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July 22, 2018

Jyothi Bhavani - Gunfoundry - Bottom of the Pyramid - Sindhi Colony - Wheel of retailing - Common sense is not common!

Was at Jyothi Bhavani yesterday. It is a small Bandi at Gunfoundry, Abids, Hyderabad. On Friday I was explaining the concept of bottom of the pyramid and what a lovely example on Saturday. That is why I love marketing. It is easily demonstrable by illustrations.
This astonishing Bandi was serving mouth watering Vada Pav for just 10/- rupees. Me and Y. Srinivas Rao had two each and by the time we finished ours there was a sale of nearly 10 more! Mostly people, rushing on their jobs and school children.
Bhavani has cleverly identified its segment, customers including children whose impulse purchase cost is Rs 10/-. And there is a similar places close by where hot and piping veg biryani is sold at Rs 20/-.
Sindhi colony bandis were famous for Vada Pav. They were dishing out Vada Pao at Rs 10/-. Now they have priced themselves at Rs 25/-! Proving the wheel of retailing concept true, customers will come but slowly start looking for alternatives which might include MacDonald whose burgers start at Rs 39/-.
A small eatery cum take away centre near my house is manned by a surly owner who frowns on her customers like a teacher frowns on her errant school children.
But customers being customers, mostly software professionals take the flak as they are not adept at preparing evening snacks or are plump lazy!
Our 'lady of the evening snacks' bulldozes every one with her suspicious looks and most buckle under her wrath.
Just the other I visited her shop along with Madhusudan Kota who wanted to buy bellam jilebi. Our lady was at her surly best.
A meek guy in front of us asked for punugulu (a sort of snacks) and said that he wanted them for Rs 10/-). The lady said "At our shop a plate of punugulu are Rs 30/- and half plate is Rs 15/-". Rubbing salt in the wound, she added with a snigger "what will you get for Rs10/-".
The guy was stunned and his eyes started to water. The lady threw in 5 or 6 punugulu and handed it out to him as if she was she was doing him a favour.
The guy was humiliated. The place serves unlimited chutneys that the customers can serve themselves which is the only USP of the tiffin centre along with the proximity.
But the customer was a gentleman. He served himself with a very limited amount of chutney and rushed out of the place. Gone for ever. Lady, you have lost yourself three customers for a life time. YOU JUST HAVE PROVED "COMMON SENSE IS NOT COMMON"! WELL DONE LADY, WAY TO GO!

June 21, 2018

Boring FIFA World Cup Matches - Food for thought - Is the world's most beautiful game doing enough to attract viewers interest!

And you thought that world was a fair place - People shouting from the tops of roofs wishing so should understand that fairplay and meritocracy are things are used conveniently and as and when needed. Sample this. The world's most popular game Football's world cup is on and there are RESERVATIONS IN PLACE even for countries playing in the world cup. 

For the not so sports inclined readers there are a total of 32 teams playing in the FIFA world cup and they are divided into eight groups of four teams each. The four teams play a round robin league where they play each of the other teams once. 

The top two teams from each group progress to the group of sixteen or the pre-quarter finals .And from that stage every match is a knock out with the winning team  progressing and the losing team getting eliminated. 

Simple Meritocracy rules say that the best 32 teams should play the world cup. But sadly that is not possible as FIFA is a political body and has to pander to its VOTE BANK.

9th        placed   -           Chile,
17th                   -           Netherlands,
18th                   -           Wales,
19th                   -           Italy
25th                   -           USA
26th                             Austria
28th                   -           Slovakia
29th                   -           Northern Ireland
30th                   -           Romania
31st                    -           Republic of Ireland
32nd     placed   -           Paraguay not playing .

What is galling is champion teams like Chile and Italy not playing.

And playing are

Serbia                -           34th
Australia           -            36th
Iran                    -           37th,
Morocco            -           41st
Egypt                 -           45th
Nigeria               -           48th
South Korea      -            57th
Japan                 -            61st,
Saudi Arabia      -           67th Place

Coming at the tail is Russia at a fantastic rank of 70! And they are hosts and they need to be accommodated.

