Testing the aside


A thousand or so sunsets later

It’s a funny feeling. After a few years of hiatus, this blog is ready to be resurrected. Mostly because I have something worthwhile to write now on the topics I thought I would write on this blog :-). 

In between, I moved to US from Bangalore and then moved again 3 times in US and then moved back to India and settled back in Bangalore (not before I traveled to a few more cities in India before settling down). All in a span of 2 years.


The latest is that I work at an education startup, managing their marketing function. It’s an internet start-up in the education space, with a marketplace model for the Indian learning industry. I will talk more about it and what I do there, in my subsequent posts. For now, if you would like to know more, visit http://www.thinkvidya.com

As for the title, it is just about 3 years since my last post. Time files. 


Noteworthy News: IBM Expands Social Networking and Big Data Analytics Portfolio

IBM expands its social networking platform and also announces a new Netezza appliance for big data analytics.

Here are some snippets from the article

“The data can then be analyzed and is also discoverable in real-time using the IBM Connections active compliance service. This electronic trail of online interactions helps organizations meet their policy needs while workin at the speed of social networking, IBM said.”

..”Big Blue this week also expanded its big data analytics portfolio with a new analytics appliance — the IBM Netezza High Capacity Appliance — that allows organizations to analyze up to 10 petabytes of data in a matter of minutes.”

“Using the new appliance, businesses can now more easily sift through petabytes of data, including banking and mobile phone transactions, insurance claims, electronic medical records and sales information. Companies can also analyze this information to reveal new trends on consumer sentiment, product safety and sales and marketing effectiveness.”

Read More…


Why fix if it ain’t broken- Traditional vs. Social Media Marketing

What is the difference between traditional marketing campaigns and social media campaigns?

As dicussed in a previous post, social media analytics is about targeted marketing. In traditional marketing campaigns, you tried to reach as many people as possible and hoped that a good number of target audience will convert to your customers. In some niche areas, there were sales representative, B2B marketeers, etc who reached out to the intermediate party (eg, a retailer, an agent or a doctor- for pharamceutical products) and many times the product which was sold was not necessarily exactly what the customer wanted, but what was “pushed” to these intermediaries. In mass market products, TV campaigns tried to lure customers through celebrities, through “need-creation” ads, through competitor comparisons, etc. It would however be wrong to say that these campaigns weren’t based on research, analysis and in response to consumer needs. They were. However, with new tools to measure consumer behavior and demographics, especially in products like insurance, e-commerce web-sites and the evolution of search engines, traditional market research, data analysis and web analytics are now converging to social media analytics. Largely due to the stupendous adoption of facebook by users across the world, a new dimesion to our flat world has been added in the last 5 years- social connectivity. Marketing today is based not only on your preferences, but also how they are shaped by your friends and those you are connected to. The word of mouth marketing has taken a much stronger role in today’s social media connected world. Marketeers are able to tailor their campaigns and get better returns on their efforts and resources through measurement of their marketing effectiveness. What earlier took months, can be achieved in days!


Internet Marketing and Web Analytics- The tale of my small bakery

We have been talking about measuring the returns or effectiveness of marketing campaigns- which is the key in distinguishing more successful campaigns than others. But what exactly are we measuring here?

Here’s a small story to understand this concept. Let’s say I am a small business owner, running a bakery in a medium sized town. My immediate priority is what can I do to increase my business?

First of all, ,I  sell delicious and good quality products in my bakery! Based on this, I believe I would be sure to have a rupegular clientele over a period of time even if I did nothing much except to keep these delicious products and tell people about my bakery when I met them. What else could I do?

Suppose I didn’t have enough resources to do a large marketing campaign. What could I do?

1. I could take an ad in the local paper. Sunday supplement for sure (Targeted marketing 101!)

2. Do some catchy marketing on the local Radio

3. Host a sponsored high tea at a local community event.

4. Getting boxes wrapped innovatively

5. Giving reusable boxes above a certain order size.

6. Pay a kid to stick posters in some public places or residential complexes nearby for a free sampling event on a Sunday. Or a promo offer!

7. Give 20% discount coupons to regular customers (upto 100 customers with 2 coupons each!) and see how many do I end up underwriting?

8. Set a stand at local exhibitions or events. Could again use discout coupons

9. Approach local hotels, guest houses, offices, college or school canteens to see if they would like to become regular customers for my products

10. Institute a monthly raffle to pick out one winner every month who gets a (small) free (B’day) cake anytime in the year!


There could be other promotions I could undertake, but I am limited by my creativity at the moment! But assuming these 10 are the ones that I use, what do you think my challenges or limitations can be. Or just the implications of these campaigns? I am assuming that I am perfectly elastic on the supply front- I can match the supply to any level of demand 🙂 .

The first one I would like to tackle is, that I get really large orders from big corporate or institutional cleints (Point 9) and I decide to focus on these, which might constitute a large majority of orders. I could shut down the little shop or keep it as a front end. In this case, sooner or later I will face threat from competitors. Afterall, organizations aren’t too much bothered by the taste of what their employees/students eat (Most office cafetarias or hostel messes are a testimony to that fact). So ultimately, there will be price competition and then I will be under margin pressure, and the usual operational challenges. Maybe at that time I could re-evaluate my options and decide to focus my attention on two other things as well- brand building and focusing on retail customers. In the former, brand building, I would try to keep my prices at a comfortable level, but have fewer corporate clients- who are ready to shell out money for better quality products.

The latter, brings us to the take of retail marketing. Given the situaiton that we do want to increase our sales and that earlier 10 steps haven’t been able to generate as many customers as I would like, what else could I do?


In my opinion, I would still start with adding a measuring the effectiveness of the above 10 steps. In other words, I would try to measure how much each of these campaigns were helpful in generating sales for me. I could do it through

1. Getting customers to fill a form about how they heard about my bakery. What influenced them to try out my products?

2. Are they new customers or existing ones?

3. Would they be willing to review my bakery on yelp? I could give them a small incentive to do so, however, not big enough to influence their choice!

4. Instead of using these campaigns together, I could also use them in a staggered way and try to find out how sales increase over each period of time.

5. Finally, given how much I spent per campaign and how much sales were achieved during that week or next, I could make a rough metric of what the ROI of my campaign was. I could also roughly measure what was the cost of acquiring each customer- amount spent per campaign/customers influenced by that campaign.

All  these steps are good enough for a small business with bricks and mortar model. But given that I am still elastic on my supply, I feel I am still limited on the following fronts-

1. Limited in my reach. My customers are still coming from neighbourhoods. Granted the radius has increased a bit, but how do I get customers from other end of the city?

2. Limited in my measurements. I do have a rough idea of how my marketing campaigns are working. But they aren’t reliable enough. I cannot manually generate reports for larger number of customers that would help me analyze the trends better. I do not have enough resources or expertise to install a CRM system.

I have had a deal with as web designer friend to set up  a web portal for me. He gets a 50% discount voucher for all my products, valid for X no. of years. He will set up an elementary portal for me, with a payment option that lets people view my products online and order them. It also allows them to rate the products and suggest it to friends on facebook. Currently I am delivering in a 10 mile radius. I also take orders 24 hours in advance. For initial 2 months I also have a 100% money back guarantee if the product is spoiled in any way when it reaches them. It’s a little difficult, but then in a bakery product delivery, that’s the most important criterion in good service!

Good news! We used google analytics initially with my site. My reviews are great and I am getting a lot of thumbs ups on my products! Interestingly, a lot of people are ordering for get-togethers and parties, birthday cakes, etc. Many of the customers are getting referred to by their friends on facebook! I have been getting enquiries for delivery into neighbouring areas and other cities as well!

I also found out that my Thursday discount coupon was the most effective promo offer – across newspapers and facebook! Many people have even signed up for it through their e-mail id.

I am confortable with my profits right now and don’t want to expand too much- it becomes much more stressul that way. But I think I might just expand into just one more nearby city….one more wouldn’t hurt 😉


I had also tried to advertise on the local TV in between. It did get me some customers, but the hassle of getting an ad made, selecting the channel and time slot and then measuring it every week were too difficult for a small business owner like me!

[All events and characters here are hypothetical. This is just an indicative story of how social media and measuring your campaigns through social media can help small businesses!]






Social Media Analytics- Part 1

Why is social media analytics important?

  1. It enables generating a wealth of consumer behaviour insights by segmenting the millions of users of social media on the basis of their likes, dislikes and habits.
  2. Some of these behaviors may depend on cultural, geographical, demographtic factors. Some others may just be inherent individual personality types and one can draw correlation between different behaviours to generate insights about user groups.
  3. These insights help companies develop products based on consumer needs
  4. These insights can be generated by the company itself through inhouse analytics or through an out-sourced model.
  5. At the end of the day, these insights are valuable because they help develop new products and new marketing campaigns.

