Posts Tagged 'india'

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?

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A new journey – Sparkling Mindz

It’s been a while since I posted out here…life has been hectic, life has been venturesome!

About a year ago, an idea struck me that simply summed up as –  the only thing that can make you stand out in the crowd is how you think, learning to think should be taught at a much younger age than it is taught today and that, it should be fun while you are at it! So, I started Sparkling Mindz along with a group of like-minded individuals, who have been a pillar of support in the growth of this organization.

You may be wondering what Sparkling Mindz is? It is an after school program that provides children an opportunity to grasp thinking skills in a fun way!

It is exciting to see the children’s eyes light up they feel empowered to think, generate ideas and then apply it in their day-to-day lives! They learn to transform into confident, thinking individuals…

You can read more about the programs and about us on our website www.sparklingmindz.in and view pictures from the workshop at our facebook page. Do help by spreading the word and becoming a fan on our facebook page!

More on the journey soon….but do write in with your thoughts and comments. Most importantly, help us reach out as far and wide as possible by spreading the word around to those who can benefit and help us make an impact on millions of lives.

IIT heads complain of plunge in quality

Today I read a news article in Times of India titled, “IIT heads echo NRN on plunge in quality”. The whole article goes on to talk about how the seats in IITs today are getting filled by students who are fatigued by years of coaching and in the larger scheme of things, don’t even want to be an engineer. It is sad state of affairs, indeed. But to hear the heads of the institutes complain, instead of do something about it, is sadder. This could have been easily seen coming and here are some thoughts of mine

1. If you set up an exam that is hard to achieve and pass through and prevent people with interest from joining unless they can showcase aptitude 2x the current level of education system. This kind of ‘fatigue’ is bound to happen. We, as Indians, are proud to pass through tests that are seemingly insurmountable and that give you a certain kind of ‘elitist’ status over others! Take the civil services, for example. Most people taking the exam don’t even know what they will be doing post the selection! It is the same with students who are getting coached to get into IITs (and to a large extent the CAT fever too! – they are being taught how to beat the system!!!) – while it will take you across the threshold, it will not get you inspired and motivated to become an excellent engineer or an excellent manager (or a good anything)

2. Next, what have the IITs themselves done to inspire the students joining to wake up out of fatigue and create interest? Is there an emphasis on innovation, creativity or even applying the skills being learnt beyond the basics? If so, where is it being showcased? It is a chicken and egg story and only if you focus on inspiring students will they get inspired and motivated – the other way round is an ideal dream, but can you make it a reality by just cribbing about it?

3. Now, lets look at the industry. These children who join the IITs are very smart and the smartness flows to where they money is. If money is in engineering, they will continue being engineers, if it is in pharma/FMCG/ITES companies, they will get trained to become sales people for Pharma/FMCG/consultants, as the requirement might be. Look at it from their point of view and the society’s point of view, if you are the best of brains and you are not earning the best of salaries, you are a loser! There is no premium on thinking, being different, being unique or standing up for what you are passionate about (let alone sometimes even figure out what is it that you are really passionate about!) and then what about the self-fulfilling prophecy of these large institutes that the most successful people come from there?

4. That brings us to the story of change. What should change to make this better? The mantra is – Innovation and Creativity to create a “thinking generation” of students! The institutes needs to innovate at a much faster rate and create a new form of entry criteria, a new way of working with the corporate world, a new wave of innovation from their labs and that will create enough inspiration and motivation even in the most fatigued or uninterested child to beat and excel the system (where the system is aligned and focused in the right direction)

The seeds of change lie in you, if you are unwilling to lay them in the ground, don’t fret over lousy results!!!

PS: On second thoughts, whatever has been written above is a law of averages and I’ve seen enough inspired, motivated and self-aware IITians over my work life to be impressed by their smartness, hard work, dedication and motivation. So, please don’t take this as a personal note on anyone. I’m just responding to the system’s response on its own intake quality!

