Introducing Impact Based Marketing approach for B2B Demand Generation – Why, What, and How?

Marketing in B2B companies has always been about getting the attention of the target prospect, building trust, and closing the deal with the sales team. From brand awareness to customer advocacy, the journey involves in building up the trust blocks steadily over a long period of time.

Some fundamental questions that are answered during this process

    1. Who am I in the market and why am I relevant?
    2. Who are my target prospects and how do I get the attention on my products & services?
    3. What channels will help me to reach my target prospect?
    4. How do I take my prospect from discovery to conversion phase?
    5. What factors help in building my trust with the prospect? And what differentiates me from the competition?

As we keep answering, we uncover more questions. This process of continuous discovery is what helps a marketing person to enhance his/her practice.

But, marketing is not new and so why shouldn’t it be governed by a set of standard practices?

If you have that question, you are not alone. A simple answer to that would be “we don’t want it to happen.”

But, why?

Let us first let understand a little deeper on this practice of B2B marketing.

For simplicity, I will stick to broader shifts without diving into finer details of each of the phases.

Evolution of B2B Marketing

Marketing, since age old days, has been about educating the clients. In early 1990s and before, most buy-side companies depend on the sales folks for information. Buyers invite sales folks, from different companies, to get to know about the varied solutions in the market that can address their problem. If you had seen the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” you would be able to relate to the way Will Smith tried to educate and sell his medical scanners to hospitals. If not direct sales teams, the next best source of information was through events and conferences.

Since late 1990s, we arrived at a phase where agencies like Analysts, Media, and Research companies play a major role in educating companies. They come as brokers of information with a sound understanding of the technological landscape, both from the buy-side companies and vendors. A few even had a 2 way commercial model – for sourcing information from vendors and presenting it to the clients. The agencies in-turn garner information and position the participating companies through a capability assessment which is then presented to the buy-side companies in the form of a report or consulting. If a vendor features in such reports, there is a high chance of getting noticed by the buyers. Media companies, on the other hand, used the model of sponsored branded content from vendors to promote and educate buy-side companies on the market landscape.

With the rapid adoption of the internet and smart phones, the scenario evolved dramatically. It enabled companies to reach out to their clients directly in their digital mediums – emails, social media, search engines, etc.. Vendor companies, in a pursuit to move up the competition pyramid, started positioning themselves as thought leaders by creating educational assets in the form of articles, Whitepapers, webinars, etc., that can then become a direct source of information to the clients. Meanwhile, on the buy-side, the freely accessible repository transitioned them from seekers of information to informed buyers.

Brands, today, are trusted more than some of the best media companies for insights, owing to their expertise and experience they have in their field of operations.

Customer Centricity became the focus:

The rise of digital media enabled not just access for the vendor companies to be visible in front of its buyers, but also enabled the buy-side companies to evaluate multiple vendors offering similar products and services, across the globe.

The channels of engagement, on the other hand, also moved from a mono-channel era to multi-channel and now to omni-channel levels of engagement.

Image Source: McKinsey & Company

The availability and accessibility of choice for buyers propelled vendor companies to design experiences that would delight their potential clients.

The digital mediums also opened up the ability to measure the outcomes of each promotional activity. Tools like Google analytics, Marketing automation, CRM, etc. help marketers to measure every aspect of the customer journey. From campaigns to outcomes, the metrics form the feedback look for continuous enhancement for vendor companies.

This change in dynamics at both buy-side companies and vendors has brought customer centricity as the core focus for vendor companies even in B2B marketing – to design experiences that would delight the clients all the way from the phase of discovery to engagement and retention.

Time for Impact based Marketing for Demand Generation:

In the age of digital, marketing function became the primary source of noise in the market. The scope to reach the client directly opened up a tsunami of promotional activities from vendors to buy-side companies. The focus has shifted to being and doing “More and Most”.

The availability and ability to measure the performance of each asset and activity often lead marketers to a situation of analysis paralysis. Today, marketers run after hundreds of vanity metrics, mainly because it is available or passed through the hierarchy or the market leaders follows it or competition tracks it or… the list goes on.

In short, we don’t run short of options to measure.

To align with the theme of customer centricity, companies need to transition towards personalization of marketing practices, and be agile and cognizant of the impact of its activities.

Impact based marketing is nothing beyond the literal meaning. It is a methodology and culture to continuously focus on creating meaningful impacts in all forms of engagement.

It is about identifying and strategizing the components of the marketing elements to achieve the desired impact.

It is neither a structured process nor standard practice, but a culture and focus towards being aligned to the core objectives, and to continuously evolve the practices based on demands of the organization and market.

