Prezi stands for Kick-ass

November 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Prezi is a creative tool to make stylish presentations, in a way like MicroSoft’s or Google’s Power point. Unlike the existing ones where content is placed on each slide, here content is placed on a huge board.

When its time to move to the next block of content, the screen view glides over to area. The creators of prezi feel, the traditional way of flicking to the next slide, cause a temporary distraction, which is completely avoided here. I love the way the view changes to next content block. Really fast & awesome.

A showcase presentation

It has both an online and desktop version. The desktop version & online version usage past 100 MB costs aligning with the freemium model. Other features are,

  1. Add media (images, videos, sounds)
  2. After adding bits of content (text or other media) they can be grouped, which enables resizing, moving, rotating easier.
  3. Not sure if they allow bar graphs, pie charts, etc. If not now, they could add it anytime soon.
  4. Like google docs, a prezi presentation could also be published online just for people to view without signing in.
  5. Standard set of themes available for now.

Anyone using it would look really cool, especially for business pitches and new ideas. The only concern I have is, corporate (hard core ones like Microsoft or Wells Fargo) have guidelines for creating presentations. Say, their logo needs to be present in all slides, in exactly the same way, same size, maintaining a standard distance from the border or text within.

With prezi, where the landscape for content is more fluid & seamless, how could they achieve it? Whatever, am gonna use it for my next presentation, wherever it is!

Arun Vallappan

Brand: Gandhi- Part 2

November 29, 2009 § 1 Comment

Ok, this is not about the Gandhi Pen again. But, its related to marketing, so using the same title. It’s a mere observation on a train from Hyd to Chennai. A guy distributed sweets to everyone to celebrate his sister’s wedding. First, thought if it could have some sort of drug mixed in it, to get everyone unconscious and then loot. 😦

Then unable to control my desire to taste, I succumbed. That’s when it struck; this could be used as a marketing strategy for some, actually few FMCG products, like tea/coffee powders or Mint or even new Milk packets. Sounds funny?

Let’s take only AC coaches, say 500 passengers with 3-tier and 2-tier? Instead of the regular tea/coffee there are offered, deal with irctc for permission to use your brand’s product for a few days. Get a few well dressed guys (to make sure they are not taken for ordinary sales men), ask for their preference, say lemon flavoured tea or black tea or whatever. Make sure the passengers realise that, they are being offered a new variety today. Get coffee cups or flasks with company logo in it, for brand recall.

At the end, ask for feedback & if possible also sell some packets. The challenge for marketers, would be

  1. Not to look like cheap sales-men who normally come home to sell products – Well dressed people with courteous manners could take care of it. Also packaging the product attractively would make a lot of difference.
  2. Make sure passengers see the product as a premium one in the market. In fact, I guess, the strategy could work only for premium brands

If you are wondering, how this is different from home delivered trial sachets,

  1. Travelling is basically a memorable thing, unlike being at home which the normal state is. So, a cleverly crafted, well executed marketing would tend to stick to their memory
  2. At the end of some percentage of the journeys, we are meeting someone or staying at a place (could be a relative’s place), in which case the passengers would act as ambassadors for the brand or give the free sachet to the relative for trying out provided he is satisfied with the brand.

Probably, it’s an already tried out strategy? Anyone knows of it? Hmm. And the sweet was not drugged, FYI! 🙂

Arun Vallappan

Back to work

November 28, 2009 § 2 Comments

Great! It’s been a while since I made a proper post. There are two reasons for saying that. One is, almost 3 weeks has gone by without anything new here and the last one that was published is basically a FYI post.

Also, one of my friends who do not normally comment on my posts called me up to say he was disappointed by Brand: Gandhi post. His concern was 75% of the post, were comments and quotes from other people/websites and very little own thoughts included. Hmm. Point taken. I tried to convince him saying, my reading time has gone down worryingly and without enough inputs it’s hard to churn out original content. And thanks a lot for the feedback.

