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Monday, December 26, 2011

SAFETY IS AN ACCESSORY: THE MODERN CAR PURCHASE

Hello World,

My buddy booked a car recently and I had the opportunity to be around him and see what he had to go through to book his first car. It was a short experience but it was a surprisingly funny experience. My buddy had a quotation in hand and he was looking for options to choose from. Now we did not have to go through the soap opera style “Make/Model Selection” oratorical extravaganza where on the hint of a yes, people would go ranting about how good the fender of a specific make can withstand a monster truck crash. The model and make in this case were finalized without all this trouble and we were out looking for options from different showrooms, hoping we might get a cheaper deal. We were hoping to negotiate something we thought we knew and understood. We should have thought otherwise. 

It was a bright Sunday morning. Me and my buddy went for a cricket game (where I got out in the first ball and still the guys let me play…they thought I can bat…bad guess…apparently..) and were driving back home with the objective of stopping by a showroom on the way. Now it has to be noted that me and my buddy, two 27 year old guys, were driving in Chennai, looking for a showroom, without knowing if there was one in the route we were driving. I guess that explains why we’re buddies since 9th grade. There is a dialup directory service running in the city, which essentially is yellow pages on phone. Sitting as the pillion rider, I was handed over the responsibility of calling and enquiring about a possible car showroom in that area. My buddy had a hunch there was one in that neighborhood. I dialed the service from my buddy’s mobile and asked for a car showroom and they responded there was one indeed in that area. With me and my buddies, hunches always led to trouble. This one was a little different. So I believed. 

We got the number of the showroom and I gave my name to the guy on the the other end who gave us the number. So the confusion begins right there. Wonder why my randomness alone does this every time???  Me too….  So we finally reached the showroom which surprised us with a capacity crowd on a Sunday. The sales executive greeted us with great respect and began the proceedings. Now, for those who do not know, speaking to a car salesman is like listening to Spanish radio in a meditation hall. You can’t speak a word because it is a meditation hall and you can’t understand a word because you don’t know Spanish.
After yawning three times, I decided not to force the salesman use profanity in his workplace. I started making attempts to listen to him like I was a ham radio enthusiast searching for a lost frequency. As the salesman was explaining the accessories that they provided along with the car, I came across the sound that was quite similar to “LEFT SIDE REAR VIEW MIRROR”!!!!!  I have no idea what the salesman talked for the next 20 seconds, for I was stuck with the idea of rear view mirrors as an accessory for a car. It is true, given the Chennai’s traffic and Indian driving scene, nobody uses rear view mirrors but from the car-maker’s perspective, rear view mirrors are dire safety needs for any vehicle. I was telling myself….Welcome Home Tiger. 

Pulling myself together after this “kiss-the-electric-eel” experience, I got back into conversation with the salesman, not knowing that the ride was yet to begin. It started with the financing options. He went from bank to bank, flat to floating interest, down-payment to what not in this world…….me and my buddy were staring at the salesman like two 2nd graders staring at their Principal. I should say there cannot be a better way of explaining the financing options in a consuming way. This special episode lasted for well over 15 minutes…that’s 5 minutes more than my usual attention time…but I was zoned out all the while….trying to figure out what the salesman was lecturing on. 

After the end of the financing spitfire, me and my buddy randomly chose one of the options offered simply because it had the least rate-of-interest, just to get the salesman move on the next topic…or anything that we can nod like a human for. Apparently we chose the worst financing option. The salesman’s face brightened and that told me we just stepped on another landmine of a lecture. I was right…I am always right when I get in trouble…wonder why…..

When asked for a good discount, the salesman readily agreed, much to our amusement, and then when he gave us the quote, we were at the verge of thinking to opt for a different model. He said yes to the discount but added all the “Accessories” and brought the quote well and above my buddy’s budget and then installed the discounts, clearly telling us that he is a car salesman and we are not humans. When offered a good price, he said he had to enquire before he can confirm and demanded a “spot-booking.” Well, forget the booking, we were ready to clear the spot hoping to find another showroom to get another quote. 

Later that day my buddy booked his first car, in a different showroom, where we learnt that the financing lecture we had earlier that day was a total “Voldemort-is-a-Puppy” fairytale. From the marketing perspective, in an attempt to give the customers a feel of getting more for what they pay, car manufacturers have added the necessary elements of a car into the additional accessory list. Now people like it when they know they get more for what they pay (which again would be more accordingly), but is it ok to have the really small yet important aspects of a car in the accessory list, forcing customers to pay for something they deserve as a paying customer? To me, from the marketing stand-point, it is weird to note that, rear view mirror is an accessory that the customer can choose if the option was to live, while the sun-film on the windows came as a free-gift due to year-end sales promotion. The big surprise is...it is Maruti that is doing this.


On a very different note [a shameless plug], if you are interested in unique tamil short films, feel free to visit https://www.summamovies.com/I couldn't tolerate the mass masala entertainers anymore and decided I will do my best to produce content with substance. I have a long a way to go as a producer and a start-up founder, but I am glad our journey has begun. I look forward to your support. Each film on our site costs INR 15. Thanks!!!


