Thursday, 11 December 2014

Our spirituality should lie in making children well-fed instead of justifying their hunger as past-life mistake

Malnutrition, a result of a very poor diet and starvation is one of the main reasons most of the children belonging to poor households face stunted growth, health, development and survival.

Then, what are we as a nation taking so much pride for when mentioning about the story of shining India? Hunger and starvation of millions of children in the country is not something which aptly fits under this, does it!!?

While the nation continues to advance forward, making improvements in the condition of roads, rails, job opportunities and other facilities; who takes responsibility for the condition of the neglected children belonging to the invisible section of the society?

A country which is divided into rural and urban areas, many of the children belonging to small towns and villages live in areas which do not even have good quality schools and lack infrastructure. Moreover child hunger is intertwined with many socio-economic issues such as poverty, illiteracy, lack of proper sanitation, lack of education, religious intolerance and violence.

In addition, when measures are passed to improve the situation of children, there is an even larger vice at hand; corruption. Bribes, exchange controls, embezzlement's, corruption at every step all lead to improper allocation of distribution of food that was promised to them as well as other measures such as education, sanitation and medical help. 

Although, many believe that the power lies in the hands of the Government, it is also a shame that we don’t do anything about this issue. The government is a reflection of the people and it is the attitude of the people that the government reflects. Thus, we the people have to understand the depth of this problem of hungry, starving children. 

Our spirituality should lie in making children well-fed instead of justifying their hunger as past-life mistake.

What am I doing to help make a difference to a child suffering from starvation? I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda to help make a difference.

“Imagine there’s no Hunger… It’s Easy if you try”

Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try.” Sounds familiar? Known by many (if not all), these lines are from the popular song, Imagine by singer, John Lennon who dreamt of a world which had no violence and lived in peace. Have you ever imagined what life would be like if there were no social evils that existed in the society? There would be no poverty, child labour or illiteracy. Wouldn’t it be a far better world to live in? While many may believe that it is a distant dream that will never come true; the truth is that the responsibility lies in our hands. We all have a duty towards the society that we live in. What if it was you who was born in an impoverished family? India is home to the largest number of poor people, where the country has one of the highest populations of children living in poverty. In addition to this, these children are known to suffer from malnourishment where the country also has one of the highest populations of malnourished children. Facts we all are very much aware of which exist in the country, besides the various other socio-economic problems prevalent in the society. So, think about it… what would be different if there was no child labour, malnourishment, hunger or any form of starvation amongst underprivileged children? Poverty is a deep-rooted social evil that exists in almost every country, at varying degrees; more so in developing countries. Have you ever wondered what it would be like in India if there were no children who ever suffered from starvation? Stretch your imagination a bit further and imagine if an entire generation was educated. India would surely be racing towards a glorious future! However, hunger, starvation and malnourishment; which are faced by these children are all off-shoots from much larger and complicated issues. Moreover, there is a difference between chronic malnutrition, starvation and hunger. Divided into rural and urban areas, these problems throttle the country at varying multitudes. Laws and acts have already been passed ensuring that underprivileged children should be provided with basic amenities such as food. However, what happens when the system itself is flawed? Despite all efforts, the Indian Government has botched surveys, leading to no ration cards being distributed to families; which were actually entitled to them. Shockingly, food grains that have been stored in warehouses (to feed these children) have actually rotted because of lack of inefficient planning! Sad, yet true! I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda to help make a difference.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Let's Join Hands to Help Eliminate Classroom Hunger in India

November 14th, a day which is known across India as Children’s Day is also the birthday of India’s first Prime Minister- Jawaharlal Nehru. Chacha Nehru (Uncle Nehru) as he was fondly remembered had emphasized the importance of giving love and affection to children as he firmly believed that the youth was the future of the nation. The progress of children was deemed as essential for the growth of the nation; for which he had established many educational institutions and passed a five year plan which ensured free primary education and free meals (inclusive of milk)so as to prevent malnutrition in the country. This same belief that he held, stands true even in today’s times; as India stands out to be one the emerging economies of the world.

Also known as Bal Divas, this day is celebrated to remind people across the nation, especially parents; of the importance of children’s education and their rights. This is especially important in the context of children belonging to the under-privileged section of the society; as they are the ones who suffer the most.  

While this date symbolizes a day for children to engage in fun activities, thousands of children across the country are left with no choice but to support their parents and help them to earn a livelihood. This denial of education not only leads to the children growing up to be illiterate but their unfortunate circumstance robs them of a mirthful childhood.

In a country having a population of over one billion people, approximately 500 million people are living in poverty. So, what does this mean?

Not only does this mean no access to healthcare, but also absence of educational facilities.
Children from these families are often bonded in labour and forced to help their parents earn money; while many are abandoned and run away from their homes.  In fact, India is known to have the highest number of child labourer's in the world!

Food is known to be the fuel; that we all need to survive and stay healthy.
Can you imagine waking up and not having your breakfast; and subsequently not having lunch or even dinner!! You wouldn't have any energy and you would feel miserable.  Moreover, these children are forced to engage in many harmful labour acts.    

As a result of this undernourishment and starvation, these children face many other issues such as delays in development, cognitive implications such as IQ deficiency, illnesses, diseases, weight-loss, memory impairments, learning disabilities and impaired school performance. In addition to this, their undernourishment leads to short and long-term complications because of several micro and macro nutrient deficiencies. For what; all for being born into an impoverished situation!

NGOs, government organisations, private bodies and many groups utilize various occasions to conduct a number of competitions and events for these children to know about their rights as well as to spread the message. However, NGOs alone cannot eliminate this social vice.
Do you remember hearing about the Bihar school meal poisoning incident that took place in July, 2013? With 23 children dead, dozens were left ill at a primary school in a village in Bihar; and this was after eating a Mid-Day Meal that was contaminated with pesticides.So, what is the point of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) or any of the other acts and laws passed?

In addition, there have been numerous laws that have been passed to secure the nutritional status of these children in the country. India’s Right to Food Act, India’s famous Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) that feeds more than 120 million children every day have not been able to secure food to them. While these are just a few acts and laws to mention, many others have also been passed.  So, despite many acts being passed, children continue to die from starvation or suffer from undernourishment!

Corruption, Negligence, Apathy and Lack of Proactive engagement are some of the reasons that children are denied not only nutritional requirements as well other basic needs.
Ironically, India is known to be the world’s largest producers of rice, fruits, wheat and vegetables. How strange does this sound, when four children are estimated to die every minute because of hunger!!  
So how can we eliminate classroom hunger? While many may shrug off the possibility of being able to make a difference, leaving the onus to NGOs and other bodies to work on this problem the truth is that this issue requires unanimous efforts.
There is no over-night solution which can change the lives of these children in the country. However, you and I can make a difference. What each and every one of us does for these children will help lead to the eradication of this problem.  I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda.

How are you going to help?

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Content Curation: A Way to Function in a World Overloaded with Information

Day by day, online platforms are embracing social media in every possible way that they can, be it Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or any other social networking site. This is extremely important for every business in today’s digitised time. The need for relevant and good content has been, and will continue to remain, the most integral aspect for any business to prosper. So what is the basic difference between ‘content’ and ‘content curation’? Which are the different tools that can be used for curating content across the web? 

