Wednesday, November 30, 2011

[Politics] FDI in Multi-brand Retail

Last few days, Government has been trying to pass a bill which raises the FDI limit in  multi-brand retail chains to 49%. However, as usual Left has opposed which comes as no surprise. What really surprises me is the opposition by BJP as they are considered to to be the progressive right wing as far as politics of economics goes. Either ways some of the direct and indirect benefits of raising the limit is given below:

  • Inflation in India is mainly a supply-side issue. The rising disposable income of middle-class is demanding more with minimal increase in efficiency from the supply-side. Government in its bill is asking the foreign retailer to invest 50% in the back-end process. Improving the efficiency will improve the farm productivity and thus increase supply reducing the inflationary pressure. The cost of important food items will reduce in the long run. This is what BJP, CPM and "common man" actually want.
  • Any new retail-chain creates multitude of job-opportunities at the front-end. This is clearly evident in the number of malls that we have. Even in IT/ITES services, the housekeeping and security gives a good chunk of population a regular monthly income. Additionally, the setting up of back-end infrastructure, supply chain logistics will create another set of jobs.
  • Currently there is no provision of cold-storage which causes around 40% of the supplies to rot. With superior technology and prior experience of foreign retail chains, this loss will be minimized. As they are partnering with Indian firms, this technology know-how will be transferred to Indian firms too.
  • To us consumers, apart from the cheaper food items, we will get to have more choices and thus improve our standard of living.
  • Big organizations can set up deals directly with farmers thus giving the farmers better deal. Additionally, big organizations will provide latest technologies and best practices which will ensure more yield per area  of irrigation. The best example here is Amul which leverages farm produce across Gujarat and thus help give the cattle-owners good deal.


  • The major chunk of people losing out here will be the small kirana stores and the middle-men. However, as with other industries, the smartest of them will find ways to survive under changing business scenario.
  • The second argument is building up the cold storage and infrastructure is government  business. Do we really need another 2G proportional scam where tax payers as usual are looted of their money or better invite private sector which already has the tech know-how and experience in implementing it?
  • Another argument is the Wal-mart and Tesco taking over the entire supply-chain. Well, if the bill is debated in the parliament, I do not see a way, by which government cannot impose certain curbs to prevent taking over of entire supply chain.
So at the most, the loss will be limited only to the kirana store owners and middle-men. So not sure, what the opposition is opposing here. Are they opposing the welfare of the citizens over selected kirana store owners and middle-men?

PS: I have given a bit simplistic view here. Getting hard core numbers would have resulted in similar conclusion. However, in interest of sleep and a bout of laziness has prevented me from doing so. 

P.PS: Extensive analysis available here

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

[Online Marketing] Twitter Tips from User Perpective

With every other organization jumping on the twitter band-wagon, it becomes intimidating for an organization to join on twitter.  Many of them simply don’t join in as it is a new medium and they want to keep things as is. However, once the competition start leveraging the power of twitter, the reality dawns and then it is just too late. So given here are few of tips that can help in reducing some of the initial jitters:

  1. Twitter is a medium of communication. That is the most important concept that needs to be understood for any organization. Whatever the organization tweets, it becomes a press statement. As just as for any other medium of communication (digital, print, etc), you need to ensure the communication remains consistent with your values and mission.
  2. The initial set of users is the set with whom you are very closely associated with. You need to nurture them as they become your voice moving forward and they become the cause for the newer set of users.
  3. The depth of all relationships depends on the extent of mutual respect. Honestly appreciate your suppliers or customers on any improvement in process or any implementation of good strategy. Even a slightly better product from them should not go unappreciated.
  4. It is a communication medium. So you need to engage your followers. Some of the organizations that I have observed tend to only promote their brand and only post promotional news. This turns off your followers. Occasional branding is fine though. Your users are reading your tweets in their timeline. That is a sacred space. They want something useful for them in their timeline. It also shows your respect for their timeline. Spamming with tweets is an absolutely no-no. For example, if you are mobile manufacturer having Android as the OS you can post the tips and tricks of using the phone to the users. Users will like these kinds of update and they will do Re-Tweet (RT). The tweet and your brand spread.
  5. @<Your Handle> is the only way users can send their feedback. This is the simplest form of getting feedback about your product / service. Monitor this. A prompt response to the feedback makes the user feel valued and will post more such feedback and thus helping you improve your product / service as per customer needs.
  6. Get the twitter stream mentioning your organization’s name on to your website. This will help your future customers know the kind of chatting happening on the twitter about your organization. You future customers will get a sense of security when they can see what people are saying about you on the net. Do this only if you are managing each of the feedback actively. Also getting this done will require some development effort, although very minimal.
  7. Twitter gives “Follow” button and “Tweet” button. Follow button helps the new customers read about your new posts. If properly managed, this helps in building trust. If you are publishing any insightful articles about your product or the industry in general, the tweet button will help you increase your reach substantially. There are others from Google (g+), Facebook. But none can compare with the reach Twitter has.
  8. Do Re-Tweet the posts where you have been appreciated. These appreciations are more valuable as they come from your customers or industry peers and thus resonate with your current and future customers.
  9. If it is a small organization, you can give your employees the freedom to tweet about you. Good and happy feedback from them shows the culture that you have as an organization. Transparency will be the first and most important quality will be show-cased which will help in building trust. This on the other hand challenges you to listen to both your customer as well as your employees. If taken positively, it can transform your organizational culture and thus increase your brand-value among your customers. However, caution must be exercised as this can act as a double-edged sword and can backfire. Start-ups where people are dedicated for the success of it can implement this strategy easily.
  10. Ensure you have only one twitter handle. People have short memories. They cannot remember different handles for each of your different product line. They want to give feedback and quick. Having a single handle helps them in remembering your twitter and in turn will help you in getting timely feedback. 

To summarize, tweeting is a form of communication with your customers, employees, and stakeholders all at once. So all the principles of communication apply and you need to be sure what you want to communicate to them. If managed well, it can become the most powerful tool to increase your business.
To get more information on twitter please refer the link here. For a detail on twitter words, please refer the twitter glossary

This post was first published here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

10 Travelling Tips for a Vacation

Considerable part of my last two years was spent on travelling. All only for pleasure, though lot of them were trips to home. So have gone through the pains which come from being on vacation. Generally, unless going for a bike-rides or long drives, going to a vacation is generally reaching a place and then start enjoying once there.

Of course you will be in the vacation mood even before you start the travel. Yet, the big draw will always be the vacation place. So obviously for most of us travelling, is a bit of a tough part of going to a vacation. Here are some of the tips that made this pain part a bit easier to handle it better:
  1. When travelling together, never go near your iPads, iPods, androids, books, or mobiles. Better stil don’t take them in the first place. These are the things that we wanted to get away from in the first place. Talk, sing, joke, prank with those around you. The laughs that you have are more important than those status updates that go to facebook streams to get those likes. Or when you want to have a moment of your silence for yourself, look out at the wide open spaces, the green nature, the idle bucolic life, that start appearing as you move out away from  the cities. On the other hand, if you are a writer, having a notepad to jot down your thoughts is not a very bad idea.
  2. If you are going for a planned trip, have a buffer time in your itinerary for the travel delays or unintended stops. Sometimes these stops might be just the stops where you spend time to enjoy the nature or want to enjoy an extended lunch. Having these buffer will help you not rush through these moments as sometimes at the end of vacation, these moments might as well turn out to be the best ones.
  3. Travel Light. Except the bare essentials, anything else is a burden. Of course, you want to have a backup for all kinds of emergencies. So research the place and find out things that will be available in case of emergencies. You can skip them if the travel time is less. Moreover, if you are going as a group, you can have one set or maximum of two sets of essentials. Essentials include tooth-pastes, deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, etc. Do ensure each one have their own first-aid medical kit. That is not to be shared.
  4. Things can and most often do happen which is not supposed to happen. It is important to take this with a shrug of a shoulder, a laugh and then move on. Be cautious enough to avoid such kind of situations. But not all situations can be avoided. Face the situation and do not panic. Once you are through with it, you will remember it for all the wrong reasons. So cheer up, you will crack up when remembering these moments later.
  5. Ensure your senses are at a higher level of caution and you are looking out for your things. Living things unattended may ruin your entire vacation. On the other hand, do not be paranoid. You will forget to enjoy the travel if you become paranoid. One way of maintaining this balance, is to have a periodic check of your belongings.
  6. If it is long travel, ensure you start the day with a light breakfast and good amount of water. In case, the night before had a binge drinking session, a strong coffee, with loads of water will lighten up the head along with the breakfast.  
  7. Keep stock of dry fruits, water and fresh fruits for the whole journey. Periodic consumption of these will keep your energy level high throughout the journey and reduce the tiredness at the end of the journey. Avoid chips and burgers. They are water guzzlers, difficult to digest and provide you with little usable energy.
  8. Do have the usual stock of medicines you generally take and some which you know you might need while travelling. For example a bad stomach, a slight fever are the most common travelling ailment you can get due to variety of reasons. So medicines for those are absolutely essential. 
  9. In your plan, do visualize all the things that can go wrong and at least have one solution to tackle the thing that went wrong. This will help you not freeze up when something goes wrong and enable you to take rational decisions.
  10. Last point is suggested in the first paragraph of this post itself. Do not consider vacation as the part that starts after the travel part is over. It starts with the travel. So enjoy the vacation including the travel and have a great vacation!
This post was first published here.