Idea ReviewBy Mukul Bhartiya / February-12

Creativity is the Lever of Success



We are more than seven and a half billion people on this planet earth who use hundreds of different electronic devices daily. These actions result in creation of infinite permutation and combination of actions, reactions, results and probability of results. How can an individual brain with definite space cope with all of it???

By forming patterns, deciding priorities and repetition…….

The above mentioned three actions create blocks in the mind to process information in a systematic manner and make life easy, but it happens only when life is easy!! As there is an infinite possibility of unexpected challenges and outcomes; pattern and blocks most of the time creates road blocks rather than working as anything else.

This brings us to “creative thinking” …….the right brain thinking…..out of the box thinking…..but not many people know what it is and how to make it work for themselves in order to find solutions to unexpected challenges…..

Great things can’t be accomplished by those who surrender themselves to trends, fads, mundane routine and popular opinion. Great things can’t be achieved also by impulse, but series of small but patient observations and follow up actions brought together.

Cure of boredom is curiosity but curiosity has no cure and you know what; curiosity is the foundation stone of creativity. If you don’t want to know more, you won’t find more. So, get curious, get angry with status quo and create chaos to bring out the new normal. Whether you succeed or not is immaterial, because, believe you me, there is no such thing. Making your hidden self known is the important thing.

And what more….

Here, the quote of T.C.Boyle brings in his great insight which I would like to reproduce; “In order to create you have to believe in your ability to do so and that often means excluding the whole chunk of normal life, and, of course, pumping yourself up as much as possible as a way of keeping on. Sort of cheering yourself in great football stadium of life."

So, the question boils down to how can you be creative? Answer is very simple and it can’t be taught in rigid corporate environment where you have to decipher data, analyze trends and make predictions. There is no creativity in it.

There is no step by step rulebook to be creative; it comes with randomness and it comes with flying away from mundane routine. But it has to start from somewhere. I asked Gaurav Bahl, Founder of Quirkee, Quirkee
a Gurgaon based Integrated Marcom Agency, about how one can be creative in personal and professional life. Gaurav has rich experience with top advertising agencies like Percept, Leo Burnett, Mullen Lowe Worldwide, Hammer Communications, K Factor and Bounce Design to name a few.

This is what he has to say, “This world is flooded with too much of information in the form of news, advertisements, inputs for his own work requirements at personal and professional front and many things more. All these informations further become the basis of many information and ideas in their mind, which keeps looking for an outlet. Everyone wants to talk and take his ideas to the top, but that doesn’t happen all the time with everyone. Something which happens very rarely is called either ‘luck’ in most prevalent term or ‘fluke’ in crude term.

To take any idea to the top one has to remain patient and committed towards it. Now, how will this happen if someone is always willing to talk and let everything out.

So, what works for me and I think it should work for others as well; be observant of what others are doing or talking about, be patient with other’s ideas, be receptive to other’s opinion and master the art of listening. All of it will give you lots of clues, experiences and answers to your problems and challenges. All of it will automatically help you in prioritizing your work and improve your focus on the solution of problems or challenges you would be looking for.

Apart from that, though I am not much into it, following extra-curricular activities like outdoor sports, or music or travelling etc. can help your mind to relax and avoid overdose of information processing. I listen to music, watch movies and play; some people find cooking therapeutic…..and of course, Yoga is an all time favorite of many……..Your brain consumes more energy than any other part of your body and as your body’s energy saps, mind starts slowing down, it starts jumping to conclusions because it wants to work less and it starts priming. So, it is very important to look after your brain….

Fundamentals of creativity can be summed up under the following points:

  • Observe people and situations around you.
  • Listen to what people around you say
  • Be patient; don’t jump to conclusion and become an answering machine
  • Be receptive to other’s ideas and opinions and respect them.Prioritize your work
  • Focus on what you are looking for
  • Relax your mind; do something which can help you to enjoy life and take your focus away from finding solutions and being creative all the time. “

To sum everything up, I am bringing up the quotation of God of Martial Art Bruce Lee, which reads “Important thing for you is to be alert, to question, to find out, so that your own initiative can be awakened”.


Idea ReviewBy Mukul Bhartiya / September-11

Customer Engagement Acquisition Delight Organizations are need of hour


I am writing this blog drawing inspiration from one book and few incidents of my life. Around a decade back I bought a path breaking book “New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-created Value through global network” written by eminent Management Experts Late C. K. Prahalad and M. S. Krishnan. This book was published in year 2008 and for me then it was another book from the world renowned experts which I must have in my shelf. Until last year, the theory of “N=1 and R=G” was another management jargon for me to make me look like updated management professional in the meetings. But before proceeding further, this piece does not represent the exact management philosophy conceptualized and propagated by both the experts. I am using it to only drive across my point.


I don’t remember but sometime in April or May last year, I bought a 500 ml copper water bottle to carry during morning jogging schedules from one of the two leading online retailers of the country. Next time when I visited the site after making the purchase, I saw a notification with the communication, “people who bought ___, also bought ___”. First space was carrying the image of water bottle I had purchased and second space was carrying the image of three water bottles made of copper in different designs. Now, if at all they apply simply their head and not the much talked about analytics probably based AI, I wouldn’t have been recommended what they had recommended me. My purchase history with them was mostly books, few clothing for myself and dry fruits. Seeing that, anyone can make an assumption about me being a bachelor with very limited needs. And let me tell you, this is not just an isolated case.  


There is another experience which is around twelve years old and I assume things might have changed now. There were couple of grocery stores in Gultekdi Market Yard, Pune, which used to do more business than any of the store of modern retail. I am sure they must be doing more business than what they were doing then. If you had visited the store, you would have found a format mentioning all the items in their store, along with column for quantity, price and total price. There was also a board hanging outside the store indicating the current price of items whose prices were volatile. Now what you were supposed to fill the details of quantity against each item, handover that sheet to a staff in the store and sit on the chair lying outside. Store staff packs your merchandize, raise the bill and call your name to pay the bill. Since our store was nearby and these stores were competition, I used to benchmark these stores regularly. 


Around five-six years ago, I was talking to one gentleman who was heading sales and business operation of a retail company engaged in selling premium furniture in Delhi. He told me that he doesn’t ask his sales team member about his/her sales numbers for first six-seven months of joining. Instead, he sends them to foreign tours to understand the taste of rich and famous, because his clients are rich and they demand exclusivity. For his clients, money comes last in order of concern; they first look for exclusivity of design and material. Moreover, these clients can’t be found buying their toothpaste in the nearby grocery store and they don’t allow everyone to get into their circle. So, for him and his team to sell furniture to these set of clientele, it is very important to understand their need and get into their proximity. 


Having been connected to retail industry for so long through either work experience or colleagues working at different senior positions in different retail organizations, I never had experience of either asking my customers about their monthly basket and their other shopping needs as above stores I mentioned or being myself asked by any retailer. We let incoming data to do the talking. Asking about the family profile of the customer seems out of bounds for any retail organization. They again depend upon the incoming data to do the talking. 


It is important to note that “Data leads but incomplete data misleads” and that’s why a multinational retail company with billions of dollar suggests a consumer with no dependent family member to buy four copper water bottles of 500 ml each. That’s why all these sound around AI based retail analytics will be helpful only when incoming data is complete. Why retailers don’t ask about the monthly basket and family profile of their customers may best be known to them. I assume they may be finding these questions as intrusive or another tedious task supposedly not core to the business, but asking AADHAR details for Payment banks are more intrusive.


Now let me bring back the reference of “N=1 and R=G”. Central thesis of the book is exhorting companies to customize their products for each customer by gaining access to assemblage of suppliers. “N=1” requires companies to focus on the importance of individual customer experience and tailor their product accordingly. It requires companies to be resilient, dynamic and flexible in their business processes and approach to reach the level of customer delight. They also advise companies to be very strong at analytics to allow management to discover opportunities and unique trends and enable companies in product co-creation. 


Though theory focuses on one experience or one problem at a time, but I am talking about the all the challenges of one customer at one place. Deployment of this idea will definitely have area and location challenge and scaling up will again lead to automation, standardization and templatization of solution reducing the human connect, but if this idea is deployed in smaller geographical area, it will bring in immense result. 


“R=G” requires companies to take horizontal approach to supply rather than vertical integration. The focus should on obtaining the access, rather than ownership, to the resource from assemblage of suppliers from outside as well as inside of the company. 


In today’s time, probably a marketer has every tool to connect and engage with the customers. If anything is missing, that can also be developed without much hiccup.


If you look at all the marketplace companies like Ola, Uber, airbnb, Amazon, Flipkart etc., you will find the examples of idea pioneered by great management thinkers. While Ola, Uber, airbnb are solving one challenge of a customer while Amazon and Flipkart are trying to solve many. Just look at the business opportunity and look at valuations; they are humongous.  


But in order to scale up at exponential speed and capture the global market, their customer engagement and delight exercise seems limited to quiz contests on app or sending promotional emails. Though primary challenge gets resolved but even entire exercise doesn’t push the market imperfections surrounding primary challenge much away from where they were. That’s why, one can find consumers having multiple apps for same services in their smart phones and browsing for best price and availability. Price and availability becomes front face of conversation between retailer and consumer. Service providers are deliberately anchoring their customers in this direction, knowingly deviating from the fact that customers buy a service or a product to solve their problem in hand and not to get the discount; discount is extra advantage. If someone is booking hotel room using either OYO or Goibibo or Makemytrip, he or she is booking the hotel room; that is the primary challenge. First priority of the customer goes to place to stay and relax, next priority goes to safety and cleanliness, third to food and of course if all of it comes at a good price, then it is considered the best deal. That’s why customers look for fellow customer’s rating of facilities, images of hotel and facilities etc. before booking the room. But in many, service providers jump directly to pricing. While writing this blog, I opened the website of a prominent travel and ticketing portal. I selected the location, but didn’t do any other activity for couple of minutes. Immediately a page dropped down anchoring me to take the bite of 25%-50% discount or straightaway Rs.1350/- discount at certain level of booking amount. Further, if you look at the event of recent acrimony between Zomato and Restaurant Association of India, the bone of contention was deep discounts offered by Zomato to its customers for Gold membership. If a food aggregator like Zomato in India thinks of discount as the first and foremost incentive to its premium customers, then nothing remains premium and exclusive in that offer. This is the not just the case with Zomato; almost all the service providers have reduced their customer engagement and delight activity limited to offers, extra money and savings. It leads market imperfections to remain not far away from where they were before these companies started their services.  


