Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why Android Will Win?

Till about a couple of years back no one bothered about a mobile operating system. Mobiles were about talking and messaging. Then came camera, music players, gaming on phone. It was all going fine till the world slowly but surely started using phones not only for voice but also for data (Or should I say more data, messaging is also a form of data). And phones remained no more just phones, but transformed into smart phones. It may, in fact, be wrong to call them phones. They have become the device for communication, work and entertainment. But for now, let's call them smart phones.

Apple tasted blood through iPhone while still making great looking laptops/computers. Nokia was serving the masses. Blackberry was delivering emails to corporate executives. Microsoft was eager to repeat its desktop success through Windows Mobile. There were also iPAQs and Palm, guess they still do exist.  

Interestingly, the last two have been there for ages, but it's  Apple iPhone that brought freshness and zest. Google, while failing with Wave , created the buzz with Android. Of course, since then Blackberry wants boys. Nokia is desperately trying to lure people to Ovi. And, of course, Windows Mobile is fumbling. But the daggers are out! But, at this point, it looks like it's a straight fight between Apple and Google.

It was probably not an accident that Steve Jobs attended the Q3 FY 10 earnings call, as this report says. There are clear signs of war and while the market for such smart phones is still quite small, the players certainly are ascertaining themselves.

So, who could be the winner in the long run?

If I have to make a prediction, I would say Google is in the best position to be the winner or say garner larger market share.

And here is why I think so.

  1. History repeats itself: Have you watched Pirates of the Silicon Valley? For those who have tracked the history of computers know the pioneering efforts of IBM in standardizing the architecture of PC. The standardization and ripping a PC led to the creation of opportunity for different players who together grew the market. As Mr. Geoff Moore would agree, Google isn't trying to dominate the entire value chain. It prefers to become the Microsoft of mobile industry by giving a platform and letting device players and app makers to contribute their bit.
  2. It's all about App: Having conquered the PC market by ensuring that it was installed in all IBM and IBM clones, Microsoft ensured that it held the dominance over the applications built. And, of course, applications are the reasons we purchase computers, don't we! It's no different in the smartphone market. Every player has an application store. Apple as usual seems to have very high standards for app developers. That can go against it. Human beings have been rather lenient on not-perfect applications, it's the variety of choices that matters.
  3. Open or Closed, does it matter: I am quite skeptical like Apple about Open in the mobile world as much as Microsoft is or was in the PC world. Linux still hasn't broken Windows' back. Google's claim for Android being open actually doesn't make sense. As long as users get the apps they want, it shouldn't matter. But then openness could also mean faster go-to-market and choice.  
One of the biggest challenge that companies face when the market reaches the tornado phase is to ensure delivery. To me, Android seems in the best position today. It is developing a larger ecosystem than anyone else.

But then I am assuming a lot of things:

  • I am assuming that smart phone market will go through the same cycle as PCs. It may be entirely different. PC was lot about technology for a long time before it became mainstream and brand oriented. Mobile market is moving the other way around. 
  • The life of a mobile phone is rather short. In my own experience, 3 years is a good time for a phone. Except for contacts, I don't remember taking anything else to a new phone. Hence, stickiness factor maybe far less for mobile phones. 
  • Like I said in my earlier post on Apple, the company has never wanted to be the largest player in any market. It has always been at the forefront of bringing technology that empower users. It has also preferred to stay a chimp rather than a gorilla. Also, nothing to stop Apple from doing a Shuffle with iPhone.
  • I have completely discounted the role played by Telecom Services Provider as distributors. Not sure why this mode of distribution still hasn't caught up in India. If things were to go in that direction, a lot might change. 
It certainly would be interesting to see if there would be a real convergence of the mobile instrument with PC based equipments. The iPads/Tabs seem to be a natural, but not sure if that will be so. But if it is, then a larger market share would mean dominance. But again, if we are also moving to cloud,  the platform may not be important.

We certainly have interesting times in the air!

But I am curious, why don't have any excitement in the mobile chips space?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

History Books

We are all like Sita in the epic Ramayana. Isn't it strange that when we are asked not to do something, we are more eager to defy. Our curiosity increases urging us to cross the forbidden line. My urge to buy Such A Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry was kindled by media reports that Aditya Thackeray ensured that the book is removed from University of Mumbai's syllabus.

I have been wanting to read A Fine Balance for quite sometime, but the developments led me to purchase Such A Long Journey, first.

And must say Rohinton's book makes such a lovely read. Set in the late 1960s and early 70s, the book is about Gustad Nobel, a middle class Parsi living in Mumbai. It is about his struggle, aspirations for a better life for his family and love for his friends. While there is lot of humor, the book is also replete with other emotions. Especially, ones related to death.

As I said, I bought the book understand to why Thackeray Super Jr. was against the book. Within few chapters, I understood why. The book is set in the times when Shiv Sena was emerging as a force in Maharashtra. Parsis who are also a minority community had to face difficult times as much as South Indians. There are lots of derogatory references concerning Shiv Sena and Marathi Manoos who are cadres, in the book. It is only natural that young Thackeray felt agitated. But then he has no rights to get it removed from the syllabus just because Shiv Sena is shown in bad light. Googling threw this interview of his. And I do agree with him that there is lot of foul language. Further, it also has a lot sexually explicit material. But I doubt if college going students would really be affected by exposure to those material. They are far more exposed by the time they reach college.

I was quite surprised that Congress didn't want to ban the book. More than Shiv Sena, the book is very negative on Congress' rule, Indira Gandhi, Ministers and Sanjay Gandhi. In fact, one of the important sub plots is about Indira cheating the nation by drawing tax payer's money to fund Sanjay's car project and in the process deceiving and ultimately leading to the death of Bili Boy, Gustad's best friend.

I love books of this genre, though I am not sure to which it belongs to. There's history, thrill elements and drama. The Kite Runner was the other book I loved reading. Though the story is more about the current than about the past. A book that really intertwines historical moments/personalities with the life of a common man was Mohammed Hanif's A Case Of Exploding Mangoes. The book is loosely based around the events of that lead to the death of the then-President of Pakistan Zia Ul Haq. A brilliant book.

But it is Midnight Children by Salman Rushdie that is more similar to Such A Long Journey. Both these books are set around the same period and discuss the political scenario. The war of 1971 has significant effect on the characters' lives. Both the books discuss Congress' rule critically. Another incident that finds mention in both the books are the KM Nanavati case. But Salman Rushdie's book is a very complex read, or at least that is how I felt. 

