Moon versus Moonlight

Friday, January 6, 2012 Posted by

By Abhijit Bam (CXO – Estuary Labs)

In the Online Space the client wants the Moonlight but the right Online Partner can take the client over the Moon.

I met a really old school friend today in the afternoon. We are both introverts by nature and so I guess we never really spoke back when we were young. But today as mature adults (not sure of the mature part but I will make an assumption here) we had a great chat about business, synergies to be explored and most importantly the kind of work we would like to do. One of the things we talked about is how are clients wanting to get helped in the Online Space? Here is my 2 cents on this.

For most clients when they speak to a vendor and need help in the Offline space (meaning not Online space) the gap between what they say they want (I want the Moon) versus what they really need (I need Moonlight) is huge. In the Online space this somehow gets reversed. The client says I want the Moonlight but the right partner (not vendor) can actually take the client over the moon in the Online space.

I got thinking (I actually do that once in a while) about this a little bit. My opinion on how most organizations approach the Online space is by looking at a set of vendors (rather than a partner) who all operate with their individual strengths. I think that the following kinds of firms (vendors) offer solutions to clients in the online space:

  • Creative firm (read Advertising agency)
  • Strategy firm (read Consulting firm)
  • Internet Marketing company (firm that specializes in SEO, PPC space)
  • Social Media firm
  • Software firm
  • User Experience/Product Experience firm
  • Online Experience Training firm.

Each vendor firm adds value to the client and has its on take on how to deliver the best value to the client in the online space. Most organizations freeze on maybe one or two vendor firms to help them with their Online Direction since these firms have pitched to them from their strength perspective. Does the client get complete value? Ofcourse not. Let me elaborate this with a few situations:

  • Great strategic concepts presented non-creatively fail to get the result they ideally should.
  • A fantastic SEO, PPC campaign done without the right strategy will not give the desired results.
  • An online product developed by a software company without the right user experience fails to evoke the response it otherwise should.

The net result is that the client suffers.

What this probably means is that the client really needs a Blackbox kind of solution with all the specialist firms putting together their specialist skillsets. All of these skillsets will rarely rest under one roof. This is where I believe that new business models will be built around creative collaborations between these specialist vendors to create a win-win situation for every player in the ecosystem.

Are clients that mature to understand this and do they really want to be on the Moon when their expectation is the Moonlight? Not sure. Everything is questioned till it is done. Who believed man could be on the Moon one day till it was done. The time is right for these specialist online vendors to work together and put together their “Aggregated Neil Armstrong” solution for the client.

The “Web ke” the “Panchis”

Friday, December 9, 2011 Posted by

By Abhijit Bam (CXO – Estuary Labs)

Farhan Akhtar was awesome in Zindagi Na Mile Dubara and funny as crazy. The Prem ke the Panchis line that he says made me think in the context of the online medium.  Just like the love birds in that film (and in life as well) want to be together and hangout together – In the online space the “The Web Ke The Panchis” also love to hang out together.

To explain this let me explain the concept of “homophily”–the tendency for humans to connect to and bond with those with common backgrounds, interests and values. Today’s Social Web provides even greater opportunities to connect with people we wouldn’t encounter in physical life.  The concept of homophily is actually reinforced by the features provided by the social web.  Eg – We are pointed to people like us (“other people who bought this item also bought “) and social networking sites where we connect with friends of friends of friends and we become part of groups where people have the same designations (eg. CIO, CEO groups).  This probably leads us to associate online primarily with those people who think as we do.

We are naturally attracted to people like us since it makes us feel safe to say “me too” and to find our clan of like-minded believers. Is that right or wrong I am not too sure about and don’t think one way or the other.  But the fact is that birds of a feather do flock together in the online space.

