November 23, 2011

Classical Political Marketing by Mayawati in UP

By raking up the issue of reorganization of UP Mayawati has created a flutter in the otherwise lukewarm political scene in the state. Wait for her next move with your bated breath. I suspect this is not her final move to set poll agenda for elections in the state.

Only an astute political marketing expert could think of such an effective tactic to control the public mind during elections. If Mayawati has thought up this move on her own she deserves total adulation & congratulation from a humble student of political marketing.  And I am holding her breath for her next move.  Moreover no party would be able to stop her victory march in Lucknow.

Political parties in India do not generally hire professional marketing experts in preference over in house pundits. Globally the situation is entirely different, as no political parties would risk not hiring an expert to run the war room during campaigning. Marketing thrives on new ideas and the war room managers must continually plan, create & launch new communications to influence voters during electioneering.

Mayawati has chosen to ignore Rahul’s agenda and went on to create her own one. This is very smart marketing move. One more such step would be enough to cement her grip on power in UP. Rahul and other opponents of Mayawati must get back to the drawing board and design new marketing programs to give a favorable direction to their campaign.

On the other hand elections in Punjab look like a damp squib already. Same old leaders, with often repeated speeches based on jaded agenda are communication redundant stuff that has no meaning for the citizen voters. Incumbent party is hell bent on proving their ‘SEWA’ whereas challenger is buys releasing tasteless adverts in print media.  Citizens are bored due to absence of ‘newness’ in the campaign. Election advertising in Punjab feels like another episode of Ekta Kapoor’s sari-serial.  Such a situation is good omen for the incumbent party as people do not come out to vote them out in large numbers. Congress in Punjab needs to learn from Mayawati or hire the same political marketing expert if they want to return to power in state. 

November 9, 2011

Election Advertising in Punjab: Same wine in same bottle!

Political parties have revved up their election juggernaut once again in preparation for the early 2012 assembly elections in Punjab, India. Print media has always been the mainstay of election publicity and has once again seemed to occupy the centre- stage once more. Parties new election managers have searched for previously used tactics with a hope to get new success. You cannot succeed a second time with the last time’s howsoever successful strategy.  Advertising is a reflection of socio-psychological profile of the citizens.

Once again we are forced to turn pages containing challenger’s party’s rally adverts showing huge gatherings as a sign of strength. Most often readers do not have to stray much to notice a blaring headlines about failure of the same rally. The incumbent party is busy painting the pages with their achievements. But an average marketer would be enough to convince us that old wines in old bottle do not work in marketing. Then why these parties do not pay any heed?

Marketing is about turning a new leaf in otherwise dull scenario. Marketing is about ‘new’. Even Mercedes is forced to reinvent itself every now and then to stay relevant. How could a political party hope to persuade citizens to vote for it if it has old leaders, old promises and old style of electioneering? Congress party in Punjab is smug with confidence of coming into power riding on the current ‘unpopular’ image of SAD/BJP combine. You have pundits pontificating about the reality of change in every election citing historical trend analysis of Punjabi voter. Have the congress forgotten that Haryana has got a Congress government back into power not long ago?
SAD election team is confident of their expertise in voter turnout & management. There is a general feeling that a close knit team of SAD would be able to defeat a disparate team of opposition in election management. Nothing is far from truth. Punjab, likewise global society, has undergone tremendous change. New youthful voters have different expectations from the political parties that have more to do with economic issues as against emotive considerations of the older voters.

Social media would play a critical role in elections in Punjab. And the party which has better online campaign would be able to garner urban support in large numbers. Newspapers do not have same impact as the battle would shift to strategic use of FM radio etc. Therefore a new approach is required that suits new media rather than depending on traditional media and tactics.  Elections in Punjab are going to be a rather boring affair for the masses  as the situation stands today unless the political parties consult political marketing experts to help them be the first past the poll.

October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs

Whenever I was in trouble in last couple of years, I would listen to Steve rather than pray to God.
I did not know much about the person till I happen to watch the video of his address at Stanford graduation ceremony on Ted.  That particular video left me dumb founded about his ability to articulate his philosophy in a manner that perhaps only a Nobel laureate in literature could do. ‘How to live before you die’ is a seminal statement that proves Jobs’ powerful intellect and persona.

I have shared that video with many students & teachers at various business schools with the sole aim of propagating the views of Jobs about life, loss and living. There are many business leaders who have earned billions by investing in commercial activity but none comes close to the value creation demonstrated by Steve.

Steve’s charismatic strength lies in his ability to differentiate a great value from ordinary. He was a true innovator & pioneer ever to walk on this earth. His understanding of human mind was greater than the research produced by large organizations struggling to fathom the working of human mind. He understood what people desire and he gave it to us.

Steve Jobs is a great marketing guru and we need to understand him better. 

September 16, 2011

We look before & after

India is home to 15 percent of humanity living on a proportionately smaller piece of land area. An average Indian has only ….of land as compared with the world average of $. The only other country having the population size of India but in possession of 3 times of land is China. Therefore comparing India with China is purely natural & logical.

India takes pride in its democratic set up although this set up has failed to deliver basic sustenance to vast sections of society. People like Anna hazare find many faults with it despite their lack of education & serious analysis. China seems to be ahead of India in almost every sphere including economic, social & political. India despite its economic growth has been unable to showcase any other achievements.

Our population fuelled by zealous exhortations by RSS to majority community has grown to a monstrous level. It has resulted in major structural problems including lower visible impact of economic growth on majority of citizens.  Lack of opportunities in domestic area propels the locals to migrate to greener pastures within India and outside. It creates significant challenges for them and the people living in the areas they migrate to. Unless we check the population on the lines of China there would be no respite for us from diverting resources meant for building India as a super power in 21st century to feeding the ever growing numbers in Hindi speaking states in India.

People like Anna Hazare think that corruption in India can be handled with enactment of a law against it. Hazare’s belief is like looking for love in an arranged marriage which is also founded on the idea that when people start spending time together they would be forced to like each other, or they must like each other.
Corruption certainly retards economic progress of a nation & it most certainly destroys a level playing field for each citizen. Democracy is predicated on a principle of equality therefore equality before law remains the cornerstone of a robust democracy. How could we be an equal country when LK Advani gets to sit in parliament despite his advocacy for upholding of his ‘Aastha’ that led to demolition of Babari Mosque? No ‘Aastha’ could be given importance over law of the land. An unequal society would always be corrupt despite laws against, because it is founded on discriminatory ideologies.

India is a strange place where cacophony for resurrection of ‘old values’ reverberates more loudly than the desire for a new more meaningful modern future. India is great place for smart swamis who escaped the rigour of education and hard labour by joining some religious organization where they spent time talking to similar people and discussing some old books. They never underwent the hard grind of earning a livelihood and taking responsibility for contributing to economic development of India. But India seems to prefer smart swamis over hard working honest guys.

August 31, 2011

Hero Moto Corp new identity for the market leader

Hero Honda does not exist anymore; the leader has been laid to rest. In its place there is Hero Moto Corp! Well the inevitable has happened and surely the Hero group must have been working on the transition for longtime. Let’s watch out how the future plays out. But I have few initial responses to their marketing particularly the advertising campaign about the transition.
Like most domestic companies that swear by fortune at the middle of the pyramid the Hero group have seem to target through the new  campaign. Obviously most domestic companies prefer to take the ‘safe’ approach with hope that one day they would be able to consolidate despite fiercest of the competition. I would not recommend such a strategic move to anyone. A new company must inspire new hope and appeal to the segment with potential of early trail. The company seems to be targeting the largest collection of followers among buyers rather than finite opinion leaders.

Hum hai hero… feels like inspired from Tata Steel campaigns. Well they are justified in registering the omnipresence of steel in all walks of life. But the theme adopted by HMC does not suit them, India is a motorbike  country but our per capita is no indicator that all who want a motorbike wishes to feel like a hero. The youth would go for zippier global branding & the domestic players would have to contend with need based buyers those use motorbike for work & transport. Such economy conscious buyers would be contended with other appeals. It seems to me that the Anna circus has had some impact on Hero Moto Corp’s selection of a campaign theme to announce new identity.

Hero Moto Corp campaign in my opinion is weak & would not help the HMC establish itself as a mid market player in two wheeler segment.

Marketing in times of Robust Demand

Indian economy has been experiencing robust demand across board for fmcg goods, particularly fmcg food category. Consequently most companies have begun to ignore their marketing function for the sake of focusing more on procurement & production. Almost double digit inflation in food segment growing demand has confused the producers. You have a situation now that some major established companies may have to face the prospect of substitution by new competition.  It is important for a professional company to invest more in marketing during periods of robust growth to consolidate their position to ward off potential threats.

Outages due to supply constraints are best period for new players to enter market for immediate product trails. You must have noticed that during the cycles of sufficient demand most producers tend to focus away from marketing to focus more on production etc. Such situation leads to a state when not only wasteful leakages of resources in production go unnoticed but more seriously the marketing gets completely ignored. I have noticed such situation facing many food companies in North India. Most companies are in danger of getting seriously hit by new entrants. Therefore such companies must wake up and invest in marketing immediately to have top of mind recall. 

August 12, 2011

Political Advertising by incumbent parties in UP & Punjab

Majority of political players in office believe that it is their legitimate right to use public money to showcase their achievements thru expensive media campaigns. Moreover they firmly believe in the effectiveness of such advertisements to generate a positive outcome of such campaigns. Being a marketing professional I would not like to argue about the moral & ethical implications of such actions but I have strong objections to the logic of effectiveness of such campaigns.

Most political players would not leave an opportunity to get their names mentioned in media. It flows from the mindset that any publicity is good publicity, and more so, that positive publicity is always good. I have studied many cases of government advertising, NDA’s feel good campaign too, and have reached same conclusion every time that advertisements containing the achievements of government during pre election period work against the interest of the incumbent party.

Election campaigning in Punjab & UP has already broken in the media. One could not miss extended TVCs of UP government singing praises of the Maya government whereas Punjab media is bombarded with achievement of SAD led government. Both the campaigns have already reached frequency levels that begin to build a negative reaction amongst the citizen voters. If both parties continued with their current approach to scheduling it is certain to damage their chances of victory.

Over publicity of incumbent party could deliver a bigger blow to its victory chances than a sustained campaign by the challenger. Incumbent political players in both UP & Punjab would do well to drastically cut their campaign frequency and also adjust the scheduling strategy to get a positive outcome

July 16, 2011

Aadhaar- A letter to Nandan Nilekani

Dear Mr Nandan Nilekani

Greetings, i respect your contribution to Infy and now to India in form of UID initiative. But being a marketing professor, i have some views on the nomenclature of the UID card.

A name must be easily pronounceable & convey the intended purpose, 'adhar' has elongated vowel sounds in two places once in the beginning & the penultimate syllable. Which is very odd for a mass brand. Generally its is the consonants which constitute a great brand name. UID may have been created by govt for their planning purpose but govt must see what would it do for us the citizens. It may govt's base (adhar) for identifying a citizen but it do not convey the benefits to the users. You are well aware of the nomenclatures of such identification systems present in the developed world.

Please get a survey about how many people, even in Hindi heartland, can speak the name correctly & you would be disappointed with findings.

(2)Secondly transcribing a Hindi name in English makes it look inferior. Either you have a Hindi name written in Hindi or English name written in same language and so on. It sounds & feels like a ration card name rather than a national identifier.

(3)Thirdly a national identity card must incorporate the three colors of our flag to give it a national character. Red & yellow have traditionally been colors of food packaging. 

Kindly look into it. Please don't be offended as i have genuine respect for you. Thank you

Best regards
Gurinder S. Ahluwalia MBA, MJMC
Marketing Consultant & Professor
Chandigarh, India
M:  +91  09417723313   T/F: +91-0172 2682523

PS: Let us save trees, Please do not  print unless unavoidable.

July 10, 2011

Political Advertising

Political advertising came into focus as a major determinant in political campaigning ever since Rajiv Gandhi’s advertising campaign designed by one of India’s leading advertising agency Lintas Bombay. Some of the popular campaigns such as that of Samajwadi Party’s campaign featuring Amitabh Bachchan & ‘Shining India’ of NDA failed to see the party through in elections. Generally political players when in power project their achievements & opposition takes to criticizing their work and make new promises.

As a political marketing researcher, may I suggest you the following;

  1. One size do not fits all? Generally parties go for ‘one message’ for all the segments in the state. Please avoid this trap and carefully segment Punjab into rural or urban and other segmentation variables and have different suitable message for each segment. ‘India Shining’ campaign was good one but it was wrongly targeted at the unrelated segments. ‘Shining’ campaign was actually meant for urban audience but it was targeted on the rural population too with disastrous results.

  1. Good work leads to good results! Chander babu Naidu’s government had done good work & had very encouraging media feedback too on his work but he lost. NDA under Atal jee had also done good work but could not hold on to power. Well, the research reveals that advertisements focused more on achievements may not be a good strategy. Therefore please see the weakness of ‘achievement argument’ and go for a new suitable communication strategy. SAD may focus on new promises rather discussing about past achievements in advertising campaign.

  1. Winner’s curse: It’s better to start second to win the battle. Generally the incumbent party would begin the advertising campaign in right earnest before the challenger. Please wait for the challenger campaign to begin and then enter fray. Any student of psychographic profile of Punjabis would tell you that we have a serious issue of trust deficit. So when you claim success others immediately start searching for their share in the achievement & may develop a negative orientation. Therefore greater share of voice, without equivalent share of mind & heart may not lead to desired positive outcomes.

  1. Floating versus Core? It has been established beyond doubts that a political player would do well in elections if they focus more on the floating voters against narrow concerns of the core followers. 

July 4, 2011

Internal Marketing in ITES in India

India has seen considerable growth in the service sector particularly the ITES during the past couple of decades. The growth of this sector has slowed down due to many reasons external to the Indian economy. But there have been major internal challenges too. One such impediment internal to an organization is the lack of Internal Marketing.

The first waves of ITES companies were closely aligned with their global partners therefore it was easy to bring in systems, processes & practices that have been followed in the global context. The market was agog with their employee friendly policies and five star office spaces. Therefore talented people never stopped looking for such organizations. The scene has changed a lot.

Just a causal walk into any IT park in India would apprise you of empty spaces that were once buzzing with youthful activity. What has gone wrong with India’s ITES dream? The answer is pretty dumb. Once Indian managements took over such facilities they turned it into what they knew best, a product centric approach to business rather than the understated intensity of the service management.

The scaling down of quality, due to several business and other considerations has affected the delivery process so crucial to the ITES enterprise. Internal marketing have been ignored or forgotten. Training & development have been reduced to mere ceremonies. Once the delivery quality suffered it was normal for the client to change the vendor leading to weak financial performance.

Business organizations in service sector have to leave the HR policies hardened over the product marketing fire in a closed market. Internal marketing & quality of the internal customers would be the only two crucial parameters of success of a company in Education, Hospitality, ITES, Energy & Telecom domain. Investment in the internal customers & their quality must go up as they only determine the delivery.

A service company must not live on the old fashioned adage of ‘organization is bigger than an individual’ and allow its great people leave them for greener pastures. No HR policies must restrain a service organization to pamper their stars performers for the elusive search of team building. You would have bigger team if you are successful, that would be a consequence of an inspired leadership of an individual. Teams are great but greater are your talented people. How would you rate the success of Apple computers without maverick Chief Steve jobs? Therefore it’s good to have HR policies that recognize & reward the talent. If your operations are global then it pays to play by global rules.

July 1, 2011

ETIOS LIVA- a marketing gamble for Toyota

The largest car manufacturer in the world needs no advise for a marketing professor but I take it as my calling to express my views on their ETIOS line of products. Well arithmetically largest manufacturer must target the largest segment! But it may not be suited for thinking patterns of Indian mind that’s firmly rooted in tradition and a hierarchical society. Indians resilience is famous, we Indians have repeatedly demonstrated & proven that we could behave as best of friends even without any real existence of affection. Branding is a mind game and depends upon the mental architecture of a society.

And one of our firm beliefs is that either you are a Ravan or a Ram & there is nothing much in between.

Therefore TATA has to wait for acceptance of its ARIA, similarly MUL understands the fate of Kizashi. JAZZ continues to be priced at Honda levels in Indian car market. For marketers looking for trends there are enough lessons to be drawn from the brand wars in consumers electronics in India. SONY still rules the market while others go through repeated adjustments.

ETIOS LIVA places Toyota bang in the lower segment dominated by Indigo, Desire by Tata & Suzuki. It would directly affect the market of their premium products like Camary, Altis etc. And once you come down from that pedestal into the grime at the bottom of the pyramid then it’s the price that would matter. Premium position and associated engineering quality does not matter in this segment. How could you maintain a relationship when there is no need for it? Branding thrives on relationship and sacrifices. Branding is the pride a consumer has in the services offered by the seller without demanding them.

Besides pricing it’s the look & feels of Etios line of autos that make it appear cheap & under engineered. Who needs Toyota to do a Tata, Mahindra & Maruti in India? Toyota has been known for its long term plans let us see how long they would take to get to the market leader position in India?

June 25, 2011

Trust is a Must: Future of Retail in India

If you examine the reasons for failure of organized retail in India many factors have been cited by various experts but no one has pointed out the most critical issue of absence of trust as the prime culprit. After all there is enough growth in economy leading to healthy demand for goods & services, some players have deepest pockets too, there is reasonably good transport backbone and India has quite a few well established fmcg majors present for long enough periods too.

We witnessed huge customer interest in buying at such outlets in the beginning & any research could reveal that customers could return to buy from organized retail if the players could get their act together. Quantity, prices, packaging, buying convenience, availability, variety and experience are few given factors that are in favor of organized retail.

Though most retail players failed due to absence of managerial competency for such operations particularly in marketing function lacked the understanding & creativity required to maintain a robust interest of customers in the stores. Across the board players focused on product images to lure the customers without strategizing the brand pull in an effective manner.

Retail is a service but the organized retail players choose to run the biz without regard to the basics of services marketing. Only if Reliance Fresh, Big Bazaar, Spencers etc could learn few lessons from professional service marketers and trained & retrained their teams on a continuous basis they can pull off the act in a powerful manner. There is lack of training, sense of belongingness & trust among the people working at the outlets. 

It’s very important for the retail players to craft a suitable training programme for their team to keep them involved in the business with a degree of pride. Without inculcation of pride among the team working at the outlets its impossible to run such an operation. We must keep in mind that we are not USA or Europe where people generally trust each other. We are a society that’s fractured by insidious mistrust that keeps people from behaving like a cohesive them. First step towards success of retail is to build a trustworthy team that in turn could inspire trust of the buyers, Till such mindset is achieved even Walmart would have to struggle in Indian market. 

June 24, 2011

Their Sun is the Centre of their ‘Universe’

Dentsu India has probably forgotten that their illustrious parent has Japanese origins who, unlike them, believe in hard work, honesty and dedication. I am shocked to see an advertising slogan on the front page of June 24 2011 ET that reads …Sun may be centre of universe for others…., how could they write such a falsehood with so much seriousness? Sun is centre of solar system, not universe. We have known it since 1920’s. It’s a case of bad semantics & wasteful advertising.

Indian advertising industry has always been known churning out large quantities of completely ‘inspired’ works, much like our cinema. Most of our films and advtg too, are nothing but stupid copies of otherwise fine piece of creativity. We understand business & also have had demonstrable greed to make money through any means fair or foul but we have not yet learnt the method of honest work and truly inspiring beauty. And this reflects well through our advertising too.  Dentsu India could surely produce better work.

June 6, 2011

Political Marketing & might of salwar kameez

India is maturing into a reasonably functioning parliamentary system. Like other places the system would evolve organically to fulfill the desires of the people. As a student of political marketing i would like to point out the vacancy available for a secular national level party to keep the nation on track.

We have seen that whenever a secular alternative is offered to the citizens they have grabbed it with tons of hope. Recent elections like that in Orissa, Tamil Nadu & Bihar indicates towards same reality. So far as the right & left wing parties they would always have a marginal role to play before they dissolve into oblivion. Religion/Culture based parties would loose their already shrinking base with spread of scientific temper as a consequence of education. 

Congress seems to have given too much importance to Ramdev but i hope that the Congress knows fully well that Ramdev combined with RSS & rightist voters pose no significant threat to political fortune of congress. But if Ramdev gets together with a new secular party then congress would be under real existential threat. There is place for a second national level secular party in India as per the marketing logic and three years is a long period for an outfit to make a difference in our media soaked society. A saffron Ramdev is a lesser threat  to the political power of Congress but a salwar- kammez  wearing Ramdev would present a real a present danger to Congress. At least the marketing logic says so! 

June 3, 2011

Career Planning & Corporate Orientation workshop

Career Planning & Corporate Orientation workshop!
Dear Engineering & Management students: We understand that most often you do not get industry experienced mentors to introduce you to various options available for your dream career. We would enlighten you about the job options available in corporate, train you for the interview battles & arm you with ammo required for a rewarding job hunt safari. Classes are planned for Sat-Sunday to fit your needs. Cheers. 

Morning Session
Post Lunch Session
Ice breaking & Formal Introduction

Movie on business Management
Identifying your personality type

Personality to Industry compatibility- which function/sector would be fit for your type
Effective Resume

Attractive Cover letter
Preparing for Interviews

Role Play
Prepare your Elevator speech

Prepare for war in the interview arena.
Professional Etiquettes

Hygiene Factors & manners - Role play and Video session
Winning in Group discussions

Feedback and Role Play
Voice Culture and impact

Recording & feedback session
Social Media Marketing for job search

Social media training session.
Contours of Global & Domestic industry

Shooting resume to suitable companies & discussions


                      Course fee:       9500 only
                     Duration:         60 hours 8-10 days [Sat-Sunday]
                     Batch size:       25 participants
We welcome our students to take advantage of our customized Career Spa for selecting a suitable career & winning at the interviews. Video resumes for the fresh graduates are most desirable in the current corporate environment.

MBA has changed

MBA/PGDM course continues to be taught the way it used to be in 80s in India. Even the curriculum in most places has remained unchanged. Well PowerPoint presentations have replaced the overhead projectors but contents and pedagogy remains mostly the same. The question is do we really need a new way of dissemination of knowledge with learners?

MBA/PGDM is a business management program that prepares human resources for the industry. Has the industry undergone any change in last couple of decades? Have the processes and concepts of managing business changed significantly over the past years? Is it enough for a person to get acquainted with few concepts and analytical tools before entering the corporate for a successful sojourn? The questions are many so are the answers. But definitely a good MBA/PGDM qualified person continues to command higher value with the passage of time. An average MBA/PGDM degree holder may have lost it sheen completely.

How to be a valuable MBA/PGDM so that corporate takes interest in you? Let us list the steps required to become a good MBA/PGDM;
1.Decide/select the industry and function you wish to work with in the first semester itself.
2.Focus on intensive study of the select sector/vertical while writing assignments & tests.
3.English is no loner a foreign language, therefore go for Chinese, Korean or Japanese.
4.Keep regular track of your industry selection by interacting with working professionals.
5.Learn Excel thoroughly & read one local & one global business magazine.
6.Try your hands at a small business or simulation before taking the maiden step in career.
7.Post your video resume on every possible website directly or indirectly related with your chosen industry sector.
8.Undertake extra study to build your intellect & aesthetics through appreciation of fine arts.

Teaching of MBA/PGDM would take years to change itself to align with the industry requirements therefore its incumbent upon the student to set his own agenda for a successful career. Wish you a happy career.

June 1, 2011

Building private self financing Higher Education

Quite a number of self financing professional education institutes are coming up all over India as per the plans of the government to expand this sector to enhance the enrolment from current 13 percent to 25 percent by 2015. Such institutes are regulated by AICTE, UGC and the afflicting universities to check the quality standards. I don’t wish to comment on the effectiveness of the mechanism in this piece as I would like to address the larger issue of institution building.

Generally most businesses, at least in India, are inspired by the success stories of the pioneers & current leaders of the sector. Therefore when private engineering colleges came up in south India they tried imitating the systems practices of the popular government run institutes. Following the south region, such activity began in North India in late 1990s peaking in the period 2000-2004. Unfortunately most new institutions did not focus on upgrading the value offer over the existing ones as is the normal practice in business but took a narrow profit seeking view of the entire process. Consequently students enrolled themselves at the nearest, cheapest institute with the objective of acquiring the degree without going through the rigor of learning process.

India has been saddled with ever new institutes that showcase work in progress campuses, relaxed classroom environment with security of getting the paper called a degree that promised to unlock the doors of high flying careers annexed through hook and crook. Each new institute had no problem of filling the allotted seats till 2009 so the process kept on uninterrupted. Scene changed after 2009 as even the established institutes faced with falling admission numbers and stagnant revenues.
Large education management groups have deep pockets that enable them to bombard media to create an impression of being a market leader in their region & domain. But the large number of single campus institutes do not have the financial muscles to factor in the media spends. Let us first investigate the reasons of fall in admission to professional higher education in India.

