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Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’

The Mobile Wars- What is Next?


future_ideaslead

The last few years have seen the mobile manufacturers bettering each other on the hardware parameters (the processing power, the display etc.). But, there is only so much one can do when it comes to enhancing the processing power and hardware capabilities. Beyond a point, the difference that hardware makes is not worth the effort consumed in achieving so.

So, what is next?

When Samsung came up with S3, there was a sustained campaign around the device ‘made for humans’ the same thought has been extended in the next generation of the flagship product S4 being marketed as the ‘life companion. The device lives up to the expectations and offers many functionalities based on human gestures. Samsung has done a good job in making use of the ‘eye-ball’ sensors and the ones to recognize hand movements and gestures. Besides recognizing the hand gestures, it also senses the proximity of user’s fingers to activate the ‘Air View’ functionality. All in all, this is a major step in moving towards the era when the devices will understand and respond to the human movements and respond the commands of the device’s ‘master’.

The ‘Extended Humanprise’

In the coming years, we are going to see more and more of these ‘sensor’ based functionalities in mobile gadgets. This is what I call the ‘Extended Humanprise’ – the device is on its way to become the extension of the human being. The possibilities in this field are limitless. The sensors can be leveraged for reading the touch, the finger prints, the eyeball movement, voice, light exposure etc. With the combination of a few or many of these sensors, numerous functionalities can be built around the device. With companies already developing the prototypes of ‘wearable’ gadgets, many other human body movements can be used for interacting with the devices.

Without doubt, the next big thing for the mobile devices is manipulating the human-device interface through these sensors. This is an open field at the moment for companies to explore. Let’s wait and watch how these mobile companies use the technology to extend the human ‘reach’!

Categories: Strategy Tags: , , ,

This is what Apple should be doing!

March 3, 2013 3 comments

Apple-Logo_51

Apple stock tanked to $430 last week in the wake of concerns on the future of the company and its future range of products. The stock is 40% down from its peak.

There are rumors of Apple working on a ‘wearable gadget’ and has even filed for a patent application. But there are doubts on the success of this product. Also, this is going to be in the low price band ($100-$200), which definitely means lower margins. Also, going by the trend, Apple now will be spending much more on marketing its products than it did earlier. Times look tough for Apple.

Now what should Apple do? I have a suggestion.

It is high time Apple gets into Gaming. Apple, especially in the US dominates the UI for mobile phone and tablets (and to some extent the laptops as well). Given the ‘mobility’ of mobiles and tablets, Apple does have a great chance at Mobile Gaming.

Now, there are many games available in the Apple Store as app downloads. Yes, Apple is also making considerable amount of money from the downloads. How different Apple Gaming should be from the normal gaming Apps available at Apple Store? Apple should make the best use of the hardware available in its devices and introduce the ‘elevated gaming experience’- both online and offline, single player and multi-multiple leveraging the wi-fi and the 3G. Currently there are a few players in the mobile gaming arena but all of them either offer downloadable apps (Angry Birds by Rovio) with online integration or online games using the internet (Zynga on Facebook). There is also another category of devices such as the Sony PSP providing the ‘portable’ gaming experience. The true mobile gaming experience is still missing.

Now, if Apple is able to capitalize its dominance of the mobile UIs and its expertise in the hardware-software integration, it can usher a whole new arena for Apple to spread its reach and find a new revenue channel.

Whats new with Mega?

January 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Kim-Dotcom-appears-in-a-N-007

Internet entrepreneur- Kim Dotcom came up with his latest venture a couple of days ago- MEGA. Mega is a the reincarnation of Megaupload- the cloud storage service that was declared an outlaw- accused of facilitating copyright violations and piracy. The site was shutdown in wake of an ongoing investigation while Kim is out on bail. In its heydays, Megaupload boasted of 50 million visitors daily and accounted for 4% of Internet traffic before it was shut down in January last year.

Dotcom launched the “Mega” site with a lavish party on Sunday, the anniversary of his arrest on charges related to Megaupload. Half-a-million users registered for Mega within 14 hours. The publicity for the new venture generated so much interest among users worldwide that within hours Mega was facing server troubles and Kim offered his apologies on Twitter.

So what is different in Mega? Mega users will have access to 50 GB of free storage space and will be able to share their files with other users. This is ten times the free storage space offered by Google Drive and 25 times the amount of space offered by Dropbox.

And what is the difference between Mega and Megaupload? Mega “enforces” encryption on the data being uploaded. This means before the data is loaded on to the Mega servers, it is encrypted and the encryption key is not with Mega. This means, Mega can not and will not have ‘access’ to the data. The encryption is more to save Kim and his company of accusations of copyright violations than for the benefit of the users.

I bet the investigation agencies will be already trying to find holes in Kim’s vest and I can only speculate whether they will be successful or not in finding one, but, I consider the launch of Mega and the kind of attention it has managed to draw nothing less than dramatic. Wish you success Kim!

An advice for Flipkart (and other start-ups)

January 20, 2013 Leave a comment

flipkart

Flipkart established its name as an online bookstore. Although it has ventured into many more product categories in recent years, it has been only moderately successful in establishing its name as an online retailer and grow beyond the ‘bookseller’ tag. One reason for the same is customer satisfaction beyond delivering books. I had a first hand experience of a major flaw in their delivery network last week.

I have been using Flipkart for order books for more than two years now and they never gave me a chance to complain. The service was just perfect.

On 13th Jan ’13 I ordered some fitness equipment and was assured of delivery within 3-4 days. I got a call from delivery boy on 17th Jan morning that he will be delivering the package at my address in next 30 mins. I waited till evening and no one came. I called the guy in the evening to enquire about my package, he assured me that the same will be delivered next morning. I waited whole day, no package came. In the evening I called up the Flipkar helpline and on enquiring the status of my ordered was told that the order was cancelled (although the Flipkart website still showed me the status ‘approved’). On enquiring further, the call center agent told me that the delivery boy could not find the address and cancelled my order. I was astonished to know that the order was cancelled- that too without informing me! I protested to the call center agent that how can you guys cancel my order that too without my permission and without caring to inform me? The agent squarely blamed the ‘Blue Dart’ courier guys on the fiasco and told me if I still want the item, I’ll have to place a fresh order.

And how were the books delivered to me on the same address? The agent told me the books and small items are delivered by their own delivery boys and for other items, they use Blue Dart.

Here is a perfect example of choosing your partners in business. For a customer like me, who was very satisfied with the services of Flipkart, the expectation was to match the expectations they had managed to set with me. But, itwas not the case. Why? because on all the earlier occasions, the delivery was done by Flipkart itself and on this last occasion they entrusted the responsibility to Blue Dart and messed it up. Even though Flipkart have been able to set high standards of service delivery for their own delivery staff, but the same lacks in their partner- Blue Dart. For a customer like me, I don’t care whether the package is being delivered by Flipkart or someone else, I expect Flipkart to own the responsibility.

May be, this is the reason that Flipkart is not able to go beyond being a very good ‘online bookseller’ to becoming a full fledged ‘online retailer’.

A lesson for all start-ups (and other businesses as well) on how an improper partner can derail your long term goals and business strategy.

Bus ticketing space gets hotter!

July 28, 2012 3 comments

When RedBus– an online portal to book bus tickets was launched in 2005, many thought it won’t be much successful. Who will buy a bus ticket online? They said. Last year RedBus sold 50 lakh tickets from its portal. Which essentially means 13,000 tickets sold per day! RedBus is also said to be looking for acquiring offline ticket booking companies in Singapore and Malaysia.

Last week, TicketGoose raised $4.5 Cr from angel investors. The details of the investors and stake diluted are not yet known but the company is valued right now at $7 million. I had never heard of TicketGoose until this news broke out. Now check this out, TicketGoose books 4000-5000 tickets a day- which by no means is a small achievement, given the fact that they started out in 2007. In ticket booking, they come next only to RedBus and claim to have the largest inventory (partner bus operators) among all the bus ticket booking sites.

There are not many players in theis segment as of now. But, with RedBus gaining traction and TicketGoose managing a decent angel investment and acquiring a good chunk of customer midspace, the segment is bound to get hotter and attract more investments. There is another company called AbhiBus- which is a very small player as compared to RedBus and TicketGoose.

 

 

 

What happened to LetsBuy? Being choked to death by new parents!

May 21, 2012 1 comment

A few weeks ago, when Flipkart acquired LetsBuy (for a rumored amount of $25 million), there was a lot of speculation on what might be the future for the two.  I had also put forward my two cents in an earlier blog post  on where the online retail space is heading to. Flipkart management, in various statements had mentioned that LetsBuy will keep functioning as a separate entity.  But, as things are folding out, it seems that LetsBuy as a brand will not exist anymore.

There have been reports that all the warehouses of LetsBuy, except the one at Delhi, have been closed. There are also reports that 250 odd staff of LetsBuy at Gurgaon will be laid off.

So what actually happened?

One can only guess, and here is what I think what could have happened. I have three strong reasons which would have made the management think of shutting down LetsBuy

First, both the companies Flipkart and LetsBuy had same set of investors- Tiger Global and Accel Partners. Flipkart, which had majority of its revenues coming from the sale of books and smaller electronic items, had been expanding its scope of operations. Although LetsBuy had a wider range of products to sell, the scale was much smaller than Flipkart. Of late, it had been struggling to raise capital from investors. It made sense for the current investors to mediate and help Flipkart take over Lets Buy than infuse m0re funds into Lets Buy and increase competition for Flipkart.

Second, both Flipkart and Lets Buy had operations in major cities. It did not make sense for the management to keep a parallel set of operations for both the entities. The set of cities in which the Lets Buy warehouses have been shut down already have warehouses of Flipkart.

Third, having a separate brand for selling similar items again doesn’t make sense. Also note, LetsBuy’s prices for consumer electronics were slightly lesser than those published by Flipkart. Although LetsBuy does have some brand recall in the mind of consumers, but Flipkart is a much recognized brand. Thus, killing LetsBuy makes all the more sense than keeping it.

All said and done, what was hailed as a marriage of convenience for Flipkart and LetsBuy, did not turn out so. There is more than what meets the eye. The guys front ending Flipkart (Sachin and Binny Bansal) are just the show and mouth piece of bigger players controlling the show- the investors.

Lost Ideas- Need to give them life.


A couple of days back, I was talking to a PhD student from IIT Delhi. She is doing research on the use of piezoelectric materials to trace micro-cracks in buildings and then assess if these micro cracks can pose danger to the structure of the building over next few years or decades. I liked the idea. I asked her what she wants to do in future. She said, she will complete her doctorate and start teaching in some University. And, what about the ‘micro-cracks’ idea? Ah! that’s just to write a good thesis and complete her doctorate- to get a teaching position at some ‘good’ university. So, you mean to say the idea will die?

The conversation went on to discuss other areas of research which her fellow researchers are working on. I confess, some of the ideas were just brilliant. But, where do they end- a handful of ‘papers’ published in some journals- which no one, beyond the research oriented faculty of universities read. Then I thought about the business ideas- many or them having won awards at various B-school competitions, which my classmates in MBA used to have. This not only the case of a doctorate student at IIT Delhi or at one B-school, this happens at hundreds of other institutions and forums. Hundreds of brilliant of ideas just fade away and die. Not even a fraction of them get commercialized and never benefit the society. The Lost Ideas.

I thought over this demise of brilliant ideas and propose to have a data base called ‘Idea Junction’- a drop box for ideas. Where anyone can submit his/her idea. The database will be accessible to others who have the resources and the will to start a new venture but are looking for ideas or an investor who has capital looking for investing in smart ideas. This ‘entrepreneur needs and entrepreneur’ can give life to ideas slated to die. A lot of students just drop their business ideas for the lack of ‘company’ and support. This approach of  ‘investor needs an idea’ and ‘an idea looking for adoption’ can  turn around and nurture the abandoned ideas.

As a next step, I propose to create an ecosystem around the ideas taken up for adoption so that they can be nurtured into business ventures and helped to grow. This would require a number of other ingredients (technical team, office space etc.) besides the capital. The next step of the approach will be ‘Coll-eTent’- Collaborative Entrepreneurship, where multiple parties can pitch in with their resources to create some thing big!

I just have some vague ideas around this right now. I am working on the details and will try to create a first cut model before testing it in a prototype form.

This attempt is based on collaborative effort, so, if anyone is willing to help me in this attempt- he/she is most welcome to join in!

What does Instagram & Tagtile acquisition mean for Facebook?

April 21, 2012 1 comment

About a week back, the world woke up to the news of Instagram being acquired by Facebook for, an unbelievable amount of, $1 billion. A couple of days later, Facebook made another, much smaller, acquisition of Tagtile.

Why would Facebook spend a billion dollars on a start-up that has almost no revenues and has yet to celebrate its second birthday?

Many were surprised and asked, why would Facebook buy an app, that just turns the colors of your photos a little weird and posts them online. A year ago, when I first heard of Instagram, it was valued at $100 million and when it closed the latest round of funding, it was valued at $500 million. And, yes about a week later, Facebook bout it for twice that valuation.

Innstagram managed to garner 30 million users, despite being available only for iPhone users. Now that the app is available for Andriod users as well, it will blast past 50 million mark soon.

Let’s face it, Facebook is the biggest platform for people across the globe to share photos online- with millions of photographs being shared every day (yes, every day!). Where as Facebook and Instagram both are photosharing platforms, Instagram also has the advantage of  ‘mobility’- which Facebook lacks. With the booming sales of smartphones and availability of high speed mobile data networks across the globe, mobile platform is the future of social media. And, Instagram was doing it right! So, the $1 billion valuation of Instagram is justified keeping in mind the returns it will bring in the future.

And, why Tagtile?

Tagtile is an application where the commercial establishments can keep their customers engaged with the help of Loyalty programs, through their smartphones.  With more and more commercial establishments getting on to the social commerce bandwagon, it made sense for Facebook to buy Tagtile and catch up to speed with social commerce.

Pause and Rethink- Pivot your startup.


Groupon, the most popular deals site, was launched in November 2008. Starting with a $1 million seed funding, it quickly reached a billion dollar valuation. But, the company did not start as we see it today. It started as a campaign website called “The Point” (http://www.thepoint.com/). The Point lets one start a campaign asking people to give money or do something together, but only once a “tipping point” is achieved. Soon, the founders realized that they were not going anywhere with this venture. The idea itself was very vague and did not have a specific market segment or set of customers in mind. But, the founder- Andrew Mason realized, that one of the features of The Point was that it gave ‘bargaining power’ to the group of people. This clicked the idea for his next venture- The Groupon. The site started by providing coupons for deals on different products and services. To get the vendors agree to the discounts, the Mason team used the ‘tipping point’ feature of The Point. The founders slowed down on The Point and launched Groupon- and in the process scripting the billion dollar success story.

This is not a one off instance where the original idea did not work as it was expected to. While launching a venture, majority of the times the things do not go as expected. Even if the entrepreneur has a detailed business plan, there are still many factors that he would have missed. There are chances that by the time the venture is launched, the economic conditions change, there are better and cheaper technologies in the market place or the customer demands have changed drastically. With all these factors working against it, the going might get tough for the venture. When the going gets tough, work on course correction or what is called “Pivoting” in the world of start-ups.

Course correction or pivoting is very important not only for the success of the venture but in many cases for the survival as well. Pivoting might in the form of a small change in the price of the product to a change in the features of the product or even to the extent of change the product altogether. In the extreme case, the founders might want to cut the losses, shut shop and go back to the drawing board again and redraw the plans.

If the venture is not working as you expected it to, you might want to pause and have a re-look. Most start-ups have limited amount of money for operations. There are four major ways in which one can try to pivot the startup.

Zoom-In Pivot: Many a times what was earlier considered a single feature of the product can actually become a whole new product in itself. Thus, what was actually a small part of the whole offering takes the center stage and changes the whole dynamics around the offering. This was the case with Flickr. The photo sharing application was a small feature of the massive multi player online game, Game Neverending, which the team was developing. The photo sharing feature appealed so much that it was developed into a whole new offering- Flickr. The online game was dropped mid way.

Zoom-Out Pivot: Sometimes the product does not sell because there are no supporting services or products around the offering. This situation calls for zooming out and providing the whole package with some other products or services complementing the original offering. Thus what was originally the whole product might become a small part of the bigger offering.

Customer Focus Pivot: The product offered by the venture might be attracting customers but the customer segment might be different from the original vision of the venture. This means, the offering is solving a real problem but the customer segment is different. Thus the offering has to be tweaked/ optimized for the new segment to shift the focus to the new customer segment.

At other times, the customer segment might remain the same, but the needs of the customers change. The product then needs to be changed according to the changed needs of the customers.

Technology Driven Pivot: Sometimes the startup discovers a new way to achieve the same solution by using a completely different technology. This type of pivot is of advantage when the new technology can provide price and/or performance advantage over the existing process.

It is not mandatory for a startup to pivot to become successful. But, if one is facing challenges in the venture, he might think of stopping, pivoting and starting again. Pivoting should not be mistaken for failure of the startup, its reinventing the venture by part or all over again. Even the startups that do not need to pivot must always keep scrutinizing their operations to check what is working and what is not and why something is working while the other is not. Pivoting works best when done in the early stages of the startup and done fast. The older the business gets the harder and costlier it is to pivot. The whole idea is to enhance the effects of what is working and minimize the effects of what is not.

MuSigma- The wonder kid of Analytics, raises $108 million.

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

In one of the biggest Private Equity deals for a startup in India, Mu Sigma closed a $108 million investment round lead by General Atlantic.  Earlier in April 2011, Sequoia Capital had invested $25 million, now has $50 million invested in Mu Sigma.

The pattern in which General Atlantic invests in companies (generally it picks up 15-20%), the investment puts the total valuation of the Mu Sigma at about $500 million.

Mu Sigma, started by Dhiraj Rajaram in the year 2004, is in the business of Analytics and Decision Support. The company is touted as the wonder kid of the emerging market of business analytics and research and helps organizations solve high-impact business problems/decisions.  It provides business intelligence, econometric tools and predictive modelling services to help clients such as Microsoft and Dell take major business decisions ranging from new product launches to decoding customer reaction.

Mu Sigma employs 1,500 in Bangalore, Chicago (where it is based) and a few other cities in the US.  The company has grown rapidly since its founding in 2004, in fact, its 2008-2010 revenue growth of 886 percent earned Mu Sigma a spot in the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies.

The best part here is that Mu Sigma is already profitable and will use the capital to expand its operations and reach in the sunrise market of business analytics.

Company website: http://www.mu-sigma.com/