Design Thinking – What is it all about?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 Posted by

By Abhijit Bam (CXO – Estuary Labs)

Enjoyed a wonderful meeting with an ex CEO of a very large IT firm today in my office. This gentlemen is building a product in the mobile space and from the discussions that we had it seems like this will be a really good product. We started our meeting doing some small talk and then I gave Gyan (I call it Gyan. Others might call it whatever!) on what we do and our business divisions, our services, and other things which I thought are important (he might have thought completely differently) and then we got to talking business.

Apparently this gentleman had reviewed our site so well that he knew some things on our site which even I didn’t remember. And he asked me a question which I have not been asked in India by anyone yet – “How is this Design Thinking bit related to your business?” How long have I been waiting to hear this question from someone? For as long as I can remember. We used to position ourselves as a Strategic Design firm and now have changed our positioning to Strategic Online Experience. We follow a Design Thinking approach in all our work. We used to use the words “Design Thinking” when meeting decision makers in organizations and the looks that we got for that convinced us to drop the words. In short India is just opening up to the idea of having Design Thinkers.

So let me briefly explain what Design Thinking is. But before that let me take a step back and talk about Design by itself. Design is not just making things look beautiful but also about making things work beautifully. The convergence of Design and Business is at the core of Design Thinking. Design Thinking is a blend of Creative & Logical, Intuitive & Analytical, Right Brain & Left Brain thinking. For details on this please read more from Roger Martin at http://rogerlmartin.com/devotions/design-thinking/. Every single business owner I know is some kind of a Design Thinker. Most business owners use their creative and logical sides, their intuitive and analytical skills and both the left and right side of their brains in their day to day business activities. Most don’t understand that this is happening but it is. Wouldn’t it be nicer to be aware of this and follow a structured design thinking process to get even better results.

Getting back to answering the CEO  – We shared our process partly, he saw our office with the Sticky Notes, Charts, Sketch Pens, Post Its all around, and the work we have done was evidence enough for him to understand how we have applied Design Thinking in the online space. I just wish and hope that there would be many more Design Thinkers in the Online space and make this medium even more exciting.

Can the “Flash Mob at Mumbai CST” video ever catch up with Dhanush’s “Kolaveri Di” video?

Thursday, December 1, 2011 Posted by

By Abhijit Bam (CXO – Estuary Labs)

As per Wikipedia  a flash mob is “a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, or artistic expression.”

One such kind of Flash Mob happened on 27 November, 2011, where a group of 200 dancers were seen grooving to a song at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai, one of the busiest railway stations in India. The station’s announcement system was used for playing the title track from the film Rang De Basanti, whilst participants were aged between 4 and 60. These 200 people wanted to pay tribute to the people who lost their lives in the Nov 26th, 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai. It is a captivating 4 min odd video and am sure this is going viral.

But a question I really want to raise is that will it beat the “Kolaveri” rage that has happened online? After all the Dhanush video was just a fun song but this Mumbai Flash mob has a message to it. It might or it might not. Too early to judge since the video is only 3 days old. The answer though lies in the fact that the viral growth of users of this video will depend on a term called “Viral Coefficient”. The higher the Viral Coefficient the bigger will be the impact.

The concept is pretty simple: a product uses its customers to spread itself to other potential customers, leveraging the strong endorsement that comes from the knowledge of the person referring the product (in this case this Video). The lesser the frictions to such a process, the faster the product will spread around. The higher the quality and usefulness of the product (or, more in general, its intrinsic value to the potential customer), the more likely the customer will be to promote it. The concept of viral marketing is pretty simple.

Viral Coefficient calculation -  If you promote a product to 50 people, and assume each one of these 50 people have 50 people (read friends) and refer that product to all of them. Assume the uptake rate is 2%, then the viral coefficient is:
Viral Coefficient = No. of People Referred X Uptake ratio. In the above case the viral coefficient is equal to 50 X 2% = 1

1 isn’t a great viral coefficient. With any viral coefficient below 1, the growth will quickly plateau preventing the viral growth to actually kick in. Higher the viral coefficient, the faster the resulting viral growth, and therefore the higher the number of customers at any given point in time.

