Personal Life

The March-End Chase

March 31st – The Deadline!

In the era I entered the Corporate World, March 31st was a big day. The biggest in the Financial calendar. So to take stock of accounts banks were closed on 1st April. Till today, they are still closed on April, 1.  But then, banks I think, get the largest number of holidays. Recently they have added Saturdays to that long list. Wish I had joined a bank! Anyways to get back, all commercial establishments geared up for that big day, and checked their figures for growth over the earlier corresponding financial year. This became the standard operating procedure.

Chase for the Top Line or Gross Billings

Companies chased billings or top line figures. Because companies were ranked based on billings. So each year, top pecking  orders or rankings of companies saw some change – the earlier top company retained position, slipped a bit; the No. 3 company shot to No. 1 position and so on. Snakes and Ladders.  This was an annual feature. Suddenly one year, a glamorous agency that chased the top position and never achieved it, cause the industry leader was rock solid and heads & shoulders over competition, made a big claim and splash of achieving No.1 status. All leading newspapers carried ads and news articles on this stupendous achievement. The rival No 1 agency did not take it lying down and thus arose a furious controversy. On investigation, it came to light, that the agency with the fresh claim of leadership had actually added the billing figures of another department service which was not related to its core competency.

From Annually to Quarterly

So every  year the chase for top billings went on, with March 31st as the grand finish line. Companies raised challenging  targets accordingly with an understanding that the figures demanded a hard chase. In order to achieve them, the goal posts were shifted nearer, to every quarter. So quarterly results then became the guidelines for achieving that final elusive target.

Altered Goals

Alongside the top line chase, a new realisation hit management. Achievement of targeted annualised figures, were the top lines or total billings. In the chase for the same, many organisations and employees compromised on profits or revenues. So the goals got slightly altered often. Targets became more stringent, taking both into account – top lines and profitability or in some cases, depending on company objectives, just a single parameter to chase.

Valuations and Re-evaluations

Cut to today’s chase with the focus on start-ups and companies in the technology domain. Valuation was the name of the game. Which caused companies, largely in the e commerce space to focus on just one parameter – business acquisition and customers. Huge discounts, freebies, incentives, etc became the name of the game. This was thanks to huge fundings by Angel Investors. The bubble has now come to bursting point, where the investors are becoming impatient and eager for quicker results. The pockets are no longer as deep. So the chase goes on. And the goal posts keep getting shifted. At the end of the day, or rather year, business matters!

 

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branding/advertising communications

Turning Back The Pages

Recently and after a long time, the Air India Maharajah leapt out at me from an ad in the newspaper, which got me  a bit nostalgic and made me take a peek in the rear view mirror.

The Magic Of The Maharajah.

Time was when one spotted the AI mascot ever so often, in newspapers, splashed on hoardings, etc and loved him more and more. Belief had it that he was the brainchild of a genius, Bobby Kooka, though I am not too sure. Over the years, the pulling power of the mascot got questioned. I recall him at one time, on a flying/magic carpet, which the authorities pulled from under his feet, so to speak. It was also felt that he was too indianised and did not attract international audiences, so I think his posture/stance or some such element, got tweaked. And the process of tweaking his characteristics (and giving him a make-over!) went on, reducing his potency!  I think there was also a plan to withdraw him completely, but luckily common sense prevailed. The airline management retained him but instead fiddled around with the logo, brought in an international agency, had a huge launch of the new logo, at an enormous cost of course – some Centaur or some such element – don’t quite remember. But the magic of the Maharajah luckily outlived it all. And the irony of it, in the same newspaper, that I read,  I glanced at an article mentioning about a loss of approx Rs.30,000 crores incurred by the Airline! Sacrifice the Maharajah and red with turn to black.

Utterly Everlasting!

My mind also rolls back to the cute and beautiful Amul girl, attributed to Eustace Fernandes/Sylvestor DCunha (?). What a work of pure genius! Luckily the good old Dr. Verghese Kurien, saw sense in not tweaking the lovely mascot, who has retained her charm over the years! (Wondering why they did not make her younger, to appeal to the millennial, or some such crap!) Of course, ad agency Dcunha Communications, also deserves credit for not altering the mascot and in fact retaining her charm over the years.  Keeping the brand trendy and updated is a credible performance by the Agency. In both cases, I think the client has retained its Agency right through – JWT for Air India and Dcunha for Amul. I recall the words of one of my bosses – a client gets the agency it deserves!

Agency Envy.

Another super Mascot, if I may call it, would be the mischievous and evil Onida Devil, who literally created hell for competition, when the brand was launched. Created by the famous Gopi Kukde, the Devil was actually charming! Many fell in love with him! (Or is it her?)  And then with times changing, the client changed the Agency. As done in almost every such case, the first thing the Agency does is fool around with logos, mascots, etc. Am told huge research costs were incurred that revealed that the Devil was not in sync with the new age customer. And the Devil was banished to hell! But that did not get the angels singing at the cash register either. So again, if I recall right, the Devil was either brought back or some attempt was made.

It’s a pity that not only as a nation, but globally, we are so dependent on disciplines like research, although at the best of times, it fails us! If  a little more attention is given to the consumer’s heart and emotions, I think we would be much better off!  Which brings me back to reality! I have depended more on my failing mind than research for this. But it did give me immense pleasure to turn back the pages.

 

 

 

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Personal Life

January TitBits

 

Just a Wrap Up to January 2016.

The New Year started off like any all other “New Years”! And just like in the past years, where I have given up on resolutions, did the same with 2016. Not that I have anything against resolutions, in fact I think they help, but guess boredom has set in through the years.

Consolidating the Bonding.

However, before every New Year sets in, as a family we have introduced a custom. On 31st December evening, the family members gather together. Each one of us then, take turns in recapping the past year in our respective life, giving thanks to the universe, and also expressing our wishes, prayers and desires for the Year ahead. A tremendous bonding develops over this, which takes us through the Year!  I am really grateful for this practice.

January 2016 began like any other month. The Mumbai winter, if one can call it that, had set in. This is the season I love best. It does top up my drinking and the Old Monk and I unite more often. Talking of spirits, the festive spirit too gets extended. Republic Day is just another day to celebrate, although I do wish the authorities end this “dry day” crap and awaken to reality and the public spirit. Family members from abroad visit at this time, as the fares drop rapidly post Christmas. An added reason for the celebrations to continue! So the “eating out” becomes more frequent. Winter specialty dishes like “undhiyu” are savored. And the month of Jan comes to an end.

On the professional front, January did not really offer anything new, not that it was expected. But would surely have been welcome to signal in the New Year. Promises keep being made, some kept, many broken. But then, that’s everyday life, nothing specific to the New Year. However I was exposed to upcoming trends in digital marketing, but did not pursue it much. Guess February will see me do that.

The Personal Angle.

On the personal front, after much pursuit, managed to make some progress on my online medical insurance. The results though were completely unexpected, with the wife having cleared them, and me, (I consider myself fit,) not being too successful with a waiting period thrown in (exclusions in medical parlance). I yet need to confirm the insurance terms.

Made My Year!

I did get the opportunity to do a good deed, by accompanying a terminally ill relative to the hospital for examination and medication. Later in the month, when he took bad, I had to have him admitted to another hospital and then watched over him for a couple of days, and consulted various doctors for medication/treatment, until his son came in from abroad and took over. The sheer gratitude expressed by the son, with tears welling up in his eyes and a bottle of Glenfiddish in his hand,  not only made my month, but perhaps the entire year ahead!

 

 

 

 

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Personal Life, Uncategorized

Bye 2015, welcome Viewers

 

Required Coaxing and Deliberation

So 2016 sees me with my own site! This has happened after much coaxing and deliberation. I was told that if you want to be professional, you need to have your own domain. This led me to doing a small study, watching videos, learning the advantages and disadvantages of free sites, etc. Ultimately I got convinced to host my own site.

Which led to another journey. Not being too tech savvy, I had to consult a few friends, who bent backwards. It’s really heartening to note how one can make friends online so easily! My humble thanks to them.

Thanks all around

My biggest appreciation of course goes out to my Viewers. Few have “liked” my work, some have followed – my sincere gratitude. Often on FB, I have come across friends who have just informed me that they read my writing, which in itself made me feel good, and more importantly got me encouraged and kicked. At least I know there is someone out there in the universe who takes the time and effort to read me, so my efforts do not go down the drain.

More importantly, writing has helped me often voice my inner nagging thoughts. It’s not always easy to bare one’s soul. Of course, I have taken care not to be too open and admire some writers who are most descriptive to the minutest detail, of their personal thoughts and lives. Of course, I cannot afford to do that, else my site would be banned for pornography, lol!

Different Opinions Appreciated 

One of my memorable, if not better experiences, was when I wrote about a dear colleague who was on his deathbed, stricken with cancer, without naming him. A few friends wanted him identified, which I saw no harm in doing so. One of them expressed his opinion that should the wife of the ailing friend read my post, she may not take it in good taste. Whilst I agreed with him, I presented my case – the friend was not identified in the post, besides it had nothing derogatory, so if the wife still thought it was offensive, there was nothing I could do about it and I stood by my post. I thus got exposed to different opinions, which is always appreciated.

What do I propose to do with my own site? I really have no definite plans. Guess I will go with the flow. I have often been advised to adhere to one particular topic or subject, master it and assume leadership, akin to marketing, a subject that I have been thoroughly exposed to.  (And continue to familiarize myself with, except now in a different garb, as that of digital marketing).  Am not too sure about closing in on one subject, since I believe that there are many facets to a person. So let me expose the different sides to my personality. And you dear reader can judge – a colourful butterfly or case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!

Oh btw, lost the very essence of this post. Do stay connected with me at: contentcouto.com

 

 

 

 

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Personal Life

So this is Christmas!

Getting Christmas Ready

A week to go for Christmas and all is good. The streets are Christmas ready, shops lit, a buzz in the air. The Christmas sweets have been ordered, cards are being received and sent, holiday plans made and now we are just waiting for the day.

Like we did so many years ago, and continue doing so even today. Has nothing really changed? To me, the change has been slow, not easily recognizable every year, but suddenly the change catches on you. And you wonder, what actually happened in past years, how did we manage? Or who moved my cheese?

The Christmas Crib, Tree, Star, et al

Let’s look at some very small, apparently insignificant items, beginning with the Christmas crib. Earlier years, most cribs were homemade, like the Christmas sweets. It took weeks of preparation. For the crib, the seeds to create the stable scene had to be soaked much in advance. When land was not in such short supply, Christmas trees were actually planted and nurtured over years, and at Christmas decorated with streamers, lanterns and such like home made decor.  Not bought off the shelf, like today. The Christmas star and lanterns demanded some craft, along with tissue papers, wooden ribs, glue, etc that needed to be purchased. Family members bent over the handiwork, each helping the other, to put up the best decor. And comparing the same with the previous years efforts and the neighbour’s skills. And how on earth could I have forgotten the famous and traditional Christmas plum cake – where the fruit was soaked in rum a month in advance? Excess consumption of the same has now gotten me addicted to it -the rum, of course!  But alas, such cake is often purchased today, and I presume the rum diluted or adulterated.

What about the famous greeting cards that got sent my snail mail? Depending on the receiver, the cards were dispatched. All “Foreign Mail” received first priority, followed by local mail. Cards were also carefully scrutinized according to the addressee. It demanded painstaking efforts in first checking the address list. Then the family sat together with each member assigned a task. One, to write out the cards, taking care that the names were correctly spelt and in the right hereditary order. Another to write out the address. Yet another to sort out the relevant stamps, (correct postage value please else the addressee receives the card and also a bill for less value), stick the stamps to the envelopes and enclose the cards. And Christmas carols sung in the streets, required training at home first! A full “collection box” merited a picnic for the singers.

The Countdown to Christmas

With so much effort and time involved, the family bonding got intensified. Each day was a countdown to Christmas. Have the plums absorbed the rum well? Have the shoots in the crib been watered regularly? (Hey, we missed out on a card to that guy we met last holiday. Do we have his address?). The spirit of the season thus set in much in advance. And Christmas had begun, or rather the prelude or foreplay, which was often better enjoyed than the final day.

After so much preparation I found myself one bright Christmas morning, bumping into a close friend, on a holiday from the oil-rich Gulf States. With much enthusiasm I blurted, “How was Christmas?” Prompt came the response; “Today is Christmas”

http://bit.ly/1lseHUk

So a week in advance – A Merry Christmas to you and enjoy the spirit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Personal Life

Is ill-health/critical illness a social stigma?


A Visit to the Local Hospital

The last quarter of this year has seen my family members stricken with ill-health, though nothing too major.  However, this demanded my making a few trips to the local hospital. (I have always maintained that funerals and hospital trips jolt me back to reality, reminding me to thank God for giving me life coupled with good health).

On one such trip to the hospital, I spotted a much respected, and talented priest rushing to the exit. Seeing me, he slowed down to inquire about my hospital presence and on my return of courtesy, informed me he was visiting his mother who had a fall. Since the priest was senior, (to me, most people appear so!) I inquired her age, and was told she was “16 in her head”; all this whilst hurrying out and over his shoulder, almost not inclined to engage with me. This got me wondering if I had crossed the line between courtesy and curiosity, the latter of which I have been often accused of. So I berated myself and left it at that.

