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August 27, 2017

24th article published in HANS INDIA (22 November 2014) It is titled "Place Marketing - born in the USA"

If one wants to know about Place Marketing we need to look no further than the United States of America. America is full of interesting places and Americans are very adept at marketing these tourist attractions. 

Cemetery space selling: A hard working Indian in California had a dapper Anglo Saxon visitor. The visitor introduced himself and said that he was selling space. The Indian asked him about the details. The salesman said he was selling cemetery space. The Indian recoiled in horror. Death is a taboo for most people. 
The sales man said “Who will take care of you when you move away (see he is not using the word death, insurance sellers please note). You have to provide a decent burial for yourself. You can come for a site visit and see your eternal resting area yourself. We have an installment scheme too. You can use our service not only for the final burial but annually too. We can see to that Agarbattis (excuse me he said Agarbattis – this sales man has really done his homework) are lit on your Samadhi every year. You can have a floral service also.” 

The Indian was not all convinced. He tried brushing away the brash sales man by asking him to come again. As the sales man started to pick up his things he gave a broad smile and said “Our cemetery plots are according to Vaastu (a Hindu tradition of space design to promote harmony with natural forces). I can see that you are given a north east facing space at no extra cost.” The Indian almost fainted at the depth of the salesman’s knowledge.

Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco: The prison is on an island and the visitors have to take a ferry service to reach Alcatraz. Tourists assemble at the Embarcadero from where the ferry would take them to the island prison.

As the tourists are ushered into the ferry they are photographed against the Alcatraz background and as they troop out of the cubicle a ferry employee hands out a card and says "Your 2 (4 x 6) photographs will be available in the evening. If you want you to pick them up, they would cost $ 25. "
There is a federal law that says that all people leaving the shores of USA will have to be photographed. So the visitors leaving the shores of San Francisco shore anyhow have to be photographed. So why not make it into a business opportunity!

The total cost of taking the photographs and the prints may be $ 100 per day. Even if 4 families take the photographs per day the cost of the operation would be recovered. And on return many visitors do pick up photographs as keep sake of their visit to the Alcatraz.

The marketing of the island prison is very impressive. The visitors at Alcatraz are given audio commentary sets through which they can listen to the history of the prison. There are many cells in Alcatraz which are maintained in the same conditions as they were when the prison was operational. The famous escape attempt is demonstrated to the visitors in dramatic detail which includes the showing of the pock marks of the bullets on the prison walls.

Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz, California: The Mystery Spot is a tilt-induced visual illusion. The illusion experienced by visitors results from the oddly tilted environment as well as standing on a tilted floor. Inside the tilted room of the Mystery Spot, misconceptions of the height and orientation of objects occur. Even when people are standing outside on a level ground, the slant of the building in the background causes misconceptions as we judge the height of people using the slant of the roof rather than the true horizon.
As visitors move through the site, they try to adjust to the tilted environment. The effects of this adaptation are then exploited, especially within closed structures, so that visitors may feel as though gravity does not operate as it should within this Mystery Spot. Also, visitors may feel light-headed or dizzy due to the brain's attempt to adapt to the visual tilt.

The Mystery Spot owners promote the attraction with the liberal dispensing of free bumper stickers. The visitors of mystery spot do use these stickers on their cars. A great marketing ploy.  As a marketing teacher I was very impressed with the way the spot was marketed. There were many direction pointers (prominent arrows pointing out the way). The entrance ticket was quite costly but the tour was well organised. The teenage guides were perky, intelligent and had infectious bubbling enthusiasm. They had nice touches of weaving a mystery around the experiments – of a ball rolling up a gradient and visitors ability to stand in a tilt, defying gravity. There was a great souvenir shop where one could buy great memorabilia of one’s visit to the mystery spot.  

The Universal Studios, Los Angeles: The place that warrants the first attention is the entrance itself. At the entrance is a globe that has the world universal on it. Very true, movies are universal!

The next in line is the water world. Water world is a place about the size of four swimming pools. The visitors watch with unbelieving eyes as scenes from the famous movie “Water World” are enacted live. The entire show is well orchestrated and it is a visual delight to see a small aircraft land in water. The actors spray each other with liberal doses of water and suddenly they would turn and spray the audience too. The shocked audiences squirm with surprise but they get into the mood and enjoy.

The next attraction is not for the faint hearted. It is the house of horrors. It is REALLY the house of horrors. It is full of spooky lanes, dark lighting and skeletons and dummies dressed as dead people. The best part is a dead body twenty feet from the visitors. The dead dummy suddenly moves and starts racing towards them. This almost gives the visitors a heart attack. 

Children get very excited with Shrek – 4D. Shrek 4 D is a visual treat with lots of mechanical movement added to the three dimensional effects. Scents and smells are added, the seats move and the donkey in the movie suddenly spits and the spit falls on the shocked audience. Oh No, it is not the donkey’s spit, it is water jets spraying the audience. The jets are placed in the front seats and are timed to spray the audience on cue. 

The best part of the Universal Studio is the tram tour. These trams take the visitors on a studio visit. The visitors are shown the place from where Alfred Hitchcock wrote and directed his master pieces. The visitors are shown an air craft crash site that is minutely detailed.They are taken to a placid lake and suddenly without any warning a big shark comes out of the water with its jaws wide open. The same shark that was the star in the movie Jaws.  

The most exciting incident is the guide talking about special effects that can be created within a matter of seconds. And suddenly as if on cue the entire area starting flooding. Yes, flash floods in front of one’s eyes. The flood is very sudden and as fast as it comes the flood disappears. It is a very real surreal experience. 

The parting of the sea is shown dramatically (the parting of the red sea from the movie the Ten Commandments). The tram moves into the water and the water touches the feet of the visitors. The final element of suspense and drama is when the tram is taken into a dark tunnel. The guide dramatically announces that they are going to the see the biggest actor in Hollywood. When the guide’s voice fades the light is focused on King Kong – a very real looking dummy – the biggest star in Hollywood walking ponderously towards you.

Disconnect and a very Good book to read - "Everyone loves a good drought" by P. Sainath.

I am seeing this apparently very silly movie, Son of Satyamurthy where the hero is mopping over a very serious problem "how to pay his niece's yearly fees of Rs 2,00,00/-". What a silly issue. Shows the disconnect that we have got to. 

I beseech all my friends and students to read "Everyone loves a good drought" by P. Sainath. It is the best book that I have read. ALL SHOULD READ. YES A PDF IS AVAILABLE ON NET. But as a teacher, a writer myself and as an ethical person I recommend every one to buy and read a physical book. It will change your perspective and the way you look at life.

February 16, 2016

A fo Attitude " When the things get tough - the tough get going" published in THE HANS INDA on 31-01-2016

A For Attitude “When  The Things Get Tough – The Tough Get Going”

A for Attitude. The first quality that everyone talks about is Attitude. Oxford dictionary defines attitude as “A settled way of thinking or feeling about something”. Frequently I have heard interviewers say “Oh the candidate was great but does not have an attitude”. Attitude is that intangible asset that needs to be brought to the table. When the things get tough, the tough need to get going. Life as it is very tough and one needs to look at the positive side of the issue.

There are two types of people. When a boss asks for a work to be done the first candidate says “what is the work?” and after knowing the work, volunteers to do it. The second candidate volunteers first and then enquires about the nature of the work. No prizes for guessing who has a better attitude about life and his job.

Once there were two friends. One of them was an optimist and the other was a pessimist. Both had hung up stockings on the Christmas Eve. The next day the pessimist got a packet of fresh milk and he was very sad. The optimist had his stocking full of cow dung and he was very happy. A mutual friend wanted to know the reason for their strange behaviour. The sobbing pessimist blurted out “Oh the milk is fresh today but by tomorrow it would get bad”. This man was trained to look only at negative things in life. He is an eternal worrier. He would keep on worrying and make the life of everyone around him miserable. 

The confident optimist said “Fine it is cow dung. I got cow dung today and the cow will come tomorrow”. This man looks at the positive things in life. He has the right attitude. Same as a sales man who was beaming as he was falling out of a multi-story building. He was falling from a 25th storey building but was sure that he would be saved before he crashes onto the pavement.

There are lots of nay sayers around. There would keep on discouraging us and telling how the things can’t be done. Nothing ventured and nothing gained. There is everything to win and nothing to lose. Attitude is a thing that takes us places. Impossible is a word found in fool’s dictionary.

Having a positive attitude in the workplace is imperative. Work would present many problems and only those people are employed who know how to solve them with a positive attitude and with a smile.

People like to be around other people who are cheerful, work oriented and not around people who are grumpy and keep complaining. No work is too small or too insignificant. As the author of “How Starbucks saved my life” says in his book (based on a true story) “I wanted to be the best restroom cleaner in entire America”. The author Michael Gates Gill a Director in a famous advertising agency in New York is forced to work as a low paid barista in Starbucks coffee shop. Desperate to please his boss the author cleans the rest room so well that his boss appreciates his work. Very inspiring indeed!

There is a beautiful sequence from the “Darr” the Hindi movie. A cricket match is in progress. Anupam Kher is sitting right in front of a TV, dressed in cricket gear from top to toe, urging the Indian team to play better. He says ''karna padta hai yaar, India ko kabhi bhi meri zaroorat pad sakti hai!'' Translated it means I have to be prepared, Indian cricket team might need my services at any point of time. If the call comes, I want to go immediately. Even though said in jest, that is attitude. The best way to respond to the recriuter’s question “when would you like to join?” is “immediately”. The world is looking for people with the go getter attitude.

1. The advertisement that symbolifies attitude is the ad for Edelweiss brokerage services. The advertisement shows many ways how can’t stops us from achieving our true potential. At the end of the advertisement the t is simply knocked out from the can’t and it becomes Can, Once it is CAN the world becomes a better place to live. Cry and you cry alone, laugh and the world laughs with you. A positive attitude changes everything. Key word for the search “Edelweiss Brokerage service ad”.

2. The second video clip is that of Derek Redmond in the 400 metres finals in the 1992 Olympic Games. It is widely believed that Derek would win the race. Mid-way through the race Derek breaks his hamstring. He is in terrible pain. His race is over. All the training had been wasted. Sobbing in pain and disappointment he continues to hobble. A man rushes out of the stand. He is Derek’s father. He tells his son to stop and says “you don’t need to do it” Derek says “I have to”. “okay” says his father “then we will do it together”.

Hand in hand both father and son struggle towards the finish line. Right at the finish line Derek’s father leaves Derek to cross the line by himself among thundering applause and standing ovation from the spectators. It is not always about winning; rather it is about the spirit and the attitude. It is about the participation as much as about winning medals. This clipping brings a lump in the throat but makes us happy to watch with the grit and determination of Derek. Key words for the search “Powerful Inspirational true story...Don't give up!”

Primer of the New Series "The magical Journey from A to Z - A Game changer " Published in THE HANS INDIA on 26-01-2016

 "The magical Journey from A to Z - A Game changer" Published in THE HANS INDIA on 26-01-2016 

Ask degree students to recite ABC and most would be able to recite them without difficultly. And with a smile on their face. Ask the same student about something very basic in their subject and they would struggle to come out with logical answers. The question “how is that you are able to remember ABCs taught more than 15 years ago and have already forgotten things taught in the last year” stumps them and they are speech less.

That is the power of learning through music and dance. What we leant in innocently stays indelibly printed in our mind. This series strives to imprint your mind with the ABC of qualities needed to be successful. And the qualities are simple to remember. So simple that any one should be able to remember them and recite just like the ABC!

This series has been a work in progress for more than two decades and a half. Very early in my academic career I had realized that teaching is all about inspiring, being up to date and being as interesting as possible for the student. The first aim is to attract. Once the seed of interest is planted the plant of knowledge would sprout by itself. Rather the student will learn by himself. Inculcate the interest and let him explore and find out things for himself.

During the seventies and the eighties the interviewer was expecting subject knowledge and passable soft skills (Communication, body language, team building skills, group dynamics, attitude etc) from a candidate. The opening up of the economy and of the service sector has unleased new challenges and new forces.

Knowledge has become passé. Anyone with a smart phone has access to an enormous vault of knowledge. So much so that rote memorization of number tables has almost disappeared. Students rely on technology for queries so much that the smart phone has become an extended arm in itself! In the changed scenario, soft skills have become omnipresent and the order of the day.

The paradox is most institutes do not teach soft skills. It is up to the students to lean the nuances. A new employee not having soft skills is seen as ‘raw, wet behind the ears, sheep lost in the woods or in simple terms as referred to in Hyderabad as a red bus traveler’ Red bus traveler being a simpleton who travels by the red bus (rural) service operated by the travel corporation.

The soft skills needed to succeed in the real world include good communication which includes spoken communication, (verbal), Written communication, non-verbal communication (body language), good behaviour, good attitude, proven leadership qualities, ability to be a part of the group, and many others.

The transition from good to better to best has to be deliberate and well thought over. The need of the hour is to have model citizens who can propel India into the forefront of development and prosperity.  Into a bright future where that we all can proudly say “yes I too have contributed, in a very small way”.

As mentioned we all remember the English alphabets without any strain and the alphabet are deeply entrenched in our memory. So I hit upon an idea of developing a series where I could identity 26 qualities that a good student, a great manager and the best human being should possess.  And all the 26 qualities are words in English starting with the letter A, then  B and so on.

The qualities choose are necessary and quite frankly hygiene factors. Hygiene factors being factors that if present are not noticed and appreciated but if absent the absence is noticed and commented upon, in many cases adversely. Case in point being the attribute of punctuality. If a person is punctual it is taken for granted, but if the same person is late and tardy, the same would noticed and he/she would get a reprimand.

Next I hit upon the idea of driving the message through using the audio visual media.  I chose the media of television commercials. I am fascinated by TV commercials. They are magical, small, sweet, and pack quite a punch! Oh yes then can be irritating, repetitive and in the face! They are easily available and accessible (thanks to YouTube). They can tell a story dramatically, appealingly and in a very short duration! A story well told,   is difficult to forget.

Once the attributes have been identified the process of selecting a suitable advertisement/movie clipping to explain the attribute was undertaken. I will explain the advertisement and detail the importance of commercials/clipping. Great advertisements like the hostel advertisement, Cadbury cricket advertisement too would be discussed. Cadbury’s cricket advertisement is a 60 second encapsulement of the 3 hour 40 minute saga of a movie – Lagaan. The storylines are the same!

I would start with the letter A and would take you through a magical journey till the letter Z. Young readers should collect all the 26 articles. They would get dual benefits, the first being the excitement of collecting the news articles and filing them for future reference and the second and the most important being the internalization of qualities that might be the difference between a winner and an also run! 

November 19, 2015

23rd article published in HANS INDIA (15 November 2014) It is titled " Mobile Marketing Mantras"

23rd  article published in HANS INDIA (15 November 2014) It is titled " Mobile Marketing Mantras!" 

Mobile marketing mantras
November 15,2014, 04.10 AM  IST | | Dr M Anil Ramesh

Mobiles have changed the way we communicate, do business, get entertained and even live. Mobile phones are where marketers will be fighting pitched battles. There are more than 93 crore mobile phones in India. That is 75 phones for 100 Indians! Let us examine the marketing mantras with which the mobile service providers and mobile phone manufacturers have succeeded in making mobile phones such a necessary commodity. 
1.Life time validity: In the late nineties mobile phone service providers had separate tariffs for incoming and outgoing calls. The SIM card used to be very cheap but the pre-paid connection used to be very costly – up to Rs 1,500 was charged. Airtel was the first one to offer the connection in installments and offered lifetime validity. At the same time incoming calls were made free. This killed the nascent and minuscule market that was held by the paging service providers. At the same time it opened huge market of users like heavy duty truck operators, drivers, and courier boys. These users had to receive calls and rarely made any outgoing calls.

2.Tie up sales: The mobile phone handset makers started offering postpaid connections as a part of the package. The same was used by the cell phone service providers. For a connection and a sum of let us say Rs 1,500 they started giving a connection and a basic cell phone was thrown in for free. This way the customers got a connection and the instrument and could start using the service immediately. In a fiercely competitive market, the customer had to start using the service immediately and had to use it frequently. 

3.1 paisa and ½ paisa per minute:  For a long time it was de rigor for cell phone operators to charge Re 1 for any call made. A throwback to the legacy of the BSNL times when any call was costing Re 1, which the phone operators were encashing. There was equilibrium in pricing and no operator was complaining. The only people complaining were the customers, who were being fleeced Re 1 even for a ten seconds call. Tata Docomo turned the traditional wisdom on its head. It introduced 1 paisa per second tariff. Suddenly a paisa gained prominence. 

Everyone laughed at Tata Docomo and Tata Docomo laughed its way to the bank. It quickly gained market share and other service providers had to follow suit. Significantly the profitability of all the operators had dropped drastically but at the same time the networks were being utilised much better and the 1 paisa tariff brought new customers and also added customers who took multiple connections.  
Interestingly, except the mobile telecom industry, no other industry respects small change. No one in India accepts 25 or even 50 paisa. One rupee has become the minimum currency. Just imagine the extra profit that all the retailers, especially super markets and petrol bunks, must be making by not giving out change. One report says that over Rs 300 crore is gained in a year by retail petrol bunks alone. 

4.Location wise tariff: This was the innovation of Aircel. A very interesting concept. It works on the concept that there is heavy traffic on some networks and less traffic on other networks. Customers were made to pay more for calls made on more populous networks and less on less populous networks. But what happens if the customers were to be in a car and keep moving around in the city and would use different networks at the same time? Would he be charged an average of all the different network usage? Very confusing indeed!

5.Five number concept: The concept encourages users to get a rebate on the tariff if the same numbers are being used repeatedly. This strategy is something that is puzzling. What does the service provider gain by offering rebate on some numbers? I assume that the 5 number plan acts as a loss leader pricing (a concept where a seller offers one product at a loss and expects to gain overall profitability when the user buys a basket of products).

6. SMS service: A smart move to tap the texting craze that had sprung up. Operators offer an add-on with the regular packages that offer as many as 300 SMS messages at a throw away price of Rs 30. At the same time the cell phone operators are happy as on any special occasion like the Diwali or a national festival the rates jump to Re 1 per SMS. 

The rate of SMS for finding out airline timings are charges at Rs 3 and participating in game shows and television programmes  make the pocket of the user lighter by as much as Rs 6 per SMS. SMS is always a very lucrative business as text messages occupy less band width and many can be squeezed at a less cost than network demanding and bandwidth guzzling voice calls. 

7. Lower nighttime calling charges: One of the striking features of a cell phone is that it offers unique possibilities of having intimate conversation and it guarantees total privacy. This has been encashed by cell phone operators that offer very good rates for users calling at nights. Thus it is not surprising that a cell phone is a lovers' best friend. 

8.Roaming charges: This is a lucrative business for the operators. Whenever a user moved from one circle to another roaming charges were charged. The operators quickly moved in. Now days for Rs 62 roaming charges can be slashed. Same is the case with calling relatives and friends residing in countries like the USA, UK and Canada. Calls can be made for an unbelievable rate of 1 paisa per second. 

9.Talk more and pay less: It works on the simple principle that the more a service is used the less the service will cost per unit (works only in postpaid). This way calls for the first 500 calls will be charged at Re 1 per call. 501 to 1,000 calls will be charged at Rs 0.90 per call. And calls from 1,001 to 1,500 calls will be charged at Rs 0.80 per call. This meant unshackling the public sector mindset of Indian marketers. For example, electricity users in India are charged the exact reverse way. The more one uses a service the more he/she would be charged. 

10. Customised packages: Mobile service operators are aware of the fragile relationships that they have with their customers. A user trying to shift especially in the postpaid category is dangerous, as postpaid is more lucrative than prepaid. The customer is induced in all possible way to retain his connection with the existing operator. CRM professionals of the company study the usage of that user and design the best customised packages that give the best value for the user’s money. 

At the same time the operators have realised that prepaid users are not very lucrative and all types of inducements are dangled to shift them from prepaid to postpaid status. Many of the existing prepaid users are not willing to convert their connection into postpaid status due to the unsavory reputation of the collection agents of various service operators