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Showing posts from April, 2009

Obama's 100 days into Serfdom

'In The Road to Serfdom, Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek explained that socialism and fascism are really a common system based on the belief that central planning is superior to individual liberty and market capitalism. So it matters little whether the Obama administration is moving us towards socialism or fascism. It certainly is moving us away from market capitalism and limited government and towards central planning.

Truly disconcerting is that within 100 days of the Obama administration Newsweek had a cover story entitled, “We Are All Socialists Now,” and a recent Rasmussen national telephone survey found that only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is a better system than socialism.

Mises’s warnings about the 1930s need to be headed today. While many economists are concerned about the massive federal deficits and expansion of the money supply of the first 100 days, the real threat to the economy comes from the philosophy that has been expounded by the administration a…

Loyalty's about people engagement

As the class of 2007-09 leaves Alliance, it would interesting to mull on the strength of their future affiliation with the institution. My gut feel tells me it will all depend on how they take the engagements they've had with various personnel, including faculty. If its been a memorable one, they will seek and stay affiliated.

Its the same scenario when it comes to retail houses. Affiliations to such places of trade for the consumer will be dictated by issues beyond products on shelves. It will all depend on people engagement they have had at retail stores. I mean with the floor personnel there. If its been a good one, and hopefully the shelves haven't disappointed, the consumer is bound to be back. Else he parks his business elsewhere.

In an era where commoditisation of brands (read retail houses) is a taken, its the people on the shop floor that can bail a retail house out. They are the ones to bank on, to get the consumer back. Just as, its always the faculty and how they hav…

Know CK Janu? Why am I not surprised?

'The pitch was made, the client loved it. The agency got to the business of getting the advertising platform right. It looked at tea and its immediate associations — revolution, people, young people sitting at corner tea shops and tea houses, discussions, change in-thinking and so on. It took these ideas and ran with the line ‘bus uthaatanahi, jagaatahai’...

Soon enough the ‘Mr politician, what are your qualifications?’ commercial was made. Tata Tea definitely needed something of that stature...'

One thing's certain about this campaign that gets me irritated no end. Its perfect for the Indian Jaago Re youth. Though the irony is tea and revolution isn't something they'd ever understand. Because if they did they would be smarter than to ask for 'qualifications' before they decide who to vote for.

Don't get it? Why am I not surprised? Ever heard of CK Janu? She is the kind of stuff, 'Tea & Revolution' is made of. Just so the dimwits know who she i…

Reality Stars & Mirror effects

I have talked about this before. Most youth reality shows (count the musical ones out) in India center around an exhibition of foul mouthed crass behaviour. I guess these shows have their huge following in India. That's such a pity.More so in the context of what Dr. Drew Pinsky states in his latest book, The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America. The book deals with narcissistic levels of American celebrities and the impact it has on impressionable teenagers. Note Christian Toto; 'Today’s narcissistic celebrities shove their neuroses in our faces. Take Amy Winehouse, the troubled torch singer who inspired a slew of drug-related headlines. Her song “Rehab” was a narcissist’s cry of defiance, according to the book, and a troubling one when teens started singing along without realizing what her statement truly implied.'Celebrities are part of what's known as reference groups, that have the power to influence behaviour. Today's reality show partic…

Gold's lost its glitter

WSJ: Indian jewelers' hopes that the Hindu holy day Akshaya Trithya would give a fillip to declining gold sales look to have been dashed, as many customers stayed away or scaled down purchases. India is the world's biggest gold buyer, but imports have fallen to negligible levels in recent months as the rupee has weakened, making dollar-denominated gold more expensive to local buyers. Akshaya Trithya, which fell on Monday this year, is considered an auspicious day to make long-term purchases or start new ventures - Akshaya means "the never diminishing" in Sanskrit - and has traditionally boosted gold demand in India. Gold sales usually pick up the week before the festival.At around 14,800 rupees ($293) per 10 grams, retail gold prices were about 25% higher this year compared to prices at last year's festival, levels unattractive to India's famously price-sensitive gold buyers. That increase is due to a weaker rupee - gold is denominated in dollars internationa…

Blind to the duration effect?

I just had the 'duration effect' hit me big time. I go to the breakfast counter and find that the dosas for the day have gotten over and that fresh ones are to arrive. So I wait. And it seems like an eternity. Though its been just a minute. That's the point I want to make. What is just a minute may seem like an eternity to the consumer. That is, to the consumer who's waiting. It would be foolhardy on the part of the service provider to ever point out that its been just a minute. Because that minute seems like forever for someone in a queue. Most service providers don't get this. They think, what's the big deal? After all, its been just a minute. Remember, the consumer in the queue, at a store, on the telephone, wherever, is losing his temper by the second. Speed up and try and make the wait a pleasurable one. Else you will have an irate customer on your hands. And you being blind to the duration effect, wouldn't even know why.Pity.P.S. - I wished I had wait…

Why does the middle class matter?

'More importantly, while the middle class forms just 11.4% in 2007-08 of the total Indian households its share of total income is nearly one-fourth and saves more than 55% of its income. The growing clout of the middle class becomes even more apparent when one looks at the ownership patterns of household goods. Nearly 49% of all cars are owned by the middle class, compared to just 7% by the rich. Similarly, 53% of all airconditioners are owned by middle class homes. Nearly 46% of all credit cards are to be found in middle class households.

What’s more, the Indian middle class is far from being a homogenous group. While more than half the urban middle class households are salary/wage earners, the biggest proportion of rural households are self-employed in the agricultural sector. Patterns of product ownership also show a divergence when it comes to rural and urban middle class households.

While only 24% of rural middle class homes own a car, more than 40% do so in urban India. Tele…

The rich aren't getting richer, that's bad

At least now you can say, the rich aren't getting richer. At least now you can say, the rich aren't getting richer. Britain's richest people lost 155 billion pounds in the past year because of a deep recession and the global financial crisis, a survey showed. The Sunday Times newspaper's 2009 Rich List, featuring the thousand wealthiest people based in Britain, also found the number of billionaires sank from 75 to 43 people in the last 12 months as the credit crunch took its toll. The country's 1,000 richest people have a collective fortune of 258 billion pounds, according to the weekly newspaper. That compared with a record 413 billion pounds in last year's survey. If the rich aren't getting any richer, the reason's pretty simple. People or Firms aren't buying as much as in the past of whatever it is that the rich are selling. That's not just bad news for the rich. it is for normal folk too. Because now the rich will need lesser number of peopl…

Panico!

The global swine flu epidemic has almost brought Mexico city to a standstill. One of the world's biggest cities slowed to a snail's pace on Sunday as millions in the Mexican capital hid indoors to avoid infection from a flu virus that has killed up to 81 people. The Roman Catholic faithful listened to mass on the radio rather than go to church, a professional soccer game was played in an empty stadium and weekend cyclists stayed off the road in a lock-down of a normally chaotic city of 20 million people.Goes to show what a 'threat to life' can do. No one wants to risk it at such times. Consumption takes a big hit. After all what's products and services compared to one's life?

Why Humility counts

Barkha: Did that meeting (with Nalini) help purge the anger? Or was the anger already gone before?

Priyanka: No I was already not angry. The anger, I think, didn't last that long. Because when you're younger, you feel angry and you don't understand things. But as you grow up, the anger passes and of course there's been a lot of time, its been 17 years. That meeting, for me -- the big learning that came from that meeting was exactly this, that I was still, though I was not angry any more, I did not hate her, and I wanted to meet her, I was still thinking that I was somebody who could forgive her for something she had done. And then I met her and I realised -- what am I talking about?

When Priyanka Gandhi talked about wanting to forgive and then realising that she was no one to forgive, she exhibited something that's rare among human beings. Humility. For her spirit to evolve to the level it has, it must have gone through what Daniel Goleman calls the first entity in

'John Stewart effect' on Political opinion

The fact that Sonia Gandhi is portrayed as having sway over the Prime Minister and this piece of 'disturbing information' is consistently hammered into the psyches of a certain receptive audience, I believe has its desired outcome. This despite the fact that the audience would not have a single policy decision to quote, from the past years of governance, as testimony to the allegation.

In the US., this is the 'John Stewart effect', though note the consequences don't have the larger public in its sway. Thank God for that.

Consider Jay Cost; 'So, I think the answer to the title question ('Does Jon Stewart Influence Public Opinion?') has to be an extremely qualified yes. Those who consistently view the Daily Show probably can be swayed to the left - but this is a relatively small slice of the public, which means that the effect on political outcomes is probably quite small. On top of that, the audience seems to be pretty self-sorted, anyway. So, the effect i…

Differentiate or die? Pontiac, R.I.P.

One of the dangers of trying to differentiate is the subsequent narrowing down of target consumer segment resulting in inflows that aren't enough to sustain a business that incurs higher costs. Blame the higher costs on the 'differentials'. Add to this the fact that competitors who differentiate at a lower cost end up convincing consumers that they shouldn't be forking out the kind of money for the 'original' differentiator; the problem's compounded.

Pontiac is on its way out precisely due to these very reasons. In spite of receiving rave reviews from critics the brand's not able to gets its consumer's confidence. The fallout? GM's shutting it down.
R.I.P., Pontiac. You will be missed.

The Superstar vs. The Statesman

'Henry Kissinger wrote in his memoir "Years of Renewal": "The great statesmen of the past saw themselves as heroes who took on the burden of their societies' painful journey from the familiar to the as yet unknown. The modern politician is less interested in being a hero than a superstar. Heroes walk alone; stars derive their status from approbation. Heroes are defined by inner values; stars by consensus. When a candidate's views are forged in focus groups and ratified by television anchorpersons, insecurity and superficiality become congenital."

A superstar, not a statesman, today leads our country. That may win short-term applause from foreign audiences, but do little for what should be the chief foreign policy preoccupation of any U.S. president: advancing America's long-term interests.'

- Karl Rove, 'The President's Apology Tour.'

Why millions dig ABBA, as I do!

Listening to ABBA will be a lifetime act for me. I can never get bored. Not if I were to get older, dumber, whatever. And there's lesson there for marketers, worldwide. A lesson about how a brand's lived this long, attracts consumers from across demographics, and will continue to do so for a long time to come.Consider two reasons to the ABBA phenomenon. One, they've got great melody, that's simple and wonderful on the ear. Pure and simple music. The masses love that. In the world of brands too, the masses don't need complicated sophistication. All they want is attributes that are relevant and come across clearly through the brand's communiques. Value that is discernible and delivered without fuss. Wal-Mart's 'EDLP' is a great example to that.Two, ABBA's songs croon stories out of life. Stories that are familiar to millions worldwide. Stories of heartbreak, laughter and joy. When you hear ABBA, you live a page out of your life. The greatest brand…

Voter apathy or Consumer decision?

Its been a low voting turnout in Bangalore despite all the campaigns encouraging people to exercise their democratic right. The reason being quoted as usual is 'voter apathy'. The 'middle class' doesn't care, is what they say. I say, they're wrong. I'll tell you why.

Of course, I too wish more people voted. But the reason why the Bangalore middle class didn't, lies elsewhere. Lets consider the fundamentals first. For any 'act' to materialise there must be a motivating factor that propels that action. The action must in turn lead to fulfillment of a desired objective. Note the context within which this happens. The status-quo that a person finds himself in, is assessed as unacceptable. That is, the 'present state' is below what the person considers as a 'desired state'. The act, he believes will get him to his desired state. But note, even if one were motivated, that wouldn't automatically guarantee a playing out of the act. Be…

What Publicity can do

Hugo Chavez should have been munching on a Taco at some food joint somewhere on a dusty street in Venezuela. Instead he becomes the country's president. And now, add to that, he has helped country cousin Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, turn into a bestselling author with book sales that have vaulted his anti-imperialist rant, 'Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent', to No. 2 on Amazon's list of top sellers.

How did Chavez manage the latter feat? Note, Zero Advertising. The one publicity act. He gifted the book to Obama, darling of the socialist crowd.

The marketing lesson here is the lesson of publicity. To get a publicity ball rolling big time, you need for two things to happen. The people involved in the incident have to be media darlings for whatever reasons. And it must happen in the full view of the very same media. Note, having both broadcast and print lap up such an event is even better.

In fact, US News and World Report is eve…

What's with an 'original'?

Now that I've been in academia for some time, there are times when I get work turned in by students that's low in 'original' content. The exhibited work is more clerical than anything else. That is, material picked from various sources, structured in a sequential manner, glossed over with a few jargon and then turned in. Of course, the resultant grade's nothing to write about. The contrast to such work is material tuned in, low in quantum (read, pages), but steeped in 'originality'. Its a pleasure to read, comprehend and mark grades for such outstanding submissions.There's always something about an 'original'. Sure, counterfeits thrive when it comes to products and services. In fact, the parallel industry is worth billions. But there's something about possessing an original. Its like me insisting on buying an original, and just so the price works for me, I wait for a discount. I am talking books. No pirated ones for me. Its an original I wan…

UK tumbles into deflation

Times: The United Kingdom edged into deflation last month as the RPI (Retail Price Index) measure of inflation tumbled to -0.4 per cent from 0 per cent in February, official figures showed this morning. This is the first time that RPI inflation, which includes housing costs and is used as a benchmark for UK wage deals, has turned negative since 1960.

CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflation, the Bank of England's target rate, also fell from 3.2 per cent to a one year low of 2.9 per cent is tipped to decline further in the coming months. The Bank of England has forecast that CPI inflation will drop close to zero and stay there until 2011.

The Susan Boyle lesson in Branding

Susan Boyle's lesson to marketers is the lesson of a story. A story that moves the masses. A story of how an overnight sensation can flower from within ordinary folk. Its about the lotus in a marsh.

As Patrick Hanlon states in his book, 'Primal Branding', for a brand to connect there must be a story. The Susan Boyle brand is on its way, riding on a story that has moved millions. Now I don't want to bring in any dissonant notes. But I must quote what Maureen Callahan has to say about us, about our 'collective rejection-embrace-elevation' attitude;

'But there is something disturbing about the collective rejection-embrace-elevation of Susan Boyle. There is the element of self-congratulation in the viral spread of this link around the Web, the idea that we, the secondary viewers, the judges of those who are judging, are far more evolved. There is the clip itself, suspiciously ready-made for online consumption: A 7-minute movie, slick and pithy in its perfect exe…

Chinese consumers spending

I had earlier written about why consumer sentiment's important, stating, 'I fear the biggest fallout of this recession would be on consumer sentiment. People, cutting back on purchases, on speculating on a depressed economic future. That would be dangerous as it would then 'down' disposable incomes, down consumption and that cycle surely will lead to a catastrophe.'

WSJ reports that the Chinese government has been able to spur consumption by ensuring the right sentiment's in place.

'A torrent of bank lending, spurred by the government, is increasing investment in China. Consumers are out shopping in response to incentives such as lower mortgage rates and tax cuts on car purchases. Economic growth slowed to 6.1% in the first quarter, as retail sales, after adjusting for price changes, rose 15.9% for the period. While that was slower than the 17.7% rise in spending in the fourth quarter of last year, economists say the growth in consumption is encouraging given…

What Products are about

At the moment, I am reading Ram Charan & Larry Bossidy's 'Confronting Reality', and re-reading Gavin de Becker's 'The Gift of Fear' and Scott Peck's 'Further along the road less travelled'. I can only marvel at the genius behind these books. I am glad they wrote these books, so I could buy them and have such a wonderful Sunday afternoon.

Brings to me what I want to say. The real geniuses out there are ones who write, make, do whatever it is, so consumers like me have products and services we can buy. The act of 'creating' a product or service is an act of genius. Surely, I may reject some of what's been 'made', choosing to buy others. But the act of 'making' is a glorified one.

Reminds me of this scene in the epic movie about greed, 'Wall Street', where Bud Fox's (character played by Charlie Sheen) dad (played by his real life dad, Martin Sheen) consoles him when he knows Bud's going to jail by saying, &…

The 'inclusion' that identity brings

I've frequently written about how the desire for a certain 'identity' lies at the heart of consumption. Of brands, not commodities, mind you. In this context its also important to note that as much as consumers engage with brands to enhance and exhibit their selves, they may even do so to ensure their identities are protected. To ensure they aren't erased.

Fear of loss of one's identity is as potent as wanting to build and exhibit one. Marketer messages can be fashioned either from a point of view of helping consumers enhance and exhibit their selves, or protect their selves from being lost in a world that's adept at ignoring them. That is, the brand proclaims, Use me and you have a 'place' in the world. Else you are an nobody.

Note Gavin de Becker's brilliant take on the issue of identity and how humans would go to lengths to preserve that. 'Surveys show that ranking very close to the fear of death is the fear of public speaking. Why would someon…

Sure, I'll Jaago...then?

Listening to prime time news discussions requires me to park my brains elsewhere to 'connect', and that's such a pity. But then I console myself by saying at least I've had my fair share of comedy for the evening. Tuning into Nidhi Razdan presiding over a discussion on NDTV, that included opposing politicians and some guys from an NGO initiative called 'Jaago Re', you get to understand the term 'dumbing down' in all its glory. Let me explain.

The discussion turns into a slug fest between the opposing politicians and that's when Nidhi pops this brilliant question to the NGO guy. She asks him about what his message to the warring politicians would be, and if it would have calls for a positive attitude? Of course, the guy launches into an Obamaish like sermon, about how we must look at the positives and how the youth want to connect with a prime minister who needs to come on the idiot box. Wow! I was almost moved. To what, don't ask.

Issues that dog …

India goes to Polls

As India goes to the polls today, it is with a sense of gratitude that I sit back and take it all in. I don't care if issues at the forefront of this election are driven by caste, community or religious equations. Knowing that I live in a democracy where people have the right to choose their leaders is satisfying enough. Surely, things can get better. And maybe they will. Or maybe they won't. Either way, it is heartening to know that people have the power of choice.
For all those dimwits around the world who think Iraq was a mistake, think again, at least on this day. What you can and have been doing for years, lining up to vote, is a privilege that's been denied to a lot of people around the world. Iraq was one of those places. But today, there too, they have the power to choose. Thank the Americans and their former president for that. Grêler la République!

Wanna decipher India? Here's how.

Marketers around the world note, this is your best bet at understanding the complexities and paradoxes that ravage India and its markets. Follow the Indian elections. Its your chance at making sense of what otherwise seems an unexplainable, non-decipherable maze.

Let me point out something that I've understood. The Indian elections in all probability will throw up a fractured mandate. In fact we can safely bet on that. The fractured outcome points to a phenomenon that has deep relevance to marketing products and services in India.

Socio-cultural settings play a very important role in influencing purchase. Its this setting that drives and reinforces human identities. Identities for people as people and as consumers. Its these very same identities that will dictate voting patterns in India too.

Note that Socio-cultural environments throw up reference groups that influence. These groups encircle the consumer and weigh him with their persuasive powers. The further away an entity is in th…

Blogger, beware!

If you are a blogger and you intend to promote a product by lying about its attributes, be warned. As part of its review of its advertising guidelines, the FTC is proposing that word-of-mouth marketers and bloggers, as well as people on social-media sites such as Facebook, be held liable for any false statements they make about a product they're promoting, along with the product's marketer.

The FTC guidelines apply only to bloggers and others compensated to promote or review a product.

God & Government

'The next time President Obama welcomes Muslim leaders, I’d hope he’d change the script in his tele-prompter: “Just as you value your Muslim heritage and faith, we as Americans celebrate our Judeo-Christian heritage. For our rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness come not from Presidents or legislators, but from God. It’s our Christian values that have driven us to extend those freedoms to others, even if it means sending our young men and women to defend Muslim citizens in Bosnia and to free Muslims from tyranny in Iraq. It’s that same freedom in America that allows our Muslim citizens to freely exercise their faith without fear of persecution. We are not at war with Islam; we ask you to not be at war with Christians or Jews. We want to work with you and other responsible members of the international community to extend religious freedom to citizens throughout the world.” '

- Terry Paulson, 'Put Your Bet on God over Newsweek'.

Deadly Consumption

Can anything be more tragic than losing your life in act of consumption? That's the tragedy that befell 25-year-old marine engineer, Bhargav, who plunged to his death as the harness snapped while he was attempting bungee jumping in Bangalore on Saturday. Bhargav had come all the way from Chennai to have some fun over the weekend, but he ended up paying a heavy price for it.

Of course the organisers are to blame, as they followed no safety procedures and also did not have any medical support in case there were any mishaps. The tragic loss of life of someone so young and full of promise for the future, will have implications on the adventure sport industry as a whole in India. Consumers will think twice about buying into adventure promises. After all, what's adventure when compared to one's life?
The Bangalore incident is a real one. It exposes the abysmal lack of safety infrastructure that plagues almost every retail act in India. What's also interesting to note is an unr…

Li'l acts, Large ramifications

Grudgingly I gotta admit, the crass shoe-throwing act has hit home, big time. Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar's political careers are all but over, though I know there is nothing called 'permanent' in politics. The Congress party on its part has been smart to bow to popular sentiment and act quickly.

the shoe-throwing episode demonstrates how the Davids of the world can bring the Goliaths they face down to submission. Though the shoe incident was played out in the political sphere, it can happen almost anywhere. In the business world too, behemoth brands got to be wary of the Davids that cross their path. It may just be a disgruntled customer who could turn the nemesis. If he were to take the treatment meted out to him, public, the brand risks a mass movement that could turn nasty.

