The Gray Hair Speaketh

Advice that is largely Unsolicited..

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 does it again: wants to ape the next new shiny thing.. !

Why do they do this??

I have said this before and I say it again.

Because I have seen this before and I see this YET AGAIN! always wants to be LIKE someone else.

And mostly like the best new thing that has happened out there, and is already established and famous.

And THEN, will come with its version of the same thing!

I have seen ALL of these transformations at

1. Early on, they went and replicated virtually, the complete look. Directory and news and email and everything. They wanted to be India’s Yahoo…

2. Ebay became big and Rediff invested in their own auction business, an Ebay look alike.  Rediff wanted to be India’s Ebay then..

3. The interface was clustered like Yahoo’s or Indiatimes’. And then Google came along and showed what a clean, uncluttered interface can be like. And yes, we saw Rediff turning over into a clean and simple interface. No matter the fact that, where Google was fundamentally ONE big thing, viz. search, and it could offer that in a clean and simple screen, Rediff in fact, was a portal. And a portal needs to show more of its links and cater to users with different kinds of needs.

But then, Rediff wanted to be a Google that time!

4. Then came Facebook time. And after Facebook had probably gone past 300 mn user base or so, and was already the default, Rediff came up with their look-alike social network. Again Rediff now wanted to be a Facebook..

Once more, too little, too late.

5. And now they have done it one more time. In the space of daily deals and group buying, where perhaps, there are 32 players already, and the big daddy of the world, Groupon having come into India too, Rediff now wants people to do their deals on Rediff.

So Rediff now wants to be a Groupon!!

More than anything else, I feel sad. really had a great opportunity, it was first off the blocks in India, it had a great start, it got the Nasdaq IPO (that’s the only reason its been able to hang on, by the way – the cash in the bank!) in time. It could have been India’s most prolific and default dot com address.

And yet, it chose to be a Yahoo, an Ebay, an Amazon, a Google, a Facebook and now a Groupon..

It NEVER tried to be a of its own!!

What do you think? Any alternate views??

April 27, 2011 Posted by | Business Model, Ecommerce, Social Networking | , , | 2 Comments

Startup Founders: Better Alike or Different??

I spent a few hours at the recent Enterprising India Summit, organized by the Mumbai Chapter of TiE.

In the short time that I was there, I happened to catch a talk by Sachin Bansal, founder of Flipkart. As a part of his presentation, he talked about himself and his co-founder, and about how they were so alike that they could virtually replace each other. Well, at least on the work front. And of course, he was making it look like a great advantage that he had, in having two founders, with very similar backgrounds and skills.

I have wondered about this, though. Of course, not for Flipkart in particular, but for any entrepreneurial venture, in general.

It is an easier route often, for two (or more) classmates or good friends (with similar mindsets) to think about getting together, and starting an entrepreneurial venture. And quite likely, they may have the same background, skills, aptitude, approach etc.  And maybe due to this factor, there is a fundamental comfort, as they may end up agreeing more than disagreeing. This may also make for good chemistry.

But is this good for the venture?

Think about it from these perspectives:

1. A startup is usually a lean organization. Each person of the startup team is contributing in his / her own way, so as to make the whole. There is usually no room for buffer and no room for redundancy. Then, having two (or more) very crucial members of the team, viz. the co-founders, to have similar backgrounds, is it not an expensive redundancy for the startup?

2. We have also read stories of the so-well-constructed founding team of Mindtree where they were absolutely clear of the kind of skills that were necessary to build Mindtree as a company, and how they looked for, and found and lured people in, to be a part of that founding team. Recent events have put a question mark on the company, but that apart, the effort at the time of founding, and the process, was exemplary. Is that a better way to go about it? Identify key skills that will be necessary for your mission, and then look for partners who can be co-founders in your venture??

3. When things are going fine, it is good to have people who ‘get along well’ and have a similar mindset. However at the first signs of challenge, what if the co-founders all, only think in one common way? What if there is no counter point of view? There is no challenge to the proposal? While different mindsets can sometimes cause potentially, the ship to go in different directions (however, that happens when there is a lack of maturity in the team), on the positive side, different mindsets or approaches give you multiple perspectives on the same issue. And at different times, there may be value and relevance of a different approach. In that respect, non-uniformity of thought, a certain diversity in fact, is a great asset to have, at the founding team level.

So I do wonder on the best approach here? I think startups need a mix, at the founding team level. Success of Flipkart may not be because the founders are so-alike, but in spite of it! Sometimes, we look at success and try to draw all inspiration from it. Try to ape the entire model. Flipkart may not have succeeded because the partners are so alike, but because of managing to do many other things right.

Also it may be appreciated that two or more people, going to the same college or the same program, do not necessarily make for identical people. Yes, their educational background would be same (and if technical skills are crucial, then this may again be a challenge – that all founders know only the one same thing!), but in terms of aptitude or creativity or other characteristics, they could easily be chalk and cheese.

So that is the crucial element. Have the chemistry to work together well, the maturity to respect each other’s points of view and take decisions only and only, in the interest of the venture, but yet be different enough, to bring variety of skills and approaches to the table, for the venture to get the best value!

What is your opinion on this? Are you a part of a co-founders team? What kind of mix you have in your founding team? Would love to know about his.

** This post is also cross posted in my personal blog, Random Musings. **


March 15, 2011 Posted by | Startup | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why One More of the Same Thing?

I come across startups at variety of forums, like TiE, Mentor Edge, and also directly, when people reach out to me.

And it beats me as to how many times, I keep coming across the same (well, similar) business idea!

I am not referring to two entrepreneurs, coincidentally working on the same brilliant idea. I am referring to entrepreneurs working on an idea, where there are multiple dominant players already in place.

Like the 35th Group Buying business.

Ok, irrespective of my personal feelings about Group Buying (and which you can read in this blog, across more than one posts), assuming that it will be a successful model, what is the different thing you want to do, where as a 35th entrant, you still expect to come out successful / leader??

In the world, there may be examples to prove ANY theory.

So one would try and justify their entry by saying that wasn’t Google a late entrant in the search engine market, and did it still not come out on top?

Just the same way, people like to quote Apple as an example in many different arguments (“Apple does not do much of its own Social Media – the users create the buzz for it. Can we also expect that?” for example).

It needs to be understood that Google or Apple or their business models or their marketing strategies have been exceptions rather than the rule. Also that, fundamentally, both (and others of their kind) have a phenomenal product behind them, and even if they were to not do anything, maybe people would queue up outside their doors, with their cheque books open, looking to purchase!

So first of all, every entrepreneur must not think that he is a Google in the making. Without trying to reduce any ambition or aspiration of the entrepreneur, it is necessary to have feet on the ground, while planning the business strategy, and the positioning.

So while I have seen a bunch of Group Buying plans that did not differentiate from the many existing ones (at least in my mind), recently I came across another business model, that was similar to at least 4 other existing players. All 4 are reasonably well established, and this was the 5th one, entering the same space.

Basically a content vertical, largely ad dependent for revenues, significantly demanding to maintain (at least for good quality). The entrepreneur was trying to show me the differences that he had made in his model, vs the other prevalent ones. Even though he may be right, in pointing those out, to me (and I’d be like a typical consumer for his content), I could not spot those differences, without his explanation. And for a content heavy site,  a typical user is not going to run over it, with a microscope to see those differences.

Why then, would a consumer change habit and come and read content here, instead of the others which he was familiar with? I was not able to see it. And I told the entrepreneur in as less discouraging a tone, as I possibly could.

Of course, entrepreneurs are optimistic, if anything. All of us are. We want to give it our best shot, we feel we have the way to make this happen, we reckon that all things being the same, WE are that difference! So I am sure he is going on with it, and my best wishes to him too. And in a few years, he could have gone past the incumbents and emerged number 1. Again, I would only wish the best for him.