There is a general agreement that lack of academic excellence at new higher education institutes is the prime culprit in driving students away from higher education. It’s followed closely by the lack of new available jobs for the fresh graduates. Some institutes believe that poor branding of their institutes is also responsible for the crunch. These are the points on which there is a general agreement amongst the players. Interestingly all these point to a traditional product led approach followed by people at the helm in these education enterprises.
Most important factor responsible for decreasing admissions into higher education could be traced to stagnation of land prices across India. The spike in land prices during 2002-2007 generated large surplus incomes for the semi urban areas which allowed them to send their children to expensive higher education institutes. Post 2009 there is lull in land prices has forced the households to cut back expenditure on education leading to students preferring low cost diplomas over high cost professional degrees.

Branding an higher education organization in such a scenario requires strategic alignment to the students profile in the particular region. Mass media advertising is great source of recall but has limited value in building an education brand. An intensive institute wise analysis would be required to carve an effective branding. A general list of factors that lead to creating powerful brand is as give below;
1. Infrastructure beginning with the entrance
2. Quality of the staff & faculty
3. Proximity to the centre of industry & trade
4. Curriculum & quality contents in classroom
5. Industry interaction
6. Transport system
7. Technology base
8. Global exposure

May 20, 2011

Don’t take big impact decision if…….

Decisions are difficult to make but managers at all levels have to take the responsibility for quality decisions based on the available data & facts. Barak Obama has been criticized for his ‘sleeping over’ for a day on the decision to sign order to execute Osama bin laden. Some US academics has appreciated his approach to decision making as sound one and efficient in such grave matters.

How do the responsible professionals arrive at decisions in the corporate world? There are managers that are known for their instant decisions making as compared to the majority who are either incapable of taking a decision at all or take long time to take decision. It is possible to take a decision in routine matters quickly but new problems need a process of collecting the facts, writing down the alternatives & their consequences and selecting the suitable decision in context of objectives, consequences and time phase.

Though enough research has been carried out the factors underlying the process of making Big Ticket decisions but little has been done to compare the big decisions with a series of small decisions of less significance?

Let’s examine a case to understand the issue. At an engineering college a group of students approached the director complaining against the faculty for giving them low marks in the internal assessment. The director felt helpless in presence of large group of students in his office. He did not try to have a conversation with them in that setting and asked the students to come with a separate written complaint and meet him one by one. He talked to each student individually and gave suitable solution to each one of them.

The director broke the case into small manageable parts and set out to solve it in a win-win manner. It has been observed that a complex decision may involve detailed examination to gather all the facts but still its better to avoid big impact decision and instead go for a series of small decisions. Big decisions have significant impact therefore require greater risks to all those involved in it. Any decision could be broken into smaller manageable parts and then executed in a planned serial manner to achieve same goal at lower disruption.

May 18, 2011

Defence is better than Attack in Marketing Strategy

Most SMEs in developing countries like India do not budget for marketing and hit the road without a clearly differentiated marketing strategy. Result? They get stuck in a situation that would leave no option for them but to go for a strategic retreat in order to prepare for attack at a later day. Therefore instead marching forward on the strength of incremental gains accrued with each plan period they are forced to land up in a loop that offers no clue about direction of growth.

There are many organizations that would just produce or acquire products, then without any marketing inputs,  leave the rest to the marketing forces to liquidate the inventory whenever that happens. Such thinking is risky and very costly. Your customers are always looking for options and you competition would love to undermine your offer, therefore you can not wait for attack on your brands from different direction before you unleash your counter. Although in pure marketing context, an attack may not be the most potent defense.

Let me mention the examples from our home grown brands like 'Monte Carlo', 'Haldiram' and many more like them. None of these brands despite demand & marketing potential could go on to become a formidable force to take on the competition. On the other hand, dairy brand like Amul, Verka etc have successfully warded off powerful MNC attack on their consumers segments and mounted a devastating counter on the shining MNC players like HUL in ice cream market.

An organisation howsoever small in size must budget for marketing activities so that they remain capable of mounting a surprise attack when threatened. I personally believe, and my long experience indicates so, that a defensive strategy is always preferable over any form of attack. Many MSME organisations have lost precious market domination opportunities presented by the growing middles class consumption in India. There is huge potential for home grown brands in food, Apparel, Engineering, Education & Chemicals in India. Unfortunately we do not undertake sustained marketing campaigns.

May 10, 2011

Dilution of People's Representation in India

India has grown from 350 millions to 1.21 billions but we still have same number of elected Member of Parliamnet. In a democracy a leader must work & know the peole s/he represents. Is it possible for a MP to meet even 10 percent of people in the constituency during 5 years in office? An MP is no longer representative of the constituency in rational practical manner.

Secondly the ratio of elected representatives to the electorate has been completely altered. Therefore for the sake of a representative democracy we need to increase the number of seats in parliament and enforce the ratio that existed in the year 1947.

April 29, 2011

Business Management & Ethics in the post 2G order

Most of the Business Management-MBA/PGDM- students do not study a full course in Business Ethics therefore the awareness about ethics remain limited & confined to the legal-commercial interpretations under the Competition law. But having quite a few corporate honchos inside the Tihar jail has warmed up the debate in bschools about the need to deliberate on this subject more minutely. After-all what could an executive do if the boss is looking for great results at any cost? On the other hand, lots of greedy executives take liberties with the law & established procedures even without the knowledge of their boss and end up on the wrong side of the law of the land.

Most believe that the ADA group senior execs who are in Tihar jail were completely aware of the consequences of their decisions and have taken what according to them were a calculated risk in business. Regrettably the business environment has changed leaving them with unexpected fallout of their actions. While teaching to students in MBA/PGDM the issue of business ethics & morality generally comes up and naturally you have the majority of the students on the side that is willing to take risks to attain objectives.

We must draw a line between legitimate business and the other economic activities that would result in generating huge profits. I am reminded of my mba days at Punjab University in 1990s when we had a gentleman professor who was known as reputed scholar in the business ethics area, but he was never given much attention by students as we thought that ethics has no place in business! Well how wrong we were.

In a competitive environment  people are willing to live for money & associated greed and in pursuit they are willing to take risks. Some people are forced to cross the line under pressure from the superiors in an organisation. Though putting up a hoarding or banner of your company at an authorized place may not look to be a serious illegal act but selling expired medicines in new packaging is surely criminal.

At Apeejay institute, Dwarka, New Delhi i had this particular colleague from the finance area who idolized Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parikh etc. He admired Reliance industries' actions of hobnobbing with the governments to affect policy changes that bordered on getting an unfair deal. And Marketing, my area, is generally seen as the realm of the evaporating truths.  But i have always maintained that one must abide by morality & laws to achieve our objectives without infringing any laws of the land and the society we live in. Its time we discuss Management Ethics in greater details in the bschools in India.

April 20, 2011

System & Swamis

A popular neophyte swami in India features on many television channels admonishing government to mend ways otherwise his yet-to-be-launched political party would capture power. The swami has already blessed masses with a mantra to check hairs from graying by rubbing finger nails. I wonder the usefulness of yogi's divine mantra when same results can be obtained with a hair dye? But you know swami's ways are always mysterious.

Your heart would stop when you listen to him dishing out advise on Indian economy and tackling corruption. He has never studied economics, though he owns a university now, but he looks just spectacularly self assured about the correctness of his advice. On the other hand,our poor PM Dr Manmohan Singh who is a man of greatest humility, integrity, admired globally for his knowledge of economic matters and has been voted as finest Finance Minister by Times magazine, fails to convince this 'swami of exercises' on his record of good economic management of India ? What a cruel joke! A swami claims to know everything from yoga-he did not invent it- healthcare, economics and what not? Sorry I am unable to contain my shock & bewilderment. I wonder why this master of light exercises (yoga) does not train his pupils to get some gymnastic golds for India in Olympics? Otherwise what else can he give us?

These swamis have fed our illiterate masses that India is poor & populous because 'someone else' is responsible for our problems & it is that someone else who has to correct itself so that we could have respite. Its not only illogical but completely stupid not to take the responsibility for our present. Our journalist are freely blowing their trumpets and casting aspersions on everyone including some fine gentlemen whom our erudite newsreaders could not even understand. Its like writing a review  for a Chinese films without watching a single  shot of it.

Recently while travelling from Delhi to Chandigarh on the evening  train i met with a swami follower. He was serious that politicians have manipulated the systems in India thats is causing misery & lawlessness in the country. When i asked my friend that how many of us are law abiding citizens he was surprised to find out that we mere presence of traffic lights in not enough for us to follow the rules. We would jump any traffic light if some authority figure were not standing there. Why do we need police to make us follow our own laws? We have great systems in India there is need to follow the rules & strengthen the institutions. Corruptions begins with us as individual and we need to check it in favour of a merit based society.

There are lots of things that an individual & civil society must do to make our lives better without any intervention of the government power. Charity begins at home.When we start electing people on merit without bias towards their caste, religion, religion & language we would become a good country. And it won't take centuries for India to become a great nation. Lets us rise above our narrow biases and work unitedly for our country. Swamis must not preach healthcare unless they study medicine in an medical institute and also keep away from half truths about economics till they study the fundamentals of economics.

April 17, 2011

Free the land for people

Well you would say the sky & the land are already for the people! The world, led by India, puts enormous stress on the supply of land for human use. The land prices in India have risen exponentially in last decade due to many reasons  including non economic ones too. When we are designing the office spaces it has been observed that large square meters of expensive estate has to be left for passages, approach road and parking etc on the ground level. Most often office buildings & surrounding landscapes fail to look pretty & attractive due to the people crowding the narrow pathways.

Let me suggest a solution to maintain the beauty of the building complex while providing a high position to the people using the building! How about building a system of steel bridges to connect various buildings with the parking & reception area? Think of an building complex wherein you park your car in designated area and climb onto a steel bridge that would take you to the destination. Imagine how much better you would feel walking above the building to go for work? This would free the land on the ground for other uses.  Secondly such bridges would allow better crowd control during emergencies too. I am waiting to see such university complex designed by a bright architect coming up sooner which would free the sky for the people.

April 12, 2011

Anna Live show: a ripple effect of WC cricket advertising rupees

Sometimes the wise cynical guys could be right in saying 'Money makes the mare go'! Why not apply the underlined wisdom of the phrase to understand the phenomenal success of Anna Hazare's crusade for the LokPal? Was it pure coincidence that such continuous media coverage was given to the small NGO protest against corruption? Was it a coincidence that the fast coincided the normal religious observation of fast by majority of Hindus on Navratra? Was it also a coincidence that it happened next day of the world cricket cup in India? There are other many 'whys' that seek answers. Let us try understand the polemics of the chain of events as how the ripple effect advertising from WC led to invention of Anna Hazare live show?

India is a secular socialist republic working as a parliamentary democracy where people can effect change to the constitution through or enact a law by electing their representatives to govern the nation on their behalf. Then whats the need to subvert the established institution ? If all politicians are corrupt then how come one on the side of Anna Hazare is a holy cow? Is Mr Shanti Bhushan better placed than Mr Manmohan Singh on the parameters of honestly & ability? There are many serious questions that are looking for answers.

The media has recently made a pile of advertising revenue from World Cup. Believe me our media is doing a disservice to the nation by promoting cricket for their selfish profit motives without regard to the harm it does to other sports in India. Cricket is a all day sport that gives media eye balls to run the advertisements to rake in money. Media do not share the advertising money earned from WC cricket with promotion of sports in India. This time industry had changed its media buying strategy to game by game basis from the earlier bulk deals. Therefore with the India's victory at the event there were large scale advertising funds looking for an opportunity to get promote themselves. Consequently the marketing departments of the media companies may have persuaded the editorial guys to create a mass event culminating in focus on the fast of Anna Hazare to make it a rolling event for advertising needs.  

You wonder that just a few days ago, a similar event led by Gandhian Seva and Satyagraha Brigade, an all-India NGO of Gandhian persuasion, was organised at same place but it did not got covered in electronic media. Ask Arnab goswami why did he not cover it? What was his motive? It was appalling to see media anchors churning out tasteless commentary as if the entire India has been involved.

Some people say media is getting back at the government to keep it under pressure from allowing entry of foreign media into India. Also many media companies have 'treaties' with large number of business houses therefore media has to keep those company stock prices in good shape to earn profits. Despite Government of India's appeals our media continues to portray a negative image of India abroad. What national purpose they are serving is beyond the imagination of ordinary citizens. Radia tapes has exposed the unholy nexus of media & politicians in promoting corruption in India and the same media is shouting hoarse over the corruption in India. Why?

April 3, 2011

Election forecast 2011

Market research in India faces many hurdles due to size, literacy, culture, & economic factors that lead to trust deficit which is difficult to manage statistically.  Political parties must go for long term behavior research to arrive at more accurate findings about the voting behavior of the citizens. But we have attempted a preliminary research through students in 5 states going for polls and the outcome looks like the following;

1. Left-wing parties would be voted out from Kerala & WB
2. Congress would remain in Assam & Puducherry
3. DMK has close contest but would get more seats than AIADMK
4. TMC would win WB

Voter Mobilization in State Elections

Five states are going for polls in April-May 2011 in India. Once again we shall see different pattern of voters turn out. Many believe that a high voter turn out during elections confers greater legitimacy to election results but specialists have different opinions about the subject.  In a first pass the pole system freedom to vote becomes a major issue than the percentage turn out.

Lower strata of society in India generally votes in greater numbers as compared to the other. There are many reasons for this, including ease of  management in getting these section out to vote. Middle class in villages tend to vote in larger numbers than in urban areas. Stake holders and experts feel satisfied with a turnover of around 60 percent in India. Though assembly elections generally have greater turn out than the general elections for the parliament.

Tamil Nadu would have higher turn out amongst the states. Let's not miss the point that dictators produce higher turn out in their countries during elections whereas democracies have moderate turnouts of around 50-60 percent.  Despite average age getting lower due to the demographic characteristics of India political parties still prefer to put greater stress on meetings & road shows as against mass media advertising.

Mass media adverting & marketing has the potential of changing the landscape of results in elections but no party gives prime priority to the use of marketing concepts & tools during elections. Political players still swear by traditional micro management of the elections despite drastic change in the profile of the voters.

Therefore we are deprived of great election advertising that could set a more consumer oriented agenda for the parties. Political players do not wish to change their feudal outlook and archaic behavior even in a youthful India of 21st century. They must be prepared for shock results in elections. The voter profile has changed and elections management has not which results into unexpected outcomes in elections. Its necessary for political players to give prime priority to marketing & advertising to get a desired outcome in elections.

Most election pundits have written an obituary  for the left parties rule in West Bengal but the results could be different. It would be a very close contest. scene is TN is no different, despite so much focus on corruption DMK alliance may get another chance to form a coalition government. AIADMK has nothing new in its plate for the voters, which could seriously hurt its chances. Challenger parties must offer new promises to attract voters to approve their agenda. Old agendas pandered about by equally ancient leaders would have limited appeal in a mass market. A party with sound core strategy built around 'New Promise' would attract greater number of fence sitters in an elections.

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