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Friday, April 23, 2010

Kozmo gets social with social media

We recently arranged yet another phone interview with an early adopter of social media for business. Mr. Arif Hafiz is the founder of Kozmo, 'the legendary Bengali culture renaissance institution that arrived on the Dhaka outing/nightlife scene in 2005...a cafe chain that pioneered the lounging culture in the city with live gigs, recitation, readings and off course cosmopolitan cuisine!' as the way it puts it on its Facebook page. A couple of issues became clearer from the conversation with Mr. Arif Hafiz which could be summarised as below.

Communication cost

Social media has dramatically decreased the cost of communication for Kozmo to reach out to its customers - existing and new. Your marketing mix can allow a combination of communication channels such as TV, print, radio etc. but its increasingly getting more appealing that the cost for conveying your marketing messages is the cheapest if done through social media. Companies as big as Coca Cola recently included social media in their ad plans for the Super Bowl. Moreover, communication can be very interactive and personalised which is otherwise not possible in traditional communications channels.


It perhaps made more sense for Kozmo to opt for Facebook as its main mode of communication platform because the kind of business it is in, it attracts a crowd predominantly urban, young to middle age and who are techno-savvy. Kozmo is a place for dining out, enjoying gigs and most importantly for socialising. So a strong social media presence to engage its visitors is a natural component in its marketing strategy. Imagine companies like RahimAfrooz, the energy sector pioneer company of Bangladesh. Should companies such as them also jump into the social media bandwagon just because Mr. Arif Hafiz of Kozmo uses it and is seeing returns? May be not. The role of social media may become a bit murky when it comes to purely business to business industries who can be better off by sticking to their websites and extranets. However companies which are more consumer facing and allows consumer interaction within its premises (restaurants, retail shops, banks, mobile customer service centers etc.) are good candidates for extending their service through the social media channels.


Its clear that Kozmo's social media activities are solely dependent on the founder himself. Its possible that its more because of his natural love for his entity which he founded which makes him the natural spokesperson for his brand through Facebook. What would happen if Kozmo grows so large in all divisional headquarters of Bangladesh in 10 years? Will the business complexity allow Mr. Arif to continue his conversations through social media? Or he will need to appoint someone to carry on the conversation while he can focus on money matters? Its extremely important to atleast to attempt to define some roles and resources within the organisation as to who or which group would take care of the social media communications. It could be a cross-department, it even can be someone external to the company who has turned out to be an accidental spokesperson (like a good brand ambassador) by virtue of his/her love and loyalty towards the brand.


Fans and followers of Kozmo on Facebook need to enjoy the exclusivity they might receive for opting in this channel over any other. Say if Kozmo promotes daily discount codes to its 'fans'by posting a note like this, 'rush to Kozmo today and write this discount code ILOVEKOZMO24APR at the reception to have 50% discount on everything you eat! Spread the word. The offer is for its Facebook fans and their friends and their friends only, so spread the word and hurry, as this offer ends today!'. This has the potential to create some sort of urgency to loyal Kozmo goers to redeem the short-lived discount. It also has the potential to make the 'fans' feel special as the discount was offered to them only and was not published in a newspaper or aired on TV, radio.

Relocation of marketing efforts

It will be an increasing trend in coming years that consumers will spend more time on social media on a daily basis than they would be reading newspapers, sit in front of TV or be glued to radio stations. As internet will start permeating consumer's daily lives, a lot social interaction, entertainment, education, news breaks, even social commerce and group buying will take place in a social media setting. It doesn't imply that your business should abandon established means of consumer communications, it just implies that your business should start taking social media as the best way to get social with your customers, pretty much the way Kozmo has done it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

We want a National HR Policy for White Collars

In our country there is a primitive Labor Law for blue collar employees. There are specific law for Government Employees. But There is no specific Law for While Collar Employees of the Private Sector in BANGLADESH. There are some private organizations who are heard to have Employee Service Rule or Employee Hand Book, but actually, these are rarely found in hand. Kazir Goru Ketabe Thake.The Private Sector has a BIG proportion of workforce who are educated, in most cases, having a Masters, suffer from different problems during their employment life, for example:

  1. Forced Resignation
  2. No platform for submitting a complain in that case
  3. Business owners' whimsical way of paying Bonus and Incentive (If at all)
  4. No Leave or Different type and Numbers of Leave for Different Organizations
  5. No Provident Fund or Gratuity or Insurance in most cases
  6. No Regularity and standard policy in promotion and salary increment
  7. etc etc and many more as You know
For standardizing the industry, we strongly believe these HR issues are burning issues of the day. The Government should immediately take some action ....