The paradox is all the teams from Serbia to Russia are simply to fill in numbers and get eliminated in the group stage itself. But because of the quota policy we get to see "blink you see, blink you miss the action' football matches which are very boring. Food for thought FIFA!

June 12, 2018

Marketing lesson for the day Advertisement we have been waiting for - Pretty 24

This I feel is the advertisement that we all have been waiting for. Pretty 24 hits all whitening creams right in the solar plexus! Coming of age of Indian advertising and hitting where it hurts the most. It is time we Indians don't feel inferior about our colour, rather we should celebrate our colour for which most westerners pay a fortune to get and call it tanning! We Indians are naturally tanned.

May 29, 2018

Marketing lesson for the day: Common sense is not common – Kohinoor’s - Meeta Pan, Kala Khatta, Juicy Strawberry and Silky Chocolate

My often repeated idiom -  Common senses is not very common. Kohinoor has introduced a new set of Condoms and to build up excitement and awareness of its new offerings, it gave them very saucy names, Meeta Pan, Kala Khatta, Juicy Strawberry and Silky Chocolate.

On the face of it, my readers might ask me, what’s the big deal? It is the worst deal. Kohinoor has every right to name the product as it likes and it is up to the Customers to like the products or not. But the product display in a medical shop raises the hackles!

As usual it was Madhusudan Kota who brought it to my notice. Let us remember it is not at a place that is secluded and away from the prying eyes of small children. But the display is right at the POS and very much in the face.

The product names appear innocuous but are very close to Meeta pan a toffee, Kala Khatta is a brand of ice-cream and worst of all Strawberry and silky chocolates look like brands of chocolates. Product categories that belong to the children and names that they are familiar with.  

What happens if the children demand these products from the parents? Imagine the embarrassment a mother would face if her small son or daughter ask for them seeing the product display! How does she explain the products to her inquisitive children?
Customers should not be put through such embarrassing situations, Kohinoor. Use some other media and don’t let your products embarrass people. In the modern world the possibility of a loyal customer changing into a virtual vigilante is just a Facebook post or a photo share away! You could become viral for all the wrong reasons!

May 26, 2018

Marketing Lesson for the day: Real Me from Vivo - Mark of desperateness!

My students always ask me “why are you so fascinated with Marketing?” It is the only area where changes happen every day and one can observe and learn. Observation can pay rich dividends and one of the sharpest observers is Madhusudan Kota my ex colleague at SSIM. Kota is pursuing his PhD under my guidance.

Kota has just send me a photo. Take a look. This is the new Mobile phone offering from Vivo and its name ‘Real Me’. Innocent branding or cute name. No way Sir!

This can be called “Desperate Marketing”. Generally, such desperate tactics are indulged by local or even micro level competitors trying to cash on the brand names of their famous competing brands by aping their names. Examples galore; Coolgatte, Nirwa, National Panasound, Adibas, Black Labial, Coma, Saniya an many more. To get more fun and knowledge follow the link.

When small players do it, we can all laugh and say ‘desperateness of a small player’. Those are counterfeit products and customers can avoid buying them. But when Vivo does it, it appears sinister. Look at the font it looks like Red Mi.

For all the hype created by VIVO with its association with IPL 11. Red Mi is the king when it comes to online sales. And everything is fair in love and war and Vivo goes for the kill and names its product Real Me. I am not impressed. How would Red Mi retaliate? Your guess is as good as mine. But my two bits of advice to Red Mi -  Don’t do anything. Be quite and serene. Imitation is the best form of flattery.

May 20, 2018

Marketing lesson for the day: Confused Cinema Celebrities! - Switch to active Life style (Protinex) from Thums Up. I AM CONFUSED!

I was having lunch and was watching Dookudu at the same time. An advertisement was being beamed during the break. And it had the Prince of Telugu cinema, Mahesh Babu propagating the virtues of a healthy drink “Protinex”. He went on to say that Protinex is very good for people and warned us all “Glibly” that other protein drinks that we are drinking are not good and that we a should drink only Protinex.

