Posted on 30-05-2010
Filed Under (CRIME) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

It’s a country where everybody is allowed to have a gun. Would you say danger lurks at every corner in the US so that a gun becomes a necessity? Crime is rife across world, but only in the US does it seem magnified as an extension of socio cultural life.

Of course Americans are scared of crime too, but they seem to lap it up as entertainment. Like mythological stories that every child listens to, American crime stories about gangsters and the Mafia, bank robbers and serial killers, drug cartels and bootleggers, guntoting cowboys and any number of tales of criminals have become the subject of films, comic books, TV shows. They cover bad Great Depression and prohibition times to famous prisons like Alcatraz, created to punish the most dangerous of criminals. Millions of American tourists and other foreign tourists have visited Alcatraz Island prison museum. Here you learn that disobeying society’s law gets you to prison, but disobeying prison laws takes you to Alcatraz. This maximum security federal penitentiary, jail to 1,576 crooks for 29 years upto 1963, overlooks San Francisco Bay where, in contrast, opulent American lifestyle is visible. I’ve never seen any museum so crowded that you don’t get a ticket on-the-spot. You have to do advance bookings. Even as you queue up to buy advance tickets or board the boat you can see crooks being hero worshipped. They are in large billboards with their quotes. “It looks like Alcatraz got me licked,” inmate 85 Al Capone, among the most dreaded criminals, had said. George ‘machine gun’ Kelly, Alcatraz inmate no. 117, recorded, “These five words seem to be written in fire on the wall of my cell: Nothing can be worth this!”  Just imagine, Americans like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs who’ve contributed so much to changing thought processes across the globe still don’t have a museum on their lives where the public can get inspired, but the famous crooks do. Alcatraz houses memoirs of these dangerous anti-socials. Banner stories abound of escape bids by 36 prisoners caught in the crossfire of bullets and strong undersea undercurrents. You can join an audio tour of former inmates, correctional officers and residents as they reminisce about life in Alcatraz. The thrill you experience is like visiting Disneyland or Universal Studios. But let me narrate that to you, blow by blow, next week so you enjoy the thundering storm of Alcatraz during the tenure it was open.

Can crime be a cultural phenomenon? American society has evolved from the killer instinct, from fights and battles that united 51 states. Of course their pioneering and inventive spirit that’s changed the world cannot be questioned. A multitude of crimes are committed here not for money or drugs, but because the criminal was psychologically or socially misbalanced, depressed or just plain bored, lonely, angry or wanted to kill. From real crime in high protection American prisons, writers write books that get translated into Hollywood blockbuster films, or programmes that get spectacular TV TRPs. Let me portray 3 live examples where FBI professionals have displayed deep sensitivity and the art of making prisoners talk for TV reality shows with eye-to-eye emotional conversations.

Case 1: Thirty-four-year-old Joe Rifkin told the FBI he was a serial killer. He brutally strangled 17 prostitutes and dumped their body parts all over the New York metropolitan area. “There were nights I’d be with two girls and then a third girl, and she would be the one I would kill,” he recalled. His bloody murders went unnoticed for four years until 1993 when he left the 17th girl’s corpse in his family garage for three summer days. The decomposed smell gave him away to the New York Police when he went to dispose of the body. Rifkin calmly recalled details of each of his murders. In his bedroom they discovered scores of items he collected from his victims. He said he would use these items to remind him of the crime and relive that sexual pleasure. He is serving 203 years in jail.

Case 2: Ron Luff followed Jeff Lundgren’s fanatic religious cult without hesitation in Kritland, Ohio. Lundgren used guilt to manipulate his 20 followers to eternal damnation mandated by God if they did not follow his every word. He would test their devotion by holding Bible classes from morning to 2 a.m., and making them fast while he ate lavish dinners in front of them. “The whole Ethiopian famine was personally attributed to my failure,” said Luff. “I remember tears coming out of my eyes and thinking, Oh my God, it’s my fault people are dead. I felt these things and they were real to me.”

Lundgren convinced Luff that Christ’s second coming will only be possible through human sacrifice. To “quench the fire of God” he chose to murder his followers, the Avory family. He made Luff dig a huge hole in the farm barn. Luff first brought the adults, tied their hands, mouth and eyes with duck tape while Lundgren shot them. The same routine was followed for their three small children, and they were all buried. Months later, Luff realised, “I began to doubt whether I could continue because God had gotten too ugly to follow anymore.” He gave himself up to the police which led to Jeffrey Lundgrens’s end too.

Case 3: Reginald McFadden, just out of prison two months ago in 1994 for two previous murders, gave his broken down Cadillac for repair. Shocked to hear the high cost of repair, he loitered around the Long Island railroad station. “There was rage, full rage in me. I decided to go ahead and go back into my hell. I got to a platform and there was Margaret Kierer,” he recounted about 78-year-old Margaret who become his third victim. McFadden attacked her, bound and dragged her to the backyard, brutally raped her and stabbed her to death. “I’m not remorseful. I’m not sorry. I don’t fear death. I have learned to hate white people. You mark your own fate,” he said.

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Posted on 23-05-2010
Filed Under (CRIME) by Shombit

The Indian EXPRESS/ The Financial EXPRESS article

Let’s watch a Broadway show called “Times Square circus and crime.”

Act 1. Overflowing with digital billboards and neon lights, New York’s Times Square at night looks like Las Vegas, the vibrant US gambling city. An amphitheatre seating gallery has been built under the famous Coca Cola advertisement landmark where people sit only to watch other people, illumination, billboards and street entertainment events. In 12 degree Celsius temperature, a very handsome, muscular playboy in just a v-shaped underwear and cowboy hat is creating showbiz, singing with a guitar. With “naked cowboy” written on his backside, he’s got women of all age groups joyfully flocking to him. He reaches out to the women, and creates an erotic pose for a souvenir photograph they carry back home. Holding a woman chest-to-chest, he takes off his hat and puts it in front of her face, as though he is pushing through a strong kiss on her bent body. Another much loved photographic pose is bottom-to-bottom. He takes the woman’s hand, places it on his exaggerated sitting-in-the-air “naked cowboy” backside, takes his own hand and puts it on her backside even as he pouts a kiss to her. Sometimes he does a tango dance putting his leg in an erotic gesture between the woman’s legs. The woman’s companion clicks the picture while she happily gives him some money that he puts inside his guitar as though it were a piggy bank. In return he gives her a post card to remember him by; in actual fact it’s his business card. Police presence is high here, even mounted police on horseback, but they have a very public friendly attitude, and everybody is in a hearty mood having a rollicking time.

Suddenly a beautiful woman passes by manifesting a picture of President Barack Obama in a billboard hanging on her neck. She has a tray of condoms at the bottom of Obama’s smiling face. She’s proudly selling “Obama condoms.” Men and women criss-cross her, open up their purses and buy Obama condoms with no qualms, complexity or fuss. You may argue that this shows genuine liberty in the hands of American people, that anyone can brand even an intimate product like condoms with the President’s face and openly sell it on the street. Perhaps it could mean the President is passing on a friendly message on AIDS prevention. That’s breakthrough action really. We can never imagine that any politician in India would allow his or her name to be associated with AIDS; in fact AIDS is a subject we fear continuously and try to hide its existence.

Suddenly in another corner, a highly decorated pink collapsible van, almost like a festival float, drives in slowly. Dramatically made up poster girls give live demonstrations of a color cosmetic brand. Women walking on the street suddenly get up and sit on gaudy chairs outside the flashy pink van to experience what it feels like to be made up and look like Hollywood stars being watched by adoring crowds. In such ostentatious surroundings there is unexpectedly the irony of homeless people carrying their worn out luggage in trolley bags. They ask people for money and sleep on the road. Beggars are commonplace in India, but in Times Square it’s shocking to see beggars.

Act 2. As my colleague and I were walking down Broadway through Times Square, I was telling her about how the advent of terrorism has made European countries like France change even their street dust bin systems. They now use huge, transparent, plastic bags as dust bins on the streets so everything discarded inside is very visible from the outside. But the US still uses hard, opaque plastic dust bins on the street. We reached Juniors restaurant on West 45th Street, had a quick bite and stepped out at 7 pm. Suddenly the police had cordoned off the Times Square area with a yellow ribbon to stop passers by. I always carry my video camera in hand to collect social aspects in society when I travel so I was covering this incident even as it unfolded. It appeared fun at the initial stage and went on to become dramatic.

Act 3. We were made to walk back towards 8th Avenue. Lots of cameramen started to shoot the scene. The police first used a yellow ribbon then pushed us back a little more. The original yellow ribbon spot now had a red ribbon. We smelt danger. Suddenly fire brigades were bracketing the road. Ambulances started to make their appearance.
Manhattan’s Broadway, the theatre district, was about to swing into action at 8 pm, A few young actors and actresses were seen trying to negotiate entry to the barricaded streets as they had to rush for their theatre performance. Theatre musicians with their huge cellos and violins did not know what to do. An actress was pushed aside by a burly fire brigade man, and she fell down on the road. A rumor ran through in lightning speed amongst this public that a building on Times Square was on fire. Part of the public speculated that terrorists have struck while others ran for cover. The cynical ones suspected that the police were running through a dummy test to keep themselves busy instead of enjoying the fun activities of the street. Electronic shops on Broadway were vociferous in voicing their gripes. Here finally it was a bright sunny day and they expected to make some money. As it is the Icelandic volcano had depleted their business on account of low tourist arrivals, and now this loss. They proactively offered 80% discount but there were no takers. People were scared, irritated, concerned and angry, and even having some fun with this heavy police action. Every now and then they’d try to defy the cops by pushing at the red ribbon, and the police would retaliate with warning words and gestures.

But my colleague and I were totally blocked on 8th Avenue for nearly 3 hours. In a corner of 45th St and 8th Ave I spotted a woman police officer. She whispered to me that they are expecting some heavy explosion somewhere in Times Square. I called my sister-in-law in San Francisco and my wife in India to check out what’s happening from CNN breaking news. At 10 pm we were allowed to walk in the periphery of the heavily populated Times Square area, now totally vacant and eerie.
Conclusion. On returning to my hotel I got the news from CNN at 2am on 2 May 2010 that it’s no more a hallucination of my Broadway show, it’s a reality show. I was dining on 45th Street, even as the action happened between 44th and 45th Streets. A robot was directed to conduct investigations and defuse any bomb in the suspected car which had smoke spewing out from it. This was the real Broadway show in the heart of Times Square with NYPD (New York police department) as the actors. The curiosity of the masses was still high. Everybody wanted to watch the show from the sidelines, and it certainly was a hit in real life. Only in America can you see things so spectacularly. In world famous Times Square where the New York Times originated, unique things can happen, from entertainment to catastrophe. We were enjoying the different acts, and saw the face of the policemen change from indulging people’s fun to controlling them towards safety without causing panic so as to ensure that Times Square will never become a deserted place in future. It’s commendable that they controlled the vast crowds with skilful and sensitive police work.

A recent American TV program I saw had an administrative authority request citizens to help by immediately reporting whatever suspicious moves they see, as it’s not always possible for a central source to detect acts of terrorism which are extremely vulnerable. It’s a good suggestion that we too can take up in India to save our people’s lives.

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Posted on 16-05-2010
Filed Under (TRENDS) by Shombit

The Indian EXPRESS/ The Financial EXPRESS article

Walking up 72nd Street and Central Park West in New York’s Manhattan, I’ve always been impressed by the Dakota, built in 1884 where the figure of a Dakota Indian keeps watch. Its high gables, deep roofs, profusion of dormers, terracotta panels, niches and balconies give it a German Renaissance character, yet it’s influenced by French architectural trends. Rich and famous artists have lived here such as composer Leonard Bernstein, actors Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland, Boris Karloff, Robert Ryan, singer Roberta Flack, playwright William Inge and dancer Rudolf Nureyev among others.

But best known as the home of Beatle John Lennon from 1973, Dakota is also the location of Lennon’s murder by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980. Yoko Ono laid out the Strawberry Fields memorial in her husband’s memory in Central Park directly across here. It’s now a public pilgrimage place with "Imagine" written in a beautiful round floor mural. Lennon used to frequent here with his second son Sean, and his fans now come, often with guitars, to place flowers for him and sing his songs.
Extending along Central Park South is the landmark 20-story luxury Plaza Hotel overlooking 5th Avenue, built by the same architectural firm of Henry Janeway Hardenbergh who designed Dakota. It cost $12.5 million to construct at the turn of the century, Donald Trump paid $407.5 million in 1988 and Manhattan developer, El Ad Properties spent $675 million to buy it in 2004. This hotel has been the setting several films including Barefoot in the Park, Scent of a Woman, Home Alone 2 and Eloise at the Plaza.

Apart from stories of these two centuries-old buildings full of artistic and entertainment memorabilia, nothing had attracted me to this high rise concrete jungle. But now a new philosophical landmark has emerged at this corner of 5th Avenue and 59th Street. It is Steve Job’s imaginative idea of a bitten Apple that’s become a magnet for visitors of all age groups.
When mainframe manufacturer IBM was ruling the computing roost from 1936, the colorful, mysterious Apple computer suddenly appeared in 1976 to invite consumers to bite into individual small computers. The name Apple was discomfiting as it subliminally conjured up the Catholic religion’s forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve bit into to discover pleasure in the prohibited Garden of Eden. Apple reflected scientific discovery too as Newton had sat under an apple tree and proved the theory of gravitation. The Beatles had called their record company as Apple, and New York is known as the Big Apple. All these other apple associations may have become history in front of this new Apple store with a glass cube housing a cylindrical glass elevator and a spiral glass staircase that leads to the underground store.

Just as the Louvre Museum in Paris now has a glass architecture pyramid highlighting its ancient treasures, so does this historical part of New York have a glass cubicle that raises your curiosity from a distance when you spot the bitten Apple. Drawn closer you discover an incredible techy bunker full of Apple electronics under the road. Every moment it’s open this huge basement store stays incredibly busy from 8-year-olds to 80-year-olds demanding the attention of sales assistants in blue T shirts. They seem to be from all classes of society, a very BCBG woman sporting a Louis Vuitton bag being trained on the iPad on the demo table, to young students selecting their iPods and techie geeks trying out different computers and accessories.

You become quite crazy in this fabulously designed shop where every item looks precious. In a totally commoditized market of electronics and computers, Apple is exposing tech art here, and people are enjoying the high tech experience here. The difference between exiting the Louvre’s glass pyramid and emerging from the glass structure of the Apple store is that instead of just buying a souvenir in the Paris museum, you come out of the 5th Avenue Apple store carrying happening products from a 21st century museum.
Steve Jobs undoubtedly imagined that a 21st century category product invention has to be introduced by creating a cultural phenomenon. He did this through a store that allows all kinds of consumers, from the rich to the poor, to experience tomorrow. A few years ago he had surprised everyone by taking over Manhattan’s Soho post office to open an Apple retailing store that looked like an art gallery, and had a large glass staircase where no joint could be seen. Soho is New York’s sophisticated art district with plenty of art galleries, although many of the smaller ones have since moved uptown to Chelsea as the area is getting too expensive.

Coming out from the basement Apple store I wanted to think with a cup of tea. What better place than the renovated Plaza Hotel. A young Indian waiter there mentioned that recession has hit Landmark Hotel so they worked out a new strategy of transforming 800 rooms into residential condominiums, and leaving just 200 rooms for hotel occupancy. These private apartments have been sold for as much as $50 million each.

Steve Jobs was highly criticized a few years ago when Apple plummeted into the red. But he believed that Apple is more universal than a technology product. With the iPod, he sprang back up the bottomline re-establishing the Apple way of thinking for an entire generation across the world. Then on introducing the iPad, he had young people queue up in all continents, and sold millions of pieces on the first week itself. This just goes to show that a man’s creativity can change the world. You can argue whether he is a genius who thinks beyond his time or he just has good luck, but you cannot ignore how differently he thought in the commoditized category.

Set amidst fountains in an open sitting place overlooking historic Plaza in the world’s most advanced city, Apple has conjured up totally new thinking by plonking itself in a well established, open space. I can imagine that 5th Avenue can one day have its name changed to Apple Avenue. This may be the inner dream of Steve Jobs. His sustaining high value business is not only about making shareholders happy with money, it’s also about enriching different generations to experience technology and think differently by owning or touching an Apple from Steve’s thinking tree.

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Posted on 09-05-2010
Filed Under (WOMAN) by Shombit


Women decide on, influence or make most purchases. Hidden behind their logical mind are delicate, subtle and unstated desires that are factored into their choice. Their subconscious decision is not driven by statistics. Yet statistics and data have become the abscess that immobilizes action in organizations that put products up for sale.

If we look for statistics, Martha Barletta, author of Marketing to Women says women in the US have sole or joint ownership of 87% homes, buy 61% of major home improvement products, 66% of home-computers, and 80% of all health-care services. They carry more credit cards than men, and start 70% of all new businesses. They control or influence 80% of all purchases, both consumer and business goods and services. A study by Mary Lou Quinlan corroborates that saying, “Most marketers have, historically, ignored or misinterpreted the key role of women in the purchase-making process.”

Post 1991 liberalization, purchasing power has increased manifold in India. That women in every culture are attracted to shopping is a well-researched fact; they even buy the undergarments for their men. Unfortunately, in the largely masculine world of business, most industries do not identify or are sensitive to women’s subconscious choice. To grow business, it’s crucial to get a deeper understanding of women’s disposition.

Traditional, masculine-oriented organizations can profit from a woman’s spending habit, as also by deploying inherent feminine qualities into organizational culture to make it more humane. I have identified nine feminine attributes that can sway and control business. These are Nurturing, Lover of intangibles, Patience, Aesthetics, Unlimited immoderate pleasure, Subtlety, Exuberance, Networking, and Mystique.

Nurturing: By nature, women are caring. Motherhood is associated with affection and nurturing. Business needs to similarly nurture consumers to prevent them going to others. Shareholders need continuous care, employees and partners need nurturing to deliver high quality. Nurturing must be a top management obsession to run a harmonious organization.

Lover of intangibles: Creating the intangible in a business proposition will help get good talent, retain employees for the long-term, clinch better value from external partners, earn premiumness, better share value and market capitalization. The result is goodwill which totally connects to a woman’s character as a lover of intangibles.

Women love intangibles. Men often use flowers to open the door of their relationships with women. In any function that welcomes guests with flowers, a woman will carefully keep the flower, whereas a man will carelessly leave it behind somewhere.

Patience: Patience does not mean slowing business down. Patience enables an organization to better understand and internalize the latent trend to capture tomorrow like a woman does. If women didn’t have patience, they could not have carried a baby to fruition for nine months. They even accept and enjoy the physical pain of childbirth as control over the genesis of new life.

Aesthetics: Women’s aesthetics starts from their physical harmonious anatomical structure. Through civilization women have aesthetically ornamented themselves using color on the lips, eyes, feet and hair to beautify themselves.

An aesthetic working environment reduces monotony and routine, induces people to complement aesthetics in their behavior and differentiates a product or service in its very first contact to customers. Aesthetics must address the entire value chain, from back office activities to the front, just the way women are ritualistic about personal grooming, spending on beautiful intimate wear even though its never publicly seen.

Unlimited immoderate excitement: Men experience physical and momentary climax, but women are known to feel unlimited subliminal pleasure in a physical relationship. If an organization can excite its distribution channel and consumers with delivery that relates to continuous pleasure, repurchase will happen automatically.

Subtlety: Subtlety is a very feminine characteristic; men are on-the-face. Mothers cool down seemingly unsolvable father–child relationships with love, understanding and great subtlety. In the clutter of today’s media, subtlety in business is important. Screaming advertisements may get quick jerky sales, but a brand that stops moving when advertisements stop, proves it has no subtle value. Creating passion for a common operational goal needs subtle handling as well as making sure a single consistent message flows across the organization.

Subtlety is also paradoxical. A loud devouring character can carry a depth of highly elevated profound values. When you compare Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, both are very good players, but its Bjorn’s subtlety that may have made him the universal icon of tennis.

Exuberance: Women by nature are exuberant, both in liberal and traditional societies. Nobody can challenge the implicit knowledge and stamina they have in creating personal differentiation. This energetic quality holds up in all cultures, religions, and social climates.

To increase a brand’s salience you need exuberance as its focus. Mont Blanc pens exuberantly exhibits the snowflake symbol so it’s visible on a man’s shirt pocket, but the pen itself has subtle characteristics. Subtlety and exuberance are two faces of the same coin where you need to find the right trade-off for business to fly.

Networking: Women of all economic strata are past masters at maintaining long-time relationships among family, friends, and even with friends of their children. They create and nurture networks in different subjects and keep them alive for no particular reason and with no ulterior motive.

Networking happens in the school old boys’ club, health club, or in industry, social or religious organizations as its useful for successfully carrying out different activities for your business.

Why is networking a corporate concern? Because a vendor could be your consumer, an employee your shareholder. Emulate a women’s dexterity in networking to keep all stakeholders in the loop and you in their top-of-mind.

Mystique: An air of mystery is the shell that envelops a woman. Her each accessory is selected carefully to connect to an individual occasion. Her subtle, inscrutable subliminal need is her mystique. Why do women create such allure? In any country a woman protects her inherent mystique as it gives her the power to control her destiny.

When organizational deliverables connect with the power of the mystique, intangible goodwill is created. Nurturing the mystique value reflects as premiumness that enhances shareholder value and profitability. If a brand loses its mystique value, it becomes generic.

The hidden value of these nine women characteristics are the unarticulated answers to business success. They are connected to the consumer’s psychological aspect, organizational culture or partner handling aspect. Co-opting them can help marketers and organizations to approach consumers with subtlety and sensitivity, resulting in enhanced business.

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Posted on 02-05-2010
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

The Indian EXPRESS/ The Financial EXPRESS article 


People enjoy the rapid change that improved technology brings, and benefit from it. But quick, unexpected changes also create hidden, psychological disappointment. Sophisticated developed countries are yet to understand that there is a drawback in using technology advancement as an excuse for frequent product upgrades. Consumers love the new versions technology throws up, but not if they feel victimized. Intermittent upgrades are increasingly being seen as what I call ‘technology pollution.’

Product lifespan in a consumer’s hand has drastically reduced. An automobile’s span of life has come down from 15 to 3–5 years; a refrigerator’s from 40 to 5 years. Technology driven hardware or software barely lasts 6 to 8 months. The masses accept such quick obsolescence because they just cannot control their temptation to acquire high tech alternatives. In the technology market, there appears to be concerted propaganda about the desirability of technological advancement. Consequently it becomes necessary to change whatever you bought a year earlier as that has become antiquated.

Manufacturers pretend they have no control over the technology blitz. Hype for the new initially excites consumers; they don’t see any gap. Instead they often empathize with technology’s creative dimension, and its need to continuously move up. When consumers can no longer afford to keep up with the technology marketing tide, will they feel the jagged edge of becoming a victim? This is an underwater, unstated feeling today.

Digital quality normally has no variance. The low cost, pirated product is technically not inferior to the original expensive DVD. Is the consumer happy to spend money on form, not content, especially as it’s not a personal or intimate product? Organizations that unnecessarily release high priced products instead of giving consumers value for money actually encourage piracy. Instead, a marketing judgment could have been made. Volume sales, when planned at inception, can actually compensate a reduced market price.

A consumer bonds better with an inexpensive pirated DVD that gives the same result as the original. She feels righteous about having beaten the system that was trying to somehow cheat her. On a rational level, consumers don’t care about the legal issues of piracy. They just appreciate a logical price. So when authentic DVD and CD labels cry themselves hoarse about being hoodwinked by piracy and appeal for justice, consumers may pay lip service to fair dealing, but it cuts no ice with them.

How long will new technology tempt consumers? You buy a mobile phone for Rs 45,000. After 8 months the price reduces to half. A new model with a new gadget emerges. The consumer’s subconscious resentment is, ‘Why didn’t I wait for 8 months?’ Did she feel cheated? Advanced technology is good, but what about the economic jerk you feel in keeping up with it? The shock of sudden price reduction will erase a consumer’s emotional bond with the product and brand, and she will forever lose its pride of ownership. Over-consumption of technology products can make people disloyal to a brand, or to a product segment.

As advanced technology is rapidly reducing product cost, a corporate buy-back/exchange policy for technology products will encourage higher per capita consumption. It will also make a brand credible. A used technology product can be taken back at a value that depends on its age and condition; simultaneously a new product offered at a lower-than-market price.

Durables such as telephones, computers, TVs, CD players, mobile music devices and hi fi sets should be very careful about abusing people’s confidence. When they do so, a parallel repair or refurbish market can emerge in future to attract price conscious people. Those driven by status will always go for new things, but a manufacturer can lose major value and volume market share from almost-new repaired or refurbished products. Corporations that engage in drastic price cuts at short intervals will never be seen as good corporate citizens.

Hollywood started the version culture. Once a mega film is successful with the masses, it is used as a formula to reproduce sequels. This generates box office demand. Versions drag entertainment into manifesting itself as mass industrial production. People perceive this as reducing cinematography from being an art form to becoming soap opera driven by newer versions. Unlike art that’s unique and cannot be reproduced as mass consumption, people get conditioned to the characters and genre of the versions, and can guess what’s coming in the next film. Subconsciously, people feel distanced from the version culture as it does not have the stamp of originality.

Hollywood’s version culture has stormed into different businesses today. It is very visible in the IT domain.

The moment any computer software is upgraded, engineers and scientists working in an organization will hear of it in their profession, and request for the new version. The current output may be satisfactory, but speed and added features are what the software user is after. His mental makeup is that he will fall short of fashion in the eyes of his peers unless he keeps up with technology advancement. Also of course, his professional curriculam vitae may get contaminated without working knowledge on the latest version.

New versions may be materializing every year or two now. You will feel the financial burden of succumbing to technology improvements when these changes become quarterly or monthly in future. Advancement is indispensable, but when you blindly chase versions you lose the emotional link to technology innovation.

Today’s techno-savvy generation is losing the value of emotional attachment influenced by frequent technology upgrades. They do not value what they buy because it will soon be discarded. Cohabiting with the value of impermanence, they have become vulnerable to being attached to almost nothing in life.

Such swift technology changes can at best bring incremental improvement. Real renovation needs requisite time for an existing model to stabilize before it is re-launched in the market. Titillating consumers with incremental changes is like hypnotizing them with a few bells and whistles. Industry should stop taking percentage-increase-in-technology into the market. Product performance should become stable before unsettling consumers with numerous new versions.

If you are a manufacturer or product designer, put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. You need to experience and understand her unarticulated, frustrated woes. If you can find, feel and measure the jagged discrepancy in her mind, you will obviously step into the platform of real innovation. You can definitely make the difference by stopping incremental refurbishment with multi-version remakes that perpetuates the version culture.

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