A sureshot formula to build a successful startup in India


Lots of people will tell you that building a successful startup is hard, and more importantly, that there is lot of uncertainty. We at Distiman are a team of successful entrepreneurs. We devised a formula which will make you successful 100%. Sharing our know-how with larger community so we can build millions of successful startups in India.

First of all let’s define ‘success’ in startups. For me success is more in revenue terms than in valuation. So my definition for successful startup is a startup making at least $1 million in revenue with at least 50% gross margin with TAM of more than $200 million. This makes the startup close to be profitable apart from being scaleable.

Now that we know what success is, Here are 3 simple rules you need to follow to be successful:

Rule 1: Inspire people better than you to join your team
This is a tough one but totally worthwhile. There is no point building a startup if you can’t even sell your idea to your friends or acquaintances who are better than you at sales/coding/marketing/operations.
Go talk to everyone in your network and at all startup events. Find those kickass co-founders and core team members before you even bother doing anything else. My rule, don’t bother doing business till you have kickass 3-4 people founding team who are working only for ‘stock’ and no salary. (2 co-founders is too easy; 3 kind of makes you do the ‘sale’). Read my post on finding co-founder(s).

Rule 2: It’s a business not a startup
Lot of entrepreneurs forget that startups are real businesses. I know, cause we did it ourselves for the first couple of years. If you want to build a startup, sell your cool idea to some people before you even build it. It is very easy to do if you are an enterprise startup. Some people suggest that it’s not possible if you are building a consumer startup. Ever heard of ‘pre-order’? Some guys will still maintain that it’s not possible if your business model is advertising. But well, if you are banking your dreams on advertising to Indian consumers, you should stop smoking whatever it is that you are smoking.
For those tech minded entrepreneurs, I have an algorithm for this rule. Don’t build the product till you have Rs 5L (~$10000) worth of sales. This should help you fund a bit of product development too (kind of like seed money).
No exceptions to this rule, if you can’t even sell $10K worth of your product, don’t start. Don’t fool yourself by telling me that you are building the next Google or Facebook..

Rule 3: Don’t meet VCs for first 2 years
I see so many entrepreneurs running to VCs, Angels and accelerators with ideas without any validation, it’s sickening. No matter what you read in Times of India, resist the itch to talk to VCs at least for first 2 years. By then, you have product done and some validation in the bag. What’s more, you would be a far better entrepreneur to raise institutional capital.
Remember VCs is just one way to raise capital and you would have many other ways (like debt-funding, bank loans without collateral) of raising capital if you have a kickass product with proven market fit and a sustainable competitive advantage. We know that money cannot be a competitive advantage. When you are ready, you may meet some angels like the ones that worked for us.
There are exceptions to this rule though, especially for infrastructure/ asset heavy businesses like a data center, manufacturing plant or telecom .. But tell me how many startups can claim to be building infrastructure? Unless you are building the next “Reliance Jio” Don’t go to VCs for first 2 years.
Another exception is if you are an IIT/IIM passout riding on current wave like ‘hyperlocal’ or ex flipkart/redbus/myntra core team member. For you guys, getting seed money of $10 million is so easy, you would be a fool not to raise it…:-)

Bonus Rule 4: Prepare for 10 years but achieve in 3
This is a bonus rule. As an entrepreneur, always think of startup as a 10 year roadmap. This will force you to think of it like a business. And if you are following first 3 rules I promise you that you will be a successful profitable startup in first 3 years itself !!

So go, sell your cool new idea to your friends first then customers and then to VCs with 10 year hardship planned. I promise you will be successful. After all, success is hard to achieve but assured.

P.s. Don’t forget to send some equity to me when you achieve your dreams by following my 3 simple rules 🙂
Image courtesy

Posted in Distiman, Entrepreneurship, General, Gyan | Comments closed

The accelerator with a Difference !!

If you know me, you know how much deep rooted suspicions I have with accelerators in general. I used to associate Microsoft Accelerator with Bizspark and free Azure credits. On top of that this was Microsoft .. (Even my laptop has Ubuntu .. should I say more?). Even with this deep rooted bias, Microsoft Accelerator was able to convert me to be a believer in 4 months. Now I am a proud graduate from Batch of Summer 2016 ..

Here is sharing my ride of last 4 months.

