Monday, 26 August 2013

Business lessons in the rainy season

Rain dripping from your window sills, a melange of bright coloured umbrellas passing through the street, a rainbow bridging two seemingly far points and earth's sweet smell emanating from the first downpour of the season – it's what makes the rainy season so special. In spite of the mud, filth and deluge I love the season. As the rainy season comes to an end, I am reciting few lessons that I learnt during the wet, drippy days.

Pond herons and the bamboos
Aim for the tallest, highest and strongest.

I have a pond in my native village. The northern part of the pond is surrounded by bamboos and Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo) trees. During my village stay I spend an enormous amount of my time on the pond's embankment. And when I am there, I am engrossed in observing the birds coming to drink water and fish in the waters. In the evenings, I see hordes of pond herons flying back to their nests on the bamboos. It's interesting – they build nests on tall trees and bamboos, and while resting they prefer to perch on the bamboo tops.

This must be the reason – it's easy for them to land on the bamboo and tree tops while flying. The pond herons convey a simple message to us – always aim for the tallest, highest and strongest.  

Crabs and fishes
Don't waste time pulling others' legs, instead leapfrog.

Once I collected almost dozen crabs and few fishes from a freshly ploughed field in a small bucket. Not to let the fish die, I also added handfuls of water to my catch. While I was on the way to home, almost all the fishes had jumped off the bucket and I had just a single fish left in the bucket. However, none of the crabs had escaped.

When I reached home and tried to pull out a crab from the bucket, two more crabs clung to it. I left all the crabs in the bucket and observed them. Once a crab started climbing up the bucket, another clung to its feet and both of them were again back at the bottom of the bucket. None of the crabs were able to climb out of the bucket in my half an hour's scrutiny.

They offered me a valuable lesson – never waste time pulling others' legs, instead leapfrog if you want to succeed.

Eagle and fish
Set your sight on the target, forget the fear of failure.  

There are four public ponds in my village. All of them have been leased out to traders by the villagers for fish farming. The traders harvest the fishes at least twice a year. During the fishing, the whole village gathers at the site. Children run alongside the fishing nets to collect the fishes that jump out of the net, and men and women wait for their share of the catch. Each household gets at least a kilo of fish as a token of their ownership over the ponds. While the people are busy catching fish, eagles hover in the sky in search of a chance to catch a fish that escapes the net.

The eagles are such precise creatures that they keep on flying hundreds of feet above the land looking for a chance to pounce upon a fish escaping the net. And I have seen many a times, they are successful in running away with big catches. The moral is – set your sight on the target, forget the fear of failure.        

Fishes and the water-flow
Rise against the current.

During the rainy season the paddy fields are full of water and fishes. While draining away the excess water from the upstream fields to the downstream fields, the farmers put handmade traps between the fields to catch the fishes. The fishes are simply swept away by the running water and get entangled in the traps. There are fishes which never come near the water flowing downstream. However, if you observe carefully, there are fishes which flow along with the current but swim back as and when they approach the trap.

That's the way we should be. We should take risks but stay away from being a foolish risk-taker. And if possible rise against the consequences and come as a winner.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Why and how to use Twitter

The latest data on Twitter users is staggering. With more than 554,750,000 active registered users and 58 million tweets per day, the online social networking website and microblogging service launched by Jack Dorsey in 2006, earned $259,000,000 as advertising revenue in the year 2012.

Every second 9,100 tweets see the light of the day and 135,000 new Twitter users sign up every day. Likewise, 115 million people actively use Twitter every month and Twitter site attracts 190 million unique visitors every month.  (Source: Twitter, Huffington Post, eMarketer

Twitter is a real-time social network that helps users share, follow and interact with stories, opinions, links, pictures and 140-character messages. The power of Twitter allows you to receive the tweets from and listen to the opinions of the people and organisations you follow. The retweet (RT) facility allows you and your followers to spread the message to a wider audience and opens the door for your message to go viral.

Twitter basics
are small bursts of information of 140 characters long at the maximum. A user's Twitter Handle is the username s/he selects and the accompanying URL (E.g., An @reply is a method of responding to another Twitter user publicly. If you place @ before the receiver's username, your message will be directed to that person publicly.  

The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to categorise tweets for reference and to facilitate conversations on specific subjects.

Twitter lingo
As the users are bound to a 140 character limit, they have come up with innovative acronyms.

at (mention) @
hashtag #
caret/hat sign ^
financial hashtag $
as far as I know AFAIK
carbon copy CC
correction CX
direct message DM
Follow Friday FF
hat tip/heard through HT
in case you missed it ICYMI
Music Monday MM
modified tweet MT
not safe for work NSFW
overheard OH
partial tweet PT
real life retweet RLRT
retweet RT
shaking my head SMH
thanks for the follow TFTF
today I learned TIL
too long; didn't learn TL;DR
tweet me back TMB
thanks for the retweet TQRT
translated tweet TT
with W/

Simple steps to use Twitter
To create a Twitter account, you just need an email address. Go to, sign up, assign a username and a password. A username can't be more than 15 characters – you are free to use letters, numbers and underscore. Make sure you use a name that you use in your websites and blogs. Using your real or business name makes it easier for search engines to find you.

After signing up, add a photo (not more than 700 KB and should be either in JPG, GIF or PNG format) and a short bio – your bio should not exceed 160 characters and should tell people what you do, your interests and personality. You can customise your Twitter profile page (Password, add devices, notices, picture, design and colour schemes).

Follow your friends, opinion leaders and organisations you want to receive tweets from. To get followers you need to tweet regularly. 

To start tweeting, tell people what you are doing, disseminate the news from your industry, share helpful tips and your opinion on a trending topic. As the maximum characters you can use is 140, shorten the URLs of your links through URL shortening services (, etc.).

Add a hashtag (#+word/phrase) to your tweet to make it more searchable and increase its chance of becoming a trending topic. Don't use more than 3 hashtags per tweet.

You can retweet (RT) to share the best tweets you come across with your followers. You can send someone a tweet publicly or reply to his/her tweets by adding @ before the username. You can send a direct message (DM) to a person who is following you. It is private and directly goes to the follower's twitter inbox.   

You can follow back a follower, un-follow and even block him/her if you find them annoying. To block a follower, go to the profile of the person, click the person icon, from the dropdown Actions menu select Block from the listed options. You can Unblock him/her by clicking undo on their profile page

If you are a beginner, follow the steps in the presentation (in Nepali) below to start tweeting and be an advanced user by tweeting at regular intervals.

Source:, Mashable, USC Rossier School of Education.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The benefits of creating a local brand

Rentury Turmeric Powder - a local brand
Almost like all kirana pasal (general store), the shop is crowded with a melange of daily essentials. At the cash counter plastic pouches of edibles, and sachets of shampoo, hair oil and tobacco almost cover the shopkeeper. As a customer appears at the sales desk, he peeks out, shows his head amidst the dangling strings of sachets and pouches.

I am a regular visitor to the shop and I find nothing new about the hanging sachets and pouches. However, when I saw a lady haggling over a packet of turmeric locally produced and packed in the same locality, my eyes fixed to a string of yellow packets. The shopkeeper tore off a packet and handed it over to the lady.
Actually the lady was resisting the shopkeeper's advice of buying a well packaged carton of turmeric powder over a local product. There was a vast difference in the package quality. The one she resisted belonged to a well-established brand Century. She had chosen a lesser-known brand Rentury Turmeric Powder. In fact, it was the copy-cat product of the well-known brand.

When the lady left, I enquired about the sales trend of turmeric powder and in particular the Rentury brand. I also talked with few buyers and it offered me some insights in product branding.

Creating a local product not only contributes to local economy but also creates employment and sense of belonging among locals. The buyers had the feeling that the product was from their own place and they should promote it. The product matches their expectations and is at par with other well-known brands.  The product is generating economic benefits for the locals and is providing impetus to the local economy.    

Besides, I saw minimal packaging. A printed plastic wrapper contains 50 grams of turmeric powder. Meanwhile the nationally renowned brand packs the powder in a plastic packet which is then put inside a paper carton of thick printed paper laminated on the outer surface. Local products generally spend less in packaging which is in a way good for the environment. The carbon footprint is lower in case of a local product.   

Another satisfying logic that the buyers put forward was the freshness and genuine nature of the product. The buyers are always afraid of getting adulterated products. The local products are closer to the production points and less time is spent in transportation. It maximises the chance of retaining the freshness and natural flavour if consumed within the stated duration. As the product evades the chain of processing, the adulteration is controlled.

A crucial factor that controls the purchase behaviour is the price of a product. A local product is generally cheaper than the products that spend a fortune in refining, attractive packaging and transportation. In case of Bhattarai Spice Production and Packing Industry, the owners of Rentury brand, turmeric is sourced from the neighbouring districts, processed, packed and sold in the Surkhet (a district in Mid-Western Development Region of Nepal) and neighbouring districts. Due to the demand, now they have been selling even in the major cities in Nepal.
Looking at the benefits of going local, even multi-nationals have jumped into creating local brands. Recently, McDonald's added rice products to its menu for the first time in China, including Chicken Rice Wrap, Beef Rice Wrap, Chicken Rice Bowl and Beef Rice Bowl, to cater to the Chinese customers who can’t move away from the local tastes.

Earlier McDonald’s had introduced McTikki and McAloo to tickle the taste buds of potato loving Indians and a rice burger for Singaporeans. Likewise, KFC sells fish ball soup, spring rolls, several varieties of rice porridge and egg custard tarts including rice sets.

Like the lady who preferred local copy-cat brand Rentury over the well-established brand Century, a local product can beat the Goliaths and create a brand of its own. It just needs to retain its freshness and avoid adulteration.