Showing posts from September, 2006

The Problem of George : Technology in Marketing

This year’s British Association of Advancement of Science’s annual conference in Norwich is an unlikely event of interest for marketing man, but a significant new prototype was being presented. Known as George, this is a conversational Artificial Intelligence [AI] system, designed for a contact centre environment, which can handle customer calls and log responses. What is new about this system, reported, is that this one can track emotions, slangs and jokes. It can monitor the caller’s mood from the tone of voice and the use of words, and effectively escalate the call to a more specialised human agent in case it is not able to answer the query or the caller is getting annoyed. The system is designed to be adaptive too – learning from every call it could not handle, which it monitors and prepares itself with a response for next occasion. The benefits of such systems are rather obvious. These systems, if effective, can effectively handle the first level customer interaction and can handl

Today's Wisdom

Indifference will be the downfall of mankind, but who cares?

Advertising in The Age of Choice

I have been watching and talking a lot about the music industry recently. My interest is more business than musical – I see exciting news about the industry hitting the press everyday. I know this has now reached a Point of Inflection, a time when all the established rules of the industry change, and to survive all players must change the way they do business. Incidentally, it is also ‘all change’ in another industry – Advertising! Advertising is dying, say experts. Maurice Saatchi gave this speech bemoaning the death of his old friend, advertising. Al Ries’ latest book is titled ‘The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR’. The industry is abuzz with debate, discussing quick fixes, back-to-basics solutions, and new age ideas. At the first glance, again, it appears to be a technology-driven destruction. Yes, it certainly is – the media overload has diminished the return on advertising spend, and direct to heart ways of reaching an individual through search advertising has started deliv

FDI in Education : Comment

I saw a news item on that the Indian Commerce Ministry has recently recommended allowing 100% FDI in education. Already a Danish company has come forward with the proposal of building 200 playschools across the country. Also, there are proposals from MIT, Georgia Tech and other American universities for building Greenfield campuses in India. Sadly, the left parties and the HRD Ministry is opposing the proposal. Here is what I posted as a reaction : I am disappointed to see this news. I have a strong feeling that Arjun Singh is the wrong man, and he needs to be moved. He has a mindset of the last century, and is completely out of sync with the modern world. He is anti-meritocratic, as his penchant for various kinds of controls and reservations show, and the education system he wants to build will be only good in producing babus [in line with the good old specifications of the British Raj]. The FDI in education will be needed to l

The Legacy of Tony Blair

While the British Press and British Public are busying themselves at this time with the departure of Tony Blair, a debate is already raging about the legacy he is going to leave behind. Not many men, even Prime Ministers or leaders of countries, can claim the position to leave a legacy. But, despite many shortcomings that he may have had, Tony Blair is one of those rare individuals who indeed can make the claim, having led Britain and the modern world to a ‘point of inflection’ in its history. Also, it must be mentioned, legacies can not be judged at such a close range, except speculatively, as they are, by definition, meant for the posterity, and manifest themselves over a number of years. However, such speculations, at times, are worth indulging in, as in case of Mr. Blair’s, because this may impact our individual lives and the way we choose to live them in future. Also, to be fair, it must be stated that judging a legacy is not judging a man, as legacies are seen in the context of t

McKinsey Survey of Global Executive Confidence

The confidence of executives in the global economy has fallen significantly in the past three months, according to a McKinsey survey. Executives in India reported the biggest decrease: nearly 28 percent. Yet they and a slim plurality of executives around the world still plan to hire additional employees in the next six months. Highlights from the McKinsey Global Survey of Executive Confidence paints a rather gloomier picture this year, compared to the one 6 months ago. The fall in confidence is common worldwide, though in relative terms it is the highest in India. I shall see this more as a reflection of the worldwide trend than an independent development, and note that this is only in relative terms, 73% of Indian executives surveyed intend to expand their labour force in the next 6 months, highest worldwide, elsewhere in the same survey. The fact that 2007 may turn out to be gloomier than 2006 can be ascribed to an old disease, inflation : the beast raises its head once again after a

Jairam Ramesh

A very endearing portrait of Jairam Ramesh as the Minister of State for Commerce in today’s Business Standard – reproduced in Rediff here We knew Jairam Ramesh for his sharp wit and analysis on TV, but here is a lot of common sense and what one would call ‘vision’. This is exceptional, as politicians are rarely concerned with things that don’t make big news, and do not usually concern themselves with fundamental ideas. Contrast this approach with the State Industrial Promotion bureaus and the Chief Ministers who travel around the world scouting for foreign investment. In my opinion, they sell their states short and attempt to get investment with concessions they will never make to the ‘little guys’. They also rarely concern themselves with infrastructure – why this idea of an international airport in the Northern Bengal never came up on the State’s agenda? I would strongly believe that foreign investment, unless it concerns a transfer of

The Road Travelled

Our age has somehow become very similar to the time a century ago, when everything seemed permanent, civilisation reached a new height, and one could think – life will go on like this. There are several reasons for this confidence. Several doomsday predictions failed to materialise. Soviet Union crumbled like a toy-house. Millennium Bug never arrived. The empire of money could expand into newer territories; even the Communist China was purchasable. Many of the fears that essentially created the defensive liberalism of the west seemed overdone. Isn’t that very similar to the world early in the 20th century, when the centre of progress was firmly in Europe, Sciences and Arts were making unimaginable progress, morality seemed well defined and there was, all around, a sense of permanence. Everyone would have thought the European wars are over, and socialism, only a marginal force. The world seemed to have stabilized. Had I lived in Britain those days, I would have now planned my career th

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