A new era of work

Sometime back, I had written about institutional realignment – on how the internet will slowly eliminate the middlemen across industries and disrupt every institution that we have built thus far – political, societal, economical, professional, cultural, health and so on. This would have massive impact on our sense of identity and how we live as a society.

A couple of weeks back, I read this interesting post at Pando Daily titled “Are we becoming a world without big companies?” The post quoted AngelList founder Naval Ravikant “the world would be increasingly made up of very small startups interacting with each other through APIs. No big corporations.” The corporation, at this point in time, plays a lot of middlemen roles – from our sense of identity to global relations – and continuing from my earlier thought, I think the internet will disrupt this one too.

Which then makes one think of the workforce currently employed in the corporations – that’s most of us. :) From 3D printing which is poised to disrupt the already shaky manufacturing industry and the not-so-shaky distribution systems to singularity, which will have major implications on our health, education and employment, there are macro changes that will affect us. Even the best minds would not have a definite answer on what/ where the jobs of the future would be. As Ray Kurzweil has stated in this interesting interview, “People couldn’t answer that question in 1800 or 1900 either. ” (when asked about the scene in 2000)

It then brings me to something I believe will be the key to survive and flourish in the coming age – the willingness and ability to live with uncertainty. In this excellent read in the WSJ titled “Learning to Love Volatility“, Nassim Nicholas Taleb argues that rather than trying to predict black swan events, we should be building institutions that are not fragile and can withstand and even benefit from disorder and unexpected events. Though an institution is the protagonist here, I think there are lessons for individuals too.

In a way, humans could be considered open APIs that big corporations and governments used to meet their ends, it would be interesting to see a future that reverses this. :)

until next time, be the change….

Remember the feeling?

The subject of Augmented Humans has come up regularly on the blog. (see) Sometime back, I saw this short film (via) which featured a dystopian version, in a world where augmentation was the norm. The range of ideas that have been shown in the movie is amazing.

TRUE SKIN from H1 on Vimeo.

<spoiler> The most fascinating portion for me was the ‘memory insurance’ concept at the end, which would “implant your memories into a new you” if something happened to your physical self. Essentially, your ‘self’ would be immortal. Can you imagine living for thousands of years, with your memories intact? I have always wondered what it would be like to have memories, and not feel them.

until next time, brain vs mind?

Bakasur

First appeared in Bangalore Mirror

For those unfamiliar with mythology, Bakasur appears in the Mahabharata as a glutton who pioneered home delivery, bless his soul. Not only did he force a village to send him enormous quantities of food, he also ate the person who brought it – an extreme version of ‘bite the hand that feeds’. That was until the Pandavas arrived on the scene and Bhima decided to help the village. One day he took the food for Bakasur and not finding him, began eating it. Bakasur finally arrived, saw that there was hardly any food left and questioned Bhima. Bhima said something to the extent of ‘first-come first-served’ and in the fight that ensued, killed Bakasur. But in the annals of gluttony, the legend of Bakasur lived on. The current version of Bakasur, on Outer Ring Road (just before the IBP Petrol Pump on the Service Road when coming from Koramangala – map) has its soul right going by the quotes “Now serving in L, XL and Bakasur” size. Spread over two floors, with the one above offering semi-open seating, the quirky theme carries across the menu, coasters, and other messaging, including the ‘toilet club’. On one corner, I could see a cart wheel. If it was a hat tip by design, it was a stellar job – the village in the myth was called Ekachakra. Speaking of wheels, there’s valet parking.

The menu is not really Bakasur size; it literally fits into a plate, but the options are quite unique. There’s also a liquor menu. We started with the Malai-wala Lassi, Zeera Chaach and a Virgin Bakasur! The Lassi and the Chaach were served in slightly larger-than-normal earthen mugs. The Chaach was particularly refreshing and the Lassi got the sweetness just right. The mocktail turned out to be just the standard Virgin Mojito and not the best we’ve had.

 

The first starter to arrive was the Top Secret Gosht Kastoori Tikka – the meat was cooked well and the subtle fenugreek flavours did a reasonably good job, though it would’ve been better if it were served hot. The Mushroom Galauti, served on an ulta tawa paratha, had a smoky flavour that might not find favour with many. From greenery, we shifted to aquatic life – the Tandoori Panja Prawns was mildly spicy, succulent and had a tasty ginger garlic flavour. But the pick of the starters was the Beera Murg, 4 chunky pieces of spicy chicken that we couldn’t get enough of. The wind kept us company throughout and often sent tissues flying. Also present were flies, which seemed to take our frantic waving as a sign of friendliness!

