Social Interactions

When Paul Adams makes an ‘appearance’ on this blog, it usually involves profundity. (background) Last week, on Simply Zesty, I saw this amazing presentation he made recently, which, in addition to showing the evolution of communication technology and its impact on us, also shed light on the role Facebook envisions for themselves. (Do read the post linked to above to the 3 main takeaways) The video is a must watch and worth the 20 minutes you spend.

The part, however,that interested me most, and affects my current line of work, is where he mentions that the way forward for brands, before they get ‘heavy’. Many lightweight interactions over time, that’s what he says. And I nodded my head vigorously when I heard that.

It also ties in well with the ‘tyranny of the big idea’ concept discussed here before. Lightweight interactions involve fewer resources – time and money, offer opportunities to create nuanced engagement based on objectives, user interests and other contexts. The tendency for brands is to use the media part of ‘social media’ and attempt to make big splashes. But I strongly agree that these are relationships which take time and a lot of interactions – to build trust and understanding. Once this is done, the big splashes will be made even bigger thanks to the support of an active and engaged user base.

until next time, light the fire…

It’s all roleplay

The other day, Samadooram, a talk show on Mazhavil Manorama featured Revathy, in the context of Revathy’s own show Kanamarayathu on the same channel, that deals with children who have run away from home. I’m not a viewer of that show, and cannot really comment on the content, but… (Opinion - on related things – follows. :)  )

One of the things that piqued my interest was something that Revathy said during the show – that she was disappointed by the attitude of a well educated person who asked her whether they created so much melodrama on the show to attract more viewers. (that the Malayali audience is addicted to glycerin is well established by the success of the daily soaps on various channels) That reminded me of the twitter reaction to Day 1 of Satyamev Jayate and the posts that followed in the next few days – swinging from abject cynicism to equating it to the second coming.

(Generalising) In India, there is obviously a huge difference between the perspectives of the low single digit percentage of people on twitter who are rarely directly affected by issues (barring #firstworldproblems) and the billions who are not on twitter but who are directly affected. However, the polarising of opinions is something I’ve seen outside of twitter too, increasingly these days. In that sense, twitter does act as a microcosm of the world outside. Which brings me to the other related point that Revathy made – sensitising people to the things that happen around them, not directly affecting them, but could later, or which they could influence in a positive way if they acted on it. Not to blame anyone, but I am aware that today’s society is becoming increasingly selfish and living in self made bubbles. Existential pragmatism perhaps.

But what I’d like to think about here is media’s role – the question that was asked to Revathy. Media, and I’m talking of the institution here and not any one specific, could play a great role in sensitising, mostly thanks to its reach and the varied perspectives it can capture. However, such is the competition for eyeballs and money, that ‘any means necessary’ is the accepted credo. Such is the onslaught on the remaining senses that I wonder if collectively, media has forced its audience to move directly to a desensitised state without pausing at ‘sensitise’. Whose responsibility is it finally to filter – the sender (media) or the receiver? (audience) I am really not sure. On my part, I don’t watch news channels, and I can’t say it has damaged me permanently. What do you think? (No, not about the damage it has/not caused me, but the roles)

until next time, know your role

Postscript: While on the subject, a small bit on celebrity anchors. They have enormous personal clout, and (this is an example) this can do + and – for their shows – bring and take away focus. I don’t grudge Aamir making 3 crores out of a Satyamev Jayate episode. He is a professional actor and it so happens that this is a project that (seems as per propaganda) is close to his heart. He does not need to part with his remuneration to show his commitment to the cause. That’s like forcing an employee to spend x% of his salary to buy his company’s product/service every month on salary day, since he’s supposedly – in pop lingo – ‘passionate’ about his job. On the flip side, Aamir is not doing the world a favour by being the face of the show either. What he could do to help though, is to write a small note that clarifies his role for the audience. It’s not an obligation, but whether it’s a job as a professional or his own personal affection for a show – if he were true to it – he would want the conversation around the topic of the show – the issue at hand.

I & Monkey

D wanted to write this post owing to the title, but my super power is admin rights for this blog. Ha! A rainy, slushy Bangalore night tried to make a monkey out of us, but we stuck to our plan, though it did mean that we  looked like wet monkeys when we arrived at the restaurant on 12th Main Indiranagar. (on the left, when coming from the Sony Center signal on 100 feet Road) Parking – 12th main and those side lanes, you should be fine. If I’m not mistaken, this building used to be the former cricketer Prasanna’s house! Not surprising, the owners would want this to be a money spinner too, like their other venture – Windsor Pub. ;) We had a reservation, and I didn’t say this aloud so we managed not be thrown out, wet shorts and all. :) Classy lighting, well placed tables and foot tapping music makes for a great ambiance in spite of the mandatory LCD screens.

Thanks to the reviews we read online, we had a rough idea of what we wanted, though we couldn’t find a menu online. I managed to take a few snaps of the menu, something I’d promised myself I wouldn’t (and rely on Zomato) But there seems to be some perception that the menu is limited. The snaps would prove otherwise. (click for larger image) They also have a well stocked bar and an extensive wine list.

  

  

  

Though we were drowning under the choices, we asked for a special (not on the regular menu, seems to be a week’s special) – Momo Pork Wopper and very uncharacteristically, and greedily added a second starter – Chargrilled Chicken Fillets. The latter was only because the one we really wanted – the Shikari Style Veddi Erachi was not available. They offered us a close equivalent but that was a more regular dish, so we passed. The pork momos were quite tasty and steamed well, though we’d have liked the sauce to be a bit more spicy. The chicken fillet also had a ‘gunpowder’ filling, which actually ended up adding more texture than spice to the mix. But it’s worth a shot. :)

  

For the main course too, we were spoilt for choice, and it was quite fun to read some of the dish names too – goes well with the quirky name of the restaurant. After much deliberation, we decided to order the Calangute Chicken Bafath. It comes with appams/sannas and as you can see, we chose the latter. The sannas turned out to be quite good, and the gravy, mildly spicy, turned out to be one of the coconut milk based ones that we have a strong liking for. There are many many more dishes which, at least on paper, sound really good, so while this one was quite good, I’d urge you to be adventurous. :) We debated desserts, but there was nothing that really made us sit up and take notice.

The service is helpful, but does tend to go a bit overboard. For instance, in our feedback form, we said more dessert options would be great. The person who took the order immediately came back and started an extensive survey on what we’d like!

The meal cost us just over Rs.950, inclusive of service charge and tax. Slightly on the higher side, but worth the occasional visit.

I & Monkey, 968, 12th Main, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar, Ph: 40923656

Ms Office

Knowing all about the new guy’s ‘secretary’ fantasies, (browser history checks during his smoke breaks) she cockily walked in, and sat on his desk. Ignoring her perfect figure, he replaced the hourglass, checked his daily engagements, and showed her the finger. Wedding ring. To the persistent caller, he answered “Yes, I’ll return the laptop soon”

No God in Sight

Altaf Tyrewala

Somewhere in between a relay race and ‘six degrees of separation’ lies the narrative style of this excellent novel. And just like the city it showcases, it sets a scorching pace. But its not just a microcosm of the city, its also a take on social issues – from religion to class differences to a clash of the old and new. And somewhere in between is a subtext of man’s search for where he came from and where he is going, and the series of connected lives and the sheer weariness that prevents them from being able to think beyond their immediate existence, somehow points towards the title – ‘no god in sight’.

From the millions that make up the phenomenon that’s Bombay, and gives it a ‘spirit’, the author manages to create a few characters that give us a glimpse of the individual lives. He begins with a seemingly nonchalant treatment of what might be considered a moral issue – abortion, and thus captures the pulse of a city and the thought process and credo of a new generation. But amazingly, there is a universal nature to it too, and more often than not, the author manages to walk this line with balance, despite the majority of characters being Muslim. Featuring the famous local trains, the cop who expounds the logic of his sense of justice, the men who share a name with a terrorist, the book is quintessentially Mumbai, and yet, from another perspective, they’re just human stories. If we juxtapose the allusions to ‘my mumbai’ and ‘your mumbai’ in the corporate executive’s story and the ‘to be comfortable with discomfort, one must banish all contact with ease’ in the butcher’s story, we see two sets of people figuring out their own ways to cope with what the city and life throws at them. Sometimes, they can’t, and all they want to do is escape, like Amin Bhai.

In just about 170 pages, Altaf Tyrewala creates not just the characters who make Mumbai, but even manages to represent, even if its just through a few examples, how they got there. Can’t even complain about the lack of character development because the snapshots almostd efine the characters. Another great rendition of Mumbai, and a must read!

Master Class

Last week, I read a profoundly insightful post at Gaping Void, titled ‘On Mastery‘. The post seeks to answer (in Hugh’s own words) ““Suc­cess”. What does it take to be suc­cess­ful, pros­perous, happy, have a sense of pur­pose etc? What does THAT actually look like?” The answer, according to his post, is mastery. (do read his post for examples) When I shared this post on Twitter, Asmita related it to Chandni Chowk food vendors. Bingo. Around my own city – Bangalore- I can see examples of that. I can also see examples of when some of them have tried to scale and have fallen apart.

Fame, popularity and money are by-products, but the master is not really dependent on that. In fact, he might even see it as undesirable side effects. As someone commented on Hugh’s post, it’s not even about the product, it’s the process. In Hugh’s own words “It’s something that truly belongs to you” and perhaps that’s why it’s so much more better, because there’s no dependency, unlike the by-products.

It’s more of a personal learning for me, and it struck a chord as soon as I read it, as though I had the thought in my subconscious but lacked the cognizance to express it, even it to myself. In fact, I’d go on now to slightly disagree with Hugh MacLeod and say that for many people, mastery is success.

Meanwhile, how does all this apply to business and brands? If I look at it through the prism of how things work now, I might be inclined to say that mastery cannot really scale, and I’d go back to my ‘Institutional Realignment‘ post and say that we’ll eventually get back to making mastery, a smaller ‘audience’, and a lesser scale the norm.  But in some ways, I can see examples of brands having mastered a culture and found a way to scale it – the much abused example – Zappos.

However, if I had to look at it another way, I’d say that the web has made discovery much easier. Not in the traditional media way of ‘push the message to a mass and the interested ones will find you’ kind of a way, but the exact opposite. To use the data that people are sharing and through that, to find the right audience. The kind of audience who will appreciate the brand’s mastery, and who will then create good old fashioned community and word of mouth. The web offers tremendous opportunities to focus, but unfortunately we’re still in the early days of organised marketing and CRM data and most brands are busy losing focus and spamming themselves into oblivion, courtesy the lure of scale and its trappings.

Of course, a part of me believes that mastery should have nothing to do with business, but as with many other things, the web might just change my perspective.

until next time,  Master of Business Administration ;)

Mythistory

Centuries apart, but both in The Wonder Eras and Irascible, I had written about the documentation of incidents that we now call mythology and history. (respectively) In the former, I had mentioned the feeling when I saw the place where Sita had been temporarily imprisoned in Lanka, and in the latter, a fictionalised version of an event that happened in 1919. Both a bit intangible – the first only because of the centuries that have passed and it was still difficult to believe that myth was just history but more ancient, and the second because I am not sure if it actually happened.

Sometime back, I read William Dalrymple’s ‘The Last Mughal’, that uses Bahadur Shah Zafar as a ‘device’ to write about the events of 1857. The book is based on actual documents. As I wrote in my review (will share soon) what remains with me long after I have read the book, and something I went back to, almost every time I picked up the book to continue, is the photo of Zafar, lying with his face to the camera – the face of a broken old man who through his life saw the dominion of his ancestors taken away from him until all he had was his city and an empty title, who had just been made to undergo a trial and many humiliations before it, eyes expressing melancholy, and resigned to his destiny.

Suddenly, the images that I remember from history textbooks were transformed into a real person, and history was somehow tangible, as was his plight. It was almost as though that if I could take a few steps more, I could somehow feel the same about our myths.  Have you ever felt that when reading/seeing anything?

Perhaps it is that way in every age, when some things that were history move into legend and then on to a myth status. I am still debating in my mind whether the layering that happens, adds or subtracts.

until next time, history repeats?

TOIT

Finally, we used the same tactic at TOIT as The Biere Club – Sunday lunch, much more easy to accomplish than the 2 seater Saturday dinner. For those not in the know about TOIT, this should tell you the story so far, as well as help you get there. Though I’d been here before on a couple of occasions, D was a first timer. They have a valet parking and for two wheelers, there’s the pavement, though it’s not always easy!

The microbrewery has 3 floors, and we sat in the non smoking section on the 3rd floor. The smoking section has a great view of the Metro, though you need to be a large group to get a table there. At lunch hour on Sunday, it’s quite a peaceful place, but the buzz during evenings is quite something! Over to the food and booze. You can take a look at the menu here. In addition to this, there are the different kinds of house beer too.

I wanted the Weiss, but that was not available, so I ordered the Dark Knight. D asked for the Basmati Blonde. The Dark Knight was not as bitter as I expected, though this does change towards the bottom. The Basmati Blonde is quite light, with just a faint malt touch. This is usually the one I have, and I only tried the other to test it out. :) I would’ve liked the beer colder though. [I happened to try the Weiss on a later visit, and now I don't mind cheating on the blonde) :)

 

We ordered a TOIT Sunavachik for starters, strips of chicken with a dip and which can be made mild, spicy or very spicy as per your choice. We asked for very spicy, but it really wasn't all that spicy. The dip complemented it well and it made for a good combo with the beer too. [Again, during another visit, we ordered 'spicy', and boy it was!] I think the menu has changed a bit though, since I couldn’t find the special TOIT pork dish I was looking for and the dish we had ordered was not something that was in the menu earlier. Hmm.

For the main course, we ordered a Cream Cheese Chicken pizza – a thin crust pizza with marinated chicken and buckets of cheese. I would have liked it to be a bit more spicy – even the chili flakes on the table didn’t help. Despite being reasonably ‘toit’, we asked for the TOIT special dessert – a layered chocolate cake, which I didn’t feel was flambeed though. But it’s chocolate, and there was lots of it, so I really can’t complain. :)

  

All of the above cost us just over Rs.1450 including service tax and charges. TOIT is a place I haven’t heard a negative opinion about, and the packed atmosphere, even on weekday nights, is a testament to its popularity. Yep, it means you must visit. :)

TOIT, 298, 100 feet Road, Metro Pillar 62, Indiranagar