Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book Review: I Too Had a Dream

I Too Had a DreamI Too Had a Dream by Verghese Kurien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With autobiographies I sometimes don't understand how deeply you trust what you read, how you verify the facts and what alterate sources to trust. Thence I am generally not a big fan of reading autobiographies even though I love biographies. Nevertheless I am happy I picked up this book for this is an honest account on Mr Verghese Kurien. You can feel the empathy for customers in his words. You can see his intent and passion for cooperatives.

The book begins with early life of Mr Kurien and how through an accidental turn of events Mr Kurien was forced into diary engineering and then working in Kiara, how Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Tribhuvandas affect his life and vision and how he fought through all the politics and bureaucracies to make one of the biggest cooperatives in India. His constant emphasis on cooperative vs corporate is a food for thought. Though he blatantly criticises corporate and sometimes you tend to disagree with him this book presents a good view of the two worlds- cooperative and corporate Further, the obsession of author for the delicate balance between the benefits of both producers (farmers) and consumers of milk (or other agricultural products) is very compelling and provides for an engaging lession on marketing.

Amul and Dhara as brands stand as tall success to prove the success he achieved. The real success of Mr Kurien is way above these though. This book thus classifies as a must read for the impeccable writing plus insights on cooperative strategy and marketing.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

MobileSpark conference 2015: Impressions on Day 1

MobileSpark is a two day conference and MobileSpark 2015 happened last Friday and Saturday (August 6 and 7, 2015). I attended the complete event and here I put down some impressions from the event. I tried to lure some of my friends to join me, also thinking of the hackathon but no one did. Perhaps the agenda did not look as compelling to them. Fair enough, I thought if I am interested I should simply go. The venue was far, around 20 kilometers from my house but I did manage to attend both the days and all the events. Lets get on with the nitty-gritty details now with the two days.

The event was due to begin at 9:30 in the morning, it didn't. Until 10:00 there was no sign of the first talk. Then appeared an over-enthusiastic and loud anchor. The first couple of sessions were not very engaging enough to change the perception either. My enthusiasm dropped a bit. I started to feel my friends who decided against attending this conference were right. I was going to find it a bit tough to spend two days here. Thankfully it did pick up and I sort of enjoyed being there at the end of it all, specially the second day. Lets iterate through the sessions one by one.
  1. The first session was by Ashish Agrawal, CTO, Micromax & YU. He began crunching some numbers to show that Yureka OS had already made some fans and further went to essay the importance of community contributions in building their suite of software. Ashish thanked them and invited more contributions.
  2. Next was a talk by Arvinder Gujral, Director, BD, Twitter APAC. He talked of Twitter and the apponomics of today essaying how startups can leverage twitters's SDKs (Fabric, Crashlytics etc) and user-base to gain traction.
  3. Next, it was Varun Khurana, CTO, Grofers talking of e-commerces of today namely, Flipkarts and Snapdeals and how hyperlocal was the new thing on the block. Indeed there are a ton of hyperlocals and even those that only aim to facilitate hyperlocal startups by facilitating parts of the business. Grofers had a big presence on this conference in general and even stood out as one of the sponsors of the event.
  4. Next, we had Rajat Upadhyaya, VP, Engineering Urban Ladder talking of the space Urban Ladder is in and why the multiple-app strategy they have built makes sense. In their case they have three customer facing apps.
  5. Following this was the best presentation I have come across in some time. Girish Mathrubootham, Founder & CEO, Freshdesk came across to talked on how to build a global product and how to assemble a rockstar team for the same. Girish's was surely the best presentation while he talked about how Freshdesk began and his philosophies on the hierarchy structure, recruiting, managing his employees etc. It was quite thought provoking. As Girish finished his session he got an standing ovation from the crowd and deservedly so.
  6. Lately I have become a fan of the culture InMobi has and I was really looking forward to the next talk but there was not much I could collect from this session. The coffee breaks were discarded in respect of time and perhaps had their obvious impacts on me too. After all, we had Chaipoint serving 24*7 their awesome Chai.
  7. Going forward to the vision of OYO rooms. They target the tier-2, 3 hotels and have a really compelling vision to facilitate the hotel experience. Starting from helping both sides through technology to being empathetic about the infrastructure and maintenance of these hotels to the on-boarding and staying experience for guests they have a grand vision and I really do wish they fulfill it. There is a clear space and I am sure this will simplify the lives of a lot of people.
I skipped through the next couple of sessions to grab some food and have a look at all the stalls various start-ups had set up. Here is a list: Hyperverge, Practo, Chaipoint, Yu, Grofers, Freshdesk, Flipkart, Oyo rooms, Process9, Affle, Urban ladder, Freecharge, Appvigil, Jobspire, Street smart, Babajobs, Playo, Makemyroti, Tapwisdom, Klever kid, Notifie, Reverie, Collection point, Msg 91, Mobignosis, Bizenabler, Localoye, Qykapp, Giftxoxo, Driveu, Unbxd, Furlenco. 

In a later post, I will capture some ideas from this list that caught my eye. For now lets move on to the afternoon session consisting mostly of panel discussions. There were three of them:
  1. Mobile & local commerce: your neighbourhood at your fingertips - Varun Khurana, Grofers; Aditya Rao, LocalOye; Navneet Singh, Peppertap; Samar Singla, Jugnoo

    We have talked of Grofers earlier. Basically it is a hyperlocal grocery delivery startup. You can order groceries on their mobile app and get it delivered like BigBasket, peppertap etc.
    There are so many startup delivering products at the doorstep, not so many that deliver service. LocalOye is one such business. They claim to have a big checklist to get a service provider (for example- a carpenter, plumber etc) on board and they manage the whole experience of such a person coming to your house and delivering the service with an acceptable customer satisfaction. I find it a bit tough to agree that they can control their service guys but I will be really happy to be proved wrong.
    Peppertap is another hyperlocal grocery delivering startup and I really don't know yet how their business is different from Grofers but they do operate in multiple cities and promise to deliver within 2 hours.
    Jugnoo is an on demand auto rickshaw app connecting passengers wishing to travel from one place to another within a particular city  and strives towards making Auto- Rickshaws more affordable and user friendly. Being in Bangalore its almost un-imaginable that will ever happen. Samar also mentioned that they could become a partner to the other hyperlocal businesses such as Grofer, Peppertap etc. Jugnoo has also expanded lately jugnoo meals and jugnoo fatafat.

    The discussion revolved around the future of hyperlocal businesses, how big the market is, how many of them will survive in the years to come etc.
  2. Foodtech: delivering all parts of the equations - Shashank S, Dazo; Harsha T, MasalaBox; Karthik V, MomoE; Arpit D, Roadrunnr; Aruj G, Bhukkad

    Foodtech is another buzz word today and one of the most obvious market along with hyperlocal. Dazo aims at making it easy to select food and offers variety too. They have a curated list of a small number of items on the menu everyday so people people don't fret over choosing what to eat.
    MasalaBox has been serving home made (sort of) food in Kochi for roughly six months and they recently moved to Bangalore too.
    MomoE simplifies the payments and Bhukkad prides at being the one that serves healthy food along with varierty and good taste.

    There were issues around packaging discussed and everyone on the panel agreed that packaging is a big deal. They do want to pack completely non-plastic but they don't see a practical, affordable and easy to adopt alternative. MasalaBox has tried being on that front but failed to scale and maintain the packaging standards. So this space is up for disruption.
  3. The leaky bucket : Balancing Growth and Retention

    To me this came as the most engaging session. The idea was that number of downloads to judge the success of a mobile app is a wrong metric. One needs to see how many of them are repeat customers, how many of them uninstalled the app before or after first use, if one came back to install it after an uninstall etc. The panel discussed some common reasons for uninstalls and how to attend to such issues, how to increase engagement on the app etc.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Book Review: The Accidental Prime Minister : The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh

The Accidental Prime Minister : The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan SinghThe Accidental Prime Minister : The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh by Sanjaya Baru
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The review for this book can be divided in two parts. One, the authors presentation which deserves full marks. The author seems in complete freedom to express his views. The biggest worry for a book of this kind is that the author could be curbed by the high profile officials, which doesn't seem to be the case here. The books gives a balanced view on the two terms served by Dr Manmohan Singh. This is a must read for someone who has the slightest interest in Indian politics. For others too it contains a good account on the leadership, politics in general, the importance of image building etc.

Moving to the second part of review, if you have ever criticized Manmohan, you must read this book. The author allows the reader to form his own opinion quoting instances from his experience. And in my view Manmohan is an idol. Yes, he did loose out on his image in his second term quite miserably and deserves some flak for that too. But he deserves an immense respect for his integrity, patriotism, selflessness and for just being who he really was. As you read the book you feel for him. You wish he had some more power, you wish he had established his authority a bit more and lastly you wish he was on the right side. To end with I wouldn't call Dr. Singh the accidental prime minister but a great intellect just fallen in the wrong place at the wrong time. India will do well to home more people like him in politics.

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