ITE – Neem Twigs (Daatun) to replace Toothpastes

I received a Neem powder based tooth powder from a friend and after trying it for a couple of days only I felt fresh, gums were happier and there was a sense of not putting chemicals in the mouth first thing in the morning. Traditionally people in India used to chew a twig from Neem tree to clean the teeth and mouth in general in the morning.

Neem tree grows almost across the country and grows pretty fast. Best option would be if people could go to the nearest tree and pick a twig and use it, but given our densely populated urban centers that can not have trees or not enough trees for the population. So I think there can be a business case for packaging these and making them available at retail stores.

This may be a good idea for organic products manufacturers, but the idea is so simple that it can be picked up by anyone. As idea exists in my mind today, it does not look like a high investment option, but this needs to be thought through.

Innovation would be required in packaging and them marketing it, getting people back to it to it.

Organic India and Neemfoundation gives more information about this native and medicinal tree.

ITE – Indian version of Family Tree Portal

I have been a member of MyHeritage portal for more than two years now and have been observing it very keenly. They started with a small family tree application with limited functionality, but have added many features since then. It now lets you update photographs, reminder for birthdays and anniversaries send gifts on special occasions and join the dots with other family trees in the system. It even gives you the statistics of the family like gender ratio, relationship status, distribution by places, age, Zodiac signs  etc. It even allows you to integrate your DNA tests.

Basic functionality is that it lets you create an extended family tree, a job that the Pandas in Haridwar used to do when they maintained the family logs. I think an online version will do wonders as our families get spread across the globe. All said and done there are lot of things that we still restrict to the family like small rituals and functions, sometimes even bigger ones like marriages. Sometimes we need to announce changes in the family like deaths or new additions without really making an explicit statement. All our family members may not be connected to us on our social networking co-ordinates.

Customization for India would involve:

  • Ability to identify relationship by Indian names. We do have a defined name for most relationships.
  • Now each region in India has different names for relationship like a Sister is called Didi, JiJi, Akka, Khala, Bahanji depending on various factors like age, religion, region – so you can provide the choice to choose the name used.
  • We have many relationships that are recognized by age – e.g. siblings or parents siblings
  • Lot of our festivals are relationships based like Rakhi and Karva Chauth, so identify those relationships and create an event that can do reminding or enhancing the experience like gifting or suggesting ways to engage.

Monetization:

  • Advertising can be a source but you can never rely on it
  • Tie up with gifting companies, medical insurance companies
  • Matrimonial verification services – yes, they are very valued and people would be willing to pay for it. In fact Matrimonial websites may ask for the family tree id to verify the details
  • A sub category could be finding matches as well in the intended families
  • Printing of yearly family pictures in form of calendars / picture books / travelogues
  • Customized merchandize for the family
  • Customized gifts for occasions like weddings and birthdays
  • Preventive measures based on family medical history ( Ok, this is far stretched…)
  • Of course there can be free / paid & premium accounts

I am sure this idea can be developed further. I think it has a huge market potential because of the importance that we still attach to the families.

Would be happy to hear from anyone who is willing to explore this idea.

ITE – Post Paid Legal Aid

A few months back Times of India stole a picture from my travel blog and even after repeatedly writing to them they refused to compensate me for the picture. I am still pursuing the case with agencies like PCI and if required will go to the court soon. Last 4 months have been an immense learning in terms of legal processes and the apprehensions that we as common people in India have in approaching the courts. I also came in touch with many individual professionals who are also fighting a similar battle with one or the other media house, and this idea comes from the collective helplessness of common citizens when they fight for their rights against a corporate giant or a government agency.

Idea is to have a law firm that can take up these cases for general public at no or some nominal cost but take a part of the compensation that the individual gets as per the court orders. Now I am not too sure about the legality of this but I know that a lot of people will be willing to share the compensation but are too scared to put in there good money after the money they have already lost in the process.

Given the number of such cases, the market potential of the idea is huge. You can bring in complete transparency by publishing these cases online and report on the progress made on them. Give the agencies an option to settle out of court if they and the client want, and still take your share of the compensation. There may be a risk associated to the extent that cases sometime can take a lot of time and your client may not get compensated at all, but I think the law of averages would work and numbers would work out eventually.

Can some lawyers reading this add to this idea or critique this idea?

ITE – Complaint Management

Today most service providing consumer organizations are facing a deadlock with lot of consumers who are not happy with their complaints. They have their dedicated customer care units, but all they do is send you an automated e-mail saying ‘Assuring you of best of our servives’ while they do not even understand the problem. Customers keep writing, sometimes they get the calls from various people in the organization who only say ‘I will get back to you’ and your problem remains where it is. Most of these problems are systemic issues in the organizations which they are either not aware of or try to ignore the scale or impact of the complaint.
A case in point is Airtel. You can get a connection with required documentation, but try giving up that connection. Almost impossible. You fill the forms, you write e-mails, you tell them s strict NO on their persuasion calls, but they do not disconnect and keep sending you the bills long after you have moved from the city and have not used their services. Many customers across the country have faced this problem. The key problem is there is no SLA on disconnecting. In their bid to maintain the number of subscribers they do not want you to give up their services. But that does mean they do not have a documented process to do so.
Idea is to create a problem that understands problems from customers and based on the collective problem asks the company to sort it out in a given time frame. This idea has been tried by Govt, but failed miserbaly. they in fact wanted to charge the brands to provide this service, and apparently brands were willing to pay. They could not get the right momentum going on this initiative and hence never took off.
I propose a slightly different version of the same complaints portal – Sign up with few brands – Telecom companies and large private Banks would be a good beginning. Use the social media to get complaints – when consumers are suffering they will hold on to any straw handed to them. And see if you can be the mediator between the consumer and the company. Works well for everyone, consumers do not have to take a legal recourse which is expensive and time taking, companies can sort out their issues peacefully while improving their internal systems.
There are smaller organizations doing it in a small and specialized way, like The Hoot that takes complaints against media misconduct and tries to get them sorted.
This can be a non-profit idea, or you can charge the brands a bit for each complaint that you take to them. This idea requires some knowledge of law, consumer rights, knowledge of focussed organizations working in some niche areas and operating processes of business organizations. This needs to be tested as you are trying to make a business model based on disputes and complaints.
I am happy to announce that entrepreneur Prateek Narang has picked up the experience gifting idea and is working on it.

ITE – Online Experience Gifting

The concept of gifting and the nature of gifts has changed over time. When we were kids, we wanted games and clothes, when we were teenagers it was all about greeting cards, then came the age of flowers and chocolates, then books and now you have to really think hard to find a gift for most people. The current trend is moving towards gifting experiences as with reasonable levels of affluence people often like to choose their own stuff. Gift vouchers are there, but they are very impersonal and formal, they are like saying take this money and buy yourself whatever you want – works for formal relationships.
Experience gifting can be personal gift, tailor made for the person and the occasion to make the receiver feel special or gift them something that they may not buy for themselves. Let me give you some examples:
  • Gift your parents a luxury dinner on their birthdays / anniversary. Have them picked up from home, dinner served and dropped back. Yo should be able to design it sitting anywhere with your favorite restaurant and have it delivered on the given date.
  • Gift your better half a spa treatment at the best spa in town
  • Gift your amateur photograph friend a photography workshop by best known photographer
  • Gift a culinary workshop as a wedding gift to your friends
  • Gift a custom designed treasure hunt to all the kids at a family gathering
  • Gift a custom made vacation to your friends / family
Ideas are infinite.
Can you setup a website, that will let people gift experiences in collaboration with the service providers of these gifts? If you think it is a good idea, talk to me.

 

ITE – Repair Centre

In this time and age, repairs is becoming a vanishing concept. It is difficult to find someone who can repairs your clothes, shoes, household goods specially in the upcoming areas dominated by shopping malls. At the same time repair is something that is needed to keep the green cause moving. If you can setup a center for all kinds of repairs say:
  1. Tailoring – including repairing broken shoes, bags, curtain rings, changing sofa covers etc
  2. Appliances repair – maintenance of mixers, iron boxes, TV
  3. Home needs РPlumbing Services, Carpentry services, painting job
If you can provide this at a single point of contact, you would be a big hit. Trick would be to provide reliable and dependable service. If you can establish a pool of trained or skilled service providers, there would be no dearth of customers. Challenge would be manage such a pool and run them professionally. Customers will be willing to pay and even give you time to serve if the service is dependable.
You can either target it for urban upper middle class, and work on a low volume high margin model or for the large middle and lower middle class with high volume low margins.
Another variation of this could be a working women’s aid, all the help that she needs for running her house.

ITE – Tea Stalls / Chains

Tea is a basic India beverage. Most Indian love to have it, as a matter of habit, as a rejuvenator while breaking, as a company when they gossip with friends and sometimes without any reason. In the new India that is being built, Coffee Chains have cropped up in every nook and corner but they do not serve the basic chai, and even if they serve it comes at atrocious prices.
Can someone think of a basic tea stall that is neat and clean and serves the basic tea, may be a bit customized on the spot for the customer like letting them choose their favorite flavor.The cost involved is too much, skill required is available or can be easily acquired and there are no entry barriers as such. There can be two formats that tI can think of at the moment – one a small stall, very similar to the roadside stalls that we all use, but neat and clean with glasses or cups properly washed and dried before every use. Second is a chain like Cafe Coffee Day or Barista, that can be a bit higher end with proper branding, something like Cha Bars at Oxford book stores. This may require some capital, some planning and a long term strategy, but stalls is something that can be done at a very small level too to begin with. I would love to see these stalls in all shopping malls where getting a cup of tea is almost impossible and this is a place you really need when you are tired of shopping, when you have to wait while your other family members shop or when you have to just wait for someone whom you plan to meet there. I think even a small stall serving basic chai in a neat and clean environment can do toms of business in shopping malls and in similar urban areas.
I heard of couple of such experiments in bangalore malls but am yet to see how they are doing. Any ideas?

ITE – Laundry Services at Tourist Locations

This one may be micro-enterprise.

Doing your laundry is a basic requirement wen you travel for more than few days. Laundry charges are very high at most hotels, sometimes more than the cost of the garment itself. You have a choice to buy new pair of garment but then carrying them is a constraint. In fact if convenient and reasonable laundry services are available, most travelers would travel far lighter than they do now.
Idea is to put a small washing machine at a convenient place, where people can go and do their own laundry for a per load cost. A dryer would be an additional help as would be an ironing board. The total cost of equipment can be around 20-25 K and the minimum can be 10 K. The constraints that you need to figure out is that of space and water availability. 
My hunch is that people would be willing to pay something like Rs 100-150 per load of washing, but this of course needs to be validated. Idea is small and can be easily tested a couple of locations. Long term travelers would love this. 

ITE – Bill Management for Households

There are 10-15 monthly bill items that an average middle class household has to pay. Most of these bills land up at different points in time and have different due dates raging from a 1-3 weeks time after the bill is delivered.

Can someone develop an application where I can put all my monthly bills in one basket and pay at one go. There are a couple of ways this can be done:

  1. Service provider can have a pre-paid option where I put an approximate amount for my total monthly bills. I upload information about all my bills at the beginning with an option to add / modify / delete. The application pays my bills as they come and uploads the receipts in my account. I do not have to bother about individual bill payment. I may choose an option to get every bill in my e-mail box to validate it or may be authorize it to be paid. 
  2. The application should work out 1 or 2 dates which are most appropriate for me to sit and clear my bills for the month. 
  3. Application can also work with my bill payees to send all my bills between my chosen dates and then collate them for me to pay.
A detailed study of this need, needs to be done. I think there will be a market for this service as people often forget to pay some bills unintentionally. With the traveling and mobile populations, paying the bills becomes even more tough, specially some bills like electricity bill that can not be paid electronically. It would need tie with regular bill sending agencies.
My laundry list of monthly bills to be paid is:
  1. Mobile Bill for each family member
  2. Electricity Bill
  3. Water Bill
  4. Gas Bill – for piped gas users
  5. All Credit cards
  6. DTH / Cable service
  7. Maintenance of the building
  8. Rent ( in case you live in rented accommodation)
  9. School fees 
  10. Membership fees for clubs 
Other optionals that can be explored are:
  1. Newspaper bill
  2. Milk Bill
  3. Maid 
  4. Driver
  5. Dhobi
While the optionals may look difficult at the moment, I think that is where the real opportunity lies, specially with UID coming in and this can be the way to pay your support staff through a bank and force them to have an account.
If anyone wants to work on this, please get in touch with me.

Launching Ideas to Explore

During my numerous readings, during my everyday experiences, during my interactions with all kinds of people, often some thoughts and Ideas cross my mind. Some of them have the potential to be explored as potential businesses. For a long time, I kept the ideas in my mind thinking that may be someday I would work on them, but I realize that ideas also have a shelf life and if you do not experiment and work on them they either become obsolete or are done by someone somewhere.

So, from now on I want to post my ideas here, whenever I come across one, and they are openly available to anyone who wants to work on them. If you want to discuss them with me, I will be more than happy to take them to next level with you.

Tell me what do yo think about this. The first idea will soon follow.