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I’m a Social Media Entrepreneur, Professor of Digital Marketing, Author of 5 books, Podcaster and an Organic Farmer.

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How a Silk Saree Brand Used WhatsApp Video for Selling During Lockdown. 

Silk Sarees

One of our clients of our Digital Consulting firm is a famous silk saree business situated in the temple city of Kanchipuram in Tamilnadu, India. They are among the most popular destinations for pure Kanchipuram silk sarees. Their brand has become so popular that over 70% of customers are from outside Tamilnadu. Walking into their store is like walking into Tirupathi Devasthanam, the ever crowded temple. Their shop is open on all days of the week and it becomes even more crowded during the Muhurtham (auspicious) days as families throng the shop to buy silk sarees for their family occasions. When Covid-19 stuck, all physical stores including the silk saree showroom was forced to close down and this brought their roaring business to an abrupt halt.

Until then, much of their focus was on store sales as this was bringing in the lion’s share of the business. Their sales from digital was a small percentage and they had a token presence online. But with the unprecedented pandemic, the senior management’s attention shifted to digital and they started to take it a lot more seriously.

It was around this time that we quickly revamped their website. We did away with their archaic website which had bloated code and built a spiffy, good looking website from the ground up that was mobile first and responsive. We added advanced commerce facilities. Customers could visit the website, browse through, select and buy the sarees of their choice. 

However, there was one crucial element missing in the website shopping experience. There was no active interaction between the customers and the staff. E-commerce is a passive experience.  If you looked at how customers bought the sarees in their physical store, you will notice that the customers would like to look at multiple sarees, then they would shortlist a few of them and then finally handpick the best ones from the shortlist. There was a lot of discussion that happens. The staff would intently listen to the requirements of the customers and patiently show many sarees until the customers would be satisfied. This crucial element of interaction with the staff was missing in the E-commerce shopping experience.  So, along with the management we came up with the idea of enabling shopping via Whatsapp video.

Here is what we did. We set up a customized appointment system using Calendly where customers can choose a particular date and time of their convenience within the working hours. While registering, we will request them to give their name, email and Whatsapp number. On that particular date and time, their staff would call them from a mobile device on Whatsapp video.

Once the staff has successfully connected with the customers on Whatsapp Video, they proceed to interact with them just like they would in a physical showroom. The staff would ask the customers the occasion for which they are buying the saree, the price range and their favorite colours. The staff members would then select a bunch of sarees and display it to the customers.  While one staff member holds the camera, the other staffs would spread the sarees one by one while explaining the intricate details about the saree.

This interactive live video medium has now made it very easy for customers to ask questions about the saree, ask for a particular pattern or to show closeup of a particular design. The knowledgeable staff can now answer each of these questions. This mimics the real shopping experience.

What was very interesting is that multiple family members from different cities and even different countries would join in on the same Whatsapp video call. In most cases, buying silk sarees, especially high priced bridal silk sarees, is always a group decision. This was easily accomplished using Whatsapp video.

Once the customers select the sarees, a bill is generated and instantly sent to them via whatsapp messages and email. The customers can then pay the money via credit card or online bank transfer. Once the payment is received, they courier the sarees immediately to the customers and they receive them in a day or two.

Customers started to feel comfortable with the medium and interestingly, they found this even more convenient than conventional shopping. Now, they can experience shopping that is as close to real world shopping, without the hassle of traveling from their hometown to Kanchipuram.

By embracing the digital medium, the silk saree brand was able to continue to do business even during the lockdown.

If a traditional business like this silk saree brand can become tech savvy and quickly adapt, then it is a wake up call for many other businesses to embrace digital and leverage this effectively for increasing their bottom line.  At Business Blogging, our digital consultancy that focuses on digital selling, we work very closely with our clients to better understand their objectives, be sensitive to their challenges and help them achieve their business goals by smartly leveraging digital and social media.

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Announcing the Launch of my New Book: Shifting Gears

New Book Alert: Am proud to announce the launch of a brand new book I co-authored.

SHIFTING GEARS: A Winners Playbook to Pivot During a Crisis.

This is a compilation of 21 stories of pivot by 21 authors written in 21 days of COVID19 lockdown.

This book is a superb collaborative effort of my colleagues at the Professional Speakers Association of India (PSAI). As the President of the association, it gives me immense pride to see how the community came together to make this adversity into an opportunity.

Let’s face it. We are in lockdown and life on the other side will not be the same again. But winners pivot on their heels, shift gears to create a newer springboard to success.

In shifting gears, 21 thought leaders demystify the anatomy of resilience and share their plans, their optimism, and their pivot.

We have deeper insights on business strategies, self-leadership, mindfulness, positive psychology, podcasting, online courses, digital selling, personal branding and more.

This entire book was created in 21 days during the lockdown. Right from ideation, planning, collaborating, writing, editing, proofreading, designing, publishing and distributing. The members of PSAI brought their individual expertise in different areas to chip in to launch this collaborative, crowdsourced book.

The book is available on Amazon Kindle. The book is priced reasonably at Rs.99 but it is free for the next 4 days. We encourage you to download the book here at https://www.amazon.in/dp/B087JW5W9V

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If you are a speaker, one of the best investments you can make is to attend the Professional Speakers Summit taking place in New Delhi on February 1 & 2, 2020. Here is my message to the participants and thought I would share them here.

Hello.

As the Founder President of the Professional Speakers Association of India, I extend a warm welcome to you to Professional Speakers Summit 2020, India’s largest gathering of professional speakers.

In a week’s time, you will be part of an important event that will be pivotal in your growth as a successful global professional speaker.

This email contains vital information for you to make the most of the Summit.

Warning: This is a very long email, and I urge you to read through it carefully as it contains important information.

 

THINGS TO DO ONE WEEK BEFORE THE SUMMIT

Write Your Speaking Goals:  The time before attending the Professional Speakers Summit is an excellent time to write down your big speaking goals. Write down your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Why is it important? Because having clarity of the goals will help you eke out the best out of the summit. Go ahead. Write down your goals for your speaking career.

 

List Down the Questions You Seek Answers for:  This is an extension of the previous point. Having clarity of your big goals will also highlight the areas where you are lacking and problems that are holding you back from achieving your goals. Write down all the questions. There will be 150+ professional speakers at the Summit and am sure there are people more experienced than you who will have answers to your questions.

 

Comb Through the Schedule:  The final agenda has been published at http://www.PSAI.in/summit. We have successful global speakers and Indian speakers with global experience. Here’s a tip. Going through the summit agenda will help you handpick the specific topics that will help you the most in achieving your speaking goals.

 

Pick Your Master Classes: Please note that the masterclasses are parallel sessions. There will be three masterclasses that will happen at the same time. This means that if you pick one, you cannot physically be in the other two. So, pick the master class that speaks to you. Go through the schedule and identify in advance which ones you want to attend.

 

Warning. Masterclasses have Limited Seats: The three concurrent masterclasses will happen in three smaller rooms. Each room only has a maximum seating capacity of around 40 people. Entrance is only on first come first served basis. If a master class has reached full capacity, we will shut and lock the door. No exceptions. Last time, we turned away other speakers and sponsors. So, please be punctual and early.

 

Divide and Conquer: Breakout master class sessions mean you have to make a choice. By choosing one session, you will have to miss out the other two. You can overcome this problem by creating a buddy system with a friend. While you attend one session, your friend attends the other. Both of you take notes and fill each other up in the evening. Works like a charm.

 

Download the Official App: We have a dedicated app for our Summit. This is where you will find the schedule, profiles of the speaker, important announcements etc. As part of our eco-initiative, we will not be printing brochures with schedules. Everything will be available on the app. If you have an Android phone, you can get it here from the Google Play Store. If you have an Apple phone, head to the iStore to download the app.

