Why do I blog?

I have been blogging for quite some time now (infact I started writing in 2004) and tons of people have asked me this question. I think its about time I answered this one honestly. On a public forum.

So why do I blog?

  1. Blogging is thinking out loud. When I write/blog, I actually put pen to paper and I think before I dare make my thoughts public. And hence when I write, it helps me think. Helps in ideating.

  2. Blogging helps create an archive of thoughts. I have always made notes on notebooks of all shapes and sizes. A blog gives me a permanent place to archive them. I can now look at what I was thinking, what I was like way back in 2004 etc.

  3. Blogging helps me connect to more people. Since the web is permanent, anyone, anywhere in the world can read my blog (with a bit of luck obviously) and can give me feedback on what I am thinking. This is simply impossible in a real world. My immediate circle of friends can only be limited and there is no guarantee that they would be interested in what I am saying.

  4. Blogging Opens up minds. Before I was blogging, I was an arrogant and a mediocre person who lived in his own self created world. I thought I knew everything and I was above all. Moment I started writing, I realized that I need to learn a lot more and there are more people who can teach me things. I am still a self-claimed mediocre but no longer an arrogant one.

  5. Blogging is fun. As simple as that. :)

I am often asked why do I copy-paste my posts on plugdd.in, venturewoods.org, mutiny.in etc. Again the answer remains the same.

  1. Platforms like these give me a larger audience to express my thoughts to and more importantly get feedback from.

  2. Writing is about reaching out and meeting more people. Independently, I can never reach the kind of audience these platforms can give me (and have given me).

  3. Finally It is also about connecting to the people who share the same ethos and ideas. Wonderful things can happen when people talk. And blogging at these platform enables conversations.

In one line, blogging for me is that constant pursuit of learning and exploration. Why do YOU blog? Is it money? fame? connections? timepass? what?

1v1: Thinking vs Meditating

In one of my email conversations on mental masturbation with a very interesting gentleman, he said
I call my approach - meditating about an issue,
as opposed to thinking about an issue.
Thinking requires knowledge and a time target,
meditation does not require either.
But meditation enables one to come up with unique solutions that thinking cannot.

I absolutely loved the idea. Thinking is about coming up with perspectives on a certain topic from your previous knowledge or acquired knowledge within a time frame and with specific results as the targets.

Meditation on the other hand is contemplating what can be. Meditation is breaking all the conventions. Its like being virgin. Its a fresh start - all the time. When you are meditating you are no longer logical and pragmatic. You become evolved in the way you think. You go beyond the obvious.

What do you do? Think? Meditate? Personally, I think I think and I need to meditate more.

Bezos on Kindle, Amazon and EC2

Jeff Bezos + Kindle

BookExpoCast.com has this podcast where Jeff Bezos talks about Kindle and then Chris Anderson (Wired Mag, The Long Tail) speaks to Jeff about publishing industry, Kindle, Amazon and Blue Origin.

The podcast is very very insightful and here are my raw notes from the podcast. Please note that these are raw notes and I scribbled them while listening to the podcast. I might have mis-understood and/or mis-interpreted the podcast but there are so many gems of wisdom that it would be a crime to not post them here.

I am breaking them into sections.

On Amazon

  1. Amazon was founded in 94. (I read later that Jeff Bezos created the Amazon business plan post his road trip across the country. I am planning to take one myself end of 2008. May be I will have some ideas too :D)

  2. When he was founding Amazon, Bezos had more than 40 meetings with 22 angel investors to raise USD 1 mn for the seed.

  3. Bezos also said more likely someone knew about the publishing business, less likely were they to invest in Amazon.

  4. One Amazon customer has bought more than 1700 books. WOW.

  5. Things like Super Saver on Amazon saves time and money or both Amazon and end customer. This helps them save by exploiting economies of scale and scope. They can ship two orders together faster.

On Kindle

  1. It took more than 3 years to develop Kindle.

  2. Kindle is a device that allows people to get books that they are looking for. And the ones they aren't looking for. Serendipity and accidental discovery of interesting books plays an important part of Kindle experience.

  3. Kindle uses electronic ink. This is different from text that we see on a computer or LCD screen

  4. While designing Kindle, the Amazon team wanted to capture few essential features of the system that they were making redundant. Things like book like form, ability to take notes, underline things etc.

  5. Other important things were weight of Kindle, ability to read in sunlight, efficient on power-consumption.

  6. The annotations and markings are stored on the Amazon servers. These are later searchable and can be accessed from anywhere.

  7. Kindle wanted to make it easy for the customer to browse the books and eventually buy more titles off the store. (The streamlined the book buying experience by integrating the buy button on recommendation engine and then not charging customer for the download separately. The cost of the network/download is bundled with the price of the book)

  8. Bezos made sure that the popular titles, including the ones on the bestsellers lists were available on Kindle right from day 1. This is important so that the customer who have spent about USD 399 on buying a device are not disappointed.

