In human relationship the only true connection is love. Usually it stays longer. In case of a true love it stays forever. I wonder whether it stands true associating my profession? Are my professional aspirations are linked with my love to profession? If i have to honestly answer this question, I’d rather like to debate both options. But one thing i am certain that it is love with me which actually helps in making professional choices. That’s why i motivate myself for peak performance. To meet goals and to grow. Am sure most of us love ourselves. And this connects with our profession.

Good Bye 2010

No more resolutions for 2011 as I’ve made enough on my birthday. But I have some concludes of 2010 to carry with me in 2011.

1. There is always scope of creativity and innovation in everything you do. No matter how small or how big it is. The initiatives like PANCHRATNA changed my professional outlook.
2. I am proud of being a fan of cricket. Witness highest ever wins for India in a year 2010.
3. Change is good. And I experienced same in my thoughts in 2010. This transformation is being reflected in both my personal and professional life.
4. I could cook till 2009. In 2010, I can say that I love cooking.
5. ‘Networking’ and ‘Net-working’ are important.
6. Last but not the least, love your wife, that’s the secret to enjoy your life.

Good Bye 2010. Welcome 2011. My new year wishes to all those who are reading this (or not) through facebook, twitter or wordpress.

The Secret of Mona Lisa Smile

The secret behind  mysterious smile of Mona Lisa  is discovered by scientists recently. The noticeable fact was the constituents of painting and the way Leonardo da Vinci had applied. Surprisingly, forty layer of glaze with various pigments and use of various other chemicals in one painting to create a shadow effect around the smile of Mona Lisa proves the greatness of the painter. I am surprise by a fact that some of the glaze took months to dry which means some of the effects could have been seen only after few years of the completion of the painting. The question is whether Leonardo da Vinci was aware of this and did purposefully or its a gifted outcome of a genius work. Nevertheless its an outstanding example of both creativity and innovation.


I was referring Bhagvad Gita in some other context and found that its philosophy is a great tool for personal effectiveness and success in life. In one word in which this holy book could be summarized is ‘Karma Yoga’. I tried to make some inferences related with philosophies of ‘Karma yoga’ in context on our personal and professional life. The question I tried to find answer for was how the philosophy of Gita can enhance my personal effectiveness and ensure a sure success in life?

In chapter 2,47; lord Krishna says “Only your rights to perform your prescribed duty are in your control, however, the fruits of your action are not. Therefore never consider yourself as the cause of the result of your activities and at the same time never attach yourself with inaction”. Action without attaching yourself to the fruits of action is a concept however at the same time lord says “direct your actions towards the supreme or ultimate goal of life, the Moksha. In our context the ultimate goal of life could be the real goal we want to achieve in this life. The goal of life could be anything depending upon personal choice. I want to become a CEO, or I want to be the best musician, sportsperson etc, or some short-term goal like I want to become sales and marketing head in next 5 years, or some financial goal like I want to have a worth of 100 cr assets in next 7 years or goals something else, measurable, individualistic of your own. If I extend the inferences of Bhagvad Gita’s Karma yoga, the starting point is focus on your karma.

To meet your goal of life you have to do set of sub goals which will direct you towards ultimate goal. Each sub goal need certain set of activities and the quality of performance of these set of activities are in your full control; however, the results of these set of activities may defer as you wish, as Gita says the fruits of your action is not in your control. So, it’s difficult to stay on the path to ultimate goal with such uncertainty in between. The Gita further says that you must act like a yogi, thus perseverance is must. How to deal with failures in between? In such situation Gita says take both success and failures with reasons firm and free from any doubt (Chapter 5, 9). In this context even rejoices of success can divert you from ultimate goal.

Next question is even if one is not attached with results in between activities and ultimate goal, how should one ensure the desired result in between to certain the ultimate result, which matters? Between activities and its results there is a natural process which is not in our control. This natural process consist of the environmental factors, quality of system in which the activity is performed, the activities and results of other individuals etc. To understand this let us take an example; suppose I want to drive home safely. In this case my quality of work is the driving skill, speed, following traffic rules, condition of vehicle like brakes, petrol etc. The quality of work is in my full control in this case. Now let’s assume there comes a sudden rain, roads become slippery and another individual, whose quality of driving in not in your control skids his car and smashes with yours. Now, even with my activities were in place, I could not control the outcome I desired. This is natural process, which is why the concept of luck or chance exists. Bhagvad Gita, gives a solution in the form of devotion to your work and believe in supreme. In chapter 3, 11 and 12; lord advises that do ‘yagya’ which will elevate demigods and in return they will fulfill your wishes even without asking for it. This needs proper analysis to understand in our context.

‘Yagya’ actually represent two things 1) your contribution to the natural process, the environment, the society etc 2) devotion with trust. In Hindu mythology the ‘Yagya were performed to get a certain result like rain, parenthood, or health etc. The context is changed, along with quality of activities; we need devotion and trust in supreme. We must also make sure that our activities should not negatively influence the environment and other individuals surrounding us. The people who does not believe in supreme power may devote them self to the Karma and trust them self to get the same ‘Yagya’ done.

So the karma yoga can be summarized in two actions 1) focus on quality action with devotion and trust in supreme or our inner self 2) Positive contribution to natural process.

Let me start something new

I’ve always learned that happiness is the key to success but at the same time found that I was happy every time when I had a success. I do not which way it is true. But I know that you can find it without going through the pain of search.

The childhood was amazing as I did’t have to bother for what i’ve to do. Though parents were defining my activities, sport, study or just chilling out with friends, everything was available to me as an option and I was happy to choose all three but one at a time. Now when I am taking my decision, I doubt that I have such options. All the priorities are centred towards profession. And professional success is  actually defining personal success.

Things will move on same track untill I dare to change. Let me start something new. Let me focus on my hobbies and personal priorities too with an open mind as I did in my childhood.

Today is the first day of rest of your life

I came across this amazing American proverb while watching ‘Holy Man’. How truly you can get rid of all your anxieties with just a thought of this with conviction. I am convinced that the value of past is zero and today is the only day to start building your future. But at the same time I am concerned of the concepts around us in which our personalities are judged and perceived based on our past. The fact that our identity is made from the background, education, language, experience etc

Last few years, ‘Change’ emerged as the biggest brand. Politics, entertainment or businesses everywhere ‘change’ predominantly appeared and accepted by mass. Obama in politics, IPL in entertainment and Internet in businesses proved this point. Change appears to be hard and tough but afterwards it is always pleasing. In a sense we all are part of change as a process. However, change is also perceived to be relative, it’s always measured in the form of transition from one status (past) to another (present or coming future).

The real meaning of change in this discussion is radical shift. People may confuse with incremental change, which is actually progress in same direction. A radical shift can happen in any direction and in any dimension. In this sense the radical shift is not linked with past. So why should we bother of history while evaluating a change? In this context “Today is the first day of rest of your life” is real mantra for change.

When you believe that today is actually not linked with your past, you are ready for a spiritual change. Which is change of your believe system, your thought process, your mind-set and your approach to the life. I am sure that these changes can make you ready for a radical shift, a real change.

Product Features’ Rationalization

Rationalization of product features to optimize cost with a hypothesis that some features usage pattern of which are rare, if removed, will not affect a consumer choice of a brand could be a good idea. Manufacturer will have choice of transferring the gained value in the form of price to consumer in a high competitive environment. This strategy can be suitable for a brand targeting mid segment consumer to whom price matters. The limitation of this hypothesis is that the segment we define based on demographic variability is actually usage or need based.

Recently, few manufacturers thought in this direction, and they introduced new variants with rationalized features targeting a specific group on demographic and need based segmentation. Samsung and LG introduced refrigerators with lower size of freezer based on their findings of Indian consumer’s usage pattern of freezers. This helped them to charge 20% lower than the other premium brands. There are numerous examples in FMCG industry. To name a few, GSK’s “Asha”, a low cost substitute to Horlics for rural market, Maggie Masal–ae- magic and Maggie Rasile chow targeting population with low purchasing power.

Customer requirements can be translated into technical requirements of the product. However; a customer wish list does not always convert into a good business proposition. It’s important to understand cost of the customer’s wish. A customer of small car may wish for a power and safety requirements of a high capacity cars. So from a product manager’s point of view it is very important to understand target group and its actual need (not the wish list) from the product right at the time of conceptualization of new product. The right approach starts with segmentation which must be NEED or USAGE based than the other demographic parameters. The cost advantage will be the outcome if the product features are designed for specific needs or usage.

Why was Barbarika sacrificed?

056 Mahabharata Warriors at Angkor Wat

The world has witnessed many battles. However, if there was ever a battle that symbolised the fight for justice and righteousness, it would be the Mahabharata.

That’s why, irrespective of the outcome we respectfully acknowledge the role of Bhishma, Dronacharya and Karna, who fought from the losing side.

There was one warrior whose name does not appear much in history. This warrior was Barbarika, the grandson of Bhima. Inspite of having superior war skills, he could not prove his ability due to his own indecisiveness.

Just before the war, when the polarization of armies and individual warriors was taking place, Krishna wanted to evaluate individual talents. He reviewed everyone and asked how much time they need to finish the war alone. There were tall claims ranging from a week to a month. Barbarika, the youngest warrior to take part in the war, surprised everyone by claiming that he could finish the war in just a few moments. When asked how it was possible, he spoke of his extraordinary expertise in archery, and to everyone’s surprise, said that he could actually vanquish an entire army using just one arrow!

Krishna asked for a demonstration to understand this claim. Barbarika sought permission to pierce all the leaves of a banyan tree using one arrow. When Barbarika was chanting the mantra before releasing the arrow, Krishna took a leaf of the tree and hid it under his feet. Barbarika released the arrow and the arrow did what it was meant to. After piercing all the leaves of the tree, the arrow started revolving around the feet of Krishna, under which he had kept a leaf hidden. The demonstration of this skill surprised all those who were present there, Krishna too was not an exception.

An interesting aspect of the story was that Barbarika had made a pledge to fight only from the side of the weaker army. Krishna knew that this warrior had the capacity to diminish any side, and so the other side would always be the losing one; and if Barbarika changed sides, he would kill everyone on both camps.

Krishna foresaw the dangerous consequences of using Barbarika in the war and decided that Barbarika ought to be sacrificed before the war itself.

Krishna had to intervene again. Through his yoga-maya, he took the form of a Brahmin monk and reached out to Barbarika for a favour in the form of a specific donation. Barbarika assured him that if that donation would be in his power, he could assume it fulfilled. As a beggar, Krishna demanded the head of Barbarika. Barbarika understood Krishna’s yoga-maya and urged the monk to come in his right avatar/form. Krishna did so and understanding Krishna’s visionary objective, Barbarika took no time to cut his head and gave it to Krishna on his own. In return, Krishna granted him a wish to live till the battle of Mahabharata ended and watch the same from a nearby mountain.

Now I have two points to discuss. One, why was Barbarika sacrificed? Was that the only option left to Krishna? Two, if the consequences were different, could Barbarika have proved to be the greatest warrior of time?

Arjuna emerged as the hero of the Great war of Mahabharata. If my assumptions are right, most heroes are made. On the way to their making, lots of Barbarika are sacrificed.

The heroes we know need to be seen in this light.  Are they an Arjuna, a Barbarika or a Krishna? And if you want to be an Arjuna, you need a Krishna. But Krishna had already attained the status of God. Could God also discriminate? There must be a convincing reason.

The other side of the argument is the indecisiveness of Barbarika. He made a pledge which could not make him loyal to anyone. If Krishna allowed Barbarika to participate in the Great War of Mahabharata, he could finish the war only by killing himself because any side represented by Barbarika was the winning one.

My conclusion is that, lord Krishna took a call, in the interest of Dharma, and scheduled the destiny of Barbarika a little early. Krishna’s decision to sacrifice Barbarika gives the message that our skills and knowledge do not count when we are not on the one side of a decision.

Editing inputs by Mr Ajoy Vakil, Strategy and Marketing Consultant, Startup Mentor, Founder of DirectMart

Recently, this story is adopted in ‘theory of indecisiveness’ section of my book ‘The Gita Way’ which is due for release in May 2016. To know more about the book please visit.

(Source of the image used in the post: 056 Mahabharata Warriors at Angkor Wat Photograph from Angkor Wat in Cambodia taken by Anandajoti, downloaded from Wikimedia Commons)

Brand Managers; Let us create an emotional connection with the consumer

The thought of ‘emotional connection’ triggered when I woke up with new version of song ‘mile sur mera tumahara’ airing on zoom on the morning of 60th republic day. It was a surprise that how easily I could make a connection with the two decade old original song with lot of other memories attached with Doordarshan. How would you define the emotional connection established here? I feel it was more of nostalgic feeling of childhood freedom in the form of association with golden past than a feeling of patriotism.

When we try to create an emotional connection with audience, while building or rebuilding a brand; its better to define what emotion the brand is talking about. Recently Fevicol celebrated its 50th birthday and launched ‘Moochwali’ campaign which reminded again the journey of time with a story of a girl bearing adhesive quality of fevicol through out her life and even beyond. I feel fevicol successfully established their journey of 50 years with the adhesiveness as the attribute with this ad.

Let us discuss a case in which attributes of the product does not make a real difference.

Let us take the branding of water; that’s too in India; where water is in abundance and quality of drinking water is at least priority for more than 50 % of the population. Water is a commodity; all major players in packaged water industry build their brands along with the category with a similar set of attributes; like taste, health qualities, source, uses, distribution etc. One of the important emotional connections some major players did with audience by color of packaging and shape of the bottle. Do aqua or blue triggers something when it is associated with drinking water? Can you recall some of your emotion while holding a different shape of bottle in your hand? Definitely yes. I feel it’s a good case to study in differentiating a commodity. In future of flat world, where all information and knowledge will be available to every one, the life of exclusivity will be very short. And there would be lesser scope to differentiate the products on attributes. I can see the branding using neuromarketing techniques to establish emotional connection is going to be prominent.

To establish emotional connection, it’s better to start from the creation of brand identity. While defining the positioning attributes, the brand manager should think of connection of each attribute to the emotional connection. Name, color, packaging, store placement, in shop branding, media and press advertisements; everything defining a brand must connect to the audience emotionally while demonstrating some of the differentiating attributes. The emotion and attributes must be defined to make it consistent across all marketing channel. This holds true for repositioning of a brand as well.

Establishing an emotional connection with consumer is not easy. We need to first understand the ways a consumer respond with each emotional trigger. You will be surprised with the variability in emotional triggers across region, language, customs, culture etc. Understanding target audience needs and emotions and common moments of truth is must. It needs intensive study of consumer. Most of the consumer research will come up with hundreds of ways to define the triggers. Choosing one, need real insight and a business acumen to know the investment and return over investment objectives. However; brand manager must make sure that selected emotional trigger must gel with attributes of the product being positioned.

Some interesting blog posts on emotional branding:

Power of nostalgia in adverting

Building emotional connection to your brand