Saturday, December 29, 2007

Disney - Power of Pricing

Today's my first day back at Disney World after 5 years. Yes, my kids remembered. As much fun as it is, I'm impressed by how Disney has priced it's product. They have set things up so that families are induced into spending their time their to the exclusion of anywhere else. In fact, because it's done so well, it's a win for everyone.

Check out the chart below which represents our family of six:

We have 6 days on the ground. When we got here, we thought we'd do 4 days in Disney then 2 between the beach and Kennedy Space Center - or maybe Universal. Well, maybe that won't happen.

As anyone can see, after the 3rd day, it really doesn't make a difference if you go 3 days or 10. You will pay the same to get in regardless. (not including parking, food, Disney stuff). Now if you want to hop parks, that's an extra $45 per person. Not really a big deal when you are talking about 6 days and your once in 5 years Disney vacation. They've made that easy - employ that option only if you want to - any time - no stress for now if you want to pay less.

So what have they done? They've basically made going to the competition - Sea World, Universal, or wherever - more expensive and more of a hassle. They've also made a family's vacation less stressful. Normally, as a Parikh (read super thrifty family), we would be planning our day in detail, coming in early, optimizing Fast Passes and then staying late into the night. Eat quickly so you don't miss a ride or show - go, go, go! Now we can take it slow - let the kids play by the water fountain, toy with the new interactive stuff, look at the pretty lights on the street. Hey, we were only going to spend 4 days to cover each park, now we can do 6. Disney keeps us in and mesmerized - subtly getting us to buy more of their goodies and spending more at their restaurants. Of course, we buy every form of their movies anyways.

This has come with some additional complexity. The tix expire after 14 days (unless you pay more) and cannot be transferred (your fingerprint is tagged to the pass). This kills the "cheap ticket" secondary market and does not force us to save those passes forever. No more guilt for forgetting the damn pass from 4 years ago. Also, Disney can book all the revenue now and not have to hold it in reserve giving them greater certainty.

Now Disney is probably leaving some money on the table as this amounts to $34 per person per day, but we are more likely to avoid the "long hellish wait" ride today and come back tomorrow. We are more likely going to refer others because we'll be happier. We are less likely check out the competition. We are actually going to think that we got a "deal" from the Mouse House. And, we may even come back before another 5 years.

Patriots 16-0!

While on vacation at Disney, I was fortunate enough to catch the big 16-0. During the first half, this was a pretty even game - though the Giants led at halftime. It was when the Giants went up by 12, that things were looking scary. Eli and team were running up and down the field at will. They were stopping the normally prolific Pats.

Then something happened. Though I had a feeling of dread, I felt that they would turn it around. If they truly were a Super Bowl caliber team, then that is what greatness is all about. You don't have the luxury of always being ahead. Circumstances like a kickoff return touchdown or a dropped pass can put you behind. In the Giants' case, it was just good aggressive play.

The Patriots must have felt the same way, because they turned it around. Brady found his passing touch, the offensive line held their opponents, and the receivers found their slots. Having Watson back allowed for the short inside option. Welker and Faulk played the slot and Brady found them. You could feel the energy as the Patriots narrowed it to 5 with 12 minutes to go. The defense held the Giants to a quick 3 and out by heavily blitzing Manning. A few possessions later, Brady threw that 2nd bomb for the pivotal touchdown with little real time remaining for 2 scores.

This truly is the mark of greatness - when both the offense and defense step it up to take out a strong playoff team that was playing for the spoiler in what normally would be a meaningless game. This is actually good for the Patriots. They know that they will have to play 60 minutes to win. Sometimes, the defense of a high scoring team settles a bit, but this one knows that they will have to make the big play, like Hobbs' amazing sideline interception. They can't too cocky, because they did not blow them away.

I remember this with teams like Minnesota and St. Louis where over-reliance on a high scoring offense ruined their chances in the playoffs. You have to be strong on both sides of the ball.

Belichick never let his team get ahead of themselves. He treated each week as a mini-season. Never worry about 16-0, just about winning the next game. Similarly, he will not allow this team to get caught up with thinking they have won the Super Bowl today. He will have them break down the film and critique each error. Moss will not get away with the silly end zone celebration. Harrison will not get away with stupid personal fouls for trash talking or late hits. Great leaders find a way to focus their team on the next goal - not on uncontrollable distractions.

What should have been a meaningless game became important because it was for the coveted 16-0 record and pride on the other side. Both teams played well. These are great life lessons. It's important to always be on your toes. Never get down on yourself if you are behind - stay confident and cool under pressure. Draw deep inside to learn and find a way to win. The best know how to do it. Others just have excuses.

Can't wait till the playoffs.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bought a Mac - Wore Black

To commemorate the purchase of my first Mac, I wore all black today. Our home PC died either via fried motherboard or for some other reason, so I thought there's no better time than now to try out a Mac. Since I didn't want to spend a whole lot, I bought the Mac Mini. My initial experience has been... very cool.

Apple has really thought through the whole experience from the retail outlet to install and setup.

At the store, friendly and knowledgeable people guide you to understanding the product to making the whole purchase easy. They carry little handhelds that allow you to do it on the spot. They answered all my questions about the differences between the Mac and Windows world. While it may cost a little more to run Windows apps, it seemed worth the try. Having the store for what is a missionary sale is genius. Remember the failure of the Gateway store. The Apple store integrates with the brand experience and just makes you feel comfortable. You know you can ask questions or even attend one of their free sessions - very clever.

After getting them to put in some more memory, I bought a wireless keyboard and mouse. The concept of going completely wireless was very cool, so what the hell, I went for it. It was very clever product design to bake Bluetooth and WiFi into the system.

The install process was ridiculously easy. Connect power and the monitor and turn it on. I had to fill in some forms for registration but the system found the mouse, keyboard and home wireless network. There was really nothing much to do.

Now I did encounter one problem. For some reason my password was not in the system correctly (hard to screw up a password verification). So it required a tech support call. This was also very easy and handled very well by a knowledgeable tech support person from the US. I don't ever remember Microsoft or Dell being so easy to work with. The fix was relatively easy and I was off and running.

Even the box is cool. The packaging is well done - minimalist, yet classy. It's just like the iPod, you can see the refinement at every step. The system itself looks nice. It's amazing how much functionality is in what is essentially a large paperweight. No big system with loud fans and heat blowing out. Just a little box that is simple, cool and attractive to look at. There a slot for a DVD and that's it.

Very quickly we were off and running. I couldn't help but be impressed by the interface, speed and easy to use functionality. Figuring out the Safari browser was easy as was many of the preinstalled apps. For some reason, browsing seems faster on Safari than on Firefox on my Dell laptop. The little remote control on the Mac mini was also cool. I love how the thing goes to sleep to save power and then easily wakes up at the click of a button or move of the mouse. My laptop is a pain by comparison.

