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

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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

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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. 

Fact

Google processes over 100 billion searches every month.

Opportunity 

SEO, ad words etc, trend analysis,

Fact

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

Opportunity 

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

Fact

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.

Opportunity 

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

Fact

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

Opportunity 

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

 

 

 

 

5 ways to Humanise your brand

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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.

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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.

8.Networking

“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.

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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.

  

20 Quotes every designer will love!!

 

Here’s a collection of wisdom converted into visuals. These are curated mainly from Pinterest and I don’t know the source for most. Each of them inspire and sympathise.Many of the visual quotes/ phrases connect and summarise the thoughts of a creative individual. Have fun browsing and add your list to them.

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A beautiful story about karma

what goes around, comes around

 

I love stories that expound the philosophy of Karma, stories that embody the spirit of “what goes around comes around”. Even better when it happens instantly or within our lifetime.

The landlord for our older Mumbai office was a wonderful human being and had an aura of goodness surrounding him. On one of my conversations to him he recounted a beautiful story about his life which impacted me deeply.

He lived in a flat in Mumbai and like many apartments the complex had a society of which he was the association president. In this society there was a young man who was a party addict. He would come back at 3 am often after clubbing, drunk, boisterous and wake many of the people in the apartments with the din. After much nuisance, the association met and decided that after a warning, they should ask him to leave. It was unanimous.

My landlord was worried for this young lad even though he didn’t know him and would stay up every night watching from his window till he would come home. Upon spotting the party animal arriving, he would tip toe down whisper to him to keep silence and escort him to his flat and ensure the night passed without incident. This happened for nights on end tirelessly till one day, the young man felt guilty that this old man would be waiting up for him.

After weeks, gradually he started coming home earlier and then finally sobered up just because of the guilt of having a stranger stay awake to ensure he would be okay. He came home and thanked the landlord for everything and said he had changed his life just with his perseverance and care. He said he was going abroad to pursue his higher education and had decided to get serious about his life and do something with it. They hugged and my landlord thought he would never hear of him again.

5 years later, the landlords son who was a computer engineer left for Canada for a dream job in a software company. Leaving the proud family, he set off to a new beginning. Reaching Canada, the company who hired him realised there was some error in the hire and felt he was of the wrong profile. They politely told him the job offer was revoked and he could go back and they would reimburse the ticket. The son was shattered and didnt know what to do. He felt ashamed to inform the family and let everyone back home know of the situation. He decided to go and spend as much time praying and sitting at the mosque. For days, this was his routine.

One day, an old man who would frequent the mosque approached him and sat beside him. He asked him what was wrong, because he could tell from his face that there was something not in order. He said he often wondered what a young man like him was spending all his days here looking distraught. The landlord’s son recounted his tale and his misfortune and the old man listened intently. At the end of the sharing, he mentioned that he knew a friend’s son who has a software company and he could try and arrange a meeting quickly or at least get some advice and direction for the boy.

A few days later, the landlord’s son walked into a large plush software company office. The receptionist led him into the CEOs room for a quick meeting. As he sat down, the CEO started the interview without missing a beat. As he asked him questions, he asked about his hometown. Since they were both from mumbai, for polite conversation he asked where he stayed, and then which colony and where and each time exclaimed “I am also from there”. Till they realised they lived in the same flat. When asked what the name of his father was and just as the young man answered, the CEO jumped up from his seat, swung around the table and hugged him tight. He told him that his father was the reason behind who he is today. The confused son looked stunned as he was hired immediately without batting an eyelid. The CEO was the party going youth from the colony who his father had stayed awake for.

The young man was hired instantly and over the years proved his mettle and worthiness. Today, he is the vice president of the company and an extremely successful individual. All this because long ago, his father stayed awake for a stranger to make sure he didn’t get into trouble! That for me was a simple live example of the personification of Karma.

I loved that story and it got me thinking that the biggest asset we can give our kids beyond wealth and riches is a legacy of goodwill by touching hundreds of lives.

my Bucket List of 50 and how to make one

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This is my bucket list.

Though its a bucket list, I would really love to tick everything on this list in the next 5 years! I probably would add 50 more as the years go by on this wish list. 

A bucket list helps us to trigger and bring to life so many simple pleasures we may forget as we get caught up in day to day life. The list makes us look inwards and find what really will bring a smile to ourselves and sets in motion a chain of events that make them come alive.

