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.
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