Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Taylor swift and art of buzz-building

Later this month on 27th, Taylor Swift will launch her fifth album and first "official documented pop" album - 1989. She is one of the artists who is able to sell record number of albums. She, in previous avatar, was one of the top  country singer. 
Country music is quite popular in Nashville area. Country music fans are though smaller in number but they are fiercely loyal. Taylor swift brought a lot new new fans to this music community. Her appeal to newer fan base of teenage girls made her music superstar and a force to reckon with.


Now with her first pop album, Taylor has real chance of hurting her loyal base of country fans. She has been innovative in selling her music albums as well as her music shows. She is one of the most accessible celebrities. In her shows, she invites fans for tea parties, comments on fan's instagram messages, posts her cats and family videos. 
With this album, she has added another way to connect to her fans - 1989 secret sessions. She looks for dedicated fans on instagram, twitter, tumblr and she invites them over to her various houses for private listening session for her new album. In the age of secrecy of celebs' private lives and her work - any one of fans can release the music titles online  - it is remarkable and fresh but risk-prone new approach.
When I connect this approach to Malcolm Gladwell book - The tipping point- How connectors, marketers and maven are required to make a product tip?. She is looking to tap the marketers on the social media who has been in past a vocal fan of her and can act as her brand ambassador for her upcoming album.  Whether it works or not remains yet to be seen.

Post script: Yesterday, she launched her new song "Out of the woods" on iTunes. It went to number one within minutes. It is after 1989 lead single "Shake it off" went on top of iTunes charts within minutes.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Samsung Galaxy - is it end of the road?

Later this month, Samsung will post its result which as per analysts, profits will be 60% lower than their peak profits. Galaxy range of smartphones which made them top mobile device manufacturer in the world, now facing its slow demise.

War of ecosystems
In the android world, there is Google which controls operating system and its apps while device manufacturers own the devices. Google will benefit when there is a great degree of adoption as well as fragmentation among the device makers while device makers would want to have a say in software and its future. But truth be told, it has never been a war between Apple and Samsung (Despite of Samsung "Genius" ads). It has always been between Apple and Google. 

Compare it to PC industry where in similar space, Apple is pitted against Microsoft. In this industry, Apple has 7% of market share but it reaps profit more than the PC industry. It's an old data of Q4 2012 but nevertheless illustrative. 

So if we take parallels, Mobile space will be tomorrow with 2 key players where Apple will make money while Google (it will make money also) with Android ecosystem will get the market share while device makers on the Android platform will be transitory in nature. Yesterday it was Samsung, today it is Xiaomi, Lenovo, Micromax, Xolo etc, tomorrow, it will be some one else but in this space, it will always be a race to the bottom[Android one is the example].

Where innovation is not an innovation
In Android space, device makers innovate on user interface but wait... is it innovation?
I bought Sony Xperia U which got obsolete soon after I bought it :(. Sony won't give any upgrade paths even if phone's hardware allows it. If I would have bought Nexus with stock Android experience, I would have been better off. Even Android one has better software upgrades (18 months) while average Android devices have 12-18 months. 
So with topped-up user experience layer, are customers better off? Not really. It cages customers as it blocks future software upgrades and is a drain on device's resources.
In the android world, device makers are unable to do any differentiation other than UI layer (Even this is going to change with Android L and material design). 

Between a rock and a hard place
Samsung has reined the market with some innovative bets - larger screen size, better display, stylus, more powerful devices. 
All these innovations are no longer sustainable as no device maker can now increase screen size. Regarding device's computing power, with Android KitKat, Google took a different route to increase device penetration by slimming down its memory and processing footprint and any hardware related improvement will get copied by low cost manufacturers in the next iteration and any software level improvement can't be done by Samsung Galaxy and any solution which is a collaboration between hardware and software can't be proprietary to the Samsung.

Epilogue
 So it looks like Microsoft with its Nokia device with its Windows mobile as an ecosystem (profitability is the point of consideration) has far more success chance( how ridiculous it sounds at present ;)) than Samsung as a device maker on Android platform. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Recruitment conundrum - Lesson for start ups

One of the biggest problems Start ups face - hiring a right person. This is a bigger problem for start ups than large corporations as time of the higher management (aka founders) is a scarce commodity and great candidates  don't come by easily.


Many corporations have developed a strong and robust(?) process for hiring which takes a lot of precious time of senior managers. Kuncel, Klieger and Ones studied and found out that in hiring, algorithms beat instinct.

They point out algorithms work better than human judgment every time - either in supervisor's ratings or number of promotions or ability to learn from training.
They say "If you simply crunch the applicants' data and apply the resulting analysis to the job criteria, you'll probably end with a better hire".

So what is the problem with human judgment? They point out "people are easily distracted by things that are marginally relevant and they use information inconsistently".

But there is a strong resistance to this idea as managers are not able to figure out how their 25 years of experience are not good enough for hiring and to top it all, how algorithms can do it better?
and they recommend a middle path given the cynicism - "use a purely algorithmic system, based on large number of data points, to narrow the fields before calling on human judgment to pick from just a few finalists. or several managers independently weigh in their on the final decision, and average their judgment".

Cross-posted on my LinkedIn profile

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Entrepreneurship lessons from Evernote success

Evernote started out as note taking app which envisions itself to be second brain. It helps its users to be more productive by helping jotting down thoughts on every device. It has 100+ million users and growing. It is an impressive growth story. what led to its success?

  • Follow the users on any possible device: Since Evernote aspired to be second brain so from beginning it followed the strategy that it will support any device even if less popular. so when iPhone opened its app store, it was one of first business apps available on iPhone. This provided them a head start   
  • Logo, brand is important: Evenote has a distinctive colored logo and was made to stand out on digital screens. In the beginning of app store, when apps were just 500 and evernote was one of them, it provided them visibility.
  • Focus on users: Most of the startups focus on either a vertical or subset of features to get a start in the market due to financial and managerial bandwidth. Evernote focused on its product and users and  didn't tailor its product to specific set of vertical or users. so users found their own use cases. Their initial users were news reporters who used to jot their ideas and story n all its forms - verbal, voice, images etc. to prepare a report and clergy who needs to jot its ideas for sunday mass sermons. Luckily these are one of the best brand ambassadors ( Remember Connectors from book The tipping point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Power of WoM: it didn't spend any advertising dollars. It relied on word of mouth and focused on product. Later it went for partnerships.
  • Competition helped evernote: When Google launched its note taking app, Google Keep, it was a basic product compared to Evernote so when users got aware of note taking app due to Google keep, they compared it with other available apps. Evernote easily won due to its vast set of features.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

How to find a play school for your child - LazyAndSmart Way

Guest post by Madhav Bhartia. He is the founder of www.GoGuruCool.com.

As your child grows up, its important to plan for child’s preschool. Once your child is ready for play school, it’s time you to start your search for a good play school program. It’s always better to start your hunt for school early rather than wait. Many parents apply for good play school as soon as their child is born.
Once you’ve identified a few good play schools, apply to all of them in order. Most of the franchise based play schools in India take admission throughout the year. To find the best program for your child, you can follow the below steps.

Identify the parameters based on priority

First, decide what you want.
Convenience : Are you looking for a play school near your workplace, or would one closer to your home be more convenient?
Curriculum : Are you looking for a specific approach to learning? There are many of them like Montessori,Reggio Amelia, etc
Faculty / Support Staff : If you have any preference for faculty / staff of school?
Infrastructure: Is the school well-built? Are there enough space and not congested? etc
Write down the parameters in the order of your own priority, so that you have a list to refer to as you evaluate different programs.

Do your own research for  better understanding.

Search for different play schools at www.GoGuruCool.com sitting at your home or work location. Get the contact information and reviews for different schools from GoGuruCool.com .
You can ask a few basic questions over the phone w.r.t. fees or admissions, but you won’t get a good idea of what a preschool is really like until you go there. Visit the school in person and with your child, to meet the staff. It will also give you a good idea w.r.t. your convenience and locality of school.

Visit to the play school

When you visit the classrooms, check the teacher-child ratios and note how many children are in a classroom. Typical, recommendation for 2 to 3-year-old kids is in groups of no more than 18, with at least two teachers. For 3 to 4-year-old kids, we recommend groups of 20 or fewer, again with at least two teachers. As many as 20,  5-year-olds can be in a class with two or more teachers. It’s much easier to give a proper care and one-on-one attention along with having a better responsiveness when there are fewer kids in a class room.
Ask the director about everything from hours, fees, and vacation schedules to philosophies.Trust your gut feeling about the place and notice how the director handles your questions.
Observe how the teachers interact with the kids: Make sure they’re friendly, caring, and encouraging. You’ll also want a challenging curriculum, experienced teachers (who are paid well and satisfied with their job), and an environment that’s warm, clean, and safe.
Ask about staff turnover (This is very important). If the teachers change every six months, move on. Children need consistency and the opportunity to form strong relationships with their caregivers, so you don’t want a preschool where teachers come and go.
Ultimately, choosing a preschool is a personal decision. If, after visiting a preschool, you love the idea of your child going there, it’s probably the right place for you.

