Business, Entrepreneurship, Technology, Web

Housing.co.in – RightMove for India!


housing
Having witnessed the success of RightMove in the UK, I always wondered why there wasn’t an Indian Counterpart for it. Seeing Housing.Co.In yesterday answered that question šŸ™‚

Housing.Co.In enters the tricky domain of Indian Real Estate! A market with innumerable dealers – who in many ways survive on the fact that market is not transparent and illiquid. Want an apartment to rent in a new city? Get ready to deal with thousands of agents, no certainty who is the landlord, no knowledge whether you are overpaying or not – absolutely no information. Want to rent out your apartment? Again get ready to deal with many many agents, always demand a big housing deposit, ask neighbours how much are they charging! In the digital age where the entire city maps are online thanks to Google – how can this still be the case?

  • Housing.Co.In provides a great layout which simplifies these things.Choose your location, Rent, Buy or Sell, Enter desired location and instant results on a map! Prices, Pictures, Reviews, Commute, Neighbourhood – basically everything you want to see before actually going to see the property.
  • Transparency: Specially in the Indian Real Estate Sector where the market is always higher when you want to buy and always lower when you want to sell! Its a boon for everyone! Initially property agents might not like it but I believe in the long run it is beneficial for them as well – as with transparency we will get more transactions!
  • Ease of moving: Going to a new city? Switching jobs? The main question becomes housing! Sir par chat to honi chahiyen na mere bhai …. hopefully this solves such issues
  • Information: Many such property websites have now started publishing market reports and market status – giving more information to users, government, industry and so on. The information advantage is also huge.

Do try it out. The number of cities are 9 for now but they cover most metros. Pretty good effort and will be interesting to watch its growth from now on …

 

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Business, Marketing, Strategy, Technology, Web

Loyalty Card and Analytics together via Apps! – Way to go GBK

 

Everyone knows that Apps! are serious business. Instagram acquired for $1 billion, over billions of apps on iPhone and Android, to a large degree windows phone and blackberry failing due to lacks of apps! There is Facebook App, LinkedIn App, BBC News App, NDTV App, Hotel Booking Apps, Amazon Apps – many many apps! Most of the apps however are of 1 category – taking interaction from the user from the computer to their mobile device – which makes sense as it keeps the user engaged all the time.

gbkTill now, I have not seen many real consumer based companies moving to Apps to keep the user engaged and also gather useful analytics for themselves. This attempt by a Gourmet Burger Kitchen in the UK seems like a clever entry point.

Loyalty Cards have been around for a long long time. They give the user an incentive to come back, generate more revenue for the service provider and many times the user introduces other users to the brand as well. All this has been fairly well understood. Till now – loyalty cards existed like cards and not Apps!

By introducing the GBK App as a loyalty card – GBK gets so much more information and in turn helps grow the business.

  • User Analytics – App helps you measure number of repeat visits (per week, per month, per year)
  • Customer Retention – If the user starts using the app but does not come back then surely you can give them some special coupon to get the repeat business!
  • Location – When you are in the restaurant business, one of the most important things for you is Location! Through this app though you get to know exactly how many people and which people frequent which areas for GBK.
  • PaperlessĀ andĀ ConvenienceĀ – We all want to be green! And no one wants to look for bits of paper when you can have it in your smartphone.
  • Customer Categorisation – As the user needs to use to app before ordering to get the discount – you know their usual order size and margins – better of all you know the customer details. You can focus on the most profitable customers!

I believe this is just the start of the move of loyalty cards – maybe one day the term itself will change to Loyalty App!

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Business, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Strategy, Technology, Web

FlipKart: India’s Amazon

To be honest whatever I write is probably already covered in the video, except that Binny and Sachin Bansal are from IIT Delhi 2005 batch, one year senior to me! Flipkart is an amazing site and its success makes me very proud. Firstly because the founders are my seniors, secondly because it proves that ebusinesses are possible in India, and thirdly because instead of an established player a startup has been able to crack the ecommerce market of books in India. All credit to Sachin and Binny for having the guts to take the risk, leave their jobs, start a website and take it to such a level. Kudos guys and all the best for the way ahead.

Update: Just a day after this post the following came up in VCCircle! “FlipKart raises upto $10mn from Tiger Global”

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Business

iPhone India Strategy

Apple iPhone is a revolutionary product and on this blog we have had many discussions on it. iPod and later iPhone have given a lot of power and prestige that it deserves. The power of iPhone and its sales can be better captured from this quote on Wikipedia.

Apple sold 6.1 million original iPhone units over five quarters. The company sold 3.8 million iPhone 3G units in the second quarter of fiscal 2009, ending March 2009, and 12.6 million 3G and 3GS combined, totaling 33.75 million iPhones sold to date (Q4 2009). Sales in Q4 2008 surpassed temporarily those of RIM’s BlackBerry sales of 5.2 million units, which made Apple briefly the third largest mobile phone manufacturer by revenue, after Nokia and Samsung. Approximately 6.4 million iPhones are active in the U.S. alone.

Now some of you will already know this Apple has recently taken over Microsoft in terms of stock market capitalization! It is quite amazing that Apple which was an underdog to Microsoft till a few years ago has now a bigger market cap but when you look into google finance the factor comes into mind! Growth!!!

chart1Apple will have to continue growing at a rapid pace. I guess they are counting on making new versions of iPhones every year for continuing sales and it can work, but for always? They also do make new innovations like iPad and new iPod versions which make new sales, but still is it real growth? Isn’t there something which can make the picture even better?

I feel one of the biggest growth for iPhone and in turn Apple can be their India strategy, not just for one time growth but for continuing growth. Checking on Airtel website it seems that iPhone 3G 16GB is available in India for Rs 36,100. Now there seems to be an arbitrage here as iPhone 3GS is available in the UK for GBP 375 which is equivalent to RsĀ  26,250, and now include some taxes but the number seems quite inflated.

Ofcourse India is probably not the biggest target market for Apple right now, but the important question is whether it should be? I feel India is a major growth market and can be a major sales prospect for not just current sales but also future sales.

  1. Currently Nokia dominates the Indian mobile market and makes loads of money from it. Still Apple has the brand appeal and iPhone can tap the market of customers. iPhone will be able to command a bit amount of mobile phone sales in India and give Apple a stronghold
  2. Since iPhone 3GS is not available in India and official Airtel models are very expensive, smuggled goods must be making way into the market. That is profit which should go to Apple which is being eaten away by others.
  3. People get used to a phone and switching it is not easy. People are already used to Nokia in India but because of iPhone appeal they might change! Apple just needs to make it a little affordable. Once people switch to iPhone it will also be a recurring purchase as people will upgrade themselves to newer models
  4. India is a computer market and once people see the power of iPhone they will also consider Apple’s other products! It could mean a bigger boost for mac sales in India
  5. And ofcourse last but not the least, India is a growing market with an unbelievable hunger for quality products by the middle class. Apple just needs to tap it once!
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Business, Entertainment, Marketing, Planning, Strategy, Technology, Web

End of an era – Floppy Disk

I saw this news article on BBC News and it got so many memories back. We all are so lucky to be witnessing technology and the world around us changing so much. It seems like yesterday when I got my first computer which had a floppy disk and a CD drive. I played so many games even on MS-DOS which were actually stored on a floppy disk! A floppy disk in which I transferred programs to school from my home PC and made my school project.

floppy

On the left there is an image of a floppy disk. The simple device stored just 1,024 kilobytes of information but was so important to people. Because at that point of time even 1,024 bytes were sufficient for transfer of information but now even gigabytes don’t suffice.The first floppy disk was introduced by IBM in 1971 and it used to be read-only! After 40 years the floppy disk comes to an end and it sure seems like a new era is beginning.

CDusb-flash-driveSome of the devices which have replaced the floppy disk are CDs and USB drives. Two of the main reasons why these devices became so much more popular are storage capacity and resistance to data damage. Of course one of the reasons for their popularity was the ability to transfer movies and music. Next came DVDs and transportable HDDs and now Blu-Ray Discs. With each generation of storage we get more capacity to store information in smaller space.

ipodIt seems ironical that the company which started the slow death of Floppy Drives is the company which probably will take the storage industry to the next level – Apple! Apple was the first company which in 1998 stopped having floppy drives in its computers. Slowly Dell (2003), PC World (2007) and now Sony have also stopped providing it. iPod and iPhone store your music, your movies and a lot of your information. It also works like a hard disk and you can store everything you want on it, making all other forms of storage obsolete! Where will technology take us next? Only time will tell.

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Politics, Public Issues

Hats off to Rahul Gandhi!

Although I have historically been a supporter of BJP, I feel that everyone should be open to change and if anyone does something right then it should be commended. I have been trying to follow the political happening in India and recently Mumbai has been on its forefront. Shiv Sena, once a powerful force and probably a righteous organization, has started taking the same path as MNS and going on the Marathi and Maharashtrian Fundamentals. For a good number of days when MNS and Shiv Sena both were making statements which promoted regionalism, and no national leader came out criticizing them and this made me feel all the more terrible.

Thus when RSS and Rahul Gandhi took the bold stand and countered them I felt a relief and I felt proud of both of them. The steps which Rahul Gandhi took might be considered a political game by some, nevertheless I think he deserves a big applause for them. Quoting from IBNLiveIn Mumbai, men in the NSG were from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra. At that time they were silent and did not say that those from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh should be taken out. India has to move forward and all have to be taken forward. India belongs to every Indian. Every part of India belongs to every Indian. All Indians have every right to go and work anywhere in the country.” The demands which Sena have been making are nothing short of regionalism and if left uncriticized will probably lead to a demand for a new country! It seems even to work or stay in Mumbai, people should apply for a Visa according to Sena. By answering them Rahul Gandhi actually took considerable risk but in the end came out shining brightly as a star.

Moreover that is not all that Rahul Gandhi did. Rahul went to Mumbai to show Sena that he does not fear them. Although he had a million security guards to protect him but the step was important, because it actually showed that Rahul does not fear a faceoff with Sena for his words! Moreover what Rahul did after reaching Mumbai is unprecedented. Rahul went to an ATM, took out cash, bought a local ticket and traveled in the mumbai local! This is a big achievement because I don’t recall any chief minister of Maharashtra or any major leader who has presented himself as a common man and traveled through the common man means. Rahul Gandhi would have a many security men, and the train will probably be on the fast track and many other things, but the experience of walking inside the station to the platform, the smell and dirt on the platform, the noisy mumbai local, are all a part of Rahul’s memory and hopefully one day he will make an effort to rectify this.

I feel the young leader has shown bravery in his approach and truly deserves appreciation. Will wait to hear your comments on this one though!

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Entrepreneurship, Finance, Human Resources, Planning, Politics

Losing the ‘Education’ edge

As some of my batch mates went from IITs to MITs and other US Universities around the world, the number of publications in their resumes started to increase at an exponential speed. To me this phenomenon really did not make a lot of sense as how can a student or his research change within a couple of months to take their number of publications from non-existent (in IIT years) to innumerable (in US Universities). The simple answer I got from my friends was funding and resources available. Ofcourse IITs being one of the best institutes in the world in terms of students still lack the resources for producing world class research.

I have always considered US Universities as one of the biggest assets of US Economy. The funding and prestige of these universities brings most of the world’s students pursuing PhDs into states and once they are in US they never leave. In turn these students do research which helps US and also start companies which get US billions in taxes. An example is when a macbook is made in China and sold anywhere in the world, the major portion of the cost is divided by US and China (China for manufacturing and US for designing) and in turn China’s contribution can move to any other country where a factory exists but US contribution is permanent simply because Apple designed this in US and is based out of California.

The research and intellectual properties created by US University graduates can probably be considered the single most important reason for making US the superpower it is today. So when I read this article in NYTimes regarding how the US is cutting funding to University of California at Berkeley, I was kinda astonished. Afterall no one should step on their competitive edge and most of all US should not do this. I guess for countries like India and China it might be a little positive as the much hyped brain drain might get a sudden stop from this. Ofcourse the world, innumerable students and research will face a bad consequence. I hope the problem gets solved but well lets see!

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Business, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Technology, Web

Phones and Location Based Services!

The idea is not new, the concept is also not really new but the execution is new! Location based services are now capturing the world at an amazing pace!

Picture 3To think of it a mobile phone was a location based service. It provided a moving point of contact for a person. Now with the launch of iPhone apps and similar adaptation into other phones, the location based services are becoming more and more popular. In the iPhone you have AroundMe, Yelp!, Google Maps, Twitter, and UrbanSpoon using your current location. Moreover the latest service by Google called Latitude is an amazing addition.

With people fond of trying new places such location based services have become really popular. Just go to any part of the city and launch these applications, find new restaurants and shops, read reviews and pick one of your choice.

In urban cities like Bombay, Delhi, London, NY where traveling from one place to another can take a lot of time, a service like Google Latitude is quite amazing. As soon as you get free you can just switch on the service and see who all amongst your friends are nearby and then perhaps join the nearest ones.

To think of it, this is not the first time such an idea is being floated. A couple of years ago another idea was floated in India by mobile service providers which would provide you with location based service. The idea was to send you text messages / sms based on your location about the offers / deals / interesting shops near your current location. This service never really picked up! Let us try and analyze why

  • User Choice to Switch On or Off the Service: The most important feature required is to make the user feel that he is in control. With the current services the information about his location is passed on to the applications only when he asks for the service and not by default. In the sms case the user was not given an option.
  • User Interface: Sms although very popular, has a very limited power of communication and thus also led to the concept failing. With the current screens, internet based phones the User Interface can be made really smooth and friendly.
  • Privacy: The phones and applications always ask whether to send your location info or not! What if someone is spying on you and gets an application switched on once which always tracks your position! The current apps take care of privacy.
  • Increase and comfort in User Knowledge: Over the past few years users have become more comfortable with sharing information and also got used to such devices. I guess we can say that the sms idea was a bit ahead of its time.
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Human Resources, IIM, Planning, Politics, Public Issues, Strategy

The need for more IITs and IIMs

Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) are a brand known all over the world in technology, and Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) have also made their mark in the world in terms of management. The premier institutes of India are known for selecting the best of the best, or the cream of the country as some people call it and make this cream even better. Well I really don’t think I need to write more about IITs and IIMs, as the identity is well established. But the question right now in front of us is the dilemma of Central Government opening 7 more IITs and 7 more IIMs. I will try and present some points around the topic and hope for a nice discussion in the comments.

The intake of more students! The number of students who get into IITs and IIMs is so few, it is actually minuscule. Lakhs of students aspire to get into these centers of excellence and a few thousands are able to get in. The system clearly needs expansion with the intake to be increased. But another question in this regard can be, what will the increased intake mean? The whole concept of cream comes when the selection ratio is very low, and the best amongst the candidates is selected. As the number of IITs and IIMs increases, doesn’t the quality decrease a bit? A highly debatable question!

The Brand: I think most of us we agree that the entire world today is a big marketing game. A resume is a way to market yourself isn’t it? So your education gives you a branding indeed! IITs and IIMs have always been together but separate as well. It has always been IIT Delhi or IIT Bombay and similarly in case of IIMs – IIM A, IIM B, IIM C! The pan-IIT and pan-IIM movements were just beginning to pickup. I really wonder what will the impact be with this sudden jump in the number of IITs and IIMs? After all when a student applies to a foreign university for Master’s after IIT won’t it matter whether the student is from IIT Delhi or from a recently started IIT?

Planning & Execution: One of the most important factors which has been forgotten is planning and execution. The government simply announces such programs (probably for political gains) and then leaves people hanging! Although 7 new IITs were started by Government on paper, and students were also given admission under these new IITs, the campuses are yet to be built! IIT Punjab classes were taking place in IIT Delhi till the last time I visited a few months ago. How can we expect a student to study in such conditions?

I remember when IIT Roorkee was given IIT status. IIT-R has always been a great institute and it just did not have the IIT status. By giving it IIT status there was no problem of infrastructure or loss to branding or any other such factors! Why cannot the Government move in such a direction? The government just announces plans for new IITs and IIMs without any real infrastructure / faculty / resources.

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Business, Entertainment, Marketing, Strategy, Technology, Web

IBNLive.com – the good, the bad and the ugly

CNN IBN is one of the best news channels in Indian media. It gave great news, covered almost all important topics, presented both sides of the coin, and offered something for everyone. ItĀ covered Ā politics, technology, finance, business, religion, travel and many other diverse fields and that is what made it special.Ā  When IBNLive.com was launched about 2 years back, it was really an amazing site! However a lot has changed over the past 2 years and this article will try to expand on IbnLive.com and some good and bad features of it.

ibnlive

The Good

  • The Content: I think emphasizes it a lot and whatever I will be writing here will be a repetition of the point made above. The various fields, indepth analysis, (mostly) unbiased views, and good journalism made IBN the first choice as a news channel. By putting almost all the content online IBNLive.com was able to provide amazing content to the internet.
  • Functionality: The site had amazing functionality as the video player was smooth, the bandwidth was great and the downloading did not take forever like with most Indian video providers. The experience was amazing with IBNLive.com
  • Mostly Ad-free: The videos did not really interrupt you too much. There was not too much advertising and it felt that IBNLive.com was being looked at as a way to make people aware about IBN the newschannel.

The Bad

  • The Over Advertising: Please note the red circles in the image above. It highlights 3 google adsense placements with a simple story on IBNLive.com, plus the whole page had a couple more of google ads. Sometimes this really makes me wonder how much money will IBN be geneating through IBNLive.com? Is it really worth diluting their content and the appearance of their website? Plus note the popup blocker gets activated! IBNLive.com is acting just like million other spam sites!
  • Equity Dilution through portals: IBNLive.com was an amazing site but then by launching multiple portals they have just diluted their equity. They have Tech2, CricketNext, Buzz18, Josh and god knows what all. They have moved them all into in.com domain but the dilution has had its effect.

The Ugly

The ugliness is something very apparent in the statistics. Just browsing through Alexa tells you the difference. IBNLive.com has an alexa rank in India of 3,478 and NDTV.com (a close competitior) is 89. Many startups and blogs have a much better ranking than IBNLive.com on the web in India.

I still believe that IBNLive.com has a great potential in front of it and it just needs to review its online strategy. People might say that India has such low internet penetration that companies really don’t care about web presence. Well see where the world is moving and see the potential of IBNLive.com and then decide whether it is worth it or not.

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