Lighter Moments

May 26, 2013

Marketing lesson from our cabbie

Last year, when we were in Sydney for CeBIT Australia 2012, we paid a bomb (almost $80) for our airport transfer. So this time, we acted wisely and booked a cab in advance. Since we are staying in a hotel managed by a Korean guy, he sent us a Korean cabbie to pick us up from the Sydney airport.

It was a pleasure dealing with him. But what struck me about him was his small "marketing" trick that he applied at the end of our journey.

When we reached our destination, he complimented us on our choice of hotel (his way of helping his friend – the hotel manager, who got him our airport transfer deal) and promptly got our bags out of the boot. He immediately pulled out two luggage tags and put them on our suitcases.

Here is the tag:

rsz_220130527_032759

I think this is smart.

He is ensuring that we will think of him, when we pick up our suitcases, which will be when we pack up to go back. Hence he is ensuring top-of-the-mind recall when his services will be required. This is much better than handing us a business card, which can get misplaced or will hardly ensure a recall. He is making it convenient for us.

As if this was not enough, he also made an offer to drop us to airport at the end of our stay at a $5 discount, i.e. $40.

A sure shot marketing lesson for everyone. It is important to ensure recall when your services / product are required. It may not need millions of dollars to do it. It just need a little bit of thoughtfulness and wisdom.

 

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August 11, 2010

A branding lesson from Ramayana

Interesting topic?

Let me get straight to the story –

Here is an extract (super summary!) and synopsis from one of the chapters (Yuddha Kand i.e. the 'War Episode', which describes the war between Rama and Ravana) of Ramayana.

Having received Hanuman's report on Sita, Rama and Lakshmana proceed with their allies towards the shore of the southern sea. There they are joined by Ravana's renegade brother Vibhishana. The monkeys named "Naal" and "Neel" construct a floating bridge (known as Rama Setu) across the ocean, and the princes and their army cross over to Lanka.

The incident goes like this:

The challenge in building the bridge was to make the stones float (as all stones will sink the moment it is thrown into the ocean). It is said that a solution was offered by supporters of Lord Rama, i.e. inscribe the name "Rama" on the stone and then throw it in the ocean. The same was done and it worked!

Lord Rama was watching the progress and Naal and Neel progressively built the bridge.

At one point, Lord Rama decided to extend a helping hand.  So he picked up a stone and threw it in the ocean (i.e. which an expectation that it will flow). Surprisingly it sank without a trace!

Why?

Because the stone was not inscribed with "Rama"

Lord Rama was confident that he do not need to use his "brand" as he was THE "brand" and tried to repeat the magic. But it did not work. It was not "branded" with "Rama".

Moral of the story: Brand is bigger than the "owner" of the brand.

Subtle Moral of the Story: Feel good, when people recognize you by the name of your company i.e. brand. This means, your brand is becoming bigger than you. And this may stay beyond you.

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October 16, 2008

Why Microsoft loves Ireland?

I was just thinking as why Microsoft has based one of its R&D center out of Ireland. Then as I sat in the bus on the way to the airport, reading some advertising displays it became very clear.

Reason: Because the Top Level Domain (TLD) of Ireland is .IE

(Hint – IE = Internet Explorer)

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September 3, 2008

How not to write a business plan?

I am always interested in investing in new venues. Few days back, I stumbled upon a bunch of entrepreneurs who wanted to develop a 3D action game. It looked like a freaky idea and I was all game for it. I asked them to put together a basic business plan. Nothing monstrous. Just a simple paper-napkin business plan.

I got back a business plan, which looks like this:

This is the most funny business plan I have ever seen. I could not help myself but share it with you all. I have removed the name of the company which was scribbled on top of this page!

Few things to notice:

  • The plan talks about all expenses. It does not talk about revenue channel.
  • The salaries of administrative staff = salaries of production staff.
  • They want to start off with 3000-4000 sq feet space. I do not remember seeing many start-ups doing that. May be I am an old fashioned guy, but I think start-ups should work at shoestring budget to pull break-even point closer and to allow more space for experimentation.
  • No cost for the game development engine. I have heard that this is one of the major costs in starting off a game development company.
  • No breakup for administrative expenses which amounts to almost INR 1 million every month.
  • Investment in 2.25 million pieces media for a product which has not been test-marketed. 
  • Approximating INR 75.425 million to INR 80 million. It clearly shows that they do not value money.

The business plan clearly shows:

  • There is no plan.
  • The team does not know about the business that they want to get into.
  • They are non-committed.

It goes without saying that I will never associate myself with such a business.

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August 4, 2008

You got to pay me to pay me! – The TalkMobile story.

For my stay in the UK, I bought a TalkMobile Pay-As-You-Go mobile connection. (Quick tip: It is the cheapest option to call abroad while you are in the UK. All incoming calls are free for you. And yes, It just takes few minutes to get activated) 

Honestly speaking, it worked quite nicely. But I was shocked, when I ran out of balance and wanted to recharge. I guess I had only 5p balance left when I called their helpline 5888 so that I can get a top-up by credit card. And then I heard the funniest thing – "We need to put you through our account executive to register your credit card. This call costs 25p. Since you do not have enough credit in your account, please top-up your account and call back"

Give me a break. I called up to top-up! So are you saying that – "I will charge you a fees to pay me!"

Sounds stupid. I hope they get back to their senses and stop losing business.

And, I still did not get, why they will not have an on-line top-up facility. It is surely cheaper than working with 72,000 stores (including Tesco, Sainsbury, Post Office, etc.) across the UK (a joyful announcement that they sent proudly to me through SMS). It is high time that hi-tech telecom companies adapt technology in the right way.

P.S.: Even after this stupid flaw, I will still recommend them for the quality / price combo – It is a good value for money.

 

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July 3, 2008

Demands of top Human Resource Management Professionals

Today was an interesting day at the NASSCOM HR Summit 2008 in Chennai.

There was a session on HR Leadership: Paradigm shift from process recruiters to business leaders. When the Chairperson of the panel, Mr. Pratik Kumar (EVP HR, Wipro) asked the speakers as what would they like to request from their business leaders, we had some *really cool* answers (read: CEO bashing)!

Nandita Gurjar (VP & Group Head, Infosys) would like to see a recession, so that things cool-off a little bit, giving her the most deserved respite from managing change and pushing growth initiative at the same time – definitely not an easy job by any standards. I understand that she said it on a lighter note, but if you have a serious thought on this issue, it is actually not a bad idea!

Elango R (Chief HR Officer, Mphasis) in his witty style wants CEOs to stop reading books and attending conferences. He feels that there is a new "clone it" idea brought in by the CEO everyday, which makes life really difficult for the guy. I know he does not mean it. But does it really matter. It is not going to change anytime soon.

CEO's: Are you listening?
It just resonated in my own ears! After all, I am also one of the culprits.

Just wanted to share some light moments (read: CEO bashing).

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March 28, 2008

The REAL Programmer automates his job

Just a random thought:

Programmers are supposed to use their programming skills to automate business process for their clients. Therefore, a good programmer should be one, who takes an initiative of automating his own work and never repeats the line of code he has written once 🙂 Charity begins at home!

Unfortunately I have hardly seen many such souls.

What do you think?

 

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March 17, 2008

Cookie that fails to crumble

It is a true incident about, how a cookie shop messed up its sales!

CookieMan is a fast growing cookie brand in India. They have a small outlet at Chennai airport. Till recently, before boarding the flight, I used to buy some delicious cookies from that outlet to keep myself indulged for the evening.

Now, the real shocker! On my recent visit to Chennai, the store guy told me – "that the minimum you can purchase is 250 grams!"

I could not help, but smile at this "strategic" move of the company!

This is how they are messing up their own marketing:

  • They are losing an opportunity to connect with their consumers and wow them! An airport lounge can be the best place to get into their minds.
  • They are missing an opportunity to identify which product has high shelf-appeal. In fact, they can utilize this opportunity to implement interesting means to do market survey among the middle and upper-middle class of consumers who will be the most frequent buyers of such confectionaries.
  • Above all, they are losing sales.

I fail to understand the reason. The only obvious reason that come to my mind:

  • They were trying to reduce the work load of their sales guy (Who was sitting idle!)
  • They were not interested in consumers who buy less than 250 grams. (Unfortunately, trust is won one step at a time. In fact some of the biggest customers of Indus Net Technologies initially signed up for a simple logo design service and then they kept increasing their exposure with us. Targeting for large sale does work, but nothing works like small experiences that builds relationship one step at a time.)

Besides fixing the obvious issue, this is what they could have done (some random ideas):

  • Put a mail-order form and hand it over with every money receipt they give out. Most travelers who experience the cookies might like to mail-order the cookie (in fact on a subscription basis – every month). This can give them an opportunity to sell in decent quantities every month.
  • Put a "self help" literature on "history of cookies" & "interesting combos". Indians like to eat in combination (mostly). When people have leisure time at an airport lounge, it is best to make them interested in the product (if not the brand).

And I hope you never repeat this mistake in your business. Give your prospects to try yourself out, one step at a time. Give them great experiences and build relationship one step at a time. They last longer.

BTW, if you have more ideas for them, do contribute. I will update my post with your input.

 

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July 20, 2007

Visa Power, Mastercard emotions

Recently I was trying to make a payment for a company purchase online using my MasterCard. Inspite of having a positive balance the transaction did not get through. I tried my sisters card (which again is a MasterCard) and it still wont go through.

Then one of my collegue volunteered to help me by trying his card.

It worked!

I asked him which card did you used – He said Visa.

I felt the "Visa Power". I also realized that "Something money cant buy. For that you have MasterCard"

Abhishek

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July 19, 2007

Investment advise based on my first hand experience

I am not a very stock market savvy person. But in recent months, I did some stock investments. I made good investments and bad investments. I learnt few basics from my mistakes (I may be still wrong, IMHO) which I would love to share with anyone who cares. My opinion may change with time as I learn more. If you feel like contributing or contradicting, feel free to do so:

1. Do not listen to your "Investment Managers" or so called "Investment Experts" appointed by banks and brokers. They may get you some quick profits, but you will ultimately loose what you earned if you trade on their tips. In the current scenario, you get any guy with a MBA in Finance becoming a stock market expert in a reputed stock brokering firm. They use you to make their own money. If you really need advise, check out business channels like CNBC, etc. Listen to opinions aired by various experts and take your pick.

2. As Robert t. Kiyosaki of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame says – People make profit when they "buy". This means it is very important when you buy. Most people run away from markets when it crashes. But if you see from a positive perspective, the stock market is on a SALE! So it is the best time to buy, just as you rush to the shopping mall when there is a sale. So buy when the SALE is ON!

3. If you are a small time investor who is investing for long term capital gains, look for established companies with proven management. Try to keep your investment in blue-chip companies. Before you choose the blue-chip, look at the sector it works in and its near-term and long-term possibilities. Look how they have performed in past and what kind of guidance their management have given for future. Monitor selected companies and know how they behave with market dynamics. Your investment is safe and will multiply with time.

4. If you do not have time to manage your money, mutual funds are the way to go. Mutual funds has major entry load (as much as 2-3%). Sometime they also have exit load (0.5-2%) and minimum lock-in period. If you are investing in a mutual fund, do not forget to ask about the debt-equity ratio. You should try to understand the kind of portfolio the mutual fund will hold. Convince yourself with past performance of that mutual fund. Dont rush. Your broker earns up to 4% commission on sale and is highly motivated to give you wrong advise to sell the scheme. Be very cautious and make sure that you understand everything before you invest anything.

5. Average out your purchase. You may see volatility in the market. If you buy in one go, you might enter in a high price or a lower price. To smooth out the risk, buy at regular interval at various price levels.

6. Take a long term view. Dont indulge yourself in day trading and short selling. Do not go for short term capital gains. It only makes your broker rich and you remain where you were. 

7. Do not hesitate to negotiate. You will be amazed that you will get cash-back-discounts on your mutual fund investment from your broker (afterall he earns upto 4% of the total investment). You can also negotiate the brokerage rates and service charges.

I will keep updating this list as I learn more.

Abhishek

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July 13, 2007

Usability Nightmares – Error handling of a signup form

I came across a Web2.0 website called ProjectStat.us (Trying to express that it has something to do with project status – a nice cool trick). I liked the overall concept and was curious to find out how it works. So I decided to sign up.

I filled up the Signup form and clicked on "Create Account" with great expectations and this is what I got!

So, I can only provide a five digit zip code and a two digit state code. I do not have the right to submit my country! The product / service seems to be targetting the global audience. Then why considering only US data set?

I again pressed "Create Account" with much anticipation..
And I got..

Now it says that the login name that I chose is already in use. It is poor form validation which does not show unavailability of login name in the first check and when you correct the remaining information, it talks about unavailability of login name.

