Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Who will buy when you die?


Steve Jobs did it by building Apple aficionados. Marc Andreessen did that with Netscape when he forced people to look web browsing as an entertaining experience and not just "a geek activity". Sean ParkerShawn Fanning and John Fanning did it with Napster when they changed the way people look at the music. They all are/were great product guys who knew what the tribe wanted even before the tribe had laid eyes on their products. They didn't do the focus group studies or market research to know the viability of their idea. They didn't show the stakeholders, mocks of their products so that they can "fill in the blanks".

But is that the only way to leave the product legacy?

I don't think so.

Google products , passes through at least 3000 eyes, before they get released even for the Beta. Agree, their hit rate is low but that is because they churn products dime a dozen, an evidence of their agile environment - one of the most important aspect when it comes to an evolving product. Gillette, gobbles up its own products, by improving them using a billion dollar research budget, which draws most of its start from the usability research done using current products.

So the key is not whether you use market research or not. The key, is whether we want to build a legacy, a tribe which lives beyond us - which buys/uses our products - products which live beyond their age and get talked about long after they die (or we die), just because they have changed people, somewhere deep, in a way that can't be erased, replaced or bought over by a competitor.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On Life & more by Justin Halpern

It is becoming a rarity (because of work and me juggling at least two books at a time), but yesterday, after a long time, I finished a book in just few hours.

The book's name is "Sh*t My Dad Says" and it is written by Justin Halpern.


An insanely hilarious book, the lesson it imparted was prophetic. And yes, for most of the book, though I was laughing my heads off, I still managed to jot down my most favorite excerpts (call them gems!) from the book, for keepsake and for sharing with you all, so that it can make you wiser, just as it made me.

From "Sh*t My Dad Says" by Justin Halpern

On Showing Fear:

"When it's asshole-tightening time, that's when you see what people are made of. Or at least what their assholes is made of.

On Sharing:

"....If he wants to be an asshole and not share, then that's his right. You always have the right to be an asshole - you just shouldn't use that right very often."

On Dealing with Bullies:

"You're going to run into jerk-offs, but remember; It's not the size of asshole you worry about, it's how much shit comes out of it."

On Practicing:

"Nobody likes practice, but what's worse: practicing, or sucking at something?...Oh, give me a fucking break, practicing is not worse than sucking."

On Talking Heads:

"Do these announcers ever shut the fuck up? Don't ever say stuff just because you think you should. That's the definition of an asshole."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Books and more books


For people who know me, know how close reading and books are to my heart and how Shweta (my wife) and I have this whole library stock of books at our home.

In just between yesterday and today, I have been able to mop off 2 books which I was reading at a snail's pace. Apart from that, I started off 2 new ones, out of which I did finish off one just in few hours, which is becoming a rarity now-a-days.

Hence it will be understatement to say that this week has been phenomenal to me, at least, up until now.

The two I wrapped up, though covered diametrically opposite aspects, at the heart, they both were business books:

The Real Deal by James Caan is a brave and courageous autobiography, which covers nifty aspects of businesses. What, actually makes it brave was that, despite being a celebrity, James Caan, stayed truthful in his personal stories and with a lot of candor, spoke about the journey which he undertook to find himself, considering he was an Asian and a Muslim. For the Dragons' Den lovers, it is a special book, since James Caan has been one of the Dragons in the UK version of it, from season 5 to season 8.





In the Plex by Steven Levy charts the story of Google, from start till date.
It is written almost prose like, yet at the same time, it makes sure that it covers all the nitty-gritty aspects of technology and products.

It wins at both the mass and class appeal of a business book, which trust me, is a rarity!
 





The most common thing about the two books was, that both of them were recommended to me by two sharp peoples, whom I admire and respect a lot for their intellectual ability.

I have already shared few quotes from "In the Plex". In the coming days, I will share with you, more about the book I finished today and the one I am in the middle of.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chasing the tail lights with Mr.Jobs

I usually don't read a book just because everyone else is reading it - it makes me thinks conventionally, corrupts my thought process into more of a mass one, not the kind I usually love to live with.

But if I can take the liberty of paraphrasing Steven Levy from "In The Plex", with his new book, Walter Isaacson made me chase everyone elses' tail lights, and for the first time, I am kind of proud at being conventional.

From today, I am going to start reading Steve Jobs in Hardcover, which has gotten shipped at a 50% pre-release discount, from Indiaplaza (Yes, Flipkart; they pipped you this time!), a couple of days back.

 Now if you please excuse me, I have to go to get some carrot juice for Mr. Jobs! It's Halloween after all!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Old Versus New

To build a new system, you don't compete with the old one. You build a new system and make the old system obsolete - Buckminster Fuller

Too often, we end up spending too much time staring at the old system, trying to improvise it for the new world, that we lose the race even before we start running it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

All that glitters

is not gold. However, its better to dig and figure out that it isn't gold than not to dig at all.

I know life is too short to do all the mistakes by yourself to learn from them. But then, at times you just can't rely on someone to do a mistake for you to learn. 

You got to pay your own dues, to avail the services of genie called Mr. Experience.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Value System

There comes a time in the life, when you realize that your value system is different from that of your parents'.

Guess, then it is the time to start all over again!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Don't Shit

just because you know (or you think, you know) that someone can clean it after you.
Instead do it right the first time. And if you can't do that, just get rid of that responsibility doyen which doesn't allow you to think without being corrupt, biased, irrational.

That's the least you can do to push the humanity to be a part of thought based approach of work as against factory based approach of work.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sony Mix - Addressing the long tail of music (traditional media)


I don't even need to speak how Apple changed Music Industry using iTunes.

Most importantly, they tapped the long tail of songs which were almost impossible to sell for the Brand labels and impossible to buy for music affectionados. They end up contributing to roughly 10%-15% of the iTunes music sales now.

To understand in more detail as to long tail has contributed to iTunes Marketplace, check out Ryan Hupfer's graph.

  
In India, a similar effort in now being forged by Sony Mix, the new music channel by Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd. (a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment).

In their "About Us" they explain their product positioning as "Moving into the gap created by erstwhile music channels rechristened as ‘youth channels’ and other music channels dishing out non-music content as interstitial programming, we are confident that viewers shall enjoy MIX as a channel that remains true to the music genre."

A good stab at MTVs and Channel V, I completely agree with them that their is a dire need of pure Hindi music channel. But what really remarkable is the way they are using, "Long Tail" of Hindi songs, to make sure that content is not just fresh but addresses all different kind of audiences, all day long.

Kudos to them for taking the brave step!

To top it up, checkout their innovative marketing strategy

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Why did the last person leave?

Could be a thorn of a question, especially if not asked.

Better still put a positive spin, and ask as Business Insider says, "Am I replacing someone or is this a new position?"

Friday, October 14, 2011

The world owes him nothing


 He has landed on the playing field of life. The only question is: Will he Play?

More often than not, he spends his life either being busy digging the place where he stands, to skew the level field or staring at the wrong question: Will he Win/Lose?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Digital N U - My Seminar at Christ University

Last Friday (1st October, 2011); I had an opportunity to talk at Christ University, with the First Year Marketing Student.

I did a small presentation, explaining students what I do, explaining them what is Digital Media, what are its sacred pillars (according to me - clearly arguable) and how it can work for them in India.

But it became interesting after that.

It was students who made it a worth while session. They were intrigued, involved, and their quality of questions they asked blew me away!

They made me realized that it's not the IIMs but the institutes like Christ, where management education is being re-invented.

The seminar's excerpt is also featured at Christ University's Marketing Club Mouthpiece

Here is the presentation. Let me know your thoughts and how can I make it better.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Two Eulogies in two days

It takes a toll on you. All of a sudden, it makes you believe that death is imminent. It is close by. And you better live with the philosophy Steve Jobs made famous with his commencement speech, "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?"

Just in case you are not following my blog, the two people who I wrote about, were Steve Jobs and Jagjit Singh.

They couldn't be more different from each other. But from the time I have been thinking about writing this note, all I could see was similarities.

They both were geniuses in their own field and transformed the way people saw their respective industries. Mirza Ghalib once said, "When your creations are started being used by tawayafs and fakirs" - 19th century version of common man - "then you are destined to be immortal".

Steve Jobs did that to Personal Computers and Jagjit Singh to Ghazals.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Papa and Jagjit Singh


My father has been a lasting influence on how I and my siblings think, what we do and aspire. He isn't one of those expressive ones who would cuddle and would take us to play. That was Mummy's job. His way of showing love was talking about the studies, giving pat on the back when we did good and of course bashing up when we didn't raise up to the bar.

But there was one thing which bind him and me, even till today.

Ghazals

My Father had a childlike fanaticism about them (he is kinda grown up now). In 1970s , when buying music system in India wasn't as easy as buying groceries and wasn't as cheap as Rs. 4000;  he got it assembled, just to make sure that he gets to listen Ghazals on "just the right music system". He sat through all night in the recording shops, to get the live recordings of Ghazals on the cassette tape and spent lavish sum of his salary (by those standards) to get those tapes.

