Five Struggles you must pick up & win

Choose your struggles wisely

shutterstock_447980578As a child we are generally protected from the external world and struggles it may present. While this is a safe period and one must use it wisely to gain strength,momentum and direction towards what eventually you may want to do in life. Much before what life may present its struggles on to you will and should dawn on you someday or the other.

What better way to navigate this phase of life- but to be wise and choose what you want to struggle for.

My thoughts are inspired by my own struggles – which were not chosen by me, and what struggles I wish that my children and younger professionals go through. Read carefully – it may well help you tread well on your career front much better.

#1 First on my list is struggle for right information. You need clear and unambiguous information of things you need to know. This could be pertaining to your self assessment, your quest for a career,your curiosity about say sex, or anything under this sun. As a young mind, you must have the urge to know and know things well. Any amount of struggle you do to get right information is worth it. Cause only when you know will you grow.

#2 Second on my list would be struggle to find a good mentor. Learn from others mistakes, and your mentor would do well to teach you from his/her own mistakes and caution you about things which would might run into. Many of us don’t put enough efforts to find a mentor and struggle later as we end up repeating mistakes which we could might as well avoid. Saves time, makes you more efficient and hence smart enough to fast track on your goals.

#3 Third most significant struggle you should choose is that of articulation and communication. This is what separates wheat from the chaff. How well have you learned to communicate your thoughts and mind will decide how well you are heard and received by your colleagues, peers, seniors, and even yourself. Remember your first two struggles – that of having right information, and mentor are baby steps you take to know what you want and now you know how to communicate that. Defining what you need, defines what you get.

#4 One of the significant aspect of growing up is to stay humble. This can be a nasty struggle to win. If you have tread the path correctly till now , chances are you will be somewhat successful, and somewhat self congratulatory. This often leads to undermining someone else’s struggles and hence makes you a bit arrogant or cocky. I would caution that you must master the art of being humble and grounded. There are always new things to learn and you must learn them. Struggle to remain humble would score high once you are on way to be success.

#5 Last on my list is the struggle to stay updated with technology. This is like running on a tread mill which pick up speed every 1 km you run. But the struggle is worth it. Technology makes you productive and productivity is what one cares for. I find many people to be choosing to pass off on this struggle and I believe this is a strategic mistake. One must stay relevant always and technology can be your best friend – when everything else is changing around you

Hope you pick up above 5 struggles in your life and pass on many other learnings to your colleagues and peers. Happy reading.

Holiday as an Investment ?

I have been lucky to experience holidays. Holidays with my lovely family, friends, parents, and at times alone.  No debate here that Holiday is what everyone should experience in life – it should be a basic human right , not a privilege.

However I have seen a lateral shift in my approach to Holiday. Thankfully not in terms of taking more holidays , but my approach to plan holidays. Those of you who follow my blog – know well about my demographics and life stage. Those of you reading it through social media/first time – I am 42 year young C level executive with a European creative post production studio. Have a lovely family comprising of two kids and beautiful wife. Been taking holiday twice a year for last 7 years.

So what is it that has changed ?

I never considered Holiday as an investment. I always considered it as an expenditure.

If I could afford one – I would spend on it, If I can’t – I would probably be sorry about it. This all changed drastically. Thanks to peer pressure from my lovely friend circle and the strategic response team from Club Mahindra who met me on one of Sunday & changed my point of view completely. More about them later.

First I want to talk about why Holiday is an investment and needs to be planned like any other investment you do in your life – House, Insurance, MF, FD’s.

With increasing life expectancy, improved medical aid and more awareness we are seeing a increased life span. This also means a higher stress on your working life and  higher demand for you and your family to un wind. Holiday is the antidote to it.

Question is can you afford holidays say 10 years from now when your life poses you different challenges – kids studies, parents health, your own health checks etc.  Inflation and you being on wrong side of 50 would leave you with less chances of taking risks. Does it mean you stop taking holiday. Not really.

That is where you plan holiday like an investment. An investment which leads you a successful  family time for next 2 decades or so. I strongly believe that this point is important to consider for all in my age group. You may end up buying nay holiday which fits you scheme of things – budgets, life stage, family type – but invest you must.

Do not consider it as an expenditure and plan for it. You and your family needs it.

Now a bit about Club Mahindra. Ok this is not a plug in for them – however I found the messaging, context , communication and professionalism of team at Club Mahindra to be 9/10. They were professional to check timelines for meet, remind about our meeting, keep the association professional and flexible. It reaffirms my belief that if you have a strong proposition and equally strong team to deliver it – you have a winning combination at hand.

So I ended up taking a Club Mahindra membership and Invested in my family’s future. Quite a shift in my approach to Holidays. What do you consider your holidays as – Expenditure or Investments ? Want to leave you with that thought.

Thank you Club Mahindra folks, I hope to remain as genuinely praiseful of your efforts ever and you continue to exceed our expectations.

Like me

Expecting somebody to “Like you” is becoming a easy trap for us these days. If I am eating some food, driving a cycle, going out with kids, drinking beer with friends, everything around me is “Likeable”. Thanks to the omnipresent social media which does not seem to have a “Unlike” option for anything I do- or I pretend to do.

On a macro level there is nothing wrong in somebody “Liking” what somebody else is doing. I would like if my friends are having fun, or spending some time with family, or exercising etc. All good things and nothing “not likeable” in it.

Where I see this as a dangerous trend is that this ‘Like mania” has a potential to change the expectations of youth,  that everything they do – needs to be liked.  Smaller acts like explained above are like worthy and hence deserves likes, what if somebody is doing things which needs to be criticised or abhorred and not “liked”. What choices does social media offer you for this. Un fortunately one does not have a “Unlike” button and hence imbalances the perception of people who are so hooked on to living by the social media.

Some might say that you can comment on something which one doesn’t like and hence there is a balancing mechanism out there. I partially disagree to it. Writing is far more complex and difficult task as compared to simply clicking “Like”. It needs a lot of structuring of thoughts and articulation to write things – expressing by actions like “Like” is very simple. this choice between simple “Like” and difficult “comment” shifts the balance in favour of things being appreciated all the time.

I believe that media has a role to play in structuring people’s behaviour and social media like FaceBook should be open to create space for unlike as much as likes.

You are free to unlike this article, unfortunately even wordpress does both have a unlike option.

Sorry For What – The emergence of a Rebel – without a cause

Fastrack – A Brand known for its irreverence has come up with a new campaign – which takes the positioning of “Care Damn” attitude a notch further. I know they are not targeting me any more – and these opinions don’t really matter to them. However expecting a response from Fastrack is the last thing on my mind when I write my thoughts on why this is leading my young friends to “Rebel without a cause” world.

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While I have nothing against the brand and do admire some of their work and the clarity which their marketing team has which I found in my interactions with them, my observations are around how this attitude is pushing the envelope a lot further then what is needed in todays youth. I have two key observations on why this campaign has got it all wrong.

Too Trivial a cause

Sorry for what is a bold statement indeed. Nobody – not just youth today want to be sorry and hence there is a lot ofself- righteousness and self-respect in this statement. In my views – cracks start appearing only when you dig deeper to identify the context.

If the campaign would have pushed the youth to be self righteous and upright on its views about issues like – not giving way to a bully in college, accepting gay friends, Taming your tomorrow to be in alternative careers etc It would have stood true to its premise of being a rebel – but with a purpose and a reason in mind.

When you don’t feel sorry about shaving your hair or not shaving your armpits, or piercing your body – well by all means you can do so, however it is pushing the entire thought process to be too individualistic. Me not shaving my armpits is absolutely not a reason big enough for anyone to object and for me to feel sorry.

It is too trivial an issue for anybody and a brand like Titan/Fastrack to associate with. While I appreciate that society is becoming more individualistic and hence some may relate with it – it misses the larger context of keeping the communication positive and challenging for the audience it is intended to.

My fear is youth may mis-interpret and get inspired to rebel for such trivial issues and loose the focus of what they need to rebel – if at all they have to – and which they must. If the rebel could be for a cause, which is a boon for the modern world and society – this could be a campaign worth many accolades.

Associating with trivial issues and fanning the rebel feeling is very easiest and too low in my views a thought for a brand like Fastrack to latch on to.

Fanning unapologetic behavior

On a separate note feeling sorry for something, which offends your family and friends, is a good habit – not a bad habit.

