Thursday, October 26

five random thoughts

I decided to walk from work to home the other day. It just takes twenty minutes, but walking on the Madhapur Road produces a lot of potentially harmful, but fortunately bio-degradable thoughts. Here are five of those still alive.

  • I can not stop wondering, Why private hospitals, now a days, have blinking neon signs on top of their buildings ? For some reason, these signs reminds me of "Kahoots" sign(a strip club in East Hartford,CT) or some of those "Hotel Marriott" signs. Even Marriott doesn't have its sign blinking!!! I can learn to accept Neon signs. But, Why make it blink ? Shouldn't the advertisement be more professional ? Or Is it just me who thinks such frivolous entertainment elements should not be a sign of a hospital ? Anyways, this is another reason, Why I think the next big thing is neither the hospitality industry, and nor the aviation industry, but the health care industry!!! I know what I am going to do, if a well-known hospital in big city goes public with an idea of building a chain of hospitals all over the country. By the way, I think a better way to indicate the location of an hospital is put signs on the roads indicating its way, rather than put up blinking red/blue lights like a Wireless tower.

  • The logo of Airtel is another proof for the theory on branding, I have been thinking about : To be a successful brand in a common market place, the brand logo should be so simple that you can draw it with your own hand. Or using Microsoft Paint - No, not Photoshop, but just the default Paint software that comes with Windows. No obscure fonts. No transparency. No reflection thingy. No shadows. No layers. No millions of colors. Just the basic 32 colors, fundamental shapes and a few basic fonts. Of course, this works only for common marketplace brands, not specialized brands developed for specific markets like - developing roller skates for the hobbits in the Middle Earth. Another example for the theory is Google - OK, you can forget that thing I told you about shadows. By the way, if you, like me, are wondering what exactly the font of _Airtel_© is, it resembles more like Centry Gothic, and not Arial. Yes, I too thought it was Arial.

  • While the passenger cars in India have been forced to adopt Bharat III auto emission norms, I don't know what emission norms do Auto rickshaws conform to. I don't think anybody would dare to develop a standard for these three wheelers. Only thing anybody could do is give a name to the level of emissions, that they already produce, and issue that as a "standard". If you ask me, such a standard would be the minimum emission standard for a tear gas, and would be called as Bharat Smoke Screen 1.0. But, you didn't ask me though.
  • Have you ever noticed that it is very easier to cross a road with crazy traffic(a fast flowing traffic with high frequency of vehicles), when you cross it with a group of people, and majority of the group are colorfully dressed women ? It might sound obvious to you that it is easier to cross the road if you start from NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) rather than from Govt. Boys Higher Secondary School. But my point is - I didn't say good looking woman, I said colorfully dressed women. Because those who drive in crazy traffic don't really have time to see the details. When they see a sea of colors, they go 100 to 0 in less than a second!!! My grand father once said, the actual brake inspector of a vehicle is not sit at the motor vehicle dept. office, but it is the buffalo that comes to the middle of the road out of no where. Yesterday while I was crossing the road, the brake inspector for that moment was a wall of women wearing pink, magenta, green, yellow, red and their million respective shades. (My eyes work only with some 7-8 colors)

  • Speaking of women and dresses, Have you ever noticed that most of the women, we think look good on the street, are actually only well dressed ? It seems to me that, looks really doesn't matter. In the sense of capturing your momentary attention, what matters is the appearance of looking good.(If you think this is a shallow and superficial line of thought, I am with you. You can skip this point, and write your angry comments to me.) From a blog written by a gal, I remember that, the most important thing in a movie, with a theme of a girl going from not-so-good-looking to absolutely-n-stunningly-amazing, is just the dress upgrade! She also wrote that the English movie "Pretty Woman" is a good example. Apart from being the touchy love story it is, the most important thing in "Pretty Woman" is Fashion 2.0 of a hooker.

For no reason at all, I would augment the last two points with this news story: Fertile women dress to impress, U.S. study finds. I did think of combining this news story with last two points into a different blog post, but it probably would destroy me. Yeah, the battle of sexes that nobody wins.

Thursday, October 12

gandhi-giri and new york subway cars

I saw a Hindi movie on Friday called “Lage Raho Munna Bhai”, directed by Rajkumar Hirani. It was smart, hilarious and very intersting. In the movie, the protagonist Munna Bhai uses Gandhigiri, Gandhism equivalent of Dadagiri, to solve his problem. Even though the movie is about social transformation, it doesn’t get as preachy as the tamil director Shankar’s movies. But the significant difference between Raj kumar Hirani’s Munna Bhai and Shankar’s Anniyan/Indian is that Shankar uses the philosophy of fear (as typified by the cliche “An eye for an eye”) and Hirani tries the antithesis of fear - love, as manifested by the principles of Gandhism. But, if you don’t want to get so touchy by using the word “love”, feel free to give your own name. In the movie, Munna Bhai appears in his friend’s on-call radio program, to provide solution for the callers’ problems based on the principles of Gandhism.

Here is an example of such a Gandhi-an method, Munna advises. One of the callers’ problem is that his neighbor spits pan right at his door, making the door and the area around it look like cat puke. The caller says he had tried to tell the neighbor, but he doesn’t stop spitting. The Munna Bhai’s gandhigiri solution caller is this: After the neighbor spits in front of the door, smile at the him, and Clean the door. The idea was to send a message to the neighbor by cleaning the door over and again, and thus producing a transformation in the heart of the neighbor. I agree its touchy. In the movie, Munna Bhai shows that Gandhi’s method works, when the neighbor stops his spit act. While watching this scene at the movie, I hear murmurs among the audience questioning if such a solution would work in real life. I would be one of those audience, if I had not read the book “Tipping Point” written by Malcolm Gladwell.

The book “Tipping Point” is about an interesting phenomenon defined by the moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like an wildfire - like an epidemic. In this book, Gladwell discusses about such a phenomenon that happened in New york city in the 1990s, causing the crime rate to plummet. In the city, during a period of five years, murder rates fell by two-thirds, and total crimes fell by half. Gladwell says that this crime drop has the same characteristics of the spread of epidemics. He defines three principles of epidemics - The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, and the most interesting one I think is, The Power of Context. My point of interest is the the “The Power of Context”, which says “Human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they seem.” and “A small change in a person’s immediate environment can cause big effects”. For the other two, here is an writeup of these principles in the context of marketing.

While discussing the power of context in the case of New york city, Gladwell produces examples about the small changes brought about in the New york subway systems that helped reverse the city’s crime epidemic. David Gunn was appointed the new subway director. He insisted that they have to start with the small things that symbolically indicate an environment for crime to happen. Graffiti being painted on the subway cars is such a symbol. Gunn decides to take on graffiti before anything else. He says

The graffiti was the symbolic collapse of the system. When you looked at the process of rebuilding the organization and morale, you had to win the battle against graffiti. Without winning that battle, all management reforms and physical changes just weren’t going to happen.

How did Gunn handle the problem of Graffiti in New york’s subway cars ? He drew up a new management structure aimed at cleaning the system line by line, train by train. On stainless-steel cars, solvents were used. On the painted cars, the graffiti was simply painted over. OK. What if the cars were vandalized again ? They cleaned again, and again. They were religious about their cleaning. At the end of the line, where the trains stopped and turned around, Gunn setup a cleaning station. If a car came in with graffiti, the graffiti had to be removed during the changeover, or the car was removed from the service. They make sure dirty cars are never mixed with clean cars. The idea was to send a clear message to the vandals - by cleaning over and again.

I was totally struck the method Gunn used to make the subways clean - not harsher punishment for the vandals, but to send a message to them by cleaning the cars. Of course, there is a difference between the tone, the kind of the message (or even a subtle difference in the motive), Gunn and Munna Bhai conveyed to their subjects. But the action point is the same - If you want to stop people from making dirty of public places, you just have to keep it cleaning - rigorously and continuously.

If it works for the multi-billion dollar cars of the New york subway system, it sure would work for everyone.