Fine then, over the last 1-2 months, I have been interacting with quite a number of people (advertising, marketing professionals & government officials primarily) to keep my entrepreneurship spirit alive. I try to get their opinions on few ideas which we are/were planning to implement and to get a better picture about their industry. It does take a lot of time to fix an appointment with one, buddy. But once, you become crazy enough to walk up to a qualified professional and talk about your venture or idea, which he won’t normally expect from a jean, t shirt wearing guy, lot of things change in you. Your confidence shoots up like hell. 🙂

Most people ask, “Which company do you represent?” First time, I stuttered a bit, but then, started replying with a, “I represent myself”. Denzel Washington tells this to a drug dealer in American Gangster when he directly goes to a cocaine plantation. I don’t think many people knew that. Haha 😀

To accommodate all these crazy time passing’s, I even had to take PTO’s on Wednesday’s and be at the Secunderabad railway station at noon. No idea what my manager and colleagues thought of these.

Sometimes, I tend to think, am I going the right way? Is this the best possible method to implement a business idea or get more clarity on a new venture, going out and asking your potential clients/customers? No idea. 🙂

But one thing I am damn sure is Entrepreneurship is a no-rules game. There is no one way. Different people have found out their own paths out of their character and luck. Some people follow them and it may even be a proven successful model. 🙂


Some of my friends are pursuing their Masters in U.S, some here in India, many trying to get into some academic stream to become “someone”. I see my efforts similarly. A stone with my name written on it, thrown into darkness and waiting eagerly for the “ting” sound. (If it hits something)

If it does not work-out, there are easier/proven ways to be “someone”, like cracking CAT. 😛 What say?

Arun Vallappan

SMS Short codes

November 22, 2009 § 1 Comment

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been interacting with SMS short code providers on the costs involved to buy one and usage for a particular mobile VAS application. Nowadays, short codes are used for VAS primarily (value added services-weather reports, stock market updates, news, ring-tones, wallpapers, marketing campaigns, product promotions, etc.)

Thought, I would present here what I got from those interactions. My interest in this is from an application developer’s point of view. Anyway, this as a FYI post which might help others looking out for same stuff. Information presented below is not specific to one SMS provider. That’s why some of the costs would be range than a single number.

Some terminologies

Short code: 5- 9 digits (56060, 5601234, etc)

Long codes: 10 digits (Just like our normal mobile numbers, but a national level number setup exclusively under short code usage)

Forwarding URL: Any SMS to a particular number could be forwarded to a URL, say a java servlet hosted on a server, with complete info, sender number, network, entire SMS content. This helps the application developer to use the keywords or ICICI bank staff to sort out into different buckets. From here, a reply could be sent back which could be a standard one like, “Thanks for contacting us. We will get back shortly” or a more customized one based on the SMS content like in downloading ringtones or wallpapers.

Shared code & Keywords: When a code is shared by more than 1 company based on keywords, say, if the SMS is ICICI Mumbai loan, then ICICI is the primary keyword, Mumbai comes as secondary keyword, and loan is the content part. Now, SMS provider would look out for those keywords and based on that, it is identified as one sent in regard to ICICI. In shared code, for each primary keyword, charges need to be paid.

Dedicated code: When a number say 56060 is used only by your company. Charges are higher than shared. Unlimited primary & secondary keywords. All the costs you find below are for dedicated only.

Cost & Time involved for setup, maintenance

  1. 5 digit short code: As per the service providers, it would take almost 1 year to setup with upfront payment over 1 crore. Maintenance cost also comes huge. Or you could read this simply as ‘Affordable only for national players, like AIrtel, SBI, etc’. For every SMS sent by customer, a minimum of Rs. 3 is charged to customer. Can be changed, but involves money.
  2. Long codes 6-9 digits: Costs 30k-15k for setup which could take 3-4 months and 30k-15k as monthly rent. For every SMS sent by customer, a minimum of Rs. 3 is charged to customer. If the sender is to be charged more than Rs. 3 then, setup costs goes up to 1 lakh and monthly rental of 50k.
  3. Long codes 10 digit: Costs 10k-7k for setup which takes 2-3 months, and 10k-7k as monthly rent.

Free reply sms

In all the above 3 plans, the product/application owner gets to send 1 free SMS reply for every incoming SMS received except with 10 digit short codes. But here, you could tie up with a 3rd party vendors. The rates could go down to 3-5 paise/sms for over 1 crore sms’s. Google, bulk sms providers India

Another interesting part is, our personal SIM cards can be inserted to a GSM modem and connected to a computer with RF serial cable and programmed to read the SMS’s sent to this number. But, not sure if it could be used for commercial purposes.

Deducting  money from sender: This is the most important & least regulated part in the whole process. TRAI should be doing something on this pretty soon if it needs Mobile VAS to gain growth.

  1. Charge to pre-paid balance or bill (postpaid): Revenue sharing with operator which could eat up as much as 75% of profits. Maximum amount that could be charged via operator is around 15-20 rupees.
  2. Using Java application: Connect online banking details for the 1st time and use the same subsequently. No revenue sharing. No limit to amount that could be charged
  3. IVR(Interactive-Voice-Response) technology: A SMS sent by customer/sender is followed up with a call where we punch in our credit/debit card info from which money could be deducted. No revenue sharing. No limit to amount that could be charged
  4. Mobile/Online wallet: Cost is deducted from a pre-filled wallet. It works in exactly the same way as a  balance top-up for pre paid sim cards.

As far as I learnt, there is not a single company which has deals with all 24 telecom operators (as of Nov 2009), so, the application developer needs to establish a contract with each one of them initially. Although, it should not be as tough as it reads like. Initially the product may be launched only in metros or single state only. So, work involved could come down drastically.

Following are the providers I spoke to:

Hmm, That’s it! I would update this post, if I go ahead with a service provider for my application 🙂

Arun Vallappan

Brand: Gandhi

November 8, 2009 § 4 Comments

Mont blanc, a german pen maker has launched a $23500 gold pen to honour Mahatma Gandhi on his 140th anniversary. A white color one in reference to truth & peace, with the nib showing Gandhi’s image walking with a stick. Apart from that, its a limited edition series with 241 pieces only signifying 241 miles Gandhi traveled on the salt march. Impressive. 1 piece = Rs. 11.75 lakhs.


Anyway, Amit Modi, secretary of the 102-year-old Sabarmati Ashram is quoted,

If he(Gandhi) had seen this, he would have thrown it away. I cannot imagine why anybody has done this. We cannot recognize this.

Chief executive Lutz Bethge was witty enough to say “..What we want to do is talk about the values of Mahatma Gandhi as well. And this is certainly a person who believed in non-violence, peace, education and tolerance, and these are universal values”. Some factions even feel “efforts need to be taken to protect the legacy that Gandhi left behind”.

I personally agree that he has a legacy. But, its too big to be tarnished by marketers. Same case with RSS trying to protect Hinduism. Brand Gandhi has been around for almost 75 years, Hinduism for over 1000 years. Did these people exist 30 years back to save the brand? If someone can think properly, whenever someone talks of Gandhi or Einstein, it technically means they make use of the brand value to enhance their product.
Same with politicians who rant about Gandhi or Nehru. Obama would have mentioned Gandhi’s name tons of times. Or if Gandhi does represent a symbol of austerity, think of Indian black money stashed in banks or used to bribe elections, all of them with our sweet smiling Gandhi. Why don’t someone suggest to take off his face from all Rs. 1000 notes?

I am pretty sure if Gandhi had been alive, he would not have bothered about these gimmicks. Interestingly enough, Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi’s charitable foundation has already got a $145,000 funding from Montblanc and will receive between $200 and $1,000 for each pen sold. 🙂

Leaving aside this piece, Marketers seem to have slightly shifted their focus to historical icons from current day celebrities. Apple using Einstein is OK, but Hitler in an ad? Needs a lot of brass. It’s less riskier than using cricketers or Salman khan who could go down any time.


Hitler: Make peace with the world

If you talk of guerrilla marketing, then both Mont blanc’s pen and Hitler’s ad(assuming) played its part perfectly.

Arun Vallappan

Creative elevator ads

November 7, 2009 § Leave a comment

Few elevator ads that stuck me as creative.. it looks sensational when the door opens! There are some more over here. Take a look at them some time.


Super man movie

I love their expressions!

I love their expressions!

It would be fun to watch a big, bulky guy walk away after trying hard!!


Taekwondo: What a kick!


Divorce in Oman: A simile 🙂

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