Thursday, October 16, 2014

We started something, now what?

As wife and I sit in these free upgraded seats to Business Class on @QatarAirways (thanks guys!) on our 15 hour trek for a 3 day beach holiday on the east coast of Sri Lanka, I am compelled to think about how I got here and where I’m going. And by ‘here’ I mean in life. I am compelled to write...

It’s no mystery to my close friends and family that I’ve enjoyed a tremendous, privileged life. My family has been number 1 with giving their all to ensure I get and stay on the right track to stand on my own two feet. I love them all for it, but most importantly I am grateful to be born into this life the way I was. No regrets, no change necessary, thank you very much.

What does any of this have to do with this article? I’ll get to that. Meanwhile, let me reminisce please.

Growing up was always interesting. My sister, Zaiena, a fashion designer, and I are only 4 years apart, while my elder brother, Adnan, is 17 years my senior. Irrelevant in the grand scheme, because he’s as much my brother as any brother could be to anyone; in some ways even better. He really helped me grow up and for that I am grateful. Not enough has been documented about him and his life, one of success, failure, humility and realization. I have learnt infinite amounts just watching him and that may be a big contributor to where I go eventually. I’ll always love him for the unconditional love he’s given me, unconditionally.

My father, without a doubt my model on character and perseverance, chose to chronicle his trials, tribulations and triumphs in a book. I’ll never understand the intricate manner in which he planned and secured our futures with his hard work, almost so infinitely, but without a blemish on his professional career.

Let’s not forget the kindred spirit who bore me for 9 months + 2 extra weeks to bring me kicking and screaming into this life, my beloved mother, who has seen her fair share of challenges – but championed her way through like it was nothing. She could have had a lot more, and still can.

I’m of a different generation than my parents; one where the internet began and now considerably dominates our existence …to…the…core! Just ask my wife. “Put down your phone when I’m talking to you!” She couldn't be more right; I'm so engrossed in all things digital.

The internet, such a wonderful wonderland, where so many Alice’s and Caterpillar’s live. A place we where we seek all our answers, ask all our questions, make many of our friends and share our experiences with. It could also be seen as a void or black hole that sucks in but doesn’t ‘give out’ so to speak. 

Yet here we are, in an era where 5 year old Whatsapp can be sold for a mere $19 billion US; peanuts for a guy who started a simple ‘hot or not’ kind of website. Now, 10 years on, makes headline news when recognizing small eastern European countries by simply adding them to a drop down list. So much power and still not as corrupt as the wolves running our many countries? Strange… or is it? I wonder.

So what is it that sets apart the many wannabes, has beens and are going to be’s? What is it that I can do with my 9 year old idea that has now evolved into so much more than I could ever have imagined? Part of it is creative imagination; part is the support from friends and family. The rest is really just a belief in something so important for me that it’s hard to walk away and ignore it any longer.

Without striking overzealous comparisons with the likes of Facebook, foona review started off as a name for something that I hope will, one day, set a standard that food can abide by – moderated and presided over by the general public, or foodies. Everyone asks how it will do something different. Depends on what they consider the norm. 

Do we have a platform that truly engages the foodie sense of individuals that is built over time, with a lot of love, care and attention? Much like how we are raised, so are our senses and abilities developed to differentiate between what is good and what is bad. Food is no exception – and I think a lot of food poisoned individuals can testify.

What does my family have to do with it? Everything! Them, my friends, my neighborhood, the cities I visited and lived in, all have a major influence on my perception of how good food should be. They are my credentials.

Can you tell me that there is a perfect measure for this, covering everyone equally? I doubt it, because in my 35 years, I haven’t seen any. Sure there are a dime a dozen sites that offer the same functional features, but I'm talking about behind the scenes thinking, philosophy. I think we can try and establish them, but standards are but the thoughts of many put together in a cohesive environment, usually becoming influencing factors for the decision of others. Who better to offer these standards than the buyers themselves; you and me alike.

At foona, the technology that we use to do what we want will continue evolving, but a great idea can stay great for eternity, if its utility is continually realized. Kind of like a light-bulb. No, foona is not a light-bulb and I will not be credited with making Edison turn in his grave. It was merely a light-bulb moment. I’m just saying, even the most meaningless idea can someday shape our every decision, if executed well. 

In the meanwhile, I have some work to do. I hope that you will continue sharing your thoughts, ideas and, most of all, criticism, about how I can make it better for you. My wife is committing to guiding me because she sees how far I am from where I want to be, with all these scattered pieces of thoughts floating around me. 