I grew up listening those Ghazals and understanding nuances of them, from him. He painstakingly spent a lot of time with me, explaining difference between Ghazal and Nazm; Makta and Matla.

Whenever Ghazals were played in our house, we connected. We became more than just tough-to-express dad and obedient son. We were friends then. I still remember him playing the tune of those ghazals on his knuckles. I have never heard someone doing something so magical.

And his favorite Ghazal singer - Jagjit Singh

He of course made sure that we listened to every one, from Gulam Ali, Ustad Mehdi Hassan, Begum Akhtar to Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

But his favorite was always Jagjit Singh. He always talked about how his voice has transformed with his age and how he has transformed and kept Ghazals alive in India. We mourned in his loss, when he lost his young and only son.

Jagjit Singh was someone who brought my father and me even closer, when he was working away from home 6 days a week and then when I was in Himachal, Chennai and then Bangalore for my studies and job, since he was someone about whom we both were passionate and love talking about.

Today morning, when I got to know early in the morning about Jagjit Singh's demise from my wife's Facebook Post (who is also his big fan), it didn't sink in for a while. And when it did, first thing I did was to call my father.

My old-fashioned restraint father, who perhaps believe that showing emotions is a sign of weakness, went silent for few seconds and then with deep sadness in his voice (which I have only heard once), said, "I was praying for him all these days. There is no substitute for him. ऐसे लोग विरले ही पैदा होते हैं !"

I am grateful to you, Jagjit Singh Ji for giving us beautiful soulful Ghazals, and to me this irreplaceable connection with my father!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Steve Jobs: Eulogy & his Legacy-Apple



Last month, when I wrote a post about Steve Jobs, his famous Stanford Commencement Speech and Karma; little did I realize that I am going to write another post about him so soon, and not for all the right reasons.

He is no more and his passing away has made even the President of United States comment about how Jobs was "bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it". Surely he was.

He first changed the way people publish content, by working with Adobe. People only talk about their conflict, in the light of iPad not using Flash. Rarely do they talk about what they both together did to publishing industry. I believe his second biggest contribution was to change the way people see music. Sony had already started this revolution, but it was Jobs and Ive and iPod, who drove it from inflection point.

Now there is nothing else which has not already been written about him, post his death. But having said that, there is one thing which was bothering me since he passed away - his Legacy.

With legacy, I don't refer to the changes which he brought about and which will be talked over for perhaps another 100 years. With legacy, I mean Apple There are theories, of course, (which I partially subscribed to) on how Apple can be and will be saved. But at the end of the day, they are al theories. Apple was Steve Jobs and Steve Jobs was Apple - at least to the people. What kept bothering me, that could the "genius" Jobs not figure out that he would need to pass on his vision. That he would have to create not just products in his life time, but an organisation, which keeps churning products based on his vision.

The answer came where I least expected it - at a Tibetan restaurant. In the hindsight, it seems almost prophetic, considering Jobs was a Buddhist. I was having lunch with 2 of my colleagues/friends, when I raised this and  one of them said. "May be he didn't leave a vision to follow because he didn't want to". And that hit me!

May be, that is the reason. It's not always easy to make people see the world the way you see.
Then why spend your last days in passing on something which is truly impossible to emulate. Damn, he could see Macintosh even when it was not built. So how do you pass this vision and legacy? All you can hope is that the people after you would run well, what you have left and carried all throughout on your shoulders. It's tough to say what Jobs was thinking when he did that, but may be....

As a parting thought I will leave you with my favorite video of his (it's not Standford speech); where he talks about the Product strategy of Apple. It is 1997 and he is talking about iPhone and iCloud (conceptually). Now how do you pass that legacy!



Thursday, September 29, 2011

Google as smart as you!


"If we aren't a lot better next year, we will already be forgotten," Page said to one of the first reporters visiting the company. 

The founders also knew that Google had to be a lot smarter to keep satisfying users - and to fulfill the world-changing ambitions of its founders.
"We don't always produce what people want," Page explained in Google's early days.
"Its really difficult. To do that you have to be smart - you have to understand everything in the world. In computer science, we call that artificial intelligence."

Brin chimed in. "We want Google to be smart as you-you should be getting an answer the minute you think of it."

- From "In The Plex" By Steven Levy

Uncertain at best - Incompetent at worst!

Getting out of comfort zone is sexy!