“Wonderful, Prince”, I said to myself “very smart and very good. Till today you have been the brand ambassador of Thums Up have been asking up or rather goading us all to drink Thumps Up and be adventurous. Now you yourself are saying that other protein drinks are not good. What about soft drinks, especially Thumps Up? Does that mean that your earlier endorsement of Thums up was wrong, or is both good drinks good and should we drink both drinks simultaneously”.

Oh Celebrity endorsers, have common sense. Your audience is watching and seeing the laughing stock that you are all becoming! Try to build a brand and a brand image that is long lasting. Once you start endorsing all the products that approach you, your loyal fan base and even general public will stop believing in you. It could be the death knell for the brands that you endorse!

May 13, 2018

Marketing lesson for the day: bumbling Hyderabad Metro

Hyderabad Metro along with other Metros is missing ways and means of garnering eye balls. Unlike other metros, Hyderabad Metro’s concourse is at a different level (level1) and the platform is on a different level (level 2). HMR says 70,000 to 80,000 people are utilizing their service every day.

The retail outlets are not ready, the billboards in the platform are not totally let-out and I have never seen any product promotions take place during my travel. Two days ago, ‘The New Indian Express newspaper’ was being given free. But sadly no one was picking up a copy! The Reason, there was no notice saying ‘pick me up’ and there was no-one from ‘The New Indian Express’ to hand out the free copy.

I did pick up a copy and most other passengers were throwing curious glances at me. Except for air travellers, none of the other passengers were used to picking up a free copy of stacked newspapers. They were under the impressions that the newspaper was not free and that they would be asked to pay. Good experiment but the entire effort was wasted due to wrong execution.

Except for the super travel experience, Hyderabad Metro does not offer any chance or excuse to stay and linger. And marketing is all about stickiness. There is hardly any reason for anyone to stick around. If people stick around, the stations would appear crowded and that would create a buzz, action, popularity and of crowds. Because of unimaginative marketing, the metro stations look deserted and frankly are frighteningly lonely spaces for girls and women. There is hardly any vibrancy.

And to top it all Hyderabad Metro rail has introduced ladies only restricted seating area. It is a very retrograde move. I have travelled in many metros including BART (Bay area Rapid Transport) in California bay area, Bangkok Metro, Delhi Metro, Bangalore Metro and in Chennai Metro. No other metro except Hyderabad has restricted ladies only seating.

The ladies only seating area separators look shabby and tacky. I have observed many times that there is space in the ladies only seating area and many women sit in the unrestricted area while many men including senior citizens are left standing. Somehow it makes for a very depressing sight. So technically even if the reserved seating is free, men can’t enter that space. Definitely, have separate seating area for women but the divider mars the Hyderabad Metro claim of ‘Global form of high speed travel’.

Similar experiment was tried out in Hyderabad city buses where literally a door was installed to divide the women’s seating from the men’s seating area. The idea was an utter flop and it was hastily withdrawn. So like a proverbial fool, Hyderabad Metro is rushing into something when one needs to tread with caution! It is not the case of once bitten twice shy! Keep making one mistake after another and hope that committing many mistakes will finally result in one correct result or an outcome.

And to top it all there is talk to have ‘a women only station’. Excuse me ‘what do you mean women only station?’. And Pray! what should the men who want to get down or get into the metro from that particular station do? Are they supposed to go to the next station? If it was not so silly, it would have been a good joke.

May 12, 2018

Marketing story of the day: 21 gun salute to the power of marketing - Sind Bakery, Karachi Bakery and Pardise Biryani.

Today on a market visit I saw a board that said “Sind Bakery” shop in Secunderabad. This is in direct competition to “Karachi Bakery” the now famous bakery and biscuit brand from Hyderabad.
This led to an interesting discussion with my PhD student Mr. Madhusudan Kota. Kota was of the opinion that Sind was trying to cash on the name Karachi and trying to piggy ride Karachi’s popularity and try to build as me too brand.
Quite an interesting thought but I beg to disagree. Karachi the bakery and biscuit brand has nothing to do with the name KARACHI the port city of Pakistan. It is a long standing bakery that got first established from Mozzamzahi market.
It became known for its fresh mouth-watering puffs, pastries, cakes and biscuits. The story goes that all items are freshly baked and left over food items are distributed to the poor and the needy at the bakery closing time.
It was clever branding, and even more cleverer franchising and giving wings to the brand Karachi that made it a brand to reckon. Sind Bakery will have to create its own market space and not try to hitch a free ride along with Karachi.
Paradise Biryani has now become synonymous with Hyderabad and Hyderabadi biryani. Readers will be surprised to know that brand Paradise is quite a recent phenomenon.
Paradise was the name of a cinema hall and Paradise cafe was a canteen that served the cinema audience snacks during the movie interval.
Fact of the matter is that till late nineties Paradise was quite low in the pecking order as far popularity of Hyderabad biryani was considered. The top draw was Alfa biryani, followed by Garden restaurant biryani, Madina hotel biryani , Shadab hotel biryani and then it was Paradise Biryani.

Where-as all the others remained wedded to traditions, it was Paradise that embraced modern marketing and propelled itself to becoming almost synonymous with Hyderabadi food and became one of the most sought after city attractions to visit. Not bad for a brand that started out as a cinema hall canteen. 21-gun salute to power of marketing.

May 09, 2018

Caveat Emptor - Marketing lesson for the day - Laser Control 3 blade and Razor!

Marketing story of the day: I am fascinated by marketing. Today (09-05-2018) I bought Laser control 3 razar along with 3 cartridges. At Rs 30/-, I thought it was a great deal. The package said it all. Control three, Triple blade and nice imagery of three cartridges.

When I opened the cartridge at home, I was in for a surprise. There were only two cartridges and one very clear one cartridge space was kept blank. Not very smart. On the front in very small letter written : 2. Buyers beware, Caveat emptor!

Beauty in Simplicity - Marketing lesson for the day - Jet airlines celebrates 25 years of flying.

There is beauty in simplicity. Jet airlines was celebrating 25 years of flying in India on 6th May 2018. This was the logo adorning the seat in front of me on my flight from Pune to Hyderabad on 8th May 2018. What a dramatic design. It took my breath away. 

But at the same time a small thought came in my mind. What if, what only if Jet airlines made a cute memorabilia and gifted all the passengers who flew with them this particular week. What good will they would have generated!

And if they are so cost conscious they could have offered it at 25/- rupees, 125/- rupees or at 225/-. Get my point. Jet's offering would have sat on many decision makers table and it would have been great branding. What only if!

April 11, 2018

Brilliant marketing or a gimmick! - Free shopping

Brand factory from Big Bazaar has come out with an offer – “Free shopping”. All of us must be licking our jowls, free is the trigger that all of us love. There is no free lunch in this world. There are lots of catches.

“The offer is this - buy goods worth Rs 5000/- and pay only Rs 2000/- and get even that back. Rs 500 worth merchandise, 1000/- shopping vouchers and Rs 500/- cash back from Big Bazaar e-wallet”

Let us remember

Brand Factory is a commercial enterprise, they need the sale and that too they need a profit. So even at Rs 2000/- they will make profit

There is an entry fee, Rs 100 and Rs 250/- so window shoppers are discouraged and that is extra money for Brand Factory

The entry fee will be deducted from the free stuff.

So let us take what we pay, we pay exactly Rs 2,000/- and Big Bazaar expects to make atleast Rs 200/- per purchase (10% margin)

As we can assume that most goods would be over priced by atleast 100% so our goods that we purchase for Rs 5000/- are actually worth only Rs 2,500/-. Brand Factory would also push its in-house brands mark-ups could even be up to 300%. So when we pay Rs 2000/- that goods could be worth only Rs 1500/- to Rs 1600/- to big Bazaar.

What is being returned. Rs 2000/- is already less by Rs 100/- (remember the entry fee).

The Rs 500/- worth merchandise is worth only may be Rs 200/-. Shopping vouchers are for high priced items like a hair salon where it would be redeemed only for a purchase much above the Rs 1000/- voucher given that is could be redeemed if the bill is atleast Rs 10,000 (may be Brand Factory even gets a cut from the hair salon).

The Rs 500/- cash back from the e-wallet is tied up with lots of other payments that we make and I am sure that brand factory will be able to get a loyal clientele and also get commission from the party to which we are making digital payments.

In all it looks like a good marketing strategy from Brand factory let us see if it succeeds or remains a marketing gimmick.  

January 30, 2018

26 ways to success - A to Z series - " A to Z, the series concludes! " article published in The Hans India on 5th August 2016

A to Z, the series concludes!

Given below are all the attributes that were discussed in the last 26 weeks.

Attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling about something. Attitude, especially positive attitude is that intangible asset that needs to be brought to the table. When the things get tough, the tough need to get going.

Behaviour is the way one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others. Man is a social entity and he can’t survive by himself. He needs the society and society needs him. It is a symbiotic relationship. We are known by our dress and address. Dress is what we wear and how we wear it. Address is what we say and how we say it. It is not as much what we say that matters rather it is the way we say that makes a difference.

Creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas to create something different or being inventive. It is not doing different things, it is doing things differently.

Determination is the firmness of purpose. The firmness of purpose and the single minded pursuit of that goal have to become an all-consuming passion. So much so that one should become impervious to pursuit of other mundane activities. 

Enjoying is to take delight or pleasure in an activity or occasion.  If a person’s hobby becomes his job that person is destined to excel.

Feeling is an emotional state or a reaction like a feeling of Joy. It is the emotional side of someone’s character; emotional responses or tendencies to respond. Feelings are everything in life. We need to express ourselves and express without inhibitions. Feelings are what separate us from robots.

Generosity is showing a readiness to give more of something, than what is strictly necessary or expected.  A quality that we all think that we have but don’t have in abundance is generosity. That generosity is important and valued is not surprising. Generosity is a “nice-to-have” quality. If a person is generous, he/she probably is well liked.

Honesty is a facet of moral character that indicates positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness and straightforwardness of conduct. Honesty also means the absence of lying, cheating, theft etc. Honesty would make a person trustworthy, loyal, fair and sincere. It is something that should be ingrained in us and is the DNA by which we are judged.

Innovation is a new idea, or a more effective device or a new process. Innovation can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated or existing market needs. This can be accomplished through more effective products, processes, services or technologies.

Being Jovial but not being a joker. Man is the only species that can smile. It is the gift that is bestowed to make him popular and get his work done smoothly. It takes 21 muscles to smile and 72 to frown. So why waste energy frowning? Smile and the world smiles with you and cry and you cry alone.

Knowledge is the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association. It could be the knowing or understanding of a science, art, or technique. Being knowledgeable should be a life time obsession. 

Leadership is the art of leading others to deliberately create a result that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. The focus is on leading others and to make them do things voluntarily. Leaders are catalysts and change makers. They tend to challenge status quo and often act aggressively to make new things happen. Management is the art of doing things right and leadership is the art of doing the right things.

Motivation explains people’s behaviour. It represents the reasons for their actions, desires and needs. Motivation is one's direction to a behavior or what causes a person to repeat the same behavior. A motive is what prompts the person to act in a certain way, or at least develop an inclination for a specific behavior.

Nativity or Jugaad.  Jugaad is the Indian way of managing things with the least of the resources. It is the Indian way of thumping the world. In India everything is a challenge and Indians have mastered the game of doing things with minimum fuss and maximum result. Where else in the world would one find “Indian Chinese food, Bread Bajji, Bread Upma”. Old rice is not thrown away it becomes vadiyum. Or even better it is made into tasty curd rice that is greatly relished.
Openness is a personal trait that lays emphasis on transparency and free, unrestricted access to knowledge and information as well as collaborative or cooperative management and decision-making rather than a centralized authority. Openness is the opposite of secrecy.
Personality. People with pleasing personalities make others feel good. We would like to be around people with pleasing personality. They keep a positive point of view and demonstrate flexibility and patience. They treat people fairly and with respect. These people also tend to be good listeners and conversationalists. They handle situations well and share their opinion in an agreeable manner. People with pleasing personalities are people-oriented and are interactive.

Questioning. Divergent Thinkers are the need of the hour. Divergent Thinkers are those who can start at a point and progress in any direction. They end up questioning the question itself. The purpose of divergent thinking is not to come out with clever and apt answers. Rather it is to develop the ability that most of us have lost - the ability to question things. Anything can be questioned, the status quo, the holy cows, and the standard procedures.

