10 gifts my father left behind for us


My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.

-Clarence Budington Kelland


Exactly a year ago, My father left us, leaving behind a treasure trove of memories. He didn’t leave behind a vacuum for the family, instead he filled our minds with warm thoughts of his positive aura. As a family, we traded funny stories of how he made us laugh and wove his magic around people. Each of us felt blessed that he walked besides us and touched our lives forever.

Looking back, I realized he never lectured us or told us how to behave, he showed us by example and left us simple life lessons to follow. His biggest legacy were these ideas we imbibed as we watched him conduct himself. It struck me how much his actions have moulded our personalities distinctly over the years.

Here are 10 life lessons, my father left behind for us. These serve as stepping stones for us today and were his greatest gift to us and his grandchildren. 

1.Humor and laughter solves most problems

My father had an amazing sense of humor and diffused most problems and situations with laughter. He showed us the power of laughter and how infectious it can be. He could make anyone laugh and used it well to even convert frowns on any face.

He would recite stories from the past that made people hang on every detail, he could pun on everything and his comic timing would win hearts everywhere he went. In a crowded space, we knew we would find him at the epicenter of the laughter and giggles.

2.Treat everyone equally

He always showed us to treat every single person with respect and love, regardless of religion, status or race. He would connect with every single person on their level, making them comfortable and he made them feel unique. We would see him walk with his arms around the shoulder of people on the streets, remembering the name of everybody he met even after years. Each person felt he was their best friend and they always felt heard in his company. We saw and learnt never to ever talk down to anyone, instead to respect and understand their situations. We learnt by watching him, to listen intently without prejudice or judgment and that everyone was equal. The concepts of discrimination, status or economic divisions remained alien to each of us.

3.Stay a child always

Vappa was a child to his very last day. His childlike curiosity, his eagerness to learn, his hunger for new experiences and perennial innocence enveloped him and he wore it proudly like a unique cloak. He stayed more excited than any child I knew when he visited new places, or travelled and met new people. His face would change into a little child as his eyes would light up brightly soaking in everything around him. Every time Sachin or Kohli were belting sixes my phone would ring with him screaming on the other end “Are you watching this?!!”.

Every birthday party and gift was received with unbounded enthusiasm which he would be extremely expressive about. This quality allowed him to connect with his grandkids like best friends. Children everywhere would flock around him as he would enamor them with his magic tricks and jokes. He taught us to renounce adult cynicism for childlike glee.

4.Never lose connection 

He never lost touch with anyone he met. From childhood buddies, to college friends and hundreds of people he met over the decades, he stayed in touch with each and every one of them. He would call them regularly, and make it a point to meet all of them wherever he travelled. Whats app was God’s gift for him and it allowed him to stay connected with everyone even more easily. Every day without fail his “Good Morning” forwards and jokes would happily ping themselves into 100s of phones and make people smile during their day. He taught us to value our circle of friends that we make along the way and that it took no effort to stay connected and make each one feel loved.

5.The family is everything 

Beyond the 1000s of people that became his circle of influence, for him his family was everything. And this he regularly expressed to us and made each of us know we were way beyond everyone else. He would shamelessly talk about our little victories and bore his friends with our achievements. He ensured we all met regularly and hung out as a family. Every holiday was made special and he would dote on each and everyone of us and pamper the grandchildren rotten. He ensured we in turn were all best friends and we would stick around each other come what may. Our childhood was peppered with unforgettable holidays and constant occasions and surprise parties. Along with my mother, he taught us that family was everything.

6.Know the universe conspires for you

It may have been written in books and self help gurus may scream about it on world forums, but my Dad knew it before everyone else. Regardless of any situation or crisis that was knocking, he always knew that good things were going to happen and the world was always conspiring to make him succeed. And the universe always complied to his unrelenting belief. In the middle of hopeless situations, a door would always magically open, or a burst of silver lining that would miraculously appear through the darkest of life’s storm clouds. And with his trademark mischievous smile, he would embrace this good fortune with an “I have been expecting you” glint. We learnt that when you believe good things happen, they magically do. We learnt that hope invites good fortune and luck stalks strong belief in positivity.

7.Ask and ye shall receive

Vappa never felt awkward to ask. He would show us just for fun the things he could get done just by asking. So many times, when we would feel silly or shy, he would walk up confidently to anyone and disarm them with a smile and just ask. It could be an upgrade on a flight or a hotel, it could be a better seat, or an extra batch of toiletries in a hotel or even an audience with heads of states. He would ask and 8 out of 10 times, he would get what he wanted. We learnt that it doesn’t matter what people think, just ask.

Recently, when I heard Jack Canfield say the very same concept on stage at a training session I attended, I thought to myself with a grin that I have learnt this a long time ago from a master trainer.

8.Whatever you do, put your everything into it

Everything my father did, he did it with extreme passion and high energy. He would put his soul into it. From decorating a home, to creating a garden, to organizing weddings, to helping people or hosting events. Every network he was part of, he would leave his indefatigable energy as a mark. He would want to do his best and pour everything into what was at hand. No half measures was his motto and he went about life soaked in this electrifying high octane energy infecting everyone around him. We learnt to put our very best once we took on a challenge. We watched him and learnt to channel high energy into whatever we did too.