With this attitude, companies will keep burning money. Someone with better connect with deep pocketed investors will stay afloat for bit longer, but they will also have to make money and for that they will have to anchor their customers not towards discount they offering but how they are helping them in solving their primary challenge. According to Hubspot, leading inbound marketing and ERP company of the world, chances of converting a satisfied customer for a new purchase is 58% against 20% chance of acquiring a new customer for a new purchase. It makes all the sense to look beyond loyalty points getting converted in extra monetary benefits. 


It gives the rise to the idea of Consumer Engagement, Acquisition and Delight organizations or a department separate from traditional sales and marketing, because both the departments often suffer from traditional definition mindset. While one keeps trying to increase the adrenaline rush in its team members, other remains busy in writing slogans and jargons. More appropriate will be to bring sales and marketing under a separate CEAD department to bring synergy.  


A separate organization can also be very apt option in this entire gamut of sales and marketing, because then companies involved in buying and selling or creating marketplace can remain engaged in their core business. The challenge of data ownership and security can’t rule out the necessity of this set up. Challenge of data ownership and security will be of utmost importance without negating the importance of customer engagement and delight. This will require very strong analytics and lead to best Artificial Intelligence driven results. 


Customers need attention and solution of their problems and companies need reduction in the customer acquisition and retention cost, increase in revenue and margin, which only this vertical can guarantee.


Book Review of Unfulfilled Love


This is the story of Tapasya, Meenakshi, Karan, Rajeev and Manish, caught in the web of complexities of life and emotions. Unfulfilled Love
Tapsaya and Meenakshi were two woman with completely different approach towards life, but their aspirations of life were same; "love".

While Tapasya could not fight her battle the way it should have been fought, Meenakshi fought her way to get whatever she wanted out of her life. Both of them couldn't take the decision on time when it needed to be and desired love which had all the markings of remaining unrequited due to being against the social norm. Both of them were ready to break the social norms, but Tapasya couldn't do so and Meenakshi did with all her strength.

In the end, Tapasya died a lonely death despite being surrounded by all her family members and Meenakshi lived a lonely life despite fighting and nearly getting what she wanted.

Love is complex. It has its own rules for everyone for every relationship. There is no template for love. One's story can't be repeated by other. Everyone has to fight his or her own battle, even for love. One has to decide what he or she wants out of this word 'love' and for what it is meant for one person and every other person of his or her life.

Manish thought he loved Meenakshi madly. But when he got engaged to her, he started missing his family members, who didn't accept Meenakshi in their family fold.

Rajeev loved Tapasya a lot, but he couldn't make Tapasya see what she meant to him. And when she realized and accepted, it was already too late and she just wanted her last wish to be fulfilled before closing her eyes.

Karan remained pragmatic in life but he had his own battles to fight.

In fact, life is complex and is has no template. Complexity and separate rules for everyone for everything is its only template.


Amit Mishra Director Ambrocia Seeds Pvt Ltd on his expectations from Union Budget 2020


Union Budget 2020 is not very far away and everyone is curious to know how this budget will shape up to propel consumer, industry and investor’s confidence and put India on the track on becoming a USD 5 Trillion economy by 2025.


I have been talking to people, who hold senior positions in the industry and has also been interacting with real people who matters most for the budget.


A fortnight back I had talked to Mr. Suraj Sharma, CEO, Punarvasu Financial Services Pvt. Ltd., who, as an investor, has been interacting with entrepreneurs, SME and MSME business persons on the regular basis. Mr. Suraj Sharma On His Expectations from Budget 2020


Couple of days back, I talked to Mr. Amit Mishra, Founder- Director of Agrius India Private Limited and Ambrocia Seeds Producer Company Pvt. Ltd. about his expectation from upcoming budget. His company has around 1500 acres of land under seed cultivation and distribution across Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. I also asked him about his opinion on much discussed fall in private consumption in India, which according to the experts is a worrisome sign. Since he has been constantly travelling into interiors of the country and has been meeting with farmers, I thought he is the right person to ask this question.


He said, “Government provide subsidies at four different level to the farmers; input level, output level, infrastructure level and food processing level. Seeds, irrigation, crop insurance, price support for the output, marketing support, support for warehousing and cold storage, support for food processing; you name any aspect of agri production and government have schemes for the same. Not only central government but state governments also provide bonuses and support to farmers.


Challenge is not the lack of support from government. In fact, there are too many schemes from the government for the agricultural sector. Even if government takes away few of them, it won’t matter. Actual challenge is these schemes reaching out to the farmers. I have witnessed massive leakage in the government schemes and public money being looted in the name of farmers. Would you believe if I tell you that there is no less than 30 to 40% leakage in almost all government scheme meant for farmers? In some areas, these leakages are to the extent of 50%. Even if the free kits are provided by the government, bills are inflated to bungle the money meant for farmers. This leakage needs to be stopped not only for the benefit of farmers but nation as a whole.”


Startled at this revelation, I asked him whether I can quote these numbers and attribute it to him and he strongly accepted to my question.


He continued, “What I expect from government in this budget is a three layer monitoring and audit mechanism, starting at block level, then next layer at district level and third at state level. Every Panchayat must be made to put all the information updated on Panchayat Building informing everyone in the village about schemes being run by government, money received and spent under each scheme and number of beneficiaries.


With so much technological advancement in the Information Technology field taking place in the country, government must make use of it and see that money reaches to actual beneficiary. This should be one of the crucial steps to be taken by the government.


Regarding your question of fall in private consumption in the country, my submission would be to look at overall growth or de-growth in the demand of any particular item. Please don’t take de-growth in the demand of any brand as a benchmark. With the change in time, there will be demand shift from one product to another and we should be factor it in while making any commentary. You might be seeing change in eating behaviour of urban population which is quite different from rural or rural-urban population; from breakfast items to quantity and quality being consumed for lunch and dinner. Similar pattern can be seen every aspect of life.


I am seeing demand shift, I am seeing Indian consumer’s awareness and demand for quality products and services but I am not seeing private demand de-growth. New players are challenging old guards; old guards are collaborating with new players for part of their work, old boundaries have already been dismantled and new boundaries are being set. So, I am not in agreement with this charade of de-growth in private consumption.


I hope I have answered your questions”.


I thanked him for giving his valuable time for this quick chat.


Our Internal Narrative

There is always one internal narrative, which is always there with us. But it is tough identifying it despite feeling being one even after experiencing diversity of sensory experiences and our all goals, memories, emotions, actions, beliefs, and present awareness seems to cohere to form a single individual. Despite enormous number of distinct events punctuating our life, we feel continuity of identity through time-moment to moment, decade to decade.


I feel because at times, our commitment to withstand and grow strong beyond those enormous events, we face many anomalies which doesn't fit our 'big picture' belief system and our mind tries to smooth those anomalies and discrepancies in order to preserve the coherence of the self and stability of behavior. As our commitment and dedication to fight the anomalies and discrepancies keeps faltering, the smoothing and normalizing process keeps increasing, creating multiple distinct identities in our mind.


Our priority should be to face these anomalies and solve the problems and don't allow new identities to take shape in our mind. Not only it helps us to stay strong as a self, it gives us a strong internal narrative, which ultimately reflects in our social behavior.


Our emotions, like pride, arrogance, vanity, ambition, love, fear, mercy, jealousy, anger, hubris, humility, pity, self-pity etc. doesn't exist in social vacuum. All our emotions make sense only in relation to other people. It makes perfect evolutionary sense to feel grudges, gratitude, or bonhomie towards other people based on our shared interpersonal histories. We take into account that attribute the faculty of choice, or free will, to fellow social beings and apply our rich palette of social emotions to their actions on that basis. But we are so deeply hardwired for imputing things such as motive, intent, and culpability to the actions of others that we often overextend our social emotions to non-human, non-social objects or situations.


That's how it becomes very difficult but extremely important to create a coherent internal narrative. There are much more than enough things to distort it and damage us permanently. Building coherence in any activity, any narrative takes time. According to researcher Ms. Phillipa Lally, Psychology Researcher of University College, London, a public research university, a habit takes 66 days to set in and become automatic. According to her study, a new habit can be formed between 18 to 256 days, depending upon the interest, commitment and practice of the individual. So, for your reader to get habituated of you, it will take some time. That’s why self-awareness, commitment, dedication and consistency are very important.


How to succeed in the time of conflict


In the time of conflict and fear due covid19 pandemic many people are on edge. They are seeing no light at the end of the tunnel. In this situation, it is well understood that mind goes to travel many places, often unpleasant one. But, that's not how life is to be lived in this difficult situation. Hormones related to stress, cortisol and adrenaline clogs the neural network and slows down the thinking process. Our behavior during conflict, fear and pain is quite obvious, though it is not desirable. 


There are steps to come out of it and they are: 


1) Acceptance: First and foremost action needed is to accept that present situation is not normal and not good. Our mind has many biases and heuristics, optimism and confirmation bias are two of them. If we don't accept the present situation and try to believe something else, then our mind will make us believe so and keep us forcing to confirm our created reality. 

You will ask that why does our mind create a new reality?


Our mind always has a ‘big picture’ of our life. Information arriving through our senses keeps getting merged into our pre- existing memories to confirm and sometime update our belief system about ourselves and the world. In the case of anomalous information which doesn’t fit our big picture, it tries to smooth the discrepancies and anomalies to preserve the coherence of self, our internal narrative and the ‘big picture’. Sometime it outrightly denies the situation, sometime rationalizes, sometime confabulates, sometime intellectualizes, so on and so forth but it does its best to protect the coherence of self and internal narrative. 


2) Live in present: The moment we create a new reality, mind becomes optimistic and starts confirming to this new reality. It automatically shifts the starting point of our journey. If starting point of our journey is not right, then how come end will be right? 


So, being aware of the present and staying in it is extremely important.


3) Mindfulness: There is more than enough written and spoken about mindfulness, so, I won’t go on to elaborate what it is and how it should be done. What I understand for my benefit is that mindfulness is keeping only those information in my mind which is necessary to move forward for my betterment. 


