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

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Kiruba Shankar

Theni Fire Accident

The Theni Fire Tragedy is heart-wrenchingly sad. I don’t watch TV but I did watch a video on YouTube of people who have been charred from the fire and writhing in pain. 20 seconds into the video, I could no longer watch it.  That girl squirming in pain could very well have been my daughter. In fact, my plan was to ask my daughter to join a long trek after her public exams are done.  I can only imagine the pain and agony the parents must be going through with the loss of their dear ones.

This is an accident. No one would have anticipated a disaster of this magnitude. Even with all the precautions, its not easy to escape a raging inferno. That’s why I don’t think its right to criminalize an organization like the Chennai Trekking Club. I’ve known members who have been part of the organization for the past ten years and they are among the nicest folks I’ve met. They are so full of life and energy. They are law abiding and very eco-sensitive. I really wish the Chief Minister or the Media can take into consideration the amazing work done by this passionate community over the last decade.

It’s also very easy to victimize the leader. Peter Van Geit has earned the respect of tens of thousands of people for selflessly helping others and to help build an amazing community of volunteers. It would be very wrong to punish him for an accident which is beyond his control. If that’s the case, then the Minister of Forests and Minister for Environment should also be held accountable for failure to prevent the forest fires in the first place.

Here’s hoping that positive measures comes out of this tragedy. Better forest fire measures. Better safety precautions on adventure treks. I really hope the spirit of Chennai Trekking Club continues to live on and I would whole-heartedly sign up for the next activity as a sign of solidarity.


Goodbye Aircel, My Old Friend.

I feel bad for Aircel. Today, I initiated efforts to cut ties with it after being a customer for over 18 years.

I’ve been a loyal customer and stuck with them through thick and thin. There have been sporadic outages but overall their service was decent. Not great but decent.

As a professional speaker, Aircel has been my client and I have had opportunities to speak at their HQ and got to meet their top brass. They are nice people and I can only imagine what a tough time they would be going through right now.

I would have stuck on had the connectivity not been this bad. It started to affect my business and that cannot be tolerated.

However, getting out of Aircel is proving to be a lot tougher than I thought. To port successfully, I need to pay this month’s bill but the payment link is not working. I heard from other Aircel customers that they are not approving the porting from their side. Here’s hoping a smooth transition.

 


Two Mamas-to-be at Vaksana Farms

Two of our cows at Vaksana Farms are pregnant. Unlike humans, where a pregnant mom is easily identifiable, cows don’t show a bulge. So, it’s a tad difficult to measure the delivery date. We are guessing at least one of the cows will deliver by this month end. There is a lot of excitement at home in anticipation of the new babies joining the family.


Lessons from the Aviation Panel at CNN Asia Business Forum

 

The 2nd edition of CNN Asia Business Forum took place in Bengaluru recently. The event had two clear focus areas. The first was centered on the burgeoning Aviation industry and the second focused on Digital & Technology.

I was particularly looking forward to the panel because I had an opportunity to study in-depth the three panelists that were part of the panel. 1) Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director of SpiceJet, 2) Phee Teik Yeoh, CEO of Vistara Airlines and 3) Kanika Tekriwal, CEO of JetSetGo.

Earlier in the day, I had recorded interesting conversations with Ajay Singh of SpiceJet and Phee Teik Yeoh of Vistara Airlines as part of the ‘Movers & Shakers’ Podcast that I host on The Hindu Businessline. This helped me get an inside view of their businesses and their career growth. To me, listening to the panel discussion looked like a seamless extension of our conversation.

Here are the key takeaways I gained from the panel discussion.

Richard Quest, the ebullient business anchor at CNN, kickstarted the panel by saying the Airlines industry is a good way to become a millionaire. How so? Well, if you are a billionaire and you start an airline, you’ll soon lose enough money to become a millionaire. And am sure everybody in the audience was thinking of Vijay Mallya.

What I loved was how Ajay Singh countered that. SpieceJet is an example of success. True, SpiceJet was losing Rs.3 crores a day (yes, a day) under SunTV’s Kalanidhi Maran. But after Ajay Singh bought back the company he founded, he was able to turn it around in less than 3 years to a stage where the airline is now making Rs.1 crore profit every day. That is a fantastic turnaround.

Phee Teik Yeoh, the CEO of Vistara, the airlines founded by the collaboration of Tata Group and Singapore Airlines mentioned how external factors destabilize the growth of an airline. He took the example of airline fuel. India has one of the most expensive airline fuels and this year alone, the cost has increased by over 50%. This can eat into the profits of the airline and wipe away the thin margins.

Phee Teik agreed that the market for high-end business travel was not as high as they had expected. Vistara launched a few years ago and they positioned themselves as the choice for corporate executives. They had allocated a significant number of seats for business class and premium economy. Due to poor demand, they now had to cut back on the premium seats and increased the number of economy seats. This proves the fact that India is a price sensitive market.

Ajay Singh added a very valid point. The discerning Indian flyers want the following: 1) Fly from their city or town directly. 2) Pay as little as possible. 3) Fly on Time. If these three factors can be met, then they are happy. Anything else, like gourmet food, leg space, good looking staff is not as important as one would think.

Kanika Tekriwal, who built an amazing business on leasing the private airlines, was bullish on the future. It is interesting how she runs her business. She found that many rich individuals who had private airplanes were finding it very expensive to maintain them and they were losing money. That’s when she approached them offered a solution that will not only take care of the planes but also earn them a profit from their planes. She has her own set of pilots, mechanics, and crew who take care of the planes. The people who hire the private planes can do so without the need to invest high capital for the planes but yet enjoy the luxuries of private travel. With the number of millionaires mushrooming in India, and with not much competition, she sounded very positive on future prospects.

Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable session. What I loved was the display of entrepreneurship and street smart approach that the panelists displayed while narrating their story.