A Neighbour’s Hushed Secret

In the same hospital a few days later, I bumped into another old friend (this time positively my junior!) whose father has been in and out of the hospital for over 3 years. He informed me that just the private nursing staff bills per month crossed the 6 digit figure. Add to that the other expenses and the figure is astronomical! He also whispered to me that he had bumped into another common neighbour hospitalised in the adjacent room. And that the neighbour’s presence was supposed to be a “secret” as they did not want to share any details. I wondered aloud why some people did this. Am really unable to fathom why such issues like a critical illness, cause some people embarrassment or extreme discomfort. I always think that even a serious diseases or a critical illness like AIDS or cancer does not necessarily represent one’s lifestyle, nor are we being judged or punished for our misdemeanors on earth, and so there is no need for shame.

A few months ago, I heard that one of my close relatives, with whom I am not in close contact, for sheer lack of time, was stricken with prostate cancer. This caused me tremendous sorrow and so I attempted to reach out to him through a telephone call. He sounded hale and hearty and informed me that he had occupied himself with a full time job. We chatted in general, and I never got the faintest idea about his ill-health, if any. Naturally I was embarrassed to ask him upfront and till date, I don’t know if what I heard was just a rumour or the truth. But I have done my duty by my conscience and reached out to him. In fact, respected his privacy too! (Unlike the priest incident.)

Live and Let Live

This year itself I have lost 2 friends to the dreaded terminal cancer and they made no bones of being inflicted by it, discussed it freely and without any restraint. May their souls RIP.

I just presume now that different people react differently to the same circumstances.  Will never know the reasons, until shoes are exchanged, nor would I like to find out.  Only the owner knows where the shoe pinches – so decided to just learn to live and let live!

 

 

 

 

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Corporate Life, Personal Life

November TiTBiTs

I wrapped up November, having gained a few experiences and learnings.

Commercial Front:

The month began on a promising note, with 2 clients agreeing to work with me. One was in the medical-tourism domain, who wanted me to undergo a test. Having succeeded, I was assigned for a start, 2 articles. I enquired what would be the benchmark for evaluation and was informed the task was to attract viewers to the site. On further inquiry, I learnt that the article would feature in the blog section of the company website! And how would traffic be generated to the site? The company was still working on that! Anyways I decided to work on just one topic.  As anticipated, the expectations were very different. So requested the client to give the same inputs to another writer, and then share the write-up with me, which would also be a learning for me. Client now does not respond to my emails.

Learning:  At times, one needs to stand up to the courage of one’s convictions.

The second client was a Bangalore based startup providing news and information to other startups. I must admit, they were much more professional and ethical. Defined their reader aged between 20 to 35, 75% males. The agreement was for me to provide 2 rewritten news articles per day. The client drew a line between news and trends, defining the latter as write-ups which covered interviews, research etc which were the rights/property of the respective media, hence were out of bounds to be published by me. 2/3 of my articles were thus rejected as they were classified as trends, a line that I must confess I have yet to properly identify.

Learning: There is a fine line of difference between “News” and “Trends”, the latter I yet need to identify.

Personal Life:

3 years ago, a common friend had recommended to me, a third party for medical insurance, whom I signed up with. After a month of chasing him for renewal of my premium, he lands up at my home, wanting me to change my service provider since the provider had discontinued the product. He suggested a few others where I could get insurance portability – similar to mobile number changes – I did not know it existed in insurance too, so a new learning again. And guess what? To avail of this portability, I was asked to provide the cheque within 4 days, since the scheme ended in 30 days and the agent had let 26 days lapse. On investigation, I learnt that the person was not an authorised agent but part of a brokerage network.

Learnings:

  • Do not go by recommendations alone. Do your own homework.
  • Check which industries offer portability schemes for the future.

With just a few days in hand for portability, did a thorough online and offline search, and shortlisted CignaTTK online. After disclosing my medical history to the sales team and verifier, I was told to submit my cheque. Then I received a call from a doctor so repeated exactly the same history (can history change?), who was very cooperative.  I suddenly received an email, rejecting my proposal. On intensive follow-up for the reason, was given a reason that the underwriter’s decision was final. My point was, the same history was disclosed to the sales team, etc and I was informed that this was a company policy. So I responded that instead of disclosing their company employees to an external audience, why don’t you educate your own internal teams. I received no proper responses so resorted to tweets. (One will be surprised at the power of tweets). Also escalated the matter to the highest levels where more light got thrown, but not to my entire satisfaction. However, decided not to pursue it and now still looking for a medical insurance provider.

Lesson:

  • Insurance is a highly complicated maze. 
  • Pick your battles – don’t sweat the small stuff.

Welcome December, Hello Santa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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