Friday, March 25, 2005

KTWV06 - Issue 5: A difference of culture

(I owe my secular, liberal view of life entirely to my life in my alma maters, Good Shepherd Convent, Mysore, Bishop Cotton's School, Bangalore, Cathedral and John Connon Boys' High School, Bombay and St. Stephen's College, Delhi.)

For the full text of this blog entry please visit my main blog entry for this date and time at Jacob's Blog 07:30 PM, 25th March 2005

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

KTWV06 - Issue 4: My 80,000 friends

One of my corresponents (who shall remain unnamed) wrote to me

"Dear Jacob,

Even I would have 80,000 friends if I forwarded all the e-mails I got to every one I know !!

Just kidding.

Somehow, I prefer a more personal approach, more one-on-one -- too shy to have my mails all over the place."

Actually, I rarely forward emails unless there is a specific purpose to be served.

I replied thus to my correspondent:


What you say is absolutely true that the number of contacts could grow by forwarding emails, but in my case there is a slight difference (and my fault) in that I get personally involved with all the people I deal with.

For instance this is an email I got yesterday from my a Finnish and a Hungarian friend whom I introduced day-before-yesterday to a Mumbai couple:


Had dinner last night with Ashok and Malathi, and they invited us to stay with them already on the phone before they had met us. .......

Today, we will call Fazila at 4 pm and we should meet her tonight unless something came up. Malathi asked us to invite her for dinner at their's tonight as well, so we will call and ask to see if that is ok.

They are really great people and thank you for linking us up (ildi's words)."

You see how it works.

All my worldwide friends are great and wonderful people and I always try to link the right types, knowing each person's background and character.

That cannot be done by only forwarding emails!!!

When I started "Findians Briefings" as a free hard copy in-house journal, it was just for a few hundred Finnish and Indian businessmen interested in trade between the two countries. Within three months it had snow-balled into 7000 copies which I could no longer afford to produce it as hard copy. That was why I started putting it on internet.

Within a year the readership was in 90 countries and covered over 50,000 people!! And it grew and grew. I was producing it from my attic with an obsolete Mac PowerBook.

When I launched Seventh Heaven and Kooler Talk, it again blew up out of all proportions.

The secret was personal "nostalgic involvement" (and it still is). Plus it is a close one-to-one relationship with my audience which involves a 24 hour reply and action cycle. Some contact me once a year, some as often as two or three times a week. Their husbands / wives, children, grandchildren, are all important to them (and me).

Again to give an instance, Shallu, mother of Rohit and Rahul read the blog, got her 90 year old mother involved, generating a huge audience from Madras and Bangalore. Now Rahul's photography is on the blog. Within a few hours I had readers clamouring for more. I posted the short note about Rohit's wife's (Kavita's) book "Brahmins and Bungalows : Travels Through South Indian History by Kavita Watsa" . That has generated an enormous response from people I had never heard of before yesterday!!

To give you a couple of examples that you would be more familiar with: How else would I have stepped in and taken care of Sadhana's daughter, and her relationship leading to marriage with a Finn, even though I have never met Sadhana in my life? Or why would I search and locate Barbara Rossi for Gracie as I have never personally met Gracie in my life (knowingly)? Both Sadhana and Gracie are part of my absolutely lovely personally unmet friends, but we know each other intimately through our correspondence!!!

In the old days it used to be called "pen-pals" whom I have termed as "e-pals".

When I wrote the article "Greed : Missile of Black Gold", I hadliterally hundreds of people all over the world (professors to housewives) who were saved from losing large amounts of money and life in the Nigerian Scam. All of these people have become dear friends even though I do not "know them from Adam"!!!

When my domain name in Canada collapsed, there was utter chaos, but now it is slowly getting back to normal as I restore normal communications with this circle of "friends". (JM: This has proven to be the most difficult of the tasks that I have
ever undertaken.

There are hundreds of journalists and writers that I know who send out automated replies when people write to them about their articles. I have never done that, so that is why my circle of friends and readers is so large and growing. Of course I get criticism, but I answer them with a principled answer which may conflict with the opinions of the correspondent. But we soon agree to disagree and remain friends. (Unless of course it is so blatant as in the bizarre exchange of e-correspondence with the "educated" American!!)

What is the secret behind Malayala Manorama and its immense readership? My grandfather's personal involvement with his audience, something I learnt from him in the 50s!!

It is a philosophy which is built into the organisation and does not depend on who is in charge today. Rajen, Thambi and Chacko are really introverts, but Malayala Manorama continues to grow because of a philosophy laid down in its early years which has remained unchanged.