True opinion leaders

Traditionally the opinion leader has been the agent who is an active media user and who interprets the meaning of media messages or content for lower-end media users. The opinion leader is held in high esteem by those who accept his or her opinions. Marketers have used this concept to reach people who have the ability to influence a number of followers regarding a certain product or product benefit. Advertisements and promotions are aimed at these opinion/thought leaders, so as to encourage them to interpret and disseminate the message communicated by the company to their respective primary network.

However the changing mediascape necessitates a new point of view regarding these opinion leaders. With social media becoming a force to reckon with, companies have realized that the traditional form of reaching these opinion leaders is now almost obsolete. The process of capturing the ‘pulse’ of the target audience and then tailoring a message which suits the needs of this segment is fast losing its sheen. Consumers now are more equipped to find unbiased information regarding a certain product on the web.

The filtering of such information as valid/relevant is done, based on the credibility of the source of the information. This creates a whole new scenario wherein marketers must diligently scout for such sources and then try associating with them. This is not an easy task as these opinion leaders are under constant scrutiny by their primary network of followers. A credible source of information may cease to be credible, when linked with advertisements. As these users are trying to expand their networks and consistently deliver value to their subscribers, the end result is a favourable one. More users are entering the digital space every day trying to please the segment they cater to. As these users are judged by their primary network they have to keep in mind the effects of an advertisement appearing on their page. All this is leading to an environment with innumerable options and unbiased information.

This creates added pressure on the marketer to be both honest and sincere in his/her communication. Companies can no longer bombard the media with redundant messages hoping for someone to pick them up along the way. Advertising and public relations used to be completely independent aspects of a firm’s communication strategy, however the line between these two are now blurring. The need of the hour is to have a synchronous message across all media platforms and engage with consumers in a manner which they will not find offensive.

With such an environment in place we can now notice the emergence of true opinion leaders. Social media networks are filled with users who are trying new and different methods to increase their visibility and reach. These users are constantly at war with each other to garner more views/likes/shares on their content. As advertisers seek out such users with a huge base of readers/friends, more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon to emerge as the opinion leader for his/her online community. The rewards for being an opinion leader are not purely monetary mind you. Fame and respect from peers is another vital motivating factor. Everyone strives to be more popular or distinct and with the platform of social media networks this ‘dream of fame’ can be easily fulfilled.

The emerging opinion leaders are truly respected within their community due to the content they share.

However they are entrusted to be believable sources and their credibility is their only strength.

A different take on this subject:

Can u picture the government in the near future?

  • The manifesto of political candidates will be displayed on their online profile so that every citizen can scrutinize and suggest improvements.
  • Each decision will be taken after extensive polls held online, so that every citizen’s opinion is heard if not considered.
  • Failure to fulfill on deliverables will lead to a barrage of criticisms online and quick removal of the elected representatives.
  • Elections will be held online, with the winner being the person or party who gets most ‘Likes’ on Facebook/ most ‘Followers’ on twitter- A true Opinion Leader.

The aforementioned outlook does seem truly futuristic, but is it improbable?

Front Running and Bulk Deals in India

Price manipulation and role of unscrupulous brokers in capital markets has historically been a subject of great concern to market participants and Governments since it has an important impact on market efficiency. Price manipulation can occur in many ways, from false information to accounting and earnings alteration to stock price manipulation or what Allen and Gale term “Trade-based manipulation.”

Allen and Gale (1992) confirmed that it is possible for an uninformed speculator to make profits from ‘trade-based manipulation’ with large traders frequently buying and then selling substantial blocks of stock.


Anecdotal evidence from the Indian capital markets suggest that many such price manipulation strategies exist reducing the market efficiency, and also indicate the existence of front-running by traders primarily before large trades. The fact that SEBI has sent more than 500 show-cause notices in the past four years to various brokers, financial institutions and traders regarding these prohibitive activities support the point furthermore.

Harris (1997) points out that, front- runners are on the lookout for “large traders” who strongly want to complete a trade. Then they make short-term trading profits by front-running these large traders. SEBI defines a “bulk” deal as “all transactions in a scrip (on an exchange) where total quantity of shares bought/sold is more than 0.5 per cent of the number of equity shares of the company listed on the exchange.”

The quantitative limit of 0.5 per cent could be reached through one or more transactions executed during the day in the normal market segment. In an effort to improve transparency in the Indian capital markets, SEBI mandated the disclosure of bulk deals in the year 2004.

An analysis of 80,704 trades over the past six years to see if there is any evidence of “trade-based manipulation” in the context of bulk trades on NSE and BSE, for all NSE listed stocks, by Ms Nupur Pavan Bang (ISB, Hyderabad), Mr Chakrapani Chaturvedula (IMT, Hyderabad), and Mr Nikhil Rastogi (IMT, Hyderabad), shows that there is ample evidence of front running, with significant impact of bulk trades on the share prices.

A person investing in a small-cap stock, ten days before the bulk deal and off loading it the day after the bulk deal can make 9.58 per cent in this 12-day period . Similarly, he can make 4.79 per cent in the case of large-cap stocks in 11 days .

Practical Difficulties

The results are obvious as the finding liquidity for bulk deals in small-cap stocks is more difficult and may signal the presence of more information in the trade. Also, because of liquidity issues, the broker might need more time, and may contact more people to find buyers/ sellers for the small-cap stocks. This results in more information leakage and front running.

Front-running facilitated by information leakage distorts the market integrity and can create adverse selection problems that limit market participation and inhibit efficient capital allocation. Therefore, a much stronger role for Government regulation is required to discourage manipulation in emerging markets.

Behavioural pattern

They also find that while the buyer-initiated trades result in a cumulative return of approximately 4.2 per cent over a 21-day period, but the seller-initiated trades do not see an expected dip in price over the same period.

This is in tune with the proven investor behavior of reacting swiftly to good news (bulk buying indicate good news) and being reluctant to react to bad news (bulk selling indicates bad news).

While there is need for stringent norms to regulate the bulk trades, the regulator must pay special attention to bringing more transparency and liquidity in the small-cap stocks. Due to the illiquidity in the small-cap segment, the intermediaries are able to front run the bulk orders of their customers more easily.

The surveillance activities taken up by SEBI, followed by investigative actions, need to be spruced up.

In a research carried out by Allen and others, published in the year 2007, they find that the ratio between the number of investigative actions taken up by to the number of companies under its jurisdiction was 0.09 for SEBI which is dismal when compared to SEC’s (Securities Exchange Commission) 0.52. Things do not seem to have improved in the recent years.

What Futures Mean for Us

This article was originally published in Postnoon on June 1st, 2012 (Co-Authored with Amulya Chirala)

Prof. Nicky: Srikant, think of a bread factory. They bake hundreds of kilograms of bread every day. This means that they use hundreds of kilograms of wheat every day. The price of wheat fluctuates frequently but the company cannot really change the price of a loaf of bread every time the price of wheat moves up or down. While wheat becoming less expensive may not worry the owner of the factory much, he would constantly worry about rising price of wheat.

Now think of a wheat farmer. He lives in fear of wheat prices dropping when it is finally time to harvest the crop. If they had a mechanism to fix the price of wheat at a certain mutually agreeable price, both of them would be happier people because of the elimination of uncertainty. Sure, the farmer is sacrificing the potential very high profits if the price of wheat were to sky-rocket! Similarly, the bread manufacturer is sacrificing the higher profits he might make if the wheat prices were to nosedive. But they are assured of being in business.

Srikant: Interesting thought. Prof. Nicky, it would indeed be very useful for both of them to enter into such an agreement.

Prof. Nicky: Yes. The elimination of price risk is known as hedging. And it can be done through financial instruments known as ‘Forwards’. Forwards enable the two parties to fix the price, quantity and quality of wheat that will be traded at some point of time in the future. Forwards are highly customisable agreements between two parties, usually via a broker. Since there is not much regulation governing the forwards, there exists a risk of counterparty defaulting on the contract when market prices are more favourable to them.

To eliminate the risk of default, there is a similar class of instruments traded on exchanges. They are known as ‘futures’. The primary difference between futures and forwards is that there is a “margin” or a safety deposit collected by the broker (or clearing house) from the trader which is adjusted daily to reflect the changes in the prices of the asset on which the contract is written (underlying). This process of adjusting the margin is called ‘marking to market’. It is the equivalent of rewriting a forward contract daily.

Srikant: Hold on Professor. Why are you telling me all this? I am neither a farmer, nor a baker.

Prof. Nicky: True. But you are an investor. You recently invested some money in the stock market.

Srikant: Yes. But I am still not able to see the connection between my equity investments and these futures contracts.

Prof. Nicky: You know how volatile the markets are now a days. With the rupee falling, the fiscal deficit increasing, Euro crisis and so on. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could hedge your risk in the stock markets too?

Srikant: Ah! Now I know where you are going!

Prof. Nicky: Just like a farmer and a baker can hedge the price risks involved in their business, an investor too can hedge the risk of her portfolio of stocks being subjected to undue price movements due to external factors. Exchanges like NSE and BSE offer futures contracts on stocks and even the index.

Also, Srikanth, your father owns a jewellery business. You can tell him about futures contracts which can help him hedge the price of Gold. Futures contracts on commodities are traded on exchanges like MCX and NCDEX.

Srikanth: Prof. that reminds me, I’ve got to rush home. Got to take dad for a doctor’s appointment. But this is all very interesting and we’ll continue from where we are leaving, the next week…

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Vlogging-The new face of Blogging

All of you would be aware about blogging and bloggers, but trust me Vlogging/Vidding is the latest On-line social media tool to communicate with the end customer. This started way back in 2002 when one of the bloggers by name Adam Kontras, in an attempt to increase readership for his blog about his company, included a video where along with the written part he himself explained about his company operations to his users.

Hardly then he realised that it will become a path breaking tool for interacting with the companies who are always on their toes to look out for new ways to make more customer base.Ever realised while reading about a company, or going through its website you always want to know how the employees working there think about it ? What is the future goal of the company, values driving force, when all of it comes from the people who are running the business themselves it makes more sense and is anytime more interacting. Today Vlogging is being used for not only depicting company profiles but even companies are using this tool for communicating with their target customer ranging from students to old age people. Vlogs today revolve around anything and everything, from a day in a person’s life to Vlog channels that cover electronics, video games or beauty products.

Among different advantage of Vlogs over conventional add it helps you give the personalised touch to your products for customers who really want to know about the products. Many people are taking up Vlogging as a serious profession too because of so much of  money involved into it. Unlike Ad scene by google where in a blog there is very less chance of any advertisement being intercepted by the reader, an Vlog is catered specifically for people who are really interested in it. Anyone can become a Vlogger today what it requires most is some creativity, good content and theme about any product or company and good amount of viewership. If you want to make a career in Vlogging you need to be patient enough for viewers to come towards your videos which is not very difficult in today’s facebook era. Companies are providing good amount of money to regular Vloggers and most of them left their regular profession to become a full time Vlogger. Yan Higa a Japanese-American comedian from Hawaii, is currently the most subscribed to YouTube channel. Ryan, who broke 2,000,000 subscribers last month, Vlogs in the form of humorous sketches, rants and music videos. Names like Shane Dawson, Lucas Cruikshank are today very well know names in among companies who prefer to go for Vlogs rather than sticking to conventional marketing techniques.

According to an article published in The Telegraph At least 10 independent Vloggers on YouTube are earning over $100,000 (£65,000) a year in advertising revenue from the video-sharing site alone.

Contributed by SHARIQUE MANAZIR ( Class of 2013, IBS Hyderabad)

Do you think inviting business houses to set up higher education institutions in India will help better the higher education scenario?

Business Standard poses a question and solicits responses from students across India for their weekly column “ Student’s Corner”

The topic for last week was “Do you think inviting business houses to set up higher education institutions in India will help better the higher education scenario?”

The current scenario of higher education in India has become a mere game of money. Inviting business houses will worsen the situation, for they will look forward to money making for which again seats will be sold. Surely India lacks in opportunity and infrastructure but inviting business hubs won’t solve the problem. In last couple of years many engineering colleges have cropped up and still the quality has not increased. India surely needs quantity for its huge population but not at the cost of quality.

— Nishita Verma, IBS Mumbai.

Indian institutions has been delivering best quality of higher education for the students. Students who go for higher education outside India also been drastically decreasing .By inviting business houses to setup in India, it will cause a huge difference in cost for the same courses providing by our institutions. It will not improve the quality education, rather it will improve only the essence of a foreigner in the minds of Indian students.

— Vinod PV, ICFAI, Kerala.

While inviting business houses to set up higher education institutes would surely improve the quality of higher education, it is necessary to ensure equity by providing financial support to the weaker sections of the society. Business houses are more concerned with profit maximisation as they charge exorbitant amounts in the name of course fee. Moreover as ‘education is for all’ so quality and equity both have to be looked at before increasingly allowing the business houses to step into the field of education, which provide a better learning in a global context through international collaborations with universities abroad.

— Devika Singhal, IBS Gurgaon

Institutions should be invited because in India the need for education is changing with time . The pressure on private schools to take and provide for students of less privileged backgrounds means the students are increasingly diverse. Private schools are institutionalized, but this need not necessarily be a bad thing.Many opportunities are available through a private education which a state school will not provide, sport, music etc. Exploring beyond the curriculum is a key part of the ethos and can help expand student’s minds.

— Ketan Thakur, IBS Pune.

Companies have a lot of power in the community and the economy. The capital required to set up or fund institutes of higher education is in plenty with the business houses. It is a win-win situation for both students and the companies, the students get the best of infrastructure, education and guidance in form of guest lectures by corporate leaders running these institutions. On the other hand business houses get a good chance to build their brand much stronger by opening these institutes under CSR initiatives and in turn get skilled human resource needed to run their companies.

— Varun Kapoor, IBS Hyderabad.

If a corporate sets up an educational institute, one may get 2 years of full time education – cum – training. The office would be merged with the institute. A special department where the seniors and on field officers give us lecturers. Specialization is from beginning and every student is given a tiny work or other. For instance, students are asked to sell a pen worth Rs. 500 by the organization and the lecturer teaches us about differential pricing and market segmentation then. This could be encouraged.

— Vivek Kumar Debuka, IBS Kolkata.

The corporate world plays a major role in providing the right feedback and requirement for today’s managers. How well they need to be trained and be prepared for the challenges of localisation and globalisation in today’s corporate industry and amidst stiff competition. Big business houses ultimately know their own requirement and accordingly they play a major role in shaping the managers who will lead tomorrow. Therefore, it is very important to have the involvement of business houses to set up higher education institutions in India and it will also definitely improve the higher education scenario in the right context.

— Stephan Rodrigues, IBS Mumbai.

In India, corporate sector is the biggest user of educated manpower but very few are ready to contribute in the educational sector. Inviting them to set up higher educational institutions will not only create healthy competition among students but also encourage them to take higher education. Moreover, quality of education provided in private colleges is way better than any government college. Establishment and expansion of educational institutions have been mainly shouldered by state. So inviting business houses to set up educational institutions will expand the horizons of knowledge to meet the demand of resources in various sectors.

— Abhishek Fanse, IBS Hyderabad.

India at present is facing a opacity in education sector. For instance, if an MBA aspirant wants to get enrolled himself into a premier B-school, he/she has to pay high capitation fees, unless he is able to secure a seat through merits. So if business houses setup their institution, there would be augmentation in the this opaqueness and thus would accelerate the burden on these students. The possible solution to this standpoint is that if government, in consensus with these companies, start institutes with lateral funding to them then it can reduce students’ burden.

— Vivek Kamalia, IBS Mumbai.

The corporate sector should set up educational institutions because the amount of public resources available for health and education is limited. The working group on higher and technical education for the 12th plan projected a resource requirement of Rs 4,13,368 crore. So allowing funds from business houses will initiate improvement in quality education with technological up-gradation. However, these houses should not make the institutes another business ventures like their factories. They have to think of the social and service aspects. Monetary returns should not occupy their minds while providing education to the society.

— Devang P Gandhi, IBS Mumbai.