In Brief: Shunya One Ep 24

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On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Bala Menon, an independent product strategist from Mumbai. Their conversation covers the process and various stages of building technology-based products, research on augmentatives systems and the different aspects to a product related profile in organisations and startups today.

Bala expanded on the designation and job profile related to programming and building products.

A lot of generalists now prefer calling themselves as product people, because they don’t need to have specialties beyond a point. I mean you could say, look I am a programmer but I get to decide where this product is headed, or what I need this product to do. And I have a little bit of an interjection to make here when you think about founders who are technical, so let’s say you want to write a program you really have to understand what is the problem you are trying to solve. Because you have to logically define it and really go to the depths of what you are trying to solve and that’s how you kind of create the program. The good thing about that and that’s also how a lot of founders used to think. And Microsoft had product management programs where it was a purely technical role, unlike what you are seeing now which is an offshoot of marketing and other things.

Shiladitya inquired about the challenges faced by non-tech founders while building or launching a product. Bala explained:  

A lot of non-tech founders are not reading the kind of stuff that tech founders are. A lot of tech people read very nuanced versions of how to launch a product. Right from setting up a server to kind of getting your first 100 users, and how to set up your analytics; non-tech founders are not essentially reading that. I am not saying everybody isn’t, but most of them aren’t. It is a challenge to them because most of them are getting these toned down, watered down versions of it in different forms and ways and it is also confusing the heck out of them.

Listen to the full episode here:

In Brief: Shunya One Ep 23

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On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Vahishta Mistry, a former journalist and media professional who has moved on to building tech products from remote places. He speaks about his journey as a digital nomad, its challenges and the opportunities it brings to the table.

Vahishta discussed how critical it is for team-mates to take ownership and foresee a problem before a certain situation arises. He said:

Ownership for an employer; to provide that ownership to someone who is working remotely is a. - a huge responsibility and you are putting yourself in a very vulnerable position at that point. Which means you need to invest that trust essentially you need to know that person a little better. That brings me to the point where it is ideal if you actually work with that person. Even if you need to pay for that person to come for a little bit, work with you for a month. Kick the tires, make sure they are okay and then send them off.

Shiladitya inquired about the difference between Silicon Valley and India, in terms of the work culture be it work ethics or transparency. To which Vahishta responded:  

I hesitate to generalize on that basis but I will tell you one thing and it’s not a Valley thing, it is universal and I have seen this between two companies within India. It is the amount of faff in the office, to be honest. Teams that faff a lot don’t get s*** done and that’s the fundamental difference. I think one of the benefits to working in other cultures, again and I am not saying the U.S in particular but anywhere else is a team that can get their head down and start at a given time, get through a single process and then get done at the end of the day even if it is 5’O clock. You don’t need to work late, it is not about how many hours you put in, it is about how efficient you are in those hours that you do put in. Such teams will do better.

Shiladitya wondered how one jumps right into a work culture like this. Vahishta explained:

It is hard, I would spend the time and invest the time to build up a good network. I would start slow. I think if you really want to do a step-by-step progression up to this, you would need to start small. You would need to start by making profiles on sites like Elance, and Fiverr, so on and so forth. Try and build a body of work there. First of all, that would be a learning experience to even see whether that lifestyle suits you even without traveling. Just be home and do one project on that side. Don’t give up your day job. Do one project on the side, see how that feels. A lot of people don’t like it, it can be very nerve-racking for you to not have anything to do, or having to do something without too much instruction.

Catch the episode here:

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 22

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On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Naiyya Saggi, Founder of BabyChakra, a parenting platform. This conversation covers how technology can help make better decisions about childcare, parenting and healthcare with a focus on building a strong community equipped with insights and technology.  

Shiladitya inquired about the the kind of insights that Naiyya found to understand the market for BabyChakra. To which she responded:

Just think about how we all make decisions today. Essentially there are two massive trends that we are riding on: I think now is the perfect time to be creating something like BabyChakra. the first big trend is of data democracy. So you look at how Jio has come in and completely changed, how we consume and how much we consume online, right? And how online consumption is now becoming a part of how we operate, day in and day out. And the second big sort of trend, if you will is: look at the smartphone prices. And if you look at how India has completely leapfrogged. We didn’t even go through the “desktop or the laptop revolution” we pretty much leapfrogged into the smartphone ecosystem. And what that means essentially is that there are more women who for the first time in history have access to the internet. And what are these women looking for? And honestly, they are not even on Facebook groups. Why? Because they feel Facebook is not safe, it is not a trusted platform for them to be a part of. So where do they come to? And what do they access or what are they even allowed to access online? It is stuff around parenting, family, healthcare. It is stuff about what is good for themselves and their kids.

Naiyya also spoke about how technology comes into play:

Think about what you want your consumer and user to experience. And what adds value to his/her life and then build accordingly. And some these things are some very very simple feature sets and some of them are much more complex in terms of the algorithms you build out or sort of how you undertake to create a certain experience. Just to give you two very quick examples. I love the fact that both of you used the word community because fundamentally that’s what we want to feel like. And actually what we are is a very very smart and a very personal companion. So every mother has a unique BabyChakra experience and that is powered by machine learning and that is powered by proprietary algorithms that take more than 150 data points from every interaction that she has with BabyChakra. So that is pretty much what we are building at BabyChakra in terms of the overall experience.

Listen to the full episode here: 

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 21

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On this week’s episode of Shunya One, host Shiladitya and Amit are joined by Revant Bhate, Entrepreneur in Residence, Head of New Business at Faasos. They talk about startup careers, offbeat job titles, food technology and business in India. 

Revant explained how the hiring system was put in place at Faasos and what is the best way of defining job roles at a workplace.

I think for us it was very clear from Day 1, that we were broadly firstly, or let’s say the second line after the founder. I think that culture got ingrained in us as well. Though we didn’t create an FER program below when we were looking to hire our second line. We realized that we had to look for the same thing which is ownership and leadership. And how do you measure ownership and leadership? It is broad: can you assign a P&L responsibility to a person who you are hiring? Because if you are not going to assign a hard number target, what are you measuring in your quarterly KRA? How do you know whether your day has gone well or not? No one wakes up in the morning and says I am going to have a crappy day. And in some sense having a P&L responsibility, having an objective target is something that is very very clearly helping not only businesses grow but individuals feel that they’ve performed well or not.

He also spoke about his biggest lessons from his experience of building and creating food brands.  

The biggest learning was that if you can tell a particular thing, first it has to be the truth as close to it as possible. And you have to really talk about it repeatedly from the heart, and actually reach a very small sliver of the audience, that set of the audience will create the brand for you.

Listen to the full episode here: 

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 20

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This week we are joined by Aditya Mishra, Founder and CEO at SwitchMe. The conversation covers entrepreneur-networking groups, the challenges in the banking and finance sector with technology and innovation and what led him to his venture in the home-loans space.

Aditya explained the misuse of the buzzword "disruption" that is often used when corporates invest in startups: 

I think disruption is a word that gets thrown around a lot and it means different things to different people and different people react differently to it. I think it’s exciting for a bunch of people who are entrepreneurs and say, hey we are out to disrupt. That gets them excited that gets them going. And its hugely motivating. I think that’s good. For a bunch of corporates who’ve not been looking at it they react with fear, that my business is going away. And a) it either forces them to work with such startups or do something of their own. I think that’s also good. Then there are a bunch of people I think the smarter kind, they think: that in the end what difference does it make to my customer?

He also spoke about the challenges faced by the banking sector with technology and innovation:

I was selling to banks and I could see that banks couldn’t innovate even if their life depended on it. Why’s that? They would essentially look at the business leaders coming up with the new ideas or they will say okay let the tech guys come up with the new ideas. First of all most bank tech people are not deep tech people. They actually turn to a TCS or an Infosys for help on that. Second is that the tech is not out there is not looking at what the customer is doing, it’s the branch which is doing that. Between the tech and branch there is a central processing centre then you’ve got your operations leadership and then comes the tech. So tech essentially treats the operations leadership as its customer, or the business function leaders as its leaders. Now these guys are not in the market. If you are not studying your customer, if you are not trying to understand the needs how are you going to innovate?

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 6

On episode 6 of Shunya One, Kuldeep, Head of Business and Customer Success at CleverTap joined Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya and Amit Doshi to discuss some of the latest issues in tech and business.

After reminiscing over the days of Nokia N9 and E71, they discuss the importance of sales. Kuldeep talks about how start-ups don’t give it its due: 

Indian businesses have always reacted in a way [that] they need to organise, and one way they’ve found to organise (in my opinion at least) is they cluster around each other, you go to Tirupur where almost half of cotton hosiery is done or you go to Bhilwara (which is close to Chitod-Udaipur) where almost half of India’s polyester is done. Right outside Bhiwandi, there are literally looms and looms...Bombay is a big cloth centre. Lot of these businesses are clustered together, they face the same business challenges so on and so forth, so [what’s] fundamental to running a business in India is if you don’t know how to sell, you will lose your identity because you’ll be lost among a crowd. Nobody will see you fail. You’ll just disappear in the background, which is why (when you mentioned startups) there are some start-ups who clearly cannot sell. There are start-ups who are all about the product, they’re all about the softer disciplines (and I don’t mean soft in a bad way) - you can have a great product, you can have a great package, you can have a great vision, you can be executing brilliantly. but in the end someone has to translate it into money, someone has to translate into a partnership.

Over the course of their discussion they briefly cover the sales strategy of Windows, the current state of the mobile markets and whether the Iphone is the winner that has taken all in the market. On the last point, Amit had this to say:

I absolutely understand that apple makes a lot more money than [HTC, Xioami, 1+], but these people are also rational actors. They’re not going to continue staying in this business if they don’t see a path to money making. And people are not going to fund them if they don’t see a path to money making at some point, right? The sheer number of people using android, as opposed to iphone, is 4 times that number. to me that says that there is something over there. Point being, that it’s not winner takes all.

Catch the full episode here: 

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