Should experts be limited to an organization?


 I am a great fan of analogy, and one of the things I have been pondering for past year or so is comparing our software industry with that of medical and film industry.

In this post, I plan to share some thoughts on how our software industry can consider the evolution of medical and film industry, and probably evolve in that direction.

Expert0 Expert2

In Medical industry, the ecosystem contains Doctors, Surgeons, Physicians, Specialists, Hospitals, Clinics, Life Science companies, research labs and further other associated entities to serve the patients.

In film industry, the ecosystem is made up of producers, directors, actors, cameraman, music director, editor, choreographer, stunt master,other specialized technicians.

Similarly in our software industry, the ecosystem is made up of VCs, founders, techies, designers, product managers, and sales/marketing folks.



One of the striking aspects of the whole evolution is the Specialization part, where medical industry has evolved and recognized the need for deep specialization, and doctors and the ecosystem surrounding have focused on specialization. While you still see some general physicians, we all know who are in more demand – the specialist.

In the film industry, specialization has become very key. Whether you are a screen play writer of dramas, you are specializing in romantic comedies, you are an action director etc. Offcourse there are few folks who are versatile especially in acting, but every film needs a bunch of specialist.

Similarly in our industry, specialization has taken off and it’s a great sign of the industry maturing. We see specialists in design, Ux vs backend techies, architects, B2B vs B2C product managers, industry experts such banking, government, healthcare who bridge industry knowledge with technology, we see further more big data, cloud, database, IoT, mobile etc experts.


Should Specialist be limited to an organization or department?

With the above background, the key thought I had for writing this post is how our industry can evolve to leverage the specialist expertise, to go beyond just one organization.

Take the case of medical industry, an important attribute is that the specialist are usually not associated to one hospital but consult in multiple different places. There also exists several communities where specialist come together to discuss the challenges, problems, solutions and experiences in their area of specialization. We have seen several doctors consult with others to get second opinions. The ecosystem is well setup in such a way that its not just honorary service, but it’s a win win for everyone, and takes care of “what’s in it for me ?” very well

In case of film industry, most of the people work independently and come together for a specific film. Over the period of time, many work together in multiple such film projects over several years. There are specialist and actors (not the main heros) who work on multiple projects. Its left to the potential, interest and capability of individual on how much he or she can leverage their time, how they want to pace their career, and how they really are on the toes to differentiate or find their winning formula, as individual or as a team. One of the nice talk you should watch to understand it is when our versatile actor Kamal Hassan spoke at NASSCHOM event, sharing some of the interesting aspects of film industry.

The above 2 industry are a great example for us to consider as we evolve our industry. We have several experts and specialist out there in our industry, but their talents are often not leveraged to full potential for lack of the right setup – they are bound by their employment contracts, or merely don’t have avenues to share, engage, contribute and gain. Most of the folks in our industry land up into mundane jobs, standard career path, leading to becoming some people managers or stop reinventing ourselves.

The boundary laid out for experts is not just being able to do with multiple projects outside, but even within the company many of the experts do not have an opportunity to showcase their potential as they are bound by their departments and hierarchies.

Here are my thoughts on how our industry can evolve around better leveraging specialist:

  • Expert clubs that can bring together specialist by different areas of specialization e.g. by specific functional areas, deployment expertise, industry expertise, cultural expertise, skills – product management /design/architecture, GTM expertise etc.
  • Answering the ‘whats in it for me ?’ question – not to expect specialist to come and engage always for free
  • Employment contracts have clauses that allows experts to do other pursuits beyond their employment e.g. like a doctor who can consult beyond the hospital he is assigned to, experts should be able to consult for other products /projects
  • Creating an environment where its safe for experts to be sharing and working independently to take risks
  • Entrepreneurs to recognize the need for experts /specialization for rolling out products that excel, instead of relying on do it all jack of all – this will drive towards the products that excel
  • An environment or community that facilitates experts to be easily accessible and able to work on a product/project for a given time, including possibility for them to engage in multiple projects based on their appetite …think of the movie analogy here
  • Crowd sourcing for expert skills would be a great way to enable experts to be fully engaged, leverage potential and create more products
  • Mentor programs are a stepping stone in this direction for many experts, we see lot of mentor programs already run…but this needs to get to the next level where these experts contribute more rigorously


List of Experts that we would like to see in our product industry being part of expert club, not exhaustive:

  • Ux Designers – Interation /visual design
  • Mobile designers
  • Internet Security experts
  • Product Managers for B2C
  • Product Managers for B2B
  • Product marketers
  • Industry Specialist
  • SaaS Pricing experts
  • Growth Hacking experts
  • Technical writers /Product Documentation writers
  • Intellectual Property Experts
  • Social Media Marketers
  • Solution Architects
  • Performance Optimization Experts
  • Scalability Experts

What are your views on this… can our software industry switch gears to enable experts to contribute more…and get awesome products that excel  …working beyond organization boundaries like a doctor or cinema artiste ?

Wizters – The anonymous social network.

There’s a lot of news about Whisper, Secret, and other anonymous social networks lately. Anonymous forums that have existed online for years, such as the anonymous confessions at PostSecret and  the anonymous question-and-answer network. Unlike older, Web-based message boards and forums, these apps use the mobile capabilities to easily pass posts through text messages or on social media. All you need do is upload a screenshot to spread something meant for a few friends to dozens or even hundreds of people.

The latest to join Anonymous Social Media bandwagon is Wizters. Its go to market strategy was to aim at college students, and probably one of the best features on Wizters is the random contextual names. Every user is given a random name for any particular activity, and this changes for another activity. To counter the ill effects or misuses, the team behind Wizters is also working on machine learning so that it can automatically detect socially unfit posts and keep them out of the social network.

WiztersI had a chance to interact with Apoorv Saini, the CTO and Cofounder of Wizters. Here are excerpts of our chat: 

Please give us a background of the Wizters founding team.

I (Apoorv Saini) am the co-founder and CTO of Wizters. I have been working on Wizters for over 2 and a half years now and just completed my Engineering from IIIT-Delhi and now aim to take Wizters to next level.

Dr. Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, is the Co-founder, Chief Strategist and member of the Advisory board. He is also the Assistant Professor at IIIT-Delhi and Ph.D. Alumni from Carnegie Mellon University

How did the idea of Wizters come into being?

It all happened in summers of 2011, just after completing my 1st year of engineering, I started working on an anonymous social network for colleges. The idea was given to me by a friend of mine. For around one year I worked on it in stealth mode and then finally launched it in July 2012. Wizters received positive reactions instantly and from that point onward, I have been developing it and shaping the then-non-existent anonymous social space.

Please describe your product in detail and its differentiation in the market. 

Wizters is an anonymous social network which allows users to share anything (Videos, texts and pictures) and connect with friends, likeminded people or strangers.

