Monday, July 6, 2009

Sales Strategies............. how to forget about those useless "Sales Training" Companies..

Recently, the MD of a successful company was discussing with me about the most important things which need to be taken care of while launching a product. Sales strategy seemed to be topping the list, and among the requirements of successful sales strategy the most important was to prepare the right salesmen for the job depending on the product requirement. It has been seen that it generally takes a lot of time to prepare an appropriate salesman. Even a person who claims to have experience in Sales takes at least 1-2 years before he is able deliver his best, especially for a product similar to the one the MD was talking about.

So here are a few 'Ashwin strategies' on how to ensure the formation of a leading Sales person. Don't worry, I am not aiming to take away the job of the so called "Sales training" companies which provide courses to sales executives of the company to make them experts. They have got their own set of expertise and its possible that they may prove helpful for some salesperson, but I personally believe such training courses are only as good as the trainees.

So lets begin stepwise. The first step- Selection.

We have to agree that true salesmen are very less in number, and the ones which are, are already part of some big company with a high pay package. So what does a new company, with serious constraints on budgets, do? A part of the answer is the famous 80-20 rule; have at least 20% of the salesmen as experts and the case of the rest of the 80% shall be dealt with later. So coming to the top 20%, how to attract them to the company with lesser salary and lesser name?

For this, let me exemplify through a case which I had experimented when I was in school: My class had a number of good looking girls and one day entered this new girl who was average looking. Let me tell you, I actually did this as an experiment (I used to experiment with human psychology even back then), and suggested to all my friends that this new girl was the most gorgeous of them all (a few of them were part of the experiment who were the actual ones spreading the news, and the rest were objects of experiment). In a few days, this new average looking girl was suddenly the most talked about and sought after girls in the class. Let me tell you, this was a case when we were in Class 5, a stage where it is easy to mould your mind. This means it is in the Human Nature to get attracted to something which is challenging and may be new (challenge was there for the best looking guys in the class when they saw that others were fighting for the particular girl). [Or why go so far into my childhood; take the case of a dog who jumps after a thrown piece of food even before it completes the piece which it is eating. But I didn't want to compare salesmen with dogs otherwise I would have been in an embarrassing situation, hence I didn't use this example]

Now let us bring out the analogy of the terms used above, in the context of salesmen:
Good Looking Girls- High Salaried Jobs in Known companies
Average Looking Girl- Average Salaried Job with Challenge in the work
Best looking guys- The best salesmen who love to challenge themselves
Class 5 students- Young salesmen with the passion in them but experience very less

Hope the example above is quite clear now. Such companies can attract the 20% needed brilliance through the challenge thrown at them which is always associated with new products. The spice in the challenge can be increased through the increased use of perks (now that FBT is abolished). Perks can be made dependent on the Sales done. Competition within the team, can be another idea, already experimented in a few companies. This means that the highest seller in a team is treated with perks by the worst sellers in the team, thus ensuring that no money is used from the pocket of the employer while churning out the best results. Such experiments can be done, but won't prove to be pathbreakingly useful. What is most important is to attract the best, by letting them know that they'll be becoming a part of the history by marketing the new product, which will take them to a new level in the corporate ladder. Ambition is another Human Nature which can be 'exploited' through intelligent strategies. And every intelligent salesman is not shortsighted enough to just look at the money but is highly ambitious and thinks of things lying ahead of them.

So this is how the 80-20 selection will be feasible.

Now lets move to the next step. Bringing the best out of the 80% less brilliant sales people.These rules may also apply to the brilliant guys.

First let me tell you what are the most important qualities needed in a salesman- confidence, motivation, convincing skills, power of persistence and greed. Some of these qualities are in-built but some of them can be built. These qualities need to be coated with the knowledge of the product. Once you know about the product and yourself believe in its high potential, you are confident enough that you can convince others of the same. But there are products which take years to understand. So for these cases, we need to derive something from the famous "guerilla warfare techniques".

Some of you might have heard of the 'guerilla marketing tactics' to launch a product (where you target your potential market in numerous short and powerful stages), but 'guerilla sales technique' sounds quite absurd, doesn't it. No, but it is not absurd, I shall explain you how. Guerilla tactics mean attacking the enemy in form of different small groups in multiple stages in order to weaken the enemy's stability and force the enemy to act in a state of over-zeal. Our prospective clients will be divided into various sectors, based on the product, and the salesmen will be divided into groups based on this. Then the guerilla technique starts. In the first stage, the best parts of the product (based on the requirements of the prospective client sector) and the basic knowledge will be taught to the salesman and with this the attempt to finalize the deal with the client shall be done. Then if needed, a second attack will be done with added knowledge of the details of the product, by the salesman who has become slightly better with experience. Thus the attacks (in form of the benefits of the product) continue steadily; and at the end our salesman is also an expert while the client is also in hand. Now the same salesman will take the deal to a complete closure, as he knows everything about the product, even technicalities. This technique may have the disadvantage of being a bit slower but it is always better than a failed client attempt and time needed for salesmen to become competent.

Now it is not as simple as I have explained above, as there are certain rules and exceptions associated with it, which can be easily known when plan is strategized in detail.

