Sunday, December 28, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Definitions that limit

Last month I attended a seminar on digital marketing . The audience comprised of folks from IT companies , media professionals , consultants , entrepreneurs operating a business primarily through the internet ( e.g portals ) . There was no one ( excepting yours truly ) from the textile / clothing business .

A fortnight ago I had the pleasure of attending a brilliant seminar by Siyahi on 'The Narrative in Indian textiles ' . It was a veritable voyage of discovery of beautiful aspects of India's textile heritage ( will share some of the experiences and insights in subsequent posts ) . The audience composition here was art / textile historians , free lance designers , writers (on the subject of India's textile heritage ) , design school representatives , (few) architects . With the exception of a furnishing manufacturer there was no real representation of folks from the textile / clothing business .

Both seminars were terrific in terms of content . And were of relevance (now more than ever ) to business in the textile and clothing category.
(The example of the textile and clothing business is a case in point . The analogy applies to various industries and businesses )

It was not as though these were secret events known only to a few .Both seminars were promoted on-line / advertised , featured in some publications . It's quite possible that many saw it and dismissed it because it did not fit into the (narrow) definition of their business or industry + attending seminars etc is axed by most corporates in troubled times . In the process passing up opportunities for learning and creation that would have a real impact on their business .


Hypocricy

We live in an interactive world where feedback loops reinforce , shape behavior. If people praise behaviors they criticize vehemently (with good reason) in private then it is a disservice to the person and to the world . Criticizing in private and praising the same behavior is viewed by the doer as being worldly wise . It's not . It's being selfish and hypocritical.It denies the individual the opportunity for feedback and reflection ( and possibly change) . And it perpetuates the behavior . When this is done frequently by a critical mass / majority this contributes to the creation of an unhealthy culture (as in the context of an group, organization or country ).

If the relationship does not allow for constructive feedback then at least do not praise the behavior. Silence is a preferable alternative.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Option B

These are unprecedented times . Many companies and individuals find themselves in situations with no past reference points to serve as a compass or a 'how to survive this' guide . Navigating unchartered territory without a map is an adventure for a few and terrifying for most .

Companies predictably are looking at all ways to cut costs - ranging from ostentatious expenses that should have anyway been axed without waiting for a downturn to the fairly ridiculous e.g for how many hours in a day should the photocopier kept operational (in addition to figuring how to grow business the employees of this company would need to devise a complex schedule on how to use the photocopier while adhering to the diktat of senior managers and yet not compromise work ) . As a friend aptly said 'no one's thinking about the cost of time spent in these endless cost cutting meetings ' . 

Service/IT companies have people 'on the bench' , manufacturing companies are shutting factories for several days . Companies that are not laying off people but need to scale down output could look at creative ways to engage the resources and energy of their people in contributing to their organization and communities . 
e.g :
- Create cross functional teams to work on specific projects of relevance to the business
- Devote quality time to work on innovation
- Contribute time to teaching 
- Initiate drives to clean up specific areas
- Volunteer time to specific NGOs / initiatives - not in an aimless , meandering sort of way. But in a professional way with tangible , specific outcomes and timelines .

You get the drift . The possibilities are endless depending on the skills available and the unique challenges to which they can be constructively applied .

This is a win-win strategy for all involved - the employee , the company , the community and the wider world . For those who seek a business benefit to any action - your customers are likely to think better of you for making a positive contribution to your community .

These days the conversation inevitably veers towards the economic situation . Many seem to be in a race to make the most dire predictions . That way one can appear prescient few days , weeks , months later should events head in the direction of one's prediction . Instead of responding to the economic situation with a mix of fear , horror and panic there is the alternative of making the most of the challenging times .

Event after event shows us how interconnected the world is . Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not - we influence (if not create ) our world equally through action and inaction. 

When the history of business in this period is written what will it be ? 

a. Companies generally recoiled in horror , laid off people , cut salaries , reduced focus on innovation . Their employees felt unsure , reduced levels of trust in the management , stressed out. Having dried the innovation pipelines they had nothing new or meaningful to offer to their customers . Which in turn perpetuated the reduced sales and the gloomy outlook .

b. At least some companies had the courage to redefine their purpose , their relationships with the wider world of which they are a part . Having engaged their employees in meaningful initiatives they came out of the phase stronger , more confident . And in fact these companies not just survived the downturn . They were instrumental in catalyzing growth .

I'm hoping it will be option 'b' not just for a few - but many companies .

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Happiness is infectious


(Never mind the fact that individually tailored self-help techniques is not the only path or even the path of many leading to happiness. Sometimes the finding of a research and / or the way it is articulated reveals the nationality of the research )

At this point in time reading about happiness being infectious offers hope . It would be a welcome epidemic .

Monday, December 1, 2008

Will we change ?


What happened in Mumbai was a horrible tragedy . What is worse that it could have been avoided .

Many lost their lives in the 3 days . Families lost their loved ones . Many more have sustained injuries . The scars – physical and psychological will take a long time to heal .

This tragedy is a reminder of how interconnected the world is – whether we choose to acknowledge it or not . We bear the fruit of our action and inaction .This is a wake up call for us as individuals and collectively as citizens of Mumbai and India . Until we understand the lessons and demonstrate that understanding in our actions the lessons will come back repeatedly .

The anger , outrage , sorrow in Mumbai (and in various parts of India) today is palpable . There is a real risk of a lot of it manifesting as well intentioned , passionate gestures rather than lasting change . In the various attacks on Mumbai in the past few years many have died an untimely , brutal death . The course of many more lives have been altered as a consequence . Lasting change – as individuals and citizens - is the only real respect we can pay to them . Anything else would be a token gesture .

The ‘response’ needs to be larger than just a ‘reaction’ to this tragedy . This attack is not a standalone problem . It is a symptom of a deeper anomaly .As they say in Ayurveda – you can’t treat a part without treating the whole . The response requires us to step out of the narrow boundary of our individual lives to look at the broader world and to participate in it with our time , effort , money , compassion and patience .

A few thoughts on possible (necessary ) actions . This is by no means an exhaustive list . It is at best a starting point .

Even without this horrific event it was clear that we need to make this a more equitable planet than it currently is . If each person takes on the initiative to do improve the life of even one person we can in a matter of years make enormous progress in creating a more equitable , fairer world .

The outrage against the politicians and government agencies is completely justified . At the same time we must face the mirror and acknowledge our role and responsibility for the situation . We elected these people , never really demanded transparency , performance or accountability . We always thought ‘oh I’m one person ‘ or ‘what can we do ‘ ? We are the substrate that allowed the cancer to develop .

We need to actively , constructively, consistently demand accountability from all our government entities – the MLAs , MPs , Municipal Corporations , Ministries. (We have to pursue our elected representatives with the firmness and resolve with which we expect them to root out the terrorist groups in Pakistan responsible for the attacks on India ) .
How can we do this ? Set up websites , blogs . Figure out the elected representatives from one’s area . Organize as a group to dialogue with them, understand what are they doing , why are they supporting or voting against specific proposals in the Parliament , what are the projects in-pipeline , timelines ? Different groups will be able to impact on different issues and to varying degrees . The important thing is to recognize that we are not powerless ( as individuals or as groups ) and to operate from that faith .

In any action we take (no matter how small or large ) to make our individual contribution to a changed world the key is sustaining it over a period of time. One year from now and in the years beyond when the immediacy of this has receded into the background will we still be demonstrating changed behavior and actions ?

If not , then let’s leave the politicians alone . They would be no different from the citizens who elected them .

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Everyone does not use Windows !

I use a Macbook . For me it's a fantastic device . With it's intuitive functions it frees me up to work on whatever I need to without having to bother to master the nuances of the operating system or the interface . As a consequence I am happier and more productive in my work that involves the computer .

Bought some data recently . It came in a CD . Only problem is that I can't read any of it because it is designed only to work on a Windows based computer . 

We initiated an account with a courier and transport company . The person from the company came over to install some software that would provide a lot of the information one would normally need . Can't be installed on my laptop because it is designed only for windows based computers .

Companies/websites must factor that all their customers/users do not use a windows based computer . Is a Mac user going to trade his/her Mac for a windows computer ? Very unlikely . Is the business* that chooses to service only windows based computers likely to lose business (of mac users)  ? Possibly .
* especially if it's a generic , mediocre service provider

Monday, November 24, 2008

Listening to customers

At a recent seminar the CEO of a company that hosts a popular consumer feedback site Mouthshut.com talked about the unwillingness of most companies to listen to and speak with their customers . He jokingly offered a prize to anyone who could speak with the CEO of Vodafone in 24 hours . 

The tenacity with most which organizations stonewall efforts of customers to speak with a senior person (anyone one more senior than the team leader at the call centre ) of the company is amazing . At some point the call centre folks seem to have figured that declining to give information will enrage the customer . So now , they say " sorry we don't know who is in charge of customer service " . Some will go even so far as to feign ignorance of who is the CEO of the company . 

On one hand companies try vigorously to resist engaging in communication with customers. And the same organization will spend megabucks to engage the services of market research companies like Gallup to get customer feedback . Case in point - the world's local bank . Maybe organizations feel like listening only when they pay for the service ?



Friday, November 21, 2008

Inbox

For a working professional the email inbox often provides a source of amusement...

I had emailed an enquiry to a company . Received a reply today that addressed some of the queries emailed . It had a rather baffling request "We request you to please re-send your enquiry on your business letterhead as it is our policy for new prospective clients. This may be sent either by fax to us at our fax number or by courier/post to the following address " !

Received an unsolicited email from a company that seems to provide website development and search engine optimization services . In the email the company ( I refer to them as 'the company' because the email was signed by 'The Sales Team' ) had mentioned that they had studied the website of SoulQuest and that they found scope for improvement . The 'improvement' being a form in the 'Contact us' section . When a person submits an enquiry a message would pop up saying " we will contact you in 48 hours" . Though the rest of the mail was pure jargon with over priced services I felt obliged to respond since someone there seems to have made the effort to study and site and suggest an improvement . So , I sent them an email thanking for the offer and that we would contact them in future if we felt a need for their services . Promptly I received a reply " we will contact you in 48 working hours " . 48 working hours is eternity in today's world.Assuming they work 8 hours a day it means a response time of 6-8 days depending on how many days a week they work . It's been 3 days since that message . It appears that they take the 48 working hours quite seriously :) They have an auto responder configured . Even someone who was writing in with a business enquiry would receive the same email . It's a counter productive message for a company operating in internet related services .
(in retrospect it seems that possibly the 'contact us' is the only section of a site they study to be able to write a message that sounds customized )

The UN's incomprehensible effort to become environment-friendly

article in the newspaper today...

The United Nations (UN) is working on a proposal to organize paperless and environmentally friendly international conferences in future.

To begin with, delegates attending a global gathering in Doha on the ozone layer are being issued laptops in a bid to minimize the use of paper for documents, reports and other publications.

Special software allows participants from 150 nations to share and amend papers. The pilot paperless programme will take its next big step forward next February at a meeting of the world’s environment ministers at UNEP’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

The UN makes laptops sound like non-wood paper ! Each of the delegates (most anyway ) are likely to already use laptops . The UN could have emailed the necessary software which would enable them to share and amend papers etc . In a world reeling under the impact of the current economic situation the UN seems flush with funds to try out such ideas to become 'environment friendly' . Wonder if they have a plan to recycle the laptops ? (The Indian delegate will have the task to explain to Indian customs why he left with one laptop and returned with two . I guess such a delegate would have the 'connections' to ensure a smooth entry )

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Help underprivileged children

There are several ways in which you can help underprivileged children get quality education .

1. You can identify children in your neighborhood / extended community whose education is restricted due to lack of financial resources . Sponsor the child's education and mentor them ongoingly .

2. Donate money to a NGO you trust will do a sincere job of providing education to underprivileged children .


Wow ! Wish I had a large family and could refer all of them to HSBC Premier and rack up good karma points for the contributions that the World's Local Bank will make to the cause of children's education . Since my family members already endure the trauma of being Premier customers of HSBC guess I'll have to let this opportunity to do good pass .

Seldom do large corporations do something altruistic because they are committed to it . Most such causes are promotions for business development , brand building , product selling . This 'initiative' from HSBC India sets a new low in the category of 'companies using charitable causes to peddle their wares'.

Nowhere does the mailer (received last evening by courier ) mention that HSBC has already donated a certain amount to the cause or is supporting the education of 1000 children . And your referral will add to the good work . Instead the mailer says ' At HSBC , we are keen to make a difference to the society that we live in and with a little help from you , we are confident that together we can make a significant difference' . Highly possible that Muktangan may get funds from the world's local bank for the education of 2 children at the most.

This initiative from HSBC is a study not just not the crude commercialism of corporations and the willingness to resort to any means to peddle their wares - it's also instructive in inefficiency and waste . For a program valid from 30th Sep 08 to 1 Dec 08 I received the mailer on 15 Nov 08.
A 8 page mailer (of which 1.3 pages are devoted to 'the cause' ) shrink wrapped in plastic . All this waste when an email would have sufficed (if they found themselves unable to resist concocting such an offer ) .

Education is a serious need for millions across the world . In India especially ( and unfortunately) we don't have to go too far from our homes to find children and adults who need support for their education . As the world gets more and more interconnected education or the lack of it creates a divide that makes the Grand Canyon look like a small crack . Pl do support and encourage education directly or through groups that have a proven track record of sincere and efficient efforts .



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Responsible design

Visited few stores retailing clothes for children . The violent , disturbing nature of the motifs on several garments for young boys 5 years and above was a shocker ( I could finally buy something at the third store ) . Clothing companies should exercise discipline and restraint while designing for an impressionable audience . 

Already children are faced with a steady stream of violent imagery on TV , newspapers , magazines. Surely they can do without violent images on their clothing .

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Brand label !

Brands put in a lot of effort to design and produce their brand labels .

To an average dry cleaner in India a brand label or wash care label is space to mark the customer's initials for identification !

Monday, November 3, 2008

Gift wrap

At a book store in Bandra last week I purchased some books that I wanted gift wrapped . The store had a lovely range of gift wrapping papers as a product for sale . Their range of gift wrapping papers which they offered for free gift wrapping were ludicrous (wish I had taken pictures of both to post here ) . The not-so-subtle idea being that the consumer would take a look at the papers they offered free , reject it and buy a sheet of the lovely range on sale .

Strangely and sadly very few retailers and brands in India understand that gift wrapping -
- represents the brand
- is a service to the customer
- has the potential to turn a sale into a memorable event (and the customer into an evangelist)

In the continuum of the quality of gift wrapping - a brand can delight the customer with exquisite packaging paper . Or be in the neutral zone with plain (but elegant ) paper . Why brands seek to trivialize their product and brand by offering garish options that are out of sync with the brand is beyond comprehension . 

Notice that the reference above is only so far to the paper / material . The next step is the neatness and creativity of the packaging . Again , most Indian retailers and brands don't seem to realize the importance of doing this right .

Lastly , the sentiment with which it is done . Ideally , the gift wrapping section should be a celebration zone . A customer has purchased an item to gift . Hurray ! Ask the customer about the occasion , the recipient of the gift . Customize the packaging to the extent possible . e.g which is the recipient's favorite color ? Would you like the gift to be packed in an unusual way ?

The gift wrapping in most Indian stores is a low end , unskilled job located in some small corner of the store. The individual handling the gift wrapping seems to receive very little training or motivation from the store managers . Most times they learn from customers chiding them to do neater job . 

The completely obvious is so difficult to see ? 

What's in a box ?

For some companies the entire brand is defined by the box that contains the product...

In a recent visit to a men's accessories store in Mumbai I found 4 brands with little or no product differenciation . If a consumer mixed up the products then it would have been tough (if not impossible ) for the sales staff to figure out which design belonged to which brand . The general idea seems to be that brand = the packaging with a name slapped on it . The customer is an idiot who will get moved into reaching for his wallet at the sight of the brand name . What else can explain a product with a price 4 times that of the exactly identical product  next to it ? The only difference being the box ( brand ) in which the products were placed . 

In any country this would be a crazy path to follow . One that will confuse and alienate customers sooner and later . To do this in a value conscious market like India is even more mystifying .
* a friendly chat with the salesperson revealed that not a single unit of the 4x priced product had been sold since the time the store had commenced operation .

The obscure some people eventually see . The completely obvious , it seems , takes a little longer . 


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

an entirely avoidable drama

Today there was uncertainity in Mumbai , violence in several locations - all courtesy the arrest of Raj Thakerey .
Roads had a deserted look, vehicle and pedestrian traffic was a fraction of the daily levels , several shops , restaurants were closed .By late afternoon there were calls from friends and associates suggesting to close office early and leave for home . While I did not like the idea of doing so as it would cede that much more power to communal forces like the MNS , I felt obliged to offer the option of leaving early to my colleagues . Interestingly they rejected the idea spontaneously . Overall we had a productive day. This unfortunately was not the experience of thousands of citizens and businesses across Mumbai today. 

In a day and age when we need to be thinking not just in nationalistic terms but as citizens of the planet it is unfortunate to see forces like the MNS take a regressive stand on communal grounds . And dissipate the time , energy and resources of the citizens of this country. If the world is some reflection of the collective self then this is one scary image .One that should jolt us into firm action to create Mumbai into a city that the citizens of the world look to for inspiration .

Monday, October 20, 2008

an avoidable drama

The recent episode of Jet Airways making an announcement to retrench 1100 employees and the reversal with the chairman stating that “The management will have to understand sometimes in a family there are disagreements but the father of the family decides.” had the weirdness one would normally associate with Ekta Kapoor serials . The drama was entirely avoidable .

Jet did not reach it's current employee numbers overnight . Neither were the recruitments done without the knowledge of Jet . When an organization faces challenging times(due to external factors or a crisis of it's own making) it's necessary to look at all aspects of the business to save costs . And not put people on the chopping block as the first measure . Even if retrenchment / retrenchment on this scale was the only way out there were far more humane ways to go about it .

After this episode Jet can probably add ' rebuild employee trust and morale' to it's to-do list.

One hopes that the Jet episode will be instructive for other companies who may be contemplating similar measures as the first course of action .

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nurture the craft

Visited an exhibition in Mumbai recently by SEWA Lucknow . Extensive range of hand embroidered dupattas , kurtas , sarees . Most of it very average in design and quality . It was disheartening to see an institution that was once responsible for the revival and popularization of Lucknowi embroidery bring mediocre products in all categories to an exhibition.

While SEWA Lucknow's ranges at the Mumbai exhibitions have never come anywhere close to the pinnacle of the Lucknowi embroidery - the range at this exhibition was a new low compared even to their earlier ranges . It is possible that they endeavored to make products to fit into some price points . There was a limited range of heavily embroidered products . Those too were disappointing in terms of quality.
(it is possible that my assessment stems from the quality of hand embroidered products we develop and source as SoulQuest . And that lay consumers may have found the range worth trying especially considering the price ranges )

It takes a lot to nurture traditional craft forms . There are no formal schools that impart training . It is knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation . Unlike factory produced goods there aren't any objective standards to assess quality in hand made . The 'quality' in hand made ranges from impeccable , exquisite work to average to shoddy . Passion , rigor and discipline are crucial to ensure that the creations consistently do justice to the craft and the artisan.

Here's hoping that the next range from SEWA Lucknow will delight - for design and quality.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sari for a hammock...

Insightful article by Shoba Narayan in the MINT LOUNGE. She spans various aspects of design and style in an insightful way . The examples of the Indian context are worth pondering .


As a people, I believe that we Indians are stylish. I don’t mean the Page 3 socialites who have fallen prey to Western dictates (and brand names) of what constitutes style. I mean that rural India has a style that is entirely and uniquely our own. It is in the upturned jootis and the dignified walk of a turban-clad farmer in Rajasthan; in the crisp folds of a Bengal cotton sari, especially when worn by pretty much any woman in Kolkata; in the green bangles of a koli fisherwoman who goes to Crawford Market; in the pristine white “mundu” dhoti of Kerala politicians including defence minister A.K. Antony; in the graceful walk of any woman who balances a pot of water on her head. Wherever you look in India, we have a style and grace that is a mixture of Bauhaus functionality and Baroquean exuberance. It follows Mies van der Rohe’s dictate that form must follow function and then adds a fillip of colour and je ne sais quoi to it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Women's magazines

While going through women's magazines (the English publications ) in India recently I noticed that the women featured in the articles are mostly dressed in western attire # . Very few articles or even photographs of celebrities show Indian attire * . Most of the dressing tips too tend to almost exclusively focus on western wear ( this sometimes doubles as humor e.g every city girl needs a Birkin bag . Really ? most city girls in India would draw a blank at the phrase 'Birkin Bag') . 
* exceptions being coverage of the Lakme Fashion week :)
# while writing this post I reviewed a recent issue of Femina . The 190 page issue had totally 6-7 photographs of women in kurtas / sarees. This included some PR type photos of some events ( excluding ads in which there was hardly any Indian wear anyway . Maybe brands are missing an opportunity here )

While I love my western attire I'm not certain that magazines turning geography and culture neutral is doing the readers any good . There's a treasure trove of elegant and exquisite Indian attire that deserves the spot light .A wide range of traditional , hand woven fabrics that are timeless and stunning . Silhouettes that are kind on the wearer .The sheer diversity and richness of India's textile heritage is breath taking . Many of the hand woven fabrics are visual poetry. This richness and diversity is not limited to clothing . Accessories like bags , jewelry inspired by India's textile heritage / which complement Indian attire can be showcased effectively in women's magazines . Showcased not as a flavor of the season or only around the festive season . Showcased in an ongoing way that acknowledges the cultural context and the textile heritage of the portion of the pale blue dot we are privileged to inhabit .

Monday, October 13, 2008

Say no to plastic

Visited a supermarket recently . Behind the cash counters there are signs which say "say NO to plastic , plastic is harmful"with rather gory pictures of a landfill filled with plastic bags . Logically one would think that the store offers alternative material as packaging . No . Every purchase is packed in a plastic bag . There is no cloth bag or paper bag in sight . No alternatives to plastic bags that a consumer could even buy (since the store wasn't giving it anyway ).

While waiting for the bill to be prepared I asked to speak with the Manager. Showed him the posters and asked why they continue to pack in plastic bags and offer no alternative. By his reaction it seemed that this was the first time he was contemplating the contradiction . He tried saying that they had kept some bags but consumers were not willing to pay Rs 50 (approx 1-1.20 $ depending on currency movements )for the bag.  Very few consumers would agree to pay Rs 50 every time they popped into the store for a purchase . If this was the only initiative by the store then it seems more like a business proposition ( to earn margins on the cloth bags ) rather than action driven by ideology and a genuine concern for the environment .

Coming back to the store manager . He tried to blame the consumers for the fact that they continue to use plastic bags . Yours truly has taken to carrying a folding bag around on a daily basis . This one choice alone helps to reduce the personal consumption of plastic bags significantly ( staff at some fashion clothing stores look at me in dismay when I decline their bags ). I had a folding bag with me and fished it out to accommodate  nearly 50% of the items purchased . Showed it to the store manager and suggested that they could offer some kind of incentive to consumers who bring their own bags . The amount itself may not be much . But it would be recognition for planet friendly efforts . They could even weave it into the loyalty program e.g 5 consecutive purchases done without plastic bags qualify for extra points . 

Plastic bag is among other things a habit . Once consumers get used to carrying a bag around to this store they are likely to carry it for other purchases as well .

Problems don't always have simple solutions . But that does not mean that the search for solutions should be abandoned (in so many situations the seeming complexity of the problem deters from even attempting a solution ) .

Do write in with suggestions for alternatives to plastic bags .

Say no to plastic .

Friday, October 3, 2008

What's in a bottle ?


Roberto Cavalli has designed bottles for Coke Light. A limited run of 300,000 bottles will be distributed in Italy.

"In every woman there’s a special spark that makes her unique and comes out unexpectedly every time she follows her instincts. It bowls over anyone who is watching her," addsCristina Santucci, Marketing Director of Coca-Cola Italia. "This joint project with Roberto Cavalli aims to offer a collector’s version of the Coca-Cola light bottle, to appeal to women with a strong personality, who are extrovert, modern and like to experiment; women who love beauty, design, art and culture. We want to remind them to bring out the unique, authentic side to their character. Either through a Roberto Cavalli dress or by collecting a limited edition Coca-Cola light bottle designed by Roberto Cavalli."

For those who (like me ) thought that a coke was a coke....

The next frontier would be designer bottles for tap water ?

Cheers !

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Take the real character test

Terrific article by Shoba Narayan in the MINT .


The point that today , many confuse character and reputation is a valid one .

Friday, September 19, 2008

Barclays Bank

Barclays Bank entered India probably a year or so ago . I'm quite aware of their presence in India . This has nothing to do with their advertising or PR . Every other week I receive calls from people claiming to call on behalf of Barclays Bank and offer a personal loan or a credit card . To each caller I explain that I need neither . The cumulative number of such Barclays Bank calls is at least 12-15 in the past 3 months . They all call on my mobile . If all these callers had called on my various office or home numbers it may have been understandable . By now every marketing agency in India that Barclays Bank has employed in the past 6 months should have on their database that this consumer was contacted and has repeatedly declined every product offering.Yet the calls continue . 

This could mean - 
a. Barclays Bank has no idea (yet) that their attempts to garner business are turning consumers off 
b.   They know . But have run out of ideas to reach consumers . So this kind of harassment has the tacit or explicit approval of the Bank folks.

