Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Find Jonah!

When searching for an appropriate graphic for my last Pulse article, Find Jonah - Redirect! I ran into this truly superb baroque era painting that dramatically captures the moment when the big fish spits Jonah out.

The artist, Pieter Lastman (about 1583 - 1633), was famous in his time, though I admit I had never heard of him before being startled by this painting. He is now remembered more as Rembrandt's teacher than as a powerful artist in his own right.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Creeks - a meditation

The creeks ... 

are an active mystery, fresh every minute. 

Theirs is the mystery of the continuous creation and all that providence implies: 

the uncertainty of vision, the horror of the fixed, 

the dissolution of the present, 

the intricacy of beauty, 

the pressure of fecundity, 

the elusiveness of the free, 

and the flawed nature of perfection.

Annie Dillard

Monday, March 09, 2015

Breakthrough - How Stem Cells Work - a vimeo from Harvard School of Medicine

“Birth and Engraftment of Blood Stem Cells”

This video published by the Harvard School of Medicine is incredible!

It’s a zebrafish story that takes you from the birth of a blood stem cell, along its travel through the body, to its site of engraftment.

When a human patient receives a stem cell (bone marrow/MScs etc.) transplant, similar processes happen.  Leonard Zon, MD, and colleagues published their full findings in the January 15, 2015 issue of Cell.

Without question, it’s the BEST 3 minutes you’ll spend today

Monday, March 02, 2015

Love Your Dealer

While the face of trade has changed remarkably over the last couple of decades, the place of the dealer has actually got strengthened.

Misunderstanding the internet, many companies tried to focus more on direct marketing and less on establishing any channels for distribution, and have found themselves on the back foot.

Within the world of distribution channels, establishing and building an effective dealer net is certainly one of the most challenging but essential tasks. Anything can be sold through dealers, and without good dealers very few things can be sold!

Your dealer is very often the primary interface that your product or service has with the customer. The relationship that your dealer develops with your end user is of critical importance to the acceptance and use of your product/service. A fact that is often ignored is that it is actually the dealer who is your primary customer. The dealer believes in your product/service and places orders for what you are selling. It is the dealer that pays you for it. Only afterwards does it reach the hands of the end user. Your CRM must therefore begin with your dealers and in turn, the dealer's CRM is critical for your success! Unfortunately we see a great deal of dysfunctional relationships between manufacturers and their dealers.

The antagonism is often mutual: Dealer's Perspective:

  • Poor logistics
  • Poor incentives
  • Poor service
  • Few or no PoS/PoP aids
  • Poor advertising support
  • Insufficient branding effort
  • Not responsive to customer needs/complaints
  • Company sales team visits are too infrequent and too brief, or not reachable
  • No interested in sharing expenses for special promotions/events
  • Poor packaging.

  • Manufacturer's Perspective:
  • Insufficient selling effort
  • Insufficient stock on hand
  • Always demanding more margins
  • Always demanding unreasonable ad spend
  • Always cribbing about delays in supply but always orders at the last minute
  • Not attending to customer needs/complaints
  • Always dissatisfied with provided PoP/PoS aids
  • Not cooperating with the sales team.
  • Always asking for funds for special promotions/events

  • And the lists will go on. But just look at the amount of point-wise convergence! Just scanning a typical list shows that there is more of point of view here than substance. Not that the complaints are not real, but when you have so much of common ground as the basis to build on, there's no excuse at all for not being able to create vibrant and productive relationships!

    It is primarily the manufacturer who has to take the initiative to get relationships back onto a sound footing. If you don't do it and instead sit brooding over lists of complaints (as above) the result will be that your product or service will be put on the back burner. Most dealers have more than one thing to sell. They will sell what is profitable and what best cements their customers to them. 

    When you eventually do 'zoom out' and take a macro view, you will see that the demotivation of this or that dealer is the least of your problems. When customers have to discover your stuff for themselves, even if what you've got is good, the best of the rest (of your channels) can only deliver 10% to 20% of what you are capable of achieving through a good dealer net. The vast bulk can only come from enthusiastic/knowledgeable dealers who will build your brand for you, and that will happen only when you create the right environment.  

    Most of it is fear - fear of being taken for a ride! Fear comes from the micro-view. Go ahead and be a hard headed businessperson - Knowing where you have to get, you now know what you can and cannot do. Make no false promises. Be responsive and STAY in communication. In fact, make communication your first priority. Mutual understanding and agreement should be the entire basis for your dealer relationships. Share the actual FACTS. Put yourself in the dealer's shoes and try to sort out needs from wants. Be responsive, understanding, prompt and always keep your promises. Remember that the dealer chose you. 

    Most times, this dealer is your dealer because they were convinced that what you've got is what their customers need. Take feedback from dealers seriously. If you are messing up somewhere, you can count on your dealers (who perhaps know as much or more about your type of product/service than you do) to highlight the issues, and even help pinpoint where there is waste and how the logistics etc. can be improved - or whatever happen to be the particular points of contention.  

     And if your marketing or operations people don't get this message - fire them! 

     Try it - vibrant love affairs are infectious and can be virally contagious

    Go get the 90% that's out there waiting for you...

    #dealer #marketing #distribution channel #branding #CRM #communication #love #PoS #PoP, #advertising #logistics

    Friday, February 27, 2015

    The Noble Indian Cobra!

    She was a beauty! 5 feet if an inch and what I first saw of her was the typical wheaty look, with just a couple of inches showing.

    It was not an ordinary day. The day before, I had taken a spill off my scooter, badly skinning both knees and the heel of my left hand . I'd gone to work anyway as we had an important meeting, but the pain killers wore out fast and I left as soon as I could to come and nurse my injuries in the peace of my own home. I'd just relaxed and taken my next dose when young Annamalai came and called from the gate. I dragged myself to the door to see a very excited young man saying there was a snake and right then a bike came up and the rider said 'hop on sir, we need a hand' so I stiffly and gingerly got my stuff together and clambered aboard.

    Just inside our colony gate stood a Proclain and it looked like they had cleared quite a bit of scrub. In front of the Proclain was what was left of a largish termite mound topped with construction waste. The very top of that had been taken off and there, in a gap, she was pinned. I could see she was breathing, but the rest of her was firmly trapped within the collapsed mound.

    I had a chat with the operator and he was confident that he could take off another layer without doing her any damage, and he did a precision job. 

    I could now see a foot of her middle, as thick around as my wrist but which end of her was where was a mystery, so as gently as possible, I started taking  the dirt and waste tiles off both ends. After I had another foot or so of her exposed, from one end she got her head out and immediately flowed right off the mound at my feet. She was in excellent shape despite being nearly buried alive.

    I was slow, and she was very fast. I had by now grabbed my stick and sack and was vainly trying to get her onto the stick as she went round and round both me and the mound looking for a way back in. After three rounds, she gave up on finding a hole and started looking for a way to get right out of there, but the ring of gawkers was solid and so she whizzed around passing twice between my feet as I hobbled and bobbled after her rather helplessly.

    She finally took a run for open space, lifted her head, saw people and stopped, and in that moment of hesitation I had her on the stick and then thankfully she slid straight into my sack.

    As the Proclain cleared the rest of the mound, we also caught 3 baby cobras, all about 2 feet long, and to my utter surprise 4 small foot-long kraits! All of these had been apparently happily residing together under that one big termite mound!

    Once convinced that I really had them safe, the viewers finally stepped in and I showed them the beauty and the babies, now tossing around peacefully in the sack. Somehow, the onlookers had a feeling that I had been bitten, but I reassured them, and then thankfully headed back home. In fact that lovely cobra never once even started to spread her hood, she was simply intent on escape.

    With the adrenaline pumping I'd temporarily forgotten my pain, but the minute I had them, the pain came back in a rush. Aruna was anxiously waiting, so I showed her the lovely big cobra and the bunch of shiny little ones and she calmed down a bit.

    The next day it was a routine release out in a nearby reserve forest territory where the whole group of 8 disappeared into the scrub really fast.

    That night I dreamt of snakes. In particular, in my dream was a big male cobra, who invited me to catch him and then asked to be left wherever I had left his mate. It was logical enough that a mother with babies had a mate nearby... and I told myself that that must have been what was behind my dream. Life returned to normal and I all but forgot my dream.

