Size Matters? How Does App-Only Fit In?

17 Jul

Appified

Last week, my Facebook newsfeed was filled with posts like these:

– As an inveterate online shopper, (can’t remember the last time I bought at a physical store/grocer/mall) I am appalled to read Flipkart will soon go mobile-only. I don’t care what their analytics team says. To browse/drool/look/re-look on a teeny 3*5 screen….yikes! How terrible the experience is likely to be!

And a sample of some comments:
– …did you order that from the cell phone? I did try ordering from the cell phone and gave up half way.

– …Agree totally. Refuse to shop on the mobile:)

– …Totally agree – no matter how good the mobile app is, I can’t imagine peering at stuff on my phone screen and trying to figure what to buy

– …Interesting . ..have they done their research right with the correct tg?

– …The experience is beat when I use all my senses to see, hear, touch, feel, taste and smell the physical product. Even with books, I love to browse through every chapter before buying. Perhaps you may call me old-fashioned and not abreast with the times.

Here’s another one:

First Myntra, now flipkart! I am not ‘appy

With its comments:
– …I think they are moving way too early. It will be a while before the phone replaces the desktop in terms of Internet surfing. Myntra already recorded drop in sales after they moved. Not sure how it will end up for Flipkart.

– …Agreed …while I use the phone for a bunch of apps, I still like the exp of sitting on my desktop / laptop to shop.

– …Ha,, ha They are making sure that users land up with nice neck, shoulder, hand pain… they should soon start another division for treating their loyal users!! why is it that human factors are not considered with technology advancement?

Then my husband, who was tracking a gift order I had placed on Amazon, told me – It’s been despatched. When I said – where from? Bangalore or Delhi? He said, just a minute – lemme check on my laptop :)

Not only normal people, but “experts” are debating this – HuffPost carried an article on why this move could be a potential disaster for Flipkart; while of course other folks are hailing this move as a harbinger of an app-only economy in the fastest growing app market in the world!

myntraflipkartapponly

This move should make folks like my friend Debjani, whose company zineone has bet completely on a mobile ready world, and who makes very cool app support software for enterprises, happy and vindicated.

But clearly, many many people (users) are not.

The big reason really seems to boil down to size! Tablets/ Phablets notwithstanding, it IS so much better to see a 14 or even 11 inch screen than a smaller one. The whole experience changes significantly! Scale, in all its manifestations, we all know the benefits of – economies; distribution synergies; skill specialization enablement; technology consolidation; etc etc…infact, even in the new digital/ e-comm & m-comm economy, we are seeing actions and transactions that reflect the desirability of scale and size – you see companies consolidating, take overs and buy outs – which will eventually I’m sure result in a shakedown.

Other Side of the Coin?: You know, it’s interesting, that I actually started writing this post (with the same first part of the headline) a few weeks ago – and at that time, it was going to be an “anti-size” post!

What prompted it was I guess the time of the year – it’s back to school time, and most people my age have kids leaving home to go to college for the first time – parents thus facing shrunk households. This always, but always, leaves my tummy churning, with a dreadful sinking feeling – I just vicariously go through the whole empty nest thing, and badly so (I still thankfully hv a few years before this hits me – one of the few advantages of a late marriage). And the thought came to me – looking at all these large 5000 sq ft houses, what are two old people (and in some cases, a dog) going to do, rattling away in these houses? Maybe they should de-size/ de-clutter/ scale down!

Achu

It also struck me, when after visiting a friend’s lovely spanking new, set in a 1 acre plot house, built in the beautiful traditional Kerala style, with a drool worthy Prof Higgins like library, my husband told me – hey, let’s buy a plot there. And it struck me, there’s really no end to this – bigger house, bigger car, bigger salary, bigger bank balance, (and bigger tummy to go with it!); and, actually, rather than buy a plot there – I did kind of anti-action – convinced my husband to sell off one of our (bigger) cars. So, we learn to survive with just the one (we’re managing fine btw, the Ubers and Olas have made life so much easier)

See, one gets faced with it actually even in business – after expanding the no. of items on offer, a retailer almost always goes through a phase of SKU rationalizing; large companies, after many M&As, get down to downsizing; many larger size packages of consumables start getting sold in smaller and smaller “trial packages” (sachets being of course the Indian success story to aid purchase in a low Per Capita Income society.) It is no secret that none of the Big Pharma actually now have a super cool pipeline, it’s the smaller boutique Biotech and Pharma companies that are doing all the meaningful research to bring potentially blockbuster drugs to market.

Incidentally, even downsizing is not easy. Read this interesting POV on retail store resizing problems.

Dino Extinction

It is said that Dinosaurs went extinct because their bodies scaled up disproportionately as compared to their brains; (and it is said that human beings will become extinct because our brains will become too big as compared to our bodies!)

So maybe it is a circle of life thing. One is small, then wants to become bigger, so expands. When one is too big, one has to reverse direction and cut down. Anti Size! ….One is single, then gets married, then has kids, then the kids fly the nest and you hunker down…anti size! :( ….Company gets many quarters of growth, starts becoming bigger, acquires diverse competencies, then…realizes is becoming inefficient, so, downsizes…anti size!

So, which is it to be? Big or Small? Website or App Only? Scale or Anti Size? Laptop or Phablet?

While you ponder this, I think that the defining “default” answer on “size matters” can be found in the Friends episode below. Enjoy :)

Is “Want” Enough? Thoughts Post Wimbledon

16 Jul

Food smorgasboard

I always seem to write posts after Wimbledon (this one was written when Murray delighted all of Britain). Probably because the Wimbledon weekend is always fun. This one was more so, as we had many social events with great food galore (see picture).

But, a few things stood out – Serena’s 38th Grand Slam at age 33, Sania’s first Wimbledon giving India her first ladies Wimbledon (and all the brouhaha over the BBC’s Hingis tweet), the other two Wimbledon Cups India won; and…….my daughter’s dance exam!

The dance exam gave us as many tears as maybe Muruguza shed in private – both for daughter, and parents! The deal was, that daughter felt she wasn’t prepared enough for it, and therefore wanted to skip the exam – we felt it was a milestone bringing a year’s work to a close, and we weren’t particularly worried about how well she had done in it, and so wanted her to just get it done with!

The daughter’s tears came, I figured, also from the fact that (like most of humanity), she doesn’t like mediocrity –

serena

Cannot be coincidence that this year, most of the finalists Serena, Federer AND Djoker spoke about hard hard work – As Djokovic said, It’s about being on the court day in and day out – sometimes repetitive practice – that brings them to that one moment on the court.

Federer in his losing finalist speech said: “I do work very hard, but all the other guys do the same, so there’s no advantage….” Also, “That added a bit more pressure but these parts of matches you work all your life for. You envision yourself being on Centre Court in this tournament and holding this trophy. It’s a thrilling feeling.” Fortunately, for us, he is still “…hungry and motivated with playing….”

And Serena, ofcourse, has famously said:

serena luck quote

So, to me, the deal is:
a) It’s great to “want” – infact, “want” very often leads us to achieve more….
b) But, if want is either unrealistic (a two left feet person like me saying I will win a Dance Reality Show as an example), or unbacked by hard work, it’s going to be very very very demotivating….
c) Either way, Life will throw “evaluation” at you – tests/ exams/ quizzes/ interviews/ negotiation/ competition….you cannot skip these – they have to be taken, more so, if you “want” something really badly. And, given the reality of these evaluation, one may as well work hard to make sure one is mentally prepared to take them on – more so, when one knows evaluations are coming.
d) Also, it is good to feel fear before any evaluation – healthy fear makes one actually deliver well – so, it couples the “want” with “need”. BUt, the fear has to be conquered – and one just has to go ahead and “do” it!

This “want” being the mother of all syndrome is seen in corporate life too – unless you want something badly enough, and fight for it/ ask for it/ bargain for it; you don’t really get it — whether it is your promotion or a salary hike, a great deal from a vendor or partner in negotiation, a move to another role/ destination….As my old boss used to say – “Even a mother gives the crying baby more milk”

Now, the ONLY problem – how does one coach a just teenager on all these things?

As federer said at the end “Its how it goes….”

P.S: Her dance exam went quite well!

wimb final

What’s Common Between A Broken Down Road and Greece! (Or, The Art of Patchwork)

6 Jul

root cause

I’m deeply disturbed (and have been for a while).

This picture shows a scenario I pass daily on my way to and from home – I live in one of the so called posh residential areas with million dollar homes placed at the end of a sparkling new SEZ area – with many MNCs occupying the glass steel and chrome structures. This commercial complex has made the road to home much more cluttered, and in fact dangerous of late, with serious bottlenecks at peak times of traffic. At the entrance to one of the complexes, there are atleast 10 security men placed – to direct the office cab traffic vis a vis the road traffic better.

However, the road has some disrupted tiles – which have been disrupted for over two months now. And, guess what, the builder/ the municipality, or even the posh MNCs, instead of trying to get that piece of road repaired, have cordoned off that bit, and everyone drives around….thus further bottlenecking that piece of cluttered road.

Classic case of treating symptom but not root!!

We are very often guilty of this – in personal as well as professional lives. Not only that, one sees examples in macro economics and corporate scenarios!

Infact, the reason I wrote this piece today is that I was reminded of my dad – who had a temporary lack of vision a few years ago – he couldn’t see with one eye for some 3 – 4 hours suddenly. We took him to an eye specialist, who looked at the eye, and said it would be OK soon. My dad did recover vision by the end of the day. But a few months later, we discovered that he had developed a condition called CRVO – basically an irreversible blood clot in the ocular veins, which made him lose vision in that eye permanently. If only the doctor at the first instance had told us to get a heart check, or a BP check when we went to him, this cd maybe have ben avoided (as one of the reasons for CRVO is spikes in BP)!

Greek Debt Crisis Credit

Look at Greece. It’s currently in deep trouble. And simplistically, basically, despite many years of trouble, the Greeks did not improve public finance their core financial fundamentals – they tried to work with IMF and the World Bank on short term measures. Unfortunately, that’s not how an economy revives! Hence, Greece faces bankruptcy, and global stock markets are bearish!

Interestingly, India currently is doing kind of the same thing – the finance ministry is saying that RBI should reduce interest rates in order to increase growth. This is patchwork again! A very different scenario, in contrast, was India in the 1990s, when, faced by a severe BOP crisis, we created created structural fiduciary reforms (trade and industrial policy; and exchange rate and interest rate liberalization), thus enabling a big growth spurt due to creation almost of a new industry – the Outsourcing/ IT and ITES one!

Make-in-india Credit

Look at even the famous Make In India Campaign – it’s a very positive moniker, and a superior PR exercise (and to give our Prime Minister credit, he has been doing a great job of communicating it globally). But again, unless we change ground realities — the root of the problem rather than just the symptom, it’s going to remain just that – a PR exercise! So, think improving ease of doing business in India – we are talking fundamental changes in G2B and G2C processes – easy registrations, simpler statutory processes…the works!

Software engineers suffer this all the time – legacy software, bugs on bugs, patches on patches — the management question becomes – when do I trash this, and start fresh code? How long do I keep fixing it? Obviously, the economics of the situation are complex, but sometimes, its just better to re-start from scratch!

My wanting-to-be-cordon-bleu-chef daughter the other day learnt a hard lesson! She baked a cake – it got burnt! She did a superior rescue job actually with fancy icing, but, the damn cake was , truly burnt! Since she didn’t fix the root cause (in this case the only way to have done it was throw away the burnt cake and start afresh!), she suffered!

Patchwork

I must admit, I’ve used patchwork myself – I think the important skill is to determine, when, and to what extent, is treating symptom OK, and when you have to dig and find out what’s wrong!

In our start up, when we were trying to get the ISO certification, and the audits turned up “issues”, the common term was “CAPA” (corrective and preventive action) – a really good concept, as you undertook root cause analysis for any deviation from compliance, and then figured out a short term fix, or corrective action; and a real diagnostic long term fix – or the preventive action. That’s the approach we need!

So, to circle back to what’s disturbing me deeply — maybe I need to get up a citizen’s (or children’s) action group, and just lay some tiles on that patch of cordoned off road one saturday, a bit like the great work The Ugly Indian is doing!

And, Greece, maybe you deserve what happened to you – I tried to visit you some 5 years ago. I would have spent many dollars with you – I had arranged my leave, tickets, stay, baby sitting for my kids, and….you didn’t give me a visa! Poetic Justice?? After all, Hell hath no fury…

Start-Up Dilemma 9: Board of Directors/ Advisors

23 Jun

board-mtg-cartoon Credit

A problem I have been seeing very often of late (more now when I meet many start-ups as mentor/ advisor, than when I ran my own) is – when should I appoint a Board? How many people? What should I offer them? Will they be interested? I thought time (after a big gap) to write another “start-up” series post, which answers the following questions:

a) What is the difference between Board of Governors/ Directors and Advisory Board; more importantly – when do I apooint one vs. the other
b) In general, at what stage of my start-up do I appoint one
c) Why/ what are the benefits of appointing one
d) What is a good number of people to have in the board
e) What do I have to offer them as compensation.
f) In return, what do I expect from them? How often do I contact them? Can I formalise this receivable?
g) How do the answers for the above change if my start-up is product vs. services vs. Non profit? Or if it is Indian vs. not? or if it is a Lifestyle business that I want to build to scale, vs. one I want to get valuation for, and exit sooner rather than later.

