Top five for Twitter

The micro blogging platform Twitter has emerged as a powerful medium to exchange short messages called ‘tweets’ which has a maximum of 140 characters. Introduced as a social networking platform, this small yet powerful idea has outgrown itself to emerge as one of the powerful marketing tools. If you are a small and medium business owner, and are trying to offer any product or service online, Twitter is one application you just cannot afford to miss out. Here are the top5 reasons for using Twitter.

One – Promotion medium: To start with Twitter can be easily used as a medium to promote your product or service that you or your organization is offering. You can post simple ‘tweets’ regarding your offering and initial user base (beta) can be built in no time. The more ‘followers’ for your profile, the bigger the use base is. These ‘followers’ are the set of people to whom you can directly communicate with about your product/service. It could build critical mass for promotional events etc. As everyone who uses ‘Twitter’ is a customer, this offers an easy to directly reach them.

Two -The ‘Viral’ way: The ultimate power of Twitter comes from its ability to create viral messages about your product or service. Remember everybody in the Twitter world is capable of writing Tweets, which can help you to generate excellent word-of-mouth promotion for your product or service. Within minutes people express their views in through ‘Tweets’, which can heavily influence their followers, who can influence more people to know about your product/service. In a way it works as a multi layered structure, where everybody can be a influence the other.  These influencers will eventually get converted into more number of people becoming aware of your service/product and eventually will turn into customers of the service or product you are trying to offer via online. With traditional marketing getting redefined with the power of Internet, Twitter is ‘The tool’ you should look forward to generate the buzz.

Three – Can you listen? As every Tweet can be influential, it can be of two ways. In case a few users are unhappy with your offering, you can get instant feedback by monitoring their ‘Tweets’. Twitter offers excellent search facilities ( through which you get to know what people are saying about your offering. In simple terms it helps you “listen” to your customers, which is a great opportunity to improve your product/service.

Four – Online branding: How can we miss this? Twitter helps you to build a great online identity, thereby building a better brand. As it acts as a two way communication platform with your prospective customers, our digital impression can be built using twitter. The more authentic and engaging conversation (in form of Tweets) you have, the trust among customers can be built easily. Being successful in Twittering can put forth your personality and a unique style thereby offering a competitive advantage.

Five – It’s Free! Last, but not the least. Unlike other marketing vehicles like promotional events or brochure distribution, Twittering can be started without spending even a rupee. Given the current economic condition and shoe-string budgets, Twitter is the tool for marketers to look forward.  Andy Sernovitz one of the proliferators of word-of-mouth marketing put it as “infinite power” this divide by zero (cost) can give an infinite output advantage to your business. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to enter new world of ‘Tweets’!!

I wrote this article some time back for MyBangalore portal. Here is the link to the original article.

Top Five for LinkedIn

The professional networking tool LinkedIn has emerged as the largest online network with more than 9 million users. Unlike the social networking sites Facebook, LinkedIn is the tool for professionals to do serious business. Whether you looking for a new job or forging new business partnership, LinkedIn is the tool you should look forward to. With adverse economic conditions, it becomes all the more important to have a stronger professional network to ask any sort of help. Here are my top5 for LinkedIn usage.

One – Build your network: First and foremost, build your professional network using LinkedIn. This tool is inherently designed for professionals with a no-nonsense approach. If you are new to LinkedIn, start inviting your friends to join. In case of you already have a presence in LinkedIn look forward for every single opportunity to add new members into your network. By adding new connections, you increase the likelihood that people will see your profile first when they’re searching for someone to hire or do business with. In addition to appearing at the top of search results, people would much rather work with people who their friends know and trust. Remember, the success in professional life has got more to do with “whom you know” than “what you know”.

Two – Keep it updated: After building your profile, it’s equally important to keep it updated. Be it change in organization, role or project make sure you spend an hour to update your LinkedIn profile. Also make sure you capture your complete professional history by maintaining previous employer information in reverse chronological order. This increases the possibility of adding new connections to your network in form of previous colleagues, peers and supervisors. Recently LinkedIn has introduced “what are you doing?” field, thanks to Twitter revolution. By keeping the status updated, you can also get connected with professionals working on similar project. An element of caution here: Don’t publically announce your employee confidential information, which may create business violation.

