Posts filed under ‘About EV’

Never Say “Never Again”

[Note: This post first appeared here, in Fundamatics, an e-zine.]

After a tepid release of ‘Diamonds are Forever’ in 1971, Sean Connery is reported to have vowed that he would ‘never again’ play ‘that’ role. Yet, in 1983, there he was again, suave and swashbuckling as ever, Agent 007 in the rather cheekily named ‘Never Say Never Again’. Although Sean (may I call him Sean?) took more than a decade to realize the error of his ways, I learned this precept right at the start of my entrepreneurial journey.

A decade ago, when I was just a tiny cog in the wheels of a large consulting firm, I swore off consulting forever and decided to start a ‘real’ business, manufacturing and selling products.

I had no clue about the nature of products that I wanted to sell or how to set up a firm, but I was quite clear about the type of organisation that I was going to create – looking back, this was a clue to where I would eventually end up. I wrote a short charter describing the values, work culture, and environment of the organisation that I would build. Among other things, the charter mentioned a fun-filled pursuit of excellence, a reverence for data and detail, an acceptance of diversity and differences of opinion, a desire to be respected for expertise, and a best-in-class product offering.

As I cast around for the sector that I wished to be a part of and hedged my bets by attending a few job interviews, a colleague connected me to a healthcare start-up. On meeting the founders, I found their knowledge immense, enthusiasm infectious and long-term vision motivating. However, I knew that start-ups in the healthcare domain went through a long research phase and took years to break even. Meanwhile, discussions with a large corporate player in the tech space seemed to be fructifying towards a job which would provide a stable income. I recall feeling bewildered and anxious at the time, and thinking through the pros and cons of every aspect of each opportunity. Though it brought me no closer to a decision between the two, I think it helped clarify what I really wanted.

Luckily, sometimes life lets you off easy, as happened in my case. A middle path opened between adventure and stability – a large MNC that had acquired some wellness brands sought a consultant with prior experience in both consumer goods and healthcare to assist their marketing team. I gave myself a year to experiment, and signed up as an independent consultant with both firms – the large one and the healthcare start-up. Thus began my entrepreneurial journey; not with a daring leap into the unknown but with a few tentative steps towards it.

At both the organisations I had the good fortune to work with people who were experts in their domain, secure enough to generously share their knowledge and to give me the space to contribute to the best of my ability (thanks Shailaja, Nafisa, and Nikhil). Life got a bit hectic at times, with work at the large firm taking up the weekdays and the start-up occupying bits and bobs of free time on Sundays and national holidays. Yet, the satisfaction of contributing towards the growth of multiple brands made it a very fulfilling year.

Unlike U2, I realised then that I had indeed found what I was looking for, a combination of three factors that had made my work enjoyable that year. Two of these were the diversity of categories that I was working on and the satisfaction of having added value to clients’ businesses in each of these. The third was the focus on consumers in every aspect of my work – whether growth strategy, market sizing, go-to-market plans, communication, or implementation. I gave up my prior oath to swear off consulting forever, admitted to myself that consulting was the destination after all, and gave the experiment a more formal shape and structure. Never say never again!

ev logo jpeg

Escape Velocity was formed in Q2 FY ’09, a Market Strategy and Marketing Consulting firm that would help firms and brands grow.  The first few months of the firm would be well described by the song “With a little help from my friends”. Friends helped with brainstorming on a name for the firm, finding office space, and finding the first few recruits who took the risk of joining a start-up. Poornima Burte at Design-Orb did a superb job of translating my thoughts into a logo, the objective of ‘accelerating growth’ for clients beautifully expressed in our ‘growth spiral’ logo.

During the initial years, we survived by staying lean – sharing office space and admin resources with another start-up, and limiting our team size to a small group of multi-talented individuals. Our office was tucked away in a quaint nook of this concrete jungle called Mumbai, an old wadi in Prabhadevi that time and development forgot. The neighbourhood consisted of an old bungalow with vines growing on the roof, a chawl, a few apartment blocks, and trees scattered all around. During tough and stressful times, going to office continued to be something to look forward to every morning. When struggling to crack a knotty problem, few things could be more refreshing than looking out and seeing a purple-rumped sunbird perched at a flower on one of the trees, or watching a coppersmith barbet peck-peck-pecking away at another.

The warmth and cheer of colleagues always made me feel optimistic about our long-term prospects. Their willingness to participate in free-form discussions about work ensured I always had food for thought, and kept me learning new ways to look at and tackle problems.

I believed then – and still do – that most issues related to the growth of a brand or B2C business require a mix of quantitative analysis and qualitative understanding, informed by a practitioner’s perspective in order to develop an impactful solution. The importance of maintaining a balance between the qualitative and quantitative approach applies as much to seemingly number-based topics such as growth strategy or market sizing, as it does to topics such as branding, communication strategy or marketing plans.

Unfortunately, until they find boutique firms such as ours, clients often get creative ideas from agencies that may be tangential to brand strategy, or recommendations based on purely quantitative analysis from larger consulting firms. Rarely do they find an integrated approach that analyses both qualitative and quantitative data from a variety of sources to synthesize a custom solution for their brand or business. Rarer still is to have practitioners with industry experience on the team, ensuring that the recommendations are vetted for actionability. The projects that we have successfully completed for firms that are market leaders in domains as diverse as consumer goods, health and wellness, services, chemicals etc., as well as for reputed private equity firms, are testimony to the efficacy of this approach.

From the outset, we were clear that we defined our offering as ‘informed’ or ‘evidence based’ Market Strategy and Marketing; one of our basic tenets was that all our recommendations would be driven by a deep understanding of data from all available sources. Now, as the domain of market strategy and marketing enters a period of prolonged churn and perhaps redefinition, we believe that this twin focus on data – both big data and rich data – and practitioner experience will enable us to serve clients well and help deliver success to their businesses and brands.