    About a month later, at around ten at night, I was on the net, Aruna was watching Super Singers on TV and our son Rommel had gone out to get some milk. He suddenly burst into the living room and said, 'appa, come quick, there's another snake.' As a horrified Aruna watched, we grabbed torches, sack and snake stick and rushed off.

    There were about 5 men standing around on the road outside a gate, They pointed to an area near the gate post and said they were sure that the snake was there. The area had some low weeds and lots of grass, so I gingerly started at one end and worked my way towards the gate. There was no sign of a snake. However, the men were certain that the snake must be there, so I started looking for any holes. The area around the front of our gated colony is riddled with termite mounds and as you know, that means lots of interconnecting chambers and passages well underground. I was sure that there must be an access point and we finally found it almost under a concrete slab. Peering in with a torch we could make out just a bit of the snake's head. I tried waiting it out but he wasn't budging. There was no way to move the concrete slab, so we used the water trick, ran a hose into the hole and tried to flood him out. After the area was flooded, he finally slowly came inching out. One of the men had armed himself with a heavy rod, and the message was obvious - either we got the snake or he would - permanently!

    We let him emerge completely and then tried to get him onto my stick, but he kept sliding off (probably because he was still wet). He was big (5-6 feet) fast, and very agile, and Rommel with the sack and I with the stick were hard pressed keeping up with him. We let him run off the verge and onto the road and he was intent on crossing to the rough on the other side. Once there, he would be gone in a flash, so we kept herding him back as best we could until finally on the sixth attempt, he stayed on the stick and Rom had the sack ready and in he went.

    We were winded, and it took a while to get our breaths back. We chatted with the gentlemen and they wanted to know how it was that whenever they had confronted cobras, the snakes always got angry and had their hoods up, hissing and threatening to bite, but with this snake, and the one in the mound, they never even started to spread their hoods and had just run. We explained to them that cobras always look for a way to escape and have no interest in confrontations. As long as we let them run, run they will! There was no magic, cobras have lived in and around humans for thousands of years and are well adapted, stealthy enough and aware of their human neighbours' schedules and so becoming nearly invisible.

    Jobi with my snake stick
    This huge fellow had been occupying space right at their doorstep for years without them ever even knowing. It was just his bad luck that the owner happened to come home later than usual that night on his bike and caught him in the headlight just as our hero was getting ready to go get his dinner...

    That night, I had another vivid dream featuring snakes including some rather exotic ones too. I rarely remember my dreams for long, but this one stayed with me and suddenly reminded me of the earlier dream I had had about the first cobra's mate requesting a reunite. This handsome snake resided just 200 feet from the mound and looked about right to be that beau, so I silently promised him that he would be released at that very same spot.

    As soon as my friend Jobi heard about our rescue, he offered to chauffeur me with the snake to the point of release. He also took a short video of the release itself and that's down at the end of this post.

    As you can see, it's a lovely location. Wild elephants use this stretch to reach water so though not too far from the city, it's unlikely that there will be much real estate development around and except for a couple of temples, it's a pretty deserted area AND this is forest department protected land, so 'our' snakes (a number of whom we have released here) can look forward to peacefully hunting  their prey and rebuilding their families without fear of hasty and murderous humans!

    As a family, we have had the privilege of rescuing quite a few snakes in and around our colony. In December ('14) alone.

    Apart from the 8 we got from around that mound, there was also one big krait (perhaps whose 4 babies we relocated?) >>

    and a 3 foot cobra that the kids picked up one night.

    That means there's at least one other big krait around somewhere, and we've also seen a largish Russell's twice but she got off into thick brush before we could grab her.

    In any case, as Lord Byron notes, true
    "love will find its way
    (The Gaiour)
    I wonder, did they get back together - what do you think???


    #snake rescue #cobra #krait #Russells viper, reunite, snake dreams, release, forest, video, #termite mound proclain #Naja #Bungarus #Daboia #Rommel #Aruna #Jobi #Coimbatore

    To see some of our other venomous snake tales check out

    Monday, February 16, 2015

    Tuesday, February 03, 2015

    Decrypting Invention, Innovation, and Discovery

    When we learn of an innovation, often enough our reaction is “Wow, it's so obvious, why didn't I think of that?” and we get the “I could kick myself” sort of feeling, and we begin our own search for the secrets of inventiveness.

