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SME branding

Top 7 Ways: How The SMEs Can Get Really Lucky!

Here is a true story.

I was with one of the major biscuit brand owners in the country. I asked the gentleman, "there are so many biscuit-makers in the country, how could you become so big among them? What's your success secret?" He looked at me and others in the room, and then, after a long pause he said, "sab devi maa ki kripa hai!" (It's all the blessings of the mother goddess')

I am sure he was trying to be humble. But yet, I meet SMEs regularly and can say with some certainty that there is a strong belief  in the 'Luck Factor' among them. They often say, "We all do hardwork, yet only a few really succeed. Luck should be on your side!"

In these honest and frank conversations we always get some examples like-- "We have a better product than our neighbours but yet they outsell us three times. How could it be possible?" And the patriarch businessman may reveal to you, "That guy came to me and I taught him how to make this product. I helped him get a foothold. Even today he is a novice. Anguthachhap! Luck is on his side. He got some big orders and then things started moving for him."

I can empathise with these emotions. Anyone creating a good quality product, at lower prices, and more know-how in the business must be able to make more sales and profits. But, then luck should also be on your side! 

I have thought deep about this puzzle. What is this luck factor in business?

Let's start with the general understanding of luck. We often say, being lucky is to be in the right place, at the right time with the right people.

Now here are  some of these scenarios in which business owners get lucky--

Luck Factor 1: Favourable Government Policies

In many cases the windfall come as a new government policy which favours a business. We have many current examples ready for us. Early demonetisation days favoured digital payment businesses like PayTM. They got quick downloads and people started using them. Otherwise earlier it was a struggle for them to convince people to download the app. Now their business is getting promoted by the Governement of India as it is promoting digital transactions.

Same is the situation with swachch bharat abhiyan. many people in the cleanliness industry will get a good leap. While people in general are getting more aware of health and hygine issues, the government support has given it a real boost.

Think of LED lighting business, it suddenly got a leap because of govt support. Now between two lighting manufacturers, one who dealt only with traditional lighting will loose out, while one into LED sector would be lucky.

The key here is to understand which businesses are in-line with the future trends. Sooner or later the government will favour those industries. For example Green and environment friendly businesses will get a support from the policy makers.

Smart City is the current opportunity. What can you do to make your city better? Does your business has the potential to go across India with some aspect of your product or skill capabilities, do you have something to offer for the Smart City planners and implementors?

Apart from these, govt announces many schemes for women entrepreneurs, smart SMEs take advantage of these schemes by getting their spouse in the picture.

Action Point: Is your business, in with the upcoming world trends? Closely monitor government policies and see what could be your point of leverage.

Luck Factor 2: Advent of New Technology

Sometimes a new technology suddenely changes the business scenario. It changes market dynamics in a big way and old establishments go out of business, while new entrants ride on the technology wave to the top.

Silicon valley startups are the most prominent examples. Even in Indian subcontinent many SMEs and startups took advantage of new technology to get ahead. Flipkart and housing.com was not possible without internet and good connectivity. An SME company  Opportune Technologies used cloud storage technology to make their mark in HR automation area and in a short span got to the top of the biometric attendance system industry. They are now using Internet of Things technology to create even more success stories.

Action Point: Look for the emerging technology trends. Technology is gaining traction in all industries. Those who will ride on the new technology, or will adopt it well, will have a competitive advantage in the future. Those SMEs who understand it will get 'lucky'. If your current products and business are getting older, look for new avenues. Invest some money in new ventures. Add elemnts of the 'new world' to your existing business. Think like a startup.

Luck Factor 3: Major Competitor Goes Out of Business Or Leave Your Industry

In today's world, it is difficult to consistently earn high profits. And companies keep watching the ROI on every penny they spend. So, even while your competition is well established in the marketplace, in the portfolio of their parent company it might not be profitable enough to run it.

Some years back, Unilever had called off many  brands. Many of the remaining brands were merged into single entities. It was a good chance for local players all over the country.

In such cases, the entrepreneurs who can take a quick lead will get the major share. Sometimes,  while the big brands may remain in the business, the parent company doesn't invest more toward its growth. They just want to take as much profit as they can before getting out after a few years.

Action Points: A good market intelligence is important. Smart SMEs keep a watch on these trends by  conducting job interviews with the competitor's employees. They come to know many inside stories through these sessions. Industry journalsits and vendors are also a good source of information. Do  follow the CEOs of these bigger brands, carefully read in between the lines as you go through their interviews.

Luck Factor 4: Non-paid Celebrity Endorsement

In the film Sultan, Salman khan was sponsored by Kukreja brand pressure cooker. Now, in real life there actually is one Mr Kukreja who deals in aluminium. He suddenely started getting calls for Kukreja Pressure cookers! Suddenly his brand was well known. His website started getting hits. He did not pay anything for in-film placement and yet he got the Salman's 'endorsement'.

Now, don't think it can only happen in the fictional film world. Even in the real world, some celebrity might like one of your product and can talk about it in the press. Some experts in your field can talk about your product as an example and again more people will look for you.

The key here is, many celebrities are keen to do social work. If your product is related to such activities you can get a chance in various forums to be seen by them, in certain circumstances they might use your product in front of people.  

It's not an endorsement, yet it works for you. I always suggest my friends and clients to look into their network, everyone has some approach to a well known personality. It need not be a direct endorsement for your product or brand, many a times  even a category mention can help you. For example, if an actress says in an interview that she uses sandalwood powder for her beauty needs, many women will start looking for sandalwood powders. A smart businessman will sure use this statement to further his business.

Action Point: Find out the connection between your products and the celebrities. Do a thorough research and you will find some celebrities who are interested in your product and related activities.

Luck Factor 5: Celebrated Clients

Sometimes your clients may not be celebrities but are well-known in their own industries or fields. These clients are influential and their word gets a weight in their industry. Their good words help to expand your business in that industry.

Sometimes you get a breakthrough in a company which is well known and other companies start working with you, they think if you are good enough for leaders, you are good for them too. Or, a manager on the client side likes your product or solution and talks about it in industry forums and you start getting enquiries.

Action Point: Look for established clients and their business even at a very low margin. Look to it from the point of view of creating a case study which can be cited by industry people. Your sales people can also use this case study to convert prospective business in your favor.

Luck Factor 6: Entry of an influential relative in the picture.

There are many examples where the businesses took a huge leap after one of the relative or friend got into an influential position. For example, your brother-in-law gets elected as an MLA, or a close friend becomes a minister. That's like luck smiling on you. It can open many gates for you. You might get insider information to win businesses, govt tenders and other opportunities. In fact such a closeness may motivate other business people to do business with you on a preferential basis.

While Mr Vadra might be the most well-known example here, we all have many such examples in our own networks.

Action Point: This is mostly pure luck. But some people may take a conscious decision to get a family member into politics and back him with funds to improve his chances of success. You can also look for marriage connections in such influential families. Another proactive strategy is to befriend bureaucrats in influential positions by becoming members of various clubs and forums, where they are often found. Even a common religious guru is a good connecting point. Keep your eyes open and you will find many more such connections.

Luck Factor 7: A Visionary Mentor

This is a real winner. Many businesses are transformed because of the entry of a true genius in the picture. This mentor could be a industry expert who knows things inside out, or a man with a good pulse of the consumers. A good mentor will help you find the hidden gems in your business, he or she will unlock the  business potential for your organisation.  They will find the 'True point of difference' between you and your competitors. And then help you package your products and services in a manner which will underline this difference, and tilt the scales in your favour vis-s-vis the competition.

For example, a true branding mentor will find out the winning points for your business, will devise strategies to help you generate qualified leads, and then will help you convert them into real sales. You may not realise, even a boost of 5 to 10% increase in qualified leads will make you 'lucky'. Because it turns into a 'cumulative advantage'.

Once you start getting better clients, at a better price, your client acquisition cost go down. Which means you can put more money in your branding and you reach a far larger client base. Which converts into more leads and sales.

This 'Small Difference' between you and your competitors is really the 'Luck Factor'. It can happen because of a influential relative, or a celebrity endorsement, or a genius mentor.

But the  real secret lies in making this 'small difference' sustainable over time. If we can create a system to gain advantage through this "small difference', we will grow our business at a much faster rate.

That's why I say, while the government policies, influential relatives etc can help you get lucky, the real luck is in 'discovering the true potential in your business' and being able to create systems which can exploit the advantage in your favour.

Action Point: Proactively look out for potential mentors. Such mentors could be your uncle, a retired govt official, or a professional consultant who has a proven track record.

Like celebrities many of these experts feel happy to work with SMEs. They want to share their knowledge and are driven by personal goals. If they see passion in you, they can help you by going out of the way. Ask for help. Put them as advisories on your board. Hire them as mentors, even for only 1 day a month. Your interaction with them will open your eyes to many new opportunities. You will avoid many costly pitfalls.

This could be the best way to attract the goddess of luck in your business!
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Image Courtesy: unsplash.com

About the author:

Puneet Bhatnagar is a branding and advertising mentor, he was Creative Head at Star News, has created many well known advertising campaigns like Star News: Apko Rakhey Agey, Tata Namak: Desh Ka Namak, and many more.

He mentors SME businesses to get to the next level with great success. 
You can join his SME Branding Boot Camp to get your business to the next level.

My Professor Says- Bloody Cameras Should Be Banned! And He Is Serious.

Long back in college a professor was enraged! He told us, the technology influences and shapes the way we  interpret the world.

He also lamented the fact that the world was moving towards the visual culture. He blamed it squarely on movies and TV. Those were the only 2 culprits those days.

As per the erudite professor, the
visual aspects of life were getting more important as these technologies penetrated new areas. He shouted in the class--

" What a pity! People are more concerned about how things look 
then what they actually are!"

I thought he was overreacting. Professors are like that only, we chuckled.

But recently when I visited Kala Ghoda Art Festival at Mumbai, the professor's words rang true to me. Almost everyone had a camera. Not just camera phones, many of them had a real professional equipment.

The art festival had some great installations. But people were more interested in clicking the pic then having a close look at the 'Work of Art'.

"Click me with this horse in the background! We will put it on Facebook!"

So many people gathered around to take a selfie with the installations that you just can't admire it in its fullness. You would be obstructed by pose making girls and their boyfriends putting their arms around...installations as well.

Just think about it--Camera is indeed a great thing to capture the visuals, but what about the first excitement that a piece of art creates in you? The questions that could arise when you watch an installation closely. What could be the artist's intention in creating that art? What she wanted to convey? "Was that just a horse? Or there was a deeper meaning to it? What about the craftsmanship?"

She writes in the intro to her art work: It's something to provoke the sensitivities of the
society against the torture on environment. Come again? Who is concerned about your sensitivities poor lady? These Pepsi guzzlers with selfie stick in their hand-- which is
almost in your face are there to make a statement...Look I we were at Kala Ghoda art festival. Here is a proof...the high resolution picture. Now LIKE it!

I imagined my professor standing there with me. Utter disbelief in his eyes as he saw those 'Facebooking' guys. His voice was weakened with old age so he could only whisper,

"My boy! These bloody cameras should be banned, break those if they insist!"

Do you think he is overreacting once again?

Enter your text here...

Amir Khan, We Must Be More Intolerant!

Dear Amir,

I am hurt. Not just by what you said but many more things. And don’t get alarmed by that shoe there. It’s for a meaningful purpose.

Before you make any perceptions about me, let me assure you I am not a bhakt. Not an Aaptard, not a congi. I am an Indian. A funny Indian, as crazy as collectively we all are.

 I attended RSS shakha in my childhood, when I didn’t even know it was a shakha. I used to go to a playground and an old man facilitated the games for us. He told us many stories, most of them moralistic and patriotic. I was not brainwashed. On the other hand some of my best friends are Muslims. I went to their homes, attended weddings in their families, even ate from the same khoun along with them. I refused to drink from the same glass of water because I didn’t find it hygienic. And they didn’t mind. Even today we are friends. Except one who turned out to be a bigot.

So, that’s who I am. If you noticed I addressed you only by your first name. That last name is not important to me. So in that spirit, take what I am saying seriously.

You are an inspiration to many. In this country where people demand the top post just on basis of their last names and family lineage, you mean much more to us. You are a symbol of rigorous preparation, hard work, commitment to the job that you do. You can get away with less, but you demand more from yourself. We appreciate this. We watch your movies to discover that brilliance.

Amir, that’s why such a huge outcry on your comments. It’s something that people never expected from you. You too Amir! That’s what everyone is saying. Don’t brush aside the criticism as ‘Bhakt’ outrage. It’s coming from every nook and corner.

I understand Kiran’s fear. In fact I am also afraid of morning newspapers. When you read about thousands dying every day due to terrorist attacks, a mother killing her own daughter, illegal buildings eating the greenland, little kids being abused in school buses, one must be concerned. My wife is concerned about page 3 with all those semi nude pictures of your colleagues getting in the hands of children. I feel concerned with the news of political leaders and the celebrities getting away with crimes while many innocents are suffering in the prisons. It bothers me when the news channels discusses silly comments of news mongering people for hours and nobody bothers to talk about the handful of inventors and innovators in this country.

Did it all happen only in last 2 years are so? Has things suddenly deteriorated so exponentially that someone has to leave the country? I don’t think so. And if there is an increase it is not just in India, the intolerance is increasing everywhere in the world. May be due to social media things are talked about much more. Earlier only you could talk your point of view on the TV and common men didn’t have a way to respond. But now they are coming back. These are same people who go gaga over your movies and help spread the word. Did you give it a thought, how movies suddenly started making 100 Cr mark in a few days, in last few years. It’s the same phenomena. Appreciation and retaliation are more pronounced now. While appreciation feels good, we are not used to criticism. It sure is something new. May be some people don’t understand the etiquette, they abuse and it feels bad. I understand some people have hidden agendas and misusing these new mediums. And that’s where that shoe comes in the picture.

That shoe looks new, but it’s not. It is a worn out shoe. It is polished to look like new. That’s the shoe we are wearing as a country. We are one of the oldest civilizations in the world, but with a new passion, new aspirations and looking to match the pace of the world.

The shoe is not meant to run. It is not a sports shoe. But we are in a hurry brother. We are running with the same shoe. That’s the fundamental reality. People who wore it for long, used and misused it. It started hurting so much that people pulled out the old wearers. Now, for past 2 years the shoe has a new foot in it. The shoe will take time to adjust to this new shape. This new guy wants to run fast. He is as good or bad as any other politician in this country. But I feel he is more in your league. He prepares for his role. He seems to be committed to the script.

If you ran in a leather shoe, you would know it is not comfortable. And this new guy wants to run faster than anyone else. You personally may or may not like him but as a country we chose him.

And there is one more thing. The pebbles. Even you can beat Usain Bolt if he has pebbles in his shoe! In our shoes there are so many. These pebbles have suffixes like swamis, sadhvi’s and maulana’s. They hurt. And hurt even more when you run fast. 

Amir, when you made that statement, you added one more pebble in the shoe.

If you think the intolerance is increasing, you have a right to that. But when you say you want to leave the country that hurts. Things haven’t changed that drastically. Even when everyone is crying out for boycotting your movies, they won’t. May be they won’t go to the theaters but watch it on torrent downloads. But they will watch the movie and appreciate you. This country is not that intolerant in that respect.

But we must be intolerant. Much more intolerant in many areas of life.  I suggest you should lead that intolerance! Like intolerance to -under performance, sab chalta hai attitude, and rewarding the lazy imitators (Like our copy-cat brothers in Bollywood who imitates shamelessly and call it inspiration). The known pebbles can be thrown out anytime but these are the serious ones. No one talks about them.

Let us get these pebbles out. You will see the shoe changing its form. One that is meant to run and will hurt less.

Let’s keep the faith.

With best wishes to everyone in the family,
Another crazy Indian!

 

How I became Super Rich In A Few Minutes?

Now I am a rich Guy!

Just a few moments back I was a nobody.
But now, I am among the richest people in the world!

Let me explain. Do you know that 1% of the rich people own half the wealth in the world. When I read this, the first thought in my mind was, it is not fair. Why only few people have everything. I got into that rich-bashing mode, "These bloody rich people! They are using us to make wealth for themselves!"

But as I got deeper into the Credit Suisse world wealth report I got a shock of my life.

I found, anybody with assets worth Rs 4.94 Cr ($759,900) without debts is among
the 1% wealthiest people on earth.

And then I discovered, hold your breath, any one with assets worth Rs 44.7 Lakhs
($68,800) is among the top 10% of the richest people on earth.

What? Say it again? It was one of those Robert Vadra moments...Are you serious? Are you serious? Are you serious?

I couldn't believe my eyes. My modest home in a remote Mumbai suburb is worth much more than that! And that puts me in the top 7% richest guys in the world.

Which also means every second person in the Mumbai local who is cribbing about the
rising pulse prices and complaining about the auto rickshaw fares is one among the top rich guys in the world. (Hypocrites! Rich guys posing themselves as poor! )

Now friends, don't be a cribber, being one of the richest guys in the world you don't have a right to complain about 'rich guys having all the fun!' Don't call yourself a middle class. You are at the top of the heap.

Now jokes apart, there is a serious question here.

If we are among the richest and feel like poor, world must be a very poor place, isn't it?

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Disclaimer: Those gems in the picture above are not owned by me. I just have the rights to the picture and myself!


If Time Is Money, Why Are You Not A Billionaire?

We have all heard the saying, 'Time is money?' Let me say in the beginning, It is not true.

But Japanese take this saying very seriously. In the 'Toyota Way' many kinds of wastes are recognized and waste of time is a waste taken seriously. The industrial processes are minutely inspected, understood and even a saving of 1 sec is celebrated.

While 1 sec might look small, a reduction of 1 sec. from a 10 sec. process is significant. In an industrial setting same process is repeated thousands of time and small saving of 1 sec.
accumulates to many more hours. A lot more production can happen in those hours
making more money for the organization.

Now let us apply the same sensitivity towards time in our individual life.

Our time use could be divided into 2 categories. Productive and non productive.

Productive Activities: Any activity which helps us get to our life purpose and goals will be a productive activity. The time used on these activities will be fruitful.

Unproductive Activities: A long list of activities which do not add to the output in the
direction of our life goals.

Even without getting into detailed analysis we can recognize some of the time waste in our life. Here is just a glimpse:

    • Elaborate newspaper reading in the morning. Apart from the main news and articles, we get distracted by page 3 party news and other stuff which is mostly PR and propaganda for political parties, film stars and corporate giants.
    • Gossiping in the train to work about celebrity affairs and bitching about others. Reading What's app jokes, forwarding them to friends. Playing video games.
    • Once we reach office it takes us a lot of time to warm up for the work, to get into the mood to start working.
    • Unnecessary meetings. Indecision about things also consumes a lot of unproductive time. We keep on delaying the action, get into discussions which doesn't add much to the output but a day is gone even before we realize.

How To Convert Unproductive Time Into Useful Time?

There are 2 distinctions here.

First, if we see successful people closely, their day is chockablock with productive
activities. Because they know what they want to achieve. They know what activities will help them achieve the results. So, they know what to engage in with priority, what to delegate and what should be altogether avoided.

But most people in general don't know what they want in life. Their day is like an empty box with 24 slots. They fill it with whatever comes their way.

The first step towards getting a command over our life is to know what we want to achieve. Write it down. When planning your day ask yourself, will this activity help me in achieving what I want? Fill your day with productive activities. Plan your days in advance.

Many times we do things because we can't say no to people. When they see our empty time box they try to put their plans in it. But if our box is filled with well planned out activities we can follow it with confidence.

Second distinction is being ready for unexpected. Their are situations on which we don't have any control. Like a delayed flight. Achievers don't while away time whining over it. They use it for reading important books, industry reports, or reflecting on life matters which need attention.

Here are some suggestions on increasing our productive time.

  • Mark out the unproductive time. Make it  a play. Catch yourself in unproductive activities and smile, "Hey there! Again you are drifting away!" The awareness itself will cut most of these activities from your life.
  • Write a list of things which are important for you to do. Want to learn a foreign language? Read some books? Watch thought leader videos? Get a degree? Begin to make time for these activities in your schedule.
  • Don't get overwhelmed with the enormity of your goals. Chunk down the activities and begin to do them one at a time. Like a single second matters in industrial processes, achieving these micro-goals will boost up your sense of achievement. The results will accumulate in bigger capabilities and help you achieve ambitious goals.

Like I said in the beginning, time is not money. If we put some money in a bag and open it after 2 years, it will remain the same. In fact it will get devalued in the real world.

But yes, what we do with money makes the difference. After reading this post some people will take action. They will write down a list of important things to achieve, or at least pause for a few seconds and reflect on what's important to them in life but not getting attention. They will make a mental resolve to convert that thought into reality. 

Some people will go back to Facebook timeline once again. Watch photographs of people. Comment on a wardrobe malfunction during a fashion show.

What you do next, will make a difference to your life.

The True Freedom!

Sometimes an image can express much more than what we can say. This picture has evoked many questions in my mind.

I am asking, "What's the true freedom'?

While we can take decisions independently, are there invisible shackles still there? If not, then why do we settle for the ordinary? When we have great ideas in our hearts why do we comprise and go for the mediocre approaches?

What truly govern our actions? The drive to rise, to make the most of our potential, or the survival instinct? Why do we tell the truth in close circles but not in open forums? Why do we criticize the powerful in hush hush voices but keep mum when the occasion arise?

When we know the path, why don't we walk on it and wait for others to lead us?

If we know the shackles are there why not break them? Today and now!

Together We Can Push The Boundaries!

China's Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei are an amazing team. Their story is a story of pushing the boundaries. Breaking mental barriers and perseverance.

After I saw this video I wanted to know more about them. Here is what I found from various sources on the web:

Ma Li was a promising ballerina at the age of 19 when she lost her hand in a car accident.
Her world broke down. Boyfriend walked away. Dreams shattered.

She took life back in her own hands. The single hand. Started selling garments, fruits and those kinds of things. Then she tried calligraphy with her left hands. The provincial governemnt invited her to dance again. She went to the disabled artists' show and did well. During this journey she found a good soul named Tao who fell in love with her and helped her in her dreams of dancing again.

Zhai Xiaowei lost his leg at the age of 4. He became a cyclist and participated in special Olympics. 

Their is oft quoted story about his father telling little Zhai that his leg will be amputated.

Father: The doctor will have to amputate your leg. Are you afraid?

Zhai couldn’t comprehend what would be so different so he said: N0!.

Father: You are going to face many challenges and difficulties in life, are you afraid?

Zhai: What are challenges and difficulties? Do they taste good?

His dad: ( laughed with tears): Yes, they’re like your favorite candies. You just need to eat them one piece at a time!

Together They Pushed Boundaries::

When Ma LI proposed Zhai to dance with her, he was reluctant. He never danced in his life. but then he saw Ma Li dancing on the stage and the mesmeric experience convinced him.

Both of them with support of Tao practiced more than 12 Hrs every day. She was an experienced dancer. He was a novice. He dropped her many times. Disappointments and frustrations were many. But the determination won.

In 2 years time they were ready. Not for the disabled competitions but to compete with everyone. They were  the finalists among 7000 competitors in the 4th CCTV national dance competition. 

They won everyone's heart and a silver medal too.

Isn't that inspiring!

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