Monday, October 15, 2012

Startup Weekend (India): Social Entrepreneurship in Action

So what did you do last weekend? 

Partied? Slept all day? Relaxed? Took the kids & wife to the Mall? I’m sure whatever you did was interesting but I…

… I attended Startup Weekend  in New Delhi.

Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities.

Startup Weekend has been bringing together people from across the country on a common platform to present their ideas.

These ideas, if liked by the panelists which include angel investors, venture capitalists and their ilk from across corporates, support the young pool of talent and handhold them to reach their ultimate goal.
So not only does Startup Weekend provides a platform where your ideas are heard, but it also supports entrepreneurs financially.

54 hours and you get to launch a startup … Phew!

The event had people from across the country and even some expats who pitched their ideas, shared their vision and built teams to execute their ideas.

When one of my friends introduced me to this community, I thought it would be a great event to participate in, while also getting to meet new people and entrepreneurs-to-be. So I volunteered to handle their Twitter page during the event.

This event primarily focused on Mobile. So participants could develop some interesting apps with the three best ideas chosen as winners. Let me take you on a little journey…

Day 1: Friday evening

When I got to the venue, I was amazed to see over 100 participants…all enthusiastically ready to present their ideas.

The pitches started and each person got one minute to pitch: that’s 67 pitches in 67 minutes, after which teams were formed. Everyone chose who they would want to work with and started planning.

It was an amazing sight to see so many people under the same roof enthusiastic about entrepreneurs and working towards some great ideas.

Day 2: Saturday 

This time when I got to the venue, I saw a few people sleeping on the couch, a few working all night, a few fighting to get their point across to the team and a few just chilling.

And then, they were busy the entire day – working, planning and scribbling across the whole room to get their ideas to work.

Day 3: Sunday… The Verdict

I entered the venue and saw a lot of seriousness on everyone’s face. The apps were built, final presentations were being prepared and, yes, a few teams struggled to get their ideas into the execution phase right up until the last moment …

…and then, that evening, the winners were announced.

Lessons learned

First, this experience taught me a lot about the entrepreneurial journey. From forming a team to getting your point across to everyone to making your team excited about your idea…. there is a lot that goes before a successful company is formed.

Second, I learned yet again how social media can engage participants as well as the outside world with what’s happening around you. It made me realize how Digital PR can help run the event in a much better way and engage internal as well as external audiences.

Third, I realized that it all about “sharing.” People love to share, people love to discuss current happenings, and I was just helping them tell the world what they were up to at that point in time!

Great ideas I saw up close:

An app to kick corruption out of the country (Awenest);

An app to find the best street vendor in a particular place (Buzz In);

An app to find skilled workers in your area (Parichay);

To mobile CRM for unorganized & informal pharmacies (Data Cure)…

… all the pitches were crazy, huge fun and amazing to listen to.

It was also fascinating to see the team spirit in each of the participants, which makes me reiterate the fact that a team can pull together and execute an idea into a successful business! After all, a great idea needs a great team to execute and make the business successful.

…and that was one hell of a weekend!

So, do you agree with me that my weekend was better than yours?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Startup Weekend – 3 days of full action!

It’s rather fascinating to be at the Startup Weekend event. This weekend kickstarted with meeting loads of  new people with some crazy and fun ideas….and I’m surely hooked on to this weekend to see who the top 3 winners are going to be!

My first ever experience at this event has been too good to be true and I’m only looking forward to more of such events. The event has people from across the country and even some expats who pitched in their ideas, shared their vision and built teams to execute their ideas.

While I have come across a lot of wannapreneurs who have some amazing ideas, but they fail to execute the same due to lack of teams or peer pressure! Sitting here today, I feel that Startup Weekend community has given a platform to these wannapreneurs to share and express their vision and help them achieve their goals and entrepreneurial dream! 54 hours and you get to launch a startup…

There should be a sigh of relief for the ‘to-be-entrepreneurs’ in our country as Startup Weekend can provide all the support and mentoring one would need. All you need is a vision, mission and a great idea! And believe you me; there are some really cool ideas that will fascinate you…

I came across few amazing ideas that were pitched last night and today the mentors kicked in with a lot of enthusiasm to help these teams build more on the ideas and guide them through the lanes of entrepreneurship.

Ideas from creating an app to kick out corruption from this country, an app to book an auto to having an app to check out which hairstyle suits you best, I was amazed and thrilled to listen to the crazy fun pitches last night.

