Tagged: India

Review: Turkish Airlines A330-300 Istanbul to New Delhi

Turkish Airlines A330 - Istanbul gate

Turkish Airlines A330 – Istanbul Airport

It was hard to come out of that traveller heaven also known as Turkish Airlines Lounge, at Istanbul but the prospect of missing flight back home wasn’t so attractive either. It was a 13 minute walk from the lounge, through the maze of Istanbul’s Duty free shops to our Gate. At the gate, the scenes were pretty chaotic with no proper queues in-sight, but we were able to dodge it and the friendly agent at the gate counter helped us through quickly.

Related Trip Reviews: Tripping through Scandinavia

Train on a Ferry!

Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

SAS Business Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

 

Turkish Airlines 716

Istanbul Ataturk (IST) – New Delhi (DEL)

Sunday, July 27th

Departure: 20:06 hours (11 minutes late)

Arrival: 04:35 hours (+1 day) local time (15 minutes late)

Aircraft: Airbus A330-300

Seat: 6A

The crew greeted us warmly as we boarded the aircraft. My folks turned left and I went…  to the right. I was able to secure seat 6A on the phone with the Turkish Airlines customer service. It is certainly not Business Class but it probably is the best Economy seat in the cabin. The 2-4-2 cabin layout is a big positive and the ample leg room takes this economy seat a notch above the rest of the cabin, though some folks may find the proximity to the lavatory bit bothersome.

Turkish Airlines A330-300 Economy Seating

Turkish Airlines A330-300 Economy Cabin and Seating

Turkish Airlines A330 - Economy bulkhead Legroom

Turkish Airlines A330 – Economy bulkhead Legroom

There was a slight delay in departure, though I made good use of our extended ground time in Istanbul. The aircraft scenery out of the window was beautiful, not as scenic as a Turkish evening by the Marmara sea, but the Jets around were soothing to the #AvGeek eyes.

Turkish Airlines Aircraft at Istanbul airport ramp

Turkish Airlines Aircraft at Istanbul airport ramp

Pushback started 11 minutes behind schedule and it was a very busy time at Istanbul Ataturk Airport to say the least. I could see a long queue of Planes ahead of us, waiting to jet-off.

Istanbul Airport Ramp

Istanbul Airport Ramp

Istanbul Airport - Take off Queue

Istanbul Airport – Take off Queue

Turkish Airlines A330 - Nose Cam

Turkish Airlines A330 – Nose Cam

Heavy incoming and outgoing traffic at the airport meant plenty of opportunities to put my photography skills to test and for my aviation imagery database to increase. Somehow clicking aircraft pictures always gives me a different kind of high.

Istanbul Airport Runway - Aircraft

Istanbul Airport Runway – Aircraft

One of the disappointing aspects during this delay was no incoming information from the cockpit or the cabin crew, although I could see the “reasons” in front, I doubt if all passengers were able to figure that out. We finally rotated into Turkish skies around 2030 hours local time, the views of the city and the sea were terrific.

Turkish Airlines A330 - Istanbul Aerial View

Turkish Airlines A330 – Istanbul Aerial View

After only about 9 minutes the crew was back in action and serving “Turkish delights”, a local savory which I never seem to get enough of. and Rightfully so.

Turkish Airlines Delight

Turkish Airlines Delight

Another 9 minutes later, a crew member came by my seat to give the Economy travel kit. It consists of a pair of socks, earbuds and an eye patch. For an economy cabin, this is a pretty decent offering.

Turkish Airlines Economy Amenity Kit

Turkish Airlines Economy Amenity Kit

Another 8 minutes passed before we were handed out our Dinner menus. For Turkish Airlines to do this is indeed very thoughtful, even on a medium haul five hour and forty minutes flight. The planning for these services seemed done to the T. As a traveler, I appreciate this more because being a red-eye flight I would want the “mandatories” to be done as soon as possible to get some rest before an early morning arrival in New Delhi. Of course it also helps the crew in their time/work management as well, So its a win-win.

Turkish Airlines A330 - Economy Class Dinner menu

Turkish Airlines A330 – Economy Class Dinner menu

Dinner service started another 30 minutes after the menu distribution and I ordered a Grilled Chicken Breast from the menu, which was the only non-vegetarian choice. It was served along with sautéed vegetables and some potato purée. The selection and its presentation were very average and the taste left me un-satisfied, unfortunately I misplaced meal pictures to share here. Chana Salad and Breads were served as well but what I really liked was the Mango Panna Cotta dessert, besides the Efes Beer 🙂

The vegetarians on the flight had two options between Aloo-Gobhi and Channa Colaw Paneer as their main, and from my conversations with fellow passengers, they certainly were the better tasting dishes.

The crew were friendly and attentive throughout the flight though I had to request twice for lights to be dimmed after the meal service. Every body seemed ready for their quick naps but I guess nobody in the cabin crew thought of turning the lights down 🙂

The final service for the flight was done 3 hours into the flight and about 2:30 hours before landing as everybody was given a small bottle of water. I don’t know if the crew was waiting for this only to dim lights as they were turned down after this round. Our scheduled arrival into Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3 in New Delhi was 04:20 hours, and we touched down with a slight delay of 15 minutes. The Long taxi from the runway to the gate meant we could only alight after another 25 minutes, marking a happy end to my trip through Scandinavia and Northern Europe.

 

 

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Which Airlines will fly their Airbus A380s in to India?

An Airbus A380 is greeted at London Heathrow. Image Source: Airbus

An Airbus A380 is greeted at London Heathrow, Picture Courtesy: Airbus

Last week, the Indian aviation community was abuzz with the news that the government had finally permitted operations of the Airbus A380 in to India. In its announcement, the ministry mentioned Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, and Emirates as potential candidates in operating the aircraft to India, but there are seven other present operators of the giant, all of whom, with the exception of Qantas Airways, operate to India. Three of the Five near future A380 operators, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Asiana also operate to India.

The question for many aviation enthusiasts is which airline will fly in world’s largest passenger airliner, into one of the world’s most exciting aviation markets, India?

Airline wise A380 cabin configurations

Airline-wise A380 cabin seat configurations, Source: Bangalore Aviation

Airline-wise A380 cabin seat configurations, Source:Bangalore Aviation

Before we proceed, it is important to realise the sheer size of the A380. The aircraft is classified as a VLA (very large aircraft) which includes the venerable Boeing 747 jumbo-jet. While Airbus shows the typical seating of A380 at 555 seats in a three-class configuration, most airlines have configured their aircraft from a low 407 seats at Korean Air to a maximum of 526 at Lufthansa. The info-graphic on the right shows the various cabin configurations of the A380 operators. The size of the aircraft makes it a challenge for any airline to fill.

Potential A380 airports in India

In its order, the ministry of civil aviation allowed the operations of the super-jumbo at the four major Indian gateway airports capable of handling the A380 – New Delhi, the busiest, Mumbai, the second busiest, Bangalore, the third busiest domestic and fourth internationally, and Hyderabad, the sixth. Chennai and Kolkata are excluded since they lack the airside capability to land this huge plane.

Hyderabad. For the foreseeable future (about 36 months), we believe Hyderabad lacks an adequate catchment especially in the premium classes to allow an airline to profitably operate the A380 consistently.

Bangalore. On the face of it, Bangalore is in a similar situation as Hyderabad, but the IT city is very different from the rest of India, driven by business traffic, it has a high business class demand with virtually negligible first class demand. This same business and IT profile drives demand to extreme volumes on weekends with low weekday loads. The hi-tech nature of Bangalore’s economy also ensures it has the highest percentage of air cargo of India, which airlines carry as belly-hold for additional revenues. Both British Airways and Lufthansa operate the Boeing 747 to the IT city. Given the flexibility of the large A380 fleet, there is a small possibility that Emirates may operate an A380 during the high traffic winter months and during the weekends.

Top 20 VLA Airports by 2030. Source: Airbus and Bangalore Aviation

Top 20 VLA Airports by 2030, Source: Airbus and Bangalore Aviation

New Delhi and Mumbai. In its global market forecast (GMF), Airbus rated New Delhi and Mumbai in the list of top 20 VLA (very large aircraft) airports by 2030. These two biggest airports in India have the traffic volumes in all the three classes to sustain regular A380 operations. The issue will be which airlines will choose between these two cities.

Potential airlines to operate the A380 to India

There are currently ten operators of the A380. Air France, British Airways, China Southern, Emirates, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways. Five more operators, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Air Austral, Skymark Airlines and Asiana will join the A380 family soon. Of these 15, Air AustralQantas, and Skymark don’t operate to India, and we will exclude them for now.

We next eliminate those airlines that we are reasonably sure will not operate an A380, at least in the foreseeable future to Indian airports.

Air France, focuses its bigger aircraft on north American and far east routes. It only operates its mid-sized A330s to India. Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways focus their A380s in slot constrained high volume airports like London Heathrow, Paris Charles De Gaulle, and Frankfurt. China SouthernKorean Air, and Asiana have insufficient traffic rights to India and focus their VLAs on north American and European destinations.

Qatar and Etihad are remote possibilities for the near future as they too will initially deploy their A380s to slot congested London, Paris, Frankfurt and possibly New York. Rumours about Etihad giving one of their A380’s to their Indian partner, Jet Airways, appear to be just that for now, rumours.

This leaves us with four possible candidates.

British Airways A380.                             Photo Courtesy: Airbus

British Airways A380, Photo Courtesy: Airbus

British Airways (BA) is the most understated, yet most exciting prospect of bringing A380 to India. The whole universe conspires to make the mechanics work on the routes for BA. The stage lengths of about eight to ten hours are just right. India is an important destination for the airline, and it is demonstrating this by flying its latest aircraft, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Hyderabad starting March. London is one of the most visited cities by Indians, not to mention the large Indian origin diaspora living in the United Kingdom, and Heathrow is the A380 capital of the world with virtually every airline flying its A380 to it. Despite a short-sighted transit immigrant visa requirement and ridiculous air passenger fees, Heathrow is a major transit point for passengers between India and North America.

While Mumbai gets the newer 777-300ER featuring the airline’s updated cabin product, New Delhi lags behind having to make do with older 747-400s and 777-200s. The intelligent fleet deployment of British Airways must be noted. During the summers, BA deploys its larger aircraft across the Atlantic catering to massive Trans-Atlantic tourist traffic, while winters sees these aircraft in traditional “home coming” destinations in South Asia, China, and ASEAN.

Despite the airline officially saying

We welcome the decision of the Indian government to allow A380s to operate in India. Our customers can already enjoy the comfort and luxury of our A380s on flights to Los Angeles and Hong Kong and we will be starting A380 services to Johannesburg in February and Washington in September. “We currently have four A380s and another four will join our fleet this year. We are assessing a range of routes for the aircraft but at this stage it is too early to speculate which cities we will add to its network.

we are fairly confident of seeing a Union Jack liveried A380 at New Delhi in 2015, if not in the winter schedule.

Emirates has the largest fleet of A380 Aircraft. Picture Courtesy:

Emirates has the largest fleet of A380 Aircraft, Picture Courtesy: Emirates

Emirates (EK) is the world’s largest operator of the A380, and is also the biggest foreign airline operating in India, with some calling it the unofficial national airline of India. The airline operates four daily flights to New Delhi and five dailies to Mumbai, almost all of them using the 777s.

Though on the surface, the short distances from Mumbai and Delhi to Dubai may not justify the A380 which is primarily designed for longer distances, Emirates has been using its A380 ingeniously on shorter routes and we feel, will be able to make Dubai to Mumbai and Delhi work.

Emirates has suffered an image of inconsistent cabin product on its India flights, and the A380 will allow the airline to repair this perception.

With over 44 A380s already in its fleet it is all but certain, the airline will commence an A380 service to both Mumbai and New Delhi. However, since the existing bi-lateral air services agreement (ASA) cap being long exhausted, Emirates will have to consolidate its flights to accommodate the large behemoth. We expect EK to steal the thunder and be the first to operate an A380 to India.

A Lufthansa A380 parked at Frankfurt Airport. Picture Courtesy: Airliners.net

A Lufthansa A380 parked at Frankfurt Airport, Picture Courtesy: Airliners.net

Lufthansa (LH) has always declared its intentions to operate the A380 to India. It was forced to bring its other VLA, the Boeing 747-8i, to New Delhi when the government held firm in its short-sighted denial of A380 operations. This past week saw Lufthansa become the first airline to publicly declare their intentions of bringing Airbus A380 to “major Indian markets”, and most likely from the winter schedule which starts in end October.

The carrier operates an A330-300 featuring its new business class product (which is not on its A380) to both Mumbai and Delhi, with Chennai starting in March 2014. The 747-8i to Delhi also has the new business class and the new first class product (which is also on their A380), while the 747-400 to Mumbai is two generations behind, which as per few trip reports on Flyer Talk, does not even have personal IFE screens in Economy, is a sure shot recipe for customer dissatisfaction, especially on Intercontinental routes.

We expect Lufthansa to operate one A380 to India. It may upgrade Delhi to an A380 and move the 747-8i to replace the 747-400 at Mumbai, or it might directly upgrade Mumbai to an A380. The Indo-German bi-lateral ASA has to be amended to include the A380. It’s an interesting possibility, one that the industry, especially Lufthansa’s MEB3 friends will be watching closely.

Singapore Airlines A380 takes off from Kingsford Smith, Sydney Airport. Picture Courtesy: Airliners.net

Singapore Airlines A380 takes off from Kingsford Smith – Sydney Airport, Picture Courtesy: Airliners.net

Singapore Airlines (SIA) was the launch customer of the A380, has 19 aircraft in their fleet, and they have just ordered another five. SIA is also in partnership with the Tatas to commence a full service airline in India.

The airline has a strategy of offering its best products to the political and commercial capitals of Asian countries. Following this, SIA has been aggressively expanding at Mumbai where it offers triple daily flights to Singapore, while Delhi is at 19 weekly flights currently and will become triple-daily from the summer schedule, all on Boeing 777s. At both cities, the pattern is a morning flight on a smaller 777-200 with two night/mid-night flights being scheduled within three hours of each other.

Delhi though still does not receive the airline’s 777-300ER flagship which features their newest cabin product, so it is very likely the airline will choose to club the two night/mid-night flights and offer Delhi the airline’s best cabin product which includes the SQ Suites. No on-board frolicking please, the airline’s rules clearly prohibit joining the ‘mile high club’.

The dilemma the airline faces is that its current A380 fleet is fully deployed. The additional five orders are relatively recent and delivery is not expected any time soon. The airline will have to sacrifice one flight from another destination to service India in the short-term, or may choose to deploy A380s later.

This piece originally appeared on Bangalore Aviation, and was co-authored with Devesh Agarwal

Related Post: A380 finally flies into New Delhi T3

 

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Flying Iberia: Barcelona-Madrid-Lisbon Trip Report

This is the second part of the ongoing piece about Flying Iberia & experiencing it’s lounges in Barcelona and Madrid.

The first part detailed my experience at Iberia’s Domestic Business Lounge in Barcelona. In this piece I finally get some flying and report my experience of flying in Business class (my first time ever) with Iberia on two legs, Barcelona – Madrid and then after a layover of almost three hours, Madrid – Lisbon.

Iberia Airbus A320 -

Flight 1, IB2713

Barcelona El Prat – Madrid Barajas

Departure – 1850, on-time

Seat – 5F, Business Class

All Iberia domestic flights, flights to Europe, North Africa operate with the same configuration. In Europe, most airlines don’t have a separate cabin for business class passengers. Instead, they use a mobile curtain that is moved after each flight in order to separate both according to the number of passengers flying business class in each flight. This allows airlines to be more flexible, since an Economy class seat can be converted into a business class seat just by moving the curtain.

Iberia - domestic business class

My business class seat was an upgraded economy seat with increased seat pitch (34 inches, instead of 31 in economy) and an empty middle seat for increased comfort.

Iberia business class leg room

As I settled into my seat I was offered water and something to munch on, while the cabin was getting ready for our on-time departure to Madrid.

Iberia - Business class departure service

Our departure was smooth, and looking down at Barcelona I saw the beauty of the city once more albeit with an aerial view, bathed in sunshine.

Soon after reaching cruising height, a purser came over and asked for my choice of drink. As this was a short 1-hour flight, and it was early evening, there was no specific meal service. Looking through the magazine I chanced upon Iberia giving out Pizza at 36000 feet to its passengers, which I thought was pretty unique.

Iberia - pizza on board

I woke up while we were on our landing approach to Madrid Barajas and I never got my drink, and considering we were on approach, I did not bother reminding the crew of their slip-up. Humans tend to forget things and considering it was my first ever outing in semi business class, I was in good enough humour to forgive as well, but Iberia should take note of such slip-ups, which while minor, have large impact on passenger impression when they occur in the premium cabin.

Soon enough the landing gear was down and we landed in Madrid on time. Disembarkation was quick and I was off to explore Madrid’s famous wavy terminal and the flagship Iberia lounge.

Flight 2, IB3118

Madrid Barajas – Lisbon Portela International

Departure 2245, on-time

Seat 1A, Business Class

After spending considerable time at Madrid’s Terminal 4 & the Iberia Dali Lounge (Schengen area) I proceeded to the gate for the second part of my journey. This was going to be my first ever time sitting in 1A, that magical number in airline seating wanted by enthusiasts, which was automatically allotted to me by Iberia.

I boarded the aircraft to similar seating arrangement, but this time the curtains were drawn further from the second row itself, so there was just two rows of business class seats on this flight, and two out of the eight available seats remained unoccupied. Including the aisle seat in my row.

Flipping through Iberia’s magazine, I came across this print ad featuring the Taj Mahal and promoting Incredible India. Bought a big smile to my face. At least MoT babus are working somewhere.

Iberia flight incredible india magazine ad

The pre-departure service consisted of a drink and nuts. I chose to go for a tried and tested beer. I was also relieved to see that the cabin crew were well versed in English, just like the last flight.

Service on this flight was better, may be because it was a Schengen flight and I was surprised to find a full-blown dinner served during this short 1-hour hop to Lisbon.

Iberia domestic business class dinner meal

Service in Business class was taken care by the chief purser on both the flights. I finished my dessert but the fish & salad did not appeal to my taste buds.

As soon as I finished dinner we were descending to Lisbon & the beautiful city came in the view with bright lights & hills around it. The landing again was a smooth affair and within five minutes we were at the disembarkation point.

