Sunday, November 28, 2010

Spotify’s US Launch: A Party in the Making

Last Friday, November 26, 2010, a big party was arranged in Sodermalm, Stockholm. As evident as it is from the title of this post, the entity behind the event couldn’t be other than Spotify AB, the buzzed streaming music service. Being lucky enough to form part of the guests, I took pleasure in going there and have the opportunity to explore the motivations behind this party. Apparently, Spotify notified that the party was supported by their close friends. These “so-called” friends were no other than big names such as Telia, Volkswagen, Phillips, Playstation, Xante and Carlsberg. Demographics of the guests comprised people of a variety of ages. The mix Spotify created in getting their guests together was incredible. Starting all the way from youth and extending up to people who live in their “MIDDLE” ages were present. They were no ordinary people! Rather, majority of them were big shots in the corporate world. I came across certain people who represented giant corporations like the Microsoft. I am certain there were plenty of representatives from other giants as well.

Spotify Ready To Hit the US? 
The organizers, Spotify AB, considered their guests to be extremely fortunate to be entertained with mini concerts. Entertainment in these concerts was provided by Shout Out Loud, Me and My Army, Oskar Linnros, Hoffmaestro and DJ Tony Zoulias. Heavy metal and rock music comprised the welcoming portion on the agenda. This was followed up by the usual music which one may virtually everywhere.

However, what motivated me to write about this party is the proximate launch of Spotify in the US. As they are getting closer to this feat, can it be considered that arranging such a party that surrounds such high profile personalities is a move on their marketing schedule? Well, strategically thinking, it can potentially be a marketing move, and a smart one! The odds are that people who attended the party are likely to carry out word-of-mouth marketing of the Spotify brand using the party as an excuse, which apparently, most people do not realize. If this is what Spotify wanted, they did one hell of a job executing it. As mentioned earlier, the guests incorporate elements of youth as well. Youth can potentially be a good source to create suspense and generate a buzz or potential conspiracies since they tend to talk a lot and establish new opinions. Having said this, it still remains very much under-cover until the actual story makes the headlines. As I write this, I realize I am carrying out marketing for Spotify brand, only unconsciously!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Oracle Battling the Data Storage War

Tuesday, October 26, 2010: Conference at Oracle in Kista Science City, Stockholm, Sweden. Latest happenings at Oracle indicate that they are very much into producing solutions and services which hold great potential for companies that deal with lots and lots of data on an everyday basis. The service under promotion was subtitled “Business Ready Storage Solution – Software, Hardware Complete”. The product is fundamentally a B2B product which customers can leverage and cope with extreme quantities of data.

Guys at Oracle stressed that IT challenges are increasing which has a substantial impact on the demand for storage capacity. The era where customers were able to put all the data they had onto disk is over. We are residing in a new world where the rules of the game have changed. Data quantities have not only increased but it is apparent of diverse manners. Interestingly, 80% of the data we handle today is unstructured which signifies that reuse of existing data is shrinking. An incredible 80% of the data that is being handled is not usable. To support this fact, the data being used today becomes obsolete after 90 days. There is a strong need to archive data. A shortcoming emerges when we look at the costs that are involved in storage management. A colossal 30% of the entire costs that encompass IT infrastructure is employed for this purpose. Additionally, storage of this data consumes 40% of a data-center’s power.

"Data Storage Becoming a Big Concern", Oracle CEO

Though the evolutionary practices that have revolved around multi-tiered disk storage have attempted to address this shortcoming it did not seem enough to counter the turmoil. Oracle emphasized that it is critical that new storage models ought to be designed and the one that can cause a major breakthrough is the incremental usage of Flash Storage. Oracle’s vision is to provide business-ready solutions with a high degree of performance that function optimally, are efficient and scalable at a low cost. They have designed a product that secures data access on an on-demand basis, offers unlimited capacity and unparallel storage performance. Directed at B2B customers, as depicted earlier, it is a unique and simple management tool that integrates applications, systems and storage on a large scale. The philosophy behind this is simple. In designing such a product, they started off with a general purpose. Here, they develop a product and analyze where it falls short to address the needs of the customer. Supplementary innovation is carried out to achieve the desired product which is followed up by integrating previous works.

Going into a little bit more detail about the product, named “Oracle ZFS Storage” allows operations with 10 different protocols within a single box. The product offers diverse advance services which are already built-in. these services include clustering, replication, cloning, de-duplication, provisioning analytics, virus scanning and plenty more. ZFS Storage also offers choice of interconnect among Ethernet, fiber optics and Infiniband on a simultaneous basis. A feature that separates this product from the rest of data management tools is that it supports multiple simultaneous apps and workload analysis n production. The product provides a throughput of 8 GB/s as well. All in all, the product provides an extensive back-up system. Towards the finale, it was highlighted that the design of the product was aimed at supporting the buzzed architecture – Cloud Computing as well.

Oracle ZFS Storage Dilemma

A few days ago, I was posed a query whether or not the cloud is the new way of outsourcing. Clearly, the cloud offers a variety of advantages. It allows the centralization of data with merely no infrastructure at all. It cuts down costs massively and makes operations smoother. I insist it further takes care of the dilemma Oracle executives addressed during this conference - appearance of exponential data amounts. If the “Cloud” is not yet a new way of outsourcing, it is very much on its way to accomplish it!

Monday, October 4, 2010

KTH Goes the Microsoft Way

It is turning out to be a very tense period of my life at the moment. Wrapped up in meetings, research, events, projects, my Masters thesis and seminars  from diverse high-profile personalities all contribute to this intense phase. Yet, I feel energetic, proud, honored and confident, all at the cost of being arrogant to be experiencing all of this. Over the past week, I have attended several seminars and exhibitions where I have had the opportunity to meet executives from different companies and have a peek at the upcoming revolution that is taking place in the digital world. Great insights, exceptional speeches, awesome sources of inspiration and huge motivations for people who formed part of these events from the people who have had their hands and mouths full of actions, demonstrations and words that are truly reviving and encouraging. Great foundations for even greater prospects! Today hasn’t been any exception.

The Royal Institute of Technology or KTH, as it is more commonly known, entertained the presence of Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer and certain other Microsoft executives in addition to Daniel Ek, the founder and CEO of Spotify AB based in Sweden. The demand to partake in this event was by far huge. KTH premises fell of short of accommodating all students, researchers and personnel. People who had pre-registered enjoyed the chance to visualize and experience the event live at KTH in Hall F-1. As demand for the event had approached intense levels, people at KTH had decided to stream the event live on different campuses KTH has in Stockholm. The core of the session was based on cloud computing, though the Microsoft people had captioned it “New Digital Lifestyle” referring to the buzzed vision of “The Cloud”.

It started with a dancing demonstration of a guy whose actions were simulated by a computer through sensors that were attached to him that mimicked his moves to perfection. Shortly after, it also replicated the facial features of the guy which were reproduced on a giant projector right in the very hall where the seminar was held. It was described as the “True Natural Interface Gaming Showcase”. It exhibited features that made the person connected to the sensors the controller of the situation. Multi-cameras also formed part of the experience that captured full body movement and the entire showcase was integrated with a facial recognition system. It was quite fascinating, eye-catching and mind-blowing. People were awed, me included! The Microsoft aim behind this demonstration of exceptional Human-System Interaction was to make it compatible with the XBOX360 and providing a full gaming experience. It was depicted that Microsoft are going to launch 15 different games by November 2010 and bring the best consumer experience in gaming, all based on the principle of kinetic movements of the human body.

The Head of Consumer Division of Microsoft (HCDMS), Sweden stepped up and initiated his speech with hard facts about the company. He stated Microsoft is research-driven company by tradition. He supported his statements by stating that Microsoft spends $10 billion per annum on R&D. This was complemented by the fact that Microsoft has tons and tons of data on consumer behavior and the way they consume media online. A formidable shift has occurred in the way people consume media nowadays. He stated that 25% of the world’s population has access to mobile networks whilst 95% of the Swedish population has access to high speed internet and these were the driving factors behind the huge transition in media consumption. Contemporary practices in innovation, connectivity and consumer electronics are likely to lead the world towards convergence. However, it was identified that the development was actually working in the opposite direction. Nowadays, people use the same content and same media on multiple devices and on different screens. The HCDMS stated that people in Sweden spend 20% of their time online which is a huge part of times, out of which 80% is spent on personal issues such as Facebook and communicating with friends. The HCDMS described this unique transition has to be owed to the emergence of new portable devices and excellent infrastructure. Having said this, the HCDMS stated the vision of Microsoft is to understand needs of the consumers and deliver an all-in-one solution, something we know as “Windows Live”. Since needs are growing and storage always remains a concern for both the consumer and the content provider, the essence of the “cloud” was brought into perspective. The HCDMS affirmed that Microsoft has reached a point where it is possible to store all this information in the cloud and be least worried about storage space. This propelled Joakim Karlem, Product Marketing Manager, Windows Live to step up to the scene and display some of the marvels that are usually unexploited by the consumer within the Windows Live framework. One of the demos was pretty cool. Joakim demonstrated how he could take a photo and place it into the cloud and edit them in merely no time to achieve eye-pleasing results. Whilst he accomplished that, he emphasized on other areas Microsoft was addressing. The core of these areas is innovation and focused on unleashing the subsequent version of the Internet Explorer, IE 9.0 which has underlying technologies such as HTML 5 and CSS 3. As the demonstration continued, the remarks made by Joakim and his colleague, HCDMS became apparent as the audience was subjected to real-time visuals of how content is integrated and combined in the Windows Live framework. The audience gave a big round of applause. Joakim asserted that Microsoft is an engineering company and a platform company. At this moment, the company is directing their efforts towards creating a social hub, primarily due to the outburst of social media. He stated that they have been successful somewhat, backing up his statement by stating certain facts about MSN Messenger used for communication. His time to deliver the speech was up and this is where the show really begun!


The much awaited personality for whom students at KTH had formed long queues, Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft took charge in a very energetic manner. He came out saluting and smiling at everyone. It was a pleasing spectacle. He started by giving a background of himself, stating he had graduated from Harvard University in the 1970s where he obtained his bachelor’s degree. However, the most intriguing aspect made waves when he stated that he had shared the very same dorm with the high-profile Bill Gates. As he had the audience engaged with his prolific comments, he sensed he had the audience captivated somewhat. Instead of delivering what would have been his conventional speech for the event, he changed the direction of the speech and addressed the students and the researchers by giving them inspiration and high hopes. Steve said the generation of today is the future of tomorrow and it was pretty much up to us to keep innovating and make the world a better place. Intentional or unintentional, this comment set the foundation for what he was to speak subsequently. This is where he started talking about the “cloud”. He stated people had often asked him what is the “cloud”? He clarified that the “cloud” is the foundation for technological advances. The “cloud”, being a buzzword in itself, is a fundamental transformation in the computing world which is aimed at combining the best of devices, datacenter computing and smart devices. The real impediment was how to combines all these. The answer lies the technology called “Cloud Computing” which bypasses the notion of lack of storage capacity. The cloud is perceived to be quite advantageous primarily because no servers are needed and applications can be written and collaborated thereafter on the same datasets. However, Steve stated that this is where the social aspect comes into play. He said as the cloud creates greater opportunities, it also creates greater responsibility that deals with specific issues such as security and privacy. It was also explained by Steve that the pre-requisites for combating privacy and security issues lie in the consumers’ positive experience and confidence towards the utilization of these services. Steve’s emphasis on system integration was quite extensive. He envisioned that systems learning is critical and is getting smarter. The buzzed “cloud” assisted in exploring, navigating and taking necessary actions.

About 2 years ago, the bubble that encompassed the entire cloud paradigm was emerging big. It had enhanced interaction at a personal level and at a professional level. Steve underpinned that he is witness to this entire phenomenon which dates back a couple of generations. He stated to reach where the technological industry is today, lots and lots of endeavors have been carried out. The importances of data in everyday life lead to the conception of datacenters which were not very effective at the beginning. These data centers consume about 3% of the world’s power and are allocated an annual budget of approximately $700 million. Steve highlighted that the real problem was that the data gets outdated extremely quickly. As a consequence, efforts are directed at the construction of New Generation Datacenters in order to make them more effective. However, as effectiveness is achieved through successfully manipulating hardware and software platforms, serious repercussion are likely to arise in the form of job turnovers. However, Steve continued speaking wonders of the cloud. He articulated that the cloud wants smarter devices and the present generation has to conceptualize them to be able to sync them effectively. With this portion of the speech approaching to its end, Steve stated his company had recently started working closely with the Spotify AB. He called upon Daniel Ek, the CEO and founder of Spotify to come to the scene and share some of his thoughts. Daniel’s actions interpreted a sense of restlessness. He was kind of rushing through his speech. However, the significant parts of his thoughts were expressed in relation to what Spotify has done and how it will head into the future. He said that the advent of the internet has substantially altered the way music is consumed worldwide. People discover music through friends and share it in a matter of seconds and this is the big theory behind the dawn of Spotify. As Spotify is trying to make an impact in the US as well towards the end of this year, it is going through a venture with Microsoft to make music sharing easier. In the upcoming days, Spotify is coming up with its mobile app that will operate on the Windows Phone 6. Daniel quickly concluded by thanking the audience and handed over the microphone to Steve once again. Steve took the opportunity to conclude and thank the audience who were listening to him in different parts of Stockholm and was ready to address any queries the audience might have had.

The most interesting question that was posed to Steve was that which his types of games were his favorite. He answered that by stating that the ones where not much action is involved where the mind actually has the opportunity to relax. He took the chance to carry out exceptional word-of-mouth marketing by saying “AVAILABLE IN STORES NEAR YOU!” which made the entire audience laugh.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Spotify’s Magic Spell: Sustainable or Fragile?

Last Tuesday, September 28, 2010, Stockholm School of Economics received the visit of Anders Svensson, Sales Director (Sweden), Spotify AB, to deliver a seminar to inspire students. Students at Handels were psyched and looked up to the prospect. And why wouldn’t students behave in such a way or everyone else, for that matter? Spotify's uprising reputation and the way they have made an impact in the music industry in totally in line with the position they have earned themselves today. The guys down there have not only made a substantial impact in the way they have produced a service that has combated illegal music sharing but its image is still very much buzzed. The latter impression is likely to maintain the status-quo. It seems Spotify’s emergence to the limelight and its sharp rise to stardom is only going to rise. Just recently, they launched operations in the Netherlands which bears witness to the Spotify upsurge. Though Anders only shared information in bits and pieces regarding how they undertook the entire situation from conception, it was still very insightful. So, let’s talk the talk!

Inception of the Spotify idea dates back to 2005. Anders and Co. realized that music could be a prospective source of revenues. At that moment, music distribution was in chaos. Lots and lots of sites gave the consumer the probability to download music for free. This really concerned artists and different record labels. On the other hand, the consumers enjoyed the prospect of listening to free music. The guys at Spotify understood that unless they keep on providing music for free, no one would really care about their idea. At the beginning, Spotify comprised of good schools of thought that had a far-reaching vision. The way they went ahead with the venture was to promote their brand by building a product that is appreciated by the consumer. It was a huge challenge! Ander said they were lucky to have people who were really enthusiastic about the idea and decided to go ahead with the idea at all costs. It was hard work at the beginning. Anders depicted that it took half a year to construct the heart of Spotify which was one of the many obstacles they had to face. It was also important to convince record labels. It took Spotify 18 months to fabricate a business model that worked profitable on a mutual basis. And what a business model! Today, Spotify works with 80,000 record companies with a song catalogue that approaches 10 million hits.

As it is widely known that initially Spotify offered both the premium version and the free version of the service, there was reluctance to engage music consumers who were ready to pay. By looking at the number of subscribers Spotify has today, a mere 500,000, many would describe it as very small. This perception is contradicted by the fact that despite the small number of subscriptions, it is by far the biggest music subscription service in Europe. Anders asserted that one of the big grounds behind the success of Spotify is the surfacing of mobile devices. With these portable devices, people carry their music with them everywhere. As the buzz grew, Spotify executives forecasted that it would be extremely inconsiderate if they were to limit themselves to a product that provides the consumer with a streaming service only. The decided that they will correlate the service with something that is easy to manage and is user friendly, an excellent mode of attracting more consumers. Anders went on to discuss the role of social media in building the Spotify brand. Facebook emerged with roars and it was pivotal in building the Spotify brand. It allowed people to share content with their friends and disseminate it further. While the service reached the masses and gained appeal, it became a symbol of fashion within the young generation. Anders et al. understood the importance of sharing content over social networks. It was significant that the service should not hold technical facets but instead it should be easy to use which was also very advantageous for advertisers. Producing a combo that encloses music and ads was awesome. As Anders advocated, it was “FANTASTIC” for an advertiser. Music activates the sense of hearing which is very, very important in attracting consent and thus in building a brand in the online arena. Anders acquainted us with the concept that brands are not just about products anymore. A transition has taken place in the way brands are perceived, interpreted and positioned. Consequently, brands are more of an experience as we promote them online. To reach a point of critical mass, it is important that the brand experience canvasses around three other features as well namely emotions, exclusivity of the service provided to the consumer and the consequential engagement of the consent of the consumer. Once these four features are culminated together and are intertwined at each layer, it will ascertain the conquest of the consumer’s assent.

Anders concluded by saying that if you want to convince, Spotify is the way to go! I agreed on many aspects of his speech which contained humor, hard facts, entrepreneurship, branding and marketing. I would presume these traits should be enough to keep on growing and remain competitively advantageous as they plan to launch operations in the US. Will Spotify enter the US market with an alternating business model? Will it be able to cast its magic spell and reach the mainstream audience in the US the way it has done in Europe? Only time will tell!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The “Taxi 020” Social Media Urge …… Remains Urged!

The follow-up meeting in the Taxi 020 premises promised progress and undiluted enthusiasm. Company executives were already excited and recognized the potential of social media marketing if executed in a flawless manner. Though there are a number of decisions that yet remain to be undertaken, all entities involved are eager to get some sort of a campaign underway. Whatever decisions are made in the future in regards to online marketing for “Taxi 020”, they have to be built on the previous sessions we have had. Some of the actors who were present in the previous gathering remained absent. However, it did not distress the passion to carry out teamwork. Every person was really up to the task and tried to contribute in a positive way. A significant feature of the gathering was the way in which we utilized time. I felt the notion of time management was handled with effective measures. It can primarily be owed to the fact that, under the circumstances, everyone knew their roles pretty well. People knew they had to deliver and they had to make things happen. Commenting on each other’s insights was prominent, useful and fruitful. It allowed us to be more efficient and clarified our actions even more as we are only a few weeks away from executing what we have in mind.

Anne, an executive from an advertising agency based in central Stockholm and also a member of the team I partake in for this project, had performed her role pretty well. I noticed she was more focused on the subsequent steps the team should undertake. However, the element of uncertainty was a hindrance that eluded her vision a little. That was where analysis of insights coupled with appreciation and some critique on each other’s views made way to the forefront. This deepened our visions and illuminated thoughts and perceptions and registered them to a new level. Very accommodating!

Building on the first team meeting, I had to play my role and put together the very basis of social media, identification of best practices associated with it that can be implemented within the highly networked internet that we know today. I managed to convey certain valuable insights which I thought hindered us from the very first meeting. As I delivered the talk to the executives of Taxi 020 and Anne, the nod of the heads from them motivated me further. I engaged elements of humor in my presentation which eventually made the audience giggle. However, the most important aspect was that we had made precious inroads into the project. We had discussed how to boost the brand and what courses of action were central while we use social media strategies. I am sure everyone learned that to be able to utilize social media effectively, it has to be done in close connection with the audience we try to target. An interesting aspect that was unleashed was that using social media strategies in the online world had to be based on interaction with the consumer, gaining feedback from their experiences, their suggestions regarding a particular service and communication with them in real-time or nearly real-time are crucial to success in the online arena. This is merely a start. Once in possession of concrete social media strategies, one has to be extremely speedy and has to encompass symptoms that have to be derived from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Online marketing nowadays requires one to be dynamic, efficient, deliver quality content and interact with the consumers. A company that is a newbie and is about to fall within this sphere may be prone to undesired outcomes. However, this does not signify at any instance that success is a milestone that remains in a lone corner. Even if failure results as the first step in our journey, I believe success is eventually enjoyed and efforts are rewarded. It also forms the very roots of entrepreneurship. One has to consider the possibility of disdain while high hopes are to remain paramount in a new venture. I believe this is the way to go and I am certain whatever efforts, decisions and tasks we carry out, we will end up seeing green and healthy fields that bear resemblance to the gardens of Eden.

I may not have unearthed every single aspect as to what strategy we are moving forward with. I consider it would be harsh for the project and entities involved. I assume it would be implausible and unethical to give too much away. At the same time, as I reflect of this claim, I feel my act is full of injustice and betrayal towards social media. The essence of social media is to share. Unfortunately, I am unable to do that at the moment. This leads me to reflect on another very famous statement which says “Everything is fair in love and war”. Using this statement as a lame excuse, I feel obliged to extend this statement to something along the lines of Everything is fair in love, war and ONLINE MARKETING! I draw heart from the fact that at least a few people would agree with me at this point …

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Web 2.0 on the Move

My recent return to “Winter Wonderland” has been marked with a number of interesting episodes already. I would love to express each and every single experience. However, right now I shall be discussing something very interesting which also relates to my curriculum. It has been two weeks that I landed in Stockholm after a great summer vacation and as I arrive, I have been obscured by meetings, events and projects. One of the projects I am working on has been in close connection with a Swedish consumer company namely “Taxi 020”. The aspiration here was to promote the company’s brand using social media or Web 2.0, for that matter. It has been widely accepted that social media allows maneuvering and exercising strategies that are both time effective and cost effective. The company executives believe that it is a good line of action to apply these practices in order to promote the brand of the company and build long term relationships with its customers.

Merely two weeks, attending a meeting with the Marketing Manager of Taxi 020, I gained insights about the company, its evolution, the manner it has approached marketing and what they are planning to do in the future. I understood that one of the strategies the company executed about 5 years ago was to smear yellow all over their cars in order to catch the eye-balls of the consumer. The strategy was successful as it exhibited features of the differentiation strategy that we regularly speak about at school. The company decided to increase the number of yellow cars to approximately 1000 in Stockholm. They also operate in other cities of Sweden as well such as in Malmo or Gothenburg. The number of cars in cities other than Stockholm is very small speaking strictly on a relative account. However, to the flipside of the company, the strategy fell short of establishing a long term relationship with the consumer as it would have wanted. This was attributed to several incidents that took place whose consequences have been very upsetting.

Since the taxi business is a very conservative business, it is essential that the product/service that is offered to the consumer is easy to handle in addition to deliver customer satisfaction, which is a key success factor for long term sustenance. At the moment in Stockholm, there are three major taxi services with “Taxi Stockholm” in the limelight. Taxi 020, on the other hand, had in mind that to be able to compete head-to-head with Taxi Stockholm, pricing was one aspect that could alter the consumers’ consent and attract them towards them. Consequently, Taxi 020 exercised the segmentation tactic quite effectively. The company decided that it would serve three categories of customers; the general public, companies and several government parties. It worked absolutely immaculately until the global economic recession came into the act. The consequences were massive for Taxi 020. The strategy started to falter briskly. However, there was one sector that not only sustained its state but instead the volume of consumers increased which was quite fascinating for the company. This sector was the public sector. It all owed to the famous but dreadful winter that hit Sweden last year. The bad winter resulted in a good season for the cab company.

A number of years ago, the company had also deployed other marketing communication tactics such as placement of ads in local newspapers. Sadly, the return was rather slim as taxi is a service that is only used when it is needed. A consumer never actually know when he may need a cab and why he may need it, suggested the Taxi 020 Marketing Manager, Frederick Scholander. Frederick asserted that one of the critical aspects that would attract the consumer to utilize this service is to know the telephone number of the company. Therefore, the telephone number should be so easy to communicate which, in turn, allows the consumer recall it on an immediate basis. This has been one area which the company has been trying to address for the last couple of years. Moreover, the company has also been involved in certain other endeavors such as the introduction of a special price for “Girls” that allowed its practice for a certain period of the day. The strategy started to work fine until government and law-enforcement agencies took the issue in their hands and ascribed the act to discrimination resulting in massive repercussions for the company. It soon became a big concern as the word was spreading at the pace of a bullet. More people used to speak about it habitually. Negative word-of-mouth marketing for Taxi 020!

As the company struggled to attain excellence and create a brand that is not only widely accepted but also assisted them to build a competitive advantage, the executives at the company acquired the support of Robin Teigland, Associate Professor at Stockholm School of Economics. Robin has always been very energetic and keen to try new things. She suggested that the company could potentially adopt social media as a channel to promote the brand as the channel is cost effective and gets the target audience spot on. Frederick was intrigued somewhat. He decided to go ahead with the venture and has assumed the essence of social media aggressively with sincere efforts and is hopeful it will pay off. I am also working on the project playing my role as a student to facilitate the marketing process. The campaign is well-underway and all the entities involved are willful that whatever endeavors we deliver result fruitful. This reinforces my belief that Web 2.0 is not only scoring big but it will be a key factor that will allow us to achieve the SOLO objective we pursue with so much perseverance.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Mysterious Scenery

There are some people who have been visiting this blog have posed a query every now and then. The scenery that appears above, no doubt, has been appreciated by many people primarily due to the sublime natural beauty it encircles, the articulateness that surrounds the plateau and the zigzagging contours that are apparent on the slopes of the mountains that enfold the lake. Well, what is the name of this place? Where is it located? People have tried to classify this panorama to lands that pertain to the marvelous Swiss landscapes, the Austrian mountainsides or the famous fjords in Norway that hold immense international fame. Nice attempts made by them but sadly, all in vain (SORRY!). As it remains a mystery, it is about to be uncovered. So, here goes the epic tale! This landscape has its home in the Kaghan Valley in the north of my beloved country, Pakistan. The name that is associated with this gorgeous and dazzling lake is “Saif Ul Muluk”.

When I was a kid, I used to hear about this lake. I came to know that there is a folklore correlated with it. It dates back to the medieval times. It was the Prince of Persia who visited this place and fell in love with Princess Badar Jamal that resided in the valley and later conquered the heart of her Princess to be. They faced numerous hardships to realize their love adventure as they faced potent repulsion from certain entities. The couple escaped and hid in a cave nearby that still exists. They lived happily ever after. (As I've heard!)

For the time being, some additional gorgeous treasures of Lake Saif Ul Muluk are right here. Enjoy!

Saif Ul Muluk in winter - covered with snow
Tourist Resthouse - absolutely eyecatching
The Kaghan Valley - Home to Jheel Saif Ul Muluk
Another view of the Tourist Resthouse 
Width and Depth. It is for real!
Heart shape symbolizing the love tale associated with the lake depicted in the folklore
Boat at a standstill obeying the often natual beauty of the lake

Thursday, May 27, 2010

“Merely Humanistic”

(Especially dedicated to Ishrat Ali Awan)

There is so much I would like to utter. There are so many feelings and emotions bottling up inside my heart. There are so many actions I want to realize. Whilst I think about them more and more, the more I get indulged in emotions and sentiments. Sentiments get the better out of humans sometimes. This helps me appreciate the recurring reality that humans, no matter how strong they may appear to the naked eye, deep inside they are extremely fragile and are affected by the slightest of features they are exposed and subjected to. Over the last two months or so, a facet as such has started to establish a tiny little home inside me as well. Having gone through several ups and downs during the last couple of years, I believed I had become a stronger person both mentally and physically. It allowed me to undertake some wise and bold decisions. There have been circumstances where I have defied time and have accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. I realized the way to move forward with this was to think anything one wants can achieve can be achieved given the notion one goes after it with full heart. It seemed like things were poised to follow nature’s course. I am at entire harmony understanding this. However, now I understand it does not always have to pursue this particular path. When this instinct is translated to humans, thereby ruling out the nature aspect, there are certain secrecies that are unrevealed while multiple questions emerge that remain unanswered. Over the years, I achieved a thorough understanding of how humans behave, how a particular human should be handled, the type of profile that should be adopted with a person, so on and so forth. I thought I acquired significant knowledge about that already. Now I think to myself was I strayed? I have come to understand every human being is instilled with elements of fragility and feebleness, me included! This has compelled me to raise certain questions. What is it with humans? Are humans so hard to handle? What exactly do humans want and expect from one other? There are many questions I want to address. My sentiments get the better out of me and words start betraying me as I am subjected to this same syndrome that embraces fragility and feebleness as prominent symptoms. As I write this, I consider is it time to back off as I am incapable to translate this into words. I feel like it is a huge war I am participating in that lacks the grace to drive towards either victory or a letdown. The positive side is that it certainly helps to describe something rather than nothing.

Humans are a strange creation. They love to feel loved. It gives them an impression of feeling more important and more valued. As I understand, love creates a coalition between the entities in which love itself mediates. This should trigger a magnetizing behavior within the entities. It should, at least. But with humans, the generated effect seems to be working on the contrary side. The individual receiving love starts evading the individual giving it. Understanding human behavior is a complex task. Having said this, I speculate whether is it better to give love or to be loved. I presume a lot of resilience and candidness are required to understand these features. But the question is how exactly? Well, I think the ultimate answer to understanding this issue lies in clear communication, severe persistence and resolute determination among humans. It is the real deal and indeed is a very human attribute.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

ORACLE – The Information Company

It has been nearly a month now that I attended the Oracle conference in Kista, Stockholm. Finally, I have defied time allowing myself to put into words the experience I underwent during my presence at Oracle. The conference was interesting and fruitful as it allowed me to gain knowledge about which line of action Oracle has adapted to promote their business and products in the future. Their philosophy is simple and revolves around three criteria to recruit new customers and maintaining existing customer relationships. Their approach is simplistic, yet profound and insightful. These criteria are competitiveness, efficiency and simplification with respect to other market actors. Elaborating a little more on each of these three attributes, I found out they are keen on laying the Best foundation in the form of competitiveness, "Minimization" of operating costs by providing efficient solutions and providing "Standardization" and consolidation via simplification. The company differentiates itself by using off-the-shelf functionality allowing custom development of differentiating functions, thereby allowing richer options to customers. Their product, the Application Server, focuses on achieving best practices using the existing Java framework. The Application Server was portrayed to be prone towards performance, reliability, scalability, flexibility and manageability. The promoters of the products referred to this as Clustering Integration Management. The product is invaluable for its acquirers as it supports uprising architectures such as cloud computing. People at Oracle think that it is critical to achieve compatibility of existing product with proposed future paradigms. Apparently, cloud computing is useful for a firm as it enables pooling of resources and their sharing as well. This enables more capabilities to its user-base which is complemented with automation. It is a fast deployment architecture that eventually leads to achieve Operational Efficiency and High Performance. This architecture does this by eliminating big programs like huge operating systems and bringing in smaller apps which is where the idea of Operational Efficiency belongs. I learned the mode the apps adopt to realize this. These apps are available in high quantity. Being relatively smaller in size, deployment becomes easier as application deployment time is zeroed down. Putting this altogether, cloud computing results even more beneficial as the cloud architecture can exist at different levels.

Coming back to the Oracle product, people at Oracle have developed the product in a way that complements existing capabilities that can be found in similar products. This feature is what they believe sets them apart as it allows leveraging and reusing existing tools. Not only this, it also exhibits an identical programming paradigm. The product has been tested for deployment at enterprise level for which a number of enterprise development strategies have been proposed. These strategies are fault tolerant and enable high speed data intensive computing, which, in turn, parallelizes tasks. This leads to both time-saving and cost-saving.

It seems Oracle has learned a lot more since they acquired Sun Microsystems. They have a clear vision as to how they will move forward with a clear strategy. Their post-Sun strategy is designated towards productivity with choice which allows its customer base to undertake more freedom. From a personal point of view, I believe companies that fall within the technological territory have started to envision futuristic methods and are keen on implementing them by closely interacting with their core customers. The technological territory is full of rivalry. With one eye placed into the future, it is likely firms are going to combine forces rather than going head-to-head to achieve excellence.

Friday, April 23, 2010


It was a great evening at Stockholm School of Economics attending the TED event, namely TEDXSSE4M, organized by the 4M (Masters in Marketing and Media Management) class on Wednesday, April 21, 2010. The entire team falls no short of praise and tribute for organizing such an outstanding event. The amount of effort that was put into the organizing was clearly perceptible. The event comprised three awesome lecture sessions, each limited to an 18 minute timeslot, a TED standard, so they say. All lectures were great. However, it was Robin Teigland, Associate Professor at SSE who stole the show. Despite the limited time in which to deliver her speech, she managed to coagulate everything she wanted to say in an incredible manner. It was one of the best short speeches I have heard. The speech revolved around Second Life (a virtual world), social media and amalgamating these to leverage the marketing world in the days to come. The lecture solidified my perceptions and beliefs so as to look more aggressively into the future. The future looks very challenging, transitive and promising at the same time. The theories presented by Robin contained innovative and radical elements in terms of how to improve a business as we look into the prospective landscape. She gave examples of certain key firms that have exercised this strategy already. The potential for marketing to reach soaring altitudes via Second Life is out there for marketers to exploit.

I, personally, enjoyed the chance to be under her supervision in the first module of the Media Management course at SSE. She is truly a great inspiration and the way she goes around things is always worth admirable words. All in all, Robin seems to be thinking excessively into the future. It has to be appreciated that her endeavors are directed towards motivating marketing opportunities in new entrepreneurial ways. The unpredictable future looks somewhat predictable now. Should we be expecting colossal change ahead?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nature Says: “Take That!”

My scheduled departure from Stockholm to Madrid due Saturday April 17, 2010 was brought to a halt as nature demonstrated signs of intense fury and devastating rage over a small island located in North West Europe – Iceland. The island, with just under half a million residents has been subjected to severe volcanic activity during the last couple of days. The volcano has been spitting grit, lava and hot ash which not only affected locals who had to be evacuated but it maintains its course to affect other parts of the continent. Media reports suggest the volcanic magma will be cooled fairly quickly as the geographical premises of the island indicate it to be at a cold place. It seems these media statements have been brought to a test as recent updates suggest otherwise. The most important concern from a business point of view, aviation services all across Europe have been limited to the land. Planes  are enjoying the luxury to rest on ground. This may very well backlash. Why? Well, firstly, people have been left stranded on airports and can’t reach their homes.  Secondly, customer services have been flooded with claims. It can't get worse. Nature’s fury has translated into resentment of humans. As far as i am concerned, I would obviously like to share my personal thoughts and feelings on this.

I was excited to meet my loved ones after a long, long wait thinking the wait was finally going to be over. But I was wrong. I received emails from the airline intimating me the cancellation of my departure. I became bound to parameters of anger. I did not know how to react. I didn’t want to speak to anyone. I was praying deep inside my heart hoping I could fly as scheduled. But nature’s power seemed excessively immense in front of my tiny wishes. Maybe it happened for the better. Like the saying, “Everything happens for the better”. I, now, reflect on this statement. I had friends telling me that. At first, I disliked this saying coming from people who are close to me in Sweden. The entire Friday evening seemed terrible. I had cancelled a very important event I was scheduled to partake in the same day I was to travel. It was supposedly a very important part of my curriculum. Things continued adopting odd profile. I began second-guessing my course of actions. I was already stressed, extremely stressed due to a very strange happening that took place a couple of weeks ago. I was drowned in guilt, fault and resentment. My tiny little reactions to defy the consequences of this little incident didn’t pay off as I hoped. It seemed to me I had spent more time in Sweden than I was supposed to. Everything was working against me, as I thought. But nature had something positive hidden for me in this entire phenomenon. It resembled something that can be interpreted as small but withholds big and deep meaning. It is hard to profoundly describe the series of situations associated with this episode. However, I would certainly like to summarize it in a line or two. The natural disaster allowed me to settle a score with a friend that seemed to approach terminal intensity ever since the issue started urging elevated heights. A patient, tolerant and resilient attitude was illustrated on part of my friend on Saturday. It felt relieving. It gave me the sensation  like I had taken a huge weight off my shoulders. I wonder sometimes how a particular little phenomenon can bring about changes that are so meaningful and delightful. The opportunity to visualize and experience the actual spectacle was truly dazzling and priceless at that moment.

I have been hearing throughout my life that everything happens for a reason. Unknown to me, I always doubted it. However, I now realize any event is to strengthen one’s mind and faith. Over this last year or so, events characterized by such sceneries have started to happen more often in my life. I struggle to find ways to combat this. Nonetheless, I eventually do find ways around them every time I get entrapped. I have to owe it all to nature. THE POWER OF NATURE! I have managed to gain deeper insights into the values of life and appreciate happenings of all sorts which has allowed me to appreciate nature more and more. The recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland have reinforced my thoughts and have guided me to support the concept of nature controlling and seeking commanding position in all that happens. It allows me to think deep into the impact something small, such as Iceland, over something as big as the European continent. Throughout my life, I have always heard small things are the ones that matter. Nature has testified to my belief now. It doesn’t always have to be something big to make a difference. It can be the small ones that can make the difference. Humans have tended to query this conception through history but nature suggests the contrary. Nature always prevails as it has prevailed throughout history. "TAKE THAT!"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

PTI – “Profound Turmoil Institution”

I enjoyed the opportunity to partake in the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf) meeting in Stockholm last Saturday, April 10, 2010. The Imran Khan lead political party, a very famous personality and someone I am really proud of, views the horizon and foresees the future with hope, optimism, and a promising justice system. Recent developments have revolved around the Pakistan political system which has favored and constituted this entire scenario. It is a question of time that a radical outbreak occurs that allows PTI to seize power and dethrone the present Govt. or the ones that succeed the present Govt. (at least the way the PTI forecasts the political climate). The question that remains deadlocked is WHEN PTI will conquer the PM Secretariat. A big question mark ….

The meeting was effective in the sense that the PTI representatives seemed rational and focused not merely on the existing problems. Instead, they decided to focus on actions and solutions to counter the turmoil. To start off, a significantly emotional speech was bestowed upon the audience to magnetize their consents, a marvellous and admirable execution of the PULL strategy. I looked around during the speech at people and perceived a false sensation that these people were hypnotized for a short while. Some of them were keen on pitching their views (their rather unrealistic views) and expected a transformation to occur at a drastic pace. I would like to highlight when it comes down to translating these views into collective participatory action, success tends to remains at a lone corner  and very vulnerable. It is primarily due to reluctance by individuals to perform actions who can make a big, big difference. The reasons tend to overweight hmmmm …….. pretty much everything!

During the meeting, it was exclusively pointed out PTI is yet deficient in the number of registered members who would be willing to commit themselves to support the process. Previously, the party has relied on the mere fame of Imran Khan. It did manage to gain certain inroads owing partial thanks to the freedom of media and the sphere of influence it carries. Nonetheless, the status-quo is essentially mirroring the past. No clear signs of advancements that are noteworthy are in prospect. The party representatives are strayed right now. Their courses of actions ought to be complemented and should be acknowledged with admiration. They are cruising ruthlessly to reach the stardom they seek. However, it seems they have been lost in the middle and are facing numerous challenges and prospective unforeseen consequences.

I have started to speculate how to resolve this heated series of events. Ideas are many, yet they lack depth and execution with heart. Reaching wonderland is a dream that requires big heart culminated with undiluted consistency. At present, achieving this feat is haunting genuine PTI participants like a nightmare. It has to be said that the status of PTI representatives today cannot be viewed as being part of a bigger party, but rather their role resembles an institution that lacks best practices and associates itself with conflicts of opinions and turmoil.

