What Sons???

九龍城 Category:Fuk Lo Tsuen Road 福佬村道 Category:S...
Image via Wikipedia

Consumer rights have never been on my list of things to fight for. In order, they are

  1. Recognition of sambhar vada as the National snack
  2. Universal education
  3. Oscar for Mohanlal

However, a very curious incident which happened to me today in a Watsons store has forced me to question my priorities. Here’s the background.

I had gone in to buy a set of Watsons 5 blade razor cartridges. While there, I saw a sign on the display which read “BUY ANY 2, GET 1 FREE”. It also said, “MIX AND MATCH – ACROSS ANY ITEMS WITH THIS TAG”.  The fine print went on to add that the free item would be the item of the lowest value. While I was considering the implications of this, I became aware of a faint disagreeable odour from my shoes (I wear them for over ten hours a day. Cut me some slack.) I realized I needed to get something to remove the odour.  Foot odour is the only smell guys can’t explain away as “that strong musky, manly smell”.

Long story short, I decided to buy a Watsons FootEase Odour Stop. They are insoles ingrained with activated charcoal, which promises to remove foot odour. They too had the same tag on the display, which promised to mix and match the products to get a free one. I decided to buy two sets of cartridges, and take the FootEase free.

However, the cashier and the store manager had other ideas. Their smiles jaded a bit when I mentioned the tag concept. They politely informed me that this offer was not valid, for a multitude of reasons, although none came to their mind at that moment. The Indian in me was confused. I had taken a lot of trouble to read the tag, even more trouble to actually think about it and then still more trouble to find some combination of product that would work, only to be beaten at the post. I asked the manager if I could snap some pictures of the offer tag to take up the issue with the Watsons management. She became concerned and contacted her superiors. While she went into some deep strategy discussion with the person on the phone, I snapped a few pictures on my iPhone4 (yeah, I have an iPhone 4, total stud only, no?)

Note the tag, "Free item will be item of the lowest value"

At the end of a five-minute long discussion, the manager came back to me and explained apologetically that the offer was valid only for items with the same price. I countered by arguing that if so, then they shouldn’t have mentioned “Free item will be item of the lowest value” in the fine print. She then changed tactics and took up a new position. Even though the items may be of different price, she explained, they have to be in the same display section. Now, I considered this a very weak argument, but realized the futility of fighting anymore.  The Indian inside me swore at least a blog post in revenge, while the marketing manager in me decided to settle for a strongly worded letter of complaint to Watsons senior management. At last, in true Indian style, I compromised. I have decided to do both.

I shall keep you informed of the progress of my complaint.

Meanwhile, what is your opinion of sambhar vada?

More tags from where the FootEase Odour Stop was kept

PS: This post is based on my personal observations and personal opinions and is in no way connected to or endorsed by any company, organization or institute I may represent.

What Sons???

九龍城 Category:Fuk Lo Tsuen Road 福佬村道 Category:S...
Image via Wikipedia

Consumer rights have never been on my list of things to fight for. In order, they are

  1. Recognition of sambhar vada as the National snack
  2. Universal education
  3. Oscar for Mohanlal

However, a very curious incident which happened to me today in a Watsons store has forced me to question my priorities. Here’s the background.

I had gone in to buy a set of Watsons 5 blade razor cartridges. While there, I saw a sign on the display which read “BUY ANY 2, GET 1 FREE”. It also said, “MIX AND MATCH – ACROSS ANY ITEMS WITH THIS TAG”.  The fine print went on to add that the free item would be the item of the lowest value. While I was considering the implications of this, I became aware of a faint disagreeable odour from my shoes (I wear them for over ten hours a day. Cut me some slack.) I realized I needed to get something to remove the odour.  Foot odour is the only smell guys can’t explain away as “that strong musky, manly smell”.

Long story short, I decided to buy a Watsons FootEase Odour Stop. They are insoles ingrained with activated charcoal, which promises to remove foot odour. They too had the same tag on the display, which promised to mix and match the products to get a free one. I decided to buy two sets of cartridges, and take the FootEase free.

However, the cashier and the store manager had other ideas. Their smiles jaded a bit when I mentioned the tag concept. They politely informed me that this offer was not valid, for a multitude of reasons, although none came to their mind at that moment. The Indian in me was confused. I had taken a lot of trouble to read the tag, even more trouble to actually think about it and then still more trouble to find some combination of product that would work, only to be beaten at the post. I asked the manager if I could snap some pictures of the offer tag to take up the issue with the Watsons management. She became concerned and contacted her superiors. While she went into some deep strategy discussion with the person on the phone, I snapped a few pictures on my iPhone4 (yeah, I have an iPhone 4, total stud only, no?)