Social anonymity market is very new and it has very few players (most of them came way later than Wizters). It is our motive and set of features that differentiate us from our competitors like Whisper and Secret.

Wizters is for sharing anything instantly in real time while others just want you to share your innermost thoughts or confessions, Wizters does all of it and also gives you the rush of real time sharing. Wizters can be doubled up as Anonymous Twitter.
The android app of Wizters allows users to record and anonymously share 12 seconds of video. It is such a big power to users and none of our competition even comes close.

Not only this, we want to the “Center of Social Anonymity“, so we even have a plugin to share content on the web anonymously on Wizters and will be providing Developer APIs for developers to create apps that require user anonymity.

What are some of the challenges that you see in the next few months?

The main challenge would be the rise of competitions. The social anonymity market is on the rise and there are more start ups coming this way. Our biggest challenge will be to stick to our roots and keep tackling the competition.

Next is user engagement. As we are on the rise with our android and web app, we are already working releasing sets of features that will keep users engage and they can spend more time on Wizters. Next few months are dedicated to testing our features and validating them.

We are also taking Wizters to Japan, trying to see how people react to social anonymity there, including promotions and native support, we will also run experiments to make Wizters better and achieve some traction in Asian market.

Please share any early success that you have had. What do your users think about Wizters?

Wizters for Windows phone was featured as the best new comer app on App Flow. Wizters was also featured on the Top apps in Windows Phone Market Place.
Wizters was placed among top 150 startups in Pioneer’s challenge at Vienna in 2013.

NextBigWhat called Wizters “The Gossip Queen for Colleges” last year, but we have moved out of our College bubble and are now open to all.

What are your plans to get product adoption?

This is where we had been facing issues earlier, but we have are building a better anonymous ecosystem unlike others (where users come, get excited and then get bored and leave). We are using short version recycles and combining them with custom campaigns for users. Everyone wants to be anonymous and to be hard at the same time, so we have given them full control of their audience using hash tags and handles (like those of Twitter), as people know how to use them (as for hash-tags, people use them even where they are not required and we have utilized this thing). The sense of familiarity and the set of features that we have planned for users, I don’t think they are not going to run out of reasons to keep using Wizters regularly.

What is your product roadmap for the next few months? Which features can we expect?

We have just released our Android app and it is getting some good reviews and bags huge potential. Imagine how much power can you have sharing videos anonymously with the world. For next 5 months we are going to work on making our web and android app better based on user feedback. Along with that, you can certainly expect “Anonymous Chat” feature for sure. We already have chat feature on web app, but we are trying to build a much better chat experience for users to connect with people anonymously on web and mobile platforms.

Wizters for iOS will hit the App Store next year around July.

Office Chat – The App for Messaging Securely” – Vipin Thomas, Product Manager – MangoApps #PNHangout

MangoAppsWith Office Chat, the goal was simple; we wanted to create a product like Whatsapp, but for enterprises. This app should seamlessly work between devices (mobile and desktop) and could also be sold alongside the other suite of apps offered by MangoApps (an enterprise social collaboration network). Although MangoApps has an IM client tool integrated in it, Office Chat differentiates itself by bringing out the social flavour from MangoApps, thus, offering a similar and robust IM Client.

Integration: The Key to Success

photoWhen we launched MangoApps, it was a Micro-blogging tool which had IM capabilities. As our customer base grew larger, we integrated modules that raised a lot of feature requests from our community of users. These feature requirements typically vary drastically from industry to industry. With over 8,500 customers from 28 countries, what has set MangoApps apart is its ability to integrate with almost 30+ applications such as SalesForce, SharePoint, Office 365, etc seamlessly. MangoApps architecture was built keeping in mind that any enterprise could plug and play with any existing solution that maybe used within the organization.

Office Chat gives companies a better way to communicate with colleagues and project members, by offering a solution that works across multiple devices. We have spent a lot of time in understanding the pain points of our customers and how our product could simplify their lives. The Office Chat team has also been dogfooding the app themselves by using the product internally, and providing relevant use cases to make the product simpler to use.

The motivation to use Office Chat is driven by the increased productivity from using a platform that allows the user to perform better because all the information is tightly integrated. As Product Managers we spend a lot of time demonstrating use cases to our customers. We have a public domain that allows any customer to sign up for free and kick off a Proof Of Concept (POC). It’s only after an entire team uses the platform do they see the value in using it, hence, we spend a lot of time evangelising the benefits of this social aspect inside organizations.


Deployment Models to cater to diverse organizations

Office Chat as a product fits into any industry. To cater to our diverse customers we segment our audience on the size of the organization and offer solutions based on the capacity of usage.

Public Cloud: This is a SaaS based model where a customer can purchase the app and can start using it immediately. We offer the App in three avatars, namely free, business and enterprise. The advantage of moving onto a more premium plan is that you will not have any limitations with integrations with 3rd party API’s or the number of users.

Private Cloud and On-Premise: This solution offers the customer the flexibility to choose his own hosting provider while deploying Office Chat. We also offer a range of on-premise solutions as well.

The Road Map

We spend a lot of time interacting with our customers. We try to understand the sort of challenges our customers face while adopting to the platform. When a customer requests for a feature, we usually take a step back to analyse if such a feature has been requested by other users to see if we can derive a pattern and based on this before we go about defining our product roadmap.

We are planning to integrate a slew of features (including real-time note pads) that increases the ability to collaborate between colleagues.


#PNHANGOUT is an on-going series where we talk to Product Managers from various companies to understand what drives them, the products they work on and the role they play in defining the products success.

If you have any feedback or questions that you would like answered in this series feel free to tweet to me: @akashj


MyParichay – Find jobs by leveraging your network

MyParichay is India’s Largest job search and career network on Facebook. The company consists of a dedicated group of successful entrepreneurs, HR professionals, and computer scientists that want to capture the spirit behind a Parichay (an introduction) from a known person to transform how people achieve their career potential and companies find the best quality talent. The company’s technology prowess and deep understanding of the industry have encouraged several corporates including Genpact, 24X7, IBM, PWC, Grollier, Airbus, EXL Services, Cognizant, Yahoo India and Convergys to adopt MyParichay solutions. MyParichay has two product lines; one a social job board for job seekers, which is an internet consumer product and the other a set of social recruiting management products viz. Employee Parichay and Company Parichay for employers and recruiters. Here we focus on the social job board for job seekers, their B2C product.

The Company

Every job seeker knows that it is much easier to get an interview call when your resume has been referred (or at least forwarded) by an employee of the company, than if you post it through regular job boards or company’s website. However, it is not always easy to find out who amongst your friends and acquaintances can help refer you within the company. Most people still rely on regular channels of job search, which continue to yield poor results.

MyParichay (like other companies in this space) intends to solve this problem of discovery by allowing job seekers to discover their connections (Facebook and LinkedIn for now) within the companies where they see a relevant job opening, and allows them to request them to refer their resume.

It is a social recruitment platform that believes in the power of a ‘Parichay’ – the Sanskrit term for introduction. It was established in 2012 and is co-founded by Ranjan Sinha and Vivek Sinha.

Considering that 6 out of 10 job seekers are only on Facebook and that according to a study by, chances of finding a friend increases by 54X when applied through a friend, MyParichay brings the power of social network to Job seekers. Their target segment is 21-30 yrs. which spends a lot of time on Facebook and uses Facebook as both a personal and professional network. They offer a job board for job seekers larger than Naukri and Monster combined! Their job seekers app is in Facebook’s Top 10 business app.

The Product

MyParichay allows their users to sign-in using Facebook (the only sign-in option) and look for jobs in companies, hence acting like a regular job board with a large number of job openings posted. You can add your Linkedin network to your MyParichay account to leverage your connections on LinkedIn. Every job search result is tagged with a list of people from your network who are connected with this company and can potentially refer you. The site then allows the user to apply to these companies by requesting their friends to refer them, thereby increasing the chances of an interview call significantly.

(All pictures and names have been blacked out in screenshots below for privacy reasons)


Their proprietary ConnectedJobs technology is built on a combination of Java, Python, and various Open Source projects. They use a combination of NoSQL and SQL data stores and use AWS. Their website is Android and iPhone friendly today and they will continue to invest in improving the website experience on handheld devices. They are also planning to bring to market a native android app that leverage key capabilities of mobile devices, such as OTT messaging and geo location, to deliver a unique social experience within the career enhancement context.


Their biggest differentiator is the size of the job pool that they have, and which continues to grow. They have tie-ups with various other job boards and thereby act as an aggregator of various jobs out there. They also have tie-ups with various large companies, which allow them early access to the jobs.  They continue to sign job board partnerships around the world and will announce three significant partnerships this quarter; they are also building their own job crawler.

Another advantage of social recruitment solutions like MyParichay is that by using social networks, they provide transparency whereby both job seeker and employer can learn more about each other, much before serious discussions have started. With its B2B solution, MyParichay closes the loop on referrals by both making it easy to refer (for employees) as well as making it easy for companies to track these referrals using MyParichay’s system.


While job portals proliferate in India, hiring good talent remains a tough problem for organizations. Referral continues to remain best channel for good hires, but referrals account for a very small % of total available profiles. Hence it is not surprise that recruiting through social media (and hence job search through this channel) is a hot area, and MyParichay is positioned well. They have signed up some marquee clients and continue to do well in that area. They have 24M+ profiles in their database and continue to sign-up 12000 profiles a day (more than Naukri’s 11,000 a day). This demonstrates the traction they have in the market.

Among their competitors in Social Recruitment space, Career Sonar is best known, with very comparable offering. In addition, traditional job boards are their competitors, as well as their potential partners. Ranjan Sinha, Co-Founder, says, “Apply Button is our competitor, not the job portals.” They recently signed up a deal with (HT Media has a stake in myParichay) to allow social bar on site, essentially replacing ‘Apply’ with “MyParichay Apply”.

The Road Ahead

Recruitment has always been a social process. Good companies and roles are found by word-of-mouth, good hires are found through referrals and from passive pool of candidates (who are not looking for jobs). Interview process is more about knowing each other and liking each other than comprehensive evaluation of capabilities (which is anyway impossible to do in the short interview window). Job boards traditionally have made it a transactional activity where recruitment has primarily become a resume collection program. Social recruitment tools offer a much needed push towards making hiring social again.

MyParichay is uniquely placed in this space with a product that has excellent traction in the market and which offers some very good capabilities. Here are a few areas that they will do well to focus on as they go forward in this space:

  1. User Experience: Experience of their web site is decent but need to be at par with other consumer products their target segment is used to – it looks more web-like and less app-like.
  2. Relevancy of connections: Currently, I need to choose who do I go through if I have more than one connection who can refer me to a job. Clearly, with more data at their disposal, myParichay is (or should be) in a better position to recommend the person I should go with to have the best results. This will make the process more effective and seamless for the job seekers.
  3. Job Search vs. Recommendation: Job Search is going to be obsolete concept, given that many roles names and job definitions continue to evolve rapidly to fit a globalized world’s new requirements. Given that myParichay knows my profile details, it should be able to recommend jobs for me based on elements of my profile and my online behavior.

MyParichay is in a growing segment and has carved out a good position for itself, and they seem to be on track for a fast growth. Future seems very bright for them.

“We think more like Product Designers, and less like Product Managers” – Bharath Mohan, #PNHangout

(This passage is a summary of the conversation with Bharath Mohan. The audio transcript can be found here.)

Adopters of any new innovation or idea can be categorized as innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%) and laggards (16%), based on a mathematical Bell curve put forth by Everett Rogers in his book titled “Diffusions of Innovations”. The book broadly suggests that if you have a product that is of value, you often times have to pave the path for the consumers to be the beneficiaries of this idea. It’s the product designer’s role to design how a product is used across the dispersion of users. This ultimately determines the principles of design and the features that your product consists of.

bharath-photoWhile I was doing my PhD in IISc, I worked on designing a myriad of algorithms for information retrieval. A typical internet user reads content that could range from currents events, such as the war in Syria, to topics as specific as Product Management. I’ve always dreamt of a system that can bring the most relevant information to a user – without the user searching for it. connects the context in which you are browsing through these articles by following the digital trails you leave behind. It then uses its context engine to recommend the next article it considers you should read packaged in a seamless experience.

Designing has been an exciting experience, which included research in algorithms, building a real time crawling and retrieval system, and constantly learning from users. We’ve followed some Mantras in our product development – especially because the product requires inputs from multi-disciplinary areas. Everything has to tie in, to each other. Nothing is known prior and has to be learnt along the way. A “product management” approach would not work. A “waterfall” model to design would not work. “Powerpoint presentations” would not work either. Our product management is less of “management”, and more of design and evolution.

