Mahabharata in Sonnets

Mahabharata #2 – The terrible condition

Said Ganga,’O beloved’ marry you I shall surely,
For akin to you, I love you dearly,
But thou shalt never question me, however eagerly,
About my actions and deeds, lest you be filled with fury!
King Shantanu, love struck didn’t think too clearly
Agreed to the condition, judging the consequences poorly
They had a firstborn son, king’s elation was visible plainly
But She drowned the boy, in a manner unbecoming and prickly!
The palace was shocked and in grief, profusely
The King neither swooned nor did he cry, surprisingly
The maidens stood stunned, for their lord acted surprisingly
But Shantanu now understood what the condition implied, surely
The King was normal, but in his heart quite surly,
For it continued for his seven Bharatvanshis, which hurt him severely!
** Bharatvanshis are the descendants of Bharat
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Mahabharata in Sonnets

Mahabharata #1 – The rise of Shantanu

Back into history, a great King there lived,
Bharata the name , his stories to this day relived,
Long after he was gone, his aura survived,
On the banks of Ganga his dynasty thrived!

Shantanu wore Bharata’s blood like a diadem prized,
He ensured peace, with pride the clan brimmed
Father Pratipa and Goddess ganga had a pact long contrived
Of a Shantanu-Ganga alliance when the moment right arrived

Ganga met Shantanu on the river bank, as contrived,
Shantanu spellbound with her allure, asked her, surprised
‘Did you fall from the heavens straight when they rived’
Marry me O dearest he said, with glee his heart jived

She said yes, his joy though was shortlived
On listening her condition , his elation nosedived!


Who was Shantanu?

Shantanu was a great kind , a descendant of Bharata. Shantanu was perhaps the start and the cause of the epic that came to be – the Mahabharata and thats why this above passage is quite important.

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Infographic, Politics, Technology

Can Indian Optimism create newer opportunities

Its been nearly 18 months since PM Modi took the reigns of a then floundering economy spearheaded by ex-PM Manmohan Singh. Despite several shortcomings which are structural in nature related to India, one can definitely visibly see the efforts being made by the Government in various industries. One big example of the same is the PM himself visiting innovative companies of the world like Facebook, Tesla Motors etc during his recent visit to the USA. At some level, transforming India is a massive challenge given these staggering graphs. How do you actually shape the lives of 1 bn people at varied stages of their life and lead them to prosperity? How do you drive 300 mn+ people out of relative poverty and give them hope and vision for a better future? How do you remove the habit of people who have been used to live on Government doles and subsidies and get them to work more diligently? These are problems that are massive in nature but I think, the way the Government is approaching them is quite interesting in itself.

The Tech approach to solve problems – At some level, the mobile resurgence has come at the best time for the Government. PM Modi and his Mann ki Baat has been such a hit that opponents in Bihar actually asked EC for a ban on this program. With Mobile and internet becoming more popularly used by the day, PM Modi’s social media presence has actually helped in propogating their policies and programs faster than any Government has done before. Twitter and Facebook have become massive channels for the Democracy which is good to note.

However, this is just the start. To create momentum is one thing , to sustain it through thick and thin is another. China’s relative slowdown/recession has put focus on India for now as a developing nation, but this won’t last more than 6 months in my opinion. Can India sustain the optimism beyond 18 months well into 2017? That would be the true test of the policy decisions taken by the present Government.

Whats your view – is the current optimism about India truly meaningful? Write below!

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Technology

Learning to blog again

Ah! The work and the likes have prevented me from writing regularly over the past couple of years! But it has come to the point where I’d better start writing now or I won’t be able to do that ever! So here I go 🙂

Blogging online has undergone a sea change in today’s Mobile Only world! I would be among those handful & (perhaps unfortunate) few who prefer typing on a desktop rather than simply ‘tumblr’ing or ‘tweeting’ or ‘instagram’ing away! But then thats what I love! I really do love long form writing and at some level its something that pushes me to write that elusive book over and over again. I have promised myself to do that for like three years now but haven’t actually gone on to type over! Perhaps the upcoming NANOWRIMO could be a terrific way to start off on that front!

So, on that subject, perhaps, it makes sense to look at what impact has mobile had over India! So I have used 10 new services over the past month – mostly food startups and for all of them, the mode of discovery and transaction has been mobile.

The services I have used are:

Eatlo, Tinyowl, Tandurust, Roadrunnr (for Mcdonald Delivery), Freshmenu, OneNote, PayUMoney, Practo, Inshorts, JetAirways (the app).

So actually, the transition to mobile has been complete largely in India. In fact that piece was also corroborated by the Big Billion Day, where we saw Flipkart trying to make a huge push to download the app, and later Amazon following suit.

The deal with adopting to the mobile is that most players think its the end of the Web as we know it. I don’t think thats necessarily the end of it. I really think that Web still has a play with most of them using Web very productively in offices. Plus web , the form factor is much better for research. Additionally with Surface and iPad pro promising to deliver a great consumer experience on the larger screen, things could still change. However, as far as India goes, a large majority would use predominantly mobile phones only.

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Infographic, Strategy

Online healthcare startups & how they are trying to scale

To set a bit of context, I was invited by a leading B-school in Mumbai, India to talk about Digital Marketing for their PGDM – Healthcare specialisation. This post is dedicated to the students over there!

I am thankful for the opportunity as it offered me a chance to study the fledgling online healthcare industry more closely. Besides, it also gave me a quick heads up on how the ‘300 pound Gorillas’ of the healthcare industry are trying to use Online as a medium.

Problems being tapped by Online Healthcare startups –

While  doing my research found the following themes around which top healthcare startups are focussing on –

Online healthcare startups in India

Problems being solved by Online Healthcare startups in India

What is particularly curious about these themes are the following facts of the healthcare industry-

  1. Augment, Conquer or Replace 

    Currently the Online space from a healthcare space is in an ‘Augment’ space. Most startups are essentially augmenting existing infrastructure, something similar to what happened in the travel sector in the 2000s

  2. Healthcare industry forces

    Healthcare stands out in a major way because of the skill level of the industry. The doctors have a lot of power in the sector, which is being challenged in two ways –

    • Big Hospital chains trying to make doctors dependent on them
    • Heavy investments needed which makes starting and sustaining smaller hospitals tougher
  3. Supply constrained industry

    At some level, particularly in India, Healthcare has become a tremendously supply constrained industry (supply of new doctors is limited) and will continue to become so. Today, choosing Doctor as a career path implies a long road from an education perspective. Hands on experience is something only a few Government hospitals can adequately provide, which makes any first generation doctor’s life even that bit harder. Given these structural problems, online startups are focussing on the augmentation aspect and rightly so.

  4. Can Online Fit in to today’s realities?

    How will the online industry reshape the balance of power in the Healthcare setup? Can it actually do so over the period of 20 odd years? Can online actually help doctors earn more? These and other questions are coming into play now.

Demand Channelising as an entry strategy

So what have most startups found as a solution to this – The solution is to crack the Demand channelising Problem. Online healthcare startups have a massive opportunity in actually channelising demand. Demand for healthcare is growing and will continue to do so. Is there a play for the Online startups to take up significant marketshare here? Perhaps Yes. This is the place where startups like ZocDoc in US and Practo in India are taking large strides.

Lastly, How should students take advantage of this change?

Well, let me start the lecture series first! Then I shall publish more on this! 

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Business, Infographic, Strategy

Big Data Analytics Trends 2015

Big Data in 2015

Evolution of Big Data from Web 2.0 to the Mobile First Age

Big Data Evolution from 2010 and how it will pan out in 2015

An oft heard conversation around coffee tables –

How can activity metrics in a web execution go down while those on mobile go up for the same experiment? There is something wrong with the data, lets go to the Analytics team and check up!

And thus begins the march to the analytics teams of many professionals. Why that team? Because they are the custodians of something valuable and something that has changed the way companies work in the past 24 months. That something is ‘Big Data’!

Why is Big Data getting “Bigger”

Big data was something that companies started getting comfortable with in 2013. Last year was where Big Data truly started going mainstream with a lot of experiments getting done both on Web and Mobile on the back of Big Data. I have captured all of that and more in the Infographic above. Do check the same and express your views

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Technology

Audio Books – Should books be heard?

Can books be heard?

Indigo’s on air magazine gives you a lot to learn. One of the most different ‘packages’ on ‘Sale’ on that magazine was from a company called ‘Reado’ about 4 Classic books on Sale – But those weren’t normal books – those were in fact ‘Audiobooks’ . Books that are read to you! While this is fascinating and there are whole companies actually trying this model out – the real question is Do you need AudioBooks in the first place?

Why Audiobooks?

Audible – A recently acquired company by Amazon tells us three reasons why Audiobooks should be used –

Audible on why Audiobooks

Why should Audiobooks be used

So, I am going to give this a shot – Can books really be listened? Can they actually improve productivity? I can relate to the usecase – I haven’t really finished the book I started 4 weeks ago – Predictably Irrational – By Dan Ariely! Let me give this a whiz and get back frankly!

Audio Articles

But one particular use of Audio is without doubt – Audio Articles on a mobile app like ‘Umano’ is really a fantastic experience. I know a lot of savvy pros who use it, and absolutely love it. I haven’t taken their pro subscription , but like to listen to these articles once in a while on 3G or WIFI.

All said and done, the new age Audio media is sort of a reinvention of a very old format – the radio- but delivered to you as a stream , and on demand. While there is hot debate on whether personalised music worked or not, but this new format of audio books and audio articles surely is finding adoption among a niche audience. And, it definitely fascinated me enough to blog about it!

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Business, Sports, Strategy

Indian Super League – Digital Media Review

What is the Indian Super League –

The Indian Super League is touted as India’s Answer to EPL – English Premier League – which is perhaps among the most popular football league at a global level, at least that’s the perception in India. The League consists of 8 teams from Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, Northeast, Chennai, Goa and Kerala. The league is co-owned by Reliance, IMG and Starsports. For other details on the league visit the Wiki Page.

Why is the league different –

The league is different from other tournaments since it does not use a Relegation / Promotion system but instead uses a Franchisee system on the lines of the famous Indian Premier League. The thought is that this works in the long run since the franchisees get time to establish themselves as brands. The trouble with this is that new talent from a local state cannot really come up and rise through the ranks. This could happen over the years due to politics etc, but I guess for the initial years this format works best for the organisers, sponsors and players, and effectively for the audiences as well.

The Indian Super League Website Review – 8.5/10

How does the Website Look:

On first glance, the website is fabulous. Works well on both the web and mobile. The URL indiansuperleague.com is slightly long, but I guess thats unavoidable, from a branding perspective. The mobile site on both iPhone and Android gives us a notification to download the app which is a fabulous strategy. Nothing better than an App to drive engagement.

The website of the India Super League

The website of the India Super League

What works – The HomePage – 10/10

The HomePage presents an easily readable view of the latest match. The matchcentre is a good place to track the match from web / tablet or mobile – View Mobile Site here. Thankfully there isn’t too much happening on the
page, but that could also be attributed to the fact that there is only one match happening at any point of time in the Indian Super League.

What doesn’t work – No / Little opinions

What really struck me was a complete absence of opinions. While I grant that the fan clubs etc would happen over a longish time period, there is just a total absence of opinions, of views, of debates.. Would love to see player perspectives, post match interviews etc displayed at a match centre level.

The Indian Super League Twitter Page review – 9/10

The twitter page has created quite a buzz with an array of celebrities tweeting tirelessly(?) throughout the league. It definitely helps to have big names like Sachin, Kohli, Dhoni, Amitabh, Hrithik etc on board, but still, the efforts put on twitter are quite impressive, and would yield a long term result very much in favor of the Indian Super League. The Page tweets real time photos of celebrities, players, goals and retweets individual club account tweets for added fizz and views.

What works for the Indian Super League twitter Page –

The activity and buzz has ensured that Indian Super league already entered the top 10 trending topics on twitter multiple times. Particularly impressive was the opening day, when ISL was trending almost for 48 hrs non stop. A lot of celebrities are live tweeting during matches and half time as well, and this definitely helps with fan interest. Now, for the tough part, can this Indian Super League create stars out of players, especially the Indian Players? Remember, the celebrities etc do help the IPL, but IPL is IPL because of the quality of competition. Can India produce a crop of players that can actually take the field by storm? This would definitely influence the league in a big way!

What doesn’t work –

No Fan retweets – I am sure fan retweets and views would rock on this page as well. While this is a double edged sword, but still, that really influences discussions and connect with the league.

Contests lack buzz and lack of daily involvement -Why not try giving away tickets at venues? That should really get a lot of fans hooked on to the page.

Twitter account of India Super League

Twitter account of India Super League


The Indian Super League Facebook Page Review – 8.5/10

The Indian Super League Facebook page really got off to a rousing start by crossing a million Likes in the first week itself. While that certainly was a sight to behold, the momentum has slightly eased off in the following week , which can be seen in the trends below. Currently, the ISL Facebook Page stands at nearly 11 Lakh Likes, but there certainly is room for lot more, especially as the league reaches its final stages in December.

What works for the ISL Facebook Page:

There is some real engaging commentary going on with a lot of user participation. The viewers are expressing their views freely. Whats important is that ISL is taking even criticism into its stride, particularly the criticism about not including Bangalore or on the lack of a relegation/ promotion system.

What doesn’t work for the Indian Super League Facebook Page:

It could be very interesting if the ISL actually starts responding to user queries, that would really help with interactivity and ensure that viewer voices don’t go unheard.

What is your opinion?

Write about your views below. Can ISL become a long term crowd puller and make India a Footballing nation? Let us know!

India Super League - Facebook Fan Page Stats

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Business, Strategy

User Privacy or Website metrics – A tough choice

The other day, one very interesting question came to me, from Raj, one of my students. He was referring to the ad below –


Privacy-settings-internet

Privacy-settings-internet

I browsed for some TShirts and shoes on a top Internet Website. And those kept coming back to me! Again, and again! Everything I do, is being tracked. I get a feeling as if I am being watched! And I don’t like it one bit. 

The problem –

The main issue concerning Raj was the lack of choice that these websites gave him regarding his browsing preferences. There was no choice given to him by respective ecommerce websites regarding what the websites can/cannnot do with his activity. Raj went to the activity settings, and tried to remove the tracking, but to no avail. When he deleted cookies, he found browsing becomes clumsy, because of the absence of tailored recommendations etc.

How much is too much?

All businesses, particularly VC backed ones are under immense pressure to grow their users, revenues and activity. For this, they are ready to take the data battle to the next level, by using advanced techniques like activity targeting, retargeting, social retargeting etc.

Behavioral retargeting (also known as behavioral remarketing, or simply, retargeting) is a form of online targeted advertising by which online advertising is targeted to consumers based on their previous Internet actions, in situations where these actions did not result in a sale or conversion.

What often gets missed in this mad rush is the user himself. Are we taking care of the user? Are we understanding user concerns when it comes to the ads that get planted in this rush to get revenue? Are you scaring users away by these tactics, particularly female users who are very concerned about privacy?

The true question – How can right balance be achieved?

Message me on facebook.com/stratin with your views and we would publish them with your permission.


 

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Business, Marketing, Strategy

Four reasons why Diwali Shopping is different in 2014

Diwali Shopping Phenomenon

Nationwide, its been widely acknowledged that Diwali is the biggest festival in India. And, what does a festival mean? Festival means meeting family, friends, lots of sweets and of course shopping! This has been the norm for decades! But then, 2014 was different for India, so much so, that Minister for Commerce & Industry – Nirmala Seetharaman had to say this about complaints on Flipkart Sale Day

flipkart big billion day

Flipkart’s ‘Big Billion Day’ sale on Monday, that offered steep discounts on various products, has raised concerns among small and big traders that such campaigns would badly affect players in the traditional retail market.
 
“We have received many inputs. Lot of concerns have been expressed. We will look into it,” Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters here.

So, what has changed? Here are the four things that have changed in the aftermath of the Big Billion Day on Flipkart, and similar discounts on all other players!


Smartphones have gone truly mainstream

Diwali Dhamaka week Amazon

While mobile was there in the pockets of Indians for a long time now, what has happened is that Smartphones have truly gone mainstream. Look at the offers going out – there is a smartphone element to everything . There is such a race to push apps to consumers, that extra discounts are being offered to make the app more attractive. This phenomenon started with Whatsapp going mainstream, and more and more people taking up data connections. The other day, the driver who drove me to the airport in Ahmedabad asked me the following:

Kya iss Samsung pe Whatsapp aata hai? (Does whatsapp work on this Samsung phone?)

This is truly the first MOBILE FIRST Diwali in the country, and the offline retailers just weren’t ready for it!

Online retailers and their funding warchest

Online retail makes anything available everywhere, that too at a great price. Checking top comparison engines tells you the story – flipkart, amazon, snapdeal, myntra are all in a league of their own when it comes to prices. Offline retailers will have to come up with something innovative as well, since Online retailers are entering the market with huge funding – Flipkart recently raised one billion dollars, amazon 2 billion, and Snapdeal too raised undisclosed funding with Ratan Tata himself participating.

Inhibitions to buy online reducing

Even now, roughly 10-15% business has gone online, and not more. Yet, why the offline retailers are feeling the pinch is that these 10-15% consumers were the top buyers. They were the ones who brought ‘Diwali’ to their shops in previous years. Now, with Mobile apps etc, people can shop on the go, and the products get reliably delivered to their offices/homes within 2-3 days. They have seen this with friends, and this has reduced inhibitions to buy online.

Unconventional tactics – Customer focus and unlimited choice

Check Snapdeal today on SnapdealOne big change that online players have brought to the table is customer focus. In order to attract customers, Online Players are taking customer service and customer focus to another level. Product bunding, discounts when shopping above a certain amount, same day delivery etc are taking customer focus to another level. Such level of customer focus isn’t found in the offline world. Just creating a huge offline store for customers to come and shop isn’t going to be enough from now on. True problem solving for customers is something that will win customers from now on. This has stumped the offline retailers in some way.


The future – will it be Online all the way?

So are winds blowing the online way only? I wouldn’t say that just yet! I would still back offline giants to come strongly back into the ring, with innovative solutions to overcome these challenges. They surely can, and thats when it would be interesting!

But this Diwali, the true winner in this hullabaloo has been the consumer! ‘Grahak Shakti’ has truly been on view in Diwali 2014, and that is the prime reason why 2014 Diwali has been different!

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