Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book Review : Offworld by Robin Parrish

What if you were all alone in this world ? .. What if you weren't ?

Offworld by Robin Parrish
Astronauts go through a huge deal of training to prepare them for the unexpected millions of miles away from home. The first manned mission to Mars was no different. But the biggest challenge they face, the biggest "unknown unknown" for them is waiting right here back at home. Losing all contact with home on way back, they return to an world that's completely uninhabited. They set off an a journey to determine the cause and run into more than they can handle.

And then there's some unexpected things happening - buildings burning down, unexplained black outs - which leads to the only logical conclusion : There is"thing" out there. And these brave astronauts might not be as "alone" as they thought they were.

This book keeps you guessing right from the very beginning as to what could be the reason behind this sudden disappearance. Is it an alien abduction? Is it a conspiracy ? Is it a divine interjection ? Is this their minds playing tricks ? Is it a sick joke ? Or is it just a bad, bad dream ? - The answer is stranger than you'd expect.

Having just a handful of characters in the entire storyline is needle that the author has threaded quite expertly. You get to know the characters in quite the depth, but you still feel like you've barely scratched the surface. You might get to know them very well, but you'd rarely trust any one of them as all of them have this hidden facet to their personality, some hidden agenda which makes you question each and every one and their motives right from page 1. .

Especially this one survivor they meet along the way. The only one to still be "there" wile the rest of the world's evaporated away. The fact that you know so very little about this person haunts the reader at every turn of the page.

I guess the story would be best summarised by this quote form the book itself :

"Life is poetry.
Stop. Watch. Listen.
There’s poetry all over.
And the thing about poetry?

It don’t write itself."

Book Review : Inception , The Catherine Kimbridge Chronicles #1

Inception by Andrew Beery
It's been years since I sacrificed an night's sleep because I just couldn't put down a book I'd picked up. Just one line - the first line, that's all it took, and I was hooked.

"2067 was the year I died for the first time" - The first line

This book has all the ingredients of a gripping space drama - Fictional technology with names and back-"science" that nobody understands, but sounds good to hear and flatters you into feeling intelligent  ;-) , the strong central characters, cheesy references to pop culture, the aliens ( and how they relate to humanity ), a long forgotten powerful and omnipotent race, the symbiosis between organics and synthetics and the ultimate triumph of human ingenuity and curiosity over everything else.

If you love any of the space exploration fictions like StarTrek, Star Wars, Star gate, Battle Star, FireFly - then this book would be just up your alley.

***** / *****

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Green Marketing

The American Marketing Association defines green marketing as  “the marketing of products that are presumed environmentally safe”. It includes a broad range of activities, including product modification, changes to the production process, packaging changes, as well as modifying advertising.

However, this definition does not do the term justice. Green marketing ( or Environmental Marketing or Ecological Marketing as it is also called ) does not just include the marketing of green products, but also suiting your marketing methodologies and strategies so that they themselves are more environment friendly.

Let us attempt to understand this with the help of our tried and tested : 7 P’s of marketing


It all begins with the product. First of all you have to ensure that your product is environment friendly.
You have to pay special attention to things like manufacturing processes, packaging, waste management, sources of energy and others to achieve this.
Some of the major considerations are :

  • What is the impact of production, sourcing of materials and packaging on the environment?
  • Can minimum levels of packaging and environment friendly packaging be achieved without compromising product quality or appeal?
  • Are your suppliers at least as environmentally friendly as you?


Employing green manufacturing techniques might lead to increases or decreases in the cost of production. In many cases the initial high investments will be off set in the longer run by lower fuel bills through energy efficiency measures or an increase in sales caused by a positive product image.  An organization might be able to pass the increase in production costs to its customers, but this would depend on various factors such as the level of increase, type of consumer, competitor prices and the strength of the economy. 


Organizations need to carefully plan their distribution centers, distribution timings, distribution strategies to ensure that they have minimum impact on the environment.
The fastest mode of transportation might be damaging to the environment ( e.g. AirPlanes ), a environmentally friendly mode of transportation might not be fast enough to meet your needs ( e.g. Canals ), a method of distribution that combines speed with “environmentally friendliness” may increase distribution costs ( e.g. Electric Vehicles ). You have to ensure that you strike a proper balance between the three


Your employees are the face of your organization. They must not behave in a manner which would conflict with your organization’s image as a green company. You should encourage your employees to use environmentally friendly methods of transportation while commuting to their offices like mass transit systems, hybrid vehicles, carpooling etc. For example. Google offers incentives to its employees who opt-in to buy hybrid vehicles. One other example is the increasing use of teleconferencing to replace frequent travel.


Processes are referred to the systems that enable an organization to effectively deliver its goods and services. They refer to the activities that your organization performs which are not the core activities of your company. It is very important to incorporate environmentally friendly processes in the day-to-day activities of your organization to convey to world that you take the environment seriously. Croma, the electronics retail chain by TATA has recently started allowing customers to opt-in for an eReceipt. IRCTC has allowed customers to carry digital copies of their reservation receipts.

Physical Evidence

Much of what your organization does to incorporate green practices is back-end oriented, many times it is intangible. Therefore it becomes very important to let your customer know the steps you have taken to ensure the future of the planet. Many a times, this is as simple as letting your customer know why certain things are done the way they are done. E.g. To preserve water many hotels wash towels, bed sheets, etc, only when you explicitly ask them to do so. Some customers might believe that this has been done by the hotel only to save some money. In this case it becomes important to convey the thinking the behind your actions to your clients. This is done by placing a green card in hotel rooms ( as shown alongside ) which conveys this to the customers.


Now that you have ensured that your product and your marketing is environmentally friendly, it is very important to convey that to your customers.  Some of the above pictures / logos are an internationally and instantly recognized signs of a green product. Incorporating these on your product packaging and on your communication is an instant signal to your audience that your product is environment friendly. 
At the same time, its is also very important to ensure that your promotion strategy itself is environment friendly. Example : 
  • If you cannot completely avoid using pamphlets to promote your products, you can atleast ensure that they are printed on recycled paper
  • Employ environmental friendly methods when filming your advertisement films
  • Avoid use of paper as much as possible, don't ask users to fill in unnecessary forms, try and utilize the internet as a medium as much as possible
  • If you are using outdoor mobile advertisements, ensure that the vehicles you use are environment friendly
  • Make extensive use of mobile advertising, online advertising, social media marketing and other such means of marketing which would reduce the impact on the environment as compared to using newspapers, television ad spots, etc;


High Initial Costs
The initial investment in going green is quite high. Not just in terms of money being invested, but in terms of huge R&D involved in figuring out newer, better and environment friendly methods of manufacturing, packaging, etc; a huge change in the operating of the company itself , changing of the company’s corporate structure, time lag required to get your company onto the green track.

Going green as a CSR initiative
Many companies undertake green marketing strategies as part of their CSR activities. However, every company should realize that going green is not just a CSR activity but something that should be incorporated in the corporate structure of the company itself.

Customers not ready
In a recent study published by MeidaPost, much of the American customers think that green marketing is nothing more than a marketing ploy. This mindset has be changed with effective communication.

Green Washing
Green washing is a  form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization's aims and policies are environmentally friendly, when they might not really be so.  Whether it is to increase profits or gain political support, greenwashing may be used to manipulate popular opinion to support otherwise questionable aims.  ( more at

The Road Ahead

Why should a company go green ?  Well, because it’s the right thing to do. And in the long term, you might not really have any other option. Costs of traditional fuels is skyrocketing day-by-day. The rate at which the environment is deteriorating is alarming, this is causing even the most arrogant governments to take notice. And many countries are passing laws which are incentivizing or even forcing companies to adapt green practices in their business. Eventually every company will be required to conduct business in an environmentally responsible way.
So why not do the right thing now instead of waiting? Why not keep up with the competition—maybe even beat them to the punch—by becoming the company that owns green in your category?
And if you think the economy will keep customers from paying more for an environmentally responsible product or service, think again. A recent survey has shown that 82% of consumers are still purchasing green products during the recession

Originally appeared in MAGMA, the newsletter of the Marketing Club of the Sydenham Institute of Management Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship Education. ( )

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Jelly Beans !

June 28th at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Google held its annual industry-developer interface conference known as Google I/O . This year’s I/O was very special with many new announcements, releases and events by the software giant. These included the new $199, 7 inch tablet – the Nexus7, the first piece of hardware built entirely by Google – The NexusQ home entertainment system, offline maps and Chrome finally going gold on the Android, project Glass – a wearable computing device, Google Events and much more. But the star of the show had to be the unveiling of the latest version of their mobile OS, Android.

The latest version of Android, Version 4.1, codenamed JellyBean includes numerous new features like : Project Butter – a series of  improvements and tweaks to the android framework which drastically increase the responsiveness of the system and gives the users a smooth and “buttery” experience, improved keyboard layout and support for 16 additional languages including Hindi and other Indic languages, improved voice input, expandable notifications and a brilliant new feature known as Google Now.

Voice typing and voice commands have been a part and parcel of Android since its initial releases.  And it has been getting better and better with every new release. Google or any of the manufacturers using Android had never really stressed on that fact in any of their marketing communications. Not to mention the fact that you could not use natural language to issue your phone command. And when, Apple launched the latest version of their mobile operating system, iOS5 with the iPhone 4s, Siri was at the centre of it all. It took the world with a storm. There were many attempts to clone its functionality. Android developers were quick and within 8hrs released an application called Iris which tried to mimic the functionality of Siri. Samsung, in its latest flagship device, The Galaxy S3 sported a feature called the “S Voice” which brought Siri-like functionality to the device. Everyone was waiting for Google’s official answer to Siri. That wait is finally over, with Google Now.

With improved voice search, Android 4.1 JellyBean can finally answer your spoken questions. Armed with the power of the Google Knowledge Graph, you can now use natural voice communications to talk to your phone, ask it questions and get back your answers.  And it’s not just limited to your phone any longer. Thanks to Google Knowledge Graph – a project aimed at helping AIs not just answer your questions, but also fundamentally understand them while they do so – the same functionality is now available to all users worldwide on Google’s search engine. Go ahead, point your browser to Google, click on the little microphone at the right of the search box and say “How tall is the Gateway of India” and you are presented with the right answer, which in this case is 26 meters. On the phone ofcourse, it can do a lot more, including setting up alarms, calling your mom, pointing you to the nearest pizza place and even letting you know every time Sachin scores a six.

But Google, as always, is thinking a few steps beyond that. The philosophy of Google, as a company has always been about “Making the right information available for you when you ask for it”. Voice search enables you to do that faster, more naturally. But… The problem with voice search is that, you still have to ask it questions and tell it to do things. Google Now, challenges that thought. It says “What if the user never even needed to ask for it”. It’s all about making the right and relevant information available to the user, when he needs it, without him ever needing to ask for it!

From the introduction video : “Instead of having to sift through and organize all the information you need throughout the day, all that information is ready at the exact moment you actually need it. Introducing:  Google Now. Now with Android, one simple swipe gives you information that is relevant to you, Right Now. As you leave your house, Google Now is smart enough to check current traffic conditions and has prepared an alternate route for your commute. Google Now is always one step ahead, so you can feel more confident as you navigate the day. When you are at a subway station, Google Now can tell you what trains are next; find you interesting local places to eat. And when you are in a restaurant, your phone already has the best dishes listed for you. Google Now automatically keeps you updated on your favourite sports teams in real time. With the predictive power of Now, you get just what you need to know, right when you need it.”

From a marketing perspective, the implications of this are huge! You know what your customer wants, even before he asks for it. And in some cases, even before he realises it. With suggesting routes, restaurants, dishes, stores and other locations you become a huge influencing factor in their buying process. And the best part is; leaving upselling, cross-selling and all those matters aside;  Google has already sold its product ( i.e. search data ) by the very fact of the customer just being there. The customer has not asked you for anything, but your product has already been delivered!!!
That is H U G E ! !
What company on the face of the earth wouldn’t want something like that ??

Originally appeared in MAGMA, the newsletter of the Marketing Club of the Sydenham Institute of Management Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship Education. ( ) .

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Innovation and the Book

Just the other day, I was going through the Brand Equity supplement of “The Economic Times” (Yeah, I do read it  ... sometimes), on the last page there were a list of bad advertisements this year. I agreed with some of the items on the list, disagreed with some, but nevertheless, that list got me thinking: “Why do advertisements fail ?”, “Where do these Ad Men go wrong ?”, “What has and can be done to stop such a disaster from happening?”.

