Service Oriented Startups

Last week a very interesting free e-book called “Software Paradox” was trending on Hacker News. The premise of the Service Oriented Startupsbook is, that the value of software as a product is diminishing, but the value of software as an enableris rising. Pure play software companies such as Microsoft and Oracle are fading in comparison to rising stars such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and newer ones like Uber, Dropbox, GitHub, AirBnB and others. None of the new age companies sell “software”. They all sell a service (or devices, in case of Apple).

The book goes on to argue that companies even prefer giving away their software innovations as open source so that they can get the respect of the developer community that they desperately want to attract. Apple’s operating systems are based on an open source flavour of Unix, GitHub has built a social layer on git, a version control system created by Linus Torvalds and Facebook is a leader in new age open source web development tools. So there is a clear trend of companies collaborating on an infrastructure and tool level and yet being able to create a lot of value in the services they provide.

They book suggests what pure-play software product companies should do in order to survive this next wave. There are a lot of great options described which range from moving to a subscription model to becoming a full-stack startup (doing very deep vertical integration in the markets they operate). In the context of pure play software product companies, where do we in India stand?

A defining moment in the first episode of the new YouTube drama TVF Pitchers, an Indian take on the popular and brilliant series from HBO, “Silicon Valley”, is when the protagonist is about to dump his entrepreneurial dream and continue with an overseas posting. On his way to the airport, he sees large advertisements of and Snapdeal and decides that his calling is a startup. On a side note, it is interesting to observe that the innovation described in TVF Pitchers is a “B-plan”, whereas the innovation on which HBO Silicon Valley is based, is a hypothetical “algorithm”.

My conclusion is that India has already leapfrogged to “Service-Oriented Startups”. The number of new startups and deals in the e-commerce and classified marketplaces domains greatly out numbers startups that have a technological innovation at the heart of the business. The aspiration of the entrepreneur who starts up today is to build the next Flipkart, not the next Google.

This is something we all will have to learn to accept. Like so many modern innovations we love using today are ones we did not invent, software is something we will rather use. Innovating on technology requires an intellectual rigour and ecosystem support that will probably never reach a critical mass in India. But amidst all this gloom, I still have hope that at least a few of the 3 million software developers out there will prove me wrong.

Small Businesses Ascending the Digital Path

# DigitalDesh spanned across 22 cities in 30 days to discover The Internet of Inside India.

Amritsar to Kanyakumari

An endeavor to study the behavioral patterns of entrepreneurs across different regions. To understand their digital business routines, their perceptions, the challenges and their desire to venture into new terrain. An important part of the activity was also to encourage & spread awareness to build a strong digital footprint online.

The journey of #DigitalDesh began from Amritsar and it was only apt that it got its initiation by meeting Jagdeep whose infectious energy highlighted the passion of a business savvy person. A lively man, who was excited to show his smartphone and share his social networking habits that he indulged in to do business with his customers.

Infact Whatsapp was largely used as a business tool because of its ease of use and the popularity by the word of mouth. The cool quotient too.

Local business owners found it easy to share pictures with their IMG_1512customers, samples of new designs by textile owners to or be it the owner in Amritsar who sells religious items to his customers in foreign. A shop keeper who sells cosmetics to the local college students used it to share the new goods/purses that were sold in his showroom.

The most interesting use I found of it was when the fisheries in Karwar used it to overcome language barriers and sharing the pics of fishes which is known by different names in different parts of India and across the world. Although the order was still placed on phone, the pictures were shared over whatsapp.

More savvy business owners have started using facebook pages but it was limited in numbers and even few that were looking to go the app route.

Yes many of the business owners are learning different ways of transactions, although not many of them are familiar with payment gateways, they do use online banking systems and learning to use payment wallets. Education on these will be helpful.

Email Ids – were largely used to place orders and when outlets/franchises are using to interact with their head-office. Although these are not professional ids, most of the time the personal id served both the professional and personal use. Website were still being designed by a trusted source and were given the impression that it takes a really long time to do so. Many were surprised to know about certain tools that would help them set it up in a matter of few minutes.

And yes smartphones do rule in tier 2 & tier 3 cities of India 🙂

One of the key things that I learnt as part of this drive is the need for education on the availability of tools.. lots more to be done in this area. Best part they are hungry to learn and the willingness to grow.

Join the team building cool tech stuff for 1.3 billion Indian citizens… from the startup trenches inside the Government!

After SlideShare, I’ve taken up a role in the government sector. I recently joined the National eGovernance Division, Ministry of IT, Govt of India. My work involves architecting and building e-governance facing products and services under the Digital India program. So after doing a startup, getting acquired, shuttling between Delhi & Silicon Valley… now e-Governance?? What does this term even mean… and why should you care?

