Sunday, October 28, 2007

Random thoughts on social networking

Nowadays it is not enough if you know people and know to use the internet, it is also important that you are part of a social networking site. Even if you are stuck with primates in Gabon, a social networking site is touted to be more handy than a mosquito repellent. Thankfully the apes haven’t started sending invites as yet.

I frankly find the term social networking working on a very thin sliver of my friend list. Basically if you are serious about networking from a career enhancing perspective, then you would like to do on a largely private basis and not on a social basis. And if you are socializing, then you would rather try to bind with a different set of people on a face to face basis in a pub or café.

Somehow most social networking sites forget a basic operational detail. If I really need something from Mr.X or Ms.Y, I am most likely to have an email address from a business card exchange in a meeting or better still a phone number. Now would I write a mail, or write some graffiti on his digital wall on Facebook? Beats me!

Random colleagues who never talk to me in office show supreme valour in sending Superpokes and other applications that would waste atleast half an hour of my precious online time. Hello how about picking up the office phone and saying lets meet at the coffee machine?

Similarly the whole social network phenomenon makes every man on the road feel that his daily schedule is being tracked like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. So you will find the Rapchik Rakesh leaving messages like ‘Today in Kandivali’ and ‘‘Now in the loo’ and so on.

‘Which snap should I put on my social networking site’ has become such a burning issue that counseling services have emerged that can predict the growth of your network to the kind of album you share. Apparently ‘Que Sera Sera’ does not hold in the digital world.

Now social networking also leads to the over analysis of common interests. Gals and guys seeking dates are now able to detail screening level compatibility issues like ‘hey our movie interest match 87.29% and our music tastes match 78.92%...whoppeee!

The other fear is the digital patrol which now friends and colleagues have at their disposal. Don’t be surprised if you are confronted with messages ‘hey whats cooking between you and Ms. Great giggle’. Every move you make, comment you make, the digital patrol will be watching you.

Strangely even the so-called investment in Facebook by Microsoft can be described as a Superpoke and nothing else! 1.6% for $240 mn, phew, what were they thinking lets throw some pocket change at this stuff and see it if it sticks huh!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Its happening in India

Finished reading “It happened in India’ by Kishore Biyani. Although the book does not offer any paradigms I completely enjoyed it for the following reasons

a) It is written in a very honest and simple manner with Biyani’s unmistakable down to earth stamp all over it
b) It gives a very Indian perspective to the decisions and actions by an entrepreneur who has defied significant odds to be a category leader
c) It talks of a period of Indian business history that you can closely identify both as an observer and consumer

Of course I might be biased since I am a big fan of his Food Bazaar Stores. The social transformation that food retailing had on the Indian middle class family is so wonderful that doing a business analysis of it is like missing the wood for the trees. In a sort of family picnic on weekends, Indian households go berserk on the multiple options, discount offers and invigorating ambience that Biyani had laid out. Even a casual reading of the book would show that Biyani had his heart at the right place, but executed with good business brains to allow Indian household let loose their purse strings (and hence capture large share of the consumer wallet in business terms)

The other reason I liked the book was that it verbalizes some thoughts I have always felt about Indian marketers. Thank God that Biyani said it, rather than a MBA with five years of experience.

The best quote from the book I completely identified was: “Most marketing and advertising professionals are educated in convent schools in large metros, listen to western music, watch foreign movies and speak and think in English.”

And at a broader level, I think the same fraternity frowns upon Indian insights and makes some really big blunders.

Why did it take 7 years for Indian marketers to come up with the 200 ml cola bottle for Rs. 5? Any casual observation would have shown that most Indians did not consume an entire 300 ml bottle and shared that bottle thus reducing both average price realized and per capita consumption. Instead they kept hanging out with one superstar after another in the fervent hope of boosting consumption.

Similarly most of these marketing professionals would frown on everything that masses lap up like Govinda, Himessh Reshamiyya, saas bahu serials. There are radio stations who snootily started with playing only Angrezi music and had to quickly change their strategy to playing jhankar beats. Channels like Star World need the Koffee with Karan and dubbed versions of English movies. My question is simple , where the earlier mistakes necessary in the first place? Weren’t the answers blindingly obvious to someone who has spent sometime on the street?

Then there are some marketers who think the slip between where they see Indian should be(as some % of a global trend) and where Indians are actually are ( the on-ground feel) is just the lack of a marketing budget. So Blow money to bow many was the mantra. But why eat soggy Kelloggs when there is kanda poha, why make kadak chapattis with Pillsbury when there is chakki fresh atta , blah blah.

Ok before readers comment that this is a regressive rant, the common caveats apply. The Indian consumer is changing. The youth are surprising us sometimes. People are paying Rs.50 for coffee and spending over Rs.1000 a month on personal care products. And I am sure many marketers are thinking, segmenting, fermenting and implementing new ideas. But now we have many Indias to cater to instead of the one India that loved Amitabh Bacchan bash up 20 goondas.

The question that could have given an answer would have been how many youngsters in India have grown their hair due to Mahendra Singh Dhoni and how many have done it due to John Abraham. Well if you know the answer, you know where your market is. But John has cut his locks, so the answer just got tougher. Amen.