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Happy Birthday, Qurum City Centre! October 27, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Oman, Pot Pourri.
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The new City Centre at Qurum opened this morning. I was pretty excited to be one of the first to get there. The Qurum City Centre is a mini replica of the big one at Seeb. I took a walk around the mall and was glad to see some of my favorite outlets: Borders, Giordano, McDonald’s, Costa Coffee and Coffee Republic.

Fashion brands that hold court include Pierre Cardin, Giordano, Mango, Next, Monsoon, Promod, Nayomi, Damas, Adidas, Swatch, Steve Madden and so on.

They have a promising food court with Fillings, Hatam, KFC, Magic Wok, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Shamiana. Watch out for H&M, Jumbo, Nawras, Oman Mobile & Starbucks outlets opening soon.

Carrefour promises to be a great draw for all the people who can now skip the 80km odd drive to the City Centre at Seeb from Ruwi.

If you are living in Ruwi and looking for quick and convenient shopping, you should head to the Qurum City Centre, but if you are looking for more choice in terms of brands and product offerings, Seeb City Centre still rules.

I somehow feel the new City Centre doesn’t have enough parking spaces (they have 1000 bays). Also do watch out for construction on the roads leading away from the City Centre, it’s good to go easy on the gas pedal and to watch out for traffic.

Photo Credit: Saloni Suri of Asda’a PR, Muscat. I clicked a few pics from my phone as well, will upload them soon.

Finally, Golden Glory for India August 11, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, India, Pot Pourri.
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Abhinav Bindra today became the first Indian to win a Gold medal in an individual event (10m Air Rifle shooting) in the history of the Olympic Games. It was such a heartwarming feeling to hear the Indian national anthem being played at the awards ceremony.
No doubt, his success is the fruit of supreme persistence, dedication and commitment, including a comeback from back injury. His victory is the perfect gift for a nation that is celebrating its 60th Independence Day on Friday.
Abhinav’s win will definitely inspire cricket-crazy India to devote more energy to other sports as well. It’s about time the snoozing tiger woke up.

Paris Hilton for Prez!? August 6, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Pot Pourri.
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Well, I think it wasn’t a great idea for the McCain camp to do this ad.

Jason Links at the Huffington Post tells us the 3 things that are tactically wrong with this kind of communication.

But the biggest blow is how McCain opened himself to attack from Paris Hilton (apparently a Republican campaign supporter herself!) with this rebuttal ad.

It was very natural for Ms. Hilton to get back. And so well at that.

I’m not a big fan of Hilton here, but I think this spoof ad is a very smart move on her part – lots of mileage and a great upswing to an otherwise much lampooned celebrity image.

A very interesting marketing lesson from the US presidential campaign – never make new foes while gunning for old ones.

The Secrets of Leadership – Nelson Mandela July 27, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Pot Pourri.
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Nelson Mandela, originally uploaded by SouthAfricaLogue.com.

As Nelson Mandela celebrated his 90th birthday, Time magazine had him on its cover and featured an excellent story on lessons of effective leadership, based on Mandela’s life.

In a very compelling read, Times Managing Editor Richard Stengel, who has also worked on Mandela’s biography Long Walk to Freedom, gives us 8 powerful lessons of leadership from one of the most iconic leaders in contemporary history.

What makes this article more interesting is that we gain an insight into the singular events and experiences that shaped Mandela into a leader par excellence over the years.

One might be familiar with Mandela’s life, his struggle against the apartheid regime and his other accomplishments, but I found it very interesting that the author took each lesson of leadership and tied it to a specific experience or hitherto unknown episode from Mandela’s life. Thus, the article gives us an insider edge and delves more into the workings of the mind of a great leader.

The 8 lessons focus on defining courage as inspiring people to move beyond fear, leading from the front as well as behind, knowing opponents better, keeping friends close and rivals closer, maintaining appearances, accepting that not everything is black or white, and believing that quitting is leading too.

I felt that Mandela dedicated a good part of his life to groom himself into the mould of leadership, and was always mindful of his strengths and weaknesses in his public role. It was a huge but worthy investment he made. His prison years played a key role in his transformation – he apparently went in emotional and headstrong, and walked out balanced and disciplined. In his own words: “I came out mature.”

One sees a brilliant image of Mandela as a master tactician, who always played to his strengths, understood gray areas like no other, compromised without giving much away, adapted well at every turn life took and read his opponents very well.

