Let’s Talk! ~ The Xperiential Marketing Mantra

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With the death of distance and the rapidly multiplying opportunities and avenues for communication, companies are trying to come to terms with a novel phenomenon- the ever increasing power of consumer generated content. Marketers are realizing that the new age consumer is extremely intelligent, exceptionally well connected, substantially well informed, and unscrupulously spoiled for choice. To repeat the old marketing cliché, if ever the customer was king, it is today!  This renewed and increasingly dominant status of the masses has largely to do with the internet culture and connectivity. John Hagel and Arthur Armstrong had remarked this pretty early on in their book “Net Gains”: “The notion of barter and fair exchange has been an important element of the culture and etiquette of the early internet.”  “Virtual communities” they had observed, “not only gather potential purchasers together, but they also arm them with far more information than they have typically been able to access conveniently and cost effectively in the past. Moving away from this traditional information asymmetry is likely to create reverse markets in which power shifts to the customer. These reverse markets highlight two other defining characteristics of virtual communities- integration of content and communication and emphasis on member generated content.” This was and still is a feature that characterizes much of consumer dominated online activity. Communities like Amazon.com and Ebay.com have harnessed the full potential of online consumer involvement and knowledge sharing. With the growing usage of internet and the enhancement of communication infrastructure, such activity has become all the more critical from the point of view of organizations in the emergent markets like our’s.  According to a recent research report released by the IAMAI titled, “E-ntertainment, Eyes and Ears tuning to the Internet”, India’s current internet population stands at 25 million and is estimated to grow fourfold to 100 million by 2007. Of the current internet users, 94% lie within the 18-45 year age group and 28% use the internet for shopping. Clearly, the majority of buyers are net navigators.  Online forums and communities have ensured that the consumer’s voice is heard loud and clear and marketers have realized that consumers can no longer be treated like passive listeners. Lectures are passé, it’s time for dialogue. Customer camaraderie is shaking the foundations of many an old guard. Consumer forums and now blogs have altered the connotation of “feedback”- that symbolic pile ticked matchboxes that hitherto lay in the hinterland of corporate consciousness. Consumers are leveraging the new media to rave, rant and express their opinion on pretty much everything. 

Websites like Mouthshout.com, Epinion.com and Consumer-voice.org have taken consumer empowerment to the next level. Mouthshut.com, for instance, houses reviews of about 75,000 products from across categories. For the uninitiated, the next time you think of buying a car, type “Swift + Mouthshut review” in Google and you will know exactly what we mean. Hundreds of authentic reviews from customers who have been there and done that and have no vested interest in sharing their opinions with you!

 Added to this is the fact that other readers have the power to rate individual reviews. Faisal Farooqui, CEO, Mouthshut.com calls this phenomenon “The wisdom of the masses”. He remarks, “The boundaries between the publisher and the public are dissolving. The new journalist or reviewer is the passionate consumer who has invested his money and had a personal experience with a product or service.” Companies are realizing that they need to gear up really fast to meet with the challenges that this development will throw upon them. Like it or not, they have to deal with it. One way of doing this would be to confront the consumers. But doing this would in effect tantamount to digging one’s own grave! The second and more feasible option then is to engage in the culture of dialogue. Dina Mehta, renowned consultant on Corporate Blogging, shares her sapience. “The socio-cultural environment of a huge chunk of the urban consumers is becoming increasingly well connected and transparent. Companies are confronting a huge cultural risk. The need of the hour is to reorient their thinking from communication management and think in the direction of risk management.” And that is precisely what some forward thinking corporations are doing. Muthshut.com, for instance, has come up with a one of its kind solution for anxious companies desirous of addressing the grievances of existing consumers and influencing the opinion of prospective ones. The website will now have exclusive corporate blogs whereby companies will get a fair chance to interact with the consumer community and present their case on a platform where they are sure of being heard.  Farooqui makes a fairly interesting point. He says that consumer activism and the reorientation of corporate communication is reflective of a larger cultural transformation. “We are living in times of consumer democracy. This trend is becoming both conspicuous and powerful in all industries, entertainment also being one of them. The increasing popularity of reality shows is also testimony to the fact that power is passing on from the hands of the consumer and manufacturers to that of the common man.” The mushrooming of online forums and the fast catching up phenomenon of Blogs mark a new phase in the saga of citizen journalism. Effective consumer generated content has instigated companies to refashion themselves. Companies are now really learning to say, “Let’s talk!” 

