Matchmaking@The Hindu

The Hindu has a hoarding up for its matrimonial pages today, claiming, “What Parents do for their children, Behind their backs.” Hullo! I know the Hindu is an ancient newspaper with a hoary past and all that, but do they necessarily need to reveal such an ancient mindset? When matrimonial sites are proliferating, and even social networking could rapidly be a conduit to dating and perhaps marriage, why are parents sneaking behind backs trying to set up marriages? And then the paper also had to put in a killer tagline, “Making matchmaking enjoyable”. My mind boggles!

Your very own Comic Strip

Looks like everyone is blogging these days, and using the new media (blogs, social networks) in different ways. Did you know Virgin Comics had a blog? Not just that, they’ve entered into a deal with MySpace to launch something called Coalitioncomix where MySpace users can have a say in whats being created. Basically, to the small extent of choosing from a set of given storylines and so on. I wouldn’t really call it a “user generated” exercise, since that would mean users actually getting involved in creating characters, total plot, graphics and so on. But yes, it probably will build a tremendous amount of visibility for Virgin comics through MySpace.

I wonder whats in it for the comic book creators. I somehow believe firmly that a wiki approach doesn’t work when it comes to creative work of this sort. Ofcourse this is far less ambitious than the penguin wiki novel project, but still, I doubt anything really worth reading will come out it. Comic buffs have derided it as just another stupid talent show though I really don’t think the objective is to generate fresh talent. It doesn’t offer enough room for that.

Like I said, its good publicity for Virgin and using a social networking platform, especially one as popular with young people as MySpace, will probably mean publicity to the right audience.

How fast do you want your mail?

I am a little surprised by this new free mail service that has started advertising quite heavily these days – Zapak Mail. (See the ad story here and here.)I think I’ve seen a few other variants as well, the basic premise being, zapakmail is fast and simple.

Now Zapakmail is one of the last entrants in this crowded market, with the global biggies Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail, as well as the Indian guys, Rediff, Indiatimes all well established. So why exactly should one go in for zapak mail? (Besides the weird name, if such things appeal to you)

Its free, just like any of the others. But, oh, its simple as well! And – don’t forget this, fast! The website promises “Experience fast search, send and receive mails on any connection”. I searched for any sort of information on this, but couldn’t really find out how this works. What exactly enables Zapak to beat a poor internet connection and still be fast enough? The site doesn’t say. For me, I would rather have an automatic save feature like google’s which ensures that my long mail doesn’t get lost in the event of a sudden power failure.

It also promises though that “Anyone can use it, just – Log in, Compose and Send!”. Wonder what was so tough about other services.

However the sheer noise that the brand is making must be having some effect, I suppose. Otherwise, how else can one account for a supposed record they have achieved – 1,15,263 users signing up in a day!

Branding the Basic

I’m back! After a long holiday and one more week of absence due to not having computer access, it feels good to be back! Absence from the blog world sometimes feels almost like being banished to a remote outpost of civilization, that’s how addictive it can become.

I thought I would start off with some thoughts on one of the first hoardings I noticed on my return to India. Dropping into Chennai, I found many hoardings plastered with well known character actor Prakash Raj’s face, promoting a new product called ‘Krd Rys’. Now, as a native Tamilian myself, I’ve been the butt of many a curd rice jeer, but there is no denying that the plain and simple curd rice is nevertheless a favourite in the state. Garnished with some roasted dal, mustard seeds, chillies and some coriander, it can even take on a modest gourmet avatar. But, a branded curd rice!

Thats still a concept tough for me to appreciate. It looks as if such a product would mainly be for out-of-home consumption, say eating in at work. But, most South Indians get all the curd rice they want, at home. Would we order something like this for lunch as well? Or, even if we wanted to, its such a simple dish that its easily available at the smallest of hotels that serve “meals”. Younger audiences such as school and college-goers, I somehow can’t see them picking up such an unglamorous meal, even if it comes with a fancy sms-ed up name. And Housewives? Are you kidding! Rs. 10 is cheap , but spending that on basic curd rice which is so easily available at home…

I don’t know if the product is being aimed at the city’s non-local population. Chennai is increasingly acquiring a non-native population, but again, these are mostly North Indians, and curd rice is unlikely to be a popular choice with them. I am also wondering what sort of storage the product requires. If it requires a cold chain (without which curd could very likely turn sour), then it may be sold mainly in supermarkets/large stores – not the sort of place one picks up a quick meal from usually. Ofcourse Hatsun Foods, which owns the brand, could use its Arun Ice cream facilities, but the mind boggles at the thought of an indulgence product like ice cream and the humble curd rice at the foot ladder being sold together…

A Hindu Businessline article on the launch says, “Details of the investment have not been disclosed but the thinking behind the launch of the product is evident.” Not so, methinks. Perhaps readers could share their thoughts and enlighten me?

Hoarding Watch : ColorPlus

I confess – I am a big fan of outdoor advertising. I know it clutters up the landscape horribly, but I love analysing the ads and images on my way to work or anywhere else.

I confess too, that this hoarding from ColorPlus, the men’s clothing brand has me a little perplexed.

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What’s the message? That ColorPlus offers women’s clothing too now? In which case ok. But somehow, ColorPlus has this image as a western clothing brand, while the fabrics they’ve shown here don’t seem to match that. Is it supposed to be Indo-Western? Readers, please decode… its all too much, as they say! (atleast for me!)

Customer Service Indian Style

I believe ATMs in Japan never ever go out of order. Its considered a matter of shame if machines malfunction, and companies go to incredible lengths to ensure that they work round the clock, or repair them immediately, if they ever go out of order. (I read a very interesting article on this some time ago, though I can’t trace it now, maybe readers have some clue?)

In Bangalore ofcourse, ATMs malfunction all the time (apart from the too long queues at key locations). Machines sometimes don’t work, they sometimes run out of cash, and sometimes even swallow your card. And companies seem to take their own sweet time to run repairs — I know some banks where one machine is permanently not working.

So if you can’t ensure that your technology works all the time, and neither can you put it back quickly when it breaks down, whats the next best thing you can do? Why, direct your customers to the nearest alternative ofcourse !

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*(This ATM was working – I guess the notice was up in the event of any breakdowns or maybe just in case of long queues!)

Marketing in the public sector

While marketing in the public sector is no longer the humdrum stuff it used to be, (think SBI ads), sometimes you still find amusing pieces/ reminders.

I saw this fairly mid-sized board on MG road yesterday, and not one, but two of them, placed hardly 2 minutes walk away from each other.

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I looked and looked, to see where the exhibition was being held, but couldn’t find any address. Until – I walked another 2 minutes, and found this – the entrance to the venue !

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Hows that ! The Ministry of Textiles obviously has money to spare if they can afford to advertise right outside the venue !