Ola Leaking Personal Data of Users, Claims A Chennai Customer

Ola customer from Chennai, Swapnil claims that the company has leaked 100+ customer data.

Ola-customer-data-leaked

Here is an edited excerpt from Swapnil’s post on Facebook.

“About three weeks ago, I booked an Ola cab for a long distance drive. After the ride I received a few garbled texts from “VM-OLACAB” that I didn’t think much of and ignored.

These messages were alpha-numeric with hashes and made no sense to me whatsoever.

Ola was sharing with me, personal details of their customers throughout the day and throughout the night. It’s lucky I’m not a psychopath roaming the streets of Bangalore, waiting to get my hands on people’s personal information and knowing when they are home and when they are not, isn’t it!

What followed were days of thorough frustration as my poor phone beeped nonstop to receive text after text after text after text of utter nonsense from Ola. I estimate a total of between 300 and 400 texts from them so far.

I reached out to them through every channel possible. I called their call centre at least 5 times, demanded to speak to the senior managers, and had to explain my problem each time in great detail, answering the same annoying questions.

I began calling the customers themselves to tell them I was receiving their booking and all of their private details. They were all shocked and promised to complain to Ola. I will never know if they really did

What scares me the most, is that THIS should be their number one priority. I questioned their lack of concern for privacy and data protection. I threatened to report them to the authorities and TRAI.” [source]

Surprising that the company didn’t even care to fix it. Ola was earlier hacked and the hackers claimed to have gotten user details.

Ritesh Agarwal, OYO Rooms : Aims To Do 1000K Booking Nights Per Month By Year End [Interview]

Oyo rooms recently raised a massive $100mn round led by Softbank. Here is an interview with Ritesh Agarwal, the founder and CEO of OYORooms talking about the company growth and future plans.

ritesh-agarwal-oyorooms

1. What has been the traction so far? How many rooms is OYO doing per day?

We are extremely encouraged by our growth and are currently at a run rate of 4,00,000 booked nights per month. We have built strong processes that are run by high quality teams and that has helped us scale very quickly. The biggest addition to our run rate has come from our app. It’s revolutionary in its own way as it’s the first time globally that there’s an app for hotel managers (no check in happens without the hotel app) similar to the Uber driver app.

This enables an easy to adopt app ecosystem which ensures extremely easy instant booking, turn by turn directions, check in, order tea/coffee, request room service and seamless check out. We are confident that by the end of this year we will be booking over 10,00,000 room nights per month.

2. What about mobile vs. desktop traffic / conversion ?
50% of our guests book OYO Rooms across 80 cities using the mobile app. Significant growth has been achieved on the app with more than 6,00,000 downloads just within 3 months since launch.

More than 10 business enabling apps such as hotel verification, standardization audit, quality audit, reconciliation and property performance trackers have been built and are running successfully across 12,000 plus rooms. For instance, the world’s first hotel audit app which is geolocation mapped by means of which we can on real time, identify and fix issues at a room by room level.

Our belief is that we are building a mobile-first company.

3. Plans going forward? Are you guys going International? What’s Next.Big.What for OYO?
When people buy a new smartphone they download Ola and Uber apps for commuting, Whatsapp for communication, facebook for social interaction and we see a future where they will download the OYO app for “staying when not at home”. That is the Next.Big.What for OYO.

OYO is a product that has never been built or attempted before anywhere in the world. It’s a “make in India” business that we take pride in and will be adopted by entrepreneurs and user globally. India is a very large business for us and we will explore international launches when the time is right.

Our processes are strong enough to activated 43 cities in a single month (July) despite the complexities that this model presents. Our long term plan is to be present in 250 cities across the country with 5,00,000 rooms extending our dominance in a market pioneered by us with a massive $100mn investment in demand, supply, technology and customer experience initiatives.

4. Typically, what’s the repeat purchase from customers?

About one third of our customers come back to us to stay again, a number much higher for the hospitality industry that otherwise also runs detailed loyalty programs.

We are able to cater to a variety of interesting use cases that were typically unsolved for, in the hotel industry. For example, during the recent Champions League matches, friends came together at OYOs to view late night matches. All they had to do was fire up our app, three taps and they had an OYO booked for the night. We run a robust customer feedback system consisting of 5 different channels, 24×7 to ensure superior experience to our customers.

5. Plans with the $100 MN? What do you think is the runway like? Will you guys start the fundraising process in 6 months (What’s the burn like) ?
We are very energized right now with our current funding and will focus on building great customer experience, new technology products and expansion across new cities as well as going deeper into current markets.

Practical Advice On Selling Your Startup

[Editorial notes: Pushkar Gaikwad sold his startup earlier and shares practical insights with the founders, who are in the process of selling your startup (or have plans to).]

I had started InBoundio in Jan 2013. After doing lot of freelancing, services and building casual hobby products, this was my first serious attempt in building a web product and business. This also made me took a dive into core technology as earlier I only had surface knowledge of technology. It did well and got reasonable success. We did plenty of iterations with product feature and pricing and we did got good number of inquiries about white label marketing software.Startup Advise

Since I am building AeroLeads too, it was difficult to focus on 2 products hence after 6 months of talks with many businesses, I have sold my startup InBoundio to an Australian Media company c9.

The last 2 years were fun in terms of learning and experience and now I have both as well as some cash, so now I will be using all this to grow current product much faster.

Learning and Experience

1. It was little tiring since I did all the work of talking and communicating with people. Though it was rewarding too since now I understand complete business cycle as well as understand complete technology and marketing stack of a business. I was also able to understand what are the metrics which a buyer look for. Saying this, I am very sure I am done selling businesses for a long time since it don’t excite me. Building businesses to sell it is also not a good business model.

2. It is not easy to sell your startup sitting in India to someone in other countries. Trust is a major problem as no one know each other. This also means you will only appeal to buyers who are looking to buy in certain price range to minimize risk for them.

3. I have seen many Indian businesses who go under the radar getting sold in 1M USD range through business brokers. If you think you can sell your business in this range, you should look to engage with brokers who have the right network. Do note that you will get valuation in multipliers of 2x-5x range which is the industry standard for web businesses. It can be 10x if the buyer sees real growth potential but don’t expect 20x or such valuation which rarely happens. Being realistic is important.

4. You can get much higher valuation if you are willing to work with the new buyer for few years, do partnerships or take some money now and rest later. At the end of the day, everyone wants to mitigate risk.

I had few such proposals but for me, it wasn’t about money, I knew it could get messy as it is not easy to partner someone in different country so went with outright sale.

5. The whole process is time consuming and can take 3-6 months. Make sure you don’t rush and covers legal aspect of transferring ownership and assets.

6. Prospective buyers will always look for these 3 parameters. If your startup have them, you should be fine, if not, you will find it difficult to make the calls.

i. Growth Potential
ii. Minimum liability
iii. Existing revenue

Where to find buyers for your Startups and Businesses

1. LinkedIn – I contacted lot of businesses founders on linkedIn using inmail and got good response. Few of them showed interest but it was also the issue of “not having enough paying customers”. If you want businesses in similar vertical to acquire you, remember that most of them only look for paying customers and not for technology.

2. Business Brokers – There are plenty of business brokers and firms who help you selling businesses in 500k to 10M range. They take about 10-15% fees and for someone in India, if you think you have the above 3 (growth, minimum liability and revenue), you should talk to them as this reduces risk, cut down your time/effort and speeds up communication.

Feel free to message me If you need some advice or if you think I can help you. I can be reached at “pushkar.gaikwad at gmail dot com” or through linkedIn.

Founder Vs. CEO Role : A Unique Disposition

A CEO and a FOUNDER are usually thought to be the same person.

They’re not.

Founders are brash, confident (bordering on arrogance), irrational, delusional, hungry, scrappy, penny pinchers, micro-managers, and all round cockroaches.

Survival is the essence of a founder.

Bootstrap an idea – find early customers, find ways to please them without running out of money, use your savings, plough back your profits, convince people of your vision, make them dream of being awesome. Because money sure as hell isn’t a motivator for them at this point.

Get some initial funding / traction – get cashflow positive / convince a few investors / join an accelerator / Still scrappy as hell / share a bedroom, sublet the other bedroom, Airbnb the hell out of your pad, travel coach / excursion, win more clients, angle for a high profile Angel / land a kick ass senior hire.

But then, you close your seed round. Now you’re 10–15 people. People who don’t necessarily feel its their lifelong duty to make this startup the center of their lives. Whose wives won’t understand when you’re at the office at 2 in the afternoon on a bright sunny Sunday when everyone’s at the Food Truck Festival.

You’re no longer a startup. You make money, you please customers. You have a team. YOU’RE A BUSINESS.

And you cannot be a scrappy, hungry, aggressive, take-no-prisoners founder any more.

You’re a CEO now.

You have to project stability (We’ve got money in the bank, we’ve got more rolling in, we can pay you every month, we do NOT expect you to work like a mad woman till 9 in the night / every weekend.) You will have founder-level commitment from a few of your team members. They are the hungry ones. Nurture them, Keep them happy. Solve their problems. They’re the future of your leadership. They inject energy in the business, piss more traditional team members off, break shit, and upturn systems. You need them.

But a business runs on systems, process, culture and accountability.

One of the biggest reasons startups struggle to scale is because their “CEO”’s mindset refuses to scale with the business.

Most startups nail the vision, nail the culture (You could NOT have found investors, customers, and early team members otherwise)

But they fail to build out the Structure to function under stress.

They fail to account for process, human tendencies and react badly to structural shifts in business thought.

This is where you have to start being a CEO. A Statesman. A Leader.

Building off the Determination, Passion and Drive brought from a founder’s mindset,

Thoughtfulness is the essence of a CEO.

You cannot fire someone because they didn’t like you. or because they were rude to you. or because they’re an asshole.

You must have strong, valid, objective reasons for moving someone out of your team. You must find out this information fast and act fast on it. But you must be slow to jump to conclusions.

When you resolve an ego conflict, you cannot take sides. No matter how much you like one over the other. No matter that the aggrieved party isn’t a high performer. You must be fair and honest to the facts. Not to the people.

You must be a scary judge of talent. But you must also be able to take feedback. About the team from each other, About you from them.

You cannot favor your early employees if they cannot scale. You need to be brutally honest with your co-founders if they are failing. You have to look forward 18 months and act as if you’re already there. You CANNOT solve every problem your team has. You MUST allow your team to face their own crises.

(caveat: If its a deal or a issue that affects your company’s future, Jump right in!! No niceties there!)

Your goal as a founder is to live forever through your vision.

Your goal as a CEO is to make the company function perfectly if you died tomorrow

[Guest article by Pranay Srinivasan, founder of SourceEasy.

Image credit: shutterstock]

Is It A Good Move To Go App only? Some Perspective From FMCG World

This has probably been the hottest point of discussion within the start-up ecosystem as well customers since Flipkart announced their plans to move to App only by the end of this year. Many opinions have been shared from both the supporters as well as disapprovers of this move.

Myntra App Only

Without commenting on those opinions and to look at it from a different perspective, let’s look at a parallel, the FMCG world which was an early-career area of experience for me and also for decades the best practice model for driving end-consumption till Internet disruption started.

  • Web/Mobile app/Mobile site are channels much like Large hypermarkets/Supermarket/ General Stores/Chemists etc. for FMCG companies. Customers choose one of these channels to purchase as per their convenience/preference.
  • An e-commerce company selling only through app is like, let’s say a Cadbury deciding to sell Cadbury dairy milk only through large hypermarkets/supermarkets and not making it available at any other channels.
  • Flipkart’s/Myntra’s argument is that the experience for the customer is much better on the app. Similarly Cadbury can argue that the experience of shopping in hypermarkets is much better for the customer. They can put up grand displays/promoters to promote dairy milk in hypermarkets and nowhere else etc.
  • Now there is no right or wrong here – but both Flipkart/Myntra as well as Cadbury need to be aware of the side-effects of this strategy – they will miss out on the sales for the channels where they are not present while they will definitely be able to give an enhanced shopping experience to their customers in the channels they exist.
  • However the assumption that the customer will change their channel preference because of a company’s decision borders at ‘brand arrogance’. No brand is completely irreplaceable in the current day and age. Imagine your preferred shop is your neighbourhood kirana store (mom & pop store) and you visit them one day to buy Cadbury dairy milk along with other stuff.You don’t find it there once. Ok you love the chocolate so you go to the closest hypermarket to buy it. Then you go shopping the next time, and again you don’t find it in the kirana store – do you think you are speeding your way to the next hypermarket or switching to Kit-Kat? Well, no prizes for guessing the answer.Similarly FlipKart/Myntra’s assumption that people who prefer web/m-site will all ‘eventually’ move to app is untenable at best. Customers have way too many options to get dictated by one brand.
  • FMCG mass brands cannot afford to lose any market share whatsoever and the biggest key to that is mass distribution. Ask any FMCG marketing manager, their worst nightmare and the most common answer would be not being present in an outlet where the competition is available. Truth is in a fragmented market like India, you just can’t afford to miss large channels or your market share would be significantly impacted. Aren’t all E-com brands aspiring to be mass household brands in the future much like Lux and Rin today. If yes, can’t really understand how they can miss out on 2 out 3 channels available as of today.
  • The argument of focus: Another argument espoused in the favour of the move was how this will bring in focus for the app channel development. Again to continue the parallel, 10-15 years back FMCG companies were facing the same situation when Modern trade started becoming critical.
    They promptly restructured their teams to get specialists for modern trade channel development and separate teams for traditional grocers and chemists as the channel needs and type of customers were vastly different. Shutting some channels was not even an option unless they would have been ok with massive erosion of market shares.

Bottom-line – While what Flipkart/Myntra is doing is making a strategic choice, my main concerns about this strategy are two-fold:

a) Their assumption that because they will work only on app, their app channel development will be better compared to its competition might not hold up. Each of the other companies has enough resources at their disposal to develop multiple channels. I really doubt if channel development has already become a zero-sum game.

b) They run the risk of becoming more premium/niche instead of an all-encompassing absolute mass player.

Again this might be a conscious call, though I doubt it.

What are your thoughts?

[About the author: Ashish Virmani currently heads Marketing at FreeCharge, amongst India’s largest Ashish-Virmanim-commerce platforms. Ashish transitioned from FMCG to consumer internet when he joined Flipkart and led offline and consumer segment marketing as one of the early marketing team member. Before that he was with Dabur and Heinz for over 7 years, working across marketing and sales stints. He holds a MBA from MDI Gurgaon and bachelor’s degree in commerce from Hindu College, Delhi. ]

Rahul Yadav : Totally UnPluggd.

Rahul Yadav is not with Housing anymore. When we met him @UnPluggd, he shared the grand plans and candidly answered a whole lot of questions around funding, team and ofcourse, the menu scanner!

Here it is : Rahul Yadav, UnPluggd

 

Introducing Anand Chandrasekaran, Snapdeal CPO @ProductGeeksConf !

Ladies and Gentlemen:

NextBigWhat’s upcoming product conference, ProductGeeksConf which is scheduled for June 19th is bringing India’s most amazing DOERs and ProductGeeks !

We are happy to announce that Anand Chandrasekaran, who recently joined Snapdeal as CPO will be speaking at ProductGeeksConf !

Anand Chandrasekaran : Snapdeal CPO
Anand Chandrasekaran : Snapdeal CPO

At ProductGeeksConf, Anand will be speaking on

“BUILDING GREAT PRODUCTS – Why Some Stick And Why Some Don’t”

Anand is a proven entrepreneur and product / business leader delivering products and revenue in mobile, search, content and big data. He was Chief Product Officer @ Bharti Airtel, Previously Anand was with Yahoo, where he held roles of Sr. Director of Search Products and member of search leadership as well as Sr. Director for Mobile.

Prior to Yahoo, Anand was Director of Product at Openwave driving product management for the mobile mediation gateway which touched 200M subscribers (through 70 operators) and generated $150M revenue. Previously, he co-founded Aeroprise Inc. Under Anand’s leadership, Aeroprise became the most-deployed solution worldwide for mobile service management.

ProductGeeksConf & UnPluggd

Date : June 19th And 20th.
Venue: MLR Convention Center (J P Nagar), Bangalore.
URL: http://nextbigwhat.com/unpluggd
Agenda: http://nextbigwhat.com/unpluggd/agenda

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Ecommerce Marketplaces : Not All That Rosy For Sellers [An Open Letter]

[Editorial notes: Theoretically speaking, the ecommerce marketplace model is changing the game – for buyers as well as sellers. But ground reality isn’t that rosy. Hear it out from Gurudatt B Nadiger, Founder & CEO of a home appliance company, Smarthomez. Gurudatt has been actively selling on all the ecommerce marketplaces and has some serious feedback to ecommerce companies.]

We sell Home appliance products of all major brands like Milton, Cello, Nayasa, Signoraware, Prestige, Tupperware, etc.

As you are aware, all the above mentioned companies have moved from “Inventory based” model to “Marketplace” model. “Marketplace” model means the eCommerce companies do not own any inventory, they enable sellers and buyers to connect with each other and transact.

We know that the eCommerce companies have changed the way we do commerce in India. They offer discounts, wide product selection across all categories, faster delivery, customer care support, user friendly return policies, cancellation options, product exchanges and thus made our lives easy. We can sit in our home or office and order anything we want and pay easily with credit cards, debit cards or cash on delivery.

showrooming-ecommerce

So half a billion people are excited about eCommerce in India and this number is growing.

I will explain the other part of it – from a seller’s perspective. I will explain the hassles we face to keep you happy.

I was excited when I decided that I would sell home appliance products online through eCommerce portals. I made the list of products I wanted to sell and uploaded my catalog on the websites. On day 1, I got 11 orders. Who could stop me now? I was on a journey of infinite miles.

