July 18, 2008

Election issues in India

Which would be the most important issues that people would vote for in the upcoming parliament poll in India? Well the election date would soon be known after the vote in parliament scheduled for July 22. The political parties in India generally depend upon and go by the ‘wisdom & judgment ’ of their in-house political pundits and those so-called senior journalists, who spin doctor as a fulltime profession for the parties they are working for without ever bothering for the professional ethics. Simultaneously the political parties also commission some market research to find out about the mood of the electorate. And the findings of these research agencies are generally ignored because the political leaders generally like to believe that they know the masses well enough at all times.

The masses, beyond the party workers, do not claim to know their leaders at all the times. That’s why they keep changing their opinion about electing them to power periodically. Political parties would benefit a lot if they could get some professional organization to research into the mood of the electorate so that they could make ‘promises’ on the correct lines at least. Let us try to list the most talked about election issues in the media.

Nuclear deal between US-INDIA has become a prominent issue. The Congress would go to people projecting it as a deal in the national interest and of the ‘AAM ADMI’, (Children in India believe that they only could be the ‘aam admi’ as mango is their favorite fruit). Though rural India suffers more from power cuts than the urban but its influence on voting may be more in the urban areas. BJP lead NDA would find it difficult to convince the people about their opposition to the deal.

I do not find anything wrong with getting close to the most powerful nation on earth. US have close relations with Europe, Japan, and Malaysia etc too. Would the opponents of the pact like India get close to poorer and least developed countries? India needs to feed its scary population. India needs to grow faster to be able to find jobs for its people. India needs energy. One could grow by being in the company of the developed. How could you keep company of the underdeveloped and expect to grow fast? Nations, like Men, are known by their company.

Let us shed that hollow & false pride to concentrate on working with international community to develop India into a place where everyone can find food, clothing and shelter. How can India be great when half the population goes empty stomach? Get real if you love India. India is its people. Have pity on the Indians, cut that jingoistic rhetoric away for sometime and let India develops economically. If you want India to strong and proud let us all work hard and find food, shelter and normal living conditions for most of us. Healthy body has healthy mind. Let us make India healthy first.

Inflation would be NDA’s most potent weapon. Recent price escalation that’s threatening to touch 12 percent on July 18, 2008 could work wonders in the urban areas for BJP. Other NDA constituents may not benefit much from this phenomenon because they do not much following in the urban India. Well the Congress would like to project that the rise in crude price is beyond their control and blame the inflation on the foreign hand. But masses in India have shown repeatedly that price increase is not forgiven. Congress would have to work hard to convince the masses to control the damage.

Governance has remained a pretty prominent election issue for a long time. Congress used to project itself as the only party that could rule India and offer stable government. It has been proven wrong. Several non-congress governments have ruled India. NDA government lasted full 6 years at the helm. This issues now figures prominently in speeches of LK Advani. BJP has very smartly marketed this issue in its modified version as good-governance. Well done. India needs good governance more than the stability. We need corruption free governance. Effectiveness of government could improve only when corruption is taken out of the system.

No political party promises a corruption free government. If any one of the Congress and BJP could promise a corruption free government it can sweep the elections on this one issue alone. Indians are fed up with corruption. There can be no really good or stable governance when nothing moves without greasing some palms.

Hindutva would remain a major election issue for BJP led alliance. BJP would be using it in some form like Amarnath, Death sentence to Muslim accused in parliament attack, Sonia gandhi’s origins etc. Hindutva has become necessity of the BJP to keep its flock of party workers together. The issue has lost appeal for the average educated Indian.

Unprecedented economic growth in India in last 4-5 years would become the major plank to convince voters to side with the party. It would also project the clean image of Manmohan Singh. Lallu’s great innings with railways is another powerful issue. Overall UPA & Congress would do well to project their achievements. NDA/BJP would counter it by projecting the inflation.

UPA and Congress have to be careful about their media plan to convey the message of great governance. I would recommend that they should take best media planners on board in its war-room to strategise to formulate a media plan and fine tune its targeting of the various sections of electorate. NDA last-time had a great campaign in Shining India, but they completely failed in crafting a media plan.