The Pugmarks Mantra

Unlike Facebook or Twitter where the problem’s technology core is simple and scaling is complex, our problem’s technology core is complex akin to the likes of Google’s search engine and NEST. Hence, over the past 1.5 years our product has been opened to a smaller set of users which gives us data to refine the product further ultimately paving the path for a larger cross section of consumers to enjoy the benefits of the product.

pugmarks-character-evolutionSome of our Mantra’s are:

  • Be metrics driven: Once we analyse our features metrics we identify ones that are successful and bolster them to make these our ‘super class’ features. While we do this, we bin our users into “Fans”, “Tried but dropped off”, “First day drop-offs”. The ‘tried but dropped off’ is where we focus our energy on. We do data analysis, interviews and direct emails – to understand why they drop off. What we learnt is that they mostly drop off because of the “inconvenience” of a new product; either added latency, extra memory consumption, instability of the browser, etc. These reasons give us new things to work on and improve.
  • Usage versus Users: We are building our product with the goal that even if few users come to try out our product, they all stay back. Between usage and users, we prefer high usage between a small number of users over low usage in a high number of users. If our product cannot engage users for a long time, any amount of marketing will still not help.
  • Focus on real Virality: Virality is often confused with just having a Facebook share or a Tweet button, or slyly making a user talk (spam) about your product in his social channels. Virality for us is the inherent quality in our product which makes the user want to talk about it. We consciously ask ourselves, “What will our users want to talk about Pugmarks to someone else?” These viral loops must be strengthened and not social share buttons.
  • Constantly question your assumptions: In our initial iterations, we felt our users will be concerned over privacy. Soon, we realized that the paranoid would never use us anyway – even if we gave them a lot of control. The ones, who used us, felt we were not building good enough models for them. So, we moved away from user supervised learning to a completely automated learning system. We imagine our current user telling us, “I’ll tell you everything about me. Now help me in ways I’ve never seen before”.
  • Continuous Integration: We never take up features or tasks that take more than two weeks to launch especially one’s which require a lot of people and require extensive build times and planning. If you finish the code and if it’s lying unused, there’s an opportunity cost lost because that code could very well engage a user or maybe incite him to talk about the product to someone else. This is a loss for us, hence, we continuously integrate.
  • Own the full user experience, end to end – From messaging to user touch points to the backend algorithms: A user doesn’t appreciate information until it is delivered in a way that is useful to you and is needed by you. We obviously needed a team that was capable of building this experience end to end. Our team considers every aspect of the product, from the touch points to the user, how the product interfaces with the user and also how the product communicates with the user using the technology algorithm we created.

pugmarks-airplanes#PNHANGOUT is an on-going series where we talk to Product Managers from various companies to understand what drives them, the products they work on and the role they play in defining the products success.

If you have any feedback or questions that you would like answered in this series feel free to tweet to me: @akashj

Corporate Trainings are now Fun and Digital, thanks to MindTickle

MindTickle – ranked by Business Today as India’s coolest startups – is a gamified social learning platform founded by four enterprising men, who are were so passionate about games that they decided to make it their vocation. While the three were hard at work, we managed to draw Mohit out for a quick chat. So here is Mohit Garg, CoFounder MindTickle.

ProductNation: Hi Mohit. Welcome to Product Nation. Let us begin with your story.

Mohit Garg: Thank you, productnation for this opportunity.

MindTickle has four cofounders – Krishna Depura, Nishant Mungali, Deepak Diwakar and myself.

I am an electrical engineer having studied and worked in the US. While in the states, I had a chance to work at some great software product companies like Aruba Networks. My experience with a software product company straddled the entire spectrum, when it comes to business outcomes. Not only was I witness to an IPO exit, but one of the companies (x) raised $100 million only to go down under. Such has been the intensity of the learning.

The four cofounders of MindTickle have been friends and work colleagues. Krishna and I were batchmates at ISB, while Krishna, Nishant and Deepak were colleagues at PubMatic.

The genesis of this idea came from our combining our personal interest with a market opportunity. The four of us had been hacking away on weekends to create quiz based games. In fact, our quiz based games for IIT Mumbai Mood Indigo and few sponsored contests that were integrated with Facebook were immensely successful.

Since all four of us were passionate about creating high engagement oriented digital products, the combination of corporate training and gamification just looked perfect. We had observed that corporate internal training programs were time-consuming, with very little excitement and no connection to business outcomes. Then one day in 2011, all of us decided to get started with MindTickle.

ProductNation: Interesting, tell us about the name, how did you guys crack it?

Mohit Garg: We wanted to pick a name that is appealing and fresh, yet has enterprise appeal. So we put down a framework to score many names and we got MindTickle.

ProductNation: Mohit, please tell us about your customers and your future plans.

Mohit Garg: Some of the World’s finest brands are the customers of MindTickle. Ebay, SAP, Yahoo, InMobi, MakeMyTrip all have experienced high engagement rates and consequently improved business outcomes with the products from MindTickle.

While technology companies in the market have understood the importance of engagement when it comes to corporate training programs, the traditional real economy companies are also realizing the importance of high engagement delivery. A dominant young workforce is also a driver in this shift.

Most of our enquiries at this point in time are from the US market. We have a sales team in the US as part of our business development efforts. And we continue to invest in that market which is a priority.

India is also tickling with opportunities and we are very excited about it. It is not just the Indian arms of technology giants that are taking interest, but even the domestic organizations.

ProductNation: MindTickle’s moment of glory, what comes to your mind?

Mohit Garg: We have won the GAward for the Best Use of Gamification in HR (Enterprise) in the World for two consecutive years in 2012 and 2013. That has been the proudest moment till date. We came trumps ahead of formidable competition that included startups as well as large investor backed companies.

ProductNation: What have been your big lessons – personal and professional?

Mohit Garg: On the professional front, first, there is too much focus (at least in India) on overcoming weaknesses. My experiences have shaped me into believing now that a successful professional career is more about playing to your strengths. Second, the power of being disciplined and diligent is often underestimated. Once you start any business you will find low hanging fruit in doing a better job than your lazy competitors. Therefore, often market share is a vanity metric, one should focus on how to develop a mind share among the customer segments that matter.

Third, there is a good chance that 10 people across the world are thinking or working on the idea that you just came up.

Have the tough conversations early in any relationship, things which could be sticky later are best addressed while there is little contempt in a relationship… “Familiarity does breed contempt” from what I have observed. Lastly, all said and done, speaking direct and clearly will provide better results with less heartburn and confusion in the long run.

ProductNation: What would you like to tell someone, who is struggling or planning to start a product company?

Mohit Garg: Product entrepreneurs should dream big and not be scared of competition or large existing incumbents. Market leader in a marginal niche is worse than a contender in fast growing and large market.

One has to take a very realistic view of the size, location and maturity of the target segment, especially in B2B. One should design experiments to validate those hypothesis and quickly focus on early adopters as opposed to going after large horizontal markets at least initially

Many product entrepreneurs take the market as a given. In my opinion and experience, the market risk is generally bigger than the product/technology risk

If possible and if you can pull it off, get professional money early. You can be more aggressive with your business plan, invest more for long term, and stay focused. Moreover, investors on the board forces a discipline which is really valuable in the long run. Having to worry about having enough to pay the bills and salary every month may sound romantic, but its only as romantic as war

Thank you, Mohit for talking to ProductNation. We wish you all the very best in living up to these challenges

Hike Messaging App – 5M users since 12/12/12, and counting!

