Thursday, December 27, 2007

E-Commerce: An opportunity for logistics services companies

Today, I was chatting with a friend of mine who is working at an e-commerce start-up. One of the bottlenecks in their go-to-market plan has been the identification of a professional logistics/courier services company to deliver products to their customers.

While there is a plethora of logistics services companies in India, most of them are not professional enough and those that are professional are either too expensive or do not service deliveries of the high-value products in which the portal deals with.

While I wouldn't like to draw conclusions based on the experience of a singular person, there seems to be a huge opportunity for logistics services companies in the e-commerce domain. They would do well to create a tailor-made offering for e-commerce companies and boost their own volumes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Now check cricket scores on Google

Are you missing live cricket action because of a ban on cricket sites at your workplace? Google has some good news for you.

You can simply access Google News India and you'd see all the latest cricket scores. 'If there's a cricket match going on somewhere in the world (and there always is) you will have the latest information available.'

As you can see from the screenshot, the default feed comes in from Cricbuzz, and you also have the option to choose Cricinfo and Willow. I am really glad to see Google giving preference to Cricbuzz over the other two better known names - a. Cricbuzz, without a doubt, has the fastest ball-by-ball commentary; b. One of Cricbuzz' founder, Piyush, is a friend of mine and I have seen their site grow to its current stature from the time they kicked it off.

BTW, Guruji, the search engine for Indian content, launched a similar feature quite some while ago. When you run a search for the keyword "cricket," they display the latest cricket scores above the search results. Once again, this feature on Guruji is powered by Cricbuzz.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Using the Internet to promote non-cricketing sports in India

Thanks to the upcoming India-Australia Test Series, I am reminded of one of my long-cherished aspirations (dating back to Jan '04) i.e. to start a portal called - which would promote non-cricketing sports in India. While I did make a small start in 2004, I never pursued it too well. I still hope I kick off 281* some day.

Thought I'd share the idea on this blog and hence this post.

The 281* concept

  • would be an online community of non-cricketing sports fans in India (would rather think of it now as a social network).
  • When anyone registers on the site, they are probed as to which sport (apart from cricket) would they like to see developing in India.
  • Let's say the user chooses Archery. The user is then requested to make a small contribution towards that sport from his monthly paycheck - as per his/her convenience.
  • Once the site has a sizeable community and fund for a particular sport, this money would be used to take up a project that would help the sports' cause in the country. It could be something as small as providing for free training facilities for an Indian athlete who has shown potential in that sport.
  • The chosen project would be monitored by the contributing group.
  • When the site would gain momentum, a lot of corporate participation and endorsements could be sought for such an initiative. Given the cause, I assume there would be quite a few interested. I think Indian cricket players and Bollywood stars too would like to be associated with this.
  • Over time, projects funded by 281* would manifest themselves in results.
Why 281*?
  • The name 281 not out is dedicated to the historic 281-run knock played by V V S Laxman in Kolkata against Steve Waugh's formidable Australian team. (India were following on in the match and ended up winning it.)
  • Laxman's innings of 281 represented the aspirations of millions of Indians - to emerge from a rut and come out trumps.
  • While Laxman lost his wicket at 281, 281 not out is symbolic of an undying spirit to fight and emerge victorious despite the near zero support that other sports receive in India.
A Humble Start for 281* - Sponsorship for an Indian Muay Thai (Kick-boxing) Fighter
  • Sometime in Feb/Mar 2004 I had discussed the 281* concept with a friend of mine (Hari Joshi) in Bangalore during one of our late-night meet-ups and about a week later he got me to implement the idea.
  • Hari's friends, Nitesh Pillai, was one of the 18 Muay Thai fighters chosen nationwide to represent India in the forthcoming World Muay Thai Championship, 2004 from April 7-14 in Chiangmai, Thailand. Unfortunately, the task of finding sponsorship for the fighters was left to each of the fighters. Consequently, with just a month to go before the championship, fighters like Nitesh had to devote their time towards gathering sponsorship rather than focusing on practice.
  • Nitesh had quit his job as a sub-editor of a magazine in his pursuit of being a Muay Thai World Champion and now when he was closer to his dream, he was looking to gather a sponsorship sum of Rs. 65,000 to fund his participation in the championship.
  • That's when I decided to action 281*. I registered the domain name,, and set up a small site with a brief note about what I had set out to achieve and detailed the first initiative i.e. sponsoring Nitesh's participation to the World Muay Thai Championship. Also, I shot out a mailer to my IT-BHU and IIM-L alumni groups with the same details.
  • Within a week I had gathered enough contributions to sponsor Nitesh. While he did not win the championship, he was able to represent the country and give his dream a shot.
However, as it turned out, that was the end of 281*. Since I was just starting off my own creative agency, I put all further plans for 281* on the back-burner despite my personal belief that it could have taken off.

