Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from October, 2009

Whither Malayalam Cinema?

'In the eighties, a “Malayalam film” screened in the north would have carried two contrasting kinds of stigma. It could be high art (Aravindan, Adoor, John Abraham; always spoken of in awe, mostly from a safe distance). Or a dubious sort of porn, playing morning shows in halls where the seats would clatter and bite. Either philosophy or filth—that’s what everyone thought. Films that occupied the middle of the spectrum were the secret that never got out. Unbeknownst to the rest of the country, for two decades, Kerala made perhaps the best mainstream films in India. Commercial cinema had hit a strange barren patch up north, lifeless for no apparent reason, like a marathoner hitting the wall—Hindi turned infantile, Bangla went into intensive care (continues to be there). Tamil went hip—it got a spritz of MTV and technical savvy, and earned Japanese fans. But Malayalam witnessed a silent efflorescence, across popular genres. A range of stories and story-types, scripts full of nerve an…

Its isn't the food, stupid!

This should be interesting. Roadside Kebab king Bade Miyan is going premium. On cards, is a slew of fine dining restaurants that will try and tickle fickle up-market taste buds. Bade Miyan wants to take the premium road because his upmarket clientele who 'home-order' his wares, as they don't want to be rubbing shoulders with 'Aam junta' (masses) in the dust and heat, will get a chance to dig into his cuisine in surroundings that appeal.

'If all goes to plan, uniformed waiters will replace the existing crop of chokras, piped music should take the place of car horns and swear words, and freshly washed serviettes will outsmart the ‘mini tissues’ being handed out now. For the 70-year-old Mumbai street-food legend, the transformation from a 10x4 feet steel stall to a restaurant will be a quantum leap.'

The question is, will Bade Miyan make it with the rich and mighty?

Yes; that is if he understands that the change in consumer segment makes a change in mindset imper…

The Spell Breaker

'One of our great failings is our gullibility and how prone we are to superstition. More than any other nation perhaps, we are taken in by a whole host of outlandish swamis, gurus, yogis, babas, acharyas, astrologers, palmists and the like. Sadly, even though they have repeatedly been exposed as fraudsters, they continue to flourish and determine much of our lives. We need more Abraham Kovoors and Basava Premanands to steer us on the rational and scientific track.'

Saluting Basava Premanand. The Spell Breaker.

R.I.P.

Who does Hollywood hate?

'Good people hurt innocent people every day. We lose our tempers, say things in anger and generally come to regret it later. That’s one of the rougher parts of dealing with the human condition. And when good people watch Larry David piss on Christ, his mocking and blatant disrespect makes them angry. Some might even think, ”I should produce a YouTube of me pissing on Hollywood’s god – Barack Obama!” Which wouldn’t be a difficult or expensive thing to do in this digital age.

But good people don’t follow through on such things. Eventually, their better nature takes over as they think about how such a cruel and disrespectful act might hurt those they know who admire Obama … or the president’s two young daughters.

Nothing, however, stopped Larry David — not the time, logistics, planning or funds needed to put this cruel episode together. David’s not a dumb man, and neither are the many people who made the production possible. Every one of them knew exactly what they were doing, what th…

Right to Live & Reason to Kill

I guess what happened today morning is what got me to finally write, what I am about to. While reading the paper early this morning, I heard the bedroom door creak. Scampering out of it was Jaden, who soon got his li'l legs to carry him past me, to the kitchen where Alphy was. He sprang into her arms and planted a broad morning kiss. Alphy's grin was huge.

Could there be a better start to a morning?

But at times there aren't. A few days ago I woke up to news of a brutal murder, of a family of three in Bangalore. The murdered included a girl of eight. Reading the story was heartbreaking. It seems the girl just before she was done to death was sketching something on paper. Because when her body was found, beside it was pencil and paper.

The police seem to be close to cracking the case. I hope they do. And then I hope the honorable courts find whoever responsible for death of the child, not worthy to live. I hope its a death penalty for the murderers.

