Monday, 26 July 2010

Did you shop from Coca Cola Footware or Mercedes Benz book store?

Apple Inc. A word enough to keep the techno savvy world on its toes. Innovation is what you look for after hearing the brand name. McDonalds’: I M Loving it – first thought in mind, a burger with cheese slice peeping out from the circumference, Coco cola – comfort, lifestyle, enjoyment! Nokia, Google, IBM, Toyota, Disney, Intel, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Cisco, BMW, Honda, Nike, Sony, Citi and I can go on and on! Yes, these are world’s best of the brands and the brand name reminds sweet memories associated with the products. It is about lifestyle. Happiness. Comfort.

Would you like to buy clothes from Tata clothes Limited or Tata Apparel Unlimited? How about Maruti Book store? Microsoft Shoes? Did you try new Bata Laptops? You must have tried Philips Jewellery? Oh, how can you miss Accenture watches? Haven’t tried yet! How about Colgate coconut Oil? Amul Dantmanjal? Very effective manjan and keeps your teeth utter butterly deliciously white! I bet you must have tried Birla Milky Bar? I know you are planning to give your girlfriend an Audi diamond ring! I suggest you rather don’t even think of doing that. Neither would you get the girl nor would you get your diamond ring back. So what exactly do I want to say? Why I am trying to tarnish some of the world’s biggest and bestest brands! The case in point is Reliance Industries (Mukesh Ambani) and its brand extension strategy. Out of place to say the least!

Brand extension is a marketing strategy in which a firm marketing a product with a well-developed image uses the same brand name in a different product category. A company tries to do this to leverage the already created brand image. For example, LG – Television, Refrigerator, Mobile phone. The company has an image of high quality electronic durables. So brand extension helps it in establishing products in different product categories. Another example could be Park Avenue: Shirts, After Shave, Belts, Soaps and Razor. Consumers associate the image of a new product with an existing product under same brand.

Now, Reliance Industries, which requires no introduction, is usually associated with Petroleum, oil and refinery. The solid brand associated with execution, efficiency, propelling high growth for the economy. The brand extension of Reliance to ‘Reliance Fresh’ is in itself diluting the value of Reliance Industries. Reliance Digital – doesn’t connect with electronics. The dot on the letter ‘i’ in Reliance symbolises a drop of oil. How would Reliance digital appeal to techno savvy youth of the nation? It is difficult to associate same brand with as diverse businesses as oil, books, clothes and jewellery. Each product has different emotional appeal which a same brand cannot address. When we say Airtel, the fantastic Airtel music composed by AR Raheman, rings in our ear.

Products name should have emotional connect. Emotions drive us to buy more. No matter how many Levis Jeans somebody has, he would go for one more. A Nike shoe gives satisfaction to my legs. Apple iPhone gives a style statement to the users. Would you ever leave your home to shop from ‘Reliance Footprint’, a footwear concept, ‘Reliance Jewels’, a jewellery concept, ‘Reliance TimeOut’, a books, music & entertainment concept? There are the Cross Words, Westsides, Pantaloons, and Mobile Stores! Why would you want to indulge in shopping that won’t give you ‘that’ satisfaction! And Reliance offerings dosen't end here. ‘Reliance Living’, a homeware, furniture, modular kitchens, furnishings concept, ‘Trends’, an apparel & accessories concept, ‘Reliance Wellness’, a health, wellness & beauty concept, ‘iStore by Reliance Digital’, an exclusive Apple products concept!

I respect Mr Senior Ambani for pure vision, planning and execution. If he wants it, he does it! The big thinking! But sometimes you need to put emotions into product apart from money, reach and power. The brand extension ‘Reliance’ to clothes and book store won’t ever allow them to emotionally connect with people.

fOoD fOr ThOuGhT: The process of creation of a brand image sometimes takes decades. Possession of successful brands give people confidence. They see their projections in the brands they hold or possess. If the brand extensions have no advantage over competitive brands in the new category, then it will fail. Hope somebody from Reliance Industries is reading this!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Run Forrest Run!!!

It all started with a small presentation in my office. The BU (Business Unit) Head’s personal fitness trainer was enlightening us on how much important it is, to keep fit. It was a detailed presentation with Q&A taken by the BU head himself, who himself is a fitness freak and always participates in Mumbai Marathon, atleast.

It was decided to reach the Juhu Beach (Mumbai) at around 5:30 am the next day. I was joined by couple of senior managers to start with. (It became possible to reach there and experience the “phenomenon” because of them.) The number of members increased gradually as we shared our experience in the office and people got excited.

As we started from our respective places to reach the beach, the roads were empty, a rare sight in Mumbai. We could easily speed up. The excitement was gushing through inside me and it kept my thoughts of “wouldn’t it have been still beautiful, if I would have been sleeping in my cosy bed, back home!” But somewhere I knew it was worth giving a shot. As I was with some of the very senior people of my company on my way, initially there was a bit of hesitation and kind of searching for common topics to speak on. “Small talk”, my mind gave me the solution.

First morning as we reached the beach, it was scary dark outside. The car haulted and the engine stopped burning. The radio stopped singing and the headlights rested. The deserted narrow lane looked at me intently. The night was staring back into my eyes, trying to frightened me, after all I was the one who was trying to trespass it without prior intimation. We somehow came to terms and I moved closer to the sand. As we passed through the narrow lane towards the beach, what a sight it was! A through delight! Nature at its best! The sky was majestic bluish dark in colour, kissing the sea at the horizon. It was kind of divine union of love. The waves, small and big moved in some kind of rhythm, probably wanted to say something. Wind travelling all over the sea, when touched my face, I felt a welcome gesture! I was amazed!

I had not seen Juhu beach so beautiful and so empty, any time before. I met other members of the club, the couches and we got started. We did warm up exercises. The couch explained us how to co-ordinate between movements of hands and legs, when in motion, the body posture while jogging. The difference between walking, jogging and running, the breathing techniques. Importance of having a runners shoes, everything, very softly and precisely. And above all, importance of talking to yourself, the one think that keep s you going when in long race, in life and otherwise! The initial targets looked far and doubts surfaced me, but as I got started, nothing was far from reach.

Personally speaking, I always use to wonder why do people run? What is the motivation? What is the satisfaction they derive? I can understand you score runs when you play cricket, win sets in tennis, settle scores in boxing, but what in running? Day one gave me all the answers. When you run, you speak to yourself. You actually start meditating and running becomes mechanical after a point of time. The sense of satisfaction after completing 8Kms or 10Kms is immeasurable with even a century hit in cricket. You achieve your target; you prove mettle of your body! From 100m, it increases to a km to 8 kms to 10 kms to half marathon and full marathon! Till date, my roommates do not believe that I could run 8km (To and fro of Juhu beach from one end to another) or more. Simply because they never realised that it is achievable. And believe me once you get started, you can become a Usian Bolt or even better!

We had different styles of running each time; variation is speed or strides, etc. We use to do power exercises to build stamina, group exercise to build sense of belongingness and motivation, couch-talk for building confidence. The couch is certified and trained and an expert in mentoring.
Apart from providing fun, fitness and being close to the nature, it helped me in understanding myself better. I still remember one statement of our BU head, he made on the day of presentation, “Come and experience. We party every morning for 2 hours and each day is different!” So true!

fOoD fOr ThOuGhT: Try running for a week under guidance, you will never want to quit it. It will make your day, you would feel refreshed whole day, up and raring to go!

PS: The title of the post is ‘Run Forrest Run’ because the single phenomenon of running changed Forrest Gump’s life in the movie “Forrest Gump” also happens to be among my favourites.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The biggest enemy of the 'beautiful game'!

The beautiful game - Football has gripped the world like never before. Millions of enthusiast are glued to the television, sports magazines are selling like hot cake and bloggers are busy updating blogs moment by moment. Not only human beings but also animals are following the beautiful game. Paul - the octopus is garnering more views than even some of the highest paid football strikers. Truly hat off to the sport and its spirit.

In India, the matches are telecast in the evening and at late night. Though the football fever caught me lately, I always try to make home for the evening match, atleast the second half. I am forced to miss all the late night matches as I am suppose to wake up early and reach office early. (That's the reason I missed Brazil in action, this season.) Though I am an Argentina supporter and post its debacle, started supporting Germany for its truly beautiful and skillful game. It was wednesday evening, I reached home in the evening, as usual. We friends sat for dinner together discussing various stuff, from office to current bandh to sports.

After a while, Amol asked me, "Was I going to watch late night match between Argentina and Germany?" Now, Amol is a guy who is mad about sports in general and specifically football. He returns home early, take a nap for 2 hours to catch the late night matches.

I replied blankly, "No, as you know, have to get up early. Even at office some critical issues are going on, can't be late." I wasn't knowing what's gonna come for me from him, at that point.

He aggressively replied, "You are supporing Argentina, why aren't you going to watch it? After all this is the last time you could see a football world cup match live?"
I got puzzled, so thus everyone, I guess.

I asked,"Last time? Why? Why last time live? Why won't I be able watch late night telecast, the way I can do now?"

He said, very thoughtfully, "The next football world cup is going to happen after 4 years from now. By that time, you would be married. So how the hell could you see late night matches live? You would be thrown out of your own house if you disobey your would be wife!"

Nikunj replied very hopefully, "What made you assume that girls dont like football? Havent you gone too far in your planning? My girl friend is different. She appreciates it"

Even I opposed him. "Girls are not like that. Few compromise here and there is ok. And I have lot of female friends who stay awake to watch matches and keep updating their FB status message every few seconds!"

Amol replied sarcastically, "Just wait and watch!"

Initially everybody laughed and made fun of him, but I just thought how much this guy has thought about future! He was talking as if he is very experienced guy. His words were worth pondering on. And thud, his words pinch me, is this the last opportunity?

Over the food we formuliased various strategies as to how to deal with such a serious issue! We narrowed on few solutions, after all impossible is nothing! But none of the idea was practical. I still don't know if the would be (though I am not in hurry and haven't been thinking so seriously about it) dosent like watching late night football, what exactly happen!

fOoD fOr ThOuGhT: Do you guys have some solution for the issue discussed? For the female readers, how do you deal or plan to deal with such situation? For the male readers, do you fear the way I am fear now? Laugh out loudly!

PS: My biggest appologies to all the female readers out there. Take this on a lighter note, but the thoughts do scare.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The right manager!

Who is the best manager in the world? Who has proved his efficiency? Who has delivered month after month and year after year? Someone who has out performed given any situation? Recession or markets at peak, this manager hasnt blink ever! Top line, bottom line, resources, etc.

I know, by now you would have guessed few names and I know you all would be wrong! You may be biased with some legend and give some answers. You may say Jack Welch was the best manager in the history of mankind. Somebody might say, “Was Lord Krishna in Mahabharata any less?” “Indira Nooyi, how about her?” Hitler, Churchill, M Gandhi, John Sculley, Steve Jobs, the list may go on and on but what is the right answer? Who is The One! Who has made everyone proud? You don’t have took into the history and weigh the numbers, the best manager in the world is hands down, the “moms”. You might be calling her “mummy” or “mother” or “aaii” or something else. You may call her by any name, the qualities are unmatchable.

So what does a mom do? Why is she undoubtedly the best manager? It’s not a rocket science! And you know what; she doesn’t need to do MBA, MTech, a certification, PMP, PhD, etc. It is something god gifted! Oh, am I saying she is different than God? I don’t want to commit a crime by saying that! She would understand things just by looking at you, just a “Hello” on the phone will tell her your state of mind. She is genius. She might be unwell but she would ensure that your tiffin box is ready on time. You would keep shouting at her for trivial things, you are not able to get because you forgot where you kept; she would still kiss you, hug you and find it for you. Before you complain about anything, she resolves it. No matter how much I write, the words would appear too small. Always for you, selflessly. But, why suddenly a post on mom?

The thought started with one of my friend explaining me what kind of boss he has got. And I pray god, nobody gets that kind of boss ever. For everything the answer is ‘no’. My friend is misfit in the role, yet by force he is asked to adapt. The work has least challenging tasks and all his previous efforts, knowledge acquired are at stake. The boss doesn’t listen to anybody. He only looks for higher number, higher margins. For him, people are insignificant. According to so many HR surveys conducted, employee derives maximum satisfaction from appreciation, second from good work. The last on the list is monetary benefits. A simple proven fact of ‘handling people well’ is defied in this case. So what does it take to qualify for being a manager? 10 years in industry, that’s it! A PMP certification?

There is no shortcut for success. A degree, a certification just clears the entry barrier. Theory is always ideal but far from actual situations. Number of years just adds on your resume, the nature of work makes all the difference. Understanding people is pivotal. The demands of fellow associates are never too many and it is never out of reach. The right attitude towards employee is all that is required. Keep motivating employees; try to push them to their limits. Arrange some training for them, make them feel that they are being thought of and taken care of. Arrange regular interactive fun at work, not just for the name sake but employee should be able to derive fun out of it. Go out for team lunch and team movies. Picnics are best way to unwind and get closer. A satisfied employee would put everything in work to give best output. And then you never have to worry about attrition, profits, margins, growth. Everything falls in place automatically.

fOoD fOr ThOuGhT: The newspapers are hovering with rising attrition rates every day. The solution isn’t a rocket science. ‘Manage People’ properly. Listen to them and take inclusive decisions. Number of years in the industry doesn’t make an individual a good manager, listening to people and acting towards it, thus!


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