Month: May 2008

Ikea: no tax, no threat

Mostly, we know Ikea for its good-looking, value-for-money, comfortable furniture and housing appliances. And for the layout of its stores, where all its products are arranged such that you can picture how exactly they’d look in your own home. I’m definitely not the only one who’d go in there to pick up a table lamp and walk out with a big bag full of things I don’t quite need. Recently, I read an article in the Economist about Ikea’s accounts. The Swedish company plays around the weak policies of the Dutch corporate-registration system and manages to legally evade the major part of its taxes. Not just that, it’s complicated ownership means it pretty much rids itself of any fear of a hostile takeover. There are several layers you need to uncover before you can really know who owns Ikea, here’s how. As a company, Ikea is divided between the actual manufacturing company and its franchisee arm. The manufacturing / operations division is owned by a Dutch company, Ingka Holding. Ingka Holding is in turn, part …

My third place

There are so many things I want to write about, but I get enough inspiration to write only when I’m at Starbucks! It’s sort of become my happy place, the third place if you may. I didn’t quite get the concept when Howard Schultz started out, or when I read about it. He wanted Starbucks to be the third place, the one you’d go to between home and work. I mean I got the idea, but I didn’t quite feel the need. Now I do! Home can get boring and monotonous and sleepy! And work, well, mostly people can’t wait to get out of there. So Starbucks it is. For a meeting, for hanging out, for blogging, or simply for overspending on a white chocolate mocha for a few hours of peace. Either way, Starbucks has just the ambiance for that break we all desperately need. And at this rate, I am well on my way to becoming a Starbucks’ ambassador! The shooting Star(bucks).

Bringing the world together

250 million years ago, we all belonged together. Back in the day, the seven continents were joined together into a single landmass. It was called Pangea, which in ancient Greek means ‘entire earth’. Then rifts happened, they broke up and started drifting apart. As did we, its people. Today, we stand gripped by hatred, fear, jealousy, cowardice and anger. There are wars and shootouts, murders and rapes, slavery and injustice. People are dying. On May 10th this year, the first-ever Pangea Day was celebrated. It aimed to bring together the people of Pangea, once the world to all of us, through the power of film. The idea was to collect short films and broadcast them at the same time to people all over the world. Films from every inhabited part of our earth. Films depicting every possible human emotion. Films viewed by all audience simultaneously. I caught a one-hour recap on Star World and saw some very interesting clips. Apparently, Nokia, a Pangea Day supporter, distributed camera phones in many distant places about 6 months …

Cold rock, Singapore

Recently, I got introduced to this awesome ice cream parlor in Holland Village, Singapore. (It’s located close to Cha Cha Cha & NYDC, and almost opposite to Wala Wala.) It’s called Cold Rock and is an Aussie chain. They let you make your own ice cream! Along with the regular ice cream scoops, there’s a whole bunch of mix-ins to choose from, including (and not limited to) tim tams, cadbury flakes, M&Ms, Rochers, Oreos. I love the concept and the choice is almost overwhelming! I found the ice cream flavors a little weird though, especially all the chocolate ones. They aren’t strong / sweet enough, atleast for me. The bubble gum flavor is average too. The strawberry one is good though. But the mix-ins compensate for the most part, as does the set-up of the parlor. At the far end of the store are a couple of swings you can sit on! They almost bring back those childhood days of swings, sun and ice cream. Yummy. Image: Cold Rock, Singapore Number of ice cream cups …

The 5 minute management course

I’m not a fan of forwards, but I’ll make an exception for this one. Lesson 1: A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings. The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs. When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbor. Before she says a word, Bob says, ‘I’ll give you $800 to drop that towel.’ After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob, after a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 and leaves. The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs. When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, ‘Who was that?’ ‘It was Bob the next door neighbor,’ she replies. ‘Great,’ the husband says, ‘did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?’ Moral of the story: If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders, in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable …

Friends, Romans, Countrymen

10th grade was a long time ago, but Mark Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar continues to live on as my favorite. All hail Shakespeare! From Act 3, Scene II, mourning Caesar’s death, Mark Antony: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones; So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus Hath told you Caesar was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault, And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it. Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest– For Brutus is an honourable man; So are they all, all honourable men– Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me: But Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man. He hath brought many captives home to Rome Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: …

Seriously, Mr Bush?

The blame game just resumed. George Bush and Condoleezza Rice issued a statement a couple of days ago, blaming the fueling food prices in the US on India and China! According to our dear geniuses, the Indian middle class is demanding better nutrition, which is driving the food prices up. Wicked, man! As though blaming India & China for global warming wasn’t enough. So here’s what I found. First up, world consumption statistics rank Westerners as the highest consumers of calorific content and nutrition, not Chinese, not Indians. Not just that, the US also ranks the highest in food wasting. Apparently, 40-50% of edible food, or $43 billion worth of food gets thrown away every year. In fact, Brit environmentalists have been campaigning that a reduction in such food wastage would also result in reduced harmful emissions responsible for all the climate change. And they say that the US went into the whole food crisis because of their sectoral shift to biofuel which used up 12% more food grains than 2007, reducing its agricultural production. …

Surnames, where do they come from?

Ever wonder what your surname means? Or where it comes from? Or which generation of your ancestors chose it? Or how? I ran a quick search, and it seems that like most other things, the origin of family names varies with culture and geography. Their use started when people started finding it difficult to identify each other with their first names alone. Population growth you might call it. Most surnames were obviously chosen long long ago, close to the middle ages, but different societies still use them differently. The Spanish for instance. Unlike most English societies, in Spain, every person has two family names, the first is paternal and the second, maternal. My Spanish professor, who is from Valencia in Spain, writes her name as Maria Jose Romero, or Marijo Romero for short. Upon marriage, Spanish people retain their own two family names, including the women. For women, the name however, may be linked to her husband’s surname using ‘de’. So if my Spanish prof were to marry, say Enrique Iglesias, she could be called …

Changi, Singapore

Changi is probably the single nicest place in Singapore. Also probably the only one without the Singaporean feel you get in the rest of Singapore, which by the way, you start to get really bored of when you’ve been here for three years. In fact, you can start noticing the difference even in areas close to Changi. The greenery makes you forget the ‘financial hub’ that Singapore is with its omnipresent modernistic buildings. On either side of the road are tons and tons of trees, and contrary to the rest of the country, all natural (at least they look natural). And at Changi, despite its own modernity, things just feel a lot more, well, ‘international’, for the lack of a better word. I mean it’s the one place I’d come to escape Singapore, literally too! I like the way it spans over lots of land, and even within Changi, the way things are really spaced out, unlike the claustrophobic layout in the city and within most malls. I guess I’m sort of partial to Changi, …

When Mars met Wrigley

The merger that will kick Nestle’s ass, and Hershey’s and Cadbury’s. If it goes through of course. Same was said of the fizzled out Wrigley-Hershey’s deal once. Anyway, more than their merger, the fact that Mars is being supported in funding by Warren Buffet whose also getting a stake in Wrigley, is the reason for all the buzz. Wrigley will add to its Juicyfruit, Eclipse, Orbit by taking over Mars’ non-choco business (read skittles for the most part). Besides sheer power in the industry, Mars+Wrigley implies an increase, not in the advertising spend alone, but in the advertising heads, if both retain their agencies. Pedigree (a Mars brand) owes its the-way-we-know-it-today identity to TBWA. The other Mars agency is BBDO, which also has Wrigley as its client. And DDB is Wrigley’s second agency. So the Marsley (from my affection for word blends – Mars + Wrigley = Marsley) marriage means three ad-heads, tons of marketing platform, and more leverage for both. Let’s hope for a wedded brand too, of the nature of Snorbit (Snickers + …