But is it really so?

With all the Seth Godins of the world touting it as the next best thing to do, it surely has become glamorous to talk and rave about it.

Though what happens when this secure bubble really bursts? (or you break out of it, due to its sheer sex appeal)

Well, for people who have already not seen this transition - it can leave you feeling uncertain at the best of the times, while incompetent at the worst of hours. There would be no peer network to fall back upon, who already know that "you are the best".

In fact, it will be the process to start all over. Making new friends, failing all over, building credibility all over and it gets tougher by the day since all this comes along with the expectations to deliver!

As they say, "Take calculated risk, it's better than being rash"

And now that you have the both the sides of coin on breaking out of comfort zone; take the leap only if it suits you and not for the thrill of your next door neighbor or Seth Godin & Co.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bums and Recession!

Can baby bums tell you how economy is behaving? At least Advertising Age thinks so!

Their number crunching shows how, in United States, during the last year, fall of unit sales of disposable diapers outnumbered infant population decline 3 is to 1.

What's more telling is, that "the unit sales of baby ointments and creams rose 2.8%, despite fewer babies.", speaking of parents trying to treat babies diaper rashes which is happening because of less frequent changing.

All this is clearly in proportion with increasing unemployment rate in United States.

However, there is something else which took me by surprise. According to P&G, India, as a country, tops all in terms average daily diaper changes. Now let's see how e-commerce companies in India, who are lapping up this craze (of change) are going to tap this!

Friday, September 23, 2011

"It's the writing, Stupid"

When Dick Wolf mouthed those prophetic words, he didn't realize he is talking for Internet industry as well. But sure he did.

For all the self-proclaimed SEO gurus, who believe training guns on infinite number of signals Google factors in its algorithm, would yield them results, this is the sole lesson which should work. Not to forget "instant gratification" afflicted, clients - they need to sit back and let the content do the job, if they really want to win the war (not just battles).

It is your content, which builds the fan following, brings people come to your site on the days when Google is not your best friend. Any one can be a prince when King is your father.

This serves the lesson for the likes of Expedia and Nextag, who are busy championing against Google. Their case is clearly the case of sour grapes! Nextag wanted Google to change their product feature so that Nextag can come up on first page. While Expedia clearly looks pissed off by not finding place in Google's new flight search engine. The key is to let the free market take the decision on who is the ruler, instead of acting like an underdog, when all you do is "write bad"!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Burning Man

Ever seen a city in desert being laid out for a week and then it being vanished after a week, leaving no traces of its existence whatsoever? That my friend is, Burning Man!

Burning Man is an extraordinary festival celebrating as varied principles as Self-Reliance, Decommodification, Civic Responsibility and Participation. A vision of one man, it sets about to change the perception in which art is defined, created, perceived and consumed.

Don't believe me - See it by yourself via Scott London's picturesque photographs (and that's just 2011).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Larry, why do you say you want to do research?

"He (Krishna Bharat) said to Page

"You are such a tiny group!" 

Page's answer was surprising and impressive. 

"Looking at things from a different perspective could lead to unexpected solutions", he said. "Sometimes in engineering you look at things with tunnel vision and need a broader perspective.""

- From "In The Plex" By Steven Levy

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jobs, Karma and Superman

"You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

When Steve Jobs spoke of these prophetic words at his Commencement Address at Stanford University in June 2005, what flummoxed me that a man of such stature, who had like made Apple rise like a phoenix in recent years was giving away pretty much all the credit of beautiful Typography and developing Macs to Destiny.

This was the time, when iPods, Macs & iTunes were already a sensation and though India which at times considered the "nerd country" (owing to the PhDs they have produced in United States), Macs & Ipods were still not a commonality as they have become now.

Among all this, I had just started working, was pretty much broke but was consumed by idealism of capitalistic nature which was sweeping away India (where I live).

And here was the poster boy of  all the "nerds" who was crediting Karma for his success. As much as it sounded ridiculous, it also confused the capitalist in me, wondering if Capitalism is indeed a solution.

Time passed by, I grew in maturity, but the question never went away. It stayed there at the back of my mind making me wonder, if actually in life, everything could "all work out OK", as Jobs had said.

It was only couple of days back, I got my answer - a sort of co-incidence that it overlapped with Jobs's retirement. Though I think for me it is kind of divine, since it sorted out the position of Fate in my life.

So what's the answer & where did I get it?

The story of that is as "connecting the dots backward" as it could be. I was on a vacation in Puducherry during July 2011 and had visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram there. The experience was divine, especially for an agnostic, like me. Over there I stumbled into a book called "Superman" and picked it up out of fetish for superheros. It didn't disappoint me. It was the compilation of three essays written by Sri Aurobindo in 1915, namely 'Superman', 'All-Will and Free-Will' & 'The Delight of Works'. 

The answer lied in "All-Will and Free-Will" and here what it says (excerpts):

"It is doubtful whether belief in Fate or free-will makes much difference to a man's action, but it certainly matters a great deal to his temperament and inner being; for it puts its stamp on the cast of his soul. The man who makes belief in Fate an excuse for quiescence, would find some other other pretext if this were lacking...... It is not our intellectual ideas but our nature and temperament, - not dhi*, but mati* or even manyu*,or,as the Greeks would have said, thumos and not nous.

On the other hand a great man of action will often seize on the idea of Fate to divinise to himself the mighty energy that he feels driving him on the path of world-altering deeds.......He expresses in the idea of Fate his living and constant sense of the energy which has cast him down here whether to break like some some Vedic Marut the world's firm and establish things or to cut through mountains a path down which new rivers of human rivers of human destiny can pour.....Therefore we find that the greatest men of action the world has has known were believers in Fate or in a divine Will......The Superman believes more readily in Destiny.......than the average human mind"

Needless to say Steve Jobs describes the latter paragraph, while my (conventional) thinking was stuck with former!

* These are terms of Vedic psychology. Dhi is the intellect; mati, the general mentality; manyu, the temperament and emotive mind

Friday, September 16, 2011

A man who did what was right!


I was in Delhi last weekend, on an urgently arranged trip. 

My sister's father-in-law had passed away. Having visited there, was a humbling experience for me and taught me a thing or two about life and most importantly death.

I wanted to show up in person to offer condolences, more so for my brother-in-law, than for any thing else. The reason was simply that he is one person I believe closest to who I want to be, in terms of temperament and finding happiness in life. And I truly believe that one of the biggest of reason of who he is and how he is; is because of his upbringing, father being large part of it.

For people who think, death scares kids, I found my nephew and niece handling it far more in a far more mature manner than many adults.
 
During our conversations over the weekend, my brother-in-law talked about the happy times he had with his father, telling me, albeit not directly, what does it take you to be a good father and most importantly a great father.

If I have to put all of them in the fewest words, it would be: spiritual, soft spoken, smiling, and the man who did what he believed it was right for him and for his family!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Good Product Manager


Can you go through the phases where everyone in the organization resists the idea of your product being developed, from the phase where everyone wants to work on the project when it gathers momentum; not to forget the momentum-gathering phase?

If you can keep yourself grounded in all these phases, then my friend, I believe you are a good product manage!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cardinal Rule of Office Politics

An employee would never ever pick a tiff with her peer for the sake of her subordinate

She may pretend or tell the subordinate otherwise, but you know it better!


Some people, however, just don't get it.......

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Did you hire that JERK!?

So you are interviewing and you feel that you have got the best person for the job.

Fast forward 90 days:
You are sure that 90 days back, the person whom you found the best person for the job and for the team is a jerk.

So much so, that you are ready to bet your fortune on it!
So much so, that it has become a public act!
Actually it didn’t take you 90 days to figure that out, but isn’t 90 days what every management book tells you should wait before making a judgment over a new employee?

Now the perils this jerk can bring are that:
1. She can drive away other talented people simply by being annoying, acting tough, unlikable or simple by being know-it-all.
2. Her personal limitations can prevent her from accepting the change is what she needs and not everyone around her
3. She won’t be able to let the organization drive changes even if it’s a do or die situation
4. To top it all, everyone will know that you have brought this jerk onboard and they will talk about it in hush-hush tones on water cooler and in loud voices after getting drunk

If you have ever been this hiring manager, take heart from this:
Every hiring manager has at least one horror story about having hired jerks; you are not alone.

Need of the hour is to not to brood about it or to prove the jerk is indeed a role model for everyone to follow (which is what most of them try to do usually).

Only way to mitigate the damage done by a jerk is weed her out of the system. No excuses for that, you see…

Monday, August 29, 2011

Travel's Online Persona

This presentation explains Travel's Online persona and how has it evolved in various regions. Later on it discusses that what does it takes to be successful at Travel Business using Online Marketing. I presented this at Online Marketing Enthusiasts' (OME), July Conference. Check out this Presentation and please email me at ankurdineshsharma@gmail.com for any further information and/or details on this: