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Is your social media presence working for your brand? (Part 2)

Sen. Lindsey Graham: “How much influence did these ads have? …are there tools you can use to evaluate what impact these ads might or might not have had on each of your platforms with respect to the opinions… that Americans were forming…?”

Colin Stretch (Facebook’s General Counsel): “…we do have tools to help advertisers measure their return on investment… to help them understand different campaigns… For campaigns like we saw… they were intended to drive followership of the pages – getting people to like the page. There the return on investment is clear in how many people liked the page.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham: “So would you consider the return on roubles invested, on the money they invested, did it make sense? Were they under or over expectations?”

Colin Stretch: “I can’t say what the expectations were; I do think it’s clear they were able to drive a significant following”

This conversation happened right at the beginning of the Facebook, Google and Twitter testimony to the congressional committee hearing Russia’s election interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election. It demonstrates some of the confusion prevalent in measuring digital and social media activities… What should the campaign intention be? Are we measuring campaigns to manage them, or are we measuring in order to understand a campaigns’ actual impact? How do we define impact, and what tools do we use to measure this impact? What should the expectation of the ROI be from this medium?  Judging from the answers given at the hearing, not many people, even within Facebook, understand how to quantify the ‘impact’ of activities conducted online in an offline environment.

What is the impact?

When Social Media took off in India, the first thing that brands asked was, “What should we do on this medium?” Advice came aplenty.  Now that some of them have been on it for a few years and poured in more than a little money, they’ve started asking, “What is the impact of all my efforts on it?”  The conversations that happen then are not different from the one quoted at the beginning of this post.

There are fundamentally three questions that need to be answered when assessing the impact of any marketing activity:

  • Has the person of my choice – Target Group (TG) – viewed the message?
  • Having viewed the message, does the TG think of my brand differently?
  • Did the TG change behaviour / take an action that benefited (purchase of) my brand?

The muddling up of the objectives

Prior to any mass media activity, businesses and / or marketers are extremely diligent in defining TG, brand attributes, key message take-out, desired action (marketing objective) etc. Once these are clearly defined, the answers to the three questions above are obtained through measurement of the relevant parameters, and the success of the activity is determined.

But, when it comes to digital and social media, critical points such as objective, key message take-out etc. are not clearly defined, which makes measurement of impact difficult and accountability of the digital agency even tougher to enforce. At best, some effort goes into defining and answering the first question – reaching the right TG. Beyond this, thanks to strategies that social media evangelists and agencies propagate, ‘engagement’ becomes an end in itself. After all, isn’t social media all about, “listening in to conversations that customers are having and then participating and connecting with them by initiating and having more meaningful conversations?”


Then there are some more ‘activities’ thrown in as ‘objectives’ and ‘goals’ by the networks themselves – building presence, creating awareness, driving discovery, acquiring customers, customer service/experience etc. With a plethora of such ‘objectives’ floating around, it’s not surprising that businesses and marketers are confused and  sometimes forget that these are the means to the end and not the end itself.

While setting campaign goals, it’s critical to focus on the ultimate objective – to induce a behaviour change in the consumer that leads to cash registers ringing – and tie-in all activities and metrics to it. Without establishing the link, any money you spend online is akin to gambling on little more than faith.

Drowning in data and measurements

Everything that the brand does during a campaign and how the consumer interacts with it is tracked and logged.  Multiply the number of channels in play with the number of ad formats with the number of user actions possible and you get a sense of the amount of data to parse. For example, a brand could use a combination of websites and social networks, to show a mix of rich media, text and video ads using one or more ad servers that require a user to click and reach a brand page and eventually buy something.

Lightbeam Tracking

Then there is the bigger problem of attribution and trying to measuring online-to-offline activity, which is increasingly complicated by the usage and movement of the users between devices, measurement in platform silos, non-linearity of user actions and use of tracking protection etc. For example a user might have viewed a brand video on a mobile app, remembered it and then searched for the brand on his desktop browser wherein the text ad was shown, clicked on it, landed on the website, read about the product and finally made an offline purchase a few weeks later.

With the amount of data captured in the example above, it’s easy to get tangled in answering activity level questions – trying to piece together what happened, where, why / why not etc., and lose sight of the more fundamental questions that we mentioned  towards the beginning of this post. Marketers today have access to more data than ever before, yet there is still a lot of confusion about which data to track and focus on for assessing the impact on the brand.

An approach:

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to measuring impact, here’s one approach – always think about these three fundamental questions. Start with understanding your online audience first. Then your marketing goals, the outcomes that you want to achieve. Identify data sources you need to help answer those outcome questions – both online and offline. Find ways to integrate these sources to get a more holistic understanding of offline actions basis online views. If real time decisions are needed, use estimates and proxies to tie media metrics to business outcomes. And of course, set up the right tests to validate or reject the hypotheses later.

For example, you might want to answer the question, ‘has the message been viewed by the right TG?’ Then, it would be critical to segment and zero in on the right audience prior to the activity, understand if the media buy reflected that audience, if the ad was served to this right audience and if this audience actually viewed the ad. The extended demographics of the audience, viewability and attention metrics of the ads are a few measures that help you answer this question.

If you are trying to answer, ‘has the TG changed his/her behaviour and purchased a brand in-store,’ determine what the best proxy to measure this is. For example, if the purchase funnel shows that awareness is the biggest driver, then evaluate ‘lift’ in ad recall and brand awareness scores in research studies apart from actual buying itself. If decisions need to be made real time, then use proxies of media metrics (such as mobile ad views, website visits, video completion rate etc.) that tie-in with the business outcome of purchase.


I’ve often heard digital agencies say that more measuring means limiting creative thinking, that the power of the medium is the agility that it offers, and that one can operate on an iterative and ‘learn as you go mechanism’. With the incredible growth of online advertising, it is high time businesses and marketers had access to a robust methodology to measure how brand perception shifts and sales are driven by activities conducted online.

In the next post, we’ll look at some ways that large firms measure impact and how we can improve them.

  • Ravindra Ramavath

December 12, 2017 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment

Customer Experience is Everything

customer satisfaction

A few experiences in just the last few months got me thinking about how much the quality of interaction with the brand influences our purchase decisions.

Customer Experience is the collective impression of multiple interactions that a customer has with the brand over the entire lifecycle of owning their product/ using their service. Delivering quality customer experience has become a (basic) expectation for its customers and if unmet can have dire consequences for the brand.

Here are a few examples that pan across industries and across different touch points in an ownership cycle where I, personally, have chosen brands and products only because they offered a superior customer experience.

My first example is at the inquiry phase, one of the initial touch points one experiences in a purchase process and this is when the brand leaves its first impression on a customer.

I was looking for a replacement for my current Skoda – a sedan that I have been using for the last 7 years. There have been several launches in the last couple of years which have changed the landscape on the roads – mid-sized SUVs and crossover versions have become quite popular – and I was quite excited at the thought of changing to those from my sedan. But the experience with several of these brands left me longing for more and I have now been in the market for over 10 months.

Take the case of Hyundai Creta – I first requested a test-drive through their website and after no communication from them for over a month, I decided to go to the showroom myself and take a look. At the showroom, the first question I was asked by the saleswoman was about when I would take the final decision to buy the car. You ask me when? I ask you, first show me the car!!! She points at the car and says “This Creta. Sit.”, then goes on to read out the features in acronyms “…body made with UHSS, also has ABS with EBD, ESC, offers VHM and HAS…”. When I asked what ESC was – I was given a blank stare and the acronym list continued. When I interrupted again to ask about the parking assist – rear and front parking sensors, cameras, etc. – because that’s important to me, I was, albeit politely, asked to “wait till I finish reading the features”. In the same breath I was told that I would have to wait for 3 weeks to test drive the car! That was it! You can’t ask me to wait anymore – I waited a month to hear back from you, I waited for you to finish reading out your script, now you expect me to wait for 3 weeks just to test drive it and then wait another 6 months to get the car! No way!

Take the case of Nissan Terrano, a vastly improved initial response time, but then …. Again, I requested a test drive through the website, but this time heard back from multiple dealers. One dealer told me that he had a test drive car but could not come to my home or office to show it to me due to registration issues. After 3 months, they called back to set up an appointment for a test drive. The sales person who came to show me the car did not know anything about the car!!! He drove a long way to show me the car and did not even know how to turn off the car when there was no ‘P’ (for Parking) in the automatic gearbox configuration. Another dealer, who got in touch with me, scheduled a test drive – came an hour late but got the wrong car! The wrong car, really?!?!

I am still waiting to hear back from Renault – it has now been 9 months since I last requested a test drive through the website and the company contact number.

I have now reached a point where I am willing to just replace my old Skoda with a new Skoda – I don’t want a new drive and brand experience if I have to deal with all this! And if purchase experience is so bad, I cannot begin to imagine the horrors when it comes to servicing and repairing the car.

And so, I went back to my trusted Skoda – put in a request for a test drive through their website, heard back from them immediately and within 5 minutes from the closest dealer and in another 10 minutes from the dealer’s sales representative who scheduled the test drive for the same evening. He came on time, with the right car and configuration, with all the information, knew exactly what features to talk to me about and answered all my questions. Now is that too much to expect? I think not. Even before I test-drove the car, half the battle was won for them, and within 5 minutes of sitting in the car the decision was made.

Established brands in high involvement categories (as in this case) often get this wrong. Automobile industry experts say that high attrition of sales personnel is a big problem for passenger car dealers, and only a few brands invest heavily on training the sales and service personnel. Furthermore, few brands insist that dealers invest in a certain number and variety of test drive cars, or track dealer functions and customer experiences regularly and have checks and balances in place to course correct.

While this was a high involvement and high value purchase, the same expectations hold for other lower involvement/ value purchases too.

We’ve all heard and read about how Eureka Forbes was able to build a new household water purifier category and a major driver in achieving so is its investment in building a highly trained sales team. And today, over 30 years since launch, it has a strong sales team of 8000+ “euro-champs” who continue to deliver the brand’s promise. As I’ve seen from my experience, their investment in customer support and service continues to pay off for the brand.

I had been a loyal Aquaguard user for years and when it came time to change homes, basis the recommendation of a health-conscious friend, I opted for a Kent water purifier because it had better features and superior technology. But soon realized that it was a mistake – up until the purchase of the machine things were fine but when it came to installation, the struggle started and then repairing and part replacements were needed within the first 3 months itself – these were parts which weren’t covered in the warranty, and service advisors were going to visit only after 3 days. What was I expected to do for 3 days!! In a household of 8, which had no drinking water for 3 days, I had to invest in a water dispenser. So when it came time to choose a water purifier for the my husband’s new office – we went back to the trusted Aquaguard – where they now come to service and repair, regularly, promptly and on time.

So it’s not just the sales staff that needs to have its A-game, it needs to be supported well with the service end of the purchase as well. When the entire journey of the interaction is a satisfying experience for the customer, is when a brand is truly successful in delivering an exemplary customer experience.

My neighbor, a 60-year old homemaker, a loyal Big Basketeer, has only praises for the brand especially due to her experience with the customer service team – they let her return sub-par produce, they send her a better replacement for free, they give her discounts even without her opting for it during check-out and they expedite her order delivery on just a simple request over a phone call. She has definitely converted several of her neighbors into Big Basketeers, including myself.

Just based on my experiences, Skoda and Aquaguard were able to retain their customer despite having a standard [but quality] offering and Big Basket was able to convert its customer into a champion for its brand and get the best kind of advertising it could ask for – Word of Mouth.

And these are just a few of the reasons why customer experience is so critical for brands. Brands spend top dollar on customer retention and advocacy and these brands have been able to achieve so through investing in their customer experience.

  • Roshni Jhaveri

August 10, 2017 at 5:50 am 2 comments

Mobile Penetration, Mobile Data Speed and Consumption in India

In this blog post, we mentioned that India is the #2 market in terms of Internet users behind China. But did you know that India was the #2 telecommunications market in terms of subscribers since 2008?

The telecom revolution stated in India on July 31st 1995 with a mobile call between the then WB chief minister, Jyoti Basu, and Union communications minister, Sukh Ram.  Since then, mobile phones have permeated everywhere in India. There are 1,036 million telecom subscribers, 97% of these being mobile subscribers. The urban mobile teledensity is a mind boggling 147, 3x higher than rural at 49 (overall mobile teledensity of 79.2).

With such high penetration numbers, every telecom operator is now turning towards data to increase revenues. The growing smartphone penetration in India, driven by cheap handsets is expected to fuel this. In 2016, smart phone shipments are expected to overtake that of feature phones with analysts pointing out factors that can drive the average price of a smartphone further down from Rs.10,700/- in 2015.

While users in India are still more concerned about voice quality than data services (and the leading telecom operator has tried to take the high ground on this aspect with the open network campaign), among smart phone users elsewhere, data speed is considered to be the most important factor in determining both network performance and satisfaction with an operator.




[Here’s a quick look at the data in the infographic above (2015 data) :

  • 1,010.9 million wireless telecom subscribers
  • 311.7 million wireless internet subscribers
    • 60% of these connections are on GPRS/Edge networks
    • 36% on 3G technologies such as HSPA/WCDMA
    • & only 0.8% of connections are on 4g networks technologies such as EVDO/CDMA/LTE
  • The average mobile connection speed was 1,016 kbps with…
    • … the average 2G speed at 77 kbps
    • … the average 3G speed at 1,932 kbps and
    • … the average 4G speed at 9,415 kbps
  • The average mobile-connected end-user device generated 149 megabytes of mobile data traffic per month
    • Average non-smartphone generated 49 megabytes of mobile data traffic
    • Average smartphone generated 430 megabytes of mobile data traffic per month
      • 9x more mobile data traffic per month than a basic handset
      • Within this, the average 4G smartphone generated 1,256 MB of traffic per month in 2015, compared to 430 MB for non-4G smartphones.
    • Average tablet generated 1,671 megabytes of mobile data traffic per month
      • 34x more mobile data traffic per month than a basic handset
  • There are an estimated 239 million mobile connected smartphones, 23.9% of device connections, and they generated 69.1% of total mobile traffic
    • Incidentally, India has overtaken Japan to become the world’s third largest smartphone market
  • There are 3.8 million tablets, 0.4% of device connections generating 4.2% of total mobile traffic
  • In India, mobile video traffic is estimated to grow 20.8-fold from 2015 to 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 83%.
  • Currently, web and other data applications generate about 48% of mobile data traffic, Video generates 40% , streaming audio generates 10% and file-sharing the balace 2% of India’s mobile data traffic
  • Currently web browsing, emailing and social networking are the top three internet activities on smartphones ]


What these numbers tell you is that Indians are embracing the internet on the mobile, not PC. And this mobile Internet is currently work and social networking related. Going forward it will be increasingly video.

However, the quantum of consumption is still low. For example, the 430 MB consumed at an average speed of 2.643 kbps by an average smartphone on an average mobile connection is good enough to stream about half a movie in SD quality from Netflix. And, if you are going to use a social network like Facebook exclusively, it will last you about 4-5 hours (1 -2 MB per minute). These are of course averages. There is always the pareto principle, 33.9 Million mobile users (~11% of total mobile internet users) consume over 2 gigabytes of data per month. And it is from survey of these users, that you hear the hype about mobiles and apps.

