Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Virgin Way – Richard Branson

According to Sir Richard Branson, this is the most cherished quote of his life. Never thought it will become one of mine!

Well, this book takes us through different examples highlighting how culture has been the main ingredient of the VIRGIN group and this is what differentiates virgin from other companies. As I complete this book, what struck me is how both Virgin Group and Sir Richard Branson have the same personality, both are ONE personality following one culture - Do what you LOVE. 

Further, we learn Sir Richard Branson’s entrepreneurship journey, right from the first student magazine to what made him launch virgin records, then comes virgin money. The book also focuses on some interesting companies that Virgin group took over or brought as part of expansion plans and turn them around from bankruptcy to profitable. How Sir Richard Branson’s frustration with British Airways motivated him to launch Virgin Atlantic offering better facilities in flight to travelers. And now his youngest entrepreneurial debut with Virgin Galactic, which will to take people to outer space.

So, what makes Virgin different? And how is he able to make them profitable is what most of his competitors ask?

Well, Sir Richard Branson answers in his own unique style, he always asks his key leadership, "How can we do the same thing in a different way?" How many ways can we fail?

This is the most interesting story which has been stuck in my mind even after reading the book.

The story is about those days when Virgin Atlantic was initially launched, offering more things than the airline company can afford, especially digital entertainment for economy class travelers. Most industry leaders felt he will not be able to sustain for long with this kind of extravagant experience for travelers. But Sir Richard Branson cleverly played his cards, instead of reusing headphones he started giving them free to travelers along with the logo on them. This helped him generate more bookings compared to bookings via advertising. Virgin was the only company offering free headphones as a giveaway to travelers. While most do not know the major reason for giving it free? The cost to service headphones was higher than the actual cost of the headphones.

Another interesting example was how he fought against the UK govt when Virgin trains were stopped from plying on the South end. The passengers urged Richard Branson to file a case against the UK govt, further the passengers launched a signature campaign to allow Virgin trains. Eventually, the case never made to the court as the UK govt went for of court settlement.

Virgin way is all about how company culture to do things differently can create impact. Towards the end, Sir Richard Branson lists down 10 core cultural aspects to becoming VIRGIN way.

Check more here - The Virgin Way

No more product sales, the future is about solving the problem - SPIN Selling

Selling now is first to understand the problem, not always what the salesman sees first is the problem, unless we dig deep with 4Ws and 1H we would never know what the PROBLEM is. 

Take the example of vacuum cleaners, 10 to 20 years back of we need to buy a vacuum cleaner, we would go to a store meet the salesman who knows more about the product and get a demo. During that period, we had less competition, you end up purchasing that vacuum cleaner.

But now we can go online and check and compare multiple vacuum cleaners, select the one that suits us, check reviews on Amazon, post on Twitter and Facebook to my friends and followers to share their feedback about the product before purchase. Once we are through with our research, only then we start comparing the costs on multiple e-commerce websites and purchase from the one that gives us the maximum discount.

But imagine a scenario, when a sales or solution expert drives deep to understand why I need a vacuum cleaner, this can be either for

1 - Cleaning the carpet, as it keeps on accumulating dust regularly.

2 - Clean glass sliding windows.

3 - Clean the ceiling, as difficult for my hand to reach.

3 - Clean sofa

Now going deep to understand the problem, which might lead the salesperson to give a better solution to the customer. This might be offering house cleaning services, which might be cheaper than the cost of the vacuum cleaner or joining a neighborhood club where all members pool white goods and use it once a month or end up buying a new carpet cover that doesn't let the dust settle in the carpet.

The new age Salesperson should drill and question the customer to understand the exact problem, rather than just give the solution.

Find the right problem to solve, what is important?

As per the study, physicians interrupted the patient in the first 18 secs of discussion, if you do not understand the problem, how can you prescribe the right dose of medicine.

Listening without intimation is not listening. We stop interrupting and wait for 15-sec before you reply.

Use 'Yes and Instead' instead of 'and but'

This helps to engage and drive the customer to explain their problem with all the information, this can be with his real-life problems and how he/she is dealing with them. This will help the salesperson to arrive at a solution along with the customer. Customer been part of the solution creation process, it helps to have better buying to increase in usage of the solution. 

This article is based on the book, SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Time to Play: Indian Toy market, a late entrant, but has immense opportunities with growing market

The Indian toy market is approximately ₹16,000 crore, of which 75% are imported from China. While the Indian toy market is largely disorganized and comprises wholesalers, importers, and manufacturers. It is very price-sensitive also. 

Nevertheless, with the recent “#MakeInIndia” momentum, Indian’s are more aware of buying toys manufactured in India. But been very late entrants in this industry which lacks both experienced manpower and investments. 

I really appreciate the work done by some Indian toy designers and manufacturers towards creating their own unique niche.  Here are a couple of Indian startups and companies.

  1. PlayShifu by Dinesh Advani
  2. Kreative Kids International by Sharad Kapoor
  3. Toiing by Simon Jacob 
  4. Desi toys and games by Swapna Wagh and 
  5. Zephyr Toys by Moiz Gabajiwala.

Here are a couple of interesting ideas which I thought would help toy companies to increase sales. 

  1. Companies can give free piggy banks to kids when they buy any of, their products. The piggy bank will be registered in their name with parents' mobile no, this creates a transition from offline to the online world. When the piggy bank is full or the amount crosses INR 2,000 enough the kids can get their piggy bank to the toy store and the toy store will open it. In exchange, the toy store will give 10% interest on the collected amount as an incentive to kids. This can be used to purchase a new set of toys. The toy company can also partner with any bank for launching kids' accounts, both stand to benefit. 
  2. Choosing toys is a difficult process, and most often the toy store guy is hardly aware of toys and how they can help in learning. Indian toy companies need band evangelists who can help to guide on what and which toy people should buy. They need more and more kids joining as ambassadors program.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Modern Monopolies - book review

This book Modern Monopolies by Nicholson is a must-read for all entrepreneurs, start-ups, strategy heads of brands/ Products. It highlights the importance of being in platform business and how this impacts the growth of organisation, as most software companies are becoming commodities.

As you move towards chapters four, the author gives examples on successful platforms like Facebook, Twitter,  Android OS, AirBnB, Uber and reason behind their success. He also highlights platforms like Windows OS, BlackBerry OS, MySpace, Friendster, etc and why they failed or failing.

He furthers goes on to explain interesting shifts that are happening in the platform business. Earlier examples include iTunes during launch of iPod became the largest music company, but now people are shifting towards newer platforms like Spotify, Saavan, Gaana, etc.

Even when Amazon launched Audible platform, which became a market leader in it's category. But now new platforms like Storytel are offering ebook + Audio book + Regional at a monthly nominal subscription. Though subscription cost is higher but, this gives the customer freedom to choose and read / hear multiple books.

Here is the story which I loved from the book ans have copied as is, since it makes sense and easy to understand. Though many argue this is not a real story, but conclusion is important for learning.

An entrepreneur, tired of the long waits he is experiencing in his dentist’s office, decides that dentist offices are badly managed. So he designs and builds a comprehensive dentist office management system and brings it to market. The software is expensive, at $25,000 per year per dentist office, but it’s a hit anyway as dentists realize significant cost savings after deploying the system. The company, Dentasoft, grows quickly into a $100mm annual revenue business, goes public, and trades up to a billion dollar valuation.
Two young entrepreneurs graduate from college, and go to YC. They pitch PG on a low cost version of Dentasoft, which will be built on a modern software stock and include mobile apps for the dentist to remotely manage his office from the golf course. PG likes the idea and they are accepted into YC. Their company,, gets their product in market quickly and prices it at $5,000 per year per office. Dentists like this new entrant and start switching over in droves. Dentasoft misses its quarter, citing competitive pressures, churn, and declining revenues. Dentasoft stock crashes. Meanwhile, does a growth round from Sequoia and hires a CEO out of Workday.
Around this time, an open source community crops up to build an open source version of dental office software. This open source project is called DentOps. The project takes on real life as its leader, a former dentist turned socialist blogger and software developer named NitrousOxide, has a real agenda to disrupt the entire dental industry. A hosted version of DentOps called DentHub is launched and becomes very popular with forward thinking dentist offices that don’t want to be hostage to companies like Dentasoft and anymore. 
Dentasoft is forced to file for bankruptcy protection while they restructure their $100mm debt round they took a year after going public.’s board fires its CEO and begs the founders to come back and take control of the struggling company. NitrousOxide is featured on the cover of Wired as the man who disrupted the dental industry

Towards the end, the book explains how to identify true potential of your own product and how you can make the shift towards becoming a platform.

Software is a commodity, think platform.

Friday, August 30, 2019

How to build spaceship - book review

How many of us know about early life of Peter Diamandis, founder of X prize, founder of Singularity university?
Then you shouldn't miss this book "How to make a spaceship: A band of renegades, an epic race and the birth of private space flight" by Julian Guthrie.

And this book is not only for people interested to build ROCKETS but for all those who DREAM.
Some interesting insights I gained from this book

  • The shortest distance between two points is not a straight line when you travelling in a flight! As Earth is a sphere, round, in olden days pilots without gyroscope, would pull a rubber band between two points they are travelling and leave it, when the rubber band loses tension it returns to its curve position to give you the closest distance. 
  • Sometimes the solutions is so obvious that we over think about it, which takes us far away from the solution. The SpaceshipOne flight had an outer varnish covering of Epoxy fluid, which helped to prevent it from overheating. But, Burt Rutan wanted to patent, so he literally added herbs and oregano and named it as some patented solution. 
  • Peter Diamandis didn't have the $10 million prize to give away for X prize winner, but it didn't stop him from announcing this competition. After announcement he went on to pitch almost more than 60 to 70 entrepreneurs to sponsor it. Richard Branson meeting was the 60th meeting and even he rejected to sponsor. Quite, surprisingly, he was the one who finally invested and sponsored Spaceship One for $2 mn just before 2 weeks from final take off. 
  • Peter Diamandis was a medical student since his parents wanted him to take up medicine. But he became astrophysicist from MIT before joining medical. It amazed me that he was running a company to make spacecraft for sub orbital flight, so people can experience zero gravity PLUS running Association for space Tourism across the world, had launched Space X prize and looking for sponsor + "studying medicine"

If you can dream Big, and work towards it with all your passion, their is no stopping.

This book was written by Julian Guthrie and After Spaceship 1 win the Ansari SpaceX prize, Stephen Hawking suggest  Peter Diamandis to write a book on this entire experience, so technically this a Peter's biography prior to start of Singularity University.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Everything you wanted to know about - INGREDIENT MARKETING

Ingredient - branding is creating a brand for an ingredient or component of a product, to project the high quality or performance of the ingredient. Ingredient-branding takes a special position in marketing, as it cannot be clearly allocated to either industrial or consumer goods

marketing as per Wikipedia. There are several companies whose only specialty is to assist their clients or play a key role in creating a better product with which they partner. Brands like ABS by BOSCH, Teflon, Intel and many others play a key role in the final overall product offered to the buyer. In short, an “ingredient” brand is used by a “host/mother” brand to partner or help established brand equity of the host brand.  To keep it simple “Ingredient brand is a brand within a brand”.

Buyers trust products which are transparent (showcase what ingredients have been used to make or manufacture them). Means it is no longer enough for ingredient brand to market itself just to product/brand manufacturers. But now needs to reach out to more and more consumers and establish themselves as key INGREDIENTS. It is much more important when consumers start ensuring the host product to sell along with the preferred ingredient. This lays importance to talk directly to the consumer through the power of ingredient branding

Brands who have used ingredient marketing - Dupont’s Teflon, Intel’s Intel Inside, Lycra for clothes by Rayon, ABS by Bosch Mobility, Dolby Stereo systems, etc.
"Intel Inside" was the first, and arguably the best, "ingredient" branding, let’s understand how this strategy helped a microprocessor brand. This campaign was targeted by B2B Company to B2C community, directly to buyers/consumers.

Before we understand the strategy, let’s first and foremost understand more about the company products. Intel makes an ingredient, MICROPROCESSORS or silicon chips for the computer industry. It doesn’t make the main dish, means computers. Consumers aren’t interested in ingredients like vanilla flavoring brand in ice cream or pastry, they are concerned about the final product. Intel doesn’t make or sell these products or chips directly to consumers. They make semiconductors, microprocessors chips found inside popular consumer electronic devices.

Microprocessor chips were an unknown component of PC for the end consumers. Intel was a market leader in microprocessor brand in the 1980s with the launch of microprocessor 286, 386 and 486. Soon competitors were catching up with Intel and it was getting tough to sustain. Intel realized that to remain a leader in business, it needs to enter the mind of Consumer and establish connect which can only be accomplished with emotional branding campaigns.

Based on initial research by INTEL, they identified what people think about the chips in the computers and how they relate to it. The consumers or buyers of PCs were never certain about the quality or reliability of the microprocessor chip which was a critical component. They were just interested in computers. Except for gamers, programmers, hardware specialists, scientists, and technology enthusiasts, hardly anyone was aware of the microprocessor, the computer was a mystery for rest.  Intel felt that microprocessor being a critical component of PC had an opportunity here to enter the consumer’s mind.
This led to the launching of the campaign “Intel Inside” they initiated tie – up with existing OEMs to partner. OEM partners were happy as whoever partnered received a 10% premium for “Intel Inside” products from end-consumers plus advertising support.

With this campaign ‘Intel’ logo started appearing at the end of the ad with a piece of specific music. That music became synonymous with Intel. The first thing everyone would remember from an event is the “Ending” part. The Intel music provides that pleasant sensation. Everyone could remember the Intel Logo and the sound.
With the launch of this campaign, other key market leaders from B2B product and service industry initiated similar fashion campaigns to establish INGREDIENT products. We saw TEFLON campaign for non – stick cookware, ABS by Bosch for automobiles, Dolby stereo for cinema halls and music industry.

What we learned?
  1. The person who buys your product may not be the person who uses or benefits from your product. Think about marketing to the end user.
  2. Don’t be ashamed of being an ingredient or a small part of a larger product. In fact, use it to your advantage!
  3. Technology can be complicated. Keep the message simple. Intel makes your device faster! Focus your marketing on the benefits of your product not the features of your product.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How eLearning Systems can change B2B Product Demo and Customer Support

Traditionally B2B organizations have been offering product demos at customer location. This accounts to huge amount of investment in travel and stay, but cannot be neglected. Often customers also request for repeat of demos, which builds the cost. This happens due to complexity of product or low academic qualification of customer, they take more time to learn. B2B companies especially in the area of customize products regularly face this problems of repeat demos, thus reducing profit on sales.   

B2B should develop new age ELearning systems for product demo. ELearning systems now have high technology integration like Augment Reality, virtual Reality, Web – Meetings, etc. These systems can be incorporated with questionnaire for evaluation of product demo based on answers. Further, this questionnaire will also help in product and service co-creation based on feedback.
Each eLearning capsule or graphic video shouldn’t be longer than 2 to 3 minutes duration to engage with customer and ensure understanding.  These demos can be translated into different languages and sent on smart phones.

Further B2B organizations can offer customer support using these eLearning systems, probing the user to identify issues and raise support tickets for customized solutions.

Some benefits of eLearning Systems to B2B organizations:

  • Cost Effective: eLearning is cost effective as there are no logistics like travel and stay of engineer is involved. This will reduce dependability on printed collaterals, as everything is available on cloud servers.
  • Learning 24 x 7 x 365:  User can learn watching repetitively, thus increasing engagement. Also as the eLearning systems are on cloud, users can watch it at his / her convenience. 
  • Tracking of course: ELearning systems can be incorporated with tracking systems which can help B2B organization to understand analytics. These eLearning demos can be incorporated with questionnaire for evaluation of demo. Feedback systems like these helps in product development, since users can share in real time and partner in co – creation of product / service. 
  • Standardization and Scalability of demo: ELearning systems help to standardize demo, also help to integrate changes based on feedback in real time, so demo course keeps on evolving for better engagement and understanding of user.