I was referred to Microsoft Accelerator (MA from now on) by an investor. He mentioned that MA is now focusing on growth stage companies instead of very early stage ones (as during the Bizspark times). I was not totally convinced. Selection to be part of MA was a 3 step process.

1. Call with resident CTO at MA, Prasanna .. which went ok.

2. Call with Ravi  Narayan who heads MA. Which was also ok. He explained to me clearly the commitment I needed to put in and the help MA will offer. This was the first time my perception started changing. I was surprised that I needed to invest at least 4 weeks full time during the course of 4 months .. (My entrepreneur friends will agree that 4 weeks is a huge investment when you are running on the execution treadmill !!)

3. I had to pitch for 2 minutes in front of a jury made up of investors, industry experts and MA members ..  During this time I saw the quality of some of the other startups who were present. Among them was Reverie, a startup I knew and liked quite a lot. My confidence was far higher now (actually by now I was desperately wishing to get selected and be part of this ..)

During the pitch event, one of the jury members became my first mentor from MA which was really cool to be honest.

Once we got selected, our first meeting was an overnight offsite to Angsana which was awesome .. and then on, we have derived so much value during last 4 months that not only I am a believer but I am actively telling all my entrepreneur friends to be part of MA.

So why does MA work so well?

Here are some of my thoughts

Team

MA team is totally awesome. I call it “un-microsoft” like. These guys (Ravi, Prasanna, Abhi, Anjali, Gayathri and all ) work like an extension of your own team. Being entrepreneurs themselves they truly want all the startups to succeed and will go the extra mile for you. This worked like a breath of fresh air for us.

Program

The program is split in 3 parts, first 2 weeks focused on Operational plan and stakeholder development. These allowed us to look at business a bit from outside and do course correction ourselves.

Part 2 was about product management and traction management (go to market). For us, the traction management workshop brought about a huge change in the way we were approaching marketing. This workshop is fundamental to our approach towards growth now.

Part 3 was about pitch .. We were always great at pitching but we loved the stage of #thinknext2016 to showcase our pitching bravado ..I think we were the first ones in the history of startups to make startup pitch as skit or Mad-ads .. Watch our awesome team perform here. (Most of the guys in “the pitch” are Mobisy founders or core-team members ..)

Batch

Our batch was truly kickass. The amount I learned from other startups in my batch like Reverie, Calm.io, Reportbee, Admissiontable, Strides Software, Babychakra, Altizon, Playblazer is incomparable. MA encouraged peer learning and I think that was the best part of it … We loved interacting and learning from each other. All of us helped each other in solving specific day to day issues which is amazing ..

In summary, if you are a revenue generating startup out there and are wondering how to scale faster .. you must must apply for MA Bangalore .. I promise, you won’t regret the experience ..

MA batch of Summer 2016

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7 steps to increase productivity of your sales force by over 70%

For past 2.5 years we have managed to improve productivity by at least 70% across more than 100 organisation. This experience has been scintillating especially when we see real benefits derived by feet on street workforce and the organisations who hire them.
We also measure/ refine the business steps the organisations take to reach / surpass that level of productivity gain and we have almost made a science out of productivity gain resulting in actual sales increase for organisation.
So what are these steps?

Step 1: Hygienic customer information through automation.

This is a critical step and foundation for entire automation exercise.

Bizom‘s mobile based automation gives you a complete visibility on your customer’s information along with geo-tagging their location.

This data is sacrosanct and hygiene of this information drives further productivity increase especially through superior actionable insights and analytics.

Time line from start of automation : 0-1 month

Productivity increase achieved by this step: 0%

Step 2: Automation of daily reporting for field force

Typically companies stop at automation. We believe, that this is just step 2. All the daily work and reporting done by field force should be automated using digital medium.

For example, Bizom mobile application allows you to plan your routine, capture all sale related activities, orders, collections and pretty much everything related to daily reporting of sales team including their claims.

At this step we request companies only to monitor compliance and correctness of data. At this level no additional monitoring or policing should be implemented so sales team feels comfortable with automation and can enjoy simplification of their job.

Time line from start of automation : 1-3 month

Productivity increase achieved by this step: 30% due to saving time for sales team in daily reporting

Step 3: Intelligent field force though better information

We strongly believe that any automation but especially sales force automation should be done bottom up to get buy-in from the entire team.

Which means first beneficiary of the automation should be front line feet on street sales force.

Focus at this step should be to provide  information and analytics at the point of sales to the sales team to make the right tactical decisions.

For example, Bizom provides directions to reach customer, historical information about activities done at customer in past, current promos, schemes or discounts in effect, focus products, collateral like Videos, presentations and other materials which would be interesting to customers. We have even made Bizom intelligent enough to predict and suggest orders to sales executives.

Time line from start of automation : 1-3 months

Productivity increase achieved by this step: 20% due to better and more effective sale

 

Step 4: Actionable alerts & insights to middle management to win tactical battles

This is the only step which involves monitoring. Now that we have made our sales force intelligent, this is the time to give tools to middle management to monitor their team and customers more effectively.

For example Bizom provides teams with map view of their field force activities. It also gives simple traffic light dashboards to make correct tactical decisions based on current tactical parameters like total calls in day, productive calls, etc.

The biggest results we have seen though are from alerts !! Our alert modules sends notifications, sms messages or emails to middle managements automatically basis pre-defined anomalies found in working.  This is by far the best tool we have seen for middle management to control market working and increase their span of control

Time line from start of automation : 3-6 months

Productivity increase achieved by this step: 15% due to effective monitoring of tactical activities

 

Step 5: Dashboards and reports for Top management

Now our bottom up automation is complete with right data and right working in entire sales team. Now is the time for top management to do strategic course correction using the insights all the sales data provides you.

For example Bizom provides insights like geographic, channel partner wise scheme spends. It also gives you view in to category wise channel wise sales / effectivity of your sales force so you can do better product distribution and demand planning. It also allows you to control spends through transparent and fast claims system.

Time line from start of automation : 6-12 months

Productivity increase achieved by this step: 10% due to real time strategic alignment in sync with market changes ..

 

Step 6: Improve moral of the team

After step 5 conventional automation of sales team is complete. Now is the time to be a bit unconventional. We have seen with Bizom that gamification of sales process makes it fun for sales team to use automation and be more productive.

In one of our customer , this step alone increased productivity by 200% but step 1-5 are absolutely crucial to be able to design and execute a game in your team correctly.

Along with gamification, its a must to make the game interactive so everyone in sales team can exchange views and have overall fun !

Time line from start of automation : 12-15 months

Productivity increase achieved by this step: Varies depending on the game and the business. Typically more than 20%

 

Step 7: Measure BTL effectiveness through innovation

Most of our customers faced a problem in tracking effectivity of their BTL  trade marketing activities. That’s when we invented our “patent pending” algorithm 35hawk

35hawk is an artificial intelligence image recognition algorithm which can find patterns of interest in pictures taken by field force in market using their mobile devices. This we use to provide geographic heat-maps of your brand visibility vis-a-vis competitor brand visibility. 35hawk effectively provides you real time insight to your brand penetration in your entire retail universe !!

Time line from start of automation : 12-15 months

Productivity increase achieved by this step: Varies depending on the trade marketing strategy typically more than 50%

 You may have noticed that these 7 steps would actually increase productivity by even more than 70% … If you need help in your organisation to achieve this, please contact me at lalit at mobisy dot com.

Bizom comes with RoI based pricing,you know 🙂

Posted in Bizom, Enterprise Mobility, Field force effectiveness | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

5 principles of Kickass Account manager

As you know, Bizom is our thriving enterprise mobile cloud solutions which helps organisations increase their field force productivity by at least 70%. We have more than 75 customers and more than 12000 users using it !
As a true SaaS company, our focus is as much on account management as on sales. In my experience, if every account manager of a SaaS company follows these 5 rules, they will grow accounts really fast.

1. Understand customer business
This is to do with your listening skills. Listen to the customer, visit their locations, markets, talk to enough people to understand their business, the matrix they follow and reasons behind it. This helps you a lot to see how your solution fits their business or which parts of your solution they can derive real value from.

2. Be available
Sounds simple but you would be surprised how many times this just doesn’t happen in practice. I follow a simple rule which you should too. Answer customer calls. No matter what the situation is. Even if you/ your team has caused some big goof up, answer the call. Explain the problem, assure you will get it fixed. Most of the problems get escalated only if the contact person is not available.
If you are unable to answer the call for whatever reason, just send a polite sms promising a call back and do call back.
Same with emails. If you customer sends you an email with a question, reply immediately / as soon as possible. If you have the answer, send it. If you don’t, just let her know that you are working on getting the answer.
You can’t imagine the level of comfort it generates in customer mind with your responsiveness.

3. Build relationships
This part one must do for oneself more than for the company/ the product. After 7 years of entrepreneurship, the biggest learning for me is the value of relationships. That’s the only asset you carry along. So focus on building relationships, they will be life long. If you follow rules 1 and 2 then it will be much easier. Additionally, be friendly and approachable. Taking customer out for a dinner or involving him/her on your weekend game (of tennis/cricket/badminton/table tennnis/golf/whatever) are good ideas.

4. Monitor value delivery
This is not as tough as it sounds. If you do part 1 correctly, then half of the job is done. At every stage of your product deployment/usage you must keep track of the value customer is able to derive from your product. Do not be afraid to introduce customers to new features you are building if they add value to their business(even if they are in alpha). Lot of times I have seen account managers complacent with the fact that customer is not complaining. They are also afraid to introduce new features due to worry that it may have bugs or customer may complain.That’s absolutely wrong. Customers should always be ‘delighted’. They will be if they are deriving more and more value. Remember, your alpha features will stabilize only
if customers use them or derive value from them.

5. Feel customer pain
If for whatever reason you/ your team ends up botching a delivery, remember to be on customer’s side. Feel their pain. This is the only way to move ahead. Only if you feel the pain, you will work harder towards avoiding the same in future.

Bonus 6. Push your R&D
As a effect of #4 & #5 you will always be at the loggerheads with your R&D. Push your R&D really hard. Escalate to increase priority of your customer over other other customers, use every trick of the trade get your job done keep your customer happy, you will do well in life!

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5 things that will make you a data driven organisation

After more than year of successfully deploying automation in all sorts of brick and mortar companies, I wanted to share some of the learning I had.

First of all, why automate at all? What is wrong in pen and paper ..
Answer is, nothing. Automation works best when you would like to scale up fast seamlessly and/or if you have external stakeholders to whom you would like to be transparent about processes and workings. Other thing automation does is to bring about culture of building strategies based on hard data.. i.e. make you a more data driven organisation.

Automation is often HARD. Remember that at least 10% of your work-force will leave you once you automate their daily processes. There are many people who do not believe in discipline and would rather work in an organisation which trusts their ‘instincts’ rather than old fashioned hard work. Be forewarned.

Following prescription works for us and our customers to automate their organisations. Hope it helps you too !

Build management willpower
This is a cornerstone of everything. Key decision makers have to be truly convinced about becoming a data driven organisation. If you have naysayers in the top management team, who believe that ‘this will not work in our company’, identify them and first get them on board.

Make things simple
Automation means change of work style. No one likes to change. If you wish people change their style of working the least you can do is build a system which is extremely fast and simple. This way your work force would find it easier to get on board.

Remove crutches
When deploying automation, do not keep a backup with legacy / paper-pen system. This creates suspicious/hope in the system that automation is temporary and there is a way back to old system.If you keep crutches, you will see lot more people coming up telling why older system works better than automation.

Expect problems, be patient
Assuming there is technology involved in automation, there will be initial hiccups. Expect them and be patient when they happen. Assuming your partner in automation is a honest and hardworking vendor, these teething issues will go away in no time.

Expect middle management revolt
Middle management is the toughest to get on board with automation. Reason being that automation now provides data to cross check all their ‘claims’. They will be the ones who will try and find all the problems they can for automating their processes. Easiest way to get them on board is
i. Assure that automation is not for policing but for rewarding sincere workers.
ii. Demonstrate how it saves them time & effort over a period of time.

Bonus: Incentivize
This is key aspect. If you wish to maintain or even enhance the motivation of your work force, you can link automation to incentives. Now that you have the granular data you need, you can surely come up with a data driven performance matrix to incentivize your employees.
In no time you will see everyone jumping on to this new tool you introduced !!

Posted in Bizom, Enterprise Mobility, Gyan, user experience | Comments closed

Loaded pricing of MaaS (Mobile as a service) and why BYOD does not work in India.

 

We have field force of more than 50 million in India spread across variety of industry verticals. Majority of this workforce is not necessarily comfortable using computer but are very conversant with Mobiles and tablets. So the only realistic way India’s enterprises are going to automate their entire operations is by automating this workforce using mobile devices. Legacy way of doing this was using a PDA but with advent of Android devices at extremely attractive costs, you do not need to buy clunky PDAs anymore. We are leveraging this exact opportunity with Bizom, our flagship product.
As a true software as a service product, Bizom comes with a published pricing starting at Rs 500 per user per month.But most of the time, our customer’s  loaded upfront cost goes much beyond it. And this presents a huge barrier to entry for enterprises and SMEs to use Mobile as an automation device.

For example here is how the calculation works for an enterprise with 1000 field users depending on their network or device choice.

Network EDGE EDGE 3G 3G
Device Nokia Java feature phone(Like Asha 302) Android Phone Android Phone Android Tablet
Number of Users 1000 1000 1000 1000
Bizom Plan Price per month per user(Rs) 750 750 750 750
Data plan cost per month per user(Rs) 99 99 299 299
Device cost(Rs) 3500 7000 7000 15000
Total monthly cost 849000 849000 1049000 1049000
Total one time cost 3500000 7000000 7000000 15000000
Total loaded cost for starting 43,49,000 78,49,000 80,49,000 1,60,49,000
Device cost as % of one time cost for decision making 80.48 89.18 86.97 93.46

Imagine spending 1.6 cr on devices to just try out automation !!

I know the obvious answer is BYOD (Bring your own device).

Why don’t we build software that just works on every phone that a field executive carries.

Here is a sample list of mobile phones executives carry.(This is for one of our existing customers ..)

  • Rage RQ 101
  • Nokia 603
  • Samsung Wave 505
  • Samsung GTE 1200T
  • Spice SEB 05
  • Nokia 2700
  • Nokia X2
  • Micromax Q22

And so on ..

Notice the diversity of devices and operating system .. some of them cannot run downloadable applications. Most of them offer extremely poor user experience.

So, in short you cannot deploy a sustainable automation on the existing devices of executives unless they carry at least a smartphone/tablet. And in India, we are a few years away from that happening.

So what can a company like us do to reduce loaded upfront costs for their customers?

Here are few things one can do

Offer devices on easy monthly installments

This is usually an instant hit with customers. If you can offer devices on easy monthly installments, and reduce upfront costs, customers lap it up.

But it obviously has a flip side, your organisational risk is great.You do need big pockets to service a large customer with 100s of users.

What we do, is to offer these devices with some returnable deposit which reduces upfront risks for both us and the customers !!

Company schemes

Our customers use variety of schemes to ensure RoI from the devices themselves

Company will provide a free handset to an employee only

1. If an employee stays with the company for 1 year

2. Employee meets her targets on ongoing basis.

3. Employee bears partial costs (Lot of the enterprises keep owning a motorbike as a mandatory requirement for a field job, thankfully smartphones are much cheaper …:-))

In Summary, buying mobile devices can be a huge barrier for enterprise/SME customers who want to benefit from try before you buy facility offered by Software as a service companies such as ours but thanks-fully we believe that there are workarounds..

What do you think?

Posted in Bizom, Enterprise Mobility | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

User experience, the holy grail of SMB automation

This post is to share our experiences while building Indian SMB oriented automation built with ‘Mobile first’ approach.We call it Bizom(Business on the move).
While building Bizom, first thing we did was to make it our job to focus on users(after all we stand for ‘Mobile made easy’).
Following are some of the things we learned
  1. Number one reason why enterprise automation systems fail is due to poor usability.
  2. Our field users are people who can read English but are not necessarily tech savvy.
  3. Our users know how to use their mobile phones but have rarely downloaded or used any applications apart from call/phonebook.
Here are 5 things we followed to build easy user interface for Bizom.
Drill in your head that you are NOT the user.
It’s a huge temptation for startup teams to huddle and ‘branstorm’ about UX of the app.It’s useful of course but the input for it should come from interviews with real users(not your own salemen).In initial days of conceiving Bizom our whole product team visited field at least once to understand the pain points and conditions our field users work in. This made sure that while building the application ‘offline functionality’ was as important as ‘online’.
Usability/User experience != Cool user interface
Usability of the app is defined by how easily your users can start using the app.Making the app pleasant on eyes helps, but the main focus should be to layout the information in a way which is logical to user.Engineering team usually wants to put actions on related objects nearby.I think it’s product managers responsibility to work with engineering team to let them see customer viewpoint.
Usability over feature completeness.
Dilbert.com
Majority of enterprise business owners would want all the features on the day of ‘launch’.It’s our responsibility to senstivise them to usability issue.It’s much better that users use the limited features provided in the application, than an application which has everything but impossible to use for a regular user.
User’s are never dumb. softwares are.
When a field user reports an issue while using your software, your response should never be that it’s a ‘training’ issue.If built correctly, users are eager to learn new things and want to prove their smartness by using our software correctly.We just have to make it friendly to them.
Customers who give feedback on usability are worth their weight in gold. 
Initial customers are eager to help us build the product.Take their feedback very very sincerely especially if it is related to user experience of the app.Happy lead customers are the source of our viral word of mouth publicity.
Bonus: Give fanatical support
Support is a very important part of user experience of your product.What is obvious to us is not necessarily obvious to end user.Monitor your support calls and bring about the change in thinking of your support staff to make it a pleasant experience to your users.
What do you think?
Posted in Enterprise Mobility, user experience | Comments closed

Product Managers, 5 reasons why you need to know how to code.

During last 13 years of my professional life, I came across many who call themselves pure technology product managers who have very little understanding of how the underlying technology works. While I have nothing against them, here is why I think knowing how to code really really helps especially in startup settings.

I know the users

As a product manager, you have talked to lot of users and have a grasp about problems users are facing and how your product can solve them. If you know how to code, it’s easier for you to translate this understanding in a language programmer understands.It’s especially important to know which layer of software stack the problem needs to be solved in. This helps reduce lot of ping pong developers love to play among themselves.Also you can control the User experience much better.

I know it’s possible

As developers we have our own minds. If we do not share the passion of the product manager to implement a certain feature, we come up with 3 primary excuses

i. It’s not possible to implement this in this technology or platform

ii. It will take too long to implement this

iii. If I implement this, the system will be unstable.

As a product manager if you know how to get what you need, you can handle these questions better in terms of addressing the real problem. I sometimes just ‘demonstrate’ how I can implement this. ..:-)

Developers top excuse ..:-)

Developers top excuse ..:-)

I know the priorities

As a developer one of the toughest challenge we face is which task to take up first out of the 50 that are assigned to our name. So as a product manager, I can help them organise their tasks better if I know which technical task is going to have impact on which part of my business.

I know which feature/bugfix helps me sell more

It’s actually related to point 3. I know which fix/ feature I need to acquire my next bunch of customers. So knowing how to implement it helps you make sure your team is staffed with right people with right skills.

If it’s urgent then I can do it myself

This is really the best part. During last 5 years of startup journey, I can’t remember number of times I have just coded the features I needed for a customer demo just night before. Trust me it’s liberating, especially since I love coding ..:-)

What do you think?

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Gyan | Comments closed

5 reasons why you should write apps for Nokia smartphones .. Now ..

I talk to a lot of people in the industry and their reaction to Nokia in smartphone ecosystem is lukewarm at best. We at Mobisy decided to focus on working with the Nokia ecosystem especially with their imminent launch of new WP7 Mango smartphone this month. Here is why ..

Early bird gets the money
Remember when iPhone SDK was launched first? Though it was limited in device support APIs, the developers who built some of the first cool APPS were the ones who became app millionaires. If you look at the Apple app store today, the competition is so much more stiff ..

Nokia Push
Nokia is still one of the leaders is smartphone industry with huge distribution especially in emerging markets. Nokia Ovi store downloads have grown as much as 10 times for our apps in past 6 months alone. Which means smartphone awareness and cheap data connections are pushing Nokia app downloads as much as any other smartphone app downloads.

Right partners
When you are a software provider, it’s always about choosing right partners. You ideally want to partner with a large company which has huge focus in your area of expertise. Nokia had the first working smartphone os and developer ecosystem. But traditionally it is not the most developer friendly company.If you hear all the noises coming out of Nokia, that’s changing fast. I met Stephan Elop last month as part of developer meet in India and one thing that impressed me the most was their single minded focus on building smartphone developer ecosystem around their WP7 phones. I think today is the best time to partner with Nokia and Microsoft when they are just starting on this new path.

Opportunity
All the signs point towards the fact that there will be 3 pillars in Mobile software ecosystem. iOS, Android and Nokia. From India centric perspective, Apple has shown very little interest in focusing on emerging markets where as for Nokia, India is life and death. Who will you partner with?

Ecosystem
Nokia more than microsoft has a huge Mobile developer and publisher ecosystem built in India. They actively foster it with TV, Print ads etc. Nokia have huge developer stories of Indian developers making it big on global roadmap, this is the correct ecosystem to be part of if you are an Indian developer.

Risk
Not everything is rosy though .. in recent times Nokia has shown tremendous focus on Windows smartphone which means they are learning from past mistakes but not entirely.
I got 100s of calls in last 2 weeks alone from tele-callers regarding Nokia developer conference tomorrow, which means Nokia is just throwing away money to generate interest, this seldom works.
Nokia still has lot of legacy baggage to drop and it remains to be seen if/how Stephan Elop manages to do that over next year or so to reinvent this global leader. If that does not happen, Nokia Microsoft strategy may not benefit much to over all developer ecosystem …

What do you think?

Posted in Cross Platform, QT | Comments closed

Mobile Apps are the new Web and appstores the new Browsers?

This is a slightly modified reproduction of my article published in IAMAI magazine called ‘thinking aloud’

In 2010 alone 155 million mobile handsets were sold in India and according to IDC 6 million of them were smartphones. Getjar reports 3 million app downloads per day and Nokia ovi reports 3.5 million app downloads per day. Majority of these app downloads happen from India. All indicators point to the fact that apps are the new way to deliver content on mobile. I would go as far as to say that apps are to mobile what web was to PCs, a door to access services.

So what are mobile apps? Apps are those icons on your mobile handset which allow you to do more with your mobile than just calling and texting. Mobile browser is an app itself. When I started with my company Mobisy, back in 2007, mobile apps were limited in functionality to games and some utility functions such as blocking spam calls / sms. But with the increase of penetration of GPRS and now 3G, apps have become more and more powerful. Hardly any phone sells today without advertising how facebook, twitter or orkut can be accessed via the apps on the mobile. Some of the operators in India today(like Aircel) bank on their app stores to build brand.

Apps drive smartphone choice!!

You may ask, why would users not access web on Mobile using the inbuilt browser? After all, on PCs, browsers are the medium of choice to deliver web apps and content. We have to remember that when user is using his mobile, he is much more intent on doing one activity fast. Mobile browsers do not allow users speed of executions for focused activities such as checking cricket score or changing one’s social networking status or sharing a picture with your friends and family. Apps with their native integration with Phone operating system, give much better user experience than browsers can ever imagine no matter how advanced they become.

How do traditional VAS services delivered over call or SMS stand wrt apps? In India traditional VAS services have long become monopoly of few heavyweights in the Industry. The market growth though impressive, it’s hardly been inclusive. Which means a small group of creative developers have hardly any way to bring their innovation to market unless they learn how to navigate a complicated ecosystem of VAS companies and operators. For such group of developers, mobile apps is a god-sent opportunity. Apps allow them to develop and deliver their innovation through largely open “App stores” without depending on operators or handset manufacturers. A relatively low cost in marketing and distribution allows them to focus on innovating and bringing added value to the users.

Apps as a medium are much more powerful than traditional voice or SMS as well. Voice apps are limited by complexity of IVRs where as content delivered over SMS is largely texual and interactivity is very limited. App solves both these problems for content developers by providing them a medium which is interactive at the same time flexible enough to make it extremely easy for users.

Apps by definition are “open” which means if a content provider or developer wishes to develop his/her app , s/he does not have to depend on operators or handset manufacturers to build it’s user base. App stores are the way to do that and they offer very little barrier to entry. Since the cost of failure is so less, it allows a developer to be more creative try out more things till s/he succeeds. We just have to look at the success story of “Angry Birds” application for android / iPhone to see what I mean. Rovio(the company behind Angry birds) tried out 52 applications before they hit on the success formula of Angry birds. App stores also take away complication of payment collection from end users. For a revenue share upto 40% they take away payment collection worries from developers. What’s more, in-app advertising options allow developers to even make their apps free. Which means that users can now access these valuable services at no cost. Almost 99% of all the app downloads that happen from India are of the free apps.

Any iPad user will tell you today how the appstore has changed his/her view of web. For smart phones/tablets, appstores are the default way to discover / browse new content. Traditionslly on computer, browsers were that medium so for me, app store is THE browser and apps is THE web when I am mobile.
What do you think?

image courtesy http://xkcd.com

Posted in Appstore, Cross Platform, Enterprise Mobility, General, iPhone, J2ME, QT, Symbian | Comments closed