Friday, December 5, 2008


The world’s richest are setting new benchmarks of ‘giving’. It not only makes them a good samaritan but also adds to their bottomlines at the same time. Meet philanthrocapitalists...

On a trip to France, millionaire Jervis Pendelton sees an 18- year-old school girl in an orphanage. He is mesmerised by her, and decides to sponsor her college education in England. However, there are two conditions attached to it. First, Jerusha (the girl) should never be told who her benefactor is and second, she must write him a letter every month, to which she should not expect any reply. Jerusha catches a glimpse of the shadow of Pendelton and jokingly calls him “Daddy Long-legs.” After three years, he goes to visit her at a dance, not telling her who he is. They fall in love; but she is confused and knows not what to do. She turns to her only friend “Daddy Long Legs” for help and writes to him about her problem. As expected, after all twists and turns, she finally marries him and they live happily ever after. Pendelton was the secret benefactor of the very popular 1912 book (and movie too) “Daddy Long-Legs” by an American writer Jean Webstar. But in real life too, there are a whole lot of anonymous donors who have been trying to change society and our world.

He is about 76 years old, wears a $15 watch, a pair of $9 spectacles and dresses very simply (almost shabbily). There’s nothing extraordinary about this man, except that he lavishes hundreds of millions of dollars on universities, hospitals and the likes, but won’t allow even a small plaque identifying him as a donor. A lot of you reading this piece might have sometime or the other dropped into a Duty Free store at airports for some last minute shopping before catching a flight home. The man I am talking about is the one who started DFS (Duty Free Shoppers), and made pots of money. Well, that may not be noteworthy, as a lot of people have made a lot of money with ingenious ideas. However, what’s awe-inspiring about this man is the fact that he gave it all away without letting anyone know about it. Chuck Feeney set up a foundation, and even declined to name it after him, and gave all his earnings to it. He called it “The Atlantic Philanthropies” and registered it in Bermuda just so that he could avoid US disclosure laws. The book titled The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune tells about this man’s vision, mission and his greatness. Recently he instructed his board to pay out every penny of his foundation by 2016 so that when he dies, he knows that every penny he ever earned had been put to good use.

The new face of giving

Chuck Feeney donated secretly, but today a whole lot of rich and powerful people are realising the power of giving. Capitalism is metamorphing into a new form. It’s now hip to be a philanthrocapitalist. If capitalism meant only the fittest could survive, then philanthrocapitalism makes the system work even in favour of the weak and less advantaged.

From the richest man in the world, to the second richest, everybody is giving. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Skoll, Bill Clinton are doing their bit to change the world and make it a happy place. Today, it’s not good enough to just be a successful entrepreneur, you need to become a socially conscious entrepreneur too, to be called completely successful. ‘Giving’ is not a new phenomena in the business world. In 1889 Andrew Carnegie wrote: “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.” Not surprising then, that the world’s two richest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have formed one of the biggest philanthropic foundations globally. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is worth 40 times the annual budget of the World Health Organisation. It is so powerful and huge that The Economist dubbed this phenomena as “Billanthrophy”. The man has changed the world’s perception and attitude towards giving. Warren Buffett had always been a wise and careful investor and now after joining hands with Bill Gates he has shown how to use business principles while doing philanthropy too! He says joining hands with Gates saved him the trouble of making sure his money was being used productively – Gates would ensure that for him. Buffett has handed out the task of managing his funds to managers. He has truly managed to turn philanthropy into a value investment.

The business of giving

“Giving” is actually a good business strategy. When you give people the power to earn their livelihood you actually increase the market size. After all only when they earn do they buy and slowly the whole market size grows. Everytime you give, you contribute toward creating new markets and increasing existing ones. According to Buffett, if you contribute toward (say) increasing life expectancies, it means you give people more time to increase their wealth and consume more! It’s finally simple common sense. Every businessman wants to increase his market share and this is one way of doing it. Slow yes, but sure!

Not just individuals, nations too need to give. In March 1997 a joint poll by The Washington Post, Harvard University and Kaiser Family Foundation asked Americans which area did they think the government spent the highest in – medicare, military or social security? The response was most surprising. Over 64% believed that it was “foreign-aid.” They thought 20% of the budget went toward foreign-aid and America was the most generous nation. The truth is far more shocking. The United States contributes a meager 0.16% of its Gross National Income and ranks second-to-last in giving (Italy being last). No wonder someone correctly labeled them as the world’s-most-generous-misers. When you have the ability to give maximum, you should use it, for that gives you the ability to truly make a difference in today’s world. For many rich entrepreneurs (and even others), retirement has now taken a new meaning. While working, they changed the business world and after retirement, they are changing the world as a whole. Bono, the singer with his “RED” campaign, Bill Gates with his “Creative Capitalism” are all doing their bit. George Kaiser’s family fled from the Nazis in Germany and today his foundation helps fight child poverty and serves as a benefactor to over 5,000 Jewish people. Michael Dell started with $1,000 at age 19, created a $20 billion empire by 40 and gave away more than $1.2 billion toward education and child development. J. K. Rowling has a yearly budget of £5.1 million to help children and single parent families. Oprah Winfrey gives $50 million to educate women and families; Paul Newman, the Hollywood actor with the most beautiful blue eyes has donated over $90 million to charity. Yes people are giving, but each of us should give, for in simple business terms too, it’s worth it and the old adage does ring true – when you give you receive satisfaction, recognition, reputation, goodwill and above all, in the long run, a bigger market!

Give by choice or get by chance or snatch!

Sometime life does try to strike a balance. It creates a millionaire by chance. The ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ who through sheer luck becomes one (by wining the show Kaun Banega Crorepati) – Yes, this is the story of a movie about to be released for the general audience. And going by reviews it seems to have plucked at the heartstrings of many with its story of a young boy Jamal, living in the slums of Mumbai, who goes on to win the show and is about to become a crorepati. But then, he’s suddenly suspected of cheating. What happens next? Well, you need to watch the film for that. But going by the response, the world sure loves a slumdog millionaire story, in the same way possibly that they love the Robinhood story, who steals from the rich & gives to the poor. Whether he is for real or just a legend; whether someone will actually become a millionaire on TV or not, we don’t know. But yes, if you don’t give enough, a Robin Hood comes along or someone receives by chance. And when you give by choice you do more good. Like this professional blackjack player in Las Vegas who in August this year made an offer to help a family in financial need by using his gambling skills to win a fortune in a casino. You could register at and hope you are selected or you could wait for someone like Larry Stewart, the millionaire who used to roam the streets in December giving money to people who needed and was often referred to as the Secret Santa Clause. Christmas is round the corner and it’s a season of giving. So give like all these people. Give for hope, for humanity and let our children believe that Santa Clause is really for real!

Friday, November 21, 2008


If you thought the fashion world was just about ramp shows, anorexic models and tell-all movies, you’re obviously a jurassic-era relic; fashion rocks for business like nobody’s business!!!

‘The Devil Wears Prada’ was a delightful novel and an interesting film to watch too. It was the story of a young woman, a naive graduate who is hired to work as the second assistant to the powerful editor of a fashion magazine called Runway. The editor, Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep), is ruthless, merciless and tough-as-nails. The young girl, Andrea Sachs (played by Ann Hathaway), does what it takes to please her boss. She changes her lifestyle, dressing style, loses weight, changes her attitude, her behaviour... everything! Till, in the end, she realises that life is made up of choices and she can choose a different life too. It’s widely reported that the book (and later the movie) was a thinly veiled true life story of Anna Wintour, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue and was written by her former personal assistant at Vogue, Lauren Weisberger. This is not the first time that a character in a movie is based on her. In Ugly Betty and Prêt-à-Porter (a 1994 film), there were characters based on her. Some even claim that Johnny Depp’s look in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory were based on Anna Wintour!

The woman is powerful. She brought back Vogue from near obscurity to the helm of the fashion world. She is today as much an institution as the magazine itself. She creates and cripples trends. She is the most powerful face of fashion. When she wears a particular designer’s clothes, it means something. When her magazine features a designer’s collection, it catapults them into the limelight. She is powerful, influential and revered. While the rest of the industry suffers in a weak newsstand market, Wintor’s Vogue enjoyed an upswing of single copy sales, rising 4.6 percent in 2007. Her magazine has a circulation of 1.3 million; and in 2006, under her, the Vogue family of magazines generated $500 million in advertising revenues. If you need to learn about the business of fashion, you need to just watch Ms. Wintour. She maybe a devil... She may or may not wear Prada... But she knows the world of fashion and controls it within her well-manicured hands; and in today’s time, it’s important to understand this business.

It’s time to dress-up for business

Fashion is big business today. Fashion has become global and every country is using this opportunity to unleash its creativity and its unique cultural aspects. China is using fashion to show to the world that it’s not just a source of cheap labour. Fashion is now the new way to relate to and compete with other countries. The best way of showcasing fashion of a country is through a ‘Fashion Week’. A fairly exhaustive survey revealed that there are today about 152 Fashion Weeks being held all over the world, from Pakistan to Milan, from Fiji to Liberia. It’s always some or the other Fashion Week somewhere in the world.

There’s more to fashion weeks than lissome models, skin shows, wardrobe malfunctions and anorexia. It’s a place for some serious business too. Wills, the main sponsor for the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion (WLIF) has seen that its sales have grown by 30 percent after its association with the event. After being associated with the event, it introduced a designer line in its stores, which now accounts for 15% of its sales.

In India, everyone knows that two things will always work – cricket and films; but today, it’s become very, very expensive to be associated with either of them. The third option, which is not yet so expensive, is fashion. So, last year when Nokia had to launch its new mobile phone called the Prism collection, it did so with a show by designer Rocky S. Nokia’s GPS enabled N82 handset was launched in association with Wallpaper, the iconic international design, fashion and lifestyle magazine. The campaign featured Wallpaper fashion editors equipped with the new handset and sharing their experience of what it’s like to be in the fashion capitals at show time.

It’s no more the elite fashion crowd that’s associated with fashion and fashion weeks. The New York Fashion Week this time saw the likes of OfficeMax, Blackberry, & Google as sponsors and front row guests at the shows. If, till recently, those were influential editors like Anna Wintors who decided the course of events, today they share the limelight with financial executives, investors and bankers, who play a big role in shaping up brands.

Fashion Weeks are big business for not just the fashion houses and fashion magazines but also for their organisers. IMG was started years ago by McCormack as a sports management company and he soon become the most powerful man in sports. Today, his company is one of the global leaders in the management and production of fashion weeks. It owns and operates most of the world’s important fashion events – from Lakme Fashion Week (of Mumbai) to Mercedes-Benz Fashion week (of New York & L.A).

In 2006, IMG bought the Australian Fashion Week too for $2 million and also entered into a $1.25 million five-year partnership with Australia’s Ministry for Tourism, Sports and Recreation. It’s no more just designers who are shaping the world of fashion, but some serious business people, and even the governments of certain countries.

Corporatisation of fashion

The world over and in India too, the fashion fraternity is realising that it cannot do without the active participation of corporates. So, FDCI (Fashion Design Council of India) has increased the space devoted to Business Centres and given them more than 100 stalls in the Fashion Week. It’s also helping in designer-corporate tie-ups. Fashion Weeks provide an opportunity to attract venture capitalist to the fashion industry. Without this, growth is not possible. After all, fashion is not just about skimpy clothes and glamour models. It needs professionalism. Plain talent can take you a certain distance, but well-managed talent is what makes one successful.

So, today Rohit Bal etc. have professionals running their companies. While in the west, big fashion companies are listed on stock exchanges too. According to KPMG, the designer-wear fashion industry in India is estimated to grow to Rs.10 billion by 2010. Indian fashion industry is miniscule compared to international standards but it has a strong potential for growth. Corporates should find ways to derive mileage from this industry.

As you watch in awe the stunning Kangana Raut in Madhur Bhandarkar’s latest film Fashion and as you smile and cry with Priyanka Chopra and realise how cold, harsh and ruthless this world is, don’t forget this is one industry whose glamour has the world glued to it. When you plan your next marketing campaign, see how you can associate with and profit from this magical world of fashion.

Friday, November 7, 2008

44 days that shook the world of cricket

When push comes to shove and the jaw meets the glove, what wins is what sells – a ruthlessly honest commentary on why IPL rocked... and ICL shocked!

20th February 2008! 78 of the world’s best cricketers passed under the gavel of Richard Madley, an English auctioneer. It was a day that changed cricket forever. According to a BBC correspondent, the day was more frantic than the day Britain decided to go to war in Iraq. Eight teams were created and eight owners emerged in whose hands now laid the future of cricket. As for the cricketers, they earned a dream job. Consider Mahendra Singh Dhoni; he earned £7,50,000! Not bad for 44 days of work. Yes, when IPL (Indian Premier League) was launched a few months back, no one realised that history was once again being created. A similar thing had happened years ago in 1977 in Australia. The Australian media magnate Kerry Packer introduced the world to a different kind of cricket. He replaced the revered white cricket clothing with coloured ones. Test series were replaced with ODIs (One Day International). Cricket’s ruling body mocked at it and called it “pyjama” cricket – but this new form of day-night cricket, played under lights and with coloured clothing, became the biggest hit and one of the most successful forms of the game.

There’s more to cricket than cricket

Kerry Packer was refused the rights to an exclusive television coverage. And his grudge resulted in the new break-away ODI cricket. Subhash Chandra of Zee Network tried to do something similar last year when he introduced the Indian Cricket League. “Where dreams can come alive” was the way ICL promoted itself. Kapil Dev was the face of the campaign, its brand ambassador. ICL stood for recognising individual talent. It was a place where a journey from a village to a cricket stadium was possible and Kapil Dev suited the role best, and the punch line was ‘sapne manzil tak’. However, its glory was short lived for the “sapne” of ICL could not reach their “manzil” as it had to face the might of IPL, the “manoranjan ka baap”. Yes, that was the title of the 75 second commercial that was made to launch IPL; and ICL found itself clean-bowled even before it started.

Cricket is the lifeline of Indians. There is hardly any other nation where the game generates such frenzy, such hype. If Kerry Packer changed the game, then IPL took it to dizzying heights. In India, cricket is not just a game, it’s a form of entertainment and IPL has shown what you can do with cricket. If reality shows are a big hit with audiences in India, then IPL showed how cricket was the “baap” of all reality shows. Cricket today is one of the ‘buzziest’ properties on television and IPL tops that chart. Not just did they have sponsors lined up, but they were ready to go to any length to derive the maximum mileage from the event. So not just did they indulge in high-voltage brand building exercises, they were also ready to pay more than Rs.7 crores to Sony Entertainment Television (SET) to prevent their rivals from advertising during the matches. Remember in the 1996 World Cup, though Coca-Cola was the official sponsor, it was Pepsi that stole the limelight with its cheeky “Nothing Official About It” campaign. This time around, advertisers didn’t want to be “ambushed” and used the “roadblock” strategy to keep competition at bay.

So Vodafone Essar Ltd. and Hyundai Motors India signed deals that gave them “exclusivity” and kept their competitors out. Vodafone was the presenting sponsor and this way, it ensured its biggest rival Airtel remained away.

When a product is packaged well and is guaranteed to grab eyeballs, marketers can do wonders with it. IPL was a marketer’s delight while ICL – though the first to enter the market of Twenty 20 – faded in comparison. Not surprising that though both formats IPL and ICL were/are similar, IPL scored more. A Twenty-20 format is shorter, more action packed; and IPL marketed it like a blockbuster movie. So every evening people had something exciting to look forward to. Not just the cricketers and the audience, but advertisers and ad agencies too benefited a lot from these games. BCCI, Sony and the eight teams together spent about Rs.160 crores on promoting IPL. The ad agencies had a field day! Not just the WSG, the sports marketing company that holds the global rights for IPL has committed to spending around Rs.450 crores on promoting the IPL brand over the next 10 years.

IPL was a case of a product packaged and marketed well. It had glitz-and-glamour with the top Bollywood stars and corporate honchos stepping in as owners of the six teams. It had high-decible advertisements. It had the world’s best cricket players playing. Not surprising then that ad rates escalated from Rs.2 Lakh per 10 seconds to Rs.10 Lakh for the semi-finals and finals of the matches. Not just this, according to “aMap” ratings, IPL managed an average television rating (TVR) of 4-5 while the TVRs of the small box’s popular K-serials – Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi – are 5 and 5.5. In fact, the first IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Bangalore Royal Challengers registered a TVR of 8.75 in Mumbai! Why not... It had Shahrukh rooting for his team, surrounded by the big Bollywood stars who came to support Shahrukh. The event was more Star-studded than a Filmfare Awards night probably, not to forget the cheerleaders! India had never seen anything like this before and lapped up every iota of the event.

With IPL, the advertising industry got another major contributor to its total advertising pie - a total net addition of Rs.300 crores.

ICL could not keep up with Shahrukh’s wits and Preity Zinta’s dimpled smiles and hugs for Yuvraj and her team’s players! It tried to work up the same magic with Rakhi Sawant, but could not generate the same excitement. Its 10 second spots this time reportedly went for as low as Rs.60,000-70,000. And its TVR had an average of 0.3. Its ad punchline, “Cricket hain meri life” was unable to hold the interest of the viewers for long. Somehow, ICL could not garner the charm of IPL. Today, IPL is looked at as ‘Premium Property’, while ICL is a ‘Budget Buy’. Somewhere, the packaging failed for ICL.

The good, the bad, the ugly

It’s said that the BCCI showed its ugly side when ICL was launched. Till then, it was a monopoly, and with ICL, its position was threatened, so it showed its might. It issued guidelines warning players that anyone who joined ICL would be banned for life. It refused ICL to use any grounds used by it to play the matches. Too top it, ICL decided to telecast its matches (of season 1) on Zee Sports, which had hardly any reach and advertisers didn’t like it; so ICL landed up with no cricketers, no stadiums and no advertisers.

You may say BCCI played dirty, but as it is said, everything is fair in love and war. After all, to IPL’s Rs.160 crores ad budget, ICL had Rs.20 crores; to IPL’s 78 international players, ICL had just 10; to IPL’s Shahrukh and Preity Inc., ICL had Rakhi Sawant & Co. Who would win - you decide. Fair or unfair, BCCI has pulled it off and made a big brand out of IPL. In the end, it’s the thing that sells which wins and IPL has given us those exciting 44 days that shook the world of cricket forever!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Death of nine to five

The way we will make our employees work in the future will radically change; and those companies that understand this and adapt the fastest will survive. If your best employees have to be retained and motivated, then perish the thought of the 9-to-5 worker!

