Tag Archives: India

Effects of culture on work practices

I’ve noticed behaviour like this in organizations over the last several years, especially in India (or with those from India working elsewhere)…

Some people don’t respond to a Microsoft Outlook meeting request, especially if there is a conflict or even if they just don’t plan to attend the meeting — Fear of looking bad, or still worse, they don’t want the person who sent the request to feel bad that they aren’t attending his/her meeting!!

(Am sure there are several more examples…will keep adding to this)

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How is ‘Design Thinking’ different?

“How is design thinking different from process re-engineering or business consulting?”
BusinessWeek’s Bruce Nussbaum responds in this video (damn thing refused to embed in WordPress!).

I think this answer does help in understanding the differences for the-already-informed, those who at least have bare minimum understanding or awareness about ‘design thinking’ (or similar topics), but it is unlikely to address questions of those who are completely new to it.

In my work, as I talk to several clients in the Indian industry, I see a huge need for simplifying and demystifying these terminologies and communicating them in a much simpler, yet emphatic manner.

These are some of the typical questions I’ve been asked quite often:

  • “So, you do market research?”
  • “My sales team (especially in FMCG companies) are already out there in the field and are meeting customers on a day-to-day basis and observing them. How is this different from that?”
  • “What do you guys finally give us (deliverables)?”
  • “How can you study just 10-20 people and make conclusions about users across the entire country?”
  • “Can you make this process more objective?”
  • “Users don’t know what they want. There’s no point asking them.” (This one is a classic)!

Having said that, (thankfully) there are those clients who’re much more aware, open and even very excited about “alternative” ways of approaching the same old business problems. In fact, when I tell them I don’t do focus groups, some of them actually look relieved! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Onward Journey

Here’s one blog post that I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life…

Let’s get to the bottomline first. The bottomline is that — Onward Research + Innovation is now closing operations! Yup, I am winding up the business!!

Why?
I have found an opportunity to do the same kind of work on a larger platform. Professionally, this is an opportunity for me to up the level of the game that I initiated at Onward, and to learn a lot more about how to run a business (and probably a million other things). And at a personal level, (obviously) this made sense for me from a financial stability point of view as well.

So, what’s this new opportunity?
I am moving to Mindscape, the strategic consumer insights division of Technopak. Technopak, as you maybe aware, is a management consulting company started up by Arvind Singhal in 1991. Mindscape was formed couple of years ago (approximately) and has been doing a lot of interesting work in the area of consumer insights & innovation.

I saw huge synergies in thinking & vision, in their approach to consumer insights & innovation consulting by adopting non-traditional ways – using ethnography, design research, observational studies, participatory design, etc. Given my background and passion (for this kind of work) and their approach, it didn’t take too long before I felt the right kind of chemistry with the Mindscape & Technopak management team.

So, what will I be doing at Mindscape?
My official title will be ‘Associate Vice President’ and my charter is to lead one of Mindscape’s new offerings, “Innovation & Design Insights”. While the actual work on the ground will not be very different from what we were doing at Onward, but being part of a larger outfit like Mindscape will allow us to take on larger assignments, work with better access to resources, and of course bring lots of other obvious advantages of working in a larger establishment.

What happens to my team?
My team (of 2 wonderful, hardworking & highly committed professionals) – Samrat Nawle and Ranjit Singh are moving with me and will be part of my team at Mindscape. They tell me they are quite happy & excited about this big change as well (though Ranjit did take a little longer to initially digest the news considering all this happened just 2 months after he joined Onward & started his non-academic career!!)! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Where are we going to be based out of?
Bangalore, as always. The Mindscape office in in the heart of Bangalore city, 11th floor in UB City on Vittal Mallya Road (yes, overlooking Vijay Mallya’s plush mansion next door)!

How was the journey for me? Did I learn & grow in the process?
Oh YES, BIG TIME! The journey was a roller coaster ride (that’s the best analogy I can think of right now). Like an entrepreneur once told me, “The Highs are High, the Lows are Low”. ๐Ÿ™‚ It has been THE most challenging, confronting, exciting, crazy, weird, intense 2 years of my life.

Needless to say, a decision like this isn’t made overnight (heck, it took around 4 months with several sleepless nights!) and isn’t an easy decision for an entrepreneur! I consulted and took feedback from my Advisors/Mentors and several other entrepreneur-friends. And at the end of all that, what matters is that I feel good about this choice. I feel complete about what I have accomplished AND even what I did not accomplish, as an entrepreneur in these last 2 years. ๐Ÿ™‚

So, what did I learn in the process?
I actually feel overwhelmed when I think about all those million little and big things I’ve learned in this time. Will definitely write up a separate blog post to do justice to those million things. Stay tuned.

Ok, now that I’m done with answering all these questions…

I have several dozen folks who I need to thank (yes, acceptance speech coming up). Again, stay tuned for a separate detailed post on that one. And finally, this blog will continue. The Fly On The Wall lives on, though probably on a different domain name (need to figure that one).

Thanks for reading, sharing and being (directly/indrectly a part of) the most exciting 2 years of my life. Cheers…

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.ย  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!

The ‘Fly on the Wall’ is a year old!

They say time flies. True. Before I knew it, it’s already been a year since “The Fly on the Wall” was born. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s some statistics to feel good about (not earth-shattering, but it’s a start)…

  • Total posts: 110
  • Comments: 134
  • Total page views (excluding me): 14,278
  • Number of spam comments: 882

Most popular posts (in terms of traffic; not necessarily my favourite ones):

Popular search keywords leading to this blog:

  • “indian feet” (I still don’t get why people search for “indian feet”!!!)
  • “chevrolet spark”
  • “lord shiva”
  • “car dashboard”
  • “rajini”

What’s in store for the next year:

  • More authors other than me (anybody interested?)
  • More posts (including video-interviews & conversations with interesting people) of research & innovation related topics
  • Sharing more of the (non-client) work we do at Onward
  • More consistent/regular updates
  • Re-design of the blog user interface

Any other suggestions/ideas?

And finally, to all those loyal/faithful/patient/supportive readers of the blog out there, here’s a BIG…THANK YOU!!!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 Plugged.in) 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 โ€œYour Voiceโ€ 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%.

And…

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 โ€œJust for funโ€.

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?