The Marketing Funnel at Baapu Market Jaipur

On a recent roadtrip, we went shopping at the famous Baapu Market in Jaipur. Its a bazaar with lots of small shops selling similar stuff mostly fabric, bangles, jewellery and the likes. One is also told to bargain hard when shopping here.

While my wife was excited about the amazing collection of fabric, jewellery etc , I was intrigued by the interesting model that these shopkeepers had adopted.

Baapu Bazaar Jaipur
Baapu Bazaar Jaipur – photo credit Eric Parker/Flickr/MakemyTrip.com

In most shops there were three different types of roles that the owner and staff were playing:

  • The Marketers – One or two people who were stationed outside the shop, about 15-20 steps away. They would shout out loudly about their speciality bangles or suit-pieces or sarees. I felt the idea was to get the attention of the people who were walking around to move towards their shop(s). They essentially brought more attention/traffic to the specific shop. Like many marketing campaigns, there focus was on increasing reach, hence they would spread in a wider catchment area.
  • The Call-to-Action – Then there was this one guy who was right at the entrance of the shop. Now, most shops here have some of their wares displayed right on the footpath. This guy would observe what me or wife were showing interest in, and would try to nudge us in saying there’s an amazing collection inside that we should check out. This is a critical step in their sales cycle. My assumption is that they have figured out that if you step inside the shop once, chances of your buying something increase multifold.
  • The Convertors – Now comes the most interesting part. In most shops (especially those dealing in fabric) one would be expected to remove shoes and sit down for the guy inside the shop to show the collection. I feel that the removing of the shoes and sitting down is like crossing a certain conversion hurdle. The prospect is now almost committed. This person(inside the shop) would be a very calm and relaxed one, who would have the utmost patience of showing us all that we asked. Its easy for one to feel bad for not buying from him since he had spent so much of his time on us. But the fact is, that its we who invest our time and end up feeling its better to buy from here, given that we have spent so much time checking out so many options. Interestingly, these guys came across as very easy to trust and in the absence of brands, its their personality and conduct that drives that trust.

Maybe I was seeing patterns where none exist.

Let me know if you visit this market and see (or fail to see) what I have just described. Will be interesting to hear from you.

Play to your strengths – Digital Banking Toolkit

Nadal is the king of clay. Given a choice of surface, I guess he would choose clay 9 out of 10.

We all get it – one should play to one’s own strength. Its obvious in sports, but most of us fail to apply the same rule(s) in business.

keep-calm-and-play-to-your-strengths

As most banks embrace digital, this is one rule we should not forget.

Look at the bigger PSU banks in India – it’s fair to assume that they have a big list of areas to focus on when it comes to going digital:

  • Channel migration of customers onto internet banking and mobile banking
  • Higher activation and spends on their credit cards
  • Straight Through X-sell campaigns
  • Improving the customer on-boarding experience
  • Reducing TAT for customer transactions and queries
  • …..and so on

It sure can be overwhelming to look at such a big list. One might also be tempted to look at the success stories of the likes of ICICI, Citi or HDFC Bank and try to replicate their strategies.

Will that work? Chances are it won’t !

Why? Because those banks are different. Different in terms of their customer profiles, their capabilities and their partner eco-systems.

When I look at the RBI’s data on ATMs, POS, Credit and Debit cards for Nov 2014 – its clear to me that for PSU banks, ATM presents a unique opportunity.

Digital experience starts from a conversation, an interaction or a transaction – and for PSU banks these are happening in plenty on their debit card portfolio at the ATMs.

SBI has 23.6K onsite and 22K offsite ATMs.And they had 2.4 crore ATM transactions !

Their digital strategy should have a clear ATM story:

  • What opportunity does the ATM transaction present ? E.g. the bank knows where the customer is at that point of time. Using solutions like mTuzo they can share Offers-near the ATM and migrate customers from ATM to ATM+POS.
  • Citibank has just launched Funds Transfer functionality through ATMs. Or one could do mobile recharges.
  • PSU banks do not have an aggressive sales culture. This could be used to their advantage at the ATM, where its not a warm body pushing a product but maybe the thank-you screen which is “suggesting” a product basis past behavior of the customer.

Hence, for any bank embarking on a digital journey, its imperative to ask – What is our strength?

And align the roadmap to play to these strengths!