    Humanity as a whole is fascinated by inventors and their startling discoveries. I'm thinking of inventions that have succeeded so well that we are all aware of them. But not all inventions are commercially successful! With a little introspection, we realize that the main thing that makes some discoveries turn into commercial successes is their ability to solve real problems that folks face. The business world needs innovations that will pay-off.

    In order to filter out everything noncommercial, and to funnel our discovery process towards finding stuff that can sell, we try to zero in on delineating and solving pain points. We observe processes with focus to see if we can't hit on some solutions for ourselves. We are selectively observant, seeking discoveries and innovations that solve real problems that folks face. Ideas come boiling out and that's how many of today's startups have sprung their share of innovations. Seeing startups hit success, established industry becomes more responsive and more committed to processes favoring innovation.

    Pinning down how innovation happens, that discovery process itself, has proved to be difficult. We teach our people how to break everyday processes down step by step, to do walk-throughs, with an eye on improving the effectiveness and acuteness of our observation. In the process we can also generate data that can be studied for clues. A major key to innovation is focussed observation.

    Much has been written about the importance of observation, and observation itself has been turned into something of a science. But just saying 'let's observe' has not in itself driven us to more innovation (that's my feeling at any rate). While observation can and should be taught, there are many to whom observation comes naturally, and for some of these 'naturally observant' there 'naturally' follows a creative process, which does result in new applications.

    Observation on its own is a bit like keeping lots of stuff in storage. The inventor is not just an excellent searcher, but also has the ability after noticing (and storing away) to manipulate that stuff, rearranging and bringing together disparate bits of information, inferring connections, and reassembling them into something new. For the sake of simplicity, we'll dub this as lateral thinking (clue #2).

    A man walked his dog through the woods and when they got home... A well known discovery starts with the casual observation of hard to remove plant burrs on his clothes and his dog's fur. Further examination revealed the tiny hooks on the burrs, and 10 years of work later it became VELCRO. De Mestral was laughed at, but he persevered. Nowadays we talk of biomimesis (copying nature) and it's become something of a necessity to study the natural world for clues to useful inventions! At its broadest, anything and everything from nanotech to astronomy is a potential source of new inventions, and we even have rather unhelpful names for each of these styles of observation. Breadth of knowledge IS important, giving us our third clue – eclecticism. Commercially successful innovations are often found by those creative persons who pursue broad interests.

    The rewards for success are potentially huge. Downline of any good discovery come the myriads of different potential uses and all the spinoffs that can be created that put resulting inventions and innovations to work.

    As we gear up to make discovery a scientific process, we try out many things. Discoveries don't always happen only to individuals! Brainstorming can be brilliantly creative, so group approaches are being tried. Work patterns and cultures at many R&D sections are also in a state of flux as we look for the right environments and working conditions to foster innovation. Right now, flexi vs office, is hotly debated. Many companies are leaving it to their employees and teams to manage their own work environments/schedules etc., and hybrid suggestions are also being experimented with (e.g. 2 days in + 3 days out of the office).

    From what I've seen, even the high profile (and closely watched) inventor and originator does not show us any obvious 'process of observation-creation' at work. We usually find out about the keen observation only in retrospect. High profile inventors do have a bent for observation, and in addition there are large dollops of curiosity. Does it seem obvious that curiosity is what drives observation? We find our inventors to be avid questioners, fascinated with the whys and hows, and willing to dig deep to find answers.

    To summarize, we do have some clues, but I don't believe that we've got to the heart of discovering how discovery can always be made to happen. What we have in hand so far, are focussed observation, curiosity, eclecticism, lateral thinking, and shaking things up to see what results. In practice, our approach seems to be more of an extension of the life hack. We're asking “Is there a shortcut, a less painful way of getting to discovery?”

    Even if an invention isn't on the cards, remember that almost anything can be improved upon and even improvised upon, and therein lies a very valuable source for both startups and more established industries. In market terms, a good improvement is just as valuable and may be more easily marketable than creating a whole new niche! Keep in mind that surrounding business trends also impinge on the process of discovery including concepts like #lean and #agile that are emerging environments for businesses to explore.

    Discovery-Invention-Innovation puts together at least these components:
    Eclectic interests
    Lateral thinking - Creativity
    Changes in business culture/environment - disruption

    Let's jump ahead a bit. Okay, so we created something really innovative. If it is not to be one of the zillions of discoveries that just sink out of sight, then the inventor must put it together and put it to use. Is there a ready demand for what you've got? If not, then can the demand be created? Is it patentable or otherwise protectable from easy copying? Have you put it together as well as it needs to be – Remember: Everything is designed. Few things are designed well.” (Brian Reed). New stuff has to be thoroughly tested, the kinks worked out, and reliability ascertained. Great Idea + Poor execution = (costly) Suicide!

    Now, let's briefly consider some major risks:

    Risk 1 - That old conundrum of challenging the status quo. This is The Establishment! It's a big and very well oiled machine with few kinks, the technology is sound, branding is well established, and channels and pipelines are solidly in place. Into that deep end, you are readying yourself to dive. Competition is a great thing if it is allowed to flourish. When battling giants, getting yourself off to a good start is tough. However, when your innovation is likely to rock someone's boat, stifling it before it gets a toehold is an effective (responding or preemptive) strategy. It's no a joke, so take it seriously, for serious innovations can constitute 'dangerous' challenges to established industry, and so can be bought out and buried - to the detriment of humanity. Perhaps those established players think that they're 'too big to fail', and so the death and burial of any potential irritants is justifiable. In today's Darwinian world of business, let the unwary inventor beware!

    Risk 2 – Perhaps what you have discovered is so far ahead of everything else that there's no easy way to fit it into today's market. On a more mundane level, perhaps it will take time for the technology to become available either for manufacturing or for using your idea. We know that for all intents and purposes, Babbage had put together all the building blocks theoretically needed for a computer way back in the 1870s, but it took most of a century for computers to be made. Check for a good #fit, as it so very often happens that when there is no immediate fit (market fit, making fit, culture fit), further development may have to stop. If you noticed in the Velcro tale, it took 20 years to get from discovery to market acceptance - but our world of inventions is moving faster and faster, so you may not have to wait that long for your time to come!

    Risk 3 – The world of innovation is accelerating. While you may be thinking that you are the newest entrant and readying for the newtech vs oldtech battle outlined in Risk 1, there might be alternative technology that makes your effort redundant just after or even before you launch - I'm reminded of England's Clive Sinclair somewhere in the early 1980s coming off his hugely successful ZX80 microcomputer, developing a truly exceptional 'bent tube' flat screen pocket TV (that had a tiny 2” display but had all 625 lines and deployed a Fresnel lens no less). He launched his remarkable invention just before LCDs took over the small display market.

    Having really discovered something – pause and think it through:
    • What does it do? How will people find it useful?
    • How and where will it fit in, in today's market?
    • Will it scale?
    • What spin-offs will it support?
    • Can we handle the competition?

    Unless (and even if!) you are a genius on multiple fronts, here's a good time to deploy a close think tank to properly think it through. Please do all the basics including SWOTs and viewing from different perspectives (change hats) including gaming, and study what lies ahead... You have begun, but till you launch and succeed, all you've done is to make a discovery!

    A final thought. If you value innovation, then surround yourself with innovators. There are of course plenty of inventors out there, but a surprising truth is that many of the folks around us are nascent inventors, yet unaware that they could be nurturing ideas that might change the world! Let's say that your company has a couple of hundred carefully selected people, I'd say there's a good chance that quite a few of them already have the seeds of discovery within themselves, seeds that are just awaiting your discovery and nurture to sprout and burst into bloom. It's frankly unlikely (but not impossible) to find them in your own R&D section. Clues can be as simple as noting the persons who do their own research (love to learn), or suggest process improvements that increase quality, reduce wastage, tweak alignment, or improve reliability, so do keep your eyes wide open for those sparks of creativity.

    A personal note – I have a strong sense of deja vu when looking over modern debates on the ingredients and processes of creativity – and what it reminds me of are the 16C (in England) debate on mimesis vs poesis.

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

    IBM Made Blood Cell Separators !!!

    Yes they did, and here's the story
    or copy and paste the link on a new tab

    It's something of a high tech fairy tale!