Monday, April 12, 2010

Renting our bums and mobile phones to GrameenPhone

Okay, so I am up to my neck with a certain annoyance, and I'd like to ask a question. I once heard or probably read somewhere that "any space is advertising space". Okay good. So my bum is a space, and TATA Nano can put a label there, and create exactly the same brand promise that their product exhibits.

Quoting Wikipedia, "Advertising is a form of communication intended to persuade an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to take some action." Other websites, dictionaries etc, cite the similar definition. Advertising executives may have more creative definitions, but they all will circle around the above. Going back to the space issue, my bum is a space, and so is my mobile phone. I understand that. I also understand that I own both of them. One was a birth right, the other I paid for. But, nonetheless, they are BOTH mine.

Now if TATA Nano were to place a sticker on my bum as advertisement, I would politely say no. Ofcourse, if I were a retard, I would charge them a rent. Its still a legal and a better deal than giving free advertisement space. The same policy works for all space owners (billboards, rooftops, office windows, shop windows, toilet seats...). A rent must be paid. But I have control over my bum and can say no. But what about my mobile phone? I own it, I paid for it, I keep it safe, and I take care of it. It is space, but it is mine. So when Grameenphone sends me a barrel of text messages (even at 5am) on my mobile phone, encouraging me to download wallpaper, ringtones, porn, lottery tickets, espn sports updates, real estate updates, and in summary, avail products of other companies, I consider them as advertising on my space.

If they are using my space to advertise, Where's My Rent??

--Tauseef Anwar

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pees of doing business in Bangladesh

McCarthy must have become a household name for students of business management. The management guru who looked to marketing management through the lenses of 4Ps (Product, Place, Price, Promotion) has given us enough insight to formulate our marketing strategies for our businesses. Lately more Ps have been added to this alphabet soup for management as the triple bottom line (abbreviated as "TBL" or "3BL", and also known as "people, planet, profit" or "the three pillars") which captures an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational (and societal) success: economic, ecological and social. I wonder if the time has arrived to consider more Ps when it comes to doing business in Bangladesh or not. I voiced these Ps, tailormade for Bangladesh, to Farooq Sobhan Sir, President of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) during his recent visit to London to encourage non-resident Bangladeshis to invest in Bangladesh. I hoped that Farooq Sobhan Sir would take these into account before he also becomes Sir Farooq Sobhan or something like that thanks to Knight Ridership by Her Majesty the Queen. Essentially the Ps to take into account for doing business in Bangladesh are Politics, Power, Population and Pollution over which we as individual citizens or consumers, have little control. Interestingly you will notice that the related terminologies also somehow start with a P to indicate the Present scenario.

So doing business in Bangladesh certainly needs to take into account the much celebrated and much condemned issue of Politics. Ruling and opposition parties and the vested interest of politicians in various business sectors play a crucial role in determining the success of your business. There is perhaps no harm in treating the Bangladeshi politicians as a special type of your business customers, who are ever consuming, the more they consume, the more they want to consume. They love speed money as incentives and hold tremendous power to shut down your businesses showing or not showing silly causes anytime they want.

Try having some current ruling members of parliament or local political leaders in your management board to sail through the tenure as its very unlikely that they will reappear in power next time round, so plan your business cycles on a 5 year basis and prepare to rename your busines if required every 5 years to keep ruling politicians happy.

Power cuts:
As the Bangladeshi politicians burp on having accummulated a lot of power to make sure that their generations are well off for the next century studying or living in the West, power cuts- disruption in the supply of regular electricity, gas and water have turned out to be a veritable nightmare for businesses and general population alike in Bangladesh. Even the so called elite and upper class of Bangladesh (especially living in the golden triangle of Dhaka - Gulshan, Baridhara, Banani) are fuming because of the unprecedented power crisis in Bangladesh and their lack of power in turning on their air conditioners, IPS or generators. Let's not talk about the Poor as its a mundane topic and populace which everyone talks about to appear genuinely concerned. The businesses have been surely hit hard and are exasperating how to get out of this power starvation. This is not only adding to the operational costs of doing business but also contributing to falling productivity of workers who are faced with yet another challenge in another day of business life in Bangladesh.

If there is enough electricity available, try thinking of ways how your business can save power. Don't just stop there, announce it and inform your consumers that you are being an active corporate citizen by 'helping in every way possible' to preserve the energy and work 'hand in hand with the government' to make sure that 'optimum use of energy' is taking place during this crisis moment. The sentences in quote are certainly mere eye-washes which looks good on your corporate CV, given the current situation, so use them carefully. Remember its a real crisis out there which is not funny anymore.

The more you associate yourself with environment friendly business projects, the more you can talk about it. Climate change is a hot and spicy curry item served in Western meetings of delegates and heads of states. Measuring your 'carbon footprint' in the context of Bangladesh would certainly make your business look informed and concerned about the cause. So along with distributing branded blankets to urban poor in rail stations, focus more on planting trees, recycling, biogas or anything that is related with reducing pollution and has a close link with your core competence. Practice it and promote it.

This is a tricky one. Its very unlikely that Bangladeshi companies can do much in the matter of controlling a teeming population in Bangladesh. There are too many people everywhere and atleast one person available to do any of your work, starting from driving your car, washing your clothes, cleaning your house, watering your garden, cooking your food to massaging your legs.

Businesses need to take into account training this huge pool of labour. Its easy to ask for experience in job adverts but if there is not enough scope to get jobs in the first place, experience would remain a unicorn fantasy. So businesses can think of opening the door for voluntary job placements, even unpaid or minimally paid for semi-skilled population. Prioritising employees with only 2 children or those who belong to a 2 sibling family are also future foods for thought for Bangladeshi employers (Go China go!). Since businesses can't control what happens in bedrooms, atleast they can control things in the interview boardrooms with respect to encouraging to keep population in check.

So please take into account these extra 4 Ps of doing business in Bangladesh. These have become genuine Problems and are affecting ordinary Public. The P category policitians are Painfully Procrastinating the Prosperity of Bangladesh and only Patriotism will not be Powerful enough to undergo this man-made crisis. There is no alternative to Planning, Practicing and thus reaching to some sort of a Peaceful situation for doing business in Bangladesh. I guess I have mentioned enough Ps in this Para to make a nice diagram out of it incorporating the external environment, goals, stakeholders etc. Can you think of any other Peeful terms or activities which will Progress these issues in the context of Bangladeshi businesses? If yes, then please release your Pees without further ado.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Business blogging in Bangladesh - three years on

As this blog enters three years into existence with a view to promote the use of business blogging by Bangladeshi companies, I made a few quick phone surveys to a few contacts working in various industries there to find out how they are perceiving business blogging to start the conversation with Bangladeshi consumers. Following is a summary of the present state of unofficial views from a few Bangladeshi executives.

Lack of knowledge
Many Bangladeshi companies, infact most of them, seem to be unaware about the use of business blogging as a marketing tool or social media as a matter of fact, to engage with their customers. The general impression is that since the companies have websites up and running so that should suffice as far as online brand management is concerned. Moreover, the companies are confident that the existing business functions such as customer services, market research, media etc. are good enough to 'engage' customers through various surveys, ATL and BTL activities. Moreover, since there are dedicated personnel to liaise with the press and media, they are not interested to anything which is untried and uncommon in Bangladeshi business landscape.

Difference between business journalism and business blogging
Those who are aware of corporate or business blogging are still not sure whether business journalism and business blogging are the same thing and who exactly does what. They expressed satisfaction that they are getting required hotspots in TV, radio and print media to convey their brand communications to their existing and potential clients, moreover business journalists are already 'doing a good job' by regularly publishing updates and news on various aspects of their businesses, so there is no need to confuse the situation by experimenting with business blogging.

Issues of transparency and lack of rules
The 3rd category of Bangladeshi businesses have adequate knowledge of various game-changing technologies such as blogs and social media but they are unsure about protocols, regulations in their companies about how much of business information can they divulge in public space. Most are fearful of backlashes from within the company. For example, an engineer from Robi voiced his embarassment with the new brand name, is aware of the recent conversations in online space but not sure whether or not someone from Robi should engage in the conversation in the same social networks with people or not. Moreover, according to him, the management is simply not interested to pay attention to unofficial forms of communications customers try to have with the companies. Its not a priority.

Lack of defined roles and resources
Since brands attempt to share control with customers in the social media space, Bangladeshi companies can't fully stop customers from setting up fan pages and groups for the brand, either to sing praise or do brand bashing. Groups in Facebook for Aktel (Robi), BRAC Bank, GrameenPhone etc. exist but what is not clear is whether these are official representations of the brands or not. It could be the artworks of a loyal employee who thought to make a mark on behalf of his/her employer in the social media space by setting up pages for free and attempting to start conversations with consumers. But unless there are no official roles assigned, its difficult to ascertain who the official spokesperson is. Most of the time, brands discover accidental spokespersons in social media who prove to be efficient mouthpieces for the company, Bangladeshi companies are yet to wake up to this reality. So the companies would prefer to keep blogging and social media 'to a personal level and for fun only'.

A formal media survey by market research companies would be useful to provide more concrete views on this topic. Feel free to share your views and the views of your businesses on this.