Saturday, 26 October 2013

Consumerism is not about consumers. It’s about consuming

The more we consume, the better our lives will be can be awarded as the most misleading notion of this world. Upto 70% off on Ego, Clearance Sale at Zubaida’s, Buy 2 Jeans and get 1 free from Levi’s and much much much more is ready to grab your attention while just passing by the road, a commercial area or a shopping mall.

Karachi, specifically, is the place where being Shopaholic is like winning a big game. Though the idea of consuming more is not communicated to us in a way as the crow flies but the bombardment of advertisements through different mediums leads us to this trail.

Many products have used consumerism as a marketing technique to lift up consumption of the product and elevate their profits. For instance, toothpaste ads are claiming that brushing twice a day every day is necessary but in actual, brushing while going to bed is needed and the person can have a mouth wash or so in the morning just to freshen up. But today, 90% of the world is not aware of this fact.

Why consuming more is negative? Rather, it can be beneficial for the economy. Turning the coin, global warming, destruction of forests, elevating standards of life for a common man, evaporating water resources, shortage of marine life, rapid rate of population growth, obesity and hunger are the problems in this world that are encouraged by consumerism.

Although, ethical shopping is also in practice in many developed countries and consumers too are concerned with the idea but they are still not ready to shop less for the sake of mother earth. Only not consuming a polythene bag or buying items that are not tested on animals is not sufficient.

Surely, the more we consume the more energy will be used and the world will move towards destruction. "Consumerism is now a lethal disease", says Jonathan Porritt. The need of the time is to change the culture..................... the culture of consuming more and more. Let our culture overpower on advertising industry and not the advertising industry to shape our culture.

Consume Less .......... Save the Planet !!!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Upbeat in a crunchy munchy planet....

Walking through a general store lets you have a glimpse of a bundle of crisps stack inside glass counters. Apart from the fact that they cost no more than a quarter of a hundred, they hold almost 80% of the space on the shelves. Why is it so?

Gone are the days when it was considered that 'girls' are fond of spicy snacks. Now, even age doesn't restrict you to have some crisp packet in your hand. What do people get from these snacks? Joy or satisfaction or is it just a matter of habit? Or maybe just to prevent sanction from the group that surrounds you? Whatever it is, Pakistanis are addicted to these snacks now.

Noticeable is a fact that not a single barrier is faced while entering into a snack industry in Pakistan. People here welcome every new kid on the block. Though it is reasonable to say that Pakistani market is widening her arms for new businesses that in-turn benefits our economy, but there are some other concerns too.

Most of the snacks, especially potato chips, are fatty and are not good for health, but they are consumed on a larger scale. Rising issues like diabetes, blood pressure, obesity, heart diseases and so forth are not in the pink of a condition in our country. Unfortunately, health related needs are not met appropriately and people are not ready to quit having these snacks like cigarette, chaalia and gutka. Surely, it negatively impacts on their health.

Children, adults and oldies...everyone is fond of these snacks. But, there can also be some smart choices to minimize their adverse consequences. Have some baked healthy crisps like Cheers!! Have a smart life!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

You are more beautiful than you think!

“Oh no, a pimple again … right on my nose” I was worried in front of the mirror. When I told my friend about that, she responded someway like “C'mon, you are worrying for a pimple alone. See me; my eyes are too small naturally. I don't know how to give them a prominent look for today's party”.

These kinds of conversations are a part of our daily life. Every woman is found complaining, in some way or other, about her beauty. I don't know why visual aspect has always been a ‘topmost’ priority of feminine class. I never met a woman who is completely satisfied with her face cuts, complexion, hair texture, and so forth.

A goofy point is that every woman is impressed by her neighbor's bulgy eyes, her colleague's oval face and her sister's flawless skin. Like me, as I replied to my friend, “Your eyes are just perfect. You are taking it into your head for no reason”.

Dove, well known for its beauty platform and their round-the-way viewpoint on the topic, has picked the latent point and released a video. They produce a pair of sketches for a few women, one of them based on the woman's own explanation of herself and the other one was described by other people.

