Tag Archives: startups

Building Social Products in India

Last saturday saw the 2nd meet of Social Media Club’s Delhi chapter and I along with Dipankar Sarkar spoke about our experiences and learnings from Building a Global Social Product(Kwippy)  out of India.

I personally was quite excited about the talk as we generally don’t talk about products much in the regular Twitter, Bloggers and other Social Media related meets and I feel this is something that we should do often to create awareness amongst the attendees and if possible encourage people to build new products.

smcd (Pic courtesy Gaurav Mishra)

Here’s the presentation from the talk

View more presentations from Mayank Dhingra.

Talking about web products they can be categorized into two categories, “Innovation” (a completely new concept, first of its kind) and “Improvisation” ( a slight modification in an innovative idea and/or a slight modification in its implementation). From what I’ve observed most social web products in India belog to the “Improvisation” category with focus on the Indian market. Be it a social network, a platform to share pictures or microblog.

Though there is nothing wrong in improvising on someone’s concept and building a product for the local market but I guess most of the products in this segment fail to add any substantial value to the concept or it’s localised execution. Also, what  makes me wonder is why there aren’t many popular Indian web products in other categories particularly Global products based on an Innovative concept(from India) and Global products based on Improvisation(from India) of some innovative concept.

I feel there’s a lot of scope in both Made in India, for India and Made in India for World categories and I would keep a close watch for products in these two categories and now that I have moved out of Kwippy(will detail out in a seperate post) maybe work on something myself sometime soon 🙂

Equals in Business ?

Most people start their businesses in partnernships/collaboration with some one they know. It could be a family member, friend, relative or just a known too. Trust is the first thing that people look for before getting into a venture with other things being what the other person brings to the table; money, connections, skill set etc. It’s commonplace to find businesses being run in a fashion where one or more partners put the money(or maybe contacts) and other(s) put skills and effort(or maybe contacts).

Due to inherent nature of the factors in place(time, effort etc), things get a bit difficult at times as contributions start to vary from what they were initially agreed upon. For example: If two people start a business with one person putting the funds and infrastructure and the other bringing in clients and contacts needed to get the job done. Now in this case it’s easy to quantify the funds spent on infrastructure and other activities but it’s a bit difficult to quantify other inputs like efforts, time spent etc. What further makes the puzzle difficult is when both partners feel they are doing their share of the job as initally agreed upon.

A situation like this can easy reach a deadlock with both parties proclaiming to be doing their bit of the business. What further makes matter worse is if both the partners have agreed upon equal share in the profits. The matter gets really complex if  say the guy who was supposed to get business and contacts with his effort isn’t doing his part efficiently but believes he is doing it right and thus deserves and equal share in the profit(which they make due to the efforts of the other partner who was just supposed to put funds for infrastruce etc) as mutually agreed upon initially.

Human Ego is another factor in play in situations like these as even though a person might know that he isn’t putting in the required effort in the job but his ego will prevent him from accepting it and agreeing to get an unequal share in the profits. I’ve had a few direct and indirect experiences in this regard which have forced me to think of a way to reduce the possibility of such situations.

A couple possible solutions that I could think of  are

1) To partner with someone who is as equal as you are

If both partners are equal in most respects like finances, contacts etc then I think the scope of running into situations where  one feels the other isn’t doing enough is reduced. By quantifying one’s contribution in terms of money, contacts or other resources, the factors which could cause confusion/dissatisfaction are reduced. Also, I feel with equal partners it’s a bit easy to find out and accept if one isn’t doing his bit properly

So it’s a good idea to find out in the start what the other person is bringing to the table and ensure that it’s not too high or too low for your contribution.

2)  Decide on a profit sharing model based on one’s contribution:

In case of partners with unequal inputs, it’s a good idea to decide on different profit sharing models based on situations with varying contributions. For ex:

a) For every deal where person X does this and this and person Y does this, X gets 66% of the profit and Y gets 33%
b) For every deal where person X does this and person Y does this and this, Y gets 66%  of the profit and X gets 33%.
c) For every deal where person X does this and this and this and Person Y doesn’t do anything, X gets all the profit and vice-e-versa.

I feel predeciding things like revenue/profit sharing in various situations where there’s a possibility of unequal contributions will serve as a base and reduce the number of potential conflicts.

What do you think?

Kwippy features in Dataquest’s India’s 25 Hot Web 2.0 Startups list

After being nominated and nicely received for Tata Nen’s Hottest Indian Startup Awards and being Featured in Economic Times, Kwippy has made it to India’s 25 Hot Web 2.0 Startups list compiled by Cyber Media group’s Dataquest magazine. Dataquest is a premier IT magazine and has been in circulation for many a years now.  Many Thanks to them for including kwippy in their list

India's 25 Hot Web 2.0 Start-Ups

India's 25 Hot Web 2.0 Start-Ups

Preserving Status Quo:
Status Quo:

This btw is one of the best descriptions that I’ve read about kwippy and hey there’s a mention of “Slideshare” there too. Also, this would be the first appearance of “yours socially” in print media 🙂

Three Cheers to Kwippy !!!

Proto.in, Be There.

The stage is almost set for the fifth edition of India’s biggest startup event “Proto.in“. This time’s proto would be held on the 23rd and 24th of January 09 at Bangalore.

About Proto(from their site):

Proto.in, Today, is about giving entrepreneurs a platform to express their visions and showcase their imagination, with a working prototype, for the world to see. It’s about increasing partnership, collaboration and mindshare among a distinguished, qualified and well-connected audience. Proto.in provides a unique platform for promising startup talent to communicate their creativity and innovation potential. As a meeting place for the smartest entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and professionals, Proto.in stands true to its mantra “Create, Contribute, Collaborate.”

Proto is about celebrating entrepreneurship, and encouraging it where it matters the most – at the startup level!

1. To Showcase Innovative technology products borne out of India
2. To Encourage, grow and create entrepreneurial awareness
3. To create a community of startup entrepreneurs, who can grow in strength and numbers, drawing wisdom from each other.
4. To act as a bridge between well-established companies, veteran entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, analysts, journalists, professionals and grass-root entrepreneurs.

I’ve said this before that Proto is THE place to be for all startup junkies, entrepreneurs and wanna be entrepreneurs. This edition of Proto has some really interesting sessions/camps including

Shotgun Startups – Teams of technologists, programmers, designers, and product architects compete with each other to build a product in 24 hours, and get them voted by the audience at Proto.in, with one emerging as the winner.

Pitchcamp! – The first pitch that you make, be it an investor, partner, employee or client about what you do, makes all the difference to that first impression. Pitchcamp will be a workshop for startups to help them sculpt their pitch that will sell every time.

Innovation Jam – Ideation is a simpler process. With the success of the process that started last time, at this proto.in, here’s a chance for the entire audience to participate, in chipping and brewing fresh ideas off of their head. If you have a creative block, this will ensure that its flushed out.

Registrations open on Monday, go book yourself a seat. Checkout their blog for more and for any queries Vijay is the man.

Nominate Kwippy for OWA ’08

Hi Guys,

If you like kwippy and what we are doing please nominate us for Mashable Open Web Awards. All you need to do is to just enter your email id in the form below and click the link in confirmation email that you’ll get. Come on guys show your support. Also, just drop a comment below if you vote.

Startups and Spam

These two “S” words are not often used in the same sentence but I had to use them. Everyone hates getting spam but not everyone hates sending spam. I too like most others get a daily quota of spam in my email account despite the spam filters. While most of those spam emails don’t generate any bad feelings because I simply choose to ignore them there’s this category of spam which I can’t help feeling bad about. This category of spam originates not from shady people selling enlargement creams or Viagra pills but from people who actually own and run less or more popular companies/sites. Most of the spam emails that I get from the category mentioned above are from various early stage startups based out of India(except wayn) so it seems like spamming people in such a way is a trend more popular in India only.

Sample these:

Someone close to you had invited you to join www.xyz.com
Please visit www.xyz.com and register, you may win an illuminated t-shirt.”


“Your friends have been inviting you to join www.xyz.com”

As if the shady generic signup spam emails like the one’s mentioned above weren’t sufficient that we now also have spam vote for me emails like this

“A friend of yours provided us with your email address and suggested that you would be open to provide 2 minutes of your time to support a startup company engaged in a worthy mission.  We have been nominated in the TATA NEN Hottest Startups contest.  We are writing to request you to vote for us.”

“worthy mission”
was it ? Not sure if anyone who gets this spam email would vote for them, I certainly won’t(despite the fact that I liked the site’s interface when I looked at it for the first time)

I fail to understand why these sites/companies have to resort to such stupid ways of spreading the word. Why why why ? Firstly, I am not a big supporter of mass emails, for I am not really sure if they do more good than bad and secondly if you have to (for whatever reasons) mass email people keep in mind the following things

1) Don’t address it to everyone.
Hi all, Dear all etc are a not a good way to start an email which is not addressed to a known/close group. They look spam from the word go. I’d rather read a mail which reads “Hi Mayank” or at least a “Hi”.
2) Don’t use vague referrers:
“A friend of yours”, “Someone close to you”, “Your good friend” or something weird like this is sure shot sign of a spam email. If you have a referer name use it else don’t pretend to act genuine because this just doesn’t work.
3) Make the text interesting:
I won’t mind reading a random email if its written properly and maybe a bit witty. It should be a run of the mill promotional email.

That said, I’d like to advice startups(and others) to not bombard random people like this as it might give you small returns but it most certainly will piss others off which might have been neutral towards you otherwise but now think of you as evil/lame.  No points for guessing what image I now have for the startups who sent me those spam emails.

Early Adopters vs early adopters

An early adopter or lighthouse customer is an early customer of a given company, product, or technology. – Wikipedia

If you are a regular user of any social media site chances are that you might have come across this term fairly often. Think Early Adopters think Robert Scoble, Steve Rubel and the likes. Interestingly a lot hasn’t been said about the fact that for each Early Adopter there are hundreds and thousands of “early adopters” who are more or less that important for a new service. An early adopter could be a defined as scaled down version of an Early Adopter in most metrics. Having hundreds of subscribers/followers instead of thousands,their blog readership would be in hundreds instead of thousands etc. While the frequency at which they use the new services would roughly be same as Early Adopters but when it comes to trying new services and giving regular feedback/suggestions they are often ahead(in numbers and frequency respectively) of Early Adopters.

Essentially these are the people who are the bridge between Early Adopters and the mainstream users and are just as interested in exploring new services as it can be and are just as passionate about what they do but with a smaller sphere of influence.

In the past year or so that I’ve been using social media services I’ve seen quite a few instances in which a new service picked momentum because some Early Adopter started using it regularly and started spreading the word. Does it mean that “Its mandatory for a new service to get blessings of an Early Adopter or two in order to succeed ?” . Sure it helps if someone whose articulate, has insight and has a big follower base starts to use a new service but I am not sure if this was the case always and with every successful service. By successful here I just mean in terms of active users & web traffic.

I am not too sure if popular sites like Orkut, Scribd etc caught eyeballs because of some Early Adopters.
If I think about it, I got to know about these sites and many more from people who would fall in the category of “early adopters” and not “Early Adopters”. While the early adopters might not have the same levels of expertise or insights but they make up with extra enthusiasm and optimism.

As aptly mentioned by Steven early adopters don’t equal success i.e If you have Early Adopters as raving fans it won’t necessarily mean that the mainstream audience will love your product just as much or the revenue would not be a problem.

In my opinion while new services should keep an eye on the Early Adopters and try to convert them to regular users of their service they shouldn’t be obsessed with just them and NOT overlook the small fish in the sea aka the early adopters because the early adopters because are easier to find(and please).  Also, since they are more close to the mainstream audience in terms of their usage & behavioral patterns their feedback would probably be more relevant/useful if you are targeting the mainstream audience. What also tends to happen at times with Early Adopters is the sense of entitlment (which at times comes in initial days itself) which could leave the team behind the service in a perplexed/worrisome state and they’ll end up expending their energies in the wrong direction.

I’d summarize it all by saying while Early Adopters are great to have one should get obsessed by them and shouldn’t ignore the early adopters in the process.

The power of Communication

“Over communication is better than under communication”.
I heard this for the first time during my initial days with Fidelity and its something that has been with me since then. The thing with simple statements is that while they appear ridiculously simple and obvious they are really hard to implement/follow.

Communication of all sorts is very critical as it can make or break lots of situations and institutions. From boardrooms to bedrooms its a common observation that those who are high on C.Q (communication quotient) are better placed as compared to those who are bad or not good at it.Needless to say while communication is extremely important it is not the only constituent of progress and success.

From companies and organizations point of view communication is even more crucial because their the stakes are really high and its impact can be felt on a huge number of people/employees. Their are various aspects of communication like

1) Direction:
Flow of communication both internal and external can be in various directions namely bottom to top, top to bottom and horizontal. In most cases the stress is laid(if at all) on the top to bottom flow of communication and that too it in a “just listen/obey to it” sort of way, for ex: emails from founders, managers giving employees directions/instructions. But those who understand the importance of communication lay emphasis on bottom-up and horizontal communication as well because the 360 degree flow of communication can really do wonders, to name a few things, the management would be more aware of the needs/demands/expectations of the employees and a lot of feedback/innovation can come to the surface if this channel is properly established.

Speaking of web startups: Despite the fact that its utterly easy to communicate with their users by means of blogs etc most startups suck at it and communicate only as a last resort. Be it informing users about scheduled downtimes, sharing details of new features  or seeking feedback,  more often then not its not done. I think not only should they communicate via their blogs much more but also they should keep an eye or establish channels for incoming communication by their users(ex: blogs, microblogs, forums).

2) Frequency:
What do you prefer, getting newspapers daily or weekly ? Its that simple but then again following it isn’t.

Be it communication within big organizations or small teams or with your site/blog audience. The frequency and regularity of communication is also important. Important because there needs to some basic level of communication that needs to be attained before things start to change and something substantial comes out from the other side. Obviously it won’t make any sense if someone from management asks his employees about the things they’d want to change in the company and then comes back to the same question after an year and expect a genuine answer.

Speaking of web startups: One of the easiest things that can be done is to update their blogs as frequently as possible not only about the good things but also the bad ones. I hate it when while visiting a site i find its under scheduled maintenance for 1.5 hours but there isn’t even a small mention of it on their blog. Core thought being be proactive and inform the users before them finding out and coming to you.

3) Content
Content of communication is extremely important. In the sense that the content if explicit/comprehensive  it won’t leave any scope for confusions n illusions. There a lot of cases in which communication within the organization and outside isn’t really fruitful because it does not show the full/clear picture and thus limits the vision and perception of the intended audience about the thing/issue in question. Whenever in doubt whether a thing is good/big enough to be communicated, just do it, because it might be big/good or important for someone else.

Speaking of web startups
: My advice would be to share as many things as you can with your users. Users just love to hear and know more about the services/sites they like and use. Share more things big or small about your product, your company and if possible even a bit about yourself.