Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rest in Peace Steve Jobs

Woke up today to the sad news of Steve Jobs demise. There aren't possibly enough words to measure the impact he had on modern technology and world. Leaving his astronomical accomplishments aside, what stands out to me is his humility. He spent the last 7 yrs of life fighting a rare form of cancer and even during those days he continued working and changing the world!! To me, his life is best summed up by his address at Stanford graduation ceremony in 2005: Stay Hungry Stay Foolish:
Rest in Peace Steve! You were one of the all time greats and will be truly missed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Future of Groupon and daily-deals sites (in India)

The past fortnight has seen some not-so-encouraging activity in the daily-deals sites space.  Facebook announced that it is ending its deals "test": Groupon has also postponed its proposed IPO There was also this great post on HBR on Groupon and future of online daily-deals business.

These items add credence to a growing concern on the future of group deals sites. Many industry veterans have questioned the sustainability of this business model citing high customer acquisition (sales & marketing costs) and lack of customer loyalty. I think these are valid concerns but it is early to say that daily-deals as a business is doomed to failure.

My concern with their current business model is their marketing/targeting style - I am subscribed to 3 group deals sites in India (Snapdeal, Sosasta (bought by Groupon), Fashinandyou) and receive their emails daily. However, these emails advertise all their offerings/deals and not the ones I would be interested in. This is a classic case of push v/s pull strategy. They are pushing deals on me without bothering to cater to my interests. Also, when I look for a deal on something specific - say "pizza", it is difficult to find information on their websites (there are no "Search" boxes on any of these sites). Considering that there are dozens of these sites in India (without any significant differences between them) an average shopping enthusiast will get a dozen emails each day and I am not sure if people even open these emails daily. I personally prefer searching for a deal rather than browsing through all emails.

The mushrooming of these deal sites has now led to the growth of deal aggregators (metasearch) industry i.e. sites which search for deals across these sites and put them at one location, similar to what Kayak does for OTA sites. Interestingly, there are over 20 such sites in India !! Now, how does one choose among one of these sites?

Clearly - there are just too many of these sites. With e-Commerce market in India expected to grow exponentially over the next decade, a lot of VC money has flown in India. Companies like Tiger Global, Accel Partners, Helion Venture, SAIF Partners, Norwest have been pretty active in the past two years and have invested in over a dozen startups.

While I am confident of the future of eCommerce in India, I think that daily-deals sites will soon have to change their business model to survive. Anyone interested in exploring this space further should read this great article: The Dirt On Daily-Deals Sites

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The web is what you make of it

Over the past few weeks, I've noticed this Google Chrome ad on several channels:

I love this ad because of its simplicity and message: "the web is what you make of it". This is so true - internet and sharing/networking sites have made it so easy to pursue your passions and even make money of it. I know some people who started blogging on topics of their interest. Slowly, their blogs became popular and they were eventually approached by publishers to write book(s). So, if you have a passion, the web gives you enough opportunities to pursue it. But there is a flip side to the viral nature of internet - if you publish something that people find ridiculous, the results could be catastrophic. A case in point, Rebecca Black, the US teenager whose video became one of the most watched videos on Youtube but not for the right reasons.

So, the next time you publish something on internet, be careful.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Google+ - Impressive debut

I got a Google+ invite last week and immediately started exploring it. The first thing I noticed (and loved) is the concept of Circles - a way to organize your contacts list. It is so intuitive - you drag and drop a contact to any of the predefined circles (Family, Friends, Acquaintance or Following) or create new circles.
When you want to share anything, you just have to choose the circles that you want to share it with. Google+ also saves your default share settings thus avoiding the hassle of choosing circles every time you want to share something.

So far I have found Google+ to be quite interesting and easy to use. Haven't spent a lot of time on it since there are very few friends on this network right now. But with more people joining Google+ each day, the usage will only increase.

The key question is how Google+ will fare in the long run. With 750 Million users, Facebook has the world's biggest social network and it is not easy for a user to migrate to another social network with existing contacts and data that has already been shared. Also, I am not sure if a user will share hist posts/pictures on both networks as it will be too time consuming. The big advantage Google+ has is its potential integration with other Google products - gmail, google search, google maps, picasa etc. This should allow users to share from within a google product and without having to log onto Google+.

The one Google+ feature that I haven't explored is Hangout - its group video chat feature. Immediately after the launch of Google+, Facebook announced an  integration with Skype (Microsoft owns Skype and also has 1.6 percent stake in Facebook with its USD 240 Mn investment in 2007) to launch a video chat feature. This goes to show how competitive this space is going to be with  Microsoft + Skype competing with Google.
I wonder if Apple will make a move into this space ;)

Here are 2 related interesting articles:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

E-commerce in India: Pleasant surprise with online book order

I was pleasantly surprised last week when I ordered Behind the Cloud : the untold story of how went from idea to billion-dollar company - and revolutionized an industry from Flipkart. I placed the order at 6:45 pm on Thursday evening. At 11pm, I received a confirmation email that book had been shipped, and at 4 pm the next day, I received the book. This took me by surprise - a book ordered online (no delivery charges, no special instructions) was delivered to me within 24 hours. The fact that this happened in India which is not exactly known for speedy delivery of goods makes it all the more impressive.
However, a closer look at the wrapping on the delivery package told me something - the book was delivered to me from a warehouse/store which was located just 4 kms from the delivery address. That explained the incredibly low delivery time.. I guess I got lucky. I'll keep an eye on the delivery time the next time I place an order on Flipkart.

This story apart, credit does go to Flipkart and other similar sites for improving the online shopping experience in India. e-tailing is a current rage in India and there are dozens of sites competing in this space. This intense competition means companies are trying hard to differentiate and offering sweet deals to customers. As a customer, I am not complaining :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The world cup just became interesting

After two weeks of not-so-interesting action, the world cup became interesting again with Pakistan defeating Australia and ending their unbeaten streak of 34 matches in the world cup. It is remarkable that Pakistan was the last team to have defeated them in the 1999 world cup. This will make tomorrow's match between India and West Indies very interesting. If India wins, they will play Australia in the QF, if they lose they'll play either Sri Lanka or Pakistan, depending on their net run rate after the match. This makes for an interesting situation - India has never lost to Pakistan in a world cup and has had a pretty good record against Sri Lanka. However, they have defeated Australia only twice in the world cup and the last victory against them was in 1987. The last time India played Australia in a world cup match was in the finals of 2003 world cup where they lost badly. Given this history, will India be better off losing tomorrow's match?

Hats off to the Pakistan cricket team. They have had a horrible past few years in Cricket - international teams have stopped visiting Pakistan after the attack on Sri Lankan team's bus in 2009; they have been mired in one controversy after the other - death of Bob Woolmer, ball tempering charges, doping charges, spot fixing charges and the subsequent suspension of their three top players just before the world cup. No one had given them a chance when the world cup begun but they have finished at the top of Group A. This team continues to surprise me.

Like I said, the world cup just became interesting and the real action begins tomorrow. I am confident that India will win tomorrow. If that happens, I fear for them in the QF against Australia ;)