Monday, September 26, 2016

Office:Office – Going digital

Image Source:

That’s the latest keyword in the Indian marketing circles. It’s almost touted as a panacea to all problems that currently exist in getting customers to be loyal. Listed below are the top 5 reasons why companies feel they should adopt digital.

1. All it needs is a website and a twitter account – Isn’t that what Amazon started with when they came to India?, asked one CXO with more ‘experience’ than hair on Jeff Bezos’ head. ‘Look at them now’, he said. Well. Yes. They have a bigger website and more followers on twitter? Erm. They have multiple twitter handles if one has to be accurate. But then, what?

2.  If Amazon can do it, so can we – Do what precisely? Sell online, when even face to face meetings with customers doesn’t get them to buy our service/ product? ‘If Amazon is a dukaan, we are no less. Agarwal nahi hai to kya hua, hum bhi bania hai!”, said one South Indian CXO who had lived most of his life in Delhi. Ok, so we will display our products online and put out brochures? Then what? “we will wait for customers to buy, what else?” said the new recruit, who has no clue of any of our services. While, this was being discussed, word got around to the finance team that orders would be accepted only via online purchase route, resulting in a cry of objection. New payment method means, new procedures, new training and firing of the Babu who had spent 20 years just collecting cheques from customer offices.

3. We can fire our salesforce and court customers in their inbox – “Says who?”, popped up the Sales Head. “Please note your databases don’t have any customer contacts. We knew a day would come when you would think of making us redundant. And do you know how many of our customers even use email?” Oh! Then you can send the mails out to these customers yourself, pleads the CXO. “And diminish our position from sales to data entry,” challenges the sales Head. This is when the marketing head pops up saying , ”the sales team can keep its customers to itself, considering how rarely they buy our products/ services. We will get you new customers. Savvy. Sophisticated and with loose purse strings. Inbox kya, we will flood their postbox too and stalk them on SMS, and mobile App.”

4. It relies on Analytics, not hearsay – Oh! Says the sales head puzzled. But then quickly recovering asks, “what will it tell you? How much revenue we got? Those numbers are managed by my team and you are all getting regular updates.” No, laughs the marketing team. Details like who is targeted, how many pieces of communication goes out to him/her, what is the response, what more can be done, etc can all be tracked if we go digital, says the newbie who is fresh out of B-School and sharing this gyaan.

5. It will listen, not question – Clearly a jab at the sales team, the CXO makes it a point to bring up the last disagreement between teams. “No such nuisance with digital. You feed information, the system does its job quietly. No opposition.” “But”, says the sales head. Before he can continue, he is cut short by the CXO, “See you started again! Is Amazon hearing so many ifs and buts? No! that is why they are selling so much.”

6 months after going digital, this is the conversation in the board room.

Sales Head – Are you folks happy now? You’ve cut my team size by half and made the other half send emails to unknown people who never bought anything.

Marketing Head – Yes, and they are passing comments on Twitter. I don’t know how to respond. You guys shouldn’t have the sent the mails. Even your email IDs are boring. Why would I want to buy from Magan Lal? Couldn’t you at least change the ID to Meghan L?

Finance Head – How long will this continue? We spent a lot on training and Mr. Babu was forced into retirement early. That has not gone down well with the Founder. He feels we have thrown money and projected that we are lavish and are now attracting criticism. We run the risk of The Bania Unlimited Bank cutting our credit.

Sales Head – Arrey, how can I answer that question? I didn’t want to go digital. These folks (pointing to everyone else in the team) were keen.

Marketing head – We were short changed by the IT folks who said they would give us good candidates for analytics. They gave us interns who knew how to use Microsoft Excel. These chaps gave us a whole bunch of permutations and combinations without really telling us anything concrete.

(The IT team is not present to defend themselves)

CXO – What does Amazon do once they have the website and twitter account?

For a more serious piece on whether digital marketing is customer centric, read this.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Office:Office – 40-hours-a-week

There can be only five possible reactions to this headline.
  1. One raised eyebrow – Really? Which world do you live in Dude? By the time I get my act together half the day is spent.
  2.  Two raised eyebrows – Really? There are people who work only 8 hours a day? Why don’t I know any of them?
  3. Both eyebrows joined together in a frown – You are gnashing your teeth in anger not knowing what words to utter first. You probably need some water followed by a shot of morphine.
  4. Both eye brows in their place - You could be in deep concentration/ meditation to distract yourself from the reality of your 16 hour work day. Or you could have just gone to sleep (having mastered this position a long time ago)
  5. One eye brow lowered in a wink – Hehehe. You finally found out how I work eh? Just keep the secret to yourself and I’ll refer you to a similar opening.

Statistically only 20% of people manage to work 40 hours a week (see points above). The rest work way longer – some because they don’t have a choice and others because they don’t have the discipline. So when I read that Amazon had declared it will pilot a 30 hour-work-week, I was gob smacked. I hoped it was a prank. I checked the date and realized it wasn’t April 1. Several deep breaths and google searches later, I decided this was at best a publicity gimmick.

