Big Luxurious Green Lies

Posted in Pulpit, Roadtrip, TOOBs by Harsha on November 28, 2007

Andrea Barnett of Travel And Leisure writes on CNN about the hospitality industry’s Eco lies.

I saw some of what she writes (like being “asked to recycle towels and use a key card that controls your room’s lights and climate” on my recent road trip).

But here is something I wrote about what Auden Schendler now says, in a recent BusinessWeek article.

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Dealing With The Jerk At Work

Posted in Big Thought, Pulpit, TOOBs by Harsha on November 27, 2007

Mary Lorenz of has an article on CNN about jerks in the office. You know what I say about this, right?

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Perform or Perish

Posted in Big Thought, TOOBs by Harsha on October 31, 2007

I love Business Week.


Has life ever been about black and white or has it always been about being gray? If everything was measured as a winner-take-all game, then the majority of us are sore losers. I am sure you don’t think of yourself as a loser, especially since you’re reading this blog! ๐Ÿ™‚


The world of private equity, one that I absolutely do not reside in, is both enigmatic and so mortal at the same time. I know the math that these high level managers blaze through is truly mind-boggling yet fallible. If you talked to any one of them in a casual conversation, you’d be stumped at their knowledge and expertise of financial deals.


Yet even a kid knows that if you stick your hand, even in a tiny flame, that you’re going to burn the @#$ out of your skin. And yet, these private equity honchos crack the whip just like they’ve done in the past years during the downturns and upturns. They do the same things over and over again.


I was somewhat disappointed by the article. It sounded like the author was almost impressed by the motions of this machine – investor cracks whip, overpaid CEO yells at managers, uses complex jargon, work becomes hell for employees, layoffs, company stripped, CEO moves on to next target.


There has been a lot of action in the “let’s take these companies private” to avoid regulatory and public scrutiny either because some of these investors felt that they can truly incorporate change or to just make a quick million here and there in the bargain. Either route seems to emit the same characteristic symptoms of the greed of money. It doesn’t emit anything even remotely related to good business ideas or strategy. Oh no, that one is for the classroom where you’re taught these things but shame on you if you stepped out there and tried to execute on them. And how easy or successful were you when you were nice, motivated with ideas and full of inspiration? Controversy seems to win eyeballs and I am telling you that from personal experience. I could not get a single comment out of any of my readers but when I was “harsh” with my comments on Whizspark, their CEO stepped out to write an entire article (even praising me!). So controversial actions that are in-your-face garner more eyeballs and interest than reasonable, regular actions (Nassim Taleb’s idea of silence of evidence).


One of the companies discussed is Aleris. Revenue doubled to $3.2B but operating income was cut into almost 1/2 thanks to overloaded debt payments. Two days after S&P warned about a possible downgrade in on it’s debt, the CEO shuttered a plant in TN that belonged to one of it’s acquisitions Wabash Alloys. The goal of the owner of this firm, TPG, is to keep the momentum going in order to strip what’s left of the company, of it’s cash and assets. So the books on brand building, customer service and organizational development were just thrown out of the window, neatly replaced by an Excel spread sheet with an IRR formula.


I’m not saying that Aleris was well managed before the purchase by TPG. Maybe it did not have a chance of even having it’s assets sold at good value. That is not the point. The point is that this article breaks up the world into “performers” and “perishers”. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. You can be a performer at one time and a perisher at another. The thin line that separates the two is luck. I don’t think we either perform or we perish. We could even perform and perish based on variables that we have no control over.


So while the article is really well written (again, I love BW), I am disappointed that it focused one one aspect of the problem with no commentary on its appropriateness or validity. True, the aim of the article is something other than what I would have hoped it would be, but I don’t think it is valuable to me as a reader. I already know that private equity canines are trained to be watchdogs and not pets. I already know that CEOs like the ones chronicled in the article engage in the same-old-same-old. Tell me something new.


The article on Business Week – Perform or Perish.


Posted in TOOBs by Harsha on April 14, 2007

Rajesh writes:

"However, the bigger problem is that whoever sent me is now thinking that he did some work. Out of every thousand emails that he has sent, he will get one or two responses. Rather than questioning the overall strategy, the person will now start thinking about "conversion rates" and "writing better copy".  And, the fantasy trip will continue."

He is referring to an email he received from a company attempting to explore a strategic alliance with him for off-shoring IT development work. You can read that email here.

Rather than rethink mass-mailing as a business development strategy, especially for a strategic alliance type of partnership, this person probably found it easier to blast stuff out and "market" his "brand". Whatta-bunch of crap!

If your target audience is a B2B buyer, how better will he like you or your company by merely looking at such an email? Is this how you’d build a relationship with people? What, you’d yell in a crowded noisy room "Hello, my name is …." to try and introduce yourself?

Brand building is like a workout – consistency and focus are paramount. So what if one or two leads respond to such an email? Yeah, you’d probably strike up a deal or two but that sort of spray-and-pray model works for moving merchandise, not relationships.

It is *really* hard to build any relationship. So instead of spamming a person like Rajesh, who is always ready to listen to a meaningful pitch and turning him/her into a non-listener, if you had approached him directly or indirectly in another way, you’d have gained a genuine business contact.

– Harsha Raghavan


Posted in TOOBs by Harsha on April 13, 2007

I did not realize there is so much mania surrounding Chipotle!

During TG 2006, I was down in Virginia and had lunch out there and was blown away by the store concept, quantity, cleanliness and speed of service. At the end of the day, they’re yet another mexican joint, but with a difference. They’re so unlike a Taco Bell or any other chain you can think up.

Cimg1497thumbnail Meet Greg of Chipotle Log. Here is a rabid fan of the restaurant and he writes extensively on his blog about this joint. How much does he love these guys? And oh, he is not endorsed by the restaurant nor do they own his idea. I read about them on John’s blog and he linked to an article that appeared in BusinessWeek about Chipotle on 3/12/2007. Apparently, people who love their food actively promote them and the restaurant supports this form of viral marketing. They stay away from ads since we’re all already inundated by them. My experience with them in VA left an impression.

171020466_ffc8e99858_o I just found out that there is one near Boston, so you know what I did the following weekend, right? (picture taken from here)

I think ‘bucks had this going for them back in the day. They had a good clean store, great coffee and quick service. Chipotle has stuck to it (with a line of Margaritas, baby!) and in Subway style, they dish up the perfect burrito that you want made by them. NEAT CONCEPT! Now if only they added a burrito maker, margarita glasses and mix, do you think they’d still be popular??

Check out (brilliantly funky website! I’m so hungry now!)

– Harsha Raghavan


Posted in TOOBs by Harsha on April 10, 2007

I don’t know how genealogy websites make $, unless they’re subscription based. I read about Geni and on a whim signed up last night. By the end of the night, 200 people were on my tree spanning 5+ generations.

But it looks like a one-time thing. It was great last night for me, but unless more people are compelled to add relatives, traffic will nose-dive and then probably taper off (by the time of this post, a day has passed and traffic = zero).

Really, there is no compelling reason to go back regularly to your genealogy tree and look at it. Sure, it is for posterity and kids may make the trip forced by parents (assuming they’re so into it). But invites to relatives pretty much came from just my wife and her cousin. The cousin is highly-motivated and happened to have a lot of information about much older generations (from 1600s) stored someplace, just waiting for Geni to come along.

Show me the money!!

In terms of monetizing this idea, it sucks because of the 200 people that signed up, only one person can be charged at the most (tree creator) for the monthly subscription (you can neither throw freaking ads at me nor expect to divvy up the payment with relatives across the globe!!!!). So right there, by definition, you can count off the people paying, on one hand.

Genealogy of services….

But wait. It’s not all just about skepticism; two sides of a coin, remember?

It seems to me that if Geni becomes the epicenter of a personal family network, then there is money to be made in ancillary services. So Geni can partner with WhizSpark (or Evite) to organize family gatherings (including tickets and hotel bookings right from the website); automatically create an ‘storybook’ of my family tree for each relationship; use a service like Cardvio to send birthday or wedding cards and offer relationship books for parents with kids – i.e. make it easier for regrouping with your favorite relatives through one single service provider. And Geni itself will be the loss-leader.

The Geni interface is very cool, but unless you’re Apple, you can’t afford to ride that wave! If Geni had read this post of mine, it is clear that their only limitation is cash to burn. Geni in a bottle, anyone?

– Harsha Raghavan

Robert Scoble

Posted in TOOBs by Harsha on April 1, 2007

"No one really knows the right idea until after itโ€™s been discovered, implemented, and customers chime in."

I thought about this again and realized that this is what experimentation is all about. Does one really know if a web-to-print greeting cards business will work? Or would an events e-marketing gig become the next big thing in events management?

What the BOS authors say is that if you asked someone, "Do you need an online tool that will help remodel your home?", do they really know if they need such a thing? If you were to ask all the folks who are remodeling their homes this question, do you think all will answer either yes or no? So to clarify, I think that is what the authors meant when they said that consumers know nothing about what they want in a product or service.

This is not what the BOS authors say; they feel that consumers know little to nothing about what they want and it is up to strategists and marketers to discover what that is and deliver the goods. I don’t think they meant it in terms of features that a widget needs to have but in terms of the orchestration of all the things that go into its making and delivery.

– Harsha Raghavan

Such a SLOB!

Posted in TOOBs by Harsha on August 8, 2006

The honor of being a SLOB is all mine!



Posted in TOOBs by Harsha on August 2, 2006

At first I drafted a comment to Mike Sansone’s post – wonderful article, BTW. But it soon fleshed out as a post keeping the conversation alive – exactly what tools like blogs and emails do well.

Not being a real-time conversation does not devalue blogs (emails are not real-time too). Comments or TrackBacks are ways in which the discussion goes on. Newsletters and email blurbs are passe. Having a blog either instead of or part of the company website lets a potential (or existing) client spend more time looking at your material than other distractions. They’re people like you and me subconsiously seeking an ROII for their time.

Think of it this way. The ability, interactivity and longevity in conversing on a topic increases as the medium becomes more interactive. So the value chain looks thus (excluding face-to-face):

Radio < TV < Website < Podcast < Phone < Email < Blog < Whatever-is-next

(fit the other tools you can think of, into this chain and then pick what works best for your specific need)

We’ve gone from single to multi-way media and it drives conversations and growth. Example: my employer grew from less than $0.5M in revenue in Year 1 to $10M+ in Year 3 just through phone, email and of course in-person sales. We’re just getting our feet wet in blogging so I’ll report back in the coming months about how it provided value in keeping the conversation alive.


Posted in TOOBs by Harsha on August 2, 2006

It is funny that Tom posted on newsletters and cob-webs. Just yesterday at work, we talked about creating a quarterly to be circulated to clients. We had also been talking about blogs (for weeks!) and now will go Pro at Typepad.

Newsletters are passe; part of the push culture without no place in the future; would you listen to what xyz did, either on paper or PDF in 2020?

The Web has added that element of dynamicity to our ideas. Static sites (and I don’t mean non-Flash), newletters, email blurbs are extensions of the boring old push strategy. For the moment, blogs are invaluable as they facilitate transfer, conflict and discussion. I wonder what’s next?

Knowledge is not created or shared in a mute world.