Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"The year gone by" : 08- 09

I have chosen deliberately not to write posts about "ME" if they do not signify and help proving a point because I know none of you will be quite interested in that. But this one time, I would like to make an exception for my yearly report. I know that it is four days too late for the report to be published, but better late than never :)

So here goes some major developments over the last year.

Major events professionally:
  • Organized the Supply Chain case study event at SIBM Transcend 08. It took awfully long time to design the case study and organize other related things but in the end just few praiseworthy comments from the participants made all the effort worth it.
  • Did my summers at Max New York Life Insurance. Got a Pre placement offer from the company. Overall a decent learning experience though could have been much better.
  • Got Second prize in M&M War Room Business Strategy Competition. Most of the work was rip off from the work done on another case study on related sector
  • Knowledge Management case study for HCL. The solution given was directly deploy-able as commented by the Director of Knowledge Management, HCL. The understanding of KMS at MindTree helped a lot in this respect.
  • Finally wrote an article on "Innovative Marketing" for Forthright - the Research Magazine at SIBM. This was a long due task being rescheduled a million times.
  • Completed a course on Innovation and a consulting project for KayaLife through Marico Innovation foundation
  • Got placed in Cognizant Business Consulting on 11th December 2008 at 1605 hrs. This was the second interview, after a failed telephonic interview and noisy Group discussion. Though not a great achievement per se but given the situation of the job market, it was close to satisfactory. Since a lot of effort went into the preparation for the same, the results were not proportionately adequate. But then its human Psyche not be be happy ever with what you get.
Major developments personally:
  • Living in a residential campus has its own advantages. Got to know many more people and created a life long bonding with some of them.
  • Got a totally new perspective of life because of the prior point. The sense of pragmatism which I was lacking before will probably dawn upon me looking at people around. Personally I don't think I have become any wiser in worldly matters over the last year.
  • For few months towards the end of the year, I was on cloud number nine but I have come down owing to the bitter reality. It was nice to be there. But I guess everything that goes up comes down. :)
  • Definitely improved my informal debating skills as most of the time went in fighting over insignificant and irrelevant issues just for fun. Long discussions which stopped only when both sides would "Agree to disagree".
  • Started blogging much more regularly as there is plenty of time to kill. Consequently, I have started thinking about things differently. There is a definite intent to take keep blogging even when there is less time at hand.
  • Physically, I have become much more active because of all the outdoors - badminton, cricket, football etc. Again thanks to a residential campus, you tend to pander to such desires given the facilities. To beat all records, some days I have even gone for a morning jog :)
  • The coke intake has risen significantly. Though many have shown their own concerns in this regard, I do not feel its taking any toll on my health. Don't know about the future though.
  • There was a deliberate attempt to reduce the non-veg intake towards the later half of the year but there is only so much you can do when the tempting dishes are right in front of you. Though definitely the intake has gone down.
  • Visited Dehradun, Haridwar, Akansha school, Shirdi, Singhgarh fort, Kashid beach, Nagaon beach, Kihim beach, Murud Zanzeera fort. It was a much needed break from the routine. The highlight was para sailing at Nagaon beach and spending time with children at Akansha school.
  • My belief that MBA has no value except from the glamor quotient was further strengthened owing to various experience in and out of the college and corporate world.
  • I hate my college even more now having spent close to 1.5 years in this college and knowing how ineffective the management of this management college is. (This calls for another post)

Though there were many other things over the last year, these seem to be the major developments this year as far as I can recollect. This will be a regular feature every year on my Web log. And by the way if you did not like this post, don't worry too much, it is a head fake (i.e it is meant as a record for me and not for you). The subsequent posts will not be so much about ME.

Monday, February 16, 2009

"We do not Mis-sell"

Unfortunately the state of affairs are so bad in India that one can actually brand oneself as "We do not mis-sell". Mis-selling generally happens in apparently complex products where there are too many ifs and buts, too many clauses. But in India we have breached all boundaries in terms of mis-selling even simple products. Just because all others are doing it is no excuse for you doing it. As long as sense does not prevail in these companies, an opportunity presents itself of just doing business cleanly and using it for branding.

Financial products come to the fore when you think of mis-selling. Its very easy to conceal information and dupe the investor of the real risks when all they are interested in is saving tax and get infeasible returns. To some extent the consumers themselves are also responsible for their plight. But then consumers have limited time and limited knowledge to see through the products deliberately worded to promote mis-selling.

It is a known fact that there is little room for differentiation in such financial products with most of the companies selling the same thing with different names. What you can sell to them is that "peace of mind". Remember the Pure for Sure branding by BP. Of course everyone is expected to sell pure petrol (not adulterated) but since no one is doing it (and which is a shame), it gives you the opportunity to just do the right thing. People who really care about not being cheated and do not have the zeal and time to understand complex clauses of your products will come to you. For this you do not need to do anything out of the box, just play fair. Isn't it simple. Ya I understand that you might not get that all important high market share to start with, but what you are trading it off with, is Customer's trust which is of immense value in the long run. The sale of such products is highly dependent on recommendations and not on outlandish names because frankly no one understands their meaning. As a informed investor you are expected to do due diligence for all the things you are investing in including insurance, markets, bonds etc. but won't it be great if some one sells us the satisfaction that we will not be cheated if we deal here. Its like the Pre-paid taxi counter.

Of course what drives companies to do it is the sheer number of India's population. Right now there are so many of us that they do not bother about repeat business. If we mis-sell to one person, we will get another two. But the simple fact is retaining a customer is 4 times cheaper than acquiring a new one. Are there basics in place?

By branding like this you are also sending out a subtle message to your target market that your competitors might be mis-selling to you. So if you want not to be made a fool of come to us. No one wants to be duped and you might just become the easy choice.

Some times I wonder why is it so difficult to remain honest and earn money in this country. I just hope this kind of branding is not sustainable in the future. But right now I see no reason why this should not work.

P.S: I tried collating some data on mis-selling in India but could not get any reliable and consolidated information. If anyone has please share the same.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Make it less annoying"

Say whatever you want but when you go with that survey to any of your responders, its deeply annoying for them to fill it up. Though you might feel all happy that you have got another guinea pig through your persuasive skills, he/she is not receptive and does not care a damn for your research. They just want to get done with it irrespective of the quality of their answers.

I wrote a post on Customer Insights and Marketing Research here. In the post I argued that the MR process through Surveys is very time consuming and waste of time and effort because of the type of questions asked and their sheer number. I also mentioned that there is a need to make the process "less annoying" if not some thing which your responders will love.

Seth Godin today, writes a post in which he gives 5 tips as to make the surveys less annoying for the responder and much more effective.

Are all you Marketing guys are listening?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Amazon's experiment with business model

An article in McKinsey Quarterly mentions De-bundling of Production from Delivery. It has been proclaimed as one of the main technology trends going forward. Here is the link. The logic is simple - it helps companies to utilize their fixed assets better by segregating and distributing its capacity better. Amazon has had a great reputation as far as innovation is concerned. Jeff Bezos (amidst all the cynicism from industry pundits and investors) showed a great example of De-bundling by opening up its computing power and storage capacity to be used by other small businesses who cannot afford astronomical cost of monolithic assets. This is not the first time that Amazon faces flak about doing some thing different. Earlier when Amazon opened its 20 distribution centers and logistics services to other companies, investors were worried that the focus is shifting from the core business and then it was Kindle - the ebook reader from Amazon. In this post Seth Godin captures the cynicism about Kindle beautifully.

Like most computer networks, Amazon's uses as little as 10% of its capacity at any one time just to leave room for occasional spikes. Rest of the time this capacity is idle. It only makes sense that some thing should be done with these capacities. Look at it in a way that these excess capacities built in are just like waste until unless utilized. They are like the excess capacities built in the car. If some data is gathered about capacity utilization of personal cars, it would show almost the same numbers i.e around 10%. The rest of the time that capacity is going waste.

And why there will be customers for such service? Simply because the marginal cost of using such resources is less for them using this model. The customers will be able to get their websites online at much lesser cost and much more quickly. This service will in fact will fructify many more start-ups which can do which was not possible economically earlier. There are many examples, one of them being SmugMug Inc which plans to save $500,000 annually by using Amazon servers for storage.

Though to start with the revenues from this operation are small, this service is surely going to pay in the long run. Ya, I get this whole logic that computing and storage will become cheaper, but the trend might not continue as we move to quantum levels of miniaturization.

I like the statement by Jeff Bezos - "We are willing to go down a bunch of dark passageways and occasionally we will find some thing that really works". And as the recent results amidst all the recessions fear show, it does work out for Amazon. It has come out with impressive results crushing street expectations. Here is the link. Well these results might not be related to this particular practice by Amazon, surely it does reflect previous innovations which are paying off right now..

I hope Amazon keeps innovating and surprising all of us and changing paradigms time and again.It has done it with online retail, with Kindle and now with De-bundling. Amazon has faced lots of controversies and have proved all cynics wrong in the past and recently so with Kindle. Which brings us to another important point :-

Some times the market may not see the value of the change you want to bring in the system. I had a dialogue with Seth Godin himself
(over email of course) and this is what he said:

yes, that's exactly it
great marketers persist or work with their story and their market and get through to them eventually.
Take a look at "Crossing the Chasm" a great book on the topic..."