Monday, April 3, 2017

Google Baba Ki Jay Part 3

When a was a newbie web designer sooooo many years back, we used to be very excited when we counted so many 'hits' on our website. One of the first ever websites in India on trekking '' was made by me way back on 1998-99 when the Internet was so new. We used to do a lot of things to get in the top 10 in the search ranking, but at that time it used to be Yahoo and not Google.

The spiders used by search engines used to primarily look at 3 things:

1. The keywords in the metatags
2. The text in your page
3. The number of backlinks

We used many tricks to get into the top 10....

One was to have text and links in the same colour as that of the page. This kept the text hidden on the browser, but the spiders were fooled into thinking that the page had a lot of backlinks.

Second was to spam the meta tags with lots and lots of keywords, again for the spiders to take notice

I had paid Rs.3500/- to book the indiantreks domain, but as domains became cheaper, we used to book a lot of domains, make single page websites, each pointing to the target website, thus getting a lot of external backlinks.

All these methods were used by a lot of web masters and web designers. Today, it almost amounts to cheating. Google has seen to that.

Today, the key elements of an effective website

  • Appearance
  • Content
  • Functionality
  • Website Usability (including the website being VERY mobile friendly)
  • Search Engine Optimization

The most effective website will reflect best practices across all of these elements.

Please remember, Google's Penguin and Panda updates of their algorithms are now dynamic in nature, and the algorithms are constantly updated. The key to get a better ranking is NOT to use the tricks I have mentioned before, That will actually BLACKLIST your websites. There is NO magic button, no trick that Google doesn't know.

The only mantra that I can give is CONTENT, GOOD CONTENT and USEFUL, RELEVANT CONTENT. Ask yourself, is this what a visitor is looking for? If you by luck or by hard work do come into the first 10, but fail to keep updating your content, Google will automatically push you down in the ranks. And remember, it is an algorithm working. No one is personally responsible, except you, of course.

Google Baba Ki Jay!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Google Baba Ki Jay - Part 2

Big Brother Google is Watching You! All the time. How do you think Google gives you fairly accurate traffic information on Google Maps? Initially, Google Maps was used as just that - like a map. To find your way in an unknown place, or to know the distance between two places.

But some time in March 2012, Google developed an algorithm that measured the density of devices logged in to Google along with tracking the location based on GPS. So if you are logged in to Google on your mobile phone, tablet, or your computer or laptop, Google knows exactly where you are located.

Look at the picture below. Google has tracked where I am writing this post on my laptop (in Deviprasad Goenka Management College of Media Studies), and NOT my mobile phone.

This does raises privacy issues. What if you do not want to be tracked by Google? What if you don't want Google to know your location? Well, Google lets you opt out. Here's a link to know how to do just that:

Very recently, Google Maps has introduced a feature to actually let your contacts track your location. You can share your location with friends and family. All you have to do is keep the 'Location' or your GPS on, and click on the blue dot that shows your location on Google Map. You will see the menu from which you can share your location with the people you select.

Here are the screenshots:

I have just used the feature, so for the next one hour, my wife knows exactly where I am. If you are faking too much traffic because of which you are late for a meeting, be careful. People may just ask you to share your location. 

And spouses, sons, daughters, girlfriends and boyfriends, BEWARE :) !!!! Isn't this rather interesting? Readers, what do you think? Would love to know. Please do comment.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Google Baba Ki Jay - Part 1

Let me tell you a story I read when I was in the 3rd or 4th standard, probably in Chandamama the children's monthly.

A greedy man prays, does tapascharya, and pleases God. God appears before the man and asks him his wish.

"Var maango, vatsa", God says.

The man says, "I want to ask you a few questions before I wish for anything".

"Go ahead", God says.

"We are so small, so all that is in heaven must be bigger than here on earth?" God replies in affirmative.
So the man asks, "How much is your 1 kilo?"
"It is like million tons."
"And one acre?"
"Like a continent"
"And 1 litre"?
"Like one of your oceans."

Pleased, the man thinks for a while and says, "God, I am not greedy. I wish for just one acre of land, and only 100 rupees. Please grant me my wish."

God says, "Sure Vatsa, I will certainly grant you your wish. I will make the arrangements, and will be back in a minute." And he disappears!

Today, Google is like God. Omnipresent, watching you all the time, and with an answer to all your questions. Only one thing.....

Be careful what you ask for. Google will answer your questions, but it does not guess what is in your mind. The trick is in designing your query, trying out different keywords.

And for web designers and SEO professionals, it is designing their keywords and content that could match the query of the person searching the Internet. The real skill is in getting into the top 10 ranking on the first page that Google shows. For that you really have to work hard, and more importantly, get trained in Digital Marketing. At DGMC, we have a PG Diploma in Digital Marketing, a University of Mumbai course that trains you to be a professional Digital Marketeer. With practical sessions as well as theory and industry internship, this course will make you a complete Digital Marketing professional. Click here to know more about the course.

Till then, "Google Baba Ki Jay!!!"

(This series of posts will explore Digital Media, SEO, Social Media, and evolution of Internet and Internet based technologies)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I give you what you want!

I give you what you want, and I don't have the time, nor the inclination (pun intended) to think about what you, the society needs.

Like, I think you should also start thinking, instead of blaming me, the media, for all the unhappy, sad, evil, and all the wrongdoings in the society. Instead of brainlessly switching on channels and watching programs which insult, degrade, make fun of other people, and supposedly encourage superstition, maybe you should just go out, take a walk (pun intended again).

You think I should have some social responsibility, which I do agree. And I do give you programs that are beneficial to the society. But I have so many people working with me. You think all people who work for me should go hungry to bed? They don't deserve increments? They don't have family responsibilities and ambitions? Well, you are wrong. Being socially responsible cannot come at a cost of my family and my ambitions.

Like, I am the media. I am a business. I am here to make money, whether you like it or not. So I give you what you want. If you give me more TRP on TV Serials like Nagin, which you think is superstitious, despite the clear disclaimer, I am going to make more Nagins.

(Picture courtesy:

Like if you don't like it, please switch to some other programme or a channel, because I don't care about you as an individual. There are millions others who I have to worry about, who simply love to watch whatever I show. And they earn me the revenues.

