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Showing posts from November, 2007

Babajob & Globalisation

The events at Nandigram were truly horrific. Yet when Amnesty International members put the blame on 'globalisation', they present a picture that is more than biased. Former US attorney general Ramsay Clarke remarked that, ''This is happening all over the world. Nicaragua, South Africa....the difference here is the nature of the conflict. These are the first steps that lead to the dangerous road of globalisation, where the Indian people are being forced off their land by riots and by burning for globalisation.''

Sure the SEZ movement has not been the smoothest one. In fact as is case of Nandigram, at time its been a disaster. But then its not as if globalisation has ruined the poor in India. Take the case of Babajob for example. Babajob seeks to bring the social-networking revolution popularized by Facebook and MySpace to people who do not even have computers — the world’s poor. And the start-up is just one example of an unanticipated byproduct of the outsourci…

Top selling cars in India

Top Models (in unit sales); September 2007
Maruti Alto - 20,332Hyundai Santro - 12,990Maruti Wagon R - 12,573Tata Indica - 11,376Maruti Swift - 7,623Maruti Omni - 6,245Maruti Zen Estillo - 5,688Maruti 800 - 5,221Toyota Innova - 4,324Mahindra Bolero - 3,835Source - Autocar India

Communicating Water Woes

There's this interesting scene in the drama series, West Wing, where the President (Charlie Sheen) reacts angrily to the hatred expressed by some people over his daughter, Zoey (Elisabeth Moss) dating Charlie (Dule Hill), wanting to defend their rights and privacies. The President's advisors tell him not to react, as that would raise the decibel levels about an issue, that should best be left quiet.
The lesson in this story is one that PepsiCo. India can learn. Recent reports seem to suggest (note : no official confirmation on the same as yet) that the soft drink company in India plans to release a communication campaign featuring its CEO, Indra Nooyi and the way she spent her childhood. The communique would show how Ms. Nooyi as a child used to get up early in the morning to fill buckets of water, as water was a scarce commodity those days. The campaign centers around her middle class upbringing with issues such as 'water' thrown in.Is water a sensitive issue in India?…

Worldwide Cost of Living ranking 2007

Africa still home to survey’s most expensive and least expensive locations Strong currencies and food inflation pushing up cost of living in developing economies of China, India and Eastern Europe Asian cities getting more expensive; Seoul most expensive Asian city Luanda, is the most expensive city in the world for expatriates, according to the latest Cost of Living Survey conducted by ECA International, the world's largest membership organisation for International Human Resource professionals. Oslo is in second place followed by Moscow and Stavanger, while Seoul, Asia’s most expensive city, is ranked 7th. Maseru in Lesotho remains the cheapest city in the survey for expatriates.

Many of the Asian region’s most notable changes have been in India where fast economic growth has pushed up the cost of many goods and services. This, coupled with the appreciation of the rupee against most major currencies, has made Indian locations significantly more expensive for expatriates. Mumbai an…

Adventure traveller’s wish list

Wish list gadgets -

Universal solar chargers (Solio); Price - Rs. 5,100
Panasonic CF-19 Toughbook; Price - $ 5,700
Thuraya & Nera satellite phones
Panasonic LumixDMC-FZ50; Price - Rs. 33,000
GPS devices
Myolite 3 Headlamp; Price - Rs. 3,100
Kestrel pocket weather tracker; Price - Rs. 4,800-19,000
Nikon & Celestron binoculars; Price - Rs. 4,000-10,000
CoghlansOutdoorsman Digital Compass; Price - Rs. 1,500

ITC's Packaged food Power brands

ITC has six brands in packaged foods and several of them are segment leaders.
Aashirvaad: AashirvaadAtta is the largest national atta brand, with over 52 per cent market share; also present in spices and instant mixes.
Mint-o: Mint-o Fresh has a market share of 17 per cent, making it the largest cough lozenges brand in the country. ITC’s other brand in the confectionery space is Candyman.
Bingo!: This range of finger snacks has clocked up an 11 per cent all-India market share within 6 months of launch
Kitchens of India: ITC’s first brand in this segment, it leverages the recipes of the master chefs at ITC Hotels
Sunfeast: Has a market share in excess of 10 per cent in the biscuits segment and also has a presence in the instant pasta market.Note: Both Aashirvaad and Sunfeast have become Rs 500 crore-plus brands within four years of launch.Ref : Business Today

Corporate Social Irresponsibility

Being 'socially conscious' is definitely good. But when it comes at the cost of a company's internal customers, it better be called 'hypocrisy'.