Our mind receives more than two hundred thousand times of information per second which it can process. You can very well imagine what would be its situation in just one day if it doesn’t filter most of the information out it receives. Our mind’s primary job is to protect the body it lives in and everything revolves around this core principle.


While a part of mind keeps doing its work to stop information overload, there has to be conscious effort to push away the information which are stopping the positive growth.


4) Remain alert: It is definite that post Covid19 world will not be the same. Every upheaval shakes up the old world order and creates new. While there are many defined steps which helps us to succeed in life, but one thing which often gets ignored and has rightfully elaborated by Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller “Outliers” that grabbing the opportunity when it comes up goes a long way in determining the success of a person. So, if you don’t accept the reality, you are not living in present and have not pushed away the information which blocking your growth, how can you remain alert and if you are not alert, then how will you grab the opportunity when it comes knocking your door.


5) Make above four points a automatic habit: Every moment, billions of neurons in our mind connects with each other tens of thousand times, which can be excitatory or inhibitory and on or off, making permutation of all these numbers of possible brain states exceed number of elementary particles in the known universe. So, things are not simple as it seems. 


That’s why, we need to keep repeating the first four points and turn it into an automatic habit; then only, our growth and success will be remain sustainable and consistent.


What causes Anger and how to control it

Few days back, with someone feeble, I had a discussion on something. His words triggered anger in me. Before I could control, my anger became apparent through my words and behavior. More than his words, I didn't appreciate my behavior of losing control over myself. His words, though not favorable to me, were also not harmful for me.


Then why did I get angry:


May be because,


1) His words challenged my perceived position of thoughts and correctness.

2) I didn't like the way he talked and I took it as an effort to undermine my intellectual strength, superiority and position.


But was my anger justified?


I don't think so...


I am not intellectualizing this scenario.


Here are some of the reasons why we become angry:


 - Our perceived intellectual/spiritual/religious strength/superiority over others is challenged by someone's direct or implied behavior and action.


 - Our actual position on anything is challenged and undermined by someone's direct or implied behavior or action.


 - We or anyone close (actual and assumed- religious/sports/group/affiliation etc.) to us is threatened to be harmed or actually harmed by direct or implied behavior or action of someone. 


While last two points are not rarity, but there percentage in our anger outbursts are very limited. We often react/respond to perceptual positions of different parties, which has no strength and position to take our life in any direction, especially the negative, until and unless we make it take us there. 


I dedicated good amount of time to ponder over it and find what should I do in this situation and I got following answers: 


1) Don't embody the moment and actions which triggers anger; it is not the matter of your existence.


2) Don't define yourself with the moment; you are much bigger than that.  


3) Listen, analyse and appreciate, opposition's points, take few deep breath with smile and move away from the scene if you can do so. 


4) If you don't have the option to walk away , then listen and appreciate the points raised the your opposition, take few deep breath, remember point no. 1 and 2 and then answer in measured words.


5) When you are replied back, then folllw point no. 1,2 and 4. This may not be the correct way, but I have started following it. 


Please do write your feedback. 


 You may find this article also useful: How to succeed in the time of conflict


The Tell Tale Brain


“Unlocking the Mystery of Human Nature- The Tell-Tale Brain” is a masterpiece, written by Dr. V.S.Ramchandran, who is quite rightly, called ‘The Marco Polo of neuroscience’.


Divided in nine chapters, this book takes us to the mysterious, intriguing but very informative journey of human brain. Trapped inside the hundreds of billions of neurons and tens of thousands of synapses among each of them lives the mysterious truth of our brain and our behaviour. Each synapses can be excitatory or inhibitory and permutation of all of it presents the possible brain states, which easily exceeds the number of elementary particles in the universe. This very statement unravels the truth of human mind and behaviour in front of me.


But this is just the beginning. Phantom Limbs and Plastic Brains’, ‘Seeing and Knowing’, ‘Loud Colours and Hot Babes: Synaesthesia’, ‘The Neurons that shaped the civilization’, ‘Where is Steven? The riddle of autism’, ‘The Power of Babble: The evolution of language’, ‘Beauty and the brain: The emergence of Aesthetics’, ‘The Artful Brain: Universal Laws’ and ‘An Ape with a soul: How introspection evolved’ unravels the mystery of human brain and behaviour one by one. Being the student of Behavioural Economics and Neuromarketing, “Introduction, first chapter ‘Phantom Limbs and Plastic Brain’, second chapter ‘Seeing and Knowing’, fourth chapter ‘The Neurons that shaped the civilization’, sixth chapter ‘The Power of babble: The evolution of language’, eighth chapter is ‘The Artful Brain: Universal Laws’ and ninth chapter ‘An Ape with a soul: How introspection Evolved’ are my favourite.

It is a must buy for everyone who are in the field of neuromarketing, behavioural economics and neuroconsumerscience. Neuroscience as a subject I have not touched despite this book falling into that genre because it is not my domain. I took out only those things which I found relevant for myself.


You can also buy the book following this link: The Tell Tale Brain



The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat by Oliver Sacks

Few lines from this book which won my mind and heart:


“ We have, each of us, a life-story, an inner narrative- whose continuity, whose sense, is our lives. It might be said that each of us constructs and lives a ‘narrative’, and that this narrative is us, our identities.


If we wish to know about a man, we ask, ‘what is his story- his real inmost story?’ – for each of us is a biography, a story . Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us- through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives- we are each of us unique.


To be ourselves we must have ourselves- possess, if need be re-possess, our life stories. We must ‘recollect’ ourselves, recollect the inner drama, the narrative of ourselves. A man needs such a narrative, a continuous inner narrative, to maintain his identity, his self.


This narrative needs, perhaps, in the clue to Mr. Thompson’s desperate tale-telling, his verbosity. Deprived on continuity, of a quiet, continuous inner narrative, he is driven to a sort of narrational frenzy- hence his ceaseless tale, his confabulations, his mythomania. Unable to maintain a genuine narrative or continuity, unable to maintain a genuine world, he is driven to the proliferation of pseudo-narratives, in a pseudo- continuity, pseudo-worlds peopled by pseudo-people, phantoms.”


Above four paragraphs are the reasons behind infinite stories floating in the world and everyone holding those views, narratives and stories believes them true.


Oliver Sacks is a physician, Professor of Neurology at NYU School of Medicine and best-selling author of many books, this being one of them.


Four parts and twenty fours chapters, this book explores many aspects of human behavior with scientific explanations and examples which he witnessed as a physician, research scholar and professor.


I am sure you will worth buying and reading. You can buy by the book here The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat




The Brain by David Eagleman


Though spiritualism had initiated in my quest of knowing the brain and how it functions, one of the initial scientific exposure about it came from the book “The Brain” by David Eagleman. I never ever felt while reading this book that it is written by a scientist, a neuroscientist because narration is so lucid and words are so simple that it looks like bed time story. It paved way for me to buy more books, pick courses on neuroscience online and dig deep to understand what I want to understand better.


Buying a book is very easy but going beyond the first few pages is very difficult. It tells you that whether you will be able to finish reading the book or not. But this book is so simple worded and lucid that not only it kept me interested in the book but it ignited y interest in the very topic itself and it is growing year after year. This kind of impact it had on me.


Some of examples are here: 


While explaining “AM IN THE SUM OF MY MEMORIES?”, he writes, “Our brains and bodies change so much during our life that – like a clock’s hour hand – it’s difficult to detect the changes. Every four months your red blood cells are entirely replaced, for instance, and your skin cells are replaced every few weeks. Within about seven years every atom in your body will be replaced by other atoms. Physically, you are constantly a new you. Fortunately, there may be one constant that links all these different versions of your self together: memory. Perhaps memory can serve as the thread that makes you who you are. It sits on the core of your identity, providing a single, continuous sense of self.”


Further, explaining this very thought, he writes, “Rather than memory being an accurate video recording on a moment in your life, it is fragile brain state from your bygone time that must be resurrected for you to remember”.


In the chapter “The Storyteller”, He writes, “Your brain serves up a narrative- and each of us believes whatever narrative it tells. Whatever you’re falling for a visual illusion, or believing the dream you happened to be trapped in, or experiencing letters in colour, or accepting a delusion as true during an episode of schizophrenia, we each accept our realities however our brain accepts them.


Despite the feeling that we’re directly experiencing the world out there, our reality is ultimately built in the dark, in a foreign language of electrochemical signals. The activity churning across vast neural networks gets turned into your story of this, your private experience of the world: the feeling of this book in your hands, the light in the room, the smell of roses, the sound of others speaking.


Even more strangely, it’s likely that every brain tells a slightly different narrative. For every situation with the multiple witnesses, different brains are having different private experiences. With seven billion human brains wandering the planet (and trillions of animal brain), there’s no single version of reality. Each brain carries its own truth.


So, what is reality? It’s like a television show that only you can see, and you can’t turn it off. The good news is that it happens to be broadcasting the most interesting show you could ask for: edited, personalized and presented just for you.”


These are just few snippets of the amazing book. It is a must read for everyone who wants to know about truth, or who believe their truth is the real truth and other’s truth are lie, or who wants to know why someone behaves the way he/she behaves or the people like me who are simply curious to know about the most mysterious thing in the world; human brain. 


You can buy the book from Amazon following this link The Brain


Predictably Irrational By Dan Ariely


As any Post Graduate in Marketing, core of my focus for the professional reason was always on consumer behaviour and their decision making process, which gradually took the shape of interest in Neuroscience, Neuromarketing, Neuroconsumerscience, Behavioural Science and Behavioural Economics.  


Latest in the series of books which I just finished reading is “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions” by Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioural Economics at Duke University. Though this book was published twelve years back, but I became serious about this topic for last four years and I am taking one book and course at a time and I am glad I picked this book. 


Divided in thirteen chapters, this book is masterpiece which helps us to sneak behind the façade of rational mind and tells that there is nothing called ‘rational mind’ when it comes to decision making and that also financial decisions. We all are construct and reflection of our memories as we have perceived them, loosely tagged with each other defining our narrative and we don’t make any rational decision. Our decisions are captive of our biases and heuristics which are formed over a period of time by our gender, social, educational, economical and demographical set up and can be primed and anchored in one direction.  


All thirteen chapters, namely The Truth about Reality, The Fallacy of Supply and Demand, The Cost of Zero Cost, The Cost of Social Norms, The Influence of Arousal, The Problem of Procrastination and Self-Control, The High Price of Ownership, Keeping Doors Open, The Effect of Expectations, The Power of Price, The Context of Our Character Part I, The Context of Our Character Part II and Beer and Free Lunches having my experiments and findings conducted by Dan himself. 


This is a must read book for anyone interested in Behavioural Economics. You can buy book from Amazon following this link Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely


Changing Consumer Behavior Due To Covid19


Four month has passed since lockdown was imposed in Indian due to COVID 19 pandemic. We still have long road to cover before we pass this test successfully, but it has impacted our life, our behavior and our decision making process emphatically. We all have started looking at life from completely different perspective. Our buying behavior of daily grocery items has undergone tremendous change. I requested Shri Suresh Pillai, Head- Merchandising, Retranz Infolabs Pvt. Ltd. to share some of his observations with my readers.


Mr. Suresh Pillai has worked with top retailers like Big Bazaar, Tesco, more., Reliance Retail, Godrej Agro vet and start ups like Shresta and Ion Exchange Envirofarms. Mr. Pillai is M.B.A in Marketing from Vaikunth Mehta National Institute of Cooperative Management and M.Sc. in Agriculture from College of Agriculture, Nagpur. He has also completed One Year Special Management Programme from IIM- Kolkata.


Here are his observations; in bullet, short and succinct…. 


What the Consumer is buying


Consumer is basically focusing on Essentials, even in grocery consumers are not spending heavy on discretionary products (Ex: In Vegetables you can find more preference to spend on Basic veg, Basic fruits)


•They are focusing on Products rather than brands, so the brands that are able to make the product available is winning the game will capture market share 

•In essentials going for bulk packs

•Preferring Packaged rather than loose 


Where the Consumers are buying


•Formats: Local kiranas, Supermarkets, Online is the preferred channels where the consumers are buying (Also preference to local kirana, supermarkets doing home delivery)


How the consumers are buying


Purchase frequency has reduced


•Not willing to venture out in public places

•Not easy to get delivery schedule on online e commerce

•Uncertainty on product/brand availability 

•Frequent changes in lockdown 


How the Trade is behaving (Ex Mumbai)


Trade is Slow or not seeing rotation of Stocks 


Wholesale: Wherein a broker used to book 3 to 4 vehicle (20tons load/vehicle) daily is now hardly books 1 vehicle (20ton load) as there is no movement from wholesale market ( one reason can be attributed to , Restaurant industry not operating , no floating population, migration of people, Kiranas closed, kiranas not able to operate at its full)


Migration of People: One Classic Example can be Rice Like masoori, parimal which was low price point rice there is slow down, indicates the segment consuming these variants has moved out


Kiranas


Many Small Kiranas which use to be run by migrant population is not operational as paying the rentals was not viable, labour availability is a concern.


Even operational kiranas are also not stocking up, as due to social distancing, time restrictions, odd even working days slowing the stock rotation at their end. 


You can read his earlier observations here: Supply Chain Challenges of Essential Food Items during COVID 19 in India


Idea ReviewBy Mukul Bhartiya / September-15

How to make a woman buy what you want her to buy

In the second part of winter of 1999, I went o buy a watch in one of the shops of South Extension in New Delhi. For a medium range budget, there were limited brand choices, probably only two (HMT and Titan), if I remember correctly. Decision to buy the watch was already made, budget was set, and brand choices were also not many to confuse me, so my top down control of decision making was all set. Only thing needed was the bottom up saliency filter of products to match my representation of expectations and gain my attention and assure me of matching my predicted value.


I entered the shop and my dorsal visual pathway started scanning the watches available on display and sending the messages to dorsolateral prefrontal cortex via primary visual cortex VI. My entire decision making and purchase process completed in less than five minutes. My decision making completely conformed to the research of Milosavljevic, Koch and Rangel (2011) which showed that consumers makes a purchase decision as quickly as within 313 milliseconds.


Shopkeeper told me that I am his first client to compete a purchase so quickly, otherwise other customers, especially woman sucks even last drop of blood from his brain while choosing and buying a watch. Not only that, even after taking so much time at the shop, on many occasions, they again return next day to replace the product. We had a laugh at this behavior. 


As my MBA completed and work experience started, especially in food retail and my interaction with my end customers increased manifold, I realized that my laugh back then was not only in bad taste but idiotic as well.


Woman makes most of the buying decision of any household and these decisions have to fit on four wheels of decision making cart:


1)Who uses

2)Who chooses

3)Who pays

4)Who benefits


If there is any imbalance in any of the wheal, the satisfaction level derived out of the purchase decision decreases drastically and creates bad shopping experience. It reminds me one of the buying decisions my mother made in my childhood. I was probably eight-nine years old then, youngest among three sons. My mother used to buy identical dresses for three of us. One day she had an idea that we three will look good in traditional white ‘payjama-kurta’ and she bought one set each for us. My mother was my favorite person, so I put that dress on sportingly. Middle one wore it grudgingly but the eldest one, who was in his early teen, threw the fit and decided not to wear it at all. Even few slaps on the face couldn’t convince him. 


Coming back to my decision to buy a watch and complete the buying process so quickly, If I lay my decision to buy the watch on this cart, then I find that I was the user, I was the chooser, I paid for it out of savings of my pocket money (it gave me the feeling of earning it) and I benefited from the features of watch. So, the satisfaction out of that decision was at peak. But I know there must have been gap in the level of satisfaction if I had to buy a watch for my sister because she may or may not have liked my decision with the same intensity as of mine. 


So, how to make a woman buy what you want her to buy? 


Decision making process of male and female brain is different. Both arrive at same result through different routes. Male brain, primarily driven by Testosterone, Vasopressin and Mullerian Inhibiting Substance is up for faster visuomotor scanning, faster physical reflexes, more risky behavior, aggressively defending the turf and restricting any woman like behavior. Female brain, primarily driven by Oxytocin, Estrogen and Prolactin is up for empathy, care, rapport, trust, bond etc. While male brain treats every issue as problem and jumps directly to find the solution, female brain starts evaluating the pros and cons of every action along with finding the solution. While male brain readily accepts the collateral outcome of its actions, female brain finds it difficult.  


Hundreds of hours observing customers walking in the stores and making buying decisions during my retail journey, I have figured out following points to be kept in mind before selling anything to female shoppers:


1)Establish rapport first and win trust: Opening pleasantries and a sincere effort to establish rapport and win trust works very well with female shoppers. . They like to put their trust in salesperson to give them honest opinion and step back. Any attempt to hard sell anything to them backfires. I remember one incident during my more. Retail days, when I was handling pulses category at national level. Before that, I was Category Manager of Staples for Mumbai zone. I was visiting stores in Mumbai to check pulses stock, pricing and promotion display and take customer feedback. In one of the store, I was talking to the store manager in the back office. Suddenly I heard a lady customer shouting at one of our CSA. I along with store manager rushed to scene. Upon asking, I was informed that the lady was sold a bag of rice which she found not of good quality. I immediately reached the ‘problem-solution mode’ and asked the lady about how she is cooking the rice because the bag she had purchased was of new crop. My question infuriated the lady even more and she blasted me with loud shout back, “I am cooking food for more years than your age, so don’t teach me how to cook”. I realized my mistake. I didn’t empathize with her by asking her about the problem, I didn’t ask her about the loss of faith and trust which she had bestowed on the CSA before making her purchase decision and I didn’t ask her about how she felt let down by making this decision which proved to be wrong. I calmed her down and assured her that I am with her in this process by making her believe that it not she but I along with my team are at fault. I took all the corrective actions then and there itself after aligning all the stakeholders, but this incident proved to be insightful to understand a customer.


2)Understand shopper’s world and objective behind purchase: While male shoppers come to the store with ‘their’ opinion in definite terms and they are mostly very clear about it, female shopper’s definition of ‘their’ is normally very broad. They try to make their decisions win-win for everyone assumed to be involved. So, after opening pleasantries and establishing the rapport, a little anchoring is required to understand the objective behind purchase and the people to be affected by their decision. 


3)Show alacrity in giving choices and eliminating least favored choices: Since a female shopper’s single decision leaves impact on many stakeholders, they need to be provided with choice. More implicit the objective of their purchase, more choices they would need and more time it will take. Though normally they wouldn’t like to be explicit in their demand and objective, but a quick zero down by the sales person is very necessary. If rapport is established, any change in behavior or opinion can quickly be analyzed and addressed. Though there may demand of more choices from them, neither their brain nor salesperson’s brain can handle this much amount of data. So, quick display of choices and even more quick elimination of least favorable choices become very crucial for successful closure of sales.


4)Appreciate their process of purchase: A little appreciation from the salesperson goes a long way in closing the sales successfully. Appreciation makes female shoppers believe that you are involved in their selection process and appreciate the effort they are making. This step evokes trust and faith in them towards you.  


I remember one incident, though not as a sales person. I went with my cousin sister to buy her a dress for a special occasion. She was to wear this dress to meet her to-be husband. We went to famous mall in NOIDA. As we enter the first shop, we saw a beautiful dress hanging in very front of the shop. She asked me whether it will look good on her. In a plain definite tone, I told her that dress is beautiful and will look good on her. She looked at me and said, “let’s try other stuff”. From one store to another, one dress to another, we spent more than four hours in that mall and nearby market. Tired and angry I sat on a bench in the mall and told her to select whichever dress she likes and once she makes her mind, call me to make the payment. In the end she chose the same dress which we had seen as first thing in the mall. After reaching home, I asked her if she had to buy this dress only, then why she made me walk for four hours. She replied, “you told me that dress is beautiful and it will look good on me but you didn’t tell me that it will look good on me for the very purpose I wanted to buy it. You were not with me there.” While my mind was focused on dress and whether it will look good on her not, I was not with her on the very purpose she was buying this dress for. I was not appreciative of the situation she was in.


5)Recognize and appreciate the decision: Recognition and appreciation of the decision they have made goes a long way winning their trust and making them your valued repeat customer. This is a very complex subject I attempted to write. 


Above mentioned points gave me success in category as generic as staples and I hope it can help others as well. There may be more points and I will appreciate the feedback.


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