Friday, September 23, 2011

How to treat your business?

That's an odd sort of question. I've been reading all through out my life that business is regarded as an  entity separate/distinct from its owner, even though the latter 'owns' it.

A part of many exercises geared towards defining brand identity, experts resort to personification of the brand. They attach 'values' to brands as if they are humans.

So the question: as an owner how would you treat your business if you perceive it to be your best friend?

You would be yourself.

You would go out of your way to help him if need be.

You would not mind waking up at odd hours to be with him.

You would not mind sacrificing for him.

You would make him feel great in your company.

You would think twice before you hurt him.

You would not even remotely think of exploiting him.

You would give time to listen to him.

You would wish him the best, no matter what state you are in.

You would help him with your time, money and heart.

So, how do you treat your business?

Reader of Philosophy

Reading about the word 'Doctor' on Wikipedia, I come across this: (highlighted in red, mine)
The Ph.D. was originally a degree granted by a university to learned individuals who had achieved the approval of their peers and who had demonstrated a long and productive career in the field of philosophy. The appellation of "Doctor" (from Latin: teacher) was usually awarded only when the individual was in middle age. It indicated a life dedicated to learning, to knowledge, and to the spread of knowledge.
Notice the words in red. As many things borrowed by India from the west, 'Ph.D.' is also a borrowed concept. From sheer observation, one thing can easily be inferred: the Doctors of Philosophy (the majority of them) out here haven't necessarily had a life dedicated to learning, to knowledge, and to the spread of knowledge. Quality of universities conferring Ph.D.s is largely suspect. The one function they really do well is 'confer the Doctorate' and thereby ensure that the 'Doctor' bags a job.

Also, the absolute number of peers has definitely increased. A learned person's view is subject to scrutiny among a greater number of peers than it was some decades back. In the Indian context, couple this with a lack of quality and there is good potential for academic hoaxes all around.

Ph.D. was once symbolic of great rigor. Rigor was always bigger than the symbol that stood for it. But like many other symbols, this symbol seems to have taken an existence of its own and seems to have given job-seekers a short-cut to bypass the rigor. 

My solution: have 'extent of reading' as a dominant measure of 'a life dedicated to learning, to knowledge, and to the spread of knowledge'. For quality of teaching is, to a great extent, a function how well-read the teacher is. Ph.R. seems more appealing. Would I want to converse with and learn from a person who's gone through like 1000 books? Definitely. Am I likely to 'enjoy' learning in company of such a person? You bet.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Yamaha R15 v2.0 vs Honda CBR250

Happened to visit Yamaha showroom today. Was eager to check the new R15. Remarkable is what I can. The fit and finish of the bike reeks of quality from the tiniest nut to the big sporty fairing.

Ever since the launch, lot of enthusiasts pointed out the thin rear tyre. Now, it's really becoming. The width now is 130mm. For a comparison, the width of an FZ16 rear tyre is 140mm. That's how wide the rear-tyre of the new R15 is.

The styling is top-notch. When I say this, I can tell you that all pictures circulating on the web do not do justice. You have to see it in person.

I also happened to visit a Honda showroom couple of days back. Here are some pics of the CBR250.

To my mind, without a doubt, R15 beats CBR250 in matters of styling and build-quality. A lot of enthusiasts have also felt that.

Now, if thinking of buying a affordable new sporty bike, which one of the two should one opt for? I've ridden R15 on quite a few occasions. Haven't yet tested the CBR250. Surely, power makes a difference in our riding experience. I, for one, prefer to cruise at a safe speed instead of shooting off the block as if the earth is crumbling behind me. Even if I buy a CBR250, I wouldn't ride it like mad. R15 gave me a lot of happiness. Choice would be mighty tough. CBR250 might just about win.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dancing minds

If an organization thrives on great minds, a movement-mapping of the minds of its members would probably showcase a rather ugly dance. In fact, there would be no semblance of choreography, leave aside the concept of dance.

Wikipedia has a page on synchronized swimming:
Synchronized swimming is a hybrid form of swimming, dance and gymnastics, consisting of swimmers (either solos, duets, trios, or teams) performing a synchronized routine of elaborate moves in the water, accompanied by music. Synchronized swimming demands advanced water skills, and requires great strength, endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry and precise timing, as well as exceptional breath control when upside down underwater.
Read that again. Synchronized swimming demands advanced water skills, and requires great strength, endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry and precise timing, as well as exceptional breath control when upside down underwater. Aren't these precisely what we desire among a group of people, team-members, employees?

Effectiveness and efficiency are a consequence of synchro-dancing minds. And the first requirement for synchro-dancing minds is 'a shared vocabulary'. An almost-precise and common understanding (among all the team members across the hierarchy) of the words and concepts that your organization/brand is hitched on.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Reading the difference between Google & Facebook

Of course they are different. Here's a bit about the nature of the difference.

Google's enables search. A machine-driven algorithm-determined search.

Facebook has those elements I suppose. More importantly, Facebook is a default for a tribe-driven conversation on anything and everything. Your tribe helps you search, right? And a tribe-recommendation will likely turn out to be more relevant and credible.

My experiences on the both the planets have been mixed. Searching on both have yielded some good results and some not-so-good results. My sense is Facebook will yield better (by 'better' I mean, for important and urgent matters, the success in accomplishing the desired objectives of the search quickly and credibly) results before too long.

Human beings still do a better job connecting one another, or one thing with another, than algorithms.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Shared vocabulary

All businesses depend on marketing communication. None more so than an agency which consults other businesses on marketing communication strategies. These strategies find their expression in words. But words are subject to numerous interpretations and differences in understanding. An agency's (or any business which relies heavily on words) efficiency and effectiveness is dependent on shared vocabulary.

What does it mean - 'shared vocabulary'? Do all the members of your agency have the same understanding of the words? Do they interpret the words in a manner similar to yours? Have you struggled getting through to other members? Have other members who are responsible for execution botched up your great strategies?

Check their understanding and interpretation of words that you commonly use to discuss your strategies and coordination your actions. In all likelihood, that will solve your troubles.

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Does your business lack a shared vocabulary? Write to sidsoni at gmail dot com

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Management Education through Reading

I dream of an institute where management training and education is driven by reading. Yes, the primary mode of instruction is reading. Indirectly, self-understanding, and of course, aided by the presence of experts around.

Instead of classrooms there could be reading rooms. Instead of classrooms there could be ideas-of-the-book discussion rooms. There could be two libraries - one driven by theoretical texts and the other by pop-texts.

Now what should I do?

Friday, September 9, 2011

First bits on Bajaj Boxer 150cc

Impressive! Yes, I haven't gone nuts. I like what I see. Had I not bought my FZ16, would've seriously considered this one. Neat lines. Stripped, almost. Classic curvy fairing with the head-light. 150cc for 42k. Nice!

I would do two things though. Change the silencer to a straighter one, preferably in chrome. Also remove the carrier at the rear.

One more thing. I might change the handle-bar to a flatter one.
Great buy, this. Wanna test-ride one soon.

In this era, how does David fight a Goliath? DHL's f***ing s***ing services

We order some earrings from China. The manufacturer recommends DHL. We agree to pay for DHL's services. DHL makes a goof-up at Hong Kong (or so we are informed by DHL employees in India now).

Because of the goof-up, we have an excruciating time getting the consignment cleared. DHL simply abandons our consignment, meant to be delivered in Ahmedabad, at Mumbai. Asks us to handle the processes. We incur significant losses (considering the size of our business right now).

We lodge a complaint with DHL India. They admit the mistake. They admit that they failed to comply with government regulations applicable for such products. And they inform us as mentioned above. Importantly, after they admit the mistake, they say, "We can't do anything. We can't compensate for your losses. Please lodge your complaint with DHL Hong Kong!"

For a matter which had to handled between DHL Hong Kong and DHL India - part of the same company, same brand, why does a customer have mediate?

Wow! Look at the promises they make on their global website.

And after making these promises, they keep us in limbo for a good 1 month, reviewing our complaint and this and that. I've just started on my entrepreneurial journey. There is not much in saying that I am a small fish. And I really do not know how to fight these guys; they invoke this policy and that policy and what not.

I received the most musical reply a few minutes ago:
We would like to share with you that consequential losses are not covered under claims policy and our liability is limited.

I seem to be fighting a hydra-headed monster here. And I don't have any more appetite for platitudes.

The strategy seems simple here: first victimize, then make them run from pillar to post. Ensure that they give up their fight against victimization, so that victimization continues.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How to design the First Page of your website?

Typically ads on the web are supposed to be relevant. At least that's been the cry and the claims so far. Though of course, as happens in life, so on the web; we'll take a while before we master the art of being relevant. Anyway I click on ads nonetheless out of sheer curiosity. I like discovering new stuff. So here's one such incident.

A Google ad on top of my gmail inbox threw a name of a website selling baby products. I clicked on the link and landed on the site. And as soon as the first page opened, an ad popped up offering me some discount on a certain product on the same site. I closed the ad. And I see the page showcasing various baby-products with bubble bursts announcing some offers with some of them.

I presume the site is for young mothers and probably bright colors attract. But what I couldn't quite get is the number of things calling for my attention on the first page itself. My reflective side kicked in.

I was ready to explore.

I typed 'buy baby products' in Google and decided to check out the first few sites of baby products thrown up in the search results. I noticed the similarity in all the sites. Bright colors. Lots of messages. Lots of products. Right on the first page.

Unless someone's really really clear about what she's looking for - which I don't think is often the case - these sites do not do much to help. In fact the best impact these first pages have on the visitors is perhaps adding to the lack of clarity.

I need not ponder on the importance of the first page for any website meant to do business. But I sense the first page should at least do the following:
  1. convey what the site is meant for
  2. induce action
  3. help bring clarity to visitors' minds
The 3 points overlap obviously. But that doesn't mean that they are incorporated in the thinking about building the first page.

Here are few thoughts to aid our thinking about building the first page.

If button is symbolic of 'call to action', can the button be the message? Yes, you read it right. Repeat. Can the button be the message? The oft-studied Google home page is an example of that. The 'Google Search' button carries the message and the action. And I needn't remind how it brings clarity to visitors' minds. The lack of things on the home page leaves visitor only one main thing to do. Type. And search.

Contrast that with Yahoo's home page and we know what we are talking.

A worldwide flower-delivery portal I worked for, mainly had links of prominent countries under the heading 'Send flowers to...' on the first page. And that kind of first page has been adopted by many a site meant for flower delivery. Of course, the task for the visitor is just so crisply cut out. No confusions.

I wonder what stops book-stores on the web from making a sharply focused first page. I observe that Flipkart added more categories of products instead of building on its success as a bookstore. Obviously the first page is filled with everything now. Ditto for many many e-commerce sites that have sprung up in India.

It wouldn't be wrong to say that first page is a reflection of the company's product strategy (indirectly or directly, its business strategy too). And if the first page doesn't quite help the visitors, it doesn't quite help the business either.

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Want this blogger to design your website? Write to sidsoni at gmail dot com.

Teaser Ad for an Ad

Just happened to check Mr. Bachchan's tweets. Look at the one highlighted in pink. Click to see the image in big.

It's almost an ad for an ad. How does Tanishq benefit? Is the ad a reflection of Tanishq or just the acting prowess of Mr. Bachchan or both? In case it's both, who gets how much mindshare? What is the rub-off on the brand when juxtaposed with an attention-grabbing persona?

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Want this blogger to write for you? Write to sidsoni at gmail dot com.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to attempt smooth execution (2)

If your company and you and your colleagues are in the habit of reaching conclusions and decisions by holding meetings, talking, discussing and debating, then here's the first requirement:
have a common and mutually agreeable understanding of all the 'important' words you use during these meeting and discussions and talks and debates.
Though I call it the first requirement, it implies there should be a way to check the understanding of these words among all the people involved. If the understandings seem to differ, then there should be some way to have that sorted before starting those important meetings and discussions.