Three – Get recommended: This is where the real power of LinkedIn lies. Using the ‘Recommendations’ options you can seek recommendations from anyone in your network. The more recommendation shows up in your profile, the trust level on your profile increases dramatically. When it comes to long term career building, having a trustworthy record plays a critical role more than anything else. These recommendations are used by companies to validate background check on employees. Also be gracious! If you find anyone of your fellow-professional worth recommending, make sure you do it without even them asking for it.

Four – Build authenticity: LinkedIn offers multiple other options by which you can build authenticity in the online world. Participating in ‘Question and answer’ sessions by offering focused answers count a lot when it comes to measuring your expertise in a particular area. In order to emphasize the importance of it, LinkedIn has an internal ranking system where the person asking question can rank the answers. The person whose answer chosen as ‘best answer’ will be added as ‘expertise area’, thereby increasing your authority on the subject that you claim you have expertise. This is a simple but powerful way to build your authenticity online.

Five – Personal branding: LinkedIn allows you to make your profile information available for search engines to index, which is ranked high by popular engines like Google. This is a good way to influence what people see when they search for you online. Also by following simple Search Engine Optimizations (SEO) like: having a customized public profile URL, including it in your email signature, adding LinkedIn badges in your blog or website can create a personal brand for your name in the online world.

What other options you can think for LinkedIn?

This article I wrote for MyBangalore portal, quite long time back. The original link for this article can be accessed by clicking here.

BOOK REVIEW : I am Saravanan(Vidya)

BOOK REVIEW : I am Saravanan Vidya

Price: 100 INR

Author: Vidya (A transgender’s autobiography)

India is a strange country! In spite of (so called) globalization, many of our core societal issues still remain unsolved – transgender inclusion being one of them. Some time back I wrote a post about Hijras in India, highlighting the issue of them getting into prostitution by default due to lack of other options. Thankfully few Hijras has put up a fierce fight against the society and tried their level best to resume a mainstream life by creating an identity. Vidya, a transgender is one classic example who fought all the odds by making a career with NGO and writing. The book ‘I am Saravanan Vidya’ is the autobiography of Vidya, where she details the struggle gone thro for transforming herself from a male (Saravanan) to female (Vidya). Filled with real life experiences, challenges, frustrations this book has brought in dark pages of transgender life into public, thereby asking few critical questions to each one of us.

Born in a struggling lower middle class family, Saravanan’s parents had lot of expectations from (also because of him being the only son) him with dreams of eventually seeing him as the District Collector by clearing the prestigious IAS examinations. Being the only son, everybody in the family pampers him with all that they could afford, thereby ensuring necessary support for his studies. Expectations were so high that he just cannot afford to think about anything other than first rank in the class. Saravanan recalls the tension and fear ran thru him when he got second rank for the first time in his 6th standard. His father was extremely strict with studies, couldn’t take the fact of him getting second rank and beaten up Saravanan for the same.

This typical Indian lower middle class story takes an unexpected turn when Saravanan starts getting his early inclination towards being a female. Early experiments come in the form of wearing his sister’s dresses (half-saree) and dancing his heart out by listening to radio songs after latching the door. This interest intensifies gradually when he starts liking indoor games played by girls (ex: pallanguzhi), and starts spending more time with girls of his age then boys. After moving into high-school, his feeling becomes uncontrollable, wanting him to be more of a female than a male. He also goes thru initial insults from his class mates by calling ‘Ali’ and making fund of his ‘female-type’ behavior. Somehow he completes computer science bachelor degree, with declining academic records. From a 90%+ scorer (and the first ranker), he slowly drops into 60%s, somehow ensuring first class.  By this time, his father had lost all the hopes on him for making him as the District Collector without having any clue about what his teenage boy was going thru. There are multiple questions running in Saravanan’s mind now – Whom should he approach to seek solution for his problem? How can he live a life being physically male but feeling as a female? What answers he can give to his parents, who sacrificed everything for him with lots of dreams?