I detest putting into perspective that I belive the current state of PTI can also be interpreted as “Profound Turmoil Institution” …..  (rational or Irrational? I am going to leave it to the people to decide.)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

From Conventional Wednesdays to Blooming Wednesdays ....

Today, Wednesday, March 31, 2010, I feel possessed, mesmerized, captivated, owned, surprised, amazed, eluded ….. I am astray at putting words and strings together as they simply don’t exhibit the elegance to describe the unbelievable experience I underwent. It is tortuous to express and communicate my sentiments as of the today’s happenings. It would be unjust to write about it. It all happened today, It all happened today …….. The day took off just like any other day. It felt nauseating to wake up early. I managed to gain my composure to go to my school, Stockholm School of Economics. Apparently, a guest lecture was scheduled in the Media Management Course to be given by Tomas Bacoccoli, a relatively unknown personality to us who is passionate about music. I arrived 5 minutes late into the class and saw that Tomas was just getting started with the proceedings. He was to discuss branding and its relationship with certain entities in addition to how to attract consumers. He pinpointed the importance to create an emotional attachment between the brand and the consumer to make a product a formidable success. That is where the emotions started to peak. He started uncovering the profound mysteries in such an awesome way which consequently, had every single individual engaged so deeply throughout the session that went nonstop for over one hour and a half, something that rarely happens in a class at SSE. I am definitely sure it would have seen all too conventional if it wasn’t for Tomas. It seemed so different from our other lectures. Everyone was emotionally involved. His mysterious skills, his tone of voice, his examples, his jokes, and the structure of the presentation encompassed great balance, great substance, effortless flow and above all, emotionality. I was stunned, REALLY STUNNED! At the same time, I felt blessed to have been a part of the audience. I felt proud. I felt honored. It seemed nothing short of a miracle to view Tomas’s consistency in evoking the audience in front of him so mysteriously. He amalgamated academics, experience, passions, emotions, sentiments all in one absolutely sublimely. It was striking! His statements and expressions made me project them on myself literally. They affected me emotionally. It made me dig deep to look into myself. There seemed to be facets of mystique involved. I was lost for a while really reflecting on Tomas and observing him. I appreciated some thoughts on synergies between today’s episode and the magical universe of Harry Potter and being experiencing them physically.

It went on and on. Tomas acknowledged he had the audience engaged. He could feel it. Tomas concluded by saying he missed out on something that he’ll address later. People were reluctant to move. They wanted to listen more from Tomas. They wanted to see more of Tomas’s actions and reactions. Time was up. We considered ourselves unlucky not to be able to witness more of Tomas’s exhibition. Nevertheless, the encouraging aspect made waves later during the day when it was made public that Tomas will be having another session at the TEDXSSE4M event on April 21, 2010 at Stockholm School of Economics. I anticipate it to be an even greater exhibition.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Give to Receive, Receive to Give

The new BUZZ word!!! "SOCIAL MEDIA" ..... Quite alarming, isn´t it??? Recent stats suggest that this term has been around for quite a while now. Does this mean that the so-called term "BUZZ" is implausible or is it really new? Well, this is quite a predicament which could potentially shape out to be an extensive debate.

My recent move to Northern Europe has compelled me to get involved in Social Media somewhat. Why so? Well, the reasons are two-fold. First, the nature of my daily routines involve studying a Masters program in Media Management at two of the finest institutions renowned worldwide namely, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Stockholm School of Economics in the capital of Scandinavia - Stockholm. Having spent a couple of months here assessing my curricular studies which reflected on certain elements pertinent to Social Media, I reached a conclusion that the best way to learn Social Media is to actually exercise Social Media, thereby conferring a practical perspective. I must outline the way I approached this entire situation. My initial involvement into practical Social Media was purely incidental and unconsciously driven. We are living in an era where it may be considered criminal not to be in possession of an email. It would be perceived to be really odd to make a statement along those lines in a world where boundaries are becoming fuzzier and hard to define. This, consequently, helped me establish an initial contact with this entire eclipse. This contact has strenthened significantly over recent years. The exponential development in the area of media technology and the brisk response to new services has obliged the progress in this particular relationship. I foresee this relationship would strengthen in the upcoming days, months and even years - so to speak! The second reason that justifies my association with Social Media is life in Sweden itself. It is considered a common practice in Sweden to communicate via email and having a strong acquiantance with social media for several purposes which, in turn, has proven to be quite successful in a variety of ways. Adding more spice to this speculation, it is considered a good line of attack to reach the masses here as well. Sweden is also among the top countries that encloses numerous bloggers. This entire story line has had an influence on me as well somewhat and has driven me to compete for the zeal to engage myself more into this communication exchange. It is considered a reasonable medium to express interests, thought, sentiments and emotions. Social Media is taking its toll pretty well here. Watch out, though! Bells may start ringing when I mention this. Is toll the correct terminology to be applied? I am a little skeptical right now. Possibly it is the correct terminology. Nonetheless, with the essence of social media becoming increasingly social (not to mention it is FREE to use), the term "toll" becomes futile. Anyhow, avoiding debates for now! This can be looked into further later on ........

I have to reiterate that a blog is good way to express and communicate thoughts, behavior, interests, sentiments and emotions. From a personal perspective, I would actually need to undergo this experience before I come out jumping to statements that I have heard from peoples' mouths. I will try to stay active on this issue and share my experiences of this wonderful country. I have had the opportunity to endure nice experiences here where I have come across several extraordinary, tender, humble and sweet people (one person in particular!) who utter flowery words that just steal the moment. I anticipate I am destined to continue towards this. I wonder if Social Media and Blogging assist this in addition to my aim to contribute to the development of modern media in ways I can. Time will tell. Effort is required. Anyways, this is it for now.

Hasta la Vista!