Now there's a distinct p…

The lesson Michael can teach Maoists

The Maoists seem to go from bad to worse. Their sister organisation held up a train a day ago in India, so they could scrawl graffiti calling for their comrade's release. And pray what's behind all such destructive acts? The desire to uplift the downtrodden. If the Maoists do really want social upliftment, they should look to a place and a people who have had immense success at it. In fact, I'd recommend the Maoists look at a recent act that's radically different from their philosophy, yet, is what's true 'upliftment' philosophy. Of course, I can tell you the Maoists will never get around to understanding it. After all, aren't they named after a mass murderer? That should be an indication of how sensible they are.Across the ocean from where the train was stopped, the post death jamboree rolls on. I am talking Michael Jackson. In death he's opened up opportunities like never before. Former non-released tunes are now being brought into the open for a …

Why women bitch

'So why do women bitch? Some Sociologists say the reason is Biology. Appearing stronger than other females in the group puts you at the top of the pecking order, meaning you are more likely to be chosen by the most desirable male. We may live in a more sophisticated society now but this biological determination still manifests itself in the urban jungle, with women vying for promotion and partners in an increasingly competitive world.As society still expects women to be well behaved, our aggression must be veiled - meaning that the most lethal criticism is invariably couched in sycophancy. "It must be lovely having small breasts," a fellow author said to me recently at a book launch. "Clothes must hang so well."...Why is bitching the female weapon of choice? Well, for starters, we women are more verbally dexterous than men. Women use, on average, 350 more words in their daily vocabulary, although my husband says that this is because we use 35000 more words in a…

Will we save the Tiger?

I guess the Tiger's under threat in India. The magnificent animal faces extinction if something's not done to stop the poachers and depletion of the its habitat. Radio Indigo based in Bangalore has been running a campaign to help save the Tiger. Radio Jockeys and other celebrities who feature on the Radio channel have been for some time now, trying to get us people to participate and do something about the Tiger.

The question is, will we? Do we care for the Tiger? And if we did, why?

The answer to the above mentioned questions lies buried in our understanding of Human Motivation. We are moved to act only if two conditions are satisfied. One, the problem or the issue we face must be known to us and be of importance. Two, the issue/problem that we face must be bigger than others that we encounter in our lives. I mean, that the Tiger's in trouble should be of more importance than, say, our need to renew the car insurance that's running out, or the pressing need to pay the k…

Dismantling America

'How far the President will go depends of course on how much resistance he meets. But the direction in which he is trying to go tells us more than all his rhetoric or media spin.

Barack Obama has not only said that he is out to "change the United States of America," the people he has been associated with for years have expressed in words and deeds their hostility to the values, the principles and the people of this country...

Nothing so epitomizes President Obama's own contempt for American values and traditions like trying to ram two bills through Congress in his first year-- each bill more than a thousand pages long-- too fast for either of them to be read, much less discussed. That he succeeded only the first time says that some people are starting to wake up. Whether enough people will wake up in time to keep America from being dismantled, piece by piece, is another question-- and the biggest question for this generation.

- Thomas Sowell, 'Dismantling America…

Paranormal Activity is Marketing Activity

How does a movie shot on a budget of $11,000 in a week in the writer-director's (Oren Peli) home become a top grosser in Hollywood history? Note, cash registers are still ringing. Also note, the movie had in the past (2007) played a few fright festivals.

So, what's different now? What happened?

The answer is one that should turn PA into Marketing legend. Paranormal Activity is the perfect example to brilliant marketing. It got the Marketing Ps, dead right.

As a product, though not pioneering, PA is old wine in a fantastic new bottle. Sure, Blair Witch Project was the pioneer, but PA perfected the art of scary by presenting it in an edgy new format. No jungle or getting lost for PA's characters, instead its the claustrophobic environment of a bedroom that plays out on screen. The cine viewer, by the sheer pull of spooky events in a bedroom, is forced into it, to participate. And viewers participate, because unlike the blood splattered gory movies, PA keeps them on tenterhooks …

If God's Conservative, is CNN doomed?

Connect these two.One, In the United States, Conservatives continue to outnumber moderates and liberals in the American populace in 2009, confirming a finding that Gallup first noted in June. Forty percent of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 36% as moderate, and 20% as liberal. This marks a shift from 2005 through 2008, when moderates were tied with conservatives as the most prevalent group.Two, CNN, which invented the cable news network more than two decades ago, will hit a new competitive low with its prime-time programs in October, finishing fourth – and last – among the cable news networks with the audience that all the networks rely on for their advertising.Now, who are the leading news guys on TV? Bill O'Reilly tops at 881,000 viewers and Sean Hannity rakes in 659,000 viewers . Liberal news analysis is way behind.Consider the first snippets' implication on the second. Conservatives outnumber Liberals, 2 to 1. On TV, Fox's viewers outnumber th…

Is being smart, being right?

Though they often tell us that being ethical is about choosing right over wrong, it ain't as simple as that. Right over wrongs are easy. Its right over just' a li'l less right that's difficult.

In Management its said, you have to work 'smart'. Pray, what's smart all about? And do ethical issues arise when you take the 'smart' way? Take the case of a brand that doesn't tell you that the claim it bandies about is a result of research on a skewed sample. For example, a fairness soap that claims 98 percent of its users felt fairer in two weeks, makes a 'smart' claim. Not a 'right' one. If broached, the brand will point to some flawed research. Note, reality is otherwise. Again, take the case of media publications. They all claim to give us the 'truth'. What they really mean is, their version of the truth. That's again 'smart'.

So in tom-toming 'researched' claims or telling us they tell us the truth, or that…

The pipe dream of Social Justice

Of course, the call for 'inclusive growth' seems all too human. Yet the idea of an equitable society is flawed. Because that is isn't the way nature intended anything to be. Hierarchies are but natural. Flattened worlds, the kind seen by Thomas Friedman, can't and won't exist. Its a pipe dream.

Equitable societies driven by inclusive growth seem to be pet talking points for politicians. And that is but natural. After all if such Utopian dreams have to come to fruition, taxpayer burden has to grow. The funny thing is, large sections of society can't come to terms with the fact that 'social justice' is a canard. Because it makes them feel as if they aren't doing their bit. And so they are like lambs led to slaughter, by hair brained government schemes, that instead of wiping out poverty, make the people in charge more prosperous than before.

Herbert London addresses the issue of Social Justice and puts it the 'right perspective';

'For many, s…

Stars fall, Institutions musn't

I guess its bittersweet for ISB. The FT MBA rankings has put ISB at No. 15. That's the sweet spot. The bitter one refers to the arrest of AnilKumar, co-founder and member of the executive board of the Indian School of Business. This follows another, earlier this year. MenduRammohanRao, former dean of ISB, resigned after questions were raised over his role as the board member of scandal-hit Satyam Computers.As a business school, ISB is intact. In fact their response to the scandal has been measured and mature. The Dean has acknowledged AnilKumar's contribution and has refused to pass judgement before the courts decide. But what's even more noteworthy is the image ISB has built over its few years in existence, sans personalities. ISB's focus on 'Global Learning' rather than personalities has paid off. Maybe this wasn't intentional. But their not hyping personalities associated with the school has stood them in good stead. Personalities fall, the Institution d…

Who's listening to Talk Radio?

'I’m sorry, but I don’t see a sign at the clubhouse, saying “no liberal hosts.” The only sign is from the public, who hates them. It’s called supply and demand. The demand is for a conservative viewpoint – and it’s currently being supplied.

What happens when you supply a product for which there is no demand?

You get Air America. Some might call that a noble experiment, but it was neither noble, or experimental. Instead it functioned like a jar of leftwing preserves– a time capsule of corrupt liberal thinking, circa 1977. And, of course, for NPR to succeed, it needs government assistance. For liberal ideas to survive, you need welfare.

So, in short, CNN is right: talk radio is about access. But they’ve got it backwards. The reason why talk radio is conservative isn’t because radio limits access for the left. It’s conservative, because the rest of the media limits access from the right. Other than Fox News, talk radio is the only place you can hear another point of view.

It’s a shame CN…

Consumption contrasts in Tiger vs. Dragon

Its fascinating to study the contrasts in consumption behaviour in India, vis-a-vis China.

China's been a difficult market to crack for foreign firms. What's interesting to note is the Chinese consumers' reaction of foreign goods. Undercutting prices has not worked for MNC brands. In fact Chinese consumers perceive these brands to be costlier, despite the fact that they really aren't. A Nielsen survey suggests that 'one strategy that has brought success to several foreign firms has been to charge high prices—a surprise, given that earnings in China remain quite low. The report concludes that Chinese believe that foreign brands are more expensive, even when they are not. That suggests that they should aim to compete on quality rather than cost.'

Now this is a marked contrast to what happens in India. Indian consumers may aspire for foreign brands, but aren't enamored by high prices. The mass markets in India don't have a problem sticking to an Indian brand…

Curing non-existent ailments in Education

Though Education Minister Mr. Kapil Sibal has his intentions right in terms of Education 'reform', his prescription seems to be going awry. His latest suggestion of including XIIth standard marks as part of evaluation criteria for admission to the IITs seems fine, though, on a personal note I don't think it matters one bit. But when he points to the sprouting of IIT coaching institutes as one of the reasons to bring XIIth standard marks in, he's stumbles on economic logic.

In fact, as one of the coaching institute Director pointed out on TV, inclusion of XII standard marks is an added opportunity for coaching institutes to offer coaching classes for XII standard exams. So the new policy, instead of shutting them down, will only help them grow. What defies complete economic logic is the Minister's assumption that a change in the evaluation criteria will arrest the growth of coaching institutes. You don't need to be an economist to figure that the existence and co…

A Man Apart

'At first I thought his initial popularity would carry him through to a second term. But as each day passes and the false, almost inappropriate gestures register with the people, Americans are beginning to recognize this president as a man apart. He is our stranger in a land he doesn’t understand.

Americans are not warlike; nor does imperial ambition fill their soul. They have done almost nothing for which daily apologies are necessary. Their blood soaks the beaches of Normandy; their graves litter European towns. And their fortune saved millions from the plight of destitution. Americans do not appreciate a man so removed from their history, so out of tune with the American experience, that he reflexively expresses regret for the very conditions that should engender pride.

Perhaps this president will learn. But I am not confident that can happen. His life experience without a father in his home and a mother seeking adventure abroad was unstable. His closest associates vilified the n…

Bonoising America

'Many have spoken about the need for a rebranding of America. Rebrand, restart, reboot. In my view these 36 words, alongside the administration’s approach to fighting nuclear proliferation and climate change, improving relations in the Middle East and, by the way, creating jobs and providing health care at home, are rebranding in action.'

Sure Bono, also, why not state the fact that Obama didn't meet the Dalai Lama, didn't support protesters in Iran and sided with Zelaya? Shouldn't this be added to Obama's brilliant foreign policy initiatives? Initiatives aimed at furthering the Obama brand of Democracy.

Rebranding in action or a hypocrite casting his lot with the devil?

Extreme Climate change? For once Bono, why don't you watch something with a difference? Something other than Gore's lies. I'd recommend 'Not Evil Just Wrong'. Now I could on and on with what a disaster Obama is, but hey, I guess everyone knows by now. Fox tells us that its onl…

Why we say what we say

'But why do we feel the need to type? To Tweet? To talk endlessly about ourselves on blogs? It's because we have too much information coming in. And we need an outlet. An 1980's programmer would call it GIGO [Garbage In, Garbage Out].'

Sure Devita, there's too much of information coming in, and so we may need an outlet, plus we need to be careful what we put 'out there', but I'd venture a different guess as to why we need to babble endlessly in cyberspace.

In fact I'd say the real reason's twofold. One, there ain't any other way we can express what we've been forbidden to most of our lives (blame family or social norms), or can't because we're shy; and two, there ain't any other space where we can remain faceless or at least not face our receivers and yet propagate what we want to put 'out there'.

The Internet's the first media space that provides talkers or consumers with a free platform. The Internet is also the f…

The Narcissists in Us

Too many times I have encountered narcissists. I even get to see one in the mirror at times. Narcissism is impossible to get away from because as Scott Peck states, we tend to see things always, at first, from our own perspective. We may, later, see the other's, and that springs from our ability to empathise.

Empathy is critical to any marketer. In fact successful Marketing is steeped in the ability to empathise. With consumers. The ability to see things from their perspective. Take any service encounter. The best way to to manage this dynamic scenario is by being empathetic. The customer at your store comes in with a perspective that's his own. His queries arise from his personal 'store-view'. He sees and interprets your store based on a psyche that's uniquely his. Sure, he may turn out to be like an earlier customer, yet what he sees, is his own world. Managing him requires a marketer to walk that world.

Narcissists who can't practice empathy, that is disconnec…

Why we Buy

Its Diwali season. And as Rama Bijapurkar stated, its the season that's a barometer to consumer sentiment. If consumers loosen their purse strings this season, it will be a cheer for future consumption. If they don't, gloom's just round the corner.To prepare for this season marketers need to know why consumers splurge during festivals. Though the conventional reason stated is, its celebration time, the real reason's otherwise. Festival time's fertile ground for consumers sentiment. Here's why. The two external entities that bear down on consumers as influences are, a firms marketing effort and the socio-cultural environment. During festival time, firms' marketing efforts reach a crescendo. Communiques abound with lures never seen in normal times. New products and campaigns are unveiled. Price offs abound. Add to this, socio-cultural influences. Whoever the consumers consider as reference group, messages that emanate from them's the same. They are buying…

Who's the real Superstar?

At rare times, knowing a bit about some one's life turns into a bolt from the blue. More so, if the person in question has a Bollyowood past (as an actor). Mention Bollywood and I am thinking of parking my brains somewhere.But then I read about this former actor and I have no qualms in admitting there are superstars in life. Real life. KamalSadanah is a superstar. A harrowing past and he comes out of it wiser. Wise enough to teach me lessons. Two things he says connect at a personal level. One, about spirituality taking him nowhere (I knew that) and two about what family means to him. A Bruce Wayne like reclusive existence too hits home. I love anonymity. My guess is, Kamal will never be the mass consumer man (Note, that's not to say he can't make mass cinema). He's too sensible (he says, 'And then there are always acting offers for a genre I call 'monkey cinema', offers I graciously refuse!') and so can't appeal to mass sensibilities. But he can an…

Happy B' day Jaden

Judge not lest Ye be Judged

Flor isn't too happy at Bono being painted the hypocrite. It makes me wonder about our judgement calls. Are they warranted? Should we be pointing fingers at Bono, the generous?Before I answer, consider the parable of the widow with two coins at the temple. (Luke 21:1-3) “As He looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ He said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” The parable puts Bono's generosity in perspective. Now I am also aware of what Jesus said about judging others, "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the plank that…

Zero thought means a brand 's a habit

A light bulb changing incident at home leads to a change in switches for the new bulb to be put on. The problem is, my hand almost always reaches for the older switch. After putting the old switch on, I realise the change that's happened. Tell you what, the change happened a few months ago and yet my hands don't reach for the new switch. It invariably goes back to the old one.

Habit. That's why.

Habitual actions involve minimal thinking. The act 's almost automatic. Like I've said before, breaking such habits is a gargantuan task. Brands that try and do that, face what's akin to an uphill climb.

But what about brands that are part of habit? Such brands, I believe are secure. Their security comes from being part of consumer habit. Like for example, my picking the morning edition of Times of India (newspaper) at my doorstep. Or Nandhini milk packets left by the milkman in a tray outside, every morning. In fact, at home, if we open the door and don't see our morn…

Hypocrite

'Bono is a prime example of baby-boomer good vibes - of feel-good politics tarted up with celebrity endorsement. Born in 1960, he is a pin-up for late fortysomething, early fiftysomething urbanites of a vaguely Left-wing bent.

That is, they feel they should be Left-wing, though they may not live out their principles in their spending habits. It is a very Islington state of mind. Bono, for instance, is fantastically extravagant. He is an enthusiastic buyer of stocks and shares - he owns a hefty chunk of the New York money magazine, Forbes.

He travels the world in a bubble of executive-jet comfort, spending a fortune on his little treats and fancies and racking up tens of thousands of air miles. Here is a man worth hundreds of millions who has a villa in the South of France, an Italian palazzo looking over the briny near Dublin and a multi-million-pound penthouse in Manhattan. And yet Bono's message to the Tory conference, as ever, was a homily about the poor and neglected of Afri…

Why believe in God?

I am currently reading 'Why choose this Book' by Read Montague. Pretty interesting stuff about how we make decisions and the nature of free will. In the first chapter, Read talks about the maverick mathematician Alan Turing and compares his genius to another, Charles Darwin, even calling him Darwin of the twentieth century. He equates Alan Turing to Darwin by stating how both transformed mysteries, one on the diverse adaptations that we see in life, the other on how minds arise from physical interactions.Now Read, from what I've read talks fascinating stuff. And as per what's seems to be a norm among brilliant minds, Read takes to Darwinism. I wonder why? Why is it that accomplished thinkers never have an iota of doubt about a theory that's been proven weak beyond doubt? In fact, a reading of 'The Case for the Creator' by Lee Strobel should be a cause for some doubt, if not disbelief at Darwin's hypothesis. Yet there's none among the intelligentsia.…

Nobel tops 'SNL' for Obama joke

'Fortunately, the Nobel Committee understands that President Obama's accomplishments are no laughing matter. So they gave him the Peace Prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." I assumed this was a reference to his rip-roaring success in winning the Olympic Games for Rio, but as it turns out the deadline for Nobel nominations was way back on Feb. 1.Obama took office on Jan. 20. Gosh, it's so long ago now. What "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy" did he make in those first 12 days? Bowing to the Saudi king? Giving the British prime minister the Walmart discount box of "Twenty Classic Movies You've Seen A Thousand Times"? "Er, Barack, I've already seen these." "That's OK. They won't work in your DVD player anyway." For these and other "extraordinary efforts" in "cooperation between peoples", Presid…

Stand up, Speak up, Shut up!

Isn't it funny that the more someone talks, the more you know how much they know and, more importantly, how much they don't. Its a lesson I could learn too. To know when to stay mum.

Anyway, what I am referring to, is this discussion on CNN-IBN that featured Lord Meghnad Desai and Ad-man Suhel Seth on the Obama Nobel prize. Meghnad Desai wasn't too pleased with Obama's Nobel. This was in stark contrast to Suhel who waxed eloquent about the prize being 'symbolic' and how Obama's winning 'symbolised' a lot of things. He mentioned Obama's Germany visit and prophetic talk to prove his point. He also rambled about brands driving perceptions and how that was what Obama was about, and so on.

The more Suhel rambled, the more I knew he knew nothing about the real Obama. He knew just enough to ramble on TV. He knew nothing about Obama's disastrous policies on National Security (Guantanamo by the way is still open and rightly so), on funding partial birt…

Forget me, tell me about your product

The flu keeps me home. A post afternoon nap has me tuning into what Alphy's watching on TV. She tells me the series is titled '7th Heaven'. I learn that this 1996 series is clean, wholesome family fun. I mean, the series is about the Camden family; how the minister father and stay-at-home mother deal with the drama of having seven children, ranging from toddlers to adults with families of their own. The friends, neighbors, and love interests of the various members of the family weigh heavily on the plot of the series which seeks to address real-life issues.What's great about the show is the lack of any cursing, cussing or stuff that's perceived in today's world as 'cool'. The content too addresses issues families face in real life. This could partly be due to the fact that its a 1996 series. But then, what a refreshing change from what's nowadays on TV.Brings me to a Marketing point. Most communique material from brands today seem to glorify the con…

The Nobel Joke

The Norwegian Nobel joke continues. Its Obama for Peace. The liberal winner cup overflows. We have seen the likes of Jimmy Carter, a gutless appeaser, Yasser Arafat, a terrorist thug and Al Gore, a lying Green win the same prize in the past. Therefore should we be surprised at the Obama choice? Obama's nothing but a shrewd player who cares only for himself. Every move of his has been calculated for political capital. At times its even been fraudulent. Note Thomas Sowell writing on Obama's healthcare plan; ' "Hubris-laden charlatans" was the way a recent e-mail from a reader characterized the Obama administration. That phrase seems especially appropriate for the Charlatan-in-Chief, Barack Obama, whose speech to a joint session of Congress was both a masterpiece of rhetoric and a shameless fraud.To tell us, with a straight face, that he can insure millions more people without adding to the already skyrocketing deficit, is world-class chutzpa and an insult to anyone…

Want Social Equity? Embrace Capitalism.

Jaden gets his birthday gift and card, in advance from Abby chechi and Amy baby in the US. The card's got this Ben 10 hologram that changes into each of the aliens, one after the other, depending on the way its held. There's background music too.

Jaden's thrilled and doesn't part with the card, the whole day. I marvel at the kind of gift cards on shelves in the United States.

The reason for such varied products on shelves in the US. can be attributed to a population that isn't inhibited in consumption. Their fierce desire to buy is what results in wealth creation for firms. That in turn is why firms can afford to innovate, to get even more varied and unique products on shelves. Many a times, I've heard the developing world bemoaning consumption in the US. Of course living beyond means isn't a good idea. But consumption is necessary for the innovation wheel to roll. For shelves to be stacked with better, varied and more products. At prices that get cheaper and…

At times, Bollywood scores

"Just because I won the National Award, does not mean I plan to become the next Shyam Benegal or Adoor. Realistic non-commercial films offer you a lot more liberty as a director than a usual film. On the other hand while making a commercial film you are constantly thinking, will the mass audience like this, will they accept this. It is a lot more difficult to make a typical Bollywood film than a realistic film."

That's director Priyadarshan talking about art and commercial cinema.

Catering to niches is relatively easier than catering to masses. The Harrods of the world are to be admired. After all, they sell to high end consumers with taste. But I admire the likes of Wal-Mart more. Because they sell to masses, merchandise that's of good quality, at extremely affordable prices. The business model's the pursuit of Cost Leadership. Harrods is a differentiator. But Cost leaders get my vote (never mind liberals who gun for them) because of their obsession with efficien…

The Diwali Barometer

'For marketers, Dussehra and Diwali are especially important. Unlike the other more regional festivals like Pongal or Ganesh Chaturthi, which are celebrated with varying degrees of importance and enthusiasm in different parts of the country, Dussehra and Diwali are more or less pan-Indian. While Dussehra and Diwali have different stories and rituals around the country, they have some standard features: ten days for Dussehra festivities, praying to Lakshmi for prosperity at Diwali. The entire social nature of these festivals is nearly standard right across India. The expansive spending mindset is already there. And if, at this time, consumers aren’t spending, it’s an indicator of how bad things actually are. And in good years this is when you make the upside on your sales.

Companies and retailers reinforce this scheme of things. It takes two to tango as far as shaping consumption behaviour is concerned. Brightly lit seductive displays, lots of festival offers and discounts, heavy ad…

I am glad its 'ME', am I buying?

The problem with telling me too often its about 'me' is that I turn skeptical. The intelligent me parks my ego to the side and makes an assessment of what's really in it for me. And if I find better value, I may succumb.

Yahoo's new campaign says , 'Its You'; HCL's got this new poster telling me its got the 'ME' series. Wipro brands its laptops,'E.go'. I say, smart. You're appealing to the 'me' in me. You got one move dot on. You recognise that products and services are about me. There are still too many corporations out there obsessed with themselves, forgetting the fact that, what they sell isn't about anybody but me.
The million dollar question is whether I'll bite the'me' bait. I believe the Yahoo case is different form that of Wipro and HCL. The Wipro/HCL offer tries to engage the buyer by appealing to his sense of esteem. Good for a start. But purchase decisions will be dictated by functional assessment of the…

To sell, follow the rules

'Gee, what could possibly go wrong?

Anyone who has had to succeed in the real business world -- and that includes few if any on Team Obama -- instinctively knows that to get business done you have to believe in what you are doing and offer a product or service that is focused on the benefits to the customer. In the Obama World of Chicago pay-to-play power, business gets done by flexing muscle and clearing the field of your competitors. You don't have to sell anything. You don't have to believe in anything. It is fine to be self-focused. You simply have to apply the power of the applicable political machinery and you win.

Which could explain why the First Couple was so apparently lost in an attempt to actually have to make a sale to an audience not cowed by Chicago-style clout, inoculated by our own fawning Jurassic media, nor remotely interested in their life stories. Perhaps that is how and why they botched it so badly.'

- C Edmund Wright, 'The Obamas Violated F…

No service is Good service

Imagine elation at not being served. Though rare, its a distinct possibility.

A week ago, I tried to courier some important financial documents home. My quest for a courier company close to where I live had me at the doorsteps of this travel office that acted as a pickup point for a certain courier agency. A firm that I hadn't heard of. Temporary insanity saw me handing over the package to them. They promised delivery in two days.

My nightmare lasted a week. For that much time neither the travel office nor the courier agency could trace where my package was. Of course, it hadn't reached home. At the end of the week, the travel office traces it to a sedentary position on a table at the courier despatch site. I ask them to get it back and reclaim possession a day later, at Bangalore. The only journey the package's made is from the travel office to the courier depatch site and back. Then to me.

Getting the package back made me more joyful than I can imagine. The miserable incomp…

Consumers cutting back is global

What's true to consumers in India is true to ones in the US. too. Or shall we say the rest of the world? Back in June, a study by Anita and me had found that Indian consumers had cut back on their purchase quantums, ie., 'if they ate out once a week, now its once in two weeks. If they travelled for leisure every six months, now they do so only once a year. The most interesting finding that should bring cheer to the likes of P&G and Home Depot or any other brand out there is that, consumers still haven't switched to a 'cheaper' brand to save money. That is, if one were used to wearing Levi Strauss denims, one still buys the brand, albeit in lesser quantities.'

Consumers in the US. too seem to doing exactly the same as their counterparts in India. Cut back on purchases. A recent Harris Poll found that 'two-thirds of Americans are likely to decrease spending on eating out and entertainment in the next six months'. Note, this is what what they did six mo…