#startupchronicles

Within a matter of minutes, shaking hands with the CEO of one of India’s largest multiplex chains and then turning into manual labor to load our machine back into the tempo!

There are moments everyday, that one might think too much about, or nothing about.

Every moment you take to reflect, amuses you.

Oh, and I uberpooled to this meeting – and enroute, shared the ride with a guy whose family lives a couple of kms away from wifey’s family in secunderabad. And he calls the marketing head of another cinema chain, to discuss my concept – and follows up with me later during the day to discuss our entire engagement model.

Luck, sure. Leveraging – critical. I could jolly well have not spoken to that guy at all.

Services India should have 12 – Consumer Logistics 3.0

Services India should have 12 – Consumer Logistics 3.0

The good old courier companies as Blue Dart and Gati have been overshadowed by the ecommerce push and new processes driven by the likes of Delhivery and GoJavas.

I see parcelled, but don’t yet get confidence about it as an all-purpose consumer service to send anything or get anything picked up from anywhere. They ask me to input the Length, Breadth and Height of what i wish to send for God’s sake, instead of just making a S / M / L for a bag or carton.

The first world is solving more advanced logistics problems via tools like Portr (airport to hotel or reverse luggage delivery) or Dufl (managing  wardrobe logistics for business travelers), back in India, we have unique situations. Here’s what I’d like.

  • An app, integrated with a wallet, so no cash ever needs to be paid.
  • Preset addresses for pickup / drop (ala amazon contactbook) so I’m not writing down the address on the label everytime and neither is the pickup boy copying it on the receipt.
  • The choice of when the package is needed – express or regular. would mean the standard things in intra-city and inter-city parcels
  • Optional Tamper-proof packaging, for an additional fee.
  • Now, the most interesting part, what I’m looking to send :
    • The pickles or Gulaab Jamun from mom
    • My suitcase when I’m traveling with a lot of luggage
    • Just a suit I need in Bombay, which is in my house in Udaipur
    • Wife’s jewelry that’s with her mom in Hyderabad, for a cousin’s wedding in Bombay
    • A laptop / cellphone over to my friend in Bangalore
    • The thousand things we need to carry for our brother’s wedding in a different city.

Some of these situations end up needing people to hunt for the family or friend that’s traveling between the locations in the right time-frame or wait and travel personally.

With the right kind of back-end integrations, effective real time tracking and insurance cover – all the above should be possible for a reasonable cost.

Would plug well with the concierge service the guys at Helpchat et al are trying to build and I’m sure to be a regular user.

Now Returning to India…

Having seen India from a distance over the rather eventful last year and a half – majorly via the news of blockbuster funding and growth of startups, coming back for a break was a good reality check

  • The fastest way to get an auto/cab is still to wave to it on the road
  • Ola app hangs often and can throw random errors.
  • Uber doesn’t have enough cars
  • Oyo hasn’t quite standardized the budget yet beyond adding their logo to the gates(sometimes not even that much)
  • DMart (a departmental store) still gets overcrowded, even on a weekday evening
  • There aren’t more delivery boys on the road than regulars
  • Traffic and Air Quality do really suck
  • Housing is not where you go to find yourself a house
  • If you are really hungry – call the restaurant directly and follow up directly as well.

 

One might feel the party is about to get over – maybe true for the crazy blind valuations, but the game has only begun.

 

 

 

 

Services / Products India Should have -11 – Excess Food Managers

Services / Products India Should have -11 – Excess Food Managers

I know a bunch of NGOs have made small / scattered attempts in this direction – of collecting excess food from wedding venues and giving it away to the needy.

The efforts are minimally organized, driven by volunteers and not high on scale or sophistication. Appeals to Indians to be frugal with their weddings and menu spreads aren’t likely to get far. What might work however, is a more savvy approach to managing the waste better.

Here’s a thought on the flow :

  • Setup a basic website that allows a user to take a pledge to donate excess food from his wedding.
    • If people can pledge to donate their eyes, sure they can pledge to donate excess food
    • Let them enter venue, date, time to pickup, expected number of guests.
    • Add a voluntary donation of Rs. 5 – 10k to support the collection and distribution of the food. In the multi-million rupee wedding budget, this would be a pittance.
  • Setup a pick up and drop vehicle via services like theporter – pay per use, easy to book.
  • Maintain an inventory of food containers that would be filled up by the caterer’s people themselves.
    • Ideally, borrow these containers from the caterers themselves for the night.
    • Or use some kind of disposables
    • Or get them picked up from the community that’s expected to get the food.
  • Community Management
    • Identify clusters of people / orphanages / locations, tag them with the number of people, precise location
    • Appoint local co-ordinators in the cluster/community whose job is to take the delivery of the food, ensure fair distribution of the food and clean up and safe return of the containers. He should be able to organize volunteers from within the community.
  • Guide the driver to drop the food at the predetermined target location
    • Avoid going to the same location daily, you don’t want people to become dependent on this
    • Maximize usage, taking the right quantity to the right destination, sometimes splitting the food between multiple locations
  • If needed, engage with local cold storage operators who can keep the food for the night, if it’s really late and the food will be spoilt by the next morning. It can be figured out / planned in advance.
    • They may offer the space for free / need some convincing to open at random hours, but ultimately, they’d have low level staff who’d have a heart and be willing to do this.
  • If co-ordinated well, this can be managed in a rather lean way, leveraging existing staff and resources.
  • The only operating costs involved are the vehicle and the containers, perhaps some tips to the catering staff for the fill-up.
  • People would share their pledge on social media
  • People would refer their due-to-be-married friends to take this pledge when they know about weddings/events/parties.
  • Wedding caterers and event managers would recommend the service to parties they’re serving
  • Whoever’s taken the pledge, or heard about it – would hopefully be more cautious about piling up his plate at the next wedding he attends!
  • You might just run an Ad campaign on all the wedding-shopping related sites and optimize the Cost per Pledge here! Even if it costs Rs. 1000 per pledge, it’ll be worth it.
  • Can possibly expand into getting restaurant owners and star Hotels to pledge their daily excess food.

My belief is that people would love to help out if you don’t expect them to go through a lot of hassle in the process of helping out. Now all they need to do is register and they feel good, they’re seen as ‘thoughtful’ people in their social circles and it all works out.

A small control center team can monitor pick ups / drops and make sure no weddings are getting missed!

I respect volunteering and NGOs, but I like it much better when initiatives can sustain themselves, pay a few salaries and be super efficient on costs by using technology. Doing good doesn’t have to mean it can’t be done nicely.

These guys in the US seem to be doing a pretty decent job and making it look good too!

Products India Should Have – 10 – ExpertTalk

Products India Should Have – 10 – ExpertTalk

Would you be willing to talk to someone who wants your consulting for $100 / hr? Except, he only needs 2 hours. Though there are many like him. They can’t hire you for $100k, but can borrow you for a couple of hours for a smaller fee.

Satchets of expertise, to make it more affordable – if you’d like to put it that way!

Current freelancing portals are not quite designed for the higher end of expertise, are not seeking ‘knowledge’ or ‘expertise’, but getting odd ‘jobs’ done.

Ideally, this should’ve been an ‘app’ on the linkedin platform, but can exist independently, with linked-in connectivity.

  • I strongly believe that an hour of conversation the right person can save a month of research time
  • Most people would love to share knowledge, if the audience is worthy.
  • A lot of people would be willing to pay for a quick / easy access to expert advise on a specific topic they’re researching.
  • Several people know deeply about specific subjects, but won’t turn into authors or speakers at public events.

So

  • You put your desired hourly rate and an availability calendar on this system.
  • Someone who wants to chat with you pays for it, and books a slot
  • System tracks the call schedule / duration (ideally, connect a VOIP API to the base system itself)
    • The line / whatsapp / viber – et al, should release APIs to initiate voip calls on their infra from within any app and providing access to call logs. Hopefully, someone will do this soon.
    • Or use call conferencing systems, so users don’t have to exchange phone numbers if they don’t want to.
  • At the end of the call, the caller gets to rate the expert, based on depth of knowledge and eagerness to share and ability to satisfy all questions.
  • The expert can rate the caller too for being polite, genuinely curious etc. and not being a jerk
  • The call duration is tracked and billed to the callers account and credited to the expert’s account, minus a platform fees

For several professionals like Lawyers, Tax Advisors, Travel Consultants, Business Consultants, Financial Advisors, Sector Experts – this can be an effective way to utilize their knowledge better and for the callers, this is an effective way to get honest / expert opinions, devoid of the biases that someone who’s selling you a service would have.

If the knowledge I gained wasn’t imparted and made useful to a larger audience, it just got wasted!

It’s true that the well networked people get access to all the advise they need anyway for free, but then there’s a larger audience who may not be personally as networked or resourceful.

