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Age of Whisky

Posted by Navin Harish - 3 Comments

In a market driven by demand and supply one thing that seems to defy the economic principles is alcohol. Johnny Walker Black Label, Chivas Regal are both 12 years old. There are countless others who claim to be certain age. When I think about this, I am amazed by how companies are consistently able to predict so accurately that 12 years from now we will need this much of whisky. I mean if there was not enough supply, the price would have gone through the roof, the states with prohibition are a very good example and if the demand was more than supply, such whiskeys would lose their premium image. We have not experienced either.

Has it ever happened that you have gone to a bottle shop and asked for Chivas Regal and were told “Sorry sir, we are out of 12 years old whisky… will 11 years do” or “Sir I have 13 year old whisky which I can give you at the same rate as 12, would you be interested?”

Chivas Regal - 12 years old

You tell me how is it possible that every year we have exactly the same amount of “12 years old” whisky as there would be the demand for it. Baffling to say the least.


You make me look bad

Posted by Navin Harish - No Comments

I will judge you by how good you make me look if you are providing me a service. It is unfortunate that you have to perform 100% to make me look average and any performace less than that will make me look bad. This is something the data and voice companies need to understand.

Currently I am not very happy with the services offered by Hathway, Samsung and Vodafone because they make me look bad. Hathway makes me look very bad when I can’t acces critical data because of downtime, Samsung makes me look bad when the calls keep dropping because of their pathetic phone called Galaxy 3 and Vodafone dents my image when I am not getting a signal.

One thing you also need to understand is how easily replacable you are.

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For the want of an empty slot…

Posted by Navin Harish - No Comments

a broadband connection was denied.

I asked Airtel to give me a broadband connections and they have been ultra quick in their response. One guy was at my home half an hour after I made the call to collect the initial payment, a cabling guy dropped in next day. The guy who was supposed to connect it all up called me up the next working day to tell me that he will come in 15 minutes.


After 15 minutes he called me again to tell me that the empty slot in the Airtel box outside my house is faulty so I “may” not get a connection. And the best thing is if they can’t give me a connections, they will refund my money in “one month.”

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The user is not a moron

Posted by Navin Harish - 2 Comments

Sometime the client or the client services people suggest things which are, for the lack of a better word, stupid. Now this is not because they are idiots, it because they think the customer is an idiot.

Making things simpler for your users in helping them, assuming they are morons who can’t tell their arse from a hole in the ground is an insult for which they won’t forgive you.

I remember a conversation I had with a client servicing person who was handling a particularly difficult client. We made a banner ad and a landing page.

“Navin, can you change the button in the banner to say ‘Click here to know more’ instead of ‘Click here’”


“Click here for what, it sounds incomplete, why would someone click on it?”

“Anyone who surfs the internet knows clicking a banner will take him to a page with more details, as it is the button is not required, why do you want to make it even bigger?”

“I understand what you are saying, but we need to have more information”

“In that case why don’t we have the button with test ‘Click here to know how XXX will give complete nutrition to your kid and help him avoid skipping school due to illness”

He got offended but eventually we ran the banners with only “Click here”

The worst mistake you can make is assuming your customers are stupid. This image is a result of that assumption. This is an ad for Toothpaste, there is a person wearing a white gown. It is obvious that this is a doctor and since it is for a dental product, it must be a dentist. Was it really necessary to write “Dental Expert”?

Dental Expert! Oh really, I thought she was a baker

“Dental Expert! Oh really, I thought she was a baker”

Making things simpler for your users in helping them, assuming they are morons who can’t tell their arse from a hole in the ground is an insult for which they won’t forgive you.


An exclusive deal… for everyone

Posted by Navin Harish - 4 Comments

One of the best ways to make a luxury brand desirable is to make it exclusive. People want things that are out of the reach of most people.

This is exclusive, a credit card for which people keep pestering you is not

A Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG – this is exclusive, a credit card for which telemarketers keep pestering you is not

The other end of the spectrum is things that rely on volume and trying to make them feel exclusive is the most idiotic approach. Take the example of credit cards. I got a call from HDFC bank informing me that I am among the lucky 250 people who have been selected from Delhi. The question asked when I tell them I don’t need a card is “Can you please refer someone?”

“Refer” someone for something for which only a lucky 250 were “selected”!


Mine is smaller than yours

Posted by Navin Harish - 1 Comment

In the ongoing soccer world cup, if you watch a match between a strong team and a weak team, you are likely to notice the stark difference between the way they play. While the stronger team is content with scoring a goal and then just waste time by denying possession of ball to the other team, the weaker team is eager to take as many shot at the goal post even if there isn’t half a chance of scoring a goal and even if it means losing possession of the ball.

The same is the case with large and small companies. While is small company has nothing but possibilities, it has no problem in being aggressive and try to capture as much of competitors’ territory as it can. The large company on the other hand has worked hard to capture a market share and is now not interested in taking any more risks. It is too busy trying to retain its market share.

Of course there are bigger companies who are still challenging others but they are the exceptions, not the rule.

If we take the biggest example of our time, Google has grown into what it is from a very small company and it has been challenging competition whether it is Yahoo or Microsoft or anyone else. What future do you see for Google in the next 5-10 years? Do you see them still creating problems for the competition or do you see then on the other side where they are getting defensive about its large market share?

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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.


The Bare Minimum

Posted by Navin Harish - 1 Comment

A post by Seth Godin covered the same topic. I wanted to share some examples with you.

I was having a conversation with someone who said “A week after Tuborg, Kingfisher will also launch a cap like Tuborg. It took Kingfisher a little longer than a week but sure enough they launched Kingfisher Ultra with the same cap.

Kingfisher Ultra using the same cap as Tuborg

Kingfisher could have introduced those caps or the twist to open caps earlier was well but there was no incentive for doing so since no one else offered anything like that.

Same is the case with all major Jeans manufactures in India. You can go to the store Levi’s Lee, Wrangler, Pepe or any other brand, pick up a pair of jeans and check its length. It will be 34. Then you can pick another, then another till you have checked all the jeans in the store and without an exception ALL of those will be 34 inches in length.

The same brands are offering different lengths in jeans in other markets like US and Europe. In India what are they waiting for, someone else to take the initiative.

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Are you focused?

Posted by Navin Harish - 2 Comments

Would an bollywood extra get a leading role?

Would you buy a pair of shoe made by the cobbler who sits outside your building?

Would you ask the roadside vada-pao vendor to cater to your next party?

The answer to all the above questions is “unlikely”. Perception is more real than reality and although the people mentioned above may have the capability to play the lead role or to make better shoes then Gucci or cook better food than your regular caterer but they are not perceived as such so they will find it very hard to break that image.

Same is the case with your company. If you aim to do bigger projects, you should stay away from the petty stuff no matter how hard it is to resist the temptation.

Sex appeal is 50% what you have and 50% what other think you have.


What do you prefer, a one night stand or a long term relationship?

Posted by Navin Harish - No Comments

What do you prefer, a one night stand or a long term relationship?
In the 90s people believed that you get an idea, you take it to a Venture Capitalist, get funding and start an online enterprise and then somehow the money would just shower. This assumption proved to be wrong for most people. For a minority it worked, a minority that had a sound strategy and a strong revenue model. You see, to make the sales register go “kaching”, you need to put in a lot of thought.

You have to remember there is a difference between broadcasting and holding a conversation and while you are broadcasting in other media, online you have to engage people in a conversation if you want them to listen to you.

We don’t learn from our history even if the history in only 15 years old. A lot of companies have the same assumption about social media, you make a page on Facebook and a profile on Twitter and you are done. Now just wait for the entire online community talking about you. But guess what, the online community doesn’t give a fuck about you. Sorry, but that’s how it is.

This problem is made worse by professionals (though it would be wrong to call them professionals) who are interested in a one night stand. There are plenty of those around you who will offer to make a social presence for you for chicken feed. They don’t see beyond the immediate assignment.

Just like 15 years ago when you needed a revenue model for you online enterprise to succeed, you now need a communication strategy behind your social marketing effort.

Before you plunge into any social activity on the net for your company, pause and think why and how you use the social media yourself. Once you look for those answers, you will realize the chances of your twitter feed with products updates are roughly the same as a snowflake in hell. The people (not many of them anyway) are not interested in changes in the interest rates of your investment plans. However they will be interested in product neutral advise and insights.

The first requires very little effort if any but the second requires a fair amount or research and time.

You have to remember there is a difference between broadcasting and holding a conversation and while you are broadcasting in other media, online you have to engage people in a conversation if you want them to listen to you.

You are not a radio, you are a human being.

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