Gold

Gold

I am in the middle of reading Shashi Tharoor’s An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India. If you have been living under a rock like I was, then you may not have heard about his Oxford debate where he smashed his contemporaries on why Britain should do reparations to India.

At this time, I chanced on the movie Gold in Amazon Prime. What perfect timing! A movie about India’s first Olympic gold medal – as a free country. The movie stars Akshay Kumar as a sports manager of the British India National Hockey team, and their ability to keep winning the Olympic gold for British India. History buffs and hockey buffs (preferably both) would be quick to point out that during that time the team was led by the Wizard of Hockey, Dhyan Chand.

For the sake of preserving identities of the negative roles, the names have been changed, and Dhyan Chand is portrayed by Kunal Kapoor as the legendary captain Pritam. If you do not know who is Dhyan Chand, please stop reading and head on to the wiki link. India was well known in the history of hockey largely due to this chap. We owned the international circuit from 1928 (per-independance) up till as late as 1980. Pretty much the time cricket took over as the national craze and the national sport lost its crowds. Ironically, in 2014 when Dhyan Chand’s name was being considered for Bharat Ratna (the highest civilian award in India), it was never nominated and the award winner was none other than apna Sachin! (aila!)

But I digress, this is about the movie, and not a diatribe about hockey losing out to cricket!

The movie is about getting India’s first Olympic gold, and how the main character in the story (a Bengali team manager played by Akshay Kumar) helps the team get its gold. This under the backdrop of the partition and post independence struggles that the new country faces makes for a riveting story.

Bollywood has oft taken an anti-Pakistan stance in the past, and it’s very easy to take this stance. However, you should see how this movie has spun the entire India-Pakistan tale. It’s heart-rending and one might wonder … a magnificent what-if … our national leaders back then were brave and foolhardy to take such a decision then. What stops from doing something equally foolish now?

History tells us the outcome of this story … India dominated the hockey scene for a long time. However, the story also talks about the role of administration in ensuring that the sport has enough backing. In the chaos of IPL and slogans like fan banna padega … I ask you this … what about our national sport? I wish this movie had done much better on the box office, it deserves to be scene, not only for the acting – but also for the narrative.

AMP and Advertising

Mobile Content

This blog is a modest small-tier blog. It does not get too much traffic (much to my chagrin) and therefore expecting the blog to monetize is too much. However, I have steadily written my thoughts and opinions on this … for the past 7-8 years now.

Looking at such a long time range allows me to study how blogging and blog monhersetization has changed over the years. Especially now with mobile form factors being the main devices that users tend to consume content with.

Continue reading “AMP and Advertising”

Comfort Zones

In case, if you haven’t really been following my blog, I generally tend to write about tech, games, some personal thoughts, some thoughts about my work at 13 Llama and some analytics.

What I do not write about is Design … be it any design. Systems design, Visual Design, Brand Design … even solutions design. I know for certain that I have a certain unhealthy fear for engaging with design. So much so that it has now become a mental barrier in my head. Staying away from creativity isn’t necessarily bad, since we do a lot of analytical and logical work. Having said that, breaking down problems into smaller byte sized tasks is now a child’s play and there has become a comfort zone. So much so, that over the past few months I had started to think that we should focus on driving more business in these areas.

What does one do when one doesn’t have an option?

Of late though, some of the mandates we have been getting involved us having to work with and also having to define the design specifications. Some of our new team members were pretty gung-ho about working on design specifications instead of a pure play numbers game.

To add to that, at pretty much the same time, we had a couple of our main clients request that we get involved at a higher level and help guide the marketing briefs.

We could have chosen to keep focused on the analytics niche and not step up to the mantle. However, we decided to step out of our comfort zone and things have been taking an interesting turn.

Stepping out of comfort zones

This often involves stepping into a chaotic situation, spending some time taking stock and then working on multiple fronts and more often than not in an iterative manner. From an engagement point of view, it takes a special sort of client to work with. An organization which understands that is an organization that is also in a sense working out of its comfort zone.

This also means that the team which is actively engaged in stepping out of its comfort zone is very very focused on the purpose at hand.

Instead of worrying about things such as appraisals, office times, leaves and petty office politics, the team is then focused on doing what it takes to get the job done. The line of comfort just disappears and shit gets done.

Organizations and comfort zones

For a lot of organizations, functional teams end up becoming comfort zones. An example of this is when there are functional silos in a firm and cross functional exchanges do not happen as smoothly as expected. This is when both the functions engaging are not stepping out of their zone of comfort. Unfortunately, we have all experienced the adverse effects when customer facing teams do not step out of their comfort zone.

