Did you know…
… that today is Giant Panda Day? This week in 1936, the first live giant panda from China was brought to the United States by clothing designer Ruth Harkness. Named Su-Lin, the male bear cub arrived in San Francisco and was subsequently sold to the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago for $8,750. It marked the beginning of an extensive series of pandas going abroad from China.
Today’s Inspirational Quote:
“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”
— Author Unknown
From a newsletter from Hacker Earth
You would have heard this statement and so had we.
Little did we ( at Hacker earth ) realize that our survey would unearth how BIG a problem this really is.
In September, we surveyed more than 1000 women technologists across organizations worldwide and the findings were shocking, to say the least.
- 2% (only!) of the respondents held C-Suite roles in tech
- 63% of the women changed jobs because of pay disparity
- 54% of the women agreed that there is an obvious bias in hiring
- 61% of the women were looking for better growth opportunities
All of these numbers are irrefutable proof that pay disparity, recruiting bias, and limited opportunities for women in tech are more prevalent than ever. Despite the tech industry’s best efforts to make workplaces more inclusive, there is an imbalance in tech gender diversity, and there is a lot to be addressed. We hope our survey report can point you in the right direction.
HackerEarth’s report on ‘Decoding the status of women in tech – 2018’ gives you an in-depth insight into the status of women in tech — the challenges they face, the opportunities they seek, and the career they aspire to build.
In the gap between who we wish one day to be and who we are at present, must come pain, anxiety, envy, and humiliation. — Alain de Botton
How Observation Changes Relationships
by Vimala Thakar
When we sit in silence what do we do? We sit and observe the voluntary and involuntary activities of the body and mind. Slowly the voluntary activities come to an end, but the involuntary activities we have inherited from birth, from our family, religion, race, nationality -which fill the mind – go on, and we sit and observe their unfoldment.
Since we are used to working all the time we may find it difficult at first to sit quiet, or the body may fall asleep due to accumulated fatigue. If it happens it is desirable to rest the body for a few days until it is fresh again. While you sit in silence, thoughts will arise, as the mind has been working for 24 hours. The thoughts cannot be suppressed nor can they be thrown away anywhere, you can only watch them, not naming them as good or bad. Then you are free from the roles of an experiencer and an actor, you enter into the state of an observer of non-reactional attention.
As soon as the mind begins moving and says: “I like” or “I dislike” what it sees, there is a disturbance, a burdening of the mind and the role of the observer is lost and you are once more immersed into the roles of an experiencer and actor. If you do not react to the thoughts you are observing, if they no longer have the power to elicit any reaction from you then they will subside of their own accord.
We have to extend this attitude of observation in relationships. Once the observer state is awakened it changes relationships. It is a tremendous energy that is awakened. When observation becomes a continuous state throughout the day, then:
(1) There is no self-deception. We do not hide anything from ourselves. There is nothing left as subconscious or unconscious it being all revealed in observation. There is now only the conscious level.
(2) We stop deceiving others or presenting a different image of ourselves to others. The seeing of what is, without justification or condemnation shatters the image. We now have the courage to live and be what we are.
(3) We become aware of all that is happening within us, of the different emotions arising within us, for example, if we begin to get angry we are aware of it and so the grip of anger loosens its hold over us.
(4) We recognize and admit our mistakes; asking for forgiveness immediately, thus freeing the mind from the burden of residue.
(5) Through observation thoughts subside, hence the strain and pressure they cause on the neurological and chemical systems are also lifted. It is this tension that brings about anti-social behavior.
(6) Pain and pleasure are not taken further than the present moment; thus no grudges or attachments are formed. The art of living is to live completely in the moment, not carrying any residue over to next incident, person or day.
In 2016, Marriott Hotels, which had 19 hotel brands, merged with Starwood, which had 11. They didn’t abolish any brands in the merger, and so the company faced a challenge: How to explain to customers, or even to its own employees, what makes all 30 of these brands different from each other.
So shortly after the merger, the company produced this cutesy matrix:
Don’t understand Marriott’s brands? Just check out the chart. They’re all either luxury, premium, or “select,” and they’re either classic (normal) or distinctive (quirky). Your regular Marriott is a “classic premium” hotel, while a hip W Hotel is “distinctive luxury,” and a value-priced Fairfield Inn is “classic select.”
“It made no sense,” says Gary Leff, who writes the View From the Wing blog on the travel industry, of this chart.
But the wealth of brands, and Marriott’s use of these terms to categorize them, persists, even if the matrix presentation does not. CEO Arne Sorenson has taken to calling the spaces occupied by similarly positioned Marriott brands “swim lanes”; as in a crowded pool, you may have to share one.
“If you ask most average consumers, they will not be able to list the brands that belong to the different companies or necessarily tell you what the differences are,” says Makarand Mody, an assistant professor of hospitality marketing at the Boston University School of Hospitality Administration. “It’s becoming harder for these companies to develop brands that are clearly distinct from each other.”
But is it really a problem to have so many brands? Marriott is, after all, the world’s leading hotel company. Two years after the merger, Marriott has shown it’s possible to live and thrive with 30 brands, even if your customers don’t really understand them all.
This is because the hotel business is quite different from airlines or automobiles or other brand-centric industries. Hotel brands do matter. But they matter more to hotel owners than to hotel customers. And if customers form strong enough loyalty to an umbrella hotel brand like Marriott, they may never need to develop a clear grasp of the underlying brands; they can rely on the company to help them navigate.
Marriott, like the other big hotel companies, owns very few of its own hotels these days. The hotel owners enter into multiyear contracts with companies like Marriott allowing them to use a specific brand.
“If we had not merged with Starwood, would we be trying to build 30 brands from scratch?” Sorenson asked, rhetorically, on Marriott’s November 6, 2016, earnings call, the first after the Starwood merger closed. “I think the answer is probably not. At the same time, having done this deal, the 30 brands all exist. They all have substantial capital that has been invested in them, particularly by the hotel owners who have made deliberate bets about which flag they put on their hotels. And we don’t have the power to, nor the desire to, try and convince them that those bets have not been good bets.”
That’s the first thing about Marriott’s brand challenge: It can’t easily get rid of any of its brands even if it wants to. The hotel owners won’t let them.
Consider Sheraton, the first Marriott brand I’d probably put on the chopping block if I were king. In that odd matrix diagram, Sheraton is listed as a “classic premium” brand. It has a strong reputation in some foreign markets, but in the U.S. it faces a perception of uneven quality — perhaps an outdated perception, as Starwood and Marriott have long worked to upgrade or disaffiliate the dingier Sheraton properties.
But besides the quality hiccups, Sheraton is not strongly distinguished from the flagship Marriott brand, which is also “classic premium.” So, is Sheraton necessary? Conceivably, Marriott could be better off with just one brand in this “swim lane,” in the same way that all of Hilton hotels that are like a Marriott or a Sheraton are just called “Hilton.”
(Back in 2016, Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta poked some light fun at Marriott for its excess of brands by echoing Sorenson’s “swim lane” terminology. “We are very focused on having pure-bred brands that are leaders in their individual segments, that have clearly defined swim lanes, that have premium market share and, as a consequence, help us drive industry leading organic net unit growth,” he said on an earnings call. “That’s our strategy. Others have taken different paths.”)
But if all the Sheratons turned into Marriotts, you would have, for example, a Marriott LAX at 6101 West Century Boulevard in Los Angeles, and another one 1,000 feet away at 5855 West Century Boulevard. It’s not strictly true that you can’t have two same-flagged hotels so close together — before the 9/11 attack, the World Trade Center Marriott was nearly adjacent to the Marriott World Financial Center — but property owners understandably prefer to avoid the situation.
Plus, reflagging a hotel is a much costlier proposition than repainting an airplane. To bring properties to a uniform brand standard, you might have to replace carpet and mattresses, even if these hadn’t reached the end of their useful life — not to mention the cost for new signage and stationery and printed napkins and pens. And properties that change their flag have to reintroduce themselves to customers under a new name. All of which is to say, Sorenson is right that hotel owners would stand in the way of a brand consolidation.
Plus, the downside of having to present a large and confusing stable of brands to consumers is much smaller for a hotel company than it is for, say, an auto company.
One of the main costs of operating several nameplates within one car company is that each must be marketed separately. The more brands GM has, the more television ads it has to run. But major hotel companies these days do very little marketing of their individual brands, focusing instead on building customer loyalty to the umbrella brand.
“I think the principal model today is we go to market through our loyalty platform, through our dot-com site, through our app,” Sorenson said on that November 2016 earnings call. “And those things allow us to essentially market a portfolio, and offer through that portfolio an incredible range of choice to our customers, which drives, actually, conversion from looking to booking that much higher and makes the economics of each brand better, not weaker.”
That is, Marriott doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to educate the public about, say, Moxy Hotels. Marriott can just spend money to convince people to book at Marriott.com, where it can show off all its brands at once, including Moxy.
