Tag Archives: Facebook

Free Basics: An “Ashwatthama Hato-Hatah” Type Half Lie

5 Jan

free basics

So my newsfeeds have been equally flooded with notifications from two sides of the same coin – folks expressing outrage at Facebook’s audacity with the “old-wine-in-new-bottle” Internet.org/ free basics 100 crore campaign; and those who, believing truly in the “promised land of freedom” for poor, signing up the free basics petitions – I get the feeling half unknowingly.

A sample of some posts:

Facebook has sneakily–without any announcement– launched its Internet.Org service across India, asking people to send an automated email to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), letting them know that you support ‘Free basics’.

If you are free and have some time for a really funny activity – please do this –
1. Make a list of all your friends who are supporting Facebooks’s “free basics”
2. Now make a list of all your friends who are implicitly and explicitly Bhakts
3. Tell me the % overlap between the two lists
(it will also explain to you a concept called Statistical Correlation)

Irritated to see so many notifications of friends on my timeline signing up the Free Basics petition to TRAI. Not quite sure how people fall in this trap for net neutrality without understanding the basics…Good job by Facebook in sugarcoating and re-packaging its agenda by renaming it as Free Basics… Jago Grahak Jago!

I am getting notifications about FB friends, who have “Written” to TRAI supporting “Free Basics” (So called FB “charity” initiative to become the Gatekeeper for what is accessible on the internet).
I am wondering… are these friends really aware that “Free Basics” is just another name for their previous aborted attempt to do the same thing as “Internet.org”? Do these friends really support this sinister design of Zuck and gang? Do they realize that clicking on that button that FB so helpfully is pushing on their feed is not the same as clicking on the “Like” button? Do they realize that their names will be sent by FB to TRAI as “proof” that “many” Indians support FB’s attempt to limit the access of the poor to the internet?
(On a side note, this is also an experiment to check if FB has bots analyzing our comments on this issue to downgrade this post)

Some of my friends have become victim of Facebook’s latest conspiracy. Please don’t write to TRAI without understanding the implications. Facebook is manipulating public opinion. please don’t get trapped into their advertising campaign and media management. I am against Free Basics.
https://www.linkedin.com/…/facebook-misleading-indians-its-…

– ‪#‎freebasic‬ is not a freebie for ppl being given by FB! It’s against ‪#‎netNeutrality‬!!! Why else wd they spend so much on full page ads and hoardings! Use common sense, else read up before u sign petitions or then just abstain if u aren’t aware of the issues!
Else maybe then I am being harsh and you all who have signed up, have read the petition and truly agree with the fact that consumers shd not have freedom of choice and shd be docile and submissive and take whatever the Giants allow us to use!

Do u support ‪#‎freeBasics‬ or do u support ‪#‎netneutrality‬ .. Pls think before you blindly support. If u have understood what you are supporting by signing the ‪#‎freeBasic‬ petition today then don’t complain about lack of Internet freedom Tomo!

Hope all the bhakts wake up and realize that Zucky boy is running a business. Not a charity. Please read and for heaven’s sake, educate yourself before supporting Free Basics

The way ‪#‎Facebook‬ is behaving with ‪#‎FreeBasics‬, slowly people will start telling “What the Zuck” instead of WTF! ‪#‎SaveTheInternet‬

M not an expert but lets ask those who don’t have internet access today are they worried about the corporate war behind Free Basics? Are they worried about whether FB gets benefit out of this or not? Or are they only concerned about whether they get the internet access no matter who (& how) they provide them. The debate has to be fair. Let’s not debate it like a first world problem (“net neutrality”.)

freebasicsads

Media has been equally vociferous obviously, with opposition, defence, counter defence, allegation, counter allegation, doing repeated loops.

Most of you must have read Zuckerberg’s “op-editorial” in the TOI, arguing about the good that Free Basics brings. And then, this contra opinion by Nikhil Pahwa.

Probably the article(s) that got most coverage on the evil side of the coin were started by this one by Mahesh Murthy; and then facebook’s rebuttal to Murthy and his rebuttal, and then theirs….(just kidding, but this is a good summary of the to and fro :). The latest one by Nandan Nilekani and Viral Shah with a proposed solution; and another by Giridhar Pai have also been widely read.

