Mumbai

@ Social Media Week 2014

The role of content in a brand’s narrative is an oft appearing topic on this blog, so I was glad for the opportunity to discuss the subject with various entities who have a stake in this new ecosystem. I’ll be moderating a panel titled “The New Content Ecosystem – Evolution & Design” on Sep 25th, 2-3 PM during Social Media Week.

A fantastic mix of folks makes up the panel – Asit Gupta, founder of Advocacy Asia, Abhishek Chatterjee, founder of Tookitaki, Arunabh Kumar, founder of  The Viral Fever, Akash Deep Batra, Regional Digital marketing & eCommerce Manager APAC at Nestle, and Kalyan Karmakar, food insights consultant, blogger and columnist – it’s bound to be an interesting chat.

If you happen to be around, do drop in and participate in the discussion that follows. If you’d like me to ask questions on your behalf, use the comments section below, give me a shout out on Twitter.  #SMWMumbai

NH8

This review was first published in Bangalore Mirror, and you are permitted to read further only if you promise not to LOL, because this happens to be a veg restaurant! Gasp! Those of my meat eating friends whose ribs aren’t being tickled and who can empathise, don’t worry, I compensated by refusing to meet vegetarians and following a meat-only diet during the rest of the weekend. 😉

NH8 is on 80ft Road Indiranagar and this map should tell you how to get there. The Bata showroom above which it is located is a good landmark. While on maps, for the geographically challenged, the map on the restaurant’s signboard outside informs you that the National Highway 8 connects the country’s capital New Delhi with its financial capital Mumbai, and on its way passes the State capitals Gandhinagar and Jaipur. Ok, geography lesson over, now you can take your eyes off the road and focus on the gastronomic journey.

The idea is to present the cuisine of the different cities traversed by the NH8 highway. The menu is still in the introductory stage, and they plan to add more options soon. For now, what is available is a thali with unlimited refills. From the tiny waiting area outside to the entire decor inside, a good attempt has been made to do justice to the geographical theme of the restaurant. Perhaps the only thing that sticks out is the gigantic TV screen, but then, that seems to be a hygiene item in restaurants now. The seating is of two kinds – low floor and regular, and the cushions are bright and comfortable. The staff also follow the theme with their colourful pagdis.

The welcoming ‘Padharo Sa’ section with Chaanch and Jaljeera is followed by the savouries (Farsaan) that included the dhokla, Batata vada and Masala Bati among others. The main course (Aarogo Saa, Jeemo Saa, Rice) consists of gravies – dal, gatta, kadi and to go with it Naan, Roti and rice. There’s also a Moong Dal Khichdi and a variety of chutneys. The road ends with desserts in the form of burfi and Lapsi. There are more items on the thali on weekends as compared to weekdays. You can see the menu at Zomato.

We started with the Paneer Kalimirch Tikka, and the Haryaali Aloo, both of which turned out to be excellent. Despite its companions being fancier, the Batata Vada was also appreciated. But the Khaman Dhokla was spongy enough but very dry. The line bewteen starter and main course is blurred since the items land on your plate at rapid speeds.

The Dal-Bati was mildly spicy and good enough for multiple helpings. The Gujarati Kadi was sour, sweet and spicy and was much in demand. But clearly, the winner was the Jaipuri Gatta with its rich, thick and spicy gravy. The Gobi Masala turned out to be too spicy and lacking any other flavour. The Marwari Kadi was also too bland, and lacked the sour, tangy flavours associated with it. The Aloo Tamatar Rasawaala didn’t leave any good impressions either. Meanwhile, the Marwari Chaanch keeps you good company throughout the meal. Among the desserts, the Coconut Burfi was the pick of the lot. The Marwadi Lapsi, made of broken wheat, was found to be lapsing, quite a disappointment.

The high speed delivery mechanism of one dish after another could overwhelm you, but if you let that pass, the service would rate as one of the best you’d have encountered. With smiling faces, they insist on serving you more and more and when you’re finished, pleasantly ask if everything was to your satisfaction. The finishing touch is in the form of the handwash, which moves away from the regular fingerbowl to a person pouring the water for you to wash your hands.

The thali is priced at Rs.199 on weekdays and Rs.249 on weekends. (Fri-Sun) If you happen to be a vegetarian, this place is obviously worth a visit. Even if you’re not, drop in for a unique experience delivered in a most hospitable manner. The way to a man’s heart is a highway, and that’s not the ghee talking.

NH8, 710, 3rd Floor, Above Bata Showroom, 80ft Road, Indiranagar, Bangalore – 560008. Ph: 42076575

Weekly Top 5

This week’s stories include Twitter’s Local Trends, expansion and plans to acquire Tweetdeck, Living Social’s and Groupon’s moves in the Deals space, Foursquare Day statistics and Loopt’s Q’s, Google’s quarter results, GMail features, and some Apple news.

My Friend Sancho

Amit Varma

‘My friend Sancho’ is the debut novel of Amit Varma, made famous by the blog ‘India Uncut’, which incidentally, is given quite a few plugs in the book. A blogger’s work – that explains why i picked it up. :)
The book revolves around Abir, a journalist on the crime beat, who happens to be around during a police shootout, when he was only expecting to cover a routine arrest. It gets more complicated when he is asked to do a story on the victim, which leads to his friendship with Muneeza (Sancho), the victim’s daughter, who is sure that her father was innocent, and is unaware that Abir was present at the scene.
Whether the book delivers or not depends on what you expect out of it. If you are looking for profundity that would make you contemplate the vagaries of the universe, you’d be better off looking elsewhere. But if you’re just looking for a light read, and a protagonist whom you’d find easy to relate to (net surfing, wise cracking guy who is still not sure what to do with his life) then you wouldn’t mind this book.
I did expect the humour quotient to be higher than delivered, but it’s still not bad. The lizard, though it only has a ‘special appearance’ is entertaining. I also quite liked the way the story ended.

Once was Bombay

Pinki Virani

This is the best ‘Bombay’ book i’ve ever read. It shows us a view of Bombay through the images of characters that even non residents will identify as belonging to Bombay – the actor, the bhai, the encounter cop, the politician, and so on. Pinki Virani obviously feels for Bombay, and reflects the myriad range of a Bombayite’s emotions now – anger, frustration, cynicism all stemming from Bombay’s change from then to now
What’s wonderful about the book is that it stays true to the title and takes you on a journey in time – to how a place or a road came to be called so, and the societal changes that time has brought about there. It also has some incisive takes on the machinations that has transformed Bombay into what it is now.
Long before Mumbai there was Bombay, and i can identify a lot with the difference it makes to the people who have seen the change, even though i don’t live there. This book easily gets into my all time favourites.

Bom Bahia

I recently read a book on Bombay by Pinki Virani, and have promptly classified it under my all time favourites list. The book, by sheer virtue of tone and content, appealed to me, but on a personal level, it gave me some answers on my quite recently acquired unfavourable stance on Mumbai. Since this is a subject of my chat ‘wars’ with many Mumbai friends, let me say that this is a very considered personal view, and based on subjective experiences. And like subjective experiences go, it may have led to creation or reinforcing of stereotypes that may have further colored my view of the city. So, don’t mind. :)

I used to love Bombay. Right from the 2.5 days of train journey that took me there. The two months of stay there were enjoyed – Shivaji Park was a common destination across the years, the other location shifted from Anushakti Nagar (BARC Township) to Peddar Road to Malabar Hill. I still remember the second hand comics store in Anushakti nagar – Spiderman, Superman, Batman etc – the entities that captured my imagination in my school days, I have bought quite a few from there; the long walks around Shivaji Park, and the temple which gave away those white sugary balls :) ; the hunt for fancy ‘name slip stickers’, which would adorn my school books and draw envious stares from my classmates in Cochin, who couldn’t get it there; the eagerly awaited trips to Akbarallys; the South indian hotel (Anand/Arya Bhavan) in Matunga whose waiters my sis later scandalised by asking for Maggi noodles, and finally, the ‘oh, its over’ feeling when we started the journey home, from VT.

Yes, Bombay of those days remains a sweet memory. My last 2 month stay was in 1993, when it was still Bombay. Barring occasional 1-2 day trips, we stopped seeing each other since then, and somewhere down the line i started to cringe when I had to make official trips to the city. I dont know if its Mumbai that spoiled the affectionate awe that I had for Bombay, but maybe that’s just romanticism.

Cities change, as do people. I am tolerant of pride, whether it be in people or cities, my irritation starts when pride turns to arrogance. Arrogance that brings with it an unhealthy disrespect for anything that’s not associated with the city. Yes, every city is special, but that does not mean it should take away from other cities… they are special in their own way. And that goes for people too.

When a person like me, whose only associations with the city are from the holidays spent there, can feel a change, i can imagine, how, at least some Bombayites feel about the transformation their city has undergone. The author says a lot with just the title – ‘Once was Bombay’. I agree.

until next time, just some city zen…. :)

Dido and Social Media – Rock On !!

At the very outset, let me state that Dido doesn’t have to do anything spectacular for her to be special to me. She can just keep crooning her stuff, and I’ll keep going back for more. So why am i trippin’ now? Because, for her latest album, ‘Safe Trip Home‘, she’s got a social media angle.

The album is interesting for the simple reason that it consists of different songs picturised on different cities of the world, among them Mumbai !! The song is “Lets do the things we normally do”, and is directed by Siddarth Sikand. And who does it star? Our very own Rock On girl Debbie – Shahana Goswani, as a taxi driver.

Having a Facebook page is good, but is almost a given these days, but this one gets very social on the site itself. Once you hear the song, you can choose a mood from a (color) palette. I felt wise :), and was asked to share my reasons. It then takes you to the map, and tells you where other people who felt similar to you have headed to. It’s a wonderful way of manifesting the theme of the album/site – “Create a journey through film and music” (though the Facebook page mentions ‘a journey through fil, music and feeling’)

According to marktd, “Over the last month, Londoners might have noticed a number of cryptic posters around tube stations. The posters end by asking the viewer to google terms like ‘Lady Landfill’ or ‘Mother lay-by’ – essentially a range of words linked to the songs on ‘Safe Trip Home’, the album.”I thought it was a wonderful way of using ground level promotions to build curiosity and traction for a web property.

until next time, I’m trippin on this!!

Train of Thought

Social media enthusiasts are often quizzed on the ROI that it delivers, and in many cases,  ‘conversation with customers’ is met with a lot of skepticism. which led me to wonder about the kind of ROI this activity would generate.

“Max New York Life Insurance has signed a Public Private Partnership (PPP) pact with the Indian Railways. From July 8, Chennai, Bangalore and Trivandrum Rajdhanis will sport Max New York Life advertising on its exterior.” It would provide upgraded services like high quality flooring, soap dispensers, tissue paper dispensers…. and so on. Great, I have always wanted that in those Harappan age railway compartments, though I always had a feeling Max was into insurance.

I can understand SBI having a co-branded card with IRCTC, Citi having a card for Delhi Metro etc, but the revenue/communication model that this venture of Max falls in, I fail to understand. Unless of course, Max will send an insurance advisor in the compartment. The ‘potential customer’ is trapped with him for the entire journey, and might buy a policy just to get rid of him.

Meanwhile, a couple of thoughts came to me when I read this post on Mumbai’s local trains. Every now and then, there is a horror story of how a gruesome accident occured in one of these trains. Doesn’t it make a lot of sense for an insurance company to do some contextual communication here? How about tapping this entire community which is so prone to such occurences?

The other thought that came to me was from a conversation on twitter on how religion is one massive social network. Unlike schools and colleges, which have a real life basis for networking, religion is spread across geographies with most users unaware of each other, and even has user generated versions springing up every now and then. Even the local trains in Mumbai offer a platform for a social network (no pun intended). I guess there are vertical networks like that all around, the only trick is to satisfy a set of needs and then be able to monetise it.

until next time, maximising social media