 

Google the Speakers:  Understanding the profile of the speakers will significantly help you in picking the sessions you want to attend at this summit. You can find the profiles of all the speakers at http://www.PSAI.in/summit.   The speakers have been handpicked for their expertise and experience. They bring a lot of value to our event. Please google and learn about them.  Watch their talks on YouTube. Send out a note to them that you are eager to attend their sessions. Trust me, it’ll make them happy, and it will help you make a good connection when you meet them in person.

 

Follow the Speakers on Social Media:  Now that you know which topics you plan to attend, it is a good idea to understand what the speakers are like. Most speakers are on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Follow them.

 

Polish Your Elevator Pitch: We will have150 Professional Speakers at the Summit.  That’s a lot of people you will be meeting. Most of them will be new to you and you want to make sure you make a good first impression. When the person you meet asks you, ‘So, what do you do?’, you don’t want to ummm and errrr. You want to describe yourself with crisp clarity that makes a powerful impact. Practice your introduction. You’ll be making tons of them throughout the two days.

 

Get Your Business Cards:  You will be doing some serious networking, and you will need lots. So, bring sufficient business cards. I encourage you to print business cards that project you as a professional speaker. If you don’t have one, you still have time to have one designed and printed.

 

Write down your speaking topics: In the badge you get at the summit, jot down the topics you speak on. This will be an excellent ice breaker and a conversation starter. When you meet others, look at their badges. You’ll find interesting people specializing in interesting topics.

 

Offer to Volunteer:  Pulling off an event like the #PSS2020 is no joke. Every single organizer is a professional speaker. All organizers have volunteered their time and effort for this event. This is a true community event. This is our event. So, please help out. If you find a problem or a glitch at the summit, proactively reach out and help. It is an excellent way to bond with people and goes very well with the spirit of the community.

 

Update your Website & Social Media:  Once you have met people, many will want to learn more about you and your speaking topics. You don’t want them to visit your website that has broken links or social media that has not been updated in a long time. Stay current. Summits are a perfect excuse to do digital spring cleaning.

 

Bring Your Books: If you have authored books, please bring sufficient copies to the summit. You can gift this to select people in the summit whom you want to make a good connection with. I strongly feel that books are a powerful business card.  You also have the option of displaying it at the special bookshelf for a small fee.

 

Join the Facebook Group:  Lots of interesting conversations and useful resources get shared in this group. Join here https://www.facebook.com/groups/ProfessionalSpeakersAssociationIndia/

If you are joining for the first time, you will be prompted to answer 3 questions. Make sure to answer the questions.

 

DURING THE SUMMIT

Arrive Early:  The Summit registration starts early at 8:30 AM.  I would encourage you to arrive even earlier at 8 AM.  Follow this tip and you will thank me later. Not only will you be able to beat the queue at the registration desk, but it will also give you an excellent opportunity to meet people in a relaxed atmosphere. This is a fantastic networking tip. Making connections with people is supercritical to enhancing your speaking career. Make the most of it.

 

Venue Address: The venue is Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi Airport. The full address is NH-8, near Mahipalpur Extension, Block R, Mahipalpur Village, Mahipalpur, New Delhi, Delhi 110037. Here is the Google Maps link. It is a brilliant property and is ranked very high on TripAdvisor, Booking.com and Google Reviews.

 

Dress Code:  Business Casual.  Dress as you would for a formal meeting. It’s better to tilt towards formals. Tie and blazers are preferred than jeans and sweatshirts. After all, this is a ‘Professional’ speakers event.

 

UnPlug from Work: Tell your clients you won’t be reachable on these two days. Inform your coworkers that you won’t be checking emails. Take your family’s permission to go incommunicado over the next two days.  By unplugging from work and family, you create this fertile, focused time for insightful learning and networking. If there is one advice that I would strongly emphasize, this would be it. Immerse yourself in the event completely.

 

You Don’t Have to Attend All the Sessions:  Yes, really. The two days at the summit are going to be choc-a-block with sessions. Remember that your mind can only take in so much knowledge.  Beware of the information overload.  So, be picky about what sessions you want to attend. Don’t worry about FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Skip a few sessions that don’t add value to you. Use that time to catch up with people or some quiet reflective time on your own.

 

Get Enough Sleep: Lack of sleep can make you groggy and impede your ability to focus during the sessions. Make a conscious decision to hit the sack early.  Take a hard stance to avoid late-night meetups with friends. I know you will be meeting folks after a long time but this can’t happen at the cost you messing up the event. Go easy on your drinks. You can play catch-up and let loose after the summit is over.

 

Ask How You Can Help: When meeting people at the summit, listen intently. Ask them what their pain points are and how you can be of help. In a world where we all incessantly seek opportunities, people truly appreciate this gesture to help. Be generous with connecting and introducing people.

 

Don’t be a Business card Hunter: Don’t aim to meet as many people as you can. It’s natural to want to meet many but with only two days and a packed schedule, you can easily spread yourself thin. Focus on developing a deeper relationship with fewer people. Quality is better than quantity.

 

Jot Down Behind the Business cards: When you meet people, write down interesting things about them, the topic you discussed or any follow-up actions behind their business card. Don’t trust your brain to remember everything. We overestimate its memory capacity. Writing it down is a smart way to follow up.

 

Digitize the Business Cards: Later in the evening, transfer all the contact details and the notes to Google Contacts which I feel is the best place to store contacts.  You can use apps like CamCard to scan the cards quickly. Digitizing your contacts makes it easy for you to search and retrieve. Once I digitize it, I usually discard the physical business cards because having them only adds to the clutter and I realized that it is cumbersome to dig through a pile of cards to pick one.

 

Avoid Hanging Out All the Time with Your Friends: I’ve noticed this in previous summits where people from the same cities hang out together. You are already close to your friends and you have all the time later. Out here at the summit, it is a wonderful opportunity to connect and bond with new people. Step out of your group to proactively meet and bond with people from other cities and countries.

 

Write Down Actionable Points:  When you take notes while attending sessions, make it a point to write down action-oriented points. For example, ‘Create a Video Testimonial’ or ‘Analyze 50 hours of my own talks’. This will help you to follow-through. It works even better if you can put a timeline to finish those actions.

 

Dedicated Notebook:  Bring a new notebook and pen. Dedicate this for jotting down important points from the Summit. If you are a digital person like me,  I would recommend creating a dedicated Word document or even better, Google Notes to jot down all the lessons. It gets stored in the cloud and make it easy to retrieve and share.

 

Use the Hashtag #PSS2020:  Take lots of photos. Shoot short videos. Post them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and any other social network you are active at. No matter where you post, make sure to add the hashtag #PSS2020.  This will be very useful for the attendees to read your post and see your photos. There are tons of people who could not make it to the event and they will truly appreciate this gesture.

 

Give Honest Feedback: Especially areas where the speakers can improve. It’s easy for them to get praise and how awesome their talks are. But tough to get honest constructive criticism. That’s why this is valued a lot and the speakers will respect you for it.

 

Keep an Eye out for Membership:  The membership to the Professional Speakers Association of India will be formally opened up at the Summit. There’s a special discount if you pick up the membership at the event. So, take advantage of this offer. Becoming a member of PSAI which is the only association recognized by the Global Speakers Federation is the best thing you can do to boost your speaking career.

 

Buy Ticket for the Gala Dinner: On the evening of Day 1 on February 1, we have arranged for a special dinner for the speakers and influential CEOs. This Gala Dinner is invite-only. However, we have opened up a few slots if you want to attend. The tickets are available here

 

Ask for Any Help: We are here to help you. Please feel free to call one of us.

Vikas Jain 88020 27070 Vikas@VikasJainLive.com

Bijay Gautam 83769 32679 bijayspeaks@gmail.com

Kiruba Shankar 9841597744  Kiruba@Kiruba.com

 

Look forward to meeting you at PSS2020. Pack in your sense of humour. Turn on your learning mode. Switch gears to take your speaking career to the next level.

Regards,

Kiruba Shankar

President, Professional Speakers Association of India
CEO, Business Blogging

+91-98415 97744
Kiruba@Kiruba.com
http://www.Kiruba.com
http://Facebook.com/Kiruba

 

 

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Announcing the ‘Discomfort Project’ for 2020.