It’s also fascinating to see the team spirit in each of the participants and it just makes me reiterate the fact that a team can pull together and execute an idea into a successful business! A great idea needs a great team for execution and making the business successful…now it’s just wait and watch till tomorrow for the great teams and their ideas to be presented.

I’m very enthusiastic to see which 3 ideas will be liked by the judges….are you?

Keep tuned in this weekend @swinindia & #swdel

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Women and Entrepreneurship in India

According to a recent study commissioned by Dell, India is the ideal country to be in if you’re a women starting a business in 2012. The Indian Economic Outlook Report 2011-12 indicates a GDP growth rate of 8.2% and women entrepreneurs in India have good reason to be feeling bullish. Everywhere you look; there is an Indian woman in pursuit of the entrepreneurial dream.

While a survey by Women’s Web Women & Entrepreneurship in India 2012 shows a significant rise in female entrepreneurship in the country, there are a still few challenges that they face to achieve success.
As most of you would agree, Indian women give more emphasis than men to family ties and relationships. Married women have to make a fine balance between business and family and the business success also depends on the support other family members extend to women in the business process and management. Other key challenges include financial backing, knowledge of technology, processes and legal issues.

That said, women in India have done very well for themselves and the country.  Indra NooyiChairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo, is the most well-known face amongst Indian businesswomen, HP Managing Director Neelam Dhawan, ICICI Bank Limited Managing Director and CEO Chanda Kochhar and IBM India CMO Virginia Sharma are just a few examples that exemplify the strength of Indian women.

While there are women who have become successful businesswomen and role models for the Indian Industry, there are others including Ekta Kapoor who changed the face of Indian television, Neeta Lulla who is an Indian fashion stylist and made a mark for herself in the fashion industry and Shahnaz Husain, one of the most prominent Indian female entrepreneurs known for her herbal cosmetics and beauty products.

The above names might sound familiar to you, but I came across a very interesting start up named ‘YourNextLeap’ - A venture that was selected amongst India's most promising start-ups at Proto 2011 and UnPluggd 2011. YourNextLeap is a recommendation engine which acts as a virtual career counselor to help students make smarter career decisions. It involves a suite of applications, which use psychometric evaluations and math models on past admission patterns, to give out personalized suggestions.

And guess who is the founder & COO of the company? A woman of course! Suruchi Wagh, founded YourNextLeap which was recognized as India’s most promising Startups.

Without a doubt, more and more women are coming out of the shell and making a name for themselves and making that leap!

In my earlier blog post I discussed entrepreneurship might sound fancy, but few people realize the hardship that comes with it. To support the talent, to support the entrepreneurial dream and to support the women who are aspiring to be successful entrepreneurs, Startup Weekend is the platform to be at! For what has been a male- dominated space, women are increasingly taking over that space and leading their way.  

Startup Weekend will provide the necessary support to aspiring women entrepreneurs and also be their backbone in achieving their end goals. If you think you have it in you and have an idea to share, please be a part of the 11th event of Startup Weekend India in Delhi from September 21st – 23rd, 2012.

Register Now! And follow Startup Weekend on @swinindia  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

How Social Media Makes The World A Better Place

I’ll start this post with a question for all my readers…    
Would you agree that social media is faster than seismic waves?

Think about the last major earthquake – didn’t a lot of us reading this post tweet the moment we felt the earthquake?

It’s ironic, but instead of saving my life, I was busy tweeting about the “EARTHQUAKE.”

And so did others:

 I don’t know if I should be proud of this, but then the fact remains that as the city of Delhifelt tremors on the night of March 5, I was busier tweeting about it than actually saving my life!

To me, this incident exemplifies how badly we are hooked on social media. Just like the glitterati from the worlds of fashion and business, we Twitterati are busy seeking the attention of our followers on the Twitterverse.

That said, is social media all that bad?

Multiple instances in the recent past tell us that social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have become lifesavers. Through such platforms we are able to connect with our near and dear ones in real-time, and help in some way during calamities like earthquake, floods, fires, etc.

In fact, in recognition of the growing importance of social media during natural disasters and calamities, the American Red Cross, in collaboration with Dell, recently unveiled a new Digital Operations Center.

The Red Cross National Disaster Operations Center is modeled after Dell’s Social Media Listening Command Center, and uses Dell technology solutions and consulting services. In one of my earlier posts, I wrote about how Dell has been listening to its consumers through the launch of a dedicated Social Media Listening command center.

With this partnership, Dell isn’t just listening to what consumers have to say about its brands, but is helping people across the globe at the time of natural calamities as well.

According to a press release issued to announce the unveiling of Digital Operations center, this center will help Red Cross to:
  •          Source additional information from affected areas during emergencies to better serve those who need help;
  •          Spot trends and better anticipate the public’s needs; and
  •          Connect people with the resources they need, like food, water, shelter or even emotional support.

Isn’t it amazing how social media is being used for humanitarian causes? I firmly believe this is a great example of how a social organization can better prepare itself for humanitarian action in the 21st century.

That’s what I think… but what do you think?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Startup Weekend - Transforming entrepreneurship in India

“I want to be an Entrepreneur” Sounds Fancy…Isn’t it? I’m sure most of you agree with me…but it’s easier said than done. Everyone wants to be their own boss but little do they realize the hardship that comes along with being an entrepreneur.

While you may have some great ideas but to execute them is the real challenge. Not only does one need some support and handholding, few ideas need an initial investment which might be difficult for young entrepreneurs to gather and kick start their startup!

There are a lot of factors that restrict the youth of our country to take up entrepreneurship seriously. The common things that I get to hear from people around me include – lack of good mentors and parental pressure which stops them to think and do things differently.

While most of the youngsters are looking for good mentoring to help them formulate their ideas better, there are others who are burdened with the parental pressure on them to become a Doctor, Engineer or a Lawyer! Phew!

But there is a place where all such like-minded people can gather, share and discuss ideas. What can work and what can’t is for the judges to decide…but you get at least one chance to get your ideas heard.

One such group, which will hear you and support you is the ‘Startup Weekend’ - a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities.

Here’s a sneak peek into the Startup Weekend community:

There should be a sigh of relief for the ‘to-be-entrepreneurs’ in our country as Startup Weekend can provide all the support and mentoring one would need. All you need is a Vision and Mission and a great idea!

Startup Weekend India has been bringing together people from across the country on a common platform to present their ideas. These ideas if liked by the panelists which consists of angelists, venture capitalists and the likes from across corporates, support the young pool of talent and handhold them to reach their ultimate goal. Not only does startup weekend provides a platform where your ideas are heard but also supports the entrepreneurs financially.

Startup Weekend India has successfully organized 8 events till now across the country and has been a force behind a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs to follow their dreams and pursue entrepreneurship full time.

Do you have it in you? Is there an idea that isn’t letting you sleep?? Come, join the group and share your ideas…you might be the next CEO of a $100 billion company! 

Friday, July 6, 2012

How Nissan Micra Rode the Social Media Bandwagon

Finally! I have a new car!

It took me just 24 hours to gather advice from my friends and family and decide which car to buy (unlike how my dad used to endlessly agonize over the same decision).

Social tools have helped break down barriers between people, and information sharing has become far easier and quicker. These days, it moves really quickly… we now get to know about earthquakes around the world on social media platforms even before the news reaches broadcasters.

Facebook is becoming the ubiquitous answer to all the questions you could possibly have. It still doesn’t bet Google, but if you want an opinion from your family and friends, Facebook will give it to you in  real time.
According to a Mckinsey report, social media enables a consumer’s decision-making journey. It further states that monitoring what people say about your brand is important, as it is seen as a core function of social media, relevant across the entire consumer decision journey.

And speaking of buying cars, Nissan Motor Company came up with a social media campaign to engage younger Indian drivers for the launch of its “Micra.”

According to an article in the Economic Times, the Micra, which was positioned as a low-cost car for young Indians, saw sales of a little over 12,000 units in the nine months between July 2010 and March 2011.
And that’s when its Communication team thought that it needed to do something different to engage young Indians to buy their first car.

Like most of companies in India, Nissan signed a Bollywood celebrity (Ranbir Kapoor) as brand ambassador. However, to use a different celebrity approach in their communication and outreach efforts, they created a Facebook campaign to create “buzz.”

Entitled “Nissan Star of India,” the Facebook campaign started in September 2011. What made it different? To reel India’s star-crazy youth in, the company gave people a chance to act with Ranbir Kapoor in a commercial for Micra.

What did the contest entail?

People who visited Nissan’s Facebook page had to upload a video of themselves. After an initial lull, the buzz began when a teenager uploaded a candid dance video of hers.

This attracted a lot of traffic to Nisaan Micra’s Facebook page, and encouraged other young people to participate.

Over October and November 2011, Nissan selected the best videos and picked 20 winners. But that wasn’t all; around the same time, to create buzz about the winners and Micra launch, the company began on-the-ground activities across high street malls in nine cities.

According to the Economic Times article, through this online campaign, Nissan India received 538,712 likes on its Facebook page. A little over 7,400 people on the site were talking about it, and the final 4.5 minute video has been seen by 50,722 (and counting) people on YouTube.

And Nissan sold a little under 31,000 Micras since launch till end-March.

I thought this was a pretty innovative campaign… but what about you? What do you think about the company’s use of Facebook and YouTube? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment below.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

When the Bull Barged in on a Lazy Tuesday Afternoon

It was a lazy Tuesday afternoon. 

Everyone was swamped with work, staring at their laptop screens, and all of a sudden I heard, “Do you want a can, Ma’am?”

And that’s what it did to me the very moment I saw a Red Bull on my workstation. The cans opened, one by one, and the whole office was bursting with music and energy.

What a Tuesday it was! Without a doubt, Red Bull did a fantastic job of offline PR for its brand.
But while the Bull has managed to energize many with free flowing cans at various offices, it hasn’t managed to capture the same energy on social platforms.

Online and offline PR can (and should) go in sync and, for a particular campaign like this, engaging the audience through Twitter/Facebook/YouTube could have taken the campaign to a different level altogether.

In terms of integrated marketing communications (IMC),  I believe Red Bull is still applying an above the line (ATL) and below the line (BTL) approach for its communication strategy.

While direct marketing, PR, advertising, personal selling, and online processes are imperatives for any company to deliver its messages, it’s essential to deliver these messages in an integrated way.

A unified message has more impact than several disjointed ones.

In the digital age, companies need to showcase what a brand is doing for its audience. And this is where platforms like Twitter/Facebook/YouTube come into play.

For example, things that Red Bull could have done better:
  • #givesyouwings is trending on Twitter and the company is doing a great job with it. However, pasting a sticker saying something like, “If it gives you wings, why not tweet about it… with #givesyouwings?” would have engaged people to share online what they were up to;
  • Although Red Bull distributed a Red Bull shaped pamphlet with some facts about the drink, the audience could be even more energized and engaged if they had been asked to capture the energy around them through a video after the cans were distributed. These could then uploaded on YouTube, followed by sharing on Facebook and Twitter;
  • To engage the audience further, Red Bull could have run a video contest. Those getting the maximum online views and “likes” could get a chance to work at the Red Bull HQ for a month!
  • With just a few simple steps, the word could have reached a whole host of people sitting in different parts of the world.

I believe the Bull managed to lure a lot of people in. If the outreach efforts had been in sync just a little more (such as the ideas I suggested above), it would have been a fantastic online and offline PR campaign.

What do you think? Do you think more companies should be following IMC principles as they approach social media outreach, or not? Either way, I’d love to hear your opinion.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Flash Mobs Go Social in India

What the iPhone is to smart phones, flash mobs are to marketing.

As organizations all over the globe try to use smart moves to attract and retain customers, the recent and ongoing turbulence in the global economy has only intensified this need.

While a slew of such campaigns have taken place in India, one that caught the fancy of many is the recent flash mob organized by the IBM OnDemand Community.

If numbers could speak, 19,000 views (and counting) for this YouTube video (on YouTube) is pretty impressive. It is interesting to see how companies – both large and small – are taking the social route to engage audience.

Keeping the IBM flash mob in square focus, while IBM was one of the first technology firms to champion the idea in India, using social media (Twitter) has only helped to further the reach of this effort.

Here’s another example: a flash mob was organized “just for fun” towards the end of 2011, where nearly 200 people in Mumbai pulled off a four-minute jig at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (where the terror attacks of 2008 began).

And in New Delhi, around 50 Delhiites took the city by surprise with a similar tactic. While there were 200 people who participated, there were over 2,500 views online on YouTube.

Flash mobs have a way of engaging the audience. So CMOs globally (and in India) are taking flash mobs to social platforms to give them a new lease of life.

As you can see from these examples, the reach of such activities without the use of Twitter and YouTube would not be as high.

While the key is to use flash mobs to garner attention from the onlookers, social media helps to improve their repeat audience as well as capture fresh eyeballs for the gig.

Over and above that, 19,000 views (going back to the IBM video) also helps the CMO prove a great viral impact to its internal stakeholders – particularly when it only took 75 IBMers to make it happen!

While IBM India pulled together a great show, there were aspects of the event that deserved more attention, particularly on Twitter. While tweets by the IBM team reached a lot of folks on Twitter, the company did poorly when it came to the related hashtag (#IBMFlashMob) trending.

Given the number of employees IBM has in the country, it shouldn’t have been very challenging to bring them together and make the hashtag trend, so that it reached a larger number of Twitter users.

That said, IBM has been one of the tech giants to take a step forward and try to be different in its approach to reach out to the audience.

Do you think others are going to follow suit? Do share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Measurement In PR - Some Lessons Learnt From #measurePR

Few weeks back I joined a Bi-weekly chat on twitter about measuring PR (#measurePR) and I take this opportunity to thank @Shonali to introduce it to me. I’d also like to thank the few guests who I could connect with through this chat including @alanchumley, @kdpaine and @prtini who brought to the table few very interesting insights on measurement.

#measurePR helped me understand how important it is to measure your campaigns time-to-time. It also taught me the different ways to measure online/offline campaigns, the tools which can help an individual/company measure their activity in much better and quicker way.

While I understood that a sustainable practice to measure PR was the key to success, it was interesting to learn that successful measurement is about measuring the outcomes and not just the outputs. It doesn’t ends there. It is very important to analyze, implement and keep improving in order to achieve goals.

Through this chat I gathered that measurement is not just about collecting stacks of clips and showing it to the client. While the “n” number of clips might sound exciting to share with the client, but if at the end of the day, it doesn’t add value to the client’s business, it is a sheer waste. Hence, I reiterate the fact that measurement is not about stacks of clips.

Digital PR is a next step in the PR eco-system. Having said that, while the number of likes on facebook or followers on twitter is also taken as a means to measurement, at the same time it is also important to engage the target audience through such a platform to achieve better results.

These were few things I learnt through this chat and if you are reading this post, I shall see you at the next #measurePR chat on March 6th , 2012; 10:30 PM IST!

Till then, stay tuned and share your thoughts below…

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Transformational Journey of Dell - from Hell-being to Well-being

It was back in June 2005, when Dell Inc. received some major complaints concerning its customer support services. Blogger Jeff Jarvis who coined his blog as “Dell Hell” posted a series of negative blogs about the Dell laptop he’d purchased. Within days, his post caught the attention of others who also had bad customer experience and “Dell Hell” began to catch the attention of the mainstream media. While Dell was surrounded in the negative limelight, it continued silence on the issue which resulted in Dell’s dipping sales and reputation.

Listen-engage-act is the mantra of success for companies/brands in the social media space. While Dell was late to realize the power of online communication, but today it has the most sought after social media communication strategy.

A year after the incident, Dell launched its own blog named Direct2Dell. It further expanded its blogging platform by including a blog for employees and investors. According to Dell, in 2006, at least 50% of Dell’s online conversation was negative. A year later, the negative online conversation was reduced to 23%. While Direct2Dell was one of the ways to engage customers in online conversation, Dell recently launched its own dedicated 'Social Media Listening Command Centre' in Texas head office, in order to track, monitor and respond to consumer conversation online including applications like Twitter and Facebook.

The company's command centre has multiple display screens and manned stations which track web mentions across the globe. It’s also remarkable to note that Dell launched SMAC University (Social Media and Community) to train its employees on various aspects of social media and since then it has trained 5000 staff.

Michael Dell, CEO, Dell Inc. said it right that “You want to have big ears and be tuned in to what’s going on out there in the marketplace.” It is fascinating to see that the top management in the organization is realizing the business value of social media and championing the initiative. Dell is an excellent example of how social media can be used by organizations to improve customer experience.

I believe the Social Media Listening Command Centre is an excellent way to listen, engage and act to the customers’ real time. All this totally shows that Dell has made a strong come-back in the online media and learnt from the mistake once made back in 2005! What do you think?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

#SocialNetwork in the air...

Call it social media, social network or internet; this web is not just restricted to connecting people on earth but now also in the air! Meet & Seat, the new social tool is going to be introduced this year by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines - part of Air France KLM. While this tool definitely sounds interesting but personally, I’m unsure about the success of this tool due to various factors which follow below:

· Will I really bother to find an air-mate for few hours?

· Will I bother to while away time online for searching the one-an-only person who I could talk to in the aircraft?

· Will I be comfortable sharing my personal information with a stranger?

These were some basic questions that were spinning around my head when I read about this latest concept. While I may worry about the questions stated above but somewhere this tool can work wonders for people - may be you can crack a business deal sitting with a person from the same industry….or you can make a friend for lifetime!

It’s interesting to observe that the tool will work with Facebook and Linkedin, but not Twitter. I wonder why they opted out Twitter.

Social media is not just a tool anymore; it has become like a nerve in a human body. If it breaks down, you are so dead!