Posts Tagged ‘india’

I do represent a certain demography of a consumer. And while I may a little atypical in my spending habits, even for my own demography (I would like to believe that!), yet, I do have a certain “purchasing power” and I do buy brands and there will be brands wanting to reach me!


Now if you add the consumer market that my family also represents, in addition to my own, we would be a group that would interest several brands.

Then, as I share my media consumption pattern, this post should interest those brands who would like to reach out to us. I know, as a brand marketer myself, I would love to know similar traits for the consumers I am trying to reach for my client’s brands!

The thought to put this together came as I pondered over my vastly changed media consumption patterns. And I figured that if a brand was trying to reach me, they would have had to make a lot of changes over the years, to keep pace with my changes!

So here are my personal highlights:

  • I have stopped watching news on television for a few years. Not at all. None. Zilch. So brands, if you want to reach me, don’t waste advertising money there! 
  • I have stopped opening the tabloid, Mumbai Mirror (although it comes free) for more than a year, and for last 6- months, I have also not opened the Bombay Times, and saved myself time, and kept my sanity for a little longer
  • There was a time when I used to read the Times of India, nearly cover to cover. Not any more. Out of habit, I still pick it up. Days are when I spend 5-10 minutes on it, and there are days when I can do with 30 seconds of the paper. And no real difference, either ways.
  • In earlier days, when I would travel, I’d come back and catch up on the Mumbai edition of the Times of India. Even if it was an 8-day trip, I would diligently go over the papers, as a ritual. Now I never do this.
  • If I am in a rush in the morning, and I have not seen the paper, it does not matter now. In the whole day, I would not even realize that “hey, I have not read the paper today!”
  • Unless there is a VW speaking ad or something quite as astounding, I am completely blanked out to ads in the paper.
  • I certainly do NOT bother to look up the classifieds or the small ads. They may as well not be there. In fact, it helps me to see a page full of such ads. Enables me to quickly jump over that page, without a second lost.
  • I run through the pages of the Economic Times very quickly. Again, will not miss it, if I did not manage to see it some day. As it happens. On an average, there may be no more than 1-2 articles that hold even a small interest for me.
  • Time was when policy changes were very frequent, and one had to read the business papers lest one misses out on some important notifications. The same is not the case these days. On the one hand, there is a reasonable stability in policy, and on the other hand, we have a government that anyway does not do much 🙂
  • The Sunday Times supplement is a 3-second flip over for me.
  • The Corporate Dossier and the Brand Equity supplements with the Economic Times, on the other hand, do promise occasional value, and I may read through a bunch of content in those
  • That leaves the Mint. The weekday editions, like the Economic Times, do not mean much. A quick glance over is all that it merits.
  • But the Mint Lounge on Saturdays is still the one paper I do love. And I end up reading a good 50% of that content, typically.
  • Television programming consumption has not died yet, and I do have a few favorites that I still catch up on. However most of the TV viewing is via DVRs, as recorded programming. And then, I have a remote control in my hand, with a FF button on it. So ads are safely skipped. Also since a lot of the viewing is on HD TV, and there are few brand ads there (there are channel program ads a plenty – that’s how I’ve got sick of watching KBC ads, for example!) anyway.
  • The only live TV I might have watched, would be sports. But I cannot suffer cricket matches anymore, and while I keep in touch with the game to an extent, I do NOT watch live cricket games. Except for the rare Sunday game, when there may be nothing else going on in life. Which is rare, as rare can be!
  • On the streets and at airports waiting for flights, there are devices in the hand. In the car, usually on the back seat, the “office is almost on”. Yes, the laptop is open and work is happening. Which is why I do not fret the traffic much. It does not matter to me. I am working as always. So it can be the laptop, the iPad or the iPhone that keeps me busy (yes, “no time to stand and stare” and all that, unfortunately..) on the road, at airports etc. So the OOH advertising is again lost on me. Typically.
  • I detest telemarketers. I threaten them with dire consequences for calling me in spite of being on DND. I do not have the patience to even listen to their brief pitch. So telemarketing is lost on me. Don’t even try.
  • In spite of a lot of filters, some direct emails do penetrate into my inbox. If the creative is interesting and the message has some relevance to me, I may tolerate it and give it a glance. Recognise that few such emails come into my system, thanks to a reasonable anti-spam setting. And hence I am tolerant for those few. If there were large numbers coming in, I would have been harsher with them!
  • So where are my eyeballs and where is my interest? Yes, you guessed right. On the computer, on the Internet, and usually in social media space. Yes, my profession is partly a reason for this. But well, I am there now. So if you are a brand and looking for me, you know where to find me, most of the day. That does NOT mean that you spam me randomly on LinkedIn (I report a lot of spam on LinkedIn) or just dump advertising messages on me, as your Facebook posts, or @ me on Twitter with your brand junk. No, that will surely not work. But if you are subtle, give me value over this media, that can be bait for me!

So there, I have told you a lot about me. I am not sure if this is very unique to me, especially for my generation. I know many others who are losing patience with newspapers and recognise that most stories in the papers have an “agenda” and are typically planted! Many have also lost hope in TV News. But they have not deserted it yet. I keep reading cuss words for many of the news anchors on Twitter. I do not cuss them anymore because I have eliminated the Rajdeeps and the Barkhas and the Arnabs from my life. They don’t matter, in this busy life, they don’t deserve my precious minutes or attention.


And as for my family?

My daughters represent the “youth” that all brands seem to be going after.

They spend 10-15 seconds on Mumbai Mirror and Bombay Times every other day. They take a quick glance at page 1 of the Times of India – because it is there on the table. Don’t think they’ll miss any of these, if they stopped coming.

They do watch some TV, but it is always recorded. They have even less patience for advertising and are faster on the draw, to the FF button. They also see a lot of content on YouTube and Torrent downloads.

The only hope for brands in traditional media mood, is my wife. Yes, she does see TV News occasionally (I am not in the room) and does take a few minutes over the Times of India, Mumbai Mirror and Bombay Times. In fact, she recounts the odd interesting story from these, to me. And she does see and notice some of the ads there too. And shares details of some good offers, with me too.

But broadly speaking, if you are a brand, you will realize that your continuing spends on TV or print, are more of a waste, especially if you are trying to reach people like me. You really do need to think differently, you need to divert budgets into other places!

And should you continue to invest in traditional media, and traditional placement, and if you see dwindling returns, don’t tell me that I did not warn you?!!

So the TOI reports in a Sunday Times page one headline story that Dhoni will be replaced as captain of the Indian test team, by Sehwag.

And while this is not official news, TOI has been able to get teams and decisions of this kind, right, more times than not. And if they have put it on page one headline, they probably have it confirmed. And when the news actually breaks, they will tom-tom it saying, “we told you first”.

That apart, this post is not about TOI, but about the India team, and the captaincy issue in particular.

So what prompts this thought of removing Dhoni? I guess, the recent performances against England and Australia.

But really, is the captain responsible for this?

The averages of India’s top batsmen, across the Australia and England series put together, read like this:

Gambhir 21, Sehwag 20, Laxman 21, Sachin 35, Dravid 47.

The bowling averages were only worse.

With such performances, what is the captain supposed to do? Can he create miracles in spite of the batters and bowlers not doing their thing?

It was not too long back that Dhoni’s captaincy was being analysed, not just amongst sports analysts and enthusiasts, but also in the business papers and in management schools. Unlike form, the innate understanding of the game, the shrewdness on the field, the leadership skills, are not something that just come and go. It is still the same Dhoni. I do not see an iota of arrogance also coming in to the person. He is the same one today, that allowed the team and Sachin to be serenaded after the World Cup win, rather than hog the limelight, as a captain. What has changed is the performance of his team!

Sure, when things are going wrong, and in desperation, the captain tries different things, some of those could also go wrong. But that is hardly the reason for the dismal end performances.

It will be a disastrous decision to make him the fall guy at this time, and also to bring on Sehwag instead. Dhoni remains the best captain for India today, and Sehwag, with his temperamental approach to the game, is just not captaincy material. So both the choices – the removal and the replacement – are wrong.

Captains are chosen with thought, and then ideally, they are given long runs. In Australia, we remember te Border era, Steve Waugh era, Mark Taylor era, Ponting era, and now the Clarke era has started. In perhaps the same period, India (at least earlier) had it’s musical chairs approach. Kapil Dev, Gavaskar, Shashtri, Azhar, Srikanth, Dravid, Ganguly, Sachin, Kumble..have all had their stints. And not necessarily continuous runs, but a musical chair approach, in fact!

I am sure that does not serve the team well. It was a refreshing change to have been seeing the stint of Dhoni for last few years. And he delivered as captain. These two series in England and Australia have been serious aberrations in terms of a collective loss of form, or inability, and hence the results as we see them.

If there IS a plan to resurrect, the need is to go to the fundamentals. Pick a batch of promising youngsters, perhaps a group of about 20, and work with them. Give them the confidence of being India’s future, give them opportunities. Continue to lose some more, while these youngsters learn their ropes. And THEN, you are ready. To take on the world again.

Who better to work with such a young pack of budding cricketers than Dhoni? He is the one who has given confidence to many youngsters, given them responsibility at crucial phases, and they have delivered for him. Give an honorable exit to the seniors, and be a little ruthless about it, sentiment apart.

And build from grounds-up.

That to me, is a way out. Not just to roll the captain’s head, and keep everything else much the same!

But I don’t know. With Srikanth at the helm of affairs in the selection committee, I don’t see much hope, in terms of a long term strategy. It will be a sad day for Indian cricket, to see Dhoni removed and Sehwag being brought in as captain of the test team. And have the merry-go-round play out again.

Yeah, sad…

There have been a fair number of recent cases where Americans and Britishers have rubbed the Indian sensitivity, the wrong way.

This has come from different quarters. From the funny folks like Jay Leno, the VP Cheney, and then some others.

India, with all of it’s secular feelings, needing to ensure that no community, no caste, no group feels hurt, tends to protest at all of these jibes that the western world likes to take at it. This is more visible in election years, as the government can earn whatever brownie points that it can, with different constituencies of people!

And seeing these protests, the world is probably grimacing at us even more, poking more fun at us. As really, these protests are not going anywhere, and if anything, we look even more like a backward country, with no sense of humour.

So why not give it back to the Brits and the Americans, in their own coins? Let’s give it back to them, where it hurts most! And interestingly, from an economic point of view, we are at a point where we can actually poke fun at them. If only to get back at these digs that they are taking.

And the number of stand up comedy programs that we have now on Indian television, and the number of really funny characters that these have brought out, it should be easy to make fun of these westerners.

So what am I talking about?

– Why don’t we show a European beggar with a begging bowl, outside Indian embassy in Greece or Spain or wherever?

– We can show a Prince Charles lookalike English chauffeur driving his dark skinned Indian masters in a Jaguar?

– We show US techies lining up outside Indian embassy for a visa to Bangalore?

– We show employees in the US getting their pink slips, because their jobs just got Bangalored

etc. etc. etc.

Yeah, I know some of these are under the belt.

But hey, if they can make fun of our crowded streets, our Gods and temples, and holler away in pleasure, we can also give it back to them, where it hurts most. For a change, we have a few things we can use now!

And hey, it’s just for creating the balance in the situation, and for nothing else!

Far better than to have our Ministry of External Affairs write to the US government, about a Jay Leno joke. That’s such a waste.. !

There are some very interesting aspects of the Anna Hazare movement, in the context of modern India. I add to the tons of material on the subject, with my 2 cents of thought, as below:

1. Modern India is shining:

A party may have lost an election on the India Shining tag line, but we cannot deny the fact that India’s doing well, economically, and the general standard of living has gone up, across the board. People have work, people are busy, people are making money.

So how does that impact this movement?

Well, ordinarily if you are doing good, you have less reasons to complain.

And yet, we have HUGE mobilization of people, from across all sections of society. Reason is that the economic growth has happened IN SPITE of this corrupt government, and not because of it. And as one more mega scam gets exposed after another, there is a sense of detest amongst the people. That with all things going well for us, why is there this pain point in life? And due to which reason, people are protesting.

But at the same time, it is this prosperity that makes the few “intellectuals” give their deep analysis and keep finding the little loop hole here and there. If India was not shining and life was tougher, even these so-called nay sayers would have joined hands in the protest. But sitting pretty, they can afford to do their analysis paralysis!

2. Modern India has Social Media:

Again, this has had dual impact.

The huge mobilization has happened with help of mainstream media, but also because of social media. In fact, mainstream media almost “had” to fall in line. The tendency of our media brands, and especially the English television kind, is to look down upon anything that is even remotely looking like right-wing. This was not. But still the tendency of the media was to keep pointing the “other” side of the story. When they sensed the groundswell, on ground as well as on Social Media, the media vehicles had to fall in line with the popular point of view.

