Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The biggest Indian brand of the year…

In the year 2007, when the BCCI announced the launch of the Indian Premier League (IPL) – a premium T20 tournament, everyone thought that it was just out of competition from ICL (remember the T20 step brother from Zee Networks / Essel Group stable). Everyone took the announcement of IPL as a reply to the ICL and nothing else. But who knew that 2 years into the tournament it would become the 6th biggest brand in sports ever. None believed and I believe, not even the BCCI or its office bearers and our very own Mr. Lalit Modi, Commissioner, IPL knew that it would attract moolah the way it actually did and would become a benchmark for others to follow.

The best thing that IPL really has done apart from taking India to the world, which I think is not a big task because there are so many of us already doing that job for our country. The silver lining lied in the opportunities that a tournament of this nature brought to the local Indian cricket talent who could never climb the ladder to reach the destination called Indian National Cricket Team. Till IPL 1 in 2008, did anyone know Yusuf Pathan, except for that he is the elder brother of Irfan Pathan who himself was living in oblivion after successful 2 years with the National team. But now everyone is enthused by his pyrotechnics on the field and even the opposition knows that he can smother any attack out of the ground on his day. Even the news of he getting marriage proposals from across the country made into newspapers and news channels. Didn’t the board and the selection committee unearth talents like Ravindra Jadeja who is gradually becoming a regular with the National team? Or didn’t IPL give a fitting opportunity to people like Irfan Pathan whom people of the nation were fast forgetting, alike the national selectors? IPL gave us other stars like Manpreet Gony, Swapnil Asnodkar, Kamran Khan, to name a few. In my view this is the biggest gain for these small town players who could have otherwise struggled to fulfil their dreams. Isn’t it helping the board in preparing the bench for the future? Another positive out of IPL was the experience of locking horns and sharing dressing rooms with greats like Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and playing in a competition of this magnitude. The feeling and gains from playing alongside world class players from every cricket playing nation could be enormous and would have taken the local Indian talent to a new height in the sport they love so passionately. There were other gains as well like the money they would get from the contracts with their franchise and the advertisement money that would be splurged on the players and the name and fame that these players make out of it. But I think they were all secondary or I will call them allied – as this comes along with a tournament of such stature.

A lot has been said about the success of IPL or so to say the marketing success of the IPL. No wonder some great minds have worked behind the scenes and on scenes too to make it a $2bn brand. People applaud the BCCI and hail its man behind the concept – Mr. Lalit Modi was creating a global brand out of the most famous pastime of a crazy nation. I guess that’s what he played his bets on and came out trumps.

Conceptualising and making it happen on the grand scale with which the IPL is happening for the past years would have taken its toll on everyone involved. The idea took almost a year to materialise and what magnificent way it flowered. The concept of private franchise and club like atmosphere was well taken from European football, but believing in it and believing it is possible in cricket too was the start of it. Then building it brick by brick and creating a huge edifice which is being values so high in just 2 years from start is no mean achievement.

The financial clout of the BCCI is notoriously famous in cricketing circles that must have given them a heads on in this assignment. But they had to make it happen the way it finally did. They sold the concept pretty well. Actually, the saleability of cricket in our country where we can see empty streets and shops closed for cricket matches is commonly known and hence the idea was easy doing with in the corporate circle for the organisers. They easily knew that they would eventually make money, if not for 1-2 years in the start but after that it should be easy going. Most of the franchises involved were big businessmen (with lots of business interest that cut across various functions and sectors with a lot of gestation periods) with deep pockets.

The $1bn television deal and the player auctions has generated a level of hype and razzmatazz never seen before in the world of cricket. For the companies and business houses bidding for teams and getting hold of prime players under its fold, it meant better brand image for their company. With India becoming World T20 champions, the game started generating a lot of eyeballs and it could eventually become a show of strength for these corporate houses, just like what happens in English soccer and American basketball. It made business sense for these conglomerates as well, when the teams can be bought and sold for profit if they perform well. Comment by India Cements vice-chairman and MD, Mr. N Srinivasan, summarises the game here – IPL will help us build brand image at no cost.

The rising popularity of T20 format of the game and the ever crazy cricket fan in the country had made IPL what it is today. If we look at the reach delivered by the league, we are made to believe that this is not the future of the game, it is the present. Whether or not it is recognised by the ICC is irrelevant to the audiences, who are attracted to watch the best of the world at one forum. It is big-ticket cricket. The brand positioning of the game with the common man is it is “Fast and Quick Entertainment”. I believe that is what is making it sell like hot cake.

IPL expanded the marketing budgets of companies, instead of creating a flight of funds. According to estimates, the league has added almost Rs. 300 crores to the total advertising pie. The rates for ad slots have also risen stupendously. The presenting sponsor fetched more than 25 crores to Sony (TV rights holder for IPL). At the start, it was only Rs 2.5-3 lakh for a 10 second spot. But all this changed while the event became a huge success and started garnering major TRP and ratings.

The continuing list of sponsors for the event, sponsors for the venues, merchandise, and online media has made everyone go tizzy. The list of sponsors for the individual teams doesn’t end too, from Reebok to Nokia to Tag Heur to Master Cards of this world; everyone is making a beeline for their share of the pie.

Undoubtedly, IPL, the microcosm of cricket – 8 teams, 20 overs and 3 hours a match, over 1 billion people watching and we have a $2bn brand. Who would have thought that? The best part of IPL is nobody wins or looses. Everybody just makes money. Isn't it what we Indians like the most about it. If it is the National team which looses a tournament, hearts will be broken and we would starting shouting and cribbing. Not the case with the IPL. There is no emotional attachment so far, yet there is a lot of interest. Best of all – it is a money spinner. RBI might be well placed to order a new war chest to accumulate the foreign reserves IPL is ringing in J

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tales from SPJCM – Mystery called IIP

Within a few days into MBA at SPJCM, while we were all still in our honeymoon phase in Dubai (if I am allowed to call it so ;)), probably the biggest bomb of MBA was dropped on our heads – in the form IIP. The so called IIP – Industry Interaction Project, a brainchild of SPJCM to replace the concept of very famous summer internships at other MBA schools was a mystery till then. The lid was let open as we got aware of the various facets of the project and how and what we are to do for it.

The concept looked simple on papers but was really tough when faced in the real world of business. We were to form teams of 4-6 people and do a project for an organisation. The project will be decided and led by the organisation by allocating a project mentor. The college was to approve of the project topic and we can take help from any college faculty whenever we wanted. As the teams were to be decided and formed by ourselves, it led to a lot of anxiety yet again. We had not been in the college for long and hence forming a team without knowing people around you was a difficult task and in a way we all were playing a gamble. Everyone knew the criticality of this project for our grades (with 3 credits attached to it) and for an impression that we could leave on our future recruiters and possible pre placements. Each one of us had our task cut out, searching for a suitable team with whom one could gel and perform well. With a lot of anxiety as had been the case thus far in SPJCM, we all started our discussions to form a team.

I would be lying if I say that I was not anxious to find and form a good project team and start applying for the projects already coming by now. But I always knew that I and Raghavendra aka Raghu were to be in the same team (we knew each other for the past 8 years now and knew how each of us worked). And Raghu told me that he was with me in whatever team I made. One fine day, while discussing this with Biswajeet aka Monty, he told me that he wanted to make a team with me and Sharad was with him as well. I shared this with Raghu and he said he was fine with it. So, here was our team of 4 – ready for the kill J The next day, Sharad told me that we are only 4 of us and Ranny also wanted to be a part of our team and share and enjoy the fun. So here is a team of 5 – The Finzards (the name coined by Monty for us). Each one of us was different than the other –

Biswajeet – The Tension Man – Who would always be there to do everything but would not do anything :P

Raghavendra – The Late Lateef – Who would always be ready to do everything on time but would always be late for everything ;)

Ranny – The Free Wheeler – Who would never come to discuss anything, nor do anything – quite simple :P

Sharad – The Load Taker – Who would try and do everything and allow for others to enjoy, but would not allow so on the day when we were to meet our mentor ;)

Uphar – The Meeting Arranger – Who would and take pains in arranging for our team meetings where no one would come except myself :P

No wonder everyone wondered how we could manage excellent response from our mentors and college alike. I guess, this versatility in the team allowed for a lot of fun (who can forget those trips to Karachi Darbar and walking miles to get to the bus stand in the dusty lanes of Dubai). The fact we could gel easily with each other and were at ease and each one wanted to learn from others made life easier for us. This camaraderie we share to this day.

We started our IIP voyage with Microsoft and Reliance Capital calling for CVs of students applying for their projects. For us the voyage continued till July 7 (during our first term exams) when finally we landed on the shores of our very own Bank of Baroda. Till that time, everyone had gotten worried whether they will get an IIP or not and what in this world will happen to the grades and the grand dreams that we all had as there were so many teams but no projects coming. Even the college was not sure how many more would get the project with an organisation. By now even we had gotten anxious and worried too on not getting an IIP, so getting one with BOB and that too with their Investment Banking division came as a whiff of cool air in the dry and warm weather of Dubai.

The news of we getting an IIP that too in the IB arm of BoB came as a surprise to many as it surprised us as well. We never expected to get it, nor did anyone else that too surpassing other better equipped and eligible teams (I would say so because other teams had CAs, bankers and IB experience holders in their teams). We were a team of raw blood – no one had previous banking or financial institution experience, leave alone IB experience. But as they say, no one knows what impresses the recruiter – I guess this same adage worked for us as we impressed the BoB team. None of us had any finance experience and believe me this scared us at times as well. But we had the passion and the ability to learn finance and make it good in the field, so we were eager and excited, adding up to mixed feelings within us.

I believe a lot many of us struggled to get an IIP – in fact most of us met the same fate, not due to the inexperience of the candidates, but I believe due to the concept of IIP not getting popular with the corporate community. The projects were never sold and made to do so in the right spirit of the concept. They were made to be just like market research projects, where students had to make certain cold calls, do some primary research, use SPSS to do analytical calculations and create charts and graphs and complete the project. In my belief, the IIP is the best way the college can sell the quality of students (for which it takes a lot of pain). It should popularise it by adopting a simple strategy: allow the companies to fulfil their requirements with these projects by giving them a free hand in selecting the right and suitable approach for the project, where each party (student, college and the company) is a beneficiary. I think, the teams can take a lateral view of the project from the college faculty and adopt the right approach after consultations with them. But overall design and charter should be decided by the organisations selecting student teams for these projects. In the end, these organisations should benefit out of these projects and should be ready for such projects each year. This is a simple strategy which could make IIP more popular and add some points against the name of the college in the industry-college interaction list of the recruiters.

I remember the way one of the organisations treated one of our teams by saying this project is just a formality for them, they had already done this project with a professional consultant, and it is just to maintain business relations with the college that they had to give this project to us. They even went to the level of saying that they were in no ways getting benefited by this project. Just imagine the state of the students when they hear this from their mentor(s). Will they be able to do justice to the project and to themselves? Are they not forced to just complete the project to fulfil academic requirements only? Are they gaining something out of such an exercise? My answer to all these questions and many such other questions is “NO”.

We as responsible alumni have to discuss this issue thread bare and openly. We should contribute to this in whatever manner possible and generate discussion. This will not only strengthen our alma mater but prove to be good advice for future students. Start contributing to this!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Power to change the society

Are you walking while talking? If not, start doing that right away and keep the doctor away. Gone are the days which said “An Apple a day keeps the doctor away”, the cult following that the latest Idea Cellular advertisement campaign is generating by the moment, one can feel the pulse and as the now famous punch line goes “Walk while you talk” is creating a new wave in the Indian society. The new brainwave that this punch line and the ad campaign are creating is making the India society realise the ill effects of being addicted to mobile phones. It has made them forget the virtue of workout and fitness regime. And the master stroke I guess was developed by Idea Cellular, by making them realise that you can still remain fit and continue your addiction to mobile phones. The answer is walk while you talk – exercise and indulge at the same time.

The advertisement very well shows the frustration of the public at using technology while it is making them lazy and the protagonist doctor played by Abhishek Bachchan thinks and advocates that we can stay fit by simply walking while talking. This gave birth to a new wave in the public domain and the message spread like wild fire and the doctor started loosing his business.

The idea has worked and the 360 degree ad campaign is taken by the India public with open hands with people understanding the problem and its mercurial solution. The concept of setting up a problem and providing a solution has become a huge hit. Even Chief Marketing Officer at Idea Cellular is of the view that they expect this ad campaign to initiate a wave of awareness on fitness, across the country.

The earlier advertisement campaigns done by Idea (conceptualised and designed at Lowe) too had a potential of churning the thinking of the common Indian man and positively affecting the society. The “Championing a world without caste” ad where the protagonist suggests individuals having their cellular phone number as their names championed the cause in a society riddled with names based on castes. This recommended getting rid of the caste system. And this overly simplistic solution connected well with the audience with the punch line “what and idea sir ji”.