The initial days were good as I was just focusing on number of orders I got per day. I reached 10, 15, 30, 50 orders per day and I started dreaming of becoming a millionaire soon. Dreams are great but I was not keeping the accounts of the sales properly. One day, my charted accountant called to ask all sales and purchase details to file monthly returns, then I looked at all my bills, bank account statements, invoices, pending payments from eCommerce websites and could not find a logic or proper cashflow in my accounts. I started digging my invoices and got to know that I was losing more money on product cancellations, returns, logistics, and marketplace commissions than I expected.

On an average the marketplaces charge:

Marketplace commission – 15%
Domestic shipping per Kg – Rs 30
National shipping per Kg – Rs 45.
Fixed commission per order – Rs 10 ( for orders above Rs 250 )

Along with these, I incurred huge losses in

  • Customers using products for a week and sending them back.
  • Product damages (they tell us we can claim for damages, but they never do).
  • Product returns (they come in a condition, where we cannot resend to other new orders. Most of the covers/corrugated boxes of brands are damaged.)
  • Reverse logistics charges (When you cancel, the seller pays the return logistics charges)
  • Marketplace commissions (When you cancel, we the sellers are still charged the commission).
  • Product Cancellation : Paytm charges a commission of 15% + logistics fee of Rs 45, when you order and cancel in minutes.

See the logic, the customer cancelled it by choice and order not yet shipped. But still, seller has to pay commissions.

Please note that the average return rate for ecommerce in India is 30 %.

ecommerce-sellers

Our operational cost:

  • Office Rent.
  • Admin costs (I have 1 person for packing apart from me )
  • Packing material costs (on avg Rs 15 per order package ).
  • Transportation cost incurred for product purchases.

I do not have a retail shop, so my costs are minimum. But can you imagine the above expenses if I was paying Rs 1 lakh rent for my shop?

Logistics Issues:

[1] The pickup guys do not come regularly. If they skip pickups for 1 day, 30 % of our customers cancel the orders. And no company takes the responsibility. They tell you, “vehicle was not available”.

[2] We have to call the pickup guys every day and tell them the number of orders and whether they should send a van or bike. Amazon and Flipkart does a good job here by making the process automated. But Ecom, Bluedart, Delhivery teams are way behind in communications.

Payments:

[1]  Shopclues takes 30 days to settle the payments (so we quit selling there).
[2] Flipkart -15 days for settlements after the product reaches customer.
[3] Amazon – 10 days for settlements after the product reaches customer.
[4] Paytm – 8 days for settlements after the product reaches customer.

Sellers are made to compete for pricing. I have seen sellers playing the number game rather than serving the customer. Sellers are left with very little or nothing at the end. You will ask, why are sellers not complaining? I do not know. But most retailers who started selling online but gave up after 2 to 3 months, couldn’t communicate with anybody. They either get satisfied with offline sales or think it’s not for them.

Every day thousands of sellers are added with no knowledge of the rules of the game. The companies talk big numbers and sign them up. But the companies never call and ask you how you are doing or what problems are you facing with business or how they can help to grow our business…?

Taxation:

I bet 99.999% of charted accountants do not know how eCommerce taxation works. Not to blame them, but every company generates invoices in different formats and and when we sit for filing our returns. It is a headache for all of us.

Marketplace?

The eCommerce companies have total control on our inventory. They can block us anytime, make our listings inactive anytime, can damage our orders in transit, delay our payments, cut huge commissions, cut buyer claimed refunds without giving any notification.

Dear Online Buyers:

Who is paying for your offers or discounts? Please note, that to change your online purchasing behaviour, habits or addictions, eCommerce companies are just racing to capture the marketshare to get more online buyers, increase their buying trends, capture all your shopping data to raise the next billion dollars from venture funds.

There is nothing wrong in eCommerce companies modelling their business and pricing the sellers with such policies. But in the long run, this is a biased business model, where sellers are screwed to make customers happy. The discounts and offers do not go a long way and the customer expectations are increasing day by day. To meet those expectations sellers are giving up their margins and closing businesses.

I am still optimistic about my business and not quitting my journey. It’s a start.

I am here to build – not to fall.

Image credit: baynote

I Have An Idea And I Need An App For That : A 101 On App Development & Tools You Need

In the past 10 months, I have got so many requests from the fellow entrepreneurs to create the initial product for their startup, half of them are from India and the others are from outside India. Most of entrepreneurs are from engineering background and already working with a startup or a MNC, a few of them quit their company and jumped into this journey in full time, a few of them are into business development and marketing.

Even a nearby provisional store shop owner approached me for creating an app for online grocery delivery. And almost everyone is bootstrapping.

I have an idea and I need an app for it

It is awesome to see that people from every sector understands and trying to utilize the technology but most of them jump into the app market before clearly validating their idea and they end up in creating one another app with just 100s of users. Nowadays everyone wants to create and grab the market through their on demand service based startup or an uber for abc or a tinder for xyz. And almost everyone wants to just clone one another app which is already popular in the market.

Here I have listed a step to step process from my experience, on creating a successful app along with the tools that will help you to run the process smoothly. Take a hot cup of coffee or a bucket of popcorn before reading further.

Here is a list of steps you need to follow before creating an app.

Have a solid idea or a problem

Most of the successful apps in the market created out of a problem faced by the people around or the creator understood the market very clearly. If you have an app idea already, move on to the next step. Do you really face a problem in your day to day life or do you want to solve something in a bigger scale? Think about the provisional store guy. He found that all his customers are having a smartphone and also everyone wants door delivery. Right now, he is handling it by taking orders through phone and he spends most of his daytime on phone because of it. He wants to get rid of it and assign the work to a boy that he is planning to hire. He even posted a notice in front of his shop for hiring a delivery boy. He understands the market and tries to solve his problem and at the same time. This is a sample scenario on how do you plan to create an app.

Don’t worry if you don’t have an idea. Problems are there everywhere waiting for someone to solve it. Every successful app solve problems in a really bigger way than our imagination. If you are searching for app ideas in google, this is the time to stop it. It will never work in that way. Each and every object around you is created to solve a problem.

List down all the problems you face in your day to day life. For example, I still recharge 6 different wallets for my on-demand delivery services on travel, food, ecommerce and entertainment in India. I don’t want to recharge all 6 different wallets all the time. It is such a time-consuming work every time. There is no service to provide a common platform to solve this issue. Oops, did I leak a million dollar idea? There is nothing in talking about your idea outside. The execution process matters more than your idea. Go to the next step.

