Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yeh hain Mumbai Meri Jaan

It has been over a dozen years since I left Mumbai in the quest for both personal and professional life in a city that was unknown to me or even my entire generations of family could even think of, a city that was known to have only three climate, Bad, Very bad and “Ahmedabad”.

Without even knowing the “A” of “Ahmedabad” I, set of enthusiastically only to meet a friend for life “Murali” in Karnavati train itself (my tryst with train continued). We knew immediately that we have found in each other a friend for life. He was ever ready to help and a lot of credit goes to him for helping me to settle in this unknown city right from finding a hotel to stay till the set up of our first house.

Ahmedabad was polluted and the driving sense was pathetic (I should say it is still pathetic) with drivers pointing their legs as a signal when taking a turn; even the drinking water was heavy. There was no public transport and all were travelling in either their own two or four wheelers. I was told if I do not have a two wheeler it would be impossible to survive in this city. Left with no choice I purchased my first two wheeler (Kawasaki Bajaj) and learnt to ride, subsequently after a few years also learnt to drive a four wheeler (when I upgraded from a two wheeler to first free car of my life a FIAT of my editorial colleague Manas Dasgupta).

In Mumbai our life revolved around either a 7.55 AM or a 7.59 AM suburban local train for office and on our return journey it was a 7.36 PM or a 7.47 PM train. Local trains are the main life line and it was survival of the fittest, even a fraction of minute late the train would have chugged the railway station with your daily train-friends. We used to rue and dread thinking of even missing our daily specific local train.

In Ahmedabad life was terribly slow, laid back and to top it the Corporates were un-professional and it was very difficult to adjust with the professional background that I carried. Any business deal revolved only on contacts but yes the biggest advantage was because of the reduced travel time I had quality time to spend with my soul mate and friends. Families till date spend evenings together, as this is considered a luxury in a place like Mumbai (unless you are lucky to stay near your office).

During my initial days in Ahmedabad I stayed in a hotel named “Metropole” opposite a prominent landmark of the area – Bijli Ghar and from there I used to commute to the office. I found two generous media-friends in Rajesh and Rutesh; who used to work in Anand Bazaar Patrika group then, and they were a great help to me.

Slowly I, got accustomed to the customs and tradition of this city and I, was ably helped by all citizens of Ahmedabad be it in personal life or professional life. Like there is a saying in Mumbai - Mumbai absorbs and gives a fresh lease of life to all newcomers who come to the city on a look out for a livelihood, similarly Ahmedabad absorbed me.

In Ahmedabad I started visiting residences of media friends and used to be in regular touch. Slowly Ahmedabad also became fast paced (though it will never match the pace of Mumbai) but yes the entire skyline of this city has changed for good, the roads, the infrastructure, the attitude, and the professionalism (though still a few people will never learn that). The pollution levels have come down drastically, and for experiencing Ahmedabad you will have to visit and feel this city to experience Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) which by far is the best in our country.

In Ahmedabad after a few years I got introduced to a community member Mr. Ramani and since then have been involved in lot of socio-religious programme and would want “Shree Asthika Samaj” to achieve greater heights in days to come. Through the samaj I, came in contact with many like-minded fellow South Indians and we will always want to be under a single umbrella for the betterment of community.

So Ahmedabad has definitely given me many things which I cherish. I used to frequently visit Mumbai and recently re-visited Mumbai for four days and this trip became a revelation. I was reminded of the good old days of catching the train on time and had to travel during the first two days by the 7.29 am, the 3.33 pm, and the 6.46 pm local which actually refreshed all the memories of Mumbai and reminded me about the time I spent in this wonderful city.

We really miss those deadlines of running after public transport like train; buses etc life in Mumbai was always great. It was always survival of the fittest in Mumbai, you love it or hate it but the local train is indeed your true friend

During this trip, I also, was fortunate enough to meet my childhood chums Sunil, Kishore and Francis and felt truly elated.

Suddenly I felt I was never away from this city. It was almost a decade that I spent away but Mumbai remained with me forever. I always used to think that if I stay longer away from Mumbai I, will slowly start forgetting Mumbai but somebody has rightly said you can take a person away from Mumbai but Mumbai cannot be taken away from him (the Mumbaikar in me still remains). Mumbai is the place where I met my soul mate who really has played a bigger role in changing our life (Seen the Hindi remake “Saathiya” – perhaps the Tamil movie (Alaipayuthey) director Mani Ratnam took leaf or rather was inspired from our story and he is a celebrity), this could possibly summarise why a Mumbaikar life revolves around Local train. Saluting 157 years of local train service in Mumbai.(NEXT TAKE ON RAINS AND MUMBAI)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Indian Rupee

The Government on Thursday 15, July 2010 adopted a new symbol for the rupee that shall be used henceforth to represent the Indian currency in all written and electronic communication worldwide thus joining the elite club of currencies such as UK's pound sterling, US dollar and the Japanese Yen that are identified by a symbol.

The Indian Government is of the opinion, with this the Indian rupee will also be seen as a distinct entity from its name sakes in the neighbouring countries such as Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, where either rupee or rupaiah are in vogue.

The question to ponder is are we not already different than these countries? and these countries have grown at our own expense and more so as an off shoot of our country.

The old adage “Every coin has two sides” a few citizens may speak for it and a few may against, but as a true Indian nobody would doubt the reasons beyond the making of the symbol.

When we speak about Indian economy do we really need this facial make over?

Will this have any impact to the vast majority of Indians who strive to have the basic necessity i.e. the “Roti, Kapda aur Makaan …” these, three words that have been used often by the leaders of our country to convince people of their priorities and to show the masses that they care? But sadly, more often than not, such promises have remained just words and nothing beyond.

Though our economy has grown over the last 60+ post Independence years and we have achieved a lot; but the rich - poor divide still remains. We still have not made a difference in the lives of millions of our citizens.

Today the need is more than ever for both the private and the Government sector to take this challenge and work together in cooperation and contribute to make a small difference in the lives of citizens and this would surely go a long way in creating a strong India.

Nevertheless it is a very bold move and we all should congratulate ourselves and wish the rupee creates its own identity and really become a leader as compared to other currencies.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Embracing Change

From a single page newspapers and silent movies to single screen theatre to television to cable TV invasion to internet content on one’s fingertips the media is undergoing a rapid evolution. We talk about the shrinking global village but the true potential of media and its reach is yet to be unleashed.

It has already begun with the fast changes on all fronts of digital media including improvement in handset features, network bandwidth and quality & variety of content. Mobile has fast evolved from just being a device to talk to a centerpiece of our lives. Smartphones with better operating systems, high-speed Internet networks, falling prices and a plethora of content will fuel the mobile boom.

As if all these were not enough, the zeal to make the device more user-friendly introduction of Wi-Fi enabled phones that can connect to the selected Wi-Fi hot spots. The Wi-Fi enabled phones are now the most happening thing seeking to grow with time.

Now with the advent of 3G, the mobile penetration level India is perfectly poised to leapfrog the internet revolution to land directly into the mobile broadband revolution.

e-mailing options have made man completely mobile and also the additional features like allowing the user to attach files and documents that they have worked upon in their Office and business applications, are also installed onto their mobile. Technologies like GPRS, EDGE, and Bluetooth have become more user friendly.

The biggest advantage of mobile marketing is that since the message is delivered on the mobile phone, a personal device, the target respondent ends up taking notice of the campaign and this can add to the campaign effectively.

The other sweeping changes happening in mobile world is that of Viral distribution as it is the key to growing online web services, moreover it provides a very low user-acquisition cost. Without viral distribution PC-based online services like facebook would never have been able to grow to the level that they have without huge investment in marketing.
Marketers are integrating Viral marketing mechanisms with social networking sites like Facebook mainly through developing facebook application which can be promoted within the news feeds or through mass invites

Advertisers are clamoring to reach teens in digital environments because that's where they're spending much of their time either online, with cell phones or playing video games, the biggest innovation being handsets are getting thinner by the day and in the next few years, cell phone networks will move data at several megabits per second, and will coexist with WiMax, and Wi-Fi. Geographic ads targeting to teens via the phone is expected to explode in the coming years.

Yahoo is banking on mobile devices for future growth particularly in Asia as consumers leapfrog cumbersome computers to access the Internet via feature packed handheld gadgets.

The analog-to-digital conversion will make it possible for teens to watch live TV on portable devices. The technology will help the television networks target programming to specific audiences, and that will buoy the cost of advertising,

Just as we learn ABC in Kindergarden the Value Added Service (VAS) business model in our country also has started by identifying the ABC genres i.e. Astrology, Bollywood and Cricket. The first wave of applications was focused on ABC since the consumers were exploring mobile as a medium and were getting used to it. In the first wave of mobile VAS, service providers could get away with sending the same content to the large and varied Indian population e.g. Bollywood content to every user whether he is in Kanyakumari or Kashmir. However users are now looking for varieties of content tailored to suit their individual tastes. All in all there is business in addressing the long tail of customers also.

In the age of convergence the prominent growth driver of VAS would be the consumer’s desire of getting more from their mobile phones. In our country where culture plays a very prominent role and each of the 28 states is as different as a country the regional content will give a big boost to VAS market. The bigger challenge will be to generate relevant content catering to both regional and language differences.
TV channels and FM Channels have already joined the bandwagon, all the big TV channels have started sending their contents through short codes and the success can already be gauged by the increasing reality shows in India.

