Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pepsi ropes in Mamata Banerjee as its brand ambassador

Hours after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced her plans to paint Kolkata blue to celebrate her one year in power, Soft Drink giant Pepsi has shaken the ad world by signing the Chief Minister as its next brand ambassador.

In a press conference held at Kolkata, the India head of marketing at Pepsico Miss Nilima Nilopadhyay (name changed temporarily as a part of the current campaign), explained further details about their strategy. “The colour blue has always been associated with Pepsi. We are glad to observe that Kolkata has finally embraced blue after years of red – which was obviously due to the influence of a certain competitor.”

She went on to explain deeper similarities between the Pepsi brand and the way Mamata Banerjee is ruling the state. “Our tagline – Change the Game – is exactly what Didi is doing as far as governance is concerned. Challenging traditional objectives of development and growth while focussing on a uber cool blue image for the state!” 

With the end of IPL round the corner and thus the risk of cricketers, footballers and Ranbir Kapoor  losing their impact [the latter risk being independent of IPL], this move is being seen by advertising industry professionals as a masterstroke by Pepsi. 

Unconfirmed sources have pointed out that Pepsi may move back to its old tagline with a minor modification while featuring Miss Banerjee – “Yeh Didi maange more” – a suggestion sent to Pepsi by the Finance Ministry because of the repeated requests for larger packages for the state of West Bengal. 

When approached for his comments on this development, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said, “Even the great Rabindra Nath Tagore wrote – “Where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high” – did he not mean ‘Sir utha ke jiyo” by that?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Idea 3G targets afterlife market – makes life more difficult for UPA

Idea 3G has caused further commotion in the UPA government with its new ad campaign in which it gives clear indications of targeting the as yet untapped afterlife market. The opposition was quick to react to the ads, demanding an explanation from the government about how the afterlife spectrum was allocated.

This is the latest in a series of innovative business strategies used by Idea, which earlier made an attempt to partner with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to help control the population of India. However, the Ministry politely declined the offer for the partnership saying that it was a bad idea and Idea was thus forced to move on with its next idea.

“This is a huge opportunity waiting to be exploited. Now you can use 3G services even in your afterlife. Not even death can separate us from our customers. ”, said a visibly emotional Idea 3G marketing manager on the condition of anonymity, as he said he got threatening calls from all over the country after he had masterminded the population control ad campaign, though he admitted he still had no clue why he was being targeted.

However, the opposition was quick to launch another attack on the already troubled UPA government.  Arnab Goswami, anchor of the popular discussion show News Hour, added fire to the opposition’s voice.  “The nation wants to hear how the spectrum allocation was made. This seems to be a clear case of favoritism towards one company. Why aren’t other companies targeting this market yet? We only see Abhishek Bachchan promoting this afterlife network, but what about Ranbir Kapoor? The poor chap is playing an old man and still trying to sell DoCoMo to mortals. This is unfair”

When contacted, the Congress spokesperson Mr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi refused to comment. “I am trying to contact the High Command but my Idea network signal is weak”, he said.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Government reveals reforms agenda, mulls over FDI in corruption [#satire]

Continuing with its stance on economic reforms, the Government of India is on course for taking  a revolutionary step which will officially allow FDI in corruption. The Finance Minister, in an exclusive interview with our correspondent, disclosed the Government’s intention. 

“Our Government is committed to growth. Opening up corruption to foreign players will make us more competent and also help in bringing in foreign capital that will improve Rupee’s position vis-à-vis the Dollar. This will also help in making corruption more transparent”, explained the minister.   

Although, there have been past instances of foreign involvement in India’s booming corruption sector, this is the first time the Government is proposing to ease regulations so as to encourage greater foreign participation. 

The Finance Minister revealed that the Government had approached IIPM to carry out a detailed study to help them take a call in this matter. The Government chose IIPM considering the institute’s global exposure, which would help them in analysing foreign perception for this sector in India. When our correspondent contacted Mr. Arindam Chaudhuri , he sounded upbeat about the government’s proposal. “Corruption in India is a huge unorganized market, growing at a mind boggling CAGR of 420% over the last 10 years, similar growth is expected till at least FY20. Also, this sector has shown growth independent of which political party is in power, thus reducing the political risk of such investments. Allowing foreign players to be a part of this growth story will help us discover the diamond in ourselves”

However, opposition parties seemed unanimous in opposing any such proposal by the Government. “There is no clarity regarding this. What will be our cut? And will we get that in Rupees or Dollars?” asked an opposition party MP, on condition of anonymity. 

