Posted on 24-04-2011
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

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

Make no mistake! The PUB Reflex is not about emptying jarfuls of draught beer down your gullet in a pub. Nor will it increase or diminish your reflexes when afterwards on the steering wheel, you have to stop, roll down your glass at the cop’s bidding as he immediately sticks a breath analyzer into your face. My PUB Reflex can make you drunk in unlimited ways. It addicts you to creating the unarticulated and unseen to surprise society with, or to further business or science.pub-jpg

Mass marketing the mobile phone has dramatically changed the human connect system. Earlier you had to reach a landline, condition yourself into a certain telephoning posture, unhook the fixed instrument, dial, then talk. You’d recreate this landline-phone-conversation ritual every time and cost-consciously talk less. But today’s little mobile device frees you, it’s an extension of your life. Just face a mirror to discover how you change your bearing and gestures under different contexts as you chatter away on your mobile phone. You send/receive umpteen messages when you don’t want to intrude, don’t know how else to say those words of love or bereavement, or just to keep in touch with festival greetings or forwarding jokes. City-bred teenagers say they can send 500 sms messages daily, even continue texting upto 4 am. “How come?” I asked. They replied that provocative subjects beyond the ordinary invite instant reflexes. This reconfirms the PUB Reflex process I wrote about in my second book, The Art of the Brand (1993). In contemporary social networking and mobile phone usage, provocation spreads the message and creates interest.

In business, PUB Reflex helps empower your proposition so people buy it. It avoids your having to sell it. Selling and buying are not the same. Hawkers or hookers sell you generic wares, but when customers buy a product, or employees buy into a process on their own initiative, it’s the offtake pull you’ve created that I call PUB Reflex. You first Provoke to make people Understand, which then translates into the customer’s Buy act.

Corporate contamination: Everyday life in the corporate world is contaminated, peppered with boring words like balanced scorecard, go-to-market, or acronyms MOP, ROI, MBO, among others. Business to business industries in particular use stereotype words in heavy-loaded business proposals. Repetitive jargons of incredible pollution are used globally by corporations to bulldoze employees and create a generic effect that’s devoid of emotion and compassion for people. They contaminate people to become robotic rather than provoking their interest to understand and buy. Compromise (31-45 years) and Retro (45+) generation employees get addicted to such contamination and find it difficult to reverse the contaminated jacket. But the below 30 Zap generation is different. They don’t connect to corporate contamination. So they have two roles. The moment they leave work they change their jackets and breathe freedom socially.

You’ve heard and sung "Happy birthday to you!" a thousand times, it’s standard yet emotional as it provokes a person’s nostalgic celebration of birth. It also proves that when words acquire social meaning, they never fatigue, nor become monotonous under any situation. Is the lengthy fashion brand name French Connection United Kingdom provocative? It is for those who know that the French and British never see anything eye-to-eye. Frenchies say Brits don’t know how to dress; Brits reply, Frenchies are froggy. But for everyone else, abbreviating it to FCUK provokes a new language in global fashion. Consumers can easily pronounce it and understand its naughty meaning. Provoking with FCUK is the PUB Reflex example of how a small brand can overcome boringness, become very big in the world with word-of-mouth and extract the low cost, high mileage effect.

Adultery: Both husband and wife working dulls them into the daily grind of transport, children’s education, kitchen and bed, a relationship imminently vulnerable to contamination. Tomorrow, when large numbers of women will start working to earn economic liberty, consumption will grow to accommodate a comfortable life. But so will the egos of husband and wife erupt in search of independence. It’s what’s happened in Europe. The fifties cleaned up World War II’s mess, the sixties was clinical productivity, when women joined the workforce in the seventies, they earned more, spent more, consumed more. From the eighties, it was adultery on both sides. The independent wife no longer sacrificed for the husband’s sexual pleasure, she wanted her own hedonism. They understood each other mechanically, but provocation was amiss. So to exit boredom, adultery became obvious.

Reaching out: Without provocation, the innumerable messages people receive every day really don’t register. Enterprises dole out big advertising bucks, try correlating ad spends to product sales, but they’ll be shocked to know the statistics: a miniscule percentage buys the product from seeing the ad, many don’t understand the ad, or feel bored seeing it, or enjoy the ad but that didn’t translate to purchase. This is the PUB Reflex gap in communication.

Very few companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nike, FCUK, Cisco among others have understood that provocation makes people comprehend product benefit and register the brand. They’ve created sustaining global trends because their new language provokes the masses, makes them understand value and buy the product. Their internal corporate processes are driven in the same non-boring way. Walking around in Mountainview, California, I saw cyclists with Google colours whirring on their wheels. Sure enough, the Google office was less than a kilometer away. This provocation gave me the pleasure of visiting Google which was not in my agenda.

Provocation for provocation’s sake has no sustaining power. Provocation has to magnify the context. An evolved stimulus can transform a vanilla context into a gem that delivers differentiated, quality substance. Understanding the selling or seductive proposition has to be a by-product of the provocative subject. This then automatically translates to the buy-in. From corporate house to family and social life, the stronger your provocation of substance, understanding becomes more intense, and the result is desire fulfillment. I call this the PUB Reflex.

To download above article in PDF The PUB Reflex

Financial Express link :http://www.financialexpress.com/news/the-pub-reflex/780378/0

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Posted on 17-04-2011
Filed Under (POLITICS) by Shombit

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

When you buy Pantene shampoo, you as a consumer don’t care about P&G’s enterprise culture, who does its R&D, Marketing, Operations, or the CEO’s name. The first benefit you single-mindedly seek is quality. Does it clean more efficiently, give lower hair fall, better hair growth than others? For the brand, repeat purchase is all that matters in the free economy’s humungous competition. Will consumers remain loyal to the brand after 3 purchases? Will consumers continue to purchase it even after several years of usage? In West Bengal, the common man on the street looks at political parties exactly like they check Pantene shampoo’s performance vs. competitors like Dove.

Different political parties have tried to establish their ideologies since our 1947 political independence. However, these ideologies are barely known except as broad-brush left or right wing politics. The public takeaway is only their different political leaders. In most cases in India, a single political personality drives a party, and then bequeaths his leadership power to his family, generation after generation.

Today’s West Bengal Left Front is not following the personality formula inherent in Indian politics. Instead they promote ‘Sangathan,’ their collective political strength. The way Pantene’s internal structure is opaque to consumers, is there any need to uphold Sangathan? India’s most prominent and revered Left leader was Jyoti Basu. Similarly, Communist regimes where opposition nearly does not exist fielded personalities like Fidel Castro in Cuba, China’s Mao Zedong to Chou en Lai, and different generations in Russia, Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Gorbachev to Putin. Cadres may want ideal Sangathani power of multiple party leaders, but the public loved Jyoti Basu not because he was head of his party but for his charismatic connect as a leader.

Like the steps P&G takes to build Pantene, with single focus Trinamool Congress has propped up their leader’s personality for relevance and quick connect to mass appeal. Gandhiji came to build his career as India’s mass leader. He chose the loin cloth with wooden sandals to create his brand. In trying to become the defender of Bengali masses, the TMC leader already has her inherent, no-frills attire. Such elements count in people’s mind. Voters may press the electronic ballot button on a symbol, but in a democracy, they decide their candidate in advance. Her mass leader image has worked tremendously as observed from TMC’s winning results in the last 3 Panchayat, Parliament and Municipality elections in Bengal. After Jyoti Basu, the Left Front, due to its Sangathani attitude, has not pressed the button on a single focus representation for the party’s connect to the public. So a bird’s eye-view on recent Bengali leaders may willy-nilly feature Dr BC Roy to Mr Jyoti Basu to Ms Mamata Banerjee. The Left Front, not exploiting its heavyweight, 34-year rule with a charismatic mass leader with an offensive leadership stand, is being subjected to aggressive volleys of attack.

Everybody expects this forthcoming assembly election to be a neck-to-neck battle. The masses say it’s like Durga puja festivities minus the devotion. The disgraceful difference of course is that nobody dies during Puja, but election fever is killing young people and creating hate. The public would love to experience politics of collaboration, where both the ruling and opposition parties cooperate towards a consensus mode for Government functioning.

To find out which party is saying what, an American-style TV debate between the two major party leaders with an unbiased, non-political anchor would be most welcome. In most TV debates nowadays everyone talks, rather shouts, simultaneously. Is that intentional to confuse the masses? It’s unlike traditional Bengali Torja banter where the opponents creatively repartee. Today all you hear is screeching nastiness. TMC attacks the Left Front saying they’ve undemocratically only favoured Left-wing ‘harmads’ (euphemism for tyrants, the word supposedly originating from Spanish Armada) without bringing any development for 34 years. The Left attacks TMC to be operating without people’s ‘sangathanic’ consent, at the whim of the Union Railway Minister who neglects her all-India portfolio only to spend time in Bengal making false, invalid promises that’ll never fructify. In contrast, the world’s no. 1 shampoo Pantene has Dove and others as competitors, but all are ever vigilant to retain consumer loyalty by listening to them. When international brands work harder on product quality, the consumer is the ultimate winner.

The Top-Two TV debate can reveal the leaders’ appetite for politics of collaboration. Through civilized debate the two high powered parties can make people understand their election manifesto. After the elections, ruling party needs to get opposition support to develop the state and maintain peace, law and order. More than ever, both parties should agree that West Bengal needs industrialization. Through land division in their own families, most farmers now own 2 acres or less and make only about Rs 40,000 per year. Can the Government help them? One way is to demonstrate ways to increase revenue to at least Rs 120,000 annually. Another is to convince land owners to sell at a good evaluated farmland price for setting up industry for generating crores of rupees. Someone in the seller’s family should get job assurance from this factory.

No economic development has happened anywhere in the world with agriculture alone. Industry is a state’s economic backbone. The biggest cause of Western society’s recent recession was losing their country’s industrial base, outsourcing services and depending on their financial institutes only. West Bengal has to have land to invite industries. Without development, Bengali children will never experience the value of the state’s treasures, from tea plantations to viewing world famous mountains, landing in a natural seaport, from mineral resources to rivers to wonder-of-the-world Sunderbans. The state with its youth talent has every potential to be one big business hub of South East Asia. It’s upto the political leaders to guide and show the way through mutual cooperation rather than opposition.

To download above article in PDF individualism vs cadre

Financial Express link :http://www.financialexpress.com/news/individualism-vs-cadre/777110/0

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Posted on 10-04-2011
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

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

To my dismay, I’ve discovered a school of thought in this part of the hemisphere that supports understanding of failures, not to learn from them, but as standalone case study subjects to avoid risk. This school of thought doesn’t enquire about how successful companies have achieved their triumph. Success can be gained from in-depth understanding of failures, though not necessarily their own, then rejigging them with dollops of useful, differentiated value.
Failure in a company could have one or several reasons ranging from misjudging market potential, strategy mismatch in company culture or marketing, production or quality flaws, vendor management, procurement and sales activation, to just plain wrong communication. There’s no reason to suggest that a strategy that has failed in one company will also fail under different conditions in another company. You’ll never know details of any failure’s root cause as nobody will reveal it.
The failure of a high quality product needs to be studied with curiosity, and from all angles. If you bring positive energy into a failed subject you may refuel its success. Was the French Concorde a failure? Was it not extreme innovation that could fly over Mach 3, close the distance of an ocean in half the time of normal aircrafts? In business, the word failure does not work. Japan announced in 2005 that they are now working on a supersonic aircraft to reduce sound and increase seats while cutting 50% of today’s flying time. They’ve suffered a few setbacks and are now collaborating with research done in France and the US.
Consumers of emerging economy countries are enjoying a heightened lifestyle with product offers from transnational companies in their open markets. However, in consulting with companies there, I find them to be slack in responding to competition. When a globally reputed company unveils a competing product, instead of delving into that product’s origin of success to rejig their product to meet consumer aspirations, the emerging economy company merely questions complacently, ‘Will it succeed? Will our consumers pay so much? Is this sophisticated innovation required?’ Such questions are baseless and judgmental. Consumers with money are always open to alternative choice and better options.  Innovation in business has to be a passion of curiosity to change the world with, not to question it.
As an industrial house in an emerging economy, you may modernize your business to compete, but unless you inquire into why your global competitor is winning in your economy, your market growth will merely touch the surface, and not sustain.
The Japanese, since the 1950s, have been exceptional in seeing things differently. They link microscopic observation to quality in product development. In the early 1970s, I remember seeing Japanese groups travelling around Europe, always with cameras. Collective discipline makes them process the microtones of their observation into high quality deliverables. Microtone is a Western musical term where multiple instruments play different chords with different tones to converge to a harmonious melody. Any miniscule mistake in these chords or tones can corrupt the musical output. That’s the power of a microtone. During the period the Japanese observe a subject, no criticism is allowed. The subject is kept intact for holistic understanding, without distorting its image or substance with preconceived thought baggage.
When you observe with curiosity, you go in-depth into the subject to find the processes, struggles and exhaustion it has gone through. The Japanese delve into the total package, not its surface. Having thoroughly understood its complexity, they top-up with added value. The object’s first and fundamental innovative system is kept intact. The Japanese reinvented the European motorbike and conquered the world with it. They renovated the piano. This sophisticated European acoustic musical instrument needs perfection at every stage. The German piano is acclaimed the world’s best, but the piano most rock, pop, classical singers or musicians on stage anywhere in the world today use is the Japanese Yamaha. You’ll see Yamaha blinking on the piano’s side, the brand showing off its popularity where it counts. When would India be capable of producing a world-class product that will replace the best that’s available?
South Koreans are following the Japanese route with fantastic visible results. They are competing globally, taking leadership in areas like hybrid steel, consumer durables, electronics and automobiles. In my experience in China, I find Chairman Mao Zedong has sharpened focus on their national character of discipline even outside politics. With stringent discipline, positive mindset and following in Japanese footsteps, China is overcoming its product quality deficiency and stigma with radically improved quality.
In 2002 Jean Michel Jarre, the laser and electronic entertainment musician, did two spectacular concerts in China. Son of celebrated music director, Maurice Jarre, whose Dr Zhivago and Love Story have become the world’s standard in easy listening, Jean Michel’s concert was unique because he wove together the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, Chinese National Orchestra, Beijing Opera chorus and notable Chinese rock musicians in his open air Western music concerts. He amazed a billion Chinese stage and TV viewers and everyone else in the world by using Chinese musicians and traditional Chinese instruments in Western music style. Enjoying the show on DVD, it proved to me that the Chinese capability to enter a new realm with calculated ease, and their command over discipline and curiosity will make their nation the future business driver of the world.
We are proud to be an intellectual society in India. But can our collective intellectual power, not individual intelligence, help us attain world-class business processes and products? Billion-mindset economies like India and China need a disciplined business mentality that can dissect success. To challenge the market, our professionals must collectively understand how and why innovation happened in developed countries. This will orient them towards the very foundation of the innovation mechanism.

To download above article in PDF rejig fail with cusity to suced

Financial Express link :http://www.financialexpress.com/news/rejig-failure-with-curiosity-to-succeed/774025/0

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Posted on 03-04-2011
Filed Under (POLITICS) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit sen gupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

Politicization of every social and industrial aspect in West Bengal is playing havoc with the state’s economy and the quality of people’s lives. In today’s digital world, it’s an uphill task to lift society without industry strengthening the economy. Currently, Bengali politics, with a semblance of festivity on the streets and shouting matches on TV, is only focused on roping in voters for the Assembly election. The sad story through this mudslinging is of the innocents who are losing their lives somewhere in the state every day over election politics.

My proposition to Bengali politicians is to drive the idea of the ruling party taking a selected few members of the opposition party as ministers in the ruling government. The opposition party should welcome and support the move. This paves the way for collaborative governance for people’s benefit. Jawaharlal Nehru had similarly taken Shyama Prasad Mookerjee of Hindu Mahasabha and BR Ambedkar of All India Scheduled Caste Federation into his cabinet post Independence. An election fought by multiple political parties is in line with India’s democratic norms. That’s why it’s important to avoid ruling with one political doctrine as in China’s established single party rule. It’s undesirable for political parties to politicize the public’s every action, compelling people to go through party dictates, as is largely the situation in West Bengal today.

If the winning party can respect the opposition, the government can better concentrate on the state’s development. With whatever margin a political party wins, be it 70% or 51%, the opposition represents a huge mass of people. Today, opposition benches challenge the government’s every move so nothing happens. Isn’t it better for all parties to work collaboratively for the good of the people and economy? The common man/woman and the business community need total emancipation from obstructive, negative and deliberately destructive politics.

Political balance in governance is not new to a country like France where the world’s first Revolution took place in 1789. In abolishing the monarchy, they taught us about “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.” After World War II General Charles de Gaulle returned as a national hero and established a Government of National Unity as the only possible solution to ensure national stability. Pierre Mendes France as President 1954, brought radical and center-right politicians to negotiate ending the Indochina war. In de Gaulle’s next term 1958, he successfully brought in leftists, which allowed France to find the road to recovery. François Mitterrand in his first term restored historical Louvre with a Pyramid, built the modern era with Channel Tunnel, Grande Arche at La Défense, Bastille Opera, and National Library. Co-opting four center-right politicians in the cabinet in his second term, including Michel Jobert and Jean Pierre Soisson, helped to quell people’s protest against usage of public funds for the monuments and complete them. These monuments have helped make France the world’s No 1 tourist destination which 79 million people visited in 2010.

Nicolas Sarkozy may be continuing the tradition as he brought leftist-minded Bernard Kouchner, founder of “Doctors without boundaries” into his government. Sarkozy backed the very important socialist party cadre Dominique Strauss-Kahn to be elected Managing Director of IMF, even though Strauss-Kahn will be a Socialist presidential candidate in France 2012. The ability to balance both right and left, but avoiding the extreme sections, gives a political edge where the mass public gains. By doing that, France today has "best overall healthcare" as declared by WHO, the most comprehensive social security, and free education in secondary and technical schools for her people.

When politics is separated from governance, the people win. Bengal was such an advanced society, but it’s barely been able to show any visible difference after economic liberalization 1991. In contrast, Karnataka’s “retirement paradise” of Bangalore has changed by aggressively inviting investment in industry. Business and the common man/woman are totally isolated from politics which is in turmoil. Karnataka may have its share of dadagiri or matobori (political broker), but people’s daily lives nor business are disturbed, unlike in West Bengal. Bangalore is nick-named “Silicon Valley of the East.” Karnataka’s revenue from foreign direct investment was US$ 7.2 billion from April 2000 to May 2010, whereas it was US$ 1.4 billion for West Bengal in the same period.

Most importantly, what’s in store for West Bengal’s young generation? Researching societal trends these last 10 years, I’ve defined 3 generations: the below-30-year Zappers whose mindset is attuned to globalization post India’s economic liberalization, the 30 to 45-year-old Compromise, and the 45+ Retro. The latter two generations are in commanding positions in most stations of authority. Unless they yield to Zapper influence, West Bengal’s future would remain paralysed. To get better TRP, the electronic media is inviting largely Retro generation speakers from the major parties who talk at cross purposes and throw virtual stones at one another. No one is connecting to Zappers, nor is any analysis directed at them, their future livelihood, the future of business or industry.

A new West Bengal government can invite a talented few from the major opposition party to participate in governance. I’m not advocating an obligatory coalition government, but a voluntary move to co-opt the foe as friend. The defeated political party should never be considered the warfront enemy. In West Bengal, political parties engulf everything in their wake, demarcate people as party supporters or non-supporters overwhelming individual personality and traits. This has to stop so as to prevent the violence, killings and scoring of cheap political points at the cost of the people. Opposition politicians need to understand that to better serve people and increase chances of their own next win, they have to accept participating in government rather than devising ways to pull it down. The common man/woman of West Bengal demands the halt of government-opposition confrontation politics. Shouldn’t the ruling and opposition parties display maturity and work together for the betterment of society and the economy? The situation is such that collaboration government is the only choice today.

To download above article in PDF Depoliticise comman woman

Financial Express link :http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Depoliticise-the-common-man-woman/770784/0

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