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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Marketing, Technology, Web

Quora, the Valley and the buzz its getting

Quora is a QnA site that is getting a lot of buzz at the moment. My profile on the site is can be accessed here. I would say that Quora is a Web 2.0 version (of sorts) of Wikipedia, with a lot of users trying to continuously evolve the site to make it better for users. The site describes itself as

‘A continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.’

This isn’t much different from Wikipedia – which describes itself as

Wikipedia is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project. ts 17 million articles (over 3.5 million in English) have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site.’

The tech blogs and early adopters of the Valley are pretty influential characters which evangelize such budding products extremely aggressively. Look at the coverage this site is getting on Tech blogs – Its absolutely amazing how the Silicon valley ecosystem picks up a product that has some muscle and propels it in such a way that it would seem incredulous that a person mildly interested in something new and cool hasn’t yet created an account on this site yet! While I am not aware of the market dynamics in China, I am pretty certain that this ecosystem created in the valley can’t be found anywhere else in the world – not even in India. Infact in India, there are a lot of good products coming up, but are simply not getting traction from early adopters / influencers.

Coming back to Quora, The one thing I like about the whole website is the ability to follow topics . Going ahead, such topics can become excellent one-stop destinations for a student to learn whats happening in a specific subject. For example, I am following more than 30 topics there already and those include Product Management, Sequoia etc.

The real question though is how will Quora tackle spam? Already, I am seeing a lot of answer-gaming on that site. People putting generic answers and then getting upvoted by their colleagues in order to get traffic to their profile has started. A lot of QnA sites face these problems – tackling spammers/trolls etc isn’t a trivial task at all. Having seen Yahoo Answers, Rediff QnA etc for many years now, I can vouch for this – correctly spotting stuff that someone is looking for becomes tougher with every passing day on the site. In that sense, what Wikipedia has achieved is remarkable, they have managed to keep their system sane (more or less) even after 10 years. I think that is going to be a critical success factor for Quora going ahead.

To conclude, I admire the site right now and how the ecosystem in the Valley is promoting it heavily ( like it did previously for foursquare, twitter, facebook, amazon etc) . This surely is one site to watch for in 2011.

PS: Firstly, A belated Happy new year to all our readers on . Hope that we would write a LOT more on Strat this year – I on my part, shall try my best! Check out how I am promoting on the back of my car and have a nice chuckle!

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Sons of the Soil – The story of Bhumi

 'BHUMI - Center for learning Grassroots Leadership' The following article is part of a series on – called Startup September. In one sentence, Bhumi is a 3 year old NGO that lights the fire that questions questionable leadership.

The anatomy of an itch serves as an irritant. Its symptoms include a certain hyperactivity that transcends your daily functions. A certain itch exists in all of us, show me a perfectly happy and content man and I’ll show you the disappearance of the itch. This itch manifests itself in various forms. Necessity is termed as the mother of invention, to extrapolate; this itch is the mother or innovation.

Innovation takes shape in a lot of ways, some ideas that get implemented, saved time, money or even a novel approach. In this case, let me take the example of an entrepreneurial venture that decided on a problem, focused its energies in solving it and got taken seriously. This approach is not much different to all the other stories that we read every so often. The difference however lies in the problem – Leadership, and the solution designed around it – an NGO called Bhumi.

A group of 5 people got together around late 2005 and started fomenting ideas amongst themselves. The ideas kept bouncing around and reached fruition in May 2006 when Bhumi was found. The group that met and discussed ideas came from backgrounds as diverse as software, media, sales and Journalism. They pin-pointed the root of our country’s troubles as a lack of leadership and immediately set about rectifying the situation. From the band of 5, only Mujeeb and Rakesh persist today while the rest have gone on to pursue their own inclinations outside the walls of Bhumi. The story of leadership is one which is steeped in time but has never found an audience, much less a cause to identify itself with. Bhumi looked at this as an opportunity and went ahead with trying to rectify this situation.

The vision for Bhumi is to groom leaders towards better leadership. Bhumi believes in inculcating leadership in every field that one might step in and it is in this approach of Bhumi that their novelty lies. Founded in Hyderabad, they focus on leadership with a holistic vision and look at offshoots like entrepreneurial incubation. They also have an incubation program going strong at Mahboobnagar on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

bhumi2Bhumi has a number of programs that are in keeping with their vision. Dronacharya and Eklavya program, a mentoring program for youngsters where a select group of mentors and coaches take school-children under their wings is into its 3rd year and garnering good attention both from the media and the contributors alike. Freedom under construction, a program that kicks off every Independence Day and carries on into the year is also a highlight for Bhumi. On 15th August 2007, about 1500 people came together to support their cause while rebuilding a school building in a slum in Hyderabad. This also happens to be the fondest memory that their co-founder Rakesh has of Bhumi.

The journey to implement Bhumi has never really been an easy one with the initiative starting off as an idea and implementation deemed a stretch. Friday evenings that could have been spent catching up on movies and mall hopping went into Bhumi. Most weekends were spent incubating Bhumi and coming up with ideas that made sense. Overlapping timings meant that there was someone or the other left to baby sit the idea while the others went off on their day jobs.

Overall, a tremendously ambitious project, Bhumi hopes to spread its wings and re-invent itself in other cities as well. Bhumi is proud of its youthful image and hopes that it is this image of vibrancy that will propel it forward.

Find out more about Bhumi on

(Check other posts of Meghbartma here . If you like our articles, do join our facebook fan page .)

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Planning, Politics, Strategy

The Twenty-first Century: How is it going to be?

All of us must have realized that twentieth century was a century of changes. This century did not just see immense technological progress; it also saw massive political changes. A person living in Jaffna in Sri Lanka has seen four distinct governments – British, French, LTTE and Sri Lankan. This century also saw a wide spread experiment in socialism. It did not work, but this experiment did fundamentally change the way free market democracies work. This century also saw massive strides in female emancipation. And of course, this century saw wars which were unparalleled in destruction. So, how will the new century look like? Here are a few pointers.


(1) Wars: Wars have acquired the ability to bring forth unprecedented destruction. So fighting a war isn’t politically correct anymore. But wars have constantly been happening. The US intervened in Balkans with the help of NATO. And they did not call it war. 34000 people have died in Kashmir in the last few years. And it is also not a war! Wars of the new century would not be the conventional wars between nations. They would either be fought via proxies or be short and decisive.

(2) Social Equity: Free Market economics have indeed had their day under the sun. It looks like the best form of government is the one that efficiently incorporates tenets of socialism and free market economics. However, that system has also almost reached its breaking point. The inequity has widened so much that many times only the rich get much more richer – so much so that at times the benefits reaches to just one individual as a result of many speculative activities in the financial markets. In that respect we have almost went back to feudalism where there was a certain duke who owned 33% of the gross social product of his duchy.

(3) China: Being a global leader requires leadership in four things. First and foremost, military. The other leadership fields required are technology, business and culture. The USA is the current leader in all these things. China, however, may go on to have better armed forces than the USA, but it is miserably behind the country in either technology or culture or business. Due to this, the world would continue to be unipolar with the USA as its centre. China might acquire arms which, if not handled carefully, might send it on a self destructive path as Germany of early 1900s or as Soviet Union.

(4) India: India, on the other has a great cultural influence on the world. The country has had a culture of inquisitiveness and search. This does indeed help her in science and technology. And the business strength of the country can be seen in terms of the number of successful and innovative businesses it has spawned. However, this country will not be able to challenge the American hegemony in the foreseeable future. The reason for this is that the country has had very weak central governments. Weak not compared to the totalitarian China, but even compared to the successful democracies like the US or the UK. In the US you are free to do anything, even wear your national flag as underwear. Still they managed to pass the Patriot Act. India on the other hand scrapped its own POTA.

(5) Women’s Emancipation: The twenty first century has seen tremendous strides in women’s emancipation. In the early 1900s the main concern used to be giving women the right to vote and creating conducive environment at the workplace. Both the things have happened in the developed world and are happening in the developing world. However, it would be unfair to pass a judgment on the system by counting the number of women in the workplace. Most of the women opt out of work to care of children. They follow their grain. If you want to measure women’s emancipation, count the number of children per woman. This would show that the society has been slowly moving away from treating women basically as a child bearing machine. The new century would open new choices for women. The women would now realize that it is good to be feminine and nurture that aspect.

(6) Natural Resources: This is going to be the trickiest part of the new century. The population of the world would probably, as per estimates, peak at 10 billion. The world does not have enough resources to feed and clothe and shelter these many people. The per hectare agricultural output has not increased significantly in the last thirty years. There would be shortage of freshwater due to the global warming and melting of glaciers. The viruses of many diseases like malaria have mutated, while the drug companies have been busy discovering Viagra. The social inequities have been rising which would lead to unrest at various places. We will run out of oil. The wars in the new century would be for these. The century of warfare for ideology is over. It is going to be the century of warfare for survival.

I just read a brilliant book by the eminent historian, Eric Hobsbawm. In the book, he tries to find the clues to the future, based on his understanding of history. It had so many brilliant insights that it set my thought process reeling. Hence the post.

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