Corporate Social Responsibility is the corporate buzz of the moment. With loony predictions on global warming and the impending catastrophe that could befall planet earth it makes good sense to join the CSR bandwagon. Its always good for the brand. But what's interesting is that most companies forget who their immediate, real responsibility is. Their employees and their partners. Talk about firms having a social conscience, you get to hear employee sniggers. A case in point is Ben and Jerry's. With a sizable number of disgruntled franchisees, B&Js, which once upon a time was famous for its causes like protecting the environment, fighting AIDS and battling sweatshops, should now focus on pulling them out of the red.

Charity indeed for them, must begin at home.

Brand Kumble

Captaincy and India's first test win against Pakistan have turned things around for 'Brand Kumble'. Kumble now commands a brand valuation of between Rs. 70 lakh to Rs. 1 crore.

Though I'm not quite the fan of celebrity endorsements, should a company intend to use one, the smart thing to do would be to predict the 'rise' of a celebrity and then sign him up before his brand value rides the upward curve. The price that the 'celebrity' brand would command at a stage where the stars don't seem to be shining for him, would obviously be low. But what's even more notable is that the celebrity, if signed at a time when his fortunes were sagging, tends to remember the 'faith' reposed in him, thus standing by the firm for a long period of time.

Low price and long term commitment. What more could a marketer ask?

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Emu Curry

From the Outlook: Move over chicken curry and mutton bhuna. The emu may soon hit our dining tables in a big way. This large bird of Australian origin, which offers the fat-free, healthful qualities of white meat and the flavoursome taste of red meat, is proliferating in emu breeding centres in Tamil Nadu, AP, Goa, Maharashtra, even Orissa and MP.

The emu is a hardy bird that survives all climates—whether it is farmed in Australia, the US, China or India. With feed costing Rs 12 a kg, the emu costs Rs 3,000 per year as opposed to turkey which weighs less but eats more. But unlike China, where breeding is well-organised and the emu is ubiquitous—as meat on the table, as oil with curative properties, as shoes/handbags in hi-fashion stores—India's emu industry is still in its infancy. With nabard giving loans, emu farmers should have it better.
Emu :

Barbaric, Inhumane Behaviour

The recent events of harassment/violence meted out to Smalin Jenita and the tribal lady in Assam is downright shocking. A mark of how civilised a society is seen by the way it treats its women and children. On that yardstick, we still have a long way to go.

The most shocking part, or may I say, its not shocking anymore, is the fact that the perpetrators in both cases were 'educated' men. Smalin's husband is employed at Infosys and the barbarians who struck the tribal lady were led by a local businessman.

Both need to be punished, pronto!

Indian Retail Pie - present & future

Modern Retail in India - Share of categories (%)
Apparel - 35Food & Grocery (F&G) - 17Miscellaneous - 15Consumer durables & Information Technology (CDIT) - 9Footwear - 9Jewellery & Watches - 7Pharmacy - 4Furniture - 3Home Improvement - 1Category share from Modern Retail to change -F & G - 48Misc. - 13Apparel - 12CDIT - 11Home Improvement - 8Furniture - 3Footwear - 2Jewellery & Watches - 2Pharmacy - 1Source - 4Ps/Technopak Analysis

Service Model migration

Dr. Madhukar Angur in a session with the faculty at Alliance demonstrated the importance of understanding changes in consumers' service 'evaluations and interpretations' across geographical boundaries.

Take the 'developed world' for example. Carrying your own bags at a first class hotel up to your rooms may not be frowned upon. The guest in this case thinks nothing about doing this himself. On the other hand, in India, having to carry one's own bags may not be appreciated. The act in this case has to be performed by the service deliverer, ie., the hotel. Any thing otherwise would be seen and interpreted as inadequate service.

The larger implication is the non-applicability of a service delivery model transplanted from the West and applied in India. In fact a verbatim application may result in the model failing. The act of letting customers board a Southwest airline flight and seat themselves may not work for a budget airline in India. Customers expect to be assig…

What makes customers comfortable

Seth Godin makes an interesting observation about how the 'Black Friday' ritual is one that most customers like. That is, the jostling and pushing gets them to feel 'special'...its part of the feeling that they have 'earned' the discount.

What's even more interesting to note is that this would be in marked contrast to shopping in India, even for discounts. In fact what makes this 'jostling' experience fun or otherwise is its frequency of occurrence. Its a question of aplenty vs. scarcity. Getting pushed or jostled is quite commonplace in India. If you don't believe me, try boarding a public transport bus. You will know what I mean. In a scenario where the 'Black Friday ritual' is common place, the exact opposite is what would make customers comfortable. That is, sure, maybe the masses in India jostle and push to get that bargain, get that vacant seat on a bus, but there's no enjoyment in the act. Its forced. If instead they had a chan…

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my headwith oil; my cup runneth over
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. and I will dwell in the house of The Lord forever.

Watch the 'Little Girl and Psalm 23', here.

Black Friday

No, its not about the movie.

Reuters reports that The 2007 holiday shopping season in the US. kicked off on Friday with crowds of shoppers, many braving the bitter cold, snagging early bargains on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Analysts expected moderate sales this year as consumers struggle with the slumping housing market, a credit crunch, rising food and fuel costs and uncertainty about their jobs.
Known as "Black Friday," the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday marks the first day of the holiday shopping season for most consumers and a time to snag cheap deals, freebies and sales. "Black Friday" once marked the day many retailers turned a profit, or went into the black, for the year. It used to be the busiest shopping day of the year, but procrastinators and others looking for last-minute gifts have transferred that honor to the Saturday before Christmas.

What B-Schoolers want

B School graduates in India overwhelmingly seem to prefer embarking on entrepreneurial ventures over fat pay checks from MNC recruiters. Goes to show how achievement and a sense of professional satisfaction override money as a key consideration while building professional careers.

ET reports that Inspired by the Narayana Murthys and LN Mittals, Indian MBA students are willing to forgo fat salaries and overseas postings in pursuit of entrepreneurial dreams. An overwhelming, 82% of B-school students of the final year batch, are considering to turn entrepreneur sooner or later. Only 14% amongst them don’t have entrepreneurship on their minds. Little surprise then, most students in the campuses see self-made business tycoons like Murthy and Mittal as their top business icons.

In a first-ever study of career aspirations of the country’s elite MBA commissioned by, 34% students voted Infosys co-founder, Murthy as their No. 1 icon followed by Ratan Tata and LN Mittal w…

Poor man's bike

ET reports : Global Automobiles, part of the Kolkata-based Xenitis group (known for its Rs 10K computers), has rolled out a motorcycle priced at Rs 19,990. Called Rock100, the 100 cc bike, the company claims, will offer a mileage of 125 km/litre.Kitted out with a 4-stroke engine, electronic self start and kick start facility, tachometer, gear indicator, aerodynamic headlight with halogen bulb and sporty indicators.

This is the second product from the company. Its first was Xpression which debuted in April, 2007. Three months later the company launched a 125 cc version called Xpression Plus. Global has put in place 200 dealerships in Bengal and is focusing on the east and north east.

Invisible, unserved markets

In segmenting and targeting, most sellers tend to be biased towards the 'in your face', visible segments. Take India for example, the 'in your face', loud and visible segments that every one's after are the 'youth', 'metro buyers', 'affluent' and similar such segments. What sometimes even doesn't feature of the seller's radars are the quieter, almost invisible pockets in India that surprisingly grow even faster than the metro markets.

