October 31, 2010

What if

What if one stops the car on highway and breaks into a roadside dance, What if one screams aloud and disturbs the silence in the plaza, what if one go to job interview in khakis and sneakers, what if one refuses the uniform.....What if I do not follow rules, morality & wisdom to eek out happiness in life. 

Lets us free our thoughts and accept the world with all its imperfection

October 28, 2010

Corruption & India

TI has ranked India at 87th place in survey of 178 countries, almost near the middle of the pile. So in a way we are well placed as we don’t seem to be alone on an island. I often wonder why we are a corrupt country. How could a country with national tag line of ‘Satyamev Jayte’(Truth shall prevail) could happen to be corrupt? Should we not estimate the economic & social impact of corruption on us? Can we develop despite corruption amidst us and become developed country?

India is known to be deeply religious society, so could be trace the role of religion in fighting or promoting culture? The western society has begun to blame the Church for problems faced by the society, could we do the same? There is nothing new about it as Mahavir, Budh & Nanak did express such a view.  Why can’t the social & religious leaders launch a crusade against corruption? Would that be not a better temple for our pantheon of Gods in India that fighting over size of the temple?

One yoga teaching swami has become very popular of late. His success has been engineered by a vested interest group that want to promote yoga for the their social race genda than anything else. Some two decades ago Doordarshan ( Govt. owned TV Channel in India)had done so to another yoga guru who was close to the then prime minister. Swami Ramdev talks about fighting corruption, why can’t he start a micro finance venture and save millions of Indians from falling sick? Most of the MFIs are in the direct control of influential people including parliamentarians & politicians.

Corruption erodes the quality from a system. It has eroded away India’s potential to compete globally. We have become chalta hai jagaroo country. Look at our companies, most of them survive on borrowed or copied ideas, products & processes. Some of our visionary industry leaders after independence had influenced the politicians to protect them from competition so that they could survive. Look at any sector and tell where we have leadership? How could we have victory without going through the competition? Copying an idea is a form of pure corruption and most of so called Indian products like Cinema, auto, and chemicals etc are based on borrowed ideas. India needs original ideas to become a better country.

We grow up listening to chants of India being a land of culture, saints and family values. Our rivers have been given the status of God/Goddesses but no one thinks twice before polluting them. If our rivers are polluted & revered at the same time, do we take it as a sign of our way of life? Such unimaginable ambivalence? If you ask an average middleclass guy about such issues they would blame it on the lower strata of society. Indians of all economic class lack civic sense. They would not think twice to spit out from a moving vehicle or defecate at any public place. I have, you must have too, seen people bathing in rivers & other water sources that not suitable for human consumption just to please Gods. How could the Gods like unclean people?

Our social structure is based on group dynamics with family as the unit. So a large family has greater influence over the smaller one. You may find it natural? But these results in destruction of individual talent at the hands of might of family number? Our ancients text Mahabharta portrays the struggle between two families, depicting the defeat of the bigger size family and projecting individuals as Heroic. Could we learn some lessons from there and cap the corruption at the source? 

October 25, 2010

US Fast Food Franchises are heading for India/China

Global fast food market is estimated to be round US $ 13 billion in 2009. With the western economies under pressure due to many factors the leading MNCs have been scouting around the world for new markets to sustain themselves. The global food franchise managers are no different. KFC, PizzaHut, Macdonals, Subway..etc have already found feet in the indian subcontinent, so the its natural that other food retailing major follow suit. Indian food industry is expected to touch US $ 400 billion by 2025.

Food has always been very complex business for branding as well operations. One of the major challenge to this industry is the cost of real estate. It makes it very difficult in income surplus states in India. Operations is the second major challenge. There are approximately 6 million street vendors in India that service the hunger pang in an express manner. Its not going to be easy for the global fast food giants to settle down in India sooner as the food habits are very different here but then persistence would be rewarded very highly.

October 21, 2010

Creating differentiation for Car brands

Open any paper, you will see the adverts of almost all the major car makers in India. Could you notice the difference? Hardly, all the adverts have a visual of the product, against a color background and some description about what is featured. Does that make a compelling ad? Agreed that print has its limitations but what happens to the sacred objective of achieving the differentiation?

If you have decided that a car is a commodity put together using exactly same technology covered with a differently contoured steel panels, then well lets us not waste time on looking for a differentiation. A wise man told me once that cars are sold on the basis of market leadership, market entry timing, Salvage value, price, service, spares and the mood of the buyer during the purchase month strictly in the same order. Could you guess how much time does a person/family takes in finalizing the purchase?

I wonder why all the car ads look & feel the same? Why do we show the same profile angle in every advt? Its time to make this interesting. How could we expect the reader spend a second on an already digested visual? Unless each brand creates a special look about it in the print its impossible to cut through the clutter during this festival season even with an atomic ad spend.

Fiat Linea could have ruled the market if they had targeted the indian middle class family by wresting the positioning from smaller 5 door hatches. It is possible entirely in the current economic growth period. Only if Fiat could create an Italian aura for sometime in its communication strategy it could do wonders. An ad is meant to tell  story & create drama, lets bring it back in print medium.

October 9, 2010

Laloo may race ahead on his Motorbike in Bihar elections

Laloo’s promise of giving motorcycles to the youth in Bihar has put Nitin on defensive. There is nothing new about giving away goodies in elections in India. Southern states have been using the power of giving free televisions etc to the electorates with great results. There is nothing wrong about making a public promise of giving things to people to improve their lives. How many people are can afford to buy a bike in Bihar?  Such tactics are good for our democracy & would catalyze the economy of the state.

Infact it would be ideal if our political parties can make similar promises during elections so that citizens may have a better standard of living. Criticism of such policies is both wrong and devoid of any moral & legal force. I would love to live the day when a political party promises housing to their voters.

The way political & social system works in India would take centuries for people to get rid of their poverty and have some life.  The political players raise billions of rupees for their election campaign & use it for their own benefit. The voters get nothing in return except a lame promise.  It certainly does not amount to bribing the voters as there is nothing hidden about the promise. This kind of practice may strengthen the system.

The political parties have been known to give money & liquor to electorate during elections. That is immoral & corrupt practice. I would be pleased to see parties entering competitive mode in giving gifts to people so that ordinary people could raise their standard of living. Just imagine how the enhanced mobility with a mobike would add to the economy of the individual & society at large.  

This would lead to greater production of goods & services that in turn would contribute to the economic progress of the nation.  Let the political parties come forward and make such promises to the voters.  The skepticism about resources to fund such give aways is completely misplaced as we all understand the fund raising ability of our politicians and also know a thing about the size of parallel economy in India. It’s a win-Win for all.

October 8, 2010

Volkswagen India: Poor Branding

Germany, in India, has been known for Mercedes, Engineering, Football & Hitler. The consuming class in India loves the well established powerful brand equity of trust, engineering & solid quality of Made in Germany products.  All that has been altered by a dramatic full page ‘talking print advertisement’ by Europe’s largest car maker Volkswagen for the launch of a ‘luxury’ car into the fast expanding Indian passenger car market. The agency & the MarCom head at Volkswagen India has been all over the media claiming success of their strategy to get greater bang with smaller buck.

Lets us not get into the structure & size of the Indian car market but let us understand that the forecast of passenger car segment for the year 2010-11 is pegged at around 2.25 million units. And we all know that the largest share of this market goes to small car segments. Volkswagen does not have products in sub 4.5 lac segment as yet.  But I would like to analyze the issues that were the target of this interesting media innovation.

When MUL had launched their ALTO years ago with huge decibel level generating mega campaign so that masses could feel the launch it did not help them getting the trust of the customers. Volkswagen innovation is in sheer bad taste for the way Indian consumer behaves. Having a Chinese contraption blurting out crude words about an aspirational involvement product associated with serious engineering pedigree could only have worked to discourage the prospective buyers. My research with students at b-schools has established it beyond doubt that the talking innovation lacked the sophistication required for a serious product like a german car. I am afraid that some other innovative marketing guy may not suggest a similar company to get the car endorsed by a Swami to get immediate adulation.

If their budgets were tight then a full page bleed could easily be hived into two 40x6 releases to get greater OTS. Volkswagen India has to learn their India lessons by understanding the Indian car market, the buying behavior and socio-economic profile of Indian car buyers.  There are various serious ways to involve the customers with the product than vain media innovations meant to entertain the agency/media guys only.

This certainly is a body blow to the Volkswagen brand & the image of Made in Germany in Indian market.

The politics of population

Many of the participants & visitors at the CWG Delhi are completely baffled by seeing swarm of people around them at all places. Well I too fell uncomfortable in Delhi coming from Chandigarh seeing so many humans around me all the time.

We all agree that India has too large a population. But the agreement ends there only as two diametrically opposite opinions begin to emerge from this point onwards. One set of Economists and politicians consider it as a daunting challenge to the very survival of India whereas the other group takes it as an opportunity for greater progress in future in terms of more hands to produce more goods & services. I wonder how could these ‘additional’ workforce could be economically productive when there are not enough jobs for the present number of youth in India.  Population explosion is leading to alarmingly high numbers of stressed out unemployed youth looking for work.

Our economy even with double digit growth cannot provide jobs to most if not all the youth in another 3-4 decades. So what will happen to us in 2020 when large numbers of youths would be out there without gainful employment on our city streets? Over supply of labour in a free economy has its own dangers expressed in terms of under employment and low wages etc. The stress of competition to succeed in school exams is driving our kids mad, there joy has been sapped. How could you expect them to enjoy life on this planet when they find even the survival is threatened at home in India?

Population in India is a political issue. Some Indians may be giving birth to more than 1-2 children due to lack of education etc but majority of them are doing it deliberately to add numbers to their tribe.  What will happen to the progress & stability of India? Where will we accommodate such large population? We cannot wait till all Indians get enlightenment to restrict the family size to reasonable number of 1 or 2 only.  The government must discourage citizens from producing more than 2 children, I fully understand that many political parties & politicians would not agree to this suggestion citing many laughable reasons. At the back of their mind is the hideous intent of swelling their numbers to have more power in a democratic India. What will those guys do with power when the country may fail under the weight of ungovernable population?  If you love India please do not have more than 1-2 children.

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