November 7, 2012

Cigarettes, Bars and eCommerce !

How does it feel when the bar tender at your favorite pub just asks "Your regular drink, JD on the rocks, Sir?" instead of handing over the drinks menu to you.  Or the manager at the cafe near your house suggests you to try the new cheesecake they've added in the menu because they know you like it.

This must have happened with many of us, several times. Infact, some of us even take it for granted now. 

But you'll think these are educated people and professionals from hospitality sector.  So I'll try to give another example.

Have you ever noticed, if you go to the same pan-wala everyday, he'll soon stop asking your brand and will hand over your cigarette as soon as you reach there without even asking you.  

Okay, now come back the world wide web. 

How many websites treat you like this?

Their audience also consist of same people like you & me, who get a special treatment at our regular hideouts, maybe that's why we go there more often.  

But even if you visit the same website everyday, all you get is a poker face. 

Google has made a amazing video depicting how users are treated online.

I seriously hate to see a captcha, specially the case sensitive ones that have letters Z and O in them :P

But am not here to complain, and nor am saying that none of the websites are working towards personalization. Infact it was one of the buzzwords of web 2.0 that few people still remember.  

I can see some sites remembering my session (read as 'Hello Satya'), last searched keywords, some even remember the last viewed items and some have gone beyond to suggest items based on my browsing history.

Although few site are genuinely working hard to make the interaction much more personal and 'special'. But for most, it's just another lazy attempt to increase sale by pushing more products.

There is still a lot that the online world can learn from their offline counterparts. The more we observe & understand the user behavior offline, the better WWW we'll build.  

And soon we'll see a day when websites will interact with us as swiftly as our hair stylists.

Statuary warning: Smoking & Drinking are injurious to health.

October 5, 2012

Great Startups vs Others...

I think some great start-ups are born to,

   " solve problems that founders face in their real life,
     a problem which they believe is impacting many, 
     and they want make their life easy,
     so they try to identify a solution and,
     make money,
     in the process of it. "
Others also to do the same, but in order of 5,3,4,2,6,1 


August 17, 2012

My conversation with Dad !

Like any other Mama’s boy am closer to my mom and have hardly had any long chat with my dad. This is one the very few that we’ve had, so might get a bit long.

It was 
summer of 1998, after my high-school exams, I was upset as I was told that I’Lk get a new bike if I score well. Surprisingly, I did score more than what was agreed upon but the bike was no where to be seen, maybe even my parents were equally surprised with my result :) 

We all were having dinner when one of my friend called and told that he bought a new car and since he bought it from Army quota, he got it at a discounted price. Although I was happy for him, but it made me a bit more irritated and I went to dad to have a chat.

But before that I’ll give you a little background. My dad was serving in Indian Air Force but had to come back due to a family emergency. Then he started his own work here from scratch. From a small car mechanic shop to a medium size car repair & service workshop in about 45 long years. And ironically we never had a car.

So here I was standing with him, and in a slightly agitated voice I asked him.

“Why didn’t you take your air-force card when you left, we could have also enjoyed the discounts on our shopping and maybe we could have bought a car as well at a cheaper price.” 

To which he replied very politely, “Those privileges are given in return of risking your life for serving the nation and I had it till I was serving. I didn’t think it was right to have it after I left.” 

I didn't have much to say after listening to his reply so I asked a different question this time, “Everyone says that there is huge money in car repair work, even those who have worked under you
earlier, have made huge workshops of their own and doing immensely well. Most of them have bungalows in posh localities; drive fancy cars and their sons ride imported bikes. Why aren’t we so rich?”

And this is what he said in reply, something I won’t forget, ever.

Listen son, everyone has different priorities in life, for some its money, and for some its power. For me, respect comes before everything else.

You see a lot a powerful people these days and the count of rich & affluent would be even more, but you’ll find very few who are respected. It is because earning respect is one of the most difficult things to do and it is human nature to take an easy path.

Money is important, but it should be as much to sustain your life. It’s good, if you can earn more without compromising your integrity. But money can never be ‘enough’. Once you start running after money, you will never be able to get off that treadmill.

Happiness is overrated; and you can never buy it. Money that is earned by fooling people or taking advantage of them, can buy you enough delusions to keep you entranced. And you never realize what true happiness is.

Happiness is being in peace, it is being able to sleep without any guilt. And that comes with doing the right things. Money can only help you in being perceived as a happy person, but wont make you feel that happiness unless you have a clear heart

I was left speechless, and had nothing left to argue any further. His respect in my heart had grown many folds. And it was that day, that I decided to do the rights things rather than things that are right for me.

But why am I sharing this today.

Today is a special day. It was this very day, 2 years back, that I shifted to Bangalore leaving behind amazing memories of Delhi. It was the day I joined Cleartrip.

The reason for joining Cleartrip was as clear as its name. I was totally bowled over by their products. It was a dream tech-startup for anyone who loves products. 

The focus on product was impeccable. Unlike many companies, where business is the primary driver, product was the center of the universe here. Consumer came first, before everything else.

But there was one thing that made me respect Cleartrip even more.

It was my initial days and I was working on a web app for Blackberry. To check the app review system, I rated the app myself and left a comment also saying that app is useful. Within few hours I got a ping from my co-founder asking if that comment was mine.  That was probably the first time I got a message from him and with little apprehension I said, “Yes”.

He replied, “Please remove it immediately. We don’t want our employees to leave feedback for our own products, even if they really like it. The reviews should be unbiased and from the users only. We don’t want to influence them by impersonating as a user. Please make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

There are companies that are okay with employees fudging data, giving false promises to clients, and there are some that even encourage it, but this one was a first. 

And it was not a one off case, even when we launched our iPhone app last week, an email came from our co-founder to all the employees requesting them not to rate the app in the app store.

We all know Cleartrip for building great products, tweeting interesting stuff, not spamming users with emails, not selling each available pixel on the website to Google, but there is more to it than we see.

Although I didn’t join my dad’s business and couldn’t take forward his values there. But today, am proud to say, that I work with a company that has taken a harder path, the path of earning respect.

#Cleartrip #Respect.

June 25, 2012

Why everyone should build a mobile site

We humans are extremely interesting creatures, and I never miss a chance to study how our behavior changes with the change in our surroundings.

Here I am going to tell you one of such examples.

In Delhi, summer and power cuts go hand in hand. They not only help government to manage the shortage of electricity in the city but are also the sole reason behind flourishing industry of inverter batteries in that region.

Powercuts are part of the daily routine for a Delhiite but did you ever notice the change in our behavior during power cuts?

The very first thing we do as soon as the main power goes is it to switch off all the unnecessary lights and fans. Infact we do the reverse, we only keep those lights on that are absolutely necessary.

It's a little funny, because we do not mind wasting electricity for which we are paying through our nose but try to conserve the battery.

It kind of reminds me of our lab days, where we used to study the difference in results by changing one variable of the experiment while keeping all the others as constant.

In this case, it's the same family who keeps the light of the storeroom and exhaust fan in the bathroom on, just like that. Same house same, appliances, nothing else changed, but they are now sitting in one room under a single light and fan.

So what causes this sudden change in behavior?

Yes it’s a no brainer, when we know the resources are limited we use them wisely.

It's not that we don't know that we should save electricity, but we don’t care until we are in the situation when the supply is actually limited.

The same goes for web designs.

We all know that we need to give the best experience to the user, but while designing for desktops we don't face too many constraints hence most of the time we are not challenged enough to make the best use of it of the ones that are available.

It's only when you start designing for mobile, you get switched to the inverter mode. It gives you a chance to take a fresh look at the hundred of features that you've added to your website while chasing your pipeline fanatically over the time. And then you ponder that is that light in the storeroom actually required being switched-on all the time?

And trust me, then you'll have soooo many #ThatEnlighteningMoment, when you'll say WTF, why the hell didn't I think of it before.

Designing for mobile teaches you so many things that desktop could never do. Because only then you realise the importance for every pixel and actually think out-of-the-box for solving user problems.

A simple thing like having no space to waste for long help texts makes you rethink the obvious to make that idiot proof designs. It takes intuitive designs to the next level where you spend hours and days to just find that perfect picture that is literally worth a thousand words.

So even if you are still not convinced that mobile web is the next big thing in the Internet, designing for mobile will definitely make desktop site users a lot happier than ever before

What say, are you ready to try the inverter mode?

May 14, 2012

Has Siri Changed Her Mind?

Recently there was an article in The Next Web on how Siri suggested Nokia's Lumia 900 as the 'Best Smartphone Ever'. The suggestion that was actually based on the results from Wolfram Alpha is becoming a hot topic of discussion amongst Nokia & Apple fans.

But when I checked with my Siri, this is what she had to say:

And all of a sudden I was reminded of the golden words by Billy Joel !
"Oh, she never gives out
And she never gives in
She just changes her mind."

Afterall Siri is also a Woman :)