Examine the Rice first. 

A few months ago, two very senior professionals from a leading digital agency came over to Media2win (digital agency) to meet KK (CEO of media2win) and me.

They were examining the possibilities of a Joint Venture, given that they were keen to start up in India and had no local partners here.

Within a few minutes of speaking about Mumbai’s traffic and Indian food, the older gentleman (in his 50s), looked and me and said ‘Alok, I am really disappointed that you don’t do any offline (print, TV, radio) advertising business in Media2win. The new age digital agency in the UK does everything and that allows them to retain clients who like to deal with only one advertising agency. You better get that business started up or you will perish very soon’.

Hearing this, I was first shocked (at the suggestion), then dismayed (there went the JV) and then humored (on how ignorance was bliss).

I went up to the white board and drew this grid box:

Description

UK India

Population

60 million

1100 million
Internet users 40 million

40 million

Non Internet Users 20 million 1060 million
Internet penetration amongst users 66% 4%
Major Languages spoken 2 18
Major Newspapers Brands sold 20 120
Youth under 15 9 million 225 million

 

There was such a startling difference between the UK and India in each additional row that I kept adding on and on…

I bluntly told the visitors that they had no clue of what India was. Reading news headlines and watching snippets of India means nothing. Especially, if they were flying into India for the first time and then telling local folks like me and KK how to run an advertising agency! I patiently further explained that India had many ‘Indias within it; rural marketing was another animal – it was not akin to ‘countryside marketing’ in the UK; millions of people here could not read or write and in villages fairs, Bollywood songs were the route of marketing – not multimedia, Internet and Mobile Barcodes. Hence 360-degree marketing campaign (involving all mediums with one message) that made so much sense in the UK had little mass applicability in India.

In short, a digital agency in India was supposed to do only one thing – Digital - and not just to survive (a problem in the UK) but to actually thrive (the opportunity in India)!

This meeting was a classic case of trying to eat Rice and Sambhar Curry with Chopsticks. Barely anything would enter your mouth.

 

THIS DOESN'T MAKE SENSE!

 

Curry is hot. Don’t eat it fast.

A couple of years ago, my Co-Founders in Games2win – MK, Dinesh and I were at the Games Developers Conference in San Francisco. The city was buzzing, we were having lots of fun and were in that dreamy, ‘let’s change the world’ frame of mind.

Dinesh and MK decided that we should change the Mumbai office timing from the regular 10 am – 7 pm routine to a new 8 am – 5 pm one. The inspiration, of course, was the glorious USA that we were in at that time but also because we wanted our colleagues to come in early so that they could also leave early and ‘get a life’.

Once back in Mumbai, we implemented the change.

For me, it was quite an experience. It meant sacrificing my morning yoga and meditation and also hurrying through breakfast. I guess for the rest of the Company also, there was a bit of adjustment required.

A few weeks later, we observed a rather strange phenomenon. Most of the folks were managing to tumble in by 830 am, but were still hanging on till 7 pm!!

No one actually left at 5 pm. May be it was very odd to just get up and leave given the earlier routine or just because work was not finished.

The idea of ‘importing’ the American office timetable had backfired badly – we were now on the verge of burning out our people.

A few weeks later we reverted back to the ‘Mumbai’ routine.

What went wrong? I think, this time we were trying to eat Rice and Curry Sambhar with a knife and fork. Example - unlike the US where folks typically hop out of the office for lunch, our people who brought lunch from home had to now wake up at 4 and 5 am to make their food and bring it along. That was wrecking their family time. And despite the sacrifice, they were still reaching home at almost the same time they used to reach home when the office had regular hours! 

 

Sometimes Rice doesn’t need Curry. 

Almost every week I get questioned by investors and International players about the opportunity of the online gaming market and why hasn’t there been an explosion in India yet… like China! 

Large Gaming Companies officials fly down wearing suits and jackets and present their massive multiplayer games on their micro-mini laptops to me. Others speak about billion dollar revenues in virtual goods and how they believe that their games can generate almost hundreds of crores of revenues in India just by launching them here!!

Again, these folks are trying to ‘cut paste’ a business from one market to another. It just doesn’t work.

I patiently explain to them the uniqueness of the Indian market – we release almost 3-4 new movies every week, so entertainment is more prolific  ‘wide screen’ than ‘narrow screen’ as viewed on a PC or a mobile. India’s climate is temperate – so we don’t have to get cooped up inside our homes for many months (Europe, China) – hence entertainment is outside (friends, malls, etc), not inside (gaming). Indian parents, who determine Computer time at home, ‘over police’ their kids. We play and watch lots of Cricket and yet don’t play too many online Cricket games! We are just uniquely Indians!!

Sigh…

To all these aliens who drop in from the Sky, I reveal to them that Rice and Curry Sambhar is neither eaten with Chopsticks nor with a fork and a knife, but with the humble hands – 'coz that’s when it actually enters your mouth and also tastes the best!!

 

If you enjoyed the column, contribute by commenting and liking below!

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There is no like button :(

Love the insight into India. This is more fleshed out than what occurred to me a few days ago along the lines of many Indias and how forging it into single a nation (as part of your Ghandi rant) is a phenomenal undertaking...

I agreee with Indias within India, also we have total different approach for business and personal life. My customer will go ahead and buy 50 inch plasma for home irrespective of size of living room but go for 18.5 inch LCD monitors instead of 20 inch because it is 500 rs. cheaper.

 

We have our own culture and style and interpersonal relations.If you meet CEO of largest MNC, he will be absolutely westernized in approach but scratch a little and true Indian will appear.

the like button via ning should be out soon. there is no other way (that i know of) to put code into ning....

For "Sometimes Rice doesn’t need Curry."

Want to add alok that a little bit is changing here. More and more young kids are not playing the way we used to do when we were kids. Primarily in City where every piece of land is owned by builders, there are no ground to play. Kids have no other mean but TV or mobile games.

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