Announcing MarketingTech

Filed Under (Op-Ed) by Rajesh Kumar on 21-02-2013

For last few years, this blog has served as the refuge of all my thoughts, irrespective of the subject -ranging from books, technology, humour and everything else that came to my mind.

I have started a blog exclusively dedicated to Marketing of Technology and Technology of Marketing. I have chosen to call it MarketingTech. It is in very nascent stage but I invite all to visit it. It is here. I look forward to your feedback.

Book reviews would resume here when I can.

Data Assisted Decision Making and the Enterprise Bard

Filed Under (Business) by Rajesh Kumar on 07-11-2011

Thus goes the story. While getting ready for office in the morning, an enterprise bard had two watches in his house to choose from. The first watch was with drained out batteries that had stopped at 3.37 several months back, and the second one was five minutes slower than the standard local time. Since this enterprise bard never took a decision without analyzing the data, he quickly put data in a table before setting about for the zero error decision making he always professed in his organization.  Being the mathematical genius he was, he ‘backthought’ 30 days data for the two watches.


The above graph clearly established which watch was superior to the other. Watch 1, that was not moving due to drained out batteries was showing correct time twice a day. Watch 2 on the other hand was slower by 5 minutes all days the entire month and therefore did not show correct time even once in a day.

However, he wanted to be sure from all perspectives and with further analysis, he got more decision support insights.

slide 2

This was the eureka moment all data driven managers get. Watch 1, not just showed correct time 60 times a day, its average mean error was zero. However, the Watch 2, showed incorrect time all through and had an average mean error of 5 minutes. It did not require analysis any further. Clincher, the corporate bard thought. He tightened his tie and wore Watch 1 to office.

Effectively using RTI Levers to Expedite EPFO Processes: My Experiences

Filed Under (Motley) by Rajesh Kumar on 09-08-2011

I belong to an industry in which 20% people change jobs every year. With every change, we need to ensure that the EPF Account with created by the new employer(‘Target Account’) gets credited with the balance accumulated in the EPF Account created by previous employer (‘Source Account’). If the previous employer and current employer are headquartered in different EPFO jurisdictions (such as different states), then the process becomes quite time consuming, even stretching into years. Though EPFO provides a web interface to check the status of the transfer request (Called ‘Claim Status’ in official lingo), you may find yourself wondering which end you should check, whether the source end or the target end. Even when you try both ends, you may find yourself no wiser on the status! And it is quite possible that you may see no action for several quarters. Having used provisions of  Right to Information Act 2005 against IIM Calcutta earlier and seen the speed it magically brings to stalled processes,  I recently user the Right to Information intervention to get an update on my PF transfer request. In fact, within 4 days of receiving my RTI query, the concerned PF office has carried out the pending transfer and followed it up with multiple SMS updates.

In case you are in a similar dilemma as to how to follow up, here are my recommended steps:

 Step 1: Find the EPFO office having jurisdiction over your case (both target and source). Then send a gentle reminder for expeditious processing to the head of both offices by registered post giving details of the case. You should also enclose a copy of the letter forwarding the Form 13 from target (submitting office) to the source office, if available. There are only two things to keep in mind.

  1. Please look up the head of the concerned office in this directory and then identify the senior most officer in that office. Usually they would be at PF Commissioner level. If there are more than one in an office, please address it to PF Commissioner 1. But the real trick is in addressing him/her by name in your letter and also on the envelope cover. Typically this would mean Mr ABC, PF Commissioner 1, EPFO City XYZ. This would ensure the letter reaches the table of the officer concerned and that significantly raises the possibility of quick action.
  2. Please send your letter by Registered or Speed Post.

Step 2: Wait for four weeks and check the status online. I know of several individuals where such simple interventions have worked like magic. However, do not expect a reply back in most cases. You may still not learn how much money actually got credited into your Employee Provident Fund Account setup via the current employer.

Step 3: Prepare to file RTI at the target EPFO office. Suppose your previous account through your previous employer was in Pune (‘source’) and the current one is in Chennai (‘target’),  file your RTI at target office first. Follow the following steps:

  1. Get a Rs 10 postal order from the nearby post office (Yes, contrary to your likely belief, both the postal order and the post office continue to exist!). Fill the ‘Pay to’ party as Accounts Officer, EPFO Chennai.
  2. Draft your RTI letter. The Right to Information Act 2005 DOES NOT specify a format so it is upto you to prepare it. I recommend this template that I have prepared and shared for illustrative purposes.
  3. Send it by Speed Post or Registered Post.

