Friday, February 27, 2009

Why people don't buy...

In recent visits to clothing stores I have returned empty handed . A market researcher viewing from a distance would attribute it to the current economic environment . Fact is stranger than fiction . And reasons for consumers not buying are at times rather basic . 

In some of the stores I visited (brands like Nike , Reebok , Adidas ) I found the ranges to be unassorted , strange fits . And if a style was buyable then the size needed was out of stock . It's almost as though these stores have resigned to the fact that consumers are not going to buy / or buy as much as they used to and therefore not investing enough in relevant merchandise. The belief coupled with inaction becomes a self fulfilling prophesy.

There is no denying that across the world consumers are more cautious than they were a year ago. Now more than ever - a relevant product range , innovation , attentive service are necessary. 

Focus on the important

Buckets of ink (online and offline ) have been devoted to the subject of How to mitigate the urgent to focus on the important. Compact article with actionable ideas by Gina Trapani .

Lessons from below

Interesting article by Rohini Nilekani.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Congo Conflict minerals

The conflict in eastern Congo, the deadliest in the world since World War II, is being fueled by a multi-million dollar trade in minerals that go into our electronic products from cell phones to digital cameras.  Over five million people have died as a result of the war, and the United Nations estimates that 200,000 women have been raped in eastern Congo over the past decade.  The armed groups that are perpetuating the violence generate over $100 million each year by trading in three main minerals, the 3 Ts:

•    Tin – used as a solder on circuit boards inside cell phones and laptops.  70% of the world’s tin is used as solder, and 5-10% of tin ore comes from eastern Congo. 
Tantalum – used to store electricity in iPods, digital cameras, and cell phones.  70% of the world’s tantalum is used in electronic products, and 15% comes from Congo.
Tungsten – used to make your cell phone or Blackberry vibrate.  Tungsten is a growing source of income for armed groups in Congo.

In late 2008, UN investigations revealed that key tin smelting companies, who sell tin to the major electronics companies, are buying tin ore directly from rebel-held areas in eastern Congo.   The money that the rebels generated from those tin sales is now allowing them to buy even more weapons and continue to kill, rape and loot across eastern Congo.

Changes the way one looks at gadgets . So far one thought of gadgets only from an environment angle .

This is yet another stark reminder of the role businesses play in shaping and impacting lives across the planet. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

Protect the Blue Heart of the Planet

Pl watch the presentation by TED prize winner Silvia Earle : her wish - to save the blue heart of the planet - our oceans .

Jai Ho !

Delighted to see my favorite music director A.R Rahman win 2 Oscars. A truly gifted musician and a wonderful human being. 

Jai ho !

SoulQuest on Flickr

SoulQuest is now on Flickr

Pl view and share feedback .

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


"Politicians have gone overboard " Profound words from Arvind Gupta , President of Plastindia . This is a statement one would find hard to disagree with . Politicians have indeed gone overboard . But Mr Mehta says this in the context of governments contemplating / enforcing laws to ban / reduce plastic . The plastic industry folks know more than consumers that plastic bags take hundreds of years to degrade . 

"Put a man outside with a paper bag , let it start raining . When the rain hits the paper , everything falls out " - Ridwaan Arbee , South African plastic bag manufacturer . The issue is not a simplistic choice between paper and plastic .

Mr Mehta apparently has a pancea for the plastic problem "Western countries should find a way to convert them back to oil " Really ? Why should "western countries" alone have to figure solutions ? Is the plastic industry going to sit on it's rear waiting for a solution to land on their lap ? 

If this is the quality of thought and leadership in the plastics business then the magnitude of the problem it poses to mankind should be no surprise . 

Seeking quiet...

Thought I'd enjoy cup of tea in peace and quiet in the evening . It was not meant to be . Someone in the neighborhood was hosting a party . How did I know that ? The Hindi film music blasting at high volume and the equally loud sound of a DJ . Weirdly , playing Hindi film music at a high volume seems to be the only idea of entertainment for most folks ( at least in Mumbai ) . Whether the event is a party hosted at someone's house or a get-together at a building , wedding etc . To a point where a pub , gym , party , wedding , festival celebration all sound alike. I have yet to fathom whether this is the spontaneous preference of so many individuals or is it the Emperor's New Clothes phenomenon where everyone thinks that this is the way they must celebrate. I guess it's also convenience . When you blast music at a high volume it saves the effort of actually having to converse with people . 

When we go out on the streets (of Mumbai ) the decibel levels due to vehicles is incredibly high .The visual clutter on the streets due to poor roads , garbage , unending hoardings of various sizes of political parties / politicians ( garbage of another kind ) sometimes exceeds the audio pollution. One would think that this would add to the appeal of a quieter , saner environment . But no . 'Louder is better' seems to be the mantra . All of this has made Mumbai a huge market for sound proof glass and air-conditioners . 

Blaise Pascal was accurate and prescient in saying that ' all of man's miseries arise from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone' . 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Green Cement

Cement manufacturing is said to produce approximately 5% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions (that's more than the aviation industry ). Scientists in the UK say that they have discovered a way to make cement that absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere . The creators of this process say that it will also reduce the fuel consumption in the manufacturing process.

We need more of such innovation across industries .

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Had taken some pictures which I needed to email to a client . Thought I'd send it from home . Took the USB cable out of the bag only to find that it is for the phone and not the camera . I'll have to wait until tomorrow to locate the cable for the camera to email the images .

The sheer (unnecessary ) variety of cables , chargers , wires is mind boggling . If you have a computer , a mobile phone and a camera you are likely to have / need 5-6 wires between chargers , USB cables . And it doesn't help that some of the wires / cables look similar . Add 1-2 more devices like an ipod and perhaps a second phone - your bag can start to look like the store room of an electrical store.

The impact on the environment alone in terms of resources spent in manufacturing these pointlessly varied contraptions is criminal . This has reached ridiculous levels with phone companies making different types of chargers for their various phone models . Nokia used to have a common charger across their various phones .Which added to the appeal of using a Nokia phone .You could always get a charger for your Nokia phone . Not any more . Nokia decided to abandon good sense and make a new design of chargers for their E-series phone. 

This variety in chargers , USB cables makes as much sense as wine companies designing corks in a way that need a special opener for each wine brand .

It's high time that device manufacturers collaborated on a common standard (and design ) for chargers , USB cables to be kinder on the environment and the consumers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Cheeky , humorous response to the nonsense of the Sri Ram Sena . As one woman aptly put it "the gift is as frivolous as the SRC " .

Friday, February 6, 2009

What are we building ?

Visited The Gateway of India today. As I stood there with visiting clients who were seeing it for the first time and rapidly clicking pictures I look at the Gateway and then at the old and new Taj. The old Taj which had faced a horrific attack in Nov stood strong and regal . The new Taj in comparison looks dilapidated from outside. 

Most of the monuments we visit , cherish , marvel at are structures built 60-100 years ago . Many even older than that . The Gateway , Taj at Mumbai , the Taj Mahal at Agra , the palaces of Rajasthan , temples of South India , the Louvre and Eiffel Tower in Paris....

With all the progress we are supposed to have made as mankind it's worth reflecting why there aren't many (or even several) structures built in the last 20 years that inspire . 

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Emperor's New Clothes

Recipe to run a fashion clothing store in Mumbai ... pick a reasonably prominent location , call it whatever you want ( name is irrelevant ) , get a good PR agency who ensures your name is in newspapers every few days and that you get invited to page 3 events , befriend few celebrities. Do this for a while and then the 'Emperor's New Clothes ' phenomenon unfolds and you can sell poor quality , badly designed merchandise as high fashion with price tags that look like randomly generated 5 digit numbers. 

Visited stores today which I normally don't frequent . Some I visited for the first time today . Am still recovering from the quality of merchandise , the design (or rather the lack of it ) , the psychedelic colors and the rubbish being peddled as hand embroidery . 

Making allowance for the fact that color and design are subjective one can focus the attention on quality . On products retailing at Rs 37,000 and upwards one does not expect to find loose threads , missing sequins , loose stones . And hear that being marketed and rationalized as 'hand made' .

There's a virtual cottage industry of 'designers' who seem to be individuals with access to a few tailors and some embroidery makers . Passion , ideology , attention to detail are alien to this grade of designers and the stores that market such wares. One does hope that the current economic situation will force this group to completely rethink their offering .

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I + my surroundings

I am I plus my surroundings , and if I do not preserve the latter , I do not preserve myself .

- Jose Ortega y Gasset

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mobile saga

Few weeks ago my phone (Sony Ericsson P900 series)  of nearly 4 years started to get erratic . Though it was old and looked old - it was a brilliant phone . Easy, intuitive functions . When it finally stopped working I had to start using my alternate phone Nokia E90 which until then I was using primarily for email .For 6+ years being used to a stylus phone I found it difficult to use the E90 for sms communication. 

Anyway , finally I had to get a mobile phone to activate my mobile number of more than 10 years. After visiting several stores and internet research I zoomed in on a Sony Ericsson G900. Features seemed to be similar to my earlier phone with added features like Sudoku games and FM player . 

Am in the phase where I have yet to befriend this phone . Something akin to the Stockholm syndrome is at work . I actually like the E90 better ( for now ) and end up using that phone and number more these days . My earlier Sony Ericsson phone was a handful . In comparison the new one feels like an anorexic toy ( I suppose the design and marketing folks at Sony Ericsson would call it 'compact' ) . 

The process of the phone buying offered fascinating insights into retail establishments that stock mobile phones and phone companies . 

For instance , the CD that comes with the phone to sync it with a computer will work only on Windows based computers . No download for this model on the Sony Ericsson website for Macbook users . This kind of myopia alone will result in ensuring iPhone sales to Macintosh users whom other phone brands have decided to alienate or ignore . I strongly suspect that part of the hysteria re iPhone must have it's origins in frustrated Macintosh users who could not find phones that synced well with their beloved computer. I must confess I would have seriously considered the iPhone if it was offered by the service provider of the number I have for 10+ years . 

I was amazed by the seeming lack of ability of some of the stores to attempt converting a prospect into a customer . One of the stores which advertises that 'we help you buy' did 'help me buy' by enabling me to see various phones one store . But they 'could not sell'. When i called them a week later they could not answer some queries re the phone and did not have it in stock . No attempt to note down contact details to check if it can be procured or to offer alternative options . No initiative to offer the telephone number of their other stores to see if they had the phone in stock . With this level of ability to covert a prospect into a sale the economic situation is quite irrelevant . A sale can happen only if the customer is determined to buy . Organizations and individuals it appears take labels seriously. A help line is just a help line . They don't see it as an important avenue to generate sales.

Mobile phone is an important consumer product in most parts of the world today . In a key segment the myopia and and the lack of service represent an opportunity for companies that choose to focus on the consumer experience vis-a-vis just the product .

Monday, February 2, 2009

Less Plastic More Life

Powerful and articulate message . Pl view the site and the blog .

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Journey to a cleaner India

Travelled by the local train in Mumbai after ages . The lack of civic sense coupled with the lack of accessible dustbins at stations , in the train makes for a garbage lined track though most parts of the journey . Some compartments have mesh like grill windows . Intended I suppose for protecting passengers from assaults they were subjected to by objects being flung at the trains . Inadvertently it protects the environment to some extent by making it impossible to throw stuff out through the window .

The apathy of Indians towards public spaces and objects is mind boggling . The lack of civic sense is not limited to train journeys . Folks in autos to expensive cars throw stuff on roads as though it's the most natural thing to do . The apathy extends to corporations too . Outside many retail stores , banks , commercial establishments there are garbage piles of varying degrees .

While driving between cities it's appalling to see the country side littered with plastic bags , paper cups and all sorts of rubbish by travelers . I remember a spot en route from Pondicherry to Chennai . It seemed to be a picnic spot. A group had left their papers plates , cups pretty much intact at the spot . A forensic investigator from Japan would have thought that the entire group was abducted . There would be no other rational explanation for an entire group to leave behind plates and cups as is. 

In many parts of India today there is an urgent need to foster civic sense and a sense of pride in keeping public spaces clean and beautiful . Campaigns on TV , radio , internet , in schools , colleges , public transport vehicles , public spaces , through mobile phones , blogs , newspapers , magazines . Unless citizens are mobilized and amend their behavior a clean India will remain a faraway dream.

To paraphrase the Jaagore campaign......aap raste pe kachra phekhenge to yeh desh kaise saaf hoga ?

Pl help to make and keep our public spaces clean . Your individual resolve and effort matters way more than you think it does. Resist from throwing stuff on the roads / any public space , if you see someone littering a public space do request them to stop , if there is garbage outside retail/food /commercial establishments /stations/ bus depots/residential building then pl take a few minutes to speak with the supervisor / manager of the establishment to request them to install dustbins and to make the effort to keep the area clean . Many retail , food establishments have feedback forms . Pl write on them asking them to keep the area clean. Appreciate those that already do it . And especially those that do so post the feedback/ request. If you run a retail/food/commercial/any establishment pl take the initiative to keep the area clean . Teach children that garbage is meant to be thrown only in dustbins...

Pl choose to make a difference .