Jun 29, 2014

My Inspirations

A couple of days back, my husband asked me an interesting question "Who inspires you the most?". No one has ever asked me this question before. Top-of-the-mind recall led me to answering "Sachin, AR Rahman, Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam". But the question was still lingering in my mind.

While I was going for a walk around a nearby lake a few days back, the answers started flashing in front of my eyes. I saw an elderly couple, walking around the lake. They must be 60+ and looked fit and healthy. I noticed another elderly man, jogging at a brisk pace. There were several such senior citizens who were walking and I felt inspired at that very moment. I had initially planned for a single round, but I ended up finishing two rounds. I pushed myself further in the second round, with a slow paced jog.

During the jog, this phrase emerged from my cluttered thoughts. I feel inspired by "People who don't feel constrained by their age, gender or life situation and go onto accomplish amazing things for themselves and for others".
Active senior citizens are one of the interesting set of people I admire. They don't believe that they have achieved a certain state in life that they can now just plonk themselves in front of the TV all day long. They continue to strive in improving their physical wellbeing, exercising, eating right etc. They keep themselves updated with what's happening in the world and continue to keep up with their curiosity. They also contribute to the society in whatever way they could - sharing their wisdom with youngsters, participating in social causes and engaging themselves in community events. When I reach that stage in my life, I want to imbibe these qualities and stay active. I have started taking steps in the right direction by first putting an end to TV a month back.

The second set of inspirations come from people who break stereotypes and not feel constrained by their gender. Sanjeev Kapoor, my favorite chef is a classic example. There is so much love and care while he prepares a dish. When he made a choice to be a chef, I'm sure he must have faced a whole lot of questions from the society. Recently, I came across a woman Shivya who loves to travel on her own. While I was reading her blog about her various experiences, I felt so inspired. Though I love to travel, I have never traveled by myself for a leisure trip. Also, I have mostly stuck to the touristy places when traveling with my family. Her blog has expanded my view on travel.

I believe in the concept of life long learning. There's never an end to learning something new or expanding your current knowledge. It doesn't matter if you are a CEO, a super rich person or a 55+ senior citizen. Learning should never stop, even if you have completed your formal education. One of my friends' father finished a post-graduate degree in Yoga and Spirituality when he turned 60. How amazing is that! If we keep up the curiosity, learning happens automatically. Continuous learners are such interesting and inspiring people that they can talk about a multitude of topics.

The fourth set of people from whom I draw a lot of inspiration from are those who care about the environment, those who manage to implement the principles of reduce-reuse-recycle, the minimalist consumers. I'm so glad to see that this community is growing. Over the past 10 years, I have taken baby steps towards being a minimalist and avoiding unnecessary purchases, home composting wet waste, reducing paper consumption and overall, reducing my carbon footprint. I know I have a long way to go. But with such motivating people taking the right steps towards preserving our environment, I know I can emulate a lot of their best practices.

Does this list resonate with you? Do think about your inspirations. It helps you to understand yourself a bit more.

Jun 22, 2014

9 tips to make your toddlers love fruits

After posting my earlier article on 10 ways to make your toddlers love vegetables, a few of my friends suggested that I write a similar article on fruits. I was surprised, thinking, "Don't kids love fruits? They taste sweet!". While talking to my neighbor, she mentioned how her 5 year old daughter doesn't eat any fruits, except oranges. So this seems to be a problem as well, though not as big as feeding veggies.

Most of the principles from my earlier article still holds true when it comes to fruits. A few more which I would like to highlight:

1) Start early
Home made Fruit purees are one of the best weaning foods when you start introducing solids. Please avoid the ready-to-eat jars. They cost a bomb, imported ages back and tastes so artificial. It's very easy to make fruit purees at home. When D was around 6 months, I started her off with apple puree. She loved it and ate without a fuss. The recipe is very simple.
     - Wash the apples, peel them and chop them into chunks.
     - Place them in a bowl with little water. Pressure cook for 3 whistles.
     - After taking it out, puree in mixer.
     - For the initial few days, strain the pulp and give the juice.
     - Slowly introduce the mashed pulp.
Follow the same recipe for pear puree.

Around the same time, I also introduced banana purees. You don't have to cook them. Chop the banana into small pieces and puree it in mixer. I introduced the small yellow variety which is a healthier version as compared to the long ones.

2) Be consistent
Ensure you follow a routine for fruits - either as a mid-morning or an evening snack or both. Based upon how your child prefers to eat (pureed, mashed, cut up fine), serve them appropriately. You can try small pieces around 9-10 months to check if he/she is ready to chew. Try placing a small bowl with fine pieces in front of your kid. They are perfect finger foods for your child to start self-feeding. Please make sure you don't cut them into round shapes, as a safety precaution to avoid choking.

From the time D was 6 months until now, I ensure she eats some fruits every evening. It has become a routine for her that she should have fruits for her evening snack. Once she started to chew (around 9 months), I used to chop up raw apples into tiny pieces. She would pick and eat on her own. After a couple of months, she insisted she wanted bigger pieces from my bowl. She wanted to chew bigger pieces with only two tiny bottom teeth :-) I'm reiterating the point again - babies can chew with their hard gums, so try giving mashed up or finely chopped pieces. They would learn to chew eventually.

3) Introduce variety, focus on seasonal fruits
It was peak summer when D was around 8 months old. So we used to buy a lot of melons and mangoes. She loved purees of mangoes and muskmelons. After she started chewing, she went crazy over grapes. I used to chop grapes in half and give her in a bowl. She loved to pick and eat on her own. We did the same when it was strawberry season. As we have been continuing this habit for nearly 3 years, she has tasted almost all fruits available in Bangalore - guavas, custard apples, oranges, watermelon and pomegranates.

4) Stock up plenty
Before D was born, my snack section in my pantry was filled with junk, ready-to-eat foods such as chips, biscuits, cookies, packaged juice etc. As a family, we started to focus more on nutrition and eating right. We have cut down on all the junk and have increased our weekly expenditure towards fruits. There will always be 3-4 varieties of fruits at home. D observes all the fruits arranged in the fruit basket and she would ask what she wants.

5) Have no fear
Some moms might fear that fruits might cause cold and congestion. No, they don't. Make sure you don't feed them immediately after taking it out of the fridge. In case of bananas, the small yellow variety ones are perfectly fine. I have given oranges when D was having a slight cold. It didn't cause any problems.

6) Expand your horizon
Your kids might surprise you with the kind of fruits they like. D loved custard apples (though I hate it!) when they were in season. She also loves tangy oranges and grapes. Go beyond bananas and apples. Reduce the imported ones like Washington apples and kiwis which have traveled a long distance and have lost all their nutrition before it reaches your hands. Pick the local ones like guavas, grapes, papayas and chikoos (sapota).

7) Make something
If your kid loves milk, mash some bananas, chikoos or mangoes and serve a yummy milkshake. Or whip them up with some curd and offer a thick smoothie or flavored yoghurt. Bananas can be easily incorporated into cakes, muffins and pancakes. Make a delicious fruit salad with some vanilla custard. Try these options if your kid doesn't eat fruits or you want to include some variety. First preference should always be towards fresh raw fruits.

8) Carry it along
Fruits are your best friend when you are traveling with a toddler. You can easily carry some bananas, pomegranate seeds, grapes, chopped guavas or pears. Carry the chopped pieces in an airtight container, so it stays fresh during the journey.

9) Juice as a treat
If your kid prefers to drink fruit juice, make it at home. The packaged drinks are loaded with sugar and preservatives, with just a little fruit. Yes, even the ones that claim "100% fruit". You don't need an expensive juicer to make juices at home. Your regular mixer will do. A whole fruit is healthier as compared to the juice with added sugar. So try offering juice only as a treat at home.

Do share your thoughts on how you incorporate fruits into your child's diet.

Jun 12, 2014

3 useful sources for B2B Market segmentation

As part of a consulting assignment, I have been investigating US market data from public sources for a B2B product offering. I found the following 3 sources to be extremely useful.

If you have a product idea targeted towards B2B customers in the US and would like to evaluate the market potential, then you might want to check out these public data sources:

1) US Census Bureau data for Business & Industry

This source provides a good sense of different industries, number of firms within each industry and employment figures distributed across different ranges based on number of people employed by the firm.

You can start off with the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and then dive into specific industries of interest. Depending on whether you are planning to target SMEs or large corporations, you can download and check out the employment sizes distribution as part of your market sizing exercise.

2) Bureau of Labor Statistics - Industries at a glance

Based on the NAICS structure, this site gives you a clear picture of the sub-industries and a breakdown of the workforce statistics, including people employed across different job roles and their median and mean salaries. This information can help you gain some clarity on the price points you might want to set.

Let's say, your product offering is for the Education sector and your target audience is teachers/instructors. You might want to check out the "Educational services" sector and it's workforce statistics on number of teachers employed at different levels. You can also get a sense of the salaries they are being paid, which can serve as an input to your pricing strategy.

3) LinkedIn search

LinkedIn search bar is quite powerful to get a good idea on the number of companies in various sectors and the corresponding number of people employed in these sectors. Most importantly, it gives a good indication on the number of job openings in various categories in an industry.

For instance, if your B2B product is targeted towards customer service reps in travel industry, you can get the number of customer service reps related job openings and compute its contribution as a % of total job openings. This calculation can be done across different geographies and types of firms to narrow down the specific segment you might want to target.

Segmenting your market and identifying the business potential of various segments are extremely crucial steps that helps you in deciding the target segment and crafting a compelling value proposition. These secondary sources help a good deal in performing the first step of B2B market segmentation.

Are there other resources you have found useful for B2B market research? I would love to hear from you.

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