Sometimes some of the wildest dreams come true when they are put out into the world. I had shared my list earlier and 2 items magically came alive because friends read them. One friend read kilimanjaro on the list and planned a trip and called me to join and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I had penned that I wanted to fly a plane and never imagined that would come true during a holiday where another friend organised a jaw dropping ride through clouds with me at the controls.

Go ahead and write a bucket list now and share it with the world. It’s going to come alive!

1.Write and illustrate a children’s book

2.Climb Kilimanjaro

3.Do a series of large format paintings

4.Have an exhibition of my paintings

5.Write and direct a movie

6.Do a road trip through Italy with my wife and kids

7.Take a romantic vacation in Venice

8.Skydive

9.Take a month off and travel alone with a camera, a sketchbook and a backpack and publish a book on the experiences

10.Go to a U2 concert

11.Meet Bono

12.Meet Richard Branson and pick his brains on entrepreneurship

13.Run a full marathon

14.Learn to cook like a chef

15.Own a holiday home in Spain

16.Learn arabic and mandarin

17.Do a stand up comedy act

18.Learn pottery and glazing and have my own kiln at home

19.Own a Porsche Panamera

20.Snorkel in the great barrier reef 

21.Publish a book on “The world’s worst puns”

22.Have a six pack

23.Visit Disneyland with my kids

24.Fly a plane

25.Host a radio show

26.Write a motivational book

27.Speak to an audience of 1000 or more

28.Sponsor and educate 100 children through high school

29.Learn bonsai

30.Watch a football match final live with Barcelona playing

31.Watch a cricket world cup live with India playing

32.Meet Lionel Messi

33.Meet MS Dhoni

34.Watch an Opera

35.See Cirque de Soliel perform live

36.Do theatre and act in a play and design the stage and production

37.Launch my own line of furniture

38.Do the Serengeti safari

39.Travel to Cyprus

40.Do Vipassana meditation

41.Own a cafe

42.Visit Vegas

43.Learn to ski in the alps

44. Go white water rafting

45.Bungee jump

46.Lose 20 kilos

47.Meet Jack Canfield and attend his seminar

48.Attend a Tony Robbins seminar and meet him

49.Vist the Kyoto zen gardens

50.Do a boys bike trip in Ladakh with my best friends

Some links to help you make a bucketlist

ideas of other peoples lists listed by popularity

and 500 more ideas

the how of bucket lists

1000s of bucket list ideas here

step by step on how to make a bucket list

Visual notes: Converting learning to doodles.

A collection of scans from my sketch books of notes I have taken at various seminars and coaching sessions. I use the notes to visually summarise the learnings such that I never forget them again. When I do glance at the notes years later, everything comes rushing back clearly. These have served me well.

I have shared here a few examples of pages from my sketchbooks. They are concise capsules of the ideas I pick up.

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doc00900720130613111341 doc00900820130613111408 doc00900620130613111311 doc00900520130613111249 doc00900420130613111215 doc00900220130613110943

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10 tricks for frequent travellers

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Even a simple day trip for business brings out the best in me. Travel is my introspection time, reading time, sketching time and learning time. I tend to shut out the world and immerse myself in me. A bubble envelops itself around me and I tune into my innermost thoughts. This is my kaizen space where I connect with my personal SWOT, where I do my internal housekeeping, reflect and fine tune my journey. This is the time where I check my map and calibrate the compass.

I tend to follow a pattern of simple habits so my mind is uncluttered on the journey. This is what I do.

1.Pack the day before
I ensure my bags are set early and everything is in place well before I have to leave. I also have a clear mental picture of what I will be wearing on the day.

2.Travel light
I make sure I have value engineered what leaves with me on the trip. Over past experience, I know what is needed and what isn’t. Most importantly, when I travel alone I never check in my baggage. I plan around my cabin baggage and never carry more.

3.The right luggage
I prefer soft luggage that doesn’t add excess weight. Always with wheels so I am not carrying it myself. I prefer day bags with many compartments and pockets so each place can have its designated items.

4.Repetition
Packing and placing every item I travel with in the same place in my bag helps to access everything easily. There’s a compartment for my passport and ticket, for the book I will read, chargers, money, lap top, etc etc.

5.Prepare for security check
This I find an underrated skill which can really help ease your mind and save time. I make sure all my metallic objects (watch, wallet, belts, phone etc) stay in my bag till after the check. I try and use a slip in shoe even for formal wear so I can weave in an out faster. All liquid items are always under 100ml.

6.Simple food and hydration
I try and completely avoid airline food on short flights and snack on fruit and drink a lot of water. Travel food used to leave me feeling bloated and sluggish.

7.The right music
When I am traveling I listen to lounge music on a high quality headphone with noise cancellation features. It helps me shut the world out and works as a wonderful catalyst for energizing my thoughts.

8.Mind mapping
When thoughts explode and ideas are bombarding me, I use the Mind Node app to capture my ideas. I find this the simplest and most effective way to keep my planning at the same speed of my thinking. I have 100s of mind maps on all kinds of subjects which then keeps my brain clutter free.

9. Books, the perfect companion
When I am traveling I carry books which are non fiction. My companion is a self help or business book centering around an area or issue which I am grappling. I also love scouring airports for new books. I buy faster than I can read and I know it’s an investment that can’t go bad.

10.immigration
Simple things like memorizing and remembering your passport number, issue and expiry date can save time at the airport or on a flight. At immigration counters my eyes search for sections which have 2 personnel managing one line. These lines move much faster and usually there’s always one such counter closer to the end. I also place my ticket within the concerned visa page so it’s easier for the officer to find it.

Besides these, some other ideas are to ensure my pockets are empty in the flight so I am comfortable. I carry gum always for overnight trips, do power maps if the flight is in the wee hours and I have meetings on arrival. I also pack based on how I unpack.

And now I can probably add blogging in my free time to that list!!

15 simple ideas on parenting I learnt along the way

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Some of the most memorable moments are the ones I spend with my children. Most of the greatest lessons I have learnt are from my kids.

Every second is pure joy and I learn so much from their curiosity and innocence.

I love the constant barrage of questions, the indefatigable energy, the tornado of mischief, the gentleness and integrity, the thirst for knowledge and their undying undiluted love.

“Everything depends on upbringing. ”
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

We are all born pure and without malice, opinion, hatred, negativity or prejudice. As we go along our experiences, people, friends, events, parents, relatives and the world around us leave their scars with their words and expression. We grow up constantly changing and our personalities are defined by a sum of our past experiences.

“Your kids require you most of all to love them for who they are, not to spend your whole time trying to correct them.”
Bill Ayers

Parenting as I understand is the most important foundation to our lives. Our values and personalities are defined by our early experiences and then our peers and our own experiences take over.

I have conversed with so many parents and elders and out of curiosity dwelled a lot on what is the role parenting plays in the definition of an individual. I have read so many books on the exciting subject and always wondered how we can be catalysts without expectations, how we can touch their lives and allow them to find their inner magnificence.

“To be in your children’s memories tomorrow,
You have to be in their lives today.”
Barbara Johnson

Here are a few ideas and practices I have learnt and understood and know that work like a charm.

1.Delayed gratification

“The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term, is the indispensable prerequisite for success.”

-Brian Tracy

My mentor and guru taught me this simple and most effective aspect of bring up children. The simple rule was about teaching my kids not to expect gratification and gifts instantly when they wanted it. To equip them best for life, they have to learn to delay the need for instant reward. Learning to save up and buy the book they so wanted, deciding to look at more options and then buy the cycle, getting a paint set and crayons if we come back next week.

To prepare them as adults who learn to save, study hard to do better, train hard to excel or plan for their retirement need for them to grapple with the philosophy of delayed gratification.

Read this article if you are interested in understanding the concept further:

http://raisingceokids.com/2011/02/the-blessing-of-delayed-gratification-and-how-to-teach-it-to-your-kids/

2.Be what you want them to be

“To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.”
Josh Billings

This is a simple and fundamental law of parenting that I hear and read about so often, yet we as parents forget this simple idea so easily. What we do is what our children learn and become, not what we advise. If we don’t walk the talk and follow the advise we give them ourselves, the words will remain words. I realised that if we want them to trust us, we must trust them. If we want them to be polite, we must be, if we want honesty, we must first be honest. If we yell and lose our temper and expect kids who are calm and soft spoken, its a battle we will always lose.