The next few years are going to be exciting in this space, launch of multiple high spec smartphones at Rs.10,000 price points, roll out of 4G LTE (and imminent data price wars) and better last mile connectivity  will further fuel mobile data consumption.

{The Cisco, Ericsson, CMI and TRAI reports are sources for this article and infographic, and can be accessed at the links given.}

  • Ravindra Ramavath

September 8, 2016 at 3:05 pm 1 comment

Updates – fragrance of the rain

Thanks to two readers of our blog, we have some more information related to our last post.

Click on this link to read about Geosmin, one of the molecules that plays a role in petrichor. In fact, its name is derived from the Greek words ‘Earth’ and ‘smell’.  Another interesting point, the human nose is extremely sensitive to geosmin and is able to detect it at concentrations as low as 5 parts per trillion. Geosmin is responsible for the muddy smell in many freshwater fish ; Geosmin breaks down in acidic conditions and becomes odourless, hence vinegar and other acidic ingredients are often used in recipes to cook these fish. Thanks for all this info, Oinks.

And this link is about a fragrance called ‘mitti attar’ made in Kannauj, which captures that refreshing energising fresh smell of wet mud after the rain. Thanks for sharing this article, Ruks. This article that is quoted in the earlier one mentions one fascinating factoid , albeit unrelated to petrichor. Apparently after the Empress Mumtaz Mahal passed away, Shah Jehaan never wore perfume again , attars had been one of the couple’s shared passions.

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July 1, 2016 at 1:09 pm Leave a comment

English-Vinglish, and all that jazz

Read this article about the English Dost app via a friend’s Facebook feed and was reminded of a few incidents that I’ve witnessed during the last year.

On the day a friend left Mumbai for Singapore, among those who visited her house to say goodbye was her maid. The maid had brought her adolescent children along too, and I was amazed at the difference between the maid and her children. Had the mother not introduced me to her daughter, I’d never have guessed how closely they were related; the maid seemed like someone one step away from the ancestral village, while the daughter seemed a native of a big city.

While the mother wears a sari, cannot speak much English and is rather diffident, her daughter prefers jeans and a shirt, speaks good English and is much more confident. While the mother is uneducated, she’s ensured that her daughter got a school education and learnt English, and encourages her to attend college; even though the young girl has to hold down a part-time job in order to meet her education expenses at college ,she’s determined to obtain a college degree that will get her a better job than her mother’s and a brighter future.

A few months later, I was at Bodh Gaya for the sales and marketing module of a Cream training program. The participants comprised micro-entrepreneurs from villages in Gaya and Muzzaffarpur district of Bihar. They could speak some English, but not much ; hence classroom sessions were conducted in both English and Hindi, with constant translation of any English sentence by an interpreter. All our training material (slides , hand-outs, question papers) had also been translated into Hindi for the benefit of the participants. Yet we witnessed an amazing zeal to learn new English words that pertained to their businesses, as if they saw these words as currency for garnering status in the eyes of their peers (remember that these were all rural micro-entrep[reneurs). There were participants who’d stop us mid-sentence and ask us to spell out ‘negotiation’, ‘consumer’ etc. and earnestly write down the English word in their notebooks.

English learning appsNo wonder there’s such a huge market for English learning apps and so many of them available now. There’re generic apps like Busuu through which anyone can learn English ( or another of a set of languages) by having conversations with native speakers of that language. There’re English Dost and enguru, both of which use a game with real-life situations to help users learn English, these seem to target those joining the corporate sector in junior management roles. English Seekho by IMImobile and IL&FS Education & Technology Services limited target a very different audience – junior level clerks, traders, unskilled laborers, frontline staff, taxi drivers, restaurant waiters etc. There’s also the British Council site that has several English learning apps, podcasts etc., and even an app to help Taxi drivers learn English to communicate better with their customers ! Clearly there’s a ton of demand from a large number of segments.

  • Zenobia Driver

December 10, 2015 at 1:18 pm Leave a comment

Fun, facts and #PhotoshopRF

The Escape Velocity team decided to join in the merrymaking over the #PhotoshopRF tweets (click on this link for some amusement) with some tweets of our own yesterday. Only, we put our own spin on the advice to Fedex by adding some facts to the snaps too.

For those of you that are not on twitter, here’s our contribution to the advice to Federer on which places to visit, along with some back-up data :






  • Ravindra Ramavath

(with assistance from Poornima and the Design Orb team)

September 27, 2014 at 2:42 pm Leave a comment

Colour bombs nail pops – they rock !

This is a post that I’ve been thinking of writing for some time – ever since I made one of my infrequent visits to a small cosmetics store last year and noticed a brand that stood out on the shelf, or in the basket as in this case.

If you’re in India, visit a small ‘gift shop’ or cosmetics shop or bindi-bangle store in your neighbourhood market and take a look at how nail-polish bottles are stocked. Only expensive nail-polishes from premium brands are kept on shelves, the rest that are priced at Rs. 15 – Rs. 50 per bottle are just dumped higgledy-piggledy into a box or a basket – all colours and all brands together, this box is either kept on the counter or under the counter and brought out when a customer asks to see products.

colourboms pic - grouped pic.jpg

As it is, for the vast majority of consumers, nail polish purchase is driven by colour and price, not as much by brand. To add to it, you have staff at the retail counter who often tell consumers things such as this statement, “aapko color jo pasand aata ai woh nikalo, brand se kya lena dena, sabhi same hai, utne hi chalte hai” (“select whichever colour you like, how does the brand matter, they’re all as popular”). Then how does a brand ensure that consumers are loyal to it and pick it up out of the box each time, from among a huge assortment of polishes such as  VOV, Etude, Bo, 8C Lacque, Incolor, Tips and Toes, Caty Girl ( I kid you not !), Bonjour, Priya, Ambar, Blue Heaven, BCC, Miss Claire, Honey Sweet (like the Bond heroine ?), Teen Teen etc. ?

Well, at least one brand focused on understanding their TG, creating packaging that would appeal to them and get their attention, and then communicating the same. Elle 18, HULs colour cosmetics brand for young women was re-launched in Nov 2010 with the ‘Colour Bombs’ range. The brand was positioned as a young, modern, trendy yet affordable brand for its TG comprising 13-18 year olds who are willing to experiment with explosive colors, as the name ‘Color Bombs’ suggests.

colourboms pic 4.jpg

These products were made to appeal to a young woman / teenager every which way, beginning with the name itself – which young lady does not (at least occasionally) aspire to look like a ‘bomb’ ? The range has the bright vibrant colours that are all the rage with young women today, the packs have a shape that’s different from the packs of other brands, with funky illustrations of women on them that utilize the little blank space available on the small pack most efficiently. The imagery and colors used in the new packaging and communication are young and edgy and completely different from the earlier plain-Jane look of Elle 18. I just loved the way the image on the nail-polish bottle – which no competitor has – made this pack stand out and grab attention amongst the clutter of products in the nail-polish box on the retail counter.

colourboms pic 3

colourboms pic 5

Note : While this post has focused on nail polish, the Colour Bombs range has nail paints, lipsticks, lip glosses, black eye-liner and kohl too, all priced between Rs. 45 and Rs. 100.

colour bombs grouped pic 2

p.s Here’s a link to the ad in case you’re interested. Frankly, I didn’t like this ad much and thought it didn’t live up to the excitement and joie-de-vivre of the brand name and the packaging ; but what do I know, I’m not the TG, I’m an Auntyji.

  • Zenobia Driver

July 30, 2013 at 6:16 am 4 comments

Brand New Year

It was in the ancient times[700 BC] that the Romans  first dedicated New Year’s Day to Janus , the mythological God of gates, doors and beginnings. Legend has it that he has two faces, one looking forward and one backward, and the first month of the year, January is named after him. This tradition of celebrating New Year on January 1 then faded away and it was only in 1751 that New Year began on January first, once again.

With the expansion of Western culture and the Gregorian calender being adopted by many countries, the celebration of New Year’s day on January 1 has become pretty universal. This is so even in countries [such as India, China etc.] with their own New Year’s celebrations on other days. For example, the Chinese New Year [also called lunar new year] occurs about 4 to 8 weeks before spring [Lichun] and the exact date is anywhere between 21st January and 21st February. It is the most important Chinese celebration of the year.

In India it is celebrated in various regions, mostly between March and April; Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, Ugadi in Andhra, Cheti Chand among Sindhis, Varusha Piruppay in Tamil Nadu and Baisakhi in Punjab, etc. For the Jewish it is Rosh Hashanah [Hebrew for Head of the year], when apple slices are dipped in honey and eaten with blessings recited for a sweet new year. The Zoroastrian New Year coincides with the Iranian new year of Nowruz (or Navroze) and is celebrated by Parsis and Persians throughout the world.

New Year celebrations often vary from country to country and reflect ancient traditions within their cultures. In Scotland, the New Year is called Hogmanay. Here one can find barrels of tar set on fire and rolled down streets of villages. This odd but significant ritual symbolizes that the old year is burned up and the New Year is going to begin. In Japan, late in the evening of December 31st, people would eat a bowl of buckwheat noodles called Toshikoshisoba [year-crossing noodles] and listen for Buddhist temple bells to ring 108 times at midnight to purify the 108 sins that plague every human being. Homes are often decorated with pine or bamboo, both considered to be symbols of long life. In Spain people eat 12 grapes at midnight: one for every time the clock chimes twelve. In many parts of the USA, black eyed peas are eaten for good luck in  the coming year. The Dutch eat Donuts to bring in good fortune and ancient Persians gave eggs as New Year gifts symbolizing productivity. In other parts of the world the humble cabbage is eaten for prosperity.

In Venezuela, Bolivia, Mexico and Argentina, do not be surprised to see people carrying an empty suitcase around the house or even down the block at midnight on New Year’s eve. They do this to ensure that they travel great distances in the coming year. In China they burn crackers at midnight to scare away the evil spirits and even seal the doors and windows of their houses with paper to keep the demons out.

The tradition of making new year resolutions may seem like a modern one; the promise to lose weight, to go easy on the alcohol etc, but the truth is that this ritual is as ancient as the Babylonians. In those times the most popular resolution during the new year was to return borrowed farm equipment!

Bill Vaughn once wrote that on New Year’s eve, an optimist stays up until midnight to greet the new year, while the pessimist does the same, but only to make sure that the old year has left. And so, whichever way we chose to do it, the time has come to bid goodbye to the fables and foibles of the year gone by, and to welcome the New Year 2013 with open arms, black eyed peas or a suitcase, whatever one fancies. After all it is going to be a Happy New Year.

  • Sita Lakshmi Narayan Swamy

January 1, 2013 at 7:29 am Leave a comment


It’s been a somber end to the year here in India, and I felt that the poem below aptly wraps up the reality of the year gone by – all the joys and sorrows, highs and lows, that keep the carousel of life spinning.

The Year

What can be said in New Year rhymes,

That’s not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,

We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,

We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,

We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,

We wreathe our prides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,

And that’s the burden of a year.

— Ella Wheeler Wilcox


But let me also heed the slogan I read on the board outside a church in Bandra, ‘Never let a bleak past cloud a future happy new year’ ;

And in that spirit, express my hope that 2013 will be better and happier than 2012, and will bring all our readers success, prosperity and joy.

  •  Zenobia

December 31, 2012 at 11:38 am Leave a comment

Pyramid, kite or door – Comparing age profiles of countries

Last week we ran a post from the blog ‘Brick and Rope’ on the greying of Japan. The transition of Japan’s demographic profile from a pyramid to a kite was so stark that it made me curious about population pyramids for other countries. This post has the data for India, China and France, and by next week we’ll try and look up some interesting information on questions arising from these.

india's population pyramid 2
The Population Projection Report 2006 (for entire report, click here) by the Technical Group on population projections commissioned by the National Commission on Population includes these tables. This link shows how India’s population pyramid is expected to become squatter in shape by 2050. In fact, it pictorially shows the changes 1995 on.

China's population pyramidThis report shows how the population pyramid of China is changing with time. If you want to have some fun with this, check this link – it has an interesting animation which shows how the age composition of China’s population will change over time (from 1950 to 2050).









An interesting comparison of the demographic profiles of India and China here in this interview with a senior advisor to the National Bureau of Asian Research, relevant excerpt below :

How does this profile compare with other major states in the Asia-Pacific region, especially China, which is still the most populated country in the world?

China is clearly the obvious comparator to India, with a current population of over 1.3 billion. No other countries are even close in scale to these two.

India is on track to become the world’s most populous country in the not-so-distant future, however. Both Census and UNPD projections anticipate that India’s population will exceed China’s by 2025, and the UNPD’s projections imply that the crossover may occur even sooner than that—possibly within a decade.

By 2030, current projections envision that China will have entered into a long-term depopulation. That impending depopulation is by now virtually unavoidable and has already been “baked in the cake,” so to speak. The county’s fertility trends sank below the replacement level two decades ago and are currently estimated to be 30% below replacement.

China’s working-age population is on track to peak around 2015 and will have been shrinking for a decade and a half by 2030. By contrast, India’s steadily growing working-age population will be the world’s largest well before 2030.

China will be aging very rapidly over the decades immediately ahead. By 2030, the population’s median age will likely be about 43 years, up eight years from today, and the 65 years and older share will be approaching 17%, twice as much as today. Accordingly, China will face the burdens that come with an aging population. By 2030 it will be a decidedly “grayer” society than America today—on an income level far below current OECD norms, even assuming rapid material progress.

China’s coming population profile will also be characterized by major changes in family structure. Due to the prevalence of female feticide today, China now has a biologically abnormal “excess” of little boys, which portends a potentially monumental “marriage squeeze” in the decades ahead. While China currently has a universal marriage norm, in less than a generation a fifth or more of men in their late 30s or early 40s may be essentially unmarriageable. This is a demographic wildcard for China’s future and may presage unpredictable social strains or political pressures. While India also has abnormally high ratios of little boys in some regions, its gender ratio is far less extreme than China’s and is unlikely to have similar ramifications on marriage prospects.

Thus far, India’s prospective population profile may sound more favorable than China’s, at least regarding implications for economic development. However, China will retain a number of demographic advantages bearing directly on economic potential. Today, China is substantially more urbanized than India. The UNPD estimates 48% of the country is urban today, as against 30% for India, and it projects that this gap will actually widen over the next two decades. For another, China’s overall public health conditions are substantially better. Life expectancy in China is about eight years higher than it is in India and is projected to remain significantly higher through 2030.

Perhaps most importantly, China has a dramatic edge over India on mass educational attainment. As of today, almost everyone in China’s working-age population is at least literate. By contrast, roughly a third of India’s working-age manpower has never been to school. India is about half a century behind China in eliminating illiteracy. Even posting steady educational progress, India will still lag far behind China in attainment levels twenty years from now.

Another interesting comparison is between the projected population profile of India, China and a western nation, let’s pick France. This link shows the French population pyramid going on a diet and shrinking between 1990 and 2050. This report has graphs that show the way the world population’s age composition will change over time; no surprises once you’ve seen the graphs for India, China and France, but worth looking at an aggregate picture anyway. 

world popn pyramid

world popn pyramid 2




  • Zenobia Driver

December 6, 2012 at 9:02 am 2 comments

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