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.

માર્કેટીંગમાં પ્રચાર એક એવી પ્રવૃિત્ત 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 પેનની જાહેરાત જોવા મળે છે, 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 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 ?

(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.)

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.

Marketing lessons from films #1 (Dishoom)

Bollywood films (or for that matter all Indian films) provide a lot of context to people. They create aspirations among people to have similar experiences in their lives. Songs, dialogues etc. from movies provide opportunities to people to dream and model their life situations around them.

The films which provide a lot of such aspirational context succeed, because people spread their songs, dances and dialogues by repeating them again and again.

I heard a song from the yet to be released film Dishoom which goes like “Sau tarah ke rog le loon. Ishq ka marz kya hai. Tu kahe toh jaan de doon. Kehne mein harz kya hai.”

सौ तरह के रोग ले लूं, इश्क का मर्झ क्या है…तु कहे तो जान दे दूं, कहने में हर्ज क्या है…

You will hear these words from a lot of people in the coming months and years. There is a huge number of people who will love to mouth these lines. Year after year.

When our product becomes a part of the customers’ lives, gives them reasons to dream and aspire, it is successful marketing. Many films succeed at that.

The solution to traffic related problems in Indian cities

A recent cover story in Mumbai Mirror says that Mumbai Traffic Police is considering hiking the fines for traffic violations in the city by five times, because the city motorists are not obeying the traffic police rules and the punishment is not enough to be preventive.

The real cause of a lot of traffic related problems in Indian cities comes on two wheels. The reason for accidents on external highways may be different, but a majority of road accidents and traffic related problems inside cities are caused due to the indisciplined driving by some two-wheelers.

On city roads, there is an unwritten rule. If there is any small or big traffic mishap involving a two-wheeler and a bigger vehicle (particularly a car), the fault is ALWAYS of the bigger vehicle – no matter what is the real reason. Smaller vehicles always get away being “Bechara”.   Whereas, most of these mishaps are caused by two-wheelers.

As an independent and unbiased observer, this is what I have observed:

  • The two-wheelers are observed to be major culprits in breaking traffic rules and creating precarious situations for a large number of traffic mishaps.
  • They cut lanes, ignore and break signals, overtake from wrong sides and indulge in reckless driving on all roads, including national highways passing from cities.
  • Traffic police are ill-equipped to nab them, because of their number and their agility.
  • Some motorcyclists are born smartest. And they are sent to show their smartness on the roads through their antics. A lot of accidents are caused by these smart-Alecs.
  • Two-wheelers try to wriggle out from the smallest places, at the highest speeds, causing the biggest troubles for bigger vehicles who take time to react.
  • The manufacturers of two-wheelers have given access of speeding to immature people who can’t handle it with responsibility. The society at large has to pay the price for such disproportionate allocation of speed to the undeserved.Solution:
  • Expressways don’t allow two-wheelers. There must be a reason. They must also be restricted on highways passing through the cities.
  • Allocate dedicated lanes for two-wheelers on roads.
  • Equip the traffic police with technologies to nab the rule-breaking two-wheelers.
  • Enforce speed limits for two-wheelers.
  • Put heavy penalty on rule breaking, including cancellation of license or registration on the first grave offence.
  • The track record of such miscreants must be followed and their licenses revoked.

Speed kills.
Not only the ones who speed, but also those who try to save themselves from the antics of such crazy zealots.

Yes, all two-wheelers are not unruly, but a large number of them are, and they must be controlled for the safety of the wiser world.

Unless the traffic authorities do not come heavily on the trouble causing two-wheelers, the problems related to accidents on the Indian city roads are not going to reduce.

Why First AC in Indian Railways is not worth it?

Here is the first hand experience of traveling by First AC in 19116 Bhuj BDTS Express.

1) Yes, some extra space is there, but dirt, poor maintenance and attitude of employees spoils that luxury. The experience is far less than satisfactory.

2) The cabins are only superficially clean. Curtains, other utility areas are not touched since months. Curtains are torn. Cabin doors don’t close.

3) Toilets are punishments. Soap not filled. Floor dirty. Soap case not touched since months. Stoppers sticky. Not much qualitative difference than a sleeper or second class toilet.

4) Cleaning service is pathetic. The cleaner just provides lip service to the job. He comes,  sprays some liquid all around the coach, disappears for 15-20 minutes then comes hurriedly and mops the floor casually. He is more interested in getting the feedback form filled. (I filled the form with negative feedback for all things not done. I hope someone reads and cares for improvement.

5)  The First AC compartment has an attendant. He was more theoretical than practically being there. I observed they have nothing to do after keeping beddings on the seats. The attendant is given a cabin. Here, all the attendants of other AC compartments gather and loudly chat well beyond 2 am in the morning, creating nuisance and disturbing the passengers (remember, cabin doors don’t close).

With such a high premium charged, the service levels must be very high. You give this much money to any private operator and they will provide excellent service.

With the current attitude of Indian Railways, First AC is certainly not worth it. It is just Sleeper class with AC. Nothing else is different.

Only the charges are first class. Nothing else is.

Career advice I wish I’d received when it mattered !!!

I am often asked by parents and some young students about how to go about choosing the young ones’ careers.

I share with them what my self experience of being in a wrong career has taught me. I realized this when I turned 43 (I am 50 now) and corrected the mistake since then. Many of us could be making such a mistake of choosing a wrong career path and then suffer because of that.

Here is some career advice that people usually learn too late in life.

Equating degree with career foundation:

I was a merit holder in secondary and higher secondary (SSC and 12th std). Based on this, I chose Engineering (Computer Science), because that is what students with high marks did. I went on pulling myself playing a software engineer. But, I was not enjoying it. Finally, at 43, I realized that I was in a wrong career. I gave up the “act” and followed my passion. Remember, a degree is only your passport to get your first job. After that, you are on your own. Don’t get trapped inside your degree.

Thinking that our education will pay us:

After getting a degree, we think that the world owes us livelihood and will respectfully pay us for obtaining that lofted degree. We must realize that the world will not pay for our educational qualification, but for the problems we may help it solving.

We must follow our parent’s career:

Every Abhishek can’t become Amitabh. But many try and fail miserably.

Not knowing our passion:

Many of us don’t learn this precious lesson till the end of the life. We must select our career based on our passion, our likings and our strengths, and not based on “what is in demand?” Or “what will pay more?”. People fail in a career about which they are not passionate.

Here is how Taxi-Auto-walas can fight against Uber-Ola

Taxi and Auto-walas of Mumbai and adjoining cities are facing heat of competition from Uber, Ola and the like.

The challenge is new. The challengers are also new. The approach to fight back against such a challenge also has to be new.

But, Taxi-Auto-walas are not learning any lessons. Misguided by their politically motivated leaders, they are resorting to their old arm-twisting tactics of pressurizing the government through strikes etc.

They don’t know that they can’t succeed. By strikes, they will give opportunity to many new customers to experience the better services of Uber-Ola for the first time. They must learn that the rules of the game have changed.

Instead, they should resolve to fight Uber-Ola by:
a) Providing better service
b) Not refusing fare
c) Being polite
d) Following traffic rules
e) Being transparent by not cheating

The leaders who are inciting them must help them realize the reality of the time.

But these leaders will.never do so.
Because they don’t want their followers to grow. To learn. To flourish.

Sooner or later, Taxi-Auto-walas will have to mend their ways, or face extinction.
Till then, if they continue such mindless acts, they will repeatedly fail.

Customers, who.have experienced good service will never prefer their inferior treatment. Customers will punish the perpetrators for providing poor service.

Market realities cannot be wished away by political noise.

And politicians will never tell you this.

Some lessons can’t be taught. They have to be learned.