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I don’t understand why the advertising industry is lauding the budget! Apparently 3000 Cr budget allocation towards digitalization of Rural India is a big win for the industry.

Yesterday when a journalist asked me to share my opinion I kept mum & here are the reasons –

1. Budget allocation for digital: What happened to the last year’s budget allocation? As a professional who believes in data, I find this kind of budget meetings stupid unless an account of last year’s budget vs accrued is provided along side the next year’s planning. So why should I laud another fake allocation?

2. Poverty: With poverty stricken Rural India, is digitalization really their need? And if we don’t meet their need, will they be happy to be touched upon by advertising? Especially digital? Will Not Roti, Kapda, Makaan matter before Internet access?

3. Technology Development: India is amongst the weakest in Mobile Signal strength in the world. With more people using it will the experience or everybody not go for a toss? What’s the plan to improve the same. What will they do special this year that they couldn’t do in the last 3.5 years. Isn’t a bad 1st time experience is worse than not having one at all? Will then our campaigns be impactful?

Budget 2018 Arnab Mitra

4. Cut in Tax for SMB: will SMB’s be happy with a population of salaried working professionals who are unhappy with the budget? Does it not hamper the performance of small/ big all ad agencies?

5. This govt has brought down the budget allocation percentage of education to the least however their education cess is the highest ever. Isn’t that some kind of a joke? With less people getting touched by education where will our next copy writers/ designers or marketers come from?

I can go on writing. But may be I don’t understand enough to be happy with this budget. So I shall keep it short. But here is what is going on in my head –

I am unhappy with #Budget2018. Very unhappy.

I was there. Yes. I was there. Me & 3 of my friends, along with our driver, we were all there. Right on those roads, right on that turn, right there. May be the sniper missed us, may be the bomb failed to activate, may be it was just our luck, may be it was just not their day. But yes, we were there, alive! Still am. & hence this note, to tell you all what we really felt in Kashmir.
Me & my friends, we were touring some difficult terrains of earth such as KhardungLa, BarlachaLa, LachungLa etc for a rather lazy, interesting holiday. Our route was to start from Manali & end in Jammu. That day, we crossed baltal & got stopped by the cops at Sonmarg just before entering Srinagar. This was the day just before the Amarnath Yatri attack. We were told that we can’t move any forward. We had to wait like dead ducks for about 16 hrs in our car. Not just us, there were hundreds of people who were stopped at Sonmarg. & that’s when we got very close interactions with our Kashmiri brethren. A potent tete-a-tete with people who knew nothing new was happening. A sense of disgust prevailed on the faces of Kashmiris who were confident about every move of our system.
They told us exactly what will happen, when it will happen & how it will happen. They told us exactly when we will be let lose, they told us how it will be just another day in the valley where the police/system will unnecessarily disturb people in the name of safety & yet will fail to do so. They told us how nothing has changed in so many years & how nothing will change in “our” country. & no they never treated us as their country men. We were just tourists to them. We were business.
Let me tell you, we have lost Kashmir forever. No not to Pakistan. But to our own country men. & I am not sure who I should blame. Was this our government(s), their policies or was it just difficult weathers & therefore the 6-month long disconnection to the rest of the country/world? I am not sure. But whatever may be the reasons are we have lost Kashmir. Kashmiris are not Indians any more & may be they are not Pakistanis either. They don’t connect with rest of the country. For them all these systems, political propagandas, police management is a joke that only ruffles their business day unnecessarily. For an average regular Kashmiri what matters most is how much money they are making on a given day. Because all these add up. For the next 6 months, all these add up. When no system, government, politicians, terrorists reach them in the valley at an average temperature of -20 degree C what really matters is their own hard earned resources. So anybody who is a deterrent to this, anybody who disturbs them during these 6 comfortable months are their enemies. & by that logic yes, our extra caring policies during these 6 hotter months of the year also is an eye sore for them.
Religion is a very critical tool. Especially in these parts of the world. Difficult times often see a lot more acceptance towards religion & may be that’s why during the extreme weather conditions of the valley the locals embrace their religion a lot deeply than what they would do during the other six months, when they are primarily busy stocking food, money, medicines, supplies etc. They say empty mind is the devil’s workshop & may be that’s what really happens to the regular Kashmiris who see rest of the country enjoying different other seasons while they just barely survive through.
Religions have had a very deep connection with Politics. & Politicians know how to use religion to their strengths. It’s in these 6 vulnerable months when the politicians from the favourable side tightens their grip on these Kashmiris by being their friend in need. & that’s a trend that has been followed in the valleys for the past 30 years or so.
Quite honestly, Kashmir is tired of being in a spot of bother. It is tired of being a war zone. It is tired of being questioned for the wrong reasons by the wrong people. Kashmir wants to live free. It wants to belong. It wants a normal life. A life that is not constantly under threat, a life that is free of religious politics, a life that is secure and safe and comfortable. Imagine living in a world that sleeps for half of the year. Imagine living in a war zone. Any one of us could have been born there. It could have been you. It could have been me.

I came into this year’s Cannes festival mid-week and it has been a fantastic few days. Innumerable awespiring chats, kick-ass work showcases, surprising celeb dropping, red carpet steamy siting, drink till you drop partying, almost everything that you can think of while reading this article, have happened. But you know, what didn’t happen? To my surprise, I didn’t meet a single Indian at Cannes who is really here to make it large. To become that one agency, that one brand, that one organisation that is trying to become THE brand everybody would be proud to be associated with. They are happy to be just bystanders. (Me included, since it’s my first visit)

If by any chance you don’t know, let me remind you that the last 2-3 years have been extremely exciting for the Indian advertising and marketing Industry. We have had huge success stories in India with the likes of Flipkart, Quikr, etc. We have had inspiring news of Indian advertising agencies being bought over by global giants. We have had entrepreneurs pulling off real wealth by pushing their respective businesses northwards. But out of all of these stories there has been not a single case where the promoter is pushing towards building a real brand that everybody associates with and with great pride.

I was at an event at Amsterdam few weeks back and I saw the Dutch community taking great pride in home-grown businesses such as dropbox. Every young kid of the country wanted to be a part of that story. I also remember how even cabbies in Chicago behave differently with a Publicis employee as soon as they get to know you work for them. These are all business which have become big today, but their past is still of a bunch that decided to take the world head on with their stories. Remember? I happen to hear how Evan Spiegel, the 25 year old CEO of Snapchat, decided to rock the Cannes festival 2015 (and they really did! with a giant yellow animated billboard right outside the Palais and many other things) and then Hollywood in the near future. I am proud to be experiencing how Droga5 and RGAs of the world are thinking or for that matter what Naked Communication did 5-6 years back. Why don’t we have a single story like that? Not even one?

Now that brings me to some very bitter questions which I have for all my fellow Indian Agency/Brand promoters to ponder upon when they get a chance – Why are we not thinking of making our country proud by rocking a world advertising event such as Cannes? Why don’t we dream to be the brand that has hit every conversation that took place in Cannes? Why are we happy fighting a small battle amongst ourselves and feel good in our own ivory towers, where the world doesn’t even care if we were present or not? Yes, lets accept it that we are the under dogs when it comes to Cannes. We are just another name in the tally with an ever receding number of metals. We are a country with more people online than the entire population of a lot of countries and still we failed to clock a single Cyber gold. Why?

Shall we accept that we are really bad at what we do or do we give it a shot by working together in mobilising an entire generation of businesses wanting to rock a great leveler such as Cannes by actively investing in the same? Work is one part of the story. That’s the most important 60 seconder, I agree, but what goes inside the same in the last 365 days is probably of more value. The problem isn’t that we are not winning, enough. The problem is that we don’t treat this as an epidemic that needs immediate attention. The problem isn’t that we don’t have a single Indian brand owning a beach, the problem is we are not unhappy about it. The problem isn’t that there is not a single Indian brand in the roster of the sponsors, the problem is that despite having money there isn’t a single brand that believes that a presence in an awesome forum such as Cannes can change the way people perceive their brand or the country of Origin. There is a world beyond calculating ROI and that world is the most profitable.

There is so much pride in taking real pride. We, at LIQVD ASIA, are trying to remain independent and true to the cause of advertising and creating advertising campaigns that stir conversations. We didn’t take part in this year’s Cannes but next year we will be back with a bang to make it really large here.

Fastest Proposal, Faster Refusal!

Her heels were high,
my eyes were low.
Heart pumped faster,
her walk got slow.

Hi, I said.
She said, Hello.
Coffee?, I asked.
She said, No.

(This post has been already published in Digital Market Asia:

I am inspired by two studies, the McKinsey Consumer Decision Journey, (20,000 consumers in three continents and five verticals, 2010) and ZMOT – or the Zeroth Moment of Truth (based on a study run by Google and Shopper Sciences early in 2012, looking at the purchase journey for 3,000 shoppers in tech, CPG, auto and finance). While they differ in details and action-ability, they provide a framework to understand and master the complexities of a completely fragmented customer journey. ZMOT provided a framework for seamless digital ubiquity across multiple touch-points. What’s increasingly happening is what is known as the ‘Internet of things’.


The acceleration and ubiquity of HTTP has made it possible to layer interactivity onto the 3D space (a restaurant, venue, stadium etc.), that is real time, social and capable of scaling quickly. Everything now has an HTTP layer. (Newspapers of the future will be made of interactive plastics that run TCP/IP and are biodegradable to boot). The web is more interoperable, meaning a more seamless experience, completely seamless for Social experiences and building of a consistent Social Graph.

While this is exciting from a communications standpoint, it makes the measurement and discovery of the ‘story’ even more challenging for marketers and practitioners. We will soon be looking for a Single Cookie across platforms, devices and time in general, that will measure all touch points with the brand. But that will take time, until we’re all implanted with RFID tags or something else that lets our brains and bodies plug in to the HTTP with some sort of arduino device.

What this means for Practitioners?

The skill-sets of understanding the possibilities offered up by Space-Time HTTP Ubiquity and translating this into actual business and marketing outcomes for brands are complex, technical and Creative Minds that understand mash-ups, APIs and are sometimes really from Outer Space (just joking). Strange and beautiful, like that song by Joe Satriani!

At LIQVD Asia, we have a vision of being early adopters in the monetisation of Space-Time HTTP Ubiquity. We will combine principles of ZMOT mastery (Hyperlocality, cross-media agnosticism, completely obsessive and smart measurement and attribution, and the ability to story-tell) in this age of Brand Identity Curation (which is about brands being the net outcome of the conversations their stories spark within the Social Graph – but more about that later).

This strange goulash of skills will increasingly be sought after by brands as they try and manage this new strange and beautiful world of Internet of Things.

We are getting ready for the new 2013, where are you?

The changing face of SEO

The changing face of SEO

Penguin & Panda

The internet enables people to go from being just customers to become members of a company or co-creators in the culture surrounding a product. The consequences of this is much larger than we give it credit for – and the reason for us underestimating the potential of change is our ability to give huge measurements, mediocre names and tags not fit to reflect the potential of change that they carry. By referencing several of these current changes as social media, digital media, mobile media or new age media, we limit the perspective and reach of our ideas. We see these activities as satellites outside of core business, insignificantly flirting with the customers compared to the bigger commercial changes we are not taking notice of.

The world is changing and this time it is the individuals’ control of their own everyday life, driven by the access to and liberation through technology giving them a voice and a presence. Sharp increases in higher education, standards of living, social complexity, and longevity over the past century gave rise to a new desire for individual self-determination: having control over what matters, having one’s voice heard, and having social connections on one’s own terms.

The leading edge of consumption is now moving from products and services to tools and relationships enabled by interactive technologies. Amazon, Apple, eBay, and YouTube are familiar examples of companies trying to provide the power in the hands of consumer.
The last time we experienced a change of this magnitude was with the arrival of mass production, when products reserved for the elites where being made available for the masses (for example in auto industry think of Henry Ford and the Model T). Shoshana Zuboff, former professor in business administration at the Harvard Business School wrote in an article in the McKinsey Quarterly in 2010 about a new chapter in capitalism. Something that historically happens every 100 years; new chapters emerge when the demand from the market acquires a new pattern, which businesses have to accommodate. This ends in conflict and new businesses come in from the bottom and deliver on the demand that old businesses can’t meet.

We are standing at the doorstep of years with great strain on business foundations and models. Participation and dialogue can be one of the answers, but it has to be implemented at the business level, not as an activity driven exclusively by the marketing and communications department. By referencing this as digital media, we are standing in an era of mass production and looking at ourselves in the mirror.

This is not about one single tool entertaining customers or allowing the creative brains to experiment as the business itself is doing ‘business as usual’. Technology has forced through new consumer habits and created a time for great change – affecting how businesses think about demand and offer. Even if these are slow mechanisms, which require maturing, we have to ignite our ideas and believe in bigger things.

Five ways I suggest welcoming this change
Uncomplicate: The reason large parts of the corporate internet is boring, difficult and of little direct use/effect is because we are unnecessarily complicating it. For example, why on earth do we need to fill up an eight field form while trying to use FREE Wi-Fi at Delhi airport? Why on my personalised banking web page only 15 per cent is dedicated to my personal banking and 85 per cent of real estate goes to marketing, navigation and completely uninteresting bank/CRM stuff? Are they in the business of media channel and marketing? The internet is simple, and should be simple. Unfortunately we are thinking of it with the wrong mindset; as something complicated, something that doesn’t work, something we don’t understand.

Presence: All traditional marketing, advertising and designs are built around a core idea of transmitting a thought process of a creative bunch creating anticipation towards the use or consumption of a product or service in a given situation. Inside this mindset, digital offers some abilities that are new and speeds up some abilities that are old. But in essence digital is nothing more than a technological option – a choice between newspaper, billboard, TV, radio or internet, etc. Traditional marketing delivers a promise to the consumer, but has never been able to deliver on this promise – this responsibility is handed to the product and business design team. What online has done is something much bigger than offer new extensions to media, or surfaces – it’s creating presence in people’s lives – we are designing and building meeting places between the brand and the customer. Equal in importance to the product design itself

Meeting place: Consumer experiences and brand propositions are often involved in a typical Venn diagram where the overlap gives birth to a common ground that becomes a favourable arena for brands. However, what we have done up till now is limit our thinking of what online can do based on a narrow view of what marketing can do without paying much attention to this arena exactly like traditional media. Traditional advertising and design has one goal: to deliver a promise, either based on what the consumer wants to become, or what the brand wants to become. But what happens when marketing changes, digital walks out in the road for real? Start treating that overlap hyperbole as an opportunity where you can meet the consumer face-to-face and create experiences that are remarkable and therefore, sharable. Make your presence felt in their lives beyond banner ads each time they log in to Facebook, Yahoo, etc.

Activities: The internet, since the beginning, has been all about information; ‘content is king’ and all that. But this is no longer necessarily true. The internet is only partly an information platform. In fact, as an information platform it even has some clear and present weaknesses. The more interesting question is not how we can make the internet better at information, but at seamlessly improving our everyday life? And information is seldom the solution to this; it is much more interesting to look at how the internet can help us do stuff.

Relationships: The internet was originally, and still is, a great mechanism for direct response; being instrumental to a lot of the business value generated directly from the net today. But, at the same time as it is changing sales and market presence world-wide, it is also turning out/developing abilities positioning it as one of the best arenas for connecting and offering a valuable, relevant and present relationship with customers. The internet has grown into a platform for cultivating and capitalising on a new generation of customer relationships, those that change behaviours.

“We are at the lightbulb stage of the internet,” said Jeff Bexox, CEO, Amazon, and decoding the same today I feel that it is too early for us to get boxed in any definitions, silos and make things unnecessarily complex and boring. Let us rather focus on simple solutions which are remarkable and extends the joy of experiencing our brand propositions in the real life, making it sharable.

(the story was published on Exchange4Media earlier:

Why i should attend a TEDx?

A forum like TED/TEDx is like a brewery! You have ideas all around you. You have people who are raring to contribute to the societal growth, development of communities across the globe. Its power of change in your own hands. No body stops a good deed, at least i believe so, in the end you get to see a ray of hope anyway. I am looking for that ray of hope, i have an IDEA, only an IDEA, which i intend to implement to bring empowerment to people who are talented in the parallels of what our society thinks is the only way to success. A new committed community development trust to identify, encourage and empower born-athletes to pick up games they are naturally inclined to. A consortium that will change the fate of Indian Sports – beyond Cricket. But that just the gore of the concept. However, the highlight is that it actually eventually enhance a specific segment of the society who other wise would have not got anything. A concept to shine the sparks, community devoted to ensure a 20,20 metal hawl at the 2020 olympics for India.

Digital Media will re-establish the Satya Yuga

An abstract thought on the importance of digital media and how slowly the same is moving us to a better life.

I had this thought for a few weeks now and have been re-considering the same before I decided to share this with all. It’s a kind of funny analogy but I believe there is a lot of merit in it, considering many marketers are still grappling with the ways and means of this new invasion called socio-search to the digital space. Coming from an era of “captive” marketing, brands are scared of this demand and feedback based ecosystem. This article, thus, will essentially reconnect marketers with the core basics of life and map them with the new age marketing dynamics and more so for the digital leg of it. Simple techniques of being fair and truthful to the consumer through elevated experiences will win over many others. No rocket science, eternal truth correlated to the most modern marketing ethos, over here.

As per the Hindu mythology, the yugas are said to succeed each other almost endlessly. After the perfect Satya Yuga, a decline marks the Treta Yuga. Further decline brings about the Dwapara Yuga, and after it comes the final and dark Kali Yuga, a time of wickedness, when man kills another man the one we are all in. At the end of this era and during an auspicious time, Vishnu’s Incarnation Kalki shall take birth in a Brahmin family. This mighty, intelligent and valiant incarnation shall engage in good of all benefactors.

Hiya! That’s all folks! No offense but I guess most of us think that these are just stories and nothing like these could have happened to the mankind. I won’t deny I am also quite an atheist when it comes to a complete submission to such mythologies.  But recently, a change of heart has happened and I can see through these ageless sayings and probably understand the nuances of sublime faith and piousness. As they say the perceived meaning of any sayings is in the heart of the believer and not at the literal translation of what is said and what it probably had meant. Everything requires a relevant customization, a situational interpretation.

It is widely believed that in the holy and divine Satya yuga, Bhagwan Kalki shall destroy all the dacoits and robbers -all things – which are unfair, untrue and shall establish the auspicious ideals and principles propounded by Lord Brahma after which he shall go to the forest to practice penance. And in this age, all would be inclined towards the supreme knowledge and all actions performed would be in the intention of attaining celestial bliss. Satya Yuga, as the name depicts is all about the truth, is all about value and all about believing in the collective intelligence of pious people. I am wondering if we have started seeing the signs of the same already? May be? May be not?

Google’s Search+, Facebook’s search and this entire phenomenon of Socio-search is probably the 1st step towards that.  Digital marketing has become mainstream in many parts of the world for past half a decade, a country like India is catching up fast.  Brands/marketers are smart and they learn things quick. So it is pretty easy for today’s brands to try to capitalize various advanced digital marketing techniques and attain a level of success they aspire.

However, that’s not how it’s going to be any more. Paid bursts won’t create ripples for long. It will buy eyeballs but can’t emulate historic level of consumer trust. Increasing infusion of social and sharable features will take the game away from marketers even more.  Are you getting what I am trying to say? May be not. Let’s try to simplify things here.

For example, let’s look at how Google search+ functions. Search has always brought you information from across the web. Now, search gets better by including photos, posts, and more from you and your friends. A little help from your friends is what this product thrives on. We all turn to people we know and trust for great recommendations. With personal results, you’ll see relevant tips, photos, and posts from your friends right alongside results from the web. Personal results are marked with an icon so you know they’re just for you. 

Think of a world where every or the other search result about your brand that pops up to your consumer is actually a function of recommendations, relevance and past experiences from people who have already used your product. Is there anyway you can afford to do anything else than creating a much elevated brand experience for your consumers, knowing that these are those important experiences that will drive future interactions with your potential audience base? Will you still be wishing “good morning/good night” to your consumers on your brand page? Would you still take a chance to not call back a consumer who tried contacting your Call Centre 48 hrs ago? Would you still hire a social agency to respond on time or ensure that your real life product quality really hits the node with every possibility? Will you not be bothered about delivering quality more than ever before considering you have very little to push back? I think, one would! Digital, especially social media will ensure you maintain the quality you claim to deliver each time and that’s it: we are in Satya Yuga as consumers!

So my quick tips for brands to be ready for the Satya Yuga:

  • Be Genuine:  Good, bad, ugly; you got to be keeping up to the pace of what’s happening around. Thank your customers for everything good they say, Own up to your mistakes and try to pacify the ugly with a definite intent!
  • Experience matters most:  Fans need enough ammunition to talk about your brand on their own.  Make them proud to be associated with you, give them fire power, they will fire. No, not incentives, I am talking about the pride one gets by associating with you. Infuse the thought within your product development cycle
  • Team up: When you meet people who talk positive about you, try to find out what made them do so. Team up with them; ensure you continue to deliver such high standards. Ensure the positivity is scaled up
  • Blast from past: Nobody likes their favorite brand to make the same mistake over and over again and especially the ones we hate. Deploy an active learning sheet to note down things that didn’t work and ensure they aren’t repeated. However, vice versa isn’t true. Over usage of strategies that worked will also experience decline in consumer interaction
  • Listen more, talk less: A fine line between sound and noise, don’t forget that. Brands need to listen more engagingly than make a lot of noise. [My next article “the art of listening” will elaborate this topic]

 In this way all these divine people (read consumers) would be bestowed with sublime faith and piousness. They would effortlessly attain sublimity or union with God, which is a salient feature of Satya yuga. Very valiant, mighty, intelligent people gifted with all good qualities will ensure your brand reaches newer heights that one wouldn’t have other wise.

(This has already been posted at: