Monthly Archives: March 2009

By Design

“Your people will judge you on what you build, not what you destroy”, said the  US President. But sometimes, to create, one had to destroy – for instance, his blog’s old design. Now came the difficult part. He hoped that in the two most important sections, there’d still be something good enough to write – Home, About.

until next time, whatcha think of the revamp? :)

The new media owners

A few days back, I read a very interesting piece by Jeff Jarvis on ‘The Great Restructuring’, in which he talked about fundamental changes happening in the economy and society. He also talked of an economy (at least in part) built on the abundance of knowledge, which then led to the subject of replanting business models.

It took me back to a discussion I once had with a friend on the role of newspapers, and the new forms of media. The role of newspapers, and ‘tangible media’ in general was a hot topic of discussion then. Steve Rubel had the “The End of Tangible Media is Clearly in Sight” post which put 2014 as the year of demise (in the US), and got quite a few responses, including some folk who disagreed with it, and some who agreed a bit but disagreed mostly. There wasn’t much of disagreement on the subject of newspapers, and it was generally agreed that Digital was indeed a great disrupter. Newspapers have  been accused of trying to replant their offline model on their web. Perhaps rightly so, since it clearly doesn’t seem to be working.

In that conversation, we’d used ‘new media’ a little differently from the platform based (internet and mobile) approach. We discussed three forms of ‘new media’ -

  • some entities about whom the media writes about – people and  organisations . The net population already shares a lot of the content they produce on the web platform – via blogs, social networks, platforms like YouTube, Flickr etc, and lots of organisations are using the web as a broadcast medium – Marketing as media
  • social networks and other services which consolidate a lot of the content generated above in one location, and web only news sites (anything from Rediff to Instablogs and niche news sites)
  • some entities who’re already in the communication/network business – these could be companies like Nokia (handset manufacturers who are an access point to the web), telecom operators like Vodafone (who also act as an access point), or even companies like Cisco, who I think will go further than just provide media solutions

While there’ve been a few setbacks – Nokia shutting down Mosh, its content sharing service as a result of dubious content posted, Vodafone playing bully to opt-in-SMS service MyToday and various lawsuits against Google (YouTube) on copyrighted content, I’m hoping these are nothing more than teething problems of a radical overhaul.

Depending on various factors, like socio economic conditions, technology penetration, to name a few, ‘The  Great Restructuring’ would happen differently in different places. Like other restructurings before, some parts of the population would remain unaffected.

Meanwhile, as mentioned in the post, it indeed is a time of opportunity, and definitely for newspapers too, at least in this part of the world. It only depends on how much they’re willing to shed their old ways of doing business (especially when it isn’t making the revenue it used to be) and how willing they are to listen to the collective consciousness. Even with the ‘new media’ and the proliferation of content producers, newspapers could still find ways of delivering value. (excellent debate happening here)

Earlier, everyone read a newspaper and therefore it was the place for a product to be seen by its potential consumers. Since the first part changed, the second has too. If increasing media fragmentation is the future, then what newspapers could be doing wrong is seeing their product/s as the only media/destination. Instead, they should perhaps (at least) listen to the Chaos Scenarioexplore a few options, utilise their resources to be preferred content choices in as many fragments as possible, irrespective of the platform, and fight battles in each fragment separately. This would also mean that basis the dynamics of each fragment, different revenue models might evolve for each fragment.

until next time, for now its Calvinball rules :)

PS. Must Read – IBM’s study – Beyond Advertising

Khansama

Khansama – The Royal India Master Chef is a BJN Group endeavour at UB City Mall. The theme is royalty, and it serves a mix of cusines, though skewed towards North indian dishes.

The mall also hosts Shiro (Lounge), Oakroom (multi cusine), Ecstasy (desserts/cafe), The Tasty Tangles (Oriental), Rajdhani (that thali has been on the pending list for a while now!!) ..quite an elaborate food court…  So, maybe you could go a bit early and figure out what gastronomic mood you’re in. We, however, reserved in advance, and were quite surprised to see a few tables occupied by 7.30. Maybe they all wanted to get back in time for Juno. :)

The ambience is quite befitting the royal theme the restaurant has. Massive portraits, swords, assorted mounted animal heads :D, and a few guns thrown in too on the walls. The lighting has been done well too, not too dimly lit, and not too bright either, enhancing the effects of the entire setting.

We started with a ‘Dhuanr Murgh Tikka’ starter. That’s “succulent and creamy pieces of chicken infused with italian smoked mozzarella”. It was quite good, and went well with the chilly sauce. D liked the mint sauce though she rated it a bit lower than the one in Copper Chimney. There are quite a few options in veg and non veg, the seafood starters are costly though. If you’re the soup kind, there are quite a few choices on that front too.

For the main course, we ordered a Kofta Zartaari (“paneer, potato dumplings done the zartaari style), a Murgh Darbari (“an affable combo of spring chicken and eggs in a silky smooth gravy”), and to go with that a portion of Punjabi Zaituni Naan (“traditional flour bread – baked in the tandoor with black and stuffed green olives, basted with light spanish olive oil” – its not boneless). We were told that the chicken dish would be a bit sweet, but the kofta would provide the spice. It turned out almost the opposite, with the Kofta gravy being a tad sweet (but the Kofta itself a bit spicy) and the chicken dish  being mildly spicy. The bread was quite awesome, one portion has two naans, but quite small, so we ordered a Lal Mirch paratha too. Good stuff, which (thankfully?) didn’t reach the levels of our hari mirch adventure at Heera Panna. The menu offers quite a lot of choices, some even from South Indian cuisine, since the theme is more royalty than any geographic area. (though the menu has only sher shah suri and the Mughals) :)

There were a few dessert options, but we were too stuffed to try any, but quite likely the next time. The service is quite good, and the wet towel was really refreshing. Except for perhaps one odd occasion, the BJN restaurants have always delivered on the food quality, though I keep making digs at their snobbery efforts :)

The cutlery is also a bit unique and I loved the goblet though it was a bit heavy. By the time we left – around 8.30, the place was quite crowded. And uncharacteristically, they even gave us some good meetha paan in the end. (have seen only the paid version in other BJN group restautants). All of the above cost us just over Rs.1150 (inclusive of a 10% service charge and taxes). Great food and a good ambience, I’d recommend checking it out.

Khansama, 2nd Floor, UB City Mall, #24, Vittal Mallya Road. Tel 41114499

Photos at Zomato

Sizing up

Quite sometime back, Chris Brogan had written a small post on ‘Small is a weapon’ with its many advantages like the ability to experiment more and respond faster (than big companies).  Before going further, let me clarify that this is a broad generic view, and I’m sure there might be large companies that manage all this. But perhaps smaller companies have a better chance. The comments on the post reinforced these advantages – internally, a flat structure that makes effective decision making easier, a willingness to change, the importance given to ideas, and externally, faster turnaround for customer issues, a personal touch, and so on. These characteristics struck me as very important ones from the perspective of social media interactions.

Is social media a better tool in the hands of small companies? In a small organisation, would the qualitative metrics of social media be appreciated much more? Would the community – external and internal be connected because of the passion they share for what they’re building together? An idea, (via dina) which binds the audience?

As organisations become bigger, ideas become products/services and then become brands?  And as brands grow in stature, does this size dictate everything else? Is that why mass media seems appealing? Because somewhere along the line brands picked up larger audiences and found that one way communication to this audience was easier? Does the focus of the brand move on to marketing communication, monetisation of the audience etc, because the  brand cements itself in terms of its attributes and perceptions in the mind of people and all it wants to do then is reinforce?

Can larger organisations handle the expectations of social media users – both from an internal perspective (empowerment, for example) as well as from a customer standpoint – (speed, personal touch, conversation). Do they feel limited by  the number of interactions that can be handled? Are they too used to conveying the single brand message irrespective of context, and do they find ‘scalable intimacy‘ difficult to handle? Do they then try to dictate the kind of ‘official’ use that their employees find for social media? After reading Mashable’s post on a similar topic, I had another thought – would an international brand be able to make sure the cultural differences and sensibilities across geographies are handled in the right manner always, in a medium that’s not limited by geography?

Perhaps the solution is to move back from the narrow confines of the brand’s architecture to the original generic idea space, because there will be the old audience with new experiences who can help the brand connect with a new audience? New ideas would emerge leading to a new lifecycle?

I guess its not quite easy to answer since the phenomenon of social media has been making its presence felt only recently, and its difficult to figure out organisations that have been using it for a long time and also scaled up at the same time. Meanwhile, McKinsey Quarterly has a great read on 6 ways to make web 2.0 work. (for companies)

until next time, scale the walls

The Grass Crown

Colleen Mc Cullough

Quite a superb sequel to “The First Man in Rome” with an expanded set of characters and perhaps a canvass larger than its predecessor.
Centered around the war against Italia, the growing rift between two towering personalities and former friends, and the depths to which a person’s ego can lead him, this book also sets up Julius Caesar perfectly, illustrating his character wonderfully.
Gaius Marius, in search of his seventh consulship (which others have deemed impossible), with a fervour that finally derails his brilliant mind; Sulla, seeking his first consulship and the greatness that he believes is deservedly his, only to come up against Marius; the young Caesar, watching, learning, and becoming increasingly sure of his destiny; Rome, a state like no other, becoming the playground of men whose fanatical belief in themselves have caused them to make a mockery of the society they lived in. Power, by whatever means necessary.
And now, to get myself a copy of “Fortune’s Favourites”

In tolerance

In the large world there are those who can’t tolerate people playing cricket in their country, who can’t tolerate others celebrating Valentine’s Day, who can’t tolerate women going to pubs, who can’t tolerate intolerance and will therefore send pink chaddis, who can’t tolerate losses and will therefore distribute pink slips, who can’t tolerate being called idiots and will send legal notices, and so on.

In the smaller world, there are those who can’t tolerate getting stuck in traffic, who can’t tolerate waiting in the queue in a multiplex ticket counter, who can’t tolerate lesser intelligence in others, who can’t tolerate not getting a call back within 5 seconds of the other person missing a call, who can’t tolerate the slowness of the elevator, who can’t tolerate the tardiness of restaurant staff and so on.

The larger world tries to hide agendas behind the intolerance, individuals are dispensable. The smaller world tries to hide intolerance behind their daily agendas, the rest of the world is dispensable. Society that is failing the individual, or individuals who’re failing society?

until next time, just a rant.. be tolerant :)

Conversations in social media

The Facebook redesign and the possible redefining of brands’ interaction with users on the service would perhaps make organisations dwell a little more on their new media strategy. I say this, mostly considering the reach of Facebook, and the importance and influence that conversations there, are acquiring in people’s lives. The growing reach of Twitter cannot be ignored either. So it does seem a good time to reflect on creating a digital footprint, getting to know the platforms – be it Facebook (via Vijay Sankaran), Twitter, (links point to good ‘How to’ resources) or any other service, and how they could benefit the brand, looking at what has/hasn’t worked for other brands, thinking about a long term social media strategy,  and then figuring out the measurement criteria that could be adopted for the strategy that is adopted.

Amidst all the hoopla surrounding Facebook’s new design, and Twitter’s integrated search, Paul Worthington wrote a very interesting post on Mashable reminding brands not to lose their focus. From the post

The initial challenge is not to better understand and respond to the customer. The challenge is to start with better understanding who you are, what you truly believe in, and what you can realistically offer to your customer.

Because if all you focus on are what customers are telling you, you risk losing sight of who you are, what you believe in and what drives you forwards.

A purpose that is first bought into by their employees, before being presented to the consumer in a way that brings a natural self-confidence to that conversation.

While crowdsourcing has many advantages, and now has various platforms including Facebook, Twitter and more focused services like Get Satisfaction, and consumers also benefit from having big brands on these platforms, I completely agree with the thoughts shared above. This is what I’d consider as the middle path between adhering strictly to brand manuals only and plunging into social media without a clear objective/strategy and trying to please everyone in the crowd.

So, perhaps what brands should do first is search themselves (yes, without Google), understand what’s the real value that they offer to their consumers – potential and current, figure out whether the entire organisation is in aligned on this, then consider how new media can play a part in sharing and collaborating with the users as well as communicating to them what the brand stands for and what value it can deliver, ensure that they continue providing this value, keep listening to users to find what more they expect from the brand, figure out the feasibility of these expectations, tweak it further by bringing in the internal factors, and continue this process. For many organisations, internal democracy as well as complete internal transparency would themselves be a significant steps. But these are a must before aiming to engage with consumers, because in social media brand custodians are not the only ‘broadcast’ source, every employee is a potential source.(a wonderful presentation on the micro sociology of networks)

In essence, its not just a brand strategy shift, its an organisational culture transformation. As a brand, and as an organisation, it is important to be clear about the levels of transparency you can work with. The challenge then becomes that of creating and maintaining a harmonized balance between user needs and brand deliverables.

until next time, drawing the line and walking it

PS: A great story on how two fans made Coke the second most popular fanpage on Facebook, and Coke’s reaction.

Shiok

Shiok is a restaurant that serves Far-eastern cuisine. And it’s moved. No, not the cuisine, just the location. Though we’d heard about it a lot when it was on CMH Road, (online mostly, but we’ll get to that later) we never managed to visit. So, when we saw the signboard on the Inner Ring Road (before the flyover, on the right, when coming from Koramangala), we decided now was as good a time as any to try it out.

We skipped the reservation part but were lucky enough to get a table. I liked the ambience – elegant, pleasant to the eye, and cosy. There’s also a cocktail lounge – ‘Moss’ on the first floor.

We started with a “Minced chicken and celery soup” (kaeng jued) , a Thai soup, “a tasty yet light soup with bits of minced chicken, celery, chinese cabbage and black mushroom”. Though it was a thin soup, I quite liked its flavour.

We skipped starters and for the main course ordered a Beef with ginger, chilli, basil and crushed peanuts, described further as ” tender beef with several assertive flavours that nevertheless blend nicely together. The peanuts provide a crunch and a mild contrast to the other seasonings”, an Indonesian green chilli chicken (ayam cabai hijau), which is “chicken cubes simmered with green chillies, lemongrass,  ginger and tomatoes” It also says that this is for real chilli lovers and may be fatal in large doses. (yes, they also mention they’re kidding, so don’t worry). To go with these two, a Chi hor fun, a Malaysian noodle dish, “browned braised chicken cooked with flat rice noodles and savoury sauce using ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce and chicken stock”. I felt the beef could’ve been a little more evenly cooked (some pieces were a bit rare) but I still liked it enough to slurp the gravy!! The crunchy peanuts did bring in a nice contrast. The chicken dish, though it displayed a few chillies, is less scarier in real life than is made out to be in the menu. I quite liked this too. In both cases, there’s not much of gravy, but since our noodles  had a bit of its own (hmm “squishier” than the Malaysian noodles I’ve had elsewhere), it worked out fine. And that’s why I was impressed with the service, because our original choice of chicken dish was vetoed by the person in  charge of our table, who suggested this one since it would go better with our noodles.

Though i couldn’t find it in the menu, they did offer us some desserts, including a chocolate mousse, but unfortunately I was stuffed enough to pass :( All of the above, including a service tax of 10%, cost us just over Rs.800.

Shiok belongs to a MadMan (he’s one those really ancient bloggers, about 8 years, makes me feel young!!  :D) , though judging from the food, I’d wager that there is definitely a method. :) You can get the exact location, have a look at the menu card, check out a few recipes and even reserve a table right here. Good food (quite a lot of choices for vegetarians and non vegetarians), nice ambience, excellent service, do give it a try.

Shiok, #96, Amarjyothi Layout, Intermediate Ring Road. Ph: 65715555/6666. www.shiokfood.com

Update: Closed

The Five Dollar Smile

Shashi Tharoor

This is a collection of Shashi Tharoor’s early works.. really early :) It has 14 stories and a two act play. While they are not of the fantastic quality of say, The Great Indian novel, it definitely shows the class of the author, who even during school and college days, displayed an affection for words, and humour.
Each story is preceded by a note from the author that explains the context, and the mood. This adds great value to the reading.
The stories range from semi autobiographical to takes on the social, cultural and economic milieu prevalent at the time the story was set, and pure fiction. Some of them are also unique perspectives on commonplace occurrences. A lot of stories reflect the ‘Indian middle class’ values and mindset, and I could identify with that a lot. A lot of the wit is pun driven, so if you’re a wordsmith you’ll like it. :)
The play is a wonderful humorous metaphor on the Emergency.
In essence, a decent read.