Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Line Extensions, Brand Extensions, Multibrands & Unique introductions

System of Brands

Brands could be New or Existing & so could Product Categories. Companies can use combination of brands and categories while expanding Brand Architecture. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Understanding Brand Touch Points

What does Brand Touch Points Mean?

Brand Touch Points Explained in under 5 minutes by Gayatri Thampi

There are over 50 brand touchpoint by for ease of understanding, we are classifying it into 3 categories and explaining it to you in an easy to understand video from our Advertising 101 Video Series.

Concept 4 : Part 2 Cont'd Concept Of Brand Touch points - By Gayatri Thampi

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Understanding the difference between a product and a brand

Watch this Video that explains the difference between a product and a brand with the help of Apple Case Study.

Also Watch this Video to Understand - What is a Brand? Its definition, meaning and origin. 

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Is gold really a better asset for investment?

Gold has been a valuable and highly sought-after precious metal for coins, jewellery, and other arts since long before the beginning of recorded history. Running into 2015 for past couple of decades gold process have been showing a consistent positive trend making it a safe bet to invest. Up until the end of 2013 and early 2014 gold was looked upon as the most sought after asset class as a form of Investment. Then, gold had touched almost INR 32,000 per 10 grams, rumours were spreading that gold in near future will touch the level of INR 50,000 per 10gms of gold.  Many fund houses even started with an IPO based on this a new found class: GOLD, on the expectations that gold will rise and give steady but decent returns.

Soon after, gold prices started to fall.  To one’s dismay, gold has now touched an all-time low in past 4yrs of INR 24,000 per 10gms.  This extreme fluctuation has now raised many questions. What led to sudden fall in gold prices?  Is gold indeed an Investment to be trusted upon?  Will gold prices rises in future?  According to a school of thought which says this might be created by China to help them store huge quantity of gold, is that true?

To answer the above question we need to understand why the gold prices rose in the first place.  It is observed that gold rates are inversely proportionate to the overall financial stability of the world but majorly to American economy.  The price of the metal is also determined by its own demand and supply.  Towards the end of 2008, the American economy was hit by the sub-prime crises and the so called Housing bubble, leading to recession in American economy, thus increasing the investor’s faith in this yellow metal.  Also the economic problems in euro zones and with countries like Spain and Greece led to more panic across the countries in world for future wave of depression.  Thus, many countries including China started to buy and hoard the yellow metal, thus increasing the demand of gold vs the expected shortage of gold.
As gold being a metal that needed to be unearthed and gold extractions from the mines were getting deeper, riskier, rarer and hence more expensive.  All these factors led to sudden and steep rise in price of this precious Yellow metal called as “Gold”.

Then, what changed the fate of rising gold prices?  Exact reversal of all the above factors.  The most immediate factor for the drop in prices is strengthening of dollar. Gold is priced in dollars so if the dollar goes up investors marks down the yellow metal.  Dollar is rising because the American economy is on its revival mode and stabilizing from the recession it earlier hit.  The interest rates in America were increased.  The higher interest rates increase the opportunity cost of holding the zero yield assets, thus the money that is otherwise tied up in the bullion investments will earn more return if invested in a treasury bill or other debt. 

The good political news in euro zone also had an impact on gold rates.  The reduced chances of messy default by Greece and hence the break-up of the single currency increased the confidence in Euro leading to the fall in demand for gold.  Another expectation amongst gold fans was that the Chinese govt. who wanted to make yuan a reserve currency would stock up and hoard hefty levels of gold and make its currency creditable, but to surprise China did stock up gold but only little.

So is it all right to say that gold is not a safe asset as a form of investment?  Well that’s for you all to decide.  Investment in any asset should never be lopsided just because it’s showing great returns in a given time period.  Also, investments should be done keeping a longer time horizon in mind.  

Saturday, 18 July 2015

China Bubble Explained

World in recent times has been going through economic turmoil. Be it Eurozone or China crisis. In a connected world with ever increasing globalization, impact of any such undesired situation is far reaching. 

Since the time the Shenzen & Shanghai Stock Exchanges have crashed heavily in end of June and early July leading to many citizens of China losing huge amount of Investments close to $3 trillion worth market value. Apart from small investors, included were the housewives, students & employees who had quit their jobs with a dream to earn quick bucks in these upwardly rising stock market. The government tried to manage this situation by a rate cut but that didn’t help to correct the situation.

Now the real question is, "How did China an economy which was having a promising GDP landed in this bubble situation?" Put in simple words the asnwer is, Chinese economy was giving all the indications of a so called “the bubble situation which was ignored by industry & government, either knowingly or unknowingly.

It all started with successful capitalist reforms led by Deng Xiaoping for privatisation, opening up foreign investments, banking reforms, development of capital market etc.  With reforms urbanization started heavily with people moving to bigger cities from villages for a better lifestyle.

With nearly three decades of unprecedented GDP of 9.5% led by economic liberalization, modernisation and infrastructural development china started to show the sign of speculation and over-exuberance in the year 2008 like a brief stock bubble and housing bubble.  In the global financial crises of 2008 China suddenly changed its focus to potential domestic crises and the threat to its social stability.  With this view in mind China decided to launch a huge economic stimulus program, though it helped temporarily but this newly printed money raised concerns leading to speculative activities, inflation, devaluation of existing currency, taxes on wage earner to fund the stimulus, undertaking highly ambitious but wasteful projects which otherwise wouldn’t have been undertaken.

Further adding fuel to this bubble is the Credit bubble.  The 2008 stimulus program lead to humongous development of Infrastructure most of which is not in use even till date.  100 and more infrastructure projects are currently undertaken, road are built, dug and rebuilt, extravagant government buildings are being built in outer china, “ghost cities “ are built, the rush of completing these projects are leading to bad workmanship and hence bridges or building being closed for safety reasons.

The warning of this credit bubble was already given by Moody and Fitch showing how the local government was funding these extravagant and overly ambitious projects which will lead to bad debts, it is projected that almost $540 billion out of $1.7  trillion might turn out to be bad debt. No doubt economic bubble and reckless credit boom go hand in hand.

The credit boom and economic bubble lead to high inflation and increasing food prices, rent and wages and negative interest rates. With this fear in mind many people felt that the only way to save their money is to invest in realty.  This sudden realty demand led to rise in housing prices close 140% between the years 2007-2011.  These speculations lead the housing prices as high as 27:1 price : income ratio, very much in the line of US and Japanese housing bubble. Local government easily encouraged such speculations case they were to receive land sales taxes which will help them pay off their increasing debts.

China will have to soon take some corrective actions against this “Crises in making” as it has already lost its edge as a cheap labour market where other countries like Philippines and Indonesia are competing with china for the same.
The elite class is speculating for uprising and revolution which is making wealthiest Chinese citizen to immigrate out of china. The credit crises is leading to many loan defaulters, people closing businesses altogether and running underground.

What's in it for India to Learn?
India like China is also witnessing a slump in realty market over past one year or so. In spite of huge response to Make in India as an initiative, markets & inflation are inconsistent. Government should monitor the situation closely in order to keep any such situation at bay.

Is any particular crisis bigger than another? Is Greece crisis bigger than China crisis? In my opinion, if we are thinking on this question then we are missing on important & vital question, big or small, can the world economy afford such crisis & its lasting impact? The country directly involved is directly affected, but does this stop there? Anyone who is linked to the struggling economy, is taking the portion of this burden with themselves, be it an individual or a nation.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Jaitapur Atomic plant: Need of the hour

For India, a country which is currently aiming to be the global hub for manufacturing, competing with China, atomic power plant like the one proposed in Jaitapur is the need of the hour. However, political parties are trying to use it to gain political mileage & taking stands to oppose each other. Locals are opposing the project strongly. Most common question raised by the locals is, “Why Jaitapur? & more importantly why a nuclear power plant when there are alternate sources of energy in abundance”. No one is considering the other side of the story. In current turbulent times of world economy, there is no alternative to industrialization if we are to become a sustainable economy. Power plant would lead to the development & growth in the region & thus there is no alternative to projects like Jaitapur Power plant.
Constructing the large scale power plants & running them efficiently will require huge commitment from the government. However, we currently do not have such large funds available with us. At the same time multinationals from Russia, France, US have shown tremendous interest in building large power plants in India. If we keep these multinationals at the bay we may be missing out on 3 – 5 Lacs crore worth of investments in India, which our country currently cannot afford.
Other aspect of Atomic energy, national security is also equally important. India is surrounded by nations with atomic warheads & relationships in spite of repeated efforts haven’t really been in best of the shapes. In such a critical case, unless atomic warheads are destroyed on global scale retaining capability for national security & defense is essentially inevitable. In the absence of a strong nuclear energy program research & development for nuclear warheads is not possible.
Why is there a strong resistance to nuclear energy? Following are major perceived threats on global platform
1. Potential global destruction that atomic warheads can cause.
2. Radiations that can cause various complications & threat is possesses to living beings.
3. Environmental issues.
Advanced research has been going on for considerable amount of time for effects of Radiations & how best to keep radiation levels to acceptable levels. International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP) has been working on research with support from across the world.
Striking the right balance between environment & developments is extremely delicate task.
Jaitapur Challenge
Jaitapur, a small port in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra hit the news headlines in 2010 when Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project. The Nuclear Power Plant was approved during Nicolas Sarkozy's trip to India in December 2010 thus giving French multinational Areva the contract to construct 6 reactors, each of 1650 MW capacity totaling to 9,900 MW.
If the power plant goes operational to the full capacity, it will be the largest in the world, replacing 8,200 MW Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.
In case of Jaitapur, though the number of people standing against the project is small, it is not negligible. Everyone has been talking about the radiation & ill effects that it brings to the environment the real concern for common man is different. For politicians, it is an opportunity to take on their opponents & to showcase their might, people who are not even qualified to talk about petty issues are discussing atomic energy & trying to link its impact on livelihoods of the locals.
For locals who may have to relocate are worried about their social standing. For businessman community, the challenge is different. For them development would mean increased wages to workers. For farmers, they are worried about effect of radiation on the crops, which traditionally have been the source of earning for majority of population in the region. Fishermen are worried about the waste being disposed at the sea leading to changes/ relocation of marine species to deeper seas. While these concerns are perfectly valid for the common man, there is no basis for assuming all of this will happen with a power plant starting. Norms for erecting & commissioning of such large establishments are stringent & non-compliance has severe penalty associated with it.
Power plant would require the locals to relocate from the area, which is the biggest concern that the locals currently have. Accepting such a change is not easy. Only expectations that the locals currently have is to get the right price for the land which would be forfeited & relocation into a well-planned & developed premise. Other valid concern is relating to employment opportunities in relocated area. There is nothing wrong with this expectation & there is no reason why government cannot meet this expectation. The only challenge that remains here is, the right price for selling land is perceived value. Each individual would have different expectations on this part & arriving at a consensus could take considerable time.
If these concerns are addressed by giving a rational explanation, there is no reason why people would oppose such developmental projects. NPCIL & government very recently realized the importance of engaging with locals to make them understand the project in layman terms addressing their concerns.
DAE New Chairman- R.K. Sinha said, “NPCIL's would ensure neighborhood development program before this plants starts commercial operation and neighborhood development scheme implemented as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility, Economic Development and transformation of the quality of the life of the neighboring population.”

If government works in a true sense to understand the concerns of the locals & address them there is no reason why Jaitapur cannot be commissioned. Having said this, ability to respond quickly & efficiently in case of any emergency post the power plant is commissioned is altogether a different topic & needs to be evaluated in detail considering the challenges faced during recent times in Japan when power plant had reached a critical level & shutting down the plant was a challenge. 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Yoga not an exercise. It is a way of life.

June 21 was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly December 11, 2014. Celebrating 21st June as International Yoga Day has been supported by 177 countries which is a record for any of this kind of global events.

Yoga is considered to be a good exercise not only for body but also for soul. While the exact origins of Yoga in Ancient Indian history are unclear, it is speculated that Yoga as a form of exercise was adopted during Pre-vedic Indian times.

Here’s few good reason why you should adopt Yoga as a way of life.

Exercise for Greater Flexibility & Strength

Smart yogis know dumbbells aren't the only way to sculpt. "You're using your body weight to move from posture to posture, and in certain poses, you're lifting every pound of it." says Loren Bassett, an instructor at Pure Yoga in New York City. Yoga is one of the most comprehensive exercises since it works all the muscles of the body. 

People having suffered from various problems of the joints (Arthritis), bones or muscles are recommended yoga. This is because yoga helps to strengthen our musculature and ligaments. Breathing and stretching techniques used in Yoga if followed can help to regulate the flow of various fluids in the body. Better circulation means that the body’s ability to self-heal gets a boost. With greater flexibility, we are able to move, grasp, push, pull and lift things with greater ease. This also ensures a better range of motion. According to researchers Yoga improves postures & strengthens back muscles better compared to physical therapy or even medicines. 

Increased Cardiovascular Conditioning

Highly congested lifestyles combined with bad eating habits ensure that our heart is more prone to developing fatal conditions like a stroke. Cardiovascular problems have increasingly started affecting people who are barely in their mid-30s. Yoga by harmonizing the breathing pattern, helps to regulate the heart-rate and raise our overall physical endurance. The heart becomes less vulnerable when pushed into demanding, physical and mental situations. More oxygenated blood and a greater range of motion help to keep the body free from toxins.

Revitalize your sex life

According to a study conducted by The Journal of Sexual Medicine Yoga helps increasing your desire and ensures more exciting times in bed. Yoga helps reduce anxiety, increase body awareness and even leads to speed the release of hormones that rev arousal. All of this translates to a boost in libido, lubrication and ability to achieve orgasm.

Stay Young & Look Younger

One of the most common benefit of yoga is weight management. Since yoga works the entire body and makes the circulation of fluids more smoother, it leads to rise in the overall metabolic rate. Thus, more calories are burned. By working out the lean muscle mass, yoga makes it possible to burn fat, lose weight and look younger. The sense of calmness and stimulation of various bodily organs helps to fight-off the aging-causing free radicals that attack our skin on a daily basis.

Peace of mind & Building Better Relationships 

Yoga helps to achieve a better physical and mental state of existence, everyday apprehensions are eradicated. Women who had followed yoga at least once a week for two years or more released 41 percent less of a tension-triggered cytokine (a type of protein) that can make you feel tired and moody compared with yoga newbies, a study in Psychosomatic Medicine notes.

Also people who are less worried and not bothered by frequent illnesses and naturally feel better. This helps to overcome issues like lack of self confidence or lack of compassion that are common, relationship hurdles. A more focused mind is undoubtedly able to address such problems in a more capable manner. People who regularly practice yoga have a better ability to comprehend situations. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Can twitter replace news feeds?

Twitter has become a growing phenomenon like Facebook surviving off by people using it. It has taken control of the social media platform and has made millions off on consumer generated content. Millions and millions of people are tweeting throughout the day leading to chats, conversations, and social action. It has already created a niche for itself and is used by millions doing a great job getting and connecting with organizations in all subjects such as news, celeb news, sports, and fashion.

Everyone, even celebrities, politicians, organizations, businesses etc have a Twitter handle. Some would say that it is one of the greatest social networking sites there is, while others would think it is for idle people who have nothing more to do, but tweet all day. Celebrities have flocked to the social media site. It has become a tool to connect with their fans as well as other celeb friends. Although it has some good points, twitter has caused many controversies among its celeb users. For example, tweeting offensive or controversial tweets of their unfiltered opinions. Fan bases of celebrities can be more than some of the world’s country population.
Many people believe that social networks such as Facebook and Twitter will dominate and soon erase original websites for news. This is a myth. Although followers do receive part of the news from these sources, most people state that they still like to visit the original news website to catch up on their news. Although research proves that the device you are using does not change which website you resource to for news, Twitter news followers are known to be more mobile, using more smart phones and computer tablets than any other news source. Demographics also show that the Twitter population is younger than the most frequently compared to Facebook. Twitter news followers rely on this social network because of its efficiency and the quickness in which the news travel.

In the sports world, Twitter has become a powerful promotional tool. While some athletes just use Twitter to “connect” with their fans, it seems that most are just trying to build a big following so they can get more lucrative endorsement deals. Twitter and sports fit together because the sports newsfeed have to be live, immediate, and suspenseful. With every touchdown, goal or home run you can literally see the spikes in Twitter activity. For athletes it’s not easy to connect with their fans all the time. Maintaining a strong relationship with fans is probably one of the most important aspects of a sport off the field, court or ice. Social networks are effective tools to improve those relationships with die hard supporters while also finding new fans.

How Twitter has also affected the world of fashion and how they spread the new trends from week to week or season to season. A great example of how fashion companies are utilizing Twitter is by looking at how Urban Outfitters uses Twitter to their advantage. From day to day Urban Outfitters updates their Twitter with new music, sales, and the latest fashions. This keeps people coming back for more because they are interested in the next best thing coming from one of the most edgy, and unique, as well as biggest retail stores in the United States. 

Although Twitter has many positives like keeping people informed and up to date and being able to keep in contact with friends and family all over the world, it also has its negatives.  From the perspective of someone that has no social networks an opinion may be considered bias, but it also may be someone who can see it from the outside looking in with fresh eyes.  From what the point of view of not having a Twitter account it is not a necessity.  Twitter is very addictive and distracting, especially for a college student.  Everyone is so dependent on technology and twitter is only adding to that.  Something like this can make college life all the more difficult because it’s something else that draws your attention away from your work, or any task at hand.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Politics in Development: A Grassroot Case Study

The Meaning of Politics

The political process can enable or inhibit development. The word politics “comes from the Greek word ‘politica’, moderated on Aristotle’s ‘Affairs of State’ the name of his book on governing and government written in Latin and translated in English in mid fifteenth century.
Politics is the art as well as science of government. It consists of social relations involving authority of power. It is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions and is not restricted to behavior within civil governments alone. Politics has been observed in all group interaction including corporate, academic and religious institutions.
In other words, political institution express and embody the wisdom of the people of the time and the route to good political and social institution is by deepening of wisdom and by broadening of vision.

Understanding Development

Development is an act or process, a step or stage in growth, progress, advancement. It is a relative term and is comparable to different countries, different sectors, different time periods.
The scope of development is vast and all encompassing – social, economic, industrial, technological and so on. However, development is strongly linked to economic growth and advancement because it is evident that economic growth usually leads to other types of development.
Development practitioners and experts have evolved different indicators for measurement of sector wise development, for example, increase in annual GDP is an indicator of the economic growth of a country. Literacy level among women is considered as an indicator of social development.
Basing on the frequently found difference in development between urban and rural areas, development is also commonly understood as rural development, i.e. the status of development in rural areas of a country. Rural development implies both economic betterment of people as well as greater social transformation.  

Indicators of Development

By consensus, the international community has accepted the following five as the indicators of development:

  1. Literacy, education, and skills
  2. Health: life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, quality of life, and the levels of health care available in situations of morbidity
  3. Income and economic welfare: high levels of employment, high per capita incomes, and increased gross national product, with appropriate corrections for environmental protection and for income equity
  4. Choice, democracy, and participation
  5. Technology: the capacity to develop technological innovations and to make technological choices)


Kanpur is a typical Indian village. It comes under Nakichua Gram Panchayat of Rasgobindpur Block of Mayurbhanj district of Odisha. About 58% of the population in the villages is tribals. The village is situated at the fringe of Similipal Biosphere and is surrounded by reserve forest. Minor forest produce and wage earning on daily basis are the main source of livelihood for the tribals.
Evidence suggests connectivity leads to economic development; however that has not been the case for Nakichhua GP. Here, the community is languishing in poverty, low literacy and other characteristics of backwardness. Distress migration and distress sale of forest products are regular affairs. Local trade and commerce is mainly controlled by outsiders.

An analysis of the politico development of Nakichua reveals there has not been visible development in the gram panchayat. It is a fallacy that the people of the gram panchayat are relatively more educated and closer to developed regions but the development in their own area is much less than expected.

Kanpur is the revenue village with two hamlet villages. Nibas sahi is the tribal and dalit dominated hamlet and the other hamlet known as Kanpur is the upper class dominated hamlet. Development projects sanctioned to the village is always implemented in the upper caste dominated hamlet. But in the official record, it is reflected against Kanpur revenue village. While the Kanpur hamlet has electricity, piped drinking water, pucca internal road, community hall etc, Nibas Sahi, the other hamlet continues to remain in darkness.

Implementation of Government Programmes

In the village, the development projects are never implemented as per the scheme objectives and guidelines. Since the last 6 years, one NGO initiated some activities in the village commencing with the youth club. Initially, people from different caste and economic groups resisted the initiative as the mooted idea by the NGO did not confound to their local intra-community groupism and pettiness. It went through ups and downs often conflict among youth from different caste and economic groups. However, it seemed to catch the imagination of people from all sections despite of nasty politics by the various political party leaders at the gram panchayat or block level.

Malfunctioning of Village level Democratic bodies

In 2007, a gram sabha meeting ended mid way with fight and bloodshed between two factions of the community having support from two rival political parties. On paper, gram sabhas are held as per provisions, but villagers can hardly recall when they attended a gram sabha meeting for the last. The prevailing situation created by the local political parties doesn’t allow a villager to enjoy the constitutional right to exercise his choice and participate in development decision making process.
In connivance with the Block Chairman and other elected PRI members, BDO and engineers at the block level are only interested in cornering the contracts issued by the block office for infrastructure development of the local area under various government schemes- NREGS, Bharat Nirman, Indira Awas, Watershed Development and others. The need and priority are never looked into while sanctioning the work as the decision depends on other factors- which community group that the political party that wills the power will decide all implementation related matters. In such a situation, how an aam aadmi could expect benefit or justice?

PRIs are political bastions

Legally, the lower two tiers under Panchayat Raj system are apolitical. Panchayat elections are naturally fought without party lines or party symbols Panchayat elections are supposed to be free from any influence, be it political parties, muscle power, money power and so on. But, in reality, the political parties select candidates to contest the gram panchayat and panchayat samiti election. Political parties bring out victory processions after declaration of panchayat election results.
There is no effort from any quarter to clean the system or ensure that panchayat raj institutions remain apolitical. Perhaps, the civil society organizations are too scared to fight for the cause.

Continuous denial of justice has caused disinterest among the common villagers to participate in the process

Presence of muscle power and money power and the nexus among the local politician, PRI office bearer, business community and government officials has left no room for the common and the poor to get their right and/or justice. Those not belonging to such nexus and coterie has lost interest in the process of local self governance, participatory development decision making. Village level to district level development planning exercise has become totally a farce. What people desire is not planned. What the powerful within the community decide has been sanctioned. The concept of ‘Equity’  and ‘Right’ exists in the planning commission and the constitutional document.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Lockers: The Future of last mile delivery

Consider this scenario a couple of years ago even in the developed market. You order a product online to be delivered at your residence. What would happen at the time of delivery of your parcel if you are not at home?

  1. Delivery guy will probably call you & ask for instructions?
  2.  Drop the parcel with the neighbors or take the parcel back & reattempt the delivery probably at a later time or in all possibility on an alternate day.
This is a common scenario especially among the urban dwellers, who fear either the package may not be delivered or may be stolen if left unattended. This is a perfect nightmare for any online store as well. Imagine the cost associated with the failed delivery attempts in monetary terms as well as impact on the overall productivity. Add to this other factors such as cost associated with handling customer calls through customer service, dispatching a replacement item in case of lost item or even potential loss of sale due to customer switching to alternate retailer.

To address these challenges e-tailers have been working either on its own (Amazon) or closely with the logistics solutions providers such as Singapore post, Finland’s Itella, InPost Canada, Australia Post for building a network of smart lockers for delivery of parcels. It’s a win-win situation for customers as well as sellers. This solution is helping the etailers & logistics solutions providers not just to avoid the cases of failed delivery attempts, but also with improved productivity due to multiple deliveries at the same point resulting in reduced cost per delivery. Add to factors such as lesser chances of a lost parcels, deliveries during the non-peak hours resulting in avoiding the traffic congestion. Othe benefit being explored simultaneously is, for the reverse logistics. Lockers also work as pick up point for returned items.

How the lockers work?

Smart lockers are generally installed in public places such as Malls, convenience stores such as seven-eleven which are in the vicinity of the residential areas & often visited by the natives for the daily needs. It has compartments of varying sizes to accommodate wider variety of items & can typically handle items weighing upto 10 pounds.
Once the parcel has been delivered with the locker, automated tracking systems trigger the communication over email or cellular phone as preferred by the customer. Mail or SMS sends the details required of opening the lockers. Generally a passcode or QR code. Some of the locker models are also using the Bluetooth connectivity feature for added security.
Items are typically held in lockers for about 3 days for the customer to pick up the items. The backend system is designed for even reminding the customer for pickup of the items or alternate instructions in case item cannot be picked up within the set time or if customer wants the items to be returned to the seller.
While we all hear about the pilot projects of deliveries using drones to address problems relating to cost, traffic congestion, speed & agility, lockers have slipped in quietly into those convenience stores & doing the job assigned to them with ease & offering the convenience to the customers


While the lockers are being successfully implemented in developed nations where people shop online mostly using internet banking & credit cards, it will be interesting to see how this works in developing Asian markets such as South East Asia & Indian subcontinent where preferred mode of payment is still cash on delivery. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Is Nestlé the only culprit?

Nestlé S.A. is a Swiss multinational food and beverage company headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland. It is the largest food company in the world measured by revenues and ranked #72 on the Fortune Global 500 in 2014. (Source: Wiki)

One of the most popular product in Nestlé’s portfolio, Maggi Noodles came under scanner in India. An officer from state of U.P food safety & drug administration ordered tests on over a dozen samples of instant noodles. Nestle claims that the product does not contain Monosodium Glutamate (Popularly known as MSG: Used for enhancing the taste). Gorakhpur lab & Kolkata lab (Considered to be among the best in country for food testing) found the samples to be positive for MSG. In addition Kolkata lab also reported the samples to be containing dangerously high levels of lead content. Lab reported 17.2 ppm of lead in the sample. According to food safety regulation norms in India permissible lead content ranges between 0.2 ppm to 10 ppm depending on product categories. Instant Noodles falls under a category with a limit of lead restricted at 2.5 ppm.

Instant noodles are identified under food category code 6.4.3, which includes “pre-cooked pastas and noodles and like products” that are “pre-gelatinized, heated and dried prior to sale”. These categories of food are governed by Codex international standard 249, standards of food safety recognized by WHO. The masala used in these noodles is identified in code 12.2, which includes herbs, spices, masalas, seasonings, and condiments (eg. seasoning for instant noodles), where the use is “intended to enhance the aroma and taste of food”, according to FSSAI regulations.

Controversies are not new to Nestlé. In 1974 Mike Muller wrote an article for War on want called “The baby killer”. Articles focused on impact of alternative introduced by Nestlé for breast feeding the newborn babies. Swiss court on the basis of the report, warned Nestlé that if the company did not want to face accusations of causing the infant deaths or illness, should change the way they do the business & not to use unethical sales practices. Following the report Nestlé products were boycott across Europe, UK & US. The campaign also garnered support from health authorities & medical professionals in developing nations. Momentum gathered by this even lead to 1981 formation of code of conduct to govern sale & promotion of products substituting breast milk.  

Mike Muller has been consistently active against companies which are purely money minded & does not care towards the health of people.

In one of the recent articles Muller posed an important question. Though this was not applicable to just Nestlé as a single company but to the entire industry. While in 1970’s challenge was high child mortality rates, malnutrition, quality of water, in today’s times issues have been replaced with obesity, diabetes & heart diseases. Back in 70’s industry was accused of harming the health of the babies. Now it has raised to a level of harming the entire nation. In either cases issues about the food industry’s responsibilities remain unchanged.

UN’s current millennium goals are due to expire in 2015. In such case, question of importance is should the sustainable goals focus on unsustainable & unhealthy lifestyle of riches or on the plight for the basic needs of the poor? Also, should UN actively engage with global food giants to control products & marketing to improve people’s health. For answers to these questions we will have to wait & see until we discover/ invent machines that can take us to future.

This article is not intended towards the questions raised at Nestlé but towards the general issues relating to the food industry.

Monday, 1 June 2015

FIFA scandal explained.

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (commonly known as FIFA: International Federation of Association Football) is the international governing body of association football (soccer), futsal and beach soccer. (Source: Wikipedia)

Founded in 1904 & currently having a membership of 209 national associations is one of the largest sports bodies in the world. FIFA reported the revenues of over USD 1.3 billion with net profit of USD 72 million. FIFA is responsible for organizing & promoting the game, however it does not govern the rules.

Recent news of an ongoing scandal in such an old organization raised many eyebrows. It was brought into limelight by some investigative journalists of repute. Charges raised include rapaciousness, rigged elections, corruption & bribery. Charges have been pressed against nine of the highly ranked FIFA officials & five other corporate executives by U.S department of justice. It is estimated that FIFA officials have been engaging in malicious activities over past 24 years. Out of these 18 years have been under the leadership of Joseph Blatter. Under his leadership football has increased its popularity many a fold. FIFA also became more successful financially during this tenure. In recent developments, even after the scandal became public he has been re-elected to lead the organization for the 5th consecutive term.

Is FIFA only party to the scandal?

As they say, you cannot clap with just one hand, a scandal will require involvement of atleast two parties. A giver & a receiver. Wait, there will be one more party to it, a middleman since the deal cannot be struck officially there will be an intermediary involved who will facilitate the transactions off the record. With the FIFA, all its associates are likely to be scrutinized for the involvement in corruption. This means two of the world’s largest sportswear & marketing firms Adidas & Nike, football federations of Russia & Qatar, for being awarded the venue for upcoming football world cup.
With time even more companies & federations will come into picture for & play a part in proving corruption & scandals in FIFA.  

What were these people exactly doing?

Justice department has mainly cited deals struck between FIFA, sports marketing firms & broadcast networks for exclusive televisions broadcasting rights for the FIFA events. Justice department has alleged that FIFA officials accepted bribes from marketing firms for exclusive television rights. The amount of money involved is anticipated to be around USD 150 million according to primary analysis.

What is the recipe for perfect corruption?

1.    Red Tape: excessive bureaucracy or adherence to official rules and formalities create the perception that bribes is the only means for getting a job done. Organizations like FIFA have been closed to share any information apart from the revenue & profits. Add to this the confidence in power of position which leads to arrogance in believing that they are untouchables.
2.    Organization culture: in case of FIFA, according to Yenkey, an assistant professor of organizations and strategy at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business corruption was acceptable & nobody felt any evil about it. He cited the example of Chuck Blazer, a former official with FIFA and Concacaf, a governing group that oversees soccer in the North American, Central American and Caribbean region, who pled guilty in 2013 to charges that he engaged in racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and income tax evasion

Friday, 29 May 2015

What are the indicators of a Pro startup Ecosystem?

