Posted on 27-07-2014
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

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

Behaviour change comes in two ways: at the basic level, enterprises follow the same route avoiding product obsolescence, and, as I wrote last week, the unique way of making incredible difference, as Gillette, Sony Walkman and Apple among others did. However, prominent indicators that change behaviour are culture, food and ergonomics.

Culture: Nowhere is culture changing behavior more visible than in China. When Deng Xiaoping led the country after Mao Zedong, he introduced reforms from 1978 with his slogan of “To get rich is glorious.” This inspired private enterprises to grow. His de-collectivized communes, shifting to the household responsibility system making millions of peasants return to family farming. Village and town industries responded to the market. Shenzhen, a little village near Hongkong became an SEZ in 1979; today it’s the world’s largest manufacturing hub.

Opening up to international trade made Western influences enter politics, culture, the economy, challenging official values and moving beyond urban to rural areas. Dramatic culture change included family woes like broken homes. As incomes grew so did adultery. Divorce rose from 341,000 in 1980 to 2.2 million in 2013. Suspicious wives are resorting to private detectives who use secretive measures like attaching GPS trackers to their suspects’ cars or monitoring their calls. Such spying services are illegal but continue as privately collected evidence has been permitted in civil law suits. So, traditional Chinese culture is undergoing changes akin to capitalistic societies.

Cultural attributes that change behavior are basic functioning of day to day family life, health, education, economic conditions, lifestyle and livelihood generation. Religion is not part of it unless the society is monatomic with one religion driving the socio-eco-political spectrum. Culture started before religion or civilization where people discovered how to make fire, find food for survival or draw cave pictures.

It’s evident that materialism brings behavioural change. Take material comforts our Godmen enjoy like air conditioned rooms and cars, first or business class air travel instead of meditation under the trees. Their disciples may have thrust these comforts upon them, but it’s obvious these disciples have managed to change the habits of Godmen. In the West economic capitalism has changed deep-rooted religious practice with modern life when people say, “I’m Catholic but not practicing.”

What’s radically changed India’s working culture is the global IT servicing industry that reigns in about $80 billion every year. Young boys and girls work together in call centres. At age 18 in their first job after school these youngsters can earn upto Rs 18,000 per month, whereas if their father was a simple worker he’d be earning that amount perhaps after 25 years. So father-child cultural behaviour cannot be the same. News stories abound about condoms clogging call centre drains and employees being counseled because their speech has become American English, odd working hours make them miss all family functions and social contact outside office. Even the behaviour of pre-industrialed Americans was not altered so diametrically when they entered the post industrial era.

Food: Food is the behaviour changer for immigrant children who pick up the new country’s eating routine, although their parents may take time to change. But when food is designed with strong universal appeal, it can change behaviour. The world’s mass level people can never accept French style rare mincemeat beefsteak, but a well-done beef patty covered with salad, cheese and sauce within a bun becomes the familiar, favoured McDonald’s. Change beef to chicken, it even works with heterogeneous Indians with heterogeneous food habits. The Chinese devour burgers too, abandoning their centuries-old noodles habit.

Successful packaged food companies have remarkably turned people from handmade to readymade food. Without laborious work you just microwave an enjoyable dinner of varied dishes. Europe’s recent trend is frozen bakery and dessert, unheard of 20 years earlier as freshness found in specialized shops or home baking was always valued. Today companies have converted consumers to buy frozen mousse from supermarkets. When heated this soft product tastes incredibly good, so there’s no more hesitation to consume premade pastries.

Ergonomics: Physical instruments that humans touch for playing, working or entertaining can disruptively change behaviour. Just imagine, before Thomas Edison there was no repeated listening to music, sound or voice. The gramophone entirely modified our approach to entertainment. After Graham Bell’s telephone invention our primary communication style changed from using the pigeon, horse rider, or cycling postman as messengers. People held two instruments with both hands to talk and listen; then landline phones became one instrument; now the mobile phone is a single device you keep in your pocket. This behaviour changing evolution spans the mechanical, electric, electronic to the digi-tech age.

Children’s physical attachment to Barbie, Lego or Mechano sets has shifted to digitally driven games. If as a product designer you don’t follow children’s changing behaviour with games or the education system, you won’t be designing any saleable instrument for work, play or entertainment tomorrow. I’ve seen my 9-year-old granddaughter Sreeya who lives in London return from school at 4pm, then rush to the computer at a pre-fixed time to work online on mathematics with her classmates for the next day’s test. Their regular practice is to connect to the Internet for doing school homework together. Just imagine how digi-tech is changing children’s behavior, Sreeya often takes up a challenge against any child who’s online anywhere in the world. Even at office, digi-tech is infusing every domain with radical transformation, from HR recruitment to production to supply chain. Instead of spending time and money traveling, you conduct a multiple countries meeting through tele-presence.

The way we worked 10 years ago is not the same now, but our attitude in certain areas will never change. Fashion is cyclic, something new comes, vanishes, returns and we knowingly ride that cycle happily. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, politician or philosopher, try enlisting culture, food and our ergonomic relationship with devices, the agents that change human behavior, to really become iconic, capture mindshare and sell your product or ideology across the world.

To download above article in PDF Three fundamentals that change behavior

Financial Express link:http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/three-fundamentals-that-change-behaviour/99/

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Posted on 20-07-2014
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

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

Changing the behavior of a product’s end-user does not happen by chance. Only an enterprise with special motivation can make it happen, as I wrote last week. Behavioral change is extremely physical. There’s got to be some bodily object that interacts with people for behavior to change, no intangible theory can do this job at the mass level.

Shaving behaviour: The straight razor where the blade folds into its handle, what roadside barber shops still use, was invented in 1680s. In 1901, Gillette’s initiated the double-edged safety razor with replaceable blades. To modernize men’s shaving habit, Gillette invented the single side razor. Introducing the “razor and blades business model” or inexpensive razor with disposable blades, Gillette grew its business tremendously. The beauty here is the high-tech blade; it’s expensive but gives a large number of shaves, the razor picks it up from its packaging socket, men don’t touch it. It’s so efficacious, simple and safe that women are attracted to use it.

So year after year with single focus Gillette follows every generation, social trend, state-of-the-art engineering with precision manufacturing to innovate and revolutionize the way the world shaves. The Fusion ProGlide with FlexBall Technology they’ve just announced has a maneuverable handle that moves, adjusts, pivots across a man’s facial contours to allow capturing every facial hair. This is a grand example of Gillette’s drive for world leadership by constantly changing men’s practical behaviour.

Walkman, the incredible behavior changer: History shows that Philips, the fundamental inventor of many products, could barely get registered in people’s minds as a behaviour changing agent, whereas newcomer Sony, not a fundamental inventor, successfully did so with the Walkman in 1979. The behavioral change Walkman established was phenomenal; people moved around with little earphones, hands-free, enjoying music with a personal device. Being able to transform habits often comes from single focused, creative entrepreneurial challenge. Sony masterminded entertainment devices with the Walkman, but it diversified, then ran into losses. The big behavioural change Sony Walkman introduced has shifted to Apple. Sony lost focus on entertainment devices for the digi-tech generation when it de-rooted its creative ingenuity into too many directions.

Smart phone: Changing people’s habit and behavior through the smart mobile phone, Apple dynamized the finger touch. Monopolistic Microsoft missed the boat with people shifting from laptop to mobile phone. Till a few years ago I was comfortable with my Blackberry, the typewriter replica. The day my IT engineer changed my dumb phone to a smart phone, I was lost as in an Indian crossroads junction where you don’t know where to go. But just a few days usage changed my habit. I could never imagine I’d write articles and books on the touch screen. Just look at how these industries have not only innovated but contaminated people to change their product usage behaviour.

Fast food: “Eat slowly” is our social nicety when hosting a meal for invited guests. Yet along with 118 countries worldwide, India has abandoned specific, food-related cultural nuances to embrace typical American fast food like McDonald’s. Europeans hated this “time is money” fast food concept, resisting its entry, but when at midnight you don’t find any restaurant open in rural Europe, a McDonald’s welcomes you. In fact McDonald’s has democratized society globally. A low economic strata family now dares to eat at the extremely expensive Champs Elysees high street of Paris because affordable McDonald’s is there. Also tourists amidst alien ways and food habits make a beeline for the predictably familiar McDonald’s.

In places famous for gastronomy like France and Italy, McDonald’s tweaks its menu and décor to attract localites. In Milan’s 14th century Piazza del Duomo with Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the world’s oldest and beautiful shopping mall, there’s luxury brand Prada on the left, Louis Vuitton on the right, Cartier, Gucci, Ferragamo all within eyeview jostling for prominence. I was amused to see the bright yellow M twinkling at the edge, saying “I’m lovin’ it” and attracting heavy traffic in total defiance of the dissonance traditionalists feel. The only food connecting poor, rich, old and young across heterogeneous India is the jalebi, which is why my book is called Jalebi Management to represent everyone. India’s traditional food habit is different every 500 km, but McDonald’s with the same veg and non-veg menu is mesmerizing all age groups across south, east, north and west. This is the USD28 billion McDonald’s incredible spirit of changing the eating behaviour of Indians.

Never so easy: Behaviour change through product usage is not always easy. Take the e-cigarette that’s trying so hard to shift smokers. The response is minimal as e-cigarettes merely give flavoured vapour that simulates tobacco smoking. Actually the main question is, do cigarette companies really want their business model to change? Is the e-cigarette an eye-wash to fool the public and regulators that people’s health is not being damaged? As the e-cig is not addictive it doesn’t work towards behavioural change. So will smokers and cigarette companies forget about changing behavior and continue to injure health?

Enterprises need a different mindset to change the end user’s behavior: It’s the ingenuity of the enterprise that drives new behaviour creation. Before the digital age crept up on us, human behaviour took time to change. Digi-tech now helps speed up innovation for industrial production to satisfy human needs. Corporate ideation for changing and sustaining the customer’s behavior tomorrow will be very different and challenging because of fast changing digi-trends. An innovative but traditional mindset company can make profitable growth, but when it can command the mechanism of changing behavior, it enters another league and metaphor.

The substance of changing customer behavior always requires a distinct spark. The product or service has to be extremely humane and uplift routine to ideal habit. Society’s drivers may start the change in a small way, but if it’s really scientific it quickly shapes up to addict the masses who are the followers in society.

To download above article in PDF Ingenuity to transform habits

Financial Express link:http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/from-the-discomfort-zone-ingenuity-to-transform-habits/99/

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Posted on 13-07-2014
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

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

How and why do people change their behaviour to use one product rather than the other? Historical trend is a great source to understand this. Enterprises that contributed towards human behavioural change have always provided some extra benefit and mileage in their products and some work at the social level which the masses were sensitive to perceive.

Casual wear: Let’s take the birth of jeans, that most popular garment worldwide. Blue jeans have changed the way we want to look and feel – casual, comfortable and fashionable. In a town called Nîmes in the south of France, there were monks in the 19th century who used strong material to make protective clothing to shield poor people from winter’s cold. This was the origin and invention of jeans, the practical clothing for multiple and long-term usage. In the 1870s, a Bavarian immigrant to the US called Levi Strauss imported this cloth to make trousers for people going out to explore the American Wild West. He supposedly made them in Genoa, that’s the origin of the word ‘jeans.’ The cloth came to be known as denim from ‘de Nîmes’ which in French means ‘from Nimes.’ And so the denim culture started for the masses. While American cowboys used jeans as rugged wear, the category was called by its original denim name to make it more authentic.

This shows us how Americans are loyal to authenticity. France, among the first in the world to revolt against monarchy in 1789, had manifested this with the liberté symbol. France gifted the Statue of Liberty to the US which has since become the symbol of America in New York. You’ll find its smaller scale model on River Seine in Paris. The American style of adopting liberty through the casual denim initiative with Levi’s brand was an incredible contribution to the world. Wearing jeans made people change their behaviour. Since the 1920s Americans invented the idea of casual dressing. The lavish European dressing style started to see difficulties after World War I. Then the Great American Depression in the 1930s made clothing more sombre and requiring less dress material. This led to sportswear becoming fashion, the start of the denim culture. In fact in 1992 the Levi’s company gave it another push by publishing a manual called ‘A Guide to Casual Businesswear.’ This was sent to 25,000 Human Resources Managers across the US and it set the tone for business casuals. So casual dressing is not just a dress, it is a radical change of behaviour.

Changing the behaviour of the masses through marketing and R&D activities is very different from traditional marketing and R&D. This behavior changing factor does not happen from the user only. It requires another dimension, that of becoming a creative entrepreneur. There has to be an osmosis between the willingness of an enterprise to change the public’s behavior and the logic perceived by the public to go for that change. In the gene of the developed Western society I have observed a strong tendency to innovate for changing the behaviour of people. When they started to shift from being an agrarian society to becoming an industrialized consuming one, the changing behavior of the masses became evident.

Women’s innerwear: Changing the behavior of women wearing innerwear is said to have started in ancient Egypt 3000 BC. Its purpose was to alter a woman’s shape to preserve her modesty. Later came the French name lingerie, originating from ‘linge’ meaning linen which first referred to undergarments as scandalous. During the French Revolution, women’s lingerie was revolutionized. Women discarded all symbols of French aristocracy including their conforming underwear like petticoats, corsets, and camisoles, and panties first appeared. From 1890 the brassiere had begun to replace corsets as women started to participate more in sports and energetic dancing. The bra changed women’s looks from flattening breasts to accentuating them. In 1935 Warner Brothers labeled the ‘alphabet bra’ with four cup sizes: A, B, C, and D used even today. During World War II, when materials like steel and rubber were in short supply, synthetic materials like lycra, rayon, and lastex were used to make undergarments.

In 1948 Christian Dior invented ‘hourglass’ innerwear fashion. From the 1968 French Student’s Revolution highlighting freedom and non-conformity, the expression of women’s liberation was strengthened. Women publicly burnt bras in protest. The garter, made for sex workers to hypnotize their customers, was made the trend in 1980 by French brand Dim. In 1990 Calvin Klein’s advertisement had men and women wearing underwear with branded waistband. It was showing above jeans for the man, the woman wore nothing but panties. These are all attempts by designers and industrialized brands to change human behaviour. The way Victoria’s Secret, the world’s biggest lingerie seller, presents its wares in London’s famous high fashion Bond Street store is as though it’s the Louvre Museum’s painting presentation. In multiple niches there are outstanding colorful carnival-like displays of women posing with innerwear. Such examples show how creative people and industries have changed women’s behavior. You can as well ask why women spend so much money for innerwear that’s not publicly visible. Not only that, men’s attitude towards women has changed; they accept that women can be socially exuberant with their body because it’s their liberty.

Historically the shift has been from corsets that squeezed the waist during Elizabethan times to the Wonderbra that highlighted the breasts. In essence, lingerie has defined the meaning of beauty of women’s bodies during different eras, and so reveals the changing role of women in society.

There are so many other areas where industry has changed the behavior of people. We’ll look at them next week. We can expect tremendous change in future from India’s Zap generation born after 1986. India needs creative business people and creative entrepreneurs to innovate to change people’s usage and behavior. This behaviour changing industrialization should travel the world so that our products can achieve high aspiration along with commercial business success globally.

To download above article in PDF Changing behaviour

Financial Express link:http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/from-the-discomfort-zone-changing-behaviour/99/

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Posted on 06-07-2014
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

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

My conversation with the concierge of hotels I stay in during different work travels to Europe lays threadbare the current socio-economic situation there. Franz in Amsterdam, Lorenzo in Milan, Birhakeim in London and Sebastian in Paris very candidly revealed to me that 20-year-old girls, even after passing the university, prefer to engage in the escort sex worker’s job. On one side the recession, on the other the high lifestyle cost have pushed young girls to realize that they need not waste time with a 9 to 6 job full of stress. Additionally they have to fight male chauvinism at the workplace, then end up paying high bills at month-end.

So instead of suffering the plight that normal sex workers fall into, being an escort gives huge power to the girl. Escorts have privacy, choice and the liberty of time on their hands according to my cross discussions with the concierges. Escorts screen customers on their handsets, choose to accept an offer or not, and make demands prior to engagement. European escorts can travel facilities without any frontier. On average, they make Euros 150 to 300 per session lasting 30 to 60 minutes. If a session lingers, the charges also clock up faster than the taximeter. Serving 10 customers from 8pm to 4am, they easily earn Euros 1000 to 2000 per night after paying off the agent who take care of their agenda and customer finding process. It seems agents nowadays are ever vigilant on this mobile phone escort service system. They seriously assume responsibility for both sides, the security and proper payment of the escort girl who’s their partner actually running their sex business, and ensuring the satisfaction of customers who want safe sex. In a county like Holland where sex working is legal, Franz said this business is discreet, yet open, easy and makes nobody a loser.

Franz had alerted me about sex, art and torture being within walking distance in Amsterdam, which I wrote about last week. In fact it was his further observations on sex workers that made me touch this subject with the other concierges I met in 3 other cities. Franz told me that all his rich American or Arab men clients are hallucinated with the best choice of girls they get in Amsterdam. As prostitution is totally legal and regulated in Holland, this country has attracted job-starved girls from 44 different countries in Europe, Latin America, Africa, even Asia. About two-thirds of the 30,000 girls here are non-Dutch. Girls can easily start a lucrative sex business here. Her only investment is a mobile phone, an agent to procure clients, and a health certificate that proves she’s in perfect health. There are legal brothels too where the girls can find easy employment. In 2011, the Dutch authorities started asking sex workers to pay taxes on their earnings. In some Dutch cities there are facilities called afwerkplek, a sex drive-in for cars for street prostitution. So the Government, girls, agents and customers are all safe, legal and happy says Franz.

Lorenzo was my Milan hotel’s emotional, happy-go-lucky and efficient concierge. He heartily commented, “We are complex macho men in Italy. You can call us perverted for revering the extremely old fashioned sexual prohibition of the Vatican, yet enjoying minor sex workers in bunga bunga parties!” He was of course referring to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who was sentenced to seven years in jail for having paid a minor, Karima el-Mahroug was 17 years then, for sex, and trying to cover it up. In Italy, the exchange of sexual services for money is legal, but organized prostitution indoors in brothels or controlled by third parties is prohibited. Sex workers are called fireflies (lucciole) which is also the name of their website.

“Everything is permitted but nothing allowed in our hypocritical society,” said my Parisian hotel concierge Sebastian. I can vouch for that as nothing is black and white in France. We enjoy the hues of the rainbow here. In the UK, concierge Birhakeim in my London hotel said the Government was rather hypocritical in trying to introduce a system that will make it a criminal offense for men to buy sex, but absolutely legal for women to advertise and sell sex. “So unofficially everything allowed, but how will the escort hide her man so he does not go to jail?” he wondered.

Escort girls, they all said, never expend any emotion in what the clients ask for. My concierge friends appear to believe 4 types of customers exist: (1) Just want the sex act, that’s it. This is a good customer. He takes 20 minutes, maximum thirty. (2) Sentimental customers want the escort to act like a companion to give emotion. This takes time. The escort conveniently puts on the taximeter. (3) Entrepreneur-type customers want a submissive woman to dominate over. So she cannot disobey his desire. Of course playing the super-submissive woman has its specific cost. (4) Accompany the customer on his travels in the role of being his girlfriend. This trip can last anywhere from two days to a week. Such a customer is of very high value. Escort girls have to be especially well trained in behavior and attitude to perform in this job. The key is that nobody who meets her with her client should ever even get a hint of the fact that she is an escort. She has to fit like a glove into becoming his loving Isabel, Francia, Krystel or Deborah.

My intention is not to criticize the woman sex worker but narrate how the business fructifies as a consequence of economic recession when an overdose of high cost lifestyle piles up huge monthly bills. Of course there’s the flip side of women being duped, trafficked and taken advantage of. But those who choose to enter this oldest profession make good money for 15-20 years. After that choice remains with them along with a handful of money. The World Health Organisation recommends that “countries move towards the decriminalisation of sex work and improve sex workers’ access to health services.”

To download above article in PDF Escort’s taximeter

Financial Express link:http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/escorts-taximeter/99/

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