I recently reviewed the charter for the organisation that I wrote in 2008. I expected to cringe at a document that hadn’t aged well. However, as I read it, I was filled with immense pride as I realised that not only was it still readable, I could also identify all the principles in the document as values that we at Escape Velocity still adhere to.  Over time, of course, these principles have evolved as we understand our work better, but they have given us a strong internal mooring and a cultural foundation that should last us through the next phase of our adventures.

  • Zenobia Driver

October 31, 2017 at 11:50 am Leave a comment

We’ve reached a century!

A 100 posts that is!

Thank you to all our guest contributors and encouraging readers.

Reason enough to rejoice and have some fun. So here it is, a post with no objective other than for us to chill out and celebrate this milestone.

A few numerical facts first:

  • Simple stuff first; One hundred is the square of 10 (in scientific notation it is written as 102).
  • One hundred is the basis of percentages (per cent meaning “per hundred” in Latin), with 100% being a full amount.
  • It is the sum of the first nine prime numbers… (did you know this? if you’re wondering which ones, here’s the answer, it’s 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17,19,23)
  • … as well as the sum of first 10 odd numbers (1+3+5+7+9+11+13+15+17+19 = 100)
  • … as well as the sum of four pairs of prime numbers (47 + 53, 17 + 83, 3 + 97, 41 + 59)
  • Also, 26 + 62 = 100, thus 100 is a Leyland number. (Now we’re really getting down to business, aren’t we!)
  • A googol is 10 raised to the power hundred, or the number 1 followed by a hundred zeros ;
  • Incidentally, a googolplex is 10 raised to the power of a googol; a googolplex is 1 with a googol of zeros. As per this site, you will get some idea of the size of this very large but finite number from the fact that there would not be enough room to write it, if you went to the farthest star, touring all the nebulae and putting down zeros every inch of the way.

And now some lighter stuff:

  • To begin, a useful quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson for all in stressful jobs, ‘Keep cool: it will be all one a hundred years hence.’
  • The 100th day of the year in a non-leap year is April 10th
  • Year 100 was a leap year starting on Wednesday of the Roman calendar
  • Nostradamus’ collection of prophetic verses are a total of 942 quatrains (a quatrain is a poem of 4 lines) divided into ten sections called ‘Centuries’, which refers to the number of verses in each section. Like the rest of us, he did some adjustment too, one of the centuries had only 42 quatrains.
  • There are 4 Indians in the Forbes list of top 100 richest people in the World: Mukesh Ambani, Lakshmi Mittal, Azim Premji and Savitri Jindal & family
  • Usain Bolt holds the record for the fastest 100m sprint: 9.63 seconds. The fastest 100m sprint by an Indian is by Amit Kumar Prakash at 10.30 seconds
  • You hear 100 blasts of the Shofar in the service of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.
  • There are 100 tiles in a standard Scrabble set
  • The 100th element on the periodic table of elements is Fermium, a rare radioactive earth metal, a member of the actinide series
  • Indian cinema turned 100 in April 2012
  • ‘100 Days’ is a Bollywood film released in 1991 starring Madhuri Dixit, Jackie Shroff, Moon Moon Sen, and Javed Jaffrey. The film is a mystery thriller that follows the adventures of a woman with extrasensory perception. (Apologies to those who feel we’ve skipped from the sublime to the ridiculous)
  • One Hundred Horses – a lovely hand scroll with ink and colors on silk by Lang Shih Ning (Giuseppe Castiglione, 1688-1766), an Italian Jesuit who became a Chinese court painter for Emperor Ch’ien Lung (ruled 1736-1795). The painting is on exhibit at the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan, and you can view it at this site; for maximizing viewing pleasure, click on the ‘enlargement’ button
  • Dante’s Commedia has 100 cantos (34 cantos Inferno, 33 cantos Purgatorio and 33 cantos Paradiso)
  • In the Mahabharata, Dhritarashtra had 100 sons called the Kauravas
  • And to end, a quote from Walden by Henry David Thoreau:

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three,
and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen,
and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.”

Sources – Wikipedia and assorted websites

Compiled by,

Zenobia Driver

September 13, 2012 at 9:01 am 4 comments

The Escape Velocity blog – one year and 65 posts later

Yes, this blog is now a year old, and we did actually manage to post a wee bit more often than once a week!

Some posts – such as the series on shopping experiences (7 posts, starting with this one and ending with this), had readers agreeing and chiming in with their experiences; others – such as the one on the Godrej Muziplay fridge, unleashed a flurry of arguments over multiple media (phone, facebook, wordpress and email).

Our top referring site was facebook (Three Cheers for Mark !), so those of you that hope to see fewer status updates from us in 2012 are going to be sorely disappointed. Search engines were effective at driving traffic to the blog too, amongst the topics searched often was ‘why should boys have all the fun’ and ‘flash sales online’, reiterating the point that a catchy title/name/headline always draws in the audience.

Over the year, we received loads of comments, which made the whole process of writing on this blog so much more fun. So to those of you that did comment, whether it was to express agreement, disagreement, encouragement, ask for information, or tell us something new, a sincerely felt Thank You.

And those of you that didn’t just stop at commenting, but wrote entire posts for the blog, we’re hoping you’ll write a lot more often this year. In fact, beginning today, we’re  starting a whole new ‘Readers’ Contributions’ page on the blog. Hope to see reader generated content far more often now.

Keep reading, and commenting, and we’ll keep writing.


Cheers !

The Escape Velocity team

January 20, 2012 at 11:11 am 2 comments

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