Align with Outcomes:

Every marketing activity should be tied to an outcome. The outcome expected should be derivative of the core objective of the overall practice – be it MQLs / SALs / Revenue / Market share / Brand reach / etc.. If you are not sure or don’t know the outcome of an activity, rather not have it in your plan of action.

Identify specific channels of promotion where there is scope of making an impact – use the Pareto rule 80/20 to relieve channels from your action plan.

“Less is the new More”

Choose between Branding through Business and Business through Branding:

If you are a small or mid-size company it is better to focus branding through business generation. Branding activities come at a huge cost to compete and get the customer mind share amidst the existing big brands. Inbound marketing practice can help companies in crossing this chasm.

For business leaders and disruptive / well-funded startups branding activities will more often lead to business generation. Example: When GE wanted to be a leader in digital transformation and Industry 4.0 initiatives, it started with brand repositioning to digital industrial company.

Humanize the Brand Experience:

To connect with the customer, the brand should evoke an emotion (an adjective). The design, content, and the channels of promotion should consistently reflect the emotion for long periods of time to make it stick with the prospect.

For example, if you choose your brand adjective as “Innovative” – does it consistently reflect the feel in all your messaging, design, and promotion?

Move from Persona to Person based Content:

Personas are good to start with, but quickly becomes a cliché term in marketing team discussions. Creating a virtual persona does not often connect in tangible terms with the content team, specifically in a B2B context. There is no direct attributable feedback on the content effectiveness. Neither is the scope for personalization of the content.

With the focus towards customer centricity and with the ability to reach the prospect directly through digital mediums, it is essential to personalize and create content specifically for the prospect to measure the impact.

Measure only What You Need and What You Can Act Upon:

Like mentioned earlier, it is easier to be swayed by the urge to track everything. Focus on everything means there is no focus. Track only the outcomes and the prime influencers of the outcome. For example, measuring the overall website traffic doesn’t make any sense if you are targeting a specific demographic region for the majority of your business.

Align your Team Culture towards Creating Meaning Impacts:

To align the team to Impact based marketing, there is a need to focus on 3 key aspects

Outcome based: Are all the activities tied coherently to the agreed outcomes? If not, throw it away.

Time bound: Is there a definitive timeframe within which we can measure the impact of the activity? If not, don’t take it.

Work for Excellence: Is the activity done with the spirit of achieving excellence? If not, redo it.

To stay distinct and be able to scale in this over-crowded B2B marketplace, companies should focus on doing fewer things right – creating meaningful impacts and engagements with its prospects and customers. Impact based marketing is a methodology to help B2B companies to stay agile, customize their marketing practices, and continually evolve with the rapidly changing market dynamics.

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10 Tech Trends that will drive 2016

In the year 2015, we have seen the true potential of digital revolution unleashed that would impact the whole next decade. We did witness frenzied markets created by a spurt of digital aggregator platforms in businesses such as taxi, shopping, restaurants, retail, etc. On the other hand, we saw the impact of smartphones becoming the centrifugal platform for businesses, with data collection becoming ubiquitous in every walk of life.

Driven by the benefits of personalization, access and analytics, businesses in 2015 were pushed to redefine their strategies from an extended mobile approach to “Mobile First” approach and even in some cases “Mobile Only” approach. In the semiconductor front, low geometry, higher performance and lower power consumption has driven the market in the last few years. Here, we shall look at the technology trends that will drive the product engineering market in 2016.

*This article was reproduced from my blog post at einfochips

1) Rise of Smart Devices and Machines:

01 IoT

The internet of things (IoT) is both an industry vertical and a horizontal enabler. The IoT ecosystem is perfectly poised to accelerate in 2016 and the years ahead. Smart City and Smart Healthcare solutions are already getting a huge push from governments, global. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) powered by Industrial robots will champion the cause of operational efficiencies in factories. The drive for standardization / consolidation of IoT platforms will increase in this year.

2) Not Autonomous but Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS):

02 Driver Assistance Systems

While autonomous / driverless cars are still the carrot for the tech giants, in coming years ahead we are going to see more advancements in sensor driven driver assistance systems, playing a key role in driver safety and ease of driving. ADAS systems will power a virtual 3D model of the environment and provide real-time assistance to drivers from the dashboard. Smartphone and dashboard connected solutions will enable innovations in the automotive segment by connecting car sensors with owners and OEMs for near real-time diagnostics.

3) Real-time Precision and Accuracy to propel the Aviation flight safety:

03 Aviation flight

Untoward incidents like flights missing from the radar and the recent surge in attacks have pushed the Aviation industry to make navigation more real-time. The focus towards multi-constellation/multi-frequency Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) solutions will increase in 2016. GNSS would now display precise results with vehicle positioning maps, 3D navigation etc.

4) Reduced gap between E-commerce and In-store Retail customer analytics:

04 E commerce

Customer analytics will move beyond e-Commerce channels. Insights driven by customer behavior, customer profiling, instore and personal e-commerce shopping patterns will entwine to build a unified and personalized experience for the customers. We will also see more of in-store analytics, similar to Retail Site intelligence, getting deployed in wider circles in this year.

5) Image Based Search will drive E-commerce platforms:

05 Image Based Search

With mobile shopping enhancing the reach of the E-commerce market, we will see more companies deploying Image based product search features as a standard functionality in their Apps. A customer can quickly search and buy a product by just clicking on a picture in the surroundings. Though there are a few existing deployments by some big E-commerce companies, the platforms still lack accuracy. In 2016, we will see the algorithms getting refined and companies increasing adopting Image based search on their app platforms.

6) Drones with High Resolution Cameras:

06 Drones

With the advancement in computing capabilities and reduced form factors, drones are set to become even more powerful and pervasive. FAA predicts that drones will spawn a $90 billion industry within a decade. While the consumer business giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google, etc. are still testing the business cases for drones, these developments in news clearly shadows the real progress made in the drone industry. The ability to capture high resolution imagery using technologies ranging from regular cameras to 4K cameras to laser cameras empowers Drones to be used in mission critical surveillance, disaster monitoring and relief programs. We are going to see more of governments and military using drones for surveillance, riot controls and in natural calamities.

7) Localized and Distributed Intelligence for Sensor Environments:

07 Sensor Environments

Sensors and actuators built across different devices are going to generate a tremendous amount of data from end devices and gateway networks to the cloud. The magnitude is set to grow even more exponentially with growth of connected devices. To enable faster access of relevant data and to reduce the bandwidth occupied in data transmission and storage, we will see more of localized and distributed intelligence built across the gateways and end devices.

8) Contextual Intelligence to Power our Daily Life:

08 Contextual Intelligence

The growth of embedded intelligence and analytics will power businesses to provide alerts, recommendations and analysis in response to the context or surroundings. Analytics will continue crunching the data in the background to provide real-time assistance and feedbacks. We are already witnessing it with improvements in the virtual personal assistance like Google Now, Siri, and Cortana etc. We will see devices behaving more responsive to the environmental situations.

9) Cloud Computing Everywhere:

09 Cloud Computing

The nexus of mobile computing with cloud computing will increase the deployment of centrally coordinated applications that can be delivered anytime, anywhere and at any devices. We will see more devices connecting to cloud and SaaS based business models to become even more prominent in 2016. Companies will look for ways to improve inter-device communication through cross-platform integrations.

10) User Experience will be the Key Business Driver:

10 User Experience

With an increase in connected devices and focus towards providing contextual information, user experience will take a prominence in technology adoption. With wearable technologies set to become even more prevalent in 2016, the focus will now shift towards mobilizing the data and synchronizing the experience. User experience will push for invisible analytics with unified, fluid, contextual and personalized experience across smartphones, wearables and other connected devices.

The above list is only an indication of some interesting trends that are likely to happen in 2016. Please comment your thoughts on what you think will drive the product engineering market in this year.

Understand the Color Psychology to Enhance User Experience (UX) in Website Design

Colors for User Experience Design*This article is reproduced from my post in LinkedIn Pulse

With the explosion of digital media in recent years, over communication has become a trend and started causing fatigue in the mind of the audience. Billions of brands, trillions of data and countless choices to make – user hardly has time to understand, decipher and analyze the content available to them in the applications or websites. The increased usage of mobile based browsing also limits the content available on the screen. Hence skimming on websites and applications has become the trend; while the focus for attention has shifted to presentation and the ‘perceived’ content value.

Colors have an incredible psychological effect and play a huge role in defining the perception in the mind of the viewer. It also helps in channelizing the user behavior on the content in the application. “Color is ubiquitous and is a source of information. People make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62‐90 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone.”(Source: Impact of Color on Marketing)

The psychology of colors is one of the most researched topics for the marketers and brand evangelists. It has been put to extensive practice by both big and small brands in an effort to communicate their message effectively to the audience. More often than not, the misunderstanding of the colors results in inappropriate use of color combinations which results in seeding an unanticipated perception in the mind of the user. It is important to understand the logic behind the meaning of a color to deploy it in the right manner.

  • Why Blue is widely used color in Professional world?
  • Why Telecom and Television News companies predominantly use Red as their Logo?
  • Why do Hospitals use Green and White colors?

Understanding the color psychology plays a huge role in designing a good user experience and engaging them with the company messaging and branding. It helps in channelizing the user behavior to make the right impact for your content.

