Thursday, November 29, 2007

Look who's blogging!

When eminent Indian personalities blog about their personal experiences, it is bound to engage a large audience (primarily consisting of the nation's youth) that is waiting to be inspired. Three cheers to those in the list below.

Bloggers from the film fraternity:

Aamir Khan -
The Passion For Cinema (PFC) Gang ( is an attempt to bring together all movie fanatics, cine lovers and those who eat, breathe and drink cinema. The PFC initiative deserves a large round of applause. Several members of the film fraternity maintain their online diaries at PFC. It would be great to see a similar initiative covering other spheres of life.)
Anish Kuruvilla (Executive Producer of Amigos Creations) - Cinema-Man
Anurag Kashyap (Director - Paanch, Black Friday, No Smoking Writer; Writer - Satya, Kaun, Yuva, Water) - My Diary
Ashvin Kumar (The youngest of the six Oscar-nominated directors from India) - Ebb & Flow
Bhavani Iyer (Screenwriter - Black) - My Bell Jar
D Santosh (Actor - Supporting roles in The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Khakee, Dewaar, Iqbal, Traffic Signal) - Reactions
Hansal Mehta (Director - Jayate…, Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar, Chhal) - Oblivion
Manish Tiwary (Filmmaker - Dil Dosti Etc) - Empty Pictures
Navdeep Singh (Filmmaker - Manorama Six Feet Under) - An Idle Brain
Onir (Filmmaker - My Brother Nikhil, Bas Ek Pal) - Dream Seller
Pavan Kaul (Filmmaker - Chor Aur Chaand, Jaadu, Sssshhh...) - Experiences & Experiments of a Film Maker
Prroshant Narayannan (Actor - Waisa Bhi Hota Hai, Chhal) - Badmash Banna
Ramu Ramanathan (Playwright-Director) - Murmurings from Mumbai
Sam Longoria (Filmmaker, Technician & Author who has worked on Hollywood projetcs) - IndyCine
Santosh Sivan (Director - The Terrorist, Asoka; Noted Cinematographer) - Lil Bit of Sin, Lil Bit of Zen
Shashank Ghosh (Filmmaker - Waisa Bhi Hota Hai-2) - Confessional
Shilpa Shukla (One of the Chak De girls) - Reading Between the Lines
Sourabh Usha Narang (Director - Vaastu Shastra) - Mere Paas Maa Hai
Sudhir Mishra (Director - Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Dharavi, Chameli; Assistant Director - Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron) - Trying my best not to Bullshit
Suparn Verma (Director - Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena; Writer - Chhal, Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai, Qayamat, Zameen, Janasheen, Karam, Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena) - For Adults Only

Bloggers from the sports arena:

Karun Chandhok (India's most promising motor sports talent who is currently knocking at the doors of F1) - Karun, Motorsports & More...
Krish Srikkanth - Cricket Zone with Krish Srikkanth Courtesy: Prashanth Ramamurthy

Bloggers from the government/civil services:

Kiran Bedi (1st woman to join the Indian Police Service IPS) - Crane Bedi

Bloggers from the world of business:

Harish Bijoor
(Brand Consultant) - Brand Thinker | India Coffee | Ask Harish Bijoor | Indian Marketing Trends Courtesy: Rajagopal S
Ramanujam Sridhar (CEO, Brand Comm) - Third Umpire on Branding Courtesy: Prashanth Ramamurthy
Sanjeev Bikchandani (Founder & CEO, Naukri) - Wisdom in Hindsight

If you are aware of other famous personalities who maintain a blog, please do post a comment. I shall update the list from time to time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What should brand advertisers and agency professionals be doing on the Internet?

I recently read an article on WATBlog talking about branded "microsites" being a growing trend amongst companies and media agencies in India. Examples of these are Sunsilk Gang of Girls, Mentos Helpline, Pond's iBlushed, Cadbury's Meetha Moments, Kwality Walls' Spill Ur Dil, HSBC's Your Solutions and Gillette Winners. The article further goes on to term this as the "perfect technique to create a quick connect with the users," claiming that "Microsites encourage conversations with the brand" and "It is All About Conversations & Not Clicks." While I'd love to trash this article for its vagueness and lack of logic, it throws up an interesting subject:

What should brand advertisers and agency professionals be doing on the Internet?

While there isn't any time-proven formula for advertisers to adopt, there is some fantastic advice in the following white paper written by guys at Jackson Fish. (Jackson Fish is the name of a company and not an individual.)

