Kishor Cariappa

Everyday is a journey

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Category: Etc (page 1 of 3)

The truth

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Iran earthquake felt in Oman

A major earthquake struck a region near the Iran-Pakistan border today, less than a week after a quake in Iran killed at least 37 people. The U.S. Geological Survey said the 7.8 quake struck the slightly populated region.

The tremors were felt as far away as New Delhi and Gulf cities of Muscat, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Doha. The USGS report said Tuesday’s quake was at a depth of 15.2 kilometers.

Meanwhile, officials in Oman have confirmed that a 3.8 magnitude quake shook Oman for a few seconds. They ruled out tsunami as it was an inland quake.

Residents and employees were seen running out of their homes and offices at 2.45 pm (Oman local time) as tremors were felt across Muscat and other major places in the Sultanate. According to some reports, as a precautionary measure, some companies declared holiday for their employees for the day.

Ramesh Kumar, a resident of Ruwi said he was watching television when he felt the tremors and within seconds heard people in the building running out. “All the residents of the building gathered outside and returned back after 20 minutes,” he said.

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with updates on tremors from various parts of Muscat and near by places.

People rushing out of their workplaces in CBD today. (Photo source: Muscat Daily)

People rushing out of their workplaces in CBD today. (Photo source: Muscat Daily)

Restaurant review: Jungle

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The Jungle is a new restaurant located to the right of Qurum Natural Park’s main entrance. True to its name, this theme restaurant has a forest-like setting with lots of green creepers, small trees, animals and birds dotting the garden as you make your way to the dining area.

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For an authentic feel, the diners first experience a drizzle in the garden, and transparent umbrellas are provided. The path leads you to the restaurant. Of course, enroute you will not miss hearing peacock shrills and dinosaur roars.

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The main dining area is a huge space wearing the jungle-theme. Whether it is walls, ceiling, seating, serving plates – tiger stripes, cheetah dots, tribal art – it is a true jungle out there. It is evident that a lot of thought has gone into creating the decor and theme of the restaurant, which is very unique to Muscat.

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The comfortable seating facility is actually on three layers on an ascending pattern. I have been twice to this place, and enjoyed the food and experience on both the occasions. During weekends, when the place is packed, it gets a bit noisy for normal conversations to be heard when you are in a group.

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The menu is impressive with an interesting range of meat, fish, chicken and veggie options. Looks like the management has given a serious thought on the pricing – it is very affordable to the middle-class families too. There are some interesting salads on the menu and for the adventurous type, there is camel meat on the platter!

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The salads, main course dishes and the desserts are nice, and on both the occasions, I loved the food. The service is good too. On the whole, Jungle provides a value-for-money experience. This place is tailor-made for kids.

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Update (June 7, 2012)

Over the next two visits, I noticed that restaurant staff ask the customers to wait for 20-30 minutes even though they have reservation and there are vacant tables all over. Walk-in crowds are sent back on weekends though there are vacant tables. No clue why the restaurant is doing this.

Social media is here to stay

This is my piece on social media in Oman which was published in Times of Oman today. You can read the PDF format here.

More and more companies in Oman are embracing social media like never before, taking to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other tools in droves to connect with the customers of tomorrow.

People in the Sultanate are getting used to the online way of life by preferring online payment facilities from shopping to ordering food to buying tickets to watch their favourite flick in the town. And, they do it with more confidence and trust as never before. For them, internet is now much more than just emails and Google search. Thanks to falling internet connectivity prices, plus invasion of smart phones and tablets, now people are connected to the online world round the clock.

With substantial number of active Facebook and Twitter users, brands are finding it easy to spread the word about them over the web. They talk to their audience directly, and in some cases even offer them discounts and freebies as part of their customer service approach. In some cases, the audience is given a chance to win free concert tickets or gift vouchers for brand promotion activities such as online quizzes.

Not to be left behind, quite a few social media agencies are operating in Oman, advising brands on the potential and way forward to use social media tools with precision.

From online discussion forums to blogs, people are getting information at a pace which a static website can never match. Whether it is food reviews, new restaurant launches or even traffic updates, many people are using or relying on social media as their primary source of information.

Of course, in Oman online advertising is not as lucrative as it is in the west. A lot of major companies are still not tracking referrals from other sites. Thanks to platforms like Corporate Blog, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Facebook, brands are now realising the power of internet like never before. Facebook is very popular in Oman, and as per recent estimates, there are around 329,000 users in the country, which makes it 103rd in the Facebook worldwide ranking.

But it cannot be denied that the Sultanate has a long way to go in terms of adoption of the internet as a complete source of information and the alignment of infrastructure to support that. As of now, the available infrastructure is limited to urban and semi-urban areas.

Recent trends on social media and consumer behaviour have shown that a large number of customers are actively seeking and searching product information online and through social media platforms.

The majority of businesses in the region are slowly realising the importance of having social media in their overall media relations and marketing plan, but lack the know-how to create the buzz online. Even government institutions too are jumping onto the social media bandwagon to deliver and share information with their audience but cautiously.

No organisation, whether in public or private sector, can afford to ignore the potential of social media in today’s world. If they don’t wake up soon to take advantage of the opportunity, then they can be sure of their competition overtaking them.

One of the reasons for companies to shun social media in Oman is the transparency it gets into the scheme of things. Once brands are in, they can’t dictate terms to the users like the traditional media which is more of a one-way communication. Many companies in Oman are still wary about social media as they feel the privacy of the company is invaded and their reputation hurt by way of honest feedback. The trend is changing for sure but slowly. It is important for brands in Oman to realise that social media gets transparency into their business which is so vital in today’s world. They get to listen to honest feedback which can be used to improve their services and fine-tune products.

Social media is a cool and cost effective way to build a lasting relationship with customers and partners. Unlike the traditional advertising acquaintance, social media helps the company to talk to its customer, and this can help in building relationship for life.

Imagine this. A customer is having problem with his internet connection, and he contacts the telecom company using social networking tools. The company listens to his problem and solves it immediately. Isn’t he a happy customer? There is every possibility of him telling about his experience to his friends. Imagine the kind of goodwill the company generates. Similarly, local banks, hotels, trading companies, fashion brands, stores, etc, can reap benefits by adopting social media quickly.

A recent survey of chief marketing officers has highlighted the ever-growing importance of social media marketing and found strong trends in its use for business-to-customer (B2C) marketing. The survey revealed that firms continue to emphasise social media, which is forecasted to grow from the existing 6 per cent to 18 per cent of marketing budgets within the next five years.

B2C companies are devoting more resources to nurturing existing customer relationships through increased spending on social media, brand building and integrating what they know about customers into their work. About 32 per cent of firms surveyed expect to eliminate channel partners and other ‘middle man’ relationships in order to maintain direct contact with customers while reducing costs. Brands cannot afford to ignore social media if they want to stay ahead of the competition.

Be social in every way possible. That is the future.

In pics: Rains lash Muscat

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(Photos by: Kishor Cariappa)