Neo-Edwardian Calling Cards

May 27, 2010

The Art of Manliness blog recently (well, actually, a couple of years ago) had a post on how the Victorian custom of calling cards had died out, and lamented the fact:

During the heyday of calling cards, using a business card for a social purpose was considered bad manners. Today, while business cards are great for making business contacts, they still aren’t really suited for social situations. They probably have your work number and work email, and not much else on them. Think of all the times you meet someone you’d like to see again. Handing them a business card is too stiff and formal.

While this is true, a Victorian-style calling card will not fit all the situations we are confronted with in our modern world. This is a common failing of the Victorian aesthetic, which emphasised form over functionality. To achieve form and functionality, we must turn to Edwardianism. And since this is the twenty-first century – Saivite neo-Edwardianism.

What does this involve? Among other things – taking advantage of technology. To abandon Victorian straight-lacedness and adopt the more genial and creative values of the Edwardian era. To respond to problems with appropriate solutions and not with an arbitrary code of etiquette. Just as King Edward himself changed fashions to suit his waistline rather than change his waistline to suit his fashions, so too we must change calling cards to reflect the situations in which we will use them. And in this era of desktop publishing and printing on demand, that means a visiting card or calling card for every situation.

I can think of cards for at least six different situations. These are:

  1. The visiting card your employer gives you, if you are working as a salaried professional (or even a professional working on commission, come to that). You have no control over this. The email on it is your work email. The phone number on it is your company phone. And unless it’s your own company and you decide the logo and card design and suchlike, there is not much you can do to customise this. All one can do with this sort of card is to accept it and move along. Back when I was a salaried yuppie, I tried for three months to get cards printed in which my designation was ‘Corporate Ho’ but my boss refused to approve anything except ‘Associate Purchase Manager’. Then I moved to Bombay, where I was in the Corporate Head Office on a project. It finally looked like I could get away with a business card that said ‘Corporate H.O. – Special Projects’. Alas, because it was a special project I was working on secondment in a business unit that was not actually my cost centre, and nobody could decide who would pay for my new business cards. Before things could be sorted out I had quit. Such is life.
  2. The visiting card you make for yourself if you do freelance work and meet people to pitch to them. So if you’re a consultant or writer or photographer looking for clients, you have a website that shows your portfolio or lists your past work and satisfied clients, and your visiting card includes that, your dedicated email for freelance work, your LinkedIn profile, and a dedicated mobile number for this. A dedicated mobile number may seem a little extreme, but it’s three thousand rupees extra at most. Or you could put a dual SIM phone. What is there?
    The card then reads:

    Aadisht Khanna
    Quizmaster
    www.aadisht.net/quizzes

    or

    Aadisht Khanna
    Writer at Large
    www.aadisht.net/portfolio
    99808 26537

    I met Shefaly last year. She’s a freelance consultant, and she got her business cards printed by Moo. They were plain back with only her website address in white text. Very cool.

  3. A visiting card to give to shops and restaurants and sales agents and suchlike. It’s useful to get marketing offers and freebies, but not at the risk of subjecting yourself to spam. The solution is simple – create a dedicated email address for all your consumer transactions, and use that whenever you have to fill in a feedback form or purchase order form. If you want to be really ninja about this, you could get a dedicated mobile number for this as well, and use a cheap-ass Maxx Mobile that you’d switch off when you didn’t want to be disturbed with assorted personal loan offers. And then you can put the dedicated shopping email and mobile number on a visiting card, and drop it in the bowl whenever a shop or restaurant invited you to do so to get special offers. If you wanted to kick it up a notch, the card could include your monthly free cash flow, so the shop would know when not to bother sending you offers on things you couldn’t possibly afford.
  4. If you’re single, a visiting card to give to interesting members of the suitable sex. This card would have your name, personal phone number and email, and perhaps a link to your facebook page. To make it more effective, it could include a short testimonial from your best friend, or a description of your attractive qualities. Like “Consumer Banker of Repute”. Or “I drive a VW Polo”. Or “Skilled kisser. References available.” You get the idea.
  5. A card which you attach to presents or cash envelopes. This sort of card is actually wildly popular in Delhi. Actually, we take it for granted so much that I was astonished when Namy Roy and Muggesh asked if it was a Dalhi thing. This is a Dalhi innovation that works, and which the rest of the country should adopt. This card usually contains your family name (or the names of everyone in the family), the house address, and nothing else.
  6. And of course, a personal visiting card; with your personal phone number, personal email id, links to your blog or twitter id or facebook page, and so on. Your address, if you’re comfortable giving that away. If not, you could leave enough white space to write it down for the people you did want to give it to.

Visiting cards are only the beginning. To really unleash the neo-Edwardian aesthetic, we would abandon Facebook walls for personal email and even handwritten notes when possible. Handwritten notes in turn would call for personalised stationery, which too should be customised to purpose as much as the visiting cards described above. A world in which we send letters on high-GSM cream-coloured paper, with custom embossing depending on who you were writing to and why, is a much better world than the one we have today. We should do our utmost to create this world.


A Much Delayed Important Announcement

May 14, 2010

I am now a columnist for Yahoo! India. My brief is to be a humour columnist, so I will try hard to be funny. The column will appear on alternate Saturdays. The first column is here, and the next one will be out tomorrow morning.

Points to note:

  • So far, I am a failure as a columnist. Almost all the other columnists in the spectacular lineup have been getting hate mail/ hate comments. I have got nothing despite being a humour columnist. I must be doing something wrong.
  • I am not going to link every column from the blog. The columns have their own RSS feed. Also, Yahoo! apparently is also working on a spiffier website with an easy to remember address for the India columnists.
  • You can’t comment on the column page itself, but there’s a link between the headline and the main text to the Yahoo Buzz discussion, where you can leave comments. I may respond to comments over there – my Yahoo! display id is double a.
  • You can send me email about the column to the stereotypist@wokay.in id mentioned in my bioline.
  • The first few columns will probably be very different stylistically, until I figure out what works best. But I’m hoping to bring back a character I created when I first started writing on the internet.
  • The Year in Preview posts will stay on this blog. Yahoo doesn’t get those.
  • I get paid for doing this! I am now officially a little bit hippie.

Microfinance in Pragati

September 2, 2008

I have an article in this month’s Pragati (PDF, 3.8 MB) about microfinance. I’ve written about how there’s more to microfinance than microlending, how broadening access to savings accounts and small insurance is much more important than lending, and how the most significant impact of microfinance so far is not necessarily the financial bits but the organisational bits.

If, as is likely, you find this incredibly dreary and boring, do read the issue anyway for Harsh Gupta’s excellent article on liberal solutions to protests in Kashmir.


In Pragati

June 4, 2008

I have an article on how finance is actually infrastructure and financial sector reforms¬†out in this month’s edition of Pragati. The link to the article gives you an excerpt and you’ll have to download the PDF version (slightly less than 2 MB) to read the full thing.

The article had a¬†checkered history. I had almost finished researching it when I suddenly had to dash to Delhi. When I returned to Bangalore I fell sick and told Ravikiran and Nitin I wouldn’t be able to write it after all. The fact that I had no furniture in this point and writing would have to be done propped up against a wall may have contributed. Then I came to Bombay where I had a guesthouse with a dsek, and called up and offered to write it after all.

By this time I was five days over deadline and had to write it in a mad rush between ten and two in the morning at my guesthouse. The next day I had to check out of the guesthouse and didn’t have a new one to shift to, so I finished the article between noon and three in the afternoon while squatting in an unoccupied cabin next to an FX dealing room. Sadly, I had finished the bit about currency markets and was writing about financial inclusion and regulation by then.

Anyway, the result of all this was that I wrote the article in practically stream-of-consciousness style. As a result, not only was it a week over deadline, it was 1200 words over the word limit. It is a tribute to Ravikiran’s mad editing skillz that the article is now within the limit and still readable.