Relating to a cause. What do a tree hugger, a bird watcher, a big industrialist, a dancer, a painter, a cartoonist and a movie maker have in common? Passion and the cause they espoused. So much so they made the cause their life mission. They became the cause. What is a cause? It is an issue or an event or a happening that is relevant and is of social importance. All the issues discussed mentioned are socially relevant.

Smart work is doing things that bring about the desired end result. Smart work is result oriented. And that end result that is faster, easier, more productive and efficient. At the same time the person doing Smart work does not feel overtly tired or worn out. It is not the number of hours that a person works on an assignment that is important, rather it is the output that is expected and achieved that matters.

Teamwork. Individual talent gets magnified many times over through the collective lenses of effective team work. Teamwork is the process of working together with a group of people in order to achieve a common goal. Teamwork is often the most crucial differentiating factor in a business, as it is often necessary and imperative for colleagues to work well together, trying their best in any circumstance in a given project or work. 

Uniqueness is someone or something is unlike anything else in comparison. When used in relation to people it is often in relation to a person's personality or some specific characteristics of it. Uniqueness is that trait that makes people remember us and distinguishes us from all the other people.

Valuable. Each one of us wants to be indispensible. Everywhere.  At home, in the college, at work and in our friends’ hearts. We want to be labeled - valuable. It is now very common to have the most valuable player contest in any sport competition. The most valuable employee is an organization is one who is most indispensible and who make that company throb with excitement.

Waiting is a strange word. No-one wants to wait. Everyone is on the speed trip and living life in the fast lane. In the earlier days we had to wait, go to the shop to buy things. John Milton had very famously said “They also serve those who stand and wait”.  Milton has rightly said each one of us has a purpose in this world and it is up to ourselves to live up to our true potential. Success comes to some in a jiffy and many others will have to wait for it to come after many attempts and failures.

eXciting. What is that unique trait in your most popular friend that makes him/her tick. If you were to do a detailed analysis a startling truth would emerge. That individual is the most popular as he/she is the most exciting person to be around. An exciting person is able to arouse or bring out our innate feelings and is able to stimulate us. That arousal or stimulation is often something that we all miss.

Yielding or giving up is viewed negatively. It is a matured way of looking at things and issues. When involved a fierce argument, yield or give up. Yielding to someone’s argument does not mean that we have accepted the other person’s viewpoint. We win the argument by listening to the other person’s view point. We have listened, that’s all.

Zeal stands for the great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. Vikram Batra was an officer of the Indian army, posthumously awarded with the Param Vir Chakra, for his actions during the 1999 Kargil war in Kashmir. Captain Vikram Batra waged a battle and his pursuit was based on the belief that the cause was right. He was supremely confident of the cause and smilingly gave up his life.

26 ways to success - Z for Zeal - " Zeal, Something Worth Dying For! " article published in The Hans India on 29th July 2016

Zeal, Something Worth Dying For!

Here we are, at the business end of this series. The series which was started with the letter A on 5th February 2016. It was a roller coaster of a thoroughly enjoyable ride. I am overwhelmed by the feedback and the suggestions received. I have extensively researched and came out with this series, that I am sure would be useful for all the aspiring students who want to make it big in the corporate world.

One small piece of advice, the attributes described are not for glib explanations and not to sound impressive in interviews. These attributes should be internalized and should become our DNA. They should loudly be saying “this is what I am and I am not going to compromise with what is dear to me, come what may!”

As I am penning this article my heart goes out to the brave heart, Captain Vikram Batra, an officer of the Indian army, posthumously awarded with the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest and most prestigious award for valour, for his actions during the 1999 Kargil war in Kashmir.   He led one of the toughest operations in mountain warfare. He was often called ‘'Sher Shah'’ by the soldiers of the Pakistan army. His famous words “"Yeh Dil Maange More! (My heart asks for more!)".

This is the crux of this article. Zeal stands for the great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. Captain Vikram Batra was waging a battle and his pursuit was based on the belief that the cause was right. He was supremely confident of the cause and smilingly gave up his life. The Indian armed Forces slogan we should always remember “we gave our today so that you can have a safe tomorrow”. We should be standing silently and saluting our great armed forces for their Zeal and selflessness in guarding our country’s frontiers. There cannot be any better example of Zeal and pursuit of a cause.

As the year rolls on there is great excitement in the air. The quadrennial Olympics are on their way and the buzz is building up. World over people can’t hold on to their excitement. Come 5th August there would be epic clashes, records re-written and new heroes born. For most of us Olympics are one another televised event. One among many, we would yawningly say and switch on to another of those mind numbing and utterly frivolous serials or equally ridiculous movies.

The problem with television is that it makes televised events look easy and more attainable. Case in point, the TV telecast of cricket makes the game looks very simple. Bowling, batting and fielding appear very simple. So simple that the chips munching couch potato says “Shucks man, this is easy, why is that they can’t do any better?”

The reality check is very different. The 22 yards of a cricket pitch is a huge distance. It is 66 feet across and it needs great athleticism to sprint across, before the ball is fired into the wicket keeper’s gloves. The wicket keeper’s job is even worse. He does so many squats in a day that it could be mind and body numbing. And they get hit so many times on the fingers that many of the wicket keepers have crooked fingers that don’t heal very well. As a college wicket keeper, I should know!  One of my crooked left fingers is a proud proof of what serious wicket keeping can do.

Let us return to Olympics. Let us examine the issue critically and with statistics. The world record for the long jump is 8.95 Metres! So what most of you might say. Let us convert it into feet. In feet it would be 29 feet and 4.25 inches. Yes you have read it right. 29 feet and 4.25 inches. Draw it out on the ground and you would be astonished. Most of us would be able to jump 9 or 10 feet, but this is almost 30 feet! That is flying and it takes super human effort and extreme zeal, confidence and self-belief to even think of jumping that type of distances.

The world record of 8.96 metres stands with Mike Powell of USA and this record which was set in 1991 has not been broken for the last 25 years! Before the 8.96 monstrous jump of Mike Powell the record was held by another very illustrious US jumper Bob Beamon who held the record for 23 years at a distance of 8.90 metres. Only two people ever have jumped a distance of over 29 feet!

Let us look at the world record in high jump. It stands at 8 feet and 0.25 inches! Yes, 8 feet vertically, without any assistance. Watching a high jump event live would be a hair rising experience. The lithe, slim high jumpers straining very sinew in their body would race in, twist, grimace and soar over the bar. The bar would shiver and stay in its place and the crowd with let out a collective sigh of happiness and excitement. It is a once in a life time experience.

And the big daddy of them all, The Marathon. The marathon is run on the road over 42 kilometres and 195 metres. It is a distance that can only be run by the toughest of the toughest. Most of us would start gasping for air and would give up running after 100 or 200 metres. And in the marathon the runners have to run the distance from BHEL Ramachandrapuram to Ghatkesar.  The world record for men is 2 hours 2 minutes and 57 seconds. The world class runners are running at a speed of 20 kilometres per hour. At that speed they are almost flying!

The shocking aspect of what a Marathon entails has not yet been dwelt upon. The marathon is so tough that marathon runners can’t train like other athletes. They can’t run the full marathon in practice. The only time they run the marathon is as it happens. Every marathon is an epic spectacle. I have read many reports of marathoners who say that the first ten kilometers is what they remember. After that everything is a blur. And after 35 kilometers it is a torture of unbearable magnitude.

Every muscle in the body is sobbing and pleading with the runner to stop. Most of them can’t even see properly as there is so much of blood racing to their brains. They are cases of marathon runners collapsing and even dying of exertion. Next time watch the laggards (people finishing late). 

They weave, stumble and somehow cross the line. That is what Zeal is; you almost give up your life to achieve something that is driven internally. No prize for the runners coming in 4th or later! The prize is competing with one’s self and winning. That is what life is after all! Winning in our own eyes. We should try out things and should never say later on “Oh I should have tried that thing out”. It is better to have ventured out, tried and failed rather than not trying at all. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!