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The Journal of Information in Business

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Information Matters Volume 3 | Issue 1


Gourav Jaswal


Gulnar Joshi


Raghu Fasalkar

Monte Carlo, La Citadel Complex, Dona Paula, Goa, India 403 004 Telephone: (+91 - 832) 245 3230, 245 3328

03 Why Information Mat t e r s M o r e a n d M o r e The remarkably prescient sociologist Daniel Learner observed a few decades ago that the greatest power of communication was its ability to help us conceive of situations never physically experienced. This insight helps us appreciate how miraculous it for us to be so comfortable with cultures we’ve never lived in, only by being immersed in them through communication. In business we increasingly find that communication is the sole intermediary between the colleagues we recruit, the services we use, the suppliers we work with and the customers we serve. Our use of Information to amplify ourselves has grown at a dazzling speed, especially in the last ten years. But has our understanding kept pace? Information Matters is a contribution to understanding the Art, Science and Technology of Information in Business. I look forward to receiving your thoughts on this issue at

Gourav Jaswal Director




KOTAK Presents KILL BILL Kotak Mahindra Bank’s cost cutting campaign becomes a company-wide culture

STOCK of the TOWN Helping a littleknown stock broking company go big

20 A New Look For Gulnar New packaging, new labels and a new marketing strategy 25 Making a Virtue out of Kanjoosi Low-cost marketing videos

10 Finding a Common Ground CA, Tata Capital and Synapse showcase innovative examples of employee communication

28 Face of Change in South Africa Website for the presidential candidate of AParty 31 Just Like Being There Odyssey Travels sells travel experience through their website

01 72

34 First Step & Beyond Sharekhan targets first-time investors

Editorial Synapse Ambigram




When Less Means MORE

Would you rather have 5 customers or 50 leads per month?

46 A Corporation Speaks

Using creativity and imagination to engage customers 50

Viral Fever

62 BusinessWeb 2.0

What makes some virals tick 53 Promising a Secure Tomorrow Using education tools to sell financial planning 42 Sharekhan Thinks Local Lead generation campaign targetted at young professionals

57 Walk in for a Rich Experience Retail design for Share Shops

Software dashboards in business 65 Games with a Serious Role Flash Animation games with a business perspective

68 New Face for Zapakmail Redesigning the user interface






Kotak Mahindra Bank implements a unique cost cutting campaign that started small but has grown to become a culture of ‘no waste’ with employees taking the lead in contributing and implementing ideas


June 2008, Uday Kotak, the Managing Director of Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd., spoke of Kotak Group’s performance in FY07-08 at the annual post-results Analyst Meet. The theme of his speech was the seismic shift in the worldwide financial landscape and indicators that pointed to some worrisome signals. He hinted at being cautious in these times. Given the market conditions, this came as no surprise, however the speech put on record the seriousness of the matter. One team, in fact, had already taken the lead and started ‘economising’ on their own. Out of about 20,000 employees that constitute the various divisions of the Kotak Group, the International Team is one of the smallest. As early as April 2008, the Kotak International team based in Dubai began a series of initiatives targeted at cutting costs. Free VOIP services replaced long distance calls; office printers were calibrated to print in black & white and on both sides of a page by default. Some employees even chose to fly Economy. Noticing this trend, Paul Parambi, the Business Head of Kotak International, decided to set up a cost management unit within the team. And the division approached Synapse to create the requisite communication.

KILL BILL is Born Starting off with research on what other companies had done, we came up with a list of case studies on cost cutting. While most of them talked of measures taken, rather than effectiveness, we were able to gather that the most effective cost efficiency programs were those which ‘guided’ employees, rather than the ones which sent off a series of mandates. What we needed to create was a brand that was easy to connect with, something we could build a ‘cult’ around; one that would be inclusive of the employees; one that would be serious, but at the same time friendly. We zeroed in on a name—Kill Bill, after Tarantino’s film—that the audience was already familiar with and built a brand around it. We put it in context by adding the tag line ‘Think cost. Think twice’. The visual identity followed. The mnemonic of a bill being ripped in half strengthened the concept. At this point, something else happened. While our designs were being reviewed within Kotak International division, they caught the eye of the Group CFO, who decided to implement the program across the Group. Our target audience suddenly shot up to 20,000.



Communication Collateral It was early days and the first communication we sent out was a series of mailers announcing the program. Following that, we did a series of posters. To reinforce the theme of cost efficiency, these were printed in black and white. To drive the point home, we used actual expense figures from the previous financial year. The idea was to get the employees on the side of the management.

Announcement mailers and posters

At this point, the management hadn’t put any mandates in place. For two weeks, we simply let the idea sink in and let the employees get familiar with the program. One Monday morning, we sent out a mailer to employees asking them for ideas on cost cutting. The response was beyond anything we’d expected: 243 mails in 7 hours. Within Kotak Group, a special team was set up to evaluate the ideas. While this was in process, we kept up the tempo with a series of mailers, called Killer Thoughts. These were sent out at regular intervals and contained thought-provoking, but small bits of information. We also designed collateral that could be put up at various touch-points within the office. For example, employees reaching for the telephone were greeted by a ‘Can you send an email instead?’ card next to a telephone and the sticker next to the switchboard said ‘Turn on only the ones required’.

‘Killer Thoughts’ offered compelling bits of information at various touch-points within the office


Poster campaign printed in black-white on newsprint reinforced the theme



‘The campaign also found mention in the Press

An aggressive email campaign established the program

More collateral featuring ‘Killer Thoughts’


“The Kill Bill communication campaign has had an immense impact. Today, colleagues constantly examine what costs can be reduced, what costs can be done without and act on their ideas without waiting for sanctions from supervisors.” Karthi Kumar Marshan Head, Group Marketing, Kotak Mahindra Group

An internal newsletter called ‘The Final Cut’ tracks the ‘Kill Bill’ Project

KILL BILL becomes a Culture

Some Successful eDMs

Soon, ideas started getting implemented. Video-conferencing was set up at various offices to facilitate internal meetings and cut down travel expenses. A network of service apartments was leased to reduce accommodation costs. A travel desk was set up to centralise travel bookings and get better deals from carriers. Only then did the Group come out with the first mandate—one on air conditioner timings. It sank in without a complaint from the employees. We knew then that they were on our side. Moving on to the final stage of implementation, a newsletter was designed. ‘The Final Cut’ is a platform to record ideas, track progress of initiatives, share case studies, and keep employees updated on the latest in Kill Bill. Today, Kill Bill is well-entrenched in the Kotak culture with employees proactively pouring in ideas and taking the lead. - Sirish Nimmagadda, Anish Dasgupta, Shyam Bandekar, Kumar Chiplunkar




A little thought and a little imagination can add oodles of zing and impact to your internal communication messages. We feature examples that are interesting both in concept and presentation

Case Study 1: CA Connects


India is headquartered in Mumbai and has regional offices in Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru. The employees across different branch offices interact with each other regularly. In addition to this, to reach out to employees at multiple locations, CA conducts at least one activity that ‘actively’ engages employees every month.


Channeling Special Interests of Employees

The marketing team at CA is always on a look out for refreshing ways to kindle and capture the interest of people. They use events or news items that enjoy high popularity either due to currency of issues or due to a universality of interest to bring employees together. A much talked about sports event, a movie release, a music release, books, food—any of these become ‘conversation starters’ that help connect people within the organisation. Wimbledon? This Weekend’s F1 race? T20? All become occasions to liven up the office atmosphere and have the employees come together to solve trivia, discuss the players’ performances and have a good time. CA also looks within and identifies people who have interests and hobbies that reflect the interests of a larger set of people in their organisation and makes them a core part of the internal communication. INFORMATION MATTERS | VOLUME 3-ISSUE 1

Jose ka Dose: A weekly update on how good or bad was the last Friday’s release, by a movie buff

Celebrating Sports

Tech Pandit: Regular updates from the world of gizmos, mobiles – the geeky stuff! (Yet to be rolled out)

Cricket makes the world go round: This lunch party celebrates India’s T20 victory, with 20 dishes named after cricketers (e.g Sehwag ki Ma ki daal, Pulao Yusufi...)

Toto’s Palate: Restaurant darshan from a self-confessed foodie


Calling all wordsmiths: September was the month to test language skills

A popular event like Wimbledon has its own trivia seekers. A simple series of quizzes with a sporty prize for the winner gets people talking and interested



Addressing Common Concerns

Case Study 2: Tata Capital’s Home Blend CupShup is a mascot designed by Synapse for Tata Capital. This mascot was initially designed as an ice-breaker for employees and is now used extensively in management and employee communication channels. Today, CupShup is an essential part of various internal communication platforms—eDMs, newsletters, Thank You notes, etc—to provide a consistent look and right level of informality to all communication pieces.

How am I Feeling Today...


Dabba Gul: For an entire month, the office feeds on a gourmet spread at lunch. This program is currently in its second year

- Maneesha Singh, Raghu Fasalkar, Meghana Dubashi

This Pop-up, stuck on the workstation is an effective mood indicator. Turn the green hand to mark your mood for the day


How to Conduct Yourself

Let’s Keep in Touch

CupShup also became the theme of an internal e-newsletter

Thanks for your Help

Etiquette eDMs tell the employees what to take care of when attending a meeting or sending emails


Want to thank someone in office? Stick these Appreciation slips on the softboard

Part of an eDM that explains the Tata Code of Conduct

- Maneesha Singh, Meghana Dubashi, Raghu Fasalkar INFORMATION MATTERS


Case Study 3: SYNAPSE: Creative Touch to Celebrations Monte Carlo is the home of Synapse and a few other entrepreneurial companies set up by the same promoters. Each company (DotAhead, Dygnos, Visual Juju, Money Mentor and Junoon Ventures) works independently led by its own business head. However, some resources are shared—the office building, the meeting room, the wide landscaped open area around the office and the corporate management team. The Corporate Management team centrally handles functions like client servicing, HR (recruiting, induction, etc) and also conducts activities to bring together people of different teams. Though small in size, the Corporate Management team has two designers who provide a creative touch to all the internal communication that goes out to employees.

When a new recruit joins, the Corporate Management team sends out a mailer (carrying brief profile of the person) fashioned on the poster of movie ‘The Recruit’

Internal Communication Examples

Sports Day is an annual event. This mailer for the latest one, highlights the ‘jalebi eating’ contest Staff birthdays are an excuse to get together over a piece of cake

Christmas Party invite


100 percent attendance is recognised by a ‘100 Club’ card and invitation to an exclusive treat


On Fridays the entire office meets for the weekly quiz. This mailer reminds everyone about the time and the place

Customised Announcement Mailers/Gifts

‘100 months in the organisation’ eDM

When Umesh Chavan, one of the oldest employees of Synapse, completed 100 months at office, the Corporate Management team crafted an innovative gift which centers on Umesh’s after office avatar of a fashion designer. This gift has 100 spools of threads over a wooden frame

April 1 is when Synapse turns a year older. One project group thanked our director, Gourav Jaswal, for the breakfast buffet at The Goa Marriott when we turned 8


Inductee lunch is a tradition at Synapse. New recruits in groups of five or six plan a meal for the entire office. Their interaction in the kitchen serves as an ‘icebreaker’. Each team plans menus, sends out invitations, and then cooks up a meal!





How we helped a little-known, big stock broking company from the heartland make inroads into the minds of India


Capital teed-off 18 years ago with merchant banking and soon gained a strong foothold in stock broking on its home turf, Indore. Propelled by native entrepreneurial wisdom, it has grown to become a company with a Rs 1,200 crore turnover (as large, if not bigger than, the big broking stalwarts) with 200 outlets that employ over 400 people. Yet, other than those who invested through them, few knew of them. Which is where Synapse came in.

The Golden Five


Arihant wanted us to help manage their growth transition (people & processes) and chalk out a marketing and communication strategy with the following objectives: 1. 100% year on year revenue growth 2. Double the number of investment centers and, therefore, its customer base 3. Employ 800 people by 2010 4. Offer services as branded products. 5. Be ‘known’ and ‘seen’ as an investment advisor not just a ‘broker’

Taking Stock Our background research included studying Arihant’s network, its networth, strengths and weaknesses. We interviewed people who already ‘knew of’ Arihant (mainly its employees and clients) for our brand perception study. Our research threw up some interesting findings: The brand had a strong presence in central and western India. Their service levels were perceived as being competent, personal, efficient, reliable and uncompromising in transparency and integrity.

Unravelling Arihant’s DNA helped us understand the core attributes of the brand


Our Recommendations I: MARKETING 1. Considering the modest budget at hand, communicate using direct low cost, unconventional media (DMs, Wall Paintings, etc) and Branch Meets 2. Test the recommendations in key growth market— Gujarat 3. Segment the target audience as per their stage in the investing cycle and offer products accordingly: a. Beginners: Investor education tools and seminars b. Traders: Swift, sophisticated execution platform with timely research products c. Investors: Customised portfolio management services and research products d. Wealth accumulators: Comprehensive wealth planning and management 4. Strengthen online presence with a ‘pull strategy’ on the website through SEM lead generation; convert offline traders online (80% of their customers trade offline) 5. Use the website as a communication tool to showcase products and to service clients better 6. Design a software ‘dashboard’ to improve information access allowing employees to manage volumes/targets, etc and enabling them to pass on this information easily to customers as well. 7. Provide better service delivery by standardising sales and recruitment processes via pitch flipcharts, process flow charts and via a dedicated call-center for CRM

So we picked three aspects of Arihant most relevant to its prospects. 1. Its rock-solid integrity 2. Its market understanding and knowledge 3. Its understanding of the customer’s needs 1. With you in good times and bad: We used the first aspect to develop a corporate campaign using the insight that most investors fear that their brokers will desert them or deprioritise them when the market is down. Using stark metaphors and imagery we communicated that Arihant stays with you, ‘no matter what’. This would establish a sense of authority as well as create a strong tie with the customer.

II: COMMUNICATION CAMPAIGN Research led us to believe that the USP going for Arihant was “The Best Personalised Broking Service in Town”. With marketing inputs to guarantee and live up to this promise, we concurred that the communication would have to be personal or ‘you-centric’. Borne out of their ethos was the phrase “Pehle Aap” (You First) reflecting the Indian ‘tehzeeb’ as well as the professional culture of Arihant—a culture that believes in putting the client’s interest above all else. The challenge, however, was the manifestation of the phrase. The duality of Arihant lay in it being a local company that wanted to be seen as a ‘national’, modern authority. Moreover we had to avoid the risk of it being the ‘service–with-a smile’ cliché that many brands often reduce their promise to.


This flip-around device illustrates Arihant’s core value of integrity



2. You are different, we have a product suited to you The other two aspects were integrated into a single retail campaign using a local, personal, down-to-earth flavour. Its basic premise was that each individual is different on a personal level and Arihant develops products and services customised to suit every need. Using humorous analogies, we mapped how personality differences can determine market decisions and how Arihant caters to that. The marketing recommendations and campaigns suggested by us are in the process of implementation— first on low cost, always-available media like envelopes, research magazine back covers, etc. The campaign also saw a brief run in the Indore edition of DNA.

The first campaign to be rolled-out—this set of ads established Arihant’s positioning of “Pehle Aap”

18 You are different, we have a product suited to you

These ad mock-ups establish the service benefits offered by Arihant and use motifs from Indian currency notes


Product Brochure for Portfolio Management Services

A brochure for services targeted at Retail Customers

Low-cost Ambient Advertising

The Corporate Brochure

As the market slump has resulted in a ‘go-slow’ approach, it will be a while before Arihant rolls out all the recommendations. But we are certain that it’s only a matter of time before the name will ring a bell all across India. - Ravishankar, Anurashi Shetty, Fatema Barot

Envelopes were designed to carry product advertisement to minimise media cost






is a brand of natural, handmade beauty products. Based in Goa, Gulnar occupies a niche in the natural products market, crowded by much larger national brands like Fabindia, Khadi and Lush. Gulnar is in this position through a mix of unique distribution channels (like the flea markets in Goa), a quirky brand personality and an unusual product design. Around May 2008, Gulnar decided to redesign the packaging of the brand to: 1) Sharply differentiate itself from competition 2) Open doors to high-end boutique stores and international audiences 3) Gain acceptance at high-end hotels for institutional sales 4) Move on from the ‘amateur’ image which had become associated with the brand since it was first designed

Refining the logo, rationalising the product line and creating a new packaging to make the brand stand out in upmarket retail environments



What does ‘packaging design’ mean for Gulnar? For a niche brand of consumer products like Gulnar, packaging is an important factor for success. It is the primary and often the sole point of contact that a customer has with the brand. It is also the best medium that the company has to build its brand, considering that smaller brands do not have luxury of mass-media budgets.

Therefore, the development of the brand identity for Gulnar is closely linked with the development of packaging. We broke down the ‘packaging redesign’ assignment into 3 stages: 1) Market Study 2) Product Design 3) Packaging Design

1) Understanding the Market for Natural Soaps Who are the customers for Gulnar? About 90% of Gulnar’s customers are foreign tourists visiting Goa from countries like Russia, Germany, Sweden, USA, UK, Japan, and Netherlands. The remaining 10% are upper class Indians. Both sets of customers have refined aesthetic sensibilities and exposure to international brands. The packaging must appeal to them and should compare favourably with their image of an upmarket natural products brand.

Which are the competing brands? The market for natural beauty products is still nascent in India and there are very few large brands. The nature of the industry lends itself better to small, niche brands rather than mass-market brands. However, several companies like Forest Essentials, LUSH, Fab India-Sana, Khadi and smaller brands like Nyasa, Soap Opera have been active in the market for the last 7 to 8 years. How do price and product quality, position the products? The 2007 range of Gulnar soaps was priced at Rs 75. We now aimed to increase this to between Rs 90 and 130 and position the products in the mid- to high-end segment. The quality of the products (as preceived by users) is comparable, or in many cases vastly superior, to the more expensive brands like Forest Essentials and Lush. Therefore, the position of the brand in the market is that of an upmarket brand without the pretence (or exorbitant prices) of one. What affects the positioning of the products in the market? The natural products market is almost price-insensitive due to the affluence and high spending power of the target audience. Therefore, difference in price is not enough to segment the market clearly and the positioning of the brand through other means becomes even more important. The factors that influence Gulnar’s positioning are: 1) Innovation in the product (Different ingredients, look of the products…) 2) Brand Personality (Brand story, tone of the communication, product names…) 3) Packaging of products and their look and feel 4) Selectivity in placement of the products 5) Pricing

Role of Packaging in Marketing The Gulnar Stall at the Saturday Night Bazaar in Goa

Where are Gulnar products sold? Indian and International Retail Stores: Gulnar products will be sold in niche, upmarket boutiques and retail chains in India and countries like UAE and USA. Tourist Markets (flea markets) in Goa: Frequented by foreigners, the flea market is a melting pot of people from various cultures Online: Through an ecommerce website ( where customers from around the world can order products and have them delivered at their doorstep.

In addition to protecting the product and making it easy to transport, distribute and display at the point of sale, packaging also serves a number of crucial marketing functions: 1) Make the the product standout on the shelf 2) Brand Building 3) Provide information about the product 4) Easy identification of various flavours, sizes and other product-specific features 5) Improve product functionality




2) Designing the Product Range a) Fewer Products = More Business Sense In June 2008, we decided to significantly reduce the products range and limit it only to Soaps (removing categories like Shampoo, Hair and Massage Oils, Essential Oils, Balms, Laundry Pods, etc) When the brand had 12-14 soaps in its portfolio of 45+ products, it was acceptable to have similarly positioned soaps with just different fragrances. But with the entire range consisting of 28 soaps, it was important to categorise and position the soaps for different purposes and users. We settled on the following soap categories: 1) Daily Soaps: Glycerine-based with real product embeds 2) 100% Natural Soaps: Soaps made without the use of artificial colours, preservatives, fragrance or chemicals 3) 100% Natural Baby Soaps 4) Specialty Soaps: Scrubs, Shaving Bar, Pet soap, Shampoo bars



The design of the products had three major themes: 1) Infusions: Real leaves, petals or fruit pieces would be dried and infused in the soaps so that they are clearly visible (in the transparent glycerine soaps). 2) Shapes: Apart from differentiation, the purpose of having some soaps in a different shape was to make it easier to use the soap. For example, the Shaving Bar would be much easier to use in a triangular shape rather than a rectangular one. Or the Baby bar would be smaller and squarish to clearly position it as soap for kids. 3) Product Naming: We decided to use a naming convention where all products were named after their main ingredients, i.e. Orange Apricot, Lime and so on. This naming convention would: 1) Be interesting enough because of the variety and unusualness of ingredients (Grapefruit, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Thyme‌) 2) Be vivid enough to allow the customers to imagine what it would be like to bathe with the soap 3) Immediately make the customer pick up the soap and smell it to see if it actually smells like Orange or Cinnamon

3) Creating the Packaging for Soaps We opted for these innovations for the final packaging of Gulnar products: 1) Design of the label: Minimum Label Coverage: We opted for a unique label that showed off more of the soap (and its embedded ingredients) rather than covering the product. Ease of logistics: The label designs were in straight lines that did not require special die-cuts and so could be printed digitally for lower volumes 2) Artwork on labels: Text/Colour: The main Ingredient of the soap (Lavender, Orange, Aloe Vera…) and Category (Soap, Soap with Loofah, Scrub Soap, Pet Soap, Baby Soap…) were highlighted. Distinct illustrations captured the key colour of the ingredient used. Trivia: A small fact related to the key ingredient was incorporated in the front of the label. For instance, the Cinnamon Soap offered: ‘Emperor Nero burnt a year’s supply of cinnamon for the funeral of his wife’ Quote: A small irreverent quote on beauty or vanity was placed in the side of the label. (‘She put on a mud-pack and looked nice for two days. Then the mud fell off’) 3) Wrapping of the Soap: Shrink wrap: We opted for shrink wrap covering for the soap in order to let customer see the soap and the infusions. Brown paper: Brown paper was used to wrap 100% natural soaps that do not look very different from each other. - Abhisek Sarda, Maneesha Singh

“I bought your soaps in a local shop in Arambol. They’re great! The little notes about the ingredients you use are fun to read! I look forward to buying more of your soaps.

Information Elements on Soap Labels A quirky, funny quotation about beauty or vanity Name of the Product An interesting fact about the main ingredient “Handmade by Village Artisans in India”

About Gulnar Website URL

Manufactured by, Marketed by Size and Retail price Manufacturing and Best Before Date

Shrink Wrap 1) Shows off the soaps better than any other packaging material 2) Easy and quick to pack 3) Cheaper than cardboard boxes and easier to source

Brown Paper Used for 100% Natural soaps that don’t look very different from each other because of the lack of artificial colours. This clearly demarcates the 100% natural soaps range

Ivana Bratos, Croatia A Satisfied Customer, via email





A strong message shown intelligently can make video production more efficient in the wake of the economic downturn— without compromising on quality, creativity and effectiveness


the word ‘video commercial’ and a lot of marketers frown because the first thing that comes to their mind is ‘COST’. Historically, the cost associated with video production of a good quality has been very high and makes many marketing professionals shy away from it. But cost need not be an impediment in creating an effective video campaign, as shown by the Visual Juju team while making videos and cinema slides for Sharekhan, a financial services client. The campaign, apt to the times, celebrates the habit of not just saving money, but growing it too!

Case 1: 8 Movies under Rs 20 Lakh The videos developed for Sharekhan make a strong case for low cost production. The established stages of creative development were followed—what is the business requirement, the message to be communicated, the creative route and finally, cost-effective execution. At every stage we took ‘cost control’ as a filter to refine and polish the brief.

The Message: The business requirement of the videos was to ‘Promote FirstStep—a Sharekhan product aimed at new entrants to the stock market’. The videos were specifically targeted at noninvestors, in particular those who are wary of the stock market and believe that it is safer and wiser to ‘save’ rather than invest money in the stock market. The key message that emerged from this insight was that people should be told that saving is not bad, but one should look at growing money too. After all, a rupee saved is NOT a rupee earned! Therefore the simple thought of ‘Don’t just save money. Grow It’ was chosen.




The Creative Route: Many routes were explored for the creative rendition of this central message but the one that was finalised was an exaggerated, humorous take on the absurd lengths some people go to, in order to save money.

8 Films under 20 lakh

Save money by stealing tissues!

An egg a day, keeps hunger at bay

The situations that we chose were absurd, yet ones that find some resonance in real life. Like a person ordering ‘nimbu paani’ in a restaurant and using that pretext to steal tissue paper since he believes spending on tissues is a waste. Or another man who eats raw eggs in the morning to make himself feel queasy all day so that he does not have to spend on food. Six such situations, depicting people from different backgrounds, each with their own unique ways of saving money, were shortlisted.

Buying tickets is passe

Grow beard! Say no to wasteful spending on blades

A free story telling session is as good as the movie

How not to spend on dog food


Who buys umbrellas?


No need for lights at night

Prudent Production At the ‘pre-production’ stage, the Visual Juju team closely monitored the cost of various elements required for the film—actors, props, sets and post-production costs. Barring the fixed costs of camera, sets and staff, we used two innovations to help us cut costs: a) Instead of shooting at eight different locations or creating eight different sets, a common background was used. Variation was provided by lighting and props. This not only helped cut down the cost of multiple locations but also provided economies of time—three videos could be shot in one day. b) The actors chosen had a background in theater or television. This helped ensure that there were no cost overruns on account of retakes. Briefed well in advance, the actors brought speed and efficiency to the shoot and helped save time and costs. The total cost of shooting eight films was less than Rs 20 lakhs. Not only were the videos ready to hit the web as potential viral videos, they also led to the creation of a web property called ‘Kisse Kanjoosi Ke’ or ‘Tales of Miserliness’ ( This is a Sharekhan microsite where people can post the wacky acts of ‘kanjoosi’ they have done or have heard of.

Case 2: Simple Effective Cinema Advertising A research report in Media Life magazine shows that recall for cinema advertising is three times higher as compared to commercials shown on television and five times higher as compared to rolling stock. After all, you have a captive audience, in a setting where the audience is conditioned to not do much but just look at the screen. The ambience— large screen, loud audio and a dark environment (even during intervals)—adds to the impact. Yet advertising in cinema halls in India has typically been a ‘multiplier-effect’ choice in most media plans. Existing television commercials are played without being customised to the medium. Simplicity in the message is the key to an effective cinema film because they are seen mostly during intervals or before a film starts, when people are settling in—the audience should grasp the key message even if they miss a part of the communication. The simplicity required by the medium also helps to ensure that the cost of creation of the film is not high. Like what we did for Sharekhan. The client was broadcasting messages related to investing and growing money in other media, but the same could not be replicated ‘as is’ for cinema because the general feeling was that ‘facts bore people’.

The in-house shoot with some rented equipment

We turned that argument around to say, “Facts can be interesting too, provided you spin them into a good story”. Using an internal creative tool called ‘The Five-Step process’, we arrived at using an anti-smoking message as a device to showcase the message of investing money. We created visuals around the fact that seemingly thoughtless expenses (like the money spent on every cigarette smoked) can add upto big numbers over a period of time. Voila! One film was ready! The concept was also unique because, within the financial services category nobody had taken an initiative of this kind. In addition, production did not require a big set up. All we needed was a simple backdrop to complement the facts. The total cost of making this film, in two different styles, was less than Rs 2 Lakh.

A simple and interesting setup was used to give an unusual look to the film

- Maneesha Singh Visual Juju ( provides solutions in the world of Motion Graphics. The solutions range from TVCs, videos for Marketing. Training—induction videos or motivational tools for HR, explaining complex operations or processes through animated diagrams and Customer Communication tools like Tutorials, Video Newsletters and Demonstration tools.





A media professional quits his job to join the race for the top office in South Africa. We craft a website that captures the magic of his personality and conveys his ideals of a free and democratic society


Penderis, a South African national, and a successful media professional was working as the Managing Editor of Al-Nisr Media, one of the leading media companies in Dubai, when we first met him. Setting out to be the ‘difference’, Anthony had his goal defined—he wanted to start a political party back home in South Africa. And the first milestone of his endeavour was a website: “My target audience are the educated people— those who have access to the Internet,” stressed Penderis.

Icon of Change

Anthony had decided to call the party ‘A Party’ to differentiate it as a party that was ‘A class’ and also captured his initials. He suggested using ‘the rogue bush hat’, a very stylish and popular South African hat, as one of the elements in the logo. Since A Party primarily revolves around one person, Anthony, we proposed that the logo should depict him wearing the hat.

Creating this website set a multi-layered challenge for us: Make a website for a political party that was essentially ‘a single person’ serving his notice period in a job not related to politics Create a website that appeals to the people of a country that we are not familiar with Capture the client’s personality remotely—those directly working on the project would not be meeting the client who was based in Dubai.

The final logo had Anthony’s face with the symbolic South African hat and the tagline in English and Afrikaans saying ‘We have plans. We deliver’.

Being Politically Correct 28

The political space was very new to us. We had been reading about the successful ongoing online campaign of Barack Obama. As a first step we started to closely follow the web activity relating to the US presidential elections. We analysed each feature of Obama’s campaign site. It was interesting to note that while Obama was the first one to make a statement, McCain was mostly countering them. We envisioned that Anthony would be the first mover on the web in South Africa, leaving the role of ‘countering’ to whoever steps in next. INFORMATION MATTERS | VOLUME 3-ISSUE 1

Logo options presented to the client

Final logo

Home page for A Party

Put the Issues Upfront One dilemma of websites like A Party is that while they manage to attract high traffic as a result of on-ground campaigns to popularise the party, these sites are plagued by the fact that many visitors exit after just a few seconds on the home page. Visitors see the home page, find nothing that catches their eye, and move on. We wanted the site to have ‘hooks’ to entice and engage a variety of people and encourage them to stay on, and navigate to know more about the party, the person behind it and his views on various issues impacting South Africa. The hooks could be: Issues: People might want to know what A Party would do about the rising crime rate (an issue very relevant in the present day South Africa), or what its plans for alternate sources of energy were. Concerns based on the visitor profile: Issues that matter to women, youth, seniors or African tribes. Profiling on the basis of the state or province: A person would be more interested in knowing A Party’s plans about his region. Armed with this information, we designed the home page that presented these hooks upfront, encouraging people to click and go deeper into the site.

Getting Monetary Help Another important objective of the A Party website was to get donations for the party. The site also had to get donations and recruit volunteers who would organise events and spread the manifesto of A Party. So we opted to have a prominent ‘Donate NOW’ button on the home page and repeat it in the same position on all the inside pages.


We also designed a section to capture volunteer information and suggested to the client that he put a schedule of public events or functions hosted by him on the home page and in every section. Each page also had forms that allowed people to contact Anthony about gatherings they were hosting and enable them to send him an invite for the same. INFORMATION MATTERS


“The DotAhead team have their fingers on the pulse in the web business. They have acquired a lot of knowledge in an extremely complex industry. You can rely on them. They are problem solvers.” Anthony Penderis, President, A Party

A prominent ‘Donate Now’ button was placed on every inside page

MT as CMS We anticipated that the focus and the message of the website would change as the party grows. So it was decided to use a Content Management System (CMS) to make the website extendable and allow new sections (like tackling population or illiteracy or environment concerns) to be added with ease as the party grew in popularity. We opted for Movable Type (MT) because of its versatility and ease of use. In fact, with just a little training from us, Anthony’s office started updating the site using the MT.

The Partner Website provides access to campaign resources and collateral


Another feature in favour of MT is its ability to manage blogs easily. If Anthony was to interact with his voters and people effectively and comments of visitors were to be showcased prominently, we needed a powerful blog management system—which is the core of MovableType CMS. Today, is a much visited website and continues to be an effective mouthpiece of A Party. - Gurpreet Singh, Dileepan Ramanan, Yshana Pereira

MovableType was selected for easy content management



When you are selling a destination experience, a travelogue scores over information-intense, but soulless websites. Synapse worked with Odyssey Travel & Tours to showcase and market their love for travelling in India


themselves from familiar environments, traversing latitudes and longitudes, travellers embark on journeys to experience alien cultures, walk on unknown lands or just to feel what it is like to be elsewhere. Whatever be their quest, the travel industry is amply equipped to assist travellers fulfil it by helping them identify places of their interest, pick their mode of travel and also create their itinerary. Odyssey Travels, an inbound tour company based in Goa, has a personal approach to this—Hans Tuinman and Sucheta Potnis, passionate travellers and directors of Odyssey Travels, choose to share with their exclusive clientele ONLY those places in India they have themselves visited. When they market a destination, they discuss a place one-to-one, versus a faceless travel brand talking to people. And it is this warm engagement with the travellers that came to be called “Traveller’s Palm” Traveller’s Palm: A palm originating from Madagascar that can store water to quench a traveller’s thirst.

Don’t sell a Package, tell a Story Most of what is sought by travellers is made available by various travel agencies in standardised templates. The rich layers of a place are trapped using popular artifacts, landmarks and generic descriptions. The packages become bestsellers while the place, its culture and soul remain incidental. While the user might get a great holiday, he fails to get a real experience of the destination. In contrast, Odyssey portrays places as stories, it portrays destinations as experiences. The travellers decide if the illustrated experience resonates with them before choosing to visit a particular destination. So we envisioned the “Traveller’s Palm’ website as a travelogue, not a commercial travel site. The challenge then was to manifest it like a travelogue while preserving the required clarity, order and purpose. Our site would need to communicate the essence of the brand, which is: ‘Odyssey offers unique destinations and experiences in India and helps travellers plan their itinerary and execute the booking online’ The next challenge was to create a unique brand that will stand out as memorable when compared with the usual commercial travel sites. We opted for a friendly interface that gives users a unique personal experience and provides them the needed information simply and precisely.

Step1: Establishing Creative Guidelines During the research phase, we looked at other sites in the similar category. A simple and systematic research helped us shortlist best practices and innovations. We looked deeper into the ones we found relevant and developed them to fit our requirements.





We then arrived at the following creative guidelines to amplify our differentiators: 1: Experience is the Core 2: Make it Personal 3: Keep Navigation Intuitive 4: Make Search Easy 5: Use Powerful Visuals 6: Audio-Video wherever possible 7: Interactive Tools for Itinerary Planning 8: Showcase the Properties 9: Encourage User Reviews and Feedback 10: Tips & Tools for Easier Travel 11: Educate and Engage 12: Help Guests Share 13: Our Own Good Food Guides 14: Make Group Travel Easier 15: Travel Q&As in a blog



Step 2: Information Architecture and Site Navigation A site map was created to establish hierarchy and cross-linkages of information. A wire frame of the site was created and tweaks, trials and tests persisted until all the objectives were met.


Then we tested for functionality and planned for eventualities. For example, what if the user wants to directly go to the itinerary? What if he needs to see the costs first? What if he’s a frequent visitor and needs to locate a specific hotel? What if the user wants to see the road map for a certain destination, how would he get to see it dynamically? Once the basic structure was in place, we began mapping it onto the available space. The wireframes evolved into diagrams with appropriate space divisions and placement for information. This skeleton of diagrams then evolved into a visual form closer to the final website.


THE HOME PAGE: 1: We put ‘destination’ at the core of our design. 2: The key navigation points were kept accessible from any page across the site 3: The secondary navigation interface was placed at the bottom

Step 3: Design Execution a) Creating a Brand Identity The name Traveller’s Palm lends itself to interesting visual representation. We also wanted the visual representation or the icon to have a “personal touch”, so we opted for a hand-painted motif and hand-rendered calligraphy. A warm earthy colour palette, with random surprises in Magenta, complemented the warm tone.

b) Interface Design Guided by our creative objectives of minimising clutter and showcasing a rich user experience, we put ‘destination’ at the core of our design. Evocative images from a destination were accorded a big chunk of the available space. These images changed dynamically and were supported by text that echoed personal notes of Hans’ and Sucheta’s experience there. We ended up with a look and feel that resembled a travelogue, without compromising on the required order and navigation. All the chunks of information were placed on a 3-column grid.

Wherever distances or locations were mentioned, a map with the relevant highlights and a link to the Google maps were provided as aids

d) Features and Maps The properties of a place were highlighted by using a reference image next to a short and crisp text description. However, with all descriptions we put in a provision that allowed the user to avail himself of detailed information if desired.

The top half echoes the look of the home page

e) Inside pages The look of the inner page was kept similar to the homepage to avoid drastic changes between transitions. (For example, the page on the left that features a heritage hotel looks similar to the home page). The right column is allocated for condensed highlights, searches or maps to supplement or provide planning aids. Detailed content and more pictures are provided at the bottom.

Sub descriptions; a column on the right accomodates highlights or navigation aids

Going Places

Collage of photographs on an organic grid designed to accommodate small to big picture clusters

Simple tables for factual information were placed in the bottom half

c) The Icons The finer details of the website like the icons and the tabs were rendered in a visual language aligned with the brand identity.

The two phases of conception and simulation of the site were to the satisfaction of the team as well as the clients. Today, the website with its many design iterations stands as a well crafted piece. Its true test, however, will be when it talks to its users in the way we planned it would. We are currently awaiting technology implementation to see the site go live. And once that happens, places will go places. INSIDE PAGE design: The design of the top half of the page was kept similar to that of the home page

- Fatema Barot, Ravishankar, Anurashi Shetty





Less than 7 percent of India’s population invests in stocks. Would more people invest if they were educated about the stock market? Sharekhan fine-tunes FirstStep—a product that handholds non-investors as they take their first step into the world of investing


FirstStep program initiated by Sharekhan had one objective—to ease a new investor’s entry into the stock market. Research reveals that most Indians prefer ‘safe’ or ‘low-risk’ saving schemes like Fixed Deposits to the ‘high-risk’ stock market. FirstStep aimed to educate this vast body of potential investors about the benefits of investing in the stock market, and to handhold them through the process of investing in order to enhance their confidence.


The program had been first set into motion in 2005 and each step of the customer experience had been defined. However, there was little to distinguish the experience of a FirstStep customer from other seasoned customers of Sharekhan.

Redefining the FirstStep process With Sharekhan’s growing customer base, there was a need to clearly establish FirstStep as a program only for first time investors. Observation and interaction with the FirstStep customer-base revealed that: INFORMATION MATTERS | VOLUME 3-ISSUE 1

a) FirstStep customers were provided the same literature as the seasoned investors b) Sharekhan’s fundamental and technical research services were provided to FirstStep customers without making them simpler and easier to understand c) Customers who responded to any FirstStep communication, were immidiately accepted as one among the gamut of seasoned investors.

for change—what are the various customer touch points and how can we best leverage them to speak to new customers?

There was an urgent need to address these issues and to differentiate and add value to the experience of the new investors. Looking deeper into Sharekhan’s internal systems, we started by preparing a framework

Having defined this process, the objective was to break down the touchpoints and detail the elements that could make it a promising and sustainable program. This was done over four stages that follow.

After this, we started to piece together each element with the finer details in order to give it a final structure. We drew the skeleton of the FirstStep Customer Experience plan (see infographic below).






Building Awareness

We designed key communication elements— advertisements, mailers, web banners—to increase awareness of the FirstStep program. Data revealed that the customers who respond to this communication included both first-time as well as seasoned investors. To address this issue we added a simple filter—a question that asks the customer if they are new to trading. This filter was then implemented across the touch points in order to ensure that each customer was aware that they were entering the FirstStep program.

Posters and eDMs were used to create awareness

Customer details were captured online and followed up with automated ‘Welcome’ mailers that provided further details about the program. Customers who expressed an interest were called by Sharekhan sales representatives to reconfirm their interest in the program and to fix a date, time and venue for the first meeting to open a FirstStep account. A Sharekhan sales representative then met them with the relevant papers for account sign up and a flipchart that detailed the service offerings from Sharekhan. It is important to note that all our FirstStep customers were initiated into the program online.



A Flipchart tool used to educate a prospect about FirstStep User-friendly tool in a readable comic format

Welcome Kit

Once the account was registered, a Welcome Kit was sent to the customer. This included a login and password, a ‘Mook’ (an information booklet in magazine format)—that gave customers a detailed outlook on investing their money for higher returns in the stock market, and an invite for their FirstStep Seminar.


The FirstStep Seminar Series was designed to educate the customer on the basics of the Equities and the Mutual Fund markets. These were designed exclusively to help new investors understand how to sign-up with their account and how to trade online. This stage equipped the customer with relevant tools and build their confidence in order to enable them to execute their first trade.

Microsite for easy access to information

Online marketing through eDMs, web banners Leave-behind tools for the customers




Experience Building

When the customer performed his first trade, he received a congratulatory mailer. Waivers on brokerage fees were additional benefits given to him to encourage trading. Relevant education modules were designed and dispersed systematically to ensure that the customer was on his path to becoming a seasoned investor. Since all these customers were online traders, the website experience was a critical touch point. So a module called ‘Things you can do on’ was created to help customers understand various service offerings of Sharekhan, understand the ‘top stock picks’ and access simplified research.

Internal training documents

This was followed with a ‘10-week module,’ which enabled customers to understand Sharekhan’s fundamental and technical research techniques and understand how top stocks are picked. Posters and leaflets A successful interactive game, played through kiosks put up at various malls across the country

Customer meets that become advisory sessions, grievance sessions or educative sessions were defined in order to ensure the customer was set to become a seasoned investor.



Moving out of the Program

If customers felt confident to move on to other service offerings from Sharekhan, the FirstStep team would ensure that a process of welcoming the customer to the new fold was in order. In the event the customer decided to stay back with the FirstStep program, the objective was to upgrade the customer experience with more advanced services by providing them advanced education tools, providing regular stock updates, and special customer meets on specific topics. - Mohan Krishnan, Raghu Fasalkar, Maneesha Singh, Meghana Dubashi

At select malls, potential customer were given this umbrella INFORMATION MATTERS






What would you rather have: 5 customers or 50 leads every month?


focus of Marketing efforts is increasingly on Lead generation, especially in sectors such as Media, Financial Services, Consumer Information Technology and others that require customers to be signed-up in the thousands every month. However, while Marketers are looking at Lead-centered metrics (Cost per Lead, Lead Volume), it may be useful to shift the focus to Customer-centric metrics.

Lead=Expense, Customer=Income Every Lead is an Expense, and only a Customer provides Income. So getting more Leads for a company actually means more time wasted in qualifying them, addressing them and taking them through the process. A 5% conversion on 100 leads gets 5 customers, while a 10% conversion on 50 leads gets the same result but with much lower cost in terms of money saved and not wasted on the other 50 that may have been prima facie useless.


Conversion rates of between 5% and 40%+ can be expected from leads depending upon whether they were self-qualified or generated through sales-centered pester-power. It also depends upon how strict were the filters used for qualification. INFORMATION MATTERS


Any number consistently below this broad range of conversion would reveal a systemic weakness in any of the following components of the sales chain that leads to conversion: a) The company’s brand is weak and the message that hooked the prospect was actually built on a peripheral incentive or built on the category itself [For instance, a financial services prospect may opt-in for “Yes, I am interested in learning how to do share trading online” but may be less inclined to sign-up for a brokerage account with HDFC because their brand does not resonate with him] b) The sales person may be mediocre and poorly trained c) The sales tools carried by the sales person may be inadequate and may not communicate to the prospect in a idiot-proof manner [This is very important since high-quality communication and sales tools iron out variations in IQ or communication ability among sales people] d) The terms for conversion to a sale are not competitive [e.g. the Account Opening fee for a stock brokerage house may be too high] e) The operational follow-up may be poor [The forms are not sent in time, payment is not collected or processed...] If all of the above goes well, the conversion should be within the range described. If it’s not, then a third-party audit needs to be commissioned, where prospects are asked to specify metrics about their experience. This will help pinpoint where improvements should start.

Becoming Customer-centric


While most companies track the cost of Leads, they seldom track the cost of processing useless leads which is not a transparent cost. Every Marketing team will claim that “Of course we know that ultimately we have to get Customers, not Leads! Why point out the obvious?” But are you measuring this? As the saying goes, ‘What is Measured, Improves’. There have been big differences in the performance of companies, driven by just the small difference of whether they focus on Revenue or on Profits.

Consider this: If you were a sales person, would you not think differently if told that your target is to get 5 Customers a month instead of 60 Leads a month? To meet the latter target, you may stuff your prospect list with junk references from friends and family. And your sales manager would never know because you would be generating valid (real people with address and telephone number) leads. The pressure for Leads makes Sales people run hard in a direction you may not want them to. If this shift in focus is to be adopted, many changes are neccessary: 1) In Marketing programs (Media as well as on-ground Events) companies will have to work harder to identify the ‘filters’ that are likely to generate a high-quality sales lead. This, for instance in the case of a financial services company, has to be more than just having a PAN card or mobile number, and should include aspects such as interest in financial markets or familiarity with Internet or previous history of investment. The location and activity we select will need to be mapped to these filters 2) The way leads are assigned, the targets given to Sales people and the focus of the entire sales team will need to change around the goal of Converted Customers and Conversion Rates We need to change our way of thinking. On-ground changes will then follow. This changed thinking (from Lead-centric to Customer-centric) will affect companies deepest and fastest in Marketing. The Marketing challenge in recessionary times is to provide sales teams with high-quality Leads. In fact, the move from Leads to Customers is just a first step. The real change will happen when companies start measuring and working towards clients with high annual yields of revenue. Here is how a company’s thinking about Leads will probably evolve. phase 1: Lead Acquisition Cost: How can we get the maximum Leads at the lowest cost? [Historically determined to be not less than Rs X per Lead]

2: Customer Acquisition Cost: How can we get the maximum Customers at the lowest cost? [Historically determined to be about Rs Y per Customer]. With a changed approach, companies may discover that phase

Similarly, if companies view Marketing budgets from a ‘Per Customer Acquisition Cost’ instead of ‘Lead Acquisition Cost’, practices will change in small but important ways. INFORMATION MATTERS | VOLUME 3-ISSUE 1

in some cases it is better to spend say Rs 1,250 per lead because the conversion is 20% instead of insisting on a historic Rs 650 (from Phase 1) as a target. But companies will not discover this unless they start measuring the ‘Customer Efficiency’ of each channel instead of the ‘Lead Efficiency’

3: Revenue Acquisition Cost: How can we get the maximum Annual Revenue Per Customer (ARPC) at the lowest cost? Do companies know what is their current average Customer Acquisition cost to get every Rs 100,000 Annual Revenue Per Customer? If they focus on this metric, in a year they would have developed some historical precedents and measures. Then they may think that it is viable to spend Rs 2,000 for a Lead and Rs 10,000 per Customer Acquisition because such type of Customers give them Rs 50,000 ARPC, instead of spending Rs 1,000 on acquiring sets of clients that get them proportionately much lower ARPC. phase


4: Profit Contribution Cost:

In this final phase, companies should focus on Profit Acquisition Cost per Customer, which will also take into account the servicing cost per customer. Surprising results will be thrown up by this analysis. To get to this stage, the company will need to overhaul their operational data capture and FA systems, besides just their marketing budget calculation. From counting Leads to counting Profits is a multi-phase journey and most companies cannot skip from Phase 1 to Phase 4 unless they are brand new companies built from the ground-up around this approach. This should not deter companies from getting started with this approach. As an insightful executive once said “A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today”. - Gourav Jaswal INFORMATION MATTERS




How to reach out to prospects in catchment areas and engage them—in less than 10 minutes Sharekhan is one of India’s leading financial services companies, best known for its online investment portal and with over 1000 Sharekhan shops in 800 cities across India. Sharekhan wanted a low-cost activity at a local level to reach out to first-time investors and investors new to online trading. The objective of the sales activity was two-fold: To filter the relevant audience and engage them through a more focused targeting To build credibility so that the prospect decides to open an account We thought of several ideas for implementing this lead generation and branding activity. The parameters set for the suggested solutions were that it would: Be scalable in quantity and easily replicable in multiple locations Easily convey the benefits of investing so as to convince the visitor Make the account opening process easier for any prospect Focus on not only generating leads but also helping to increase the probability of conversion

Phase 1: Research

We did an extensive fact-finding exercise with the sales staff and R. Kalyanaraman (Vice-President, Sales). This helped us understand the current response, logistics and audience profile of the past sales activities carried out by Sharekhan.

Phase 2: Concept and Planning

Our research helped us prepare a step-wise flow of what we wanted to achieve through the sales activity. This helped us define the following process: 1) Objective: Gain attention immediately How: Eye-catching stall design 2) Objective: Build credibility around our proposition of ‘Investment Experts’ How: Relevant theme around the concept of investing 3) Objective: Engage and provide relevant details about the benefits of online investing How: Interactive demo that will show the utility of online trading. 4) Objective: Complete the process How: Lead generation and follow-up to convert prospects to customers



Phase 3: Communication Design

To convey the ease of trading online, we decided to use the central theme of ‘Learn online trading in 10 minutes’. This would easily demonstrate the benefit of online trading and also strengthen the association of ‘online trading’ with the Sharekhan brand. A step-wise interactive flash demo was also designed to enable the audience to experience this first-hand. The stall design for the sales activity highlighted the ‘time’ theme with a stop-watch featured prominently. A LCD TV which showed a visitor using the demo also served as an eye-catching attraction! (See photos below)

Mockup of Panel Design

The interactive demo guided participants through the steps involved in trading online

Phase 4: Roll Out

The local sales activities were carried out across 7 cities in shopping malls and corporate offices. The key was to attract attention and participation of our audience—working professionals, spenders and potential investors—in locations, they felt comfortable in.


Sales executives and supporting collateral at the stall helped address queries

The interactive ‘screen-inside-stopwatch’ design attracted many participants INFORMATION MATTERS


Three Steps to Meaningfully Engage Visitors at the Stall STEP 1: Intelligent Messaging It’s important to arrive at a message that is relevant for the target audience. When Sharekhan decided to put up a stall outside corporate offices to target employees of companies to open an online trading account, we came up with the message “Learn Online Trading in 10 minutes.” Keeping in mind the busy schedule of executives, we assumed “10 minutes” would be something anybody will be willing to spare to learn something new. Choosing a topic of common interest combined with the 10-minutes limit worked well for us across cities.

STEP 2: Attractive Stall Design The stall design should flow from the messaging outlined in Step 1. The design created on screen should render itself well for fabrication materials used like sun board or sun mica. Designing the stall considering the production budget will help simplify and smoothen the entire execution process.

Ensuring Quality of Prospect Database STEP 3: Friendly, Interactive Demos This is what will help your visitors spend that extra few minutes at your stall and remember the experience even when they’ve gone home. TIP: Include Prospect Details form as part of the demo so you save time on re-entry of data from excel and avoid typos with the person himself filling his contact details.

A contest entry form promising an attractive giveaway (like an iPod Shuffle) works wonders when you want people to fill in their correct contact details. This way, even you have a quality database of prospects with no dummy phone numbers and dummy addresses. You should keep up your promise so people trust you and the brand you represent the next time around.

Phase 5: Follow-up Activities

To make the stall themes relevant to our audience, we decided to identify and execute one proposition every two months depending on the prevailing market conditions of the time. Follow-up themes:


1. ‘What if you had not turned your back on the stock market?’ For the period of May to July, 2008 the stock market saw a decline. Converting this seemingly negative development into a theme, we presented the falling markets as a right time to invest. How: Using actual stock performance of last 8 years to demonstrate the benefits of investing over time.


2. ‘What is your wish list?’ Our next theme was ‘What is your wish list?’ which showed customers how they could reach their desired goals through regular investing. How: Let the user choose his personal ‘wish’ and his current age, then calculating the amount he will have to pay every month. - Mohan Krishnan, Shaalini Srinivasan, Advait Ubhayakar, Umesh Chavan, Arun Mota


Using creativity and imagination to make the annual report for the Kotak Group more engaging


Annual Report is arguably the most important document published by a Public Limited Company. Traditionally, annual reports were used to communicate ‘the company numbers’ to current and potential investors.

FY08, the brief was: to showcase the company’s culture and, capture its vision for the coming years. The theme, decided by the key leaders was: “One Brand. Infinite Opportunities.”

But in an increasingly competitive environment, investors want more—they want to understand the culture of the company, its vision and its way forward. And if designed with imagination, the Annual Report has the potential to be one of the most comprehensive communication tools a company produces in a year.

The first challenge, of course, was to develop a visual representation of the theme. ‘What depicts infinity’, we asked ourselves. We started with the direct route; we listed out the Group companies to show the conglomerate’s spread and imply opportunity in addition to actually writing out the theme on the cover.

Kotak Mahindra Bank traditionally follows a collaborative approach while selecting the core message and theme of their Annual Report. A team of key decision makers from across the Group, including the Managing Director, Uday Kotak, decide on the broad theme for the report. When we were first approached to design their Annual Report for

Then we moved on to visual metaphors that represent infinite opportunities—the opportunity that a blank canvas presents to an artist, a surreal illustration that shows a person at the crossroads of infinite routes leading up, a tree with its many branches signifying growth and greater reach in the coming years.

Visual Theme


Three different visual options were developed to illustrate the theme: One Brand. Infinite Opportunities. INFORMATION MATTERS | VOLUME 3-ISSUE 1


The Final interpretation of the visual theme incorporated the company logo at the centre



The first was too obvious and was discarded. The second option was too subtle. The third (tree), however, caught attention. The tree, in several ways, embodied various aspects of the Kotak Group. With the metaphor decided, the next task was to refine it. Even though the core of the idea was strong, we were not happy with the rendition of the thought. Going back to the drawing board was the only option. During our team discussions, where numerous ideas were discussed and tossed, one idea seemed to have some potential. While scrolling through an archive of images related to trees, and upon looking at the image of the tree trunk, someone said “the rings indicate the age of the tree, how about incorporating the ‘infinity’ symbol into the rings”. An innocuous enough statement, but one that quickly set the visual tone for the report. The cover design was cracked within the next two hours, wherein the tree trunk image had been tinkered with to show an ‘infinity’ symbol—a key visual element in the Kotak Group logo—in its centre. For the core visual theme, we decided to use images of various aspects of trees and demonstrate the “One Firm Approach” through the interconnectedness abounding in nature.


Growth of a client along a Group company INFORMATION MATTERS | VOLUME 3-ISSUE 1

Design of the first few pages centered around the main visual theme

Karthi Kumar Marshan Head, Group Marketing, Kotak Mahindra Group

“The 2008 Annual report has been the best to date, driving collaboration between various teams at Kotak Group and our two communication partners—Synapse and Vivek Kamath. The outcome is a tome that is not dry numbers, but one that makes for a compelling read.”

The Content Most Annual Reports are classified into two components, referred to colloquially as: (i) The Quality Pages: The theme and the message from the company (ii) The Quantity Pages: The Financial pages The Quality Pages in our case were to consist of case studies on the theme of a ‘One Firm Approach’, explaining how different businesses of the Kotak Group engaged with the same customers and leveraged relationships to further the business value of the Client. For instance, to show the progress of a customer from opening a savings account in 2003 to becoming a client of Portfolio Management Services in 2006, we used a blade of leaf, marking out key relationship milestones from base to apex. To bring out Kotak’s role as sole financial advisor to the Bombay Stock Exchange’s demutualisation, which involved multiple group entities, we depicted branches of a tree. The Financial pages would be content-heavy and full of tables. To connect them to the overall theme we gave the Kotak Content partner ( the layout templates for TOC, letters from company CEOs, along with style guidelines for tables, formatting images and a choice of page layout options with different image sizes and placements. The end result is an extremely well-laid out book that tells an engaging story. Layout of some key pages and templates for tables

- Sirish Nimmagadda, Anish Dasgupta, Shyam Bandekar, Kumar Chiplunkar INFORMATION MATTERS




What does it take to make a promotional video become a successful viral…

A histrionic kid, crying his heart out for Britney Spears


probably is no single formula for making a successful viral video. However knowing the strengths and the shortcomings of the ‘tool’ can help understand what makes some video clips travel all around the internet and get posted on YouTube, MySpace, Google Video, Facebook, Digg, blogs, etc, while others are forgotten.


A viral video is a video clip or film that gains popularity, initially through a core group of people with whom the message resonates and later gains critical mass via various online platforms like email, chat rooms, social networking sites, blogs and/or mobile. The content of these videos varies. Some popular virals have been driven by an incident—the ¬ F IFA World Cup 2006 Final controversy in which Zidane head-butted Materazzi lead to a much-circulated YouTube video “Coup de Boule”, “I Got a Crush on Obama” first posted on YouTube in June 2007 featuring an anonymous young woman seductively singing of her love for the US presidential candidate become much circulated as election mania reached its peak. Compelling factual incidents, humorous scenes, spoofs, offbeat stories, music videos, animation sequences are some of other possibilities. Viral videos are, by definition, spread voluntarily, rather than by compulsion.

d, where The Landlor is a the landlord girl, ld -o two-year her at rs ea who sw al n fi ly tenant and is offer an appeased by of beer

Weird is Cool Take a quick look at three of the viral videos featured in Top 10 of 2007 list by TIME magazine ( time/specials/2007/top10/article/0,30583,1686204_1686303_ 1690876,00.html) shown on the right. If these successful virals are any indication of the oeuvre, it seems that more off-beat the viral is, the higher are its chances of gaining popularity. INFORMATION MATTERS | VOLUME 3-ISSUE 1

Miss South Carolina’s dumb answer to a simple question during the Miss Teen USA Pageant

Some Successful Marketing Virals “We are all susceptible to the pull of viral ideas. Like mass hysteria. Or a tune that gets into your head that you keep on humming all day until you spread it to someone else. Jokes. Urban legends. Crackpot religions. No matter how smart we get, there is always this deep irrational part that makes us potential hosts for self-replicating information.” Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash (novel published in 1992)

Nike R10 Gold( watch?v=lsO6D1rwrKc) The video to promote their R10 Football Boot, has world famous soccer star Ronaldinho hitting the crossbar no less than four times, without the ball touching the ground. A discussion on whether the clip was real or computer edited drove millions of interested viewers to the campaign.

Using a Viral as a Marketing tool? The fact that most successful virals reside on the fringes of counterculture, irrationality and a certain voyeurism, must raise a doubt about their feasibility as a marketing tool. According to Jupiter Research’s latest European consumer survey, only 5% of the internet population has ever forwarded a marketing message. So are virals worth a chance? Yes – because they bring some definite advantages to the marketing mix 1. Costs: The expectations of the medium are such that you don’t need to have a very slickly produced film to stand out. A look at successful videos shows that interesting content doesn’t have to be expensively produced or require hours of editing. Shoot something creative, it need not be perfect or polished, but must be entertaining. 2. Efficiency: If you compare a successful viral video campaign with a successful mass-media campaign, viral might not have very high numbers (a function of internet penetration), it has far greater efficiency. Why pay for something (advertising exposure), when you can get it for free? 3. Credibility: This medium enjoys greater credibility given the fact that it has been forwarded by a friend makes it more credible than getting to see it on an impassive medium. Viral marketing has much more persuasion than advertising videos seen on TV.

Dove ( watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U): This video that was part of a larger campaign around the notion of ‘Real Beauty’ became so popular on the Web that the commercial aired on television only a few times.

How does a ‘Forward’ Happen At the core lies a simple question—how do you make a receiver of an email press the ‘Forward’ button? People will forward content that they feel strongly about and, therefore, one needs to understand the aspects of ones product that people will connect with. The problem from a branding perspective is how to ensure that this aspect is in sync with your brand identity. Videos that start off with a premise ‘let’s make something funny that people will send to their friends and we will laugh all the way to the bank’ are often bound to fail. While creating a viral video campaign to create marketing buzz, it will help to consider the following points: 1. Objective: What is the message—spread awareness, event communication, highlight a fact or something else. 2. Brand Connect: The viral has to be compatible with your brand personality—you can be funny, but humour has layers and not all the layers suit all the brands. 3. More than just funny: It has to be interesting, new and different—not just funny. People respond to many types of emotions that make for an interesting viewing. 4. Social Value: The viral must ‘return’ something to the recipient—person passing on a funny viral expects recognition and admiration from his friends for making them laugh, passing on a completely off-beat message increases one’s ‘cool quotient’, sharing a cause makes one a ‘Clicktivist’.

Diet Coke ( watch?v=hKoB0MHVBvM) The best part about this viral about exploding Diet Coke bottles is that it involved no one from either Mentos or Coca Cola. The team from Eepybird did this as an experiment which led to further videos and an estimated 50 million views.





Most people agree that financial planning is important, but few manage to move beyond mere thought to something actionable. How can financial services companies spur them into action?


level of Financial Literacy in India is a well-known problem. People put in a lot of effort in earning money but very few manage money well enough to create long-term wealth. Investment decisions are taken in an ad-hoc manner in the absence of a proper financial plan (a process of meeting your life’s goals through proper management of your finances).

At a conceptual level people agree that financial planning is important. But when it comes to implemtation very few manage to go from thought to action. How can we make it happen?

Indians and Financial Planning

87% people do not plan for their retirement

73% do not have adequate Insurance

93% have never invested in equities




do not understand what exactly a Mutual Fund is

believe that the govt. guarantees the return of money invested in Bank FDs

(Source: India Investment Survey 2007-08 conducted by IIMS and CNBC TV-18)



Sell the Concept along with the Product Traditionally, different financial products have been sold by different people. In the last 5-7 years, most financial intermediaries (from corporate distributors and brokers to independent financial advisors) have started offering a wide range of financial products under one roof. Hence it makes immense business sense for financial intermediaries to offer financial planning as a ‘service’—a service where a financial advisor takes time and understands the personal profile of a client, identifies his needs, commitments and aspirations and then creates a financial plan which includes advice on investments, insurance, tax, retirement etc. This approach will not only help financial companies in earning higher revenue per client but will also build relationships, which can result in long-term revenue.

One example of the Retirement Planner software made by MoneyMentor

: Religare Enterprises Limited


We worked with Religare Enterprises Limited (REL) one of the leading integrated financial services groups in India, to create a set of financial planning tools for their chain of branded stores called ‘Religare Finmart’. With it’s positioning of ‘Powering your Dreams’, Religare Finmart offers financial planning solutions and products that satisfy all the insurance, investment and loan requirements of an individual. Here are examples of some Financial Planning Tools designed for Religare:



Lead Generation: Financial Planning Seminar presentation for prospects and clients customised for different age-groups and professionals



A booklet on Financial Planning A 16-page guide that helps people understand how financial planning can improve their lives in a very real sense

Invest in Tools that Educate If there is a big market of consumers requiring financial planning services, why haven’t the financial intermediaries successfully implemented this in practice? One of the key challenges lies in the fact that the process of understanding, educating and advising investors has a high dependence on human resources. This creates multiple challenges in execution: 1. Knowledgeable and well-trained financial planners are in short supply. Most companies have an army of salesmen that will now have to be trained for changing the approach from saying “Here is a Investor Education Booklet prototype



Financial Calculators Easy to use calculators that advisors use to find out the correct investment amount for retirement, insurance, asset allocation and other financial goals like buying a house, children’s education etc 4

Presentation to train Financial Advisors A comprehensive presentation to train the advisors in delivering financial planning services using the tools provided


Dream Map (Client Profiler + Financial Plan) A tool that helps clients list down their financial goals in a simple manner and allows the advisor to suggest a plan to achieve their dreams




Religare: A process presentation was also designed to train the in-house financial advisors at Religare Finmart on how, when and where to use the Finanacial Planning tools


great product I have, why don’t you buy it…” to “Let me understand what do you need and then I will suggest a product that is right for you”. 2. Lack of industry standards and absence of wellestablished systems and processes including comprehensive software for financial planning is a big challenge in delivering the promise. 3. The business income generated from client needs to justify the number of hours an advisor spends on working for a client. This may also require a client to pay fees for these services and the culture of paying for advice is new amongst Indian clients.

MoneyMentor ( creates whitelabel information and software tools for financial service companies, which help them in acquiring, educating and building relationships with their customers. We partner with financial companies and institutions to guide investors and financial advisors. INFORMATION MATTERS | VOLUME 3-ISSUE 1

While one-to-one human interaction is indispensable in the delivery of financial planning, one of the ways in which companies can reduce this dependence is by using innovative tools. These tools can be a combination of communication tools that educate and inform as well as technology tools that simplify and automate the sales process. A change in approach from ‘Product Sales’ to ‘Financial Planning’ makes sense for consumers as well as financial services providers. How long it takes for the benefits to reach a wide section of individuals will depend on how much and how fast the financial intermediaries invest in human resources and innovative tools that deliver the promise of financial planning. - Deven Shah, Raghu Fasalkar, Umesh Chavan


Designing the marketing environment of a financial services retail outlet in order to enhance customer experience


is one of India’s leading financial services companies. Launched as an online trading portal in 2000, Sharekhan now offers an entire life-cycle of investment solutions ranging from equities to Mutual Funds, IPOs, Commodities and Portfolio Management Services.

Why a new look for Share Shops? Sharekhan has a presence across 300 cities through 700+ Share Shops and serves more than 7 lakh investing customers. These Share Shops faced the following challenges: Lack of standardised store sizes across locations Inconsistency in product and brand communication Absence of a ‘uniform experience’ for customers INFORMATION MATTERS



Our Approach

Understanding the Customers

We proposed a complete redesign of the retail space and bringing together of the built and the unbuilt space using information design. We began by outlining key objectives: 1. Create a visual identity that has a high recall value and brand association, and can be reproduced at stores all over the country 2. Highlight various services that Sharekhan offers and enable prospects and customers to know Sharekhan beyond ‘a trading broker’ 3. Bring in a personality and human element to the Share Shops using colour, lighting and space 4. Manage different customer types without creating a stark difference in customer experience 5. Emphasise the down-to-earth, friendly relationship between brand Sharekhan and its customers 6. Organise the interiors into clearly defined zones—public, semi-public and services 7. Leave prospects with a positive impression of the Sharekhan brand with adequate take-away literature

The first step was to understand the needs of customers and employees at Share Shops. We undertook a survey of Sharekhan customers and retail managers across four branches in Mumbai and Goa and also photo-documented the various outlets.


External: A signage with a live ticker to emphasise the nature of the business space in the shape of an Acrylic sticker to be pasted on the window pane from inside of branch to be visible from outside. It was also proposed that the external walls of the shop have branding in the shape of ‘stripes’ painted on them which will continue as etching in the glass front of the shop. Internally: A tenant board and corridor signage was proposed to facilitate clients finding their way to the Share Shops located in high-rise buildings (specially in places like Mumbai). We also recommended a metal signage along the corridor to enable immediate sighting of branch, in case that a branch is located along a long corridor. Within the shop, signage boards were placed for each room to guide new visitors.


Most Share Shops have two types of customers—the ‘regulars’ who visit the branch almost daily for trading and others that rarely visit the shop, but phone in to execute trades and trade online on their own. The regular traders or day-traders were the ones we were concerned with as they often spend their entire day at the shop.


Our study of the existing Share Shops showed inadequate external and internal signage. While most Share Shops had exterior signage, it was often not maintained or of inappropriate size. At times, it was even hidden (see pic on left). Local signage (on tenant boards, along corridors, within a building, etc) too was also absent in many cases. Appropriate signage was proposed to address these key areas.


Even though we have been working with Sharekhan for several years and have a prior knowledge of the target audience, the study greatly added to our insights on the real-life retail environment. We were sensitised to the needs of customers, the use of existing store spaces vis-àvis comfort and usability.

The external wall is used as a branding surface making the shop stand out from a distance

Corridor Signage to direct prospects and visitors to the Shop

Internal Signage to guide clients around the Share Shop

Apart from these, most shops also have a certain number of walk-ins—people who come in with queries for account opening, etc. The Shop thus had to cater to trader comfort as well as bring to fore the right information to attract and satisfy the walk-ins. Mystery walk-ins into shops of other financial service companies were carried out, along with studies on the internet in order to understand international best practices in trading and other retail environments.

The Redesign Process



The existing posters and display material in the Share Shops had Sheru as the major element talking to people. We re-did the posters to include human elements in order to make it easier for clients to relate to the brand. These posters described the services offered by Sharekhan and their benefits.

The Share Shop visits helped us see the shortcomings and inadequacies of some areas that could do with changes to improve functioning. Using this as a base, we created design directives and a checklist of challenges like space requirement for storage, etc, and also identified branding elements that could be replicated across stores. Sharekhan wanted a unified but distinct look for its three retail faces—the HNI branch, the ‘mix’ branch visited by both HNI customers and day traders, and the sales branch which is more administrative, with no trading facilities. Within ‘mix’ branch stores, it was also necessary to create a subtle difference in the HNI dealing rooms and retail trading rooms.

Developing the Retail Store Concept We started with the look and the feel of the new environment. This meant creating a ‘Moodboard’ to capture the colour, design language, lighting and materials. In harmony with this, a theme for the information requirements was also decided on. As Share Shops vary in size it was mandatory that the design should be scalable and replicated

Human element was introduced in posters to relate better with clients Text based posters were designed for trading rooms

The second type of posters we designed were mainly text-based posters with quotations related to the stock market and stock trading. These were to add interest to the walls in the trading rooms. A poster wall in the corridor was also proposed in larger shops to provide a decorative feature to the shop and also to cater to the information needs of clients. This was in the form of posters pinned and displayed using magnets, white board and permanent posters.




Samples of materials to be used in the interiors. The material board and colourboard were created to ensure consistency across shops

with ease. The area requirement for each functional zone was specified in a percentage value to facilitate this. The colour chosen was Grey teamed with the brand colour, Orange. The other brand colour, Purple, was introduced as highlights in desktop accessories, etc. Furniture was designed in walnut brown and grey. An important change in customer comfort was creating a second higher level on trading desks to enable the monitor to be placed there. This also enabled customers seated behind to get a clear view of the screen. Storage organisation was also a part of the new store concept.

Before&After: 60


Generally, all Share Shops have a trading room where traders crowd around a terminal operator who is punching in the trades. This meant that the space around the trading terminal used to get congested. To solve this, we devised a simple solution—the trading terminal screen was raised higher, so that traders could view the terminal without having to crowd around the operator. Traders could now sit back and view the trades getting executed.


An information wall was created to display posters, notices, whiteboards, etc

Before&After: INFORMATION DESIGN Every Share Shop is required to have certain number of mandatory certificates (around 9) displayed at all times. Most Share Shops were not following a standardised display of showing these mandatory posters. We proposed that all these certificates be laminated in one large composition, thus avoiding use multiple fames and their management. We also suggested creating and putting up information leaflet dispensers in the reception area to address the problem of clutter that most existing Share Shops were beset with. Wall leaflet dispensers make it convenient for clients to avail of information handouts as well as the monthly magazine brought out by Sharekhan.

Information Design An important part of the store design was the conceptualisation and design of in-store branding elements. Taking an approach different from the existing communication was necessary to enable customers and prospects to relate to the brand. It was, therefore, decided to bring in the human element in all communication. The look and feel was clean and simple with minimal text use and life-size models. It was very crucial to make the communication as clear as possible to make the trading experience seem simple for prospects and other customers. Another consideration was to use visuals that people could relate to. Shop exterior branding was enhanced with a bigger logo and bigger name. The redesigned shop front with a striped pattern on the wall and roller shutters makes use of the peripheral retail space and serves as a branding element even when the shop is closed.

A snapshot of the way certificates were displayed in most shops, before redesign Dispensing of information leaflets in acrylic holders at reception allows prospects to pick up what they need

The new design does not completely remove Sheru, the brand mascot, but elaborates the ‘tiger’ look and feel. The entrance door has a large graphic of a tiger’s face and all the glass surfaces have a ‘striped’ pattern band across them. Continuity is maintained even in the signage—the stripes can be seen on each and every space and also have a subtle presence on the reception wall.

Execution The first Share Shop to undergo the face-lift was at Vasco in Goa. Proximity enabled us to closely oversee the interiors work, interact with the contractors at every step and improve with on-site troubleshooting. The project was handled by Synapse from start to finish—retail store conceptualisation, development and execution. It encompassed aspects of space planning, catering aesthetically to needs of varied customer group, and branding and information design making it a more engaging business environment. - Mohan Krishnan, Advait Ubhayakar Umesh Chavan, Teamea Costa





Using Web 2.0-aware public domain data sources to give a competitive advantage to your websites and dashboards


has been written about the new trends in communication on the World Wide Web, collectively referred to as Web2.0. Born out of a discussion led by Tim O’Reilly on “what do websites that survived and even prospered through the dot-com bust have in common?”, the delightfully ambiguous umbrella term signifies both incremental progress and a rebirth. It is best to revisit the eightfold path of correct Web2.0 thinking as originally laid down by Tim O’Reilly. 1. Target the Long Tail Small sites make up the bulk of the internet’s content; narrow niches make up the bulk of the internet’s possible applications. Therefore: Leverage customer-self service and data services to reach out to the edges and not just the center, to the long tail and not just the head.


2. Data, not Intel, Inside: Applications are increasingly data-driven. Therefore: For a competitive advantage, seek to own a unique, hard-to-recreate source of data. INFORMATION MATTERS | VOLUME 3-ISSUE 1

3. Users Add Value: The key to competitive advantage in internet applications is the extent to which users add their own data to that which you provide. Therefore: Don’t restrict your ‘architecture of participation’ to software development. Involve your users both implicitly and explicitly in adding value to your application in areas that go beyond the narrow limits of application code development.

Campaign to establish the product A Sales Dashboard integrates sales figures with Microsoft Virtual Earth. Different zoom levels show either clustering or sales details down to individual products [The visual has been blurred to protect client confidentiality]

4. Network Effects by Default: Only a small percentage of users will go to the trouble of adding value to your application. Therefore: Set inclusive defaults for aggregating user data as a side-effect of their use of the application, and not make data sharing the underlined goal. 5. Some Rights Reserved: Trying to always protect Intellectual Property limits re-use and prevents experimentation. Therefore: When benefits come from collective adoption, not private restriction, make sure that barriers to adoption are low. Follow existing standards, and use licenses with as few restrictions as possible. Design for ‘hackability’ and ‘remixability’ to allow your users to mix data in innovative ways. 6. The Perpetual Beta: When devices and programs are connected to the internet, applications are no longer software artifacts, they are ongoing evolving services. Therefore: Don’t package new features into monolithic releases, but instead add them incrementally on a regular basis as part of the normal user experience. Engage your users as real-time testers, and instrument the service so that you track and understand how people are using the new features. 7. Co-operate, Don’t Control: Web 2.0 applications are built on a network of co-operating data services. Therefore: Offer web services interfaces and content syndication, and re-use the data services of others. Support lightweight programming models that allow for loosely-coupled systems.

8. Software Above the Level of a Single Device: The PC is no longer the only access device for internet applications. Applications that are limited to a single device are less valuable than those that are connected. Therefore: Design your application from the get-go to integrate services across handheld devices, PCs and internet servers. As more and more websites and web services based on these principles deliver real value, and profit in direct ways from them, the principles of a Web2.0, initially dismissed as vapour, hype or bumper-sticker, are now an accepted starting point in any service design for delivery on the web.

Re-hashing Public and Private Data Stores Dygnos is in the business of delivering Business Intelligence via visually compelling graphical visualizations by integrating business data across multiple enterprise data platforms. Given our basic offering, Web2.0 principles are a natural and primary vehicle for our dashboards. Here are some principles that come naturally to delivering effective Business Intelligence: 1. We integrate data and therefore benefit directly from Programming Interfaces that most enterprise databases expose. One of our dashboards at a leading equities trading company combines data from three large enterprise grade transaction systems on two different platforms as well as an old legacy application that we re-engineered. INFORMATION MATTERS



An MIS Dashboard integrating branch performance data with Google Maps. Markers are colour-coded to show problem areas. Dragging your mouse within an area highlights a branch’s relative performance


2. Remixing and data-source hackability is a huge advantage. Public domain data sources that are Web2.0 aware give our dashboards a competitive advantage over other closed systems. Two of our dashboards use publicly available mapping services—Windows Virtual Earth that we integrated for Microsoft and Google Maps that we have prototyped for Karvy Stockbroking Limited. 3. As more and more information and data is delivered through publicly accessible data services, business intelligence can leverage this public information by combining it with confidential internal data in suprisingly effective ways. Our dashboard at Sharekhan polls a dynamic list of “Illiquid” stocks—stocks that are no longer traded through NSE/BSE sources to generate funding lists and the consequent risk to our client from customers unwilling to sell these. Visual cues on the dynamic changes depending on individual portfolios help Sharekhan identify problem areas before they become potentially unmanageable.


Empowering Users to add Value Much of the value in Enterprise data is built into its source with very little opportunity to enhance it with repeated use. However, a recent project prototype that we are building for a large media buying agency allows users to tag data points with values that they believe are a better representation of the business reality. For example, users of a map-based navigator that displays and inventory of out-of-home (OOH) advertising assets can tag each billboard that they encounter in the map with what they believe is its real value. These values are tagged much like a Map wiki allows users to tag mappoints with annotations. So when other users see the average value of any billboard, they can also see what others users believe is the real value of a site. While many of these ideas are not new, much of Web2.0 principles that we have been able to integrate into our dashboards have begun to deliver real value to users. - Gurunandan Bhat, Manasi Kakodkar


Using games and animation in business context to aid decision-making


animation, long associated with gaming and websites, is increasingly becoming popular among business users to add effectiveness to their presentations. The use of Flash animation in business situations is critical especially when one has to convey complex ideas, introduce new concepts or depict unusual scenarios.

If used correctly and effectively, Flash animation can not only aid in quick decision-making, but can also add the ‘WOW’ factor to your presentation. Animated effects can also help business presenters pace the delivery of information, illustrate complex processes, reinforce key concepts and enhance visual interest and impact of their output.


The game base map showing the alternative biomass processing station and eight elements that can be dragged onto the main screen



Recently, Synapse worked on a project where the client wanted Flash animation to depict a comparative biomass energy processing scenario and show how nonconventional processing methods of making fuel can result in greater savings. The client, involved in energy processing and alternative sources of creating energy, wanted the animation to highlight the cost benefit of using a Biomass Processing Station with BPS and DIDOS modules to generate energy as opposed to the traditional ethanol plant. The ‘Play-way’ Advantage The animation was conceived not as a linear Flash sequence, but as a traditional game map, which would allow an individual to perform different actions, where each action leads to different results, each with its unique implication or savings. The game map showed the different elements and factors that play a role in creating energy—such as transportation mechanisms, the location and nature of the plant, the natural elements (rain, animals, etc), by-products of the process (animal feed, etc), which could influence the costeffectiveness of creating usable energy out of bio-mass.

Eight elements that aided or influenced the energy generation process were identified and could be dragged to the game map: 1. Objects that could destroy biomass: Clouds 2. Objects that transport biomass: Truck 3. Objects that transport biomass: Train 4. Objects that transport biomass: Barge 5. Containers for the biomass 6. Biomass 7. Farm Animals that feed on the biomass 8. Alternative Biomass Processing Station The map also had the traditional ethanol plant that used acids or enzymes to convert biomass to ethanol—to emphasize the environmental benefits of using a Biomass Processing Station with BPS and DIDOS modules. The Challenges Creating the game map had many challenges. 1. PERSPECTIVE: The map perspective had to allow for multiple elements ranging from small units like powder (a by-product) or farm animal to a large elements like barge or a Biomass Processing Station. Without the right perspective, the proportions would have got skewed.

Zoom view of the biomass processing plant

A single-click starts the conversion of biomass

Powder is created as part of conversion

Products can be transported in containers



Containers can be dragged near products

The products can be shifted to a container

The container is placed on the vehicle

The vehicle goes from point to point

The product inside the container can be shifted

The powder can be converted to fuel

To ensure we got this right, we created one level of game map, and another level of zoom detail. In the zoom detail, one could actually perform the action of loading biomass to a container or converting to powder. 2. ROUTE NAVIGATION: The other challenge was in terms of route navigation. Since we weren’t using any gaming engine, and there wasn’t any defined land route, we had to ensure that transport vehicles such as trucks, trains and barge would travel only along pre-defined routes, and avoid collision with other objects. For this purpose, each transport mechanism was allowed to travel only along point-to-point locations. 3. COST CALCULATION: To demonstrate the cost savings, we had to calculate the differentials between using a traditional ethanol plant and a Biomass Processing station. Here, factors such as transport cost, loss due to

natural elements, cost of plant, disposal of by-products, etc, had to be given specific weightage and the final cost tabulated, based on the choices made. 4. CLUTTER-FREE INTERFACE: The game had multiple options and elements, so we had to ensure that the screen doesn’t get crowded with too many elements. Therefore a “Clear Screen” option was included in the game map, which would remove all the elements and allow a person to restart the application. Finally this animated game was integrated within the client’s presentation to make it much more effective and result-oriented. - Mohan Krishnan, Arun Mota





Following the User Centred Design process to redesign the interface of ZapakMail


everyone uses email to various levels of efficiency. Before Gmail came out with their revolutionary User Interface (UI), people thought no innovation was possible in email. And just when everyone thought that Gmail UI was the best, Yahoo came up with a UI that again was much appreciated. The question we faced while creating a new UI for ZapakMail was: What more can we do to create a differentiation for, a brand that attracts young and vibrant ‘gamer’ audience? We decided to follow the principles of User Centred Design (UCD) process for the redesign process. We settled on the following steps: User Research > UI Design > Usability Testing > UI changes


The redesigned post-login page for ZapakMail


Services around Email

STEP 1: User Research

to the email UI. For example, users of Gmail had very polarised opinions about the ‘conversation grouping’ feature pioneered by Gmail. They explicitly (without being asked) stated if they loved it or hated it. This gave us an idea of including a mechanism to ‘switch off’ the conversation grouping.

We started with user research wherein we asked the target group to use their preferred email service in the presence of an observer from our UI team. The professionals performing the user research were trained for the exercise. The do’s and don’ts were clearly established so that the user research was effective and did not induce too much of an ‘observer bias’.

STEP 2: Designing the UI While designing the UI, we had to walk the fine line between having a great, unobtrusive user experience yet having enough opportunities to monetise the service. One tough decision was ‘which page to direct the users to after they login’. Gmail is the only email service that takes the user directly to the inbox page, all other email service (Yahoo!Mail, Hotmail) take the user to an intermediate page which features advertisements. This was obviously done to get more impressions for the ads.

Since the sample size was limited to 20 users, we tried out three different approaches of ‘observation’ using dummy respondents. We first asked a few questions about their email usage patterns and then observed them using the email service of their choice. Two interesting observations showed up in the email patterns of young users (16 to 25 years): 1) Most of them use social networks heavily and prefer to send messages to their friends via social networking sites. They use email only to share photographs with their friends. 2) Most users find the ‘general design’ of their email service boring and missed ‘fun things’ and ‘basics’ like viewing ‘thumbnails of friends’ found on networking sites.

Most display ads on ZapakMail were on CPM (or impression-based) deals, which means that the advertisers pay for impressions. Of course what Gmail does is best from the user experience point of view, but business reasons compelled us to keep the intermediate ‘ad’ page. Our recommendation was to add a value element (for the user) on this intermediate page, so we used this page to show unread mails in open form.

Research also alerted us about new features we could add 1

1) Gmail leads users directly to Inbox page after login—an option that is great for user experience. 2) Yahoo!Mail! takes a user to an intermediate ‘ad’ page. 3) ZapakMail directs the user through the ad page, but gives him a ‘value-add’ element of showing unread mails in open form on the intermediate page

2 3




Making Email ‘Fun’ Research revealed that the kind of users ZapakMail attracted were looking for a ‘fun’ UI. To add an element of fun to the email UI, we added features that enabled users to send e-card and post cards directly through ZapakMail using email. We also added a feature that enabled users to make a post card using ZapakMail.

Users can send post cards and e-cards directly from ZapakMail

Another ‘fun’ feature added was the ability to ‘skin’ the UI. This was done with lots of care as a badly designed skin can interfere with the user experience. Skinning of the UI gave Zapak an opportunity to monetise the email service where advertisers could pay to get custom skins developed for ZapakMail. Skins were designed to be unobtrusive for the user


STEP 3: Simulating the User Experience

STEP 4: Usability Testing

Once most of our UI was ready, we had to get to a form where we could perform usability testing on it. Obviously, usability testing could not have been performed with JPEG images of the UI.

We asked users in the target group to use the new UI and give us their feedback. We did these tests by specifically asking the participants to perform certain tasks like opening mail, etc and observed how they performed them. These observations reinforced our confidence in many of the innovations that we had added, and also revealed some problems which we subsequently fixed.

We decided to create static HTML prototypes of the email UI which were completely linked and the interaction simulated. The prototypes developed were static, but were linked. If a user would click on an email in the inbox page, the email page would open up and if he clicked the reply button, the reply page would open up. The prototype was now ready to put for usability testing.

All in all, following the UCD process was revelatory. Some of us who were hardcore fans of Gmail, were surprised to learn that some users hated the things we loved. We are big fans of ZapakMail now and are just waiting for the product to be re-launched with new UI. - Gurpreet Singh, Dileepan Ramanan


72 An Ambigram is a typographical exercise in graphic design that plays with optical illusions, symmetry and visual perception. Ambigrams can usually be read in more than one way. This ambigram of ‘Synapse’ is done by Dr Punya Mishra, who has a Phd in Educational Psychology and teaches at Michigan State University.


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Information matters - Vol 3  

Information matters - Vol 3

Information matters - Vol 3  

Information matters - Vol 3