But my point is for one who is planning a business. Where do you start? Do you look for existing successes, and want to try and do one of the same kind? Or you come up with something entirely new, something different, something that the world has not seen just yet?? But which you recognize, would have value?

It is often easier to look at existing successes, and which is perhaps the reason why we see more me-toos, than original ideas. It takes a different vision, a certain imagination, creativity, and then a significant dare, to get into path breaking new thoughts, new ideas, new businesses. And which is why these are rare.

I urge entrepreneurs to look to being different, being unique. More than being clones.

Especially in an online business.

In an offline business, due to various factors, including geographical relevance, many brands of the same business model, can survive. Perhaps be successful too.

Online, everyone’s just a click away. There is no compelling reason (like geography) that a user will land to your site, even when there is a better site, more known, more popular, already around! Have we found a serious second auction site, after Ebay? NO!! Because Ebay is a click away. Why would anyone go anywhere else?!

Think about it.. being different can be more challenging, but can also be more rewarding!


March 13, 2011 Posted by | Business Model, Startup | , , | Leave a comment

GroupOn, Living Social, Snap Deal etc. – Is Deep Discounting the last resort of the failed salesman?!

For those who follow this blog, it is no secret that Group Buying, especially in the shape that it has taken in recent months, is my favorite whipping boy!!

I attended a talk by Prof. Nirmalya Kumar a couple of weeks back, and he was talking about how CMOs and CEOs need to worry not just about the short term, but also about the long term. He gave an example about how Coke could get away with absolutely no marketing spend for a year, and it may not impact its sales for the year. And yet, what does it do for Coke, in the longer term?

So a CEO / CMO has to take into account not just the next quarter’s results, but also the long legacy of the brand!

So what happens when such brands get lured by the GroupOns and the SnapDeals of the world? When a brand starts selling for 10% of its price, or even 50% of its price, no matter what justification marketers give internally to justify these moves, there are two consequences in the eyes of the consumer:

– that if they can sell for 10% of the price, they have been taking 90% too much from us, all these years!

– that I will wait for these discounts, and not buy at the full price at all!

Is this doing good for a brand?

Yes, the justification is that, instead of putting expensive advertising, I divert those marketing dollars into deep discounts, and get people to buy. To experience my product. And get a better and immediately measurable ROI on my “marketing” money! Sounds like a perfect plan, something that the CFO may like for the short term.

But who carries the responsibility for the brand, in the long term??

The moves would have been fine, during recessionary times. When you have capacity and the consumer offtake has reduced drastically. And you still want to keep your factories busy. At that time, a deep discount strategy is good.

But in India, at this time, it is a booming economy. Brands who are getting their act half right have cash registering ringing away to glory, and those who are doing better, are putting up new factories to cope with the demands!

In such times, who wants to sell cheap? Who wants to give those deep, deep discounts?

Only those who have no means to sell it right. Yes, I think that Deep Discounts are the last resort for the failed salesmen! When they can do no better, they discount. Well, if you give it away for free, you are sure to “sell” well (I heard an interesting rejoinder to this also, in fact, in reference to a specific community in India, and it said “if you give it free to them, they will ask for money to take it”!). And the reason for the inability to sell well, is their lack of understanding of how a consumer’s buying process has changed. If all that a marketer can do, is to blast advertising into the face of the customer, and the customer refuses to acknowledge these and purchase his brand, it is the marketer’s fault that he has not changed his ways. To the tunes of the new consumer buying decision journey (I cover some of that in this presentation).

If you do not get your marketing and sales right, you go and sell off cheap. Even in boom times! Report good numbers, get your bonuses, and walk away. And leave the brand bleeding in the long term.

No can do. If I hold shares in companies that are doing this, I would sell those shares, and get out. As I’m sure the future isn’t bright!!

January 26, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Social Network: My Learnings from the movie

Yes, this is kind of a movie review, of ‘The Social Network’. And ordinarily, I post my movie reviews on my other blog, but I am writing this one here. This blog here, is more focused to budding and fellow entrepreneurs, and I usually review startups here. So what is a movie review doing here?