Amazon employees work an average of 80 hours a week. Scaling that to 30 hours is like challenging an elephant to run the 100m in 5 seconds. Who wouldn’t pay to watch that? And the corporate world is now watching Amazon with mixed emotions. I am looking for the tiny asterisk that says ‘conditions apply’ and even tinier font size that explains if this gimmick will be implemented if it succeeds in giving rise to a new corporate culture.  Even though that will be called something cute (and unimportant) like Mini-Week or petite-week.

(I know the Beetle is an iconic car, but who in their right mind buys one unless they have got a fleet of more robust machines in the garage? Either that or you are plain cuckoo, in my humble view). Those who have already made their moolah elsewhere will want to adopt the Mini-week and flaunt it like a badly created overpriced tattoo. This might soon become aspirational and restricted to the upper echelons of Amazon, dangled as a proverbial carrot to fuel career progression.

In conclusion, the 30 hour work week would be like the pretty girl/ handsome man who looks great until she begins to talk.

For a serious take on the 30 –hour-work-week, read this piece.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Office: Office – Maternity mindset

(Image courtesy )

The Government of India recently passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Labour Ministry says the Bill is intended to encourage women to join back work as the number of women dropping out of the workforce is on a rise. This is like saying I will deposit Rs 10,000 in your bank account by extorting the bank because you are poor. But you won’t be given a debit card or an online transaction facility. That, depends on your relationship with the bank. If the bank is benevolent, it will let you withdraw all the money at one go.

The Women and Child Ministry has said women are ‘very stressed’ post the delivery of a child (really? More stressed than managing a man child husband and ever-so-juvenile in laws? You have got to be kidding). Senior women leaders, beyond their prime child bearing age, are wistful about missing the extended maternity leave bus by a decade. After all, it’s hard to say ‘Good for you’ to the pretty young things you privately envy at work. Grandmas are scoffing, as usual - ‘hmpf! We managed everything with nothing. The shenanigans of these modern women. Trust the men also to give in!’ The men, of course are experiencing myriad feelings – anger, jealously, satisfaction, helplessness, hurt.

And what of the corporate honchos who are to honor this Bill by implementing it at the aam employee level?

The HR team (in private): This is great! Now we will all get promoted because we have successfully implemented a good employee engagement practice. All we need to do is just send an email once the lady delivers the baby and one a few days before she is due to return. In any case she will be too busy with the baby to respond.

The Finance team (in private): How much more money will we write off? What is the certainty these ladies will even come back? What? 12 of them are due for promotion! We can’t afford to pay a hike for someone who has been productive only for 6 months in a year.

Project Management Team (in private): This is a great opportunity to blame the woman for the shoddy work the rest of the team has done for this client. You know hormones and all during pregnancy. Better than admitting the team got piss drunk during the long weekend and forgot the deliverable. We will adjust the hours billed. Should we charge a higher rate for the pregnant candidate? After all she is working under extra ordinary physical conditions and we have had to cope with that at our end. You know, having anti-slip mats in the bathroom and Bisleri water and granola bars in the cafeteria.

The Sales team (in private):  Who is pregnant? As long as it’s not in my territory I am safe. Guys, are any of your pregnant?

The CIO organization (in private): Seize the computers of these ladies before they go on leave. We can format the data and hand them over to those who are exiting the company. This way we meet the dual goals of data security as well as laptop utilization. In any case we don’t want baby drool all over the key board. We haven’t paid the vendor bills and he has cut out ‘service and repairs’ from the laptops contract.

The CEO organization (in private): How should we milk this opportunity? The CEO needs to be seen as the man who made it all happen. Of course, he knows nothing about kids or maternity, having left those insignificant duties to the wife. Maybe he can have a coffee with all the pregnant ladies for 20 mins and end with a group photo? His paunch won’t be visible that way. His speech has to be solid though. We need to draft a 40 slide PPT to help him get by. The more baby pictures, the better.

The marketing team (in private): Let us do something different folks. No point towing the HR line. Let us make this client focused and run a campaign called ‘Are you sensitive to pregnancy?’. The client can share instances of how they have made their offices and working practices conducive to pregnant ladies and mothers. And because we should show people how occupied we are, we should also design 5 standard pregnancy templates – Word document, PPT, E-signature, e-Card and Email – titled ‘Proud mom / mom-to-be.’

Junior management folks (in private): This is wonderful. I think my spouse and I will also try for a child soon to avail this policy. Arey! Don’t we invest in LIC schemes just because they are tax exempt? My father told me never to miss any government scheme. I haven’t even taken my name off the gas subsidy. This is like a bonus – no work, only pay.

All teams in public: This is a very progressive move by the government and our company welcomes it with open arms.

Tailpiece: For a serious discussion on this Act, you may read my LinkedIn piece.