Take the case of Vishal retail. A chain that has crafted a strategy of targeting Tier II & III cities, this Retail megamart brand has seen a doubling of revenues every year and will most certainly close 2007-08 with a top line of Rs. 1200 crore. This from an outfit that started as a tiny 100 sq. ft. shop in 1986 in Kolkata's Lal Bazaar area.
Vishal retail has as of now opened 70 stores across 49 small but fast growing cities. For the future, it has an ambitious target of 5 million sq. ft. of reta…

McLattes vs. Starbucks Lattes

Will the McLattes beat the lattes at Starbucks? The lattes at the fast growing McCafes seem to offer better value proposition to consumers with a high quality-lower price combination.

The value offering at Starbucks or its Indian equivalent, Cafe Coffee Day go beyond just high quality cappuccinos and lattes. Its never, just the coffee, its the experince. That's why these Cafes are termed 'destination coffees'. As long as consumers associate value to this experience, that then justifies its translation into higher priced coffees, the CCDs and the Starbucks will survive. On the other hand if the McCafes recreate destination coffee formats at lower prices to consumers, Starbucks better watch out.


Tragedy waiting to happen

The Uphaar cinema fire verdict is out. The Delhi court has found all the 12 accused guilty. Though the possible sentence that could be handed to the Ansal brothers is widely seen as lenient, the victims have found solace in the convictions handed out.

Amidst this judgement what is still depressing is that in India every service accessed by the consumer is also a tragedy waiting to happen. It could be as simple as riding on an Indian road to being at the airport to sitting in a school classroom. The list of tragedies is endless. So 'normal' for 'developing' countries. In fact I believe, that India will continue to remain a developing country till the time it can ensure that every child born has a surefire guarantee in terms of life and opportunities.

I am reminded of the McKinsey report on India which predicted that the 'Indian consumer market would be the fifth largest by the year 2025'. But it also noted that 'On a per-capita basis, India will still be a dev…

Crazy Icon

IN THE restless quest to provide the world with the next big fashion trend, many prominent clothing designers have taken to the streets in search of inspiration from the margins of urban life. Yet never before have they found a rags-to-riches fashion icon like the Crazy Robertson.

Read the complete story of this unusual fashion icon here.

Blonde brains

When confronted with stereotypes, people tend to behave in line with it. In a certain other way, people tend to believe what they are led to believe. They would rather not confront the assumptions on which a particular belief is based, instead choose to go along with those stereotypical assumptions. That makes it easier for them to get on with their lives. Stopping to question is indeed tiresome.

Researchers have now found that when men meet fair-haired women they really do have a “blonde moment”. They found that their mental performance drops, apparently because they believe they are dealing with someone less intelligent. Researchers discovered what might be called the “bimbo delusion” by studying men’s ability to complete general knowledge tests after exposure to different women. The academics found that men’s scores fell after they were shown pictures of blondes.

Further analysis convinced the team that, rather than simply being distracted by the flaxen hair, those who performed poor…

Showcase Kids

Soumya, reacting to my post, 'No kidding',

...Well, I come from the state which is one of the biggest victims of this trade, Kerala, the very state where parents fight over a state youth festival award , where if your kid ain't an engineer or a doctor or at least an IAS officer there is something seriously wrong with your child .Or even worse you as a parent is tagged as a failure. Well this phenomenon is so deep rooted that a person’s success is measured in terms of not whether he/ she is happy at what they are doing but at the number of times he/she has hit the limelight, and for the very same reason, shows like Idea star singer are a major hit. A sure indication of the fact that people are indeed moving towards the worst is the fact that more and more children nurture dreams of becoming reality TV stars or singers or VJs, thinking that’s what success is all about. It has spread across the state so badly that now kids who are supposed to be playing in the parks during v…

Ford's small car

BS reports : US automobile manufacturer Ford is studying the feasibility of launching a compact car in India that will be imported as a completely-knocked-down (CKD) kit from a manufacturing hub in Thailand.