Thus using the '80-20 rule', the 'exploition of Ambition and Competitiveness in Human Nature' and the 'Guerilla Sales Tactic', new dimensions to formation of sales people can be created. But these tactics are not the end of all; as lots of changes in the techniques and their implementation will depend on the nature of product and market analysis of the product. There are certain other unconventional techniques as well which need to be followed along with these.

Coming back to selection:
Even the selection of the appropriate salesmen for the job will be dependent on these factors, especially the prospective market. Its the nature of a salesman that he'll always have an expertise of a particular kind, we need to identify what kind is present in a particular salesman and what is the appropriate market where this kind can be used. Based on this, the selection should be done. There is another interesting method I have in my mind to do the selection based on the words said above. A large number of qualities existent in any salesman is listed down and qualitative judgement on each quality is done. Based on the combinations of the result for each quality, the expertise of a salesman can be known. Now, details of all these things Later.................

Too many words...... too much gyaan..... Aaj ke liye this is enough.

Union Budget 2009- a review in my style

I am no Tax expert, neither do I know the difference between MAT and DDT. But the Budget 09 is certainly something which needs to be followed by everyone like me, owing to the fact that this budget led to a fall in the 'Sensex' while trying to please the 'common man'. But what does it bring for the people who are stuck in the middle of these entities- the common man trying to become uncommon by becoming a common part of the business world. The word 'common' is too commonly used, hence it needs a caroused explanation (sorry for the bad joke :), I just wanted to build the mood by establishing that everything this budget does is for the word 'Common').

So, as mentioned in my earlier posts, the driver of the Indian market in this period of economy is going to be SMEs and to some extent, startups. The market is seeing a surge and every new and small innovation is going to benefit. What does this driver stand to achieve from this market, how will things change for someone who is about a launch a new product, how is the Union Budget 2009 going to affect small businesses.

Lets first have a look at the interesting features of this budget- Fringe Benefit Tax abolished, sharp hike in Defence Budget, Branded Jewelleries get cheaper (non branded ones... take a plunge), IT Exemption limits increased, lots of money for higher education through IITs, IIMs etc. This is clearly budget which, in its first sight, seems short sighted and aimed only at popular developmental issues.

But SMEs will definitely benefit immensely from the FBT abolition. FBT is the tax which was put on all amenities and perks provided to the employees apart from the regular salary. This had led to a lot extra expenditure for employers, specially in marketing firms (marketing firms because their a large amount of traveling and business trip perks associated with such businesses). Now that FBT is abolished, SMEs will have their way again by luring new employees not through their basic salary, but through the option of earning through perks which the company provides. When SMEs are benefited, entrepreneurs and new ideas are benefited too. FBT abolition can be used as a unique weapon by these smaller firms, as these firms always need some unique weapons for winning over prospective employees (since they lack normal weapons like high pay package or big brand name). Now, they have a chance which every calculating mind will utilize to the best of its advantage.

Is there anything apart from the FBT news, which is going to bring a drastic change? Yes, there is. At least on paper, there is. Special funds for easy lending to smaller and micro enterprises has also been formed. Though the focus currently is rural market, it won't be long before these micro and small enterprises will benefit much more. The FM, while deciding the budget, must have kept this into mind that the base need be strengthened to allow a towering structure to be made. Thats why he focused on the right segment of market at least in this part of the budget.

But didn't the market expect much more from this budget; there is no doubt that small enterprises can thrive only when the market receives more from the FM. But lets look at the best part, the budget clearly seems to have inclined itself more towards the bigger benefits of MSEs (Micro and Small Enterprises) rather than bigger corporate houses, a clear sign that the road is going to be easier for every person who has the plans to startup. Easing the taxation system in the few months, will make this road even easier. Soon, India will also be the country with lots of hassles while having a startup removed, thus leading to greater investment in startups from established firms and VCs.

Things are looking good :) ........

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hukkaah.. Sheesha.. the new trend Or the new Market. Dare not try it. But do learn something from it.. Deception!

Strange that I am about to write on something which I have tasted in large volume only once, but the effects were so dangerous that they brought my attention to the changing trends in the society and the growth of large number of Hukka joints in various places of India in the past 1 year.

I shall just begin by telling that one full cylinder of Hukka is equivalent to 50 cigarettes; and one knows smoking 50 cigarettes in 1 night can bring the hell out of you. Yes, I know that people think that water acts as a filter to filter out the harmful effects of this delicacy. But scientific research has proven that water can never act as a filter to nicotine and hence to the effects of the interesting object called Hukka.

Now immediately, lets shift our focus from Scientific research to Market Research otherwise this blog post shall look more like a traumatized addict's health report (which clearly it is not). Market Research speaks that about 50 Hukka joints have suddenly appeared in important locations in India in the past 6 months, and is one of the most favorite form of hangout place for youngsters. Non smokers and non drinkers also come to drink Hukka regularly and this is the prime reason what makes this a success which was unimaginable initially.

Hukka- the object of delicacy- is a metaphor for an intelligent marketer who knows how deception is one of the most important things needed for survival in the market. Deception, not forgery. Hukka never claims that it doesn't harm you; but it provides a sweet flavored smell, which is not hated by even the biggest haters of cigarette smoke, and this simple 'unirrating' aura which surrounds Hukka deceives the hidden dangers behind it and hence attracts more and more customers. Simple and intelligent deception- this makes Hukka equivalent to 'Fair and Lovely' which deceives without lying or Arindam Chaudhary- one of the biggest deceits in the history of Indian corporate world.

Deception in the right manner has always been an interesting way of approaching the focused customer group. What better examples than Hukka and Arindam Chaudhary to exemplify the interesting market requirement which I have named "The Hukka effect" and which could have been easily called "The IIPM Effect". Just go through this link to know a little more about "The IIPM Effect"

So I would like to end this post by saying that this market needs an outer covering (e.g. sweet smell of Hukka or full page advertisements of IIPM) to enter the minds of consumers or clients. When immoral cases, like those mentioned above, can make a mark and earn unimaginable profits with the aid of this trump card- the outer covering (or "The Hukka Effect" as I have named it), such a covering is bound to help young entrepreneurs like me who are anyways promoting a worthy object. Its a different discussion altogether about what are the various methods of deception (use of media being an important one) which can be used to climb the ladders of success and profit without being wrong. The modes [of deception] vary with the mood [client mood].

So don't drink Hukka and never even think of going to IIPM.......... unless you want to learn the market the hard way.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Online Marketing- some interesting insights!!!!!

The following article aims to look at the world of online advertising through the ambitious eyes of a new venture......

Is it time Zoozoo dethrones SRK? Seems far fetched, but at least people in India are talking about it. Type "Zoozoo SRK" on Google and you shall know. If Zoozoo is so famous, how can this interesting creature elude my conscience; no way!! But what interested me more than zoozoo was one of the reasons why it threatens brand SRK. And thus my thinking heart comes to the latest crown of the thinking minds of business heads (pun intended :) )- Online Marketing.

So with the usual "unconventionalism", I am back with the latest story of my heart on Online Marketing and how it is just the beginning of a tide which we are seeing. A look at the far end of the horizon and you get a glimpse of the pie of which you'd certainly want a share.

So the story begins a few years ago.

Growth of SMEs and startups in India in the past few years, primarily gave birth to this term called Online Marketing. Many small players started entering the market, but they were not able to afford the resources needed for the right publicity of their products. Then entered a medium which gave these players an option to exercise the publicity. This medium didn't need lot of money to spend and this medium was able to take you directly to your customer, through one on one marketing; unlike the other dominant mediums- TV, print etc. This medium not only targeted the masses (through ads on growing social networking sites and a growing giant called Blog- later to become less popular than its son Twitter), but also was able to reach directly inside the minds of potential customers through Search Engine Marketing. This was the medium which helped these smaller players find a ground which could help them scale huger (not higher) heights.

Then this medium reached a new phase when world's leading advertising agencies started their venture into this medium under different faces; and it was not long before the biggest players were able to understand how big this medium has become. And then you could see bloggers all around you; the biggest names in the glamour world to the biggest corporate houses could be seen in form of blogs and profiles all over the internet. The tide, clearly, was shifting. Slowly and steadily; virals, search engine optimization, networking sites, etc. started taking the centrestage pushing the importance of television comercials to a limit where they could be regarded only as a brand building exercise (and mind you, brand building is just one of the many parts of marketing). And then came, Zoozoo.

Zoozoo entered into the minds of the masses through the television medium, but it went on to rule the people through the online mediums. It has lakhs of followers on Facebook, thousands of blogs devoted to it and is one of the most successful viral campaigns ever. Though Zoozoos are not animated, they still have that charm to it which animated characters bring while being able to convey things which animation can't.

And now comes the interesting part, the success of Zoozoo on TV, print media and other places was not being measured in terms of the conversion rate into Vodafone customers, but in terms of Facebook fans or number of Zoozoo wallpapers downloaded. Silently, the latest child of advertising medium was showing its importance to the world.

And this means the graph of the growth of this medium still has positive slope and will remain so for time to come, to ensure that appropriate advertisement and marketing in the right customer segment shall no more remain the costliest affair in a company, which in turn means finally it will be the R&D department of a company which will use up the maximum of company's profits, which finally means innovative and entrepreneneural ventures are here to stay.

Now comes the most obvious questions of them all; despite the importance of this medium, will it remain cheap considering the competition it is generating amongst rivals and that competition always leads to war of money. Well, thats where the importance of online marketing comes to the forefront. Now, it won't be a war of money. It was a war of money when there was a limit provided to creativity, a limit provided to mediums of publcity; but with the latest thing, the options become unlimited, the mediums become infinite and ideas can never be restricted. Exemplifying, if a company uses a facebook page to rule over its customer segment, its rival can use Youtube to ensure maximum hits on a new page created by them, the third rival may simply go for Search Engine Optimization for its page, fourth one can create a free blog to reach out to the people, the fifth one may simply use the power of 3D wallpapers on free wallpaper sites, the sixth one can use the concept of viral emailing (by mixing a tinge of social messaging with the viral depending on the product requirements), the seventh one may go for networking sites' scraps, the eigth one may go for....... and so on. The ideas will never end and the impletementation of these ideas will never cost, unless....

