Why create a one way street with a customer?

For over a year now, Lavasa Corporation has been talking to me, initially to sell me one of their plots / villas, and later, as they went through a rather rough patch, to keep me informed about what’s happening with their company. For most parts, I have lauded their efforts to keep a dialogue on with their customers and prospects, even in times of adversity, when most companies would clap up.

All of my applause has been silent. And that is the subject of this post.

Why would you write excellent mails to your customers and make it one way? Look at the mail above. Clearly Ms Anuradha Paraskar has been identified as someone who carries a heavy title, that of Senior Vice President, no less. So that makes me feel nice. But when I want to write back to her to thank her and her company and wish them well, and I hit reply, I get stonewalled by an ID I would never write to: customerrelations@whatever.com.

Now, I have been told of many reasons why companies use not-personal IDs such as this, or chairman@thiscompany.com, but no, that does not work for me. If you want to me to write to you – whether to complain or to compliment, allow me to write to a human being, even if you use a fake name. That’s giving me respect. I did give you my correct ID, and not some goodcustomer@xyz.com, right?


Can My Customers Own My Company?

Ok, so what if I start a company where every time customers purchased the product or service,  they get some shares in the company? The more they buy [and/or recommend] they more they own.

Will the regulators have a problem with that? What might be the pitfalls or watch out areas?

What may be the notion of CSOPs [Customer Stock Option Plan]? I am thinking.

An Encounter with Adrenaline

I had a great experience at the Mumbai Angels meeting yesterday @ Blue Frog, Mathuradas Mills, Mumbai. I was invited to attend it by co-founder Prashant Choksey [really kind of him] and while someone had earlier told me about the format of these meetings, I must admit I went [along with ex colleague Vishal Shah] with a bit of skepticism.

What I met was pure electricity.

There were about 80 people in the audience, mostly angel investors [some invitees like me as well] and five companies pitched for investment. The room was charged with so much excitement, friends meeting friends, strangers meeting strangers, discussing ideas, dreams and business. The one thing I happily didn’t find was inhibition.

While it is quite easy to get all critical and start giving ‘inputs’ on how people could have pitched better and so on, I was quite impressed with all the 5 businesses and their founders/presenters. I have made formal presentations all my life, but never to a group of 80 strangers asking them for their money. I am sure it took a great deal of courage and preparation. And conviction.

I like courage and conviction. And loved this event.

I wish all the very best to all five start-ups.

Social tools making us unsocial?

The other day, at a friend’s party, someone commented that so many people we know twitter about even the smallest ‘experiences’ and have therefore become ‘reporters’ that is it getting a bit uneasy to talk frankly even amongst friends, because you dont know who is sending a tweet at that very moment about what you just said, or how you behaved, when your guards were down. Put extremely, this means ‘we cannot trust friends to keep our innocent secrets confined to them any longer’.

Fascinating aspect of the social tools. If our friends stop being honest foe fear of being ‘scooped’, would we eventually become un-social?

Getting attention 101

Today I was on a panel sponsored by Times Private Treaties at the IIJS [India International Jewellery Show]. It was titled CEO Roundtable: “Building a Vibrant Domestic Jewellery Business”. The panel discussed the role of branding in domestic jewellery business. Prasad Kapre, the moderator, made a comment after the discussion that the audience was not only thin, but lacked participation from people who need to think about branding the most – private jewellers with a family name.

Mr. Ashok Minawala said the title should have been something like ‘how to grow revenue of your family brand multifold’ , something like that. He said family businesses dont want to be told they dont have a brand. Period.

I liked it. Simple and powerful thinking.

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Is your voice your own?

Last night on radio, I heard commercials for IDEA Cellular’s new Mumbai operations that mimicked the voices of Dharmendra, Saif Ali Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. While this is not the first time that commercials have used voices and styles simiar to that of famous persons or used spoofs of dialogues or characters from famous movies, I wondered whether a big company such as IDEA has indeed paid the actors or at the very least sought their permission, before going ahead with these commercials.

I would think copyright laws and IPR principles protect the usage of likeness of celebrities in all forms –  picture, video, and voice.

Or am I being naive? I am thinking of writing to IDEA Cellular as a citizen to find out.