Call it a bad habit – or a routine I am stuck with. I have to start my day with one interesting read – it can be from anywhere – McK quarterly, HBR, The Atlantic, NPR, NYT, Economist, Read Write Web, Knowledge @W  – anywhere – but it has to be a fairly detailed read – a case study or a commentary. As long as it is not a news item. So a lot of qualifiers go in there – it is like a recipe to a good day. And the only thing that can substitute this need/routine is a good conversation, an engaging meeting or a solution design issue resolution. 

And when none of these needs are met . I know it is one of those days – when I will need a lot of coffee.
Happy Thursday !

Immaturity to Maturity

It is a sense of moving forward. You know how when you are in college, you are very much just living the present. Enjoying the present. And then that gets over and you want to spend as much as you can, gather all those materialistic things which you eyed other people enjoying and wished .. oh when will I get to spend on this stuff. And so you join a band wagon of people who are collecting these items. You set up a house, a living style, you add stuff to it, you culture hobbies, you spend on those hobbies and then you get bored of those hobbies and so you pick a new one and spend on it.. and cycle continues. You are in prime of your youth, spending, living, loving and maximizing on life.
In midst of all this you choose this someone whom you think you can live a life time with. Well lets no go that far. You love this someone, you want to spend time with him/her. You dream together, work on a relationship and make it grow and it is all happening in parallel with the other fast tracks of life. You will never get to live this phase again – so you make the most of it and you love being a part of it. But somewhere at the back of your mind you know life is not JUST this. There is more to it. You start reading philosophy and history and stories of how mind works. You toy with the idea of existentialism, realism, Ayn Rand makes most sense to you. You read NYT Op -Eds like the Bible, you blog, and you hold intelligent discussions with your peers and you see how some of them are at par with your level and some are still struggling to find a reason to BE. You start noticing how people think and you judge people based on that. It is all happening in parallel with all the happiness life is showering on you – and then you realize – this has to slow down. This has to slow down NOW. If it does not slow down now , I will burn in this heat. And then you wait , take a break, roll in life – just like you roll in bed sometimes just before waking up. The sun is shining bright and it is hurting your eyes but you hide from it, use a pillow to obstruct it – It is the same feeling – Reality is on your face and you try to hide from it and you want to delay it – but it ain’t happening buddy. The time has come and the time is NOW. To make the move from Immaturity to Maturity.

TV Commercials for the American Consumer

I have often thought about this topic, but never got down to writing about it, perhaps this write up will help me clarify my thoughts.
It all started with the famous Nerolac Paints Ad  that played on TV in those days. Those days were not as far back as I am making them sound, it was the late 1980s. I used to look forward to watching the ads, as much as the content that used them as fillers.
Strong and appealing TV commercials were essential for any brand to click with the Indian consumer. So advertising agencies tried really hard to get the message across. The brands that went with some of the top notch advertising agencies scored high and won the consumers loyalty – Proctor and Gamble, Asian Paints, Nestle, to name a few. The ones who did not do a fair job, faded away over time.
When I got a cable connection last summer, I realized that the quality of commercials on national US television as compared to India was very disappointing.  And since american consumers were the most important in the world, I assumed that brands had to really play their cards well in the US market, to click with the consumers. Well — I was proved wrong. The only sensible ads one comes across in US are from car manufacturers (Asian manufacturers only) and beer companies (again mostly international brands – with Coors being an exception.)
Commercials in India left a mark in my mind. For e.g. the Jalebi ad from Dhara, a cooking oil manufacturer, or the cute kids in Rasna commercial from the early 80’s. I still think of those brands, and the emotions those ads evoked in me, though I don’t consume those brands any more. I relate to those brands at a totally different level. Rasna reminds me of childhood, Dhara of home made delicacies. That is the responsibility of an advertising agency – create commercials that help a customer emote and connect with the brand, isn’t it?
Advertising in United States seems immature to me. Macy’s broadcasts a banner ad for 20 seconds every Friday– the content is the same – “Door buster 20% off.” They just change the date and keep broadcasting it week after week. Then there are the ads for room fresheners – Glade and others – silly ads that suggest that a fragrance can make you feel like you are sitting in a spa. Is that really what you want when you come home from work – a fragrance that reminds you of a spa? May be its just me but these ads just don’t make an impression on me. And I am often left confused – as to what did this 15 second commercial try to sell to me? Also there is a big difference in ad qualities on regional channels as compared to national channels like ABC,FOX etc.

This disappointment is so deep that my idea of advertising has been transformed – I now feel that companies that are not making money are resorting to TV commercials. As an example, Southwest Airline advertised on national television last night and my first reaction was – “hmmm why do they need ads, people love them anyways.” Watched it a little longer and got bored of its informational content. Even Southwest, which is such a favorite with the consumers, couldn’t care less about its TV commercial?
The only analysis I can draw from this is – US consumers don’t (rather cannot) depend on TV commercials for making their buying decisions. What then is their buying decision influenced by? Also one cannot ignore the cultural impact on advertising – Asian consumer is still different than an American consumer – more on that in another post.
To give credit where it is due, some of the Gap, Kaiser Permanente, Walmart and Target commercials did click with me. But they are like a drop in the ocean.
To read more about the same topic in the Chinese context, click here.. http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/06/pick_your_channels–and_fights.html

IT vs Business – a strained marriage

A strained marriage – is how I characterize the relationship between Business and IT. In my job, I bridge the gap between these two main entities of any organization. I am also the one responsible for identifying the elephant in the room. So in the last few years, I have come to closely observe these two entities in detail and reflect upon them.
Now, I am not well versed with the issues of marriages, but as I have heard the wise speak – it is always about managing expectations. If you can find a common ground, where the two can co-exist in harmony, you have reached a point, from where on it is just daily maintenance. Unfortunately not many companies are successful in achieving this state of coherence and harmony. And honestly, not many even try.
In this relationship, I see Business as the bride. Always wanting more, never satisfied with the present, a little unreasonable in its demands, always acting in urgency, prone to panic, prone to being upset, discontent and often going to the extreme of refusing to vocalize their needs, just because they did not get any attention the last time around.
IT is the groom. Always sure that it is Business’s fault. Always trying to be practical, and often being penny-wise-pound-foolish. They are stubborn, often sarcastic about Business’s lack of technical knowledge. They sometimes succumb to Business’s needs and keep counting on the one time they did give Business what it wanted.
Not to be judgmental, but in general, these definitions pretty much fit every IT and every Business. Some organizations hire consultants to help with the translation and some invest in full time employees. Either ways, there is a need for a mediator – just like a strained marriage needs a shrink – for the two people to translate their needs and expectations.
Interesting how we can equate complex business issues to simple matters of life.