9.Touch lives along the way

The biggest asset you can leave behind for your children is goodwill. He touched so many lives just being himself. Thousands of people flocked to pay their last respects from the wee hours of the morning. I watched as people from all walks of life came by, with a lump in their throat, sharing stories and recounting how much he meant to them. We were amazed as each person would share how close he was, and say that he would keep in touch, and recount all the things he had done for them. Everyone of them pledged their love and support for their family and said they would be there for anything we ever needed. The outpouring of love and positivity made us realize how much he had done for so many people and just how loved he was. It taught us the value of doing things without expecting anything in return and how that grows exponentially as goodwill for generations to come.

10.Celebrate life. Have no regrets

His last few days, he was in and out of the hospital and we all spent time by his side. He laughed and smiled his way through every visit. We would laugh and tease him about his flirting with the nurses and he would laugh mischievously. He held my hand through each talk and he kept telling me about how he has no regrets with his wonderful and blessed life. He shared how he had a life he always dreamt of and a family he was so proud of.

He went ahead and bought his dream car a month before his last days, he stopped enroute to hospital to buy my mother a diamond necklace and celebrated his birthday with a cake just 2 weeks before he left us -making sure all the hospital staff was part of the celebrations. Even the day before he left us forever, he was cracking his trademark jokes and smiled with the same childlike glee in his eyes.

And the universe conspired yet again and took him without suffering nor leaving him bedridden or dependent on anyone. He left and taught us to celebrate his absence, not stay sad or mourn him. He left with a smile, knowing his legacy would live on through his children and his grand children.

Thank you for your lessons. Thank you for the unending reasons to smile while remembering you.

5 reasons to make branding the key ingredient in your food and beverage business



The food and beverage industry is one of the fastest growing industries world wide with new concepts launching everyday and existing concepts growing by leaps and bounds. It is also the industry with one of the highest rates of failure. Successful concepts suddenly fade and disappear due to innumerable reasons. New concepts catch the attention of consumers and many fail right at the launching board itself. 

Though issues like planning, staffing, quality of food, location, cash flow planning and timing play important roles in the success and failure of F&B concepts, branding lends itself to help stand apart from and attract customers. A well thought out brand can cut right through the clutter and be a strong catalyst for evolving into a regional and eventually an international brand. With the emirates set to attract almost 20 million visitors  by the year 2020, the opportunity for great local home grown brands are phenomenal.

A well constructed and strategically created brand can  boost your F&B business. Here’s 5 key reasons why your business needs branding to help leapfrog past the competition.

1.Showcase your Unique Selling proposition

‘If you aren’t a little different than your competition, you are in trouble.’

-Mark Sanborn

Your business needs to have something unique that differentiates it from the competition. A concept that doesn’t have a unique story tends to fade out and be without a context for the consumer’s choice. Its important to work with the branding agency and discover whats sets it apart and weave a story that can be communicated across all consumer touchpoints. Competition on price and quality is a dangerous game without an entry barrier and pushes the business into becoming a commodity that doesn’t stay relevant. Often existing concepts don’t even realize they already have a USP and they havent gone ahead and manifested it. It may be simple aspects like how friendly the place is or how the food is made, or the passion for excellence, or a fusion of food and maybe even a special dish that was created by the chef. Branding allows to discover or express this uniqueness and showcase it into the logo, the messaging, the space and the vibe of the place.

2.Connect emotionally with your consumers 

‘If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

-Howard Schulz, Starbucks

Branding is the art of finding an uninhabited space in the consumers mind and sparking a positive  emotional response to the business that makes them come back again and again. When a brand evolves into an emotional relation with the client the risk of competition recedes. Emotional brand connect can happen through every manifestation of the brand and this is what translates into a concept that can then be marketed and eventually franchised. Without brand emotion, again the business tends to become a commodity until the next best thing comes along.

3.Your consumers to do your marketing 

‘A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is- it is what consumer tell each other it is.”

-Scott Cook

A good brand that stand apart and connects emotional creates evangelists that market your product for you. In todays age of social media being your biggest marketing force, having reasons for your consumers to scream about your brand is crucial. Smart branding that imbibes hash tags, messages, cool interiors, unique names for dishes, humor, ambience and rituals spark reasons to share these stories through social mediums and aggregator apps (Zomato, Trip advisor, Talabat etc). A well laid branding strategy can imbibe consumer led marketing and nudge their top marketing officers to go forth and scream from the rooftops.

4.Ready for expansion and franchising 

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room’

Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Branding standards, repeatable processes and detailed guidelines pave the way when franchisees come knocking, when new locations seek out your brand or you expand on your own. When each location has the same experience, you are officially a brand. It makes business sense to invest in systems and processes that allow your brand to take off into the next level.

5.Stand apart from the competition

‘If your business is not a brand, it is a commodity.”

-Donald Trump

Around 19000 outlets are expected by 2019 in the UAE, almost tripling the current numbers according to a recent study. The market size for the UAE places it amongst the top 20 in the world and accounts for almost Dh 60 billion, making it attractive for concepts from all over the world even with the high rate of failure. New concepts will always be born, international chains will arrive and entrepreneurs will hunt down new and successful concepts and bring them to the region.

The challenge is for businesses to compete and stand out in this crowded market space and find their feet. A well crafted story manifested as a brand will help your business cut through and be noticed by consumers and set the business up for continued success. Without a brand, it becomes increasingly tough for home grown brands to stand head to head with international chains with established brand strategies and consumer programs that are tried and tested.

10 steps to rebrand your successful business


In today’s dynamic global market space, competing on price and quality will never be a game changer. Businesses today are looking to create a brand that speaks their story, that packages their USP and expounds to  the world why they are so good. They need a visual depiction of their offering that emotionally connects their business to the consumers, sets them apart from the competition clearly and helps them stand head to head with large multi national firms that are coming into the economy at an alarming pace.

These simple 10 steps are important to know when you embark on the journey of rebranding your successful business.

1.Know your USP and differentiate clearly

The first step in a branding process is to know your strengths and understand what sets you apart. To look inside and see what attributes have lent themselves to your success. Basis this a clear DNA for your company will evolve and this is what has to be communicated in your brand and visual language to your prospective consumers.

2.Involve the full team

Rebranding is also an immense opportunity to install change management within the organisation. Communicating to your team that the company has ambitious goals and expect the team to also be involved in the facelift. The process is a catalyst to gear the entire team for the next innings of the organisation. It helps to involve the team in the initial briefing, brainstorming and presentations and be part of the rejuvenation of the organisation.

3.Speak to customers

During the rebranding, it always helps to speak to your consumers and key clients and see what they think of you. To ask them what keywords come to mind when they describe you, why they do business with you and what they feel is the DNA of your organisation.

4.Branding is not just about a logo

Most companies make the mistake of thinking that a brand is a logo. Its not. A brand is your voice and soul and its the emotional connect with your key stakeholders. A brand is a sum total of all the interactions with your business. Besides the visual aspects, your customer service, tone of voice, product or service and even small elements all add up to reinforce your brand values.

5.Think 10 years ahead

While doing a rebranding, its paramount to project the company 10 years ahead and think of expansion plans, diversification, acquisitions, geographies and even your exit strategy so the new brand stays relevant. If a firm currently manufactures food packaging and creates a brand that reflects that and later diversifies into logistics for example, the new brand will again be irrelevant.


6.Work with professionals

Many companies make the mistake of working with a freelancer, a relative or even the printer to save costs. They usually turn out as a disaster and the exercise is never strategic in nature but purely a visual depiction. An experienced branding expert will bring years of experience and will play a large role as a strategist and spend time understanding your vision, competition, benchmarks, limitations and marketing plan before they go to the drawing board.

7.Celebrate and announce your new avatar

When the rebranding is done and ready for a roll out, its a great marketing opportunity to connect with old customers, prospects and other stakeholders. Inform them proudly with your new look and share your new vision for the future. It builds new found confidence and respect and translates into business in the near future.

8.Follow the guidelines

After the branding is done and the initial roll out is achieved, many companies make the mess of tinkering and changing the look. Leaving it open for interpretations and short cuts will diffuse the impact of the brand. Make sure the DNA is respected and visual guidelines are adhered to.

9.Remember it’s an investment

The brand value is the largest asset in the balance sheer for almost all the the largest companies in the world today. A well brand that redefines your image will over the years convert into closed orders, goodwill,  set you apart form your competitors and help rapidly grow the organisation. Don’t see it as an expense but an investment for the future of the business.

10.Be ambitious 

A rebranding process is a great opportunity to think big and envision the future with lofty goals and aspirations. Its a time for the organisation to think big and see that the business will be able to compete and outrun large multinationals and competitors. Ensure your brand embraces this ambition and represents the image accordingly.

Sajith is the founder and CEO of Idea Spice, a branding firm that has helped create over 1200 brands around the world.

The 5 top challenges faced by marketers and global brands today

shutterstock_333854105In today’s fast changing economy, marketing has taken a new dimension completely. Combined with the rapid leaps in the use of social media on one side and an economy thats unstable and challenging, brands have to adjust to the new landscape and adopt a new strategy that remains effective. 

The first step is to look around and accept the reality of the challenge at hand and then begin to create marketing plans to grow the business.

Lets take a look at the challenge at hand for todays brands and businesses when they make their marketing plans.

1.The fast changing digital landscape 

The digital landscape alters itself everyday and businesses have to ensure they stay abreast of the trends. It is an opportunity to connect directly with the consumers. Your website and social mediums become a direct bridge to the consumer and without a clear strategy you may be losing a major opportunity to get valuable ROI on market spend and effort. In a place where today 250 billion pictures get uploaded on face book and 100 hours of video content is uploaded onto youtube on a daily basis, it’s equally challenging to cut through the clutter and stand out amongst the 2.3 billion active social media users.

2.Instant Customer reactions

It is now equally important that content that bears your marketing message is engaging and emotionally connects with your consumer. Content that has virality can potentially reach millions in minutes and at a fraction of your traditional marketing mediums reach targeted consumers. You can make your consumers your brand ambassadors and allow them to get the message of your brand out. Knowing what connects and what is the voice of your brand that stays consistent is equally as challenging. Remembering that your consumers can now have a voice to express themselves can be a double edged sword that needs a clear plan to counter negative sentiments as well. Brandwatch statistics says 78 percent of people who complain to a brand via Twitter expect a response within the hour.

3.Finding talented marketers 

Companies today require personnel who can roll their sleeves and get deep into their consumers mind space to create effective strategies. Finding the right people who can think emotionally, keep a close tab on trends, convert these to plans and execute them seamlessly, then monitor and change tact if the landscape changes is difficult to come by and then retain. The average age of a new age marketer has dropped significantly and understanding that typical Cvs need not uncover the talent needed today is a challenge to be considered. Companies today need marketers who can think out the box and not opt for traditional medium only.

4.Knowing the ROI of your efforts

With fast shrinking budgets and reducing profitability, companies are always looking at ways to cost cut. Typically marketing tends to take a hit in these scenarios. The challenge is to be able to balance and remember that customer acquisition and retention need to be one of the most important agendas for an organisation. In the hurry of budget slashing, its important that companies understand that marketing is an investment and not a cost. Traditional mediums cant be ignored and need to go hand in hand with new age digital mediums.

5.New  disruptive business models 

Organisations have to remember that marketing is as much about reinventing yourself as a business and creating demand. When companies feel they are on autopilot and let go of looking from a consumers mind set, new disruptive businesses can make you go belly up. Airbnb has over 50 million users and has changed the way people travel. Consumers are changing how they stay when they travel and the business doesn’t own a single property. Uber has rapidly changed the taxi businesses creating a challenge for traditional companies, What’s app has eaten into the share of texting revenue from telecom businesses. Netflix, Amazon, Apple music etc are examples of new business models that are shaking up traditional businesses.

Marketers need to study the pain points of consumers and question if theres an easier way to fulfil solutions for these.

Here are a few interesting facts that marketers need to keep in mind while drawing out plans for their brands. These examples provide ideas for opportunity for marketing. There are many more mediums like these. 


Google processes over 100 billion searches every month.


SEO, ad words etc, trend analysis,


Facebook adds over 500,000 new users every day and 6 new profile very second. There are over 40 million active small business pages.


A community to directly reach end consumers and target them specifically to tastes and demographics and engage


There are over 1.3 billion twitter accounts and the average twitter user has 280 followers. Instagram has over 3.5 billion likes very day.


To create influencers who can become your voice and endorse your brand further


Here are 3.25 billion hours of video watched each month and only 9% of small businesses use it.


An under utilised medium to market your brand through a preferred format for users.





5 ways to Humanise your brand


With the advent of social media, a new era has opened up for brands and with it a plethora of challenges. Brands are now directly in touch with their consumers interacting one on one. This is both an opportunity and complex at step he same time. Today companies have to step down from their ivory towers and don a much more human face to engage with their consumers. Today, humanising your brand isn’t a marketing strategy or a unique idea, its a basic requirement for your brand. Here are some simple steps to get you going.

1.Have a brand DNA and persona in place

The first step to humanising a brand is to imagine your brand as a human. Imagine your brand as a person and define his or her personality. What  is your DNA? IS your brand serious? Fun? Responsible? How old is your brand? Whats the tone of voice and style off voice? How does it react to various situations? What are the values? The clearer this is defined and educated across the company, the more cohesive and integrated the voice becomes. If the DNA is set in stone, then everything else follows easily. Remember consumers don’t buy products, they buy aspirations.

2. Create a content bucket

Instead of reacting on the fly on social media and across platforms, define what information defines your brand. What do you want to say? Avoid bombarding consumers with offers and discounts but information that is engaging. Define what your brand is speaking each quarter, what you will share, what you want to say. What does your brand believe in? What are you championing? Do you have a CSR program?  Whats happening behind the scenes? What trends will interest the consumer? Set goals and targets and measure results and effectiveness regularly and recalibrate.

3.Know your consumer

If you don’t know your consumer, you can never speak  their language. Who are they? What do they do in their spare time? What media do they use? What engages them? Do your homework and study the trends, gather user research and keep your eyes and ears open. Without an intuitive understanding of the user, the brand will never speak their language. If you are a brand attracting teenagers, you better know your demographic and their language and mindset before you connect  them and come across like a granddad at a beach party!

4.Be authentic and unique

A big no no for brands is sounding rehearsed and like a robot. Well rehearsed cold communication which sounds fake will backfire. Its alright to make mistakes and owning up and sharing your weaknesses authentically connects well with consumers. Apologise and make amends with complaints immediately, Share stories, little victories and milestones so the audience can grow with you and take ownership. Avoid automated messages and ready birthday wishes. A brand thats humanised will sound unique and connect and engage allowing the consumer to become evangelists.

5.Connect emotionally 

Brands that tug at your heart, make you smile, get inspired, laugh, think, act, cry or get goosebumps will install a deep ingrained sense of long term loyalty. Vitality is linked to emotional connects and people love to share what they liked and connected emotionally with. Humour always connects and engages. Stay politically correct unless your brand persona is otherwise. Finding common interests with your consumers based on your product category works. Continue this connection offline too as your brand supports causes, sponsors relevant events.

Remember emotional connectivity and engagement across every consumer touchpoint and deliver a humanised brand experience and watch your brand equity sky rocket.

A school reunion 25 years in the making

What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.

-Julian Barnes, The sense of an ending

A bus rumbled through a sleepy town, past rocky hillocks and green fields, past garish hand painted walls, past a greying sky pregnant with nostalgia and the chance of rain. Little did we know the rain were to play a cathartic role in our trip.

Oblivious to the varying landscape, inside the bus sat 23 stories bound together by the destination. Laughter and untold stories reverberated across every seat setting the stage for a magical weekend. 

It was my 25th year after I had left Rishi valley and here we were together travelling back in time to rediscover hundreds of memories walking the 350 acre campus. I had joined the school 34 years ago as a little boy. 

We had come together from destinations around the world to meet again and find ourselves. London, Hong Kong, California, New York, Abu Dhabi and from across India my batch mates had traversed and hopped aboard the bus at Bangalore. 

We never missed a beat. One hug and we were perfectly back in sync, back as little kids without pretense cloaked in an aura of trust and camaraderie. 

Rishi Valley School sits nestled as a valley between rocky hills and lush green trees. Over 80 years the school still retained its soul, choosing to stay untouched by technology or modernity. Rishi valley wears it austerity proudly and this serves as one of the greatest catalysts for students. 

We stared silently as the campus and the neighboring hills loomed through the windows. A 6 hour bus ride riddled with food breaks, pit stops and leg stretches had brought us now to the gate of our childhood. Grinning 40 somethings arriving at a campus that had once transformed and evolved each of us. 
RV as we called it fondly, was exactly as we remembered it. Each of us hopped off the bus, to be welcomed by the splendor of this picturesque campus. A gentle breeze ran across Neem leaves, past tamarind and eucalyptus trees. The wind scurried past and swung open metal doors that creaked, it shook yellow petals down onto the road into a beautiful carpet. The architecture stood simple and austere, hand in hand with the scenic campus amidst chirping birds. 

The caretaker Gopal walked out of the guest house timeless,exactly as we remembered him. De ja vu could have been his middle name as he near perfectly guessed each of our names and welcomed us back. We morphed into school kids in an instant as we nosedived into our school days. The reunion had shifted gears. 

Over the next 2 days we immersed ourselves in our school days reliving each moment. We walked to every corner of the campus, to our classrooms through the years, meeting teachers, visiting the hostels, the assembly. Having current students on campus made it even more real as we saw ourselves in them. 

We shared anecdotes at each location, reminding each other and shaking up forgotten events. We relished the food, sang songs together in the music room, danced old folk dances we were taught, climbed the hills and played sports too. A few woke up at the crack of dawn and jogged to the mouth of the valley and back and survived to tell the tale. It is amazing what the sound of birds, silence and the lack of wi fi can do for the mind. We were instantly refreshed wearing the grin of our school days proudly on display. 

On the last evening, we sat on the terrace together. The moon hid behind dark clouds as we peddled ghost stories and played songs from the eighties. The mood shifted with the weather and a magical connection wove its way across each of us. We were suddenly amongst friends, people we knew for over 3 decades, people we have grown up with. As the clouds parted and it rained heavily, something magical happened. 

We opened our hearts and shared our thoughts without fear of judgement. Amongst our oldest friends we rained our stories, we bared our soul and spoke of happiness, of trials and challenges. That evening we suddenly stood united as one unit. We felt lighter and realized that these are friends who will be there for each other no matter what. Within that paradigm shift, we suddenly wove a wonderful web of trust and connectivity that would now stay with us for the rest of our lives. 

We travelled back from school as one close knit family. I discovered so many little anecdotes and stories realizing how they have shaped who I am today. I left younger, clearer and recharged. I left school with a bunch of friends suddenly much more closer than I ever knew them. I left school discovering myself a lot more. I left school with a warm fuzzy feeling and a glow. There was an energy and positivity inwards that even days at a holiday retreat couldn’t bring alive. 

That’s what a school reunion does. Nostalgia is one helluva volatile catalyst of positivity!

10 Innovative marketing  techniques for todays business landscape

This article appeared in Arabian Business-Start Up Magazine in Dubai May issue. Here is the article in text form.


The current business landscape calls for a rethink of your marketing strategy. As CFOs tighten budgets and question marketing spends, CMOs have to still meet targets and ensure the organisation is continuing to grow. Marketeers are faced with the quandary of continuing efforts in increasing the visibility of their brand and staying top of mind with their consumers while working with reduced marketing budgets. Reduce your marketing efforts and you face the threat of losing market share or helplessly watch a new entrant capture mind share of your consumers immediately.