Spreading the Ideavirus in India: Viral Marketing Unleashed

vm1.jpg The leading Bollywood web portal, India FM, recently launched a viral marketing campaign for the Abhishek Bachchan-starrer Bluffmaster. Net surfers were lured to play a game, and subsequently informed that they had won a staggering $100,000. And as the winners began to bask in the glory of their newfound fortune, they were told that all of this was mere buffoonery! These users had the option of forwarding this bluff to their friends. Net result: A total of 30,000 users participated in this campaign, and sent it to another 78,000 people.

Slowly but steadily,
India is waking up to the huge potential of viral marketing. Interactive marketing agencies are increasingly trying to maximise the effectiveness of their campaigns through this new form of marketing. Agrees Manish Vij of Quasar Media, an agency that has successfully completed campaigns for Motorola, Samsung and Makemytrip.com: “The rise in media outreach and word-of-mouth beyond users of the same publisher are only some of the benefits of viral marketing. For good campaigns, the increase in reach could even be to the tune of 150 per cent.”

FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp, also launched a region-wide viral marketing campaign in
India recently. Centered on the FedEx ads with comic sketches, some of which are already popular in
India, the campaign aimed at increasing brand awareness and promoting key FedEx brand attributes. The advertisements were available for viewing, download as well as for emailing to friends through a micro-website (www.relaxiwillmanage.com), and were communicated to customers and prospects through banner advertisements on key websites, email communication and the distribution of a CD-ROM.
 Vij feels that viral marketing campaigns need to have an element of community. As such, viral marketing heavily relies on an individual’s impulse to share information. While in some cases, this might be the result of an incentive, it is also born out of a sense of sharing information with one’s social network. In fact, the uniqueness of a successful viral marketing campaign can be judged by its ability to proliferate itself without any material incentive to the customer. This can be triggered off though humor, privilege (creating exclusive mental and physical spaces) or some other form of emotional appeal.
The FedEx campaign, for instance, deployed humor. Google, on the other hand, capitalized on the values of privilege and community to promote its Gmail through viral marketing. The campaign started with a small user base, from which a club was formed leveraging member contacts to expand the user base while retaining the element of exclusivity through special invites, access, passes and so on.

Companies have been smart enough to realize that one of the triggers to create a recall value for brands is by encouraging consumers to actively engage and interact with brands. Corporates are focusing on enhancing the reaction quotient of consumers towards brands. The Internet happens to be one of the most critical media in this regard. This is not confined to entertainment and FMCG categories; technology companies are also deploying this as a useful tool. One of the most recent examples of the successes of viral marketing in
India was Samsung’s campaign to promote the Samsung X series of Notebook PCs. The campaign sought to increase brand awareness among target consumers (Internet users in the 24-45 age group) through an online contest that users were encouraged to participate in and refer to their friends. The prize of the contest was the product itself: the ‘X’ series Notebook PC. This campaign managed to pull 50,000 participants to the site and delivered very good results:

Number of visitors to the demo: 1.42 lakh
Number of friends referred: 76 per cent
Visitors referred who came back to play: 42 per cent
Total interactivity: 1.25 million
Total OTS: 7.1 million
Total unique reach: 5 million
Media reach: 185 per cent

(Source: Volume No. 11, Internet and Mobile Association of
India Newsletter)

 Marketers abroad have already experimented with viral marketing with great success. In
France, Adidas is generating buzz (via JDN) around its brand by targeting soccer fans with an integrated campaign. A website with some funny content featuring popular comedians Omar & Fred is at the centre of the stage, but the campaign idea is to drive 15-24 year-old guys to the Adidas stores around the country. The concept particularly targets the fans of Olympique Marseille (sponsored by Adidas). An email marketing campaign (currently with an amazing 96 per cent opening rate) invites young people to visit the Tyaimesoubien.com website, download a postcard, answer the questions it presents, and deliver it to the local Adidas store for the chance of winning tickets for Olympique Marseille’s matches.

The entertainment industry too is testing the idea flu. For its debut in
France, Desperate Housewives has come up with a site www.husbandsforsale.com that opens a Brave New World for women. The site gives you the opportunity to buy and sell your husband online. You can select him by region, age (over 86-year-olds are also available) and by ‘perfection level’. The site offers great deals and most of all, the delivery is free!
In Asia, viral marketing has started picking up in emerging economies such as
India, which has a growing Internet user base and technology penetration. Realizing the potential, companies like Coca-Cola have promoted quite a few interactive features. The company’s website, www.myenjoyzone.com , won the Gold Trophy at ‘The Promotion Marketing Awards of
This award along with other brand initiatives, like Internet marketing, SMS viral campaign for Vanilla Coke and on-ground consumer activation across the country, have helped Coca-Cola India emerge the ‘Marketing Company of the Year’. The beverage giant also came up with another feather in its cap: CokeMusic.com. With its focus on being a hub for teenage music lovers, it has managed to get over a million page views a day, an average growth of over 200,000 unique visitors per month, and average visits lasting longer than 25 minutes.
In an age where optimum utilization of resources is the only way to survive in an otherwise crazy market, viral marketing is a charming and cost-effective alternative form of promotion. The Indian market, given the state of brand clutter, online explosion and media boom, is ready for a virus attack. For marketers, the option really is to innovate, communicate or to stagnate!  

A career in Quick Service Restaurants~ think again!


What was once a stop gap arrangement for teenagers to make some quick buck and earn their own pocket money, is today becoming an increasingly viable career option in a fast emerging industry. The quick service restaurants have not only redefined the concept of eating out in India but are also becoming the stage for playing out interesting professional bildungsromans. Mr. Ranjit Paliath who started 10 years back as Trainee Manager at McDonalds is today the Director Operations (south). With the growth of retail as an industry in the country, the attitude of the entry level workforce has also undergone a change. This has further been fuelled by the big brands like McDonalds and Café Coffee Day investing meaningfully in the development and growth of their employees especially at the entry level.

Investment in training to manage and retain good talent has become an imperative, especially when attrition in the industry hovers in the range of a mind numbing 50-90% at the entry level. Mr. Raj Bowen, CEO, Dale Carnegie Training India, makes an interesting observation, “ Corporations must realize that the phrase ‘entry level’ is actually a misnomer- this may be the entry level for employees but most often, this is the ‘exit level’ for clients and prospects who could have become clients!”   Organisations have realized that investment in the training of senior level staff alone is not the solution. There is an increasing need to evolve from a seller-dominated market mindset and realize that in the services industry, the so called entry level workforce actually constitutes your most potent brand ambassadors. That’s why companies are coming up with exhaustive learning programs for the attitudinal and knowledge based training of their workforce. McDonalds, for instance, has a Graduate Career Advancement Programme that facilitates the transition from the level of Crewmembers’ to that of the Second Assistant Managers. The organization also runs an MBA program with Welingkar’s Institute, designed especially for its employees. As Mr. Bowen says, “You don’t get a second chance to make the first impression. In a competitive, multiple choice scenario ( which India is fast becoming, but was not, earlier), untrained and inefficient employees could cause irreversible damage to the brand’s very existence which will be of a magnitude much higher than what it would have cost to train them.” The HR departments have realized this and the efforts have paid off. The effective training programmes have resulted in the increase in the number of people rising the ranks to occupy leadership positions. Says Shyamala Deshpande, Senior General Manager, Human Resources & Training, Café Coffee Day, “People working here understand that they will have a fabulous career if they stick around and perform.  We make all efforts to keep our best guys.  They mean a lot to us. In fact close to 75% of our supervisory positions are filled by internal promotees across all departments.”  Organisations are coming up with interesting initiatives to ensure that the quick service eateries industry jobs are not seen as mere part time options but proper long term careers. Adds Mr. Amit Jatia, MD,McDonalds “As an organization we have believed in giving challenging assignments and job rotation as an effective way of growing people. Charlie Bell, our ex global CEO started his career as a crew. Today across the globe, there are many who have started as entry levels and reached the level of global senior management. In India, we are a very young organization; but already there are middle level managers who have started as crew trainees with us. We have senior and middle level managers in functions like Real Estate, Marketing, and Business Development who had started their careers in Operations and Corporate Relations and then moved across various functions.”Training of entry level staff continues to demonstrate multiple benefits across levels both for the organisation as well as for the employees. To put it in the words of Mr. Bowen, “In this business, you have no choice- you have to spend on training- today for doing it, tomorrow for not doing it- take your pick!”. Well, the choice is obvious!