Well, the movie ‘The Social Network’ is an entrepreneur’s movie, if anything! And there are many learnings to pick up, for entrepreneurs, and hence, I felt that this was the right place for this movie review.

The story is supposed to be of Mark Zuckerberg, the youngest billionaire in the world, and the founder of Facebook. Well, there have been some liberties taken, and hence I state that this is ‘supposed to be’ Mark’s story. Be that as it ma be, even if it is close to being Mark’s story, it is fascinating to learn about the man behind the name. Biographies of successful people are always interesting from that point of view. Usually of course, these are written (or made into movies) when the person concerned, is of advanced age. But in this case, the person has achieved success – stupendous at that – at a very early age, and so you see a movie about him, while he is still very young.

And perhaps there will be room to add a sequel. For there is no mention in this one, about the Microsoft investment. Or for that matter, about the move to take Facebook beyond the schools and colleges, and out into the public. And of course, I am sure bigger things are in store. Be it his battles with Google, or building pieces to take on the likes of Twitter, Foursquare or Paypal, there are interesting new things happening in Mark’s life, and in his business, and a sequel few years down the line, could well be in order!

For now, lets look at this first film on him, The Social Network.

The story is engrossing, for understanding the drive and the passion that it took to make Facebook. Like my daughter remarked after she saw the movie, “he was coding non-stop for 36 hours”. Well, that was just a part of it. But a crucial part, where there was amazing conviction, and which was supported by the commitment to ‘make it happen’.

I was not aware of the Sean Parker connection, so it was good to see that part. About how his biggest contribution was about dropping the ‘the’ from ‘’ and making it to what it is today, viz. simply Or how he showed Mark, the path to California, and how it was a crucial shift for Mark and for Facebook.

The conviction that he saw, where he realized that reaching 75,000 users, or even a million for that matter, was just about taking smaller steps to the very big goal that he had in his mind. Many, including his co-founder, could have got satisfied, felt that they had already achieved a lot, and tried to monetize early. And which would not only have meant the lack of further growth, but would have stunted what was already there, due to drop-outs on account of the monetization drive!

These, however, are the most crucial three moments that I picked in the movie, and which are my key questions to fellow and budding entrepreneurs. Whether you have got these moments for your business yet, or not?

1. After the short-lived success of Facemesh, when Mark is working towards the new project (what became Facebook), he learns from the Facemesh experience, that people jumped on to Facemesh, not to see hot girls (which can be seen at many other places), but to see girls whom they knew.

It is a very crucial observation, and a very critical one too. Do you pick these nuances, naturally, in your business too??

2. The second Eureka moment is what lead Mark to put the ‘relationship’ field in the Facebook profile. Where he was trying to replicate the physical Harvard experience on a social network, and he could have simply put all the physical activities and efforts into the virtual world, the important thing was about identifying the key driver. Sensing that ‘relationship status’ will be one such factor, was an excellent breakthrough.

Other Social Networks have replicated many of the standard features that work on social networks. Say,Orkut for example, has done that. But they have not picked those crucial driving moments. And due to which they have not struck the serious growth levels that Facebook has managed.

So have you got those defining aspects that can be the game changers, in your business??

3. The third crucial dialog is what Mark has with Eduardo, after he has blocked the account. That money is required, to ensure that business flows without slightest interruption, to ensure the servers keep chugging away. As he says, “Facebook cannot stop. These are friends who know friends and so on. Even a few moving out, can be like a domino effect!”.

Well, against this obsession, we also have Twitter where fail-whale is a regular occurrence. And yet, it has managed to hang in there, as a business. But I would call it the exception!

The obsession of Mark to do all he can, to ensure that users get an uninterrupted, perfect experience, is what all businesses should strive for. It is more crucial perhaps for Facebook, where people are friends, and as Mark says, few guys moving, could cause a domino effect. But in today’s connected world, this is true for ANY business or service. If you do not do everything in your means to keep your existing customers, and few start leaving, you do not know when you could have a domino exodus away from you!