If I fail, at least I tried and tried again. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Yin and Yang of Digital

We have heard all the stories about how companies are getting 'Digital' and turning a new leaf with their online offer. Some hire agencies, others do it in-house. As long as the change is coming, it doesn't really matter how. Of course, the only exception to that note is buying fans, which is a big 'NO-NO'.

In my past life, when I was a budding social media self-starter, I learnt very quickly the importance of an integrated communications approach. It helps break down the spawning barriers between Marketing & Communications and Digital. Like with many others, you will have experienced Digital spawning out of the traditional MarComms role, because Digital used to be all 'websites and stuff'.

I was lucky to get Social Media dubbed under Corporate Communications and PR work, since it was more to do with regularly communicating in real-time with customers. Through trial and error, we realized that MarComms and Corp Comms need to co-exist, plan and execute together. This was before customer service was brought into the picture.

Today, the way I see social media is like a Venn Diagram, where there is a significant common overlap between all three functions, which are all tied together by a common organizational brand strategy. Brand isn't just MarComms, it's All Comms.

Demonstrating the functional relationship between all three is quite simple. Convert your online customers offline and vice versa. 

How? Have a competition on your Facebook page, offer a give-away, award a winner, celebrate them online, then invite them with family to your office, where you give the prize, take pictures and create a story to share back online with everyone. Your virtual customer just became real, one that won't soon forget. 

Congratulations! You've just created a brand advocate and understood the 'Yin and Yang of Digital. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Accident's don't happen, they are caused...

 ...and why this matters in business as much as life.

Often I have been in situations, mostly while growing up, where I blamed everything and anything but myself for whatever happened, unless the outcome was good. This was the birth of not giving credit where it was truly due, but also not recognizing the importance of taking responsibility.

Anecdotes are a lot like old wives tales or urban myths. We can stretch it as far as a striking comparison with superstition. The parallels are quite simple - really just different ways of looking at things. Like Robin Williams did in 'Dead Poet's Society', change your perspective, stand on top of the table. They help by guiding us through situations plain, simple words cannot otherwise do.

This morning I got my daily email news from a widely read Pakistani newspaper, where a headline read, "17 schoolchildren killed in accident". The article is about how two large vehicles collided, one of them carrying the 17 kids destined for death today. Some say when your time comes, it was actually written sometime back by some unknown scribes. I haven't prescribed to this thinking. The accident wasn't an accident, just as their death wasn't an accident; it all could have been avoided. 

I like to think that there is more to life than just conforming to rules others set for you, whether religious, social, academic or professional. No, that does not mean I prescribe to rebellion, although I have been known to condone such acts occasionally. 

Go out and take a risk. Do something different. Be a salmon. Buy a Dodge Charger, despite the myths of after-purchase market value or spare part prices.

How else will you know there's yet another way to do it, right or almost? Math is pretty boxed in with all those formulas. Yet every once in a while, a rebellious mathematician presents another way to crack the code. I hated math, never was any good at it.

There is always a method to the madness and it's not accidental. The first step to recognizing this is learning
to take responsibility for your individual actions. We may or may not be born good, but we do have a lifetime to correct it with all the messages shrouding our everyday. You could be daft to miss them, for which you still remain responsible, whether or not you choose to accept.

Step back, take a look at the macro before analyzing the granularity of the micro. After all, it just took one caveman to be 'different'.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Best Competition is Partnership

Image: Gamespot

"I destroy my enemies by making them my friends" ~ Abraham Lincoln, 

If you ever studied economics or the basics of supply and demand, you will know that they are kind of like yin and yang and go together like pieces to a puzzle.

Do you wonder why demand is sometimes high, but supply remains low? Aside from other complicated reasons like regulation, sometimes it's as simple as you don't know where your customers are - thereby missing out on a great opportunity.

Competition is good. It's healthy and it gives you drive to keep charging on. Complacency is a killer and the only way to kill the killer is to find new and better ways of improving your business, your product and your brand. This doesn't mean paying an agency millions of dollars to redo you, but rather simple things like staying true to your brand values. Consistency can kill the killer, without becoming boring.

These days it's all about keeping the customer in the center of it all. Isn't that how it's always been? Maybe I missed the memo. 

Feet on the ground. Get a solid partnership, even if it's with the competition. Some companies kill their own products by cannibalizing existing products with new ones. Don't reinvent the wheel, expand it's purpose. Partnerships lead to creativity and that is the best competition - with your own product. 

Image:   CK NG of Indonesia
I remember someone once telling me - it's not the ones ahead of you that you should worry about, it's the ones behind you; they have drive the drive you once had.

It's the same as 'keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer'. The positive side of this is simply don't wage a war, rather find common ground to succeed. Two is better than one.

Imagine if Coke and Pepsi tried this...

more reads

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...