At the end of a five-minute long discussion, the manager came back to me and explained apologetically that the offer was valid only for items with the same price. I countered by arguing that if so, then they shouldn’t have mentioned “Free item will be item of the lowest value” in the fine print. She then changed tactics and took up a new position. Even though the items may be of different price, she explained, they have to be in the same display section. Now, I considered this a very weak argument, but realized the futility of fighting anymore.  The Indian inside me swore at least a blog post in revenge, while the marketing manager in me decided to settle for a strongly worded letter of complaint to Watsons senior management. At last, in true Indian style, I compromised. I have decided to do both.

I shall keep you informed of the progress of my complaint.

Meanwhile, what is your opinion of sambhar vada?

More tags from where the FootEase Odour Stop was kept

PS: This post is based on my personal observations and personal opinions and is in no way connected to or endorsed by any company, organization or institute I may represent.

Consulting Series Part VI – The Colonial Case

British East India Company flag plate in Rees'...
Image via Wikipedia

Found amongst the archives of a Victorian era boarding house recently auctioned in Sussex, this letter marks a watershed in the affairs of two great nations. It is a feasibility study report submitted by an erstwhile consultant to the board of directors of a mega corporation, in response to their request for a market entry opportunity analysis. Read on to find out how it changed the history of the world.

 

For the attention of: The Board of Directors

Sub:  White Space entry feasibility report for the Company

Dear Sirs,

As you may well know, the new century that has dawned upon our nation in general and our company in particular is rife with Change. This Change is driven by a motley mix of discoveries, scientific advancements and a general mobilization of collective inquisitiveness. In this age of relentless human advancement, the sphere of business is also facing tremendous challenges and opportunities. A future such as what we have never imagined in our wildest dreams awaits us across the ocean. Gentlemen, we are going to enter a new era of life, where business will transcend the frail boundaries created by human limitations and spread onward across the oceans. A new era in which the language of profit and loss shall irrevocably unite nations and races forever.

However, the future will not be any easier

Beware sirs, of the forces of competition. As my friend Archibald Robert Malthus is wont to remark,’ the common masses just won’t stop procreating; and the world is not growing any bigger’. Of course, after having more than his share of port wine, the exact terms he uses are slightly different from those quoted, but this being an official missive drafted to be read in the august presence of the leading members of our society, I see no reason to use the exact terms, so long as the meaning and intent of the sentence is not masked by the outrageousness of the words.  Eventually, we shall run out of space to store spices.

How should we prepare?

To deal with this imminent threat, there is a pressing need to expand the scope of our business beyond our shores, and take them to nations as yet unexplored. During these past few years, I have sent scouts far and wide to scour the earth, and those who were fortunate enough to return have brought back stories of untold riches in the form of spices and human labour in a certain distant land.

An attractive market

I consulted a friend of mine, who is a very well-known scholar in the highly advanced though admittedly young field of management science; James Ezekiel Porter. He assures me that this nation fits his profile of an attractive market. He puts forth the following forceful arguments in support of my proposition that we delay no further in expanding our business to this region

  • Currently, the region is divided into more than 600 princely states. Of these, a few are large enough in size to dominate the others. Besides these states, the Dutch are also present in sizeable numbers, but their dominance is restricted to small pockets. In short, the large players are the ones whom we have to win over. Once we incorporate them as our franchisees, we can effectively prevent any foreseeable competition amongst the present players
  • Once we grow inorganically to capture enough market shares, we can lobby the incumbent government to change the laws of the land. This will be done in such a fashion as to preclude the possibility of further companies foraying into our territory
  • We shall be dealing mainly in spices, textiles and manpower. And since all of these are abundantly available in this region at cheap rates, our raw material supply will be secured and steady for at least two centuries or more. And since we shall be amending the laws to suit our purposes, these supplies will remain open to only us and no one else
  • Such a vast manufacturing base which also provides us cheap and steady supply of raw materials will ensure that we will be able to serve more customers in our country and elsewhere in the best cost effective manner possible. This will reap great dividends for us in terms of customer loyalty and increased reputation
  • Since we will be dealing in all the possible trades whilst also tightly controlling the supply of raw materials, the danger of anyone producing substitute products that rival our monopoly in the market will be negligible

A “White Space”

In view of the above assessment I propose that we move at once to establish trade routes to this new nation. I have even coined a term to describe such countries. Henceforth, they will be called “White Spaces” to indicate that Christian White people shall be the first ones to dominate such spaces.

I have been staying here amongst the natives for the past few months, and have already established lines of communication with the most influential of the princely kings, Mughal Emperor Nuruddin Salim Jehangir. He seems to be a most pliable chap.