BSB is a start-up funded by Bharti & SoftBank building mobile products for the Indian market. Hike is a messaging app which allows instant messaging and group chat on your phone with friends who have Hike, as well as those who don’t have Hike. We caught up with BSB’s head of products and strategy, Kavin Bharti Mittal (KBM), to talk about Hike, right before he was getting ready to launch Hike 2.0, a major update to the messaging app.


Hike is a pure Made-in-India product. BSB is based out of Gurgaon, and the product was built from scratch by this team. Under the guidance of KBM, who is also the resident UX guru, the team brought out a beautiful and highly functional product in Dec, 2012 when the team size was 15. They are 30+ now, and furiously working on next set of features, supporting users and handling the success!

Product Highlights

  • The product has been designed from grounds-up by Hike team.
  • The design is beautiful and minimalist.
  • They chose a more efficient protocol for communication (MQTT, which is less chatty than the better-known and more-often used XMPP).
  • In India, Hike allows its users to message to non-Hike users by converting Hike message into an SMS (each user is given 100 free SMS every month). This is a key differentiator for Hike, in addition to a cool and modern design.

Product Development

  • Following an agile development model, they schedule a release every 4 weeks with a stop gap release for performance and related fixes in the middle if need be. Such a schedule ensures that they are not hitting the users with too many changes too often, and still stay responsive to market feedback.
  • KBM controls the product UX and works with his designers to create detailed wireframes and mockups before engineering starts working.
  • They have a very product-focused culture and so engineering-design conflicts are minimal as everyone understands the need for a great design and works hard for it.
  • They work on multiple platforms in parallel, so lessons learned on one platform are quickly incorporated into other platforms in the same release cycle.

Product Strategy

  • Beautifully designed product – Made-in-India products are not known for good designs. Hike is a notable exception and this will help it gain ground quickly.
  • Messaging Hub – In the world of Facebook and Twitter, there is a huge amount of information generated and consumed by people, causing information overload. Hike aims to cut this clutter and allow you to create a closed network of friends with whom you share right amount of information. This is a good differentiation strategy.
  • Close partnership with carriers – With smartphone penetration going up all over the world and cheap smartphones being available, messaging applications are well-positioned to kill SMS (and jeopardize a large portion of carrier revenue). Hike can offer opportunities to carriers to offer value-added services and retain (and enhance) that revenue.


  • The messaging app space is very crowded (WhatsApp, Facebook Chat, WeChat, Nimbuzz , etc.) and Hike is a late entrant to the party. Still it has created considerable buzz in the market and have some impressive numbers to show.
    • In 4 months since the launch (they launched on 12/12/12), they have crossed 5M users (adoption is measured by # of active users – sending at least 1 message a day) and growing fast!
    • Over 50% of their users use hike2SMS feature, which is a key differentiator for them
  • They have used rewards (Talk-time rewards, ended now) and incentives (50 free SMS for each successful invite) to good effect to create good buzz. However, as KBM says, buzz and going viral work only when you provide a good value to the users. Hike 2.0 is expected to bring in lots of features.
  • Using digital channels for marketing and support very well: Blog, support site, Facebook page and twitter handles (@hikeapp and @hikesupport) are all well used by users and well-responded by Hike team.

Hike 2.0 and beyond

On Apr 17, BSB announced Hike 2.0, a significant release which introduces ‘circle of friends’ notion and many other features. With Hike 2.0, you can now create a circle of friends (consisting of your close friends), post status and mood updates to them, and review their recent updates. This is similar to Facebook’s Improved Friend Lists and Google + . Read the announcement for full list of Hike 2.0 new features and enhancements.

‘Status updates’ are asynchronous models of communication (you don’t expect your friends to read and respond immediately, though this Facebook generation usually does!) while messaging is supposed to be synchronous – you engage in conversation in real-time and expect a response. With 2.0 release, Hike is positioning itself as the ‘messaging hub’ for mobile-first crowd, and taking a ‘closed group, more engagement’ approach (as opposed to ‘everyone reads everything about me’ philosophy). While this might pit it against Facebook and G+ in terms of functionality, I think this is good strategy going forward to capture mindshare of an audience who is a public enough to chat with anyone, but private enough to need the solace of ‘circle of friends’. This also attracts users like me who prefer private and deep conversations and shun messaging apps because of its openness.

As Hike grows beyond the feature-functionality debate, it needs to give more focus on back-end: messaging is critical for its audience and disruptions caused by planned maintenance or rush to get new release must be avoided at all costs. 

The Road Ahead

My address book contains my US, China and India friends which add up to about 400 contacts. When I installed Hike on my phone (Nokia 710), I found hardly 5 friends who were on Hike (Hike looks for those who are on Hike and adds to your friend list). I did the same for WhatsApp, and I saw 80% of my contacts show up as using WhatsApp, including some of the people I didn’t think were in the target segment of messaging apps!

Hike has a long way to go, but I think they have started with the right product and are travelling in the right direction. May the force be with them! 

LurnQ: Indian startup that’s building a personalised MOOC

Update: Some readers have asked for information about MOOCs. A (MOOC) massive open online course is an online educational resource that is available for open access via the web. MOOCs originated around 2008 within the open educational resources (or OER) movement. For more, refer to the Wikipedia link.

Online learning is undergoing a paradigm shift and this Forbes article is a pointer of the shape of things to come. Coursera, Khan Academy, Udacity, Udemy etc are growing into large public platforms and likely to give competition to universities and colleges in the years to come.  

LurnQ is an Indian startup that is building a personalised learning management solution which can aggregate and curate content from the web. The key part of LurnQ replicates an experience that everyone is familiar with – using a user’s preferences to aggregate content from the web and display it like a Facebook newsfeed (see screenshot). This is a smart strategy and takes advantage of the the benefits of recognition (rather than recall).

The LurnQ platform consists of different applications that are bundled together into a SaaS platform. The core of the platform is a repository of web content from established MOOC sources like Coursera, Udacity, Khan Academy etc. There is a learning app that displays content in multiple formats – video, slides, multimedia. And a teaching app that gives teacher the capability to put together a course.

The site has over 5000 registered users and is growing socially over 100% every month via Facebook (without ads). They also run a student ambassador program. And here’s a list of LurnQ lessons if you want to check them out.

For monetization, LurnQ is aiming Freemium. The core consumer product will remain free at all times  for learners and teachers. A premium version will be available for private or closed community deployment by individuals and organizations. Pricing details are still in the works.

For targeting growth, LurnQ plans to extend the Student Ambassador Program and drive teacher side adoption through special initiatives aimed at teachers. On the application front, they want to focus on viral features (follow lessons, users, Invite friends etc). Also possible is the route of content partnership with conferences. Mobile apps are planned at a later stage to drive on the go consumption across devices.

LurnQ looks like a refreshing idea and a spin on what others are doing in the MOOC space. The first challenge they face is getting to a threshold for their user base. The adoption of the newsfeed as a core experience is likely to help in viral growth. Though the homepage is a logged in experience and departs from the design pattern that characterises Web 2.0 user generated content platforms… this might prove an impediment to quick user acquisition.

Here’s wishing them the best in their efforts.

SaaS #MadeinIndia Products – Social Media

As Batman (or a CEO, Founder, Partner) would want somethings to be done, or not done, and especially with a plethora of multiple social media channels to be on, a marketing guy, or a social media girl, or anyone handling social media for a company will always have a tough time.

So, then what is the solution? Well, a lot of smart made in India products have come out solving this same problem for a bunch of businesses. To manage all their social media accounts in 1 place, be it Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin etc.

So we created a list again of SaaS products made from India, specifically focussing on solving this problem around Social Media, this list is not exhaustive, and we hope to get a lot of feedback on more companies and products from you, so please drop in a comment or email us and we will add those companies as well.

Some of them are (in alphabetical order):

1. Crowdnub – Build and launch your rich custom-like Social app in minutes. Re-purpose, re-use, the smarter social app platform.

2. Beevolve – All in one Social Media Monitoring and Measurement Software

3. EaseSocial – EaseSocial automates all your social media campaigns. It allows you to view all the online conversations about your brand and products in real time.

4. Grabinbox – Manage multiple social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

5. Konnect Social – Monitor & analyze all brand conversations from one simple tool.

6. Mangoapps – MangoApps uniquely combines Enterprise Social Networking, Team Collaboration tools and Intranet pages into one breakthrough product.

7. Markitty – making online marketing on social media easy.

8. MuHive – Customer Engagement on Steroids

9. SaltSocial – Social Media Monitoring and Engagement Dashboard for agencies and organizations.

10. Simplify360 – World’s first 360′ Social Media Marketing Suite

11. SocialAppsHQ – Social media monitoring, actionable analytics, engagement tools, viral apps and so much more in one easy-to-use platform.

12. Sokrati – Propel engagement and conversations via Social Media Marketing.

13. Unmetric – The Social Media benchmarking company for brands.

14. ViralMint – Viral Marketing and customer acquisition platform around social.

If you have any other suggestions, and we have missed out on any, please help us further, email us or put in a comment.

The next SaaS #madeinIndia products focus will be on business phone systems.

Have a plan B to sustain yourself, while you are trying to make it big as a Product Startup says Amarpreet Kalkat, Frrole

Ciafo is a software products startup, based out of Bangalore focused on building consumer products for the web (including the mobile web). Ciafo has three products – Travelomy, Wayr, Frrole. In this interview, Amarpreet Kalkat, Co-Founder, Ciafo discusses aspects of building a B2C product from India and shares some of his learnings with startups. Frrole is an information exchange medium, not a unidirectional news provider. It has a heart and it likes to talk – hear from the people what they want to say, and tell them what they want to know.

What is your Story? What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

I always had a passion for building intelligent products. If I have adequate resources, I find a way to connect the dots. This is what I have always been good at, and this is what I always wanted to do – use these skills to create intelligent products that could simplify lives.

In a large corporate setup, an individual is constrained in more ways than he can be comfortable with. A typical project manager or a product manager profile in a large company strictly limits one’s degree of freedom, thus affecting his ability to innovate. While some people love to work in a focused, defined way, I believed I needed more freedom than was possible in a normal corporate setup. By the time I realized this, I was already juggling with a few ideas in my mind. So, it was not difficult for me to quit my job and create Frrole, independently.

Why and how did you start your company? Why this Area?

We were working on our first product Travelomy and one of the features we wanted to build in there was ‘real-time social information streams’. We were surprised at not finding any readymade localized streams, so we just decided to build one of our own.

But as we started digging deeper, we could see that real-time, curated social information was missing not only in travel guides, but at a much wider level. The challenge was in separating out that 1% signal from 99% noise, and we thought that we could do it. Slowly, we became sure that this could be an independent product by itself, and that is how Frrole was born.

Why the name?

The name Frrole is a derivative of a word in Punjabi language that roughly translates into ‘to play around, to discover, to explore’. We had always thought that this project was about building a brand new way of exploring around the cities that we live in, hence the name was always there in the shortlist.

The fact that it met 6 of the 7 criteria we had for choosing the name (refer Paul Graham’s essay) and had the .com domain available, finally sealed the deal.

Also, the core of Frrole is to find and present information that is nowhere else available. Justifying its name, the application enables people to discover news from sources totally unknown to them. Just like ‘Googling’ has become a generic term for ‘finding things that are known’, we hope to see a day when ‘Frroling’ becomes a generic term for ‘discovering things that are unknown’.   

What is your product’s differentiator from competitors?

Frrole is a twitter based product. It analyses a million+ tweets every day, posted by individuals, companies and mainstream media and selects 0.5% of the most informational ones among them. These tweets are then displayed to the users as news items. In doing so, Frrole creates an additional source of unbiased news, in the form of individuals like you and me. These million additional news sources are the core strength of Frrole, making it a superior product than its competitors.

The news on Frrole can be sourced from a common man like your friendly neighbor or from a giant publishing house, with complete impartiality. The core philosophy behind Frrole is to create a democratized platform using which any person can spread useful information, making each one of us a citizen journalist.

Like all other news apps and websites, Frrole gives you information collected from various news publications, blogs and your social media acquaintances. But, that is only half of what Frrole is all about. The other half is about news ‘for the people, by the people’. There cannot be any news source faster and more accurate than a common man who has witnessed an event, and this man is where Frrole sources its news from.

Other important differentiator between Frrole and its competitors is Frrole’s ability to generate localized content. Frrole lets its users select a city to enable them to get news relevant only to that city. Thus, Frrole makes you a person more aware of your surroundings, unlike any other news product.

What is the biggest challenge Frrole has faced so far? How did you address the challenge?

Not having a full-fledged, full-time team has been the biggest challenge by far. But we have come past that point and now we have a core team of three people. Nishith Sharma, an IIM Kozhikode grad who has earlier managed marketing for Jaguar Land Rover in India, takes care of marketing and Abhishek Vaid, an IIIT Gwalior grad, is responsible for building our backend analytics engine.

Who is your customer?

  1. We have a prize for everybody who claims he is not our customer.
  2.  We have yet to find a person who doesn’t find value in Frrole.
  3.  A typical customer of Frrole is somebody who can read English, aged 5-100 years old, living in any part of the world, and not totally disinterested in life.

On a more serious note, we define our core user as somebody who is 24-40 years old, socially active, and comfortable with the concept of informal information.

What are your future plans?

The mid-term future plan is to establish Frrole as the ‘world view’ news source. Something that people use to hear what the world around them is really talking about instead of being limited to only what mainstream media has to say.

In the longer term, we see ourselves doing the same thing for social web what Google did for the web – make sense of it. And while Google started with the search as the first application of that technology, we are starting with news as the first application. This technology can be applied to any more use cases as Google has shown, and we hope to emulate the same.

Your moment of Glory

Nothing really that big yet. Maybe a few small things like being called the future of news, having a TV feature on Frrole etc, hitting half million monthly unique visitors mark with only one full-time person etc.

What have been your BIG lessons – personal, professional and otherwise?

See the last response below. Those lessons for others are derived from my personal lessons.

What kind of support would you have liked?

Entrepreneurship requires three kinds of resources – Man, Material, Capital. While ‘Material’ is not very important in the software context and entrepreneurs possess the ‘Manpower’ resource, what they usually lack is ‘Capital’.

India has very few investors who invest in early stages, so the ‘Capital’ is a big constraint for Indian startups. A report comparing funding in US and India says that while more than 60% of US startups manage to secure angel funding, only 15% manage to do that in India.

The situation is especially lackluster for products that are in the consumer web space. I hope that changes soon enough; otherwise there is absolutely no chance of a Google or Twitter coming out of India any time soon.

What would you like to tell someone, who is struggling or planning to start a product company?

  • Have a team. Startups are way too much work for lone founders.
  • Show investors some incoming money. It’ll increase your chances of getting funded manifolds.
  • Start with a founding team, finding co-founders later can be an incredibly tough task.
  • Have a plan B to sustain yourself, while you are trying to make it big.

 The future looks very promising for Frrole and we wish Amarpreet all the best! Don’t forget to download their iPhone or Android app.

The Frrole Team
The Frrole Team


Usability Review of @Bubbles – A new kind of mail service

In a startup, the design is usually an afterthought after the more important challenges of business and technology are solved. Which means by then the design is more like a band aid or a lipstick on the proverbial pig. Probably the main reason why products here still lack that world-class feel, even though they are better in terms of features and performance.

A successful product usually has the right blend of usefulness, ease-of-use and engagement or emotional connect through aesthetics. For example, Facebook might score high on each of the three attribute, while a game like Grand Theft Auto may deliberately keep the ease-of-use difficult. Each of these attributes should be part of the product roadmap at the onset. By how much should you dial up or down each attribute or in other words what is the overall design vision? And who will be responsible to achieve this vision?

We feature the first of several quick audits to get a conversation started around the importance of design when you are a startup. We did a quick review of @Bubbles, a six month old startup trying to re-imagine email by bringing it closer to the art of letter writing from the good old days. It enables tools for your creative expressions, allowing you to scribble your thoughts, stick photos, sketch cartoons, draw diagrams, and attach sticky notes to your email as you would do on a physical letter.

We evaluated it on 4 key user experience parameters.

How well does it COMMUNICATE to users?




To reduce user’s memory load, it is important to use terms & language that connects to their existing mental model. Once you have adopted a mental model or a metaphor, then try to be consistent.

  1. Terms like “Open Letter”, “Direct letters” are not commonly used in context of letter or email writing and hence can lead to different interpretation. It also adds to the learning time for the user.
  2. Similarly, “No Posts” and “100% Spam free inbox” violate the mental model of letter writing. Either use a “letter” or “email” metaphor but use it consistently.

How easy is it to NAVIGATE?

  Ease of use is vital. The user should always be in control and take the intended direction to perform a particular task. To be able to do this, it is essential that the user understands the flow of screens or sequence of actions.

  1. The incoming and the outgoing mails have the same look and feel, which leads to some confusion. The status of the site or where you are at a given point is not well communicated.
  2. Same page for public & personal letters – The sending route should be selected after the letter has been written. There could be multiple paths to doing this too.

How easy is it to INTERACT?

The information structure should make relevant connections between different pieces information and tools (features) to enable user to achieve desired goals.

  1. Editing tools for the letter are scattered all over the page. A fixed layout for the toolbar would make it easy to use. Some drawing tools like – copy, paste, resize, rotate, etc could be integrated at one place to create a seamless experience.
  2. Every selection or user action should be followed by an appropriate feedback. For example, when a user selects a Pen tools, there is no feedback that it has been selected.

Does it create the right EXPERIENCE?

Overall, it is about experience.

  1. Sent mail is a personal letter as well as a promotional letter for Bubbles, so it should be designed so as to attract more customers, who are not currently on Bubbles.
  2. Keyless Login creates a good experience but the learning curve should not be high.

Undoubtedly, Bubbles is a much better designed product than most. There is a design sensibility with some effort and thought behind each screen, icon and color palette. However, it seems that though there was an emphasis on graphic design (engagement or aesthetics), it could still be improved significantly with some thought on interaction design (usability).

Build product teams based on established capabilities and chemistry

Jay Pullur is the founder and CEO of Pramati Technologies, software and services company based out of Hyderabad. The company recently announced that it’s enterprise social collaboration software platform — Qontext — had been acquired by Autodesk, the maker of design, engineering and entertainment software.  Jay’s career in the software industry spans 25 years, and his primary interest lies in building products for new markets. This has led to Pramati Technologies incubating and spinning-off multiple startups. In an interview with, Jay talks about the importance of a product development team, switching from a services mindset to a product mindset and importance of giving customers not just a product but also an experience.

When you’re conceptualizing a product do you ultimately have the end goal in place or does that fall into place somewhere long the journey? 

Well, the end goal is to make the product successful. Normal entrepreneurial expectations are to build the business big enough to pursue the acquisition path, or an IPO. However at Pramati, even before we think about that end goal we practice what we call ‘careful entrepreneurship’ — we don’t venture into something just because we’re passionate about doing something in a certain area or because we want to jump on the bandwagon. Working with an end goal in mind is like playing the game with the sight set on the scoreboard; we might loose track of the ball.

Instead, we start an idea in a small fashion, watch it gather momentum and then form a core team. The spectrum of opportunities is wide and how else would one choose? We build a core team around the project with people from within the company who have established capabilities and chemistry. We then have to craft the product pitch and try it out in the market before committing funds to sales and other activities. Based on the product-market fit, we formally make it an independent entity and float it out like a typical startup. This approach as worked better for us.

So on an average, how long does this preparatory phase take? And what’s the profile of this team – do they come from multidisciplinary backgrounds?

Idea development stage can take anywhere up to a year, most often 6 months.  During this period, we have a really small team — like for Qontext, we had a three-person team. And they are usually people who’ve been with the company for sometime, so we know they are right for exploring certain aspects. There are many aspects to explore because a product is a confluence of market opportunity and certain technology changes. The company has built strong capabilities to address this confluence in a few chosen areas, and we play around our strengths. The team might include people from technology, user experience, business development, consumer marketing or enterprise sales, and the composition entirely depends on what aspects have to be explored before we dive deep.

So given your background in Wipro, where you were employee #36,  getting into the product mindset would have required a different mentality. In Wipro it was about the client doing the spec and asking for something, and the services organization providing the people and delivering the project. How did you resolve yourself to a new business model where the waiting period itself to kick of a project was anywhere between 9-12 months?

When I started at Wipro, it was early days of the IT industry in the country. We did have to innovate on the services side of the business model in some fashion, however the services industry enjoyed many natural advantages. Understanding the services part of the business gave me good insights as to what is possible in India and the expectations of global clients. But, now we had to innovate on the business model further and we were ready for that.

I left Wipro with the intention of experimenting and bringing a new level of innovation in the country using the same IT professionals but creating higher value offerings. Those were the days when the Internet was just beginning to boom, so our first product was an infrastructure for web applications. The company vision has been to find the right model for building globally successful products or services and go beyond what the traditional IT industry in India has done.

Talking of teams, you have different very distinct product lines doing some very focused work. How do ensure that the best practices that come out of the product development exercise are replicable across the organization?

Product development no doubt needs very high-levels of skills, capabilities, teamwork and commitment to excellence. And when we are able to that well, we need to ensure that it spreads through the organization and remains as part of our DNA even as we grow.

This actually is a very critical element of our business model and you will notice that we are organized as multiple independent businesses with a core, underlying infrastructure, technical expertise, work culture and purpose. The independent business gives them the freedom of smallness (read startup) structurally and the core brings the power of the big.

In some ways Pramati is not only a software company but also as an incubator and an angel investor with a portfolio of businesses. The strength lies in bringing this synergy between them, and building the infrastructure that is common for all these companies — and this is beyond just providing facilities and finances. It is about building the core capabilities of creating teams, spotting talent and integrating them. The Pramati corporate base provides a common infrastructure such as access to a strong legal and M&A specialists needed for deals like our recent one with Autodesk. Such Corporate development capability is hard to build in a startup, although very essential. Also, our model gives us the opportunity to bring talent in to the company even earlier than we’d actually need. We are always looking to bring the right people in the system and be part of our culture; opportunities may get worked out subsequently.

So in the product development game, if you had to put your finger on three vital resources without which you wouldn’t even contemplate beginning, what would those be?

  1. Deep understanding of technology. The organizational knowledge in key technology areas plays a big role. It gives us the confidence to deal with changing market needs and customer preferences.
  2. The ability to think globally. Over the last 14 years we have built complementary operations in both India and the US. So this gives us access to both markets – customers and talent, enabling us to build products and market them.
  3. Our brand. Customers don’t want to deal with small brands and unknown products. Having been in business for a long time and served thousands of customers across different categories, we understand the kind of expectations customers have. We constantly strive to understand customers better and enhance the experience we deliver.

Typically, Indians have been accused of being great from a technology perspective but are sometimes very poor at packaging and brand building. How have you tackled this? 

I think being good at technology alone is not enough. Customers today are expecting more than just a product or a solution — they’re expecting an experience. We always design and build the whole product, not just the software part. Few important things here are – the experience of dealing with company, the first impression with the product, the usability, the interaction with our support team. Nothing less than world-class sells today and no customers are captive; there are hundreds of other players in every market who are ready to service them.

So obviously we had to build a team that’s global in nature finding the right resources in the right place. Fortunately, we found right talent in India who could design user interface and experience that works well for our global customers. However, as a company, we have placed heavy emphasis on packaging, user experience and brand development which has paid off well.

Autodesk Acquires Qontext Social Collaboration Platform.

Acquisition to Expand Social Capabilities of Autodesk 360 Cloud Services.

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 4, 2012 — Autodesk Inc., (NASDAQ: ADSK) has completed the acquisition of Qontext,enterprise social collaboration software, from India-based Pramati Technologies. The acquisition of the Qontext technology and development team will accelerate Autodesk’s ongoing move to the cloud and expansion of social capabilities in the Autodesk 360 cloud-based service. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“Autodesk’s acquisition of the Qontext technology is a testament to the Pramati strategy,” said Vijay Pullur, Pramati president. “This transaction is a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to incubate and build companies that address the rapidly changing needs of business through highly innovative technologies.”

Autodesk intends to use the Qontext technology to add new social capabilities to Autodesk 360, a cloud-based platform that offers users the ability to store, search, and view critical design data improving the way they design, visualize, simulate and share work with others at anytime and from anywhere.

Read the complete story here

Untested ideas to increase the effectiveness of your B2B newsletter

What does a typical B2B newsletter look like? An announcement from the company talking about the latest feature. A featured blog post with a link to read more and a list of other “must-read” blog posts. New success stories, white papers and how-to videos. And upcoming events, webinars and job openings in some cases. It pretty much sums up everything the company wants the recipient to know. But what makes the recipient take more than a 3-sec glimpse at the newsletter when he is sifting through tens, if not hundreds, of emails? Wouldn’t he rather hit your website at a time convenient to him and learn all of it from there? What can you do to increase the open rate and time spent with your newsletter? Here are two untested ideas, more simply just ideas, to increase the overall effectiveness of your email newsletter.

How about writing an article exclusively for the newsletter as its main story? The article doesn’t go up on your blog or get tucked away in the resources section after the newsletter goes out, not even after a fortnight. It is for the newsletter and stays just there. If the reader misses it, he misses it. Tell people about the exclusivity when they are signing up for the newsletter. Also, make sure this article teaches the recipient at least 23 new ways of doing his job better. So if you are selling an email marketing solution (how meta I know) give him tips on how to break through the inbox clutter, or how QR codes can be used to get super busy people to sign up for the newsletter. In addition to increasing the open rate of your newsletter, the exclusive content also primes the space for a big bang when you announce a new product.

Now what about the case where your newsletter hits the inbox at a time when the recipient doesn’t want anything to do with email marketing? How can you get him to at least glance through the newsletter and come back to it later if he finds something of interest? How about having a cartoon strip that takes a dig at the jargons used in the email marketing space? Or a meme bringing forth epic email marketing fails? Maybe an email marketing version of Clients from Hell? Anything that gives the reader a quick chuckle yet is relevant to your industry. And if you are funny enough, he might pass around the newsletter to colleagues and friends just for the funnies, who knows?

Over to you. Do you think these ideas will work for you? What else have you tried to increase the effectiveness of your newsletter?

Original Post can be accessed at