Infact we have barely scratched the surface of the Mobile, it is perhaps the most important screens in our lives today.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The great Indian Paise League (IPL) Tamaaaaaaaaaaaasha !

Eat cricket, sleep cricket and watch bollywood biggies! This seems to be the new formula for the citizens of India with IPL being the centre of attraction.

It contains too little of cricket. It is really impossible to be loyal to one team and hence the support to any specific team also dwindles. Earlier we used to feel that cricket is the ultimate winner and not any players or their franchisees. IPL despite all its hype, glamour, and money, is considered as 'The Circus in the Garb of the Cricket". Many Cricket greats do not consider T20 as real cricket. And the Indian Premiere League (IPL) has taken the Twenty20 (T20) to new heights; (the faster and higher you rise the bigger the fall). Kindly recollect the famous quote from the not too famous Vinod Ganpat Kambli “he took the elevator and I took the stairs” when he was compared to the legendary Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
Maybe Lalit Modi is taken a cue from it and has climbed the elevator and has pressed the button and is speeding with utmost speed. IPL having entered in its third edition has already over-grown in to a full size adult. In practical parlance a three year old just learns to walk wherein here IPL is already not walking but running in full speed sans any break
A few Star cricketers have quit the International Cricket (Test & ODI) to make them available for Indian Premiere League (IPL). This shows the tendency of international players that they prefer playing in the Indian Premiere League (IPL) than playing for their national teams.
With so much fun, exposure and too much money our young Indian Cricketers are bound to prepare for the Twent20 (T20) Cricket instead of going for a Test Cricket or ODI Cricketer. After all, Indian Premiere League (IPL) provides them with the short-cut to success, money and fame!
The players will never feel that they are representing the country. The owners of each franchisee are looking for only profits and the game has become too commercialised. The love for sports has got lost and the most watched and talked about game is loosing its sheen courtesy one man who will enter in to the record books for bringing disrepute to this game and will be solely responsible for killing Cricket.
With the impending T20 world cup majority of our players are either injured or not fully match fit which again would be a huge disadvantage for cricket lovers as we can see our team not performing to their best. But who cares as long as they make money for themselves rather than the pride of playing for the country.
From the viewer’s point of view - the entire six balls cannot be viewed unless you oblige yourself forcefully to watch those un-wanted advertisement. Earlier we used to blame our state owned Doordarshan for being unfair towards its viewers but today we grudgingly watch cricket in between advertisements.

Earlier IPL had one strategic time-out and in this season we have two in between the innings so that IPL can relay more advertisements. The third umpire also I believe has been told to take his own time before giving his verdict because it gives that much more opportunity for the sponsors to display their advertisements.

IPL is finding more and more means of making money be it airing it across big cinema theaters promising ad free viewing (except strategic time-out) but we did watch a few advertisements in between the overs too.

To sum it up I am not completely against this tamasha there have been a few good new finds too however the most positive factor which everyone will agree with me is our own DADA’s acrobatic fielding and catching which we could only dream of when he was playing for the country.

Lalit Modi will find himself in the record books for demolishing test cricket – Lalit Modi tussi great ho ! Indian cricket ka tohfa kabool karo !

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Golden Memories

Sunday while glancing through a newspaper, I came across an advertisement issued by a leading retail store in Ahmedabad offering Philips “Walkman” free on purchase of Laptops… Yeah you heard it right it was indeed WALKMAN.

Walkman in the era of iPods it was a bit surprising.

Thirty years ago, the device was revolutionary changed the way people listened to music. It created the portable media player market. Three decades on, however, Sony is struggling against rivals such as Apple, which has enjoyed immense success with its iPod music player. While people celebrate Walkman’s 30th birthday, I wonder what makes iPod a dominant player instead of the original Sony Walkman?

The reasons could be many including simple interface, large capacity, visually attractive etc etc. Similarly how many products can we recollect that has faded in to oblivion or which has succumb to advancement of Technology.

Mobiles over Pagers,
Telephone over the Telegraph,
CD Roms over Floppy disk,
DVD over Video Home System (VHS),
CD’s over Cassette Players,
LCD over Flat TV over ordinary Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Television,
Digital Watches over Manual,
Motorcycles over Scooters (Market Leader closing down the production of Scooters),
Multiplex over single screen theatres,
Computers over Electronic Typewriter over Manual Typewriter,
The Central Processing Units (CPU), The Operating System (OS) gets replaced every moment. Broadband over dial-up,
needless to mention email replacing writing handwritten letters.