To calculate the number of users at any given point in time the formula is:
User Base at Time T = (User Base at Time T-1) + (New Users at Time T-1) X (viral coefficient)
Therefore, at any given point in time the user population is equal to the population a period before + the latest new users multiplied by the viral coefficient.

Also what is important is the Viral Speed. It is the amount of time each step takes. If it takes 20 years to refer then even a Viral Coefficient of 2 would not lead to too much growth. If it takes a day and the Viral Coefficient is 2 then every day you have a doubling of the user population, and in 33 days you reached 4+ billion people.  At some point though the viral coefficient (and therefore the viral growth) slows down and reaches a plateau, the reason being that we are all interconnected, and the more it spreads, the higher the chances our contacts have already been reached and expressed their interest or lack of interest.

So does this answer the question of will the Flash Mob Mumbai video become as big a hit as the Kolaveri Di video? No it does not. Hindi films often have this dialogue – “Ab Sab kuch upar wale ke haath mai hai”. But in the online world “Ab sab kuch aapke click par hai”. Play your small part and brag how you have contributed to growing the”Viral Coefficient” for this Flash Mob Video by sharing this with your friends. May be then this could become as big a hit as Kolaveri..

Does your organization say what it does and does what it say in the Online space?

Thursday, December 1, 2011 Posted by

By Abhijit Bam (CXO – Estuary Labs)

The image above is the ad for British Airways that appears on the back side of the Outlook magazine. The ad has a brilliant copy. It is simple and it got me smiling for most of the ad until I reached the last line. The call to action “Book now at ba.com” is a complete let down for me. BA says all the good things in the ad and finally trys to ensure that business happens by asking one to book a ticket!! What happened to the Congeniality, Being in Good hands, To Serve, Experience Hospitality part covered in the ad? Wouldn’t it be ideal to say “Experience British Airways at ba.com” Personally this would be worth a visit to the site than the first call to action.

Post reading that ad I just took a quick glance at the site. The home page takes you to a neat simple page with not a single ounce of “hospitality” anywhere on the page. It talks only about the airline and no where about the customer and how they serve or add value to the customer. It says click to see “US site” and “UK site” on the home page. And nothing about India on the home page. Also it makes me go and select the India option from a drop down to see country specific information. Do I feel “Hospitable”? Certainly not.

I have just picked on BA because I saw a wonderfully written ad(although with a not so good call to action) while going through Outlook. It could have been any other firm as well. The point though is that the gap in the print ad and what is seen in the online space is massive. What I get promised in print does not even get translated to the online experience and so will it translate at all to the real experience? Will I really get what I am promised? I formed my opinion based on what I saw online.

It’s another story that BA is a good airline and am sure they offer all that they promise. But wouldn’t one just feel more assured if the online experience and the print experience just matched? My answer is a resounding yes.

Why is Kolaveri Kolaveri hit???

Saturday, November 26, 2011 Posted by

By Sagar Deshpande 

All the soup boys, I bet, must be singing to the tunes of the soup (breakup) song “Why this Kolaveri di”, The Super hit Song sung by Tamil actor Dhanush. This Tanglish sensation has not only hooked on the entire nation but also gathered attention from the rest of the world.

Apart from Dhanush being the son in law of ‘The Rajnikant’ (Do I say more why it had to be a hit?), here are few more interesting facts about the song I found out through the internet;

Isn’t it wonderful? How can a song get such a monstrous popularity with minimal initial investment in advertising? (Comparing to Ra.one I would say their investment would be in negative).
The answer to all the questions lies in two words: Social Media.

Now allow me to take you through what made Kolaveri so popular through Social media:

Originality: Be original in what you post and share through social media
Simplicity: Keep it simple, Simple to understand and at the same time engaging
Right audience and Tap the network of one: Share it with the right audience, and let the dominoes fall one after other.
Don’t stop at Facebook: Other Social media sites are powerful enough to send strong messages.
Social Media is not the end: Other Medias exists too (and they will run behind you to cover your success story).