  9. Someone sent a comment "it is about the message and not about the medium" - when they were comparing reading physical books with Kindle. (This I think is very important. We can make thousands of industries redundant if we focus on the delivery of the message).

  10. Interesting statistic. About 6% of total Amazon book sales (by volume) now come from Kindle. Kindle customers buy as many physical book as eBooks. This was a surprising for even Jeff Bezos.

  11. The grand vision for Kindle is all books ever published in any language anywhere in the world made available to you in less than 60 seconds. Which in my opinion is as large as a PC on every desktop. Kudos to Jeff Bezos for this grand a vision and ACTUALLY making it come to life.

  12. He actually got CEO of Simon and Schuster on stage to talk about Kindle and how it is making it easier for publishers. (This was probably to address concerns of publishers - since the publishers have to first make the books available in electronic format).

On Future of Kindle

  1. Amazon sees Kindle as more than just an access device. They are already talking about experiments like never-ending book and collaborative writing using Kindle.

  2. Bezos envisions Kindle as a toolset for publishers and readers. He further talks about giving both publishers and customers these toolsets and let them surprise everyone else with their discoveries and inventions (I am reminded again of Jan Chipchase and his research).

  3. Its also about finding the right readers for publishers. If you are a student in Iceland looking for books on biological traits of Saharan camels, you can only find them on Amazon. Or Kindle. Kindle thus acts as a platform where a publisher can find his audience and vice versa.

  4. When asked if Kindle is already redundant with faster cellphones and other access devices, Bezos compared it with cameras. Every mobile phone has a camera now and people still buy smaller cameras and SLRs and other photography equipment. (I am sort of confused at this one. I think cameras AND Kindle both might get redundant at some point in time.)

On Bezos himself

  1. Jeff Bezos is bald. :D (And so am I.)

  2. 4 kids. 8.6.3 and 3. :D

  3. "You do not choose your passions. Your passions choose you." Awesome quote by Jeff Bezos, when he was asked about Blue Origin. Bezos says motto for Blue Origin is Step by step ferociously and he says they are in an industry that helps humanity get into space.

  4. Bezos says at one point in time that planetary alignments were needed to Amazon what it is today. Is he superstitious? (Am sure paparazzi would be snooping :D)

Other things

  1. Jeff Bezos talk about a concept of "me time". A time that you spend away from everyone including your family, co-workers etc. This time is typically spent bathing, exercising, traveling etc. A Kindle gives people something to do in this "me time".

  2. Awesome insight into way humans understand interactions. Humans are storytelling animals and we like narratives. (Actually wrote about branding as storytelling few months ago but I never developed the concept further.

  3. What about used books? Is there money to be made there? Everyone wants to read books and doesn't really want to pay for the book prices. If there was a website to regulate that? A pre-web2.0 era website is doing that in Delhi. Is their merit in buying that website out?

  4. You make money when you help customer make the purchase decision. This was in response to someone asking if negative reviews are bad for the business. All reviews actually help make the purchase decision. Negative , positive doesn't really play a role

  5. On elastic compute cloud, the idea was to convert the huge fixed cost for customers into onDemand variable cost. (I wrote about onDemand economics for my Berlin School application)

The best part about any great conversation is the quality and quantity of ideas that stem out of there. For me, these are the things that I think have the potential to be businesses.

  1. I think the Techcrunch Web Tablet probably stemmed out of the Kindle idea. And even though the commercial production and distribution might be years away, they want to stake a claim on the idea before anyone else.

  2. How about doing something on the old books market in India. Especially in all the engineering colleges in India, the content remains same and thus there is a large chunk demand. And then obviously there is the long tail.

  3. Search cost plays an important part in getting the buyers and sellers together. I wrote about Search Cost way back in Feb 08 and I think its about time I revisited that.

  4. Purchase decision is an interesting thing to think about. My day job involves working on this purchase decision for some of the leading brands in India and there is so much that I learn everyday. Need to post about it. What if there was a tool that everyone trusted and assisted in purchase decisions?

  5. The entire idea of making fixed costs redundant has been in existence for a long time. Things like outsourcing and contracts actually do that. But doing it to something as fundamental as network, access and storage is sheer brilliance. Airtel did that with their network in India and do far have reaped awesome rewards off it. What else can converted into variable costs? Brain power? Processing? Coding?

If you are listening to the podcast, please share your thoughts. And apologies for such a long post. I did not realize that I have taken these many notes.

Image: Gizmodo.com

Bored. Bugged. Pissed.


Somnath Chatterjee expelled from CPI(M)

After all the drama that happened in the parliament, very few people actually stand out for their conduct in the parliament yesterday. Somnath Chatterjee probably leads the way. He made sure that the trust vote proceeded without major interruptions and moderated the entire discussion with a mastery of a ring master.

However, his party rewarded him with an expulsion for "seriously compromising the party position". His only crime? He did not resign from the post of speaker of the Lok Sabha when his party wanted him to.

Before the trust vote CPI(M), Mr. Chatterjee has been a member of CPI(M) for 40 odd years, asked him to resign from the post of the speaker so that the number of votes against the govt. goes up by one (the speaker does not vote in the confidence motion - he only votes in case of a hung verdict and his vote becomes a decider). However, Mr. Chatterjee stood high on his moral ground and decided not to resign and precede over the motion.

CPI polit bureau member Biman Bose said
Somnath Chatterjee might have acted according to the Indian Constitution, but our party has its own constitution and decisions are taken as per party rules
This is as ridiculous as it can get. Are we trying to say that Mr. Chatterjee was penalized because he put the Indian constitution higher than a political parties' rules?

And with all these shenanigans they are trying to take on Mr. Chatterjee who has served on various committees and has even won the coveted outstanding parliamentarian award (in 1996) for his conduct and contributions.

Obviously expulsion from a party does not threaten his position as the speaker. A speaker cna only be removed is a no-confidence motion is passed against him. It is real unfortunate to see leftist parties acting in such a rash manner and being very short sighted.

Dance of Democracy

What does the trust vote mean for India ..?

After all the drama that we witnessed yesterday, it actually comes as a breather that govt. is actually solid and will be till the next elections. Yesterday, probably was the blackest day in the history of independent India. From allegations on the ruling government to personal remarks to show of cash in the parliament to utter disrespect to the constitution, we saw it all. The entire world saw it all. And this is the world's largest democracy we are talking about.

And now the ordeal is over, we need to focus on few things. First and foremost the Manmohan Singh govt. needs to clear its name out of the very serious allegations against them for influencing the vote. Then they need to make sure that the reforms and developmental activities do not stop. Obviously with the next general elections less than a year away, focus probably would be on taming the inflation, cooling the prices and leaving the feel good factor behind.

Coming to the proceeds and developments yesterday, I think whatever happened has happened for good. The govt. is no longer a mere toy in hands of leftist parties. The govt. now knows that they can function without trying to appeal to the whims and fancies of their "partners". Leftist parties have always been pro-people and anti-development. There is nothing wrong with it. Not that they dont want the country to develop but they are so myopic in their vision that they often forget that we need to move on at some point in time. Until we imagine the possibilities, we cant really achieve them.

The government was a mere puppet in left's hands and left actually threatened at every available opportunity to pull the support. Only to prove a bloody point and in turn making the country unstable. They were always anti-reforms, anti-industrialization and anti-development. No wonder even though we have the best pool of human capital, we are still lagging behind the world. We are employing people anywhere and everywhere just because we demand that they need to be given employment. Compare us with countries where people actually spend time creating intellectual capital rather than manning ATM machines, automatic parking meters, elevators in malls, mending grass on lawns of rich and famous etc.

Now that left is out of the way, the government can proactively work on issues like privatization, FDI in retail, opening up more sectors for competition and evolution, so on and so forth. I am not sure that govt. will actually take large and/or concrete steps in this direction but at least they now have an option.

Lets talk about Ms. Mayawati for some time. She actually believed that she was going to be the next PM. In a speech yesterday she said that it was a conspiracy of BJP and Congress to stop a dalit woman from becoming the next Prime Minister of India. Are you kidding me? Ms. Mayawati as PM? I know shes a great politician and leader but excuse me. And I think its about time she should stop using that stupid racism card and move on. These pranks will take her and her elephants only so much far. I think with this trust vote, she has been completely sidelined. Congress will never ever work with Mayawati again. BJP, although they dont have a clear prime ministerial candidate after aging Mr. Advani, would not want Mayawati to become the PM. For me, Ms. Mayawati can now rest for a few years and keep her dreams of running the country safely in the deposit box.

What about BJP and Mr. Advani? Everyone knows Mr. Advani wants to be the PM. He has been trying to topple the govt. ever since he got elected as the leader of opposition. He is one of those leaders who can change his thoughts and stands at the drop of a hat. Remember Babri Masjid? Remember Jinnah incident? Remember Godhra? There are tons of them.

Anyways, BJP as a party for me is about oldies whose best is behind them. They are now living their unfulfilled dreams of ruling the country and itching their names in the history books. They might win the next elections but again they do not have a clear leadership. I would not be surprised if someone like Narendra Modi is promoted through the ranks as the next prime ministerial candidate. Everyone else in BJP can speak really well but they dont really stand for something that the country can buy.

Rahul Gandhi was a revelation yesterday (speech on Youtube). He probably for the first time stood up on this large a political arena and got counted as a formidable politician. He took objections from the opposition, answered them gracefully, was probably the first time when he left the mark. All the years of hard work on him is reaping fruit. His speech made a lot of sense and he actually made a point when he said that energy is linked to poverty. He used anger, passion, silence, anguish, disgust, loud voice, humor at the right times to make sure the speech was effective. In his speech he made it clear that he is not looking at the nuclear deal just as a solution to energy problems but as a tool that India can use to become the next super-power. He showed confidence in the youth in country. He said country was brimming with confidence and self belief. This is for the first time when I am confident that he could be a good leader and I would want to give him the responsibility to run the country. And considering that majority of junta voting in the next elections would be young Indians, no points for guessing who would they want to vote for.