Meanwhile, Credit Rating agency Substandard & Poor quickly restored India’s soverign credit rating, after claiming to have ‘accidentally’ downgraded the same after the Finance Minister’s announcement. “The Government is certainly on the right track. Corruption has huge potential, we just had some taste of it after the ‘accidental’ downgrade!”, said a company official with a wink. 

“Now they will make me slap foreigners too!”, a certain Harvinder Singh commented on the development.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Piggybacking on competitors' ad spends [Marketing vs Sales]

I saw the Quikr ad that shows a girl who sells her mobile before the ball that she throws up in the air falls back into her hand.

And I saw the OLX ad that claims "Yahan sab kuch bikta hai" ["Anything can get sold here"], which shows two guys managing to convince their father to sell his old desktop as they already had a buyer through OLX.

And then, I looked at my old Sony Ericsson S312 which I had respectfully retired after upgrading myself to a smartphone.

And I decided to give these sites a try!

Now then, I googled for OLX (to get the exact URL), and the first site I got was [I did not notice that followed it on the search page]. Not knowing that this was a US specific website, I registered myself on it, and then when it asked for my city etc, I reached a dead end since it only had US cities.This was a turn off and I never looked at OLX again.

I went to Quikr, and registered successfully. Put up my ad saying an awesome looking phone is up for sale. It's been about a month since I did that but still I have not got a single response from any of the 'buyers'. [Granted, that model is a bit out of fashion now!]

I almost forgot about it when few days back I got a call from Sulekha saying they saw my ad on Quikr and if my phone is not sold yet they would like to put up the same ad on Sulekha. They created an account for me and I got a mail that an account has been created and an ad has been posted. I am yet to hear from any prospective 'buyer' through Sulekha as well, but I am intrigued at how a third company which did not spend $$ on expensive TVCs at all took advantage of a market being created by its competitors (since I put my ad on Quikr in the first place more because of the TVCs that I saw of Quikr and OLX rather than any inherent need for me to sell my old mobile phone). All that the guys at Sulekha did was do a bit more of grunt work (the 'scan ads on competitor websites' part) and an awesome customer service (I did not do ANYTHING at all, except giving them an OK for creating an account and an ad, they did everything else).

Perhaps this concept might be unique to the classifieds market, as the market seems to be seller driven (OLX claims "Yahan sab kuch bikhta hai" ["Anything can get sold here"], and not "Yahan sab kuch milta hai" ["Anything can be bought here"]!. The Quikr ad also ends with "Sell Anything Quikrrrr"!) - the classifieds portals need the people willing to sell more than (or BEFORE) the people willing to buy. Plus the fact that the 'user acquisition' done by one site is out in the open (on the internet) for competing sites to see (and target). But just goes to show how YOUR sales can take advantage of THEIR marketing!

Update : Sold my mobile phone successfully through 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Does 'Google Plus' imply a 'Facebook Minus'?

Some quick (and dirty!) calculations!

Google+ was publicly launched on 28th June 2011. It started off with limited invites, and today (close to 2 weeks after the launch), almost everyone has one. Thus this is a right time to do some analysis as enough people have given Google+ a whirl by now.

Now then, Google's Market cap has jumped from 155.68 Billion USD (on 27th June 2011) to 171.54 Billion USD (on 8th July 2011). That's a rise of 10.19%, or 15.86 Billion USD in 8 trading days! However, the NASDAQ Computer Index has also risen by 7.25% in the same period. Google has a Beta of 0.61 against the NASDAQ Computer Index (on the basis of past two months data). Thus, purely using this statistic, the rise in the Google stock price attributable to the changes in the US Computer Technology industry as a whole is 4.42%. Since, no other major news has come from Google (apart from Google Plus) in the last couple of weeks, we can (as a ballpark estimate, and yes this is the 'dirty' part) attribute the rest of the increase (5.76% or ~9 Billion USD) to the perceived increase in value created by Google Plus!

