Thursday, October 21, 2010
Once again it’s that time of the year when the world gets into a festive mood. It’s going to be Christmas soon and marketers are already, ready with their plans and their campaigns. Back in India, Dussehra just got over, but festivities have only just begun, with the grand-dad of all festivals – “Diwali”, just around the corner. It’s that time of the year when everyone goes on a buying spree. Consumption reigns supreme this time.

However at the heart of all this frantic activity lies a simple thought – “the power of giving”. Yes gift giving is central to Diwali. It’s a way of paying homage to the deity of wealth – Goddess Lakshmi. No wonder Diwali is the largest gift giving and shopping festival of India. Gifts symbolise one’s prayers to the almighty for the prosperity and well being of the recipient. “Giving” is at the heart of all festivities, and “giving” should also be at the heart of all marketing activities.

This kind of giving is one of the oldest tricks in the books – a free gift! An interesting ‘freebie’ to help sell products. It’s something marketers have been using for decades to lure customers away from the competition.

Giving is powerful. It is a very strong way of communicating. It is “emotional communication”, which is one form of communication that creates the maximum impact. Be it in business, where you need to build relations with consumers or be it in personal relationships, one needs to develop and build emotional intelligence skills, to have and to maintain enriching relationships.

The effectiveness of “giving” (read as Freebies) is not something new. Marketers world over know the lure that the word ‘FREE’ holds for consumers. It somehow always works. An interesting discovery happened at This was at a time when one was supposed to pay an additional $3.95 for shipping if one purchased a book worth $16.95. Then they introduced a new scheme, which said if the customers bought another book & the total became more than $31.90, the shipping would be FREE! The FREE Shipping was so tempting that even though many did not want a second book, but for availing the free shipping, they were ready to pay for the second book!

“Consumers respond to the allure of FREE like starving people at a buffet,” says Dan Ariely in his book Predictably Irrational. Getting something at “zero cost” seems totally irresistible. No wonder, as you get ready to shop for Diwali, you will be lured by these free, “zero cost” products for every purchase. A TV stand “free” with the TV could swing your choice away from the competitor who does not make a similar offer.

Yes India contributed “ZERO” to the world, but did not realise how important a marketing tool it would become. A “free gift” is one of the best ways to improve sagging sales. After all, who does not like products that come at ‘zero’ cost. So deep is our love for ‘zero’ that Pepsi discovered that if it put “Zero calories” on its cans, the sales were more than even if it put “one calorie”!!

This festive season, marketers world over will be tempting consumers with “gifts” for every purchase they make. It’s the best way to build an emotional connect with the consumers.

However ‘giving’ is now acquiring a whole new meaning today. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) celebrated its 100-year anniversary last week in Orlando. The biggies of marketing attended the convention. There was P&G, and Coca-Cola and Dell, and all of them agreed on one thing – “the power of a gift”. The “gift” in question was not just a “freebie”, but a gift that would make the world a better place. Tide started its ‘Loads of Hope’ campaign after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. It sent a mobile laundermat to the affected area and washed, dried & folded the clothes of the families hit by the hurricane – for free. They realized what a big difference such a little thing as clean clothes made to the people. Not just this, P&G seems to be giving a whole new meaning to its business statement. It says, “We are in the business of helping moms”. It’s no more just a company that makes household and personal care products. This time it’s “giving” moms everywhere what they deserve most – “recognition”. It signed up this July, with the International Olympic Committee, which would give P&G global sponsorship rights for the next five Olympic Games, from London 2010 to 2020. This will help it to “give” back to moms globally. Under its “Proud sponsor of Moms” campaign, it took 25 moms to watch their children contest in the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010. It’s even planning to make a documentary video series called “Raising an Olympian”, which would tell stories of Olympic hopefuls as seen through the eyes of their moms. All this has resulted in 30% higher recall among target audiences and of all the Olympic advertisements, P&G Olympic ads showed a 62% higher message recall! That’s the power of “giving back”.

Brands today are looking beyond “freebies” and “giving” to causes that are relevant to their brand. It makes them more likeable, people connect better. Agreed that the purpose of a business is to make a profit, but no business can truly succeed if that’s its sole motivation. Your business should stand for a purpose, a cause too.

Giving with a twist of humor makes the campaign even more interesting & memorable. “Deforest yourself. Reforest the World” is an interesting campaign that was launched by Philips Norelco this year in May, where it challenged the hairiest men of New York to have their chest “deforested” by actress Carmen Electra! For every Body groom product sold, Philips would donate one tree. After all, it believed that ‘deforestation’ was today acceptable only on the human body!!

When you give to help make the world a better place, you win more hearts. This strategy is not just good for the world, but your bottom lines too.

An organization can stand the tests of time if it has a solid purpose for its existence defi ned by its founders. Business with a sense of responsibility is what makes for a strong business house that won’t be over in one generation.

An interesting survey caught my eye which talked of “Good Brands of 2010”. Topping the survey were, Google at No. 1, Apple at No. 2, Jamie Oliver at No. 3 and so on. Interestingly, all were great givers. Google gave us the power to search for whatever we wanted – for free! Apple gave the world some of its best products & is actually helping every possible business do business better today. In 2009, while other business were fighting for survival, there were some who racked up double digit sales & profits growth. At number one was a company United Service Automobile Associations (USAA) ranked 132 on the 2010 Fortune 500 list. In 2009, its revenues grew by 36%. Apart from other factors, it was a simple iPhone application that its chief Joe Robles developed, which helped the company grow. The application allowed soldiers from rugged outposts like Iraq and Afghanistan to deposit money from anywhere in the world, thus making USAA a leader in mobile banking. Think about it. It’s not just the iPhone, or the stunning iPad that have made Apple score a 12.5% revenue growth in 2009, inspite of its CEO Steve Jobs being on medical leave for the first half of 2009; but it’s the zillions of applications that Apple gives for “free” which make its products most appealing. A month after iPad’s launch, Apple’s iTunes store recorded its 10 billionth download! Yes, “giving” makes a difference – and how!

Jamie Oliver does business of a different kind. Through his TV show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution USA”, he raised awareness about the way children eat – especially in public schools. Food was not just meant to taste good, but improve lives. Giving American children the knowledge of healthy eating helped Oliver do brisk business too.

As David Ogilvy said in his famous quote, “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife”. Today’s consumer is quick to reject falsehoods as easily as he is ready to accept authenticity.

Yes, it’s time for business houses to think about “giving” & giving beyond freebies. This Diwali, let us pledge to give and give freely & from the heart. As Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”. So give, give away, your best ideas, your best thoughts, give freebies, give to the society. The best businesses are headed by great givers. Tatas, one of India’s most respected business houses, showed how to give. It gave the poor a car (Nano) a water purifier (Swach) and now it’s gone & given Rs.220 crores to Harvard, thus leaving an indelible impression on the world. You start giving too, and there is no better time than now to experience the power of giving. It’s the right time to master the art of giving.


Thursday, October 7, 2010
There was something very interesting that happened at Christie’s (the auction house) in London on September 29, 2010. The auction was very unique. The room was packed and beyond – people had even formed queues outside Christie’s; the heightened interest made the authorities shift the auctioning to a bigger room. People were bidding not just inside the room, many were on telephone, many more were registered online, from countries all over the world. From New York to Dubai, nobody wanted to miss the action… It was the auction of 300 items from Lehman Brothers’ London headquarters – paintings, miniature battleships, et al. It’s interesting to note that while not many were interested in the sale of Lehman’s European business (which was bought by a Japanese company Nomura), this auction was evidently different – and the most interesting bid was for a large metal nameplate that used to adorn Lehman’s London headquarters. An anonymous bidder bought the sign over telephone at an exorbitant price of £42,050. It was symbolic, for these letters symbolised the beginning of something new. The collapse of Lehman Brothers had ignited the global financial crisis, which changed the world forever.

Incidentally, Lehman Brothers’ mission statement was another sign that fetched record prices! It read: “We are one firm defined by our unwavering commitment to our clients, our shareholders and each other”!

A company that once seemed invincible is today gone!

“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,” these words of Lord Alfred Tennyson from the story The Passing of Arthur should never be forgotten if you don’t want to become redundant. It’s the “mantra” to help one keep growing.