I must also mention Omar Abdullah here. Omar Abdullah gave one of the most passionate speeches during the session (speech on youtube). He has always been one of those few leaders in India who I always thought has the brains, intellect and potential to be an effective leader. He spoke about India, Indians, Kashmiris, religions, his past mistakes in political career. He was very good on all issues. He will sure play a larger role in the development of new India when the new blood comes to the power.

With Rahul Gandhi and people like Omar Abdullah, Navin Jindal, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindhia etc. coming of age, I think the time is ripe when the old must pave the way for new. When the old must handover the baton to the new and let them lead the country into a new era. When we should move from being a caste and religion based country to a country where developmental takes the front seat and efforts are made to reach the poorest of the poor at the same time.

The bigger question to ask here is that when would India reach in hands of people who are positive in outlook, are looking forward to development rather than petty politics of caste, religion, short-term gains. People who have strong Indian roots and are still looking at the world as their playing field. Leaders who see India as a superpower rather than a country of a billion poor people.

Only the time will tell and we will watch.

Cadburys Main Khush Hoon Khamkha

This is one of those few ads that I really adore. Khamakha from Cadbury's

Khamkha muskuraaon,
Khamkha gungunaon,
Khamkha chalta jaaon main,

Khamkha machalta hoon,
Khamkha fisalta hoon,
Khamkha uchata hoon main,

Main khush aaj Khamkha,
Main khush aaj Khamkha,
Main khush aaj Khamkha yaaron.

Vid on Youtube:

In fact this is one of the reasons why I jumped into advertising.

Twitter Biography

Lately I have become real active on Twitter. Here is my bio from there (in less than 140 characters).

Former ge3k. Chasing interestingness and intelligent conversations. Restless mind. Opinionated. Outspoken. Has perpetual problem against authority.

Mental Masturbation

Just came out of a brainstorming session with my boss. He calls these sessions as Mental Masturbation.

Someone on Urban Dictionary has defined Mental Masturbation as
The act of engaging in useless yet intellectually stimulating conversation, usually as an excuse to avoid taking constructive action in your life.

For us, its usually one short 20 minute session where we talk about things that we dont really get time to talk about. It could be things like the future of business to way people think to why people communicate to why are we what we are to anything under the sun. It generally starts as one person introducing a subject and then everyone debating on things. Awesome ideas come out of it and its as satisfying as an orgasm can be.

And it gives me immense satisfaction to be a part of mental orgy. I think if I can do this day in and day out, it will be simply awesome. And in my humble opinion most of the radical ideas that have moved the world have come as an outcome of mental masturbation. If anyone wants to engage in a mental orgy, please drop a line.

Creating Communities - Online and Offline


Ashish says that you "enable communities" and I think you "create" them. And since it’s a serious challenge to my understanding of social behavior, let me defend my position.

By the very definition,
a community is a group of individuals who are brought together by force or they come together because they share a common interest.

Classic examples are community of slaves working on erecting pyramids and users flocking pluggd.in because they are interested in start-ups in India.

Keywords in the definition are group, individuals and together. A group that is useful to the individual and together the group and the individual make it worth sticking to.

When I say that you create communities, it implies that you bring all these people together (by force, by coercion, by advertising, by showing them advantages of being a member, by hook, by rewarding participatory behavior or by showing that everyone but you is a member, or any of million other ways). Once there is a group, you share ideas and vision on what could become of this group if everyone participates. And when they start participating and everyone is in sync with the collective vision, the group become a community.

For a community to thrive, there needs to be a connecting thread – a reason for members to believe in. A selling proposition. An answer to “Why this community” question. This reason can again be provided by force (if you don’t work, you will be killed) or by prestige associated by just being a member (I am member of AsmallWorld.net – are you? I have access to GMail – do you have it? Etc.).

Second part is that the community as a whole should be useful for the members. No one would want to just give and not take anything in return. People don’t join communities. People join groups hoping that the group would be useful to them. Moment a group becomes useful for individuals, or that user, the group transforms from a group to a community.

When you are starting a community, you HAVE to bring together people. You will have to hand pick people who are committed to this binding thread with or without the usefulness of the community. These are the people whose actions would make the community useful for subsequent members. In case of pluggdin, for example, Ashish would have started writing about start-ups in India. He would have posted the link at relevant places, would have sent emails to friends and family who are interested in start-ups and slowly and gradually people starting coming in. He thus created a community. One member at a time.

On the other hand when you talk about enabling a community, you assume people already know why they are there. You assume that they

  1. know what is common between all of them.

  2. know why are they not a directionless herd.

  3. know what is purpose of their group.

