The Gray Hair Speaketh

Advice that is largely Unsolicited..

Want to be the next Uber? ITS a 3-step plan to get there!




Uber’s going to do $11 bn in 2015, and $26 bn in 2016??! And it’s valued at more than $50 bn??

Now where did THAT come from?

The taxi business was local, and relatively small. Till Uber came, and turned this industry on it’s head. And generated scale and expanded rapidly. And became a game changer and an icon, so much so that the brand name has become a verb to describe such a business model – one that connects a hitherto disconnected latent demand and latent supply, through a mobile app! “Uberize” is what one does, in creating such a connection.

So yes, you may slurp as you see the sexy valuations and the revenue numbers of models like Uber and Airbnb, both of which fundamentally “uberize” their industries.

And now we have other industries following suit, in some or the other way, e.g. Practo, which connects doctors and patients!

So are you tempted to make an Uber yourself? If you are, and don’t know how, consider looking at it, as a simple 1-2-3 step model. And let me explain to you how it works:

  1. Identify an industry that is fundamentally local, but one that is an essential need, and would quite likely be found in all localities across the world. Like taxis that Uber identified. You think that is difficult? Don’t get stuck on taxis and overnight stay rooms (viz. Airbnb). Go beyond these. To as I said, “businesses that are essential, that are local, and that are found pretty much everywhere in the world”. Still find it difficult to get some examples?? How about milk delivery business, how about the laundry or just the service of ironing of clothes, or hair cutting saloons, etc.??
  2. Industries like these are typically served on basis of location proximity, and quality of service or rates are given lower priority. Just the comfort of having someone around, nearby, is the reason one keeps going to one place or getting served by one service provider. This is a perfect opportunity to disrupt! Why should it remain a local service provider? Why not the most efficient one, when you need it? And as a consumer, it doesn’t matter if the service provider comes from the next building, or from a few lanes away, or from a different corner of the city, does it? A mobile app that connects service providers to consumers, on real time basis, and based on demand and supply, at that moment, is this next step. So this is basically the Tech stage here.
  3. Once you’ve got these two steps done, simply throw it open and make it global! And you could be the Uber for getting clothes laundered, or for a home service of a hair cut, or whatever. Scale’s the thing. Scale’s the route to high revenues and high valuations!

Yes, at the fundamental level, these are the simple 3 steps.

Identify – Technology – Scale or I-T-S model! That’s it.

Of course, for ultimate success, all of these need to be done very well, but that is a necessity for any large success!

So are YOU ready to Uberize a new industry? And make riches for yourself? Go for it! And since you read it hear first, I don’t mind a small percentage of equity for “triggering you forward”!!

All the best.. !


October 5, 2015 Posted by | Business Model, Startup, Technology | , , | Leave a comment

The Amazing Breed of Young Indian Entrepreneurs

Recently I attended StartUp Garage, just for a few hours, but I managed to interact with several young entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs.

This was not the first experience for me. I make it a point to connect with this breed, at various other startup events and mentoring opportunities, including Headstart’s StartUp Saturday, at the MentorEdge Rendezvous sessions, and TiE’s mentoring events, amongst others.

And almost always, I come back feeling very impressed. By the entrepreneurial energy in the first place. And sometimes, by the quality of business ventures that some of them are working on.

I think back to the many years back, when we graduated from engineering school. I do not remember a single classmate of mine, who went out, straight from college, to start a venture of his own. There were few who went and joined their family businesses. Which is an entirely different thing. But none that I remember, who started new ventures of their own, straight out of college.

Years later, many of my batchmates are today, running successful entrepreneurial ventures. But they all started after taking a few years experience, working in industry. Typically.

As against that, I am seeing just so many keen final year students (of engineering or management schools, typically) and students who have just passed out of college, who are all set to get into a business venture of theirs, I am amazed by it all!

That one has the dare at the early age, to chuck job offers, and venture out on one’s own.

To take on the challenges, not just of giving life to your idea, but also to take on other accompanying challenges of finance, team building, marketing, etc.

So irrespective of how good or viable these ideas are, that we have so many attempting to create their own businesses, it is truly impressive.

Coming the actual quality of the plans though, perhaps 1 out of 20, are good enough (by my assessment – and I could be wrong, of course!) to potentially become decent successes.

But that is not a bad ratio.

I was completely impressed for example, by this one entrepreneur, who had finished college few weeks back, and who demo-ed to me, a completely working and commercially viable, SaaS based video conferencing tool, with some excellent features. He may still have some challenges to get the UI improved, and of course, to figure out the pricing model and the marketing, but he has a full-fledged working prototype out there. Obviously made, even as he was a student in college.

Now that takes some doing.

And there are more like that.

I have this one other group of students, from another engineering college, who have set up an e-commerce venture, for selling text books. Again straight out of college. And a business model that I think, is extremely attractive, and can become very successful, if they can execute it right. They interact with me once in a while, and I am very bullish about this venture.

Indeed, these are excellent times, for India’s economy, and this level of confidence and dare, amongst the youth, can only help propel the growth rates. I am very happy about the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country now. And I am happy to have occasional run-ins with these smart youngsters, and also happy to share the occasional gray hair wisdom with them 🙂

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Ecommerce, Startup, Technology | , , , , | 5 Comments

What does it take to run a successful digital business in India?

This was the topic given to me, by the organizers at the Shailesh J Mehta School of Management, I I T Mumbai. Originally meant to be a panel discussion (would have been a very interesting one, I bet), it was later converted to a talk by me.

Even as I was preparing my thoughts for this subject, I posted the question on my Facebook page to ask my friends, what they reckoned, does it take to succeed in a digital business in India. And I got responses that included the need for velocity, passion, doggedness, understanding local nuances and culture, etc.

Which were all right, in their own way.

But I guess all of those factors, and many more, are relevant for just about any business, and not particularly digital businesses. So focusing specifically on digital businesses, and for India in particular, I put some thoughts together.

It was important to appreciate key words here, viz.

Success – not about winning a business plan competition or getting angel funds or even VC funds. Success, for this context, was about generating a sizeable business, making money (as against burning money), creating a brand, perhaps an IPO, etc.

Digital – every business nowadays has some digital component. So we are not referring to those. We are also not referring to creating applications for deployment on the digital space. Since creating applications is a software business, whether for online space or otherwise. So digital in this context, was about close to pure-play digital businesses, typically online types like e-commerce, services on a digital platform, portals, and the like.

India – for me, meant that the operations are based here. But that is not to stop serving a global market.

With that context, and focusing more on the business side and less on the technology side, this is what I put together (note that bullets are cryptic, as there was talk that supported these; so, not sure if all of the points get across – no, don’t have the time right now, to elaborate the points!):

Would love to have your views on the subject. Please share in the comments below.

September 25, 2010 Posted by | Ecommerce, Startup, Technology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment – Collaborative Knowledge Management and Research Tool

Sumeet Anand, founder and CEO, asked me to review his startup,

Category: B2C -> Web research tool; Enterprise -> Collaboration and Knowledge Management tool

What does it do? is an interesting mashup of a Wikipedia and social bookmarking sites. It is a tool for collaboration and knowledge management, and offered free on open web for individual users, and planned to be offered also on web based SaaS as well as in enterprise versions.

What more?
There is obviously a significant software effort that has gone into the making of For example, there is virtually a concept of a browser within the browser. You do not really need to use the back button at all, as you navigate through the various pages in Kreeo. The navigation, layout, presentation have all been done with thought, and are good.

My quick two cents:
You can’t help but think Wikipedia as you see Kreeo. Yes, there are differences. But to an average user looking for information, does he notice the various subtle differences. Also most importantly, content is the key. For a site of this nature, we are talking of tons and tons of content. Without that, it leaves me with a feeling of a great idea, but being unable to appreciate the nuances, without adequate data. Moreover, without data, it does not compel me to return soon!

Wisdom Nuggets in more detail:
1. I have a suspicion – and I could be wrong – that Kreeo was created by fundamentally, a technology person! There is a huge emphasis on the application, perhaps to an extent, at the cost of the larger business model.

2. Sumeet informed me the beta was launched in Jan 2009, after a year of alpha. That being the case, it would have been great to have used a part of that one year, also for creating some content for Kreeo. At this time, without the content, it creates interest, but then disappointment.

