Monthly Archives: August 2006

Lessons in Positioning – Nokia n-Series Vs Reliance Infocomm

My favourite ad on television these days is the Nokia n-series ad. I cannot think of any other ad that communicates to it’s target segment as precisely (like a hot knife through butter, if I may use a Sidhuism) as this one. The film opens to the shot of a guy removing rings pierced on his face, and moves on to a guy with long hair, who gets a haircut (and I presume a new Nokia n-series phone), then we move on to a guy who trades in his old tattered jeans for a new one, and similar such life situations where people make that transition from being young and rebellious, to older more mature selves. The fantastic jingle begins with ‘Zindagi ki nayi mod pe, aa gaye aaj hum’ – which roughly translates to –Today, we have come to a new turn in our lives. The positioning is crystal clear – the n-Series is not your first phone, it’s your second phone, the one you buy when you move up in life, the one you buy when you have had enough of living your rebellious college bum life, and move on to greater things (like employment, your first car etc).The whole ad just focusses on positioning and customer segmentation (by stage of life) – no rubbish about the phone’s features or the prices. Sweet.


Link to Storyboard. Link to ad.

On the other hand, we have the new and youthful ‘Reliance Infocomm’, which has absolutely gone berserk with colours. Their new ad celebrates 2.5 million customers (and growing). However, the positioning goes haywire. The ad features these young twenty-somethings humming the new Reliance signature tune, while facts about the company appear to their right (in colours that I can only call vulgar). The average Reliance customer is NOT a twenty-something youngster. It is more likely to be a gujju businessman, migrant north indians (who need to call home cheap), small business owners, the neighbourhood DSA employee, and in short, any cost conscious group. I am a twenty-something, and the ad does nothing for me. Zip. It’s like a nuisance video clip that I have to endure, while hoping that the Nokia n-series ad comes on again.

What seems to have happened is that Anil Ambani has decided that all his brands will be ‘youthful’, in stark contrast to brother Mukesh’s staid brands. So, suddenly Reliance Infocomm (which had, and continues to have no brand attributes associated with it except cheap) finds itself in a desperate situation trying to be young and hep, instead of being itself – a lesson that is as important for a brand as it is for us mortals.

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Parvaaz by Junoon

I have a new respect for Pakistani band Junoon – for making sufi poetry more accessible. I reconnected with Junoon when I started listening to Parvaaz (flight of passion), arguably the band’s best album to date, in it’s lyrical ambition. The most ambitious song in the album has to be Ghoom.

English translation follows:

Spin wheel, spin

Spin wheel, spin
The girl spinning, reeling the thread
Long may she live, while you spin
Saying, Near Him, I fear Him
With Him I tremble
Spin wheel, spin

Spinning wheel says, Lord, Lord
Thread says, You
Shah Husain, a fakir for the Lord
Says, I am nothing, all is You
Spin wheel, spin

Speak His name, breathe His name
And nothing can shake you
From flood of five rivers choose one
Live where it takes you
Spin wheel, spin

Spin wheel, spin
The girl spinning, reeling the thread
Long may she live, while you spin
Saying, Near Him, I fear Him
With Him I tremble
Spin wheel, spin
.

This was written by the sufi mystic poet, Shah Hussain. The rendition is absolutely sublime, and so is Salman Ahmad on the guitar. I can’t think of many bands that can work with lyrics like that to produce rock like Parvaaz.

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The analytical genius of Times of India

This article (titled, Want salary hike, join financial sector) on increase in salaries in the financial sector points out:

“India Bulls was amongst the highest payers in financial sector with a 262.44 per cent increase in their staff cost. Firms like Geojit Financials, IL&FS and CRISIL also registered 82 to 85 per cent rise in their staff expenditures.”

Thus TOI would have us believe that a 262% increase in staff costs, corresponds to a 262% increase in salary, thereby making Indiabulls the highest payer in the financial sector. Wow. Now, if Indiabulls doesn’t hire you, I suggest you head to Balaji Telefilms , where again the staff costs went up by 251%. Needless to say, TOI would like us to believe that this means that salaries went up by 251%.

Do we need to point out that staff costs go up when you hire more people (both Indiabulls and Balaji being growing companies), and not necessarily because you are paying your people more.

“The salaries rose by over 251 per cent in Balaji Telefilms and the drop in the profits of firms like Cinevistaas, UTV, Zee Telefilms, Mid Day Multimedia and TV Today can be partly attributed to the increasing staff costs, the release added.”

I can see the young journalist writing this piece as it was originally meant to be – one about salary costs going up and affecting bottom lines. But, why would an ordinary reader of TOI be interested in something like that? He would be interested if you told him that salaries (particularly his own) are going up. Now, with that marketing insight in place, all you need is to substitute the phrase ‘staff cost’ with ‘salary’ in a few places in the article, and you have a story about salaries – which can then be given a juicy title – Want salary hike, join financial sector. Subsequently, this story can be put up right in the front page of the website, where readers will keep clicking, generating more revenues for TOI (Cost per ad impression).

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MBAs prepare people to manage nothing

Or so says Henry Mintzberg .

To some extent it is true, because most MBA courses focus only on functional areas, and not on true people management or leadership. An ideal MBA course should probably focus on business concepts in the first year, and pure practical management and leadership in the second (possibly through social projects, live consulting projects, startup incubation etc.), culminating with placements.

I suppose one of the main reasons why IIMs, XLRI etc produce successful business leaders could be that the input raw material itself represents the topmost performers on the entrance tests with 10s of thousands of candidates, a group of people who I suspect would succeed anyway.

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Iranian President’s Blog!

Well, if there was any doubt left about blogs becoming mainstream, this should dispel it. BBC reports that the Iranian president, now has a blog. Read about it here.

Surprisingly, Iran is the first off the mark. Wonder when other heads of state will adopt this new medium. I would predict that the next ‘head of state blog’ too would come from a small country somewhere. The analogy in the world of business is how smaller companies tend to be more nimble when it comes to embracing technology, while larger bluechip companies take much longer to change.

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IBN, Times Now & NDTV – keeping the debate on

It is refreshing to note that the TV news media in India has become the only place where the tradition of a good intellectual debate survives. Yesterday, I managed to catch watch two excellent discussions – one, conducted by Arnab Goswami on the pesticide in cola issue, and the second, by the ocassionally rambling, but largely dependable Rajdeep Sardesai on the Natwar Singh story. Of course, the guests (the likes of Arun Shourie) did most of the talking, but credit must be given to the news channels for creating such shows. They could just as well have gone on about Rakhi Sawant, as Aaj Tak is fond of doing, but they choose in times of such cheap titillation to stick to core journalistic values. They choose to hold on to whatever is left of those overarching principles that the fourth estate has always professed. So, I forgive Rajdeep for insensitively rambling about how IBN was the first to carry images of the Mumbai blasts all over the world. And we must be grateful to Prannoy Roy for grooming a fine bunch of journalists, who kept the flame burning, albeit on different channels.

And clearly, parliament is no place for such debates, as voiced eloquently by Sagarika Ghosh here. It’s a shame, this wasting of public money to make a mockery of democracy on national television.

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A poem by Vikram Seth

Via India Uncut, I am reminded of this nice poem by Vikram Seth. Puts things in perspective – this youthful rush to one’s destination, without caring to notice the journey cannot take us very far.


Sit, drink your coffee here; your work can wait awhile.
You’re twenty-six, and still have some of life ahead.
No need for wit; just talk vacuities, and I’ll
Reciprocate in kind, or laugh at you instead.

The world is too opaque, distressing and profound.
This twenty minutes’ rendezvous will make my day:
To sit here in the sun, with grackles all around,
Staring with beady eyes, and you two feet away.

The complete collection of Seth’s poems occupies a pride of a place in my bookshelf. I dip into it often, as an exercise to pay closer attention to all that is around us in silence, while we listen intently to the noise. And yes, most of my occassional poetic mutterings do find their inspiration from Seth’s works.

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