For some reason, the viewing experience is cleaner and inviting. It's hard to explain because the functions are different. It's something I wrote about in the Blackberry article. There's a higher sense of refinement in the product in the way windows open and close, how the Dashboard appears, or in changing preferences. The fonts are cleaner and dash is very clever in presentation. In the Windows world, it is cryptic and a bit scary because you could actually do something to mess things up. In the Mac world, it seems so easy and painless.

The true proof in the pudding will be if all the apps run without reboot and the system functions flawlessly. Everything I've heard is encouraging thus far. Instead of MS Office, I'm actually going to try the Apple apps.

So far this is fun. As a marketer, I love the integrated brand experience at every touchpoint. It is so clean, refined and tasteful. They make spending money easy. Maybe the Microsoft universe has something to worry about. Maybe the days of getting away with poor quality and unreliability are numbers. Imagine not having apps that crash daily or force you into doing wasteful things like archiving because of design flaws. This is more than 20 years after the first PC.

If I can get reliability and great functionality with having an issue with apps maybe we'll move the whole company over.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Treo Follow Up - Poor Quality Hits the Bottom Line

Today's Headline in Bloomberg

"Palm Forecast Misses Estimates as Customers Defect (Update4)

Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Palm Inc., the maker of the Treo e-mail phone, forecast a wider loss than analysts had estimated after customers defected to the BlackBerry and iPhone. The shares plunged 11 percent in late trading."

Now this article attributes the losses to the following, "Palm has trailed BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. in updating product design."

I don't think so. This is not a feature thing. The latest version of the Treo has more features than the top of the line 8830. The issue is reliability and refinement. What's refinement? Read a Consumer Reports auto review. You know when you have it vs. when you don't. In Blackberry's case, it is that the features work as expected. When you are using voice dialing, it works. If you need to flip to speakerphone, there's no issue. Email is clean and synchs beautifully with your desktop. You are given options on how you might contact someone. Even though you can't jump by touching a point on the page, you are willing to sacrifice that for a screen that doesn't get dirty. Moreover, the damn thing never freezes while you are typing a message.

See, Palm has to spend a lot of money on marketing it's products. They are not getting positive word of mouth from their existing products. They need to suck people into a feature comparison and hope they are not dumb enough to talk to other people. Palm also has to hope the cell phone store salespeople keep quiet when someone is looking - even though it is in their incentive to have happy customers. In a market where margins are razor thin, spending extra money on marketing to acquire new customers without retention is a loss machine.

Then Palm goes totally low end with the Centro with the worst of all carriers - Sprint. At least in their case the user does not know who to blame poor quality service on. It's like putting 2 bad tennis players together to make a good doubles team - good luck.

I just used my Blackberry 8830 on a round the world trip. Whether I was in Germany, India, Thailand or Singapore I had email, web and voice access. If I had problems, I called the Global Support line and they fixed it quickly. Most of the time, it was in obscure locales where the phone needed to differentiate carriers. The best part was that I could be IM with my son while on a bus in Thailand. I was in touch with my clients and team everywhere - very cool.

Bottom line: build quality and reliability for long term profitability.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Why We Got the Blackberry - and Dumped the Treo

A week ago, we went over to the Verizon Wireless store to pick up the Blackberry for each member of the US team. I made the decision to take people off their existing plan and phones for a simple reason - quality and control. I wanted to make sure each person could be connected to the clients and the company at all times. We needed a mobile experience where everything worked seamlessly - no reboots, bad voice quality or botched data transfers. We had already gone to an Exchange hosting service to ensure reliable email delivery and integrated calendaring. Up till now everyone had a different phone, different service and individual patterns of access. Now it was time to complete the circle.

Because our team is around the world and our clients are dispersed around the country, time in the office does not reflect a true workday. Work can take place in the middle of the night or early in the morning. If the client has an issue, you need to know right away and respond quickly. We could not afford to waste a moment or give the client a poor connection. Since we are responsible for spending client money, they needed to be assured that the team was on top of things regardless of the situation. There was no excuse for a Client Manager to be out of the office and not receive a critical client email.

This was important after the Treo 700p nightmare that I went through. Great features, poor execution. Reboots happened every day because the damn thing froze all the time. Sometimes, the Treo would reboot when I was in the middle of a call. The Bluetooth connection was uneven. It was maddening and that was even after all the integration and improvement that I got when we implemented the Good Technology software and service. It was as if the people at Palm jammed a bunch of features in to make them look good in product comparison, but they forgot that if the phone is unreliable, you tend not to value the feature. This was the old Microsoft way - fill up the data sheet but don't worry about quality.

Reliability is an expensive investment and difficult to quantify, but people are willing to pay for it. This is what I have seen with the Blackberry 8830 - no crashes, no reboots and amazing integration. Great spell correction, decent voice dialing and just a lot of little touches. Voicemail dialing was preprogrammed. I didn't have to figure out the pauses before auto entry of the password, it gave multiple options in terms of how to contact a person, and the screen is fantastic. As much as I miss the camera, I especially like the idea of getting data access wherever I go around the world. This phone works with GSM and CDMA. Let's also not forget the huge number of free apps for the Blackberry. It makes things a lot easier - from the weather app to Google Maps to Facebook Mobile. I'm still learning all the things I can do and customize. Right now, I'm testing the Jawbone headset because my voice just doesn't carry with these headsets - just didn't get the deep voice genes :).

RIM focused on the needs of the business user with their product and service design. Palm was focused on competing with Microsoft CE and couldn't make up its mind on the business user or the consumer. Their OS is not built for reliability. Quality is worth paying for as is easy integration and functionality. It's not easy to sell, but just ask the guys at the store which phone gets the complaints - it's pretty easy. Email integration is critical for the business user, especially the ability to synch with Exchange & Outlook. That combined with the higher quality Verizon network means that my team is available everywhere.

Our Client Managers were especially happy about the 4 GB memory for their photo and music files as well as the ability to tether with their PC - that means connect their PC to the Net all the time. Then there's the Bluetooth headset and all the accessories. I want them to have fun. That means they're enjoying their job and they're connected - all the time.

This is part of the evolution of the company. When we first started, it was all about keeping burn to the absolute minimum while we figured out our business. Now that we have high profile clients and a proven model, we need to have the highest quality and efficiency possible.

Some people would say that now work is 24 hour. I say it has made work more fun because you can get things done anywhere.

Because communication is more reliable. I'm able to get more done and call more people. That's a good thing for me and Position2.

RIM gets it - execution matters...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Red Sox Win the World Series!

What an amazing day! Watching the Red Sox sweep the Rockies for the second World Series in 4 years. This team was absolutely fantastic to watch. There was not any of the paranoia of the 2003 where every win was too good to be true. The 2007 was stacked with great veterans and with never-say-die rookies. So glad I got to see future greats like Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis, Matsusaka, Okajima and Papelbon combined with stars like Lowell, Beckett, Schilling, Ramirez and Ortiz. Hell, even Lugo and Drew came through. Francona and Epstein, thanks for putting together and running a dream team that made this season super fun to watch. These are one of those times to treasure, because you may never see your team in the World Series for a long time - much less win in 2 sweeps.

Now, time to get some rest. This stuff takes a lot out of you!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Red Sox Win!!!

Right now there's no better time to be a New England sports fan. The Patriots are dominating, the Celtics are stacked and now the Red Sox come back from behind - to go to the World Series! Today, the whole family was on edge. The game was so close, a nail biter, until the 7th. Ellsbury was a absolute spark plug. The Pedroia gets up to bat and pow! A 2 run homer. I was sitting there with Sanju and Arjun and told them with absolute certainty, "He's gonna get a homer." And Pedroia delivered - a rookie. It just goes to show that experience means nothing - it's what's in your head and heart. The young guys delivered for the Red Sox - Pedroia, Youk, Ellsbury, Papelbon and the unbelievable Beckett. What an amazing team.

It's better that this team came back from being down. They will have something to draw from when the chips are down. It will be the thing that should make them stronger against the Rockies.

Another 4 to 7 games of baseball. Woo hoo!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Union Stupidity

For over 20 years, US auto industy has been in decline. Part of it is due to poor product development and quality. Part of it is an inflexible work force. Now, while the US-based auto companies are reeling from a decision not to build fuel efficient cars, the unions are striking again. The unions are concerned about continued job losses and want job guarantees. GM is concerned about a $1500/vehicle health care cost differential due primary to a small work force carrying a large retired base. In trying to deal with the union in the past, GM management has acceded to stupid measures like the Jobs Bank where union workers are paid to sit around.

Meanwhile, Japanese auto companies continue to grow, with Toyota overtaking GM. They are growing worldwide and in the US. Because the transplant work force is not unionized, the US players are at a disadvantage. The Japanese get great flexibility with labor.

It's time to change the game - grow the pie rather than slicing it. Working with the union should not just be about greater leverage vs. the employer, it should confer advantages. Things like a trained workforce, greater management of benefits payouts, greater retention of skilled labor, etc. Unions should act like partners rather than adversaries. Now GM's supply chain will grind to a halt, throwing thousands, with suppliers, millions out of work. Toyota will chug along, GM will lose a tremendous amount of money.

The unions cannot erase past poor decisions, but at least they can find a way to make their companies more competitive.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Paint My Fence

Do you remember the Tom Sawyer story about how he got neighborhood kids to paint his fence for free? Tom made it look so fun, they were dying to do it. In fact, they paid him to do his work. I couldn't help but have a smile on my face today as Manju from our company got visitors to our SES booth to paint our fence. Around us, people we giving away pen, toys and iPhones. However, the crowd around our booth came in to learn about our services, buy a book and have an invitation to a free (for now) Search Engine Marketing Seminar.

We ended up selling a ton of books and overbooking the seminar. People are truly hungry for this info especially in bite sized chunks. For us, we get to educate the community and get more highly qualified prospects - people who see clear value for them. We are OK with sharing our knowledge because deep experience and execution matter more. Because of our infrastructure, people could never afford to compete whether inhouse or as an agency. If they walk away with something that helps them well then we have a better image. This can only help in a highly connected region.

Before, we would give away books to those who were "qualified" but since when did you ever read a book that was given to you for free? How many of you actually go to the library? So go ahead, give away your pens, yoyos, shirts and doo-dads. Most people will simply give them to their kids or throw them away. Come to our booth and get yourself a book at the 30% off list and signed by the author!

Now the money off the book did not make us very much money compared to the cost of the show, but it was a classic trade-on. Viral or Web 2.0 marketing is about getting others to paint your fence. In this case Manju at Position2 was the clear winner.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Search Engine Strategies - The San Jose Bash

Just came back from Google Dance - a massive party done up like the bashes of the Bubble Days - dancing, karaoke, beach volleyball, food, beer, wine and free T-shirts. Oh, and you could also talk to various Google engineers about new offerings. There were even party crashers that even went out of their way to get SES badges so they could get in. Why be a wedding crasher, when you can be a corporate bash crasher? It was fun to soak it up with Microsofties and Yahooligans at their competitors expense... though I'm sure someone at Google is justifying that as a show of dominance or invitation to join.

The SES show was better than in previous years, specifically in terms of the research data and the multimedia SEO content. Last year, tagging and social networks were all the rage. Now it's old news. Google Universal is all the rage given how it will change the look and feel of search engine results as well as what we do with SEO. The Golden Triangle is breaking to the "E". It goes to show you that the game is not really over. As much as Google is dominant now, with broadband media taking shape, it does not mean that it will retain dominance. Hell, I even met a company putting together an "answer machine" based on chaos theory. If only the founder could explain it like Charlie Epps in NUMB3RS.

Based on last year, I did not really see this as a show about getting any leads, but I'm told we received quite a few. I saw this as a way to stay ahead of the curve, get sources for our upcoming books & seminars, and establish our brand firmly in the Bay Area. Little did I know that Manju would actually offer our book, Insider SEO & PPC, for sale. By selling it instead of giving it away, people realized its greater value. Moreover, as part of our education effort, we also promoted our upcoming Search Engine Roundtable in Santa Clara on August 30th. Yeah, it's free - for now!

I'll be writing a lot more about the specific sessions I found interesting, but this is a golden time for anyone to be doing something on the web. For those who want to break through with media or run an SEM agency (good luck doing all this inhouse), these are exciting times.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Position2 Rolling

The progress continues at Position2 with some excellent new client sign-ups. Our new bid management tool is showing excellent results for our clients. Check out new sites that have just gone live with Clubspaces and ResponseLINK - our designers, developers and SEO team have done a terrific job.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Rush Concert - With Son

Today, like many who lived their music days I went to the Rush concert at Shoreline Amphitheater. There were many like me - many gray haired and balding - but enjoying every second of "Freewill" or "Subdivisions." We did, of course, sit down during parts to rest our feet.

Arjun, my 11 year old son, had a blast. He's an old soul who enjoys Papa's music. We listen to "Rush's Greatest Hits" on the stereo. So, like me, he knew the old ones from "2112" and "Hemisphere's," but really not much past "Grace Under Pressure. " Of course, we had a blast during "Tom Sawyer," "YYZ," and the mega Neil Pert solo.

It's kind of funny... I never would have dreamed of going of a concert with my father. He was from India, so he didn't relate to rock n' roll. We're very close, but there's this generational distance when it comes to culture. I wonder if I'll deal with the same adolescent rebellion that I put my father through, because this kid actually likes the same things I like.

What a dream that would be.

Monday, July 30, 2007

How a Well Connected Industry Gets a Free Ride

I love the business of business, especially entrepreneurship. However, nothing is worse than a free ride on our tax money. In the NY Times article, "Energy Bill Aids the Expansion of Atomic Power Plants," there's a little known provision tucked into an energy bill that has government guarantees for the nuclear power industry. Essentially, the "Department of Energy would be allowed to guarantee 100 percent of the loans and up to 80 percent of the total cost to build a reactor." That's to the tune of $25 billion!

What? So utilities get guaranteed loans. No risk for them. Pay too much, pick the wrong technology, overestimate the market - hey no problem. We the taxpayer will take care of you. All of us entrepreneurs have to schlep on bended knee to investors and banks who assess their investments based on risk. But the nuclear industry gets a free ride. How wonderful is this? Be an industry exec and get paid a lot to take no risk.

I'm all for incentives and sometimes a subsidy if it is in the national interest. Nuclear is a part of the energy equation - especially in a carbon threatened world. However, this is absolute bunk.

No risk, no return - last I checked that's the difference between business and government. If companies like GE and Exelon need a free ride, then there should be a price for it. If you need a government guarantee to do business, then you need to take a government salary. Or you need to give up a commensurate amount of equity warrants to the Social Security trust fund. If the taxpayer is going to fully guarantee a loan to build a reactor, then there needs to be equity upside for the risk the taxpayer is taking in return for our risk and the lower interest rate from lenders.

Now don't start me on how big money has bought our politicians...

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I had the opportunity to watch Sicko during vacation. It was very interesting to see Michael Moore's treatment of a subject that affects so many personally and is also now 1/7th of the US economy. What is very striking is how so many are caught up in denial of coverage and reimbursement. This is contrasted with the examples of Canada, UK, France and Cuba where medical coverage is free and in the movie - effective for the citizenry.

I was fired up enough about the film to do something about it. Given that so much of the US economy is intertwined in healthcare, it is unlikely that the single-payer government run system will actually take place anytime soon. But something is coming from my company that will enable Americans to get better care at lower costs - you'll see in the next 6 months.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lou Dobbs the Demogogue

While working I had the unfortunate opportunity to listen to Lou Dobb's immigration demogoguery about Hillary Clinton's "ties to India" due to work with the Congressional Indo-American causus. He makes it sound like the Indians (italics for emphasis) are stealing jobs from Americans for getting H1B visas. And, oh many of them, stay. Last I checked, getting an H1B confers no citizenship rights, but you still have to pay US taxes. Many of these Indians have graduate level educations in science and engineering and stay to create new American businesses. Hey, they could just stay in India and start the businesses there. What is worse is the way he says Indian, like it's some kind of slur like a conservative saying "liberal."

Oh, by the way, after the attack on Clinton in the trailer, it was pointed out that almost 37 Senators and 118 Congressmen are the Indo-American caucus equally split between Republicans and Democrats. Yes, it is a good idea to align with a successful ethnic group and a large, fast growing democracy.

Let's be real Lou, globalization is all around you, being a curmudgeon is getting old.

Monday, July 09, 2007

How to Force Pop Ups

It's interesting how 2 properties like the and (Boston Globe) both are owned by the same parent, yet one makes more off of me than the other. Due to the quality of the writing, the gets a lot of more of my viewing time, yet I see more of Here's why, I allow pop-ups from because they have cool slide shows and polls of the Red Sox and Patriots. It's not video, but I get to interact with the content, I enjoy seeing how Ortiz gets a 'B' for a .321 average vs. Pedroia an 'A' for a .315 average (it's all because Ortiz doesn't have 20 home runs). With the NY Times, there's no compelling reason. With, they have in-depth coverage of my favorite teams, so I'm willing to put up with those ridiculous expanding ads and fly-ins. I actually don't mind it as long as they keep giving me detail about Youk and Pedroia.

I have all the necessary ad blocking software in Firefox, Norton, and a spyware package.

So there's the lesson of the day: you too can push your way into the users face if your publication can produce compelling content in a useful format.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

US Trade Deficit Marketing

Anyone who follows business and news constantly hears about the fast growing US trade deficit with the world. We are led to believe that this is a consequence of a highly developed post-industrial economy. Given the growth of China and its labor cost advantages, it is only natural that goods would be produced there and shipped to the US. Consumers benefit through lower prices and generally increase their skills to a more service-oriented economy.

While this makes some logical sense, the data does not support this point of view. Go to the last page of the Economist (July 7, 2007) and look at some of the tables:

Country Current Account GDP Budget Balance
($ bil) (%) (% GDP)
United States -803 -6.0 -1.4
Japan +187 +3.4 -4.4
Germany +168 +4.9 +0.3
Britain - 93 -3.2 -2.8

Those are large developed economies. Now some fast-growing ones...

China +250 +8.1 -1.3
India - 10 -1.8 -3.3
Russia + 87 +5.7 +2.4

Oh yes, and here's the big winner...

Saudi Arabia + 95 +21.4 +16.6

The US has gone for a creditor nation to a debtor nation. Imports exceed exports. There's a significant budget deficit because the deficit does not include future Social Security and Medicare liabilities. Meanwhile developed economies like Germany and Japan have fund inflows greater than it's deficit. Look at the numbers. They are fully developed nations that are net exporters. Unlike the US, they have retained their manufacturing prowess. The US is a great economy - still the greatest and most innovative in the world, yet it is ceding its advantage due to it's twin deficits. For now, trading partners are balancing US accounts by purchasing Treasury bills. However, the US cannot rely on this forever. When countries lose interest, the US will need to keep it's interest rates artificially high to attract foreign investment. That will hurt US businesses and consumers.

The above data shows that great economies do not need to run deficits of any type. It also shows that fast growing developing economies do not necessarily need to run large surpluses. However, those with large surpluses like China and Saudi Arabia can exert pressure on the countries they have their money in.

So don't buy into the marketing. The US can do much better.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

SEM Rountable at Norwest Venture Partners

On Thursday we gave a 2 hour seminar to Norwest Venture Partners' portfolio companies on the shift to search engine marketing and how to win with SEO and PPC. We were pleasantly surprised by the level of interest. We had to have 2 sessions with execs looking to use the medium to build traffic, leads and sales in a results oriented manner. We are now talking to a number of folks who want additional information.

I'm going to take this to other of my VC friends as there's a lot that VC companies can do to get attention in new, emerging or even mature markets using SEM. Traditional notions of brand have changed dramatically to attributes. The web is truly a democratizing place. With the change coming with Google Universal Search, there is much that companies can do to win. Same with PPC - it's changing all the time. We're actually beta testing new optimization techniques with the majors.

We'll be posting many of the slides and the audio from the presentation. Look out for them!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Microsoft Agrees to Change Vista to Accomodate Google

Today Microsoft agreed to change MS Vista to accomodate other desktop search engine's like Google's Desktop Search. Microsoft's version will remain but will allow the user to have another search engine there. They will also publish info on how to improve performance.

It's interesting how Google is exerting it's power to influence the DOJ to move so quickly to force this change. At a $160 bil market cap and through smart lobbying, Google has emerged in Washington as a force to be reckoned with.

If only they spent their effort improving the rudimentery Desktop Search. Try using it. It does not have the features of the search engine like concept based search or even spelling correction. You have to have an exact match for it to turn up any results. If you move a file in Outlook, the Index is not updated. It is cool that it looks at web based Gmail in addition to your desktop, but it still does not designate if a file is attached to a result - a major way of differentiating hundreds of similar sounding files. There are no filtering mechanisms. If you are using the tool for email search, you are better off carbon copying all your mail to Gmail and then using it exclusively.

While I have not tried Vista based search, I'm hopeful that Microsoft has taken advantage of this. The technology to do this well is over 10 years old. We at AltaVista did a better desktop search than Google has today. The problem is that we did not promote it like we could have with a pay the supplier sort of model.

In any case, this is definitely a way that Microsoft could slow and maybe turnaround its decline in search market share. I'm sure that Google will not sit back forever and wait.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Semel Resigns

In a breaking NY Times article, Semel resigns as Yahoo's CEO and is replaced by Jerry Yang, a Yahoo co-founder. This is not surprising as Yahoo was having a difficult time with revenue growth and cultural issues (see Brad Garlinghouse's Peanut Butter memo).

As a search marketing agency, seeing Yahoo adrift is not something to celebrate. The populace is better served when there is real competition in the marketplace. Having Google dominate is not good for the user, media or for Google itself as the desire to innovate dimishes with growing share. This happens regardless of who is in charge.

There are many reasons behind this, but there's an exodus mentality in the once highflying company. People feel strangled by a culture that has stifled innovation and is living the blame game. From my experience in a company that strayed from its core strength, AltaVista, I can tell you that search needs to be managed differently than a content site. You can't let the business guys run a search site. Super smart, passionate engineers are more important. It is an area with incredible investment, where developmental impacts are difficult to quantify and assess. Yet, each small improvement cumulatively improves the experience.

Doing competitive rack-ups is a waste of time as well, because features don't really matter. 95% of searches are web searches so you need to really understand what users are looking for and have measurement tools that analyze activity in detail from inputs like the toolbar. Then you need a process whereby that analysis informs the engineer about improvement they can make to this n-level product development beast.

You need to think super long term. Quarter to quarter revenues are not really of any value. For example, it is more important for an ad to lend value to the natural search results on the page than for the company to pump short term per page revenues. You need to pump money in for a long period before you see an impact.

This is what Google has successfully done - focus on the engineering and invest for the long terms. Because Yahoo's management was more media-oriented, it has had a difficult time. Hopefully, this change will allow Yahoo to regain its footing.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

How Google Makes More Money on Your Content

Recently, Google announced universal search where it would be integrating video, news, image and other results into Google search results. In and of itself it's a good user-centric idea because very few people actually click the tabs to other sections. Something like 95+% of all Google traffic is still Google Web Search.

However, now Google has found a way to make more money on its ads while retaining you on its site. Try the search for "zelda spoof" produced by our friends at EffinFunny. There, you will see on result 3 the EffinFunny clip.

Now click on "Watch Video"... That's right on the same Google results page, you will see the video through the YouTube player.

That's triple advantage Google:

1. Google's search ads are still displayed on the right side, click there and more cash flows to Google.
2. YouTube gets promoted - not bad for a Google property
3. Google gets to increase it's stats for "time on site" a metric that influences how much advertisers play.

Now when Google integrates DoubleClick, they can also display branded banner ads as most ads for video content is less context-driven and more brand driven. They will also be pressured to prioritize content on their site over others. Google is already engaging in cross-selling by showing the Google Checkout icon next to users of their Checkout service drawing your eye to the result.

Most importantly, even if the originators of the content - in this case EffinFunny - would have less of an opportunity to monetize their content. They can look more like a portal disrupting their implied partnership with site, "You make money when they click. We make money on ads next to your listing."

Hopefully, Google is smart about this and finds ways of sharing revenues and not prioritizing YouTube over others. But as you get bigger and more MBA driven, that does not necessarily happen. It's not a medica concentration monopoly case yet, but 5 years from now, it may be...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tesla Motors - Pure Marketing Insight

There's a lot of hype about Tesla Motors. The new wave electric car looks fantastic and is backed by Elon Musk (founder of PayPal and Zip2), Sergei Brin and Larry Page and a bunch of Silicon Valley venture capital firms. This is looking like the 1 electric car that will be successful. Why? Because it is designed to leverage fundamental technologies like lithium ion batteries, lightweight aluminum components, highly reliable electronics, and electric motors to build a beautiful sports car that already has a waiting list amongst the rich and famous.

That's what most would make you believe. What it's really about is that the founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning saw the market for this using the Silicon Valley technology lifecycle mindset. Build a product that people really want. Essentially, they knew the difference between niche marketing and mass marketing. In the past, people would try to build an electric car for the masses to satisfy regulators. GM's failed EV1 electric car is a perfect example of an underpowered, overpriced, low capacity vehicle that people did not really want unless they were willing to make lots of sacrifices. Instead Tesla's founders decided to give people what they really want - a fast car that looks fantastic and has the kind of range that fits the class of car that the target buyer would want. They used the strength of the electric motor to build a better car. It's classic "Innovator's Dilemma:" build an exclusive sports cars on a Lotus platform that can go from 0-60 in 4 seconds with over 200 miles range on a charge. Oh and as a bonus, you get low operating cost of 2 cents a mile and a car that would need low maintenance as with an electric motor there's only one moving part - the rotor. No fan belts, radiators, spark plugs, valves or muffler this was a simpler machine.

Moreover, they saw the marketing advantage that comes from building something a head turner that is exclusive to the wealthy few. With so many conscious about climate change and reducing dependence on foreign oil, this is an easy purchase to feel good about.

Tesla can march down the cost and learning curve of integrating these technologies. They can learn more about how these come together before the pressures of volume and a mass audience. Theyh can learn about what feature as most important to actual buyers.

Tesla has used a Silicon Valley approach to building the product by outsourcing the components from many suppliers and having the car produced by Lotus. That's right, this car company has less than 80 people - that's amazing.

They've done a brilliant marketing job by making this a competition to get on the waiting list. Typically, you don't want to be the first one to deal with the inevitable first production kinks. Now people are fighting for their place. Tesla's site is high end with a great product configurator. They marketed themselves well by getting reviews from a wide array of reviewers early in the process to build buzz. Their blog has an excellent variety of posts from the CEO on down. Obviously, people are reading it as there is a long line of comments for each post.

Telsa has turned the traditional negative trade-off notion of the electric vehicle on its head. Electric is the trade-on.

I can't wait for the 4 passenger version!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Can't Deny This About Bonds

Tonight Barry Bonds hit his 9th home run of the season and is now only 12 away from Aaron's record. Whether he once took steroids or not, no one can deny he is one of the greatest home run hitters of all time. With all the scrutiny and drug testing, he is hitting .345 at the age of 42 and on a ridiculous home run pace of 60.

Everyone thought that with his last 2 injury-ridden unproductive seasons that it was the effect of the new drug testing program. When the steroids are gone, the production would fall. Well, that has not been the case. Bonds is better than ever.

Say whatever you want, he's a great player. I plan to go to a few this year.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Simple Governmental Rules to Reduce Emissions and Decrease Foreign Oil Dependence

As many of you know, I'm a fan of the free market and less regulation, but given the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil and limit global warming emissions, there are 4 inexpensive items that the DOT and the EPA could adopt for vehicle owners. Each on their own would have significant impact, but on a network wide basis could have a substantial impact on reducing oil consumption and costs to American consumers:

1. E85 everywhere: If each vehicle by model year 2010 could be mandated to be E85 certified, it could allow the US to have greater flexibility against future increases in oil prices. The cost is relatively minor as it's about adjusting fuel lines and gaskets - less than $150 in parts. It would also provide a market for fuel stations to provide ethanol-based pumps to stations around the country. In Brazil, they have created an incredible market for sugar, benefiting their own farmers and countrymen rather than those from unstable oil-rich countries.

2. Tire Pressure Sensor: This would do 2 things, reduce potential accidents and improve gas mileage. Having an accurate tire pressure sensor system could could have an incremental yet significant cumulative effect on gasoline consumption. A few percentage points reduction that change the supply demand picture dramatically. How much does a sensor cost? Very little in mass production.

3. Laser Guided Cruise Control: Cruise control is a nifty little feature when the reads are uncongested. However, anytime there's a little bit of traffic, it uses utility. Laser guided systems slow down to match the speed of the car in front of you. It slows down faster than a human would, making it especially useful in when there's a slowdown. There are studies that have been run that show that if 20% of cars were using this feature, it would reduce traffic congestion dramatically as fewer cars would jam the brakes and cause the typical cascade effect. In many cases, it could eliminate certain areas of congestion altogether. This would have 3 impacts - 1. Increase gas mileage as there would be less idling, 2. Increased productivity as less time would be spent on the roads and 3. Longer road life as it effectively would increase capacity.

4. Electronic Toll Sensor: As inefficient as tolls are from an economics point of view, they are reality. If every car had a toll sensor that would automatically debit a driver's account, it would cut toll congestion dramatically and speed travel throughout the country. We should pick a standard and make it nationwide.

All four items presented about are relatively inexpensive, especially if mandated in volume. It could have dramatic impacts on fuel consumption, leverage with oil producing countries and our quality of life. A 10% increase in fuel efficiency could dramatically impact prices especially during scarcity. Before we change the world with hybrids and hydrogen, why not implement these changes now.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

More Big Deals for Position2

This week was one of our best weeks ever. We added 4 new clients in PPC and SEO as well as a significant web design and development project for an existing client. This is all because of the ROI our existing clients are seeing with us.

Most notably, one is a major Fortune 100 Insurance and Financial Services company to be their exclusive provider of PPC management services.

We are on a roll!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

BizWise Interview

Today I did an interview for a BizWise, a Cisco sponsored segment for small and mid-sized businesses. The show will be on outsourcing. My section was on how even start-ups can begin in a multinational sense. When it comes out, I'll put in a link.

The cool part is that we were able to highlight Position2's unique business model and approach. We are a living example of what Michael Copeland of Business 2.0 (one of the interviewers) call the micro-multinational trend in offshoring. At 50 people, we're not that micro, but great to be part of a new trend.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sunday's 60 Minutes

On April 1, 60 Minutes had a segment on government at it's worst - the passing of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. This was a 1000 page bill passed during the dead of the night written by the pharmaceutical lobby. The worst thing about this bill is that Medicare does not have the right to negotiate with drug companies. Drugs like Zocor costs 10x more through Medicare than through the Veterans Administration. Then many of those who worked on the bill got hired for substantial salaries by the pharma industry.

Hey, I'm OK with the pharmaceutical lobby having a fair chance to innovate and profit, but this is a disgusting use of industry money to bilk the taxpayer. Republicans should be embarrassed. A real Republican is for free competition and lower government costs, not for bilking the taxpayer and increasing our debt.

This is definitely no April Fool's.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Big Emphasis on Bid Management

When you talk to various search engine marketing firms, they all talk about their toolset. Same with potential investors, "What are you using for a tool?" if you are going to manage 1000s of keywords, how can you do it without an amazing automated tool. People expect all kinds of things out of these tools - they dance, they sing, they do all kinds of things. They have this mysterious black box quality seeing patterns no human can see. what's reality?

Well, most tools simply automate a set of rules that are established like: stay within position 1-3 as long as cost is not great than $1. They do not look at portfolio vs. volume. There's only a few that do that. None of these tools write ads, tune landing pages or improve quality score. I can show you the math, but trust me, there are more ways to improve your cost of acquisition then bid management.

Quality score, you ask, what's that? Well, the big search engine folks at Google, Yahoo and MSN don't just take your bid prices and show your ad based on what you're willing to pay. No they are looking for the most they can get per search engine result. That means they care about how many clicks you actually get. They also have their long term interest in mind, so they also evaluate how well your keywords, ads and landing pages match. They also look at how sets of keywords are organized in ad groups. There are even time delay factors. We think there over 50 of these factors. A lot of this has to do with how your campaigns are organized and managed.

So a simple automated tool doesn't completely do the trick. Even a great one does not work if you don't have enough data. This is where processes and highly trained personnel come in that work in a holistic way from strategy to keyword to click to lead to revenue. Bid management is important, but it's only one part of the elephant. Beware of those that seek to rope you in with fancy sounding technology, because this stuff is a lot of detailed effort that only works when there's a lot of focus on the campaign.

And yeah, we do have one of those more advanced ROI based portfolio optimization tools...

Cool Pitch Slide Show

You have to complement the Boston Globe for putting together an excellent slide show on Matsusaka's pitching repetoire. Shows how he holds & throws, velocity, breaks, and how the catcher sees it. The net is so cool in this way. Just makes baseball more fun to watch. Can't wait till they one day add video to all this.

This is why being a Red Sox fan is so cool. You just don't get stuff like this in less passionate sports towns.

Oh yeah, in addition to the view of the famous gyroball in the link, go here to see a cool Japanese cartoon on it.

New Travel Client: ezeego1

We just signed up ezeego1, a new travel bazaar focused on India set up by the well-established UK travel operator, Cox & Kings. This agreement has us a their exclusive digital marketing agency providing our full suite of services + strategic guidance. We expect great growth to occur for them in India and around the world.

Congrats to the team for putting together a win-win for both sides!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

New Client: ResponseLINK

We have already started work with a great new client - ResponseLINK. They have a personal emergency alert service specifically designed for seniors who want to live in their own home yet still have some monitoring. It is a excellent service for caregivers like family and friends who can know that their loved one is doing OK. ResponseLINK's SafetyLINK offering is a personal emergency service, so that if something happens, help can arrive at the touch of a button. Their WellnessLINK and RxLINK services allow for wakeup calls, wellness checks and reminders to take meds. The CompleteLINK service puts it all together for as little as $55/month.

We really like this kind of client because it has tremendous benefit for seniors who want the freedom of living independently yet have care that is unobtrusive. For family and doctors and nurses there is comfort in knowing that the beloved patient has some form of monitoring. For the healthcare system, this can dramatically reduces the cost of care for the growing senior population. It's a win all around.

At Position2, we are very excited about growing this business to take full advantage of the web and search engine marketing so that more people can hear about them.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cracking the Code

I haven't blogged in a while because we've been knee deep in cracking the code for our clients. Part of the game in PPC is in optimizing according to a given goal, whether it's clicks, leads or revenue - that's right revenue. When clients give us access to actual revenue data, we can change our optimization process. That's more than simply adjusting bids - we adjust ads, budgets and landing pages as well.

One finance client gave us a goal to get them a 1000s of mortgage leads and do it quickly. Once we got to the right thresholds, we then managed the costs to actual revenue. This enabled our client to get to the right volume for various lead buyers, then by hitting profitability. The key to this is creating the right search engine account and messaging structure from the beginning. Initially, progress is slow until it just explodes. Once it explodes bringing costs under control is relatively straightforward.

Because we work across multiple industries those same tools and processes can be adapted to each other. For example for an internet dating client, we grew their ad spend 10x while keeping their cost per trial constant. Because they earn a certain proft per trial, this is like getting 10x greater profits - not counting the network effects of having more members. More members mean more revenue opportunities. There are so many examples of this with our clients and others who truly "get" search engine marketing.

It's a blast when the team cracks the code, because now a client can see the true benefits of rapid growth through search engine marketing. PPC becomes a profit engine.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

American Idol Time Sink

Can you imagine that 30 million people will watch 5 hours of American Idol this week? It seems like every advertiser in America has piled on to get in on this 3x weekly Super Bowl.

Now let's do the math: 1.5 minutes/song x 24 songs = 36 minutes of singing.

Wow! 36 minutes of actual content over a 300 minute period. That means 88% of the time we are watching commercials, previews & judge content.

If that's not an example of packaging, I don't know what is.

Hey, did you see how Seacrest dissed Simon Cowell at the end of the guy's show?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ramos Quoted on on Google & Microsoft

Andreas Ramos, our resident expert on all things search was widely quoted in a recent article on the search race between Google and Microsoft...

Tech Stock Update
Vista Makes Run at Google
By Vishesh Kumar Senior Writer

2/15/2007 8:37 AM EST


The release of Microsoft's (MSFT) highly anticipated Vista operating system has been met with murmurs that a big push by the Redmond, Wash., software giant isn't quite what it used to be.

But it should garner some attention at Google (GOOG) .

That's because Microsoft plans to build in Web search capabilities with Vista and its immensely popular suite of Office software over the next six months, according to Andreas Ramos, director of search engine marketing at Position2, a search advertising consulting firm.

Microsoft will tie in contextual Web search across its host of popular applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint in a way similar to how Google's email system currently displays ads, Ramos says. The move will allow Vista users to launch Web searches at the click of a button and from their desktops, rather than having to maneuver to an Internet browser.

If the development pans out, it has the potential to cut a larger-than-expected slice out of Google's market-share domination.

Microsoft, of course, will be nowhere near dethroning Google. But history has shown that being brought into Microsoft's fold can give even technically inferior products a big boost. And at a time when investors have come to merely nod at still-excellent showings by Google in the search space, news of slippage to Microsoft can go a long way in tripping up a stock that's already down nearly 7% in February.

According to research firm HitWise, 63% of Web searches were run on Google during January, compared with 21% for Yahoo! (YHOO) and only about 10% for Microsoft's MSN division.

Many other search experts arrive at an even higher number for Google by using a different method, which checks where specific Web traffic came from. Ramos estimates that about 89% of search traffic to Web sites is routed through Google.

But with such big numbers, it's more difficult for Google to chalk up each additional point of market share. Microsoft, meanwhile, faces an easier climb.

Moreover, Microsoft's ability to tie Web searching to the desktop operating systems and applications it has a stranglehold on can have a powerful effect. In order to gain market share, Microsoft doesn't have to deliver search results that are appreciably better than Google's. It simply has to make sure its results aren't markedly worse to win over new converts because of the convenience.

Such a strategy has served Microsoft well in the past. During the 1990s, the company was able to suffocate the threat from Netscape's Navigator browser by bundling its own Internet Explorer product with its Windows operating system. Many saw Netscape as technically superior, but it didn't matter.

Microsoft's Explorer continues to dominate even now, though new browsers with superior capability and more reliability such as Firefox are available for free, thanks to the open-source software movement. Microsoft's Internet Explorer had 86% market share as of January, compared with about 12 % for Firefox, according to the research firm OneStat.

Much was made in the quality-of-search debate about the announcement earlier this week by the high-profile search start-up Powerset that it had licensed "natural language" search technology from Xerox (XRX) . But while Powerset, which hopes to let users search through queries that use normal words instead of particular key terms, hopes to outdo Google through better searches, it's really Microsoft that Google should worry about.

Several commentators have suggested that because so many Web surfers are accustomed to launching their searches through Google, this is almost as much of an asset to the company as its search technology. But even more users may be familiar with the Microsoft desktop environment than with the Google search box.

Google, for its part, seems to be anticipating the threat. The company has been beefing up its suite of online tools, which are similar to Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but which the search giant is giving away for free. Finding a way to decrease the popularity of Microsoft's staple franchise would be one way to blunt a potential attack.

Still, investors expect big things from Google, not the least of which is continued dominance over the one business that makes up nearly all of its revenue. And while Google is eager to tap adjacent, new markets, those efforts remain decidedly mixed. The company keeps increasing the amount of money it makes per search; this led to fourth-quarter results that again surpassed Wall Street expectations.

But it's important that Google show investors it has a solid plan in place to make money in some other endeavors. Otherwise, it will begin to look like a one-trick pony that's trapped in a cage with the 800-pound gorilla of the tech world.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Foulke a Class Act

Today Keith Foulke, the famous Red Sox closer who finished the final game of the 2004 World Series retired today. After the World Series, he never regained his form, having tough injury ridden 2005 & 2006 seasons. Pummelled by the fans and media, especially over the Joe Burger King remark, he never really regained his form on the field or off. Even though he could have stuck around with the Red Sox, he decided to take a 1 year $5 million deal with the Indians. After realizing that his body was not up to snuff, he retired.

He just gave up $5 million. If he had reported to camp, the Indians would have to pay him even if he sat on the bench for the rest of the year. Now that's a class act.

For the millions that pay our players, we expect them to have these incredibly fan friendly attitudes even in the face of tremendous criticism. The same guy that won it all for us one year is then batted around the next. He could have pocketed a ton of cash, yet he frees up the cap so that the Indians could find another player. He decided to hang it up, not only to save his body, but to help his new team.

We won't forget that magical 2004 and all you did for us Keith. Pitching a 0.67 ERA in the 2004 playoffs. Pitching like a rock during the famous turnaround Game 4 against the Yankees. Thanks for the memories Foulkie!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Asthma Post Mumbai Marathon

After coming back from the Mumbai Marathon, I checked my eNO level. It had hit a new high of 49 ppb (learn more about my previous eNO measurement). This was even though I was taking Advair 100/50. That means 2 things: the dose was too low to keep airway inflammation under control, and that my inflammation must have been much higher on previous trips. While my run was slower than usual, I did not necessarily feel any symptoms.

My sneakers told a different story. They went from pure white to as if I ran in a clay field. The amazing part was that the marathon streets were cleaned before the run. The air in India is dusty, but who know that there is that much out there.

During my run today (2 weeks later), it was not particularly easy even though it was a modest 4 miles. Could my lungs still be affected by the particles in the Mumbai air?

Well, let's see how quickly we get the measurement down.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Google's Plans

This is from late 2006, but I'm sure Google's plans are current:

Thanks to Andreas for sending it over

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Mumbai Marathon 2007 - I Made It

I just arrived in Palo Alto yesterday. The soreness has subsided except for a few spots. I can now touch my toes without pain. I can climb stairs as well.

The 2007 Mumbai Marathon was the most difficult marathon I’ve ever run. My time was a full 30 minutes slower than previous ones. I attribute it largely to the heat and humidity. I knew it would be difficult, but there’s really no easy way to train for the combination of weather and distance with my schedule. I was lucky that my asthma was under control. I tried my hardest to maintain a pace and not walk, but the heat was overbearing. I was tempted by some of the taxis that passed in the driving lane. I wondered many times about the info girl’s hint, “You know the energy drink is only for those running the full marathon.”

Yet the marathon was one of the most amazing runs out of the 4 that I’ve completed. Because the field was relatively small I got to see the Africans warm up. They are thin but all muscle and damn fast. I could barely sprint as fast as their marathon pace. I met one of the elite runners who told me he planned to run it in 2:12. I told him that it would take me more than twice the time, but I would cheer for him whenever I saw him. It was JK M--- (I can’t remember his last name). It was like meeting a rock star because he was one of 5 recognized international runners at the start. When the initial rush came at the start, I got behind him to make sure he would not fall down. If he won, I could claim that I helped a tiny bit.

The path was really beautiful. The organizers tried to put us near the ocean whenever possible. Many of the streets also had good shade in the early half. There are so many modern buildings rising across the skyline. It’s a lot like Hong Kong, but with much more masala. It’s very impressive to see the growth of India juxtaposed with the trees, oceans and older buildings between km 15-30. I tried to memorize the path so I could remember the landmarks as I passed them. I saw Mumbai in a way I’ve never seen before.

Fellow runners were equally nice. I met a whole bunch of people while running. We passed each other with words of encouragement many times. All were very nice. One overweight looking Swedish woman in her 40s had run 20 marathons in the last 5 years. And yes, she did finish in under 5 hours. It shows you anything is possible.

The organizers did an excellent job making sure there were water, energy drinks, and medical aid at many locations throughout. It’s amazing that people are willing to volunteer so much time just to help out.

While there was some bureaucracy in the end, it was pretty good considering that this was only the 4th time the event was run. They will only get better. Maybe they’ll forgo that steep hill at 35 km and start an hour earlier. Then again, just having the event was a boon for the city as about 5 crore was spent cleaning up.

Most of all, the fans who sat along the course were inspiring. Lots of kids called out “Rajiv Uncle” and slapped my hand. Many people cheered us on the hot sun even though there were no famous people or race to see. It helps push you along. My parents, Rajesh and Sameer were waiting for me at many points along the course. It was so nice so see them each and every time. It makes a huge difference. You know you have to finish. When I saw my father a ways away at the Finish, I grit my teeth and ran as hard as I could. I felt that as difficult as the end was, I had to finish strong. I hit 8.2 mph at the end, the fastest I ran that day.

I was lucky that I was well enough to go to dinner that evening with the Position2 Mumbai team. I didn’t actually feel all that sore, though it could be the Advil. That came the next day, but I’m glad to have some gas left in the tank to do all those meetings the next day. Even the plane ride back was OK.

Thank you all for the warm support and kind words!!!

Here's a pic taken by Sameer from our Mumbai office:

Below are some kind comments by Sameer from our Mumbai office:

Mumbai Marathon - One of the most grueling courses in the world. Non-natives are known to melt in the intense heat and humidity. Rajiv braved the 42.3 kms + the bureaucracy to get his medal & certificates to finish 171 of several thousand marathoners. This feat was achieved well under 5 hours, which is amazing, since many marathoners give up mid-way or do not get ranked if they exceed 5 hours.

This is him at the 18 km mark with the official drinkskeeper (me).

More pics of crossing the finishing line, jubilation, medicine tent, etc to follow.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Mumbai Marathon

Phew, I just finished the Mumbai Marathon. Not a sparkling time at 4:48, but happy to finish. Mumbai itself was beautiful even in the heat.

More later...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Nardelli's Ridiculous Severance

I'm amazed at reading stories of Robert Nardelli's $210 million severance package. As a CEO, I find it disgusting by any measure. A man as wealthy as him should be embarrassed by the size of the package for failing to deliver for Home Depot. In his time, we worked to make the company more efficient by destroying the service led culture of the company. After he took over, you could not find what you were looking for. On top of that, you couldn't find people to help you. Even worse, those that worked there could not give advice on what to do. Then when you found something, you'd have to wait in a long line to pay. This is not how to run a company. It is how you get short term financial results.

No wonder Lowe's ate their lunch. No wonder Home Depot's stock is down. CEO's have great responsibility - that is for sure. However, large company CEO's have access to great resources for consultants, staff and capital investment. With all that is available to them, CEO's should be fired if they trash a company. Being allowed to take shareholder money like this shows a lack of diligence from the Board of Directors. It also sends a terrible message to other employees about how their work is valued.

The risk/reward equation for large company CEO's is completely screwed up vs. the entrepreneurial founder and CEO. If you fail at a startup, you typically lose money, especially if you started it. If you fail at a large company, you make money while you are failing and then get more on your way out. This makes no sense. Shareholders need to take action to prevent this if they want innovation and performance.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Back from Hawaii - Off to Mumbai

Our fun family trip to Hawaii is over as the New Year begins. See the sunrise from the our house above.

Somehow my wife always finds an excellent house for us to rent. This one was in the little town of Kualoa on the Windward side of Oahu. It's a place where Jurassic Park was film with , soaring mountains that would hide their tops in the clouds. Our house faced the beach, where we could see the rising sun every morning from our bedroom. Because of the protection of the coral reef, we had a mellow beach where the kids could play all day without worrying about any undertow. You could walk half a mile and the water would never get more than chest high. While canoing we saw a sea turtle up close that darted away the minute they sensed our presenced. While nothing like Hanauma Bay, snorkeling provided excellent views of all kinds of fish.

Given that the Mumbai Marathon was only a month away, I decided to run a 17 and 20 miler during the week. Oahu had 2 of the 3 elements I would face in Mumbai - heat and humidity. I'm hoping that I will be able to cope with the pollution. The runs were grueling, but with some weight loss before the event, I hope to finish - albeit slower than previous times.

The best part was spending time with my immediate family and my uncle's family that happened to visit Oahu at the same time. We took them to the Polynesian Cultural Center (terrific web site) and the Big Waves of the North Shore. We saw 20 foot waves crash into the shore - some with manical boarders.

I thank our clients for taking time to enjoy the Holiday Week. It allowed me to actually get away from work for the first time in over a year.

Happy New Year!!!