Saturday, May 24, 2008

The perils of not being Punju, and Sales

So I am young MBA out to conquer the world and do associated things average young MBAs like to indulge in. So I get Delhi as my location for my Sales Officer’s stint. The distributor I got was a great guy – one of the wisest and smartest in the system. The Delhi market (at the outset, at least :-)) looked good. So I was all set to take the bull by its horns, pick it and toss it to Jupiter and after twirling it in the air a couple of times.

For someone who had all these these issues sorted out this clearly in his head, I must admit the first week was rather confusing. What aggravated the confusion was that while I was aware that my distributor was a Punjabi guy, I was not aware that Punjabi was the official language of at my distributor’s office and in the rest of North Delhi. I worked under the assumption that everyone spoke in Hindi with an accent.

Every time someone said something I didn’t understand, I would shake my head and blame the education system which encouraged children to score 75 in Hindi in CBSE by putting anupras alankaar at the end of all doha explanations and arbit one liners in Niband and Patr lekhan. I would also think of the good old times when I had obediently looked back, instead of down, during one of the “neeche dekh B******” sessions, and shake my head some more.

One of the first things my distributor told me, like all good distributors do, is “Sadi market mein bahar da maal bahut hai ji”. Hailing myself to be the problem solving types, I knew that this meant one of the three things. Firstly, “We have infiltration in the entire market “; saadi market meaning ‘entire market’, a classical case of interchangeable ‘r’s and ‘d’s like in Gu(r/d)gaon, Chadiga(r/d)h, etc.
Or, it could have meant that the saree market has a lot of infiltration, another classical cse of interchangeable 'r's and 'd's. What this has to do with mobiles, I couldn’t quite figure, nevertheless I will put in my final presentation and everyone’s jaws will drop, I thought.
Or, lastly, it could have meant that the rotten (since I know sadi = rotten) market has a lot of infiltration. In which case, my response to it would be “bring it on, female canine!!”, so that I could tackle the issue and brag to everyone about it.

On another occasion the same day, two of his sales guys came fighting to him about who the better contender is for the one last piece of the shortest SKU in his stock. My distributor then looked at one of them and said “tu dus beta, tu dus”. I was shocked momentarily. Is this how disputes are resolved? “Tu dus beta, aur voh paanch. So you get the stock.” Then I thought, being the Sales Officer I, to be in a position with a greater bargaining power for future issues, should be at least gyara. Thankfully, the issue was sorted out in another way, also beyond my comprehension, and I hoped it was better than the way that I imagined.

It was not until one of the visits of my manager when he said “Darshanji, is Punjabi the official language in your office?”, did I realize that they were all talking in Punjabi. That Sadi means ‘our’ and dus means ‘tell’ also dawned on me eventually during the course of my sales stint. I applauded my abilities to grasp a new language this naturally.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Juhi Chawla, Nath Uncle, Kurkure and Baghban

Watched Bhootnath on Sunday. Yes - at the DT Megamall, my backyard. I liked it quite a bit. I was ROTFLOLing very much, and then noticed that the average age the junta giving me company during the same was 7 and held back a little. Nevertheless, it is by far one of the most delightful first half's we have seen in Hindi movies till now.

The slightly worrying aspect of the movie was product placement. Operative word being slightly, obviously the movie had graver concerns. Every scene in the kitchen / dining / fridge had to have many bottles of Pepsi, Fanta, some new product called Ceres Juice and Kurkure. I wonder if the Pepsi guys thought since brand connect is so high with Juhi Chawla being the new age house wife which we portray her to be in our ads, ( which she actually is), etc - this movie is our jackpot. Therefore we must go overboard - every time there is enough space on the dining table - we must put a Kurkure wrapper which has been crumpled and thrown away is such a manner that kurkure is always visible. With the amount of money we are spending, we should get atleast one scene where Juhi and family are sitting on the couch and watching a cricket match with one of our slowest SKUs, so on and so forth.

The philosopher in me tells me that New Age Cinema will be like a series of ads - with the story embedded in between. Soon, this will in the future also make ads more entertaining ( since they would be shorter and have more original storylines) than what they are now, relatively only, - and instead of T 20 and test cricket, people will then be debating as to whether 10 second ads with the some punch are the future of entertainment, or whether long and grueling movies ( like test matches where Sanjay Manjerakar and Jimmy Adams decide to bat together) are the only irreplaceable true vintage entertainment .

For example, director really struggling for budgets might be willing to add a

"Mummy, let me drink my pesticide free softdrink before I go to school today"

or in a slightly different movie -

When daddy is on the hospital bed telling mommy about previous escapades because of which wealth will be shared between his n sons and daughters instead of 2 ( to which mommy is thinking, "now I don't feel so guilty, teehee"), the youngest and smartest son is putting mseal on the roof.


Everytime Rajni evades a bullet in bullet speed, and the sleave of his white silk shirt touches the dusty ground, and he looks at it, calls up home and says "ghar mein Surf excel hai na?".
((Yes Thambi, Rajni never evades bullet, bullets evade Rajni. But this is for the sake of aesthetics only ))

So on, and so forth.

But coming back to Bhootnath, there was very little product placement in the second half. Which was evident -as the budget cuts became apparent. PepsiCo spent so much money in the first half, that they had nothing for the second. I think this the film makers figured after they shot the first half, and decided to play safe in order to maximize ROI.

Lets stick to something which the value for money Indians love.

What do value for money Indians love? 2 at the price of 1, instead of one at the price of 1. Yes - thats it - we can bundle one slow moving storyline, which we can get for a good pirce, bundle it with our story and market this as 2 movies.

Ok, now what are the cheapest story lines we can procure in the limited time we have to make another movie? It should have a lot of emotion and lot of crying, someone dying and someone being indifferent to it, because thats what works for in India across all TGs.

hmmm... - Ah! Baghban!! We can even get that for free. And whats better, the Amitabh connect remians - so lets make the second half a Baghban. We don't need no product placements in the second half!!! Soopra Machi!

But despite the budget cuts and the product placement, the movie still had original bollywood cliches such as -

The conventional haunted house with an excessive supply of dry leaves in the large front yard

Large gate

Flash back ( The innnovation here was that the flash back took us into another movie, but it had a flash back nonetheless )

Thunder and rain at the end of every flash back-indicating, erm.. don't know - but most movies have it. I think they all trying to bring out the Tansenness in the narrator of flashback at times.

The Firang chicks who dance with the ghost in oversized pink ballet suits

"Tumne aane mein bahut deri kardi, beta..."

and lastly , a happy ending - aaha.

I really missed the owl, the black cat, "ooooooooo" sound in the background when nothing much happens and the full moon which I badly wanted to see in a ghost movie, but thats ok.

The only confusing part in the movie was - ok - so he died once, and became a ghost. Fair. Then he sat through his own funeral, just to be sure that he dies again - since he was bored of living like a ghost ( which was not very different from living for real - eating, shaving, dacning with Firang chicks, telling stories, etc - wouldn't get bored? Duh. ). So he dies again. Then he comes in the sky, like Mufasa in Lion King - and *this* **has to be the** surest sign that its the last time we see the person in the movie, unless of course junta decides that the last scene must contain them praying to his photo, wherein we will see him again in the photo.
But, magically enough, he is back the next day. So what is he now - ? Ghost? Star ghost? Angel? Granddad? The twin borther of Kailash Nath the purpose of whose life was to be a part of the Juhi family when post the ghost episode to fill up that void? Interesting - that mystery still remains. I like such open ended movies.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Peter and Thames

Both these are terms used to describe someone who forcibily puts Angrezi into daily routine. In English, such behaviour would be called pseudness. In Tamil, about which I have almost as much idea as the Royal Challengers have about scoring over 130 in T20, such a person is called Peter. B Schools are full of people of this sort. The guys who wear T shirt with Che (not the Kem Che Gujarati one, mind you), wear floaters with socks, call eating food “getting some grub in”, call sutta “smokes” and call a film a “flick”. Some of them call each other “mate”, some of them don’t mean it literally.

In Kannada, which I know as well as Venky P knows leg-spin, such a person is called Thames. How can you call a person Thames?! It is the name of a river, not a person. The Digas must be mad – you would think. But then again, we name every third girl child born in state as Kaveri, and therefore find it prudent to pick up slangs/cool names from rivers based in other countries.

I like the simplicity my fellow South Indian friends from the neighbouring state maintain. Peter, presumably, was the most common firang name at the time the slang was invented. So when the thambis saw one of their peers talking too much English which they didn’t follow, they called him Peter. Maintianing the simplicity of things, and the literary beauty by bringing in alliteration, if such a Peter was found putting “kadalai” in English; they probably called him Peanut Peter. Sounds very fair to me.

The origin of Thames, has a lot more history to it, and surprisingly enough, has almost nothing to do with the Kaveri. May have something to do with Tavrekere, but nothing with Kaveri.

Supposedly, a man from the land of Dr. Raj’s worshippers is capable of speaking too much English if and only if he went to England, and washed his rear in the Thames post doing most of the pre rear washing activities along the bed of Thames. Operative words in the above statement is “too much”. “If you come today….” is clearly not “too much” English, and therefore Dr. Raj does not qualify to be a “Thames”.

