Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Restaurants continue to levy Service Charges on Customers

Every one has made a hue and cry about this 10% service charge levied by the restaurants in UAE. Ministry says service charge is illegal and restaurants continue to justify the same. As quoted in the 7 days article “The committee, which is chaired by Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, the Minister of Economy, said that under Consumer Protection Law 26, issued in 2006, restaurants are not allowed to add any service charge to a bill.” If this rule is in the books past 3 years, was the Consumer Protection Committee sleeping or the restaurants were never awake?

I want my money back. A lot is being questioned and discussed about the charges in the local forums and newspapers, which causes further confusion. As per an article published in The National – most of the restaurants remain confused about this rule or rather are taken by surprise. Some of them justify the charge as a means to provide high service standards to their customers. The only question remains that do the restaurants continue to charge or not? As of today the restaurants maintain that if the Ministry insists then they would discontinue the service charge. I believe the statement made by Mr Al Mansouri has fallen on deaf ears – stop the service charge. Have you recently dined out at any restaurants in the past 2 days which levy a service charge?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Facebook and Twitter - Trending Topics 2009

After the search giant, Google and Yahoo, both the social networking websites Twitter and Facebook released a list of trending topics in 2009.

Starting with Twitter, Iran Elections dominated the tweeting scene during the year, followed by Swine Flu. The Hash Tag list also has #iranelections at the 2nd position after #musicmonday. Micheal Jackson was the most popular celebrity on Twitter; similar trend has been noticed in the search engines as well. Google wave is the most discussed technology on the site.

Facebook Memology trends are loosely spread topics ranging from the expected Facebook application to “I”. The most interesting fact is that “Twitter” is one of the trending topics on Facebook, whereas there is absolutely no mention of Facebook on Twitter. Mark Zuckerberg needs to watch this trend carefully.

Amongst Facebook gaming applications Farmville dominates the scene by end of the year. Across the year "Farm" has been the favourite application on the website but later has been subdued by Farmville.

Just in case you were wondering what is FML – “F” stand for you to interpret “M” – My “L” - Life. Its kind of funny, but yeah, this was the second most trending topic on this website.

If we carefully observe the topics, Twitter has more focus on what’s happening around the world whereas Facebook talks about what’s happening in its own world.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

UAE Residents Search for 'Octomom' in 2009 – reveals Google Zeitgeist

Every year Google releases a list of most popular search of the year on the search engine. This is called Google Zeitgeist. Google tracks what people are searching online from most popular news site to restaurant. Below are the rising trends in UAE:

The above chart shows that most of the people in UAE were busy searching for airlines like Fly Dubai, Air India etc. this year. The trend shows that many people are inclined toward low-priced airfares.

Most Popular Airlines
1. emirates airline
2. pia airline
3. flydubai

There is definitely a growing interest to know more about social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. This indicates that businesses need to invest time and money in these sites as this is where most of the people may be spending their time on the Internet.

Fastest Rising: what is ...
1. what is Twitter
2 .what is facebook
3. what is love

There was an urge amongst the UAE resident to understand the economy by searching for what is recession and GDP.

Fastest Rising: what is ...
5. what is recession
6. what is life
7. what is gdp

One of the most interesting stat released in the report was that there is a rising news search among the people in UAE to know more about Nadya-Suleman – the ‘Octomom’ who gave birth to 8 children in Jan 2009.
Slum Dog millionaire and Indian Elections are also amongst the fastest rising news searches.

Fastest Rising News Searches
1. nadya-suleman
2. slumdog-millionaire
فتح الإسلام .3.

The trend to read the news online has definitely caught in UAE and the local news papers need to make a note of it.

Most Popular News Sites
1. gulf news
2. malayalamanorama
الامارات اليوم .3. (al emarat al youm)

Globally the King of Pop Michael Jackson dominated the charts once again: -

Monday, December 14, 2009

Financial Institutions adopt Social Media

Today most of the financial services companies are busy taking a stock of their losses and looking for optimistic signs in their books. While the financial pundits predict the possibility of reviving the economy, I believe listening to your customers is what’s missing in most of the companies. Many financial and non financial companies are busy implementing what then want to but not what the customer needs.

In the era of Internet, Financial Institutions need to cautiously but firmly make place in the Social Media world to receive feedback from the customer. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Linked In are some of the many sites which can as agents for these companies to spread their message.

Many banks have presence on the Facebook, but lack of transactional capability may not attract customers to become a fan or member of that particular page. Having an information page about the products and services would be a good start with, but may not be immensely popular with the customers. Tapping Facebook will require banks to come up with a tricky formula of entertainment, sales and information in addition to providing a secure environment. Yet Facebook’s urge to go public with its user data may be discouraging for many financial intuitions to associate themselves with this website. To meet the legal and compliance requirements would be another horrendous task.

During my research, I came across an application on Facebook that allows users to perform financial transactions - Fiserv's MyMoney, which is now only available to credit unions, and may be offered to banks in the near future. Facebook users download the application, which helps them find and join a credit union,  view account histories and balances, and make transfers.

Bank of America, Wells Fargo, ING DIRECT and First American Bank are among the many financial institutions using Twitter for marketing. Twitter is a tool which can be used to directly interact with your customers and inform them about the services. The live time reply facility on Twitter can help a company obtain feedback or resolve customer issues. Twitter can help bank’s build long term relationships and give a more personal feel to it. Click here to follow your bank on Twitter

As I said before, financial institutions need to be Cautious with their presence in Social Media. One of the possible threats could be a fraudster posing as a bank employee and asking customer for credentials by setting up a similar profile. Online squatter could register themselves on financial institutions name on social media sites and then negotiate with the companies to buy them back. Alternatively, phising attacks are anyways looming on the Internet and you may be redirected to a site where there is possibility of compromising your personal details

Banks are yet to experiment with this space to come out with a solid working model. Expecting a ROI on spend is not the way forward, as Social Media is still in its infancy stage trying to develop such a model. This is just another form of communication tool available to reach to your customers which will ultimately in long term bring the dollars.

Can we handle the rains?

Ohhhhh God!

It took us 4 hours to travel from Shaikh Zayed Road to Al Mulla Plaza..damn this is just not good. Some of the rumors taking rounds in the market were…

  1. Emirates road was blocked
  2. Airport road was jammed
  3. Some mall like Khalidiya and Al Wahda Malls in Abu Dhabi and Ibn Batutta Mall in Dubai had a leakage
  4. The roof of Mercato Mall had some damage and the rains had caused severe damage
  5. A storm is expeted to hit Dubai and Sharjah in 2 hours time (I saw it on Twitter around 08:00 hrs)

Check out the pics of various location in Sharjah and Dubai drenched in water.

We had to take several brakes on our journey to Sharjah as the traffic scene refused to improve. Surprisingly once we reached the Al Tawoon mall road in Sharjah the roads were clear. One of the reasons could be that Sharjah had taken precautionary steps to battle water logging this year. Similar situation occurred in January 2008, whereby many commuters had faced similar issues and Dubai was quoted to have lost millions due to the heavy pouring.

We would like to hear your story. Please share your commuting experiences of the day.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Al Adil Store - Survivor in the age of Internet

My mom usually does her grocery shopping at the Al Adil store. Out of curiosity I accompanied her last week to the shop to observe the customer profile and category of product offered at the store.

A quick summary of the store :

In 1984, Adil Store was opened in order to cater to the needs of the Indian house wife residing in Dubai. Clients from far off places like Abu-Dhabi, Sharjah, Al Ain, Fujairah use to come to the Bur-Dubai supermarket. Encouraged by this tremendous response, two more Branches were opened - One in Abu-Dhabi and the other in Sharjah.

The store is driven by goods and services. This store is an answer to all the Indian cravings of quality Indian pulses, Spices, Dals, Beans, Lentils, Peas, Rice, Wheat Groceries, Pickles, Branded and miscellaneous Non- food Items. Over the years the customer base has widened from just house wives to prestigious 5 Star Hotels- Like Hilton, Sheraton Group to reputed catering companies Like- Emirates Abela, Intercat, Albert Abela & Co to Dubai Duty Free
Due to the large population of Indians in Dubai, there is a lot of word-of-mouth advertising of this store through customers who frequent the store. The store also has a dedicated website – which however, needs some revisions and which needs to be kept up-to-date. The management also claims to have enlarged and sustained a wide category of customers without any break for the last 15 years.

The various products at Al Adil are exported in bulk from India, by Tulaja Exports to a warehouse in Al Quoz, where the bulk items are repacked into packs of 50gms to 50 kgs, depending on the expected demand of the various products. This is the stage where the Dirham price is finalised and the various products dispatched to each of the outlets.

Price is fixed and there is no scope for bargaining in this ‘fixed’ price store. But the philosophy of the owners is that customers wouldn’t mind paying few dirhams more (than the rupee price) for a brand / product that gives them a taste of home. – It seems that their philosophy has turned out to be a highly profitable service model.

I was startled to discover how this mini chain store has become part of the daily Indian house hold in UAE. Almost every Indian housewife is aware of this brand and has shopped at least once in their life time in Dubai.
Strange but true! In this Internet age these stores are survivors having bare minimum presence on the Internet but managing to attract customers. I couldn’t find a single picture of the shop on the Internet, but numerous interviews of the store owner Dhananjay Datar. Well done Mr. Datar to get the business going.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin