A reader published a comment on the previous post on Customer empathy – which I thought was something worth sharing with everyone – so here goes!


“I have been involved in manufacturing and sale of engineering goods for more than three decades in India now. I have certainly learnt that it helps to empathise with your customers to gain their loyalty.

This empathy comes easily so long as it relates to product design, because this actually helps you to improve the utility of your products!

However, it becomes impossible to empathise with customers in commercial matters of price and credit, for the simple reason that such misplaced empathy is the surest way to run your business into the ground at least in India! I mention this because customers in India are by and large not reliable in matters of timely payments.

In short: Technical Empathy? 100% Yes! / Commercial Empathy? 100% No!”


Firstly thanks Uday Sir for the comment. I loved the comment, and am taking the liberty to publish the same on my site as well. I agree with the sentiment and appreciate that it comes through with great experience! The thought however should be around how can all this be circumvented. Can a seemingly commoditized product also be delivered to customers with a fabulous value which is irreplicable. I think that is the challenge, and something that Internet companies are excelling at too!

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A comment on – Customer empathy in India and my response

Business, Entrepreneurship, Technology

Customer empathy – The understated key to win consumers

Customers everywhere!

Everyone in their professional life has their customers. Some have enterprise customers, sales teams have their clientele, some have their bosses and their bosses’ bosses, CEOs have their investors and entrepreneurs have their customers to face up to.

Where it does get interesting is everyone has an opinion about how their customers are wrong, or how they act incomprehensibly, sometimes even a touch ‘madly‘! (Guess I have struck a chord there 🙂 )  But not many think about why their customers behave the way they do. This is precisely what ‘Customer empathy’ is!

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling.

Why empathise?

The next logical question in this chain of thought of course is to understand the ‘Why’ of customer empathy. Everyone is great at thinking about their own perspective, targets, benefits, interests etc, at least we presume they are. But, it does take courage and time to get into someone else’s shoes. However doing that definitely puts you at a distinct advantage while dealing with customers. Check up how empathy puts a firm at a distinct advantage with its customers –

Google and customer empathy

A quick example of this is how Google shows its customers search results for the correctly spelled Search term or ‘Did You Mean ________’ when you type an incorrect spelling on Google.

Google customer empathy

How Google shows correctly spelled search term

Google customer empathy

Google’s simple gestures mean a lot for its customers

See what Google did there? Just by a simple (seemingly simple) feature it has saved its customers’ time. This does lead to user retention and delight. No wonder their market share has remained so high all through! So much so that even a decrease of 3% from 78% to 75% becomes news in the US tech circles.

Apple and customer empathy

On that subject, Apple’s products are like live demos of customer empathy! All features on Apple products are goaled to meet one need – solve consumer problems. Look at the finger print sensor on Apple iPhone. They have beautifully solved the consumer need to unlock phone without typing or swiping. The sensor also allows you to download apps, sign in to iTunes and even buy things from iTunes. In the latest iPhone 6, it even enables you to use Apple Pay. Given the massive adoption of Apple products globally, there is no doubt that Apple has won customers by solving their problems elegantly.

Customer empathy starts from you!

Often its easy to shirk off empathy by saying that its an organisational problem and its not my problem. If that is stopping you from being empathetic, then you need to change that as soon as possible! Start understanding your customers, start talking to them. Believe that they behave in the way they do, not to create obstacles for you but since they have no other option. I have tried to bring that change in myself, and so can you! All it needs is a little but conscious effort to understand your people.

PS: Do be empathetic to me as well, and post comments – criticism, praise, whatever! It really does motivate me to write 🙂

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Why do Indians love Youtube

The New Year!

First things first, wishing all the readers a beautiful, challenging and a wish-fulfilling New Year! Whoa! Its already been 7 days since the year has passed. Thanks for reading Strat.in and hope you do so in 2015 as well!


Youtube – the baap of all TV Channels

Youtube – The Goliath

The biggest trend of 2014 has to be the emergence of Youtube as the biggest TV channel (and much more) of all time! If the entire TV Set top box is an animal, then Youtube is the entire jungle and the entire countryside, from shore to shore – and that is still understating Youtube’s relative size!

What does Youtube mean to its audiences

We were on way to Mahabaleshwar, a top hill station in Maharashtra, when we took a halt 30 KM from Pune. What I saw was quite startling – there were 5 friends at a desk, and they were streaming  Bollywood songs on 3G presumably, and were doing so quite comfortably. It just made me realise that one of the big reasons why 3G is slowly getting a higher adoption is [mobile + video + anytime on] as a package. Youtube has a massive role in this! There used to be a time when loading MP3s on a new mobile phone was an unmissable chore as soon as a mobile was bought! Not anymore though! And the big tipping point for this trend was Youtube!

So whats the big deal with Youtube?

Youtube is everywhere

Literally Youtube is everywhere – desktops, mobiles, tablets, TVs, other websites, apps. blogs, news channels! There is possibly very little in the media world where Youtube isn’t available. Of course thats due to Google and its entire ecosystem of Chrome, Android, Gmail, Gtalk – but you have to accept that Youtube is possibly omnipresent all over the media.

Youtube is accessible

Being available is one thing, being accessible is another. Youtube streaming works – whatever the bandwidth, whatever the device! Of course the streaming quality differs, but Youtube has done a great job with access for users, particularly in India

Youtube is inclusive

Given the range of Youtube’s video collection, Youtube is being used by one and all! While this is obvious and massive, try naming any other video website that is so inclusive, yet captivating apart from Youtube – my guess is you would struggle doing so!

Youtube search

Thanks to the parent company, Youtube search possibly throws up the biggest array of options when it comes to search. For video discoverability, any video creator could not have asked for a better platform.

Youtube creates a buzz

Every big initiative, be it a film, be it an event invariably launches its own Youtube channel and tries to develop its following. Indian elections were fought as much on the ground as on Youtube! Every upcoming movie release is preceeded with a Youtube trailer launch. Youtube is a fantastic place for buzz creation – something that every marketer aspires!

So, marketers, do share your ideas on how you use Youtube! Would be writing a new article about this next by collating your views.

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Seamless – The Technology buzzword of 2013!

Lo and behold! More than 6 months of 2013 are already through and they have been simply explosive for the Indian Technology enthusiasts! India has been quoted as the fastest growing technology market in the world and the world is taking notice.

Three biggest things happened in India Internet / Technology / Product sector according to me in the first half of 2013-

1. Amazon entered India with Amazon.in – A company that I have been following for years, Amazon entered the Indian market and is already capturing sizeable market share, if not market share, at least eyeballs. It remains to be seen how many of those eyeballs can be sustained; also how other competitors react to it. Notice that Amazon is within 1.5 mn uniques of Flipkart within literally no time.

Comscore data amazon


2. Redbus acquisition and the aftermath – Redbus acquisition has proven to the world that Indian market is alive and well when it comes to potential M&A activity in the Internet / Technology sector and has definitely given a wave of hope through the entrepreneur / employee / VC / Angel ecosystem . This has also implied that a lot of startups hitherto struggling to find lead investors are finding the investor community a lot more approachable, provided the business basics are in place.


Seamlessness as a Critical success factor

3. Seamlessness – However, the biggest trend of 2013, in my opinion is Seamlessness – Everything of 2013 has to be seamless. If your product works ONLY on the web, sorry, thats just not good enough! Your product has to work cross platform. Do you have an IOS app? Well folks thats not enough too, for your app needs to also be on the app eco system that has 70% market share outside the US – Android. Android is taking over the world and the developer community knows it. Every company – a publicly listed one as well as fledgling startups are putting considerable effort and are placing considerable bets on the premise of attracting loyal userbase on the promise of a seamless experience.

Never has seamlessness been so important in my opinion.

What are your opinions? Let me know!


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Ecosystem rankings 2012

Silicon Valley in India- Possible reality or Marketing pipe dream?

Silicon Valley is perhaps the world’s greatest startup ecosystem which the entire world is trying to emulate. The efforts of the countries are mapped in this fabulous Startup Ecosystem map –


Ecosystem rankings 2012

According to the Startup Ecosystem map, Bangalore is listed on the 19th position from among the 20 cities under consideration.

This begs the question to be asked – How is India doing on the front of the Startup ecosystem building? Not very well on any Global metric apparently.

Here are three big reasons why India very badly needs a Startup Ecosystem –

1. Massive educated workforce churned out by Universities – Every year we see such huge numbers among the work force churned out by Indian colleges – not only engineering but science, commerce etc

2. Relatively larger uncertainties for bigger companies – Given the retrenchment going on in many sectors, it won’t be wrong to say that Startups will provide employment to a larger audience than before.

3. Exciting opportunities with potentially larger impact – At a startup, there would be a greater opportunity to create an impact as compared to a smaller company.

Given this, is India missing a huge marketing opportunity by NOT making a city like Bangalore or Pune a Startup Hub?

I certainly think so. Given the huge fillip that IT has given to Bangalore or Pune or Gurgaon or Hyderabad – local Governments should be literally jumping at the opportunity at creating a startup ecosystem. It has the potential to attract the best talent from the globe to that city and more importantly is a better way to collect sustainable and ever growing revenue. Look at the model that the state of California built for itself with the Silicon Valley. While it is true that the state was blessed to have minds like Steve Jobs and Sergey Brin, the fact is the California and US Government also played a small but important part in the Silicon Valley development.

Look at Tel Aviv – In 2009, Israel had more IPOs on the NASDAQ than China , India and Russia combined. Thats a telling statistic. If Israel can do it, so can a focussed approach from a country like India, with the abundance of talented people .

To Quote the article –

Highly advanced ecosystem and bustling with tech companies

– In 2009, 63 Israeli companies were listed on the tech-orientated NASDAQ – more than from Europe, Japan, Korea, India, and China combined

– Almost every major tech company today has some kind of subsidiary in Israel: Intel, Microsoft, Google and Cisco etc.

– 39% of Israeli high-tech employees work in the R&D departments of multinational companies

  • Closing fast on Silicon Valley due to risk-taking nature

Given all of this, it may seem as if India has already fallen behind . What is the best foot forward to build a Silicon Valley in India? Have any opinions? Let us know!

Source for diagrams and quotes: Telefonica digital

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Business, Entertainment, Entrepreneurship, Technology, Web

Dhunio – Categorization is Everything!

One of the best things about India is Music! Bollywood and its music defines us. One of the most common hobbies for Indian youth is …. watching movies and listening to bollywood music. Movies and its music drives India and is a part of the nation.

Still, such an important service and in no single place has it been categorized completely? Itunes does not yet sells Indian music or categorizes it. Lets not blame them for we Indians don’t have a habit of paying for music and thus we make it impossible to put capital behind it or generate revenue from it.

This is where Dhunio comes in. Dhunio has ambitiously made an attempt in this space and has categorized innumrable Indian music videos! The best part of their strategy is that the videos are sourced from Youtube which makes it cost efficient. Dhunio drives the part where it is best, Categorization.

Now one of the best part of Dhunio. If you are reading this article then please try this … Go to Dhunio, search for Rockstar, it will give you a list of songs from the movie, you can listen to them or click on any of the links … you can click on Imtiaz Ali, Ranbir Kapoor or Mohit Chauhan and each will give you a list of songs in which they are director / actor / singer respectively. Now this is Categorization!

Ofcourse there are many more additions and many other features. That is for you to check out.


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The Glaring Gap: A Tale of Two Countries

A quick case study:

2010, USA
I was looking for my masters transcripts. For some reason I wasnt able to locate them. It was urgent and I needed them in 4 days. Getting paranoid about having lost my originals, I tried to contact my University. Logged onto the internet and then the university website. There was a link under Academics/Office/Transcripts & Verifications that said “Request Original Records”.
Clicked on the link.
It took me to another website that had a repository of all student records.
This website allows any past student (of any year) of any of the (almost all) universities registered with website to request for transcripts. I provided my credentials.
Opted for expedited shipping.
Entered my credit card details ($25 for expedited shipping. $5 for standard shipping).
Submitted my order. 2 days later, UPS had delivered my transcript to my address.

2008, INDIA
I was in urgent need of my college to provide me a verification letter. I called up the university from my phone because I lived in another city. The college website didnt have any relevant information except the college address and the office phone number. I didnt have a choice. I decided to travel to the place that Friday. The plan was to go to the college on Saturday and get my work done. I went to the administration office at 10 am.
I went to a desk. Asked for a verification about my originals as I needed another copy of the same.
I was asked why I wanted it. I explained.
Then the gentleman pointed to another desk that was empty. And said I had to wait for another person to help me.
I waited. Took a stroll around the campus of my alma mater. Trip down memory lane (not very recent though) of all the college days.
Came back to the office.
The person who had to help me was now stepping out for his 11 am tea.
I requested for help as I had the afternoon bus to catch to get back to my city.
He then shocked me and said “Give me something for tea”
I didnt understand. Then made sense of his words.
I was angry,but I didnt have the time to waste. I shelled out a Rs 100 note.
He asked for a 100 more.
I shelled out another Rs 100 note.
He went in. Verified my documents. Provided me the letter.
And as I left he said “Dont tell anyone ok?”
I nodded. And rushed out of the campus gates of my alma mater.
I made it to the bus with just 10 minutes to go

I wouldnt blame the university or the college because this is a moral question thats about a few immoral people. As always..its only the odd apple that is rotten. But if there were efficient systems in place, perhaps I wouldnt have to go through this agony.

The above case study is enough for us to appreciate the glaring differences between an advanced economic super power and an overstated economic ‘always developing’ country of enormous potential.
With corruption in every domain making news in our country, its time for efficient systems in place that can cut out red-tape. There are lots of things that we can write about and suggest. I will pick just 3. Please feel free to add more in the comments

1. Unique Id
This project being spear-headed by Nandan Nilekani can be the game-changer in India’s quest to become a more organized and efficient economy. When every citizen is uniquely repositoried in databases and when that data is shared and re-used across different systems and government departments, a lot of red-tape will be elminated.

2. Internet Access
An enormous percentage of our populace still does not have access to high-speed internet. Considering that smart phones are on the rise, 3G is kicking up in the country, and almost everyone today has a a mobile phone, its important to ensure that internet access is easy and affordable to as many people in as many locations in the country.
Also related here is the mental shift in the minds of the consumers/citizens: My dad still thinks twice about using the internet to shop for something. That has got to change. We need to believe in the power of the internet, and trust our resources with it. Yes there are pros and cons, the viruses, the hacks and the privacy – but there is still a value in using the internet for efficiency and productivity

3. Internet Apps
A lot of talk has been about social media like Facebook, Twitter and the like. Yes. These are important marketing channels. But beyond that, companies need to provide avenues for customers to transact online. A lot of companies are not yet doing this. They use social media to get customers on their websites and read about their product, but the call-to-action is again to go through a series of steps either offline or online to buy their product.
Merchants, vendors, business houses, corporates: message for all of these is pretty much on the wall – get your business on the internet. Allow customers to buy your services on via the internet. Create a web-store. Allow customers to pay via the internet. Create online systems that link your inventory with shipping houses such as UPS, FedEx, BlueDart, DHL. There is more…but we need to start thinking.

Keep your comments folks!

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Business, Marketing, Planning, Public Issues, Strategy

Commonwealth Games – Is there any accountability?

Commonwealth Games or CWG as they are popularly known in India, are being considered a success! After the initial media publicity exposing the scams of the games organizing committee, now everyone is silent!

CWG was considered as the moment of glory for India. It was supposed to be our arrival moment on the world stage. Delhi had prepared for this event since many many years. People say the prestigious Delhi Metro Project was started in preparation for the games. The huge development of Delhi’s infrastructure, the flyovers, the roads, the new airport, everything was part of one big plan. Well some of these things were well executed, but some were not. Media started the fire of exposing the corruption but now nothing is being done.

At one point it seemed the games will not even happen. Many countries were close to declining the invitation because of bad reported conditions in the CWG games. At this point many colleagues were taunting us regarding India. At that time, a part of me actually hoped that countries decline and CWG games do not happen. Being an Indian I knew that if CWG games do happen then no one will investigate the scam any further.

What we don’t realize is that why CWG failure can be so detrimental for India? A scene from the movie Philadelphia comes to mind “Say I gotta send a pilot into enemy territory… and he’s gonna be flyin’ a plane that costs $ million. Who am I gonna put in that plane? Some rookie who can’t cut it so I can see if he is up to the challenge? Or am I gonna give that assignment to my best pilot… my sharpest, my most experienced, my top gun… the very best I got? I just don’t get that. Would somebody please explain it to me… like I’m a six-year-old?” So when a country like India is supposed to organize the most awaited event for the country, who will be expected to be take the charge?? Well it was given to Mr Kalmadi!

Why does India fail like this? When India has one of the world’s best companies which excel at every angle, always deliver on time, excellent quality, meeting budgets, truly international standards …. then why did India fail in making CWG a success from the beginning?

The answer again is quite simple. India has 2 sides, one is government control companies and other are private companies. Government companies are like a monopoly and have basically no standards while private companies are truly international standards. CWG was being organized by the Government Monopoly and since a monopoly has no remorse, thus anything goes. All private companies have a reputation to protect in order to get repeat business. But with Government companies the monopoly exists because if any games need to happen in India then they will have to be organized by the Government Monopoly!

One thing which further remains unanswered is why Media is silent now? Searching on Google News for “CWG Scam” gives the latest result as of September 24th 2010, which is almost 2.5 weeks ago! We really need Media to stand up! Make a report with 1,000 pages giving explanation for every expense done by the CWG organizing team but make it. We need explanations and accountability for corruption. It is high time!

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Business, Marketing, Strategy, Technology, Web

MakeMyTrip gets a MakeMyDream Listing!

MakeMyTrip.Com can probably be viewed as one of the first travel sites for India (if not the first!). According to their website, MakeMyTrip has been running since 2000, which means it has been in existence since the past 10 years. After 10 years of struggle finally a big moment of success has happened for this company … it listed on NASDAQ with a market cap of $450 million and on the listing day itself the stock zoomed by 89% to reach a market cap of $800 million (according to VCCircle)

Now, one important conclusion from this surge in market cap is clear. India and it technology companies are being considered a great investment across the world.

  • India is the next big market for the world: With a population over a billion, growing middle class, increasing consumption and improving lifestyle … companies worldover are looking at India as its next destination. Being the most popular travel website in such a country means big bucks now and bigger bucks going forward
  • India’s Biggest Travel Site: I am not keen enough right now to visit Alexa and check MakeMyTrip.com’s ranking in India but I am pretty sure it is amongst the top. The only competition can be ClearTrip and Yatra, but I don’t think they beat MakeMyTrip.
  • Internet Boom in India: India has a growing internet population and with that the market keeps growing.
  • Increased Spending: With more air travel, more train bookings online, hotel bookings online … the market just keeps on growing.

Now all these factors point to one direction, Growth! India and its growth potential is driving the market cap of these companies and all companies similar to MakeMyTrip, which have successfully made a hold in India will become successes.

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Business, Entertainment, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Marketing, Strategy, Technology

Movies Stock Market – A Solution To Piracy?

Recently an exchange to trade box office success of movies received approval from US market regulators according to Yahoo. Personally I believe this is an amazing idea and I had in fact pitched it as a presentation during an internship as well.

Why I think movies can be a good exchange market?

  • Solution to piracy! I think the exchange can actually help in reducing piracy by making common public a shareholder in the movie. People will be much more inclined in reporting piracy if their own financial interests are being harmed by piracy.
  • Number of participants: The success or failure of a movie is not in the hands of few people (like sports). The box office success of a movie depends on thousands of moviegoers! Although critics can enhance / dampen the success of a movie but they can’t dictate it. All exchange traded products require the presence of large number of market participants to ensure markets are not manipulated.
  • Natural Sellers: Movie producers, distributors, movie halls and investors are natural sellers on the exchange. They can hedge a part of their investment via the exchange.
  • Movie Fans, Natural Buyers: Movie fans will like to buy the movies in anticipation of movie doing well. Ofcourse a lot of people will want to buy Twilight Eclipse Opening Box Office rights and it can be actively traded.
  • Seed Money to upcoming producers: As far as I understand (and I may be wrong), new upcoming producers find it hard to raise funding and such an exchange can actually help them! The article on yahoo mentioned that big movie houses were against such  an exchange and this could actually be one reason for their disapproval.
  • Invest in a single movie, not the production house: Investors currently have no way to express a view on the success of a single movie, and have to take view on a production house and hope that all their movies turn out well. By having single movie futures we can remove this.

What are your comments? What do you think about this idea? Please do let us know…

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