That cost-benefit analysis explains why a merged hotel company like Marriott wouldn’t hurry to shed weak brands in favor of stronger ones in the same “swim lane.” But the companies keep coming up with new brands, like Moxy Hotels, which you may have never heard of. Why is this relatively new brand necessary?
Moxy is “a playground that attracts Fun Hunter travelers and is designed to give guests everything they want and nothing they don’t at an affordable price,” according to Marriott. Moxy hotels have small rooms, but they’re balanced out by lively common spaces that encourage interaction.
Like Moxy, many of the newer brands exist somewhere in the “select service” space, offering fewer bells and whistles than a Marriott or a Hilton but more than a Fairfield Inn or a Hampton Inn. Maybe you don’t mind if your room is small, but you care a lot about the bed being comfortable. Perhaps you don’t need a bellman or a pool, but you definitely want a bar. Hotel companies are developing these new brand concepts with your preferences in mind.
Makarand Mody says these new concepts are appealing to owners because they provide an excellent value proposition: They can be built and operated much more cheaply than traditional full-service hotels, because rooms are smaller and staffing levels are lower, but customers are often willing to pay nearly as much as they would for a full-service hotel room, especially in supply-constrained markets like Boston.
Even Hilton, the company that’s proud of its restrained and clearly delineated portfolio of brands, announced in October that it will launch a 15th brand: Motto by Hilton, “a micro-hotel with an urban vibe in prime global locations.” The prototypical Motto hotel will have guest rooms of just 163 square feet, but those small rooms will be offset by lively public spaces meant to promote interaction. You can think of it as “Moxy, by Hilton.”
Other brands exist to make it possible for the large hotel companies to integrate independent hotels that meet quality standards but don’t fit in a specific brand box. These are called “soft brands,” and Marriott has three of them: the Luxury Collection, which is luxurious; the Autograph Collection, which is at “the upper end of upper upscale”; and the Tribute Portfolio, which runs from “upscale into upper upscale.”
Those latter two designations come from Brian Povinelli, who is Marriott’s senior vice-president and global brand leader for its “premium distinctive” full-service hotel brands, including the Autograph and Tribute groups, plus Westin, Renaissance, and Le Meridien. Part of Povinelli’s job is to help consumers, including me, understand what makes Marriott’s distinctive brands so distinctive, and to ensure the properties within the brands are living up to those distinctive expectations.
I will confess that I’m not sure I see a clear distinction among Marriott’s three soft brands; before the merger, Starwood had two (just Luxury and Tribute) and Autograph seemed to be Marriott’s competitor to both of them; now all three brands live under one roof. But since a soft brand is soft, developing a clear identity is less important than with the “hard” brands. These are just nice, independent-looking hotels where you can earn Marriott points, and they’re an easy way for Marriott to grow its network.
As for the hard brands, Westin has a clear strategy for distinctiveness: wellness. The “Heavenly Bed,” workout gear available to borrow, soothing pale-green tones: A Westin is supposed to leave you feeling rested and healthy. I don’t believe I’ve ever stayed at a Le Meridien, but these hotels are all supposed to have a European flair with “a very specific mid-century modern design aesthetic,” according to Povinelli. Each has a “master barista.” Surprisingly, he says the brand does especially well in middle-American markets like Indianapolis, Columbus, and Tampa.
Where I have the greatest bone to pick with Marriott’s alleged distinctiveness is Renaissance.
“It’s focused on that element of discovery and bringing the local neighborhood to life,” says Povinelli. This seems to be the official Marriott line: a Renaissance Hotel is “Business Unusual”; a full-service hotel, but more plugged-in and local. There’s even a “Navigator,” who can tell you where is cool to go in the area. (You may have heard of this service elsewhere, referred to as “concierge.”)
I have stayed at the Renaissance Denver Stapleton hotel, which is an airport hotel that lost its airport, and I can’t say I was able to identify any local flair. There was a photograph of a ski hill in my guest room. On the other hand, the Mayflower in Washington, D.C., has so much local flair, it’s where Bill Clinton was photographed hugging Monica Lewinsky, where Eliot Spitzer became Client No. 9 in Room 871, and where Jeff Sessions had his forgettable encounter with then–Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Maybe the Mayflower had too much local flair for its Renaissance flag; in 2015, the property transitioned to become a member of the Autograph Collection.
All of which is to say, I can’t identify a clear through-line for Renaissance as a consumer. And if the unique brand proposition to the consumer isn’t obvious, it’s time to look for the proposition to the owner and the operator.
“It’s a conversion brand,” says Leff, the travel-industry blogger. “They can reflag some other hotel and call it a Renaissance pretty easily.”
Indeed, rather than calling it a hard brand, Renaissance might be best described as a “firm brand” that uses the frame of localism to allow for fairly wide stylistic variations across properties. A reasonably nice, full-service hotel can enter the Marriott network as a Renaissance without having to rip out and replace perfectly good fixtures like it might need to do in order to align with the brand standards for Marriott or Sheraton or Westin.
When you start slicing the distinctions among hotels this thinly, you start to see why it might make sense for a company like Marriott to have 30 different brands. Or at least why it would be in no hurry to get rid of any of them. So what if it’s not clear exactly what a Renaissance Hotel is? It’s a full-service hotel that’s not exactly a Marriott or a Westin, and you can get your points there. If you’re an elite member, they’ll give you the late checkout you’re entitled to.
Isn’t that what you were looking for anyway?
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. as a Renaissance hotel. It changed its flag from Renaissance to Marriott’s Autograph Collection in 2015.
They say, be careful what you wish for. But no one said it might involve raining money?
A highway in New Jersey recently turned into a scene from Mad Money – starring Queen Latifah, Diane Keaton, and Katie Holmes – after an armoured Brinks truck literally spilled a bunch of banknotes right on the street. What a day! While it began as an accident, the whole scene soon turned into a wild hunt with unsuspecting commuters on Route 3 (in East Rutherford) jumping in to make the most of the unexpected windfall.
So far, the estimated loss is said to be somewhere around $300,000. And investigating authorities have already issued a notice, warning people against possession of the lost cash. But it’s hard not to notice the irony of the situation or the proverbial “make it rain”, isn’t it?
Think over it.
Stories you shouldn’t miss
Ed-tech unicorn Byju’s has raised $540 million from Naspers, a global internet and entertainment group. The funding round also saw participation from Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB). With this, Byju’s becomes the most valuable ed-tech company in the world, valued at $3.6 billion, and one of the top five most-valuable startups in India.
Los Angeles-based Vyng has raised $4 million in Series A round from Omidyar Network India, March Capital Partners, Alpha Edison and the Entrepreneur Fund. The platform that enables users to begin conversations on the lock screen by transforming a user’s caller ID into a video, will be using the funds to grow its global team, partner with other app-based companies and to develop patents.
For the uninitiated, Rakuten is Japan’s leading ecommerce major-turned-conglomerate with interests spanning across fintech, digital content, and communications. While the online giant has no direct business operations in India, it has set up its deep tech research and development centre in Bengaluru. What’s the end goal, you ask? Rakuten aims to leverage India’s technical talent pool to drive its innovative solutions worldwide.
For a majority of the population in India, first-time access to the internet has been through the mobile phone rather than the conventional, fixed broadband route. This was largely due to the cheaper data plans in the country. With the rise in the number of internet users, however, digital industries in India have received a major boost – be it ecommerce, fintech, ride-hailing apps, healthcare, education or entertainment.
The recently-held two-day startup event, Demo Day 2018, saw close to 100 startups battling it out for the grand prize at KTPO, Whitefield, Bengaluru. Out of the 25 early stage startups competing in the finals, however, Modulus emerged as the winner, taking home a cash prize worth Rs 10 lakh. Bengaluru-based Prayasta also won a Rs 1 lakh prize, having been chosen as Dell Powered Startup for Demo Day 2018.
Large-scale, cross-category online classifieds business Quikr acquires of Chennai-based real-estate platform India Property Online. With more than 30 million monthly customers and small business users in 940 cities, the company is building transactions on top of classifieds. Founder and CEO Pranay Chulet says, “The strong base of India Property in the southern states and its full-stack model will help us grow our transaction business while adding to our classifieds base.”
With technology taking centre stage, the role of the Chief Technology Officer has grown by leaps and bounds. So much so that Bengaluru-based firm, Purple Quarter has dedicated itself solely to finding the right fit for companies seeking top technical leadership. “While roles like VP Engineering/Chief Technology Officer open up very rarely, there is often a dearth of relevant talent when they do,” explained Deepak Singh Ahlawat, Founder of Purple Quarter.
Google ‘survey for charity’ and complete one. They receive money for every one you fill out!
Tell a friend about ARK/World Kindness Day
Remember that friend you haven’t seen for ages? Give them a call
Make someone’s day – tell a friend why you appreciate them
Go out of your way to thank someone today!
Someone wronged you? Forgive them
Remember that family member you haven’t seen for a while? See how they are doing
Offer to help your neighbours/friends with chores
Go green – don’t waste paper
Who will be making dinner for your family today? Tag, you’re it!
Save your family some time and buy their groceries
|How to help everyone have a more enjoyable day…|