Its the li'l incidents that take gargantuan proportions. Quelling it at that scale would be next to impossible. Its better to be cognizant of the li'l things and act, than wait and pay, bi…

The lure of Socialism

I am not a bit surprised at the Rasmussen pollthat shows Capitalism is favoured only by 53 percent of American adults. Whats even more normal (about the poll result) is that the younger you are, the greater the support for Socialism.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey reveals that adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better.

I had myself flirted with Socialism when I was younger and I starkly remember why. One, I didn't have much sense then and tended to believe things that 'sounded better'. Like Socialism meant happiness and prosperity for everyone. Two, the lack of sense coupled with socialism 'sounding and seeming' better (read, perception) was a potent …

Who's the real shmuck?

'Okay, I’m not holding my breath. But the left’s ability to act hatefully while in the very act of accusing the right of hatefulness does point to yet another of the many ways the media skew our political discourse. In the mainstream media—the left’s media, I mean—the standard for what is hateful is completely different for the right and left.

Jon Stewart shouts the F-word on air at Governor Sarah Palin, oh, what a witty fellow he is, how outrageous, how puckishly he bends the rules!

Rush Limbaugh hopes Barack Obama’s attempt to destroy our free market system fails—honk! he’s hateful.

Bill Maher’s film insipidly insults easily targeted religious people, he’s “brilliant,” says Variety, “incendiary.”

Ann Coulter points out the fact that fatherless children are the source of most of the nation’s crime, suicide and child behavioral disorders—honk! She’s mean to single mothers. How hateful.

Hollywood makes fictional movies accusing our soldiers of being rapists, murderers and fools even whi…

Why Michelle Obama can't sell magazines

It doesn't matter that the liberal media is falling over each other to fawn over Michelle Obama, their platitudes isn't helping sell magazines that have her on as cover page and story. Before I tell you why, note Brent Bozell talking about the 'fawning frenzy';
'Imagine being Laura Bush and turning on the television and watching the absolute deluge of sticky-sweet syrup being poured all over Michelle Obama during her European debut as first lady. It is as if every TV reporter was handed a pamphlet of talking points and ordered to compare Mrs. Obama to Jackie Kennedy. NBC's Dawna Friesen gushed: "Though Harvard-educated Michelle Obama has substance, not just style, and that's what sets her apart." Apart from … whom?'
According to Adage, 'A Michelle Obama cover doesn't hurt a general-interest magazine, the numbers suggest, but it doesn't produce more than an occasional lift either. New York magazine's March 23 issue, with a cover…

Cheap Thrills, Big Payoffs

No matter what the issue, tossing a shoe at the Home Minister as a mark of protest is crass behaviour. Hats off to Chidambaram for the class he displayed, which can't be said for quite a few who take to such forms of protest.

What's distressing is the payoffs that follow such acts. Its seems there's money and even a Lok Sabha ticket that's coming the journo's way. Why am I not surprised? Most publicity material out there seems to center around acts of infamy that's lapped up big time by an even more eager public that's panting for its share of cheap thrills.

Chill, they say. I may even be admonished for my point of view by an audience that seems to be getting younger by the day and dare I say, empty-headed? Or maybe I will chill. Give me a moment though. Gotta find my funny bone.

Me, Myself & I

Declining an invite to be part of a Blogger meet, knowing there's been a slew of similar declines in the past, I wonder if I am sinking deeper into 'social recluse' territory. And if so, is that healthy? Mentally, I couldn't be agiler. So the latter fear can be ruled out.Why then the reluctance to participate? The reasons lie in factors extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic refers to 'socialisation' and intrinsic is in terms of 'personal motivation'. Conforming to the appeal of what is termed a 'reference group', lies in what the group can do for an individual who sees certain payoffs in being part of that group. From a consumer perspective, its about whether the group can provide information that helps tide over the risk inherent in purchases. Groups help in comparison of thinking, behaviour and attitudes. It can even provide for an identity and legitimise the usage of products and services. This is part of the socialisation process.Now consider t…

Those arrogant Americans

'Ahhh, those arrogant Americans. First they rebel against King George III and all the crowned heads of Europe. Then they welcome tens of millions of poor and persecuted people from the Old World. Then they fail to bow down to Europe's greatest figures -- from Napoleon and Otto von Bismarck to the Kaiser, Hitler and Stalin. Then they fight a civil war, losing half a million people to liberate black people in America. Then they diss the man the BBC considers to be the greatest philosopher ever, one Karl Marx, whose followers killed 100 million innocents in the 20th century. And then, to top it all off, they liberate both the Western half of Europe (in 1946) and the Eastern half (in 1989).

