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“Customer experiences are being harmed because business efforts to improve employee engagement are fundamentally flawed” – Neil Davey (Managing editor, MyCustomer.com)

As a result, there has been increasing attention paid to the employee experience in recent years, with growing focus on areas such as wellness, diversity, inclusion, mental health, capability development and training.

Yet despite the proliferation of these projects, estimates by Temkin Group suggest that the number of engaged employees still remains disturbingly low – with its research indicating that only 33% of staff are highly engaged, and that number dropping to as low as 26% for those aged 18-24. This last statistic is of particular concern because this demographic is amongst the most likely to be serving customers, whether in contact centers or in other customer-facing roles.

He identifies a few reasons why engagement continue to be so low despite the surge in employee experience effortsincluding the mistake of treating money as an overriding motivator.

Among them are two crucial areas, I thought, that go a long way in strengthening employee engagement and in turn CX:

“Failing: Not engaging staff with the company’s wider purpose.

If understanding employee motivations is crucial, there is also the other side of the coin to consider: do employees understand the organisation’s motivations? Do staff know what the company’s purpose is, and do they buy into it…

Whatever the purpose is, it has to have meaning and connect with the employees in the organization…whether it’s a customer-centric purpose, or a profitability purpose, it has to be something that employees want to rally behind to achieve…

And then the leaders need to translate that purpose to every part of the business in a meaningful way.

Reminds me of an inspiring anecdote SU (a Division head) shared with us years ago:

In his days as a salesman, on one occasion, he moved heaven and earth to fix a problem on a IBM 1403 (a legendary line printer) he had sold to a customer – the awry drum and fan-fold paper movement was ultimately traced to dampness in the paper, fixed by heating up the stock with an electric bulb before usage! For him, a mere salesman, and his organization, the sale did not end with invoicing and collecting.   

Needless to emphasize the purpose needs to be authentically reflected in both thought and action at all times. Any incongruence at any time in this regard on part of the leadership, careless or otherwise, seriously undermines the cause.

This leads us to the second significant failing which is a little more of a challenge.

“Failure: Not connecting day-to-day tasks to the bigger purpose.

…As well as understanding and being engaged with the organization’s wider purpose, the employees also need to understand how their basic, daily activities contribute to that purpose.

The most famous and possibly apocryphal story that best demonstrates this, concerns President John F. Kennedy’s first visit to NASA headquarters in 1961. During his tour of the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. “I’m helping put a man on the moon,” came the reply.

The janitor understood his employer’s wider purpose, and also understood his daily task’s contribution to it – by ensuring everything was spotless, all of the sensitive equipment could function without fault. The cleaner did not view himself as simply a janitor, but a member of the NASA space team with an important role.

Without this important connect, the purpose remains as a lofty statement enshrined on some plaque. The tail does not go with the head!

For instance, it’s necessary and important to ask and answer How does having a customer-centric purpose translate to a call center agent? At the meaningful level, how does that tell you to behave and operate in a certain way? Does that tell you to smile more often, or to say please, or thank you, or does it help you answer the telephone in a slightly different way?

Of course it is not always so simple when it comes to those daily tasks that often appear dull and of non-strategic value. At this point it is important to realize even these tasks are connected; else they would not be performed in the first place. The trick is to uncover and present the connection that exists in right context.

Guarding against these two failures significantly enhances employee engagement.

And, how does an engaged employee perform?

Here’s a short and timely anecdote from Seth Godin:

“The $50,000 an hour gate agent:

Conventional CEO wisdom is that top management is worth a fortune because of the high-leverage decisions they make.

But consider the work of Wade, an unheralded Air Canada gate agent. Yesterday, I watched him earn his employer at least $50,000 while getting paid perhaps .1% of that.

The microphone was out of order, but instead of screaming at the passengers, he walked over and spoke directly to the people who needed to hear him.

On his own, he started inquiring about the connection status of a family of four. He could have cleared the standby list, closed the flight and told the four that they’d have to find another way home. Or, he could have saved them their four seats, which would have flown empty if they hadn’t been filled. Instead of either path, he picked up the phone, organized other staff to find and expedite the family and get them on board.

And then, in an unrelated bit of valor, he tracked down a lost wallet and sent his #2 to fetch it from where it had been left–getting it to the plane before it left.

Most of all, in an era when loyalty is scarce, he probably increased the lifetime value of a dozen wavering customers by at least a few thousand dollars each.

Krulak’s Law states that the future of an organization is in the hands of the privates in the field, not the generals back home.

In conclusion, when Godin asks, “Where is your Wade? What are you doing to make it more likely that he or she will bring magic to work tomorrow?” you know where and how!

Davey may be read here and Godin here.

End

Source: Pinterest, Wikimedia.org and huffpost.com.

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It’s not uncommon to find ‘experts’ go so wrong in their trend predictions, but to freely admit it in ‘print’ and re-calibrate oneself is not.

Ask any retailing expert, guru or know-it-all worth their weight in consulting fees and they will all tell you the same thing: the future of physical stores rests with “experiential” formats that present shoppers with an immersive atmosphere that can’t be replicated online. But what happens when they are wrong? Over the past year or so, two of the most high-profile new retail startups in the country – Pirch in the kitchen and bath business and TreeHouse which was billed as the green home improvement store — have either shut their doors completely or drastically scaled back their operations. Each was considered by all manner of retail observers (including yours truly) as the poster child for the future of retailing, yet each failed to achieve success. And somewhere in the telling of these two tales lie some lessons for other retailers trying to sort out how to keep all those physical doors open.

The retail guru Warren Shoulbergwho ‘loved Pirch and TreeHouse…and said so to anybody who asked‘ is reassessing the retail scene of the ‘experiential’ kind in his recent blog post. What is best about his blog: his posts are short, readable in minutes affording an easy peek into an expert’s mind. And, I thought, they have applicability far beyond retail.

Read his crisp insight here.

End

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Brand Equity,Value, Promise, Experience, Authenticity….?

From brandsofdesire.com

Daryl Person clears the deck with some simple concepts with handles:

We’re all someone’s customer, and we all love when something about a brand makes us feel great. Your customers are no different. If you take time to think through how you can connect with them authentically, personally, and meaningfully, your efforts will be rewarded with affection and loyalty.

No surprises here – much of the same has been said and written about it.

The interesting bit about her message is the further drill down to where she discovers a vein:

Essentially, you as a brand have to act like—and be like—a human….if the humans who represent the brand act like humans and friends, then that’s how customers will see you. They’ll defend you when you have hard times, celebrate when you accomplish something, and thank you for being a good brand.

And you hit the gold right and proper, Daryl avers, is when you create those genuine moments of great personal experience for your customers.

More about it and some thoughts on ‘how to’ she shares here.

End

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This is about the sage Viswamitra (V) requesting King Dasharatha (D) for his young son’s (aged 12 years or less), help to conduct a sacrifice successfully – he expects two demons to disrupt the ritual with their usual fiendish antics. The sage gives the reason for his request: on the eve of performing the sacrifice, he does not want to lose control of his mind and curse the demons all the way to their hell (through such outbursts, sages often lose their power gained after enduring practice of austere tapas).

It is described essentially in Sarga 19 of Bala Kanda in Valmiki’s Ramayana.

The source used for this analysis is here.

In the 21 verses contained in this Sarga, the sage makes 13 statements (five of them are compound with two parts) as under exactly in the same sequence, reproduced verbatim from the source:

  1. Born in an illustrious lineage and initiated by sage Vasishta, this way (of speaking) befits you.
  2. Take a decision and be truthful to your promise.
  3. Rama is valiant, young and true to his prowess.
  4. (a) Protected by me and (b) by his own divine power, Rama is capable of destroying even those demons causing impediments to the sacrifice.
  5. (a) I will confer upon him, without doubt, a lot of blessings for his well-being (b) by which he will attain fame in all the three worlds.
  6. Both of them (Maricha and Subahu) will not be able to withstand Rama in any way. Rama, and Rama alone, is capable of destroying them.
  7. Proud of their strength, the two wicked demons have been noosed by Yama, the god of death. O tiger among kings they are no match for the mahathmana Rama.
  8. (a) O king, it is not proper for you to hesitate because of your paternal affection. (b) You need to know that both the rakshasas will perish. This, I assure you.
  9. (a) I know Rama who is a great soul, true to his prowess and (b) also Vasishta of great luster and these other sages who have been steadfast in asceticism also know.
  10. O king of kings, if you are seeking the benefits of righteousness, great everlasting fame in this world, it is fit and proper to give Rama to me.
  11. Kakustha, if your counselors and all other sages headed by Vasishta give their consent, then only you may relieve Rama.
  12. (a) You should spare your dear son, the lotus-eyed Rama, (b) impartial and detached, (a) for ten nights.
  13. Dasharatha, descendant of Raghu, act in such a manner that the time for my sacrifice is not delayed. Do not indulge in grief. Prosperity to you”

After speaking these words charged with dharma and artha the great sage resplendent Viswamitra fell silent. 

It’s easy to see these 13 statements fitting into a well-structured script planned by the sage V as under, set roughly in the same sequence:

  • Starts with two praises of D, (1 and 2) for him to live up?
  • Next, first mention (3) is made, rather simply, of Rama’s prowess and, not so startlingly in passing, about his divine power in 4(b) (also the word ‘mahathmana’ in 7?).
  • Follows up talking about his personal support to stand by Rama in 4(a) and 5(a).
  • Names and belittles the enemies for reassurance vis-a-vis Rama’s ability in 6, 7, 8(b) and 9(a).
  • Time to bring more pressure and ‘carrots’ for D to oblige in 5(b), 8(a), 10, 12(b) and 13.
  • Rounds up defining the duration of his demand for Rama’s assistance in 12(a) and also
  • Drawing support from other unassailable sources including his ‘arch rival’ sage Vasishta to buttress his assessment of Rama in 9(b) and 11.

Could it be better, you think?

Now for another interesting perspective: Going by the count (not by relative strengths) of the statements, it adds up to (each statement in full counts for one and part of a compound statement, half):  

  • So for D to be persuaded, there are 2 praises and 3.5 of pressures and
    ‘carrots’ for a total of 5.5 out of 13.
  • V’s personal support (‘his skin in the game’) assured for Rama makes up for 1 out of 13.
  • On Rama’s prowess, said matter-of-factly, it is 4.5 directly coming from him and another 1.5 of vouchsafing support from others for a total of 6 out of 13 on assessment of Rama’s abilities to meet the challenge.
  • Specifying duration of V’s demand is 0.5 out of 13.

Is that a good balance?

Some observations:

The sage’s assessment of Rama’s prowess is based more on his
insight than any precedent display. Nothing is said by the sage about Rama’s
equipment, no mention is made of specific astra-shastra’s
(weapons w/wo mantra’s) in Rama’s quiver – perhaps unnecessary, premature or
even inappropriate?

Rising above the family-pulls, Valmiki ends the Sarga with

‘Having listened to those auspicious words of Viswamitra, the king among kings, (Dasaratha) experienced intense grief out of fear. He became despondent.’

How could the words inducing fear and despondency in the virtuous other be considered as auspicious? Simply because the killing of those two demons – the sage had enough insight Rama would accomplish it despite being too young – was necessary (directly or otherwise) for the good of the kingdom at large, besides V himself gaining from it. Here’s a cardinal principle of well-being of a society, said not in so many words: the call of dharma is more powerful and must be heeded to than the tug of one’s heart-strings should there ever be a conflict. The same is asserted without ambiguity in different ways in statements: 8(a), 10, 12(b) and 13. This comes to us in age when the principle is made to stand on its head, when parents amass wealth brazenly thru misdeeds for themselves and, more so, their children. Or, clouded by affection, they’re guilty failing to check adharmic acts of omission and commission of their near and dear.

Interestingly the phrase ‘lotus-eyed Rama’ in statement 12(a) is unimaginably double-edged!! How? The ready explanation is: Poets often compare beautiful eyes like those of Rama to lotus flowers in bloom. No surprises there. Now to the not-so-ready: Just as a lotus folds itself up in the night and come night, the young Rama goes off to sleep peacefully. And that is exactly when the demons become hyperactive. Is it fair to the sleepy young boy to be thrown against demons when they are in their elements?

End

PS: The source is responsible for the translation of the
original verses, included here verbatim and not for the rest of the content in
the post. The interpretation of ‘lotus-eyed Rama’ comes from here.
Image from flipkart.

So you know to hurl the brickbats at whom:-}  

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You cant go too far without hitting an expert sounding off on content and content marketing. Everyone and his uncle…

But not much said on what goes into content. Of course there is stuff to be found on story telling, but not tied tightly with content creation.

To clarify the point, many of travel and touristy content is at best a package of excitement experienced personally by the traveler like the cliche kid-in-a-candy-shop, but not necessarily worrying about taking the audience along vicariously. This is where story-telling gets in. But to tell a story, one must discover them first during travel, bringing altogether another dimension of excitement to travel!

A case in point is this short photo-post: Animation In Stone!

Posted just after returning from a sight-seeing trip to Egypt and Jordan, its impact could be to make one dig up a little more of history or may be to look henceforth at stonework wherever a little differently or even lure one to consider a trip to the place.

A small side story: The local tour operator, owned by some globally well-known names, did not take it up along with a few other posts for promoting his tours, when offered free for his use. Not even an acknowledgement! Of course the content may need to be improved upon with more drama and history injected and made a part of a larger canvas.

In conclusion, need to create content is widely accepted, but making it readable and actionable is something else.

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Like the doctor here.

When outside, I keep my eyes peeled looking for people doing things differently.

Apologies for the quality of the pics – this is as best as I could manage.

We all have heard of the anecdote how a consultant solved the problem of office goers waiting restlessly in the morning hours before a busy bank of lifts in a high-rise building. He got mirrors fixed outside the doors in the lobby and presto! The irritation abated. People liked to look at themselves in those mirrors while killing time.

Likewise:

The map you see here is pasted on full-height glass panels in the office of a Architects/Consultants firm. With employees of this firm more likely to be out in the field for good part of the day, it would not be uncommon for visitors having to wait out in their office.  And while waiting, the map segments on the panels, large unlike a mobile screen, clear and easy on the eyes, are actually interesting to look at and visually explore and discover even for the blase, making the wait a little more bearable.

**

A few days ago, returned to Mumbai. As the Indigo aircraft came to a halt at the gate for passengers to get off, an announcement was made requesting the deplaning passengers to pull down the window-shades before they leave  and open the air-vents overhead to full blast.

Very thoughtful of them to keep the aircraft insides as comfortable as possible and ready for the incoming passengers.

**

End

Source: Image from livemint.com

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It’s not what you think.

<<an extract>>

We watch TED talks for a variety of reasons: to learn something; to feel inspired; to get motivated; to stay informed; to be astounded; to laugh.

Above all, we want to be enriched. We want to be a better person for having watched.

But putting together a presentation that does that–helps someone become a better person–is easier said than done. Most of us would agree that on balance, most talks aren’t good. The ones that are truly great stand out.

According to public speaking expert Neil Gordon, this is because most of us tend to stuff our talks full of information. You’re taught to use acronyms, have steps and processes, fill your latest marketing deck with complicated charts … and so you do.

Gordon says this is a mistake. “Most people think the reason why the most-viewed TED talks have been seen so many millions of times is because they’re the most jaw-dropping, fascinating, ingenious, inspiring, or funniest talks,” Gordon offers. “But it’s not actually any of those things.” So what is it? What is the secret sauce?

<<end of extract>>

Melanie Curtin reveals it all here.

End

Image: from intheblack.com

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This happened in the seventies-eighties and has relevance and great learnings even today in business, politics, military, religion….Read on.

It was/is a brick-and-mortar organization with over 3000 employees, listed public, engaged in light engineering and large projects in addition to distribution of imported hitech instruments and products of well-known brands. Managed by the founder family, more humane than most others in its class with reasonably clean and professional work environment. It had multiple offices pan-India and even with in cities like Mumbai, Channai, etc.

The one cloud in the sky was the employee union – each office had a local union and banding them together was an umbrella federation – with a hyper-active federal leadership, their heads filled with outdated unhelpful misconceived ideas. Quite unfortunately it saw the enterprise more as a theatre playing out the class-struggle between the capitalist owners and the exploited working class- concepts hardly understood by the members, nevertheless herded together. Even if there was some merit to their case, it was bent on blowing up situations, small and big, into disruptive breakdown of normal operation. A key contributor, it has to be said, was the inept local administration, staffed with loyal’s with no professional competencies, handling matters anachronistically with a heavy hand, untainted by objectivity and finesse.

On the whole there was no sane dialogue or even a desire to have between the parties at any level with perfectly trivial incidents fire-balling into ‘wars’. More harmfully it bred a toxic culture of indiscipline in the offices, factory and service centres, all over, severely undermining the authority of the management. There was even occasional violence.

After a while, the management perceived this weakness.  And took a decision that all such incidents should no longer be handled locally and be referred to an Industrial Relations cell at the HQ. This small team would take it up with the Federation to put out the fire – a task neither easy nor quick before doing the damage locally.  

An intractable situation, it seemed. For want of a better solution the practice with its drawbacks was continued for some time until…

One day, a man walked in as the new head of HR appearing most ill-suited for the role, until one dealt with him! A sardar, resembling Buddha more than any other sardar, who would readily agree with you on your issue until you realize he hasn’t yielded an inch.

After an initial period of getting into the groove, he came to life: one day he called a meeting of executives in one of the key offices. And, said from then on it’s for the local executives/managers to handle the local issues. The IR cell would no longer be available for passing the buck.

There was pin-drop silence. What was he talking about? They were nowhere equipped to handle the militancy. This sardar with his new-fangled ideas was making their job more difficult…sure to fall on his face flat.

He proceeded to explain:  In the daily operation the executives had no problem of routinely tasking these employees – secretaries, stenographers, peons, workmen, etc. Things turned ugly only when there was some incident which then spread like forest-fire. Even here, their disaffection seemed to be targeted against the big bosses, not their direct manager for whom they worked every day. As a first immediate step, he asked the executives to consciously strengthen the relationship and the prevailing cordiality with their reportee’s by being more sensitive and solicitous and extending small favours, some even personal – like letting them leave early occasionally to attend to personal chores. .

And when one of those incidents happened, they were to respond immediately and collectively to defuse the situation through a mix of patient listening, explaining the rationale behind certain decisions and if needed even call in those favours shown.

When he was done and out, the executives were left wondering: Was that all? Too simple – would it work? Was he serious? It was nothing at all like they had feared. It was like going to a doc with a serious ailment and he recommending a walk in the park.

In a short time, he took his message to all offices across the country.

Lo and behold it worked!!

All those unsavoury confrontations that erupted with the regularity of sun rising in the east were on the decline becoming quite infrequent now.    

Why?

For one thing the employees felt obliged more than ever before to their managers not to blow up incidents themselves or to encourage others doing it – this was important; those few bent on mischief-mongering suddenly found themselves rather isolated among their own colleagues. No one was too eager to vitiate the cordiality with his/her manager and colleagues whom they lived with daily at the workplace.  Their leaders did not find them too pliable for incitement anymore.

Something else was also at work here. Earlier it was between the Federation and a thinly staffed IR cell. Suddenly they had to contend with some 600 executives additionally.  The equation had changed dramatically.  When required, more than one executive swung into action to jointly address the issue.

The operating principles:

“Expand/escalate the ‘war-front’ as long and wide as possible with favorable forces deployed. And, importantly, get everyone to contribute their bit to the common cause.”

No leader can fight battles all by himself. Explore the possibilities – it may not be obvious in the first glance. As said earlier, it’s a universal strategy that works in most spheres of human endeavour.

Of course certain situations demand entirely different strategies to be deployed. Example: a (pre-emptive) counter-terrorism move where the engagement is short and swift.

The battle the sardar waged and succeeded is legendary, an object lesson for turning the tide organization-wide – it did not receive the attention and accolades it deserved in the professional community, I thought. No case-studies…Though he was well recognized and rewarded, rising to the highest echelon’s within the organization.

It’s with great regret I learnt a few days ago this brilliant strategist is no more; as also a key leader on other side, of progressive ideas and unimpeachable integrity unfortunately in minority among his kind.      

End

Source: image from inditales.com

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Well, the show is over, results declared the day before…the 2019 General Elections in India. Without a hitch, barring some very sporadic incidents and the usual whining of a few losers.

No consultants from the Big 5 or premier management schools, no Rs.50-lakhs-an-year-Project-Managers called in!!!

The show rolled out entirely by a dedicated team in the Election Commission (EC) Office assisted by a large number of government personnel doubling for poll duty, all paid government salaries!!

An expertise they should be offering in the international market to countries, states…wanting to hold free and fair elections.

You’ll know why when you look at some facts and figures to get flavor of this mind-boggling operation:

Everything about Indian general elections is colossal – the Economist magazine once compared it to a “lumbering elephant embarking on an epic trek”. The largest the world has seen. The number of voters is bigger than the population of Europe and Australia combined.

Voter Stats: 900 million registered voters, 10% more than in 2014 polls. 432 million eligible voters are women. 84.3 million first-time voters.

About 15 million voters between 18 and 19 years of age are expected supposed to be casting their votes in this election.

In the last Indian election in 2014, there were more than 830 million registered voters. Of them about 553 million or 66 per cent of the eligible voters came out to vote, up from 45% in 1951 when the first election was held.

A voter can now carry any of the 12 approved identity cards to the polling station and not just the voter slip.

Candidates: Fight is for 543 of 545 seats in Lower House of Parliament, Lok Sabha. In the last election there were 8,251 candidates including 668 women, from 464 political parties, nearly a seven-fold increase from the first election. On an average 15 candidates per seat, the maximum being 42.

For the first time, the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and postal ballot papers would carry the photographs of all the candidates along with their party names and symbols.

In a first, candidates with criminal antecedents have to advertise their criminal records in newspapers and through television channels. Earlier they were required to give details of their criminal cases to the poll panel through an affidavit but it was not mandatory to make it public.

Polling Stations: 1 million polling stations set up, 10% more than last time. EC guidelines say no voter should be more than 2 km away from a polling station.

Around 1.8 million electronic voting machines (EVM) were used to cast votes in the last election. More than 80,000 polling stations lack mobile connectivity; nearly 20,000 are in forest or semi-forest areas. In the 2009 general election, the EC set up a polling station in the Gir forest of Gujarat, home to Asiatic lions, just for one voter.

At 15,526 ft Tashigang in Himachal Pradesh is the highest polling station in the world.  
Reportedly a group of election personnel will hike for an entire day to reach a lone voter in Arunachal Pradesh this time.
For the first time, 12 big-sized EVMs will be used at every polling booth, in the Nizamabad district of Telangana, as a whopping 185 candidates compete. Earlier it was thought that the EC will have to use ballot papers here.

For the first time, Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) will be used in all EVMs across the country. VVPAT allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended. When a vote is cast, a slip is printed on the VVPAT printer containing the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate voted. This remains visible to you through a transparent window for seven seconds. Thereafter, this printed slip automatically gets cut and falls into a sealed drop box.

Voting Schedule: Voting will take place in seven phases spaced out over six weeks (39 days) from April 11-May 19.  The voting in multiple phases is to allow officials and security forces to re-deploy. India’s historic first election in 1951-52 took three months to complete. Between 1962 and 1989, elections were completed in four to 10 days. The four-day elections in 1980 were the country’s shortest ever.

Counting of votes for all 543 constituencies is done in a single day!

EC: Election Commission of India, an autonomous constitutional body, is overseeing the polls with 300 full-time officials at Delhi HQ.

Over 11 million government officials will travel by foot, road, special train, helicopter, boat, and sometimes elephant, to hold the election.

The 2014 election cost approximately 38.7 billion Indian rupees ($552 million), according to Election Commission estimates.

All in all, an incredible feat, you agree?

Special kudos to these unsung heroes for pulling off this greatest show on earth!

End

Sources: scoopwhoop.com/news/interesting-facts-about-lok-sabha-elections-2019/, Hindustan Times, Twitter, India TV, Reddit, DNA India, NDTV, Business Standard, The Hindu, Inkhabar.  Livemint, bbc.com/news/correspondents/soutikbiswas and dawn.com/news/1475146

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