The only negative aspect of this flight was the exit through stairs and buses ferrying passengers to the main terminal. For a full service airline like Iberia, these are inexcusable points, which need to be taken care of in this day and age. Aerobridges are basic hygiene of air travel especially when you’re not traveling in a budget airline. I do remember seeing some empty aerobridge gates on our left before we parked at a remote bay.

The level of service on both flights was professional, yet missing that touch of warmth, which as Indians we expect and something which most of the Asian carriers do very well.

Will I fly Iberia again, may be in economy? Yes, if the price is cheaper or at-par with low cost carriers.

The third and the final part of this piece will highlight my report of Iberia’s flagship business class lounge at Madrid Airport (for Schengen passengers).

A slightly modified version of this piece is featured on Bangalore Aviation, a leading International website on Aviation.

 

 

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Lemp Incident Highlights Social Media as the Answer

Indian like in Social Media

It’s been over 2 days “Lemp” has been a top trending topic for over 20 million users of Twitter in India. Surprisingly Lemp is not the name of a champion Indian cricketer, a famous Bollywood actor or a corrupt politician caught in yet another scandal.

Lemp is a name of a brewery-restaurant located in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon, caught in the eye of a social media storm after a group of youngsters were cheated and mentally harassed by the management and owners of the property.

Due to whatever reason the original blog post has been removed, but thanks to Google cache it will forever live on. I would strongly suggest you to read more about the incident here before proceeding further. Scribd also has a copy of the deleted post.

It is yet another example of how a young, educated & web savvy population in India is making sure their voice is not muzzled & their rights not being taken for granted by people in power.

A visit to a restaurant for a ‘Hawaiian Sunday Brunch’ turned out to be too ghastly for a group of youngsters this Sunday, after they had checked out Sunday brunch events listed in the review site, Zomato. Apart from not being served any advertised Hawaiian food, they were overcharged when they wished to leave and threatened with police arrest when they protested about the bill. Besides, the Haryana/Gurgaon police instead of coming to their rescue, chose to side with the owner and manager of the restaurant. The youngsters were just short of being detained for not paying the ‘overcharged’ bill.

The youngsters decided to blog about their experience and since then the Indian twitterverse has been enraged to the say the least. The news is even picked up by the biggest newspaper of the country, Times of India besides other major publications and one of the biggest online news publishers, FirstPost.

Zomato has even come out with a blog post on it’s website supporting the youngsters.

Incidentally, the user rating for Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen on Zomato has had a huge fall to 1.2 from its earlier 3 point something, after the blog post went viral on Social Media.

Lemp opted for a rebuttal by a fake customer, who incidentally has access to all of their CCTV footage. They also threatened the diners with a defamation suit in a very cocky reply to their review, although the unrelenting attack has also forced them to change their name to PurpleBar. So much for transparency.

There were two possible options for Lemp:

1)   Brazen this out, offer their version and prove that those diners were indeed trying to fleece the restaurant. One of the better ways could have been to show CCTV footage of the altercation, without obvious editing of the same. Their press release mentions the same but even after 4 days of the incident, nothing has been released yet.

2)   Apologize. Admit that they messed up, a spur-of-the-hour moment for them, which shall never be repeated, with sincere apologies on video by the management and the owner. Convince those youngsters to visit the restaurant once more and actually organize a Hawaiian Sunday brunch, on the house for them. Considering the egos involved, this certainly seems like a definite no-go and I’m not surprised that Lemp has decided to go ahead with option 1.

After much hullabaloo, Lemp issued a statement last night (on Scribd) offering their version of events, including insights from their social media agency, as to who could be behind all of this, clearly going on the offensive.

In a country where consumer rights are always taken for granted, our proud history of free speech and the opportunities provided by the power of social media is making sure that the voice of the common man can be heard loud and clear.

It’s a welcome change and one that the common Indian hopes will make the “high and mighty” think twice before taking him for a ride.

This blog post has also been featured by The WALL here, one of the world’s leading blog on Digital and Social Media.

Real Time Marketing in India

RTM in India

Real Time Marketing in India

Few weeks back when I wrote about the top digital marketing trends for India, RTM (Real Time Marketing) did not figure in the list. But then February 3rd, also known as Super Bowl Blackout day happened & the world of marketing promised not to be the same ever again.

I started thinking about RTM scenarios for the Indian market & how our marketers could take advantage of those opportunities. But what really drove me to write this post was a session during ad:tech new delhi 2013.

RTM is not a new phenomena which spawned one fine evening when Oreo & it’s agency partner decided to dunk in the dark, & in the process became a lifelong case study for this marketing genre. Instead Real Time Marketing techniques were developed in 1990s with initial deployments of CRM solutions in major sectors, but it wasn’t so glamorous & thus not thought about much during that time.

Marketing has altered radically in the last few years — perhaps more than any other business role — and the progression will absolutely continue as marketers become more single-minded, swift and supple.

Oreo Super Bowl Blackout Tweet

Oreo Super Bowl Blackout Tweet

With over 150 million internet users, & 100 million social network user base, India as a market is ripe for some RTM action but this form of marketing goes far beyond simply posting a timely tweet (see Oreo/Tide during blackout), a status update or even a vine posting (see Calvin Klein). Brands have to expand the use of real time social analytics, create great content to drive engagement & make on-the-fly decisions around trending relevant topics. That certainly is hard to fathom in current Indian marketing culture.

Current culture being the key statement in the last paragraph.

Because Indian consumers have moved on & so must the marketing techniques employed to entertain & engage them. A recent study in fact did say, “Engaging customers through content & other outreach techniques is getting increased attention from marketers in India”.

Tide Super Bowl Blackout Tweet

Tide Super Bowl Blackout Tweet

But most Indian marketers still find it challenging to cut through the information clutter today to resonate. Mostly because they are not used to customers driving interactions (after all it was one way shouting till a while back) & taking control of the relationship they share.

Marketing strategies still rely heavily on arranging everything, to the T. That practice has to give way. Marketers can plan, but can’t choreograph consumer behavior.

With the sixth edition of Indian Premier League starting in April, Indian brands have a grand stage to get daring with their consumers & in the process get embraced.

The biggest opportunity out of all brands clearly lies with Pepsi. Pepsi is not just the official presenting sponsor for IPL 6; it is a youth driven brand urging its TA to “Live for Now”. In India its latest brand tagline “Oh Yes, Abhi” conveys the same spirit of Now, Instant & Dynamism to the impatient Indian youth.

Although my views about Pepsi not introducing the new logo in the Indian market even after 4+ years is widely known on twitter, I still believe being a challenger cola brand a new approach can have a positive impact for them.

That new approach is not just premiering new TVCs on YouTube, because that is passé, it is not just dumb tweets asking who your favorite cricketer is, it is making custom content for its online consumers which needs to be fun & useful.

& If some of that can be made at twitter speed, it would be Quaker oats on the milk (let me know if you have a better suggestion for this?)

I should also note that the instant Oreo Super Bowl ad followed a 100-day program called “Daily Twist” that began in June 2012 and ended on October 2nd, 2012. It was 100 days of real-time posting of Oreo’s responses to what was happening in the news, such as the Mars Rover landing and the anniversary of the ATM. So in no way it was a fluke or a creative that popped out of nowhere.

Another extensively acknowledged case study has been the work done on Old Spice campaign through YouTube, “The man your man could smell like”. Here’s a helpful link to take you back to 2010.

Real Time Marketing is clearly not cut out for every brand, nor it can be done without extensive resources on a continuous basis. Probably the easiest way to implement it would be to start using it in select functions & not across the marketing department off the bat.

I firmly believe that RTM has few unique principles:

1)   Focus on individual interactions

2)   Need for adaptive campaigns

3)   Strong alignment with other key departments like sales

4)   Customer collaboration

That certainly is not a comprehensive list & just like it’s core, these principles are ever changing & dynamic in nature.

In today’s aggressive and rapidly fluid economy, brands are determined to remain at the vanguard of their industries, which gives Real time marketing its spotlight. By allowing marketing to be “better, faster, and cheaper,” and be more flexible in the face of change, RTM 24/7 can help brands in their efforts to create a competitive advantage.

Brands can also expect RTM to benefit their offerings by increasing WOM (Word of Mouth), Media Receptivity, Social Media Presence and increased chances of consideration by the consumer.

Let me conclude with one of my key learning’s from ad:tech new delhi 2013 about marketing “Don’t wait to be perfect, just start”, after all Brands can afford to be “flawsome”

This piece has also appeared on India Digital Review as a Guest Article

Digital Marketing Trends for 2013 in India

As over 150 million Indians surf the interwebs (yes, that’s what the cool kids call it these days), Indian marketers are losing their sleep to catch them young, in their mid-life crisis or even after hanging up their boots. The challenge is immense. Out of the $5 billion Indian advertising industry, $900 million go to digital marketing.  The share of digital is poised to grow larger every year & slated to touch 30% of the total market by 2015.

As marketers we need to keep a track on the consumer’s pulse and the next big idea to engage them. Keeping that in mind & that we have 11 months left to make those ideas work for us, here are 5 trends, which will go massive in 2013

1)   Native Advertising

“Once you go Native, you don’t go Interruptive” – ANON

Over the past 10 years, publishers have continued to monetize their sites with banners and pre-roll ads, and advertisers have continued to pump billions into these formats, in spite of tanking performance & universal contempt. While click-through rates on display ads started out at around 9% in 2000, they now hover around 0.2% – which effectively means 99.8% of banner ads go straight to the trashcan.