Are you as obsessed as Mark is about keeping each and every customer of yours??

All in all, it is a fascinating story to learn about a successful person. And it is clear that he is brilliant, but also extremely focused on what can work, how he wants to provide clear value, and how he has a bigger picture in mind, to take Facebook to newer and newer highs!

Looking forward to see where the business goes further, and to a possible sequel to this.

And looking forward to entrepreneurs being inspired by the story!

Have you seen ‘The Social Network’? What did you think of it? Do share your thoughts in comments below..

November 15, 2010 Posted by | Social Networking, Startup | , , , , | 11 Comments

Group Buying: Thoughts About The Business Model

What is your reaction when you see a physical product offered at an unbelievable low price??

Like a two-wheeler at 50% of its price? Or a TV at 40% of its selling price? Or even gold – at 30% discount??!

My own first reaction (tampered as it is by standard thought process on gross margins available, etc.) is that it cannot happen! Or that maybe it’s a scam. It is not the real thing. It is second-hand. It is fake gold, etc. etc. etc.

And then you look deeper. And get a bigger understanding of the process.

Every advertiser is looking for that eternal ROI. How many crores spent on making the VW Vento ad speak to Times of India readers? How many increased walk-ins to the showrooms? How many cars sold?

And calculations of that kind!

So when a group buying company suggests to you that:

–          you spend money on expensive advertising (hoarding, print, TV etc.)?

–          you want to drive footfalls and sales

–          what if that is assured to you anway

–          and you cut to the chase

So that, essentially is the model for group buying!

Divert the money out of advertising.

Put the same budget in offering exciting discounts.

Use the group buying vehicle to reach the customers who want your product.

There.. the ROI is in for the budget allocated.

But.. is it really that simple?

If its not that new mousetrap, but rather the unbelievably cheap mousetrap, there are good chances that you’d have a queue outside your door, and you can sell as much as you want.

But the questions then, are:

  1. Did you advertise only to reach those few buyers who would walk-in or purchase? If that was your intention, then some means of targeted direct marketing / telemarketing would have been better options, than mass media advertising, right?
  2. Your purpose of advertising was to also reach those were not going to walk-in today or purchase in the near future. People who may still register your brand somewhere in their heads, and think about you, as and when they get to a point of purchasing your product category. Or to create a general brand hype / visibility etc. Just cutting to the chase and getting those 40 walk-ins, gives you ROI, but does it give you that visibility at all?
  3. Will the buyer perceive that maybe your product is actually worth 50% of your selling price, and the rest of your normal mark up, is your huge profit. And which you should not be earning, really? Could that actually cause more harm than good, in the long run?
  4. Also where do you create your market for tomorrow? If you have not pushed the brand out as much, and have resorted largely to the short cut, discount driven, group buying options, the rest of the world has not been impacted by your brand. And you have left tomorrow’s market open for your competitor to lap up?!

At a time when brand managers are pushed to deliver ROI and a group buying option appears to get them there, there will be temptation to pick it up. And sell at less than cost, by explaining the difference to the marketing budget account. But I wonder if this is sustainable in the long run.

So is all group buying bad for brands? Certainly not.

Where you have perishable inventory, group buying is a beauty. Airline seats, hotel room nights, even food products approaching ‘best by’ dates. Better sold at cheap than not sold at all. And good for the buyers too. Perfect win-win.

Or for categories like services. Where each new service customer is not draining away real cost, but only utilizing the excess capacity that is anyway, idle. Theatre seats, saloon chairs, gym memberships are the examples I refer here.

What I have concern about, are physical product areas, where attempts are made to sell cheaper than cost price – by a lot – and which can over time, potentially do more harm than good, to the concerned brands.

What do you think? Love to read alternate opinions on this.. please comment below!

October 12, 2010 Posted by | Ecommerce | , , , , , | 14 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 – Best Deals for Group Purchases!

