How would you feel if you were strolling in the port town of a Greek island, going down a quaint street full of tiny shops with artefacts & hand-made scarves and cute little cafes serving Greek coffee, and then…. you spotted a Starbucks?
I still don’t know if I felt “Yay, this town has Starbucks!” or “Oh no, why do they have Starbucks here?”
Do you know what I mean? I want to share my experiences with 4 massive global brands and how I feel about them. For me brands are about recognition and perception, and that’s what takes me back to them. Or not.
Ok, I decided. I was not happy to see Starbucks in Heraklion, Crete. I did not travel to go into a new place and get Starbucks coffee and sit there with the same ambience which makes me feel like I am working in my home city. But yes, please I would any day have my Greek coffee!
While I am not a crazy fan of Starbucks coffee, I do have my favourites: the winter special Toffee Nut Latte and the Americano. Have you seen the number of Starbucks cafe thrown in the face at every corner in Hong Kong? So it’s a factor of availability and convenience. And it goes back to how I use this product and what it makes me feel. The environment is great for me when I need to sit and crunch some work. However, there are tons of cafes in Hong Kong which have much better coffee and even better ambience, so I have explored and keep changing my working spot.
With a market cap of $87 billion and strong global presence, Starbucks does have a strong brand presence in my opinion. And I still have a decent feeling towards it, maybe not love but affection to some extent.
My first Apple product was the iPod, which my uncle in the US had gifted me. You know when India had no foreign brands and only family members in the “US” were the source of such “prestigious” products? Haha. Well, I adored the iPod. For a music freak, this was heaven. But I do remember having syncing nightmares where I had to sync with iTunes to put the songs on the iPod and the software version was never the latest and this process took HOURS. Also, as recently as 2011, Apple’s customer service in India SUCKED. My mom and I were frustrated beyond measure to get a problem fixed in the iPod, which eventually never got resolved, after we tried everything. That’s when the charm whatever it was faded for me. I never bought the iPhone for this reason, maybe.
But when in China, this brand is the Apple of everyone’s eyes! As my Samsung S3 breathed its last, the time came for me to pick a new phone. Three months in Hong Kong and the Mainland, I had an overdose of Apple products all around me. Yes, I decided to buy an iPhone. I had to book an appointment for the 6s, I couldn’t just walk into the store. I tried twice and since it was full, gave up and bought the 6. I am not that person who’d wait in line to buy an Apple product. Haha.
I even have a photo of me selling out, my Apple-disapproving brother was not happy.
Last year, my Dell laptop also gave up on me and I posted on Facebook asking friends’ opinion for recommendations because tech decisions and I have a turbulent history. Well, it was a hands-down win for the Macbook. I went for it.
So, how do I feel about these products? Upfront, I am not a tech geek and maybe I am not even aware of more than half the features. But the use of the products has been smooth, seamless and easy. The biggest thing for me has been battery life! Also, multi-tasking and interface has been great. Ok, I have dropped and crashed my phone some 3 times – the glass is fragile or I have butter fingers. I also did not invest in a sturdy cover. So I don’t know who to blame here?
With a massive ~$700 billion market capitalisation, Apple’s brand dominance is real. The craze to upgrade to the latest version – while I heard about it in India, I saw it in Hong Kong. Out of my MBA class of 50 people from 16 countries, 35 had Macbooks. But I am not sure, is it marketing or really the best product out there? Is it worth the price? Is it a me-too wave? What really are the features you should really buy Apple for? I am not too sure, but I can say I am a happy consumer 🙂
Convenience! That’s the word. This has been a fallback, ease and boon for the traveller. While I am all for figuring out local transport and getting the real feel of a city, Uber has been phenomenal. Stuck somewhere? Don’t know how to reach a place? Don’t want to think? Just a short ride? Just Uber it. The cashless angle is so hassle-free for a traveller in a new city. Also, usually, the Uber drivers are chatty and willing to give recommendations around the city. Even within the city, for example in my hometown, Delhi, people have started using Uber regularly to work. It’s just more convenient than driving your own car in the mad traffic.
I Ubered my way in London, Manchester, Prague, Delhi and my experience till date has been positive. I like how Uber has become a verb and how relatable this is. My best experience was in Manchester, when we went pub hopping at night. I ended up chatting with almost all the drivers, who were very helpful and mostly belonged to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. It was super interesting to talk to them and no we didn’t have any frictions.
But when I am using this brand, the issues surrounding the brand globally are definitely on my mind. Safety, capital burning, horrifying remarks from the CEO, reports of a misogynistic workplace and in general new scandals propping up regularly. Does it make me change my preferences as a consumer? Yes, it does. One can choose to be indifferent or one can choose to be careful. I do appreciate the fantastic idea behind Uber but don’t know where the company’s future is headed, if such is the culture and thought process of the company. At the same time, the company has been valued at ~$70 Billion and is gearing up for its IPO, I believe. But I do not have any comments on its valuation. I mean $70 B?
I’d say Comfort! What a concept!
Fantastic homes in superb locations, with reasonable prices and a local friend! I mean I really love Airbnb. But I preferred to use it when travelling in groups. I am not much of a solo traveller, and if I am then I prefer a crowded hostel or hotel for sure. My favourite Airbnb experience was with my family in Prague. It was a wonderful two bedroom house and the four of us fit right in. It was introducing the concept to my parents and it was awesome how they analysed different aspects and compared their experience with their usual hotel stay.
The brand has a great global reach. Also, I am loving their partnerships in the travel space and beyond, especially the most recent one with Sofar Sounds. Despite incidents of the platform not being used in line with the policies, I like this company. Recently valued at ~$31 Billion, this tech start-up is profitable! I am excited to follow Airbnb and see where it goes.
So that’s a wrap! Some Prague photos, because I mean just look how beautiful it is:
Note: All figures in USD and are provided for rough estimation only. Sourced from publicly available databases. This blog post is not for informational purpose, it is purely based on my very biased opinion 😀