Tesla Model S – Humans and robots in sync

I was watching the new video from Wired‘s series – The Window and I couldn’t help but be amazed at the fluidity with humans and Robots work to assemble the Tesla Model S

It almost seems like they are in sync, Dancing if you may. The way we interact with machines in the neat future is going to be radically different.

India’s startups lacking guardian ‘angels’

This post originally appeared on the AFP newswire and has been picked up and published in multiple news outlets across the globe

by Staff Writers
Mumbai (AFP) May 8, 2013

It is seen as a land of entrepreneurs, economic growth and huge business potential, but India appears to be failing its promising startup companies which are struggling to find investors.

While there is no lack of ideas among the country’s vast young population, funding is declining from venture capitalists and rich “angel” investors, as they are known, who are often crucial to a young firm’s success.

“Risk-taking appetite from investors is low,” said Internet entrepreneur Nameet Potnis, who is trying to address the problem by setting up Nurtured.in, a platform to connect startups with early-stage investors.

“It is easy to set up an online business in India but very difficult to do business,” he told AFP.

Three decades after businessman N.R. Narayana Murthy and six other Indians sat around a kitchen table and formed leading IT outsourcer Infosys, the country is yet to create a favourable business environment for new entrepreneurs.

Just five percent of thousands of Indian startups get funds from sources external to friends and family, analysts say.

It is one of the toughest countries in the world for a startup to flourish, according to a 2012 report by US-based research firm Startup Genome.

Venture capitalists invested $1.09 billion through 222 deals in 2011, but this dropped by 30 percent to $762 million through 206 deals in 2012, according to researchers at Venture Intelligence, based in southern Chennai city.

The decline could not come at a worse time for the young Indian professionals and business graduates who are risking branching out on their own, after losing or quitting lucrative jobs amid the global downturn.

India’s own economic growth slowed to an estimated 5.0 percent for the fiscal year that ended March, its slowest rate in a decade, but that has not deterred many youngsters from trying to turn their ideas into businesses.

Some of India’s well-established startups include Nasdaq-listed online travel firm makemytrip.com, shopping website Flipkart and digital entertainment company Hungama.

In recent years, ventures have branched into areas as varied as pet care, gaming, restaurant guides and e-learning, and the startup bug is spreading into smaller Indian cities.

“More companies are coming up and not that much… money is being put in,” said Sampad Swain, an entrepreneur who founded “Instamojo”, which helps to sell digital downloads.

Jubin Mehta of Yourstory.in, an online site which tracks startups and entrepreneurs, said venture capitalists tend to look over 200 ideas before investing in one.

“Roughly 500 startups come up each month. And less than five percent — only about 25 — receive external funding,” he said.

Kulin Shah, an entrepreneur and former venture capitalist, said angel investors have become more demanding in the current economic climate, trying to avoid getting their money blocked in ventures for too long.

Angels are increasingly unwilling to fund firms that are clones of foreign startups or face intense competition, such as online car rentals, car pools and best-deal ventures, Shah said.

But too much caution can prevent investors spotting a hit, such as Nischal Shetty’s Twitter application “justunfollow”, which has more than three million registered users including 10,000 paid customers.

When he set it up three years ago, he generated revenues from day one despite a lack of enthusiasm from external investors.

“Angels asked me: how will you make money from this?” he said.

There are a few signs of hope for budding entrepreneurs.

In southern Kochi city, a massive glass-and-metal campus called “Startup village” is nurturing young engineers and aims to launch 1,000 Internet and mobile firms in 10 years.

Nasscom, an IT trade body, says startups are a “critical pillar” of the industry and last month launched “10,000 startups”, a programme which will shortlist and help fund as many ventures in the next 10 years.

“We have to create an environment where early-stage funding comes in,” Nasscom president Som Mittal said at the programme’s launch.

Facebook Cheat sheet for Social Media Managers

Social Media Managers are always on the lookout for ways to increase engagement within their brand’s Facebook page. As I have written previously, the true power of social commerce can be understood using referral economics of word of mouth.

In a recent report, Lynchpin SEO compiled statistics on the types of posts that garnered the most comments, shares, and “likes,” for more than 1,500 brand pages on Facebook.

These stats reveal an array of interesting things about brand pages. For instance,

1. Updates with emoticons saw higher interaction rates than those with pictures

2. Posts that contain the words “take,” “click,” “submit,” “check,” and “shop” experience significantly lower rates of interaction.

See the full infographic below— and always, do take everything you read with a pinch of salt.

facebook-post-cheat-sheet

 

Growing trends in the media and digital sector for 2013

Digital media

Millward Brown, has released its annual top 10 digital and media predictions, highlighting growing trends in the media sector.

They expect 2013 to be another dynamic year for online display, mobile and social media. Consumers have ever higher expectations of intelligent digital advertising approaches, and marketers will need to deliver more sophisticated campaigns to keep pace with what works.

You can view a detailed interactive version of the top 10 digital and media predictions on the Millward Brown website.

1. Facebook‘s monetisation drive will provide new, richer advertising opportunities for brands.

2. Social media listening evolves from monitoring to insight.

3. Emergence of ‘mobile remotes’ make it a central pillar of smart communication plans.

4. The great paywall makes for scarcity of premium eyeballs.

5. Omnichannel marketing helps brands build on meaningful moments of engagement.

6. Social TV grows up and becomes part of the narrative rather than a conversation about the narrative.

7. Mobile advertising in Africa tackles the smartphone divide.

8. Greater collaboration needed to make the most of real-time optimisation.

9. Better aligning of online display with objectives.

10. More meaningful mobile engagement via apps and actions.

See the complete report below.

To explore these predictions in more detail, click here to download a Pdf copy.

Source: Millward Brown

Social Commerce: Where is it heading?

Social commerce has a simple value proposition, i.e. it makes it possible to measure and manage word of mouth.

Multiple studies into this subject have thrown up some interesting findings

  •  62% of online shoppers have read product-related comments from their friends on Facebook
  • 75% of shoppers who read social sharing comments have clicked on the product link in their friends’ Facebook posts, taking them to the product page on a retailer’s website
  • 81% of consumers who purchase products they learn about through social sharing are valuable social sharers themselves, thus creating a cycle of sharing and buying.
  • 32% of visitors are more likely to stay and shop on a site that shows activities of shoppers who have purchased there.

Read Social Impact Study 2012: Social Sharing as Helpful as Google Search in Shopping

What this study shows is that social commerce is that  social media content can generate strong word of mouth which can be manoeuvred to generate sales.

The power social commerce can be understood using referral economics of word of mouth. Let us take an example of Apple Computers to understand this better

Source: Net Promoter Economics: The Impact of Word of Mouth

Facebook and social commerce

Forrester Research’s Gina Sverdlov has done an extensive study on THE FACEBOOK FACTOR – Quantifying The Impact Of A Facebook Fan On Brand Interactions.  According to her, “Using regression techniques, the study provided evidence to support the insight that your Facebook fans are more your most valuable customers.”

(customer value = purchase value + referral value)  

“Specifically, the study found that fans of a range of brands (the study focused on Coca-Cola, Blackberry, Best Buy, Walmart) are significantly more likely than non-fans to

  • Consider buying
  • Purchase (79% vs 41%)
  • Recommend (74% vs 38%)”

What is equally important to understand here is that boosting the number of fans on a Facebook page (Hilariously chronicled here: Arre Sir, We Will Get You 2250 Fans. That’s Our Headache!) isn’t the solution to exploring the commercial aspect of your page.

While dealing with Facebook fans always remember:

  1. The power of the Like button is not that it creates fans, it IDENTIFIES them.
  2. Your Facebook page is like a honey-laden flower that  ATTRACTS your most valuable customer and lets you target them.

Instead, reward your fans. Use your page to drive up engagement.

Flipkart’s newest product: Trust

Logo of Flipkart.com
Flipkart.com (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

India’s most famous E-commerce company Flipkart (they aren’t the biggest, that would be mjunction) has been around since 2007. Over the last 5 years, they have emerged as a clear favourite among customers owing to their almost delightful customer service.

Indiamart introduced Cash-on-delivery back in 2001 and then discontinued it in 2003. Flipkart reintroduced Cash-on-Delivery and this feature has now become one of the most crucial payment methods for Indians shopping online.

The point here is, back in 2007, Flipkart started with selling books online. Five years later it has  steadily scaled its business by foraying into categories like computers & peripherals, CDs & DVDs, games, home and kitchen appliances, mobile & accessories, personal and healthcare equipments ( I am sure there they have added more recently, the latest being baby products).

Indians can be frugal by nature, and getting deep discounts with the added benefit of free home delivery drove Indians to shop online. Along the way, Flipkart managed to delight its customers with fast deliveries.

Now in the 3rd quarter of 2012, things look different. Flipkart now wants its customers to shop for a minimum of Rs 300/- to avail of free delivery (Flipkart websiteHow much are the delivery charges? Flipkart provides free delivery on all items if your total order amount is Rs. 300/- or more. Otherwise Rs. 30/- is charged as delivery charges.)

Flipkart is also no longer the cheapest options available online. Below are some screenshots of randomly selected products from Flipkart’s top selling categories:

Books

Mobiles

Electronics

This brings us to an important junction, if people came to shop on Flipkart for price concessions and delivery convenience, why are they still here. The answer to that could very well be Flipkart’s most important product category yet, “Trust”. Flipkart has managed to build a Reputation (dependable and quick), which has created Brand value (reliable and delightful), which over time has built consumer Trust in the brand.

It is this trust in the brand that is being subliminally reinforced by their newest Advertising campaign “Don’t shop it, Flipkart it” (the complete Flipkart Advertising Campaign, August 2012)

Another perspective by Alok Kejriwal – Flipkart ads on TV – are they building the online category at their own cost?

Do share your thoughts.

Google Nexus Q, a Google device in your house!

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Google

At the ongoing I/O conference, Google’s Project glass and Nexus 7 might be the most talked about devices but there is another device that Google has created that is ready to invade our homes, the Nexus Q. The Nexus Q is part of Google’s Project Tungsten, which looks at incorporating Android into Home devices.

According to Firstpost, “The Nexus Q is a minimally designed, spheroid home entertainment hub, and also functions as a streaming hub with 25-watt amp for external speakers that can link to your Android Smartphone or tablet”.

The device provides a functionality which is something which I have long dreamt of, the ability to let multiple users connect to the same speaker and choose which music to play!

 The Nexus Q will utilize the user’s Google cloud content – PC Mag

Would you use something like this?

The photoshop magic behind McDonald’s advertising campaigns

English: The mdonalds logo from the late 90s
McDonalds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week a customer from Toronto named Isabel M. got onto a website created by McDonald’s Canada, which allows customers to ask any question they want. Her question was, “Why does your food look different in the advertising than what is in the store?” Looking at this as an opportunity to get some good public opinion going in favour of McDonalds, Director of marketing for McDonald’s Canada, Hope Bagozzi, addressed the question herself.

Bagozzi enters a typical McDonalds and orders a quarter pounder and takes it along with her to the Watt International,the advertising agency, to get it shot. McDonald’s claim is that the only doctoring they do is to make the ingredients visible so the consumer. Towards the end, Bagozzi also adds that the photoshop they use on the final images is only to “enhance the color and any accidents that might happen during preparation, which obviously doesn’t show the product in its best light.”

I am impressed with courage to take the customer behind the scenes. What do you think? Are revealing videos like this a good marketing strategy for McDonald’s? Or is the risk of potentially negative PR too great to consider something like this for your own company?

Microsoft launches Surface, their own Tablet.

A little over an hour ago, in one of the most secretive press conferences ever, Microsoft launched Surface. According to early reports from Engadget, the specifications for the new Tablet are as follows, “Measuring just 9.3mm thick, the Surface for Windows RT is built around an angled, all-magnesium VaporMg case that weighs just under 1.3 pounds, with an NVIDIA-made ARM chip powering the whole affair. Microsoft’s hardware partner has also gone all-out on extra touches, such as a built-in stand, twin 2×2 MIMO antennas for WiFi, and a 10.6-inch optically-bonded, Gorilla Glass 2-covered HD display.” [Update: The full specifications are now available here]

Another impressive feature is that Microsoft is offering the Tab with two types of Keyboards. A Type Cover full tactile keyboard, and a simple Touch Cover keyboard. According to the Verge, “It may seem like a minor difference, but the Touch cover keyboard is an improvement over the standard capacitive touch keyboard, while the Type Cover is a slimmed down version of a true keyboard with actual moving keys.

Below is the official video released by Microsoft

Do you think this will be able to make enough sales to impact the market share that Apple currently holds with their iPad?

The technology behind Apple Inc’s own Mapping system

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase
Apple Inc via CrunchBase

Apple just announced that they will no longer be using Google maps and will instead be using their own Maps on all iOS devices. Back in 2010 when SAAB filed for bankruptcy, an unknown company bought their missile guiding system. This unknown company was later identified to be Apple Inc. This missile guiding technology now forms the backbone of their new Mapping system.

How does this technology work

The video above shows a  corporate version of the process, which, as described by an article in MIT Technology Review, works in the following manner:

“C3’s models are generated with little human intervention. First, a plane equipped with a custom-designed package of professional-grade digital single-lens reflex cameras takes aerial photos. Four cameras look out along the main compass points, at oblique angles to the ground, to image buildings from the side as well as above. Additional cameras (the exact number is secret) capture overlapping images from their own carefully determined angles, producing a final set that contains all the information needed for a full 3-D rendering of a city’s buildings. Machine-vision software developed by C3 compares pairs of overlapping images to gauge depth, just as our brains use stereo vision, to produce a richly detailed 3-D model.”
 

Fascinating technology? Let me know your thoughts.

How to build a community around your Startup

market 1
(Photo credit: tim caynes)

What are the reasons that some startup succeed while some fail? Why do products instantly attract a multitude of users while other still lag at user acquisition, even after considerable marketing expenses?

The answer to this can be a variety of reasons such as user interface, design, customer service, utility value and sometimes even price. But very often one feature that gets left out is the impact and support of the community around.

A vibrant community can be a magical marketing and sales tool for a startup. While it is imperative for a startup to have a great product/service, an enthusiastic community around it can aid the company in garnering more attention, providing insights and gaining critical early feedback

While in India, our ecosystem surrounding Startups is still in the nascent stage, there are communities developing in Bangalore and around the Delhi/NCR region. One of the biggest problems facing tech entrepreneurs in India is the relatively small number of early adopters. In an excellent article about the “two speed” state of Indian market adoption, Mukund Mohan writes, “The Innovators (less than 1 % of the population or 12 Million individuals) in India (entrepreneurs mostly) who conceive and develop products for the Indian market and the early adopters (less than 5% of population or approx 60 Million individuals) together make up the entire “early adopter” category. Unfortunately less than 30% of them have both the interest, and the desire to be early adopters of technology.”

If you are a technology company, how do you build a community around your company?

1.Start early; make the community an integral part of your system: Start a blog before you actually launch and let people know what you are doing. Building a community takes time. Be patient.

2.Value your initial customers: Those first few people who sign up for your product are there out of choice, they have found your product and they are sticking by it because they love it. Treat them well. Value their feedback.

3. Let your customers know they are special: Marketing dollars might get you signups but word of mouth will get you user engagement. Don’t just value customer feedback; let your customers know that you are ‘listening’ and that you value their feedback.

4.Establish a mutual relationship: Once your community starts growing, as difficult as it might be, acknowledge contributions and hold events where your customers can interact with you or your team. This can act as a cohesive force and take people beyond just a bunch of people using your product

In a day and age when online customer loyalty isn’t really high, a community around your product can not only be your loyal user-base but also your very own cheering squad.

Do share your thoughts.

What are the key differences in being a tech entrepreneur in US and India?

I read this question on Quora and thought of adding my perspective to it. I am going to address the point of key differences between these two countries and their eco systems.

1. In India, our ecosystem surrounding Startups is still in the Nascent stage. Most people would say that the ecosystem is absent, but I don’t think as of today (May 2012) that is the case. We have certain IIT’s(Indian Institute of Technology) running incubators, we have Accelerators and Incubators such as http://themorpheus.com( who are in their 7th batch) and we have multiple VC’s investing their money in Indiann startups.

2. Though the First wave of Tech innovations in the US came around 1997-2001, we in India were a little late to catch on and had a good run around 2002-2005. These companies either had decent exits, got acquired or went to IPO’s. Which brings me to the important point, in India we are Now seeing second generation entrepreneurs. These people have seen the ups and the downs and are willing and able to mentor the current crop of entrepreneurs. This segment would include fantastic people like Mahesh Murthy & Alok ‘Rodinhood’ Kejriwal.

3. One of the biggest differentiating factors between being a (Tech) entrepreneur in the US and in India is that, in the US, failure is celebrated. In India, that may not be the case. In India we are very particular about the importance of “Completing one’s Formal Education”. Until the turn of the millennium, if an Indian girl/boy told their parents that they were “dropping out of school” to take up entrepreneurship, life would be very difficult (not impossible, but extremely difficult) for them. This mindset is also changing and most students are already forming small companies and servicing clients well before they are done with college.

Desert Rider
Jugaad: A mix of a motorbike and a tempo (Photo credit: Meanest Indian)
 4. To conclude, Indians, by nature are extremely entrepreneurial. They always find ways to complete a task in a way that would require less time and make optimal use of resources. Hence Local innovations in Agriculture and other such sectors which Indians have been introduced to for decades see a lot of Jugaad (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jugaad) But technological adoption in India has been slow through the 1980’s to 2000’s. Now that Technology has made inroads into India, I definitely hope to see some path-breaking innovation coming out of India in the near future.

For more on answers on this question, you can go to this link on Quora

You can also Follow me on Quora

Let me know your thoughts.

Microsoft, Facebook Announce Patent Agreement

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

Microsoft just announced a Patent agreement with Facebook (you can check out the original Press Release below) According to Robert Scoble (Startup Liaison Officer at Rackspace Managed Hosting), this can get extremely interesting for a few reasons:

1. It shows Microsoft has no chance at all to get into social game other than to license Facebook.
2. Facebook needs more weapons to use in negotiations with Apple.
3. Facebook needs more weapons to hold off Google+ (or Amazon) from cloning everything and moving users to Google (or Amazon).

This is a well calculated move on Microsoft’s part as this paves the way to get Facebook on-board as a key partner in all Windows initiatives including Windows 8 and Xbox.

The Press Release is paraphrased below and can be viewed in full here

REDMOND, Wash. and MENLO PARK, Calif. — April 23, 2012 — Microsoft Corp. and Facebook announced today a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will assign to Facebook the right to purchase a portion of the patent portfolio it recently agreed to acquire from AOL Inc. Facebook has agreed to purchase this portion for $550 million in cash.

In the initial AOL auction, Microsoft secured the ability to own or assign approximately 925 U.S. patents and patent applications plus a license to AOL’s remaining patent portfolio, which contains approximately 300 additional patents that were not for sale.

As a result of today’s agreement, Facebook will obtain ownership of approximately 650 AOL patents and patent applications, plus a license to the AOL patents and applications that Microsoft will purchase and own.

Upon closing of this transaction with Facebook, Microsoft will retain ownership of approximately 275 AOL patents and applications; a license to the approximately 650 AOL patents and applications that will now be owned by Facebook; and a license to approximately 300 patents that AOL did not sell in its auction.

“Today’s agreement with Facebook enables us to recoup over half of our costs while achieving our goals from the AOL auction,” said Brad Smith, executive vice president and general counsel, Microsoft. “As we said earlier this month, we had submitted the winning AOL bid in order to obtain a durable license to the full AOL portfolio and ownership of certain patents that complement our existing portfolio.”

“Today’s agreement with Microsoft represents an important acquisition for Facebook,” said Ted Ullyot, general counsel, Facebook. “This is another significant step in our ongoing process of building an intellectual property portfolio to protect Facebook’s interests over the long term.”

The parties are evaluating the accounting treatment for these transactions. These transactions are also subject to customary closing conditions, including clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended.