Thursday, June 29, 2006

Woot is it

Junoesque introduced us to Woot on this list...

It really openend up a whole 360 degrees of business ideas for me ...

I think I now have a gameplan ready for taking a Woot concept to Indian retail markets. I believe I have also (extremely important) identified the technology necessary to reach this concept to audiences, without too much of a bother.

I am however, not sure about the following things :

1. How to ensure that my "woot" (I still have to find a name for it, someone help, please?) reaches every bloke who is connected to net space. Ppl have asked me to touch SEOs (sic!) ... am not too convinced that it is the correct path
2. How to get in large retail spaces to participate, and what to offer them (well, I do have an idea here).
3. How to ensure authenticity of buyers ... (scariest part)

I would like the list to dream with me here... Better still, how about pooling in our individual skill sets, contact bases, networks and so on to make it happen ????

Sanjeev Sarma

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

On why there would be a supari on me soon

Yesterday I was told by a friend after some friendly 'trying to sell him the moon' session that focussed on what we can do for him on the mobile space, that I should speak to someone who is writing an article on convergence of mobile and internet and 'are Indian businesses using these new media effectively?'. "wow" I thought and went straight for the kill. I have put on record (yes the conversation was recorded) that the digital space in India / Asia will change so much in the next six months that all those who are ignoring will have perished or will be struggling to adapt. My reasoning was simple - if you are a product or service and need interaction with your market, you have to be where he / she is - on their laptops and their cell phone, else you are wasting money. The editor asked me if anyone was responsible and I dug deeper and said yes the media buying agencies are pulling wool over the eyes of the clients. Its like this - some smart @#$$ brand manager somewhere decides that he wants his ad to be seen on TV and the buying agency gives the same solution to him which they sold an hour ago to the boot polish wallah and to the chai wallah. Media buying agencies have the same solution for all problems. half page ads, innovations that make no sense and endless TV spots for no one. ( I sometime wonder who watches the ads that run on Discovery Travel and Living at 10 30 pm in Mumbai). The underlying idea is have inventory paste it on some poor brand manager. After all for every 100 bucks that gets spend these poor sods make so little ( 5% if they are lucky) which always means that they have to get someone to spend more than what is required to justify their inflated perks and salaries.

My argument was that if brand are looking for some response then they have to be on the internet or on the mobile. And no not buying impressions but asking the agencies to deliver results. Tangible, quatifiable results. I an sure within six months people who behave like they are selling onions and wada pav will have to dance to a new tune. The tune of integration.

The moment I said that and realised it is on record I broke into a sweat - these guys are going to get me and my agency.

After all we completed our seventeenth campaign yesterday, we advertised (we bore the media costs, decided where to advertise and where not to - yes sometimes we make mistakes like having a link on Ryze which goes no where) and we delivered results. Client wanted customers, we got them customers, used the mobile phones to reach out, once they said they were interested, our call centres went into action. Our on ground persons gave demos and as a result we got a conversion rate of 25% on all leads.

And yes we made a pile.

Now we are going into stage two. All those who bought the service also need something else. There are some who could not buy due to constraints, we have got together with the client and packaged lite versions of the product available in smaller pack sizes. WONDERFUL NO?

Now imagine what would happen, you guys would read this and say hmm let me send him a message and so on some will even send me an email. or others will just say "Big Shit" and go silent. If what we have done spreads and some big spenders decide to pull out media budgets and decide to go with us, I am sure I am going to be run over by a truck :)

Anyways. Have fun.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Exploding ? Is it ?

Some maths to chew on.

Big Bazaar has 27 outlets. Food Bazaar has 42 outlets ( An Electronics Bazaar planned in 25 of these outlets ). Vishal Mega Mart has 29 integrated stores. Shoppers Stop has 19 outlets (now also one Hypercity in Mumbai ). And the wait is on for the Lion King Mukesh Ambani to arrive.

Lets turn back to page 1, chapter titled 'Disorganised' Retail. According to a Pricewaterhouse Coopers top honcho the number of traditional stores in India will increase from 6.9 million in 2004 to 7.8 million in 2007 and the growth will continue alongside despite the Malls and other forms of organised retail.

And that organised retail ( not shopping malls alone but all those glitzy stores whose Ads you see in the glossy supplements every weekend ) accounts yet for only 3 % of retail sales In India. The expected growth rate is 1% every year and by 2010 organised retail would be 10 % of all retail in India.

Ernst & Young say that out of the 220 Malls in the pipeline till 2007, 125 are in the top 6 metros.

If you havnt yet felt smug enough then please consider the AT Kearney's 2006 Global Retail Development Index which says that India has retained its no 1 position in the annual study of retail investment attractiveness amongst 30 emerging markets in the world.

So Ladies and Gentlemen ( Sanjeev please note ) the action has just begun. Please hold on to the edge of your seats for more.

Friday, June 16, 2006

calling names...and some more names

what about ? sabina singh would want this for her eponymous label. but i try to log in and it throws up a grim looking "forbidden" screen. isn't the pizza place. its got some set of listings posted. no connect to our desi domino's. is all about stuff in africa...not our coca-cola.

i loved ...its a travel reality check it out and ooh and aah over its funky truck style graphics...

moral of the story ?

don't just register your brand name domains...register associated ones too...

sunil, we need to do something with or i shall send you the bill for that !!!

FutureShop - the desktop economy

Have you considered how eBay is impacting our global economy…your business….your products…..your customer base?

The rules of business are being rewritten as the current generation of digital marketplaces, led by eBay, are maturing and becoming mainstream. As eBay approaches new levels of depth and breadth it is beginning to fuel an unprecedented level of buying and selling activity that will soon send ripple effects throughout the global economy. The aftershocks of this bustling secondary market will cause a dramatic shift in behavior whose repercussions will be stitched into the fabric of our society, culture and business for years to come.

This evolution is beginning to redefine socially accepted norms for consumer buying and selling behavior. Specifically, we are beginning to embrace the notion of temporary ownership. We will soon live in a world where the norm is to sell our designer shoes after wearing them twice, where Verizon will automatically send us the newest, best, most high tech mobile phone every six months, and where we’ll lease our Rolex watches instead of buying them. Did you know that – even today - you can already return used books to certain Barnes and Noble Bookstores, upgrade your golf clubs at your local Callaway dealer and trade in your an old video camera for a new one at Sony?

This new paradigm will change the very meaning of brand value and alter fundamental methods of marketing across most consumer products. It will reinforce the importance of a brand in a virtual mall where reading the label on a digital photograph becomes the closest thing to touching and feeling what you buy. Yet at the same time, it will shake-up the status-quo by re-shuffling brand values according to how well a product actually sells in the secondary market. The “informed consumer” will soon choose the brand of her next handbag based on how much it will likely fetch on eBay next year – which corresponds to how much it will really cost her to own it up until then.

Organizations that understand the new dynamics between the secondary and primary markets will strengthen their products inherently, and in so doing increase customer loyalty. And their consumers that understand how to maximize the value-to-utility lifecycle of their possessions will be rewarded with a more prosperous but less costly lifestyle.

This trend is already here and Ebay is using the age old bollywood to rake up transactions.

Click here to see what I am talking about.

Go on click and register and you will understand what I am talking about.

the rise of the internet..

sunil shibad's blog informs us that as per Steven Fredericks, TNS Media Intelligence President-CEO, online advertising spend, including search, would reach $20 billion by year-end, or about 12 percent of the projected $161 billion 2006 measured media advertising spend.

losers include B-to-B magazines and newspapers - and to a lesser extent, consumer magazines and Sunday newspaper magazine supplements.

i have got tired of pushing my techie / hardware / durables clients to look at the net as a viable and effective alternative to conventional media.
they have case-studies. they have numbers to prove it. they even have the option of pay-only-for-what-you-get.

and still they hem and haw sit on the fence.

when will they ever learn ??

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Retailing anybody ?

Having stumbled upon Retail as a career many years ago I soon discovered that 'dukandari' was my vocation after all. However its been a bumpy ride till a year ago and I am a bit astounded by how fast Indian Retailing is growing now. Though stupendous projections of large Research companies haven't exactly matched reality but I think we have taken huge strides and by 2010 we should definitely be going places provided the government does some more hand holding. The number one problem that Indian retailers face today is the non availability of retail space at reasonable costs. Would it to be too utopian to imagine the government's IT initiatives finding a parallel in Retail ? Retail Parks in every city with generous parking space ? Subsidies, concessions for the Retail Industry which till now has been steadily limping along without any help from the government? An Industry which is a as much a face lift for modern India as Aishwarya Rai or the impending commonwealth Games.

There is no denying the fact that there are a handful of large corporates that make organized Indian Retail. However if FII is allowed in unlisted retailing companies, there is no stopping this sector to grow into a giant industry.

Large issues considered, there is an overwhelmingly basic issue that plagues Indian Retail. At a retail summit a couple of years back I got an opportunity to listen to the very dynamic MD of a south Indian retail chain called Subhikhsha who said that as a career "Retail is an alternative to going to jail". Sadly that is very much the reality. Before McDonald's made Retail glamorous, any job was better than working in a shop. Even at the Management level, there were no takers for Retail till a few years ago and it was frankly amusing to see a bunch of IIM graduates being inducted at Barista by serving coffee at the Cafes for a month ! The situation is changing of course and frontline salaries must break the stereotype in order to attract youngsters to opt for Retail as a serious career option.

I am convinced all this and more will happen in the very near future and its going to be as much fun being a Retailer as being the Consumer !!! Ladies look forward to a lot more Queendom.

more consumer touch points...

multiplex washbasins with dettol liquid handwash are old hat.

nursing homes and hospitals tom-tomming the values of lizol are passe.

washroom mirrors reflecting today's marie claire woman ( aka you ) are tired.

now your out-of-home potty seat too may not be spared a branding.

or the soles of your footwear.

or a song from the group you idolise.

or branded gift wrapping and cellophane used for bunching bouquets.

changing rooms in departmental stores. merchandise hangers and stands for offers and promotions.

next someone will come up with cakes and ice-creams that incorporate brand symbols and names !!!

Friday, June 09, 2006

CSRs as a media tool

CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility is, in my opinion, the next cutting edge tool for spreading brand awareness.

Corporates, especially MNCs, have understood the power of this wagon, and are using it in manifold ways to announce their presence unobtrusively across TG segments and locations. BG-India is one such entity that I feel is doing pretty good service to various domains, and announcing their presence as a corporate, here to stay in India. The home page of their website carries a link dedicated to their CSR initiatives.

Others, like Mahanagar Gas have experimented with CSR in unique and novel ways to bond with their consumers, provide value to the CSR audiences, and derive value too... One of their CSR initiatives, provided employment to retired senior citizens. MGL tied up with Dignity Foundation to provide a "rozgaar" for these people, who in turn were gainfully employed to walk the MGL pipelines (4 kms a day) and report any digging or hazardous activities. Senior citizens were also deployed in their communities to enhance connections, provide information, and coordinate complaints. The results were pretty apparent :

1. Provide livelihood to a neglected section of the society.
2. Build a huge, well networked team to protect and enhance their assets.

Re. the recent campaign run by Anil Ambani for promoting his new corp logo ... I wondered whatavenues he would have chosen to bring the brand closer to the community (in Mumbai), via the CSR route (if). Some things I would have done are:

1. Give every public servant, including traffic cops, beat cops, sweepers, municipality workers, etc, a rain coat/umbrella to face mumbai monsoon, embossed with the logo.
2. Provide a cover for all manholes in Mumbai, and announce presence through a small flag waving atop, or an embossing
3. Give each beggar who soaks in the rain, a set of tshirts and a plastic jacket to cover themselves with

And many, many more along those lines.

The Intel CSR initiative to provide "PCs for Rural India" is simply mindblowing. The specs of this PC are : Not too high on processing, etc.. but sturdy enough to withstand power failures and dust. Why, its so simple that its enchanting. Not only have they enabled a rural India, but have also cleared a huge stock at one go.

There's a lot more initiatives happening along these lines. I will watch each one of them with care :) Probably, I might have just helped people work out a few such initiatives :)

Sanjeev Sarma
Buy & Sell India specific Image content

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Markets and Mindsets ...

I have always felt that media has not developed in India to the extent it has in the West, for the kiddo market. The kiddo market, btw, has always been a passionate thing for me, a challenge that's a flux, undefined ...

When I started my portal for kids,, I wished to re-define the way products hogging the kiddo domain looked at things.

For starters, this portal came out of an event I organized, where I carried over knowledge on another passion I have, cel animation, to kiddos. I held a series of workshops on animation, started with flip book creation, and so on, before i moved onto sketching and animating in flash. Assisting me with the first part, the flipbook and sketch bit, was RamMohan, the evergreen Indian animator ... and Kids did characters and backgrounds and anims for this portal... I just compiled and put it together with a bunch of asp and html guys.

When I started this exercise, I didnt have any money to reach out to kids, travel to them, get a place to be with them, and pass on my skills. I touched base with kellogs, nestle, parle ... you name 'em, i contacted them ... I wanted to pass on my skill to more and more and more children at no cost to them.

One of the things that I thought would interest co's would be an animation by children on their brand ... where the brand gets their adverts from the TG themselves ... getting perceptions, getting ideas, getting to know colors, pack types, shapes and so on ... So I dutifully packed the animation school offering in a flowery presentation where I tried to explain to corporates, that I would hold a product pack ... THEIR product pack, in front of their TG for 40 hours a month, and ask their TG to LOOK at their brand, visualize things about their brand and create stuff for their brand.

I didnt get a single co on board.

They were all committed to airtime on cartoon network or nick (nick had just launched here then), they were all committed to ads in newspapers ... not ONE of them ever seemed to be interested in this branding exercise where THEIR PRODUCT would be not just seen by the TG but IMAGINATED WITH ...

I worked with Hyundai along similar lines. I told them that I would ensure that one of their TG, the pester power audience, would not every confuse a santro with a matiz or any other car !!! they listened, they agreed, and up came the "Golu Junior Mechanic Car Coaching Camp"

With a mechanic from my garage as the master of the event, and me as the chief babbler, and my driver as the technical backup person, I took a Santro to over 40 schools in Mumbai, opened it up, and asked children to touch the blasted carburettor or the piston pump or whatever else they wanted ... I told kids that what they learnt in chemistry or physics or math at schools was what would lead them to understanding a Santro better. This event went to schools at no cost to the schools, at all.

Kids loved it, the parents raved about it, the principals god kudos, I got requests that I could not handle from schools in mumbai. Hyundai, though, for some reason, refused to take this countrywide.

I wish to get back into the kids domain sometime. I think the best when i am in this domain ... for the brand, for my audiences and for myself.

Maybe, one day, Markets will be ready to look beyond spending on just TV into serious value adds like this ... where their audiences get INVOLVED with their brands.

I'll wait ...

Sanjeev Sarma
Buy & Sell India specific Image content

I me myself, welcome

Hello people,

I would like to extend a warm welcome to myself here, and totally ignore and deny Dittu's nice gesture of wanting me to join her Blog ...

One reason why I go anywhere, or do anything can be summed up in the following brilliant line ...

"In search of God knows what, I wandered far astray, And that is why I find myself, where I am today. ..."


Buy & Sell India specific Image content

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

New twist to media buying

I found this on and I am breaking a few rules to reproduce a small bit. (read it in total here)

While the advert is going through the various stages of creation, a decision will be made about when to start buying media space. As some forms of media, especially magazines and television, have considerable lead times it may be necessary to start booking airtime or print space very early on. This becomes even more important when prime slots are required as there will be considerable competition.

There are two key roles in a media team: planning and buying. The planner makes decisions regarding which magazine or which television slots to buy in order to reach the target audience. The buyer negotiates to buy the required space at the best possible price.

The media team will need to be briefed carefully to ensure that they know what the campaign aims to do. A media schedule must be produced outlining how the budget is to be spent - how much on television slots, how much on magazine adverts, the frequency of appearances and so on. The buyers will then start to use their negotiation skills in order to try and purchase the most suitable spaces for the best price. Ideally, the media schedule will leave the buyers enough room to pick and choose, so if a good deal can’t be made with one publication that is of interest to the campaign there is room to move on to another.

Of course, the sales teams that sell space on behalf of the newspapers, magazines etc. have to bring money in to keep the company solvent - they rely at least in part upon advertising revenue and in many cases they are heavily dependent. So there are often opportunities for media buyers to play one off against another.


So basically what goes on in media buying and selling is finding new ways to spend the clients money. Newspapers and TV and Magazines and hoardings have perishable inventory, and hence the need for space sellers to get rid of inventory at cheap prices that a retail advertiser will never get. Media buyers buy in bulk and are sometimes left holding stock that no one wants. Then these smart asses go and put ads of unsuspecting brand managers and charge them the earth.

COnsidering so many advertising con men and women move to client side businesses and are now responsible for the money the organisation spends, you have them now wearing halos and pretending that they never did anything wrong while on the other side. The easiest ploy is to play two media buying agencies against each other. The one who gets the better deal for the client is the winner.

This situation is good for the clients because now you have every media buyer megotiating harder and harder and driving prices down. Sound logic?

Now come to Search Marketing - Google expects you to bid for those damn keywords for prime positions. So when you have so many people bidding for the same keyword at some point the prices become unviable. One cannot pay for the ads anymore. Now if there is no one bidding one would expect the prices to go down, the truth is that it never happens. Google caps at an average high bid and anyone from that point has to bid upwards. Google makes money. No one else really does.

In this case if you have two media buyers working against each other for the same client, the costs are bound to go up. Better positions mean more and more and more money. The client is the loser because some brand manager somewhere wanted to see who could deliver better. Problem is not in the thought but in the understanding. While it is great to do it in traditional media, it is a death sentence for everyone in the search engine driven ppc world.

In the same breath I have to smirk and add that while one can imagine oubidding a rival advertiser for better positions, One cannot see sense in competing against oneself and driving prices up.

In Search Campaigns better written ads work better, better banners that talk sense is a must. One need not occupy position one forever just to ensure visibility. Sometimes positions 5 and 6 at the bottom of the page too give good results.

All those who read this (and I hope some clients read it too) please do remember that there is an emerging set of people who understand interactive media better. Look hard before you pay for something.