TalkingTails, Retail Customer Engagement and other stuff!

I’ve largely been off blogging at TalkingTails for a while. There were a whole lot of movie reviews, food reviews, and travel reviews that I used to blog about, but a lot of that seems to have dried up. Mostly work-related travel, long hours and married life are the factors I attribute this to. These have clearly managed to keep me away from my most interesting (and probably also most consistent) hobby over the last decade – blogging!

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The good news is that I have kept the “blogging fire” alive at least professionally – having started a new blog focused on Retail Customer Engagement – RetailNeo, and contributing to the official blog of Capillary Technologies, where I have been working for close to a couple of years now. In case you were a regular reader at TalkingTails – and haven’t been seeing enough content here – do hope over to some of the content I’ve been posting at these other couple of places.

As with everything I’ve done in the past, I’m super-passionate about some of the things happening in the Intelligent Customer Engagement space – around Retail and eCommerce, In store technologies, digital marketing, big data analytics – essentially the whole ecosystem around CEM (Customer Experience Management), the next “phase” of CRM if you will. It’s an exciting space – and if you have anything to do with it, I’d like to hear what’s going on?!🙂

Money2020: Quite a confluence & Capillary’s InStore launch

The thing about a conference like Money2020 is pretty much the fact that there a few conferences that are fairly broad in subject matter and audience. It lies at a very interesting cross-road that brings together people from the 4 very key areas that affect everyday commerce – Retail, Banking, Technology and Marketing.

With leading companies (both large corporates, as well as innovative companies) that participated in the 2013 edition of Money2020, it was quite the proverbial ‘melting pot’ of ideas, if you will. Though from a purely personal perspective, I would have loved to see more retailers there!

That being said, I think the content of show the show was spot on – and there were lots of interesting talks, sessions, workshops on things like the future of payments, BITCoin, social commerce, and even “Personalization”. At Capillary Technologies (where I work), we launched the Capillary “InStore”, which is a part of Capillary’s suite of Intelligent Customer Engagement solutions. (Find the official Press Release here).

With the content of the show attracting the really big ones (American Express, Bank of America, Google, Paypal and the likes), we were glad to be presenting at a innovation showcase format called “Launchpad 360”, where we were able to present and demo the product to the audience of the show. There were quite a few really interesting companies in there at LaunchPag360.

Capillary presentation in progress at Money2020 Launchpad 360
Capillary presentation in progress at Money2020 Launchpad 360

One of our co-participants at LaunchPad360 was a company called Loop Pay, that seems to have built a great working prototype of contact-less payment, enabling people to pay through their phones. Something like a digital wallet of all your credit cards. I mention them here because pulling off a live demo in front of a large audience is not an easy task – and these guys did it quite well. So did we, actually!😉

Among the speakers at the sessions from a very diverse backgrounds, was – Shivaraj Subramanian, who heads Consumer Insights at Magura Garments, one of Capillary’s customers. Owned by the Aditya Birla Group, Madura is one of the largest retail companies in India, operating brands and retail formats like Peter England, Van Huesen and Planet Fashion.

The 4-day conference at the Aria Resort, Las Vegas, was quite engaging. True to the content, they kept users hooked through innovative use of Twitter, and a useful mobile app, among other things, and the show seemed to have something for everyone!

MOVIE REVIEW: 12 Years a Slave (No Spoilers)

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12 years a slave is a moving, almost disturbing true story of Solomon Northup, an educated free man from Saratoga, New York, who is kidnapped, drugged and sold into slavery. Like so many other movies, this one glamorizes hope. It offers a peek into the mind of someone who is resolved to his fate, but yet resilient and hopeful of winning his freedom back with dignity.

The movie is based on an autobiographical book by the same name written by Solomon Northup himself, whose written account of his experiences was first published in 1968. Told from the narrative perspective Solomon (and sometimes his fellow slaves), it will make you think deeply about things like “freedom”, a concept that the more privileged generation of ours have taken for granted.

Despite the fact that it gives you an accurate sense of the living conditions, through a first-hand experience how human beings were treated worse than beasts, it will surprise you with how emotionally traumatic it was for those undergoing this. And the biggest trauma was really the act of obeying one’s “Master”, despite the order itself being in moral conflict with one’s own conscience.

The plot does not meander much – it flows like a straight river, with multiple (related) sub-themes being explored along the way. A mother separated from her children (who are sold to another “master”), a slave-lady who is violated and considers suicide. And of course, Solomon who is sometimes shown to act act as a source of strength to those around him. Consider them as the Level 4 rapids along the flow of the river, which can tend to throw you off-guard, given the sheer emotional brutality of it all.

Some of the performances in the movie are exemplary. Not surprisingly, the most stellar is that of the protagonist. Shiwetel Ejiofir, a British actor, of Nigerian origin, shines in his portrayal of Solomon Northup. The fear, the disbelief, the reconciliation and sometimes the feeling of helplessness are conveyed merely through facial expression and body language, rather than vocally. Of course, the cast also includes Brad Pitt (also one of the producers of the movie) who plays a little,  but significant cameo towards the end.

At a little over 2 hours, it is slightly long, but the story is intense and keeps you hooked. Everything seems to be in place, including the background score. In an otherwise silent movie, the occasional pieces of music by the legendary Hans Zimmer does as much justice to the script, as the script itself does to the movie, thanks to its appropriateness. And as far as all of it coming together is concerned, what amazes me is how British director Steve McQueen has managed to tell so much of the story through silences – it is an art, really! McQueen does not have too many movies to his repertoire but with the success and critical acclaim that he has received, I am sure a lot of people are sitting up and taking notice.

I will leave you with the trailer: