All posts by Sanjay Shah

About Sanjay Shah

Sanjay is the author of "Business Management Simplified" which provides Practical, Actionable Solutions for Entrepreneurs. It is an all-in-one guidebook to start, run and grow a small and mid-size business to the next level. He is also an SME Business Coach, Seminar Leader and Motivational/Keynote speaker, Sanjay is based in Mumbai (India). He advises many businesses on Strategy, Leadership, Marketing, Branding, Customer Experience Management and Organization Development. He conducts various self-help seminars and workshops for companies and groups in English, Hindi and Gujarati. For more info, visit :

This is how Airtel cheats its customers

This is my own experience when I tried to call Airtel for knowing more about new plans today. I have given the feedback and a complaint to them (Ref No. 29100067).

This is what is the annoying thing the company is doing with its post-paid subscribers who are trying to remain loyal to them in spite of a lot of attractive offers from other providers.

As an Airtel subscriber, for any changes in your plan, you need to call their customer care number 121.

When you call that number, you have to pass through the illogical computerized IVR system, which takes time to register your input. Due to its sluggishness, if you type an option selection digit again, it takes it as your consent to activate some data plan and thanks you for subscribing to it. It promptly sends you a confirmation SMS saying that some “FREE 1GB 4G/3G data has been activated from today for Rs.100”. (Look at the deceptive language, something is FREE at Rs.100 !!!)

On realizing that you have inadvertently activated something, you call up 121 again to request deactivation. One request goes unattended.

You call again. This time, it is listened to. Deactivation request is taken. An SMS follows. Only to inform that the activation which was affected promptly, will be deactivated after 4 days.

For every other type of request, they ask you so many verification and confirmation questions, but for this thing, a simple error of pressing a wrong option is enough. If you can be charged Rs.100, no confirmation is needed. No question is asked.

This is not less that deceptive malpractice aimed at cheating customers.  It is only for such manipulative and customer unfriendly practices that customers decide to switch to other service providers.

It is high time Airtel wakes up to stop such cheating.

Branding lessons by example: Why spending big money can’t save a weak brand?

Slide48Snapdeal’s recent 200 Cr rebranding exercise “Unbox Zindagi” during 2016 Diwali and other festivals is yet another example of the marketing myth that spending huge money can make or remake a brand.  

With a lot of fanfare, it was announced that Snapdeal’s co-founder Kunal Bahl and some other seniors personally visited a number of customers’ homes to get an insight into what is the customers’ experience when they shop with Snapdeal. 

And…. they found out that the best moments occur when the customers open the box which brings the merchandize. And hence, a 200 crores brand repositioning exercise of “Unbox Zindagi” involving new box logo and new colors.

I think the copywriters and the creative directors at the agency must have patted their own backs for coming out with such a brilliant term “Unbox Zindagi”, and for their profound practical genius in using the word “Zindagi”. So Indian, you know?

Seedfund founder Mahesh Murthy, described this exercise as “Rs. 200 crores for a new paint job on the Titanic”. He said that this expensive exercise will not save the sinking ship called “Snapdeal”.

He was so right. The paint job has not worked. The ship continues to sink deeper.

In my opinion, there were two big mistakes.

One: Lack of differentiation. 

The joy of opening the box of the newly shopped article is same regardless of whether it was purchased from Snapdeal, Flipkart, Amazon or some nearby shop. What is so unique about the joy of opening a Snapdeal box versus other boxes? Nothing really…

Two: Bad copy

If only the founders, senior managers and creative people had confirmed with the people whom they met about the meaning of the word “Unbox”, they must have realized that the majority of them really don’t understand it correctly. The English copywriters failed to understand that 95% of Indians don’t understand English as well as they themselves do.

Brand managers live in their own worlds. They think that their own vision of the world is the only true picture and they have figured it out so correctly.

High vocabulary, creative copywriting skills or linguistic abilities don’t compensate for lack of common sense. If it would have been, all the authors and poets could have been great brand building wizards.