Almost 4 years have passed by since then. The Internet is surely more powerful now than then and this may be a good time to revive the concept.

An interesting piece of news on WATBlog: Vijay Mallya is looking to start a social networking site for Formula 1 fans in India. This initiative is aimed at promoting the sport in the country given that his F1 team, Force India, would be participating in the 2008 Championship.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Points to note from the Gujarat election

Post the Gujarat election results, one of the TV channels had an interview with Shashiranjan Yadav, who is looking after the BJP's hi-tech campaign. He made some interesting points about how they leveraged the Internet to their benefit:

  1. BJP gathered a database of 1,00,000 e-mail IDs of Gujaratis who were pro-BJP/BJP symathizers. Over the last 1 year, they sent fortnightly e-mails to this database which Shashiranjan Yadav believes were then circulated to 5,00,000 others.
  2. The BJP managed to attract 50 workers through this e-mail initiative and these workers actively participated in BJP's election campaign in Gujarat.
  3. Several rallies were held by these workers by asking people to participate through e-mail notifications.
  4. The exchange of e-mails resulted in several election slogans that were employed by the BJP.
Also, one must see the number of Gujaratis who have come out in support of Narendra Modi and the BJP by trashing the media in the comments section of major online news publications (Rediff, IBN Live, etc.). Every online article that was anti-Modi had dozens of comments which refuted the content of the article and spoke about Gujarat's development under Modi. Am sure most of it was due to a well-orchestrated online strategy by the BJP.

Another important role that the Internet played for the BJP was the mobilization of NRGs (Non-Resident Gujaratis) in favour of Modi. After all, they are the ones who fund the campaign.

Surely, there's a lesson or two that we can take from the e-electioneering.

Also Read: Guj Polls: It’s BJP vs Cong on YouTube and Orkut

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Asking around where to go this New Year's? Check burrp!

burrp! has compiled a list of all the happening New Year Parties in and around Mumbai / Bangalore / Chennai / Delhi / Ahmedabad / Hyderabad / Kolkata / Pune. Details of the parties (Venue, Contact person, Price, Events) are mentioned along with the ability to download these details on the mobile and an invitation that can be sent out to friends. Nice!

I must say, burrp! is by far the best site for all local stuff (although it is currently focused around restaurants and bars). The site is extremely pleasant to look at and extremely easy to use. However, what is most impressive about burrp is the participative community of burrpers that they've built over time (who not only generate content for burrp but also provide feedback during the development of new features.). Way to go!

Content - the missing piece in the Indian Internet puzzle

Internet in India may have reached millions of households (at least in large cities) but are all members of the household using the Internet? I rarely see parents going beyond e-mail/IM/online banking/trading. And I ask why? Why doesn't the Internet have the same impact on my mother as do TV/newspapers/magazines?

My mother stays in the heart of Mumbai, runs a 20-25 member strong fashion designing and tailoring business, and spends more than me each month. And she has a 2 Mbps Internet connection at home. But that is used primarily by my sister or me (when I am back home). It makes absolutely no difference to my mother whether the Internet connection is up or not.

And if the Internet industry has not yet found a way to reach her, then there is surely something missing. In such a scenario, I don't see much coming out of the Internet industry trying to woo users in semi-urban India. For the Internet to become a mass medium, it must go beyond the youth and reach out to everyone.

The Internet industry must provide enough compelling reasons for older people to come online. For a start, there is a huge need for local content (not mere online versions of newspapers). For example - my mom would surely like to see online versions of magazines that feature designer clothes. I couldn't find any when I searched for them. She'd definitely catch up on episodes online if she missed out on them on TV. Also, she'd rather consume content in Gujarati/Hindi than in English. Unfortunately, none of these content needs are met.

Imagine that the content needs are fulfilled and more older people in India start spending time on the Internet. Surely, the network effects would take over and there would be a wider Internet audience for advertisers to reach out to. And this would keep the online machinery running.

So, where do we begin?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I love my job!

Posting this just after having launched a new portal, I well and truly believe that this is by far the best loan portal to hit the Indian market.

While I truly would want users to echo this sentiment, I sure am thrilled. I am thrilled about the fact that I've built an über-simple Web 2.0-styled UI with über-complex back-end algorithms. Moreover, the portal's up and running finally - just the way I envisioned it.

The endless nights spent at work by myself and my team to make the launch happen finally feel worthwhile. Moments such as these are what keep me going at work.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I wish... Airlines in India offer Wi-Fi/Broadband Internet access.

Last week, there was news that American Airlines would offer its passengers Wi-Fi/Broadband services in 2008. (Though, it's still a pilot program.) With all the advances in technology, I feel this ought to have happened much earlier.

In any case, I am hopeful the technology will become prevalent soon and is quickly replicated by airlines in India. After all, a notebook without Internet is nothing more than a piece of furniture that is better left in the luggage cabin. Given the intense competition amongst airlines here and with each player trying to go one-up in in-flight entertainment services, this may not be too far-fetched.

When will traditional businesses adopt the Internet as a serious medium?

I am currently managing a portal,, that aids potential car buyers in making the right car purchase decision. We provide visitors to the portal with all the information they would need during their decision-making process - 360 degree animations, pictures, prices, specs/features, expert reviews/consumer feedback.

Given the fact that most visitors to the portal are looking to make a car purchase, it also becomes an excellent platform for auto manufacturers and dealers to showcase/market their vehicles to the potential buyers. Moreover, we offer auto manufacturers and dealers the benefit of a Cost Per Action model i.e. they pay us only if we get them customers. And I have no doubt in my mind that we help these clients cut their customer acquisition cost by a substantial margin. Under such circumstances one would think that the industry should have embraced us. But that has not been the case thus far despite a more than satisfactory volume of potential car buyers. Why?

I'd like to demonstrate my answer to the above with an example.

Consider a car dealer who sells 300 cars in a month with a marketing spend of Rs. 6,00,000 i.e. a spend of Rs. 2,000 per car. Using our product, we can help them sell 15-20 more cars at a fraction of their existing spend per car. But even then, we have found it difficult to convince most of the dealers to subscribe to our service. Agreed, its a relatively new concept in India and the dealers are not Internet savvy - but WTF, as long as we generate more business for them, why should it matter whether the concept is new or whether we are an Internet company? And I for one do not think this is the reason for low adoption levels.

The real reason lies in the fact that we help them sell an additional 15-20 cars against their existing volume of 300 cars i.e. we can help them grow by 5%. And it is this 5% where the problem lies. The number is too inconspicuous for someone to look up and take notice. Its only when this number goes upward to the 20+% levels that we will be seen as a serious marketing medium.

We have seen the above happen in the recruitment industry. Job sites like Naukri and Monster are now the primary recruitment channel and hence employers have taken a serious note of the online medium. Am certain the same would happen in case of autos and other Internet businesses in India. Till then, the excruciating wait continues.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A note for professionals walking in to the Internet industry

"The important thing is to identify the future that has already happened." - Peter F. Drucker

If you are an Internet industry professional, the most efficient way to action this bit of advice from Drucker is to get reading blogs focused on the developments in the Internet space. Here's the list of blogs I read daily:
O'Reilly Radar, TechCrunch, GigaOM, Web Worker Daily, Rough Type, Mashable, Read/WriteWeb, Scobleizer, Official Google Blog, WATBlog, ContentSutra, AlooTechie.
The last three on this list are specific to the Indian Internet industry.

P.S.: You obviously can't be visiting all of these sites on a daily basis. So get smart, and aggregate all the news feeds to your account on Google Reader.

Update (Dec 16, 2007): Some additions to the list of blogs specific to the Indian Internet industry -, VentureWoods