Why do we sometimes go quiet during roadtrips?

Found this in my notes from a road trip taken almost 10 years back in Dec 2005.

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Road trips silent

In the last few months I have discovered a passion to travel, but what I havent learnt so far is why I love it? What gets me excited to just get out of “here” and be out “there”?

The more I think about it, the more it adds to my confusion.

I have been noticing my thoughts during these road-trips and its just amazing how the human mind is capable of such a diverse set of emotions and reactions, in seemingly similar situations.

I am yet to figure out any dominant patterns. Each trip, each journey seems to be a unique experience. How they add up? I  am not too sure. Not sure if they even add up.

What captivates me is the journey, more than the destination. The road trips are like the time spent in a planetarium, the whole universe seems to change every now and then. And the only thing you can do is shut up and watch.

Or maybe not !

I think while I am quiet outside, theres a lot that goes inside the head. But to be honest, I can’t remember what all came to my mind during my last road trip.

And looks like its not just me.

So why do we become all quiet when on a road trip?

Is it that we run out of things to talk?

Or is it that the steady pace of changing scenery somehow soothes the mind and forces all our senses to relax?

Or is it that most of the things that we intend to talk about somehow seem irrelevant and non-consequential once we are away from the hustle-bustle of our daily lives?

I feel that a change in the immediate landscape around us, forces our minds and hearts to shift gears. the vast expanse of nature all around us in its amazing beauty, forces us to think about more fundamental things.

Why is Financial Inclusion important?

Financial Inclusion is a common theme across multiple initiatives both by governments and private sectors across economies. Especially in the developing world, it would be safe to say that Financial Inclusion must be in the top 5 priorities of the respective governments.

But why exactly is Financial Inclusion important ?

 

Financial Inclusion takes an economy towards more equal opportunities

Financial access is a key component towards providing equal opportunities and equal access for growth for various segments of the society. Just like education, nutrition and healthcare access are critical in driving growth of a population, so is access to finance and payment instruments. The Better Than Cash Alliance (Bill & Mellinda Gates Foundation) says in its 2014 report for the Australian Presidency

Studies show that broader access to and participation in the financial system can reduce income inequality, boost job creation, accelerate consumption, increase investments in human capital, and directly help poor people manage risk and absorb financial shocks

And why exactly do we need to work on removing inequality?  As Christine Lagarde (MD, IMF) said in her  June 26, 2014 speech at Mexico, the need for removing inequality goes beyond moral principles. It is a key ingredient for sustainable growth.

Inequality is not just a moral issue—it is a macroeconomic issue. Our research tells us that countries with higher inequality tend to have lower and less durable growth. Inequality chokes the prospects for individuals to realize their full potential and contribute to society. Whether it is through personal experience or empirical evidence, one thing is clear—growth has to be more inclusive, and for this finance has to be more inclusive

Financial Access can increase investments

Whether it is individuals or small/medium firms, access to finance, builds the environment and comfort for savings and investments. This could be because of multiple factors:

  • Access to credit
  • Access to easy, safe, reliable means of savings and investments
  • Triggers and reinforcements (social, system-driven) that induce a culture of saving and/or risk-taking, investing etc

Financial Access provides security/insurance

The impact of negative scenarios is significantly high for those who have no financial security or insurance. The ability of an individual or a community to bounce-back from a calamity is directly related to the access of funds made available during such times of need. Insurance has the other advantage of providing mental peace and a mindset where the poor are not constantly worried about basic sustenance.

Digital success needs a matured partnership mindset

I believe that smart matured digital players will need to develop deep integration with their partners.

Let me explain why.

With the growing consumption of digital media, there is considerable noise that a consumer is now exposed to. This would mean that the brands have a fast shrinking window of opportunity where they have their prospects attention.

Most brands do understand this and hence have started investing heavily in better designs and more meaningful content.

But when it comes to acquisitions, it seems that this underlying assumption is usually forgotten. Maybe the acquisition teams are overwhelmed by the amount of digital data they are expected to digest and optimize for. In order to increase the leads volumes, most brands usually explore new partners who have possibly captive audiences.

In many cases these captive audiences are merely email id lists/bases that the partner has sourced not even built. And this might be the root-cause of my recent bad experience with a MNC Bank in India.

I have been using a premium variant of this bank’s Credit Card very regularly for the last 8-10 years. I have my email registered with the bank’s card team where I regularly receive official communication from the bank.