I took another chance and typed in my full name abhishekrungta as the desired login name.
And I got this…

Now it says that my Login name is too long. phew..

BTW, I didnt give up. I tried one last time with a different Login name which is short and "should have been available". I got an error screen showing "

I do not understand the rational behind such checks when they are not going to make a big difference in the application. They just harass a user and causes confusion. This is truly a usability nightmare and deserves a position in this column.

In my opinion a form should be short and simple, with minimum validation (validate only those data which is absolutely important) and a flexible data structure to accomodate cultural and geographical diversity.

 

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July 7, 2007

Eight Random Things

Gautam Ghosh has tagged me to write about eight random things about me! So here it goes –

1. I am a trekking addict. I have travelled extensively in the Himalayas. Unfortunately I did not get an opportunity to peek across the mighty Himalayan range. I will love to explore Tibet on foot. I am scared of the Chinese army though! The closest I have been to adventure in last few years was when I got stuck in snow at midnight in Sikkim in December 2003.

2. I cannot resist myself when I see an opportunity and an unfulfilled demand, especially if it is around Internet service domain. Sometime I feel, I could have been a consultant or an investor instead of an entrepreneur.

3. I feel sorry to see people who are deprived of quality education. I firmly believe that India cannot progress unless we have a better education system and a system comprising of selfless teachers, who live with a purpose in their life – to build a better India. I am working on a project in this direction. I wish I can make it happen.

4. I wish I can make my vision / thought broader and can think and care about global issues. At this point, I find myself very much centered on my family, company, work, clients and country. I hope it will happen with time.

5. I run a company called Indus Net Technologies. It takes up more than 2/3rd of my time. I wish I can make it 100% self sustaining and professionally managed. I have been reading Rich Dad's Cashflow Quadrangle by Robert T. Kiyosaki and want to move to the "B" quadrangle!

6. One day, I was out on my morning walk. I saw a cab hit a man and his feet (below hi ankle) was literally cut off from his leg. This happened because the cab driver steered his taxi sharply in one direction to save a guy on a cycle who was day-dreaming! I got an opportunity to help this person in a small way. However the strange thing is that, you cannot blame anyone "directly" for the accident? Who should be blamed?

7. I recently (September 2006) bought a Hyundai Santro Xing. It is a true driving pleasure. Unfortunately, I had to hire a chauffer to drive it so that everyone at home can make use of the car! So I am at the backseat – which I hate.

8. In March 2007, I went to Ecademy Blackstar Meet and met several wonderful people. It is such a wonderful club and you meet really nice people. I will like to travel to UK again sometime this year to meet and network with Blackstars of Ecademy.

I am passing this on the tag to eight of my friends – Arun, Sundeep, Nicholas, Ajay, David, Jim, Kath and Mike

Just like the above listed thoughts the eight names are in purely random order!

 The rules….
-Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
-People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.

So go ahead and post your Eight Random Things!

 

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June 16, 2007

Check out Voki

Hi,

I recently stumbled upon Voki (www.voki.com) which seems like a nice widget. It comes from Sitepal (www.sitepal.com). Actually I have used Sitepal in past. Unfortunately it didnt work great for me (nothing wrong with their product, but it was just a bit irritating for our customers). However I can see good potential for a concept like Voki which is more of a "fun" concept and can be extended to social networking.

I created a voki character of mine to try it out. I could made this stuff within five minutes flat. So, it is simple to use as well 🙂

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January 18, 2007

Amazing – Human-like Emotional Figures made from Fruits & Vegetables

Art knows no barrier. I came across this fantastic gallery from Saxton Freymann.

Gallery URL – http://www.rit.edu/~ksh8863/saxtonfreymann.html

Saxton Freymann creates this human-like figures out of fruits and vegetables. He creates emotions from the natural wrinkles of the fruits. It is worth a look.

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January 16, 2007

Poor metaphor for "Gift-voucher"

Recently, I saw a funny metaphor for "Gift-Voucher" when I visited Shoppers Stop in City Center.

It is a poor example of using a graphics / icon to symbolize a concept. The graphic of a "hanger" gives no reason to relate it to a "gift" or a "redeemable voucher" or both. At least it is not evident to a normal human being. I think something traditional (like a gift box or picture of vouchers) with a touch of modern graphics would have done much better.

I doubt this signage is getting them any mileage.

Abhishek

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