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Posts Tagged ‘Business’

Mix-Up! Users Uninstalled Snapdeal Instead of Snapchat.


 

 

Indians were outraged at the ‘alleged’ comment of Snap Inc. CEO, Evan Spiegel that Snapchat is not mean for poor countries like India and Spain. well, no one is sure that whether he said it or not. But just this allegation was enough for the every charged Indians to start berating the company and its CEO. Thousands of users uninstalled snapchat app and gave it a one-star rating on Google Playstore. The outrage was so high that the Snapchat was reduced to a one-star rating on the store. Bad.

The worse was that many un-initiated souls who did not even know what Snapchat is and what it does, started uninstalling what they had on their phone- the Snapdeal app.

Now, that act borders on stupidity. This is the second time when Snapdeal have had to bear the users’ wrath on the playstore. The first was when its brand ambassador Amir Khan’s wife made a statement which did not go well with the Indians. The outrage that time started with boycotting Amir but then led to the brands that he endorsed.

While I reserve my opinion for a later blog-post, but this is a sad case where one company suffered because of someone else’s ‘alleged-not-proven’ fault.

 

Which Candy Did Rs 300 Cr Sales In Just 2 Years? Just Amazing.

March 8, 2017 1 comment

 

 

FMCG market is tough to crack. There are hundreds of thousands of products in each category. Launching a new product and making it a star is a daunting task! But one product launches a couple of years ago has done wonders. And, its a candy!

Pulse was launched exactly two years ago by the DS Group (makers of Pass-Pass and Rajnigandha) and has crossed Rs300 Cr in sales since then. Just to put things in perspective, some of the products by much bigger and better known brands don’t even come close to what Pulse has been able to achieve. Oreo. launched in 2011 has done Rs 283 till date and Mars bars, launched in 2011 again has done only Rs 270 crore in sales till date.

I am writing a blog on identifying the factors that led to the amazing rise of the Pulse product. Keep tuned in for more.

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Grind Your Axe. Often!

February 9, 2017 Leave a comment

 

Harshdeep Rapal

 

Last evening I was sitting with my team (mostly comprising of your just-out-of-college grads) at a bar near our office. One topic led to another and we started discussing on how important it is for someone in today’s world to keep updating and polishing his/her skills. The discussion reminded me of a story I heard a long time ago. Thought of sharing it here with the readers.

This is a story of a young lad who starts his career as a lumberjack. No, not the lumberjacks we have these days with chainsaws and all other machines, but with a modest axe- yes like in the good old days.

Like any another youngster, he was full of energy and bursting to seams with enthusiasm on his first day at work. He wanted to work hard, work long and make a lot of money. The lad started his first day by working 8 hours and chopping four large trees. For every tree chopped, he got $10.

“40 dollars a day are not going to take me anywhere, I need to earn much more than this” he thought.

Next day, he started early and worked till late. Working 12 hours, he chopped six trees. “60 dollars is good, but still not what I am looking for. I need to work harder and longer”.

Third day, the young lad started even before sun had risen and worked till there were stars in the sky. He managed to chop eight trees.

“Damn! 80 dollars are day are good, but not for me. I definitely want more!”

So, to achieve more, next day he started even earlier and worked 16 hours straight. To his surprise and shock, he could chop no more than eight trees! Next day he tried even harder, but was again stuck at eight. He tried even harder the next day, his number was still stuck at 8!

Dejected and confused the young lumberjack was walking his way home. On the way he met an older lumberjack who had been in the trade since last 25 years. On asking what the matter was, the young lad told his story. “I am working so hard, working really long hours, still not able to increase the number of trees cut beyond 8”.

“So, you work for 14-16 hours straight, still stuck at 8 trees a day. Ever thought of taking an hour’s time to grind your axe?” said the experienced lumberjack and walked away.

End of the story.

Almost every one from my team looked at smiled at me. Hope, now they understand the importance of continuously upgrading, sharpening and polishing their skills. Every one, including me should!

This Entrepreneur Sold His Business for $1.25 Million in 10 Minutes!

February 3, 2017 1 comment

Jeff Stroope had been a fireman for 15 years before he invented a revolutionary fire hose connection that saves a lot of time and trouble for connecting the hose to the water pipeline in the time of a fire tragedy when every second counts.

