National Innovation Summit 2015

National Innovation Summit 2015

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the National Innovation Summit organized by Aditya Institute of Management Studies & Research, Mumbai. Here are some thoughts from the same:

  1. For the first time I saw a management institute led by a woman – Dr Swati Lodha. You could see her imprint everywhere – in the well co-ordinated efforts of her staff and students. Her choice of speakers had a fair representation of women speakers. Do we need more reasons to put women at top?
  2. Students and faculty from multiple management schools participated in the event, making it a networked learning. It is important for us to create learning platforms where we let even our potential competition to learn and contribute to taking knowledge a bit forward
  3. The mix of speakers included management professors both from India and abroad, young entrepreneurs, industry professionals and I was there in the capacity of an author. There was a bit of skew towards Mumbai based speakers but then its not easy to avoid that. National Innovation Summit 2015
  4. I have spoken at many conferences – absolutely local ones to international ones and this is by far the best organized summit I attended. For the first time I was asked to share my topic of talk beforehand. A faculty and a student co-ordinator took care of all arrangements – I did not have to do any followups. This seems small but is good enough to create bad taste in the mouth of the guests. I was kept informed of everything.
  5. I requested for a round of the institute and ended up spending time in their small but interesting library. I wish I could recommend lot more books for that library.
  6. At the reception, there was a lovely idol of my favorite goddess – Saraswati and I was told that everyday there is a Pooja that is done. As a proud practicing Hindu, I was touched that a goddess of learning presides over an institute of learning.
  7. I learnt about Faaya – a fashion e-commerce venture that lets you get customized clothing and a venture by a very young Mridang Lodha.
  8. I missed the morning sessions as I was travelling from Pune, but I hope they the institute puts up the videos online soon enough for me to listen to them.
  9. Only place where I think they could have done better was putting up the event on social media with some live updates. Having said that, not doing so does not take away anything from the event, it would have just help them reach out to a larger audience.

    National Innovation Summit 2015

    Receiving award from Dr Swati Lodha – Director of Aditya Institute of management studies and research

  10. Finally, I want to thank them for giving me an ‘Innovator of the year’ award in digital space and for allowing me to speak on something very close to my heart – making ancient Indian wisdom relevant for contemporary Indian professionals.

 

 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Another year moves into the pages of history and if I look back it with a bit of nostalgia as this was a year where I received a lot.  A small list

  1. My book The Mouse Charmers hit the stands in April
  2. Anu Reviews – book reviews blog got an entry into the Limca Book of Records for being India’s largest book reviews blog
  3. I completed 10 years of non-stop blogging
  4. Attended a course on Improvisations in Indian classical music with noted singer Shubha Mudgal
  5. Attended two courses on Art history – one on Buddhist narratives and another on Paintings by Padma Vibhushan Dr Vidya Dehejia
  6. Spoke at India Non Fiction Festival & Goa Arts & Literary Festival
  7. Gave umpteen interviews at various print and online publications – primarily for The Mouse Charmers but also for blogging.
  8. Traveled to Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, MP, Delhi & Thailand besides moving to Goa in early January
  9. Participated in a community based project – Utopia Dystopia Goa at Goa University and this is when I put myself at an intersection to get new ideas – one of them will come to you next week.

Wish you all a year full of joys of new ideas and new experiences.

Thailand’s Best Friends Forever Campaign

Tourism Authority of Thailand

I was in Thailand for a week in July and I got to attend an event where the Thai Naval chief gave a message to the media from around the world when he said ‘ Travel and Tourism in Thailand are not just about the economy but about creating happiness. Happiness for Thai people and for the visitors’. Mega media convention happened on 22nd floor of the gran

d mall in the city center. I had earlier attended a similar convention in Malaysia last year, so let me share what I liked about Thailand convention:

