Archive for July, 2009

China’s U-Turn On The One Child Policy

On July 24th, China announced a “partial-lift” on it’s one child policy, which means that urban couples who were each only single children will be allowed to have two children. In the past, urban couples were only allowed one child, rural couples, who had a girl as their first child were always allowed to have a second child and ethnic minorities were exempted from the one-child policy completely.

What has it done for China, so far?

People over 60 make up 22 per cent of the city’s total population, a number that is expected to grow to 34 per cent in 2020. China’s “one-child” policy, first implemented in 1979, has resulted in 400 million fewer births, according to the government, based on the source here, and this could potentially have inverted the demographics in favor of younger generation (85:15) at the cost of a larger population, overall.

To begin with there are speculations abound that, the one-child policy did not achieve much. Birth rate fell from 2.9 (1979) gradually over 25 years and stablized at 1.7 (2004). However, for a short 10 year period preceding the policy the birth rate fell from 5.9 to 2.9. Also, East-Asian neighbors have achieved much lower birth rates during the same time period – Hongkong (0.91), Singapore (1.04), Japan (1.38), according to the source – here.

How Will China React?

Many people used to the concept of a single child, as they grew up, may not want to go for the option For quite a few of the rest, the need to spend a hefty amount on child rearing, limitation on personal time and probably even hindrance with their professional careers might be reason enough not to opt for it. So, what does that leave us with? A probable option of willing, ageing grand parents raising the second child! Whatever it is, it is going to be another radical shift that the population will endure and cope with, in less than a generation, as the world watches on.

For me, personally, this is a quiet moment of reflection on the long term, voluntary, 2-child policy adopted by India which was a balanced approach towards handling demographics while reining in the population.

When Things Change For The Worse…

My recent most visit to one of the most expensive restaurants in Bangalore, the supposedly 7 star, Leela Palace has been a major let down. The parking lot is worse than that of a 3rd grade movie theater and the service in their Citrus restaurant is pathetic to say the least (I couldn’t understand a word of what the staff was speaking and the staff didn’t know English or Hindi!). The last experience I had there has put me in a complete state of shock. About a month or so ago, their orignial vehicle entrance was blocked. They re-directed us to enter through the basement route, the leading & exit passages were extremely narrow, winding, dimly lit and had no mirrors/other mechanism to give me warning of how much I should expect to turn. I barely made it through…phew! 

A little birdie tells me that their rooms and allied services are exquisite and nothing has changed in that department, which kind of set me wondering. I guess they have applied core vs. non-core activity strategy to their staffing and services. So anything non-core might have been either downsized, outsourced or starved of funding – most hotels in India are going through a tough time with large rate cuts and less than expected room occupancy! But, is non-core really non-core? Isn’t there an image, brand or reputation to maintain as long as those activities are in your premises and could affect the way potential clients think of you – even before they have experienced the rooms? Mr. Nair, do give it a thought.

My WordPress Vs. Tumblr Experience – So Far…

This is my first take on wordpress vs. tumblr based on my experience, so far…

1. Customization – Installing extra plugins was never easier on tumblr, not at all possible in – I could install google analytics so easily on tumblr, I can’t do it on blog and do I miss it!!!

2. Popularity Hits – WordPress is a more popular platform, I get more hits on my page with zero marketing work than I ever got on my tumblr pages

3.  Widgets  – A lot of add-on widgets come for free and are quick install in wordpress, all of which get my started up with zero effort. While on tumblr, I have to know about these widgets to begin with and then search it & install them on tumblr (but the good news is, if I have enough patience, I can install anything on tumblr which is not the case with my or go looking for the widgets as and when I need them, I guess…

4. Tumblr: twitter-like – The common space on tumblr, people seem to be using like Twitter, very few people write genuinely good articles out there – most people are posting links, photos and music – which is what it was intended for, to begin with

5.  Comments – This is the part I’m still struggling with. I installed Disqus on my tumblelog and attempted to port my comments to wordpress when I moved my blogs – but alas! it is not possible on my blog. If I self-host, I get all these features, but not until then.

So, this is what I have as of now…shall keep you posted as I go along and discover more…

This is all I got for now..I shall be coming back with more! Do post if you have your stories…

Dhoni Endorsed Brands – More Damage Than Good

Over the past few years Dhoni has given SRK a run for his top spot as brand endorser, with brands ranging from GE Money, Brylcream, Pepsi, 7Up. Charging up to 4crores for his appearances, he does not come cheap. But does he really have an impact on the brand? To his credit, he does have the fumbling boy next door charm, however, does it really help the brand? What with his poor delivery, no camera presence and lack of a sense of timing! Well, to be fair seeing familiar faces on the TV gets people diverted to the slot the first time around, but what sustains the memory is the ad, the creativity, the punchline, the relevancy and well, sometimes, even the nagging, irritatingly boring persistency of an admaker who thinks he has nailed something – when he is far from it…but you remember all of the extremes, things in between are forgotten. But, as I said in one of my previous posts – here – when was the last time you bought something because your favorite player/actor endorsed it?

Well, with Dhoni’s latest Aircel ad, the ad makers seem to have realized how boring he was in the ad – as they have given him a pass already. Also, since all the negative publicity he garnered a few weeks ago and his popularity waning, I still kept seeing the ads and wondering whether they are not doing more damage to the brand than good and shouldn’t they be taken off air immediately? The media has been slow to react but  two weeks later the ads with Dhoni in it have trickled to zero, like someone wiped out those seconds from a film reel.

I’m a very strong supporter of the creative ads, with a good storyline that sticks with the brand – the advertisers throwing in an Abhishek Bacchan like in Idea or an Aamir Khan in the Samsung ads is just a safety net – the plots are popular not because of them but in spite of them…dont’ get me wrong, they do an excellent job, except, the ads would have been as good, if delivered by anyone else.

The Airtel Repartee to (Tata) Docomo

“Why squeeze all you want to talk in seconds, talk all you want without worrying about seconds” – screams the Airtel repartee to the Tata Docomo’s new second pulse rate (1paise per 1sec) plan. The airtel plan works out cheaper – is only 1paise per 4sec and well and  is one of the cheapest block offer I have seen from them. However, the ad doesn’t say anything about what plans will have this? Is it only for new customers? Will it be available for switching? When will the offer be available? etc etc. It seemed like, just what I said…a repartee…

Is Airtel scared of Docomo? With the 3G rollout looming large, I’m sure they want to retain their database now, that they can start milking them with higher end services. What do you think?

ERRATA and POST-THOUGHTS: I just heard their ad again – it says 50p/min and not 15p/min. I apologize for the confusion. In this case, it is still 10p cheaper than the overall Tata Docomo offer, but the block of 30sec vs. 1sec is still not something I can wrap my head around. I quite like the set of ads that Tata Docomo is coming out with and the taglines –  “one second can change your life”, “pay only for the seconds you talk” etc. But, the proof of the pie is in the eating (connectivity, in this case!) – I would wait and watch….

Tata Docomo – second pulse rate and no signal

Docomo, the Japanese telecom major, has entered the Indian market in partnership with Tata and a revolutionary pricing – the second pulse rate. That is not the only revolutionary thing they are doing in marketing – their promotion strategy ranges from traditional to new media with the ads tweaked accordingly, but keeping the theme uniform – catchy music, docomo word formation and conveying the brand as well as the 1sec pulse rate message clearly.

The TV and the Radio ads are designed slightly differently. The TV ads are visual treat with the “do”, “co”, “mo” forming and arranging itself to form “docomo”, the music stays in the background. In the radio ads, they have used music to create the same effect of using the blocks of ‘do”, “co”, “mo” to arrange itself into “docomo”. The creativity in the ad is subtle and enjoyable. They have used concepts like seesaw, over water, cat and balancing act etc. for the “docomo” formations. You can enjoy the videos here.

They also have out of home advertisements as teasers – see below and their website provides the necessary social media integration. However, the branch office numbers stated on the website are either not reachable or not picked up when it rings. No amount of advertisements, reaching out, social networking or teasers can compensate for lack of good network coverage and service, though!

However, given the increasing number of players in the mobile services market, the winning bet might be the service and value added offerings in the future. NTT Docomo is the leader in Japanese market in value added services, 3G services and beyond- so I have no doubt on that end for the success of the partnership. However, Tata teleservices doesn’t have a good reputation with service and signal availability/range.  So, it is like driving a fancy car down a dug up road – all the best to Docomo!

Note: However, ever since I wrote about Airtel’s good network strength and signal reach (here) – I have been facing so many issues that I think I would rather adopt a wait-and-see to the unfolding drama in the telecom scene. What do you think?

Jazz Not So Jazzy

Honda has launched the much awaited “Jazz”, a mid size hatchback car, in India (they announced it a year ago!). An ad that is airing in prime time with the concept of “breaking other car owners’ bubble” with a tagline of “why so serious?” by Ogilvy and Mather. It is retailing at a price of 6-7 Lakhs INR in India.

The price makes it the highest priced mid size hatchback in the market, higher than the highest selling swift (~5-6 Lakhs) and the most popular economy car Santro (~4 Lakhs). And, what is more, the ad is not helping either, the car looks less spacious than the Santro and is not necessarily a breath taker…and the only bubble the ad is breaking is its own! What  is more, the tagline, probably tries to position it as a fun car, I mean, seriously, the costliest car in town, with not-so-great looks – has to be fun”ny” right?

You can see an image if you have not seen it on the roads and shrugged at it, yet and here is the ad if you have not seen it yet. What say?

Hongkong Night Market – A Must See!

The Hongkong Night Market or should I call it more of “fake goods” market is a place where you can get anything from a Burberry to Calvin Klein watches, glasses, bags – you name it – except, they are all duplicates, that’s all. In some cases you will be hard put to to tell the difference if you are not a brand connoisseur and in some cases, well let us just say, you are not that easily fooled ;). And, what is more, it is more or less fixed price – you can bargain a little bit, but they are so busy with the willing customers that if you continue to argue on 20HKD vs. 25HKD, you will be ignored.

So, all of you on the way to Macau or with a day to hangout in Hongkong – do add this to a must see list of places…and have fun!

Web2.0 and large corporations

I had a few interns in the office for a few months working with me. I worked on a small experiment and attempted to do a weekly “Out of Box Thinking” – OBT session for a couple of weeks. This was one of the first topics we chose to go over. It was an attempt to understand how large corporations (which are not necessarily in the web2.0 space) resist, adopt, react to and most importantly, leverage them effectively for marketing communications. So, what is it all about?

Getting over the “My Way” of…

…doing things. For many companies the implicit trust of users and going from creating and owning the products to collaborating and crowdsourcing projects is not an easy transition. For most, it is the dilemma of – is it real? is it here to stay? Some companies that have accepted this well is Asus with their WePC concept.

Acknowledging the power of…

…news spread through the viral power of word of mouth and long lasting effects of long tail. In the past, Intel experienced the power of it and more recently, major toy companies and China toy manufacturers had to bear the wrath as the “lead paint” slipped out through the blogs and reached the ear of the masses faster than people could start damage control through traditional media channels and I’m not even beginning to discuss the power of viral marketing and twitter on media, yet.

Harnessing the power of…

…focussed market research & keeping track of social network activities has dawned on companies. Though, not all have been able to make the transition from being passive listeners to active contributors or collaborators yet. When crisis strikes and you need to reach out to people who care through a new media channel (something they trust), it can’t be done in a moment like you would do for a TV commercial, it has to be built over a period of time.

What are the steps your organization is taking to adopt, accept and leverage the power of web2.0?

Outsourcing, Offshoring and The Many Artificial Niches…

We have seen it, we swear by it, we live in it, we live by it, we are “Bangalored”…and do we love it?

The other day, as I was thinking about what it does to an economy when parts of an ecosystem are by-passed and other parts given a fillip, due to possible economic advantage. Now, in the past this used to be mostly industry specific economic advantage. However, thanks to the information age – what we all see around us is that parts of the ecosystem are spread across varied Geographic regions.

Let us take for example, the life of an application engineer in a semiconductor company in India (I’m not picking the most obvious example of a BPO employee here, because it is not a contained problem, if you were led to think so by the repeated use of that one example). India is not a large potential market for electronics design compared to its more fertile APAC counterparts – like China, Korea etc. – the application designer has no visibility on or access to the end customer or an expert network ecosystem that he can rely on to gain wider exposure or increase his knowledge levels, leave alone attempt to create career path. This forces lateral shifts from company to company and lack of a well-rounded employee creation or a disgruntled radical shift into the management world.

Geographical re-location of parts of an industry in different countries, to create cost effectivness or 24×7 operation capability, creates niche industries and alien worlds not aligned to the economy of the receiving country and creates discord in the lives and careers of the work force employed in these industries/roles. Are there any possibilities that we develop the missing pieces of the ecosystem within the country or is this a sustainable trend of creating artificial niches of excellence? Is it really sustainable for innovation and product development?

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