Strategies for hitting on women a la BCG Matrix

I recently caught a good friend of mine sneaking in to the hostel at 3 AM in the morning. For the purposes of this post, let’s call him Aberle and only because it is a cool Austrian name. He was appropriately buzzed and was looking to tell someone the story of the night gone by. Being the good mate, I eagerly lent him both ears.

Aberle had been invited out to “dinner and drinks” by a lady friend of his. They hit the usual Park Street spots like Olypub & Someplace Else for alcohol, had enough to “make us sway but not fall”, forgot all about dinner and then headed in the direction of Tantra with the intention of “having some fun”. Before going on further, I am obligated to clarify that their’s is a completely platonic relationship, therefore, kindly wipe that smirk off your face.

So we have a dude and his female friend entering a dance club together, each looking to find someone of the opposite sex to hookup with for the night. Aberle goes first, while the girl takes up position as wingman.

  1. Aberle spots hot 33+ lady standing with two firang friends. Aberle fancies himself a firang babe for the night.
  2. Wingman lady friend understands Aberle’s isharas and saunters over to the multinational trio, asks for a smoke and then indulges in small talk.
  3. Wingman friend is back and reports that lady is hot and her firang pals are bored with the men of Calcutta.
  4. Aberle puts on his appropriately sexy cute-boy smile, puffs up his chest and makes his move. Ten minutes down the line, the firang babes are still bored with the men of Calcutta and Aberle in his drunken stupor figures he probably still has a chance with the 33+ hot lady.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Aberle is tasked with attracting the immediate attention of a lady who’s clearly very experienced when it comes to handling males who’re on an alcohol trip.

He steps closer to her; she leans in with an ear, half hoping today’s youth have come up with some interesting pick up lines. And that’s when he says…

“You’re beautiful.”

Yup, of all the strategic options and all the tactical executions in the world, our man Aberle decides to play the “Classic” card with the corny execution.

But please, hear it in her own words:

“That’s really sweet, thank you. I’ve been through your age & phase long ago, and am not really looking for anything right now.”

This is when I fell off the bed laughing and Aberle got a little pissed off. After about five minutes, when our centres-of-gravity were back in the correct places, we sat and made a 2×2 matrix of the entire situation (yeah, we’re MBA candidates, remember? The world is a 2×2 matrix for us.) 

This is what we came up with

If this works for you, kindly leave a comment :)

If it doesn’t work for you, you might as well vent, so kindly leave a comment :)

How do you react to brands?

(Image courtesy The Brads, one of my favourite webcomics)

Have you ever felt like this after talking to a marketing professional, or after reading a report about the research done on brands, ads and social media campaigns?

Well, it happens to me all the time. Specially when someone comes up and says stuff like “urban, educated and socially connected consumers between 25 to 35 think we’re a very mature and trused brand”. This regular occurrence in MBA marketing classes, where there are lengthy presentations that discuss the clever ambush marketing tactics as executed by HUL against P&G or by Kingfisher against Jet, with GoAir jumping in on the fuckfest. These guys are the exact counterparts of the economists who love their graphs and mathematical equations for theories that have little proven use in the real world.

What’s the problem here? Just that ambush marketing isn’t about the consumer; it’s about tactical one-upmanship between marketers. How does the ad effect your target group, those who actually fly with your airline or buy your shampoo? Did anyone ask them what they thought or how it made them change their minds? In the end, these clever tricks end up in Internet meme dumps like ROFLIndia where people say “lolzzzz!! awesomest ad ever….kingfisher is still too expensive”.

A good laugh over the bullshit we peddle

Want to have a good laugh and at the same time, spend a few seconds of your life ruminating over the bullshit that we as a society are given to peddle?

Well then, check out the following two links

The first one is simply a marketing gimmick helping IIMC stay in the news. Anecdotal evidence suggests a sum total of zero students will actually give a rat’s ass about this pledge a few seconds after dutifully mouthing it. By the way, in this case, “anecdotal evidence” is the MBA jargon for the sniggers I saw when I asked four friends at IIMC about this pledge. Between TOI and me, I’d choose my small sample size and “almost-a-logical-fallacy” argument over the awesome journalism being splattered about by the fine folks at aforementioned newspaper.

The rat’s ass, as will be given by the kids at IIMC to their pledge of honesty.

Let’s look at the second link now, shall we? If ASSOCHAM seriously believes that 83% of MBAs prefer job profile over a hefty package, then the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India needs to have a hard look at its understanding of the “talent-in-pipeline” that shall be taking our country to greater capitalistic heights in the coming future.

Anyway, I’ve decided to be altruistic today and give away some deep insights for free. So here it is, the insider’s guide to what an Indian MBA actually wants

  1. Money – is important. The majority of us have worked pretty hard to crack those entrance procedures and after having beaten 45000+ other aspirants, taking up hefty loans to pay 11 lakh+ fees, meeting the stringent requirements of your organisation and then shifting to cities where the cost-of-living is quite simply, exorbitant, yes, we do expect remuneration.
  2. Make a bigger impact, faster – No one gets in to a top b-school in India without having some ambition in life. That’s why Group/General Management Profiles (GMPs) with relatively lesser pay are still super hot. We’re raring to go out there and get stuff done. Setup a framework for the same in your organisation and we’ll follow you like the rats did the Pied Piper.
  3. Opportunities to fail and learn – It’s the learning bit that totally snags us. The more varied, the better.

Oh, and if you want an example of people who got it right, go through this link about TAS.

Why our first startup failed

startup fail

Our first venture was a completely new experience for me. The three other founders had a fair bit of experience in setting up and running a business (13 years, 6 years and 3 years, in descending order) while I was the only fresher around. I guess my childish enthusiasm and general naiveté led them to christen me “Sid the Kid” but thankfully, they were nice enough to stop calling me that after some time.

The business model

The best engineering colleges are the ones with the best placements (stands true for MBA colleges too). Lots of times, a college is initially able to attract a recruiter (Infosys, TCS, Wipro, HCL, Accenture, IBM, etc) but since the students don’t perform in the recruitment process, the company might not take as many people as it was ready to.

That’s where we came in. Our Placement Development Programme (PDP) would integrate in the colleges’ curriculum and faculty members would go to different colleges to deliver the session. The programme consisted of Aptitude (Mathematics and Logical Reasoning), language (English) and soft skills training (group discussion and personal interview). So, if we were working with ABCXYZ Institute of Technology, their class timetable had 2 slots (usually 4 hours) in the week where our company name was written and during that time, a faculty member would come and deliver the session.

The beauty of this model was that none of the faculty members were our full-time employees, they were consultants who went and delivered as and when required. Therefore, we really didn’t need a big office (in fact, it was a one room setup in one of the partner’s office) and most of our work was done through mobile phones and laptops.

The numbers matched up pretty well too. One faculty member on average was paid Rs. 500 per hour. For a 50 hour course, our charges would be about Rs. 2000 per student. If we worked with one large engineering college, they’d have 180 students sitting for placements from three branches of B.E. So revenues would be 180 x 2000 = 360000 minus 50 x 500 x 3 = 75000 (faculty fees) and let’s assume Rs. 75000 as cost of providing transport through taxi for some faculty members and other miscellaneous expenses, we’re left with 360000 – 150000 = Rs. 210000.

As you’ll realize, that’s not a bad amount for basically sending faculty members to colleges. And if you were to think scalability, two faculty members (English & Aptitude) taking a 2 hour session each per day in the same college (total 4 hours) can cover 5 colleges in one week. Even then, they’re working only 2 hours a day each. If they were to go to one of the areas where colleges are clustered in Jaipur (eg. Sitapura or Kukas) and give 3 sessions each, they could cover 3 colleges per day making it a total of 15 colleges per week. Let’s suppose this continues for 12 weeks so after 3 months, our company nets a cool 210000 x 15 = Rs. 31,50,000. Now consider that there isn’t a lack of teachers in Jaipur since it is one of India’s larger educational centres. In the end, you have enough number of teachers to be sent to enough number of colleges and quite a bit of money to be made.

Fair enough, so what went wrong?

Two things:

  1. We were lazy and did not move our butts as much as we should have
  2. We didn’t understand the colleges’ incentives until it was too late – The engineering colleges don’t really care that their students should be smart enough to handle the companies’ recruitment processes. They just care that they get placed. Anywhere, anyhow. Therefore, a college focuses primarily on the number of companies coming to campus and not preparation of the students. So more often than not, the concerned Training & Placement Officer (TPO) said to us “If you’re doing training for placements, why don’t you just go ahead and get these students placed”. They were ok with getting them placed anywhere in any kind of company as long as they were “placed from college”. That is really shady business to get in to.
  3. We got distracted – You get a bunch of smart people together under one roof and go out to the market looking for work, you’ll realize there’s no dearth of it. In such a situation, navigating the trade-off about how quickly can it be done, how easily can it be done, how much does it pay and do I want to continue doing this forever?, is crucial. We sucked at that. We worked with these guys (they just got arrested) developing a marketing management course for them and got one very crucial bit of learning out of the entire project: don’t ever work with MLM companies. However, in spite of the awesome life learning and all that cute bit, we had burnt up the meager amount of startup capital we had while executing their project and basically received fuckall for it.

Therefore, to sum up: Not working hard enough, not understanding your customer, losing focus and consequently running out of cash. As you’ll realize, dear reader, these 4 are deal-breakers big enough to kill any business organisation.

Core of the Issue: How Democracy leads to Corruption


About a day or so ago, I was with a group of friends and we were having a discussion on the topic “Corruption is the main outcome of democracy in India”. Corruption as an issue comes up almost every day in India, however, I’d never associated it with democracy in a cause-and-effect manner.

Corruption to me is power and wealth balancing each other out. For example, a government employee has the power to delay documentation and introduce red tape into any process under her/his direct control. Another person (businessman, professional, etc) wants his work to be done quicker, but only has wealth and not the power. In this situation, the government officer leverages his power to appropriate wealth, while the person who wants his work done will (in most cases) gladly hand over some cash to grease the wheels. So basically, those that have wealth try to buy more power, while those with power try to appropriate greater amounts of wealth.

Now what does this have to do with democracy? Initially, I thought democracy should be discouraging corruption. After all, a group of people elect a leader, who is then accountable to them. If he doesn’t perform or is given to under-the-table dealings, they put up someone else the next time around. Unfortunately dear reader, as nice as that sounds, that’s not how people work.

You see, it’s about power and wealth all over again. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few; according to this report, the top 1% of India’s adult population holds 15.9% of its wealth; the top 5% own 38.3% and the top 10% own 52.9%…..the bottom 20% hold just 1% of the country’s wealth.

The poorer masses only have numbers and voting rights, which they use to appropriate power, electing their own to the higher government echelons (which is also reason for the high incidence of caste politics in India).

Now this one elected minister is the SPOC (single-point-of-contact, I still am an MBA) for all those wealthy people and the power/wealth balancing that we spoke of earlier, ensues. Only this time it’s on a much larger scale. Why is this so? There could be many answers; stakes are much greater, all those who helped the person become a minster have to be compensated, being the SPOC the minister has to be paid an amount equivalent to all the various smaller people who would have to be paid off in the earlier situation, etc.

If you feel I might be incorrect in my analysis or may have missed out something, then, dear reader, kindly pen down your thoughts in the comments section below.