To become comfortable with the new, learn from the old:FaceBook and the Phone-Book

Recently a friend informed me about how she ‘unfriends’ people in her FB list from time to time. These are mostly people who she doesn’t perceive any reason for them to be in her network. I thought she was an odd one out. But a small survey (among my FB network) revealed that 2/3rd of my 50 respondents deleted existing friend connections regularly.

I do admit that my FB network isn’t exactly restricted to friends. Many, in fact are less than acquaintances. If I run through the complete list, I am sure I won’t remember when I last interacted with at least 50% of the people. Worse for about some10% I even won’t know who they are!
However, it never really bothers me that there are people on my Facebook who aren’t really friends or acquaintances. For reasons I will explain here:

Think of a typical social interaction today – Say I meet a friend’s friend at a dinner. We talk and one of us suggests that we stay in touch. The next day s/he sends me an FB request. We never really interact after that and perhaps ever won’t but remain on each others’ FB.
Rewind 5 years – Same people. Similar meeting place. Similar conversations. One suggests we stay in touch. I take out my mobile phone, ask his/her number and give a missed call. Consequently we have each others’ numbers on our cellphone address books.
Rewind 20 years – We pull out our pocket telephone/address diaries and store (write) each others’ contact details down. ( Someone in the group is organized enough to carry a pen or we ask the bearer at the restaurant!)

At what stage did one delete these so called lapsed contacts from one’s phone or a diary. When one ran into space problems, or bought a new phone or a new diary and had to transfer contacts.

FB basically allows you to create a very elaborate phone diary with extensive details (of course access controlled) that you can link to one another. Yes FB in principal is nothing more than a digital manifestation of the good old telephone/address diary. Except that there is no limitations of size or memory.
Thinking of FB as a the new shared, crowd-sourced phone book, you could perhaps stop deleting your unwanted friends.
Of course do not forget to invoke your privacy settings when you add a connection!


Holiday Ruminations: Bollywood, Radio Show and Beyond!

I have not written anything. in a long time. Perhaps was too busy in academic writing till school ended and too busy unwinding since the holidays began. Or maybe I simply did not come across any event or thought that was compelling to blog about. This motivates yet another question, how worthy an endeavor is it to write for writing sake. Just the fact that I haven’t updated my blog in a while means should I write ‘something’. I thought otherwise and thus haven’t written altogether. I finally decided, what the heck, let me try , writing for writing sake. After all the gallery I play to here, is friends and acquaintances who use this forum to keep in touch with me. So this is a post about what I have been upto in my Holidays, home alone in a snowy windy, white Evanston.

Thanks to a Netflix subscription, I watched Outsourced. Although rife with the usual stereotypes about India, the film was pretty well made. For those who haven’t seen , the movie is the story of an American Executive who comes to India to set up a call centre in a small town and train his replacements. At first he is quite uncomfortable but on the advice of a fellow American in Bombay, he decides to give ‘India a try’. I particularly enjoyed how playing Holi was the turning point in his tale. The movie apart, being from ‘Big Cities’ , I would be very keen to know if such small town call centers really exist? And how are they different from the swanky ones in Gurgaon and Bangalore.

Not many know, but I occasionally volunteer to be RJ on a show called Lotus Beat on our Northwestern Radio Station. It’s a fun experience and more so as the show has a lot of listeners coming from the Indian Neighborhoods of Chicago. We take phone in requests and get 5-7 calls per week.

Since today was the last show of the year, and for the first time I was a solo host, I had the task of creating a theme and the play-list. The most logical thing would have been to recap the year gone by. But the (sad) truth is I am not aware of most happenings in Bollywood in the last 1 year. I decided to expand the scope to the last 10 years. I called the show Bollywood’s ‘Defining Movies, Defining Music’ from 2001 to 2010. As a ready reckoner I used this list that Shailesh Kapoor, a die hard Bollywood enthusiast, a connection from my media industry days in Bombay, has put together.

But as I progressed through the show Starting from Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai ( Both 2001) and included Taare Zameen Pe, Rang De Basanti and 3 Idiots. I thought I could very well call this an Aamir Khan special. I did put in Chake De India and Kal Ho Na Ho for SRK fans, but couldn’t go very far. Salman Khan was missing, so was Abhishek Bacchan ( I put in Delhi 6 purely for its music though). Some requests from listeners were ‘Woh Lamhe’ and ‘Anjana Anjani’. Among other non blockbuster variety I played was ‘Dor’ and ‘Life in a Metro’. Another set of films which ‘defined’ the decade were Sanjay Dutt starrers, the two Munnabhai movies.

Am I right then in concluding, that if the ‘defining moments’ from 2001-2010 period in the annals of Bollywood history had to single out one ‘defining’ personality, It would be Aamir Khan? ( SRK and Sallu Fans let me know if you think otherwise!)

If all my working friends envious of my ‘holidays’ by now 🙂 Then I have hit home run. Maybe writing for writing sake is not such a bad idea after all.

Express Criticism against Authorities, Not Athletes: CWG 2010

Many of you may remember that some 45 days ago I called for non cooperation with the commonwealth games. The idea was catalyzed by chetan bhagat’s article aptly titled – please don’t cheer the loot fest. Finally a facebook group grew to about 500 people and some discussions happened. Alternatively I heard about some voices of dissent trying to oppose the opening ceremony . Finally when the man behind the mess , Mr Kalmadi took centrestage he was clearly greeted with more “jeers than cheers” ( to borrow headlines from popular media). A palpable demonstration of the discontent that prevails.
I was looking frantically for a method to watch the live steaming of the opening ceremony and beyond (through twitter), a friend asked – ‘I thought you were boycotting the games’. I recommended another friend in Delhi to watch aquatic events for the venue looks spectacular on TV. He told me, ‘I am protesting by not turning up for any of the events’

This is where I feel we have got it all wrong. Who is our wrath against? The thousands of athletes who compete for top honours. The thousands of volunteers who are working 16-18 hr days. The workers who put together the venues, village and made things happen. I would urge that none of these groups should be the victim of our wrath. For these unsung heroes are not a part of the ‘loot fest’, which we are and shall continue to be against.

By not turning up at the venues, we are not protesting against the ‘loot fest’, but against sportsmanship. We are demonstrating that we do not care about the ‘core’ of the games – whether that core is to showcase top quality sporting action, or signal an emergent cultural and economic superpower. We are sending wrong signals to the world about our apathy for Olympic sport.

I urge friends and countrymen to not extend the opposition of a ‘loot fest’ to showing up and cheering the sport. Perhaps wear black bands at the venues to demonstrate that you haven’t forgotten that the guilty still need to be taken to task!

When Brands Fail Their Loyalists : Dilemmas of a Delhi Metro ‘fan’

Aren’t we taught in marketing classes the importance of customer loyalty, a sort of holy grail for brand managers. And yes I firmly to believe that many brands have loyalists who are not only regular users but sort of evangelists. However ever wonders what happens if this brand betrays this very ardent fan!

I recently took a flight into delhi with a connecting train, A timely arrival and a 4 hrs:15 mins gap between the two prompted me to steal a quick meeting with a friend. The friend offered to pick me up and offered to drop me to a metro station in Gurgaon from where I would take the newly started service all the way to the railway station. An ardent believer that we all should travel by the metro due to all the usual benefits ( both tangible – speed, comfort, certainity and the emotional ones – public transit, non polluting etc), I was thrilled at the idea of travelling by the much awaited service between central delhi and Gurgaon – two days after its commencement.

A good lunch meeting and my friend dropped me at the Gurgaon Station. Train started promptly and reached made its way into south delhi and was headed to get me to the railway station 25 mins ahead of my train’s departure. Suddenly at Udyog Bhavan – some 3 stops before my destination – came an announcement of a short delay in service – usually such delays are 2-3 mins, However for the next 15 mins every 2 mins a ‘short’ delay was announced. Later they announced ‘that’ a technical failure had occured and we should wait to hear further information. By then it was too late to catch my train and hence I ended up missing it.

I got out of the station dejected and asked a staff member if I could file a complaint to claim compensation for the inconvenience caused – as my train ticket was wasted and I needed to plan an alternative journey. He provided me the complaint book after some ado. Now the next step was to go the bus stand and take a bus to my final destination. I thought to myself, the fastest way to reach the ISBT ( bus stand) was by the metro as well. By then the service had somewhat resumed.

But I was so disgusted that I got out called a relative and asked them to arrange a car to drop me to the bus terminus. When they said ‘metro is the best way to get there’ I said “I know, but right now I feel betrayed by the Delhi Metro, They made me miss a train/plane for the first time in life. I no longer can belong to the exclusive club of people who have never missed a train or a flight. ”

I confess I am still a Delhi Metro ‘fan’ but can I recommend it with the same conviction to people now that I always did. The heart says yes of course, the mind says Don’t be stupid. Mr Brand Manager are you listening!

Lets Abuse TAM Data: Indian TV Industry

I read an ad in Mint about UTV-Bloomberg claiming that they have grown to no. 2 in the English Business News Space.

Lets Abuse TAM Data

Surprised I decided to look closely:
Well in the Male CS 25-44 (all SECs) Segment All India market they had slightly greater channel share (relative) than NDTV Profit and ET NOW according to TAM. For the uninitiated channel share is the product of no of people who watched at least one minute ( reach) and the average time spent by them.

I have three issues with this kind of abuse of TAM numbers :
1. The target for English Business News Channels is much smaller than the one used in the ad. Perhaps CS 25-44 M SEC A and B in 10 lakh plus towns would be more plausible.

2. The use of relative shares is again a misleading measure. In reality the absolute of share of viewing of these channels is minuscule to total television viewing so how many combined minutes of television viewing does this really mean?

3. The third is with the use of TAM for such data.English business news is a very niche segment.
a.) This genre is consumed by respondents who are hard to recruit for high involvement research like TAM.
b). Besides consumption is outside the home ( at public places, offices etc).
c.) The sample sizes for these channels is so low that these fluctuations may be due to sampling errors.

But the saddest part is that our media planners will continue to spend advertising money based on these irrelevant numbers and think they are making scientifically correct decisions.

I hope students of media/ advertising /marketing can learn this before going to the industry.