Saturday, December 10, 2011

What is wrong with Dell's Customer Care & Service

If any Dell  representative reads this, and wants to get in touch with me, you can get to me at shrinivas.sg@gmail.com .. This has been a result of trying to give feedback to Dell, through every possible channel, but not being heard, at every instance.
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When you think Customer Care, and when you think India - probably the only thing that you can remember is the dull music and the announcement "Thank you for your valuable time. All our customer care executives are busy on other calls. Please stay on the line."

From the days of the 'Telecom Revolution' and the IT Revolution that made call centres come into vogue, customer service in India has improved by leaps and bounds. From the days when you had to pay the Telephones guy to fix the telephone to today when we have the BSNL guy outside out house in a few hours/days of the complaint, things have indeed come a long way. As a person, I have had my share of run-ins with the customer service guys of organisations ranging from BSNL, Airtel, Reliance, Next and recently Dell. 

Dell, is highly renowned for its prompt customer service, and its unique model of servicing their products at the customer's residence rather than at a service center unlike most other firms. But I believe it is exactly there that their business model is starting to fall apart, in my opinion at least. Here's 10 reasons why I believe so.


1. Repeated requests for information: Agreed that Dell needs to verify customer details. But it becomes highly irritating and nagging for a customer when he is put through a three minute ordeal of having to answer the same old questions "Name", "Service Tag", "E-mail", "Phone Number", "Alternate Phone Number", "Address" every time he calls Dell up. If all they want through this is to verify the authenticity of the customer, why not stop with just one question! This ends up resulting in extremely long call times. On an average, my three calls with Dell were about 25 minutes long each !

2. Lack of updation in records: Dell's customer records seem to suffer from an obvious issue of being outdated. Something I discovered to my shock, when they somehow shipped my replacement parts to my old address rather than my new address - to which they had shipped parts just a couple of days earlier. Everything ranging from contact number to address never seems to get updated in their system, which I discovered when they kept calling my alternate contact number rather than my primary contact number, which was the number in the service records. 

3. Wipro and other DSPs: The third party outsourcing of service makes it 'impossible', in the words of a Dell Customer Service Executive and Manager, to do anything about poor service from the side of Wipro (the company that mostly provides Dell's Customer Services at our residences). The people from Dell, agree that Wipro isn't doing a great job, but say things on Wipro's side are out of their control, and they cant do much about it. This is something I don't quite agree with, considering it is Dell's brand name and equity that they end up ruining, at the end of the day, and is something that Dell should definitely consider looking into. 

4. Lack of a nodal officer or appellate authority: There is a complete lack of an authority who can be contacted if the customer is unhappy with the response he gets from the customer service centers. This is an area where the telecom service providers score over Dell, as they have visible contact information of Nodal Officers and Appellate Authorities who can be contacted in case of dissatisfaction with the customer Service. With Dell, at the end of the day, it is a vicious circle and the highest you can get to is the Manager at the Call Centre, who is oblivious to everything and says he will do something about it. Try their website, and you get a form to fill up - to which you do not get any response. (It's been a week since I did so)

5. Following a scripted method to troubleshoot: All said and done, it becomes very difficult to handle the multitude of issues that prop up with Dell's systems everyday. But following a scripted method to troubleshoot when the customer already knows what the problem is, and what needs replacing, is not a very wise thing to be doing. All the more worse, is acting by your own whims and fancies, and sending across a LCD and a Flex Cable; rather than the Heat Sink and thermal pads that need replacement. Even more worse, is acting as if the customer knows nothing, and telling him that he is wrong, when he has spent Rs.20000 to extend the warranty to resolve precisely the same issue, one year back. 

6. Lack of listening to the customer: The customer service representatives of Dell suffer from this problem of not listening to the customer properly. Ranging from noting down wrong addresses to not even attempting to resolve the exact issue to more of a focus than maintaining that 'trained accent' rather than listening. The list is endless.


7. Apathy to customer preferences: Though Dell makes it a point to ask the customer for his preferred time of service, they do not quite convey it to Wipro DSP in the way it needs to be done, resulting in the customer being bugged from morning to evening. At times, this even goes to the extent of the customer being forced a service time, as it happened with me. 