I used to love history at school. And when a story is mixed with the history, they become representation of those times. Of course, History is written by those in power, novels can be true representation of life for the masses in that period. Books certainly are the real time machine. Have you read my other blog about history of Christianity in Chennai? Here you go.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Facebook eMail: Evolution or Revolution

It was in 1998 during my post-graduation that I opened my first email account with That was also the first time I had ever experienced Internet. My excitement soon turned into great depression.What was the point in having an email id when I didn't have anyone to mail to!

People who had an email id were all my classmates whom I met everyday. I was communicating with them daily. Even if I wanted to write an email what would I write?

Slowly, things changed. I found people whom I could mail. But the real use of email started only when I got into a job. Then, I opened a new account. Again it was a Hotmail id. Little later, I moved to Yahoo! Now, those days Yahoo! was very popular because one could also chat. Yahoo! Chat Room was a great place if you wanted to find a date. I tell you, they were a craze! 

Interestingly, now I had two ids each with Hotmail and Yahoo!.

See how beautifully the economic principles work. During the early 2000, there were far too many email service providers. And when there is too much of supply, the customer always has an advantage. There was this benevolent email service provider called - chequemail. No not check-mail, it's cheque-mail. Now, this service provider wanted to share the money made in advertising with its subscriber base. Wow! Yes, I did jump. Voila, I did receive a cheque for Rs. 50, once. Then? Then the service provider closed down, much to my disappointment. Good things don't last too long, pretty much like the romance in marriage!

Then, I changed to USA.Net. I liked it. But as luck would have it, that too closed. Actually, the free service closed. That was the indication of the dot com burst, maybe. Reluctantly, I reverted to Hotmail and Yahoo! Of course, I should mention that intermittently I also tried various other service providers, too. I can't figure out the rational but that's what it was. 

And then Gmail happened. Google as a brand had become very desirable. With a tactic of invite-only launch, Google further heightened the desire value. I remember begging for an invite from couple of gatekeepers. Actually, Gmail from usage and aesthetics perspective is nowhere close to the others. But then the charm and desire was high. In fact, Gmail didn't even have a chat software at the time of launch. Now, that is the brand pull.

Today, an email id is not only your key to mails and chat, it also gives you access to other services that service provider may have. One id with Google is good for you to access Blog, Orkut, Calendar, Reader, Finance...

Now, here comes Facebook with email service. Except for the fact that it talks of a concept of getting all communication that we do confluence at one point, I didn't understand much. It is proclaimed that it would change the way we communicate. I guess usage may change my opinion, but for now it looks hazy. But then when I was reading about Facebook's move, I somehow was reminded about Google Wave! Not sure why, but that is how it felt. While Wave itself failed, I do think if marketed and packaged well, Wave could be the next Official Communication tool. In fact, it could be the future of Social Networks!

One of the reasons why Wave probably failed was because it was duplicating what Gmail was already offering. Wave was chat and email mixed at the very core. It, in fact, could have been the true Gmail-killer. But then it was a separate offering requiring a separate id and log-in. It certainly was a pain using it. But can you imagine if your current Gmail behaved like Wave! I certainly would have loved it.

That leads me to important email behavior. We have and probably will continue to have two sets of email communications - personal and professional. I am already panicking. Most offices block Facebook, in which case I may find it more difficult to access personal mails. But that leads me to wonder whether convergence of email with social network is necessary? Conceptually, it feels as if it would make life easy. No need to log in into more than one window. But then, in the technology world there are two distinct factors to be considered:
  1. Technologies that enable change
  2. Consumers move or remain inert (Wave being a classic example of consumer inertia) 
Going by my own behavior, while I do use the messaging tool in Facebook, it is not my primary or for that matter preferred email service. But as Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda says future is a mystery. Honestly, I don't think Ray Tomlinson would not have fathomed how email would grow and become an integral part of our lives. Then, who am I to risk a guess? But I do think Google had or still has a chance to revolutionize email while Facebook is evolutionizing Social Networks.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No Money Marketing, From the Horse's Mouth

I have been always been in awe of Nikhila Kesavan. In addition to being one of the most talented theater personalities in Chennai and probably in India, she is also a successful PR professional and an ex-colleague. Nikhila is a perfectionist. Despite the fact that she was my junior, I would get jitters every time she reviewed a document that I created. She would rip it apart, highlight how pathetic my grammar was and how poor my sentence formations were. The other person who scares me equally is my wife. I am beginning to firmly believe that grammar is a girl-thing!

Back then, Nikhila and I were servicing Lason India, a leading BPO player in Chennai/India. They had a network of business associates, an innovative operations model. We were briefed that the business associate model had been taken to the next level and that Lason had set up what was probably the first BPO center in a village! Rural BPO! Though I initially suggested that we do a small press brief in Chennai, I changed it to a press junket to the obscure village in Thiruvallur District, at the last minute.

Being the person she was, Nikhila swelled with anger. She had already started working on the press meet in Chennai and now she had to start from scratch to organize the logistics for a larger event. But more importantly she was upset that we were not sticking to the initial plan. She demanded to know why the plan was being changed. And I didn't have an answer. It was a gut feel.

Thankfully, the event was a big success.

I couldn't articulate why I changed the plan. It was certainly based on the experience and understanding of what would or wouldn't work. 

Now that leads us to No Money Marketing by Jessie Paul. A veteran marketing professional who has worked with the leading software services companies in India (Infosys and Wipro) and played an important role in building the brand that they are today, she has no such articulation issues.

Also, I realize that there are two kinds of writers/authors. One who are academicians who research and look at the big picture. They give guidance with their theories and support it with observations. And then, there are those like Jessie who are doer-authors. No Money Marketing is like a ready reckoner. Read it, roll up your sleeves and get to work. The book is unpretentious and doesn't test your patience by giving models that are great to read but difficult to utilize. But it does have models that can be easily digested and provides a great framework to develop marketing campaigns. There are nuggets of wisdom which provide excellent cue to marketers who always work on a diet-budget.

This book is a must read for marketing professionals in the technology industry, especially those in the software services space. The challenge for players in this space is that most of them are Me-Too. Last time I checked the Nasscom member's list in 2007, there were more than 1000 software services company. The glory story is limited to the top 50 or 100. For the rest in that list, it is a tall order.

I liked two lessons, in particular:

  1. As I said, Jessie is a doer-author. This book is full of practical inputs for a marketer who wants quick solutions. But what is more important is that before she presents the ideas, she sets the context. First few chapters are dedicated completely for self assessment. While the tools and ideas are common, Jessie urges every company to self introspect and develop a strong unique story. She in fact provides many examples and thoughts on how it could be done.  
  2. The avenues for brand building. The chapter on Core Branding versus Surround Branding is very important. For many software services company India is not a market but they certainly do lot of brand building activities, here. While it may not directly bring in business but it does help in recruiting and retaining the talent. And of course, in a flat world, a term you will find Jessie has used just too often in the book, there is always a spillover.
As a professional who has practiced a few of the ideas and other times observed being practiced, I think this book is the ultimate guide for marketers in software services industry. A book that CEO of every software services company, especially the small and medium sized who do not have a differentiated offering and work on frugal budgets, must read. And if you need more help, there is always Paul Writer.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

eCommerce: The Buying Online Story

Arun Kumar Dhadwal was a sort of role model. I was in the 1994-97 batch at IHM, Chennai. And he taught us French and Food & Beverage Service.

Thin-framed man, he himself passed out of the alma matter just a couple of years back. Passionate about French, he also pursued course in Alliance Francaise de Madras and became proficient in the language. After completion of the Diploma in Hotel Management, he decided to pursue lecturing rather than get into the industry. He was very good, I loved the man's style, his demeanor and the way he taught us. He was refreshing in that old Government-run institution.

It was a period when Computers were quite rapidly penetrating.

On one of those lazy afternoons after our free lunch at the QTK, sorry the Quantity Training Kitchen, I settled for Arun's class. And he said something which excited and left me confused. Blame it on the lunch that caused the blood from brains to flow into the primary digestion chamber, maybe. Arun said that internet was becoming popular the world over and that it was changing the way people shopped. He said it removed any barriers in geography. As I said, he also taught us F&B service. And since wines and spirits were in the second year subject, he took the example of how one could order a bottle of wine from a different country through internet sitting inside the confines of his house.


Ok, I knew what computers were and how they looked. But I couldn't imagine how a bottle of wine would drop out of those white boxes!

If you are laughing at my naivety, please consider that even today the vast majority of Indians are still not blessed. Internet has touched only about 70 million Indians. And 1995 was another period. I got my first email id only in 2000 and no one to email to!

Things have changed and I have become more aware. Most importantly, e-commerce is a reality and is happening.

2000 and for the next few years was what everyone remembers as the period of dotcom bubble and burst. Honestly, I think there were great ideas, but came quite early.

I can't remember when I first shopped online but the most vivid memory was ordering monthly groceries at Fabmall (now, India Plaza). I was super thrilled about buying online. I didn't possess a credit card but then Fabmall offered payment on delivery, so it enabled me to do the transaction. Incidentally, I was never able to complete my ordering and the page became invalid! And for a moment, I thought this transaction was not going to happen when I got a call from Fabmall and they took the order on phone. So, we probably cannot strictly say it was online shopping. It was almost-online shopping.

And when things changed, they changed quite drastically and I have used Internet quite heavily. Whether it is netbanking or shopping, I have bought a wide variety of products and services over the Internet. And I am not alone. Some reports suggest that in 2009 the e-commerce market was about INR 9000 Cr!

I did start as a skeptic despite having enthusiasm. Am sure many would think why should they shop online? There are many reports on net being an unsafe place. Is there a recourse if the product is defective? Net is only good for buying only some goods...

When I look back and think I seem to have shopped a wide variety of things in the last 10 years. And here are some reasons why I like online shopping:

  1. Romance in the delivery: Call me an technology enthusiast or visionary (terms from Crossing the Chasm), I have always been kicked about buying online. Though I couldn't muster courage in initial days, it was just matter of time before I picked it up. My initial shopping for groceries on net was to showcase to my folks that I was a responsible son, which I realize they would never acknowledge! I believe that I am a networking person. More so, if it's to connect to the fairer sex. And one thing that women loved was flowers, I had learnt. Ordering flowers for my interests across the country was enabled by the online sites. There is also certain amount of charm in the process. And I think the impression made is far more impactful.
  2. Almost everything under the Sun: Books and tickets (cinema, train and flight, in that order) has probably been the commodities that I have bought most online. Though, I have also bought jewelery, gift items, apparel, mobile phone and tennis racquet!
  3. It so bloody convenient: I was notorious for forgetting paying utility bills. Ah, and at one point of time, I had four credit cards and trust me finding the branch or ATM to drop the cheques was a pain. Skypak was an option but it had its own issues. Thankfully, net banking allowed me to pay these bills with a click. But more than paying through netbanking, it is the gateways that provide greater flexibility. 
  4. Research, compare: About two months back, I was seriously considering purchasing a sedan. In the first two car purchases, I never bothered to check for options or do research or performances. Alto and Swift were obvious choices. But now, surprisingly, in addition to test drives and speaking to lots of friends and acquaintances, I did so much of research, I can't believe it myself. A visit to Carwale and TeamBHP sites became an integral part of daily life. But I am not sure if I will order a car of the net? Will you? But you never know, if there is a strong motivator, I might. Why not? There was a time buying books meant going to Landmark. Today, I do a camparison between Flipkart, Indiaplaza and Rediff before ordering a book. You would be surprised the variety of prices the same book is offered for. And tennis racquet! Aren't we supposed to hold and feel before we purchase such goods!
  5. Recourse, of course: In the initial days, I bought an unbranded walkman (the small cassette player that Sony created) from Rediff. And as my luck would have it, it failed to play. I mailed Rediff and they gave refunded the money. I didn't have any issues. Even if there were, they were solved quickly. Refunds, apologies and a free gift vouchers took care of any bad experience. But yes, online shopping isn't all rosy. Recently, I ordered flowers and gift on Ferns & Petals and they terribly messed it up. You have to remember that when you buy from one of these online portals, you are buying it from some unknown vendor, unless it's a branded product. While I have had good experiences with both Rediff and Indiaplaza, there have been disappointments, too. But there is recourse if you are shopping with an established portal.
In this context the eBay's ad on the eve of Diwali is quite relevant. I am beginning to get excited to think of the future of eCommerce.

And of course, it would be interesting to see what is in store for the physical stores. Long ago during the dotcom bubble, I used to handle PR for Mr. Agarwal who founded the company during a seminar said that click-and-mortar has to work with brick-and-mortar. Have you seen Bharatmatrimony and Shaadi's marriage centers?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Media Wastage or Halo Effect!

Taking a brief is an integral part of a client servicing executive's life. I still remember, two questions that I always threw at a prospect or client were:

  1. Who is your customer?
  2. Who is your competitor?
Thinking about it, I don't think I will ask such fundamental questions, today. But that is not the point. If I was kiddish, I have got juvenile answers, too. The standard response in those days were:

  1. Everyone.
  2. No one.
Oh my, I would be so impressed with those inputs and scribble them down, mindlessly, on my note pad.

Couple of weeks back, Volkswagen (VW) created quite a buzz, in the real and virtual world, by publishing a talking ad for its to-be-launched Vento, in The Hindu and Times of India. One may find many faults. The sound was not clear, it didn't have a micro-site address...but the point is that certainly it met its objective. It managed to create Awareness, Interest and, if not much of, Desire

A few months back, I visited one of the PR agencies that handled VW account. During the discussions, I asked a young bright executive who was on the account whether Polo launch ad was a good. VW had done a newspaper with a hole ad, then. I went on to give the usual spiel that though Times of India was the largest publication, it certainly was not omnipresent and that the media in India is highly fragmented. I further suggested that VW could have considered conducting/sponsoring a major event which would have been inexpensive and managed coverage across all publications.

The young man told me that the Polo ad has created a lot of buzz. I, mentally, dismissed him, but now acknowledge it. And, this time, the Vento ad takes the print ads to another level.

In 2001, after a press meet, Srinivas, a journalist with Digital Age (a technology focused magazine from a splinter group of Express Publication) introduced me to a term which has since then become etched in my memory. He said that the future is for specialist publications. He went on to say that there was an enormous amount of media wastage. Just out of college and still in a soaking up mode, I loved the term. 

Little after that, Digital Age closed down. But I remain fascinated with the idea. Srinivas said that the general dailies were overrated. For a marketer they are such a waste. Logically, if someone wanted to buy a product or service, one would look into a specialist publication. After all, mainlines are, mass media. 

It does make sense at some level. There is no disputing that the prospective buyers of Vento and, certainly, Polo would be covered by Times of India and The Hindu. But are all the readers in the consideration set? 

Polo and Vento are different cars, targeted towards different audience. Their price points are different. Was there an option for VW? Would it make more sense to have advertised for Vento in a business magazine rather than a daily? I have wondered why car brands didn't (now, few do) advertise on Financial dailies? Wouldn't that have been a far more focused approach? 

But I guess these two ads are just launch strategy. The idea was to create a buzz with the topmost media to put in their creative. Exclusivity was the underlining factor. Create the Halo effect!

I am wondering to myself if the concept of media wastage is a waste. If segmentation can be used to be more impactful in communication considering that media options are quite diverse. Or is halo effect more important than wastage?

Marketer's Dilemma!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

4 Must Read Books In Technology

When I shifted from a generalist PR agency to Twenty Twenty MEDIA, a specialist IT PR firm, I was unsure what to expect. After all, PR is PR. Whether it is IT or Automobile, does it matter I thought. But realized IT DOES MATTER ! :)

The one thing that I loved and dreaded was the need to do book summary as part of the Friday training program. Since 2000, when I finished MBA, I haven't had picked up a book. But now, R Narayanan (Naru), instilled the practice of reading books. It was like going back to school.

In the next few years, I managed to read some really nice books on the technology industry. Here are my recommendations on books that one should certainly read, if in the dynamic tech industry. 

Crossing the Chasm: Though my second recommendation is the one that I read first, this Geoff Moore's brilliant book is what I would call a foundation course. The book makes you understand why some technologies fail whereas other cross the chasm into the main market. The book revolves around Technology Adoption Life-cycle and explains how a technology moves though various markets which comprises of un-reference-able set of customers. It also enlists strategies that technology companies can make use of.

Selling the Wheel: If any book other than Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code that came closer to being racy is this masterpiece. Surprisingly, it is a wonderful fusion of fiction and technology market, though it may not be that obvious, thanks to the novel-type narration. No, it is not a sci-fi. The story is about a couple who invent the WHEEL and are at a loss as to how to take it to the market! I would recommend that one should read this soon after they have savored Crossing the Chasm. This book helps understand changes in consumers' requirements at different stage of technology penetration, how companies need to respond to those challenges and what sort of a sales person is required at each of these stages. I have always hoped someone will adapt it to make a play or movie.
Tipping Point: I was quite amazed when I started re-reading this interesting book by Malcolm Gladwell. I was connecting with the book much more than I did the first time. It has a wonderful model to create a successful communications model. While the Law of Few helps identify carriers, Stickiness Factor helps define the messages and the Power of Context provides insight on factors that influence the success. The book is packed with interesting case studies which is typical of Gladwell. Interestingly, this book mentions Geoff Moore and Crossing the Chasm. Delighted!

Fast Second: How Smart Companies Bypass Radical Innovation to Enter and Dominate New Markets (J-B US non-Franchise Leadership)Fast Second: This book is meant for large organizations on how to deal with a potentially disruptive technology that can threaten their base. It addresses the question of whether large organization should create or colonize. For me the book is interesting for the model on different types innovation based on the change in consumers' behavior and its affects the established firm's competencies and complementary assets.

Now, I am sure there are many books that can help you cross the knowledge chasm, but these worked pretty good for me. Am sure, they would be helpful to you, too. If you have any technology book recommendations that make a great read, drop a comment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thirukadaiyur: Religious Business

Shashtiabdapoorthi, Bheema Ratha Santhi and Sadabhishekam are very important decennial events for Hindu men, atleast in Tamil Nadu. I wouldn't go into details of each, you could Google and figure it out yourself. But it would be worthwhile to surmise that Thirukadaiyur is the place that one goes to when they hit 60, 70 and 80 to offer prayers to the Divine Being. You may either click here or here to get more information. Despite whatever I claim about my leanings on religion, mythology interests me a lot.

Well, what interests me equally is management.

I went to the temple, recently, on my father's 70th birthday to perform Bheema Ratha Santhi. And in Thirukadaiyur, I observed excellent practice of management principles. The temple and its happenings reminded me an excellent market place, replete with fierce competition. While Thirupathi is a very large market with many unorganized players, Thirukadaiyur is a perfect oligopoly. There are just a few, what I would call long-life pooja, service providers.

