My Top 5 Electronic Devices

During my college days, my friends used to often call me Mr. Gadget. That’s because the desk in my hostel room always used to be covered in electronics, black wires, all jumbled up, and from within it, I used to draw devices like a Palm PDA, a CDMA USB dongle (this was 2005, so it was all red-hot-new!), and dazzle them all.

Years have passed, and so the gadgets have changed. But I have become more productive with them, and my relationship with them has become more meaningful than ‘the latest available, just out of curiosity’.

So here’s my top 5 gadget list that I’m using as of now.

1. The MacBook Pro
I had always been a PC user. Half of the time I was forced to use Windows. The other half I used different flavours of Linux, for some time Red Hat, some time Ubuntu, and most of the time OpenSuSE.

Well, that changed in the middle of 2011, when I finally decided to buy a MacBook. It’s a 13″ MacBook Pro, now souped up with 6GB RAM and an additional 120GB Intel SSD, which make it all the more fast and a pleasure to work with.

2. The Phones
At present I’m using a Karbonn A9+, which was a distress purchase from Croma, because my 4 year old Nexus One had refused to charge that day, and I needed a phone.

Before this, I was using a Motorola Defy+. An awesomely rugged phone, which did not fear water, dust, or any such thing specified in its manual. Too bad it had to go to the repair shop, because one night I dropped it from four feet and it landed face-down and its glass panel cracked. Gave an effect of an awesome psychedelic wallpaper though.

3. The Battery Pack
In this age of smartphones, where screen sizes are getting bigger and processors are getting faster, battery capacity is hardly able to keep up. Most smartphones die within 12 hours of charging them full.

This gave rise to a new category of mobile electronics – the USB battery pack. You charge it at home when you charge your phone. When you leave home, you carry it along with you, and when your phone’s battery is about to die, you plug it in the battery pack and turn the pack on. Voila! Instant charging without being tied to a wall. It’s like carrying an extra bottle of charge along for when your Camelbak runs out of charge.

Mine is a CoolerMaster Choiix Power Fort 5.5Wh. Why did I buy this one? Because it’s tiny enough to fit in my pockets along with the phone, and it came in my budget.

4. The iPod
This was my first ever Apple device. And I bought it only because it offered me the largest capacity to store my entire music collection, and was still the best on the price/GB scale. Moreover, its battery has lasted me well, though it shows fatigue nowadays (This iPod Classic 120GB is 4 years old).

5. The Camera
I own a Nikon D90. In its time it was a game changer. And it’s not a bad performer now either. This isn’t a device I use daily, but it’s important enough for me to make the list.

Now, out of these 5, I have bought at least 3 (4 if you ignore the Karbonn and consider the Motorola) online – the laptop, the camera and the battery pack. In addition, I have bought innumerable memory cards, for the camera and for the phones, cables, chargers, flashguns, flash controllers, studio equipment, old lenses, new lenses, all online.

Yes, online. I believe that retail has matured enough in India for us to buy even high value things such as these, online. Except for maybe clothes, shoes etc. (where you would like to hold and feel the product, and maybe try it for fit), I think everything else can be bought online, what with trusted platforms like Flipkart, eBay, SmartShoppers ensuring that we get value for our product, get it in time, and any complaints we might have are resolved. Even though I haven’t yet, but people have been buying even clothes and shoes online, now that Jabong and Myntra are here.

There’s another reason I bought these things online. It’s cheaper. Yes, most of the time it’s cheaper than buying from a brick-and-mortar store. I’m not talking about the convenience of comparing and ordering, or about the opportunity cost of driving down to a store. I actually got these products for lesser rates than I would have gotten them offline. Many a times it’s because the vendor passes on some savings to us, but quite often it’s because I come across a deal. For example, the now almost famous laptop sale period on eBay, where I bought my MacBook and where I send my friends to buy their MacBooks from, or Flipkart’s birthday music giveaway.

There are three ways I find such deals:

  1. Mailers: eBay regularly sends out mailers with coupons for specific discounts on specific categories. I just try to time my purchases with the validity of these coupons.
  2. Sites: This is another way I get coupons and deals for my purchases: by looking for them online. There are quite a few coupon & deal aggregators online, like, and a few others, where I look for deals for the product I’m looking for at the shop I’m looking to buy it at.
  3. Phone recharge: Vodafone and Reliance (that’s all I know of) often give out coupons of eBay and other shopping portals when you recharge your phone connection from their site. It’s quite handy when you have to buy something in the range of Rs. 300 to say Rs. 2000, because the discount is not a percentage, but it’s often a flat Rs. 100 discount.

Notes on CommunityMatrimony TVC, or Let’s Be Regressive On National Television (1/2)

You might have seen this ad in the last couple of years on the television, and would’ve either cringed at it, ignored it, or (horror of horrors!) admired it and used their services.

Here’s my take on it (first of a two-post long ‘rant’):

The strategy/advertising/marketing/craft angle

Idea: Give them what they want
They want to “save their honour which their children don’t care about”. Let’s give them that. Let’s reinforce their perceptions. Let’s not fight anything. Let’s approach the parents, because they are the ones who give us listings in the first place. Let’s not approach a matrimony ad from the angle of the people whose life will be affected by the marriage, because we need to strengthen our buyers‘ idea that the end-users are not capable of taking the right decision, or are anyways on the “wrong side”. And that it is the right & duty of the parents to choose the life partner of their children, and whatever choice the said children have is not important for the overall happiness of the overall family.

Classic before & after.
Before: Daughter was seen in public with undesirable different-caste boy.
Solution steps in: CommunityMatrimony representative.
After: Photograph of a happy daughter happily married to decent same-caste boy. Relaxed parents. Please also note that the girl was happy in both the before & after scenarios. Our product does not affect the happiness of the end-user. It’s only the regressive parents we care about, and we’ve provided them (though in a simplistic process) with much-needed (though debatable) “happiness”.

Naming disaster:
As generic as it can be. It’s not an ownable name (only an ownable domain name). It’s a descriptor rather than a name. And then there are the various variants of it – the ones you are expected to use – like in my case. Or do I use Who the hell is going to tell me that, huh?
Also, notice the smart usage of the euphemistic, almost modern social-economy word “community” instead of what they meant: “caste”.

The Execution
The acting is second-rate, the dubbing is third rate, the expressions are… well, the less we talk about it the better. The scripting/storytelling is anyway nothing to write home about.

Now on to the real WTF moment:
The enemy here, is not germs, pollution, old age, bad style, inefficiency, body odor, tooth decay, dandruff, stains, cholesterol. The enemy is other human beings, another community, and of course, our own children.

This ad takes just the opposite route from ‘catch ’em young’, where advertisers tailor their messages towards children so that they get early-in-their-life adopters (who can be addicts later on), or ads where the decision maker is an adult but the message is so tailored that their kids get influenced and then coerce them into buying that brand. Here, it’s just the opposite – attract the parents, because

  1. most marriageable youngsters would not be caught dead trying to find a life partner online, and
  2. in India, the society and parents have a sort of entitlement to choose any person’s life partner on the pretext of “wanting the best for our kids”, even though their prime concern is “is the other person from our community or not?”.

This concern is what CM taps. Do they say “we’ll find you an able suitor”? Or, “we’ll find someone who’ll gel well with your daughter”? Or, “your daughter will like him at first glance”? No. All they say is, “why let your daughter stay friends with that other caste guy she likes, when we can help you find a complete stranger (whom you can call your own because of his caste) and forcing her to marry him instead?”.

Another post about the societal implications coming soon…

I’ll be waiting for your comments 🙂

Long Due Update

I’m sorry I’ve not been writing for quite some time now. But I hope you enjoy the pictures and the wallpapers 🙂

In the past few months, life has changed. A bit.

I’m working for myself now. And I’m happier doing it.

You’d have seen the post about the Big Wheels Motoring website design. Apart from that I’ve worked with a design agency in Pune run by very dear friends of mine, on a website for a NGO. And the most exciting thing right now is another project with the same agency, this time for another friend. You shall see the result in a couple of weeks.

And, I am hell-bent on getting another personal web project out this time. Wish me luck!

Impact: Ceat Tyres ‘idiot’ ad

If you ask me to recollect an impactful tyre ad, you’ll see a confused me. As far as I can remember, I don’t remember having seen any powerful tyre ads. I might remember the Ralson ads from the 80s (for sheer frequency of appearance), the MRF man (but no ad) or a vague idea that Ceat used to have a running rhinoceros, but any powerful ad? No.

Enter the “new” Ceat. And their new advertising.

Ceat seems to be focusing its marketing efforts around the idea of grip, and the new campaign is built around that.

Short, crisp, impactful.

So what really works here?

  1. The message: Ceat tyres have better grip. Better grip means holding on to the road. Which means powerful braking. Which translates to safety.
  2. Empathy: If you drive or ride anywhere in India, you of course are fed up of that set of people called ‘everyone else on the road’. People who don’t care for traffic rules. Who cross roads in peak traffic at any spot other than a zebra crossing. Who talk on the phone while walking on the road, while riding a bike, while driving a car. Who would come in your way out of nowhere while you are trying to rush to office or rushing home from a party late at night. Ceat has called this set of people ‘idiots’. And we all agree, don’t we? These people would put everyone’s life in danger with some stupid action of theirs, then look at you indignantly as if it’s all your fault! You, the good law-abiding driver, are left flummoxed at the sudden turn of events, and just swear at him under your breath.
    Doesn’t this happen a little too often? Which is why Ceat proclaims – The Roads are filled with Idiots. And we all nod in agreement. Which is why you need to get your tyres from the tyre company which already knows this universal truth that you feel so deep inside. Classic convincing!
  3. The scripting & execution: both the TVCs that have aired so far (family coming back from the movies cut off by a speeding SUV, office executive suddenly has to brake for a man with a pram) start on a relaxed, slice of life note, with dialogue which makes you wonder what it’s an ad for, and the blow is delivered when you least expect it. The protagonists are shown to be shocked. The background music aids in the impact. And the line is delivered. Crisp, impactful, winning.

Oh, and Ceat has not stopped at just making TVCs. They also have an online campaign which is tied in to their bike tyre portal And they are doing some really innovative magazine advertising – the last of which I saw in the xBHP magazine’s 2nd issue. Go give it a look.

Mohabbat Kare Khush Rahe Muskuraye: How Anchor changed toothpaste advertising!

Quick question: When I say oral care products advertising what comes to your mind? Most common answers: doctors in white lab coats, cute children in dentists’ chambers, cute children talking to their parents in metaphors about tooth decay (daanto me saDan!), people holding their cheeks because their gums/teeth hurt, and lots of information about roots of the teeth, gums, salt content, fluoride content, whitening strips and what not.

Too much information, then some more information, then scaring the audience (especially children) about the scenario in absence of the product.

How about some positiveness people? How about some classic emotional advertising? Something smart? Something snappy in thought, not just execution?

Well, here you go:

Video shared on YouTube by richacsaxena

Anchor, a very new entrant in the already over-saturated, over-crowded toothpaste market, that bored us with their Kajol-asking-when-you-changing-your-toothpaste-huh-huh advertisements in the past, turns a new leaf and does the daring but smart job of breaking the clutter by going back to the basics.

Too much jargon eh? Not really.

The ad became an instant hit with many advertising professionals I know, and whenever I played it back to anyone I knew, the instant reaction when the ad ended was never short of “wow!”

So, what works here?

  1. Back to basics: advertising at the very basic is a sales pitch delivered emotionally. It has to be engaging & fun. Because if you bore your customer he will not listen to you. And it has to have a story. Because who doesn’t love a story? Apart from lukewarm “my dentist papa says XXX prevents tooth decay” ads, there have hardly been any stories in oral care ads. We have been bombarded with component messages (triclosan anyone?), fake (as in actors playing) doctors endorsing the products on TV, and lately a father talking to his kid about oral care (which is somewhat interesting, and can be a topic of another post), but none of them comes even close to what this is.
  • The story: it is a story. A complete story. A story in the truest sense. There’s a hot wife, obviously madly in love with her husband, baking something, obviously for her husband. We get to see the husband momentarily in the photo-frame which she kisses out of overflowing love. The context is set. The mood is set. And then as a consequence to an accident arising out of her happy & carefree moves, we see the disastrous obstacle she (and her husband) has to face now: the cake is hard as stone! It’s so bad that it creates a dent in the refrigerator’s door! It’s so bad that it causes the tiles on the floor to crack ! Then we see the husband, a clearly average looking guy (played by Sharib Hashmi) – a clear contrast from the hot model wife he has, and the way they hug and are happy together, you start wondering how is this even possible. He is happy to see that his darling wife has baked a cake for him, and he lunges at it. The wife, who by now is clearly aware of the obstacle, tries to stop her dear husband from trying to eat the cake and losing his teeth, but stops short when she sees the miracle! The husband effortlessly bites into the cake, and overcomes the obstacle like a true hero! “How is that even possible?”, you think, forgetting your original dilemma of the unmatched pair. It is at this moment that the product comes in, and you get to know that it is in fact a toothpaste commercial – Anchor is the ally which helps our hero defeat the evil “stone” cake.
  • Suspension of disbelief: suspension of disbelief is a potent tool to engage the audience – it keeps them thinking and wondering. Like the dinosaurs living alongside humans in The Flintstones. Like the ultra-modern weapons in medieval looking arenas in the Quake franchise. The first disbelief moment is the husband-wife pair – everyone wonders what has this guy done to get such a wife, and then everyone wonders how is she so in love with him. The audience is so engaged wondering and thinking that they are now not taking their eyes off the screen. The second disbelief moment is the obviously exaggerated strong teeth our hero has. However ludicrous it looks, it engages you, and gets the message across.
  • Story-like tension and relief: a happy scene becomes tense when you see that her ultimate symbol of love for her husband (with two sweet pink candy hearts on top!) is in reality a nemesis for human teeth, and then it’s released when you find that the hero of a husband brushes with Anchor daily in order to be able to take such minor obstacles in his stride effortlessly.
  • Benefit: Strong, healthy teeth – that also are shiny white (as seen in every frame that the man smiles in – his dark complexion helps here). What else do you need from a toothpaste? Very strongly communicated, with such a sweet emotional backdrop. You won’t forget this message for a long time!
  • Underlying message: you know what proposition Axe sells on, right (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)? Now here’s an average-looking guy, who has a hot model of a wife swooning over him, using her half-baked (forgive the pun) skills to make him a cake, and worrying over the fate of his teeth, and he turns into a hero – for her and everyone else – due to this product we have here – Anchor toothpaste. This guy is a winner, and he uses this product. Why wouldn’t you?
  • Life connect: a toothpaste is an integral part of one’s life, not just a product comprising of chemicals who is supposed to “stop tooth decay” because your dentists says so. The health of your teeth affects your life. But instead of going the “ouch my teeth hurt because I didn’t use XXX toothpaste”, we have a positive story that says “look how awesome my life is, and how I am nothing short of a hero, because I use XXX toothpaste”. And of course our hero & his wife are happy once again, thanks to our product!
  • The production values: excellent execution. But what did you expect from a certain god called Prasoon Pandey?
  • The soundtrack: I love this part. The old Noorjehan song works as the perfect backdrop for the dreamy-eyed love story we witness, and the phrase “mohabbat kare khush rahe muskuraye” works well for the category – love, be happy and smile.

While I was writing this, I was wondering who the agency was, and only one name was repeating in my mind: Ogilvy. I confirmed it, and it is Ogilvy India. Love them for bringing in a breath of fresh air in the (ironically) stale category of toothpaste advertising.

Castrol Active ad: Analysis

Before & After: You must have seen this format.

[before / after]
Gyms, diet plans and hair loss repair clinics practice a crude form of such advertising. Dishwashing liquid/bars also advertise in this format. Fair & Lovely made an assembly line of such ads, though their ads are one level higher on the story bit.

It is quite a general way of selling you something.

“Without our product, your life wasn’t that great, you had such & such problems, and when our product entered your life, it changed, for the better.”

But there has to be a connect in this line.

Which is what the makers of the last two Castrol Activ TVCs seem to have forgotten.

The script of both the ads is similar: An elder is teaching a young one (son/brother) to ride a bike. The drill is simple: clutch, accelerator, brake! Why brake? Because in city traffic, you need to brake more often than accelerate. Enter the helpful mechanic, who tells him that he’s right, but braking too often leads to extra pressure on the engine, which is harmful. Which is why you need Castrol’s new Activ engine oil. Problem solved. And the after scene shows a happy father asking the son if he’d only keep braking or ride the bike after all, or the younger brother just riding off without waiting for his elder brother to get on the bike, to which an elated big brother says “Munna rider ban gaya!”.

Castrol ad: father & son
Castrol ad: father & son
Castrol ad: brothers
Castrol ad: brothers

What is the issue with this, you ask?

Well, let’s analyse.

The ad has 3 parts – problem, intervention, solution (before, product, after – familiar?). The problem was two-fold – the young rider is not happy with the pillion who is not letting him ride and is asking him to brake too often (to simulate city traffic), and the elder pillion is not happy because city traffic is a b*tch.

The intervention is an engine oil, which reduces the strain on the engine which it faces in city traffic.

The after (solution?) is a happy father, who is not asking his son to brake anymore, or a happy elder brother who is happy that his younger brother is riding well now.

Did you notice the disconnect?

The problem that the mechanic mentioned was not on the minds of our protagonists until he came in the picture. He solved a problem they were least concerned with. In fact, he does not address their problems at all – city traffic still remains a b*tch, and thus elder person should still be concerned with it. What does his intervention do? It assures you that your engine will be OK even if you braked like mad in city traffic.

And somehow, this intervention manages to make both the protagonists happy. The elder one is not at all worried about the b*tch like city traffic anymore, even though common sense says that now that he knows the bike’s engine can take the strain of repeated braking and traffic has not at all improved, he shouldn’t be worrying about the engine’s health and should be pushing the rider to keep braking more and more. But he doesn’t.

Why copy (and why lie about it)?

Read this (courtesy afaqs!).

Right. The creative director of an agency working for Honda Siel is not aware of arguably the most popular words of arguably the most impactful movie of last year (one that displaced even The Godfather from IMDB’s alltime #1 for a few days!) spoken by one of the most appreciated characters of popular fiction played by arguably the most admired actor last year. If we are to believe Mr. Hola, there was no one around him to remind him that ‘Why so serious?’ would invariably be connected to the Joker – not the people at Meridian (creative people I presume – that don’t watch blockbuster movies), not the people at Honda Siel.

Yes we believe you. The ‘similarity’ between your tagline and the Joker’s refrain is “totally coincidental”.

Funny thing is that the line ‘why so serious?’ does not have any connection with the alleged brief (that the article mentions) of breaking down the hierarchy in the car segment (of SUVs and hatchbacks), or of positioning the Jazz as a car in a ‘league of its own’. Why would you use the line then if it doesn‘t connect with your brief? There can only be one reason then – to cash in on the buzz that line generated very recently.

Of course the Honda Siel and Meridian people have never read, watched or heard of the Joker or maybe even Batman 🙂

Fantasies can crash?

If Microsoft made cars, goes the story. And it’s been ringing true for so long.

I was reminded of this story, because I saw a web ad for MS’s masterpiece browser Internet Explorer 8 today. The storyline of the ad goes thus: a lissome damsel in a frock is busy eating a sandwich in such an engrossed manner that would remind you of good ol’ Liv Tyler, while our hero is busy watching her from a distance. In the midst of this, we see the worried hero trying to look around an insurmountable obstacle, followed by the text “Fantasies can crash”. And then we see a rather rotund gentleman just standing between the two, while all we and our hero can see is his posterior. Then the hero starts making faces, from which I can only guess that the rotund gentleman has just performed an act with his posterior which causes considerable noise & air pollution.

We then see the Vista-esque dialog box asking whether you want to restore your last session or go to your homepage. And then we are informed about the groundbreaking new innovation in the new IE8 – Automatic Crash Recovery (where is the ™ guys?)!!! Of course now you are dying to use the new & improved IE8 right? With this automatic crash recovery feature that was not present so far in the IE, IE is now complete and can take on the other browsers like Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome, which anyways used to restore crashed browsing sessions (they can even save sessions when you are closing the window, if you preferred). Heck, even MS’s Office software do a half-decent amount of crash recovery.

But the best part of the ad is the sort of self-aware admission that “Fantasies can crash”. Refreshing to see MS admitting in their promotion itself that their software crashes, and we have to just live with it. But look at the new shiny feature — Automatic Crash Recovery! Don’t you just love the IE, now that it can restore your session after crashing it? Make it more stable and reduce crashes you said? No sir, can’t do. We’d much rather advertise the most irritating thing we can show you — our crash screen telling you that your browser crashed last time you opened it.

