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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Humorous Ads – Do they have better brand recall?


Humor as an advertising theme is a time tested one. The biggest challenge of picking up and executing humorous ads is in its inherent possibility of alienating viewers. For example – though no pun intended, if the advertisement mock at some sector or demographics, it may fail (for example, Flipkart Assured commercial showcasing Gurkhas as watchmen)

Curating the ad in the right way will result in attractiveness and better recall. Humor as a theme has couple of advantages

  • It can attract all if done right
  • The length of ads could be optimized
  • The re-call factor and psychological connection with the brand could be accelerated

Cricbuzz Advertisement

Let’s consider a slightly old example of a humorous ads – cricbuzz advertisement during last Cricket World Cup Series.



It’s a 24 sec ad which in my opinion has succeeded in implanting ‘cricbuzz’ as a cricket update app in most of the viewers.  The length is small when compared to other ads; it grabs attention, make the viewer smile , followed by showcasing cricbuzz as THE cricket update ad.

Cadbury’s Dil Jo Keh Raha Hai Suno

Let’s now take the example of Cadbury’s Dil Jo Keh Raha Hai Suno ad. Shown in various lengths, this is a good example of how humor can be effectively utilized to catch the attention of a viewer from ad clutter, implant a strong brand message and even make viewers eager to watch it again!. I am sure, irrespective of age and gender, everyone would have smiled while watching the ad. Also, the curator has not taken any pun, exaggeration or sarcasm to give the humorous flavor; instead taken a possible slice of life adaption.



Amazon Pranks (April Fool)

Now, let’s shift our focus from TV commercials to Digital world. On April Fool’s day, Amazon India decided to play some prank and attract visitors to its website. Once again, a beautiful idea, executed well. Amazon emails and home page showcase something like below


Did you see it? Did you fell prey for it? Didn’t you laugh a bit? Amazon also beautifully utilized this opportunity to introduce of the new launches which I am sure many would have at least visited the individual web pages; if not bought something!


So what do you think about humor as an advertising technique? Do they have better viewership, and better brand recall?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Book Review- Dead Companies Walking by Scott Fearon


A career in the likes of Private Equity, Venture Capital or Hedge Funds is a dream for many MBAs and students in Finance domain. Not only students, but also professionals look forward to reading books and resources on their domain to learn, understand and improve how they approach the work. Dead Companies Walking: How a Hedge Fund Manager finds Opportunity in Unexpected Places  by Scott Fearon is one such book to look forward to.

About Scott Fearon

Scott Fearon is the president of Capital Crown Management, an investment management / hedge fund firm. With over 39 years of experience in the financial services industry, his key differentiation is to invest in fast-growing companies with little analyst coverage while shorting those in the downward spiral. He writes at his blog, The confessions of a contrarian investor The confessions of a contrarian investor.

About the book

As opposed to the general theme of ‘how to select good stocks’ of books in this genre; Dead Companies Walking is all about how to identify the companies which are going to bust and exit from them tactically. This is basically a memoir of the author rather than principles around the topic. What makes the book attractive is the quantum of real life examples he gives.
Written in close to 250 pages, the book is grouped in six themes to look for to identify companies that are going to bust. These are essentially six key decision-making mistakes by executives that lead to failures. They are
  1. Not keeping track of historical events and mistakes – Often executives try to make decisions out of the recent past.This blinds the mistakes and changes happened in the long past; eventually leading to same mistakes.
  2. Over dependency on success formulas – Often managers tends overly focus on few metric, be EBITA or growth rate to sooth their current performance. This leads to blinding them from changing contexts.
  3. Forgetting customers in the name of hyper growth – This is a common mistake we see in companies going through growth phase. They become overly confident to the extend of alienating customers – be it from quality of offerings or service perspective.
  4. Jumping into a bandwagon that’s a mania – The author takes examples from 2000 dotcom busts like women.com that overly go into fads than facts.
  5. Becoming irrelevant due to industry shifts – This relates to the lack of focus on how the environment is changing. This being a menace to the extent that executives fail to identify the business models becoming obsolete (Example – e-commerce v/s Brick and Motor)
  6. Closeness of executives to companies’ operations – This is something that I couldn’t completely agree especially because of the nature of advancements technology has made. But, this completely makes sense in a ‘physical touchpoint’ based business. Scott starts the chapter with the example how he felt it odd about JC Penney’s CEO being away from his headquarters and managing the business.
Though the book is mainly about shorting stocks; he also talks about taking long positions and mistakes he made around missing stellar opportunities. Finally, a chapter is devoted on the shortcomings of Wall Street analysts. The thoughts in this chapter included why groupthink and mistakes are prevalent in Wall Street community.
Scott concludes his book with a chapter on the importance of embracing failures/mistakes and moving forward.
Overall a light read; more of a memoir. Don’t expect financial theory wisdom in this book.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Back to Basics – How to effectively organize a paid search account


In the last post, we briefly touched on the various match types available in Google AdWords and Bing Ads. In this blog post, we will review some of the best practices in account organization.
As you may know a typical account structure looks like below. Most of you will have only single account structure and use campaigns to differentiate between goals. Most of the brands I have worked with use effectively match types and ad group separation effectively to —
  • Understand which keywords are performing better in terms of CTR and conversions
  • Understand the optimal bid rate to provide
  • Customize landing pages to appeal to individual audience groups
Following are the key usage patterns / best practices

Separating Brand and Non-Brand

One of the key distinctions brands make when it comes to creating campaigns is to separate our brand keywords and non-brand keywords. Within a campaign, you could use various sub brands. For example, a loan and re-financing company could create a campaign with individual ad groups focusing on mother brand, products or sub brands.
This separation is also seen when budgets come from different organizations. For example, a big company may have budget coming from branding team as well as individual LOB demand generation teams.

Separating match types

Within a campaign, its always better to separate out ad groups based on match types. It should be noted that both Bing Ads and Google AdWords give priority to narrower match types (exact) over broader ones (broad). This is a generic rule; of course other aspects like your landing page, quality score etc. will also be taken into account when showing the ad. It’s also suggested to bid higher for narrower match types when compared to braod match types.

Grouping based on products/offerings

As in the case of Brand v/s Non-Brand; oftem campaigns and ad groups are used to separate out LOBs, product lines, services and events. Match types can be effectively used to target prospective customers specifically looking for a product (for example, JBL SB150 Soundbar).

Grouping based on intention

Another idea to separate out keywords is based on user intention.For example, a bank offering student loans could targeting the intention of a student searching for scholarship applications. Another example could be a software company targeting users searching for coupons (For example, godaddy discount coupon). Long Tail keywords are another set that falls into this category. For example, an eCommerce company could target ‘how to use a lens cleaning kit’ or ‘best lens cleaning kit’.
It’s also better to separate out ads using extensions. This not only helps to better manage conversion optimization; but also helps understand how the extensions are working for you.

Grouping based on competition/allied searches

This is another theme I have seen; but quality score may be low since you are directly bidding for against a competitor keyword / unrelated landing page. For example, Best Buy could target for Walmart.

Naming Convention

It’s also key to make sure you use a standard naming convention across campaigns, and ad groups. For example an ideal campaign name should have
Engine|Region|Country|LOB|Brand|MatchType|Goal (G|US|CA-|Printers|Branded|BMM|Activation)
and Ad Group should have
Product|MatchType|Goal (Lenses|Nikon|Broad|Reach)
What are some of the best practices you follow when it comes to organizing your keywords and naming conventions?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Back to Basics – Understanding match types in paid search marketing


If keyword planning is the foundation pillar of paid search marketing; organizing them into ad groups effectively is a structural requirement. In this blog post, we will be looking into some of the best practices around how to effectively group keywords in ad groups and use match types efficiently.
Let’s begin by going through the basics of match types first. Keyword match type essentially tells the search engine about how close the ads to keyword relationship should be. Depending on the search engine, there could be different types of match types like broad, exact and so on. Let’s try to understand each of them.

Broad Match Type

This is available in both Google AdWords and Bing Ads.If chosen this match type, your ad can appear on any keyword variations – exact, synonyms, different word patterns, misspellings or related searches. For example, if the keyword was ballpoint pen; you ad could appear for ballpoint pen, pen ballpoint, ballpoint pen, ballpoint pens, ballpoint green pen, pen, ballpoint and so on.
Broad match type keywords are used for increasing the reach. While the main benefit of using broad match type keywords is that it helps you reach a wider audience with a minimal list of keywords, the major drawback of this match type is that your ad may be shown to irrelevant keyword searches. In the above example, for instance – ballpoint pen sucks. Another drawback of this match type is reduced quality score since such keywords apply to a wide range of possibilities. Broad match type is the default match type for all keywords in both Google AdWords and Bing Ads.

Broad Match Modifier

This match type is used to tell the search engine that a certain word or pattern should be present in the search query for an ad to show up. This helps in improving the keyword-ad relationship and thus the CTRs or conversions. In case of Google AdWords, broad match types are modified using ‘+’. A word appended with the plus sign needs to be present in the search query for an ad to show up.
For example ballpoint +pen. The main difference here is this match type doesn’t include synonyms or close variations unlike broad match type. Broad match modifier could be considered if certain words in the targeted search queries are important. One of the main applications of broad match modifier is the brand searches where brand name is preserved. The challenge with this match type is that it can still show ads for some irrelevant search queries. For example, ballpoint +pen can show ads for the search term — ink pen.

Phrase Match Type

This match type enables fine tuning of keyword-ad relationship further. Phrase match types are created by including keywords inside quotes.In phrase match types, the order of keyword components are preserved. For example in the case of ‘ballpoint pens’, ads will be shown only for search queries like buy ballpoint pens or green ballpoint pens. In this match type, ads are shown for close variants and queries with extra words either before or after the phrase keyword.While using phrase match type keywords, there is a chance to improve your Click Through Rates (CTR), since the ads will be shown to more relevant search queries. Another benefit of this match type is that such keyword text will be shown bold whenever it exactly matches with the search query. Having said these, you ad could still show for some queries like ‘ballpoint pens are pathetic’.

Exact Match Type

In the case of keywords using exact match type, ads will be shown only if the search query is the exact keyword. We use [] to indicate exact match type based keywords. Thus an ad for [ballpoint pen] will be shown only if the search query is exactly ballpoint pen. Usually exact match type based keywords are where a marketer starts testing out the campaigns. Also this match type helps marketers with limited budget and for targeted marketing campaigns. There is a small difference in how Google AdWords and Bing Ads treats exact match types. In the case of Ads, articles (like a, an, the) are ignored. Thus your ad could show up in Bing if the search query is The ballpoint pen while Google will not show it.
Starting last year, both Google and Bing have started applying a variation to exact and phrase match types called close variant keyword matching. In essence this functionality triggers ads for keywords with misspellings, singular/plural forms, stemming, slangs etc. A natural question that would arise is – isn’t it limiting the advertiser’s control of exact and phrases; no worries, there is a workaround – we can always use negative match type.

Negative Keywords

This is used to filter out traffic for which you don’t want the ads to show up. For example if you are a seller of movie DVDs, you don’t want traffic from searches involving torrent or rent out or free downloads. ‘-‘ used to indicate a negative keyword. Negative keywords not only help you in achieving a better ROI; but also helps you from becoming a victim of quality score reduction due to irrelevance (CTR will also get affected).In case of Google AdWords, negative keywords can be combined with other match types like exact or broad. For example – -[pen holders], -“ink pens”. But this feature is not available in Bing Ads as it considers all negative keywords as phrases.

Content Match Type

This is specific to Bing Ads and to content networks. The ad will be triggered if any word in the keyword or ad components match pages in websites Bing’s content network. For example if you are targeting DSLR Camera and the website in Bing’s content network allows ads related to ‘cameras’, the ad will show up.

Variation Match

Finally, in Google AdWords; there is an option to enable/disable whether you want to consider misspellings, plurals, close variants etc. at campaign level. This can be used if you want to be more precise and don’t want your ads to be shown for wider keywords.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Internet of Things – Implementations for a Better India


Guest Blog Post by Prashanth Thimmavajjala
Prashanth is an MBA graduate from IIM Bangalore, currently working in the testing domain and is still trying for an opportunity to crack into the management world from the technology world. He has published multiple papers for PMI conferences and other forums.

Internet of things(IOT) is kind of new, happening and there is a whole lot of buzz around it. According to Gartner, Internet of things is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or external environment. It is in simple terms multiple sensors installed on various objects/devices/things that would collect data on specific parameters that can be later used for decision-making or controlling the devices.
Many big companies have put their hat in the ring for Internet of Things. Companies like Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM to name a few. Going through their webpages gives a lot of detailed information on the interesting work they are doing in this space and also a lot of interesting applications like smart grids for utilities, connected factories, transportation and preventive maintenance.
With most of these case studies being on implementations done outside India, it just got me thinking as what could be the possible implementations that could be done in various sectors in India that could benefit the country as a whole. I have attempted to list down a few sectors where implementing such a technology will be beneficial in the long run.

Agriculture

This sector is unarguably the main stay for India. Internet of things can be used to make the agricultural practices better and thereby producing better yield.

Smart Irrigation systems

Irrigation is vital for good crop yield and there are challenges in getting the right amount of water to be supplied to the fields. With sensors installed in the soil and to the irrigation supply system, water levels in the soil can be replenished whenever the soil sensors indicate low water density to ensure adequate irrigation to the crops thereby benefiting the yield.

Smart Water pumps

Indian company PlaySolar is already doing a great service to the agricultural sector by introducing Solar powered water pumps to overcome the challenge of frequent power cuts, they have also integrated sensors to the solar water pump to monitor them remotely and also for preventive maintenance. Even without the solar panel, having water pumps that could be installed with sensors will help in monitoring the performance of the pumps and also proactively perform maintenance activities before the pump fails thereby reducing down time.

Smart equipment

Tractors and crop machines are the backbone of mechanized agriculture. They are generally shared across farmers and any repair during the peak season of ploughing or harvesting will result in huge losses due to time delay. Companies like Mahindra, Massey Ferguson, Caterpillar etc which are in the business of providing these equipment sometimes take days to reach the remote villages to perform the necessary repairs. If the machines had sensors installed in them that would relay performance related data of these machines to a centralized server managed by the company, the company could take proactive steps as soon as a possible failure is identified and perform the necessary repairs before the machine goes down thereby increasing the uptime of the machines and the productivity of the farming community and minimizing the losses.

Smart storage

Most of the agricultural produce fails to reach the market due to lack of adequate storage facilities and also improper storage which results in spoilage and wastage. The government has taken adequate measures to improve the storage facilities but internet of things could just bring in an additional benefit. Storage facilities could have sensors which are monitored at a central location like the Food corporation of India HQ where vitals like room temperature, heat, light etc can be monitored and corrective actions can be taken to maintain these vitals in the optimum range as per the produce that is stored in the facility. This would help in the produce getting the optimal temperature, air, moisture, heat, light etc and prevent it from getting spoilt thereby ensuring that it reaches the market

Allied activities

Activities like sericulture, horticulture, prawn farming, fisheries etc are also dependent a lot on adequate temperature and climatic conditions for a successful yield. Improper conditions could lead to heavy losses. The implementation that I explained above for Smart storage can be used for these activities as well with centralized monitoring.

Healthcare

IOT has been around in healthcare probably since its discovery especially in advanced countries. There is a vast population of India that do not have access to the best of medical facilities when they need it. Indian firm LifePlot already has a low-cost connected care device that enables to collect vital medical information through ECG and will wirelessly transmit the data to a medical practitioner for remote diagnosis and care. The potential of such a device is huge given the vast population in remote corners of the country and the best medical facilities being concentrated in a few areas. The only challenge will be to have the necessary infrastructure in place in terms of connectivity and service for the success of this solution.

