Friday, 23 December 2011

Efficient Surveys for Desired Results

“Can you please fill this questionnaire? It’s for a project. Your help will be really appreciated.”

For such requests, these are the responses that one generally gets:

1: “Oh! Can you come back after 5 minutes? I’m kind of busy right now.”
2: “Another survey? Oh no!”

Some students would just respond by asking for a pen and randomly filling it out without even reading the questions.

This is one situation that almost every student dreads but goes through during his/her university life. There are many reasons underlying this force of aversion from filling out surveys and questionnaires. It is a matter of disgrace for us that even the most renowned universities don’t teach their students basic researching skills be it primary or secondary research. Thus students are usually unaware of how precise and good questionnaires should be designed so as to get the right responses out of the targeted respondents. Here I have put together some dos and don’ts of a survey questionnaire and how to design effective ones.

1) Keep it precise: Nobody wants to fill out a questionnaire if it exceeds more than a page or two. People don’t generally appreciate filling out questionnaires that take more than 5 minutes of their time. If two questions overlap somewhere, combine them to form one question.

2) Avoid personal questions: Keep in mind that you are getting general responses of your target audience focused towards your research domain. Want to ask about monthly incomes, age or their area of residence? Trust me! “Bad idea”.

3) Choose close-ended questions: Many students usually forget the difference between interviews, focus groups and surveys. Interviews usually have open ended questions whereas surveys shouldn’t. A good survey will always have concise and close-ended questions for ease of audience. For instance if you wish to ask what places they usually prefer for hang-outs, it would be good to provide a list of options yourself like “cinema, cafĂ©, park etc.”

4) Do not use technical language: Whether you are a business, engineering or a medical student, it is advisable to use simple and easy to understand questions in your research. Using jargons and technical words will give you distorted results.

5) Provide sufficient information for understanding: So if you do want to ask about public opinion or focus on the qualitative analysis using rating scales, it is always courteous to explain them beforehand to avoid ambiguity. Thus if on your rating scale of 1 to 10, 1 means excellent then it would be better to mention how your scale works.

6) Divide it into parts: If your research focuses on multiple aspects then it is best to divide it into several sections each having relevant questions.

These are the key to designing a good questionnaire not just to facilitate respondents to respond but also when you start entering the data and analyzing the trends. Use these tips next time you start making a questionnaire and people won’t stop noticing how well it has been designed. Happy surveying :)

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

False Islamic Standards

Being born in a conservative societal set up yet having a pair of sane parents is one thing I haven’t been able to figure out yet as to whether it is unfortunate or a blessing. Well let’s just get to the main point. Because I do not behave in the way most Muslims do doesn’t give them a right to stereotype me. The sad part is that we the Muslims have a tendency of justifying everything we do through our religion. And we aren’t any better than those jihadis or Taliban who have brought such disgrace to Islam.

I belong to family where religious practices are very strict and I am expected to abide by certain things due to religious obligations. And even when people know I’m 22 and responsible for my own doings, I am asked to do certain things. Let’s take praying and covering my head as an example. So I am compelled to cover my head just because it is an essential in my religion. But hey! Didn’t Allah say that elders are supposed to guide the kids and not impose stuff on them? Sadly I have started developing a disliking for such practices.

I happened to go to a family wedding a few months back when I was decently dressed (and fully covered) but stopped by a relative auntie clad in burqa and got lectured on how I dress. According to her standards, I was not covered the way I should have been and she didn’t even consider how I would feel after her pointing fingers at me like that in public. Later when I wept in front of my parents and disclosed the whole story they questioned her as to why she did that. And this is what she had to say:
“Well she was not observing purdah and it was my duty to tell her that. I would have been a sinner otherwise. Islam makes us responsible to tell people what’s right and stop them from indulging into wrong doings.”

This is just one instance out of the innumerable ones that I’ve come across so far. I felt like asking her later “What about Huqooq ul Ibad auntie?” But her ignorant and carefree attitude stopped me from doing so.

Islam has made it a compulsion on us to practice it promptly but is Islam only about praying and covering ourselves? Isn’t observing rights of our fellows an integral part of Islamic practices too? Some would argue here that Huqooq Ullah are more important but are they forgetting that Allah forgives us if we ask for forgiveness after committing such sins but doesn’t forgive us if we usurp fellows’ rights or utter heart-rending comments for them until they forgive us themselves? On what basis do you prioritize Islamic practices and beliefs?