Understanding Colors & Associations:

Each color has a meaning based on the ethnography and preferences of the user. Colors alone may not be able to holistically define the personality, but helps in making snap judgmental calls from the user. It helps in defining the personality elements such as sincerity, excitement, competence, ruggedness, sophistication etc. Every color has positive and negative connotations and when used in right manner will trigger the desired emotion from the user. The meaning for the colors is associated from what we see and perceive in our day-to -day lives.

Psychological Properties of Colors Example:

BLUE – Where do we see it often? Seas, Oceans and Sky (Brings calmness to our feelings)

Positive Messages – Trust, Intelligence, Serenity, Duty, Logic, Coolness, Calm
Negative Messages – Aloofness, Coldness, Unfriendliness

RED – Where do we see it often? Red Signal Lights & Stop Signs (Alert), Blood (Act Quick)

Positive Messages: Energy, Youthful, Physical courage, Strength, Stimulation, Excitement
Negative Messages: Alert, Defiance, Aggression, Revolt, Strain

GREEN – Where do we see it often? Green Plants & Herbs (Nature, Cure) & Green Signal (All Good, Continue)

Positive Messages: Environmental, Nature, Harmony, Refreshment, Rest, Restoration, Peace
Negative Messages: Stagnation, Boredom, Blandness, Enervation

Colors that are not often seen in the nature tend to stand out from the crowd and hence you often find colors like Violet and Pink (as seen in some flowers) been used for creative messaging. Color Orange is generally associated with the feelings from dawn and dusk or fruits and hence may communicate the cheerful emotion. Yellow being associated with the Sun, Land, Yellow Signal, and Highlighter – hence may communicates the warmth and importance tag with it. Each color derives its emotion quotient based on what we see and perceive in our daily lives.

Channelizing Colors for User Experience

Colors help in User Experience design in 2 different ways: 1) Attention Gathering 2) Emotion Trigger.

Bright colors can be used to direct the attention of the user to the desired location on the application. Soft colors can be used in places to communicate the information to the user. The prominence of the color is only based on the background (Contrast effect). Soft colors usually trigger the mental activity while the bright colors tend to initiate the physical emotions from the user.

White background are generally used to enhance the text and image clarity, while a black background can be used to put a spot light on a flagship item. Apple Inc. uses White, Grey and Black cohesively to enhance the classiness of its products and brand image.

Let us understand the channelizing of a user experience with an example. Let us say we want more number of users clicking on a “Continue” button in a “Registration” form.

1) An Orange color “Continue” button in a form with a soft color background will gather attention

2) The “Continue” button will stand out even better when the cancel button next to it is toned down / nullified

3) Now by the changing the color of the button from Orange to Green – this brings a nexus between the Green (Emotion – all good) and the message “Continue”, and hence the chance of click may further increase.

Note: The above example is to give a perspective and is subjective to the type of the application and the preference of the user. It is recommended to do an A/B testing to determine the right colors for the call-to-action buttons.

While colors do play an important role in user journey, it is even more important for the colors to be relevant and consistent with the brand personality – Stay Unique, Stay Consistent, Stay Refreshing.

It is a colorful world but Classiness matter more than the Flashiness to enhance user adoption. Understanding the audience preferences, channelizing the user quickly to the right location in the application or websites and instilling the anticipated emotion become a necessity to stand ahead in this over-crowded digital world.

3 ways to improve the Business Intelligence (BI) adoption rate

With an ever changing technology landscape and the overflow of digital data, Business intelligence plays a critical role for companies to remain competitive in the market. The power to understand and analyze data to make quick, competitive and impactful decisions is the need of the hour for any decision maker. BI user adoption plays a critical role in the drive to become a data-driven company. Unfortunately, BI adoption rate for many companies hovers as low as 30% for the executed BI projects. This situation leads to massive loss of time, infrastructure and money spent on these BI projects. Below are a few approaches that help in improving the BI adoption rate in the company.

1) Strategize BI from Top:

Adopting a data-driven culture is a transformational initiative and cannot be started from the bottom rungs of decision making unit. The strategy has to flow from the top to bottom. The corporate objective has to be modularized and the departmental objectives have to be aligned to match to business objectives. Most of the BI projects fail during this phase as companies take the bottom-up approach and the compartmentalized BI implementation eventually does not align with the overall business needs of the organization. Start the business intelligence planning from the top and implement it progressively to the bottom of the decision table.

2) Implementing for business user:

Most BI projects in the market are implemented as packaged solutions with IT department functioning as gatekeepers to the BI reporting. Unfortunately, each business is unique and the business challenges are specific to the organization and there can be no one product fits all solution. Business Intelligence should not to be treated as a replacement to existing reporting environment; rather it should help business users to work smarter, move faster and make better decisions. It has to address to the specific challenges of the company and not just produce template market reports. Eliminating the mindset of treating BI as an IT function and enhancing the business user experience with self-service BI reporting goes a long way in improving the BI adoption rate in the company.

3) Bring BI to review meetings:

While BI is seen as an initiative to enhance the reporting environment and close the gap between data to decisions, it is still not universally accepted tool for review meetings. This situation is partly attributed to limited understanding of the BI audience in the company. While there are power-users in the organization preferring slice and dice of data for dynamic analysis, there are even more information-consumers who would be content with generating static reports for business metrics. Industry estimates a ratio of around 1:4 between dynamic and static reporting. Understanding and balancing the equation between these different types of users is a critical component in the success of BI adoption. Use of BI tool in review meetings helps in collective analysis and thus improving the adoption of BI culture in the company.

These are some of the many steps that can be taken to improve the BI user adoption in the company. The drive has to start with understanding the different stakeholders involved in the decision circle and addressing the specific challenges faced in making decisions.

How to Ensure your Business Intelligence Strategy Remains Business Focused

In the era of digital revolution, decision making has become more of a science than an art. Gone are the days when decisions were made purely on individual skills and experience. With a large influx of data available to all stakeholders of a company, executives and decision-making units are even more accountable for the choices made. The essence of today’s decision making lies in accessing the right information at the right time.

Business intelligence (BI) and analytics are the key to making those informed choices. BI and analytics are witnessing drastic growth in recent years and will continue to do so in coming years as well. The mindset of companies to adapt to the changing landscape of BI and to exploit the benefits that the tools offer to enterprises is a huge challenge for organizations that lived in the ages of traditional reporting and data warehousing.

An aspect that is often observed in organizations is that the business problems are never static. The requirements change time and time again with the new market challenges confronting the company.

The usability factor of the BI data also becomes questionable by the end of a BI project. Thus, business intelligence, which often starts as an initiative to solve a critical business equation, tends to become just another investment in technology by the end of the project.

BI tools have caused a paradigm shift in report viewing and handling. The dynamic capabilities of BI tools are difficult to visualize for companies that used traditional static reports earlier. Hence the real challenge for executives while migrating to BI is ensuring the completeness of the requirement at the beginning phase of the project. This challenge is further enhanced when technology cost is brought into the equation.

A few questions that loom large among executives while dealing with BI projects are:

  • What if the solution does not solve the business problem despite matching the requirements?
  • How would I be able to convince myself and other stakeholders on the investment made?
  • What if the requirements are wrong? How would I avoid a change request scenario?

Many organizations define success as meeting the project requirements, time and cost. The real objective and success of the BI project should be to solve the business problem at hand and not the requirements alone. The blatant truth is that most of the data challenges that confront BI solutions are often un-imaginable in the beginning and hence requirements are never complete. Only when stakeholders view the first cut of the end product, true requirements will begin to flow as data table correlations and visualizations start to make better meaning.

The best way to tackle such complexities is through a Reporting-as-a-Service model. The services model alongside an Agile project methodology will help companies tackle the challenges on an incremental basis. The continuous engagement model between vendors and clients will help the client companies to not only scale their normal reporting environment but also to be responsive and adaptive to the latest trends and dynamic reporting capabilities of BI, mobility, analytics and Big Data. Business-focused metrics can be designed and redesigned to produce actionable insights and to meet the exact challenges confronting the company. The Reporting-as-a-Service model won’t just solve the business complexities alone; it will also aid companies in shifting the effort and focus from reporting to decision making.

The true success of a business intelligence strategy lies in realizing it as a business investment rather than a technology investment.

How to Design an Effective Business Intelligence (BI) Dashboard that is Sure to Succeed?

Business Intelligence
Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence (BI) is often seen by many as a tool to reduce the effort of report generation. While the recent BI data mining and discovery tools perform the rudimentary task with consummate ease, there is a greater value that BI provides to an organization. It has the potential to take the business to a whole new level by providing new insights and keeps the business on the full throttle by answering questions on the go. So what it takes to produce a new-age business intelligence reporting? The below are some of the key factors that I believe is essential to redefine the business intelligence.

Keep Selling the Requirements:

With the advent data discovery tools, discovering value does not just stop with the sales. A second phase takes place during the execution of the project. Traditionally, the requirements always flow from the client to a project team. While this method of approach solves the rudimentary task that we discussed in the beginning of the topic, the gold or rather the real value continues to remain hidden. This situation often leads to a frequent complaint of the buyer – “The sales person deceived me into buying this. I don’t see it doing any additional value to my business for the cost involved”. It is time the vendor teams take the selling approach and propose/sell the requirements at all phase of the project to the client, thereby bringing the true potential of the technology to the fore. Generating custom reports through technology and providing insights and analysis to different aspects of business reporting allows the project team to work together with the executives in developing the ultimate dashboard. It will not just exploit the technological capability, but will discover new business insights and maximize the value potential. An agile project execution further helps to visualize the product in stages and tackles the business challenges incrementally through iterations. By continuously putting the scorecards on test, it helps to redefine the performance indicators and redesign the dashboard to provide the most relevant actionable insight.

Design the Dashboard as an Artist:

An executive does not intend to see the entire dashboard data at all times. An effective dashboard should entice the user to see only the information which requires immediate attention. The dashboard layout and colors play a huge role in a decision plan. With ever decreasing attention span and with multitude of hats worn by the new-age executives, there is very limited time available for the executives to understand and digest the information. Every second spent on a dashboard should be made valuable to the user. For example, the presence of a red color on a dashboard creates an alert in the mind and narrows the vision of the user to that information which requires immediate action; while a green sends a positive note to the user and the corresponding information is often overlooked. Thus each color defines a meaning to the user and the layout should provide relevant information at a quick glance. Also with the possibility of getting dashboards on the mobile, displaying the information in the right layout and in apt colors takes the driver seat for decision-making.

Yes, you need think like an artist while designing the layout of the dashboard.

Package the technology under the hood:

In the age of social media and online games, no user would love to read through manuals to understand what needs to be done to get the desired output. A user should be able to explore, understand and operate independently without the intervention of the manuals or the IT team. The executive should be able to hit the decision accelerator pedal and be able see the output immediately on the dashboard. Delivering a self-service BI maximizes the business value and increases the adoption of the BI in the organization. The complex technological capabilities ranging from introspection of data to analytics and prediction should be continuously enhanced and scaled to provide actionable insights at all levels in the organization. Despite the huge volumes of data crunching, the technology need to completely hidden under the hood to provide a simple game like interface for the user to operate. This will empower the user to use the tool effectively and efficiently for business analysis.

When a company transits from traditional reporting landscape to business intelligence, it needs to start visualizing reporting in a completely new dimension. While a transformation of existing scorecards and KPIs are the first step in the journey, there is greater stride that needs to be taken to produce dynamic reports. That greater stride is possible only when the technology revs up the business engine through relevant information while continuously pushing out the irrelevant data through the exhaust.

Make in India – the much awaited tagline for the manufacturing sector?

make in india logo

The recently launched Make in India campaign, is a bold and innovative step that is set to redefine brand India in global markets. “This is the step of a lion…Make in India”, is the statement made by the Prime Minister during the launch of the campaign. The campaign, which started as an investment drive to attract foreign capital has transformed itself into an umbrella for all industrial transformation agenda, set for India. With repeated push by PM Modi in international forums, the agenda gained exponential promotions in global media. The project even featured in ‘100 Most Innovative Global Projects’ of KPMG. What makes this campaign unique and different from similar campaigns, run by previous governments?

The launch of this campaign could not have come at a more opportune time. Despite an ambitious National Manufacturing Policy (NMP) of 2012, which set out plans for the manufacturing sector to reach 25% of GDP and create 100 million additional jobs by 2022, the share of manufacturing sector in overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) remained static at 15% in the last few years. The Indian manufacturing share in the global GDP has fallen from 2.2% to 2.0% in the last five years (2009 to 2013).

Also the “Made in India” brand stands insignificant and commands lukewarm response in international marketplace. It is also the time when Global brands are producing “Made for India” specific products to leverage the youth market in India. In global surveys, India ranked poorly and scored a rank of 142 in the ‘ease of doing business’ survey, conducted by World Bank. This campaign is to counter those perceptions and push the government authorities to act as business facilitator for investors rather than being bureaucratic signatory authorities.

India’s strength lies in growing demand, low cost labor and increased entrepreneurial base. These advantages were completely marred by the poor infrastructure, power shortage, complicated labor laws, cumbersome policies and taxation. Unlike the yesteryear marketing slogans, the current tagline sets a clear and emphatic mission of setting up business-friendly environment in the country. It also provided a huge tonic for Indian manufacturers to hit the market confidently with “Made in India” tagline – like the recently launched Zoho tagline, “Made in India. Made for the World.”

While these initiatives have definitely turbocharged the sleeping lion in manufacturing sector, a strategic and systematic implementation is required to ensure that the plan is realized. The brand India should also be cautious to not suffer the fate of “Made in China” products.

Recent government projects like the Diamond Quadrilateral project (connecting the metros Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata) of Indian railways, to establish high speed rail network in India and National highway program are laudable steps in tackling the freight problems suffered by manufacturing sector. Opening up Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in railways and defense sectors, promotions of MSMEs with “Make in India” pavilions in global events and labor reforms are some of the other strides in making a business friendly environment.