My second fear is that this pushes the attitude of not caring for society at large too far. I will do what I want and the way I want – well let us not forget that we live in a society and there are few things which are good for society at large.

A brand pushing this thought using such trivial issues makes one feel that I need not be sorry for anything which I do – trivial it is today – tomorrow it could be much grave issues like – robbery, assault, crime, or softer crimes like – dis respect for laws and societal norms at large.

I think it questions the value system at large – which is not a great thing for any brand to do. A brand must stay relevant to its constituency – yet challenge them to push for more. Question is doing more is not doing more wrong things.

As I stated earlier- this may be actually a compliment to the brand that they have definitely alienated people like me – and that could be a success metrics for them – still I think I must not be “sorry for speaking my mind”.

If I were 22

I started my first full time job at the age of 23. One year into a new job with The Times of India was not what I had dreamt of . Starting with a English broadsheet in a hindi heartland – Indore had its own set of challenges. Industry challenges apart, I wish to touch upon few learnings from my early corporate life – and wish I had done these things differently

A) Knowing your passion : It is the holy grail. If you don’t know it – you wont enjoy what your are doing. The difficult part is to know your passion, easy part is to follow it at that age. Most – including me failed to understand what is my passion and hence succumbed to the usual grind of doing a PG & getting into a job – I found. My advice – Avoid this trap.

B) Take more risks : Risk is least when you have not much to loose. 2-3 years of your life must be invested in figuring out what works and what wont. Experience comes out of wrong decisions. So do not shy away from taking risks. Get the fear of failing out of your head. You will any which way not succeed early on. So better to build your experiences of what not to do at this age.

C) Find a mentor : Very important . I had none. I could had been somewhere else if I had one. Finding a mentor is also tricky. Not an easy task. But if you have followed above two points – chances are you would have found one by now. So use your mentor as a sounding board. Talk, communicate, express, articulate your doubts with your mentor and you would fast track your learning curve.

D) Write a lot : Nothing works like good old habit of penning your thoughts. Now it is even simpler with Evernote, Twitter, and all sorts of applications available to you. I used to write a lot – but I wish I wrote more. It is like a mirror to your self. You can revisit your image in future and understand your growth or de growth. It is powerful benchmark about how have your grown in your thoughts, attitudes, approach to life, finance and many other hygiene factors.

E) Financial Awareness : When you take risks, you also learn to experiment with money. Risks and financial awareness go hand in hand and allow you to understand how financial planning and awareness can help you in later stages of your career.

I want to keep this note crisp and think I have almost covered what I wish #IfIWere22 today. I am happy what I have achieved and I am hoping to go on and get what I still dream of. someday I would write back on how have I fared in achieving those dreams.

Advertising Agencies – Fragmentation is your nemesis.

I have been lucky to be on both sides of the business.  Actually three sides of the business is a better word. Spent quality time with creative and media agencies, Publications and broadcasters & Client side as well. Have enjoyed working with agencies of different hue and size and loved interaction with some rational some not so rational clients.

I would talk about clients who seek partnership with advertising agencies. Partnership which extends the relationship to that of a marketing arm, looking at all aspects of brand – including challenges at demand generation, perception building, image correction or improvement & create higher market share, external and internal communication etc. etc .

No denial that there is a real dearth of clients as explained above, but equally important question to ask – Are there agencies who have capability and competence to walk this path with such clients ?

In my opinion the full service advertising agency – which is what clients bargained for – has been fragmented by us folks – purely to satisfy individual aspirations and ambitions of agency folks.

Typical advertising agency would need Strategy,Planner,Creative,Art,Studio,Films,Media,PR,Events,Research etc and all important talent to manage each of these co-related business verticals. Factually how many agencies have each of these functions ? In my view of interacting with agencies in India and abroad, hardly any agency does all. If they do they are termed as boutique agencies and clients dis regard the scale and hence do not work with them (This is a very important for clients to understand that scale and creativity are at times inversely proportional).

