Monday, May 31, 2010

An ode to Innocence

In-no-sense is this article an attempt to ridicule or belittle any of the individuals involved in any of the incidents. For good measure I have not revealed either the names or the places in which these events occurred. It is more to just smile and enjoy the incidents in themselves.
Long time ago when an entire office had just two computers and having a lap top was a bigger perk than the corner cabin is when this particular incident occurred. The gentleman in question was a senior vice president in a marketing services company and had just been given a spanking new lap top two days prior. As expected it was the envy of mere mortals and the pride of the owner. Only issue was that in those days senior managers used to have secretaries adept at short hand and the norm was to dictate all communication to them. The juniors in office decided to pull a fast one on the senior vice president and told him that since laptops are mobile in nature they don’t have storage capacity and hence any communication which comes on it, if not acknowledged immediately moves on to cyber space in a southerly direction. Incidentally our protagonist was aiming to close a big deal with an American company at that very same time. He was expecting their revert on that very same night. So as matters unfolded he instructed his secretary as follows …” Shiela…you and I will have to stay in office tonight and lets take turns at sleeping. I am expecting a mail from the client in US and if we don’t answer it immediately, it will go to Sri Lanka”. You can well imagine the office next day.

Around the same time, the person who heads a leading luxury brand in the country had just given his board exams and was awaiting his results. The much awaited day dawned and with it came the information that CBSE had become tech savvy and had set up a call centre where one could call in to get one’s results. Our protagonist hailed from a small town where telephony was still not very prevalent and one had to go to the post office to make STD calls since the help line number was a Delhi number. Young legs carried our man like the wind to the post office. With trembling hands he called the number to hear an upset female voice saying “ Is route mein sabhi line wyast hain. Kripaya kuch der baad dial kare”. He tried again and the lady sounded even more upset this time. Disappointed our protagonist was about to go back home when the clerk at the post office said “ Beta chinta mat karo…woh aurat aise hi bolte rahti hai”. Our man however was convinced that his results were bad and that is why the lady was upset and hence went home literally in tears and told his siblings “ Aunty bahut gusse mein thi. Mera number bura hoga”.

A budding entrepreneur currently, our next protagonist had just joined one of the leading management schools in early 90’s. Being one of the few women in her batch was tough enough but add to that the fact that she was staying out of home for the first time made it doubly worse. Her father had given her the number of a local relative in case of any emergencies etc. One day our protagonist went to the phone booth at campus and called the number, but the call did not go thru. A couple of days later she tried again but to no avail. When this happened a third and a fourth time she got very worried. Another week went by and yet another attempt yielded the same result. This time however she was with another girl from her batch who immediately saw that our protagonist was upset. On enquiring the whole sad saga came out in a gush. Perplexed the friend said lets try again. They went into the booth again and the friend started dialling. Imagine the sheer astonishment on our protagonists face when the number connected. Hugs and kisses later the secret revealed itself. You have to dial 0 first to get an outside line and then dial the number.

All three have gone on to become very successful professionals and I wish them all the best in future. If only our children were to have a fraction of this innocence.

Written by : Sujay Misra

Eco hazards of cellphones

In India today, one of the fastest growth categories of durables is cell phones. New age icons for connectivity, cell-phones are fast replacing landlines as basic communication device. But apart from being a basic communication device, cell phone is also an entertainment source, a mass media device, a fashion accessory, all rolled into one. The resultant boom in the cell phone market in India has made India the fastest growing cell phone market in the world.

In the euphoria of the boom, nobody has paused to consider the eco hazards of cell phones. We are creating a Frankenstein who is likely to gobble us up, if not controlled and in time. Enough has been written about the hazards of EMR emitted by cell phones. These radiations emitted by cell phone and phone towers are exactly on the same frequency as microwaves. Continuous exposure to these radiations can lead to several health hazards related to reproductive system, central nervous system or even cancer. A recent survey done in Delhi by a leading media house, shows that most of the schools and hospitals in the capital are radiation unsafe zones. Even the major venues for CWGs are radiation unsafe. (Read for details :-'Delhiites+living+under+cellphone+radiation+threat'.html)

The Delhi government has reacted and said that it will take control of the situation by pulling down illegal phone towers. That will be a very temporary impact solution. Radiations for the phones in Delhi will focus on the balance towers. And gradually the towers pulled down by the government will come back. Actually, like most other eco problems, this cannot be solved by the government alone. Unless an average phone user realizes the problem and rations cell phone usage as much as possible, EMRs cannot be controlled.

Then there is the less spoken of hazard of discarding cell phones. With lifecycle of cell phones coming down to 6 months or so, even considering second hand sale / resale of handsets, we are generating lots of handset garbage which is discarded away. Cell-phones contain elements like cadmium, lead, lithium, arsenic, mercury and beryllium, which are a potential threat to the eco system if not discarded properly. Lots of cell phones are discarded by just throwing away, wherein these hazardous elements in the cell phones come into direct contact with earth’s eco system. Some of their elements become toxic over time or when they are in contact with water over long time. The immediate impact is contamination of the earth and any water source that may come in contact with the cell phone waste.

Proper disposal of cell phones is an easy way to ensure that that is eco hazard is avoided. Proper disposal would just mean that the discarded cell phones are broken down and re-cycled as much as possible. Whatever elements cannot be re-cycled should then be discarded in a way that they do not get in contact with eco system. Handset manufacturers who are raking in the moolah because of the cell phone boom, owe it to the humanity to focus on the eco hazards of cell phones.

Written by Shubhra Misra

Monday, May 24, 2010

The fallacy of hard work

The English Teacher at school once told me when there is darkness around you, don’t curse the darkness. Light a candle and you will illuminate the room for every one around you”. I at that time thought that it was the ultimate altruism little realising that hidden behind those words was a bigger truth – when you light the candle, every one in the room realises that you were the one to light the candle.

I did not realise the bigger truth till I entered the rat race in the true sense of the word. In all my youthful exuberance and innocence I had believed that illuminating the world around me was the mantra to success and happiness.

Then the first year appraisals happened when I thought that I had done an exemplary job at both what was expected of a young executive and also in contributing to the overall performance of my company. Imagine the rude shock when there was about a 50 percentile difference between my self assessment and that of my appraiser. I learnt that I had not fulfilled my KRA’s, that my Soft Target achievement was abysmal, I was seriously lacking in professionalism, I lacked in Client focus and result orientation, my team orientation was poor and to top it all I had performed poorly in my corporate citizenship role.

You can imagine what a traumatic experience it must have been for me. I neither understood what I had done wrong nor what was expected of me. As a true blue Arien I quit my job immediately and told my appraiser to continue living in darkness as I believed I had the power to illuminate thanks to my English teacher.

I joined the top competitor of my erstwhile company with a silent oath to myself that I will make the erring appraiser eat humble pie. I can even remember the pride with which I had told the gentleman who had interviewed me in the competitor company that my sole objective in life was to contribute meaningfully in bringing my erstwhile company to its senses. What I really meant was that I as the new Sachin Tendulkar of this company will single handedly defeat the opposing company with 16 overs to spare in a 20-20 game, After all I was the ILLUMINATOR.

A complete year of hard work, sweat and toil later I was again faced with the now familiar appraisal day. Confident me walked into face the appraiser to have my worst nightmare replayed. KRA, Soft Targets, Professionalism, Client Focus, Result Orientation, etc etc.

Options were either to quit and go to competitor number 3 or to understand what this corporate jargon meant. I chose the later and given below is the distillate of my understanding of the above arrived upon by being on both sides of the table across two decades.

KRA – Read Key Responsibility Area – Decoded as anything and every thing which anybody else in the system connected however remotely to you fails to deliver on his or her responsibility.( Interestingly as I have grown older I have realised that this is the difference between great organisations and mediocre ones and hence is a great concept). Marx had explained it as collective responsibility but somehow KRA sounds almost like an accusation.

Soft Target – In case you achieve all targets given to you and still the management decides to shaft you, the night before the appraisal they hold a meeting to decide how to. Whatever is the chosen route falls under the broad head of soft targets. It can range from number of new clients met to how many client birthdays you remembered…..or much further..

Professionalism – How close was your dressing, demeanour, mannerisms were to your boss. If you are not a clone then you will lose out.

Client Focus – As long as the boss man does not get a client call you are client focussed. If he gets it does not matter beyond that.

Result Orientation – Did the payment come on time? If so yes and if not NO.

Corporate Citizenship – Am still working at figuring this one out.

Till then let every one else know that you lit the candle.

Written by : Sujay Misra

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A discussion on Chinese economy on AZ Research FB

Sujay Misra : India has totally 105000 hotel rooms while Shanghai alone has 135000. Are we competing with China or Shanghai?
Anubhav Rawat : We are competing with Shanghai, as all politicians & corporations across India only mention that by 20XX We will be like Shanghai.We are competing with Shanghai, as all politicians & corporations across India only mention that by 20XX We will be like Shanghai.
AZ Research : We are not competing with China or Shanghai. We are only competing against ourselves. Keep in perspective that China is a state controlled economy and to sustain their growth the state can put in monies whereever they feel like. There are more than few ecoomists who believe that Chinese economy is a huge bubble with artificial Investment to Consumption ratios etc. There are no such concerns on Indian economy. Indian economy is for real. And hence more real and more robust.
Osty Lab : On a 400m race China is at the last 100m while we just started..but its good to aspire..we would tk an awful lot of time to catch up..democracy has its drawbacks too !
Beyond all this glitz n glamor of 'emerging powers', the growth is far from inclusive or distributed..this is ammunition enough for social unrest, if not already !
Sujay Misra : My worry is whether we will ever go past the 200 meter mark
Osty Lab : Democracy is like god's grinds surely..but SLOWLY !!!
AZ Research : Democracy has brought about the current developed world and also most of developing world. Lack of democracy brought about erstwhile USSR, North Korea, East Germany, Iran, Iraq etc ... In an economy like China, you can't even be sure of what constitutes GDP - when goods roll out of factories, they are counted as part of GDP, much before they even reach the tertiary sales point. there is enough speculated on how wasteful is infrastructure spends in China, done to just keep the economy pumped up. Don't forget that USSR was also perceived to be a developed country b4 the great collapse ! Till the bubble bursts !
Sujay Misra : Assumption being that China has not learnt from USSR :)
Anubhav Rawat : What will be the impact on the gobal economy if the china bubble bursts, will there be a rise in cost of goods (electronic) or fall?
Sujay Misra : If China collapses while cost of goods across the world will go up but overall it will have a posistive impact on India foremost and world economy as a whole because number of jobs etc will go up. This in turn will spur the failing european union and bring back the old world order of super powers. But China wont collapse.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Providing confidence regarding marketing research

How often one hears from new marketing research clients on how could they trust that the research presented would be genuine? How often one one sees clients wonder what level of confidence could they have on the data presented and what is the support for that?

Valid questions !
Given that they are not only going to spend significant monies on research but much more because they are going to take significant decisions on the basis of data presented. All market research providers must deal with these nagging doubts at some time or other. Actually, the real problem facing marketing research personnel is not just to provide the required confidence to clients but more than that to have systemic processes to ensure that the confidence is well grounded!

In this blog, I am writing about my experience on how to ensure confidence in data collected by the fieldforce on marketing research projects.

To exploit every possible window of making some easy money is quite a human trait. Therefore, I believe that one should start with the premise that there are possibilities that your fieldforce across job profiles is looking for these opportunities and will use these incase there are no checks and balances. Therefore, the key to having genuine data lies in enforcing checks and balances in the system. Nothing new in this. Industry had this figured ages back and hence instituted systems of back checks by supervisors and field executives etc. However, the problem with these systems is that the entity responsible for delivering the fieldwork and the entity responsible for auditing the fieldwork is pretty much the same. Therefore, we instituted a system of audits by a seperate team, which has neither field personnel nor research personnel in it. This works wonderfully in curbing fake reporting. The mere thought that the work could be audited by an independent team, brings in fear of unknown and curbs the human tendency to make an easy buck.

Audit as an independent practice is still not a very developed function in the context of marketing research. This could be formalized as a completely external function to be done by traditional audit firms or bodies like MRSI. Having external audits and audit certification for agencies could go a very long in curbing doubts of clients and potential clients of marketing research.

Written by Shubhra Misra

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Launching AZ Research Partners

IMRS Advisory Pvt. Ltd., India’s fastest growing marketing research company, ties up with BMI Research of Southeast Asia a leading market research and consultancy company, to simultaneously launch services across countries like India, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nepal , Bangladesh, Singapore and Hongkong. BMI have traditionally had a strong presence across SE Asia while IMRS has been the fastest growing market research agency in India over the last 10 years. With the launch of AZ Research we strengthen our commitment towards the Southeast Asian market by offering a wider range of services.

AZ Research has been founded by industry veterans with a mission to go beyond traditional research and provide complete solution to marketing information needs of companies. We also organize brand workshops with all stake holders to analyse the current brand identity and strategise to create the desired identity with stretch limits for brands.

As a completely new activity AZ Research will now also provide to their clients a unique service of conceptualizing and designing of Brand identity elements. Continuous feedback from the new online consumer panel would give the company a cutting edge to raise early warning signals for clients in case there is any brand identity crisis brewing in the market place.

We are also launching research using social networking in a formal manner for the first time in India. Follow us on face book -