Either way this isn't doing much for the bank other than make it appear rather desperate and clueless . Maybe Barclays Bank is a terrific bank that provides exceptional service . After the experience of the last few months would I consider a banking relationship with Barclays ? Nope.

Trust and comfort are essential for a consumer to establish a new banking relationship. This kind of calling may work for a mobile services provider seeking to offer a new SIM card . It's grossly out of place for a bank.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Go Fish




Fishing rod from Chanel for 18,000 $ . Will be a long time (if ever ) before this makes contact with water :)


Chanel can make a 18,000 $ fishing rod . And someone may even buy it . Question to both - why ? 


Monday, September 15, 2008

Say it..NOW

If you want to extend a helping hand or say a kind word , don't wait . Do it now.


A philosophy that can extend to all life situations . Kindness not just as highlighted in the article above . Everyday kindness that brightens up the world for everyone connected . 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Small service from big companies

Service has a relation to big + organized in Indian retail and phone/internet service providers . Service seems to be inversely proportional to the scale of the company .

In an earlier post I had written about big service from small retail . For the past several weeks I'm experiencing small (read : no ) service from 'big' service provider Airtel . About 2 months ago we shifted to the Airtel internet connection . For the first 2-3 weeks it worked well . Post that there are problems everyday with the connection . Either it won't work or it will work for 30-40 mins and stop thereafter . In 4 weeks I've called Airtel more frequently than I called the cable internet guy in the 4 years we had the connection . One of the factors seems to be the poor quality of the modem . It heats up to an extent where one can toast bread on it while on the near daily call to the Airtel call centre to lodge a complaint . The problem re the modem has been advised to Airtel . One of the service persons turned up , checked it and declared it fit . Hence , no need to replace ( He analyzed the problem as being one of connectivity alone . Whereas the problem is the duration and consistency of the connection ) .The problem persists to a point where if it is not not resolved we will disconnect the service . And certainly share the problem with folks we know so that other can make informed choices on whether to take an airtel internet connection .

The people at the call centre seem to be well meaning folks . They in fact bear the brunt of a customer's dissatisfaction . The problem is at the levels and with the people at Airtel who make crucial decisions like quality of equipment to be purchased , the design of the service process . 

Airtel spends crores on advertising to build the brand . Some of it put into buying better equipment , ensuring problem resolution and follow up calls to check if the problem has been satisfactorily resolved will do much more to build the brand than the advertisements.

It seems to be the malaise of many mammoth organizations to focus on growth , market share , market cap , profits at the cost of service and value to the very entity on whom all business is based - the customer . Airtel is not alone in this delusion . The list of companies who join them in this category makes for who's who of Indian business . It's an diverse group where multi-nationals and Indian brands have equal representation .

To paraphrase the (now) popular idea that there is money to be made at the bottom of the pyramid - there's money to be made and an enduring brand to be built by being customer focused .






Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Airports as cultural ambassadors

Each region of India has a wonderfully distinct culture . The cuisine of each region too is distinct. There are amazing heritage products in each region . You'd never know of it though from the airports of the region / city .

Air travel has gone up tremendously in India . This means millions of travellers who spend ( or are forced to spend due to delays ) time at the airports . Each airport could be a magnificent cultural ambassador for the region offering authentic local cuisine , best of the products from the region . This would make it way more interesting for travellers  and rewarding for the airport and the retailers .

In a recent visit to Chennai I observed the changes in the Mumbai domestic airport .It is  by far the best airport in India . The stores , Cafes , foot reflexology massage offer good options to travellers. Would be terrific to see Mumbai food like Pav bhavji , vada pav (low oil variety !) available at the airport .  

Chennai airport has few food stalls . All of which offer high calorie , average tasting snacks . The kind you could find anywhere - sandwiches , samosas etc . A restaurant that offers average fare with no local flavor (except an odd dosa on on the menu ) . There's a new restaurant that offers fancy fare like Pesto Panini . For region that has mouthwatering , exquisite cuisine there is no representation of it at the airport . Likewise there is no representation of the gorgeous silk products of Tamil Nadu , stone work , wood work or any craft from the region for that matter.
( in a few airports where local products are available they unfortunately often tend to be average e.g Lucknow)

Turning the airports into cultural ambassadors for the region / city would be a win-win situation for all - the travellers , the airport , retailers , the artisans . Introducing the richness of each region of India to it's people and guests has a value that extends beyond business and monetary benefits .




Monday, September 8, 2008

Talent does not always have a specific degree

In an earlier post I had written that talent has no gender . According to some companies talent comes with specific educational degrees (only). Anyone without those degrees is deemed unsuitable .

Picture this – a fashion clothing manufacturer which insists on hiring only engineers with a MBA  degree for customer service and sales positions . Not only are the recruitment criteria irrelevant . They are sometimes counter productive for the business .

To succeed in customer service/sales in the fashion business one must have an eye for detail , understand the product in detail , seek to innovate , have an interest in fashion , be people centric , willingness to learn , willingness to work on the shop floor / with the artisans (if not all then at least some of this attributes in varying degrees ). Does an engineering degree ensure these traits ?

Since the creation of SoulQuest I have had the opportunity to work with a very diverse group of people and companies across India . Talent abounds in the most unexpected places .

The dedicated sales girl in a handloom store who in a few visits understood our requirements and created relevant sample ranges on her own . Built a strong rapport to an extent where my colleagues go an extra mile to develop business to place to her . It was incredibly touching to see her follow up to service some enquiries (which she knew were important for us) while on her maternity leave . This is service that can’t be taught or forced.

An entrepreneur who (works with artisans) provides consistently high levels of quality and personalized service.

    A young girl with Higher Secondary Education who today effectively manages the administration of a start-up software company . She made the effort to learn whatever was needed , asked for additional responsibilities . Of course the organization supported her . But without her initiative it would not have been possible.

The examples could fill a book . The point is not that engineering or certain degrees are of no value . An arts graduate may be able to bring immense value to a software company and a biotech graduate may make a terrific designer. The point is that talent does not always come only with a uniform package of specific degrees.

This is even more relevant in a country like India where the educational system is quite rigid. Add to it the fact that career choices get determined at an age when (in most cases) the person makes choices from a limited understanding of possibilities . For many certain educational options are not available due to monetary constraints . But they have the attitude , talent and willingness to learn .Given this background - ill conceived recruitment criteria are a disservice to the business and every stake holder involved.

Oddly companies seem to look at non-linear profiles to recruit only when faced with a crisis of shortage of ‘suitable’ candidates .  It’s a reaction rather than a pro-active strategy .

Large corporates  tend to seek homogeneity of sorts – within a function , across the organization . In some it takes the form of documented recruitment criteria , in some it is informal e.g hire people who are likely to be in sync with the culture of not questioning the hierarchy etc . The end result is a group with an alarming resemblance to the agents in the Matrix movies .

To navigate through today’s world new (relevant) skills are vital – to understand the changing business landscape , innovate continuously and to build strong relationships.

It takes self-confident and strong leaders to redefine the business and invite the (relevant) diverse group of people on-board .

p.s - The very existence , shape and form of organizations is undergoing scrutiny and change in a world where groups come together and create something that would have been impossible for an organization to do / do at a comparable cost e.g Wikipedia , Flickr . More on that in a later post…

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sign of the times

Visited an Archies store recently ( it's a chain of stores in India that retails greeting cards , gift items ) . Having taken to making personalized cards and letters I had not visited any such store in months . The range of cards was ok . The gifts items give the impression that the store seeks to cater only to teenage girls who want to buy gifts for other teenagers . It would take a courageous father to display any gift from that store in his office . Tough luck if you are out shopping there for any person who is not a teenager . Archies is certainly missing a huge opportunity to cater to a wider segment of the population . 

As I walked through the store I saw something I'd never seen before . There were ceramic piggy banks (nothing piggy about them though) . The color scheme was very feminine . And the piggy banks had slogans like "shoe fund" , "hand bag fund" . There was one piggy bank that had some message from a parent to the daughter encouraging her to save for her dreams (or something to that effect). Apparently boys don't save money or at least they don't save money this way . 

This kind of merchandise is telling of our times and it's rampant consumerism. A retailer is marketing piggy banks encouraging girls to save money to be able to buy hand bags and shoes . Interestingly the piggy banks were the variety where the only way to access the money is to break it ( as the tag read " we encourage you to wrap a cloth around it before breaking to avoid any damage to the user" ) . So each time the consumer breaks a piggy bank she'll need another one . Maybe the idea is to launch a mini piggy to gather funds to buy accessory specific piggy banks .

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Handle with love

At SoulQuest hand-made products are a passion for us . This coupled with the exploration of India's textile heritage makes for a lot of 'aha!' moments at work. 

While maintaining a certain quality and look we experiment a fair amount to make product presentations creative , engaging and more importantly respectful of the product , people and everything that went into creating it . Few months ago we decided to stamp some of the exceptional hand made products with a stamp that says "Handle with love" . It was interesting to see the response it elicited within the extended SoulQuest community . Many loved it . Some were alarmed (what's the word love doing in a company's lexicon ? ). Spirited discussions ensued. Can't say that we have converted all the skeptics . The doors are open for an ongoing dialogue .

To our delight a Japanese retailer loved the idea and has requested to feature "Handle with Love" on their forthcoming garment collection . 

Business is essentially a human endeavor . A working person spends most of his waking hours at work . As consumers we experience the products and services created by businesses. Worldwide business is a force that wields far greater power than governments or any institution . In an essentially human endeavor that is today the most powerful force shaping the planet - does it make sense to pretend that emotions , values have no place ? To see business primarily as an aggregation of numbers ? This view of business in varying degrees is responsible to a large extent for the state of the planet and it's inhabitants . Sadly this 'view' is not just a view . It's the eyes through which many see i.e it's so deep rooted . Active acknowledgement and inclusion of emotions and values are essential to nurture creativity and intuition . The quantum leaps we need to make as a species are unlikely to come from a view of business where business is seen an end in itself  or an elaborate number game.

For many the sterile view of business is like 'The Emperor's New Clothes' . Not everyone though has the honesty and courage of the child in that fable . 

We can alter the view and role of business through actions and choices we make everyday as business people and consumers. Granted that the change is unlikely to happen overnight . But the current view of business too did not develop in a day .

Tread with courage .

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Nano

Politics in India is seldom about real people issues . Most of the political parties seem to have an auto response to oppose most issues that have not been initiated by them . In the rhetoric it is the people and businesses who suffer and pay the cost .

Ratan Tata's statement that Tata will move out of West Bengal if the situation does not change is noteworthy in many ways . It signals courage , a willingness to make changes even in the face of significant costs . The way in which is a business is done and run is as important as the business itself . 

Should Tata actually decide to move the Nano out of West Bengal it will set a powerful precedent - for businesses and politicians across India. Articulating the possibility has already set an example .


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Exploring India's textile heritage

At SoulQuest we are committed to bringing Indian techniques and materials to the fashion world .As part of this journey we explore various regions of India to understand better it's textile heritage and find innovative ways to weave it into contemporary fashion. It's inspiring and heartening to see the work of committed individuals and groups across India who have persevered diligently to nurture craft traditions and make them accessible. 

As we see more of the textile heritage of India it's clear that very little of it gets presented internationally . The surprising bit is that it is inadequately presented within India too . Delhi probably has the sole distinction of the metro that has many regional products available in retail through stores or exhibitions . In most other cities products with the textile heritage of various regions are available in a fragmented way . Or when available it is often too highly priced or represents a certain(limited) aspect at best of the technique or craft . The look is predictable. This is unfortunate because it creates a vicious cycle that affects the craftspersons the most and ultimately the craft . Viewed in this context - the contribution of various individuals and groups in different regions working to nurture and revive the craft traditions of the region - is invaluable.

When crafts and traditional skills decline it naturally affects the artisans the most . The loss however is not only that of the artisans . Consumers lose too. Hand made products have a beauty that cannot be created by machine .

Exploring India's textile heritage and seeking to find unusual ways to share it with the world is an exhilarating journey .


What next ? Green cigarettes ?

A British arms and ammunition manufacturer BAE systems had announced that it will make 'green' weapons . Lead free bullets , grenades which emit less smoke , tanks with hybrid engines, as well as explosives , which , if unused can be turned into compost .


Victims of war would breathe a little easier knowing that they will be attacked by eco friendly ammunition ?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What can one person do ?

As part of a larger society there is a strong tendency on part of individuals to cede power to a nameless , amorphous collective . Whether the subject is the infrastructure of the city one resides in , global climate change , rising consumerism , values in the work place or any other matter ."What can one person do ?" Such fatalism quickly becomes self fulfilling prophesy and serves to perpetuate status quo (if not make matters worse ). In an era where promises of instant gratification jump out of every advertisement somewhere it probably has the unforeseen consequence making a person feel that changes must also come forth rapidly (if not instantly) and if not - the issue is not worth persevering with or I can't /won't persevere with this.
* issue refers to matters that extend beyond the individual

In an interconnected universe ( no reference to globalization or the internet ) every action and non-action makes a difference . 

In every quarter of the planet progress on any matter has been enabled / catalyzed by one individual who enrolled another and eventually a group whose collective action was seen as change/revolution/progress. The contribution may vary from outlining a vision , reaching out in support , inspiring through action , bringing hope , joy , love...... Like the innumerable ripples in water created by a stone an individual's action makes a difference beyond the span of individual vision ( and sometimes lifetime).

Millions in our world don't have access to education , health care , opportunities . People who do have the responsibility to look beyond the borders of their individual life and make a (positive) difference.

Coming back to the question "What can one person do ? " 

A lot .


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Book store

There's a small bookstore which I (used to ) frequent . Went there recently to look for books on specific subjects . While in the store I remembered that I needed a particular issue of a magazine . Turned out that it was the last week's issue and no longer in stock . Asked the store manager if he could get me a copy . He readily declined . No "sorry, I don't think we would be able to organize it". Just "It's not possible. It's already 4 days since that issue was returned ". I tried to reason with him that it would be easier for him as a store to get a copy than for me as a consumer . His response was that he had tried it once earlier and it was not possible.

In retrospect I realized that the store had another person running it until few months ago . That individual was service oriented and had managed to get me several books based on my request . During visits to the store he would recommend books based on his understanding of my preference. 

Book retailing (like most other businesses ) is extremely competitive . Large stores draw customers with the depth and breadth of offerings , loyalty programs . Books can be easily purchased on-line .Magazines can be purchased from magazine stalls across the city or through subscriptions. For a small book store to thrive their best bet is to develop a strong understanding of the customers , provide personalized service on a consistent basis .
Not everyone seeks the impersonal service of a large retailer. A lot of consumers would prefer patronizing a store that offers them recognition and personalized service . 

The new store in-charge seems to have no connect with the product or the customers . He could well be selling chips or cement.

People with strong service orientation and product knowledge are invaluable assets in the retail business . Without them a business has to work harder on all other aspects (product range , price , non-price benefits ) to offer compelling reasons for customers to walk in and share their time and money.




Thursday, August 7, 2008

It's in your head



I agree with the view that growth and progress is strongly and primarily influenced by the state of mind and attitude . Traditional analysis places way too much emphasis on 'external' factors . History provides ample evidence of individuals , groups , companies , regions and countries who have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to create meaningful success .

Perhaps one way when corporates have their review meetings their powerpoint slides will have a section on 'our state of mind' in addition to the sections on economy , markets , currency , inflation , competition.....

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Unusual store

The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York has opened retail stores at locations other than the Museum . The stores offer merchandise which are inspired by the objects / art forms in the museum . The inspiration for each piece in the store is explained in a note that accompanies it.

A wonderful idea to bring these museum object inspired products to consumers . One may go to the museum rarely (perhaps never ) . But a beautiful product inspired by an ancient art form can be purchased and be appreciated .

Seldom do museums venture beyond the confines of their physical premises .

The website is comprehensive , detailed and easy to navigate . Making the art more accessible to folks across the world .

The initiative by the Met Museum is innovative and enterprising .

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Endless Closet Space....

Innovative offering by Garde Robe in New York . A confluence of creativity and attention to detail creating a niche market . 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Everyone wants to know everything

In India these days it appears that companies want to know every bit of information about customers . Even if that information is irrelevant and intrusive . All justified in the name of procedure . Not surprising perhaps in a country where absolute strangers can strike up a conversation discussing fairly personal details before knowing each other's names . Even for a country with such a culture the demands for information from companies and organizations are excessive .

Consulates of various countries have documentation requirements in India that defy comprehension - 2 years Income Tax returns , 6 month bank statements etc . In addition to being excessive demands for a temporary visa they pose a risk for the applicants . Personal financial information is being loosely handled by so many individuals / agencies . None of whom will take any responsibility in the face of a problem faced by the applicants in case of data theft or misuse.

Recently a bank requested for a bank statement with another bank as address proof . A mobile bill of a private sector company was apparently not a part of the acceptable documents . Seems only a phone bill from a government backed phone company would qualify as residence proof . I appreciated them for their zeal and requested them to give phone bills of their branch and head office since a customer has equal concern on the bona fides of the organization with whom one banks with . Interestingly the topic never resurfaced in any subsequent discussion .

As consumers we need to voice our legitimate concerns and draw clear lines on information that can and needs to be given .


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Super heroes don't have to be angry

One of my nephews is a gifted artist . Draws incredibly well . A good combination of imagination and talent . On a recent visit he showed me his drawing books which had a mix of abstract images , trees , earth images and lots of super heroes . I was struck by his artistic ability . After seeing 2 books I realized that all the super heroes had one thing in common . They all looked angry (varying degrees of anger ) . I looked at my nephew . He's a sweet and gentle 8 year old . I could not understand why all his super heroes looked so angry . On asking why this was so he was somewhat puzzled . To help him understand my question I showed him some of super hero images he had drawn and especially some character called 'The Incredible Hulk' . A look of understanding dawned on him and he replied " don't you know the super heroes have to be angry to be powerful ? They get their power only when they are angry ". After recovering from this answer I asked him to draw a happy super hero for me . He could not recollect a single super hero who looks happy (or rather who does not look angry ). I suggested Superman ( hey , at least he does not look angry ) . He drew Superman in a few minutes and gazed at (possibly) his first non-angry superhero . I assured him that super heroes can be powerful and happy .

Clearly there's a whole bunch of irresponsible commercial organizations responsible for children holding the view that super heroes derive their power from their anger . What then would children do to feel powerful ? 

In my nephew's case this belief could be identified because of his artistic expression . What about kids who don't draw but hold the view that anger is a/the source of power ? Or some such misguided notion. 

The tragedy is that misguided notions don't always end with childhood. They morph into deep beliefs which form the foundation for many adult lives...
Money makes you powerful 
Your success is primarily determined by your monetary wealth
The end justifies the means
I am powerful because people report to me (applicable to corporate types)
I was only doing my job 
If I don't follow the system I'll be ostracized 
I am just one (powerless ) person . What can I do ?
My religion is more important that yours
It is important to be seen as being successful and powerful
.
.
.
.

Welcome to the modern day world . 




Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tagged

Bought some knitwear at what I consider one of the few retailers in India  that displays some understanding of western clothing for women . The product range (in womenswear ) often offers a good range of stylish options that actually fit well and flatter the wearer . Service that is one of the best in Indian clothing retail and fairly consistent (in my experience) across locations .

A few weeks ago I bought a garment . The garment had 5 hang tags (I’m not making this one up ) .

- a tag 'Wills Classic' printed on it

- another tag "Dryad V-Neck Top" which mentions product description and urges the consumer to read the wash care label on the garment , gives an email id and tel number for feedback and complaints .

- Tencel tag

- Lycra tag

- RFID tag with price details 

One (largish) tag could have effectively communicated all the information without compromising on aesthetics .  2 tags could have accomplished the same objective and given a sense of satisfaction to the retailer that they have clearly communicated the message to the consumer .

5 tags on 1 garment is clutter that negates the purpose for which the tags were painstakingly designed , produced and put on the garment .  

1 or 2 tags  instead of 5 would have been planet friendlier .

Uniquely Japanese

Japan – a country with a single language (unlike India or China that have linguistic diversity ) .  English is not widely spoken in Japan (yet ) . Though now an increasing number of Japanese are studying English . A situation enabled by globalization and the internet .

Most store names , brands are in English . Increasingly a lot of the in-store signage , promotions is in English . And for most of them these is no Japanese version .

Quite a fascinating situation – the retailer is Japanese , the consumers are Japanese . An increasing number of retailers chooses to communicate important information in a language that not too many consumers know or understand .

Like a lot of things in Japan this one too could be classified as uniquely Japanese !

Friday, July 4, 2008

The last mile

Visited a small music store in Singapore . They had some amazing music playing which drew me to the store . Fluer - the sales associate in the store approached me and asked if she could help . During the course of the interaction she tried to understand my music preferences , located and played an eclectic range of music most of which I liked . Some of it I bought .  Will I go back to that store in a future visit ? Most certainly , yes .

As I walked out of the store I was happy with the whole experience . Heard an eclectic mix , bought albums I looked forward to listening to .

In retrospect I realized the stark contrast of this music buying experience at a small store visavis large format stores like Virgin , HMV , stores in India .  The larger stores tend to be impersonal (a phenomenon not restricted to music retailing ) The general idea of the retailer seems to be to put in the effort to source the products and put them out on display .  In many stores it’s quite a challenge to locate a sales associate and then to get relevant or meaningful service . It's easier to improvise on the merchandise range , displays , layout in the store . Plugging the last mile makes a significant difference – to the customer and to the business . It’s also the most challenging part for any business because meaningful , personalized , friendly service is not an outcome of automation or money or even number of people deployed in the store . It springs from the culture and the values (of the organization) which have to be consciously and carefully nurtured  . As they say in Ayurveda – you can’t treat a part without addressing the whole .

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The story of a passionate life


Besides passionate living Teszler's life offers valuable lessons in compassion and courage .

Ben has created an invaluable treasure in articulating his learnings from Teszler and sharing them. 





Thursday, June 19, 2008

Now

The lift in my office building is superfast . The doors close in a matter of seconds . There is no sensor that keeps the doors open if a person is in between the doors or very near it.

It's fascinating to see the impatience of folks using the lift . When someone gets off at a floor a lot of the folks would press the close button and make impatient sounds in the 2 seconds it takes for the doors to close .

A symptom of the modern day society - where everything must happen immediately , gratification needed this very instant , one is always in a rush to get to someplace . The present is a means to an end to the future . Even if that future is the next instant and headed nowhere .

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Goodbye Adidas

Needed a pair of sports shoes . For years I have been buying Adidas shoes as my experience (UT) of the quality and the range had been terrific . From the time I bought the last pair a lot has clearly changed at Adidas .
* UT = until today

Visited a store near my house and found that they had a very small selection of shoes which looked a lot like each other . And the 1-2 styles that seemed worth a closer look did not fit . Thereafter I decided to visit a larger Adidas store where I was sure I’d find my next pair of shoes . The women’s range in this store was marginally more than the first store . As I stood there and looked at the display I noticed that the total collection of shoes was pretty vast . A closer look revealed that most of the styles on display were for men . Approximately 119 styles for men. And about 60 styles (incl slippers and floaters) for women . The disparity in numbers was not a problem . The issue was the lack of meaningful variety and hence options in the women’s range . Adidas has assumed that women will only want shoes which have a white base with some predictable colors like pink , blue etc . No women’s shoes with darker colors that can survive a mud track jog . Women will daintily walk on a treadmill in a closed environment . And they will only want shoes with white color near the base of the shoe . 

This line of thinking is unfortunately not limited to Adidas . A lot of companies in various product categories apply stereotypes when designing products for women (at least in India ) . 

Watch companies will make a vast range of ornate watches for women. Too bad if you want a simple , sleek style with Roman numerals . Unless one is willing to pay the premium for brands like Longines , Tissot or Rado you have to accept a compromise if your design preference in a watch veers towards sleek , classic styles .

The ranges of several Indian clothing brands appear to be designed by men who have been given a rigid brief (by men) on what women want . I often find myself looking at the ranges in stores and wonder ‘who is the target consumer for this range ? ’.

Coming back to the shoes….I finally managed to get a pair at Nike . It was one of the unisex styles in which they thankfully had a small size . A choice aided by the fit and the fact that I don’t have the time to make shoe search into a hobby . I’m not ecstatic about the color . It fits well , feels terrific and promises to make long walks easy on the knees . 

Goodbye Adidas…

Learning of the day – while shopping for sports shoes carry a pair of socks to avoid having to use the pair at the store which they give to everyone who wants to try the shoes . I suppose this would qualify as 'wisdom through experience ' :) 

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Natural Light to illuminate buildings

In an earlier post I had written the hope for buildings to be illuminated with the least amount of bulbs .

Needless to say it warmed my heart to see a piece in the More Inspiration website about a Japanese company that is pioneering the use of natural light to illuminate buildings 


Monday, June 9, 2008

Changing seasons

The monsoon has begun in full earnest in Bombay . Hot sunny days have given way to cool breeze and near incessant rain . The sky is a magnificent kaleidoscope with ever changing patterns . 
(not all residents of Bombay will agree with this description of the advent of monsoon . Traffic jams , waterlogged areas are an aspect of the monsoon here ! With all it's challenges it is a glorious season )

As George Santanya aptly said...to be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.