Untitled - 31st Mar 2012

Today is the last day of the first quarter of the year that is supposed to be a milestone in my history, as and when it is written. Not really happy with how things have gone in this quarter. I had made magnanimous plans and like all my other plans, nothing moved. I even made a huge mindmap of things that I would apparently achieve in this year. So far, if I revisit the mindmap, nothing has moved. Even things that I could control by myself. Things like fitness!

Anyways, the point of writing this post is not really to talk about things that I dint do or couldnt do. The point is to satisfy the urge to write. Any damn thing. Its been some days since I have seriously written things. Not that what I write makes sense but it gives me mental orgasm that is missing from my mundane life. For almost 30 years now, I have been searching for things that would make me think and give me happiness. So far its been illusive. I have been told that patience is a virtue and there are rich rewards at the end of waiting period. I have been waiting for all these years now and I am beginning to lose it.

What else? what else? Ya, last few days I have restarted reading. I started with Godfather. Loved every bit of it. The story is so gripping that rather than reading the details and painting a picture in my head, I skimmed through it and kept moving ahead. And this is when I had read the novel at least twice in the past! Apart from this, I am reading The Price of Ayodhaya and The Polyester Prince. After this, I plan to read the Dexter series.

And then apart from reading, work has been keeping me busy. I cant really get time from all the madness and there is so much to be done! And this is about it for the time being. Too long for a post titled Untitled!

Hello @altSG

Say hello to @altSG. Its my new twitter handle (apart from @Saurabh) and over time I plan to make it my primary twitter handle.

Why would I do this?
Simple. Work vs play. And respect.

There are tons of interesting people that follow @Saurabh. Most of these are serious people with stable day jobs and a million things on their heads. In short, they would be busy. And since I dont really want to crowd their timelines with noise, I'd rather move my frivolities to some place else. A place like @altSG.

So, at @Saurabh, I'd talk about things that people want to read. It will eventually become my brand, my portfolio and my CV. It will become my voice. It will become my identity on the Internet. So, amongst other things, I would talk about advertising, branding, writing, marketing, poker, travel etc. I'd talk about things that I am trying to explore. I'd talk about things that I am trying to learn. Things that may get me work and an opportunity to interact with interesting people. Things that get me that all important foot in the door.

One the other hand, I'd use @altSG as my personal handle. The way I use @Saurabh right now. I would post things that most of the world will not be interested in. Mundane, miscellaneous, insignificant updates from my life. Things like what I am eating, where am I driving to next, how I felt after that bad beat etc. I expect just a few close friends and some bots to follow me on @altSG.

I guess thats about it. To summarize, I would be at @altSG and my brand would be at @Saurabh. Or vice versa. You can never trust Internet with these things!

Dear Sonam A Kapoor

Dear Sonam,

I saw this movie called Players (which IMHO is a really bad rip off of the awesome Italian Job) last night. Not that I wanted to see but I could not find the TV remote and I had to see something that helped me sleep. After I saw the movie, I have a few questions to ask you. And after all the questions, like a true Indian, have some opinion. I sincerely hope you give me a patient hearing and look at the merits of my arguments before you dismiss them as being blasphemous.

Also, before I launch into the rant, I would like to make clear that I really really like you and I may even have a crush on you. I think the crush has been since Subhash Ghai made that Pyar Ki Ganga Bahe with all the film star and their kids.

Apart from the crush, I pin a lot of hopes on you. Not everyone is lucky to get a platform like you have and it would suck if you waste that platform and end up like Paris Hilton (BTW Paris is an achiever in her own way, she is after all named after Paris. And her last name is Hilton). I dont go about writing these letters to everyone. But you, Ms Kapoor, have the potential. You just need to realize it and get your act straight.

