6 tips on how to crack a telephonic job interview


Today’s age is defined by fast paced lifestyles and hiring too is no exception. “Time is at a premium, with harried corporate executives constantly looking to squeeze in more productivity into fewer hours. Hiring has also caught up with the whirlwind culture of the modern corporate set-up. Potential candidates are screened via telephonic interviews and only the ones making the cut are invited over for a face-to-face dialogue, thus saving companies a lot of valuable time and effort,” says RaviKant Banka, founder & CMD of Eggfirst Advertising.

The first step towards getting a job depends upon your skill in taking the perfect telephonic interview. Banka shares some practical tips to crack the telephonic interview:

1. Fixing a convenient time: Fix up an appropriate time and day for the interview, one that is convenient for both parties. Find a quiet room to answer your interview. Get kids, pets, family or workmates, whatever is the case, out of the way. Shut the door and firmly convey to everybody that the room is out of bounds for them while you’re giving your interview.

2. Check the technicalities: Make sure that your cell phone is fully charged before you start the interview. In a telephonic interview, nothing conveys sloppiness as a cell phone that goes dead in the interviewer’s face. Also, ensure that cellular connectivity is good and there is no chance of call drops or your voice breaking while you’re talking to the interviewer. If connectivity is an issue, it is better to give the interview over a landline.

3. Creating the atmosphere: Dress up for the interview even if it is telephonic. If you’re lounging around in your pyjamas while answering crucial questions over the telephone, the casualness of the whole set-up is bound to creep into your approach and interview etiquette, making you sound indifferent, unprofessional or disinterested. Your voice is the sole judging tool your interviewer has and sounding disinterested is a sure shot way of losing the opportunity. This does not mean that you need to dress in your best business suit either. Smart work clothes will do just as well. They’ll remind you that you need to sound alert, attentive and ultra-professional over the telephone. Remember, in a telephonic interview, it is only your voice, timbre and tone of speaking that will convey what kind of a person you really are.

4. Keep the CV handy: Keep your CV ready before you begin with the interview. An interviewer may ask you a specific question related to your resume. Having the CV handy will make it easy to refer when required. However, ensure that you do not make rustling noises while you refer to the CV. Also, keep a pen and note-pad handy, in case you need to jot down a few points. You don’t want to be rushing around, searching for writing material while giving your interview! Additionally, keep water handy by your side. A long interview, coupled with slight nervousness, will have you reaching out for a few sips of water now and then.

5. Right pitch and tone: Speak slowly and crisply, enunciating each word clearly. Your main focus should be in getting across your points lucidly and intelligently. This is even more imperative if you’re giving the interview to a person from foreign shores, since pronunciations differ vastly in different countries. Also, remember to smile while answering questions. This injects a note of warmth in your tone, making your interviewer respond in a like manner.

6. Ending it: Lastly, end the interview with a warm thank you and enquire about the way forward or the next move in the interview procedure. This conveys your interest in the job. However, take care not to sound desperate, even if you are!

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Emotional Advertising – The Holy Grail of Viral Success.

Emotions are sneaky things; they creep up on you, when you least expect them to, slipping in under your radar and catching you unawares. And guess what? There’s nothing you can do about it. Absolutely nothing. Zilch. Nada.

Our brains are genetically hardwired to analyse and react to every stimulus on a deeply emotional level, a throwback to Neanderthal times when fight or flight, hunting-gathering, mating- every decision was made by the pre-frontal cortex- the seat of emotions in our brain.

Most people believe that the choices they make result from a rational analysis of available alternatives. In reality, however, emotions greatly influence and, in many cases, even determine our decisions. Emotions have always had the upper hand in every interaction we have with the world in general, and always will. We can cry ourselves hoarse about logic and analytics and rationale, but hey, the fact remains that humans are highly emotional creatures and emotions are our cul-de-sac.