Jeff came on Shark Tank and did a demo for his product. Not only did the Sharks like the product but he got an offer from Mark Cuban to sell off his whole company for $1.25 million plus a three year job contract at $100,000 per year and a royalty on every product sold by the company.

Here is the amazing pitch.

 

F*ck The Unicorns and Cockroaches, become a Business First!

December 2, 2016 Leave a comment

 

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Two years ago, everyone wanted to become a ‘Unicorn’ (the term that is used to refer to a rare mythical creature in general and to a billion dollar company in the startup world). Every morning there was news of one more startup raising a few or a few hundred million dollars in funding at a valuation, which you would have never heard of earlier. Fast-forward to 2016, the funding freeze has set in and there are people advising on how to become a cockroach startup. Scores of articles have been written on how to survive the funding winter till the sun rises again and investors start showering you with millions- not sure if that is going to happen anytime soon.

As a founder of two ventures earlier where I did not have any funding and then having led a venture of where I had a few million dollars at my disposal from Rocket Internet and now again when I am building a seed-funded startup, I have been through the grind. These few years spent in building startups have given me a perspective of how important it is to create a business out of an idea.

There would be millions of businesses across the globe. The range of size of these businesses in terms of revenues and employees would be astonishing. There are businesses run by the single-man show of a roadside street-food vendor and then there are the likes of Coca Cola and Boeing. How many of them have raised funds? The answer is – A negligible minority. One thing they all have in common is that they focused on creating sustainable businesses. I consider an idea to transform into a business when there are people willing to pay for your service or product and this number, at a certain size, can help run the business profitably.

As I mentioned earlier, I am currently running a venture that is seed funded since January 2016. At the outset, with my previous experience, I was clear to create a business and not a unicorn or a cockroach. Since last six months we have customers who pay form the service we provide and although we are small, we will turn operationally profitable I next two to three months. This does not mean that we do not want to become a hundred million or a billion dollar company- we do want to, but in a planned manner. Now that we have converted out idea into a business, there is confidence in the team, the seed investor and also the prospective investors on the growth path of the venture.

My advice to fellow startup enthusiasts and entrepreneurs is to have a plan to convert the idea in to business, focus on execution and then utilize funding to scale the operations. Do not startup just with the sole aim of raising funds. In the past many have done so, have even succeeded in raising millions but failed to survive- just because they could not turn into a business even after raising millions.

Forget the unicorns and cockroaches, let’s build businesses and enjoy the exciting journey as we do it!

[The writer is the co-founder and CEO of Feelance Co. and has been involved with the Indian StartUp ecosystem since 2009. He can be reached at harshdeep.rapal@feelance.co or harshdeep.singh.rapal@gmail.com ]

2 Companies Who Will Hit the Most from WhatsApp Video Calling

November 20, 2016 Leave a comment

 

Many users of Whats App were surprised yesterday when they could update the app and start video calling their contacts. With a lot of people using WhatsApp for texting and calling video calling was the next logical extension of the app that has taken the world of communication by storm (I am not talking about Line, WeChat and China for a reason here).

Everyone know who will benefit the most from this new feature- Yes! You guessed it right. WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook.

But who will get ht the most? 1. Apple (FaceTime) 2. Skype

Most of the time when I have to video-call my wife or take interviews of candidates, I generally use either Skype of Face Time. For that matter if e have to slit the two between business and personal use of the video feature, I use Skype for Business and Face Time for Personal (family and friends) use.

WhatsApp has been till now the medium of choice for many of us for texting, sending images, voice message and various other attachments. I have seen people of all ages using WhatsApp for one to one messages, group messages, coordinating for executing various events- parties, birthdays surprises, delivery of packages etc. Now with the video call option on the same application, there is no need to open Skype or FaceTime.

Since the time WhatsApp has rolled out video calling feature, I have stopped using FaceTime or Skype for at least personal communication. Skype is still my medium of choice when it comes to professional/business communication. I know a lot of people around me who have made the same move- from Skype & Face Time to WhatsApp Video Calls. Having said that, most of my views are based on observing the behaviour of people around me rather than surveys and data. This, similarly, is my personal view. It might take a few months or even a year to see who actually benefits and who loses. For now, its a Thumbs Up to WhatsApp!

 

 

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.

Why are organisations moving towards a flexible workforce?

January 16, 2016 Leave a comment

Business data and technology

 

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.

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.

Starting an E-Retail Venture in India: Five factors to Keep in Mind

September 9, 2013 1 comment

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Organized retail in India has been a grand success in the last decade-and-a-half. The rapid urbanization in Indian cities gave rise to malls, multi-brand and single brand stores. The increase in income levels across the population as well as double incomes of the new generation nuclear families contributes to the substantial increase in the disposable income of the Indian consumer. Of late, the physical infrastructure is not able to keep pace with the rate of increase in urban population, giving a chance for both the consumers and sellers to explore alternate options.

With the increase in accessibility of the internet in India, the retailers have started going ‘virtual’. The ‘virtual stores’ or the ‘e-stores’ scene is already bustling with activity in India and given the demand there is a huge scope of expansion for established players and also a scope for new entrants. E-retailing scores over traditional retailing in a number of ways. The retailer is spared of the costs related with the brick and mortar set up whereas the consumer gets the benefit of choosing from a wide range of products sitting in the comfort of her home thus saving on travel costs and time.

A country’s prospect for online retail success is closely related to how many people use the internet and how many of them are comfortable purchasing online. There are almost 120 million internet users in India and looking at the 2020 vision it could reach to 1 billion if it continues to grow at this rate. A quick look at the demographics of India reveals that 64% of the Indian population is in the working age group of 15-64 and 35.0% is relatively young, aged 15 to 34. This is the user group readily willing to adopt the e-retail culture.

Given these figures, the Indian e-retail market is a very attractive proposition. There are already many e-retailers in India and many are planning to set up shop here. Even though the market is attractive, every day there are stories of online stores going bust. This is because online retail in India differs in many aspects from the other parts of the world. I have listed below the top five factors which an online retail business needs to pay attention to if it wants to avoid failure in India.

1. The ‘hybrid’ shopping experience: The Indian e-retail market is not a pure-play ‘online retail’ market. It is gradually moving to and will firm up as a ‘hybrid’ model where the customer ‘orders’ the product online but ‘buys’ only after checking it physically at the time of delivery. Although, this happens more in the cases of apparel where the customer needs to try the fitting and size of the product before buying. With the customers already feeling comfortable with the model, it will spread to other product lines such as electronics and even consumables.

2. Reliable delivery and returns: One of the most important factors contributing to the success of an e-retailer is the on-time delivery of the products. It is a known fact that the supply chain infrastructure in India is not up to the global standards. So, an e-retailer has to ensure that either he sets up its own delivery network or partners with a trusted party. The delivery network not only needs to ensure the delivery of the products but also the returns in case of change of mind at the time of paying or in case of faulty goods.

3. Cash-On-Delivery payment mode: The unreliable delivery infrastructure in India helped ‘cash-on-delivery’ option gain popularity. The customers were wary of paying upfront in the wake of uncertainty of delivery. The COD option allayed the fears of the customers as the cash exchanged hands only at the time of delivery. Even with the improvement in delivery infrastructure, cash-on-delivery will always be preferred payment option. Consider the fact that an established e-retailer such as Flipkart, which has a robust delivery network trusted by the customers, receives 60% of its payments as cash-on-delivery of card-on-delivery.

4. Pass on the savings to the customers: The Indian customer is very price sensitive, especially in the case of branded products. She would check the price of the article at multiple websites or stores before buying it. The e-retailers generally save on costs which tradition brick and mortar sellers incur on the physical infrastructure. Majority of the e-retailers are already passing on these savings to the customers. This has helped building a perception that online prices of products are and should be lesser than the store prices. Any new entrant in the market will have to follow the trend.

5. Difficult to fit one size to all: Always remember that India is a country with 1 billion plus population which speaks 20+ major languages and boasts of diverse cultural and demographic characteristics. No organization to have uniform policies and tactics across the country and hope to succeed. Same is the case is with e-retailers. They have to customize the products and services according to the requirements. The mantra here is to be receptive to the feedback, sense the needs of the consumers, tweak your operations and serve the customers.

On a concluding note, although the Indian online retail market presents a great opportunity for retailers to explore, many factors need to be kept in mind before taking the plunge. The entry barriers are low and there are hardly any restrictions from the government agencies to set up an online store. This is bound to increase the competition. Only those who go to market with a customer centric approach will be able to survive and flourish.