New marketing demystified for Indian SMEs

When the private sector behaves like the government

For the last week, I am engaged in an activity which is plain draining.

We have an online CRM software; Saleswah CRM and we are about to launch another service (Leadzgenie lead management software) and we are scouting for a SMS vendor who will provide an API so that our software can send SMS alerts to registered users, fully opted-in from other fellow-registered users.

For example: a call comes in for you, the sales executive and the receptionist takes it. You are out of office. Or, even better, the receptionist gets a call which she does not know who to transfer to.

Our vision is that she should be able to log a call in our software- the name of the person calling and his contact details and some bare facts of what he needed and then the software should send the details on SMS to the most appropriate person.

Since we do not have the SMS gateways etc; we thought of integrating with a 3rd party. We started our search on the web and we were spoilt for choice. Really; SMS sending seems to be the preferred business choice for everyone today! And, many of them have pretty nice and sophisticated websites: chat, helpdesk etc. Even on those without chat agents, a query left on their websites were almost without fail returned within 10 minutes.

That’s when the fun really started.

Every company started with the premise that we are wanting to do SMS blasts to people. Even when we clearly explained, showed our workflow offered them the demo of our website and application, showed our privacy statement and terms of use, the “ice would not melt”.

They wanted us to fill up an application every company had a completely different version.  One site would not even send us a quote before we filled up the form and send it back to them. At least one party wanted us to sign a legal document on stamp paper which basically said that we would get 2 hours to respond to any complaint and failure to satisfactorily respond would mean that we would be required to pay Thousands of rupees in fine (starting with Rs 25,000/-).

This is mad! When pressed, everyone points to this TRAI website. But, what I am unable to understand is why is the information need vastly different with different vendor? (One guy wanted to know whether I am married or not. What am I supposed to say, what is the answer that will get me the license? Is being married the right answer? Or does the TRAI prefer bachelors?)

It is simple. All we are looking to do is that people who register with us are able to send SMS to a closed user group; based on their own business needs. For example, if your boss assigns some job to you, you should get a notification on SMS. Our software does not facilitate mass SMS; it does not enable sending even one SMS to your customers. So, what is the problem?

I can only assume it is fear. The backlash against the spam SMS has forced TRAI to react and enact stringent penalties; and all these vendors are now running scared.

I am happy the spammers are getting their just deserts. But, what gets my goat is the reliance even insistence on paperwork, forms whose need is not spelt out. I have trawled through the TRAI website; in vain, looking for clues about what kind of guarantee they are seeking. Having failed, I can only assume that everyone is doing his own thing and trying to pass on the buck.

Oh, yes. You are going to love this one. A vendor even wanted me to get every user who registers on the website to sign a paper document indemnifying us and him and fax him a copy. Failing which, “His consent can be taken online, but, make sure we are sent complete details of every mobile number registered on your site”. A ha! So that he can start spamming them, presumably and blame it on us?

Wonders never cease. It’s a wonder we manage to get any work done at all.


My dear Mr Akhilesh Yadav

I am a small entrepreneur who decided to locate his software development centre in NOIDA. And, a year into this decision, and with your government having come in with a massive mandate, I am thinking of moving back to Delhi.

Sir, like many of my ilk, NOIDA is my workplace; but all my office colleagues happen to stay here as well. For the last many days, ever since the onset of summer, I have not had more than 3-4 hours of power in a day in our office.

I did not bargain for this. I am having to pay thousands of Rupees per month in running a DG set, in addition to paying for electricity which we do not get. My colleagues come to work every day bleary eyed from lack of sleep- how can you expect them to work when there is no power at their homes even at night?

Sir, we are ambitious, we are driven and we are hungry. We want to make world class software product sitting in NOIDA. All we need is stable electricity supply.

Please help.

The evergreen vistas of Social CRM

Why I am still not convinced…

The last few months have seen a flurry of actions on the Social CRM front. We have seen large splashes made by largely good looking apps. Here’s what I think the best (e. g. Nimble ) of them bring to the table:

1. A clean, really clean user interface- and a UI and navigation to match. Now that’s something to strive for!
2. Bar none- they are all cloud/ SAAS offerings and what more- they all offer integration with other apps. While the cynic will say, they have no option but to offer integration with other apps seeing that this is the only way they can offer capabilities they themselves do not have, we tend to believe otherwise. We think there is a place for specialists as well as generalists and if someone comes in solves just a small problem, really well- he/ she will still have something of value to offer.

And, the fact that they are all on the cloud and gaining rapid traction, tells you two things:
– cloud is the way to go; for consumers as well as vendors. It is past discussion.
– cloud is not just about faster and easier deployment of code; it is about learning from customer feedback and community and improving.

So, why did I start on this quibbling note?

The basic question still is- how are you measurably monetizing your social interactions? Can you?
1. Can you monetize?
2. Can you measure? With any degree of granularity?
Of course, you are welcome to turn around and say, you don’t care about measuring or even monetizing.

And, the other question- more subtle, but important nevertheless, is:

Having the tools to engage your contact base in conversations on one single platform is great. Here’s the problem though:
1. Who will ensure consistency of communication and messaging? Who will train the sales guys on staying “on message”?
2. Who will create this content that we now have the channel to share- across different channels? Make no mistake- the same message will need to be re-worded – for being sent on Facebook vs sent on email vs sent on Twitter. And, who will be trained and savvy enough to manage the conversations and more, lead the conversation to sales?
3. One broadcast post on  FB and Twitter –> 10 conversations and what if more than one person from your company is in the loop? Who drives consistency?

I remain a skeptic.

Visiting the IITF2011- first impressions

I visited the IITF after many years: eight to be precise and I thought of listing my thoughts and impressions of IITF2011, especially what has changed in the interim.

Who is this trade-fair IITF 2011 for?

We walked through hall after hall, moved from one stall to another and my overwhelming impressions were:

1. The IITF 2011 is no longer aimed at the business visitor- not overtly like it used to be when I used to participate.

In those times we used to look forward in dread to the general public days- where you would be shouting at the top of your voice to make yourself hard- and yet not make any sense. Your “target audience” would be muscled out by aunties and uncles, with babies in arms in many cases. Read more…

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