And that is a very interesting insight, because a good leader is really, really smart at the core with a genuine shell of humanness. While the humane qualities endear him to the masses, the smartness ensures that he does well in the leadership position.

Nelson Mandela’s life is an excellent example to a lot of people who aspire to lead people, especially when they have no chance of leadership being thrust upon them. Being a leader is certainly hard work, but there are many lessons one can learn from the greats. Read the story on time.com here.

Savour the world’s most expensive burger June 30, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Conversations, Healthy Living, Pot Pourri.
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burger king IMG_2850, originally uploaded by Damien_Toman.

The most interesting bit of news I’ve heard whole day, via Ad Age.

Indulge in the world’s most expensive burger at $190 every Thursday at Burger King’s Gloucester Road branch (near to Harrods where the high and mighty shop).

You have to pre-order the burger by telephone, before you are ushered through a red velvet rope and up some steps to a more upscale dining experience than the regular diners. You are treated to crisp table linen and free-flowing 2003 Tapanappa Cabernet Shiraz from the Whalebone Vineyard in South Australia. And then,you are presented a free limited-edition bottle of Coca-Cola, supposedly worth $300.

And here’s a gastronomic description of the sinful burger:

“Made from Wagyu beef, topped with white truffles and Pata Negra ham (which owes its nutty flavor to the fact that the pigs are fed on acorns), the burger nestles in a bun spread with organic-white-wine-and-shallot-infused mayonnaise, plus pink Himalayan rock salt, and dusted on top with Iranian saffron. It is served with Cristal champagne onion straws (inspired by the “angry lobster” dish at David Burke & Donatella Manhattan restaurant) and a garnish of lamb’s lettuce.”

Apparently Leo Burnett sent its 2 henchmen there to check out competition on behalf of McDonalds. Ahhh, the joys of being in advertising!!! And the cherry on the burger: All proceeds go to a local children’s charity.

The world’s never short of amazing people May 24, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Pot Pourri.
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IMG_5957, originally uploaded by OsbieFeel2001.

Come to think of it, the world is never short of amazing people. Hat tip to Mack Collier (via twitter) who led me to Jamie Livingston and his inspiring work.

In a ‘viral’ post (8000+ diggs), Chris Higgins at Mental Floss tell us the amazing story of a man who took a Polaroid one per day, from March 31, 1979 through October 25, 1997 – the day he died. That’s 18 years!!!

What inspires me most is not only his passion for his art, but also the great pains he took to preserve his hobby for the world. Read more about Jamie Livingston on this blog. Too bad that Polaroid does not have a blog or a social media channel to share this story.

And then I met this young man in the cab to work this morning. In the simmering Muscat heat, the guy had an air of effervescence about him.

He started off by asking: Do you have any English music on that iPod? And I was like: No. And he replied: I wouldn’t mind listening to it if it had English. I couldn’t help but smile. Next, we were talking about our jobs. And he told me: I run an IT company. He said the name – really didn’t catch it. And he said: Cheekos (that’s how I heard it). The best after Apple. I somehow liked that, being told that to a copywriter. Made me think about the way he saw his own company, the way he positioned it. The best after Apple. He must be deriving a great deal of positivity and confidence to consider his work in that league. How many times do we look down upon our own little accomplishments, our work?

Which brings me back to what I started off with; the world is never short of amazing people who can inspire us. We just need to look out and listen.

The Reds are coming to Muscat November 10, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Oman, Pot Pourri.
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Crank up your speakers and check out this video.

Now imagine all this action happening a few kilometers away from where we live, right here in Muscat.

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The action is just a few days away. The world-renowned UK Red Arrows are performing a breathtaking aerobatic display in Muscat on Monday, 19 November. They look forward to paint the town red, by all means.

The Reds have dedicated their show as a tribute to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, the ruler of Oman and the people of Oman on the occasion of the country’s National Day (the Sultan’s Birthday).

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The Reds last performed in Muscat in May 2006 – a stunning display of aerial maneuvers that had thousands of people throng the beaches and rooftops along Qurum.

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The Red Arrows commence their 23 minute act at sharp 4pm along the Shatti Al Qurum beach. The air show will be followed by a reception for 1000 guests hosted by British Ambassador Dr Noel Guckian, OBE.

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The Red Arrows are currently on a six-week goodwill tour of 13 countries in the Middle East and the Far East, where they will perform their famous display a total of 18 times.

Since their formation in 1965, the Red Arrows have flown over 4000 displays in 53 countries. The Reds consider Oman to be one of their favorite destinations. They are in fact unveiling a brand new aircraft livery this year, considered to be the first major permanent alteration in their fleet since 1979.

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The Red Arrows fleet comprises 9 BAE Systems Hawks, with a top speed exceeding Mach 1.2 and are equipped with Roll Royce Adour engines producing 5,200 lb of thrust. During the Red Arrows’ 23-minute display, pilots pull up to eight times the force of gravity, showing off the aircraft’s power and maneuverability.

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Wing Commander Jas Hawker aka Red 1 is the team leader of Red Arrows.
“We are proud to represent the UK overseas.” says Wing Commander Hawker, “We hope to demonstrate the very best of British to millions of people in the countries we will visit, both in terms of the skill of our people and of the quality of the Hawk aircraft that we fly.”

Click here to visit the Red Arrows website.

I’ll soon be back with another post where I will talk about some Red Arrows trivia, the BAE Hawk aircraft and a few of their breathtaking maneuvers.

Enjoy this Red Arrows slide show.

Bits & Bytes-1 October 30, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Pot Pourri.
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Ceiling light at Lee’s Kitchen, Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok.

Lee's Kitchen, Bangkok

I’d like share with you a couple of interesting online bits & bytes I discovered in the last few days – 

Ace New York creative director Tangerine Toad wrote an amazing column / blog post on the 10 best commercials ever created for the recently concluded ‘The Night of the AdEaters’ festival in Muscat. Read this post to check out those commercials – a very impressive collection. 

David Armano, VP of Experience Design at Critical Mass asks: Should digital agencies be blogging? A very interesting post and discussion follows on Logic+Emotion. I particularly liked Eric Reagan’s comment on how digital agency blogs do better when they come with ‘a specific view, style, and personality’ than go ‘a bit too branded’.

DA’s post includes a list of major digital agencies that blog and I’d like to mention a few digital hotshops from India and the MidEast who can join the club –

WebChutney from India. I love their blog, mostly showcasing their interesting viral work, and Nidhi Dewan’s chatty style.

Rage Communications, a digital agency based in Chennai, India has got a blog too. Looks pretty nifty and I’m gonna spend some time checking out their stuff.

Closer home, Flip Media, a leading digital agency in Dubai has a blog. Flipper Imthiaz blogs too. 

Drew McLellan wrote an interesting post on ‘media snacking’. Yes, being long-winded in your conversations can hurt effectiveness. Brevity is beautiful.  

CK has got a must-read post that makes social media a wee bit easier. I’m tagging Carolina in Chile so that she can add this post to her impressive collection of social media resources and probably discover more interesting stuff on CK’s blog. 

Here’s an amazing article by Suzanne Pope, Group Creative Director at john st. for all young copywriters. An Inconvenient Truth For Copywriters: How To Write Headlines And Why Your Career Depends On It.  

Ramadan ‘Make a Wish & Make a Difference’ charity Microsite from Nakheel, Dubai. Flip ran a similar campaign in December 2006. 

Top it all up with this interesting quote on deetox.com. “Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

Today is Blog Action Day! October 15, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Healthy Living, Pot Pourri.
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Today is Blog Action Day. I really wanted to do a much better post, but I’m travelling these days and hardly have time to sit in front of a PC. For Blog Action Day, I have taken this commitment to reduce the paper I consume, especially in the form of printouts. That’s more trees saved, la?

Click here to read about other Blog Action Day posts (via Technorati).

I would also recommend that you read more on Eco-Libris and their exciting concept of sustainable reading. Eco-Libris is a new green biz that lets book readers balance out the paper used for the books they read by planting trees.

And here are a couple of ‘green resources’ picked up from the Blog Action Day website.

Eyeka’s Blog Action Day PageEyeka contributors have made hundreds of photos and videos freely available for use in Blog Action Day! Visit and download them for free!

Treehugger – Easily the best environmental blog on the web, Treehugger has a great section called How to Go Green as well as tons of other useful stuff. It’s manned by some 40 writers around the world and contains no less than 14,000 posts!

Wikipedia’s list of environmental issues – With enough links to keep you busy for hours, Wikipedia should easily set you off on your environmental web travels.

Digg’s Popular Environment Stories – lists tons of popular posts and articles on all sorts of subjects. Looking forward to seeing some Blog Action Day posts appearing here and on reddit on October 15th!

Green TV – If you need visual stimulation, Green TV has a lot of videos to get you going, divided up into channels of content, it is eminently watchable.

We can live green – A lot of things boil down to practicality and We Can Live Green will help you find actual products and consumables that are environmentally friendly.

IMDB’s Highest Rated Environmental Movies and Documentaries – Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth isn’t the only environmental DVD to watch, check out IMDB’s list of features ordered by user ratings.

The Union of Concerned Scientist’s Green Tips Page – If you need help thinking up what to post about, look no further than this page full to the brim with great ideas and tips!

The Nature Conservancy’s Carbon Calculator – This calculator leaves all other carbon calculators in it’s wake!

The Sustainable Community Action Wiki – Share, learn and help with this fantastic wiki with over 2000 pages!

Adopt the Sky – One of the nicer looking environmental sites around!

MakeMeSustainable – Tools to take action!

Step It Up – A US resource for climate change

Another Awesome Onam September 3, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Pot Pourri.
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Another Onam passed by. And I was just thinking that every year it just gets better and better. Before I get into details, here’s a little backgrounder on Onam for a lot of my blogger friends who may not know about this festival.

Onam is an annual harvest festival, celebrated mainly in the south Indian state of Kerala. It is a popular festival among Malayalees, and falls during the month of Chingam (August-September as per the Gregorian calendar), the first month of the Malayalam calendar and lasts for ten days. Traditionally celebrated as a harvest festival, mythologically it is linked to Malayalee-Hindu folktales. However Onam is celebrated by people of all religions.

In Muscat, I celebrate Onam twice. One is a private celebration on the actual Thiruvonam day (August 27). This is the day I come to work dressed in the traditional clothes (shirt and mundu mostly). A good part of the day is spent in connecting with near and dear friends around the world and exchanging greetings. Come afternoon, I’m ready to tuck into the best lunch of the year – the Onasadya or the Onam feast which is a delightful spread of some of yummiest Keralite vegetarian dishes served on a green plantain leaf.

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This was my first course of Onasadya this year. It was followed by three more servings and helpings of two kinds of payasam (dessert). Boy, I can eat. Hats off to Rakesh and Bina – my very endearing hosts this year. For dinner, I had another sadya, but this time a more toned down celebration of food.

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Enjoying the Onam feast…

The second celebration was a few days later, in fact on the first Saturday after Onam. (1 September). That’s when all the Malayalees at my work get together and give the rest of the crew an Onam treat every year. There are 10 of us in a total team of 120. This year was no different. We started preparing for the celebrations the previous evening. I’m the caterer, the treasurer, purchasing and chief cheering officer for this operation.

A gang of us teamed up at Nirvana (our chill-out den at work) and prepared Pookalam (a floral spread which is one of the many ways in which Onam is celebrated). Flowers are hard to get in Muscat and I still remember a lot of us running around last year plucking flowers from any plant we could lay hands on. This year, it was different. We had a surplus of flowers, specially procured from Mumbai, India.

You can see some of us sorting out the flowers.

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And here’s our Pookalam. A truly fascinating sight to behold!

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The next day, Onam is on at UMS. Diyas (lamps) are lit on the floral spread. A traditional vilaku (lamp) is placed next to the spread. Onam songs are floating in the background. The full troop marches in. After all, they are going to be served a fabulous South Indian breakfast with idlis, vadas, sambar, chutney and vermicelli payasam (dessert). The celebrations begin when the lamp is lit by Sandeep, our head honcho. And then Rekha – who is our ‘Voice of Kerala’, goes on to give a small spiel on the legend behind Onam.

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The Gang of Malayalees…

And then everybody tucks into the sumptuous breakfast. It seems that the vermicelli payasam is outstanding. Shamir, who is our Head of IT, is seen discreetly downing glasses of this delectable dessert while serving rest of the team. Mr. Nair, who is the overseer of this celebration, is always doing the rounds ensuring things are on smoothly.

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Everyone is happy and the spirit of Onam is truly in the air.

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Myself with Rakesh (Rocks / Rocky)…

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It’s an amazing morning – a day when you feel you’re back home in Kerala and not in Muscat. Onam rocks!