Hope linkedin listens.

Products/Services India Should Have – 9 – An Entertainment Talent Marketing Platform

Products/Services India Should Have – 9 – An Entertainment Talent Marketing Platform

The last few years of Reality TV Talent shows have helped unearth some really amazing talent from different parts of the country and despite their talent, the scary reality is several of these guys won’t be able to market themselves adequately well to get meaningful commercial success beyond the show.

To identify cities and then venues, organize publicity, sell tickets, and manage the whole logistics of the show – are too much work for the artists who know their art well, but are likely beginners in the world of public entertainment business. Most of their assignments are driven by personal / professional networks – not particularly predictable to let them comfortably follow their art as a full time career.

Hypothesis : People will pay for good quality live entertainment programs in outdoor venues / auditoriums.

We could surely do with more entertainment options beyond films and some theatre, that’s limited to some cities.

Could be in the form of ticketed consumer events, themselves, corporate bodies, public bodies, weddings and event hosts.

So how about an organized marketplace for entertainment talent supported by an agency service :

  • List artists with a 1-2 min clip of their performance, some pictures of past performances and description. Plus their calendar with past and upcoming shows, free dates available and the price for a show.
  • Agency manages the schedules and prices for all the artists negotiating terms on their behalf with potential hosts.
  • Agency can proactively schedule ticketed events in different locations, in sync with local event management companies to handle local and online publicity and ticket bookings.
  • Can offer one artist/group shows or make a bouquet of performances from different artists / groups to put together an event.
  • The agency only charges a commission on the tickets sold or events booked, no fixed fee for basic services.
  • Can appoint a relationship manager for every artist on the system
  • Have an active sales team reaching out to different types of customers to generate business.

There are so many of the youtube videos of performers I’d happily pay to see live! I do hope these people make a career out of their art.

Products/Services India should have – 8  – Rural Cinemas

Products/Services India should have – 8 – Rural Cinemas

Finished reading CK Prahlads works on the bottom of pyramid and this idea I had noted down in 2011 seems more doable now, with better enabling technology being available.

So i’m talking about low cost cinema setups in rural / remote areas which are far away from the reach of traditional cinemas and multiplexes.

If anyone wonders if the rural / poor will pay for entertainment,

  • Not all rural are poor
  • Even the poor want quality entertainment – One should check out the shanties along the Western Express Highway in Mumbai. EVERY single house has a Tata Sky / Videocon antenna perched on the roof.
  • TV penetration is high, so people ARE aware of the latest movie releases
  • To see a current movie would require you to travel to the nearby town – adding to cost / time.
  • Tablets / 3G or other connectivity / Projection and speaker Systems are all available, rather inexpensively.

So,

  • Make a tablet app that can cache a movie from a catalog, and relay it to the projector
  • Configure a unit – combination of Tablet, network connectivity, projector and audio system for the suitable audience size.
    • Keep it portable to set it up at different locations as needed.
    • A single unit with everything should cost to the tune of 1 lakh rupees,
    • Could sell or license the equipment to the local business manager like a set top box.
  • 1000 screens x 50 tickets x 20 rupees per ticket x 200 days = 20 crore / year.
  • Advertising revenue is additional.
  • Potential for 100,000 screens or even more.
  • Efficient to manage operations or deal with production/distribution guys if you’re the agency managing so many screens

Making the whole operation smarter,

  • Use SMS and mobile apps to communicate with your rural rep.
  • Have a call center to resolve any issues they face
  • Design and print posters centrally, use postal services to distribute at low cost.
  • Use SMS to promote films to the audience.
  • Play Classics when there are no new releases
  • Get local and regional language content.
  • Maintain a schedule plan and book slots in advance, just like television
  • Have afternoon screenings if you get an indoor venue.
  • Have free shows of relevant content powered by NGOs
  • If relevant, the setup can be moved around to other nearby villages using local transport
  • Include a watermark unique Id on the print of the film, so in case of piracy / leakage of print, the source can be identified and penalized.

You gotta do a better job than the traveling cinemas, which are fading away in the light of competing entertainment sources in cable TV, bootlegged DVDs and video parlors. As a single player, the power with content owners would be higher than the small traveling cinema players who won’t easily be able to access latest content.

MAYBE People won’t attach enough importance to new releases to consider paying for them while they have entertainment via Cable TV, so it needs a pilot and scale approach. The angle of social / community viewing of films, making them a picnic of sorts may work in its favor.