First time:
Dell Ahmedabad: We can come for service only at 10 AM on Tuesday. We are busy for the entire week. You take leave and make sure you are there at that time. We cant do anything about this.
 Second time:
Dell Ahmedabad: (At 10 AM): We are sending our customer service executive at 1 PM to your place. Please make yourself available. 
Me:  But I had specifically asked for a service after  4PM
Dell Ahmedabad: We will get back to you
Dell Ahmedabad: (At 2-30 PM, right before a quiz of mine) Sir, I am XYZ from Dell. I will be at your place in 15 minutes. Please make yourself available. 
Me: #$%^$^$%

8. Ill-trained technicians: The service engineers who come to your place, know just to replace the part that has been sent - something that is made clear by the disclaimer at the end of every mail that Dell sends in this regard. With a 'text-book' process to identify issues and technicians who cannot identify issues, it ends up becoming a major problem, when you suffer from a complicated issue. This results in a replacement of every possible part that might be vaguely related to the problem in trying to solve it, rather than actually solving the problem. For example, for a minor issue with a small lock near the hinge, Dell ended up replacing nearly every other part in my system, due to a complete lack of diagnosis. And this, despite me sending them photographs of the area that was damaged.

9. Lack of continuity: When a customer service engineer has been handling your issue over the past week or so, it would be ideal that he continues to handle the issue. It becomes a major hassle for the customer to explain the entire issue once again to a new person, every time he calls up customer care. Dell doesn't seem to have a mechanism to transfer calls to the corresponding customer service executive either. This isn't helped by some pathetic responses by their executives, who do not even respond to e-mails sent to them. (Been about 6 days, and I am yet to get a response). For one issue of replacement of a motherboard and heat sink, I had to explain the problem to 4 people on 4 different instances!

10. Complete lack of willingness to take feedback: Dell, from what I can make out, seems to have an unspoken policy of sending the feedback form to customers only when the customer is satisfied, so that it pushes up their performance ratings. A badly handled service request is never followed up by a feedback form. (I asked twice for the feedback form, over the last week, but I am yet to receive it). I simply do not understand the point of a feedback form, if it is going to be taken only in cases when they've done a good job. And here I was, thinking that the point of a feedback form, was to help them improve, as they proudly state at the beginning of the survey. Things hinge on the boundary of pathetic-ness when the technician who comes to your place, fills up the "Satisfied" part of the form for you, on his own, before getting your signature on it. Lack of any other channel to give them feedback, makes it all the more worse, and forces you to put up with whatever they throw at you. 

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Disclaimer: At the end of the day, I have had a some good experiences with Dell too. But this pathetic experience, overshadows all of that it by FAR.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

An open letter to my (ex) sweetheart

To my (ex) sweet heart

I still remember that day, when I was sitting in the canteen, talking to Kumar, and having a plate of Puri-Subji, after I had got the few IIM Calls that I had. It was then that it stuck me that I actually liked you and wanted you to be a part of my life. Rather, I wanted you to be my life. I just couldn't think of any one else who could take that spot in my life. Even in my dreams. It had always been you, just you. I was pretty much shocked that I had not realized the fact by then, and that I had to be reminded by someone else about it. 

The more I thought about it, the better it seemed. Though initially it took me some time to profess my love, I did. Though I never received a concrete reply from you, I even managed to convince everyone about my love for you and most of them believed me about it. Fate decided my next move would be to IIM-A. I was skeptical about how our love would carry on from over there, for obvious reasons. But IIM-A made me realise it all the more. Talking to various people about their experiences with love, I discovered how awesome you were. You just offered everything I could dream of in life. 



I have to admit, initially, it had been your glamour that attracted you to me. But later on I found out you offered a lot more than just numbers (statistics I mean). I had started to believe ours could be a relationship for life despite many warning me that life with you could be quite risky. They warned me that one fine day in the morning, I could wake up to see that you had ditched me. It was accentuated by the stories I read in the papers about such a relationship even leading to death at times. 

I had made up my mind, and I kept telling myself "Oru vaati mudivu panniten na yen pecha naane kekamaaten"  (Dubbing for those who need it: "Jab main ek bar commitment de deta hum to uske bad khud ki bhi nahi sunta" ). I had made up my mind to like you, and I would do it despite anything it takes. I found you ultra cool, sexy and what not. 

But like they all say, all good things have to come to an end. The deterioration started slowly and steadily I should say, when I discovered how demanding you were. The more I found out, the scarier it got for me. Guys with previous experience in love had told me that love is pretty demanding. But this much, I'd never imagined. To be frank, that one experience made me forget half my dreams with you. The candle of love, though, kept burning despite the storm around. I had thought you were irreplaceable, till I discovered an equally glamorous alternative to you over here. Then came along a less glamorous and simpler alternative to you. I started falling in love with her too which complicated things. She offered as much to me, as you. With an added incentive of variety as well. Perfect I thought. She was fun loving and wanted to traverse the world with me. It was all falling in place once again.

But first love, they say, stays with you forever. And it did. Till one fine day, you decided to screw me over for my infidelity. It was a blow I just couldn't take. Unfair, I thought, and gave up on you. Or I should say, almost gave up on you. I started seeing one more alternative to you, as I was getting tired of your shenanigans. It was tough, but the guy who introduced me to my most recent love, was a wizard. The way he described you, simply swept me off my feet. Never in my life had I even given her a glance, but all of a sudden, I could sense her beauty. True love? I still don't know. 



Then started all the confusion. I wanted to give up on my first love. But my heart still had a few pangs for her. My second one ditched me on her own. Guess she didn't find me good enough for her. I simply loved spending time with my third one, and every second, was bliss. People said you wouldn't be able to satisfy me and weren't glamorous enough and simply said, lacked the vital statistics. But I was no longer bothered.

I was finally and truly done with you, and had moved on in life. But why? Why? You gave me that fleeting look. One of those looks that had swept me off my feet in the first place, and I started falling for you once again. Not as madly as ever. But enough to give me second thoughts. I should have realized then, that you were just having your revenge at me. But the old romantic in me, thought otherwise. I dreamed of the luxury we could live in, and started to go gaga. 

All this, before you delivered your final blow. And this time it was CRUSHING. It took me a while to realize it, and now it pains. It will take me quite some time to recover from this. But I know now, that you just weren't meant for me. You were just one of those show-offs who floored me with skin show. I had never been in love with you, I guess. I had just been infatuated by you. Now I realize glamour isn't everything in life. And I'm not writing this in jealousy. I have found my true love at last and I just have one thing to say to you. Please stop giving me those fleeting looks when you have a chance to see me. 

A devastated lover boy 

PS: All feelings expressed in this are not fictional. You are free to take your guesses on who/what though. Thanks to Anand Arasu for the inspiration.  
Image Courtesy: Google Image Search 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Flipkart - a review

I've been a loyal customer of Flipkart for a long time now, before I decided to check out Infibeam as well. One use proved why Flipkart is a lot better service than the other. I was doing this as part of an assignment. I thought I might as well post it here, and start a series where I can review various services that I use. 
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Flipkart.com, an Indian Internet Start-up offers a whole gamut of products ranging from books to personal health care products, and recently even microwaves and washing machines. Flipkart has managed to differentiate itself from the clutter of websites offering similar products through its discounted rates, reliable shipping, high variety and brilliant customer service, which leads to customer retention and loyalty. 


 
What they do right

1.      User Interface: Flipkart has a wonderfully simple user interface that allows loads quickly, and offers a ‘lite’ version for slower internet speeds too, rather than the flash heavy interfaces of other e-Commerce websites, that improves the customer experience on the website.

2.      Cash on Delivery, EMI, 30 day guarantee: The varied payment schemes provided by the site like Cash on Delivery, EMIs and the 30 day guarantee scheme for products go a long way in countering the general tendency of the Indian Consumer to shop in traditional shops than online. 

3.      Payment Interface: Rather than going in for the confusing CCAvenue payment gateway that most e-Commerce websites opt for, Flipkart has a much more reliable Axis Bank Payment Gateway that is easier to use. 

4.      Variety: The most important thing for a book store is the variety. A consumer who finds a rare title is definitely bound to return back to the website for further orders, and Flipkart with their variety have gone a long way in ensuring this. 

5.      Deliveries and packaging: Flipkart is renowned for its prompt deliveries within the promised deadline, and most of the time delivers earlier than promised. It is this customer focused approach that has helped Flipkart keep their noses ahead of the competition. 

6.      Customer Service: Flipkart’s business model is based on repeat purchases and retaining customers and has built a highly responsive customer service team that responds to all queries within 24 hours. Their active presence on Social Networking sites and ensuring timely deliveries, with a smile, go a long way in ensuring success of their business model.

The Downside

1.      Search feature: The search feature on the website allows only a basic search, and not an advanced option that allows you to search by author name or ISBN etc. This proves to be a hassle when the name of the book is a common name. 

2.      Categorizing: Though Flipkart has a visible ‘category’ wise catalogue for their books, it becomes pretty apparent that most of their titles are not properly catalogued. Buying in book shops generally happens when the customer spots the book in a particular category and gets interested in it, despite not having known the book previously. Flipkart’s poor cataloguing eliminates the opportunity of such buys.

