Sunday, 26 March 2017

Conflict Leadership, Not Management

An Individual is Plural is a short post on my attempt on getting a point across as to why people are so complicated. If you have not read that post, I recommend you do before going any further. There is just so much going on inside each one of us that working with people can be an uphill task for most.

If your work involves working with people - partnership, networking, coaching or leading - managing your conflicts is without doubt the most important skill that people must muster - no matter what your professional domain. This becomes the very basic skill set required for the job. It can be a make or break for your career, dreams and aspirations. Take it seriously and maintain a good humor, a positive outlook

It is a lot easier to change yourself than it is to change another person. My approach to conflict management is not to manage the other person or the situation at large. Instead, with my 5 points below, it is to try and recast yourself and your perception of the situation. Which would then in-turn change your attitude and your behavior towards the case. The idea is not to manage the situation but to lead the situation away from unproductive talks to productivity talks. And in conflicts, it only takes one person to lead and break the cycle. Be that person.

Be the leader to break the cycle
Things you should realize -
  1. Give yourself the benefit of doubt of not knowing it all - be humble. Ask other people for their opinion and respect it.
  2. Give some breathing room to the other person. If you are not getting the right attitude, may be the person is not having a good day. Respect that. End the meeting on a good note, and postpone it to another date.
  3. Be an external observer - this needs practice. Learn to observe a situation outside of your 'self'. This will give you a unique view of the situation that will put things into better perspective.
  4. If someone verbally attacks you, do not react. You can make things a lot worse by just reacting. This is where you start talking less, and listening more. It does not matter whether you agree or disagree. Learn to listen without feeling the need to pass a judgement. If someone is getting aggressive it means they feel hurt and you ought to listen and sympathies.
  5. Never Ever blame the person. The conversations you have should always be in the tone of blaming the situation or the process. This takes the stress away from the other person and they will be less defensive. Once the defenses are down, its all about working as one team. This is truly an art to master.
When a ship enters a storm, it did not deliberately set course for the storm. But yet now it is in the middle of a hurricane. Now, when in the hurricane, the captain needs to lead the ship to safety. Not by battling it head on but by calmly leading the crew to the right course and navigating it out of the danger.

I do often argue, the captain should have ensured the ship never got caught in the hurricane in the first place!

- Anant Agnihotri

Friday, 27 January 2017

Companionship And The Deep Flame

Two people meet and they instantly feel connected. With a deep desire to always want to be around one another. They both feel their hearts to beat together. They 'feel' each other’s warmth from thousands of kilometers away. They both believe all the romantic songs in the world were written just for the two of them. Even the ones written in a language they do not understand. Mornings are not good mornings if a "good morning honey" message was not sent. Not wanting to go out for a gathering if the other is not coming! Hell, if one of them is not well, the other also feels a little sick. After all, there is a deep spiritual connection here. Getting a last-minute message before a party "babe, I cannot make it to the party, have work to do" and the other persons whole world comes crashing down onto that single message: this one might be a mans point of view! If all of this is not too much, both, somehow manage to convince themselves that they are 'soulmates'. Awww!

All of the above is not a relationship, let alone the tittle of this post, companionship.

You beg to differ? Well, obviously you do. You are thinking about the honeymoon period in a relationship. You like that period so much that you probably have managed to convince your self that the entire relationship should be a honeymoon period. And if you or your spouse does not feel that same sense of attraction throughout, then, this is not meant to be. That, for some reason all of a sudden - after all that drama - this person is not your soulmate. Even if you are one of those grounded people to whom flying high - aka honeymoon period - is not required, you both end up taking one another for granted. What happens next? Falling stars come crashing down, BOOM! Its over. Not the world, the relationship. Duh!

Do we all not wish that the honeymoon period would just go on - forever! Let's grow up now shall we. Ah crap! Do we have to? Anyways, fact is, people get used to one another. The spark that initially started this dies out and what is left over is a flame so deep in each other's life that it may just end up being ignored or in other words, be taken for granted. The death of the spark is the start of the downfall of this partnership.

Fights break out over issues as silly as "you do not care for me anymore, no seriously, I feel it from the bottom of my heart. Things are just not the same. Are you having an affair? OMG!" Seriously? Does not care for you? You feel it from the bottom of your heart? Where exactly is that? People fail to see that there is a flame deep inside each of them. It was started by the initial spark. The problem is, the flame is so deep inside, that people often do not sense its presence. Something like the core of the earth. It's there, and its hot. But you do not feel it! Thank god! This flame, is nothing else but care, love and affection towards the other. It is so deep and hot that when challenged by a third person it is capable of being an arsonist bitch. All you need to do, is fan it a little!

Okay, let's get to the point here. The approach I am thinking of is the more sustainable approach to this partnership - companionship. Companionship, is all about two incomplete individuals with their own set of problems and aspirations who decide to stick together, against all the odds. Read this line again, and emphasis on the word 'against all the odds'.

It’s an alliance forged on the promise of unconditional support. Where you both are there for each other no matter what. You defend each other even in the absence of your better half. It’s a connection that requires no word and a subtle look does the job! Where you are constantly thinking about the others preferences and are willing to make the necessary adjustments for the other; I chose not to use the word sacrifice and rather use the word adjustments, ask me why. Where decisions change in a split second when you hear what, your better half has to say. Where you both always share a side look while in the middle of a gathering. A team, that cannot be divided or ruled upon by anyone else, but the two of you. Where you both take comfort just by knowing the other is there nearby. Where you both look eagerly for your next meeting. Where energy levels reach another height when you both are together. Companionship is built of respect for one another and trust that the other person feels the same. Trust, that needs to be earned.

If he/she takes a step, you take a step. Companionship cannot be one sided. It is built on the principle of mutual co-existence. Achieved only when both the players show interest. By taking an interest in letting the other know "hey! yes, I feel something too!". This is not where the man needs to impress the girl or the girl impress the man. This is where the dots just, I must use this word, magically, connect!

Companionship will also have to start from a spark. A spark that will mark the beginning of the honeymoon period. And its death will mark its end. Just like before, this spark will leave behind that deep flame in both of you. The question is, do you know how to harvest this flame?

In companionship, you both are friends first and lovers later. You both respect each other and treat each other equally. There is no 'man job' or 'woman job' but only 'our job' and that needs to be shared equally. You both give each other's lives equal respect and work as partners to ensure each other's priorities are taken care off. When two incomplete individuals come together to mask or, help overcome each other's incompleteness and help in achieving their respective goals - this is companionship. This - is a team. Its them against the world. And naturally, given the mutual respect and maturity of this relationship, they will find a way to harvest this deep flame and not ignore it.

A boy, looks for love and a man looks for companionship. The man is smart. He knows, companionship comes with love. The difference, in companionship you both are equal partners who need to learn to respect each other. In companionship, you help each other grow in life.

You arrived on this planet alone and you will depart it alone. What is good to have during this journey, is someone who is first; a friend, a mentor, the wisest critic and your lover later. Achieving this requires a change. A change in who you are as a person.


-Anant Agnihotri

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Inside Person

Disclaimer - The below is a brief evocative description of a fictional concept. The goal of the below writing is to communicate what a confident, united self is not.

You and I seem to be the same person and yet we are different at so many levels. 

You are someone who freely thinks and feels. You openly agree or freely disagree to whatever it is that comes first to your mind. You need not worry of what others might think as you never voice your thoughts. You take comfort in the chaos of my mind and the fact that whatever comes from my mouth is my accountability and not yours. You stay hidden deep inside my mind scratching the walls of my patience and fiddling with all the gossip I gather everyday to feed that enormous yearning of yours for generating that bullshit. Bullshit that you whisper back into my conscious and make me debate with you, debate with MYSELF.

Whoever on earth gave birth to such a diabolic self. A self within me that drives me to madness over the various views of life; of what is and what is not, of who is right and who is wrong, of what should be and what should not be, of what is the way forward and what is not the way forward.

I say stop it. I say simplify the whole process. I say stop self conflicting and lets take a stand on what our principles are. Lets learn the art to stay calm and focused and not assume. For a united you and me is the way forward to a stronger us - to a stronger me.

-Anant Agnihotri 

Monday, 11 April 2016

The Art of Being Lazy

Let me put it out there at the very beginning of this post - Being lazy is OKAY!

You do not want to do something because its too tedious? Some work that is so robotic doing it makes you feel your brain is shrinking? Something that needs to be done but it's just so boring that your hands just refuse to move? It's okay - do not do it! However, the obvious questions that then arises - how do we differentiate the people who will succeed in life with this attitude and the people who will not. Keep reading for my point of view.

Being lazy is showing a disinterest in doing some task. If we were motivated to complete the task the question of being lazy would not come up at all. Laziness could be caused by the lack of will or the limitation of your skill. Either ways, both should be treated as a scope for your opportunity.

Being lazy is okay, till the time you ensure smartness compensates for it. Do not want to do a particular task in a given way? Perhaps you feel the current way of doing it is not the best - simply put its the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard! Smartness, would be finding another, more efficient way, of getting the same job done. This does not only compensate your laziness but makes you an innovator. Now that's a pin you want on you.

You should be aware of the reason for your laziness. A lot of time it's just pure laziness! That is, not wanting to do something because you are not willing to do it. It's not a question of skill but the feeling that to just sit and stare at the wall is more captivating than the idea of getting the job done. Over here you need to ask your self if this task is really important to you. If it is important then it should be reason enough to get you up and moving. If you beg to differ on the importance of the task, you got some serious self assessment to do on where your life is heading. This assessment should conclude with an action plan. An action plan to have you do things that are more important to you. Things that truly drive you and that you believe in.

Sometimes laziness is a direct result of a persons inability to do the job itself. Now this can be a daunting situation to deal with. The primary objective here is not to get the job done, but, how to acquire the skills required. This becomes a firefighting scene if the time line for the completion is right around the corner. Determination & focus, these are the two words that are tested to your limits. I cannot sugar quote this in anyway, but you really got to put your head down and firefight your way out. Look for resources and people who can help you!

Laziness is a limitation if you lack the perspective. Otherwise, it can be the opportunity you are so eager to take advantage of.

-Anant Agnihotri

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Social Stigma - Cut The Crap

See me for who I am and not
what you want me to be.
Culture is probably the thing that differentiates us, humans, from animals. The expectation we all have from one another that as individuals we must follow - what society dictates. Essentially, what a larger group of people once believed to be the way of life are the guidelines and principles we look to. This larger group of people may even be nothing more than thin air - a few obnoxious loud men. If we do not follow these values and morals then we are not part of this society.

You could be a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish or for that matter you may even be an Atheist. You will still find yourself living in one of these penitentiary guilds.

Your self evaluation tells you what to do and what not to do basis your understanding of these principles and guidelines. In comparison to the natural you, this can be a devastating realization of being an outcast.

This counters the natural you and may leave you in an eternal state of lost. You would be neither here nor there. Stuck in the void between the two thought processes you may start to loose the bare essence of your own identity.

Destroy The Old - Learn From It First
A rock, is what I would relate to an individual stuck in this tear. The person would come across as still, quiet and calm. But they will be in a constant state of discomfort unable to decide, to be or not to be.

Here is the solution in one paragraph, cut the crap and be who you truly are. Demand the society sees you for your difference and not cave in to social stigma. Demand the acceptance of your different perspective. That is what brings progress to the table. The attitude that is required to challenge the old and innovate the new.

Create The New - Development
The highest gods of Hinduism; Brhama - the creator, Vishnu - the preserver and Shiva - the destroyer signify a process that starts with creation and ends with destruction. Only to start the process of creation again. This cycle of creating something new and destroying the old enables development. This is so crucial to the sustainability and advancement of civilization that there is no scope for social stigma. As without challenge there will be no destruction of the old and the cycle would stop at preservation itself.

- Anant Agnihotri

Sunday, 13 March 2016

The Sweet Corn

Every day, on my way back home from office, I see this old Muslim man sitting under the lamp post just opposite Manyata back gate 5, making corn!

Around 9 months back I stopped at his franchise and asked for one of those partially charred corns, and boy was it good! He was selling sweet corn. Something you find only in malls here. Closest one being Elements, in case you were interested. The next day, I stopped there again, with high expectations...

Pausing on the story here, many a times life has taught me a lesson but I just have a habit of making this one mistake again and again and again. My expectations are high, very high. Usually they cannot be matched and hence I can never be truly satisfied. Unless you catch me off guard! I see this as a problem, because I really do like being impressed. Gives me a kick-off adrenalin and a sort of high. Something more of a fresh breath that symbolises progress.

This time however the corn was not that great. This made me think, was it the high expectation or was the corn really bad. To get to the bottom of this, I did what anyone looking for an answer would do. I started a conversation with the peddler!

I enquired on the difference between the corn he sold me yesterday and the one he sold me today. Now, if I had known the reaction I was going to get from him, my approach may have been different. This one question acted as the last brick on his skyscraper of issues and his deep desire to burst out the pressure of his monetary position to another, already, stressed out individual, me.

Having a corn shop in that locality is not a viable business. His potential customers are the ones coming out of partially established restaurants, after a heavy meal. They are not looking for another appetiser. The people who do buy from him are not the sort who could afford sweet corn. They are the people who are substituting the heavy meal with some corn. They are conscious of their pockets and rather settle for the more localised breed of corn.

This explained why I did not get another sweet corn. He just got a few dozen to test the market. The new high quality product, with a higher margin, for obvious reasons, failed the market test. It took him over 2-3 weeks to clear the stock. Which tells me, the corn I so liked a lot, was old. Since it was the last one. Yes, makes me wonder, what happen to my high expectations? Maybe, I was just really hungry that day.

Anyhow, since then I noticed the man sitting under his lamp post, 5 days a week. But I never bought from him again. Today, as I was heading back home I noticed the corns were gone! He was now selling cut pineapples! 

This is when I get that breeze of fresh air, that symbolises progress. The man was smart! He knew the basics of a business. Identify who your customers are and get them what ever it is that they want, at a price. I have never seen more people at his shop than what I saw today. Most importantly, I could not find that shadow of the skyscraper of issues on his face. He seemed to be more at peace with himself.

It takes a smart person to figure out when something is not working. It takes a wise person to foresee that something will not work. The difference, the latter thinks just a few steps ahead.

-Anant Agnihotri

Saturday, 27 February 2016

The Tale of A Mind - Chapter 1

There is a deep interest this observer has in the silence of this old town. He gazes down from the sky late at night in the hope of passing an edict for the lost perception of right and wrong.

He cherishes the sight of a droplet gently sliding down the traffic signal lamppost. The condensed water reflecting the warm light from a lamppost on the other side of the tarred road, looks almost as the reflection of the rising sun on a lake. The observer freezes time in his mind to cynosure the moment. A moment where he takes a deep breath to gather courage for what he might discover today.
The town has one main road that runs north to south. The road is as dark as a black hole. Light does fall on this cursed path but it never reflects back for the naked eye to see - ventablack. Looking at the road makes him feel astray from his goal: as if lost in nothingness. His experience is made even more uncanny by the murk that surrounds the town.

It does not rain here while the people are awake. They are extremely arrogant, self-centered and thoughtless creatures. People who care about their pride and image more than they care about the rainbow that a drizzle can create. The clouds retreats to the near by mountains in search of a safer haven to empty their bellies. They remove their protection over the town from the scorching heat of the sun.

He observes the absence of the hateful noise from the talkative people in the town. People who talk first, think later. People he would secretly like to bury alive. Which is when, he notices a periodic whistle from the lone police officer, policing the traffic of thoughts. The officer wears the medals given to him by his parents, teachers and friends. That is his empowerment of moral policing.
This is the perfect stage the observer wanted to glide through the sky of the quiet main street of this town. A town, lost in a maze of self awareness.

A man comes walking down the ventablack road. The observer stares him in the eyes with curiosity. Who is he? What is he doing here? What is he thinking? The man shies away in conscious of politeness and quickly turns away. The observer looks closely and the man now tries to hide. Pretending to have lost a vital possession he starts looking aggressively under the vintage pink car, parked under a pole, scratching his head and panting heavily. He looks at the observer, partially smiles, and walks back wards. He is very busy; or so he wants to show. He walks away from the observers set - he does not turn back. The observer thinks to himself: "This man has secrets".

There comes another man down the ventablack road. This one is aggressive: ready for a war. The observer zooms out a little to keep safe distance. A manhole - hidden from the darkeness of the road; the man walks into it and falls half body inside. He pushes himself out of the fall. His faces lights up red. He declares war! He starts to stamp the flowing water: left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, both feet! He gives it a stare and kicks it hard. Just to slip and fall back on his buttocks. The observer senses a strange feeling of distress within the man. Well he ought to, he just made a fool of himself. The man was not fighting the open man hole or the flowing water. He was fighting his emotions. And with that fall, he was thrown into defeat. Defeat, that came with a penalty. A penalty on his pride.
The man stands up, shuns away the dirt and accepts his prize of defeat and starts to walk south of the road. A few steps down the road and he now bumps into a pole. The observer zooms out further to keep safe distance from his expected reaction to the bump - eruption of anger. But this time, the man just nodes and continues to walk. Perhaps he realized something? The observer thinks to himself. Perhaps with this self realization, the man just won something. But he does not get his pride back. He can see that in the way the man now owns his body language. Perhaps he gained something a lot more precious. Perhaps, he just grew his first strand of white hair. He gained some wisdom. The man continues to walk away. The observer continues to watch until he disappears into the murk - without an incident.

To be continued...

-Anant Agnihotri

Thursday, 25 February 2016

A Message, Father to Son

Son, life is not just a simple act of waking up everyday in the morning and deciding what to eat for breakfast. Life is definitely not thinking about the past or the future. It is also not about the many people who have or will come and go. There is a lot more to this simple word, life.
Life is a miracle, a miracle of your existence. A miracle of your conscience of this moment you are living in.

Your ability to differentiate your self from others. For you to think that you are unique, that there is no one else like you. Even though you will so eagerly look for the likes of you.

Life is an adventure where the roads are made to be bumpy, especially around the sharp turns. Turns that are mandate to make for your survival. Turns that will make you fall. Only to test if you still have it in you to stand right back up on your own two feet.

Life is a voyage in the volatile ocean of time. You have no option but to ride it out. But what you do have is control of your attitude during that long voyage. Be wise about it.

- Anant Agnihotri

Thursday, 18 February 2016

The Ball and A Goal Post

I am not much of a football player. However I do know that a player has an understanding of where the goal post is, but his eyes, always, are focused on where the ball is.

Once he gets the ball, his focus is narrowed to his feat. Once he reaches the mid field, his learning of oncoming players forces him to choose to pass the ball. If he does not pass the ball, he risks loosing it. 

He then moves his attention to a larger area. He strategies and repositions himself to enable a strong team presence. He knows, this is not a one man show.

As the team gets closer to the goal post the tension rises inside him. He tries to keep up with the rest. Yet his focus stays on the ball and not the goal. However, he, always, has an understanding of what the objective is.

His team is closing in, using experience and skill they maneuver the ball through the wave of opponent players. Passing the ball among one another they artfully put on a great show for the audience to lure on.

He learned well, when the coach was briefing the team. He positions himself just where the team wants him to be at that moment. Without the loss of even a second, a team player passes the ball to him for the final goal kick.

Does he goal?

In that moment, when his focus moves from the ball to the goal post, his years of learned skill and acquired experience comes crashing down to that one kick. If he learned and acquired enough, he will goal.

Having a long term goal is a luxury only a few have the vision for, but mastering the short term goals is a necessity for all. Master the necessity, and even a blind man, with the vision of a mentor, will goal.

- Anant Agnihotri

An Individual, Is Plural

The many who are in one.
You, an individual person, is more than just one.

You are a combination of all those people who have left a mark on your personality. Battles you have lost, battles you have won and most important, but rare, battles you decided to withdraw from. You have expectations and aspirations. You have people you look up to. And you have people you look down upon
All of these events and people just add to the mammoth of ingredients that put together a cocktail of ideas and thoughts in your conscious. Stirred by the complex emotions that eventually decide on your action. An action, that the world perceives as your true intention. As your true character.

But wait, is there a gap here? A gap in who you perceive your self to be vs who the world perceives you are?

There is no one person who can tell you who you are. You, an individual, is more than one.

The people who can help you understand yourself are within you. Talk to your self. Ask your self questions. Answer those questions your self. Trust your instincts and you will be found. Not by anyone from the outside world, but you, your self, from within. Who is an individual but not just one.

Learn the art of self introspection.

- Anant Agnihotri

Monday, 15 February 2016

Conversations and Expectations

People, in general, are a cocktail of thoughts. There are exceptions to this but most people I know are definitely, a cocktail of thoughts. This is not a problem. But it becomes a big one when these people need to talk to one another, and their individual expectation, naturally, come into play.

- Anant Agnihotri

The Lost Perception Of Good And Bad

There are always two sides to a coin, at least that's what I was told. But from what I observe, there are as many sides to a coin as many there are observers of the coin. It is this simple idea that can make anyones confidence to separate the right from the wrong rather foggy. Makes me wonder, what is truly morally correct.

Rahul looses his mind, picks up a knife and stabs Kirat. Is Rahul wrong? Is it with him that the fault truly lies? Or is he a victim of poor upbringing? Could his actions be the symptoms of the defects in his parents skill to parent? Or is his friend circle to blame? But then if we do find out it was his friends who influenced Rahul to pick up the knife and stab Kirat, then the obvious question that would arise is in what way and in what degree was this influence? On the other hand, should parents have to clear a 'Good Parenting' exams before been allowed to become parents? 

What was this 'influence'? Did they directly say "Go, Rahul, and kill Kirat. What he did deserves nothing less than death". Or did they do an inception of a simple idea. An idea that resulted him to conclude that killing Kirat is the only way out? Was this inception deliberate or simply incidental? 

Let's say it is his friends who influenced Rahul to Kill Kirat. So now, are his friends the true criminals? After all, it's because of them that Rahul did what he did. Or were his friends the victims of yet another defect in the society they live in?

Any horrid event in history has more than just one ingredient in its recipe. It is puzzling at what level of questioning should one stop to settle with the final judgement. Is there even a thing called a 'Final Judgement'? And if there is nothing such then why the hell are we sentencing people to jail! They are not the only people to be blamed. There are others, who had a role to play. May be not directly but they did influence the crime. That is to some extent a punishable guilt. They were unaware of the impact their actions would have? Similar lines to 'Ignorantia juris non excusa'.

Some people would say, "Rahul is the one who killed Kirat, put him in jail". Some would argue, "Rahul did kill Kirat, but he is not to blame. It's his friends who influenced him with a deliberate intention to have him kill Kirat. Put his friends in jail". 

Some might further argue "We discussed Rahuls upbringing and friend circle to identify the source of his criminal act, let's do the same for his friends. After all we do need to be fair in our judgement, right?".

And finally, someone might come up and argue "You know what, may be Kirat just deserved to die. So why punish Rahul and his friends for something Kirat deserved?". Someone else would question, "How do you fairly judge who deserves what?".

There are varied perceptions to where the guilt lies. If society is interested in solving the problem at the root, there are so many ways to look at a situation that it becomes impossible to pin point just one root cause.

Differentiation between wrong and correct, bad and good is only a matter of perception. The angel of ones view to a situation.

May be the perception of good and bad is lost here, but this thought might signify the finding of a concept. A concept that can revolutionize how a person chooses to finalize his/her judgements.

Never blame the person for his/her doing, blame the society, blame the situation, blame the process.

-Anant Agnihotri

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Comparative Place Branding Advantage Theory for Nation Branding

I was advised by Professor Jasmine Simi A.H my Brand Management professor at Christ University to look into a very heated topic of Place Branding. As I did look into the topic and read about it I got an idea.

I related the Branding segment of studies to that of economics and tried to understand that can the theory of Comparative cost Advantage be used in Branding.

In economics, the law ofcomparative advantagerefers to the ability of a person or a country to produce a particular good or service at a lower marginal and opportunity cost over another. Even if one country is more efficient in the production of all goods (absolute advantage in all goods) than the other, both countries will still gain by trading with each other, as long as they have different relative efficiencies.

Source: Wikipedia (Sure many have disputes with the information being not accurate on wiki. However I am pretty sure this one is correct !)

The theory really says that if a country A has comparative cost advantage over country B for making a particular commodity say X and country B has the same over country A with product Y, then country A should produce only commodity X and country B produce only commodity Y. Then these two countries should trade. Now this is really amazing sounding in theory. However with the insecurity of countries having over their security I guess politicians will not like to be dependent of factors that determine their economic power. For example if commodity X is weapons and commodity Y is an agricultural product then I guess that country B will not just make agricultural products and be dependent on its defense from country A.

However I feel this theory can be applied in Branding. Lets take the same example of country A and country B. Now country A and country B have similar tourist spots. Applying the theory above there will be one attraction which is more fitting for one country. Country A can specialize in one type of attraction and country B can specialize in another. It is somewhat like saying that one restaurant specializes in pizz and the other restaurant specializes in burgers. Even though both serve pizza and burgers.

For a country to decide which is that attraction that best fits them , the country should study the attraction in comparison with their culture , nature , technology and their geographic location.
  1. Culture: Does the attraction reflect the culture ? 
  2. Nature: Is it in the dominating natural environment of the region ? or Is the natural environment unique to the country ? 
  3. Technology: Does the country have the technology to deliver ? 
  4. Geographic location of country: Is the location in sync with the attraction ? 
  5. Cost: Is it economically effective and most importantly efficient ?
Different tourist spots in a country can be related to the above factors and weighed to see if the attraction best describes the true meaning of the country. Then the countries should sit on negotiation tables and decide brand identity the countries tourist industry must hold.

They can determine their Brand Mantra and Brand Image based on that attraction.

Do leave comments below. Just click on comments. Then add comments.

Cheers ,
Until next blog post

- Anant Agnihotri

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Not So Serious About Nation Branding ?

I was doing some research on the topic of Nation Branding and I came across a very interesting page. It had a list of all the slogans of country tourism. Slogans that establishes an identity or position of the country in the minds of the customers (tourists). I came across the following list :
  1. Abu Dhabi, UAE – A Destination of Distinction 
  2. Australia – There’s nothing like Australia 
  3. Bhutan – Bhutan, happiness is a place 
  4. Brazil – Sensational Brazil 
  5. Brunei – A Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures 
  6. California, USA – Find Yourself Here 
  7. Canada – Keep exploring 
  8. Dubai – Definitely Dubai 
  9. Egypt – Where it all begins 
  10. Greece – Greece, the true experience 
  11. Hawaii, USA – The Islands of Aloha 
  12. Hongkong – Asia’s Word City 
  13. India – Incredible India 
  14. Indonesia – Wonderful Indonesia 
  15. Israel – Come find the Israel in you 
  16. Japan – Endless Discovery 
  17. Korea – Korea, Be Inspired 
  18. Laos – Simply Beautiful 
  19. Macau – Touching Moments Experience Macau 
  20. Malaysia – Truly Asia 
  21. Maldives – Always Natural 
  22. Mexico – The Place You Thought You Knew 
  23. Nepal – Naturally Nepal. Once is not enough. 
  24. New York, USA – I love New York 
  25. New Zealand – 100% New Zealand. 100% Pure You 
  26. Peru – Peru. Live the legend 
  27. Philippines – It’s more fun in the Philippines 
  28. Qatar – As Independent as you are 
  29. Singapore – Your Singapore 
  30. South Africa – It’s Possible 
  31. Switzerland – Get natural 
  32. Taiwan – The Heart of Asia 
  33. Thailand – Amazing Thailand, Always Amazes You. 
  34. Vietnam – Timeless charm
There are a total of 34 countries in the list. I got this list in a matter of minutes on the internet. I will not be surprised to find many more if i spend a day and systematically track down more slogans of more countries . My question is , What is the power of a brand if I ( the customer ) need to 'Track' down their slogans? The entire point of a brand is to enable the country to reach to its customers (tourists). There is simply not enough aggression seen in this industry. Perhaps it is seen as a small contributing factor to the economy of a country.

Is it really a small industry with low potential ? I fail to see it that way. Lets take Malaysia for example. It was one of the first country to actually advertise for its tourism on international television. It did this to escape the reliability it had for being dependent of exports. It wanted to diversify its economy and become more independent and strengthen its economy. Well Malaysia did for sure pick up the right industry for its self.

With aggressive advertising and making the slogan famous around the world and also setting a very noticeable position in the minds of the customer (tourist) , Malaysia managed to make tourism a 7% contribute to its GDP. In the yer 2001 Malaysia had 17.5 Million International Tourist Visits , France had 79.1 Million visits , Spain had 58.5 Million Visits , USA had 51.1 Million visits and Italy had 41.1 Million visits. Now in the year 2010 , Malaysia had 24.58 Million International Tourist Visits , France had 76.8 Million Visits , Spain had 52.68 Million Visits , USA had 59.75 Million Visits and Italy had 43.63 Million visits. Did you notice the percentage change ? Here it is:

  1. France : -2.3% (NEGATIVE) 
  2. Spain : -5.82% (NEGATIVE) 
  3. USA : 8.65% (POSITIVE) 
  4. Italy : 2.53% (POSITIVE) 
  5. Malaysia : 40.45% (POSITIVE) 

Malaysia grew nearly 4.5 Times more than USA from 2007 to 2010. Well many will say that there is a difference of 35Million between both the countries , USA leading , however that is not the point. The point is that the efforts of Malaysia to make such a drastic increase in its International Tourist Visits was remarkable with a 40.45% increase. Tourism Malaysia now has 34 overseas and 11 marketing representative offices. As of 2011 Malaysia ranks 9th in the most visited countries list.

Could this be possible without Malaysia realizing the importance of aggression in Nation Branding ?

Do leave comments below. Just click on comments. Then add comments.

Cheers ,
Until next blog post.

- Anant Agnihotri

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tourism Truly Brand-able Segment in Nation Branding.

With a little research and study on the topic , I have discovered some existing theories on the same topic. Research done by Simon Anholt has brought a lot of insight into the topic. A very famous model developed by him describes all the segments or areas that are focused on to achieve National Brand.

Many personalities are completely against the concept of Nation Branding. It generally boils down to international policies and diplomatic relation making. In other words it turns out to be political.

Out of the 6 segments shown there I believe that the main segment that Branding really fits is the Tourist Segment. A country has its identity or character by the policies it has for export and import. The governance also establishes its own identy by the talks and relations it maintains with other countries. The people have an identity which is reflected by their culture and heritage. Investment and immigration another segment influenced by the government and the people.

The tourism industry is the area that interests me more. It would make more sense if the concept of Branding is limited to this segment.

In the tourism industry tourists are attracted to the country to have a vacation and spend some fun time. Here the country is providing a services to the tourists in return for the foreign exchange they provide. The scope of branding increases when the branding has to be done of a geographical haven , a resort , a monument , an experience , an adventure , etc. Countries can brand them self's to be the most relaxing place on Earth or the most happening place to be in . As per me the concept of branding should be concentrated on tourism as differentiated positioning will be more effective. It would make more sense. We all know from the stock market news , investment magazines and other economical source of information as to which is the best country to invest in or whoes government is doing what . There is nothing to 'Brand' here. The only and very difficult thing to do is to make policies and handle relations.

Branding a country and the various tourist spots should be something like what a company has to offer to its customers , a wide variety of products/services/experience.

The image at the starting of the post has many branches extending to what is required for a brand.
  1. Company Name : Tourist spots name. 
  2. Logo : Logo's can be established for individual tourist spots. 
  3. Value Proposition : Values need to be offered to customers (tourists) 
  4. Price : A central Body, controlled by the government, can make packages for tourists. 
  5. Product / Service benefit : The main features and experience delivered by visiting the tourist spots. 
  6. Customer Service : Add a customer feed back method so that tourists can easily make comments and feedback's on their experiences.
This concept of branding should probably be kept independent of any political agenda or influence. Their should be no relation with what a country does to attract tourists and which MNC is investing in it. Branding a Country should imply, Branding ones tourist destination. Integrating all the tourist spots in the country to give it one unique image. This image should be used as a brand position for the country.

Do leave comments below. Just click on comments. Then add comments.

Cheers ,
Until next blog post.

- Anant Agnihotri

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Next Big Brand Just Might be a Country !

In the recent times when we would put our televisions on we would get a blast of companies advertising their brands. Out of a 1 hr show on the television nearly 15 to 20 minutes were dedicated to advertisements. A really good way to make a brand a 'Brand Power'. However an expensive way also. Majority of the firms in India are small scale owned by families and cater to the local needs. They clearly cannot advertise on national television. According to me to advertise on television with good results we need to have the following :
  1. A very clear purpose of advertising. 
  2. A proper position to be fixed in the minds of the consumer. 
  3. A clear plan on how to structure the advertisement. 
  4. Good music , actors , graphics 
  5. A good Channel
Now the first three points can be achieved by entrepreneurs creative mind. The 4th and 5th point is where the problem generally lies. These two points require a huge amount of investment. This is where the small entrepreneurs have trouble , finance.

With giant Multi National Companies and other giant corporations the problem of finance is not even noticed. They can afford to invest in advertisements when ever they feel the need to. The act of advertisements from the companies started in the selling era , 1920's. When they realised that the simple act of making a product is not enough to sell it. It needs to be advertised and informed to the masses of its availability.

The Marketing Concept Era came after the end of World War two. This existed till the late 1900's. In this business were focused on determining what consumers wanted, their overall level of satisfaction, and producing the goods and services that would produce the profits.

The Customer Relationship Era started from the late 1900's and early 200's and continuing today. Companies have extended the Marketing Concept by creating customer relationship models. Relationships with the companies and the customers started to come under the spot light.

Now read the above Eras and replace the word Company with Country. With the core business of a country being tourism the country can easily meet the 5 requirements to advertise. They definitely have ample amount of resources to do so. Also they have the power to make it a compulsion to advertise them!
  1. A Very Clear purpose of Advertising: Attracting Tourists
  2. A Proper Position to be fixed in the minds of the consumer: Give the country a tag line , a brand image , a meaning , a position in the mind.
  3. A Clear plan on how to structure the advertisement: Creativity of the government's head perhaps ! or it can be outsourced to an advertising agency.
  4. Good Music , Actors , Graphics: Sure this can be purchased by the resources available to the government.
  5. A Good Channel: This depends on the amount the government is willing to spend or they can give some tax reduction for channels who give some amount of time slot to them.

With the power a brand holds in the minds of the customers some selected countries already doing this act of 'Branding Countries' , the time of the next big brand being a country might just be in the near corner. Also Brand rating agencies might find it interesting to rate companies brand power vs country brand power. Lets just see how Malaysia was advertising for it self. The image it wanted to show was "Malaysia truly Asia".

Do leave comments below. Just click on comments. Then add comments.

Cheers ,
Until next blog post.