Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How to be a Motivational Speaker

This article was published in The HINDU Opportunitities section on April, 25, 2012 Link to the online published article How to be a motivational speaker A motivational speaker is one who makes a speech that leaves his or her audience inspired and charged. Motivational speakers are most often heard at corporate events, business meetings, seminars and at school and college events. They are usually asked to convey the company's strategy or the academic institution's mission to the gathered group so that the audience is charged with a positive spirit and are motivated to do more and better. A motivational speaker is the medium through which an idea or a vision is conveyed and the audience takes away the idea and the tools that are taught to them to implement the same in their professional and personal lives. Powerful motivational speakers convey a strong message and use real life examples to make their speech outstanding and inspirational. “Examples are the best tool available to convince others of your ideas. They are also interesting to hear and read”, says Avinash Narula, a leading motivational speaker and management guru. Here are some steps to help you become an inspiring motivational speaker. Connect with your audience The first and foremost step that a motivational speaker needs to understand is how he or she connects with their audience. While communicating, the idea or vision is significant, even more crucial is ensuring that a connection between the speaker and the listeners is established. And this is possible when the motivational speaker truly understands the audience he or she is speaking to. The content of the message then becomes tailored to suit the audience. Narrate a convincing story The fundamental difference between a regular speaker and a motivational speaker is in the manner in which they convey an idea, thought, vision or a message and the tools they use to illustrate their message. Narration of real-life examples, including references to events that have occurred in the lives of popular personalities that the audience can relate to, make it easier for the message to be received well. Good public speaking skills along with the ability to narrate a story with confidence and conviction will leave a long lasting memory in the minds of the audience. Use your props and tools effectively Make sure that you prepare your speech and presentation well ahead of time. Be creative and include appropriate tools to make your speech invigorating and educational. If you have hand-outs for the audience to take with them, be sure to make sufficient copies in advance. Be as visual as possible in communicating your ideas and use flip-charts and other drawing tools, as needed. Ask for feedback A good motivational speaker is one who solicits feedback from the audience and is open to receiving both constructive feedback and negative criticism. This can be done when you have a pre-created form that the audience can complete at the end of the session or just have them drop a line in a suggestion box on their way out. After you've gathered all the feedback, review each comment to know what went well and what could have been better in your speech. Incorporate the suggestions in your next session and gradually you will improve. Perfect your professional portfolio When you are starting out as a motivational speaker, make sure that you have a professional profile and are an expert in your chosen area/topic. Promote yourself by volunteering to speak at your child's school or college event, at the local rotary club or at some company's event. Be prepared to network as much as possible to get additional clients. Based on the performances of your initial speaking engagements, word-of-mouth publicity will land you further assignments. Prepare a written contract for clients with details on your fees, venue of the speaking engagement, other billable expenses etc. Successful motivational speakers are usually in great demand and are often paid good money for assignments and also booked well in advance. Keep your calendar up to date and organise yourself efficiently to keep up your commitments. Motivational speakers are often born with an innate gift to talk and do it with a passion that leaves the listeners with positive energy and the feeling that they can accomplish their goals. They can inspire and engage their audience by making good eye contact, keeping a confident posture and speaking about what they truly believe in. After all, we all need a dose of motivational speeches from time to time to break free from the monotony in our lives and find the inspiration to make our lives more meaningful.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to develop a succession plan

Published in The HINDU online on April, 11, 2012

Link to online article:

Many successful organisations and their leaders have a continuing concern about employee turnover in their companies. With the departure of key talent from the company, especially in management and senior roles, the future continuity and performance of the business is at risk. That is when succession planning comes in as a timely intervention to enable the organisation to function seamlessly. A succession plan is a systematic process where managers identify, assess and develop their staff to make sure that they are ready to assume key roles within the company.

Through active succession planning, employees are constantly developed to fill each key role within the company.

Here are some practical ideas on how you can develop a good succession plan that enables a smooth transition with less likelihood of disruption to operations.

Develop your employees

The first step in succession planning lies in identifying and understanding the developmental needs of your employees. Employees need to know their career paths and the roles they are being developed to fill.

It is healthy to allow your employees for lateral moves, assign them to special projects, offer team leadership roles and also internal and external training and development opportunities. You should plan on hiring superior talent and retaining top performers as this will save your organisation time, effort and resources. Be aware of the employment trends in your area to prepare for the roles that will be hard to fill externally.

Update your organisation chart

Start with updating your existing organisation chart and briefly outline what the organisation might look like once someone leaves.

For example, if your manager of information technology is leaving, who will be his/her successor? If they are internal, also outline who will fill their current position. Outline any positions that will be vacant after the reshuffle. Keep a spreadsheet or a list of all the positions in the organisation and the people that are expected to fill the position in the event of a succession. For each position outline:

Job Title

Name of the employee expected to fill the position, if unknown, you can mention ‘Vacant'

Skills required

Training requirements

Keep a succession timetable

Use a succession timetable to track all phases of the succession planning process. The phases can include, but be not limited to planning, business operations (e.g. financial/HR/legal), successor mentorship and training, handover and transition. For each phase list the specifics:

Phase description

Succession action items needed for this particular phase

Start date of the phase

End date of the phase

Conduct a risk analysis

Evaluate the risks to the succession and any contingencies that may happen. Thinking about potential pitfalls and anticipating what can go wrong while the succession plan is being implemented along with recognising the potential impact to the business will help assess the likelihood and impact of risk. As a backup, make sure that you have a contingency/alternative plan in the event that the risk happens.

Lastly, the process of succession planning is crucial to a company's survival and needs to be a part of the organisation's strategic planning process as it deals with projecting future changes along with anticipating vacancies and then determining how to meet these challenges.

The benefits to an effective and proactive succession plan will keep your company well prepared for expansion, reduction in workforce, employee promotions and transfers, organisational restructuring and most of all in building a strong talent base for continued success.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Fast moving consumer goods making headway

Title: Fast moving consumer goods making headway

Published in The HINDU Opportunities on April, 4th, 2012

Online Link to the article:

With India being one of the fastest developing world economic countries, as a result of higher disposable incomes and a middle class that is growing to the next level along with a rural subset that is also expanding to a higher level, the consumer goods companies are relishing huge profits. Both domestic and international companies are investing in the various markets and categories that are available in this sector. The fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector is at its peak.

Commodities that are sold quickly at low prices are referred to as fast moving consumer goods. Often, these goods have an expiry period and have to be replaced or used within the lifetime of the product. Examples of such fast moving consumer goods include a vast range of items such as perishable food and grocery items, hair and skin care products, household items, packaged goods, plastic and paper products and medical products. Consumer electronic items such as cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 players and computers also fall under this category.

Among the various categories, food and grocery make up the largest segment of this sector (almost 70%) followed by the personal and beauty care market which continue to grow at a rapid pace. There are numerous job opportunities available in this sector. Here is a look at the employment prospects in this sector.

Skill sets

A basic college degree or a certification with courses in retail, logistics, store operations, marketing and sales is helpful to get into this industry. Experience is preferred in comparison to educational qualification in this sector. The experience can be from working at a store doing sales or working on the operations side of consumer companies. The top qualities required to be successful in this field are strong sales skills, good perception and insight, negotiation abilities and practical knowledge handling daily issues that come up with customers. Having good customer service skills, patience in dealing with a range of customer personalities along with the ability to communicate in several languages, including being familiar with the local dialect is helpful.


A hierarchy of roles are available in this sector that span from an entry level store associate to a senior executive. Positions in store operations, billing and accounting, floor operations, sales and marketing, product management, logistics and retail are in regular demand. Higher level and specialised roles such as Planning and Analysis, Competitor and Market Analysts, Door-to-door sales and direct marketing, Product Management and Territory Sales, Branding and Market Strategy are also available to management graduates.

Core unique roles in retail and food sector for experienced people who come from food and beverage companies such as food technologists, laboratory technicians, nutritionists, sensory technicians and other consumer goods companies with specialised knowledge about the workings of that industry are also available.

Lastly, sales roles are the most common positions that are available in this sector. Sales positions can include direct sales, sales of goods from wholesale to retail outlets and stores, door-to-door sales representatives and online sales. Some jobs also pay a commission based on the number of sales an employee makes and this depends on the industry, as well. On-the-job training is also provided for sales personnel so that they can become acquainted with the products they are selling.

Employment potential

According to a Booz and Company study for the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the fast moving consumer goods industry is expected to be worth Rs.400,000 crore by 2020. With the upsurge in per capita household income and increase in consumption of certain types of consumer goods from the rural population, the growth prospects in this sector continue at an increased pace. The Indian FMCG sector is the fourth largest sector in the economy and with the competitive multinationals entering this domain along with sustained demand from local consumer goods companies, the needs and demands of the Indian population are consistently mounting thereby making this one of the country's aggressively growing sector.

The forecasts suggest that the sector may produce up to three million jobs by 2015.

Key players

Multinationals like Hindustan Unilever Ltd., Indian Tobacco Company (ITC), Cadbury India, Nestle India, Colgate Palmolive, Dabur India, Britannia Industries, Marico Industries have dominated the sector for years. Domestic and regional companies like Godrej (for toilet soaps and hair dyes), Tatas (for cosmetics and edible oils), Amul (for milk products, ice creams) have also marked their presence in this sector. With increasing awareness among the younger population to go with brand names, several international players like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Revlon and L'Oreal have also entered the Indian market. So, if you have a fascination for the competitive world of fast moving consumer goods, the potential for advancement, profit and career growth is highly favourable.

How to write a Statement of Purpose

Title: How to write a statement of purpose

Published in The HINDU Opportunities on April 4, 2012

Online Link to the source article:

Are you done with your GRE/GMAT tests? Are you currently getting ready to put together your application packet to send to various universities? A statement of purpose (SOP) is your launch pad towards securing that desirable admission into the university of your choice. A well-thought out and personalized SOP that illustrates your academic accomplishments, conveys your zeal for the course and also explains why you have chosen that particular university for your graduate education will sway the admission committee in making a decision in your favour. The main idea behind this exercise is to give the admissions committee an idea of what to expect from a prospective student apart from his/her scores, GPA and letters of recommendation.

Here are some pointers that can help you write a winning SOP:

Purposeful writing: Understand that the purpose of writing a SOP is to convince the university's admission committee to grant you admission. This is best done when you write about yourself, your academic credentials, research interests and how your background fits in with the university's graduate program and how your personality matches what they are looking for in a graduate student. Don't expect your first draft to be your final version, be prepared to rewrite several times and put it away for a few days and revisit it again to give it a fresh perspective.

Framework and body: Many universities require an applicant to answer one big question or a question with many sections as part of the essay. Do your research about the university, its program and be prepared to elaborate on why this course is of special interest to you. Do not hesitate in divulging aspects of your personality, the experiences that shaped you and allow glimpses into your character that are relevant to the questions and talk about your future goals, as well.

Language and presentation: Make sure that your English usage is correct; avoid grammatical errors, abbreviations, spelling and typographical mistakes to make your SOP a clean essay. Follow a logical thought process or use a chronological sequence when describing yourself so that your readers will be motivated to read your story. After all, you are writing about yourself to an audience who has never met you. Stick to the word limit specified and be succinct in your presentation. Give yourself enough time to put together an essay that would do due diligence to you and the admissions committee.

Avoiding the obvious: When writing your SOP, stay away from trying to sound impressive and avoid over-using the “I” approach to your statements, this is because the admissions committee already knows that it is your SOP. Refrain from informal writing and repetitive sentences where you dwell on what program you are applying for, the name of the university etc. as this is all information that is already part of your application before the admissions committee.

American Universities receive several applications from students throughout the world whose credentials and academic background may all be somewhat similar. Further, when granting admission to students, these universities also look for geographical diversity along with other preferred qualifications. A well-written SOP that can stand out and make a mark with the admissions committee is what will make or break your admission into the University of your choice. Also, remember that a convincing SOP is what will cover your bases for any minor glitches in your credentials and is your only chance to sway the admissions committee to make a favourable decision.