  4. can see a larger picture.

  5. know how is group useful.

This all might happen in an ideal world and I refuse to agree that any heterogeneous or even homogeneous group of people can answer all the above-mentioned questions. And if you are just enabling the community without holding their hand, telling them what to do and what actions to take. In my humble opinion, they will be as lost as kids in the topless bar :D.

And with this your-honor, I rest my case.

Saurabh Garg

P.S.: And I agree that your group/community should be empowered enough to recommend and make changes. They should be empowered to remove things that they don’t like. They should be empowered to freely add on to the community. They should be allowed to explore. They should be given the tools to be themselves and create new things for the community. :D

Image Credits: Sifah via Flickr.

Short Biography

As I use more and more Internet, I am making my private self more and more public. Probably sometime in future where papazarri would get interested in my private life, they can use this blog to dig out dirt and talk about me :D

Anyways, in the long list of blog posts where I talk about myself, here is another one. I have written this for my yet another idea - The TwitterBook.

25, Indian, Dreamer, Curious and Adventurous. Has a very short attention span. On a constant mission to search for that new new thing. Torn between Indian ethos and global outlook. Confused about what to do in life and assured about the future at the same time. Not a rebel and yet has a perpetual problem against authority.

Day job is Planning and Strategy guy at arguably the most creative company in India. Has a very long list of after-office interests and TwitterBook is one such initiative. TwitterBook for him is an experiment where he wants to challenge himself to do something that he is not good at - Writing and Collaborating. So far hes got an excellent team in place and the road ahead looks bright and sunny.

Hope this is not used against me in some court of law or against my VISA applications :D

Portfolio in Red

I have been investing in the markets for over 2 years now. In fact All my life's savings (a very meager amount by all standards) is invested in stock markets. And since I am invested in markets, I have obvious emotional biases and emotional incentives to say that I trust Indian stock markets. So far, I have not made any money from the markets and till yesterday, I used to take pride in saying that my portfolio has never ended a day in red.

Anyways, the reason why I am rambling is that my portfolio went into RED for the first time today ever since I started investing. Obviously a momentous day :D So much so my investment blog :D.

Image Coutsey: Anandham

Movie Review: Hancock

Hancock is a very simple story. John Hancock (Will Smith) is a gifted guy with super-natural powers that include, but are not limited to, stopping trains with his one hand, flipping whales in the ocean at the flick of the wrist, flying like the Superman at his whims and fancies, taking hazaar bullets on his chest like our beloved Rajnikant, juggling SUVs like any circus jester and obviously razor sharp fingers that can be used to shave and even draw things on a wall.

Our superhero is law abiding. He knows the good guy from the bad guy. He intends to help the good guys and punish the bad guys. In fact he is everything what a superhero should be. But for one thing. He has a drinking problem, he cant control his anger and he tends to go overboard with his heroics. So much so that the police actually subpoenas him for all the side-effects (read damage to buildings, vehicles, property etc.) of being a superhero. No one in the city loves him even though he is making the city a better place to live in. In six words - he has a bad PR problem.

Incomes a PR consultant (Jason Bateman) who, like everyone else, wants to change the world some day. Hancock happens to save this consultant's life (and damaging few cars and a train in the process). The consultant is gratified beyond belief and since our consultant is struggling with his endeavor to change the world, he thinks that if he could successfully solve Hancock's PR problem, it will give him great mileage.

And this is where I shall end talking about the plot and if you are curious, I would recommend you to go watch. It’s a fun movie. Something like Om Shanti Om. Story is very weak. Acting is just above average. Special effects are nothing to write home about - they are good but then now a days all special effects are good. If you are looking for some mindless entertainment, please do see this movie.

Apart from the mindless part of it, there are some interesting intellectual discussions on heroes, gods and regular human beings. They also talk about life and death and togetherness and separation. But there are very limited and shallow and don’t really provide enough food for thought.

I would rate it 2.5 on 5. And the movie is family friendly.

Happy Birthday Kunal Garde

Today happens to be Kunal's Birthday. Happy birthday kAgE. Hope you have a wonderful year ahead and both of us co-start something that changes the world.
From those early days at MAC,
when we won every competition we participated in,

to that trip to TITS,
where we won the textile quiz against all odds,

to our two year consecutive win,
at IP University's cracking competition,

to those cable Internet days,
provided by one Mr. Gokhale,

to those days at INT,
where we met Mr. I-IS,

to those times when we planned to create a company
and call it Cyntax Labs,

to all those gaming days,
where you have taken my arse mercilessly,
at q3dm17 and q3dm6,

to those days when cracking was fun,
and you taught me how to use SoftIce,

to that trashing that you gave Team MML,
at a CS tournament at AIT,

to all those biking trips,
that we have had on your Electra and my Caliber,

to those infinite number of hogging sessions,
at the van and all the Agarwal's,

to our conversation last night,
about the next idea to take over the world,

every moment has been awesome fun. You have played a large part in making me what I am today. Your birthday is probably the best time to say Thank You.

Have an awesome year ahead. And hoping against hope that you read this :D

And for other junta, Kunal is an awesome and fun guy to be around. He is still single except for those one off riffs with another guy (PA) from MAC. Any takers?

Just found out, its Katrina Kaif's birthday as well. For the uninitiated she is the same chick that cant speak Hindi, cant act, has mile long legs, looks the same in all songs she does and is very full of herself.

Tete e Tete with NR Narayana Murthy

Went to the Mumbai airport to drop a friend. And amidst the crowd was standing a old guy wearing faded denim jeans, a white shirt and carrying his own bag. I looked at him and dint realize a thing. And then a friend screamed "Oh .. Fuck .. Its NR Narayana Murthy".

We debated how can he be standing there, looking lost and all that. We took one full circle and yes it was him.

Before we could step out of our car and shake his hands and all, his taxi arrived and he left. This was probably the closet I have reached to someone who is super rich and does not mind lugging his own bags.

Wow. One of the richest businessmen in India standing at an airport waiting for someone to pick him up. No security. No air around him. No fancy attire. No chauffeurs. Will I ever become what he is?

I want to...

I want to chase glory
I want to chase dreams
I want to own believers
I want to create fans and fandom
I want to have more wants
I want to be myself

One year at Creativeland Asia

This day, last year, I moved from GE Money to Creativeland Asia and its one of those few decisions that I have not regretted or reconsidered.

Reasons are two fold.

1. GE was not my kind of place. It might be very very good place to work and might have very good work policies but it did not work for me. May be I am not programmed to work under structures and rulebooks and guidelines and policies and checklists.

2. Creativeland Asia on the other hand, has been a very rewarding and enriching experience. Its my kind of place. Its my land. Just about over an year old, its not really perfect. It can obviously be better. And I, we at Creativeland are working towards it. Hopefully will see some results soon.

I have learned lots of lessons and have made tons of mistakes in this past year. And Creativeland has truly given me a canvas where I can make mistakes and learn from them. At Creativeland we are moving towards that fictional Utopian world.

Hope the coming year is even better and we get closer to making that revolution happen.

P.S.: Why do I always talk about revolutions?

Why I would NOT buy an iPhone

I am a huge fan of Apple Computers as a company and Steve Jobs as a business leader. I have used Apple products in past. An iPod and a Macbook. Both times I was ecstatic and getting them was such an important event that I had blogged about them.

Coming on to iPhone, everyone around me in India is talking about iPhone now. So much so that you can pre-book it with two major operators - Airtel and Vodafone (Hutch).

I have been wanting to get one ever since Steve Jobs launched it in one of his SteveNotes. For me, iPhone has revolutionized the way mobile phones are looked at. It is the first time when a mobile phone is being looked at just more than a communication tool. It had become an entertainment tool. An accessibility tool. A tool that was intuitive and was easy and fun to use at the same time. You could leave your home with just one iPhone and nothing else and you could still be fine. Why wouldn't you want to have an iPhone?

Few lessons for marketers
  1. Hype is an interesting thing. The way an Apple product is hyped, it can put all the marketers and movie makers to shame. But too much hype can kill it.
  2. Mass marketing could be a bad thing. I would not want to see every Tom, Dick and Harry carry an iPhone and trying to look uber-cool. I know at least 10 people who have been tracking the iPhone for about six months now and would not buy it just because everyone else would have it.
  3. Price it right. At 31K, in India, it is out of reach of most of the people. Even the ones that are SEC A1. Even the ones who were waiting for it eagerly. Like me.

Aviation Industry and OTA in India

In India, we have a couple of famous full service carriers (Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines) and a plethora of no frills or low cost operators (Spicejet, Air Deccan, Go Air, Indigo). And all of these players have been in troubled waters for quite some time now.

The industry has been reeling with rising fuel costs, rising manpower costs, airport charges, taxes, consumer awareness and complaints, regulatory hurdles etc. In fact because of all these, none of the operators in India is making money. We have already seen the mergers and buyout games begin.

Of all operators, the low cost carriers are the worst hit. Especially the smaller ones. Simply because they were anyways operating on low margins and revenues from value added services were absent. And since they are not big, they cant extract efficiencies of scale by sharing ground staff and airport or negotiating prices from their vendors etc.

Then there is another industry that has mushroomed in last few years. The online ticketing industry. We have so many players now in the OTA market that even keeping a count is really difficult. So how do these companies make money? They get certain amount of brokerage (if I can take the liberties of using that term) for every ticket they sell. The number varies from operator to operator and airline to airline but its in the range of 1% to 3%. Then they make money by offering hotel bookings, weekend getaways, travel packages etc. But they still make most of their money from commission from airlines on tickets sold. With rising prices, airlines are now pushing these OTAs to the wall and cutting their margins as well. Does this signify slow and eventual death of OTAs? I don't know and I can't predict but next few months would be very interesting.

