Context the true influencer

Daily we come across expansive communication campaigns that try to influence our decisions. Most often these large campaigns fail to make the desired impact. People take a lot of things for granted and hoardings on the street and commercials on TV are some of the most ignored media.

Here however is an extremely good example of a subtle nudge given to an audience who are completely unaware of what they are about to see.


Online retail vs Offline retail – Let the Games begin!

A look into Flipkart’s Big Billion day and the aftermath of reaction to follow.

In light of the recent Big Billion day sale held by Flipkart (one of Indias largest online retailers), there are so many little lessons to learn from India’s thriving retail space. Here are a few of my thoughts on all the players illustrated through a metaphor of sports.

Forwards / Strikers: E-Commerce (Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal)

The good:

While on the offensive these 3 have almost certainly helped most Indians stock up early on the Diwali gifts for friends and family. With unprecedented discounts, unlimited buzz and having already acquired the trust and loyalty of customers the big3 of the ecommerce space made a mark. Flipkart is said to have clocked $100 million worth of single day sales (not small money in a third world country)!



The bad:

A friend managing a digital sales channel of a computer retailer recently told me that if he had put out an ad similar to the BBD sale for his company, they would have had him fired (knowing the amount of traffic it will generate and the capability of their servers). Obviously Flipkart didn’t feel the same despite the warning signs earlier this year with the increasing demand for a single product “Xiaomi Mi3” phone which led to downtime on their servers. Imagine the same strategy followed for their entire catalog.. and what you get is a lot of “sorry internal server error” messages and a bunch of impatient and frustrated customers!


The ugly:

As someone who has spent a number of years in retail I’m aware of the tricks employed to persuade customers. Pricing strategy is always hiked just before a sale and then cancelled to show a larger discount and make the customer feel better about saving his money. That strategy CANNOT work in the online place where customers are too educated and spend enough time watching the product that even a slight fluctuation in the price will not go unnoticed. Flipkart goofed up big time on this front and possibly caused the biggest dent to their reputation. Losing the trust of many consumers even if it is just temporary will hurt Flipkart as “Trust” is the foundation stone of e-commerce.

The apology letter from the Bansals shows that they realized this mistake and is a great step in the right direction (something I don’t see any Brick and mortar owner ever doing).

Defenders: Brick & Mortar (Retailers & vendors)

Online sales are 1-2% of the estimated $500 billion retail business in the country, but growing rapidly. While the top consumer goods companies such as Samsung, LG and Sony get nearly 95% of their sales from the traditional brick-and-mortar stores, the demand in the online world is growing at breakneck speed.

The following are quotes from some of the very frustrated retailers & vendors in the aftermath of BBD:

Sony, Samsung & LG suspended sales at Flipkart and are considering legal action for what they termed as predatory pricing”

“How can someone sell products below its manufacturing price? This is legally not allowed in the country. Someone can do such undercutting only to destroy competition. Just because they have foreign funding, they can’t kill local trade like that,” said a furious Kishore Biyani, founder of Future Group to Economic Times.

Obviously affected like everyone else in the retail space, some of these players might have a point. However to customers it is just a case of sour grapes and what benefits one need not benefit all.

Let’s take the cell phone market for example, companies like Motorola, Asus & Xiaomi have benefited a great deal from their partnership with Flipkart which has resulted in a rising market share for all 3 brands in a very crowded and competitive mobile marketplace. Samsung once dominant in this filed should instead be looking at how they can re-engineer their products so that they offer the value they once did to the customers.

In similar fashion Future Group once known as the pioneer of Big day sales in retail (which used to cannibalize market share from smaller Kirana shops) should re-look at how they can strategize and adapt for the future. After all they opened years before Flipkart but couldn’t capitalize on the early start simply because they believed one formula was more superior to the other.

During my time at Future Group I remember one of Kishore Biyani’s favourite quotes “There is only one person who can fire everyone from the CEO downwards. The Customer!” –Wise words indeed!

The customer is truly king!! And in an economy driven by value Indian customers know how to spot it and don’t care about anything else in between.

**The opinions described here are my own and do not in anyway reflect those of my employers past, present or future. They are only to serve as an online thought provoking catalog of ideas & inspiration.


Digitization & changing habits of old routines.

Newspaper pic

Have you ever woken up in the morning and felt disoriented if you couldn’t find the newspaper? Or if you just find a part of it and had to hunt all over the house to see who had the other half? Chances are many of us have experienced such situations and have our own quirks and associations with the newspaper. We start our day by reading the news, sipping on a cup of tea. It is one of the oldest and most common routines that transcend households around the globe.

Our childhood initiated us into this routine through the comic strip section and as we grew older we moved towards the other more ‘grown up’ sections. Before we knew it, the newspaper became an integral part of our morning daily routine – one for which we would go to any length – like reading the back of someone else’s newspaper on an early morning flight. As journalist Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habit) said: “Routines are made up of a three-part “habit loop”: a cue, a behavior and a reward. Understanding and interrupting that loop is key to breaking a habit.”

But habits do change and give way to new behaviour which then become new habits. Technology has always been a key factor in creating new behaviour. In our times, technology is changing the idea of time itself. Time is no longer a place to be or a schedule for acts and activities. Technology has empowered our idea of time and allows us to control time at our convenience. With smart phones and social media we live in a more connected world and we consume time at our own whims.

In the case of the newspaper, technology has not only changed the habit of reading but has changed the way in which we express and the forms in which we consume news. In fact, in this digital age, technology has made all of us both consumers and producers of news. We all tweet, update status, keep ‘our’ world informed of our life and comment on the worlds happenings.

For many Indians connected 24/7 with the digitized world, a newspaper is an also-read device that fills us up with latest advertising and obituaries. The newspaper in India is still miles away from being redundant in India, for in India newspapers serve so many different purposes. Old newspapers fetch us some bucks from scrap dealers, they serve as a protective layer in our cupboards, and sometimes we wrap food in it and maximize its worth. However some Urban Indian homes will surely do without it and find newspapers online and on apps. They will read curated content and will build and live in a bubble of their own at their own time too.

What remains interesting to watch is how this new behaviour will encourage many people to join in? How this will give rise to newer habits? What will replace the morning newspaper reading time? Will twitter become the new public space and adda where Indians opine and profess? Or will an entirely new social or virtual platform evolve? Will families still congregate and share what news they picked or will it be re-tweeted or shared? How will marketers address this new behaviour?

In a nation of paradoxes wherein the world’s largest selling English broadsheet is published in India and yet the same newspaper doesn’t figure among the top selling newspapers in the country, every new trend, behaviour, outlook will find some niche, traction and followers. In a nation of 1.3 billion people even a small percentage makes for a substantial number to explore possibilities and opportunities. Newspapers are not going to die any time soon in this country, but every new trend, behavior or outlook is worth following and exploring till you find that unique thread that becomes a billion dollar idea.

Mind Mapping

Darmedra RAi

Recently I had the privilege of attending a session conducted by Mr Dharmendra Rai a certified Mind Mapping trainer. He learnt his craft from Tony Buzan the creator of Mind Mapping.

Mind Mapping as a tool to sort out ones thoughts is not something  new to me, ever since I enrolled into a D-School that has been part of my life.  However I loved the way in which it was taught at this workshop, which wasn’t something I had experienced elsewhere.

The greatest learning happens when we are fully engaged with the instructor and participate in the workshop, I believe this was accomplished and many of my friends who arnt designers were left feeling curious and wanting to know more. It explained the science before getting down to the application, while in most cases we are taught the application without any knowledge of the science behind it.

Creative problem solving anyone??

A nice little creative gem about loyalty, reality and thinking out of the box. Seth Godin try’s to explain what holds us back, how remaining in our “status quo” bubble can lead us down a very slippery slope.

paracosm is an ornate, richly detailed imaginary world. Whether you’re a three-year old with imaginary playmates, or a passionate inventor imagining how your insight will change just about everything, a paracosm gives you the opportunity to hypothesize, to try out big ideas and see where they take you.

Managers at established organizations have a very hard time with this. Take book publishing as an example. Ten or fifteen years ago, I’d sit with publishing chiefs and say, “let’s imagine how the world looks when there are no mass market books published on paper…” Before we could get any further, they’d stop the exercise. “It’s impossible to imagine that. Paper is magical. Are you saying you don’t believe in books?” (I heard variations on this from people as recently as a year ago.)

The emotional response is easy to understand. If one of the core principles of your business needs to be abandoned in order to act out the paracosm, it feels disloyal to even utter it. Sort of like asking your spouse if he’s going to remarry after you die…

And yet.

The most effective, powerful way to envision the future is to envision it, all of it, including a future that doesn’t include your sacred cows. Only then can you try it on for size, imagine what the forces at work might be and then work to either prevent (or even better, improve on) that future and your role in it.

It’s not disloyal to imagine a future that doesn’t include your founding precepts. It’s disloyal not to.-Seth Godin”


Multi-Sensory Design in charitable organizations

Get ready to feel design and empathize with those who cannot. While this might be a unique way of getting people to donate to charities, the cost constraints and feasibility of executing a project of this scale would need to be kept in mind especially for NGO’s and charitable organizations.

Multi-Sensory Experience project from Central Saint Martins MA Design Studies, which co-operate with charity organization ORBIS.
It was a multi-sensory experience that utilized memory recalls to convey charitable messages. The viewer was invited to cover their eyes before entering the exhibition room filled with bubble wrap on walls. There were flowers hanging on the eye level, soft and hard materials forming the floor proportionally, 2 different smells representing sweet love and death, sound effects to project the mood of marriage and the end of love relationship, and dark chocolate given away in the entrance to trigger imagination.

The sensory journey took approximately 3 minutes; after that, the viewer would be escorted to a single room to listen to the interviews with the blind. Donation boxes and information about ORBIS were located next to the headphones. Once participant donate, they can take off the eye mask and can reward with the sight by having a torch in exhibition area again. They will found a big contract on the site compare with the reality and imagination. The event provided private areas for imagination, self-reflection and perspective taking by allowing the viewer to experience how the blind face their love relationship in darkness. All sensorial elements were related to corporate brands, such as perfume, food and music with endorsements and sponsors.

The projects goal was to help the viewer empathize with the difficulties that the blind endure, in order to create an awareness, increase donor response encourage charitable giving and improvement of charity and corporate perception.

Lessons in service design from the local Bhelwala

A few days back on my way home from work I stopped by the Bhelwala, for my daily dose of “chaat”. While awaiting my turn I noticed a lady barge in and demand her sevpuri to be made immediately. Being caught during the rush hour I was curious to see how the Bhelwala handled the lady. He calmly kept asking how does she like her sevpuri while making it for those who had come before her, he kept her engaged with this small talk probably knowing how impatient she is. “would you like one or two plates? “Medium or spicy”? “Are you going to eat it here or should I pack it”? All this and he hadn’t even started making it for her.  She was calm and even though she got her sevpuri after everyone else she wasn’t peeved about it.

There is a simple lesson here for all people in the service design industry keep the customer engaged let them think that you are catering to them and only them (even if it is just an illusion)