smoker conscience every time he smokes. Kudos to the creator and the advertising agency.
  • Keeping to the topic of cigarette smoking I remember the discussion we had in our class of statistics in my MBA course. Our statistics professor was saying about probability and remarked that there is a very high probability of smokers getting throat cancer. One of the student objected saying that his grandfather was a smoker and that he is hale and healthy at an age of 85. He was hinting that smoking is actually good for health.
  • Our Professor in statistics was a smart cookie. He said “Ravi, let us take the busiest place in Hyderabad which is Abids. And the busiest time is 1200 hours (mid afternoon). Crossing the road from one side to the other at 1200 hours at Abids is risky but mostly safe if you are cautious. What would happen if you are blindfolded and attempt to cross the road?”
  • The class roared in laughter at the response as the student sullenly replied “most probably I would meet with an accident” 
  • The Professor quickly added "you got it right. If your eyes are open that is if you are not smoking in most cases you will not get cancer. If you are not fortunate you might still get cancer (the case of the pedestrian crossing the road carefully but still meeting with an accident because of unruly driving or unexpected turn of events). 
  • But if you are blind folded that is if you are a smoker you will most probably meet with an accident. In other words you will most probably get cancer. In very rare cases if you are lucky you might manage to reach the other  side unharmed inspite of being blindfolded. But the probability of that happening is very slim. In probability parlance your grand father is the lucky blindfolded person who dashed from one side of Abids to the other and still did not meet with an accident. Thank your stars for the good fortune”. 
  • Crushed by the clever and logical explanation and suitably christened Ravi sat down.

World's best car advertisement ( Rollys Royce by David Ogilvy)

Lots of time the practicing managers especially in the field of advertising think that they need to be verbose. Frankly they are not to be blamed at all. The advertisers (read clients) often mistake that more is merrier. They think that just because they have paid for the space they expect the advertising agency to fill it up with matter, many visuals and lots of explanation. The end result the advertisements appear drab and look like news items. The beauty lies in being Spartan and frugal with words, visuals and create the feeling of space and deliver the message without any clutter. Seedhe baat dil pe hamla karre (simple words hit the heart). 

Case in point is what happened to David Ogilvy easily the most famous and recognized person in advertising throughout the world. He was given the task of creating an advertisement for Rolls Royce and try as he could he was not able to create an advertisement that won the heart of the CEO of Rolls Royce. The Rolls Royce CEO kept insisting that the advertisements were not up to the standards of Rolls Royce and that of Ogilvy himself

After long agonizing days and nights Ogilvy created a classic advertisement for Rolls Royce with the magical copy and headline "At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock" Of course the body copy had lots of matter but remember this advertisement was created in an another era and time. That was the time when readers had time. But in today’s world of unlimited information the readers have very little time and the advertisement has to be short and simple. Keep it Short and Simple

January 24, 2011

Ending on the winning side always!

There is always emphasis in management to be on the winning side. The process is not as important as winning. This is where the Japanese and the Western ethos differ. The Japanese always believe that the process is more important if not more than the winning itself. For example the process of making tea in Japan takes a whooping two hours and the side show is the process of drinking it. 

Some ways by which you can always win at any cost.
  1. You could ask the other person “There is a cat in front of a cat and there is a cat at the back of the cat. Tell me how many cats are there?” If the other person says three cats, you can say two and if he says two you can say three!
  2. You could ask “How many legs does a Donkey and its offspring have?” If the answer is eight say laughingly “Donkey (that is you) and your son will have four legs”. If the other person says four legs, say innocently “I never meant you. Donkey will have four legs and its son will have four. So the total is eight”
  3. But in some case this type of strategy will back fire. A teacher pointed a stick at an errant student and said “at the end of the stick is the biggest fool in the world”. The student very innocently said “which end sir?”

January 22, 2011

Hyderabad Exhibition (Numaish) turns 73!

 Zinda Tilismath Stall at the Exhibition

Young men ogling the pretty girls, hassled home makers haggling away to glory with the ever smiling shopkeepers, Hyderabadis enjoying biryani on the sprawling lawns are blissfully unaware of way they are helping the larger cause that the exhibition or the Numaish espouses.

The Hyderabad Exhibition had begun in 1938, when 100 Osmania University students had opened stalls in Public Gardens (since then the exhibition has been shifted to the large exhibition grounds in Nampally) for the purpose of promoting business and industrial exhibits in Hyderabad city.

In the seventies, eighties and nineties when there were no shopping malls and limited entertainment options, Hyderabad exhibition was the ultimate destination for local populations of Hyderabad and the surrounding districts. The onset of the New Year was welcomed with gusto and the citizens made a beeline to the exhibition grounds.

Since then exhibition has lost its sheen and the ongoing agitation of Telangana had meant that the crowds are thin this year. But to revisit the nostalgia there is no place like the Hyderabad exhibition. We children used to wait with baited breath as my father used to write out our name, parents names and ours addresses on small pieces of paper and place them  in our pockets (those were the days when there were no cell phones). We were severely warned not to stray away from our parents). The mournful wailing of the Hyderabad exhibition radio about lost children used to reinforce the strong tenet not to stray. The exhibition radio had very heavily Urdu accented announcers. The advertisements of Zinda Tilismath still rings in my ears.

We used to wander around wide eyed clutching the precious 10 or 20 rupees my parents had granted us. We used to debate as how to use the money. Should we buy something of permanent use or should the money be splurged it on mouth watering sweets and eats that were so beckoning?

We used to go from stall to stall always very careful not to step on the railway tracks on which the exhibition train ran.  Listen with rapt attention as the stall owners and sales people explained about products unimaginable and out of reach for most middle class Hyderabadis. As a youngster I remember listening very carefully to a sales man from Iran and casually asking the flabbergasted salesman if I could have  home delivery of two Iranian carpets costing a jaw drooping Rs 5,00,000/-. Just to put things in perspective I was earning a royal salary of Rs 1,800/- per month. The year -1988.

The stalls that were most popular were the once that were handing out freebie calendars.  Governmental agencies like Girijan cooperative society, APSRTC and others used the Hyderabad exhibition as the venue for giving publicity to their activities. Exhibition also was the place to get free medical checkup. 

The entertainment area was very popular and featured rides like the giant wheel. The eateries cost a bomb. One can hear the wails of hungry children being dragged away by reluctant parents. Parents who were shocked at the obscene high prices that the eateries were demanding.

All in all a fantastic experience only marred by the autorickshaw drivers extracting their pound of flesh (exorbitant auto fares sometimes four times the normal fare) from the already tired visitors. 

On the other side the Hyderabad exhibition society will spend 70 per cent of the Rs 14 crore it expects to earn from the sale of entry tickets each priced at Rs 10/- and by selling the space to traders through the 45-day event on furthering education and providing scholarships to students, mostly girls. The Hyderabad exhibition society helps 25,000 students this way every year.

The Andhra Pradesh government has extended the lease of the exhibition grounds to the society till 2052.The traders and exhibitors this year have put up more than 2,500 stalls, including those by traders from Pakistan, Iran and Bhutan.

Keeping pace with the changing times, the exhibition society plans to build a huge mall on the exhibition grounds. The society also plans to build three convention centres, two marriage halls to seat 5,000 and underground parking to accommodate 1,000 vehicles.

The Hyderabad Exhibition Society runs 18 colleges, including junior colleges and engineering colleges. 28 lakh students have been benefited by the efforts of the Exhibition Society which has spent about Rs 3,000 crore in its 71 year old history.

January 20, 2011

Touch screen Magic

There is a new item on the television channels about Hotels in Singapore that are offering a very unique feature in their menu rather on the table itself. The biggest problem about the  best hotel in the world is the huge crowd. The crowd adds to the ambience but mean slow service. 

Customers have two choices take it or leave it. Most customers stay back but the mood is gone by the time the food arrives. The solution - the Singapore hotels have hit it right on the head. Each table has a touch screen which is very user friendly. The entire menu is displayed. The interactiveness means that the customers can see the menu, select the items, and see the process of preparation of the dish.

Surprise of surprises the customer can have a conversation with the chef himself. Once the ordering is done one gets a message, at the table. One can even customize the food to his or her taste. This aspect becomes very important as many of us are allergic to many items. Readers would be surprised to know that many people are allergic to Peanuts. Yes you are reading it right, Peanuts or groundnuts as they are popularly called.

Touch screens also mean that table waiters can be eliminated. The sign at the delivery counter announced the number of the table once the food is prepared. The customer can go and pick up their order. Way to go Singapore hotels!

Book Review - How Starbucks saved my life - Part - III

But at various times Gill appears to be very naïve and pretending to be the most innocent person in the world. He does not appear to know the way the poor live in the USA and that for most people life itself is a struggle. For an advertising person who prides himself on being up to date about everything in life his naivety about the general things in life is a little too hard to believe.

Gill comes across as a person who tells a very gripping story about two giants in the USA, JWT and Starbucks. They are a study in contract. One is a huge advertising agency and the other is the brash confident newcomer from a new generation. The employees in JWT are painted in hues of black and grey where as the people at Starbucks are lily white. A little too hard to believe. And to say that Starbucks provides free health insurance for all its employees and gloat about it was too much of a syrupy gulab jammun to swallow.

Gill observations are insightful and are funny at times. His take on the late coming of Linda smacks of wit. He says quote” on the morning of our breakfast, Linda shows up late. Another bad sign. In corporate America the higher your status the tardier you are” unquote. And his take on every client becoming  an expert, two minutes after listening to advertising presentation is  a real one. As an ex advertising man myself I can vouch for the fact that in advertising business every client and his employees are experts. They are very knowledgeable and can take design and media plan decisions very easily and very casually. 

The real insight in the entire book is the working environment and the type of care that the author says Starbucks takes of its employees aka “partners” and its customers. Starbucks allows any one liberal use of its restrooms including people who are not its customers. This comes as a surprise as even the best malls and shopping complexes have not so clean bathrooms in India.

The work ethic of Starbucks is nicely detailed. The passion of Starbucks towards coffee is infectiously and one can almost feel aroma of the coffee coming out of the book!

Even though the book appears to be a pitch for Starbucks and its way of life it has many lessons for the managers to be. Of how the life can go from riches to riches and from riches to rags. Whatever one wants to say at the end “How Starbucks has saved my life” will remain as a motivational book about a person who lost is all and has rediscovered it. Not the discovery of material wealth but discovery of being happy with the work he did and does. That’s one takeaway I am going to cherish. 

January 18, 2011

Book Review - How Starbucks saved my life - Part - II

How he accepts the job and learns step by step and becomes a good employee is the rest of the story. His terror at handling the cash counter is graphically told. He is terrified of the cash counter. To avoid the cash counter he becomes the best toilet cleaner at Starbucks. He throws himself into work and becomes the proverbial funny guy. He is well liked by his colleagues and he learns to respect them as they are and not based on their qualifications or by fancy designations. At the end he touchingly describes how he likes his job at Starbucks better than the one at JWT. He feels more respected and more needed. Gill is finally at peace with himself. But he faces a new challenge. He would have to relocate and be a part of the Starbucks in his own locality. 

The beauty of this book lies in the fact that it bring to life the horror that many of us are pretending does not exist or that it will not happen to us – the fear of losing it all; that too when one is not in one’s prime youth. Losing a job in the late forties or early fifties. That is a stage when the employee slows down physically but is at the prime intellectually. He might not be looking young, fit and fresh but he has so much to offer. So should this axe called downsizing, right sizing or any other fancy term for denying someone his job, life and pride be wielded so mercilessly?

What happens to the employee when he loses his job? No one else wants him and it is a downhill slide from then on. But luckily in “How Starbucks saved my life” a way out is shown. Fictional and as clichéd as it sounds it is still a solution. Gill plots the story with fine acumen. But the frequent flashbacks to the past interrupt the flow of the narrative. But there are lots of lessons to learn. Lessons on how not to rest on one’s glory. Of how to recognize the danger signals of redundancy in the organization. Of being aware of what is fashionable and what is not fashionable.

The author seems to have a love-hate relationship with women. He appears to have very mixed feelings about them. He has stormy relationships with all of them including his wife, his mistress and his children. The only women with whom he has a normal working relationship is with Crystal his boss at Starbucks. I suspect that Gill has subordinated himself to Crystal as he was scared of losing his job.

January 17, 2011

Made in India!

The tags that come with products are great motivators. As children we were very excited about the tag made in USA. One of my friend cleared my mental cow webs. He said “Anil, USA does not mean United States of America. It simply means Ulaas Nagar Sindhi Association". Ulaas Nagar is a suburb near Mumbai and it is famed for making dirt cheap fake and spurious products. 

Made in USA or phoren (foreign) was so much in demand that I am reminded of a R.K.Laxman's joke. An ophthalmologist is examining a patient. He says “there is a foreign body in your eye. As it is a foreign body would you like to retain it?" 

Once all the industrialized countries in the world were debating as to which was the most industrially developed country in the world. They decided to hold a contest. As a part of that contest Japan made a fine platinum tube so fine that it took a microscope to see the fineness of design. Then the platinum tube was sent to Germany. Germans made a fine hole in the platinum tube. The Americans to whom the platinum tube was next sent to, made a nice jacket for the platinum tube. This jacket snuggly fitted the platinum tube. 

Finally the platinum tube was sent to India. The Indians were racking their brains to find out what could be done further. The Industries secretary came out with a bright idea “Let us simply carve the tag - Made in India on the platinum tube and send it". That is native Indian intelligence for you. India is a country where a pink liquid would be passed off as coca-cola and that to in a coca cola bottle. And surprisingly the perpetuators of this type of crime get away with it!

January 16, 2011

Indian made rocket! (Product Obsolescence)

NASA had outsourced its rocket production. The company to bag the contract was an automotive company from India. That company executed the project in time and sent the rocket to the NASA centre in USA. 

On the day of the launch to the utter dismay of the scientists the rocket never lifted off. Dismayed at the turn of events the NASA officials phoned the Indian automotive company. The production chief laughed and said "Sir the solution is very simple. The rocket that you have is an Indian rocket. You need to bend the rocket shake it vigorously so that the fuel is evenly mixed and then straighten the rocket and fire. The rocket would surely get launched”. The NASA officials did what they were told and the rocket got launched. Finally it was a happy ending. 

Jokes apart why is that we Indians have been using defective and shoddy products for many decades? The old and wily Ambassador car is a 1954 Phillip Morris model. This dinosaur of a car is still is found on the roads and more so in Kolkata. Toyota off loaded its Indonesian old model called Kijang (1977-1980) on the Indian public. As Indian did not have a choice they lapped up the old model and made it a huge success.

Why was it that the old faithful Indian scooters did not work unless they were bent every day in the morning and shaken vigorously? The inconvenience of wrestling with a heavy scooter every morning was the reason why the Kinetic Honda and later Honda Activa became popular with the Indian middle class and with the women.

Same is the case with the mopeds in India which gave a screeching sound when braked. It was heart wrenching to hear the agony of the brakes. More than the rider the person riding next to the moped used to have a heart attack hearing the wail of the anguished engine! Wake up Indian manufacturers, give us the latest and the most innovative products and we will give you the moon literally. We Indians have the most money in the world and the youngest population in the universe!

January 15, 2011

Food perceptions in India and in the USA

Food is a topic that fascinates everyone. Food for thought, something to chew upon, the belly rules the mind, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Many of our thought processes are food related.

In India eating heavy food is favored. Heaviness in the stomach is taken as an indicator of eating healthy. Inevitably that means eating of oily food like Paratas and Pooris soaked in ghee and butter. The vegetarians  feel that they are losing out on proteins and end up consuming lots of cheese  (paneer) and dairy products. This coupled with sedentary habits have made most middle class urban Indians fat.

Indians are all right with the concept of being FAT. FAT in India is prosperity.  A well fed person is viewed as Katha Peeta Kandan Ka aadmi (from a family that eats and drinks well). Fat children are adored and called “Murphy babies” (After a commercial of Murphy radio that featured a plumb child). In short in India we expect rich and famous to be big and fat and poor to be vey skinny and bony. FAT is rich and skinny is poor.

This type of ignorance about food has a very serious effect on the Indians. As it is Indians are genetically prone to heart diseases and wrong eating habits are pushing them vey close to the breaking point. The alarming signs are already being felt - Indians will have the highest number of heart related problem in the world. They will also have the highest number of people suffering from diabetics on this planet.

On the other side we have a country like USA where being slim is so much a part and parcel of peoples’ psyche. Entire lives are spent on craving for the hour glass figures. This obsession for thinness has led to disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia Nervosa, compulsive over eating and Binge eating.

In USA FIT is in and FAT is out. People exercise at all times during the day including mid afternoon. There is a very huge demand for all products and equipments that promise thin figures. Food is also driven by the same psyche and urges. In USA the food that is nutritious and less fattening is expensive. Junk food is cheap. Here lies the paradox. The Fast food that is served by MacDonald and Chinese restaurants is cheap but is less nutritious. Poultry eggs are priced normally but yolkless eggs are at a premium price. This means that in USA the rich and famous flout their rock hard six pack bodies and the poorest of the poor have become fat. Being fat in the USA is seen as a curse. Fat people are seen as lazy and get less job offers compared to normal (thin) competitors.

“Have breakfast like an emperor, lunch like a king and dinner like a pauper” What a wonderful saying. My father always says “get up from the dining table when you are still feeling hungry”. Keep your stomach light. Light stomach would mean more activeness and more activeness means less sleepiness!