Ever the servant of His Majesty James I,

And with the utmost regards to the Company,

Sir Thomas Roe

India                                                                                                                                      May 1612

Consulting Series Part VI – The Colonial Case

British East India Company flag plate in Rees'...
Image via Wikipedia

Found amongst the archives of a Victorian era boarding house recently auctioned in Sussex, this letter marks a watershed in the affairs of two great nations. It is a feasibility study report submitted by an erstwhile consultant to the board of directors of a mega corporation, in response to their request for a market entry opportunity analysis. Read on to find out how it changed the history of the world.

 

For the attention of: The Board of Directors

Sub:  White Space entry feasibility report for the Company

Dear Sirs,

As you may well know, the new century that has dawned upon our nation in general and our company in particular is rife with Change. This Change is driven by a motley mix of discoveries, scientific advancements and a general mobilization of collective inquisitiveness. In this age of relentless human advancement, the sphere of business is also facing tremendous challenges and opportunities. A future such as what we have never imagined in our wildest dreams awaits us across the ocean. Gentlemen, we are going to enter a new era of life, where business will transcend the frail boundaries created by human limitations and spread onward across the oceans. A new era in which the language of profit and loss shall irrevocably unite nations and races forever.

However, the future will not be any easier

Beware sirs, of the forces of competition. As my friend Archibald Robert Malthus is wont to remark,’ the common masses just won’t stop procreating; and the world is not growing any bigger’. Of course, after having more than his share of port wine, the exact terms he uses are slightly different from those quoted, but this being an official missive drafted to be read in the august presence of the leading members of our society, I see no reason to use the exact terms, so long as the meaning and intent of the sentence is not masked by the outrageousness of the words.  Eventually, we shall run out of space to store spices.

How should we prepare?

To deal with this imminent threat, there is a pressing need to expand the scope of our business beyond our shores, and take them to nations as yet unexplored. During these past few years, I have sent scouts far and wide to scour the earth, and those who were fortunate enough to return have brought back stories of untold riches in the form of spices and human labour in a certain distant land.

An attractive market

I consulted a friend of mine, who is a very well-known scholar in the highly advanced though admittedly young field of management science; James Ezekiel Porter. He assures me that this nation fits his profile of an attractive market. He puts forth the following forceful arguments in support of my proposition that we delay no further in expanding our business to this region

  • Currently, the region is divided into more than 600 princely states. Of these, a few are large enough in size to dominate the others. Besides these states, the Dutch are also present in sizeable numbers, but their dominance is restricted to small pockets. In short, the large players are the ones whom we have to win over. Once we incorporate them as our franchisees, we can effectively prevent any foreseeable competition amongst the present players
  • Once we grow inorganically to capture enough market shares, we can lobby the incumbent government to change the laws of the land. This will be done in such a fashion as to preclude the possibility of further companies foraying into our territory
  • We shall be dealing mainly in spices, textiles and manpower. And since all of these are abundantly available in this region at cheap rates, our raw material supply will be secured and steady for at least two centuries or more. And since we shall be amending the laws to suit our purposes, these supplies will remain open to only us and no one else
  • Such a vast manufacturing base which also provides us cheap and steady supply of raw materials will ensure that we will be able to serve more customers in our country and elsewhere in the best cost effective manner possible. This will reap great dividends for us in terms of customer loyalty and increased reputation
  • Since we will be dealing in all the possible trades whilst also tightly controlling the supply of raw materials, the danger of anyone producing substitute products that rival our monopoly in the market will be negligible

A “White Space”

In view of the above assessment I propose that we move at once to establish trade routes to this new nation. I have even coined a term to describe such countries. Henceforth, they will be called “White Spaces” to indicate that Christian White people shall be the first ones to dominate such spaces.

I have been staying here amongst the natives for the past few months, and have already established lines of communication with the most influential of the princely kings, Mughal Emperor Nuruddin Salim Jehangir. He seems to be a most pliable chap.

Ever the servant of His Majesty James I,

And with the utmost regards to the Company,

Sir Thomas Roe

India                                                                                                                                      May 1612

4 most vexing questions of the past week

cards
Image by Muffet via Flickr
  1. What name did Mary Shelley intend for the monster? I have always felt bad about the big guy. First off, he was illegally and unnaturally made by a mad scientist. Then he was forced to flee the police and the society while its creator was busy wooing his cousin. Finally, the monster offered to flee from the eyes of the human race and honeymoon forever in South America if only Victor would create a mate for him. Much like how people offered to pay Rakhi Sawant if only she would marry someone and just, y’know, go off. But what does Victor do? He kills off the unfinished mate, marries his cousin, and vows to kill the monster. Very unsportsmanlike. If it were today, this would have been enough for Arundhati Roy to take up the monster’s cause, Shiv Sena to kill off 30 North Indians, Anna Hazare to announce three separate fast unto deaths, and Bangalore techies to start a “Find a monster mate” campaign on FB. I would have ‘liked’ such a page. If only I knew how to search for it on FB. Hence the need to know its name.
  2. Why are people fascinated with moving displays? I find myself staring at elevator displays as the red digital numerals mind numbingly go from one floor to the next. And strangers stuck in an elevator find strange comfort in staring together at these numbers. What’s up with that?
  3. I have heard of actors relaxing by watching each other’s movies. Similarly, do the customer support people relax by listening to hilarious conversations of their co-workers? I would love to know. For instance, the other day, a relationship manager from a major bank called to talk to me about opening another account. As soon as she introduced herself, I wished her a very good evening and asked her, very friendly like, how she was and if she was doing fine. She immediately cut me off and explained, in very strained tones, that the call was being recorded for monitoring purposes. I was sure I could hear sniggers in the background.
  4. Finally, I hate homophones. I do not know why they exist. I would love to know. For those who don’t know what a homophone is… you lucky bastards. You are better off being ignorant. My hatred dates back to my childhood, when I went to a magic show and the magician announced that his lovely assistant was going to perform a three card monte. I assumed that she was going to do the full monty with the three cards.  Needless to say, I felt cheated at the end of the show. There ought to have been an FB page that made the difference clear to 10 year olds.

4 most vexing questions of the past week

cards
Image by Muffet via Flickr

  1. What name did Mary Shelley intend for the monster? I have always felt bad about the big guy. First off, he was illegally and unnaturally made by a mad scientist. Then he was forced to flee the police and the society while its creator was busy wooing his cousin. Finally, the monster offered to flee from the eyes of the human race and honeymoon forever in South America if only Victor would create a mate for him. Much like how people offered to pay Rakhi Sawant if only she would marry someone and just, y’know, go off. But what does Victor do? He kills off the unfinished mate, marries his cousin, and vows to kill the monster. Very unsportsmanlike. If it were today, this would have been enough for Arundhati Roy to take up the monster’s cause, Shiv Sena to kill off 30 North Indians, Anna Hazare to announce three separate fast unto deaths, and Bangalore techies to start a “Find a monster mate” campaign on FB. I would have ‘liked’ such a page. If only I knew how to search for it on FB. Hence the need to know its name.
  2. Why are people fascinated with moving displays? I find myself staring at elevator displays as the red digital numerals mind numbingly go from one floor to the next. And strangers stuck in an elevator find strange comfort in staring together at these numbers. What’s up with that?
  3. I have heard of actors relaxing by watching each other’s movies. Similarly, do the customer support people relax by listening to hilarious conversations of their co-workers? I would love to know. For instance, the other day, a relationship manager from a major bank called to talk to me about opening another account. As soon as she introduced herself, I wished her a very good evening and asked her, very friendly like, how she was and if she was doing fine. She immediately cut me off and explained, in very strained tones, that the call was being recorded for monitoring purposes. I was sure I could hear sniggers in the background.
  4. Finally, I hate homophones. I do not know why they exist. I would love to know. For those who don’t know what a homophone is… you lucky bastards. You are better off being ignorant. My hatred dates back to my childhood, when I went to a magic show and the magician announced that his lovely assistant was going to perform a three card monte. I assumed that she was going to do the full monty with the three cards.  Needless to say, I felt cheated at the end of the show. There ought to have been an FB page that made the difference clear to 10 year olds.

Three reasons why Mallus need lifestyle training in Singapore

Sumo Wrestler Kaiō Hiroyuki on the first day t...
Image via Wikipedia

The Sumo stance: Standing upright in an MRT will pose a tremendous challenge to any traditional mallu. We are the race who perfected the art of wearing lungis even to Russia (I am not kidding, a few mallu politicians have done it). A necessary requirement of wearing a lungi (which is essentially a long sarong, a kilt, or what have you) is that standing in a moving environment with legs akimbo is a strict no-no. The swaying motion, coupled with the strain on the knot at the waist produced by the stance, is liable to loosen the lungi. Every mallu is trained for years to maintain his balance with legs kept close together. However, all this training comes to naught in a Singapore MRT. Here, the perfect stance required to maintain balance while the train gathers momentum, is what sumo wrestlers are trained to achieve. In a Mumbai train, such difficulties do not occur, since the rush inside would ensure that you don’t have sufficient space to stand, let alone fall. Moreover, if you lose your lungi in a Mumbai train, hardly anyone would notice.