3. There will be questions about why Kreeo, and why not Wikipedia? Even on the SaaS or Enterprise versions, there are enough Wiki implementations available to serve the purpose. With all the technology bits, the core reason to look at Kreeo as against a Wiki, does not come out that clearly. If it takes an effort to understand that difference, it may not quite be good enough.

4. On a content driven aggregation, we have also seen in recent days, Guy Kawasaki’s venture, The strategy that Alltop has used has enabled it to grow significant content quickly and it keeps growing. As a pure web reference tool, it may today offer better value than Kreeo does. So yes, I am getting repetitive on the content front, rather the lack of it, on Kreeo. But that unforutnately, is a big issue on Kreeo, at this time.

5. So where does Kreeo go from here? If Enterprise and SaaS is the way to go, and to offer Kreeo as a platform for enterprises to manage their knowledge, then it is important to focus only on that. And present these solutions with all the differentiation and the benefits coming out strong and clear. If enterprise content and knowledge is what Kreeo will drive, let it not dilute the brand and the offering by also being in the larger B2C / Social Media space.

6. On the other hand, if the larger B2C is what beckons, it must be appreciated that creating an encyclopedia of sorts takes a toll. Even in a collaborative mode. Either there has to be a clear strategy to energize the masses to contribute and create, OR Kreeo could think of focusing on a few verticals, instead of the entire universe. And at least for those few verticals, ensure that real depth of information exists.

Overall, I must repeat that the technology is promising, but I am concerned about the business model, at this time.


March 17, 2009 Posted by | Knowledge Management, Startup, Technology, Web Research | , , , , , | 3 Comments – The Web 2.0 Factory

It is interesting that I start this new blog, with a review of a website that starts from the last letter of the alphabet. Maybe I will end up going from Z to A!
Harsh Jain, the founder of the website,, presented his product at the Bar Camp5, in Mumbai.

What is it about? enables anyone to start a Social Networking site, with many of the standard features that such sites need. Getting started with a base level social networking site of your own is very simple. You can select the applications that you need there, and enable them for your own site.

What more?

Your site can be hosted by Zopte and can have your own domain name. With simple markup language like steps that Zopte suggests, you can make your own applications. And add those to your site as well. That in fact, is the clear advantage that zopte offers. Not having to depend on widgets and such, you could potentially create features on your site, by yourself, with simple steps.

The entire service is free at this time.

My observations:

At this time, clearly there are no revenue channels, and clearly there are costs.

At this time, I am seeing challenges in SEO work done on the site’s own pages. If you see the screen shot above, it does not even have a page title. How will the service grow?

Although the site has been “launched”, many of the links on home page itself, appear to be ‘coming soon’.

Wisdom Nuggets:

1. At first view, the service appeared a lot like Harsh explained the differences, especially with regards to the markup language that enables any kind of new applications to be made and integrated. Fair enough. But then the difference needs to be something that a LOT of people need, something that is easily communicated across the site (at this time, it does not come out so obvious). And after all that, you still m have to face the brand equity factor, in favor of your larger competitor.

2. There has to be a real estimate of the market size for this. If there is so-called markup language, even if it is simple enough, the application is not exactly the kind that a common non-techie user can quickly adapt to! Then when you see the techie space, would they like to use a ready tool, or they would also want to make a tool themselves? Who indeed, would be the regular users of a service like this one? Or put it in another way, the application is a little complicated for common usage, and a little too simple for a flexible techie user.

3. Then there is always the revenue challenge. How will revenue be made? Also once you figure out a revenue channel, you have to see the potential projected value of money that could be made there. Overall viability of the project is determined by summing up these different revenue options.

    In conclusion, there is a clear need to figure out the revenue lines and then do a dispassionate working of the larger business plan that could emerge.

    If there is an acknowledged challenge to the business model, I may even recommend checking if it is possible to adapt the service for WordPress. Or in other words, offer this platform from within the WordPress pages, and give these value additions to all WordPress users. There would be quick, large scale adaption, and the viability will no longer be your problem alone, but also that of WordPress!!

    Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

    February 21, 2009 Posted by | Startup, Technology | , , , | Leave a comment