Apart from OTA, the newly privatized airports in the country are also facing the heat. They have pumped in so much money to create huge "world-class" structures that its not even funny. Their sources of revenues are fees from the airlines and other services like parking, restaurants, advertising etc. With drop in number of travelers, revenue from all these value added things would come down. How would these sustain? Traditional economics says that a toll gate owner or a broker would always make money as long as the number of passengers (or transactions) is high. In the long run, airports shouldn't loose money but again you never know. Its hard to predict.

Coming back to airlines and their problems, they acted like a typical producer in a producer driven economy. They hiked prices of their tickets. So much so that these prices are now comparable to full service operators. A lot of people look at this as a very good move. They argue that with higher fares, the revenues would also increase. I beg to differ.

Lets divert from the debate and try to see a traveler in action. A traveler can choose a low cost carrier, lug all his bags with him, sit in really cramped seats with his legs folded, pay for every thing he uses in the plane (except for the loo - and paid loo can be a good idea :D) and come out of the travel feeling harrowed and hassled. This traveler could alternatively pick a full service carrier, have a valet help him with bags, relax with enough leg room on the aircraft, have a choice of three course meal on the aircraft, pampered by the staff of the airline and get to his destination feeling good about his travel.

Again back to the debate, in my opinion if fares for no frills carriers are comparable to full service carriers, any rational person would opt for service and comfort levels offered by full service operators. And with limited choices, fare hike by low cost operators mean more business for full service operators.

And this is not all. As flying gets out of the reach of the common man, more and more travel would happen for business reasons (leisure and casual air travel would reduce substantially) and these fliers would choose full service operators. This would translate into lesser capacity utilization for low cost operators. And empty seats means more losses for low cost operators.

What about full service carriers? With this hike, they might get better occupancy rates but how can they survive the spiraling costs and dwindling margins?

And for how long can these airlines operate on losses? What about the investors? Air Sahara (acquired by Jet Airways) and Air Deccan (merged with Kingfisher) have already succumbed to their losses and growth costs. Are there more in pipeline? What is in it for existing players?

Airline operators have never ever made money anywhere in the world. Will it be different in India? Can there be solutions? Can they come up with more creative ways of making money (like charging for check-in luggage)?

Whats your take?

Lyrics - Tere Dar Par Sanam - Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayi

Title: Tere Dar Par Sanam
Movie: Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayi
Singer: Kumar Sanu
Lyrics: Qateel Shifai
Music: Anu Malik

Tere dar par sanam chale aaye
Tu na aaya to hum chale aaye
Chale aaye, chale aaye
Tere dar par sanam chale aaye
Tu na aaya to hum chale aaye

Bin tere koi aas bhi na rahi
Itne tarse ke pyaas bhi na rahi
Itne tarse ke pyaas bhi na rahi
Ladkhadaaye kadam, chale aaye - 2
Chale aaye, chale aaye
Tere dar par sanam chale aaye
Tu na aaya to hum chale aaye

Isse pehle ki hum pe hasti raat
Ban ke nagin jo humko dasti raat
Ban ke nagin jo humko dasti raat
Le ke apna bharam chale aaye -2
Chale aaye, chale aaye
Tere dar par sanam chale aaye
Tu na aaya to hum chale aaye

Video: Tere Dar Par Sanam on Youtube

What is Freedom for you?

Freedom is something that most of us has taken for granted. Most of us reading this have born in free India and had all the comforts and privileges offered by freedom. And we were thus shielded from an era where even things as personal as thoughts were controlled.

I was talking to few college students in Mumbai and I realized that most of us are disconnected with reality. Most of them think that its ok to accept western culture and leave our heritage behind. And then there are some who had their feet firmly planted in ground and want to first understand the past and want to plant careful steps in future.

I was wondering, is there a way to find out what everyone thinks about India as a country and what is their big idea of freedom and independence? For a lot of people freedom is an oppurtunity to pursue their dreams. For some it is their second nature. They look at it as a way of life. For some it is something insignificant for which all the freedom fighters lost their lives. Some are indifferent and haven't really thought about freedom at all.

Which category do you fall under?

The Idea
This brings me to the idea. The Freedom Blog. What if Indians all over the world submitted one piece of work that they think symbolizes freedom? This could be an original thought, a blog post that you have written, an original composition, a link to a website, a photograph, a picture, a video, a music piece, an incident, a mashup or any other way that you think expresses your idea of freedom.

Post this submissions stage, all these submissions would be put on the Freedom Blog in context and publish them on a website or a blog on 15th August 2008 for everyone to scrutinize.

The result will give us a fairly good indication of what people really think of Freedom. How they perceive it and what it actually means to them.


Few ground rules

  • Deadline for submission: 5th August 2008

  • How to submit: Email your ideas to saurabh.garg@gmail.com.

  • Ownership: You retain the ownership of your work. I will just re-publish them on the Freedom Blog with due credits.

