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Why Snapdeal merging with Flipkart or Amazon will not make sense? Or might.


 

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Last couple of days have been ripe with rumors of Snapdeal reaching out to Flipkart and Amazon for a merger/buyout. YEstreday Kunal Bahl poked fun at these rumors with a tweet on the name that the merged venture will have. Fun aside, lets see is this kind of acquisition/merger would actually make sense or not.

On the face of it, acquiring Snapdeal will not make any sense for Flipkart or Amazon. Take the case of Amazon’s attempt of acquiring Jabong in late 2014. Rocket Internet (at that time I was leading one of Rocket Internet’s ventures in South East Asia) was looking at a valuation of $1.2b whereas Amazon was in no mood to pay more than $700m. Within weeks of the talks falling through, Amazon launched Amazon Fashion to counter Jabong. Later Jabong bled to its on death and was acquired by Myntra (a Flipkart group company) for $70m. That’s peanuts.

Jabong acquisition actually made some sense as Amazon was not very strong in the Fashion category. Snapdeal on the otherhand is a smaller Amazon. Learning from the Jabong experience, I don’t think amazon would even consider bidding for Snapdeal.

Now for the same reason, it does not make sense to acquire Snapdeal. Why would either of them not wait for Snapdeal to bleed weak till it dies or can be bought at a much lower valuation (just for the brand) as in the case of Jabong-Myntra deal.

Now, can it make sense as well? Remember when Ola acquired Taxi for Sure a couple of years ago for $200m? That deal not only helped Ola become the undisputed champion of ride-hailing space in India, but also removed an irritating competitor who was forcing to burn much more cash than what Ola would have liked to. Is Snapdeal that kind of rival for Amazon and Flipkart? The answer is- Yes. Do they want to remove Snapdeal from the competition? The answer is- definitely Yes. But do they want to right now? The answer is- No. Paying $200m for Taxi for Sure was peanuts as compared to the benefits it brought. Snapdeal is a unicorn. I don’t think either Amazon or Flikpart’s investors would ever agree to shell that kind of money ever. Even buying a small stake in Snapdeal would be equal to a billion dollar funding round for the two larger rivals.

So, let the rumors be rumors. I am not sure if anything is going to happen on this beyond being just rumors.

Learnings From AskMeBazaar Shut Down


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Today morning I woke up to the news of AskMe shutting down its services leaving thousands of its employees and lakhs of its vendors and partners in quandary. It is not unusual for startups to stumble and fail. Globally more than 95% of the startups shut down.

AskMe was a different care altogether. The startup had raised $119m from Astro Holdings and other investors and were in talks to raise another $200m at a valuation of $1b. But then Astro decided not to participate in the next round. Things came to a dead end when Astro skipped the last Board meeting and AskMe wrote a letter to Registrar of Companies not to let Astro wind up their operations before clearing their dues (Approx Rs300 Cr).

I was surprised why it came to such a situation that the company had to shut overnight and lay off all its employees. The reason I found out was that Astro Holdings owned a whooping 98.5 % stake in the company. Let that sink in.

I am not sure what the founder were thinking while raising funds, but this is an insane amount of stake to be offered to a single investor. It does not leave room for other investors to have their say. In this case Astro did not want to participate in the next round of funding and I am sure the legal formalities would have got messed up for bringing in new investors of raising funds from other minority investors (if any).

The biggest learnings that the other entrepreneurs should learn from this incident are:

  1. Never have one single investor own an insanely large chunk of your company. 98.5%….never!
  2. When you get money in the bank, try working out the unit economics rather than burning the money at an insane rate. AskMe spend a large chunk of money hiring Bollywood brand ambassadors for TVCs. The same would have given much better ROI had the amount been spent on online marketing.
  3. In case such a situation arises, take care of your people. They trusted the startup ecosystem and toiled for your venture day in and day out. Never leave them high and dray by wrapping up operations overnight. I am sure the founders would have known the situations months ago. They should have told the truth to the employees and held them in faith to turn around things. Now the employees will not only lose the faith in the founders, but also the Indian startup ecosystem.

Real-Time Data from the Biggest Tech Companies

February 7, 2016 1 comment

Check out this wonderful platform for the real-time per second data from some of the biggest tech companies of the world.

Revenue & Profit:

Data  Stats:

#RIPTwitter is necessary to help Twitter survive

February 7, 2016 Leave a comment

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The hashtag #RIPTwitter has been tending ever since BuzzFeed reported that Twitter is making changes to how the tweets are fed into users feed. The plan, as I understand it, is to prioritise tweets based on the ‘interest of the user’. This is something similar to what Facebook does to the feed on your FB wall. Point noted.

Currently the Twitter feed for a user comes in chronological order. It does not discriminate among various tweets. Whether you are following President Obama or a local business, tweets from both of them are given same importance. Now prioritising content based on user interests is a pretty vague proposition and leaves many loose ends- both good and not so good.

The not-so-good part of this plan is that the users lose control over what they see in their feed. Over last few years Facebook shows you the news feed of users which it ‘thinks’ is of interest to you. There might be things posted by other users of importance to you but if they do not fit in your ‘interests’ cloud, you won’t see them. If Twitter’s plans go through, we are in for a similar treatment at Twitter feed as well.

Now, the good part of the plan is that Twitter will have more control of the content shown to its users. This means that Twitter will have the right to play around with the content shown to users of various demographies. The ability to play around with the content along with the ability to mix free and paid content gives an immense opportunity to Twitter to monetise the user generated content and user attention to the promoted/prioritised content.

I understand that the thought of someone making money by playing around with the content you want to see creates an image of manipulation and curbing freedom, but it’s not as bad as we think. The organisations need to become self sustainable if they want to survive for long. The attempt by Twitter to prioritise content for its users is a step in this direction. Unless it drastically affects the way we have been using Twitter and kills the fun it is, I would say let’s give it a try.

Where Entrepreneurs Succeeded Because Government Failed

January 20, 2016 Leave a comment

 

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This may come as a surprise to many but the government (both central and state authorities) has helped entrepreneurs in India in an unexpected manner – by failing in some functions, which it is expected to perform by default. I have been analysing the start-up ecosystem in India for some time now and have come across many entrepreneurs who succeeded just because the government failed to provide the required services to the citizens. Not only did these entrepreneurs step in to fill the gap, but they also provided livelihood and jobs to many others. In this article, I have tried to bring out 4 such areas where the enterprising minds found their opportunities.

1. Potable water: Every morning, we see scores of pick-up vehicles laden with plastic canisters supplying drinking water to homes and offices. The failure of the government to provide sufficient and quality potable water has provided an opportunity to entrepreneurs to step in. Over a period of time, supplying potable water has become such a lucrative business that it has created gold for companies ranging from billion-dollar corporations to small-time entrepreneurs – thus creating a multi-billion-dollar industry.

2. Power generators and inverters: The power situation in India is far from satisfactory and with the rising consumption of electricity, the gap between demand and supply is getting wider by the day. Many entrepreneurs have seen an opportunity there and now provide a number of solutions – from solar lanterns suitable for one-room huts in villages to huge power generators installed in factories and offices.

3. Security agencies: Security of life and property should be the prior concern of the government. But with the rapid rise in urbanisation across India, the security set-up has failed to cope up with the requirements of the growing population in the cities. The government agencies have failed to provide the required level of security and this has given a chance to private security agencies to provide services to home, offices, factories and apartment buildings. Thousands of people are employed by these private security agencies, providing security services to lakhs and more. So much so that a few Indian private security agencies have started taking up international assignments as well.

4. Sports: Of late, the best of the sports people in India do not come from government academies. Majority of the Indian boxers, who have been dominating world boxing, have come from the private sports clubs in Haryana. Similarly, Indian shuttlers, who have recently made their mark in world badminton, have all trained at a private academy in Hyderabad. And there are scores of private academies honing cricketers and other sports people in India.

Also, most of us are aware of the mess created by the government agencies in managing the Commonwealth Games. In stark contrast is the organisation and management of the Indian Grand Prix, held at Budh International Circuit or even the recently started Indian Badminton League. The success of such sports events have inspired many other entrepreneurs to come forward and they are now planning similar events for other disciplines as well.

But the Indian entrepreneurs’ ability to make the best of the situation (where we find below-average services) is not limited to the four areas I have picked up to discuss. If we look around, we will find many such areas where entrepreneurs have picked up the loose ends and provided the missing links.

So there is a ray of hope for other entrepreneurs as similar opportunities are waiting to be explored. Just look around and you might be able to identify the next big start-up for such services.

Why are organisations moving towards a flexible workforce?

January 16, 2016 Leave a comment

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As of today, 34% of the total workforce or approximately 53 million workers in America are working freelance. This number is expected to cross 50% by 2020. The trend is slowly but firmly getting magnified across all industry sectors and all geographies of the globe.

So why are so many consultants opting to go freelance?

I have been closely following up the workforce trends in India and across the globe for about a decade now. There are various reasons that consultants cite which convince them to work independently rather than take up a regular job. Here the top three reasons which consultants cite:

  1. Flexibility: Working freelance helps consultants bring flexibility in their schedule. As a freelancer one can decide on the number of months a year or number of days a week or even number of hours a day he wants to work. The clients are more worried about the results than the time spent by the consultant working on the engagements. As long as the set targets and results are achieved, they are not worried about which part of the day or which day of the week the consultant works.
  1. Richer Industry Experience: A typical freelance consultant would work on multiple projects with different clients during a year. This undoubtedly increases the exposure of the consultant to multiple clients and projects. Over the years, the consultant gains much more diverse experience while working with different clients and industries than his counterpart who would have worked only for a single employer. This addition in diverse experience in turn helps the consultant charge a premium on his services.
  1. Higher Earnings: Not having a regular job is a risk. Working on short-term assignments where the consultants bring in niche skills help them price their services higher than the normal per hour wages of a similar skilled worker in a regular job. If a consultant is very good at his trade, he will ensure a regular flow of work through out the year. This enables him to earn substantially higher income than being in a regular job.

The increase in numbers of flexible workforce is also fuelled by the advantages that it brings for the clients. Some of the key advantages that a freelance consultant brings for a client are:

  1. Access to best the industry talent: Top industry talent is always scarce. Not every organisation has the money and resources to hire it full-time. Hiring freelance consultants gives an opportunity to the organisation to hire top-notch consultants for the period of time they require.
  1. Access to a wider pool of talent: Freelancers have huge networks, which include past clients as well as with other consultants in the same or related trade. They are generally members of associations and clubs to liaison with other fellow consultants. In a situation where the client may require additional expertise in the same or in a related field to make the initiative a success, they can bring in the additional hand(s) from the networks they are a part of. This ensures that the client’s work is completed flawlessly without having to worry about skill gap.
  1. Success of the engagement: One of the biggest worry of freelancers is getting regular work. To ensure they have a healthy pipeline of projects, the freelancers go all out to ensure the success of every project they take up to help them get future projects by referrals. The niche skills of the consultant honed while working with multiple clients and network of other senior consultants always increases the probability of success for an engagement.
  1. External Perspective: Over a period of time, organisations make peace and start living with their problems and don’t even realise the existence of the problem. A freelancer coming from outside the organisation brings an external perspective to the processes and practices and identifying the issues in the organisation. This is an additional advantage which the organisation gets by hiring a freelancer, that too without paying a dime for it.
  1. Cost effective: Organisations prefer to rent rather than acquire the assets that they use for short periods of time. The same principle applies to niche consultants. Even though the per hour fees of a freelance consultant might be much higher than the per hour wages of a similarly skilled full-time hire, in the long run the over all cost comes out to be much cheaper as they are utilised for only for the duration of the engagement. The employer does not have to worry for the benefits that are provided to the full time employees.

Startups & Technology come to the help- Of People & Terrorists

November 30, 2015 Leave a comment

 

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Two weeks ago we saw the deadly attack on Paris and closer home (India) the havoc caused by Chennai rains. While Facebook activated its Safety Check feature for the Paris attacks, Uber and Air BnB came out to help people travel to safer places and find a place to stay.

During the Chennai rains Ola came up with the innovative idea of rescuing people with boats and Oyo Rooms slashed rents and allowed group stay in the rooms on its platform. On many earlier instances we have seen people using Twitter to report live from the scene of accidents and attacks and also using Google Maps and other location based apps to track and inform on locations. There have been numerous instances of technology and the quick-moving startups coming to the rescue of people in distress situations.

With the pros come the cons.

The same technology that comes to the resume of people in distress situations also helps the terrorists and anti social elements coordinating with and connecting to each other. Post the Paris attacks we have seen Anonymous taking down the Twitter accounts helping recruit fighters for ISIS. The same Twitter which helps people connect to and help each other is being used by the very people who pose threat to our security.

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Toyota is known to build affordable and sturdy vehicles which require minimal after sales care. The Toyota trucks have been known to survive in the harshest conditions across the globe. Very good for the consumer. But, the same Toyota trucks have fallen into the hands of ISIS and other terrorist organisations and have caused much damage to humanity.

The advancements in technology are a wonderful thing. The unrestricted and easy access of these technologies is again a wonderful thing. But, the biggest question that arises with this kind of free access is that how do we ensure these technologies do not fall into the hands of people who intend to use it to harm humanity. I know there is no direct answer to this question. I am not even sure if such an answer even exists or not. But this is something we need to think as we move along developing new technologies and making their access free and fair.

 

 

Let’s face it: Neutrality does not exist for start-ups.


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There have been a lot of heated arguments going on against the telco’s plan to encroach on net-neutrality in India (and the world). Last couple of weeks, the internet was up in arms against the telcos and their internet partners. So much so that the likes of Flipkart faces a social media crisis and pulled out of the infamous AirTel Zero platform. One of the arguments being given was that it will be difficult, or rather impossible, for startups to compete against the big boys. Point taken.

But neutrality never existed for startups. Let’s face it.

Take the case of e-commerce startups in India. Majority of the big players are in losses. Huge losses. In e-commerce today, one of the major factors for survival is that how much loss one can bear. And, the loss bearing capacity depends on how much funding one has. The kind of money funded startups can spend on advertising, discounts and partnerships, the boot-strapped or self-funded can’t. Discounts and marketing is just one area. The funded startups can spend a lot of money on the best of the systems, can hire the best talent from the market and can create best of the workplaces for this talent.

Eve the internet today is not as ‘free’ or ‘neutral’ as we assume it to be.On the internet, we donot see what we want to see. We see what is shown to us. Organisations spend a lot of money on Facebook and Google ads to reach out to the customers. Again, the company with deeper pockets is ‘seen’ more.

The path for a new startup has never been easy and will continue to be so. Startups have always been innovating to beat the big boys. Some are able to, some don’t. That’s how it will be always.

Get a car for Free!

March 22, 2015 1 comment

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Yes! You read it correct. Get a car for free. Okay not free, but almost free.

I came across this concept where you pay the downpayment for the car and then the company pays for the EMIs for three years. The catch is- You have to display their ads on the car for the tenure of three year. Post which the car gets becomes ad-free.

This is a win-win situation for all the three parties. The consumer gets a ‘free car’. The advertiser gets a mobile space for display ads.

You can check out more details at the website:

http://www.emifreecar.com/

I feel this going to be a hit with the young adult population. It’s a barter system like Freecharge. You give something they need and take in return something they can give- except money. Companies have been using this concept since ages now. Some give you free pens to write others give away free t-shirts to wear. This concept takes it a step further and gives you free cars to drive!

Categories: Strategy

2014- The year of e-commerce Startups!

December 30, 2014 Leave a comment

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2014 will be remembered in the startup ecosystem of India which was  completely dominate by the e-commerce startups. Be it the success of mega funding  rounds of Flipkart and Snapdeal or the price wars raged by the e-retailers on each other. Or, the sweet-bitter memories of the one-day mega sales and shopping festivals. Or, the protests by the small shop owners who claimto have been mauled by the e-retail giants. Love it or hate it- the year was that of the e-commerce.

The Indian e-comm industry has yet to learn a lot of tricks of the trade, but one thing is for sure, it is here to stay and will only grow big.

The potential for growth can be judged from the fact that the total size of the Indian e-retail revenue for the year 2014 is less than half the revenue for the Singles Day sale of Alibaba in China. Market size of retail in India is estimated to be at $600 billion a year. Which makes the e-retail industry less than even 1% of the total retail market (organized and unorganized). There are many gaps in the current market that need to be addressed and will be addressed by new players. The coming years will see this percentage share grow to at-least 6-8% which gives a huge space for growth for the existing players as well as a fertile ground for new startups.

With new investments flowing into the Indian e-retail industry, I also see consolidation happening in the market. The 2013 and 2014 also saw some consolidation happening in the e-retail space with Flikart acquiring Let’sBuy & Myntra and Amazon trying to acquire Jabong. The consolidation will gain momentum in next two years to eliminate some of the redundancy in the market.

All said and done, the next couple of years are going to see a lot of action in the e-retail space. Get ready for a lot of click-click!