Consuming Information Digit-ally

RSS

Image via Wikipedia

Lately I’ve realized that I’m consuming almost all my information through my RSS feed reader – news, blogs, articles of any kind. I’ve not yet moved to e-books because, ahem – all e-book readers (when they are available) in India seem to be so bloody costly!

The fact is, I still travel with a book or two. But, reading the latest blog articles on my mobile from a set of people I follow and admire, always seems to win vs. the books from authors I barely have a connect with. This has serious consequences, in my mind, on what kind of information/news/articles are being read by people. Instead of passively consuming some randomly pushed plot as decided by a publisher and a writer, now I decide the twists in the plot.

Jokes aside, the middle man is being cut out by the power of the reader and it is not just the traditional content creators that are in trouble, as is touted by the “big banner demise stories of newspapers”.

The small and convenient size of the blog articles and the easy to read format also make them more appealing to me. Oh, not to mention, most of the people who blog are experts in their fields or are striving to be so and if you pick and choose right, you get loads of good and solid information in their respective fields of expertise that is current, handy and reliable. Also, many of them have managed to create brilliant communities around their blogs, so each and every blog post gets 100+ responses. Another way to get a feel of the various industry opinions and contradictory viewpoints. They, in a way, complete the posts and make the rugged and more comprehensive.

I’ve never been able to watch news without losing interest in the first 2 minutes, read a newspaper without falling asleep (except for some interesting articles, here and there) but leave me with my RSS feedreader and I’m glued forever.

What role does a marketeer play in this world where content producers directly communicate with the readers? What do you think?

Triple Play – No Thanks.

My friend Sanchayan and I were having a discussion on how triple play kind of services were very far away from take off in India. What? Did I hear you say that IP Set Box people are still struggling? You are right.

For the uninitiated, let me put “triple play” in layman terms – it is being able to get your “TV, Phone and Internet” through a single line (and implicitly single service provider).

While, it is exciting to be able to link all these services up and be able to tap into benefits that the cross functionality gives me in terms of superior services and subsidized prices, I’d be living a pipe dream if I were to believe that it would unfold that way in my (read consumers’) favor. Why, you may ask?

Let me try to explain. Every time, I have to depend on a single source (or service provider in this case) in India to serve too many of my basic needs (and yes, TV, Internet and Phone are basic), I get worried. The chances of a single provider becoming complacent and hence not providing good customer service or trying to extract too much money from me for their services are high enough, notwithstanding the disruption to my day-to-day life that would be caused by them going under temporarily/permanently.

I’ve had an experience of this. This was on the day I was leaving Chennai, I needed to withdraw some cash to make certain payments. I had money only in one bank account and incidentally for the one hour that I ran around from one ATM to another (and not just the bank’s own ATMs, I must have tried 10 different ATMs in about 5Kms radius) I could not withdraw any money. I had to do some “jugaad” and manage the day. But, since then I learnt my lesson on that front.

Actually, I’m saying no thanks to triple play in the near future – the risks outweigh the benefits (if any were presented at all!). What do you think, would you like to adopt such a service/offer if Sun/Hathway/Airtel were to offer it to you?

May you live in interesting times…

That is what a very popular Chinese quote says. I was literally at the end of my wits a couple of days ago. There was an unscheduled power cut of nearly 4 hours starting in the night where I live in Bangalore. (And no, I don’t have power backup installed because we thought and still think it is a luxury!).

Ok, coming back to my point of the Chinese quote. I fired up the Google reader from my mobile and started reading all the different blogs that I had not had time for in the past couple of days. As time went by and I didn’t feel bored in a “powerless” state, I realized how important it was that despite the challenges somethings did work. I was thankful for living in interesting times where I had the wisdom of the world’s best at my fingertips even if the “power” situation was out of my control.

Would you like to share any incident where you felt the same – that “you are living in interesting times”?

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?


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