Whenever a new idea strikes your mind, note it down in a paper or in a tool like Google keep, Evernote, Trello.

Validate your idea

This is really an important phase before jumping into creating the app. For example, let us say you want to create online food delivery startup based out of Bangalore and you need an app to go online. Now, how do you validate your idea? Most of the time, you will have direct competitors and a very few ideas will be completely new to the market.

When you create a product, there should be customers not just use your product one day but who is ready to use it immediately. You should first analyse, existing market players in the same segment. Analyse the market size from the competitors and check their user base. There are many services to find a competitor product. If you find too many competitors, it means that your idea is already validated through them. Don’t worry about entering the market late. Think Google is not the first search engine.

If you are creating a product which doesn’t exist in the market already, that is awesome. Create a launcher page with subscription option. Use a simple google form or wufoo forms listing down your features and the questions, send it across your friends and families, facebook community users, local startup network events, meetup groups. Engage with different kinds of group and get feedback from them both online & offline and also make sure you are talking to appropriate targeted users. For an app which targets college students, you need to figure out where do students engage mostly and try to get their feedback.

Designing

This is where most of the entrepreneurs make mistake generally. Once after they validate the idea, they will immediately start looking for developers to build the app. When it comes to app, UI/UX is more important than the actual functionality. User should love the app on first sight. After validation, you should first think about the features on your app and the UI/UX involved in it.

There is a lot of tools for app prototyping like invision app. But even before going to use a tool for it, sketch your idea in a board or in a paper using pen. And make sure that you cover all the details and UI in it. UI Navigation design is more important for user experience(UX). And don’t ever mirror iOS designs, icons to Android/Windows and vice versa. They are completely different platforms with different UX patterns. There is a lot of prototyping, wireframing apps you can use before going on designing with a designer. I suggest you to use, pen and paper in the initial stage than online tools for prototyping and wireframing.

If you take most of the top applications on store, they have started with a small set of features and improved on top of it. You can’t release the stable version on your initial release. It is a continuous process. Make sure you first version has the core feature without any functionality issue and keep the UI simple and clean.

You don’t need an awesome UI. Once your wireframe is ready, find a designer who can bring life to your wireframes. Design as per the user navigation and complete the designs for core feature first. For example, if you are making an app similar to Instagram, give importance to home screen listing screen, camera screen, applying filter screen, sharing screen. That completes the main flow inside your app. That is simply enough for a good demo of your app. Think your app in that way.

Similar Tools for prototyping: Mybalsamiq, Atomic

Hire developer

You key to success is based on hiring a best developer to implement your app. Don’t be haste while hiring a developer. When you make a mistake on your first hire, the mistake will grow exponentially on further hires. You don’t need a rockstar developer but you need an all rounder with talent. You need to make sure he/she fits your culture. You don’t need people who show attitude or ego.

If you have good experience on hiring remote workers through elance.com or upwork.com go for it. Hire a developer with more experience rather than looking at the developer’s paycheck. Otherwise try to find a good developer from friend’s network. If you have enough time, hire a developer/intern directly from college. When you expect more quality, it is always suggested to hire an experienced developer.

At the end we just need to just Get Shit Done!

Invite beta users

Once your app is in a condition to show demo, get as mush as early users you can adopt. The way you distribute your app/build will be the key for your success. It will be awesome if you can find your beta customers for free of cost. It is really important at the early stage of a startup. Keep a list of all your early adopters. Here is a list of places that you can make it possible.

  • Write blog posts and post infographics if possible relevant to your idea/startup. If you are bad at making inforgraphics, go to elance.com, upwork.com to get a quality post. Make sure you publish the article in all relevant social media.
  • Join as much as relevant groups possible. Join Google+ communities, facebook communities, LinkedIn groups. When you post about your app in these groups, make sure your post doesn’t look like an advertisement. Otherwise most probably you will be kicked out of the group. It is better to post it like asking for suggestion or help in improving so that users will be interested in checking out. If you don’ know how to write content, go to fiverr.com and spend 5$ to get right content for your startup.
  • Post articles in hackernews/quora and build your reputation. When your reputation grows, you will get more visibility and more chance for a user to click on the link that you are posting. Give more importance on the quality of the content that you are posting.
  • Go to your competitors social media links especially twitter and facebook, find out unhappy customers. Try to find out the actual pain point from the customer and try helping them to resolve it.

Have marketing channels

Marketing is really important for the success of your app. Think about candy crush app, the idea behind candy crush app is from the very old bejeweled app that we were playing 10 years back. It is all about how do you roll out your app to get more users. If you have some budget for marketing, you can get paid app installs through Ad networks, facebook ad campaigns.

Always keep your press kit ready. Here is a short list of mandatory things for your press kit.

  • Brief information about your company along with logo/brand info
  • Founder’s details with headshot photos
  • Where was it founded along with date/year
  • Where do you operate it currently/business area coverage
  • Product/service information in detail
  • Pricing strategy in detail
  • Details about your clients
  • Details about your employees with photos
  • Overall market statistics
  • Short video from the founders or the product demo

Here is a small list of places to post your app for marketing and also bringing users on board. Link: Startup marketing

Create developer accounts

Based on the product/service you are offering when your app is in a beta stage, you may need to create developer accounts on the appropriate channels. Mostly on Apple’s app store, Google’s play store or Windows app store. Create account and add your developer into the console. If you have good experience with those, you can post the app yourself on store. All the stores are designed in a way that it can be used by non-developers too.

Same like the need to optimize your website for search engines, it is very important to optimize the app description on the store. You need to choose the right keywords in the title and description so that users can find you easily. For example, you are creating a clone of Instagram, if your app doesn’t show up when they search for “photo effects”, then your app literally doesn’t exist.