9 Billion USD is HUGE! That's - well - a tad more than an entire Twitter![Twitter is valued at USD 8 billion going by the latest 400 million USD round it has raised] Facebook's latest valuation as per the last auction held by SharesPost (which happened to be on 7th July 2011) was 87.5 Billion USD. This value has remained flat as against the auction previous to this - which was on 23rd June 2011.

Now, the value created by Google Plus for the Google shareholders is not out of thin air - it is at the cost of other social networks (which effectively means Facebook). So shouldn't we see an equivalent (close to 9 Billion USD) drop in Facebook's valuation? [Assuming it's a zero sum game we should - unless we are seeing significantly new and previously unexplored possibilities with Google Plus.]

However, even Facebook has had an 'awesome' feature launch in the past week - the Video Chat service, which happened on 6th July 2011 (just one day before the bidding for the latest SharesPost auction). So effectively one can say that the value added by this feature has sort of balanced out the value snatched away by Google+. But it's difficult to believe that one single feature can do so much damage control!

It would be interesting to track how the Google stock behaves over the next few weeks, as more and more people try out Google+ (and thus the value created by it becomes more clear). Very curious to see how exactly the Facebook stock fares in the next private stock auctions (and how much of a 'minus' is Google Plus for Facebook!)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bumped [by the King of 'Goon' Times]

It was 6.15 AM and I reached the Kingfisher checkin counter at the Mumbai Airport to board a 7.15 AM flight to New Delhi. I showed my ticket and identity proof at the counter. She kept tapping at the keyboard, expressing surprise once in a while. I asked her if there is any problem. She preferred to keep tapping away as she kept staring at the screen - with expressions ranging from confusion to disappointment to distress. I wondered if she had suddenly got an E-mail from her boss saying she was fired.[The airline is known to be under severe debt. But I did not get into calculating the Debt/Equity at that time of the day] She looked towards left and then to the right for help, but both the counters seemed to be too busy (and it didn't seem like they had got any such E-mail).

I heaved a sigh of relief when she finally printed the boarding pass. But as it turned out, the relief turned into outright disbelief, when she looked at the boarding pass, frowned, tore it and threw the pieces in the dustbin!

I was shocked. It definitely did not seem like she had got a pink slip [no pun intended]. She finally blurted it out. "There are no seats available. The flight is overbooked". The tables seemed to have turned. It was now my job that suddenly seemed to be in danger (did I mention the purpose of the visit was a business meeting!)

I protested. "How is this even possible!". "I have a valid ticket!". "I have a valid identity proof" "I reached the counter well before time" "There is nothing that I have done wrong which justifies me being denied boarding" (okay, except possibly the fact that I chose to fly Kingfisher)

I so hoped that she would say - "Okay I was just kidding, since there is anyway some 15 minutes more for boarding. And since there is no one behind you in this queue, thought would play a small prank to pass time. Here's your boarding pass!"

I was in the real world though. And airline counter staff aren't known to be particularly funny in the real world. I asked her "So what next?". She said "The next flight is at 8.10 AM. We can get you a seat in that".

I said "That is not an option. I have a meeting." (I was hoping some persistence would help)

She tapped at her keyboard for a while and confirmed that no other airline to Delhi had any empty seats, and also that the next best option was the 8.10 AM Kingfisher to Delhi.

I didn't have a choice but to wait for the 8.10 flight. The issue escalating to higher authorities did not help. They all said the same thing. And as I later found out, it was not just me, but 3/4 others who had also got bumped off the same flight.

But now that the visit is done and I am back in Mumbai, I thought I should just check with the airlines and let them hear some music. Music was what they made me hear though (quite literally), as I called the helpline number and the Kingfisher Airlines jingle started playing. [On a side note, it's a good strategy to have a melodious and soothing jingle while the customer waits for 'customer care executive' - since there is a good chance that it might soften that customer's attack.]