Unless, the clients fail to understand the true schwerpunkt (a military term signifying the correct focus) of the online media world, which is creativity and NOT money.

By the above post I never meant to say that brand SRK is becoming dilute; it will remain as long as Pepsi and Coke remains. But what I can guarantee is that if I am going to start a company tomorrow, I don't need a brand SRK to reach out to the masses and to provide the basic platform to the company's innovation; what I will need is only the right blend of the cocktail of creative achievements called Online Marketing.

And to help others create this right blend, people like me are always there ;)

Well, wasn't this Online Marketing :D ? Well, if you don't think so type "schwerpunkt marketing" (for cases where my target group is the kind of people who believe in the concept of marketing using military strategies) on Google [or "online marketing Zoozoo SRK"].....

Monday, April 27, 2009

Politics of marketing

No, this is not another glimpse of my hypothetical book of marketing; don't go by the deceit in the title of the post, as this post aims to give you a peek into the world where being meretricious is a rule. This is the world which requires more marketing than the biggest corporate firm about to launch its product, this is the world where every form of art is given the best platform of showcase, this is the world which has the potential to create a buffoon out of a genius and vice versa; this is the world of politics, and with the current Dance of Democracy (courtesy: TOI) in The Political Theatre (courtesy: ET) this world has suddenly become much more interesting. I'll try to give a picture of this world from a marketer's perspective. A close follow up of Indian politics can give a marketer more experience of the true Indian market than that given by years of being a part of a corporate firm.

Rules of politics have always intrigued me from the days when any visit by a senior leader of BJP to our house, would ensure a number of phone calls from the most distant of family friends asking for the possibility of getting a ticket in the coming elections. The beauty and irony of the entire political system was the direct involvement of the huge number of people around you in a system which they blatantly abused. But I'll venture into those things later.

Marketing in politics is an important criteria which decides the fate of the path the country is going to take. One needs to be able to micro-market oneself, while also reaching out to the masses through the general means. So there are two faces to marketing in politics: Mass media marketing and Micro-Marketing. (Terms are given by me so they may not be technical). One deals with the methods to attract people on a whole primarily through brand visibility, the other deals with customized vote bank research.

Hence the LK Advani Google campaign, is a strategy adopted to ensure brand visibility of Advani, with a prime focus on targeting new voters by luring them through the power of online posters. Congress was not far behind, having a similar strategy adopted to ensure that at least the young brigade on knows its policies. TV ads and other such regular online/ media advertisements are the regular ways of mass media marketing.

Another interesting mass marketing strategy is to bank on the successful events around you and to somehow weave them into the political agenda. The benefit is that these situations around the public are actually fresh and raw in their minds, and an appropriate connection with your strategies instantly acts as a direct medium of effective brand visibility. The best example is the Congress Jai Ho Campaign. The high TRP of Oscars this year, along with the innumerable pages of newspapers and magazines with pictures of a smiling Rahman Sir, was clearly something which was forced to get etched into the memories of almost every Indian. Congress used the words "Jai Ho" which brought the world to its toes (strangely as per my opinion), to their advantage by buying the copyright of the song to be able to incorporate in their marketing campaign. Seems like a strategy adopted generally by any leading corporate firm, but the beauty of political marketing was actually seen by what the BJP did to counter this effect. They made a parody of Jai Ho, called Bhay Ho, taunting the Congress, and the music lovers who were tired of listening to the original at almost every function ensured that Bhay Ho was a success; thus crushing the Jai Ho Congress Campaign. BJP Marketing team thus proved that an interesting strategy of victory in market is to be able to use the cards played by your opponent to your advantage. Congress paid money for the copyright and it was BJP who reaped a greater benefit.

But a general doubt which people might have about this is whether such mass marketing campaigns actually create a difference. The answer is: yes they do, they help creating a vote bank which votes not on social/ religious/ caste issues, but on the charisma or the awe the party can generate. You can actually compare this vote bank to those voters in US who made Sarah Palin an important woman in American History, and also to those voters of Virar who gave Govinda a chance to create a new history in Indian parliament. But this bank is very small, how do you reach out to the basics, how do you make yourselves more easily accessible to the prospective voters. Here comes the micromarketing.

Now micromarketing is a concept which leads to the identification of a customized consumer base (in this case, the vote bank) and directly reaches out to them. In politics too, a perfect combination of customized voter base is planned (eg, a decision by Congress marketing team on the election campaigns in a place can be directly dependent on this analysis of customer base: So what they do is considering Jahanabad in Bihar shall cater to the Y-M-D vote bank while Bettiah shall cater primarily to Brahmins, they send a Muslim leader to Jahanabad and a Brahmin leader to Bettiah for campaigning). Exactly similar situations may exist in the corporate world where you need to know different strategies of targeting different target groups in market. You customize your marketing campaigns accordingly and then see the huge difference which such micromarketing can create. Using local media and local events, with the help of local influential leaders, is the strategy adopted by political parties in this form of marketing.

