The fall of Newspapers; don’t blame the readers

Last Sunday, I was badly searching for a newspaper in my house.

Not to read.

But to use as a disposable sheet to manage beard trimming operations.

I found one old newspaper that was used as a base to keep mangoes.

After trimming, I neatly folded the paper and kept it for future use.

I was surprised to realize that we produced almost 0 paper waste. 

I remember back in the days when I was living with my parents there was always a big stack of old newspapers in some corner.

Once my dad consumed the news, the value of the newspaper dropped to almost 0.

It was then used to wrap food parcels, press oily pooris, and whatnot.

Back then I always used to think newspapers get their major revenue share from reader subscriptions.

I used to wonder, how come they afford to give such thick copies.

Well, now I know that advertisers paid for the newspapers.

Classifieds and big front-page ads were the bread and butter. Subscription revenue might have covered the logistics.

The news was only to grab our attention.

#Newspapers won’t go out of circulation because there are no readers. 

Newspapers will go out of circulation because eventually, it will make less sense to #print#ads

Brands will reach out to people who need not be readers but just passive media consumers.

Nevertheless, newspapers will leave a huge vacuum, not in the reading space but in the utility space. 🙂

#advertising

Pathetic Product? Provide kickass customer service

Today when we came back from running, there was a big patch of spilled milk at our doorstep.

The packet had slowly leaked. Damaged due to poor handling.

After a good run in pleasant Pune weather (especially after the cyclone), this is was an ugly scene.

And this was not even the first time.

Wife in furious mode: I will call them (Supr Daily) right away and blast them.

Me (frowning): Tell them to deliver a fresh packet. I was trying to preserve a good mood. Why cry over spilled milk? *metaphorically and factually speaking*

We called customer service.

A lady on the other side started with an apology

This was followed by an apology and then some more apology

I started laughing, I can’t use your apology to make tea right?

Sir, I have already refunded the amount in your Supr daily wallet, please check

*that was fast*

After the call, my wife said, let us shift to some other delivery service. I am done with this.

I said, hold on for a minute.

What if the other new delivery agent offers a bad product and also has poor #customerservice? Or a better product with substandard customer-centricity?

Surp daily has poor delivery operations but awesome #customer service. 

You can either have an awesome #product or kickass customer service. Pick one.

#customerexperience

Managing risks beats Decision Making any day

More than taking the right decisions, life is all about managing risks. 

Aspiring for a stable government job or private job is a part of managing risk.

Investing in an FD or a small-cap mutual fund is again managing risk.

Choosing to drive at night or during the day is again a choice to manage risk.

So most of our decisions are simply less risky or riskier.

And yet, we label them as good and bad.

Starting a risky business that succeeds is a good decision.

The business that fails in hindsight becomes bad decision. 

In hindsight, we always tend to curse our decisions.

Result? 

Regrets.

But the cycle never stops. We compare our decisions with others and suffer.

Instead, focus on your ability to take risks.

If you don’t like to take risks, so be it. Live with that.

If you love to take risks, don’t regret it when things go wrong.

If you still wish to take it, get yourself covered.

Wish to drive at night? Buy a safe car and get yourself insured.

Don’t like the risky small-cap fund? buy an FD but don’t complain about the returns. 

The quality of our decisions depends on our appetite to take risks as individuals.

#managingrisks#risk#decisionmaking

And the theme for women’s day would be opportunism

Conversation between me and my wife on #Women’s day

Wife: Why so many organizations influence women to wear traditional on women’s day?

Me: I believe that is symbolism, it makes you look special. I think you should just stick with the theme and enjoy. Unless you want to look the odd one out.

Wife: What is the point of looking special? Don’t you think it is limiting and defeats the whole purpose of celebrating women?

Me: Well, what is the purpose of women’s day? To make women feel they are valued or they are special or equal?

Wife: Well, who knows!. Suggest me something, quick!

Me: Wear something traditional but comfortable, how about the Kurta that you bought last year?

Wife: Yeah, but that has to be ironed ( Goes and irons the Kurta)

Wife: It still looks a little wrinkled

Me: Don’t worry, looks good. Book the auto, you are getting late

(She reaches office and calls me)

Wife: You know what, Uber gave me a discount! It is women’s day. She goes on to narrate how a woman in Saree almost met with an accident on her bike. 

End.

What my wife went through is a small example of how her decisions and choices were inadvertently limited on women’s day.

I can only see one theme on every women’s day. The theme of “Opportunism”; creative ads and discounts

Thoughts?

Sometimes, all you have to do is exist

Yesterday I received a call from Sharekhan. Sharekhan has been my stockbroker for almost a decade now. Anyway, it was good to hear a local dialect (Konkani) because the call was from Mapusa, Goa, my hometown. The lady wanted to know whether I would be interested in buying some MFs through Sharekhan. 

I politely declined and diverted the conversation to their core offerings, that is, brokerage charges on the stocks. 

Your brokerage is almost 5 times more than other brokerage firms, I said that laughingly. 

The response was funny. She said, we know sir, but there is hardly anything we can do about it. Firms like Zerodha are quite new and we won’t be able to match their prices.

I said, well, then why do you think I should stick with you?

She said because we have people to support you. (She meant service)

I asked a couple of more questions around the platform and the discussion was over.

I just reflected on the sorry state of some businesses that opened in 2000s :

#Sharekhan will never be able to match the brokerage of #Zerodha

#Crosswords will never be able to match the prices of #Amazon

Idea-Vodafone will never be able to match the unit #economics of #Jio

And yet they exist!

Think about it

Or maybe sometimes you only need to exist…

Comment!

The Value of Middlemen

Last year just before the onslaught of the pandemic, I decided to rent a place closer to my office.

It was mid-February, I wanted to cut down on the daily commute.

In the first week of March, I found a broker and paid the brokerage. I was supposed to shift by mid-March.

The following week, everything came to a standstill. Pune was worst hit.

WFH was declared and I was forced to drop my decision of shifting.

I demanded my brokerage, citing the obvious.

The broker was not rude, but a difficult conversation was imminent.

After a series of follow-ups, I received 50% of the brokerage back.

A few weeks back, the same broker called me, asking whether I need a home for rent.

We had a short conversation but I might seek out his help again.

The bottom line is that brokers are here to stay.

They are the glue between supply and demand.

Neither supply nor demand want to have those difficult conversations.

The supply and the demand have their egos and values to protect. 

The broker is like a matchmaker with all the databases of inventory and locations. Thick skin and experience to handle difficult conversations is their forte.

A platfrom cannont replicate the tacit knowledge and behaviours that brokers have on offer. Not yet.

That’s where we pay a premium the “Brokerage”

The complex business of Food Delivery

The food delivery business is really complex.

There are too many moving parts.

The App, the bike, the biker, the restaurant, the cook, packaging, handling, traffic, weather, address, customer service, payment gateway.

The problem is no one could be held accountable for your #experience.

Delay? Would you blame it on the delivery guy or the restaurant? Or the externalities?

Taste? The delay or the restaurant?

Packaging? The restaurant or the pile of multiple packages that were kept on your package?

Or do you blame #Swiggy and #Zomato for quality control? 

Moreover, the elements of the food delivery system benefit very little from the #learning curve effect

Here is why:

No one sticks in this system for too long.

There is a lot of attrition.

Delivering food is a side gig at best.

No one wants to make a career in it.

Restaurants fold their business faster than they pop-up.

No continuity and learning curve benefits, no operational #excellence.

But given all that, it feels like magic when all these elements work together in tandem.

It makes my day when that sumptuous hot biryani arrives before time on a rainy day.

However, I admire the Pizza delivery operations.

Their vertically integrated #operations simply rock.

And they have been doing this for ages!

Leave your comments.

Do Managers Matter?

Do managers matter?

Google’s management raised that question in 2008.

That led to a research project called Project Oxygen.

Ok, I don’t know whether they answered that question, but instead, they came-up with top traits of successful managers. While you could Google those 10 traits, I am going to paste the statements of Google’s feedback survey.

Employees could rate every statement on a 1(strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree)

I would recommend my manager to others.


My manager assigns stretch opportunities to help me develop in my career.
My manager communicates clear goals for our team.


My manager gives me actionable feedback on a regular basis.


My manager provides the autonomy I need to do my job (i.e., does not “micro-manage” by getting involved in details that should be handled at other levels).


My manager consistently shows consideration for me as a person.


My manager keeps the team focused on priorities, even when it’s difficult (e.g., declining or deprioritizing other projects).

My manager regularly shares relevant information from their manager and senior leadership.

My manager has had a meaningful discussion with me about my career development in the past six months.

My manager has the technical expertise (e.g., technical judgment in Tech, selling in Sales, accounting in Finance) required to effectively manage me.

The actions of my manager show they value the perspective I bring to the team, even if it is different from their own.

My manager makes tough decisions effectively (e.g., decisions involving multiple teams, competing priorities).

My manager effectively collaborates across boundaries (e.g., team, organizational).

Survey statements continue in the comments.

If you reflect on them, they cover all critical aspects of an effective manager.

But do we need managers?

What do you think?

Directing is 90% Casting

Directing is 90% casting.

I don’t remember where I read that but today I watched an interview where Anurag Kashyap says the same thing in a different way.

He says he doesn’t cast actors but characters who make his life easy as a director.

Hiring is no different.

You don’t need to put a lot of efforts into managing if you hire the right people.

You can tell a lot about an organization on basis of its hiring process.

More than technical rounds it is the rounds where the cultural fit of the candidate is tested.

Some organizations take forever to say that disappointing no or that much-awaited yes.

You can blame it on bureaucracy but with some certainty, I can tell they spend a lot of time deciding on the profiles.

Taking their own time to screen profile after profile. Meticulously interviewing candidates at their own pace.

Some great organizations don’t have to do all that hard work.

Great brands attract great talent.

But hiring practices don’t make it to the mainstream.

Hiring is rendered as boring, and it is undermined.

Managing on the other hand remains to be interesting and is covered extensively in academics and other popular media.

Like managing, directing is seen as exciting.

We don’t hear a lot about casting, how many casting directors do you know?

Flat vs Hierarchical

Flat organizations sound cool

But why tall #hierarchies are so uncool these days?

Around 7 years back I and my boss were trying to understand the organizational structure of a manufacturing company.

We were designing some learning programs for the organization across different levels

Their organizational structure was very tall

Out of curiosity, I asked, “do they even need such a long chain of command?”

My boss gave me two answers (he loved to give two answers for every question)

Well, Alok, the first answer is pretty straightforward, he said.

There are defined roles in any formalized and large organizations. There are defined tasks, roles, responsibilities, and ownership assigned to each level. It makes sense.

His answer B: In a hierarchy, everyone needs to have a sense of growth and purpose. People need to feel valued and hence there has to be a position for them every time they get promoted.

Every position becomes a goal or a career objective. Hence it makes sense.

While the answer B is subjective and might need some research, I feel it holds some water.

Tall hierarchies exist because they serve a deep purpose.

What about flat structures? are they really cool?

In my next post write why I feel truly flat organizations can’t exist

#organizationalstructure