  1. Division of labour: Each of the service provider had a great organization structure. While the main vaathiyar is the CEO, the initial archanas are performed by an employee (junior kurukkal) before handing over the client to a senior kurrukkal for performing homams. Not only that, the front office is manned by another set of staff with primary responsibility of ushering in the acquired customer. Players in the client servicing and hospitality industry have loads to learn from these set of efficient operators. Everyone has a distinct role and process is followed to the hilt. 
  2. Usage of common infrastructure: The temple management is quite business-friendly providing a set of infrastructure that the operators can use, more like plug-and-play. Be it space within the temple or the musicians (read mela thalam) or even the elephant. I was pleasantly surprised to see that despite extreme hostility between different operators, the common resources were being used quite effectively without any tensions. It was quite funny to see the pachyderm marching up and down the corridor from the entrance gate till the main door of the temple, meticulously accompanying the couple who perform the pooja. In fact, I am sure that the elephant probably has such a huge practice that even if the mahout is not there, it will do its job.
  3. Partnering: Photographer and the hotel staff are the business partners. It is a win-win two-way relationship. The photographers also double up as collection agents.
  4. Packages: What I found discriminatory about the pooja is that there was a different package for poojas for Brahmins and Non-Brahmins. I don't know what is the difference between these two packages. If I have one suggestion to these religious men. The packages should not be based on caste but ability to pay by customers. The service/package could differentiated be based on the duration of the homams.
Most importantly, the business runs on word-of-mouth. One customer leading to the next. But that doesn't mean the businessmen of religion take it easy. There are good customer service practice, there are marketing collateral in the form of small shloka books and even presence on the Internet.

The entire structure is so good, even God can't complain! Though, He or She may want a cleaner temple.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Business and Driving

Earlier, I had posted about how we make strategic decisions when we chose a route to reach a destination. A cheap(er) imitation from Thinking Strategically, a brilliant book on Game Theory by Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff.

A look at my car would reveal to anyone that I have been rather impatient in my driving. The reasons could also be that I have not honed my skills. But many a times, it would just not be my fault. The road is full of morons. So, about a couple of months back, I decided not to get too competitive on the road. I realized that my goal is not to be first, it is to reach the destination safely without causing any harm to self, my co-riders and anyone else on the road. I also decided to stick to reasonable speed limit. I observed that in city it doesn't matter how hard you press the accelerator, you will certainly pull the brakes on red signals every few meters. Most importantly, you just don't gain time.

But coming back, there's certainly a lot of commonalities between driving and businesses.

  1. Availability of resources is limited: While in business it could be raw material, people, partners...the most important limitations in driving is the road. Whether you drive an inexpensive hatchback or an expensive limo, there is only that much tarr-ed surface. Demand is so high that any additional supply is usurped, quickly.

  2. Highly regulated: If the Company's Act is the bedrock for organizations and establishments, the most essential barrier to entry on the roads is the license. And just like businesses, you get a different license based on the market you want to drive it - two wheeler, four wheeler, heavy vehicles...
  3. Competition: Companies can be categorized based on their size. Similarly, one's presence on the road is measured by the vehicle driven. While larger presence has an impact, there is enough room in the markets and road to allow everyone to exist. But then everyone is fighting for a space and to reach faster. While drivers may not have the same common goal like companies in reaching out to same target audience, the common element is the direction. In that sense, racing and businesses are more similar.
  4. Strategy: Both driver and an organization has a fixed strategy, but make suitable changes based on the situation.  

So next time you drive, think you are conducting a business. A serious one. And if you are one of those who need to deal with road rage, here is a wonderful read. Helps!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't Break That Coconut

Today, while on my morning walk, I saw a school kid waiting outside a kutty (small) Vinayagar temple with a coconut in his hand. His mom urged him to break the coconut. Apparently, his exams were starting today. Breaking the coconut is an integral part of the Hindu culture. I remember myself doing it just last week when I took my parents to a temple for a pooja.

On my return, I found pieces of coconut and shell scattered around on the road. It upset me a bit. I wondered why should one waste a coconut. When I was young, my dad told me that coconuts which were offered to God in this manner, referred to as sedurkka selutharthu in Tamil, was picked up by poorer sections of the society and consumed.

Now, as I saw those pieces of coconut flesh on the road plastered and dirty, I wondered to myself, if any person with even a bit of self esteem would pick up any of those pieces. It also doesn't augur well for the one performing this mindless act. They are wasting an expensive product thinking the God, if at all (s)he is there, will be happy. Now, I am quite certain that that God will only be sad about it.

But while I have grown to become an agnostic tending to atheism, I have realized that many such rituals were started to provide some meaning to our lives, often has profound meaning. So as usual I googled to find the meaning behind this ubiquitous act. And here is what I learned. But look at how we have adapted this ritual. Though I must say that this act of breaking the coconut on roads is more of a Southern phenomenon.

If at all one wants to pursue this act, do it well so that there is no wastage. Otherwise, you could simply offer it fully to some poor person. Or simply give it to the maid at home. With impoverishment so rampant, I am sure that that one coconut will provide good nourishment to a family at least that one day.

But certainly the meaning behind breaking the coconut has been lost in translation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why Salman Khan Is Right?

As usual, there is something new for politicians and media to do. Salman Khan, on the eve of his much-awaited flick Dabaang, told a Pakistani Channel that the 26/11 attacks were hyped because "elite people" were targeted.

Why is everyone pouncing upon poor Sallu? In my opinion, he has made a great assessment of how media works and how human beings behave.

Now, I have couple of questions. Try to answer to yourself honestly. Top of the mind responses are better.

  1. Which are the top two structures that come to your mind from the 26/11 attack?
  2. Do you remember places which all the TV channels and media focused on?  
Here's some more.

  1. Do you remember the name of the terrorist caught for German Bakery case?  
  2. Do you remember the places affected in Coimbatore blasts? You probably might remember the Leader who was visiting the city, then. Do you?
While he is correct in his assessment that the more 'influential' people targeted more high profile it becomes, in 26/11 case, I think it is the structures and buildings. I urge that every communications person should develop such judgement that Salman has exhibited. I think terrorists understand this well. Interestingly, when I had suggested my client Dax Networks to implement Wi Fi on Dal Lake, I gave pretty much the same reasons. I told my client that if we do a project in Srinagar, we will get maximum mileage. Even a small event there rocks the media across the world.