The power of these emotions and feelings makes them fantastic vehicles for deeply moving advertising. For, these emotions lunge at the cockles of our hearts, catching hold of them and refusing to let go. Social media is chock-a-block with superb examples of effective emotional marketing that hit pay dirt.
Let’s consider few outstanding ones;

The ‘Dove- Real Beauty Sketches’ campaign struck a chord with consumers, generating close to 3.8 million shares in its first month online and adding 15,000 new subscribers to Dove’s YouTube channel over the following two months. The campaign tapped into women’s feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, generic worldwide.


It was centred around a core emotional insight that resonates with women globally. The compelling storytelling led to highly emotional moments of awareness in women everywhere. The uplifting, feel-good ad became the most shared video of all time on social media.


The 2012 ‘GoPro- ‘Fireman Saves Kitten’ is another heart-warming video that created massive buzz on social media. The emotionally charged video notched up 5 million views in a week on YouTube, even while it caught the attention of Chinese electronics giant Foxconn, which acquired an 8.88% stake in GoPro in late 2012 for $200 million. GoPro filed for an IPO in 2013.

David Abbott’s Father’s Day print ad for Chivas Regal is a perfect example of an ad that conveyed emotions so real and universal that almost everyone connected instantly with most of the things mentioned. Written from a personal perspective, and conveying a direct message from the writer to his father, it was an ad that moved consumers to the core.


The ‘Cello- Main Aur Maa’ campaign also succeeded on the premise of real emotions, skilfully conveyed. Racking up over 5 million views in four weeks, the video has warmed the cockles of many hearts.

celloThe true-to-life incidents, the human story, the heart-warming relationship resonated deeply with both men and women, forcing them to recollect instances from their own lives and thinking about their own mothers. Not only that, it even got people to think about what they could do to make up for lost time in their most valuable relationships. That’s some advertising!

Viral ads driven by strong emotions not only garner highly-coveted social engagement for brands, but also translate into an exponential increase in sales and business. Johnnie Walker’s ‘Keep Walking Lebanon- Keep The Flame Alive’ campaign garnered it a 20% increase in market share. Under Armour’s viral campaign ‘I Will What I Want’ led to Under Armour Women’s sales lifting by an incredible 28%.

Johnnie Walker


WestJet’s ‘Real-Time Giving’ campaign was a delightfully heart-warming campaign, one which catapulted the company’s sales to a massive 86% increase over the same period the previous year. Not all emotional marketing actually cuts ice with viewers. There is a catch to what makes an emotional campaign work, and what doesn’t.

Now here’s my theory on which emotional campaigns or viral videos work and which don’t:
The key to success, I believe, is its ‘authenticity’. The authenticity of the base feeling drives in most parts the success of the campaign. (I will share what constitutes the rest a little later in the article). Now what is authenticity: It’s being real, being genuine. Today, discerning viewers can detect a fake from a mile away. Emotions that are not real do not connect and are rejected outright. For emotional ads to make a mark, they must be real, they must hit a nerve and they must strike a deeply emotional chord in the viewers to actually grab their attention and leave a lasting, memorable impact.

Let me give an example of a viral video which received serious flak on the internet: the ‘Jai Hind’ video made for an online Hotels reservation brand. The high production value video including celebrity stars (Raveena Tandon and Manoj Bajpai) not withstanding, the video had misplaced emotions and in appropriate execution. The movie tried too hard and directly so.

Jai Hind

Dabur Vatika

However, the world has moved on from showing loud overdramatization and melodrama to subtle indications. I believe away from movie Kranti to say, Lagaan. There seemed to be a deliberate infusion of extra feelings and sentiments; trying hard to force people to get the message. On the other hand, watch the subtlety in Dabur Vatika video or the movie Masaan and their astounding critical acclaim.

Here’s another inauthentic one: A British rock band’s recent video ‘Hymn for the Weekend’. The video has been at the receiving end of serious online flak.

The reason being, stereotypical and archaic portrayal of India. The sadhus, the slums, the urchins, so on and so forth. India has long ceased to be the country of snake charmers. It has moved forward. It’s a new rising India. So, the Slumdog Millionaireish depiction of this India failed to establish a connection with the young, urban audience

Hymn For The Weekend

In short, a video, an ad or a campaign that tells a story in an authentic and compelling way is more likely to move you and stay with you for a long time, as against in-your-face hamming and copious amounts of fake sentimentality that only leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Fake emotion often results in work that is cloying, irritating or emotionally manipulative; work that rolls eyes instead of reaches hearts. Successful emotional marketing involves emotions that are raw and real, that fire the synapses in your brain and hit you square in the solar plexus, leaving you utterly, completely moved.

Now, this is my theory. I’d like to hear your views. Do write your comments and let’s discuss.

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A Marwadi in Advertising

Chairman and Managing Director, Eggfirst Advertising

backbeat_146Marwadis in advertising are few and far between. The advertising profession is symbolic of freespiritedness, flamboyance, ponytails, late-nights in office, the wee hours in pubs, smoke breaks, coffee breaks, big campaigns, award nights, so on and so forth. But a typical Marwadi is known to maintain a good distance from such adventures, being frugal, shrewd, basic, money-minded and not to mention, pure vegetarian. The perception is as old as the 19th century, when this community from the deserts of Rajasthan migrated to various corners of India and flourished as traders.

So, what am I, an engineer from VJTI and MBA from Bajaj and a quintessential Maadu, doing in advertising? A question frequently posed to me by Marwadis, non-Marwadis and generally people at large who I bump into at various occasions. I construct my answers differently for Marwadis and non-Marwadis. A popular Maadu saying goes like this: ‘Fando ni baat paachhi; takko ni baat kar’. Roughly translated it means, ‘Talk fundas later, buddy; let’s talk money first’.

Absolutely to the point. So when asked by staunch Marwadis, why advertising, I refrain from giving fundas. Neither do I talk money. Rather, I delve into another subject every Marwadi worth his Daal-Baati-Churma loves talking about – food.

Why do Marwadis always get pedhas from Chidawa, or rasgullas from Bhai Shankars, or bundi from MM Mithai, I ask? With this opener, I’ve already got the attention of my chachu, taucoujins, trader dosts: my target audience. Then, I continue further, it’s because there is a sense of comfort and assurance that the quality will be amazing. That’s branding, I stress. Because brands take extra effort to ensure that the quality is amazing, and that it is amazing each and every time. I’m the guy who helps brands build appropriate beliefs for people like you to go and buy these products. That’s my ‘dhando’. And it takes care of my Daal-Baati-Churma as well.

By now, I’ve grabbed some serious tongue- balls – after all, it’s money I am talking about AND food. So I go for the home-run. Why do we put barak (silver foil) on ghevar and barfi? To bring out the wow feel, much like what I do in my job in advertising, I point out. All of them say, wow! And most of them start calling their family maharaj, “Kaal ek kilo ghevar gharaan bhej diye!”

For non-Marwadis, non-believers, clients and people at large, I take an aggresively defensive approach. Just like cricketer Rahul Dravid, aka, the Wall. Sipping a potent mix of orange and mosambi juice, I remind them that, as a community Marwadis are known to have quite a large appetite for risk. Don’t we readily take a risk, when we go with our conviction and our money to invest in some new stocks or new line of business? Marwadis also have the uncanny ability to adapt to situations very quickly, a dexterity that comes especially useful when handling a client or a brand. Finally, many a Marwadi company keeps its cost lower than the industry average. Who better than a Marwadi advertiser to do the same with the client’s money?

These are some of the strokes I play when they throw the ‘how come a Marwadi in advertising’ bouncer at me. I don’t shy away from declaring my passion for creativity, living a new day every day, understanding people and consumers, and giving everything to building beliefs. On one such encounter, while I spoke such truths, a supposedly potential client said, “Your passion and understanding for brands is great. Let’s work together. Don’t expect money, my budget is very modest. After all, for you, it’s all about passion, na?”

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The positioning of ‘brand Sahadev’…and other marketing lessons from the Mahabharata.

It was the epic Mahabharata that kept an entire nation glued to the idiot box on Sunday mornings. To people at large, it’s a mega story of good vs. evil, but when I looked closer, wearing my marketing sun-glasses, the Mahabharata seemed like an ocean of marketing and branding gems. Let me share my exploration of the Mahabharata.

In today’s yug and Mahabharata, it’s brands that fight each other for micro units of market share.

The kirana store is the new Kurukshetra. Arjun’s single-minded focus the clear branding mantra. The brands that keep learning and evolving are the brands that will triumph in this Mahabharata and emerge as Maha brands.

The character Shikhandi in the Mahabharata, was originally born as a girl child named Shikhandini to Drupada, the king of Panchala. Shikhandi, who is popularly perceived to be a eunuch due to his sexual duality, fought in the Kurushetra battle from the Pandavas’ side. He was instrumental in the felling of Bhishma Pitamah, acting as Arjuna’s charioteer. As Bhishma refused to fight a woman, Arjuna hid behind Shikhandi and attacked with a volley of arrows. In spite of his inadequacies, Shikhandi managed to stay relevant. Similarly, brands need to stay relevant by changing their strategies. For example, service providers such as Airtel and Idea no longer talk about calls, they sell their internet offerings. For that matter, brands like Havells and Titan stay socially relevant by highlighting the traits of today’s women. Bajaj is staying relevant to the youth by moving from stodgy scooters to the energetic, tech-loaded Pulsar.

When we think of Bheem, one among the great Pancha Pandavas, the one word that comes to mind is ‘strong’. Similarly, once a brand owns a word, it is almost impossible for competitors to take that away.

For example, Tata is known for trust, Volvo for safety, Mercedes for prestige, Pepsi for youth, Aamir Khan for perfection, Apple for innovation, Coke for happiness, Maggi for instant, Mazaa for mango, Thums Up for action and many more. It’s always worth having a core proposition that creates immediate recall for a brand. The son of Bheem and the giantess Hidimbi, Ghatotkacha’s maternal parentage made him half-rakshasha and bestowed him with immense magical powers such as the ability to fly. Due to the rakshasha genes, his powers used to increase manifold after sunset. Using it to his advantage, Ghatotkacha wreaked havoc among the Kaurava army. Similarly, brands could do well by using timing to their advantage.

For example, Good Knight increased its advertising spends during the spate of dengue threat across the country. Mazaa capitalises on sales during the non-mango seasons. Bhishma Pitamah had the boon of ‘Ichha Mrutyu’ – death by wish. Although he could have chosen to live, in spite of being seriously wounded, after the battle of Kurushetra, he chose to die. Because he believed his purpose of being had come to an end. Similarly, brands reach a stage when their need/demand in the marketplace ceases to exist. With no purpose, these brands must be allowed to die, instead of spending inordinate resources to keep them alive.

Some of the brands that had to die a natural death were Ambassador car, Maruti 800, Kodak Camera roll, and Ford Mustang, to name a few. For that matter, is it time for bookstores like Crosswords to review their business model with the sudden rise of online booksellers such as Flipkart or Amazon Kindle? Definitely worth pondering over.

Arjuna, as the story goes, hit the bird’s eye with singular focus. This focus was the key. Similarly, narrowing focus helps brands dominate a category.For examples, Domino’s focussed on ’30 minutes nahi toh free’, Subway on Submarine sandwich, Big Bazaar on low prices. These brands have been growing bigger by staying focussed.

On the other hand, would Pepsi lose out by trying to enter the family space? Abhimanyu entered the chakravyuh before he was fully ready and before time. It resulted in his death. Similarly, there’s a right time and space to launch a brand. A brand launch is likely to fail if done at a wrong time and space or before time. Example: Kellogg’s India entry, Thums up in the early 90s, Blue Pepsi, Walmart luxury fashion garment, Crystal Pepsi, Vanilla Coke, Maruti Versa, Cobra deo spray, Atom by Pepsi, Real Value Vacumizer, among others.

Yudhistir was known for his diligence in following ‘dharma’. All his actions were guided by ‘dharma’. Similarly, a brand key is like dharma. All the actions and interactions of the brand are guided by the brand key.

For example, Tata and Google. Tata believes in following ethics and Google believes in employee morale boosting.

Sahadev was an expert in astrology and a highly skilled swordsman. He was specifically chosen and sent to conquer the South because of his expertise with the sword, and because Southerners were skilled with sword-fighting in general. Similarly, it’s important to know your customers and competitors if you want to win over them. When you launch a particular product you need to know who are you positioning it for, what is the market for your product, why will people buy it, and what is its ‘potential’ to capture market and take over competition. You don’t need a great product; you need the ‘right’ product.

Examples: Shaadi.com, Honda Activa, Olx.in, Flipkart.com, Asus Epad. Ekalavya exemplifies belief. It’s his belief in Guru Dronacharya that inspired him to learn archery from just a statue of his Guru. His sheer belief went on to make him one of the greatest archers. Great are those brands that have created such belief in the minds and hearts of their consumers.

Examples: SONY, SBI, Tata, Maruti, among others. These are just a few from the many examples that can be derived from the Mahabharata. In the Mahabharata of marketing, the brands that see, listen and learn are the ones that sustain. Others perish.

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Bun Maska vs. The Maharaja Mac

Last weekend, my friends and I decided to meet over breakfast. Dumping the usual choices, we ended up at Koolars & Co., a small Iranian café by the corner of King Circle. And Thank God we did! A splendid place it was – away from all the noise and the bustlings, there we were sipping on our coffees and having our bun maska and chai. Quite enjoying the laughs, the space and the moments. That was until my marketing mind started to take over.

I noticed that despite the amazing place it was, we were the only ones around. I couldn’t help chat up with the friendly owner, and he was candid enough to admit that over the years, the number patrons has reduced drastically. A part of Mumbai’s legacy, Koolars wore a deserted look. That got me thinking, is this what is happening to other old local authentic joints too?

I did some research later this week and lo and behold! According to the Association of Hotels and Restaurants (AHAR), 132 Udipi restaurants closed down in the four years period of 2007 to 2011! There have also been a fair number of old, authentic and near heritage food joints that have closed down. And then there’s quite a large set of those, which continue to operate, exist and are fighting it out. Perhaps a little like Koolars.

Then there is a rather interesting flip side too: some of these old traditional places are doing amazingly well too. Take Mani’s Lunch Home (Matunga, Mumbai), for instance. It is so crowded all the time that there just isn’t even elbow room to enjoy the bowl of unlimited Saambhar. Started in 1937, the first traced and scanned bill actually shows a ‘set meal for 6 aanaas’ and is dated 30th March 1940. It has loyal patrons from across the city frequenting. It has been fondly covered across various social blogs, food-portals like Burpp, Zomato and more.

There are a fair number of other such old ‘heritage’ outlets too doing very well. Crystal, a North-Indian joint at Girgaum Chowpatty, has a bunch of people standing outside every single day. Not to forget the slightly lesser known but fairly successful ones nevertheless, such as Aaswad Upahar and Mithai Grih at Dadar. The legendary Mysore Café, Sardar Pav Bhaji, Mahesh Lunch Home and many more such.

All of this did leave me a little confounded. Why is it that some are doing so well and some closing down? It’s not that Food and Beverages as an industry is undergoing any slowdown (actually, can’t imagine that happening in our country at any point in time :))

It’s quite the contrary actually. There has been an unprecedented growth in the Food and Beverages category in the last decade odd. This has been driven by a number of Indian restaurants/ chains as well as international ones. McDonald’s, Domino’s, Subway, Café Coffee Day and innumerous others to name just a few.

A quick look at the success stories of some of these did give me some clues into the answers to this incongruity.

First and foremost, the tastes and preferences of the younger India have changed. While some might argue this is an effect of the invasion of new food options and others might say, this changed preferences is the cause of these newer options. Irrespective of the cause and effect, the end result is for all of us to see.

There has been a serious invasion of new swankier restaurants offering not just good food, but great ambience too. There has been a serious invasion of fast food as a food category. There has been a serious invasion of large global multinationals with large chains of restaurants/ units.

McDonalds is one such success, which is now a heartthrob of families, not to mention kids. They have more than 271 stores across Indian serving more than 5 million customers a day! They have cracked the code for selling the ‘play value’ of toys through their happy meals. (Something that even Kinder Joy is doing fairly well.) They worked hard to customize their menu to suit Indian taste buds. They have also done great advertising – only a select few nosey and inquisitive characters like me notice the huge difference between the extent to which they promote the inexpensive McAloo Tikki outside the stores and inside :)

KFC has more than 200 outlets in India, targeting a five-fold increase to 1,000 outlets by 2015. Pizza Hut has 140 restaurants across 34 Indian cities. Subway operates through 263 restaurants in 50 Indian cities. And many more international food brands expected too: Taco Bell, Starbucks and more…

Now, how have these brands become such successes? A lot of credit goes to their incredible marketing efforts. Both, its strategic direction and muscle.

The success of the new wave restaurants has also been influenced by media and its portrayal of how life should be lived, what trends should be followed, and what the western world does! Television shows, commercials, movies, and every other medium that tells a story directly or indirectly, portrays the cool and urban lifestyle that the new generation should be living, and sometimes even something that the older generations should shift to. Whether it is CCD (Café Coffee Day for the uninitiated!) tying up with movies and being extra-visible in the background, media has its serious influence. Or whether it is a branded pizza being delivered home.

All, in all, where does that leave us? I am truly concerned about whether I would be able to enjoy the Koolars experience again with my friends. Possibly, there’s something for me to learn from the success stories.

Mahesh Lunch Home, which started as a small joint and known for its excellent seafood, has now expanded into 5 large, fancy, and very expensive hotels! The mantra? Originality of the food has been untouched, and the rest has been altered to suit today’s consumer taste. Madras Café has not changed anything, and yet their legendary value and their consistent quality and food flavour have got them ruling, drawing crowds from far and wide. Crystal’s homemade North-Indian food is famous amongst the students and hostel crowd, and a perfect solution for cheap eating!

Even mithaiwalas such as Haldiram’s and Bikaji, which have grown to large chains, teach that the best way ahead is to mould the brand heritage according to people’s new taste and lifestyle. There seems to be no other way than to keep yourself relevant to the ever-changing consumer tastes. It could also be about value through pricing: be it the inexpensive Crystal restaurant or McAloo Tikki. Or the ambience, that say, Barista and CCD provide. A coffee for Rs 90 still seems rather unpalatable to me but surely today’s consumers are willing to pay for the undisturbed peace and quiet.

Last but not the least, mad passion that lends love. For instance, for Mani’s Lunch Home, food is far more than just food for them. It is a form of life – a way of serving, offering, and sharing. When food is cooked with this belief in the heart, and the intense desire to serve, to see a happy smile and perhaps to hear that satisfying burp, there’s just no way it wouldn’t be a super hit. There is a reason why they call themselves lunch homes, after all!

And therein lies the success mantra in what a lot of these ‘local’ joints have been doing. That’s how a Jumbo Vada Pav can take on the Zinger. And that’s how the Bun Maska can survive the onslaught from the Maharaja Mac.

For now, I am planning my next breakfast rendezvous, contemplating between Starbucks and Mysore Café. Any suggestions?

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