Posts Tagged 'Business'

Too small an order…

…a refrain I’ve heard so often that I’m beginning to wonder whether I’m thinking too small or it is just a sales gimmick in India? It seems to be everywhere if you are the one trying to manufacture or make something- electronic toys, wooden toys, cardboard boxes, plastic games or toys. No one seems to be interested in creating a proof with you to move you to the next level, everyone wants the straight cut 10k piece order. The ones who are willing to do cut lots of corners on quality!

Is our manufacturing sector so bottom line stingy that it does not take ANY risks? How will we create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship on such an ecosystem and mindset?

Mega Mart Shopping Bag!

I was typing something furiously away at my computer and looked away for a second when my eyes fell on this Mega Mart shopping bag. It read “Women, Men, Kids, Youth, Accessories, Footwear, Luggage, Home”. All in the same breath. All in the same color. All in the same font! I can’t stop smiling…coz a thought had struck…

What if…? Could we…? Someday…? go to a mart to buy – Women, Men, Kids, Youth and a Home – made to order? Really? Is it possible? Is it far away? Is it close enough? Are we headed that way?

What do you think?

Next service to move online?

I have spent two entire days trying to call up the cooking gas agency services as I’m running about my day to day activities. On one of my tries a fresh thought crossed my mind and left me smiling. I imagined a situation where it was possible to order gas online and what fun that would have been!

Imagine the efficiency possible for the gas agencies and the freedom that it would give the customers. The rest of it in terms of payments etc can still be managed the same way it had always been so all they need to do is an online order placement system and that is one of the simplest forms to add on a website.

So, my wishlist – can the next service to move onto the online bandwagon be – cooking gas booking? Who else thinks it is worthwhile? Help spread the word by tweeting this.  🙂

Update: Apparently, they have launched an IVR service for Indane and that’s why I could not get across any “real” human being on the phone. What if they had put a recorded message on at least one of their phones, would have saved us a lot of heartache! Grrr, Hmph….

Post Script: We placed an order via the IVR system and the gas came within two days, viola!

The art of “restrictive” gifting

Recently we received Pizza Hut gift vouchers from Airtel and Citibank. I generally don’t look at promo mailers. I was about to throw it when the picture of food caught my eye. I looked at it carefully, it said that we could get a medium “Tuscan singles” pizza free if we present the voucher. I had three such vouchers and wondered if we might just do a pizza today. Well, alas! turn the voucher around and there in fine print lies the art of “restrictive” gifting.

One cannot redeem multiple vouchers together, need to have a bill of Rs. 500 or more to be able to use the voucher and worst still – need to be a dine-in order to be able to use the voucher. Needless to say, I trashed the vouchers anyway. Why?

I don’t remember the last time I did a dine-in for pizzas. I don’t remember the last time my bill order went to Rs. 500 at a pizzeria (there are too many offers for meals for two floating around and we don’t do any pizza parties) and if I can’t use all my vouchers, then?

I understand that one of the reasons for launching the campaign must have been to push people to dine-in at pizza hut, raise the bill to Rs. 500 and come multiple times to redeem the multiple vouchers within the expiry date. But, isn’t it too much to ask for from me? What if, I’m not a big fan of Pizza Hut pizzas, then you need to induce trial and this is no way to do it. What if, I’m looking for the best value meal in pizzas, then you have just blown away your chance for a consideration.

Ok, I can go on and on. But the point I was trying to make is that the art of sending vouchers is not all about what you want it is all about figuring out why things are the way they are and then trying to address that through incentives (namely, vouchers – if that is the case). I’m sure to get into the mailers of Airtel customers and Citibank customers, they must have paid a bomb. What a sheer waste of money to do so on a “restrictive” gift that screams selfishness and lack of understanding of consumer behavior at its best.

Or do they really think consumers are that stupid that on the receipt of such a gift voucher they would go rushing to change their habits? Anybody listening from Pizza Hut’s marketing team?

GETrim needs a strategy

I’m sure many of you around Bangalore (especially the health freaks) might have seen a drink mix called GETrim, from a company called Satva adorning the shelves of major retail outlets. I’ve seen it around for more than a year and a half now and well don’t see it flying off the shelves at the outlets that I frequent (and over the past one year I’ve tried more than 10 of them already and that’s fodder for another story altogether). So, what’s wrong one may ask?

I’d like to start with what is right first – it is a health drink mix, crisply promises that one can lose 4Kg in a month and is very elegantly packaged (one ends up taking notice). So far, so good. However, it is priced at Rs. 600 per tin (that promises 20 meals), well Rs. 30/meal – not bad, but having to cough it up all at once without getting to try the product for at least one or two meals seems too much and that is the not so right bit of it. Maybe, they need to learn a lesson from the 50p Shampoo sachet in India that helped break the mental barrier of large shampoo bottle purchases in India.

I’m not arguing that people don’t buy costly stuff to eat, they do – take Olive Oil, Nutella, Corn Flakes and not to mention Frozen Desserts etc. But the initial hiccup is the first step to justify trying something and a price more than Rs. 200 for a large pack and more than Rs. 10 for a small one is beyond it. It could well be that they want to keep it high-priced and ensure it does not fly off the shelf – you know create some kind of exclusivity of sorts. Then, they have got their retail distribution chain wrongly mapped out for sure.

What do you think?

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Blinded by “Free”

During my last trip home, I happened to meet a family friend’s daughter who was doing her masters in US. She was on a vacation because she had not managed to land a “paid” internship in her industry. What with this recession and everything! She was almost at the end of her trip, so nothing could have been done about it. But out of sheer curiosity I asked whether she had tried any company in India/abroad for an “unpaid” internship. She made it very clear to me that she valued her vacation more dearly than an “unpaid” internship – where she would have to slog for no money as well as not get to take her vacation. I see her point of view but the irony of it all didn’t escape me.

Sometimes, the most valuable of “internships/education” are unpaid/underpaid and we don’t see the value of it until way later. I remember as a student writing articles for newspapers and for the kind of work I put in to write one article, I was really paid peanuts. However, what I learnt while doing the stint was how to do a thorough market research and write a professional article putting it together. Those hours of research, figuring out who to speak to, how to get to them and making a questionnaire (dynamically deciding what to ask/not), not to mention the intense exercise in listening and writing down the notes as fast as I could have been one of the best forms of “training” for a marketing job that I’ve had.

I also want to mention another incident where it kind of struck me real hard how we miss things when we are offered something for “free”. I was at a school in Chennai and talking to the owner’s son. He saw what I had to show him and calmly asked me how it would fit in with all the infrastructure that he was about to get fixed up by a “large education” company that had offered to especially “network” all his classrooms for “free”. I was stumped. Not only because the school was already built and that there will have to be considerable drilling and panelling work that will have to be done but also because the kind of state the school was in, it did not seem like it could take that kind of heavy weight infrastructure installation, not to mention the fact that he himself mentioned that his teachers will need enormous amounts of hand holding to use the infrastructure/simply go digital. What the large company was doing by giving them something for “free” was overselling them and leapfrogging them into a space where the “large company” had an upper hand in systems, content, installation and operation. It was a good move by the large company but a bad choice for the school, unfortunately they were not able to see beyond the “free”.

So, next time you are offered/get something for free, don’t forget to look at the fine print, well better still if you can foresee the writing on the wall sometime in the future.

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The Startup Vision

It is a typical startup scenario. Start with big dreams of that product/service/solution that will make everything else everyone has done so far in the space seem irrelevant (ok I’m kind of exaggerating…but lets face it that’s who entrepreneurs are, that’s how we are wired). But of course, this cannot happen without “customers” who pay. So, willingly/unwillingly the founders begin their journey of customer discovery.

What happens next is chaos. Whether enough thought was put into the process of customer discovery, segmentation and business model or not – accounting for everything you hear, assimilating the information so that it makes sense (without biasing it with your own wishes and wants) and then coming up with a close to accurate sense of what the customer wants (whether they know it already or not, whether they acknowledge it already or not) is not an easy task. Here is where the vision actually plays a crucial role. It cannot (and mostly should not) keep changing with a few naysayers day in and day out and it helps define the very crucial strategy of what to do by clearly stating who you are/want to be and who you are not/don’t want to be. (If you think by saying who you are, who you are not is obvious to your stakeholders, think again. It really helps to articulate it clearly so that everybody in the team and outside is on the same page.)

Every piece of evidence you look at, prospective customer input you look at should be through the eyes of this “Hypothesis”, this Vision, and see if it stands the test. If and only if, it does not stand the test and there is overwhelming evidence from your “desired” customer segment that this is not something that will work, then one needs to go back to the drawing board before taking any steps further or start pushing your own vision down the customer’s throats. Mind you, you can always find a few “polite ones” or “overawed ones” to bowl over – but it is in the lack of scale that you will eventually get stumped!
What is important is this:
1. Each and every member of the team should be on the same page as to the “vision” of the company (and no – this is not some PR/marketing ho-ha, it has to be what you want to be known for when you grow up, so it requires an effort to put together)
2. When you meet the customer, set the right expectations as to why you are there (not to SELL) and get prepared to LISTEN (really and literally with your ears open and not through the filter of your hopes, dreams and biases) – trust me, the more you have been in the system and the more of a slick sales person you are, the more difficult this is for you to do! So, check your biases and tendencies at the customer’s door and tread carefully in.
3. Document the inputs received. Collaborate and discuss with each other on what happened while taking a realistic view against the initial “hypothesis” and vision that was set for the company to check how things are holding up – this can be done for a set of every 5-10 solid customer meetings.
4. Be willing to pivot, if required.
A lot of thought and interesting discussions about this topic are present – my favorites are the book  “The four steps to the epiphany” and the ever insightful Steve Blank‘s blog – you should check them out!
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