The plan leverages India's free trade agreement (FTA) signed with that country in October 2003. Ford is building a car plant in Thailand in alliance with Japanese automobile company Mazda. Ford owns 33 per cent in Mazda.

Silky Phoenix

Silk Smitha reigned as the 'original' item girl at a time when the 'item girl song' clutter was few and far in between, at least as compared to now. With the item girl phenomenon getting popular and stigma that it brought, vanishing, top bollywood actresses have turned 'item girls' to reinforce their sensuality. At times, it has worked.

Smitha on her part had appeared in over 200 films in less than ten years of her entry into the industry, opposite male stars ranging from SivajiGanesan to Rajnikanth to KamalHasan to Chiranjeevi, and in landmark films such as BaluMahendra'sMoonramPirai (Sadma, in Hindi) and BharathiRaja'sAlaigalOivathillai.

Eleven years after her tragic death, the original item girl is back, resurrected through the final movie that she acted in, Thangathamarai, never released before. What can be expected? The cash registers ringing, for sure!


Colgate Palmolive India has no idea about 'viral' initiatives. If they did, their animated video, called ‘Attack of the Germosaurus' wouldn't have had a total of 120 views (for now) on YouTube.

I can't for the life of me figure out why anyone would want to talk about a video that shows an imagined future in 3000 AD, with the Germosaurus species (resembles King Kong with sharp teeth and bloodshot eyes) creating havoc on the planet. The video then takes the viewer back in time to the present (2007 AD) and shows the origin of the Germosaurus. It turns out that the monstrous Germosaurus actually originated in the mouth of a young man who was eating a sandwich in a coffee shop. The 'viral video' says in the end, ‘Don’t Play God to a New Species, Get a Dental Checkup Instead.

According to Seth Godin, for a viral idea to spread, it needs to be sent and received.

No one "sends" an idea unless:
a. they understand it
b. they want it to spread
c. they believe that…

Premium Bubbly froths over in India

The Premium liquor market in India seems to be growing leaps and bound. BS reports that the fastest growing category in the Indian liquor market are the luxury spirits, especially champagne and sparkling, which have been slowly and steadily gaining steam.

The luxury wine and champagne market in India is pegged around 150,000 bottles out of which champagne accounts for 20 per cent and has been growing at a healthy rate of 25 per cent. LVMH’s Dom Perignon and Moet and Chandon are the most preferred brands in the champagne market. Indian firm Sula Vineyards’ Brut Champagne also has a strong market presence but does not figure in the premium segment. While a Dom Perignon starts at around Rs 8,000 and goes up to Rs 17,000, Finewninesnmore’s Canard Duchene costs between Rs 3,000 and Rs 6,000.
Dom Perignon Label :

Brand 'fancy'

Rural folk in India are now going the 'brand way'. Take the case of edible oils. According to the Processed Food and Agribusiness - Report by KPMG and FICCI, packaged products are preferred in the edible oil segment as rural consumers are increasingly becoming health conscious as well as brand-aware.

The annual consumption of edible oil in the country is currently about 110 lakh tonnes, 40 per cent of which is branded. While edible oil’s growth, in terms of consumption, is about 8 per cent, packaged oil is growing at 22 per cent.

The reasons behind rural folk joining the growing fold of 'brand consumers' is twofold. First, Brands help consumers be at ease when it comes to evaluations based on quality and other functional attributes. For brand conscious consumers these parameters are a taken as they assume that it would be rare that a brand defaults on such basic attributes. The second reason, is that brand purchases satiate 'aspirational impulses'. Every consumer…

Credit Nation

A soon-to-be released survey by National Council for Applied Economic Research and Max New York Life Insurance found that more and more households seem to be borrowing not for creating assets like building a house or buying a car, but to meet consumption needs ranging from food, transport and medical bills to even repaying loans. Consumers using credit facilities, probably credit cards, for purchasing fuel and renovating their houses constitute the biggest chunk of the borrowings.

The findings confirm the trend towards urban India's transformation into a consumerist society with diminished stigma associated with debt.

Studying abroad

FE reports : Studying abroad is now an national phenomenon. India remains the leading exporter of students to the US for the seventh year in a row, followed by China and South Korea. With 83,833 students in 2006-07 and a 10 per cent increase from previous year, India maintained the lead as the place of origin for highest number of international students in the US.

China remains in second place, with numbers up by 8 per cent to 67,723 and the Republic of Korea, in third place, increased its share by six per cent to 62,392.

Luxury car makers line up

BS reports : Infiniti, the Nissan luxury car brand is now hitting India. Infiniti’s global foray, including in India, is in line with the company’s strategy of exploring markets beyond the US. Infiniti will join the club of luxury auto manufacturers who have already charted out their India plans. The list includes Lotus, owned by Malaysian car maker Proton, US-based Chrysler, Toyota-owned Lexus and the Fiat- owned Alfa Romeo and Maserati.

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Rose rising

Deccan Chronicle : In what seems like a first of its sorts for Indian TV channels, a transgender will now host a talk-show called Ipadikku Rose, which will be aired on Star Vijay TV. The channel plans to air the late night talk-show from mid December onwards on a weekly basis.

Ipadikku Rose (Yours, Rose) is expected to make waves in this largely conservative city when it launches on the Star Vijay channel from the end of December. It's Rose herself who seems all set to create a sensation in Chennai.

No 'kidding' !

Travelling by train, recently, I witnessed a little boy being coaxed into displaying his recitation skills by his beaming parents, sitting beside him. Indian parents in general find it rewarding to put up a show for any visiting folks, where the kid at home would be asked to display his various skill sets ranging from yoga poses to renditions of popular movie songs.
Partha Sinha, in his thought provoking article, 'Showcase Kids: An obsession with Indian parents' states,
'The Indian obsession of putting a child on display has its roots in the way we have culturally looked at our progeny. Children are new improved versions of the parent –– they don’t and can’t have an identity of their own. The expectation of ‘extended self’ is so much that most people don’t bother to make a pension plan. It’s almost a given that the child will take care of the parent because they are one and the same.
The display value has got nothing to do with the child––it’s got everything to do with thei…

Mobile number portability

The move to allow number portability will help the Indian consumer ease the 'lock in' imposed by the lack of the same. Till now, every time an India mobile subscriber needed to change his Service provider, he would think twice as that would have meant losing out on his existing mobile telephone number.

Telecom Service providers as expected are not at all enthused by this proposed move. Though cellular penetration is not as high in India as developed countries, with the cellular market still not mature, that is no reason to deny the consumer this facility. Netherlands, for instance, introduced number portability when cellular penetration was under 10 per cent.

The Indian cellular consumer doesn't care whether the markets are mature or not. Its now more power to him and cheers to that.

Carrefour in India

Sometimes going it alone makes absolute sense. Carrefour's decision not take an Indian partner along makes sense considering the risks that strategic alliances face. The decision to start with a B2B (Cash n Carry) operations, learn the retail B2B scenario and then move to the B2C format again, makes good sense. But note that this is in contrast to the Wal Mart-Bharti engagement that takes on the same B2B retail space in India.

These contrasting approaches to the Indian Retail market makes for a great study.

Meal Experience

Understanding Behavioural science helps in managing service encounters better. A recent visit to a first class restaurant had us waiting at a vacant but uncleared table for almost 10 minutes. The wait wasn't the most pleasant one. As we waited for someone to clear the dirty dishes from an earlier meal, we found the the service personnel's 'don't care' attitude disturbing. Not wanting to walk out, we waited patiently. The meal that followed, though was a good one wasn't truly enjoyed due to the earlier unpleasant incident. Needless to say we are not going back there again.

According to behavioural scientists, when people recall an experience, they don't remember every single moment of it (unless the experience was short and traumatic). Instead they recall a few significant moments vividly and gloss over others - they remember snapshots, not movies. And they carry away an overall assessment of the experience that's based on three factors: the trend in the …

Happy Diwali