While the planning is good on paper, the execution is extremely tricky as Indian government projects are synonymous with delayed timelines and corrupt practices. The mission “Make in India” will kick-off to the next level, only when there is de-centralization of objectives from central to state governments and a strong push towards public-private partnership in expediting and completing the projects. Digitalization of government procedures and simpler single taxation structure are mandatory steps in tackling the corrupt practices and providing a secure environment for investors. The journey has begun, but the road ahead for “Make in India” is tough and requires consistent and determined measures to realize the fruit.

Make in India – The intent is made clear and a red carpet is thrown to global investors and entrepreneurs; the execution awaits…

*This article was reproduced from my post in truthdive.com news magazine.

The story of Indian E-commerce portals

e commerce

Diwali Shopping had been an age-old custom for all Indian families. The festival of lights is also the time of year when shops record maximum visitors and sales. The shop owners anticipate and plan months ahead for Diwali season. The interiors and exteriors of the shop will be grandiosely decorated and new products will be lined up to attract customers to the store. The trend hasn’t changed much this year as well, except that the retail stores recorded maximum footfalls without revenues. The footfalls to revenue ratio started dipping despite huge discounts offered to buyers.

A major portion of this effect is attributed to customers visiting physical stores only to compare the products and prices so as to buy online. A few other buyers push the sales person to sell at lower than dealer rates for the on-store products. That meant the products are sold over and above the discounts in-order to complete the targeted sale. It is not because of the decrease in shopping interest; also not because of increased confidence of the customer; not even due to competition as well; but due to dawn of E-commerce marketplace portals (aka etailing) in India, which is slowly capturing the market and mind share of the Indian youth. How do these portals manage to sell products on profit? Is this E-commerce trend a fad or a revolution?

India represents a $3.5 billion E-commerce market and growing at around 60-70% every year. This still constitutes only 4% of the total retail market (source: Gartner). The mobile commerce constitutes around 5% of the total digital commerce. The future of the E-Commerce industry is promising as this market is said to reach $6 billion in 2015 and likely to grow at a rapid pace. These figures are possible by increased access for consumers to internet through broadband and mobile data connectivity. The market potential thus provides space for newer E-commerce companies to start business as the competition is not in just capturing the market share but also to increase the overall market size of E-commerce. The “Big Billion Day” sale by Flipkart and Diwali sale offers from Amazon and Snapdeal are just an indication of the trend that is expected in the future of E-commerce in India. So is everything rosy about these E-commerce companies?

Amazon had been in this E-commerce business for nearly two decades and hasn’t booked any major profits till now. While the $75 billion revenue generating machine continues to make major investments in emerging markets like India; it also exhibits record losses with the recent one at $437 million. The same is true with the Indian Amazons like Flipkart and Snapdeal.  Flipkart,which pegged itself at $7 billion,records an accumulated loss of Rs.281 crores(source: Business Standard Report) in its balance sheet for the year ended March 2013. Snapdeal reported a loss of Rs.264.6 crores for the year ended March despite five times jump in revenue to Rs.168.1 crores in 2013-14 (Source: livemint).  The losses are attributed to lower margins and heavy discounts offered on the products. The investments do not seem to stop either: with Flipkart raising $1 billion, Snapdeal with $233.7 million and Amazon with a massive $2 billion for the year. Huge loss at one end and huge investments at the other may defy the business logic of any regular investor, but the story is set to continue for next few years as well.

“We believe India can produce a USD 100 billion company in the next five years, and we want to be that. Whether it takes 5 or 10 years, we are here for the longer-term,” Flipkart co-founder and CEO Sachin Bansal told CNBC-TV18 after the fund raising.

With increased infusion of Internet in our day-to-day lives and increased market for smart phone-backed Internet, online retail sales are expected to cross the $30 billion figure within the next five years (Source: Moneycontrol). The etailers had also gained the trust of the customers with transparent door delivery process, newer payment models such as cash on delivery and easy return policies. These options were not available for the regular customer in the brick and motor shops. The E-commerce companies also cater to the tech savvy Indian youth, who are impatient and wants to shop at their convenience. This trend will only move upwards, as we expect increased adoption of data in smart phones across the country. The valuations for these companies are not based on sales, but on Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) i.e. the value of goods sold on the site. Hence the investors are even ready to digest huge losses recorded by these companies in an effort to raise a golden goose.

The top-line of E-commerce portals seems to be over the hills while the bottom-line is well under the deep oceans.

*This article was reproduced from my post in truthdive.com news magazine.

Seeing the future from the eyes of Google

ImageGoogle had become the gatekeeper for our Internet house. It had gone so deep into our nerves that sometimes, it even make us feel handicapped when we don’t see Google on our browser homepage .

This post is about looking into the future of Google Search. So if you don’t like Google, I suggest you to not read any further. In my earlier blog on “If passion drives success, what drives passion?” I touched upon Google and its vision to deliver relevant results across all data sources. So let us begin with an analysis on Google past and together let us visualize the future from the vision of Google. 

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Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, in an interview to Charlie Rose sometime in 2005, famously said “When you use Google, do you get more than one answer? Of course you do. Well, that’s a bug. We have more bugs per second in the world. We should be able to give you the right answer just once. We should know what you meant. You should look for information. We should get it exactly right and we should give it to you in your language and we should never be wrong. That’s our challenge.”

This statement makes more sense now, in 2014. Today, Google customizes our search data based on our device, time, location and interest (through Google login in different Google products). With recent additions like Google instant and profile based search algorithms, the company had moved from basic keyword search and is set to deliver the best possible search we can seek for. From endless searching of pages in the early 2000s, we don’t feel the need to look beyond the 3rd page of Google search to find the right content, for most of our recent searches.

The basic search engine which started as a PageRank had evolved into a solution provider for all our search queries. True to the mission of the Google “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, the company is able to explore and integrate most of the digital data available on the online space. It had even gone to the extent of creating new data through products such as Youtube, Android, Google Glass and Internet of things like robots and driverless car etc. The heart of the company lies in the “Google Search” and all the products like Gmail, Google+, Youtube, Google Maps, Books, and Chrome etc form the veins that pump the extra blood to heart. Though each of those can act as independent products on their own, they are either invented / acquired with the very purpose to improve and customize the Google search and to deliver the most relevant possible result.

ImageSo what do you think the future of Google search will be? With the recent acquisition of Motorola mobility, wearable devices and neck tattoo patents, Google is all set to move ahead in the direction to read our mind and to answer queries in dimensions we never thought before. With the possibility of using analytics over bigdata, the possibility of predictions are endless as well. We will soon see a day when Google will tell us what we will search next as a part of the recommendation cycle. We will soon see a day where Google will provide answers even before we frame the question. We will soon see a day when Google will know us more than we know of our-self. Don’t you see the possibility hitting our digital doors?

♠ Be ready to share your data mind in the mind-boggling journey of Google ♠

If passion drives success, what drives passion?

Successful individuals often talk about passion as the secret formula for success. Passion unfortunately is a feeling and so cannot be easily fed as an input to the inner workings of the mind. It is very difficult for somebody to wake up one-day and become passionate about what he/she has been doing years at work. So what it takes to be a passionate person? A few would argue that our purpose in life will define our commitment and thus make us a passionate person. Again the purpose is a difficult composition for the mind as it is the by-product mixture of many small and simple ingredients. So to take the question even deeper, what is that one little seed which can change an individual to a passionate person?

Constant Search” is the key! It unlocks the passion in us and finds the path to our success. Most of us start with big aspirations in life and ultimately settle for much lesseImager. The reason is somewhere down the line, we forget our dreams, stop asking questions to ourselves and start settling for things that come naturally to us. We force ourselves to think that happiness is simply about not pushing ourselves and hence stop doing things to achieve the goals we set out to. Life has this unique way of answering to our questions only when we sustain the questions longer than we think we should. When we set out an objective and strongly believe in it, our mind automatically finds patterns to whatever we see and throw the answers we seek. It is similar to a picture puzzle where we arrange the smaller pictures to get to the exact image. The only difference between the picture puzzle and the real life is that in real life we do not have the actual image beforehand and hence setting an objective in life and continuously searching for answers is the only way to lead a passionate life.

Let us now take a detour and find one such pattern from a business angle.  Almost all companies have a vision statement, a carefully prepared line, which reflects the aspirations of the company and more importantly the dream of the owners/founders. It is like reaching the Everest tip for a mountaineer. To take the example of one such successful company – Google – Vision – “to deliver relevant results across all data sources – the Internet, a user’s local computer, and the corporate network” The company which started as a small search engine is now one of the most sought after companies in the world. If we take a closer look, even the products such as Gmail, Android to the recent Glass project, are all in-line with the vision to make the results relevant and customizable for the user. “The perfect search engine would understand exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want” – Larry Page. The management and the employees continuously search for ways in making their search engine work better. This search for excellence has turned into passion to make innovative products and that drives the engine of Google as envisioned by its founders. Search has become the innovation fuel for not just Google, but to many successful companies and individuals around the world.

Finally, keep searching for your dreams. Together we shall search to make a passionate good community around us.

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