For those who still don’t understand the depth of strategising a powerful social media campaign, will surely sing the following lyrics of the song:

“Hand la glass,
Glass la scotch,
Eyes-u full-aa tear-u”

Is Your Organizations Online Reputation Important to You?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 Posted by

By Abhijit Bam (CEO – Estuary Labs)

Online Reputation

My BlackBerry phone has shut down about 2 days back and I am waiting for my BlackBerry magician friend from “Magic Collections” to come and fix it. Till then I am using this pink Nokia phone which my wife used to own but has been lying around at home since the time even she has shifted to a Blackberry. So using this pink Nokia gives an impression of me being a Japanese school girl. Thanks Nokia for being a saviour but will still prefer my BlackBerry any day at the risk of being called a Japanese school girl – “Moshi Moshi”! My reputation as a business owner is at serious risk here if I continue using this cell phone in public.

It reminds me of an Oscar Wilde quote: “One can survive everything nowadays, except death, and live down anything, except a Good Reputation”

This applies to your organization’s reputation as well. Your organization’s reputation is like a piece of clean white paper. How do you feel when someone scribbles all over it, crumples it, tears it and throws the torn pieces away? Your organization’s reputation can go for a toss. And if the space is Online the reputation could go for a toss with the speed at which a badminton shuttle travels.

So it is important to maintain an organization’s online reputation by setting up Strategic Online Reputation Management Systems. It is important to strategize, listen, monitor, report and react to online feedback and opinions about the organization, its people, products and services.

“Prevention is better than Cure” is something we all know. So why wait till your organization suffers from an Online Cardiac Arrest? Get a health check done on your organization’s online reputation right away.

The Difference between Market Research and User Research and why both are needed

Monday, November 21, 2011 Posted by

By Abhijit Bam (CXO – Estuary Labs)

For most people if one needs to know anything about the Market for a product or service then what one needs to do is Market Research. The common school of thought it that Market research is the answer for any information that one might need for getting answers to problems or even new features or for testing the market for product acceptability. This is not wrong but this is not right either. This is where another area called User Research comes into the picture. Both of them are needed for the business (any kind of business – be it online business, manufacturing company or a service sector firm).

What is Market Research?
Market research is the systematic gathering, recording, and analysis of data to identify the potential market or to determine the acceptance for a particular product or service, especially amongst different demographics. It is used to establish which portion of the population will purchase a product or a service, based on age, gender, location, income level and many other variables.

What is User Research?
It is body of knowledge assembled by a research team to establish and understand the context through scientific research methods. The context includes people and their relationships with cultural, political, economical, social, technological environment around them. User research forms the foundation for:
1. Empathetically understand user needs, wants and aspirations
2. Mapping business opportunity areas
3. Articulating business goals
4. Designing and positioning a contextually appropriate product or service

Differences between Market Research and User Research
Market Research and User Research are conducted at different points in the product/service lifecycle and have different goals. Both the activities however complement each other very well. Given below is a table indicating the differences:

Market Research User Research
Focus – Market:Aims to identify potential markets which includes understanding who will buy which product/services and opinions about a product/service. Focus – Context:User research focuses on user, his needs and environment around, how and in what circumstances users use products and services, and observes what people actually do.
Buying:What products or services people are willing to buy? Usage:What are the usage patterns of a specific product or service? In which environment(s) do they use?
Customers:Which segments of people are willing to buy a defined product or service? Users:Will the product or service satisfy the needs and expectations of user?
Competitors:Who are the competitors? What are the key success factors in the given industry? Comparison:In which way people use competitor’s products/services differently for doing same task? How the product/service can provide convenience over existing products.
Attributes: What features and attributes of a product or service is important for a buying decision? Implementation: How is a feature or group of features implemented? Efficiency, Learnability, Memorability, Errors, Subjective Satisfaction.
Opinion Based: Aims to understand what people say about products and services. Observation Based:Observes what and how people interact with products and services and not what they say.
Big Sample Size: Needs huge number (800 – 2000) of respondents to get statistically accurate results. Very Small Sample Size: Needs only 5-15 participants in a particular group for statistically relevant as well as for uncovering most issues.
Demography Based: Buying patterns change across smaller geographies. So research is needed in many cities, town, and villages. Culture Based: Usage patterns change with change in sub-cultures. So, research is not needed across similar cities. The results are going to be similar.

