Half Girlfriend

On a lazy Saturday afternoon, during the Diwali weekend, I saw this book lying unread on our bookshelf. Chetan Bhagat is an author who did huge waves with the launch of his first book, however book after book have been thrashed. There is something about CB and numbers.

Continue reading Half Girlfriend

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.

Indian politics: A conundrum of choice

This can also be titled, why I do not bother to vote any more. But lets keep that aside for the moment.

Here’s the thing, there are basically only two major national parties (yes there are others who claim to be national parties, but who are we kidding). The Congress and the NDA. There are other small time players which keep on switching sides as they see fit.

Over the past 15 years of my conscious life, I have seen the rules of both the parties (sadly more of Congress and less of NDA … but that really does not matter).

Both the parties have proved that they are corrupt and have some really royal scams to their names when they were in power. Both the parties have similar agenda. Both the parties hardly live upto expectations (however there are some exceptions to these, but they will never make it to the top of the pyramid).

Another facet in this conundrum is the fact that the Constitution of India mandates that all political parties declare themselves as upholding the socialist values of the country (at least on paper that is!). I don’t know how Mamtadi has a communist party which is against the constitution, but when have politicians really adhered to rules? So lets not bark up this wrong tree.

The point here is that the constitution more or less forces all parties to uphold the same ideological values (if any!!). Add to it that many MLAs switch sides to get something more for themselves from these two parties.

So at the end of the day, instead of debating on ideological differences, we end up seeing a simple mud-slinging campaigns between the two parties. Look they swindled x thousand crores and look how corrupt they are. At the end of the day the party going to rule is going to swindle. And that’s the sad moot point.

To the common man, it really does not make any difference whether Congress or NDA are the ruling party. All initiatives taken are so miniscule in nature that they end up being money making schemes for the ruling party (and in some cases for the opposing party as well).

So I hope the conundrum is pretty clear here … which party to vote for? The end result is the same. Choice is just an illusion.

Customization in Retail Fashion

Back in the year 2006, when I was working for eYantra (which is a firm specializing in brand merchandise for corporates and corporate gifting), the buzzword in the merchandising industry was customization.

If it was a good looking merchandise, then it’s value rose by nearly 30%-50% if you could customize it to the customers needs. That was the time we got into a narrow niche of branded merchandise. Everything from iPhones to t-shirts used to be branded by the target corporate’s brand logo (as defined by their marketing team’s brand logo guidelines).

The going was good, and soon we had acquired our series A round of funding. This obviously attracted other players and companies based completely on customization were formed – companies such as Myntra.com (whose ads you see even today). Needless to say that Myntra has grown beyond customization and is now almost a full blown e-commerce portal.

It’s been almost 6 years since and I had almost forgotten about the retail and fashion industry. That was until I came across this smart company – they specialize in providing woven labels with the text customized as per your needs. You can check this site out – look here. The thing is that woven labels is not a new idea, in fact they have been around in Britain (in Coventry) for more than a century now.

The cool thing about these labels, is that you can order any amount you want and have them customized right there on that site. There is almost zero manual intervention in the order placement process and that’s what makes a strong case for customization in the retail markets.

If this kind of technology and business processes were there in India, then it would have taken the branding and merchandising market by storm. In a developing economy wherein almost everything needs to be branded, having a custom made woven label takes the branding experience in retail merchandise to the next level. The good part about developing economies is that they have ready access to the developed markets to look at successful business models.

In fact this idea is so awesome, I won’t be surprised if I start seeing a Label Yourself outlet in India within a few years!

Credit Cards in India

With the e-commerce sector in India booming, a lot of foreign investors are looking to invest as PE funds in Indian e-commerce ventures. Unlike the Indian outsourcing story, wherein the business is a case of derived demand, the e-commerce stories are catering to the domestic market. With different reports sizing this industry around 5000+ Crores in INR per annum, this is one of the moments in the India Shining dream. One of the major factors in driving this has been the credit card and personal finance industry in India.

The ease with which private banks are issuing credit cards is a testament to the process orientation of this industry. What unnerves me about this is that the same ease is shown when the same credit card user switches to a different card. Over a period of time, users wake up to this and start becoming consumers … demanding better deals on their cards and switching without a moment’s hesitation. What this results into is an easy way out to avoid paying one credit card and get access to another card. Yes … a credit card fraud. The first world nations have already faced this threat and have put up centralized agencies to monitor credit scores.

In the UK, you can do a credit check for free … and that too online. The thing is that such organizations have superior processes powered by reliable and cutting edge technology. Nowadays, I am reading about Credit Cards with Digital Displays. In fact, in the UK the industry is so mature that nation level reporting can be done to find out the country’s credit risk. There are 30 million UK credit card customers holding 66 million cards. Out of these, 62% of all UK adults had at least one credit card. What is great about this is that the government is keenly following this industry and has mandated to the credit card industry to clean-up all malpractices.

India, is still far behind it n these matters … we do have the Credit Information Bureau (India) Limited, but I tried getting a report online and I could not. I had to first make a payment of INR 470, at which I balked. I mean, shouldn’t this data be made available for free? At least to the user on whom its about!

The Credit Card industry in India needs to mature and fast! Otherwise the boon which is fuelling the start-up boom can suddenly become the bane of financial institutions. Proablems such as credit fraud and CIBIL look-ups for all credit related transactions should be institutionalized across the country. Private banks need to stop running after numbers and start working on how to reduce churn. Business analysts need to figure better predictive models for detecting possible frauds (ala Minority Report).

The credit card industry in India is still in the nascent phase, with rural areas still vastly unexplored, there is a huge scope of growth and this industry does require the support of the country to grow. Personal finance will increase personal funding … which will fuel the country’s GDP … reducing the Balance of Payments (BoP) … increasing the Rupee value. An aggressive consumerist movement can give this economy a shot in the arm, and the credit card industry is just winding up for that!

A Question of Ethics

Disclaimer: I do not have anything personal against IITians, in case you are one, then I am not judging YOU, do not take this personally. This is certainly not an IIT bashing post, but I prefer to think of it as a call to action. In case you have some clout in those areas, please think this through and do correct me if I am passing assessment based on the wrong sample set.

In the last couple of years, I have had both the fortune and misfortune of knowing IITians. Fortune because these people have raw brain power … the CAT although is the most competitive exam, but the IIT-JEE is the real test of thinking and application. Anyone who has cracked the JEE on his own merit, is definitely intelligent (although I can’t make such claims for all the people who have cleared the CAT ;-)).

The national institutes (IITs and the IIMs) are a haven of variety, and were created to be an incubation center of the nations next generation of talent. Due to it’s separation from the surrounding environment, and policies … these institutes have also become an eco-system having their own flavor.

Yes, talent is nurtured and given guidance. Some of them do great things … but do they teach things like Ethics in such places? I doubt it.

Of all the IITians I have met in the past (and there’s a lot of them), all of them have indulged in unethical behavior. From simple copying someone else’s notes, to downright corporate espionage. From avoiding taxes to downright embezzlement. From speaking a harmless lie to generate some laughter to downright filing a wrong criminal case.

It’s not a one off case that I am citing here, its 7-8 different people of different ages and in different circumstances. There is absolutely no qualm for breaking the law, or what’s ethically right. Perhaps its ignorance, but it could also be indifference.

You may say that they have their own set of moral code, but that code seems to be based on the premise of individual superiority over the rest. Which seems logical since they have been hearing the same thing over and over again – a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. I am not the moral police, but a basic level of ethics needs to be inculcated into the raw talent of the country.

They should follow the Spiderman quote -

With great power comes great responsibility.