Brand communication is a black hole. If used unwisely and without any strategic thought, it can suck a lot of money. Snapdeal’s failed, expensive English extravaganza has proved yet again that marketing and branding are majorly responsible for destroying many companies and people don’t learn. 

Many brands fall prey to such wasteful and poorly thought-through branding initiatives and burn big money.

No wonder, in the sea of branding more ships sink than those which sail through smoothly.

Should you hire relatives or friends?

Do not hire friends/relatives

A business tip from the book “Business Management Simplified” Author: Sanjay Shah (SME Business Coach)

Slide45I think we should not hire friends/relatives

  • I call this “Ration card employment.” It is advisable to desist from this practice.
  • The main reason is that bringing some friend/relative or their children in the team skews the balance of the team in a very weird way.
  • It curtails our freedom to deal with the individual at par with others, which creates a lot of unrest among the other employees.
  • There is always a conflict between the relative importance to be attached to the relationship or the job.
  • It is also observed that in the end, such an assignment ends bitterly or in the end, either the work or the relationship suffers.
  • Hiring of any person must be done only on merit.
  • If some relative or friend asks us to “do a favor” by hiring somebody known to them, you should politely tell them that you can only arrange for an interview and the selection will be based on merit only. This may offend that relative or friend, but if you can’t say no, then you may have to hire an unsuitable or incompetent person and your business will suffer for a long time.
  • Remember, you should keep charity and business separate. Hoarding incompetent people only because they know you or some of your friend/relative, sends a signal about your own weakness and lack of clarity.
  • Also, if a person is good and competent, he/she will not need any recommendation only.

(Excerpt from “Business Management Simplified”)

​Run your race. Hit the finish line.

I just watched Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon.

The main marathon of 42.195 kilometers was won by an African participant, a regular. It was captured by a lot of cameras following or leading him.

But, at the same time, many other marathons were run and won, which may have gone unnoticed, because no camera was covering them. But still, the races were won. Triumphantly. Gloriously. Proudly. Silently.

For a physically challenged girl on a wheelchair, riding a few kilometers freely on a Mumbai road, was a personal race won.
For an 80 year old grandmother, walking a few kilometers with a group of similar age friends was more than a victory.
For a senior citizen who had just undergone a bypass surgery before few months, completing a dream run of few kilometers was a real dream come true.
For an HR manager of a company, successfully organizing a group participation of 70 employees in the dream run was a proud moment in her career as a new recruit in the company.
For a product manager who organized free promotion of their orange juice packaged drink, consumption of 5,000 units was a great thing because so many people could “experience” her brand firsthand.
For a newbie orchestra to perform live on the footpath of Marine Drive was a big thing. Similarly, a singer won her own marathon when she sang some songs for the first time in a live scenario like this.
For a large number of full or half marathon runners, just being able to complete the run successfully was a huge milestone in their own lives.
For a brand manager, organizing a “below the line” brand communication initiative in the form of a noisy dance booth on the marathon route was a big, bold resume bullet point.

For a shy employee in a company, being able to wake up and reach the venue on time and run along with the scores of his colleagues in the company’s dream run troupe was a big self esteem boost.
For traffic police heads, to successfully manage traffic bypassing the marathon route was a sigh of relief.
For Mumbai police, “uneventful” completion of the marathon is a big achievement.
Except the main winners who got the prize, others were not honored publicly. But each one of them ran and won their own private marathons.
It is a beautiful feeling running and winning a marathon, public or private.  We must set our sights on some race and proudly hit the finish line. There are very few joys which are more joyful.

When museum curators run a state, they hire stenos to dictate…

Uttar Pradesh Subordinate Service Selection (UPSSSC) is looking to recruit 352 stenographers and many more junior stenos. (Check here: )
Now, how many in this time may be knowing stenography? If you search for stenography as an employee skill on any job portal like, a large majority of the candidates will come up of age beyond 50 years . That says that stenography is the skill of bygone era. It is outdated. It is not relevant today. Stenos, dictation, typing etc are the symbols of lethargic bureaucratic inefficiency of the past. In today’s times of speed, steno is an article fit for museum. Today, if dictation is needed, it can speech recorded and possibly be coverted into text…!
In India, more and more progressive governments at the centre and the states, lead by progressive leadership, are using new technology to save time and to increase productivity. Such states and governments are on their path to progress.

Then, in the age of Siri and OK Google, voice commands and Artifical Intelligence, we get to see examples of such a regressive step. This shows how much we are still behind. This also reflects the poverty of thought leadership at the helm which allows such regression. When the government itself chooses to embrace antiquity, who can save our future from mediocrity?

Such mindless examples of extreme contrast create a picture of the not-so-beautiful incredible India. When a section of the nation is embracing future by moulding its own mindset and habits, there is another slow-moving elephantine attitude which takes time to understand the nature of the winds blowing around its ears.
As long as such ugly combination of progressive leadership and regressive bureaucracy coexists in the same country, it will keep pulling the country in two different directions, one towards a bright future another towards a dark, dead past. This tug of war will slow the speed of the country, as it has always done in the seven decades of our independence. The country must move in one direction, the one towards a bright future.
The Incredible India campaign may pride itself in the rich legacy of the country. But, past cannot be lived forever. Museum is a place to visit, to learn, not to stay there. 
But, if museum curators sit to run the country, they will only turn the whole country into a museum, a glorified relic of the past.
Then, looking at the whole country as a living museum, not ready to grow up, the tourists may say, “This happens only in India. Really, Incredible India.”

Flipkart and Ola are proving that copycats lose….

Recently, at a panel discussion, the founders of Flipkart and Ola cried for help from Indian government asking it to “protect” them from their foreign competitors (Amazon and Uber respectively) playing the nationalist card.

In doing so, both the poster boys of Indian startup industry have proved that “Birds of a feather flock together”. I say, mediocrity finds itself.

Here are some points to show how hollow and greedy the demand is.

  1. Both have chosen to forget that they both are poor copies of some foreign firms. Just like any copycat, they have proved right from the beginning that they are second class, inferior, followers of a leader. There was nothing original about them, and it is coming out.
  2. Both the companies are funded by foreign investors. Both have said that they want foreign money, but don’t want foreign companies. How self-serving….!
  3. On its part, Flipkart has chosen to register itself in Singapore. Now what makes it an Indian company, which wants to take advantages from India but does not trust its system…?
  4. They claim that Flipkart and Ola generate employment in India. Ironically, they forget that right from CEOs to almost all employees of Amazon and drivers of Uber are Indians. Where is the difference in employment generation?
  5. The fact is, both have run out of tricks after initially copying the concept from their respective leading competitors. They can’t match the innovation abilities of those firms and hence now they are crying foul.
  6. The major difference between Flipkart-Ola and Amazon-Uber is not their country of origin, but their missions. Amazon-Uber, both lead by visionary founders, are the companies founded to change lives of the people. On the contrary, our copycat Indian founders have founded their companies solely for getting high valuations and selling out to some unsuspecting investors. Greed cannot match right intentions. Excel sheets may succeed in faking valuation, but can’t create real value.
  7. In business, companies which provide better service to the customers, win. Both Flipkart and Ola are finding it difficult to provide good service to their customers or partners and hence they are losing. I have been a customer and a seller on Flipkart and I have a first-hand experience of their poor quality of service. Same is with Ola. I have spoken to at least 50 Ola drivers in Mumbai, Delhi and other cities. Hardly any one of them is happy with Ola. On the other hand, most of the Uber drivers are very happy. Same is the observation with Amazon customers. Both Flipkart and Ola should focus on customers instead of wasting time on competition.
  8. Instead of grumbling to seek narrow minded protectionism, they must innovate and provide solutions what the country needs. Anjana Menon has rightly pointed out in Economic Times (here) that both these companies need to focus on providing solutions what the rural India needs, in order to earn the respect and value that they aspire to.

Flipkart and Ola are behaving like children playing in the compound going to their parents crying for help when they lose a game with the other kids. Both and their ilk need to grow up and put their own house in order first.

In failing to do so, as Anjana writes in the ET article above, “(they) risk writing their own obituary. They shouldn’t expect too many tears at the funeral.” There can’t be a more appropriate reply to the poor demand from the clueless copycats.

Masters Of Meaningless Communication

​बिना वजह के communication की व्यर्थता का सरकारी उदाहरण
सीधी-सादी बात को बिना वजह पेचीदा बनाने की कला में सरकारी बाबुओं का कोइ जवाब नहीं है |उदाहरण के लिए मुंबइ की लोकल ट्रेन में आज कल सुनाइ देनेवाली पब्लिक एनाउन्समेन्ट पर ध्यान दिजिए |
“यात्री गण कृपया ध्यान दिजिए | वरिष्ठ नागरिकों को उन के लिए आरक्षित एवं निर्धारित सीट पर जाने में सहयोग दिजिए |”
“Passengers please help the senior citizens to reach them to seats reserved and earmarked for them in the coaches.”
मान लिया की आरक्षित और निर्धारित या reserved और earmarked अलग शब्द हैं |
यह भी मान लिया की आप को भाषा का उच्चतर स्तर का ग्यान है | बधाइ हो…. हार्दिक अभिनंदन |
परंतु सामान्य जन समुदाय, जिस के लिए यह संदेश है, उन को इस अधिकतर शब्दों की स्पष्टता से कोइ फायदा नहीं होता, बल्की confusion होता है | आरक्षित या Reserved एक – एक शब्द से सब को समज में आ ही जाएगा | (यह बात बाबुओं के theoretical दिमाग को समज में नहीं आएगी |

सीधी सादी जिंदगी को बिना वजह complicated न बनाने की अक्ल बाबुशाही को जब आएगी तब रेल मंत्री सुरेश प्रभु साहब तथा मोदीजी की पूरी टीम के प्रयासों को ओर जोर मिलेगा |

प्रभु ऐसा समय जल्दी लाएं ऐसी प्रार्थना |

India’s no. 1… Really?


Recently, I saw a signboard in Delhi put up by some Mamchand claiming to be India’s number 1 Tasha and Shehnai party (a band that plays at wedding functions).
Many of us have heard people speaking statements like “Chandu Chatwala makes the best Alu Chat in India..”

Some of us have also seen Arnab Goswami of Times Now screaming at people in his news channel Times Now demanding “The whole India wants to know.”
Now, literally, the country India mentioned by the three may appear to be same but practically it is different. It is limited only by the limited world views of the people speaking it. In a country where only less than 5% people view English news channels, you can imagine the size of “Whole India” projected by one singular news anchor at one of the many such channels. The real sizes of India projected by Mamchand or Chandu are even smaller.
However, characteristically, there is something common among Mamchand, Chandu Chatwala and Arnab Goswami. They all are hollow and empty. They assume the position of leadership in a particular domain without even checking who are ahead of them or behind them. We need to use our discretion to know the reality behind the tall claims of such baseless self-glorification.

માર્કેટીંગના પૈસા કેવી રીતે વેડફાય છે? એક કેસ સ્ટડી.

Slide19માર્કેટીંગમાં પ્રચાર એક એવી પ્રવૃત્તિ છે, કે જો એના પર પૂરતું ધ્યાન આપવામાં ન આવે, તો એમાં પૈસાનો ખૂબ વેડફાટ થઇ જવાની શક્યતા રહે છે, અને એ નુકસાન કંપનીને ખૂબ ભારે પડી શકે છે. વગર વિચાર્યે, કોઇ પણ વ્યૂહ રચના વગર માર્કેટીંગ પ્રચાર પાછળ આડેધડ ખર્ચાઓને કારણે અનેક કંપનીઓ પર મરણતોલ ફટકા પડેલા પણ જોવા મળે છે.

આપણે જાહેરાતો કરવા મંડીએ, એટલે આપોઆપ માર્કેટીંગ થવા જ મંડે, અને ગ્રાહકોની લાઇન લાગી જવી જોઇએ, એવી ભ્રમણાનો શિકાર બનીને કંપનીઓ પ્રચાર પાછળ બેફામ સમય, સંપત્તિ અને શક્તિનો વ્યય કરે છે, અને પછી અપેક્ષા અનુસાર એનો ફાયદો મળતો નથી, એટલે પસ્તાવું પડે છે.

રોજિંદી જિંદગીમાં જોવા મળતું એક ઉદાહરણ જોઇએ.

ટી.વી. પર એક સેલો બટર-ફ્લો પેનની જાહેરાત જોવા મળે છે (અે જાહેરાત જોવા માટે અહીં ક્લીક કરો.), જેમાં એક મુગ્ધા યુવતી પંકજ ઉધાસને પત્ર લખવાનું શરુ કરે છે, અને એ પેનની માખણ જેવી સરળતાથી પ્રેરાઇને અસંખ્ય પત્રો લખતી આવે છે, જેની ડિલિવરી કરવા માટે પોસ્ટમેને એક ટેમ્પો ભરીને પંકજ ઉધાસના ઘરે જવું પડે છે.

દેખીતી રીતે, સારી રીતે પ્રોડક્શન કરાયેલી આ એક જોવી ગમે તેવી જાહેરાત છે. પરંતુ જે હેતુ માટે એ બનાવવામાં આવી છે, એ માટે એની અસરકારકતા શંકાસ્પદ છે. કારણ કે આ જાહેરખબરમાં જે ટાર્ગેટ કસ્ટમર બતાવવામાં આવી છે, એ એક આજના મોડર્ન જમાનાની યુવતી છે. આવી કસ્ટમરને અપીલ કરવા માટે એની રોજિંદી જિંદગી સાથે થોડુંઘણું તાલમેલ ધરાવતી હોય, એવી કોઇક વાત જાહેરાતની સ્ટોરીમાં હોય, તો એવી મોડર્ન છોકરીઓને એ જાહેરાતમાં અને એમાં બતાવેલી પ્રોડક્ટ – પેન – માં રસ પડે, અને બ્રાન્ડ પાછળ કરેલ ખર્ચ લેખે લાગે. પરંતુ આ જાહેરાત બનાવવામાં ટાર્ગેટ કસ્ટમરની લાઇફસ્ટાઇલ-રહેણીકરણી, માનસિકતા, આદતો કે વાસ્તવિકતાઓ પર બહુ ધ્યાન અપાયું નથી, અને એને કારણે જાહેરાત આકર્ષક હોવા છતાં, એ કસ્ટમરને બહુ અપીલ કરી શકે નહીં. આ કેસમાં માર્કેટીંગનો મેસેજ ફીક્કો પડી જવાનાં, ઓછો અસરકારક થવાનાં અમુક કારણો જોઇએ:
1. આજના ફેસબૂક-વોટ્સએપના જમાનાની કેટલી યુવતીઓ પત્ર લખે છે?
2. આજની કેટલી યુવતીઓ પોતાના પ્રિય ગઝલ ગાયકને પત્ર લખશે, એવું તમે કલ્પી શકો?
3. પત્ર લખનારાઓમાંથી કેટલા લોકો પોસ્ટ દ્વારા પત્ર મોકલે છે?
4. આજના જમાનાની કેટલી યુવતીઓને પંકજ ઉધાસ કોણ છે, એની જાણ હશે?

5. આજની યુવતીઓમાંથી કેટલીને ગઝલો પસંદ હશે?

પંકજ ઉધાસને મારી ઉંમરના લોકો બહુ સારી રીતે ઓળખતા હશે, અને મને પણ એમની ગાયકી ખૂબ ગમે છે, એમના પ્રત્યે એક અહોભાવ પણ છે. પરંતુ મારા પછીની જનરેશનને તો એ કોણ છે, એની ખબર સુદ્ધાં નથી. એ જનરેશનને કોઇ પ્રોડક્ટ વેચવા માટે એ લોકો જેને ઓળખતા હોય, પસંદ કરતા હોય, એવી કોઇ સેલિબ્રીટીને બ્રાન્ડ એમ્બેસેડર બનાવવામાં આવે, તો એ  લોકો કંઇક ધ્યાન આપે એવી શક્યતા છે. એ રીતે આપણી બ્રાન્ડમાં મજબૂતી આવી શકે.

પરંતુ માર્કેટીંગના નિર્ણયો લેતી વખતે યોગ્યતાને બદલે સસ્તામાં કે સરળતાથી ઉપલબ્ધ હોય, એનો ઉપયોગ કરવાની ઘેલછાને આધારે જ્યારે આવા નિર્ણયો લેવાય, તો એ વ્યર્થતામાં પરિણમે છે.

પોતાની યુવાન પુત્રીને માટે મૂરતિયો ગોતતા કોઇ પણ પિતા 55 વર્ષના મૂરતિયાને પસંદ કરશે ખરા, પછી ભલે ને એ ગમે તેટલો પ્રસિદ્ધ કેમ ન હોય? એ મૂરતિયાની પુત્રી સાથેની યોગ્યતા વિશે પહેલાં વિચાર કરશે જ ને?

તો પછી આપણી બ્રાન્ડના એમ્બેસેડર તરીકે જે હાથમાં આવ્યું એને સિલેક્ટ કરવાનો શું મતલબ છે?

માર્કેટીંગ પ્રચાર વિચારપૂવર્ક, વ્યૂહ રચના તૈયાર કરીને જ કરવો જોઇએ. આડેધડ જાહેરાતો કરવાથી માર્કેટમાં થોડા સમય માટે કોલાહલ-ઘોંઘાટ થશે, પણ આપણી પ્રોડક્ટ કે બ્રાન્ડને એનાથી કંઇ લાંબો ફાયદો નહીં થાય.

આવું ટાળવું જોઇએ.

This is how we waste marketing money. Marketing lessons case study. 

Marketing - Branding Case StudyMarketing communication is one activity where a lot of wastage of marketing money is possible if not done strategically.
In their over enthusiasm to be visible any how, companies end up making a lot of ineffective marketing noise, burning a lot of money.

Here is a recent example I saw.

The brand is Cello Butterflow pens. (Here is the ad.)

The target customer shown in the TVC is a young, impressionable girl.

The advertisement features Pankaj Udhas, the famous ghazal singer.

The ad looks quite decent from creative and execution standpoints.

But marketing effectiveness?

In my opinion, very low.


Because of the lack,of effective marketing strategy.

  • Look at these questions and it will be clear:
How many young girls of today WRITE love letters?
How many WRITE anything other than exam papers?
  • Who sends letters by post?
  • By the way, how many girls of today know who is Pankaj Udhas ?
  • How many appreciate Ghazals?

(I respect Pankaj Udhas as a popular ghazal singer of my generation. But I don’t see any relevance today using him to sell pens to the younger generation who don’t even know who he is.)

Overall, the communication, even though interesting, is irrelevant for the brand building purpose. The target customer should have been kept in mind before designing the communication. Using whatever is available cheaply in marketing is a bad tactic. That signifies absence of a thoughtful marketing communication strategy.

A father does not decide to marry off his young daughter to a 55 year old famous man because he is available today. Does he?

Then why should we select a brand ambassador who has no relevance to the target customer today?

We should not spend marketing money just to make some noise.

Noise is easy.

Voice needs a strategy.

So does effective marketing.