My point is if agencies cease to offer all solution under single roof – we are calling for trouble and giving birth to a vicious cycle. Clients would go to multiple partners for a single solution and fragment the dollar further. As such agencies have learned to survive on a a remuneration which is hardly a motivation to hire quality talent. We are fishing in waters which offer a 1 % – to 5 % commission as against a healthy 15 % of a full service offering. We are creating designations and crazier portfolios for people just to keep them hooked on to the job. The fragmentation is not benefitting anybody – nor the clients , nor the agencies , and not the people working in these agencies.

Creative has confined it self to creative thinking and strategising, however studio function is more or less relegated or outsourced to vendors, Production is outsourced to production houses how double up as “deal makers” or “broker houses” who will broker a deal in the given cost. Media agencies have fragmented into – Mainline, OOH, digital, Retail, Rural, Retail , experiential and what not. Each one surviving on the already meagre margins but scurrying for top talent. No wonder we are not able to attract top talent and hence further going down in this downward spiral called fragmentation or as some creative genius would put it – Specialisation.

Call it old school thought, or simple business thinking – consolidation will give you scale, talent, cross business gains and clout to manage reputed brands. Fragmentation would probably give each one of a corner office – if that is what it has come to.

Perils of Fragmentation

Business Ideas for Post Election India

Elections in India is the probably the most extensive exercise conducted ever. If one carefully goes through the election coverage – across media – poll manifesto – across parties, what stands out is the rhetoric given in the form of hope for – Bijli, Sadak, Paani (roughly translated – Power, Accessibility of roads & drinking water).

Strange that even after 67 years post independence politicians are basing poll manifesto on elementary and basic necessities – as above. While politicians – as any opportunist would want to encash on such promises, what is worrisome is how people of this country are getting lured into such promises – every five years – for last 67 years.

Answer probably rests with the lack of awareness of Indians on their basic rights. Right to education, Right to housing, Right for drinking water, Hygiene and information.  Politicians have made best use of this ignorance and hence ruled this country year after year – irrespective of parties they belong to.

You might be wondering where is the entrepreneurial idea here ?

I believe that there remains a vast space for literate and resourceful individuals like the one reading this blog &  the one writing this blog – a startup  which makes Indians aware of these five factors. An idea born out of bringing awareness along – Hygiene, Information, Drinking water, Housing & Education.

There remains a vast space in India , where a professional entity promises to take up villages, talukas, districts and reaches  100 % mark on making people aware about their basic rights. This can be done in multiple ways – Educative staff, E learning modules, road shows, activation, group talks & discussions, school awareness program etc.

Brands who see a common merit in making vast Indian population aware of such rights, stands to unlock a vast potential in it by being a partner in journey of consumer. Brands like – Unilever, MS/Nokia, P&G are already doing it in micro ways. Corporates will see a proper channel in hands of educated, professionally qualified and accountable youth who are making a change not just to the society but also to their brand needs.

It is a big push to CSR commitments from corporates and must make a lot of sense to contribute to society and drive awareness.

 

 

 

 

RIP – Democracy

Am i supporting a autocratic form of government by stating RIP democracy ? Probably yes.

In a nation which is comprising of 1.2 billion people, many of them do not even know their basic rights, democracy is a demon in disguise. To dive deeper into my argument let me state basic definition of what democracy means- and should do.

Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or indirectly through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, religious, cultural, ethnic and racial equality, justice, liberty and fraternity

My basis of disagreement with democracy for India is best explained if you peruse through the underlined words. First is Eligible citizens. How do you define eligible citizens ? Illeterate, unemployed, and most important – un aware. Irony is Indian politicians have taken full advantage of this gullability of electorate and hence issues like – religion, quota  etc are foremost in speech of every political party. I do not think democracy is right for India because we DO NOT have enough eligible citizens to decide who is good for them and hence we will see repeat of fractional mandate year on year. Be ready for a hung parliament. Unless you find middle ground of a authoritarian leader in a democratic setup.

Second reason to believe that India does not need democracy is the fact that we do not have a Social, religious, cultural, ethnic and racial equality in this country. A country where we have 69 % of population classified as rural, where barely 63 % of population has literacy level of 7 + years of education. More than 8-10 religions being practiced.  Which state, city, locality, household practice equality. There is no equality of labour, caste, religion. Contrary,quota system and religious bias is being preached and practiced. How could you allow democracy to survive when none of the parameters essential for democracy to flourish are being adhered to.

I firmly believe what India needs is a middle path of an authoritarian primes minister and not a sissy, sucker head of the state. Few years of authoritarian rule under a democratic garb is the best medicine for this great nation.

 

 

Does your brand ride on crutches ?

How many of us know Hugh Jackman. But of course people who follow wolverine franchisee would laugh at this question. But what is the population of such wolverine fan club and how many of them fancy a phone which is not an apple, galaxy or a Lumia series.

Quite possible micro max intends to reposition itself and Lowe delhi office could have possible answers to why Hugh Jackman as a brand endorser for micro max. But this blogpost is not on that.

Elementary question which I want to ask is why take brand endorsers ? Ranbir kapoor, Priyanka chopra, Farhan akthar , Katrina Kaif, virat kohli, and now Hugh jackman. Are all these brands so weak that they need to walk on crutches of star power of above mentioned celebrities.

Leave aside mobile phones category, look around you, each brand in india seem to ride on crutches of star power. Take this for example – travel portal musafir.com launched with Sachin Tendulkar, jewllery store Kalyan jewellers have a package deal with Amitabh  Bacchan  and Ashwarya.  Prestige kitchen appliances has Abhishek and Ashwarya, insurance and ask me take help from Amitabh and so on.

I am not against celebrity endorsements but I often wonder does it not point to either of two scenarios

A) the brand is so weak in its fundamental offering that it wants consumer to focus on star power and defocus on core brand promise.

B) consumers are so naive that they are blind in following celebrities and ape their preachiness and fall for the star power and not dig deeper into what they stand to gain from the brand besides a feel good factor of being like a celebrity.

More I observe consumers , I am getting to believe that it is the latter. Brand or marketers are only using the weakness shown by consumers in star power and hence investing in having endorsers. Though I do not have any research but I think that it might be a better deal for marketers to invest in celebrity as against investing in fundamentally strong brand promise. As developing a fundamentally strong brand promise would need higher planning, infrastructure and process control.

Globally good brands are built not on celebrities but brand promise. Apple on snob factor, Rolex on power of Wimbledon as a sport ( star players is an after thought with Rolex), Samsung on performance etc.

I think Indian market is yet evolving and it will take a while for consumers to ask what the brand promise is and not get confused with star appeal, as celebrity will change its promise depending upon the money being offered by the brand.

Till then use your brain, take a call on your purchase of a brand basis how does it add value to you and not how could it add value to Hugh jackman.

Self Belief or Heroism

So who is a Hero ?

I ask this question many a times to many a people and I am surprised by the answers I get. Some people take refuge in old fable/stories from Hindu mythology – Ramayana and state hero as someone like Ram who fought with Ravan thus celebrating victory of good over evil. Or Arjun from Mahabharata who fought with Pandavas to take revenge.

Some people equate Hero with someone with extra power and skills – it could be a super hero like Krissh, or spiderman, or someone who can woo girls, win a loosing battle, etc etc.  Bottom line is – A Hero is somebody extraordinary, talented and gifted.

To me this is the biggest myth we have been made to believe since ages. Irony is we still teach this to our children. We pass on this white lie about Heroes (Not to say that most of the time Hero is a He and not a She ?)

To me Hero is all of us – common human beings.

By giving that extra power, extra gifted from god and other such adjectives, we only make our self belief in us less. A hero is not someone who is extra talented. A hero is someone amidst us, but someone who is not blaming others for his/her problems and taking charge of his destiny to drive change.

A hero is someone who is self motivated, initiated and not an arm chair critic. To critique others is the most easy escape route we find and search for a hero to come and help us get rid of our problems . Why cant we make change happen ? Basically majority of us are lazy and hence want someone else to be that hero. If we have to get access road improved to our house/building, we will hardly make efforts but cuddle up to a politician, suck up to him and make him a Hero in eyes of other people ? What extra powers does a politician has ?

This lack of self confidence and lazy ness has costed this nation in a big way. From mythology to current new age, our search for heroes has always been external, but never internal. Why cant your daughter, your son, your father, your sister, your wife, your husband can be a hero who drives change.

If we have to progress as a society, time we start believing in us, and celebrate heroism in ourselves.