Without further ado, here are the questions that I had promised I would ask.
  1. When you sign a film, don't you read the script? You are not a kid anymore that someone lures you with a candy. Wait, no, a pony in your case. After all you are a famous kid of a rich dad. So, while signing Players, dint you realize that it was a really bad ripoff of The Italian Job? To the extent of three Mini Coopers loaded with weight, daughter of the dead father etc. Even the make up of the villain was inspired by the original! Do you think it does justice to your reputation when you work in films like this? Don't they judge people by the company they keep and the work they do? Long after your not young anymore, wont people remember you for films that you did? When you are a mom, wont you want to tell you kids about the amazing job you did in some movie? Doesn't Mr. Kapoor talk to about Ram Lakhan? Lamhe? Tezaab? Mr. India? And all those amazing movies he's done?
  2. Reputation. This is connected to the first one. I have a background in communications and I have learnt and seen that reputation is everything. Especially for people like you. So while you endorse a brand, or sign a movie, dont you think (assuming you can - you look like someone who can) if endorsing that brand or featuring in that film would add something to your reputation? And can your exiting reputations give wings to that brand/film? Look at Vidya Balan for example. Shes on this trip of female centric roles. I dont give two hoots about her but shes thinking about the legacy she leaves behind. Sonam, people in show biz, they have a responsibility. Of course they must enjoy life and riches and goto parties on yachts parked on the French riviera but you guys have a responsibility. The responsibility to do good work and entertain audiences. And no, audiences do not get entertained when you merely flash a smile at the camera at some page 3 party where you vouch your support for PETA.
  3. This may be the most personal of all questions, but dont you think you need to take dancing and acting classes? You know, I am all for learning by experimentation and stumbling and failing and then getting back. But then the basics please? I mean acting is not just about looking good. You look gorgeous. There is no doubt about it. But acting? 
Thats about it I guess. I have many more but I know that you are busy and short on time and you wont have patience to read and answer the other trivial questions.

Coming to opinions. Again, please do not mind. I am a mere well wisher and there are no ulterior motives here. Like I said earlier, you have an amazing platform that you can use to leave a mark. And these are only meant to nudge you on the path.
  1. How about stopping to act? I mean not that you've had great success with it. Your time, which anyways is limited, can be invested in other pursuits and trust me you would do far better at them. I dont know you personally but from whatever I read, if you could do something about fashion in India, you would rock. So how about creating a business around bringing new brands to India? India's growing by leaps, people have the money to spend. Its a perfect opportunity for you! I mean look at Rhea Kapoor. She is putting her effort in producing movies. Totally worth the time she spends. +1 to her!
  2. How about firing your manager? No no, not the time keeper that schedules your appointment etc but the manager who looks after your reputation. The guy who leaks stories to press and gets you endorsements from brands? The guy who should be thinking on your behalf and counseling you. The guy who should be getting the scripts tweaked to get you a more plush role. That guy who should be chasing brands to get them to invite you to endorse their brands. The guy who is responsible for brand Sonam Kapoor in the long run!
  3. How about stop working for money? You have enough. Enough that you can afford all the luxuries you may want and get invited to all the parties you want to. If you stop working for money and stop doing stupid films, appearances and endorsements for money, you can choose to do the kind of work that would make you happy. And more importantly, make your fans (like me) happy. The work could then spawn across industries - entertainment, fashion, travel, philanthropy, the options are limitless Sonam.
And thats it. There is more but then I think these are enough for the time being. If you are serious about a long term impact, I am sure you would consider these. Hope you dont get offended. I am being repetitive but I have high hopes from you and it really sucks to see you waste your time on things like Players. And time Sonam, is the biggest limiting factor of our lives. Sooner you realize, better it is.

That's about it! Thanks so much for reading this. Hope it helps.
A fan!

Dear Rich Housewives

Dear Rich Housewives,

On behalf of all the drivers that drive you around the town, the restaurants that host your kitty parties, the high street malls that you frequent to buy groceries, the maids that to help you with cooking, cleaning etc, the beauty parlors where you paste tons of creams and powders on your faces and millions of such micro-economies that you help flourish by your mere existence, including the one I am a part of, a BIG THANK YOU! Thank you so much for your patronage. We have no clue what would we do without you guys. You actually provide for food and shelter for me and my family.

Thank you so very much! 


And now that letter is over, lemme come to the reason for this letter. But before other things, let me describe you. A typical rich housewife. For the ease of readability, lemme use bullet points.
  • A typical rich housewife is in her early thirties (because the number that us minions call age, stops increasing for rich housewives after they are 35), has her personal driver chauffeur to ferry her around the beauty parlors, malls, kitty parties and other social gathering that attracts her kinds. 
  • She has a very active social circle of friends, neighbors, few almost page 3 celebrities, people who own fancy restaurants and parlours and the likes. 
  • And of course relatives in-laws that she loves to hate. 
  • The creature called husband is a fast rising star in some large multinational and thus only meets her on Sunday morning brunches at famous five star hotels. 
  • Sex is strictly twice a week, lasting for all of five minutes on each occasion. Not necessarily with the creature that we spoke about two seconds back. Variety, you see, ensures that there's "spice" in life.
  • Money needless to say, is not a problem. She holds a credit card with an insane credit limit. Thanks to all the hard work that the husband puts in at work.
But you may ask that most women, in Delhi atleast, have at least two things from the list I spoke about above. How are you to spot the real rich housewife? Here's a checklist...
  • She would be wearing thick framed sunglasses. Even when she is inside a mall. And even if its night. I suspect they dont remove the sunglasses even in the movie halls but I am not too sure. I havent had any rendezvous with any so far.
  • She can be found body hugging wearing track pants in all sorts of "interesting" colors like powder pink, baby pink, parrot green, turquoise, blood red and shimmering black. Shimmering is the keyword here.
  • When she sits in her chauffeur driven cars, she would sit right behind the chauffeur. Men and other mortals sit diagonally behind the chauffeur. But not her. Her throne is right behind the driver. I dont know why. I wish I could know.
  •  She would have a really badly dressed maid in traditional Indian clothes, trialing her. The maid's hands would be full of large shopping bags. On lat count, she had paper bags from a million and a half trees.
Enough. Now I have to come to the real reason of this letter/post. Its about a friend. She just got married to a guy who is a typical rich housewives' husband. And she is kinda lost about her purpose in life. She thinks that since she is no longer a girl now and married to a dude, she is now worthless and does not deserve to live etc.

The letter is strictly to give her affirmation her that she is not worthless. She must know that she is as important to our lives as Mamta Didi or BehenJi Mayawati are. She provides livelihood and entertainment to so many people. She is better than those godmen. I mean a typical rich housewife directly employees at least 12 people and indirectly supports 60 mouths. She should be damn proud of her existence. And I am not even talking about all the pseudo businesses that she runs (just to enter the "me too" list). If I included that, I wouldn't be surprised if 80% of India's GDP is somehow touched by the rich housewife!

xxx, just take care of yourself. You are really important. I mean it.

P.S.: I sincerely apologize if I may have hurt any feelings. And obviously, any similarity with anyone living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Anatomy of a bad day

So this is how a bad shitty day looks like. And this is a long post. After all I am going to talk about 24 hours!
  • 0600. The alarm kicks in. You are awake before it rings because you have been getting very light sleep for last few days. You can see the alarm ringing but you are so tired, mentally and physically that you cant move your hand to shut up the alarm.
  • 0615. The alarm is still ringing. You can now fidget and move your hands around. You try to locate your phone, the phone doubles up as the alarm, the eyes are still groggy with sleep and you cant see clearly. In distance, you see a silhouette that has to be your phone. You make great effort to reach it. only to realize that its the TV remote. You curse and fling the remote as hard as you can. It lands 5 millimeters away. In the meanwhile, the alarm is still ringing. You give up and shut your eyes.
  • 0630. Its enough. The alarm has been ringing for more than half n hour now. You get angry at yourself and you throw your blanket and locate the alarm. You get up, locate the phone, which has somehow hidden under the pillow, shut the damn thing off.
  • 0631. The alarm rings again. You realize that you hit the snooze button rather than dismiss. You carefully, slowly, find the dismiss button and shut the alarm. Go back to sleep. 
  • 0830. You realize that you are late for work. And for the pitch that can potentially win your company 10 crores of business.You curse your luck and life and drag yourself out and try and get ready. Of course your favorite shirt is gone for ironing and you have to wear a boring shirt that you otherwise detest. You try to find your lucky charm and your pen and you cant. Since you are late for work, you skip breakfast. You dont even say bye to your ma. But you do miss the time when you called sgMS everyday before you left for office. Obviously, now you dont.
  • 0845. You reach your car parking to realize that there are a million cars parked behind your car and you cant take your car out. You make rounds to neighbors and plead to remove their cars. 
  • 0907. Finally all cars blocking your way are out. You call people in office and realize that the dependable kids in your office were partying last night and they havent done anything for the grand meeting. You wish, for the millionth time that you had people that you could trust.
  • 1017. You struggle for an hour in traffic and reach the client's office for a meeting that was supposed to start at 0900. It may be put on record that the distance is mere 7 kilometers but the traffic makes the five minute journey a long drive.
  • 1105. The meeting hasn't even started. The client is busy doing God knows what. 
  • 1155. You are still waiting for the damn important meeting to happen.
  • 1220. The client emerges from the depth of his office and he apologizes profusely for the "little delay". Just when you thought that the endless wait has finally ended and you were about to get up and move towards the conference room, the client says "oh I forgot something. I would be back in a minute".
  • 1245. You are still waiting for the minute to get over. 
  • 1248. Mysteriously, the client is back the moment you type this. Hands full of Samosa, chai and jalebi. Dunno hows he juggling the three things together. Ushers your and the team into a conference room.
  • 1249. Before you could present your stuff, fucks your happiness over the "mundane", "kiddish" and "juvenile crap" ideas that you have presented. Does not forget to add "please take this merely as a feedback". Even without reaching the second slide of your mundane presentation.
  • 1250. You are out of the meeting room. These were the longest two minutes of your life so far. You hope to eat something nice and end the bad morning. The boss wants to say hi to some old friends. He asks you to wait. 
  • 1315. Since you dont have any old friends, you cant say hi to anyone. You call your boss and ask him how long will he take. He says five minutes. Which translates into an hour, which thankfully you know, since you have been working with him for two years. You step out of clients office and go buy a Red Bull and some chips from a nearby petrol pump. You go sit on a traffic intersection and munch onto the chips. Thinking about sgMS and knowing that she would be eating a dabba from her mom.
  • 1400. You get a call from some HR consultant, with bad accent, and she promises you a job with a "leading media conglomerate". When you tell her the money you expect, she hangs up, without saying bye. The boss is still nowhere to be seen. 
  • 1530. The boss emerges. You head back to office. Only to go for another meeting. But you have to drop the boss to office because he is too lazy to drive his own car.
  • 1630. You reach the other client. The meeting drags on forever. The agenda of the meeting is about peanuts and biscuits.
  • 1730. The meeting is still on. You are still debating the quantity of chocolate chips in the biscuits.
  • 1930. The meeting that you thought would go on forever finally gets over. You rush to the parking lot because you need to reach office and write another presentation. It needs to be presented the next day.
  • 2010. You reach office and get started on the presentation.
  • 2100. You have no clue. And you are staring at an empty document. 
  • 2230. You are still staring at the empty document and powerpoint because you cant think of shit. Your brain died after the afternoon when you were waiting for your boss to get free from his social calls.
  • 2330. The thoughts and screens are still blank. You give up and decide to go home. 
  • 0030. You reach home. Thankfully there's no traffic around and you reach in record one hour. 
  • 0040. You gulp the dinner that has gone cold. Since you have been coming home this late most days, you dont even bother heating the food.
  • 0045. You try shuffling channels on TV and they are showing the worst movies ever. You fling the TV remote. You recall the episode of the morning when you couldn't find the alarm.
  • 0050. You are fucked up in the head and you dont know what to do. You scroll through the address book on the phone and try to find someone who you could speak to at this hour. You realize that most of your friends are either married or they dont care. You fling the phone in the general direction where you fling other things, including the TV remote.
  • 0100. You sulk and sleep because there is no one you could call and talk about shit that the day has been. For first time in the entire day, you miss the fact that you dont have anyone to call your own. Not even #sgMS. 
And thats it ladies and gentlemen, for the time being! And no, this is NOT a piece of fiction. This is inspired from real life incidents.

Romancing the city of Mumbai

There is something about Mumbai that makes it special. As special as your first love is.

I mean, as on last count, I have been to at least 34 different cities, across 4 continents and yet there is something, something about Mumbai that keeps calling me back. Back to its arms, the hug, the embrace, the womb, if I may. You know, its like that illicit love affair that you know wont take you anywhere and yet you cant get out of. Wait, you can get out, if you try. You just dont want to. Coming back, in my case, I think the reason why I keep coming back, the obvious suspects are Neo and sgMS. And may be all those amazing memories that I have, of times, people and places that I have enjoyed while I was living in Mumbai.

This time, on one of those impulse trips to Mumbai, as I was landing in Mumbai, I realized something that I had never noticed in the past. Funny how you still notice new things about Mumbai even though you have been here a million times. Mumbai looks amazing at nights. Amazing because I dont have a better word to paint the picture. Its as decked up like a bride is on her wedding day. Probably better.

The city is showered with amber lights. For some reason, that's the only colour of street lights in the entire city. May be it is easier to spot, cheaper to install/maintain or whatever but the effect is, all the more, electrifying. Things get accentuated when they are under the amber light. You actually begin to notice things that you never cared to even glance at. Take street boards for example. The boards that have pincodes and the official names of the roads on them. The blue ones. Before I saw them with amber tint, at night, I dint even know that they existed in the first place.

You see a different side of Mumbai at nights. The roads are not as narrow as you know them from your "interactions" during the day. They are wide. Wide enough for you to zip around in your car and actually overtake other vehicles. The pesky rickshaws and taxis from the day, are parked in perfect neat rows along the sidewalks. All the filth and garbage you try to avoid during the day, is mysteriously gone. And so are all the signs of life. The beggars, the hawkers and the urchins that create that constant cacophony during the day, are all sound asleep and only sound that they make at nights is when they're snoring.

And then, when most people are off to sleep, when everyone but the romantics are still awake, the ones who love the city the most, come out. The cops, the whores, the chai and cigarette sellers on bicycles, the omelet hawkers, and the romantics. The romantics, the ones who just want to be left alone with their love. The city of Mumbai.

P.S.: Of course Mumbai never sleeps and you can get stuck in traffic jams at even 2 in the night. But then, that's select busy intersections. Right? And at least the romantic in me refuses to believe that Mumbai never sleeps. It does. See it for yourself next time you are out. At night.

P.P.S.: Trying too hard :D

Untitled - 10th Mar 2012

If you are one of the two regular readers of this blog, you would have noticed that in the last few days, the frequency of posts has reduced considerably. I mean I have always been an intermittent writer, but in 2012, I got really active (33 posts, exlucding this one). Except for March.

When I look back at my calendar, I don't really see any meetings or travel schedules that would have prevented me from writing things on my blog! I guess I have been plain lazy.

And no, I dont have any annoucements to make, I dont have any grand plans to reveal and I dont have anything that could interest anyone. Until that time, tc!

Rant on the cost of acquisition of a customer

A lot of friends, who run internet businesses, work around the cost of acquisition (of a customer).

It is defined as the amount of money that they need to spend in order to get a customer to perform an action. The action could be a mere visit to the website. Or it could be a purchase of an item of certain value. 

IMHO, the idea of working around the cost of acquisition is fundamentally flawed.

It’s a metric that someone needs to look at when they are VERY sure that the customer would stay bonded to their service/product. A credit card for example. Or a bank account for that matter. Once you acquire a customer in such a business, you are sure of the repeat transactions and thus continual revenues. And thus it is justified to invest (aka spend money) on getting a new customer. You recover the investment over time and thus the idea of cost of acquisition makes sense. Look at all the razor companies for example. In fact this article on wikipedia is very highly recommended to understand more about the razors and blades.

On the other hand, if you run a website that sells deals, or electronics or clothes for example, then there is no compulsion for the customer (that you spent something like 600 bucks to acquire) to come back to your website to buy things again. The customer is not loyal to the platform (aka your website) but is loyal to the brand he is buying. Or to discounts for that matter. He will simply hop onto the website that gives him more discounts than you.

However, on the other hand, you can somehow create a very solid reason for the customer to come back to you and buy more things from you, then you may spend money on acquiring customers. Something that a business like Zovi.com is doing. They are creating a brand. And the cost of acquisition can thus be justified by apportioning it between marketing and sales. Ideally, your product, your brand must be something that he “needs” (not “wants”). Like recharge for a mobile phone connection. So if you were Zovi and you were creating a brand of menswear, how would you make the brand a "need"?

Apart from this, another reason why I think it sucks to spend so much money on acquisition is the imbalance of incentives. When I am acquiring a customer, I should pass on the benefits to the customer. In most cases, the money that I spend on acquisition goes to the brokers (the search engines). Just because they are marketplaces, they command prices and make the most value out of the entire acquisition game. If there could be a business that paid the customer, or me, for transactions, I would be interested in knowing more about it.

And that’s about it I guess. Like a true critic, I just know that this is broken and I don’t know how fix this. If you do, please share!

First posted on Sandbox.

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?