“I should be more grateful of my natural beauty” said a participant. They explained their faces as fat rounded one, big jaw, more freckles, big forehead. However, fellow participants praised them being fair in color, having a nice thin chin, nice eyes, cute nose, chic blue eyes and likewise.

Every woman is beautiful, indeed. We should now stop making faces each day in front of the mirror and accept as we are. 'What you do' is more significant than 'How you look’. Isn't it???

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Crazy local BUS rides……… I am enjoying :)

EeewwWWw…… came out of my mouth suddenly when a woman stepped on my foot. She did not even understand why I was turning red. Well, I was in a local bus of Karachi. It’s not like that I was travelling in a bus for the first time. But, yes it gone a few years experiencing it.

At last, I got a seat that was somewhat suitable too. Still, 30 minutes more were required to reach my stop. Surprisingly, that half an hour was a little optimistic for me. I started to think the local buses as a ‘blessing’………. Do not raise your eyebrow……….yes, I said a B-L-E-S-S-I-N-G!!

With nearly 40 percent of the society recognized as a middle class, it would be a real blessing for Pakistanis to travel miles and miles against Rs. 20 only. Isn’t it? I found people sharing their stories and real-life problems to the strangers during their go. I wonder how many colors of people are living in a city. All with different mind sets, different languages, different attitudes, different accents, different attire and different backgrounds. No office or university will show you that much diversity than a few minutes travelling in a bus.

What I learned the most of all the encounters with buses is ‘patience’. Your mother will teach you to offer your seat to an older woman or to a lady with baby in her hand or even to a girl who is not feeling so well, but she will never tell you how to behave when you see a child with a running nose standing close to you or a maid who is sweating a lot after a whole day earning bread for her children or a kid who has started to vomit unexpectedly. It all happens! Here is the time to apply all the religious and moral lectures that you have been listening throughout your life.

Every time I get off from a bus, I find myself far more grateful to God than before. I have decided to travel more often in local buses, not only to get through new experiences but also to burn my calories. HaHaHa…. Yeah 30 minutes in a bus works equal to 30 minutes wrapping a sauna belt :D….. and with no side effects;) Am I right?

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Load Up Your Wallets…..utilize spare hours!!!

Do you know your time is precious? If you do, then why not using it in a productive way. Due to elevating inflation and rising needs, we need to concentrate on other sources of income now less nine-to-five job.

You must be scared how to manage ‘another’ job in this hectic life. Well, solution is simple; manage time! I know you must be very busy whole day at your home too, but if you start arranging tasks to be done, you can save even hours to invest and get extra income. 

My foremost suggestion would be to flow your nip. A pen can say that a word cannot!!! If it fills up your pocket then what else could be taken as more delicious treat. Freelance writers are in great demand these days. What you need to focus is whether you are a ‘writer’ or not. If yes; go ahead else move forward.

‘Paid volunteers required’; this caption roll over your eyes while searching for job and you’re not paying attention. Am I right? This is so akin to waste of opportunity (Calculate opportunity loss just like in economics). Negotiate about hours or required dimensions of duties, and then you will feel it’s actually trouble-free to run. Hooray!!

Lifestyle enhancement is a bracket that covers a long range of businesses. You can set up many of them with a passion to excel. Masses are always in search of fresh sources to get latest designs, be it clothes, shoes, bags and wallets, women accessories, or household decorations etc. Initiating it on a smaller scale can be a smart idea. It can be photography too. When you start getting response; propel it.

Few of my aunts are engaged in preparing tempting baked items at home for orders and sending them out against a reasonable recompense. Your cooking and baking skills can now bring you bucks to spend on your wished items. Pull out a chef out of you and enjoy earnings.

The list is not restricted to the aforesaid. There can be a lot more based on your interest, skills and passion. What is in need is to prick the balloon and dote on surprises.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Indenting Co. & you.........

‘Indenting House’ – the expression might be unfamiliar to some of us but it’s pleasant to know that it is one of the most profitable and growing businesses in Pakistan. Like many other administrative and technical services, import of required items to produce or pack a product are also out-sourced to save time and curtail risk.

