Sunday, December 27, 2009

The band-aid

Exams - done. 6 terms out of 8 - done. Away from the madding world of numbers, analytical models, studies and assignments. Part of the way covered, a rather long way to go.. still. And it is the end of the year. Perfect time for some thought and an a-ha moment! And here it is - I call it - the band-aid concept.

Almost all of us certainly have some aspect or piece of life, that is, well, for lack of a better word - unsavory. More often than not, it is a piece of the past - an event, or an experience, something that really didn't leave too good a taste. Well, in short, almost every one of us has felt some pain in some form or another. Although all of us wish never to feel any sort of pain, no one is born invulnerable! I feel that it is this pain we feel that makes us human. Pasts can be painful, but they are painful because they were associated with something that at one time brought immense joy and the absence of that joy or the reference to that joy in past tense is now unfathomably painful.

But no one enjoys being in pain. And fretting and agonizing over it, never leads anyone anywhere. But so full of ourselves are we, that we believe that we are invulnerable, omnipotent and we take a kind of morbid pleasure in masochistic tendencies. We feel it is rather 'cool' for lack of a better word, to subject ourselves to trauma while outwardly appearing strong and capable of 'handling it'. And my response to this is - drop the act, quit the mask. It hurts and we all know it. Smiling through the pain, laughing in the rain, is good for poems and songs. It's not wrong to hinge on to something else and try to heal and then move on. I allude to the band-aid. It comes in as a panacea on the wound, and helps you heal.

But for how long can you hold on to an external support to heal the pain within? Sooner or later the band-aid's got to come off! And here, pulling off the band-aid, hurts more than the wound itself. It is much less the actual pain, than it is the psychological apprehension that something could hurt. It is the fear of the unknown - once hurt, one gets used to the band-aid and is afraid now of a new way of life, after the pain and without the band-aid. If a certain thing of the past has been covered, with the object of letting it heal itself, it is better to let the band-aid come off on its own. Forcefully prying it off, trying to prove to the world that you are strong and can handle and face anything with courage and might, is probably counterproductive. Some shards of the old wound might still be rather green and these could end up hurting and perhaps even festering!

Yes, everybody hurts, and everybody is entitled to a bolster in order to heal. Arrogance and feigning superiority, never helped anyone. But so what if something hurt? That is life, and this pain is what primes you for better joys ahead. So, step into the new year, knowing that every past is a promise for a bright new future that results in a resplendent new present. So like someone said - the past is gone, the future is unknown, all we have is the gift of the moment, which is why it is called - the present... Happy new year every one!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The king is back - and this time for real :)

Not so long ago, there were talks that the king was coming back to race. Not so long ago, I was ecstatic about this fact and wrote this 'The king is back'. Not so long ago, I tried to hunt out ways of finding time to ensure 2 hours of bliss every alternate Sunday in the midst of a packed year. Not so long ago, I haggled with a friend on campus to ensure we got unabated access to Star Sports. Not so long ago, my hopes of seeing the king back on track were shattered. Yet not very long ago, came news that the king is indeed back. And this time, it is for real. So says his official site. And yet again, I am very happy about this turn of events.

I simply admire that person. Not just for the sportsman he is or for the magic he weaves on the track, but for the story he is. Many argue that he is ruthless and would do anything to win. I disagree. I think he is one sportsman who puts his 110% to achieve that success. Be it gruelling training sessions, or strategizing with the team. C'mon, he joined Ferrari when they were nothing more than a moneybag, and he was a reigning champion. He was hugely instrumental in turning them around. So for those critics who argued that Ferrari was twirled around Schumi's little finger, I say - deservedly so. Talent and results speak louder than words and these can drown any body's counter arguments.

Austria 2002, was perhaps an aberration, but then again, it was for the good of the team. At least Schumi and Ferrari did not blatantly defy the laws like Mr Hamilton! Never! And the adherence to talent, performance, hard work all iced with ethics, according to me, makes his list of followers long and never ending. It is very hard to come by a superstar who is not adulterated by his success. Schumi's humility in success and graciousness in defeat are legendary. He for one really never allowed success to get into his head. And that is where the piece of doing a task for the love of the task rather than for the love of the result comes in. I remember Tendulkar saying once that he played for the fun in the sport, not for the money and that money was just a temporal gain. I loved the ideology. And now again, take the case of Schumi. F1 is a risky sport. It requires tremendous levels of fitness, agility and mental acuity, not to mention the stamina to put up with the g-forces that throw one around in the cockpit. And Schumi is all of 41, with no one to prove a point to, with no one to answer to, with the marginal utility of money almost being 0! And so, when I wonder about why he wants to do it all again, I realize the sheer love and passion he has towards the sport and what he was doing as a member of the F1 family. I truly wish I could do something in my life that I would enjoy doing so much that no other lifestyle would appeal to me.

