Monday, February 28, 2011

Pissed Off Customer Oh God !

I have written my second article at on customer service.
Please do read it and post your comments. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Photography for Beginners

Most consumer cameras allow you to experiment in various modes which are in built into the camera. I am referring to the small letters printed on your camera dial such as P (Program), AUTO, TV (Shutter Priority),AV( Aperture Priority)M (Manual) etc. Unless you plan to move on step ahead and are particular about the output that you wish to have, I suggest you stick to the Auto mode, which is the default mode in your camera. This mode takes care of most situations in everyday photography.

While it may seem rather obvious and simple, your way of holding the camera is very important in getting a steady photo of your subject. This is particularly important in low light situations such as night photography where chances of getting a blurred photo are on the higher side even with the slightest movement of the camera.  Hold the camera close to your body with a firm grip. Hold your breath for a second while you click. Keep it steady, till you see the output/photo on your LCD screen. Always wear the camera strap unless it is absolutely necessary to hold the camera considerably away from your body.

There are photographers who love to use the flash creatively and then there are these hard core ambient natural light lovers who use minimal flash that too  if absolutely necessary. Since most consumer cameras come with smaller sensors, the ability to get quality pictures during night time without flash is less. Most small consumer cameras have a harsh flash which makes the photo look very artificial. Hence daylight would be the best time to try experimenting particularly with outdoor photography. In fact the best time would be early in the morning (7 am – 9:30-10 am) before the sun builds up that sweat on your forehead.  It’s less about the sweat and more about the fact that light coming from the sun would not be harsh at that point of time. It would be bright enough to light up your subjects optimally. 3pm to 5pm would also be ideal for the same reason. Between 5: 30pm and 7pm, you will find quick changes happening in the skyline. Just before sunset you will see hues of blue and warm yellow tones getting changed to light and then dark orange. It’s a treat for your eyes and the best time to get Silhouette’s as shown in the picture here.

Composition is where most people screw up. It’s one of the most important aspects in photography. Composition simply refers to the placement of your subjects within the frame. Putting your subject bang in the middle of the frame is the drabbest thing you can do to your photo. Make it off centre and see the difference. For a slightly sophisticated explanation read the ' Rule of thirds '.

Chinese netsIn this photo to the left, you can see concept of rule of thirds being implemented.Since the focus/primary subject is the sea with the boat and fishing nets, these should occupy 2/3rds of your frame.

Similarly in the photo towards your right here, since the setting sun in the horizon is the main subject, it has occupied 2/3rds of the frame thereby giving it a more dramatic effect. Try not to split your images horizontally  into two equal halves.

Always try to have a clear plain and simple background, avoid clutter and make your subject stand out. The viewer should not get confused about what the photographer is trying to capture. So always highlight your subject. You can diffuse clutter in the background by moving a bit away from your subject and zooming in appropriately thereby blurring the subject’s background.

That's it for now. I do not want to make the post any longer. Please feel free to write to me at on any doubts/clarifications. Shall keep writing about this passion of mine.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Photography As a Hobby

Self Portrait - Circa 2007

Most people up to my generation including me had to grow up with the fact that photography was an expensive hobby. Something, which was the prerogative of either the well off people or the poor mavericks who never bothered where the money went. Others were of the opinion that you required both Michael Angelo’s brains and a rich uncle to support this hobby. Nothing could be far from the truth now.

Digital photography has created a revolution much like what has happened with the advent of the Personal Desktop Computer. You don’t even need to buy a camera to start experimenting with photography. With camera phones getting cheaper by the day, all you require is a thirst for seeking the right knowledge and the eagerness to learn.  If you have any creative talent be it in any stream, you will take to photography like fish to water.  For the rest of the folks out there who feel creatively challenged, do not worry. Any skill can be learnt. There are no born photographers.

As with any hobby, you could either start small or throw money to get expensive gear. My humble piece of advice would be: Don’t envision yourself with big telephoto lenses, camera bag slung on the shoulder with tripods to boot. Start small and simple. Most of you would be having a consumer camera boasting of at least 3 mega pixels with the latest ones hovering around 12 megapixels. They don’t mean much unless you plan to have a HUGE poster made out of your photograph. So cut the superiority complex if you have any on account of those extra megapixels : )

In the busy humdrum of daily life, we seldom get time to reflect upon ourselves and the environment around us. Photography clearly brings out the observation skills that all of us inherently posses but are too lazy to put into practice. It brings about our innate expressions, captures the mood we are in and is an excellent way to channelize the creativity within. For all the harried people out there who think Yoga is the only way out, Photography definitely helps in improving your patience levels.

So keep tuned in to this blog for some bare basic tips on getting started in photography in simple no nonsense jargon free lingo, that even a Dodo could understand. They’re extinct, so I’m not getting sued anyways.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Regaining Lost Credibility

To err is human said the English writer Alexander Pope (1668 – 1744). Let’s assume you have erred at your workplace thereby losing your credibility and trustworthiness in front of your subordinates, peers and supervisors. Is there any way to regain the lost credibility ?

While forgiving could be divine (as said by the same English writer), we need to get back on track and regain the trust. Here are a few thoughts on the same:

Have an open mind: The important thing is to have an open mind which accepts feedback and criticism. Accepting feedback about themselves is the toughest thing for most people. However, this is one aspect of your personality that will help you go a long way be it in your personal or professional life. Things happen. It’s perfectly ok and the right thing, to realize your mistake first, accept it from your end and be ready to deal with some flak initially.

Own up: Do not give excuses, justify or rationalize your mistakes regardless of circumstances. You must own up your mistakes even if the mistake has only been 1%. Owning up your errors is the first step towards regaining lost credibility. It means, you are ready to accept responsibility for your actions. Apologize and let others know how you feel about your actions.

Corrective Action: Have a corrective action plan in hand and make that double quick. Do not wait for others to get back to you on what you should be doing. Present your plan to them and let them know what concrete steps you are willing to take to correct or rectify the situation. Get them to feel that you are genuinely interested in ensuring that no such occurrences are repeated from your end.

Time Frame: A constructive plan needs have a reasonable time frame. Any plan which does not mention time frames/dates is worth less than the paper it is printed on. A plan with detailed dates, gives a sense of urgency and purpose towards your efforts. It shows that you are serious about completing the task and are willing to set deadlines for the same.

It’s important not to feel antagonistic about events which have led to you, loosing credibility at your workplace. Neither should you blame others for what has happened and nurse any unnecessary grudges. Focus 100% of your efforts and energy towards your action plan. Let your actions speak for you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Leadership and Credibility

One of the most important attributes of a leader would be credibility.  This is what every aspiring employee who wishes to lead needs to remember. Credibility automatically comes about from being genuine and committed towards your work, colleagues, company and most of all yourselves. You will come across as being credible if your actions are in tune with your words.

Often times, we come across people who toe a standard line and expect others to toe that same line without having any buy-in from the team. To top that, they seldom do what they have been espousing. When this happens, people around who are observing you, be it co-workers/ supervisors, would loose all credibility and trust in you.  It’s not necessary that you have to do something nefarious to loose credibility. Here is a small example: Imagine a team leader or a supervisor admonishing subordinates for coming late to work or to a meeting. Now, if the team leader/supervisor himself is a habitual late comer, then what is the message being conveyed to subordinates. He has already lost his credibility in the eyes of his subordinates. The negative impact that one faces on lost credibility, far outweigh any laurels received from outstanding achievements at work.

What happens when you loose credibility at work place?  Your co-workers/peers will stop asking you for any help. Nobody would want to seek help from a source which is not trustworthy. Your boss will stop depending on you for critical assignments. He may give them to a slightly lesser performing chap but who is more dependable. The work needs to be done after all. You will thus end up loosing those challenging opportunities and also easily be overlooked for a promotion or a hike.  Worst of all, when you loose credibility, you loose a bit of respect as well.

How can you regain lost credibility? Read on about that in my next post !

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Of French Cuisine and Current Day Presenters

I have had the oppurtunity to write for an upcoming business management blog run by Abhirup Bhattacharya who is a graduate in fashion technology from the prestigious NIFT. Please read on for an interesting taken on content Vs presentation at Ideas Make

Monday, February 14, 2011

Super star ! - So what ?

I recently read a blog on whether celebrity endorsements work, which made me ponder about it in context of Kerala as a market. Keralites have cared two hoots for celebrity endorsements ever since I could remember.  I don’t think I’ve heard anybody buying something just because a celebrity has been endorsing it.

Off hand I could recollect Mohanlal in Mohanlal’s Taste buds, Manappuram Finance ; Malabar Gold ( Hey, wait a minute, all the products start with an ‘M’ ). South Indian Bank starring Mammootty riding a bullet or a Harvey or whatever it is. Now, whoever wanted to buy curry powder or bank with South Indian bank  just because they are endorsed by Mohanlal & Mammootty ?

Do celebrity endorsements blindly help in top of the mind recall ? I think of Melam or Mohanlal’s Taste buds when I think of curry powder ? Nope, I guess Melam  or Eastern wins hands down any day. Go pick a celebrity chef( Yes, we do have some in Kerala as well ) for endorsing a curry powder. Who cares if the company belongs to Mohanlal himself . Is it mandatory that he should be there on the cover?  What about Mohanlal in the Pankajakasturi ad ? ( Something without an ‘M’ at last). Mohanlal’s  love for Ayurveda is well known, hence the endorsement for Pankajakasturi  gels in perfectly well. Does Mammootty walk in to south Indian Bank for cash deposits/withdrawals/customer service ? why on earth should I feel that I would be treated like him if I decide to bank with South Indian Bank ?

Now turn to the JoyAlukkas ad featuring Madhavan , the quintessential romantic heartthrob of the screen. You could easily connect with the ad and him in wanting to be The Man, all waiting to shower his lady love with that pendant regardless of your depleted bank balance.

Celebrity endorsements work perfectly fine as long as the image and expertise of the celebrity complement the product or brand.  It’s an advertisement for the product/brand after all and not of the celebrity.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Bystander Effect in Kerala

Barely a week before, Kerala witnessed the horrific death of Soumya ( 23) . She died as a result of injuries sustained when she jumped off or was pushed off the running train  by  her alleged tormentor ,a hardened criminal.

It is now amply clear from eyewitness accounts, that many people travelling in the next compartment had indeed heard Soumya’s pleas for help. But no one dared volunteer to raise an alarm or pull the chain to stop the train. A move , which could perhaps have saved Soumya’s life.The question, which has been going the rounds since then has been the insensitiveness of our society as a whole towards such incidents. Has  Kerala society become morally bankrupt ? While there can never be any excuse for people not intervening at the right time   in such cases, we need to understand the basic phenomenon or psyche that goes behind such inertia among people at crime scenes.

The bystander effect or Genovese Syndrome refers to the inability of individuals to offer any kind of help to the concerned victim. They become, as the name goes, mere bystanders.  In fact, the more the number of people available at the crime scene, the lesser the probability of help. Sickening, if you think of it.   This primarily occurs due to a ‘Diffusion of Responsibility’  among the people present. Each of them think that the other person could as well react.The fact that they are part of a group, makes them think that individual responsibility is diffused/shared. For example, in a firing squad, the members of the squad could be randomly issued a weapon having  a blank cartridge, thus allowing each of the members to believe that it must not have been them that fired the fatal shot.

When you are part of a larger group, the guilt is shared. The same individuals, had they been alone, or part of a very smaller group could have reacted in an entirely different and responsible manner.Awareness brings about the impetus needed for change in the attitude and behavior of individuals. Let us realize what is happening within ourselves. Let us not be a bystander and look the other way, the next time we come across something even remotely similar to what happened to Soumya.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Handover at Home

What’s the first thing you do before your wife or your folks leave home for a couple of days?   
There ….there…I can clearly see that glint in your eyes. The sheer joy which envelops any man about to get his freedom albeit for a few days.  You would rush to checkout the newspaper for those HBO special blockbusters which you could barely see thanks to the regional soaps and reality shows. No more informing (actually seeking permission) at home about being late for the day because of that surprise party thrown by one of your bachelor colleagues. The list could go on and on.

But I suggest you first prepare a Handover checklist instead. Duh? Handover at home?
Precisely. It helps maintain status quo after they return and to keep things on an even keel.

  • Itemized asset list of food inside the fridge.
  • What’s to be had when based on expiry dates known only to them. Some of the food could turn unrecognizable in a really short time span than you could ever imagine.
  • Geographic location of salt and pepper in the kitchen. YES, scrambled eggs. Dare to attempt attempt anything more on a grandiose scale ? 
  • Instructions to be given to the maid along with work quality benchmarks. Never should a question be raised about your supervisory skills. I mean, you already have a boss at office, don’t you? Having benchmarks make life easier. What get’s measured gets done.
  • Any pending bills solely managed by them.
  • Keys to locked Almirah’s if any.
  • Standard script for incoming land line calls asking where they have gone, when they would come etc.  (Better  maintain a notepad on all such calls for debriefing sessions when they are back)

 And don’t   leave this checklist lying around the house for your ceiling fan to blow it away under your carpet. Guard it with all you’re worth !

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Killing Me Softly

I always thought that Kerala was a decently big consumer market with higher per capita income compared to most states in India. And what of  literacy rates?   91% ,  Far higher than those of a few states in the US  and much higher than India’s average of 65% !

Why then must you and I put up with such horse manure- (civilized synonym for ‘shit’)?   

My apologies for not coming to the point straightaway. I’m referring to the appallingly dubbed tracks of national TV commercials in Malayalam which are forced upon us through most Malayalam channels. I was taught that  advertising was meant to entice you into buying something with their persuasive powers. Not prompt you to change channels with a feeling of disgust. Check out these commercials and ask yourself how you feel about it.

The vanish ad has everybody talking perfect Malayalam except for sreedevi. Now are we, mallus being the skeptic folks we are, supposed to believe this ?-  Sreedevi does not know Malayalam , hence the accent. Give us a break and spare us the agony. We would rather prefer having a Hindi version or asking some mallu babe to dub for Sreedevi.

The second ad is that of Karbonn mobiles which is a value player in the mobile phone segment in India. No arguments on the way the concept of dual sim has been highlighted in the funny ad. But when the same track is directly translated into Malayalam, it sucks big time.

Its high time that the ad world spares a thought for the poor Malayali who has to listen to this crap and feel excited enough to make a buying decision.