Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Busy with UtsAha! 2006, our annual Marketing fair

I want to be frequent in updating the blog, but things are restraining me.

I'm right now busy in the process of making sponsorship and project proposals for our annual Marketing fair called UtsAha!.

Although the fair is scheduled to happen only to January 2006, it's unimaginable how much work goes behind the screens. Event management is something!

If you are interested in knowing what makes our Marketing fair, read on:

1) Primary purpose: To do disguised marketing research and projects for companies. It might look like regular Audio-Visual based interactive computer game (guess the price, which do u think is the best product?) etc for the Indore public, but it really would be a marketing project underneath. This way, the people who give the response don't get bored and we get our work doone. A cool alternative to a boring questionnaire-based research.

2) Interaction: This is the only event where we interact with the Indore public.

3) In addition to the games, there would be the usual stalls hosted so that it's close to a regular fair in the eye of the Indore public.

4) Our challenge is to get the right sponsors for the event so as to cover our costs, if not make potloads of money.

5) According to Nayi Duniya, we managed to attract over 1,00,000 footfalls last year.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

To Airtel: Express yourself, but don’t overdo it

Oh yes, this is about Airtel and their pathetic service. I’ve been one of the most dissatisfied Airtel customers - without choice - for a long time. The only reason I’m sticking to Airtel is because of my investment, although a low-end one, on the Nokia GSM mobile set. There is no other GSM operator with a service in the region, and that made me a ‘customer’, despite a forced one at that.

Everything started when once, on a very busy day, I was running terribly short on sleep and was woken up by a spam message. Until that point, I used to consider the unwanted smses messages a nuisance and didn’t think too much about them. There was an average of four messages of different variety everyday, ranging from ‘prize questions’ to tone downloads to cricket news to celebrity craps or some really unimaginable junk. When we tried contacting a ‘customer service’ agent to try to stop the spam, we were given a specific ‘sms code’ to be sent to a certain number that would stop the spam. It never worked.

I almost always go for the lowest cost prepaid card (and rarely make use of the full amount) and I pretty much hate smses. Plus, I don't consider carrying a mobile phone as 'cool' either. That essentially means that there were days when I neither had calls nor had smses but the only thing I was doing with the mobile was deleting their spam. One of my irritated friends called up a customer service agent and lambasted him, only to be re-directed back and forth. He ended up talking to some customer service manager for the entire MP region who explained that the smses are sent by default to everyone by a ‘machine’ and there is no way smses can be stopped to specific people. So much for ‘service’!

My first question: why do companies make a default assumption that people like anything that comes to the mobile phone? Even if there *are* people who read all the spam, why do they take it for granted that intruding customers is ok?

Second: How difficult is it to do a customer survey once in a while? There are a hundred customers I know who are only sticking to the service because of lack of choice.

Ironically, one visit to the Airtel customer service website, and the words I notice: over 11 million satisfied customers. Seriously, do they have any idea what they are talking about? I welcome them to take a very small survey in the IIMI campus to start with! In one of our marketing discussions in the classroom, we had to take up Airtel for ‘bad service’.

Sigh! This is exactly why competition can be so beneficial to customers.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

IIM Indore presents Ashwamedha @ IRIS 2005

The time of B-school fests has arrived. Being in the second year is a bit strange. Partly because you get time to do what you want to do, and partly because there is so much to do. B-school events are one such thing. With so many B-schools sending invites - sometimes multiple, along with extension dates later, I've lost track of the dates. I've instead decided to dedicate my energy whole-heartedly towards a few events instead of 'giving a shot' with many.

Anyway, the frenzy is no less in IIM-I where IRIS is around the corner - with a little more than a month to go. It is, quite obviously (obvious considering the growth of the institute), the largest IRIS we've ever conducted. Hope its a lot of fun.

Registrations for Ashwamedha, the largest event of IRIS 2005 has already started and would be on for 3 more days. Up for grabs is a prize money of Rs. 1,00,000 for the winner.

Check out the IRIS website for more details regarding registration:

P.S: Oops! Quite honestly, I didn't realize its 10 days since the last update was made. Sigh! Time does scoot at times!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Confirmed! Next IIM in the Shillong

The Express India article confirmed the erstwhile unconfirmed reports that the next IIM would be in the North East.

The confirmation comes as a real surprise since it is kind of unbelievable that such a remote place would be the best available place for an institution like the IIM, when globally established cities like Hyderabad, Pune, Chandigarh etc have neither an IIM nor an IIT.

The report says that Meghalaya beats Assam in getting the IIM, which gives a feeling that a lot of political pressure has went behind such a decision. One of the frequent arguments regarding the decision is to achieve ‘national balance’ and to ‘develop North East’, which, on the face of it, sounds downright ridiculous.

How would an IIM help achieving national balance? I would agree to the fact that an ideal institution would help in development of the area, but it’s always two ways. For example, we suspect that the main idea behind setting up an IIM at Indore is to help the SEZ near Indore, despite the fact that Indore is pretty badly connected to most parts of the country. This seems to be an okayish decision since we do interact a lot with the companies in the SEZ region. But then, there are a lot of things where big cities always score over.

Plus, it’s a known fact that students who come into IIMs are mostly from metros and big cities all over the country, and would love to settle in those kinds of places again. This again is the sentiment felt by corporates who feel students from IIMs are not 'made for rough and tough rural kind of work'.

The problems I see:

1) Inaccessibility: How would students commute to such a place? Not everyone could afford an air ticket all the time. What would students do in the free time? As far as my experience goes, the student profile would be more than happy to have the regular 'chillouts' such as parties, pubs, outings, cafes, good restaurants etc. What would students do to commute home during holidays? We get something like 7 days once every 4 months!

2) Industry: What would students do for interacting with the industry through projects, consultancy etc? And guest lectures?

3) Faculty: Why would top-notch faculty want to stay permanently in such places? They would definitely be more worried about the education of their kids, exposure etc. And pulling in visiting faculty is a very tough and costly affair.

4) Placements: I’ve heard that even age-old and established institutions frequently commute to nearby metros for interacting with corporates, particularly if air connectivity is an issue.

5) Foriegn exchange: All the IIMs have foriegn students coming from top notch international B-schools. For them again, places like Bangalore etc would definitely be more preferable due to their cosmopolitan nature.

Taking more practical examples, one of the foremost reasons why IIM-B is considered better my many when compared to IIM-C despite having started late is because of the software industry backing it has, and the fact that Bangalore is one of the most happening destinations in the world, let alone India. Considering this, such a decision would perpetually put an IIM behind some of the non-IIMs, which would be damage to the ‘IIM’ brand in itself.

I just hope that more thoughts went into the decision rather than just being political. This decision certainly beats me. I, for one, would certainly be looking for some rationale, apart from the news that Meghalaya won over Assam!

Update 1:

I think this post triggered a lot of sentiments, particularly folks from NE. Some of the opinions voiced are very valid, while some are just offshoots of sentimental attachment one has. I'd deliberate my opinions once more on this.

1) I never argued that Indore, Kozhikode etc are the best places for IIMs. I would NOT stand behind Indore just because I'm studying here. So please don't make it a comparison-based OR 'my daddy strongest' routine. I'd stick to my stand that Hyderabad or Chandigarh would be much better options than Shillong, or for that matter Indore or Kozhikode - if it's going to make anyone feel better.

The larger question is: Is Shillong the best place? Please do not compare it with any exisiting locations.

2) I would, however, take back part of point (1) of my initial post. I haven't been to Shillong, but from the voices here, it appears that Shillong seems to have a good dose of 'chillout options'. Taken! But I still am looking for answers for inaccessibility issues, which is a much bigger problem. Air travel isn't for everyone. My friends here from NE almost never go home due to the time it takes. When almost 75-80% of the batch comes from up-North, far West and deep-South, isn't inaccessibility a valid concern? Engineering is very, very different from a 2-year stint at B-school. And demographics are very different. A comparison with IIT Guhawati is not really applicable.

3) Industry: Discussing about Shillong, I don't see why people are harping on non-availability of industry in Kozhikode etc? My point was that industry interaction would be a problem in Shillong. I stick to it. We often run out of companies to survey upon for the projects, even here in Indore which has a rather flourishing SEZ.

4) Faculty and related stuff: It's still a concern. Maybe their kids would get good education; maybe the location would be heaven, or its nearest cousin. I can't help but bring up the usual complaint: Whenever a fest is organized, cities like Bangalore or Mumbai always get more share of participation from industry experts, corporate big-wigs etc. Wonder why? And faculty would ideally build up their profile working on consultancy projects with nearby companies. In simple terms - more interaction with nearby corporates, industry experts etc would be the only way faculty build their resume and value - not just by teaching for a long time.

5) Foreign exchange programs: I'm taking back my views on this. I agree that foreign students come here for the India experience. If readers feel that Shillong would provide that - fair enough, I'm ready to take it.

Last word: Maybe my impression of Shillong would change if I get to visit the place. But for now, given the information/perception I have, I stick to my views. I'd still like to hear from folks who know more.

A note to those anonymous folks: I would not respond to people who remain faceless.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Firefox vs. IE :: David vs. Goliath

The war just tightened. Mozilla Firefox has released the beta of the next major release - version 1.5.

Initial review: It's definitely fast compared to the previous version, and it's extremely lite after its completely loaded. I actually find it extremely fast, but I wouldn't harp on it coz I've already been accused of being biased! The difference is visible within a first few clicks. Needless to have a comparison with IE. Being a Firefox enthusiast, I'd really endorse the statement in their website: Firefox is better than IE by leaps and bounds.

Some background if you are new to browser wars: Firefox was the first browser to capture a 10% browser market share after the Netscape heydays, according to this website. It was gaining a dreamy 1% additional market share every month, until it hit some security bugs last month. You know its a big thing when big shots (like Adrants) start complaining about the absence of support for Firefox in some websites.

The best part about all this competition is that companies are rarely given some time to sleep. Given the 95%+ market share that IE was holding, it's anyone's guess that it can become complacent. But not yet! I'm yet to try other browsers such as Safari.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The X-factor: Movies, accents and international audiences

I was reading through TIME’s article on Ash and why the Indian movie industry isn’t global, and a lot of questions about the movie industry per se struck my mind out of the blue.

Foremost, why aren’t subtitles a default when movies are screened to non-domestic audiences? Back in Coimbatore during my engineering days, one of the few entertainments we had was watching movies. Some of my college friends (a *relatively* good college, if you will), particularly the ones from towns and the like, have told me that understanding the accent is the foremost problem while watching Hollywood movies. The ones that are released in India almost always are action movies, simply because the story (if any) can be narrated audio-visually instead of speaking out. That explains why Arnold and Stallone movies are almost always a hit in India.

Considering that Indians are pretty good in English but it is the accent that could be a problem, why aren’t non-action movies released by default with subtitles? Surely, people who understand English aren’t going to be bothered by the presence of subtitles, will they? I, for one, would certainly love its presence coz there have been a lot of times when a specific slang or a wild accent (like those in the underworld movies) has left me confused.

The case applies to almost all the movies that are screened to non-domestic audiences. Consider Hindi movies in South India. There are a lot of people who like Shah Rukh and Aamir, but the language problem is a turn off.

Indian movie industry is one of the largest in the world – with about 1000 movies released every year compared to the 600/700 Hollywood. Just about 1/3rd of the Indian movies are made in Hindi, while regional languages fill in the rest. That essentially means that the fate of some 600/700 regional movies, even some of the very good ones, end within the specific region, let alone foreign countries.

A part answer to this problem is the dubbing of the movies that caters to the low end of the market, but the quality of dubbing leaves a LOT to be desired. Subtitles could just be the answer in between. I guess regional Indian movies have taken a slight cue since I remember Rajnikant’s Chandramukhi releasing in Delhi with English subtitles. But it remains to be seen if this could be the answer.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The age of inclusive advertisements

I was just browsing through the website of Paramount Airways, another new airline that is decorating the crowded and promising Indian skyline. I was struck by the simplicity of the website, and more importantly, the simplicity of the ads.

Here’s one clip. I guess this pix/ad is copyrighted et all, but what the heck, I’m speaking good things about them!

Anyway, what’s different in this ad is the presence of normal-looking, simple people. Considering that the airline has only business class suites (but still is supposedly priced at economy levels, which they say is their USP), the easiest thing for them would’ve been to catch a bunch of sleek looking models, make them wear a black suit/skirt, spectacles et all, give them a laptop, and make them give a pensive look – with probably a slanted pen in the hand. But that would hardly paint the real picture.

Most of the time, the airline crowd is made of simple looking people who are immersed in their own life and are least bothered in giving a business-type impression. Letting aside the few odd fully-dressed foreigners who have some business in India, and probably some holidaying crowd, most of the crowd is brown-skinned Indian. Considering this, what really is the point of having white-skinned sleek looking models (men and women) as we see in most of the airline ads? Isn’t all this phony? I agree that we would like to see ‘perfect’ people in the ads, but isn’t their presence everywhere boring and artificial?

In contrast, this ad portrays the real picture - by including simple but yet educated and sophisticated looking people; the kind of people who really adorn the airliners. This is close to the heels of the over-hyped Dove ad the latest Nike ad that stresses on the fact that being not-so-perfect is perfectly fine. Afterall, not everyone is bestowed with wafer thin waists and clear skinned personas.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ernesto Che Guevara: making of a cult brand?

It’s surprising to see how cult brands are formed. The Che Guevara photograph taken by Korda, adjudged as the world’s most famous photograph of the 20th century, has lived to a give a surprising meaning years after his demise. Che Guevara is almost a house-hold name now, and all of us would’ve seen some of our friends wearing a Che-powered high contrast T-shirt. I got to note here that I too am really fascinated by the looks and power of the photo decorating the T-shirts.

I recently read an article in the The Hindu/CNN about the legal suit filed against the rampant usage of the photo for ‘capitalistic’ purposes. The 'cult' following supposedly started during the 70s when Che was regarded as a symbol for revolt and communism. What is used right now as a quintessential capitalistic brand in T-shirts, jeans and other products was an anti-capitalistic icon of the 60’s, which, according to the article, is little known to most of the users: “It is customary for followers of a cult not to know the real life story of their hero, the historical truth.”

The 2004 released movie titled The Motorcyle diaries speaks about how Che travels around the whole of South America in his motorcycle and how he's slowly transformed, but it stops right there. I've seen the movie and it is anything but 'revolutionary'. Infact, the movie kindles the adventurous spirit in one. Che is an anti-establishment symbol yes, and it’s probably cool to wear something that stands for ‘revolution’, but I wonder how many people really know that Che was an architect of the Cuban Missile Crisis and that he’s regarded as a killing machine.

Following are the excerpts of the Wikipedia entry:
Guevara met Fidel Castro and Fidel's brother Raúl in Mexico City where the two sought refuge after being exiled from Cuba.

Guevara believed that the installation of Soviet missiles would protect Cuba from any direct military action against it by the United States. Jon Lee Anderson reports that after the crisis Guevara told Sam Russell, a British correspondent for the socialist newspaper Daily Worker, that if the missiles had been under Cuban control, they would have fired them.
Che Guevara maybe a quasi-cult brand now, and if it’s indeed true that not many users know what he stood for, it would be interesting to know if people would still be buying Che-endorsed products. In other terms, is Che’s background driving the ‘brand’ or is the picture driving the brand?

For the record, I still like the photo and would most likely buy the T for kicks-sake.

Monday, September 05, 2005

IIM-I blown up...

This pix was conceptualized and executed by our junior batch sometime ago, during our vacation.

What amazes me is how they put together things so well. The concept in itself is simple, but the execution of it struck me. The amount of effort that went into the choice of the location inside the campus, the dress code etc is clearly visible. Cheers to those guys!