Other ads like “Education for all”, “Participative Governance” and “A world without any communication barriers” stood tall in spreading a social message that would go a long way in building Idea Cellular as a brand with social connections and a brand for all. This has helped put across various strong messages across the audience and made them realise the ills affecting our society. I would say, though these issues always stood in our society and we all knew they were there, but these advertisements have made us take a new look at them and realise them from a different perspective. All the more, these ads have given solutions to these social problems as well; any less practical they may look and sound. However, if we dig deeper inside these messages and ads, we would realise that like any problem that plagues us or our society, has a solution to it. The only issue then is thinking innovatively and creatively to bring to table a solution that is practical and acceptable to all.

What an idea sir ji!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Social Media & Marketing – Inbound Marketing

As a management graduate, I couldn’t agree less for the importance of social media & marketing. During my MBA days, I learnt the importance of networking and how we can leverage it to our benefit while at work for ourselves or for others.

No one can take the sheen away from the great networking websites like linkedin, facebook, twitter and orkut. This wave should actually be credited to Mr. Orkut Buyukkokten, a Turkish software engineer for conceptualising and developing orkut and earning millions out of it. This started a wave called social media, a place for everyone and anyone. At first it was for just an interaction and getting in touch or just getting back in touch. And this gradually turned into a common place where people would spend their time, enjoy being online, get jobs, share experiences, discuss anything in this world and earn money out of all this. This has become a multi million dollar business opportunity.

Similar is the state of other social media like communication websites like Blogger, LiveJournal, Twitter, etc, Collaboration websites like Wikipedia, Social bookmarking like Delicious, Google Reader, Social news like Digg, Reddit, multimedia platforms like flickr, youtube, reviews and opinions logs like epinions, Yahoo Answers, Wiki Answers and host of other such websites. The way these websites and companies are growing and earning business and revenues for themselves, they are doing a great job. The craze they have started in the demand for their services has led to a new wave in the internet world and a totally new concept in marketing.

With the widespread use and access of social media, our marketers couldn’t be left behind to use it for their benefit and make it a big thing on the marketing industry. Today social media is the “in thing” and marketers are leveraging it to gain brownie points everywhere. The way businesses are using linkedin, facebook, twitter, flickr, etc and blogging to gain presence everywhere, to reach out to their potential clients, to prospect and generate leads is staggering on one hand and mind boggling on the other.

Social media marketing is also called social influence marketing. It is way people interact with each other and businesses reach out to their potential customers and try and generate business out of it. It’s the way businesses and brands have conversations. It is inbound marketing where people find businesses or brands and products and services. It is the concept of getting found by customers and in this sense is related to relationship marketing. In inbound marketing, information about customer needs is given to the businesses and their knowledge on products and services and feedback drives future development of products and services.

Social Media’s importance can be easily gauged by the extensive and exhaustive use of internet and new age web. Hence the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) that would help in maintaining high positions and in search lists and help gain visibility and popularity. Social Media helps with SEO. It helps promote our blog, both personal and business. These blogs can be used to promote our products and services and improve ROI. Social Media is permission centric, where, marketers request permission to go ahead with the next step with their prospects. It is mostly used by online marketers and hence used at length in social media.

Social Media in a way is only ones state of mind. To start with, we should start meeting new people and start interacting with them. Answer questions from others, build credibility and listen to other’s advice to build trust. This way we can build our network and become a real member of the community. It is more effective than any party with no boundaries of space and time and others can join in and listen.

The 3 major kinds of social media available right now are: Share, Network and Publish.

Sharing social media can be utilised to promote anything to everyone. Companies like Reddit, Digg, Delicious, etc are the ones which are doing great business in promoting these services. To effectively use such services, one must try and find where our target audience hangs out and promote our content and other allied content there. We should take care to produce content that our audience will love.

Networking social media is used to connect with everyone from anywhere. The famous names in this industry are Facebook, Orkut, Linedin, myspace, twitter, etc. This can be effectively used to build our personal, professional and social networks. We can make friends by searching out existing connections, networking through groups and add the link to our e-mail signature, blogs, profile, etc. We should utilise it to answer questions from others, get our questions answered and get and provide cool advice and share experiences and content and links.

Publishing social media can be used to publish anything for everyone. Some most famous companies are flickr, wikipedia, rss, youtube, etc. Social media can be used to publicise and promote our content. It can vary from songs, video clippings promoting products and services. We can use it to monitor what others publish too and empower our customers to publish content about them too.

The most important way to enable social media improve ROI for our business is by getting found on the web. On Page SEO is where we make a right and thoughtful selection of words or keywords for our website pages that enable fast internet search and optimize search results. This helps build high rakings on web search. Off Page SEO, where identify opportunities to generate extra returns from our existing links. Blogging is another technique to promote our products and services. One should enable a natural and consistent process to update content and achieve more frequent search engine results in your favour. We can develop and attract more inbound links.