Check references

Positive word of mouth is a powerful endorsement. If a preschool has a certain buzz, ask parents what they like about it. You may even consider asking few schools, which you’re considering for a list of few parents whose children have attended the school. Call them and ask specific questions. Don’t just ask whether they like the preschool: Ask exactly what they like about it and what they don’t. If their child no longer goes to the school, ask why.

Let Kid also feel it

That way you can see how he and the teachers interact and whether he seems comfortable in the preschool environment. Do the teachers seem interested in getting to know your child? Does he enjoy the activities?

Apply

If the preschool of your choice has no openings, don’t feel bad. Put yourself on the waiting list, and while you’re at it, write a letter explaining why you like the school so much. It won’t guarantee you a place, but it can’t hurt to let the school know how enthusiastic you are about the program.
In the meantime, if you’ve applied to more than one school, it’s likely you’ll have other options to consider.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

5 Things Entrepreneurs can learn from Taylor Swift

Taylor swift is a 24 year old American country singer / songwriter. She has won 7 Grammys and she has produced 4 albums
  1. Taylor swift
  2. Fearless
  3. Speak now
  4. Red
She is only female singer and 4th singer overall to sell 1 million albums thrice in a row after Beatles, Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson.


Entrepreneurs can learn from her:
  1. Find your niche: She is a stockbroker’s daughter from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. It is quite uncharacteristic profile for a country singer but found her niche as a “stay nice girl while having fun” which is quite unfamiliar in US music industry.
  2. Follow your guts: When she was 14, she got a 1 year development deal from RCA records - one of the largest record labels in USA for writing song. After 1 year RCA records wanted her to sign another development deal till she is 18 which she refused and signed a record deal with a startup - Big Machine Records (She was the first singer on its rolls). RCA records also wanted her to sing other writer’s songs which is quite a norm in the industry that proposition - she refused as well. and she has written or co-written all her songs in all her albums
  3. Take care of your customers (Connect to your fans): She is one of most accessible celebrities to her fans. During her shows, she has designed multiple ways to connect to her fans - inviting fans to tea parties, hugging and meeting fans during the shows, singing couple of songs for her fans who are sitting far behind in the stadium - which no other singer does.
  4. Understand social media and innovation: She is one of the most popular celebrities on social media (41 million + followers on twitter). she was among the first celebrities who understood the power of social media and shared family videos, hangouts with fans. She even announced her Red album on Youtube channel instead of traditional media. She also brings fellow singers to her shows to keep her fans excited in her shows as part of innovation.
  5. Invest in your business: Kind of success, she has achieved, no other singer runs their own management. While other singers and celebrities outsource their management to others, she runs her own show. This way, she provides her fans a seamless integration from writing her songs to finally showcasing her songs.
Bonus

  1. Stay connected to your family: She is most probably - only singer / song writer who instagrams / tweets pictures of her family members, brings her parents to her shows and keep her parent part of management. In fact, her parents are integral part of her management team.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Technology Innovation and Startups

This post is contributed by Tom Thomas
A startup company based on innovative technologies spends considerably on innovation and product development. Entrepreneurship is a driver for technological innovation. Given below are some tips on bringing together the technical and commercial worlds for financial success.

Commercial Feasibility
Any new technology should prove the technical and commercial feasibility to be successful. Identify the core physical constraints underlying the previous technologies that are getting replaced by the new invention and assess the significance. Also, identify the constraints inherent in the new innovation. The difference of these two should provide a qualitative technical balance, making the innovation more meaningful to the user.
Similarly analyze the potential changes in the existing business that will be brought about by the innovation. Compare that with the cost of new business operations required for the adoption of the new technology. This gives the qualitative business balance resulting from the new invention.

Seek the Need
Perceive the opportunities based on emerging market need where the new technology can fit in. Analyze whether the product incorporating the new technology provides enhanced effectiveness in the market place.

Assessment of the market Opportunity
Follow a data-driven approach to assess the market opportunity. For successful productization, the new technology has to be analyzed using architectural designs, working models and prototypes and engagement with potential customers and partners. Analyze the changes which must be made to the innovation to create the end product.

Target small first, then big
Do not try to target large or wide business opportunities from the beginning. This can bloat the focus and strategy. Identify and define the first major market opportunity. It will give a clear target for technology and product development in the short-to-medium term. It should be sufficiently large to provide the foundation for long-term development. With the lack of this type of focus, there will be a number of options, resulting in longer project time and the intended market will keep shifting.

Adoption of new Technology
Aim at satisfying the pragmatic customers to establish a strong foundation in the market. Identifying the first major market is thus strategically critical. The adoption will be more effective when the business and technical balance is perceived high in value by the customers. Minimal behavioural change requirements and minimal perceived loss to achieve the gains offered by the new technology and product will help in faster adoption.