  • Terms and Conditions: None.

How can you help?

  • Obviously you can help by submitting your work.

  • You can also help by spreading word about the Freedom Blog. You can post on your blogs, in your twitter streams, email to friends, share on social networks, call up people etc.

  • And finally if people do submit their work, you can help in filtering and putting things in context.

How did I stumble on this?
I happen to be a huge fan of collaborative experiments on the Internet. I have participated in quite a few myself and its about time I did something of my own. I was working on some other idea when I stumbled on this. Obviously serendipity plays a huge role in my life and it so happened that Independence Day is around the corner. And I thought If I started acceptance of media from 5th of July, people will have a month to ideate and create their work, I will have time to collect it and then I will be left with some time (9 days) to actually collate and make some sense out of it and finally release it on 15th August 2008.

What do I get out of this?

  • Satisfaction of actually being able to unite Indians into thinking like a group.

  • Understanding of the way people think.

  • Answer to the question "if people actually cherish freedom and independence". Every submission would mean that entrant has indeed thought about freedom at some point in time and is aware of the comfort (and challenges) that freedom brings. Every person who spreads the world is an Indian at heart and is also seeking answers to these questions. Every person who reads is concerned and wants to enrich his/her understanding of Indians.

  • UPDATE: Someone has already asked if this is a commercial project. NO this is not commercial. This is not sponsored by anyone. There is no media coverage happening.

Obviously none of this is possible without help from you guys. Please let me know if this makes sense. Thanks for your time.

orkut - Update on your recent abuse report

Wow .. Orkut does take action on profiles that you mark as spam. Way to go Google.. !
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: orkut <3504732672376623859@mail.orkut.com>
Date: Wed, Jul 2, 2008 at 12:43 PM
Subject: orkut - Update on your recent abuse report
To: XXX@gmail.com

Hi + PseudoSocial,

Thank you for your reporting of abuse on Orkut on "2008-06-29".

We have reviewed your request and agree that this content is not in
accordance with Orkut's terms of service. Our team has taken action to
remove this content, but if you find it again, please report it to us

We thank you for helping us to keep Orkut clean!

Content reviewed: "Arathi S"

Application to Berlin School of Creative Leadership

In my recent trip to Cannes, I chanced upon attending a talk by Michael Conrad and Prof. Casse on Berlin School EMBA and I realized that I need to apply to Berlin School. Along with the application, I had to write why is it important for me to attend the Berlin School. This is what I wrote (I have removed some specifics) ...

I have always been known me as a dreamer and I think of myself as nothing less than a revolutionary. I am in a constant pursuit of that elusive new thing that can change the way we communicate and live. Never scared of raising that lonesome hand in a classroom of dutiful students or walking down that dark alley behind buildings or pouring yellow, green and blue liquids in that large beaker in chemistry labs, I have always been on an adventure trip. Where there are no roads, no clear destinations and certainly no guarantee of returns. For me, the journey towards the goal is more important than actually reaching the milestone.

Curiosity is something that comes naturally to me. I can boast of a logical flow of thought and questioning mind. I have realized that I have the skills required for being a creative leader. All I need is place to polish them and bridge the gaps that I have.

I see Berlin School of Creative Leadership as the perfect platform from where I can start that revolution that I knew I would start some day. The opportunity to interact with world-renowned creative leaders, handpicked peer group and wide cultures from Berlin to Tokyo to NY to my home state of Delhi, India is very unique and lucrative. I have realized that I need a cross-cultural exposure to understand people better and Berlin School can do that for me.

For me the programme is as much as about learning as contributing to the learning of their peer. With me, I bring to the table a child like enthusiasm, a never say die attitude and a lot of positive energy to the team. I can also enrich the learning of other participants by my understanding of businesses, buyer behavior and identifying gaps that potential businesses can exploit.

For me, creativity as a discipline is not limited to only advertising or branding. It certainly does not mean writing smart copies and coming up with brand identities and churning out work for clients. Instead, creativity is a way of thinking. It’s the way you approach businesses and ideas. It’s more of a methodology, a route that you take to reach the end product. The end product could be an award winning piece of work for a client, a new way to arrange your bookshelf or even a new business.

I believe that there is as much science to creativity as there is art. Experience at Berlin School will help me find a right balance between the two. I have always had focus on creating original thought and its application in the business world. With the thesis I am proposing on identifying traits of successful digital brands and creating a framework for the same, Berlin School will help me with access to leading digital brands. Peers and faculty at Berlin School will help me scrutinize these ideas and create a robust framework.

Berlin School will play a vital role in my career and I am looking at the experience at Berlin School to rediscover myself.
Any thoughts anyone?

As I was posting this, I realized that I have made few mistakes in the application. Now that application is gone, I cant really change it but ought to be careful next time around.

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Did you like this post? May be you want to read my first book - The Nidhi Kapoor Story.

Check it out on Amazon or Flipkart?