Interestingly I received am email for a gold card from the same bank on the same email id. This wasn’t a proposal to downgrade the plastic, but an email to take up a new card from the bank. I was confused. So I checked the email headers and discovered that this was sent by some partner of the bank who had my email id on its base.

The bank didn’t scrub the partner’s base for emails already registered by existing customers. I can understand why the bank would not want to scrub and give back a base to the partner. Because then the partner could do a delta check and figure out which email ids are registered with the bank.

Nevertheless the bottom line is that the customer experience was significantly compromised.

So what could the bank do? What should other brands do?

Partnerships in Digital WorldI feel they need to pick & choose partners carefully and then deeply integrate with them. They should in fact look at sending emailers from their own servers so that scrubbing is done real time and the partner just gets a report of how many emails were shortlisted for the blast rather than a list of which ones were shortlisted or rejected.

Even if the partner is just worth the customer base it holds, banks would need to step up and control the subsequent stages of the lead generation process. On personalized platforms like emails, its customers can not be treated like New To Bank (NTB) applicants.

In today’s world, we talk about data quality and data velocity. Maturity in both these aspects is possible only through an eco-system mindset and not in the current vendor-client approach.

It would definitely add to the cost of acquisitions. And there might be other better, cleaner solutions but the current process just does not cut it.

Big Data, medicine and Dr Gregory House

I am a big fan of House. BIG FAN !

I guess what I really like is the infectious curiosity of Dr Gregory House and the very extreme personalities of the characters at this clinic.

In my overly simplistic understanding of medicine, there are two parts to it – diagnosis and treatment.

And our Dr House excels at the former. He is able to connect the seemingly unrelated symptoms with behavioral patterns, genetic history and what not. And it is fascinating how the power of inference and hypotheses testing leads his team to find the true nature of what really inflicts the patients.

dr-gregory-house

What I wonder is that this might have been a super impressive set of scripts way back in 2004-2012 (yes the series is that old), but would it be as impressive in today’s age and time.

Experts say that Big Data or analytics is effective if the 3Vs are encouraging – volume, velocity and variety. In case of healthcare they talk about a 4th V – veracity or data accuracy.

Increasing number of our records are getting digitized – so the volume surely is exploding.

Wearables that track real time pulse, Blood pressure etc are already an expected norm. Patient specific information is definitely flowing at a very high velocity within the healthcare eco-systems.

Variety of data, might get addressed when data-sets from individual data-networks (like EMR co’s, hospitals, health insurers etc) are purged for confidential and individual data and insights shared on a common platform/network.

Given all these indicators, do you see a time when Big Data scientists will put a Dr Gregory House in every hospital that can afford such systems? The trick might be to find the best set of tests to conduct to confirm the existence of disease(s), and this is something that machine-taught algorithms can do nicely.

Would machine learning really help connect dots in the medical outliers?

Lessons from “David & Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell

“David and Goliath – Underdogs, Misfits and the art of battling giants” is the new book from Malcolm Gladwell which is based on the premise that maybe we have all been looking at the David and Goliath story completely wrong.

david-goliath-malcolm-gladwellGladwell starts by discussing specific details from the Biblical story to build the case that David the shepherd boy should have been the favorite in that battle. We all got it wrong because we were fixated on the giant that Goliath was, because we believed that it would be a close quarter battled where size, strength (of warrior, their sword and armor) would matter. But it wasn’t to be.

He dips back into the classical economic theory to talk about the marginal utility curve being an Inverted U curve. And if we believe that its an inverted U curve, then there comes a point beyond which the marginal returns decrease. Or in other words, the same things that were an advantage at one point may become an advantage on the other extreme of the spectrum.

As always, Malcolm backs his hypotheses with solidly researched stories.

  • One of the interesting stories is that of an Indian software engineer (who had never played basketball before) coaching his daughter’s team to national finals. How this outsider looked at his team – a bunch of self proclaimed nerdy girls, and how he looked at the traditional way of playing basketball. His gameplan – play the full court press – was something that was so unexpected that they just surprised their opponents all the way upto the finals where their opponents did the same to them.
  • The whole debate about class-size vs quality of education is again something where there is no clear answer and the reason is that the impact of an increase(or decrease) in class size depends upon which part of the curve the class currently is. It seems that if the class size is too small – there is no momentum in discussions and the intensity of possible interactions might be overwhelming for the kids. On the other hand, if the class size is too big the number of potential interactions may become too high to manage. Hence it seems the ideal class size is between 18-24. This is a great analysis for all those anxious parents who have been using the teacher:student ratio as a way of convincing themselves that they are giving their kids the best education possible. Apparently there is a simple rule in Israel – as soon as the class size crosses 39, they start another class.
  • Another interesting debate that is brought up is whether its a good idea to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. And Malcolm does this on a very sensitive topic. Should you always choose to go into the top most college that you have an offer from. I am sure, you know what he is hinting at. And apart from some well curated data on college choices and subsequent career success, he also brings forth the choice that the emerging bunch of impressionists made in Paris. The economic principle discussed here is Relative deprivation – comparing with peers and then deciding how we want to feel.
  • Capitalization Learning Vs Compensatory learning: There is a detailed discussion on the lives of some very successful people who were dyslexic and how they managed to “compensate” for this apparent disadvantage. It seems that people who can build on compensatory learning (which is actually a very had and difficult approach) develop their own set of tools to thrive in their chosen fields. E.g. the trial lawyer who couldn’t read properly but had compensated this by listening and remembering things.

Watch the Video from Talks at Google here:

The key lesson that I took away from this book is that start-ups in garages would continue to dethrone big companies because beyond a certain point, their size, capital, processes, existing customers – start becoming their biggest disadvantage.

And when going head-to-head with a Goliath, don’t play by their rules. Make your own rules, where their disadvantage can be exploited.

Why mobile payments must arrive soon

I try to go walking on most weekdays. And I prefer to do so light – carry just the minimal stuff.

On my way out for a walk yesterday, I stopped by to take some cash along with me – just in case.

And this got me thinking, with my smartphone (& earphones) I do not need so many other things.

I know the time(so that I am in time for that movie), can listen to music while I walk, I can track my work emails (allows me to stay away from my laptop) , I know I can be reached anytime if the need arises(through calls, SMS, messengers etc).

I can track my workout (and its just amazing what all some of the fitness apps can do), click high resolution photos while I am on the move and share it with my friends & family.

But I still need to carry my wallet when I go for my walk. I do so, because I might want to buy fruits on my way back. Or I might get a call from home to pick up some other groceries. Its usually not a planned spend but I want to have the confidence that I have money available to spend when I am out for a walk.

 

I don’t like the feel of the wallet while walking. I would love my phone – which is the digital swiss army life in most our lives – to be able to do that. I would want my phone to give me a sense of financial security too.

Swiss army phone

I know business strategists would say this an isolated and small use case. And I agree. But my point is, its a matter of time. While mobile has brought all these solutions into one gadget, payments cannot stay away for too long.

But then again, its not just me. When my mother goes out for a walk, she carries her phone and a small purse. Does she spend money every day – No. Would she go out without money/purse – No. Would she go out without her phone – No.

Crowdsourcing from a captive audience – New approach to complimentary breakfasts

Crowdsourcing is all the rage. And restaurants seem to have caught the fancy.

There is this guy who is spending a good time just getting real feedback before he decides what and where of his restaurant. A few restaurants have decided to skip the printed menu completely. Who wants to pay professional photographers when the customers can click the dishes with their smartphones and create a more powerful visual menu?

Crowdsourced restaurant

So let’s take the example of the first guy – are restaurants keen to know which dishes to keep in their menu? In most of the cases – Yes !

Does crowdsourcing help? Yes !

The data becomes more reliable with increasing volume.

But the challenge remains that if the customers are not repeat (as Groupon showed us) and if they are just looking for the next cullinary adventure, then crowdsourcing might not be too helpful at all. 

Why? Because we may be using the knowledge of segment A to cook and serve a dish for segment B ! There is no positive reinforcement for the individuals who gave feedback. Do they go back and see their feedback implemented?

But take the case where a restaurant has a captive audience.

Let’s say you checked into a hotel. Chances are the breakfast is complimentary and most of the guests would end up eating at the in-house restaurant. And on most days, in a typical hotel, there would only be a small majority of non-guest walk-ins for breakfast.

So shouldn’t the hotel/restaurant try to understand what the guests would like for breakfast? Well I guess if I recommend this to a 5 star hotel, they would say “Sir, our breakfast spread has been carefully crafted after years of research on what our guests typically like. Thats also the reason you will see so many dishes and cuisines. We really care about what you want… Blah Blah Blah”

But consider this. There might be a Bollywood festival in town and suddenly there are more Indians who want Aloo Parathas.Or a Tamilian wedding with guests staying in the hotel, who would all love a dosa.

Well it need not be so drastic, but wouldn’t it be great if the restaurant could ask me what I would like to have. And then maybe come up with the dish over the next few days of my stay. If there are others who like it. Would it not make me thrilled, would it not make me feel special. My guess is it would.

It would also make the chef’s job so much more challenging and exciting.

And also allow the hotel to stay connected with the guests – guests are not just a room number or ID in their CRM systems.

What do you think?

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Image Credit : http://mashable.com/2014/03/19/dinner-lab-crowdsourced-restaurant

School for future politicians

I was super excited by the political experiments that were happening in the capital when Aam Aadmi Party was launched after the successful India-Against-Corruption movement. But my excitement didn’t last too long.

Personally, I felt sad that the Kejriwal goverment decided to quit. As an observer and eternal optimist I was hoping that this experiment would last longer. My own random ideas of what happened/should have been done e.g. –

  • AAP should have just focused on 2 or 3 problems and delivered on them.
  • AAP didn’t seem to have a first-100-days plan in place – I guess they were never hoping to form the Delhi Government
  • One cannot open up multiple simultaneous battle-fronts. You can not alienate everyone and make blanket accusations. They seem to have been in a continous conflict with almost everyone.
  • As a disruptive force their tactics were suited to be a good opposition player but not as the party mandated to lead the administration.
  • They needed a Chanakya – a sound strategist – who could make sense of all the chaos they were in and maybe compounding day-by-day
  • People will start discounting your words if you just keep on complaining. Share some good news, be generous in showering praises too. They failed miserably in doing so.
  • As a leader you cannot be dragged into every debate. You don’t need to respond to every accusation and charge. All extremes are bad. A prime minister who doesn’t say anything is as bad as a chief minister who talks way too much.
  • And many more…

But one thing was very clear. In the Indian context someone who understands the beauracracy might not always be a good leader. Difference between working and getting work done.

School for Political management

 

And hence I thought, why don’t we have a School for Political Management – something which arms future political leaders with the right kind of tools, skills, exposure. A school whose core objective is to churn out graduates who would be comfortable in the political arena, who would “understand the system” and hopefully bear strong moral and ethical standards.

I see it as a good business proposition. Imagine the kind of demand from political families where politics is what the next generation is supposed to get into. Its what the local strongmen would want to go to, to polish their rough edges. The school would give all graduates vaccinations against Foot-in-the-mouth disease, that plagues some of the top wannabe leaders right now.

The school could have an interesting mix of curriculum:

  • Indian Constitution and Law : Hopefully any grad from the school who takes charge of law ministry, would know that they cannot summon the judges. The Judiciary is not under their “control”. As the democracy matures, lawyers will continue to play an increasing role in politics. A strong understanding of the law can help draft stronger policies and hence action.
  • Basic Management principles : Esp stuff on leverage, delegation etc. As a minister, you cannot do all the work on your own. Your ministry is effective if you focus on removing hurdles, drafting right policies & programs and empowering an efficient administration that delivers on the ground results.
  • National and Political History:  Way too many lessons to be learnt from domestic and global history. There was a time when Lalu Chalisa was sold at Bihar railway stations and if someone had ever suggested that Lalu might be jailed, it would have been a case of very vivid imagination.
  • Public Speaking
  • Internships: Work along with a state or national level minister. Understand first hand the challenges in the ministry, how the administration works. There is considerable merit in the age old Marwari tradition of letting the next generation dirty their hands as an apprentice before they take charge of the business.
  • And since no college is taken seriously unless it has some global affiliation – this school would have tie-ups with the leading counterparts in other countries. Special sessions with visiting Presidents/Prime Ministers would be arranged – given that this college would produce tommorow’s leaders – it should not be impossible to arrange.

So what do you think? Would this help? Should it be a 1 year or a 2 year course?

How do we screen the candidates? Coz I believe we would get way too many applicants. And this would surely be a price-inelastic demand.