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The Need For Complicated Systems

Users in India have, more so than often, been complaining about the complicated procedures involved in an otherwise simple process. Be it customer care of an MNC, or a daily walk into another Government office. The only certainty that one has in all these processes is that your requirement will most likely, NOT BE, fulfilled at a single interaction point. You will have to enter into a system of multiple interaction points with no clarity of which to approach & in what order. Lets take the example of a regular call centre first. We will try to take a deeper look into it in the coming 3 article series, which will deal with this in the following stages:

  1. Article 1: The Need of Complicated Systems & their utilities
  2. Article 2: Complicated Systems & their negative impacts
  3. Article 3: De-Complication

The usual protocol is that whatever problem or option it is that you are choosing, your call will land up in a sales department. The executive will follow a template trying to resolve your queries, & hence the “Can I put your call on hold for a minute, Sir?” protocol. If your answer is within the template, your problem might be resolved followed by a scheme or offering by the executive. In case, the template cannot resolve your query, your call will be redirected to team leader who will assure you that your situation will be resolved in less than 48 hours. In case, it doesn’t get resolved, and you dare call after 48 hours, your call will pass through the executive, team head to the technical support advisor who will resolve your query, or highlight your alternatives and your doubts will be answered in practice. Below is the process summary,

Interaction Points

If you apply the same situation to a Government office, the interaction point may be more and hence the resolution time of your query is relatively higher. If you would have landed up directly at Interaction point 3, your query would have been resolved in no time. But that happens rarely, given this is a highly generic scenario. And furthermore, this is a problem oriented scenario. There are many which are service oriented like the filing of returns, notarization of documents, registration certificates etc. the key question before we can apply any speedy solution to these scenarios is, What is the need for such complicate systems?

Though this question has no definite answer, we can look for probable answers in its utility.

  1. EMPLOYMENT: In a country like India, where the unemployment rate is significantly high. The more number of interaction points simply means employment. And given you don’t need skilled staff at most of these interaction points, it gives you flexibility to incorporate relatively lesser educated people. Also, the more complicated a certain process or procedure becomes, it gives origin to a number of services that offer to un-complicate it, or Do It For You.
  2. MONOTONOUS EFFICIENCY: When a person is dedicated to a similar kind of routine for days, months, years of their service. A monotony of work routine comes in and you begin to operate at relatively higher speeds with higher efficiency. Its analogous to how you learn to type faster on a keyboard without even looking at it.
  3. PSEUDO-ACHIEVEMENTS: Crossing every interaction point becomes a smaller achievement in the mind of the user. Every time they pass a certain interaction point, at some point, their mind gets relieved that this is something we have already dealt through and that they have walked a certain considerable distance towards their goal. These smaller interaction points become important milestones when it comes to the whole process/scenario.
  4. USER ENGAGEMENT: This one is tricky for the organization, government or otherwise. While going through various phases of a process, the user familiarises itself with the workings of the organization or government office. This creates a cloud of information regarding that infrastructure within the mind of the user that he is very much aware of. This can result either in retention of the user to that particular organization, or a break up depending upon how the user has taken the experience.

There are a plethora of similar reasons for the origin & sustenance of complicated systems. As much as they are utility based need creations, there are negative implications of the same too. This is something we will cover in the next article, wherein we will dig deeper into their effects.

 

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Consumer Practices to Watch Out for in 2015

Localized Digital Assistant

Localized Digital Assistants | At Your Service

Localized Digital Assistants | At Your Service

What It Means?

Consumers will be looking for Digital Assistant options, which can understand their dialect & terminology. Scheduling, Reminding, Socializing, & every activity should be tracked & kept a record of by these assistants.

Evidences

  • Siri, Cortana, Google Now, HERE maps Turn by Turn Navigation have much to offer the consumers but communicating with an Indian accent often becomes a problem. In the year 2015, consumers will be looking for more options in terms of the following:
    • Local dialects
    • Local terms/tags
    • Ability to Interact with Device
    • More Personal than General
  • Most smartphone Manufacturers have already included Hindi keyboards in their text typing applications. Consumers will now e looking towards regional more than national language typing capabilities.

Implications/Inferences

Consumers are already expecting Smart & Intelligent Learning platforms in their devices. More Crowd-Sourced learning platforms will be demanded by the consumers in 2015.

Touch N Type à Not Anymore

Voice & Gesture Operated Technologies will slowly replace the Typing Habits of Consumers

Voice & Gesture Operated Technologies will slowly replace the Typing Habits of Consumers

What It Means?

Typing will be replaced majorly by alternative modes of entering text on various devices. Localized Digital Assistants will play a major role in this transformation.

Evidences

  • Consumers are looking for faster, convenient, & continuous way of entering text/commands in their respective devices.
  • Most devices have already incorporated the Swipe mode of entering text in a device, or gestures to open certain applications.
  • Consumers are opting for Voice Operated Infotainment systems when it comes to automotive & connected technologies.
  • Typing, at times, becomes a hassle to consumer in terms of time taken to type & attention span needed to look at the keyboard while typing.
  • Consumers are appreciating devices which are working on Gesture based applications.

Implications/Inferences

Consumers expect Smart Technologies to enable them interact/command their devices with minimal text entering. Something beyond Touch N Type model of devices is what they expect the Next Generations Products to be.

Education Override

I will Decide What I want to Do? Engg. & Medical is not for me.

I will Decide What I want to Do? Engg. & Medical is not for me.

What It Means?

Education seekers will move to a more functional model of education from the current conventional, & rather static state.

Evidences

  • People in Urban & Semi-Urban setups has started breaking educational taboos of Doctors, Engineers & MBAs.
  • The shift is from a structural format of collecting degrees to a functional format of developing knowledge & skill set.
  • IDEA has already started its campaign for network services (Idea Internet Network, aka IIN) focussing on the rise of informal education system in India.
  • Students & Professionals, both are looking for a more functional & skill based educational certificate programs to get a job/promotion.
  • Smart technologies, mobile & PC, will play an important role in shaping an evolved education ecosystem.

Implications/Inferences

Smart technologies, open source information will form the basis of an evolved education network with the rise of informal education programs, & various skill development Smart Certificate Programs.

Connected: Everywhere to Everyone

Connected Societies

Connected Societies

What It Means?

Consumers will be actively looking for solutions to merge the gap between their devices network & social network.

Evidences

  • Social Co-Location has become an important part of life for a majority of population. Geo tagging pictures & uploading their location information to SNS has become a practise commonly observed.
  • Consumers are beginning to appreciate the idea of Smart devices & understanding their utility & convenience.
  • Most media & infotainment devices are offering built-in connectivity solutions.
  • Staying connected on the move is an identified need within all the demographic categories, from social information & safety point of view.
  • Safety applications allowing Social Co-Location, & emergency services will be in high demand.

Implications/Inferences

The Smartphone experience of connectivity will be extended to all the other devices with the consumers. Sharing, Social Co-Location, Navigation, & Device Integration will be the features/applications for year 2015.

Uber-ization

Sociality While I travel

Sociality While I travel

What It Means?

People will be looking for more Smart & Safe options in terms of travel, whether its commuting daily to office or leisure travel.

Evidences

  • People appreciated Uber before it was shut down for allowing cab drivers to run a cab without their proper documentation & verification.
  • Meru Cabs, Ola Cabs, Easy Cabs are already running on the streets with respective smart applications & web interface to support their customers.
  • BlaBla Car is offering a Social carpooling experience for people.
  • Safety will be a major concern when it comes to choosing from a variety of cab options.
  • Credibility & User Generated Trust will be a major factor when opting for which cab service/application to choose for.

Implications/Inferences

A Smart Cab connecting the cab in terms of its location, driver information, ETA to the user & user’s selected participants will generate confidence & trigger purchase decision in the mind of the consumer.

Compare the Comparer

Which Suits me the most?

Which Suits me the most?

What It Means?

With so many offers, schemes, discounts, sales, stores to choose from, there needs to be an option wherein user can compare what is being offered in these plethora of websites at the best price & terms.

Evidences

  • Junglee for Consumer goods, & Trivago for travel purposes, Policy Bazaar for Insurance are already working efficiently in terms of allowing the users to compare a single product on a single page, being offered at different prices at different sites.
  • With multiple sites offering the same products, users feel confused, at times, making the decision of which site to pick the product from.

Implications/Inferences

There is an identified need gap asking for a product/service to empower the consumer make the right decision when it comes to purchasing stuff online.

Smart Payments

Cash No More

Cash No More

What It Means?

2015 will witness users acclimatizing to Smart Technology based payments/transactions. There will be an expectation of rewards/incentives associated in return for every payment.

Evidences

  • Consumers are opening up to the use of credit cards, safer netbanking options, online recharge services, cashless transactions, & other modes of payments in contrast to the cash payments.
  • Freecharge, Mobikwik, & other online recharge services are offering freebies with every payment made using the service.
  • Meru Cabs, Ola Cabs have introduced mobile wallets allowing their customers to recharge the amount in the mobile app, and pay in a cashless manner.
  • Mobile wallets are gaining popularity in the tech-savvy users, & are expected to reach the relatively lesser technologically advanced users in 2015.

Implications/Inferences

Consumers are adopting services that enable them enter into a cashless transaction in a safer & trustworthy manner. In 2015, adoption rate will be high for such services, if they manage to establish a trust based relationship with the end user.

Enable the Entrepreneur

Enabling Systems for Entrepreneur

Enabling Systems for Entrepreneur

What It Means?

2015 will be the year when people will want the services enabling them to be an entrepreneur. Business Accounting & Digital Media Marketing will be the primary opportunity themes in this regard.

Evidences

  • 2014 saw a relative rise in the number of entrepreneurs. In 2015, there will be a need gap identification with respect to various aspects of a small/medium scale business, established or in formative stages.
  • Accounting & File keeping softwares have been appreciated for their good ROI. Intuit Quickbooks have established a good consumer retention in terms of startup accounting problems.
  • Entrepreneurs are using services which allow them to have a quick analysis of popular public opinion for a product/service in question. Google Forms, & other online survey portals have been extensively used in this regard.

Implications/Inferences

A good product/service enabling the entrepreneur will provide a strong foundation to consumers looking forward to engage in a startup activity. Identification of Need Gaps is required for every such startup.

Stay Fit

Apps & Gear Helping me stay in Shape

Apps & Gear Helping me stay in Shape

What It Means?

Consumers will be becoming more health conscious, & will be devoting more time towards fitness centres & exercising in order to stay fit. They will be looking for information on various aspects of the same.

Evidences

  • Biking, Running, Marathon etc. have engaged a relatively larger segment of Indian population owing to increasing instances of Lifestyle diseases & their causal factors.
  • Keeping a track of their physical exercise has become a necessity. Smartphone applications allowing them to keep a track of their daily workout sessions & engaging their social network has been well received by the users, & will be used in more frequency & volume in 2015.
  • People are looking to accessorize themselves while working out. Increasing sales for Bike accessories, running accessories are an indicator in this regard.
  • Global sports chain, Decathlon has identified this need & have opened up their stores in various parts of India to a good response.

Implications/Inferences

2015 will witness an ever increasing demands for Smartphone applications & Sports gear by the consumer. Staying fit will be a priority for majority of the population & they will be looking to move out of the Arm Chair routine.

 

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Perfect (Product/Marketing/Consumer)

Product As It Goes From Workshop to Marketplace

When shopping becomes one of the major stressbusters of a majority of population, the marketplace ecosystem needs to have products to be shopped. The higher the population, the higher is the variety of the products available for a particular category. No population is ever uniform in any manner, nor is the type of products created for the populations. With a country as diverse as India, the information & need gaps for different segments of people are different in varying categories. And hence, for a particular product, you have n number of variants to choose from.

Its a basic 3 step cycle, with many sub-steps at different stages:

Product Creation –> Marketing Communication –> Consumer Purchase

Consumer insights integrates in all the 3 steps for a clearer picture & better understanding of individual and overlaying steps.

PRODUCT CREATION

HiRes1

Many creators feel the need to create a perfect product failing to understand that the problem is not really with the product itself. And in this desperate need for creation and competing creation we are left with choices where there should be no choices already. Consider the simplest example, you go to buy a toothpaste and you are overloaded with a plethora of products to choose from. One has component X from brand A, another has component Y from brand B, and then you have variants within each brand itself. It leads to consumer confusion, random shopping patterns and at times a lower loyalty rating for a particular brand or variant. This is the primary reason for the sudden incoming of a number of startups & relatively newer products from relatively unknown brands. Because the consumer has gone experimental owing to end of an era of brand loyalties.

This leaves a relatively greater room for product creation itself, knowing that the consumer is experimental and wont stick to a particular product for long. Its a vicious circle which many organizations has created and are currently enjoying being in it.

Consumer insights are feeding product creators varieties of local myths and folklores which captures the eye of a more remote and previously unattended consumer, who now feels gratified that somebody is paying attention to his thought. This sparks a temporary loyalty to the brand and product itself, which doesn’t last longer. And hence the need to create a new product.

MARKETING COMMUNICATION

Integrated-Marketing-Communication-Strategy-616x260

Indians have a famous saying, “Marketing Communication is about selling Comb to a Bald Man”. And at many a times, it stands true to the statement. In a shopping centre loaded with choices, how do you sell your product? You need to understand your target group better than anybody else, and consumer insights helps you accomplish that. But Thatsnot just about it. Its a mere start, you need to understand your target segment in its totality and hit them at their weak spot, wherever that may be.

Various ethnographic studies have tried to establish the same with a holistic approach to the consumer lifestyles. Trying to learn from their everyday and daily behavioural patterns. And most of them have fed perfectly into the marketing campaign of the most popular products. While some managed to catch the eye of the consumer for a good amount of time, and during the purchasing sprees in the shopping malls, some totally failed to convey the message they needed to convey and hence rendering the insights useless. Take the Kalyan jewellers ad campaign starring Bollywood biggie Amitabh himself. The Ad wherein wanted to establish trust with their consumers, somehow confuses the consumer in terms of product placement. To establish trust, they showcased Amitabh asking a trusted store owner to open his kids store at night to purchase a toy for his grand-daughter. More than trust, the Ad conveys societal dynamics and how relationships operate within society. Agreed, but the Ad misses on product placement entirely, with the name of Kalyan Jewellers being announced at the end.

Marketing Communication can extract the most out of consumer insights space when it comes to placing your product and retaining consumers. The key is to make the insights readily actionable. Hits certainly requires the participation of an ethnographer, or an anthropologist in the marketing campaign design process.

CONSUMER PURCHASES

consumerism

This is the most tricky & unpredictable part of the whole process. Its highly persona centric and is governed by n number of factors including the socio-economic, behavioural, environmental, informational & more.

The first step in the process, Need Recognition, is governed by the previous step of the whole process, the Marketing Communication. It helps, guides, drives, influences one to identify the need gaps within one’s daily routine. Societal dynamics play a vital role in this need gap identification by het individual. Social/Peer pressure forces many of us to buy some products/services that we might never need at the instance we bought them. Most of the times, such purchases leads to our social acceptance/inclusion in some closed groups. And hence these products play the role of enhancers.

Once the need gap is identified, it follows with an information overload of products and brands available in the marketplace today. Narrowing your choice from thereon is filtered by the factors of social acceptance, & public opinion. For example, smartphone purchases by a majority of Indian population. Many people, from all age groups, have purchased smartphones just because everyone in their social circle has one, and to own a feature phone amongst those seems to virtually outcast them while within a conversation or product exhibit. They might never use any smartphone application, and will use their smartphones only for calling and texting. And at times, taking pictures.

These various factors like social acceptance & others lead to an evaluation of the product prior to purchase.

Since most of the times, the need gap was made identifiable and wasn’t even there, it leads to a fragile user experience with the product which may go in either direction. A bad or below average experience might lead to a creation of a newer need gap identification on the part of the user and hence will form the vicious circle of product creation again. In any case, you like the product or not, it is going to lead to the product creation part inevitably, and the circle will continue perpetually forever.

THE ROLE OF CONSUMER INSIGHTS

Default

The role of Consumer Insights in all the steps is to keep guiding the creation and the creator in a direction where only the identified need gaps are addressed in a more actionable manner. There is a thin line of difference between identification of need gaps and creating them. Consumer Insights prefers former than the latter in this category.

Exploratory studies are especially beneficial in this regard since it takes into account the holistic view of the consumer’s lifestyle, both from an individualistic & from the member of society point of view. It talks of a more broad approach than a narrow and focused one. Exploratory research need not focus on one particular set of problems, rather it focuses on the entirety of the situation and hence helps create holistic solutions.

 

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KDASS | An Ideology

Inception

KDASS owes its origin to a conglomerate of like-minded Anthropologists, with a willingness to explore people & behaviour, from a market’s point of view. An urge to extrapolate the academic domains of the discipline to a more corporate & action oriented framework. The inception of the organization dates back to the year 2007 when the directors of the organization started conceptualization of this idea.

As in most of its methodologies, it started off as an explorative piece of work. The guiding team worked with different organizations under different capacities working primarily with consumer behaviour identification & patterning, culminating in product design & marketing strategy creation. I call it explorative because it was more explorative in nature, with no intent/idea of the product that we were going to make out of it. But a product, for sure. Working through within the domain of consumer insights, we all realized one thing, rather to say it more clearly we all identified a problem with the domain of consumer insights especially in its qualitative structures. The insights were pleasing to ears of the stakeholders, most of the times they received applaud from them, but the bigger problem was their applicability & actionability. The clients had no idea what to do with it. Most of the times, the insights were used to back up, or cover for the products already developed. A justification that something that has been created has been created for the right audience for the right demography. I am not saying this was the case with all the organizations, but most for certain.

Assembly

The biggest blowback to a researcher is when they see their efforts go in vain, and not actually in practise. This pain brought the building team together with a thought of pooling in our collective wisdom to creating an organization with consumer insights that drive solutions in the most actionable formats. Taking from the theories of structural functionalism, we started conceptualizing an idea that will bring the structure of analysis to the functionality of a product/service in its most realistic form. The idea was to build a haven for researchers & insights workers throughout the globe, and its inception gave us goose-bumps at that point of time.

The most important part of any research strategy is the demographics of the problem and getting the right respondents. Observation is key, but you also someone non-pretentious to talk to with the most honest revelations about his/her life, and that is not easy. Most times, researchers go back to a dedicated database of users. This list might be repetitive & being aware of a certain kind of inquiry makes a user more pretentious & unwillingly aware of what will happen next. This carries out the most unrealistic observations & responses from the user set. This is a problem that most of the research houses encounter on a daily basis without even knowing it because the answers/responses from the users are bang on to their hit list of queries.

Let me tell you something about responses from a subject. Responses should ideally not hit the mark you want them to hit, because if they are targeted to a particular point it suggests that they have been lead to the point. The idea is not to hit the bulls eye. The idea is to hit something. Let me put it this way. You go on a hunting mission, and you are aiming specifically at a target. Your chances of actually hitting that target are really  low because of all the things available in your surroundings you want to hit just the one. BUT if you are going to a forest and hit an arrow randomly, your chances of hitting something are really bright, in fact more than your previous mission of hitting your target which you could have easily missed. But you are not going to miss this one, because of all the things available to get hit by you, you are willing to hit anyone. That’s the beauty of explorative research in its more raw format.

Most researchers fear that they will not get anything out from a respondent, but they forget the most important part of data. No data is indeed data. That’s something we realized and we were able to hit on the 2 most important things we needed in our assembly line

1. An Impeccable Recruitment Strategy

This is the most tough part of any research methodology. How do you get the people you want to talk to which are the closest to behave naturally. To accomplish the same, we devised a new form of recruitment criteria. We call it, The Snowball Sleeper Cell. Its works on a simple premise of never to interview a respondent more than twice unless and until a study asks for them specifically. The idea is simply that when a user has been a part of more than 2 interactions, they sort of get acclimatized to the idea of an interaction, and try to get pretentious, more aware & active in front of the camera. This takes away the innate naïve nature of the interaction & responses are skewed toward more and more leading. So we have a team of dedicated members for recruitment who activate our network of sleeper cells within various SECs of various regions once a study pours in. We usually recruit & keep back ups of every recruitment. Snowballing also allows us to explore the Socio-Cultural networks of our respondents as well. This increases our demographic reach with every study.

2. Researcher without the Usual News Reporting Format

During our experiences in various research projects being carried, both in terms of clients & researchers, we found out that the researchers usually in the field today are more of news reporters than researchers. They are more on an investigative spree than actually connecting with the respondent. And this creates a big divide between the researcher and the respondent. You don’t want to go with your guns blazing as to what, when, who, how, which, what sorts of queries. The idea of a researcher interaction is more conversational than an interview, and getting answers to a list of queries on a piece of paper. The answers have to come out in form of a conversation, and not in a direct format. This requires training over a period of time, and creating a list of researcher Do’s & Don’ts. The ability to observe, relate & emote is very important while in an interaction.

The reason why they are called Discussion guides is that because they are a discussion guidelines & not a list of questions to ask. The responses shouldn’t come out in form of answers but as part of conversation slices.

The Formative Stage

Achieving the above 2 was the most difficult of a task we have chosen, but once achieved they gave us a strong foundation for our organization. Working independently for many years, we finally registered ourselves as a Private Limited company in the May of 2013, and since then we haven’t looked back. We are constantly aspiring & enabling our clients understand their users and build the next generation products for them.

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