Saturday, September 30, 2006

Serial hugger giving away free hugs

Have you heard about or seen the serial hugger? The Sydney Morning Herald writes about Juan Mann (pronounced one man)and his free hugs on the street.

Our version of this, the Jadoo ki Jhappi (a magic hug) from Munnabhai MBBS has already been written of and spoken about around the world. Maybe he was inspired by it?

Tracking customers

Read this article in StorefrontBacktalk magazine, which I found interesting but also a bit scary. It relates how certain retailers have tied up with AC Nielson to measure what customers really look at in a store, what aisles they enter, how much time they spend there etc. Technology-wise its really great, but on a personal level, frankly I find it a bit disturbing and even intrusive, even though there are several other methods like RIFD and video tracking that are more invasive. How far will companies go to figure out how customers spend and get them to spend more time and money on their products, in their stores, is the real question that no one is willing to answer as yet.
Using no more than a dozen sets of wireless bi-directional infrared sensors, each store would count the number of people who entered and exited each shopping aisle, according to Peter Hoyt, executive director of In-Store Marketing Institute, which was actively involved in the trial.

K-State Wildcats play Baylor Bears today

Today K-State plays Baylor University at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, Texas. K-State has beated Baylor the last 5 times they have met, so the odds are in favor of them doing a repeat. The game will be the first game of the Big 12 Conference for both teams. For some details on the game, past record, statistics, players etc, check out this site.

All about affiliate marketing

Affiliate Marketing has a real buzz around it these days. Almost all bloggers seem to be getting involved in it at some level or the other. Basically, affiliate marketing is a system of increasing sales or leads through an online medium, where a company will pay its publishers, ie. affiliates based either on Cost per Sale (CPS) or Cost per Lead (CPL). Apogee Search has a great resource of information on affiliate management, technical terms and definitions and setting up an affiliate network.

Bharti to decide international retail partner in October

The Financial Express reports that Bharti Enterprises will be announcing its retail venture partner in October. Chairman Sunil Mittal added that the company will be focusing on the food and grocery as the base of its retail business. The company has been in talk with global giants such as Wal-Mart, Tesco and Carrefour in the recent past.

Its agri-business Field Fresh has been in talks with Samsung, Mitsubishi and others to set up a cold chain. Besides export of fresh fruits and vegetables, they company is keen on supplying produce to domestic retailers such as Reliance and Pantaloon.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Ferrari--no need to say anything more

Do you know of anyone who is not fascinated by Ferrari?
I really can't think of a single person who doesn't dream of owning one of these beauties.
In the meantime, until you get the real deal, here's some news, reviews and wallpapers of Ferrari for you to feast your eyes on.

Finding the right business school for you

Going to college and getting a college degree is one of the ways that enables you to really take charge and change your life. While some high school students are not able to see the long term benefits of a college education due to the wanting to start earning a salary immediately after high school, others are confused about the generalness of a college education in the sense that they are not able to apply what they have learned in a practical way to really make use of the time and money spent in college.

So what is the best way to avoid this situation? Enroll for a career oriented college program, that will combine theoretical learning and practical know how in a way that stays with you for life and really is worth its while. Cappella University is one such institution where you can earn a business degree online that will fit you and stay with you for life.

Capella has a variety of programs in information technology and enterprise IT project management that are created with all the leading certifications in mind. Organization and management degrees are built around competencies developed by the Society for Human Resource Management. The university's MBA program incorporates all skills required to create a manager, such as leadership, adaptation and negotiation.

As an online institution, Capella University is considered the leader in providing education and excels in reaching levels of excellence in the academic sphere as well as the business field. There are 76 programs offered in the graduate and undergraduate levels, with a total of 16,000 students.

Pantaloon announces new format, Brand Factory

The Hindu Business Line reports that Pantaloon has announced a new format called Brand Factory that will offer fashion brands at factory prices, while not compromising on the shopping experience. Vishnu Prasad, President (south) and CEO for Central and Brand Factory, said that
"Factory outlets have become distinct shopping destinations with distinct audiences.… Brand Factory will offer brands at discounts and also provide the treatment and shopping experience that the customer deserves."
The first Brand Factory outlet will be opening in a Bangalore suburb, Marathahalli, where several other factory outlets are already located. The store will have120 brands such as Arrow, Esprit, Van Heusen, Levis, Reebok, Lee, Pepe, Wrangler, Provogue and others, spread over 70,000 sq ft of space.

The company plans to open 55 outlets by 2010, in 40 cities across India. The second outlet will open in Hyderabad in October and the third one in Ahmedabad. Pantaloon is looking to open outlets in metro’s and tier I towns with a population of more than 1 million.

The perfect name

Naming a dog is serious business. I didn't realize just big a deal it was until my parents got a dog some time back, when I looked for names on the internet. I was amazed at the number of sites devoted just to finding the perfect name for your pet. One of the good sites was Alldognames.com - Dog Names, which lists the names by category, most popular, gender, color, gender etc. What I found really intresting and wacky was the inclusion of dog names of celebrities.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Grocery shopping poll

Its short.
Its simple.
And, its painless.
So take the poll on All about retail, on where you do your grocery shopping.

Plus size fashion becoming acceptable in India

The Economic Times writes about plus size western wear becoming acceptable in India due to the number of fashion conscious customers increasing. With around 30% of the country’s population considered overweight, the trend of plus size specialty stores is expected to follow. Rucheera Gumber, fashion analyst at KSA Technopak, says that the market for such clothes was non-existent five year ago.

Delhi based Revolution started operations in 2001 to sell western style clothing to women who might have no problem finding traditional Indian clothing due to the abundance of tailors. Westside has its own plus size clothing line for women called Gia and Pantaloon’s plus size line is ALL (which stands for A little larger), specialty store Mustard has a boutique in Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Knotty issues

I had no idea on the number of knots used in fishing until I came across this site with some of the best knot illustrations and even handy waterproof knot cards that you can use when you are fishing. Kind of like a cheat sheet, but probably with better results!! They have a great site with illustrations and text instructions on how to tie the various types of knots.

Reliance Retail’s first store to open on October 18

The Economic Times reports that Reliance Retail’s much anticipated retail foray will come to fruition on October 18, when its first store opens in Hyderabad. The food and grocery format store will be inaugurated by Andhra Pradesh chief minister, YSR Reddy. Besides this store, 28 other stores in AP will also be opening on the same day. After the AP launch, Reliance Retail will open next in Punjab and then to other cities such as Mumbai and Delhi.

Number power

Both numerology and astrology have always fascinated and scared me. In one sense you want to know about the future, on the other hand, I'd rather not know when or what bad things are going to happen to me down the road. In India, pretty much every one has their astrological chart made and consulted numerous times, often before taking important steps like marriage, setting up a new business and major investments. Numerology is simply the study of numbers associated with each person, and can be surprisingly accurate for a lot of people.

I have been to both astrologers and numerologists several times, mostly for the fun of it, but a few times also to get some insight as to what direction would be good for my future. I found an interesting numerology site where you can enter your birth day, month and year along with you name and it will churn out some readings for you.

While not all of my reading fitted me exactly, it was quite accurate for a computer generated system. Some of the good ego boosting stuff about me:
You possess a great talent for creativity and self expression. Many writers, poets, actors and musicians are born under the 3 Life Path. You are witty, possess a gift for gab, and savor the limelight. Your talent for the expressive arts is so abundant that you may well have felt drawn to becoming an artist while still very young. Your artistic abilities can only be developed, however, through discipline and commitment to the true development of your talent.
and,
You are a hard worker and a conscientious person. You are precise and take great care in what you do. You are highly-principled, disciplined, and responsible. You take your obligations very seriously. You are highly ethical. You can be proud and upright, but, conversely, you are not particularly arrogant. You have compassion for people. You tend to persevere in the face of an obstacle or personality problem. You love your family and make a wonderful mate.

Hmm, think I could check them out everyday for a pep session!!

Indian retail sector will require 2 million professionals in next 2 years

Business Standard reports that The Retailers Association of India (RAI) has estimated that the retail industry in India will require about 2 million professionals in the next 2 years. The current requirement for front end workers is 1.25 million and is likely to increase to 3.25 million by 2008-09.

Several retailers such as Pantaloon, Piramyd, Shoppers’ Stop, Lifestyle, Arrow, Landmark and others have already begun recruiting on a major scale, while new entrants such as Reliance, Raymonds, The Aditya Birla Group, and others have been targeting other retailers to head hunt professionals.

The Future Group, Landmark and Piramyd have also tied up with management schools to sponsor and train students who would then work for a mandatory time period with the sponsoring company.

Reliance Retail to create both retail and supply models

The Economic Times reports that Reliance Retail is also working on creating a successful supply chain model. The company has been supplying fresh fruits and vegetables to Big Bazaar as a practice of sorts, and is keen on continue doing so. When Reliance receives its consignment of goods from China, it will supply the items not only to its own stores, but to other retailers as well.

Keeping procurement as a separate division from retail, Reliance has already set up rural business supply hubs in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttranchal and West Bengal, for procurement of grains and milk products. Taking a long term approach, Reliance has build schools and medical centres and also has soil and weather specialists to help the farmers maximize their production.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The right office noise

Another innovative trick that might be blurring the line....background noise that will convey to your telephone caller that you are a busy person. Thriving Office provides a busy and a very busy recording that can be played to make your office sound, well, thriving. Check it out.

Traveling right

Growing up at a boarding school, packing and traveling have become second nature to me. We were allowed only 2 piece of luggage, a trunk and a hold all with our linen, until the 10th grade, when we were allowed one additional bag. With great joy and anticipation, I was bought a wheeled luggage set, even though I could only take one to school with me.

When I got admission at Kansas State University, I again purchased new luggage, this time an expandable luggage set with a rather stylish tweedy brown finish. I had a ton of things that I wanted to take with me, clothes, books, photographs, things to remind me of home etc. I also managed to pack in a beautiful old namda, a Kashmiri crewel work tapestry that I thought would be perfect to make any place I lived in cozy and remind me of home.

We had very little weight restrictions those days, the airlines didn't even bother with the weight, only counted number of pieces. The luggage set I took wasn’t too large as I felt I should be able to carry it all myself, if need be, without looking like I'm lifting Mt. Everest. There’s nothing quite like a traveler who is not able to handle their own luggage.

On our trip to the US this summer, I had a really tough time packing as we had several different agendas on the trip. One was a wedding, meaning we had to carry 6-7 outfits, with shoes, bags and the rest of the wedding paraphernalia, and the other was a driving trip along the eastern coast, stopping at a number of places with luggage that would fit along with us in our rented minivan. We took along a number of smaller bags to take with us for our trip.

With all the shopping we did, we got stuck with overweight bags at the airport on our return journey. American Airlines was very strict that bags could not exceed 50 lbs. Our saving grace was that although our bags were overweight, we had a lesser number of bags, so we bought 2 expandable bags at the airport store and re-distributed the contents to thankfully arrive at the right combination of weight and size.

The blurry line

Hesh Reinfeld writes about how easy it is to stretch the truth online. Read the article in Marketing Profs.com here.
I don't own a Blackberry. But my clients don't know that. They're impressed when they receive an email from me with the tag line: Sent from my BlackBerry wireless handheld. It shows that I'm available 24/7 and always responsive to their every need.

Am I lying? Literally, yes. However, in the world of business we are always stretching the truth to impress our customers. We want to give them a sense that we're successful, and never let them know that they're the first serious prospect we've had in a month.

Innovative reactions

Retailers at airports have taken a big hit due to the ban on carrying on board any liquid items. The fact that some of them have been able to turn it around is a really great example of their speedy adaptation and implementation due to outside influences.
Cosmetics-maker Lush offered customers at its airport stores in Orlando and Toronto free shipping on all liquid shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and cleansers. Crest and Avis teamed up to offer free toothpaste and mouthwash to car renters.
The Transportation Security Authority has now relaxed the ban and travellers are now permitted to carry travel sized toiletries of less than 3 oz on board.

Read more here.

Cool art for your TV

When I was in college in Manhattan, KS, our local library had framed paintings by all the greats available for rent. So along with your books, magazines, movies and music, you could rent posters of paitings too. I thought it was a really great way to let poor students let art become part of their lives and learn to appreciate it.

Now, this is something new and pretty cool stuff. Install your TV with a Ambient Art plasma tv screensaver of world famous paintings with or without a commertary. I think its a great way to bring art home, and not just any old art, but some of the world's most talked about paintings. I would pick both Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.

Converting footfalls

How does a store convert sale shoppers to regular customers?

Every store has them, those who make an annual trip to the store only on sale days, purchasing clothes that have been marked down a few months after other bought them at regular price. When I worked at JC Penney, it was quite a common phenomenon, although in a large anchor store in a mall, its often harder to easily slot each customer that comes to the store.

In smaller specialty stores such as Gini & Jony, where I worked in Bombay, it was an easy and obvious process. Even though the store was located on the busy Linking road in Khar, we generally got traffic only from the local area (and some from the Mahalaxmi area further south where our store had recently closed), so over 60% of the footfalls were repeat and recognizable ones.

USA Today has an interesting article giving tips, such as reducing the display of large quantities of merchandise, promoting an everyday lower price, such as Macy's is now doing and reducing the number of sales.
Retailer discounting went into overdrive in the late 1980s and 1990s with the emergence of Wal-Mart and Target and the growth of specialty retailers such as Ann Taylor and Talbots."Department stores would do the markdowns to draw people into stores, but now it feels like they're always having a one-day sale ... and it doesn't even feel special anymore," says retail analyst Christine Chen. Markdowns do "create traffic, but it trains the customer to expect the sale and not want to pay full price."


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Indian toy industry

The Indian toy industry is likely to grow by 25% due to an increased demand from within India as well as overseas. As India has been improving the quality of toys is manufactures, the demand for toys made in India has been rising. While India's toy industry is still miniscule at Rs 150 crore compared to the global industry at $15o billion, this rise in demand and increase in quality standards is causing the industry to grow by leaps and bounds.

Read the article here in Business Standard.

Credit basics

As all Americans or anyone who has lived in the US knows, having a good credit record is everything. It is something that affects all aspects of your life and once spoiled, your credit record stays with you forever and ever. As a senior in college, we were given innumerable credit card applications, all pre-approved of course, and most of us signed on for more cards than we needed or could handle.

Learning how to have a good credit record is becoming more important with each passing day. The use of credit cards has become so varied, the processes more complicated and the threat associated with fraud and misuse much greater. A really good source of information is the Credit Learning Center, where you can find information on the basics of credit, how to check your credit score, how to improve your score, how to safeguard your future and identity and much more. I especially liked the steps shown that can help you protect your identity, such as protecting your drivers liscence and social security number, avoiding giving information on the telephone and destroying your personal information properly.

India's growing confidence

India has for the thrid time in a row come in the top spot from among 41 countries in the ACNielsen Consumer Confidence Servey conducted for the first half of 2006. India is also number one in the Asia-Pacific study of 14 countries.
The survey shows Indians remain confident of the job market and personal finance: 90 per cent rate employment prospects as excellent or good, compared with the regional and global averages of 47 and 53 per cent, respectively.

Indian consumers’ perceptions of the state of their personal finances is also encouraging — 86 per cent rate them as excellent or good, while the corresponding figure for the region is 45 per cent.
Read the full article here.

The end of Layaway

Some American consumers are finding it hard to say goodbye to the system of layaway. Wal-Mart was the latest retailer who decided to stop offering the service. KMart and TJMaxx are continuing with the program as of now, though.
Wal-Mart now joins a long list of retailers - including Macy's, Bon-Ton, Kohl's, Circuit City and Target - that do not have layaway. "Retailers have found they can make better use of their employees' time," said Ellen Davis, spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation. "Today, I think the retailers that offer layaway are the exception, not the rule."
Read the full article here in Buffalo News.

All about internet marketing

I've been intrigued by internet marketing, affiliate marketing, consumer generated advertising etc etc for the past 6 months or so. I guess, its a really exciting time to be involved in the internet and the myriad ways to make money of it. I've been doing lots of reading/surfing/browsing about what it is, how I can get involved, what level will I fit in and is it really do-able for someone like me.

I liked the information Alice Seba's Internet Marketing Blog had on the subject, especially on the very hotly debated "Death of Adsense" report, which I too signed up for and downloaded, read and wondered, hmmmm, could I be part of this too? Alice has a good counter point to the author of "Death of Adsense" and "Life after Adsense", Scott Blouch's views, and I really like her candour and style of plain speaking.

Mumbai home prices may go down

Some good news to start the day....According to Rediff News, homes in Bombay might get cheaper due to the PM clearing the proposal for 5,378 acres of salt pans to be developed to rehabilitate slum dwellers, which will lead to lots of land in the city made available for development.
So while the government has an option to auction the land, call for a public-private partnership or offer Transfer Development Rights in lieu of developing the land, one thing is for sure, it's bound to affect real estate prices in Mumbai. "In a 5-7 year period, when the process is in progress, TDR rates will drop, land prices will ease, city housing could become affordable and over all there will be a softening impact," said Akshay Kumar, chairman, Colliers International.

Letting go

With the constantly high stress levels that most people are faced with these days, its becoming really important to learn how to realx, meditate and let go. There's a new book out called Simone and Elvis which is a self help book has some incredible fables and inspirational quotations, that will inspire you to make meditation and stress relief a part of your life. The book has some great illustrations too, for all those who don't want to read too much.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Online degrees at Capella University

Being well educated is the one thing that really makes or breaks a person's life. Sadly, a lot of people don't think too much when selecting colleges and universities. All through the 1990s, liberal arts programs were all the rage, with universities across the country. While these do prepare a student for the real world, it is in the application of this learning and instead it is specialized career focus that is really required.

