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. Begin again
  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

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.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Karma and Enterprise

I applied for a 3G dongle connection from one of the service providers a few years back. I made the payment in advance. Their executive visited my office but could not install the requisite software on my machine. He left promising to refund the money. It has been 3 years since then. I visited their showrooms, called their call centers, logged requests on their website, registered my grievances in consumer grievances forum but to no avail. I received calls once in a while from them stating that they would soon refund my money but they never did. I finally gave up.

A few months back I received a mail from them thanking me to avail the 3G connection with them. I continued to receive bills for a few months from them on my email. After a few months I informed them that I never took the connection and probably one of their (ex)-employees fleeced them using the application I submitted a few years. They responded, only after I refused to pay bills for a few months, that I would not get those reminders. Though they never bothered to pay a heed to my original grievance again is a matter to discuss some other time.

But I was happy that fate finally made them pay for their mistakes. Their karma finally caught up with them. That made me think - Do corporates also reap fruits of their karma? Is the concept of karma even applicable to corporates just like us the mortal? Probably yes.

Enterprises/Corporates are much like human beings. Their actions also set a chain of karma which will impact them, sometimes in ways that we cannot even establish the causality. Their actions(or karmas) will draw employees, partners, suppliers,clients, VC etc who all will have similar actions/intents/past(i.e. similar karma).It becomes a complex web of all of their karmas which defines the future of the enterprise and eventually its destiny.

I think karma is much more subtler and much more all-pervading than the vision, goal, strategic intent of organization. All these can be changed with time. But the cycle of karma once initiated with the initial thought/concept of the organization can not be changed. It is this initial thought which will define all the future actions or karma of the enterprise and eventually its destiny. A ponzi scheme set up with the objective of fleecing people of their money will draw only similar greedy investors who will make the scheme blow off.

So all the entrepreneurs planning to set up their enterprise should keep in mind to set up the enterprise with a thought/objective much bigger than just money making. It is this initial thought about their enterprise that would define the karma of their enterprise and would draw employees, suppliers, VCs, investors, bankers of similar karma to them. The positive complex web of karma all of them would uplift their enterprise.

Thats all for now!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mobile and retail

A few days back I had to renew my health insurance policy with one of the big insurance companies in India. The company’s call center executives were after me to renew the policy. Every time I told them that I would renew and requested them not to bug me but they would not relent. Finally on the dooms day I entered the URL of the company on my cell phone and boom! All that their mobile website shows is a form for one to enter one’s contact details so that the company’s call center can call you back! Though it gives the user an option to browse a desktop version but who wants to keep on zooming and panning on a desktop site from mobile!

So much for the mobile strategy from the companies in India where the number of people accessing web from mobile has already surpassed those accessing from desktop. We are in an age and country where everyone blahblahs about how people would access internet only from mobile soon. And our companies still do not have a good strategy on mobile.

Let me go back to the case of the insurance company. Their mobile website is really from stone-age. Their website is equivalent of how companies had their desktop website in early phases of web 1.0( late 90s).

Going mobile or having a mobile strategy for companies should really mean
1. rethinking their business processes,
2. identifying a smaller of existing use cases that should go mobile,
3. identifying new use cases keeping mobile in mind,
4. making tasks easier for the user

The insurance company’s mobile strategy loses on the last criteria sorely. I agree that when a person buys an insurance policy he does a lot of research and mobile is not really an ideal platform for it. So company does not need to have a mobile strategy at this stage of purchase cycle.

But at the time of policy renewal, the customer is probably not going to do any research.The customer has already crossed all the stages of the buying cycle. He is in the last stage of buying cycle of post purchase behaviour. The relationship between the company and the customer is already established. All the user needs is a website to enter the policy number and make the payment. In today’s busy life a user would want to do such tasks definitely on the go.

If the company does not make it easier for a user to renew the policy on the go it is giving the user another chance to rethink about their choice(of the insurance provider) at the time of renewal. The customer may jump to an earlier stage of buying cycle. He may re-evaluate all the alternatives.  The easier a company makes it for a user to renew the lesser are the chance of it losing the customer. Its easier to make call center executives ten calls to a customer but it take innovating thinking to actually enable the customer to renew quickly! The company definitely selected an incorrect use case for their mobile strategy(criteria #2 above) which failed in making life easier for user(criteria#4).

Though the example is from insurance domain the lesson is for all the retailers. The companies really need to think their mobile strategy from scratch. They need to make life easier for customer to ensure they do not lose them. And think cross-platform purchase. Not many customers complete all the stages of purchase cycle on web. But enabling some of the stages of purchase cycle on mobile is definitely going to help the retailers.

Will be back with more!