Step 4: The PF office is obligated by law to reply to you within 30 days of receipt of your query. In his reply, the PF office will either confirm that that the process has happened successfully, or let you know (as it happened in my case) that the matter is pending at the source EPFO office. If it is the former, you should be happy. If it is latter, there are a few more ends to close. Read on.

Step 5: Prepare your next PF query, this time to the source EPFO office.  And this time, do enclose a copy of the response received in Step 4. Follow this template and don’t forget to enclose the all important Rs 10 fee via Postal Order.

Step 6: In my case, the response was delighting. The transfer was effected within a week of my filing the RTI query. I subsequently received the details by SMS and of course, the RTI response that arrived in a matter of two weeks. Bingo!

Step 7: After awaiting for two weeks, if the online status does not change you may consider filing an RTI query at your local EPFO (that holds the target account). That should complete the process.

For those who do not find visiting post office easy or convenient, you may choose to use the services RTINATION website to file your query. At first the site would help you create the letter, then you have to download the same and sign it and scan the letter and send it back to the site. They would speed post it to the concerned officer and also enclose the fee. However, you need access to a scanner. Send back the letter to RTINATION by courier or ordinary post if that helps your convenience. For all this convenience, you pay the site a sum of Rs 150 as a fee. Though I have not availed their services yet, my friend Gurdev Singh Parmar finds it quite convenient and has all the recommendations for it.

Hope this is found to be useful. The only idea of posting sharing the experiences here is to help fellow citizens. Do share your experiences and queries here. While I cannot call myself an RTI guerilla, I have nevertheless used it earlier and benefitted from it.

Is Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Launch A Thing to Watch?

Filed Under (Technology) by Rajesh Kumar on 08-08-2011

While the world media has devoted excessive airtime to iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab device series is the dark horse one must watch for. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab comes loaded with Android Operating system (Android 3.0, which is meant for tablets).

BTW, Samsung has announced the launch of Galaxy Tab 750 in India on 10th Aug.  Interestingly, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab has been released in two different sizes in some markets, which makes it an interesting play.

Check out the launch event on 10th August 2011 in the above window and watch this space for more.

Jeffrey Archer’s “Only Time Will Tell” is a 4 Star Read

Filed Under (Fun) by Rajesh Kumar on 16-04-2011

I love Jeffrey Archer’s writings from my engineering days, when I first read the absolutely masterly “First Among Equals”. I read several more of his books with great delight. My reading habits moved on, but recently when I was paying the bill at Landmark, I just picked up ‘Only Time Will Tell’ upon impulse.

Set in England between WW-I and WW-II, it captures the pre-internet era, and captures the under-privileged travails of lead character Harry Clifton as he grows up across the school, then to college, falls in love and then the climax with the intensity so typical of Jeffrey Archer. Interestingly, this book has been launched in India and some other countries even before it has hit the shelves in UK, which has been set for May 12!

It took me just a day and half to finish this off. Very captivating. Jeffrey, you’ve earned a reader back.

How your mobile transformed into a smartphone over 2000-2010

Filed Under (Technology) by Rajesh Kumar on 15-04-2011

If the laptops were becoming smarter, the phones were not stagnant either. In fact, incrementally, cameras started coming fitted onto the mobiles. I recall this Gartner forecast in 2006, whose title reads :

“Gartner Says Nearly 50 Percent of Worldwide Mobile Phones Will Have a Camera in 2006 and 81 percent by 2010”

In fact, the camera is not the only thing that happened to your mobile phone in that decade. Lets look at how the phone has come along.

Evolution of Mobiles

To a person who has had a phone over the last decade and upgraded (lets say) every two years, this change came in so smoothly that chances are, nothing significantly different was felt. But, if you are a forty plus generation today, chances are that you were left out of this change completely. Today’s digital refugee uses a mobile phone for voice conversations, text messages and emails. A small percentage of them use it for Twitter and Facebook. That’s it. Are you one such digital refugee? Well, don’t blame it on your BlackBerry habit.

You perhaps never realized that today’s 60 plus generation adapted to mobile phones quite well and many of them have decided that voice (and text) are the only two uses of the phone.

Device level changes vs. Supporting Infrastructure: Somewhere in the middle of the decade, we opted to switch on the 2G data services on the phone. By now, our phone could store 500 addresses(an index of storage capacity), had a 1.3-1.5 megapixel camera, supported BlueTooth links for short distance voice and file transfer.

Initially we used it for email, either over BlackBerry devices, or over Symbian based phones that installed Gmail client and took ages to open an email, reminding of the old dial-up days of the nineties.  The new device was just waiting to be born. In the next edition, we look at the apps era.

Previous Post on this subject:

Mobiles are Altering the Computing Power Equation in Enterprises Remarkably

Mobiles are Altering the Computing Power Equation in Enterprises Remarkably

Filed Under (Technology) by Rajesh Kumar on 15-04-2011

Of late, an area that has engaged my attention is the evolution of four competing mobile platforms, namely, Android, Apple’s iOS, Blackberry and Symbian, resulting in the modern lineup of smart devices.  This post series has nothing to do with which platform is better vis-à-vis another,but only an articulation of how seemingly ordinary things in this area are not so ordinary. At least, not quite.

In case you have taken the evolution of these devices with a so-what, take a deep breath and step back in time. And before we come to the mobile part of the discussion, I urge you to take a look at the below graphic carefully.

Laptop Spec

(Picture Courtesy:

The snapshot represents a specification of a laptop being published in January 2000, when mobiles were big as brick, had a pull-me-out antenna, and were still a headturner. Blackberry was quite unknown (at least I do not recall seeing it in my circle of those days) and phones did not have camera – all. Android was not even the proverbial glint in the eye of the developer.

It is important to state that I do not have reason other than availability of authentic data about the specs of a laptop circa 2000 to select the above specs, which I could find in this case. I have no way to say this was, in any way, more or less capable laptop than the ones companies issued or people bought for their homes in those days. In that sense, this is a representative example of that period.

The above laptop had a very interesting spec. It boasted of Pentium III Processor 600 MHZ, 64MB RAM, 6 GB Hard Drive capacity, CD Rom, Speaker. It weighed about 12 lbs (~5.5 kg).  Chances are that it had a dial up modem, and you could send files that were 20-100 KB heavy. Even internet connections were sold by lots of 100 hours – I had one connection that allowed 1 hour a day access. What were PCs and laptops used for in those days? To create docs, spreadsheets, slides, pretty much the same office work. Except that files sizes of 200 KB and above were stuck in the outbox for ages. Either you had a work place email account or one assigned by your ISP such as AOL and VSNL, and mind you, the ISPs used to be different from your phone company those days. Hotmail and Yahoo mail were used but very few of us had email accounts.

The idea of watching video on the computer screen mildly existed, but then there was hardly any video content those days. Even if YouTube were to exist in those days, the narrow bandwidth would not have allowed for any meaningful experience. I remember being the proud owner of a 1 megapixel Sony camera, courtesy my brother, who was in Florida those days. It was hard to digest for many of us that images could be stored on the computer and seen on the screen.

What has this got to do with mobile computing?

Mobile 1 Mobile 2 Mobile 3

(Trademarks owned by the respective companies)

Because, today many of us carry a device in our pocket that has the following specs:

- 32 GB storage (My outdated phone as only 16 GB space)

-  HD Camera (My outdated phone as 8.1 Mexapixels)

- Connected on 3G+ protocol

-  Video, Voice n Text capabilities.

- Less than 230 gms in weight

So here is a device, much more capable and with you almost all the time (even when you are out shopping), is much lighter to carry, can take still pictures and videos. What is more, it is connected on a high speed data link all the time, that makes documents, pictures and videos to be transferred to a similar user in another part of the world. And if you love video calls, you have it too.

In my next post, I would look at some more aspects of this evolution, in the hope that the trendline would show us pointers of where we are headed. I can assure you it is quite exciting to travel the journey.

Anyone Read Tapscott’s Macrowikinomics?

Filed Under (Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 13-01-2011

Normally, it is me who is dishing out my unsolicited judgment on books that are on my shelf, or that of my friends and colleagues. This time I am soliciting your advice on what you think of Dan Tapscott’s latest book Macrowikinomics. Just to refresh, he’s the same guy who wrote that classy eye opener – Wikinomics on mass collaboration. To delve a few inches deeper into your memories, he’s the one who orginally reported the Canadian Goldcorp example on mass collaboration in Wikinomics (It has been repeated in so many times in classrooms and forums that I feel he out to start charging license fee from speakers to use them!). While Wikinomics according to me was an absolute delight, what did you guys think of Macrowikinomics?

Checklist Manifesto – Irritatingly Simple, Pleasantly Good

Filed Under (Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 04-01-2011

If you wish to read an irritatingly simple but tremendously valuable book to read, you must read Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

Why do I call it irritating? Deep inside our perceptive prejudices, any activity that leads to the improvement of a business activity is supposed to be coming out from the pen of a jargon spewing management guru.  On the other hand, medical doctors are programmed to explain even the most complex situations in plain language.  I dread to think if I were to ever go to a doctor who’s done MBA. Sample this – Mr. Kumar, if we were to perform the SWOT of your condition and weigh the natural recovery bandwidth vis-a-vis the best-of-breed off-the-shelf solutions, you might conclude that it is mission critical to juxtapose the available options with the probability of survival curve outcome. On the other hand, it is important to incentivize the body and close the loop to arrest the problem. And btw, on your way out, do monetize the clinic to the tune of Rs 1000. Ouch! I die!!

Now imagine visiting a medical doctor. Chances are, after looking at the reports and listening to the patient, the doctor might say, “Mr. Kumar, not to worry. Take these pills while going to bed tonight. You should be better tomorrow”. Simple.

That exactly is the problem with this book. Atul Gawande is a medical doctor (And an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School). This book deals with a very complex subject in the most effortless manner – how to get better organised and be better prepared for situations via Checklists. Atul goes about building the case with a missionary passion, and you cannot miss the point. Even this page on his site has links to so many checklists, which just reinforce his argument that the world is hell lot better and safer if we follow checklists. In other words, the applications of checklists goes beyond visa or loan applications. But what I really liked is the checklist for checklists – Is the Font Sans Serif?

I decided to cross check by looking up the recent incident on the Qantas A380 in which engine cover blew off in flight and how the pilot handled the situation. This crisis had happened the first time.

"I do apologize," the pilot said. "I’m sure you are aware we have a technical issue with our number two engine. We have dealt with the situation, the aircraft is secure at this stage. We’re going to have to hold for some time whilst we do lighten our load by dumping some fuel and a number of checklist [items] we have to perform”. There, there.

I know of organisations that have a checklist for customer visits, checklist for overseas travel and so on. But these are not life threatening situations. One change that happened in the course of my reading of Checklist Manifesto is the realisation that in crunch times, the checklists are even more relevant. This gives me the conviction that checklists is a science and an art, and has far more applications than we usually think.

Exactly as I said, irritatingly simple and pleasantly good. This one should be on every manager’s reading list.

New Year Wishes n Desires!

Filed Under (Op-Ed) by Rajesh Kumar on 02-01-2011

Action on this blog has been considerably slow in 2010. I have also entertained thoughts that encourage me to split this blog into two different ones. One that would focus completely onto Book Reviews. The second one would be on all things marketing.
Personal blogging, or anything other than these two area can perhaps,  wait.

Will I do it? Its a little iffy as of now.  What I am sure is that I have great warmth and best wishes for readers of this blog. Happy New Year 2011 folks!

Tips for Building a Business Credit Profile

Building a credit profile for a business can be quite a challenge. While there are 'credit builder' cards and options for individuals who are looking to improve their credit ratings, the options for businesses are more limited - especially as businesses tend to want to build their credit to take out much bigger financial commitments.

When a business is new, it can be hard for them to obtain credit since they have no trading history. The best thing to do is to make a point of keeping perfect records, and having them properly audited. Some lenders are willing to give smaller companies a chance based on just this information, and you can use these to build up a credit history.

How to build a business credit ratingAnother option is to approach your suppliers with a request for credit. They may supply goods to you for a partial downpayment, and if you manage your credit with them well then they will allow you to obtain more credit at a later date. Again, this is something that you will need to be systematic about, since a lat payment could be very harmful to your credit rating.

Make sure that you understand exactly what you are getting into with any credit agreement, and that you do not allow yourself to lose control of your finances. It is all too easy to end up in a trap where you are getting charged so much interest for your credit that you have to borrow to pay it off, then borrow more, and more, until you eventually default however if you pay on time it will certainly help you build your corporate credit effectively

Poor cashflow is a massive problem for a lot of businesses, and it is something that you will need to think carefully about before you take on any major financial commitment. If you get paid at the end of a project, will you actually be able to afford to complete that project?

Try to keep your overheads low when your business is new, and don't add ongoing, non-revenue generating expenses unless you have the funds in reserve to support them. This may sound obvious, but it is an area where a lot of smaller business owners fall down, and it can be crippling.

It takes years to build a good credit rating, and just one missed payment can ruin it. Remember this, and be careful when it comes to making payments. Do not allow yourself to fall behind.

About Rajesh Kumar. Rajesh is based in Chennai, where he works for Defiance Technologies in Marketing. The views on this blog are his own. Rajesh Kumar