Search This Blog

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Anything for you Ma’am

Or for that matter of fact, even Sir!

          How many times have you received promotional mails and SMSs irrelevant to you? Not because of anything else, but because of the simple fact that they don’t cater to your needs. An SMS saying “download Tamil/Bengali/Kannada (a language you can’t make head or tail out of) songs for Rs.10 a month” or an email from a reputed bank saying “We can approve a loan of up to $2 million for you” are deleted as soon as they enter our inbox. And funnier are the messages like “30% off on all kids-wear, for the next 2 days”, when the only kids you know are the neighborhood ones who will wail throughout the next 2 days.

          No, I am not talking about spam mails. I am talking about genuine promotional offers by companies, on which they spend millions of rupees. But they fail to reach the target audience and simultaneously end up irritating you. So here I come, equipped with my tools of Business Intelligence and Analytics to help you out. Actually I help the companies (all kinds, all domains, all industries) to serve you better, improve their profitability, but the end result should, and does benefit “You”. So I will act (correctly so) as if I m doing all that for you directly.

          I see that you make a lot of STD calls. And that too, after 10 p.m.! And mostly to Kanyakumari!! And the calls are made to a particular number 98976XXXXX. Wow!! Same network as mine. And you spend ‘almost’ Rs.874 per month on this. I think I can convince you to spend more than Rs.1000 on this, giving you some incentives. So based on various profitability metrics I devise a special offer for you. And next day you receive an sms “Dear customer, thanks for using our connection. As our esteemed customer you will be glad to know that between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. all STD calls made to our network in Tamil Nadu will cost you 12.5% less”. And you feel “it is so cool!” And within 1-2 months because of the 12.5% specific discount offered to you, you start spending more and cross the Rs. 1000 barrier”.

          Now I am not trying to make a dent in your pocket. I just want you to have a good, easy and satisfying experience in all facets of your life. You don’t believe me?
          Well I realize that for last 2 months every alternate weekend you are going to this newly opened Internationally acclaimed Chinese restaurant, and somehow I see that you like Table number 6, under dim-lights but last 2 times you have given a feedback that the soup is a little bland and you like jasmine tea served steaming hot. I can ensure that this time when you call and make a reservation, Table number 6 is booked for you(Without even your specifying it) and the chef is told that the soup should be slightly spicy, and the tea: steaming hot; unless otherwise mentioned. And lo and behold!! Your dining experience is a pleasure, and you give a handsome tip to the waiter (who by the way told me everything about your last few visits, your likings and dislikes!! He deserves the tip, right!!)

           Remember the last 3 times you have visited the bookshop. I got to know that you bought 4 murder mysteries and 2 books on Data Mining. I must compliment you on your good choice. I think you must be interested in this new crime fiction and the 1994 classic on Data mining concepts. So I ensured that someone recommends them to you. (Yes, this is what happens on Amazon or eBay, at a conceptual level)

           Similarly, I see who are your friends on Facebook, what all colleges and schools you have gone to, what all groups you are a part of, what all you like and “unlike”. And then I customize your fFcebook page and advertisements to suit your taste and you benefit most out of it (and so do my direct customers). I recommend that you should join group X, befriend Y and like Z.

           Ok, you must be convinced by now that I do a lot of things for you. Based on the information you have (directly or indirectly) given to me. You want to know some more serious and intriguing things I can do for you.

          Based on your past medical records, I see that you have 3 small problems. In fact,they are so small that they can be ignored individually. But then I see in my database that within the city there are 56 people who had these 3 problems together, and 39 out of them were diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases after they turned 45. Damn!! I can’t ignore this and I advise you to take care from today itself. I ask the insurance guys to take care of this fact, and I tell your physician to be extremely careful about you and do regular check-ups. And I give you promotional offers to join the cardio training at the nearest gym. Slowly your health improves. See?I care for you and ensure that you stay healthy and enjoy your life.

           Then obviously I have been looking at your bank records. You have been a regular and nice customer. Though you have been given a credit limit of Rs 1 million, you have never spent more than Rs. 0.18 million on credit card in a month and have duly paid it back in time. Now one day, I suddenly get an alert that you are trying to use your card for a payment of Rs .85 million on a diamond necklace in Cape-Town. Nothing wrong about it, you are completely eligible to do it. But you have not shown a trend to do so. So I just check. And I see that based on your past transactions, you have gone to Cape-Town for a family holiday. But you have checked out of hotel and have boarded the flight back to India just 6 hours back!!! Hold on. The transaction shouldn’t happen. I send a notice to the jeweler and he calls the authorities. And your card which was stolen from the hotel (how can you be so careless?) is recovered and restored with you, after some formalities. Imagine, if you would have to pay those Rs .85 million!

           But you don’t have to worry. As long as I am here. I can do anything for you. Just let me have access to information about you.

           And maybe a day will come soon, when I will say “Everything for you, Ma’am”.
Or for that matter of fact, even Sir!

Aditya Vikram Tripathy

P.S. No matter how narcissistic I am, I will not take the claim for ALL these marvelous things. In fact my contribution has just started in this field. I would like to thank all those Business Intelligence and Analytics Gurus, who have made all these claims come true. I am proud to be a part of this super-intellectuals’ community.

Knowledge is knowing facts, Wisdom is knowing what to do with the facts you know.


  1. Smart Aleck! Very wise ideas!!! But being an outsider, my question is what do you intend to do with these brilliant ideas of yours? Can it be used practically? On a large scale level?

  2. They are alreay in use. Most of them. :) :) There are logistic issues in upscaling though!!
    And I am trying to inter-relate disparate systems, so that more valuable insights can be gained! (Like the credit card example)

  3. Stalker anyone?

    There is a limit to the amount of information that people want known about you. I sure used to be amazed when I used to find Google advertising to me about things that I was actually really interested in. And then I started noticing a trend that Google was always talking about what I was talking about at the moment. That's when it hit me, Google is stalking me! And you. And not just google. This era is not called the era of Information Technology for nothing. While information has become currency for business with ideas like these, it is fast becoming much more easier for corporations to be in my nose all the time.

    When I started reading your post, I was expecting something else, it turned out to be much less. The real brainwave or genius, if you will, would be to design mechanisms which make people "self-select" themselves or volunteer information.

    It is because of these reasons only that you see those "irrelevant" messages. Information is cheap these days because no-one factors in the social cost of destroying anonymity and harassment due to these promotional offers. If a firms' design team can buy millions of email-ids at a cheap price, elementary probability tells them that marketing to all of them is cheaper than targeting your client and incentivizing him to self-select. That is why they choose mediocrity.

    I think being pestered by information hounds is a real issue that we the nubiles in IT world need to think more carefully about.

  4. Errata: "..that people want known about themselves."

  5. Yes, being at someone's service and stalking/invading the privacy are divided by a thin line..The boundary should not be crossed! I agree with Aki on that!

    P.S- Aki u freak u never comment on my posts! :P

  6. Akhil and Aldeena!!
    Thanks for your opinion!! Criticism well taken. But based on your complaints, I guess I couldnt make my point clear. Let me try again.

    Yes, information is there in abundance. And anonymity is being destroyed. And regarding people "self select" or volunteer information, that is being done, though unknowingly.
    when you select "I agree to the terms and conditions" before joining gmail or facebook or XYZ , you give them the permission to snoop into your personal information.

    When you buy books on amazon or ebay, u tell them the kind of books you like. When you 'like' "Megan Fox" on Facebook, you are making the public aware of your likings.Then someone decides to use this information and recommends that you should also like 'Gemma Arterton'.

    What I (as a professional trying to use Business Information as Business Intelligence through Analytics) am trying to do is exactly what you have mentioned. Instead of companies sending promotional offers to each and everyone in the list they have bought, do some research , profiling and then send it across. It will have more impact and better success ratio.

    And Akhil, just like everything else even advertisements have a threshold level. Companies do not want to cross them. Taking the example from my post. Imagine a 45 year old rich guy receiving the offer of "$2 million loan from a reputed bank" , He gets excited and tells his family that he is interested, then suddenly his 14 year old son walks in and says "dad, I also have got this email, now we can take $4 million!!". The bank just lost a customer, its brand-value and credibilty. I am trying to stop this from happening.

    I hope I am now able to make my point more clear. We nubiles are trying that this era of "Information" transforms into something which allows companies to not "be in your nose all the time", but hold your hand and guide you, especially when you are going wrong, or you are clueless because of this abundant information.

    Thanks for pointing these out and allowing me to make my point clear(hopefully). I agree with the issues you have mentioned but I am attempting what aldeena has mentioned "being at someone's service".
    Sorry!! For the "ma'am's service".