Month: December 2019

Nature in the City – Book review

Nature in the City

It’s not often that one comes across a non-fictional book that defies easy categorisation. Harini Nagendra’s ‘Nature in the City: Bengaluru in the Past, Present and Future‘ is one such book.

Yes, as the title suggests, the book is about Nature. But, unlike most books about Nature that look at Nature in a natural, untouched by human activities setting, this book is about how Nature is adopted within a highly urban area. Yes, there are quite a few books about trees in cities, but this is possibly one of the first attempts to analyse Nature as a whole within an urban setting.

As you start reading it, you realise that the book goes much beyond Nature. It looks at such varied topics as history, geography, religion, culture and entertainment within an urban setting, all keeping the context of Nature in mind.

The book draws primarily on the author’s extensive research in this space. Professor Nagendra is Professor of Sustainability at Azim Premji University, Bangalore and has authored multiple papers and books on this topic.

There is always the worry with books on such topics that it could drift into a drab, scientific exercise. It is to the author’s credit that this book avoids that trap and manages to retain a very human, familiar feel. The way the extensive material has been broken down into chapters also makes for an easy reading.

I would love to see similar books for other Indian cities as well.


2019 Consumer Insights – Google

light smartphone macbook mockup
Photo by Caio Resende on

As I have mentioned a couple of times already, it’s that time of the year when literally anyone and everyone is busy preparing and sharing their lists of insights and trends.

I came across Google’s view recently. And I found it distinctly underwhelming.

It’s very surprising to hear Google say that this is the year (2019) when ‘consumer journeys became increasingly complex‘. As someone who has been in the field of Digital Marketing for over 15 years now, this is something that was obvious to me for at least the last five years. The seeds for this were sown, I would say, in 2007, when Apple launched the iPhone and the smartphone revolution took off. Consumers no longer had fixed times (and places) when they accessed the Internet and could do it whenever and wherever they fancied.

The second insight is that ‘New Media Channels are Emerging‘. Really, this is big news in December 2019? I looked at the various research conducted by Google and discovered that most of these date from 2018. The only pieces of research that are later than January 2019 relate to YouTube – a channel that has been around for more than 14 years now – and Voice Search. Now I agree that Voice is going to be the next big thing. It might have been more accurate if Google had said that ‘Voice is Emerging as the Next Big Media Channel‘.

Moving on – the next insight is about ‘satisfying immediacy‘. Yes, this did have more recent research, but I distinctly remembered a similar insight that Google had shared last year. So I did a Google Search (:-)) for 2018 trends and voila! Read on for ‘The most interesting 2018 consumer insights you should carry into 2019‘.

Having said that, I do find it interesting that users are being more location conscious in their online searching and browsing behaviour. This is definitely something that brands should look at leveraging, wherever possible.

The next insight is that ‘Traditional industries are transforming with digital‘. Again, most of the research that supports this insight date to 2018. And given that ‘Digital Transformation‘ has been a buzzword for at least a couple of years now, is this truly insightful?

The final insight is ‘Standards are being raised in privacy and digital wellbeing‘. And this is the one that I think Google got right. Users are increasingly becoming aware of their digital footprint and digital addiction. As their October 2019 survey revealed, ‘1 in 3 Americans have taken steps to improve their digital wellbeing in the past year, and more than 80% of them said this had a positive impact on their overall sense of wellbeing.

It does look like Google has put together a largely rehashed set of insights to capitalise on this ‘End of Year’ season for insights. I would give them a rating of 2/5 for this effort, very disappointing for a leading digital business with the depth of resources that they have.

How Much (or how little) Do We Really Know?

Globe and Ocean
Photo by Kenneth Carpina on

I know the title might sound very grandiose, but the idea of this article came about due to one of those interesting occurrences that happen occasionally and surprise and fascinate you. In this case, it was two fascinating visualisations that I came across yesterday.

I wrote about the first one yesterday. It’s a visualisation about the vastness of space and how infinitesimally small we are in the grand scheme of things.

Just a couple of hours after I wrote about this, I came across another visualisation. This one described the weird and almost unbelievable world that, some would say, we know less about than even space. These are the oceans that make up 70% of our planet and the amazing animals that live in its depths.

I did not know that Sperm whales could dive up to a kilometre below the surface of the ocean, or that there is a species of shark that spend their day at a depth of over 1.5 kilometres below the surface. Elephant seals can dive up to an incredible 2,400 metres below sea level. But the record holder is the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale that can dive up to a scarcely believable depth of 3 kilometres!

But that’s not the only fascinating trivia that you can find in this incredible visualisation. Around 6 kilometres below the surface of the ocean is where the Hadal Zone starts. And it’s humbling to read that more people have been to the moon than the Hadal Zone!

These two visualisations just made me realise how little we, as humans, know of the world immediately beyond the surface of our planet. It will be fascinating to learn more about these vast spaces as and when we gather more information. There is still so much to study and understand!


Monday Reads – 09/12

advent architecture blur business
Photo by Torsten Dettlaff on

It’s getting close to the Festive Season in many parts of the world, and this week’s articles reflect the varied characteristics of this time of the year.

When Does the New Decade Begin? – I received a promotional email the other day talking about an ‘End of Decade’ Sale and my initial view was, hang on guys, you have got this wrong. The new decade doesn’t begin until January 1, 2021. But then I thought to research this up. And this article might (or might not) clarify it for you!

2020 Trends at the intersection of culture and commerce – Irrespective of whether it’s the end of a decade or not, we are definitely at the end of another year. And this is the time of lists and predictions. Here’s an interesting one I came across recently.

Under the Influence of Impulse – This is also the time of the year for Shopping, for many. I have, over the past couple of years, been consciously trying to reduce my commercialism. I won’t go so far as to say that I have embraced a truly minimalist lifestyle, but the views of minimalism do resonate with me. This is a thought-provoking article on Impulse buying.

If the Moon were only 1 Pixel – Ok, so there is no easy way to connect this article to this week’s theme of End of Year, but I just had to share this fascinating visualisation. I only managed to get as far as Saturn, how far did you reach?



Jans Vermeer

The-Geographer-C.-1668 - Jans Vermeer
The-Geographer-C.-1668 – Jans Vermeer

I have written briefly about how I got interested in Western Art in my previous post. While opportunities to view masterpieces of Western Art are rare in India, thanks to the Internet, it is not difficult to maintain an interest.

Recently, while visiting a house in Bangalore, I saw a print of a painting hanging on the kitchen wall. I had not seen this specific painting before, but something told me that this looks like a Vermeer painting. Thanks to smartphones and mobile Internet, a quick Search revealed that I was right. The print was of a painting by Jans Vermeer called ‘The Milkmaid‘.

I must admit that I was pleased at being able to recognise the artist. I had come across an article on Vermeer previously and am familiar with possibly his most famous work – ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring‘. I guess I must have seen this painting while reading about him, or maybe something about the style of the painting led me to the deduction. I do not know but I realised that I knew very little about this artist, so I started reading up a bit more about him.

Jans (or Johannes) Vermeer was a Dutch artist of the 17th Century. I guess it might be fair to say that when one thinks of Dutch artists, it is names like Rembrandt or Van Gogh that are more likely to come to mind. Indeed, while Vermeer did enjoy a modicum of success during his lifetime, he slipped into obscurity soon after his death. Part of the reason for this is that he did not have a large portfolio of work (only about 35 paintings are attributed to him).

This was the case till around the middle of the 19th Century when his work was ‘rediscovered’, nearly 200 years after he passed away. Since then, his reputation has grown to the extent that he is now considered as one of the masters of Dutch painting, indeed Western Art.