Monthly Archives: September 2006

What I heard about Iraq

10,345 words you must read today.
What I heard about Iraq
, by Eliot Weinberger


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Filed under Current Affairs

The networked marketplace [featured in The Hindu Business Line]

Link to the full article

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Filed under Management

The networked marketplace [featured in The Hindu Business Line]

Today’s Hindu Business Line carries the following article written by me. Link to the article on the Business Line website: The networked marketplace

Full text of the article follows:

“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter — and getting smarter faster than most companies.” — The Cluetrain Manifesto

The implications are clear. Modern organisations need to be more nimble, more clued into what is happening in the external world — in the real world. They need to `talk’ to their customers, not `talk down’ to their customers through flashy corporate ads. They need to project a voice that is authentic and not sugar coated in marketing spiel. Companies need to start appearing genuine, human, humane and vulnerable if need be. This is the message of The Cluetrain Manifesto, a pathbreaking book, which in the true spirit of the Internet is available freely on the Web.

Very few companies, if any, have woken up to the reality of the networked world. So, one sees companies that do the market research, decide the product and brand attributes, launch the product and wonder what went wrong. What is likely to have gone wrong is that your customers have been talking to each other and spreading the `word’ faster than your `advertisements’. Be it film reviews, music reviews, product and gadget reviews, people are talking, and talking like never before. Products get trashed before the first ad comes out.

Here is an insight that organisations need to pay attention to: Customers trust human voices. This explains why nothing beats word-of-mouth publicity, and today the biggest word of mouth movement is happening on the Internet.

Building Relationships

After all, every purchase made by a customer is a new relationship created with the company whose product the customer has bought. When I receive my monthly phone bill, I notice that it bears a `relationship code’. Yet companies do little to nurture a customer relationship the way a human relationship is nurtured. Strong brands like Google actively engage their customer in the `conversation’. The Google Blog for instance, is a place where customers can see what the guys at Google are up to . It’s about time brick-and-mortar companies too embrace this new form of conversation. And as the manifesto says, “Because they are networked, smart markets are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.”

Employees of organisations are also part of this new form of conversation. People are actively and virtually networking with each other to find out more about each other’s organisations. Employer brands are being created and destroyed in this brand new market place as fast as thought and the strokes of a keyboard. Secondly, markets too want to talk to employees. They want the inside track on what really goes into their products. Companies need to let go and let this conversation happen freely. Robert Scoble (Microsoft’ erstwhile star blogger) did more to humanise Microsoft than any ad campaign ever would have.

The way forward

As I see it, the way forward would be for companies to view `advertising’ as one of the ways of talking to customers, and not the only way. All kinds of organisations need to embrace the power of the Internet as the new global market place where brands will be created and destroyed — where your multi-crore ad spend will be thrown into the bin when your customers rant about your call centre service on their blogs. The future is a world where mere brand logos and taglines wont suffice. It will be a place where brand voice (how your brand talks to your customers) will assume more significance. Brands would need to be `humble’ and not mighty; brands will have to understand, rather than be understood; brands will have to listen and not talk.

It’s a brand new era that is unfolding (and, indeed has been unfolding over the last few years). Blogs, social networking, Web 2.0 and so on are all going to fundamentally realign the way society is structured, and people will be netizens of the marketplace first and then citizens. The future looks exciting, and archaic institutions will need to embrace this change for their own good.


Filed under Marketing, Networked Marketplace

An afternoon

Silky golden rays, (the unrelenting sun)
Spill through the window in silence.
Morning melds into noon,
The mist turns to sticky sweat.
Irritated yelps of neighbourhood dogs,
The symphonic sizzle of spices,
In proximate apartment kitchens.
And the measured rhythm of weekly washing,
Foam, splashes and strained muscles.
The reassuring, invigourating fragrance,
Of the day’s first cup of tea.
The rustle of the weekend supplement,
The coarse pages of that new novel,
Set the stage for a stimulating afternoon,
Or plain, drowsy, melancholic moments.
While l roll in bed, sweaty, unmindful
Of our collective lives playing out.