You should care because there’s a good chance that (like me) you are a first generation beneficiary of the internet and have seen the transformative role it has played in your life. The way you work, learn, read, buy, communicate, travel, make friends – everything has been turned upside down. Now imagine if the internet could have that same impact on how India is governed. Imagine if the simplicity and fluidity of platforms like Wikipedia, Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype could be replicated in the citizen services that you and I use everyday – be it applying for a passport or a driving license, filing your taxes or getting your govt scholarship. Imagine what citizen services can be built on top of the biometric identification system Aadhaar, which currently at 830 million is just a stone’s throw from the billion mark. Imagine if the internet could be the same change agent in the lives of our less connected co-citizens in far off towns & villages, in the tribal areas, in remote rural corners where roads dont reach – thats what e-governance is about.

The National eGovernance Division (NeGD) under the Ministry of IT is tasked with designing and running national e-governance programs. These take the form of 31 Mission Mode Projects (called MMPs) which are the administrative backbone of the Indian government. My team at DeitY/NeGD is looking for smart, motivated professionals to build e-governance products/services. For people from the private sector, this is a great opportunity for the following reasons-

– In a direct way, what you do in office everyday will contribute to the transformation of India into a digitally empowered society & knowledge economy
– There is a shift towards technology enabled open governance systems (open source, open APIs, open standards, open data) and you could drive this openness inside the government
– The Govt needs domain specialists… your domain expertise could shape key parts of government functioning
– Work like a fast paced startup while inside the government… these product teams will get a startup type environment to deliver quickly
– If you’ve only worked in the private sector previously (like me), this could be a refreshing change from its the profit driven culture

So what positions are available and whats the reqd background/experience?

These are the positions – Web Developer, UX/Interaction designer, Backend Engineer, Big Data Engineer, Android Developer, DevOps/Sysadmin, Open Source Community Manager. The projects are all high impact, massively scaled citizen facing technology applications e.g. Building services on top of Aadhaar’s core identity capability, products aimed at paperless governance, open governance initiatives (Open APIs, Open Source, Open Standards, Open Data) etc.

The roles are full time contractual positions (1-2 yrs) based in New Delhi at the Dept of IT in Scope Complex, Lodhi Road. Its a very centrally located office area.

In case you are interested, go to this link and apply using the given form. Brief job descriptions are given.

Or if you know of someone else who might be interested, please pass on the link.

If you have any questions about the roles, about DeitY/NeGD or how can you make the transition from your current course to working for the government (and what all that transition entails), feel free to drop me a mail – amitranjan25 AT gmail DOT com. Happy to help you think through this.

Reblogged from WebYantra

Piggybacking Mechanics: Whatsapp, Instagram And Network Effect Marketing

Welcome to the age of the zero-dollar marketing startup. WhatsApp, and earlier Instagram, have officially become a permanent part of startup lore for having built multi-billion dollar businesses without (reportedly) spending a dime on marketing.

Meanwhile, Airbnb has grown from a hipster community of mattress-renters to the world’s largest provider of accommodations without spending even a fraction of what traditional hotel chains spend in marketing.

Marketing is dead! Or that’s what many would have you believe. A great product sells itself, of course! Fire the marketing team!

Well… not quite!

The fastest growing networks on the internet – Airbnb, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat – may not have spent much on marketing, but they all have one thing in common: Each of these networks piggybacked on top of another pre-existing network.

Facebook and Bebo grew on top of the network embedded in our email. Many networks, including Instagram, grew on top of Facebook itself. For a while, Airbnb grew on top of Craigslist, while Snapchat and WhatsApp have leveraged the mobile phone’s organic network, the phone book, to create networks native to mobile,

If you’re building a social network, marketplace or platform and you haven’t considered piggybacking on a network, you need to think again.

Much so-called ‘growth hacking’ relies on testing of cause-and-effect and optimization of funnel conversions. But in the early days of a network or a marketplace, startups are faced with a radically different problem. Why will users come on board when there’s no one else there? Why will producers set up shop in a marketplace that is not yet frequented by consumers and vice versa?

The classic chicken and egg problem cannot be solved by pulling in users and optimizing conversions. Before network effects set in, users will neither get activated nor will they get engaged.

Set a network to catch a network

To grow a network, you need to think like a network. To get enough users on board to create network effects, you need to piggyback upon another network. Piggybacking on a thriving network works wonderfully as long as your platform is complementary to that network and delivers additional value to the users there.

As far as growth strategies go, there are few strategies that are more scalable and sustainable as engines of growth.

Paypal got almost all its traction by piggybacking on eBay and offering a much superior payment method than the painful check-over-mail. It solved the pain points around payment on eBay providing instant payments without the hassle of credit cards and assuming much of the risk of online fraud.

Soon enough, Paypal was the predominant mode of payments on eBay and rode its growth to become synonymous with online payments.

But not all piggybacking stories end happily ever after. Apps that have leveraged Facebook to grow aggressively, have found their business jeopardized with a change in Facebook’s news feed algorithm. Startups that tried to emulate Airbnb and siphon users away from Craigslist were sent cease and desist letters. Even Paypal was banned on eBay for a while before the marketplace had to accede to the wishes of the users.

So what does it take to successfully piggyback a network?

The Biology of Piggybacking

Successfully piggybacking a network is more complex than simply choosing a network and executing an API integration. A startup looking to piggyback on an underlying network needs to understand the nature of its relationship with that network.

Borrowing analogies from biological systems, there are three types of relationships between your startup (the Guest) and the underlying network (the Host).

The Happy Clownfish

In certain cases, a partnership model may be initiated by the Host i.e. the underlying network.

Much like how colorful clownfish (Guest) inhabit sea anemones (Hosts) whereby each party gains protection from their respective predators, both networks benefit from each other.

For example, Facebook’s partnership with Spotify, following its launch of frictionless sharing, is designed in a way that both Facebook and Spotify benefit.

Facebook needed greater engagement among users and Spotify needed listeners, even though the implementation of frictionless sharing has much that can be improved. Earlier, Zynga, Slide and RockYou benefited from a similar relationship with Facebook, piggybacking on Facebook for growth by providing value to Facebook users, while improving user engagement and retention on Facebook.

The Hitchhiking Remora

Not all networks may initiate partnerships the way Facebook did. In fact, most don’t.

In such cases, it is the prerogative of the guest (your startup) to be backward compatible with the host, much like a remora attaching itself onto a shark and feeding off it, you need to figure out a way to embed your functionality in the host network.

YouTube gained early traction by piggybacking on MySpace. Engagement on MySpace was built around musicians who needed a way to showcase their talent. At the time, online video was broken. YouTube fixed that with its flash-based one-click video experience and MySpace users finally had an answer to their problems.

Flickr solved the pain of sharing pictures in the blogosphere. Every blogger putting up a picture on his blog helped showcase the service to others. Flickr rapidly grew to become the fifth most visited website on the internet by the time Yahoo lapped it up.

As these examples demonstrate, these relationships start without an explicit partnership. The Guest makes a conscious decision to make its functionality and content embeddable in the Host network. If such embedding solves a key user pain point, the users start embedding Guest functionality into the Host network, driving adoption. The chicken and egg problem is solved as more users on the Host get exposed to this functionality and migrate to start using the Guest’s functionality.

The Bloodsucking Parasite

Finally, some networks may actively discourage any form of guest-host relationship. In these cases, the startup needs to reverse-engineer an integration with the host. Such piggybacking is generally non-consensual.

Airbnb reverse-engineered a de facto ‘integration’ with Craigslist and offered users on Craigslist, an alternate, more convenient and safer destination for their interactions. Airbnb stole the network interactions away from Craigslist and was promptly blocked by the Host as soon as it realized what was afoot.

Skype, Viber and WhatsApp have similar relationships with carriers where they piggyback the connections created by the carriers (via the user’s phone book) to provide an alternate communication channel.

Viber rode this success to a $900M acquisition recently,and WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in cash and stock.

Sidenote: It is interesting to note Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp are able to arbitrage users because of a lack of effective carrier data discrimination. That is to say, carriers are well aware of WhatsApp allowing users an end-around onerous SMS fees, but feel powerless – at this point in time – to raise network data rates to make it unprofitable for WhatsApp, forcing users back to SMS.

How To Succeed With Piggybacking

While piggybacking may seem attractive, startups need to be aware of the relationship they have with the host network and pursue strategies accordingly.

More importantly, not all piggybacking is successful. The stories above suffer from survivorship bias and are useful only when understood in the context of the factors that dictated their success and spelt failure for other startups that tried similar strategies.

In general, everyone wins in The Happy Clownfish scenario.

But in most Hitchhiking Remora relationships, the Host controls the relationship with the piggybacking Guest. This is specifically the case whenever the Host launches an open-access API upon which startups build off that to access the Host’s network. While remora may add value by plucking parasites, fickle sharks have been known to bait-and-switch and devour orbiting remoras.

The Bloodsucking Parasite relationship is a lot easier to anticipate and is always antagonistic. In most cases, it triggers an instant immune system response, which, translating to business, amounts to legal action.

The only long-term sustainable network-piggybacking, then, is the Happy Clownfish. Both the clownfish and the sea anemone need each other. Their respective physiologies are a clue. A clownfish will never grow poisonous tentacles to sting potential predators and a sea anemone will never grow fins to swim.

To be a clownfish in a sea anemone, your network needs to provide high-contrast, high-value-add differentiation with significant barriers to entry, otherwise you risk coming across like one of thousands of commoditized remoras. Facebook doesn’t want to build its own music library and Spotify isn’t interested in connecting the world outside of music.

There are three factors that determine success with piggybacking:

1. If the host explicitly calls for piggybackers, be the first to the party

When Facebook opened its platform to external developers, Zynga jumped on board and gained rapid adoption. Many startups that followed failed to get such adoption because users had become more sophisticated to the viral invites by that time and Facebook, as well, started dampening the spread of these invites subsequently.

Being the first to the party helps to get users deeply engaged before they get sophisticated and start ignoring messages from other services that follow.

Be the first clownfish to get to your sea anemone.

2. If you can build for backward compatibility, ensure you add value to the underlying platform

YouTube solved a problem for MySpace bands. Flickr solved a problem for bloggers. Paypal solved multiple pain points for buyers and sellers on eBay. Be the useful remora that eats the little parasites on the shark.

3. Be the first to reverse-engineer before the host wises up

When stealing traction parasitically, it pays to be the first to discover the chink in the armor of host network. Airbnb gained traction before Craigslist wisened up. But every startup that has tried that strategy subsequently has failed to replicate the same success and has instead been caught in a legal quagmire.

Being first to piggyback a host network is the most important determiner of success. There is typically a time window while these strategies work. And almost always, first-to-the-party wins. When the host wants you to piggyback, there’s a window while it will be effective. When the host doesn’t want it, there’s a window before which the host wises up. In either case, being first helps.

The story of many of today’s large social networks and marketplaces follows similar trajectories. Bringing in users through linear funnel hacking tactics often prove counter-productive. Finding a new network and piggybacking it helps gain traction among enough users simultaneously and build network effects.

So the next time you hear about a startup boasting a zero dollar marketing budget and putting it all on building a great product, think again! Piggybacking is the new marketing for the age of the network effect.

Note: This article  first appeared on TheNextWeb. This article was co-authored with Patrick Vlaskovits, the NY Times BestSelling Author of The Lean Entrepreneur.

Before you start with Growth Hacking

Building a product startup is exciting. Most startups look to raise capital early and investors look no other measure but traction to take their bets. This need for traction puts immense pressure on the founding team to grow their startup. That leads to implementing multiple tips and tricks to improve the key product metrics – most importantly to show traction to investors. Founders get into the so called ‘growth hacking’ mode.

Growth hacking is the new buzzword in the startup town. There is nothing wrong with ‘hacking growth’ – most of the tricks attempted in this phase end up being short-term techniques. They might work for a while, bring traction for a while (which might lead you to raise investments) but these techniques don’t help in long term and the growth is not sustainable and quickly falls off.

Startups tend to neglect the simplest rules of product management before starting with growth hacking. According to me, here are the 5 Basic Rules of Product Management:

  1. User Engagement > Growth Hacking
  2. Retention > Acquisition
  3. Context > Activity
  4. Own growth channels > External channels
  5. Being Valuable > Being Social

A. User Engagement > Growth Hacking
Remember startups like BranchOut, Glassdoor, Viddy, Socialcam – that famously hacked growth through Facebook Dialog Feeds? Though they showed amazing growth curve initially, it soon fell off. Most users dropped off the product as quickly as they signed up never to return again. Reason – zero engagement on the product. Ensure that there are enough engagement loops on the product before you do any sort of ‘growth hacking’.

B. Retention > Acquisition
Acquiring users is the simplest thing to do, retaining them is the key. Any user acquisition technique should retain a good percentage of acquired users. Not just that., over a period of time the users who dropped off should be reactivated – there should be enough methods to pull them back – emailers / network effects / and so on. If the product has strong engagement features, retention is a easy task.

C. Context > Activity
Most products undermine the importance of context. In today’s world – anything that is not context is considered spam. The finest examples of a context driven product is Quora that lets you follow topics of your interest and helps you discover relevant content. Also important are products like Twitter (that lets you follow users) and Pinterest (that lets you follow boards) to build a information stream in context thats relevant to you. Think of context when you build features.

D. Own Channels > External Channels
Many startups focus on external channels for growth. Branchout was focussed on Facebook Dialog Feeds, Zynga was focused on Facebook Activity Wall, Viddy was focussed on Facebook Open Graph. Perfectly fine – if there are enough engagement loops and good retention strategy. However depending on external channels might not be sustainable – many startups hacked the Facebook Open Graph to get significant users – this led to users complaining about to the noise on Facebook wall, Facebook in return built many approvals / controls to prevent applications from spamming the users and giving users ease to block spam applications.

Large startups like Facebook, Dropbox, WhatsApp were completely focussed on driving growth through channels owned by self and had very little or no external dependence for growth. Don’t depend too much on external platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google (SEO) for growth – build our own channels. Facebook’s journey of growth hacking is well documented. Also Dropbox as mentioned in next point.

E. Being Valuable > Being Social
There are also startups that focus on building ‘too-many’ social sharing features, expecting users to share almost everything and anything on to their social profiles (Facebook, Twitter, etc). Users are smart – they don’t fall in this trap and founders keep wondering why no social sharing happens. Instead of trying to be forceful on social, focus on being valuable.

Example –  Dropbox, it was a very valuable product that had super methods to hack growth – by connecting FB or Twitter account with Dropbox and providing users additional storage space by asking them to spread a message to their social circle or invite email contacts.

Concluding Notes:
Can you hack growth first and implement these rules later? No. There are startups that hacked user acquisition and raised initial investment on traction., and later things did not go according to the plan. Not just startups, that leaves even investors wondering what went wrong after the initial impressive growth metrics.

Startups are about growth, no doubt. Getting Techcrunche’d (PR release), top position on Hacker News or Video that goes viral might bring one-time traffic boost / user sign-ups. You can get good amount of traffic by integrating with Facebook Open Graph, optimizing site for Google (SEO) or even paid user acquisition – but make sure that the product has enough engagement, retention loops, value and context to sustain the users you are acquiring!

You may hack growth., but you can’t hack success. Building the next billion dollar company is a big deal!

You’re Not Fully Utilizing Social for your Business

Sure, your business has a Facebook fan page and maybe you even have a Twitter handle. Congratulations! You’re now one of hundreds of millions of people using social media and odds are, your business is getting lost in the shuffle.

If you’re not fully utilizing social for your business you’re missing opportunities. Here are a few ways your business is a big Fail Whale (if you don’t understand the reference you’re not fully utilizing social!) and some things you can do to fix it.


Your business has a fan page, not a business page, right? A fan page allows you to be more dynamic in your branding efforts and there are all kinds of cool features your business can use to gain recognition. Not only should you have a page, you should be adding content daily. Whether it’s status updates, photos, or likes, you need to be active on Facebook.

Additionally, you need to be sure you’re giving and not just taking on Facebook. Engage with your fans, “like” other businesses and in general, reach out twice as much as you release new content. The key to effective social media marketing is building an audience slowly, and Facebook has the biggest audience.

Features to use: Promoted Posts, offers, dynamic header image


Your Twitter page should look as polished as possible and you need to spend some time getting more followers. Don’t buy followers – simply start following and engaging with other Twitter users and you’ll slowly add to your numbers.

The worst thing you can do on Twitter is be too promotional. As a rule, keep promotional Tweets to a minimum and concentrate instead of building your brand by Tweeting relevant industry posts, news stories, and editorial opinions. Don’t hesitate to post pictures and remember, you should be Tweeting multiple times a day!

Features to use: Retweet, reply (talk directly to customers), promoted Tweets


If your customers base skews heavily female, you need to be on Pinterest. Make sure you’re posting photos often and your photos are high quality and show the brand in a professional light! If you’re more into authenticity and grit, use Instagram instead. On Pinterest, your branded content needs to be useful. Offer recipes, tips, and photos of ways people can use your product or service they may not have considered.

Be sure you spend time following other people’s boards, as well as other companies’. And don’t forget to spend time Pinning things to your own account that help fill out your brand identity. Not everything you pin has to be from your own company’s website!

Features to use: Like, repin, “Boards to Follow,” Pinterest app


What do you mean you’re not making YouTube videos? YouTube gets over a billion hits PER DAY. Mobile is big here, so keep your videos short, unpolished, and imminently usable. You should tie your YouTube channel in with your Google+ account to help with overall SEO and you should be posting often, about once a week if you can.

Features to use: Analytics, promoted video, cross-promotion with sites like Buzzfeed

Whatever you’re doing on social, you could be doing more. The more time and effort you put into social media the more benefit your business is going to get out. And remember: social is a two-way street! You’ve got to interact with other people and brands, too, and not expect everyone to come to you. Social only works when you engage.

Guest Post: Ryan is a product manager at, with 5 years experience in online marketing and product development.  In addition to web related businesses, he also enjoys the latest news and information on emerging technologies and open source projects.

Top 10 things to look for a digital marketing roadmap.

Today the biggest challenge for any of us as entrepreneurs is not to build kickass products or services but to reach out to the relevant target audience. Many of products fail not because they were not awesome but because of poor marketing strategies. I have myself made terrible mistakes which costed me and my company a lot but it’s just part of a learning experience and entrepreneurial curve. Lot of people think digital marketing or social media marketing is free or easy but I fell it’s the make or break for any company whose customers are online. It needs the same amount of attention and effort you had put in while building your product / services. It needs a lot of thinking, prioritization, knowledge and off course a lot time investment. Today there is so much noise on digital mediums that you need to be remarkable to stand out or youwill be just one out of many. Here are my top 10 learnings from the many digital campaigns I ran.

  1. Map your efforts to the end goal: Most of the time startups do not have a clear end goal in mind and they map the entire campaign to a wrong goal. What is you end goal? Drive traffic? What is your KPI which will make you successful this quarter? Does your organization’s goal is to drive sales or build user base for this quarter. Once you decide on your KPI for this quarter do not change it. Stick to it. Do everything to achieve your goals, tweak strategy to achieve it but not the goals.
  2. Don’t be scared of spending: Most of the digital campaigns are bound to fail. Just that one of your campaigns failed doesn’t mean that platform is not good for you. It just takes a fair amount of money and time to optimize your campaigns and make them successful. I have typically spend around 2Cr. on Facebook platform in last 4 years and still may of my campaigns fail today. If you want fast results hire an expert of the platform.
  3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: Diversify your mediums to generate leads or traffic. Typically any medium should not drive more than 20% of your sales. It becomes really lucrative to go deeper and deeper into a medium when we taste success on it. I have learnt this hard way. There was time when Thrillophilia was driving 80% of the traffic through Search engines and then suddenly the website was hacked by Chinese hacker who did lot of artificial link building. We realized this 3 months later when we got penalized by Google and traffic dropped to 1/10. We had a nightmare on sales side and had to diversify in hurry which really isn’t the best approach.
  4. Build smart email lists: Emails are still going to exist for next 10 years so it’s a good idea to invest on them. The more you know your customers, what they want and better segregated your email lists are, the lesser you will spam your consumer and the more leads you will generate. Keep a close eye on subscription/ unsubscribing and see what drives them.
  5. UI is the key: Drive emotions. Lot of impulsive buying happens over internet. People get carried away with emotions, drive them to do what you really wanted them to do. A good visual can be 5 times more powerful than an average one. No other thing can have such an effect on your campaigns. I again say drive emotions. It can be anger, humor, inquisitiveness etc.
  6. Have a short term strategy and a long term strategy: Your short term strategy could be have a good user base to feed your platform or generate leads to feed your sales team. Paid advertising might be really helpful in doing that. Your long term strategy should be to build a sustainable long term engine based on active user base, repeat customers, reviews or organic traffic.
  7. FANS and no fans: When I talk to many startup friends they ask for tips of building fan base seeing that we at Thrillophilia have done a good job in building a 32000+ Fan base on Facebook. It’s just the most false metrics to look at. We have never ever done a single campaign to increase our Fanbase. It’s not going to take you anywhere unless you plan to sell your company to a not so tech guy. A better metrics could be active users on page, virality of posts or traffic on website from Facebook.
  8. Keep a close eye on 24 hour results: It’s very imp to know what the world is thinking about your company at this point of time. I am just addicted to 24 hour results of keyword “Thrillophilia” on Google. A simple way to do it is go to Google and type in your brand name. In Search tools select in “Past 24 hours” This will show you the results of your brand in the last 24 hours over net indexed by Google. It will help you to identify if some is talking negative about your brand or if you just had a fake review from a competitor. Also set you your key Google alerts.
  9. Lessen up the dependency on other platforms: Let’s say today your 80% of the traffic is driven by Google and Facebook. How can you bring it to 50%? Building better email lists, having more repeat traffic, people who love you and are addicted to your website, affiliates etc. You never know if Google of FB will exist after 5 years but I assume you are building a company that probably will.
  10. Build relationships: Nothing works better than this. Start helping people in your ecosystem. If you design T-shirts design it for free for a NGO, a startup or for a big company. If you run a blog, give links to other good websites. Take your vendors for a dinner. Soon your 24 hours result will start getting better. We recently did a camp for Make a Difference, and yesterday they posted a Video on Youtube with our special mention – Let people talk good about you and enjoy the ride. In the end you were here to disrupt something and build something better.
Guest Post by Abhishek, Co-Founder of, the biggest activity travel website of India and comes with 6+ years of digital marketing experience. Before Co-Founding Thrillophilia he has helped national and international companies like Biocon, Flying machine, Discovery Channel to build their digital marketing presence

Photolity – The finest, most efficient, and an intelligent aggregator of photos.

It promises to aggregate photos from any source, and do some great things with them. Photolity was created recently against the backdrop of a similar Facebook app which was launched last year. The team brought the whole idea to life within 8 months. According to Gautam, extensive product experience helped the idea get off the ground in such a short timeframe. 

What is Photolity’s proposition?
In simple words Photolity aims to bring magic to photos. We are surrounded by billions of photos and everybody is searching for photos through Google but once search is complete there is not a frictionless next step. Downloading and sorting photos is a painful process. Photoliy is a small widget that allows you to aggregate the photos and do many things with them. It is an efficient tool for photos!

What are your key offerings?
Photolity can be used in many ways, for instance it allows teachers to prepare nice looking presentations, ad agencies to prepare contact sheets, users to upload pics on facebook and order for printing. It also supports the law enforcement agencies by helping them identify key pieces of information in the CCTV footage and in creating mugshots. It could be applied across other sectors including professional modelling and photography in general. 

How are you funded?
According to Gautam, Photolity is completely bootstrapped and has not raised any capital from external sources so far. 

What is your pricing model?
As of now the pricing model is not defined but the potential options include charging users for app download, forming partnerships with camera OEMs and printer companies.

What is your customer base saying?
The app is due to be launched in Beta over the next couple of weeks. So far there has been tremendous interest from the community. For example, Nasscom wants to do a pilot with Mumbai police to create a database of criminals whereas Intel and Window 8 want to display the app in their stores. The team is planning to launch a social media campaign to take this to market. 

What does the future hold?
Gaurav suggested that Photolity aims to become a market leader in this space through continuously refining the app features and thereby enhancing user experience. As the product gets ready for launch, the team needs to develop a clear product-market strategy and customer acquisition plans over the next few weeks. 

If you are going through hell, take pictures for Facebook and other famous marketing quotes

Great people have come, and great people have gone. But what they have left behind for us is timeless wisdom that has survived the change of marketing models from 4Ps to 4Cs, Al Gore inventing the Internet and funny cats doing funny things. Here’s bringing to you marketing wisdom from eons back, and their translation in today’s world.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former ~ Albert Einstein back in time
What it means today – Only two things are infinite, the universe and social media agencies, and I’m not sure about the former.
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand ~ Confucius
I click and I forget. I search and I remember. I open multiple tabs and I forget again.
Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company ~ Mark Twain
Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the direct marketers.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe ~ Abraham Lincoln
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four reading how-to posts and best practices guides.
If you are going through hell, keep going ~ Sir Winston Churchill
If you are going through hell, take pictures for the Facebook page.
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth ~ Buddha
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and discount coupon codes from affiliates.
My advice to you is get married: if you find a good wife you’ll be happy; if not, you’ll become a philosopher ~ Socrates
My advice to you is get married: if you find a good wife you’ll be happy; if not, you can make a viral video about it.
You have to give people something to dream on ~ Jimi Hendrix
You have to give people something to make a meme on.
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion ~ Alexander the Great
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of a marketer with a drip marketing campaign.
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win ~ Gandhi
First they ignore you, then they look at you, then they click you, then you make money.
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go ~ Oscar Wilde
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, wherever they click.
A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life ~ Charles Darwin
A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of Internet memes.
You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality ~ Ayn Rand
You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of installing an ad blocker.
Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul ~ Marilyn Monroe
Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for clicking on an ad.
I’ll be back ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger
I’ll be back.
Got some of your own wisdom to share? Bring it on, and become a living legend.

What is that we have to build?

Every now and then, we hear people arguing about building “Microsoft” and “Google” of India. Companies like Microsoft, Google have built up incredible technologies and their contributions in improving our life is significant. When started, they started with big vision, a tough and relevant problem to solve, and brilliant team behind the vision. While I cannot look into minds of founders of those companies and say what they were thinking, the problems they chose to solve had enormous relevance and potential at their time and place.

When some people talk of building product companies, they want to build another “Facebook”, another “Google”, etc. And some people want to build “Valley” here in Bangalore or Hyderabad. If all we’re doing is trying to build another “Google”, replicate ecosystem of “Silicon Valley” here in an Indian city, sorry people. Your attempts are futile. Suppose we go to Kashmir, and like apples very much there. We come back to Karnataka, want to grow apples. Can we grow apples here? No. Climate, and soil conditions in Karnataka is different from that of Kashmir. If we are still trying to grow apples in Karnataka, we’re just wasting our time and effort. But Karnataka grows sandalwood. This is a tree that grows here very well. And we can grow best Sandalwood in the world.

Don’t mistake the analogy here. I’m in no way suggesting that Indians can’t build a technological giant such as Google or Facebook. What I mean is, we should not build product companies for the sake of it. If you can solve a problem really well without building a product, and build a great business out of it, that should be the way. When we’re building a company or building ecosystems, we’ve to encourage startups to be best in what they are building or doing. It doesn’t really matter after a point if you are building a product or offering a service, what matters is quality of your work. It should solve real problems of the people. In doing so, it only makes sense to utilize existing ingredients of ecosystem to the fullest.

What we should aim at is building a culture of solving problems and solving efficiently. To solve a big tough problem, if we’ve have to build a product for that, we’ll build a product. If we’ve to invent, we’ll invent. If we have to offer an innovative service, we’ll do that. Once we start solving big problems, once we start setting standards of excellence in everything we do, may be we’ll realize product companies are by-products.

Guest Post Contributed by Mahesha Hiremath, Boson Research

Is your company dependent on Innovation? Grow the right Culture First! The rest will take care of itself!

There is a reason, Mark Zuckerberg sits right next to the Summer Intern from University of Waterloo (True Story – Daughter of an Indian friend of mine!). No separate office, no glass windows to look out of!

Sergei Brin and Larry Page are worried sick of “Not Enough Innovation” out of Google!

They all focus on building the right culture for their people so that they can out-innovate their best competitors in the world!

Netflix, Google, Facebook all encourage and even require their employees to engage about 25% of their time in some pet technical project of their own. Some of these turned out to be big money makers, many failed!

Their philosophy is that if you have not failed enough number of times, you are not trying hard enough!

It all goes back to the company culture you build from Day 1! I have done it a number of times putting together engineering groups in multiple companies in Silicon Valley and I have done the same thing in India! If anything it works even better in India, if it is any consolation! Employees loved it and so very highly motivated, especially if they came from other companies in India!

Do you view yourself as the Captain of the ship who just makes very high level decisions and leave your first officers and people who report to them alone to do their jobs? Do you trust them from Day 1 to make the right technical decisions, stepping in only to guide them if they are straying too much from your mission?

Many of us come from a technical background and as engineers, our first instinct is to jump in and make the right decisions for our employees. Wrong!

In other words, do you treat that employee who just joined you straight from college as an adult, expect a lot from them, make sure that they have the hardware and software tools and leave them alone to do their jobs?

High expectations does something magical! The same employee comes in on their own on saturdays and sundays to try out something they have been thinking about. It stops being work for them and becomes something they take ownership for!

Do you praise them in meetings for even minor accomplishments but correct things they do wrong in private?

Do you tell them everyday that you are depending upon them to contribute great ideas to the company, give them time to try them out?

Then you have the right culture for innovation!

However, there are other things that go into this culture working correctly! You need to spend a lot of time hiring ONLY the right people! Make no mistake – Silicon Valley, India or Timbuktu, only 5- 10% of any population are really really good and suitable for innnovative companies. Do you look through 100 resumes and filter out that 5 to 10%? The wrong people can make your innovation train go off the rails, right from the beginning!

You are saying – I am this small company in Chennai – I am competing for talent with Infosys, Wipro and others. How do I get that 5 to 10% cream of the crop.

Guess what? I have done that! Spread your search to Tier 2, Tier 3, Tier4 colleges. Go to Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai to hire. Simple science, really! If you are trying to hire the 5 – 10% of the best in a population, to increase your chances, you go to more populations. I hired two people from Delhi to come, work in Chennai. Did wonders for my employees. They learned how to help, interact with someone from another language, culture.

There is another reason how diversity helps your innovation. Men and Women think about the same problem differently. Punjabis think differently than South Indians. Assamese and Bengalis are different in thinking than Mumbaikars! All these differences are your real assets. Walk into facebook and Google, you will see employees that represent the United Nations. There is a reason to that madness! Innovation comes from thinking differently and people who solve the same problem in many different ways are your real assets, your keys to innovation!

If you encourage them, give them the broad direction, tools and step away to let them do their jobs, fail often but try different things nevertheless. Works in Silicon Valley, New York, Washington. Works even better in India, if you try it without skipping any of the ingredients.

You never realize how much the Indian work culture has borrowed all the wrong things from our British masters before us. Separate dining rooms for different levels of executives, the “Yes. Sir. No Sir” culture. This kind of thinking is more harmful to your goals than you think!

It can be changed. It all starts with a few companies that start doing it. I am sure there are many companies in India that already do it actively today and are seeing the results.

Culture is often pooh-poohed as something touchy-feely stuff and not suitable for a goal oriented, task oriented company. It is everything in a startup, especially one that wants to Innovate!