Sunday, May 11, 2014

Pursuing your Passions in Mid Life

Pursuing your dreams Midway through your life You are more than 40 years old, and are facing a bit of a void in your life. You would like to pursue a hobby , or take up an alternative career but are looking at various possible obstacles or hindrances that you may face. Here’s a few examples which may just prompt you to take the plunge and do your bidding. I know a very good general surgeon, Dr Khare, very successful at his practise till he was past 55 years. He was attracted to alternative therapies, naturopathy ,which at times seemed contrary to beliefs he held through his life. But couple of experiences drew him to look at these closely. He had a tremendous urge to study these . He devoted his time , energy and studied naturopathy, techniques to improve eyesight with only exercise and diet control. Then he experimented on himself. He had specs from his childhood , but these techniques worked, and he found that he had cured himself. He was energised and he worked tirelessly for almost 10 hours a day going to Varanasi to study further. He became completely devoted and passionate and worked tirelessly and treated various patients and helped them get cured or alleviated their pain. I discussed with Dr Khare and he said the secrets of his success were: 3 Ds and 2 P: Dedication, Determination, devotion & Persistence, & Positivity. These have enabled him to really gain expertise and fame in a totally new field. I will now take an example from a totally different area. This is from the field of Research in Music . I came across a site called Athvanitli Gani which had extensive and beautifully laid out information on Marathi songs . I had the pleasure of meeting the architect of this site, called Ms Alka Tattu, she being from UAE I was aquainted with her. She started building this site more than 10 years ago, and now this has become a reference site in its field. She shared a new insight: She has harnessed many skills and passions that she had acquired through her career like expertise in software, ability to do research. Collate and present information in an attractive manner, and ability to use technology in a productive manner and above all a courage of her conviction. She has another passion , which she has taken up recently of long distance running , which too require the 3 Ds & 2 Ps. Now I meet a number of people who express a desire to learn something new, and gain expertise once they cross 40 years of age. Only very few of them succeed. Many of us have a lot of fear of failure which we need to overcome to start learning and gaining expertise. So what is it, that may help you embark on starting on a new journey in mid life. Starting out and declaring your intent could be the first crucial step, and then preparing and researching what suits you is the second crucial step. In this you may enlist the help of few of your friends who have gained knowledge and expertise in the field of your interest. Seeking a mentor is an important step to help you stay focussed. More importantly you need to devote as much time and energy as possible, to these activities, and remain dedicated and passionate about what you have embarked on. Here I would also like to talk about my wife Jyotsna who has learnt a couple of new things. When she decided to gain expertise in French she had a lot of starting trouble, had to face her self doubts , but she persisted and now she is a French language coach. She then decided to start playing the sitar which she had learnt in her youth. Overcoming her fear of failure and taking the plunge was the most difficult step , but having done that she has found a new vocation. She too finds it difficult to devote energies to sitar due to her other duties but is determined to do so. In summary I can say that there are several examples in society who are prepared to , and succeed in Pursuing their Dreams. Just have Faith in your self, persist and overcome self Doubt. Good Luck..

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Push vs Pull Strategy

Pull v/s Push Strategies of Marketing

Both, the pull strategy and push strategy are widely employed by firms to boost their marketing performance. Yet, the crux of the decision is when to use which strategy, and in what proportion. For this, it is essential to understand what each strategy is all about.

The Pull Strategy: The Pull for a product is created by creating a Brand image in the minds of a customer, in the case of Consumer Products, typically by way of skilful advertisements and in case of fashion Products, by getting high profile Brand Ambassadors for promoting and endorsing them. This ensures a top of the mind recall in the psyche of the Consumer when he is making a buying decision.

In the case of Industrial Products this same Pull is created by employing sales personnel to canvass the products with consultants and specifiers. In the case of Pharma Products, this is achieved by sales staff making a pitch with key doctors and generating prescriptions for a product.

The Push Strategy: It is not enough for a company to merely create a Pull for the product. It becomes equally essential to make the Product available at various purchase outlets, where a Consumer is likely to make a purchase. A key role is played by Distributors who Push stocks on to retailers, who in turn, ensure that sufficient stocks are available on the counters for those consumers who have come looking for the products owing to the Pull created!

At times a Push is created by having attractive Point of Purchase Displays as well as schemes and similar offers.

Chains like Big Bazaar create a big buzz by having various schemes for a limited period and advertising them in a big way through the effective channels. Some of these chains like Aditya Birla’s More and Big Bazaar use the Push strategies by making a sale of their equivalents of popular consumer brands of toiletries, biscuits etc., giving them a prominent position on shelves as well as devising attractive schemes and pricing.

Hence it can be seen that both Push and Pull are extremely important and are complementary rather than mutually exclusive.

I will now illustrate this by an example:

Recently I have partially involved myself in the launch of an Industrial Consumable, a surgical blade used in a saw for Bone cutting, which was supposed to have a Generic demand. It was assumed that merely having a very good quality of product, making it available and that too at the right price, would suffice to ensure demand.
However when launched it was difficult for the product to make any dent in the market place in spite of being priced right as well as being of a superior quality.

When closely examined it was found that it was difficult to displace the market leader although it was exorbitantly priced, simply because the market leader was also supplying the main saw in which this blade was being used.
Hence none of the distributors who were pushing this blade was willing to promote it for fear of upsetting the market leader whose saws they were selling, making these saws a monopoly!

This made it essential to really create a Pull in the minds of the operating surgeons who were the influencer’s of the purchase decisions of these blades. Once prescriptions were created, it was easy to get the administrators of the hospitals to buy these products, as this was a cost saving solution. After this demand was created, it was relatively easy for the company to enlist a series of distributors who could then Push the product at various hospitals.
Milind Vartak.

How to appear for an Interview

What To Look For When Appearing For An Interview

Now a consultant, I have extensive senior management experience in the Industry. Hence, I have faced a few interviews and have interviewed scores of candidates. I believe that I have what it takes to share my thoughts on the above subject.

Employers look for the following from prospective employees:

a) Domain specific knowledge and skill
b) The ability to analyse various situations and apply the requisite skill
c) Employers would also like to assess the long term Growth potential of the employee as well as his fitment in the organisation culture.
d) Personality

At most times the knowledge / skill of the employee is judged through specific mental ability and other written tests.
Hence usually, only candidates having the requisite skills are invited to participate in interviews. Knowledge and skills is really a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition to land a job.

As the panel of interviewers would normally be highly experienced, the employee could do well to create a good impression at the outset and throughout the interview. The candidate should be able to create a perception that he / she is not only good, but also to subtly emphasise that he / she would be the best fir for the job.

Usually it helps to be assertive and not aggressive to ensure that the communication is crisp and precise. At the same time the tone of voice should be endearing and not a monotone.

A candidate, when pushed into a corner, should be able to demonstrate a positive and never say die attitude.

Whilst it is important to create this perception it is important to create a true perception and not a Mirage! There are two reasons for this:
1) At most times the interview panel would see through attempts to create a Mirage!
2) Even if one succeeds and lands the job through deception, few would be able to retain the job if the requisite qualities are at a premium.

It is important to prepare well for the interview by trying to find out as much as possible not just about the financials, the products and markets of the organisation, but also about the organisation culture and values, which will help one align oneself with the same.
The interview panellists would assess the personality of the candidate, both the external crust which consists of looks, smartness, good communication etc. and also the core which is the self confidence, self esteem and other values
Smart dressing, good verbal and non verbal communication can be learned and then demonstrated by specific coaching , however core values such as self esteem, self confidence etc. needs to be developed from early childhood. However, these too can be developed through a better understanding of self.

In case any of you are looking for specific coaching on the above subject I can be reached through my website or my blog.
Milind Vartak

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Role of Role Models in Personality Development

For the better part of the populous, a role model plays a vital part in shaping our personality. Right from the initial stages of growing up, we establish our role models, though in those nascent stages, we tend to idolize our family members. The earliest role models of most individuals are seen in their parents, uncles, aunts or grandparents. As our exposure increases, our role models gradually take the form of public icons like Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Usain Bolt, Dhirubhai Ambani, or other such public figures who have proved their mettle in some walk of life.

Usually, a Role Model of a person can speak volumes about his ambition and interests. The personality traits of the role model have in some way inspired the idoliser, and we can see that these inspiring characteristics bring about a pointed change in that individual’s perceptions. It is, however, not enough only to select a proper Role model; to use him or her as a sort of benchmark and then identify the qualities that have made the Role model successful in the chosen field is equally imperative. It is not necessary to put the Role Models on a pedestal or deify the personality, making a SWOT analysis of our individual capabilities and identifying our weaknesses to correct them is essential. Making use of the opportunities, warding off the threats and improving on our strengths to exceed our own expectations and cross the benchmarks set by our Role Models is a further aid to developing our personalities on the lines of our icons.

An interesting hypothetical analogy to figure our tennis ace Roger Federer’s Role Model evolution could be as follows:

While Roger Federer may not have consciously modelled himself on Pete Sampras it appears from his overall approach to the game that at some point of time he may have modelled his game partly on Sampras.
However it is testimony to Federer’s greatness that over the last few years he has improved his all court game to such an extent that today he is arguably the greatest player the tennis world has seen.
Having surpassed the achievements of his one time role model it is imperative for Federer to set new goals and, if necessary, choose a different Role Model - perhaps somebody like Tiger Woods, the greatest Golfer the world has seen, where at his career peak, there is a wide gap between him and the rest!

Milind Vartak

Defining and Addressing Target Markets

A consumer or customer is someone who makes actual purchase. But before the actual purchase is made there is a buying decision involved and much of the marketing selling effort is made to influence the buying decision while trying to accelerate it.
The actual process of buying is preceded by a Latent Need for the product or product category per se. This need has to mature into a want and this usually happens by external factors of changing lifestyles, changing disposable incomes and so on.
The want then, must be backed by
(a) The ability to purchase
(b) The willingness to purchase.
This set of people is really the Target Audiences (TA) or Target Market for that class of products. In all products the TA is addressed or communicated to, directly, as well as through influencers and persuaders. For example, in product categories like chocolates and toys, although the actual buyer is the parent the influencer and consumer is the child. Hence, most of the times the Marketing Message is directed at the child - obvious influencer of the buying decision. The child, who is the major influencer in the buying process, becomes the TA. This is a classic case of identifying accurately, the Target Market.

In Industrial Products usually the consumer and or the customer does not make the buying decision. In these cases, a product specialist or consultant is brought in, to help make the decision. The more the technological complexity of the product, the more important is the role of the consultant. Hence in Industrial products the TA would definitely have to be these Consultants and Specialists who tend to Influence Buying Decisions.

Precisely defining the TA is extremely important for all businesses, but it is crucial to SME’s, their Marketing budgets being quite low. Here, Less has to do More.
This will help in structuring the Message and deciding on its Medium and Communication.

Perhaps the above will be illustrated with the following example:

A few days ago a friend sought my help to market, what he felt, was a very important message - to Society at large or at least to users of motor vehicles. The message enumerated the Benefits of following Traffic Discipline and Traffic Rules. These benefits were listed out in the form of
1) less Down time of vehicles in the form of Repairs as a result of accidents
2) less cost of litigation and Repairs
Better and more pleasant service to the customers of these fleets
3) This was to be a seminar of about half a day reasonably priced and with good quality Message and its Delivery.
The only problem here seemed to be the definition of the TA.
My friend had identified his TA as the middle class and upper middle class population of a popular Metro. This he advertised in a leading daily, but did not get the desired response. We discussed this at length and redefined the TA as owners of fleets of cars or buses who would better peruse the benefits of the Seminar.
Having thus redefined the TA then the Marketing Strategy has also been reworked and the product has a much better chance of success.

Milind Vartak

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Core Values of Personality Development

Hi! I am Milind. After observing closely the potential that Gen Next is displaying, I wish to employ my experience to help them enhance their personas and optimise their talents.
After tiding over some difficult times, and having done well in terms of academic achievement and corporate success, I believe that my understanding of the professional environment will go a long way in polishing young talent. What is remarkable about personality is that you can keep sprucing it up eternally. Age is no barrier to give your personality a make over, and the more self esteem you have, the better will be your self confidence to radiate a self-assured personality. Today, appearances are often considered the whole and soul of developing a strong personality. Unfortunately though, in business, the old adage `never judge a book by its cover` still holds good, and apart from an external fa├žade, what goes into building a positive persona is:

1) Confidence.
2) The ‘Never say Die’ spirit
3) High self esteem.
4) The Ability to succeed in face of adversity.
5) No worry about criticism from others, and
6) An ability to back yourself.

People like Richard Branson have succeeded by equipping themselves with an abundance of these. Vijay Mallya too was criticised when he ventured into the F1 business, however a never say die spirit and an ability to back himself, got him a podium finish vindicating his decisions.

Milind Vartak

The Changing Face of Industrial Marketing

I have been a part of the Industrial Marketing sphere for over 22 years. While I have been at the epicentre of the technological revolution that has beset the techniques of Industrial Marketing, but the fact that the underlying principles have remained eternal has not escaped notice. Accurate market segmentation, identification of key customers, approaching them and convincing them about the utility of your products are age old principles which have remained unchanged over the last couple of decades. And I believe these will not change over the next few decades either!
In the year 1997 I planned the launch of an alternator employing Italian technology. By segmenting the market, we identified that alternators were bought by packagers of Gensets, primarily operating from major cities like Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune.
These packagers were loyal to well known brands that were at the zenith of their popularity. Key consultants were specifying these brands for a number of years and they needed solid reasons to change to our brand.
Our alternator had cost effective technology and materials –hence they could be priced below the then market leaders. It was important to quickly establish our quality perception to specifiers and buyers, so I put together an effective documentary, which contained details of the manufacturing processes and key offerings of the brand.
We also held seminars at each of these major cities - and the factory was running to full capacity within just six months of the launch!
Of course, this marketing strategy was also well complemented by excellent after sales service and efficient customer follow up, so that my Industrial Marketing plan was very well executed.
Today the mantra of a new product launch is much the same for Industrial products.
More recently I helped launch an elite Lighting product which is an LED based paving stone. Here too I identified that this product was extremely high end, and could be specified by very high end Lighting designers and Landscape consultants.
We performed the market segmentation and key customer identification operations.
This time, an attractive e-brochure was designed employing latest technology tools and quickly e-mailed to the customer data base we had collated. The response from most of these customers has been extremely encouraging and my client is already in business.
Technology has greatly reduced the time taken to market an Industrial product – yet the fundamentals of marketing are essentially the same, and a comprehensive understanding of these fundamentals can go a long way in creating a good market for your business.

Milind Vartak