Digital transformation of God’s Abode

Temples, churches and mosques are places where faithful and seekers congregate to see, witness, experience or participate in religious and spiritual experiences. Some throng to quench their spiritual thirst, some to marvel at the colossal architecture and beautiful carvings, some to seek their wishes and some as an errand. Right from early civilization, they have functioned as a solace cistern, as rich cultural platforms creating novel dance and music formats, community ports involved in birth, marriage and many more stages. These structures form the foundations on which the faith rests strongly and they witness sea of humankind passing through them. Blue Mosque is visited by five million people annually, while Tirupathi temple receives about 203 Million people. It is not that only these large temples draw the crowd, even smaller ones witness sizeable participation from locals and visitors. India with 205 religious auspicious days a year, and more than 69,000 temples and many churches, mosques and synagogue is a happening place. Many of these smaller institutions face challenges on grants, support and upkeep. Some function under government bureaucracy, therefore their upkeep and running is a tough affair. Some temples are family managed, or by the villagers themselves and face a problem of continuity. Migration, regional expansions, industrialization and rampant resource exploitation has robbed many of their lands and means of sustenance. Religious institutions of all hues can benefit from digital technologies in three primary areas: Devotee management, donations and infrastructure management.
Devotee management involves advance reservations for seva’s, crowd management, on the spot tickets, distribution of Prasad and others. Faithful steward, WorshipTrac, FlockBase, Minebiz, Kshetrasuvidham, Kshetra, Mohid, Emaze are some of the software available to deliver devotee management and administration workflows. Platforms like onlineprasad or e-Prasad deliver temple Prasad directly to devotees. Devotee management includes not just on premise experience, but ones that caters to off premise engagement too. Due to migration, physical challenges and other constraints many a men and women may not be able to a treat themselves with a rich spiritual and cultural experience. AR/VR experiences can help people to cherish these moments without actually being at the place. Grand scale events such as Mahamastabhisheka of Gomateshwara or ISKCON Chowpatty have successfully worked with Kalpnik to provide an immersive virtual experience to all those devotees and tourists. A smartphone to scan the QR code, s simple 2G connection and a 3D spectacle was what was required to relish the happenings. Brainseed Factory’s Mecca3D delivers a rich virtual tour of Mecca, Haram the world’s largest mosque and Islamic history. Millions of faithful who can’t visit Mecca due to distance, cost, and physical challenges benefit from these virtual experiences. Startups like Spirituallygood are bringing an integrated platform of advance reservations, social media and member devotee experience on to a common page. With this the devotee can book in advance, share the photos and experiences on both temple’s page and her personal page, can send an invite to friends and donate for a particular puja or a cause like feeding widows or cattle. Devotee and tourist help create more information about the deity and place, increase awareness and followers to the temple. Heritage temples endowed with parchment paper or Talapathra scripts realize they need to digitally archive these to preserve the valuable information, but also help many consume the same in the form of e-books.
Donations are key source of all major religious institutions. Donations are required to maintain structures, deck the statues and halls, pay for the staff and priests and conduct elaborate events on special days. Using digital technologies, religious institutions can obtain tighter alignment between sources of funds (individuals, corporates, institutions and government), increase reach and deepen engagement of volunteers and donors. What most temples and mosques need is donations of kind, support for say restoring a gopuram or a minaret. Procuring these skills may be difficult for temples and government run temples may use locally available contractor who has no knowledge of the agama Shastra’s or the age old building techniques. Donation of time and efforts is where digital technologies may play significant role. Any person volunteering for a temple may find information about various temples that requires volunteers and she can select and participate for a particular activity at a particular temple of choice. These platforms thus allow not just Arpitha sea’s but also precious support required to run the mammoth activities of a Bramhotsavam or a Baisakhi langar. These platforms also facilitate an individual devotee post about a particular program, say revival of an old structure or an abandoned temple and request for support. These platforms provide not just an opportunity to take part in activities of interest, but actually own and drive an initiative. The platforms thus help increase the reach of temple and personalized involvement at the same time. . Startups are also exploring AI tools for recommendation about Pooja, auspicious times to conduct/visit temples according to ones’s horoscope, and suggestions on appropriate donations.
Temple administration and infrastructure management is another area where digital technologies can play a big role. Booking of accommodation, managing shops and establishment owned by temple, administration of transport and human resources, and prasadam management is where digital technologies can drive efficiency and effectiveness of the operations. Inventory management, ticketing systems, transport management, contract and rent management are areas where software from companies like SAP, Quest informatics, Synergize, Shivam software, Sopanam and many others offer point solutions that may be used by temples. Key to digital transformation is to create an integrated system, not point solutions as pursued by now. IT administration is a major issue and most temples do not have sufficiently qualified manpower to manage it. Digital transformation must be therefore all pervasive, devotee centric, efficiency driven project. Digitization must help religious institutions realize better devotee engagement, higher margins for their merchandize, increase reach beyond physical arena by using webinars, campaigns.
Board administrators need systems that allow visibility of allocation to priority areas, shared responsibilities and outcomes. Boards also need systems to manage their overheads, what % of the donations spent on HR & other areas and what % of the funds used for effective development of the institutions itself. Digital transformation must therefore connect not just CRM, Inventory management (rooms, marriage halls, shops, and commodities), social media and payment gateway, but also financial system-of-record. Digital transformation does not just mean automation and elimination of manual roles, especially of those that are prescribed in ancient texts. It is more about preserving and enshrining the rituals as prescribed in scripts by self-sustained institutions. Digital transformation is also engaging believers, devotees and tourists. Digital transformation must facilitate higher donor/volunteer involvement, deeper cultural immersion and revival of these institutions. Boards and administrators must embrace digital technologies to provide better spiritual and devotional experiences.
Dr TR Madan Mohan

Are your sales and marketing aligned across Segments?

Robert De Nero and Anne Hathway starer “The Intern” has a particular scene wherein the sales analysis shows the company has been spending more marketing dollars on low value segments and practically nothing at all on high margin low volume segment.  Does not this sound familiar? While companies realize Sales and marketing need to be tightly aligned, but that seldom is the case.  A senior marketing director in a recent conversion blurted out that while her marketing budget has increased YoY, the ROI seems to be elusive. What was bothering her was the fact the company spends substantially in curated events managed by respected analysts, and yet sales find the coverage insufficient.

Companies spend a fortune on the conferences and events but the outcomes belie expectations. It is not surprising for many corporates to find 75% of the participants who attended their events came for free lunch or a swanky dinner. Many of the participants may not be the decision maker or influencers, but pretty junior in their organization. Corporate gifts, industry exhibitions cost a dime, and yet ineffective. Albeit companies continue to pursue many of these acts they are afraid to pause and question fundamentals. What is the objective of the event?. Why this city and this hour?, How this format will help sell their ware?. Unfortunately, many leaders want to just follow the herd. Therefore it is not surprising when studies across industry indicate:

  • 50% of marketing budget is totally wasted
  • Only 34% of feel their content marketing works
  • 25% had no marketing strategy
  • 44% had no alignment between various marketing media

So how can companies ensure their marketing dollars are well spent and drive intended sales outcome. On the outset, it is important to realize marketing function serves three objectives. These are inform, influence and advocacy.  Any marketing activity is to help consumers associate with the brand, help differentiate its offerings and seek higher revenues. Companies use various marketing assets to communicate to the interest group their unique existence, product/service offering set, pricing and other advantages. The objective is maximize reach at an affordable cost. Companies use several approaches to drive influence. Awards, citations, sponsored industry events, directed online community forums, endorsements are all effective mediums of influencing consumers. Advocacy is to enlist willing individuals who would eschew the role of brand ambassadors and drive positive word of mouth.

Different marketing assets serve different purpose and effective at different stages of sales cycle. Assets such as breakfast meeting facilitates more personalized one on one discussion that may be more effective in later stages of sales cycle. On the other hand,   assets like newsletter or blog may be more useful in the early stages of sales cycle. Marketing assets also vary by their cost and impact. Some of these cost a dime and more effective to lock-in, while some may be low cost approaches to increase reach only.

Companies can realize better return on investments in their sales and marketing when these functions are congruent and well-coordinated. Congruency can be gained by ensuring same goals drive their quarterly activities, common goals entwine both functions at various levels and incentives encourage them to support each other. Coordination improves when event plans, promos, content marketing and other assets are aligned with sales motions. It is important to realize sales motions differ across segments within a company. Segments vary on the “value” of purchase and the number of customers in that particular segment. It is common to have a segment A that has few numbers of customers with a high purchase value. B and C segments are those with lower values of purchase and incumbent sizes. Each of these segments exhibit different sales behaviour. Purchasing cycles may be longer and more formal in Segment A, while the decision making could be shorter in Segment C.  Sales may have to interact and influence multiple owners in enterprise segment. Order qualifying criteria may not be just enough in Segment A. Marketing must be able to push the company over to order winning plateau.

Segment A requires an enterprise sales approach where formal decision structures and vendor registration and assessments exist. Customers in this segment may be well informed about the happenings in the markets, and well-endowed to invest high ticket investment. Many customers in this segment may already been served by your competitors and would only move if there is a compelling value proposition in terms of cost, or innovation advantage. Sales function is completely managed by direct sales as relationships and continuous coverage matter to enter and grow the revenues. While inside sales functions support the direct sales with deeper profiling of people and secondary data analysis, direct sales has a key role in engagement of the segment.

Customers in segment A place a high premium on scalable and proven solutions. Prior experience and in depth expertise of the vendor play a key role in awarding the project. Marketing platforms must facilitate experience sharing and credibility reinforcing functions for direct sales to influence and close deals in this segment.  Thought leadership vehicles including standards, industry frameworks and innovation ideas fly well in face to face meetings with the customers.  Breakfast meetings, Industry association, standard setting bodies, and Knowledge sharing conferences serve as valuable platforms for direct sales to position the company at state of art knowledge.  These platforms allow discussions to be personalized and centred on solving the problems the clients face, hence meeting service immediacy.

On the other hand, segment C, which has large number of customers with low ticket value may need a marketing and sales approach where the total transaction costs are optimised.  It is practical to have inside sales as the champion to host and on board customers in segment C. Marketing functions role for this segment is to improve the reach across the market and reuse the content to improve the richness of various marketing assets.  Companies can improve the reach and engagement with Segment C by adopting a consistent campaign blast policy. Mail them a newsletter, case studies and customer wins to increase awareness about your brand. Emphasize on content creation, curation and extension to reduce investments in content development. Content can be text, video and other formats. Use social media platforms to connect owners and decision makers and also to run campaigns.  Figure 1 presents the alignments between Segments and Marketing assets.

Figure 1: Alignment between segments and marketing assets.


Sales efficiencies can be gained only when direct sales team are running after few accounts with a deeper insight and ownership. Also, how the inside and partner (indirect) sales team complement the direct sales matters for Segments B and C. What works best is when companies know how to mesh mash both sales and marketing functions for each segment. Have a quarter-wise marketing plan aligned to sales expectations. Content development and curation can happen in stages and stronger stories and messaging will emerge with each asset to engage and influence customer. Having a common Head of Sales and marketing or marketing aligned with sales in another structural approach that can be tried. Cross functional teams tasked with joint activities across sales and marketing will also be useful.

Dr TR Madan Mohan



How effectively are you using your marketing assets…..

A senior marketing director in a recent conversion blurted out that while her marketing budget has increased YoY, the ROI seems to be elusive. What was bothering her was the fact the company spends substantially in curated events managed by respected analysts, and yet Sales find the coverage insufficient. Look familiar. This is a common problems with most companies where marketing focus on few vehicles. Some believe in only the physical networking events and other lean heavily on social media platforms. Here again companies do not follow an “embellish” strategy.  Consider the broad marketing asset a company has its disposal. On the social media front, the assets range from infographics, blogs, extended blogs, videos, case studies, white papers, publications and community platforms. On the physical front, a company could use industry events, workshops, analyst meets, association forums, and breakfast meetings. What works best is when companies know how to mesh mash both physical and online assets and the assets within each category.  One strategy that could be effectively followed is to have a quarter-wise marketing plan aligned to sales expectations. Then follow up a “embellish” strategy where in the messaging starts from basic assets and progresses to high scale assets. The advantage of this is that content development and curation can happen in stages and stronger stories and messaging emerge with each insert. For example, an infographic can be used to reward the reader with rich insights with high level cause-effect. Marketing team adopts a Tufte approach that may be high on information density and distilled functionality, focus on connectedness, and communicate through high imagery. Next level, a blog, which is used to influence, informative or thought provoking, may extend the infographic content using Kafka model. The blog could contain rich arguments and silver line conclusion. Whitepaper an extensive write up of blog may be used as a teaser before all material are tested, or position credibility and promote advocacy. Beauty of the embellish model is the content not only unfolds in a consistent manner, content is richer and all of them form independent hooks to improve visibility. Similar extensive strategy can also be used for physical platforms. Companies realize focus group meetings, followed by industry forum and curated events including analyst shows provide improve coverage and affinity. Moral of the story?. When planning for marketing, consider the complete assets at your disposal and build a embellish strategy that improves reach and richness of marketing communication complementing sales.

How to orchestrate effective viral marketing campaigns?

What do ALS ice bucket challenge, P&D Tampax, Unilever “Dove campaign for real beauty” Volkswagen: The Fun theory, Old Spice man aftershave or KLM surprise have in common. They are all good examples of how to plan and execute a successful viral marketing. Many believe viral marketing needs to have a whacky idea to attract interest/create suspense, and conversations amongst users and brand. Successful viral marketing campaigns go beyond these. Some common elements of good viral campaigns include: 1) surprise/interest element, 2) scalable idea unlimited by culture and religious restrictions, 3) persuasion by influencers, 4) exploit common motivations, and 5) market the marketing.

Surprise element is undoubtedly very important in viral marketing campaigns. The exhilarating moment packs the required spice of experience for individuals to stay connected with the campaigns. But the potential for disaster also lies within it. Toyota’s “the other you” game for advertising Matrix is a classic example. The rules of the game went like this; a person would sign up for his unwitting friend and then that friend would get stalked by strangers. The game not only scared the hell out of people, but also annoyed them. People felt that their privacy was infringed. Toyota focused too much on the surprise element while ignoring a very important factor – the emotions surprise is going to evoke. If the surprise doesn’t bring any pleasant emotions then the whole campaign goes for a toss.

ALS ice bucket or Volkswagen’s Fun theory campaigns like many other successful ones are scalable ideas that take an everyday activity and make it fun to positively affect people behavior. Volkswagen involved its targets/customer to series of experiments to find how these could make people healthier, environmentally conscious and safer, all the while creating a parallel experience with brand elements and the campaigns. Same goes for ALS which used a mundane daily activity of bathing into a ritual to raise awareness about ALS and seek donations through crowdsourcing. Co-creation where the company encourages users to become actively involved in the brand or product is a key component of viral marketing. This helps companies to stop selling to them, but instead market with them.

Persuasion by influencers, whether active or passive, is an important element of spread of viral marketing. Insights from social network theory reveal that “network central” influencers (one with many connections) are most effective to communicate the campaigns and if there is an element of persuasion, like invitation or challenge, people networked with influencers are baited to participate. ALS influencer invites are a case in point.

Social stigma’s of refusing a challenge or the need to be seen in the company of Page 3 is a “primal” drive which most successful campaigns cleverly exploit. The common motivations of Homo sapiens to be seen as the social animal, higher up in hierarchy helps people to donate and participate in events.

KLM using a similar surprise-and-delight strategy as Toyota identified irate passengers waiting for their flights ad presented them with thoughtful presents. The clincher in the campaign was actually the act being completely filmed live by a camera crew and that led to positive human emotional drama. This helped KLM use an effective marketing to connect and appeal to customers, but also market their marketing effectively.

Now onto some marketing campaigns that brought more bricks and bats than bouquets. The mistake of putting popularity above purpose is another factor. AT&T’s tweet had to face the consequences of doing it. AT&T uploaded a picture of a smart phone clicking 2 streaks of light at ground zero as a tribute to 9/11. The tweet had to be withdrawn immediately as it was considered offensive by a lot of people. Here the purpose was to pay the tribute but instead they tried to capitalize off of the emotions surrounding 9/11 for profit. A separate ad only for smart phone without linking it to 9/11 would have served the purpose. Well, they did get the popularity but only to tarnish their own image.

The marketers also seem to be overlooking the kind of conversations which are going to surround the campaign. Hyundai’s pathetic attempt to make suicide look funny created a lot of negative conversations. Some of the audiences could relate it to suicides of their closed ones and were tormented by the ad. It evoked bad memories and people went around talking about it which gave it a multiplier effect.

The 21st century audience is unforgiving as social media has emboldened them. Plan well to pursue viral marketing campaigns, ensure all elements are well packaged. With a small dosage of common sense and focus on objective, this aim is not unachievable.

Ajita Poudel

Young Dolphin Fellow

Social media: join for fun!

