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Can’t rid yourself of your experiences – good or bad

Posted by Navin Harish - 1 Comment

I guess at some stage or the other in our lives we feel that we are at loss of words. Sometimes it happens that someone else says something which communicates what you are feeling. In an interview Mark Tully talked about his attachment to Indian and the UK and I feel this is how I am feeling about Bombay and Delhi but was not able to put it in words.

Here is what he said.

“I can’t rid myself of the years I have spent in India and its influence on me. Neither can I rid myself of the years I have spent in the UK and its influence. I go back quite regularly”

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Bombay – the city I always loved to hate… and I hate to say I started loving

Posted by Navin Harish - 3 Comments

Since I hated Bombay even before I visited this place, I have to say it is prejudice more than anything else. The local trains, the overcrowded city and everything I knew about Bombay was secondhand information and I have to admit that Bombay lived up to its expectations except for the only positive thing I had heard – road sense.

Tata Interactive made me an offer and I guess my desire to work for Tata proved stronger than my dislike of Bombay and I landed in Bombay on 6th October 2003 almost exactly 6 years and a half before I leave it for good.

No more session passes

A while ago I wondered how thick this pile of monthly train tickets will get. Now I won’t be buying them again… at least anytime soon

If there is a thing called Destiny that the last 6 years are the manifestation of that. I took up a job which I should not have before coming to Bombay and I spent about an year and a half doing I job which was not the right fit for me but I guess that job, since it was in elearning, must have played some part in me getting the job at Tata Interactive.

This is the last session pass I have bought for Mumbai Local Trains.

For the past 6 years I have lived in one of the most crowded city in the world but I have always enjoyed a great view with green as far as eye can see from my window. In a city where people spend on an average 3-4 hours commuting to office I have been living 15 minutes away from my workplace for most part of the last six years. In local trains that are notorious the world over for being over crowded, I have had the good fortune of finding a place to sit almost everyday. Considering all this, it seems I was destined to stay in Bombay and destiny was kind enough to make it as comfortable as possible. Of course there were times when I felt like I was a repeat offender in my last birth so I am repeatedly being punished for that but largely I was lucky…sometime so lucky that I felt I was the brand ambassador of Lux Cozi.

A view of Aarey Colony from my bedroom

More than this, I feel I leave Bombay as a better person than I was when I came here. It is largely because I have come to know so many people – mostly nice, some not so nice.

Apart from all these, Mira and I reached the most important milestone a couple looks forward to – becoming parents. Manu was born after we moved to Bombay.

Few days from now, I will move on to where I came from – New Delhi the place I always call home. Just like I still cherish the memories of my stay in Melbourne, I will look back fondly to the days spend in Bombay and maybe sometime even wonder why the hell I moved back to Delhi.

3 Comments

How much money can you put in art without ruining it?

Posted by Navin Harish - 1 Comment

If you are old enough, you’d remember when Indian Television became more than just a movie on Sunday and Chitrahaar on Wednesday. We all have fond memories of TV shows at that time, be it the soaps like Hum Log or Buniyaad or smaller TV series of 13 episodes like Karamchand, Khandaan, Subah, Ados Pados to name just a few.

With fresh and original ideas viewers could connect to, we were actually very good as far as the TV content was concerned. No endless or useless dragging of the story, no typical Bollywood concepts.

In all this, the message that was to be communicated was lost and the content was reduced to fluff that exists only to hold a corporate wrapper around it and this is what we are left with as far as Television is concerned – shit in a corporate gift wrap.

One can’t stop but think if it was so good then why didn’t it survived. The most important requirement for survival is equilibrium. Think about it, you are unhappy with your job but not unhappy enough to quit. You have enough money to take care of your needs but not enough to retire right now and live peacefully. To make the economy work, you are required as a productive member of a society and economy has made provisions to maintain the equilibrium where it will give you just enough to prevent you from rebelling but never enough to quit the rat race.

In the “good old days” we didn’t have producers like Ekta Kapoor and the TV actors were also moderately paid and could only afford khadi to make a style statement. Equilibrium was required to sustain it, to prevent it from dying, to prevent the creative folks saying “To hell with it” and pursue something that paid better.

Equilibrium was required to keep good TV alive, to allow people to create better work and for that money was needed. The money was provided but a little too much and it’s been all downhill from there.

From a time in 1983 when DD charged for showing cricket matches to now when thousands of crores are spent for telecast rights of cricket tournaments, the Indian Television has come a long way. Everybody jumped in the bandwagon and there were way too many brands, too many channels who wanted to have a piece of the pie and they pumped in way too much money into it.

Equilibrium was required to keep good TV alive, to allow people to create better work and for that money was needed. The money was provided but a little too much and it’s been all downhill from there. In the recent years, instead of exploring new concepts, working on shows that are better, TV has adapted every single formula Bollywood has thrown out of window.

A few days ago, in an old movie, I saw Mala Sinha being insulted in a wedding ceremony because she is a widow and the same day I saw a promo of a TV serial where another woman was insulted in another ceremony because she is a “baanjh”. Now there are only two kinds of shows one where half of the people are trying to make the life of other half as miserable as possible and shows where people are willing to get down to any levels for 15 seconds of fame – they bitch about each other, let people treat them like dirt for the sake of money and are willing have a fist fight with the others around them.

Too much money has meant too high stakes which prevents most producers from experimenting with anything new. Too much money also means too many people to be pleased – actors with more substantial roles, channels with higher TRPs, sponsors with more exposure. In all this, the message that was to be communicated was lost and the content was reduced to fluff that exists only to hold a corporate wrapper around it and this is what we are left with as far as Television is concerned – shit in a corporate gift wrap.

1 Comment

We struck Gold at Indian Digital Media Awards 2010

Posted by Navin Harish - 14 Comments

Last night was special for me and my team at R K SWAMY Interactive as for the very first time we nominated our work for an award and for the very first time we struck gold.

We bagged the gold award for ‘Best Website Debut’ for its website the humantouchofchemistry.com. We were actually hoping to win another award for another website we are very proud of – Mercedes-Benz Fascination as well but that didn’t happen.

Considering what he had to go through during this project – countless late nights, almost daily deliveries, I guess we couldn’t have settled for anything less.

 

14 Comments

Can your brand custodian see beyond the next quarter?

Posted by Navin Harish - 4 Comments

The easiest way to explain what I am saying is to ask yourself if given the choice, would you for any reason, go for a lower paying job? If the answer is not an outright “No” you already understand the importance of long term gains. They are certainly worth sacrificing some short term benefits.

The same is true with your brand and communication surrounding it. Can you be sure that people responsible for building and maintaining your brand won’t be tempted to take a decision to make their quarterly statements look good? The answer to this will help you identify the people who you can trust with your brand.

4 Comments

If you have the cost advantage, you don’t really have an advantage

Posted by Navin Harish - 2 Comments

If the USP of your business is lowest price, you can be assured that sooner or later someone will challenge your position.

The IT, Telecom and a lot of other businesses are flourishing in India because we are able to do it much cheaper, not essentially better. One of the biggest requirements for these jobs is command over the English language. It is easy to find people with the skills for the job AND knowledge not just English but in the accent you want.

If your business depends on lowest cost, it is time for you to find a more sustainable business model.

The reasons all these jobs are in India and not in a country that can do it even cheaper like China is largely English. An average American or Brit would rather speak to an average Indian than an average Chinese. You may argue there are issues like human rights and hacking but that has not stopped companies from opening offices in China so far.

China is aware of the challenge and the huge opportunity and they are working towards a solution. An article I read recently mentioned that the quality of English education in Chinese schools is much better than Indian schools. A few years later you will have a large work force ready with English skills as good as Indians if not better and rates even more competitive than ours. Who do you think will be opening STPs then?

You can survive on lowest cost for some time but not for ever. With call rates as low as 1/2 paisa, the telecom companies are a good example of that. Sooner or later the smaller ones will have to wind up. If your business depends on lowest cost, it is time for you to find a more sustainable business model.

2 Comments

Wow! You look 10 years younger

Posted by Navin Harish - 1 Comment

Look around you and you will see a lot of young, small companies are giving the larger, established ones a run. Maybe it is the youthful appeal of those companies that the 100 years old corporations lack, or maybe it is something deeper.

If youth is what people want and if youth is what is beating you, you may want some of that youth appeal too. What do you do? How do you get that youth appeal?

The real reason is the agility and adaptability of the young companies, this is what makes it easier for them to try out new things. They don’t have the baggage of doing things in a particular way.

When challenged by such companies, how do you respond? If youth is what people want and if youth is what is beating you, you may want some of that youth appeal too. What do you do? How do you get that youth appeal? You hire an agency – an agency that has given a youthful appeal to other companies. This is where I’d like you to stop and look a little more carefully. See if the companies in your agency’s resume were young and trendy to begin with. After all it’s not a challenge to make someone young look young, the challenge is to make and old company look young.

As a teenager you won’t suddenly find your dad cool if he colours his hair and wears a torn jeans, or maybe even get a tattoo, you may actually find it creepy. The same is with your agency, you need to be sure your agency is not trying to put on a fresh coat of make up on you.

The choice it now leaves us is what is desirable and as always, a little harder to follow. To be really youthful, you need to change more than your appearance, you need to change from within. To avoid your competition from challenging you, you have to challenge yourself, challenge what you do, how you do it, and what you stand for. The secret is to be relevant, to be more aligned with your partners and customers and the world in general.

If you have to borrow something from young companies, it is not their appearance, it is their core.

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