Sunday, November 28, 2010

Johari Window

I discovered today that the concept of Johari window closely reflects my decision to join the Public Relations course at Xavier Institute of Communications.

Johari window is a psychological tool which helps people to better understand their interpersonal communication and relationships. The movement in the window marks the growth in a relationship and these windows are divided into four quadrants, namely: open, blind, hidden and unknown quadrant.

The open quadrant represents things that I know about myself and others know about me. Initially when we meet someone new, quadrant I is small but with time as the process of getting to know each other continues, it expands in size, shrinking the quadrant III which is the hidden quadrant. The blind quadrant is the one which represents things that others would know about me but I would be unaware of.

The third quadrant is the hidden one where there are things which I know about myself but others don’t know. For example if I never mentioned to anyone before that I sing, then no one would get to know about the same. But once the first quadrant grows, that is when the relationship matures, and then we find it unnecessary to hide such information. The last quadrant is the unknown quadrant which represents things which I don’t know about myself and nor do people know about it.

The concept of Johari window relates very closely to my recent introduction to the arena of Public Relations (PR) and admission to Xavier Institute of Communications (XIC). For the past three years, I was trapped in a profession for which I did not have a natural passion and it was only recently that my friends introduced me to the world of Marketing Communications. This situation relates to the quadrant II, the blind spot and it was constant persuasion by my friends that helped me recognize my natural inclination towards Public Relations.

While I was initially hesitant to make this transition, I became sure of my abilities when I cleared the written exam of XIC. I can hence relate this concept to my personal experience and it’s been enlightening to learn about the other quadrants of this window.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Is Online Examination Going to be the Future of India?

So before I present you my opinion on the online assessment, let me gather your attention towards the movie 3idiots. It was a site to watch Aamir Khan and his friends running from the hospital to give the exam and the way they kept writing after the time was up and not to forget how Aamir managed to mix up the papers with the rest, as the professor was unaware of their roll numbers. Well this luxury would surely not be accessible in online examinations. Online assessment is a step towards making the assessment more secure, transparent and fast. Such an assessment has become easier because of the fast and accurate computers as well as the improvement in technology over the years. With over a million people sitting for entrance examinations, it’s really not surprising to see the shift from traditional exams to the online exams.

Core reason for such a shift which is hard to ignore is the cost saving through online exams. Some experts suggest such a method reduces cost by approximately 20-50%. Moreover this method of conducting the exams provides flexibility to the students to choose as well as reschedule the dates of their respective examination. It ensures security, nullifies the error of transferring the question to the answer booklet, helps in faster assessment as it’s all done through the computers and reduces the chance of human error in calculations etc. It also nullifies the chances of leaked question papers. Online assessment is unbiased in a way that everyone gets the same time to complete their paper; so sadly, we can no more beg our teachers to give us two more minutes to write down even when the time is up. Reminds me of the good old school days, sigh! One can’t scan through the questions once the time is up. Also the marks awarded are through the computer, so no need to be a teacher’s pet anymore to get those extra marks! For the institutions also, it is more efficient to conduct online exams as it spares them the horror of distributing answer sheets to thousands of candidates, collecting the same, signing the sheets, transferring the answer scripts to the evaluation centres etc. Thus in turn there is no need to appoint large staff to check the answer sheets and tally marks.

Online exams are to some extent similar to the traditional paper pencil method in a way that one has the ability to move within the sections, change answers, review the answers etc. But I personally found it a bit stressful to give the exam online. It was very difficult to understand various buttons on the screen right before the exam and one has to take care of not pressing the “finish” button as it ends the paper right there. It’s all so much complicated unlike the traditional paper pencil method. The speed counts a lot in such exams. Some entrances have different sections in a paper and a particular time limit is allotted to respective section and ones the time is up, one cannot revisit the same questions again. How is it really helping the students? It’s building more pressure on them. It reminds me the teachers telling us to leave the questions which we would not know in the paper and do the ones which we knew perfectly first and then apply brains to those which we have left. Do we have such a luxury anymore? Well we don’t anymore have the luxury to even scan through the questions in the paper ones it’s in front of us; the shock comes one by one! We recently had the CAT exam online for the first time ever and it did face a lot of glitches in between. Many candidates could not sit for the exam on the particular day allotted to them because the server went down! Although they were given separate dates to appear for the same. Such a shift to online assessment would require a good infrastructure and technology that can adapt to the Indian requirements. In turn all this would require a lot of experimentation and up gradation of technology to make such a system a success.

According to a survey covering 75 university chancellors, registrars, controller of examinations and over 400 students across the country, 77% of these people consider introducing online exams, 68% revealed that they would conduct online exams in the next 6-36 months. 69% of all the students especially from the tier III cities stated that those institutes that conduct online exams are more technically advanced. Even though after facing the glitches in some of the entrance exams recently conducted by various institutions, it seems that the online exams are here to stay.

In my opinion, I’m strictly against such a shift as I consider it to be more stressful as compared to the traditional method of conducting exam. More over there needs to be a better infrastructural and technological development before we shift base the method of conducting the exams in our country. According to a study, the penetration of online assessment would increase by 5-10% in the next two years. Despite the snag faced, the universities still feel in positive impact of technology. So what’s your take on it? Are you ready to face the challenge?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest,

heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul.

Just like a river must flow into the sea, my tryst with music was truly meant to be. This might sound primitive, but my stint with music dates back 15 years – yes, it was in 1995 that I hit the chord. It all started with a suggestion from Dad for me to learn the harmonium and there I was, all of 6, sitting in a music school and using my young pair of hands on instruments I had previously known little about.

Initially there to gain mastery of musical instruments, I found deep interest in classical singing thereby discovering a new talent in me. Funnily enough, the instruments appeared bigger than what I looked at that tender age and it surely had me uncomfortable to wonder if I was doing the right thing. To make things further twisted, I was the youngest of the lot there and hence the extra scare that I felt. But as they say, rest was history – as I began to recite the musical notes with my Guru, I underwent a transformation and soon gathered that I had found the right medium to express myself!

Just the way sugar mixes in a hot coffee, the same way I suffused into classical singing. It always used to relax my body and mind and helped me carve a soothing persona. Slowly but steadily, I also managed to effectively use few musical instruments such as the Harmonium, Tanpura and Tabla. While these instruments usually play in the background of any song and not many realize their essence, I grew with a special bond with them - I understood the beauty of music sans words.

While I feel blessed to have discovered music, the fact that it came at an early age also presented me with a peculiar challenge – balancing studies with a hobby I was (and still am) extremely passionate about taught me the art of time management and multi-tasking. Not only I continued to further explore my talent and also practice for stage performances, I continued to surprise myself with a consistent academic record.

It’s fascinating for me to look back into history and uncover instances of how music has helped - whenever I was bored of studying or felt low or burdened with the books, I would start humming the ragas and automatically my mind would be at peace. This not only helped me to de-stress and re-energize but also helped to imbibe a sense of confidence. As they say, all work and no play makes jack a dull boy!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Social Media – A Boon or a Bane

Are you on Facebook, twitter? Oh I forgot and how about LinkedIn? Well these are some typical questions which we get to hear these days. When we meet someone, before taking their contact we usually ask them for their e-mail id’s and well it’s assumed that they would be on one of these social networking sites or may be on all of them. Hmm interesting indeed. Isn’t it? Commonly known as the Web 2.0, these sites are not just a rage amongst the youngsters but it’s surprising to see how people from all walks of life are taking fancy to social media tools.

Interestingly enough, while for some, these remain to be a mere tool or a means to connect with friends, for many it is an extension of their personality. Parallels can also be drawn how enterprises use these social media tools – while some imbibe the ethos of customer driven marketing, for others it fails to feature or qualify as an integral part of their IMC programme.

Social media is considered to be an offspring of promotion mix. The advent of social media on the internet has made it possible for a person to communicate about his products & the company that provides the same to a mass of people. It helps the companies to talk to their consumers directly thereby unlocking the secrets of consumer perception and buying behaviour. At the same time it enables the customers to talk directly to one another. But this lies in contrast to the integrated marketing communications epitome whereby a high degree of control is present unlike in social media marketing where there is no control over the frequency and content of conversation amongst the consumers. Thus the managers need to keep the vision and mission of their company in mind and evolve the consumer discussion around it.

Social media tools are not just used for marketing but companies are making a judicious use of this tool for recruiting people as well. According to a survey it is observed that 45% of employers use Facebook/twitter to screen job candidates. Recruiters feel that hiring people through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn is a lot easier than doing the same through job boards etc. If there is a vacancy in a company, it simply tweets about it and the job is done! Within a few days only one would be able 2 decide upon the candidate.

It’s surprising to see how much we are dependent on these sites from Hiring people, marketing products to communicating our views to the world outside, having discussions, making reservations for dining, and the list goes on. The latest here would be to address complaints to the Delhi Traffic Police on facebook (! With internet enabled portable devices, information is available on the move and it makes it easier to be connected from anywhere.

On one hand, the Web 2.O sites have proved to be very useful for people from all walks of life but at the same time I (and many others) believe that they are making people less emotionally attached to each other. I’m sure most of you who are reading this post will agree. Isn’t that true that back in time we used so much use of the landlines, then came the cell phones and now internet through cell phones. In this fast moving life, no one’s got the time to spare on the phone but surprisingly enough people tend to connect through facebook, twitter, orkut etc. Isn’t that making you less emotionally attached to your peers? Don’t you think instead of writing on your friend’s wall on facebook, it’s a good idea to call them up? It does not really take much of an effort though. Do you expect birthday calls anymore right at 12am, or do you just open up facebook and other such sites to see the whole list of wishes? I guess the latter would be true in most of the cases for this generation. Then how do you think these sites are doing any good to you when you can’t even feel that bond with your near and dear ones?

Succinctly put, although Web 2.O sites have been a very effective tool of communication, it has made a lasting (read negative) impact on our lifestyles. It has given rise to a new cult which is here to stay! Think about it, most of us have the time to tweet, but make no efforts to meet?

My 2c worth!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Global + Local = Glocal

This post refers to my previous post on International and Global strategies. The idea to talk about Glocalization struck me when I had posted that previous note and thought it would be of high relevance to bring up this topic.

The term Glocal comes from the Japanese word "DOCHAKUKA" which means global localization. Dochakuka evolved into a marketing strategy when the Japanese businessmen adopted it during the 1980's. By definition, the term ‘glocal’ refers to any individual, group, unit, division or organisation which is ‘able to think globally & act locally’.

In today's market scenario, enterprises are forced to rethink on their decision of aiming at just globalization and ignoring localization or vice versa. It is of prime importance for marketers and other key decision-makers to develop a two-pronged go-to-market – a global marketing and product strategy combined with dedicated localization plans. An integration of the two is a must for enterprises aiming to foster a global footprint for its products or company.

Glocalization has also been much spoken about (and written) topic by the academia. Renowned authors have published white papers, books and other journal entries debating about the intricacies about this; below are a chosen few.

According to Doole and Lowe (2001), ‘think global, act local’ or in other words ‘glocalisation’ encloses the true nature of globalization. Hollensen (2004) says that in order to have a successful glocal strategy, it is necessary for it to reflect the aspirations of a global integrated strategy along with recognising the importance of local adaptations/market responsiveness. Keeping this thought in mind, major international organizations, over the last decade have adopted long-term strategies to establish a worldwide presence. Terpstra (1990) is a votary to this outlook. According to him, convergence does not mean standardization or uniformity, even though it is true that the technology, economies of scale and
internationalization are leading to a greater convergence of both products and marketing methods.

Hollensen (2004) has explained this ‘glocalisation’ or ‘glocal strategy’ through the ‘global integration/market responsiveness grid’ (below):

Making inference from the above, its apt to state that to increase the sales and venture into new markets the global products need to adapt to the local needs. Likewise, in order to increase the sales of the local products in the global market, enterprises need to adapt to the global needs of the customers.

To further aid understanding on this topic, below are some examples from the Indian marketplace. While I have tried level best to make references to commonly known brands in India, there will always be more examples which many of you might note in everyday life – please leave a comment and share some of these with me, always works well to exchange thoughts and knowledge!

NOKIA – While their products solve the same purpose all across the globe, Nokia does well to customize the marketing messages to cater to local needs and add higher relevance to their campaigns. Taking Nokia E72 as an example, while this gadget does the same job for professionals (and other users) across the Asia Pacific region (and World-wide), the company uses local languages (Chinese, Hindi, etc) to effectively communicate with the respective set of audience.

MC DONALDS – This is yet another suitable example of a glocalized strategy. Despite being a global brand, McDonalds customizes its menu to cater to domestic eating habits and also respect local traditions (if any). The "Maharaja Mac" and no beef/pork products in the company’s menu in India validate the above argument.

AYURVEDA in Western Countries – This example suits the reverse trend of globalizing strategies that have only done well in a specific (read localized) environment. While Ayurveda is a very popular line of medication in India but comparatively is still a new concept in the western countries. So for the likes of Dabur looking to launch their products in countries like UK and US, there is a critical need for marketers to identufy the unique set of challenges (including differences in purchase behaviour) they are likely to face in the world market and accordingly address them through the product and marketing strategies.

While there’s a lot more that can be discussed about this topic, it’s important for me to limit my post to ensure it does not put you to sleep! To aptly summarize the topic, glocalization means the capacity of being rooted in the local market and also to face the global challenges. It is a change in the strategy or development of a new strategy and if managed well can lead to the growth both for the local and the global markets.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April Fool's Day – An Unsolved History

The first of April, some do say,
Is set apart for All Fools' Day.
But why the people call it so,
Nor I, nor they themselves do know.
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.
--Poor Robin's Almanac (1790)

Have you ever considered why there is an April Fool’s day? Who originated it? When did it begin? Why is it observed every year? Great set of questions! I wondered about this myself & found it quite interesting to research. As I discovered in my search, everyone has a theory but few agree on how the tradition arose. I'll try to get as close to the truth as possible.

April Fool's day is also known as the "All Fool's Day". Some see it as a celebration related to the change of seasons while others see it as an adoption of a new calendar. Since the ancient times, numerous festivals used to be celebrated such as the "Saturnalia" which became one of the most popular Roman festivals. It was marked by tomfoolery and reversal of social roles, in which slaves and masters ostensibly switched places. Further in India there was Holi, known as the festival of color, during which the people threw tinted powders at each other, until everyone was covered with the colors from head to toe. Such celebrations could have served as the precedents for April Fool's day.

Another explanation said that the April 1st was once celebrated as the New Year's day in France. But the Pope Gregory in 1582 declared the adoption of his Gregorian calendar to replace the Julian calendar. This was when the New Year’s Day shifted from the April 1st to January 1st! France was the first country in Europe to make this change and it took a while for the people in France to adapt to such a major change. This lead to a lot of people celebrating the New Year's on the April 1st and hence they were being called by the name of "April Fools". This harassment evolved over time into a tradition of prank-playing on the first day of April. Further, in some countries such as the UK, Australia & South Africa, the jokes last until noon only & those who played pranks after noon were being considered as the "April fool". So in this way the whole story originated and evolved and now every year people celebrate it as a tradition.

The tradition in the long run had spread to England and Scotland in the eighteenth century and was later introduced to the American colonies of both the English and French. In countries like Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Russia, Netherlands, Brazil and the US, the jokes last all day! In Scotland the day is celebrated for good two days i.e. April 1st and April 2nd.The second day is devoted to pranks involving the posterior region of the body and is called the ‘Taily Day’. The origin of the "kick me" sign can be traced to this observance. In this way April Fool's day went international, specializing in its own brand of humour at the expense of their friends and families.

Some interesting search on the April fool's day includes the different and tantalizing "Prank days in the world and their traditional names" which are as follows:

· Iranians play jokes on each other on the 13th day of the Persian New Year (Norouz), which falls on April 1st or April 2nd. This day, celebrated as far back as 536 BC, is called Sizdah Bedar and is the oldest prank-tradition in the world still alive today; this fact has led many to believe that April Fools' Day has its origins in this tradition.

· In Poland, prima aprilis ("April 1" in Latin) is a day full of jokes; various hoaxes are prepared by people, media (which sometimes cooperate to make the information more credible) and even public institutions. Serious activities are usually avoided. This conviction is so strong that the anti-Turkish alliance with Leopold I signed on April 1, 1683, was backdated to March 31.

· In Scotland, April Fools' Day is traditionally called Hunt-the-Gowk Day ("gowk" is Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person). Although this name has fallen into disuse, the traditional prank is to ask someone to deliver a sealed message requesting help of some sort – the message reads "Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile". The recipient upon reading it explains he can only help if he first contacts another person, and sends the victim to this person with an identical message, with the same result.

While people use unique pranks on this day, there are few thrilling ones from history that I came across while trying to unravel this unsolved history:

· Mark Bo-slough - The most famous physicist , wrote an article claiming that Alabama state legislature voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0 . This was passed around via email and caused a shock amongst people. The scam was finally discovered when people started calling the Alabama legislature to protest. This prank was rated the Seventh in the "Top 100 April Fools Hoaxes of All Time" list!

· The French call April 1 Poisson d'Avril, or "April Fish". French children at times tape a picture of a fish on the back of their schoolmates, crying "Poisson d'Avril" when the prank is discovered.

· April Fool's Day in the Indian Media: In Bollywood there is a movie called the "April Fool" directed by Subodh Mukherjee starring Saira Bano.

To aptly summarize in few words, April Fool's day is "Just For fun" only . The pranks performed range from simple to elaborate but one must remain vigilant throughout the day for he/she may be the next April fool!

Enjoy the Day & make a fool out of some one today! :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Are you International or Global?

Theodore Levitt’s (referring to his work in 1983) thoughts on globalisation were ‘way ahead’ of his time and he had little idea of the revolution his work would have on the basic principles of marketing. Back then he argued that the consumer differences were miniscule in front of the similarities that stood across national boundaries and the marketer’s response to the human needs and aspirations was unique to the whole world in general. The corner stone for Levitt’s argument was technological change that the world was witnessing and this he said, was the guiding reason behind the spread of globalisation.

The sensitive debate between Internationalisation and Globalisation was an area that Levitt had spoken about. Levitt showed a clear preference for the language of the globe over the terminology of international and according to him, the change in the world markets was qualitative and not quantitative. He explained that not only the world had more trade; it also consisted of trade that was diverse and transformative.

Quick thoughts on Internet Marketing

Since the inception of internet, radical transformations have been observed in almost all walks of life. It has not only changed the way in which the world communicates, it has also affected human behaviour and people today prefer to stay connected on facebook (and other social media tools) than 'in person'. In the business context, internet has changed much and parallels can well be drawn with the word Global Village that was coined by Marshall McLuhan as early as 1962.

For organizations to successfully conduct business activities in the new decade (beginning 2010), a strong web presence stemming from a well structured Internet Marketing plan is strongly advised. Unfortunately, not all companies in India recognize the power of this tool and continue to spend time, energy and money on offline resouces which neither offer a healthy ROI nor are effective to communicate with the desired set of audience.