During the 80’s when the concept of VCR found its way in our country we used to rent it along with VHS Cassettes for the entire 24 hours and used to watch movies at a stretch as the vendors were always in demand and even an hour delay was huge loss to them. The best thing was that it was not only our family but also the neighbours and well-wishers who used to pour even at odd hours to have a glimpse of the movie. For the entire 24 hours no body slept; the only agenda was to view all the four / five movies prior to handing it back to the vendor. Food was also consumed at the same place. People were vying for laying hands on the prized VCR system for a mere 24 hours. We had to book at least a week to ten days in advance and at times the wait list was endless. Today we have approximately five movies in one DVD but hardly time to watch.

Same applies to landline connection and LPG Cylinders too, as possession of these two utility items was an achievement in itself. We used to wait for years to get the allotment; if any family were allotted either of the two connections the whole colony used to celebrate it like a big festival. Upon allotment the initial few days the phone was rarely off hook as we used to inform the allotment (like the arrival of a new baby) to the entire world.

Pagers another prized possession - the entry of Pagers opened flood gates to mobile revolution, people possessing it behaved like they have found the golden nectar. With the arrival of Mobiles phones the neo-rich started flaunting it and their were eager on lookers who used to stare them as if they were from an alien planet, Alas with the advent of Mobiles, Pagers being a one way communication was phased out.

VHS - The earlier VHS were bulky and there were storage issues too; however CD’s / VCD’s & DVD’s have conveniently replaced them. Latest Technology that is being talked about is Blu Ray.

LCD’s have addressed a big issue like huge TV Stand and storage space, now it conveniently sits on our walls and has become a part of fashion accessory. Sleek Laptops are launched by Zero figure bollywood actresses.

Earlier post-offices were the only place where people used to swarm to make trunk calls, book their calls in advance and had to wait in queue for their call to get through. With the advent of STD Booths a few of the call traffic from post-offices were diverted, people used to throng the STD booths after ten in the night as the call charges were one fourth but the network was always busy because of heavy traffic. With the arrival of Mobile phones slowly and steadily the peak and non-peak time merged and the call traffic was distributed evenly. Cut to the current scenario the existing network operators have brought the world at one place by a press of button.

Will there be takers for the free Walkman?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Salesman by Chance not by Choice

Professionally Doctors, Engineers are poles apart however according to me it is always a Synonym when it comes to a respectable position in our society.

Right from childhood these two golden words are etched in our memory and we often find parents stating that their son/daughter will either become a Doctor or an Engineer as if there is no other noble profession in this world.

Infact kids learn to say Doctor, Engineer prior to even learning their own native language. Parents often take pride when a visitor enters their house by posing a very intelligent question to their ward “beta what would you like to become when you grow up”? and the poor child will unknowingly babble the above two golden words which will make the parents the happiest in the world.

This makes me ponder over my profession – Sales.

Interestingly I have deduced as under – “You become a salesman by chance not by choice”. Selling is rarely a first choice in anybody’s career. No parents ever wants his ward to become a salesman, it’s always an Engineer, Doctor and now the latest fad MBA.

Sales as a profession come second only to being an IITian or an alumnus of any B School. Right from early childhood it is imbibed in our system that education is all. Failure of not making to either the coveted Engineering or medical college was tsunami of everybody’s lives.

Sales job requires you never to take a no for an answer. It is not tough but a demeaning job, one that requires a thousand deaths for the ego and yet one has to pick oneself up and move on again. While many crumble under the pressure of meeting sales target and fall by the wayside, a few learn to be up for any challenge. The high of closing a sale can be addictive.

In Medical parlance there is a word CME (Continuing Medical Education) which is true for each salesman too. A Salesman life is also a CME i.e. Conviction Motivation, and Enthusiasm. Everyday the life of a salesman starts with the above three magical words similar to oft-repeated three magical words “I Love You”. A Salesman has to foremost love himself and once when we start loving self then the life will have a different meaning.

A Salesman’s career is not demeaning as it has a flip side too – it makes you an expert in human behaviour as you can gauge a client’s reaction by the body language. A salesman can manipulate a situation in his favour, they can be diplomatic as the sales traits don’t wear off after work. A salesman carries his hat even after work.

As I am entering my 20th year of Sales as a Career I have lot of positives and negatives, lot of plusses and minuses, but the plusses will far outweigh the minuses (negatives) and whatever I am today is entirely credited to my learning as a salesman be it in my earlier industry or the present industry. Needless to mention I too had my own share of bruised egos but when I look back I only have one thing to say – laugh it away my friend as laughter is the best medicine. While penning this I am hearing my son singing a two decade old song “ Papa Kehte hain bada naam karenga, beta hamara aisa kaam karenga…………………………. magar