Given this scenario, marketing today requires a blend of innovation and imagination. The key is to take on the challenge and find new ways to create demand and interest in your product or service. Here are 10 innovative methods that can help businesses market their business, connect with prospects without increasing marketing spend.

1.Word of mouth

“Do what you do so well, that people cant resist telling others about you”

-Walt Disney

Word of mouth is one of most powerful mediums of marketing because it comes from happy customers. Creating evangelists for your business needs to be engineered right across every department of the company. If the goal of the organisation is to deliver a customer experience thats so spectacular that it surpasses the client expectation by a mile. A delighted customer will shout your name from rooftops. Mapping the customer experience step by step of the buying process and studying ways to wow them at every interaction ensures this. Do the unexpected and don’t just meet their expectations- shock and awe them with delight. Apple has customers who are evangelists converting everyone they know into the fold and will never ever move brands regardless of whatever option comes their way.

2.Increase conversion rate

“If content is king, then conversion is queen”

-Jon Munsell

Time needs to be invested to relook at the complete process of client acquisition. What steps can be put in place to double the current conversion? If you are at 25%, can your big hairy audacious goal be 50%? Its a good time to relook at your website, what you say, your SEO, first meeting, marketing presentations, quotes, pricing, negotiation strategy and even what rituals can help build trust. Mapping the clients decision process in detail and juxtaposing what you can do the influence the decision your way can help. Think out of the box, think funny, think values, think persuasion and go ahead and implement it immediately!

3.Social media

“Activate your fans, don’t just collect them like baseball cards “

-Jay Baer

Social media today has democratised marketing and client engagement. It means that the person with the best ideas and client engagement wins and not the one with the biggest ad spend. Even the smallest companies can easily create compelling viral content that can interact and emotionally attract a consumer. Its not about the number of fans and paid followers, its about the engagement and building brand loyalty and eventually converting to a sale. Social media is the most cost effective way to reach out and seek to your consumers on a one to one basis. Once the brand DNA is established, the brand needs to be humanised to connect. Based on your demographic and target there is a right medium or a combination of social media platforms that reach out and build bridges with consumers. Social media is also a double edged sword where customers will shout from the rooftops if they are unhappy and a company needs to have a clear and authentic method to combat and resolve issues immediately.

4.Existing and Past Clients

“Customer service should not be a department, it should be the entire company”

-Tony Hsieh

Acquiring a new client is 7 times more expensive than retaining an existing client. It’s even more important today to ensure that your existing clients stay forever. Calculating the lifetime value of a client to the company and then focussing all efforts to retaining them. Every department should know the importance of an existing client and alarm bells should sound if you lose even one. Reconnecting with clients who have done business with you in the past is another way to focus on a target segment and win business with someone who already knows you. Make those phone calls, dust that rolodex and reconnect. Ensure you have a drip marketing system in place to inform your past clients or your current achievements and activities without reaching them spam or junk mail.

5.Get out of the office!

“The magic to a great meeting is all of the work thats done beforehand”

-Bill Rusell

The best way to increase conversion is to meet more clients. Increasing the number of clients you meet is directly proportional to the number of new client acquisitions. Plan meetings closer to each other so you can do more in a day. Create systems to reach out and meet prospects. All your marketing efforts should be engineered to connecting with your target clientele.

6.Public Relation

“If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on Public relation”

-Bill Gates

PR tells your story and instead of you professing your strengths, this allows other people to speak about you. Having a clear strategy on what strengths and stories you want your consumer to hear is the first step. Listing which mediums you want to be heard in and what stories can enhance your expertise is the next. Engaging with a specialist company ensures a clear strategy and a consistent effort which is long term. Many companies make the mistake of expecting immediate results. PR is brand building over a long term and will not result in an immediate sale.

7.New geographies

“If Opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”

-Milton Berle

When the going gets tough, looking at markets which still have demand and a growing consumer base is a great idea. This is a tougher and a more expensive prospect but it balances your risks. Investing in new and emerging markets bears fruit in the future. New markets which don’t have long flying hours, that don’t have much competition, have low set up costs and have potential demand for your product or service are good parameters for selection.


“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing”

-Tom Fishburne

Connecting with potential customers and partners on an ongoing basis is critical to grow your influence as an entrepreneur. Join business networks, industry associations and conferences to grow your bandwidth of contacts.

9.Showcase industry expertise

“You must become an expert on a product, service or anything you write about to really be effective”

-Joseph Sugarman

Speak at conferences, write articles, blog, lecture and position yourself and your organisation as an expert in your field. Assume expertise in your subject and ensure you are one too. Educate yourself, keep track of trends and devour information on your subject field. Become and influencer and a voice for your industry and this will convert to business eventually.

10.Reposition the brand

“Its time to reset, rethink, reposition…”

-Hunter Hayes

A challenging business scenario is a good time to relook and rethink what your company is, what your weaknesses and strengths are, questioning if you really have a USP or an edge over your competition. This is the time to get better at what you do, improve and look within. This is a good time to rebrand, redo your image and express your differentiated strength clearly to your consumer and target clientele.