This severely impacts their ability and sometimes even the intent to engage. Symptoms of this condition are cases where the customer facing teams cite company policies, or often play the victim, or end up misinforming or lying to the customer. This builds a trust deficit within and with-out the system.

What can organizations do?

Foster a culture of experimentation and over delivering value. Sometimes force teams to work outside the zone of comfort. Align teams to the grandiose scheme of things and how their mundane job is in fact a purpose centric activity and not a functional silo.

As a concluding note, assuming people are willing to often step out of their comfort zones is such a positive mindset that the rewards of the mindset alone are worth the efforts of stretching one’s boundaries. Over the past few months, I have seen my fledgling team work outside their comfort zones, get over their initial mental barriers and come out for the better. The decision to step out of my own comfort zones has been definitely worth it!

 

Why does a non-football fan like me still watch the World Cup 2018?

Romelu Lukaku

I am not a football fan. I get why a lot of people are and believe me I have tried when I was in college. However, I just am not a football fan.

I am a fan of ordinary humans doing extra-ordinary things, however. This is pretty much why I am watching the World Cup. In case if you haven’t figured this out yet, I am talking about the team that has everyone talking about as the surprise winner – Belgium.

Why do I root for Belgium?

One player. Romelu Lukaku.

Again, let me iterate. I am not a football fan. So I do not know how well does he play. What I am a fan of though, is the resilience and determination that this chap has shown over his life. If you want to read Romelu Lukaku’s story, do it. I can wait, you need to read his story in his own words.

People in football love to talk about mental strength. Well, I’m the strongest dude you’re ever going to meet. Because I remember sitting in the dark with my brother and my mom, saying our prayers, and thinking, believing, knowing … it’s going to happen.

I read this post while Belgium was still playing the first rounds. By the time I decided to follow their every match, we were already in the elimination phase. It meant having to sacrifice some sleep, but then again … I want Belgium to win.

The human story

It’s not a story of excellence and practice. That is there in ample, but which player who is playing at this stage hasn’t done this already?

What you have to admire for this guy is the sheer drive … the deep desire to win, not because its nice, but because you have to. It’s this ability to pour your heart and soul into each and every match no matter what. This is the stuff of what inspiration is made of.

This drive and integrity can be showcased in any field … and not just football. The next time you do anything, ask yourself this … is this the best you can do? If the fate of your family depended on this … or the world … would you do this any different? If yes, what is stopping you from putting your 100%?

You.

Marketing for India2

As someone who has been in the area of Digital marketing for the past few years (close to a decade now), it’s interesting to note and see how it has evolved. Right from the open market economics that AdWords grew upon to the game theory dynamics of Search Engine Optimisation, the way the entire industry has been changing is fascinating.

This article on English Tax and building for the next billion Indian users by Sajith Pai makes you stop and think. At this point, all the marketers and brands are busy selling to that sliver of audience who are online and are english speaking, affluent, willing to whip out their credit cards and make a purchase.

The next Billion

However, there is a larger audience out here, 10 times as much. A billion people, who may not be comfortable with English, who may not have approved credit cards and credit lines … but who are online.

Thanks to the launch of Jio, you now have an audience who may not be affluent, but who are there online. The same audience is being targeted by brands in a language that is not native to them.

English Tax

What is the English Tax? It’s the overhead that a user has to go over to understand what is being said. English is not my mother tongue, however after just under 4 decades of being subjected to both formal and informal education, I have started to think of English as my primary language.

However, that may not be the case of the next Billion. They may not even understand English, and thanks to Google or Apple, they would still be able to browse the web online without even typing a single English letter!

To top it all off, this audience is not being targeted online, not because they do not have a foot print, but because they do not understand the language in which they are being targeted.

This is bad.

Not only would they need re-phrasing of communications, but also a lot of mis-selling and mis-communications would be currently done to them.

Responsibility in Media

Yeah, this section is a joke! However, as digital platforms evolve, can the major players like GAFA take a much more responsible stand on exposing the India2 to the internet?

It’s not as if something is wrong with them. Please note, I am not saying that. However the internet which is most relevant for India2 is in the making and a lot of players are just ignoring this huge blue ocean that needs to be made.

There are content oriented players like BhaDiPa (Bharatiya Digital Party) and  TVF (The Viral Fever) who are making content in regional languages, pretty sure there are many more as well. However, one look at the keyword search volumes in Hindi and Marathi, and I know that we have still miles to go.

This audience for instance may not be doing a lot of searches, however, they definitely are there on Facebook, on WhatsApp, etc.

What can we do to engage as brands and marketers with this audience?

Going Regional

One step is always to speak the same language. I always loved the devnagri script, it just looks graceful when in comparison to the English script. Call me biased. However, as a marketer I would love to see some really good creatives, copy and content being pushed out there in regional formats.

I have seen this being done by some organisations, and just going by their data consumption numbers makes one re-think the language in which they are publishing! Similarly, the concepts of marketing wont change, but since the language is changing, so would therefore the format and forms. Just taking a Facebook update and translating it to Marathi won’t do. It has to be not just re-phrased but even re-thought … some of the memes and mental models that one language/culture has may pretty much ensure that the whole line of messaging be irrelevant.

I think as an industry based in a country that’s slowly emerging online, we are barely scratching the surface on these things.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

As a child, I had seen Blade Runner … in fact that was when I first came across the phrase Android. Yes, back then android did not mean an operating system for a smart phone.

The title of this blog post is a book by Phillip Dick, this book was adapted as the story behind Blade Runner. The movie on its own was also a fantastic experience, but if you read the book, and then watched the movie, its even better.

Blade Runner Then

blade-runner
Blade Runner the Original

The original Blade Runner tells you pretty much a story adapted from the book. A world where cybernetic human androids are used to do the tough work, and these android somehow not only find sentience, but also free will.

The story itself is about one such android hunter, or a Blade Runner, and how he starts seeing the point of view of the androids.

You have to realize that the time when this movie was shot, a lot of the effects that were shown on screen were difficult to pull off. Yet, here they are. The casting and the characters were spot on, with Harrison Ford, Sean Young and Rutger Hauer making their mark on screen.

Blade Runner Now

blade-runner-2049
Blade Runner 2049 – The Sequel

Blade Runner 2049, is a different story. It picks up from where the previous story left. It does star Harrison Ford, and to explain the age, it does cast him as an aged and retired Blade Runner.

Incidentally, this happens to be the third of Harrison Ford’s characters that has come back and has finally been put to rest (Indiana Jones passes the mantle to his son Le Bouf, Hans Solo is killed by his son, and Deckard finally gets to …). I won’t talk about the details, but the sequel is a good attempt to re-kindle the story. It pays homages to the previous flick in the right dosage, ditto to Ford, and yet … it tells a different story.

A story that makes you wonder. A story that sometimes you want to read as a book.

All the stories have a uniform theme … and all of them raise the question … what is life, and is a sentient being really alive? What do they think … and is an Artificial intelligence still a cognitive being.

A relic in a new age

Another day, another James Bond rumour. Of all the great franchises out there, 007’s—perhaps appropriately—seems to play its cards the closest to its chest. Eon Productions always rations information about where their legendary character is going right up to the point they are ready to announce his destination, and for what looks to be Daniel […]

via What if killing off Daniel Craig’s James Bond makes sense? —

I love Bond flicks. As someone who has watched James Bond escape traps and defeat villains right from childhood days, it’s a treat to read this article.

Not only does the author know his Bond, but also he is able to tell apart the different Bonds from each other (Connery from Moore, Brosnan from Craig, etc). However, do read through the entire article that I have linked above. Perhaps, it is time for Mr. Bond to die.

What the author seems to suggest is that Bond being the immortal he is manages to still beat the odds, but is feeling the pressures of age. James Bond is a legacy system.

What is a legacy system?

In organizations, a legacy system is that system which has been running for quite some time. It is running because the organization does not feel the need to update the system and the system has been running satisfactorily.

By this I mean, the system has its fair share of problems, but its a known devil. People know the workarounds, they know how to work with the system and how to sometimes work around it. They live with it … but every year they do a calculation of what will it take to replace it. Since what the system does represent is technical debt.

Unless the system does not magically upgrade itself or reinvent itself, the technical debt would be carried over.

What can be done to technical debt?

It has to be paid back in full, and sometimes with interest

This debt has to be paid either in terms of loss in productivity or in terms of cost incurred in upgrading the system.

So, either you keep updating and patching the legacy system … so in Mr. Bond’s case, there’s a constant need to evolve and keep getting better.

Or you simply retire the system, or replace the system with a slightly modern version of the sytem. What we have been seeing when it comes to the casting of James Bond. Daniel Craig would now shoot his 5th Bond flick. This would be his last.

What do you want for Bond?

Being an ardent James Bond fan, I would love to see Bond re-invent himself into a mix of Q and M who is also on the field. If wishes could be horses, beggars would ride.