3.Wear their shoes

The easiest way to connect and understand my kids have been when I have constantly adjusted my mental age to how I would have thought and behaved when I was that age. What would I have done if I was a bored 3 year old? What would I have done as a 9 year old who’s in trouble? Everything suddenly falls into place when I step outside my adult righteousness and opinion and step down to sympathising and expecting them to behave their age. Its music to their ears when they sense you know exactly what they are feeling or doing.

4.Self fulfilling prophecy

This is such an important aspect of a child’s upbringing and the effect it leaves on them is unquestionable. In organisational behaviour, it’s known as the Pygmalion effect (remember the movie My Fair Lady). We grow up surrounded with the need for being labelled. Both negatively and positively and both have their effects on us. When there’s a continuos wave of hearing “you are a naughty child” or “you are always messy” or “you are so lazy”, “good for nothing” etc, we live this prophecy out by adopting this avatar for ourselves. Changing the words from “You are always lazy and messy and will never change!” to “I bet you couldn’t transform this room back to its magical clean self in 15 minutes!!” or anything that works with possibilities makes a difference.

I remember being typecast as mischievous and an average student in school and whatever I did couldn’t shake the tag away and I was a perfect fit for the labels. It was only when I changed schools and I was introduced as someone with leadership abilities and a genius, that I suddenly manifested these tags too.

It’s a fine balance with our children too. Too much praise also raises the pressure of having to perform or impress. Sometimes, just a hug and a kiss is even more effective than getting a gift or a reward.

5. The language of possibilities

Changing our language from “Should, have to, must” to workability also has created amazing shifts and has galvanised change in my children. For example instead of saying “you have to sleep early” “or you must sleep on time” as an order, when we say “If you sleep early, you will wake up fresh and have more energy at school” .

The moment the logic of what will work better when you do something is explained, we are enrolled easily. When orders are thrust upon us, we take it instead like medication prescribed.

6.Celebrating mistakes

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

– Albert Einstein

Encouraging our children to make mistakes releases a great burden off their backs. Eradicating the fear of failure and instead celebrating their mistakes makes learning so much fun.

Getting our children to see every drawback and failure as just another way not to do it, and distinguishing them as experiences drove away fear. Discussing the learnings from each of the experiences and brainstorming possibilities and new solutions also strengthens the solution based thinking early on.

7.Being there!

Every doctor’s appointment is important, each school play or group song, race, sports day or international day or poem recital means the world to kids. In their world, they have achieved the impossible and they are brimming with a sense of pride. Reciprocating this enthusiasm by being there whenever we can makes them feel on top of the world. I realised that its easy to actually reorganise and work your schedule easily around their days and when you can’t make it, apologising profusely and from the heart and explaining why you couldn’t makes them feel so important. As parents, we try and make sure at least one of us is there if not both, for every moment which is important for them.

On a selfish note, the joy and pride that swells up in our hearts as we see our little heroes clamber on stage and do their thing and try their best, is an emotion second to none.That moment, as they suddenly spot you in the crowd, and their eyes and smile light up the entire school, and when they wave eagerly like their whole life just became energized and colorful, that makes the moment eternal.

8. Emotional intelligence

What determines the joy in our lives is finally how happy we are with ourselves and how well we connect with other people. The final measure of success is the ability to understand our own feelings, name them and find solutions for dealing with them. Talking with our kids about emotions, sharing how we would feel at different points and brainstorming solutions- “I feel nervous today, what do you think I should do?” , “I sense you are upset about what happened with your friends, do you want to tell me about it?” help us get in touch with these inner emotions. Also when we have discussed other people’s feelings, it allows them to be sensitised to emotions- “When you didn’t share your book with her, what do you think she felt? How would you feel if that happened to you?”

Helping them walk in other people’s shoes often also heightens this emotion further-“I know you are upset with your teacher. Why do you think he said what he did?”

9. Parents are also human

I learnt along the way that its not necessary to be a super hero always. We also screw up often. I also realised that when we speak about our weaknesses and acknowledge when we messed up, it helped me connect with my children further.

Sometimes when you over react without logic (we are human, it will happen) and realise heart of heart it was unnecessary, it feels even better when I go to my 9 year old daughter and sit beside her and just say “I am so sorry. I think I over reacted for something very simple. I didn’t agree which what happened, but I shouldn’t have been so upset. It really was such a big deal. Will you forgive me? It wont happen again.” The hug of understanding I get dissolves the guilt I feel and she gets that sometimes parents also goof up and a heart felt apology can remedy most situations.

10. Learning from other parents.

There are so many families I respect and admire. So many parents and friends I come across that I want to model and learn from. So many kids who I see grow up into individuals of excellence with a sense of purpose and armed with integrity and wisdom. I love speaking to their parents and asking them anecdotes and tips on parenting. I love to observe the dynamics and soak in whatever I may learn.

So often, there’s an insight or observation that can dramatically transform our approach to our kids. I have also learnt so much of what not to do as well by observation.

11. Igniting curiosity .

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.”

~Eleanor Roosevelt

Our minds soak in the most when it is open. When the doors are shut, nothing comes in. That’s why we seek knowledge, experiences, mentors and expertise. The most successful people in the world are the ones who are curious about knowledge, who seek out new ways of doing things, who never accept status quo.

We buy books, a lot of books for the kids. A balance of fiction and non fiction. Books about history and science and how things work. I remember how my mother would ensure we were around books and the world that opened for us as kids.

I also fix up outings to different industries so they have perspective and exposure. One day a radio station, another day a newspaper, interviewing people and understanding the way it works. Sitting in on internal meetings and sharing her observations of what worked in the meeting and didn’t. Learning and encouraging them to ask when they don’t know and knowing where to find answers when you don’t. This insatiable hunger for grasping ideas and information create a fertile mind forever.

We also play a game where I teach 5 new words almost every day. I learnt this at a Brian Tracy event. He said that the power of language and the ability to express yourself is one of the pillars of success. The idea of learning 5 new words came from him and it is working wonders.

12.The feedback walk

When there’s a burning issue or strong feedback to be given, I take my daughter for a walk. We take a long walk and we speak. I share how I feel and why it isn’t working for me and we brainstorm on what solutions we can create for the situation. I let her know what’s troubling me and I ask her if she agrees there’s a problem. We then brainstorm on what can be done to solve the situation and what ideas she can adopt. I also acknowledge that this is not how she usually is and its a temporary situation.

Walking allows the feedback to be relaxed and the change of environment helps her not be in a spot. It just lightens the moment and yet gives it gravity. She also knows that when I start the walk with “We need to talk…” there’s some feedback coming her way.

13.Awakening the creative mind.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
Albert Einstein

Stories read at night, stories made up to share a message, magical tales, fairies, pixie dust, dragons all awaken imagination and lay the greatest foundation for the intelligent mind. Reading them fairy tales on some days even as infants with expression and sounds open a magical world. Play acting and role play further enhance the spark in them.

I particularly love creating stories which have a host of my 3 year old sons toys. Theres a dinosaur and theres Buzz light year and a cow, Mater, a helicopter and a tattered teddy bear besides a host of other heroes. It took a lot more effort playing with my daughters dolls and the doll house, I must admit.

Brainstorming as a concept became a game. We play brainstorming to look at solutions to real and hypothetical story situations. For example, the King is fast asleep, how can we wake him up without getting him angry? Or real life situations like ideas for a project or how to deal with situations. I feel that if kids can wrap their minds around the fact that all problems have solutions which we haven’t thought of yet, they become resourceful instead of panicking.

Sometimes, just before sleeping sharing what we learnt new this day and asking them what they learnt for the day plants the seed for Kaizen (the Japanese word for continuous and never ending improvement). It also makes parents grow also and never stagnate.
14.Being expressive.

The power of hearing “I love you” through the day and being hugged for every excuse helps kids express their love easier. They also realise the warmth and affection and learn how to express their feelings easily. Stealing hugs when you leave and also when you meet them and for every possible reason lets them know how wanted they are.

The kids that are different and out there and expressive; and are bold with those choices, those are the people that grow up to be people we all want to hang out with, that become celebrities or become really successful in what they do because they believe in who they are.

Adam Lambert

15.The power of fun!

Laughter, fun and joy in every aspect of the day brings another dimension to their lives. The power of giggles and uncontrollable laughter is the biggest blessing for a home and the greatest memories we remember as kids.

“The best way to make children good is to make them happy.”
Oscar Wilde