A customer shops for fruit inside a HyperCity supermarket in Mumbai

On Supermarketwala by Damodar Mall

Much has been said and written about retail in India. We know of Kishore Biyani having seen him splattered on the cover of business magazines and various CNBC shows. We’ve also experienced DMart, Shoppers Stop and their counterparts in the glitzy malls that dot our cities.

But what you most certainly did not know of are the more devilish details. What keeps the engine running? What parts make up the whole? Who are the people running the show? What social impact is it having given the number of people its absorbing? 

Supermarketwalla by veteran retailer Damodar Mall is a brilliant read. It goes well beyond the shelves and the lanes. In many places, it is an excellent deep dive into the thought and activities in the context.

And then there are some back to the basics lessons on customer retention, deep dive analysis of consumer spending (and saving) habits. The book is regularly dotted with umpteen ‘aha’ moments for the book to be a highly recommended read. Frankly, its a privilege to get ringside access to this kind of information.

supermarketwala damodar mall book cover

To give you some background, the author Damodar Mall is the man behind Big Bazaar, DMart and is now with Reliance Retail. What really made me sit up and take note was his whole ‘watch the consumers shopping cart’, ‘follow the consumer around and see what they’re talking’ etc. etc.

To digress, isn’t this how us techies refine user experience in the products we build? Watch someone use what you’ve built. Take notes. Go back to the drawing board. Refine. Loop.

Which makes me think about the service based industry in general. Can we apply ethnographic research and good old customer empathy in more areas that are fundamentally service driven? We keep saying that the customer is the king, but India is still a while away from truly and completely treating the customer as such. But rest assured, we’ve made good progress. We’ll get there soon enough.

P.S. – Mr. Mall, if you’re reading this, would you mind meeting up for a quick cup of chai/coffee? I’m in Mumbai. :)

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Why The F*** Not #1 – Fully Digitized Indian Elections

I’m going to start a new series that asks this world of questions. Statements ending with a question mark for technological innovations/solutions that don’t exist. Statements that are simply curious.

I am, of course, open to answers as to why it doesn’t or can’t exist. But please have some substance in the rebuttals. Being all, ‘boss won’t allow’ or ‘rules say that’ will cause me to dismiss your existence . Janaab, kewal sawaal pooch rahe hai, ilzaam nahi laga rahe kisi par.

I understand the answer to some of these things will be ‘Why don’t you build it yourself?’ To which I’ll respond ‘find me people to build it with’.

* pregnant pause to let you ponder about the hiring challenge India presents *

Let me start with my WTFN already.

  • Why can’t we have real time polling?
    Now since we already have these fancy electronic voting machines, it’s child’s play to integrate WiFi and GSM units to have them relay results in real time.
  • Why can’t I vote from anywhere? Like from any booth.
    Add a small fingerprint scanner to the machine, link it up to Aadhar, identify me and register my ballot in my constituency. Easy pheasy. I mean, don’t you go to any bank branch to vote or any cell phone outlet to get your work done? Vote kyun nahi kar sakte phir koi aur jagah se?
  • Why can’t I vote from my mobile?
    Ye fokat ka elections ko romanticize karna band karo. 65 years ho gaye hai, we’ve had enough elections to feel the privilege of voting. It’d be damned convenient to have people vote from their cell phones. Less money spent electioneering, faster and more reliable results. Also, no business days lost. Any which way, all of us at The Observatory will always be working on election day. Vote daalkar upkaar nahi kar rahe ho. Duty hai.Security kahoge toh please don’t bother talking to me. You clearly don’t get technology. There are a million ways to transmit data in a secure fashion.

    Worried about hackers? How about this. Hold a security hackathon to hack into the EVM with a fat cash reward, get all the security geeks in the room. Hire them.

  • Why is my name not on the voter list?
    I have a mobile phone. I have multiple bank accounts. I have a credit card. I have a PAN card. I have a passport. I have a drivers license. I even have a ration card which the family got only to use as an identification document. I have completed my KYC procedures with every broker and every mutual fund I’ve invested in. I even have an Aadhaar card.In short, the government very much knows I exist. Why then, is my name still not on the electoral rolls. Why can’t I just walk up to any booth, scan my finger and just cast my ballot? Why the f*

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Run Spotify in India

Off late, the answer to life, the universe and everything for me has been Spotify. Having access to every song in the history of ever does have an uncanny ability to bend your mental space time continuum. For sure.

But Spotify doesn’t want to take this all over the world. Especially for us emerging-global-superpower-21st-century-is-ours Indians.

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My $0.02 on Haider

I love Vishal Bharadwaj’s brand of cinema. His movies are like the ‘ganga snaan’ equivalent of story telling. You’re absolved of the sin of watching all sorts of shallow cinema almost instantly. The canvas, the taut screenplay, the lilting music, the thoughtful casting coupled with a perspective that can only be attained with certain banned prescription drugs; all make for time well spent at the movies.

Haider is no different. While I’m no expert on Shakespeare, I’m sure it doth justice to the original. That, and I didn’t watch Humshakals.

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Beat the pay wall with Evernote Clearly

evernote clearlyEver wanted to read an article on HBR or NYTimes and were asked to sign in? And once you sign in, you know you can’t read more than a certain amount of articles. For e.g. NYTimes will allow you to read only 10 articles a month.

Use Evernote Clearly. It’ll magically clean everything up and give you a clean interface to read the article in, with gorgeous typography.

You can even use it to read on websites that have one too many ads. (That’s, of course, if you don’t use AdBlock.) Besides, you can save to Evernote, highlight portions of articles, change the look and feel. If you’re an Evernote pro subscriber, it’ll even read the article out to you.

Get it from http://evernote.com/clearly/

P.S. I’m really itching to see these extensions on mobile. Google are you listening.

P.P.S.  I work in a company that helps publishers improve their bottom lines. *awkward silence*


Quora Mass Follow

quora mass follow

I usually follow people back on Quora and it’s been quite a while since I’ve done that. So the list of people to be followed was fairly large. Was I going to click through all of them? Nope.

I fired up the Chrome Console to check if Quora uses jQuery (there there, now) and turns out it does! To the uninitiated, jQuery is a Javascript library that makes deft work of the most common Javascript tasks. What’s Javascript, you ask? Let’s take this offline. :)

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