When I had once gone on a long trip from Kochi to Goa in 2015, in an effort to not feel sleepy during the ride, I ended up listening to music for more than 24 hours during the long 1600 KM ride. This happened on a long weekend and come Monday, I had lost my hearing.

It was kind of scary at first and the visit to the doctors confirmed my ear infection. Luckily, I did not lose my hearing permanently and since then, I always take precautions when I ride. But going through a normal workday without hearing was an experience in itself. It not only exposes you to the constant danger of injury, but also makes you insecure when you are in a crowd. It is estimated that over 1.1 billion young people around the world are at a risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices. While I was lucky to have my ears back in action, sadly many have not been as lucky as me.

Recently when I got to know of a cochlear implant operation conducted by Dr. George Kuruvilla, head of ENT in Lourde Hospital in Kochi, I was reminded of this accident again Ajayan, the patient, was born blind and had lost his hearing in his teens. Being deaf and blind in a country like India, where the facilities for the differently abled are close to non-existent, made life difficult for him and his parents. They feared for his life and future as most of the things normal people do like crossing the road would become extremely life threatening to a person like Ajay.

He was initially able to speak, but as he turned deaf, his ability to speak was also affected. This meant that a normal life or something close to it was becoming impossible for him, in turn leading to isolation from his friends and family members. As his parents aged, they constantly worried about his future and the ability to live after they had passed away. Ajayan and his family met the doctor at a local camp that was conducted in Alappuzha and the doctors felt that there was nothing much they could do for him. The only option they had was to get him a cochlear implant, which is a device that simulates sounds that reach the brain. But this again was a difficult option as the operation was not affordable for the family and the recovery was not guaranteed due to his age.

While Dr. George Kuruvilla managed to talk to his management at the Lourde Hospital and get him free surgery, the cost of implants was still not funded. By reaching out to his friends, colleagues, acquaintances and online communities, Dr. George was able to find kind hearted donors who wanted to do their part to help Ajayan hear again. The night before the surgery, an unknown man from Texas, United States brought in the much needed donation to fund the surgery and treatment.

Once Ajayan was implanted, the doctors then started his speech therapy and mapping sessions. This is similar to how physiotherapy works after a fracture or disease. Check this amazing video of recovery of Ajayan where he clearly hears his doctor and mother talking to him, after years.

Before the implant, his mother used to talk to him by writing on his hands in their own language and shortcuts. It was amazing to hear the story of how his mother used to read the newspaper for him using this non-verbal language.

Cochlear implants, often called bionic ears such as the one  Ajayan was implanted with, have two parts to them. One being the implant itself and the second is an external speech processor which receives the sounds for the implant to process. There are different types of these speech processors, of which, the latest model such as Kanso™ by Cochlear India is discreet enough to be camouflaged or hidden among the person’s hair and not cause any feeling of self-consciousness or embarrassment to the wearer.

While anyone with a total hearing loss can benefit from these implants, this is strongly recommended to children who are less than 18 months old as this helps them grow normally like other children and does not stunt their growth as compared to children who get these implants after they are 3 years old.

It’s kind of worrying to know that hearing loss in newborns can stunt their growth in more ways than one. Normal children start associating sounds with meanings between 6 months and 1 year of age, and children without the ability to hear the range of sounds, the opportunities of learning speech are lost. Delay in learning a language can put them on the path of academic under development, social isolation and more. In spite of this, children in India have had to suffer from hearing loss mainly because the parents and families weren’t aware of it. I say this, because 60% of the hearing loss cases in India in 2016 could have been prevented.

When I recently attended a bloggers’ meet in Kochi where Brett Lee was there to shed light on hearing loss as a part of the #SoundsOfCricket campaign, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Dr. George Kuruvilla that all hospitals in Kochi have started to recommend hearing tests to be conducted for all babies born in hospitals in the Ernakulam district. This was done with the support of good ENT surgeon associations in the district who understand that early detection and cochlear implant surgery is the only way to help children cope up with the demands of the modern world. It got me thinking why it isn’t mandatory across the state as hearing loss tests can help parents treat their children before they start growing up? Currently, other districts in the state conduct a vision and sound tests for newborns, but not a hearing test.

If you have ever watched a baby grow, you would realize that the growth and learning that happens in the initial years are of utmost importance! Want to see the joy experienced by a baby when he hears his mother’s voice for the first time? Check this heartwarming video of Kanso™ recipient Tharun and see for yourself why early intervention is essential

I hope Kerala, the leading state in human development index in India, would pave the way and set an example for other states by making hearing tests mandatory across all hospitals in the state. Don’t you think so too? Do share your views in the comments below.

hiring-digital-marketers-meme

Looking for a digital marketing specialist, must know –

  • SEO
  • SEM
  • Social Media
  • Blogging
  • E-mail Marketing
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Mobile Advertising
  • Conversion Optimization
  • Media Buying
  • Lead Nurturing
  • Content Marketing
  • Growth Hacking
  • Gardening, Plumbing, Dog Walking and

Candidates with ability to perform open heart surgery during coffee break will be an added plus!

If you are a digital marketer looking for a job, this is what you see on most job boards these days. How can anyone specialize in more than 20 traffic sources! It is not even funny. As a result of the exponential growth of internet and its ability to drive exposure and generate business, recruiters and traditional marketing teams are looking for candidates with skill sets they don’t fully understand themselves.

Dear CMOs, STOP your recruiters. It is not just a far-fetched expectation, it is borderline fantasy.

Back in 2008, while looking for our first employees at our digital marketing agency, I remember being confused about finding talent in a region where digital marketing was unheard of. One of the exercises we did back then was to split up all the activities of a digital marketer and find someone whose skills matched close to our needs. For example, to hire an SEO, we would look for someone who

  • Knows good English
  • Knows how to use Google really well (convey what you need to find using the right keywords?)
  • Surfs the web and reads a lot online (ability to scan content and understand what’s between the lines real fast)
  • Patience for data entry (collecting data and building lists)

The additional skills of on-page, off-page, link building and everything important to SEO could then be taught through checklists, templates and e-books. This worked our really well for us for many years.

In 2016, the marketing world has become much more complex and digital marketers must work with other departments including and not limited to traditional marketing, customer service, account managers and external agencies providing specialist services. So, what should the modern marketing team look like? It should essentially be a team of individuals, each with their own specialization and the ability to work with their skilled colleagues.

The T-shaped marketer

As the Indian digital marketing industry matures, CMOs must understand the need of hiring more T shaped marketers; highly specialized individuals in one or two skills with a broad understanding of the entire digital marketing spectrum. Look for the depth of knowledge and cross discipline of competence.

T-shaped-marketer

Isn’t it possible to be a jack of all trades and master of few? Marketers who understand digital marketing and specialize deep in one or two disciplines are a better hire than someone who has a broad theoretical knowledge across domains.

Sometimes it is important to take a step back from all the jargon and look at something for what it is. Who is a digital marketer? Someone who understands the audience and makes them aware about the existence of a product/service that will make their life easier? You do not advertise hot-rods on a fitness magazine, do you?!

A modern marketer needs to understand and think like his consumer.  This brings unique challenges to the CMO in terms of training, KPIs and recruitment. How do you think a modern marketing team should be structured? How does it work (or not) in your organization? Sound off below!

How to hide price for "out of stock" products in woocommerce?

Recently I had the chance to help a friend who wanted to hide price of “out of stock” products on her WooCommerce store. I could not find a solution for this online with a quick search and had to mashup a filter of my own.

Hope this blog post helps those looking for a quick solution to hide prices of products that are sold out or are out of stock on their WooCommerce store.

The code:

add_filter( ‘woocommerce_variable_sale_price_html’, ‘theanand_remove_prices’, 10, 2 );
add_filter( ‘woocommerce_variable_price_html’, ‘theanand_remove_prices’, 10, 2 );
add_filter( ‘woocommerce_get_price_html’, ‘theanand_remove_prices’, 10, 2 );

function theanand_remove_prices( $price, $product ) {
if ( ! $product->is_in_stock()) {
$price = ”;
}
return $price;
}

Just put this into the functions.php file of your WordPress theme and you are good to go. This will hide the price of products which are not in stock.

Good luck and happy selling!

Arun Basil Lal’s travel philosophy on why he spends weeks in a location than visit every popular spot that the destination has to offer got me thinking about unique travel styles we all have. He rightly quotes –

Travel as slow as possible

This is something I completely agree with. I remember listening to one of the speakers at BarcampBangalore10 who shipped his cycle to the north east and rode across the country to the west in Gujarat or so. I was completely amazed by his experience which consisted of living with the villagers, being robbed, sharing stories with the locals and eating local cuisines from countless villages. No faster forms of transport gets you a more local experience than that!

Another breed of photo-maniac travelers make it a ritual of collecting destinations photos like this or this. All these slow forms of travel let one explore the destination, its beauty and and its evolution from the past.

A photo posted by Murad Osmann (@muradosmann) on

My frustrated tourist-y cousin who is visiting Kochi this weekend after almost 5 years and says –

“Dude,  Kochi did not and does not have any nightlife, in Bangalore, you will see girls, wearing skirts and walking about in the midnight.”

And I tell her –

“First of all, you are very wrong. We always had and have a very “buzzing” nightlife. And I dare, nay, double dare, all those pretty girls you got in Bangalore to come to Kochi and walk around in short skirts! I bet they will be home before sunset and they will stay indoors.”

For those who are not residents of the city, I have to clarify that I am not talking about moral policing or women safety, but about the humble mosquitoes of the city! My cousin would never know why “mall culture” or “cafe” is so popular in our city or why she do not see people outdoors in the evenings. She would have to stick around for weeks to figure that one out!

Many of my slow traveling buddies prefer exploring a destination and I could not help but compare my own travel philosophy to theirs.

I am a a huge fan of people and I like to watch their diverse nature in their own habitats :) Like, during my ride to Leh in 2011, I noticed that there are no youngsters in the Rangdum village in Leh when we visited in 2011. All of them have migrated to the towns in search of better education and opportunities.

rangdum

A quick google search will tell you Rangdum is a small village in Suru Valley that lies about 100 KMs away from both Kargil and Zanskar. That means that the next human habitat is 10 hours away (yea, 10 hours for 100 KMs) and you will not find a single human on the way. And there was no electricity (just some solar and fire lamps) and farming is not possible due to the 6-8 ft. of snow that falls between October and June every year.

The village was about 20-30 houses in total and was overlooked by a monastery. Interacting with a person in the village just blew my mind. Guess what he does for a living?

He cuts grass for his cattle for feeding them during the winter. He prepares for the winter during the summer, every year. That’s all that he does. Simple.

Yes, of course, we are doing the same thing in our lives, preparing for the future, but at what cost? Not visiting the parents in months due to deadlines? Navigating the stressful yet pointless office politics? Going abroad and struggling with loneliness for higher pay?

The biggest lesson for me was that life in itself is simple. Complications are optional and just addons you don’t really need. This was again emphasized to me during my solo ride to Goa covering more than 1800KMs in 5 days. Had the chance to meet an auto rickshaw driver who returned from a decently paying job in the Middle East when his daughter was born. He argued, is a life worth living when you cannot see your baby girl grow?

With the wind in my face and some DJ turning my helmet into a dance floor, these experiences combined with a lot of contemplation defines my travel philosophy!

Kochi-Mangalore-Goa-Mysore-Kochi solo ride done dona done! 1865kms of pure therapy!

Posted by Anand Subramanian on Sunday, 30 August 2015

For me, I just like to ride. Do you travel? Look forward to hearing your favorite experience and your travel style!

theanand

This website, TheAnand.com came to life 10 years ago today.  It has been a exciting journey so far and the world has changed so much!

Reflecting on a few things from the top of my head that have changed drastically since I started on Geocities in 2000s –

  • Dial-up internet! (those long cables that ran from the bedroom to living room where the phone was and came out after 11pm? Remember?)
  • WordPress had just got into version 2. At 100,000 downloads and just 4% market share. They were called Weblogs? Web Authoring tools?
  • MSN and Yahoo! Messengers
  • Websites had guestbooks.
  • Flash animations on intro pages to websites and animations that followed the mouse pointer!

Much simpler digital advertising times when you just had to buy a bunch of pop-unders, CPM ads to get traffic and we sprayed the whole wall to hit a fly. By comparison, digital marketers today have the surgical precision tools to target the eyes of that same fly!

So here is a thank you to you, my reader and the “internet” for teaching me so much and helping me and many others in so many unforeseen ways. Thank you! Also, a special shout out to a good friend from the Netherlands – King Nomar! (yea, we just had “screen names” back then!).

If you have been a reader of this blog since long, and are reading this post today, please say ‘hi’ in the comments. I want to hear from you! #nostalgic

TheAnand a.k.a Anand Subramanian. :)

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to speak at HeadStart organized event – Startup Saturday. I was invited  to participate on the panel discussion on “Digital Marketing” by Mittu Tigi from Zhooyi Communications. It was one of the first “unconferences” I attended in a long time and was looking forward to learn and share with the startups of Kochi. Here is a quick report on the event if you missed it :)

The event started off with a quick introduction by Mittu on what Startup Saturday was about and its history in Kochi. Previously, the events were conducted in Startup Village and this was the first time it was being organized at the Infopark campus. The introduction was followed with a impromptu session by Krishna Kumar of GreenPepper Digital on the importance of digital marketing and on how companies can leverage digital for their business for branding and lead generation.

kk-speaking-sskochi

I liked how he used the floor than the stage for the talk and it led to a discussion than a one-way radio show and the attendees were able to get answers to their questions on their digital marketing challenges. After the talk, we had a quick networking break where I had the chance to talk to interesting entrepreneurs ranging from a property consultant, a fiction writer and others working in the self publishing, education and electronics space.

sskochi-audience

The “Featured Entrepreneur”session by Rosh Cherian was well received and I was impressed with how his venture CogniCor uses Artificial Intelligence to enable enterprises provide better customer support to their customers.

cognicor-kochi

And finally it was time for the panel discussions. It was time. The last time I got on stage, I got reviews that said I was faster than cooking Maggie Noodles or a visit to the washroom!!

Expectation

wolf-wall-street

Reality!

stage-fright

 

Ah well! 😉

But this time, the discussions went on for a full hour, thanks to the interactive audience.  The discussion revolved around social media and search engines as a traffic source and the latest trends on digital marketing such as WhatsApp marketing. The ongoing dip of organic exposure on Facebook for pages was also discussed.

theanand-digital-marketing

I always love a brainstorming session on how businesses can leverage digital for lead generation and hence the panel discussion was a fun activity.

plant from headstart

@StartupSaturday Kochi, Guys, quick question, is it comfortable indoor or outdoors? Is it trained? I did not get the instruction manual! Jokes aside, I loved the memento! Thanks!

If you were at the event, do tell me your feedback! The next event by HeadStart Startup Saturday will be around the topic of “Funding” and you can follow them on Facebook to know more.

My twitter account was hacked a few weeks ago, thanks to a rogue app that ended up blocking all my followers, my follows and everyone on my lists. It was annoying to say the least, seeing over 2500 awesome tweeps blocked. Since all my network was blocked, I was no longer able to follow them without unblocking and Twitter does not have a “bulk unblock users” yet.

Turns out, third party apps that do this are not popular either. Here are two apps that help you manage your blocked users individually and in bulk.

UnBlock.IO

unblock-twitter-bulk

A simple application that worked the best for me. It shows a list of every you have blocked and has a “Unblock all” button that unblocks 100 users at a time. But once the unblock is complete, the page stays blank, so you might need to refresh the page to see more blocked users. But it works pretty well otherwise – unblocking 1000 users took just 10 clicks!

BlockedBy.Me

This is my second favorite tool, the only reason for it being second is because it does not have a “bulk unblock” button like UnBlock.IO does. But it does list all blocked users with a button that allows you to unblock them individually. It is useful if you have only a few followers to manage.

How to prevent rouge apps on Twitter and Facebook?

First step to prevent something like this from happening is to secure your social media profiles. Obviously, have a strong password. Remove permissions to API based apps you no longer use on both Twitter and Facebook. I was surprised that I was using over 200 apps on Facebook!!