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


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 .