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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Entrepreneurship

Four Ways to Think like an Entrepreneur

The Premise


Entrepreneur in you

Today, a lot of things don’t work like they did before. And as a student, you know what’s happening in the world around you. A student has better idea than an existing professional about what the future is going to be, since she/he is already using stuff that would grow more popular in the future, thats the nature of your demographic. The best way to use this situation to your advantage is to think like an entrepreneur!

Why to think like an entrepreneur


Ownership –

The real reason why entrepreneurs are so valued is the sense of ownership that they bring to the table. In many ways, corporates and Startups alike love those people who take ownership. The ones who take responsibility, and own a particular metric, balance sheet, growth objective, business target – these are the people who are truly respected in the firm.

‘Hiding’ Information is not a long term competitive advantage –

In many ways, the truth about majority of industries today is that information has become much more fluid than before. This means that a lot of information, industry tips and tricks are available freely. An example of this is Google and Facebook share more data about their ecosystem than top media companies ever did. This means that you have to start thinking differently in order to stay ahead.

Achieving targets –

Every sphere of professional life is associated with a Business Goal. An entrepreneurial spirit is something that can drive you to transcend the ‘achievement’ aspect but in fact it should be ‘finding easier and scalable ways of achieving a target’.

Ways to think like an Entrepreneur


Way #1 – Competitive Benchmarking

One thing is for sure, every business line, right from HR to Analytics, has competition. Some competition within the company, some outside. Its very important to understand what works for these people, and adopt in many ways the best practices. At a firm level, there is also incentive to collaborate with peers in order to achieve a company wide goal. These collaborative projects form an ideal ground for yourself to benchmark against your peers, find your weaknesses and turn those on their head into your strengths.

Way # 2 – Intensity at work

A lot of times, intensity at work is a function of external factors such as push from top management, personal lives, even weather! This is not how entrepreneurs work. The best entrepreneurs don’t let these things act as impediments, but instead give their best intensity at work. That in a way separates the entrepreneurs from te rest.

Way # 3 – Knowhow – Read, Read and Read!

One way to create a difference at your workplace is to keep constantly reading about developments in and around you. If you are a developer, read about the latest Android update. If you are in Finance, read about the latest tool by Intuit. Read about Sales, Marketing, Ops – but surely, do Read!

Way # 4 – Problem Solving

In many ways, life has so many elements that can be traced back to one key theme – Problem Solving. This is the common thread that runs across functions, across seniority and across sectors in the professional world. A ‘Can Do’ attitude is what entrepreneurs bring to the table when it comes to Problem Solving. As such, this is what makes your professional life fun and worth it – whether you enjoy Problem solving in your expertise area or not!

In Conclusion


I feel a lot of times, our education system trains us for ‘jugaad’. Find the easiest way of doing ‘x’. To truly prosper at workplace, you don’t need the easiest way for you, but for the organisation. That takes some serious ‘un-learning’. This is the true spirit of entrepreneurship. Do check what Paul Graham has to say about Counter-intuitive aspects of startups and entrepreneurs –

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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 🙂

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, Entrepreneurship

Five reasons why Shipping is an interesting career choice

Why the shipping industry is an interesting career choice

I used to work for a stock exchange for nearly 3 and half years after my B-School stint. Hence when I decided to shift to the shipping industry, quite a few eyebrows were raised. I myself wasn’t sure what I wasn’t walking into when I joined Maersk Line India Pvt. Ltd.  (Part of AP Moller Group, Denmark) As part of their Global Leadership Program (MLGP) this year

However, nearly half a year in the firm, and I find the industry and extremely interesting one to work with. Quite a few myths were broken down as I settled down in the industry that is hardly known in B-School campuses in India, let alone people from other walks of life

First let me give a brief idea about the industry. Shipping can happen either in containers (the ones you see in Bollywood movies – used to carry apparels, automobiles in normal containers and food products like fruits or fish in air-conditioned ones- Maersk Line is into container shipping industry for example,) or in open large metal plates (known as break-bulk shipping – use to carry minerals, crude oil etc).