The Discomfort Project is a series of challenging experiments that I aim to complete in 2020. The complete list of challenges is here at www.Kiruba.com/discomfort. Every activity listed here is important for me but for various reasons I have not been able to accomplish them all these years. In 2020, I’m pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I’m challenging myself to take up each of these tasks and take them to closure.

I have experienced the thrill of living when I accomplish something after putting in a lot of effort. The adrenalin rush I get when I finish something that I thought was impossible is phenomenal. I want to get more of these adrenalin rushes this year.

I’m also publicly announcing these challenges for two reasons. One, to make myself accountable. Second, is to encourage collaborative teamwork and partner with others who have similar goals. If you are interested in taking on a similar challenge for yourself, let’s join hands and support each other. Take a look at the full list of challenges here at www.Kiruba.com/discomfort.

I look forward to truly living life in 2020.

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50 Continuous Days of Waking Up Early

I’ve reached a mini-milestone. Today is the 50th day I have woken up early. A habit I have been wanting to inculcate for a long time.

I now keep my alarm at 3:45 AM and wake up within the first few rings. I’m done with my morning rituals and am in front of my computer for a 4 AM start.

This habit started thanks to the ‘Keynote to Book’ challenge that was started for members of the Professional Speakers Association of India. The goal was to piggyback on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to turn our keynote topic into a book.

We started meeting up virtually on Zoom. We turn on our webcams. The mics are muted. Not a single word is spoken. Everyone focuses on writing their manuscript.

Writing is usually a solitary exercise. It can be lonesome. But with the Zoom sessions, We can all see each other live. This increased our accountability. More importantly, we have friends for company and this gave a positive environment to write.

I’m loving my early morning writing sessions. With the family still asleep, I have no distractions. This helps me focus. I’m able to get a couple of hours of continuous-time that helps me clock in the words.

If you would like to join in the morning sessions, please let me know at Kiruba@Kiruba.com.

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Making a Master List of 100 Questions on Digital Selling


In preparation for the launch of my new book on Digital Selling, I’m preparing a list of 100 questions about the subject that people have. This is an initiative inspired by my friend, Amar Ramesh, who is doing a bigger list of questions professional wedding photography.

Here are the first 10 questions to start with.  I look forward to crowdsourcing the questions and look forward to your input. I will answer each of these questions and publish on the site.

What is the difference between digital marketing and digital selling?

Why is digital selling important?

I want to master digital selling. What is a good course you would recommend?

Can you give examples of small companies that have successfully implemented digital selling?

How does nurturing a community have an impact on increasing digital sales?

What are the important website parameters to consider to help improve lead generation?

Is Social Selling and Digital Selling the same thing?

What are good books you will recommend I read on digital selling?

What are important metrics to measure the success of an effective digital selling initiative?

Are there agencies that specialize in digital selling?

Please add your questions in the form below and I will be happy to answer them.

 

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Lessons from my Portrait Photography Experience and What You Can Learn From It.

Professional Portraits are always a great investment for CEOs and senior executives, even more so if one is active on the speaker circuit. Conference organizers and event planners around the world expect professional speakers to have their photos and bios handy. It’s almost hygiene requirement.

Last year, I had my professional portraits shot by the talented Amar Ramesh , founder of StudioA and I could immediately see the kind of positive impact it had in my speaking career. Perception is key and great photos do a wonderful job for you.

I have made a commitment to myself that I will invest in fresh set of portraits every year. This year, I started to grow a mustache (part of my ongoing coiffure experimentation) and I needed to have photos that reflected my new look. I have known Navanee Vishwa, founder of Studio Navans ever since he did the photo and video coverage for the Professional Speakers Summit this year. Navanee has started to focus on professional portraits and has his own signature style of minimalism. He is an active member of the Professional Speakers Association of India and his passion for speaking made me choose him to shoot my second set of portraits.

Based on my experience shooting portraits both with Amar Ramesh and Navanee Vishwa, here is my set of advice for any person who wants to get their own portraits done.