Like, this is called the Uses and Gratifications Theory. Go ahead, read it online. Here's the link:

Monday, December 19, 2016

An Ear to the Ground

The Media and Communication sector, essentially has only one product - content. Content that touches the lives of people, affects the senses, invades privacy, content that becomes a part of our daily lives. Media products do not distinguish between, religion, caste, creed, status, or your geography or region. What we see on television is what the world sees. What we aspire for is what the world aspires for. And the products that we produce are for everyone's consumption. There are no geographical boundaries anymore.

I visited some remote villages in Maharashtra with my PGDM Media and Communication students for their Rural Immersion Program. The villages of Waghawale, Morni, Arav, Valvan and Chakdev are largely cut off from the rest of the world, especially in terms of transportation and mobile connectivity. There is just one bus that arrives in the evening and leaves in the morning. We found mobile connectivity in just 2 places, and that too with a poor signal. No newspapers are delivered to this entire area. The only relief is television, but the subscription to the services are not renewed regularly, because of lack of income.

This is where our future managers should look at. The rural India, which is getting rapidly urbanised is like a dormant volcano, waiting to erupt. The rumbling and tremors have started, and tomorrow's managers should have their ear to the ground to sense and detect them, to be able to deal with the massive demand for media products that is bound to flood the Indian media markets. 

The social, political and economic impact that this will cause will be highly disruptive in nature, and we simply must be ready to tackle it. Remember, media messages and content are polysemic in nature; even though they are same, their connotations are different.

 The visit was an eye-opener for our future managers. We are now formulating a strategy to help the people in this area create their own media, which will help them give a voice to their concern and aspirations. Our media management project will be a long term goal, cutting across multiple PGDM batches. It is exciting, because in most villages, we will have to start from scratch. The youth in the region have already flown the coop. We will be training school children, who, despite born in this digital era are not digital natives. But more of that in my next post.

Meanwhile, my students Media and Communication have their ears firmly on the ground.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Do Read: A Pilot Study on Digital Transition in Newspapers in India

The profound changes that the media and communication sector has experienced are because of 2 factors: Digitization and Convergence. The newspaper industry has experienced major upheavals by the disruptive digital technologies. Here is an interesting study being conducted:

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Just an MBA does not make a manager in Media and Communication sector

We say this again. To be successful in manager in the media and communication sector, a management training program should also have creative courses in the curriculum. Citing from the article below, Excel Sheets don't make successful media products, at the same time, artistic brooding also doesn't. There has to be a balance of both to make a successful film.

"Industry insiders, admittedly those on the creative side, say the MBAs running studios do not understand story, script, or screenplay. So they play safe by signing on the biggest star they can. That done, they get the director the star wants. And then they look around for a script. If the movie fails, they can always say it is not their fault, after all, they did get the most saleable star."

Do read up folks, you will understand why our PGDM Media and Communication is the best program you can join for a managerial position in the Media and Communication sector….

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The jio Bomb

The Reliance's jio Bomb has burst. In the aftermath, it will be interesting the watch the game being played out by the mobile companies in the market, and in the quality of their services. Reliance's disruptive strategies are certainly not new. It has been a game changer in the past too. My earlier post Karlo Duniya Mitthi Mein -Part 3 gives the basics of Reliance's predatory pricing method to cause disruption.

There will no doubt, be an initial orgy of downloads using the free 4G services. But when the dust settles down after the free internet offer, the realities will take over. This launch could erupt into a price war, but what will be really interesting to watch is the effect it will have on the delivery and consumption of media content. The communication culture in India has been in a constant mode of adapting to newer technologies, with the cell phone winning hands down across the country. Today, the maximum growth in the media sector is in the mobile content segment - in terms of revenue and also content delivery. More and more content is delivered and consumed on mobile phones.

The 3G services in the country could never get over their teething problems, but with this 4G war being played out, let's hope that we get the speeds and bandwidth that have been promised by the operators. Media students and professionals, from the fields of journalism, entertainment, as well as media management will have to be alert and watch the story as it unfolds in the next few months.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Communication Design - 1

Why is designing our communication so important? Let me give you some examples...

Last week, I got an SMS saying that some money had been credited to my account. Well, if someone is kind enough to give me money without asking me, they are welcome. But I was curious to know who this kind soul was. So I called up customer care, input the data for the IVR menu and ultimately reached an executive. In a rasping voice he asked in Hindi, "Namaskar, mai xxx, aapki kya sahayata kar sakta hoon"? This, despite having requested for English as the language of choice. When I decided to speak in English, I was replied again in Hindi. When I persisted by asking my next  question in English, I got replies in broken not so fluent English. 

I then started speaking in Hindi and my queries got solved within no time. The point is, I had to design my communication to suit the situation. Had I persisted to speak in English, it would have taken probably twice the time I had to spend. I have nothing against Hindi at all and can speak very fluent Hindi. But wouldn't it have been appropriate for the service executive to have redesigned his communication?

I have this problem with several tele-marketing people too. I actually am polite to all the telemarketing people who modulate their voice appropriately, and have a smile in their voice. And I am very rude to those who call in a rasping or a nasal voice, who have no inclination to really communicate. I suppose they have a quota of calls to complete.

Just the way we make an impression about a person at first glance, we tend to make our first impression of people on hearing their voice for the first time, especially when we don't see them. So it is important to design our communication when we speak to a person on phone for the first time. Our mood, state of mind, attitude, everything reflects in our voice. We have to train ourself to reflect a smile in the voice when we reply answer the phone even if in the midst of a heated debate with someone. Or simply don't answer it!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Management Careers in Media - Caught in Transmedial Crossfire

While discussing possible collaboration and association with representatives from a University from UK today, I was speaking on the peculiarity of the media universe in India. This was also a subject for which I was invited to speak on in a conference in Sweden. A majority of the Indian population has very quickly adopted the transmedial nature of content creation and distribution. We are reorienting ourselves to an environment of transmedial communication, which is redefining our cultural contexts to an extent that we are reinventing the way we communicate with each other. 