Let me list 5 aspects of the industry which makes it an interesting career proposition:

  • The application of knowledge acquired in B-Schools

Mugged up those macro-economic books? Know everything about international trade? Discussed FDI in retail over cups of coffee? Well, if there an industry if you can apply all those you learnt, it is this industry. Which markets India should import from or export to? Which industries and which seasonality should one look at? The application of those economic and finance fundamentals and correlation with your daily work is what would define our work here


GTI-shipping-industry

Photo taken by author – containerized cargo is being lifted by cranes from a vessel

  • The people

Well, we do use a lot of gadgets at work– we have our iPads and Blackberries and Laptops, but at the end of the day, we work with our colleagues. And the shipping industry has perhaps the most diverse group of people working under the same umbrella organization. From people who work in ports, operating gigantic cranes to lift containers, to people who use the most sophisticated software to record data and keep it in a usable form, there are people with knowledge in wide range of human endeavor

  • The depth and variety in the industry

In most industries in this world – you work either in the manufacturing or the service sector. Here is an industry where you can work in the two extremes – you can be in sales or customer services, or you can be in the frontline operations, giving details of vessels that leave or enter the ports and related technical information

reefer-shipping-industry

The inside of a reefer container (temperature controlled, used to carry sea food etc) (photo by author)

  • Chances of exciting global roles

Most of the big shipping firms are headquartered outside India, or have significant operations outside India. It means a good performance can lead to exciting roles, globally. And these would not be the usually “big economic hubs” like London or New York. But can include exotic places like Brazil, Central America, Western Africa and the Middle East. This also means an opportunity to work with, interact and know people from different cultures – exchange notes on food habits, arts, literature and lifestyle

  • Responsibilities at young age and matching remuneration

The shipping industry is a very young industry. The average age across shipping companies and functions barely touches 30. Hence the responsibilities and ownership of business processes come early.

young-workforce

A young manager at work in the MLIPL office

However, the variety of roles, non-repetitive nature of work, opportunity to undertake interesting rotations and hands-on experience with a great mentor-buddy system means the industry rarely burns out people. Plus, a senior role at young age means good remuneration, bonuses and incentives, and subsequent low rates of attrition. It’s very difficult to come across people who have worked in the industry for less than 5 years

Overall, a very interesting career prospect indeed!

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Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Strategy

Opportunity hunting on the Internet

You have heard of so many things that the Internet has been promising to change for more than 15 years now. Whether it is the dream of online quality education, or finding dream job vacancies in Mumbai , or finding out amazing travel hotspots, Internet / companies doing online business has/have always tried to position themselves as ‘cutting edge’. I define this as ‘opportunity hunting’ – in essence Opportunity hunting is finding or discovering exactly what you want online!

Opportunity hunting has evolved –

One indicator of opportunity hunting online is the number of search visits on Google. How you may ask? Since the internet has evolved, there has been the phenomenon called the rise of platforms which unlock opportunities. Right at the start of Internet revolution in 1995, yahoo unlocked the opportunity of finding every important thing or ‘opportunity’ online on one single page. Then as the Internet started expanding and opportunities started getting created all over the place, there was the rise of the search engines, which can now be effectively put as the rise of Google circa 2002. Perhaps Google is the biggest ‘opportunity hunting ground’ on the Internet even now.

primary search engine interest graph

Number of searches of key search terms on Google since 2004

Then, in 2004 something happened. Internet started connecting people – first with the rise of Friendster, then orkut and then finally came Facebook. Facebook was a pioneer in what is called web 2.0 today and it unlocked a lot more and different ‘opportunities’ on the Internet. For one, it created social experiences – Check the Facebook widget on the right side of this page to know what I am talking about. Strat.in becomes a great place to hangout because of the people who read our posts, and that also excites authors to contact us!

Parallel to all of this, there was a rise of Wikipedia which unlocked Internet’s opportunity hunting from a knowledge perspective. Who would have imagined that the world’s most diverse encyclopaedia created is by a non-profit organisation? Or that Internet would crash the glass ceiling of knowledge which was till now reserved only for the privileged few who could attend universities? Similar examples of opportunity hunting include other such big platforms!

Right, so there are these opportunity hunting destinations – so how can you leverage them for your benefit ? Thats the moot question, isn’t it?

Here are my tips for opportunity hunting on the Internet

1. At least have a faint idea what you are looking for – That always helps! Even if you are looking for a date or an opportunity to work on a research paper with a professor from a top school in the world – knowing what you want always helps!

2. Start with Google & check out review sites – Typically, on the social web today, there are amazing review sites. Right from imdb or rottentomatoes for movies, to several book review / shopping sites for books – there are amazing ‘opportunities’ that have already been uncovered by people! Do not reinvent the wheel for opportunities such as these – to save time and even money!

3. Do not get overwhelmed with choices – Many a times, people get overwhelmed with choices. When you log on to a job site, do use filters well enough so that you can narrow down to a decent number of filters . Avoiding this situation helps when it comes to opportunity hunting!

4. If an opportunity is good enough, act on it – Indecision or not taking a decision is also a decision, remember that. Like in real life, opportunities do not knock everyday. If there is an opportunity you feel should be taken, then go for it! All great men/women have necessarily taken opportunities which others before them spurned !

What are your tips on opportunity hunting? Let us know in the comments section!

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Dropbox-startup
Entrepreneurship, Strategy, Technology, Web

Early Days of Dropbox – Drew Houston talk at Stanford

Drew Houston, the co-founder of cross platform file sharing service Dropbox talked about the Early days of dropbox here. Do check the talk out. Very interesting how Drew totally changed the paradigms of file sharing, the kinds of doubts that persisted in their team’s minds and how they overcame it.

Three key lessons :

1. If your product is good, the virality of the web can take care of advertising!

2. Build something that people can use

3. Persist (this is particularly important for me!! )

For those who cannot spare so much time to see a 58 min video – check out this Slideshare presentation by Drew about Dropbox.

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Entertainment, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Web

Amazon Junglee!!

About 150 million people in India or around 75 million households are ready for ecommerce in India today. However, less than 10 million are engaged in active ecommerce today. The potential of consumer e-commerce in India by 2024-2025 is likely to touch around 594.8 million individuals or 297.4 million households. You can only guess the market size of the ecommerce industry in the coming decade!!

Amazon India has gone live with the launch of portal, Junglee.com, which Amazon acquired in early 1998 from Indian entrepreneurs Rakesh Mathur and Ashish Gupta. Junglee is an online product comparison and advertising site with several first-of-a-kind features such “real-time customer reviews” from Amazon.com, inline seller store locator for sellers in India and one-stop access to selection from Indian and international sellers. Junglee aggregates detailed product information including customer reviews, price, and shipping speed across multiple sources, including Amazon.com, so customers can research products and evaluate buying options to make an informed purchasing decision. Customers can also write their own reviews, read millions of real-time customer reviews from Amazon.com, “Like” products or sellers, and share products through Facebook, Twitter and email.

Junglee is positioned as a market place which makes buyers and sellers meet, instead of an ecommerce website. It could possibly become a means to drive people to Amazon India in future when they launch the full fledged service in India. The incentive scheme for sellers to post their products on Junglee is very interesting. They can:
1. Drive traffic to your store/website: By advertising products on Junglee.com, one can convert Junglee’s traffic into their own customers
2. List Product Ads for free: No listing fees, no cost per click or subscription fees. On the other side, Ebay.in charges sellers to post ads!
3. Reaching qualified shoppers: Junglee puts products in front of customers who have expressed intent to purchase those exact products
4. Highly targeted placements: Recommended buys when classified in categories means a highly focused sales channel for the sellers

Customers can discover over 1.2 crore products and 14,000 brands, and purchase items directly from hundreds of retailers. Customers can buy products online by following the link to the seller’s website or find a seller’s physical store if they would rather purchase the product in person or call the seller and place an order by phone.
Junglee has an ambitious vision of organizing selection and buying choices. They are relentlessly focused on adding selection and making it convenient for customers to find, discover, and shop anything using the service.

Given that Amazon is launching its ecommerce service in India soon, Flipkart and other ecommerece websites need to ramp up at the earliest and quickly build presence in Tier-II and Tier-III cities of India. Flipkart or Amazon? Do you have a brand loyalty or you will go after the one offering lowest price?

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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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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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