Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Picture abhi Baaki hai mere dost!!!!

Excuse me, that line has been taken from OSO and I might infringing some copyrights somewhere. But it is apt for what I am writing about here.

Have you heard about Experiential Entertainment?

Well, that is the BIG THING that has hit me in the last few years and I am going ga ga over the possibilities with it.

It is “the Process of opening a customer’s six senses and leave him agape for a considerable period of time experiencing any form of entertainment resulting in commerce of a different level for the Provider”.

Why am I being very optimistic about where we can go with experiential entertainment? Simply because I truly think that with a little bit of original thought and a lot of hard work (this we always profess to do!!), we can actually think of Products that have never been thought of before in any part of India or abroad.

I have been studying Experiential Entertainment ever since the mall mania hit India and the malls in their hurry to make cash gave out important spaces to top of the line brands that created their own utopia! There was no connect with the customer and we saw the advent of the age where footfalls were in scores but realizations totally messed up. Ex: Bose, Reebok, Wills Lifestyle, Sony World, Samsung Digital, Blackberry’s, W for Women, Satya Paul, Hidesign and a whole lot of others. I do not say they are bad brands. In fact, we all would say that they are top of the line brands that are not able to make headway into the average Indian consciousness because of their look and feel that has frightened the average guy on the street.

Of course, they are an essential part of the Indian mall but going one step forward, they had to be set up in such a manner where the simple tenet of curiosity – entry – browsing – interest – sampling – buy had to be done with the latent view that there is no hurry. Time provides the minds of the customer that unique pleasure – the pleasure of greed!

Ask me why Ladies are better for any retail establishment. I would say that they just have a lot of TIME! Test my observation and see. You will understand that I am right. So, what is supposed to be done if we are to provide time to our mall goers!

Experiential Entertainment is the answer. This is the latest in Hospitality and I have not read it anywhere until now. I just made it all up. But you can get the drift.

Why do we say that when we go for the typical Indian “Masala Movie” that it was “Paisa vasool” or “Mazaa aa gaya” or even “Mast time pass”? Why has Om Shanti Om become one of the biggest grosser of all time in Indian cinema?

Indians all over the globe have always equated Mazaa (entertainment) with Vasool (Value) and Time (as in time pass). This is the ultimate truth of our going out of homes to spend an “entertaining” day. It goes for our Movies, our shopping, our events, our Food and our naachgaana!!

It may or may not be similar for a European or an American. They are societies who have more TIME on hand than us and devote that time to various other pursuits like Theatre, fishing, barbeque, museums, art discussions and other such activities that stimulate the grey cells, activate our latent talent and give them a serene weekend away from their hurly burly weekdays.

It is different with us. Our weekends are not very different from our weekdays. So, when we ultimately get out for some much needed “Mazaa” we want “Mauja hi Mauja”. We want to have the ‘kitchen sink’ of Hospitality and Entertainment to be thrown at us.

I’ll tell you about this friend of mine who eats at a Shivsagar outlet the whole week as he is a bachelor and does not cook. He does not make a single noise through his entire meal at all. But every Saturday night, he and his friends tour the night clubs and bars where he orders for the flashiest Whisky and delectable finger food to accompany his drink. The Whisky is fine but the stewards go crazy trying to solve his food problems! Now, why does this guy have food problems only on Saturday nights? Psychology anyone!

My friend does not get the “Mazaa” and “Vasool” for his time spent at these places. Shivsagar, on the other days is able to provide him all of that on the other days. Strange but true!

Media has converged. So, has Hospitality and Entertainment. Today we just have to be very bold and upfront about our attitude towards our Retail Customer – at multiplexes, malls, Amusement zones, Hotels, Restaurants and Sports arenas. More “Om Shanti Om” type, as I would put it!

How to do this??

Content, boss! Compelling content in all these areas shall keep people engrossed. Like a Reality show on TV, there should be something happening all the time that would enable people to look and experience open mouthed, in wonder, every time, at all times!

You may say that the areas that I have mentioned may have no commonalities in content and so cannot be clubbed together. True yet false! Ask me how?

True because the products are dissimilar and principally cannot be bunched together. False because these are old rules. The new rules are “Any place that welcomes a customer with a concept and wants him to buy into that has to be governed by Content / thought / script / event / feel / senses. Only then the “Majaa” and “Vasool” for the time spent shall come in!

Yes, the world is now the “Masala Movie”!

I have designed methods of making a Mall, a Multiplex, a Movie, an Event, an Entertainment Zone, a Hotel, a Restaurant, a Sports Stadium or even a simple Park work on these precepts.

Entertainment is principally of two kinds – Ground and Broadcast. Movies, for me is a form of Ground Entertainment. Sorry, if I am changing the rules here.

Broadcast, I am not touching upon now.

But, Ground Entertainment has been redefined for ever in India. Are we aware? OK, most of us are. People who are not are getting there. Through trial and error.

First, the forms of Marketing Ground Entertainment changed. We called it Experiential Marketing. Then the content started to change. We are amidst the change even now.

There shall be a day when the success of a mall or a Cricket stadium shall be plotted through content or a story, simply put.

Who would plot this? There shall be a lot of contributors in this team of script writers – Promoters, Architects, Communication experts, Operations, Event Planners, Marketing whizzes, MCs, DJs, Amusement Designers, Movie Producers, Scriptwriters, Special Effects people, Music Composers, Landscape artists and Child Psychology experts!

Oh yes! There shall be a baffling team of people trying to make it worthwhile for you, the customer, to go to such places and have “Mazaa” and “Vasool”.

No, friends, it is no more about the LOCATIONS only. It is about captivating the customer. La La Land for a short while. The “All in One” concept at large! Someone please tell me as to why “Highway Dhabas” do so well!!!!!

They just bundle every kind of food and Masala and present a Unique combination of Food, music, comfort, easy surroundings and Colloquial habitats. The Bundle is what matters!

I don’t profess to be an expert here. Nobody is. Just that I have spotted the trends. Yes, they are very visible. Also, I have been able to spot the ‘Happiness Quotient’ of customers as they converge on content, popular or otherwise!

They define the likeability of an Entertainment product very fast. It is the establishments or content owners who do not see the obvious. Solely because their eye has moved to the collection tills.

Content is forever. Good Content more so! Revenue is transient. It comes. It goes too. So, which is more important. Which requires more Quality measures! How come then that CFOs rule the roost in many companies.

Why is the theme music of a Disco dependent on the in house DJ instead of a top line DJ or Music Composer?

Trends spell interest. Interest brings in Curiosity. Curiosity gets the footfall. Footfall turns into browsing. Browsing turns into a Buy. What I profess here is that we can cement this separate bricks by a product called “Mazaa” and “Vasool” content. This shall customer there for enough time to make that “Great Choice”!!!

Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost!!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Innovation Marketing!!

Marketing shall never be the same anymore. I have been involved in setting
up exciting ground entertainment solutions for my company. The brief was to
get across to my target audience in the most straight arrow manner without
the usually big costs of Media plans that suck the heart out of start up
companies. I had to design something that would be durable and secure. I
also had to make it so customer centric that every unit cost would enable a
walk in to my entertainment mall very comprehensively.

I designed a very radical thing called "Customer First Programme". This is a
Promotional that enables other malls/ showrooms/ Food joints / lifestyle
places to sell us through their sales. Suffice to say that it was such a
huge success with 95% turn throughs of my promotional give aways. On some
days, the lines at my Box office had to be multi pronged which is generally
not the case with establishments such as ours.

I have many such more radical ideas of direct and indirect sales approaches.
But, all of them are not from any textbooks. Why...I had to ask myself. It
turns out that our country is very "Nirala" in all such matters. Penetration
of most print media is hopeless. Electronic media also suffers because of
the junk on air. Lifestyle customers are not interested in "Bhoot pret"
news, "Saas bahu" serials and chalta phirta cricket. So, how does one get
them. Radio is an answer. Malls and multiplexes are also an answer. But some
of them are so expensive that a start up like my company cannot afford it.
So, where do we go?

Websites and the New media are an answer. But, we still have some way to go
before we catch up with the mass. But, we are getting there. As of now, I
have put my bets on innovative direct sales as the main approach!!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Passions - To keep me going!!

I have never stopped to take stock of my passions in life. Why, I do not know. There aren’t many that I have in any case but an inventory should be on now that I am half way through my life!

Well, let me start with my biggest passion – books! Who are the authors that I like. Ayn Rand…she has elevated my reading to another level of fundamentalism. I have read her over and over again through the years and have understood the Roarks and Tooheys differently each time. Dominique is no more that youthful enigma but I am still yet to understand her fully. Howard Roark has influenced me and I dare say here that except being a sociopath as he was I have relentlessly followed his path to originality! Others may differ but…

Khushwant Singh has influenced me too. Now, ask me why I had to be done in by that dirty Sardar. Then, you must read Delhi – a novel. He is a fabulous historian and a storyteller. I have yet to come across a more qualified Indian writer writing about India as he has done. Suketu Mehta follows in close on the basis of his sole book, Maximum City! Boss, what energy..I could not sleep after I had completed the book at one go on a Sunday. Since then, have read it many a time. There were many others..Bruen, Bach, Henry, Wilde, Forsyth (I love that man!!), Grisham, Lawrence, Satyajit Ray, Sunil Gangopadhay, Tagore, Marquez, Menon, etc and I shall never tire of those page and gum smells!!

My next passion is Movies. Scores of people are passionate about movies but only a few watch movies alone from the age of 12. I did. Don’t ask why. I don’t know. For me, movies are a therapy, a taraana, a thrill, a study, a fantabulous occasion that I could never escape even for a big party or a daawat or even religion. Well, movies are my religion.

I saw Chemeen sitting on my Dad’s shoulders. I saw Aradhana when I was two and I am able to recollect my own lusty singing after the movie ended. I remember Johnny mera naam, Hare Rama Hare Krishna from then on. Then, a hiatus and after a few years I got introduced to Ray straighaway. Pather Panchali, Jalshagar, Apur Sansar, Mahanagar, Teen Kanya and Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne..they were classics even then for without even getting the full import.

I launched into my Hindi movie phase again with Sanyasi. Manoj Kumar and Hema Malini served up Masala movies to me like never before. I was hooked. Sholay followed and what a follow up!!

Then, was a phase that I was seeing a movie every week dutifully one-way or the other. Good ones, vague ones and downright horrid ones. Does anyone remember “Oh Bewafaa”, a ‘The lonely Lady’ rip off starring Anil Dhawan and others. Bambai Ka Badshah will also not ring any bells. Amjad Khan in a double role. I caught up with the Hrishikesh Mukherjee jewels during this time. I also tried a few Bimal Roy ones. Then, I hit upon Kishore Kumar and Guru Dutt films. The movies had me for life.

I have torn shirts getting tickets for Sharaabi and Hero in Nagpur. I have seen Pataal Bharavi alone in Hyderabad grooving to Jeetendra’s pots and pans. I have copied Mithun’s “Kasam paida karne wale ki” muffler style all winter of 1985. I saw Ghayal after curfew in an illegal video parlor in Guwahati in 1990. “Tridev” was seen with CPM and Trinamool Congress going great guns at each other just outside a hall in Kolkata. Sathya, the Tamil one, was with a girl whom I never met after that day. DDLJ was in Panjim with my spouse. Tezaab was in a place called Alampur in Howrah district in West Bengal with my brother. Taal was in Siliguri when my daughter was being born at a nearby hospital. Takshak was in a bus to Pune to see my mom.

Now, I see movies on DVD or at the nearby multiplex. I enjoy. We enjoy. My wife is a freak too. She even worked with Inox and institutionalized her freaking out for two good years. Indian movies changed. We get a Khosla ka Ghosla. We also get a Matribhoomi. We get a Bheja Fry and we also get something as radical as “No Smoking”. I still love the movies.

I am passionate about music too. A R Rahman is God. RDB is up there with all the Gods. LP, KA, Madan Mohan and other greats are also as revered. I can listen to a Pritam too. I can get along with Salil Chowdhury (that genius..) too. Kishore Kumar, Asha, Lata, Rafi, Mukesh, Hemant, Manna De, Jagjit, Ghulam Ali, Alisha, Bappi Lahiri, Salma Agha, Abhijeet, Alka, Sanu, Sonu,Udit, Nusrat and his tribe..all of them have contributed to my ears and pleasure over the years.

I even enjoy Bombay Jayashree, Anuradha Sriram, Harini, Sreekumar, Unnikrishnan, Hariharan, Nachiketa, Zubeen, Indian Ocean, Mohit Chauhan, Remo, Richa Sharma, Vishal Dadlani and others who are not heard all that frequently.

As they say, music has no boundaries.

My last and foremostest passion is work. Here, it shall suffice if I mention that I have toured the country only through my job locations. I went where work seemed interesting. I went where there was opportunity. I am the later day diamond prospector. I cannot give up. I cannot lie in a cocoon. I am still innovating myself. I am still at it. Kitchens, restaurants, Hotels, Banquet Centres, Multiplexes, Discos, Heritage Parks, Clubs, Resorts, Spas, Health Clubs, Amusement Parks, Entertainment Malls and Waterfront developments. I have seen it all and done it all.

Operations, Marketing, Sales, Events, IT, Business Strategy and Projects. I have been all over the place. Ah yes..there are places I can go to from here. Sports Management, Talent Management, Content, Themed Attractions…the list goes on!!

So, here they are…my Passions…then there is Cricket..ah..umm..well..yessss!!!!!!!