Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Making it special

All weddings call for personal attention to the bride and groom, but what about personalized wedding favors for the wedding itself, so that the day is memorialized with the names of the bride and groom and the date forever. I think, its a really great idea to add this personal touch to a wedding. The Knot Wedding Supplies has some great ideas for making a wedding personal, even down to the personalizing gifts to the wedding attendants such as the bridesmaids and groomsmen. The Knot Wedding Shop has lots of items from wedding cameras, to ring pillows, to cake toppers etc. Being the largest retailer of wedding supplies on in the Internet, The Knot Wedding Shop has some of the best selection of items for a wedding.

Specialty careers in real estate

Career specialization is ushering in newer and newer careers these days. The real estate industry that was once only for brokers, construction workers and architects is now seeing a host of new opportunities come up for investment bankers, marketing managers, visual merchandisers etc. The real estate industry now requires people with skills in business, finance and communication besides having knowledge of traditional real estate skills. Real estate developers are increasing their hiring to meet the increasing demand. As the market is opening up, additional FDI is coming into the sector and fueling the growth even more.

Nothing 'Fresh' about this

Coincidence or not, several prominent food retailers are using the name 'Fresh' and vibrant reds and greens as store colors, a name and color scheme first used by Reliance Fresh. Other companies that are also using the name are Heritage Foods,which has named its stores Fresh@, with the name of the located added in and ITC has called its food venture Choupal Fresh. Subhiksha uses the red and green very prominently in its logo and signs but does not have the word Fresh in it.

New ad system at Yahoo! almost complete

The much anticipated new advertising system at Yahoo! is almost complete and according to first reports at LA Times, investors were happy with the results, causing the company's shares to increase by more than 5%. This new ad system will help Yahoo! compete more effectively with Google.
...investors were more interested in a progress report on the much-anticipated search advertising system, known as Project Panama. Yahoo didn't disappoint. After shocking Wall Street in July with a three-month delay,
Chief Executive Terry Semel on Tuesday said Yahoo would begin ranking all search-related ads using the Panama technology Feb. 5, a few weeks earlier than
previously anticipated.

The new system promises to deliver more targeted ads with search results, an area in which Google's technology holds a big edge. That's significant because advertisers don't pay unless their ads get clicked on. Yahoo expects Panama to begin boosting its profit in the second quarter.


Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo has undergone growing pains recently, including a major shuffle of top executives in December, as it tries to keep pace with Google and fight off Web upstarts such as MySpace.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sending flowers

Well, Valentine's Day is around the corner and it's getting time to order some beautiful flowers or a chocolate basket to send to your loved one. Considering there are so many florist and gift basket stores online, I find it hard to really be sure that what I order, is what is actually sent. Some time back, I had to send flowers in the US and on the recommendation of a friend I used Dot Flowers. I was really happy at the response I got after my flowers were delivered. Dot Flowers can deliver any flower delivery on their Florist Direct flower arrangement list on the same day, arranged either at a local florist or at their growers farms. Besides flowers, Dot Flowers also have gift baskets, ranging from cookies, savory snacks, chocolates and fresh fruits. The company is known for their customer service and has even received awards for it, which is really reassuring to know. From my first hand experience, I can say that I was extremely satisfied with the entire experience of selecting a bouquet to placing an order and having my order being delivered on time.

Bangalore faces shortfall of space for luxury retailers

Bangalore is facing a shortage of premium space for retail, as large format retailers are now looking for space outside of malls, so that they can control the look and feel of the store. Business Standard reports that the high end segment is one of the fastest growing segments in Bangalore and commercial space is getting segmented and organized as international companies are setting benchmarks on the kind of property they are looking for. The two main requirements for top end retailers are large retail space and enough parking space. Other important factors are having a good retail mix in the area and also having some space between shops.
This new demand has led to the emergence of non-CBD areas like Koramangala, Indiranagar, Malleswaram and Jayanagar as potential locations for such stores. It is in these areas that new development and fresh construction are taking place.

Such developments are happening despite the commissioning of four malls, Forum, Garuda, Sigma and Prestige Eva, totalling one million square feet of retail space.

All these have come up in and around the traditional prime shopping areas like Commercial Street, Brigade Road and M G Road.

Reliance Retail, Bharti likely to enter microfinance sector

Reliance Retail and Bharti Enterprises are looking towards the micro-credit sector as part of their efforts to set up rural supply chains for their retail initiatives. The Economic Times reports that according to sources Reliance will be seeking permission from the RBI so that it can set up an NBFC arm that will operate a microfinance institution (MFI). The micro-finance sector is estimated to be worth Rs 7,000 crore, for both the rural and urban poor. Reliance Retail might also be interested in the venture as another target for its mass consumption goods. Both companies are said to be attending a micro finance summit next month being hosted by the Women’s World Banking (WWB) in Mexico.
While Reliance has already made its first moves in tapping the potential and is said to be in early-stage talks with some leading MFIs based in Andhra Pradesh, rival Bharti has also shown interest in exploring the MFI route for supporting the retail supply chain, contract farming operations and dairy sourcing.

Finding the perfect nightstand

We've been moving with great regularity for the past 4 years and the best part of it all has been selecting furniture for each of our new homes. So, we have managed to accumulate a good amount of furniture for ourselves. The one thing that we are now looking for are a nice pair of bedside tables or nightstands, which for some reason we have not been able to get, either for lack of space in the room, or time, or selection. So I have been searching for something that will fit our needs for storage (it must be closed, since there is just too much dust here) and it must not be fitted to the floor, as it gets too hard to move it for cleaning etc. I came across this nightstand at Great Priced Furniture, a great online furniture store from their Attic Heirloom Collection, a distressed solid oak nightstand which seems to be just what we were looking for. Now, lets see how I can get it delivered here.

Reliance Retail plans 100 additional stores in NCR

After opening stores in the NCR, Reliance Retail announced that it was planning to open 100 additional stores in the next 120 days, but might have a problem due to finding the right locations. Since the Supreme Court's order on use of commercial space, commercial property prices have significantly increased and led to a shortage. In the next phase, the company plans to open 50 Reliance Fresh stores in NCR and 50 in Delhi. According to sources, the overall space acquired by Reliance is over five lakh sq ft.
The Mukesh Ambani-promoted company spent close to Rs 1,000 crore in just two days to acquire properties in Vikaspuri in West Delhi valued at around Rs 280 crore and at Dwarka and Rohini for around Rs 700 crore.

Monday, January 29, 2007

India's telecom industry set to cross 20 crore mark

The telecom industry is poised to cross another milestone as the total telephone subscribers will soon be crossing 20 crore. The Eocnomic Times reports that according to December 06 figures, telephone subcribers were over 19 crore, while wireless subscribers account for 15 crore. India's mobile industry adds over 6 million subscribers each month.
The telecom industry grew 4.5% sequentially, with wireless net addition of 6.4 million in the month of December ‘06, taking the overall wireless subscriber base to 14.9 crore. The growth was driven by highest ever net adds by Bharti, Reliance and Hutch. The GSM operators added 72.4% with 4.6 million subscribers while CDMA operators added 1.8 million subscribers, according to JM Morgan Stanley estimates.

Metros grew at 3.2%, whereas class B and C circles continue to grow faster with subscriber growth of 5.5% and 6.2%, respectively vis-a-vis 4.5% for the country. Wireless penetration for metros, class B and C circles now stands at 54.8%, 10.3% and 5.9%, respectively.

Triumph looking for franchise partner

More on the retail front: Triumph International's Indian division is on the lookout for a franchise partner to tie up with to open its flagship store in Mumbai. The company had shown a lot of interest in opening a flagship store earlier but due to the requirements of a joint venture, which the company was not interested in doing, the company decided to look for other options. According to Thorsten Allenstein, General Manager and Country Head (India) for Triumph,
“For flagship stores we will go through a franchise agreement. We are in
talks with a few companies but we are yet to find a partner with the right
mindset.”

Reverse cell number lookup

Did you know that you could use a reverse lookup to check the unrecognisable and unknown telephone number on your cell phone? Since most generic reverse lookup providers are not specializing in cellular phones, they end up with poor results. For the most reliable information on Cellular Reverse Lookup, this is the site to go to. The company has tested 5-10 of these other services to come up with best results for its customers.

Wal-Mart might go for rentals in India

Wal-Mart and Bharti Enterprises is likely to adopt a rental model of business for its operations as opposed to its usual ownership policy across the world. The JV companies are looking at both possibilities such as long-leasing as well as
rentals. The companies are holding talks with some leading commercial developers to sign up as anchor tenants in malls, where as in the US, most Wal-Mart stores are standalone stores.

Meanwhile, Bharti-Wal-Mart has started acquiring real estate space for its ambitious retail venture in the country. According to sources, the company has
taken close to 1.5 lakh square feet of retail space spread across various parts of the country. These are Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh, among others. Sunil Mittal is leveraging group company Bharti Realty to tie up real estate.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

2nd round of poaching in retail

A second round of poaching has begun in the retail sector here. The first round occurred when Reliance Retail was getting started and now the Bharti-Wal-Mart tie up is hiring senior executives from rival firms. Wal-Mart's head of emerging markets, Raj Jain, who is said to be looking after the company's operations in India, has reportedly taken 4 senior executives from his former company Whirlpool India. All positions are at the senior level and several more are sure to go in the next few months. Bharti recently announced that it would like to start operations by August 15, 2007, India's 60th Independence Day.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

On selecting legal aid

The legal profession has a series of peer rating systems that it uses to rate firms as a method of benchmarking. Simmons, Jannace & Stagg is one such firm that has received the highest peer review rating. The rating is done by Martindale-Hubbell on the basis of legal ability and ethical standards practiced by the law firms. The company began as a litigation firm specializing in commercial and general liability ten years ago and is now considered one of the most respected law firms in the tri-state area of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Besides its work on commercial and general liability, the law firm also practices in a wide segment covering labor and employment, arbitrations and litigation, securities law, banking and consumer litigation, bankruptcy and creditors rights, corporate transactions, municipal law, real estate, zoning and land use and environmental law. With some of the largest corporations as their clients, including Home Depot, Bank of America, Best Buy, General Motors, Staples, GMAC Insurance Holdings, Coca-Cola, Circuit City and many others, the law firm is known for its legal expertise and wide experience.

Unlike many law firms, the company is known to think "outside the box" and find solutions that are creative and inventive. It is qualities such as this that make Simmons, Jannace & Stagg perfect for all types of companies, whether small or large or individual or even municipalities. The firm also counsels business clients and real estate developers in matters pertaining to financial transactions and real estate.

Reliance Retail to open stores in Delhi

Reliance Retail will be opening stores in Delhi on Monday, 29th January, 2007. The company will be opening 9 Reliance Fresh outlets in areas such as Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Gurgaon and Noida. The company has 40 Reliance Fresh stores at present, located in Hyderabad, Jaipur and Chennai. In each city, Reliance has opened several stores at a time, and inaugurated stores by local housewives, a tactic that has led to hundreds of women lining up on opening day.

Reliance Retail will be the country's largest retail investment, with an outlay of over Rs 25,000 crore and a game plan to open stores in 764 cities across the country. For the NCR (National Capital Region) alone, the company has kept Rs 8,000 crore to set up its stores. Company sources, say that Reliance Retail will be opening around 400-600 stores in the NCR region, taking up 50 million sq ft of space.

Verizon deals

I've been using my cell phone, simply as just that. Not for taking pictures, not for listening to music or watching clips. I use it just for calls and messages and have been quite happy just doing that. Living and working in any big city, means that most people are busy pretty much 24/7 and sometimes it can be really refreshing to switch off, to not be connected with the latest gizmo each and every minute of the day.

Well, it's a Saturday after a long and busy week, (I was working yesterday too, even though it was a national holiday) and an even more hectic one ahead, I am thinking it would be nice not to be connected all the time. For the time, one is connected, then one should invest in the very best of technology that is available for the kind of thing that is suitable to you.

Helping people find the best cell phones and the best cell phone deals for their needs. Largest selection you'll find anywhere, including carrier sites. Free shipping! We had a quite a time just finding a good cell phone, because each store we went to had a different set up with completely different models available and no good information on which was the latest one, samples, service policies etc. It was quite a frustrating experience. Wirefly.com is the kind of site that is really useful at times like this. They have a huge listing of the best cell phones online, such as these featured Verizon cell phone deals and many, many more. I really wish we had a site like this for our area too. Shopping would be so much more fun.

Adapting to local ways of business

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ajay Dua Secretary in the industry of commerce and industry, said that global retailers must adapt their strategies and operations for India, especially keeping in mind that small mom and pop retailers should not be affected by global retailers business. To an extent, I think it's all right to say that, but the bottom line of any business, or any successful business, is to make money. If a store is lacking in some way, then consumers will not shop there and so with the big boys of international retail coming to India, any mom and pop store that is inefficient should be aware that someone down the road is likely to take away their customers.

It all comes down to doing a job well, to reading customers right and providing something different from other stores, protecting and excelling in your USP. No amount of regulations can keep a bad business alive. Take me for instance, I used to do all my shopping at a little mom and pop or kirana store across the street. Why? He had similar prices to all the supermarkets and hypermarkets nearby and delivered all the products to my doorstep at a moment's notice. If I wanted, I could have taken some credit from him too, at no extra cost. So, his USP was being able to deliver one item or an entire month's worth of shopping in 10 minutes. Unfortunately, he has not been doing too well lately. I realized he was not always giving the same specials and offers that the larger stores had (since now Spencers, Food Bazaar and HyperCity all send out weekly flyer's with their specials) and that he always charged the MRP (Maximum Retail Price) where as the organized retailers were always a bit less than the MRP.

So, as long as kirana store keepers focus on what makes them unique and provide a service or product that others either cannot or cannot do as well, then they are safe. Adaptation to local environment is absolutely necessary, but definitely not to safeguard inefficient shop keepers. I wonder when the government will realize they only need to govern the country and not run its airline, stores, hotels etc.

Where to play some games online?

When it comes to surfing the internet, there are those who cannot imagine spending some time at online casinos or game sites. There are a ton of sites that cater to all sorts of gambling online, whether it is cards or arcade or words or chess etc. Those who love it simply cannot do without it and the beauty of the Internet is such that you have access to such places no matter where you are. I myself am a bit cautious when it comes to online gambling, well real life gambling as well, so unless a source is absolutely trustworthy I do not visit the site at all. It's all a matter of knowing where to go and how to play, I suppose, and the more you play the better you get at it.

H&M to sell home textile products

Did you hear that H&M will now be selling home textiles too? Home Textiles Today reports that the Swedish company that has become famous for bringing great fashion at affordable prices, now hopes to work its magic for your home. I think the move is simply fantastic. The company will start selling products for the home online and from its catalogs in The Netherlands and Nordic countires. Products will also be sold online in Germany and Austria.
“There are no concrete plans for stores at the moment,” Tatter said, adding
it was also too soon to determine if the effort will find its way to the United
States but indicating that the company expects “substantial expansion” following
the debut. “We see a big demand for [home textiles] among our customers lately,”
Tatter said. “There is a growing interest.”

Friday, January 26, 2007

Lounge movie theatres: This is the way to watch movies

Springwise.com reports on a new trend which it has called "A being space for cinephiles". A company in Portland, OR has started Living Room Theatres as an intimate and unique movie going experience. The movie complex has 6 screening rooms, which seat from 38-64 people in a manner that you would watch a movie at home, on recliners, loveseats and plush seats with tables. Customers can relax in the living room style screening room for half an hour before the show starts and can order drinks and snack food. Interestingly, the Living Room also has a casual restaurant where it serves all meals. Wi-fi is available for free in the lounge and cafe. The company is targeting grown up customers who are looking for a good experience while watching movies and also for hanging out.

The company's owners, Felix Martin and Ernesto Rimoch, both went to film school and started the business mainly to offer audiences a new movie-going experience. They're already working on a second location in Miami, and aim to open 10-15 small theater complexes across the United States.

Our flag raising ceremony

Today is India's 57th Republic Day. We had our own flag-raising ceremony at the basketball courts in our apartment complex to mark the occasion. Since most residents living here are connected to the armed forces, the event was well attended, by former service men as well as kids who sang the national anthem, not as enthusiastically as we used to sing it in school, but quite well nevertheless. It was the first time I have attended a function to mark Republic Day, I think. We had winter vacations from school at this time, so other then watching the parade on TV, we never did anything special. It was nice to have our own event, to mark this day out from all others and to make it count.

Garden rentals

This trend was reported by Springwise.com in November last year, but I never got to write about it earlier. A Dutch company has started Rent-a-Garden, where customers can rent plants and outdoor sculptures to make their home look nice, or to make a house sell fast or for an event. Although this is a new concept in the west, renting potted plants is fairly common in India, where any plant nursery will rent you plants for weddings and other occasions. These are short term rentals and the nursery's charge a deposit to ensure plants are in decent condition on return.
Akin to changing a home's outdoor wardrobe, customers can switch their garden, patio or roof-terrace's look with every season. Sounds like the perfect solution for transumers – those consumers who have moved beyond the fixed and move from one temporary experience to the other, doing away with the hassle of ownership and maintenance.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

All inclusive vacations are the way to go

If you have gone on vacation lately, you would have noticed how the entire process has changed. Earlier, a vacation meant booking a flight and a hotel, where as now planning a vacation is a entirely different scenario. As our lives have become more complex, we need a higher level of vacations, those that completely de-stress and rejuvenate us. If you are looking for one of these vacations, then you must have a look at Vacations.net, one of the finest travel planning companies. Vacations.net is an all inclusive vacation travel experience that offers some incredible vacations at huge savings of up to 50%, while raising the bar on the type of resorts it features, to high end luxury resorts.

The company has recently launched a new website and an intuitive online booking feature, which can rival some of the global travel agencies in the sense that it can price dynamically and offer dollar and percentage promotions, discount regular packages and provide value added packages. One of the most important aspect of a travel website is high quality pictures, and Vacations.net has some incredibly compelling ones. The details on the resorts are in-depth, covering amenities, recreational activities, information on accommodations and other room options. Vacations are sorted by type, such as for couples only or family friendly. Most resorts are located in popular beach destinations such as Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico.

Do you wear 'fast clothes'?

The concept of "fast clothes" is really picking up lately. An article in The International Herald Tribune write about fast clothes, which are low cost clothes that are have low prices, often less than even a sandwich, can can be discarded without second thought. Consumers love the idea of having the latest trendy clothes and want to change them often, so this is perfect for them. US companies have been offering such options at stores like Old Navy and Target, but the concept is only now catching on in the UK. The downside of fast clothes, actually all clothes for that matter, is that they contribute to increasing carbon emissions and global warming and so are not considered earth friendly.

According to a study at Cambridge University, the global textile industry must become more "eco-conscious" and develop "sustainable clothing". Rushing to buy the latest trendy clothing only encourages clothing manufacturers to continue on with their business plans.

Some large clothing retailers are starting to take notice of the environmental questions and are exploring options. "Our research shows that customers are getting very concerned about environmental issues and we don't want to get caught between the eyes," said Mike Barry, head of corporate social responsibility at Marks & Spencer, one of Britain's largest retailers, which helped pay for the Cambridge study.

China's online users increase rapidly

Internet users in China have increased over 23% in 2006 and reached 137 million, of which 104 million are broadband users. According to an article in E-Commerce Times, the numbers were released by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) which has been tracking online usage from 1997. An estimated 17 million people in China also had online access via mobile phones. China now ranks second, after the US in online users.

"With a broadband penetration rate of 76 percent, China has already become one of the most-developed markets in broadband," Wang Enhai, an official with the CNNIC, said in the report.

With the improved infrastructure has come a better-quality experience. More seamless content delivery has played a crucial role in the rise of users, according to CNNIC.

More than 70 percent of China's Internet users are under 30 years old, and 58.3 percent of the overall users are men, with 41.7 percent women, the CNNIC report noted. The two largest age groups for users are 18 to 24, with 35.2 percent, and 25 to 30, with 19.7 percent.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Book lists

I love making lists, always have and always will. One of my favorite type of lists are of the books I have read and those I want to buy. On looking at my list, I realized that 2006 wasn't too good of a year in terms of reading. I read a paltry 9 books in the entire year. Absolutely pathetic, right?

Here's the list of the books I read in 2006
  1. Shadow of the Wind-Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  2. The Undercover Economist- Tim Harford
  3. Rich Like Us-Nayantara Sahgal
  4. The Hungary Tide-Amitav Ghosh
  5. East of Eden-John Steinbeck
  6. The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid-CK Prahalad
  7. The Red Carpet-Lavanya Sankaran
  8. Remaking India-Arun Maira
  9. The Constant Gardner-John LeCarre

Actually, if you think about it, although I didn't read too many books, I did read some pretty great ones. Ultimately, what is important, quantity or quality? The latter is more important I think, good books that stay with you for a lifetime, rather than fluff forgotten within a week.

I am currently reading The Art of the Steal by Christopher Mason, about the Sotheby's-Christie's auction house scandal.

On my to-read list are:

  • The Prince of Providence by Mike Stanton which is about Providence's ex-mayor Buddy Cianci, the most notorious mayor in all of America who is now doing time in prison.
  • The End of Poverty by Jefferey Sachs, which I have already started reading.
  • Writing White Papers by Michael Stelzner, one of the foremost writers in the white paper industry.
  • Governance by Arun Shourie
  • The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, which I read years ago, but want to read again.

Update:
I did read several business books such as Built to Last and several others this year for a summarization project I was doing. I enjoyed reading most of the books, one book I definitely did not enjoy and that was the only one where it felt like I was working.

Do you hate waiting in line too?

I read this really interesting article this morning on how people hate to wait. I can attest to this fact, as we always take a much longer but less crowded route to our home in Bombay rather than go the shorter router where you have to wait longer times at lights and jams. I really wonder if we actually save any time? Probably not, but the thought of waiting is just so abhorrent that we'd rather take a different and usually longer route completely.

Media Post's Marketing Daily writes about a study on waiting by NCR Corp, that found that everyone hates waiting in line, especially at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Ah yes, the dreaded DMV lines, I used to hate them too.

In its poll, NCR surveyed over 1,000 adults, after the DMV lines, waiting in line at stores came second, followed by waiting at clinics or hospitals, checking in at airports and ordering at fast food outlets. On being asked about self service, respondents said they selected a certain provider of goods or services primarily for the reason that it offered a self-service option.

On average, consumers estimate that they spend more than two days per year waiting in line for service, and half believe they waste between 30 minutes to two hours each week waiting for service.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

How do you get inspired?

Here's a really interesting article on inspiration as Ann Handley of Marketing Profs:Daily Fix, which happens to be one of my absolute favorite blogs, who asks what inspires you? There are pieces by a number of market analysts, researchers and brand managers.

Here are a few of my favorite ones:

Mike Sansone: "New connections. This could be introducing two people and watching what they create; sharing an idea and watching for the 'a-ha' moment; or finding a solution to a problem."

Roy Young: “I am inspired by people who pursue hobbies with passion. They could be watching television, but they choose to learn photography, astronomy, music, or cooking. And they often start hobbies as adults, without having much previous skill or background. This tells me we can always discover and learn.”

Sharon Hudson: “A 'problem' to solve or work through. A calm environment and morning light. And finally, time enough to procrastinate."

Anne Simons:
"Writing a blog inspires me to think about a wide range of issues and to develop a perspective on them, which is intellectually satisfying, and makes me more valuable to my clients. I also like to think that once in a while I am able to share news, an idea, or an interesting tidbit that is helpful to someone."


Needless to say that the last one was my ultimate favorite and the reason for writing this blog!

Free is the new mantra of marketers

According to a report in Ecommerce Times, 'free' seems to be the new mantra that companies are following to market their products. Electronic Arts, for example, has made the FIFA 07 soccer video game available free online to users in South Korea, while the game costs 50 Europe's in Europe. In an area where piracy is so rampant, the company has made a smart move by giving away its original version at no cost, sidelining the piracy runners. Once users are hooked onto the games, the company offers them updates and upgrades at nominal costs. So far, Electronic Arts has sold 700,000 enhancements to the game. It's been a strange journey for marketers, who have been fighting piracy for so long, and have now cut through the entire pirated goods market by reaching customers directly.
After spending millions of dollars over the past decade fighting the free exchange of their products over the Internet, some media companies are now yielding.

The best way to get something in return, they are deciding, may be to accept that consumers want to play but few seem to want to pay. If enough of them join the game, there can still be a payback -- either from consumers themselves or, increasingly, from advertisers.

"Free is the new paid," said Kenneth Parks, chief operating officer of Brilliant Technologies, which is developing a service called Qtrax, which will provide free music -- legally -- to Internet users.

Retail will boom regardless of FDI restrictions

The Hindu Business Line reports that at Retail Summit 2007 in Bangalore, Vikas Garg, a senior consultant at Technopak Advisors Pvt Ltd, said that India's retail revolution is going on, no matter that if FDI happens or not. He added that FDI in retail would not lead to unemployment or closure of small shops, two of the most common fears regarding the issue. Customers are changing their shopping habits due to the significant advantages of shopping at organized retail stores, such as lower prices, higher and more controlled quality of products and standardized service. Vipul Parekh, vice-president of Merchanidising, added that customer are focuing on getting the lowest prices, for the biggest products in the quickest amount of time. At the 2 day summit, that has been organised by the MATS School of Buiness, several prominent industry experts, retailers and academic personae were present.

Weekend breaks in NYC

When we lived in Providence, RI, our ideal weekend break was New York City, which was just a three and a half hour drive from home. There is never a time that New York City does not have something to offer. With it's incredible museums, parks, restaurants, theatres and other attractions, the city was our favorite weekend getaway. Even after a busy week working, there is something about a New York weekend breaks that ends up energising you and get you raring to go for the next week. For that perfect weekend break, Dialaflight.com is the UK's leading travel companies that have the best hotel and travel deals available. When I lived in Kansas City, a long weekend meant getting a flight to New York to catch up with friends, watch some great theatre and have some incredible New York style cheesecake at this tiny little dinner in Times Square.

Provogue raises Rs 146.25 crore

Provogue India announced that it has raised Rs 146.25 crore by investing preference shares with 6 investors at Rs 450 a share. The Economic Times reports that the investing companies are new Vernon, Blackstone, Fidelity, Genesis Capital, Artis Capital and Liberty International, who have purchased 3.25 million shares of the retail company. According to the statement released by Provogue, these shares will be locked in for a year. According to Mark Rubin, CEO of New Vernon Capital, “Provogue with its brand strengths and the knowledge and experience from its strategic partners is ideally poised to lead growth in the branded retail and shopping mall development space.”

Get the latest Soap news here

OK, now for some fun and relaxing stuff. What sites do you surf once you've completed your work or in your lunch break? This is good one for anyone who watches and wants to keep up to date with the daily happenings of the soap world. Soaps.com is the only soap opera dedicated website where you can get daily updates on Soap Operas, exclusive interviews with soap stars, the latest news related to soap operas and lots of message boards where you can connect with other fans. Considering that the site is only 5-6 months old, Soaps.com is growing very rapidly and building a name for itself as the source of all things related to soap operas. This is a really great idea for people who work and miss their favorite shows.

How will Wal-Mart effect India's retail industry.

The Hindu Business Line writes about Wal-Mart's effect on India's retail industry at a 2 day seminar on ‘Managing in the networked economy’ organized by the Asian School of Business (ASB) at Thiruvananthapuram. At the seminar, Prof Amiya Chravarty, Philip R McDonald Chair Professor in Operations and Technology Management at North Eastern University, Boston said that Wal-Mart’s entry to India will change the industry and create ‘new benchmarks for suppliers’. The event was attended by professors from several universities in the US and many CEO and CIOs. The key factor for change would be the supply chain. I agree that the entry of Wal-Mart will definitely make some radical changes in the way the retail industry works here. It has to establish some rules of operation for one, systems have to be standardized and most important of all, supply chains need to be put in place.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Do you own one of these phones?

So, are you one of those people who shy away from taking their cell phone out in public? Would you rather just put it on silent mode when you go out in public so you don't need to take it out? Well, I have a decently smart cell phone, but its not the cutting edge kind of phone, and I don't switch phones every 6 months like a lot of people do. So, when I saw this article on the most popular cell phones of 2006, I was intrigued and thought it was high time that I got myself a popular and trendy cell phone.

Wirefly, the online leader for comparison shopping for cell phones and wireless phone plans has released its annual list of the best selling cell phones, and what a list it is. The number one phone was, of course, the Motorola RAZR phone which is one of the best phones available, in terms of looks, ease of use and technology.

The full list of the Top 10 Cell Phones of 2006 is:
1. Cingular Wireless RAZR by Motorola (in various colors)
2. T-Mobile RAZR (in various colors)
3. Verizon Wireless RAZR (in various colors)
4. Cingular Sony Ericsson z520a/z525a video phones
5. T-Mobile Motorola v360
6. Verizon Wireless Motorola v276
7. Sprint Nextel Motorola i850
8. Sprint Nextel Motorola i710
9. Cingular Motorola v220
10. T-Mobile Samsung T309

I have been using Nokia phones for several years now and I simply love the way they work. The simplicity of the menu functioning is extremely straight forward and quick to navigate. Nokia phones are stylish, but you can't compare them to the Motorola RAZR, by which I am getting quite tempted. So, I think that's going to be my next purchase. Might as well listen to the folks at Wirefly and get myself a stylish new phone.

Have you listed your places as yet?

I came across this site called 43 Places last summer and was immediately hooked. The site is a different sort of social network, as it is a place where you can list places you want to go to, have already been to, want to return to etc. You can rate each place as worthwhile or not and opt to answer questions from others about the place. As you can tell, it really is quite addictive and I have been adding places to my list with great anticipation. A sister concern is their site called 43 Things on you want to do, which is also quite addictive. There are also lots of fun extras such as making lists, connecting with others with similar interests and tracking books, movies and music that you are consuming. I find it simply fascinating and end up spending way too much time, each time I log onto my account.

Shopping via a 'Magic Mirror'

As a writer and researcher on retail topics, I am always on the lookout for good reading material, stuff about new technologies, especially retail and consumer related products. So, when I came across a site called Vaandoo, it was definitely something I wanted to add my my bloglines list of daily reads. In most technology sites, unless you have a technical background, you just cannot relate to stuff. It takes a good writer to get people who don't have tech backgrounds interested in reading about gadgets and technology. Like this really interesting article on a shopping using a Magic Mirror that lets consumers virtually try on clothes and send pictures to friends to get their opinion. Interesting, right? Something you would like to try out for yourself? Definitely!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The reality of retail in India

Rediff Money reports that even though everyone is going crazy about the retail boom in India, just as there are several Indias, there are also several sides to the retail boom. While specific segments such as the value and discount retail are thriving, other segments such as middle to high end retail are not doing so well. Walk into any mall during the week and you will see stores with barely any customers at all, while stores such as Big Bazaar are busy at all times of the day.
This is the paradox that is India. While real estate developers have been going crazy setting up malls, there aren’t enough takers as yet, and definitely not enough buyers. A great shake-out awaits the Indian retail industry. According to Deepankkar Sanwalka, KPMG’s executive director, "If the spending power of consumers is high in a locality, it could sustain two-to-three large players."

Organized retail only accounts for 3% of the total retail industry as yet and is estimated to grow to $64 billion by the year 2015. As a result, the retailing space in the country will also rise by 15-20% by 2010.

Reliance Fresh opens additional outlets in Jaipur

The Economic Times reports that Reliance Retail increased its stores by opening two additional stores in Jaipur this week. Including these new stores, Reliance Retail now has 7 stores in the city. The new stores are located in prime spots of the city and attracted large crowds of customers as soon as they opened their doors. Each store has an average of 20 sales associates.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Reliance Retail makes major investments in Delhi realty

Business Standard reports that Reliance Retail has made purchases of close to Rs 1,000 crore on commercial properties in Delhi. According to sources, the company acquired a property in Vikaspuri from around Rs 280 crore and 7 properties, one in Rohini and 6 in Dwarka, for Rs 700 crore. The total size of the acquisition so far is over 500,000 sq ft. The company will continue its purchasing spree with 2 acquisitions coming up in Vasant Kunj, which are valued at Rs 25 crore. All properties acquired by the company were part of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) auctions.

Trinethra launches FabCity, its first hypermarket in Mysore

The Hindu Business Line reports that Trinethra Super Retail Ltd (TSRL) opened its first hypermarket, FabCity in Mysore. The hypermarket is spread over an area of 50,000 sq ft and stocks a huge variety of categories, including food and grocery, apparel, home furnishings, footwear, beauty products and accessories, stationary, toys and games, household appliances and consumer durables. Most products have been sourced from India as well as South East Asia and are a mix of branded and private labels.

At the launch of the store, Pranab Barua, CEO of Trinethra Super Retail Ltd, said that, "Mysore has emerged as a key destination for several large companies, leading to a change in lifestyle, consumer outlook and buying behaviour. Recognising this change, and, in order to bridge the need gap arising from it, we have decided to launch our first hypermarket here."

Using broadband at home

Ever since broadband has become commonly available, it has changed the way we communicate with each other and has brought about major changes in the way we work. A larger number of people are opting to work from home due to the great connectivity that is now available. At one time, one could get a good broadband connection only at work, but with residential broadband picking up, it has radically changed the way we work, connect and communicate. Eclipse is one such company that offers great options on residential broadband connections, they'll even give you the first month free along with a free wireless router, to see how it works before you actually sign up for their service. It is because of such a cheap broadband deal that the concept has picked up and is being used by the bulk of Internet users at their residences.

Friday, January 19, 2007

What is up with this fluctuating page rank business?

I am quite fed up with the way Google arbitrarily changes page ranks. I have been posting with increasing regularity on this blog for the past 2 years or so, and my page rank has actually dropped. I couldn't believe it when I saw it. Simply amazing and oh so frustrating. I am doing lots of reading on how Google decides to put a value on a page/site and the more one reads, the more complicated and hopeless it seems. I mean, unless you are a software guru, there is no way one can understand any of that goobly gook. Here are some of the better and more understandable articles on page rank on Web Workshop, Web Pro News and Page Rank 10. Good Luck!

Pearl Fashions looking to acquire overseas brands

Business Standard reports that ready-to-wear apparel brand House of Pearl Fashions is looking to acquire either a retail chain or fashion brand overseas, most likely in the US and UK markets. Company sources said that an investment of Rs 40 crore would be made by the end of the year. Pearl Fashions is specifically looking for a high-end unisex brand for the 15-30 age bracket, something that would compete effectively against Wills Lifestyle or Color Plus. If it does not find the right fit in a apparel brand, then Pearl Fashions would acquire a retail chain in the US or UK, a company that has 50-150 stores, which it plans to run for two years internationally before bringing it to India.

It's own exclusive store, Forever New will be opened by end 2007, in cities such as Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai. Locations have yet to be finalized and both high street and mall locations are been studied. Pearl Fashions will stock its DCC and Koolhearts brand in its own stores. DCC is an apparel and accessories brand for women in the 30-45 age group and Koolhearts is for young women from the ages of 15-25.

Creative Group plans to focus on domestic market

Business Standard reports that The Creative Group announced that it will be launching new lines of clothing for the domestic market. The company also exports garments to the US and Europe. According to Rahul Mehta, partner in Creative Casuals, “This year, the company plans to introduce menswear and ladieswear brands in different segments such as pret, mid- and mas-market segments with respective retail expansions.”

The company is making this move due to several factors, including the "booming economy, emergence of organized retail and changing awareness about fashion" that are leading to the rising demand of branded garments in the country. The company will also be considering opening another venture for a new fashion line, with a leading Bollywood actor as the brand ambassador. In another venture, Creative has tie up with two Ahmedabad based designers, Rahul Mishra and Samar Firdos for their couture brand.

Creative's first brand 109F, an upscale womens wear brand, was launched in November 2006, and the company plans to have 10 more stores initially, then another 35 over the next three years. Most stores will be opened in metros and tier I cities. 109F is also available at department stores such as Pantaloon and Piramyd. Its home furnishings brand is the well known Portico brand.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

UK to increase investments in food and agri retail sectors

The Economic Times reports that UK companies that are part of a 150 member business delegation have committed to invest in the food processing, agri-retail and manufacturing. The delegation was led by Karan Bilimoria, chief of Cobra Beer, and met several high leaders of the government including Finance Minister P. Chidarmbaram and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. The delegation was accompanied by UK trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling and is a precursur of the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer and future Prime Minister Gordon Brown's visit to the country. The delegation also met with Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the chief minister of Haryana on investing in some Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in the state.

Poll: Where do you do your grocery shopping?

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Hypermarket
Supermarket
Farmers market
Kirana store
Other
pollcode.com free polls

Don't you love sending eCards?

Ever since I started using email in 1998, sending ecards was one of the biggest advantages of mailing online. It made so much more sense to be able to send eCards rather than regular cards, since people are more attuned to using email and keeping track of events on an online calender. My favorite eCard site has been Yahoo! Greetings, as it has some of the best cards online, a great variety of animated cards are available, is very easy to navigate and browse cards and if you have a Yahoo! account, you can automatically add addresses from your Yahoo! Address Book. Another great advantage of sending eCards is the speed of the entire process, you can send a card at the very last minute to someone across the world. The cost of stamps on regular mail adds up quite a bit for international cards, so sending an eCard overseas makes a lot of sense. Other great benefits are the option of personalising an eCard or scheduling it to arrive on a particular date. If you sign up, you will receive a 30 day free trial. Yearly subscriptions cost only $13.99, where you can send as many cards as you like, including premium cards that are for members only.

Expand with caution is the mantra for branded apparel firms

Business Standard reports that branded apparel companies are a cautious lot. Even though the segment is growing at 20% a year, high property prices and rentals at malls are placing expansion plans on the back burner. According to Bela Gupta, CEO of Kewal Kiran Clothing, “In the past two years, the mall rentals have increased 40 per cent, affecting the profitability of the brands and their margins. Despite taking calculative risks, no brand would be able to survive beyond a certain limit with a weaker business viability.”

While rentals have increased substantially, sales are not increasing in the same proportion, leading to small and medium sized retailers and manufactures to delay their expansion plans and shift their focus elsewhere such as smaller and newer cities for the time being. Subrata Siddhanta, business head for Cottons by Century, explains that, “Real estate prices in Mumbai have shot up from Rs 60 per sq ft to Rs 250 per sq ft. Mall rentals, too, have risen by about 50-60 per cent. Currently, rentals constitute about 30 per cent of the gross margins. And sales are not expected to rise dramatically.”

While malls and shopping centers are coming up in the the larger cities in the north, the high prices are sure to put lots of retailers off from taking space there. Several retailers are looking to smaller towns, but these towns don't always have any good high street locations to invest in, which could lead to delays in the reach of the retail industry.

Dining in style

We've moved homes several times in the past four years and each time we move, we try to add on some new furniture to make our home look different. On our next move, I have decided to get a new dining room set for our home. We currently have a nice teak table, a six seater that is a good size for an apartment. To make a house look a bit formal, I think a good quality dining table set is the way to go. There are some great options on dining room furniture available at Great Priced Furniture, including all the side tables and cabinets to store tableware. Along with a dining table set, I think a bar set and stools would be a great addition to our home.

Pantaloon and Alpha to open their first duty free shop this week at Delhi's IGI Airport

Indiaretailing.com reports that the Alpha-Pantaloon JV will be opening its first duty free shop at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport this week. The store will be fully operational by 18-20 January, 2007. The company decided to open its first store in Delhi as the city has higher international arrivals and the amount spent is also of a higher amount. The duty free store at the airport will be located at the arrival terminal and will cover 2,000 sq ft initially, expanding to 7,000 sq ft in a month's time. A store will also be opened at the departure terminal by the end January 2007.

Alpha Airports Group Plc has designed over 140 retail stores in over 40 locations in UK, Europe, USA and South Asia. Alpha runs three duty free stores in Cochin Airport. Its store in Delhi will feature some of the leading brands of the world, such as Gucci, Armani, Christian Dior, Calvin Klein, Nike, Swatch among others.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pantaloon looks for European tie ups

Rediff writes about Pantaloon's ever expanding agenda. Pantaloon is now eyeing European companies to tie up with after inking a deal with Starbucks and a possible deal with Burger King. The company is looking for tie ups with European firms for menswear, high end suits and kids wear, although it did not give the names of any companies. It has tied up with French retailer ETAM to launch women's ready-to-wear garments for the 22-30 age bracket. It had earlier launched lingerie stores with the company across the country.

Looking for a car?

What is the worst thing about buying a car? Getting stuck with a lemon, right? Thankfully, its never happened to me, although the first car I ever bought came pretty close to it. If you are sick of being stuck with bad deals each time you buy a car, then have a look at the cars at lemonfree.com, a Car Classifieds company that guarantees that their cars will not pack up on you as you drive them off the lot. Have a look at this 2003 VW Jetta, and you will know that you are getting some good deals here. At lemonfree.com you don't need to worry about bad cars, only how to select one from their wide choice of available cars.

Pharma industry to lower medicine prices

The Times of India reports that due to tie ups with laboratories and hospitals that will ensure faster turnaround and lower priced diagnostic reports, the pharma industry will soon be able to offer lower prices to consumers. The 32,000 drug retailers who are part of the Retail Dispensing and Chemist Association will see a significant rise in sales as small time chemists will not be able to offer the same discounts that they qualify for.

With all the interest coming from major players such as Reliance, Apollo, Subhiksha and Medicine Shoppe, these chemists are not taking any chances and are offering a host of freebies such as free medical check ups, concessional rates on drugs, testing reports etc.

Hookah trend

There seem to be a lot of hookah theme restaurants and products coming up lately. Although the trend for hookahs is not new, it is beocoming more acceptable among people and is more mainstream than ever before. If you are wondering where one goes to get a hookah, then read on, since Custom Hookahs is one of the best sources online for hookas and shishas. They have a large range of tobacco flavors available, along with everything required for setting up a hookah, including the wood charcoal, hoses, bases, stems and bowls. There is even a listing of hookah bars in every state in the US. The company was started in 2005 by a programmer and is based out of California.

There is a promotion going on currently, that if you are part of a student organization with a website, you can get a free hookah as long as you mention on your organization's website that Custom Hookahs has donated it to your organization. Another promotion is that the company is offering 10% discount to members of student organizations.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Gati enters retail segment

The Economic Times reports that logistics and courier company Gati has opened its first store in Hyderabad. Café Deliver will offer a range of services from Zip, courier, cargo and express. According to Manoj Agarwal, marketing head for Gati, "We booked orders worth Rs 60,000 the first day itself." The company’s second store will be opening in Pune on January 10, 2007, followed by a store in Indore.

Other players in the sector are AFL, DHL, and UPS who are also moving forward into their value chain to add services. AFL has opened Touchworld stores where it offers services such as courier and tickets etc. DHL has its Express Centers which are focusing on pick up and drop off points for express parcels and UPS launched The UPS Store last year in Mumbai and has since opened more stores in the city as well as Delhi.

Shutter Point Photography

Some time back I was conducting some research on online photo companies, specifically those that outsource the clean up work to free lancers. I was surprised to see hundreds of them online and unfortunately, since there were so many sites of this kind I couldn't decide immediately and had to take some time to do some additional research on the subject. One of the sites I checked out was ShutterPoint Photography, which happens to be one of the leading stock photography sites. While some sites offer free membership, ShutterPoint.com does charge a nominal fee. One of the big advantages of ShutterPoint.com is that the company has the highest payout rates, which at 85% is a really good rate. At ShutterPoint.com, you can sell your digital photos at the price you want, respond to buyer requests and create your own flexible subscription plan. The company also has a section where you can pick up some tips on improving your skills as a photographer as well as rating photos. There are lots of other cool options you can take for you photos such as adding keywords, adding customizable watermarks to protect your work and participate in photography forums. Have a look at Shutter Point Photography for yourself and what a cool site it is for anyone who is a photo enthusiast.

Bharti, Wal-Mart deal 'conforms to norms'

Some good news for the Bharti and Wal-Mart deal. The Economic Times reports that the Bharti and Wal-Mart tie up has been given the go ahead by the government as it 'conforms to all FDI policy norms'. A source at the Commerce and Industry Ministry, stated that "We have examined the Bharti-Wal-Mart joint venture and everything is in conformity with the existing policy on FDI in retail." Since the government has permitted FDI in wholesale cash-and-carry route, the companies do not require any government clearance. Now that the government has cleared this venture, other similar companies such as Tesco and Carrefour are likely to push forward their plans for the Indian market. The Bharti and Wal-Mart deal will involve Bharti managing the front-end operations, while Wal-Mart will take care of logistics, supply chains and other back-end issues.

Tech news source

Something that I have come to enjoy reading is news from the technological field, about trends, gadgets and advancements. One of the best sources for information on technology is Techzoogle, which has the latest information and news on technological related subjects. While some technological sites are quite complicated for those not actively involved in the field, Techzoogle makes for interesting reading no matter what your background, a sign that their writers are excellent, topics news worthy and layout and formating easy to navigate. I found this article on USB flash drives that use biometric technology and works only once it matches the correct fingerprint very informative and well written. It's definately a site I will be going back too.

Monday, January 15, 2007

On seriousness of work and life

I've been having a lot of fun with writing and blogging lately. In the sense, that I have been posting quite regularly, that is when I'm not on vacation, at least. I was amazed when I calculated that I had taken 72 days off last year. It was both thrilling and shocking at the same time...thrilling that I had so much freedom to take so much time off from work, and shocking that I'm not being serious about my work and career, when this is really 'the' time for me to be getting extremely serious and committed to moving up in the corportate world. But the thing is that, since I've started working from home in July 2005, I've just not had the heart and even the guts to go back to doing a regular 9 to 5 job. When I get calls from headhunters, my heart sinks that I might get such a good offer that I might not be able to refuse it without feeling guilty at passing up a good chance at money as well as career growth. Think I need to spend some more time, thinking about it...contemplating....evaluating.....but in the meantime, I can keep on blogging, right?

Using coupons

Have you noticed how we have changed the way we shop for pretty much everything these days. There was a time that we had to go to a store to buy anything, then the Internet came along and one could buy some things online. Now as technology changes and our lives get busier, we are increasingly doing more shopping online that ever before. Interestingly, even people who might not shop online, they still go online to do comparison searches, reach product material and user reviews.

Needless to say that online shopping is really the way of the future. The major change that has happened in the past few years is that online retailers are being able to offer substantially lower prices than brick and mortar retailers, added to things such as improving customer service, no standing in lines at the check out counter etc that is converting in-store shoppers to online shoppers. It is well documented that online shoppers are savvy shoppers, and here is one of the secrets: online coupons. Thanks to these, there are millions of shoppers who now shop from home, save time as well as money. One of the good sources of online coupons is MrCheapstuff.com where you can find a ton of usable coupons from companies such as Buy.com, Smartbargains.com, Overstock.com, Drugstore.com and others.

Starbucks makes plans for India

Some news on Starbucks India's plans. Business Standard reports that the company will be focusing on the metro's, specifically Delhi and Mumbai to launch its cafes in the country. Considering their prices, it is a good idea for them to stick to upscale locations and areas with high number of expats, such as Bangalore and Hyderabad. A spokesperson for Starbucks said that “We target opening the doors to our first store in India, with a yet-to-be announced joint-venture partner by the end of 2007 either in New Delhi or Mumbai.”

Interestingly, the spokesperson declined to confirm media reports that the Seattle based company will be tying up with Pantaloon and VP Sharma, the head of its Indonesian franchise, for its operations in India. The spokesperson instead said that “We do not comment on rumours and speculations. However, we are enthusiastic about bringing the unique Starbucks experience to one of the most exciting growth markets in the world in the near future.”

New blogging ideas

One of the most interesting subjects on the Internet concerns making money. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who now make a living off the Internet, having given up their 'real' jobs and doing something that they love instead. While blogging is relatively easy for almost anyone to do, not everyone can make money off their blog, well, at least not enough to pay all the bills. In this regard, I came across an interesting site whose owner Jim Reiner wants to help build communities to earn sustainable income. Jim Reiner's blog, J.R.'s Seeds For Wealth plans to collectively raise $1,000,000 in 2007 using mini blog networks, and have 5,000 feed readers who will help him create a viral campaign to benefit all bloggers who want to earn money off the Internet.

Initially, blogging was just a tool for voicing one's opinions, communicating one's thoughts and insights to the world, regardless of the fact that if what we were writing was being read or not. In the past few years, blogging has turned into a business, something that you can make money off, if you're good at it. With this change, came the thousands of business ideas that might or might not end up working. Constantly being fine tuned, the art of blogging should now be seen as a business model, something that Jim Reiner mentions that "big boys" such as Robert T. Kiyosakim, Donald Trump etc are now doing.

The key factor in any blog, what differentiates it from all others, is credibility. To any reader, it is this one factor that determines how long they stay on the page, if they return, if they bookmark you and so on. I thought JR's Seeds For Wealth was a good site for a host of topics, related to the Internet, marketing, blogging and new business ideas.

My blog is worth this much

My blog is worth this much. Thought it does no harm in giving myself a bit of an ego boost, right? Also some incentive for this figure to go up some more too. It's interesting how addictive it has become to keep checking if the worth is increasing every so often, and figuring out how to get to increase. High page ranks, unique inbound links and increasing visitor counts are the best way to increase popularity, which will ultimately show up in the worth of a blog. Worth is an interesting term, although I wonder if it can capture everything that goes into a blog or a writing session in such objective terms?



My blog is worth $6,209.94.
How much is your blog worth?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Starbucks will form JV with Pantaloon

Business Standard reports that after the Indian government put its proposal under the scanner, Starbucks has tied up with Pantaloon and VP Sharma, head of its Indonesian franchise to enter the Indian market. The Seattle based company will now form a venture with Sharma, president and director of PT Mitra Adiperkasa, Indonesia and Kishore Biyani, managing director of Pantaloon Retail India.
According to estimates, entry into India would enable Starbucks to triple its stores to 40,000 worldwide by expanding into emerging markets. It will have to compete with the established local chains such as Barista Coffee and Cafe Coffee Day. “It’s a status symbol to have a Starbucks cup in your hand in countries such as China. I think that’ll translate to India as well,’’ said Rick Drake, director of research at ABN Amro Asset Management in Chicago. “More Indians are working in these professional jobs that give them more disposable income.’’ he said

Clicky stats

Once you really get into blogging, no matter how blase you might have been about writing for yourself or for others when you started, you start wondering just who is visiting your site, from where are they coming from and lots of other such questions. I don't really publicize my blog and have entered it only to a few listing sites and told my family about it, so I wondered who was visiting my site and how they were reaching it. To find out this information and more, it is really important to have a good web statistics service which tracks visitors and lets you know where they enter, what they click on and when they leave. Interesting, stuff right? Clicky Web Statistics is one of the new and more unique such services which has the whole nine yards and more. The service is completely free for now, so don't delay and sign up now.

RBI encourages retailers to involve smaller farmers

The Reserve Bank of India is pushing for the inclusion of small farmers in the retail industry so that the effects of the boom in retailing can be felt in the areas that sorely require them. The Economic Times reports that in the interest of the retail industry’s growth being inclusive, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked retailers to include small and marginal farmers to be part of their plans. The RBI executive director VS Das said tht FMCG companies that plan to leverage its brand equity by selling branded agri-products should source products from small and marginal farmers.

At present, retailers must go through a mandi to buy produce according to the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act, an outdated law. He added that by reducing the supply chain would benefit both retailers and farmers.

Bulgaria's the place to head to

One of the countries on my must travel to list is Bulgaria. In fact several on the list are in Eastern European countries, an area that is fascinatingly beautiful, unspoilt and not wildly expensive as yet. Bulgaria is located on the Black Sea Coast at the crossroads of Europe just above Turkey and below Romania. It is known for both its beautiful beaches in resorts such as Sunny Beach and Varna and skiing resorts of Bansko, Pamporovo and Borovets. Bulgaria has recently been accepted into the European Union which will be a boost to the economy and country. Property markets are one of the first to be affected and prices are already getting competitive, especially in the capital Sofia. For information on how to invest in bulgaria property, check out BulgarianVenture.com which focuses on overseas property investments.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

UK’s Home Retail Group declines comment on India report

Could one more UK company be heading our way? There has been talk about Home Retail being interested in the Indian market although it has now decided not to comment on the issue. In a report in Yahoo News, UK’s Home Retail Group declined to comment on reports in the media that its division, the Argos catalogue was close to signing a joint venture deal in India. Retail Week, a trade magazine had reported that Argos could be signing a deal with the K. Raheja Corp. that owns the Shoppers’ Stop and HyperCity brands.

Managing real estate software

Here's another company that does some pretty interesting and specialized work, Real Estate Management Software which is somewhat of a new field and deals with real estate companies to deliver project on the web, documents and property management systems for cell towers, retail stores, corporate offices, oil rigs and outdoor displays. Using their software, Siterra can interact closely with customers to manage on site activities, lower costs and increase revenue. The company's clients are the who's who of the real estate business.

Research firms predict: ‘Organized retail to touch $45 billion’

The size of the Indian retail industry is a hotly debated issue. One can come up with a host of different figures depending on who has conducted the research. Here is a place that you can get all the pertinent numbers put together by all the research firms together. The Economic Times reports that a joint study conducted by top global research firms such as AT Kearney, Ernst & Young, PWC, Technopak, KPMG, ICICI, AC Neilsen-ORG Marg, Synovate, Cushman & Wakefield, predicts that the organized retail in India is going to reach Rs. 100,000 crore in the next four years from Rs. 35,000 crore in 2005. The annual growth rate of the organized retail sector will be about 30%.

The joint study was for the second edition of the India Retail Report 2007, which is brought out by Images F&R Research. The report added that India was the place where all the global majors were rushing to, "With escalating consumerism, unprecedented awareness and a youth-heavy customer base, India is the 'Promised Land' for global brands and retailers.” According to the mister of Commerce and Industry, Kamal Nath, who released the report, the boom in organized retail will create 10-15 million jobs for Indians in the next five years.

Simplify your business operations

I love writing about products that simplify how we do business, things that make it easier for us to concentrate on the strategic and personal components, leaving the mundane and repetitive work to be done by some new fangled gizmo. How we use technology is what makes it so exciting. Take a look for example at Netsimplicity which has Scheduling Software solutions for meeting room scheduling as well as asset management. Using the Meeting Room Manager, you can schedule rooms and resources all from your browser or Outlook, including automating service requests such as catering, A/V equipment requirements etc. Using this one system, you can cut down on all the hassles of setting up meetings and coordinating these aspects. The Virtual Asset Manager software controls inventory, maps and tracks assets from either you web browser or a hand held scanner, so you can manage your facilities, operational and IT assets. It is things like these that make doing business so interesting now days. To see which one would suit your needs, there is a 30 day free trial available on both products.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Gold is the only way to go

A lot of people consider investing in gold as being old fashioned or traditional, but with the amount that gold has risen over the long term, it can be viewed as nothing short of a secure and worthwhile investment. When you decide to buy gold, whether for investment purposes or as jewelery or both (as I see it), then the point to be careful about is to buy from a good and trusted company. The Monex Deposit Company (MDC) has been in the business of selling gold and other precious metals for over 30 years and is considered as America's gold and precious metals investment leader.

Gold or gold bullion as it is often called, can be bought in coin or ingot form. Ingots are pure gold bullion that have been cast in a convenient shape and form. Coins can be either of a currency value or as ingots. The wealthy in ancient cultures, such as the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans invested in gold for its power and sustainability. Gold jewelery is something that most women are fascinated by and if it doubles as an investment, then there's nothing like it, right?

Local brands gear up to challenge malls in Agra

This was an interesting news item to write about. Business Standard reports that with the increasing popularity of the new malls in Agra, local brands and shop owners are gearing up to acquire space in malls to compete on a level footing. One of the largest family run garment chains in the area, the Bachoomal Group is one such company that is already opened in several malls and will be increasing its stores in new malls too.
While the Bachoomal Group is planning to introduce a large variety of consumer products apart from garments through the “Bachoomal Departmental Store”, Dawar shoes will be cashing in on the low-cost reliability of the Agra footwear which it will present as a marketing strategy to counter the multinational brands.

Railways all set to make deals with retailers

The Economic Times reports that the Indian railways will soon be forming a deal with retailing majors such as Reliance, Future Group, Bharti and Tatas. A senior official at Rail Bhawan said that the draft would be ready in a fortnight. Retailers have been conducting talks with the Railways for setting up agri-retail hubs, cold storage hubs and multi-purpose warehouses on the railways excess land. At present the railways are not interested in the real estate business but will likely tie up with retailers and real estate developers to set up retail hubs across the country, using its land as equity.

Protecting your home

Home Security is becoming one of this decade's big issues. At one time, I remember, very few people had alarm systems at home and even when they did, it was all done quite casually. Well, not any more. Alarm systems are getting more complicated, automated and foolproof to take into account the dangerous ways our lives are heading.

When it comes to security, there is no one more well known than ADT. The company provides 24 hr security to over 90% of Fortune 500 companies, 80% of the top retailers in the US and 50% of banks. Pretty incredible, right, just how well reputed they are. There's no point paying for something as important as security and then not using a good company. ADT Home Security Systems are one of the best plans to have and includes everything you need, such as free phone consultation, free wireless system, free activation, free phone connection, a professionally installed system and lifetime warranty. One of the great advantages of an ADT system is that is works as a fire alarm too.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A quiet thursday

It's been an interest week since we've been back from vacation.....getting the viral after absolutely ages....had forgotten what it was like to have fever.... Now that we're pretty much back to normal, its been great to enjoy the beautiful weather we are having in Bombay. After all this is the only time of the year the weather is nice. Spent some time at the park yesterday afternoon, and was thoroughly rejuvenated by the experience. The park was judged the most beautiful park in all of Bombay and is just beautiful....must remember to take my camera with me next time I go.....will put up some pics later on...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Marketing Wisdom Report 2007


As a newsletter subscriber of Marketing Sherpa, today I received a copy of their Marketing Wisdom Report for 2007. This is the fifth edition of the report which features "110 stories and lessons learned by Marketing Sherpa readers". It is really interesting to read through the issues that marketers dealt with and how sometimes the littlest of tweaks can tune the system perfectly instead of a major overhaul. The Marketing Wisdom Report is free and is available at Marketing Sherpa, one of the best marketing sites online. Markeing Sherpa's office is located in Warren, RI, one of the cutest little small town's in the US. In fact, Warren, RI officially is "the smallest town" in the US. When I first learned that Marketing Sherpa was based in Warren, I thought, this is a great analogy of the work they do. I sure do wish I'd known about them when I lived 15 minutes away in Providence, RI.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Finding engineers

Specializing in recruitment is the way of the future. CSI is a 14 person recruitment firm that specializes in civil engineering recruitment. The team has over 60 years of experience between them with the President having 20 years of civil engineering recruitment experience, the sales director with over 10 years, the Principal with over 7 years as part of the Executive management of a Fortune 500 technology company etc.

The company call an average of 25,000 candidates each month from one the the best databases in the industry. With its focus on getting new candidates, instead of simply "churning" old resumes, CSI is one of the leading providers of Civil Engineer Jobs in the US. With its emphasis on following proper procedures, the company has recruited candidates to leading national and international engineering firms.

Emami Group to enter retail industry

The Economic Times, The Hindu Business Line and Business Standard report that FMCG major, Emami Group plans to enter the retail industry after it has cut ties with Chennai based retail firm Landmark, and plans to open 7 stores in the next 18 months in Kolkata and the eastern region. The total investment for the new venture is estimated to be around Rs. 300-400 million. The Emami Group is holding talks with international companies for a strategic tie up but nothing has been finalized as yet.

At the purchase of Landmark brand by Tata’s last year, the company has bought out the Kolkata store from the Chennai Group and has renamed its stores as Starmark and has changed the name of its retail division from Emami Landmark Store Pvt. Ltd to Emami Retail Pvt. Ltd.

The company hopes to expand its stores and formats in the near future. Acc"We have three store formats -- the large stores that are upto 20,000 square feet in area and sell the entire product line of books, stationery, gifts, toys and music. The big format stores, upto 10,000 square feet in area, have gifts and stationeries merged into one section. And then we have the express stores varying between 1,000 to 3,000 square feet in area and having a boutique feel about it with soft lighting, chairs and wooden furnishings." ording to Gautam Jatia, chief executive officer of Starmark Store Ltd,

No lemons here

Here's a great way to find a good car, one that is not going to pack up on you as you drive it off the sales lot. LemonFree.com is a car classified website that specialises in finding Used Cars that are of good quality, reliable and will last the distance. How about this 2006 Nissan Maxima? Priced at $24,987 with only 19,400 miles, it looks like a pretty good deal. It is said that the price of a new car drops maximum in its first year, so then its a good idea to look for and buy 2006 models used cars. Have a look around and see which one will work best for you.

Oxford Bookstore looks to smaller towns

Business Standard reports that Oxford Bookstore is looking to expand across India and is focusing on tier I and tier II cities and towns over the next 5-10 years. New stores would be franchise models and would have a mix of small stores of less than 400 sq ft and large stores of around 6,000 sq ft.

According to Rajiv Chowdhry, chief executive officer of Apeejay Oxford Bookstore, "We plan to open 6 more Oxford Bookstores in India by March 2007, besides the existing 10." New stores will be opening in Shillong, Guwahati, Mysore and Coimbatore. Another focus area would be its junior section, which accounts for 20% of sales.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pantaloon launches its e-retailing portal


Business Standard reprots that Pantaloon Retail India Ltd (PRIL)’s subsidiary Future Bazaar India Ltd, launched its virtual retail venture, futurebazaar.com. The e-tailing site will offer a wide range of apparel, books, electronics, home décor, kitchen appliances, mobile phones, watches and other accessories all available with the manufacturer’s guarantee and home delivery.

According to Sankarson Banerjee, chief executive officer of Future Bazaar, "Leveraging the tried and tested 'brick and click' strategy, futurebazaar.com is the only e-commerce portal with a strong offline presence, quite different from the current e-commerce players who have adopted a 'marketplace' model. Backed by our end-to-end supply chain and the ability to source nearly a million products, our economy of scale gives the customers the lowest prices."

Making the right reservations

With the amount of traveling we have done this year, we've become experts at making holiday plans, finding places to stay, making reservations for cars and hotels etc. As many sites as there are on the internet, offering hotel and car bookings, I find that they all seem to be offering the same things, but each one makes it more complicated than the next. It's really important to find a good site to make your travel plans, one that have a good inventory of hotels and cars, displays all the pertinent details along with pictures and comes up with results quickly.

In my searches for hotel sites especially, I found that HotelReservations.com offered a really clean and simple way to organize your travel plans. They have pretty much all you require to set up a holiday, including hotel reservations, motels, resorts, vacation rentals, vacation packages, flights, cars etc. The submission forms are short and simple and load really quickly, the results can be sorted best value, price, quality or alphabetically.

On searching for hotel rooms in Providence, I got some really good results that I had not received when I did the same search on other hotel sites. One of my pet peeves about hotel reservation sites is that I simply hate those pop up windows that most sites forward you to. It has to be quickest way for me to close the page and exit the site.

Hotel Reservations is a great site that covers all your travel needs and I have bookmarked it for use each time I travel. I recently traveled to Niagara Falls and thought it would be wonderful to go back and stay for a while there, so I searched for a vacation rental in the area and found some delightfully quaint bed and breakfast's in the area. It’s sure to be a great motivator for our next vacation.

Viveks holding talks with private equity firms

Business Standard reports that Chennai based consumer durable retailer, Viveks is on the lookout for private equity firms to fund its expansion plans. According to company executives, private equity firms will be selected before the company goes for an IPO at the end of the next financial year. Viveks has 54 stores in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and is keen on expanding to other southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

According to B A Kodandaraman Setty, Chairman and managing director of Viveks, "In the next three years, the company plans to open 100 stores in south India and the group is in talks with some private equity firms to raise funds for the same." Viveks currently has 3 brands, Viveks, Jainsons and Premier.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Searching for talent

The Economic Times writes about the impending shortage of qualified talent in the retail industry. The three biggest challenges of the organized retail industry will be managing manpower, real estate and the supply chain, of which manpower looks like it will be the critical factor in determining the competitive edge in the long term. With the boom in the retail industry to continue for the next five years, at an expected compounded average growth rate (CAGR) of 30-35%, finding the right middle and senior management will become increasingly difficult.

Of the total employment generated by the retail industry, estimated to be 20 lakhs, of which 500,000-600,000 will be in the organized sector. Higher management executives are likely to be poached from industries such as FMCG, banking and telecom.

Many companies are looking overseas for talent. Reliance in currently hiring approximately 100 senior managers from overseas, around 50-60 of which who have already joined the company and have 15-20 years of experience with major players such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Tesco, ASDA and Kroger. The Aditya Birla Group is also looking fro 30-40 persons from overseas to build its leadership team.

Burger King will probably use the franchise model in India

The Economic Times reports that Burger King is planning its strategy for the Indian market and to take on its old rival McDonald’s who has already created a market for itself in India. According to an industry analyst, “In the short term, McDonald’s would lose some customers to Burger King out of the sheer curiosity factor. However, this would happen only if both are located in the same catchment area.”

Burger King will be using the same strategy that it used for Japan, using franchises and making smaller, less expensive restaurants that fully use available space. Burger King has 11,129 restaurants of which 1,240 are company owned and 9,889 are franchisees and is currently located in the US and 65 countries.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Future Group likely to divest some of its Planet Retail stake

The Economic Times reports that Kishore Biyani is considering part of his 49% stake in Planet Retail Holdings Ltd (PRHL) to its Indonesian promoter from whom he had purchased it from. PRHL retails brands such as Marks & Spencer, Guess, Body Shop, converse and Speedo and is likely to bring in Starbucks by mid 2007.

The company has so far denied that any such move was being planned. Planet Retail is the licenser of several high profile global brands and will soon be foraying into department stores via a tie up with UK based Debenhams. Currently the company has 55 stores in various formats with a total space of over 100,000 sq ft.

Safegaurding your office computers

Internet security is on the top of the list for most companies these days, regardless of their type of business. As companies depend more and more on computers to do work for them, the risks associated with misuse of computers is also rising. The Spector Pro is an award winning software product, having won PC Magazine's best monitoring software award twice, and is the premier choice for office Internet security. Its keystroke logger records all activity on a computer, including email, chat rooms, instant messages, sites visited, programs launched, online searches and much more. With this system in place, you can rest assured that any misconduct and misuse can be caught.

Adani Group begins process of selling to Reliance

The Economic Times reports that the Adani Group has begun the process of selling its company to Reliance and its employees are being interviewed by Reliance for integration into the company. According to a company source, “Reliance is interviewing the executives and will retain the efficient candidates.” Both sides have not yet spoken about the value of the deal, although sources suggest it could be around Rs. 200 crore.

Adani operates 54 stores in nine cities in the state of Gujarat. The company is in the process of clearing its existing stocks and has introduced special schemes to attract consumers. All stores will be renovated by Reliance which will be completed in the next 2-3 months.

Regional chains could hold out for more

DNA India reports that with the purchase of Trinethra, the Aditya Birla Group has leapt ahead of Reliance in retail space. The food and grocery segment is key to the Indian retail market, an estimated 55% spend of a total of $300 billion each year. Bangalore based Niligiris was sold to Actis due to differences in the family that ran the company. Another company on the lookout to sell is Jaipur based Bardiya Group who is looking to either sell or form a strategic association for its 4 Big Shopper stores in the city.

Market sources estimate that the Birlas paid an estimated Rs. 147 crore for the company which has 172 stores and is spread across the southern states. Comparatively, Reliance’s purchase of the Adani Group which has 54 stores for Rs. 110 crore seems more expensive.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Lepakshi looks to go overseas

The Hindu Business Line reports that Andhra Pradesh’s government has been conducting talks through the Indian embassies in the US, UK, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai to set up showrooms to sell handicrafts from Andhra Pradesh. The announcement was made by Dr J Geeta Reddy, Minister for Major Industries, Exports, Commerce and Tourism.

The AP Handicrafts Development Corporation (APHDC) which runs the showrooms also plans to open showrooms in Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore. At present it has 14 showrooms, with one each in Delhi and Kolkata and a second outlet opening soon in Delhi.