The Zig Zag walk: For a race who mastered the art of lane driving, Singaporeans certainly do not follow it when it comes to walking. They zig. They zag. And they bump into you. I spent half an hour trying to negotiate pedestrian traffic on a 500 m stretch of sidewalk yesterday. I managed to evade about a dozen people successfully, until a walking stick with a very sharp, pointed end attached to an old lady, crashed into me. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind bumping into PYTs wearing micro-mini skirts, but I draw the line at walking sticks. Mallus do not have double standards when it comes to traffic, whether it be on the road or on sidewalks. It’s everybody (and every walking stick) for himself back home, and pretty much the same standards of chaos are enforced across all forms of traffic.

Singlish: It’s not just the fact that verbs, nouns, past participles and the national anthem are all mixed evenly to produce a desi version of English. If it were, my training in decimating Hindi for over 5 years in India would have been more than sufficient. No, even the usage is disturbingly different. A single spoken word can mean different things depending on whether a question mark or a period is tagged on at the end. The other day, I went to a coffee shop to order a cup. The lady serving the customers smiled at me and said, “Order?” I mentioned what I wanted, and as I am wont to do, stood at the counter staring vacantly into space. Meanwhile, another lady in the same shop came up to me and said, “Order.” In my reverie, I failed to notice that the tentative question mark had been replaced by an authoritative period. “Oh, its fine, I have ordered already”, I explained. “Then pay already”, she returned.

Every eating establishment in Kerala, ranging from roadside thattukadas to the Oberoi Hotel in Cochin, makes it a point to clearly indicate to the customer when they are asking for payment. When it comes to money, we don’t stand on subtleties.

And oh, Singapore, what’s all this nonsense about reserving random seats at restaurants with a teeny weeny tissue paper? Grow up already.

Three reasons why Mallus need lifestyle training in Singapore

Sumo Wrestler Kaiō Hiroyuki on the first day t...
Image via Wikipedia

The Sumo stance: Standing upright in an MRT will pose a tremendous challenge to any traditional mallu. We are the race who perfected the art of wearing lungis even to Russia (I am not kidding, a few mallu politicians have done it). A necessary requirement of wearing a lungi (which is essentially a long sarong, a kilt, or what have you) is that standing in a moving environment with legs akimbo is a strict no-no. The swaying motion, coupled with the strain on the knot at the waist produced by the stance, is liable to loosen the lungi. Every mallu is trained for years to maintain his balance with legs kept close together. However, all this training comes to naught in a Singapore MRT. Here, the perfect stance required to maintain balance while the train gathers momentum, is what sumo wrestlers are trained to achieve. In a Mumbai train, such difficulties do not occur, since the rush inside would ensure that you don’t have sufficient space to stand, let alone fall. Moreover, if you lose your lungi in a Mumbai train, hardly anyone would notice.

The Zig Zag walk: For a race who mastered the art of lane driving, Singaporeans certainly do not follow it when it comes to walking. They zig. They zag. And they bump into you. I spent half an hour trying to negotiate pedestrian traffic on a 500 m stretch of sidewalk yesterday. I managed to evade about a dozen people successfully, until a walking stick with a very sharp, pointed end attached to an old lady, crashed into me. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind bumping into PYTs wearing micro-mini skirts, but I draw the line at walking sticks. Mallus do not have double standards when it comes to traffic, whether it be on the road or on sidewalks. It’s everybody (and every walking stick) for himself back home, and pretty much the same standards of chaos are enforced across all forms of traffic.

Singlish: It’s not just the fact that verbs, nouns, past participles and the national anthem are all mixed evenly to produce a desi version of English. If it were, my training in decimating Hindi for over 5 years in India would have been more than sufficient. No, even the usage is disturbingly different. A single spoken word can mean different things depending on whether a question mark or a period is tagged on at the end. The other day, I went to a coffee shop to order a cup. The lady serving the customers smiled at me and said, “Order?” I mentioned what I wanted, and as I am wont to do, stood at the counter staring vacantly into space. Meanwhile, another lady in the same shop came up to me and said, “Order.” In my reverie, I failed to notice that the tentative question mark had been replaced by an authoritative period. “Oh, its fine, I have ordered already”, I explained. “Then pay already”, she returned.

Every eating establishment in Kerala, ranging from roadside thattukadas to the Oberoi Hotel in Cochin, makes it a point to clearly indicate to the customer when they are asking for payment. When it comes to money, we don’t stand on subtleties.

And oh, Singapore, what’s all this nonsense about reserving random seats at restaurants with a teeny weeny tissue paper? Grow up already.