What arrogance these Americans have. Either that, or a very, very -- no, stunningly -- ignorant man was just elected president -- largely because millions of benevolent voters believed that we owe black people a presidency. They may come to see that as their biggest mistake ever. In the next cou…

Yes, We can! Who's 'We'?

Hope floats, for one-half of America? Read it here.

RIP., Indian Coffee House & Why

While the iconic coffee house, ICH (Indian Coffee House) on MG Road, Bangalore was downing its shutters, I was 'chillin' at another that was bursting at its seams with customers (read, college going-global warming concerned youth).

I've never been the Cafe' going type. That's maybe because I lived through times where the closest you came to 'chillin' out' was when you had an ice pack on your head to get through an unbearable summer. Chatting with Namta I got to know how Cafes in Bangalore have become an integral part of youth lives. If that were so, why was ICH downing its shutters?
The answer lies in the stark contrast that's ICH and Java City, where I was at. The former, run by a co-operative had a business model focused on products and pricing aimed at the mass consumer. The latter didn't give a whit to products, instead focused on selling a lifestyle. With the kind of costs that ICH ran up, it was impossible to sustain on budget product pricin…

Capitalism & Politics

'Capitalism is not too important to be left to capitalists. It has to be left to them. Politicians simply do not understand. They are contaminated by a desire to redistribute, and to regulate, to keep large constituencies of non-productive voters happy. No politician has been more ruined by this, or caused more ruin, than Mr Brown: and this week he was still at it. In his drivelling speech on "morality" on Tuesday (the absurdity of which would have been exceeded only by Lord Rumba of Rio delivering it) he castigated people for taking risks. Capitalism is based on risk. The reward for risk is profit. The punishment for bad risk should be bankruptcy. Mr Brown wishes to avoid all such extremes, which is why he rails against capitalists, and bails out pointless banks with our money. Let him bask in his "triumph" while he can, for he is very near the end of the plank.

Roosevelt's New Deal failed because it hindered people from helping themselves. This welfarist …

Should you vote?

It seems that every other day I am being asked for vote for something on TV. Almost every other news channel seems to tell me, I must exercise my franchise to support some initiative or the other they're hawking. I couldn't care less.
I'll tell you why. Media houses know that the only way to ensure they are part of the viewer's consideration set, when it comes securing eyeballs, is to engage with them. Engaging by default becomes a difficult proposition for a channel that's part of what is termed 'externally-paced' media. That is, media that can't be controlled by the viewer. The idea then should be to give the viewer a bit of control by engaging with him. That's why you now see a slew of voting exercises. Vote for some 'Wonder', vote to 'Lead India'... .
The list seems endless. Now you know why.

Most Important Book of the Year

'In light of events, Liberty and Tyranny proves timely. Its narrator urges a return to basics. Republicans must learn to speak the language of conservatism and offer the public a true choice at the ballot box. Watered-down statism — such as the kind hawked by Senator John McCain last fall — is a recipe for permanent Republican oblivion and will allow our country to devolve into an East Germany of the mind.

Levin urges fidelity to the Constitution, devotion to federalism, and the adoption of a hard, rather than conciliatory, line with environmentalists and radicals of every stripe. His positions should be taken seriously by everyone associated with the Grand Old Party. Republican Chairman Michael Steele has already endorsed the book, and hopefully more rightist officials will discover its merits in the future.
Put simply, Liberty and Tyranny invigorates. It provides ammunition and clarity for those who oppose President Obama and socialism in all its deceptive forms. Unfortunately, th…

Who counts?

'What our Indian politicians lack, however, is the mastery over technology that Barack Obama’s team showed throughout his campaign, both proactively and in terms of damage control. Even though sitting MP Milind Deora is mobilizing his constituents through SMS updates; even though Advani keeps a blog; even though I received an SMS from the Advani campaign stating that he was going to make every girl child a “lakhpati” (very rich); in the end, we IT-savvy voters are what is called a “niche segment” in India.

We count, but not really. It is the rural voters, those teeming masses in the swing states, that have politicians up at night, and cause them to play chess games with regional parties such as the DMK or AIADMK. Because in the end, getting the vote, like predicting the box office, is not an exact science.'

- Shoba Narayan

Indian roads and the existence of God

En route to work this morning, travelling on Hosur Road, I had the good fortune of swerving away from a collision that involved the car in front and a vehicle that cut across its path.

Traversing Indian roads, if you manage to get back home in one piece, do me a favour. Sit down, and mull over why you are unscathed. It ain't your driving skills, for sure.

Its divine intervention. No more, no less.

In politics, 'Independent' means 'Positioning'

'Some cynicism is in order, but, net-net, methinks we should wipe the smirk off our gobs, and take note of these comets with the glitzy tails. Urbane independents have usually been misfits, but it could be different this time. Not because the likes of Meera Sanyal, Capt Gopinath or the ophthalmologist Mona Shah, who is also eyeing Mumbai South, are different but because the times manifestly are. Even if they lose their deposits, they will have deposited a new, non-ignorable agenda on political consciousness...

What Ms Sanyal, Dr Shah and Capt Gopinath represent is the new assertiveness of the urban middle class. This is no longer the faceless, voiceless, spineless nonentity of Indian polity. Its members have found all their hitherto missing body parts for reasons bad, but also good: economic liberalism, urban ascendancy, knowledge power and the go-getter service sector. Naturally they wouldn't be seen dead in some sloppy, one-size-fits-all political outfit. Now they have their …

Brands can dictate judgements

Without taking anything away from the musical genius that A R Rahman is, I have to say, listening to Indian designers waxing eloquent about how his music takes you to a different level, I couldn't suppress a chuckle. That's because the TV news story on fashion shows in India, had these designers choosing Rahman music for their shows, and then swooning over it, despite me thinking the song I heard on the ramp felt as if the singer was in pain or maybe the song was about someone in pain.Now I have no idea if it was a Rahman song. All I remember was that the song was about some flower, sung in manner that was excruciating. For the singer and me.Before I miss the point, let me state what I intend to. Rahman's Oscar winning music has been accepted as not being his best. Yet the accolades for his music just doesn't seem to end. That's because the response to his music can't at least for a while be objective. The Rahman persona towers strong enough to affect most asse…

Consumer relationships are about trust

It doesn't matter that in the first place it was government intervention that brought down the now gone financial institutions, to the man on the streets, private businesses are ones that can't be trusted. This loss of trust in private institutions has seen the citizenry flock to government backed financial firms.

Like I said, this despite the truth. Note Walter Williams, 'The blame for our current financial mess rests with government, with the major player being the Federal Reserve Board keeping interest rates artificially low and the congressional and White House market interference in the name of more home ownership. In the clamor for more regulation over our financial institutions, has anybody bothered to ask whether people in government know what they're doing?'
Take India as an example, to see this shift in trust. The State Bank of India is now flush with deposits made by people who have pulled it out of private banks they used to bank with. Consumers have sh…

Brands in use are brands that talk

All marketing communiques are aimed at building positive attitudes within consumers toward the communicated brand. Initially its perceptions that consumers form when exposed to communiques, which then gives way to learning, finally culminating in brand attitudes.The most potent of stimuli (communique) is the when the brand's in use (by consumers) and is visible to other consumers. This can either generate a host of goodwill or can even sound the death knell to a brand. Take the Tata Indica for example. Seeing it on roads, being driven as a cab can become its undoing, at least with families that are looking at buying a car. Who would want to own a car that's driven around as a taxi? Especially, when on the roads, every other cab seems to be an Indica.Brands in action are stimuli that marketers have no control on. Because its now the property of consumers who own it. Marketers must hope and pray that in the hands of those consumers their brand speaks in manner that gets other po…

Who's bad?

'How many movies on the evils of Wall Street do you think are now on the drawing board? Demonize the wealthy to create class warfare, deliver a message that corporations routinely take risk to enrich themselves and the few, while the rest of us suffer the consequence of their bad bets, make folks believe that only government is fair and on their side, and Democrats are the party of fairness (the Republicans, of course are assigned the role as the Party of the big banks and Wall Street, who ripped us off, and deregulated the financial industry to accomplish this).

Let us disregard all those contributions to Chris Dodd, Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, and the Democratic Senate and House campaign committees from AIG, and Wall Street firms. Let us ignore the role of Barney Frank in the mortgage mischief of FNMA. Let's forget about FNMA CEO Franklin Raines, walking away with $120 million in a severance package (where are those demands for payback of bonuses from executives who looted t…