Productize Your Services

Friday, November 18, 2011 Posted by

By Abhijit Bam (CXO – Estuary Labs)

I am of the opinion that every service centric organization needs to build a product for itself. In the long run I think the economic impact of building a successful product is something that cannot be ignored.  The challenge though for most organizations is to get out of the service thinking mode and get into a product mode.

Most businesses need not worry too much about how to build products. You will always find expertise to build it. What you need to focus on is what to build? You are the expert in your field and no one (who is going to help you build a product) knows more about your business and your domain than you. In short you are the “Idea Man” for your product. The product “Building Man” can only help implement your idea. Most importantly you are also the “Sales Man” for your product.

What kind of product should one build? I think building a technology (read software) product is the right direction since they are easier, faster, and cost effective to build. Maybe an online product is the best direction ahead since it has the biggest reach and the market is ready for online products. This is the future. My 68 year old father uses Facebook today and my 5 yr old daughter watches online videos and my 9 yr old son knows exactly what to go and Google. I am making an obvious point that online is the way to go and the next decade will see this explosion.

Whatever the nature of your business you can still build an online product. We recently proposed a boutique men’s ethnic wear brand with building an online product. The online product will touch the various business functions of Operations, Marketing, and Sales. If a small boutique brand can do this, I believe every other business could do so. The catch though is that the Head of the Organization needs to have that mindset. This small boutique brand owner has seen something which the others in his industry have not. I believe this will be a big impact for his brand once this gets implemented.

So sit back and take a hard look at your business and expect to come up with a product idea. Remember that “When the student is ready the teacher will appear”. When you decide to build a product the one’s who are going to help you do that will be all around you…

Indian Retail Jewellery Stores – Scary Online Presences

Thursday, November 17, 2011 Posted by

By Abhijit Bam (CXO – Estuary Labs)

Spent extensive time today reviewing the online presence of Waman Hari Pethe Jewellers, Chintamnani Jewellers, Lagu Bandhu, Marathe Jewellers, TBZ.  Why only these? Because a prospective customers considers that to be as his competition. If I was in the market to buy jewellery and would have had to make a decision to buy based on their web presences I would probably not buy anything. I am not sure why they have not spent the time and the resources (trust me Money is not an issue with either of them) to really exploit (yup exploit is the word) the power of the online space. All of them are as bad or as good!!! They need help is what I think..

Then there is “Tanishq”. Completely stands out compared to the rest. Like the way they have done things. One can always say that they are backed by the Tatas and hence they have the time and the money and the resources to do it right. I think even a small enterprise (jeweller) could do what Tanishq has done. It is just a matter of understanding the power of the online medium and what you could do with it beyond just websites and FB posts and Tweets.e customers considers that to be as his competition. If I was in the market to buy jewellery and would have had to make a decision to buy based on their web presences I would probably not buy anything. I am not sure why they have not spent the time and the resources (trust me Money is not an issue with either of them) to really exploit (yup exploit is the word) the power of the online space. All of them are as bad or as good!!! They need help is what I think..

My head is buzzing with at least 5 different ideas on how a strategic experience can be created for a jeweller in the online space. Ideas in my head are only as good as I think they are. I expect the prospective retail jewellery company that we are talking with to pick them out of my head and implement them. Only then will I get my “Gold” (medal).