Scope for future development

1.      International Shipping: A logical step ahead is to move into the sphere of international shipping – initially with Srilanka and Bangladesh, and start competing with their big brother, Amazon. 

2.      Widening of Range in some product categories: There is an obvious scope for improvement in the product variety in some of the newly launched product ranges. 

3.      Customised products and Gifts: One area where Infibeam.com, a competing company scores over Flipkart is their customised gifts through PicSquare. Though Flipkart offers an option of a gift wrap and a personal message for a nominal charge, the service is not quite apparent for first time users. Customized products and gifts is another area where there is scope for future development. 

4.      Same-day-Shipping: Flipkart could have different versions of their website based on the location of the customer that offer different shipping times for their products. Some of the bigger cities could soon be equipped with same-day shipping considering that Flipkart has a strong in-house logistics service. 

5.      Product Pages: Flipkart could look at having better product pages for individual items. Some items like a Cell phone or a camera or a Microwave oven would be better projected with a 360 degree image viewer. This would offer a more intuitive view for the consumers than the photographs that are on display now. Flipkart could also look to develop their product pages in a better manner than they are right now, with lesser unnecessary data being displayed. 
 
6.      Customised Delivery Dates: As an extension to the gifting service, Flipkart could look at offering customer chosen delivery dates for the same, beyond a threshold date that Flipkart can provide. 


On the whole, Flipkart, through its methodical approach of expansion of product categories, rather than starting off as a Jack of all trades is slowly emerging as the Amazon of the Indian e-Commerce arena. With a strong logistics and customer focused approach, Flipkart is slowly taking steps into becoming a giant in the e-Commerce space. Future scope for development includes wider range of products and international shipping etc. 

 
On same lines, Shop N Network - An IIM-A Start up by a couple of seniors from TN. Highly reliable delivery and service. Good and unique range of products. 

Note: Photocredits: Flipkart, Infibeam,  Amazon and Shop n Network. 
Flipkart, Infibeam, Amazon and Shop n Network are registered trademarks of their respective owners.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

And I get published once again ...

After my age old article for a fan magazine for Vijay,I get published once again. The article I wrote a few days  back for my blog, has been published on Behindwoods.com

Here's the link:
http://www.behindwoods.com/features/visitors-1/oct-11-02/rajinikanth-ra-one-14-10-11.html



The A to Z of Life at IIM-Ahmedabad

It just seems like yesterday that I landed in this place. But  it's already 4 months of life at IIM-A, and like promised by everyone - one rocking roller coaster ride it has been. This is one post which might never do justice to life at IIM-A, but here you go. The A-Z of life at IIM-A.

Aadamkhor. The man-eaters of Section-A. That bunch of wonderful, fun loving and brilliant people who make each day such a pleasure to live, despite all the pressures of life here.

Birthdays. There is a whole lot of tradition associated with birthday celebrations here ranging from the 'bumps' to the 'senti speeches' and like promised, they well and truly make you feel 'special'. 

CP. Class Participation. Various forms include Random CP, Arbit CP, Desperate CP, Forced CP. The only sure shot cure to sleeping. 



Deadlines. Deadlines. Deadlines. As one of my classmates (Abhishek Jansari) put it, almost everything in IIM-A has a time or a deadline associated with it.

Engineers. Invariably every other student you find on campus. Except the few odd.

F. That Grade which we are dread and want to avoid by all possible means, even if it means putting THE most arbit CP (Class participation) in class. 

Google. GMail. Google Docs. The only way you can live life in some slightly ordered fashion here. The first though cant be used as much as in Engineering days, thanks to that dreaded software called 'Turn-it-in'.

Hostel Life. Or Dorm life. One of the best parts of life at IIM-A. The Dorm naming, the dorm parties, friends, tuchchas, fachchas. You need to be experience it and enjoy it. If MANIT hostel life was fun of a kind, life here is fun in another dimension.

IITians. iSchol. Refer the entry on R

Juice. Love makes everyone a poet. Here, a laptop with someone's G-mail signed in, makes anyone and everyone a poet, who can write juices (poems or other novel ways to express 'your' 'love'). Of course, there are the experts. And there are the rest.

Kotler. One book that shows how powerful marketers are. I mean, creating a whole new field of business to sell your book(s) is quite something isn't it? The book is so huge that the 'Kotler Summary' e-books are 238 pages long. And there exist summaries of the Kotler summary which are 3 pages per chapter long. (70 odd pages totally). (No I'm not lying). All said and done, marketing is among one of my most preferred career options, along with Consulting and General Management.

Louis Kahn Plaza. If at times you feel that the pressure is getting to you, there is no better place to let it release than the green well manicured lawns at Louis Kahn Plaza named after the architect who designed the red-walls of IIM-Ahmedabad. The serene feeling you get watching the stars at night, over you is as calming as can get.

Maska Buns. If Dhokla was the famous Gujarati dish that you could get everywhere across the country, Maska Buns represent the not-so-famous but the more tasty dish (in my opinion atleast) . Probably the tastiest food item available in and around campus.

Nescafe. Arguably provide the best coffee on campus, and my lifeline. (Only my friends from Bhopal know how much of a coffee lover I am)

Open Book. Those kind of exams that make you wish that it would have been good if books came enabled with a Google Search or a Ctrl+F in them. You probably would have written a lot more from your neighbour's paper in Engineering days, than you did from a book in an open book exam.

Placecom. Respect to them for being one of the most systematic and well oiled committees I've ever seen in my life. Probably are the bunch of guys who do the maximum work in the campus.

Quizzes. The fact that every person on campus is glued to either his mobile phone or the
laptop screen or the notice board near the mess for those 120 odd seconds between 1:44:00 to 1:46:00 doesn't quite do enough justice to the kind of effect a quiz has. The heaves of relief and cries of joy when there is no quiz are at times heard across the campus. 

RG. Refer the entry on I

Sweet and Gujarati food are synonymous. You cant quite imagine the range of dishes these people manage to make sweet. For the land of the 'Dandi Salt March', you'd probably not have imagined Gujarat to be a place short on salt.

Teachers. If after engineering college life you lost your respect for the profession of teaching, you probably need to visit this place to see the levels of godliness that a professor can touch.



Ultimate. or Frisbee. The most popular game on campus. On most days and weekends, you will be able to see a bunch of guys running all across the well manicured lawns of Louis Kahn Plaza, chasing and throwing around a 'plate'.

Vikram Sarabhai Library. The three storey building where you can find the answers to all the assignments that initially seemed Greek and Latin to you.

WIMWI Standard Time. Everything happens to the Dot here. From classes, to submissions, to deadlines. If only the ending of the classes also stuck to it. ;-). 

Xchange. Reminds me of the Coleridge poem. "Water, water everywhere; But not a drop to drink". If you aren't able to comprehend, then you probably have the IQ level of Poonam Pandey.

Y chromosome. Something that is extra abundant on campus. Leads to plenty of demand-supply issues of all kinds.

Zzzzz. Arguably the most valuable thing on campus (?).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kollywood vs Bollywood - The business of Cinema

Disclaimer - Some of the points might have earlier featured in tweets/articles by other people like Sreedhar Pillai formerly of ToI, Pavithra Srinivasan of Rediff, Sudhish Kamath of The Hindu and Allu Sirish, Producer and Founder of the Southscope Magazine.

Rumors of a guest appearance by Rajinikant in Ra.One start, and suddenly industry observers like Sreedhar Pillai say that the film is now worth a lot more in the dubbing market of Tamil Nadu etc. Later news comes that Rajini has 'blessed' the film, whatever that means, but that doesn't get all that mileage. But the film has now got the eyeballs that it wanted in a market that would rather have focused on a '7am arivu' or a 'Velayutham' instead. 


For all that we say about Bollywood, one thing we need to admit is their undoubted expertise in promotion of their movies. Every other actor, be it a superstar or a newbie hero goes all-out in promoting his movies, across the nation; and sometimes across the globe as well. The varied promotions of Ra.One across the internet, TV and news media made me wonder why Tamil movies, or for that matter any South Indian movie never tries that kind of promotion, and that was the effect of this. Or why Tamil movies fail to climb the 'next' level in terms of money minting.

Huge Star Egos is one major issue in any South Indian Industry. Every year, one can point out multi-starrers that release in the Hindi Industry. But down south, the ego levels are pretty astounding. So much that Bharath came out in the media against Simbu after the release of the much touted 'Vaanam', for giving him lesser screen space. The older times had a Thalapathy or a Friends or a Nerukku Ner and a Pithamagan. But today, it is a pain for the director to handle two stars. (Like Vivek says in Sivaji, even the stars who sprouted yesterday have started spewing punch dialogues)


While biggie Bollywood movies hardly clash, except for the rare one or two, it is an everyday affair in Kollywood to see two big movies pit against each other, and eat away the other's shares. Standing examples being Pongal where Kaavalan, Aadukalam and Siruthai clashed at the Box Office. All three where good in their own right, but ended up eating into each others collections at the end of the day. If that was a lesson not learnt, Diwali sees two of the costliest movies made in Tamil Cinema - 7am Arivu and Velayutham lock horns, with the added possibility of 'Osthi' and 'Mayakkam Enna' joining the frame. Once again, it is the ego of both stars that prevents them from pulling out, as it might be seen as a sign of giving in to the other, and at the end of the day, the collections take a huge hit. Bollywood on the other hand is more professional in its approach and allows most of its biggies, a free run in the box office, like a 3 Idiots or a Ra.One or a Bodyguard, that enables the producers to get back their investment in no time.

Another aspect where Bollywood scores over Kollywood would be the early DVD Releases which ensures good collections. In Kollywood, by the time a decent DVD Print releases for a movie, most people even forget the movie. Producers down south have had an inherent apprehension towards releasing DVDs early as it might end up encouraging piracy, and eat up their theatre collections as well. While they are vindicated in this, it might be a good option to try the same. Even Mozhi which ventured into a same day DVD release with Moserbaer had to later give in to box office pressures and postpone the same. 


 Like it is frequently pointed out by many industry observers, producers down south have an aversion towards paid previews, a day before the actual release of the movie, due to the fear that it might end up into negative reports about the movie. Both in Hollywood, and now in Bollywood, paid previews have become a completely new revenue stream, which the producers are exploiting to the hilt, by having multiple previews across the globe with the added attraction of the star cast being present at a few. In my opinion, some of the biggies down south can take a chance with a similar thing as well. Who wouldn't pay a princely 1000 bucks to watch the movie a day ahead of the actual release. Probably, the fan frenzy would result in ticket prices even overshooting the same, if there is the added attraction of the star cast being a part of the show.For everything that is said, the majority of the collection comes in the initial week of the movie, which is followed by a long drawn tail (considering Tamil Cinema's obsession with the number of days that a movie was screened in a theatre). In my opinion, producers down south have completely failed to use this to their advantage and get back their investment as quickly as they can.

Yet another burning issue would be the lack of subtitles, which prevents the film from catering to newer markets. When a Hindi movie can release down south with subtitles, why cant the same happen for a Tamil movie. The tale of Siddharth, trying to subtitle his movies, and having trouble with the same is a oft repeated story. Tamil Cinema can probably explore new areas abroad if it takes up subtitling with zeal. From what I've heard and seen, Telugu Cinema seems to have taken a good step forward in this regard. Telugu movies with subtitles were watched by many people in my hostel in Bhopal too. On the other hand, trying to search online for subtitles of Tamil movies, is a quest that often ends in failure. With the kind of universal appeal that a Rajnikanth or a Vijay or a Surya has abroad, this could be a major source of revenue that the producers miss out on.

How can a post on Tamil Cinema be complete without its most striking feature. Fan Frenzy and Fan Rivalry. In a state where movie releases are a festival of their own right, fan rivalry is a major issue affecting any movie. Rival fans start of SMS chains that trash another actor's movie (however respectable the movie might be in the end). At some points, it has even become fashionable to trash certain actors for anything and everything that they do and turn a blind eye to their 'favourite actor'. Such SMSs and passing around of reviews that scythe a movie, do more harm than any good, as the fans of the actor whose movie is being trashed this time around, wait for their chance and do the same to the other actor's movie releases. 

And last but not the least is the poor promotions. From releasing bits of the songs of the movies, to running contests on all channels across television, to going on trips across the nation; Bollywood stars - big or small, do their bit to promote their movies. But their southern counterparts have been averse to that kind of heavy duty promotions. Promotional offers for movie tickets, are often seen as a weakness that the movie isn't doing particularly well. Co-branding and in-movie branding is something that Tamil Cinema hasn't fully exploited as yet. A Ra.One or a Bodyguard associates itself with multiple brands that give it the eyeballs needed on television. 

With multiple music channels across the spectrum, it does make business sense to release mini videos of songs, before the release of the movie. This has been something that Kollywood has been vehemently against, to the extent of showing song videos on TV only after a month of screening on TV. What would be a better promotion for a movie, than a the video of a chartbuster song.  

Maintaining functional websites of movies would be another step in the right direction in today's internet savvy world. Producers could look at running a online chat with the stars or a contest as part of promotions, with tickets to the first day of the movie as prizes for the same. But the real state of the day today is that some of the movies that are releasing even lack a proper website that offers wallpapers and latest stills of the movie. A step in the right direction was taken by '180' that offered digital download of its songs for a price that the customer was willing to pay for the same. If not a similar thing, official websites could offer digital downloads of songs for a marginal rate that would encourage paid downloads rather than pirated editions of music CDs that are available for download even before the actual audio release.

Some of these steps, would probably take Kollywood in the direction that it wants to go in - towards competing with Bollywood. Baby steps are being taken in the form of the entry of corporates like UTV, which did a fantastic job with Deivathirumagal. But there is certainly a long way to go.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Preposterous Paunch Predicament

It was the Operations Management Lecture, and I had my 'first cold call' of life at IIM-A. (A cold call is a situation where a professor catches you, and asks you to answer a question.) I had kind of prepared for the class properly, and was confident that I should be able to answer most of the stuff he might ask me do to on the board. But little did I know what lay in store for me. He asked me to draw a process flow chart, and I confidently went about drawing it, before the bombshell dropped.

Professor : Shrinivas, your handwriting is the complete opposite of your personality

Before I could comprehend what he was trying to tell me, the entire class was laughing big times, and banging their desks, parliament style. And it was then that it dawned on me, that the professor meant to say I was writing in unacceptably small font size on the board. And obviously - the 'personality', as you might have guessed, was in reference to my paunch. 


Off late, I've gotten used to the ridicule, due to the 'tyres' around my waist. Be it the "Dai, Enna da Barrel maari irukka?" (What man, you look like a barrel?) or the "I can see your face, I can see your body. But where is that part of the body called the neck in your photo?". Things have gotten so bad, that I got a book "Only fat people skip breakfast" from my friends from MANIT. And like all self help books, that was a good motivator actually, that I'm hardly eating 5 meals over 3 days on an average now, in an attempt to reduce the paunch, and it all seemed to be working out. Until a friend popped up on Twitter with an innocent query - "Have you considered the other option of actually 'working out'? ". 

All this, and I decided I'd rehash a piece I wrote for Excelsior, at MANIT. (A reply to Geetanjali Kaur's opposite version). And here you go. 

An existence of sumo-wrestler like looks is extremely disconcerting, in all my earnestness.  Every time I see guys talking about ‘six pack abs’ and ‘gym’ed bodies, and I look down at my own ‘family pack’, all that goes through my mind is ‘Screw Salman and Aamir’ !! I’m here to expose the bitter realities and misfortunes of the over-sized obese lot. Fatso, Hamburger, Bulldozer are some of the nicer nicknames you get to listen to through your life. 
 
The word ‘obesity’ is considered synonymous with your name and sometimes you are even made an example to kids who don’t eat their dinner. "Mote waale uncle kidnap kar denge" or "If you don’t exercise you’ll become like him". Everyone thinks you have ultra-rich parents, who give you money to waste eating food outside, every other day. Especially if you are in the hostel and despite mess food, manage to maintain a fantabulous paunch.

It is no fun at all when you go shopping, when you spend more time searching for shops that stock your size than choosing clothes. (Of course, in case of the fairer sex, this time might be equal :-P) Things are demeaning, when you come back empty handed as they don’t have jeans fitting your size, and have 100s and 1000s for jeans for the lower sizes stacked all over the place. Even worse when you are suggested to get pant material and get fitting trousers stitched! More the worse when the guy next to you buys 1.3 m of cloth for his, and you are asked to buy 2 m. 



When people ask how much you weigh, they expect your answer to be in ‘tons’. Sometimes you get insulted by friends asking you to stand on the ‘industrial weighing machine, than on the normal ones. It is assumed that you eat anything and everything. Come a treat, and you become the in-house dustbin and are dumped with anything and everything that might otherwise go waste. Everything in the world, from falling sick to failing a fitness test, is attributed to your weight. There is no other disease that plagues your life apart from the few extra kilos/ tires around your waist.

It isn’t the best feeling when you are asked to lift anything that is mildly big and people scream saying ‘Are yaar, uta liya’ when you are done, making it all the more worse and grabbing attention to your weight first than the task you’ve done. Travelling in an over-crowded auto with friends, by default makes you the one on whom everyone sits. An unfortunate consequence being a potential family future damage for guys, thanks to the bumpy Indian roads. It isn’t amusing that if you people ask you when you are going to get married when you are hardly 18, or introduce you to their baby as ‘XXYY uncle’, not because of your age. When earthquakes or tsunamis occur, your friends message you asking if you jumped off the stairs or anything.

And last but not the least, you are mostly ignored by the better looking species of the other sex. If at all you manage to get noticed, come rakhi, you’ll find yourself with plenty around your hand. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

After three months at IIM Ahmedabad ...

Three months in IIM-A are done and dusted. And after the first few days of life here, when I slept without any care, last night was the next occasion when I did that. For those who know me from earlier on, they would probably realise that my waking up at 1-00 PM in the afternoon after sleeping at about 12, the last night is like a non-event in my life ever. So peaceful was last night, that i was wishfully thinking if I could probably pause life and this moment and enjoy it a lot more, rather than get back into the rat race of assignments, quizzes, PPTs and exams once again. All said and done, I wouldn't deny the fact that it's been a roller coaster journey with lots of ups and downs and a tremendous experience altogether. I find myself with a lot more knowledge and ability to look at things from angles which I'd never thought of previously as well. A lot more than I ever thought would even understand. 


For instance, when I arrived here, I was so naive that I dint even know what a balance sheet was. During the first ever study group meet here, to discuss one of our first cases , here was the conversation that went along. The case was about discussing what were the problems with the company, and what should the approach of the owner be, and whether he should sell the some stores of his, etc. 

Friend: The company doesn't seem to be doing quite well. Their Debt-Equity ratio is pretty high and his sales are stagnating. Doesn't look like a good scenario for the company.

Me: Dude, what are you on. Check the balance sheet, the company's assets are equal to its liabilities. Worst case, he will go bust, and he can pay off his debts without any loss. So it is in a good scenario only, right?


Friends: ((shocked expression)) 

When I said this, I didn't even know that assets were equal to liabilities all the time!! My understanding of stocks used to be just a few numbers, the red and green arrows. Now I know a bit about how things work behind those numbers and the arrows. Things weren't looking all that great in the beginning, when I was surrounded by an bunch of people who were a lot more talented bunch than I have ever seen. I applied to a couple of clubs and didn't make it anywhere, which didn't give me any confidence either. Nor did looking at the CVs of some of the guys out here, which were filled with such great stuff which I couldn't even have dreamed of having done. A set of exams, and now another have passed by, and have made me realise my 'positioning' strategy in this institute and I have stuck to that, ever since. Not too high, nor too low, somewhere in the middle is my space, and I hope to hold on to that and climb up with passing time. 

Life has been great, with T-Nite. Not that I had a lot of stuff to do then. The only meaningful contribution I had was probably giving my classmates a nice laugh, with the video of a group performance on stage when I was looking so comical. EPL watching probably is one of the steam releasing points these days. Guess I am on reverse jinx mode these days. Whenever I have watched, Manchester United cant seem to stop scoring, unlike those days in MANIT when United never won whenever I watched a game on TV. Even took part in a couple of quizzes (not the accounting ones, these are the actual quizzes which I love).

There was also the tale of a missed interview, for the Literary Cell of IIM-A, when I completely messed up and didn't attend the interview due to a comedy of errors. A couple of juices written by myself (in part hindi), without the help of the expert juice writers would definitely count among my biggest achievements here, considering one of them was written during the End-slot exams as well. Life's good & bad at the same time.

When I landed in IIM-A, I came in with the sole objective of a career in finance. But off-late, I'm seriously considering even that, whether finance is what I actually want to do in life, and I am getting more inclined towards the other streams (Marketing, has really caught my eye, like nothing else has). 

Life here is hectic, and at times, you just wish you could stop and relax for a while, so that you could run the rat race with renewed energy, than run it in such a fatigued state. Of all things I have done here, something silly is what catches my eye the most. Unlike the much touted late nights and night outs, *touchwood* I've managed to get through life here with no night outs for the purpose of studying and not that I've neglected academics either. Leave alone a night out, the latest I've ever been up for studying would probably be 1-30 AM. (Even that seems an overstatement, now that I've said it)

Life's been pretty satisfying here. Though it has been a little because I have reduced my expectations from both life and myself, to more realistic levels. Free time is such a valuable proposition here, so much that I hardly get time to do the things I love to, like reading and writing. In MANIT, it would have been a travesty had I not read a novel I borrowed or owned within the first two days. But here, I've purchased a couple of books, which I've not got the time to read through, even though I'd love to do it. 

At the end of the day, I've also made sure that my focus on a 'satisfying' job than a 'high paying' job, hasn't wavered either. I'm really looking forward to see how far it holds, especially during placement season. 


PS: Next thing I'm looking forward to, is watching Velayutham First day, first show in a theatre in Ahmedabad. Hoping nothing screws up that plan. Been a while since I saw a Vijay movie on screen.
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