One common advice (solicited or otherwise) companies are offered today is “social media branding”. Whether a company is into value production, compressors or nappies, content and tool companies suggest social media platform as the panacea for all marketing miscommunications and costly media approaches. Decision makers are enamoured with the promise of more leads, increased customer engagement and branding. Our experience of advising and implementing social media branding for companies in information products and services indicates the outcomes may turn out to be quite different than expectations. Yeah, social media branding helps in increased reach, more people are able to read your posts, some comments (sensibly or some irrelevant), some follow your company’s page (in expectation of job posting, client acquisition, or other info). Likes, Follow ups and sentiments analysis may often be measures of noise made in the market. Is that all desirable or wanted is difficult question. If your company believes in the good old adage “any media mention (positive or negative publicity) benefit then it is a different matter. What companies discover is that all that is published is visible to everyone in the community and some can criticize or comment negative about you and your products. News travels very quickly (viral), hence when you make a mistake online it may cause serious damage to whatever reputation your company has built in market. Another fallacy, companies realize is they can’t adopt MGM and TMC strategy of beaming aged and historic movies to connect with a new generation that lives in this moment. It can be difficult to constantly come up with innovative exciting content that interests a variety of readers, hence plan to involve multiple content generators from the company or hire experts from outside. Finally, it is great to see before and after-campaigns may turn out to be hurrah moments, Return on investment is difficult to measure. Embrace social media for the cost advantage of reaching out to whoever there is and for the fun of being part of the herd.
Fun part is to discover your inside sales team calls up a suspect client and he remembers a blog or post by your company, however vaguely. Fun part is your direct sales team visits an industrial exhibition and while exchanging cards in one of the booths are instantaneously recognized as THAT company…Fun part is to see the pride in your sales people swell a couple of meters. Fun part is discovering a partner who is impressed with what your social media inserts say about your products and wants to represent in markets which you always dreamed of.. Fun part is to discover professionals who became key partners of your company’s growth and value added employee, all thanks to your FB page or Linkedin post. Welcome to the FUN…

-Nishanth. S and Amrita Rao

Emergence of Cultural Entrepreneurs

Art has always occupied an important position in any culture. Considering performing art alone, there are a huge number of art forms prevalent in communities. Be it a dance form, instrumental music, vocal performance or a play; art is a consummate experience. A successful artiste, whether it is Lady Gaga, Balamurali Krishna or Shankar-Ehsan-Loy understand that the key to their success is to make people buy and share the experience. So how do ‘Cultural Entrepreneurs’ establish themselves? What are the strategies they use to promote themselves?

An informed view regarding the business of culture reveals that establishing oneself in the fraternity sometimes requires more than just talent. The comparative advantage of being backed up by a well-known brand, trained by an established teacher or certifications/scholarships from well-known institutes carve a less tough path to recognition.
Successful artistes can be classified as two types, conventional or novel. The conventional ones reflect the “traditions and time valued customs”, and therefore should play upon “puritans” to be accepted. Initially, to reinforce the cultural trait and the audience preference, it is important that the artiste targets a limited but knowledgeable audience. Certain music schools in Bangalore and Mumbai have adopted the concept of “Baithak”. This is a platform where students get to perform to a limited audience; feedback from the Guru is given immediately. This gives them an opportunity to correct imperfections, build confidence to perform to a larger audience and increase network. The strategy is to build a selective platform.
Sticking to the “core” of the presentation plays a major role in getting passable reviews; many successful artistes climb the ladder by pursuing a policy of “no novelty and no confrontation”. Many church choirs and classical music gurus follow this strategy. Their use of social media is more to inform users. In fact, their strategy mimics the movie industry where trailers released on Youtube etc. are to draw crowd to a musical or the theatre.
On the other hand, the novel ones who are often with limited exposure and resources, who have to quickly establish themselves against the tide and win over newer converts. Many of them understand the power of being in the news, whether it is related to their work or otherwise. Propaganda must start about one’s strengths only and the purpose is to ritualize and glorify the nuances.
The approach similar to the ones used by all newer religions is to attract early converts and build intensive distribution. Platforms for intensive distributions may be many – charity events, Youtube releases, awards functions and live events. A successful artiste follows a strategy of Appearance – Court noise – Build cathedral – Establish order. In the first phase the artiste tries out novel tunes, music or interpretations and follows this up with systematic “noise” to be in the media for any reason to fortify recall. Once elements of success are seen, build organization to codify and ritualize the movement and thus establish order.
The longevity of the artiste depends on the retracing of the cycle. The artiste must show tenacity and a drive to grow.
Amrita Rao