Archive | May, 2013

Simplifying Home Entertainment – Wireless Streaming

28 May

Indians have limited entertainment opportunities –  eating out , visiting  a Mall , watching a movie are probably 3 of the top entertainment activities for an average Indian metro family.

Movie tickets in India are expensive in most of the new Cineplex – a show at PVR can cost anywhere from Rs 250 to Rs 1000 per person depending on the type of auditorium. So going out with a family of 4 can be a tad expensive.

There is an interesting alternative that is emerging. Most Indian families in Metros have graduated to having large format LED / LCD TV’s and every household has a few smartphones and definitely a Tablet. The broadband and Wi Fi is also a default in over a few million households. These are the existing ingredients that you need to tap into to augment your experience of watching movies at home.

Lets look at an interesting device that Apple launched in India recently.  As you see this is a cute device that fits in your palm. Its small but powerful and can really energize your home entertainment . Lets take a look at a few interesting things that you can do with it.

Apple-TV-in-Hand

Most of you would have a Windows or Mac PC at home. With iTunes you now have easy access to download songs, movies, Videos, games  to your PC / iOS devices. These  can be streamed to your TV . Even if the PC is in the bedroom and the TV is in the front room it works beautifully.

We can make this simpler – if the movie is downloaded on your iPad or iPhone then you can stream it directly to the TV.

The device goes well beyond watching Video. There are other advantage too e.g.  you had a large family function and you want to view all the photographs together as a family on your TV. You can download the photos to iPhoto on your Mac / iPad and then choose a background theme / music and run all the photos like an AV.

Its also a lot of fun for kids as Angry Birds, Temple Run and all the other games downloaded from the App Store can now be played directly on your TV through an  iPad or iPhone.

If your TV is not web enabled and you want to watch movies from Youtube – its easy to do that with an Apple TV.

The device is also of interest to music enthusiasts. All the songs downloaded on your Mac / Windows PC can now be played on the TV , if you have external speakers / Home Theater system attached to the TV the experience can be stunning.

So what does it take to make this happen ?

Existing Systems – LCD / LED TV with HDMI Port , Wifi @ Home , Existing device ( Windows / Mac PC with iTunes or any iOS Device)

New Items Needed – HDMI Cable , Apple TV. Indicative cost for both these is less than Rs 10,000/-

Apple TV

 

Few Additional Points to note 

1. If you need to download from youtube & watch – Wi Fi bandwidth needed to stream is a minimum of 2.5 Mbps.

2. If you want to stream content from your home PC , iPad , iPhone – then all you need is a Wi Fi Network.

3. If you do not have a Broadband at home – you can still crate a Wi Fi Zone by using a product like the D – Link companion DIR – 505 ( Indicative Cost Rs 1700)

4. The movie / video being streamed will be at a HD resolution

Its an interesting project to get your kids excited in the summer vacation , you can get started right away and enhance your experience at home. For more details here are some useful links

For more details on this Innovative product here are some useful links

http://www.apple.com/appletv/

http://manuals.info.apple.com/en/AppleTV_SetupGuide.pdf

Airplay mirroring in OS X Mountain lion: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht5404
Guide to ports & connectors: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1586

 

 

 

Perception = Reality, True or False

21 May

Many years back I was fortunate to spend a year at a leading FMCG company on a Brand Project. Coming from an IT world selling PC’s & Servers it was a rare insight into the world of Brands . I carried back two key messages on Marketing from the GM Marketing (who is now the CEO of that company)

1. Perception  is Reality &  2. Familiarity breeds favourability .

This essay will touch mainly upon the first topic – as I strongly disagree with the fact that Perception is Reality.

perception_eq_reality2

Let’s assume  you have a Restaurant that positions itself as a haven for great food , and spends a lot of marketing dollars in communicating that message. If you land up at the Restaurant and find that the food and service is bad – will you ever visit that place again ?  Can marketing based on perception and familiarity deliver results or do you need a solid working product to succeed.  Companies like PCL & Shiva Computers created great awareness with full page Ads and tried to sell very mediocre products – sadly these companies do not exist today.