In search of finding a solution, Saravanan relocates to Chennai and lands up in a meager job with a drama troop. Thanks to some contacts in the drama community, he eventually moves to Pune for joining the Hijra community.  Life becomes all the more difficult for him to make a living (by begging) and getting used to the Hijra community by following their rituals. The very fact that the Hijra community is the only option, who will help him to convert his gender, keeps him going against all the odds. In subsequent chapters, Saravanan clearly explains the issues faced in the gender conversion which I explained in my previous article.

First an individual should consult a psychiatrist who can either help them to come out of the ‘feeling’ of becoming a female or mentally prepare them for a gender conversion operation. Followed by this they go thru a complex operation which will physically remove all male genitals. After the operation they need to go thru some more psychological counseling, thereby ensuring that they get used to the new gender. The third and most important aspect is to have a well defined legal system for converting their gender, after which they will be treated as a female in the society. They are legally entitled to apply for jobs (as females), get married (leaving the fact that they cannot reproduce) and enjoy all the societal benefits. In India, none of the above mentioned process/system exists.

After going thru the painful process of removing male genitals (by a self appointed doctor in Andhra Pradesh), Saravanan finally gets rid of his male identity and changing name as Vidya. After becoming Vidya, life becomes miserable. Even after somehow escaping from the Hijra community, getting a job or getting basic documents (like passport/driving license/ration card) or find a decent accommodation becomes almost impossible task. Thanks to his drama troop friends Chennai she lands up in a job with an NGO in Chennai and keeping her writing passion alive by starting a blog. Eventually she ends up writing this book by explaining the darker sides of being a Hijra.

This book was a real eye opener for me as it helped me to understand the darker side of Indian society. As Vidya had a formal education, she is at least able to make a basic living. What about millions of Hijras in the country who don’t even have basic education? Why there is no legal or social system for accepting them as a part of mainstream society? How can we boast ourselves of being ‘global citizens’ when educated elite don’t even acknowledge such issues?

There are no uncreative jobs….. only uncreative ways of doing a job

If you grew up in Chennai in the late 80s / early 90s, it would be hard NOT to have heard about Ayyannan, a traffic constable. Now, on initial glance it is easy to imagine a traffic constable as a pretty uncreative job. How creative can you get with directing traffic?

However, Ayyannan was special!!! He had this choreographic way of directing traffic – expansive dance like movements to get the traffic criss crossing…. and NO, his way of directing traffic did not cause any accidents. Ive often seen him posted in 2 of the busiest traffic intersections in Chennai during the morning peak hours – Gandhi statue on beach road or Music Academy junction in Cathedral Road – both of which fed huge traffic from the residences in South Chennai to the business districts in Mount Road and Parry’s corner. There would usually be a small crowd who stopped in a corner to just hang around and watch him go about his “uncreative job”. People in passing vehicles craned their neck to watch him too. I remember The Hindu even doing a piece on him.

Unfortunately, those were not the days of the internet and when I just did a search for “Ayyannan Traffic Constable” on Google, it returned almost nothing. In this day of Youtube, his video would have gone viral…. Like a “Kolaveri”.

Ayyannan has helped me remind myself that there is always a more creative way, an more enterprising way, a passionate way of doing even the most mundane job. Face it, in every job, there is a portion which is a drudgery.  My ex boss once told me. “Whatever you do, there would be about 20% of your set of things on your plate that you will not enjoy greatly. Its part of the deal”. In multiple stages of my career Ive usually found this 80:20 rule to be pretty true – at a broad level. Looking at it as a drudgery is a sure way to not enjoy it and also to do a bad job at it. Maybe there is a more creative way of looking at it.

Its not just about what you do, but also about how you approach it and how you go about doing it.


— NWritings

Innovation – Type8 –Channel [Case: New Horizon Media]

In our ten part Innovation series, let us look New Horizon Media’s channel innovation as the eighth article.

The book publishing business has gone thru multiple changes in the recent years, which I have been covering in my part articles. India, with diversified set of languages offers significant opportunity for the publishing industry both in print and electronic formats. However, with infrastructure (physical & electronic) challenges, building channels and newer ways to reach customers is always a challenging task especially when it comes to books. New Horizon Media (NHM), a Chennai based publishing house has brought in significant change in terms of the way books are sold to consumers by building channels, similar to FMCG way. Sounds interesting? Read on.

NHM primarily publishes Tamil books, which are sold thru existing channels like — online shopping site, books fairs conduced in various cities and by building the resellers across the state. In spite of having all these channels, NHM found they are still not covering the bigger set of readers, who come from tier-2 and tier-3 cities. A different and innovative model needs to be thought for ensuring their reach. That’s they the idea of FMCG base model kicked in – What if books can be sold like a paste or soap? How about creating thousands of small outlets across the state by applying FMCG model into book publishing? What if books can be made available in Kirana shop in your street corner?

To implement this idea, NHM set up their own stockists (exactly like the FMCG industry) in each small town to whom they supply books. These stockists, in turn, supply NHM publications to a whole range of non-bookshop outlets in that town, such as stationary stores, pharmacies, supermarkets, and even restaurants and textile stores. Assume a case, where you are purchasing diabetic medicine for your aged parent from the medical shop, where you also find a book titled ‘How to control diabetes?’ Assume another case where your family members are busy shopping in a textile store, where they are going to spend next two hours and you are bored. Won’t you feel like picking up a book to kill time?

This is precisely what they have implemented by partnering with various shops across the state by leveraging the adjacency factor. As most of NHM books are priced in the range of 70-100 INR, customers won’t mind paying for it as it is slightly more than buying a magazine. Today NHM has about 2500 such outlets across the state, which has changed the way books are distributed in the state.

By identifying such retail outlets as a new channel for books distribution, NHM is able to transform the vernacular book publishing industry. Apart from the distribution channels, NHM has also created a niche market for translated books. Many of the latest best sellers (ex: India after Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha) is available in Tamil now which is addressing relatively high end customers. I will cover this aspect in a different article.

Innovation – Type7 – Service [Case: Flipkart]

In our ten part Innovation series, let us look into Flipkart under ‘service innovation’ (type7) category.

For folks who don’t know what Flipkart is all about, here is a simple definition – Indian version of Amazon. Couple of ex-Amazon engineers setup Flipkart mainly to provide high quality on-time delivery service, which was lacking in Indian context for a while. Before Flipkart came, there were many popular e-commerce websites (ex: Indiaplaza) who were doing reasonably well. However there were few issues are the services:

  • Delivery: Getting on-time delivery of online orders was an issue, thanks to logistics challenges that exist in India even today. Except for few reliable courier services (ex: Blue-dart), majority of them offer sub-standard service. Of course, I don’t want to talk about Indian postal service, which never improved over the years.
  • Reliability: Except tech-savvy folks, many people see issues to go online as they still perceive making online payments is not safe. Alternative approaches need to be taken to reach such customers who definitely had a need.
  • Support: Many of the e-commerce sites don’t provide 24×7 support even today. Also there are many concerns (ex:  not providing on-time responses etc.) that made online shopping experience as a non-pleasant one.

Flipkart understood each of these issues in a deeper manner and solved them from customer context. The most important factor behind Flipkart’s success was to understand the core issue of logistics much earlier. Building an online website and listing a bunch of items is relatively easier than ensuring that the shipped goods reach customers on or ahead of time, resulting in customer delight. In order to ensure proper delivery of goods, Flipkart has setup their own logistics firm ensuring timely delivery of the goods ordered from the site. Apart from that, Flipkart added 24×7 support service for ensuring timely addressing of customer issues.

However the main killer for Flipkart came in the form of ‘Cash-on-delivery’ (COD) service for purchases made thru’ the site, which addressed reliability issue. The COD came as a very good option for customers by providing an option to pay cash only when goods are delivered at their doorstep. By consistently executing on such small but really value adding services (another example being free shipping) from customer perspective, Flipkart is able to emerge as a strongest ecommerce site in India today.

Recently I have been hearing few concerns (about delivery time, non-sustainable discounts etc…). Never the less, by having a strong customer base built with service DNA is really an Innovation in Indian context.

What more examples you can think of when it comes to service innovation?