Monday, 20 February 2012

The Chances We Take. Or Not.

Book under review:

Ahmed Faiyaz, Another Chance
Grey Oak Publishers, 2010
ISBN: 978-93-81626-02-3
Rs. 195

We all know that we have one life. There is a full stop at the end. Yet when life throws us many chances at moving forward or back, reassessing or developing priorities, making or breaking relationships – how many of us choose to shape our lives differently when those chances happen?

If our lives today are shaped by the choices we made in the past, then the future will be shaped by the chances we take today. Sometimes, we miss the chance but life may give us another chance to get things right. This is the premise on which the author has based this work of fiction.

A romantic story set in today’s urban Indian milieu, where the people are ever more so connected at various stages, across different cities and countries, as life progresses with its myriads of turns and twists. The story is quite relatable and is a pleasurable light read, given it remains at a steady pace. Interspersed with flash backs and present situations, the story is definitely a Bollywood film away.

The cast:

Ruheen is the heroine. A confused and scared, rich beauty who right from her boarding school days is plagued with wanted and unwanted attention as well as emotional distresses because of the chances she gets and the decision she makes. In her adult life, even when she seems to make the right sort of choices, her need for constant love and emotional security conflicts with her decisions.

Aditya is the hero. Smart MBA type, whose focus on education and marketing consumer products like oils and gels, is consistently battled with, in his head, by the unbeatable cravings that the heroine raises in him.

Varun is another hero. A small town boy, who makes merry in the city only to realise his destiny is tied to his hometown. An immature chap in his younger days, like wine, he seems to get better as he ages. A fellow with the heart of gold and a sensible head set on his shoulders, all which are available to the heroine anytime she wants.

Malika is another heroine. Could have been the vamp of yesteryear films, is today however an ambitious blackberry toting, marketing speaking, tweeter. Lives for the moment, has no issues in pushing aggressively if she gets a chance or feels the need.

Vishal is the villain. Son of a politician who likes to hit the gym and pump his muscles. Likes to hang out with daredevil buddies or baddies depending on whose viewpoint they are looked at. He likes to obsessively stalk the heroine giving her the fright of her life every time their paths cross, wittingly or unwittingly.

Rohan is another messed up character. The NRI type. Confused about his priorities. Has familial, substance addiction and rage issues, seeks to financially benefit from relationships.

The story:

Set in urban cities as well as small towns in both, India and elsewhere, the story weaves through college life and work life. It builds to a crescendo and the pace remains rather tight. The characters are fleshed out, realistic and are therefore relatable to people we know amidst our lives. As one of the main characters is a woman the author has smartly taken feedback from his women friends and colleagues, to give some depth and not make her appear vacuous.

The story is plausible, though there are quite a few moments when it certainly feels like a Bollywood potboiler on paper. There are gorgeous locations described, from which while reading, you may be forgiven for expecting a song and dance sequence to burst out from the pages.

Interestingly, the marketing challenges and time consumed by those challenges as described in the life of the hero are quite realistic, and would leave many a reader with a knowing smile or smirk on their faces.

Overall rating: 6/10.

Recommendation: You could take a reasonable chance at being entertained. Pick up the book online or from your nearest store, and enjoy a decently paced romantic read which does resemble life, as it is, these days.


This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Dubai Travel Guide

Having written about the 'Dubai, Do Buy' philosophy and the 'Dubai Job Hunt' recently, I thought it would be a good time to also focus on some of the other interesting reasons to visit Dubai.

Since the Dubai Shopping Festival will take off only on 5 January 2012, I will be writing about it next month. Meantime, since arriving a month ago I have taken the opportunity to visit some of the places I had not been to earlier. However, the following places, suggestions and experiences I am recounting is based on multiple travels to Dubai over the last few years.

Entering Dubai

The Dubai international airport is truly a gateway. As I had stated once previously, sit long enough at the airport and chances are you may even spot an Eskimo! Being the fourth busiest airport in the world, be prepared to see masses of people everywhere within the airport at any point of time.

There are two types of passengers arriving at this airport. Those in transit, thanks to the ever growing Emirates Airlines as well as the multitude of other airlines stopping here, and those people whose final destination is Dubai be it a visit for pleasure or business.

Being an Indian origin person, not only do I have to get used to the antics of my fellow brethren when they reach here, but also get used to being treated a bit like cattle by the folks manning the arrivals. Herded into large and long snaking queues for immigration, to avoid being barred from entry, ensure that a valid visit visa is secured in advance. That is, unless you are already a GCC resident with a mudheer or 'manager' type higher-professional status on the residency card, in which case you are entitled to get a visit visa on arrival, irrespective of your nationality, in most cases. There are some nationalities who can secure a visit visa on arrival even without being a GCC resident, details of which can be found here and here

Getting through immigration also requires you to have your iris scanned. Eventually you emerge through to the Dubai Duty Free area and beyond, to the baggage claim area. Once done, you will need to get all your luggage including hand baggage X-ray scanned again, but usually the officers sitting at the scanning point will just wave you on (unless you are carrying contraband items - which can get you severe punishment in this country). Finally, get out of the airport, and you have many transportation options.

Local Transportation
  1. Rent a car: valid International driving license is good, rates vary by type of vehicle and duration of rent. Negotiating is a good idea. Ensure that salik or the road toll tag, mileage allowance and insurance costs are bundled into the package agreed. Fuel is subsidised and cheaper than most places on earth.
  2. Get into a taxi: remember that all taxis are metered and whenever a taxi is hired from the airport, there is an automatic AED 20 surcharge. 
  3. Take the Road Transport Authority (RTA) bus or metro train: ensure you pick up your Nol card / ticket from a vending machine or an operator if available.
  4. Shuttle pick-up: If staying at a hotel, may be available. Not necessarily free, it is important you communicate with the hotel prior to arriving and secure confirmations on this mode of local transport.
  5. Ask a friend or relative living locally, to pick you up.  

With so many options, planning becomes a bit important. The golden rule that I have clearly understood after a month in Dubai is that if you intend to rely on public transport like buses and trains, then be prepared for "triple the time" at "one-third the cost". Whereas with taxis, it is a case of "triple the cost" at "one-third the time".

The RTA website is indeed, very useful. I would suggest that you download the RTA network map so that you can enlarge and view it prior to making a journey. Despite being a PDF, it is rather a heavy file, so viewing it on your smartphone is troublesome given the time it takes to render. Much easier on your computer, really. Alternatively, the RTA’s Wojhati site has a very useful journey planner.

What to Experience

A blend of both old and new places exists in this city. Some suggestions:

Inside the Dubai Museum
The Dubai Museum, gives you a bit of historical perspective on what Dubai was.

Gold Souq, Dubai
Walk through the alleyways of the Gold Souq, reminiscent of the ancient way of trading yet upgraded enough not to affect the sensitive sensibilities of the discerning gold lover. 

With multiple options, it is usually a good deal to buy gold and diamond jewellery here. At least, that is what the ladies claim. I usually just smile, at the glitter. Not just in the window showcase, but also in the eyes of the beguiled.

Spices, spices and more spices
Take your olfactory senses on a ride in the Spice Souq. A short walk away from the Gold Souq, it is quite a seamless affair and you know you have reached the Spice Souq, when you begin to see with your nose first and then, your eyes. Or just follow the fascinated Western, Russian or Chinese tourists with their huge cameras.

Abra waiting to ferry passengers
Take a ride in an Abra - an old country boat, fitted with a modern engine. For a nominal AED 1 fee per person. you can sit on the wooden frame, get a five minute ride from one side of the creek to the other.

Burj Khalifa
Visit the Burj Khalifa, now even more recognisable after millions have seen Tom Cruise swing across it in his latest Mission Impossible film. Even if you have those fancy suction gloves, chances are you will not be allowed to do the swing, but you can reach the observation deck for a fee of AED 100 if booked in advance or AED 400 for an immediate entry. Fees are per person. The website has more details. Once you are done with the heightened experience (pun intended), do take the time to stroll through the adjoined Dubai Mall, which is also an experience by itself - especially the dancing musical fountains, lovely.

The distinctive billowing sail shaped Burj Al Arab
Go to the Jumeirah Park (AED 5 entrance fee per person), walk on the sandy beaches and visit the Burj Al Arab, one of the world's most photographed and luxurious hotels. Then, put on your swim suits and head to the Wild Wadi water park, nearby.

