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Round Peg

Location: Muscat, Oman/ Bangalore, India

Round Peg....in a square hole. That describes me! All my life I have never quite fit in ... now I have just given up trying to live up to the expectations of the square hole or trying to find a round one!

Saturday, December 31, 2005

ET’s 15 questions

In the 28th December supplement of Brand Equity, Economic Times has asked 15 questions about things that interest and excite consumers. These questions are asked to a mix of marketing and advertising professionals. And I am shocked how clueless some of them are!

Last time ET ran a similar questionnaire, people did not fare much better either.

Most were unaware of new trends that almost border on mania (I-pod, podcasting, bey-blades), innovative and popular offers (McDonalds Happy Price Menu offer for just INR 20), or even knowing which management guru died recently (Peter Drucker).

If I were the head of marketing, this would worry me. For instance, Piyush Pandey, considered to be the finest creative brain in Indian advertising industry answered only 6 questions correctly. The questions he answered right were mostly about his industry (the new corporate colours of the telecom brand Hutch, recognizing a tagline…).

If advertising professionals do not have a feel for the pulse of the market how can they be relied upon to deliver advertising that works ? Or how can marketing professionals come up with strategies or new products that strikes a chord with the audience?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

From the maid circuit.

Ever since Mir handed in his notice and Devaki was killed, I have been talking to a lot of maids.

I am surprised at the number of maids from Andhra Pradesh (South India). When I did my first maid search two years ago, virtually all maid options were from Kerala with a sprinkling from Sri Lanka.

Another thing is that almost all the Andhra maids are Christians. On probing I found that a large number are recent converts.

Some said they were Christians but ‘only in Muscat’! Others did not call themselves Christians choosing instead to say they go to the church to pray. They reasoned there is just one God and it does not matter where or how you pray as long as you pray and are good human beings.

J said she was ‘accosted’ 3 times by women who shoved Christian literature, CDs and cassettes into her hands and promised OMR 300 if she converted. This, of all the places, in a mortuary!

The Pentecost Christians in Muscat appear to be well organized not to mention well heeled!

Almost all the maids attend church regularly, every Friday. The church also serves as a meeting place where the maids network.

Now I know how to dispose of all the old clothes I have – my maid says she will take it to Church and somebody is sure to have a use for it!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bengalooru? Big Deal

Once upon a time, long ago, circa 1300 AD, a hungry and tired prince knocked on the door of a humble hamlet in some god forsaken place. He asked for some food and the old lady gave him all she had – some boiled beans.

And then the prince went his way and in due course became king. But he always referred to the place where he had stopped for a meal as the town of the boiled beans – benda-kaalu-ooru. And so the name stuck.

In due course of time Benda-kaalu-ooru became Bengalooru. And with more passage of time and with foreigners coming into the land, Bengalooru became Bangalore.

This year, accepting the recommendation of purists, Chief Minister Dharam Singh has decreed that Bangalore shall no more be Bangalore but Bengalooru henceforth.

Big deal.

>Click here for more versions on how Bangalore got its name.

And lets all pray for Bengalooru – with politicians engaged in such meaningless acts of populism, only God can help solve Bangalore’s infrastructure woes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

RIP: Devaki

I am still shocked by what I heard – Devaki was killed while attempting to cross the Sultan Qaboos highway near the Honda round about. She was hit by a brand new BMW.

That was a foolhardy thing to do – trying to cross a double carriageway where vehicles are hurtling past at speeds of over 120 kms. But then that was Devaki, this is just the sort of thing she would do.

Newspapers did not report her death. Such news is normally not reported. And then she was an Indian housemaid. That makes it even less likely that the news would be reported. Indians and housemaids seem to be expendable.

Devaki’s was a hard life. She was thrown out of her marital house one rainy night with her infant daughter. Her maternal home did not offer much succor so she left her small child behind and went to Qatar to work as a maid. She was there for 13 years. In all those years she only left the employers house to go to the airport or come to the house from the airport.

In the meantime she shifted her daughter to a boarding school where the young girl studied well and was a favorite amongst the nuns that ran the place.

Devaki came to Oman and then bought herself a ‘free visa’. She worked here for some 8 years. Last year she got her daughter over to Oman for a holiday.

In honour of the visit, Devaki moved to a self contained apartment and for the 3 months her daughter was here, pampered the girl. Made her drink milk and bought her chocolates and cake and biryani everyday. Those were possibly the happiest days of her life.

After completing her graduation, the daughter got a postgraduate degree in education. She just landed a job and was asking her mother to come back to India. Role reversal, the daughter said she would take care of the mother now onwards.

My heart aches for the young girl who never really knew a mother’s love even when the mother was alive. My heart breaks for Devaki who struggled all her life.

May Devaki’s soul rest in peace. And may her spirit guide the young daughter and help to fill the young girl’s life with hope and love and happiness.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Stale vegetables – also in demand!

Neelakantan in his blog says that at the vegetable market he noticed ‘quashed, slightly rotten, black spotted tomatoes’ packed in a blue crate. He assumed these tomatoes were kept aside to be discarded but the vegetable vendor assured him the tomatoes were NOT meant to be thrown away. They were reserved for sale to restaurants.

We had a similar experience in Qatar. At the vegetable market on Salwa Road, there invariably would be a crate with very sorry looking, wilted, almost rotten vegetables. Naively I always assumed they were meant for cattle. (Fool that I am - where in Qatar would there be cattle? )

The vegetable vendor told us these vegetables were reserved for the labour camps.

Labour camps are places that house workers. The Middle East is full of expat ‘bachelor’ workers. Millions of them. The employment contract generally covers food and accommodation. Accommodations are these camps which are dormitories built on the outskirts of the city. Each labour camp could well house hundreds of people and providing food for them is a (lucrative) business.

Employers generally sub-contract the catering of food and the contract is given to the lowest bidder. And to make ends meet, the contractors buy vegetables at the lowest prices.

An Aside

Nasrul, our Bangladeshi house help in Qatar, who lived at one such labour camp never ate the food provided but chose to cook for himself.

Labour camp - sounds faintly Nazi doesn’t it?

I remember Muscati saying Indians always referred to restaurants as hotels. Neelakantan does too!