Not just this. There are so many other actions of ours that we do and justify them through Islamic principles. Our feudal lords when marry multiple women respond by saying they are permitted to do so by Allah. Our men not letting us take professional careers give examples of Bibi Fatima quoting that she was a good mother, a good daughter and a good wife but forget that she was a mentor to the women of the entire Muslim Ummah too. Didn’t she take the role of a mentor to impart Islamic knowledge to Muslim women? Wasn’t she the most educated of all women at that point in time?

I worry a lot about how we the Muslims have come across such practices as a misinterpretation of Islamic laws and guidelines. Is making your women cover themselves and restricting them to home Islamic in any way? Is imposing religion on a mature person Islamic in any way? Is denying women their basic rights Islamic? People need to go in an in depth research of the Islamic teachings and way of life and then preach and pass Fatwas.

A piece of advice: Be a paragon of Islamic way of life yourself instead of just correcting others around and meddling into other peoples’ personal spaces and the world will start respecting us as the followers of the great SYSTEM Islam.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

I made a difference

Did you give way to an ambulance while driving in a traffic jam?

Did you put the wrapper of your eatables in your bag and threw them in the trash can after reaching home?

Did you ever forgive and not argue back with anyone for the sake of peace?

Did you ever keep the tap off while shampooing or brushing teeth?

Did you ever leave your room after turning the lights, fans and ACs off?

Did you ever think of your maids and servants as being equal to you? Did you give them their due respect?

Did you ever think twice about people who are starving to death before spending thousands of rupees on a hang out or eating at your favorite restaurant?

Did you ever think for a second during your seeming-to-be-busy schedules of those who not far from your own lands are being massacred to death by terrorists?

Did you think how many people are shivering across your borders while purchasing that expensive outfit of your favorite brand?

Did you? I did. I did not expect the desired outcome before putting in my own efforts. And I take pride in announcing that. I act responsibly and try correcting myself before I whine about the cruelties and unfair treatments around me. And the sole reason why I don’t hesitate when I demand my rights is because I do not have any guilt in doing that. I do make terrible mistakes but I try making a difference in people’s lives. Life is not just about luxuries and getting what one wants from it. At one point one has to grow up and start thinking beyond oneself. For every penny that we spend and every bounty that we enjoy we have to be accountable to God. Make wise decisions before taking any step because all our current mistakes will have a multiplier effect on our future generations.

Monday, 7 November 2011

The WOM Revolution

Ever since the social networking websites conquered this planet, marketing and brand positioning have taken extremely different dimensions. Due to the ever evolving trends and shift from a national to a globalized world, people are becoming more conscious of their choices. The era of mass customization due to individual preferences is how we define today’s business world. Choice of brands and thus the buying process is now very complex since brands define an individual’s personality. The clutter of innumerable products, brands and services have made competition tough; and has directed the endeavors of businesses towards customer focused strategies.

The growing intricacies of these dynamic changes have made marketers ponder over what factors shape these conditions. Through research and trial and error marketers have come to learn that consumers are highly influenced nowadays by their reference groups and peers. Word of Mouth is a very powerful tool. Studies have revealed that the factor which most influences the consumer decision making process is the review of the product (what the users have to say about it). Social Media is playing a very crucial role in fostering this. Customer views can be shared easily through these social networking sites in contemporary times.

Companies are thus taking concrete steps to ensure proper placement of their products and to boost their sales. They are now interacting with their customers 24/7 through these social networks and their Marketing objectives are directed towards a common man. It has been observed lately that many firms are now doing these to stand out:

1) A proper well maintained blog through which they share news about their products and complimentary services.
2) An interactive and updated Facebook page through which communication has improved manifold.
3) Promotion of their products and services through Testimonials and publications.
4) Using Public Relations as a means to achieve their Marketing objectives.
5) Interacting with Media which is a major opinion former and trend setter.

Huge multinationals like Procter and Gamble are using this new approach now. Their entire Marketing plan for Ariel is built on PR tactics and thus their advertisements are made in a testimonial form. Even Zong in the telecom sector is responding to the immense competition through these. Upcoming Marketers now need to adapt to this Word of Mouth and customer- oriented revolution that will transform the future of their businesses.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Need of the day: An Educational Reform

Having a degree is considered to be synonymous to getting educated and has been the standard since traditional times. We often forget the purpose of what we have been doing in the conquest of becoming educated. The top most accusation is to be put on ourselves after the education system. We are the ones who have given it so much autonomy as to decide of how things will operate, thus putting the future of our generations at stake. And we forget to realize that we are relying too much on the degree and not the curriculum and the learning. As observed by many, our education system has many weaknesses highlighted below:

1) Market knowledge is not being imparted. Students know concepts but lack the application part. Especially teachers who have a lot of teaching experience but no work experience tend to focus only on theoretical aspects.

2) A lot of focus is being put on the bookish knowledge and important things like ethics, career building, counseling, and personality development are being neglected. Schools are social institutions where the learning process is transformed by inculcating these.

3) Mentors, guides and guest speakers are not being invited to talk to the students to give them an exposure of work life and environment.

4) The examples quoted in most of our books are from the international markets’ and authors’ perspective and are not relatable at all. Since the conditions shaping our surroundings are very different from the international ones, quoting local examples would be better. Also the ones that we follow have been the same for ages. Their editions haven’t been updated either and they give examples after pages of monotonous text passages.

5) Not all fields are being given equal exposure. Fields like arts, media, dance, sports, theater etc. are being ignored. Students end up choosing the same redundant fields leading to cognitive dissonance, frustration and dissatisfaction throughout their lives.

6) Students are not being given good training on time management, stress management, communication barriers bridging etc. and thus later in their professional lives they lack the power of handling pressures.

7) The system is completely devoid of understanding and reasoning. A research by psychologists shows that students who ask excessive questions in the class are not only left unanswered but also are discouraged to do so. The student who asks the maximum questions is the one considered dumbest and gets the least marks.

To summarize it all, the education system that is dominating our nation right now is far below the caliber of the international ones. We are forgetting that this is giving birth to an incompetent future generation that will lack in almost all fields of global competition. The only thing that can secure our futures is an educational reform. Just like we cannot expect a recipe to turn out into a well cooked and delicious dish if we don’t put in the right ingredients in their required proportions; we can’t expect a bright yielding future if we are feeding our upcoming generations with the wrong milk in the name of education.

Saturday, 15 October 2011


After a long, tedious and demanding month of mid terms, my friends and I decided to go out for Johnny English Reborn and decided to watch it at Cineplex rather than at Atrium Cinema, since it was convenient for all of us. We were surprised to see how the once cluttered cinema was now almost vacant without much traffic around. It was a week day thus we assumed that people were occupied with work. We bought 4 movie tickets and were told that the show will begin at 3 pm sharp. We waited for a few moments and then were directed to a hall only to discover that it was just the 4 of us in that cinema that day. For a moment we felt extremely royal at the thought that we would be able to enjoy without anyone judging us. We grabbed seats in the centre row and began munching on our pop corn sipping our drinks. 15 minutes passed and the show didn’t start. We started becoming restless since a couple of friends had been really exited about the release of this one. They demanded that the movie be played ASAP. It finally began around 3 30 pm. Excited for the movie, we ignored what had happened and started enjoying it. After a few moments the screen went all blank and we could only hear the actors chatting and the background sounds. Got that fixed. After a few moments, a little demarcation appeared on the screen dividing it into two halves. Later at least thrice the screen projection lost its actual position and the heads started appearing at the bottom while the remaining body went at the top. Once, even the entire movie stopped. All of us were really disappointed since we had been waiting for this one movie since like ages. Also the movie itself was not up to the expectations. After leaving the hall we decided never to go back to that place ever again. Cineplex lost another set of its customers. Unsatisfactory performance and inconsistent quality is one of the reasons why Cineplex has a declining market share and the remaining one is being gobbled up by Atrium too. Cineplex needs to revive its business strategy, else it will go extinct within no time.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

You are the WORST thing that ever happened to me

Why is she always around? Why does she make things worse? She is that inevitable reality of our life that we can’t flush out so easily. Every time something goes wrong I end up cursing her. She is the one behind all our miseries and woes. I can’t believe how frustrating one can make another’s life like that. It’s like she is a bad omen. She brings this bad luck charm to us. Why is it that always in her presence things turn out so extraordinary in the evil sort of way. I cannot stand her existence. I cannot just explain how much I detest her. The level of abhorrence that I’ve developed for her in the past few years is so verbose yet impossible to explain. I can’t believe how someone can be that evil. How someone can be such a wonderful pretender. Her ability to twist the facts is amazing. So extraordinary that I get a feeling at some instances that maybe she has been blessed with this supernatural power of being so bloody evil yet appear as the most saccharine-ish creature alive. She is that bitch that I despise. She brings this bad karma which expresses itself so often. But as soon as she leaves I feel as if I’ve migrated from hot scorching sunny days to cool breezy nights. I have hated her, I still do and I will loathe her till the last breadth that I take.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

My solace

Every morning I wake up with a hope of achieving something, discovering something new, meeting new people and getting my tasks done. All I have in mind is what needs to be done and the instant I start compiling the “To Do” list, I feel a surge of nervousness running at the back of my brain. It’s a feeling so ambiguous and impossible to explain. The fear of getting a long list of things done overcomes the ecstasy of waking up at a new day, ignoring the ray of the light of the dawn that morning. The joy of being blessed with another day to cherish blissful moments and to confess to people around how much I care about them. A moment later I find myself pulling up my jeans and getting ready for the day rushing here and there to get things in order. And after all that battering and yelling I leave my house and get to where I should be. There are times when my days start terrific and end extraordinary and there are days when things don’t go the way I plan. At times I experience moments of life long learning, witness unforgettable moments and achieve planned objectives. I return home with a feeling of satisfaction and completeness. But there are times when I return home all disappointed and frustrated. Times when commencements do not reach their destined ends. And those are the times when I need people. People who I yelled at the same morning; to console me, to show unconditional love, to bestow me with just a couple of moments of their precious time, or to just listen to my miseries and woes and lend a shoulder to cry on. And there is no comparable feeling of the degree of guilt and grievance in this world after that. I realize how things are ripping apart. How I’m taking them for granted - the people that I so badly need and those that I belong to. Those who I want to be there when luck is not at my side. Also at times when I want to share my moments of triumph. People to mourn, celebrate and share my life with. And even when I’ll feel like a loser, they will be there. My real and long term achievement is retaining what I already have – my solace, my FAMILY!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Help Yourselves

Are you one of those people who have short spans of concentration? Do you find it a strenuous task to stick to a chair to read never ending pages of text? Do you think you are surrounded by too many distractions, making it even more difficult for you to work efficiently? Fear not. The good news is that just through a little planning and changes in your attitude, you will be able to generate outstanding results and ace your tests. Here are some handy tips to turn your study sessions into constructive ones:

1) Begin with the desired end in mind: Ask yourself where you would like to be after 3 years from the present, 5 years and then 10. Be it getting into a top ranking Business School, a managerial post in a Multi-national, having a blog with a worldwide following, or being the most recognized motivational speaker; you will have to make constant efforts at present to get to that level. Write it down on a piece of paper in the future form and stick it on the wall next to your writing table. For instance, if you want to be hired as the Marketing Director at Engro Chemicals write it down as “I am the Marketing Director at Engro Chemicals.” Now fantasize yourself as one and notice how it brings a stream of energy to you. This energy will compel you to give 100% input to your work.

2) Plan the correct beginning: Take the test on the following day as the first step of the staircase that you need to climb to get to the top. List down the tasks that you need to get done and allocate expected time durations that they might take to finish. Don’t just do this in your head. Penning things down helps you keep a track more efficiently.

3) Select a suitable area for studying: Even if you multi-task do remember that only concentration can lead you to excellence. Dining halls, TV lounges, corridors, and cafeterias etc. are ideal for socializing but for studying you need a place that provides you complete solace.

4) Kick out the distractions from your view: Cell phones, music players, social networks etc are the most obvious reasons of lowered concentration spans. Avoid using them when you are studying. If you are working on that term report, sign out from your Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and messenger accounts. If you are going through heavy text material then turn your cell phone off. Be an opportunist: You can charge your phone fully now and you won’t run out of battery for the next couple of days :)

5) Sit in a comfortable chair and posture: Some of you might think what difference would a posture make but sitting upright with feet put on a base bringing your knee level slightly above the level of your chair, keeps your blood circulation going and helps improve alertness and mind activity.

6) Keep important things within your vicinity: If you get water quenches and hunger pangs every now and then, it would be a good idea to keep a water bottle and some snacks around. Also keeping a little usable stationary and tissue papers near would save you from getting up from your chair again and again.

7) Take a break when you reach saturation: After studying for a good 45 minutes to an hour, a person usually finds it hard to absorb concepts any further. Diminishing returns start making their room. This is the point when your mind and your body need a little break. Get up and move around, stretch yourself, listen to a song, catch up on the hourly news segment or whatever you feel like. Don’t make it too long. Remember your goal? Get back to work the instant you feel relaxed.

8) Cancel out the tasks that have been achieved: By doing this you will be able to analyze and evaluate your progress and effectiveness and measure them in terms of percentages. Even if you achieve 50% of what you planned you will gather a lot of confidence to get the remaining 50% done.

These tips will give you a direction and you will be awed at the positive results they produce. Good luck! :)

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Fasting made easier

Fasting in the month of Ramzan especially when it arrives in the extremely hot months of summer becomes extremely strenuous. More than the pangs of hunger, the craving of water and thirst is felt. The scorching heat of the sun and the drying winds make it even more difficult. Besides, the duration of summer fasts is almost 14 to 15 hours. Here are some tips which if you follow will make your Roza less difficult and the feeling of thirst will not prevail so much:

1) Eat juicy fruits like grapes, water melon, apples etc. at the time of Sehr. This increases the amount of natural water in your bodies and keeps you hydrated for almost the entire day.

2) Don’t eat liquid absorbing foods. Foods like eggs, liver, prawns etc. have a tendency of leaving you dehydrated and thus it becomes hard to end the fast easily.

3) Yogurt is one of the most advisable foods. It gives a cooling effect to an individual’s stomach hence making it easier to fast.

4) Try avoiding a lot of intake of tea or coffee. Studies have shown a decrement in water levels of our bodies after the consumption of these.

5) Try avoiding brushing your teeth a lot. 2 to 3 times a day is good but excessive brushing dries out the saliva in your mouth giving it a drying effect which not only leads to the feeling of excessive thirst but also leads to a bad breath after sometime.

6) Increase the intake of water and other liquids after iftar and also during the sehr time. Consume water little by little. If you drink water all of a sudden, it exits your body as fast as it enters. Taking water sip by sip is the most effective.

Follow these and make fasting easier for yourselves! Good luck :)

Monday, 18 July 2011

Hard to believe

At times you come across such stories in life that touch your soul. They sometimes make you feel better and sometimes leave you so astonished that you just pinch yourself to check twice whether you are dreaming or not. I came across one of such non-fictitious tales too. It highlights human sufferings as well as miracles that might happen to an individual. It is gloomy yet motivating.

I happened to be conversing with a very dear friend of mine from school who is currently pursuing her degree in Medicine who was at a visit to the Civil hospital. That’s when she came across a woman having 4 kids, one of which she was carrying in her arms. The baby looked like one of those malnourished kids who had been food deprived for months. His body looked like a structure of bones joined together wrapped in the skin. Not a sign of flesh could be detected on his body. The kid was being fed milk by his mother through a feeder bottle. The milk looked so diluted to the doctor that she invited the woman for a conversation and questioned her. The appearance of the woman was a clear indication of her impoverish status but she still managed to explain how she fed her kids. “I buy milk worth Rs. 10 and add a liter of water to it to feed my kids,” she said. The doctor tried explaining how she was putting the life of that kid on stake. “Doctor Sahiba! Mere iss betey ko kuch nahi hoga. Yeh tou mera maujzati bachha hai,” she replied. (Translates: Dear Doctor! Nothing will happen to this son of mine. He is a miraculous kid)

And that’s when she started narrating her story of how that kid had been born and lived miraculously. That woman had been pregnant in her 9th month when once she was all alone at her place, walking around the house and started getting labor pains. All of a sudden she sat down on the mosaic floor and within minutes the baby came out without much of an effort. She could not believe as to what had happened. For the next few seconds she stayed immobile and senseless. Then she suddenly realized that she had to cut off the umbilical cord. She went all the way to the bathroom carrying the baby in her hand, got her husband’s razor and cut it off. She bled until she fainted. Her eyes opened again when she saw herself lying on the bed next to her baby. She picked him up and couldn’t believe how he had survived. It sure was a miracle. God had given the baby a life and the woman a 2nd life.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Cultural Shocks

As I landed at the Medford Oregon airport, I started looking for a short curly haired woman who was to come to pick me up all the way from Ashland to drive me home. This was no one other than my host mother who had volunteered to host me for an entire academic year. There she was standing with a tag having my name printed on it. After going through customs and all the necesarry formalities, we got into the car to head back home. I went towards the left side of the car to take the seat next to the driving seat and was surprised to find out that the left side of the car had the steering wheel. “Annie, the right side!” She uttered. Oops. I had ignoringly taken the wrong side and felt like a moron for a slight matter of a second. Cultural shock, yeah? Anyhow, I went to the other side of the car, got in and shut the door behind me. I had not known that driving without seat belts was against the laws in the United States and I felt stupid again not knowing the fundamental regulations that shaped the American society. Another cultural shock. Man I was already terrified and was wondering what more was waiting for me to experience.

Anyway, the experience started shooting up when the car started moving on the road. As we began to chat about random things I told her how my life was back in my country. Flashback into some amazing memories is what I had experienced at that particular moment. I was recalling how my mom used to wake me up every morning to get to school on time and how I never picked up after myself and my maid had to do that. Also how I was used to taking naps in the afternoon. Not that I was not expecting any major changes in their lifestyle but I still had to go through a series of cultural shocks one after the other. I felt like a building getting those jerks that it gets when an earthquake has hit. It didn’t take me a lot of time to adjust to the American society as the people around me turned out to be extremely friendly and accepting, contrary to what I had thought. Yes, I had come all the way to the United States of America as an ambassador of my dearest country Pakistan. I was an exchange student who had to live for a whole academic session with an American host family that treated me like a member of their own family.

My first day at school was terribly surprising too. My elder host sister had already taken me to a visit around the campus that was divided into separate units of disciplines of education i.e. the Humanities block, the Science block etc. I had a school route map to assist me yet I had a very hard time getting to my first class. To make things worse, I discovered that day only that getting late to a class got you the status of tardy for that day and two tardies led to one absence….Oops. “I better become responsible enough now, else I’ll end up getting a TARDY every day,” I thought.

The next class was in a different block and I had only 10 minutes to get to the class. So I started running like crazy and got there on time, grabbed a chair and sat down. I could constantly hear students chatting about random stuff: parties, basket ball etc. Also overheard some guys checking girls and GUYS out. I had known about homosexual relationships being common in the US. Thank God :P Anyhow as I was listening to the gossips, I heard someone saying “Hey Gabe!” behind me. I turned around to see who Gabe was and was shocked to see a man moving towards the front part of the room. He was the teacher Mr. Gabriel. Oh shit. Yes many kids in the US call teachers by their first names. This was too much of a cultural shock for me. Everything from the school campus, the kids, the lockers, and the P.E. rooms to the the school cafeteria were so different. Not to forget the streets, the traffic rules, the layout of buildings and homes. But I got used to all that and within no time a year had almost gone by and I was preparing to come back home.

Now more than 6 years have passed and I still cannot forget those cultural shocks that I got when I went there. But most importantly I remember how I had changed perceptions, both of myself and the Americans and how my American family, friends, teachers and colleagues helped me to settle well amidst those cultural shocks.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Deception in Advertisements

Every day we watch several commercials on our television that inform us about a new product, give a recall of the already existing ones or entertain us because of their attractive concepts. But ever wondered why these concepts look interesting to us? Why so much money is spent on copywriters, marketers and advertising agencies? That is because they tap into the world of creativity and produce such concepts that not only show unrealistic traits of their products but also play with our emotions to a great extent.

Advertisements are usually built through either oversimplification or exaggeration techniques; that is they do not display the actual characteristic components of their products. And we all know that for a fact. But we still tend to fall for what the commercial is depicting. Take a look at a few examples that are deceptive to such an extent that they deviate from their true functions.

It is a universally accepted fact that tea is not really good for health. Research has proved and testified it. A very famous brand “Brooke Bond Supreme Tea” shows that tea is good for health through its latest advertisement and that our forefathers were superstitious when they used to say that it was not the case. The commercial had renowned celebrities as its endorsers who have a fan-following, thus letting the masses believe in what they wanted to show.

Now let us look at Veet, Anne French, EU cream, and Care hair removing cream commercials that always state that their product inhibits hair growth and prevents it from coming back. A great number of users have testified that this is not the case. In fact hair removing creams foster hair growth and it comes back even darker and harder.

Anti bacterial soap commercials have shown renowned actors as doctors who guarantee that the product counters skin problems and kills germs up to 99%. They have also started some CSR activities to promote their products so that people start considering the manufacturers as people of ethics and values when they even forget that the person guaranteeing the functionality of their products is not a professional himself.

Many print ads use such strategies of psychological pricing that our masses don’t even figure out. Let us see the print ads of Pizza Hut. They show a particular deal in the paper along with a mention of the price in big fonts and bolds. But the same figure has an asterisk attached with it which shows the hidden terms and conditions that apply at the time of purchase.

One of the popular mobile networks has also used deceptive techniques to market themselves. Zong has made this commercial where a consumer gets a load of PKR 100 and the shopkeeper tells him/her that he/she got an additional balance of PKR 100. The entire commercial talks about how one can get that credit and the same commercial ends with the message that the additional balance will be provided in the form of minutes.

Most TVCs show that the products they are offering to the market are needed by the customers. False needs are created and consumers are made to exceed the limits of their pockets to buy those goods. TVCs and ads make a person feel inferior by making them realize that they lack something somewhere. For instance fairness creams make a person believe that they lack complete beauty and confidence if their skin tone is darker.

There are a thousand more examples to quote if not millions that show such ridiculous associations of products with unrealistic traits. Most of us zip, zap or mute these advertisements but they do carry certain latent messages that impact us in some manner. Concrete steps should be taken to produce quality advertisements so that issues like women objectification, product influx, cut throat competition, male dominance etc. can be eliminated from our society because advertisements are one of the underlying reasons behind these.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Insensitivity – the predator

I see people dying right before my eyes, people suffering from pangs of hunger, people shivering with sickness, people being sold, abused, and mistreated. And I keep watching them suffer. Nothing happens to me. No fears, no regrets, no pain. And then I pause for a moment and ask myself, “What is their fault? Why them?” For a mere second, I do feel bad for the victims. But the very next second I am overcome with thoughts that take me back into the cruelties of this world. I am an insensitive human being. Wait! Am I even a human being? Selfish? Yes that’s what I am. I heard how people in the Orangi town, Jauhar, Qasba colony, Lyari etc. were being slaughtered. How those bastards were entering into the houses of people and killing them. How the residents of that area were locked up in their homes and were food deprived for 5 consecutive days. How they were surviving in a war-like condition. I hear a mother weeping over her son’s dead body. I hear a girl crying for her father who has been targeted somewhere and killed. But what do I do? Curse the people responsible and then thank Allah that my family members are safe. But should I not take this as an alarming bell? The day is near when my family members will fall victims to these tyrant and barbaric so-called peace makers. Will I sit back and watch then? The day is not far when my insensitivity will become the predator and murderer of my own family members.Yes, I will be the one responsible.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Are we going extinct as a nation?

Drone attacks, constant bomb blasts, target killings, political unrest and to add to the havoc now deadly disasters that are wiping out our masses…. Our so-called democratic government is doing what? Just adding up figures to the budget allocated for the President and Prime Minister house? Spending millions on giving a lavish lifestyle to their families?

A few days ago, I happened to be at Park Towers promoting a writing workshop when I saw a handful of cops roaming around all over the place. A few moments later I found out that our President’s daughter Bakhtawar was shopping at the mall and all that security was arranged for her. I have always been curious as to why so much budget is allocated for the Defense sector every year and that was the moment when I discovered the answer to that. But that security is not provided to a person who in spite of all the hardships is paying enormous amount of taxes. For whom the prices of fuel, gas, electricity, and all the necessary commodities have hiked up. That is the underlying reason of why the death toll through suicides has gone up.

Also the job market is giving such a tough time to our graduates, masters, and doctorates due to which they are compelled to leave the country and prefer going abroad to the land of opportunities. Continually increasing debts and foreign loans have aggravated the situation too. So I again put these questions forward: Are we going extinct as a nation? Will there be a time when no one would even know about the country that was created after innumerable sacrifices? Will the upcoming generations know of this land as the one that had a very stable army and naval force, the nuclear power that had beautiful sites and an attractive tourist industry? Will the country that made history become history? These are some questions that we need to ponder over.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Survival of the fittest

The world is talking about it now. Ask the leading HR consultants what the main eligibility criterion for a person to get employment at a renowned organization is. And you will discover that employers these days are looking for people who have good human skills and emotional intelligence. Technical skills are important but what sets one apart from the rest is one’s ability to adapt to a new environment, to communicate and coordinate with fellows nicely and to be able to handle emotions well.

Psychologists these days are talking about the non-cognitive aspects of intelligence and are more interested in social intelligence. Emotional Intelligence, or EI, describes an individual’s ability or capacity to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of one's self, and of others. Our EQ, or Emotional Quotient, is how one measures Emotional Intelligence.

Now the question arises why psychologists, managers and consultants are taking so much interest in EI. EI of an individual is a strong indicator of the projection of success in the position he takes. Relationships make or break a person’s career. Considering how globalization has taken over the industry and impacted it to such an extent and how the Multinationals have grown, Emotional Intelligence becomes even more of a concern to these people. Every day in businesses, one comes across so many new people and has to deal with them. There are times when the person you encounter the most with comes from an entirely different background. And diversity is essential to innovation. Thus without Emotional Intelligence, survival in contemporary times is not just difficult but practically impossible. Let’s just say that the fittest person nowadays is the one who comes in a complete package; one having great technical skills, a positive attitude and most importantly human skills, of which Emotional Intelligence is a very crucial part.


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Beggary - an emerging fashion! Who is responsible?

So now it’s becoming even more common. I have to admit that it takes real guts now to say NO to any beggar. It has been observed lately that the number of beggars on the streets of Karachi has increased manifold and this evil is creating unpleasant circumstances throughout the city. The once called “city of lights” should now be termed as the “city of beggars.”

“Allah k naam per dedey beta! Mere bachhon ne 2 din se roti nai khayi. Mujhe rashan dila dey. Mera pota bemaar hai (carrying a baby in her arms). Allah teri jori salamat rakhey beta!”

Every now and then when we take to the road, either as a pedestrian or in our automobiles, we witness this. So this happened with one of my friends a few days back when she was going to buy some stuff from a superstore. She was sitting next to her brother in her car in the parking lot and a random beggar came and uttered the above mentioned words. “Shit! We are siblings…What the hell is wrong with people these days? Just because I am traveling with a guy who is older than me doesn’t make me his girl friend, fiancĂ© or wife”, she thought…Awkward, right? And thus before the woman could say anything further, my friend took out a Rs. 20 note and handed it over to her.

Ever wondered why these people use such sentences? They have been trained professionally on how to emotionally blackmail us, the people who so easily fall a victim to emotional appeal. Many of us condemn these activities but what do we do? Fall a prey to the evils of the society? Ever imagined where this money that we give to them hoping that it would help them in some way goes? We all must have experienced that kids do not sleep for longer than a couple of hours. Ever thought of why the babies they carry in their arms keep sleeping all the time? Reliable sources reveal that these babies are drugged by the gangs that these people work for to compel people to give away charity to them. Ever wondered why people take to this path to gain some monetary funds to support their families? Think again.

You stop at a traffic signal and a child comes to sell a booklet of Qura’ani Surahs, tissue papers, flowers or toys etc. Have you ever bought anything from these people who despite of all the obstacles are trying to earn a livelihood through fair means? Have you ever appreciated their efforts? The same people when adopt easier and dishonest ways which are either begging or snatching and stealing, we condemn their acts. We ourselves don’t strive to find out the facts buried behinds these huge mounds of lies. And then we accuse either the government or the economic factors like hyper inflation for this enormously spreading disease. Let us pause here for a moment, ponder over the above mentioned facts and then answer this: “Who is responsible?”

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind

According to a recent research conducted by environmentalists, the rate at which the once abundant resources are being consumed is analogous to or even faster than the half lives of radioactive elements.
The rate at which the world population is growing is tremendous and as forecasted the upcoming generations will suffer massively due to certain practices if continued. Leading industries and corporations and also common people like us need to start economizing on the resources that are going in such paucity now. Taking the utilitarian approach, a few practices that I believe have benefits beyond imagination can do wonders if incorporated in our daily lives. These have been highlighted as per my understanding into categories below:

Industrial Practices:

1)Waste management department can prove to be extremely useful and ethical. A team of experts should be formed to come up with ways that can turn the by-products into useful end products. Also recycling can ensure utility of resources properly.

2)Disposal of harmful gases can be very hazardous and pose a threat to the health of laborers and workers and later to the macro environment on a whole. A system that consumes such gases and decompose them would be advisable.

Practices for the Common People:

1)Considering that water is going scarce in most of the continents at present and people don’t have purified water to even drink, ways to conserve water should be adopted. There are many ways in which this goal can be achieved like keeping the tap turned off while shampooing and washing face, using as little water as required etc.

2)Use of air conditioners should be minimized considering that it gives off CFCs in the environment which is leading to the depletion of ozone layer. Else the entire human race will suffer the consequences.

Accusations? Why only Media?

Do we backbite more about people in parties or discuss how someone has transformed into a better person? Are we more curious about finding whether someone has gone bankrupt or whether someone witnessed an increase in sales last month? We see two news stories when we glance at the paper in the morning. One of the headlines reads “two Christians killed in target killing” and the other reads “0.6% growth in GDP”. Which one becomes our choice to be read first?

Psychology clearly explains that we the human beings are more interested in what troublesome incidents are occurring in people’s lives rather than what positive incidents are shaping them. It also shows that we shun diversity and see differences more than the similarities that exist between us.

Every business opens up to make profits and like seeing constant increments in figures on their balance sheets. Same is the case with media. Considering how businesses are becoming more customer centered now to make profits, how can we expect media channels and newspapers to show positive news when a clear insight into human behavior reveals that such an approach will not work in any circumstances whatsoever?

Forget ethics. If we take up a business like perspective on this issue, it would not be wrong to say that media channels are operating on the demand of their customers which are us, the common people. Businesses run on the mere principle of creating profits, not just in the short run but also in the long run for their sustainability. Why are media channels always subjected to mockery by everyone? Just because their practices are so transparent and in front of our eyes? What about the other organizations that are huge and indulge into practices that pose greater threats to the survival of human beings? For instance, take an industry that spills its waste materials into the environment and hence polluting it on a whole. Why don’t we judge their actions equally the way we do with media channels? Just because they are functioning at the back of the stage doesn’t mean they should not be pointed fingers at.

We should remember that the same media is covering the entire transmissions of coke studio, the spirit of cricket and the emotional attachment to it, our great heroes and legends etc. Why? Because that’s what we want to see. We should not forget that no channel can manipulate or sensationalize us unless we allow them to do so.

In a nut shell, if we want media to cover the positive aspects of our culture, should we not change our outlooks on issues pertaining to our culture and individuality?