I have to confess, since I am by no means an expert, I ran a small survey amongst current and past entrepreneurs who have run various start-up organisations all over the world. It was a diverse group, though not necessarily statistically significant. I will include findings from that survey as we go along – disclaimer – use those findings as anecdotal only :)

Board of Directors vs. Advisors:

This is a great article defining the different types of boards and their roles. And this is another good read on the difference between Advisory board and Board of Directors, and how to utilize them!

Basically, when you start out, an advisory board makes more sense – and obviously, you could run your org for-ever without needing a formal Board of Directors/ Governors, until you seek and get investment.

Even with the advisory board, I see start-ups in the western world, who have now seen the whole culture closely, feel the need to acquire, and actually leverage advisory boards much sooner than those in India (where it’s typically a bunch of smart techies, who have a super idea, (or sometimes just think they have), and want to create the next google). Also, as a corollary, or atleast a parallel, start ups who have been conceived to make lots of money very fast, go “by the book” more often than those that are being set up as lifestyle businesses.

Right Reason

Reason for Appointing BOD

As my own little survey showed, in the beginning, many start-ups, specially if they are either small, or the Non profit type, choose friends and family in the Board of Directors – generally just to suit legalities in certain countries e.g., in India, a Pvt. Ltd. company needs 2 Directors.

But, ideally, Board members need to be recruited for more than just statutory requirements. As this article talking about the mistakes that companies make when recruiting BOD says, Board members can be great resources who provide support, knowledge, and access to unique professional networks.

vijayamritraj

And indeed, as my little survey showed, the right competence or skills, and the ability to get contacts – either to potential clients, or to potential recruits, is the other big reason for Boards of Directors to be appointed. The next reason is obviously just the name-value, or reputation of the person (My husband recently got offered a seat in a Board of Directors, where one of the other guys was Vijay Amritraj (and ofcourse, I told him – “say yes, say yes” so I can maybe hob nob with him at some dinner stuff :) ))

Slide4

Not surprisingly then, when one looked at the average and top-2-box analyses for reasons, the ability to get contacts, and give advice, top the charts.

No. of Members

No. of Members in BOD

My survey respondents seem to like the number 3, maybe because most of them are really small and new set ups. Per the article above, Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures thinks a board of five members is ideal. He recommends no more than 7 board members (two founders, one to three VCs, and one to two other industry professionals).

I would agree that get the founders (no more than 3 – 3 being the magic number as per my earlier post on optimal no. of co-founders), get one or two “real” advisors with complementary skills that you REALLY need, and get one well connected industry person/ celebrity – who should be your business development/ recruitment channel person. The rest is superfluous — which, effectively means, that your choice of VC/ investor should also depend on then who will they put on your board, and which of the above roles can you get the investor appointed Board member to play.

Compensation for Board of Directors

Obviously if friends and family, one wouldn’t offer anything to the board. But, the commonest remuneration seems to be Equity – I have heard amounts ranging from a low of 0.25% to an average of 2% and a high of 5% to be parted with for Boards. This good common sense article talks about the difference between an advisory board and the board of directors, and also has some good sound advice on compensation.

Benefits to BOD

My survey showed that just the position was what most start-ups offered their advisors/ Board members. This is probably also because at the stage they are in, in most cases their BOD members are friends and family.

Issues with Board of Directors

Issues with Boards of Directors

While, my survey seemed to indicate that the founders weren’t really facing any problems with their BOD members, I assume that’s because they weren’t being utilized effectively! In most cases, the problems arise due to not being able to get time and attention from your directors/ advisors. You may expect to be put in touch with channel partners, or a new recruit, and the Director doesn’t, or is unable to do so!

In my experience, the best way of making sure you do get the value you expect out of the Directors is to use them as individual people, rather than a full fledged board – i.e., seek a fixed slot one on one meeting with the folks (say half an hour every two months)- set that expectation upfront, send agenda in advance, and just be focussed on getting your questions answered!

This old article provides some good advice on care and feeding of Advisors.

Just for disclosure, the profile of my survey respondents is as below:

Profile

Incidentally, for my friends running Non profits, the answers to the same questions are not substantially different – as a look at this article shows

I think I should end with providing a link to an old but fantastic article – which will put a lot of answers in perspective, and contains a lot of wisdom, including in the comments after!

Hope this was useful. Right in tell me your experiences!

exec board

What Superwoman Lilly Singh taught me about Life, and Management

28 May

Lilly Singh

5,747,586 – that’s how many subscribers Lily Singh a.k.a Superwoman has! I was at her last show in India a couple days ago, and my ear drums are still ringing with the constant screaming of some 800 kids – mainly girls, who showed me what stereotypical celebrity concert hysteria is!

I had a very interesting and illuminating time actually – there was a pre concert “meet and greet”, where I saw teenagers crying and hyperventilating at the thought of meeting their idol, and then there were folks who came upto my kids and said – hey, we are making a vlog – come join. The kids then sang some snippets of things that seemed to afford them great entertainment. (For those interested, that vlog is called chicken tikka brothers) On the ride back, I asked the kids in the car – what was the difference between a vlog and a youtube channel; and they ALL – including my 9 year old, told me – the blog is just about her life, following her, what she does everyday etc; while the youtube channel is the funny videos she makes that made her famous. In the YT channel, she stages it – puts lights, has a table, has a good camera etc. So I asked them why then wd she have both? Why not only one? And the young one told me – Ma, not all subscribers are fans . So, NOT everyone is interested in following her life! Early lessons to learn on social media, huh!

Then also followed this very interesting discussion on “who’s the youtuber you follow most?” Names like PewDiePie (who has some — hold your breath — THIRTY SEVEN MILLION subscribers!!! What does he do? put up videos of himself gaming, apparently!), Tyler Oakley, 6.9 mil, who started the channel primarily on LGBT issues, but has since broadened – and was even on the Ellen Show, Zoella, 8.2 mil, who makes videos on beauty tips, Miranda Sings, 4 mil, who is the SAME apparently, only an off-kilter avatar, as Colleen Ballinger running PsychoSoprano – 2.4 mil subscribers! Then there are travel guys like JacksGap, 4 mil, music guys like KurtHugo Schneider, 4 mil, and Collins Key, 400K, on magic.

Then the little one had her own favourites to contribute – Bethany Mota, 8.7 mil, who basically puts DIY tips type stuff, Rosanna Pansino, 3.9 mil, who makes cooking videos, Merrelltwins, 292K who write on I don’t know what, Jacy and Kacy, 231k, who run craft and cooking tips, and “challenges” – “challenges” are the BIG thing – bad food challenge, rainbow loom challenge, make up challenge etc. etc.

But, for me, the whole experience brought forth some very interesting lessons/ parallels:

a) Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown:
It’s a pity, but popularity comes with its own onus of responsibility! I googled Lilly Singh post the show, and she pops up FIRST as motivational speaker! And truly, part of the show was about happiness (her “happy place” is Unicorn island, which is the name of her tour), and how kids should believe in themselves; and how she picked herself up post severe depression, and how life is hard, but you most probably will get to see your dreams fulfilled if you work really really hard – but that being said, the hardest piece of work she ever did was to pick her up from depression and learn to be happy.

superwoman

I was like – woooaaaah – THIS is the funny Lilly Singh? But, then my daughter told me – “ma, she gets millions of letters fromm people who were very depressed and they tell her that watching her videos made them get out of depression, and cancer patients who tell her listening to her make them feel so much better etc…“.

But I was like – omg, poor kid! Here she was, just trying to have a good time, and then she is saddled with this whole 6 mil people, and she cannot say trashy stuff, and she cannot let them down…blah blah blah.

Folks in any kind of leadership position in any role will empathise – the minute you have fans/ followers/ subordinates/ children – you jolly well watch each and every thing you do/ say/ eat etc…as a senior leader in the org that took over my startup once told me, I really want you and your co founders to join me leadership – it’s really lonely at the top!

On this note, I just read this article on Kangana Ranaut declining an ad endorsement deal for INR 2 crores coz she didnt want to propogate the idea of fair skin! Way to go, and that’s a true example of responsibility beding executed well

b) Brand Reputation – and its sphere of influence:
So, as opposed to the screaming hyperventilating, sometimes crying teenagers, I was viewing the show on its own merit – I watch a lot of shows, and don’t watch a lot of youtube. So, to me, each of her famous lines were NOT famous, and her clever references, just words! What that meant was that i wasn’t in it for the celebrity/ fan-dom thingie at all, but just to watch a stand up comic-ish person.
Now, don’ get me wrong, I like her videos – I think she is funny, has a knack for hitting the right spot, and is very good at mimicry. But, as a stand alone performance her SHOW was , I wd say, just average! Then what price the screaming hysterical kids? Even post show, every child I spoke to, luuurrrved her/ thought she was rilly rilly funny etc..
I figured it was because she has built up a super image and fan base – so she cd get by, by just “referring to” her popular stuff on her videos – whether it is her collaborator Humble the poet and their songs, e.g., IVIVI, her parent characters, Paramjeet Singh (who says don’t wear Mini skirts and don’t talk to boys, and eat “jogurt”; and Manjeet Singh (who gives tips for spicyness and “seskiness”) , her superwoman gestures….whatever. After all, when the audience is in a mood to be overwhelmed, they WILL be.

It’s like the parallel with brands – they spend megabucks on advertising to build a brand – so that, sometimes when the actual product is not so great, the brand carries it through (for a while Google Glass maybe could be placed in this category. Oh btw, did you know that Google Glass may be coming back?). Or, in services examples, say Accenture builds up this formidable rep, and post that wins many deals on rep alone (nyaaahhh, doesn’t happen – but deal making does becaome easier)

The catch here is ofcourse that real brand value has to be delivered sooner rather than later. In this case, I’m sure it will be. But, does make you think about brand building, reputation and extensions (talking about “joghurt”, remember cosmopolitan yogurt?)
cosmopolitan-yogurt

c) RFC:
You’ve got to hand it to these youtubers – they really know the mantra for global appeal – and now even I’ve figured it out! You have to be either funny, (Superwoman is very very funny on her videos), “cool” – now this is a relatively more difficult to describe word, or well, not to decsribe coz we all know what cool is to us; but to enact/ BE! But I am guessing cool becomes cool more by outcome than by the input/ action – so it’s how your peers and idols behave when faced with this aspiring cool thing that determines if a thing is cool. But I also see, that most often, success comes with REAL stuff – stuff that’s straight from the heart, stuff that resonates with the audience and is not faked. To give kids their due, today’s kids are very very quick at detecting “fake” – and they react therefore positively to stuff that’s NOT. Lilly spoke about true life experiences, and touched upon stuff that ALL in the audience, whether 9 yr old like my young one, 14 like my older one, or close to 50 like their mom – could nod at!
(An interesting side piece of analysis seems to be that most of the youtubers I mentioned above are 26 – is that the sweet spot age for success?)
This I think is a great lesson for management folks, and also advertisers – actually, why stop there – parents, teachers, husbands, wives, you name it! It’s best to be atleast 2 out of the RFC trio to create success – but obviously, the R is the most important – it lets you reach people, and, as I have said before, it really is about the people!

dashavatar-lord-vishnu-indian-mythology

d) The Art of the Split Personality
In our time, what you saw was what you got – maybe we had a school face and a home face, but that was it! Now, one has (and maybe should have), a school group 1 face, a teacher face, a school group 2 face, a home face, a facebook face, a snapchat face, a whatsap one, a linkedin face, a vine, a youtube, a …a….a! (Btw, as you may remember from my earlier post, each face SHOULD behave differently atleast in the social media channels!
Lilly Singh, has what the kids called, her “parent” personalities – each of them is her obviously, each of them now has independent twitter, and what she called “instantgram” handles. Each of them (or, well, she dressed up as each of them), promoted and asked for subscription to, each of these handles. Each of them exists in a parallel universe!
Now, dont get me wrong, split or even multiple personalities are as old as time. From Vishnu’s dash-avatar or 10 incarnations; to Jekyll and Hyde; to Batman/ Bruce Wayne or Superman/ Clark Kent or Spiderman/ Peter Parker, we are familiar with all of them. But never have all personalities existed simultaneously – which brings me to the question – how do these kids deal with these? Is it a generational cohort thing? or just a byproduct of technology? And more worrying to me as a parent, what then is constant? (And, to refer to an earlier thread, how do they which is REAL?)
This btw, spins traditional marketing completely on its head, doesn’t it? STP – who do you target if the target is multiple? do you disambiguate this multiple personalities, or address each separately? If former, or even if latter, which ones?

e) New styles of Marketing:
i) Marketing is getting more aggressive – witness multiple avatar handles marketed at same time; promo tours; the whole digital landscape
ii) Its more crowd sourced – The entity being marketed doesn’t necessarily have to do it themselves – there are apps/ twitter handles/ vlogs ….AND people taking selfies/ pictures all the time to post
iii) Younger and younger kids now understand it

So the question seems to be – are kids getting stuff too early? is success/ gratification/ the trappings of the material world coming too early? Isn’t it better if kids remained kids?