– (c) Mohit

A previous poetic muttering: Metropolitan Verse

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Filed under Poetic Mutterings

Machiavelli on Leadership

“Moreover, men are less careful how they offend him who makes himself loved than him who makes himself feared. For love is held by the tie of obligation, which, because men are a sorry breed, is broken on every whisper of private interest; but fear is bound by the apprehension of punishment which never relaxes.”

From Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince

Seems to be a reference to Coercive power, which is one of the 4 sources of individual power.

Legitimate power: From holding a formal position. Others comply because they accept the legitimacy of the position of the power holder.
Reward power: Target complies in order to obtain rewards controlled by the agent.
Coercive Power: Compliance is to avoid punishments controlled by the agent.
Expert Power: Based on a person’s expertise, competence, and information in a certain area.
Referent Power: The target person comply because they respect and like the power holder (agent).

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Interesting quotes

“At some point, probably about 32 seconds into my commute, it dawned on me that I had inadvertently become a metaphor for life in general. Life is half delicious yogurt, half crap, and your job is to keep the plastic spoon in the yogurt. “

Quote from the Dilbert Blog

“The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean life is tough, it takes up a lot your time. What do you get the end of it? A death. What’s that? A bonus?! I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you go live in an old age home. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, then when you start work you get a gold watch on your first day. You work forty years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement. You drink alcohol, you party, you get ready for high school. You go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no responsibilities, you go back, you spend your last 9 months floating with luxuries like central heating, spa, room service on tap, then you finish off as an orgasm.”
George Costanza

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Thought Experiment

In which disciplines do you find the most talented/intelligent people in India? The answer is : in any discipline where there is a rigourous selection process that filters out the best, such as the IIMs, IITs, the top medical colleges etc. In which discipline do we find the most incompetent people? The answer is -Politics – and that’s because democracy allows just about anyone to stand for office regardless of skills.

Combining these two thoughts, I would like to see something along the lines of CAT or the IAS examinations for qualification into politics. The ‘office of profit’ issue makes it clear that there is a school of thought that believes that politics is a profession in itself. So, why not set some minimum criteria for a person to get into the profession. I would like my average politician to have a good understanding of the following

  1. National and Local history: This would ensure that our leaders can put forth coherent arguments founded on facts when it comes to controversial issues like Ayodhya, reservations etc.
  2. Economics: An understanding of basic economics would help people understand why prices cannot be artificially kept low (petroleum), and interest rates cannot be kept artificially high (the provident fund issue), and why goverment should by and large stay out of ‘business’.
  3. Social Sciences, International relations etc.
  4. Basic Sciences
  5. A standard IQ test (to eliminate Arjun Singh types)
  6. Proficiency in the local language
The top 10 percentile would qualify for standing for office. The rest could try again next year. The score obtained by a candidate in such a selection process would be valid for say, ten years during the course of which he can choose stand for elections. In other words, you can spend upto 9 years building financial stability for yourself before entering into a monetarily less lucrative profession (bribes and kickbacks are ofcourse ruled out).

Political parties would compete with each other for this top 10% (the way companies scramble for candidates at the top b-schools). The top 1% would probably by default become cabinet ministers at the state or national level. In other words, we would move from being a democracy to a democratic meritocracy – and history shows us that this model works best whenever you want to ensure that the best and most competent people get into a profession. Needless to say, the score on the test would only be an indicator. The candidate would still have to stand for elections (or shall we call it an interview?) where he would have to convince his constituency that he is the best man for the job (possibly by highlighting CV bullet points like past leadership experience, demonstrated capabilities in serving society etc.)

As a citizen in a democracy, I have to always compete with other citizens for getting into the best educational institutes, the best jobs, and all kinds of other opportunities. Why then, do we set such low standards for people who get to occupy the best leadership roles in the country? Beats me.


Filed under Relflections