I was pleasantly surprised when @sampad shared the link of one day, and I went and checked it out. The concept was so close to my heart that I loved it at first sight. The concept. The site, I still had to go over and see! So this concept that I have loved for long, and which finally sees the day in the form of, made me come out of Gray Hair Wisdom Hibernation, and restart my startup reviews.

Category: B2C -> E-commerce -> Group Buying / Reverse Auction

What is it? is an online business that offers great deals, provided large number of people are willing to pick up the deal. In short, it is a group buying concept, and in some ways, a reverse auction also, since more the buyers, the better the deal that can potentially get generated!

What more?

The site does not expect to deliver any products to you. In that sense, there is a “local” factor to it. At this time, has deals to offer, for major Indian cities.  The concept is that many individuals who do not know each other, may be considering making the same purchase around the same time. If they could somehow be got together, and they position themselves as a “group” to the seller, this group now has a buying power to negotiate best deals from the seller. Likewise, if this disparate group of buyers, individually, could have walked into different outlets to make their independent purchases. Now if some dealer offers the best prices, and all those footfalls are diverted to that one dealer, he in turn, is grabbing the market from the other dealers, who did not offer that great deal.

This in a gist, is what enables.

My Quick Two Cents:

I am totally prejudiced to this business idea. In favor of the business concept, per se. So some of that will show in my thoughts here 🙂

Wanamo works for many reasons:

  1. It brings together people who want to buy the same thing, but did not know each other. And the group translates to discounts!
  2. The supplier of the product is transparent. The buyer knows what he is buying, from whom (traditional supplier) is he getting.  Buyers get the vouchers directly of the brand / supplier.
  3. Products do not need to be shipped. Takes away the issues of shipping, handling, octroi etc. The costs and the pain! Once deal happens, the buyer prints the voucher, and goes and picks up the product / service from the supplier directly.
  4. Everyone loves a deal. And deal is what everyone gets. For a simple reason that it’s a quantity purchase each time, and which assures a deal!

All of these reasons are from the point of view of the business model. Then coming to the actual implementation and execution, it looks good, mostly. The concept is not easy to explain. This is the clear make-or-break. I think Wanamo does a reasonably good job of getting the message across. Also the implementation has been kept quite simple and straightforward, and that can play a huge role in the ultimate success.

And now for some Wisdom Nuggets:

There are things that can hasten the path to success.

  1. The screen, as you can see from the home page snapshot above, is crowded. If the aim is to reach a highly mature Internet user, who can understand the various links and blocks all over the screen, then its fine. However, I suspect, to drive numbers, Wanamo will need to reach a slightly lower common multiple of the user base, and that user may just find the screen too busy.
  2. Speaking of screen design, it is a fine balance between temptation (to put everything there) and restraint (to put nothing but the very necessary items there). In the day and age of Facebook, Twitter, etc., there are the Facebook Fan boxes, Twitter widgets, besides the feedback link, the subscribe to newsletter link, etc. that seem like good things to have on the screen. Ultimately these will impact transactions. If its your blog, Sampad, you can get away with it. It is not a transaction engine. Where you want people to transact, to remove their wallet and put in the advance payments, there, you want nothing to distract and turn them away. Least of all, a crowded screen. So think about it.
  3. The one-deal on the home page may be a good way to start, and may also be what is logistically possible to be achieved. But with one deal a day, it will be very very tough to scale. Users have very low attention spans, and very low patience. And very little time. If I get a link of, and I reach the site. I see a deal. And that is all I see. And I am not interested in that one. Then, thats it. To get me to visit again, out of curiosity, is difficult. Unless there is a lot of money spent, and I keep seeing and reading Wanamo everywhere, there is a tough chance that I will go back on my own. Since I just have too many other things to do in life! Offering many deals across multiple products and categories is a way to interest more number of people.
  4. Finally, this is a great B2C e-commerce model. But the only way it will succeed, and succeed really really well, is if it gets scale. If there is even the slightest of satisfaction or relaxation perceived, with a few hundred participants or transactions, that is doomsday. One only needs to look at Ebay or Amazon, and see what kind of engines have been set up. In fact, Ebay should be the model to ape. And what is it about Ebay that should be aped? That you put up a great engine, keep investing in software and features, but then let vendors and customers go out there and help themselves. And you count the pennies that they keep leaving behind. And since these will be pennies that are left behind, you need a lot of transactions for these to count up to a lot of dollars. THAT is the only serious way to make this a business of massive proportion. If there is a large manual component in the transactions, or in pushing each vendor or customer, then I am afraid, it will grossly under-deliver to its potential. I mean, the founders will move from a small to a mid-size car or even a big car, but if they can set up their own VC fund in a few years or not, depends on whether Wanamo can look to be the Ebay of group buying-reverse auction, and churn out millions of transactions, or not!

All in all, a great business model. One of the best e-commerce plays that I have seen in recent days, and if all goes well, this is the one that we will hear a LOT about. Knowing what I do about at least one of the founders, Sampad, I know that he has huge determination and an excellent sense of the medium, and he  and his team just need to stay on track, and deliver this well. Wishing them the very best!!

GRAY SCALE RATING: 4.0 / 5.0 (only because its early days and it can go up, as we see good execution too!)

ADDENDUM: By coincidence, noticed this Tech Crunch article just the same day that I wrote this review of And it is quite disturbing. I await the founders’ clarification, since Abhishek had already commented here. Where lies the mystery? If Wanamo is a copy-paste copy of Groupon, then its bad. If there is a legitimate tie up, same needs to be mentioned clearly!!

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April 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 12 Comments – collaborative SaaS project tracking tool

Priyanka Dalal asked me to review their business at


Category: B2B -> SaaS -> Collaborative Poject Tracking

What is it? is an online, collaboration software to track a project between team members, potentially located anywere globally.

What more?

DeskAway is a very easy to get interface with simple, step by step instructions on what all it offers, and how it can be used. The features packed application can be  delight for any colloborative activity, which can be defined as a “project” form. Offered in a SaaS structure, the use of the application is easy on the pocket for users, and yet, it should earn DeskAway good money, for large scale adaption.

My Quick Two Cents:

My quick two cents are all positive! The site is done very well, with a lot of thought, and addresses a large scale requirement in terms of collaborative project work. I would believe that DeskAway wil get excellent response and is poised to be a winner.

More Wisdom Nuggets:

1. Like I have mentioned in 1 or 2 reviews earlier, my first nugget would simply be to keep up the good stuff. I think DeskAway has been built very well, and also positioned very well, so I would recommend strongly that it is kept that way, and the rewards will come.

2. I am not familiar with the competitive landscape for the business. So of course, from a feature comparison point of view, or pricing point of view, if there are any reasons for customers to consider other options, those need to be addressed by DeskAway.

3. My nuggets this time around, rather than for DeskAway, may be for other entrepreneurs, who could look at various specific elements of DeskAway and learn from the same:

a. The home page: is very focused. Drives home the key communication at the outset. In few quick bullets – not long, drawn paragraphs. As you scroll down, there are specific horizontal sections (although not separated by any kind of separators) each of which drive home one key point, that could be critical for customers to move ahead. The identification of the key points and then, the presentation in this manner, is very impressive.

b. The overall colors and fonts used on the site are very refreshing. Easy on the eye, soothing colors, yet eye catching, enough white space there, absolutely no problem in reading the content!

c. The individual links on the home page are again, simple, straightforward and exactly what prospects may look for. A tour of the product, FAQs, comparison with other options, pricing details… nothing left to the imagination. Quick and simple links to get you the information.

All in all, I have been very impressed with the website. I have not tried the product, but assuming the same diligent effort in the product as well (and do note this reaction – looking at a good clean site, I am giving them the benefit of doubt, without knowing, that the product will also be good; likewise if you have a great product, but the site is poorly done, a prospect may have already formed an opinion about the company, before he moves into the product area!), I have all the reasons to believe that DeskAway is going to be a brilliant success! I urge other entrepreneurs to make DeskAway a model to learn from!


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April 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 10 Comments