Friday, August 17, 2012

The next level of Entrepreneurship

At many of the start-up get-togethers, I keep hearing of other "entrepreneurs" talking about their ventures along the lines "We are making the xyz of India" where xyz is a popular/successful venture in the US/Europe, and their business model is to simply imitate the business locally.

The hottest among many "entrepreneurs" is e-commerce. Even for a person watching TV once in a bluemoon, I'm amazed at the new online retailing ads.,,, the list is endless. The speed with which these dot coms are mushroming is scarily reminding me of the late 90s when there was a similar dot com hype followed by a bust. I am not sure if the founders an investors have applied their minds in finding out how they can be really profitable selling stuff at discounts without passing on investor money to customers as discounts. True, not having to spend on retail space will help to an extent, but the moment it becomes hugely popular, one needs to invest in large warehouses - the cost of operations will go high.

In my opinion imitating a business model tried elsewhere is just at the lower level of Entrepreneurship. What we need is the next level where we solve real problems, by using solutions invented here. I think every aspiring entrepreneur should read this article by Mukund Mohan, where he hits the nails by saying:

My humble request to Indian entrepreneurs is ‘Please dont build any more “I’m bored” apps’.
I am not trivializing the need for “fun” apps.
All I am requesting is that the highest IQ folks should be working on the highest impact problem areas to aid most humankind.

We need to look beyond the metropolitan cities and find ways to solve real issues that affect India.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Google Plus as a content reader

I've been trying out for the last few days - using Google+ as a content reader tool. With its new magazine layout on android devices, and lots of great circles to choose from, it brings content to me from people who are otherwise not available on other aggregators like Google Currents or Zite or Pulse.

I wonder how many others may have tried this. And if Google is able to get good no-nonsense content to Google+, it may attract no-nonsense users. It may not be able to compete with Facebook in terms of quantity of users, but can carve a good niche market for itself.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Apple and the invention debate

Probably the best analogy I have heard - Apple is a great recipe company - they use ingredients already existing to make an awesome dish. The most objective and neutral view that I've come across. Good to see, instead of fanboyism from either side.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Will only cheap products succeed in Indian markets?

In most of our interactions involving marketing products for India, one hears the generalized view that "In India, unless the product is cheap it will not succeed".

From my experience in marketing technology devices, the price of any tech device depends on the cost incurred by the customer due to the problem the device is trying to solve, and also the other alternatives available in the market. That the tech device is able to solve the problem is of utmost importance, and not the price.

The best example is the Akash tablet. At 2500-3500 rupees you have a really clumsy device which does not solve anyone's problems. Instead, at 6500- 9000 rupees you have various tablets, including the micromax funbook, which address the customer's need to have a handy device with which to browse the internet. One would rather pay a little more and have something which works, rather than save a little and end up with something which is useless.

Innovation need not be focused on making 'cheap' products, rather the innovation could be in a business model where a moderately priced product is made affordable in a pay per use or some other revenue model. My belief is that in the same way rural India warmed up to the sachet SKUs for urbane products like shampoos, Indian customers may pay premium on smaller affordable units that work.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Innovation: Local or Western?

In a recent debate, Peter Thiel, well known technology Venture Capitalist, made a comment that India and China need not innovate anything, rather they need to just look at what is successful in the West and copy that. A good write-up on why this approach is wrong is written by YourStory

And today, Hindustan Times has written about Prof Anil Gupta, who had moderated the panel discussion on innovations at Emtech 2010 (in which I was a panelist) and his work on discovering and popularising Indian innovations. The list of some innovations that have made a huge impact on the ground, but are totally indigenous and popularized by Prof Gupta must be an eye opener for Peter Thiel. I think none of these could have been thought of in the West.

I believe that each region comes with it's own separate challenges. I have seen this happen before - the West looks at solving problems in an entirely different way from the way the East does. This is not to say that one of these methods are better, but only to say that each place has a different set of constraints, and for the best solution to the local problems to emerge, the solutions have to emerge from places where the local constraints are best known. For example, taking the case of Vortex ATMs, I think the greatest innovation is not the reduced cost of ATMs, but the fact that due to its lower power consumption, the back-up time is greatly multiplied. The optimized solution for power constraints emerged only because the solution emerged from India, which faces a lot of power problems.

Similarly, the solutions like the cycle powered washing machine could also only emerge from places where making regular washing machines are a problem - places facing a lot of power cuts.

Hats off to Prof Gupta for his tireless efforts in spreading these ideas and popularizing them. May the local inventors thrive.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Android on x-86

I'm thrilled to make this post from Android Ice Cream Sandwich version ported to run on x-86 platform. Thus, I now have a really powerful "tablet" running Android. Having used Android version 2.x on phones and tablets regularly before, the 4.0 version looks and feels really cool.

Also interesting to note that there is an app called AIDE which can be used to develop and deploy Android apps directly from an Android device. In my opinion, this was the only stumbling block that prevented tablets from replacing PCs.

Kudos to the team that worked on this project. Amazing work. What's more, they also have a live cd equivalent which can be used to 'preview' it on your device before installing, and then install it on your hard disk on a multi-boot way. So your Windows & Linux installations can peacefully co-exist.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Article in CFO Connect - Skill Gap

The magazine CFO connect in their June issue published an article by me on Skill Gap. You can read the online version here, or download the pdf version from here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why be scared of hardware?

Recently I had a software requirement which needed an app to read some values received through Bluebooth. I sent out the requirement to a few people I knew and also some freelance website, but all of them backed out on reading the words related to hardware.

Many of them either backed out completely or grossly over estimated by order of magnitudes the time required to get this done.

As someone who had not touched software development in the last four years I didn't want to do it, but I went through Android documentation to roughly estimate it to be less than three days of effort. Whatever was needed was already encapsulated and abstracted to comfortable levels that one just needed to assemble a few pieces together.

Finally someone known to me got it done in under two days time. I fail to understand why we are so scared of hardware that we don't do basic analysis of simple problems.

Friday, March 9, 2012

IPad's price war - how will Indian market respond?

The Tablet market across the world is set to become very interesting with iPad prices being slashed tremendously. Most Tablet buyers will now actively consider the Apple stable too before making a purchase.

It will be interesting to see whether Apple will now take more interest in the hitherto neglected Indian market, with iPad now becoming affordable to many Indians.

Unless Android device manufacturers now begin to take care of software upgrades post sales, they will be very badly hit. There is too much fragmentation in the operating system versions, and this will be the most important concern to address.

If prices of low end tablets will further come down to keep up with competition, the lower end consumer will also benefit.

Certainly a very interesting stage, will this be the tipping point? If so it will greatly benefit my latest attempt at entrepreneurship

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Quote: Why Smartphones & tablets are picking up

My friend, Suraj, has this to say about the success of smart-phones/tablets:
It is not the jazzy UI or touch abilities that drive the success of smart-phones and tablets. The real reason is that now more and more people are addicted to internet & social media, and for accessing that, regular PCs/Desktops are an overkill. Smart-phones and tablets are handy devices offering connectivity to all your on-line activities, and this is the reason behind their success.
Well said.