On the other hand, Social Media also makes it easy for the “experts” sitting at home, in front of a PC (or whatever device) to pick the holes. And put out blogs and Facebook updates and what not. NONE of them has given ANY practical solution that I have read so far, but all claim to find issues in the present movement. Luckily, this one time, the groundswell opinion has drowned out the voices of these naysayers, and the movement continues to generate momentum.

3. Modern India is Young:

Not just in this movement, but in society in general, I find people on the other side of 40, being resigned to India’s “fate”, as it may be. I am also on that other side of 40, and there have been times (though rare – I try to find positive things in life, in general) when I have also felt a similar resignation of sorts. But these people I talk about, usually think in terms of ‘politicians will always be like this’, ‘corruption is the way of life’, and stuff of that kind.

These are also the people who felt many years back that we’ll just have to wait 5 years to get a car allotted, or phones will die in monsoons, or that we’ll always have to go with a begging bowl to the IMF.

Well, some things have changed. And others MIGHT. Who knows?

The modern India is young. It has not seen the license raj, except in a film like Guru. For them, it is a piece of fiction. And they are the Jaago Re generation. They don’t take shit. They want things their way. So while the smaller problems they deal with themselves, and get change to happen, when it comes to larger issues like nationwide corruption, they did not know how to bring about change. But in an old man Hazare, they have found a connect. Which is where you see the mass following from the youth, from college students, even from school students. They want the country of their dreams, and this man offers them a hope to get there. And they are willing to follow (Few days back, a lady was sharing the story – someone asked her teenage daughter who her ‘ideal’ was, and instead of the likes of Dhoni or Aamir Khan or an Anand Mahindra, she chose her grandfather; the youth today respect a person, irrespective of age!).

4. Modern India THINKS: 

This is not to say that we did not have thinkers earlier. But in a less connected, less literate, far more rural India of yore, personalities were bigger. The aura of Mrs. G worked just because it was Mrs. G.

Today every Indian has an opinion of his own. Equipped with knowledge and enabled with technology, opinions are shared and can convert to mass thoughts. Personalities will be rejected if they are not convincing in their thoughts. The reputation of journalists is as good as the stand he / she takes, and how well it resonates with the people’s opinions. A Barkha Dutt was soundly rejected when she made her plea in the Radia tapes case. In spite of her reputation. Same goes with a Rajdeep or an Arnab or a Shobha De.

Which also means that there are hundreds of views on a movement of this nature. Whether the approach is right, whether he should blackmail the government, whether the new proposal of the Lokpal bill are adequate, whether there are better ways to making the impact, etc.

The fact is that the issue is not trivial. If you ask for solutions to get World Peace, you think it will be a one-liner that everyone agrees upon? The current problem is not much different in complexity. And which is why, there will be many opinions, on parts or all of the solutions proposed. Also whatever Anna Hazare and his team have proposed is not perfect nor is it a panacea.

So IN SPITE of these holes being found in the proposals, IN SPITE of people not agreeing on everything, the movement has taken shape and has gained momentum. Because he is at least DOING something. And the thinking modern India agrees that while it is not perfect, it is a move in the right direction. It will hopefully stop the southward movement of governing value system, and will give a hope for a bigger change to emerge in time to come. Also as they say in Indian mythology, the current government pot of sins has grossly overflown, and people DEMAND a stop to this.

That is the view of modern India, and which is why it has wholeheartedly supported the movement. In spite of a few differing points of view. Also of course, due to the fact that Anna’s team has been very conscious of getting it right. They have made sure that there is no connection to parties, the people in the forefront are pretty ‘clean’ and in spite of Manish Tewari’s histrionics, there is little to find obvious and apparent fault with. Unlike say, in case of the Baba Ramdev attempt.

We could be witnessing history in the making. The turnaround of the nation. With everything else going for it, as a country, we are also resisting the corruption bugbear! Wow.. I am so excited. If we win this, can ANYTHING stop us as a country, then??

What do you think? I, for one, am in support of Anna Hazare. Salute the man, salute the movement.

Yes, I run a Social Media business, and to an extent, I understand the dynamics of the space.

But that does not mean that at the smallest provocation of a personal problem, I run to Social Media, to complain about brands. In fact, quite the contrary.

I’d rather wait for the normal course of service, to get problems resolved, if they can get resolved. And perhaps wait a little more after that.

It is only when the patience totally runs out, after a long wait, that I actually vent it out, on Social Media.

But I have unfortunately seen, in 3-4 cases over the last few months, that the service urgency, at the service provider’s end, only started, after I vented out my frustrations, on Social Media!

And which is sad.

By the time, I am out there, screaming and shouting, on Facebook and Twitter and the occasional blog post, the brand has already got badly hurt. Even if I were to go back later, and give a confirmation of matters getting sorted out, the damage would have got done.

Why are brands not responding well, in the normal run? Why does it take that embarrassment on social media, to wake them up?

Back in September, 2010, I ranted about the terrible service experience with Lenovo. After the blog post and my cribs on Facebook, and thanks to a couple of friends taking the story to Lenovo’s management, the matter got addresses promptly. And a quick resolve happened. The problem was clearly not unsurmountable, but it needed this push, for them to give me the solution. By that time, enough of #LenovoSucks had already happened, and perhaps many retweeted also!!

It was the same experience with Citibank. After the blog and the tweets and what not, Citibank “heard”, and matter was resolved quickly. Why did they not resolve it earlier? Why did they test my patience and wait for me to scream and shout, albeit virtually, before resolving the case??

More recently, I went to town after waiting for THREE WEEKS for the Tata Photon Wi-fi unit to be repaired. After having my person run from one service center to another, and not getting service anywhere, I was finally fed up, and cribbed on Twitter. Instantly, there were a lot of people who sympathized with my cause, as they had gone through similar challenges. The tweets got momentum. Finally in the course of a few hours, I got a response on Twitter, that they are escalating my problem.

Ok, so why does it take them 3 weeks to “escalate”??

Or more precisely, why does it take them, this embarrassment on Twitter, to THEN escalate??

But they did escalate.

So far, when we called their customer service, they had refused to do anything except ask us to go to their service centers. And perhaps, this product has a fundamental problem. As NONE of the service centers were willing to repair it. Perhaps they KNOW that this is irreparable. Yet, the customer service call center would only direct us to their service centers.

Now, with the Twitter push, suddenly, they found someone to come to our office to look at it. And after spending some time on the unit, and not being able to do anything with it, he replaced it! But there was still some hitch of authorizing the unit or something. So it still did not work.

So I got a call from a senior person, who profusely apologized and requested me to bear with them till Monday, by when they will get the unit replaced.

Just like I had got a call from Lenovo Bangalore, when I had complained on Social Media, about their pathetic service.

WHY do they wake up only after the ruckus? Are they fundamentally NOT equipped to service all the calls they get? Do they all believe that “if you ignore the customer long enough, in most cases, he will just go away”??

I feel sorry for the Lenovos and the Citibanks and the Tata Photons, as they all want to get a public spectacle made of themselves, before they will take action. Well, if it harms their reputation, I guess they are getting what they deserve, considering their service policies and priorities..

It’s been fascinating to own a Volkwagen Vento.

It’s NOT been fascinating to deal with Volkswagen personnel, including the dealer and the service garage.

I’ve had my problems with the VW dealer (VW Mumbai East, located in Chembur). In fact, I would easily call them the worst car dealer I have ever experienced, and particularly the most apathetic. Especially the manager who really couldn’t care less.

But I want to put that behind me, so I will not go into those gory details.

Here’s the fun part.

This is the sweet little handwritten letter that we got, from the VW representative, last week:

In fact, this letter came in a cute box, which also had a gift – an electronic clock:

Really sweet and nice of VW, wasn’t it?

In fact, sometime back, I had also received a similar handwritten letter from the same VW rep, asking me to hang on, as the car was on the way!

Maybe it was being sent by the VW engineers who did not want to let the vehicles leave the factories, as they loved it so much:



The first handwritten letter that came to me, informing me about the delay, and asking me to be patient, came about ONE MONTH AFTER I HAD ALREADY received the car! 

I laughed it away a a slip on their end! 

But now, when I get this new letter, of course, along with a nice box and a gift, THREE MONTHS AFTER I HAVE RECEIVED THE CAR, I am flummoxed. You can see the date that he has mentioned on the letter (above). 

I should be happy about the gift. And hey, maybe another 2-3 months later, there may be more – perhaps a bigger gift – to follow. So I wonder if by writing this piece, I am losing the opportunity of getting few more free gifts?! 🙂 

But then I realize that I don’t need to worry. 

If their right hand (this CRM piece on writing to customers on account of late deliveries) does not know what their left hand (deliveries) is doing, I cannot expect them to read a blog post like this, connect it to my record, and NOT send me more gifts..! 

So is that perfect German Engineering jet-lagged in India??

Clearly the Indian economy is doing good.

More jobs, more money flowing, more business for everyone.

Growth. For the country, which translates to growth for individual businesses.

And not everyone is able to scale up in terms of quantity and quality. And yet, the products and services that the company produces, continue to be in demand!

So what happens next?

Quality drops!

And yet, the company continues to get business. Because there is nowhere else to go, for their customers.. !

Is this becoming the norm? I am seeing more and more of this. Average quality.

And we are all accepting this.

India topped a $ 1 trillion level economy just last year. And they are talking of reaching a level SIX TIMES that number within the next 10 years!

And EVERYONE’s going to be busy! As hell.. producing, servicing, marketing, etc. etc.

Are we going to see more mediocre stuff, as businesses try to cope with growth? And if a customer is not happy, the customer can go and take a walk. And make way for the next one waiting in queue to be served..??

What do you think? Have you experienced deteriorating service levels, or you think, we are okay??

Public memory is short.

Wait it out, and things will be fine.

People will forget. And you will roam the streets comfortably.

These would be words of advise to high profile “criminals” from their lawyers??

So while Raju is still in jai, and so is Abu Salem and Kasab, whatever happened to some of these biggies??

1. Rahul Mahajan – drug abuse, death of Pramod Mahajan’s secretary, in a government bungalow in Delhi?? Rahul serenades women on TV, goes to Big Boss, and what not. All is well, it seems..

2. Sanjay Dutt – destroyed an AK 47, in the midst of Mumbai riots. Phone calls were intercepted. Connections to mafia don established. So what happens? Spent some time in jail. Now Munnabhai entertains the world, remarries, has twins. All is well.

3. Bhupen Dalal, Ketan Parikh, Bharat Shah – high profile names. Did they come out on bail, or were they acquitted? Are they playing the markets all over again? All is well??

4. MAK Pataudi (and also Nawab Junior) – caught red handed, killing protected wild life, in hunting case. Should have spent many years in jail. But the wife protests against Anna Hazare’s “blackmail” and the son continues to do films, while courting the beautiful Kareena. Ah.. all is well again!

5. Salman Khan – knocked over a street dweller and some black bucks too. But he’s the Dabbang, who’s now trying his hand at Being Human. Again, All is clearly well..

Of course, the Kasliwal beta got freed officially. After a heinous crime. I wonder how he will join the dinner table with the patriarchs of the family, with everyone else knowing that he molested an old woman?!!

And likewise, dear old Italian friend, Mr Quatrocchi is free as a bird. Not that he was much constrained anytime that I know of!

So what will be the fate of Mr. Kalmadi, the Commonwealth man? Or the Raja of telecom? Of course, not to speak of the man behind him, or his big fat family?? The Balwa and the Goenka and the Chandra of the space…? And of course, the one with the grandfather of all scams, valuewise, Hasan Ali himself??

Will they too just wait out for some time, let the heat die down, and then walk out on bail, on some technical ground, and then let public memory fade away??

Feel really pathetic about the law of our land, when I think about all these.

What are your thoughts? Remember others that are roaming the streets like this??

How rare is it in India, to hear of some really good service received? I have to really scan my memory hard to remember any kind of service that really impressed me. And yes, then, I CAN mention 1 or 2 striking examples.

I was particularly impressed by the service at Olde Bangalore, in Bangalore.

At the Orange County Resort at Coorg.

If I rack my brain some more, I should come up with few other names.

But it’s hard.

Many other service providers where I don’t have a problem, are at best adequate. I would put my Citibank credit card (nowadays), HDFC Bank, Vodafone, Indigo Air, etc. all in that league. Adequate. Nothing outstanding about it. Adequately efficient. Nothing more. Sometimes a little less.

And then there are MANY that actually cause grief. Service providers that “just don’t get it”. Besides the usual suspects of government services, there are just far too many restaurants, stores and showrooms, health clubs, hotels, etc. that all fall into this league.

Let me give a specific example.

I was in the market sometime late last year, for a new vehicle. I was impressed by the VW Vento. Went to the showroom. Was given the initial information with a lot of enthusiasm.

Till the point at which I actually booked the vehicle, and made the initial payment (there was a 4-month wait for the vehicle, so balance was payable when the vehicle got ready). things were fine.

From the point of time that I actually made that booking amount to the VW Mumbai East dealer (at Bezzola Complex in Chembur), from a service point of view, it was all downhill.