Some nice spoofs emerged :

spooffreebasics

The funniest by far video is done by AIB : here it is for your viewing pleasure:

Most of those supporting the move, seem to be saying “something is better than nothing” for the majority (with many opinions arguing that this is the rich minority fighting about the poor majority’s issues!)

And most dissidents feel that Facebook is cleverly creating a walled garden, that there are no free lunches, that the telecom (Reliance) and Facebook will monetise all data in the future, that the move anyway is discriminatory (Pranesh Prakash, policy director at the Centre for Internet and Society, said, “Facebook, a foreign company, is allowed to campaign with impunity, but NGOs receiving funding from foreign trusts are subject to all manners of restrictions and may not campaign in India.”).

It’s interesting isn’t it, on the one hand there are universities and corporates working towards freeing up content (MIT-Open/ edX/ Coursera etc MOOCs), and then here is Facebook working towards restricting freedom in the garb of the opposite.

I think THAT’s my big problem – not so much the fact that they are creating a restricted walled garden, but they are doing it in a hole and corner fashion – with half truths/ part pictures and not full information.

Think about the petition many of my friends have signed –

“Meanwhile, To the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, I support digital equality for India. Free Basics provides free access to essential internet services like communication, education, healthcare, employment, farming and more. It helps those who can’t afford to pay for data, or who need a little help getting started online. And it’s open to all people, developers and mobile operators. With 1 billion Indian people not yet connected, shutting down Free Basics would hurt our country’s most vulnerable people. I support Free Basics – and digital equality for India. Thank you.

To me, it is very very reminiscent of Dharmaraj Yudhishtira resulting in Guru Drona’s death in the epic Mahabharata, via a very famous half lie – “Ashwatthama hato hatah – narova kunjarovah”

ashwathama

But, I think what is worth pondering over, is that Ashwatthama, is purportedly one of the 7 “chiranjeevi” or “amar” i.e. ever living legends!

Do you think free basics in India will be unputdownable too? We have to wait and watch. (Good news – Egypt just said a no! to it)

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The Internet Of Things: State of Maturity in India

21 Dec

Digital India Smart Cities

With all the hype about Digital India, and Prime Minister Modi’s Smart City initiative, one question that keeps getting asked is the state of maturity of the Internet of Things in India.

Well, first of all, let me give you my take on the state of maturity of the IoT in the world – like most revolutionary waves that arise because of supply and not demand, at this stage a lot of the work on the IoT is more conceptual/ background building than application oriented. As a corollary of this, the real benefits haven’t trickled down to the end consumer – mainly also as the last mile connectivity applications are still being built. Early devices that purported to be based on the IoT were more bought than used (it is said 70% of fitness trackers bought are not used now); Google Glass is currently resting in a graveyard; IoT revenues are growing at 20-25% for even the top players in the space/ the facebook’s internet.org is getting into all kinds of hot water.

The eco system of companies in the IoT is still hyper fragmented and interoperability is still an issue (standards and protocols are still being worked upon – in fact, that’s where a large body of work is being done).

One of the big roadblocks to progress is miniaturization – specially of batteries. For ultra small sensing devices, either fitted into large industrial buildings, or on small wearable devices, the level of miniaturization requiredd of batteries is not funny – our smallest batteries are still how big

Having said that, there are many heartening examples of work that has been done – after all, ever since 2008, there have been more connected “things” than people in this world! Not the least of this is evident in Smart Cities. Songdo in South Korea has been one of the oldest cities to get ‘smart” – they have a smart energy grid which matches power supply and demand. They have no garbage – their waste gets automatically sucked into Sewage Treatment Centres.

Glasgow has recently announced a budget of 37 mil $ for its project. Their street lights will automatically switch off; they will map routes for easing traffic congestion; footfalls can be monitored, noise and air pollution levels are monitored; Delivery services are prioritized per criticality; there is CCTV coverage of the whole city to ensure higher safety levels.

When it comes to India though, 100 smart cities at a Rs. 7060 crores investment plan notwithstanding, there are a few further hurdles to quick penetration of the Internet of Things.

First of all, we need indigineous/ low cost hardware. Even now, some 65% of hardware that India uses is imported. Then, our bandwidths need to improve significantly. With a $ 12 – 15 billion IoT market revenues expected by 2020, we cannot make it happen with the current pathetic internet speeds. We need low cost/ low power devices that are pluggable into wi-fi. We need the basic infrastructure required for any technology to work. And finally, we need a thriving eco system of vendors building off the Internet of Things.

But maybe the biggest issue facing IoT development in India is that of usability – essentially, the Big problem to be solved/ prioritized still needs to be defined!

I think the first few areas that need/ will see IoT solutions, much like the rest of the world, will be: Utilities/ Smart cities; Agriculture and Healthcare. On the business front, it could be logistics and supply chain – with a newly booming e-commerce industry driving usage.

The overall/ global perceived risks of security threats still exist – as much in India as anyplace else, but I think at an overall level, this fear is becoming slowly marginalized. A higher risk is a more social one – on the one hand, tha of “de-humanization” – machines talking to machines/ robots and AI devices will slowly delimit human contact even more than the current whatsap culture is doing. On the other hand, there is a real “social apartheid” risk – these technologies, atleast till the time they focus high end customer acquisition, may just polarize the haves and have nots even more.

All in all, though, the IoT is coming – earlier in some places than in others, but the advance is real! One statistic said that by 2017, 50% of IoT solutions will come from companies that are less than 3 years old. So, get ready all, action stations!

The IoT Ecosystem – A Beginner’s Guide for Benefiting from It

17 Dec

Last month I was at a panel discussion. The Topic was – “The Internet of Things; Leveraging Technologies in Business”. As I was thinking about what I would say to a room full of entrepreneurs, I came across a startling statistic – 87% of people in this world have not heard of the IoT!!! There bursts our collective IT/ Valley type bubble, which gets so wound up in the latest tech thing that it forgets to demystify even really applicable stuff to the real beneficiary!

I decided therefore to begin my talk with a very simple eco system clarification graphic – one that would explain to each of us our place in the Internet of Everything / Internet of Nouns whatever you want to call it. Here it is:

IoT Ecosystem

CONSUMER BENEFITS IN THREE WAYS:

What it means is basically, that as Consumers, of course, our lives will be made easier due to the Internet of Things. But that happens in essentially 3 ways:

a) The environment becoming more efficient/ optimised/ user friendly and hopefully cheaper. Think smart cities; urban lighting i.e. street lights auto switch off; transport management including traffic congestion easing and smart parking; smart energy grids; city and waste management; agriculture produce optimisation…..in effect, the Gotham city of the future without Batman! 🙂

Gotham-City

b) Better Health and Welfare – All the fitness meters and wearables will enable better quality healthcare for most of us; things like remote tracking for senior citizens; and better compliance and adherence in treatment administration. Not only that, security for kids/ adults/ everyone in fact will be much better with tracking devices and sensors.

c) Customization – What the plethora of things stuck on any and every monitor-able membrane will do, is enable micro modules of data – every action, behaviour, and even possibly thoughts and emotions will be tracked for everyone. This will enable better mapping of individuals (not just segments or clusters), thus making daily lives more efficient and easier. This is where the standard use cases of the thermostat enabled warm home before you enter from office (Google’s Nest acquisition); the pre-ordering fridge when eggs stock gets depleted (Whirlpool, Electrolux); the erstwhile Google Glass, and the pre determined shopping selections at retail play. This is also where much of the glamour and hype around the IoT exists – after all, the early adopters consumers will really be looking at these ‘cool/ quirky” gadgets to show their “with-it-ness”.

ENTERPRISE ECO SYSTEM COULD BE AS IoT VENDORS; OR USERS OF IoT FOR CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT

But when it comes to businesses, the interplay changes a bit.

Most of the thought leadership coming currently on this space is from businesses participating directly in the Internet of Things – these are (largely) technology or data type firms – and they could be either manufacturing devices (the last mile therefore); or operating in the standards and protocols arena – therefore providing the platforms for all to operate; or working on applications on and around the IoT; or be working with the data arising out of the petabytes of data (erstwhile BI/ Big Data processors).

In all these avatars, the companies are providing products and services directed related to creating, harnessing and delivering the Internet of Things – whether to other businesses, or to end consumers. Also, as in most modern technological playing grounds, everyone is collaborating with everyone else (or, well, should be!). There are large interdependencies, and companies have realized that it is better to work on their chunk of the whole. Cisco, IBM, Intel, Google, Facebook, Salesforce, Amazon, Samsung and GE with their Industrial Internet are the primary large names that pop up when this category is discussed.

The balance of the businesses, will essentially participate in the Internet of Things to harness and derive the benefits it delivers. Hence, this is about exponentially bettered customer centricity – about really hyper personalized, context driven products and solutions. The insights gleaned from processing the oodles of data generated by all the sensors will enable one to one customer dialogue in a multi channel environment, and therefore real time, event based marketing and service to customers.

But also overall, the Internet of Things will create a smarter, more efficient Enterprise Eco System (that both kinds of businesses will benefit from).

Think more predictable weather conditions bettering disaster prevention; better Industrial Automation, Logistics, shop floor management and supply chains (including traffic/ fleet management); better utilities; better buying procedures; better infrastructure at lower costs!

What this really implies is that, beyond the hype, there is something in the IoT for everyone, the only thing to do is to figure out your place in that sun, and to be able to monetize it (if you are a business), or use it (as a consumer).

Viva IoT!

Shoot the Messenger, the Media or the Originator? Social Media can do Good..

21 Jan

Last weekend saw the tragic death of a fairly high profile socialite/ businesswoman/ minister’s wife in India. Cause of death is still uncertain – but it followed a fairly venomous yet convoluted debacle on twitter, followed by retractments/ clarifications by husband and wife on Facebook.

A long debate followed – on the role of social media, twitter specially, in her death. Leading newspaper Hindustan Times actually carried a poll on whether Twitter was to blame for Ms. Tharoor’s death. (Results: 52% agreed that SM was to blame for her death!)

I say this is BS (pardon the french) – all that Social Media has done is allowed everyone an easily accessible/ easy to use/ free/ and increasingly popular medium for self expression – the presence of this medium in no way controls emotions/ behavior – except ofcourse allowing for an increasing need for sharing these emotions and behavior (and yes, in consequence making these same emotions/ behavior more share-worthy). It cannot be held responsible for what may be infidelity (except maybe give a means for communication of infidelity), and by no means is it a trigger for someone to pull a figurative trigger on oneself!

A now fairly viral article agrees with me – it looks like traditional media (read print and TV journalists) are those making the strongest allegations that Social Media was to blame; while, interestingly, post this article, Social Media is loudly saying that traditional media was to blame! (the lady had reached out to many journalists to “tell her story” – most were too busy to grant her a hearing!)

What Social Media is doing, is putting the onus on most of us to learn some new etiquette, and a newer/ maturer way of handling it. Celebs are most vulnerable (An interesting related article on Social Media savvy politicians mentions an interesting website Politwoops – check it for some fun stuff!). By the way, an Analysis of twitter behaviour for Mr. and Mrs. Tharoor shows that the politician was far more savvy than his wife.

There is a lot of good that Social Media is doing – look at its impact on Healthcare, with advocacy groups on most conditions bringing support and relief to millions of patients to state one. Or, as an example, my ex co founder’s initiative Let’s Do Some Good , and my husband’s proposed body for investing in Uttarakhand (yes yes, shameless plug!) that she is primarily promoting on Facebook. Or, just the pleasure that Facebook gives to the silver surfers – my mom and aunt being two avid proponents! It is really silly to state that the medium or the messenger is responsible for people’s stupidities.

I could go on and on, but just as I was writing this (reasonably impassioned) piece, I came across a new short film made in collaboration with…yes…you guessed it – Dove! It’s the perfect ending methinks to underline this message – the medium is not to blame! It can be used for a lovely reason as well…enjoy….

What I figured out last year

6 Jan

a-tale-of-two-cities

To borrow from my favorite Charles Dickens novel, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
Most bloggers probably write posts revisiting 2013, making resolutions for 2014. I thought I’d do my version of the same, but instead list out stuff that was eye opening/ confirmation of previously mildly held hypotheses/ new learnings/ breaking down of myths for me…So, here goes:

I learnt:

(On Retirement):

That it is possible to be busy without “achieving” anything
(Look at my previous blog post of outlay vs. outcome). So, being recently retired, I learnt how to make activities expand such that it fills time available.

This is by no means a phenomenon that affects homemakers (aah! I luuuvvv it when I apply this description to myself!) only – don’t we all know those colleagues/ subordinates/ even managers who procrastinate all day long doing gawd-only-knows-what, and then in the evening start looking/ being really busy, and/or calling meetings! I bet only 10ish percent of them are really overloaded – most are suffering from a time management issue.

I read a recent article in the same vein – about how an ad that goes viral doesn’t necessarily give great sales results! Click on this link for Mashable’s take on effective vs. viral ads (and a look at some of them).

A corollary of the above is the learning,

That lethargy is addictive.
(Look at another old post on habits, and hiatuses). So, not only does one have the ability to “feel busy” all the time, one can apparently do it over and over again! A tad dangerous, that!

And, finally on this topic of learnings from retirement,

That while workaholism is fun; retirement is funner.
For those gawking at me in disbelief/ or thinking wistfully “If only I could….”, here’s a good take on “giving yourself time for leisure”

(On Parenting) – since that’s the job I did do consistently both before and after retirement:

momhood

That parenting is the toughest job in the world
That u can manage thousands of people at your workplace, but, however phlegmatic you are, your pre teen/ teen WILL be able to draw out a screaming/ hysterical monster from inside you

That your children don’t really appreciate your “so called sacrifices”. Both my kids now feel it was better for them when I was at work than when I am home!

That battling the “sense of entitlement” modern day kids of reasonably-well-to-do-parents have, is a universal and perennial dilemma for the parents. I didn’t get to any answers about how to solve this – but just now read a nice take on it..may it help others like me!

That DNA is a real thing! – and really messes with lots of things.
I see kids of my friends – all bright/ super achiever type people – excelling in their chosen fields – makes me feel proud. In general, strangely, it is in inherited areas of skill – Namita writes well, Sharan paints and bakes well, Arjun and Gowri sing and play all instruments, Antara is a public speaker/ debater, Dhanya is a super sportsperson, Neel tops class in all subjects…

I also similarly see the lack of drive/ casual attitude in my kids – guess who I have to blame for it?..:(

(On modern communication/ technology etc):

That facebook newsfeed is different on phone than on PC.
Ofcourse we all know that FB has – just from a legacy perspective – been slower on mobile. But, thank god for that! I really truly don’t like the new newsfeed optimisations they are doing – where they try and show you content that is “more important/ customized” rather than new/ just being posted. So, I have a good way of getting the best of both worlds – my phone newsfeed still mainly populates newsfeed based on chronology, and that on PC, based on relevance – I just log onto both at the same time!

That Big Data is more talked about than used
But, to be fair to it, this is true of a lot of things ahead of time. Nevertheless, for all the share of mind it gets on tech related content nowadays, the actual implementation/ results are abysmal – at < 2% of all servers.

That there is no accounting for what takes peoples’ fantasies
Have any of you looked at the list of the top 10 youtube videos in 2013? (I have been making discreet enquiries amongst my kids since then about whether they have seen Miley’s wrecking ball video!)

That there is NO end to the number of things you want to read nowadays
My list of “Things to read in the day” just seems never ending – no wonder, with, even back in 2012, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being produced every day! Sometimes, I feel its better to stick to trashy romance 🙂

(On body, mind, and mind over body):

That your body does have a mind of its own
If you've abused yr body for upwards of 40 yrs, it WILL show u attitude when u start working out. Hence, the slooowwww rate of weight loss that my husband Manoj and I see despite an infinite order of multiple increase in workout time (well, when the base is zero, any increase makes it infinity!)

That alcoholism is a real disease.
I always thought it was a simple case of willpower (or lack of it) – but learnt this year that it is a real, physiological disease!

That if u have the conviction, you CAN turn around things.
Even a largely apathetic nation – look at the wonders a very very new political party, the Aam Aadmi Party in India has done already – rising from nothingness to actually form the government in the capital city in a year and a half, arousing the largely apathetic middle class intellengtsia to vote in unprecedented numbers, forcing political stalwarts to “learn from them”, and giving hope to a billion plus population!

I see similar examples in the smaller scale but still significant good deeds that our community undertakes on many levels – schools in the neighbourhood, domestic worker camps, help for the aged…

It really needs a few people to say “I want to/ I can/ I will”

That you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
I started music and guitar classes this year – and made some inroads into both. I guess it’s a question of wanting to do something badly enough, and then having no excuse to not do it 🙂 (no time/ no money/ no teacher…)

inscrutable americans

Also, unlike in Inscrutable Americans, one of my all time favourite books, people now CAN haggle in shops in America, specially in response to showrooming.

Oh btw, this article indicates that you know you’ve fully integrated your new skill when you dream about it! I HAVE to now start somehow getting myself to dream of a trim runner’s body! Kekule anyone?

Again, I think examples of this in work life abound – e.g., flexibility seen in cross functional assignments – some companies really excel in developing this value in their people by posting folks in all kinds of functions irrespective of core skill.

That left brain and right brain are real things.
I see all around me the creative/ right brain types of people – and, this creativity is really truly multifaceted. Most of these folks cook, paint, sew, design, sing-play-dance, write with consummate ease. It unfortunately doesn’t seem so for the left brain types (I may be a good case in point 😦 ).

However, recent research shows that certain things are processed across both hemispheres.

(On New Words in the English language):

That Indulgence has a new nameself gifting.
So has second thoughts: self censorship (its also called spying when done by Facebook. But, also see facebook’s denial of this!)

And, very topically, a Drynuary doesn’t really help – it’s better to have a few “off days” every week!

(On startups):

That startups can always use help
It’s just that all don’t know when/ how to ask for it. Interestingly also, help is always available to those who truly want it, ask for it and deserve it (ask Harry Potter/ Dumbledore)!

In this last year, I have met maybe a start-up a week – ranging from tech/ services/ drama/ NGO/ sports – all topics. Each and every one of them has a set of bright, passionate, talented people – desperately trying to make it big. Each and every one of them is struggling with time/ money/ people/ clients/ content/ tips whatever. Some are good at reaching out and asking for help, others have to be pretty much be forced into it. Most agree that help is always welcome 🙂

Interestingly, what I also learnt as a corollary is

That, if you’ve sold one company, you kind of are perceived as having the magic formula to crack it!.
The sad truth is that in many cases, it really is trial and error that leads to success – but ofcourse, atleast selling one company qualifies you to advise others in the field of “what not to do!”

(On life/ death and the in between):

That the world continues to be a male oriented one, with heinous crimes being committed against women on and on and on – and that I have done/ am doing nothing about it, despite now having time/ money 😦

That erstwhile people on pedestals are more bound to come crashing down than not – we’ve had so many scams – but I think the ones that personally bothered me most were, in chronological order: Satyam/ Ramalingam Raju; Shashi Tharoor, Rajat Gupta, and now Tarun Tejpal. (Sounds a bit elitist, but as I think about it – the take-aways are probably that I expect politicians to be corrupt, but not so much corporate folks 😦 – clearly not so true)

That, Marc Anthony/ Ceaser/ Brutus notwithstanding, ambition is not an endless/ infinte thing – atleast not for everyone.

(Ofcourse, I chose the Charlton Heston version 🙂 (RIP), but for those who prefer the other one, here it is..)

I am NOT saying ambition is bad – it is, after all, probably a big driver for most of our deeds and achievements. What I meant is, that I discovered, that mine has an end goal – it reminds me of my cousin Anupam telling me years ago – “I only want enough money such that I don’t have to think about it”. I realised that I am now happy with my house/ car/ friends/ and many material things – and so am not looking for the bigger/ better…I AM however ambitious for kids and family – I want them to be happy, my body – I want it to be slimmer….so, maybe, it IS infinite – only, changes direction?

That happiness is truly a state of mind

That whatever u do, death is final

(not “new learnings”, but re-inforced as never before this year), and, finally:

That it IS possible to have a place look better than its picture postcards

(The Mughal Emperor Jehangeer is said to have once written about Kashmir: Agar firdaus bar rue zamin ast hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast! – meaning if there is paradise on earth, it is here…I think New Zealand could very easily have made the cut, and far better!)

IMG_4873

So, Happy New Year All – may the odds be in your favour 🙂

Multi Channel Marketing – Distribution Expansion or Cannibalisation

25 Aug

Bricks and Mortar Retail

My young nephew Dhruv came home very agitated the other night. He is planner and brand manager in charge of the store experience of a leading lifestyle brand. They were running a promo and he had spent many hours planning for the activation – he is a geek, so has devised simple but interesting models for inventory optimization, repricing etc.

Problem – in classical copybook style, he had planned that all “unique”, limited stock, special merchandise would be sold at their own retail showrooms during their heavily advertised promo. Makes sense, right? This is where you plan your retail experience, where you keep your best trained storefront people, where you spend megabucks on displays and merchandising.

What happened — yes, you all know it! 2 days before the activation was to hit the market, he figured that the dealer network had already booked all of it, and before he could say “activate….”, that inventory had all vanished!

Gives rise to classical undercutting!

This is a common problem in all dealer network sales systems, specially in India. Long ago, when I was leading area sales for Mattel toys in one of the toughest markets in the North of India, we kinda had the same problem. There was a dominant “wholesale” market in the center of town, and one fat cat distributor who supplied to those guys. Because the wholesalers bought in bulk, they got higher slab discounts – infact, all the the distributor kept for himself was a small margin. The rest of the city got supplied by other distributors, and since the retailers were smaller, they got no/ lesser trade discounts. Prime ground for channel conflict. Many retailers, who anyway visited the wholesale market for purchases of other/ less well distributed products would then get our merchandise cheaper at the wholesalers, leaving their distributors high and dry. This ugliness climaxed one fine day, when we had invited all distributors over for a meet and greet, and many of them almost came to blows!

Barbie Wall of Pink

(We did resolve this – and fairly innovatively too! But it took great guts and a strong belief in the power of our brand’s consumer pull to implement the strategy! We essentially cut down the slab discount mandates to retailers – and made the distributors accountable and penalizable for any contraventions! Would this have meant a reduction in revenues? Yes, a temporary dip – but our theory was that given the fact that we were selling a branded product in a largely unbranded products’ market, anyway, our retailers stocked our products only as the “hook”. Also, kind of following a not-price-led-but-brand-led version of the bait and switch tactic, they always attempted to switch the customer to a non branded – higher margin product that relied on trade push and therefore incentivized trade heavily to execute! Which meant, that all sales that we were seeing of our products were actually happening DESPITE the retailers, and not BECAUSE of them! That was the strength of our brand! Hence, crossing our fingers, we took the HUGE trade discount rationalisation step, which almost made history in trade sales!)

Coming back to channel conflict – my husband was ranting about this recently in another context. Attempting to invest some of our money in some bonds (or whatever), he asked the relationship manager of the bank what percentage interest we would get. (remember, we are so called ‘HNI’ so we merit a relationship manager who, btw, calls me everyday to give annoying snippets like – NIFTY has crashed/ the blasted ruppe is at 65 blah blah…). Imagine his disgust when the RM quoted him a rate that was – hold your breath – LOWER than that quoted on the bank’s website!!!!! (That poor RM i think didn’t get sleep that night since he was probably nursing a wounded ear – post the blasting that Manoj gave him!)

This online sales or “own store” sales vs dealer/ brick and mortar sales is a true conundrum.

Kind of rubs off on marketing as well maybe. The biggest thing that brands and companies nowadays are trying to achieve, is Multi Channel Marketing. ( we saw many RFPs on precisely this task last year). This is particularly relevant in the digital world – so, your offline presence needs to be synched to each of your digital avatars – your website/ blog/ forum presences/ social networking pages or channels. Since this is still fairly new, most brands are at the entry level of figuring this out – which largely means making sure that the visual identity in each channel is more or less similar (not as easy as it sounds – since most of these channels evolved at different times, and were probably executed by different departments within the company).

But, the true test of, and resolution to this is when you can remember the main reason behind having different channels – just greater/ higher reach. You know your customer now doesn’t have the will, or the need to – try too hard to get what she wants. So, you have to go where your customer is! This is true of the offline/ bricks and mortar space and of course online. And of course, different segments on your customers will go to different places – that is after all, the raison d-etre of distribution! So, you expand/ diversify/ have multiple avatars. Then the real way to avoid conflict is – differentiate your offering! Have merchandise as well as communication specific to each channel/ that suits the channel’s peculiarities and also that segment of your consumer that visits that channel. So, LinkedIn needs to have a more professional orientation, while Facebook can be/ is gimmicky/ polls and freebies…Dhruv’s own store needed the one off/ special merchandise because consumers come there expecting the widest range, NOT the most common!

The dichotomy though – how do you standardize visual identities/ simplify SKU hierarchies/ rationalize pricing while at the same time customizing offerings for every channel??? The answer – you do a bit of both! Have visual identities that cue the same stuff, but adapt to the channel – but DO differentiate the offerings for different channels – respect your channel – there is a reason why it is different – recognize that difference! Only then will your channel give you love back!

conflict resolution

Facebook Doesn’t get Monday Blues? (Weekly Social Media Behavior)

5 Aug

social web sites

Its true! EVERYONE rests on the sabbath!

I just completed 7 months of blogging – fairly sporadic stuff, i must admit. In these 7 months, I had formulated some theories about days and day parts that are most amenable to posting. These were:

– Mondays are great for posting on Facebook (Contrary to what you would expect, most folks do NOT get to office all waiting to sweat it out! I get loaaads of posts on my timeline, and actually a fair number of hits on my blogs on Mondays)

– Facebook gives me greatest hits – after all, these are friends, and they are fairly varied occupationally (from my mom, to my daughter – see this old post on Facebook’s ubiquitous appeal; to ex colleagues, to batchmates from school and college..)

– Fridays are bad – both these are actually a bit counter intuitive, aren’t they? If you look at lunch places, they are more crowded on Fridays than other places – most “nice to do” stuff is typically kept for fridays – so, one would think that Facebook browsing should be on the rise on Fridays? Not true

– Weekends are worst! On saturdays and sundays, I guess folks don’t use laptops; and, despite mobile increasing as access mode, I get least hits on those days 🙂

– For all social media platforms, the beginning of the day is better than the end – this is true of all, except twitter – where BOTH the beginning and the end is better.

I thought I would undertake some analysis and see if my hypotheses were true. Just so you know, I typically publish my blog at night, and then post it on twitter. In the morning, I repost it to twitter and then also post it on Facebook and Linkedin (Ofcourse, after judging appropriateness! There are posts that don’t make it to LinkedIn and Twitter; just as some that don’t make it to Facebook. See another old post with my opinions on segmenting content according to the character of the social media channel)

So, here’s what the trend of visits looked like:

Blog Visit Analysis

This validated my hypotheses about weekends being days of rest, but threw out a few surprising winners!
Interestingly, on a cumulative basis, all weekdays had more or less the same no. of visits per day (average).

However, if you break it up into days when there were posts published and those when there weren’t, Mondays and Thursdays were best for posting blogs. (I did a further drill down where I removed the outlier posts – those that were wildly successful, and found that Mondays were certainly the stars by far)

But, for “regular” behavior, ie, that not triggered by posts – which further translates to organic / search type visits – Mondays were actually the worst (and Wednesdays the best!). My theory for this is as follows:

After a lazy weekend, folks get back to work but also to their social networks – this points more and more to social networks, even the “non professional” ones like facebook, being almost an adjunct to your productive work day! This explains the high visits on Mondays when new triggers (new posts) are seen. But, during the middle of the week, folks start actual “work” – I am talking presentations/ inspiration/ research 🙂 – and hence organic visits peak then! Makes sense?

Look at the sources analysis:

Blog Source Analysis

Again, much to my surprise, “search” almost equals “Facebook” – this is partially testimony to the (slow) speed of blogging, but does atleast endorse the cleverness of my tags 🙂

A look at a few other similar subject analyses can be had here and here

So, if you want to start blogging, you know what time of the day/ day of the week and which channel to do it on! Happy blogging!