While content simply refers to information or ‘data’ which holds some relevance to a certain topic, content can be expressed through any medium, be it the internet, audio CD’s, television, stage performances, magazines, etc. In short, colloquially, one can refer to ‘content’ as the subject matter of the medium.
On the other hand, content curation refers to the process of collection, organisation and presentation of data/information, which is relevant to a particular topic/area of interest. This content is often accompanied with images or video links to make the piece of content as interactive and engaging as possible.
This is especially beneficial for SEO, as content curation helps to increase website visibility. It also epitomises social sharing, whereby more content can reach out to a larger number of readers. Content curation is known not only for amassing and aggregating content, but also for enabling marketers as well as digital professionals in the field to re-channel relevant content. It also allows them to spark engagement as well as awareness about different products and/or services with customers.
So, in short, content curation refers to the process of not only analysing and sorting through Web content (data), but also presenting it in a systematic and organised manner that is based around a certain theme.  
There are many different online curation tools that can be used to curate the content and connect with the target audience. Some of these include Storify, Feedly, iFlow, Curata, Bundlr,, StumbleUpon, Digg, Delicious, and Google Reader.

Some of the golden rules of Content Curation include:
1)      Use Unique Content:  one thing that Google does not like is plagiarising. It is very important to include original content in the curation, original analysis and insights that augment the content that you are aggregating. The more unique the content, the higher the ranking for the curation will be in different search engines. The content will also be safer with regard to future algorithm changes.  
2)      Link to Only High-Quality Sites: while curating content it is very important to include links, and include only those links which are of high quality. These links are of extreme importance to your curation and need to be reliable. Including links in your curation that lack trustworthiness may be harmful for the content in the search rankings.
3)      Add Value for the Reader: for a reader the content has to be of some value and interest. It is important to know who your target audience is before writing and developing a connection through your content. This will help in establishing an interest with your reader. A reader needs to like your content, in order to share it!
4)      Build Relationships with Your Curation Sources: in case your piece of content includes part of an author’s or publisher’s article, it is very important to first reach out to them and ask for their permission to include their piece in your curation. If they agree, ensure that you notify them when you share the curation.  They will not only help to share the content, but also help in boosting online traffic and reach.      
5)      Focus on every type of content: after you have written your piece, ensure that you include as many touch-points as possible. Include images, infographics, whitepapers, visual representations, videos, etc.

‘Fast Food America’ turns into ‘Fast Food India’: Indians catch the fast-food craze

With a burgeoning middle class, a drastic shift in lifestyle trends and the mushrooming of entertainment complexes; fast food has become an integral part of Indian lifestyles. From teenagers to young adults, the desire and preference for fast food (quick meals, on the move) is extremely high.
Isn't it easy to order-in-a-quick meal while at office or at home; or even pick something up on your way home? Speed and convenience are the two main reasons why the growing Indian urban population turns to these quick meals as solutions to satiate their hunger in-between their busy and hectic schedules. 
Global fast food chains are flooding into the country, changing the entire landscape of eateries in the country. From Pizza Hut, Dominoes Pizza, Subway, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Taco Bell; Quizno's and Nando's; the Quick-Service-Restaurants (QSR) market in India is constantly expanding to the changing times.    
McDonald’s, America’s earliest fast food chains was quick to gain popularity in India when it was first introduced in 1996. Since then, McDonald's in India has revamped its menu to cater to the Indian population by adapting to the local tastes and needs. The menu is 75% different from the standard one across the world; McDonald’s has become a popular fast food option for many children, young adults and teenagers.
 While the expansion of existing fast food chains in the country is continuing to meet the growing demand, other food joints such as Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Crème and most recently Burger King have also found their place in the country.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

