Category Archives: Musings

Pizza and the Digital phenomenon

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See it to believe it…. Well we have all seen and mostly comprehended the power of social in our digital lives and in some cases offline avatars as well. With the Digital revolution having encompassed almost all interaction touch points of brands with customers or prospects, we have all seen the all pervasive nature albeit seemingly in compliance with PII regulations across geographies.

So you have the much hyped social media, including platforms like twitter , the mobile channel and the good old re-invented email marketing. While the proliferation of web surfing and purchases on smart phones see an almost exponential growth, demanding new technologies like using beacons and leveraging geo-fencing to personalize offers in real times; the good old email lists still work wonders, with the tweaks incorporated for SEO efforts.

There are hordes of case studies on the internet today and almost everybody has engaged with the brands using these channels for a better UX and conversions. I had an interesting occurrence today. When I ordered a pizza from a well known brand in my locality today, I was flabbergasted. To set the context, one day per week is typically celebrated as “Pizaa Day” in the household and it is always the same brand whose product is ultimately ordered. So today I ordered a little variant from my previous typical orders and paid extra for some toppings which my taste buds demanded today. I was amazed to notice that none of the extra toppings were present when I had taken a few bites of the pizza.

I submitted an online complaint on the brand’s website and also posted about the experience in a neutral manner (no over the top antagonistic user sentiment here!), since this was more of a disappointment from a loyal long time repeat customer. I wanted to see the outcome of this little social experiment, not having had much experience in the past or rather not having had the occasion/social media skills!

So while I got an automated mail (auto-Responders configured in email marketing campaign) in response to my online complaint, mentioning that somebody would look into the matter and revert in XX hours (“hours”! really?); I received a phone call around 10 minutes later having posted on Facebook.  An employee from the local franchisee of the renowned brand apologized and in matter-of-the-fact tone mentioned that they would send the same product configuration to me free of cost. I expressed my genuine surprise and mentioned that having had one medium size pizza, I did not think that this was a very responsive corrective action. However the employee was in a hurry (and might have been miffed that I did not even have an appetite to manage a couple of medium size pizzas!). Flustered, I expressed a tired thanks and hung up. I did wonder about the superlative impact of web analytics and the efficiency of “listening posts” in social media. So in the last mile of analysis human element had manually validated the data presented by the analytics for the final action and based on the historical data extrapolation, somebody had decided that the usual placatory offer of a similar product (For Free!!!!) would suffice and result in customer delight.

I was certainly NOT delighted; however the thought did not linger on. 20 minutes later, the door bell chimed and I asked my parents to collect the pizza. In response to my dad calling out to me, I had to discard my lazy posture spread over the chair watching Befikre (hindi movie) trailer and strolled outside to face the pizza delivery guy.

“Rupees 619” he demanded. I thought I had mis-heard and asked him to repeat his question. Then I was sure that I had indeed heard what I had thought I had heard! It took me 4 minutes to explain the entire episode to him and in the end softened by his confused demeanor, I asked him to call the local franchise and confirm. He made a quick mental calculation (I could not help but imagine a SQL query or a web service running in the background to fetch the confirmation data). Suddenly coming out of his momentary trance, he displayed a dazzling white toothed smile and said it was all fine.

In his haste he forgot to wish me a good night and left me holding the warm pizza box in my hand. When my wife asked to open the box and spread some oregano on the slices, I stopped her. I prophesized the need for a 20-30 minutes waiting period (the shop being 5 mins away from my home by bike and I added ample buffer for manual conversations and decision making, in case it needed to be over-turned and I needed to pay the money yet again). With 30 minutes having passed now, I finally gave the go-ahead signal to my family. Yes, of course I got lot of nasty stares for letting the pizza go cold and to micro-wave it again.

Well sure, Digital is path breaking and really a great disruptive phenomenon in the customer focused world. But the last few feets (no longer “miles” in the customer journey I am sure) do need to be validated by a human element.

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A reader’s idiosyncratic rant

Is there anything such as an overdose of reading? I am not sure if there is or if there isn’t. The sole reason why this weird question popped up in my mind was when I last took stock of my inventory of home library (well a glorified wall cupboard really). I do have a lot of books stored in my current home however I do not need to look at analytics report from a PIM solution to find that my stock of unread books is on the rise over the last few weeks!
I am horrified, really….ever since my Grandfather replenished our home library with engaging books every now and then, I have been an avid reader. My grandfather gifted books ranging from the genius like Ray to Tagore, Bankimchandra, Saratchandra, Sirshendu, Shankar, Shostipodo (who can forget pandob goyenda series based on Famous five) et al.
I used to leverage my modest pocket money and entreating pitiful eyes to influence my mother to buy me abridged versions of the english books, such as Tintin comics, Mark Twain’s classics etc. The other important influence during my school life were my english teachers in junior school. We were supposed to complete at least one book during our summer holidays and submit a short synopsis of our understanding. Much later I completed a sort of similar assignment in my B-School, only this time it was for the business genre, I had read Lee Iacocca turn around Chrysler Corporation.
So I continued on this journey over the years,reading anything and everything that surpassed the minimum threshold of my curiosity or attention span. The reading rate/velocity did fluctuate over time of course with most of the time devoted to increasing workload, family et al. However I did manage to complete previously un-read books in thriller genre and completed Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple series. I re-read the entire Tintin series. I read a few famous contemporary books from new authors or the earlier established ones.
Reading late in the night was becoming more inconvenient and hence I bought the kindle with back lit display.
So, it does hurt to see the amount of un-read books piling up….
The more worrying part is that I actually enjoyed the breather….it sort of managed to de-saturate the clogged mind which had been fed voraciously up to that point in time.
So as I touch the book covers or browse the downloaded titles on my kindle, I do feel the ever gnawing feeling raise its head inside me…the need to learn something new, to get acquainted with a new fine author or to get re-acquainted with a famous writer,through new engaging works. Well there is no limit to learning and the path even if it gets uphill sometimes, is worth the reading crisis that manages to seep in, unwarranted but immensely helpful all the same.

Who am I?

“So what? As per you I need to persevere…endlessly and then maybe someday I will be there?”

“Perseverance is a virtue….you don’t need to inculcate that for posterity you know”

“What kind of a guru are you? Weren’t you suppose to reveal my destiny?”

“I never proclaimed myself a guru…as far as I can remember it was you…and the others.”

“Ok, if that is so, then why do you charade as one? Why this ashram and all these rhetorics?”

“I built the derelict ashram for myself…to meditate….to gauge my presence in the world… not to be the cynosure of each and every eye in the world…why would I? Last I remember I was drawing a take home of 160k USD in 2012”

“You are just shirking your responsibilities….you like being in the thick of things, don’t you? The gifted child for the media…. the shrink who enlightened the likes of Fortune 500 CEOs”

“Well you must know, I never publicised….I never asked these so called superhonchos to visit me…I did not ask for these donations”

“Then what the heck did you want”?

“I….wanted to know my place in this universe….I wanted to know if I really warranted a thought in the larger macro scheme of things….if I was worth it? If I was supposed to help others, by reminding them of what they had forgotten”

“And, how did that pan out for you, Mr. Storyteller?”

“Ridicule me as you may son…..I won’t complain…I do not think I really need to justify myself.”

“And why do you think so?”

“Any explanation from my side would defeat the very purpose of my existence child….you are blinded by your angst and disappointment with the material things in the world…you might have been deceived by the ones whom you considered your true friends….but then who I am I to say how those friendships should have worked out? I see only the benevolence in every action…so I might interpret the actions of your so called close friends as actually beneficial for you…experiences that ought to have enriched you and helped you on in your journey in discovering your true self”

Anybody can write

Well the header was to catch your attention….Just kidding, while Gustav always maintained anybody can cook, I do not harbor any such illusions when it comes to writing, well the simple matter of the fact being that I struggle when I write, more so when I write something which is beyond my comfort zone.

While I normally finish all my pieces in single sittings, stretching to hours if required (seldom since I only try to write short stories or poems since early schooldays), when I attempt to venture into alien territories, take the romance genre for e.g., my mind wanders, I falter, my pen stutters (figuratively since we all minions use word processors nowadays) and after having tried all avenues of the never arriving inspiration, I mechanically stride on and trash the outcome.

My close friends allude to my non-romantic nature which they proffer is the roadblock for authoring passionate, heart touching stories. Well I always beg to differ, on both the points! Firstly proposing in the backdrop of the grand canyons during the sun rise, while might not be termed as the most romantic act of the century, surely does not qualify as a non-romantic gesture either! And to add more credence to this, certainly not when it is a few years into the marriage…. 😀

So I deal with the handicap in ingenious ways (or so I like to think)….having failed to have divine interventions or creative genius moments, I made a decision. I shall henceforth turn all the romantic stories into thrillers, with my signature (another stuff I like to assume) twists at the end. I take it up as a challenge and love the act.

However it never ceases to amaze me, when I find famous writers tread into totally uncharted territories, quite late in their careers and actually flourish in the same! Detractors’ snide remarks aside, I loved the adult fiction from J.K.Rowling, Casual Vacancy to the Robert Galbraith’s Detective thrillers.

Recently I came to know about Stephen King’s Detective trilogy and just completed the first one, titled “Mr.Mercedes”. I do not possess a sufficiently strong vocabulary which would be able to render justice to the quality of the work and the happiness which I derived from reading the same. For authors like Gillian Flynn, this stuff is just another stroll in the park close to their heart. However for somebody who made a living (and too successfully I might say) authoring horror stuff pretty much throughout the entire active lifetime, plunging into a different genre so late could be suicidal. Well, for one the attempt could backfire and earn the ire of the mass following who would any day clamor for more of the usual stuff, stuff that has enthralled them over decades.

The second book of the series and the third (upcoming) books are on my reading list. But for now, I have jumped onto “After the Crash” by Michel Bussi. The next few books inadvertently happen to be best-sellers and translated works from French authors, for instance Pierre Lemaitre’s Camille Verhoeven trilogy….

Bring them on, I say…..

 

Country music

One of my all time favorite albums when it comes to raw and rustic music in Hindi space, has to be from the movie “Dor” by Nagesh Kukunoor of Hyderabad Blues fame (even though I feel Dor is his best work as of yet)….

Some superb tracks by Salim Sulaiman always touches a chord with the inner soul….ever since I watched the movie for the first time when I was in my Post Grad, all the songs from this movie have managed to stay with me…..the amazing music arrangement with flute and drums creates an amazing ambiance, the lyrics seemingly drawn out from some peaceful abode, untainted by the prejudices of normal existence.

When the mind is too tired to even engage in an idle soliloquy….I turn to a few favorite songs which helps me to get into my inner space and sometimes to catch a glimpse of inner peace.

As random as it gets

So I finished yet another Keigo Higashino book! Well for the un-initiated I love to read….and write, well necessarily in that order, at least that is what it has been over the last few years. You see the urge to write never really dies, although it does manage to dwindle dangerously between sporadic to none! But that is another topic to ponder upon in a separate post…

I read everything and anything…..I do prefer googling on goodread’s ratings before I take the plunge….but sometimes it is a simple gut feeling, an 8th sense (Love being the 7th?) which has managed to serve me rather well over time. I do read Asimov and Tolkiens, Christie and Ludlum, Amitava Ghosh and Jhumpa Lahiri, Khuswant and J.K. Rowling, Coelho and Ruskin Bond…..

If you get where I am going with this, I am NOT a well read person…well there are so many renowned works which I have not even heard or managed to touch upon. It is sometimes a very sobering thought to realize that I am not even aware of so many authors whose work would enrich my knowledge and open up a plethora of new discoveries/realizations for me….But I manage to stay afloat….I mostly manage to allocate a definite period of time each day to read something which widens my thought process, removes a lot of my myopic vision and in the end learn something new each day.

I read a lot of new works as well….it is the synopsis which gets to me. Mostly I order a book having read the first 3-4 lines in the author’s synopsis, if it does not appeal then and there, there is seldom any real chance that I would be enticed by the remaining. One such book which I enjoyed reading was “Rustom and the last storyteller of Almora”….

Of late I have managed to dig into the Thriller or rather Detective genre….I have managed to complete Miss Marple series and am almost done with the Poirot series as well….

However that surreal moment when you read something extraordinary came with Keigo Higashino’s latest english translated work “Journey under the mid night sun”…I have read his other works as well (which I have managed to get hold of) and had become an instant fan….Here is an author who does not believe in the usual Holmes-que method of deduction….there is nothing flashy, nothing too dramatic which would actually hinder the growth of the story and distract from the build up of the characters….there is every sense of method imbibed into the process of solving a crime. Policework is given its due importance and a very thorough analysis is initiated right at the outset.

I was amazed when I read “Malice”…well who would have thought that there could be a motive to create a false motive and manage to achieve the planned results! Much has been said and done about “Devotion of Suspect X”,the latest being a Hindi movie adaptation of the same, which renders any thoughtful discussion on it rather perfunctory. “Salvation of a Saint” is another lovely read.

However it is the latest translation of his work which I believe is a masterpiece by all standards. I did not read another book for a couple of days, just to be able to soak in the surreal feeling derived from the book!

Since English translations of his work are not so frequent, I am planning to complete the Poirot series,grab Robert Galbraith’s latest in a couple of days and then catch up on an amazing book authored by my friend which re-traces the journey made by Lord Hanuman across India and Sri Lanka.

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