Category Archives: Technology

Voice SMS – wrong audience?

The Airtel Voice SMS ad (below) is now being regularly aired on most Indian TV channels.

I found it surprising that Airtel seems to be targeting this service at the middle or the top layers of the socio-economic pyramid. Given the general perception that those in the ‘Base of the Pyramid‘ are more likely to need and use voice-based features on mobile phones, I’d have thought Airtel would go after the BoP audience (probably in addition to other segments). It’d be interesting to test this service with BoP users and see whether they’d take to it.

On another note…

Is this also an attempt at changing the typical Indian phone usage behaviour — the innate unwillingness to use voice mail on phones (I’ve heard various theories on this one, will save that for a different post)? It’s still early days, but I still don’t see any sign of a dramatic change in that behaviour!

Also, I realized there is a basic usability issue with the way one has to record the voice message. To send a voice message, one has to dial * and then the number.  Which means, I can’t use the “Contacts” on my phone to send a voice message!! And given how dependent we are now on our Contacts, this is so unusable!


Talk at MindTree: “Understanding Your Users”

Was invited for a talk at MindTree, at their fancy “Global Village” campus in Bangalore, to talk about “Understanding Your Users“.

Heavily loaded topic, of course. I decided to focus on 1 possible way of understanding users — using photo documentation techniques to uncover unmet & unarticulated needs. Walked through some examples of photo documentation based user research, using a recent informal study we conducted on the topic, ‘Car Storage Behaviour & Needs’. And, at the end, I also shared some “best practices” from my personal experience of having used this technique over the years.

The audience consisted of people from varied disciplines – Engineering, User Experience/Usability, Product Management and Business Analysts…so, decided to keep the content relevant for audiences that are completely new to user research, as well as those who have basic awareness and minimal practical experience in field techniques.

The complete presentation can be downloaded here.

Interestingly, the crowd was very enthusiastic and inquisitive. Unlike similar sessions I’ve conducted before, the audience here warmed up very quickly and were full of questions in the very first few minutes. Was quite impressed with the level of enthusiasm and “aliveness” in the group. It made the whole effort very fulfilling!

And, here’s what it looked like…

Param\'s talk at MindTree

Facebook and pedigree

The Nielsen Company has published this report (via on the usage patterns of online social networking trends in India. Excerpts:

The Nielsen Company recently conducted a survey in India using its online research panel “Your Voice” on the usage patterns of Social Networking websites and found keeping in touch with people they know to be the strongest reason for joining a social networking site for the vast majority of Indian respondents (82%). The Nielsen survey also found over half (58%) joined a social networking site to reconnect with old acquaintances they have lost touch with, and to make new friends (53%). Professional networking was a strong fourth for 43%.


Security reasons were cited by 68 percent of the respondents for using alternate identities on sites. They prefer not to reveal their personal details. 35 percent chose to use an alternate identity “Just for fun”.

What (especially) didn’t work for me about this study…

The survey was conducted amongst 301 people across various age groups starting from 15 years onwards.

When one is drawing usage patterns in online social networking in India, would a sample size of 301 suffice? Sounds rather strange.

Anyways, here’s another interesting observation (about the competition in the social networking space in India) from a cover story about Facebook (registered users only) in India’s leading weekly magazine, Outlook:

Facebook, on the other hand, has a whiff of pedigree, privilege and exclusivity about it, since it was founded by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg and was originally restricted to students of Harvard and other Ivy League colleges; an impression strongly reinforced when a study last year concluded that Facebook users tended to be better-educated and wealthier than those on other networking sites. That Facebook comprises a well-heeled crowd that freely shares its consumer tastes means that even if its numbers don’t quite match Orkut’s, it’s by far the most sought-after hunting ground for market researchers and targeted advertising.

Experientially, I’d agree with this strong generalization (about “whiff of pedigree, privilege and exclusivity”). But, I wonder if the origins of Facebook really have much to do with the kind of people who populate the site? I can understand that being an influencer in the US, where it all started, but would that trend spread to far flung countries like India as well?

Gadget revenge time

And finally, someone’s realized people aren’t really enjoying their relationship with their gadgets (isn’t that what it is, a “relationship”?). Wired is running a ‘contest’ on documenting the worst thing you’ve done to your cellphone/TV/laptop or any other gadget.

These are the moments when you wish that your cellphone — an otherwise helpful gadget — had nerves and self-awareness so that you could cause it pain. Now is your chance to get even.

We want to see you take revenge on all the old electronic equipment that has bumped you into a higher health-risk bracket from increased blood pressure.

Here’s the entry that I’m voting for:

I had this crappy phone from LG that never got a good signal at my apartment. One day I was trying to send a text and it kept saying “Sending failure. Try again?” After getting that error message for the 100th time I got very angry. I thought about throwing the phone down on my porch but I knew it would smash into smithereens. So instead I yelled “You piece of sh*t!!” and I bit the phone. Yes, I BIT it. The LCD screen never worked again.


New age marketing

HDFC Standard Life Insurance has created a ‘Responsibility Quotient’ application on Facebook, I’m guessing one of (if not the first) time a major Indian business entity is taking to the social networking platform for marketing and brand building.

The ‘application’ is nothing but a contest-quiz, which if you happen to win, your parents get to fly to Paris for a vacation! Cool, eh? I think the whole thing’s a decent idea considering it reinforces the concept behind one of their recent products, a ‘Unit Linked Savings Plan’, that’s apparently “a plan ideal for young professionals”.

Linked to Bill and the billion-dollar question

Here I am, checking out LinkedIn’s new & improved website and right on top of the homepage, there’s a huge, cannot-miss-blurb (ad?) calling your attention:

Bill Gates asks: How can we do more to encourage young people to pursue careers in science and technology?

Obviously, I click on it. I find myself checking out the beginning of a long list of responses (1674 answers). Bill’s LinkedIn profile page isn’t too far away either! Here’s what I loved about his profile page (apart from the fact that I’m a “3rd degree contact” to Bill):

Contact Settings
Bill Gates is not currently open to receiving Introductions or InMail

Anyways, amusing-stuff-to-trip-upon apart, I’m happy to see somebody like him is now just a proverbial click-away!

And, here was my answer to his question, for whatever it’s worth. (Since I do have a hammer in my hand, everything does look like a nail):

First, use ethnographic research to understand the core issue…about why young people aren’t pursuing careers in science and technology.

We need to understand what factors motivate them to turn away or to look at other careers and what factors influence today’s youth in their career choices.

The solution to the above question will be easier to find once these motivators & influencers have been identified & clearly articulated.

So, do I now get the billion dollars? 😉

Buy online to avoid embarassment

Heard about this online startup based out of India (from, ShopImagine. Their claim to fame — “India’s largest luxury lingerie selection”.

Their About Us page says –

“Of all of the complaints that men and women have about buying lingerie, the embarrassment of having to go into a store and buy sexy undergarments that would otherwise be kept private is the number one complaint. At you can buy babydolls, teddies, camisoles, corsets, bustiers, clubwear, sexy bras and panties in the comfort of your own home at any time of day or night.”

I can understand men having to deal with this embarrassment, but it is rather surprising that women (apparently) feel the same way.

Also, the models used seemed to be all non-Indians and I’m now really curious:

  1. Was this intentional? Or was it more of convenience, as in, using the catalogs of the companies that these guys source from rather than having to organize an exclusive photo-shoot in India with local models?
  2. Does it make a difference to the target audience (both men and women)? Does it influence their purchasing behaviour at all (either ways)?
  3. And, is there an “aspirational” aspect to this at all (like the “Fair & Lovely” phenomena)?