7 Direct Marketing Ideas Small Business Marketers can steal from Fortune 500 Companies

Are you one of those small-scale business entrepreneurs who dream of getting large-scale success that international brands such as Apple, Samsung, Google, etc. have achieved? If you are then the successful methods that are used, at least at reaching out to the customers are more or less similar.
Depending on which type of product/good or service that you are selling you can choose your method accordingly. Although there are many types of reaching out to your target audience, direct marketing remains one of the most hard-hitting and effective manners where by companies can directly communicate with their customers. They can measure the feedback of their customers without an intermediary involved. This method, thus involves a direct call to action that has to be taken. It is an effective method that can be used by companies of all sizes; from start-ups to even some of the biggest leaders on the Fortune 500.                                                                                                                    
Leading companies such as Sony, Microsoft, BMW, Toyota, Disney, Wal-mart, Honda, Pepsi, H&M, etc. are all known for having used some form of direct marketing. Whether it is has been through brochures, online display ads, interactive consumer websites, cell phone text messaging (SMS), emails or any other method of directly communicating with the consumers, this method of marketing is known to carry with it a strong sense of reliability and trustworthiness behind the brand.
So, if you are on the scout for some sure-shot effective marketing strategies that will help your business you can definitely refer to what has been successful in the past. Fortune 500 Companies are well known for their high amounts of revenue that they have generated.
Some of the top 7 direct marketing ideas that can be used by small businesses (which have been also used by some of the Fortune 500 Companies) include:
1)      Direct E-mails: By sending a direct e-mail to the personal email account of the customer where either a questionnaire or certain direct questions or posed forward; it is easy for a company to measure the feedback of their product or service.  Although a guaranteed response is not ensured, many customers can directly give their feedback to the company. A method which is used by all types of businesses, in an attempt to get and retain customers Google is well-known for using this method. Other well-known companies include National Geographic Channel, etc. You won’t be surprised if your small business will increase in its outreach by using this method!
It is a great way for small businesses to establish a relationship with their customer. Although, there is always the downside of emails being deleted immediately this method is sure to help your business grow!
2)      Social Media Sites (such as Twitter and Facebook):  An easy way for both customers and a company to communicate (instantly) is through various social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. where direct messages can be sent and received. A method, which is tremendously becoming one of the most popular methods of reaching out to customers, social media sites are great places where your company can engage with customers on an ongoing and instantaneous basis. For example, well known companies such as DSP BlackRock Mutual Funds, CRY India, Thomas Cook India, B2B companies, restaurants, etc. all engage in this method.  Through this method, polls can be taken, contests held and various other creative methods of engaging with the target audience.  
3)      Internet Ads: Although ads which can be found on the internet (via various search engines) can give out the message to the customer, there is little room for direct feedback. These advertisements can be in different forms – display or textural ads and are placed in search engines.  
4)      Mobile Marketing: Have you ever looked down at your cell and seen an SMS that has been sent to you requesting some feedback? Many of the leading companies in the retail, dining, NGO sector, etc. have all used this method to get feedback from customers. Your small business can reach out to hundreds and thousands of people when employed well. Brands such as Macy’s Victoria’s Secret, Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, etc. are aggressively and continuing to make use of this method. This method involves receiving direct feedback from customers through text messages (SMS-short-messaging service) and MMS (multi-media message service- i.e. those messages which are marketing communications which are sent in the form of media messages.)
5)      Telemarketing (where the marketers directly call the customers by phone): Receiving a phone call from a company is not a surprising method of obtaining feedback in today’s times. Known to be a very powerful tool to obtain feedback, many companies engage in this method. Although this method is known to help increase the number of leads, it may not always be effective (as customers may choose whether to receive telemarketing calls on their landlines). For instance, haven’t you been on the receiving end where you have got a call from companies such as Birla Sun Life Insurance, Flipkart nor even Amazon where a person asks for your feedback? Similarly, although it may seem strenuous and futile, the long-term impact created in the mind of the customer of your brand if you were to use this method is enormous!
6)       Direct response magazines and newspapers: Two of the most popular forms of media that people refer to are also great ways by which companies can also receive feedback regarding their products or services. Known to contain plenty of ads, both magazines and newspaper ads can be used to elicit a direct call-to-action. Some of the different methods would include a QR code that can be scanned by a mobile device, a toll-free number to call on, a coupon that is redeemable at a store or any other method.
7)       Insert Media (such as a wide array of media that are inserted in to other communications (such as in newspapers/catalogues/package: Businesses can also reach out to their customers through insert media, which is a form of marketing that directly reaches out to customers.                                                  
So, take your company to another level of fame and make use of these methods of direct marketing to engage your customers!