I am currently re-reading Tipping Point. Interestingly, the book has great model for the communications industry. All the models in the book - Connectors, Law of Few and Stickiness - apply to this industry where 'hype' is the business.

More on Tipping Point and Communications once I finish reading the book.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Employees In The Era Of Social Media

Till such a time that we discussed and gossiped in the real world, it was fine. 

Then somewhere Web 2.0 happened. All of us, who were till then laymen and consumed content, were vested with extraordinary powers to create and distribute content with far-reaching impact. It has become a strange world, since then. Free-speech has assumed new proportions.

Couple of days back, I had this conversation with a friend who works for one of the largest IT Consulting companies in the world. He told me that as part of the recruitment process, the company does scan the blogs of applicants. Now considering that I intend to be a salaried employee with no interest in the entrepreneur-adventure, does my virtual verbal diarrhea have any repercussions for my career? Considering that it is easy to be watched and tracked, does my online outbursts hurt my chances?  

I have made some positive mentions about one of my ex-employers. But completely avoid writing anything negative about any of my employer, present and past. And, clients are absolute no-no. So much so, I usually think twice before writing anything negative about a brand. 

Call me a coward, if you want, but am rather very apprehensive about being very vocal on Internet.

Earlier, I had written about Customer Service in Social Media Era. The reason for social media becoming spitting bag is that it is easy for individuals to do so. Now, who wants to go to a website and fill out forms or call a 10 digit number, only to press a few more. But more importantly, social media has become top priority  within the Customer Interaction Management industry.

I had this conversation with an extreme social (new) media enthusiast. He felt that it is absolutely fine with someone expressing his views in the public space. If I recall correct, he said that every individual is also a consumer. And that one should share their experiences with brands so that others can make an informed decision. Quite valid, I think.

It was widely reported that an employee was asked to leave after he made some reference to an institution in a blog. The employee and the employer both denied that the separation had to do anything with the post. In another case, an employee in a client servicing industry tweeted with negative reference to an organization because its staff bus was being driven rashly. While, his employer and the organization didn't have a relationship in India, they were working together globally. There was no damage in this case, thought it did ruffle some feathers and left a bad taste, I heard.
So, what is the desired behavior? Should companies monitor an employee's online avatar? Can social media acts of employees be considered exclusive of his work area behavior?  

As I mull over these points, I am reminded of this profound quote from the blockbuster Spiderman about power and responsibility. I still remain confused.

Many companies, today, have evolved behavioural guidelines for employees. While I have not seen one, myself, I think it would certainly be drafted in such a way that it covers any liability arising due to employees' net act. On a side note, have you read any Sexual Harassment policy? Gives me jitters!

And, oh yes, Shashi Tharoor and Lalit Modi will go down in the history for being two people who lost their jobs due to Twitter, whether directly or indirectly. Now, I am mighty scared.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Charger, Charger, Everywhere! Not A Phone To Charge!

Considering that the life of a mobile phone is about two years, the one thing that outlasts its purpose is the humble mobile phone charger. Most of the others, like the head phone, batteries, data cable...either meet their ends before or rather not kept as memorabilia. That distinction somehow goes, quite naturally, to the charger. It is one accessory that is the most essential for a mobile life. Yes, battery is. But battery is an 'integral' part of the handset, whereas the charger has high visibility in our daily lives.

Over the last couple of years, at home, we have manged to build a museum. While the defunct handsets themselves get tucked deep into some drawer, the chargers have managed to be on the 'surface'. They usually get bundled at one single place with the chargers currently in use. Now, when you have to retrieve one, you are faced with a situation reminiscence of the programs on sexual habits of snakes in Discovery and Animal Planet! Yes, you could also imagine noodles or spaghetti.

It could be also a behavior peculiar to myself. But then, it led me to wonder as to why can't there be standards in phone chargers! I am sure you would have gone through this experience at some point or another when your phone will be low on charge and you will go searching for a charger. But as life would have it, that particular day, no one would have the charger for your phone. Alas, it leads to mobile comatose.

I wonder if this would come under the purview of International Telecommunication Union? Or would Mobile Manufacturers Forum be responsible for such initiatives?

While, I will have to admit that am not technically qualified, but have enough grey matter to deduce that standardization is not an impossible mission. But why would there be different types of chargers in the first place? Manufacturers might claim that they use a different type battery hence a different type of charger. I doubt it. I strongly believe that in the technology world anything and everything can be standardized. Now, the mobile brands might just be doing this in the name of differentiation and customer lock-in. I am not sure if both make sense. 

But thankfully, looks like the world is already moving in that direction. Imagine a world where you do not have to worry about carrying a charger along when you travel because you will certainly find a pin, pretty much like you find a pen to fill those slips when visiting a bank. The Total Cost of Ownership of mobile phones will come down. And most importantly, the e-waste might reduce considerably.

Most importantly, I would not have to see different breeds of charges rolled up in compromising positions at home!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why Blame PR?

2010. Toyota recalls cars. Its Chairman is chided for not handling media better. BP spills oil. People say PR did a bad job in handling it. Mark Hurd resigns as HP Board recommends it. Bad PR strategy, many cry. If he had stayed, it would also have been a bad PR.

Has PR lost it? 

2003. I was still in the early days of my PR career. I was working with 20:20 MEDIA, India's largest IT PR firm. In India, PR was emerging as a strong communication tool.

In addition to few other clients, I handled Dax Networks, a medium-sized Indian networking company. It had made a name for itself during the initial days of Internet in India through its modems. It was those days when Internet meant robotic sounds and snail speeds. As the world became networked with complicated networking technologies and products, Dax was stuck with its modem-company image. And, that was our brief.

Modem is at the lower end in the value chain while Routers and Switches are technologically more advanced. Arunav Sinha, my boss, suggested that, to move away from the image of a modem company, Dax should focus on the emerging networking technologies. And at that time, Wi Fi was the in-thing. So, our PR campaign focused on Dax' plan to tap Wi Fi opportunity.

It was during this period that I, inspired by a program on Discovery, suggested to the client that they should Wi Fi-enable the Dal Lake. Now, for those who don't know Dal Lake is situated in the troubled Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Clients, who also hail from that state, agreed and we went on to implement the project. Media across India lapped it up. As Jammu & Kashmir was in the focus of international media, we received lots of coverage outside the boundaries, too.

And finally, Dax shed its modem-company image to become a leading Wi Fi company in India. It was a PR success.

Now, thanks for patiently reading on, if you actually did. No, this wasn't entirely a 'blowing-my-own-trumpet' exercise.

Now, coming back to the present, it is quite disheartening to note that every failure seems to be have some link to PR. While, I am happy to note that PR certainly has arrived, I am quite astonished that nobody is talking about operations failure but driving attention to how a corporate could have done better PR.

This indicates two things:

  1. Media has assumed the role of arbiter. And companies have come to think that if they win the battle with media they win the war in the market. 
  2. Image has become far more important to organizations than reality. And hence due to misplaced priorities, they take poor decisions. 
Media, whether it intended to be so or not, has become like the bully who decides the image. Actually, it does. But then media can never be an alternate to Operations.

Let me explain. Soon after the Dal Lake success, I was on a high. And it came to me as a shock when Dax decided to move away from Wi Fi image. It rather wanted to focus on Routers and Switches. I was very upset, but being an agency we created a new PR plan to usher in the change. In the hindsight, I think I was wrong. Though milking Wi Fi would have been an easier option, the technology had fast become a commodity. The company would have shifted from being a B2B to B2C. It would not have been an area of strength.

Mirzas knew their business well and chose the harder but intelligent route. Today, despite being a small company, they have become one of the top three networking companies in India. Remember the market has players like Cisco, Nortel, 3COM, Juniper...

The point is that when PR starts to drive the business goals, then there is certainly some problem. Read this post by Mr. Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, CSR can cloak irresponsibility.

There are some pointers for every corporate:

  1. Let Operations Strategy decide the PR plan. Too much of a gap between perception and reality is always dangerous. More so, if there is too much perception and little reality.
  2. Media is important but not all-important. Leverage it, but don't let media lever you. This doesn't mean you can ignore it. Create an inclusive strategy. But as I said absence of operations and trying PR means you are lying.
  3. Media or for that matter all of us have become too impatient. We are in the world where we have become unforgiving. This is especially more true for the Social Media tribe. Just because social media is visible and writing negative, don't stumble. Difficult things do take longer to achieve.
I remember a hypothetical case study of an airline that a client of mine once shared. Unfortunately, an aircraft crashes and no passenger survives. The CEO has to address different audiences - customers, employees, agencies, investors and media. What should be the order of his priority? Whom should he address first and whom the last?

What will you do? Whatever you do, don't blame PR!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Fall of Advertising & PR, And Rise of Social Media


As much as it was when people used to say The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR. I remember, when I was doing my MBA, the advertising lecturer had mentioned that the advertising industry in India was worth INR 8000 Cr, that was 1999. Today, after the emergence of PR as another communication tool and predictions of its imminent death, the ad industry is supposed to be worth INR 40000 Cr! Did somebody say fall?

Does that mean PR has failed? No, in fact in the last 10 years (that is the time that I have been in the industry) PR has grown and matured. It is now acknowledged as an important and strategic communication tool. It hasn't killed advertising, though. Both co-exist. Initially, advertising was like the big brother of PR. In the early days, companies who advertised thought editorial coverage was their birth right. Difficult days! But the PR industry has grown from strength to strength. So has the understanding about PR amongst the client community.

Then, can we, with the emergence of social media, though still very nascent, make an aggressive hypothesis - The fall of Advertising & PR and The rise of Social Media?

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without OrganizationsConsider this. Clay Shirky in his book Here Comes Everybody has illustrated the emergence of technology and its detrimental effect on the existing industries and practices. The most relevant to this topic is the story of lithographers. Lithographer were in huge demand till the invention of printing press. The lithographers' role was erased, in a manner of speaking, the same way as the ink dissolves in water. In the short time that I had spent in the advertising industry, I have many times run to the newspapers with the 'positives' (looked more like negatives). Today, it's digitized. Disruptive technologies have had telling affect on industries.  

Search for it and you will find numerous reports on the decline in the popularity of newspaper. Of course, the link is more specific to US. In India and developing countries, it might be better. To quote Shirky's work, it is because Web 2.0 has made anyone with access to Internet a publisher. With the power to publish, the world has become, what I am tempted to call, Journalists' Paradise or should I say hell. Just like lithographers, it is often quoted that the breed of journalist (who hold exclusive right to publish) will die. Sounds logical. With democratization of journalism, it doesn't sound incredulous. On a side note, a trained calligraphist who is changing the way technology industry works is Steve Jobs!

What about other media? TV and Radio?

Before we move on let's consider some fundamentals:

  1. Human beings will continue to seek information
  2. Human beings will continue to seek entertainment
Now, what is communication about?

  1. Sender
  2. Receiver
  3. Medium
Elementary, wasn't it? But useful to consider what will be the future of the communication tools like advertising and PR, because they are about medium. Internet is also nothing but a medium, pretty much like TV, Print and Radio. Social Media, growing at a rapid pace, presents a new opportunity rather than problem. Today, both traditional advertising & PR and specialist individuals and agencies are cannibalizing this medium with their services. 

The problem is rather for media organizations. 

Future of media is likely to change dramatically. If YouTube is the way we will watch videos then how will the advertising model work. Look at IPL on YouTube for that matter. Internet telecast of events might offer advertisers the power to 'actually' customize their ads. Unlike the regular TV where one ad fits all, will TV through Internet offer the same flexibility as it does on PC. Also, if the TV software is made available on 'cloud' where a viewer can watch programs as and when he wants to, how will advertising work? How will the content be consumed? 

As for print is concerned, things are pretty much clear. Things have already changed. The problem that the print industry will face is the explosion of self styled journalists. But think about it, as consumers of entertainment and information we are very simple beings. Further, we also are emotional creatures becoming loyal and sentimental. Most often our choices narrow down to couple of options. The dust is likely to settle, there will be consolidation. 

What would be interesting to watch going forward is the future of social media consultancies? Would they become a special breed and a full fledged industry? Or will PR and Advertising industry master the new medium?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Research: Educating Consumers or Confusing 'Em!

There was a time when I have had bath with Rin, yes the one that is used to wash clothes. Reason, that was the only one available at the station during our trip to Chennai from Guwahati. It was an almost four day's journey and in those days Indian Railways had an absolutely fantastic record of running late by 13, 14 hours.