 

 

The main course took its time to arrive, but the good news was that the flies became tired of waiting and left. The dishes arrived in huge vessels, as though meant for bottomless appetites, but appearances were deceiving – they turned out to have false bottoms. We started with the Paneer Saag, Doodh Kalimiri Murg and the Palak Puri. Combined, there was enough oil to warrant a WMD search. The Paneer Saag, in particular, was a heavy dish and was tasty enough to make us just pile it on! The chicken dish was more subtle, with mild explosions of pepper. The Palak Puri was another oil factory but well worth the calories. The Tandoori Ragi Roti was a unique bread that turned out to be surprisingly good, a chocolate hero look helped. The Taash Gosht was a bit of a disappointment – though the masala was spicy and well appreciated, the meat itself was tough and we were in no mood to wrestle. The other let down was the Keema Naan that turned out to be more bland than expected. Though we had also asked for a Dum Apricot Pulao, we were told much later, when we asked for its whereabouts, that it was over. Probably there’s a Bakasur in the kitchen?

 

 

 

Though we expected the Ghee Jalebi with Doodh Kurchan to be the dessert star, it was the Pista Kulfi that actually stole the show. The crisp, cloyingly sweet jalebis were no match for the subtler, creamy kulfis.

 

Bakasur is definitely a unique experience – large tables, an open, relaxed feel and an ambiance that’s enjoyable despite the strong wind and the flies. For about Rs.1600, you could share a non-alcoholic drink, a non veg starter, a couple of rotis, a non-veg gravy, and end with a dessert.  (Inclusive of taxes and charges) The food, except for a few items, was quite good. The pricing though, is debatable, and though it isn’t the “bakwasur” it was made out to be on review sites, it probably needs to figure out a better price-quantity proposition before laying on the Bakasurcharge!

Bakasur, Surami Plaza, Outer Ring Road, Next to Shobha Hibiscus, Bellandur, Ph: 9916076720, 8095501980

The story of #bachpanstyle

Myntra’s twitter accounthit a couple of milestones last week. For starters, it overtook me in terms of number of followers – not that I am way up on the charts or hugely active on twitter these days, but it’s good to handle a brand that has more followers than I do, especially when it has more than quadrupled in the last year. :) Growing a personal brand is fun, but as a professional in the domain, growing a brand on social media is more fun because of the increased number of challenges and constraints.

We have focused mostly on getting the basic stuff right – Customer Care, (utilising GetSatisfaction to a fair degree) promoting interesting content relevant to our domain – created and curated, presence on the website, and when we were confident of taking it to the next level experimenting with various contest formats. Not the “let’s make it trend” kind, but ones that have some meaning for us as a brand/business and that’s fun for our followers on twitter as well.

And that’s what gave us our second milestone. Long before brands arrived on the scene, Ashu Mittal, (to begin with.. thanks Surekha for the correction) Surekha, Roshni, The Comic Project, b50, Aalaap had made Children’s Day a fun event on Twitter by getting people to change their DPs – to a childhood photo – for a day. I have participated too, at least for a couple of years. Though I didn’t inform them (because I am still unsure on how I should deal with personal relationships in a work scenario) this was also a hat tip to them. All users had to do was share a childhood pic of theirs with a description of it and use #bachpanstyle. We used our larger FB crowd for publicity, ran the contest on Twitter, and made a Pinterest board specially for it. It was a lot of fun, and also got us our second milestone – a little bit of coverage (courtesy Lighthouse Insights) for the activity. That was a first for us. :)

The cake had some icing too! The next day, my Twitter daily digest showed me a tweet from Surekha about #bachpan and changing DPs. Since the contest was over and done with, I sent her the board we’d made. And got this

Being appreciated is always a great thing, and more so when it comes from my twitter-childhood friends. :)

until next time, childlike glee :)

A life less rich…

On Quora, there is a question which has been getting some very interesting answers – “Is getting rich worth it?” I remembered my post “Halve Notes” from sometime back when I saw it. Rich is of course a very relative term – relative not just in terms of comparison with others, but dependent on time, one’s location etc. Also, factors like one’s health, emotional well being etc have the potential to change the worth completely.

I don’t think I want to get super rich. I still ride an Activa, live in a rented apartment and  my consumption patterns do not really conform to my income, or as some say, my age. :D I have been trying to analyse why. I do like to spend on things I enjoy doing – books, movies, food, travel to name a few – and would not want to forego these for lack of money. But I also do not want to get used to things/habits I might find difficult to sustain later without compromising on my belief systems. So it’s a balancing act, with a bias towards caution thanks to my middle class upbringing perhaps.

My dystopian future is an old age where I cannot live life on my own terms. That’s probably why I found this story -of one Mr. PM Sahay – so distressing. It’s part of The Delhi Walla’s commendable 130000 portrait project. Mr.PM Sahay is a 74 year old retired bank manager who is forced to sell puppets in Connaught Place to  sustain his family. (I am hoping none of his Rohtak neighbours happen to see all this on the web!) He travels 50kms from his town every day. His legs ache, he says and he has to support himself on the columns and sit on manhole covers near rubbish bins. He is a victim of circumstances. The best laid plans can go wrong, after all. Being rich at least takes care of some things, it would seem.

until next time, a rich life…

Under the Dome: A Novel

Stephen King

(ex) Captain Dale Barbara is about to leave town when a gigantic, transparent dome envelops the town of Chester’s Mill. He could consider himself lucky since he survived the arrival of the dome. Several animals and people didn’t, as they crashed into the indestructible, impenetrable dome.

The dome gave an electric shock when a person first touched it, but saved its disastrous results for those with pacemakers and hearing aids. The first victim on that count was the police chief Howard “Duke” Perkins, and that gave the town’s First Selectman ‘Big Jim’ Rennie to assert his superiority with First Selectman Andy Sanders serving as a willing puppet.

He soon appoints his man as the new police chief and begins machinations to seize complete control. He pays special attention to Barbara, whose reason for leaving town was an altercation with Rennie’s son Junior, and his friends. The only people who can see through Rennie’s game are notably Barbara, Julia – the editor of the local newspaper, ‘Rusty’ – a physician’s assistant, and Howard’s widow Brenda.

Even as the military reaches the town’s borders to address the ‘situation’, and the media update a stunned nation, Big Jim manipulates the town’s people into believing what he wants them to believe, despite television channels broadcasting his nefarious schemes for making money. The town and its people meanwhile, remain trapped under the unrelenting dome, like ‘ants under a magnifying glass’

With a huge supporting list of characters, and spanning close to 900 pages, the author has tried to highlight a multitude of things – from human transactional relationships to environmental hazards. Unfortunately, the book didn’t really work for me, it was just too long to hold my attention, especially towards the end. The character snippets, the descriptions of town life and the jarring differences of climate inside and outside the dome, all gets repetitive after a point, and even the vast array of characters, interesting though some of them are, become too tiresome, despite the messages they seem to be carrying for the author.

Create and curate

Yay! Instagram launched web profiles, and mine, as you can see, is dominated by food! Which meant that I was completely blown by what Zomato did with the Instagram API at Zomato.xxx. If you haven’t seen it yet, now would be a good time. Try to have a full meal before you take a look. One of the bugs in this version is that it makes people hungry. I don’t see them fixing that bug soon! ;)

It’s not really an original thought, since I’ve seen at least one fashion brand use hashtags on  Instagram and Twitter to generate photos, but that doesn’t really take away anything, since the execution is extremely good.

I wrote about the reemergence of branded content last week. One way is to create your own content, the scalability of which is debatable, unless that is one of the organisation’s core competency and priority. The other way is curation. Like I have mentioned on the blog before, curation is a great way for brands to engage with content producers and at the same time, provide  great content to those who consume it. It’s not really creation vs curation, but more of their respective share in the strategy.

On the execution front, crowdsourcing works best if you make it as easy as possible for the for the content producer. In Zomato’s case, adding a #zomato to the food snaps I load on Instagram is hardly a task. The simpler the task is, and the more it is an add-on behaviour than a new one, the lesser the need for incentive. The cooler it is, the more people would want to be a part of it. It distributes itself.

In a traditional media dominated era, more money was spent on distribution than creation. Now content is marketing and with owned platforms, and earned and ‘sponsored’ media on social platforms, the costs of distribution have fallen. There’s a lot being written about content strategy for brands from a creation perspective, but the costs of distribution fall even further in curation because content creators would want to show off their work. The hope is that brands will spend at least a part of the money they’re saving, into creating platforms, processes, tools etc that make it easy for the user to create and share ‘branded’ content.

until next time, co-curation is for later :)

City Zen

Sometime back, in a post, I quoted Paul Theroux “My own feeling is that city dwellers invent the cities they dwell in. The great cities are just too big to be comprehended as a whole, so they are invisible, or imaginary, existing mainly in the mind.” 

The other day, during a cleaning exercise, I came upon an ‘old’ Bangalore map we had taped together from printouts. (I remember the site had separate maps for north, south, east and west :) ) Back in 2003 and thereabouts, this used to be our reference when we had to travel to places unknown. Unknown at that point included Malleswaram, Cantonment, Jayanagar and such. :)  The city that we had created in our mind included Koramangala, Indiranagar and MG Road. Yes, just about that much. :) But the outdoor media selection that my brand job entailed ensured that I soon became familiar with many parts of Bangalore. In an earlier job, my office was at VV Puram and those not familiar with the place would say that it was far. Actually, my travel time from Koramangala was quite less.

A few weeks back, we decided to check out Haralur Road as part of the Realty Check endeavour. Despite the advanced features of Google Maps, and its time estimates, we thought it would take a while to get there from Koramangala. Not only did it turn to be near, we got back much earlier than expected. I’m sure the area will be unrecognisable 5 years down the line. Just like say, HSR has evolved. :)

As Bangalore creates its own little self sustaining bubbles, it’s not just the city that will be created in the mind, it’s probably the distances too.

until next time, cityscape