What are the indicators of a Pro startup Ecosystem?

Past few years in India have been exciting for startups & entrepreneurial community. India is expected to be second largest startup ecosystem in the world in next two years period according to a recent report published by NASSCOM.

According to the report, in 2014, India witnessed over 800 new startups. The total amount of funding received by startups since 2010 is exceeding over USD 2.3 Billion. Apart from private equity & venture capitalists, there are over 60 angel investors & over 80 startup incubators & accelerators are active in the country. As this connection between entrepreneurs & organizations providing support to them deepens, the strength of entrepreneurial ecosystem grows. Add to this the rejuvenation added by budget for 2014-15 which has several proposals announced by finance minister. Budget surely promises to be encouraging for entrepreneurs & shows some serious commitment from government towards unlocking India’s entrepreneurial power to fuel desperately-needed jobs and economic growth.
Research has shown that the job creating potential of new, young & growing companies is essential for the economy of the country.

Typical methods used for evaluation of entrepreneurial ecosystems focus on sizing up risk capital, incubators, a supportive culture, etc. However there is significant room for improvement if we focus instead on the relationships between these elements and if we measure how the ecosystem has evolved over time.

What are good indicators of a good startup ecosystem?

1.       Connected Entrepreneurs

Connections between entrepreneurs is extremely important & valuable. A good community/ forum for learning & support, observing each other’s performance & to provide a feedback is a good way to stay connected. Communication or interaction may not be between entrepreneurs working in the same field (obviously, due to competition anyone would want to hold the information to themselves).
Experienced entrepreneurs can guide the novice entrepreneurs & help them avoid common pitfalls or help with a typical problem.

2.       Connections between support organizations

Highly collaborated & co-ordinating support organizations are essential for a good startup ecosystem. Discussions & interactions between support systems can avoid unintentional & unnecessary overlap of support for specific companies.
New & upcoming support organizations, or changes in leadership of an existing support organization point towards constant changes in support organization. This indicates that injecting the missing elements to the support is not sufficient to create a healthy ecosystem, but relationships between the support elements is more crucial & matters the most.

3.       Relationship between Entrepreneurs & support organizations

A support organization could be helping an entrepreneur either by mentoring or with the financial support. While incubators work closely with startup on functional aspects of the business model, venture capitalist & private equities are focused mere towards financial viability & success of the business model. A right mix of both these types of support organization is key to success of any new venture. This is mainly because both the aspects are interlinked & cannot be considered in isolation.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Why Global e-Commerce giants are yet to conquer South East Asia

South East Asia (Popularly referred as SEA) is considered to be the most diverse & rapidly changing market in the world. With the population in excess of 650 million, the market is too huge to be ignored for any global player especially in the current booming space of online retail. In spite of this, we haven’t seen much of an activity from giants with likes Amazon, Alibaba & Rakuten in the region.

Let’s have a look at some interesting statistics.

Currently online shopping accounts for a minuscule number in the region. But with rapid penetration of internet & smart phones in the region the market is all set to explode. According to a report from Frost & Sullivan the region may see fivefold growth by 2018.

What is so very different about South East Asia?

1.       Six Countries six cultures:

Region comprises of 6 countries Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam. Each of these countries has a different population mix, different language, religion & culture. Which is an important indicator of product preferences of people.

2.       Cross border transactions:

Crossing international boundaries means customs clearances, which add the complexity of payments of duties for imports, legal regulations on imports & restricted items in a particular country.

3.       Online security & cyber theft:

      The region in past has experienced some severe cyber theft cases. In the absence of a cross border jurisdiction mechanism & gaps in regulations potential consumers deter from online shopping.

4.      Penetration of Credit cards: 

Credit card penetration in SEA region is only about 10%. Add to that skepticism of those not very open to share the card details online for the fear of fraud. As a result cash on delivery (COD) & AT transfers is the preferred mode of payments. Handling of cash payments presents a bigger challenge than anything else. In most of the countries postal networks are either sluggish or unreliable. This means retailers need to have sophisticated delivery partners or build an in-house delivery capabilities.

5.       New sales channels:

With rapid penetration of social media & messaging services like “Line”, home grown e-retailers have already entered into strategic tie ups with the companies for exclusive promotions & campaigns in the region.

With above factors being critical to be successful in the region, even if likes of Amazon, Alibaba enter the market, it will take considerable amount of time for these companies to replicate the local knowledge acquired by home grown online retailers
In spite of all the factors SEA may still prove to be a market big enough for several large e-retailers to co-exist. However will it be profitable for these businesses, time only will answer that question.