I am yet to go past the jingle stage though, since the elusive 'customer care executive' has not picked up the call yet. Have sent them a mail and am waiting for a response.

Nevertheless, dear reader, what has your experience been with getting bumped off flights? What sort of compensation (if at all) is generally provided by the airlines? Isn't it wrong on the part of the airlines to overbook in the first place (considering there could be a situation - however slim the chance might be - that all passengers would turn up and none of them can afford to go late?)

[Disclaimer: The views expressed are purely as a customer of the service]

Update (June 30, 2011) : Received a cheque of Rs 4000 from Kingfisher Airlines as compensation. The amount is as per DGCA regulations.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

LinkedIn IPO - 'Votes' the matter?

Finally got down to reading the LinkedIn Prospectus and stumbled upon an interesting 'Risk Factor'

The dual class structure of our common stock as contained in our charter documents has the effect of concentrating voting control with those stockholders who held our stock prior to this offering, including our founders and our executive officers, employees and directors and their affiliates, and limiting your ability to influence corporate matters.

Our Class B common stock has 10 votes per share, and our Class A common stock, which is the stock we are offering in this initial public offering, has one vote per share. Stockholders who hold shares of Class B common stock, including our founders, and our executive officers, employees and directors and their affiliates, will together hold approximately 99.1% of the voting power of our outstanding capital stock following this offering, and our co-founder and Chair, Reid Hoffman, will control approximately 20.1% of our outstanding shares of Class A and Class B common stock, representing approximately 21.7% of the voting power of our outstanding capital stock, following this offering, and therefore will have significant influence over the management and affairs of the company and over all matters requiring stockholder approval, including election of directors and significant corporate transactions, such as a merger or other sale of our company or its assets, for the foreseeable future.


Future transfers by holders of Class B common stock will generally result in those shares converting to Class A common stock, which will have the effect, over time, of increasing the relative voting power of those holders of Class B common stock who retain their shares in the long term. If, for example,Mr. Hoffman retains a significant portion of his holdings of Class B common stock for an extended period of time, he could, in the future, control a majority of the combined voting power of our Class A and Class B common stock. As a board member, Mr. Hoffman owes a fiduciary duty to our stockholders and must act in good faith in a manner he reasonably believes to be in the best interests of our stockholders. As a stockholder, even a controlling stockholder, Mr. Hoffman is entitled to vote his shares in his own interests, which may not always be in the interests of our stockholders generally.

Why this makes sense is that an investor coming in an IPO, (generally) would care much lesser about the voting rights than the Pre IPO shareholders (the founding team and the VCs). And the best part is, all shareholders are rewarded with more voting rights if a Pre IPO shareholder goes for an exit (since her Class B shares get auto-converted to Class A, thus the percentage voting rights for the existing investors increase). In fact, a typical retail investor would probably not mind more 'control' in the hands of a proven management (the Class B shareholders). But would getting less voting rights be actually a 'good' thing for the small investor category? Not really, as technically the 'risk' of the 'control' being in the hands of a certain few also is not necessarily a good thing.

Come to think of it, the differential voting rights could be very useful for startups going for crowdfunding - since the 'crowd' would probably be okay with getting shares of much less voting rights and thus the founders can have more 'control' over the venture they have started. [Of course, this doesn't hold for angel and VC investors - who would want a say per share equal to that of the founders.] This seems even more appropriate for startups as against mature publicly traded firms, in the latter case the 'crowd' being okay with inferior voting rights could probably also imply that the individual investor is more concerned with making a quick buck rather than staying invested for the long term. In case of startups, since immediate exit opportunities may not be available in any case, there are more chances that the 'crowd' has come in with a long term view.

One of the major criticisms for dual class structures has been about the possibility of the superior voting right holders misusing their powers for corporate matters like executive compensation, mergers and executions, etc. However, in case of early stage startups [Pre Revenue, Pre Profits, or at best marginal profits], such issues would possibly be relatively less relevant as against mature publicly traded (and possibly billion dollar market cap) entities (where chances of greed taking over are higher).

Wonder how much is this tool being already used, but surely looks like tweaking the voting rights structure can give some flexibility that can benefit all parties.