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we all are different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.

          ~    Tony Robbins

Alluring pair between communication and responsibility rises up as an endearing couple, which is the soul of any indenting house. And when it is about connecting with rich cultured countries, it gives birth to adorable offspring. The differences are its splendor; to own MUST BE its passion.

The milieu in indenting houses is somewhat casual yet the formality of work is unhurt. At an indenting company where I am just employed, you’ll not only make your own tea (with flexible timings too) but you’ll also wash your tea cup and spoon by yourself. At first, it was a little weird to me but then I realized that it has multiple favors in itself. You keep mobilized a little during work, no ‘peon’ concept and especially no complaints regarding the cup wash etc. It expunges the intent in people who are always in search of a point to disgrace lower level employees. (It happens in actual) Good job admin!

Somewhat monotonous job responsibilities are lessening the charm for employees like me :(.  This is what I am missing here, my creativity!!! I hope I will catch it in any form here. Broadening the scope of core business and maintaining endured relationship with customers can overlay a longer path for the company, my mind boogied down :D. Sending out newsletters, occasional greetings, arranging lunches / dinners, giving feedback and so on, can succor to make the most valuable tunnels to run through.

anticipating for an improved sketch of tasks, I am going to make a cup of tea. Cheers!


Friday, 1 March 2013

'Genres' of Interviewers – sharing experiences

Whenever we receive a call for job interview, we get a little excited and when it’s for the first time in your life then you may end up in juggling with hope, concerns and dreaming. We all are accustomed to do a modest research about the company, its portfolio, job description, salary negotiations and so on before arriving at an interview. In Pakistan, usually we do not get any information prior to the interview that who will be the 'interviewer'.

Every time the situation ignites me; since it remains veiled who will I encounter now, how he/she will judge me for the job, what questions I am going to face and even how will I answer. I take it all as somewhat audacious. It can also serve as a blueprint to remain confident and get over some defficile stages of your interviews. You too need to weigh up the company you are going to serve on the basis of the interview. Though, it was actually conducted to assess you. After all, interviewers are also human beings. *****Sticky note for today J*****

My first interviewer was an urbane gentleman who encouraged me on my skills. ‘I possibly will do something awe-inspiring in my career’, I truly felt at that time, notwithstanding the fact that I was a fresh business graduate. Excellence be to the interviewer who is willing to spill optimism into the society. Unfortunately, I couldn't join that company due to some unavoidable factors but I was positive enough to keep my job search rolling. A good day to recall!

Soon after that, my interview was scheduled in one of the Big Four accounting firms.  I was waiting in high spirits. At last, interview began. Ah! I was disappointed after only a couple of minutes. Their body language, face expressions, voice tone everything was only to express that you are N-O-T-H-I-N-G and we are GIANT. I feel sorry for them as they do not even know the basic rules of HR and Management. Human beings cannot be ‘calculated as numbers’, my poor advice for all firms with this attitude.

My headmost step towards a software house was very productive where I was able to point out where am I lacking and how can I cover it up. Interviewer was a young nice lady. I faltered that day but the good thing was that she taught me how to reply to a particular question (of course in an indirect way). Although I was not qualified for the job, but I still feel good about the company. I will register that experience as the most learning one.

You may come across some other colors of the stripes. Nothing to worry about, just capture this short span of interview as a precious point to learn what is not taught in classrooms. And yes, do not forget to show your gratitude to those interviewers who make you learn something and inject energy in you for further interviews.

"Every time you meet a situation you think at the time it is an impossibility and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it, you find that forever after you are freer than you were before."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Don’t drink Coke. It’s killing you and your family – says Coca Cola

Coca Cola got the web hot up by releasing a video affirming that it makes you obese. It is not somewhat that is ‘just out’ for the globe as it is a well-known phenomenon that use of sugary beverages can eventually jeopardize our weight concerns. Neither a thought to communicate its negative points by a brand itself is a revolutionary one to the world of advertising. Call up to your mind the warnings written on every box of cigarette, “Smoking kills”, “Cigarette cause lung cancer”, “Tobacco smoke can harm your children”, “Smoking is injurious to health” etc. Many of them print gruesome pictures on their pack too. Still, it’s hard to pick out ones who were addicted to smoking and then quit because of these warning labels conveyed by cigarette makers.

Aged 125 years, Coca Cola beverages are now a permanent part of many of our lives. Coke is privileged with a wide loyal customer base. It has always positioned itself on the platform of happiness. However, saying “If you choose to live a healthy lifestyle then you should not be drinking any of our products” seems sprinkling more pepper to the company image. My mother always says that never forbid a child strictly to do something, it will create more urge to do the restricted. Have you ever observed so?

“Overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for global deaths”, says WHO. Having an excess amount of fat in your body increases the risks of diabetes, cholesterol, heart diseases and even cancer. Over the past decade, U.S. and UK are ranking high among countries with larger sphere of obese citizens. Sniffing the aroma of the issue, Coca Cola has introduced many no or low-calorie drinks too.

Though Coca Cola has made an attempt to appear as a caring and a socially responsible element but its portfolio of 16 billion dollars brands can keep the balance of the boat. Eventually, demand of Coke brands with no or low calories will begin to rise as consumers are hardcore users of these beverages and it will not be easier for anybody to quit drinking Coke. Although changing the face of the products is far more challenging, what is to be seen now is how Coke will address the cloud it has created around itself.

Some health conscious lads and lasses may get worried about the calories they have consumed on the name of “Happy calories”. Someone in their nightmare may sound like this “If you drink Coke, you will get fatter and fatter” Hah!

Well now, a layman may ask; why aren’t they going to wipe out their products from markets that is contributing a major health issue in the world i.e. obesity? Do they have that much courage to prove their honesty? Or it was just another marketing trick to unfold new chapters? Whatever it is, now the ball is in your court. Will you drink Coke now?

Monday, 11 February 2013

Accessibility - Plugging Wheelchairs to your Website

In an endeavor to create a site unique, might make it “inaccessible” to a large audience. Alas! Most of the websites in Pakistan are not designed in accordance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), leaving out a large bracket that is impenetrable for web access.

Just imagine, your boss is staring at your screen and you have to guess warped CAPTCHAS to proceed. It can be a horrible story for me as I am so pitiable in guessing CAPTCHAS. I usually get closer to the screen to understand these coiled and curved letters or take help from my fellows. I wonder how they can serve to ensure that a “human being” is generating the response (BTW, I am cent percent sure that I belong to a family of species who are Human SapiensJ). At last, one day I was given an assignment to do some research and send a comprehensive report on “Web Accessibility”. Phew!!!

“Thank God, I am not an alien!” I whispered after reviewing the statistics. In US, 20% of the citizens (equates to about 54 million) are facing trouble, in one way or other, to understand the website content. It is a common phenomenon and it can be found associated with the people around you, even in yourself (just consider my example). Remember, only four kinds of disabilities are associated with web access; visual, hearing, motor and cognitive. Unfortunately, I did not find much authentic statistics for Pakistan but one thing is for sure, if your website is not playing nice with the above mentioned impairments, you might get losing a big chunk of users.

A big question mark may follow what are the tricks to use then. However, the good news is that Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are available on W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) website to keep in consideration while developing and designing a website. WCAG 2.0 is based on 4 basic principles known as POUR; Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust. Widening the arms surrounds more people around you, which will surely help you in not only reducing bounce rate to your website but also making it more accessible for search engines too. All this may sound like a long way to cover up, but in reality it is not. Keeping in view some basic and simple ways can list you among websites with accessibility.

Check contrasts between your background and foreground, add a symbol and not relying solely on colors, stay responsive to screen-reader software, use captioned or transcribed videos, support simple keyboard access, avoid too many complex options on a single page with no hierarchy, avoid movements that can be distracting, availability of changing the text size, speech enabled website are few of the most simple techniques to grab more market.

Are you ready to afford losing a fraction of your web traffic? Avoid the complexities and enable your website accessible to your every potential customer. You must be intended now to melt the whole ball of wax. There is no single rationale behind not opting for Web Accessibility.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Pasung in Indonesia

Enchanted with its unique structure of Islands, magnetized for tourists with sailing events, traditional festivals and cultural heritage, Indonesia has become a high spot for the globe. Turning the coin, human rights activists are more concerned with a severe issue prevailing in Indonesia which is restraints or confinements for the people with mental disorders, affecting nation’s beauty depressingly.

“Pasung”, a confinement for mentally ill, is awfully common in Indonesia. Being a developing country, a large chunk of less privileged families do not find a better way than chaining mentally ill people or hemming them in somewhere for an unknown time span. Another issue identified was that it’s also sometimes considered as a punishment from Almighty due to lack of education and awareness. Statistics on Pasung are astonishing, 11 percent of the whole country, making it one of the most serious health issues to be considered critically.

Unwanted behavior towards these deviants leads to increase mental illness that could be cured far more easily with a positive attitude. So many cases are reported every month in Indonesia where people with mental disability are kept far away from homes putting in their ankles in iron shackles or wooden stocks, locked in cages, huts or boxes or are immobilized for many years. According to mental health workers, this discrimination actually worsening the mental order of patients, reported in two surveys for Health Education Authority (HEA). These practices contribute to a great stigma in society for the people with mental illness.

Here a question arises, why families practice restraints for their beloved ones with mental disorders? Major reasons identified being chance of harm by the psychological patients to themselves and to others, un-affordability of treatment and deficiency of care and love. In actual, psychological patients are more vulnerable to the emotional reactions they receive from surroundings that include strange, mysterious and dangerous perceptions. Families communicated that cost need to incur on the treatment also includes cost of travel as medical centers providing psychiatric assistance are less being only 33 in number for whole nation.

Let us see now what Article 4 of Declaration of Human Rights and Mental Health states about the rights of mentally challenged people:

“The fundamental rights of persons, who are labeled, or diagnosed, treated or defined as mentally or emotionally ill or distressed, shall be the same as those of all other citizens. These include the right to coercion-free, dignified, humane and qualified treatment with access to medically, psychologically and socially indicated technology....”

Despite of the declarations and principles lay down by human rights organizations at global level, such stories come into light so religiously. Horrendous tales about abusive behavior towards these psychological patients, which is destroying mental well-being of patients too strongly, must be reported to human rights activists and international forums. It will help the country to deal with the gloomy state of affairs with more professionally sound individuals and foreign aid because a developing country is naturally unable to do so at an effective scale.

In a research, it was identified that main reason for increasing pasung in Indonesia must be referred to lack of governmental interest in this regard and must not put all of the burden on the shoulders of communities and their lack of entertaining psychiatric assistance. But we must not ignore the initiative taken by Indonesian government to eradicate pasung by 2014. This is the first observance ever from any developing country towards elimination of abuse with mentally ill patients. Though legislation and budgetary allocations are still questionable in this regard, still a hope arises for those who own soft hearts.

Started from collecting facts and statistics regarding pasung all over the country, Indonesian Director of Health Ministry Dr. Irmansyah took an initiative for “pasung free Indonesia”. They also focused on extensive campaigns to educate health workers and general public about pasung treatment. Role of mental health workers must be emphasized remarkably to increase understanding about downbeat consequences of pasung among masses. Unless proper training given to them, right facilities provided, and empowering a say in policies to abolish pasung, this issue cannot be scaled on a precise direction.

As human being has accessed most of the knowledge about human body and nature, anatomy and physiology indicates “partial insanity” since in most of the cases only a part of a brain is damaged and not the whole one. What is in need then is to reach to the working part of the brain that could help to repair the damaged one. This scenario surely encourages moral treatment of patients. Asylums with right environment are then needed to be developed rigorously in Indonesia to provide protection and fair treatment to the people with mental disorder.

We have had many examples in past where dreadful diseases that were considered as uncontrollable were managed to be controlled. Tuberculosis in India and Polio in Pakistan are dramatic examples from under-developed countries. Indonesia can also handle this health related severe issue by having a suitable strategic plan and proper implementation with potential task-force.

If we end up by saying that more hospitals treating mentally ill patients are required to eliminate pasung by 2014 in Indonesia, then an important curve is still left out. Are we going to create a new pasung for psychological patients with a label of hospital? Only a proper atmosphere in line with rights of mentally challenged people can bring some difference. We have an example of New York State where mental hospitals are replaced with prisons. It is not that strange, if you are going to leave the deviants in the middle of the treatment or releasing them without proper assistance with them then they may end up in filling out prisons. It is a delicate matter and necessitates to be handled with sound planning and strategies created in collaboration with affected families, psychologists, governmental bodies, health workers and human rights associations.

Whatever the strategy adopted, incarceration cannot be a solution to help mental illness. Pasung or confinements for mentally ill people are a source of biggest shame for the country. It may be gripped by uplifting know-how of the matter in consideration, training health workers and enhanced governmental support in form of subsidies in hospitals and development of asylums with appropriate environment. Magnificence of Indonesia will then be retained and appreciated more wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Celebrity Endorsements – panacea for all barricades?

 Advertisers are constantly in hunt of a striking point to hit consumers. In this quest, celebrity endorsement is not a novel idea. I can still remember TVC of Naz Pan Masala as the oldest Pakistani brand which was endorsed by Arifa Siddiqui (no doubt with a powerful recallable jingle too). Notably, last few years have seen a glut of celebrity endorsements in advertisements. But I don’t understand why it is so? Have you ever thought to switch to Jazz just because it is endorsed by Atif Aslam? Don’t you think that Akshay Kumar’s recommendation for Supreme Tea is just because he is being paid? Can you deem that Hadiqa Kiyani is ‘actually’ using Pel Refrigerator at home?

Apparently, endorsement by a celebrity seems as an absorbing way to leverage your brand from competitors. But viewing keenly the advertising scenario of 2013, fresh ads do not relying more on famed faces to promote their product. Even if they do, some loopholes can be picked in their steps. Lux has been the most prominent out of all beauty soaps. It has positioned as “soap that filmstars use” and thus continuously approbated by top female celebrities. We can now clearly feel the fraction of ad focusing on Katrina Kaif rather than Lux itself. Introducing Shahrukh Khan and associating his personality with Lux was also somewhat questionable (at-least for me).

Felicitous choice of celebrity appropriate with a product and matching its characteristics too are some prerequisites to adopt this strategy. Do not give a chance to others to carp you. For instance, it is not justifying at all when Reema endorsed a Cooking Oil, Meezan Cooking Oil (endorsed by Amir Liaquat in Ramazan) showed dancing family just after Ramadan, Pakistani Mr. Bean using HBL services, Chef Shai telling us how to make ready-to-cook Knorr soups etc. On the other hand, a sound fit between the product and the celebrity can hook customers e.g. Kurkure and Nadia Khan, Qmobile (She) and Imaan Ali, Pepsi and famous cricketers etc.

Brand managers must be vigilant while using multiple celebrities in a TVC, hiring a face that can overshadow the brand, risks associated with negative publicity of celebrities etc. In addition, cost to acquire a celebrity is considerably high and thus ultimately increases the per unit price of your brand. Spurring some successful ad campaigns, I would appreciate some brands promoting values (Pampers UNICEF campaign, P&G Taleem), bringing into play animated characters (Dura Cell, Ding Dong Bubble, Safeguard), telling stories (Olper’s, Chocolate Chip Cookies), innovating humorous ideas (Halls, Ufone) etc.

If we study human psychology especially in face of marketing, we will come to know that consumers are more skewed to relate those ads with their lives that represent people similar to them. Unknown faces with well-delivered attributes of the brand may become more helpful in keeping the brand under a consideration set at purchasing point. After all, the main intention for a company is to sell the product rather than just keeping a space in audience minds through celebrity endorsements.

“Any brand can get a celebrity. That is easy. But getting a celebrity consistent with the right brand, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way... that is not easy.”