Coming back to cars, wonder if cars advertised like this. “Your car can crash or break down, but look at this feature — it puts you back on the road you were going on (after 3 months in the hospital or garage maybe)”. Do you want to advertise that your product does not fail (or that you have made efforts to prevent it from failing), or do you advertise that your product can fail, there’s nothing wrong with it, just look what we have added — it remembers what you were doing when it failed.

And then there is the copy — “Let’s you start from where you had stopped”. Weren’t copywriters supposed to be good at language? But then maybe in the new age of freestyle apostrophe usage, I am a purist.


When an Idea customer dials 12345 from their phone, an exceptionally chirpy female voice tells them that they can “now stay connected while in roaming with Idea seamless coverage”. Of course you can. Ok, no sarcasm.

Problem began when I noticed that whenever I come to Bombay, I am unable to send text messages. In technical parlance, outgoing SMS is not working. Different days that I have come here. Different handsets. Different places in Bombay. No sir, can’t go. And lately, my GPRS connection also refuses to work when in Bombay.

How to solve it then? Call someone for help. Who else but Idea helpline? So I do. I dial 12345. I am greeted with the exceptionally chirpy female voice mentioned above, telling me about the alleged “seamless connectivity”, and then some human being talks to me. The moment I tell them my number and that I am coming from Pune, they respond as if I am a stepchild. How can Mumbai executives be expected to listen to Pune customers? Everytime I call, I am told that I need to call the Pune helpline at 9822012345. Other than that they cannot help me in any way, because procedures do not allow them to help me. These people hung up on me mid-sentence twice. Some customer “service”.

9822012345 is another story. The moment I dial it, select the language, tell the system that I am an Idea Maharashtra customer AND dial my phone number (in this day and age of CLI machines at homes!), I am presented a menu that is definitely a prepaid customer’s menu. Why would a postpaid customer be bothered with recharge options? The menu comprises of 4 options only, like PUK, value-added services, recharge options etc. but never did I hear a “to talk to a customer care executive…”. Once by fluke I got to talk to a human being on this number, and all he could help me with was “Sir please try again after some time, it will definitely go. If not, then try a different handset, it will definitely go.”, 5 times when I told him I did not think it would work. The second time I got to talk to someone, again by the rare coming together of five of the eight planets in one line, he politely tells me that he is a prepaid customer care executive and that I need to dial 9822012345 to reach a postpaid customer care executive! If you were not paying attention so far, that was the number where I reached this gentleman in the first place. He could not help me because he was a prepaid Pune executive, while I was a postpaid Pune customer. Wow!

Idea keeps telling us about “seamless connectivity”, while there are silos in their customer service setup. One area’s executive cannot help a customer from another area. One department’s executive cannot help a customer subscribing to another department. Let alone help me, they cannot transfer my line to the concerned persons!

Wonder when companies would really honour their marketing claims, and when customer care people would really care about customer’s problems and concerns.

Widest? Really?

If you have seen or been to a Dosa Plaza restaurant anywhere, you must have seen their tagline “The world’s widest menu in dosas™”.

And if you have been in Dhanbad for more than a day, you surely must have seen the restaurant Waikiki at Bank More.

How are they related, you might ask?

Well, if you have eaten at Waikiki, which by the way is an excellent up-market restaurant, you would know what the link is. Waikiki’s menu runs in pages — I would guess more than twenty pages — and it’s filled with dosas for most of it. Last I counted they had 140 different types of dosas.

And Dosa Plaza themselves claim to have 104 different types of dosas in their menu. Can they claim to have the world’s widest menu in dosas when there clearly is at least another place where you get a wider range?

Dosa Plaza’s claim also carries a ™ sign — which means that they have registered it as a trade mark. All this raised a few questions for me:

  1. Can one trade mark a phrase, which is a claim?
  2. While registering a claim as a trade mark, do the authorities check the validity of the claim?
  3. Is it ethical for Dosa Plaza to make such a claim, AND trade mark it, when it is clearly false?
  4. If Waikiki now decides to contest that claim and wants to trade mark this claim themselves, will they be able to?

Any trade mark lawyers/experts here?