Saturday, December 13, 2014

Rise above fear

'Rise above fear' is a ad film shot for Mountain Dew India, by Telugu superstar Nagarjuna's son Akhil Akkineni, and Tamil actor Arya. Both the protagonists search for the Kurinji flowers which bloom once in 12 years, and while they face obstacles including their fear of vertigo, they final once in 12 years in the Western Ghat region of India. While they encounter a number of obstacles including their fear of heights, they overcome the Mountain of Fear. This is a clever wordplay on the soft drink 'Mountain Dew', which also extends its brand positioning as one for youth who consider themselves as adventurous.To fully appreciate this, do watch the video below(Tamil version).

This campaign builds on the brand promise that whoever dares, wins. In personal life also, its the risk taking entrepreneurs who amass the maximum personal wealth. Nobody enters the Forbes 500 list by serving a life of employment. Yes, they may have a lot of blowups as well, many of them well publicized. But venture capitalists often view new ventures as a call option, and often accept business model losses over substantial periods of time-Amazon being a classic case which has cumulative losses over decades, yet has substantial operational improvements and customer loyalty, which has driven its share price to record highs. Another example of daring and winning, is the life changing decisions taken by us on proposing to someone, accepting a first job, joining a startup etc. These are mostly taken basis incomplete information and perceptions, but it needs courage to pull the trigger, as well as inner ability to confront the demons within which stop one from being decisive.

One should however not  confuse daring with recklessness. The hundreds of collapsed online ventures during the dotcom bubble, testifies to the stupidity of people who did not pull the trigger on an unviable business model. While people do repeat mistakes-a classic case being the stock market-the present e-commerce boom has seen more caution. For example, instead of broadbasing home delivery of groceries, Amazon has built this in selective cities via Amazon Fresh, and linked it with Amazon Prime as well. This ensures an ecosystem to realize and lock in value, and maybe make groceries a loss leader to ensure profitable sale of other products.

The whole campaign may seem no different from the thousands of campaigns which promise to change the life of the user by making them smarter/faster/healthier etc. The chemical composition of Mountain Dew, does not have anything to support this. However, in this brand obsessed society, we identify with brands not always on a  logical basis. For example, a Tea party supporter not well versed with technology, may call for buying Apple products over Samsung, even though both may have the same level of import components, and a comparable extent of foreign shareholders. Those who liked the ad concept (not to be confused with the actual message), can express their like by following Mountain Dew on Facebook.

PS:This post is an entry to the Rise the Fear Blogging Campaign by Mountain Dew.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Parachute Advansed Body Lotion - Bring Back The Touch-analysis

When I
first came across the below video, I thought this is your typical cheesy
marketing promotional video. But the video moved me enough to write this post,
as it outlines how a busy husband can forget emotional attachment (ignoring
romantic music, feeding hand toasted bread to the dog, ignoring wife's visual
cues and instead talking non-stop on the phone), and displays emotional
illiteracy by expecting an enthusiastic goodbye from the wife.  My digital generation is a slave to the
smartphone generation, but such videos do make one think about what we are all
doing it for. When the wife needs to resort to touching her husband to make him
realize the depth of her emotion, then clearly something is amiss in the

The video
is also at , or search the
hashtag #BringBackTheTouch. The manufacturer Marico (the famous Parachute
brand) claims to have ‘rekindled romance’ in many a consumers lives, since it
uses 100% natural moisturizers to transform the skin within 7 days.
Personally, I do not gun for ads which condition
people’s happiness on using beauty products. That, is emotional exploitation in
my view, like a certain deodorant brand which claims to make men irresistible
to women. But considering the sensitiveness of this ad, and that it does the
voiceover only at the end, it is worth a watch, both for the tastefulness in
which it puts forth the point, as also for the social message it conveys. This
might not spark the controversy like in the Airtel ‘Boss’ ad, but this has all
the makings of a sleeping blockbuster hit in the ad world.
From the product perspective, parachute is
associated with hair oil, and maybe this is their effort to diversify into
skincare via brand extensions instead of merely relying on the Kaya brand.

Post marriage, people may tend to let themselves
go-bad tendency but possible, and this advertisement is a subtle reminder that
one should maintain themselves post marriage also. This of course holds for
both sexes. Bringing back the charm into relationships, especially when the
honeymoon phase is over, needs constant effort.  Quickies like shopping, candlelight dinners,
outings are short term fixes, but in my view, a constant effort from both sides
is necessary to avoid the seven year itch(or nowadays even the 7 month itch!). And
of course, work-life balance, as blatantly violated in the video, needs to give
way to quality time, atleast at those vital moments when both partners are in
the same place.  

My dream 24K home with Porcelanosa

Indiblogger HappyHours has really made me happy this week, with 2 vouchers in succession. When I noticed that Porcelanosa had sponsored this happy hours contest to mark their Indian launch via Kolhe Patil builders, it did intrigue me. After all, why would Indians go for porceline (which is seen largely in Home Centre outlets/roadside), and why did it choose Kolhe Patil as the builder to launch instead of the more upmarket Lodha group? While going through the site, I figured out that the builder had successfully created a premium location in Pune, via its philosophy of design thinking, and delivering a WOW factor to the customer on 24 key attributes(thus 24K living). This is also a clever word play on the 24k gold quality mark, known to most Indians! Anyways, that seemingly clear for me now, the next point is how to furnish the house which I intend to buy sometime soon? Locality seems metro only-Mumbai, Bangalore or Chennai. These being humid places and expensive too, the interiors really matter. From the Porcelanosa catalogue, following items meet my interest level for the reasons as follows

1) Floor tiling via Linkfloor- This is a vinyl flooring with a high resistance to abrasion, impacts, damp, staining and chemical agents. This seems to have the appearance of wood, yet easy to lay and resistance to dust mites. Also, this is anti slip proof, so ideal when elderly people visit or stay over.  The 15 year warranty, is the icing on the cake
2) Wall tiling via Natural Stone-Besides the usual advantages of stone tiles, this has the added advantage of also having  an innovative nanotechnology treatment that is applied to stone to give it added antibacterial properties. This has the health advantage also, even if dampness on walls happens due to water leakage etc.
3)Bathrooms-Shower screens for their awesome look/texture/sliding options, sanitaryware for the  upto 25% saving in water consumption

4)Wardrobes and Accessories-This is often the item taking up the maximum space at homes, and also the item which costs the maximum. In homes costing a bomb for real estate, saving on this space may pay for the furniture itself. Therefore, the professed advantage of Porcelanosa producing wardrobes and dressing rooms with endless types of drawers and accessories for the perfect lay-out and storage of the belongings, is a great idea.

All these items in collection would ensure that there is a holistic theme running through the home, of quality, elder friendly, healthy, easy to maintain and superb design. This would confer on the home a premium feel, similar to 24k living I suppose.  And given that interiors typically cost 10%-20% of the house cost, this additional premium would not push up the normal rates too much. For more information, do visit

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Toilet for Babli

During his independence day address, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi encouraged the members of Parliament and the corporate sector to ensure that there “should be a toilet in all the schools of our country. A separate toilet for is only then our girls will not have to quit schools”. Socially, anatomically and from security aspect, it is essential for girls to have separate toilets. With the high school drop out ratios at primary level even for males, and increasing unemployment rates of educated youth it is already a challenge to persuade parents to send their children for education. For the girl child, this becomes more difficult when there are no dedicated toilets for them in school leaving open defecation as the only alternative to embarrassment in shared toilets. Also, apart from open defecation within the school compound, girls would need to stay at home during menstruation as they have nowhere to manage their requirements, hence this would lead to secondary drop out rates near the crucial period of Board exams.
Under a proposal from Nitin Gadkari, rural households without sanitation will get Rs. 15,000 each for constructing toilets while schools will get Rs. 54,000 for same purpose. When passed, this will really empower women and schools. As per an article from Waterraid(, the resulting unhealthy environments from open defecation  have terrible health impacts, particularly for children: over 200,000 die yearly due to diarrhoea and nearly half (48%) of under fives are stunted. It highlights also that there have been well intentioned campaigns in the past which have spectacularly failed  and that the number of open defecators in rural India increased by 40mn from Census 2001 to Census 2011.  Also, another study[1]  shows that rural coverage had reached 68% in 2011 – up from 22% in 2001 whereas census data showed that real coverage was only 31% thereby implying that only one in five latrines reportedly constructed since 2001 were in place in 2011.
What can we do to ensure that this time it works? First we will need to ensure that behaviours are changed via training, since students may be used to open defecation at home, and should be comfortable using closed latrines in schools. Also, there need to be budgets for the resultant spend on maintenance and upkeep(cleaning equipment, water supply, electricity).Also, toilet design should be eco-friendly and easy to maintain, without the dehumanizing practice of manual scavenging which is outlawed. Involving the local community in design and construction(via NREGA) would ensure that toilets are actually used by the target segment, instead of lying unused. We have the example of the post earthquake homes in Kutch which were not used as they did not meet the local needs of elevated kitchen platform etc. So one should not commit these mistakes. Looping in Sulabh International via PPP(with school fees footing the user charges), could be another good idea. HUL has announced the Domix Toilet Academy, an effort to build 2400 toilets by 2015, in partnership with local SHGs, and in areas of real need instead of just high visibility areas. Do help this noble cause by visiting


Saturday, November 8, 2014

A healthy child leads to a happy home

When I received the Indiablogger email blast about Happy hours, it reminded me to start blogging again. And what more incentive than a possible Rs 1,000 flipkart voucher to get started again?

 I got hooked to reading as a kid when after school; I preferred to curl up on a sofa with a book, instead of playing with friends outside. That lack of outdoors physical activity did lead to a few extra pounds in school, but thanks to products like Horlicks, Boost, Boornvita and Chyawanprash, my immune system did not take a beating. 

Kids don't like medicine, and I was certainly no exception. Despite all the ads of 'Taste bhi health bhi' for Maggi etc, my parents never preferred noodles/fast food instead focusing on nutritional food like Chyawanprash which actually ensured 'Taste bhi health bhi'-that original tagline credit should go to them, as the sweet-sour taste and jam consistency, means it can be taken directly or with milk/bread, without losing its nutritional properties. Such nutritional spreads protected me from cough/cold in school days. After that, I took a break from all health food, till recently when I was down with the common cold/flu in Delhi and Mumbai. At that time, I realized I had to rebuild my immune system to avoid the 'Kejriwal cough’:D. And what better than to restart a course of Chyawanprash? It comes in many more variants including even a sugar free version.

Thankfully, after restarting the sugar free version of Chyawanprash (I don't have diabetes but why take the risk?), my cold/cough is a thing of the past, and despite being exposed to pollution day in/day out (an inherent risk of living in a metro), and my immune system is no longer taking a beating. Despite how much my lifestyle stretches my health to the fullest(think sedentary lifestyle/odd hours for food), the immunity bank was built up so excellently as a kid, that even as an adult, I rarely fall ill, and recover quickly from ailments. And this keeps my parents from worrying about how their son is doing away from home. So indeed, my being a healthy child, led to a happy home as a kid (no missing school due to small ailments: D), and even as an adult where they do not need to worry about my health.  As the company puts it in the link referenced above Dabur Chyawanprash’s magnificent brew of Ayurvedic herbs strengthens the body’s natural defence mechanism by stimulating your NK cells* (Natural Killer Cells). NK cells assist in fighting with virus and bacteria in your body, thus giving us increased immunity from various infections


Medical insurance rarely covers visits to OPD or cases involving treatment for infections/fevers/flu, which can involve a sizeable hit to your wallet. So in inflationary times, do protect your family’s health and financial future by inter-alia, incorporating health food like Chyawanprash in your normal diet. And do give them to kids early on for a sustained period so that they develop a taste for it later, and more importantly, are able to live their childhood to the fullest without missing out on activities for medical reasons. When children are able to become all-rounders, that satisfies them and their parents the most than just being sports jocks/nerds. For more information on doing this through health foods , you can go to this link which does go beyond mere product information, to actually educate the customer on how to take it. 



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Does mandatory continual professional development/education really lead to lifelong learning?

I am a voracious reader and while most of that goes into fiction, a good chunk also goes into reading non fiction. In fact, my passion for finance is largely due to my vicariously living through various books and finance fiction novels of Stephen Fry etc. Having switched gears to commerce later than most people, one of the main reasons I could catch up was having read extensively, and therefore often knowing more than my peers. Even during the admission interviews for IIM Ahmedabad & IIM Bangalore, and beyond, I could impress the interviewers with my knowledge beyond 'bean counting'/'mere CA curriculum knowledge'. largely because I'd read multiple books, blogs, magazines, textbooks etc. Anyways, this post is not hagiographic so enough of my story and back to the topic! 

Be it the institute of chartered accountants, management accountants, chartered secretaries, CFAs, FRMs, doctors, actuaries and so on, every established profession imposes certain mandatory knowledge updation hours for their members. This is often more stringent for members in public practice, than for those in employment. Usually, self declarations are allowed and even the mode of fulfilling hours are flexible, with options available to professionals to achieve their target in the least possible monetary investment and time. However, i have the following issues with this process
1) Why impose different requirements for those in public practice and those in service? The competency requirements from both should not differ, and in fact those in service may be more 'specialized' and 'frogs in the well' than their counterparts in public practice. Hence, there is no rationale distinction for this, except that members in service often retain their membership with much cajoling, so making more requirements for them may drive more of them away from retaining their membership-and which organization does not need fee paying members? Members in practice have their bread and butter contingent on their profession bestowed certificate of practice, but those in service do not have those constraints. 
2) Process driven to ensure more attendance in institute organized seminars-Even though professional institute organized programs are inexpensive(around Rs 1000-2000 per day for ICAI/ICSI/ICWAI), professionals often do not want to devote an entire day to content they would rather read in a hour or two.
3) Inflexible enough to suit needs-Even though bodies do allow for 'unstructured professional development' in terms of crosswords, reading, peer group discussions; there is still a long way to go.  
4) Compliance driven process does not foster willing compliance-I have seen professionals send their interns/other employees to attend programs and fill attendance slips on their behalf. This is because 
5) Commercial interests often result in regulatory capture-When private sector is allowed to deliver programs with CPD credits as done in UK/USA etc, those private sector bodies have an incentive to lobby for more stringent CPD requirements for their programs/speciality. 
6) Little focus on organization sponsorship that ensures peer learning, networking and applying what you learn One reason why executive education programs are so popular, is their organization context, which helps executives to learn from their peers in other functions, while immediately applying their learnings on the job often in the timespan between sessions. This organization driven sponsorship is quite helpful, but often in a misconceived wish to subsidize individual members, organization sponsored fees are often higher than self sponsored one(the ICSI Mumbai scheme at CCRT being a notable exception which allows bulk corporate members) since they are felt to have deep pockets! Yet, this approach is short sighted. 

In this information overload era where we are plugged into the digital world of laptop-smartphone-TV-tablet, it is difficult to make time for self development amidst challenging careers. Indeed, mastering subjects one has not learnt at all formally earlier(imagine the plight of chartered accountants who learnt IFRS from scratch when it was introduced!) often takes much more time than say 40hrs/year, and devoting the bare minimum mandated time might give one the illusion of comfort, while actually one may be falling behind technically and technologically compared to the next few batch(es) of professionals educated under updated curriculums/delivery mechanisms.