Sunday, April 29, 2007

This week's travel plans

Looking forward to visiting a new country, a new culture and a new experience this coming week. Although I have been to the Dubai airport several times on transit, this will be my first visit the the city or rather emirate. We're also planning to go to Abu Dhabi, which is said to be the richest city in the world according to Fortune Magazine's March 12th 2007 edition. Here's an excerpt of the article.
The city of Abu Dhabi sits at the tip of a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf. Wide tree-lined boulevards run through clusters of utilitarian concrete-slab high-rises and modern mirrored towers. An elegant corniche stretches the length of the city along the coast. There are finely manicured roundabouts, abundant fountains, and more trees than anywhere else on the Gulf. But it's oddly quiet - there's little traffic, few pedestrians, and no nightlife to speak of.

That's all about to change. From a helicopter you can see sandy islands covered with dump trucks and crisscrossed with empty highways sitting offshore like blank canvases. It's a stark contrast to what lies just 15 minutes up the coast by air: a landscape of cranes, yacht harbors, man-made islands in exotic formations, and what will soon be the tallest building in the world. There's nothing subtle about Dubai. Its crowded, smoggy skyline is part Miami, part Las Vegas, and all new. There's scarcely a plot of open space or an uncongested highway.

Success by positve coaching

Capella University is known to be one of the leaders in online education especially at the master degree level, and has produced students that have gone on the work for some of the best known companies across the world. Sara Orem, a faculty member at Capella University has co-authored a book called 'Appreciative Coaching: A Positive Process for Change', which discusses the power of positive coaching as a method to success, based on developments on psychology and organizational development which have shown that people achieve higher rates of success with such coaching.

According to Orem, “Rather than focusing on individuals in limited or problem-oriented ways, Appreciative Coaching guides the reader through four stages – Discovery, Dream, Design and Destiny – that inspire them to an appreciative and empowering view of themselves and their future.” Sara Orem is the principal of her own coaching firm, besides being a faculty member and coach at Capella University's School of Business and Technology. Capella University was founded in 1983 and is an accredited university that offers graduate degrees in business, IT, education, human services and psychology. The university has undergraduate degrees in business and IT. “This blog post was based on information provided by Blogitive. For more information, please visit Blogitive.com.”

PR update in progress

Google's update is going on for the past few days and my page rank has been fluctuating and showing that it's gone up to a 2 on Google Page Rank Bar in the Task Bar. I do hope that remains as the final PR, nothin quite like an increasing PR is there? Well, at least for a blogger! I simply love it and it's the best reward for continuously updating and writing on my blog.

Buying new furniture

Moving house is fun, but I'm quite dreading what I'm going to do with all the furniture I have and cannot and do not want to take with us. I am rather attached to some of the older pieces, such as a lovely bookshelf with really clean and simple lives which I've had since I was a child and a set of Scandinavian sofa's and matching coffee and side tables. What I'll probably have to do is to get a completely new set of home furniture once we find a place and start afresh. While that is a fun idea, I think an ideal house is a combination of old and new pieces, a look that gives it character as well as some newness.

Green verdict

Your Life is 76% Green

You live a very green life, and you're aware of how your actions help the earth.
Of course, it's hard to be totally green. But when you make a tradeoff, you know why you're making it.

Easing up

Ok, I think I really need to figure out how to relax all over again, since pretty much all my relaxation time gets used up by blogging. While it definitely is a fun and addictive thing to do, more that ever before, relaxing is starting to mean "away from the laptop" to me. I already spend my entire working day plus an extra 4-5 hours at the computer, so it looks like it's high time that I ease up a bit and pay some attention to my neck and back aches for a while.

Plan your summer vacation now

While we're not going for a vacation this time, we will get to sight see a bit while we check out the city, apartments etc. This time of the year, I hear that Florida is the place to head to and get yourself an Orlando vacation rental to stay in for a week or ten days at least, explore the 52 theme parks in the area, dinner shows and shopping sprees. I would actually prefer to check out the golf courses in the area, which I have heard are simply fabulous, for their variety, superb quality and wild hazards, i.e. alligators. That's sure to bring in some excitement to a round of golf.

Travel delayed

Well, we were meant to fly out at 530 in the morning but got a call from the airlines at 130am that our flight had been rescheduled to 5 in the evening, so we suddenly have some free time after the hectic, hectic packing, organizing, finishing of work, telling the newspaper and milk men not to deliver kind of day. Quite frankly it feels quite odd, to suddenly have nothing to do, well nothing doesn't exist once blogging starts, so here I am back at writing some stuff up, before we leave later on in the day.

Being organized for traveling

I sort out my bag before we head out on a trip and when I sorted it out last night I found 4 gel pens inside, the pens I had been looking for everywhere else. I like to travel with a slightly larger handbag, large enough to carry all our travel documents, a book, a shawl for chilled flights, an eye mask thingy to get some sleep, and in the days before all these travel restrictions, a bottle of my contact lens solution. It's essential to have a couple of pens in a bag, since one always has to fill up forms at the airport or in the airplane when traveling internationally.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Back to basics of retail

Retailers in India getting back to basics and are matching prices of fruits and vegetable sold at farmers markets or mandi’s to bring in customers, and are also showing the way to hundreds of new retailers at how to do the business right. According to Raman Mangalorkar, head of consumer and retail practice at AT Kearney, "Having an efficient way of sourcing, storing, moving and replenishing products is going to be very critical to profits." With these changes, consumers have a huge range of choices, not only in the variety of food but also in price and quality at all the levels of retail stores.

Ipsos Insight's Face of the web report

According to a report by Ipsos Insight, 78% of online consumers use broadband connections. Just three years ago, this figure stood at 37%, showing just how widespread the use of broadband Internet connections has become. These results were released in a report titled "The Face of the Web 2006" and is based on study and interviews in 12 global markets.
The U.S. lags the rest of the world in high-speed access, with 71% of Internet users accessing the Internet via broadband. In the U.S., cable connections accounted for 30% of Internet access, while DSL accounted for 33%.

Japan is the most high-speed nation in the world, with 89% of users connecting via broadband, 11% via wireless and none through dial-up. At the other end, 52% of Russian Internet users connect via dial-up, 26% via high speed, 18% via wireless and 4% other/don’t know.

Football crazy

There was a time that all of us in college went to as many football games as we could. Part of it was the importance of rooting for our team but after a while, we got so into the games, that it wasn't good enough to just watch them on TV, we actually had to go and watch them in the stadium. While it works out fine, if you live near your home team, but it can be pretty inconvenient if you're from out-of-state and want to go back to attend each and every one of your home town games. Well, my friend Kristine was quite mad about football that year and went out and bought steelers tickets for as many games as she could.

Targeting customers using audio waves

Agenda reports on a new way for marketers to target customers: audio technology that transmits sound in a beam like a light beam, so a specific customer by sending a message directly to their ear. Holosonic Research Labs Inc. are the creators of the audio spotlight, which is now being used in a wide variety of places already such as in supermarkets as well as doctors offices. Using this method, advertisers can target only the specific customer rather than disturbing the entire store with loudspeaker announcements.
Unlike traditional speakers, which broadcast sound in every direction, sound from an audio spotlight speaker can be focused directly at one spot, so no one else can hear it, or projected against a surface so that sound appears to come from the surface itself.

For example, a box of Fruity Pebbles can advertise its nutritional content, heard by shoppers only as they walk by boxes in the cereal aisle. The audio spotlight uses ultrasound to stimulate the air into making sound, which is emitted in focused, laser-like beams.

Adding a professional touch to your website

When I started my blog the main purpose was just for me to write but little by little the focus has shifted to creating articles that people want to read, hence readership has risen in importance. One of the ways that my readership has increased is that I have made it easier to be contacted on my website, by adding a contact form. This is a great way to let readers get in touch with you, when they would rather not leave a comment on a specific post. I’ve had people make me job offers on my contact form too, and I’d rather not have stuff like than on regular comments, open for everyone to see.

If being able to make contact is important in a blog, then you can imagine how important it would be for a small business. Making an HTML form can be tough unless you’re an expert at it, but for most small business owners who want to create a simple website, getting contact forms or email forms form Forms4Free is a good option. It’s really easy to add the script even if you have no knowledge of HTML. Instead of just using a single contact page, the company created a system of downloading a formfile, which is a processing file that is uploaded to the website and processes the HTML form and emails to the webmaster. How this helps is that webmasters are able to process it through their own website rather than an outside service. It’s a good way to make a site look professional and stylish.

Amazon raises fees

Amazon announced that it would be raising it’s variable fees in marketplace shipping credits due to the rise in the USPS postal rate from May 14, 2007. It’s shipping credit increase depends on the product category and selected shipping method, and will range from $0.39 to $2.51. Shipping credit for books, video games and software will increase from $3.49 to $3.99; music, DVD and VHS shipping credits will increase from $2.59 to $2.98.

Friday, April 27, 2007

All or nothing

Lots of things happening all at once. It's usually everything or nothing it seems, never something normal in between. This time it's to do with my errant Internet connection, that has made me get delayed in doing my work and pretty much everything else, since I've been so caught up in calling support and trying to get it fixed, checking and rechecking every so often, yes too often, and pretty much just wasting time I guess.

Reliance is highest bidder for Park Circus market

Reliance Retail has won the bid for the Park Circus civic market under the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), after it beat out three Kolkata based real estate developers. According to the agreement, Reliance has 154,000 sq ft of space in a total area of 230,000 sq ft. The Park Circus civic market has 400 stall holders who will have to be rehabilitated. Only 10-15% of the total area would be kept for the corporation, and the balance would be for Reliance to develop a mall or multiplex or shopping market.

Travel plans for the week ahead

Going to be out for a few days, but hope to keep blogging on and off, not as regularly but hopefully it won't be a complete halt either. This will be my first trip to Dubai and it will be nice to see the city first hand. I have been to the airport several times, but that doesn't really count, I guess. We might even drive to Abu Dhabi, which I hear is developing at a super fast pace and is already the richest city in the world. The city has huge reserves of oil which Dubai does not have and therefore is working to build itself as the financial capital of this side of the world.

Using mailing lists

A lot of companies rely on mailing lists for their business, to promote new products, to launch new services, to develop new business and so on. The direct mail industry has been growing at a fast pace with new entrants coming in all the time due to the huge demand for such services, but one of the most respected firms is Martin Worldwide which is based in California and has created innovative mailing lists for it's impressive list of clients. ResponseCom is one of its most creative and versatile products and has created a system where lists from over 100 demographic and psychographic criteria can be selected. Mailing lists are not as simple and basic as they use to be at one time, these are fine tuned to the point of guaranteeing higher response rates, increased profitability and increasing clients.

Retail gets maximum support in South India

Organized retail in India first got its boost in south India, in cities such as Kochi, Coimbatore, Chennai and Bangalore and even now, customers there are more loyal to these formats than customers in other regions of the country. At CEO-Speak, AC Nielsen ORG-MARG’s Director of Online Research and Technical Training, said that Kochi received the largest number of sales by volume and Comibatore had the fourth largest sales through organized retail formats.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

UK broadband service

Broadband is something that you just can't do without these days. It's especially important for me since I work from home and have to have a completely reliable set up. I'm currently using my second Internet connection, since I've had problems with my main one since mid morning. It's the most frustrating experience to not be able to connect and do one's work, isn't it? I think I seriously need to switch to a company that offers better home broadband service in terms of the actual broadband service as well as taking care of their customers. A company that offers such services is Eclipse, who is one of the leading providers of broadband in the UK, for both home and business broadband services. There's even a great deal to get one month free right now....Think it's time to check it out it in greater detail.

Internet problems

Back to having problems with my internet today. Ironically, it was working fine in the morning when I left to visit the the Internet company's office due to a miscalculation of the bill. I come back an hour later to no internet. Lodged a complaint, but it's still going to take another 12 hours till someone fixes it, since they try to have things fixed in 24 hours. So, I'm using our second connection currently......just got a call from the technician who said they were working on it and it should be resolved my mid-morning by the latest.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Radio Shack launches ship-to-store program

Now it's the turn of Radio Shack to launch it's ship-to-store program, where customers can make purchases online and have them delivered to their local store. For orders placed on this format, there is no shipping fee and customer's can go to pick up their merchandise at their local store. Radio Shack launched the pilot program in November last year and after a successful run, is expanding the program to cover 4,400 stores in the US.
“During the pilot phase, the ship-to-store option was very popular with our customers,” says Bob Kilinski, vice president of brand development and communications. Experts say the order online/pick up in store tactic should spread rapidly among multi-channel retailers as shoppers become more accustomed to the service.

Anti Wal-Mart campaigner Wade Rathke to mobilize farmers

The Wal-Mart saga continues on, with the retailer busy working on getting the stores started as soon as the agreement is formalized and protesters popping up in every second city. Interestingly, no average consumer has protested the entry of the world's largest retailer, it is only those with their own interests such as competitors who are actually behind the protests. Wade Rathke has come to India to muster up some support for the anti-Wal-Mart campaign and will be creating a protest using farmers and their losses that happen due to Wal-Mart. Regarding his campaign he said “Our campaign in India will be centred around farmers, and leading farmer associations across India have already joined hands with us. We will conduct awareness programmes at grassroot levels so that farmers don’t sell directly to any of these companies.”

Future Group to invest Rs 4,000 crore

The Future Group said that it plans to invest Rs 4,000 crore to expand its stores so that it can reach a topline of Rs 30,000 crore by the year 2010-11. Kishore Biyani, managing director of Pantaloon Retail stated that, “We are increasing the outlets of Big Bazaar from 50 to 100 by next year. We are also adding eight more stores of HomeTown.” Besides Big Bazaar, there will also be 12 Central malls, and factory outlets in opening in Gurgaon, Kolkata and Chennai.

QuickBase offers free online database

Have you used this really great way to organize data in a web based software called QuickBase from Intuit, where you can centrally manage your data and work flow, set controls to who can access the information and either use their pre-built applications or create your own, so that you have total control in managing your information. You can test out the software, in a 30-day free trial that the company is offering at present, so you'll be able to see its functionality first hand. Thanks to Maven Mapper's Information, where I first read about this Free Online Database that is a good way for medium to large companies to deal with large amounts of information. There is no cost to download the software, and no credit card is required at all. For everyone that signs up, a sales representative will call to help in setting up the system and will also send additional tutorial videos.

Are you doing your bit for the earth?

Everywhere I go, everything I read, everything I see these days on the Internet is something to do with being eco-friendly. Besides the fact that it was Earth Day a few days back, there has been tremendous interest and excitement regarding consumers and businesses becoming more aware and consciously changing the way they live their lives and do business. Fast Company writes in it's blog on a slew of new sites and companies coming up that are cashing in on the trend. I do hope this green awareness lasts longer than the hype surrounding it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Our hectic two weeks

This has been one helluva hectic week and combined with a hectic weekend, it seems like we didn't really get a weekend. The next couple of weeks promise to be crazy as well, but with lots of excitement definitely. Will write about that a bit later though. For now, we have to keep our heads to the ground and just focus on work, work, work. It's a good time to be a writer and researcher, the assignments are pouring in.

Making a day memorable

This is one segment of the retail sector that happily continues to show a positive trend. The wedding industry is one of the most upbeat sectors as is the case with retailers who focus on customized products and niche segments. Wedding favors are huge business, they are the one item that everyone looks forward to and kind of associate with the marriage even at a later time. The Knot Wedding Shop is simply the best place to find creative, distinctive and unique wedding favors, that will make a wedding day memorable and special for all the guests as well. They are the largest wedding supply retailer on the Internet and have over 1000 wedding supplies and gifts, all all great prices.

Retail sales slowing down

How will the retail sector deal with lacklustre retail sales and the meltdown of the sub-prime mortgage market. This sector of the mortgage industry accounts for 20% of all mortgages and if their rates continue to increase, it will lead to a lot of problems for consumers at the lower and medium spectrum of spending. According to Stephen S Roach, the managing director and chief economist at Morgan Stanley, “The bursting of the housing bubble has all but eliminated that important prop to U.S. consumer demand.”
Market experts are split on how deep the impact will be going forward. Some, including Paul Kasriel, chief economist with Chicago-based banking firm Northern Trust Corp., point to February’s disappointing retail sales numbers. According to Commerce Department figures, retail sales, excluding autos, slipped 0.1 percent. Kasriel thinks the slow sales could be the beginning of a recession that will last well into 2008. Following on the heels of no growth in January, analysts were expecting a retail sales increase of at least 0.3 percent.

Airline miles credit cards

Lately we're thinking we need to get a new credit card, one specifically for putting our travel charges on, and where we can get some miles etc to add to our frequent flier programs. It really seems to make sense to sort one's spending out this way, so that we can maximise what we spend by getting something in return, and there's nothing quite like getting a free upgrade to First or Business Class right?

I detest calling credit card companies to find out what they have on offer, since one only gets to talk to someone in a call centre who is not too concerned about the fine print. So I took my search online, and found a site called CreditCardSearchEngine.com, which is supposedly the best place to find the right Credit Card Applications. And bingo, they had credit cards that offered rewards of frequent flyer miles! It really pays to do some research and so now we are going to start making use of all our frequent flier miles and charges for hotels and taxis. With interest rates varying from 10.99% to 18.24%, a good chunk of bonus miles on the first purchase, and lots of other benefits, it really makes sense to use an airline miles credit card with the amount of traveling we do.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Our impact on the environment

Everywhere you go people seem to be talking about global warming, the effect of greenhouse gases, taking care of the environment etc. Is it just because it was Earth Day a couple of days back and the talk is to be forgotten for another 360 days, or is it something different this time? While governmental bodies still struggle to make strong enough rules, consumers are becoming more knowledgeable on how their daily lives impact the environment.
A growing number of government regulations has mandated green purchasing practices, and others force manufacturers, retailers and importers to take responsibility for the disposal of electronic devices in the European Union. Legislation in the U.S., however, lags behind.

In the relative absence of initiatives in the U.S., some of the technology industry's biggest players, Davis found, have taken the lead in the development of green IT and green technology. HP (NYSE: HPQ) has committed to reduce its energy footprint in 2007 by switching a small amount of its energy purchases to renewable energy. The company has also begun offering products and services to assist customers in reducing their power consumption and carbon emissions.

More stress or more money?

There are a lot of movies and books lately dealing with the drugs, alcohol, violence etc. Is it just the sign of our times or are things on the cusp of improvement? I read the other day that prescription drug addiction is one of the most common forms of addiction for middle class women, the kind that you'd never ever think of considering such a thing. I think some of the blame is to be put on our do-it-all and have-it-all lifestyles that push us into situations where we have no way to keeping up with expectations, our own as well as others.

Access to public wireless hotspots


Fon, a Wi-Fi startup comapny has made a deal with Time Warner Cable to let their residential broadband customers turn their Internet connections to public wireless hotspots. Fon will benefit from a huge credibility boost and Time Warner Cable will not lose its customers to lower cost wireless plans that are becoming more common. Fon believes that once it's customers pay for Internet access, they should be able to use it where ever they are, at home or in a coffee shop. The company has distributed over 370,000 of its branded wireless routers called La Fonera since late last year acrss the world.
La Fonera splits a Wi-Fi connection in two: an encrypted channel for the Fonero and a public one for neighbors or passers-by. Foneros can decide how much of their bandwidth to share with the public and can log on to any Fon router without charge. "Aliens," as Fon calls nonmembers, can register on a Web page and pay a modest $2 or $3 for 24 hours of access.

In the U.S., where it costs $10 for a day pass to use a T-Mobile HotSpot at a Starbucks, Fon's economics seem particularly appealing.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Small pharmas team up to fight competition by large retail chains

Small phrama stores are teaming up to implement steps so they can fight back the competition from large chains. The All-India Chemist and Druggist Association (AIODC) is conducting talks with several companies such as Dr Lal Path Labs, Dr Reddy’s Labs and Thyrocare Pathology to offer diagnostic facilities. Some of the larger chains that will be opening pharma focused chain stores are Fortis with 1,000 stores in the next 4-5 years, Dabur with 300-400 stores, Reliance Retail with 4,000 pharmacies and Medica Pharmacy with 500 stores

Targeting niche segments

One of the hottest areas of the retail industry is marketing to niche segments, targeting religious communities, residents of specific countries, or kid specific marketing. It's no use to target a general audience, when you have niche products and you might not be even making any headway with them, right? Targeting niche segments on the Internet is a really great way to really reach audiences. So, now it is easily possible to get confirmation gifts and other such items on the Internet.

Inspiration for persevering on

It's finally the weekend, but it's going to be a busy weekend, with both lots of work as well as family getogethers. So no rest for the weary as yet. Here's some inspiration to work harder and longer:

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.
-Newt Gingrich

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.
-Marie Curie

Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.
-Napoleon Hill

Life is like riding a bicycle. You don't fall off unless you stop pedaling.
-Claude Pepper, (attributed)

Most people give up just when they're about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game one foot from a winning touchdown.
-H. Ross Perot

All quotes from Quoteland.com, simply the best place for all quotes.

Deciding what is important in life

On average lives today are becoming way too hectic than most people can take. The pressures to succeed, to be rich, to be known are creating lifestyles that are quite unrealistic for average people. As a reaction to over the top career goals, a lot of people are opting out of what they call a "cubicle lifestyle" or pretty much just living in your work area, and starting their own businesses, working as and when they please and from where ever they please as well, whether it is the park or the neighborhood cafe. There are just too many cases of people not being able to take the pressure and having to go to drug rehab to get their lives back on track. It is essential that people focus on what is ultimately important instead of quick fix solutions.

Realtors use creative ways to lure clients

With the real estate market facing a bit of a crunch lately, marketers are using creative ways to sell properties. Michael Shvo of SHVO Marketing, a real estate marketing company says that he sells lifestyles rather than houses. Agenda writes about real estate developers are relying increasingly on marketing their services and creating "identities" for their properties, with glossy brochures, parties and gifts. Nowadays, realtors are not bothering with newspaper ads or floor plans, they are instead tying up with celebrities to promote their properties and their brand. Other ways that realtors using is Internet video tours, and online advertising which is expected to grew from $2 billion or 17.7% of total advertising in 2006 to $3 billion, accounting for 32.1% of total advertising in 2010.
One way to draw attention to a property is to brand it with a celebrity name. Donald Trump has been doing this for years, but now other bold-faced names not traditionally associated with real estate are tacking their names onto buildings. One of the prime examples—and a Shvo client—is the Jade, which takes its name from project designer Jade Jagger, daughter of Rolling Stones singer Mick. The Jade targets the young, hip, and prosperous in New York's funky Chelsea neighborhood. In the building's glossy and colorful brochure, Jagger calls the Jade a "fusion" of her love for "the rural beauty of Ibiza, the glamour of London, and the nonstop energy of New York." The brokers assigned to the Jade were cast and groomed to be as sexy and dynamic as Jade herself—right down to their outfits.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Microsoft Student Education Suite for $3 for students in developing countries

Microsoft announced that it will be offering a special edition of Microsoft solutions to students in developing countries at a deeply discounted rate of US$3, as part of its Unlimited potential initiative along with its Partners in Learning program. While some might see the large heart that Microsoft has as a company, others are already skeptical on the issue, saying that the company will be gaining from it.
Through the program, Microsoft will offer the $3 software suite to qualifying governments that purchase and supply PCs directly to students. The Microsoft Student Education Suite includes a specialized version of Windows XP, Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, Microsoft Math 3.0, Learning Essentials 2.0 for Microsoft Office, and Windows Live Mail desktop.

"It's actually a surprisingly strong plan," Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. "When you have products that price in the $300 range, dropping them effectively 99 percent is not an easy decision to make, but for education, it is the right one."

The program, Enderle says, is mostly an attempt to ensure that Microsoft isn't displaced in emerging markets or by a new generation of children growing up without using Microsoft solutions.

osCommerce template resource

A lot of small retailers don't bother investing in technology or even keeping up with it to further their business. It's like a local retailer closing his doors to any customer who are not from his immediate locality. What an e-commerce site does is that it opens his store out to the entire world, and just as soon the mom-and-pop retailer understands that, they will radically change the way their business runs. With the kind of solutions that are available, you don't even need to know too much technical stuff yourself and don't need to spend too much money either. Technologies keep changing so unless you are committed to constantly upgrade, it is OK to go for a medium range tech product that will get you started on the right track at least.

As a retail analyst and researcher, the thing that I find hardest to digest is how small retailers hold back on making their first commitment to technology and retail software. Once they see the results, everything changes of course! To widen the scope you say a local mom-and-pop florist, if they add an e-commerce site they will be opening their doors to people from across the world to drop in and buy something. It's easy enough to get started, at a place like the osCommerce Cafe, which is the largest osCommerce Template membership site, and has 70 templates that members can select from. With varying sign up times for three months, six months or a year, during which members can download as many osCommerce templates as they would like to.