In the next post, there will be a further discussion on how this analytics connects to marketing campaigns


It’s a beautiful world


10 small ways to live more sustainably

As I return to my blog after almost a year, with a firm resolve to keep it alive and kicking, I begin this innings with a topic close to my heart-how to live a little more sustainably and responsibly.

  1. Fast once a week- It will do good to your body as well as save some food for the economy.
  2. Replace at-least one non-veg meal in the week by a vegetarian or vegan meal.
  3. Don’t let the taps run in your house. It saves your water bill as well as an increasingly valuable resource- water (Some people believe that it is also a sign of monetary losses due to carelessness- an omen of sorts).
  4. Don’t over water the plants. It would take extra electricity to pump groundwater back to the pipes. Similarly, use a cloth to clean your car more often.
  5. Walk or bicycle at-least once a week to where you might have taken the car usually.
  6. Carry your own cloth bags or jute bags or reuse plastic bags at the grocery store. Use net pouches to hold the veggies while shopping and then keep them in the refrigerator directly
  7. Take a bath using a mug and a bucket instead of shower/tub bath once a week
  8. Plan the use of dishwashers and washer-dryers such that their capacity is not wasted unnecessarily. Rinse some of the utensils in the sink if they are not dirty.
  9. Switch off lights and electrical appliances when not in use. Do not let the appliances plugged in at all times.
  10. Replace incandescent bulbs in your house with CFLs. Use lesser light fixtures per room too.

Bangalore facing highest ever power shortage – Is situation different in other metros?

While I was in Bombay, I was fortunate to have almost never experienced power cuts. Powai and especially our complex was spared from regular power cuts in even the summer months. However, I have been experiencing them so much in Bangalore over the last year that it’s much more than an inconvenience now.

Yesterday there were power cuts four times during the day.

Concentrated urbanization leads to pressure on resources and infrastructure. February hasn’t even finished and we are talking about summer and power cuts already. Even if the glaciers aren’t melting that fast in Himalayas as some report had claimed, these power cuts in Feb are just an indicator of how much temperature is increasing in our cities every year. Or maybe, we are just getting more used to air conditioning.

Read more about the extent of power shortage, load shedding in urban and rural areas here.

http://www.newscientist.com/blog/invention/2007/09/ai-power-cut-predictor.htmlThere is a shortage of atleast 300 MW of power today. Demand for diesel gensets and inverters is going up at an alarming rate. A diesel generator of 50kW capacity will consumer approximately 15 litres of diesel per hour. Due to these power outages at peak hours, industrial units in Peenya, commercial establishments at Brigade road, Malls and many other office complexes use these gensets. Many units will have to shut down as a result of unviability and many others will pass on the load of increasing costs to consumers. If even 1/4th of this shortage is being  supplied by gensets, it’s 75 MW= 1500 gensets *15 litres = 22500 litres of diesel per hour. For 6 hours,  this is 135000 litres of diesel. My head reels at these numbers. Subsidies on diesel mean increasing losses to the government. And burning this much amount of diesel in a day adding to how much carbon in the air is mind boggling. Doesn’t anyone see the vicious circle we have gotten into???

More carbon in the air–> More warming—> More requirement for electricity—>more diesel burning—-> more carbon in the air

Anyway, enough of lamenting, now some thinking over what can be done!

In my opinion there are three solutions that can combat this problem at a systemic level.

1. At the Electricity Board level: Ration the amount of electricity that can be received by any household or commercial establishment depending on the location, sizes and type. At differential rates obviously. So a household gets a fixed amount of electricity per month depending on these factors and the residents of the household can decide how much they want to use for various appliances/gadgets or lighting. Or any other use. This arrangement also gives them incentive to save or not waste electricity!. However a basic IT infrastructure and automation is required to prevent corruption and illegal connections.Further, electricity usage monitoring on a real time basis can also be done at household/building level which can improve efficiency in electricity consumption.

2. At an individual level: Increase your resistance and fitness levels. Do not be dependent on AC or cooling so much. Rememeber, sitting in classrooms in childhood in May? (Yes, we did have classes for 15 days in May) And cycling to school? Stop being the delicate darlings. A little hardship builds stamina. And character ;-).

3. At the local govt level: Encourage the use of community spaces – Parks, Gardens, Reading rooms, Malls (yeah! – just go and sit in their food court…you don’t need to buy anything!), etc. Provide more spaces like these and maintain them, by growing more trees or keeping the areas clean. It will not only pull people out of their homes and foster more community building, but also bring down electricity use.

Obviously, much more can be done than this. Efficiencies in distribution of electricity, using public transport to contribute in bringing down global warming, using more efficient appliances. Use of solar power, hydro power, wind and geothermal power to generate electricity. When it will come to dire situations, alternatives like these will automatically crop up. But for now, one requires more immediate and systemic solutions.



Annual Wireless Innovation Project (Vodafone Americas Foundation) – Encouraging Technological Innovations for the Development Sector

In my opinion, wireless technology is one of the things which has had as wide an impact and acceptance  as sliced bread. Look at the extent of the pervasiveness of cell phones in India. Or any developing nation. From taxi drivers, to maids to repairmen to watchmen to traffic policemen being given blackberry in Bangalore (to curb drunken driving and other initiatives) to college students to housewives to working people to celebrities to ministers to astrologers. Every category of consumer has been impacted. Every business has been impacted. Although, like any any other technology, it has its cons as well (like the use of wireless internet connections by terrorists in blasts across the country). However, wireless promises even more. What one envisaged during the fiber optic years- taking healthcare and education to the masses in remote areas, is set to be realized through the ubiquitous cellphones. At a fraction of the cost.

I could write more about the new trends in wireless – one of the latest being bringing your in home cable connection/IPTV over wireless. But these are more commercial applications. In this post, I wanted to write about the three innovations that have won the Vodafone Wireless Innovation Awards of 2009.

Annual Wireless Innovation Project is a competition organized by Vodafone America Foundation to identify and reward the most promising advances in wireless related technologies that can be used to solve critical problems around the globe that started in 2009. On Feb 1st, the deadline for submissions for entries for this year closed and the final winners will be announced on April 19, 2010 at the annual Global Philanthropy Forum in Redwood City, California.

Up to $650,000 are be awarded to wireless projects demonstrating exceptional promise to solve a critical global issue in the following fields:

  • Education
  • Health
  • Access to communication
  • Environment
  • Economic development
  • Significant advancements in wireless technology to help solve issues in areas as connectivity, language barriers and energy use- pertinent in the context of developing nations.

Projects are at a stage of development where an advanced prototype or field test can occur during the award period. Strategic and networking assistance is also provided to the winners. The mHealth Alliance Award of $50000 is given to the project demonstrating the most potential to solve critical health issues, particularly in developing countries.

Winners of the First Annual Wireless Innovation Project (2009)

  • Energy Harvesting Active Network Tags (EnHANTs) (First Place Winner, $300,000) –Wireless tags that harness solar and kinetic energy, and will be carried by people and embedded in buildings. In the event of a disaster – a building collapse or a fire — the tags will communicate with each other and create a wireless network that will provide rescue forces information regarding who is in a building and where they are located. (Developed by Columbia University)
  • CellScope (Second Place Winners, $200,000) – A compact, high-resolution cell phone microscope using cell phone cameras to do onsite microscopic medical diagnosis in the developing world. The CellScope is particularly useful for infectious disease diagnosis, especially TB and malaria. (Developed by University of California, Berkeley)
  • CelloPhone (Second Place Winners, $200,000) – A wireless and lens-free blood and fluid analyzer that can capture digital cellular images in the field, and transmit them to a central medical lab for diagnostic purposes. The CelloPhone is capable of monitoring HIV, malaria and TB in developing countries. (Developed by University of California, Los Angeles)

About the Vodafone Americas Foundation

Vodafone Americas Foundation is part of Vodafone’s global network of foundations. We are affiliated with Vodafone Group Plc, the world’s leading mobile telecommunications company, with ownership interests in 31 countries and Partner Markets in more than 40 countries. As of June 30, 2009, Vodafone had approximately 315 million proportionate customers worldwide. In the U.S., our foundation directs its philanthropic activities towards the San Francisco Bay and the Metro Denver Areas where most of our employees live and work, and where we strive to make a positive and enduring impact on our communities. The Foundation is driven by a passion for the world around us. We make grants that help people in our communities and around the world lead fuller lives.


More info at thinkchangeindia.