One such career focused university that offers specialized career related programs is Capella University, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Capella Education Company based in Minneapolis, MN. Capella University is an accredited online university which offers a wide variety of programs such as business, information technology, education, human services and psychology for its graduate degrees and business and information technology for its bachelor's degree.

In total, there are 76 graduate and undergraduate majors, along with 16 certificate courses. Capella has 16,000 students from 50 states and international students from over 60 countries. The Higher Learning Commission has given accreditation to Capella University and the university is also a member of The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, located in Chicago.

Capella University's master degree programs have earned the respect of global giants such as Johnson & Johnson, Boeing and the Farmers Insurance Group, who recommend the university's education to its employees. Till date more than 1,300 employees of such companies have been sponsored by them to pursue their master's degrees at Cappella University.

Take a quick poll at my Squidoo lens

I'm probably behind lots of folks who already have squidoo lenses set up, but thought I might as well, set one up. So here is All about retail, my lens on retail developments in India and across the world. Do have a look and take the quick poll I have set up.

Chandigarh-not just a small town anymore

The Economic Times writes about smaller towns fueling the real estate growth in India. Like so many other fields, smaller cities and towns in India are catching up to the metro's and some even outpacing them. There was a time that professionals would never even consider moving to a smaller town due to lack of jobs, slow or non existant career growth, little to do in your spare time and so on. Thankfully the scenario has completely changed for some cities like Chandigarh (my home town!) and will soon be changing if plenty of others. The Chandigarh IT Park has been the catalyst that has altered the city, and what outsiders thought of it, and lead to changes in several areas.

Here's an excerpt from the article:
Several cities with population of 0.5-1m will emerge as the most promising market for residential and retail developments in the next 3-5 years, a report by global research and consultancy firm Ernst and Young said.

Pointing out that the trend has already started to some extent, the report said rising property prices in metros, dearth of skilled cost-effective manpower, comparatively high cost of living and high operational costs would drive the technologically sound companies towards Tier-II and Tier-III cities. “We expect huge investments across asset classes in most of the Tier-II and Tier-III cities over the next 2-3 years,” it said, adding that the ongoing rapid real estate development in larger cities would continue to happen.
Read the full article here.

Lifestyle and NIFT team up to groom retailers

The Hindu Business Line reports that Lifestyle International and the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Hyderabad have tied up to provide grooming to its sales team as it has tied up with the institute in other major cities. NIFT will offer a three month course in Fashion Retail Management Studies that will be sponsored by Lifestyle. The company plans to induct candidates who have completed the course into their stores with regular salaries for a mandatory two year period.

Read the article here.

Specialty stores to take center stage

More retail stuff. Although the concept is not new to the US and other western markets, in India it is still at the developing stage. In an earlier post today, I wrote about the K Raheja Group's latest foray, Home Stop, its home furnishings store, which didn't really feel like a specialty store as it had a MotherCare in the same area and pretty much felt like a regular department store. Read that post here.

On a related note, The Economic Times reports that even though hypermarkets have been getting a lot of attention in recent times, it is the specialty store trend that is really taking off. The specialty store trend cuts across sectors with some offbeat categories and even some in the unorganized sector. Hindustan Lever is considering a chain of stores only for laundry products. Other categories inviting interest are electronics and electrical products, office products and stationary, toys, lingerie, chocolates and furnishings.

Some of the major names currently involved in this thinking include the Tata’s, the Jumbo group from Dubai, Marks & Spencer’s Women’s Secret, Straps, which was earlier Sensa, Luxur Parker, Bilt, Havells, Phillips and Bajaj Electronics. The Indo Rama Group recently tied up with Office 1 Superstore International to open Office 1 stores for stationary and office needs.

According to Harminder Sahni, CEO of KSA Technopak,
“Internationally, specialized retail is a big business. Similar trends will emerge in India.”
Abhijit Das, head of Ansal Plaza Mall Management Co. adds,
“Since most stores in these specialized categories will need much lesser space in comparison to the existing formats, such as lifestyle and hypermarkets, they will all come up in malls. There won’t be too many stand-alone stores.”

Free tickets to DigitalLife 2006

DigitalLife 2006, the biggest technology, entertainment and gaming event in the US is taking place in NYC from October 12-15, 2006. Exhibitors include some of the best known names in the business like Alienware, AMD, ATI, Best Buy, eBay, ESPN, Game Stop, Intel, Logitech, maxim, Mocrosoft, NVIDIA, XBox and lots more.

Several companies have special offers available such as Zone Alarm, which is offering $40 off its Internet Security Suite and Intel which is offering $100 off on its Core 2 duo based notebooks. So you think that's a good deal? Now even better.....DigitalLife is offering free tickets to anyone who logs onto their site and enters the special code 'INSIDER' on the ticketing page. The regular price of these tickets is $15. Log on, get your free ticket and go to the event.

PS: You're welcome!

Home Stop opens in Inorbit Mall

Last week we visited the new Home Stop store that has opened in Inorbit Mall in Malad, Mumbai. I was very excited to finally visit a Home Stop store, since I had heard good things about it, especially the Bangalore store. The store is located inside Shoppers' Stop and Crossword, without any direct access from the mall, so if people don't know that Home Stop is owned by the K Raheja Group, the same company as Shoppers' Stop and Crossword, they might not know where to look.

Besides Home Stop, there is also a MotherCare outlet in the same location, so it just feels like an extension of the Shoppers' Stop downstairs. A regular department store with different departments spread out across the floor. Frankly, I feel that Home Stop did not effectively use its area, over 30,000 sq ft. The visual merchandising is pretty much non-existant for a specialty home furninshings focus store. The furniture and home furninishing products are displayed as they might be used at home, with beds made along the central aisle but the effort is half-hearted and it's rather obvious.

As one the the first home furnishing specialty stores in the area, Home Stop could have capitalized on its first mover advantage by really creating believable and exciting rooms within the store. I found the displays boring and bland. This month's issue of Elle has a spread of items that are also available at Home Stop with a radically different effect. It's exciting, interesting and different, something that makes you immediately look to the bottom of the page to see where you can buy it. Home Stop uses the same merchandise but the display looks flat and uninviting.

The other thing I did not like in the store was the layout, which was organized by brand rather than type of merchandise. I, for example, went there looking for bed sheets and had to walk to three different sections of the store to have a look at sheets from Bombay Dyeing, Portico, Maspar and a couple of generic brands. By the time I got to through all sections, I wasn't too sure of what I saw initially but wasn't interested in zig-zaging through the store again. So I left and the store lost a sure customer, one who came in with something specific to buy, not just browse.

Home security concerns

Home security is a neccesity for all now as opposed to a optional item for a few in earlier days. While we don't have a home security system as yet, it is something that we have started to consider for the past few months, as we are often out of town. There is no official neighborhood watch in the area, although neighbors generally keep an eye out for each other. When my neighbors were away for a month, they left their apartment key with me, so their trustworthy maid could come every alternate day to clean and water the plants.

Most houses and apartments here have the regular locks in the doors and also an outside padlock, which often times people leave unlocked to make it look like someone is still inside. After a lot of consideration, wrangling, confusion and anxiety, I decided to lock our outside door when we were away for a month to the US. Everyone who went by our apartment, therefore, knew we were away for quite some time.

On the inside I do have quite a battery of locks at three different locations on the door which is quite solid in itself. Since all apartments open into a narrow hallway, there is no chain at the door, so instead we have a mini door with grills that opens inwards, that lets us check who is outside before opening the main door. Its an interesting concept that we've never had in any of our earlier apartments.

Retailers to push private label FMCG products

The Economic Times reports:

Several retailers such as Subhiksha, Spencers' and Big Bazaar are planning to push private label oral care products to compete with FMCG majors. Spencer’s is keen on personal care products. JH Mehta, President Spencers' Retail said,
"The products will be targeted at the value-conscious consumer. Consumers will slowly understand the value of private labels, even in oral hygiene segment, since these will be produced by the same manufacturer."
Subhiksha is planning to focus exclusively on private labels for oral care products and hopes to win customers by offering superior products at lower prices. To compete effectively with FMCG majors, the retailers plan to increase branding and marketing to promote these products, including direct contact with customers, sampling and in-store branding etc.

Contract manufacturers such as JHS Svendgaard Labs, supplier of dental care products to eight international retail chains in the US, Europe and the Middle East are betting on India and increasing manufacturing capacity by 300% to catch a large slice of this emerging market.

Ensuring long shelf life

The Economic Times reports:

As long as SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) look towards retail chains as partners rather than customers, they will ensure their success. SMEs provide a wide range of services and products to the retail industry, such as garments, shoes, food products, furniture, local art etc.

As the number of supermarkets and hypermarkets increase, so will the number of vendors supplying products to them. According to Dharmender Jain, CFO of HyperCITY, “We have 450-500 SME vendors. The numbers have risen over the last 5-6 months. Many new vendors are approaching us with their products.”

SMEs have a distinct advantage when it comes to providing items with local customizations and flavors that large manufactures are not able to produce. To be a successful, a SME must use technology to connect with the retailers, and be aware of changes in packaging.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Scooter-ize your life

With pollution levels and gas emisions from automobiles constantly on the rise, the trend for non-polluting electric and gas vehicles has been becoming more mainstream. As a variation to electric cars, electric scooters are a good alternative available for those who are interested in working towards reducing pollution.

Urban Scooters have the largest selection of electric and gas scooters and bikes available online. With the best brands, quality service, free shipping, customer support and supplies are easily available, they are a good resource for electric scooters. Once limited to a trendy few, motorized scooters are now a viable and practical option to anyone who wants to reduce carbon emissions and make the world a greener place.

K-State loses to Louisville

K-State lost to Louiseville 6-24 yesterday. Here's a recap of the game and what went wrong.
Kansas State head coach Ron Prince hoped a matchup with No. 8 Louisville Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium would tell him just where his team stands four games into the 2006 season. Prince got his answer, but it wasn't the one he was hoping for. The Cardinals had little trouble moving to 4-0 on the season, knocking off Prince's previously undefeated Wildcats 24-6 despite turning the ball over on three straight possessions in the second half.

The Wildcat defense played well against quite possibly the nation's best offensive attack, but long touchdown drives at the start of both halves were too much for a struggling K-State offense to overcome.

Delhiites are the country’s biggest spenders

Financial Express reports:

A report on household consumer expenditure brought out by the Delhi Government’s Directorate of Economics and Statistics shows that Delhi consumers have the highest per capita income and are the biggest spenders in the country.

The average monthly per capita expenditure in urban Delhi increased from Rs. 1,563 in 2003 to Rs. 1,606 in 2004. For comparative terms, the national average is Rs. 1,060. Delhi has 3,275,000 families, with an average size of 4.62 persons. 3,072,000 families live in urban areas and only 203,000 in rural areas.
Tamil Nadu comes a distant second at Rs 1,131, followed by Andhra Pradesh at Rs 1,102. Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana are not very far behind, at Rs 1,092, Rs 1,059 and Rs 1,050 respectively. At the bottom of the list is Uttar Pradesh at Rs 827, Madhya Pradesh at Rs 793 and Bihar at Rs 784.
Education, food, transportation and rent were the main expenditures for Delhi consumers, with Rs. 2,484 on food, Rs. 823 on conveyance and Rs. 576 on education. Other expenditures were Rs. 565 on fuel and lighting, Rs. 327 on clothing, Rs. 228 on toiletries, Rs. 169 on entertainment and Rs. 756 on consumer services.

A clear view

I've been wearing contact lenses for almost 18 years now. I had to switch to rigid gas permeable (RGPs) contact lenses from glasses as my power kept increasing due to astigmatism. I found it really, really hard to get used to wearing lenses initially, as it was painful and so complicated. Over the years I have found that Biomedics contact lenses suited me quite well. Being slightly thinner they are less intrusive, especially when wearing them for a longer time. Nowdays there is a huge variety of colored contact lenses available, although I have never tried them.

Chaos in Delhi

Delhi's been getting a lot of bad press lately with the sealings of commercial establishments in non-commercial zones, the way the Delhi Police handled the situation and the riots. Sunil Sethi writes about the rise of anger and hatred in the city.

An excerpt:
I have seldom seen the city gripped by such a prolonged series of panic attacks -- not even in its worst moments of crisis such as the anti-Sikh riots that erupted after the Indira Gandhi assassination. People are worried about their homes, their work places, their livelihoods, their future; the uncertainty has added up to a trauma seemingly without end.
Read the full article here in Rediff.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Blogging survey results

Results of The New Influencers blogging survey. Glad to say I was one of the 159 that took part in the survey. Here's the full report.

Wal-Mart Malaysia on the anvil

Is Wal-Mart heading to Malaysia next? FreshPlaza reports on the likely-hood of the retail giant opening in Malaysia next.
It would seem that Wal-Mart has not been deterred by its bad experiences in the German and South Korean markets. If the rumors regarding SHV Makro are true, then Wal-Mart could join other global retailers such as Tesco in the growing Malaysian market. However, Wal-Mart will have to ensure that it listens and adapts its offer to the needs of the local population.

Indian Railways in talks with the Aditya Birla Group

The Economic Times reports:

After talks with Pantaloon Retail, the Indian Railways is in talks with the Aditya Birla Group as a public-private partnership to transport goods and play a key role in the growth of organized retail. The AVB Group is keen on setting up agri-commodities retail outlets, warehouses, processing centers and cold chains at railway stations.

India loses Rs. 50,000 crore annually to wastage due to its inefficient supply chain of vegetables and fresh fruits. The Railways is hoping to double its revenue in five years through supply chains to retailers. At present, only 50 million tones of agri-products travels on the railways, of a total 400 million tones.

ColorPlus co-founder starts new venture

The Economic Times reports:

Kailash Bhatia, one of the co-founders of one of India’s most successful apparel brand Color Plus, has brought out a new venture code named Clothes & More with the backing of a US based venture capital fund. He had earlier sold all of his stock to Raymond a few years ago. According to reports, the new venture plans to raise an estimated Rs. 80-100 crore, although the amount is yet to be confirmed.

Incidentally, this will be the second venture capital backed start up in the branded apparel industry. The first VC backed deal was when Sriram Srinavasan and other top executives from Madura Garments floated Indus League in 1999, with the backing of Draper International and later on by ICICI Ventures and currently owned by Pantaloon.

Play like a pro

I never knew just how popular the game of poker was until I went to the US as a college student. There are a ton of poker enthusiasts out there, all extremely serious about their game, constantly playing and practicing to improve their game, work on their strategy, hone their tactics and of course, win some cold hard cash.

Since the internet has become a regular feature in most people's lives, online poker rooms, communities, and forums have become extremely popular. VegasPokerPro is one of the premier such online communities for poker enthusiasts. There is a wide selection of topics to choose from at VPP, as most members call it, such as a poker blog, a poker store, poker leagues, information on poker books, reviews of poker sites, participation in free tournaments, free gifts and promotional items and of course a variety of poker rooms to try your hand at.

One of the best and most used features of the site is its community forum which always seems to be buzzing with activity. The largest poker room is Party Poker which attracts a huge number of fans and players due to the great sign up incentives and best tournaments. The Poker Strategy page has a huge selection of articles and other resources available to help members hone their poker skills.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Yummy yummy

Ever since our little run in with the Baskin Robbins people here in Lokhandwala, we've been going to the Mamma Mia Gelato outlet. Luckily for us its just a few shops away. They have two tables inside and two outside, compared to cramped standing room only at Baskin Robbins. The place is neat, clean, bright and cheery, again in contrast to the dingyness of Baskin Robbins. The gelatos are great in taste, variety and texture. I personally find most a bit too sweet, but nevertheless am enjoying the variation from my traditional favorite, Chocolate Almond from Naturals Ice Cream.

Global retailers take stock

Reuters reports:

Global retail giants are slowing down expansion plans to take stock. Wal-Mart in the mid 1990s expanded wildly, buying the Asda chain in the UK with 229 stores, 122 stores in Canada, 95 stores in Germany and 4 in South Korea and opened its first stores in Argentina, Brazil and China. Contrast it to the past four months, and Wal-Mart has not done any expansion and instead has opted out of South Korea and Germany and is expected to do the same in Argentina.

International retailers have had a hard time understanding that opening lots of stores does not work for all international markets and now are focusing on select countries such as India, where its is lobbying for a change in the FDI restrictions; China, the world’s most populous country; and Latin America. Carrefour learnt a similar lesson and pulled out of South Korea, Mexico and Japan and is focusing on China. Tesco pulled out of Taiwan and is focusing on its US entry and on Europe.

Safeguarding your information

Since I work from home and have all my work stored on my home laptop; document security and backup are my own responsibility. I've been using a 1GB USB flash drive for 8 months now and it really has come in handy, like when my computer crashed and I lost everything, yes everything on it, except what was saved on my thumb drive. Whew...that really was a lifesaver.

Since my job doesn't always require me to be in one place, the freedom of having access to my files thanks to the flash drive is really means a great deal. In June when we were away for a month traveling in the US, all I had to do was take my USB thumb drive with me and I could do my work from any computer.

It's easy to order your own custom thumb drive in a choice of 5 zingy colors, constructed of aluminum and free laser engraving. What's really great about these thumb drives, is that you can store all types of files on it, word documents, digital photo's, music files etc. The best part, you can set a security password to safeguard the information stored.

Women-centric malls

The Economic Times reports:

To increase the number of women visiting malls, some retailers are considering the concept of malls that would cater exclusively to women customers. An estimated 12 malls are expected to come up over the next 2-3 years that focus on attracting women, whether they are housewives or working women. These malls would offer only women-centric products and have an all women staff.

One of the first developers to make such a mall is Suncity developers who have begun work on their first such mall and plan to make 5-6 more women focused malls. Aerens Group who have developed the Goldsouk and Wedding Souk malls are also likely to build a woman centric mall. Delhi’s Ansals Plaza, one of the capital’s first malls is also working to create special zones for women related products.

A thing of beauty

Getting engaged is one of the most exciting times of a girl's life. The anticipation, expectations, dreams, hopes, all colliding and creating a lot of joy, exhilaration, confusion and even chaos. Buying an engagement diamond ring is serious business. It is something that you will wear day in and day out, till the end, so it has to be a combination of beauty and practicallity.

Diamond-USA has a huge variety of engagement rings, anniversary rings, diamond earings and a really cool tool is the online ring designer option which lets you design your own ring. Other great facilities are free global insurance on shipping, paying after you receive your order, the option of upgrading your jewelry any time in the future and toll-free customer service help.

Barista plans to sell 20% stake to fund expansion

The Economic Times reports:

Barista will be adding 100-120 new cafés each year for the next three years and plans to fund its expansion by selling 15-20% of its stake in the company. Barista is also planning to open cafés in Bahrain, Oman and Bangladesh by year end and Qatar and South East Asia next year.

Sterling Group, promoters and owners of the Barista chain of cafés will be divesting 15-20% of its equity. According to Partha Dattagupta, CEO of Barista the company will be “…expanding from 25 cities to 40 this year. This apart, we will also be investing in back-end infrastructure as well as renovation of existing stores and facilities.”

The company will be investing an estimated $43.35 million over the next three years to open new outlets. The company has appointed Standard Chartered to look for investors and chart their growth plan.

Rocky Point

I'm always on the lookout of interesting places to travel to, not only the famous places but also some hidden gems that might not be world famous as yet ('as yet' being the key words). I like the anticipation of going to a place where one does not everything about, where you can discover things for yourself, where your neighbors haven't gone already.

I came across one such destination, Rocky Point in Mexico, located on the Baja Peninsula on the Sea of Cortez. Locally known as Puerto Penasco the area has beautiful beaches and facilities for water sports such as jet-skiing and sailing. Beach rentals and other accomodation choices in Rocky Point are so vast and varied that it'll be hard to decide where you want to stay. Even though I've never been to Mexico in my life I have been fascinated by pretty much everything about the country, the architecture, the fabulous flowers, the food and of course the beaches.

Rocky Point seems to have the right combination of calming relaxation and touristy resort town that attracts people. The town is easily accessible from the US, being only a 4 hour drive from Phoenix and Tucson and 677 miles from San Diego in California. Most of the locals speak English, so language is not a problem. Rocky Point has a dual currency system so you don't need to convert your US dollars into local Pesos.

Writings on retail

I've been writing and reading a lot of stuff on retail, especially the rise of the retail industry in India and how international players are showing keen interest in entering the Indian market. Weaver is a good source of information on the news related to the retail industry of India. Other topics included in the blog are technology, communication and innovation, especially how they relate to the retail industry.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Go K-State



Well, what do you know?

Kansas State University was a pretty good choice after all. By going to a large state university, I probably have a greater chance of becoming a CEO than if I had gone to an Ivy League school.

An article in the Wall Street Journal writes about how only 10% of CEOs in the US are from Ivy League schools, with the bulk coming from large state universities including schools such as University of Texas-Austin, University of Nebraska-Loncoln, University of Kansas in Lawrence (our traditional arch rivals) and Georgia State University.
The college diplomas of the nation's top executives tell an intriguing story: Getting to the corner office has more to do with leadership talent and a drive for success than it does with having an undergraduate degree from a prestigious university. Most CEOs of the biggest corporations didn't attend Ivy League or other highly selective colleges. They went to state universities, big and small, or to less-known private colleges.

Read the full article here.

Know your ingredients

New book out on skin care called "6 Weeks to Sensational Skin: Dr. Loretta's Beauty Camp Handbook for your Freshest Face" by dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo. In this book, Dr Loretta guides readers on how to read and understand labels and ingredients to know how it will affect your skin.

On books

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed on and digested.

--Francis Bacon

I'm currently reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I can't remember the last book that I enjoyed reading this much. For the past few years, I have been reading mostly new and young authors, no literary classic such as Steinbeck and boy, what a difference it makes. I had forgotten what a pleasure it is to read a great book by a great author. I certainly am enjoying chewing on and digesting this one.

Cooking curry?

Want to try your hand at cooking Indian food but not sure of the spices?

Well, then here's your opportunity....Curry Complete is giving away a free chicken curry pak that includes all the fresh spices along with a step by step instructions to cook a meal for four. So, get acquainted with some basics of Indian cooking at http://www.currycomplete.com to get started on cooking Indian food.

H&M LA store opening causes frenzy

LA Times reports on the H&M's store opening in LA suburb Pasadena that created frenzy amongst the shoppers looking for a good deal. The Swedish company whose initials stand for Hennes & Mauritz first came to the US six years ago and has caused mob like situations with each store opening; NYC had lines going around the block, SFO had people queing up at 6am and its just goes on and on. H&M plans to open more stores in the country, 2 more in the LA area itself.

H&M is Europe's largest apparel seller and has more than 1,200 stores in 23 countries, with annual sales of $76 billion. The comapny has catapulted to the top with its version of 'fast fashion', turning out trendy clothes at affordable prices in record time. Several other companies that are also winning at this formula are Forever 21, Target and Spanish retailer Zara.

I have shopped at H&M in Boston, Forever 21 in Providence and Target is several location in the US and found the clothes at H&M the best in quality, design, price and fit. Their stores are well laid out, with good signage and neat and well sized dressing rooms. Forever 21 is for the younger crowd and tends to save money by designing clothes in cheaper materials like nylon and polyester, stuff I don't care much for.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How you'll end up taking more pics

I recently started using Picassa to organize my photographs and am happy to know that they have upgraded the software so you can post and share pics with family and friends. If you're anything like me, then you know how much of a botheration it can be to organize the pics...download them, organize them, attatch them, etc etc. This is really going to simplify my life. Read more about it at the google blog.

RIP: AdSense

If you're like most bloggers, you must also be sick of AdSense. Download a free copy of a report on how really to make money online at The Death of AdSense.

Unleash your potential

For all you fitness enthusiasts, Keiser, "The Power in Human Performance" is bringing out the Keiser M3 indoor cycles. These bikes are unique as they require no maintenance and have a ultra smooth magnetic resistance, an anti-slip flexonic belt, shimano pedals, dual placement comfort handles, infinite gear levels, adjustable pedals and seat, an optional computer system with features such as a heart rate monitor, RPM, trip distance and time and of course a simple and easy installation process. I really was quite impressed with the way it looked, more modern sculpture than mere exercise bike.

Expectations

Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.

--Dennis Wholey

This really hit me, absolutely stunned me the first time I read it. From childhood, we are taught that if we are good to others, then others and the world at large will be good to us. Well, that's really not how it works. One is good to others just because one wants to be, and not because one expects anything in return. If you are doing good things solely for the purpose that you will get something back, then you will definately be dissapointed. Just do good, thing good and expect absolutely nothing. Everything else will work itself out.



Computer security

As the internet becomes more accessible and commonplace, viruses and threats to internet security are increasing. Maybe around 5 years back, one could use a computer without anti-virus and still be ok, but now it’s absolutely impossible. I found that out, when my computer crashed and everything had to reloaded, including the antivirus. Before I could open the anti virus site to re-download the software, I was bombarded with all kinds of pop-up's, malware, spyware and virus attacks.

I found a very well recommended anti-virus software program called The Kaspersky Internet Security 6.0 at the http://www.algorithmconsulting.com/store, which has been rated #1 in quick detection of virus' by av-tests.org and av-comparatives.org. The software has also been rated as the "Anti-Spyware & Anti-Work Security Product of 2006". The software has a gamut of facilities such as anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-rootkit, anti hacker, intrusion detector and firewall facilities with a 30 day free trial.

Automat diners are back

Springwise reports on the return of the automat diners and Bamn!.

The hottest new eatery in New York won't get rave reviews for fine service provided by its waiters. It doesn't have any. Nor does Bamn! have tables, cashiers or any of the other basic amenities diners have come to expect.

Instead, Bamn is a throwback to the first half of the 20th century -- it's an automat diner. Windowed compartments display hot, fresh food. Customers throw in a few coins and are rewarded with instant gratification. Bamn's menu focuses on fast comfort food: hot dogs, grilled cheese, chicken strips, mac & cheese, etc.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Change your view

Lifestyle television is the rage these days. Although almost every second person seems to be having their own show on TV, everyone seems to be successful and viewers are lapping it up. It's never been a better time to be in the home decor, furnishings, interiors business. I like Nate Berkus's style of decorating, clean and simple lines, interesting color combinations, practical and never ever fussy.

The internet too has a huge amount of resources available for those who would like to have a go at fixing things up themselves. As is the case with everything else, there is a tremendous amount of specialization, with sites such as Replacement Windows n' Shutters dedicated to only installing replacement windows perfectly. The site has a lot of information on how to select the right window type and material, maintenance etc when you want to install some replacement windows.

Belief

While on the topic of Ford, here's a great quote by Henry Ford, although its also attributed to Mary Kay Ash.

If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can't, you're right.

--Henry Ford

Are we the model immigrants?

Interesting article in Business Week on how Indians have historically been the most successful immigrants.
You'll find Indian physicians working in almost every hospital as well as running small-town practices. Indian journalists hold senior positions at major publications, and Indian faculty have gained senior appointments at most universities. Last month, Indra Nooyi, an Indian woman, was named CEO of PepsiCo (PEP).

Ford dealers

The US has a great system of buying and selling cars. Everything is quite regulated, systemized and straightforward. Well, at least that what I experience when as a college student and while working in Kansas City. It was just so simple to go and buy a car, and generally you were quite sure that you were not being made a fool of.

My first car was a Ford Escort, a four door, red hatchback that made me feel on top of the world. It was a good college time car, gave me almost no trouble at all, considering I had almost no idea how to look after it. With my very limited budget, I set out to look for a nice, clean and cute car that wouldn't leave me stranded in the middle of nowhere...and in Kansas, a lot of places can be the middle of nowhere.

The great thing about buying a car in the States is the ease access to dealerships, the rules they have to follow and the open knowledge of car values of every make, model and year. Take the Maryland Ford Dealers for example, they have a good listing of all the dealers in the area, based on where you live, what model you are interested in buying and whether its a new or used vehicle. Its a great resource for someone who is wanting to buy a car, really simplifying what earlier used to be a crazy run-around process.

Trends

The McKinsey Quarterly reports on the Ten trends to watch in 2006
Those who say that business success is all about execution are wrong. The right product markets, technology, and geography are critical components of long-term economic performance. Bad industries usually trump good management, however: in sectors such as banking, telecommunications, and technology, almost two-thirds of the organic growth of listed Western companies can be attributed to being in the right markets and geographies. Companies that ride the currents succeed; those that swim against them usually struggle. Identifying these currents and developing strategies to navigate them are vital to corporate success.

What are the currents that will make the world of 2015 a very different place to do business from the world of today? Predicting short-term changes or shocks is often a fool's errand. But forecasting long-term directional change is possible by identifying trends through an analysis of deep history rather than of the shallow past. Even the Internet took more than 30 years to become an overnight phenomenon.

Numbered art

I've always loved art even though I myself am quite pathetic at drawing. I do love to do crafty stuff though, especially with natural products like leaves, twigs etc. Fall in the Providence and Bristol, RI really cranked up the creative work. Until I started working at an art gallery, Art Folio in Chandigarh, I never really had pinpointed what kind of art work I liked. I generally liked whatever I saw, which was mostly impressionist landscapes and portraits, ie..the basic stuff.

After working at the gallery I realised I loved art work with a twist...it could be a landscape but there had to be something that made it different than just a 'nice' painting. Something edgy, something modern, just something...

So, when I saw Anthony White's number paintings, I was absolutely amazed....at the simplicity, the directness and of course at the cheekyness. Anthony started the money series in April 2004 for the Yeppoon Rotary Art Competition as a last ditch effort to make money selling his paintings. Well, both paintings that he entered sold overnight and left several people asking for more. I think Anthony's work is really innovative and a great talking point. Would love to own one myself.

Coupon keychain

Superb article in Fortune Small Business about how coupons are going to get high-tech. A company in Los Angeles has created a way so you can use those coupons and best of all its a winning situation for both customers and retailers as customers end up spending more money when they use more coupons.
Fewer than 1% of coupons ever get redeemed, according to coupon-processing firm CMS. Vijay Chetty and Fred Paul, co-founders of ScanAps in Los Angeles, think they've figured out how to change that - and save manufacturers and grocers money and time. ScanAps makes a USB scanner that fits on a keychain and lets shoppers scan paper-coupon bar codes at home and download them in the store.
Read the full article here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pantaloon strives to differentiate itself by its ‘Indianness’

Kishore Biyani's interview with The Economic Times:

In an interview with The Economic Times, Kishore Biyani, MD Pantaloon Retail (Future Group) said that 'Indianness' is the core value that drives his company. Understanding the Indian consumer and how they spend is what will make Pantaloon different from other companies.

Cafe Coffee Day opening 3 more outlets in Austria

The Economic Times reports:

The largest coffee chain in India Café Coffee Day will soon be consolidating its presence in Austria by opening another café in Graz by end October. The company had earlier opened a café in Vienna opposite the famed Opera House and will be opening another in the city opposite Vienna University as well as in Linz and Klagenfurt. On the domestic front, the company has planned to open 20 cafes each month to reach 512 cafes in 70 cities by June 2007.

Sunglasses for all

I've always been a sunglasses person. I have to have a pair with me at all times as my eyes are quite sensitive to bright light and dust (especially since I wear contact lenses). I usually have 2-3 pairs of sunglasses at a time....currently I have; one basic junky pair bought ages ago, one trendy pair with extra large lenses bought on our recent trip to the US and one with classy pair with a great anti-glare and UVA, UVB protection for driving and outdoor stuff from Polaroid. (It was their great display that made me take notice of the sunglasses and got me hooked.)

Most people don't really bother to have a good pair of sunglasses, buying one with UVA and UVB protection is really essential as is the anti-glare coating which I really love. For outdoor activities like hiking, or playing golf, it's essential to have something like a Bolle sunglasses which has an EagleVision 2 Lens that increases contrast in the color spectrum to highlight the color green and of course reduce glare.

OpticsPlanet has a huge range of regular and prescription sunglasses, including the Wiley X range of military sunglasses that incidentally are the best selling range of sunglasses for the military, aviator sunglasses, Serengeti sunglasses, Orange County chopper sunglasses and sports sunglasses like the Bolle brand.

Thought of the day

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.

--Elie Wiesel

Another simple yet powerful quote that deep inside everyone knows but not everyone can put into practice, whether its due to stubbornness to accept the truth or something deeper than that. I find it important to read such quotes to go back to simple truths, instead of a lot of complicated and convoluted stuff that one hears these days.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Customizing searches

As I get more and more involved in writing a blog, maintaining my site, considering getting my own domain name, add nifty software, I am reading and understanding more about how to really make a page/site viable and commercial. One such site I came across offers a variety of customized searches and plugins that you can easily add to your existing toolbar to get the best results suited to you. Add searches to IE7 and Firefox 2 with ease using OpenSearchList. Some of the popular searches are listed on the home page.

Sunday thought

A room without books is like a body without a soul.

--Cicero

I think this is one of the most powerful yet simple quotes ever. I find it hard to imagine how anyone could live without books or reading of any sort. While not everyone is interested in reading books, reading is be a creative expression of sorts for some, a learning ground for others and plain habit for others. Each time I have moved houses, books are one of the first things I unpack, and even if they are lying in a tower on the floor, they still somehow manage to make a house look more like a home.

Translate this

As the world becomes more of a unified global marketplace, the need for translation services and cultural and social marketers is increasing. Language 123 has a superb listing of translators, copywriters, editors, proofreaders etc in a huge selection of languages. I liked the way you enter information on what you would like to find and the results are immediately shown. The site is very user friendly and real time with its listing of freelance translators and interpreters.

K-State football

Kansas State beat Marshall 23-7 in yesterday's game making it 3-0 for the season so far. Great going Wildcats!! Some details on the game. Interestingly, the K-State team did not let Marshall make any offensive touchdowns for the second week in a row.
Dylan Meier completed 19-of-35 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown and the Wildcats held Marshall to 150 yards of total offense in a 23-7 win.Jeff Snodgrass booted three field goals to help new head coach Ron Prince won his third game in as many tries. The Wildcats were coming off a 45-0 blanking of Florida Atlantic.

Flooring wish list

Living in Bombay's warm and humid climate, I miss having hardwood floors in our apartment. In an ideal environment, I would love to have Armstrong Laminate Flooring installed. I really like the warmth of the wood and love the features they offer like stain resistant finish and ArmaLock Installation System that requires the flooring to be installed with no glue at all.

Mary Kay gets clearance to begin operations in India

US direct selling cosmetics company Mary Kay was given the go ahead from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to manufacture and retail its products. The company has been permitted to set up a joint venture with an Indian company holding 49% of the stake in the company.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

On books

Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.

--Henry Ward Beecher

I've always maintained that the three things that make a house into a home are books, plants and personal photographs. Each time we have moved, I make sure I have these three things to make our home look lived in and loved.

Kansas State Vs Marshall today

My school Kansas State University is doing good so far this football season, having defeated both Illinois State (24-23) and Florida Atlantic (45-0) so far. Today we play Marshall at 11:30 am. The fun will really start when we start playing some of our old rivals; Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Iowa and of course the Kansas Jayhawks, our arch enemies.

As a foriegn student at K-State, I loved the wild enthusiasm that football created, and got totally caught up in it, watching the games, wearing the gear, eating game worthy food and the cheering of course. College football jerseys were an absolute must on all game days and I loved the way they raised the level of excitement and involvement of the students, alumni and professors.

Delhi plans its first city-wide shopping festival

Business Standard reports:

Delhi will have its very first city wide shopping festival this Diwali. Being organized by Thyme, the Delhi Diwali Shopping Festival (DDSF) will cover 20 shopping centers and 10 malls in the NCR area from September 21 to October 21 this year. Besides shopping highlights, there will also be events such as performances by Jagjit Singh and Indian Ocean, fashion shows, a jewelry festival, food exhibition etc.

Travel wiki

Most technologically savvy computer users know what wiki's are and how incredibly well this collaborative effort works in providing and updating information. A wiki simply is a website that permits its readers to edit or add information to the site. The term wiki comes from the Hawaiian 'wiki wiki', meaning 'rapidly'.

Wiki's are transforming the way people get information, especially in the travel and tourism industry. By having a wiki, a hospitality company is able to get quality traffic come to their site and hone their marketing strategy. Blizzard Internet Marketing answers all the important questions on how a travel and tourism wiki is a great way to differentiate yourself from the crowd, get your viewers involved and promote your business. The company also has their own wiki for Roaring Fork and the Colorado river valleys in Western Colorado, which is a great example of how well this concept works.

Retailers rush to set up stores at new Bangalore airport

The Economic Times reports:

Several multinational companies such as the Nuance Group, DFS Group, Alpha Airports Group, Dufry Group and Gebr Heinemann are lining up to operated stores and other retail services at Bangalore’s new international airport. Domestic retailers such as Shoppers’ Stop and Pantaloon and other companies like the Oberoi Group are also showing keen interest in the venture.

India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), the government run organization that runs duty-free shops at most airports is not on the list as it has not qualified. Arianta is another major company that has not made the grade. The Bangalore International Airport (BIAL) met bidders at a meeting on Thursday and has short-listed potential bidders into five sets, including food retail and retail facilities.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Mustang days

On graduating from college my friend Sarah was given a choice of a car as a present by her parents, the only consideration being that it be a US made car. She, of course, chose a Ford Mustang convertible (ah yes, the other stipulation was that it either be a convertible or a GT, not both!). I remember some great times driving around Kansas City in that car. Although, she had a Ford Mustang earlier too, in college, I hadn't realised until then what a fan following the car has in the States. On searching, I found a forum dedicated to the Ford Mustang that has news, technical articles, resources and other information on the car.

Carrefour all set to enter Indian market

CNN-IBN reports:

According to industry sources, the world’s second largest retailer, Carrefour is all set to enter the Indian market after a franchising tie up with the Dubai based Landmark Group. The new venture will set up hypermarkets to sell food and groceries, apparel and electronics. Although there is no confirmation on the finalization of the deal from either company, Landmark’s Director H Ramnathan said that the companies were still conducting talks.

Ace the SAT

Came across a SAT test preparation site on the web and was really impressed at the way students can prepare for the exam. When I did the test, we had to do the practice tests on regular sheets of paper, pretty boring and regular compared to what is now available. I really liked the practice test which made it so easy for students to practice taking the test.

The site has some good resources for students that will help them study and focus better. Another good section is the tip of the day which includes a variety of topics such as timing yourself, guessing an answer, writing an essay etc. There is also a section on vacbulary with new words being added on a daily basis.

Pantaloon to enter the logistics arena

The Economic Times reports:

Pantaloon announced its decision to set up a new division, Futures Logistics providing third-party logistical support to the retail industry. According to sources, initial investment is estimated to be around Rs. 400-500 crore and will focus on efficient modes of transport such as roads and railways. Sea and air modes of transport will be added at a later time. Initially Futures Logistics will cater solely to Pantaloon Retail, but plans to offer services to other companies within 1-2 years.

Local drug stores gear up to face the competition

Rediff Money reports:

With the impending entry of major industry houses like Reliance Retail, Pantaloon and Fortis in the organized pharmacy trade, local drug stores are trying to organize themselves to face the competition. As a first step, the All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists with 600,000 members is registering itself as a company.

Fortis will be opening 500 stores across the country under the Health World Ltd. brand. The stores are likely to be large format stores similar to US pharma chains such as CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens. Some of the expansions that existing companies are doing are Apollo Hospitals expansion to 1,500 stores and Morepen’s investment of Rs. 350 million to increase its Lifespring stores from 10 to 70.

Other companies that are entering pharma retail are Zydus Cadila and Himalaya Drugs. Existing players such as Medicine Shoppe, Lifeken, Global Healthline’s 98.4 degrees, CRS Health, Health Glow are already in the market but pale in comparison to the mega bucks that new companies will be investing in setting up their pharma chains.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Renting luxury

Wearing the latest trend is gaining more weight than actually owning it, thanks to several sites that offer customers the experience of 'renting' or 'borrowing' items.
Milton Pedraza, the director of the Luxury Institute, a consumer research group, would have said I was renting not just a look but an experience: In this case, the feeling of one-upmanship that comes with flaunting the season's most sought-after items.

"With luxury goods," Pedraza said by phone, "many people today are more interested in collecting experiences than they are in actually owning the asset." He added that even among the not- so-rich, the thrill of possession palls fast. Wealthy people in particular "are tired of the clutter in their lives," he said. "They don't want the hassles of ownership. More than possessions, they want variety."
Read the full article here.

A bookmark

Why pay a dollar for a bookmark? Why not use the dollar for a bookmark?

--Steven Spielberg

Vacationing with your pets

Florida has always been one of the top travel destinations in the US. The Palm Coast area is particularly popular due to its abundance of salt and fresh water canals, including the beautiful intercoastal waterway. The area has a old world charm with its architecture and lush native trees.

If you love both traveling and your pets and being able to enjoy both together is a hassle then you've got to check out Palm Coast Vacation Rentals Condos in Ocean Hammock Beach Club Resort in Florida. They offer a variety of pet friendly vacations which both you and your pet can enjoy. Palm Coast is located in Florida's Flagler County and is one of the fastest growing areas partially due to its high immigration rate. Palm Coast Vacation Rentals offer a variety of pet friendly vacation homes, condos and beach houses at the Ocean Hammock Beach Club Lodge.

US airport wi-fi list

I found this list of US airports that offer wi-fi internet facilities. What I found really interesting is that while some of the larger cities either did not have wi-fi internet facilities available (Washington Dulles, Washington Reagan) or charged a high amount for it (San Francisco and Providence $6/hr, San Antonio $7.95) several smaller cities like Akron, OH, Albuquerque, NM, Birmingham, AL, Boise, ID, Charlotte, NC, Columbus, OH, South Bend, IN and Wichita, KS do not charge for wi-fi internet facilities. Nice to note my college days airport Kansas City International as well as Kansas City Downtown Municipal both have free wi-fi access.
See the full list here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Trial and Error

The galleries are full of critics. They play no ball, they fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down in the arena are the doers. They make mistakes because they try many things.

--Gen David M Shoup

From Sacred Space in today's Times of India.

What's in a name?

When we moved to Bombay, we found it quite odd how everyone wants to know not only the locality you live in, but also the name of the apartment complex. Its something that we've not seen anywhere else, not in Kansas City, not it Providence, not in Bangalore and not in Delhi either. Housing complex/society names are a big deal here. Most names are cringe-worthy and corny as hell.

There seems to a definate tilt towards girls names I've noticed...with names like Akanksha, Pratibha, Shirin (manzil, mansion, apts), Suman, Manju...

Then there's the guys names like Vinit, Abhinav, Gautam, Sudesh...

Then come the double name ones like Ashish Manish, Jeevan Anand, Mahavir Vaibhav, Om Rajan...

There have to be the religious ones too like Sai Kripa, Sai Trishul, Guru Krupa...

There are ones named after other places like Patliputra, Nalanda, Allahabad, Takshila...

There are the ones with a 'View' like Garden View, Ocean View, Park View, Sea View...

Not to forget the ones tagged onto 'Sea' like Sea Legand, Sea Wood, Sea Green, Sea Glimpse (there have to be some really gullible people living here), Sea Lord...

There also plenty with nature inspired names like Primrose, Orchid, Garden Rose...

There are the over the top grand names like Royal Accord, Gold Coin (where we saw and almost rented an apt), Kamal Diamond...

And of course the ones taken from foriegn lands like Highland Park (in Lokhandwala, from where I used to catch the A2 when the main market road was being constructed), Green Park (Delhi has a Green Park, and well, its almost like a foreign country to Mumbaikars), Sheffield Towers, Sunny Side (like the cottage in Kasauli that Henry Lawrence built), Woodstock, Oak Land Park (inspired by Oakland, CA, maybe?), Beverly Park...

There are the off the wall names like Magic Carpet, Good Gift, Ben Hur (why, why?)...

Only in Bombay. Definately only in Bombay.

Thought of the day

There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking.

--Alfred Korzybski

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

London living

London is known to be one of the most expensive cities to live in and if you're planning to move there, it's a good idea to plan your move in advance and look for a place to live online, much before you get there. UK Property Search Engine is a great place to start looking for a place to live whether it is a flat, house or a studio. The Zoomf.com Property Search specializes in the London area (and will be soon expanding to other areas in England) and can help you locate a property if you are letting or buying.

Using this property search engine, users can connect to several estate agents and brokers in a simple and easy way. When you select a property to look at, it takes you to the original property broker who is offering the property. Search either by location, such as Chelsea, Hyde Park Corner or Knightsbridge, or you can search by price and size requirements such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

In my 15 minutes of searching for a flat that I would love to live in, I found 2 nice places in Chelsea. Both flats had private gardens, one a basement garden and the other a rooftop garden. Zoomf.com has a easy to read and navigate listing of properties, with details on location, square footage, view, map, floor plans and other amenities clearly listed.

Happy Birthday to a very special person

Happy Birthday Mama!
You're a beautiful human being inside and out.
And the most uplifting and positive person I've ever met.
You make all of us complete, Mama.
We love you.

To really live

Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.

--Dorothy Thompson

I love this quote for its simplicity and its strength. Over a period of time, one tends to forget that often times our life is overtaken by our fears and hesitations. Its only when we either overcome these fears or disregard them, that we really live.

Tea tales

I started enjoying drinking tea only 3-4 years back, when we moved to Providence, RI in the middle of winter and there was only so much coffee I could drink in a day. Drinking tea was a welcome change, one that I had unknowingly resisted, thinking it to be a grown up drink. Well, I thought at the time, I was a grown up and about time I started drinking tea.

I started with the humble or rather lowly yellow label and slowly upgraded to red and green label teas. Nowdays, I enjoy my green label tea with just a couple of tablespoons of milk in it in the morning while reading the newspaper. I also really enjoy drinking green tea straight, without milk or sugar as an after dinner drink. Its especially good after a heavy meal and is a super way to wind up the day.

Although, the benefits of drinking a green tea such as decaf green tea with ginseng are well known, most people still don't drink it as its not easily available in regular grocery stores. I found a really good site that sells a variety of teas and other Chinese Herbs and Alternative Remedies, but also has a description of each item along with its ingredients, benefits and history.

'Retailers must get organized'

The Economic Times reports from the recently concluded India Retail Forum:

The Maharashtra Governor, SM Krishna spoke at the India Retail Forum (IRF) in Mumbai and asked the state-run bodies to change the face of retail in the country by becoming organized about the unorganized retail sector. He also said that leading retailers must not ignore the kirana stores.
“This unorganized retail segment provides a cushion against unemployment for millions of people. They have their own customer base and will continue to do so.”
Arvind Singhal, Chairman of KSA Technopak spoke about the size of the retail industry which at $300 billion is likely to grow by 40% to $427 billion by 2011. Organized retail in India consists only of 3% or $8 billion of the total retail pie, but is likely to grow to somewhere between $60-75 billion in the next five years.

The potential for growth in organized retail was highlighted by Krish Iyer, Managing Director (India) of AS Watson Group, who said that almost 95% of Indian consumers had not been to a mall for shopping. Kevin Moss, Vice President (Operations) of General Growth Properties (GGP) added
“The transformation that has taken place here is quite phenomenal. The evolution of retail India is much faster than that in the US.”

One more pair...

Like all girls, I love buying and browsing through shoe stores. And if you love shopping online from the comfort of your home, then you'll love ToeCovers.com which sells the most reputable shoe brands for the entire family on the internet. There is no charge for shipping and returns are no hassles too. There is also no sales tax to most states and if you're interested you can even subscribe to a newsletter that keeps you updated to new styles. ToeCovers has a huge inventory of shoes, much larger than most regular shoe stores.

Costa Coffee breaks even

The Economic Times reports:

UK company Costa Coffee opened its first outlet in India in September 2005 in Delhi and has already broken even in one year of operations in the country. Costa Coffee is managed my Devyani International, the master franchisee for the company in India. Arjun Verma, Director and CFO of Devyani International, said that the company,
“…reached cash break-even in July. In another 3-4 months, we will cover depreciation too and start making net profits.”

Monday, September 11, 2006

Jewelry news

Economic Times reports:

Gitanjali Gems announced that it will be purchasing a US jewelry chain with 100 stores for $40 million. The company is at present in advance stages of negotiations with the company, which is one of the top 10 jewelry firms in the US and has an estimated turnover of $100 million. Gitanjali Gems has made a significant dent in the Indian jewelry market with its brands, Asmi, Gili, Ginatti, D’damas and Nakshatra and plans to grow its chain from its current 620 outlets to 900 outlets.

The Hindu Business Line reports:

Oyzterbay plans to form a JV with German company
Jewelry company Oyzterbay plans to enter into a joint venture with a German company to retail its products at its 56 Oyzterbay stores across the country. The company’s has 30 company owned standalone stores that will undergo a name change and will soon be called Labh Jewelers. Oyzterbay was recently purchased by Rajesh Exports.

Dish TV

I'm getting pretty sick of the hold that local cable wallah's have on what you see and what you don’t. We have not been getting any of the English movie channels for 3 weeks now and since we have to pay our cable chap a year in advance, he is not worried about getting less payment from his clients. So as usual, we are the losers again. Dish Network or Direct TV is sounding better day by day.

US chain Sbarro coming to India

Newsday reports:

US based Italian restaurant chain Sbarro announced its decision to open 100 eateries in India, making it the company’s largest international expansion. Sbarro will be partnering with RTC, an Indian company to open the restaurants in New Delhi in 2007 and then 10 new restaurants every year for the next ten years. Most restaurants will be in malls in the major metros.

Sbarro will be the first restaurant in India to sell pizza by the slice and will also have a full Italian menu on offer besides pizza. The company will also be creating a new vegetarian menu to cater to vegetarian customers that make up a large part of the population. At present, Sbarro which was formed more than 50 years ago has nearly 1,000 restaurants in 30 countries.

Reality

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

--Philip K. Dick

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Just too bad...

Too bad that all the people who really know how to run the country are busy driving taxi cabs and cutting hair.

--George Burns

Facing history

History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.

--David C. McCullough

Like buying books

I am addicted to buying books, a lot of times regardless of whether I am going to read them or not. It's kind of an addiction of sorts, I guess. I love to go to bookstores to hunt for good deals on books but often its the same books again and again on the discount shelves. So I joined a book club where I got amazing deals on books. Although I missed out on the experience of buying a book in a bookstore, I saved a ton on money through book clubs.

It's a really good idea to check out to see where one can get the best deal. If you like buying books online, then this site is for you. CheapBooks is a great site that compares the prices of books from major retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, eBay, Amazon, Half.com and eCampus etc. Both new and used book comparisons are available.

Inorbit to set up 9 malls

Daily News & Analysis reports:

Inorbit Mall, part of the K Raheja Corp, will soon be expanding and plans to have 9 new malls in the next 3 years. The company will be investing Rs. 1.5 million towards each mall, according to Yogesh Samat, CEO of Inorbit Mall. At present there is only one Inorbit Mall, located in Malad a western suburb of Mumbai. New malls located in Navi Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune and Delhi will vary in size from 0.5 to 0.85 million sq ft in space.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Thought for the day

People spend a lifetime searching for happiness; looking for peace. They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them. The irony is the only place they ever needed to search was within.

--Ramona L. Anderson

Search and save

Website's have begun to specialize and superspecialize these days. I came across a site that offers rebates and coupons for Canadian merchants. How it works is that you register with them for free and before purchasing anything online, log into your account at GreatCanadianRebates.ca and earn cash back rebates on most of your purchases. The comapny earns a commission on all sales and pass part of this commission to customers.

Got some secrets to share?

New York Times reports that marketers would love to know your secrets.
Secrets are at the center of a growing number of national advertising campaigns. In some instances, consumers are being invited to reveal personal secrets and disclose them publicly. In other cases, the marketers spill the beans, sharing with consumers what they describe as corporate secrets.
The trend is inspired by some strong currents in popular culture. They range from the preoccupation with the personal lives of celebrities, as chronicled in a new generation of gossip magazines like In Touch, Star and Us, to the proliferation of reality series on television, featuring cast members who are eager to divulge their innermost thoughts.