Daimler, the world’s no.2 luxury carmaker, was in for a pleasant surprise when its largest order in Asia came from a dusty small town in India, one which most people probably have never heard about – Aurangabad. 115 Mercedes-Benz vehicles were ordered by the Aurangabad Chamber of Commerce. It seemed like a prank, but it went on to prove a point. If you don’t learn to look beyond, you may miss big opportunities. Don’t do what everybody is doing. Most multinationals, when entering a new market, simply look at the top 10 cities of that country.

If you want to race ahead, think ahead, for according to Boston Consulting Group, your next billion consumers will not come from the biggies, but small towns that have quietly grown while no one was noticing. Aurangabad drew the world’s attention by this gimmick of ordering 115 sedans (Mercedes, eventually sold some 148 cars there!). There are places like Curitiba in Brazil, Xiaochang in China, Yekaterinburg in Russia, and Amritsar in India, where the new markets lie. Not surprising, Wal-Mart has opened in Amritsar and guess what it caused – a huge traffic jam as Amritsaris in BMWs lined up to check out the new store!

If you want to make a quick buck, look beyond the obvious. The one multinational that has done this is Unilever. It never feared stepping off the beaten track and exploring new markets. It always succeeded. So can you!


Shakira recently sang the line: “It’s time for Africa...” Well, in business circles, the new song which hopes to set the cash registers jiggling to a happy tune is: “It’s time for Asia”!

UBS AG, Switzerland’s largest bank discovered that a large majority of its richest clients were from Asia. The number of ultra-rich Asians climbed 37% in 2009, which is double the global pace. With so much wealth-creation happening, Asia becomes a very important market. This quarter, UBS AG is focusing on its Asian clients and their needs.

India is Asia’s rising power. Its 9% growth rate, its rapidly increasing middle class, is making it the hot destination for the low-growth Western governments!

As if Slumdog Millionaire was not enough to showcase India’s dirty underbelly, the Commonwealth Games gave the Western world a display of how India functions. The world criticised our corruption, lack of planning and shoddy implementation. However, the flipside is: it’s these very nations (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) that are fighting hard to get into trade agreements with us. It’s also interesting to note that not one of the 54 participating counties backed out of India’s Commonwealth Games despite such negative publicity! India is today too important for the world. We may not work like the West, but the world has to accept “our way”, however chaotic we may be and however much we may have a habit of getting things done at the last minute. As Mr. Lee of Center for Independent Studies in Sydney quoted, “North Korea has great military parades with 2,00,000 people, but no one looks at them” even though they are executed with perfection. The world is watching India. Yes, it’s definitely time for India. If you want to test your entrepreneurial skills, look no further. India is your playground. Vijayawada, Ujjain, et al, may be difficult to find on the map of India, but you may find your best business opportunity in these places!


“If you think you can, you are right” – I believe in this quote from the book Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch. There is nothing more powerful than a strong resolve. Napoleon Hill in his world famous book Think and Grow Rich writes: “Thoughts are things and powerful things, when mixed with purpose and persistence”. Most great entrepreneurs have started not with big money, a great education or a strong circle of influence, but a steely resolve and the will to win.

Know first where you want to go and keep going no matter how hard the going is. You know not when you will strike gold!

Who had ever imagined that the once financial powerhouse Lehman Brothers would be auctioned off, that America would lose its sheen and that the world would change? All of it happened; and those who kept working are reaping the rewards. The new emerging nations – India, Brazil and China – are making the developed nations stumble. Save one. Germany! It’s growing faster than US. Its citizens for years have accepted wage cuts in return for life-long employment. And today, unemployment there is lesser than US. Of all the developed nations, it’s the strongest right now. Today, it’s the showcase of eurozone. This year, as Germany celebrates 20 years of its unification, it has shown the world that it is ready. It’s beaten all, and as the world gets ready to come out of the recession, Germany is prepared.

However, India is ready too. It has become too important to ignore. Look no further, for the world is coming here, looking for their next billion consumers, their next growth opportunity. You get ready too. Your pot of gold could be buried right under your feet! Get ready to be a part of this growth and let’s prepare to make our first million – right here!