Every single interaction has been painful, simply because they are not equipped to provide better service. And their attitude is one that “couldn’t care less”. This extended to their service station also. Within a week of purchase, there was a minor hiccup. The car was sent to the service garage. They took a whole day to attend to the small thing. And after paying upwards of Rs. 8 lakhs, a week back, for the car, they demanded Rs. 300 odd for some parts. When I protested that it did not make sense, they brought it down, but insisted on getting paid Rs. 48/- or so. That’s a dollar! After having paid upwards of USD 20,000 a week back.

No one at that garage had the authority to take a call, to let that dollar go. When I have paid so much, it is certainly not about that dollar. It is just that they made an issue about it.

For an otherwise great product, VW has obviously not been able to get service standards and policies in place, that can address such issues.

So is India a society that can possibly produce good products, but just does not have an approach to good service?

Since we have a lot of people, we have lot of service providers! On a typical small hop flight also, we may have 5-6 air hostesses or stewards on board. At a wedding party, we may have a whole host of waiters hovering around us. There will be enough help at a hotel. BUT there will not be a true service attitude. We try to compensate for quality, by quantity.

That does not work.

However what that has done is to bring down our fundamental expectations of service. When we get adequate service, we are happy. Because “at least it was not bad”. Both the recipient and the provider of the services, are settling down to “adequacy” and not more!

People will be willing to pay a price and get excellent service. A great product can get supremely enhanced, at nominal additional cost, by great service. If a VW showroom and garage can also exemplify the same attitude that the vehicle is trying to showcase (via its advertising), would it not be wonderful?

When at the Apple store in California, you don’t see a cash counter, but the store help pulls out the machine from his pocket and swipes your card, and you don’t need to wait in a queue, it is telling something more about the cool brand that Apple is. It’s that extra bit.

When you drive into a Hertz store at the airport to give the car back, before catching your flight, and all paperwork, payments etc. can be done in 3 mins, so you can comfortably catch your flight, even if you got late, that’s more loyalty for the brand.

When the Southwest Airlines human operator picks my call within 2-3 rings at most, and the one person can help me confidently with any and all kinds of queries that I may have, then I ask for Southwest by name, and don’t look for just ‘any airline’.

There are amazing examples of this kind, in the west (well, there are duds too – don’t get me started on American Airlines!!). We’d so love to have some emerge in India too. At this time, they’ll stand out as unique.

Like Orange County Resorts does. And where at time of checkout, I put a rating on their response card, of a 11/10. Yes, those are the rare gems in India.

Can others stand up to get counted now??

I have expressed my love for the Mint newspaper, often. Especially the Mint on Saturdays. But one author whom I did not like much thus far, was Aakar Patel. In the past, I have seen too much of “secularism” weave in his columns, and that put me off.

But his column on this Saturday was a revelation. He makes a convincing statement that Indians are too self obsessed to be really good team players. He gives many examples from sports to make the point.

About how, after playing footall for 100 years, we are nowhere in the picture. About how, in hockey, once the world figured out how to stop our star players (e.g. Dhyan Chand) with their team play, we never managed to make a serious mark. And also why cricket cannot be clubbed into this – because, in spite of being a team sport, it boils down to an individual one-on-one, between the batsman and the bowler. And which is why, we have great individual players like Sachin and Gavasakar, but we are still weak as a team when it comes to fitness, fielding and the like.

The extension that Aakar points out, specifically for cricket, about how players have honed their personal skills, but have not thought as much about the sport, and how to improve it as a whole, is disturbing. But then when he points out the fact that nearly ALL of the IPL teams have foreign coache, and that how Indian commentators can only talk of individual technique, but can rarely give interesting thoughts on game strategy, again tells an important tale!

The summary of the article is that we do not value harmony, but only value genius, that we’d be more happy getting to see a Sachin 100, than an Indian victory! Sad, but true.

The article goes ahead and tries to find a reason for this, but which I do not agree upon. We have to recognise that sometimes we may NOT have answers, and then we look for these.

How does the attitude reflect in work, beyond sports? Team work demands that the focus be on end goal, and each must complement the other. How often do we see this NOT happening in companies?? Star performers in large companies? Partners pulling company in different directions in smaller companies?!

It is a refreshing change then, to find exceptions today, which are goal focused, and where partners / senior executives are not concerned about personal victories, as much as they are confirmed with large goals of the organization.

Focus on harmony, beyond just the genius..