So, now I look forward to 2010 with renewed gusto. I can hardly wait for Baharain to begin. People who know me, would know the degree of respect I have for Herr Schumacher. Back in 2005, when he won the championship, I celebrated with pizza with a few close people, who had been on the receiving end of my fan following - the red dressing on Mondays post a Schumi victory or the irritation and better-stay-away-from-me-or-feel-sorry demeanor post a Schumi loss. And today after knowing that the king is soon coming back, I had to celebrate with a few friends, only this time, it was a post midnight caffeine session at our wonderful cafe here on campus. It is after all the emotion that counts right? So, best wishes to the king. Looking forward to the injection of life, ethics and thrill back into F1. I am sure Schumi's return would bring back eyeballs to the TV set. It sure as hell has brought back mine. Not to mention the return of Sporty Sundays on this blog starting next year :) Amen....

The Perfectionist

The Perfectionist. Someone who needs everything in the right place in the right way. Someone who will never rest until a job taken is well, PERFECT. I am sure almost all of us would have had a chance of meeting someone that suits that description. Some like such people, but a majority detest them. Reason, perfectionists can be exacting, very demanding just in order to achieve that perfect result. Some even use the terms 'perfectionist' and 'control freak' interchangeably. The perfectionist wants the perfect color in a painting, the perfect font in a presentation, the perfect report, the perfect everything. As long as THEY put in all the effort to achieve that, it's fine. But the minute they expect everyone else, who is really not interested in achieving that level of perfection, to go the extra 1000 miles, they get the epithet of being a control freak. And when that transformation happens, it is not a very nice place to be in!

But then I thought about this from the perspective of the perfectionist! I really wouldn't hold them to be really bad and mean. They are just driven by that deep desire to be the best. Which is not really wrong. And trust me, it is not easy being perfectionist. They end up shouldering responsibility for portions of a project that perhaps is wayyyyyy beyond their control. They end up pushing themselves over the limit to achieve that end. Now, the harmless variety of perfectionists who do not make life hell for everyone around is someone to be looked up to. Aamir Khan holds that title in the Indian film industry. And his is actually a case in point. Almost all of his movies are raging successes. And the effort he puts into each work of art is palpable in the end result. Be it the emotion, the narrative or even performing that intense workout for a role that is supposed to catch your attention for 3 hrs! It is tough.

Take for instance a perfectionist in a project. He/She not only works his/her part, but also goes through the whole to ensure the end result is up to expectations. Not only is this is a huge time commitment, that involves probable juggling of other key tasks and activities, but is also a huge center of stress, if the interim outcome is not satisfactory. They then push themselves to tie up the loose ends and bring the work up to mark. Imagine their plight, if for the failure of someone else, the whole work ends up bringing in sub-optimal results. They'd end up feeling cheated. But the chronic perfectionists never give up. They are psychologically bound to pushing for perfection. They somehow can never slack off. They feel inadequate if they are not perennially glossing over some aspect of the work at hand. And given that more often than not, they end up achieving their desired results, they don't mind the extra mile of effort. In fact, they are wary about losing the desired result, in case they don't put in that kind of effort.

So, is being a perfectionist a good thing? Well, I really don't know. But my guess is, as long as you don't kill someone else's happiness, while achieving super normal success, it is fine. What say?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Amazing snippet that I wish we could all follow...

A friend of mine just sent me this piece, supposedly written by Chetan Bhagat of 5 point someone fame. Now that book puts campus life in perspective and for the first time, shows the other non-glamorous side of IIT. And this piece is something I truly loved and I wish I could follow what he says here. So, Godspeed!

"Don’t just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.
There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.

"Life is one of those races in nursery school where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same is with life where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die. ……………….

One thing about nurturing the spark - don't take life seriously. Life is not meant to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? …………….

It's OK, bunk a few classes, scoring low in couple of papers, goof up a few interviews, take leave from work, fall in love, little fights with your spouse. We are people, not programmed devices........."

"Don't be serious, be sincere."!!

It is not just important what you have; it is more important what you do with what you have."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Livin it up... ISB style

Solstice is here, the annual Alumni meet here on the ISB campus. And today was yet another amazing evening. In fact we were looking forward to tonight, since we were supposed to experience a true musical extravaganza. And none of us left disappointed!
We began with the '09 band singing their trademark songs, followed by our very own Conjoint dishing out GNR, MJ and Metallica numbers. Some songs are absolute beauties, timeless wonders indeed - Beat it, Eye of the tiger, Sweet child 'o mine for instance. And then just as we began to think that the evening couldn't possibly get any better, well, it got better than the best! Raghu Dixit was in the house!! And mannnnnn Indian non-film music can be gooddddddd... They started off with Hey Bhagwaan and moved on to Mysore se aayi and a couple of Kannada folk songs. And then when they went on to 'I am in Mumbai, waiting for a miracle', almost all of us Bambaiyyas in the crowd went along holler lane! Vivid images of Maximum city played out in front of our eyes as we heard that song. And then we had the best song of the evening in 'Har saans mein, har dhadkan mein ho tum'. The crowds went completely ballistic. When the band announced the last song, the crowds yelled for more. The atmosphere was electric. There were lazer beams flashing around, true rock show style, but the psychedelic colors paled in front of the enthusiasm of the crowds. Chants of 'once more once more' went up, louder than ever. And the band complied. Not once, but time and time again. The crowds sang along, screamed along, danced, jumped, and completely LIVED IT UP! A show that was to go on from 9.30 to 12.30 went on all the way till 2 am! And the crowds never tired. The youthfulness was palpable, and almost everyone had shed off all veneers of maturity and gentility, almost going back to the carefree days of undergrad and school!

And it didn't end there. A bunch of us took off to the roof garden to take in the festivities from over a 100 meters above sea level! And I must say, the view from the top, is BEAUTIFUL. Humming and besura singing of the Raghu Dixit songs we had just heard was on with full gusto. Not only were we high up above the ground, we were also clearly high on life! And this is the way we live it up at ISB. We work hard and play harder. And we enjoy every minute of it. And these memories are what we'll take along as we move on. At the end of the day, we say to these moments - 'HAR SAANS MEIN, HAR DHADKAN MEIN HO TUM'.....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

You're worth it and you don't know it!

When L'Oreal says, "because you're worth it", trust that statement! Honestly. The average consumer has no clue how much conglomerates spend to try to understand the cogitations transpiring in that tiny little head of his (or hers). Now, for the average consumer, going and purchasing clothes washing soap is a mundane task. Something that needs to be done, for fear of the maid not washing clothes! Or worse still, washing the clothes in plain water and walking away! But it is amazing to think of the amount a company would pay in terms of money and time, to simply understand whether the color blue or the color yellow appeals to you in a washing powder! Or better still, to understand whether shelf placement a few centimeters to the right matters more than say keeping it to the left! Some research has shown that companies pay more for placement to the right than to the left, since majority of consumers are right handed. I was stumped! Since what is 'left' to us is actually right, perhaps if we move a foot to the left, get it? No? Well, please remember this line next time you walk into a mall to pick up toothpaste and let this be your a-ha moment of the day!

Studies on purchase behaviors abound. Studies on repurchase behaviors are even more numerous. Studies show that people get tempted to pick up more than they need just because the product is on promotional sale, and that many-a-time, the product picked is actually sub-standard and such that they perhaps won't pick it up if the product were not on sale! There are studies showing which portions of the brain light up in response to certain forms of ad communications! I could go on and on about such topics, but what fascinates me the most is the deeper linkage of a mundane purchase activity with sub-conscious cognitive skills, that we perhaps never knew existed!

Take for instance the whole Tiger Woods episode. Now 'High Performance, Delivered', the tag line of Accenture just took on a corny new meaning! But the flip side of celebrity endorsements could not have been more stark. Both in terms of Accenture's image and in terms of the harsher side of celebrity. One of my earlier posts - titled the devil within us spoke about the flip side of celebrity. And Tiger Woods is exactly a case in point. When the going is good, marketers egg us to go and be a tiger. And at first signs of negative associations, they drop the poor (sorry filthily rich) guy like a hot potato! They wish to shun any association, unmindful of the eyeballs and revenues he had brought in just a few months ago. Some question the credibility of the brand, and ask how loyal would they be to their customers, if they bite the hand that feeds them! But then, there are some more who say that the brand can convert this whole crisis into something deeper, something that can result in greater advertizing equity! And all this really at times makes me wonder about the 'Truman Show' called our lives! And I am talking about not just the circus that has become of Tiger Woods' life, but the whole aspect of mind games when it comes to reaching the customer. Somewhere, politics seems to have permeated the world of 'customer-product relationships', where sympathy, shock tactics and blatant attention grabbing methods seem to be playing out.

Then again, can we hold marketers responsible? The competitive landscape is such these days with over 20 brands vying for that 100 rupees in your wallet. And Darwin's theory still very much holds - and to be fit in extraordinary times, you do need extraordinary measures. So, till you see your own face on a reality show, sit back and observe the fun!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thinking too much

I do that all the time. That's why my blog's called 'Thought Center'. I read between the lines. In fact I read only between the lines, allowing my wild and vivid imagination to think up things that perhaps are so convoluted that only a martian could conjure up such tactics! Nevertheless, what I've noticed with people is that this 'overthink' results in a certain idea or viewpoint. And this viewpoint then becomes a religion. A religion that has to be protected at all costs. Guarded and upheld with one's life. The viewpoint then becomes so deeply ingrained that one could perhaps go out with their swords and off with the opponent's head! The viewpoint becomes one with the viewpoint holder and an opposition to the viewpoint then becomes a direct affront to the individual. And this can be harsh!

I remember one of my favorite profs once mentioning - 'In marketing people would tell you to go where no one has ever gone before. But stop to think whether no one has gone there before because there is a strong enough reason to not go there ever!' Yet another one of my fave profs said, "stop thinking beyond what is necessary. If there is a question, it is a plain question, set with the intention of exacting a straight answer. Contrary to what you may think, I get no pleasure by playing trick or treat with you guys!" So overthinking clearly is treading where no one has ever gone before and no one has gone there before because the place (in this case scenario I am imagining) is just a figment of my imagination! And imagining improbable what-if scenarios is akin to trick-or-treating! Besides, the strong adherence to a viewpoint, also reinforces a form of confirmation trap. I have an idea that I believe in. You present a contrary viewpoint, but I reject it since I am looking to prove my point. Any disconfirming evidence is actually not paid attention to! I just want to pick and choose information that buttresses my viewpoint!

So moral of the story - it does not pay to think too much. No matter how much one tries to second guess another human being or try to comprehend what is happening inside that person's black box called brain, the margin of error in the prediction is still going to be 50%. Since at the end of the day, unpredictability thy name is mankind! So don't ever waste time thinking and overthinking something. Some things are best tackled by rules of thumb and Bayesian probability!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bliss supreme - the evening after exams!!

Exams, exams, exams. I remember a time a couple of terms ago, when I sat melancholy on one of the 'kattas' of ISB and thought (as usual, a day before a deadly exam) - about the pathetic life I was leading. I left home and work and came here to study and ended up being examined every two weeks. Trust me, exams are worse than tooth exams or even the dreaded root canal! And I did some math. Given the number of subjects and given that almost every subject I took had a mid term and an end term, I would have on average given all of 64 EXAMS by the time I got out of here!!! And when I was thinking along those lines, I realized that I had only just crossed exam number 10!

And today, having finished 50% of term 6 at ISB, I do feel lighter, happier, that in the beam balance of exams, the pan of completed exams weighs more than the unfinished ones. Exams are tough. They are stressful. To the extent that many of my colleagues nowadays choose elective subjects that do not have exams at all! The email that used to come in a few terms ago stating that the Rec would be closed for exams used to send many of us into a 'dukhi tailspin'. And the thought used to be - 'Lo aa gaya aur ek torture'.

So much for the sad part of exams. There has to be a good side too, right? Well, if you expect me to speak about how exams nurture competition and help to separate the quality from the quantity and how exams are by and far the best things to happen to humanity since penicillin, WELL, YOU GOT ME WRONG! The best part about exams is the time when they end! Yes, the end of exams is the best part about exams. Just as we were walking home from exams today, a friend of mine mentioned the supreme bliss one experiences when an exam is over. I couldn't agree more with her. It almost is as though the pressure valve on a vessel were allowed to let out steam. The wind seems crisper, afternoons go from being sweltering to mellow and sunny. All of a sudden the chirping of birds is musical, even the crowing of an occasional crow! Task lists look prettier, with tasks like rent movie, order pizza, party, figuring multiple times on the list. Hours don't seem long any more, as you watch 3 movies back to back till the wee hours of the morning! And why? Well, we've worked hard - (or so we claim) and once the 2 hours of testing are done, the feeling is exhilarating.

'How the exam went' is an inconsequential question. We are only bothered about the fact that the exam is over. You may ask me about my motivation behind this post after terms and terms of painful exams. And my answer is - I really don't know. Perhaps bottled sentiments, after so long are getting an expression out here. There is another event tied to exams that demands mention. And that is the day before the last exam! I still remember my days at school where I'd plan more and study less on the day before the last exam. I'd plan where I'd go, what I'd do after getting home from the exam, what movie I'd watch, where I'd go out with a friend, etc etc, you get the picture. Poor old Geography exam - always the last, cared for the least. But one thing is for certain. I sure as hell will miss this supreme bliss and joy once I am out of academics, since the emotions before and after a last exam are practically unparalleled in every other walk of life!!!

So much for the blog, now back to some merrymaking!!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

My 7 Whys

There is a consulting funda of problem solving called 5-whys. Apparently by the time you ask the fifth why you are at the root cause of a problem. But I have gone a step further in asking my 7 whys! And I know that if I get an answer to at least one why, I will be a lot less wired!!! Seems to be the case with me all the time! Like I've said before, week of exams and submissions, please expect the random rambling post and here it is. So, I wonder
  1. Why I always have a dozen things to do and realize that the time I have would just accommodate two tasks?
  2. Why is it that I always chance upon a real good article just when I have course work reading running into volumes?
  3. Why am I always swamped with work, such that I feel that I am not doing justice to everything?
  4. I am here for this one year, to learn, but why do I feel like something is missing?
  5. Why do I have so many things happening at once and why do I always need to apply trade off theory?
  6. Why do I feel like reading, writing, studying, walking, playing and goodness knows what else, all at once?
  7. Why do I always apportion an hour to a task that ends up taking a whole day?

All this while I have been hunting for answers, but so far I've found none. So my quest continues!!!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

ISB's 8 - A thought to all those fests...

Yup. 2nd December was the actual 8th birthday of my present school - ISB. And today, we celebrated her birthday. Much like how it happens in the west, where irrespective of when your birthday or anniversary falls, you celebrate/party on that subsequent weekend! And celebrate we did indeed!

So, on Wednesday, the 2nd, we hoisted the ISB flag, and cut a cake! Well, in traditional ISB fashion, we should have had a dunking as well, but then we skipped arbit dunking for want of a dunkee!!! Besides, of late, on birthdays people feign colds and coughs - since it is frightfully cold in Hyderabad these days! And today, we had a cultural fest, with professors, staff and students putting up a gala show. Noteworthy was not just the quality of the show, but actually the enthusiasm shown by everyone. Now, all of us are hard pressed for time, caught up in a jungle of assignments and coursework. But today, all of that actually took a hike, as ISBians settled down to some serious fun.

While all this was fun, on my walk back home, I was reminded of my time in school and undergrad. Our annual days and college fests respectively were gala events for which people prepared for weeks. The enthusiasm would be huge! We used to bunk class under the pretext of practice. Well, of course we'd practise, but for 40% of the bunked time! In school it used to be all the more fun. All of us were kids and I vividly remember one girl in my class had the best dancing skills in the world! She single-handed choreographed all dance performances for our batch almost every year! And then in undergrad, during our inter-college fest, we used to have colleges visiting to participate. The mood would be nothing short of a Whyteleafe in a home lacrosse match mood. (Enid Blyton's Naughtiest Girl - for the uninitiated). The show stealer used to be the fashion show - where the best looking people of the college would take center stage. The clothes would be designed by us, the walk, the show would be choreographed by us, the props, lights and everything needed to pull off a visual extravaganza would be arranged! The fashion show would not just be a ramp walk, but a themed show. I remember the first one was themed 'attitude' and actually had our show stopper bite an apple and throw it into the crowds as a sign of 'attitude'! Coming of age? Well yeah I guess! And then of course - the college chant and the benign sledging when competition would come on stage - 'Ek Do Ek Do XYZ ko phenk do!' Man, the sound still reverberates in my head!

Good old days of college and school, and with today, I have yet another bookmark of a college event that I will cherish for life.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

25 years in pursuit of justice - Bhopal

'Aapka Khoon Khoon Aur Hamara Khoon Paani!' - This is an old Hindi proverb and it literally translates to 'your blood is blood and our blood is water'. In many ways, this aptly describes the likely thoughts of the survivors and sufferers of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. 25 years ago noxious methyl isocyante fumes from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal escaped the plant in the dead of the night, exposing over half a million people who were asleep unaware of the disaster. According to the MP government, a total of 3,787 people lost their lives. This was just the instantaneous death toll. Lingering effects of the poison in peoples' systems went on to kill many many more with some estimates even running close to 20-25 thousand fatalities. Innocent human lives - women and children notwithstanding, were lost. And 25 years since then, it seems like nobody cares.

Well, this one disaster was by and far the single largest chemical disaster India has faced. And this one disaster actually contains instances and examples of almost everything that can be wrong with the system, with everything wrong stemming from greed and a gross lack of respect for human lives. A complete, credible investigation never really happened, and even now theories and conspiracy theories abound on why the MIC escaped the plant. But some fundamentally wrong aspects do snap out at you. Like why use MIC, a known hazardous chemical in the first place? When almost all over the world, technology had improved incorporating the use of more inoccuous chemicals. I am sure the hazmat controls in OECD countries would surely not have allowed such potentially hazardous plants to set up shop on their soil. Secondly, the chase of the bottomline made the plant managers not pay attention towards the upkeep of the safety system. Yet again, I wonder whether Indian human life is indeed so inexpensive. Whether cost benefit analysis valued Indian human life at close to 0? I am tempted to wonder why human life is not uniformly valuable across countries?

25 years on, the survivors still grapple with acute health disorders. There are also some reports of abandoned chemicals seeping into ground water reserves - I don't know how credible these reports are, but if they are, then the nightmares for the afflicted seem to never end. More than the physical damage, the psychological damage is heavier. Having a city mercilessly wiped out by perpetrators of a crime is painful. Knowing the motives behind the crime - in this case greed - hurts even more. Knowing further that several who were indeed trusted were complicit in this crime - through their sheer oversight and lack of caution, hurts all the more. And finally after all these years, when the none of the perpetrators, in fact, not even one of the accused is prosecuted, one feels cheated and perhaps absolutely worthless. So it has been 25 years spent in the pursuit of justice and though the sufferers have suffered enough, they see no light at the end of the tunnel, much like the darkness that enveloped them 25 years ago!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

When belief becomes an obsession

Today in a consumer behavior class, we studied the case of TiVo, the first entrant in smart television. The first player who brought in the concept of rewind, pause, record, fast forward live TV. The first player who wished to put control of what the consumer saw on TV into the customer's hands. The TATA SKYs of the west if you will? The first player who actually failed to capitalize on the first mover advantage, due to some strategic errors. The first player who failed to capture significant market share despite a brilliant idea.

One of the beauties of a class like consumer behavior is the fact that it ties in the psychology of a consumer into the science of marketing. Something as intangible as a consumer's thought process is deciphered and converted into something that can be used by firms to tactically reach the consumer. So we studied why TiVo went wrong. And the result lay in the fact that despite having a sterling idea, they looked at the idea as techies. They understood the idea and they expected the world to get it too! "D-uh!!", they said. They were overpriced, as was seen with newer players soon came out with products at half their rates, with a few lesser feature. But TiVo never took an effort to find out whether the features they were providing warranted such a premium over competition - or whether the consumer really cared for those features. It's more like giving me a pen that can sing and charging a bomb for it, without finding out whether I as a consumer want a singing pen! I perhaps just want a pen to write and care two hoots about the singing thing!

Again, why did they do that? Well, their belief that they had a phenomenal product turned into an obsession. They felt it was the best thing to happen to mankind after sliced bread, and so, were unwilling to look at a customer's viewpoint, and engage in activities that would draw the consumer. They simply made the consumer laugh - using humor in their ads and then very condescendingly said - go find out the rest on our website. All this for a product that cost a lot - a TV enhancer costing almost as much as a TV. All this when the customer has not yet understood the concept.

So, apart from a marketing lesson, I liked this story because it gave me another perspective. Belief and self-belief are good. They are brilliant when it comes to boosting one's confidence. But one should never let one's beliefs cloud good sense and judgement. I can't help but allude to Satyajit Ray's Jalsaghar, where the protagonist - a once-upon-a-time-rich man spends his every last penny to put on a show of pomp and prosperity, till he finally collapses literally and metaphorically to his inability to sustain that image. So, every once in a while, one must really step back from the cheers and adulation, and see whether the praises and positive comments coming in are true and meaningful. Every once in a while, one must look at one's set of beliefs and cull out the ones based on senseless reasons. Change is what is permanent, and the more nimble we are, the more longer can we sustain.