I can cite a latest example - my driver.  To avoid reaching a meeting or a conference stressed out by driving in heavy Mumbai traffic, I decided to employ a driver. At 30 years of age, he is a representative of India's majority population. This month he purchased a 7 inch mobile phone and showing it off to me, he remarked, "Now I too can make and send video messages." Within days, he has mastered the phone, and now he prefers to send me a message on WhatsApp rather than call me. He uses smileys, pictures, forwards videos and images, he also sent me photographs of a minor accident he witnessed, and told me how he saved my car from damage. Now he has asked me to include him as his Facebook friend. I said he would have to add me which I am sure he will. 

 Management Courses in Media
(Image source:

The point is, he prefers to communicate more by pictures, graphs and videos, rather than typing messages, which he hates. In India, we have evolved our communication from oral - aural to written and printed, and back to oral - aural. This has caused disruption in our media universe, not just because of the evolution, but because suddenly, there are so many producers of content rather than consumers.

The effects of this evolution are terrifying and fascinating at the same time. I have written before too, but humans have not yet begun to understand media, and we are already faced with two of its very disruptive forms - the Internet and the mobile phones.  

Creators of content, as well as managers in media, will have to deal with this phenomenon. They have to remember that 'the public' is no more consisting of passive users, but that of active producers of media. They understand the medium, and also know how to create content. Taking the audiences for granted will be self defeating and probably suicidal. 

We need to look at all careers in media in this context. We also need to look at management education in media in this context.

I had explored this subject in a talk I gave in a recently concluded conference organized by the Bombay Psychological Association. But more about that in another post.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Management Careers in Media - Mobile Marketing

There are several management jobs in media. With so many technological advances, we have shaped our media, and now, in turn, the media is shaping our lives, the way we function. A media management career today does not necessarily mean a career in the traditional mass media, but also in the world of social media and the mobile media.

Let us look at an interesting career in media - Mobile Marketing Manager.

A mobile marketing manager has to be a multi-tasking individual, being able to create, design, as well as execute mobile marketing campaigns. This management career involves devising mobile marketing strategies, analysis of the implemented strategy and most importantly, it requires a person who understands the latest 'trends' in the mobile world.

A management career in mobile world also involves market analysis and ability to target key customers and trends. The mobile marketing manager should be able to conduct market research and identify new marketing opportunities. The responsibility also involves ability to monitor, manage and improve the company's image and the product's image. 

The career is exciting, fascinating, and at the same time, exhausting. It is deadline dependent and requires long hours on the computer. As a manager in mobile marketing field, you can forget any social life except on social media, at least in the beginning of your career. However, the job of a media manager in mobile media is result oriented, so it can also become a very high paying job.

Just be good in analytics and have good creative skills, apart of course from management skills, be totally dedicated, and you will be there in a couple of years. 

(Image source:

A career in mobile marketing requires people with multiple skills. They should be able to not just devise marketing strategy, but also be able to give creative inputs, and sometimes, be able to use their graphic designing skills to make the promotion material. It requires skills in graphic designing, at least some knowledge in 2D and 3D animation, good communication skills, good writing skills, and intensive management training. 

The number of management jobs in media are increasing, with specialists required not just by media organizations, but also other corporate organizations who now have realized the potential of mobile media and the social media. One of the best media schools in India, DGMC or Deviprasad Goenka Management College of Media studies offers a 2 year, full time, AICTE approved PGDM in Media, with specialization in Media and Entertainment and Advertising and Communication. This premier media school offers intensive creative training as well as management training focused on the Media and Communication Industry.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Management Careers in Media - Content Syndication

The Media and Communication industry has so many facets that it becomes difficult to keep a track of how many careers are available. The media has become all-pervasive especially after the the Internet got hitched up with mobile phones. The disruption these two technologies have caused is phenomenal, but they have also created several opportunities for those who wish to make a career in management in media, entertainment, and communication industry. I wrote about Media Planning and Buying as a management career. You need to understand media thoroughly to be a media planner. A regular MBA in Marketing or Finance will probably not be able to teach you this. But a media-specific curriculum will.

Let's look at another interesting career path. Very interesting because it is something that business schools do not usually teach as part of their curriculum, but has become an important managerial function nonetheless.

When your client creates content, be it a blog, a write-up, a film, a documentary… any content in any form, you need to be able to show it to the world. One way is paying huge amounts of money to the several modes of distribution, the other is devise methods by which the content gets generic popularity. Both methods are employed in the industry. 

Content Syndication is a process of of making your content available on multiple content delivery platforms, more specifically in today's context, online platforms. A Content Syndication Manager pushes the content - a website, a blog, a video, etc. to other websites or online media. This could be in form of full articles, or a link, or even a thumbnail.  The first step to content syndication is deciding on the goals for your business. Are you trying to drive traffic to your blog, giving product information, or to your website? Do you really want to syndicate a full article or maybe just an image, a headline, or a paragraph? You might want to look up RSS feeds. thumbnails, titles, or excerpts of a write-up. You need to think of ways to auto-generate leads rather then manually feeding several apps or sites.Content syndication is all about automated distribution of digital content, lead generation, co-branding, partnering with other sites. This is an exciting career, gaining a lot of importance every year. 

Qualifications: A management certification in media, with specific knowledge and experience in content planning, organization, and distribution on social media. You should be good at Social media analytics, and should be able to advise your client on which platform to host content for maximum impact. If you are doing your BMM, or your BMS, or even those in their third year of B.Com and B.Sc., you should look at this career seriously. It is not just about number crunching, but also creating content…. and media is not just entertainment.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Management Careers in Media - Media Planning and Buying

Media planning and buying is the function of procurement of media real estate at an optimal placement and price. Media buyers have to conduct market research to find the likely places where their client's customers and consumers tend to use media. Based on this research, they find the best advertising rates, and the best media to place the advertisements of their clients. In short, they 'buy' the media, or the advertising space/time for their clients.

Media planners have to be in touch with the media houses, their marketing executives and should be able to negotiate better rates for their clients. A good media buyer takes decisions on which media to buy and it requires both creative and business-driven decisions. Media Planners should be able to pick and choose an appropriate combination of media to help their clients reach their target audiences. The job can be pretty high profile as they with high level clients and top executives of organisations. The job is result oriented and also a high-pressure, deadline dependent job.

It requires excellent communication skills, and that too in multiple languages in India. You have to have very good persuasion  and negotiation skills; should have a very wide network of friends in the media. You need to be good at audience analysis, content analysis of all media including newspapers, television, radio and the Internet and social media. A media buyer should be adept at Google analytics, and social media analysis. A good media planner has to be fast on the feet, ready to quickly gauge the pulse of the audience and the trend in media - both in the traditional as well as online. You will have to advise your clients about the media to buy, strategize and sometimes, re-plan your strategy based on the latest trends and research results.

Qualifications: Employers prefer trained individuals over newbies, mainly because there is no scope in making mistakes, as media buying involves high amount of spends. Agencies, as well as organisations prefer candidates with a formal certification, with an internship during their course. You could check out such a management course here: The Best Management Program in Media and Communication

Following are some well known organizations for Media Planning and buying :

Group M, Strategem Media Pvt. Ltd., Havas Worldwide, Dentsu India, Lodestar, Lintas, Madison, Omnicom Media Group

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Rickshaws and Management

Last week, I was returning from Vile Parle from a meeting by a rickshaw. To avoid driving in the office rush, I kept my car parked near the office in Malad. Somewhere between Jogeshwari and Goregaon, the driver swerved to overtake a tempo, and the rear wheel went over an elevated drainage cover. 

I could feel the rickshaw tilting to the left. I threw my weight on the right and luckily, we stayed upright. It all happened very fast, and if I had not been alert, the rickshaw would have overturned. Needless to say, that got me thinking….

After 6 months at the helm of affairs as Director @Deviprasad Goenka Management College of Media Studies, I think it is like driving a rickshaw. Just listing a few management lessons I have learnt …

The wheels are my team mates, my colleagues with authority (learnt that today!) with whom I navigate the academic path. When they know the road better than me, I listen to them. I need to see that they have enough air, and deflate ones with too much of it! Sometimes, though, I have to replace the one's that do not function, or go out of shape. Better not to take the risk of toppling the rickshaw.

And while doing all this, I function as the fourth wheel, maintaining the critical balance.

Students are my passengers, they come and go, but I function solely for them. Without them I have nothing to do. If they say I am good, I get more passengers, and my institute grows. I need to care for them, play some music, keep the atmosphere lively, at the same time, see that they reach their destination, get to the right jobs. I have to make their journey comfortable, give them the best I can from my limited resources. I have to also ensure that each one has a pleasant journey, and occasionally offload an unruly passenger.

I may be driving a rickshaw, but I have to flaunt it like I am driving a Mercedes, and aspire to make it onto one. Its not about what I have, but how I show it. One of the most important lessons that I have learnt in the last 6 months is that I need to STOP thinking like a rickshaw walla and think like the owner a Mercedes. 

You know why? 

A rickshaw walla DREAMS of buying more rickshaws; a Mercedes owner PLANS to buy more Mercedes.

All comments, more insights welcome.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The high's and low's of videos

Everyone knows that a compressed image pixellates when enlarged, and that a compressed video doesn't look that good when seen on a larger screen. There is actually a very simple logic at play here. The reason is actually very simple...

(Image source:

When we shoot one hour of full HD video, the frame size is 1920 X 1080 pixels, and the space occupied on the hard disk after it is transferred is about 50 GB. With SD footage the frame size is 720 X 576 pixels for PAl video (Standard Definition - fast becoming outdated) the captured video on the hard disk is about 12 GB. Of course it all depends on the codec you use for capturing the video.

The HD video is vibrant, crisp, and beautiful looking on your editing screen. If we make a blu-ray disk after the edit, it is almost as good as the original raw format because you can tranfer the edited video almost in its original format. The capacity of the double layer blu-ray disk is about 50 GB. So you can have a 2 hour movie in high resolution, maintaining most of its original richness.

So what happens in other formats?

The capacity of a VCD is 700 MB. Imagine what must be happening to the HD data and hence, its quality when you compress 25 GB to 700 MB! You have reduced the data to less than 3% of the original! Its like eating a sweet with very very less sugar. Besides, the frame size of a VCD video is 352 X 288 which is again less than 1/4th of the original 1920 X 1080. A DVD has a capacity of 4.7 can fit in a 2 hour PAL format movie with the frame size of 720 X 576 pixels. Though the picture quality if a DVD is much better thatn that of a VCD, you are still getting only 1/10th of the data. A little more sugar than the VCD sweet, but still, not the full dose.

What about online videos? Well, with the technology advances, we can view very good quality videos online, but they are still compressed enough to allow for streaming on the Internet. For a mobile phone, they are still compressed and a 3GP format will look horrible if blown up on a larger screen.

It's simple then, isnt it? More compression - less data - smaller file size, and bad picture quality. Do watch out for my upcoming video on resolution.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sherlock Holmes - The Master

We see things, but can we listen to what they say? Can we read what they 'write'? I have copied a rather large text from a Sherlock Holmes' Story - The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan (I mean the books by Arthur Conan Doyle), you have possibly read this before... As always, I am amazed by his powers of deduction and visual analysis..... 

I took the tattered object in my hands and turned it over rather ruefully. It was a very ordinary black hat of the usual round shape, hard and much the worse for wear. The lining had been of red silk, but was a good deal discoloured. There was no maker’s name; but, as Holmes had remarked, the initials “H. B.” were scrawled upon one side. It was pierced in the brim for a hat-securer, but the elastic was missing. For the rest, it was cracked, exceedingly dusty, and spotted in several places, although there seemed to have been some attempt to hide the discoloured patches by smearing them with ink.
“I can see nothing,” said I, handing it back to my friend.

Watson sees nothing. Now see what Sherlock sees and deduces from it.....

“On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail, however, to reason from what you see. You are too timid in drawing your inferences.”
“Then, pray tell me what it is that you can infer from this hat?”
He picked it up and gazed at it in the peculiar introspective fashion which was characteristic of him. “It is perhaps less suggestive than it might have been,” he remarked, “and yet there are a few inferences which are very distinct, and a few others which represent at least a strong balance of probability. That the man was highly intellectual is of course obvious upon the face of it, and also that he was fairly well-to-do within the last three years, although he has now fallen upon evil days. He had foresight, but has less now than formerly, pointing to a moral retrogression, which, when taken with the decline of his fortunes, seems to indicate some evil influence, probably drink, at work upon him. This may account also for the obvious fact that his wife has ceased to love him. He has, however, retained some degree of self-respect,” he continued, disregarding my remonstrance. “He is a man who leads a sedentary life, goes out little, is out of training entirely, is middle-aged, has grizzled hair which he has had cut within the last few days, and which he anoints with lime-cream. These are the more patent facts which are to be deduced from his hat.”

This is how he deduces it all...

For answer Holmes clapped the hat upon his head. It came right over the forehead and settled upon the bridge of his nose. “It is a question of cubic capacity,” said he; “a man with so large a brain must have something in it.”
“The decline of his fortunes, then?”
“This hat is three years old. These flat brims curled at the edge came in then. It is a hat of the very best quality. Look at the band of ribbed silk and the excellent lining. If this man could afford to buy so expensive a hat three years ago, and has had no hat since, then he has assuredly gone down in the world.”
“Well, that is clear enough, certainly. But how about the foresight and the moral retrogression?”
Sherlock Holmes laughed. “Here is the foresight,” said he putting his finger upon the little disc and loop of the hat-securer. “They are never sold upon hats. If this man ordered one, it is a sign of a certain amount of foresight, since he went out of his way to take this precaution against the wind. But since we see that he has broken the elastic and has not troubled to replace it, it is obvious that he has less foresight now than formerly, which is a distinct proof of a weakening nature. On the other hand, he has endeavoured to conceal some of these stains upon the felt by daubing them with ink, which is a sign that he has not entirely lost his self-respect.”
“Your reasoning is certainly plausible.”
“The further points, that he is middle-aged, that his hair is grizzled, that it has been recently cut, and that he uses lime-cream, are all to be gathered from a close examination of the lower part of the lining. The lens discloses a large number of hair-ends, clean cut by the scissors of the barber. They all appear to be adhesive, and there is a distinct odour of lime-cream. This dust, you will observe, is not the gritty, grey dust of the street but the fluffy brown dust of the house, showing that it has been hung up indoors most of the time, while the marks of moisture upon the inside are proof positive that the wearer perspired very freely, and could therefore, hardly be in the best of training.”
“But his wife—you said that she had ceased to love him.”
“This hat has not been brushed for weeks. When I see you, my dear Watson, with a week’s accumulation of dust upon your hat, and when your wife allows you to go out in such a state, I shall fear that you also have been unfortunate enough to lose your wife’s affection.”
“You have an answer to everything. But how on earth do you deduce that the gas is not laid on in his house?”
“One tallow stain, or even two, might come by chance; but when I see no less than five, I think that there can be little doubt that the individual must be brought into frequent contact with burning tallow—walks upstairs at night probably with his hat in one hand and a guttering candle in the other. Anyhow, he never got tallow-stains from a gas-jet. Are you satisfied?”
“Well, it is very ingenious,” said I, laughing; “but since, as you said just now, there has been no crime committed, and no harm done save the loss of a goose, all this seems to be rather a waste of energy.”

Needless to say, when the owner of the hat arrives, everything Sherlock deduces is true. Visual Analysis at its best. It is better that I don't say anything more... the Master has spoken.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Speaking Visuals

All visuals have a message. Some are created by us, some, by nature. The beholder/receiver of the message analyses the message, makes meaning out of it; the visual generates responses at several levels. There are several factors that have an effect on our perception of a visual.

According to Norman, there are three levels of design: visceral, behavior, and reflective.
  • At the visceral level, which is based on instinct, physical features like look, feel, and sound dominate. When we perceive something as “pretty”, that judgment comes directly from the visceral level. 
  • Behavior design concerns the use, or ease of use where appearance may not be significant. In most behavior design functionality gets the top priority. 
  • In a reflective design message, culture and the meaning of a product gets priority. 
However, today, consumers are more critical, prone to analyse a visual at the visceral and behavior level, so the designing is done to evoke emotion, arouse past experiences, create a great user experience to enable future recall of that design. An ideal design would first stimulate a consumer at the visceral level and later, at the reflective level. This means the design should not simply evoke emotions based on appearances alone, but give personal satisfaction, evoke memories that may arouse their emotions.

That is why, so much importance is given to presentation today, rather than the content. If the presentation is good, you have won half the battle. Just look at the book covers today. Many people pick up a book because the cover is well designed. Why just books, many go and watch a movie because the promo they watch on the TV or on YouTube promises a fantastic movie. I have fallen prey to this too.

What is the role of  the eye in all this? Actually, apart from receiving the light, almost nothing. But more of that in the next post.  Meanwhile, enjoy these pics. I am sure you must have seen many such paintings online. One last question... how many remember the Hastinapur story from Mahabharat?





Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Visuals speak. A thousand words, or even more.

Visuals speak. A thousand words, or even more.

But are we able to hear what they say? And do we really understand what they say? Rhetoric is the art of persuading the audience, with written or verbal arguments, or using any other means of communication. These other means of communication are non-verbal - using expressions, gestures, mannerisms, and images or visuals, and are sometimes more effective than verbal, textual, written communication. A gesture, a raised eyebrow, a wink, or a closed fist could be more effective than a lot of words.

In a previous post in this blog, I have written about how we form an opinion about an object or a person in a single glance. In that single glance, we perceive, recognize and also form an opinion. How fast is this process? Experiments have proven that it could be as fast as a fraction of a second. But otherwise, there is also a longer process, that of the cortical pathway in the brain, which recalls and matches images, and the meanings they convey from resident memory in the cortex. Though not directly related, it could be the sleeper effect that affects the way we treat the visual, and behave accordingly. The sleeper effect postulates that when exposed to a persuasive message, over time, we tend to forget the source, but start believing that the message was true.

The brain stores the visual which is seen just for a fraction of a second, and is recalled subconsciously. Advertisers have been using this technique to persuade us to buy a product, sometimes even when we don't need to. This is done by using subliminal advertising, sometimes subtle, and sometimes blatantly in-the-face. This technique was first described in 1957, and though it turned out to be a hoax at that time, it is in use very regularly in advertising.

I was channel surfing in the evening, and came across an Akshay Kumar film - Holiday - a soldier is never off duty. While trying to decipher a coded message from a paper he finds on a terrorist, he first uses an Apple Macbook Pro laptop - the Apple logo is shown clearly, and then uses Google Maps for Mobile (on his Mac Pro - not on his mobile!) to identify the locations on the map of Mumbai. Even AajTak and Times now is shown clearly. Ok, you could say that it is coincidental, that he does uses all this. But remember, when you spend crores when making a movie, every shot is PLANNED. Let's discuss this phenomenon in the next update.

I am sure you must have noticed such advertising several times in Hindi movies. Can you name a few?

Check out :

40.23 mins Apple and Google
1.05.52 AaajTak
1.07 Times Now

Friday, July 10, 2015

Radio - The Coolest One!

Radio - The Coolest One!

I am one of those people, who have actually seen a television set coming into their homes for the first time, a digital immigrant. I remember how excited we were when it was delivered. A black-and-white television, which we immediately fell in love with. But we did not have programmes for 24 hours; instead, we just had a few hours of TV in the beginning.

I remember, the time when we used to see a cricket match on TV. The cameramen were so untrained, that if a batsman hit a sixer, by the time the camera located the ball, it would be already in the crowd. We used to feel extremely bored by the commentary. We were used to a fast paced radio commentary, which gave continuous description of whatever went on on the field. It was full of so many words. On the other hand, on the TV, the commentator would just say, "Oh! What a shot!" and shut up, leaving the viewer to see the rest for themselves. We used to find that extremely boring! So we used to turn the TV volume down, place our beloved transistor on top the the TV, and watch the match with the commentary from the radio.

When we speak, many times, it is not our words that communicate, but the tone of our voice, the inflection in it, the volume, and the overall expression in the voice are more important. That is why, radio is an effective medium, because it helps us conjure images in our mind. I remember, we used to get a kit with Rasna (an instant fruit drink powder). The kit consisted of a cardboard depicting the cricket ground, and small card figurines of every player in both the teams. The commentary used to describe the placement of the fielders in detail, and we used to arrange the players' figurines accordingly. It was fun to watch the cricket match listening to the commentary that way. The radio commentary used to be thrilling, and I can vouch for anyone my age, that we used to live the excitement of the cricket match, with the radio in full volume, the sound of the crowd, and the commentators yelling over the noise!

Before the television came into our lives, our electronic media comprised of the radio, and at the most, a calculator, or the prized electronic watch. Despite the radio losing a little bit of its sheen now, it is still an important, and a powerful medium. It is powerful because it has a very wide reach, but it is also powerful because it helps in visual communication. Not that's a little far fetched, isn't it? Well, not really. When we listen to the radio, because we do not have the privilege of ay images, we conjure them from our memory. So when we listen to a moving song, a dialogue, a speech, or a narration, while we listen to it, our mind keeps searching for the relevant images. Radio involves us more than the television, because it forces us to think and fill the gaps created by the absence of images. That is why, Marshall McLuhan called the radio a 'cooler' medium over television, because it is much more engaging.

(Image source:

So don't write off radio just yet! You don't have to hold a radio in your hand to listen to it. You don't have to leave your chores for it. You don't even have to look at it. And yet, it keeps you engaged with itself. No wonder, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has turned to radio for his Mann Ki Baat!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Beautiful and Ugly - A Matter of Perception?

How does the mind receive and analyse information from a visual? It is a complex process involving the left and right hemispheres of the brain, together synchronising the logical and emotional intelligence, at the same time, involving learning through genetic evolution, and adding to it experiential learning.

I came across a Facebook update which described how some primary school textbooks, the meaning of beautiful and ugly were represented. Check the picture.... (Source: Unknown)

How many readers agree to this? No, don't give me an intelligent, sociologically relevant, politically correct answer. Truth is, we have all learnt the meaning of beautiful and ugly from this, or some other picture, or have been pointed out a beautiful woman and an ugly one during our childhood and in our college days. In the early stages of childhood, from birth to 3 years, the human brain is extremely vulnerable to external influences. A violent childhood, a traumatic experience, or visuals such as these can have profound effect on the way the left and the right hemispheres are wired, and decide how the brain will react to certain circumstances in the future.

So a visual itself communicates something to you, first from its evident characteristics. Add to it your personal influences. To complicate the matter further, you also have to consider your sense of smell and taste, which further influence how you analyse a visual. Rather complicated, isn't it?

Well, it is a matter of perception, cognition, resemblances, recognition and representation. There is also the concept of visual rhetoric, semiotics, and finally, aesthetics. Add to it your cultural influences, and you have utter chaos. But the mind works through all this, finds a way out of cognitive dissonances, and gives you an answer, whatever it might be.

We will keep exploring visual communication in future posts. Till then, here's food for thought... imagine an beautiful flower, which gives out a nasty smell, or cow dung on the road smelling like the best dish you have ever tasted!

Beautiful frog in the picture, isn't it? This is a poison dart frog. Meet the most poisonous frog in the world! One drop of toxin from a poison dart frog will kill you within 3 minutes. Unfortunately, there is no cure. Still find it beautiful? Right?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

An article by Sam Pitroda

I had written about Digital India and also about Sam Pitroda.  Here's an article from Sam Pitroda himself. 

Four critical things that make a Digital India possible today and challenges ahead 
By Sam Pitroda

This government's Digital India campaign is a welcome step in creating an India of the 21st century powered by connectivity, technology and the opportunity that such connectivity offers in terms of access, services and platforms for unleashing India's creative talent. 

However, it is imperative to understand what it means to create a 'Digital India'. Such an effort requires an entire ecosystem of support and an apparatus for implementation that has to be developed and matured over a period of time.

While the face of Digital India may be a website providing e-governance or connectivity between the citizen and the government, the thinking, vision and systems that produce this end product are implemented over several years. 

And the seeds of India's Digital vision were first laid by Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s when his government took the pioneering steps for creating the National Informatics Centre (NIC), the digital arm of the then very much 'manually operated' government. NIC laid the groundwork for computerising government systems by building a national network with data centres in Delhi. In essence, this was the first piece of the vision of a digital India — connectivity.

I would like to outline below the four critical pieces that make a Digital India possible today and which have been implemented over the last several years:

The first part is connectivity. The connectivity provided by NIC was the beginning of an effort to computerise government and digitise India for the 21st century. In the last 25 years, NIC has done a remarkable job of building human capacity, institutional frameworks and programmes for egovernance functionalities. 

Read more at:

Deadlines are deadlines, even if you are Dead!

Working in the media is certainly not for the faint hearted. There are deadlines. If you are dying, your boss would probably tell you to file the report and then die! The deadline remains.

I have been speaking about this in my class, and have been trying to live by it for so many years now. You cannot keep your client waiting, and neither your audiences. My students had painted this line on the door of the classroom, and some students still call it the 'Deadline Room'.

The news starts exactly at the time it is supposed to, a TV serial also starts when it is supposed to. No TV channel can show a screen asking the viewers to wait while a reporter is busy filing a report. A TV serial cannot wait till an edit is done. Its all done in clockwork precision. If you miss a deadline, you can be sure that you have lost your job.

There are several things tied to this. When there is news at nine, millions of viewers and listeners are glued to the television set, or their radio for the news. For a popular serial, people manage their daily chores to sit in front of the television. Considering how fickle the audiences are, a channel simply cannot take the risk of starting their programme late, because within seconds, they could lose their viewers to the remote control and to other channels.

The second important thing is the other audience, the advertisers. Revenue generation in media depends heavily on advertisements. Every second lost showing a blank screen, means the loss of a lot of revenue. That is why, every second on the television screen is planned. The only exception probably is Doordarshan and AIR, which actually show a screen saying 'The next programme in a short time' or there is simply nothing playing on the radio. Just in case you don't believe me, ask anyone in the media.

But you know, there is a certain thrill living by this philosophy. Just keeping it in mind helps you, and makes you more organised, makes you plan your assignments, your studies, preparing for  your examinations, and your work, so that you don't miss the deadline. It helps you develop a professional approach, and helps you also discipline your life generally. That does not mean you are not supposed to enjoy life. You can set a deadline for that too!

Conclusion? A deadline is a deadline, even if you are Dead.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Formula for a hit film?

It is naive to think that you can hit upon the perfect research topic at the first go. Research can be a piece of cake, and you can have it, but you may not really be able to eat it! That's exactly why, instead of starting to work on the concept of a formula for a hit film, I decided straightaway to search for research done on the subject. That's why we do literature review anyway. And look what I found....

Instead of paraphrasing any of the texts that I found, I am directly going to copy-paste the relevant sentences and give links at the end of this post - Wikipedia style...

Psychologist Professor James Cutting and his team from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, analyzed 150 high-grossing Hollywood  released from 1935 to 2005 and discovered the shot lengths in the more recent movies followed the same mathematical  that describes the human attention span. The pattern was derived by scientists at the University of Texas in Austin in the 1990s who studied the attention spans of subjects performing hundreds of trials. The team then converted the measurements of their attention spans into wave forms using a mathematical technique known as the Fourier transform. They found that the magnitude of the waves increased as their frequency decreased, a pattern known as pink noise, or 1/f fluctuation, which means that attention spans of the same lengths recurred at regular intervals. The same pattern has been found by Benoit Mandelbrot (the chaos theorist) in the annual flood levels of the Nile, and has been seen by others in air turbulence, and also in music.(1)
Forget zombies. The data crunchers are invading Hollywood. The same kind of numbers analysis that has reshaped areas like politics and online marketing is increasingly being used by the entertainment industry. Netflix tells customers what to rent based on algorithms that analyze previous selections, Pandora does the same with music, and studios have started using Facebook “likes” and online trailer views to mold advertising and even films.(2)
A group of researchers from Tottori University in Japan, have developed a math equation that can predict if a movie is going to be a success or a flop. The complicated formula takes into account various factors, including advertising, word-of-mouth, and social networks.(3)

Based on factors such as whether key stars are still on board, how long it has been since the last film and how that performed, the researchers say they can calculate what producers can expect to gross relative to a film in the same genre that is not a sequel. "It is the industry of dreams, an industry of illusions, and lots of people go bust. The idea here is to put some more analytical thinking into the process," says Professor Thorsten Hennig-Thurau, of Cass Business School in London.(4)
Common wisdom says that the box-office success of any particular movie is a crapshoot. Now NYU Stern Marketing Professor Sam K. Hui and colleagues have devised a formula to take some of the guesswork out of movie-making. In their paper, “Green-lighting Movie Scripts: Revenue Forecasting and Risk Management,” Hui and his co-authors studied 200 scripts over six years, examining features including genre, contents, semantics, and the use of specific words, then related their findings to box office revenues and production budgets.(5)
Google unveils formula to accurately predict box-office takings - a month before the film is released (6)
Scholars think they've found the key to predicting how much money a movie will make its opening weekend in North America, up to a month in advance of its release. And no, it's not social media buzz – those metrics are so five minutes ago. Rather, it's the activity surrounding the movie's Wikipedia entry.
Do my students spot a research topic here? Do enjoy reading these articles. You will find more on the Internet. Just Google it. 
More tomorrow .........

Monday, June 29, 2015

Radiance of flowers + liquor = Love?

शोखियों में घोला जाये फूलों का शबाब
उस में फिर मिलाई जाये थोड़ीसी शराब
होगा यूँ नशा जो तैय्यार वो प्यार है

Mix the radiance of flowers.
Then add a small measure of liquor.
The state of giddy stupor
That you get from all the above
Is what we call love.

For a full and a beautiful translation of the whole song, you must visit 
by Shivani Mohan. Amazing translations of all those beautiful songs we are fond of)

These are the lyrics of a song from the Hindi film, Prem Pujari. But then we know that love is not so simple as that, isn't it? But why am I talking about love? Well, if love could have a formula, why not films? Just suppose there was a formula like H2 + O = H2O everyone would make a hit film. No one would be worried about giving a flop and losing a lot of money. This is exactly what a guest, a complete system's man, said the other day in my office. He was completely convinced that if he would be able to develop a formula which would help the producers to make a successful film every time.

Would this really work? I mean why don't we really develop a formula which will help producers and directors, with a hit every time? I'm sure no producer or director in the right frame of mind suddenly wake up one fine morning and say, "Hey! Let's make a flop today." But then, why do some films go on to become box office hits, while some turn out to be duds?

One reason could be polysemy. A simple meaning to polysemy is 'many meanings'. The meaning I derive out of a media content could be different than the meaning derived by you. However, the content that you and me see is exactly different. So a heavy rainfall in a scene might gladden one person's heart, whereas for another it might bring out feelings of horror of a flood. Not only there are different meaning derived, but it also depends on the mood a person is in.

So if I get a lot of traffic while driving to work, the vehicle moving at a snail's pace, honking and shouting all around, I would prefer to watch a Nat Geo, or a Discovery channel with pleasant visuals than the cacophony of a slapstick comedy when I get home. But if I enjoy my drive home, I might burst out laughing at the silliest of jokes.

How then, could a movie be made to please everyone in the audience? Even with a formula, can one guarantee a box office hit? Because a formula may work for one type of audience, but not other, and it may work depending the overall mood of the public.

But still, that discussion made me curious. I decided to explore if any such formula does exist. The results of my search are interesting. More tomorrow....

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

From Consumers to Producers - The Indian Story - Part 7 - Blame it on Sam Pitroda

Blame it on Sam Pitroda

We have all become isolated, independent units, hiding behind the cool, smooth glass surface of our monitors and mobile phones. We are connected to the society only when these devices are connected to a network. Otherwise, we are alone, lost in our own world, concerned with only the self, becoming narcissists. We are prone to exposing our thoughts, feelings, life events, loves, hates, and joys online, on social media sites. We measure our quality of living on how many 'likes' our Facebook status acquires, or how many 'hits' our websites get.We are exposing ourselves to the extreme, to the point of obscenity. We find ecstasy in communication. This is what Jean Baudrillard and other philosophers say. Neil Postman also says that we have become 'technophiles' and overdependent on technology to point of thinking that our day cannot start without reading whats on WhatsApp or other social media. Robin Jefferey call us the 'mobile nation'. Technology has deprived us of any sort of semblance of social capital, so necessary for a successful society.

Personally, I think we need not be so pessimistic. Please read my earlier post. But then, who is responsible for all this, especially in India? Well, let's go back a little in history.

The McBride Report, generated from the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO), a study sponsored by UNESCO failed to change the way the world communicates. That was because the two biggest sponsoring nations, US and UK backed out citing commercial reasons. Around the same time (1980s), several changes took place in the political and economic scenario in India.

Immediately after the Emergency, imposed by the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi was lifted in 1997, the Janata Government came into power, but lasted only for two years. Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1979. During this period she invited Sam Pitroda to develop the communication network in India. He was also advisor to Rajiv Gandhi following the death of Indira Gandhi. During this period of political turmoil, the country was also going through an economic crisis. 

India’s Economic Policy and the Communication Revolution 

In 1991, a Balance of Payments crisis brought India to the brink of bankruptcy. For obtaining a bailout from the International Monetary Fund or the IMF, India was forced to introduce several economic reforms (Not to take away any credit from Dr. Manmohan Singh, the then Finance Minister). Controls were dismantled, duties, tariffs and taxes were lowered, monopolistic state organizations were dismantled and the economy was opened to trade and investment. The private sector was encouraged by these reforms. As the ‘license raj’ partly ended, there was a surge in the businesses and India quickly entered the globalised world. Two of the biggest beneficiaries of these reforms were the Telecommunications and the Information Technology sectors.

The telecommunications infrastructure, which was wholly owned by the government, was opened to the private sector producing exemplary results. The regulatory constraints were eased in 2004 and now India boasts of the third largest telecommunications network in the world (OECD, 2007).  This was because of the steps taken by Mr. Sam Pitroda, widely known as the architect of the modern, state-of the art, communication telecommunication network that India possesses. The yellow coloured PCO (Public Call Offices) dotting the country are a result of the vision of Sam Pitroda. The electronic, and then the digital telephone exchanges, are a result of Mr. Sam Pitroda's meticulous planning and vision. The mobiles that you use everyday, are also a result of that.

Today, in 2015, India has the second largest population of mobile phone users in the world and has over 100 million Internet users (India Internet Usage). There are several Internet and mobile service providers in the country and their intense competition has resulted in cheaper mobile phone and Internet services. Though there is a difference in the speed of Internet connectivity between India and the western world, it is still much better than it was a decade ago.

During the last decade, India has become a hub for the world for outsourcing software services. This has resulted in faster transfer of not only technology, but manpower, media, and finance, from the western world to the country, creating millions of jobs and earning the country precious foreign exchange and at the same time enabling the country to have communication technology at par with the developed world.

Youth, who form a major chunk of India's population, have embraced the new media and produce content using their computers, laptops or their mobile phones, uploading it on video sharing platforms, blogs and social media networks. They prefer to read content online rather than read a book or newspapers. They prefer to interact with the medium rather than be passive receivers of information. This is the generation of tomorrow's global citizens.

Of course there are problems, but is technology to blame? Marshall McLuhan said that we shaped technology, and now technology is shaping us. Is it wrong? I am sure, we will be able to harness this very technology for the betterment of mankind. But then who is to blame for the problems we are facing? Sam Pitroda?

A footnote: I wonder if Mr. Sam Pitroda will ever read this. If he does, I am sure he will take it in the right spirit. This post is dedicated to him. Thank you, Mr. Pitroda.

Note: This series of posts is by no means a definitive guide about how it all happened. And I have also not resorted to documentation, or references. This is the story from my own eyes, as a witness and a participant in the evolution of communication in India.