Linked to this topic is also the topic of making tall promises that may be factually incorrect. What does a consumer do then – given the state of our legal system. Is it morally and ethically right for large MNC’s and Corporates to base their products on such communications. Lets look at some examples from leading companies.

Santoor Soap is one of the largest selling brands in the Country. Its positioned as a soap that has the goodness of Sandal & Turmeric. It sells very well in S India where Sandal is considered a +ve factor to create glowing skin.  I would love to ask a  few questions to the makers of  Santoor (Wipro) – How many grams of Chandan (Sandal) are there in every bar of Santoor ? I thought cutting of Sandal Wood trees are banned – how does somebody run a production line making millions of soap bars every year if there is no regular supply of Sandal ? Wipro being a Green Company would definitely not want to promote cutting of trees. Is there Sandal in the soap or is it just a dot of Sandal essence and color that makes the claim ? I don’t know the answer – but I don’t see anything in the pack that says how much Sandal is actually used / soap ? I have friends in Wipro so maybe I should pose this question when I meet them next.

 

53023_1

 

Complan is a drink made by another large multinational. The drink claims to make children taller. All the ads build on that perception and many fall for it. I never drank Complan and am 6 feet 3 inches – my good friend who drank 3 glasses a day all through his childhood is 5 feet 6 inches. Height is determined mainly by genes – and maybe playing badminton and cycling – yes nutrition also helps , but how can a health drink promise to make you taller and get away with it when the results are not delivered ?

Complan

 

Colgate – A brand used by almost every household. It promises  that if you use Coalgate every day you want get cavities. The ads make you feel that if you brush twice a day with Colgate you never need to go to a dentist. Thats the perception that is built. I have used colgate all my life – teeth , gums , cavities I have problems everywhere. Colgate cant fix it – if I had used a saline mouthwash every night and brushed my teeth with a neem stick maybe I would have saved myself the agony of frequent trips to a dentist – but colgate just made me feel fresh in the mouth for a few hours. It did not even remotely deliver the promise it made . In the era of Coalgate this is another case that the CAG may take up for audit.

 

Colgate-Toothpaste

 

Lets look at one more example – Britannia is a great brand – they make great biscuits. The Britannia Good Day with RICH CASHEW is a bestseller. A 150 Gram Pack costs about Rs 23. If you remove the retailer profit , cost of distribution , Margin for manufacturer etc the cost of production will  probably be half of it say Rs 12/- . One Kg of Cashews costs Rs 600 – so if we assume that 10% of the weight biscuit is cashew ( rest being flour , sugar , milk etc) – that would be 15 Grams of Cashews – how much does 15 Grams of Cashew cost – Rs 9/- . You cant make the rest of the biscuit at Rs 3 – so clearly you don’t even have 10% of the biscuit comprising of Cashews – its probably more like 1 % – that would cost about 1 Rs worth of Cashews in every pack of 150 Grams. How many Cashews do you get for Rs 1/ ? Maybe 1/2 a cashew . My math may be wrong and instead of 1% the weight of Cashew may be higher – the pack does not mention how much Cashews are there , but at best we are still talking 1 , 2 or 3 Cashews / pack of 150 Grams of biscuit . Can a brand make a claim that the biscuit is packed with the energy of  RICH CASHEWS by having a sprinkling of the ingredient in every pack ? Yes in this case the perception works – but its now a matter of ethics and the FDA or an equivalent in India needs to step in and stop this.

britannia-good-day-cashew-12x50gm

Lets take one last look – a wonderful product called Honey.One of the rare food items that never gets spoilt. Its the gift of nature. Great for health – best cough syrup , build immunity , great substitute for Sugar. But I wonder are there enough bees & Honey Combs for so much Honey to be produced in India. Forests are nearly gone , you hardly see birds and butterflies & bees – so where is all this honey coming from . Is it natural or an interesting formulae made in a lab. I found this report on food safety where they tested Honey in some US stores – and found that most of them did not have any trace of pollen. Most of the honey in the US stores were from China & India .

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isnt-honey/#.UZtua7-525Y.

This report gives one a feeling that most of the honey being sold in stores in US may actually not qualify to being natural honey. Given this – it may be worthwhile to dig a little more deeper into Indian Honey brands and see how Pure & genuine they are.

 


images-1

 

In Conclusion – yes many FMCG companies seem to be getting away with the Perception = Reality messaging , but its time consumers & regulators were more aware and demand that they get what is advertised & communicated by the brands.

 

Am I a Hindu ? Religion & Spirituality

20 May

What makes you a Hindu ?  Praying to God , visiting a temple , performing rites & poojas, chanting mantras , maybe wearing a  Sacred Thread if you are a Brahmin, celebrating festivals , eating sweets & savories, knowing your mythologies & maybe an attempt at reading the Bhagwad Gita ! Is that it or is there more to being a Hindu ?

Most religions have one holy book The Holy Bible , The Holy Quaran , The Guru Granth Sahib to name a few . Hinduism has thousands – 4 Vedas , 108 Upanishads, Holy Gita , Vedangas, Darsanas , Itihasas Puranas , Upavedas, Agamas , Upangas, Tantras , Charvakas, Manusmriti Puranas and many many more. You can spend a lifetime doing a Phd in Indology trying to figure out the meaning of all that is written in these ancient scriptures

Most Religions are based on the teachings of 1 Spiritual Leader – a person who had visions from God , the Holy Son , a Messiah, Buddha , Mahavira  – a person who was spiritually awakened. Hinduism has hundreds of Rishis who after intense meditation heard the voice of God and were able to narrate their learnings for all and transferred them to ancient scriptures.

What is Religion ?  The teachings of the Holy Prophet that has now been institutionalised. Is it original , is it diluted , is the essence lost ? The goal of every Religion is to awaken you and take you on the path of self realization – has religion succeeded in that mission. To me it looks like Religion is the cause of most of the wars we have seen in our lifetime and before. Its also the basis for caste systems and to demean women.

What is Spirituality ? This leads us a question of Who is God & Who Am I ? How did Life begin ? Why is Man so evolved a animal ? Is God the statue in a temple ?  How come the Holy Vedas never talked about Temples & Deities ?

One of the greatest spiritual thinkers of our time has been Swami Vivekananda – he made an interesting observation ” If you have faith in all the three hundred and thirty millions of your mythological gods, … and still have no faith in yourselves, there is no salvation for you. Have faith in yourselves, and stand up on that faith and be strong; that is what we need

Swami-Vivekananda

Shiva may live in Mansarovar & Vishnu may be in the ocean of Milk – and thats a big MAYBE , but history has recorded that Buddha, Mahavira , Christ , Shankara, Vivekananda , Ramkrishna , Ramana Maharishi lived on earth. Its interesting to read about them and understand how they reached Spiritual Bliss and what is their interpretation of “Who is God” ? You will see a common thread. The exercise of connecting their spiritual learnings is a complex exercise but I will at least try and connect a few dots.

The common theme that emerges from all of them and all the ancient scriptures of every Religion is that God is everywehere. There is immense potential in every individual. We are able to utilize only a fraction of our potential. We spend too much time on the materialistic body and hardly any time to know what is that power which gives us life & intellect. The mere act of spending 30 min to focus on your breath gives you so much peace every day. Think of what you can achieve if you are able to meditate for years and get to know your inner self .

Here is an attempt to try and simplify the meaning of how there is a bit of God in every human being – Let us assume that God is the massive infinite Power Grid and this grid is connected to every living being. Each living being is like a bulb with different capacity. Someone glows at 10W while someone glows at 100W. But suppose you had the power in you to increase your capacity from 10W to 100W . another way of looking at it is that we are all a node of a massive cluster of computers connected to a supercomputer , each node has a different power but can communicate with the mainframe , some have a 256 KB link while others have a 4 MB pipe  – then all of life is a connected world. Just like Sun Micrcosystem said ” we are the dot in the dotcom ” – maybe  there is a  dot of God in all of us. And thats exactly what Shankara talks about in his concept of Advaita. And what every Religion spells out  in their holy books

And spiritual awakening is nothing but magnifying this dot till it merges with the mainframe which is infinite God. Vipassna , 8 fold path , Chakra awakening, every religion has a route  to elevate yourself to spiritual bliss. To meditate and focus on this you need to cut out the material world. So when the Taliban says – No music , dance , entertainment – they are not wrong – because these are distractions to the cause of  spiritual awakening , just that the journey is an individual one and cannot be forced on anyone by a bunch of  religious fanatics.

Just spend a few days at an ashram with simple Sattvic food ,  no TV , no music , no Internet , no phone , no talking to anyone and see the calming effect it will have in you. The stress, noise , transactions around us makes it very difficult for us to be in touch with our inner self.

Which brings me back to the main theme of  Religion Vs Spirituality. And Osho explains this beautifully in his book – “Belief , Doubt & Fanaticism“. He says don’t be a Christian, Buddhist , Hindu or Jain   – Try being Christ, Buddha, Shankara or  Mahavira. Follow the journey they took and then you will experience the joy  and eternal bliss they were able to achieve – what  Religion preaches today is no way close to what they practiced in their lives – a little bit of deviation by each set of followers has created a huge divide from the original thoughts of our great spiritual leaders.

images

And to be a Christ , Buddha or Shankara you have to ask the question that Ramana Maharishi asked ” Who am I ” – the answer to this can come only from introspection & meditation. Meditation is not easy. The toughest job is to control the mind. Try doing it for a few minutes in a peaceful and quiet surrounding and then slowly you will be able to master the art.

Doubtless, oh great warrior, the mind is difficult to subdue. It is restless all the time. But oh! Son of Kunti, the mind can be conquered by repeated exercises and dispassion to sensual objects.” — Krishna to Arjuna, Bhagavad Gita 6:34

krishna_arjuna_Mahabharata-Kurukshetra1
As I slowly start questioning and reading the feeling I get is that the core of Hinduism is not about praying to millions of Gods and doing mundane rituals & poojas – it is about finding the road to Spiritual Salvation. A wonderful read that explains the essence of Hinduism is “ Am I a Hindu ” by Ed Vishwanathan. This is a must read for every Hindu –  a well written simple book,  a quick 4  hr read that explains in simple Questions and Answers everything you will want to know about Hinduism. Its an excellent primer for every Hindu to know about his religion.
653592

A few ideas to start your Business.

13 May

For someone with a little entrepreneurial ability there are many exciting business opportunities. Most people tend to be repetitive & follow existing models that lacks innovation. This Blog lists down a few interesting ideas that can be developed as a successful business – so all the intelligent bored housewives, Gujjus, Sindhis …with business in your blood –  here is something to get you started.  All the ideas are based on Basics of human need around Food , Shelter , Clothing. In the past many of my ideas have translated into big business – hoping some of you pick up these ideas and execute them successfully.

Nuts.com – Simple Trading – but go Online

The Marwari’s have built an empire out of this. Small Investment, Low margin but multiple cycles of business is their mantra. If you invest 1 Lac and make a profit of 2 % in one day by trading in wholesale look at the money you can make in a year. The ROI is obscene !

We were recently in Kashmir and found that the best quality of Walnuts & Almonds are available at about Rs 600 / Kg. At Delhi INA market this becomes nearly 1000 / Kg and at Bangalore its closer to 1200 / Kg.

walnut 1

There are at least 10M Indian families whose daily food intake includes some nuts – its good for health. And then during Diwali and other festivals Nuts are great gifts. So here is the idea – start an Online Store that sells limited variety of quality Nuts, Tie up with a large merchant in Kashmir, depending on the scale and margin you want to make you can decide if you want to run this as a small outlet store in Bangalore or a large online play with a warehouse out of Srinagar. So with Nuts.com – you can actually start a very profitable business – margins in excess of 50%. You can then expand this to get dates from Middle East – that’s another great food item, doesn’t need refrigeration, can be stored for long and its rare to find good quality pitted dates in India. Take a look at what sells online in India eTailing –  everyone is busy selling books , gadgets , apparels .

Online Retail

Once the concept starts , further expansion is possible – create an online store for every unique item you get from different States – yes the concept of State run handicraft stores exists, but its poorly managed. So your online store can have Cotton Sarees from Cal, Kolhapuri Chappals, Pashmina Shawls, Silk Sarees from Kancheepuram, Special Navratri Dresses from Gujarat etc – an online boutique that gets you the best from every state in India at the lowest possible prices. Today this segment does not exist online – so there is virgin opportunity waiting to be tapped both from India and the 15 M NRI’s visiting India.

 

Italian Buffet

Indian’s love Pizza & Pasta. India is the fastest growing base for Domino’s & Pizza Hut. We also consume more Pasta than all of Italy ! Yes we have many Italian Restaurants and Pizza Joints but what we lack is a low cost Italian Buffet joint. Many years back we used to frequent one in the US – CiCi’s Pizza, it was a great success story. Unlimited Pizza , Pasta & Soft Drinks for $6.99. In India you can probably charge Rs 499/- for a similar buffet. Clear opportunity to build a chain with scale.

Pizza Buffet

Theme Restaurants

Many years back we had visited Cancun. One evening we visited a cultural program that included a buffet dinner. It was organized by the Mexican Govt – but it was an excellent experience. In any large Indian city we are starved for entertainment – IPL tickets get sold months in advance, and any good dance / musical event at Chowdiah memorial is a sell out. The only entertainment for Indians in most metros is eating food, visiting malls and watching movies.

National Folklore Ballet of Mexico

How about a Theme Restaurant that serves different variety of Indian food each day along with some cultural program from that state using local artists. So Mon night would be Bhangra & Punjabi food, Tue would be Odissi or Baul Sangeet with E Indian Food, Wed could be Gujju food with Dandiya & Garba & Thu could be dishes from the Malabar Coast with Kathakali Dance. You will need a place in the suburbs (Something like Vishala in Ahmedabad) and could announce the schedule in advance and have all the seats booked ahead of schedule. Given the no of IT companies in Bangalore and the foreign visitors who come every week – this one will be a sure hit from an entertainment point of view both for tourists & locals. ( This one may be a little complicated to execute and would require some connections with a big realtor or politician)

Food for Rail Travellers

Not sure how many of you saw the recent TV expose on how food is cooked in Trains. Most people would want to stay away from that food. There are over 5 M passengers who travel every day on an overnight train. They need food – what you get in the train & station is substandard and not something you would want your children to eat. Cooking at home is an option but it would be a lot easier to get something from near the station.  Renting space in the station is difficult (you need to know Mr. Bansal’s relatives). So what’s the Option ?

Passengers crowd together at a platform after part of a railing from a bridge collapsed at Allahabad railway station

A Saravana Bhawan type joint that is located close to the station – offering packed delivery food. Not too many varieties but clean, hygienic & packed well for travel. Idli Vada Combo, Curd Rice, Lemon Rice, Sevai, Roti Subji, Puri Bhaji.. Over a period of time the good food and hygiene standards will establish the place as a brand by itself. You may even have the option of delivery in the platform so that you don’t need to visit the shop as you rush to the

Store for the Sr Citizens 

We have many stores dedicated for Babies – why not a store dedicated for the old ? A store that specializes in food / medicines / soaps / day to day ingredients that they need most. Maybe extend it to a restaurant like Sanjeevanam that serves Indian food with limited oil , create a menu for diabetics , one for Heart patients , make it like a club for old people who can spend a few hrs every day – a sort of CCD for the elder citizens to hang out.

Sr Citizens

And finally my favorite one – A nice housing complex in Coorg on the banks of the Cauvery 

Water is drying up – in the last few years we have seen how the water table has gone from 30 feet to 500 feet and we survive on tankers. Think of how the situation will be 10 years from now as even more people migrate to the cities. A great opportunity exists in building a good quality medium budget villa complex on the banks of the Cauvery – in case of water shortage you can always go and haul a few buckets in. Land in Coorg is still cheap – less than 10 Lacs / Acre – so its very possible build Villas 1500 sft 3 BHK independent houses for 30 – 40 Lacs on 1/2 acre plots – the right builder with the right pricing can sell his layout in one weekend in Bangalore.

2013-03-1512-52-53.jpg