Social Media & Marketing is an important step to enable businesses to achieve those extra points at very low costs. This improves the ROI very easy and fast. Mail me to learn more about it and how we can partner to utilise it to your benefit.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Roger all the way...

What a final we witnessed on this Sunday, July 5, 2009 and this will go in history as the day when the world witnessed tennis history being made and that too in front of the greats like Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg and Manuel Santana watching our very own Roger Federer creating history by winning his record 15th Grand Slam title at the All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, London.

Federer famously called FedEx joined the elite club of sporting legends, his name sitting comfortably alongside greats like Ali, Woods, Pele, Bradman, where just one name is enough to deem respect. It was for nothing that Rod Laver, a tennis legend by no small means, made a comment like this “I think the public should just watch his feet, just watch Roger and not the ball, and you’d see how great a player he is.” Pete Sampras, whose record Federer broke on Sunday, terms him the greatest of all time. This sums it all, all the greatness and awe about a man named Roger Federer.

After winning the Wimbledon junior crown in 1998 at the tender age of 16, Federer was still to come a long way in the men’s arena and prove his maturity both on and off the field. In 2001, he won the first of his 59 career titles so far at Milan and then beat the seven time Wimbledon champion Sampras in a career turning last 16 triumph. After the humiliating loss to Mario Ancic in the first round, next year, Federer returned to the basics. He practiced and practiced hard to polish his defence, strenghten attack and develop consistency. And my goodness, what a year that was and since then he has never looked back after the breakthrough 2003 Wimbledon triumph.

The fifth set on this Sunday Final, soaked in the English summer, will be right up there in the rankings as one of the best all time marathons in the game of tennis and something that the most cherished record in tennis warranted. Federer was running right across the court and whoa, Roddick was serving like he had never before. It was the way he held himself against the speed and brilliance of Federer when the ball was in play. Without doubt, Roddick attached himself to Federer as an opponent to remember.

Critics say that he was able to win both the French Open and the Wimbledon because of non-availability of Rafael Nadal due to injury, who has proved to be his nemesis and measuring stick over the last few years. However, my dear friends, it’s a game, a sport after all, where the things go the way they go, and nothing is clear. We can’t give and take any excuses for our loss and likewise can’t take away the way the game is fought in the court. Like any other sport, tennis has its mystery surrounding it and after all, to be the Grand Slam champion, you have to win past 7 tough opponents who can be their own on their day and can take away your dreams easily. You have to be on your toes in each single match because one mistake can prove to be your undoing and you are out of the championships.

Let’s not forget that the aura of immortality around Federer is created by us fans, his millions of fans across the globe who rout and vouch for him any day, any moment and wish him success always. And this greatness is his own and well deserved.

Congratulations Roger!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Is blogging for business necessary?

The answer to the question above is anybody’s guess. In this age of internet and web 2.0, SEO and social media and marketing, I believe blogging for business is a necessity. A business blog can be the most critical Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing tools made available to any form of business. It can well be used to promote your business, its products and services.

There are a number of success stories linked to business blogs and how they have positively affected the growth and spread of business. Without doubt the time and effort spent on a well crafted social media marketing strategy of which a business blog is an important part, will generate positive ROI for your business.

In the world of social media marketing content is of prime importance. Search Engine Optimization plans require fresh and relevant content to generating the requisite interest in the business and its products and services. Blogging will enable the company to:

- Broadcast information relating to its products and services

- Optimize the search for an extended list of keywords

- Educate users and others about the benefits from your products and services

- Increase visibility across Search Engine Result Pages (SERP)

Social Media is all about engaging with your customers and prospects. The usual websites don’t allow for interactive features, however, the blogs allow for expert comments and additional information to be provided whenever deemed necessary.

Just writing the business blog will not help us in anyways in this era of competitive and expansive internet and web 2.0. Without blog promotional activities, it becomes difficult to generate good ROI from it. Methods used to promote a blog are very much the same as are used to promote a wbsite.

- Keyword and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

- Social Networking websites

- Active commenting and communication with the blogging community

- Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns

Blogs do provide additional benefits to a business. However, a lot of commitment and regular posts are required to ensure the efficacy of such a program. Hence, I would say in today’s world of fast paced lives and business, we can’t rule out the importance of internet and hence blogging can pay rich dividends if handled tactfully and with a lot of commitment.