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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Customer Loyalty: The Ultimate Brand Clash Weapon

As usual, this Wednesday the 'Economic Times' was delivered at my doorstep and as a habit, I was ready to throw it up on my bed to read it at the later half of the day as I was getting late for my class. But what caught my eyes was the much awaited, recently published MOST TRUSTED BRANDS list of Brand Equity (BE). This list deciphers the TOP 100 most trusted brands in India. Colgate once again became the unassailable brand leader for straight fourth year. The research was conducted by Nielsen along with BE with a design sample distributed across socio-economic classifications, age, income and geography.

The study was carried out at the following 12 cities:
Delhi, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Patna, Bhubaneswar, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Indore, Chennai, Bengaluru, Vijayawada.

The respondent profile were categorised as:

1. Chief Wage Earner(CWE)-The person who makes the highest contribution towards
    Household upkeep.
2. HouseWife (HW)-Any married female and unemployed
3. Youth-15-25 years old and not CWE/HW

4. OLDER- 26-60 years old  and not CWE/HW

Keeping track of its brand relationship is indeed the toughest task because one day the sky is clear blue and the next day it is hail-storm. We can easily relate it to the case of our beloved 2-minute noodle ‘Maggi’. The beloved brand that brings up all childhood, college, hostel and travel memories had entered the Top-5 list of ‘Most Trusted Brands’ 2014.The party wasn’t over yet, when the MSG got the best off it. It slipped down toweringly to 95th position. Eventually, it turned out that ‘meri Maggi’ is safe and its Swiss mother Nestle is targeting the kitchen head of the household-the mother in-order to win back the ‘healthy’ faith every mother puts in a bowl of Maggi before serving it to her child. It is also trying to grab back its position through the much popular ‘#WeMissYouToo’ campaign. We can simply wait and watch whether it will script a Bollywood blockbuster and regain its top position or painfully crawl up the ladder.

It is not all about calamitous falls. Tata salt has risen to no.2 from 16 last year. The most popular ‘Desh ka namak’ focused on the nuts and bolts like merchandising norms, standardized POPs display windows at key outlets, etc.  all of  which has helped it to remain at the top.

Reckitt Benckiser’s, Dettol was voted as the 4th most trusted brand. Dove strategy to keep it real has also rewarded it as it bagged the 4th place compared tono.30 last year.

The most expected yet most dramatic setback is of the e-commerce brands, even a single one of them failed to gain a position. It was apparently proven that to gain customer loyalty and trust, it takes a hell lot than ‘BIG’ sales and bigger as budgets.

Some notified entries are that of the ‘mineral water’ brands and the grand entry of Idea Telco who has travelled a massive 131 spots up the ladder to no.43 to inch closer to its rivals Vodafone and Airtel.

Some other notable position holders are:
  • Vim topped the list in ’househlod care’.
  • Big Bazaar is the winner of the ‘Retailers’ category.
  • Pizza Hut topped the ‘Food Services‘ list.
  • Aquaguard bagged the trust in the ‘water purifier’section.

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of DOT as a whole.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Happy 30th Anniversary Windows.

Last Friday marks 30 years of existence for Microsoft Windows. Microsoft is the first software company. Bill Gates envisioned long ago how a software company should be like before anyone knew what software actually is. Microsoft has been the face of computing for many long years and it still is in a very tangible way. There are many ups and downs for a huge company as Microsoft. While the former clearly dominated the latter, it wasn’t always a cakewalk for Microsoft to protect its identity. Software is funny. You clearly dominate the industry, become myopic and then you are irrelevant. We have seen recently this week on how Rdio filed for bankruptcy after being a super hit just 4 years ago. Similarly we have seen many instances in the past where companies faltered not knowing where their next bet should be and going bankrupt.

This was Microsoft's first logo

Microsoft was started in 1974 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975. When Paul saw the future in Altair 8800 (A Micro processor) he persuaded Bill Gates that the time was ripe and they have to jump into the world of programming. Then Bill Gates and Paul Allen somehow convinced Altair manufacturers and started to write programming immediately. After spending many sleepless nights, they finally were succeeded in delivering the program. 


These were the days of IBM Personal computers which took public by storm. Microsoft wrote the program of MS DOS for IBM. The biggest mistake IBM did was allowing Microsoft to retain the licensing rights on MS DOS. When Bill Gates and his team at Microsoft were developing MS DOS for IBM, they were not at all confident of getting the licensing rights as IBM being market leader was ruthless. But the management of IBM thought that nobody in the industry could replicate their success in hardware manufacturing and thought that they will remain market leaders in the foreseeable future. Bill Gates from the inception is a software guy. He when came to know that the management of IBM is not at all interested in retaining the licensing of MS DOS, he was shocked and said to his close friends how big this mistake is and also added that IBM is going to repent on this Historical mistake. He was right. Many manufacturers came around figuring how to do hardware and started to approach Microsoft for the software. Microsoft suddenly replaced IBM as face of computing.

Microsoft also licensed their ‘Basic’ programming for Macintosh and wrote office software for Mac. Bill Gates worked closely with Steve Jobs in creating Macintosh’s software. Bill Gates was a little apprehensive on Mac’s success as he thought the Macintosh that was launched in 1984 was way ahead of its times and may not succeed. Turns out, he was right and Macintosh’s failure lead Steve Jobs step out of the company. But people started to look at Macintosh’s GUI as a game changer. 

Then the whole industry started to believe that Graphical User Interface is the future of the computing and the huge debate of Text based interface vs Graphics based interface soon turned into a intuitive common sense. It is clear - GUI is the future.


Windows came up with Windows 95 and it was the first windows operating system that supported GUI and it became an instant hit. Apple immediately filed a lawsuit that Microsoft copied their Macintosh’s interface and the competition became intense. Microsoft finally relented and agreed to purchase $350 million worth Apple shares in ‘out of court’ settlement when Steve Jobs returned to Apple. While Apple pursued an integrated approach from the start where Hardware, Software and Services are provided by a single company, Bill Gates’ vision was different. He thought consumer should be given a choice of different hardware manufacturers and he pursued an open approach where different components are designed by different companies. In hindsight, we have to say that the industry immensely benefitted from Microsoft’s open systems approach. Competition intensified among the manufacturers which turned into a Zero sum game which triggered price wars. In the end, consumer benefitted. 

Microsofts push to Enterprise is also a commendable effort suited to its open approach. Microsoft allowed OS customisation and tweaking according to the needs of the enterprises and they came up with a server operating system that was and still is immensely popular. Even food chains like KFC use Microsoft’s enterprise Operating system. Here instead of whole Operating system a lite version of Windows is deployed on a low cost hardware that saved lot of costs and was easier to use. 


Many say that this decade is a ‘lost decade’ for Microsoft. Steve Ballmer when took over Microsoft, it is a giant. Microsoft lost focus and ventured into many irrelevant spaces in the fear of being Myopic. They ventured into robotics, phones without a vision and did many irrelevant innovations that didn’t help its desktop operating system in any sort. In 2004 they debuted a Windows based tablet which is a complete failure. Windows Vista’s failure didn’t help Microsoft. On the other hand Apple and Google are driving ahead leaving Microsoft behind. In a desperate attempt to attract attention, Microsoft even ventured in to search space through Bing. The abbreviation of Bing is ‘Bing is not Google.’ If you name your product after your competitor, it says how terrified and desperate you are. After losing ground to Apple and Google on mobile front and Amazon on server front, Microsoft really need a restructuring. 


Steve Ballmer was sacked as CEO by the board and Satya Nadella who overlooked Enterprise Mobility division and cloud platform Azure was made the CEO. Satya Nadella when made the CEO stressed the importance of Mobile first approach and started conscious efforts to bring back Microsoft as an enterprise leader. 

Its too early to judge Satya Nadella as a CEO but innovations of Microsoft recently on Surface tablets, Surface books, Windows Mobile, Azure, Microsoft Band, Xbox, Holo lens, and Windows 10 looks promising. Satya has a clear head unlike the chaotic personality that represents Steve Ballmer. Hope he delivers on the duties bestowed upon him. Below is a video explaining his vision for Microsoft after a recent product launch.

Microsoft indeed brought us a long way. Let’s hope Microsoft takes us to even more heights we could never have imagined. Happy 30th Anniversary Windows!