Before giving an end to this post, I shall give two examples of two of the greatest marketing personalities Indian politics has produced. Laloo yadav, a person known as a political clown, is a person who has the alacrity to make fun of himself to be able to attract more people towards him . He is a genius, who wraps himself in the garb of a rural clown to be able to ensure that the vote bank his party targets is able to identify itself with this personality which it can see. Interesting marketing strategy, something similar to what Unilver used to do- Hindustan Lever Ltd always brought a greater sense of identification for a patriotic customer than P&G, though by no means was HLL closer to Indian ethics than any of its other competitors. Another example is that of Mr Narendra Modi, who has transformed his personality into a witty stand up comedian, hoping that this jovial face of Modi will flash such a smile that the tears of Gujarat riot victims will disappear. Interesting marketing strategy again, projecting your company as something entirely opposite to the controversies/failures it was earlier involved in.

I end the post with this; marketing in politics tests every nerve of a marketer, thus proving what our leaders are actually capable of ;) . I have tried to tone down a few dirty aspects associated with such marketing and hence the focus is only on those points which can be directly applied to corporate firms as well.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Living my dream......... the time has come.

It feels so gratifying when you are able to start living your dream, or when you take the first step towards the achievement of that dream. The time has come when I am going to start work on my start up, and take my first step towards the journey of entrepreneurial dreams. Interestingly, the journey I am about to begin will be quite unique, as I will be running on two parallel paths which will converge after some time, causing the merge of interests. One of the paths is the startup whose seed has been sown with few of my good friends and the battle of ideas has begun; it won't be long before we embark on a journey. The second path is that of a startup which has funding from an established company and my aim will be to create a venture out of the funds provided.

When I start giving shapes to my ideas related to the second path in a few weeks, I will travel the journey from being an aspiring entrepreneur to a budding entrepreneur. The second step in the entrepreneurial journey will be tougher, but thats also the feeling which gives me immense pleasure. So here follows a small peep into the path 2 of my entrepreneurial journey and what I'll be working on.

When it comes to the modern economy, one word instinctively comes to our mind in a form which haunts you- 'recession'. Whether or not India is in recession, is a different debate, but the situations this word has created in our economy are so important that they are going to shape the path Indian business will follow. Recession or the fear of it, has suddenly brought employee management to the forefront; getting the maximum out of a few employees while not hiring new recruits should bring an interesting sector to the forefront, that which deals with the management of the T&A data of every employee and handles the security and access devices in corporate firms. This is because there are lots of sectors now where work is still there, but no recruitment. Another important group of people which have suddenly come to the forefront are SMEs and young startups, because even the best of business minds have said this to be the right time to get a strong foothold in the Indian business.

Well, my new work has got to do something with both the above groups of people; combining the two in a way that we are able to use the hype of the word 'recession' to our maximum advantage, while ensuring the formation of a market for us which can control things in the future. I really hope the plans I have in my mind for my startups do succeed, and at every stage of business, I am able to use the situations surrounding us in the right way to create maximum profit.

Yes, the time has come :)

"An entrepreneur is not a dreamer, he is a doer".

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Death in IIT, Media and Politics

Some things amaze you, some things surprise you and a few things terrify you. The news of the death of Rohit Kumar, a student of IIT Kharagpur, who died due to the negligence of the authorities of the KGP hospital was extremely terrifying and even more terrifying for me was the response of national media towards an incident which might have affected or changed the future of the country. Full account can be read on

Isn't it time for the country to awake and take a step, stronger and faster, against the negative politics which has plagued this nation and is going to beleageur one of the prides of this nation. You may ask what has politics to do something with an accident like above, or what has politics to do with the negligence of medical authorities in Kharagpur. It has got to do a lot, and I'm coming to that.

India's oldest IIT, IIT kharagpur, is spread in 1000 acres of land or even more, and is located far from any city. Similar is the case with most of the other IITs, after all IITs need to have the best to remain the best. Also, same will be the case for 16 more IITs in the pipeline, by the government. There is going to be an IIT about 100 kms from Patna, near a remote village in Bihar; and another one on the outskirts of Bhubaneshwar. You can't avoid that, as its impossible to open new IITs in the midst of cities. But the basic question is, if the IIT is not in the midst of any city and hence away from adavanced medical facilities, doesn't it need to have facilities which will counter the effect of being away from town. IIT Bombay also has a pathetic hospital, which is used only for pink slips, but at least we have a Hirannadani Hospital right in front of our main gate or a Powai Public Hospital. 16 more IITs will be built and 16*3000 more students will study in IITs, and all these 16*3000 students will not have any easy access to basic good medical facilities. Did the government think of any of these questions while floating the idea of new IITs.

There are more than 25 NITs existing in India which can easily be converted into IITs by adding a few more facilities in terms of laboratories and corporate support. But the politicians just want to play with the three letters IIT, creating a vote bank for them in the form of gullible educated Indians; who can read whats written on the paper, but are unable to understand that what they are reading is just an illusion created by the wonderful use of words. Politicians say they want India to have more number of state of the art colleges with best facilities and they say the only way to have this is create more IITs. We believe them because despite years of studying phrases like "All that glitters is not gold" and "Never judge a book by its cover", we have still not incorporated the importance of these words into our lives.

I end this post with a question the answer of which I am unable to decipher, what hapenned to the media during the coverage of this news. It had all the masala which the news of "Aamir bashing Shahrukh" provided but still you couldn't see any solid coverage of an event which could have brought a change needed urgently in the nexus of politics and education. 16 more IITs will be built from scratch in places which can attract more votes and I am sure no one will raise a word; after all we are more interested in Slumdog winning Oscars......... right?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Glimpses of my new book on Marketing..... Confessions of a self proclaimed arrogant genius............dont worry just kiddin.

There have been questions from somewhere deep down my heart about what have I gained in the past few months, after losing so much. I lost two patents, the trust of three distinguished IIT Bombay faculty members, my CPI, the trust and support of a few friends, because I was extremely busy working for something I didn't deeply believe in initially. It was for Sufian, one of my seniors, that I decided to join E Cell, with a wrong belief that i'll be able to lead a normal life while being a manager of an organization regarded as "unimportant" by certain sections of IIT Bombay.

But things do not take place the way you plan them out to be, as right from the day I became manager, a sense of responsibility entered inside me which flourished into love followed by passion for the organization. And every single startup which calls to thank me for the support we have given to them makes me feel proud of my existence. I didn't know how this happened, but somewhere down my tenure my existence just as an E Cell manager took a backseat and my ideologies of helping India become the ruler of world economy with support of startups took a front stage. This process was like a hurricane sucking me inside a depth of thoughts which was going to define my social life. Moreover, being a marketing manager, I decided to build strategies and ideologies which were risky and off the treaded path.

Coming back to the first statement of the post, this is what I gained from my tenure- a satisfaction of being able to help personally startups like Innovision, Tarantula and social organizations like Jagriti yatra, who'll remain thankful to me throughout their existence. (Thanks to Nishanth for being able to support me for such a beautiful cause). I also gained marketing skills which no MBA school would have taught me, I gained such an understanding of the market in my tenure that a leading evangelist at Microsoft called me "the most brilliant marketer he has ever met", the marketing head of a leading courier company told me "I am amazed at your understanding of our market" (little did she know that they were the fifth courier company contacted by me and I do extensive research on every sector of market before approaching it), and got loads of wonderful comments from a large number of business professionals from across the globe. Thanks a lot E Cell for being able to teach me, help me grow and bring to me an understanding of working of different sectors of market. I am more confident than ever, of my success in life, as I am finally able to understand my own personality a lot through this tenure (though still layers yet to explore exist).

I will focus on the various interesting marketing ideologies and structures I developed during my tenure as an E Cell manager (we had a very interesting E Cell head during the tenure who always thought that he knew a lot and though I didn't learn anything important from him, his extreme confidence in himself did teach me something; here's a metaphor hope you catch it and if you are unable to catch it don't read anything into the above words).

When it comes to marketing your organization, the first step always, as you all know, is to understand the details of your own organization (know everything about it because you don't know what aspect will be used for marketing). So it is not just the marketing aspects you need to know, but its also about all the other aspects, as the first rule of marketing is "Flexibility of thoughts within limits"; you need to be able to think of anything and everything, within limits, when you are in a marketing meeting, as you don't know what aspect is going to come to your support. This was the reason I took along with me my PR manager (Ahana, Rockey) or my Operations Manager (both Chintan, Nishanth) with me to the meetings initially, and sometimes I really found them of great use. I still remember the unique perspective which ahana/ rockey (i am not sure which) brought into a meeting with a company (HCC, i think).

The second step, again as you all know, is to understand the details of the company to whom you are going to market yourself. Every detail and aspect of the company and its sector needs to be known. Exemplifying, in the case of Microsoft, the knowledge that there exists an external associations department there helped me make an association with them, after they had clearly said no. Still, a detailed study of your own organization and that of the market of your prospective sponsor sometimes do not prove to be enough.

When you sell your event to the sponsor, there are many different ways in which your personality comes out to be in front of the sponsor. In my case, I decided to use the fact that too many layers exist to my personality and decided to use my personality in different ways depending on the sponsor. For example, in front of a company like KF (which focuses on branding); I took a risk, I projected myself as someone who is very flexible and ready to provide the company any amount of branding they need. Instead of turning out myself as a dominant and sharp marketing manager, i gave them an impression of me, as being a loose yet honest manager. This projection paid off extremely well, as this ensured that whatever limit I gave to the branding they needed, they believed it to be huge. This helped in ensuring the branding of certain companies remain in limit, despite the fact that they are known for aggressive campaigning. It was a risky attempt and could have gone wrong if not executed well.

Another example where different aspect of my personality was used, was that of LLI, where I projected myself to be a person with clear dedication towards promotion of entrepreneurship and that the only thing which concerns me is my passion. The fact is that this marketing strategy was such a success that the company has now decided to have a special program only for the promotion of entrepreneurship as I led them to believe that SMEs and startups are the ones going to control the business tomorrow. This company, being one of the leading firms in sector, has taken a top management decision partially based on my discussions with them and partially based on their association with us. (Thanks to Robin who accompanied in one of the follow up meetings).

The above example is also one of the examples of another strategy of marketing: "There's a thin line between two surfaces of a shell, which is filled with success and kept inside failure". To elaborate, sometimes you are not sure of how a company is going to be useful to you because you are able to look at the outer side of the shell (the visible marketing strategies of the company), but there always exists an inner side of the shell (the strategies which the company is making for future), which you need to look at. And this ability to look beyond the thin line can take you from failure to success.

Another interesting strategy of marketing, which I would like to share, would be the right use of resources of the company you are tying up with, or to whom you are marketing yourself. Never restrict yourself to the deal you sign with the company. Always keep a few minor things away from the deal, which you'll use in form of the resources of the company and you'll be able to use these only if you give the company more than what promised or build a relation with them through a period of time (the latter needs time, the former needs strategy). Exemplifying, you need not mention that you'll be mentioning the company's name on your press release but you do that, while asking something in return from them very indirectly. The company will get the feeling that we can go slightly out of our way to help its promotion, and it will get a feeling to go out of its way too (sharing resources, help in form of kind etc), without even realizing that it was just a twist of words which we played with while preparing the formal document. Let me clarify, this is not at all cheating or breaking trust, as everything is true and honest (only that the honesty is not straight, it comes in a twisted shape which brings me to another rule of marketing : "100% Honesty is a must, but with a twist").

The above idea builds up to the most important requirement related to marketing for sponsorship. Every single company you contact must be used in a way or the other, whether or not they are ready to associate with you monetarily. So, be it using the database of Sharekhan or branding through Cisco management team, ways are unlimited where you can think of a possibility of association without a lot of involvement on your team's part. So if you spend a lot of time on a company trying for association, believe in yourself to be able to use it for future in some way.

There are so many more known strategies I would like to mention here: the fact that you need to pitch something high if you need to extract something less (e.g. pitching cash even if you know its only kind the company can help you with), the fact that you need to have some associations only for brand building (try unconventional paths, as done with OnM, as big names attract bigger names) etc etc etc etc ..............

Many more strategies failed, few others were successful (may edit the post soon with some more fundae or give a new post)..even the failed ones failed due to reasons like slowdown and if changed slightly with the current scenario, might have succeeded. For example, every company follows a specific branding campaign and directly integrating the campaign with your ideas leads to their direct branding, e.g the human networking effect campaign by Cisco or Smart Planet campaign by IBM. (Thanks to Prasanth, the head of OgilvyOne for giving his time to help me with the above marketing strategy). Moreover, another of my important strategies had been to directly help startups while making associations. Now, if you see cafegadgets running a joint program with Sun Microsystems helping startups with new tools, somewhere its E Cell and me which has furthered this cause. While making the association with cg, I had in mind the database of startups which cg has, and the fact that cg needs to support startups and use this database in the right way. I hope this company, being a startup itself, flourishes, while also helping other startups flourish. Many targets were shot without even using an arrow (this may not have helped E Cell directly, but furthered our cause). Associations with more such startups has been a part of this strategy.

This was something about my marketing experience with E Cell, where i thought, planned, strategized and explored my strengths and weaknesses and used them in a certain way to learn a lot. There is a lot to learn as this was only a beginning and I have learnt only a few initial stages of marketing. There won't be E Cell again to help me learn, but the world's full of opportunities waiting to pour its sweetness, all you need to do is stretch your palms.

Ending this post on a hope that India survives the slowdown in the best possible way, with the support of SMEs and its not long before placements are no more tormenting.

To be continued......................

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Halo.. A movie by Santosh Sivan

Santosh Sivan made a movie Halo in 1997, the chance to watch which I got today. This movie is not a great movie, but it made me return to the innocence I have talked about in my posts earlier. This post is dedicated to the sweet smile that this movie brought on my face which was drowned in the aftereffect of alcohol.

It is the story of a girl who is lonely in life and always asks God for something which can bring happiness to her life. And then she meets a dog, names it Halo and searches for happiness in its company. She finds it, the ultimate way to escape from the lack of motherly love around her, in the dog. But her happiness doesn't last long and the dog gets away some day. And then begins the journey of the sweet girl, to find Halo- the love of her life, the gift from God which has illuminated the dark corners of her home. The journey brings you closer to those sweet moments of your childhood, when you felt privileged to have everyone you love around you. At the end of the journey, she finally finds Halo in the arms of a mentally challenged girl and she decides to let Halo remain with the girl. She sacrifices her love because she believes someone else needs it more than her. Innocence makes you selfless, and the sweet innocent smile which the protagonist flashes every time she finds herself happy, brought me closer to the days when I was innocent and happy in the sweet company of my loved ones.

I would suggest people to watch Halo and more such movies which make you free from the shackles of worldliness and brings you to the dream world you always aspire to be in.:
The world of chocolates, sweets and beautiful smiles,
The world of colors, music and that scintillating noise.
The world of rivers and caves, where mountains rise,
The world of beauty, innocence and sweetness in life.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

DevD.. Redefining Indian Cinema.. but not for the faint hearted.

Here's a review on a movie which won't be forgotten by Indian Cinema, for long. It is bound to enter the realms of unforgettable classics, because of the vibrant energy this movie displays in its every single frame, and also because it intoxicates you to the level of sin by making you a part of the journey of an immortal character called DevD.

DevD is not Devdas. AK and AD tried to attempt a new version of Devdas and they bring someone to us, whose thoughts you can relate to and whose failures make you desperate. Kudos to Abhay Deol for bringing out such a fine concept to Indian Cinema.

But this is not the reason what makes this movie a cinematic experience of lifetime, the cinematography and editing simply took my breath away. The nuances of direction were so perfect that you could see a wonderful blend of colors in its every frame and could feel the perfection of every detail in each shot. Be it the scene where DevD meets Chunni with the song 'Pardesi' in the background, or the scene where Paro defies Indian sensitivity by showing the woman who cycles to the farm with a mattress to meet her lover, or the scenes where hell enters DevD everytime he takes drugs (though it has been inspired by Danny Boyle). All these scenes prove that Anurag Kashyap is a person who is not letting Indian cinema remain the same anymore. The exquisite boldness with which Kashyap presents the movie without an iota of vulgarity shows that Kashyap is a master craftsman, I have to admit I haven't ever seen even a Hollywood movie with such boldness embedded in the spirit, while not letting it show on face and still hitting you hard.

And as mentioned earlier, this is not for the faint hearted, as it hits you very hard, and takes you to a different world only if you are able to survive the blows. Its not for the "Intelligent", its not for the "Masses", its for every person who knows what intoxication is, beacuse you don't feel good or bad after watching this movie, you simply feel intoxicated.

This review is incomplete without the mention of Amit Trivedi, the creator of the best music Indian Cinema has seen in years. This movie is still not in my top 10 all time favorites but its music certainly is. Pardesi or Nayan tarse are such passionately rendered tracks, that they build on your heart and not on ears everytime you hear them.

Thanks once again, Anurag. This was not beer or rum, this was Vodka.... neat..

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My DevD Avatar

You need to feel romance and feel its sadness, sometimes, to allow your heart remain happy in turbulent and busy times. So here's some romantic success, some romantic failure, while I remain busy working for E Summit.

Anjaane mein..

log aksar kehte hain dard-e-nasha mila hai mujhe anjaane mein..
jaane log naapte hai nashe ko kis paimane pe.
nasha hai ye ya afsaane hai teri aankhon ki yaadon ke.
Aakhir ghalti se aapki aankhon ka jaam jo pee gaya is maikhane mein..

aankhein keh jaati hai baatein hazaar anjaane mein..
mann ke aaine mein dikh jata hain in aankhon ka samanader, thodi himmat aajmane se
aankhon ke gehre samander ki mulaqat jab hoti hai kinare se,
us samander ke lahron mein doob jaata hun is maikhane mein..

un aankhon ke maikhaane ka qaasid bhi dara jaata hai anjaane mein
ye qaasid aata hai aankhon ki gehrayee ke kisi tehkaane se,
phir bhi saath lata hai ye aaftab apne us thikane se,
kya karein...yahi qaasid to paagal bana jaata hain is maikhane mein..

unki aankhon ko dekhkar ye lafz yun hi nikal aaye hai anjaane mein..
ye baatein to roz hi hongi un aankhon ke tasawwur ke khwab aane pe
un chhoti si pyaari aankhon mein jaam ka gehra samandar bas jaane de,
kabhi kabhi ye dard-e-nasha bhi meetha lagta hai ab is maikhane mein..

Complete translation of above (to avoid any wrong interpretations :) ):

Despite the fact that people don't know what makes me intoxicated, they claim that I suffer from the pain of intoxication. The fact is even I am not sure whether its intoxication or the memories of your beautiful eyes. May be it is because your eyes have intoxicated me.

Eyes can speak volumes without literally conveying anything, and the only way to measure the depth of those volumes is to feel your heart. Your eyes are also very deep, and when the sea of your eyes reaches its bank,(when your internal beauty is reflected in the the external world through your eyes), it has the power to drown me if I am in contact with it.

The messenger of the bar present in your eyes (it refers to the intoxication of your beauty), is dangerous enough, because it comes not from the surface but from layers hidden from the external world. It is the beauty of the heart and mind which is reflected in the eyes.
It is an irony that though this beauty is hidden and can't be seen but it has the ability to illuminate others' lives. Such irony and dangers are the causes of my madness.

I never wished to speak the above words, but your beauty forced me to. Now such poetry of words will be created every time i see the beautiful potrait of your deep eyes in my dreams. Though your eyes are small, it has the ability to soak in it the entire vast sea of intoxicating beauty; and this special quality of your eyes actually makes me find the pain sweet.


Aashiq ki Taqdeer..

Ab aapse baat karne ka mera dil nahi chahta hai,
Darr lagta hai us khoobsurat sapne ka jo mujhe har pal satata hai..
Aapse baat karke us sapne ke phir se aane ka hota hai darr,
sochkar bhi ghabrata hai us sapne ke tootne ka hoga kya asar..

Isiliye ab ye dil sapne dekhna nahi chahta hai,
Aur un sapnon se bachne ke liye ab ye aapko dekhkar bhi ghabrata hai..
Jise har pal dekhne ka sapna sanjota hai dil,
usi ke dikh jaane par ab tadapta hai aur rota hai dil..

Bas yehi hai kahani us aashiq ki, darrta hai jo aashiqui karne se,
Use kya pata ki likhi hui hai usqi taqdeer ki ab hoga kya lakh darne se..