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs”

-Peter Drucker

The author Sajith Ansar, is the founder and CEO of Idea Spice, a branding firm that has helped 1000s of brands innovate and market themselves internationally.

Magazine cover


What a beautiful and inspiring quote by George Bernard Shaw 


“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. 

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.

I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.

-George Bernard Shaw 

What a beautiful thought and a clear philosophy to live your life by. I chanced upon this in a Robin Sharma video and was mesmerized by the words and it’s call to action. 

Life is about burning brightly each day. Robin Sharma in his video asks in a similar vein, what would you do if it was the last year of your life? 
How can we make each day epic and burn so brightly and own each minute as a magical gift. To be completely in the moment and be a beacon of energy and positivity doing what we love with unending passion and fun. 

Great thoughts…


5 ideas to make a life changing vision board 


Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. 

Jonathan Swift

A vision board is a tool that has time and again helped me create a road map and clarify my own picture of where I want to be in the future and become a catalyst to achieve the dreams. I have scoured articles and books to know more about the effectiveness of a vision board. I have changed and tinkered with my goals and pictures over and over and what I want with my vision has organically evolved each time I created a new board. 

When I look back at all the road maps I set out for myself it’s amazing how different each one is and how easily I have floated towards achieving them soon after I made them. My initial vision boards were skewed towards material aspects and studded with manifestation of only wealth. Eventually there’s been a journey towards balance, health, family, happiness, work excellence, laurels and charity. Balance of work life and everyday happiness became the primary goal of achievement eventually. 

I have made and remade many vision maps and boards and found some that worked and many more that didn’t. Here’s 5 secrets on making a vision board that’s transformational. 

1. Know what you want


It is so important to know what you want for yourself. Close your eyes, project to the future and ask yourself what you really want. Then ask yourself what do I want this for? What will this give me? Why  is that goal is part of your dream? 

Make a list of your asks and categorize them once they pass your questions. Ensure every aspect of your vision resonates deep down within. 
This is an opportunity to truly introspect your ideal life 5 and 10 years later and have a crystal clear idea of what it looks like. 
2.Transport yourself to the future and live the moment 


What I learnt over the years and through discussions and reading is that the more clear you are of your vision the higher the possibility of achieving it. It’s important to be able to close your eyes and see yourself in an already achieved state. 

Be able to see the surrounding, smell the ambience, feel the textures, hear the sounds and play the movie in your head of yourself being there. For example if you are visualizing your dream home, every detail should be accessible in your mind. The walls, the furniture, the sounds, smell and the moments. See your emotions when you have achieved your vision, interact with the dream and it will increase the confidence in arriving at the destination. 

Even writing your dreams from an already achieved state  and with specifics helps accentuate the clarity of the vision. For example instead of saying “I want to publish a book by 2018” write down “By June 31st 2018, I have published my book titled ‘start up failures’ and 100,000 copies have been sold in the first year”. 

3.Create detailed visual boards across sections

Make vision boards for each category of your life and populate them with pictures of your dream. I have a few sections which I have evolved over time. 

Health, family time, travel, office and work, awards and accolades, hobbies, friends, dream home, dream office, dream clients and team, money, investments, friends and mentors, spirituality, toys and gadgets (car, brands, clothes, electronics etc). 

Creating vision boards across these categories have helped getting clarity under each section and makes sure the vision is complete. Involving the family and getting their buy in also helps cement these visions and enlist them as catalysts. 

It helps further to get yourself in as many pictures of the vision board. For example, if it’s a dream home or a car, go to the house and get a picture in front of the porch or seated inside your dream car doing a test drive. 
To make these vision boards, varied tools can be used. The easiest is to do the old scrap book method of cutting pictures and pasting on a board. Otherwise, Pinterest can be an amazing tool, PowerPoint or keynote your vision board. Once they are done, make them into a poster you can place somewhere that you can see every day is the best method to help actualising the dreams. Maybe on your bathroom mirror or as a poster in your office or bedroom. 

4.Make action steps for each board to achieve the same 


Often we make the mistake of making a vision board and expecting it to work magically for us. Detailing action steps to achieving some of these hairy audacious goals goes a long way in making them come true and giving it steps to reality. 

For example, if your vision is to write a book, your action steps would be:

a.finalise subjects in the next 3 months

b.start writing and keep aside an hour every weekend towards this from December 

c.Find an editor to work with

d. Attend the literary festival and find a mentor 
This should be applied across as many categories with tangible steps to achieve your 5 or 10 year vision board in bite size chunks. The trick is to dream without boundaries and make them big hairy audacious goals and then to break them down into practical steps to get there. 

5.Rewire your deep rooted relation  with success and prepare for receiving 


The biggest stumbling block to achieving success and our dreams are our deep rooted relation with the concept of success and money. We are all brought up with phrases we hear in our youth from family and friends. “Rich people are corrupt”, “you can’t be successful without hard work”, “money is evil” and many more thoughts and advice that slow us down without us realizing them. 
It’s important to work on being ready internally for the success that will come and prepare ourselves to embrace the future.  Our self fulfilling prophecy is engineered deep in the mind and every preparation will fail if we don’t believe or desire success within. 

Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.

-Henry David Thoreau

In memory of a professor 

A really inspiring professor of mine passed away this week. He taught me almost 25 years ago and the fuandamentals of the design process he instilled is so deep that I  still carry the ideas with me to solve my client’s design problems. Even today, every word he taught is ringing clear as I draw upon their science and logic and apply it to my profession. 

It’s amazing how some educators shine like a beacon of light and stay inspiring years later. What sets them apart? It’s the passion to touch their student’s lives and the pure passion for  the subject they teach. 

M P Ranjan lived and breathed design till the very end. His eyes twinkled with passion as he spoke about design thinking, design education and it’s far reaching impact. He inspired every student he met along the way even years after they had graduated.
Imagine if each educator could impact their students, what a wonderful world it would be. 
I wrote these words the day after he passed away and drew this too. 

It’s overwhelming seeing the outpouring of grief, stories and anecdotes on how Ranjan impacted all our lives. He was a professor who wore a twinkle in his eyes as he inspired and educated. 
He was many things to many people. He was an educator and a mentor, pushing boundaries and encouraging each of us to do more and think more. He was a design evangelist, speaking up for causes and being a catalyst of change. He was a source of inspiration, igniting in each of us an ability to think behind our abilities. He was a farmer, installing within each of us the seed of curiosity and discovery. 
Ranjan laid the foundation and inspired the process of design, explained systems thinking and the ability to use this to solve any problem. He taught us that design is a powerful tool and taught us to wield it responsibly. 
We will all miss his thoughts, questions, his cheshire grin and timeline of selfies. This is a void which can’t be filled and his legacy will always live on in our work. 
Thank you Ranjan for your role in all our lives. You will continue to inspire us wherever you are.


Connected minds 

Once in a while, I let the monk get away from his solitude and mediate with others. The energy of connected silence i find visually and emotionally uplifting. 
In life too, we come across people who suddenly cross our paths, where you can immediately sense their aura, their positive energy and shared intent. Suddenly, there’s a connection like you knew them from a lifetime ago. People always carry their energy around them and this speaks way before they even utter a word.   


Depicting clarity 

I am exploring  ways to depict meditation and self knowledge. I found a few metaphors that align with my interpretation of the process. 

I am using building forms to depict the outside world and symbolize the noise of everyday life. The energy lines around the monk attempt to describe the changes and the aura that permeates from self realization and The winged eye is awareness and enlightenment. I also explored adding movement or wind as a metaphor of the positive feeling of change. I wanted the monk to have a sense of calmness, stillness and equanimity too. 
What’s wonderful is that the process of drawing is transferring this sense of calm to me. 



Everyone meditates differently 

Meditation is best defined as a state where the mind is silent, completely still and without distraction.  The mind is clear, relaxed, and focused inward. We aspire to achieve a state where the mind is silent and no longer distracts. 

Every individual will have their own process to get to this state of being. It’s not necessary to attain the state of inner clarity only through traditional methods.  Some may find it being lost in a pure state of bliss within their craft, or work, or music, at a concert or the opera, sitting by a brook, trekking or as a whirling Sufi dervish. It’s about switching off into a zone where every external distraction switches off one by one till you are left in a state of pure balance. 

For me this state is when I sketch. I find myself at peace and being able to blank every bit of information that wants to catch my mind. I find myself enveloped in a place of complete inner focus and stillness. 
This sketch is both my moment of being completely still and also depicting how each individual has their own mediation process. 

Where everyday is a vacation


Imagine a life where everyday is a vacation. Where every single day we wake up smiling with a hop in our step.

What are things we do on a holiday? Slow down, hear the birds, feel the wind on our face, let go of all stress, do the things we love, spend quality time with our loved ones. We only do the things we love, we indulge ourselves, we breathe easier, we listen to ourselves, we laze in bed, eat slowly, sip on our coffee and relish the flavor, we watch strangers and soak in cultures. We are inspired easily, we laugh more and grin through the day.

Why can’t we do this everyday in our lives. Why can’t this become our constant state of being? A heightened awareness, doing what we love, smiling and in our zone. When we realize what we love, pursue excellence in our passion and then become so good that the world wants your talent, we enter a zone.
This zone allows us to indulge everyday doing we are passionate about, getting better everyday and honing out talent further and further. A laser focus on our competence and love for our own craft allows us to revel in the joy of what we love every day.

Combined with a life balance where we have enough time for ourselves and the people we love. Quality and quantity time with our families, friends and well wishers, touching lives each day and inspiring others yet being inspired easily. When we devote time for ourselves meditating in our pursuit for self knowledge and equanimity. When we learn to be authentic, don’t judge and be affected by situations and reactions. Imagine what a vacation life would be.

Givers gain 

 What goes around comes around. Goodwill is the most precious asset to nurture. Networking is helping others achieve their goals without expecting anything in return. The more you become a catalyst to people’s dreams and aspirations, the more the power of reciprocity kicks in. The secret is not to expect it and never to make that the reason to help.