Monday, June 23, 2008

Empowered Storytelling...!

I grew up admiring distinct qualities of people around me and used to wonder when would I be able to find that 'unique' word/phrase that describes me in totality. For Example:
  • Mother Teresa - Peace
  • Lance Armstrong - Tour de France
  • Tony Buzan - Mind Map
  • Edward de Bono - Lateral Thinking
  • Tiger Woods - Golf
  • Sachin Tendulkar - Cricket
  • Seth Godin - Marketing Guru
  • C V Raman - Raman Effect
  • Scott Adams - Dilbert
  • J K Rowling - Inspirational Writer
  • Roger Federer - Tennis
  • Harsha Bhogle - Cricket Commentary (I admire him a lot)
  • Dad - Orator (He's an amazing speaker)
  • Mom - Thinker (Finding Quick solutions to seemingly daunting problems is a skill she mastered long back)
And here's the BIG news - hunt for a phrase (good one I mean) thats describes me is still on :) The interesting thing to note though is that with each of the personalities listed above one can weave a bunch of stories that describe what made them great & unique. Upon reading biographies of few of them looks like most of them had a fair share of failure & success (Failure over Success Ratio > 1-Yes-its true!!) in their respective lives but phenomenal self belief compensated for all the odds - which gets me into thinking mode again.

While I ponder more on the matter - have a look at this inspiring commencement address by J K Rowling at Harvard. I haven't read any of her books but some of my learned friends [Approx. 7 of 10 people I meet during my travel trips are solid Harry Potter fans :(] believe that the way she crafts a tale in the ethereal imaginary world is beyond superb. As far as I am concerned, I feel that the most notable thing she has given to our world (besides treasured books) is - reignited the reading habit amongst us - (youngsters in particular) which is perhaps good :)
I look forward to spotting an audio-book of any of the Potter's Volumes sometime this year ( I could never muster the courage to pick-up any of those heavy Potter Volumes !!) unless someone can read a Potter book for me ;)
Photo Courtesy : J K Rowling

Friday, June 13, 2008

Shoes for tomorrow...!

While going through my usual doze of news & blog posts this afternoon, I learnt about this firm which I believe would do phenomal in the days to come. Blake Mycoskie voyage across Argentina & his passion & willingness to help who are less luckier than you and me resulted in launch of TOMS. The firm is not just a usual new Shoe/T-shirt selling adding a strong cohesive community element, TOMS certainly distinguishes itself from any other Shoe selling company I have come across (Nike does some good work too but thats the usual CSR stuff)

The way it works is for every pair of shoes you buy, the company donates a pair to a child in need(Yes they actually do) . Now the point where it gets more interesting is the customers can actually travel to Buenos Aires and hand deliver the shoes themselves. I love the whole idea for I think that by participating:
  • You are letting the kids in person know that they have an external aid around - makes you feel a good & noble person inside.
  • You get in touch with a bunch of people who wish to help the needy and I bet the experience leaves this "community" of people charged up & motivated.
  • You can even upload your picture later on TOMS's Website being viewed by thousands of folks everyday - I am sure you agree that spotting your picture on a website other than your own sure makes you feel good.
  • The first thing I noticed on TOMS Website was "COLORS" and lots of them. To me colors have always been associated with fun & play. So I hope the Volunteer programme adds the element of fun (for good) which we all need in our otherwise ever busy existence.
  • As a consumer your mind gets a true "two for the price of one" satisfaction too :)

What a nice way to serve the community and get attention of social media & consumers at the same time.One thing is for sure - My next BIG shopping spree has to include a TOMS pair for sure ;)

Meanwhile....Keep Cheering those around you !
"Changing a Life begings with a Single Step Indeed" (TOMS WebSite)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Highway to Success...!

Its been a week since I wrote about the Gas Prices & the sky-rocketing gasoline prices continue to pinch more & more people across the globe (see the video embedded below). My current association with Retail Sector is helping me understand the role of petroleum products' pricing/taxation in the industry and believe me some wonderful companies try really hard everyday to make life of end consumers (me and you) comfortable. Here are few interesting things (I spotted that) few companies in petroleum business do:
  • Reverse Thinking (From a Customer's Viewpoint -I know thats what they teach you in school). But these folks actually visit gas station and compute the avg time a consumer takes to fill in a tank & they try improvising the same. It helps to serve customers in a quicker 'n' better way.
  • Instant Reporting of Business Metrics - In any business data forms the basis of analyzing how one is doing versus say last month or current month last year (YTD Comparison). But then hey, few folks also go a step further to predict the consumer spending & buying patterns in specific geographies based on a heuristic analysis (remember Correlation/Regression chapters from the High School Math book - its almost the same). This whole number prediction process becomes way too interesting when you increase data collection frequency (say collecting all gas stations sales data in ur area per hour), add plenty of variables (competition pricing, weather, breakdowns on roads etc) & ofcourse the omnipresent pressure from the mgmt to present the daya in a simple yet elegant fashion. (Will write more on this sometime - Yes, you guessed it right - I am working on a similar project right now ;))
  • Delving Deeper - The marriage of oil companies' expertise in drilling and the current state of art technology has resulted in tapping the seemingly unreachable deep-water oil reserves. This requires volumes of innovation, collaboration & persistence but then few guys are trying their best out there in deep sea just for you and me.
  • Evolve- Contrary to one's expectations - the oil companies seem to adapt to the changing market forces very quickly. And yes they are always on the lookout for any new ideas you might have.
Anyways, I just recalled a nice thought that I read sometime back "Words are words...Promises are promises..Action Matters!" So let me head back to my work right away. Meanwhile, here are some ideas & tips that will charge you up in case you feel scared amidst the shaking US economy. Thanks for sharing the same Pam.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Up, Up & Away...!

The hoopla around ever rising Gas & Oil prices has kept me on the toes since past few weeks. Looks like many of my acquaintences (including me) felt the price pinch pretty strong (God, almost all the mealtime discussions used to be centred around either Gas Prices or Microsoft-Yahoo Deal !!) - so few of us decided to demystify the phenomenon [Okay thats outright exxageration ;)] . We assigned ourselves a week and decided to get back with respective findings about the theory behind "Gas Pricing". The facts everyone came up were beyond impressive & I just can't wait more to share the consolidated findings. First some interesting Stats :
  • United States continues to be the largest consumer of gasoline(petrol) in the world, we guzzle almost 2.4 Gigalitres everyday [Source EIA]
  • Americans drive almost 3 trilion miles every year which works out to be around 800 trips from Sun to Pluto & back. [Source MEMA]
  • Contrary to the perception, the gas prices in US are quite low when compared to those in Internation Markets.
  • The variation of Gas prices across the globe is way too much. On one end of the spectrum there's Venezuela where Gas Price is a mere 12 cents a gallon (I can drive on and on and on ;)) then there's Sierra Sierra Leone where one has to shell out almost $18 per gallon (better use horses for commute)
  • The Hybrid Car sales are growing exponentially in US with California being the leading state which is a feel good factor indeed. [nearly 250k Hybrids were sold in US in 2007]
  • Govt of respective countries keep a very close watch on Gas Prices. Even a small hike in prices may result in cascading effect in Transportation costs, cost of almost any material good sold - thus the strong priciting control & vigil.

The Math

The Gas prices are certainly governed by the usual Supply-Demand Equation but there are a bunch of other factors that come to play a distinguished role when it comes to true pricing. I was surprised to observe the variables my friends came up with that can effect Gas prices:

  • Labor Cost (This directly effects refineries & thus the price)
  • Fluctuations in Stock Market & Weather
  • Natural Calamities (Remember how Katrina took oil prices for a toss)
  • Relationship between nations
  • Change in Taxation Policy (Obama & Hilary know this pretty well too :D)
  • Crude-Oil Inventories Rhythm
  • Maintenance or Over-hauling of a major Petroleum Refinery
  • Commute time of ships transporting crude oil from Petroleum producing nations to the others.
  • Competition amongst firms distributing Petroleum Products.
  • Seasonal Demand (During Summer Vacations the consumption grows by a huge amount which in turn shoots up Gas prices too)

When you pump say $35 into your SUVs / Cars, the money you paid gets dietributed to various entities across the Supply Chain. To give an idea, here's a rough breakup of who pockets the every dollar you spent on your vehicle's gasoline (considering US's national avg in 2007) :

* Crude Oil (OPEC) - 73 cents
* Federal & State Taxes - 11 cents
* Refining Costs & Profits - 10 cents
* Distribution & Marketing - 6 cents

That said - the revelation left us with even more points to ponder for the days to come:
  • Since our natural Gas Reserves are dwindling at an alarming rate, we (atleast few of us) should focus on how quickly we can develop technology to use alternative fuels (Hybrids are ok but what next?)
  • Gas is one (major) fraction of the spectrum of Petroleum Products - thus Energy Conservation on a daily basis seems a plausible solution - but then one has to adopt a tough stand on it or participate in initiatives on similar lines.
  • Try following some suggested techniques on the web for fueling our vehicles in a smarter manner. (Quick short-term fixes)
  • Use Public Transport or Car Pools where possible. (I read somewhere that socialising aka networking helps & you never know you might end up meeting your next date as well;))
  • Can we really think out of the box? Its been ages since we dwelled upon "Coal-to-Oil-to-Gasoline-to-Comfort" concept. Wind-Solar-Nuclear-Wave were looked upon but we never had a promising long-lasting solution.

But like they say, its better late than never, we decided that for now we would try inculcating "Energy Conservation" habit & hope for the best. Have a look at this article by Glenn Beck - hope you get Wowed too!

Happy Driving...!