Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

Posts tagged ‘India’

Review of the Shiva Trilogy & Scion of Ikshvaku

So I’m just done reading the Shiva Trilogy, Immortals of Meluha, Secret of the Nagas and Oath of the Vayuputras, and also Scion of Ikshvaku – which is the first book of the Ram Chandra Series, by Amish Tripathi. Yes, yes, I can imagine you sniggering. The books were out ages ago, what took you so long, you’re thinking. Well the reviews I valued weren’t positive, and I consciously kept off. But then, I have not read anything on Indian mythology and soon hope to graduate to more serious stuff. What better way to prepare the ground than the books by Amish Tripathi.

Well you are right, bad choice, but then, experience is the word one gives for their mistakes, and so I’d say, it was quite an experience! I can’t remember the last time I gritted my teeth while reading a book.

The first two books, Immortals of Meluha and the Secret of the Nagas are terrible. Amish really learns to write and develops the patience to stay with the story only in the third book, Oath of the Vayuputras. But it seems this book didn’t do too well, and not as many copies were sold as the first two books. I’m not sure what that tells us, whether we have a crappy audience, or whether its advise to Amish, ‘don’t change.’

The first two books had tremendous potential as stories, and could have been really built upon. Amish should have got himself better editors who could have guided him in the right direction. He failed to bring out rich history, coax out nuances and paint sceneries, glossing over areas that needed clarification and where readers would have enjoyed description. This ‘glossing over’ speaks poorly for the authors research team.

There were parts of the books that developed into philosophy, and a perspective on life in the Indian way. Here, Amish really came out for the ‘newbie’ he was. An older, more mature author, with a larger span of reading, and pensive contemplation, would have brought in a solidity that only time and insight can introduce – say like Amitav Ghosh or Anita Desai.

But reading these books by AT definitely uncovers the huge potential that Indian mythology offers, to delve into creatively and explore perspectives and create narratives from various angles. Why writers, especially more talented, mature and experienced ones have held back thus far is something I wonder, or perhaps they wish to refrain from quoting controversy.

So the books have errors as well, AT fails to create a visually rich and historically accurate vision of 2500 BC and then blunders majorly by calling it all ‘India’ – unforgivable. The Scion of Ikshvaku describes a helicopter, the Oath of the Vayuputras describes ice blocks that preserved Sita’s body without explaining from where they came. It would have made better sense if he had written about embalming which was a highly developed practice even then, across the world.

However, what I did like and what most staunch Hindus find unpalatable was the humanization of Shiva. This is a common practice in Hinduism and makes legendary figures and even gods so accessible, possible to identify with and emulate. Shiva is sometimes portrayed as a reluctant leader, struggling to get into the large shoes of previous Vishnu’s but taking on the burden with great poise, fortitude and uncharacteristic egalitarianism. Leadership bears heavy on all our shoulders at some point of time in our life or the other. Here is something we could learn from. I also liked how he explains the Naga’s. While many hands humans, bird like humans and ape like humans are sometimes hard to digest, that they could be deformities is very plausible.

So I must say that errors and all, the four books really grew on me, and while I promise myself, I will not be reading any more of ATs future books, I feel more confident moving on to sturdier, more accurate Indian literature.

Discover the Technology behind Your Hotel Stay

Goa is one of the smallest states in India, and little more than a dot on the country’s map. Yet did you know the coastal state played host to over three million visitors last year? The internationally renowned holiday hotspot attracts guests both from abroad and the expanding Indian middle-class, and the 101 kilometers of Goa’s coast has an impressive density of 3000 hotels!

ImageWith guests flooding in, the state has all types of hotels – from luxury to lodges. The high frequency of visitors and high occupancy rates means few hospitality properties can manage without software. Yes, behind your wonderful hotel stay, there is software and technology that notes your bill at the bar, food ordered up to your room, services availed of at the spa, and clothes you sent for laundering.

When your stay at the hotel ends, the software will send out a ‘Thank you’ SMS. The hotel will continue to stay in touch with you and wish you on your birthday and other special occasions. Expect to receive emails or SMS’s on special offers and discounts at the hotel, and when you come back next year with your wife or friends, the hotel staff will greet you by name.