Dubai Dolphinarium, show in progress
The Creek park is a huge setup and has acres of grassy walkthroughs in addition to the “Dolphinarium”, where you could catch a show involving Dolphins, Sea Otters and an illusionist - Max Stevenson. If you are travelling with kids, they will love it. As an adult, my heart reaches out to the animals for they belong in their natural environment, not here performing tricks. AED 5 for the park entrance fee, AED 120 for VIP seats in the Dolphinarium.

Mall of Emirates

Ibn Battuta Mall, with multiple cultural themes
Walk through acres of air-conditioned shop-till-you-drop brand havens like Mall of Emirates (check out Ski Dubai), Deira and Mirdiff City Centres, Ibn Battuta Mall, Burjuman Centre and Lamcy Plaza.

Atlantis hotel, The Palm, Dubai
Also take the opportunity to visit the man-made Palm islands and the Atlantis hotel.

Exchange Rate

The US Dollar and AED also known as Dirhams are pegged at a fixed rate. 1 USD = 3.67 AED or alternatively 1 AED = 0.27 USD

Eat, eat and then eat some more

You can literally never go hungry in this place, unless you deliberately want to starve. With a culture of eating out, Dubai's culinary gob-smacking options are galore, ranging from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, American, British, Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Turkish, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Indonesian and African, to many more. I will probably have to do another post on this subject, as there is way too much to do justice in a small paragraph.

Music, Dance, Party

If nightlife is on your agenda, there are plenty of options available here in this desert oasis. For a good guide on this, go here.

When, oh when

Best time to visit is between November to February, where the ‘winter’ season reigns supreme. You could visit at other times, but the outdoors during most part of the day would be searing hot. During the winter time, climate is dry, windy and can really go quite low in open desert areas. You will need warm clothing, but not as if you are visiting Antartica.

Be smart about a few things
  1. While alcohol is available at pubs, bars and hotels, drinking and driving is heavily punished.
  2. Though Dubai is relaxed in terms of attire, wearing short dresses and swim suits outside the beach area is not a good idea. While you do not have be dressed like an Egyptian mummy, remember this is an Islamic country, so I think it is good to respect the local people and culture by wearing modest clothing that covers most of your body.
  3. Having comprehensive travel insurance for the duration of your visit here is a good idea. Make sure, you check with your insurer that comprehensive insurance actually includes baggage loss not just in flight, but anywhere. Similarly check that all emergencies are covered. Reading the fine print is worth it.
  4. Though crime rate is quite low, and there is really no need to be paranoid, keeping a separate copy of your passport, visa, credit/debit cards as well as, being mindful about your belongings would be a good approach.
  5. Depending on your country of origin, the exchange rate may be in your favour or not. If yes, better to use plastic. If not, better to use cash. Money changers are liberally found on the streets and in malls.
  6. On arrival, securing a local Du or Etisalat SIM card on arrival is a good idea, as your communication needs would be met, cheaper and easier.
  7. Finally, wear a smile. It is usually contagious and reflected back.
I feel that Dubai is a city of options. Whatever be your status, there is something here for you.

This post is not an endorsement of any product/service/brand and is written based on my experience here. Your experience could be different, so do exercise your own judgement. Here's wishing you a very happy 2012 ahead.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Dubai Job Hunt

It has been a month, since I landed in Dubai. A month, that has passed faster than I could ever have thought. Compared to the slow pace of life in Kerala, this place is on the highway running at 100 kilometres per hour, though I think that Hong Kong, runs even faster!

It is a rather well known fact among those who care to know, that if you arrive in Dubai on a visit, which is longer than 15 days, chances are you are here to look for a job and not just enjoy the Dubai Shopping Festival or 'larger than life' edifices and experiences.


With Indians flooding the Gulf countries over the last 4 decades, clearly the Middle East has been a destination of choice that has bettered lives of millions in both locations - destination and origin. I too have been part of this trend in the past and even now, am in the process of possibly re-engaging with the scenario. Of course, it is a different matter that today an Indian expatriate is getting to be more expensive than an African or other Asian expatriate options for employers. However, some leeway still exists.

Of course, human sentiments can get affected by any reason, not even necessarily logical. So the events rolling out in Europe does have an effect in that the 'R' word - recession - comes into play for many a head that talks. Though, in my opinion life goes on. Sure, there is a credit squeeze by big banks, affecting the available cash or 'liquidity' in the market, but it does not mean that life has stopped. A lot of the hype has to do with media visibility/reporting as well. Therefore, whatever be the scenario drummed up, if you are the right person, at the right time and place, there is likely to be a opportunity available to you.

So, in the last four weeks, I have spent some time in various meetings with the recruiting industry apart from the direct employer interviews. Interestingly, none of my meetings have happened due to my response to an advertisement. All meetings have been engineered through a network of contacts built over the years. So, I thought it may be of interest to you on how this process has been working so far.

For any wannabe employee, apart from the usual rigours of approaching and finding the right employer via multiple applications and interviews, somewhere off centre sits the 'recruitment consultants'. Ranging from the ultra professional to the 'mom-n-pop' variety, interacting with them is an experience by itself.


I am not an out and out Human Resources professional, but with a MBA degree which involved understanding certain aspects of HR, I would like to think that I am not completely oblivious to the various facets of interacting and engaging with both employees and job seekers. Human Resource Management is a thankless task - I am the first to say this. However, the reason why many an HR professional is maligned is simply because they forget the basics of what their function is, really.

Quite often, a meaningful conversation is enough. Even better if followed through, by convincing action. Yet, when bland faces, uninterested wavering eyes and a yawning mouth is what is displayed to an employee or a job hunter, then definitely emphasised is how sheer a waste of time it is, for people at both ends! And in the final run up, simply not worth it. Sure, I understand that as a consultant or an HR professional, everyday so many seekers attempt to get to you. But that is absolutely not an acceptable reason to get so jaded. Not if you really are passionate about what you do. Wake up; listen; empathise; and get your act together; is what comes to my mind, when I think about or experience such a situation. And I would like to state that there are those who are much better than this. I have met some. So, no it is not a complete write off. Just keep in mind that that just as your priority is to secure an interview opportunity, theirs is too. Somewhere the proverbial twain does meet.

What next?

Coming back to my experience, it has been one interesting ride so far. On the horizon are a few offers based out of Dubai or Muscat. And maybe even Hong Kong. Again, only time will tell how life turns out. What it does indicate is that irrespective of so called recessionary trends or not, if you have the right attitude, quality of experience and depth of knowledge - out there exists an organisation which will find you worth investing in. So, never give up hope. Ever.

The next post of mine will be focussed on Dubai as a visitor and the experiences I have had so far.


PS: This blog got showcased on Indian Top Blogs on Christmas day - what a gift! I am thankful to the ITB team. And equally happy when considering the fact that so far, out of 115 blogs nominated, only 19 blogs have been showcased. Not only does it indicate the quality of reviews that the ITB team undertakes but also is a resounding pat on the back from peers, for an amateur expressionist like me.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Dubai, Do Buy

After having spent a rather longish period relaxing in India as well as travelling around a bit - both in and out of India, finally I have now landed in Dubai.

The aspiring capital of the Middle East, this city is indeed something. While still shiny new in so many ways, it is equally a fast moving multi-cultural city finding its own sense of modernity, while retaining its historical identity. The philosophy of 'big is better' is clearly applied in Dubai is an inescapable fact. The acres of air conditioned shopping malls. The sheer number and scale of stage managed festivals like the intense Dubai Shopping Festival. All so alluring to customers flocking from around the world. Or for that matter, the striking Burj Khalifa - the world's tallest building, says it all about Dubai's ambitions.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Why did I come to Dubai? After 13 years of work, from April this year, I took a real break. Some months down the line, having done what I wanted to, it was time to get back to working full time again. So, after having indulged in a bit of deliberation regarding, where to re-start my career, my conclusion was that I am indeed, quite comfortable working anywhere. Having worked in the Gulf region earlier, it is rather, familiar territory. People - local and expatriate, consumers and marketers, basic infrastructural systems, or for that matter financial remuneration and connectivity with the rest of the world, is all as good as it gets.

I must also admit, that my choice was influenced by my trip to Hong Kong this year, which showcased to me in all its glory what city life can be - throbbing, modern and enthralling. Though there was a discussion with a firm about a Hong Kong based posting, which would have been fantastic, it was taking a bit too long and uncertain. When I thought of market familiarity, Dubai was the closest point of reference, and hence the choice to come here, for as long as possible - on a visit visa, and start the job hunt.

Though, I do not intend this post and future ones to be a chronicle of events that happen to me here, I suspect it may be the case should life evolve in such a fashion. Only time, will tell. Arriving in Dubai a week ago, after having spent months in Kerala, was not as much a culture shock as much as a sense of relief in some ways. Weird? No, not really. While I enjoyed the laid back, green canopied and wonderful artistry of nature on display, topped by the love and concern that only parents know how to give, Kerala is not the best place for me to work in. My core competencies, especially given my particular skill sets, education and prior work experience, are more valued in other places.

Not to forget certain desires that were causing ravenous feelings! This week has all been about satisfying one of my key desires related to food. Be it McDonald's spicy McChicken (though I had sworn to myself, not to have one again), or the more moving hamburger at Burger King, or equally satiating Arabic food like the ever-so-tasty hummus, moutabel, khubz, tabouleh, shawarma or for that matter even Asian food like kebabs and roti or a vegetarian Gujarati thali and pav bhaji - culinary delights at its best. And there are still so many more tasty treats to be had.

Another key desire was to catch up with friends, who I had known were living in Dubai but just never had the time nor opportunity to catch up. To me, meeting up an old school mate after 20 years was moving, to say the least. I am so looking forward to meeting all those friends, whom I have not seen in ages! I actually, do not have enough words to provide justice to my feelings of gratitude for the way in which old friends and close relatives have been kind enough to welcome me with open arms as well as caring and sharing whatever they can, be it time, love and affection or useful advice on how to go about job hunting. They do not have to do any of this, but they do. Evidence, that humanity still thrives.

The UAE just celebrated 40 years of unification and positive change. What a journey. I am so happy that I have been here during this celebratory period. I am certainly not the only one to marvel at the extraordinary pace of change here. This is not my first ever visit to Dubai. Over the years I have witnessed first hand, how fast and furiously, development geared towards improving the quality of life for both citizens and residents, takes place. From the lovely metro, bus and taxi system run so very efficiently by the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) to the sheer humongous scale of reach that Emirates Airlines (EK) provides, there is no dearth of visual information and visceral feelings evoked.

Finally, the idea that is Dubai, in my opinion is directly and proportionally connected to the catch phrase - 'Do Buy'. For this is a place full of consummate marketers and sales people. And at every step, stage and leap, exists the audible reason behind the growth of this place. Of course, people who have been staying here for some time will tell you that, today's Dubai is not the same as pre-2008. Sure, it is not. It is evolving. It is genuflecting. It is reviving.

The issue with 'Do Buy' is that it gets hampered by the crutches of sentiments that ever so often can be linked to mob behaviour. Ever seen a shoal of fish? There are these random movement patterns which emerge without any particular meaning and who leads whom is a complete mystery. But it does occur. From a trading outpost to the modern nerve centre of the Middle East and North African market, Dubai certainly cannot be de-linked from the 'Do Buy' catch phrase. But I sincerely believe that Dubai cannot be written off either. Liquidity crunches, rising interest rates, global conflict spots - there are many reasons being bandied about with speculators making the most of it. However, I see the spirit of this city and its people. I see the professionalism and can-do attitude. I see the government's willingness to create genuine playing fields. Things happen here. All the time. And it looks like 2012 is going to be a good year.

Ahlan wa sahlan as the Arabic saying goes - the doors are open to become part of the family. I hope so. Wish me luck and success.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Life Happens, Accept or Not

Book Review:

Sachin Garg, I’m not twenty four… I’ve been nineteen for five years…
Grapevine India Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 2010
ISBN: 978-81-922226-2-2

The author has produced work which, is well constructed, tight enough paced and takes the reader on a journey through a slice of life and soul, of a freshly minted graduate.

Given the limited number of successful, modern Indian fiction writers, the author puts in an admirable effort in trying to be one. A woman reader may not find the main woman character and her attempts at dealing with the range of emotions, especially sexual, quite satisfactory or acceptable. Not surprising, given the author has tried to write the story from a woman’s perspective. Whilst not intellectual nor an eye-opener in the typical sense, this work is good enough for a light read.

The author at the onset clarifies, this is a story which takes you into a world, rather difficult to believe yet does actually exist. Agreed, it is believable fiction. Not exactly falling in the ‘chick lit’ category, even though the story is revealed through the main character of a girl, there are so many instances that a reader can relate to, irrespective of gender. It is a life that many an Indian middle class person may have faced; is facing; or is about to face.

English is not our first language. While the publishers/editors should have ensured that obvious spelling errors did not creep in, overall, the language used in this book is simple, straightforward and believable – similar to what is colloquially used in daily lives across India, easy enough for a beginner to read and understand. And enjoy.

At the heart of this story is a character, which the author tries to flesh out well. He attempts to give, more than a peek into the heart and mind of a city girl, Saumya, and her flaws inasmuch as strengths as well as her journey from being a modern Barbie focussed on shoes, malls and her figure, to a matured individual who understands herself better. The character of Shubhro, is a tad farfetched in being a modern day Indian hippie on the path to save the world, three months at a time. However, using a blog as the medium to reveal his story connects with today’s social media consumers.

While the title does not exactly justify the story, there are many salient points that a reader will connect with, in the story line containing a roller coaster ride of emotions that feels, plausible.
  • From the time in college that is carefree and not loaded with responsibilities, to going through the grind and relief of securing that first job
  • From having lived in a modern city, to being relocated to a place like Toranagallu, plumb in the middle of Indian hinterland
  • From being in the comfort zone of known social life, to the alien and sometimes, scarring world of industrial work-life
  • From shying away in the face of unexpected events to actually making decisions in life by choice, not chance

Life is a challenge. Never, black or white, it takes you through the whole spectrum of colours and then some. Everyone deals with their version differently, at least from their point of view. Yet from life, you can never take out the basic essences of emotions. Be it small jealousies, pleasant surprises, mind numbing despair, joyous satisfaction or shattering regret. And enthralling love. This is what the story is all about.

Overall rating: 6/10. 

Recommendation: If you are not out saving the world, you could pick up the book online or from your nearest store, and enjoy the light reading.


This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Social media: can you afford to ignore it?

2012 is almost here. In 2011, social media has taken on ever so many new twists and turns. Not that this is a new factor, given the furious pace at which technology is racing to enable us to communicate with each other through multiple forums.

Let's take a quick look on some social media statistics:
Source: Experian Hitwise study, 2011. Graph design: Anish Kumarswamy
While Brazil and Singapore take the top spots, India does not lag too far behind either with nearly 14% market share for social networks. At fifth place worldwide, it is a significant presence. Another interesting titbit: in India, Facebook has grown by 88% since last year.

Combine this information with the fact that as of 2009, more than 5% of India's population were already on the internet (Source: Google public data explorer). We could be inclined to think, that 5% is nothing compared to the over 80% of people in the United Kingdom who are on the internet. However, in absolute terms the measly 5% translates into a whopping 60 million Indians compared to the 51 million British! Not a small number by any means, is it?

Take this a bit further. There are many of us, who use the internet increasingly through our mobile/smart phones. As of 2009, public data indicated that over 45% of Indians used mobile phone services. This logically means, that a massive mobile internet usage explosion is happening. Right now!

So not only are ever more people getting on to the internet space, many are adopting social media as a way of communicating by staying in touch with or keeping themselves updated about not just their social relations, but also the brands and experiences they have had or would like to have. While using multiple means to be on-line. 

To me, this signifies fantastic potential to use the 4 Cs of Marketing, which I referred to here. You may be thinking, yes this is why brands already have in place, a page on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and a website, email list, etc. Yet, the means or the channel is definitively not the end. By this I mean that having numbers of fans, followers or likes, is not enough.

It is about individual interaction that leads to meaningful conversations and equally importantly conversions. Do a basic search, and you can see how many lost opportunities and failed brands litter the information highway. Take a lateral step to the side, and you can see there are so many retailers and brands out there who have yet to take baby steps on this highway.

I do not believe that conventional marketing forms are done with. Far from it. There still a significant population who fall outside the ambit of social media and to reach them, the old mechanisms hold good.

However, it is an increasingly relevant question, can you afford to ignore social media?

It is a question, that deserves respect. It is a question that calls for introspection. It is a question that demands answers. It is not something that I believe traditional mindsets are geared to handle. Creative agencies, for example, are structured to provide differentiated and stand out communication that essentially improves the noticeability factor for brands, with the hope of enticing viewers/listeners to procure the associated product and derive the benefits.

Yet as many marketers today exclaim with frustration, their digital ambitions (if any) are not being satisfied, despite efforts. This is why a different mindset is required, be it at the agency side or the client side. In traditional marketing, one of the most powerful tools is Word of Mouth.

Isn't is far more convincing to you, when a friend or a person you are inclined to believe, talks to you about a tried and tested product and recommends it? However, for a marketer, it is also one of the most difficult tools to work with, as there exists hardly any control over it. General statistics show that a dissatisfied customer will talk about a negative experience to 20 other people, whereas a satisfied customer may talk about it to 5 people.

Take this example in the social media context and you can apply a multiplication factor that is far higher. One bad experience, mouthed once, through a social communication channel reaches x 100 times more people and far faster. As does a positive experience revelation. Plus, it simply never goes away. It sits there waiting to be viewed or heard, by anyone at any point of time in the future. However, being an interactive medium, it gives the brands and their marketers a clear opportunity to immediately respond to the professed experience. This gives a far better chance to change or reinforce the feeling, depending on how the situation is handled.

I think that social media offers us unprecedented tools and opportunities as much as challenges, which we cannot afford to ignore. A key difference though, is that unlike learning once to use a physical mechanism, for example a cycle, in the social context it requires continuous learning, application, re-learning, re-application and then all over again.

What's your biggest challenge with social media?

Saturday, 12 November 2011


Recently, our species have reached 7 billion and the count is still on. Have you visited

We are the world

It is equally scary and delightful, just watching the numbers change. Be it human population, number of cars and computers produced this year or the huge sums spent on healthcare, education and military.

Let us stop for a moment and review what is happening around planet Earth - the only home, we know a bit of.
  • American and European nations are being convulsed with people protesting about declining job availability, corporate greed and bad economic policies 
  • Arab nations are being convulsed with people protesting and fighting for democracy 
  • African nations are seeing humanitarian crises with people decimated in the race to plunder, loot and exploit existing natural resources
  • While some Asian nations like China and India seem to be forging a state of continued growth yet battle at reaching the benefits to the masses
Interestingly, vast ever growing populations housed in the countries like India consume far less energy compared to a minuscule percentage of people in developed countries who consume majority of the current resources. This will not remain the case, forever. The hunger for energy is directly and proportionately linked to quality of life.

Recently, I was reading about a great race in the Gobi desert, Mongolia. Stated as the final frontier. Where huge corporations are racing to retrieve tons of mineral ores and other riches from the earth. Shaking up the ecosystem, as it were. All of this, simply because of the insatiable demand that people like us make. Everyday. Every minute.

A simple example. With Diwali having just gone, Christmas and New Year in the offing, people like us are turning to e-cards, as a way of conveying our wishes in an ecologically friendlier manner to our family and friends located elsewhere. We think that by sending an e-card, we are saving the earth by not requiring more trees to be cut down for making paper, by not require petroleum products like paints and plastics, etc. However, every e-card requires energy to be stored and sent as data across servers worldwide. All of the servers require electricity and air conditioning further adds on to the energy demand. This is met through coal fired, thermal or nuclear based electricity generation plants. Where's the ecology friendliness in this?

Last week, as I was waiting for my turn to provide my fingerprint and iris scan details to the Indian government - Aadhaar scheme, I was observing the number of school children milling around the bus stop nearby. There are at least 3 largish secondary schools near this rural Indian location. If I take this example as a microcosm of what is happening in the India, China and the other parts of the world, I begin to get a bit scared as much as smile.

The smile, because there is a young future working population who will be around in the next decade and that bodes well for our economies which are dependent on these replacement populations, contributing to the economic prosperity. At the same time, scared/feeling challenged, because there are so many hands coming into the market and we need to ensure they have jobs to do, salaries to earn and an environment to prosper in.

Meantime, political parties are engaged in making the most of any possible situation, be it the 'occupy wall street' protests, the 'fuel' price hike dilemma, the 'nuclear' concern, the Eurozone crisis and more... all about today. Financial behemoths are no better. Moody's decides to downgrade the Indian banking system while Standard & Poor decide to upgrade it. Result: tirades of negative and positive responses across the system. Again, it is all about today.

When will we stop bickering about the present and start focussing on the future? I am not condoning the past, nor stating that we let go of a present negative situation, but unless we start thinking about tomorrow and work towards where we want to get, we are forever doomed to remain mired in the past and the present. Isn't it?

The Chances We Take. Or Not.

Book under review: Ahmed Faiyaz,  Another Chance Grey Oak Publishers, 2010 ISBN: 978-93-81626-02-3 Rs. 195 We all know...