App analytics

Analytics decides your actual success of the app with live insights. Having 10k active users is greater than having 1 million users without any user engagement. For example, when you create an app similar to Tinder, track user engagement on every screen, keep a track of all the events fired inside the app. For example, keep track of

  • Number of active users per day
  • App open/close per user/per day
  • Number of likes/dislike counts per day per user
  • Number of mutual matches he/she gets per day
  • Number of matches a user gets per day
  • Amount of time spent on the app per day
  • Opening/editing profile page

And make your course of action plans based out of your analytics.

For tracking analytics, you can use google analytics, flurry, apsalar or hasoffers.

And at the same time, use analytics for tracking your bugs/crashes too. You can use crashlytics, crittercism or hockey SDK. It will be really helpful to understand the issues faced by the client.

Reiterate product and go for better marketing

Your analytics will be your main dashboard for your feedbacks. Keep tracking in all the app stores for reviews and ratings. Respond to customers in a professional way to resolve the issues reported by them. Get feedback from all the users and create a list of them. You DONT need to implement all the suggestions as a feature. Always keep your product simple and clean.

This sums up the steps involved in creating your first app. Oh wait, did I miss something in this list? Are you thinking about the budget? Think about building a better product before thinking about building an app within your budget. Here is a little calculation, that will help you in deciding your budget.

Think you are creating a clone like Instagram.

Budget for servers: ~100$/year from AWS/Linode/Digital ocean

Budget for developers/designers: Think the app developer will spend one month time. Excluding holidays you can consider 20 days in a month and on an average of 8 hours of work per day comes at 320 hours of work per month. If you take a minimum of 10$ per hour, the budget comes up to 3200$ per month. This is an average estimate, this will vary based on the complexity of the application and also based on region. The same amount you may need to spend for your server side developer also. You can estimate half of this budget for a designer on their work. In that case, the design must be an exceptional one.

All the best for your app’s success!

[Author- Karthikeyan NG, Co-founder and Chief Developer at Look Mobility. He is a Web/mobile/IoT apps developer, Traveller, Technology Enthusiast, Blogger]

Introducing UnPluggd Speaker, TaxiForSure’s Aprameya

We are super excited to announce UnPluggd speaker, Aprameya of TaxiForSure.

TaxiForSure was recently acquired by Ola for $200mn and what’s amazing is how forthcoming Aprameya and Raghu are about the lessons learned. aprameya-taxiforsure

Expect a lot of experience sharing by Aprameya at UnPluggd building TaxiForSure and selling to the rival, Ola.

In fact, Aprameya has been to UnPluggd earlier and you should watch his session sharing the early days of TaxiForSure (video embedded towards the end of this post).

UNPLUGGD DETAILS

Date : June 19th And 20th.
Venue: MLR Convention Center (J P Nagar), Bangalore.
URL: http://nextbigwhat.com/unpluggd
BUY tickets from here (ticketing widget is also embedded in the post).
Takeoff : Launch Application Form link (those who have applied will hear back from us starting this weekend).
Agenda: Well, we will share it next week – but here is a quick flow of the 2 days (you can also apply for the speaking slot)

Unpluggd : What's Happening !
Unpluggd : What’s Happening !
[bs_notification type=”info”]Heads up! Grab 20% discount NOW ! (Use the code UNICORN) [/bs_notification]

The Early Days Of TaxiForsure

Cloud Trolling : This Time, It Is Knowlarity, Exotel, MyOperator And Ozonetel

Okay guys. Startups are trolling each other publicly and while you may want to grab more popcorn and enjoy the show, we think these are good signs – especially when there is humor in the show.
Today, watch how guys at Knowlarity, Exotel and Myoperator trolled each other over competitive advertisements.


And now, MyOperator Joins In.


Ozonetel ends it in a ‘happy’ mode !


Read : How Zo Rooms Trolled Oyo | Massive list of startups trolling each other

Are Funding Platforms Really Adding Any Ding To The Funding Ecosystem?

The angel investing scene in India has picked up very well. Just last year, there was 3X angel investments (as compared to the year before).Do The Ding!
What’s propelling these angel investments?
The primary reason is of course, the rise of angels and the fact that startup space has gone mainstream with quite a few success stories to look up to which makes angel investing a better bet than other investment options.

Beyond Fund and PR Value, Are Angel Funding Platforms Adding Any ‘Ding’ To The Funding Ecosystem?

One of the questions we often hear is the rise of angel funding platforms in the country and whether they are adding a seriously differentiated value in the entire chain.
We look at 2014-15 data and here is a quick breakup: Out of all the angel funding deals that happened in the financial year, less than 10% happened via the funding platforms. But that’s okay – because most of the platforms are very new.
But the real truth is that even out of those that happened (rather, announced) on funding platforms, less than 30% deals actually happened on these platforms.
Here is how it works: some of the funding platforms tend to waive off their commission fee to have startups and investors show (and announce) the deal as part of the platform! This really means nothing beyond the PR value; and as with anything startups, helps with better valuation of the platform as it creates more leads/buzz.

Is India A DIY Country?

As part of running Pluggd.in, we decided not to launch the platform and instead mimic the real-life interactions. Here is what we found out – most of the funding platforms are actually overly hyped iBanking services!
These aren’t platforms – primarily because most of the startups and investors need hand-holding and manual intervention (even in mutual communication) and most of these funding platforms are services play with a very little disruption element.
Plus, there isn’t a lot of information hoarding that’s happening in India. Smart founders are connected to investors much before they start to look for funding – so the demand-supply gap while it exists, will NEVER be skewed towards a single entity.
So is it even worth the effort? The so-called Angel Platforms of today like LetsVenture* in India are very operations driven – most of them spending almost the whole cycle of fundraising calling up and coordinating with HNIs and angels. So how are they differentiated from Mumbai Angels or IANs of yore – unfortunately not very much (most of the platforms are actually syndicate-groups which is far from being called a platform).

Do We Even Need An Angel (Pure-Play) Platform?

Our qualified view is that there definitely is a need. However, it requires a fresh approach than following the herd which has been shown by the present incumbents. While LetsVenture began with a nice fresh outlook to the problem, the lure of closing deals has made them forget the platform it could have been*. Unfortunate events internally have also hampered them a lot.
We do need the next set of angels to come on to a great platform. But not one whose only function is facilitating investments. Such platforms will inevitably be commoditized out. The real value addition is in integration upstream where qualified and curated leads come into systems – thereby making new (and existing) angels discover new startups easier AND invest easier.
Let us know your thoughts!
[Written by Pratyush Prasanna And Ashish Sinha.]
*We love/respect LetsVenture for what they are doing/have done. We have used their name to purely represent a lot of what other platforms are doing in this space and not to demean their effort.