1) Make sure to get your portraits done in the morning. It’s important for you to look fresh and its best when you have had a good nights sleep. Never keep the photo shoot in the evening for you are bound to be tired after a day’s work. That tiredness will eventually show on the photos no matter how much you smile.

2) Do you homework well in advance. I would urge you to spend at least 2 hours researching on other portraits that you like. Make a selection of good portraits that you like. It is much easier for you to show the style to the photographer to explain what you need. This way you make the communication lot more clearer and this will help the photographer to do a better job. They also appreciate the kind of effort you have taken to prepare for this photo shoot.

3) Practice different poses. During the photo shoot, this comes in super handy. Professional photographers love subjects that give different poses. It helps them in getting better angles. Most people put the onus on the photographer. Don’t. You are not here to get your passport photos done. You are here because you want some creative, good looking photos. The more you help the photographer, the better will be the photos you will get.

4) I would urge you to hire a makeup artist to brush you up. Sure, it is an additional expense but its worth it. For both the photo shoots, I skimped on this and started to immediately regret. I realized that my skin was very oily and it clearly showed on the photos. I had to dab some talcum powder to reduce the oily look. A professional artist knows to to make you look really good on camera. If you don’t want to pay for one, get along your spouse or someone who can help you.

5) Get to know the photographer and the assistants. Get pally with them. Engage with them with conversations. Expect the photo shoot to last upwards of an hour or even two and you need to keep the spirit up. A happy photographer will mean that you will get great photos. Photographers love communicative subjects.

Hope these tips have been helpful. Every professional needs good portraits. My daughter, Krithya, got her portraits done immediately after she joined AIESEC. Consider it as an investment for your professional success. Good luck with your portraits.

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Heading to Manila

Heading to Manila, capital of the Philippines, early next month. Going there to speak at the Philippines Social Media Week. This is my second visit to the city in two years and this time, I am determined to try out new things, new places and new food. Have you been to Manila before? What unique experiences would you recommend I try?

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A Leadership Lesson from Japanese Whisky

I’m not a whisky drinker. My favourites are vodka and beer. Yet, I recently spent a lot of time researching Japanese Whisky. I was hired to host the President’s Ball at Entrepreneurs Organization (EO). It was an upmarket event for the millionaire entrepreneurs and clearly, they did spare expenses. They had the most exquisite dinner. They even imported the whisky that won the International Spirits Challenge to win the title ‘The Best Whisky in the World’. 300 Whisky brands from around the World competed and guess who won? The Japanese !!

Every time I think of the World’s best whiskies, it is always the Scotch whiskies that come to my mind. After all, Scotland is the birthplace of whiskies.  However, I was quite surprised and intrigued to learn that the title pride belongs to Suntory Distilleries of Japan. It is not just by fluke. They have won the ‘Best Whisky in the World’ award four years continuously. Surely, they must be doing something right.

Interestingly, Whisky had not even reached the shores of Japan until 1923. Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory, had tasted the scotch and wanted to be the first to introduce it to Japan. It was a failure at first as whisky is an acquired taste.  Torii envisioned a Japanese approach by choosing a terrain and climate completely different from those of Scotland. Torii chose the region of Yamazaki, on the outskirts of Kyoto as the birthplace of Japanese whisky. The rest is history. Suntory is now the 3rd largest alcohol company in the World

There’s a key lesson here. We don’t have to be a pioneer. But if we have the penchant to customize to our target audience and continuously keep improving, we will succeed. An important lesson I learned from the evening dinner.

 

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A Customized Birthday Gift for my Daughter

Earlier this year, my daughter attended the Professional Speakers Summit. A few other speakers got their kids along as well and my daughter became friends with one bright girl who had authored a book. She had her business cards and was exchanging with other adults she met. My daughter didn’t have one and I could sense a tinge of regret in her eyes. I made a mental note of this. So, when her birthday came recently, we surprised her with her very own bunch of business cards. We backed it up by launching her own website as well www.Kalpitha.com . You should have seen her face brighten up.

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