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of DOT as a whole.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Google Services - A Faustian Bargain?

Faust is the protagonist of classic German legend. He is a scholar who is highly successful yet dissatisfied with his life. This leads him to make a pact with the Devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. Now the reason I brought this up is that while all the Users are Faust s in their souls, the question that whether users are always in a bargain with Google always ponders me.

Google has always been the go to company for many services we use today. Some might be surprised on how much google knows about us. Google has got the upper hand over Apple in the services it is in because Google was able to read more of your data and provide you many contextual services. Google now, for example is a service which provides contextual cards. When there is a reservation made, be it flight, movie, or a bus, Google automatically reads your mail, looks for the details in the ticket and serves you the contextual cards telling you the time to start based on your current location and traffic conditions to your destination. Now for this to happen, Google has to read your mails, strip the vital information of your location, destination, time and date of the travel. Only then will it be able to serve the cards. For an user, it doesn’t matter what information Google is gathering as long as these services entice them.

But the inevitable question that arises is what else Google is doing with this data. If you think that Google collects data just to provide contextual services, you are terribly wrong. After Google does this, it sells that data to advertisers. Advertisers in turn use this data to serve you contextual ads. Google is doing this through its service called adsense suite. Google assigns a random ID to all the data and uses that data to serve you contextual ads. While the identity of the person can’t be known, the service reading your mails and analysing your location data sounds a little creepy. Android users can open this link and can see their location history. Open this link and you can get all the searches you made at Google. Google not just tracks you, it even sells this data to other companies. 

Many Apple users face the heat from their friends who are Android users on how cool Google services are but they never realise that Google steals gobs of data from them. Apple recently through its software update iOS 9 brought the capability of converting mails into calendar events. While Google fanboys proclaim the feature to be available for them for two years, the thing they never understand is that, while Google’s approach makes the server read your mail and create calendar event for you, Apple’s approach makes the iPhone do that for you without a byte of data moving out of your phone. A rational person would understand how different the two approaches are and why Apple takes so much time to bring out these features and execute them just right.

Down below is a screenshot of famous game 'subway surfers.' Now as you can see, it collects the information like, Device & app history (Allows the app to view one or more of: information about activity on the device, which apps are running, browsing history and bookmarks), Device ID and call information, etc.. Now here’s a trivial game that can read the apps that are present in your phone, apps which are running in the phone, browsing history on your phone and bookmarks present in your phone. Now what do you think the developer of the app does collecting the information? They sell it to third party, makes money and doesn’t care what the third party does making you vulnerable. 

Now, Apple never allows this to happen. That is the reason you find many apps in iPhone less functional than their Android counterparts for a simple reason that Apple never gives such sensitive information away. This is one of the two reasons why you find many Android apps being free while Apple charging premium for the fact that Android developers can collect your data, sell it and make revenues. The other reason being many pirated versions available and the ability to side load them in Android. But in Apple, you can download the apps only from the Appstore unless the device is jailbroken. 

For Apple, customer is the king while for Google, customer's data is the king. I know that this post started from being a critique of Google services has ended being a comparison between the approaches of Android and Apple, but the point I was trying to make is that choice is subjective. People who are very sensitive and critical about where their data is going might want to depend on Apple and people who don’t care where their data is ending up as far as they are enticed with the contextual services of Google might want to stay with Google. 

So while entering into Google services, beware that you are entering into a faustian bargain. Only time will tell whether Google is a devil or it isn’t!

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of DOT as a whole.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Google Photos - The Complete Photo Backup Solution.

It is no secret that people love photos. It is estimated that over 200,000 photos make their way to Facebook alone every minute. Add instagram to that tally and add thousands of photos that are taken but do not make their way to the internet, we can say that millions of photos are taken per day. Photos are beautiful memories captured into digital bits that are stored for retrieval whenever you want. Photos are a very important part of our lives. While there are many online solutions available for backing up your photos, only 25% of all smartphone users use backup solutions to secure their photos forever. 

Not backing up those valuable memories is living dangerously because the moment you lose your phone or if your hard disk gets corrupted, all you are left with is an immense grief and remorse. So we in this blog look at the best solution to back up your photos which is Google Photos.

There are many photo backup solutions available like dropbox, box, flickr, One drive, etc.. Every app that is listed above have their respective apps available on iOS, Android and Windows. They all do the basic stuff a backup app is supposed to do - They automatically grab your photos from your phone or PC, upload them in the cloud and make those photos available everywhere and on every device you want. But the app that we are going to discuss - Google Photos goes many steps ahead in organising your photos in a fantastic way. It has been around for a while but a slew of new updates make this app even more interesting.   

Installing Google photos is easy. Go to your respective appstore (App store on iPhone, Play Store on Android, Hard luck Windows users) and download the app. Once you download the app, there are some pages of settings to select your account, your sync preference (Whether you want to sync only on wifi or to allow mobile network), folders on your device to backup (I deselected my whatsapp folder for obvious reasons) etc.. You also have a page to select your photo size, whether you want unlimited storage with a reduced quality or whether you want to link to your Google account which has a capacity of 15 GB. Here what it means is that, if you select unlimited storage, you can backup as many photos or you want but they are descaled if the image is above above 16 Megapixels. As many of our phones have cameras well below that, selecting option of unlimited photos is preferred. In my testing I found the images to be as clear as the original ones. 

After installing and setting up the folders to backup, the app takes time (based on the no of images and videos) to upload all the photos that are present in your phone. Once the backup is done and the sync settings are on, the app uploads newly taken photos automatically, They are not shared until you want them to be shared. Now that photos in your phone are all uploaded, you might want to upload the photos in your desktop as well to the cloud so that you don’t fear of loosing the photos in the future. Google photos thankfully got you covered. Go to and download the app “Desktop Uploader” based on your operating system. The app currently supports Windows, Mac and Chrome OS. Once you download the app and select the folders in your computer where your photo collection lies, the app automatically uploads all the photos.

Uploading all the photos present on your phone and computer and offering unlimited storage makes this app best in class but the magic of the app unveils once the photos are uploaded:

Grouping the photos

Open the app and tap the search button present in the bottom right corner of your phone and what appears in front of you is pure magic. The app automatically groups your photos based on:


The app automatically groups photos of same people together and shows you a face. Once you tap the face, it gives an option to label the name. Enter the name and the photos of him/her are instantly searchable from then on. Tap your friends’s name in search bar and instantly all the photos of him/her will be visible grouped together. 


The app also automatically groups photos based on the places you took them. If you have already switched on GeoTagging in your camera settings, the app automatically shows different places you took the photos.


Google took machine learning to the next level and their strides in Artificial intelligence is clearly evident from this feature. Under ‘things' all the photos of yours are automatically classified into various attributes like Cars, Sky, Flowers, Food, Dancing, Beaches, Dogs, Cats, Birthdays, Mountains, Fog, Temples, Airplanes, etc.. based on the things and places you took the photos. The coolest part is you don’t even do a single thing to label them. They all are done automatically. It even grabbed all my graduation function’s pics and grouped them all together based on those caps and appearances. This is really cool and you have to see to believe it.


It also groups photos based on type of media like videos, panoramas and still photographs.


I recently visited my friend’s place, took some photos there and came back to my place. The app automatically grouped all the photos in a cool album view and named that album as “Trip to Pune.” A feature in the app called Assistant showed this album to me prompting me to save or discard the album. Assistant also shows the photos that are taken on the same day over the previous years. Another handy feature of assistant is that it automatically creates animations from a group of immediately taken photos or burst shoots and presents them in some fantastic views.


Once all the photos are uploaded, google takes some time to analyse the photos and group them together. Now look for the faces and label the faces. After this step is done, you can use queries such as: "Me at Graduation," "Me with my mom and dad," (Here of course, you have to label the face of your parents as "Mom" and "Dad." Only then will it understand who they are.) "Me with brother at airport," "photos of temples," "photos of airplanes," etc.. Once you label the faces, the search feature is just magical.


Sharing in this app is even amazing. You can select multiple photos with a nice quick gesture and share them through service like whatsapp, facebook, mail, etc. In addition to that you also get an option to get a shareable link. i.e., once you select some photos and tap “Get Link,” it automatically creates a link and copies to your clipboard. You can send that link to anyone you want. Now once your friend opens that link on his phone, he has an option on the top right to save those photos into his account. Now with just a tap, all the photos you share with him will now be on his collection as well. 

The best part of this app is that it works across all the Computers, Mobiles and Tablets seamlessly irrespective of the operating systems. So through Google photos, what you get is a great unlimited service, a great photo organiser and a cool search feature that makes the photos instantly searchable. Therefore the hunt for a great photo backup solution ends here. Period. Exclamation.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Uber and OLA - The New Revolutions in Transport

On a sunny (I'd rather say hot) Wednesday afternoon, I was waiting for a bus to get a ride to a friend’s place nearby. As always the frustration to wait for public transport, the convenience of having AC in a cab and laziness to walk last few metres after getting down a bus influenced me to open apps that are present under “travel” category in my phone. So I opened Uber. Requesting for a ride, the driver arriving there and me getting in to the car hardly took 5 minutes from the tap of a button. The conversation I had with the driver influenced me to write this column. 

After I got in, the first thing he did was to confirm my Identity and started to write my name in a book with the odometer reading beside it. I asked him the reason for doing it. He said in elegant English, “Sir, I have been getting wrong readings in Uber dashboard while I have been riding longer distances than what is being showed. So I wanted to confirm whether it is any technical error and wanted to report it.” I was offended when he said he found fault with technology. Geek in me came out brashly and explained him how navigation works and said that mighty Google powers Uber’s backend of navigation. He listened patiently and said to me, “Sir I have been getting cancelled rides and some non payment issues because of combination of wallet and cash. I just want to make sure that there is no foul play. Nothing against Google or Uber.” There’s a shiny Asus phone plugged and set in a stand on the car. I asked him whether he purchased it. He said that Uber gave it to him. “I was offered Samsung and Asus. I hate bloatware in Samsung and touchwiz is laggy. So, I have selected Asus.”

Then our conversation moved from technology to revenue models. I asked him, “How do you make profits from Uber? We pay a mere Rs. 7/Km and is it even viable for you?” He smiled and said, “Sir, apart from whatever you give us, we get an incentive of Rs. 100 or Rs. 125 based on the type of car whether it is a Sedan or a Hatchback. In addition to that for each hour we login, we get Rs. 200 irrespective of whether we get rides or not. I asked him whether those incentives remain forever. He said that starting from 1st Nov, prices of Uber are going to be increased with all the incentives for drivers cancelled and the new price is going to be Rs. 16/Km and are going to serve sub-urban as well. I was surprised and agitated at the same time and said, “How could they do that? Do they even realise that people are going to desert them if the prices hike outrageously high?” Then he said to me, “Sir, you can’t desert us. You know that, we know that, Uber knows that. Will you now after enjoying the private rides go back to footboard rides on a bus? Uber went as far as to rent Audi s and Benz s for Rs. 25000 a day from top celebrities only to attract people to Uber. They are even showing losses in the profitable counterparts only to provide free rides and promos and push this concept aggressively in India.* Bitter truths are hard to digest and I countered him to back his claim. He replied wryly, “Surge pricing. Surge pricing is a strategy to test your spending capabilities. There are 20 lakh cars in Hyderabad which are registered to Uber and let’s say, 25% of them are offline. There would still be 15 lakh cars on roads and rarely will there be a deficiency. Even at the time of surge where the prices would go 3 X or 3.5 X, people are not stopping. And recently when Uber started charging Rs. 18/Km after 16 Km, it didn’t deter people from taking a ride.” Now I didn’t have anything to speak. 

My destination arrived and while he was pressing “End trip” on his console, I asked him, “How much do you make?” He replied “Rs. 65000 - 80000 a month.” As I readied myself to pick my bag I have promised it to be the last question and asked him “What is your qualification?” “M.Com.” Understanding the bafflement on my face, he continued speaking “I didn’t want to work under anyone. I love driving and wanted to be my own boss and thankfully technology is allowing me to do it.” 

If technology is allowing a man in his 30s to follow his passion, giving him financial freedom, and is encouraging public to lead a better way of life, I’ll indeed call it Revolutionary in bold and italics :)

*I was unable to confirm the claim.

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of DOT as a whole.