Reality or RealiTV?

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Made in Chelsea; Real Housewives of Cheshire; The Only Way is Essex; Great British Bake Off; The Apprentice; Strictly Come Dancing; X Factor.

Throw in a few pizzas and bowls of pesto pasta and there you have a week in the life of a twenty-one year old.

We pile into our student lounge sporting various combinations of tracksuits, pyjamas and onesies and settle down for an hour of becoming a little too emotionally invested in the lives of others. We all cheered on Ollie Locke as he put JP in his place on the Henley river bank. We all giggled like school-girls when Selasi piped that icing. We all screamed in outrage when Sharon Osborne decimated the Over 25 category at Judge’s houses. Reality TV continues to be an ever growing phenomenon. But why?

It was not all that long ago that I was spending my weekends at the beach. I was staying out until highly unsociable hours of the morning. I was going to cool clubs with fancy cocktails and swimming pools in the back. I would sit in a room full of girls and spend hours gossiping about people we knew. Living our own dramas. It was not that long ago when a night in front of the TV would have been a welcomed blessing after the never ending birthdays, socials, special events and catch-ups. Now, almost every night of the week I stare enviously at a screen and watch people getting paid to do those things.

I wonder out loud who Nicole Scherzinger is dating, rather than focusing on my own, slightly lacklustre dating scene. I have reached that unfortunate stage in life when reality TV has become my personal reality.

We all know that in recent years there have been many questions raised about how healthy social media is. I know I can’t be the only one whose parents have banned phones at the dinner table. Kate Bush once requested that her fans refrain from filming her show because if people wanted to watch it through the screen of the person in front of them, then they would have stayed home to watch it on TV. We are rapidly breeding a culture of people who struggle to enjoy anything until they share it with the world.

When I was a child, popularity was determined by your Top Trump skills in the playground. Today, ‘likes’ are the new symbol of status. Smart devices and social media have opened up a whole new sphere of connectivity, and not everyone is happy about it. I would argue, however, that we cannot reasonably throw our arms up in exasperation at this and not reality TV. How is it fair to ask someone to look up from their phone and stop talking to their friends in order to spend some quality time with you watching the lives of complete strangers unfold? At least through social media we are, for the most part, keeping in touch with people we know. I once had a friend use my snapchat to check up on her ex. I have known relationships to start through an Instagram. FaceTime is a revolutionary concept that enables me to regularly see friends and family who live on the other side of the world – people that I would otherwise only see every few years. Whilst we may not quite be able to call living through a screen ‘reality’, in my opinion it is certainly more deserving of the title than say Joey Essex or Amy Childs.

My solution? TV dramas! More often than not they give us far greater role models: Aspire to be as witty as Chandler Bing, as successful as Dr Grey, find a love like Marshall and Lily’s. But most importantly, know that they are all fiction and that the best life to live is your own.

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Engaging Insurance

fitness-1348867_1920This month Prescient has been exploring the rapidly changing nature of the global insurance market.  We’ve been delighted to speak with co-founders of two of the most exciting InsurTech businesses driving fundamental change within the sector, Jan-Philipp Kruip of FitSense and Alberto Chierici of SPIXII.

This is not just an interesting story about how technology successfully disrupts an established market.  Nor are these businesses on a quest to shake things up in a subversive sense.

FitSense and SPIXII have captured the imagination of insurance companies and investors alike, not merely because they are innovative and clever.  Crucially they are committed to enhancing relationships between customers and insurance providers, so that everyone is better off as a result.  Consumers will benefit from accessing more tailored products at the right price, while insurers build trust with customers, a key step towards positive referral and loyalty.

Chierici, a former part-qualified pricing actuary and data scientist (and one of an elite breed of actuarial entrepreneurs) is a true ambassador for insurance.  As he explains,‘We wanted to change the face of insurance and how it is perceived.  We did a lot of research and were amazed at the confusion and perceptions of mistrust.  We wanted people to appreciate and understand what insurance brings from a societal point of view.’

Positively obsessed by customer experience SPIXII is on a mission to make insurance simple, accessible and personal, starting by redesigning the way in which people buy insurance.  SPIXII is an automated insurance agent, a conversational chat bot accessible via messaging platforms or via native mobile app.

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All you need is a ‘hello’ to get started. From there, you can tell SPIXII about your plans, for instance if you’re about to set off to Barcelona for the weekend and want to find out what insurance options are available to you.

A good place to start is travel insurance but the scope is far more wide reaching and SPIXII is already in talks with 12 insurers to pilot the technology for selling multiple products, including motor, health, travel and home.

SPIXII is ideally situated to start the insurance conversation on a positive note, especially when addressing the needs and lifestyles of Millennials, widely documented as influential drivers of change.  Born between 1980 and 2000 the Millennial generation is the biggest in US history – bigger even than Baby Boomers.

Kruip of FitSense comes from a finance background and confirms that the needs of Millennials will require a fresh approach, estimating that within 10 years over half of people who take out insurance will seek to buy it in a different way – via mobile distribution and insurance on demand.

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FitSense is in a strong position to help health and life insurance companies provide better insurance through capture and use of data from wearable devices. Kruip explains the benefits for more targeted propositions,‘We can use the data we generate to target Insurance products that are much more specific to each person.  At the moment there are four or five insurance products and they are very broad.  Everyone is engaged in the same way – underwriting is the same. This can be a limitation because insurance companies don’t know who their customers are.’

FitSense creates a much clearer profile through the data it gathers, to better inform tailored, relevant products to match specific consumer risk profiles, enabling tangible engagement and driving recruitment and retention.

If you want people to buy insurance you have to offer them something in return and healthcare is perfectly situated to adopt the FitSense value proposition – Vitality in the UK is a good example of how members benefit from data capture, with points awarded for healthy activity undertaken.

FitSense understands that initial engagement with customers with a mutually beneficial proposition is just the beginning of a long-term sustainable relationship.  It’s far easier to introduce new products to customers who are already engaged.  For instance, young, active people might not see a need for life assurance because they’re young (and invincible!), but if you can approach a keen cyclist with a bespoke proposition for cyclists then relevance is established and motivation for uptake grows.

Pioneering companies like SPIXII and FitSense are helping providers to revitalise consumer trust in insurance, bridging the emotional gap between end users and product providers.

As Chierici concludes, ‘We want to create a powerful new brand that customers will trust.  We also want to deliver value to insurance companies.’

Sounds like a healthy outcome all round.

For more information please visit FitSense at http://www.getfitsense.com/ and SPIXII at I want SPIXII

You can also vote here for SPIXII to win the 2016 Virgin Media Business Award:

https://www.vmbvoom.com/pitches/spixii

 

For Disease or For Fashion?

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When foreigners come to Japan, many wonder why so many people here wear masks. On the train and in the streets, masks are everywhere. Typically in Japan, masks are used to prevent diseases from spreading. When the flu is going around school, some parents make their kids wear masks, or when someone feels that they are going to get a cold, they wear a mask. Similarly, on trains, many wear masks due to the amount of people around them and the potential to catch germs. However, recently, these masks are being used for something other than prevention of illness.

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According to Nikkei Net, some women wear these “fake” masks when they wake up late or don’t have time to do makeup.  In some cases, eye makeup may be applied but by wearing a mask they look like they have made up their whole face.

Some wear these masks because they think the masks accentuate their “V” line, which accentuates your chin to your cheeks, smoothing the face line, and the “E” line (aesthetic line), which is when one looks at your face, the tip of the nose and the bottom of the chin appear in a straight line, apparently the standard of beauty for plastic surgery.

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In a shopping strip in Shibuya, one of the most crowded areas in Tokyo, when 100 Japanese male and females aged between 10 and 30 wearing masks were surveyed, 31 people, 9 men and 22 women (31%), were not wearing these masks for any medical reason. One 19 year old college student’s reason for this was because he ‘did not want to talk to anyone’.  Additionally a 16 year old high school student who was also surveyed, said he was ‘too lazy to make facial expressions’, while a 25 year-old store clerk said he wore it ‘to hide his tiredness during his shifts’.

Yohei Harada, an analyst of young adults ‘culture, says the reason why some wear these masks may be due to people being used to internet and social media, and the need to block off communication with others.

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Some masks are being sold solely for the purpose of beauty, with the shape of the mask less square, to accentuate the “V” line or “E” line.  While common face masks have 4 pleats in total; 2 on top and 2 on bottom, the beauty mask has 1 on top and 3 on the bottom. The mask industry has been able to capitalize on this trend, since the masks which fit womens’ faces are actually better filters, because the typical square mask doesn’t fit the face and can cause particles to sneak inside from the chin and cheek areas. We are also seeing a choice of colour appear, so apart from plain white masks, some men and women are choosing complimentary colours to their outfit (black is a favourite) and even characters’ mouths, and patterns.

Moscow’s Anti-Cafés: Where Time is Money

image russianSince their conception by Russian writer Ivan Mitin, anti-cafés have been spreading from Moscow to all over Russia, and now Europe. Mitin’s chain ‘Ziferblat’, established in 2011, reached London in 2013 and Manchester just last year. The main concept of the anti-café is that the customer pays for time spent in the space rather than for food or drink. More to the point, however, the anti-café aims to encourage socialising and communication, thus providing a cosy, comfortable atmosphere for people to make new friends and spend time with old ones.

An anti-café will usually offer hot and cold beverages, cakes, free Wi-Fi and board games, with some even hosting Xbox or PlayStation consoles at no extra cost. The customer is also at liberty to bring their own provisions and use the kitchen to cook – though they should expect to share!

The process is simple: you go in and register, take a clock and your time starts. The going rate is typically only around 2-3 roubles per minute (the equivalent of 2-3 pence at the moment). Therefore, two hours amounts to what you’d typically pay for a coffee in Starbucks.

Unsurprisingly, these cafés have really taken off with students who are looking for a space to hang out and have a drink or snack within a sustainable budget. Stepping into ‘Zelyonaya Dver‘ (Green Door) in Moscow, paints a typical picture of anti-café life: ping pong tables in the garden, students singing with guitars on the sofas, and others sipping tea and playing Jenga.  It is a common occurence for people to strike up conversations with strangers and make new acquaintances – a sight rarely seen in a standard Western café.

Indeed, a key part of their popularity is that anti-cafes provide a removed space with an informal atmosphere where social norms and rules are relaxed.  In a city like London where interaction between strangers is rare, this might be just what is needed to escape the nonstop rush. As Mitin himself outlined, the concept of a ‘free space’ is key; the customer is autonomous and able to create his own world within the café setting.

The past five years have not only allowed the concept of anti-cafés to spread, but also to develop into some quirky approaches to the idea. Perhaps one of the most weird and wonderful is ‘Kotiki i Lyudi’ (Cats and People) near Tsvetnoi Bulvar metro station. Claiming to make Moscow ‘warmer and fluffier’, this is the perfect place for cat lovers to enjoy pastries and tea whilst playing with the 14 house cats, and of course only paying for time (kotocafe.ru).

So if you’re travelling to Moscow any time soon, and looking for a place to study, eat or just take some time out on a budget, why not pop into an anti-café, where time really is money.

Image: The Calvert Journal

Geneva’s unlikely social hotspot

IMG_1103Nestled on the shores of picturesque Lac Leman, overlooking the Alps and the majestic Mont Blanc, lies Les Bains de Paquis, Geneva’s new après-work and weekend social hotspot.

First opened 150 years ago with the sole aim of providing Genevois people with a place to enjoy the sun and indulge in a bit of swimming in the summer, the pier has now become Geneva’s most happening and talked about social destination.

Blessed with glorious sunshine and long summer’s days, culturally Geneva’s after work traditions rarely revolve around an evening spent in the pub, as the opportunity to soak up the evening sun with an alcoholic beverage in hand seems to be all too appealing. There’s no better place in the city to drink the evening away with your friends, family or work colleagues than Les Bains de Paquis. There’s never a dull moment & it all comes at a reasonable price as well, something hard to come by in a city with expensive tastes.

One thing that sets Les Bains de Paquis apart from the run-of-the-mill Geneva social hotspot is its unbelievable variety in experiences and activities all within such a small area. Anything that you can think of you are more than likely to be able to find it on the pier, with food, drink, music, swimming, Turkish baths, lectures, poetry and even Tai Chi classes all at your disposal throughout the summer. The pier even hosts dawn concerts every Thursday morning at 6am in the height of the summer months. Therefore, if you fancy listening to music whilst watching the sunrise over the mountains and lake before pitching up at work for the daily grind, then Les Bains de Paquis is the place for you!

Not only is Les Bains de Paquis swimming in social activity, the pier is teeming with revelers of many different nationalities, all mixing and soaking up the electric atmosphere. Les Bains de Paquis epitomises the international feel of the city. There aren’t many places in the world where one can enjoy a drink with a view, whilst simultaneously experiencing the best of multiple cultures and enjoying conversation with people from all over the globe.

No visit to Geneva is therefore complete without experiencing the wonders of the city’s irrefutable social hub. Whether you’re an art lover or you’re just looking to have a few drinks in a lovely setting, there is no better place in Geneva than the scenic and one of a kind, Bains de Paquis.

 

 

 

 

The growth of India’s newspaper industry

men reading paperIn a global climate of declining newspaper sales, India’s news publications appear to be holding fast.

India has a growing and constantly changing newspaper market, with daily circulation up from 150 million in 2002 rising to 264 million in 2014; it is expected to continue to rise in the coming years. However, the newspaper industry in India hasn’t always enjoyed increasing readership. India’s newspaper industry has faced restrictions because of state censorship, a lack of investment and the challenge of language were all barriers faced by the industry.

The years between 1991 and 2006 belonged to the television and Internet in India and this changed the habits of the nation, seeing the country’s population hungry for more media choices.

The rapid expansion of the Internet was accompanied by a newspaper revolution. Growth in technology and the importing of new printing equipment meant that it was becoming commercially viable for newspapers to be printed in a variety of regional languages rather than predominantly either in Hindi or English.

The availability of newspapers in different languages has meant that India’s newspaper market appeals to millions of non-English speakers. It is predicted that by 2017, the revenues for non-English papers will overtake that of English newspapers for the first time ever.

Increasing literacy rates across India has driven the localisation of newspapers, made possible by the changes in printing technology. The increasing literacy rates in rural areas of India has seen the investment in newspapers grow, and often, the greatest increase in circulation of newspapers has been in areas with increasing literacy rather than increasing economic power. By reading a newspaper people, who had been previously denied, have been given an opportunity to be involved in civic and political participation.  Kerala is one such example.  Throughout the twentieth century, this was an area with some of the highest literacy rates in India. There was also a strong sense of political involvement amongst the people, and the newspaper readership per 1000 was well above the national average for India, yet the average income for Kerala was below the Indian national average. This shows that rather than newspapers being a sign of the elite, they are now seen as a mass medium, and a way for Indian citizens participating in national affairs.

Underwriting the localisation of India’s newspapers is media advertising, which has grown alongside newspaper circulations. The growth of media advertising meant that Indian newspapers began to receive investment, and this made the decentralisation of news possible. Indian media consumers were first targeted by incentives via television in the early 1990’s, but this soon spread to print media, when it was discovered how lucrative incentives and gifts for readers could be. Incentives are often offered in order to increase circulation.  The Dainik Bhaskar, one of the most popular newspapers in India, spent 15 million rupees to tempt newspaper subscribers with a plastic chair in Chhattisgarh.

Perhaps the biggest reason why newspapers across India have continued to increase their circulation is due to the political engagement that they allow.

For people who were previously marginalised, or unable to contribute to political debates, newspapers have provided an opportunity to engage with politics at both a regional and national level. This suggests that as the population of India continues to become more upwardly mobile, the growth of newspapers will continue, with the only question remaining: how long can this growth be sustained?

 

Singapore: Expensive Tastes

IMG_0417Young Singaporean workers (particularly HR and admin roles) don’t tend to stay in jobs for very long and will go after slightly larger pay checks over job security. Why? Because most jobs receive an Annual Wage Supplement – an almost guaranteed bonus equivalent to one month’s extra salary. So a slightly higher wage means a bigger bonus.

But what to do with all this cash? Shop of course! Orchard – the busiest, fanciest and most Western of the shopping districts – boasts all of the high end stores one would expect to find on Rodeo Drive: Burberry, Hermes, LV. But don’t think you have to go to Orchard, Singapore has over 200 shopping malls of all sizes so you can spend your bonus money pretty much anywhere.

Got thirsty from all that shopping,  then head to one of the 122 Starbucks or 64 Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf stores.  Despite Singaporean “kopi” (stronger coffee from stalls made with condensed milk) being available for as little as S$1 (USD 70¢), thousands still flock to the Western chains and pay 6 times that amount.

It is not only the rich that have expensive taste; my colleagues are always on the lookout for the latest trends and most luxurious bags. Students who have done internships with us were concerned about having their gold membership at Starbucks expire more so than getting a job after university. It all boils down to one factor – image. The image of success: the stylised hair, the bag from an exclusive member’s only gym, the Starbucks ice caramel macchiato.

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This lifestyle does not describe all Singaporeans but an interesting sub-set. This also does not mean this sub-set is shallow but rather have all their needs met and so the only thing remaining is their wants. This group of people tend to still live with their parents, sometimes until 30, and therefore lack any true financial responsibility, so when their friends decide to go on a shopping trip to Bangkok, why not go? Their parents provide an often used safety net. If they overspend, they won’t get kicked out for not paying rent – there is no rent for them to pay.

This way of spending one’s early 20s is not wrong or right, it’s just different and it’s the way things are done here for some people. Given the opportunity to save what I want and spend what I want with no risk, I would probably do the same thing – wouldn’t you?