Monday, September 22, 2014

Food habits, traditions, trends and what sells in India

Some times I feel there is no logic in sales - especially in a country like India where everything sells from a Nano to Audi car! Being a foodie, I realize the same is true - there are enough number of options available in dining and still new and new food items as well as eating outlets keep springing up everyday in every nook and corner.

In last 5 years, more than 30000 students have attended our workshops and one of the exercise we do is on idea generation, where students are supposed to come up with their own ideas, and once they are excited about the why, they take ownership of the how (which makes our job of training them easy and fun). More than 30% of the ideas which come out in these sessions are related to a food business - whether a restaurant, catering service, website, growing vegetables or inventing an instant energy pill to replace food!

Personally, I am a late adopter in terms of food - being a vegetarian also does not help much (I turned a veggie by choice in 1996 after watching Maneka Gandhi's TV series). As far as I remember, the first time I had a veg manchurian was in 1999 (2 years after I went to IIT) when my dear uncle took me to Ambala. The next I recall having mushroom masala in Bangalore that was in 2001 when I had taken up my first job in Infosys. Modern stuff like enchiladas were alien and I had not even heard the names. In 2012, I had Momos for the first time - well I am told they have been in existence for over a decade all across Delhi. That was the first time I realized Delhi street food is awesome. And my current favorite is Soya Chaap - those rubbery protein stuff that I first time had in Amritsar when I had gone to GND University. The beauty of soya chaap is it tastes as good as non-veg, and looks nearly the same, so you can be happy and not guilty at the same time.

Well, as for food habits, I believe it takes 10 years to entrench themselves - so whenever you are making a food based business plan, be sure to have a decade window in mind. Mcdonalds took 10 years to establish in India, and today I am as used to it as having roti-daal. Same for Dominos and many other brands which made it big in India. Maggi had a patient journey before going for hockey-stick growth. And if you are a real risk taker - make something kids can have, and if they last it will be a lifetime business for you. Take the instance of KinderJoy - that small 2 toffees in a box with 1 small toy stuff - it sells for 35 Rs. I can imagine it must be taking 1-2 Rs to make. Rest is all marketing!

Healthy food and organic stuff may still be a decade away from becoming mass options, as per my thesis of adoption in India. It may take a new generation to adopt what the brands selling cornflakes, olive oil, sugar free etc are trying to sell.

Well, time for my lunch and lets see what we got! Till next time, be awesome and be healthy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Aaruush SRM University Workshop

Here is the cool pic of the #digigang in Chennai during Digipreneur Digital Marketing workshop

Monday, September 8, 2014

Living standards going down from Mumbai to Noida

Life takes us to many places, but very few places stay in our heart for life!

I was born in Kanpur, a mid-size town in India, and have traveled over 100 cities in my half-life. Mostly it has been for my work related to training and workshops in colleges, and some time for touring, family etc. As for home, I call India my home, but for last few years, I have stayed in 3 cities mostly - Mumbai, Gurgaon and now in Noida. And here is a very strong feeling that I am getting for last few days - that my living standards are going down as I move :-)

So lets start with Mumbai - if you enjoy the rains, and your office is near to your home, it is the best city to stay in. Traffic is organized and disciplined, 24 hours electricity, security for self and family at all hours, cheap as well as expensive eating out options, and multiple options for recreation - from malls to movies to beaches to hill stations an hour away - it is a dream place. From a professional point of view, it is a great place. Nurture Talent, my company, does workshops in colleges across India whether north, south, east or west. Mumbai, compared to any other metros is the best connected with all - Hyderabad is an hour away, while Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Kerala etc. in a couple of hours distance by flight. Most of Maharashtra can be covered by bus or train in a night's journey. Well, well, well - I had some good time personally and professionally between 2006 to 2012 in Mumbai.

Cut to Gurgaon - where I shifted to in early 2013 for family reasons. Traffic is half as decent in Gurgaon than Mumbai, and every 1-2 months the police changes the one-way directions. Bus and train connectivity is next to nothing, and for everything you need to go to Delhi as far as travel is concerned. Power situation is ok, and if you have inverter at home, then you can still survive. Of course, the roads are far broader than Mumbai but they cannot take the rains, and start flooding within 10 minutes of rains. But we took a comfortable home, and adjusted well to the surroundings. Gurgaon is much smaller compared to Mumbai, so you kind of feel cosy in the setup.

And then there is Noida - supposedly the jewel of Uttar Pradesh. 5 minute drive away from Delhi (that is what the real estate guys sell in their advertisements). And then you start realizing how your living standards are gradually going down - people do not care for red lights, power cuts 15 times a day and by 9-10 pm, the shops are all practically closed. Apart from an ISKCON temple and a bird sanctuary (with no birds), there is hardly a place to visit. And the cows own the roads anyways. Surprisingly, rentals are not cheap, and almost comparable to Mumbai and Gurgaon, despite the quality of life. There is a lot of potential to make it a great place to live, and I am sure Akhilesh Singh, the Chief Minister of UP will be thinking of something.

Let us hope Noida moves to a Mumbai standard fast, till then, just stay awesome.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Confluence IIM Ahmedabad and Nurture Talent workshop photos in M L Sukhadia University Udaipur

I had a touch and go visit to Udaipur, where I did a full day session on entrepreneurship at M L Sukhadia University. Udaipur is a night travel away from Delhi by train, and I was greeted in the city by heavy rains and smiling students. The energy in India's small towns is visible among the young guns, who have a desire to do great things. However, I advise them to travel more (even if it takes them out of as beautiful places as Udaipur).
Here are few photos of the session in action:

 There was very little time left at the end to explore the city, but I quickly caught up with khakra and gaathiya at Vasudev mithai shop!
It was a day well spent, and with the efforts of Confluence IIM Ahmedabad, Entre-cell of IIM A, Masterplan business plan competition along with Nurture Talent Academy, we aim to create the #nextbigentrepreneur.
The next part of this workshop series is takes us to IMS Unison University in Dehradun, and with the house already packed we are expecting more action. To check out if your city/college is a part of this interesting workshop series, visit

And you are awesome! Be yourself...

Monday, September 1, 2014

Do we really want success in Technology ventures?

Last weekend, we did a couple of workshops on social media marketing and search engine optimization. While the overall response and interest was great, I personally observed an alarming trend - there were 3 times as many people in our Social media workshop compared to the SEO/SEM workshop! All other factors remained the same - target audience, time, venue, fees, trainer, our reputation and marketing efforts in promoting both the workshops.
Search vs social has been a perpetual debate for last few years, and will gain even bigger comparisons in coming decade. However, from the personal interaction with few people and going by the numbers, I have a few observations:
1. People's interest in coding, programming and learning even the basics like HTML (one of the simplest) is going down. We share various tools and techniques with our participants, and there was more interest in understanding content strategies rather than coding techniques for growth hacking for getting customers.
2. There is a general fear of coding - with so many tools available for doing stuff which was earlier done using coding, I guess we are getting used to comfort. I remember during my Infosys days 12 years back, we had to write huge files and create libraries for date/calendar applications. And today we have simple plugins available for even complex stuff like auto-publishing content. This has made life simple for many, but may not go too well for building technology ventures.
3. This brings me to another important point - use of numbers, maths and data. While we talk a lot about analytics, big data, and data - driven decision making, we found that people in general are not too comfortable with numbers, neither too much interested in overcoming that fear.
This brings me to the most important point that worries me - if we fear coding and mathematics, how will we build technology ventures? Most of the famous US ventures we talk about in every case study and five star events were build by techies, supported by people who were maniac about numbers. India and China are known for being great mathematicians, and our nation has given many great scholars to the world. Lets not lose that edge to outsiders! Lets build and support the culture of building hardcore skills and not just talk about soft aspects or management funde.
And this does not take away anything from the workshop quality or the participants nature. We had a wonderful workshop and here is a pic of the smiling people at the end of the program.

This month we will be doing a series of digital marketing workshops across India including Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore. Do visit and share with your friends who may be benefited.

Till then, be awesome!