  1. Instead of huge media kits they gave us a simple wrist bands in bright colors with the theme logo with a pen drive embedded in it. Pen drive contains all the information required along with high resolution pictures of important destinations in Thailand. I loved this idea, as on most such trips people whine while carrying loads of paper – compare it to carrying a small wrist band that also acts like a friendship band.
  2. The message from the government was simple and delivered in matter of minutes. They wanted to give a message that it is perfectly safe to travel in Thailand and tourists are welcome while enticing the audience with a lovely film on its known and newer destinations. This was followed by a simple dance performance where dancers emerged from the audience and then danced against the beautiful pictures displayed on the screen.
  3. There were ample food and drinks to entertain the guests who had come from all corners of the world. I was happy to see a table of Indian Vegetarian food that included of all things Samosa and Hariyala Kababs.
  4. At the ground level of the same venue was a street festival that included a concert and a parade. The part of parade I saw had Miss Thailand and other beauty pageant winners  going through the excited crowds on vintage open cars and some group of musicians.
  5. The media convention was coupled with Familiarization trips and I got to see the western Thailand with regions like Kanchanaburi and Hua Hin. Read more about my travels on my travel blog.

Thailand Tourism

We understand that due to recent curfew situations in the country there was a need to give a strong message to the world community that need not change their travel plans to visit Thailand. Thailand has a thriving economy around tourism and its share in GDP is around 17%. Bangkok constantly features in the top most visited cities in the world and Suvarnbhumi Airport is among the most geotagged airports in the world.

Thailand has worked on tourism products that include popular beaches for different categories of travelers, shopping destinations that range from street markets, night markets to high end mag malls, ancient archeological sites and cities and Budhhist temples. It also markets its local lifestyle very well by making things like floating markets a tourist spectacle. Though there is another kind of tourism that the country is famous for and I am not sure if they are making any efforts to move away from that image or not – or it is a not stated part of their promotion.

I think there are many things that other regions that are not as strong in tourism can learn from Thailand. One key success factor of their tourism is a intense local flavor that you can not miss irrespective of whether you are in a plush place in Bangkok or in a remote corner of the country. Many destination in a intent to replicate play around with the local ethos and fail, for a tourist comes to see what you have, not what can see back home or in any city.

5 Businesses that thrive on Corruption

Businesses serve a need, an unmet need of its customers. Sometimes they create the need and then serve them. Sometimes the need exists because the ones who are supposed to serve the need are not doing their job properly. Here is my list of 5 such businesses.

Drinking Water: Till about a couple of decades back, we used to drink tap water and I do not remember having any problems because of that. Today, in all major cities in India – you cannot have tap water directly and most of the times even boiling does not work. It gave birth to two industries – water purifiers and bottled water.

If the government could ensure clean drinking water to us, both these industries will shut down tomorrow. A simple question – if bottled water companies with basic facilities and limited workforce can take its bottles of water to far reaching corners of the country, why can’t our government agencies do the same with already laid pipelines and public funds and huge organizations at their disposal.

Inverters & Generators: Electricity is a basic necessity. Our lives come to a stand still if we do not have power for some time. Industries are completely dependent on power and a drop in power supply directly impacts their output. The need to ensure uninterrupted power supply gave birth to manufacturing of Inverters and Generators – more of the later that again runs on another non-renewable energy source.

The cost of running generators is far higher than providing electricity. If our state could provide reliable electricity supply these industries would go and so would a lot of pollution – noise and air. Have you ever walked in Delhi streets on a summer afternoon with generators making it impossible to talk to anyone?

I understand the need for electricity is more than supply at the moment. Can we work on reducing consumption so that the need comes down and hopefully per capita availability goes up? I know this is too simplistic, but then are not simple solutions the need of the day.

Security services: We see these security guards with no training in their usually blue or grey uniforms outside every building including some homes. Are these guards are really capable of providing any security except help with some opening / closing of gates and maintaining a list of visitors – that too as entered by the visitor. They do not look trained, can hardly be called physically fit and usually have no weapons with them. They have no legal rights to do anything with the threats and criminals and at best can raise an alarm that too if they can take their ears off that music being played through the phone or stop talking on the phone. What are they protecting us from? Are they not giving us a psychological false sense of security?

Why do we need this extra cover- because our state agencies are not giving us that sense of security! If the police could be trusted and hopefully collaborated with, we would not need security agencies. The capable people employed in this industry could be a part of the state security services.

Courier Services: No one can boast of a better network than Indian postal services for posts, parcels and money transfer. The cost of their services a fraction of what the private players offer. Only thing they do not offer is a guarantee that the item sent would reach and if it would reach in time.

Private Courier services on the other hand guarantee a service delivery at a given time and for that they are able to charge a hefty premium.  I understand the postal services may need an upgrade both technically and human resources wise, but then is it not the attitude of the people at our ubiquitous post offices that is fueling the growth of courier companies. Postal services are also missing out on the large e-commerce boom that they could have so easily tapped on benefitting both the department and the common citizen in far off villages.

NGOs: Most of the work that NGOs engage in (funded or otherwise) should ideally be done by the society itself backed by the state. If education is provided for, a fair percentage of NGOs would knock off, if social justice was provided to people on the margin another set of NGOs would be useless. If there is more equity in the society, most NGOs would not be needed. No NGOs and no need for funding for ulterior motives.

Can you think of anymore businesses that exist because of corruption? If yes, share your thoughts.

Goa International Travel Mart – Some Reflections

Last week I spent couple of days at Goa International Travel Mart – 2014, a B2B event that brings together different players of the travel trade and allows the local product owners to showcase their product to buyers from across the globe including domestic buyers. There was a fair kind of setup that allowed people  to showcase, interact and transact. There were media briefings about the new products and the future plans and of course there were Familiarization trips for both the media and the trade. End of it there was a knowledge session that focussed sharing new ideas for positioning Goa as a premier destination.

Before I put across my observations, I want to state that Goa is a major tourist destination by any standard. It has done quite a bit to reach and maintain that position. It was heartening to see that authorities are creating a 25 year long master plan for Goa Tourism – making it a key industry for the state. So here are some key points:

  1. Goa gets about 46% repeat visitors, some come every year and some from neighboring states many times every year. It is a very high figure for tourism industry  and I think many other destinations would die to get somewhere there. Keep it up.
  2. Everyone emphasized the need to sustainable tourism – no one gave concrete steps though.
  3. Some key initiatives taken to address the tourist issues is – exclusive beaches for women and induction of lady life guards. This is probably the first time this has been introduced anywhere. I would be keeping a keen eye on it to see how it is received by the women and how is  it executed and may be write about it at a later point in time.
  4. Festival Tourism : Goa has 1-2 festivals every month and each one is well promoted by the GTDC. Some are traditional and have been provided scale while others have been created ab initio to attract tourists or for tourists to do something any time they are here. Gia wants to introduce more festivals to its kitty. My opinion – Not desirable but understandable.
  5. Goa carries a strong branding for its Sun, Sea & Sand. GTDC is trying to position it as culture and heritage destination as well. Agree there are some heritage structures and some religious roots in the state – but are they the cornerstone of the state – I do not think so. Will it be easy to change the strong branding – lets see.
  6. GTDC wants to focus on religious tourism a la Andhra Pradesh that has Balaji and Tirupathi. I think it is a big mistake, because religious tourism happens based on faith and beliefs that a section of population has in a shrine. Ponda does have shrines for some Hindu communities but they are not big in numbers. The same goes for the Christian churches. I think these shrines will continue to attract the families that they do, pushing them to the tourist may not give too many results. But only time will tell, if marketing can outplay the faith element.
  7. They want to develop River Cruising and use rivers for navigation – very good idea – would lead to reduction of stress on the narrow roads of the state and would provide a novelty factor to the visitors.
  8. There were voices that spoke against the waste menace in the state, but no one spoke about the absence of public transport, specially to airport and to railway station.
  9. Goa was created as a tourist destination by the hippies and the backpackers. Today GTDC and industry wants to push them away and focus on the high spending customers only. My big question is Why? Carbon footprint of a backpacker is less than 10% of that of a high end traveler. When a tourist spends at a 5 star property, we do not know where that money goes but when a backpacker spends at a shack, a local eatery and shops around the every day shops – the money goes directly into the local economy effortlessly. A backpacker today would be a high spender tomorrow. Were we not all backpackers in our younger days? Are you saying you only need  the greying population that can pay for high end hotels? To my mind the only spends that differ between a high end spender and a backpacker is the spend on accommodation. If a hotel chain wants to focus on a segment of customers it caters to – understandable, but if tourism authorities want to do that – I would want to question.
  10. Prof Kapil Kumar of IGNOU brought out many issues:
    • He called tourism industry a hard economic warfare
    • He spoke about politics of tourism
    • He said safety is the prime issue that must be addressed else all marketing and promotion efforts would fail
    • He pointed out that tourist today are much better informed than many service providers and they must upgrade themselves
    • He professed the need for a marketing intelligence advisory – something that does not exist at this point in time
    • He pointed that no one in the industry raised an eye-brow when airlines reduced the weight of luggage that can be carried on – while the tourist suffers and that would eventually mean that tourism will suffer
    • He pointed the need for tourism research – a topic that I hope to contribute to sometime

Mytrah hosts Inspiring Solution Business Plan Competition

From a Press Release I received:

Saluting the entrepreneurial spirit, Mytrah, one of the largest Independent Power Producers will host Inspiring Solution Business Plan Competition. The competition calls for the best minds across the globe to present their entrepreneurial idea. The best idea will be provided with a seed fund of USD 100,000/- to set up their dream enterprise.

Participants can enter one of three categories – individual, start-up, and team. The competition is open to people above the age of 18 from any vocation or nationality. All one needs to do is harness their lateral thinking, creativity and channelize energies into drafting a business plan around their idea. In line with Mytrah’s philosophy, entries to Inspiring Solution should exude the following qualities visionary, change catalysts, perceptive to the needs of others, open, innovative and giving.

“We’re looking for thinkers, people who have courage, drive, passion, creativity and belief in themselves,” said Vikram Kailas, Managing Director, Mytrah. He further added, “Inspiring Solution competition provides an opportunity to make an elusive dream a concrete reality, which will create a ripple effect of positive change.”

The criteria for judging a business plan are threefold – The practicality of the solution being offered, the potential for running a business based on the solution, detailing and attention to financial projections, key metrics, marketing & sales strategies and understanding of market environment.

The finals of Inspiring Solution will be held on May 17th, 2014 in Hyderabad. The top three nominees will be provided with mentorship and guidance to set up their enterprise.

To participate and find out more information about ‘Inspiring Solution’, log on to http://www.mytrah.com/inspiringsolution and like it on https://www.facebook.com/thinkinspiringsolution. The last date for submission of entries is 25, April 2014.

Network effect of Business

Karan Girotra, Simone Marinesi and Serguei Netessine in their HBR Blog Can Groupon Save its business model examine the rise and fall of Groupon as a concept and as a business model. From its high valuations to its loss of business as a concept. What comes out of their study is the fact that the Groupon’s business model is not aligned with the business models of its key components i.e. its suppliers. Businesses want to give discounts when they have a lean phase or excess inventory and not when its peak season and sold out inventory. So if your discount offers are not aligned your model is bound to fail.

Extending the argument, a business must benefit both its suppliers and its customers. It must leave something substantial for the suppliers on the table and must do some value addition for the customers. If you think of benefiting from everyone without giving anything in return, you may not be building a sustainable business. A business is a part of a chain that has suppliers and customers and unless the component benefits both ends, it would not be required.

TiE-IQ Bootcamp II

TiE-IQ Bootcamp is a no contract and free  60-day bootcamp where the participating startups will have an opportunity to create products, launch companies and walk away with their spoils and a lot of learning.

This second edition of the TiE-IQ Bootcamp is restricted to consumer mobile product startups. It builds up on the successful bootcamp conducted by #TiEBootcamp for tech B2B products, earlier this year.

Selected startups will walk in to the TiE-IQ Bootcamp with just a minimum viable product (MVP) and take back the following :

  1. Mentorship and Workshops by entrepreneurs leading successful startups to help you.
    • Refine and finish the minimal viable product (MVP) into a ready to buy product
    • Market your product
    • Get the first few customers
  2. Peer Learning : Learn from some of the best startup brains developing.
  3. Working Space for two months in the heart of Mumbai.
  4. Software credits with some of the bootcamp partners (such as AWS )
  5. Interaction with some of the best brains in the venture investment world.
  6. Demo Day: Your chance to pitch to investors.

Who should Apply?

  • Enterprising (co-)founders and technology enthusiasts who want to build disruptive technology products or services for the Indian or global market.
  • Teams with 2-3 members that are capable to design, code and release a beta version of their product to market & sell it.
  • This batch will be restricted only to those individuals/groups who are building consumer mobile based products.
  • Applicants are expected to have at least a minimum viable product (MVP) ready before the start of the bootcamp. As part of the screening process, applicants would be invited to an MVP & lean startup workshop.
  • Participants are expected to work out of the TiE-IQ Bootcamp workspace. This is ideal for startups from Mumbai and Pune.
  • Please Note: Only those teams that show substantial progress post the kickoff and are ready to release the beta version of their product in first 2 weeks of bootcamp will be allowed to continue further.

How Much Does This Cost?

  • There are no fees to participate in the TiE-IQ Bootcamp, once selected. Participants are expected to have an active TiE membership.
  • There are no contracts or equity commitments to be made.
  • Commitment to work out of the TiE-IQ Bootcamp office in Mumbai ( Vile Parle/Santacruz Area)
  • A nominal fee may be charged for  open workshops, if any.
  • Travel and lodging expense (optional) may have to be incurred by the participants for any tours and trips that are conducted during the bootcamp.

How to Apply?

Fill this application form

7 Nov: Applications Open for TiE-IQ Bootcamp

24 Nov:  Last Date to send in applications for TiE-IQ Bootcamp

29 Nov: Final Shortlist announced

2 Dec: Bootcamp kickoff

For any further queries, please send an email to  [email protected]

People

TiE Mumbai has partnered with IndiaQuotient – an early stage venture capital fund,  Nexus Venture partners – a premier technology focused venture capital fund, Paytm – a compamny that provides  simple, fast and enjoyable experience for online recharges and payments, to run this bootcamp.

We have lined up experienced entrepreneurs, investors & senior professionals as mentors to work with you during the TiE-IQ Bootcamp – to bring the shine that your product needs before it hits the market and the method with which it hits the market! Selected participants will experience a series of workshops and high touch mentoring sessions to help them accelerate.

Three years with Apple MacBook

I have using an apple Laptop for three years now, it is a great machine but not without flaws as most of the owners tend to believe. Even after extensive use there are few things that can still make you wonder, here are some I want apple to take care of

1.     Your external hard drives will not work – you can not use the same drives for windows machine and apple
2.     You can delete but not release the space on disk – This baffles me.
3.     About 10% of websites do not work on this platform – specially if they are not developed in and for USA
4.     Even phone support has to be paid for
5.     Mini hard disks do not work – you can not pull them out of you have pushed them in somehow
6.     Need extra hardware to attach normal projectors
7.     No delete button
8.     You can not operate it with one hand
9.     It does crash
10.  Random information about battery status – one minute it shows 1 hour still to charge completely and next minute it is charged or vice versa.

 

Will HD Set Top Boxes Change the Advertising Model for Content

I have been on Tata Sky + HD Set top box for over two years now, and my Television viewing habits have changed forever. I no longer watch anything live, may be with a rare exception of real breaking news, that too after I have got it on alternate channels like twitter etc.

Why do I do that?

  1. It saves me time, I do not have to watch advertisements, I can simply skip them, and watch only the content that I want to
  2. I get to decide when I want to watch what, rather than someone at the TV channel deciding it for me
  3. I do not have to miss any real life event or a phone call – I can always pause and get back to the program
  4. I hardly go to cinema halls as most films are on Television within1-3 months timeframe, I can record them and watch them at my leisure, and keep the favorite ones stored forever – giving away the collection of old CDs and DVDs

The cost of these setup boxes was quite high couple of years back but has come down drastically now which means they are going to be adapted much more and the companies selling them are also promoting them big time. Now what would this mean for the basic revenue model that funded the content and its broadcast till now – advertising. The real victim in this nexus of technology and consumer is advertising, that is the first thing that gets skipped, making advertisers loose the money they have put in buying those coveted spots.

I can already see that in-content advertising has started making in-roads, to the extent that even in daily soaps now the brands that do not pay are being blurred, though in such a amateur way that they actually end up attracting the eye. As the advertising advantages from between the breaks goes down, advertising may come back into the content, with scripts being modified to accommodate them or my the technology will evolve to force you to watch ads and you will not be able to fast forward them. As a consumer, which of the two devils I can live with, I do not know as yet and I would not speculate as the experiential things should not be.