So have you Metlife today? With Gaurav Suri, Director of Marketing, Metlife


What is it about the Indian markets that warrant such a major expansion drive on the part of the company? What, in your opinion, will be the major growth drivers in this industry? 

Suri: With the industry growing at 177 per cent for the period April – Jul 06, the Indian insurance market is expected to hit US $ 25 billion in 2010; assuming a 7 per cent real annual growth in GDP. In fact, today India has an insurable population of 300 million with only 15 per cent insured. Changing lifestyles are also a sign of the increase in potential of the market, as some of these factors help people plan for their financial security.  Some of these changes are  

  • Nuclearisation of families – moving away from the social security of the joint family system
  • Employers understanding the benefits of providing protection for their employees
  • lifestyle related diseases on the rise
  • Increase in consumer exposure and awareness about the financial services is another

Any growing economy where a large chunk of the population is underinsured and has low penetration will experience rapid demand.On the access side availability of relationships through existing banking and corporate agency infrastructure has also helped the rapid increase in insurance market. The sheer size coupled with the nascence of the market, growing economy is incentives for organizations to have distribution proportional to potential.  Some of the other factors are.Higher Savings Rate: The household savings rate in
India has averaged about 21% of GDP over the last five years. We expect even greater improvement in savings among Indian households going forward, aided by the sharp decline in the age dependency in India, which implies that the proportion of the working population and subsequently, the savings rate increase. 
Low Penetration: Total life insurance premiums collected in India were US $15 bn in F2004, or 2.3% of GDP. This compares with the penetration of 11% in Taiwan, 7% in Korea and 3.5% of GDP in Malaysia. On of the key reasons for low penetration in India was the fact that insurance was primarily sold as a tax planning product until private players were allowed entry into the segment. Private players now provide a savings angle to the product (by introducing unit-linked products) and have introduced new distribution channels ( e.g. bancassurance), which has resulted in a pick up in growth for the entire industry. Prior to F2001, life insurance in India was largely take for tax saving purposes and products offered were traditional endowment products. However, with the entry of private players, the products offering changed significantly. Private players pushed unit-linked products, leading investors to look at insurance as a saving too. LIC relies almost entirely on its agent force to acquire policies. However, private players introduced alternate distribution channels for the acquisition of policies, enabling them to increase penetration. What do you foresee as the major challenges to the consolidation of MetLife’s position in the country? 

Suri: The challenge has been in earning the trust of the consumer, in building a brand in a market which is so diverse and yet distinct. We have been doing that and today over 800,000 people have invested their trust in MetLife.  We were the only private insurance player in
India to run with our name from day one we believe that we have entered the market at the right moment and are investing for the future. Challenges present themselves as opportunities. Understanding the Indian Diaspora was the biggest one. But today we have and with that knowledge we have introduced innovative product options. In addition, we needed to educate the Indian customer. But before that could happen, we needed to educate our own team of financial advisors. Instead of selling policies, we wanted our team to offer solutions based on individual needs. So, we have dedicated a large part of our time imparting training to our advisors so they can gauge the customer’s needs and offer the right solution. And to make sure that it is working on the other side, we have institutionalized an internal accreditation program (for the unit-linked policies) whereby after the unit-linked solution has been availed of, we call up the customer to find out whether they have been appropriately briefed about the product by the advisor.  The sheer size of the market is such that MetLife has a great opportunity to be a successful insurer of lives. MetLife currently has 43 offices across the country and we plan to scale up in order to tap this market. 
What are the different distribution channels that MetLife will focus upon?  

Suri:  MetLife has a multi channel approach to distribution and is well capacitised on the individual and group side of business. We have financial advisors working in the agency sales channels. We work through banks and corporate agents on the third part distribution arrangements. The vast banking network represents the opportunity to penetrate the market place. Our direct sales force our geared to do the talking on the employee benefit space and also work through brokers in this space. We also have an approval to market insurance through a telemarketing channel. According to a recent research report by Fitch, banks serving as distribution channel for insurance products, have contributed about 20 per cent of the total insurance business in financial year 2005. What potential do you see for bancassurance in the Indian markets? 

Suri: In India the bancassurance model is still in its nascent stages, but the tremendous growth and acceptability in the last three years reflects green pasture in future. The deregulation of the insurance sector in India has resulted in a phase where innovative distribution channels are being explored. In this phase, bancassurance has simply outshined other alternate channels of distribution with a share of almost 25-30% of the premium income amongst the private players. A bancassurance alliance results in lower infrastructure and manpower costs. In India, the local regulations are encouraging the development and promotion of this channel. Also, banking in India is mainly done in the ‘brick and mortar’ model, which means that most of the customers still walk into the bank branches. This enables the bank staff to have a personal contact with their customers, which is very essential for insurance selling. The bank network – especially the public sector and cooperative bank branches are spread across the length and breadth of the country with 65,000 plus branches. This enables the insurance companies to reach out to each and every individual in the country who needs life insurance What will be the major challenges and opportunities that the untapped rural and semi urban markets are likely to pose to your ambitious plans of increasing outreach? 

Suri: Though the rural sector poses many opportunities for life insurance, there are many challenges that we face in the market. Limited infrastructure facilities in terms of banking, access to information, telecommunications, low presence of medical facilities are some of the hurdles that one has to overcome. The best way to tap the rural market is to partner with establishments/ communities that have a significant presence there. MetLife is already doing sizeable sales in the Indian rural market. MetLife is reaching out to the people in the rural parts of India primarily through the Bancassurance model and through NGO’s/ self help groups. 

What do you think are the critical differences in the way the life insurance sector has been growing in India as opposed to China?  Suri:  When we look at the Indian Life Insurance market we have an impressive annual growth rate, with the largest number of life insurance policies in force, the potential of the Indian insurance industry is huge. The Total value of the Indian insurance market (2004-05) is estimated at Rs.450 billion (US$10 billion). Innovative products, smart marketing, and aggressive distribution have enabled fledgling private insurance companies to sign up Indian customers faster than anyone expected. Indians, who had always seen life insurance as a tax saving device, are now suddenly turning to the private sector and snapping up the new innovative products on offer. In China the licenses are issued by the province and not for the country so any company needs to apply again and again to expand business. This is not the case in India. The Chinese life insurance market on the other hand has shown a steady growth in the recent past. China has a population of over 1.3 billion and the top ten insurers in
China only have approximately 10% share in the market. That meansthat 90% of the potential insurance market in China has yet not been tapped. The total insurance market in
China is expected to grow at the rate of more than 13% to reach the level of more than US$ 100 Billion from the year 2006 onwards. Overall, with more foreign competitors and more market forces steering the domestic carriers, China‘s vast domestic market, fledgling financial services industry, and the transition away from state-provided social security are the major drivers. More specifically, China‘s savings rates are approximately 40%, some of the highest in the world. Hence the Chinese life insurance industry is entering a stage of unprecedented competition.  
A vibrant life insurance industry is uniquely suited to address infrastructure and social needs alike. By redirecting China’s enormous household savings, now held largely in short-term bank accounts, into life insurance products, insurers could help to raise the long-term financing that the state needs for big infrastructure projects. On the social-welfare side of the equation, life insurance protects ordinary people, giving them peace of mind and securing long-term savings for their retirement. Moreover, it helps to reduce on government by supplementing the social- pension and welfare system. Thus a thriving life insurance industry, once further reforms are implemented, would allow China to address its infrastructure and social issues simultaneously.  At present, companies in the Chinese insurance industry pay a 5% business tax, while those in industries such as telecommunications and construction pay only 3%. The difference obviously puts life insurers at a disadvantage. This isn’t the only form of tax inequality: domestic companies pay more than their foreign counterparts and companies based in China’s special economic zones. India, by contrast, grants domestic insurers a lower income tax rate than the foreign ones. Meanwhile, individuals in China owe other taxes: insurance agents, for, example.  

When the Pen is mightier! With Puja Jain, ED, Luxor

luxorlogo1.gifManaging the brand leader in the Indian writing instrument industry with a turnover of Rs 300 crore, comes easily to Puja Jain, the Executive Director of Luxor Writing Instruments Private Limited. A graduate from Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College, Pooja went on to study International Business from the London School of Economics. She joined the family business under the guidance and support of her father Mr. D.K. Jain, Chairman and President, Luxor Group. Under her pioneering approach and innovative streak, Luxor has broken new grounds. She was instrumental in setting up the company’s B2B division which has brought a new vigor to its institutional sales practice.   Her ability to forge strategic marketing alliances has debunked the myth that marketing is men’s domain. She managed to successfully launch Parker Vector in India and was instrumental in getting on board Mr. Amitabh Bachchan as the brand ambassador. This has given the brand the necessary stimulus to establish a significant mindshare in the Indian consumers. As General Manager, Marketing, Puja was responsible for bringing the super premium luxury brand ‘Waterman’ in the country by entering into an alliance with Newell Rubbermaid.  Her insightfulness has led the company to capitalize on the recent boom in the retail sector in India which  has launched its first exclusive store ’Luxor Signature’ at Shipra Mall, Ghaziabad. But breaking new grounds has become customary for Puja, who in a span of nearly eight years grew from being Product Manager to Vice President (Marketing) through sheer hard work, dedication and the drive to succeed to finally take over the reins of Luxor Group as the Executive Director in 2006. Master and jack, all in one, Puja has many other feats that she has successfully mastered. She also assists her father in an advisory capacity in the group’s other businesses like hospitality and real estate. But for this ambitious and magnetic 29 year old, high on business as well as classical music, this all comes as just another day’s work.

Training with the Trainer: In the words of Mr. Raj Bowen, CEO, Dale Carnegie, India

home_logo1.gifQues) How important is employee orientation and training in the fast food services sector according to you?

In the services business and more specifically, the success of the business is impacted by (a) the quality of the consumables on offer (b) the location, ambience and customer friendly infrastructure (c) the price or rather the value for money equation (d) the image and equity of the brand and (e) the actual ‘CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE’. In an intensely competitive scenario, which is currently seeing the iceberg’s tip in

India for this industry, the only long term DIFFERENTIATOR is the last one- the CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. The others are all easily copied and do not really represent a SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE. To make this happen across a chain becomes even more of a challenge since there is a brand promise exposed at so many different points, with different stakeholders. To make this a seamless experience, the issue is not really how important is employee orientation and training- it is non-negotiable! In this situation, in this business, you have no choice- you have to spend on training- today for doing it, tomorrow for not doing it- take your pick!!!   

 Ques) What are the long term benefits of providing comprehensive training to employees in industries where the attrition rates are high?

In order to do justice to this point, it is important that ‘attrition’ must be first defined in its context, which will vary across industries, companies, jobs, locations, levels. As an example 80% of the poor performers exiting from a company within 2 years of joining could be ‘healthy’ whereas 25% of the best performers leaving a company within the same period could be an issue to worry about. Having said that, the decisions about training or not training employees irrespective of attrition is influenced not so much by internal boardroom imperatives but by what I would like to call ‘Customer Mandates’!In a competitive, multiple choice scenario ( which India is fast becoming, but was not, earlier), untrained and inefficient employees could cause irreversible damage to the brand’s very existence which will be of a magnitude much higher than what it would have cost to train them. So the mandate has clearly been issued by a demanding customer- you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. As far as attrition is concerned, unfortunately the choice is sometimes ‘between the Devil and the Deep Sea’- you train your employees and sometime they could leave your company OR (and this is where you need to think) you decide NOT to train them and they actually don’t leave your company….stop some time to think which is a better option! Fortunately all the research available today continues to prove that companies which invest more on employee learning and development are the ones who also have relatively lower  (unhealthy) employee attrition, higher productivity, more satisfied customers, better profitability and… better performance on the stock markets. The verdict is clear.

Ques) How has corporate training for entry level staff evolved in

Corporate India can learn some of its best lessons in training entry staff from the omnipresent Udipi fast food South Indian chains and the famous Rajashthani wholesale market traders. Both these businesses build their successes through the continuous nurturing and development of the customer facing staff that they employ, all of whom come into the trade with absolutely zero business exposure. The core of the orientation (and at times, indoctrination) is focused around(a) the value systems of the proprietor/owner (b) the criticality of ‘serving’ the customer (c) the ownership of the role and (d) the constant up gradation of skills. No wonder, the successful ones in these chains see extremely low employee turnover and significantly higher employee loyalty, commitment and customer satisfaction.Corporations must realize that the phrase ‘entry level’ is actually a misnomer- this may be the entry level for employees but most often, this is the ‘exit level’ for clients and prospects who could have become clients! Having had to evolve from a seller-dominated market mindset, most companies tend to naturally invest more in training & development of senior levels and miss the whole point- sometimes realizing it too late- that the highest exposure of the brand is with the employees who are in closest contact with their customers- for the services business, these are usually the frontline employees. The companies that are really committed to their own long term vision of sustainable growth are the ones who have realized this and are investing appropriately at all levels- to close out the ‘exit levels’!

As told to Preeti Chaturvedi

The Long Tail: Chris Andersen

“The Long Tail” was first published as an article in the Wired magazine in October 2004. It soon became the magazine’s most cited article. The book explores how niche businesses if aggregated can account for a significant market. It examines a scenario where “the bottlenecks that stand between supply and demand start to disappear and everything becomes available to everyone.”

Anderson records the data from the entertainment industry to show that if the 20th century was about hits, then the 21st century will be dominated by the niches.

Anderson examines the huge potential of this long tail of business saying that Google makes most of its money not from the big businesses but from small ones.Critical in this regard, is of course the new Internet economy. The book argues that “the web simply unified the elements of a supply chain revolution that had been brewing or decades.”
Anderson goes on to say that the long tail extends everywhere from PR and sports to ads and technology. Open source software projects like Linux ans Firefox are the long tail of programming, even as offshoring taps the long tail of labor.

Anderson also examines the new blog economy. The book argues that blogging has unearthed the long tail of publishing. A few years ago, I would have struggled to get my reviews published in a journal of repute but blogs have given us the much needed creative freedom and platform for expression that the long tail of writers struggled with all these years.However, despite being a path breaking research of sorts, where the book does fall short is in its excessive focus on the entertainment industry. So the result is that while the other industries are touched upon, they are not dealt with at length. The other critical area that is left untouched is the prognosis on how will the monetisation take place in case of the long tail aggregators like Google, for instance. Will these modes of free expression like social media platforms like Youtube and Blogger shed their free status and become paid?These are some of the questions that continue to irk the reader even after finishing what one would call one of the better books of our times.