Thanks to the hotels guest history feature. Hotel staff will already know the newspaper you like to read, the type of pillow you requested during your last visit, and even the drinks and food you enjoyed at their restaurant. At last, you are not just another revenue figure; you have found a little comfort zone away from home.

Hotel staff come and go, shifts change, but your favourite hotel knows your needs.

All this is made possible by a large hotel property management system that works ceaselessly – day and night. Did you know, a hotel property management system can be fairly complex, and includes software modules like Front Office Management which you can encounter at the lobby, Point of Sale in the restaurant, Accounts Receivables to manage payments, Finance Management, Housekeeping, Inventory Management, Telephone Management, HR and Payroll, Food and Beverage Costing, Quality Management, Banquets and Conferences, Sales and Marketing and more.

Yes, almost every department of your hotel is managed by its comprehensive property management system. This may seems strange, for all you see are smiling hotel staff at your beck and call. But it is precisely this software, which manages the large number of hotel operations and enables its staff to serve you well.

Added to this massive software that runs the hotel almost seamlessly, are a host of other applications too. From key cards, to fancy tablet based e-menu applications to wow you with sumptuous foods, mobile check-in so you walk straight to your room, to customized in-room entertainment. The list can go on.

The Indian Middle Class is traveling

As the Indian middle class expands, it is expected to exceed 600 million in India. This is a spurring growth in the travel and hospitality industry. The recent economic downturn may have curbed the construction of five-star hotels, but the mid-market segment of four and three star hotels is booming. Research[1] shows the millennials – those born between 1980 -2000 are expected to be avid travelers, love urban locales, travel in organized groups and use mobile phones and social media to post travel reviews.

You may expect to see more technology making its way rapidly into hotels with wi-fi and mobility apps. From the hoteliers perspective software as a service (SaaS) is the next big thing.

How safe are the details you give your hotel?

However, everything is not hunky dory with the hospitality industry. More recently, hotel software has come under the scanner for being vulnerable to hacking. Yes you read right. Hotels see hundreds of guests each year. Larger the hotel, bigger the size of their database. Cards – debit and credit- are the easiest and arguably the safest mode of payment, yet it is exactly this information that attracts hackers. Trolling the web for systems they can break into, and data they can easily steal and sell, hackers find hospitality property management systems easy to breach.

1Doug Meal, partner at Ropes & Gray, says “data breaches at hospitality-related businesses account for as much as 40% of all data security breaches.”  Thankfully there is a way around it. Some countries require hotel software to be PCI DSS compliant. This means payment card details are stored in an encrypted format and are thus hacker proof. India has not enacted this legislation which requires hotel software to be PCI or PA DSS compliant. However IDS NEXT, a hotel software provider with over 26 years of experience providing hospitality technology that has a large presence in the Goa hospitality industry is PA DSS compliant. This obviously is not only a huge benefit for the hotel industry, but for guests visiting these hotels too.

Aam Aadmi Party’s Questions to the BJP in Goa

This statement was released by the Aam Aadmi Party Goa <aapgoa@gmail.com> just prior to Sunday’s BJP meeting. addressed by its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, in Goa:

Press Release
Margao Goa

In view of the upcoming “Vijay Sankalp” rally to be held in Goa by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Shri Narendra-ji Modi, the Aam Aadmi Party would like to pose the following questions for the BJP and its Government in Goa.

1) Why has the BJP Govt. delayed in finalizing the Regional Plan for Goa?

2) When the Goa Govt proposes to prohibit entry for Goans into casinos on the grounds that gambling is a vice, is it not anti-national for the BJP to encourage the rest of Indians to be addicted to casinos? The BJP should clarify whether they consider casinos to be “bharatiya sanskriti” or drop the word “bharatiya” from its name.

3) Why does the BJP as a political party oppose the CIC order to bring it under the purview of RTI? What does it have to hide?

4) Why was not a single case filed with the Lokayukta against illegal miners identified in the Shah Commission Report and the PAC report?

5) Why haven’t any proceedings been started to recover the Rs. 35,000 crores looted from Goa as per the Shah Commission Report?

6) Why did the Goa Govt betray the BJP’s written promise to amend the Goa Lokayukta Act on the lines of the Uttarakhand Act, even after an AAP delegation handed over a ready draft of the amendments to the Hon. Chief Minister as requested by him. Are the promises of the BJP not even worth the paper they are printed on? (see attachment)

7) Why has the implementation of the Right to Services Act been postponed numerous times?

8) Despite expensive foreign “study tours” and numerous assurances on the issue, why does piled up garbage continue to be the biggest tourist attraction of Goa?

9) Why has the written promise by the BJP to strengthen the Gram Sabhas and enact appropriate amendments in tune with the 73rd amendment not even taken up by the Goa Govt so far? (see attachment)

10) Why is the Goa Govt still dilly-dallying on settling the Mayem Evacuee Property issue?

Nagaraj, the Man Behind Design Point

People Feature

ImageIndia is a happening country and you can see that by the novel ideas, initiatives and businesses that are mushrooming every day.  I keep meeting these folks that are brimming with confidence and bursting to go out into the world. They are driven to create a niche for themselves and it’s a positive environment to be in.

One such case in point is Nagaraj. A person with disabilities since he was four, he has trained and self-taught himself a host of skills that range from graphic designing, web designing, photography and short film-making.

When he left his job at a BPO, it was like his hat was thrown on the other side of the fence. From thinking of setting up his own little business, he suddenly found himself at having to launch it right way.

With not much fanfare, he works from home. He created a snazzy ppt for his initiative called ‘Design Point’ and sent it out to all his friends. Soon, small bits of designing work began to come in from brochure and mailer designing to web site creation.

“It’s been stressful” says Nagaraj, “For a while, I kept looking for a full time job, desiring the security of a fixed salary. But as a person with disabilities, I will always have to deal with employers who will not look at my ability, but rather at my disability. It has taken me a while to get my confidence, and now think Design Point is the way forward. It lets me be my own boss, work with the flexibility that I desire and raise the bar on performance for myself.”

About Design Point

ImageNagaraj has over 7 years of experience working with NGOs. His current clients include those from the development sector and small organizations who do not have the kind of financials necessary to hire branded design assistance.

He continues to look to grow his client base and is priced competitively. The quality of his work is good. Self-learning is second in his nature and so, he dislikes saying “I don’t know how to do that”. “The internet offers you everything” he says, “I just go and explore various tools and software, post a few questions on a forum and soon I have learnt something new”.

Nagaraj has an eye for detail, works with a smile and has plenty of patience – this is most necessary because a designer must be willing to do multiple edits until a client feels satisfied with the output.

Connect with Nagaraj from Design Point if you need

  • Brochures / greeting cards / business cards
  • Banner ads / ppts / e-mailers
  • Logo designing
  • Website designing
  • Visuals for your social media properties – Facebook, Twitter, Google+
  • UI Design
  • Short videos
  • Photography

Contact Details

Email: nagarajpapanna@gmail.com

Phone number: +91 9902249249

Facebook: http://in.linkedin.com/in/nagarajpapanna

Leveraging Digital Marketing May Not Be So Easy

2012 is a momentous year for advertising, as for the first time since the inception of the internet; marketers are projected to spend more on online advertising than on advertising in print magazines and newspapers in the US. More countries will go this way soon. If you are a company in India and wondering if you should leverage the internet for your marketing, this is not just a wakeup call, it’s the alarm bell jangling.

There are numerous reasons why online advertising, be it in the form of social media marketing, SEO or PPC is the way forward for you.

To begin with, traditional advertising in print magazines and newspapers has a limited shelf life, secondly according to Google, when people need to know about a product, 58% of them turn to the internet. 65% of people purchasing retail products and 72% of people purchasing technology related products research online purchase offline (ROPO). Online advertising is far more cost effective, has a longer shelf life and most importantly has measurable return on investment (ROI).

Accordingly to more statistics by Google, there are 120 million internet users in India, which is also the third largest internet market. 48% of these users come from 2 and 3 tier cities which have a population of less than 10 lakhs which indicates that the internet is developing deep roots.

Where are your potential customers?

Interesting of these 120 million internet users, 50 million access the internet via their mobile phones, 43 million use the internet primarily for Facebook and 25 million are on YouTube, this is extremely telling and offers clear direction for marketers on how to structure their marketing strategy and where they need to be seen.

Even though internet penetration in India is growing by a low 9% YoY, the sheer size of the country means the number of users will still grow significantly.

Digital Marketing Companies are Smacking their Lips

The numbers are in favour of digital marketing agencies, as companies in India both B2B and B2C are moving towards capitalizing on free and paid online platforms.

Today, companies no matter their size are open to investing in websites even spending lakhs. According to Google, their India Get Online project which offers free online space to SBMs took off like a rocket, with 60,000 SMBs opening up websites in 6 months. Yes, it’s going to be a golden era for digital and online marketing companies, but are they ready?

My small experience of four years on both sides of the fence indicates not. Here’s why

Since social media and SEO can be done from free platforms, everyone has jumped in to grab a piece of the pie. Everybody claims expertise, from freelancers, novices and agencies, and that’s easy enough because there is no well-known certification other than for PPC from Google. Even then, most agencies are hesitant to certify their staff. High churn means agencies are reluctant to pay for employee training and since the Google algorithm is always in flux, it’s easy for half-baked experts to fool their way around.

Recently, my company needed to engage in SEO and our discussion with 10 odd digital marketing agencies was hilarious at best, sickening at worst. Sales people with fancy designations came in talking through their hat (so it wasn’t black or white), promising the sky when all we wanted was leads. If a sales manager of a digital marketing company does not understand the product he is marketing, it does not inspire confidence in the buyer, and so we chucked all of them and began to learn a bit of SEO ourselves. There are loads of companies like ours, who want to leverage social media with realistic expectations; can somebody help us with it? The answer is uncertain.

Since most digital marketing companies do not train their people, sales and account managers simple copy paste tried and tested methods from one client to the next. When we spoke to SEO vendors, we wanted them to give us intelligence, make a strong case on whether SEO was for us or not, and what we could expect from it. Rather, we got vendors asking us for keywords, (isn’t that silly?) and telling us our web content was great, when in fact we were certain the content per page needed to be urgently increased.

Its time digital marketing companies set their own standards, push for certifications and invest in training. This way they weed out ill trained people, professionalize the industry and avoid turning away potential companies like mine who is now very unsure about working with an agency.

As companies like mine acknowledge the value of an online presence, they are shifting budgets from traditional advertising to online, but this low hanging fruit is ignored as digital marketing firms do not develop the right sales strategy. The need of the hour here is trained sales personnel, who have a deep domain understanding, who can truthfully set client expectations and make an intellectual argument steeped in research on what channel can work for a client, and send in well-educated sales personnel who can make the right pitch, rather than blabber rubbish.

Holidaying In the Wild South – Nagarhole

A small diversion of the beautiful 8 lane Bangalore – Mysore freeway, down some terrible narrow roads and Bingo, you are smack in the middle of Nagarhole National Park, also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park. It was a long weekend in early May and we decided, like scores of others to hightail out of simmering Bangalore.

Unknowingly, but with a happy coincidence we had booked a homestay on the periphery of the national park and so boy, did we feast our eyes.

Nagaraj, mom who was down from Goa and myself, all in a battered down sumo vehicle, the bad roads and rattling vehicle notwithstanding, we were all geared for some wild excitement!

A check-post, sign in your car number,  a few kilometers ahead a big board says welcome to Nagarhole National Park

The sights and sounds of modern life recede and we drive down a single lane bumpy road. The signal on our phone vanishes and we drive and drive through dry forest. It’s May, and there are shades of brown starting from just off the road. The only bright colours are the boards that spring up at regular intervals our left and right. Put up by the forest department, the boards are instructional, like “do not stop your vehicle”, “do not get out of your vehicle”, “do not honk”, “do not drive above 30 kms an hour”, “speed kills” animals in this case, common sense stuff really, but when you are a moron from a city I guess this is indeed helpful stuff.

The trees are cleared 3 meters off on each side of the road and then the scrub begins. These clearings with roughly hewn holes have been carefully designed so that wide-eyed folks like us see more wild animals. It had rained the night before and at a little pool by the side of the road we were face to face with an India gaur. You recognize an Indian gaur, not only from its large size and huge hump, but its 4 white socked feet as well. It’s amazing to be before such a magnificently large creature but god help if it’s in a bad mood and decides to charge.

Spotted deer range free and often break the scrub and bushes to nibble off at tender green leaves facing the road. Male deer’s have majestic antlers that stretch out skywards; females with little ones are a bit skittish. As luck could have it we even saw a pair of barking deer. These are tiny deer really compared to their spotted cousins and you need to have a keen eye to see them. Thankfully, Nagaraj who even others has eyes like a hawk kept stopping the driver every few minutes.

Like deer, wild boar was plentiful and small herds could be seen foraging among leaves and swampy grasses. We bumped into a playful pack of wild dogs and saw mongoose scampering by, couldn’t get that one on film. A tree stripped off every leaf but full of wild figs had as many as six Giant Indian Squirrels eating up with gay abandon, we caught pictures of the Racket Tail Drongo, peacock and wild hens.

The mornings were especially beautiful as the mist hung heavy over the forest and the haunting call of the cuckoo rang from tree to tree. Parrots and parakeets broke into periodic cacophony and in this surreal setting, Nagaraj chanced upon a herd of 4 elephants with a calf.

Nagarhole is surrounded by coffee plantations and human habitation is constantly shrinking the forest, when the surroundings are loaded with fruit, especially jackfruit, the strong fragrance draws elephants which rampage through the coffee plantations. But that does not stop plantation owners from growing a few jackfruit trees anyway.

The road through Nagarhole leads to Kerala and though it is a narrow, ill maintained road there is a fair among of traffic roaring by, most drivers are disciplined and the area is clean. One can also stay at government lodging in the heart of the forest and go on jungle safaris. Patrolling the forest are guards who live in small thatched houses with smooth floors and walls. Even as wild animals roam free, so do villages and little children. Schooling looks to be rather rudimentary.

In a couple of places we had boards which meant that tigers are sighted in those areas and even though we went early one morning hoping the gods would favour us with an apparition, our luck did not hold through.

At the very end of the forest was a little post office, which I found most intriguing, but you never know, some people might just be sending out an annual letter to the animals each Christmas 😉

Pics by Nagaraj Papanna and me

So who cares for your website?

Have you had this experience when someone calls you and says they are calling from so and so company, you search them on Google and come upon a really shabby website. Your image of the company you are talking to falls apart. Now would you want to do business with a company like that or would you consider taking up a job with them?

I’ve had this experience more than once, and the astounding part, many of them claim to be online marketing companies. What?… With such poor content, little or no SEO, nothing to distinguish the site as a 2.0 website, precious little information on their services, I yearn to ask them how they manage to do business if any, but usually take the faster and more pleasant way out by saying a simple ‘No’.

If you don’t care for your website, why should I

In case you as a company have forgotten, your website is your public face. It is your advertisement for all to see, and a pretty cost effective one at that. Who in their sane mind would want to waste an opportunity like that to advertise themselves, yet so many companies would, and do.

A shabby website speaks volumes on how much you care about your own company, how much you have conceptualized your products and services, how much you strive to distinguish yourself from the myriad competition. Poor English, meagre content, indicates you’d rather be found chasing the money, or maybe that you haven’t looked at your site in years.

Updating a site with current information, making sure it displays the current year, means that you are concerned about your appearance, that you care to make the right impression; people who would like to do business with you find it easier to read about you, understand you and determine if they could gel with you. Prospective employees also get a better understanding of your style of business, learn about your products and are able to determine if they could fit into your organization. A well maintained website, helps you attract better talent and generate much needed leads, free of cost.

The first thing most people do when they hear the name of an individual or company they need to interact with is Google them, and if you don’t make the best first impression, it might create a lasting bad impression.

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