Things are not that bad normally. Over a period of time, just like the amount of products that vie for my mouth-share, the number of products that have become part of my bath-share is incredible. There was a time when a soap was enough for the entire routine. Today, the shower gel goes to body; face wash to, of course, face; shampoo to clean the scalp and conditioner to nourish it. Is this sign of prosperity or what!

The role of research reports to 'educate' consumers and 'modify' consumer's behavior to change or enhance consumption pattern is unbelievable. And you thought lobbying happens only with the Government.

Shampoo brands through systematic 'education' urged us to not use good old soap for the scalp. Reason being that the scalp is different from body skin and thus requires specialist product. Once shampoo established, conditioners came in. Of course, then you have afterwash conditioners! Again, since skin on the face is/was different, to 'complement' soap, face wash rubbed in. I still remember when I was young, we were asked to shampoo once a week sighting that the daily application of shampoo would lead to hair fall. But over a period of time, research reports suggested that daily shampoo was better for scalp care.

Staying on the same set of products, while driving back home, Savitha said that a report suggested use of block-soap should be avoided. I was quite puzzled. On quizzing her, she said that the reports indicated that a block of soap attracts germs, hence not good for the skin. Did I read something in between the lines? Of course, I did. To me it looked like a report from liquid soap manufacturers wanting to shake up the block-soap market.

For so many years, people all over the world have been using block of soap. Today, it has become a bad practice!

I came across another such interesting case. A news article whose headline barked - Eat Eggs & Reduce Weight! Wow!

Eggs were a strict no-no for me, considering I am not only big built but also diabetic, I felt very happy. But as I went through the article, I decided to stay away from egg diet. The report 'proved' that a two egg breakfast helps reduce weight considerably. Because of its properties, eggs reduce hunger pangs. Thus, ensuring that a person eats less through the day! Yikes! I would eat as much after four egg breakfast as I normally do and add to the lipid treasure chest (or should I say waist) that I have built, already.

There was this joke in Reader's Digest that I came across. The writer deletes a line from her article stating that pregnant women should stop eating Chinese food. When Editor asks why, the writer replies that she thought over as to what pregnant Chinese women would eat!

Not to say that research reports are all farce, but the amount that is churned out to induce behavioral change can often confuse the consumers.

On something similar but very different, do watch The Story of Stuff.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Why Does Twitter or Blog Work? Curious Case of Customer Service

I love my Maruti Swift. I loved my Maruti Alto, earlier. I have been thinking of buying a bigger car, for sometime now. Chevrolet (please don't read it as Chevvy, GM doesn't like it) Aveo, Tata Manza and Fiat Linea to my liking, I have been treading cautiously over the thought. The financial condition is not in the pink of health to accelarate.

But then I know that car buying is a one-year process, so why not test drive! Over the last five months, I have called up couple of dealers in Chennai for a test drive. Surprisingly, I would get a call from these dealers for a time and date, but that's about it. At least on two weekends after complete assurance, I was left 'on-the-road'. I tweeted about it, last week, saying Fiat and Tata are probably overbooked and that is why they are not keen on offering me a test drive.

Tata Manza which has a presence in Twitter, immediately messaged asking me for my contact details. No later, I received a call from the same dealer whom I had contacted requesting for a time to arrange a test drive. But my happiness lasted for a short period. As it would have it, the test drive didn't happen as scheduled, yet again!

In the process I have realized that Twitter makes you heard. Though actual act is still subject to many other things.

I have also used Twitter to track and post developments for my employers. Blogs and customer complaint forums to 'listen' and act.

Is it that social media is working and traditional mediums aren't?

By the way, how does a customer reach out to companies?

  • Traditional modes: Company office, Service centres, Fax (you won't believe, but I have realized with experience that this is the best way to reach to a company and get noticed), Telephone (not call centres)  
  • New-age: Call centre (Toll Free Numbers), Email (standalone or through website)
  • Latest-age: Twitter, Blogs, Customer Company Forums, Social Networking Sites 
Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without OrganizationsIf you carefully analyze the modes, you will notice that companies as much as possible have outsourced customer interaction management. Call centres especially have become the spine in the customer interaction horizontal. And blame it on outsourcing it doesn't come under direct purview of organizations. But seriously, isn't customer service core to a company. Shouldn't it be held by company. Well, that makes a topic for seprate discussion. On the other hand, traditional or latest mediums are is 'owned' by the company.

Why latest-age modes of feedback are more turning out to be more effective is not hard to figure out.  
  1. Unlike call centre and email support, company's have so far not outsourced Twitter, Blog, Forum and Social Media support. But as I had pointed out in a previous blog of mine, this may not hold true if process specialists analyze and figure out how to standardize the responses. The entire BPO industry may find a new opportunity in adding these touch points under their menu card.
  2.  It's public. Unlike the traditional mode, which is an interaction between just the consumer and the company, social media allows anyone with access to publish and post experiences. As my friend Karthik would say, this information can be accessed, retrieved and used by prospective consumers to make future purchase decisions.
  3. And since it is handled by the company directly, it is likely to have employees who are far more capable and clued in that an outsourced customer interaction officer.
As I have also seen from close quarters, the social media is owned and monitored by the top management. Such close scrutiny may not be possible in other modes. Think if a CEO has to listen to all the nasty calls at the call centre. Or go through mails.

But, in my opinion, with so many people contributing so much on the net. It is bound to become unreliable. Search for any product or service that you may be considering on the net, I can safely assure you that you will find equal numbers of results, both supporting and decimating your consideration. Mouthshut and Complaints India, as it would be put by practitioners of Pranic Healing, emanate so much 'negative energy', it is not funny. One starts to wonder if there is not one product or service worth its price!

So do people actually use Internet to make purchase decisions?

Of course, the odd 80 mn odd Indians out of the 1 bn plus population might do it. But is it for making the purchase decision or gathering information. I take the risk in presuming that Internet usually is used to gather information. So, what's the difference? As I have noticed my own experiences, after gathering information it is always the word(-of-mouth) of my friend or an acquittance which is the final nail in the coffin, if I may say so.

Isn't it funny that Geoffery A Moore (oh no, not again) in Crossing the Chasm talks so much about referencing as the key to success! So where does the company begin. Looks like it's basics. Keep your existing customers happy first and continue to woo others. Now, isn't that what has been preached since time immemorial.