A survey done in UK recently revealed some interesting facts. When asked where they would prefer to work, some 15% of the respondents said they preferred to work from their garden – especially when it’s sunny!! That’s an interesting dimension. Today, the definition of work, of work place, of work culture, has changed. Not just this, today’s workforce has started to think differently, especially the younger lot. Their opinions about work, and work life are radically different from the older lot. According to an online survey conducted by Nielson, maintaining work-life balance is the biggest concern for 20 percent of Indians. Our economy is doing good as compared to the past, hence a plethora of opportunities have opened up for Indians. They have more choices today, and salaries are better as well. However, all this doesn’t come free; it demands long hours, which seem to be taking their toll. Like every emerging market, Indians too are faced with the work-life balance dilemma. Being emotional people, we worry about the happiness of our parents at home, unlike Americans who worry more about their post-retirement plans, the state of the economy, or Europeans who worry more about global warming. So our demands from the workplace are changing too; and as a result, companies are changing also to accommodate the changing preferences.

Flexi-time, flexi-location:

In Fortune magazine’s survey of the ‘100 Best US Companies’, 79 allowed their employees to work from home at least 20 percent of their time. Various new concepts have emerged like ‘teleworking’, flexi-working, part-time working – each meaning different things. Teleworking means working from an alternative work place – either home or a satellite office i.e. an office away from actual work place. So some days they work from the main, central office; and on other days, from an alternate one. Literally, teleworking means “working at a distance.” Flexi-working is having flexible timings, while part-time – as the word says – means working part of the day. These are the new trends catching up.

These trends are fast catching up in India too as our working population gets conscious about lifestyles and family time etc. Today, Cognizant Technology Solution is encouraging its employees to work from home at least one day in a week. In the future i.e. by the year 2020, they aim to make 20 percent of their workforce work from home. Cisco, a computer networking company, says that out of a total of 60,000 employees, about 12,000 telework. Wipro too wants a third of its employees to work from home in the future. In fact, it’s Godrej in India that pioneered the concept of ‘flexi-time’ years ago. They felt it was good for their female employees to cope better with work and stress. Some feel this even results in increased productivity. What’s interesting is that there’s much more to it than just making employees happy.

Flexi-time to improve balance sheets:

Be it flexi-time or teleworking, these have become tools to help companies spruce-up their balance sheets. They are not just keeping employees happy but helping the company reduce costs as well.

The Department of Telecommunication announced recently the concept of “Home Agents”. Through this system, BPO employees can log into their call centre systems and start operating from anywhere. These work-from-anywhere BPO agents will not only make their lives easier but will save the company huge costs. The company would now be able to save on electricity costs, transportation costs, and employee seating costs too. Not just this, with space requirement reducing, companies would save on real-estate costs too – which is a big saving. So, with this, operational costs and fixed costs both get reduced.

Encouraged by these facts, Governor John Baldacci of Maine has introduced flexible schedules, telecommuting and a four-day work week for his government employees. His mission – to help each employee save on fuel costs and in turn help the state cut its overall energy usage. That is a big bonus – happy employees and happy employer.

With the sub-prime crisis of the US and a slowing of the world economy, companies today need to have a firm hand in dealing with costs. Traditionally, the ways to deal with a slowdown were – decrease in increments, decrease in hiring of new employees, making deadlines more strict and so on. However, today employers are realising these may not be the best ways to reduce costs. The Silicon Valley bust in US gave birth to the concepts of flexi-time and working from home, which have proved to be efficient methods of reducing costs.

Intelligent organisations are slowly but surely adopting unique ways of working and changing their organisations. Workforce planning is today the most integral part of any business plan. Plan to cut down costs slowly and systematically before one day suddenly you realise that a large scale lay-off is the only way to save the company.

Helping you save the best

Employees are your greatest asset and if you have to let them go because of an economic slowdown and escalating costs, that’s the saddest thing. According to yet another study, average salary projections for 2009 are lower than the current year. How do you keep your best people? Not just retaining them, how do you keep them motivated and happy?

This is your chance to help them strike a lovely work/life balance. Flexi hours and teleworking are ideas that have been tried and tested and are proven to work. Contrary to popular belief, they increase productivity & the happiness quotient of employees.

Moreover, with technological advancements and the growth of wireless technologies, it has become all the more easier to implement these new ideas. When Steve Jobs launched the iPhone, he probably did not realise then that this fashionable gadget would help the world fight its biggest economic slowdown due to subprime crisis. Yes, wi-fis, iPhones, affordable laptops et al are giving people the flexibility of working from anywhere. The way we will work in the future is going to be very different and the company that adapts itself the fastest will survive. The employees of the future will live differently and work differently. Remember, the future will have no place for the traditional ways of working. It’s time we realise this and accept the death of the nine-to-five workday.

Friday, October 10, 2008


People are the most precious asset of a company and are constantly stalked and hunted out by the competitors. So, how do you stop this poaching?

The biggest excitement for young recruits at Ernst & Young is probably their annual trip to the Walt Disney World and not their bonuses. In fact, in the past three years, E&Y’s average salary hasn’t increased substantially – yet, when it comes to voting for the ‘Best Places to Launch a Career’, the firm scored the highest points.

When Marriott International went on its recruiting spree, it did not need to show big bucks to attract the best talent from the campuses. It was the job profile, which did wonders. The best student from University of Delaware joined Marriott in spite of being offered higher packages from other firms, because here she was promised a chance to help run the hotel. In fact, rejecting higher salaries in favour of offers with better benefits and perks is nothing new.

The toughest job for an HR professional is not just getting the best talent, but also retaining it. Southwest Airlines seems to be one company that is doing this the best. It receives a minimum of 1,00,000 job applications every year and according to its Director of Public Relations, Ed Stewart, “People leaving is virtually non-existent.” Not surprising then, that Southwest is ranked 2nd in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For (The first being Container Store, a small company employing only 1200 people). As someone correctly said, “My most valuable assets go home everyday.” It’s not your world class infrastructure or state-of-the-art facilities, but people who are the most precious to an organisation; and it’s these great workers, these trophies that are constantly stalked & hunted by the competitors. So, how do you stop this poaching?

A man does not live by bread alone

Gone are the days when a large bonus at the end of the year kept one motivated to work year long. It’s the era of year-round perks; just good salaries is not enough.

So Google gives free breakfast, lunch and dinner to its employees. Free M&M’s are available in dispensers around the building; you could grab a handful as you walk around. Southwest found giving free airfare worked best for it as employees felt they could connect better with their families. As a result, people love to work in these places.

Perks contribute to loyalty and employee retention. However, giving perks is not easy – it requires a deep understanding of your employees. Perks actually reflect the true sincerity of the top management.

Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam (BRPNN) has turned around its image totally. Today it has a state-of-art gymnasium, gives paid vacations to foreign countries to its employees, organises motivational lecturers. The sense of belonging among its employees has increased like never before. Thanks to its dynamic chairman Pratyaya Amrit, today, this once ailing government company is throbbing with life and its people & the state are benefiting from its makeover.

It’s not just work, but building camaraderie that’s more important toady. If Google has put up in-house games, then Rodas and Ecohotel in India too organise sports competitions for their employees. Satyam has announced the launch of a few months back. It’s a portal designed to showcase the creative talent of its employees. Fun@Work is the new initiative and helps workers de-stress and work better. Bob Nelson, the author of ‘1001 Ways to Reward Employees’, says showering employees with cash never works, but it’s the little things that count. A pat on the back, a surprise. One employee recalls how her boss hired a chauffeured limousine to drive her to an elegant restaurant – a way to thank her for completing her project on time. She may not remember the cash benefits but this little gesture that hardly cost anything was unforgettable.

A nine to five job, even if high paying, can get boring and that’s when perks can ‘perk’ one up. The owner of K.T. Kitchen, a California based maker of frozen pizza, found an inexpensive but fun filled way to thank her overworked staff for wining a multi-million dollar grocery account – she booked a nearby go-kart track and everyone went go-karting.

Mind Tree Consulting has a ‘Baby’s Day Out,’ where once a week, women employees get to bring their children and maids along with them to office. Perks work better than cash incentives, because they give employees an experience to recount, to savour.

The psychology of perks

Google is the most admired company of today’s times. Its “perk-crazy” founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have done what it takes to create a lovely stress-free atmosphere for their employees. Out here, it’s ok to get your dog to work, it’s ok to go to the Lego room and de-stress by building blocks. Yet, it’s reported that employees cried at Google this summer. According to the New York Times, Google Inc. decided to upgrade its infant care and raised the prices from $1,425 a month to $2,500. It was a ‘rare’ fumble made by Google, a company most admired and known for charming the press and people alike.

A ‘perk’ has its advantages sure. Like a movie-day once a month, a sky-diving trip, a concierge service that shall pick up your dry cleaning, take your pet to the vet and even get your car fixed – are all wonderful, but once you have a perk, to take it away is like a break of promise. It can lead to anger and lower levels of motivation among employees. The management needs to explain clearly and logically why this was done, for the retaliation is more psychological, with workers feeling low and not giving their utmost. If the benefits are huge, so are the negatives that come with its withdrawal. Perks need to be introduced intelligently and after studying the work environment and culture. When RBZ saw most of its employees leaving the company to join internet companies, it started offering two months paid leave to every worker who completed six years in the organization. Its attrition reduced to fewer than 5%. Motivated by the huge benefit of perks and their power to increase productivity, a company decided to give its staff 30 minutes off after lunch so they could go for walks. No one was impressed! Now the ‘business of perks’ is in itself a big business with people making a living out of advising clients how to manage perks. Companies like, OC Tanner, Loyaltyworks tell business houses how to make their employees feel special and how to design the right perks. After all, good salary is mundane; it’s the perks and special incentives that make the employees feel special; and once given, no one wants to give them up. In an interesting survey done by MSN Environment, 80% employees wanted their business to improve its energy efficiency; yet, none was willing to give up their perks such as free taxi-rides to contribute to the cause.

Companies are today working harder to find innovative ways to attract, retain and motivate their employees. From car allowances, to group term life insurance, to free neck-massages on your desk, to psychiatric counseling to help people fight stress, to discount coupons at select stores, they are doing it all. Just a word of caution though… Remember, a perk, however good, can never be a replacement for human interaction. Probably the best perk is that timely pat on the back or just a simple note, ‘You did a good job’. Treat your employees like family and like family they will love you back The definition of work has changed today, and a good employer is one who understands the art of caring.

Friday, September 26, 2008


As the media clutter becomes deafening, the sure-shot way to make your message reach the ears of consumers is to ride on current events and hip happenings!

Oh God… Oh God… please, please let Sachin play well this time. I hope India reaches the super six. Shall we make it to the finals? An example of some of the prayers heard all over the country when India goes to play the world. The best part is that the same prayers are heard in many boardrooms, advertising agencies and television studios as well! It’s the biggest and the greatest spectacle of the year. The heartbeat of the whole country seems to be in the hands of these eleven players. These are the demigods and the whole country looks up to them. The match is not just a game, it’s a fight and they better win! A victory is adulated, but a defeat brings so much wrath, it is actually scary. Cricket is the only thing that unites India like nothing else. North, South, East or West, go to any part of the country and you’ll find the same passion and similar devotion to the game. If it’s cricket time, the country’s heart beats together and bleeds together. This is our way of showing the world our best face. It’s our pride. Each victory is like a personal achievement. This is that time of the year when ad rates go skyrocketing and media planners go in a frenzy deciding where, when and how many times to show their commercials. This is also that time of the year when the quantity of “cricket-related” advertisements sees an upsurge with each one being more entertaining and better than the next. Some ads are, in fact, so good that you remember them long after the matches are over and forgotten.

No one can forget the Cadbury ad. The young beautiful girl and the nervousness in her eyes. The last ball of the game. It could be the winning shot or it could spell disaster. A crucial moment in the game – something we all love. The thrills, the chill, the anxiety of will he or won’t he, all portrayed so well in those few seconds. The girl nibbles on her Cadbury Dairy Milk. The bowler bowls his best ball… and the cricketer strikes it. The ball soars towards the sky and yes… it is a six! The girl runs over the ground, dodging the security, breaks into a lively jive, celebrating the moment doing something we all feel like doing when India wins a crucial match (especially against Pakistan!).

Kuch baat toh hai cricket mein!

Yes, there’s something special about cricket in India and advertisers know that this time “cricket-themed” ads will work best. Events affect the advertiser and their advertising strategy. In fact, an intelligent adman uses events to make his advertisements more interesting and eye catching and hence more memorable. The advertisements which reflect the mood of the society are more interesting. When India completed its 50th year of Independence in 1997, the whole country was in a celebration mood. Advertisers too hopped on to the bandwagon and dressed up their ads to meet the occasion.

Towards the end of 1999, the world was in a state of confusion. No one knew how the Y2K problems would affect them. Advertisers used this opportunity to warn, inform or entertain the customers, with many innovative and interesting advertisements.

If your punch line matches the spirit of the event, then it makes a good advertisement. Look at what Max New York Life did. The punch line is, ‘Your partner for life’; and what better way to think of your life and your partner than ‘Karwa Chauth’. It asked the man to insure his life for a wife who would be praying for him the whole day. The ad said:
‘She will spend the day thinking about your life. Spend a few minutes thinking about hers...’

The first to speak

Be it any event, any happening, any burning issue, one company that has never failed to give its version, tongue-in-cheek is Amul. It’s one company whose advertisements have always been “utterly-butterly topical”. Amul has had a say in every event of any importance. Its hoardings are so popular that people wait eagerly for the next change. Over the years, a lot of people have written Amul ads, but it’s the sheer consistency that has made them so successful. So the eighties saw some very interesting headlines like: Monica-Lewd-insky or Kabhi Butter Kabhi bun… it’s all about loving your butter. Each ad has been daring, different, interesting and always lovable (thanks to the ‘in tune with the times’ approach).

Slipstreaming: the new way

Slipstreaming, by definition, means a vacuum of air created behind a fast moving vehicle. When a speeding car zips past, the bystander feels a powerful wall of air that can almost blow one over. Motor racers know the moment you get too close to this force, there will be little wind resistance, so you get “sucked” along by the slipstream.

According to Max Sutherland, the author of the book ‘Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer’, one can use the “slipstream” phenomena in advertising also. So advertisers tend to keep a lookout for top news stories – essentially those stories that get a lot of publicity and are clearly the most talked about and sometimes even gossiped about. Then, if one reworks their brand slogan in such a way that it gets linked to the top story, the consumer is bound to notice it and give it more attention over and above the regular advertising clutter.

One company that has been doing this kind of slipstream advertising is Energizer batteries. It has used its slogan, “Are you power mad,” to fit various topical stories and news headlines. In 2003, when the Chelsea Football club was buying soccer players left, right and centre, Energizer used the story to popularise its slogan – “Are you power mad?” Next, when there was a power struggle between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair for the hotseat at 10 Downing Street, Energizer featured a cartoon showing Gordon Brown changing the number of his house on Downing Street to “10” and the caption “Are you power mad?” fitted just perfectly!

Another clutter-beater

Using topical themes, or working on witty one-liners that link your brand to an event or story in news always helps. It is like a shot in the arm – especially for a brand that needs to advertise regularly, but has nothing new to tell consumers. This is the easiest, cheapest, quickest way to beat competition and the media clutter – allowing the brand to draw the attention of the consumer completely.

So before you plan your next advertising blitz, pick up the newspaper for a few new ideas. Rest assured, they will charge up your marketing plans – for being topical is the best way to generate maximum impact, and that too at no extra cost.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dream of anything... and get it too ! ! !

History is packed with instances of great dreams coming alive on the back of great negotiations... Every deal is negotiable; yes, every!

This is the story of a boy in his twenties. He was into the real estate business and this was his first deal. He wanted to buy an old dilapidated hotel named Commodore Hotel, near Grand Central Station on Forty-second Street in New York City. The hotel used to remain vacant most of the time. It had a sleazy club and the land on which it was built was owned by another bankrupt organisation Penn Central Railroad. The city was in a financial mess, so much so that no bank would even consider giving real estate loans in Manhattan. This boy planned to buy this hotel by convincing a bank to loan him $80 million to rebuild & transform it into a state-of-the-art hotel. It seemed an impossible task and when he discussed it with his lawyer George Ross, the latter thought the boy was totally crazy... but agreed to help him nevertheless. After two years of planning and rigorous negotiations, the young boy finally bought the land for $12 million and apart from other deals, even convinced the Bowery Savings Bank to give him a loan. Not just this, he managed to rope in Hyatt to become a partner in the deal and to fund half of it. Not bad at all for a first deal! Soon, the old Commodore Hotel was transformed into a beautiful hotel, which he named ‘Grand Hyatt’. Of course, he wanted to name it after himself, but since he couldn’t, he managed to name the restaurant inside it ‘Trumpets’. You must have guessed it by now; the boy was none other than one of the richest men in the world, Donald Trump! And though this was one building he couldn’t name after himself, the master negotiator has over the years dotted the American landscape with ‘Trump Towers’. Those are his skillful deals, his power to negotiate most effectively that have seen him rise to such heights. Love him or hate him – you can’t ignore him or his art of striking the best deals & his uncanny knack of negotiating even the most impossible situations.

Today more than ever before, people who can not just communicate, but communicate in a manner that they can convince the person on the opposite side, are the ones who will succeed. Conflicts are common and unavoidable – but resolution of conflicts is what finally guarantees success. Studies have shown that negotiation skills are among the most significant determinants of career success.

Know what you want to get what you want

A whole lot of people and businesses fail when people are not clear about what they want. Most often, they are not properly prepared and have no idea how much they can get, and as a result, they rarely get the best deals. Look at this deal – Quaker Oats acquired Snapple for $1.7 billion and sold it 28 months later for 20 percent of what it had paid for. Another one – Newell Rubbermaid’s CEO and original champion of the Rubbermaid deal, Daniel Ferguson; a long time after Newell bought Rubbermaid, confessed that Newell had paid too much for Rubbermaid. According to a study, fifty percent of M&A activities in the past 75 years failed to create value. All cases of poor negotiations.

Not many would be familiar with the name Leigh Steinberg; but “Jerry Maguire” might ring a bell. The movie Jerry Maguire is based on the life of a very famous sports attorney, Leigh Steinberg. During his 33 year career, Steinberg has represented over 150 professional athletes in football, basketball etc. When he started out, he was 26-years old, fresh out of UC Berkeley’s Law School and had one player signed in. However, it was the sheer power of his ability to negotiate contracts for the sportsmen that his company within no time became the most powerful agency. He negotiated a $49.2 million, six-year deal for one player, and the next year a record $11.25 million signing bonus for Ryan Leaf from San Diego Chargers. His record-breaking deals for the NFL players saw many people flocking to him, but Steinberg insists that every contract negotiated for his players included a clause requiring them to contribute to one or many charities – a small way to repay the community that helped shape them. That’s one aspect that many tend to overlook while negotiating.

Everything is negotiable

A good negotiation deal is not one where you win and fool the other party. No one likes a negotiator like that. Bill Gates and Microsoft are the quintessential American success story – but perhaps not the most loved. According to Paul Cormier, a 20 year software industry veteran, Gates is responsible for Microsoft’s win-at-all-costs culture making many of his own employees unhappy and uncomfortable with Microsoft’s reputation of a ‘Vicious Competitive Monster’.

“Wining-at-all-costs” is not negotiation. It’s intimidation or bullying. A good deal is a “win-win” deal. It’s the deal where both parties come away feeling good. It’s a deal, which has made Donald Trump and many more like him successful; it’s a deal like the one that Leigh Steinberg does for his players – where the player, the company, the society, all benefit.

According to Stephen Covey, most people think of only their ‘win’. A person with the “win mentality” thinks in terms of securing his own ends - but leaves it to others to secure theirs! Compare this to the “Win-Win” mentality, which means reaching up to that negotiation point where both parties feel good about themselves. This is mutually satisfying and increases the commitment of both parties to the deal or plan.

No wonder when Tom Muccio, an executive of P&G, encountered the world’s ultimate non-negotiable partner, Wal-Mart, it was his commitment and belief in the “win-win” option that helped him survive and sustain. He slowly built a relationship with Wal-Mart where he kept the focus on joint visions and problem-solving. Wal-Mart, which has always kept its focus on “lowest prices” while dealing with suppliers, found this style of negotiating pleasantly different. From 1987, when Muccio initiated the changes, to 2003, P&G’s sales to Wal-Mart grew from $350 million to $7.8 billion. Thinking “Win-Win” actually works!

If you are sure and clear about what you want, you will get it! Remember, everything is negotiable.

Everybody needs a good negotiator Be it resolving labour disputes, negotiating salaries, or signing up M&A deals, every situation benefits from a master negotiator. The ground breaking deal between United Auto Workers union and General Motors was the best negotiation done in corporate history in 2007.

UAW – America’s biggest and most powerful trade union – by signing the contract with GM ensured that industrial relations in America entered a new era with this contract. The unions put the old confrontational style behind them and worked on collaborative style.

Not just corporations, even countries need good negotiators to manage them. Those are geniuses like Dennis Ross who have worked for years and played a leading role in shaping US involvement in the Middle East peace process. He also helped Israelis and Palestinians reach the 1995-Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Be it labour disputes, strikes, nations at loggerheads – all it requires is a skillful negotiator to set things right.

There was one man who lived many decades ago who proved this ideology beyond argument, a man who out-negotiated the mentality of not just a person, a group, a corporation, or even a country, but the whole world. His name was Martin Luther King Junior... And all he started off with was a dream...

So remember if you can be a good listener, if you can visualise the end result & prepare your case well in advance, if you can sustain & hold onto your deal, if you can think like a dolphin – it’s the only mammal that can swim in a sea of sharks & yet survive (incidentally one of the best management book ‘Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive’ is based on the qualities of a dolphin and talks about how to “Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate and Outnegotiate Your Competition”) then congratulations to you – for you too can, like Martin Luther King Junior and many other successful people can dream of anything – and get it too!!!

Friday, August 29, 2008

a new generation of consumers

The new-age marketer must don multiple hats of a sociologist, psychologist and anthropologist too. After all, markets and consumers are changing and to stay ahead in the race, marketers must stay on top of changing paradigms

When Toyota’s sales fell this May, the Japanese auto major immediately revamped its marketing strategy and decided to take a closer look at its potential customers. They found a group that no one had taken seriously – the African American Women. According to the 2005 US census data, it’s the black and Asian women who are better educated and earn more than their white women counterparts. From this June, Toyota launched an innovative ‘reality-game’ targeting this segment which would feature a black women and her new Camry. The aim: to change the perception of the car from suburban, solid, but boring, to urban and exciting. No one till date had focused on African American Women like this and made advertisements to appeal to them. Toyota might yet again defeat its competitors through its better understanding of consumers.

The July issue of the fashion magazine Vogue has been a runaway hit. In New York City, newsstands that carried the issue sold out within hours. The Italian Vogue’s July issue was dedicated to black models. The idea was such a big hit, and the buzz around the product was so positive that it created a demand that newsstand operators had never seen before for a foreign publication. People had to put their names on waiting lists to be able to grab a copy from the second lot of reprints. It was a dream run situation for any publication house. Yet when the issue was being launched, there was speculation that it would not sell. Everyone was proved wrong. Interestingly, there were hardly any advertisements (in this hot-selling-black-issue) which featured black models… A lost opportunity for many brands to connect with their target audience.

The world is changing

Barack Obama might just become the first black President of America. Hispanics have accounted for about half of the growth in the US population since 2000. Their buying power in increasing too, and so is the buying power of Asian Americans. Things are changing. According to a report by McKinsey, till 1985 more than 90% Indians lived on less than a dollar a day. That’s changed today and the number of deprived households has decreased from 93% to 54% of the population. Not just this, these days a global Indian earns more than a million rupees on an average.

In America, by 2040 half of all population will consist of what are now called minorities. Global fertility rates are falling constantly. In Australia, Estonia, Singapore and Scandinavian countries, birth rates have minimised to such an extent that governments in these countries have been forced to device incentives to increase childbearing to ensure national survival.

America is not a young nation any more. Its Baby Boomers (those born 1946 to 1962) are now aging. This group has dominated the demographic landscape for decades and shaped marketing strategies. It’s time marketers sit up and take note of the changing demographic trends & device strategies accordingly.

The changing consumer

Indians are getting younger and richer, Americans are getting older and richer. World over there is a change and companies are responding. With a change in demographics, comes a change in psychographics too (change in values). Baby Boomers of America today value things like increased quality of life, moral standards, balancing family & work, or issues like health and personal meaning. In contrast, the new Indian consumer values branded clothes, appreciates the convenience of packaged foods and no more considers buying gold a good savings plan or investment. The new and rapidly growing middle class may still not have deep pockets, but they certainly have rising aspirations and a whole lot of companies are filling up this void. A car is what many households desire the most. Maruti has tied up with SBI and is now offering customers a chance to buy their dream vehicle at installments that are less than those of a motorbike. Not to forget Tata and their Rs.1,00,000 car – the cheapest in the world. These companies are not working on large margins, but large volumes, and are hoping for a release of a huge pent up demand. They may just be on the right track, discovering a vast fortune at the bottom of the pyramid.

Arvind Mills has made a ‘ready-to stitch’ jeans kit for rural India (which still doesn’t trust readymade clothes and for the first time has purchasing power too). The innovation was bang-on-target and within a month more than a million of these kits were sold. Videocon has come up with a $66 washing machine, which apart from being cheap has features that suits Indians. For example, if during a wash the power goes off, the machine will automatically finish the wash. Besides, it does not have features like a dryer (which increases costs), as the Indian climate is anyway warm enough to facilitate drying clothes in the sun, all year round! As the consumer gets ready to spend, companies must not waste time and develop products to suit changing needs.

If Indians are getting affluent in India, it’s the Hispanic market that’s showing a lot of activity in the US. The media company ‘Todobebe’ realised there was a dearth of information on parenting and pregnancy in Spanish and provided the same via its print, online and television outlets. Considering the fact that the number of babies born annually in US to Hispanic parents is poised to cross the million mark this was a good move. On the other hand, there are still many companies (selling baby-related-products) who have not tuned into this market and changed their marketing strategies. This means more than just bilingual ads or translating packing & advertising text in Spanish. It means understanding their culture & responding to it. It’s like doing what Sovereign Bank has done in Boston. The bank has a 100% Chinese-American staff that understands the needs of the very affluent and vibrant Chinese-American community of Boston. According to its CEO, Jay S. Sidhu, “People have such an affiliation with that bank that they travel from far off places of Boston to bank there.”

Multicultural marketing is the need for the day. Look at Colgate-Palmolive. With its belief and commitment to multiculturalism for over 20 year now, it’s no surprise the company enjoys a 53% market share, especially among Hispanics – Americas fastest growing and affluent community. It sponsors various Hispanic events and has extensive work force diversity programmes. According to a survey a whole lot of US businesses today are unprepared for changing workforce demographics, which is not good, as they could just be caught napping by their competitors.

Companies need to understand their workforce as well as well as their customers. After all your employees are your first consumers. With baby boomers declining, it’s the millennials who are now coming up. If the former were very ostentatious, the latter are grab-and-go and convenience oriented. Today salad-bars generate the majority of sales at corporate cafeterias. Hot food that makes up 35% of labour cost generates about 15% of all sales today. Clearly, it’s a new generation of employees, consumers societies and those who adapt and adapt fast that will survive. The rest would perish.

Just change and more change

Fast food today is considered bad. Walking into office with a burger is frowned upon, walking with a salad box or a whole wheat brown bread sandwich is trendy. It’s no accident that chains like Pizza Hut & Nandos are changing their menus too. Pepsi changed its focus from the fizzy cola to Gatorade (the health drink) and beat its old rival Coca-Cola. Tastes are changing and branding techniques are changing too. Kellogg’s has realised that today’s kids are smarter and need to be marketed to differently. Today’s children don’t just watch cartoons on TV, they watch big-budget animated movies in theaters and also are regular users of computers. Kellogg’s now has a flashy website and indulges in big budget movie tie-ups to increase its sales.

Today’s generation hates being marketed to. You do it, they tune off, so bragging about your product will not go down well with them. You need to work toward connecting with them innovatively. The web is gaining prominence as people are connecting more and more and just as positive feedback is spreading fast, so is any negative comment about your product or service. In a nutshell, all marketing theories are going to change or be modified in the near future. Your existing customers are getting older & wiser and your new consumers are those who never featured in your radar earlier. No wonder multicultural & ethnographic research is gaining prominence. Brands that understand changing needs of today’s consumers and brands that identify and quickly spot potential consumers will be the choice of this new generation of consumers.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Shakespeare needed marketing lessons

How much would you pay for a pair of shoes? $3,400? Don’t gasp. For that’s the amount a lot of people cough up for a pair of “Manolo Blahniks”. His clientele is devoted, addicted and madly in love with his creation. Kim Kassel, a former New York fashion publicist owns more than 100 pairs and finds it difficult to buy any other brand.