Here's, an excerpt from the white paper that explains why the current crop of promotional sites is far from the "perfect technique":

Some advertisers are realizing that there are more possibilities for engagement when the message goes beyond the rectangle offered by most ad networks. To that end, these marketers often end up creating their own entire sites. Unlike the “official product website” these sites are more interactive, less-focused on educating and more focused on engaging the audience. While a step in the right direction, these sites often have one or both of the following characteristics that come with their own drawbacks:

1. They are dependent on produced content. Producing high quality content is expensive. And even if you can get away with cheaper content, it often gets stale quickly. The production costs, which can be high, become excessive when they turn into recurring costs.

2. When they try to go beyond passive enjoyment of content and engage the user to extend their time with the site, the interactivity can often be relatively shallow taking the form of things like simple flash games and the like.

How true! I really don't see consumers making repeated visits to any of the promotional sites that are mentioned above. And these drawbacks explain why.

So then, what should brand advertisers and agency professionals be doing on the Internet?

Jackson Fish builds a case for what they call Branded Software Experiences - an innovative concept which is beautifully explained in the white paper. I wouldn't want to spoon feed the readers on this blog by copy-pasting content from the paper. This white paper is worth the cumbersome tasks of downloading, saving, printing and reading. It is the most sensible answer you could read to the question above.

Jackson Fish have even created a Branded Software Experience Index that lists all the branded interactive and online experiences on the web along with their thoughts on it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

If Drucker was alive, he'd have blogged...

Peter Drucker (1909-2005) - the leading founder of the field of management and the most influential management thinker in the second half of the 20th century was also a prolific writer with his body of work spread over 39 books. Reading a small part of his body of work has, by far, been a more productive exercise than the 2 years I spent at a well-renowned b-school.

For those who wish to make a start, I recommend 'The Daily Drucker' - a book that comes very close to being a blog. In the book, Drucker has assembled his most powerful ideas in the form of 366 readings, one for each day of the calendar year. Culled from his lifetime of writings, each writing comprises of an insight, detailed in 200-500 words, accompanied with a call to action, and space at the bottom of the page for the readers to scribble their comments. And as Drucker himself writes about the book,

"The most important part of this book is the blank spaces at the bottom of its pages. They are what the readers will contribute: their actions, decisions, and the results of these decisions. For this is an action book."

As I read and re-read The Daily Drucker, I am convinced that if Drucker was alive, he'd have had a blog by the same name. Each day, the RSS feed would have populated our Feed Readers with one insight from the great man. Also, just like he urges his readers to use the white space below each reading, visitors to his blog would have been urged to contribute with their comments.

HT Media's multi-million dollar mistake - The DesiMartini Acquisition

DesiMartini, an Indian Facebook clone, was recently acquired by HT Media. The deal was made by HT Media through their online subsidiary Firefly eVentures. The Press Release said that the deal was valued less than USD 10 million. Obviously, the numbers were aimed at adding newziness to the deal. Even if the actual deal went through at USD 1 million, the news is more difficult to digest than the supposed USD 15 billion valuation for Facebook.

The guys at DesiMartini seem to have struck a windfall of fortune. Here's a site that never took off. Rather, a site that had and has no reason to take off. I mean why would anyone want to use DesiMartini? I am still searching for one justifiable excuse. Agreed, it is supposed to be completely Desi, But what value does a desi social network give me over an Orkut or a Facebook - sites which despite being non-desi have already seen Internet users in India flocking to them. Also, while Orkut/Facebook are defining the social networking experience, DesiMartini is still struggling to create a poor clone. There is absolutely nothing to it that would make anyone want to use it. In fact, DesiMartini does not even have any presence in the minds of the Indian consumer. But HT still seems to have found a reason to acquire the site.

I can only draw two possible explanations for this deal:

  1. The DesiMartini founder, Vivek Pahwa, is the world's greatest salesman.
  2. The guy calling the shots at HT Media loved the name. (I agree it sounds nice. And I am inclined to believe this.)
On a more serious note, the guys at HT don't seem to have an understanding of the Internet space. They were destined to make a mistake right from the time they started scouting for a social networking acquisition. Hopefully, for the huge price that has been paid, HT Media would do well to learn a lesson.

I'd surely be looking forward to their next online venture i.e. an entry into the online verticals classified space.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Simpsonize Yourself

Well, this one's a bit old but those of you who want to see a Simpsonized version of yourself can upload their pictures on Simpsonize Me. The site is a promotional initiative by Burger King and was launched a couple of months ago.

Here's what I got for myself:



Try making one for yourself.

Hey, a Carputer!

Here’s something which gizmo freaks must check out. My friend, Abhinav a.k.a. Twinky a.k.a. Gadget Guru installed a mini-computer in his Corsa a few months back - it has a 40 GB hard disk, and works as a GPS (Yup, with digital maps of Chennai), Music Player, Movie Player and it’s armed with a touch-screen monitor. The dude installed the device all by himself. Here are the pictures of the ‘Carputer’ as Abhinav has named it.

For those of you in India, who want to install a GPS Navigation System in your car, it may be worth checking out the Navigator. It's brought to you by in conjunction with Delphi.

Note: Total setup cost was approx. Rs. 30,000.

Why FREE can’t always compete against PAID?

I work with an Internet group whose flagship business happens to be an online matrimony portal. A member must pay a minimum of Rs. 1590 to use the portal. This gives them access to contact other members registered on the portal i.e. other members looking to get married.

One question that I've to put up with on several occasions is – What if someone else starts a similar portal and provides the same service absolutely free. Wouldn’t this undermine your company’s business – why would customers pay you?

Here’s why:

  1. We are in the matrimony business. People who intend to get married do not mind paying a sum of Rs. 1590 if it is going to help them find a life partner.
  2. Also, a paid membership also means that they are serious customers. Otherwise, an Orkut/Facebook would have put us out of business.
  3. Most importantly, customers are paying us because we have a huge user base of other customers who want to get married. And we have spent and shall continue to spend a huge sum of money to get these customers. A new portal would have to spend this huge sum to get these customers – and if they offer their service for free, what business sense would it make for them?

Anjappar – Chennai’s 1st Wi-Fi enabled Restaurant

For those of you who are not from Chennai, Anjappar is a chain of extremely popular restaurants that serves some great Chettinadu food. Go to any Anjappar outlet, and it is always packed despite having a reasonably large seating capacity – approx 100.

One of their outlets has recently gone Wi-Fi. Waiters take the order on an iPAQ. The order along with the table number is wirelessly transmitted to a printer in the kitchen. The printer functions similar to the machine used to process credit card payments – with two copies of each order getting printed. While one is retained in the kitchen, the other is given to the cashier to prepare the final bill/check. This initiative has significantly cut down the time spent by customers in waiting for their food. On one occasion, some food items were served even before we finished placing the entire order. Consequently, Anjappar is now able to turn around tables more quickly and is able to serve more customers.

A nice example of how technology can be used to better customer service and increase one’s business. – Great campaign but an equally bad concept

What was MSN thinking when they launched To get back customers from Gmail to Hotmail by offering them a cool (freakish) e-mail address? Well, they’ve got great creatives, both online (banners/mailers/viral) and offline, to support them. They even seem to have spent a bomb to reach out to the audience with a high frequency. And they may see a whole lot of people registering for their service. However, most of these members would comprise of school and college kids. And I don’t even see any of them continuing to use the service for more than a couple of months. I can't think of anyone who would like to express their wannabe-ness as explicitly as with an ID that reads or The service reminds me of models doing the catwalk, looking pretty in fancy-looking clothes, but with clothes that can never be worn off the ramp.

What MSN (and even Yahoo!) need, to win back their dominance on the e-mail landscape, is a complete change in product – one that can match and then further the e-mail experience that Gmail provides. Till then, the churn will continue.

Note: I know some of you would quote figures which say that Hotmail & Yahoo Mail still have a larger user base than Gmail. And these figures may be true. But MSN and Yahoo would be fooling themselves if they can’t see the writing on the wall – Gmail is kicking butt!

Hello world!

Hi! I am an Internet professional. I eat, breathe and live Internet. The medium fascinates me much like a filmmaker is fascinated by his art. While I have always wanted to blog about my take on the Indian Internet space, my desire has been outweighed by several GBs of inertia.

At a recent event at IIM Kozhikode, a student asked me – "Do you blog?" And so I promised myself to start one. So here I am, a couple of days later, writing my first blog post. This blog shall primarily deal with the goings-on of the Indian Internet industry though I do tend to philander. In any case, I'd refrain from any BS here as I value your Internet time.

And before you go elsewhere, here's a video worth watching a 1000 times.

Update (Nov 20, 2007): In one of the comments, Blaisy has provided a video that you must watch as a follow-up to the one above. Posting the same here.

Update (Nov 22, 2007): Oops! YouTube happens to have taken off the video. Guys, you've missed out on cuploads of joy.

Update (Nov 26, 2007): YouTube video posted from an alternate source. Thanks Asher.