My only problem with our theory is this – I don’t think anyone does those things by the Thames anymore. It may seem alright next to Tavrekere in Tavrekere, if you know what I mean. But in alongside Thames, I don’t think that’s a popular early morning pastime.

Also, like SK (an expert on the subject) said, “I think they use toilet paper there”.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


On a slightly more philosophical note, I was thinking yesterday that Milton must have been really addicted to board games - Pair-o-dice Lost and Pair-o-dice Regained were the defining moments of his life..

Monday, May 5, 2008

Subliminal Advertising

We had written a term paper and made a presentation on the subject in term 4. The group consisted of the esteemed Ms Thakur (as in - Shweta Thakur, lady who directed the public production in second year, who painted Dudu's, woman of spirit, woman of substance, who sometimes combined the two, etc) and yours truly (as in - yours truly). It was quite eventful – like all 9 am presentations I have done. Thakur had to present first and speak of how subliminal advertising came to be (the famous eat popcorn, drink coke story), how companies have used it thus far, and theories supporting it. I was supposed to talk about why it won’t work, theories which do not support it so on and so forth.

In case you don’t know, Subliminal Advertising the concept of putting arbit high recall pictures within normal images be it print or an AV. In Fight Club – this was one of Tyler’s’ many jobs – when he inserts porn (not so mild versions of it) between normal movie scenes for kicks ( ok - it was not advertising, but was subliminal nevertheless). In print, it is mostly a small part of an image – the ice cubes in the glass of booze looking like a couple having sex or a skull and so on. But mostly, it is about sex. The theory says that while we don’t recognize these images as they are, our subconscious mind recognizes them and prompts a purchase over other normal looking ads which do not have people having sex, etc in miniature print. This seemed like an interesting thing to work on, like most things do in a B School until the work arrives.

I woke up at 8.30 and finished the last 2 of my 4 slides. It looked alright. My part was ready. I then started looking for Thakur, who wasn’t to be found anywhere (Why I didn’t call her might be a very good question to ask at this point of time, but in true Dan Brown style, I just wanted to tell you using this parenthesis that is going to unveil later). At 8.55 am, I gave up looking and headed for class. I had a feeling I would find her there. I was slightly tense about not having found her. Adding to the tension was the fact that – apart from having discussed the topic (the previous night, of course), and deciding broadly who would be doing what (I vaguely remembered Thakur telling it to me while I was playing AOE), we had not done very much else with respect to “discussing”.

But the good thing is Thakur was also there on her way to class. She yelled at me for not picking my phone. I put the sheepish grin, and she realized it too. My phone would be lying under a heap of clothes, what not in my room ( if at all)– and no way anyone would find it. In all my B School life, I would have found it twice, and not once when I needed it. The good thing though, was that she had finished her part too. Excellent! So the presentation was ready. It was 9.05 as the prof (who in this case also happened to be the Director, affectionately known by all as ‘Diro’) walked into class. I was really hoping that he would take attendance, giving us sometime at least. Instead, he walked upto one of the empty students’ chairs, sat down and said out loud, “group number (whatever our group number was)”. This is approximately when both of us (Thakur and I, members of the group) were frantically asking fellow junta for the device the pen drive.

Diro, in the meantime, was tapping his fingers and all this, in general added to my tension as many ideas ran through my brain.

Should we go ahead and present it from different laptops? -

Should Thakur just start now (oh wait, she cant, no one has put the projector on, bloody CRs!!)?

Why cant I just copy paste it from one ppt to the other, how stupid am I – should have thought about it earlier??!

Somewhere in between these thoughts Diro had once said “Why is your presentation not ready yet?” To which Thakur answered something. Obviously, that was not a good or a funny answer because Diro retorted with “you lose 10 marks for starting late”, and did not smile/seem amused.

So I had just finished setting the projector, and Thakur had finished copying the presentations on to one sane laptop. And we started presenting the presentation titled “Subliminal Advertising”. It was an encouraging start, since we started with only half the junta asleep. 5 minutes into the presentation, the numbers of people who were sleeping had increased only by one, which is very good by any 9 am class standards. Thankfully, both of us spoke about the similar stuff on subliminal advertising. As in, if you spend less than an hour on a presentation, you won’t go beyond the first three or four hits Google throws up – so our sources were the same. We concluded that “A lot of companies use Subliminal Advertising, but no one can really be sure if it increases sales”. Diro was also fairly impressed.

Now why would I write about something like this almost a year and a half after it happened? Because I saw this in one of my favourite malls in Gurgaon.

There is slightly more to it than meets the eye, but don’t look too hard. I don’t think the Fashion Cube guys do it intentionally. I think their creative brief was on the lines of “ Er.. nothing complicated– give us the average bikini babe who can sell anything, we are keeping options open currently”. But I am sure they ended up getting more than they asked for, at least from people like me and the people I show it to :-).

There is also a theory about subliminal advertising which says that it is endorsed by people who have nothing else to do in their free time. These juntas, the theory says, interrogate images for hours till twisted patterns emerge from it, and then feel much contended at the way the last hour was spent. What are the chances some of them have taken to blogging?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The adventure called “going to office”

So, of the many ways available to go to office every morning, I use the cycle rickshaw. Why so? Some of you may wonder, while making mental notes about bringing it up with me the next time I put lecture on cruelty against animals due to animal carts and retort with “Technically speaking, man is also an animal and you use cycle rickshaw. You Cruel Hypocritical Monster!!!” Yes – I know - It is not a pretty sight.

But coming back to - “why so?”, the answer, apart from the fact that I want to feel like Pierce Bronsan in the Visa ad, is that – my office is in Gurgaon. The other available means of transport are walking and driving to office. The six wheeled dugdugi, thankfully, does not ply on my office road. I do not walk to office since I do not have a particularly great brown wardrobe to compliment my brown shoes and brown hair (shoes of any colour would end up brown if you walk in Gurgaon at the time junta drives to office. The same applies to hair) and so I choose this option only for going back home.

I do not drive because

1. Too much traffic and cycle rickshaws are clearly faster than cars – especially on footpaths and sideways.

2. Since spending quality time inside a car with yourself while head banging to the Punjabi songs with English lyrics on Delhi FM stations and looking around at assorted junta in larger assortments of cars doing the same is bad enough; repeating the same exercise again in the basement parking would be, well, worse.

3. And, slightly more pertinently, I don’t have a car.

This is how the action begins – I find an empty rickshaw guy who is lazing around and tell him “Cyber Green”. He then stares back at me as if nothing has happened. In the beginning I repeated the destination giving him more details about where exactly I need to go, thinking that he has not heard it, but I was mistaken. While gazing blankly at you, he is computing the shortest path to your destination from where ever you are. The shortest path, is literally - the shortest path. It is the straight line joining where you are now to where you want to go. Sometimes, this path includes a part of a real road – but that is purely a coincidence. And some more times, it includes a large part of a real road which is a one way with the general direction of traffic being in your opposite direction. Such as this –

and -

But these are only minor inconveniences, and are thwarted away by the rickshaw walla with the same practiced ease a teetotaler, such as myself, would thwart the possible choice of drinks a waiter at watering hole would suggest - “Yes, in that case – One fresh lime soda sweet and salt with extra sweet please”. A “One Way” in Gurgaon is almost like a feel good thing for the rickshaw guys, not really a rule.

But there are rules the rickshaw wallas do follow – such as “If the space between two cars is sufficiently large for the front tire to squeeze through, the remainder of the rickshaw will follow” – well it may not sound like a rule to you, didn’t to me either – but given the way its followed, it made me to believe that must be one. Another important one - “He who shouts loudest has the right of way, unless of course, “he” is one of the many friendly neighbourhood bulls generally chilling out on the highway like “he” does during most peak traffic hours – in which case “he” ( as in the bull ) *always* has right of way”. And many more of which I am sure to find out during my stay here in Gurgaon.

One of the best things about Rickshaws, which I forgot to mention till now, is that it makes many people’s dreams come true. Ok, I am exaggerating a bit there, may not be many people – but it did make Mihir’s dream come true – at least a small part of it. My dear colleague and flat mate had always wanted to be a terrorist. After doing an MBA, he realized that it did not score very highly as a career option. So he became a Sales and Marketing guy. But the little child in him was very dejected because he didn’t end up as a terrorist (just like the little child in me is dejected because I didn’t end up as the opening bowler, batsmen and best one day captain India ever produced who takes India to 4 World Cup wins, 3 of them against Australia - but that’s a different story altogether). That’s until he came to Gurgaon and discovered the rickshaws. He realized that if he used them to work everyday, given the pollution, dust, etc - he could dress up like the terrorist he always wanted to be, and not be mistaken for a real one.

One of these days, he tells me, he will be buying one of those real looking AK – 47s. The rickshaw guys should really get some PR done to highlight these efforts – they are otherwise mistaken by most junta as guys who ferry fellow junta from one place to another.