When Ikea, the world famous Swedish furniture retail store giant, opened its first store in Atlanta (USA), you could feel the passion, the excitement people felt. One guy went to the insane extent of pitching his tent seven days before the opening so that he could win the $4,000 gift card. Before the doors opened, there already was a long line of 2,000 customers behind him.

Harley Davidson has the most dedicated customers who also belong to its 8,86,000 strong Harley Owners Group. They meet annually and discuss and enjoy their Harleys.

When Krispy Kreme opens its new store anywhere, some camp outside it overnight, others line up for hours for the first bite of its soft sugary doughnuts.

For music lovers, nothing can beat the iPod. An Apple store is the hottest destination for youngsters, for its loaded with cool stuff. When Apple puts on its MacWorld expo, thousands flock to it and walk around as if in a trance, dazzled by the beautiful creations. If there is one company that has totally turned all business rules upside down and shown the world what innovation really means, it’s Apple. These are “cult-brands”, that have won for themselves near-fanatic followership. These brands have become cult brands because they are selling not just the product but a dream, an aspiration, a passion. So how are such brands created?

Crazily Enterprising and Obsessive

That’s the new definition of a CEO who can make cult brands. Unlike earlier norms of financial know-how being the most important requirement for attaining the top-most position in an organisation, today, it’s the knowledge of marketing, and an excellent grasp over brand building strategies that companies are looking for. You need the top guy to be one who understands the importance of investing in Brand building. Since this does not always show results in the short-run & hence requires a long-term commitment from the top, all those companies that did that, are today reaping rich dividends. When you build a brand, you build a unique identity that consumers love and respect. This differentiation helps the company survive in the long run.

“Our stores have become a gathering and meeting place in addition to the coffee,” says Howard Schultz – the CEO of Starbucks, “Starbucks represents something beyond a cup of coffee,” he adds. When people go to Starbucks, they go to not just to have a great cup of coffee [which can be easily copied by various competitors], but to enjoy its unique culture – which is the heart of the brand [no one has ever been able to copy the heart & soul of a company].

Apple is loaded with engineers. Not just engineers, but ones who have the passion to “emote,” whose eyes light up when they discuss the product features. After all, Jobs is no ordinary CEO and hence he doesn’t hire ordinary people. His genius and his obsession have given Apple its unique environment of innovation. Steve Jobs is so crazily involved with his inventions that he considers it futile to do market research or focus groups. For him, new product development starts in the gut and takes form with the help of talks & discussions with equally obsessive team mates. It’s no surprise that this year, Apple ranks the new No.1 among America’s Most Admired Companies. It also ranks No.1 among Fortune 500 companies for total returns to shareholders over past the five years (94%) and past ten years (51%).

The leader makes all the difference. He creates an environment in his organisation, which is just right for developing and nurturing cult-like brands. Pick up any cult-brand and you will find behind it very-well-taken care of employees. That’s the first thing the leader does to start brand building. No organisation can even survive, forget about excelling, in this tough market environment if its employees – its first customers – are not taken care of. The next step is to invest in intelligent marketing strategies.

It’s a whole new world

The customer of today is different from the one of yesteryears. Today’s customer knows how to avoid marketing efforts directed to him. He has a caller ID on his telephone to block unwanted calls, a spam and pop-up blocker on his internet. He even has a TiVo which records his favourite TV programmes, minus the advertisements. Traditional branding models using traditional media will no longer work. As someone once said, “How do you become a millionaire? Become a billionaire and then buy an airline!” Then someone modified it & said, “buy a newspaper!” With advertising revenues dwindling steadily, traditional media like newspapers, magazines are singing their swan song too, making brand building more challenging.

When Wieden+Kennedy created the “Just Do It” campaign for Nike, TV & print helped spread the magic of ‘swoosh’ the world over. Today, Nike is finding itself out-of-sync with its target consumers, for they’re now tuning into different forms of media. It’s more the digital and interactive ones that have got them hooked. Almost all top brands today have started spending less & less on advertising. McDonald’s has cut its TV ads from 80% to 50%. Samsung, unlike Sony advertises on TV, only during the last six months of the year when sales peak.

Like most cult brands, Ikea too spends very less money on advertising. They prefer to generate a word-of-mouth. Johnson & Johnson, which traditionally spent a lot on TV & print, changed its media spending pattern last year. Plain advertising is no longer working and marketers need to look beyond the comfort of 30-second TV spots. The new generation is, in fact, averse to “in-your-face-marketing” efforts. One needs to think of novel ways of reaching out to today’s customers. Digital and interactive media seem to be the playgrounds for marketers in the future. It’s no coincidence that when Nike decided to expand its list of advertising agencies, it was not looking for the big ones, but those with interactive, digital and community-building capabilities. It even partnered with Apple and created an offer “Nike+iPod”, which virtually transformed running. Detroit’s carmakers, the long time pillars of print advertising, are recklessly chopping their print advertising budgets to curtail costs. Today, to survive, everyone needs to change their marketing habits and find new ways to connect with consumers.

It’s Asia’s time now

There was a time when the Big 3 of Detroit were GM, Ford and Chrysler. Whoever thought that today they would be replaced with the likes of Toyota and Nissan all Asian brands. There’s a trend. Consumers are quickly shifting from European and American manufacturers to Asian ones. China has already become the manufacturing hub of the world. However, it’s no longer satisfied with just being the “low-cost-factory” of the world. Brands are built on perceptions and most Asian brands are viewed as cheap-mass-produced goods. That’s changing. China, Korea have realised the importance of branding. Good products, well made products, will never help you survive, but a strong brand and unwavering brand loyalty from customers can help defeat competition. Using the Olympic as a new driving force, a whole lot of Chinese brands are working hard towards improving their brand identities like Lenovo and Haier. South Korean brands like Samsung are fast becoming the favoured brands of the new generation.

It’s difficult to build brands. When Hyundai first started its US operations, it was mocked at by all & even featured in the “Worst Car Ever Made” lists. It lost no hope & worked consistently towards improving its image; and today, it’s the 6th largest automaker in the world & even features in the Best Global Brands survey by Interbrand.

Different brands survive in different cultures. The good news for most Asian brands is that a lot of western brands, even the big ones, have not been able to survive on the Asian turf. Yahoo & Google may be world leaders, but in China, it’s “Baidu” that controls 57% of the Chinese search market, which incidentally is the world’s second largest Internet market. On the Indian shores, Maruti still seems to be the favoured brand when it comes to cars. Amul is still the “taste of India”. If it is the blogger community that works best in USA, which believes that everyone has the right to an opinion, then those are celebrity endorsements that work best in Asian markets in building brands. Asian markets have their own idiosyncrasies and if marketers can understand that, they can start counting the moolah as the Asian consumer today is ready to buy brands and pay a premium. He is aware and loaded! We need to start thinking about building stronger brands and making their presence felt worldwide. We need to inculcate a new culture. We have big powerful businesses but they have no global standing. It’s time to invest in branding, even “corporate branding” for times are changing.

A laptop without the Apple logo would not feel so good (even if it was identical to Apple). Where’s the charm in wearing a denim if it doesn’t sport the Levi’s tag. Yes, life without brands is not the same. Nobody wants just a great quality product, but a Brand name too. Shakespeare said decades ago, “What’s in a name? A rose with any other name would smell just as sweet.” Maybe not today. Brands are becoming the deciding factors in buying decisions. Probably Shakespeare needed marketing lessons too!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The humble handset

If you thought that your humble cell phone was just that, perish the thought. It is the global lifeline for cultural, economic and social change. From social change to social networking, everything is happening on the quintessential mobile phone

“A man, a young surfer, receives a call on his cell phone. A woman’s voice on the other side tells him that she has been kidnapped and her husband and son, along with her would be killed. She has no clue where she is. He is her only lifeline. The cell phone battery might go dead soon, so would her chances of survival.”

That’s a snippet from the very engrossing thriller movie Cellular. You need to watch it to know what finally happened to Jessica Martin (the woman who called) and whether the young man could rescue her by using his mobile and nothing else. But today mobiles are doing much stranger and fantastic things than just rescuing kidnapped women.

Changed economics

Ozwald Boateng is the famous British designer who is credited with introducing ‘tailored suits’ to a new generation. His suits are worn by the likes of Will Smith, Russell Crowe and Keanu Reeves, but his heart beats for Africa (where he was born). His organisation ‘Made in Africa’ is helping spur economic development in the region, and it’s the humble handset that’s helping him do that. Africans in rural areas rely on money sent by their family members working in towns and cities. With the absence of banks, many of them rely on bus drivers who promise to stop by at the worker’s village en route to their destination and give the money. UK based Monities is a company that has developed a technology that has turned the handset into a banking tool to help transfer money and it’s now as secure as a cash machine.

Today, rural areas may not have banks or cash machines or any basic infrastructure, but a whole lot of them have mobiles which is probably enough to bring about a change and create a significant impact on economic growth of the country. Mobile banking is revolutionising the world. What was once just a CSR (corporate social responsibility) project for banks, today is a fantastic business opportunity for many. According to a research by Vodafone, mobiles have a stronger positive impact on economic growth in developing countries, sometimes twice as large as in developed countries. A huge 62% of small businesses surveyed in South Africa and 59% in Egypt said they had increased profits as a result of mobile phones, in spite of an increase in call costs.

Mohammad Yunus changed the face of so many villages in Bangladesh with his micro-credit schemes. Now micro credit is being used by the poor women of these villages to buy mobile phones, which they then rent out to the other villagers who do not have a mobile of their own. Bangladesh’s Grameen Village Phone Programme, with more than two lakh women operators (also known as ‘phone ladies’) helped break their vicious circle of poverty. According to a 2005 United Nations manual, a typical village phone lady had an average income three times the national average.

Short message, long effect

If there is one technological innovation that has spread like wild fire, it is the cellphone service. You need a powerful idea and you can start a revolution literally. The SMS (short messaging service) can actually build you castles out of air. This wireless connection with people anytime, anywhere has been the most powerful development of our times.

According to the White Paper of Institute of Audiovisual & Telecoms in Europe called ‘Mobile 2008: Market & Trends’, half the world population owns a mobile phone. According to the report there were 3.18 billion mobile subscribers worldwide at the end of 2007, 70% of whom lived in developing countries. They have changed the way we communicate, talk and think. We no more write “Dear Vishal…; instead making do with a ‘c u @ 5’. We now chat more. According to anthropologists in UK, people are gossiping more freely which according to them “…is not a trivial pastime but part of our evolutionary hard-wiring.” It’s a therapeutic activity.

Mobile phones are today deciding how we handle our relationships. Flirting is easy (just send an SMS) and getting caught is easier. Not surprising that in France, mobile service providers were obliged to replace the last four digits of the ‘number dialed’ column in itemised bills with asterisks, after thousands of men protested that their affairs had been discovered. SMS has become so big (it’s after all faster and more convenient than email) that today it has emerged as a key revenue stream for most operators. According to a TRAI report, SMS grew by 109% in 2006. Revenues from messaging went up by 54% to Rs.1,300 crore in 2006 comprising about 5-6% of total telecom revenues. This is likely to increase manifold in future as everyone – from consumers to business people – is discovering the efficiency and cost effectiveness of an SMS.

Small retailers like kirana stores, pharmacies, et al, today send SMSs to their regular customers asking for home-delivery requirements. We now even have SMS services in Hindi called MeghDoot, enabling users to send Hindi SMSs using an English keypad. Auckland cinema management software company, Vista, has developed a system through which the cinema staff gets to process and receive payment for food and drink orders from customers in their seats, with the help of a mobile software. Soon Vista, a Mobile Cinema, will launch a software making movie tickets just an SMS-away. A first of its kind in the world, it would let movie goers view show timings and buy tickets on their mobiles.

With 130 million mobile phone users in sub-Saharan Africa and 1 million being added every week, a Dutch NGO is using the SMS to educate the people there and improve awareness about HIV/AIDS. This is motivating people to get tests done and seek treatment. This ‘Text for change’ is becoming very popular among young Africans. According to its founder, Bas Hoefman, “Cell phones have not been just about technology, they have brought about a cultural change in countries.” From social change to social networking, mobiles are doing everything. Big phone operators - like Vodafone - are investing in softwares that will help users manage their contacts with social networking features. Soon you’ll have no need to go to Facebook, just the phone book on your mobile would do.

Games people play

Yes, people play games – lots of games and according to some, the next generation games would not be played on your laptops or PCs but on your mobiles. 3D mobile gaming would soon be the most popular form of entertainment with high-end mobiles seeing an increase in both sales and usage. With the success of Hollywood blockbuster games like Star Wars, King Kong, et al; Bollywood too is quickly converting its ‘hit’ movies into mobile games. Rang De Basanti, Sarkar, among more, have been converted into mobile games, which is already a Rs.90 crore market in India, with Bollywood contributing Rs.10 crores. Not surprising that the super-ambitious Anil Ambani has also jumped onto the bandwagon, with his game publishing company Jump Games. They will now let you become a jet-ski champ with Bipasha Basu, or take yoga lessons from Swami Ramdev or learn about Deepak Chopra’s Kamasutra on your mobile. If that’s not enough, for your average ‘saas-bahu’ audience there’s even a tie-up with Rajshri Productions to convert hits like Maine Pyar Kiya into games.

Sholay started this trend. It became the most frequently downloaded game, crossing the 150,000 download mark. Seeing India’s craze for Bollywood, Paramount Digital Entertainment has also decided to enter the market, making Hollywood content available to Indian consumers on their mobiles. With mobile users increasing at a break-neck speed, revenues from mobile gaming are set to increase proportionally.

It is just by concentrating on mobile games that Keiko Erikawa today features in the Forbes billionaire list. What’s more impressive is the fact that she is the only self-made female on the list. Kudos to her and to mobile gaming.

Everybody is mobile

National Football League and the National Basketball League are now looking at mobiles as the new channel for reaching fans and advertisers. Fans can receive mobile video alerts of the game and highlights on their mobiles, another big opportunity for revenue generation. Not just sports stars, but even designers now feature a swanky mobile as a part of their portfolio! Be it Prada, Armani, Tag Heuer, they all are bringing out their best designs for the mobile. Rubies, emerald, diamonds have started draping phones. Once it used to be only Nokia’s Vertu that made highly expensive mobile phones. Today it’s the quintessential accessory of any well-heeled personality. On the flip side you also have a $10 phone by Hop-On. There’s a handset made from corn and not plastic by Samsung.

When Kejriwal borrowed Rs.5,000 from his friends to start his small company, he never knew his unique idea Mobile2Win would become a case study in Stanford University for wireless marketing. He was the first to start a TV-based SMS brand marketing. Be it advertising, gaming, brand building or earning big bucks; today everything seems to originate from the mobile. So, before you send your next SMS, take a closer look at that device in your hand. It’s not just a humble handset.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Stop Winking in the Dark

Unless you’ve hooked the eyeballs of potential consumers, simply having a ‘winning’ product in your portfolio is never enough. Effective (and not necessarily expensive) advertising can package the product in the sexiest way possible, creating and fuelling demand for your offering...

David Ogilvy, the guru of advertising once said, “It has taken more than a hundred scientists two years to find out how to make the product in question; I have been given thirty days to create its personality and plan its launching. If I do my job well, I shall contribute as much as the hundred scientists to the success of this product.” In short, he wanted to tell, good advertising is very powerful. It is like the fairy godmother, who with a wave of her magic wand turned an ordinary pumpkin into a shining coach and the simple, dowdy Cinderella into a beautiful elegant girl.

Indeed, advertising does have the power to transform a product. It has the power to turn your product into a desirable brand. A good product without the backing of great advertising is a failure. Think of Marlboro and the first thought that comes to your mind is of a rugged, muscular cowboy on a horse, a cigarette in his mouth. Did you know Marlboro was first launched as a cigarette for women? The moment the advertising was changed, the very same product was transformed into an iconic brand. Lifebuoy soap was made from leftovers of all other soaps, nonetheless, it was its unique advertising and jingle ‘Lifebuoy hai jahan, tandurusti hai wahan’ that won it a large chunk of the market share. It became the ‘tough-soap’ for the man, who works hard and needs a strong soap to keep him clean and fresh. As Charles Revson, the man behind the very successful “Charlie Perfumes” once said, “In the factory we make cosmetics, in the drugstore we sell hope.” People don’t buy products, they buy a dream. They buy a hope and advertising creates those hopes. Ponds Age Miracle cream’s success is proof of this. It sells you the promise of rekindling a faded romance, the promise of a glowing skin that would have men falling head-over-heels for you.

Singapore Airlines was just another airline till Ian Batey of Bates Advertising invented the ‘Singapore Airlines Girl’. Unlike most state-owned entities, Singapore Airlines had a tough start – with no domestic routes to serve, it had to compete with international airlines from day one. The advertisements and the slogan: ‘Singapore Girl – You’re a great way to fly’, immediately gave the airline an aura of sophistication. It promised you a lovely flight and great service. In fact, the Singapore Girl became such a prominent figure that Madame Tussaud’s Museum in London started to display the Girl in 1994 as the first commercial figure ever. This in itself was great branding for Singapore Airlines! If it was the Singapore Girl who did wonders in Singapore, then closer home, it’s the Utterly-Butterly Delicious Amul Girl who has helped Amul butter successfully fight competition for so many years. The unique and topical advertising of Amul for all these years has kept the Indian consumer entertained and also very loyal to the brand.

India was a country where gold was considered to be the most precious of all. Not just was it important for weddings, but it was also seen as a great way to invest. In came DeBeers and through its intelligent and consistent advertising changed the outlook of a whole lot of Indians. Diamonds now started replacing gold. Through their advertisements ,they convinced Indians that “diamonds are forever”.

Effective! Not Expensive!

Consider this advertisement. “I never read the Economist” – Management Trainee, Age 42. This simple online poster changed the perceptions about The Economist forever. Once considered a boring, serious magazine in the 80s, it’s this and a series of billboard advertisements that repositioned the magazine. They did not allocate a huge advertising budget for it. All they did was put up posters twice a year – once in spring and then in autumn, two weeks each. So four weeks of poster advertising is all it took to increase its UK circulation by 25% in 10 years. Not just that, people actively waited for their hard-hitting but humorous, always to-the-point one liners.

Decades ago, David Ogilvy proved that you didn’t need a large advertising budget to make a mark. He was assigned to make advertisements for a new brand of shirts called ‘Hathway’. The competitor was Arrow shirts – a big brand with a bigger advertising budget. Ogilvy knew he had to get his brand noticed fast and he had limited space and time. He featured a model who looked arrogant, charismatic and sophisticated. But that was not enough. To differentiate him from the others, he made him wear an eye-patch. In a sea of very handsome and very forgettable models, the eye patch stood out. Sales skyrocketed from two million to 30 million. What an eye-opener!

Virtually Everything

Yes creativity – the big idea – is what is required to make your advertising and your brand stand out. However, creativity has a new playing field today. It’s the virtual world – the Internet. It has changed the world of marketing & advertising forever. Viral marketing seems to be the latest and sometimes the cheapest and most effective way to beat competition and create a buzz about your product.

The Blair Witch Project was a low budget movie made by a couple of American students. It became a big success thanks to the intelligent use of the internet which was used to promote the film months before its release. The movie was promoted with a viral as the story of three young filmmakers who get lost in the woods and disappear, while filming a documentary about the eponymous local legend. Neither the students nor their bodies were found. However the camera was left switched on and had recorded the mysterious witch. The recording was recovered several feet under a building foundation that was laid at least a century earlier. This unique style of promoting caught everyone’s fancy. The news about Blair witch sent the internet into a frenzy. Everyone was aching to see the accidental recording. People believed it to be true. The result: a profit of around $300 million for a film that cost less than $3 million to produce.

Dove soap came out with a viral-ad named ‘Evolution’. It showed how a simple face through make-up, special effects and proper lightening could be transformed into that of a supermodel. It went on to show how Dove stood for real women and real beauty. The film became a craze and was viewed more than 1.7 million times on YouTube, not to mention the immense coverage it got on myriad talk shows, newspapers and magazines. Time and again companies have been using viral marketing to create a buzz around their products. Through ‘hot linking’ a viral message at the bottom of every e-mail saying ‘sign up for your free Hotmail account’, Hotmail grew its subscriber base to over 12 million subscribers in 18 months – the fastest by a company in history!

Word-of-mouth seems to be the new media to advertise. Not surprising that we find a lot of companies actively involved in social-networking sites like Facebook and Orkut, attracting young consumers by befriending them. Capital Times, the daily newspaper of Madison, has become paperless, in that it’s available only on the web. Many more are going to go the same way. Circulation is falling, ad revenues are nose-diving, classified ads – once a profit centre – have lost out to web sites like Craigslist. The future is virtual.

Finally, an advertisement’s main jobs is not to be creative and interesting. Its final aim is to sell the product. It is ‘salesmanship-in-print’. As Ogilvy said “When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it creative. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.” If that’s the goal in mind then advertising is a powerful tool to build a brand, help it beat competition and win market share. No company can be a leader without a strong commitment to advertising. As S.H. Britt said, “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing. But nobody else does.” So, get those creative juices flowing and dish out some great ads. Its time to stop winking in the dark.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hot! Hot! Hot!

global warming isn’t fantasy. DAngerous as it is, it comes with many chances to make ‘green’ bucks too! In a line – It’s clear & present danger, with the right opportunities!

What do Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barclays Bank, ONGC and students of Oberlin College (Ohio) have in common? They are all working towards a greener tomorrow by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases in their own way.

With people now realising that global warming is a reality and climate change is happening, it was time someone decided to do something about it. So, out came the Kyoto Protocol by UNFCC to tackle climate change by reducing man-made green house gases or emissions. Each of these gases causes global warming, but not all are equally sinful. If CO2 (carbon dioxide) has been given a score of one on the global warming-potential scale, then sulphur hexafluoride with a score of 23,900 makes it the most lethal of all.

So, if you develop a mechanism to reduce the emission of these gases, you gain points accordingly. As an example, stopping emissions of a tonne of CO2 gives you one point, while reducing emissions of one tonne of sulphur hexafluoride will get you 23,900 points, and similarly so on so forth. These points [or CERs: Certified Emission Reductions] could be sold to countries, which under the Kyoto Protocol, need to reduce their green-house-gas emissions by at least 5% from 1990 levels.

The heat is on

Yes, literally! With climate change comes a whole lot of other changes too. Bankers, insurers and institutional investors have begun to realise that climate changes leading to storms and destruction of property are causing them big financial losses. They are now demanding that companies, in which they hold stakes, sit up and take notice and alter their business plans accordingly.

Businesses too are realising how soaring energy costs are increasingly eating into their profitability and it’s time they did something about it. Citigroup is encouraging the sale of energy efficient homes, IBM has reduced its energy bill, Unilever has reduced its greenhouse outputs by 10% in one year. DuPont, way back in 1980, had introduced substitutes for Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in refrigerants as they were destroying the Ozone layer.

Siemens has developed more energy-efficient motors plus has stared using renewable energy systems like wind-energy. The firm conserved some 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide since 1995! Intel has chipped in too by developing a technology where a PC on standby mode would consume just 5 watts of electricity, resulting in a saving of 71% of power consumption.

Toyota, always a pioneer and leader, beat everyone in energy conservation by launching the Toyota Prius. This hybrid averages 55 miles to the gallon and emits 55% less carbon dioxide than other midsize cars. Not just are these companies helping the environment, but tomorrow when regulations on carbon emission get stricter (which they will, if we need to save our planet), these companies, who have already got a ‘heat-start’, would find it very easy to not just comply with the norms but stay ahead of competitors too.

DuPont in 1994 set a target of cutting emissions by 40% by the year 2000. It achieved that. Then it targeted 65% reduction by 2010 and achieved that by 2005. It found that despite producing 30% more goods, it was using 7% less energy, which helped it save $2 billion. It surely makes business sense today to think green.

Green bucks, green planet

There are some companies who are unable to reduce their carbon emissions for various reasons. Sometimes, it’s just not practically possible and sometimes, it’s too expensive for them to replace their existing equipment with the modern energy saving ones. They needn’t lose hope. All they need to do is pay companies in developing countries to cut emissions and earn CER credits.

A business opportunity

As the West realises it’s cheaper and easier to buy carbon credits than earn them on their own, it has now developed a huge new business opportunity for many. One company that’s made a very big fortune for itself is the European Climate Exchange (ECX). In its first month of operations, it traded a million tonne of CO2 credits. Today, it handles 85% of the 1.2 billion carbon emission trade made in Europe.

If that’s not all, it’s expecting the volume to grow to 4.8 billion tonnes by 2009. If earlier, it cost $13 to buy one carbon credit, then today, the price has doubled to $26. Not surprising that Goldman Sachs shelled out $23 million for a 10% stake in Climate Exchange (which owns the European Climate Exchange & Chicago Climate Exchange).

Carbon trading volumes are exploding. From 10 millions tonnes traded in 2004 to more than 600 million tonnes by 2006, analysts predict the market for carbon credits to be worth some $45 billion annually by 2008. As the deadline of 2012 nears, the buying of carbon credits would increase frantically.

It’s a huge business opportunity for India and many of the developing countries. Big players have entered the game making it more lucrative. J.P. Morgan plans to invest $3 billion in carbon trading. They would work as intermediaries – buying direct from emission cutting projects and selling to governments & industries later. Merrill Lynch too has entered into carbon consulting. India’s premier bank IDBI has now got a dedicated carbon credit desk, which provides all the services in the area of clean development mechanism (CDM). Japan has turned out to be one of the biggest buyers of carbon credits. It bought 38% of the carbon dioxide credits offered worldwide. Britain, at 15%, stood second.

With big buyers around, come big brokers too. The biggest “emissions broker” named Evolution Markets is doing brisk business today. It made the world’s first cross-border carbon trade in 2002 when it brokered the sale of carbon credits from government of Slovakia to Japan. It now even offers “carbon finance,” wherein, by using the value of future emission reductions, it would finance emission reduction projects. As the business grows, new opportunities keep coming up. Is this going to be the future of growth?

Everybody loves green

Students of Oberlin College in Ohio now have timers inside their showers. Anything more than 3 minutes of shower time is no good. They have also decided to share refrigerators, which, according to them, is “one of the top energy suckers in a household.” Some students are even persuading their administrators to switch to fossil-free fuel on campus. They are doing their bit to reduce carbon emissions and global warming from their lives and the planet.

Even the Pope has joined in. Cardina Paul Poupard accepted a donation, which would make the Vatican the world’s first carbon-neutral sovereign state. A part of the reforestation project in Hungary would be designated as the “Vatican Climate Forest” where, depending on the Vatican’s energy usage, a proportionate number of trees would be planted to offset its carbon emissions. The 2006 Super Bowl too aimed at offsetting all the CO2 the championship generated by planting trees.

The blockbuster film The Day after Tomorrow was again a “carbon neutral” film. Its scene advisor, Dr Molitor, persuaded the director to invest in carbon reduction projects to compensate for the emissions during production.

A whole new world

The world is changing – this time for the good. A whole new world of opportunities seems to have opened up. This has even made ‘pig-flatulence’ feature on the London Stock Exchange! An Irish company AgCert has found a way to collect methane from rotting pig manure and generate electricity. Whoever thought that world over, companies would be scrambling for it!

There are some surprised beneficiaries too. Villagers in South India have been using biomass as cooking fuel. They never knew how much they were contributing towards prevention of global warming. Today, the Chicago Climate Exchange is giving them carbon credits and they get to earn a minimum of Rs.800 per year. Bangkok makes electricity using swine manure; villagers in Andhra Pradesh use seeds of the Honge tree to make cleaner fuel; China is using wind energy... Yes, the world is changing and earning too. Save the planet and your bottom lines - there can’t be a better combination. The good news for India is that while China’s leadership in the CDM market has shown a decline, India has jumped from a 3% share in 2005 to 12% in 2006 (World Bank data). “Reducing emissions” is the latest trend and Indian entrepreneurs have a lot to gain. The climate is warming up and making business opportunities go hot! Hot! Hot!

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