Also, in the whole hurry to take pictures and post them, aren’t the kids missing out on the beauty of what the naked eye sees and remembers? Out of the 800 show attendees, atleast 90% had the video/ photo stuff on ALL the time (intact, Lilly even said – guys, you watch my videos on the net all the time- now that I’m here, watch me LIVE)

All in all, it was a super evening – the kids met an idol and were part of a hysterical mob and I learnt many things about kids and kids in mobs and youtubing and vlogs.
I think, all else notwithstanding, Superwoman is quite amazing, and, as I told her during the meet and greet – the world needs more like her!

Lilly Singh Superwoman

On Prevarication, JIT, and Acorns & Oaks

22 May

oak and acorn

So, it’s true – the acorn doesn’t fall far from the oak. I just read this article on early risers vs late night owls, roughly 10 mins after my daughter finally got up this morning/ afternoon – at 12.10 (that’s p.m.)! And, despite my frustration at the time she was getting up, was forced to face my own habits – I have done various all-nighters throughout my life, but ask me to wake up at even 7 a.m…..and I’m like someone asked me to run a marathon! So, not surprised lo sleeps at 4 and wakes up at 12.

I also see this same genetic influence in her regarding another bad habit – that of “putting off things till tomorrow that should ideally be done today”. In other words, prevarication! The fact that I didn’t write a blog for well over 3 months, was basically prevarication – so is this now-almost-extinct book project I launched upon a year ago! This unfortunately is a lifelong habit.

When I think about it, prevarication is a fantastic way of letting nature prioritize tasks for you – basically, you keep putting things off till they either assume monumental do-or-die proportions, thus forcing you to put your head down and work to finish that task; or they just fade away – which basically means that they weren’t all that important to begin with. Read this article to see how procrastinating does help you become more focussed and productive!

But the other aspect of it is that I work best under a deadline – the buzz that a concentrated effort with a looming deadline brings, is unparalleled – I know advertising agencies work best that way – maybe desperation brings out the creative juices in a way that having a lot of time doesn’t. Or maybe, it’s just that some folks are wired a certian way, and they only work best under pressure.

All my life – whether it was exams , where I wouldn’t study throughout the year, but basically not sleep the entire week/ fortnight of exams; or, whether it was a client deadline on work that would get done JUST-in-time…I’ve practiced this last minute way of work. Not easy on parents/ teachers/ fellow workers – but, hey, it works!

The Japs made JIT such a big management phenomenon, and supply chains all over the world, for example at Wal-Mart, specialised in optimal inventories and thus enormous cost reductions, due to JIT!

procastinator

The best slant on what I would ruthlessly call the big P word, but HBR calls the theory of optimum delay is this link. It talks about how it’s almost always better to wait a bit – whether it is Jimmy Connors’ tennis shot, or a decision made after some delay (infact, in true HBR style, it even has a shorthand for it – OODA – observe, orient, decide, act)

The interesting point that emerges therefore I guess is about the value of time. We always heard Time is Money, and the hare vs. tortoise story about wasting time resulting in a certain win being converted into an ignominious loss! But the author argues here, that the time spent “observing, orienting and deciding; actually ends up being useful time in the end.

Coming back to procrastination however, the kind I am talking about is the one where you are not necessarily achieving much out of the delay – but instead spending time on arbit rubbish, convincing yourself you are WORKing – it’s like when my daughter sits in front of her comp at her desk, with her books open; but then watches Bethany Mota or Superwoman or Into the Woods – in her mind, she is working! Or, when I continuously scroll between facebook, whatsap and email – convincing myself I am reading/ enlarging my mind —- all of this is chronic procrastination!

So, the question is: Is procrastination good or bad, (or, if bad, how do you avoid it)

I really like this article where procrastination is related to willpower, or the limited amount of it. “If you’re thinking about procrastinating, it’s already too late” it says. Sounds familiar? :)

IMO, habitual procrastinators are just so – they can at best become a bit better – I think what is important is whether they get results despite procrastinating, i.e. whether their procrastination achieves success, or ends up in failure. I suspect this in turn relates to — how much horse power the procrastinator has — as an example, I repeatedly did things last minute, because I saw time after time, that I COULD do things last minute – whether it was cramming for the year’s portions the day before the exam, or a client deadline to be sent off.

