Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mangalyaan: A Guide to countering Mangal Dosh via Lord Hanuman

#Mangalyaan was a great success , thanks to the countless hours spent by the ISRO scientists who made this happen. Reports state that they prayed to Lord Balaji (Source). To hedge their risks some of them might have also prayed to Lord Hanuman to counter Mangal Dosh (Mars ill-effect) . This Hanuman prayer for protection from Mars may have helped the team enter the orbit of Mars; the jury is out on that one. Speaking of Hanuman, in the recent past there was a bizarre incident regarding an Aadhaar UID which captured people's interest briefly. Let’s talk about that. If you suspect that this #mangalyaan introduction was just a thinly veiled segue to my dated post, you are right…

A few weeks ago we learnt that an Aadhar Card was issued for Lord Hanuman with a legitimate 12 digit ID (news link) The police eventually figured out that this regressive action was conceived by a progressive person named Vikas. His intentions for applying for a fake God ID were not malicious – but rather stemmed from some perplexing frustration at the Indian Government systems. What should not surprise you is the ensuing actions from the police – i.e “penalizing the enrollment agency”. But in this whole chaos you may have missed a few critical aspects of the incident which convey very heartwarming qualities about our culture.

First is the choice of picture for the card. The prankster Vikas had some wild choices given the level of media coverage for Hanuman’s life in his era – like multi god action picture, or literally chest bearing shoots, or even recent ones featuring Dara Singh. But he chose a front facing picture clearly adhering to identity card norms. Hanuman ji happens to be wearing a fat pearl string. I think a bit of jewelry even for male applicants is ok, as long as it doesn’t cover facial features. So that was commendable.

Second was the Father’s Name in the card, which was declared as Pawan.  Our trickster could have used any other Father name - like Rahman and stirred some deep, philosophical debates about Hanuman's real origins. But he chose to stay authentic and adhered to the complicated hindu mythology.

Thirdly, there was a clear mark of respect with the addition of Ji to both the card and his mythological father (Hanuman ji and Pawan ji). This clearly shows deep Indian values. Assuming Hanuman ji was a January born Capricorn was probably a quirky, mischievous move from Vikas. Considering the loyalty and calm temperament, except for the odd city burning tendencies, I would have pegged the Lord to be a Scorpio. But I could be wrong.  

You might also have missed the immediate actions taken up by the officials upon discovery of the card. From the fake card having a fake deity’s identity picture and fake DOB, they chose to try the phone number listed in the card. This is a clear sign of optimisim. I am not sure whether they were stunned by the outcome, but they accurately conveyed to the news agencies that the number was unreachable.

And finally, it was decided by the local postal department head Gobraj that the card would be sent back to the Bangalore UIDAI Centre as there was no recipient. This shows a clear respect for hierarchy and processes. Hanuman ji, the savior of those in trouble, the protector of the down trodden will probably have his card buried in a government cupboard classified under a ‘Person Unavailable’ tag along with a ~million other fake IDs (News link)

In case I do decide to get an Aadhaar card one day, I’ll pick some lessons from this incident.  I might not use a God’s picture, but I’ll consider wearing a string of Pearls.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Battle for the Online Indian Consumer - Part 1

India boasts of big numbers. As of March 2013, India has 160 million internet users, and 86 million active users of mobile internet. The potential however is much bigger, with 430 million internet enabled mobile devices. Facebook, the poster child for India mobile usage, gets 30% of its new users via mobile registration, and 30% of its users are mobile only internet users.

Multiple businesses are actively pursuing this opportunity in 2014. In the first 5 months, we have seen campaigns from 6 separate websites - a significant portion of the campaigns are focused solely on mobile usage. Let's try and understand the intent behind each campaign and assess their effectiveness. 

Note: The business objectives and campaign effectiveness mentioned below are based on own opinion and do not include any official inputs.

Key drivers of ecommerce business are broadly the factors below. 
1. Product assortment - what the business offers within its declared universe
2. Experience - the usage journey from search, purchase to delivery
3. Pricing - offering a competitive price vs. offline or competing online channels

A combination of these help in driving consumer switching from traditional channels. However for brand positioning it is risky to solely depend on pricing. Over a longer period this is unlikely to deliver a winning model. This holds true for traditional channels too!

Part 1 - Acquiring Consumer Base
These campaigns have a clear objective of driving website awareness and new traffic.

Amazon India

The Amazon India campaign is spot on. They have picked 2 core drivers - assortment ("Over 1.5 Crore Products") and usage experience ("Guaranteed 1 Day Delivery"). The competitive couple context is also distinctive and breaks through clutter. The website is investing in deep discounting to close the sale once users seek desired products on Amazon. Hence while they offer cheaper products their positioning isn't based on pricing.

Magicbricks promises to clear all confusion and mystery in property searches with an easy interface and thorough information. This is nicely contrasted with a caricatured property agent. Multiple creatives drive a consistent message. Since the competitors are not investing in awareness campaigns (like 99acres), magicbricks is likely to get good growth from the campaign.

Key question Lenskart needs to answer is why should consumers choose lenskart over the other giants like Flipkart and Amazon. The current launch campaign and the website experience doesn't do that. The storytelling with Purab is a bit laborious compared to other campaigns. The variety of products within eyecare is well established. Pricing incentives are kicked in when users land on the website - from offering first-frame free to 25% above purchase thresholds.

Snapdeal covers a whole spectrum of products - from clothing to electronics to home accessories. This is communicated well via separate creatives. The snoopy maid character is distinctive and they should ideally hold on to the theme for a while. The key watchout is positioning of "Bachate Raho" which is hard to sustain long term.

Note: I still don't get the punchline "Madam asking to no, mein askoongina to click click"...

Quikr's idea is based on delivering MSP (Maximum Selling Price) to the consumer. Multiple commercials are focused on the idea of a better price deal. This seems like a very limiting proposition for a peer-to-peer exchange website. Quikr will need to drive strengths on either usage experience or assortment (which is harder given that's dependent on user additions).

Do add your comments. In Part 2 we will look at campaigns driving mobile as a preferred device.