A creation of Myles O'Reilly who is the author of The Programmer's Guide to osCommerce, the osCommerce Cafe was launched in March 2006 and is essentially fro web designers who need several high quality site designs and don't want to design and pay for each template individually. The three-month member ship cost $89 as compared to $150 that most similar sites charge just for one design.

Ah, the facts of life to the new generation!

Testing this directory out

Never hurts to submit your blog in as many directories as possible right? Well, I heard this one called LS Blogs is pretty good, so I entered my new blog there, to see if it makes any difference in the rankings and visitor counts. I think the results should start showing in the next couple of weeks or so. They have all the regular categories of business, travel, humor etc, but enough specification though, so you are likely to find lots of listings under wider categories.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Stats talk

My stats show that I'm getting an increasing number of returning visitors, which is a really sweet thing for a blogger. The average time spent on my blog and the number of page views has significantly increased since January, when I really started writing more than 4-6 posts per day here. Alexa rankings are dropping every few days, my Google PR finally became a 1 last month and technorati is also dropping every few days or so.

So, the moral of the story: Write well+Write lots+Comment lots+Reply to Comments=A happy blogger!

Set up online bookmarks

When I changed laptops last year, I had to build my bookmarks from scratch which was a rather painful process. Unfortunately, I had not used a system to have all my bookmarks available online, accessible via Internet anywhere in the world. While I've been using a feed reader for simply ages, I still haven't gotten around to setting my bookmarks in the same manner. There are lots of advantages to online bookmarking, especially when you use a computer other than your personal one at home.

Using the bookmarking system at BookmarkAll.com, your bookmarks are completely private and accessible only by you. You can quickly access your bookmarks on the IE/Firefox toolbar and discover new sites that other users have listed on their public profiles. While there are a lot of bookmarking sites out there, I haven't too many good things about either Yahoo or Google's bookmarking systems, so I never signed up for them.

Another great feature is the option to have public or private topics, so you can decide what you want to share with others and what you'd rather keep as private. Coupled with the fact that you can combine your rss feeds and your bookmarks, makes this system quite tempting to install. And yes the system is completely free.

Merlin Group opening home focused malls

Merlin Group, a Kolkata based real estate developer, announced that it would be opening the first of its kind home and interior decor focused mall. Total floor space in the mall will be over 100,000 sq ft, and will be located in a central area of the city. Around 150 retailers will be able to open stores in the mall. Approximately 80% of the space has already been rented out, while the remaining has been given on long term lease. Rental prices in the mall vary between Rs 60-175 per sq ft. Pantaloon will be the anchor store, while some of the other stores are Godrej, Kapoor Lamps etc.

Career specialization

Specialization and niche training is the order of the day. Around 20 years back all the good colleges and universities used to talk about how a good education was a "liberal arts" education, but in reality what good did that do? It's only OK for people who are getting a degree just to have one and then never work a day in their lives. Real people need real education and real training that can be applied to making money. The Mechanic School Directory is a listings of schools that specialize in training people to become auto mechanics, aircraft mechanics, marine mechanics etc. So if you are interested in going to Diesel Mechanic School, you will be able to find one here in your area. The directory also guides students in licencing requirements, career choice, salary expectations, all in all a great resource of information on technical schools.

Dynamic pricing for clothes and electronics now

Dynamic pricing has become quite common for segments such as airfares and hotels and is now being used for apparel, consumer electronics, personal care and other segments as well. According to Vishnu Prasad, CEO of Pantaloon Retail, “With the advent of modern retail, dynamic pricing can get a good response in our price-sensitive market. However, it should be done keeping in mind the consumer acceptability in respective markets as well as the store format.” The prices of products can respond to supply and demand factors in the market due to this kind of dynamic pricing, usually in the customer's favor.

Pantaloon sales figures soar

Pantaloon Retail has been on an expansion spree last month when it added 450,000 sq ft of retail space, in the form of 7 new Pantaloon stores. According to a report byJP Morgan analysts, Pantaloon retail’s sales for March 2007 stood at Rs 2.6 billion, up by 84%, while its value retail segment sales grew by 74%, lifestyle retailing grew by 24%, and home retailing grew by 10% at Rs 286 million.

Customized promotional products


Have you seen these flip-flops? The company behind them are are originators of the "talking sole", a way to promote brands on the the sole of the flip-flop and also on many other promotional products. The company has been around since 1987 and is one of the foremost experts in the field of Custom Imprinted Promotional Products. Their clients include Fortune 500 companies, hotels, spas, and many others. The company has established relations with factories in China and the Philippines where their products are manufactured under their supervision. So, if you're looking for some promotional material, Neet Feet is where to head to.

Subhiksha targets Rs 3,000 crore by 2008

Subhiksha, one of Chennai's most popular food and grocery retail chain announced that it was aiming to have a turnover of Rs 3,000 crore by the 2008 financial year. At presnet Subhiksha has 700 retail stores and plans on opening another 300 outlets in the next 2-3 months. The total cost of the investment is said to be Rs 150 crore. 100 of the new stores will be in the state of Maharashtra, with the remaining in either the south or the north.

Organizing feeds

Having a feed reader is a really great way to be able to organize and read my feed subscriptions. My feeds vary from 40-60 usually, although they have gone up to 63 currently, which is a bit too much to read on a daily basis. It's time to cull some the the sites that I no longer read or find interesting any more. I use Bloglines, which is the very best when it comes to feed readers. I have tried out a couple of other ones but the ease and simplicity of Bloglines is hard to let go of.

Reliance Retail to launch its e-commerce venture

Reliance Retail will be launching its e-commerce site soon. The site has been created so as to complement the company's physical stores. Reliance has set up depots at specific locations from where delivery is to take place from online orders. According to a source, the company will be focusing on both the B2B and B2C focus for its e-commerce venture. Arvind Singhal adds that, “For Reliance Retail it makes a lot of sense to introduce an e-commerce arm as they have the advantage of physical stores already being present. Having physical delivery stores always add to the convenience and success of the online business model for retailers.”

All inclusive vacations

Vacations are fun to take and even more fun in the anticipation and planning before actually going on them. I love doing research on the destination, fun things to do there, places to eat, historical sites, local crafts etc once we have decided on a place. Before that and a bit more exciting and competitive is to find good hotels and airfares, for which I used to spend a lot of time finding a good deal.

Then I came across Vacations.net, which makes it all simple by offering the best of everything on one site. With discounts of up to 50%, it's way better than any other travel site. The recently re-designed site has a great search facility that adds in special discounts and deals, depending on the variable you have entered. Vacations.net has lots to offer, like this all inclusive family resort which would be a great place to spend a week with the family. The site offers details such as local attractions, room configurations, resort activities etc so one can get a realistic picture if it will suit ones requirements or not. There are also lots of incredible photographs so you can get tempted by each destination.

Starbucks still waits for its approval

Starbucks was meant to already be here, but is still waiting the result of its proposal for entry into the country to the government. The application was filed with the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) December 2006. Interestingly, Vodafone's proposal is also along the same lines and Starbucks is looking to see what the verdict is in the Vodafone proposal. Starbucks has reportedly tied up with Kishore Biyani's Future Group as well as its Indonesian franchise owner VP Sharma, although no confirmations have been made by the company.

China introduces new fast trains


China introduced a new fast train service to keep up with the increasing demand for transportation. The new trains travel at a speed of 125mph, so a trip of 53 miles from Shanghai to Suzhou only takes 39 minutes. China has been steadily improving it's railway system for its 1.3 billion people. Rail travel in the country is priced very economically. The new trains will go up to speeds of 155mph on certain routes, making the trip between the country's two largest cities, Shanghai and Beijing in just nine hours.
China is upgrading tracks for faster speeds, and expanding its rail network. Last year saw the opening of a 710-mile line to Tibet's capital, crossing mountain passes at more than 16,400 feet. Xinhua quoted Vice Railways Minister Hu Yadong as saying the speed increase would raise passenger capacity by more than 18 percent and freight capacity by more than 12 percent.

Plan vacations to last a lifetime

If you love to travel, then you'll love this information. Timeshares are a great way to see the world at an affordable price. With a one time investment, you will be able to ensure that your vacations for the next 25-99 years are taken care of. If you are interested in finding a good timeshare to purchase or rent at a discount, from current owners themselves, then head on over to United Vacation Network, which is one of the best sources of information on buying, selling and renting time share properties. You will be able to search by sale or by rental, by country, by number of bedrooms, by city etc, to really find one that suits what you are looking for. So go on and plan your summer vacation before it's too late!

China launches new moral policing campaign

A police spokesman stated that most youth related crime in China could be tracked back to "negative influences" from certain sites on the Internet. As the number of crimes committed by youth has increase over the past few years, the Internet seems to have become the most effective punching bag. China announced a new campaign against these so called "negative influences" of the Internet, from fraud, to illegal lotteries to even rumor spreading.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bud.tv not doing so good

In the world of social networking, community forums and the like, it has been a rather sad run for its online TV network, Bud.TV, where visitors are dropping at an alarming rate. In February, when it launched the site received 253,000 visitors, dropping to 152,000 visitors in March, a drop of 40%. The visitor drops have been collaborated by three of the most influential sites who measure traffic, ComScore Media Metrix, Quantcast and Alexa, all of whom noted a sharp drop in traffic to the site in March.
The declining audience figures appear to give further credence to earlier concerns that A-B's age-verification measures, which force users to supply information from a driver's license or other state-issued identification, are an obstacle to reaching a mass audience.

Those concerns were exacerbated when, in February, a group of state attorneys general wrote A-B a sharply worded letter telling the brewer that those measures, while more than what most other alcohol marketers offered online, weren't sufficient. The argument was that, as a content creator and purveyor, A-B had a greater burden not to market to youth than it did as simply an advertiser.

Armani hopes to tie up with DLF

Armani is said to be interested in coming to India with a tie up with real estate major DLF Group. Sources report that the Italian designer firm was holding talks with DLF representatives about setting up "high visibility stores" in the two metros, Delhi and Mumbai. Armani has been interested in opening stores in India for a while, but has been scouting for the right partner. Its talks with Reliance Retail fell apart quite soon and the company was said to be talking with the Aditya Birla Group as well.

Time for another vacation

It's only Wednesday, but it feels like it should be a Friday. This week is killing me already, there's just too much work and too little time to do it. It's been over a month since our last vacation and it looks like it's time for another one. So, I'd better start plotting a new vacation, maybe just a short one before we head to Dubai, or maybe to Dubai itself, to combine looking for apartments and take a couple of days off. Hmmm, sounds pretty tempting.

Working at home brings cyber security to the fore

Ever since I started working from home and became responsible for taking care of my computer, data backup, antivirus options and everything else, I have started taking cyber security very seriously. Earlier it was just of question of my personal data, but now I have to be responsible for company information too, a lot of which is not available to the public. The first thing I did when I started working at home was to equip my laptop out with the best protection against, information theft, privacy invasion and viruses. My company installed a FTP client based software that secured the flow of information in transfers between the office and my home, which has worked out really well so far. I keep getting it checked to make sure it is working correctly and for upgrades, and so far I haven't had any problems with it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wal-Mart's order online, pick up instore strategy is getting popular

Wal-Mart's customers can shop online and then go to their local store to pick up their merchandise, in the company's Site to Store initiative which started last month. Using this service, there is no fee for shipping and handling for the customers, who are informed via email once the merchandise has reached the local store and is ready for pickup. This service is especially handy for buying products that are only available online. Several other companies such as Circuit City, Best Buy and Sears have similar systems of ordering online and picking up in their stores.

Global voice communications

As globalization increases, the online voice communication industry is making significant gains. Now is the time to make some investments to upgrade your voice communication systems. One of the leaders in online voice communications using Ventrilo Servers hosting is NationVoice, which has the highest level of customer service to offer. NationVoice is one company that provides the first of its kind Voice Over IP Ventrilo, that will be able to connect users from any PC in the world. The system is available for use for both companies and individuals. With 24/7 support, NationVoice seems like the best choice for global voice communications.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Customized phones for the masses

Now the masses can have customized cell phones just like the super rich do. Agenda writes about ModeLabs, one of the companies that makes customized cell phones, using well known branded phones and equipping them with extra functions that will appeal to niche customers. ModeLabs which makes the Elite phone, targets girls of the age 11-17 and prices its cell phone at 190 euros, while its MTV Networks phone is targeted at the 15-35 age group and costs 279 euros. ModeLabs sells only a limited number of its products, sometimes as less as just 10,000 phones of one model.
ModeLabs forecasts that branded products like those it makes for Elite, MTV and other clients will account for 19 percent of the total cellphone market in 2011, compared with less than 0.5 percent today.

"We are really at the beginning of this market for custom phones, but the demand is definitely there," Bohbot said. "We saw a window because the mobile phone manufacturing business has changed a lot from just five years ago. In 2001 you had 15 different companies making phones. Now you have five big ones that dominate, so there is less choice if you want to differentiate yourself."

Creating your personal music videos on your site

Here's a really great way to jazz up your website or blog: by adding an audio and video feature. Fliptrack is a audio slideshow and video service there users can create their own Fliptrack Music Slideshows by selecting music and then uploading their own photographs which will be synchronized to change with the music, and end up looking like a music video. To trick it out even more, you can add effects and text to images. The slideshows can be easily shared on social networking sites such as myspace and friendster without any hassles regarding licensing etc. This might end up getting you even more friends on your social networking sites than before. So get your own Fliptrack music slideshow before your friends!

Searching for trends


I found a interesting site this evening called Trend Hunter, where you can sign up to submit trends that you have spotted in your local area. Trend Hunter is a worldwide organization and so is a great place to find out not only what is happening around the world, but also to get ideas on new business opportunities. Trends vary from the logical and practical to the weird and bizarre, but all of them are interesting nevertheless.

Las Vegas living

Las Vegas and Dubai have more in common than most people think. They both have grown phenomenally due to the creation of amazing opportunities available in the middle of the desert and the face of both cities have been shaped by ground-breaking and risky real estate. Real estate is big business in Las Vegas, but who would have thought that when it was a dusty little town in the middle of nowhere, but now it sits bright as a jewel in the desert, attracting people from across the world. Las Vegas real estate has been growing and growing and is still showing no signs of slowing down. It is considered a good place for investment for both first time buyers as well as vacationers. I mean, who wouldn't want to live in a high rise condominium with incredible views of the city as well as the surrounding country.

Dubai real estate

We started our search for finding an apartment in Dubai this weekend. We found some really great listings in the areas of town we like and in our budget too, in The Gulf News Properties section, which is one of the really well organized properties classifieds I have ever seen. All properties are divided very neatly by sale or by lease, then by part of town and then by budget. The prices are listed at the beginning of each listing and are for the entire year, so its easy to go down the list and only keep track of the ones in your price range.

The amazing thing about Dubai is that the choices are huge, and you can find a ten bedroom mansion or a studio apt even in the same building. The other interesting thing about houses and apartments in Dubai is that they usually have more bathrooms than bedrooms, quite opposite of what it is in the US and the UK. If a house has 3 bedrooms, there are usually 5 bathrooms (six if you count the maid's room). Most houses have family rooms and have one bathroom in that area, and one bathroom in the entrance hallway and attached baths to each bedroom of course. It's been in interesting experience so far and I hope to have it continue.

Digitally printed signs for politicians

I'm a big fan of new technology or new uses of an old technology. I write a lot about trends and new stuff happening in the world of technology and retail, but this is my new favorite trend, and I am looking forward to seeing more of it in the retail scenario. The new flatbed digital printers can be used to print signs on a variety of surfaces, in a fast and efficient manner. Since the printing uses digital technology, new images can be added or changed at a nominal or even no extra cost at all.

The technology is being targeted for campaigning politicians for printing their Political Signs. Politicians have always spent a lot on signage in their campaigns and its definitely a great time to be offering such a service to them. The company behind this technology is Pixus, a leader in the digital printing technology industry who provides large format digital prints to a host of industries, including Casinos, retail, fast food, banking and many more.

Social networking for your home


Have you heard about Dwank? It's a new site that is somewhat of a social networking site for home design and decorating. At Dwank, users can sigh up and put up photo's of their home, give and get decorating advice etc. Listings are sorted by room of the house, or type of house or country. There are some really cool houses on the site, including one in Italy. Tanzania, and Greece. Some of the photographs are very obviously fake though, so don't believe everything you see as a representative of the country.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Majority of consumers research online, purchase offline

Accenture's reports that according to a survey of 600 consumers, over two-thirds of consumers research products online, before making a purchase offline. It said that 69% of consumers use the Internet to research products, 68% compare prices online and 58% located products online, before heading to a regular store to make a purchase. It also found that 67% of consumers prefer to buy products in brick-and-mortar stores.
“Instead of replacing bricks-and-mortar stores, the Internet is an extension of consumers’ in-store shopping experience providing a resource to research product and price,” says Jeff Smith, global managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice. “Retailers and manufacturers must understand this consumer behavior trend in order to reach shoppers, educate them, serve them and earn their loyalty.”

Friday, April 13, 2007

The worth of an onine degree: priceless!

Why is it so hard for some people to understand the value of higher education? It's more important to start earning later but being able to earn higher amounts instead, right? It seems to make perfect sense to me that to rise higher one has to have more quaifications and if one can afford to devote all your time to studying then that's great, but there's always the option of an online degree where you can balance both. Getting an Online Degree is nowhere as complicated as it might seem to the uninitiated and once you get started, you're sure to wonder why it took you so long. There is nothing better than having the backup of a great education behid you for the rest of your life.

Peer to peer lending

Peer to peer lending services that allow consumers to lend directly to other consumers completely bypassing banks, have been around for a while now with Zopa in the UK and Prosper in the US. The system has even been described as the eBay for loans and has built up quite a following of consumers who would much rather deal with other consumers than with commercial banks. How it works is that borrowers list their loan details along with their personal profiles and lenders bid on the loans, with the bidder with the lowest interest rate winning the deal.
A study by Online Banking Report predicts that by 2011 person-to-person lending in the US could surpass 100,000 loans a year, worth more than USD 1 billion. Unlike eBay, which can connect buyers and sellers from around the world, peer to peer lending is generally bound by local financial regulations. Which means there's ample room for national or regional versions.
One of the new entrants to the scene is Boober, which was launched just last month in The Netherlands and works in a similar manner to Zopa and Prosper. Springwise reports that borrowers list their requirement, along with their credit rating (as determined by Experian), why they require the loan and what interest rate they are willing to pay. Smava launched last month in Germany is uses the group principle like Prosper to lend and borrow money. CommunityLend will launch in Canada in Fall 2007 and Wiseclerk.com again follows Prosper's system.

Which is your favorite font?

So which is your favorite font? I am partial to Trebuchet MS, which just makes everything that is written so much more interesting!! But does a simply font have that much power? Well, apparently it does. Just the simplest of changes in a font can turn something sweet and happy into something completely different. While Arial and Times New Roman are most commonly used fonts, the ad world has brought Helvetica into prominence with companies such as American Airlines, Lufthansa, Nestle, Evian and the New York subway system using the font in their logos and signs.
Helvetica plays such an important part in our lives that the Museum of Modern Art in New York is celebrating its 50th anniversary by acquiring a set of the original lead type, making it the first typeface to become part of the museum's collection. MoMA is also opening a "50 Years of Helvetica" exhibition on Friday. And Helvetica is the subject of a feature documentary, which premiered last month at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.
Hat tip: Agenda

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Will web radio survive?

Internet radio has changed the way people listen to music across the world. There are around 10,000 Internet radio stations, each one different from the next, but these radio stations might not last long as the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) has raised the royalties that web radio stations have to pay. While the big players like Yahoo and AOL who operate the majority of the radio stations will be fine, the smaller independent players might not be able to survive the new rates.
"These rates may effectively be high enough to kill the webcasting industry," ABI Research digital home research director Michael Wolf told the E-Commerce Times. The fees would roughly amount to at least US$5 per month for most webcasting stations, Wolf said.
I wonder if the radio stations I listen to on the web will survive? When we moved to Bangalore, our Internet was installed even before our luggage arrived and before we moved in, so while I was getting some work done in the apartment, it was web radio that kept me entertained all day long.

Looking for an apt in Dubai

We're looking for a place to live in Dubai, so if anyone has some tips on good agencies to use there, do let me know. I've sent some mails to some agents on the web, but have not any positive replies as yet. There are a lot of great agents I hear, so it seems that I'm not contacting the right ones so far. I think I need to find some expat boards to get the scoop on how to find a good agent and also someone to give us the details on finding a company to ship some of our stuff there. We're not going to take our furniture or electronics, since it would be easier to just buy everything there itself, but will need to ship some of our personal items.

Summer vacations

It's April and that means it's time to plan your summer vacation before it's too late. One hot spot that's great for everyone is Orlando, with it's 52 theme parks, the largest convention centre in the world and some of the top rated golf courses in the world. Disney World is of course, the area's biggest attraction, but there are lots of other things to do and places to go to as well. The city of Orlando has been going through some major changes in the past 3-5 years and if you've not been to Orlando lately, then it's time to do so. There are some great options to stay such as these Kissimmee hotels where you can have a great vacation, no matter what you decide to do. I myself am very keen to play golf at some of their amazing courses, with gators as hazards!

Arvind Mills plans to open 100 Megamart stores

One of the country's top textile manufacturer and retailer, Arvind Mills announced that it would be opening around 100 Megamart stores in the next five years. Smaller towns and tier II cities will be the primary focus of the new outlets. Arvind Mills currently has has 54 outlets in 16 cities, where it gets more than 150,000 footfalls every month.

Weekend plans

We plan to start looking for apartments this weekend so pretty much all thoughts seem to be in that vein. We have several local property newspapers to go through, which should give us a good amount of choice I think. What ever I have seen of the real estate rental options so far in the newspapers and on Internet sites, makes me feel quite positive about getting a good apartment in the area we like as well as in our budget.

Advantages of online degrees

In today's rush-rush world, everyone is in a hurry to do everything, to quickly start working, to quickly start earning money, to quickly earn enough to buy a house and so on. Unfortunately, in all this rushing, getting a college degree is often overlooked. A lot of people are however working to get their online degrees while they are working. The point of a college education is not the "degree" but being able to utilize what you learn in the classroom and apply it to the real world. Online education pushes you in that direction, since most students are working part time if not full time. A good source of information on all online schools and e-learning programs is DirectoryofSchools.com which has helped in connecting over 21,000,000 potential students to online education programs. The site lists over 8,000 online degree programs and professional certificate programs from more than 1,300 universities, colleges and technical schools. DirectoryofSchools.com verifies its partner schools using it's in-house verification process to review accreditation and vocational industry standards.

What is most important when looking for an apt?

What are the qualities you look for when searching for apartments? Is it the view from the apartment or the sq footage inside? Is it the availablility of parking or the proximity to the grocery store? The combinations and permutations are quite endless and in the end, one really wants it all, right? I certainly want an apartment with covered parking, one that is close to the grocery store, one that has space for a washing machine, one that has been constructed logically to ensure there is a flow, like I certainly don't like apt with bathrooms right as you enter. Even if it is a half bath, it should not be too obviously placed in the entrance.

Online ad targeting and spending

JupiterResearch has released an interesting report titled "21st Century Portals: Thriving in the Google-MySpace Era", which claims that 55% of online users who pay for services could be lured by entertainment and communication portals such as MySpace. David Card of JupiterResearch adds that with portals such as Google, Yahoo, AOL and MSN dominating online usage, the companies account for 55% of online advertisement budgets.
From the audience point of view, as measured by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (conducted with ForeSee Results), US consumers expressed more satisfaction with Google than Yahoo!, AOL or MSN. And they claimed more satisfaction with all portals other than AOL, MSN and Yahoo! That includes second-tier portals like Lycos, Excite, Univision and Netscape.

Plan an eco-friendly vacation

Consumers are becoming more aware of the damage they are doing to the earth, I think. Whether it is clothes or food or tourism, consuming goods that are eco-friendly is becoming a way of life for many. The tourism industry especially is where working to save the ecology is essential and a lot of tourist resorts are changing the way they operate in an effort to be more eco-friendly. HawaiianBeachRentals is one such resort that allows tourists to plan an environmentally friendly vacation, such as these Kauai vacation rental options. For a destination that relies so heavily on tourism, protecting the environment counts as investing and safe-guarding their future as a tourist destination. Wayne Nastri, western regional administrator for EPA says that over $95 million has already been committed to correcting environment violations in Hawaii.

Computerized tableside waiters

I haven't been to one of these new restaurants, but can't wait to try it out. Instead of waiters running back and forth taking orders, some restaurants are turning to technology to help them and also make the consumer's experience more interesting. Several restaurants such as Arigato Japanese Steakhouse in the Tampa Bay area, are using wireless technology to take orders, ask for refills and pay by credit cards all at the table. Bars, restaurants and car rental agencies have used similar technologies earlier, especially in Europe where a tableside waiter is quite common, the concept is still quite new to the US due to high costs of implementation.
"It took a lot of training, but it frees our servers to spend far more time in the dining room tending to customers," said Danielle Del Bello, vice president of marketing for the family-owned restaurant company with stores in St. Petersburg and Clearwater and plans to reopen a fire-damaged location in Tampa this summer.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In-game ads

In-game video game ads are a reality that will be implemented quite soon. Advertisers are constantly looking for new methods to connect with consumers and this is the latest one. The concept is so new that the metrics required to determine whether it will be successful are not fully developed and even quite imprecise. For a successful advertisement in an in-game video game, is to ensure that it does not distract or take away from the actual game, in the same manner that pop-up ads did on the Internet.
"Recently, there has been a lot of talk about and a lot of interest in in-game advertising because it offers companies a new way to reach key customers," said Michael Cai, director of broadband and gaming at market research firm Parks Associates Latest News about Parks Associates, which estimates that this market generated US$80 million in worldwide revenue in 2005. Enterprises, such as Toyota Motor Sales USA and Major League Baseball, have adopted this channel, so their products are now displayed during video games.

Switching to summer decor

Well, summer is definitely here and we are sure feeling the heat. The location of our apartment is such that we get lots of sun in the summer, when we don't much care for it and barely any summer in the winter, when we pine after it. Ah well, that is life. To beat the heat, I am planning to streamline my home and get rid of anything superfluous, have only simple clean lines and add summery and cool touches. One of the ways I am doing this is by getting a set of new shades for the windows in my dining room, where we have the maximum sun.

I have decided on getting the Nigeria Roman Blind that offers complete protection from the sun and heat and looks very stylish while doing its job. I've always been fond of roman blinds and I was quite surprised at the prices at Terry's fabrics, which were much less than I expected them to be for products of this quality. The company has a wide range of window treatments and blinds that will suit any home, including some really classy curtains that I could not believe were really the ready-made variety as they has that polish to them that usually only comes with made-to-order items.

Future Group to lease retail space to its competitors

The Future Group is closing in on an agreement to lease close to 20 million sq ft of retail space in the eastern city of Kolkata to other retailers, including some of its top rivals, such as Reliance Retail, Trent, Lifestyle and Shoppers’ Stop. Future will be adding approximately 15 million sq ft of space by 2010 and will then by then have 56 malls. The complete project is being looked after by Future Group's asset management company, Kshitij Investment Advisory.

Tata Group and Xander team up for retail expansion

The Tata Group announced that it had tied up with private equity investor Xander, to develop its real estate properties for retail ventures. India's second largest business company, The Tata group has teamed up with Xander to facilitate fast growth. The agreement between the two companies states that Trent, which is Tata's retail division, will hold the rights to anchor tenancy and will manage it's portfolio with Xander. The company released a statement that stated, “The arrangement will be of considerable help to the company in its growth plans in the retail sector, including in the current formats like Westside, Landmark and Star India Bazaar.”

Apple sells its 100th million iPod

Apple announced that it had sold its 100 millionth iPod. The company has achieved this in 6 years which has made it the fastest selling music player ever. So, will sales slow down of this amazing product in the foreseeable future? Well, ease of use has been the key to it's success, but if the company starts to sell DRM-free songs form the iTunes catalog, it will surely make it more complicated.
"Removing the DRM from iTunes makes for a much better consumer experience," he reasoned. Since it was elegant ease of use -- in other words, a good consumer experience -- that made iPods so popular, smoothing the DRM wrinkle with iTunes is likely to increase the public respect for Apple and digital music players.

"This will go a long way to determining if iPod has hit its peak or whether it's going to continue to be the No. 1 portable music device," said Chapell. "I think that, from a consumer perspective, the most important thing is that they can obtain the music they want in a way that's easy. iTunes, for the most part, enabled that.

Living large

I love reading and subscribing to home decorating and real estate magazines. There is just something so uplifting about being able to dream about the kind of house you want to have one day, the places you want to live in, ideas for vacation homes etc. One of the magazines that I recently read was Dream Homes magazine, which focuses only on million dollar homes across the world. The magazine has some of the most beautiful houses showcased and has a lot of resources on how to locate your dream home, whether it is in Greece or Mexico or Italy or anywhere else in the world. There are details on each city, such as real estate agents and offices, local attractions, nightlife, restaurants, historic locations and prices.

More female Internet users than male

Did you know that there are more women Internet users than men in the US? According to research done by eMarketer, there are an estimated 97.2 million female Internet users or 51.7% of the total online users. This figure is estimated to increase to 109.7 million or 51.9% of total online users in 2011. Besides eMarketer, several other firms such as Arbitron and Edison Media Research and Media Metric have also conducted research on this aspect and the majority of results find that women are the maximum users online.
Not only do females make up the majority of Internet users, but more of the female population goes online. This year, an estimated 66.2% of US females ages 3 and older will use the Internet at least once a month, compared with 64.2% of males, according to eMarketer. By 2011, 72.1% of females are expected to go online, vs. 69.3% of males.

eMarketer Senior Analyst Debra Aho Williamson thinks that current trends will shape future Internet demographics and usage. "For girls who have grown up with technology," says Ms. Williamson, "there is no significant gender gap in Internet usage, and the rise of activities that are particularly appealing to young females, such as social networking, will result in even greater usage."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Google launches voice activated search

Google announced that it had launched Google Voice Local Search, a directory assistance service that uses speech recognition on telephones so that people can search for local firms. The system is being used on an experimental basis as yet. To use the system, consumers can call 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) from any phone to access the voice-activated service. The system provides a great way to find local information, such as that what you find on Google Maps, and can be accessed from anywhere with just a telephone. Consumers are also connected to their requested numbers directly free of charge.
Google's experimental entry into voice-based mobile search establishes a clear competitive landscape, which will likely mean a further decline in call volumes and revenues for traditional mobile directory assistance, Greg Sterling, a principal analyst with Sterling Market Intelligence, told TechNewsWorld.

"This would allow Google to put its Internet ad business onto mobile phones," said Sterling. "It also signifies they want to have a viable voice in this space, which is going to be popular area in the future."

Because Google handles billions of queries already, the move into the directory assistance space is a natural progression. However, it has to make up some distance in this field, Sterling warned.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Laugh of the day

Your Daylight Saving Time Has Come

Is it hot or what?

It's not spring any more, summer is here already. The temperatures have gone up to around 36-40C or 96.8-104F in the past week and with the high humidity, it has been feeling like 48C or 118F.....ugh, it's killing. Especially the humidity, which just saps all the energy out from you. I'm not looking forward to moving in this weather, but what comes after this, the monsoon, will be much more chaotic.

A good time to invest in silver

Silver has always been relegated to being beneath gold, although if you had invested in both gold and silver last year, you would have made a larger profit on the silver rather than the gold. Surprising, right? Well, silver has never been as valuable as gold but it has maintained a steady increase as opposed to gold's up and down prices. Silver jewelry is a good way to get into investing in it, if you'd rather not have just a business transaction. I have a bit of silver jewelry which is really great to use while travelling, so one doesn't have to worry about it too much as one would have to do with gold or diamonds. But if you were to make an investment in silver, you could do it via Monex Deposit company which has been in the business for a long time and will not only provide you with the top rated quality but will also store it for you in an independent bank or depository. So whether you are interested in buying silver bars or ingots or coins or bullion, MDC is the place that will answer all your questions.

US Postal Office withdraws its surface rate for books

The US Postal Service is withdrawing for individual customers its service of shipping goods internationally on cargo ships. The service will be withdrawn by mid-May. Surface deliveries have been crucial to the survival of smaller booksellers and those who sell to international markets, as the prices are around a third of air freight rates. Larger companies such as Amazon.com will not be affected as it qualifies for bulk discounts due its high volumes.
In announcing the changes last month, the post office said demand for international air-mail delivery was increasing at the expense of sea-borne services, which account for just 2.7 percent of foreign deliveries. “As a result, efficient international surface delivery networks have diminished and costs have dramatically increased,” the Postal Service said.
This is indeed a sad change. We shipped all our books back home to India, when we moved from Providence, RI in 2004 using this surface delivery rate. We had 10 boxes of books all of which we shipped by surface, which reached us three months later.

Reserve your parking space

UK drivers will be happy with this new business idea reported by Springwise, one of the greatest sources for new stuff from across the globe. Peasy.com has come up with an idea to let drivers connect with each other and reserve a parking spot for them before even leaving home. It's a great way for residents of high traffic areas to monetize their unused parking space by adding themselves to the Peasy network. How it works is that owners of parking spaces register with Peasy with all the details regarding their parking space, such as the available times, rental periods for daily or weekly basis and the price. Drivers looking for parking, search and reserve spaces online. At the time of renting, only the street address is given, but once the transaction is complete, the full address is revealed.
Any off-street parking spaces can be rented out: driveways, garages and secure allocated spaces. Peasy estimates most people will earn GBP 10-30 a week, for an extra stream of income of GBP 500-1,500 per year. In prime locations, spaces can go for as much as GBP 3,000 per year. Listing a parking space is free, and Peasy takes a commission fee of 12% for each rental transaction.
In the US, a similar concept called SpotScout was to launch but has been delayed. The company will be starting out in Boston, New York and San Francisco quite soon and already has a huge database of people wanting to use the service.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sunday surfing!!

Your Chances of Being a Multimillionaire: 68%

You have a good chance of being a multimillionaire. Better than most people.
You simply have a natural knack for money and the personality for success.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Ads in subway tunnels

Residents of San Francisco, Boston, London and a few other cities might already be familiar with this phenomenon. The tunnel walls of the subway are one of the newest forms of advertising. Canada's SideTrack and New York's Submedia are some of the companies who are focusing on advertising on subway tunnel walls and some of the biggest brands like Microsoft, Target, Coca-Cola, Rebook and Honda are advertising on them.

SideTrack installed the system on San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system last month as a trial. How it works is that a long series of still photographs are installed in a subway tunnel which are illuminated by rapidly flashing spotlights as the trains go by, resulting in a movie like effect. Campaigns are 15 seconds long.
Michael Swistun, CEO of SideTrack, explained that his company's technology is designed to present riders with a 24- or 30-frame-per-second "movie," depending on the speed of the train.

The technology requires that trains pass the ads going at least 25 miles per hour. If they're going slower, the lights stay off and the tunnels stay dark.
Submedia has project pending in Paris, Prague, Singapore and India currently. Here is the Submedia India site.

Masterseek: a new global search engine


As part of my research work, I use a lot of search engines to find companies that do a specific type of work in a limited field. Currently, I'm looking for branding and marketing companies that focus on finance services (earlier it was the telecom sector) on the consumer side. I found masterseek a global search engine that gives free access to company profiles in 75 countries, which seems to work on a similar manner like Hoovers. The site looks brand new and does not have all the company details filled in as yet. The concept is great and giving information for free is always a winning solution but unless they quickly add the information, there are going to be lots of unhappy visitors. One aspect I really did like was being able to search for companies in a specific country.

Use of self checkout lanes increasing

Saving time is the number one factor the average consumer tries out self checkout lanes. This from an extremely in depth article by Joyce Smith in The Kansas City Star on self checkout lanes, which is a must read for all marketers and retailers. The concept has been around for quite some time now, but has had only limited success, at specific stores where the customers are attuned to trying out new technology. While the actual process is simple enough, consumers, especially women hesitate using it because it looks complicated and also as it could be embarrassing if you held up the line while trying to figure it out. The concept of self check is not just limited to retail stores, you can now buy movie tickets, check out library books, rent movies, check in at hotels, pick up tickets at the airport, all without any help from a customer service person.
Americans spent more than $110 billion at self-checkout lanes in 2005, up nearly 35 percent from 2004, according to the IHL Consulting Group, a retail and hospitality consulting company based in Franklin, Tenn.

Experts estimate that anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent of the daily transaction volume and 15 percent to 35 percent of the daily dollar volume of some retail stores is being handled by self-checkout machines. In its 2006 survey, IHL found that 94 percent of respondents will use self-checkout, even if they don’t necessarily like it.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Bloggerwave makes its debut

The newest kid on the get paid to blog platforms is Bloggerwave, which is absolutely brand spanking new. It's actually so new that there are just a couple of advertisers on board as yet. The format is great, bloggers sign up with them and register their blogs, select opportunities to write up on and get paid by them. Yes, there are lots of other sites doing this already, I know, but Bloggerwave seems to be taking in all the inputs from earlier editions and coming up with an improved version. Bloggerwave will be using statistics from Alexa, Technorati, Google Page Rank etc to judge how a blog is rated and paid. It definitely the right time to be a blogger, for sure!

Redoing the home

How often do you change the look of your home? I love to change things around every few months (I am a Gemini after all) but lately have not got around to doing anything and had got quite bored with the set up. What has made the change is that our window air conditioner packed up last week, so we had to shift to the other bedroom which we usually keep reserved for guests. Somehow just by moving to the next room, it feels like we are on vacation. It's just interesting to see how much on our perceptions we live by and rely on.

So what is social media all about?

I am quite intrigued with social networking and interaction sites. The entire concept is so engaging and if correctly done, pulls you in effortlessly. Social networking is just one facet of social media, but it has caught the attention of marketers and is being used to promote products in an unobtrusive way. I found the Internet Marketing Blog which has some good reading material on subjects such as search engine optimization, viral marketing and social media, and I find the blog to be rather interesting considering that I am more into the research side of things and not so much of a marketer. Maybe, that's exactly why it appeals to me. The articles are well thought out, written well and are a good mix of general issues and more complex ones. I'll definitely be going back for updates.

Menswear brand Raymond expand store base

At the launch of its 350th store, Raymond announced that it would increase it's stores to 950 by 2010 with an investment of approximately Rs 5 million per store. Stores are to be of an average size of 2,500 sq ft. Park Avenue, ColorPlus, Manzini and Parx are some of Raymond's famous brands which will all be available at these new stores. At present the company has over 1 million sq ft of space, a substantial part of it being in tier II and tier III towns, ahead of other retailers who are rushing to set up stores.

Reebok's social networking initiative


Reebok has launched its new social networking and interactive website Run Easy to directly interact with consumers of its RunEasy campaign. Reebok hopes to convey that running is not just for serious marathoners and is a casual sport that can be taken up at different levels. Consumers can now connect with others, upload photo's of themselves running, listen to music to run to and find running trails using Google Maps.
The “Run Easy” campaign and interactive site were debuted during a press walk from Reebok’s Sports Club in New York through Central Park. MTV VJ and former Miss SA Susie Castillo, Atlanta Falcon’s football player DeAngleo Hall and Reebok’s chief marketing officer Uli Becker led the walk to demonstrate the casual nature of walking and talking. “Everybody has different potential and the Reebok brand is about getting the individual to live to their specific potential,” Mr. Becker said.
It automatically detects where you are and pulls up a map in the browse runs section. Unfortunately, it did not find any trails here in the city, but it was nice to look them up for Providence,RI where we used to live and had been on most of the trails it pulled up for the city.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hitch a ride to the airport

This is a great idea that I read about on Springwise and I think a lot of people would agree with me. Hitchsters.com is a new company that has been launched by Terry Crawford and his wife Gloria, that combines social networking with a ride matching site, to come up with ways to share taxi's to the airport. Using Hitchster, you can connect with others who are travelling on the same flight and are from the same area, to save money and share a cab. There is also an option to specify a male of female co-rider. All that is required is your first name, cell phone number, cell phone service provider and an email address. Hitchster connects passengers using its database and makes a match.
The company has a few rules: customers must be over the age of eighteen and the first person to get dropped off pays 60% of the fare and tolls to make sure the second rider doesn’t get stiffed for the tip. Hitchsters suggests rock paper scissors to minimize arguments over who gets out first. Customers who stand up other riders risk being banned from the system. Currently, Hitchsters is in beta in New York, and scheduled to launch soon in Brooklyn and Boston. The service is free, but the Crawfords hope to generate revenue by attracting advertisers to the site.

Retailers keen on Kolkata but the city faces severe shortage of large retail space

Retailers are interested in developing the retail scenario in Kolkata but the city faces a severe shortage of large retail space, so a number of retailers are going outside the city to look for space, in areas such as Siliguri, Jalpaiguri and Durgapur where RPG Enterprises will be opening all formats of its Spencer’s stores, ranging from 1,500 to 50,000 sq ft. Future Group's Pantaloon has set up its largest store in Kankugachi spread over 85,000 sq ft and Spencer’s will soon be opening its largest hypermarket in Kolkata.