Archive for the 'ethics' Category

Anything worth doing…

Some of the recent sessions that I’m attending got me thinking about what makes people do less than what they can?

It could be mere smugness, one might have easily settled into a comfort zone, it could be constraints, it could be a lack of empathy – no clear understanding of what the other person/customer really wants from you or pure arrogance because you can get away with it!

However, whatever the reason for you to do that, at the end of the day you are shortchanging your own potential, your own ability and your own self and not being totally honest with yourself and the world about what you have to offer. The moment you start living that way, you stop learning and you don’t embody a future learner anymore.

In your tryst with destiny, always remember no political agenda, no hurt feeling, no animosity, no lack of faith, absolutely nothing is an excuse to bring less than your full potential to the table. In doing so, you are doing more harm to yourself than good.

Like a wise person once said, “If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing it well.”

 

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Less Ad(d) More News

Recently, as I was flipping through channels, I came across a Kannada channel where there was news highlights going on and on the left hand side there was a large photo of Akshay Kumar taking almost 40% of the space. For a moment I was confused whether the news was about him. When I looked closer, I realized it was an Ad within the news flashlights.

We continue to sink to new lows day in and day out….

Playing with light and shadows

Recently, as I was driving on the outer ring road around noon time, I had a strange experience. I was about to move to my left on the three lane road when I realized that there was “something” on my blind spot. I steered clear. It happened again and then, once more. All this while, I didn’t have to adjust my speed or peer over my back – nothing! I saw the shadow of the vehicle and that’s what caught my eye as I was about to change lanes. The vehicle was an autorickshaw, the type used to carry goods, not people and the driver was happily tagging me.

It reminded me of another instance, where I observed a child make out all kinds of shapes and meanings from shadows and gleefully experiment with the movement of shadows! It got me thinking, there are lot of times our mind tries to tell us things as an interplay of lights and shadows, in those flashes of insights, but do we care to listen? Are we observing these subtle changes and warning signs? Especially, when there are difficult decisions to make, who and what are we listening to?

Do we have an emergency response strategy?

Recently, I was travelling on the road from Marathalli to Whitefield and the traffic suddenly came to a dead halt. As I stuck my neck out to check what might have happened, I saw that the traffic was stopped at a point and now beginning to crawl around it. As I reached the point, I saw a puppy lying dead on the road. One of the cars ahead of me, perhaps unknowingly, had squished it.

Another incident, a friend of a friend came home hysterical one day. She saw a bike accident and the person died on the spot. The trauma of the incident was too much to bear for her and it took sedatives to calm her down.

Both the incidents put together got me thinking. If you saw an incident of this sort on a road, what would your response be? On the one hand, we need to learn how to deal with trauma and our own feelings but think about the person or the animal lying on the road, how about them? Do any of us know the emergency number to call or report a death to, in Bangalore? Maybe, some of us do for human beings, but how about animals? What is our emergency response strategy? Do we have one? With such high incidence of death rates on the road, why don’t we?

Kerala Demystified

Shashi Tharoor recently tweeted the link to a telegraph article by Ashok Guha called Kerala Conundrum. He has, in fact, captured the essence of the problem in a way that is both true and worrisome at the same time.

In his article, he starts off with the puzzle that is Kerala. All the indicators of education, infant mortality and gender equality are tilted in its favor and yet it is one of the states in which I have seen men the most frustrated and women the most humiliated in India. Given, its status as the best on many of these humanitarian indices the humiliation is further exaggerated. He says…

“The human development index, inspired largely by Sen’s work, highlights three aspects of life: longevity, education and the standard of living. More subtle criteria of capability have also been designed…When the relative performance of the different Indian states is gauged by these yardsticks, one state, Kerala, emerges as the clear winner on all counts except that of per capita income. It has the highest life expectancy, the lowest infant and maternal mortality, the best public health facilities, the highest literacy, the best performance in almost all educational indices, the best gender ratio, the best record in female education, health and empowerment and the lowest total fertility. With such a record of performance in areas regarded by outstanding thinkers as crucial to the quality of life, Keralites must surely enjoy the most satisfying lives among all Indians. Right?”

Then, what is wrong? I believe, giving wrong emphasis on scoring high on these humanitarian goals without emphasis on the end goal that is the development of the society based on economic principles due to a tragic twist of politics and general public apathy has led to such a situation. He also makes an interesting point of how Malayalis are a generation of would-be emigrants and in a constant hurried state of flight from our homeland to places where many of the human capabilities indices are below par, in search of employment and income opportunities. While, those who remain behind and are unable to break out of the vicious cycle are frustrated and depressed, leading to suicides and other atrocities in the state. Here’s what Ashok has to say:

“Right from the days of the rajas of Travancore, successive governments of Kerala have followed a policy based on the development of human capability. Unfortunately, this has not been matched by, nor has it induced, a similar expansion of Kerala’s industrial structure. Therein lie the seeds of Kerala’s tragedy.”

I think the article is worth a read if you are a Malayali and if you are not, it is still worth a read for setting the context on those indices that Kerala likes to flaunt so much year after year and its reality for its people.

The Sweet Deal in India

I read an interview by Perfetti’s MD in Business Line recently where he was talking about how difficult it was for them to convert the 50p price point and raise it to Re 1 and another article here on how the main issue with Indian market is price points (MRP), that the costlier, “stylized” chocolates are better sold in “malls” and that the Indian chocolate market is largely limited to children and has not been able to convert the adults.

I beg to differ with the concept that “price” is  an issue with sweets. The people (both adults and children) who crave for sweets don’t care about price, it falls under “crave” items. The problem with Indian scenario is that overall there is a dearth of options, lack of quality and absence of richness in the confectionery and chocolates category. In fact, there are no lollipops worth its salt (sweet) that an adult would buy (even if they craved for it), chewing gums are ok but now there are too many clones in the market (especially with the sugar-free version) and can I please get an eclair that does not get stuck in my teeth (I mean, I used to like eclairs before these cheap versions started flooding the market)?

Chocolates is another disaster story, for the price I pay mostly there isn’t even a bite-full to eat (things have changed slightly with Cadbury Silk in the mix and some imported German chocolates). I can do far better with most of the traditional Indian sweets in all their variety and richness right around the corner. Of course, not to mention that dark chocolates are more chocolate than dark (cocoa) and the difference in taste between the “Indian” and “Foreign” versions of “Kit-Kat”, “Ferrero Rocher” doesn’t make them taste any better (in fact, they are worse).

All of these “sweet” guys (Perfetti, Nestle, Nutrine, Parle) who are talking about price, placement and segment issues in India, my question to you is, what have you done to understand India and put together an honest, good quality product mix for us? We might be a disparate market, we might stand divided by caste, creed and religion but we stand united by our sweet tooth and reject products that lack in quality or range thrown at us and oh, yeah! no amount of advertising is going to make up for the fact that the products don’t stand up for themselves.

PS: I should give a special mention to Cadbury as they have always attempted to work towards this goal. They are having to run three separate ad campaigns – one each for dairy milk silk, temptations and the regular dairy milk. I can see what an uphill task it is for them in Indian market to stand up for quality when everyone else is gunning for costs!

What do you think? Any special chocolate stories to share?

Wants vs. Needs

I was listening to Melinda Gates at the TEDxChange talk aired on Sep 20th on the Millennium goals. It was wonderful to hear all the speakers, but one thing she said stuck in my head.

She was narrating the story of the reach & success of Coke and comparing it with the success of the Millennium Goals. She said, as she travelled all over the world trying to spread the message of a life without disease and misery, even where there was no electricity, education or sanitation facility, there was COKE. For quite some reason, coke had figured out the secret formula that eluded the best of the international efforts at alleviating poverty, disease and lack of education!

She pointed out that it could be broadly ascribed to three things – they are very data oriented, they  tap into local entrepreneurial culture and create incredible marketing campaigns. In short, make you aspire to something you don’t even need in the first place! However, for some reason, she said, “We don’t seem to think that we should make people want what they need” when it comes to poverty, education and disease eradication. This results in colossal wastage of the best laid out aid efforts in the poorest of countries. Since, we don’t craft the messages with “sufficient aspirational value” they don’t seem to get through to the people and she gave some very interesting examples (Go watch the talk for examples, I’m not giving them away :)).

This is so beautifully said that I can’t add anything to it except for the fact that, what “they need” is generally a “perception” from an outsider’s point of view, for them  it is something in their core – a “habit”, “culture”, “religion”, “chore” – that you want them to change and instead do this “other thing” which they are not familiar with. Why should they trust you? Why should they put in the extra effort?

Inspiring someone enough for them to “want” to do something is the best way to create a “need” – marketers figured this out way long ago. But making someone want what they need, while making it available is the best way to reach out and make a difference in the society, probably the most exalted job for marketing there is to be!

PS: Seth Godin wrote an article on the same topic in his blog recently –Needs don’t always lead to demand.


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