48-hour Incorporation? A Detailed Analysis Of INC-29 And What It Really Means

With the introduction of the INC-29, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has begun to make good on its promise to improve India’s ranking on the World Bank’s Ease of Starting a Business Index to inside the top 50 from the current 158 (read : Now, Incorporate a company with one form only).
incorporation
The INC-29, a 5-in-1 form for company registration, combines the application for DIN allotment, name reservation, incorporation and even PAN & TAN, while making the process cheaper. As the entire incorporation process is in a single form, correct filing could mean approval in 48 hours, the government claims. If you’re an entrepreneur, you should be impressed. Relative to the old process, it has the potential to save you a lot of time, if properly implemented.
Here are, however, 3 critical observations on the procedure:

  1. Narrower Name Proposal

The Registrar has so far asked applicants to submit 6 names in order of priority. Even with the luxury of options, company names take 7 working days to be approved. The INC-29 will allow applicants to submit only a single name. It remains unclear how this will not lead to more rejections.

  1. Single Resubmission

The INC-29 combines forms, but does not eliminate any procedure. It’s just that you must now submit everything at once. This means that, should there be errors, you will get to know of all of them at once. This is a good change, but we should be concerned about the fact that only a single resubmission is allowed before you have to file the entire form and pay the Rs. 2000 again.

  1. No Tracking System

Under the non-INC-29 system, you always know which process you’re stuck at.
Despite these concerns, however, the INC-29 should massively improve the company registration process and ease the burden of our entrepreneurs.
But let’s put this into perspective.
Is the INC-29 good enough to give us a boost into the top 50 places in the world to start a business in? Just consider the following table, in which we’ve compared the old and new process in India to those in use in Maldives (currently in 50th position) and the USA and Singapore, the 2 countries that Indian entrepreneurs often choose to register their businesses in.
Clearly, INC-29 or no INC-29, we’re nowhere near where we should be. So, what do we need to do to improve?
Nothing out of the ordinary, of course. Simply mimicking the processes already adopted by the countries in the top 50 should be good enough. This would involve the following:
a) Shortening the Process
5 forms rolled up into 1 is awesome, but let’s not shy away from putting things into perspective. Company incorporation in the top 50 countries involves 5 or fewer steps that are completed in 3 to 15 days. In India, even after INC-29, we’ll still have 8 steps that will stretch on for 1 to 2 months. So while the incorporation process is being shortened to 15 to 20 days, the 4 mandatory licenses (Shops & Establishments Act Registration, Sales Tax, Service Tax and Professional Tax) will still take 10 to 35 working days each to obtain.
 b) Removing Unnecessary Certificates
This should go without saying, but we’re still asking our entrepreneurs to file forms that needn’t exist. The Certificate of Commencement, for example, is necessary for a business to open something as essential as a bank account. And it’s not even like it is a decades-old process we’re yet to scrap, since it was introduced just 2 years ago. Why isn’t the Certificate of Incorporation sufficient?
c) Simplifying Naming Guidelines
Subjectivity in the naming procedure is the primary cause for delay in the incorporation process. The broad guidelines give the Registrar plenty of room to reject the proposed names. These oppositions are sometimes justified, but are more often arbitrary; occasionally, no reason is given at all. This, we feel, can be solved by technology. A search engine that can determine the availability of a company’s proposed name would be of enormous use. This would go a long way in propelling us to the top of the World Bank index.
d) Setting Timelines
Notice that we claim that the registration process will now take 1 to 2 months to complete. Why the wide gap? Because, regardless of the simplicity of a case, forms can take a long time to be approved. The same is likely to apply to the INC-29, too. It does simplify the filing process because the forms have been combined, but it is unlikely to speed things up significantly on the backend. So the claim that companies will be incorporated in 48 hours will likely go unsubstantiated, at least over the long term. The countries in the top 50 regularly incorporate companies in the shortest claimed time; in India, a handful of companies may experience prompt service but this is not true for the majority of them. If we are to stop losing out company registrations to Singapore, we need to be able to give deadlines and then stick to them.
e) Eliminating Duplication of Work
If we are to compete on the world stage, we should want our entrepreneurs to get to work sooner rather than later. But the current processes ensure that the early experience of an entrepreneur is unpleasant. Just to pay indirect taxes, you need Service Tax Registration, Professional Tax Registration and Sales Tax Registration. The process for getting these is almost the same, including the documents you need to submit, but you are meant to apply separately. Several countries, including the US, have solved this by bringing such processes under one body and managing various tax payments through the Tax Identification Number. Doing so in India would hugely simplify the registration process.
[Guest article by Niraj of Vakilsearch]

Quick Note: Before You Pass Any Judgement On (Housing) Founders [#StartupPorn]

A lot is being talked about Housing’s Rahul Yadav and his (scathing) letter to the investors.
My twitter timeline is full of people making a mockery of the founder – calling him/them kids, suggesting how wrong they were/are.
fighting-kid
Stop this.
Stop this because you don’t know what has happened between the investors and the founders.
Stop this because (most of) you haven’t built a business with this kind of exponential growth in a very short span. So you don’t know what’s at stake.
Stop this because you never had the balls to buy a domain worth half a million dollar. You might want to call it marketing chutzpah (making excuses?), but then – it is what it is! (try convincing your investor!).
Stop this because you are not the man in the arena. You don’t even know what has happened.


The Housing team has pushed the envelope – be it with product-model itself or the Lookup brand campaign. When they launched, they disrupted the entire real estate space with just one feature, the map based product. So much so that every incumbent copied the feature.


Of course, it’s sad that so much of shit is being thrown in public. That’s too bad. And like any story, there are two sides of the coin and chances are that except for 20 people in this space (founders/investors/key employees), nobody knows the *real story*.
And the worse part?
Laughing at people.
Making fun of them.
Throwing opinions without even knowing what has happened between the two entities. It’s almost as if we are watching another IPL match sipping our fav beer.
It’s time like these that shows the (im)maturity of individuals and the ecosystem/community at-large. How do you handle a news like this? Make fun of people involved (#StartupPorn, you see)? Be a little more respectful towards others (and what they have created)? There is a certain fraction that will take the easy way out (have fun/move on), but I am sad to see that a lot of startup influencers doing the same, without getting into the depth of the matter.


Last, I want to leave you with this (and again, I don’t know what really happened between the founders and investors).
This goes out to both the founders and investors of Housing who are going through a rough patch.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

TL;DR : Be the ‘man in the arena’. Avoid making judgmental calls on others. That’s fucking immaturity.
Image credit: shutterstock

What Consumers Really Want From Online Real Estate Portals

Taking the conversation forward from the two previous great posts on NextBigWhat.
1. Indian Real Estate Startups Are Innovating More Than Global Counterparts and
2. Want To Seriously Disrupt Real Estate Business In India?
It seems most leading online real estate players are focusing on virtual reality type of innovations – 3D glasses, drone views, virtual walkthroughs, slice views etc.  These are helpful to an extent but also slightly overrated when it comes to enabling a property decision. Flush with investment dollars, theseplayers are also trying to do everything possible to attract eyeballs – running expensive OOH & PPC campaigns, releasing full page ads in newspapers and doing TV ad blitz.  However, in this marketing war for gaining more traction, they are forgetting their most important stakeholder –the consumer – who is ‘looking up’ to them to get a lot more done.
A property transaction is the most expensive transaction that most of us would ever make in our lifetime. It often involves your whole life’s savings and encumbering yourself with a lifelong burden of EMIs.For such a vital and expensive decision fraught with risks, consumers neither get the research they deserve nor the support they need.
Online real estate players who are supposed to solve some of these customer problems are focusing somewhere else. Classified listing portals are focusing on increasing the number of listings. These listings are mostly uploaded by brokers as‘traps’ for consumers to call them up. Other transaction oriented portals are tossing up smoke screens to push builder’s latest new launch projects.  In a market gripped with uncertainty and sky-high property prices, the end consumers – as someone holding the purse strings – expect a lot more from online RE businesses.

  • First, they expect a lot more information – complete, reliable, and fresh delivered in easy-to-use way at appropriate stages of decision making. In the initial stages, they want to understand the overall real estate landscape of the city and the good locations in terms of connectivity, readiness, livability, value for money etc. As they progress, theywantto know the best available option that their money can buy  taking into account ‘real’ on the ground information like legal status of project, government clearances, builder’s reputation, past project delivery, civic infra etc.Decision drivers like how well a project is connected, how livable it is, actual carpet area etc. can help aid that decision.
  • Second, there is deep need for quality services. Only two services exist today in online real estate space – classifieds and new launch booking. Consumer is left in lurch for vast parts of her journey.  This is one area where there is significant lag, especially on digital front. Online players need to evolve from brokerage based pseudo-advisors to enabling genuine last-leg service providers like financial & legal advisors, vastu experts, interiors designers, aftermarket service providers like payment collection etc.
  • Third, deal-making needs to be less stressful and it can be enabled by digitalizing pre-money buyer-seller interactions on a multi-sided platform. An efficient and self-regulating digital marketplace or a ‘dealroom’can take away lot of unnecessary pain and unnerving experiences buyer and seller have to go through while a transaction is being materialized.Given improving technology adoption curves and best-in-class digital experiences emerging in other industries, it is very much possible to create such an ecosystem for real estate.

Author- Vivek Agarwal is the founder & CEO of www.Realizing.in , an independent and transparent real estate search and discovery platform for builder projects in India. Realizing offers deep research, data driven insights and decision tools that help consumers take an informed property decision.

This is How Indian Tech Companies Are Contributing To Nepal Relief [CSR As A Duty, As A Pride]

India has become a nurturing ground for startups. Every day there are small companies mushrooming across the country, all competing and complementing each other, fuelling growth across sectors. And we do show our Indianness while running them.
The proof being the way every company is trying to extend their support and contribute their best for Nepal earthquake relief activities. Yes! How will we leave back something which is deep in our genes, the helping nature.
Our big brothers in startup community have become more generous contributing funds and providing platforms for people to donate as much as they can. They urge people to donate more for the relief works by even matching rupee to rupee from their pockets. Some companies have even joined hands to make this even bigger. This sign from the startup community gives me confidence that in near future we will not consider CSR as a law but as a duty, as a pride.
Here are a few examples of our Indian startups and how they are contributing.

Paytm

Matches rupee to rupee for every donation through them and directs it to Prime Minister’s relief Fund  https://paytm.com/blog/nepal-needs-your-help-now/

Paytm @Nepal Relief
Paytm @Nepal Relief

Nurturing Green

Buy anything on their website on May 1st and the company donates the entire sales though Paytm, who will double every rupee. And  nurturing Green ships your plant to your address.

NurturingGreen @Nepal Relief
NurturingGreen @Nepal Relief

Uber*

Matches rupee to rupee for every donation through them and directs it to Prime Minister’s relief Fund  http://blog.uber.com/helpnepal

Uber @Nepal Relief
Uber @Nepal Relief

Ola

Connecting the donations to Prime Minister’s Relief Fund http://blog.olacabs.com/contribute-to-the-pms-relief-fund-to-nepal/

Ola @Nepal Relief
Ola @Nepal Relief

Foodpanda*

Matches rupee to rupee and donates to Iskon Food Relief Foundation

foodpanda @Nepal Relief
foodpanda @Nepal Relief

Freecharge

Donates ?20 for every missed call given to 9590-666-222 and also gives a recharge coupon to you
These companies have given us more than one reason to shell out some penny for a noble cause.

freecharge @Nepal Relief
freecharge @Nepal Relief
Kudos to the startup community, what better can we expect from them. Don’t you think it is an added reason to love these wonderful companies?
* : We have included Uber and foodpanda in this list (for their India arm) even though they aren’t technically an Indian startup.