There have been constant complain campaign by BJP about many power centers in UPA, dilution of the prestige of the office of PM, and the charge that Manmohan is a weak PM. Well Congress may counter them with record of its government. I have reservations about demand for a strong PM. Does India need a PM like Modi? A parliamentary democracy would do well to have a PM who is more of a Coordinator than a typical one-man show. Half of the India is poor, uneducated, religious, ethnic and caste conscious, and densely populated, its possible to arouse their sentiments and push them into unfortunate battles over trivial issues. A dictator like PM is not required in India. We have rejected the emergency last time too. India needs a consensus seeking, soft spoken, educated person like Manmohan, Nrayanmurthy, Rattan Tata, APJ, Sachin Pilot, Arun Jaitley etc to lead us into better times.

There may be several other important issues that could be found out through research. I hope political parties go beyond using marketing tools & concepts and give a market orientation to the party itself. A real democracy should ask people what they want and give them what they really need. All political parties have to develop a new market orientation to get the trust of the people they claim to represent.

July 15, 2008

Meta Marketing for the B2B SMEs

When I proposed to a capital goods manufacturer of packaging machines to go beyond functional, quality & price matrix to market the machines, they could not understand how would it lead to a fat order book. Subsequently when it was recommended to improve aesthetics of the damn machine, they laughed loud. Gentlemen! Why can’t we have sexy machines that dance equally well?

Finding new customers remains one single most important challenge facing SME sector in India. More so in B2B sector the problem is terrible. You would come across number of manufacturers who have created a product or have the knowledge to produce but do not have the way to get it across to the buyers in time. You may also meet entrepreneurs who boldly tell you that they have got a million dollar product, market plan but don't have the execution muscles. Simply put they lack trained motivated professionals. 

Recently i got to advise a wrapping machine manufacturer who is in business for almost twenty years. This particular company faced a major crisis when one of their key people walked out to set up a parallel company. And this person approached the existing customers of his employer. He offered a similar product ‘an equally good machine’ at a lower price. Some customers diverted their new orders to him. What can you do in such a scenario besides taking legal steps to handle such challenges?

First if you are a B2B organization with almost finite demand over small to medium term go for CRM immediately. Identify & segment your customers on various criteria and appoint dedicated Relationship Managers. To organize this function in a better way you may employ some CRM tool from a wide range of applications available in the market. The relationship managers would do well by meeting the customer end teams at a suitable frequency backed by more intense offsite contacts. The aim of this exercise is to build top of mind recall so that every time the customer may include your name in their buying plans.

Secondly service teams should be encouraged to communicate through RMs. Since service teams are not fully trained in Sales activity they may not be able to influence the sale beyond discussing ‘quality’ aspects of the product. I have noticed in many companies services engineers tend to assume the role of generating sales. Though there could be some exceptional individuals in service, who could influence the customer but the in normal circumstances, the sales job should be delegated to the crack sales team only.

Since most machine tools and intermediaries are closely linked to the sale of other equipment also it would be necessary for the manufacturers to carefully leverage the meta marketing variables. A wrapping machine buyer would be buying other machines to complete production line therefore it would be appropriate for the manufacturers to tie up with other suppliers. Packaging machine suppliers need to sell their machines to the manufacturer of plant machinery and the project consultants before marketing the same to the actual buyers.

Generally major trade fairs remain the mainstay of promotion for the B2B segment. It would be appropriate if you take services of some marketing Adviser to package & present your products at such shows. You may have noticed that smart presentation at the trade show could multiply the possibility of generating orders and satisfy existing and potential customers. Try doing something unique next time during your trade show presentation.

Some engineers & manufacturers in B2B segment find it difficult to adopt sophisticated marketing techniques. Because marketing is treated as a post-production function rather an orientation of the business. How often have you come across sellers comfortable with maintaining their price in negotiations? Why can’t they learn from the success of leading true blue engineering companies that embraced marketing to become world best like Microsoft, GE and the old IBM.

Strategic Marketing communications separate a successful SME from the rest. How do you identify, engage, persuade, delight your customers would determine your topline. Why do some SME owners forget to leverage media & technology surprises me? If you have not used Direct Marketing and CRM, you are taking a risk in the medium to long term.

Come on shed that old mindset of treating marketing as a post-production function and give a total market orientation to your business. Focus on the customer, not what you want to sell you shall succeed

July 8, 2008

Complacency kills!...... Is India really happy & satisfied?

You cannot escape hearing these days about the talks/seminars on economic progress being achieved by India at 9 percent aggregate growth in GDP for last 4 years and the loud signing off that India would soon be a global power. But the same people could be seen struggling on the chocked roads fuming to reach home. Well that could be sign of ‘enormous’ wealth expressed in terms of auto sales.

Well whom are we benchmarking ourselves with? Europe, eastern I suppose or the America, south may be or the nearer home like Shanghai (Mr Prime minister please), Taiwan, Bangkok, KL, Hong Kong…..or perhaps Chengdu that relatively unknown place in Sichuan province of PRC.

When I was in Chengdu, China I experienced a world that’s pretty different from my hometown Chandigarh, and the home state Punjab. It was a completely pleasant surprise. Though Punjab is almost the state where fellows Indians from several states come to work and live, and Chandigarh is still hawked as the greenest city, an epitome of modern living. Certainly I do not want to compare any Indian city with Hong Kong,, Shanghai or Kuala Lumpur. But these die-hard optimists would not compromise their harangue on how great is it live in India.

Why can we not have an opinion about the house, land, planet and the world we are living in?

How would we clean up the environment unless we agree that things are not normal? Why should we shut up and wait for ages & centuries for a miracle, that new world order, which would emerge and India would become a place that you could be feel proud of? We Indians have to recognize the problems with India and work…..work honestly to make India a country that other people on the globe would prefer to talk about and admire. Please excuse me for wishing for admiration from others. Perhaps that’s the way I perceive of attaining the Nirvana!

Whenever ‘India eulogizing’ rhetoric begins anywhere on our land it strangely starts projecting our most dangerous problems as opportunities. Population problem is repackaged as an opportunity to earn foreign currency! The pathetic logic goes like since India would have 90 crore youthful working population therefore all the developed countries with stagnant population would be dependent upon us for labor.

Whew! How could a country be called a super power if its citizens toil in foreign lands doing menial jobs?

India would be a super power the day all Indians can live securely and find work on our land. Otherwise please name a country that could be called a super power and its citizens have to go and work abroad in droves. Well except the poor USA! Its citizens are ‘working’ in Iraq, Afghanistan and few other places. Well incidentally me and President Bush has lots in common besides our education, birth month and of course the popularity. I am almost matching his popularity ratings in our respective work areas.

When India figures high in surveys on happiness it must be a matter of concern for our leaders. Complacency kills! More so when Germans, Japanese do not think that they are happy.

Happiness is a state of mind. It may mean different things for different people. In war zone one may be happy to be just alive, but the same person may not be happy lying in bed in a super luxury suite. If you are a person who wishes to be an achiever then you may not be ‘happy’ with little success. But if you do not have well defined goals in your life then perhaps you may remain happy just like that. India needs to work very hard to climb up economically. Therefore ‘just like that’ or a ‘chalta hai’ attitude may not be useful for us to achieve recognition and acceptance.

Let us change our attitude and do not rest on our past achievements and strive continuously to achieve a reasonable standard of living in India for all of us. Lets be happy only if India produces great Books, products, athletes, scientists, businesspersons, teachers and politicians. I am trying my bit and believe me I would not be happy without a concrete achievement. I am available for work 24X7.

July 2, 2008

Selecting a logo

When it comes to selecting a logo for a product/company most prefer to go by thier 'gut feel'. But if you follow the follwing steps your task may become easier,

1. Have a good look at the logos of your business/product segment.

2. Check up the logos most admired by the Target customer segment of your product/business.

3.Non-fmcg may avoid additional properties like visual metaphor, signature tunes etc as the target buyer has a close homogenous profile.

4. Businesses/products targetted at the youth would do well if they add a graphic.

5. Packaging should be leveraged to enhance the brand experience.

6. Let a professional decide how your logo should look like!

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