Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How i use mobile to fulfill my entertainment needs

Having been an Airtel employee for 3yrs with the associated benefits of a generous phone usage allowance permitting virtually unlimited mobile broadband, I was used to consuming data like there's no tomorrow-be it at home via broadband, or on the move through mobile broadband. I love watching movies, TV shows(Hindi and english) and listening to music. However, I need 3 distinct connections-TV, wired broadband and wireless broadband, for entertainment and mobile internet usage respectively. 

Despite the talk of 'cable cutting', it does not quite work in India or abroad for entertainment due
1)  to the heavy costs of streaming. 1GB of wired broadband at a speed of 8Mbps(much less than TV but comparable to 3G) costs around Rs 12. Now suppose one watches a TV serial of 30min/ consumed is 0.5GB/30min or 15GB/month. Add to this 5GB for watching Youtube Music videos instead of MTV, and the bill quickly starts adding up to average cable bill, and this is without 'normal' usage to watch movies, torrents, routine surfing, office emails etc. 

2) TV(cable or DTH) has much higher fidelity and does not experience buffering/disruption except in extreme weather conditions. 

Hence, for routine mainstream watching like for me, there is no alternative to a TV connection even if I have a wired broadband connection OR a mobile broadband connection. 

The case I outlined works insofar as there is a single occupancy household. But when multiple people want their daily dose of entertainment at the same time, then it is difficult. A secondary DTH/cable connection is discounted, but that still necessiates the investment and the space requirements for more TV(s). In this era of multiple devices per person and for the family, when mobile operators offer a common family data plan for simultaneous data consumption against a shared quota,I used to wonder why were TV/cable operators so backward. However, a recent launch of Tata Sky transfer (thankfully) proved me wrong. 

Last week, Tata Sky launched their new product ‘Tata Sky+ Transfer’ which will enables set top box recordings to be available on subscribers’ tablets and phones. it will come with a Wi-Fi dongle to enable consumers to enjoy recorded content on smartphones and tablets without consuming internet data. The concept is described in depth on and also in the excellent online only ad campaign as below

The commercial describes a situation where in  a family, people had different content tastes such as wrestling,  Diya Baati aur Hum, Game of Thrones and Football, and would end up fighting for the remote till the time they got Tata Sky+

The main advantage is that I can now watch my favorite program without being shacked to the room where TV is there, or even the time slot of broadcast. Whether I am in the bathroom or on the move, I can watch the program without spending expensive mobile data which costs Rs 250+/GB. Even if I am getting delayed and will miss the broadcast, I can give a command on the app to record the program and then and transfer it on my mobile devices using the home Wi-Fi.

I expect that this program will cut down my dependence on YouTube or torrents to catch the telecasts which I have missed. Also, it will ensure more domestic harmony at home. Hence, a great idea


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Dabur Honey-the honey diet

Last Sunday, I was shopping with my wife in D-Mart, and we had to buy honey. Her first choice was Dabur Honey, despite its 25% premium to the nearest lesser known brand. On further probing, she said that she had tried several brands, but that this one was the best. I have seen Dabur Honey for quite some time now(its not as famous as Chawanprash, but getting there), but this was the first testimony to the brand I had heard in person. My perception of the market was that honey is a commodity and ‘natural’ is preferred to processed, given the ‘organic’ craze prevalent nowadays. However, this comment got me thinking and I went to the Dabur Honey website . Here, the FAQs helped to burst quite a few myths like the importance of crystals, colour, thickness, processing and so on.
Also, I thought honey is useful for children or for taking a spoon daily to help with weight loss. However, the site also suggests honey as a sugar substitute, and have also given recipes from Vikas Kapoor for this. They seem determined to create a new category itself, and boost the consumption of honey in this country. There have been categories created in India before(like Maggie noodles before the whole issue broke out!), but this is on the lines of Baba Ramdev Ayurveda(using modern techniques of production, SCM, marketing and branding to expand the category).
This campaign has also come around the right time where people cannot hide behind the winter sweaters, and the fat curves would now show! Also, with monsoons around the corner, the appeal of tea and fried snacks might take people away from the gym. Therefore, honey diet sort of things could help to lose weight ‘sitting at home’. Of course, Dabur is quick to caution people not to overdo honey and to combine it with other things via their ‘Stay Fit Stay Young’ campaign.
As a business professional, what do I think of this campaign? Like ITC has demonstrated, it is possible to sustainably grow a category with Indian focused flavours, packaging and pricing. Of course, ITC has a headwind of millions of captive tobacco outlets who need to keep something of ITC food business or risk the wrath of the company(this is more for the distributors who can be replaced at will if they do not push the non tobacco business), but one cannot take away from the company how it has surpassed HUL in just 7  years. Dabur is another example of a homegrown FMCG, albeit more focused on personal care(after Balsara acquisition) and health foods, but which now seems wanting a chunk of the food business. With their patient capital and family stewardship, and now willing to employ the power of new age internet channels to build the category, there seems lot of impending action for honey in the months to come              

Sunday, May 17, 2015

My Airtel App-experience

As an Airtel employee, I had always thought that there was better scope for a great online interface. In the era of ecommerce, the website was a disgrace to the otherwise superb technology interface of Airtel, let alone an app interface. Last month, when Flipkart and Myntra closed their mobile website and shifted to app only versions, I wondered whether Airtel had missed the ‘app’ bus. But thankfully, there have been some great developments recently namely
1)      My Airtel App-for customers
2)      Improved and elegantly designed Airtel site for all
3)      Airtel Genie and Airtel IT app-for employees
I updated the App from Google Play, and then registered my number with an OTP. To my surprise, I noticed an awesome interface with the latest unpaid bill as a reminder on top! That too saved as ‘Anandh Gurgaon Bill’ with awesome options to get coupons. Though not on the same scale as Paytm/Freecharge, it is still trying to drive recharges through own platforms, as also give a better customer experience.
The three features I most like are
1)      Proactive bill reminders on top of the app with the cute ‘ringing bell’ symbol albeit silent one!
2)      Option to apply for a new service and (presumably) get a call back-this is much better than having to call 121 or Google for online form submission.
3)      Options to get coupons through recharge without any service charge/handling charge like done for Freecharge.
Some points of improvement could be
1)      Adding new numbers(prepaid/postpaid/DTH/Fixed line)  could be more intuitive.
2)      Updating registered phone number of other services through the app
3)      There should not be any need to enter the details all over again while re-updating the app. In my case, this seems to have happened.
In this electronic age where customers get freebies from utility and retail companies to transact online, it is not the case with telecom companies which still depend on retailer driven recharges, and channel partner driven acquisitions. Of course, a lot of this is due to the prepaid nature of business and rural/financial inclusion, where telecom companies need to be accessible to all and sundry and this is only possible through multi retailer outlets like retailers. But there is still room for improvement like focusing on own base, employee/customer driven referrals and own channel fulfillment through own retail, ARC etc.  This would albeit lead to channel conflict but there are precedents for this. For example, the financial services sector was heavily dependent on channel partners to source credit cards and loans, but with the wide proliferation of bank branches and ATMs, banks now encourage customers to apply online or at ATMs, to get reduced/waived processing fees. Suppose this works for telecom postpaid/broadband acquisitions, then the impact could be immense.

Of course, the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. Customers need to be comfortable interacting directly with the company and that too online. For this, things like Airtel My App is a great start. Do visit to download the app and see more. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Together we win-musings on life

Life is at times, a rat race and an arms race. Rat race because people see it as a zero sum game and often play the game without knowing why they do it, and arms race because they feel compelled to participate in a race to the bottom just to maintain parity with the other person. This might play havoc with work life balance, contentment and hobbies, making the person unidimensional. After all, it is the rare person who can put in 12hr+ work days consistently, and still have the energy and passion to pursue hobbies and give the necessary time/attention to sustain professional development, or relationships with family  and friends. And this can make them unidimensional, and unsuited to anything else other than what they do at present.

 In my view, people are the most happy when they feel that their results are yielding fruit, and that they are being recognized for this. When this happens, they might be willing to accept compromises in their personal life also. But  the worse part can be putting in umpteen hours but not getting the desired results/outcome. Though the Bhagvad Gita cites Lord Krishna as advising to put the efforts without stressing too much on the outcome which is not in one’s control,that is easier said that done.
Its quite disappointing when efforts do not yield results. In these times, we would do well to remember the Indian Vedanta philosophy and keep working tirelessly. To aid this, some actions that could help snap out of the black mood could be
  1.   Reading inspiring Q&A on Quora or other self improvement sites like Lifehacker
  2.  ·         Working out/physical activity preferably with friends
  3.  ·          Spending time with family and children
  4.  ·         Writing for yourself only-Be it a diary/blog/notebook, do this on a forum where you are not afraid of being judged-this is also therapeutic when you can vent out your feelings and often understand what is causing the issue
  5.  ·         Diversification-Excel in one/more spheres beyond work. This can help financially and emotionally. Maybe you can moonlight elsewhere for extra income, write a best selling novel/code a killer app, or build your sales/creativity/leadership skills at a non profit, to take up a challenge in your present job

The above activities (except reading and writing) are not meant to be solo acts, but need loved ones. From personal experience, I can endorse the power of this. Some months ago, I had to make an important career decision with significant personal ramifications. In true MBA style, I had made the list of pros and cons, but it was leading nowhere. To complicate, there were organization changes happening around me, and it was possible that my plan would lead nowhere. That decision period saw me quite stressed, and with no one to vent it on except closely family and significant other.  With nothing working, I took a trip home and discussed individually. They unanimously advised me to do what was best for my long term objectives, since what was best for me was also best for them. I was touched by this tremendous show of faith in me, and it helped make the decision of moving from Gurgaon to Chennai. What also helped, was not bringing the office laptop, so that I would not be tempted to turn it on and give in more hours to the never ending work wheel. Weeks of spreadsheet analysis paralysis, bowed to 3 days quality time and discussions.That convinced me of the power of personal interactions.

The new rebranding exercise also focusses on the personal touch, especially in the ‘Look Up’ campaign, which is extended in the ‘Together’ positioning. For more, do refer their website below  Their startup story of a few IITians creating the world’s best property intermediary( and this is understatement, not hyperbole) is indeed an example of the power realized by the startup team through being together. But more so, their campaign achieves even more by pushing the optimism wave.

A new start-musings

When I first left home as a kid in 2004 to pursue coaching
at Kota, it was a totally new experience. For two years, I lived away from home
till I returned to Mumbai to pursue studies in commerce. Then, for the next 4
years, I was at home till I cracked the CAT, and then the next 5 years from
2010 till 2015 have seen me live in Ahmedabad, Singapore, Bangalore, Gurgaon
and now Chennai. Having lived out of a suitcase for quite some time, I’ve got
used to shifting locations to achieve my dreams. But these have not been easy
transitions. Having established relationships in/comfort level with each place,
it is difficult to part. Thankfully, social networks like Facebook and
Linkedlin make it easy to keep in touch and even find people.  For instance, Facebook friend finder and
Linkedlin location search help you narrow down on people within your alumni
network/common groups.

Also, even for people without vast social networks, the
internet plays an excellent role. Ecommerce firms have really made this process
much easier. I can use Ola/Meru/Taxiforsure to book safe rides to/from airport,
TruckSumo etc to shift belongings safely, Zomato/TinyOwl to find awesome places
to eat, Olx to sell old belongings/buy new belongings, Pepperfry to order
custom furniture in places where I do not know anybody, UrbanClap for reliable
service provider recommendations, Cleartrip for weekend gateways and so on.
These startups use technology combined with the power of localization, to offer
unique experiences. And of course, who can forget Google Maps for that help to
locate places and get directions in English(albeit weirdly accented), and
preventing you from getting lost. Because of these firms, I have escaped a lot
of horror stories like getting lost/robbed/being starved of good food. It does
make life less interesting when you do not have these horror stories, but in a
good way.
Of all the cities I’ve been, its probably the decision to
move to Chennai, which was the most difficulty and the most impactful. As a ‘fraud
tam’(campus lingo for a Tamil by birth who does not speak fluent tamil) without
roots in Chennai, it was a return to my roots, and a chance to experience what
my forefathers might have. Of course, the IIM-A professional network is much
smaller here, which reduces the chance of serendipitous interactions but which
does make for deeper relationships. Also, Chennai with its slower pace of life,
has changed my outlook to a lot of things. And it is actually easier to live
here than in quite a few other cities. There’ just one bugbear for people which
is finding a nice home. With restrictions basis gender, marital status, caste,
profession etc, finding a house without the notorious broker mafia, is quite difficult.

When I had social networks in place(read metros like
Bangalore, Gurgaon), it was quite easy to find accommodation. But in Chennai,
it was quite difficult. After weeks of looking at forums like Olx, an IIM
batchmate suggested to check
And then I was hooked. The level of details and visualization was startling.
For a stranger to the city, it makes it much easier to contemplate relocation
decisions when you have the pictures of the house, locality ratings, landlord recommendations
and so on. Their ad below gives an idea of the whole thing. 

For those of us needing to make housing decisions, using
technology and websites like would make life much easier. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

When the future seems bright

The NDA won the May-14 general election on the promise of ‘Acche Din Aane Wala Hai’(in English this is a promise of good times to come). Since then, despite the hiccups in between, the stock markets have cheered the pending economic rally. But what this post focusses on, is the positive employment outlook for the Indian digital natives of tomorrow. As a finance business partner at India’s number 1 telco , there are quite a few occasions necessitating travel into rural India. On these occasions, I noticed innovative uses for internet for purposes like educational videos to prepare for exams, getting weather forecasts to plan cropping/harvesting, agricultural prices to decide which mandi to sell from, and even stock trading/ecommerce ventures. The most interesting story however, was how the internet inspired people to think beyond the confines of their rural environment. For example, the rice farmer’s son in Salem who used his understanding of agriculture to try and do futures trading speculation on MCX, the artisans store on Snapdeal who can showcase their wares and fulfill orders seamless ly and end-end with the help of ecommerce fulfilment expertise, the web designer in Coimbatore who used the benefit of the powerful broadband connection at his home to  deliver work to clients securely and remotely, and the Bangalore based startup Zerodha which has made trading much more affordable for retail traders. All these are examples where one can use the power of technology and the internet to improve their economic condition. The Industrial revolution was the golden age of B2B, the IT age was that of B2C and now is the age of C2C. Sites like Ebay, Flipkart and Snapdeal have really democratized commerce and helped smaller traders harness the power of the global market. There were fears that the digital divide would increase  the gap between the rich and poor, and those with access and those without. But now that people have the power to dream and  are not accepting the status quo, it is hoped that the next generation will not join the ranks of the frustrated unemployed which started the Arabian spring/other discontent, but will instead believe in the power of capitalism and turn away from the Naxal/other secessionist movements. Equity and growth are going hand in hand with the social security measures proposed in the union budget and other measures for inclusive growth.
This is also having a trickle-down effect on the real estate sector where the power of technology is being harnessed to equip small agents with the same tools as that available to large companies like Knight and Frank. Housing.Com has an excellent technology interface, for example, which is rated as among the best in the world. In my view, they are at the right place in the right time, to capitalize on the impending surge in disposable income, as also the tendency of Indians to do comparison online. Housing.Com could not have existed and disrupted the real estate market even 5 years back, yet now it is joining the ranks of a Zomato, Flipkart, Ola Cabs and so on. For more, refer their site as below

In conclusion, lets hope that the impending digital boom will transform India’s economy faster.