It also relates to, WHAT kind of work is being delayed – as I said before, some work actually is better for the delay. Read this article on how prevarication is better for productivity

Things To Do List

Most experts give advice on how to battle procrastination. Most procrastinators are experts at listening to, then ignoring this advice. I did like some of the stuff in this article which talks about whisker goals as opposed to stretch goals, and how to not let a task list overwhelm you; and this nice logout tip for productivity.

For folks who are annoyingly on time all the time, obviously sometimes it is better if procrastinators around them learn how to manage this addiction! Here is some more reading on this topic (clearly written by someone who is NOT a procrastinator, and thus has NO idea what he is talking about!)

tech adoption lifecycle

We all know the adoption life cycle – in many cases, early adopters, while being the first to get to experiment with new stuff and getting the pleasure of it; also the associated status; as well as creating a new market, also sometimes become guinea piggish – so, in case the new tech doesnt do well, they suffer reversals. On the other hand, procrastinators (only, the tech life cycle doesn’t use the P word – it calls them the “mature” consumers), get to enjoy the combined experience of all the early adopters – and benefit from iterations in technology, also very often cheaper prices as, due to scale, prices of the new tech stuff drops.

Even in the newer versions of the hare and tortoise stories, the procrastinator hare becomes smarter, and not only runs faster and steadier, but also changes the rules of the game to enjoy better/ more suited to him – wins.

So, ofcourse, being a die hard procrastinator, I will look for the pluses – but I have to confess, when I wear my mom hat, I’m not so happy seeing this in my lo!

Having said that, facebook fed me another early vs late night article which was reasonably complimentary to “night owl chronotypes”), so, maybe, procrastinator oak notwithstanding, my acorn has some hope in life yet!

nothing

Whose Sale Is It Anyway; or; come onnn – Differentiate!

4 May

Sale Sale
Seen on front pages of a newspaper, and its supplement yesterday. Made me think about what competition does to one. A few thoughts:

a) Media is amazing! No conflict of interest obviously right? Front pages of 2 sections of the SAME paper with 2 direct competitors BOTH sponsoring full page ads?

Oh btw, the next day got these – AGAIN!
Sale 1

b) No noticeable difference between the 2 (or even 4) – infact, till you look really deeply, you miss the store where the discounts are being held! (unless you are my girl Friday Tulasi, or my sister in law Niharika, both of whose bigtime source of entertainment is to check deals). So HOW are these stores expecting ROI? Footfalls, I may still assume they will get – if it’s general shopping season, and since these are regular grocery/ super marts, they will have a steady clientele anyway, but ROI for these ads (as in, increase in revenues/ attention/ whatever the objective was? ) – hmm not so sure

c) While topical/ day related catalogu-ish advertising was always something our “organized” retailers did, the flavour of these has gotten a bit different (more desperate) since the mega online guys-with-their-VC-money-funded-advertising has got! (Remember the unprecedented-and-then-much-maligned flipkart’s billion sale thingie?)….
flipkart big billion

….with the tried-hard-to-be-funny “ambush” campaigns by its competitors?
snapdeal-toi Biyani-ad

Just goes to show the impact of e-comm on even traditional/ middle class India! (well, maybe not. It’s really urban India that is getting affected by this)

This thing about “differentiation” also sparks a parenting thought (as all things do with me). My teenage daughter is kind of caught between a devil and a hard place almost, at times I think. Like most kids at that age, her prime desire – when interacting specially with parents, is to blend with the crowd – not do anything that gets her attention (so, mom yelling HAPPY NEW YEAR on the streets on christmas eve is a no-no….OK, that I grant to her :); but even if we need to get something clarified from say a store salesman, goes through severe angst at this whole “calling attention to herself” thing).
On the other hand, she actively looks for things to make her different – so, dip-dyed hair, her theatre classes – which is fairly unique in her circles, a desire to play the ukelele (of all things!), she is constantly looking to do things which may then get her “cooler” attention from her peers.

I think this is fairly similar to what any of us goes through too – a desire at the same time – to “belong” and yet to “stand out” — I think it’s basically the choice of where you want to belong vs. stand out that hones your essence!

On a randomly different (though related since we are talking of differentiation) thought, I came across some nice doppleganger pictures of celebrities (with even funnier descriptions)- enjoy!

AND one of Anne-Amal
anne amal

Coming back to the whole point of differentiation as competitive strategy, I think Amazon has done a super job recently – their “Aur Dikhao” ad, while on a seemingly over used plank, is just sheer brilliance in creative execution! Here it is:

And, talking of sales, their May sale ad, with many people dancing hilariously, is truly different too (couldn’t find it to post sadly! )

So, its desirable, even possible, one just has to work harder!

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