Enabling the differently abled

In those many case studies I read about IOT on various sites, I could find very few of them actually addressing a social cause. Most companies were trying to portray savings in smart power grids as a social cause which I felt was deceptive. One of the solutions I really thought could have a good social benefit was the smart home feature that most of these major companies had. Smart home basically is sensors on all your home appliances that will enable you to control the devices as well as the devices to perform actions on their own based on data. So you could turn on your air conditioner when you are about to reach your home and your coffee maker could automatically start preparing coffee for you as soon as it is 7 AM etc.
Smart home solution could be something that could be used to enable the differently abled. They could control all the devices around them using a single tab. The devices could also be empowered to make some basic decisions like for example the refrigerator could automatically detect that there is low quantity of a particular food item and automatically raise an order for replenishment to the nearest grocery store or to something like BigBasket saving a lot of overhead for someone who is differently abled. The tab could also have braille buttons for someone who is visually challenged also to be able to operate it. Home appliance companies can provide the service of remotely monitoring the performance of the appliances in the home and perform preventive maintenance thereby saving the ordeal of a repair for the differently abled person. Home security solutions will also be helpful for such people as it can enable them to alert the police and neighborhood in case of any emergency.

Personal safety

Safety of women and children is a growing concern in India. The rise in crimes against women and children in various parts of the country is shameful and disturbing. One possible solution could be providing an IOT sensor based identity card which will enable them to be tracked from a centralized location like the police headquarters, there could also be a beacon button which can be activated in case of an emergency so that the police force knows that there is a problem and the exact location as well to take action. In schools or colleges, this could be used for monitoring the location of the child in the school and also they could have a feature like proximity sensor which might alert the school authorities when the identity card of an employee of the school is very near to the identity card of any child. Distributing this kind of device across the population without them knowing the technology or benefit behind it will be key for the success.

Smart Industries

This is a solution that all major IOT firms already have. This involves having sensors on various equipment within the industry and the supply chain for decision-making and centralized monitoring. The biggest benefit of this is the preventive maintenance capability where factory equipment can be monitored remotely and when there are signs of reduced production or possible repair, preventive steps and maintenance can be done to avoid down time and making the factory more productive. In India, the key challenge will be to develop a low-cost solution that can be used in all the MSMEs as they form the majority of the industries in the country.

Smart buildings

India’s vast population has enormous energy needs. In spite of having various projects for power generation, we are still reeling under power shortage with frequent and long power cuts. Using IOT in the new buildings that would get constructed will enable to prevent wastage of electricity and thereby ensure savings. This could be part of the Smart City initiative.

Power and Water supply

This implementation is something all the major IOT companies are boasting off about having implemented it in major cities across the world. Implementing smart grids for power and water supply to monitor usage and prevent wastage will be a challenge on existing networks in India as it is wide-spread and not highly organized like those in major cities of the world. New grids and new smart cities that are getting built will be ideal candidates for implementing such a smart grid.

Transportation

Transport networks in few of the major cities in the world have IOT already implemented. Implementing this in India would help in monitoring transport movement, preventive maintenance of transportation vehicles, monitoring fuel usage and emission and taking necessary preventive actions to bring them down to optimal ranges. Cars and bikes could also have sensors to enable centralized monitoring by the car or bike companies to monitor performance and perform preventive maintenance.
These are surely not the exhaustive list of the possible applications of IOT for a developing nation like India. These are just a few of them that came to my mind. However, for any of these ideas to be implemented in large-scale across the country, support from the government along with the adequate infrastructure will be key. There is a dire need for many startups to evolve in this space and come up with cost-effective solutions made within India for large-scale success.
There could be myriad of other areas of applications that I might have missed or overlooked. Also there could be a lot of companies and solutions that might be already addressing some of the problems I raised here.
Please feel free to comment about those and for any possible conflicting thoughts.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Book Review – The Content Code by Mark Schaefer


Last weekend, picked up a new book to read and it was one of the quickest books I read recently. The Content Code written by Mark Schaefer is one of the most read and suggested book in the content marketing. There were many easy takeaways, learning and thought-provoking ideas from this book. In this post we will review few of them.

About Mark Schaefer

I think, Mark doesn’t need any introduction. Mark is one of the pioneers in content marketing and social media. He has written many other books like Return on Influence, Social Media Explained, The Tao of Twitter and Born to Blog. His blog, {grow} is also something not to miss.

The Content Code

The Content Code: Six essential strategies to ignite your content, your marketing, and your businessdiscusses about what makes your content hot. Through-out the book, Mark discusses about the importance of share-ability of articles and caveats making a content sharable.
The real power only comes to those who can create content that connects, engages, and moves through the network through social sharing.
One of the key chapters I really liked is around what motivates a user to share content. Starting by putting forth the fact that; hardly anyone shares by default — Marks reiterates the research finding that people share if they relate and believe to what they read.

Content Ignition

Mark discusses an entire chapter on how to make your content fly high. He calls it content ignition and share 22 practical ways to make your content become hot. This range from basic steps like making sure social sharing buttons are added to writing catchy headlines to using visuals to creating conversations

Alpha Audiences and Proprietary Audiences

In the next chapter, he discusses about creating an alpha audience who will vouch for you even in dreams. Some of the interesting things he discusses in this are how even celebrities fail when it comes to raise charity funds through their social media followers.
The author builds his thoughts around alpha audiences with influencers and building a heroic brand.Throughout these, he maintains the main proposition of connecting humanly with the audience as opposed to a corporate level. This helps to build the rapport better and easier. He stresses this with the help of real life examples from his own social media followers.

Effective promotion of content

A chapter is dedicated to channels of promotion and distribution.Topics such as link roundups, newsjacking etc. are discussed in this chapter. Later the idea of social signals and proof is discussed.

Content Marketing Action Plan

The final chapter provides a daily/monthly checklist on what can be done to improve your content strategy.Daily checklist include activities like running a judicious laundry list of websites to promote your content. Monthly checklist include activities like finding new influencers, offline events or meeting your alpha audience.
Overall a good book to treasure in your library!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Organizational Stage and Leadership Needs – Tata Sons and Flipkart


Guest Post by Prashanth Thimmavajjala
Prashanth is an MBA graduate from IIM Bangalore, currently working in the testing domain and is still trying for an opportunity to crack into the management world from the technology world. He has published multiple papers for PMI conferences and other forums.

Two of the most loved companies in India Tata Sons and Flipkart announced their new leaders N Chandrasekaran and Kalyan Krishnamurthy respectively. Both the decisions were much talked about in multiple forums, especially the decision with Flipkart causing some worry in startup circles. If we look at both these decisions from an Organizational stage perspective, both the decisions seem apt.

Both these firms have decided to bring in a non-founder to steer the firms to the next stage and both these firms are at different stages of organizational evolution. They have decided their next leader as per their stage of organizational evolution.

Tata Sons

The Tata Sons represent India for many of us and there would no one who doesn’t know the company (I have my own personal dream of working in one of the Tata firms before I retire to have that feeling of truly contributing to nation building). Being an extremely large conglomerate of firms from salt to software with complex cross holdings, managing the conglomerate is challenging. The Tatas have been managing this all these years within their family and close investors but this time their leadership decision ran into trouble and they had to get in a new leader. The Tata Sons are a mature conglomerate and running this cannot be done by an outsider or someone with less number of years with the firm. The Tatas have a legacy and a culture of their own and getting an outsider for the top job would mean a disaster. They cannot decide to bring in professional management like how Flipkart did because being in the system for long is key.

The Tata Sons are at a strategic inflection point where they need to rethink on their businesses in few sectors, focus on new sectors, handle legal issues they have been having and their expansion plans abroad. This needs a stronger and better connect to the system in Tata and a deep understanding of their businesses. The top job needs someone whom everyone can trust, someone who knows and connects well to the Tata legacy and someone who is part of the clan within the Tatas. N Chandrasekaran being a long timer with the Tatas and handling one of its largest businesses is easily the best man for the job. Being a close confidant of Tata and being in the system for long time helps in better and deeper understanding of the conglomerate aiding in better decision making as compared to a complete outsider.

Flipkart

Flipkart is undoubtedly the star of the startup ecosystem in India. Everyone loves the Flipkart story of evolution and continues to follow it with much interest. Flipkart has grown from a small startup, now into a “conglomerate of startups” like Jabong, Myntra etc. Flipkart has now reached a state where it needs to go beyond just outsmarting competition from Amazon and the likes to a stage where it needs to grow both organically and inorganically to stay in the game. In recent times, Flipkart has faced some serious trouble in terms of top level exits, funding crunch and devaluation by investors.

Flipkart is now in a stage where it needs to raise more funding to keep the ball rolling but its story is not very attractive to the investors now. Flipkart has reached a strategic inflection point where it needs to rethink its theory of business to keep growing as offering deep discounts can only bring them so far. The founders Sachin and Binny Bansal have got Flipkart to this point and this change in the strategic path needs new leadership – more professional and equipped.

Founders are generally more emotionally attached to their dream and might refrain from taking tough decisions regarding funding, acquisitions, downsizing and a whole lot of things which are needed to grow in size. This is one of the reasons most startups in the Silicon Valley change the leadership to more professional management after the startups reach a certain stage as founders are not very equipped to take decisions needed to take it to the next level and grow. So there is nothing new that Flipkart was doing but there is some tension as it is happening the first time in Indian startup space where founders were replaced at the top.

In the Flipkart group, Flipkart is truly the cash cow and the others are still growing and hence it is necessary to make it a strong firm to keep the entire group running. Flipkart needs to ready itself for public listing anytime soon to raise the additional funds it needs to grow, it might also give exit options to the existing investors. This calls for making the financials of Flipkart look strong and would need harsh decisions to improve margins and achieve a sustainable growth rate.

Flipkart’s growth will surely fuel the growth of other firms of the group by what is called as conglomerate discount in corporate strategy parlance. Once Flipkart seems strong and goes public, it will make it simpler to take the other group companies public as well or even take the entire group public. The additional funding will also help in making decisions regarding mergers and acquisitions of new firms into the Flipkart group. To reach this stage Kalyan Krishnamurthy suits best with his background in finance and online retailing.

A leader is meant to be the right fit to the organization at its current state and must be a person with the caliber required to the next desired state and both these firms have demonstrated how the stage of the organization decides the type of the leader it needs to move it to the next stage.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath (Book Review)


A lot of discussions and research is available on how to find one’s strengths and weaknesses. Most of the authors focusses on improving your weaknesses. From schools to interviews, strengths and weaknesses are a topic. Another school of thought vouch for working on your strengths rather than weaknesses. In this blog post, we review such a book – Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.

About Tom Rath

Tom is a consultant in the domain of employee engagement and leadership. I think most of his acclaimed work were done while he was associated with Gallup. Interestingly, most of this thoughts and research are associated/built based on his grandfather psychologist, Donald O. Clifton. Donald is acclaimed for his stress on personal development based on strengths rather than weakness. Tom has written nine books; and is noted for his works like How Full Is Your Bucket and Strengths Finder.

Strengthsfinder 2.0 Assessment and Themes

This book follows a unique method written based on a survey. Second edition is updated based on an upgraded version of the survey. The author claims that based on the results from first edition and further research, he has trimmed the survey, yet giving a more accurate and personalized result
The assessment is a set of questions to be answered in a short span of time. The author suggests not to over think and instead select the answer which comes to mind first. Based on the assessment, you will be given the top five traits or strengths that you should considering developing and banking on. Based on his research and assessment results, author has developed 24 broad strengths/themes. This ranges from the likes of Communication to Learner to Woo.
Throughout the book, one thought that gets re-iterated is that our society celebrates those winners who triumph over they lack of natural abilities more than those who win based on their natural talents. For example, it’s a common practice in our education system to ask children to concentrate more on what they are weak in rather than encouraging to build on those they are strong at.
The author even gives a figurative formula to stress this idea. Strength = Talent X Investment. We can try to increase talent or investment; but ticking the right combination is the key. Later the author gives some thoughts on how to make use of the strength themes. The second part of the book gives ten ideas of action for each of the themes and also certain pointers on how to interact with others having such traits.

Playing Devil’s Advocate

To be honest, I felt it too vague to read both the assessment results and ideas of action. For example, one of my core strength is finding harmony (which I feel is debatable). The ideas of action given are create a forum in which others will feel they are heard. This is more or less like a technique taught in negotiation/moderation which is in-line with his so-called – Harmony strength. Another thing I found is that they are so broad that, it would be difficult to find anything practical out of it. Overall, I agree it gives a sense of what your strengths could be and what you can do to foster it.
The online resources that the book boasts of are a bloater. They have just slice and diced the content of book/theme descriptions into various formats. Strengths Insight and Action-Planning Guide is nothing but the explanation of your five strength themes and so is the Strengths Insight Guide.
Overall a one-time reader; not something which provides as it boasts of.