Today, more so than ever before, using computers, electronics, and the internet has become an integral part of our daily lives. We witness a huge proliferation of various smart devices and technologies around us. With the internet of things, we will witness more and more electronic devices becoming internet devices and communicating over the internet protocol. The day is not far when an average household member across the world is going to comfortably control most of the household devices using a dashboard on his or her computer screen or smartphone. The Internet is probably the best invention of mankind, thanks to DARPA!

So, Is everything great in the cyber world?

The answer is ‘No’.

Just like the real world, the internet world too has both the good guys and the bad guys. Initially, when the Internet was smaller in scale, there was no big incentive for doing bad things on the internet. But, as more and more key sectors like banking services, government services, defense command, military, aviation, energy, private and public enterprises and others have adopted internet in their daily work, the incentive to become bad has become huge today. Your credit card details can be robbed by a 14 year old expert cyber criminal (computer hacker) sitting in Mexico or a country’s key defense plans can be stolen by expert hackers recruited by enemy states.

In fact, let’s look at some of the major cyber crimes in the last few years to understand how common and how big these attacks have become.

1. Heartland Payment Systems

Heartland Payment Systems is the fifth largest payment processing company in the United States. It processes debit card, credit card, e-commerce and mobile payment solutions to its customers. In 2008, the company’s networks were infected with a spyware and cyber criminals retrieved 134 million credit card numbers and related information, costing the company $140 million dollars in damages.

2. Stuxnet

Stuxnet is the name of a famous worm virus that attacked the controllers controlling the nuclear reactor in Iran in 2010. It is said that this attack was done by the United States and Israel together to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. This is an excellent example of how various state actors can be behind the attacks and how states can be victims of attacks on crucial infrastructure.

3. Sony Playstation network

In 2011, 74 million playstation accounts and debit/credit card related information was stolen by an unknown group of hackers. The cost of the damage is estimated at about $1 to $2 billion dollars.

4. Target

During the 2013 Thanksgiving, Target suffered a massive security breach that resulted in 70 million credit card and debit card numbers stolen throughout the United States. Losses from the damage went into millions of dollars.

5. Ebay

Just a few weeks back in May 2014, eBay has announced that all its customer information has been hacked. eBay made requests to all its customers to change the password and account details.

Many major companies like Google. Citigroup, Facebook, and Twitter have been victims of cybercrime in the past few years. The attacks are not only targeted at big companies, but also targeted across all types of companies. The problem is: most companies don’t recognize that they are being hacked, and companies that realize that they are hacked do not go public in fear of losing company reputation.

A McAfee study estimates that cyber attacks cause a $1 trillion annual loss to the global economy. There are speculations that many attacks are done or funded by governments of various countries. Today, cyberspace has become the fifth mode of warfare, after land, sea, air and space. Most countries today agree that they are in a cyber warfare situation. It is clear that the 21st century may not witness a conventional war, especially with many nuclear powered countries, but there will be some deadly cyber wars between countries to damage the business, economy, and critical infrastructure of the state. So, most countries are getting very serious about cyber security and are considering cyber security as a top national security threat.

The Global Situation

According to the analyst firm, Alix Partners, globally cyber security is going to grow from $60 billion in 2011 to $120 billion in 2017 with a CAGR growth of 11 percent. Currently, the U.S. and Western Europe contribute to the majority of this market, but APAC and Rest of the World (ROW) are expected to show strong growth for the cyber security market.

There is also a paradigm shift among startup investors and venture capitalists. Startup investors are aggressively looking for cyber security startups and cyber security is now a hot area for startup investments. There have been some high profile (billion dollar) mergers and acquisitions too in this space.

Major Acquisitions:

1. Intel acquired McAfee for $7.6 billion

2. Cisco acquired SourceFire for $2.7 billion

3. IBM acquired Trusteer for $1 billion

With rise in more sophisticated attacks, the companies too are upping the game quickly. Traditionally, companies used to install an anti-virus and a firewall and think that they are secure. The various security solutions installed in the company such as a firewall, data protection, application security, and network security used to work independently and not talk to each other. Cyber criminals have exploited these gaps in security solutions for destructive purposes.

Today, security solutions are becoming more integrated, leading to unified threat management solutions. Security solutions across various layers of security are talking to each other to build a strong security framework.

The Indian Situation

Following the emerged markets, India too is gearing up to build its offensive and defensive capabilities in cyber security. The Government of India (GOI) has taken some serious steps towards setting up the cyber security infrastructure in the country. Some of the key steps are:

1. GOI has released a cyber security policy and has setup some key nodal agencies to initiate and monitor the cyber security activity in both public and private sector enterprises.

2. GOI has setup a joint working committee to invite private players (global and domestic) to bring the global security standards and to set up the infrastructure in India.

3. India is also encouraging research and development through academic and government institutions to develop indigenous security solutions.

Though the Indian security market is only about $200 million dollar plus, it is expected to witness strong growth of 15-16% in the coming years, especially with the Government of India taking huge initiatives towards security.

In summary, both globally and regionally, rise in cyber crime, rise in smart devices and computerization, and rise in attacks on national assets are causing cyber security to be a national policy priority. All the governments globally are expediting efforts to secure their cyber borders. While countries like the U.S. and Israel are already seen as champions of cyber security, emerging markets like India, though late to arrive at the scene, are expected to play strong in the coming decade.

Tony Robbins says that humans have six basic needs that sums up all the different types of motivations behind our actions. He says that these needs form the basis of every choice we make in life. The six core needs are:

1. Certainty/Comfort – the need to be safe and comfortable

We all want comfort and much of this comfort comes from certainty. Of course there is no ABSOLUTE certainty, but we want certainty that we can afford a certain standard of living, have a certain amount of safety and security, and lead a healthy life. For most people, money brings in a basic form of certainty.

2. Uncertainity/Variety – the need for physical and mental stimulation

At the same time as we want certainty, we also want variety. Our mind craves for challenges, variety, excitement, adventure, change and novelty.

3. Significance – the need to feel special and worthy of attention or love

Deep down, we all want to be important. We want our life to have meaning and significance. We want to build a sense of importance for ourselves. Different people can opt different ways to achieve it. For example, some people need money to ensure certainty whereas some people need money to feel more self-worthy than others.

4. Connection/Love – the need to be loved and connected to others

It would be hard to argue against the need for love. We want to feel part of a community. We want to be cared for and cared about. Being in love also contributes to the significance or meaning of one’s life.

5. Growth – the need to develop and expand

We constantly want to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. To become better, to improve our skills, to stretch and excel. It may be more evident in some than others, but it’s there in everybody.

6. Contribution – the need to contribute beyond yourself

 The desire to contribute something of value—to help others, to make the world a better place than we found it is in all of us. Contribution to life provides a deep meaning and fulfillment about one’s life.

Tony Robbins says that we try to satisfy these needs daily in some manner, but not all of these six needs are equally important for all the people. Most of the times, people identify themselves most closely with one or two of the needs and they try to satisfy these needs in different ways. Most of a person’s decision-making can be understood if one understands their underlying core needs. He asks us to identify the one or two needs that are important to us and understand how we tried to achieve it in the past and how we are trying to achieve it in future, and explore what are the better ways to satisfy those needs.




We all know that a painting or a word ‘beautiful’ can have a different subjective meaning for different people. But, what about colors?

Assuming we both are not color blind and we have perfect vision, do you think we both see a particular color in the same way? Most people would say a thundering ‘Yes’ to this question. But, philosophers and scientists say that they don’t have an answer to this question. But, how can that be? – after all, we both are able to pass the color blind tests and we both can agree that something looks red.

I first bumped into this question when I heard Richard Dawkins mention in an interview that “I cannot know how you see the color Red“. At first, I couldn’t really absorb what is he saying, because I thought that red is the same color (same wavelength of light) for all of us, except for the color-blind people. So, how can somebody with normal vision not see red as red.

But, as I thought more about it, I really understood what he meant. You and I can look at a color and agree that it is ‘Red’, but we cannot understand if your perception of ‘Red’ is the same as my perception of ‘Red’. This is a classic problem of the inability to exchange your experience. 

I will try to explain this with an example. Let us say that when I see this text, my mind is actually seeing it as this text and identifies it as the color ‘red’. On contrary, when you see this text, your mind actually sees it as this text and identifies it as the color ‘red’.

Both you and me agree and label correctly that this text is red in color, but how we experience red is very different.

At this point, you might have already understood the reason behind this problem. Colors are nothing but labels for the reality that our mind constructs out of different wavelengths of light. Just because we are agreeing on the label, doesn’t mean we are having the same construction of the reality in our mind.

Nobel Prize winning physicist, Erwin Schrodinger says:


Scientists and philosophers call this individualized experience as Qualia. Dawkins has written a nice post on this topic: Sky-blue-pink. A colour never before seen. He talks about why it is close to impossible  to express what a color blue looks like to somebody who has never seen the color blue, and the impossibility to imagine a color that you’ve never seen.

Everything that you experience in life is a construction of your mind and is a self made reality.

Here is a very nice YouTube video on this topic.


Our brain is a tricky place to be because it is just full of biases. In my previous posts, I have written about some biases such as the confirmation bias, halo effect, outcome bias, and affective forecasting. Understanding these biases can help us recognize them in our daily lives and we may, in turn, provide ourselves an opportunity to tune our behavior and perspective. In this post, let us understand some popular biases regarding planning and confidence.

The Planning Fallacy

The planning fallacy is a tendency for people and organizations to underestimate how long they will need to complete a task, even when they have experience of similar tasks that over-ran in the past. It occurs either because people overestimate their rate of work or underestimate how long it will take them to get things done. It is strongest for long and complicated tasks, and disappears or reverses for simple tasks that are quick to complete. The term was first proposed in a 1979 paper by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. The bias only affects predictions about one’s own tasks, whereas when uninvolved observers predict task completion times, they show a pessimistic bias, overestimating the time taken.

So, the reality exists somewhere between one’s own prediction and the uninvolved observer’s prediction.

Understanding Confidence and Self-confidence

Confidence is generally described as a state of being certain either that a hypothesis or a prediction is correct or that a chosen course of action is the best or the most effective. On the other hand, Self-confidence is having confidence in oneself and Arrogance  is having unmerited confidence—believing something or someone is capable or correct when they are not.

Self-confidence does not necessarily imply ‘self-belief’ or a belief in one’s ability to succeed. For instance, one may be inept at a particular sport or activity, but remain ‘confident’ in one’s demeanor, simply because one does not place a great deal of emphasis on the outcome of the activity. When one does not dwell on negative consequences one can be more ‘self-confident’ because one is worrying far less about failure or the disapproval of others following potential failure. One is then more likely to focus on the actual situation which means that enjoyment and success in that situation is also more probable. Belief in one’s abilities to perform an activity comes through successful experience and may add to, or consolidate, a general sense of self-confidence. Studies have also found a link between high levels of confidence and wages. Seemingly, those who self-report they were confident earlier in schooling, earned better wages and were promoted more quickly over the life course.

The Overconfidence Effect

The overconfidence effect is a well-established bias in which someone’s subjective confidence in their judgments is reliably greater than their objective accuracy, especially when confidence is relatively high. This bias is more prominent in difficult tasks. People tend to over-estimate themselves in difficult tasks, because the difference between your judgement and your actual performance increases during difficult tasks. This phenomena is also called the hard-easy effect. Daniel Kahneman says “overconfidence has been called the most “pervasive and potentially catastrophic” of all the cognitive biases to which human beings fall victim. It has been blamed for lawsuits, strikes, wars, and stock market bubbles and crashes.”

But, overconfidence can be beneficial to an individual’s self-esteem too as it gives the individual the will to succeed in their desired goal. Just believing in oneself may give one the will to take one’s endeavours further than those who do not.

Thank you.

The contents of this article are heavily borrowed from Wikipedia.

Marketing Budget

The marketing budget of an FMCG brand typically comprises of the following elements:

1. Above The Line (ATL) budget

2. Below The Line (BTL) budget

The ATL budget broadly comprises of two components: the media budget and the production budget. Media budget is the actual money that is spent on advertising the brand in conventional media such as print, TV, radio, cinema, outdoor, social, and mobile. Production budget is the cost that is incurred to produce the creative units that are used in the communication process. Usually the costs for production are not very high (relative to the budget), except for TV advertising, which has high production costs depending on the kind of brand ambassador or model, location, post-production work, creative and production team, etc.

The BTL budget comprises of two components: the trade budget and the promotions budget. Trade budget is the budget kept aside for offers and promotions for the trade schemes. This is more important for certain categories and brands that are in a more mature stage of the product life cycle (PLC) or that are more dependent on trade ‘push’ than on consumer ‘pull’. On the other hand, the promotions budget is the budget set aside for consumer promotions, for e.g. volume or value offers, and any on ground activations and in-shop advertising.

So, the budget is partitioned mainly across advertising, trade schemes, and consumer promotions. Marketers try to craft the right mix of these tools and its sub-components in order to achieve sales and market share goals, but they are always torn between the long term brand plans and the pressure to deliver results in the short term. For example, consumer promotions generally result in an immediate peak in the sales offtakes, and hence promotions may seem more attractive compared to advertising. But, excess promotions can bring down the profitability of the brand, make the brand more promotions dependent, and cause loss of market share in the long term. Similarly, sometimes internal pressure from trade and sales teams may force more investment into trade schemes.

In summary, marketers and planners make budget and media-mix decisions based on many qualitative and quantitative factors (e.g. marketing and financial goals, past spends, clutter, competition spends, market priority, cost per rating point, media isolatability, etc.) and use tools like optimizers and market modelling to optimize their investments for maximum return.

As an after thought, here is a Forbes article on the emerging trend of how brands are shifting their budgets from TV to online video?

Thank you.

Photo: Shutterstock

Imagine the excitement you had when you bought your first car. You were really happy of your new possession and you thought that it is going to add to your stack of happiness in life. But, soon you realized that the happiness fizzled out, and you are back to the same level of happiness. Rolf Dobelli describes it nicely in one of his articles:

A friend, a banking executive, whose enormous income was beginning to burn a hole in his pocket, decided to build himself a new home away from the city. His dream materialized into a villa with ten rooms, a swimming pool and an enviable view of lake and mountains. For the first few weeks, he beamed with delight. But, soon the cheerfulness disappeared, and six months later he was unhappier than ever. What happened? The happiness effect evaporates after a few months. The villa was no longer his dream. ‘I come from work, open the door and … nothing. I feel as indifferent about the villa as I did about my one room student apartment.’

Science calls this effect as the Hedonic Adaptation or the Hedonic Treadmill. Wikipedia defines it as the supposed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness, despite major positive or negative events or life changes.

It is based on two very well researched findings:

1. Human’s happiness levels don’t seem to increase beyond a threshold.

2. Human’s happiness is seen as a hedonic treadmill, as one must continually work to maintain a certain level of happiness.

Happiness has always been a difficult subject of research for psychologists and sociologists, partly because it is so difficult to measure. Humans have always been in pursuit of happiness and they wish to maintain an unending level of happiness in life. Some people, like the famous psychologist Victor Frankl say that happiness cannot be pursued, it must ensue. He said that one must have a reason to be happy and that the very constant search of happiness actually thwarts happiness.

Though there is a lot of debate about how people look at happiness and whether money can buy happiness, there is no doubt that lack of money definitely buys you misery. If you have sufficient money, then life is easier, if not happier.


Part of the confusion of whether money can buy happiness or not probably lies in the way we view happiness. I think there are two types of happiness in our lives – hedonistic happiness and meaningful happiness – and money can definitely buy one of them.

Hedonistic happiness is the short term happiness that we get out of possession, shopping, and other self-indulgent activities. As we now know, hedonistic pleasure starts to fade out a few months later and people want a continuous feed of hedonistic pleasures to be happy. Hedonistic pleasures hold high amount of importance in the present, fades away in retrospection, and is relativistic in nature.

On the other hand, meaningful happiness is the kind of happiness that one derives from the meaning of their life in retrospect. For example, people like Nelson Mandela, despite struggling a lot in their lives, are one of the happiest in their old age because of the meaning their lives held. On the contrary, the all possessing rich celebrities lead miserable lives.

Yes, money can definitely buy happiness: hedonic happiness, but not meaningful happiness.

Recent research at Stanford and UCLA Berkeley shows that people’s happiness levels were positively correlated with whether they saw their lives as meaningful or not. Research shows that happiness without meaning is characterized by a relatively shallow and often self-oriented life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided.

Probably that is why even with high amount of emotional stress caused by the misery they encounter on a daily basis, professionals like social workers still have many truly happy moments out of their work. For example, a social worker who struggles a lot to reunite a child with his or her parents derives a very high and long lasting amount of happiness out of that life event.


Most people experience meaningful happiness from their families and work life. I believe that is probably why humans reproduce, as it adds to their meaning in life. For most people, caring for their own children is a source of substantial amount of meaning.

It is observed that meaning brings in more stress, worry, and the emotional ups and downs. But, life is much worth if it is meaningful than just being happy.




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