Infographic, Politics, Technology

Can Indian Optimism create newer opportunities

Its been nearly 18 months since PM Modi took the reigns of a then floundering economy spearheaded by ex-PM Manmohan Singh. Despite several shortcomings which are structural in nature related to India, one can definitely visibly see the efforts being made by the Government in various industries. One big example of the same is the PM himself visiting innovative companies of the world like Facebook, Tesla Motors etc during his recent visit to the USA. At some level, transforming India is a massive challenge given these staggering graphs. How do you actually shape the lives of 1 bn people at varied stages of their life and lead them to prosperity? How do you drive 300 mn+ people out of relative poverty and give them hope and vision for a better future? How do you remove the habit of people who have been used to live on Government doles and subsidies and get them to work more diligently? These are problems that are massive in nature but I think, the way the Government is approaching them is quite interesting in itself.

The Tech approach to solve problems – At some level, the mobile resurgence has come at the best time for the Government. PM Modi and his Mann ki Baat has been such a hit that opponents in Bihar actually asked EC for a ban on this program. With Mobile and internet becoming more popularly used by the day, PM Modi’s social media presence has actually helped in propogating their policies and programs faster than any Government has done before. Twitter and Facebook have become massive channels for the Democracy which is good to note.

However, this is just the start. To create momentum is one thing , to sustain it through thick and thin is another. China’s relative slowdown/recession has put focus on India for now as a developing nation, but this won’t last more than 6 months in my opinion. Can India sustain the optimism beyond 18 months well into 2017? That would be the true test of the policy decisions taken by the present Government.

Whats your view – is the current optimism about India truly meaningful? Write below!

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Technology

Learning to blog again

Ah! The work and the likes have prevented me from writing regularly over the past couple of years! But it has come to the point where I’d better start writing now or I won’t be able to do that ever! So here I go 🙂

Blogging online has undergone a sea change in today’s Mobile Only world! I would be among those handful & (perhaps unfortunate) few who prefer typing on a desktop rather than simply ‘tumblr’ing or ‘tweeting’ or ‘instagram’ing away! But then thats what I love! I really do love long form writing and at some level its something that pushes me to write that elusive book over and over again. I have promised myself to do that for like three years now but haven’t actually gone on to type over! Perhaps the upcoming NANOWRIMO could be a terrific way to start off on that front!

So, on that subject, perhaps, it makes sense to look at what impact has mobile had over India! So I have used 10 new services over the past month – mostly food startups and for all of them, the mode of discovery and transaction has been mobile.

The services I have used are:

Eatlo, Tinyowl, Tandurust, Roadrunnr (for Mcdonald Delivery), Freshmenu, OneNote, PayUMoney, Practo, Inshorts, JetAirways (the app).

So actually, the transition to mobile has been complete largely in India. In fact that piece was also corroborated by the Big Billion Day, where we saw Flipkart trying to make a huge push to download the app, and later Amazon following suit.

The deal with adopting to the mobile is that most players think its the end of the Web as we know it. I don’t think thats necessarily the end of it. I really think that Web still has a play with most of them using Web very productively in offices. Plus web , the form factor is much better for research. Additionally with Surface and iPad pro promising to deliver a great consumer experience on the larger screen, things could still change. However, as far as India goes, a large majority would use predominantly mobile phones only.

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Web

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

Aside
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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Technology

Audio Books – Should books be heard?

Can books be heard?

Indigo’s on air magazine gives you a lot to learn. One of the most different ‘packages’ on ‘Sale’ on that magazine was from a company called ‘Reado’ about 4 Classic books on Sale – But those weren’t normal books – those were in fact ‘Audiobooks’ . Books that are read to you! While this is fascinating and there are whole companies actually trying this model out – the real question is Do you need AudioBooks in the first place?

Why Audiobooks?

Audible – A recently acquired company by Amazon tells us three reasons why Audiobooks should be used –

Audible on why Audiobooks

Why should Audiobooks be used

So, I am going to give this a shot – Can books really be listened? Can they actually improve productivity? I can relate to the usecase – I haven’t really finished the book I started 4 weeks ago – Predictably Irrational – By Dan Ariely! Let me give this a whiz and get back frankly!

Audio Articles

But one particular use of Audio is without doubt – Audio Articles on a mobile app like ‘Umano’ is really a fantastic experience. I know a lot of savvy pros who use it, and absolutely love it. I haven’t taken their pro subscription , but like to listen to these articles once in a while on 3G or WIFI.

All said and done, the new age Audio media is sort of a reinvention of a very old format – the radio- but delivered to you as a stream , and on demand. While there is hot debate on whether personalised music worked or not, but this new format of audio books and audio articles surely is finding adoption among a niche audience. And, it definitely fascinated me enough to blog about it!

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Business, Technology

Flipkart and its BigBillionDay!

Yesterday, Oct 6, 2014 was a huge day in Indian Ecommerce. It all started with this ad by Flipkart, and Snapdeal tried to ambush it right on TOI front page itself! (Surprise, surprise!) .

In any ways, here’s what I thought of the whole thing –

  • I thought largely the BigBillionDay was executed well
  • Of course there were aggrieved customers, and posts from an ‘esoteric’ blog about how prices went up and down, but still I thought, a lot of consumers actually did prepone their buying decisions and that was great for the ecomm players.
  • In fact, even other ecomm retailers benefited in this frenzy! Won’t be surprised if one found out that other players like Amazon, Infibeam, Snapdeal also benefited from the #bigbillionday
  • This was basically an attempt by Flipkart to emulate Alibaba’s strategy of achieving 5x sales, which Alibaba routinely executes, and with aplomb on Singles’ day – Nov 11 in China. -Check this BBG article to know more!

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China’s largest e-commerce company, broke its one-day sales record by more than 80 percent as it heads toward an initial public offering that may be valued higher than Facebook

Taobao and Tmall, Alibaba’s two main platforms, topped 35 billion yuan ($5.75 billion) in the 24-hour period, surpassing last year’s sales of 19.1 billion yuan, the company said on its official Twitter Inc. account. Yesterday was China’s Singles’ Day, a local twist on Valentine’s Day, and e-commerce firms marked the occasion by flooding the Internet with promotions and fueling demand on China’s biggest online shopping day

What’s more, Flipkart has got a lot of marketing eyeballs, for free as well! Flipkart, and Indian Ecommerce is slowly reaching heights that few have reached, and to me, this is just the beginning! Quite exciting times for Indian Internet space, I say!

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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, 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.
  • Paperless and Convenience – 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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Marketing, Technology

Whatsapp – The meteoric rise and Impact in India in 2013

Whatsapp and its rapid market capture in India

Whatsapp groups are immensely popular in India

When the world talks of Social Networking, they talk of Facebook or twitter, but when India talks about social networking in 2013, Indians talk of Whatsapp. Facebook is still the application that the web-enabled junta use, but in terms of engagement, whatsapp has clearly beaten them all.

In fact, a lot of Mobile telecom companies are claiming Whatsapp to be the trigger why people have started using their GPRS or 3G plans. Whatsapp has become THAT utility which has started making people look at stuff like 3G seriously. While this sounds incredulous, India as a country is totally capable of actually exhibiting that behavior.

2013 could be summarised as a year of true smartphone adoption ( even commoditization in India) . With such smartphones, users are becoming aware of the utility of 3G etc. For example, my family members today ask me of 3G availability in some region of India before they leave for that place. But in this age, conventional wisdom would have placed a bet on Facebook becoming more and more dominant on mobile in India. However, that hasn’t happened. How did whatsapp actually capture mindspace in India? Here are my top three reasons  why Whatsapp became so popular in India –

1. “BBM for all” – Around 24 to 30 months back, Whatsapp actually started growing due to its positioning as a cross platform messaging. At that time, BBM was immensely popular in India.

2. Made free by Android – As part of Android’s growth, Google was promoting Whatsapp as a free app on the Android ecosystem which lead to zooming adoption rates across the world, particularly India

3. Simple, ad free & Social – With the social network coming on Whatsapp, there was an inherent lock in, and now, it was further increasing due to simple usability of Whatsapp per se.

Whatsapp – the utility and impact it has caused –

1. Largest personal & enterprise social network + collaboration – A lot of teams at the workplace have an internal whatsapp and this is increasing collaboration

2. Largest Alumni networking tool – Be it your school group, college group or graduation class group- every major institution that people joined have a corresponding Whatsapp group now.

3. Always on, Always Live, easiest – You can whatsapp when travelling, listening to music or as a refresher during office hours. This wasn’t the case with Facebook as it was blocked in a lot of offices

Right from a wife telling her husband that she is safe but under the rubble after a building collapse in Africa to wishing Happy Independence Day to Indians all over India, Whatsapp has had a deep impact already & in my opinion would be the top mobile app in India by a long way.

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Business, Marketing, Technology

The Smartphone Commoditization era

Yesterday, I was watching one of those typically bollywood movies – Phata Poster Nikla Hero. Why – well, funny as it may sound, I like the senseless dance, plot, storyline etc once in a while. However, while doing so, I noticed a very curious thing – everyone in that theater had a smartphone and all of them looked absolutely similar. This happened with me in the local train compartment, at the bookstore, at the Ganpati festival line everywhere. That made me wonder – are Smartphones getting commoditized – so much so that Smartphones are now classified as FMEG ( Fast Moving Electronic Goods!) ?

Smartphones now getting commonplace in India

Smartphones now getting commonplace in India

With Android getting increasingly dominant in the ecosystem, and so many players jumping on to the Android bandwagon there is a definite possibility that smartphones will become the de facto standard of the mobile world. Just counting the number of companies with at least one Android 4.2+ model launched successfully in India gives you a staggering number – 15! – Samsung, LG, Micromax, BenQ, Karbonn, Sony, HTC, Intex, Xolo, Spice, iBerry, Videocon, Huawei, Gionee, Lava and many more if you dig deeper! Also note that all of these companies have multiple models at various price points. On a related note – The lion’s share of the profits on Android phones globally have been made by one company though – Samsung. However, smartphone commoditization presents a different set of challenges. I try to name a few here –

1. Early adopter disenchantment – From the day when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in June 2007, there has been a cult of early adopters – to smartphones, to tablets, to app stores and to ecosystems. Commoditization leads to disenchantment among early adopters. These early adopters will now find some other pasture to buy their technological marvels.

2. Eroding margins – If everyone is selling basically the same product, the only way to compete becomes price. Unless there is massive cartelization, prices are bound to come down, even if Moore’s law is applied to smartphones. While this is good for consumers, I doubt if the mobile industry can take such a situation. The raw material cost etc is high and increasingly, quality cannot be compromised in front of a consumer who is getting more technology savvy by the day.

3. Power of alliances and marketing grows – In such a situation, the carriers will become increasingly powerful and career bundling may again come into the picture for India. With the smartphones increasingly getting commoditized, alliances on the carrier side, retailer side, marketing side, mass media side and distribution side will become vital to stay afloat for these firms.

4. Consolidation – While some of these firms have enjoyed tremendous profits and have deep pockets – unless they diversify, there is a definite possibility of consolidation happening in the Device manufacturer industry. Similar consolidation has already been happening in the app manufacturer industry, gaming industry, e-commerce industry and I don’t see why this industry won’t see consolidation in the near future.

What is your opinion – Is Smartphone commoditization really going to happen? Let us know in the comments section! ( Image – 1)

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