Yearly Archives: 2017

The Girl on the Train

Paula Hawkins

It does have a lot going for it, and I now understand why it has been such a rage. Quite a fresh take on the amnesia thriller, the author makes it easy to connect with Rachel, with whom the story begins – she is the girl on the train. Through her eyes, we see the other characters. The build up in the initial pages – we know something is about to happen – is done really well, and while the multi -first person narrative is not new, the skill with which it has been wielded deserves a thumbs up. It is not just the shift in perspective and the fresh format, but the timing of it that makes the whole thing work. A lot of work seems to have gone into Rachel’s character and the gamut of emotions one feels for her is proof that it is a job well done! But..

In the end, I think it was the expectations that spoiled it for me a bit. That, and the length. The immediate comparison was with the other girl – Gone Girl. I’d totally loved its unpredictability. In this case, there just aren’t enough twists to warrant 300+ pages. Actually, the pace towards the end is fantastic – I read the last 100 pages in one go – but I felt that all of that could have been made more gripping.  More

Communiti

One of the best things about long weekends is the traffic, or rather the lack of it. Communiti had been hitting my Insta and FB feeds since it opened, and the long Republic Day weekend gave us the perfect excuse to make the long distance trip into town. It’s right next to Taj Gateway on Residency Road and very hard to miss! (map) We got there before 7 on a Saturday night and easily found a table in the al fresco section. If you get the right table, there’s a good view of the road to be had. The decor is typical gastro pub – quirky lighting fixtures, long benches, and so on. Their brewery will start only in March, we were told.

collage 1 More

10 Observations from working with Millennials

The dynamics of ‘work’ have been changing for a while now, so much that when I think about writing on the subject, my thinking almost seems outdated! Not surprising, GigaOm’s post from a year ago – How the great generational shift is causing transformation in the very nature of employment – shows as many as six generations active in the workforce these days! Each of them with different world views, attitudes, priorities and approaches to work. But given that I’m trading one demographic number for another in a couple of days, I thought it an appropriate time to share a few observations based on my recent experiences. Since I had written earlier on the challenges faced by my generation in The Future of Work and The Entrepreneur & the Professional, this post focuses on a younger workforce. Millennials, if you are into labels.

The first two points set the context. I mention these two because I think they have a direct link to the worldview, attitudes and behaviours of the emerging workforce towards work, and their life in general. They serve as the backdrop for me to observe the 15+ people I have managed in the last 4-5 years. More

Stumbling on Happiness

Daniel Gilbert
The title is quite misleading – this is by no means a self help book! It will not tell you how to become happy. In fact, I’d say that Daniel Gilbert truly appreciates the uncertainty and ambiguity that is happiness, its subjective uniqueness in each human’s mind, and therefore, even when he gives us his perspective on how one can predict the chances of one’s happiness, he underplays it!
I found the book to be a systematic deconstruction of happiness which takes it into realms such as cognitive science, psychology, behavioural economics and even philosophy to a certain extent. Right from the explanation of the literal ‘blind spot’ in our optical mechanism, the ‘deal’ between the eye and the mind, and then using this blind spot as a metaphor for the lacunae in our perception and imagination, it is a fascinating step-by-step analysis of how we perceive happiness, with studies and examples to back it all up. He is also able to point out why our own predictions of happiness regularly go wrong, even on events which are repeats of our own earlier experience!
More

The brand protocol

I have spent a few posts thinking about this concept – the ‘why’ in Scarcity Thinking in Marketing and Feels & Fields in Marketing and some of the ‘what’ in Brand with a world view. Essentially, the idea is that as customer attention becomes increasingly more scarce, brands will have to think beyond ‘fracking’ and the efficiency driven marketing approach (with all the seemingly contextually relevant data they offer) for a sustainable advantage.

I have to confess that it doesn’t seem that way now. In Pipeline to Platform Organisations, Neil Perkin makes the point that this  (pipelines to platforms) is one of the most significant shifts in internet era business economics. And the argument is indeed right, proven by the fact that Facebook, Google, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb and even Apple to a lesser extent are all great examples of platform companies. In fact, the article he has linked to states that in 2013, 14 of the top 30 global brands were platform companies. They have been built to scale, which they have achieved to a large extent by building fairly insurmountable ‘moats’, hugely powered by network effects. And there lies my problem because they are now well on their way to becoming platform monopolies (euphemistically called ecosystems) – the new intermediaries on the very web that was supposed to help level the playing field. Arguably, it’s becoming increasingly clear that a fight against them based on efficiency/network effects is either doomed from the start, or becomes unsustainable. More

The Teal Door Cafe

First published in Bangalore Mirror

“Cafe with a soul” is how The Teal Door Cafe describes itself, and it does live up to that on at least a couple of levels. The building it occupies is 25 years old and absolutely looks the part as it majestically stands out from the more standard ‘inhabitants’ of a small but busy road at one end of Indiranagar. This was Bow Barracks (for those who have been in Bangalore for a while). (map, you’ll have to make do with street parking) And while great food in itself is a good cause, the cafe does its bit for society too by employing underprivileged women. The highlight of the place, though, is its decor. Across four floors, there are alfresco as well as indoor seating options and several elements have been added to the wonderful red brick interiors to lend it an easygoing charm. The furniture for instance is far from constant – benches to sofas to bar stools to large cushions – but somehow they all seem to fit well together. The soft lighting gives the space an elegant yet cosy air, and if you start paying attention to the details, you’d notice that many of the things you see around are recycled. We sat on the first floor, enjoying the soft breeze from a large open window and it took the grill – made from the parts of an automobile – to remind us that we were here for a meal!

collage 1 More

The bang & the buck

A decade ago, while working with a newspaper group where our small team managed three brands, we had an interesting situation. One of the brands, a vernacular broadsheet, was at an advanced stage in its lifecycle where it had to be made relevant and exciting for a newer set of readers who were native to the region. Another brand, an English compact daily (we didn’t like to be called a tabloid!), was an absolute newbie aimed at what could broadly be called an ‘immigrant’ audience. This was made interesting because research showed that the ‘triggers’ for the two sets of readers were quite at odds with each other. To elaborate, but without nuances, the positioning of the vernacular brand would be around showcasing pride in local language and culture, laced with jingoism, and that of the English brand would be around a cosmopolitan outlook. Holding both these diametrically different ideologies and doing justice to both was quite an exciting experience.

That nostalgia bout was triggered because I’m increasingly seeing this friction between different parts of the population escalate. A certain angst that seems to flare up on various seemingly unconnected issues. So here’s a thought. I am not really a Javed Akhtar fan, and a lot of people dissed him when he connected the Bangalore New Year molestation incident to social segregation and economic divide, but I strongly believe that many of the horrors we witness today – from terrorism to road rage – have economic disparity at its heart. I had written about this in the context of our convenience attitude towards injustice during the Nirbhaya incident. To note, this is not a right-wrong commentary, because I also strongly believe that moral objectivity is an oxymoron. More

Finite and Infinite Games

James P Carse

The last book that fundamentally affected my way of thinking was ‘Antifragile’. It altered my perspective on ownership, planning, and in general, the approach to various events and things. It remains a favourite. But this book took my thinking to a different plane altogether, and has probably altered it irrevocably. Credit goes to James P Carse for at least two things – one for the thinking that clarified everything around us to this level of ‘simplicity’, and two, for explaining it in a manner that makes it easy to absorb.

“There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite.” From politics and wars to sports and business, finite games are all around us. They are played to be won, and are over when there is a victor. There is only one infinite game and its only purpose is continuing the play. In both, “whoever plays, plays freely.” More

Brand with a world view

In Feels & Fields in Marketing, I had written about my view that the sustainable advantage in data driven marketing over the long term might be lesser than an approach where the brand is marketed as a worldview – reflected in thought and deed. A couple of nuances I’d like to point out here. One, the reason I feel so is because from the evolution of digital media thus far, the end game of new platforms/technologies arguably seem to be a version of a “cost per” arms race, and that end game is reached rather fast. Two, I don’t strictly see data and story telling as an either/or. It’s just that I don’t see a lot of justice being done to the latter thanks to the focus on the former, and I also see the dumbing down/tempering of messaging to access a larger mass.

However, I’ll admit that putting down ‘brand with a worldview’ into a generic framework is a rather challenging. But I have seen quite a few examples – personal experiences as well as larger campaigns – that highlight various aspects of this approach. The new POTUS has in fact, provided quite some fodder for this. Hardly surprising, since his usage of extreme stances contributed majorly to his victory.  More

Broadway Gourmet Theatre

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Even as recently as a decade back, going to HSR required a strong stomach, because very few roads even had streetlights! But times have changed. These days, I’m finding it difficult to digest the fact that more new eateries are opening here than in the neighbouring restaurant paradise (and our favourite) Koramangala! Broadway Gourmet Theatre is the latest attraction. (map, you’ll have to make do with basement/valet parking – a very helpful security guard!) The signage is bold enough to make it visible from afar, but for the kind of showbiz character the restaurant has chosen to have, we found the ambiance a little underwhelming. It isn’t as though the space is unrefined or cramped, it’s just that we expected a little more flair and grandeur. There is one way in which it redeems itself though – an outdoor section that offers a splendid view of not just HSR on one side and the busy Sarjapur Road on the other, but the greenery of the army land across the road. We spared a thought for the jawan guarding the compound border, probably sitting on duty for most of the day in the shade of lush trees, even as we prepared to do our duty and sample what the restaurant had to offer. Food, after all, knows no boundaries!

The elegant looking menu is an eclectic mix of various cuisines and we intended to try out as many as possible. Our original choice of Indonesian soup wasn’t available, thankfully so, because its replacement was the well presented Magic Mushroom soup. Though our hopes of ‘magic mushroom’ went up in the smoked porcini, the deliciously thick soup that also had button mushrooms and truffle was exactly what a wintry Bangalore night demanded! We did wonder why exactly the tender chicken stick that came with it was called a solder though. The Labneh Patty that followed was creamy awesomeness. The soft cheese, made from strained yogurt, was the melt-in-the-mouth variety and the patty’s crust provided just the right texture. The pork dish we wanted wasn’t available so we decided to swim with the tide and ordered a Tawa Grouper. The fish fillet had a chilli masala that provided an excellent contrast to the milder fare we’d had thus far. More