Luckily, I did not have to look too far or too long for an answer. There was another article on another page of the same issue which, in effect states: “The fear of failure is choking innovation”. Ad makers are sticking to what they know to be safe options rather than venture out into the unknown, preventing innovation and creativity which are the very pillars of marketing. The article talked about when the medium of TV advertisement first came into being. People initially thought of it as “radio with pictures” or “print ads with sound (and motion)” and advertised accordingly.  Only when people started thinking of TV as a completely different entity, were they truly freed of their shackles and began truly utilizing the immense potential it had. People came to the TV with all sorts of crazy ideas, some of them became instant classics, many tanked miserably. But these failures are the ones that taught the industry much more than the successes ever would. In any creative and innovative industry, failures are a fact of life and we have to learn to embrace them, accept them, learn from them and finally move on.
That is the business we, as marketers are in, the business of venturing out in the unknown.

After people came to embrace the media of TV advertisements, came the reign of internet advertising. The industry has just come to terms with it when we are faced with a new challenge :– The era of social marketing has dawned. With the emergence of FaceBook, twitter, YouTube and other social networking media, we find that the promotion of a product is lesser and lesser in the hands of a marketer and much more in those of the customer. Twitter, not just a social networking site, but an entire new medium in itself, has greatly changed the way people communicate. Companies are quickly jumping the bandwagon to utilize these new media, but we have seen many a company burn their hands while trying their inexperienced hands at these new tools.

In these rapidly changing times, how relevant has classroom education and books remained? The 4P’s marketing mix model is more than 50 years old, Porter’s Five forces model more than 30, the Value Chain concept 25. Do any of these concepts have any significance in today’s market?   Ask any marketer and he will always refer to the book – the one we marketers have come to lovingly call as “The Kotler”. Even when you look into “The Kotler”, you will see concepts, guidelines and steps to undertake any activity, but most importantly, there are cases and example of companies, who did not stick to these guidelines, went above and beyond what was expected and emerged as market leaders. So that’s what these books teach us – not what has to be done, but the very minimum base guideline of what must be done. We have to know the rules of the game, before we can rise to challenge them. And for learning these things what we need to do is not just learn to love “The Kotler”, but to go above and beyond that – industry analysis, brand analysis, ad analysis, case studies. We should learn from the successes and failures of those who came before us

Only by learning what has already been done can we be true to our field as marketers – that is to ‘do something different’, to be creative, to innovate…

NOTE : This article was published in the inaugural issue of the marketing magazine of my college, "MAGMA"

Friday, June 19, 2009

The winner stands alone

So after travelling for a couple of weeks I was back home and I was getting bored. So I did something which, under ideal circumstances, I would never do. I borrowed a Paulo Cohelo novel from my dad to pass the time by.

The winner stands alone by Paulo Cohelo - to be honest this one wasn't half as bad as his other novels which I have read. Now don't take this wrongly ( and fan boys please don't come breathing down on my neck ). But I never seem to get around to understanding his stories. A friend once told me that this is because his stories have spiritual and moral values which I would never understand. That may be true and I do prefer stories which have storytelling values rather than any other kind of values!!

This story is about a love-burnt man (aren't we all ;) ) and his quest to get his ex-wife back from the grasp of her current husband by showing her just how much he loves her and the lengths he's ready to go for her. ( he fails ) Wrapped around a world of fame, glitz,glamour, fashion and of course the movie stars and the superclass and set amidst the Cannes film festival.

The time duration of the story is small, less than 24 hours. As a result the story doesn't really progress much, but the author has done a great job at narrating what goes on in the character's minds rather than in the real world. With lots of back history about each character ( even those which are going to be killed off minutes later ) and very insightful views about the back-stage happenings about their line of work ( which is where the author's research really shows ), the reader connects with each and every character. But the flow of the story leaves something to be desired. The ending ,especially, seems to be haphazardly put together. Some people may blame the duration of the story for that, but I believe it to be the culprit as there have been novels which have been quite as insightful, with equally livid characters and quite as short durations but much better storylines than this. Take for example "Airport" or "Evening News", both by Arthur Hailey.

But it would be wrong on my part not to acknowledge the positive parts of the book. The book is very insightful. It tells us a lot about the world of glamour as to what exactly goes on in the lives of those who are a cog in that industry as opposed to what the world sees. The characters are very lividly portrayed, as a result a reader can connect with even the most minor of the characters. And the emotional/spiritual thoughts going on in every character's minds have been very nicely conveyed by the author.
But sadly, I'm not the kind of reader who is easily bought over by such things. I strongly believe that the engine of every novel should be the story itself, which is exactly where this novel fails.

So for those who are into such kind of stories would be overwhelmed by the piece of literature which is "the winner stands alone". But my personal advice would be to stay away from it.