Month: December 2019

An Ode to the Humble Udupi cafe

Udupi standing restaurant
A typical ‘Sagar’ restaurant

Though Bangalore is where I have spent the most of my adult life (across two stints), I have made no secret of the fact that I am yet to warm to the city in the same way as my home city of Mumbai. And one of the key factors in that is food.

I do not think anyone will argue that, between Bangalore and Mumbai, when it comes to food, Mumbai is streets ahead. And when it comes to street food, it is almost unfair to make any comparison – Mumbai’s exceptional street food at very reasonable prices is one of the best in the world, in my humble opinion. As one travel guide put it, Mumbai’s street food culture is more varied than many entire European / Western cuisines!

However, if there is one area where Bangalore manages to beat Mumbai, it’s to do with South Indian snacks. And specifically, the culture of ‘standing joints‘ which go by the generic names of ‘Darshinis’ or ‘Sagars’. Also called ‘Udupi‘ cafes, these typically serve hot  vegetarian South Indian snacks usually cooked in full view of the customer and served with a range of delicious chutneys and sambar at pocket friendly rates – it is the closest that Bangalore gets to Mumbai street food. Add on the exceptional South Indian filter coffee which typically costs only Rs. 10, and you have a clear winner!

South Indian filter coffee
South Indian filter coffee

And like Mumbai street food, everyone, rich or poor, businessman or working class, can be seen standing and eating next to each other. The open nature of these cafe / restaurants with no glass frontage or door also makes for a very welcoming and comfortable space for segments of people who might otherwise think twice of eating out alone.

Almost every locality in Bangalore will have one of these. For a long time, it felt like the only exception was the area where I live. We had all the varied shops and restaurants you would expect in a typical middle / upper-middle income locality, except for one major gap – an Udupi restaurant. Thankfully, the gap was filled a few months. Maybe catering to the locality, this specific outlet does not have any ‘standing only’ tables. But in almost all other aspects, it sticks to the standard template. And, as was to be expected, the place has been buzzing almost from the first day.


Digital Marketing is not just Social Media

macbook laptop smartphone apple
Photo by Startup Stock Photos on

A couple of things prompted me to write this article. One was an article I came across on LinkedIn on this topic. The other was a commend made by one of the participants in the Digital Marketing course that I take at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), Bangalore.

There is a tendency nowadays to equate Digital Marketing with Social Media. Sure, a lot of users spend a fair bit of time on Social Media. And there could be products and services where it makes a lot of sense to spend a majority of your marketing efforts on Social. But this might not be the case for many brands who might end up missing the forest for the trees by focusing too much attention and effort on Social Media.

The field of Digital Marketing is over two decades old and I have been fortunate to have been associated with this field for over 19 years now. During my professional career, I have been closely involved with multiple facets of digital marketing including website marketing, digital analytics, email marketing, banner advertising, search advertising, community engagement (the precursor to social media), search engine optimisation (SEO), app marketing and of course, social media.

A typical business would need many (if not all) of the above channels to be in play to drive a successful digital marketing programme. A good framework that can be used to understand these channels is the Paid, Owned, Earned Media (POE) framework.

Paid Owned Earned Media Framework

When I advise clients on Digital Marketing, the first step is typically to understand and define explicitly the Customer Value Proposition. This exercise, with the help of analytics and insights, usually forms the bedrock of the marketing strategy. It helps create a good understanding of the brand’s target market, the problem statements of their potential customers and the messaging strategy that can most effectively communicate how the brand can satisfy their needs.

Once this is in place, I usually advise my clients to be start on their Owned Media channels. These are assets that the brand owns and directly controls and is, in my opinion, the most important part of the media strategy. There is very little point in launching a Paid Media campaign unless your owned assets are not completely primed to communicate and deliver the value proposition and user experience that the customer expects.

A brand’s social media channels are also part of the Owned Media bucket. So, once the website is in a good shape, the focus can shift to the Content and social media channel strategy. At this stage, it is important to understand the specific role of social media (and other channels) within the target customer’s research and decision making process. This should dictate the choice of channel and content strategy.

The attention can then shift to the Earned media bucket. Assuming that a brand now has a good Owned media strategy, they should expect to have some engagement with their customers. This could be in the form of reviews, social media mentions and, of course, email / sms marketing. The brand should be in a position to engage with their customers on these channels in a timely and effective manner.

Finally, Paid Media. It is very tempting, especially if a brand has money to spend, to immediately launch Paid Media campaigns. In my experience, this can be highly sub-optimal unless the other two buckets are functioning effectively. Brands can fall into the trap of jumping to the conclusion that it is Paid Media that is not working efficiently when results do not go their way, without acknowledging or accepting that the fault might well be that they lack a strong Owned (and Earned) Media strategy, or indeed that they might be lacking a strong customer value proposition.

In conclusion, if you are looking for ways to ramp up your digital marketing, take the time to think through exactly what you are trying to achieve, have an integrated strategy across all channels and be prepared to continuously learn and make adjustments on the basis of actual performance data.


What’s your (Digital) Creative Strategy?

laptop technology ipad tablet
Photo by Pixabay on

Display advertising is a very difficult channel (strategy) to get right. There are a set of challenges that it faces (ad blockers, ad blindness, viewability, etc.). Even if your audience do get a chance to see the ad, it is very difficult to attribute the impact of seeing the ad on your business goals. Yes, we have View Through Impression tracking, but that frankly tells nothing.

Having said that, there are benefits as well. It allows a brand to reach users at the right place and context and can have a role to play in specific product categories (high lead times, multiple visits, high value).

Once you have decided that you want to run a display advertising campaign, there are a few elements you need to think carefully about – your audience targeting strategy, pricing / bidding strategy, measurement strategy and, very importantly, your creative strategy.

Simply putting up an attractive banner is not going to cut it anymore. The message has to be relevant to the user and communicating something of value. And this is where I felt that the below creative failed.

Display Banner

Yes, it was contextual, as I was served this banner on a travel related site. But I was left confused by what the banner was trying to communicate. To begin with, notice the price of the first flight. Rs. 45,000 for Delhi to Dharamshala? No, thanks! It looks like the banner has been dynamically created. If yes, then the advertiser should have put a rule in place to not display flights over a certain price.

Then notice the destinations mentioned – Chennai, Madurai, Bangalore, Jammu, Dehradun, Delhi, Dharamshala. In this day and age of data, the least an advertiser can do is to personalise their message as much as possible. In this instance, the advertiser could have leveraged IP to show me flights to and from my destination.

Finally, there is no mention of any reason as to why I should click on the banner. I do not wish to ‘Learn more’ about flights from random point A to random point B. There was another banner from the same advertiser elsewhere on the page with the message ‘Your flight is a click away’. Dear advertiser, I am seeing your banner on a website in late 2019, yes, I do know that I can book flights through clicking! This space could have been better utilised by talking about what makes you unique or different, or some other statement to drive more immediate action.

I would love to know how this campaign performed, but my sense is that they will struggle to see any meaningful impact.

Please contact me if you would like any help with your Digital Marketing.

Monday Reads – 16/12

Four-leaf clover
Photo by Djalma Paiva Armelin on

The less acknowledged role of Luck in being successful, what the AI community should reflect more on and how to conquer work paralysis like Ernest Hemmingway make up this week’s set of articles.

Third Base – The significant role that Luck plays in defining a person’s success has been discussed by a few people. This is Prof. Scott Galloway’s take on this, drawing from his personal experience. What I found thought-provoking, almost chilling, is this statement – “Altruistic behavior decreases in times of greater income inequality”.

The AI community needs to take responsibility for its technology and its actions – Eminent personalities including Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates have sounded a note of caution when it comes to the development and application of Artificial Intelligence. This is cognitive psychologist, Celeste Kidd’s view on this important topic. Interesting line and which we are seeing increasingly these days – “there’s not really a distinction between knowledge and beliefs”.

How to conquer work paralysis like Ernest Hemingway – I am sure most of us would know the feeling – there is some work that needs to be completed, but it’s not very exciting, so we keep procrastinating till it cannot be put off any longer. It seems that the author, Ernest Hemmingway, had ‘invented’ a technique back in the 1930s, to beat procrastination and boost productivity. Do try it out the next time you are working on a longish project!


State Birds of India

I recently came across an infographic about ‘State Birds of India’ on a Nature Group that I am part of. I am sure we all know that the Peacock is the National Bird of India, but did you know that each state of India (and most Union Territories) also have their own ‘State’ bird?

Not just Bird, each of them also has their own State Animal, Tree and Flower. The ENVIS site of Forest Research Institute has a helpful page on these –

Here are some (hopefully interesting!) observations of the various State Birds:

Indian Roller Bandhavgarh

The Indian Roller is the most common State Bird across India with 3 states – Karnataka, Telengana and Odisha – having this beautiful bird as their State Bird.


The state in the extreme South West of the country – Kerala – shares its State Bird with the state in the extreme North East of the country – Arunachal Pradesh. This is the Great Hornbill. And this reflects the commonality of habitat at these two extremes of the country, separated by over 3,000 kilometres of vastly different ecological habitats in between.

Indian sporting birds (1915) (14563975598)

The intriguingly named Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant is the State Bird of the North Eastern states of Manipur and Mizoram. The Hill Myna, an excellent mimic – is shared by Chattisgarh and Meghalaya.

Two of our more common birds – Asian Koel and House Sparrow – are shared by Jharkhand and Puducherry and Bihar and Delhi respectively.

Sarus cranes (Grus antigone)

Among more iconic species, the Sarus Crane is the State Bird of Uttar Pradesh, while the Great Indian Bustard is the State Bird of Rajasthan. An interesting anecdote relating to the Great Indian Bustard – apparently the only reason the Peacock was chosen as India’s National Bird was due to the unfortunate similarity of the Bustard’s name with another word in the Indian language… Which is a shame, because being India’s National Bird could greatly have improved the chances of this – India’s largest and one of the world’s heaviest flying – birds survival in the wild.

Great Indian Bustard from DNP


All Images have been sourced from Wikimedia Commons. Here are the attributions: