Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sarath Babu for South Chennai




View the 3 minute video above. It is quite rare that someone with this profile [BITS / IIM A] decides to join politics. It is also rare that some one also talks something other than

- How inefficient the other is
- Giving free stuff away for public

I did something stupid. When I first saw the video, I told Radha "He will not win". I know the odds are very steep because politicians know the art of sweeping the public with emotion instead of inspiration. But between now and election time, folks like us can help shift the momentum towards what we want to happen.

Please help spread the word. He has sort of made it easy by hosting it all on his website. http://www.sarathbabu.co.in.

1) If you are a blogger, please write about him
2) If you are on twitter, tweet about him
3) If you know people residing in south Chennai constituency, please encourage them to vote for him
4) If you reside in south Chennai, please vote for him!

We don't get opportunities every day - and this kind is once every five years!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Aramex

The other post, I had described my experience with professional courier. Contrast this with Aramex - where a package was shipped from Mumbai to Chennai. There is no explanation even required!



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No Added MSG

Does this mean there is no MSG in the product or you don't consciously add MSG in making your product?

This is another case of deceptive marketing. Its tempting to provide the benefit of the doubt to the marketers. But ever since I saw "No added MSG" on products like Lays or Maggi - I knew for sure that it is a case of meaning "We don't add MSG, but some ingredients may contain MSG". Though it is clear to everyone that people would interpret this as "This product contains no MSG". Why don't they word it as "Contains 0 mg of MSG" to make it absolutely clear?

I thought of dissecting this claim on Maggi. Well, we had a pack at our house! As I suspected, maltodextrin contains MSG. Besides, "CONTAINS ADDED NATURE IDENTICAL FLAVORING SUBSTANCE" leaves it very open. They go on record saying - "We would like to confirm that 'No MSG is added' in the manufacture of MAGGI NOODLES. This can easily be seen from our label which lists all the ingredients contained in the product." Link here. They are saying the same thing but not clarifying. Also why do you think the pdf is an image and not text?

If you have children in your house, please ensure they don't come in contact with these food products. I know they show happy child faces and bulging biceps - but it is just not worth it! May be once in a great while, just to make your kids happy! Whatever be the case - there is going to be a lot of mumbo-jumbo in the explanations. Why not just stay clear!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Professional Courier - not very professional!

I recently had to send an important document to Kolkata (Calcutta in WB). Being near my house, I sent it through professional courier. They gave me a receipt with a tracking number on it. I tried tracking with it but it never reported this as a valid consignment. So, I went back to the service station. They looked at the sheet and gave me a number to call to. I later called that number and was mildly rebuked for calling so early [I shipped the doc on Wednesday and called on Friday]. I told them I did not require delivery yet - just a status on the shipment. Of course, they weren't able to view it as well, but the lady said that it would have gone out for forwarding. Anyway, I later went back to the service station and enquired again. Same number - but I did not call. That document had a deadline to meet and I was wondering if it would make it.

Eventually on Monday [today as of writing], I got confirmation that the consignee received it (from the consignee, not from TPC). I tried the tracking exercise today and guess what I found!



That is so lame! After delivery, they are showing it as outbound. Why give a tracking number in the first place? Leave alone customer tracking - at least the employees should have access to status of the consignment. A few other things:

1) I booked this on Wednesday afternoon. I asked the booking lady if it would reach the next day. She was shocked and said it would take three days. I asked her if they do not air-ship the documents? She wasn't sure.

2) The booking lady owed me a balance, and she wrote it on the receipt (and signed it) to collect back another time. The next time, another lady was around, but she refused to settle and asked me to handle this with the same lady who owed the balance. Wow! [eventually settled - no issues]

At least, I am glad the doc reached fine. It appears you should book and pray! It also appears that mine was a milder form of issue. Several folks have kind things to say about TPC.




Anyway, I wouldn't have typed this note out if not for this blog post by Seth. I am not an "angry customer" nor am I seething during the typing of this post. I felt it made sense to leave some kind feedback for the service rendered. Don't all companies like feedback from the end customers - indirectly, if not directly!?!

Update [29-Apr-2009]: Contrast with Aramex.

Update [8-May-2009]: Apparently, they're still deilvering the package. LOL



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Business Models that work

Business models will work only if they achieve two objectives, both of which are mandatory!

They provide value to the customer
They enhance (increase / sustain) business for the company

When it comes to providing value to the customer, if the company is one of many players, there is no differentiating factor from other companies and the company is not a stand out. Typically, companies use cost as a differentiator. It will work if quality is on par - otherwise not. There is no simple differentiator solution. Innovative differentiators can be disruptive - in that there is no comparative paradigm to it. For example, I made a credit card transaction for about 7K. Two days later, just in time for the billing statement, I got an SMS from the card company (ICICI) stating that I had the option of paying the bill in easy installments*.



Eventually, if the approach works, [smart] competition will catch up to it and replicate it and the differentiation is lost. So, another implication is continuous differentiation (or innovation). Another example - I was comparing laptops for purchase. Several feature sets were matching across multiple companies and prices wasn't a major differentiator as well. So finally, I came across this offer from Lenovo, where the customer could avail an additional year of onsite support for Rs 499. By default it cost about 5K from other companies. More than the cost difference of 4.5K, it is the need for the customer to have a manufacturer supported protection for the device for an additional year that sealed it.

Increase in business is a natural implication of providing value to the customer. If the customers perceive genuine value in the proposition, it is a win-win situation for both of them. Publicity stunts or gimmicks will only work for the short-term, if at all. In the end, it would anyway lead to a tranished reputation. You will remember the quote "Honesty is the best policy". I saw another quote that stated "Honesty is still the best policy"! Quite true - it will always remain the best policy!

In the scenario today, the killer combination will be Honesty + Sharpness/Smartness + Genuine Care and value for the customer. Leave out the scenario as well. This combination works any day!

* - Of course, it had a "conditions apply" clause to it, which would have probably meant "competitive low rates", but that is another story! It is probably this phrase that did not even make me consider the offer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chris Rado on Shambavi

No kidding at all! I am wondering why we are not seeing more of this!

Part 1



Part 2

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ayan - அயன்

There are reasons why this movie is a block buster. One magazine cited that it was because it was a proper concoction of several masala elements. I feel that is a trivial observation.

In a nutshell, it is the director K.V Anand and Surya. Though this movie is a masala-entertainer, the appeal is for more than the racy screenplay.

1) Thorough research on technology. Despite enlisting a lot of tech in the movie among informed audiences, it doesn't come out stupid as it happens in a lot of tamil movies. Actually, on the contrary! Additional kudos for resisting the temptation to show-off. Case in point - Surya tries to replicate a CD/DVD and it runs out of cache. Without even attempting to explain, Surya says "போன தீபாவளி படமெல்லம் இன்னும் வெச்சிருந்தா அப்படிதான் ஆவும்!"

2) Very slick stunts. Especially the opening one in Congo. They tried to do too much by prolonging it and it was a sore point. But it was really new for a tamil movie!

3) Staying clear of cliches. So many traps that can befall a plot like this. Doesn't get caught in one!

4) Using stereotype actors for non-stereotype roles. Again, pops a surprise at unexpected points.

5) Surya is way too sophisticated! He shifts between glib-tongued English and ultra-local Tamil with effortless ease - and makes it beleivable. In the current crop of actors, I feel he is the only one who could have pulled this off.

6) Portraying the villain as an intelligent one and Surya as one-up on him (instead of dumb villain and smart hero)! Keeps even the audience guessing.

7) [Sort of new] Using masala songs - but you cannot walk out of the hall for a break, because it is used to convey some screenplay data. Example, the first song which is for Surya, the director uses it to show that Surya travels to Congo, Malasiya frequently for his "job"!

Well, the movie would have hit bulls-eye (almost does anyway!) except for:

1) Falling into the masala songs trap

2) Harris Jeyaraj! :-(

3) Showing a duet right after a poignant moment in the movie! Come on!


Overall, Anand surprises with his laser-precision execution of the screenplay. Surya surprises with his almost effortless execution of a demanding role. Rock on folks! You deserve the success - every bit of it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Friends

Ross and Joey are talking at Central Perk. Gunther walks over with a take away cup and places it on the table.

Gunther:
(to Ross) Here is your warm milk!

(pause) Joey looks at Ross.

Ross:
(shyly) I am going to take it to my home and put the bourbon in there.

Joey nods.

Absolutely cracking material. How they come up with such unique quirks in personality traits of characters is difficult to understand. Too bad, I wasn't able to find this on YouTube.

Part of the reason Friends was successful was that the jokes were spontaneous. Train like, one after the other in stupendous timing. It is very difficult to replicate. I heard rumors that they were planning to make a movie out of the series. Other than the six sticking together, I think an essential ingredient to the success would be to capture this innate lightweight humor throughout the movie. Friends is a place where even drama is funny!

 
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