Regards,

Thursday, December 1, 2011

BYE BYE AMERICA!!!!

Hello World,
This would most probably be the last blog I write from the United States. I am leaving United States for good and flying back to India, my homeland. I got my first job of my life on Nov 15th and even before I could complete my celebration, I got laid off on the 18th. I never expected this. I was new, I was enthusiastic and all the more eager to learn and perform when the corporate axe fell on me. I was depressed the evening I lost my job but later that night I realized I had accumulated a long list of questions to be answered. I began to understand that it is not the time to be disappointed but a perfect time to get questions answered…questions that matter…questions that only I have to answer and answers that would tell me what to do next.
The main question I had to deal with was that, which asked for top three priorities in my life. Well, I had a simple straight forward answer….Family, Friends and a Career. This question at that point of time did not strike me as bait…but it was indeed a vicious one, for the next question hit me like a sniper shot. It was again, simple in terms of subject but incredibly heavier than the previous one. It asked for my current status as of the evening of 18th Nov, with respect to my top three priorities in life. I was lying down; staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out what could be a possible answer that was acceptable to me. The answer, however, as it unfolded, made me speechless within myself. As of the evening of I8th Nov, I was far away from my parents, all the way to the other side of planet earth. I was obviously far away from my high school buddies and college buddies as well. Having lived for 4 years in the United States, I had accumulated the best of luck to have made a great network of friends and buddies who made me feel like I am a part of a great Wolfpack in the United States. I was far away from them too on the fateful evening. As for my career, I just had lost my first job, the consequence of which I was answering these questions. Summing up, I was far away from my family, friends and staring at the uncertainty of my career which I thought had finally begun. This brought my racing mind to a screeching halt. I left India, my homeland, in 2007, with great hopes of living my share of the American Dream. Higher education in the United States followed by a career of my choice in this land of opportunities was the plan. After 4 years, I got my first job and I thought my dream was finally coming true. It actually lasted a full 32 working hours (the time I spent working as a Sales and Marketing Development Coordinator).
Having realized the harsh reality that I narrated myself, I began to wonder what is going on with my life right now. Well, my dream is yet to be realized, for starters. I still haven’t quite made it to the end of the tunnel, I thought. May be there is a little more to cover before I cross the finishing line. I decided to go back home that very moment. At first I thought I was giving up on my dream. It took me a few hours before I understood that I haven’t actually started what I intend to do and therefore giving up is just not an option. It was interesting for me to note that I decided to fly back home with the same dreams I flew with into the United States. I was crazy to come over here and I am crazy to go back home right now.
4 years in Starkville, Mississippi, followed by a short stay in Virginia, my life has already got a crown jewel of an experience. I learned things that I always wanted to. I traveled to places that I never thought I would ever visit. I met people from different cultures. I made friends and had a good time…. far away from my comfort zone. I have transformed in a way I never imagined. I came to United States as someone and I am glad I am going back as the same someone, but with a lot more added to me (that actually has humor attached and you would know if you look at me). In fact I came for an MS and I am going back with an MBA. I apologize to have lied about my MS which was never completed. I made choices that I shouldn’t have and I had to pay for it. I however did not miss out on the learning. 4 years at Mississippi State University, my “Harvard-Stanford-MIT combo” from the south, has given me the knowledge to make my life wherever I go.
For the past 4 years, life has been throwing twist after twist and I kept adapting to them, making compromises all the way. I guess it is time I start throwing the twists and let life make its compromises. It is a simple case of cost versus benefit and I happen to choose my satisfaction over everything else. I remember President Obama remarking that America is bringing in people, training them and sending them away to compete against America in the 2011 State of the Union Address. I am not sure if I should agree with the “compete” part but I definitely agree with the “training” part. May be someday, I will be able to explain how right President Obama was.
As for my dream, I guess it is something more than just the American dream. Things would have been different if I had the job but now I know it is going to be a lot more different that what I imagined. As for now, I won’t stop dreaming and I won’t stop at dreaming either. Thank you Mississippi State!!!  Thank you America!!!



On a very different note [a shameless plug], if you are interested in unique tamil short films, feel free to visit https://www.summamovies.com/I couldn't tolerate the mass masala entertainers anymore and decided I will do my best to produce content with substance. I have a long a way to go as a producer and a start-up founder, but I am glad our journey has begun. I look forward to your support. Each film on our site costs INR 15. Thanks!!!


Regards,

Thursday, October 6, 2011

BEING APPLE-MINDED

Hello World,
Have you ever wondered why agriculture is the most important industry on earth than anything else……in spite of it not having a glamorous image as the other ones? ...that’s because agriculture satisfies the most basic need of mankind…food for survival. That’s the reason most of us don’t care to notice the price change when it comes to buying bread, milk and vegetables. We need them irrespective of their price. We may at times promise ourselves, never to step into the customer-friendly “organic only” chain outlets to help us from the insomnia we suffer from, after we spend a fourth of our paycheck on tomatoes that are just tomatoes. When was the last time we worried about an increase in the price of milk, sugar or bread? We might have noticed the price change but still went on grabbing the same number of milk cans and the same size sugar pack every time we went to buy them. There are so many products we don’t care about the price (We frown about sky-rocketing gas prices but do we cut down on our weekend drives?). These in the marketing world may be grouped under the banner that says Consumer Products. The companies that provide these products often don’t worry too much about attracting their customers, because their business, for the most part, relies more on the Supply vs. Demand characteristics of the regions they operate in. All they have to do is figure out the demand and supply the required quantity. Anything more they do would simply help them increase their revenues by margins that they can always neglect. 

What does this tell us? These businesses that sell consumer products simply have to satisfy the needs that mankind had, has and will have, until the world comes to an end (you know….just in case Bruce Willis fails to detonate the nuke on time or if the Mayan calendar turns out to be true). It is quite easy to survive the commercial battle in the domain that deals with mankind’s basic needs. It is not a joke to create a need, influence the demand and create a product that would satisfy the need and continue to be responsible for a whole new industry that would satisfy the same need with thousands of similar products. Although numerous companies have achieved this feat, Apple’s i-phone, in my opinion shall stand out as the remarkable example for such a feat. Nobody needed an i-phone. Nobody knew such a need could exist. But still Apple achieved this feat in style. It is true that I rally against smart phones. But as a marketing fan, I would salute the brains that were responsible for achieving this feat. If an organization can evolve successfully and achieve such marketing miracles, then the credit goes to the founders of the organization, for creating it with such abilities. Steve Jobs founded Apple and developed it into an organization that can switch gears overnight without an obvious proof of profit and still end up making huge profits. It has to be noted that Steve had his own ways and most people did not agree with them. What he believed as “out-of-the-box” was perceived to be “eccentric.” Growing up in humble circumstances, dropping out of college, getting fired from the company he founded, diagnosed for terminal illness, Steve always had a lot of things going on in his life. I have no idea how he fought all the adversities but he definitely came out of his troubles and guided Apple to successfully shift into the consumer electronics domain.  The world is also not used to seeing many companies shifting gears, decades after their founding and definitely not their hallmark success after the shift. 

Steve Jobs had his own share of the commercial “bad-guy” accusations at various levels but beneath all of those was an enthusiastic entrepreneur who would dream, believe in his dream and go all-out to realize the dream. I remember the finishing words of the famous graduation ceremony speech that Steve gave years ago which are “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.” Well, what he did and what he said makes sense. He may not be a symbol of the ideal businessman but he definitely lived as an example of everything not ideal but yet successful in a unique way. Since the moment I learned about his death, I have been thinking if it would be appropriate to mourn his death. I am not sure about it. I think he should be congratulated on completing a glorious entrepreneurial career and leaving an inspiring legacy of eccentric positive attitude. He may be forgotten but his life’s positive impact on the modern world shall remain, in different forms, forever. For the marketing world, anything is possible if we are “Apple-Minded.”     
                                 
    Great job Steve!!!!


On a very different note [a shameless plug], if you are interested in unique tamil short films, feel free to visit https://www.summamovies.com/I couldn't tolerate the mass masala entertainers anymore and decided I will do my best to produce content with substance. I have a long a way to go as a producer and a start-up founder, but I am glad our journey has begun. I look forward to your support. Each film on our site costs INR 15. Thanks!!!


 Regards,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

WHEN THE WIND BLOWS.....

Hello World,
            I drove to Tuscaloosa with a good friend of mine. Although we had purpose for the trip, I took my Sony A-230 with me, hoping to get a few shots of the Tornado-hit Tuscaloosa. I drove expecting to find fallen trees and broken lights but the sight of the tornado-ravaged Tuscaloosa, even almost a month after the natural disaster, was absolutely heart-stopping. Looking at the kind of the damage the tornadoes did, I can assertively say that those who were in the vicinity of the tornado hit areas of Tuscaloosa at the time of the disaster had no chance of surviving it.
           Shattered homes, their walls torn apart, roofs ripped off, trees fallen on them is what that remains there now. The streets are strewn with the things those homes safely held prior to the disaster. After a brief walk through the tornado-hit neighborhood, I captured some of the damages with my camera and as I was taking the pictures, I felt like the most luckiest human being on planet. I have no idea what would have happened to me if the Tornado had passed through where I live.This photo-shoot has made an impact on my mind for this is the first time I ever visited a natural disaster site. I don't know much but "climate change" definitely means a lot more to me now, than it ever did.
         Help is pouring in from all directions to help the rehabilitation efforts in Tuscaloosa. I think, to be informed is one way of getting started with contributing to the rehabilitation efforts. Here are some of the pictures I took:





































































On a very different note [a shameless plug], if you are interested in unique tamil short films, feel free to visit https://www.summamovies.com/I couldn't tolerate the mass masala entertainers anymore and decided I will do my best to produce content with substance. I have a long a way to go as a producer and a start-up founder, but I am glad our journey has begun. I look forward to your support. Each film on our site costs INR 15. Thanks!!!

Regards,