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Friday, August 27, 2010

Fake it till you make it

Sometime in mind 90's I was sitting in my school auditorium with friends waiting for the swamiji to come. He used to come every year and used to interact with us. I don't recall his name, but his face is so clearly etched in my memory, it had tonnes of happiness sprinkled all over it, and he seemed content with everything. In fact when I read Hesse's Siddhartha years later I was reminded of him.

Mamaji of one of my batchmates in school, Swamiji had left his family and a well-paid job as a Chemical Engineer (he studied at Jadavpur University, so many awesome engineers in the country came from there in the mid 70's, ask a bong and their heart still beats for the place) to join Ramakrishna mission (around the same time DD showed the movie on Swami Vivekananda, in which Paramahamsa was beautifully played by Mithunda, and I also read some literature by both the teacher and disciple).

That day Swamiji talked on the topic, of Fake it till you make it. He discussed it in the context of shedding away inhibitions, developing confidence and all. I don't remember exactly what he talked but that phrase just stuck on. And I came across it again during the ethics course at SP, when we were discussing Geeta.

You imitate something which you can't do naturally, and slowly it becomes a habit and you are in a comfort zone with it. Like lets say one asks me to talk less for some days, even if I am uncomfortable doing it, slowly faking the habit can actually lead to me adapting and enjoying the change.

Travel through the markets and you always see these distortions. Obviously many don't observe it, but look closely and one is sure to find packs of well known brands Fair and Lively, Luk, Colgote, Bora Plus, Ankor swtiches, Paracheet, Detol and so many more. The market for counterfeit/fake/me-too (products which look and feel the same as original, many a times come from Registered companies, the visual elements are same but the names are slightly different) products in India is huge and continues to grow at a similar speed if not more as the real products are growing.

I remember having this discussion with Sagar, KK and our Professor of Consumer Behavior (one of the best courses I did in the second year) on me-too brands and why does someone buy it. Well in most cases the prices are similar (for the retailer though the me-too brands offer heavy discounting), but the Indian consumer just goes for the colours and visual elements mostly. Like if he visits a small shop and asks for a toothpaste and receives something which is a red colored tube with white font over it and the symbols appear somewhat relevant he doesn't event think. Same for a cream and a pink and white tube. Although we think its as practice prevalent in smaller towns and villages, how many of us actually check/inspect the products we buy? I even consider the main competitor of Glucon-D launched by a top FMCG company in the country to be a me-too, the visual elements are copied, and only after a court ruling they managed to get the family pic and the font changed (both of them so symbolic of the Glucon-D pack).

If the appearance is mostly similar, you can actually push through the fake ones, and the original ones despite all their efforts are at loss. But in the long term does it work out for small players, or they just make some money and maybe will switch businesses or disappear over a period of time?

In the past couple of years I discovered another huge market with a high penetration of fakes in the system, that of people. Although this is a much more complex market, its extremely difficult to identify fakes. Past couple of year I found many people who were experts in the art of faking, being a different person than what you are with many people, turnaround and not necessarily think the same about so many. Be best friends in front of the world and then crib about them behind their backs. You found them all over, from fighting on organizing events, to fighting over the best jobs. Even the hugs at final farewell parties, the singing together of Puraani Jeans / Yaaro Dosti songs (with so many people as if you are actually going to be in touch with even 10% of them over the next year). Talking bullshit about people in hostels and liking them on Facebook pics. So many things, so many instances. But its not bad, its just the way one is.

And there were few who tried to be honest and conveyed whatever they thought about the person in front of them and mostly landed into trouble. But those who faked had a much better time, they didn't fall into unnecessary jhamelas. Again not bad, but its just the way one is.

Couple of them I knew very closely were what we called experts in faking, they had the ability to change the way they behaved with different sets of people and sometimes just kill the real feeling, brilliant they were! The visual elements were mostly same, so was the outer appearance, but the product was not the original one.

So is faking worth it? I don't know about that but certainly being honest is surely not worth it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Simplicity and Chaos

From the time is was a Rs. 6 green fatty-boxed luxury, tothe Rs. 10 yellow slim box regularity, Frooti has been one of my favorite brands. Why do I love it? No it's not the usual nostalgia I associate with so many things; it's just because of its simplicity. There have been many changes to it with times: the fat green box (Rs. 6) to green long boxed Yo! Frooti (Rs.8) to Rs. 10 yellow boxed one (it spiked to Rs. 12 one summer, evoking concerns from fans like me). But Frooti's soul remains same, being Mango. At core it's the same simple mango drink, and its packaging might change, or the price, but its soul (read positioning) remains just the same.Super Shimplu! (For SP marketing junta, recall one of Ashita mam's classes,when Pooja and Nitika gave this presentation, I was super excited and we had a nice discussion on Frooti). Frooti has become a routine for me, I don't care much, I just pick it up, I know it's my Frooti, and it always will be.

Then there is always the other extreme. Remember Liril, the superb refreshing lime soap (the la lalalalalaa lalalala laaa classic ad featuring Karen Lunel created byAlyque Padamsee is still so refreshing). But Liril somehow became confusing.It used to be my favorite soap, but they tried out too many things. They came up with what I recall as India's first shower gel, different variants to core Liril (blue Liril) and finally disappeared. And then it came back, in a disappointing way as Liril 2000- aloe vera soap with an element of freshness.It felt like Ekta Kapoor took it from Unilever, performed a plastic surgery using another actor known as Levers 2000 and re-introduced the character. It was disappointing for a true Liril fan. The simplicity of freshness was replaced with chaos, and finally what emerged was something without its soul in place. Maybe a lot of people won't relate to it, but a true Liril fan would just know it. But what power does a consumer hold, finally it was Liril who wanted to change, did they really care for a loyal consumer? But still sometimes I buy it and try to look for my old Liril, maybe I will find it.

One tends to fall for simplicity, it's always comforting,and it gives you peace of mind. You get a sense of oneness with it, simple things click, they are long lasting and consistent with what your mind desires.Be it simple things or simple people, life is much better with them around.

And chaos is disturbing, trying out too many things,thinking about too many things, and trying to hide your simplicity with randomness. One might try to change a lot, feel a lot different, but a person who knows, would always spot the difference and then try to disassociate from chaos. But chaos has its own fans, and they are very different from those few who desire simplicity.

What happens to the entity under change, what is its identity now? Well it's for them to change, it's their choice and person who knows the entity so well should also respect the change, whether it works for them or not. Still one tries to reach out for the simplicity which is still there, but hidden.

I would always desire simplicity, and for things which move away from it, I will hope for them to be simple again.

[I messaged Shaik and Dolu to find out a few brands which have had a chaotic rise, they couldn't come up with anything major, stupid they are :), but I super miss having FMCG discussions with both of them. The discussion featured Dolu- the marketing guy, Shaik- the sales and distribution expert, Desi- the fact, figures and insights guy and harsh- the listener. Well all this is a bit unrelated to the post.]

A bit more from earlier times on simple things,

Hrishikesh Mukherjee - Simple movies, Simple life (

Who Enjoys It? ( (This one written somewhere mid SP days)

Simple Things again...(

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Block 83

When you leave school for college, a million things run in your mind, staying away from your family for the first time, the kind of people you will end up meeting in college, who will be your roommate, will the newly earned freedom be at the cost of something etc etc.

Cut back to 2002 when a few innocent souls stepped in dusty sec-7 of Gandhinagar, a Colonel with shiny bald head and a glowing moustache showing us the not so impressive facility, and curly haired friendly gujju guy showing us our rooms. We were nervous, most of us were accompanied by our parents who were equally concerned if not more.

So I entered the wing on the 2nd floor, very jarjarr apartments, seemed like they will break down soon, decently sized one room apartments with wooden cupboards and loads of dust. First thing which most of us bought there were plastic buckets. My room mate was Kamsi Vrishna but he had moved out to some PG in Sec-2 looking at the hostel condition with Dagar Sas. So I was alone in the room.

In front of us used to lived Kayur with pea-cockish hairstyle, always stuck onto the metal seat, his roomie Panabesh, sainik school import, reminded me initially a lot of the lafoots in townships :), front door had Ghaitanya and Saveen (famously known as Charra later on). Other inmates were Copolla a distant relative of the francis ford coppola khaandaan and an extremely religious guy in the first year , so was his roomie Gaibhav Vupta.

Then there was my awesome roomie Sajeev, oily haired bespectacled simpleton from Vizag on his way to be a changed man (four years down the line...kaafi change :)), who escaped from the neighboring wing as his room mate was an abusive chap. He came in and we both got the honour of being each other's roomies for the next four years.

Then there was a quite room, of Jrateek and Pandheer, mostly busy educating themselves I assume, quite simple I was the least interested in padhai in the block.

But then there were few whom were brainwashed by me, Jaran Kaine with his beautiful legs, Sajjwal Ungal with his already faded Pepe jeans (asking our hotel supervisor for happening places in gandhinagar), a self proclaimed rock music bhakt Krinal and Jineet Vain with his shaggy doo like walk and ability to call da as ra.

Frequent visitors included Sabhishek who used to dance his hear out in the wing with Saveen ( and our neighboring old uncle almost had an heart attack due to the hulla), LKP for aalasya, Grasoon at times, Nand, the 82 block gang including gex suru tonu, mhinav abhishra, Kakshat etc. Also we had a lot of visitors in Panabesh's room which included Jarun Vain, and all.

Just thought would remember all of them today, lost contact with many of them, but awesome days they were.


Plum cakes, those brilliant ones which Anthony uncle used to bring to our house on Christmas when I was a kid, mostly all of us had it during Christmas season in all parts of the country. The dark brown ones filled with fruits & nuts, and marmalade like orange peels, these things are simply awesome. The best part about plum cakes are those mishy-mashy fruit bits and marmalade, they just stand out for me and create that plum-esh effect. Those bits and pieces are soaked in brandy or rum, and they just absorb its flavour, its some kind of a taste which you can only associate with a plum cake. It takes time to make one, you must keep the fruit pieces soaked for a couple of days before you can create the bestest plum cake (it can't be like the instant one, with hide and seek biscuits crushed and mixed with Eno, that only our super awesome brilliant Gujarati genius lady can manage).

Relationships too take time to mature, initially you need to soak them in the right kind of brandy and let it be, and slowly it will absorb all the good things around. Then you need to bake it at the right temperature and then scrub off all the unnecessary burnt portion. But what would stand out is the taste of those early days, soaked in the brandy of love, friendship and all the good time you spent together. And those days will define how life would taste in the future.

Plum-esh is just a start my friends :) and sorry there is no short-cut Eno recipe for the perfect plum cake, there never can be one :).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Well Left

Gone are the awesome days of test cricket, when Dravid just used to leave it on its way, even God did it but Dravid was much more elegant in leaving the cricket ball. Commentators always used to say he had an exact idea where his off stump is, a supreme bowler like Glenn McGrath would be hovering around that line but Dravid was extremely sure when to leave it and when to play (followed by an extremely elegant nod of the head, which became a trademark of sorts and something very well imitated by couple of school friends). No doubt he was extremely successful when it came to playing abroad when there were just fast bowlers all over us.But leaving the ball is an art, when it comes to you, you just want to hit it, it requires a lot of patience to leave it and just let it be on its own. Sometimes I felt its the batsman who love ball more than a bowler does, they want it see clearly, slowly they start feeling it and it appears bigger and better to them and aaah, that sexy sound and feel which comes when they hit it.

And then there is the stupid thing called, what they have always called it, life! A lot of things come your way, you just don't want to leave them, because leaving them requires a lot of courage, you are not sure how you are placed, you just don't know where your footing is, and where your off stump lies. Plus we are not patient as Dravid is, we tend to hurry up and nick it on the way at times. And a brush with the ball is mostly a wicket, rarely we would be dropped. You just want to hit at things which doesn't usually happen, and then you finally hit one and aaah, that sexy sound and feel comes from life's willow. Happiness follows, and you are rewarded for leaving things which were not meant for you.

So just try leaving a few things on on the way, don't worry a lot about things you leave behind, there is always a wicketkeeper to take care of them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

it waSP

Remember talcum power, packed in those nice Cuticura boxes and pink Ponds dabbas. Throughout the year we just loved to sprinkle tonnes of it, for many mothers it was a medium to shower tonnes of affection on their kids, for many people it was their only experience of make-up, for many a fairness product. It was a remedy for rashes, itching and unnecessary sweating and the nycil dabbas to kill the deadly ghamori during summer. Another usage was of using it instead of boric acid as a carrom board smoothie :)

A Ponds ka pink dabba used to be a common fare in our regular grocery shopping, but now visit any supermarket and the shelfspace for it is almost gone. Visit someone's house and observe the products in their bathroom ( I do this frequently, tells you a lot about the person, recently I took someone's case when I found them stocking rival company's products :)), it has disappeared. Clearly the days of talcum power are over, and we have moved onto newer things such as deos, perfumes, fairness creams, summer cooling lotions, itch guards...

Remember SP, we just loved to be there, few of us hated to be there :), but it was something which kept us busy, super-occupied and surrounded by few awesome people. Unlike undergrad, not everyone was awesome in everyone's eye, but everyone had found the awesomeness in a bunch of people. People laughed, partied, cried, conspired :), did loads of bakwaas, but they were never lonely, they always had few people to fall on to. And we were used to it, it became too much a part of our system.

But then we have moved on to our jobs in different locations, and few of always feel like they should go back to SP ( I don't want to ), they just miss the SP routine so much. The feeling of being among people all the time is lost, now one comes back home (or some lonesome hotels in few cases) and tries to do the same things but with lesser loved ones around. Clearly, we should realize the days of SP are over, we should look out for newer options to keep ourselves occupied and happy.

[Note: People might argue with the actual sales figures of Talcum powder, this is just my perception :), rest of it stems from a few discussions with dost log over past couple of weeks]

Friday, August 13, 2010

Lonely Nuts

Consider a pack peanuts, crunchy roasted salted ones, the kind of which are awesome with alcohol, or the kind of which come from Bharuch in Gujarat, not very dry but the slightly greasy types without the chilkas.

And then open the pack, divide them in a few parts and send them to Mumbai rains, Jaipur's market, Delhi's shopkeeper lanes and coaching centres, Howrah's gullies, Pune's garages and the sort of places where the really shiny good quality peanuts wanted to end up.

Peanuts are comfortable, mostly their future is secure, just that it seems these peanuts have lost their crunchiness. They get soggy is Mumbai/Calcutta's humidity maybe, or develop a powdery coating in the Delhi/Jaipur's heat or get too greasy in Pune garages.

And then there are few of these lonely nuts, who have ended up in places like Bareilly, I mean maybe they show that they don't care, they have always shown that they don't care but even these nuts would lose their shine soon.

And some had the courage to go far far away, to U.S. and they too seem to have lost out on their munchability index.

Work, money, comfortable life, tough life, lonely life, losing awesomeness, developing tan, talking too much, not talking at all, having fights, making new friends, losing friends, losing heart, losing faith, losing patience, losing weight, gaining weight, drinking, drinking alone, stopped drinking, work is good, work is bad, work is the same...

Nuts have gone nuts!