Schedule

Maker’s schedule v/s Manager’s schedule

At 13 Llama Studio, we are a young and energetic team who works on multiple ideas at the same time. We are makers … people who tinker with code, libraries and see if we can put all of them together and create a beautiful kaleidoscope of an experience for our audience.

The Maker’s schedule

Designing, Development and any activity which involves creation for that matter is a thoroughly rewarding experience. However, it also puts you in a state of trance … a trance wherein you do not want to be disturbed. Not because you want to be rude and unresponsive, but because when you are in that state, you literally are building a castle in the sky.

This castle can quickly come tumbling down like a pack of cards if you were to be disturbed. This scene from the movie Social Network sums up how I feel when I get disturbed when I am wired in.

The maker’s schedule is not full of deadlines, it’s full of possibilities and experiments. The maker is someone who explores multiple options, plays with different things and creates something truly remarkable.

We do encourage makers, however, as a services firm, we do have deadlines. Which is why some of us have to shift modes from Makers to Managers.

The Manager’s schedule

In a year’s time we take on 20 or more challenging projects and deliver them (mostly on time and under budget :)). This requires constant updates with the business team, setting up meetings and achieving deadlines. This is where makers need to become managers and start actively managing the creation process.

At times it becomes really difficult to make this shift. A manager lives by the hour and generally has multiple tasks setup in a day. If an hour gets wasted, the other hours in the day can make up for that wastage. A maker on the other hand has few tasks in a day, but needs longer chunks in the day without being disturbed.

The shift

A lot of the work that we do is done in the wee hours of the night. This is not because we are suffering from insomnia or we love burning the midnight oil. This is because it is during these hours when we are not disturbed. It’s these hours (and the early mornings) that I try and schedule my most difficult tasks.

People who have worked in start-ups would agree with me when I say that most of the day is usually spent in discussing with the rest of the team as to what they have to do. This is the shift. The manager works during the day, the maker works during the night. It does wreck havoc with personal life, which is why most makers end up hiring managers as they grow.

The purpose of setting 13 Llama Studio was to have a team of makers ship awesome products. As an organization which is slightly older than a year, we are becoming more discerning with the people we want to work with (both employees and customers). However as we grow and scale up, we are going to require full time makers and full time managers.

Read More

apps

Rise of the App Economy

As a technical architect and a start-up enthusiast, part of my work is consulting organizations on how to go about implementing and monetizing their ideas. The past decade’s experience of working in this field, as well as having successfully built the product and development teams of two start-ups (which secured VC fundings) ensures that a lot of people are willing to share their ideas so that I can advise them on the implementation.

Each year has its set of trends. These trends become apparent when people read about them in TechCrunch / Mashable and then integrate them somehow in their plans. In 2014, Kleiner Perkins’ analyst, Mary Meeker announced that the Education and Healthcare industries are the ones to watch out for. A lot of individuals started thinking and re-shaping their ideas along those lines. Similarly, since 2013, the famous analyst has been saying that mobile Apps are going to dominate the way consumers are going to engage with the brand.

I am seeing more start-ups gravitate towards this concept every year. Everybody who has a product, wants to also have their apps in the app stores (both Apple’s and Google’s). Back in 2000, when the DotCom Boom was apparent, everybody wanted to have their own site. Currently, we are definitely seeing the App Boom, where not only do entrepreneurs want to have their apps, but also individual celebrities are launching their own apps.

App Development can be a costly affair, with native apps costing as high as 2000 to 3000 USD to develop for the most basic apps. Add multiple platforms (iOS, Android, Win8) to the mix and the development costs surge.

This is where app template marketplaces like this website help tremendously. The core functionality is already in place, what has to be created is the creatives and voila, a custom app is read! Not only is this approach a faster method, but also it is extremely profitable. With the app economy maturing, we are seeing retail consumers using their handheld devices more than television sets!

This means that the media consumption is changing, thus an app is slowly eating away at TV’s timeshare. With tablets growing at 80% Year on Year, I’d say that both mobiles and tablets are here to stay, and with them a horde of enterpreneurs, developers and investors who would be happily launching multiple apps!

Read More

2012Emerging-Technologies-Graphic4.gif

Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies

2012 Emerging Technologies

Every technology that is embraced by the world goes through a process of adoption. Gartner instituted this as the hype cycle.

What is the Hype Cycle?

The hype cycle talks about how any technology goes through the process of being talked about, being heralded, being written off and finally being adopted in mainstream businesses.

The graph you see above you shows the x-axis as the different stages of technology adoption, starting from the trigger or the invention of that technology, to the expectations of that technology by the enthusiasts, to the stage where it is discarded by early adopters to being finally understood and put to good use by smart users.

Obviously on the y-axis you have the expectations of the world.

Gartner brings in a third dimension to this graph by indicating a time period on when the technology will be a mainstream one. In this graph for example, the Cloud Computing technology is supposed to go mainstream within the next 2 to 5 years. This was made in 2012, so to interpret it correctly we should say that Cloud Computing will be embraced by all around 2014. People who are following the news of Cloud Computing can relate to the Trough of Disillusionment!

How do you interpret the Hype Cycle?

The hype cycle represents the time when a certain technology gets adopted by businesses. So, it has different implications for different people.

Software Developer

Learn to work with this technology early on, preferably in the Slope of Enlightenment phase. It will open up doors to many career pathways. Learn technology while everyone else is learning and learn it fast!

CTO of a start-up

Basing your product on a certain technology base will help your start-up catch the eyes of an investor. Your organization needs money and making the smart move to get the market talking about your technology adoption can get you that added PR. Keep an eye out for technologies lying in that Trough of Disillusionment phase, see how they can mesh with your product/services. Try a few prototypes, it’s well worth the efforts.

CTO of a mature organization

More often than not, you would be in charge of the operations team as well. In some few cases, you would also be the visionary of the organization (this should actually be your role). Try to find technologies which are about to hit the Plateau of Productivity and see which ones suit your requirements. It will bring efficiencies in your operations.

Keep in mind, that for most of these cases the idea would be to beat the competition in adopting a certain technology, so the focus would be on adopting the technology before it becomes mainstream.

At the end of the day, it is all Hype

Hype is after all extensive publicity. It is used to get the attention of people.

Bear in mind that if you do not want undue attention and if it is not broken, then you do not need to fix it.

However, some times you do get cues on possible disruptive technologies, be on top of those, since they have the potential to change your world. For e.g the way aeroplanes changed the shipping industry.

Sometimes all talk is still action!

Read More

foodpanda

With Foodpanda Good Food is a click away!

I have always believed that a person can live off the internet. With virtual offices and office-less organizations being a reality now, one can operate perfectly without leaving their house. Having said that, ordering food online was not being done so well in India … yes there are many people who are trying to do this for quite some time now, however I believed no one had nailed the experience.

Until today!

FoodpandaI decided to give Foodpanda a try. The site features many restaurants in India with their menus. I went to find the nearby restaurants in Mumbai. You can choose to directly go to your favourite restaurant and start ordering, or you can provide your locality and area and find interesting joints from where you could order. All online.

I decided to discover places and found a place called Rocket Sandwiches … the prices were affordable and the menu looked great. After 10 minutes, I was done ordering and the order was confirmed!

Foodpanda Order
The order which I placed on Foodpanda

The good part about the site is that the expectations and the wait time were given on the site for each of these restaurants. These wait times are fairly accurate and I was pleasantly surprised that the order arrived at my doorstep in the same amount of time.

The Pros

  • Simple site and to the point
  • The ordering process works and does not require you to be a rocket scientist
  • All the information you would want while ordering food is provided
  • Entire process is automated, I did not have to talk to a single person throughout the process
  • Good way to explore your neighbourhood joints or order food if you are in a new locality
  • The site keeps track of all my orders and allows me to quickly re-order the same items (I’ll just have my regular!!)

The Cons

Yes, there are a few of those!

  • There are quite a few modal pop-ups (which open-up as a separate layer of the page) in the site. Thankfully, you can close those pop-ups.
  • Ditto for the site-chat. If I do not wish to chat, then why is the functionality asking me to chat.

All in all, I am going to keep using this site!

Read More

saving-paper-trail.jpg

Saving your Paper Trail

Saving your Paper Trail

In the course of our lives, we create a large paper trail which we take with us as a means of identifying who we are, this trail involves

  • Identification proofs such as driver’s license, pan cards, UID (hope that works!), ration cards
  • Bills (telephone, electricity, credit cards) and their respective receipts
  • Mark sheets and Passing certificates (and thank god I have gone through that phase!)
  • Certifications
  • Insurance policies and other financial documents (pass books, cheque books, shares)

The list of paper documents we manage is endless … in fact as I am writing this, I know that there is one drawer-full of electricity bills in my house, all of my family members have a separate file for certificates and documents which is at least 2 inches thick. Despite of maintaining this growing trail of papers, when the time comes to fill taxes (which should have been a mundane task since I have been doing it for the past decade of my working life), I end up running around till the last-minute.

The problem?

A paper storage and retrieval system which is messy at best and chaotic at the worst. I am not alone in this war against documents, businesses suffer the same problem as well. For start-ups, the first 5 years go in peace, in the sixth year though, there is a drastic need to get all of your papers in place. That includes TDS filings, bills for incidentals, purchase documents, sales receipts … the list goes on. So what is to be done?

This is where Document Storage Solutions come into play.

Document Storage involves storage and management of important documents, records management for example or simple archival of the existing documents to be fetched at a later time. These solutions are also useful for governments, for example the UK government does use strong record management facilities to support their Freedom of Information requests from the citizens. However, FOI can only be useful where the document is actually stored, what about those  documents which are destroyed? Some problems are beyond the scope of Document Storage :-)

What is important for us here is that sometimes maintaining and storing all these paper documents becomes an issue (in terms of space, in terms of finding the documents at the right time), and that’s why services which can effectively maintain these services are being founded and I find them just the solution for saving you (or your organization’s) paper trails.

Read More

An interesting perspective to Technology

I have been working for the past decade or so, and almost always in the Technology department, in fact, I have headed this department in at least 3 different companies yet. In all these organizations, I hand picked and built the entire team from scratch, was involved in mentoring and training them as well. Yes, I am a technology geek and I am loving it!

Being a geek means having strong opinions about those things … when it comes to technology, yes I like to have a perspective about it from different view points. Notice the difference between opinion and perspective … the earlier has to do something with ego and may not be an open framework of mind to work with, the later is a bit more open and helps you broaden your views. This is one such post … my view about technology has been broadened … when I came to read Srinivas V.’s blog about Technology: A Citizenship Perspective. It’s an interesting perspective to technology, here’s an excerpt –

Technology enables us at three levels.

At the first, surface level, technology is a tool, a convenience, a method of doing things faster, with less effort, more accurately, etc. Using technology as a tool, we can achieve tremendous savings in terms of human effort and removal of drudgery.

At the second, deeper level, technology transforms into an enabler of scale and multiplied capacity to serve. Using technology as a scale enabler we can provide access to millions, provide anywhere-anytime support, etc.

At the third, deepest level, technology becomes an engine for human and social transformation. Technology then transforms man’s possibilities, man’s power to contribute, man’s ability to significantly change the equation between him and traditional systems of delivery and control.

Ahh … it can be a mindful to go through the entire bit, the original post is even lengthier (and I would advise that you read through it atleast a couple of times before you decide to comment!).

So, we all know that an ipod is essentially an mp3 player. It helps us to listen to music that we want to listen to. This would be technology as a tool. If we get stuck here, then we would end up harping about processes, methodologies and functionality.

If we go to the next level, then this same functionality which was being done for 1-2 people now needs to be done for a 1000. It should scale. If we are at this problem … then you are handling scalability. We would end up talking about uptime, users, requests per unit time and so forth. This is a numbers game, how many more can I handle – that’s the question that you would end up asking your system.

The third level that’s being discussed changes the way we normally do things. Apple changed the way we listen to music, Google changed the way we use email, Facebook is pretty much dictating what we do online in our idle time. Technology that changes you.

To be honest, my initial response was to disagree with this, however think about it. When people work on a technology … the approach they are taking decides which level the technology will go to. If they build it to work, it will be a tool. If they build it to scale, it will be a scalable tool. If they build it to change lives, it will be a transformative tool. Most of the awesome products that we know, were created with the change in mind. Not functionality, not scalability … but change. And change they did.

Read More

olx

OLX is not only Badi Badi Baatein

If you have missed out on the Badi Badi Baatein ad which has been running on the television for quite some time now, do check it out. I am embedding the ad below as well (I love the melody and the jingle … not to mention that sometimes I do identify with the procrastination tendencies as well!!)

OLX is the india classifieds of the internet. Where people go to the site for searching good deals, selling their stuff or even offering professional services.

Online Marketplace

The market for local online market places is heating up. The once free model of Craig’s List has suddenly seemed more viable and profitable by a lot of Indian players. However, do not worry, the local marketplace model is not only Badi Badi Baatein … there is huge money in this business.

How does this free model turn profitable?

Well, lead harvesting for one. Providing correct information to the people seeking it for another. Essentially creating a marketplace where otherwise there was only ignorance.

Where else would I go for finding a second hand slightly used Samsung Galaxy SIII for INR 20000?

As I said before there are multiple players in this game … but I feel of the lot, OLX is different.

OLX stands out

With a clean User Interface (UI), simpler forms and very easy user experience, I have found that OLX is the easiest to operate. Yes, I do use the site for promoting my companies offerings in the different targeted cities.

The good part about the OLX site is that when my ad goes beyond the listing due to inactivity, I get reminded via an email … clicking on the email automatically logs me in and lets me edit my listing. This way, I can fine tune my listing and hope to generate more business.

Success is not only defined on how well the website looks … if you have gone through any of the different and varied category/city listings on OLX, you will suddenly see a plethora of different listings … people wanting to purchase something or the other, people offering services … the perfect online souk.

Going ahead

In any market, there initially is a lot of people who are shouting and vending their wares … over a period of time as the market matures, the successful businesses buy out the lesser successful ones and the market quietens down. And from there a clear leader emerges. I won’t be too surprised if OLX is among those leaders of online local marketplaces in the future.

The fact that they have received their Series A funding simply goes to point out that people are willing to put their money where their mouth is and that this business is a profitable one.

Read More