Native advertising like a Promoted Tweet or a Sponsored story in Facebook allows brands to promote their content into the experience of the site or other mediums, in a non-interruptive & integrated manner. We are going to hear a lot about Native this year & it will affect the way we create content, effectively & hopefully killing advertising that sucks.

Native advertising is the irrefutable future.

2)   Social TV

2013 is the year when Social TV will go mainstream, ending the era of sitting passively on big boy recliners and watching television.

Social TV’s secret sauce is mixing humanity’s love for Television and its enchantment with social media. NEWS, Sports and Music channels have been on the wagon for a while but the turning point for the industry will be getting GEC’s onboard, inviting viewers to interact and decide their own storytelling experience.

NDTV’s second screen effort in its mobile app and Airtel’s Shazam campaign are couple of recent examples from the Indian market, but the biggest of them all comes in April 2013, when American network SyFy launches Defiance as a cross-platform story, on TV and as a MMO game.

What makes the industry even more exciting is the imminent launch of Twitter TV ratings with Nielsen this summer and the prospect of Social TV growing to a multi billion-dollar industry by 2020.

3)   Fragmentation

Today’s consumer is both everywhere and nowhere and his/her attention is divided between multiple screens & platforms on different screens. Marketers like to speak about TV, Desktop & Mobile as 3 screens, adding Tablet into the mix as the 4th screen will be a wise move to reach those fragmented souls who are always on the target list as the “elusive on-the-go customer”.

More consumers are watching more and more content, but that viewing is dispersed across different platforms, starting with TV, Online Streaming and VOD to Podcast. Although some western markets are going through the cord cutting phenomena, Indian market is going through what I like to call as “Cord extension” phase, where consumers are adding broadband, mobile, DTH, DVR and IPTV connections over their existing Cable TV.

The mantra of Content everywhere and anywhere on any device & any screen has played its bit role in fragmentation but changing consumption lifestyles has made it necessary to shift both strategy and focus for marketers that want to keep up with their audiences.

Thus 2013 should see some brave moves by content owners worldwide, some even unthinkable few years back, to keep their audience with them.

4)   Content Marketing

Content Marketing has already attained huge prominence among marketers worldwide but 2013 will see consumers seeking out content themselves, making it increasingly vital to the purchase cycle as well. Brands & agencies are responding with increased capabilities, as they look for opportunities to get involved and engaged with consumers at different levels, to provide content that is relevant and share worthy.

2013 will also witness marketers combining content with context to drive commerce.

Brands such as Red Bull with the Stratos Freefall initiative and McDonald’s Canada with Our Food, Your Questions campaign have led the charge globally while Tata Nano’s Social road trip has made a splash in the Indian market.

5)   Smart Data

Originally this was supposed to be titled as Big Data, and then came along an email by Rachel Gilley from our UK office, explaining how 1 of our clients thought data needs to be actionable and Smart data attained it’s place in the list. Every consumer touch point is a valuable piece of data & taking it together is possibly an antidote to fragmentation, discussed earlier in this post.

Big Data is complex to say the least and possibly the greatest challenge marketers face all over the world today. Companies collect information from their customers in structured or unstructured format, which are later put through various tools to understand consumers better. Global brands like Netflix, Amazon and Apple use it to serve better recommendations to their customers, whereas most of major Indian Retailers like Shoppers Stop & Lifestyle use transaction data to re-design store layouts & inventory management.

Interestingly Shoppers Stop, for instance, found that very often when middle-aged ladies shopped for Indian clothing, the other item on their list was men’s innerwear.

The much-improved version of Big Data is Smart Data, Data that can be put instantly to use by brands to improve marketing, business decisions and customer engagement practices.

This post has also appeared on imediaconnection India

New Delhi : Gang Rapped

India Gate. Delhi

FEEDBACK UPDATE: “Rapped” is used intentionally as part of headline, it’s not a mistake.

Over the last few days I have been extremely saddened by the turn of events in my city, in my Delhi.

A student (Jyoti Singh Pandey, as revealed later by her father) was gang raped, brutally, she is fighting for her life everyday at a hospital. (Update: Unfortunately, the victim was not able to survive) This crime was committed in Delhi city main, not in the fringes of city, which makes it even more appalling & shocking.

I have been disgusted & depressed but right now I want to talk about none of that. Mainly because people from all walks of life have written, tweeted, protested, shouted about it & I have nothing more or new to add.

Make no mistake, I’m in no way defending the culprits, for I personally think that mix of chemical castration & life imprisonment should be meted out to them without much delay. But I want to share my thoughts about how I feel when due to handiwork of few illiterate idiots the entire city & its inhabitants get branded. & Viciously at that.

In fact a digital “creative” agency came out with a microsite, www.thingstodoindelhi.com which had just 1 word written across, “RAPE”. So much for callous creativity.

Of course, after all the outrage & realizing their insensitive piece of crass work it was taken down, but my city got branded as RAPE city. Nobody denies or overlooks the fact that numerous sexual assaults (rape, gang rape, domestic violence) happen in Delhi NCR. Also for every one’s better understanding Delhi NCR is not just Delhi but Delhi + Gurgaon + Faridabad + Noida + Ghaziabad + Jhajjar + Alwar, among 13 regions as metropolitan area ringing around Delhi. I won’t delve too much into the concept of Delhi NCR but surely that doesn’t help the stats concerning law & order. In fact, as per Wikipedia, NCR is India‘s largest and world’s second largest agglomeration with a population of 22,157,000. Rapes & crime against women don’t just happen in Delhi, unfortunately they happen all across our country, the only difference being that crime registration rate in Delhi is way higher than other areas of the country.

Among all the states, Madhya Pradesh actually emerged as the rape capital of India with 3406 cases involving this heinous crime – the highest in the country. West Bengal, the state known more for its rich literary heritage, ranked second with 2363 rape cases. Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan followed next with 2042 and 1800 cases.

Delhi had 507 cases of Rape in the year 2011.

I have always felt that people from other cities have been resentful of New Delhi, whether that’s world class infrastructure, dual climate advantage, stable political leadership, food or even the title of “Capital”. I wish they could realize that all capitals of the world do get some preferential treatment & Delhi is not the only one figuring in that list.

Delhi’s citizens get classified as brash, loud, snobbish, show-offs etc. etc., I have been to my fair share of cities around the world & I have come across far too many arrogant & snobbish people not hailing from Delhi. Even if some of my fellow citizens are loud, brash & all that, what gives anybody any right to question anyone’s way of living or attitude?

And again, branding the entire city that because somebody called you “Madrasan” or has a fat diamond on her finger is pure ignorance. But feel free to write an entire blog post about the classy fictional incident.

Delhi also suffers from a problem, which is widely talked about, that of Migration, rather illiterate migrants. I was born in this city but my grand folks came from Lahore, so in essence my roots may be of an outsider itself but the problem as I typed above is that of illiterate migration. Read here for more on that. Most People who come to Delhi from other parts of the country possess no education or basic sense of living, they mostly try to find odd jobs & ultimately veer off to the world of crime for a quick buck.

We are not the only city in the country facing this issue; Bombay or Mumbai (depending on which part of the city/town/suburb your from) suffers from it as well. But unlike their political goons (thankfully we don’t have that breed of politicians here) people in Delhi don’t go around destroying their source of livelihoods in the name of “Maratha Power” or “Marathi Manoos”. Much more details here.

I also want to remind all of you kindly about couple of incidents in recent past where the efforts of Delhi Citizens were appreciated & accounted for all around the country.

1) Remember we hosted Commonwealth Games in 2010, games went off really well, athletes were happy, none of their flats were flooded (as was reported days before the event), all in all a world class event happened but I want to divert your attention towards the grand opening day of the event.

An individual by the name of Suresh Kalmadi was booed & jeered in front of the world, & then again during the closing ceremony of the CWG. These might seem like little events in isolation but once you realize what people of Delhi actually tried to convey through those emotions you would appreciate it more. In fact my twitter timeline was filled with personalities, usually not big fans of Delhi, praising the crowd & so on.

2) During the heyday of Janlokpal revolution, people of Delhi turned up everyday in large numbers to support the anti-corruption legislation, which was not meant only for Delhi but for the entire country. Delhi & its people were enthused by it till the time the event got politically motivated & left it’s social foundations.

Delhi had again sent a message out to organizers of the movement to put their house in order.

These are couple of recent examples, which I wanted to mention, I’m sure their must be countless others too, some got the limelight & some did not. Not to mention the ongoing wave of peaceful protests which Citizens of Delhi are holding everyday despite the threat of political heavy handedness. I must add that Delhi has also been joined by fellow states across the country, doing their bit.

To conclude I would like to appeal to all my fellow citizens to stop branding not just Delhi but any city a derogatory term & branding its citizens as specific type of people. Cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai have had plenty of unwanted incidents recently too. Our nation is at cross roads & all of us face challenges in different forms, highlighting & harping on just one will improve my city but may lead your beloved city down the wrong path.

After all, Ignorance is the root of all evil.

JAI HIND (on second thought, would JAI DELHI work? Nah!!!)