Something mundane after a while………


The world is ever-changing. There are a number of things happening around the world about which I can blog (I usually do), but there comes a point when fatigue catches up with you and tells you to step away for a while. I am sure to come back to the global happenings scenario sooner than later, as it is simply irresistible.

So what am I going to blog about this Sunday morning (I shifted to the morning from my usual evening rendezvous with my blog as I have some engagement in the evening)? Nothing heavy, it is simply the experience of breaking my old iPhone 6 and replacing it with a new iPhone 8Plus.

Once someone gets locked into the Apple world, it is very difficult to get out. This is the way Apple (many examples come to mind from the past, like IBM) holds on to its client base, which is anyway enchanted with whatever Apple is doing all the time. There is of course, no question about the fabulous technology packaged in art form by Apple as compared to other bland competitors. Clearly, Apple does not have a direct competitor of similar stature. This is the primary reason why Apple is also able to charge higher prices to its customers who are ready to pay those prices, which sometimes appear atrocious.

Apple has had its missteps in the past like with the Mac line of computers. But with the iPhone, Apple hit the perennial jackpot, though it is not the top-selling mobile phone in the world. iPhone is something which you desire to own because of its elegant appearance, functions and features, and it kind of makes a fashion statement of sorts. Apple continues to innovate, though at a slightly slower pace.

Let me come to my iPhone 6, which I had owned for almost 2.5 years. It has had rough times during my possession (I still have it) as I am good in dropping the phone on office carpet (which is OK), on pavements (not OK at all), and in car parks (absolutely not at all OK). At one time, I had the entire screen cracked, and at another time, I had the bottom left completely cracked when it fell down with a swoop of the hand (mine of course) in the car park and went under a parked car. I did try to protect the iPhone with special screen which will allow me to drop without damaging the original display of the iPhone. However, one day I came to the sad conclusion that my nice handy iPhone6 has to make way for a newer and bigger phone.

Most of my friends and colleagues who are iPhone users had by now (over the past just 3 months!)  migrated to the iPhone X. I did not like the fact that the iPhone X does not have a home button, and everything needs to be done with a stylish wave of the hand, so to say. After some deliberation, I decided to get the somewhat unwieldy (though almost same in size as the iPhone X) iPhone 8Plus. I liked the display and the familiarity of the home button. The size of the screen also made it easy to read and play around, almost making the laptop redundant. While the battery capacity is higher than the iPhone 6, it still could not sustain more than 24 hours of usage, which was somewhat disappointing. It is necessary to keep charging the phone once the charge drops below 20% and build it up to 80% every day, or keep a battery bank handy all the time while on the move.

I know that Android phones have made huge progress, and in some cases cost almost as much as the iPhone 8 series. One has to look at the prices of the Samsung S9 and make a comparison. The display and battery performance are more brilliant than the iPhone for sure. The speed of operation is more or less the same. The whole hassle is that of the “familiarity” quotient – you like what you have been used to, and you like the fact that there is not much of a change in the way the phone functions.

I am getting used to my new iPhone 8Plus, and have kept the iPhone 6 for other uses (for example, I am going to use that old phone with the Jio SIM when I travel in India). Since I have kept both the old and new phones almost identical in terms of settings and apps, they feel the same. I do have an Android phone with an Airtel number for use in India, which I am thinking of jettisoning soon.

Well, well, that is my story of phone transitioning. There was not much of adjustments required while moving to iPhone 8Plus, except that the cloud restore was not possible due to the lack of space on the iCloud. So I went in the traditional way – connected my old iPhone to my laptop for a full backup using iTunes, and then restoring that backup on to my new phone. It took some tweaks and effort, but I managed to get everything restored on the new phone. It was a wonderful feeling when the new phone started behaving as though it was the old phone with a new clothing.

Apple makes these processes somewhat painless, though if you forget any Apple ID or password or passcode, you are in for a big touble. It happened twice to me in the past, but luckily it didn’t happen this time around.

So folks, that is my experience. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and avoid drinking alcohol,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

15th April 2018

 

The terrible loss of privacy


Privacy is a funny aspect of life.

Most institutions and corporations we deal with in our lives demand that we sign off on dotted lines when it comes to providing them access to our very personal data. Most consumer companies do the same thing. Governments have always asked for our data. However, the phenomenon of giving away our total freedom and personal data to social media giants did not bother us for a long time. Until last week.

I am referring to the data breach on 50M Americans who have accounts with Facebook. Well, this is not the first instance, but in terms of scale it is the biggest ever. There have been hacks on Apple’s iCloud, releasing personal data of celebrities. There have been other hacks such as the bad one on Yahoo mail.

But, people forget and forgive, the reason being that they still need the services of the social media companies, cloud service providers and email operators. There is just no alternative to leading one’s life today – if an individual is not on Facebook, he does not exist – not just virtually, but physically as well! He or she is ignored for lack of digital savviness, or inability to be in sync with the rest of the world which seems to be rushing into Twitter, Instagram, Snap, WeChat, WhatsApp, Line, Google’s variety of offerings including of course Search, and so many such digital tools.

So, things will be back to normal after a few months for Facebook. They will undergo detailed investigation that is reserved for Russian hackers, questioned on Capitol Hill, excoriated in the “adult” networking circuit, and punished in some way, like being forced to implement tougher security measures. Facebook’s reputation currently is in the dumps, and they should not be trusted as they have traded their users’ data. But apart from all this, do you think that anything substantive will happen to them? There are more than 2B users who depend on Facebook for communication. Not me however – I never seriously used the consumer version of Facebook, though I have an account with very sparse data on myself (I however use a corporate version of Facebook behind my company’s firewall for internal teamwork and collaboration, along with other tools such as Microsoft Teams and Yammer).

So here I am – not a regular user of the consumer version of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et al, but a serious blogger on this WordPress platform and LinkedIn user. I select what I wish to do, and cannot be led to use some tool that I do not wish to use. Further, I am careful not to accept terms and conditions of these tool makers and platform owners, and do not click to give access to all my data voluntarily. Neither do I agree for unsolicited marketing communications from these folks or their marketing collaborators, though sometimes it is made difficult not to agree.

The question is – what is more important: maintain privacy or lose it due to either the lack of security of the provider or his desire to sell off my data for money? In my case, the answer is crystal clear – I would rather forego the convenience of “checking into” Facebook and detailing what I am up to, or posting my photographs enjoying a vacation with my family, but safeguard whatever little privacy that I still have. It is not necessary for the entire world or my friends and relatives, or for any government, to know what I am doing at this moment (I am blogging now!). It is irrelevant to them, but it is critical for maintaining my sanity. It is not that I am anti-social – I am in multiple WhatsApp groups – but I wish to remain private. I do not respond to LinkedIn invites from people who I have not yet met. I should know the person through a referral or I should have met that person before I would even consider accepting the invite.

Nothing wrong with wanting to be a private individual. However, we know that most teenagers willingly give away their most personal data on the Facebook platform. The issue is that Facebook cannot be trusted to keep that data totally private and secure.  We do not know for sure that the data is safe and secure. We also do not know if they had traded our data for money. We never knew that Facebook gave away the data on 50M Americans to a U.K. Professor for some vague research, who in turn handed that out to the now infamous Cambridge Analytica.

It is more important to spend F2F (“Face to Face”) time with friends, relatives and family, like in the old times. It is more important not to be influenced by hate speech and lectures that are posted on all social media platforms. Did we live without a mobile phone or social media platforms in the past? Did we live a life without networking? We did live well, but I believe we did not learn to adopt technology well in the 21st Century. We just blindly jumped into all that is new without much analysis.

I am not against any of these innovative tools and platforms which have created enormous value to equity investors and users. I think we need to be extra careful in how and why we use these in our lives. Do we give our date of birth or place of birth to our neighbours or strangers? We don’t. We do not share any personal data in public. The same caution applies when we venture into digital space. We cannot ignore the fact that digital platforms are fast proliferating across our lives, and will come to dominate all facets of our existence. We may not be able to order ice cream without a social media account in future, or something as ridiculous as that.

Welcome to a world less private, more intrusive, less secure, and more dangerous as a result.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend.

I am happy to share the fact that I am now allowed one glass of wine, and I will soon be posting on the wine I had and the experience of de-addiction to wine.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

25th March 2018

Food for Further Thoughts and Analysis


I have almost completely forgotten my Electronics & Communication Engineering.

I have forgotten all the equations that were necessary to understand how the theory of electro-magnetism works in practice, and how do electrons and neutrons struggle within an atom. Complex equations, stochastic processes, integration and differentiation, Fourier Transforms, linear differential equations, and what not?

I have not applied a single one of those equations in my engineering/business life, even in companies which depend on some of these theories to make and sell their stuff to customers. Of course, when you look at a boiler, a turbine, a rocket, a power generation plant, a refinery, or any other engineering driven plant or business, there is some recognition in my mind that I “used” to know something about all these at some earlier point in my life.

Did any of these matter to me in my life? The real answer is a clear NO.

Let me now come to my coveted MBA. I enjoyed working through my MBA Program, no doubt. I liked the intense discussions which went on in the class on various topics of importance to corporate life.

Did I enjoy my MBA? Ofcourse, it is a YES.

Did I get to use my MBA learning in my corporate life? Not really. May be a bit of Marketing, a bit of Finance, but I would say that I would have picked it up anyway during the course of my business life.

All these education focus, is it really necessary?

May not be required for the future of our children. Things are changing so rapidly as we navigate an already very complex life, and the skills that we learnt are no longer in use or needed in business life. Did we really keep up with what is transforming the world as at this moment? The answer is also a NO, as we have a wrong and incorrect belief system (in most of us) that persuades us all to take a rather casual approach to the emerging challenges, and that is rooted on our seniority and experiences over several decades.

We continue to operate on generalities and general knowledge which have seen us through till now in our lives.

But, these tools may not be adequate or even recognized by our employers any more.

Our education, experience, expertise, and insight may no longer be required in the new completely digital and Artificial Intelligence-driven life that is fast becoming a reality. Most of us can be replaced by machine learning and AI systems.

We are all lucky we got through most of our corporate lives unscathed (apart from the usual restructuring) till now.

Now, the challenge is not from within ourselves or our corporations. The challenge is from outside, and it may not even be related to your current business.

Think about it for a moment.

We are “used” cars. In a new world, we may easily be replaced by newer models, and faster cars. Our education is now totally irrelevant. I am no longer interacting with my elite MBA institution or its representatives in Singapore.

I am trying to meet folks with “new” and “radical” ideas to transform our business going forward. Most of the people we meet in our corporate life deserve no more than a “B” rating. Few people are a “B+”, and very few are a “A”.

As we course through our life, we see that the “B+” and “A” folks are much younger, sharper, incisive, intellectual, and operate entirely on data, not on qualitative stuff and not on perceptions. Relationships are no longer sacrosanct. The “B”s and “C”s are generally people whose profiles are similar to ours. Of course, there are exceptions.

So, in a nutshell, we need to mingle not just amongst ourselves or with our colleagues in our office or in other offices, but with young people who don’t give a damn about age, seniority, experience or old expertise. We need fresh thinking, and they will provide it all the time. Further, they will take risks which we cannot. So, they will go on to create new value, while we ruminate on “how great it was during our time”.

So, I took some actions –

  1. Subscribe to few digital courses at MIT Online Courses
  2. Visit Block 71 in Singapore and meet with young startup founders
  3. Invest in the stocks of few new companies that you believe in – can be in Technology, Bio-tech, or whatever you are interested in – the good outcome is you understand what is happening
  4. See CNBC every night – they talk about the markets and the new companies ringing the bell on listing
  5. Change your mind, your thinking, your interactions, your friends/acquaintances
  6. Do a business plan for a new company that you would like to start – I did this and it was not just informative, it was completely transformative. I even set up a website and validated the business plan
  7. List out options on what you would like to do after quitting your current corporate life – this will be tough if you are so used to the routine for a long time
  8. Offer your services as an unpaid mentor either to startup individuals or to startups themselves – they may or may not accept, but it is worth trying
  9. Read up on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, how these technologies which have been there for a long time have now taken on new avatars in combination with Big Data Analytics and Cloud technologies and platforms

I am dropping point #10, not all lists have to have ten points!

Don’t you think the above is interesting? May not work for everyone, or you might have your own approach depending on your area of specialization or the industry you are from.

I am already excited and feeling younger in mood, spirit and attitude. I am trying to drop all my old baggage that I have learnt or am carrying with me. It is time to completely “unlearn” everything we know.

The world is, and will, no longer be the same one that we had known all these years.

Time to learn new things and get going.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

22nd October 2017

Agents’ Psychology


Recently, I went through the process of finding an apartment for rent.

You would expect that living in an “advanced” country would facilitate a complete online experience almost till the very end. Things are all transparent, details are all available, people are straightforward, and negotiations are completely open.

Nothing can be farther from the truth. While I have gone through several cycles in the past, the most recent experience told me that housing agents actually control the market, notwithstanding all the transparency one gets on the property websites. Almost everything is just orchestrated, and prices are kept artificially high. Free market in theory, but controlled access, stratification, and manipulation might be better choice of phrases to describe the property market.

Since agents apparently control the housing market, and I live in a developed country, the tactics to entice the would-be buyer or renter are expectedly more advanced. Agents are obviously well-informed, but not well-trained to handle a variety of clients with a variety of expectations. For agents, the first question on their lips is “what is your budget”. If you do not give them a specific number, they either get confused or make some unwarranted assumptions. They never ask “what is your need”, which is the first step in marketing that we all learnt in our marketing classes. Second thing, the agents do not expect a broad knowledge of the property market from the buyers or renters. They are, in fact, very surprised if we show them that we are fully aware of the market dynamics and economic status of the country. This is simply because they do not want to drop the prices, for them all is hunky dory, irrespective of the status of the market. Third thing, they will market one specific unit in one specific property most of the time. If you ask them “are you covering the other properties around this one”, they will tend to give vague answers like the other properties are not doing well, they are very small, etc., etc., They just want to get rid of the one that they are currently aggressively pushing to you.

Some agents are super smart, they even position units with less square feet as something more valuable than the bigger units, and even ask for almost the same price. They provide some pretty good explanations for doing so, and average folks are more than susceptible to accept their points. Some other agents are rather pushy, and follow through with you after your first viewing very aggressively, sending text messages and giving “missed” calls. They don’t understand their annoyance factor, and more often than not, they put off their potential prospect. This happened to me just recently. Followups are very important in sales life, but sometimes giving a call at 10 PM on a Saturday evening is to be considered as crossing the line.

And, of course, there are agents who ask the right questions, who are patient enough to work through the client’s decision-making process (sometimes can be rather complicated), and provides some free consultation. Such agents also help to close the deal by representing some of the right feedback from the client to the landlord. Most times, the agents are on the right side of the landlord, as he or she is going to pay their commissions. Rarely would such agents go and push the landlord to accept a buyer or renter’s position. However, I witnessed such a situation playing out while I was making the decision over this current weekend.

In a nutshell, the psychological sales pressure applied by agents could sometimes turn counterproductive. Agents believe that such tactics are the right ones as they might have gotten good sales results in the past. But then, agents have to assess their prospect correctly. I think this is where there is an issue – wrong assessment on the intelligence of the buyer would undermine the deal. Plus, mishandling of questions to facilitate the decison-making process could backfire.

My experience ultimately ended positively with a closure  by an agent who I believed did the right things to represent my reasonable positions with the landlord. I continue to analyze the psychology of sales agents, as I am a sales professional myself. I think the learning today was that it is critical to change the sales philosophy from high-pressure selling to an enlightened, consultative and softly communicative selling, at least with educated, experienced and intelligent buyers.

Have a good weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

31st January 2016

The Social Attack


It is difficult to imagine how we lived even a decade ago.

I mean, without social media like WhatsApp, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Instagram and a variety of other networking platforms.

Today, one’s day starts with WhatsApp and probably ends with WhatsApp as well. There is a plethora of messages, pictures, videos of all sorts floating across WhatsApp groups. And, I do take pleasure in forwarding such “good” messages to different groups, thereby proliferating the circulation of messages across an exponentially expanding universe.

I am not so much a fan of FaceBook, though I occasionally see what’s going on in that world. But my children, like any other kids are big users of every conceivable, popular social media platform, and it is no wonder that most consumer companies are developing social media strategies to reach these young customers.

I sometimes think that the world was so much simpler a decade ago, with more physical social interactions. Now such interactions are on the decline and virtual interactions are increasing rapidly. The result is that we have a whole new generation of youngsters born after year 2000 who think and behave differently due to the impact of social media on their lives. They give less importance to physical interactions and consider deeper involvement with computers and mobile phones as a daily and in fact, an hourly necessity. Their attachment to electronic devices of all hues is not compatible with development of social skills. In fact, I wonder why social media is called by that name when the skills needed are anything but social. Virtual networking and social media connect are not the same as physical meetings and understanding achieved between human beings.

But then the world is surely moving in that direction – the way the youngsters want it.

This is going to be a significant challenge for parents, teachers, government, and other societal influencers. All future design of social systems have to take into account such behavioural patterns going forward.

Given the paucity of time in the corporate world, the social attack by social media presents both a huge challenge and a big market opportunity. Challenge in the sense that corporates have to devise strategies to deal with the social attack – it could be on customer service for example. Poor or inadequate response will lead to a public relations disaster, adversely affecting the company’s market position. Opportunity in the sense that, by properly tapping the social media, appropriate marketing strategies can be formulated for enhancing customer service and market share amongst the community which leverages social media extensively.

Time to think ! Many multinational corporations have already modified their marketing approach to the marketplace given the critical importance now attached to social media. What about you ?

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

10th May 2015

Apple iPhone 5 ?!


I wanted to say that I became “a proud owner of iPhone 5”, but I am not going to state my ownership in that fashion.

Dissonance kicked in from day #2 of possession of a brand new iPhone 5. Which was surprising indeed, as I am familiar with Apple iOS, having used the iPAD and the iMAC earlier. And, my wife uses the iPhone 4S, so I have tried that as well a few times.

As I analyzed the reasons for my dissonance, two key factors emerged:

1. My intense use of the Android-based HTC Desire HD phone for nearly 2.5 years (till now), which made me a satisfied user having given me the flexibility to play around with what is essentially a customizable phone operating system and a world of free apps (though the HTC Desire HD is not upgradeable to Android 4.X.X) ;

2. The performance of the battery in the Apple iPhone 5 was simply pathetic – it does not even last a full 8 hours of use. Even worse than the Desire HD which has a larger screen than the iPhone 5. Even though the battery size of 1,400 mAH in the iPhone 5 is larger than the 1,100 mAH on the Desire HD.

Don’t get me completely wrong. The iPhone 5 is an excellent product otherwise. It is engineered well and manufactured well. There is no cheap “plasticky” quality in the iPhone 4, though it is thinner than the more solid-feeling iPhone 4S.

I am, of course, going to continue using the iPhone 5, and I have installed a number of new apps over the last few days. I will write about the apps I have selected in the near future. However, I have to state here that Apple has missed out on a great marketing opportunity presented by the market itself which was in love with Apple products and iPhone in particular, and grossly underestimated the power of the Android O.S. which the Apple executives pooh-poohed on several occasions. And, Apple also underestimated the juggernaut of Samsung.

Given all the above, it would have been better to wait for the Samsung Galaxy 4, which has just been launched. But then, there is always the next time around.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
16th Mar 2013

Buying Phones


Nowadays, phones mean only one thing – “cell phones”, right ?

My son wanted a new phone – his research and referrals from his classmates and playmates led him to conclude that a Blackberry Curve would be his preferred choice for a smartphone.

I was not for investing in a Blackberry, knowing the troubles that RIM (Research in Motion), the maker of BB (Blackberry) had been through in the past couple of years, and their recent launch of a new device with a new Operating System. I felt that their new products will take time to stabilize in the marketplace, and their earlier generation of rather good devices like the Curve and the Bolt will have to eventually have to have a significant drop in their pricing.

I found it difficult to convince my son on Android and the many choices available in the market today. For me, it was a natural choice, I am a user of a HTC Android Smartphone for the past 2.5 years and am committed to its ease of use and openness.

Apple iPhone was out of the question for my son as it is very highly priced in India, with iPhone 5 at USD 800 which I thought was an overkill for youngsters.

I wanted to purchase a nice and simple Android phone with the latest version of the operating system and some amazing features. I narrowed down to just two brands – SAMSUNG and MICROMAX. The reaction of my son was “what…….Why Micromax………if you want to buy an Android device, go for a Samsung”. That is the power of marketing !

However, when I decided on the specs for the Android Smartphone, and the approximate budget, it became clear that the current models of Samsung could not meet the same ! An unexpected conclusion, but nevertheless a justified one, as at the lower end of their smartphone range, Samsung has slower processors, smaller screen sizes and lower capacity of battery. I found that the newly successful Micromax (which is an Indian company) had better range of lower-end smartphones with much better features.

Using their website, I narrowed down my choice to just two models and then finally selected Micromax Ninja A89, which has an impressive feature set at a price of some USD 110 ! I did not inform my son that I am going to buy this phone, but went ahead, took a look and bought the same from the Mobile Store outlet in Hyper City.

It is a very good phone for the price, running Android 4.1 (Ice Cream Sandwich) at a fast response – my son was surprised at its performance ! Once he saw and experienced its features, he was immediately attached to it !!

It will take some more time to experience the full functionality of this Ninja A89 phone, but from an early exposure, it appears to be an excellent choice. A good smartphone at a very good price-value-features point for anyone wishing to start off with a smartphone, or people who wish to migrate from the usual cell phones to an advanced Android phone.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
17th February 2013
Mumbai

Some Useful Sales Books


Recently I had the opportunity to read (and browse thro’ in some of them) some good sales-related books. Many of these are already famous, but the key thing is that all these books came from the same source and so had a purpose behind ensuring that I go through these books !

I thought I should share the names of these books to interested readers of my blog, as these might be helpful to understand the complexity of B2B Sales and have fruitful sales negotiations. The first two books are long time classics in the area of selling and may not be new to most readers. The others are relatively new.

Here’s the list:

1. THE NEW STRATEGIC SELLING – Robert B Miller and Stephen E Heiman with Tad Tuleja
2. THE NEW CONCEPTUAL SELLING – Robert B Miller and Stephen E Heiman with Tad Tuleja
3. THE NEW SUCCESSFUL LARGE ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT – Robert B Miller and Stephen E Heiman with Tad Tuleja
4. THE NEGOTIATION FIELDBOOK – Grande Lum
5. THE 5 PATHS TO PERSUASION – THE ART OF SELLING YOUR MESSAGE – Robert B Miller and Gary A Williams with Alden M Hayashi
6. SELLING MACHINE – HOW TO FOCUS EVERY MEMBER OF YOUR COMPANY ON THE VITAL BUSINESS OF SELLING – Diane Sanchez and Stephen E Heiman and Tad Tuleja
7. SUCCESSFUL GLOBAL ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT – KEY STRATEGIES AND TOOLS FOR MANAGING GLOBAL CUSTOMERS – Kevin Wilson and Nick Speare with Samuel J Reese
8. THE SEVEN KEYS TO MANAGING STRATEGIC ACCOUNTS – Sallie Sherman, Joseph Sperry and Samuel Reese

All of the above are great books by the way and worth investing to gain a deep understand and expertise on higher level sales management in the enterprise space.

I would recommend all of them, but in case of time paucity, at least try the first two books – they are incidentally classics in their own right.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
27th January 2013
Mumbai

The Promise of Consumer e-Commerce


I read recently that there is a lot of private equity action in the Indian e-Commerce space, where significant investments are happening in mature start-ups which have achieved some scale already. There are not many such companies, but a few which have spent resources on creating a good brand image and prompt service delivery.

While the potential for e-Commerce is huge in India, and that is the exact reason for the private equity investments, the challenge of creating an all-India brand which can be trusted has been underestimated. Startups generally assumed that they would build their new companies offering some unique product or service, and the customers will come. This has always been the traditional mistake that most companies anyway make. Customers in India are rather finicky and want to be absolutely sure that they get value in whatever commercial endeavour they embark on. They are not impulsive buyers.

I know of many friends who do comparison shopping (essentially price comparison) before they zero in on the other features such as delivery, etc., If a well-established player offers free shipping, that becomes a very good draw, as most new online customers spend only a little to start with and test the online waters. Most customers would spend somewhere between USD 10 to USD 30 per transaction whey they start off, just to ensure that the purchase goes off well, and they are indeed deriving the benefit of a better price, a better choice of products for their need, a quick delivery, a refund mechanism, a defective product return policy, et al. Indian consumers are choosy, and will only gradually evolve into repeat or big ticket buyers.

The categories of products that the Indian consumer will try to buy at first would be low risk, low involvement products – may be a DVD, a pair of shoes, a book, etc., The big issue in big cities in India is the travel time for anything, and especially shopping during a discount season (as is the case now) with the milling crowds and rains and what not. So, it may not be a bad idea to sit at home and do online shopping, correct ?

Wrong. Most Indian women would rather go out there and enjoy the pleasure of shopping in nice malls with discount offers luring them to every shop or deal. Indian men may be an online customer most of the time, as they may not like driving out into the maddening traffic. All these may be conjectures and an e-tailer can only figure out the dynamics via suitable market research.

I believe e-Commerce in India will be big, and could be atleast 10% of all consumer commerce by the year 2020. Here we may be talking very big numbers – may be of the order of USD 30B. Don’t know really, but gut feel only tells that with enhanced broadband access and adoption of a variety of devices (including mobile devices), and better service quality from e-tailers, the e-Commerce segment is destined to grow rapidly in India, more than any other market in the world.

Once Indians get used to the idea, they will shift in a dynamic and big manner to e-Commerce. However, that would require building some solid branding, service quality, and offering wide variety at prices better than the usual shop prices.

Let us see how it goes, but I am shopping on selected websites like Flipkart, Infibeam, Fommy, etc., which have all given outstanding service.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
21st July 2012
Mumbai

Quality of Car Servicing


I switched my car servicing company a couple of weeks ago, simply because (a) I was tired of going to the same company / same location for the past 5 years ; and, (b) the customer database is apparently shared amongst all Toyota service partners so that they can entice new customers with some special offers, and I got two invitations from two new companies.

So, I thought why not try. After some dilly dallying, I finally found my way one Saturday to the new Toyota partner in a really mushy area of a Western Suburb of Mumbai. There were hardly any cars waiting to be serviced, may be two or three cars, so I rightfully assumed my car will be serviced in a short span of time.

Such assumptions usually go wrong, and in this case it did very badly. I gave the car at 11 AM, but got it really in my hands only by 7 PM. It was very surprising to me. It further taught me that marketing is way ahead of actual delivery in most consumer-related products in India. I have time and again seen such gaps in other product areas – such as telephone/broadband services, handyman services to fix things at home, car washing service in my apartment block, et al. I thought any car servicing partner would take care in handling first time customers, so that the guy stays on for future servicing at least say for the next couple of years.

But it was not to be. First the company took way too long to give back my car. Secondly, the car was not washed properly at the end of the service. Thirdly I could not find the service advisor who handled me when I gave my car in the morning. Fourthly, there was no detailed explanation of what was wrong with the car and what needs to be done further.

All this experience gives me the sense that India is way behind other countries in handling the consumers and providing satisfaction for the work performed / money paid. Eventually, the company which provides a combination of better servicing and quality advice is going to win. The other important thing is the billing for servicing – this is only better than telephone billing ! A lot of line items, sometimes not explained, is listed out and rates appear to be adhoc. At the end, a total figure looms over you and there is nothing you can do of course, except to pay and collect the car !

Not only all this, the very next day you get a telemarketing/service call from the same car service company, asking you how was the service, do you have any feedback, etc., When the call came, I used the opportunity to provide a detailed dissatisfaction index to the person on the other end, who was a bit taken aback. At the end of the call, she did not offer anything. I thought the idea was a feedback session which should be actioned off by the management. Nothing happened, is it surprising ? Somebody trying to fill up a form and that is her task, nobody cares really.

Well, that is the continuing saga of poor quality customer service in India.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
28th August 2011
Mumbai