    I used the IBM 2991 >>

    and 2997 when learning to be a blood bank technologist in the late 1970s - gives you some clue as to how OLD I am :)

    Match-Up vs Mismatch

    High ideals, the Vision Statement, our Mission... perhaps a company aims for the stars, but the reality just fails to match up. There's a mismatch between what marketing says and what the company does. It's all too common.

    Making fine statements raises fine expectations and when there is no correspondence, the result is great disappointment. Disappointment is only the initial reaction. Once the bad feeling sets, that company will PERMANENTLY lose trust.
    Trust is precious. Trust is the difference between winning and losing.
    Trust has to be won, and never lost. Especially in this day and age of instant information sharing, when you lose trust:

    • Your channels will shun you or even shut you out
    • Your customers complaints will just ooze through the social net or perhaps even spread virally
    • Your products and services will lose value
    • Your market share will shrink

    Trust is won through integrity, consistency, and honesty.

    Push cannot withstand long without a corresponding pull. Marketing can only initiate, it's your match-up from your integrity and quality that has to carry the load. More importantly, if both (push and pull) do not grow together, the company will not be able to grow at all. Pull can be initiated by effective branding and sustained marketing, but alone it will not sustain if your products/services fail:

    • To meet needs to do what you have claimed
    • To provide value for spend
    • To be available/reach your customers cleanly on demand
    • To provide decent margins in distribution
    • To be reliable

     Identify the problem areas and deal with them. Be open and responsive to your  clients/customers/channels. Just maybe, you aren't getting the right feedback from your market, or your marketers are fudging things so you think it's all minor, all handleable. Keep cross checking.

    Open loops have to be closed! Rather than promptly sorting the issue out, marketing too often task themselves with papering over the cracks. When there's a mismatch between the projection and the reality, it doesn't take long for the reality to win out, and you have become a creator of new pain, when what you had set out to do was to be a solution provider!

    On a larger front too, Marketing is often misused to mask the reality by creating a finely crafted image. The public perception is strongest in fields like politics, but we can even observe this phenomenon in large industry groups like Big Pharma (+insurance+medical practice), where incredible amounts are spent to maintain the status quo through the projection of an image of solid science and trust BUT now the public has become (justifiably) sceptical.

    Another startling recent example is the interaction of industry with environmental concerns and the high volume promotion of the concept of sustainability. A sub topic here is the denial of industry related phenomena like Global Warming/Climate Change. Relying on a big spend on marketing to stave off the inevitable can only produce a small delaying rear-end action. When such large groupings (de facto institutions) lay their foundations on myths, the consequences can be disastrous to nations and even to the world.

    The older word for 'mismatch' is cheating.

    Why then do we dupe people? Oftentimes it's the easy way out and perhaps there is a pressure to get started with what you've got, and iron out the kinks as one goes along. With industry groupings, they have invested 'too much' to consider backing out now. Unfortunately, there's a generic impression floating around out there (a marketing myth) that marketing alone can keep the issues at bay. We let ourselves dupe ourselves. We can be easily convinced that our pretty pictures, fine words, cute/emotive vids, fine packaging, etc. are enough. But, I assure you, if that's all you've got, it is NOT.
    Instead let what you project coincide with the reality that you create AND make what you create match-up.

    Be brave, be ethical, walk your talk

    Originally posted on LinkedIn #Pulse as Match-Up vs Mismatch

    Saturday, January 24, 2015

    Marketing - Get The BEAT !

    They say that marketing is more of an art than a science, and that's how marketing might look to an outsider, but marketers know that there has to be a scientifically solid foundation for the art part to work its magic.

    One of those mysterious (artsy looking) phenomena, is the convergence that's needed in an organization to make any marketing strategy work wonders in the marketplace. The foundation for organizational convergence is laid first by forming effective teams and second by getting the whole organization to synchronize with that marketing focus.

    Sound complicated? It's not... not really.

    Think of a song. Think of a song that encourages dancing. As a broad generalization, if there's a driving rhythm, a beat, folks will feel like dancing. There may be plenty of art involved in finally creating your song, but you already know the level of engagement needed for potential dancers to start moving to your beat. And just think, a great song can inspire great dance, perhaps even new genre's of dance.

    To create such music first requires a solid background in music. It requires practice. It requires skill in composition. You need to try out a lot of different melodies. It involves getting a band together that gel together, who enjoy doing what they do best together, and who believe in the music that they are creating. It helps if there's oodles of talent. And before everything finally comes together, there has to be practice, corrections, more practice and more...

    Finally the music is in the bag. Then it has to get out of that bag and get into the ears of all those dancers out there. It needs a catchy name to go with the catchy tune.

    Another small analogy – take a basketball team, give each player a ball, get them on court and get them to all try to bounce their balls in perfect synch. At first it will be a chaos of noise, then as they get the hang and start working together, it will sort itself out into, not just a rhythm, but a thunderous rhythm – and the possibilities become astounding.

    Now, is that all art and no science? I don't think so.

    First published on LinkedIn Pulse as Marketing? Get the BEAT!

    Thursday, January 22, 2015


    Recently, three very hesitant young people came for advice on job hunting. Very apologetic, and quite down hearted, they were facing a brick wall. The problem? No qualifications. Or that's what they said.

    On digging just a bit deeper, I was not surprised to find that they each had very valuable experience. One had been running a tooling and machining unit for the last three years, another had just left a job of managing a manufacturing unit with two plants under his control, and the third had been doing a successful own retail business when the recent sudden down turn forced him to close it up. Yet HR after HR had been turning them away. They had rarely even got to the interviewing stage, and they were downcast.

    Two of these promising young people had no college qualifications at all. The third had a degree, but in arts. All three got their starts because of recommendations from influential family/friend contacts, and now that they needed to hunt for jobs on their own, the lack of suitable qualifications was haunting them. Everywhere they had tried, almost the first question asked was 'what's your qualification?' Very often, the corollary remark – how were you heading that unit without any engineering or commercial background? In one case, because of a major fight with the management, any request for a reference was out of the question.

    Were I hiring for a project, I would have snapped them up!

    The reality is that the kind of experience that these three young people have is invaluable. It can't be taught in college. They've learned the practicalities of what makes any business run. So, I set out to find out why HR's don't seem to have the ability to see what they have been missing. There seem to be at least two factors at play.
    1. Time – hundreds of applications to scan!
    2. Filters – almost all jobs seem to begin with having some (ir)relevant qualification.

    Rather than banging my head against that wall, I decided to see what could be done about the negativity and hopelessness that had set in. All three needed some serious counselling! Self belief is perhaps the biggest factor in successfully job hunting. We talked about what they had achieved and what they had learned, and we talked about what any employer is looking for – people who have the skills and knowledge that they had already accumulated in the real world of running their various businesses.

    Then comes that other great necessary – the CV. Looking at what they had as CVs, I was hardly surprised that they had gotten nowhere so far. Please, look at your own CV from a HR's perspective. It should be clear what your core skills are, and it should also be very clear how your abilities and skills have been put to use in your previous work. Simply listing employers with dates and job titles does not get you very far. Remember that the HR has very limited time, and certainly cannot be expected to 'read between the lines'.

    In going through the CVs, I found a couple of areas where each individual needed to put in some extra work, and suggested either reading material, or a short course (e.g. in personal presentation, etiquette or in body language). At this stage, in no case was going back to college going to be a useful option.

    Finally, while the run of the mill process of job hunting may be good enough for the so called 'qualified' candidate, for those who have come up the harder way and who have the more valuable knowledge, one needs to try a more nuanced approach. I'd suggest getting yourself a consultant. Beyond that,  your own work contacts, especially business persons and unit heads with whom you had dealt in your previous avatar. As they already know you, getting an appointment might not be difficult, and believe me that's 50% of your battle won!

    And Go for it !

    First published on LinkedIn Pulse as UNQUALIFIED!

    Friday, January 16, 2015

    You Can Do Magic

    Start-ups have gone from dime a dozen to becoming legion. That's both good and bad. Adjectives like exciting, enticing, and vibrant, describe our business environment, yet on the down side, the resulting competition for funds and for the market is simply awful.

    Working as a consultant to start-ups is fun and very challenging. I've been through a longish string so far, and though the projects were diverse, as the start-ups scene has heated up, some common challenges and solutions have emerged. From my experience, here are just a few of the commonest failure scenarios.
    Challenge 1 – The Dream Machine. A lovely product/service that addresses major pain points, is well designed, passionately believed in and yet won't fly. Very often the problem is over confidence. The start-up's mindset runs something like this: “My product is truly revolutionary and it's going places. The market needs me, potential customers are begging for me, so here we come!”
    Taking this product or service on to the market usually ends in disaster. Typically, when all the attention has been on the development and there is an assumption of ready demand, the basic questions of timing, needing a 'fit' in the existing market space, developing channels, marketing costs etc. would not have been adequately thought through. If you then have to create a new niche for your revolution, that can be very costly – and just a bit too risky. Risky is a word that neither the Angels nor VCs relish, so when you go looking for funds...
    Challenge 2 – The Me Too. 2 or 3 friends get together and look with longing at this busy and exciting start-ups dominated market. Everyone seems to be getting into the action, and perhaps some of their friends have already gotten through the 1st funding phase. Why not? It's simple enough, we have to just brainstorm, so let's put some ideas together and hash it out.
    Luckily, most of such never get to Go. There never was the innovation and inventiveness present in the first place. More often than not, the resulting products/services will be copies, and unless they have a lot of luck and also can pool the funds to launch themselves and afford get some brilliant, market savvy folks on board, the results will be either a quiet fade out, or sometimes a spectacular flop. Again, it's unlikely that funding will come through, for copies just don't get much of a bite from funders. You also have a narrow time window, unless what you are copying itself goes big time.
    Challenge 3 – Good But Unscalable. After lots of hard work getting all the bits and pieces to fit together, when the funding folks start asking questions on scalability, the big blind spot shows up and that's that.
    A lack of market experience and not having good advisers early on very often results in unscalable start-ups. Not every good idea can be scaled up, and if it can't scale, it will not get funded!
    Challenge 4 – Built To Offload. Here the idea is to hit the market running, demo the potential and then quickly get someone to buy you out. Sometimes, if the launch and initial publicity are done right, and if the market was receptive, it will work just as planned.
    Unfortunately, sometimes not. If you assume that your buyers are out there waiting, and then can't identify them, you might have to go ahead and carry your baby through. Then, as you have already committed so much, it's to the funders that you will go. As the Angel/VC 's needs would not have been accounted for, you might just find that you have multiple problems and are stuck between the proverbial rock and a very hard place.

    There are of course many more start-up types, but you get my point. I called each a challenge because, when us consultant types are called in and recognise a failure type, we have a real challenge getting our budding entrepreneurs to rethink their babies!

    All start-ups must pay attention to The Market - while bold innovation and brilliant designs can go a very long way, scanty are the concepts/ideas that will 'just naturally' go viral and fly themselves into something much bigger. Do get good marketing advice early on, and keep that advice in mind when looking for funding and launching out.

    Finally, supposing you have this great idea, and it is marketable, and even though you failed to get funded, you decide to launch anyway, remember that marketing can be done effectively even on a shoestring budget.The provisos are, IF and only if your service/product has a place to jump in in the market AND whether you will survive and sustain until you succeed.

    Where is the point of no return? It's very important here to decide at the beginning when you will know that it's not panning out, and what your jumping off point is!

    Study your market as deeply as you can. SWOT out your competition. Targeting is the first priority. Effective social media use with a well designed and promoted web presence (good SEO helps) will get you started, and neither demands a huge big budget. Go for good people (not just high priced!), interview in depth, and then train them as a team. Build commitment, efficiency, responsiveness, a marketing orientation, and give exceptional service (CRM helps) so that 'word of mouth' will also pitch in. If you need a distribution net, pick the small and medium players, work on loyalty, and give them the best returns in the market. Debug and keep debugging.
    In short, you know you have a really great idea, think things through, get good market advice early on, be prepared to sweat, and go for it -
    pitch and don't stop pitching.

    Believe – you can do MAGIC!

    This was originally posted in LinkedIn Pulse 

    Thursday, December 11, 2014

    11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs - Infograf

    Here's an EXCELLENT infograf from Copyblogger that every blog writer has to take absolutely to heart: 11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs [Infographic]
    Like this infographic? Get content marketing advice that works from Copyblogger. Study it, memorize it, and keep practicing and refining till you get it! Here's the whole in a pdf

    Thursday, November 13, 2014


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