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Saturday, 31 December 2016

Where happiness hides…

“When did you decide to go from being a lawyer to a full-time writer?” I asked Gretchen Rubin. She wrote the #1 New York Times bestseller, “The Happiness Project.”

She worked for The Supreme Court. “I was surrounded by people who loved law. They were reading law on the weekends. They were talking about law at lunch time. They just loved, loved, loved law. And I knew that I didn’t.”

I felt pain in my legs.

That’s the feeling I had in my body the last time I was miserable at work. I couldn’t sit anymore. I got up mid-meeting, walked straight to the elevator and left.

“I think a lot of people want to leave what they’re doing, but they don’t know where to go,” Gretchen said.

A) How to find where to go

“I was looking up at the capitol dome,” Gretchen said, “And I thought, ‘What am I interested in that everybody in the world is interested in?’

That’s when she wrote her first book, “Power Money Fame Sex: A User’s Guide.”

Her first step was research. That’s also what she did for fun. “That’s a big tip-off,” she said. “What do you do for fun?”

I loved talking to prostitutes at HBO. But if I stayed I wouldn’t have my own podcast. I couldn’t talk to anyone I want. I was limited to prostitutes.

I didn’t know if it was OK to want a better life. I kept waiting for people to notice the signs. I wanted them to worry about me. And encourage me. “Do what you love James!”

But each situation is different. And advice doesn’t help. Advice is what other people would do if they were you. Not what they actually do as themselves.

We try guiding each other with good intentions… but it’s not the same as choosing yourself.

B) Be you

Gretchen has 12 commandments of happiness. And the first one is “Be Gretchen” so for me it’d be, ‘‘Be James.” But sometimes I feel really disconnected to myself.

Gretchen’s suggestions involve knowing a lot about yourself. So I asked her, “What if I don’t know anything about myself?”

“That is the great question of our lives. ‘What does it mean to be you? Who are you?’”

“It seems so easy because you hang out with yourself all day,” she said. “But it’s so easy to get distracted by who you feel you should be… or who you wish you were. Or who other people expect you to be.”

It’s almost like we outsource our personality to everybody around us.

But it’s OK to stop doing things that should make you feel good, but don’t.

“I had this weird experience recently,” Gretchen said. “I was at a cocktail party. And some woman, very nice person, was saying ‘Oh I love going skiing with the whole family. It’s a great vacation.’”

Gretchen said it seemed great. But skiing doesn’t appeal to her. At all. “I love the fact that my husband has a knee injury so I never feel like we have to go skiing.”

The woman tried convincing her. She said it’s a beautiful adventure, great for the whole family and everything else.

“Twenty minutes later she came back to me with this absolutely stricken expression on her face. And she said, ‘I just realized I don’t like skiing either…’”

Here’s an easy, two-step formula for being happier:

Step 1: Do less of what you don’t like doing

Make a list: 10 things you do but don’t like doing. (Unless you don’t like lists…)

Step 2: Do more of what you like doing

Come up with all the things you daydream about. What have you always wanted to try but never had time for?


Now you have time. And you’re you.

C) Use envy

Gretchen was looking through a magazine from her college. She read about the other lawyers. And felt mildly interested.

Then she saw people with writing jobs.

“I felt sick with envy,” she said.

Envy is painful, but it’s a very helpful emotion for a happy life. It’s a giant red arrow sign standing over someone’s head saying, ‘They’ve got something you want.’”

I’ve learned there are three types of self-help books. One is you’re telling people what to do. The other is scientists are telling people what to do and the third is you’re telling people what you did.

I’ve interviewed hundreds of people. I always ask how they knew what to do next.

And how they knew where to find joy…

But that’s the myth of happiness. It’s not knowable.

Friday, 30 December 2016

3 highlights about Shyam Sunder Bedekar’s Rs 2.5 sanitary pad and incinerator social enterprise

Rural innovations have something beautiful about them. Solutions made by innovators who are in sync with the surroundings and serving the need of the hour. Shyam Sunder Bedekar’s Sakhi pads and the low-cost incinerator make one such example that have been written about widely. YourStory also covered the story in November and it has been very well received by readers.

The story began when Swati Bedekar realised the issue of taboos around menstruation while working in an educational programme near Dahod in Gujarat. Discussing the issues with her husband, Shyam, the duo then came up with the idea of making low-cost sanitary pads. And after the success of these Sakhi pads, Shyam then went on to build a low-cost incinerator that could take care of the issue of disposal. As a part of our Slow Tech magazine, we decided to pay a visit to this innovator and find out more.

Here are some pictures from the visit and some of the key highlights from this innovation
Shyam Sunder Bedekar with the low-cost incinerator 
Is this a foolproof solution?

Menstrual hygiene management has been a topic of discussion in many circles and even the government has given a directive to provide free or subsidised sanitary napkins to schoolgirls across India. All this has led to the problem of disposal as well. This is what had led to the use of incinerators, and the innovation in question also promotes that school of thought that is a step nonetheless but on deeper inspection, it seems to fall apart. Although it is made of 85 percent wood, cellulose, and other biodegradable components, the remaining portion on burning release asphyxiant and irritant gases into the atmosphere.

The WHO recommends incinerating all health-related waste only at temperatures over 800 degrees, and decentralised incinerators with improper supervision might not help the situation. EcoFemme, another social enterprise, recommends reusable menstrual products as a sustainable solution. We found it prudent to highlight this side of the story before talking about more good things about Sakhi pads and the innovation.

The economics

The motive behind the initiative is clear - a sustainable enterprise that creates a visible social impact.

The duo started a unit in Dahod and employed a few local women who made the sanitary napkins. The aim was to make them cheap but without compromise on quality. And since the women were involved in the making, the taboo around napkins started fading away.

Initial setup cost was kept low by buying smaller machines and raw material that was available in Gujarat itself. The napkins were initially for Rs 2; now they sell it for Rs 2.5 of which Rs 1.5 is for raw material, and the woman who makes them gets 50 paise, while the women who markets get 50 paise as well. The tie-ups with schools and recognition from the government allowed them to reach a scale where the women were earning Rs 2,000-3,000 per month.

Design for scale

Electrical incinerators are expensive. Shyam thought if they didn’t find any solution for the disposal then their project would remain incomplete. First, they experimented with flower pots of terra cotta and moving on from there, they designed the whole thing. Shyam Bedekar believes, “The air pollution is there but it is equivalent to the pollution created by wooden stove (chulha) used by the women in village for one meal for her family and the benefits are way more than the loss. It won’t be cost efficient if filters were used.”

The demand has increased and the duo are getting orders from all over the country. Hence, the concrete incinerator was made. The design was kept the same but whereever it could break, steel rods were laid (reinforced concrete). Hence they were transported without any damage most of the time.

A few people have taken interest and Shyam is open to collaborate with groups who want to set up sister organisations under the Sakhi umbrella. There is a lot of hope in this innovator’s story but the key is not to get carried away and see how we can cover as many angles as possible. The question is to ponder over a step further and investigate an alternative to incinerators or can there be a better way of disposing? A push towards reusable pads and awareness about possibilities like menstrual cups seem like the way forward.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Freedom and Process culture – are they at crossroads?

The attractiveness of startups as a career option continues to be strong for fresh graduates and experienced professionals too. In the many conversations I have had with startup job aspirants, the common thread that binds them is their aversion to large, rumbling, bureaucratic organisation structures that corporations have come to signify. Individually, their stated motivations to join a startup range from : You can have impact with what you do
Learn a lot, and learn it quickly
Merit/talent counts most
Will be close to the decision making
You work with your peers, not with different generations

All of the above enable startups to be agile competitors and disruptive market movers. They create a positive culture, harnessing the energies of the team and enabling success.

Freedom – the double-edged sword

A deeper enquiry reveals a buried driver that forms the bedrock of all the above motivations – freedom. A startup signifies freedom to most job aspirants and, I think, the above list actually is
Freedom, which enhances your impact
Freedom to learn as you go
Freedom to apply your talents
Freedom to approach all
Freedom to work in your way

So, how does the founder/leadership leverage this deep desire of talent, productively, with a win-win for all. How do we fulfill this drive for freedom and yet scale operations, meet business goals, collaborate and draw on synergies from all around to build a winning company?
Freedom in the corporate context

The dictionary defines 'freedom' as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.” Freedom is good – people flourish with it. Does that mean the company will flourish too? Not necessarily, because if freedom creates chaos and confusion it's probably not good for the company. Take the example of road traffic in India – everyone exercises their freedom while driving and we have traffic snarls all the way. If we followed traffic rules more stringently, our roads will have definitely have a smoother flow of traffic. On the road, freedom is not good – following rules, i.e., the process is best.

So let's get back to the workplace. At the workplace, if each team member understands 'freedom' to be “do what I want, when I want”, the company is not likely to grow far. On the other hand, if the team understands, freedom to be “free of mundane, repetitive, tasks” the answer emerges –that processes give you more freedom. Yes 'Process', seen to be an antithesis of 'Freedom' is actually what gives you more freedom. A strong process culture means more time for thinking/improvements and less time on repetitive tasks.

Each job, even at the CEO level, has elements that are administrative, repetitive, transaction based – right for process management. If the time spent on these activities is reduced, we generate bandwidth to invest on other impact areas. The quality of your work will improve, the company will also benefit.
Call to action

So freedom and process – are they contradictory? On the face of it – yes. Dig a little deeper and you will see that they can be complementary - processes give you more freedom. If the talent we on-board into our company see freedom and process as supporting acts, the journey to scaling up and growing is sorted.

In your company, bring alive freedom, as the opportunity to do meaningful work, create impact, and have a free rein to contribute. And processes as means to release time to invest in these efforts. Help team members understand this dependency of freedom and process culture right from day 1 – with posters, stories, induction, practices. Don't miss any opportunity to underline this complementary relationship in your everyday interactions too.

Weave into your philosophy and culture the theme that processes multiply our ability to exercise freedom

Reward behaviours that create organisational bandwidth by process deployment
Individual goal sheets to include 'X hours of new bandwidth created by process deployment'.

Startups stumble when there is too much freedom. Bright talent values freedom. Take your startup to its full potential, create a freedom-centred process culture. Use processes, gain freedom to invest time and energies on contributing more, learning more.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

How one airport trip caused this 22-year-old college dropout to build a business with 6 million unique signins

22-year-old Ashrith Govind wasn’t just any regular child on the block.

Curious about technology, he got his first computer in the fifth grade, and seemed to be quite kicked about the dialup connection.

Soon, this fascination transcended to shuffling through tutorial videos on YouTube, and by high school, Ashrith had already built his first invention, a low-cost power bank.

Founders of WiLoop (L to R): Shirish Narsepalli and Ashrith Govind
And it didn’t stop there, the thirst to invent something new continued to thrive within him. This led him to kick start his first initiative – a hacker forum hosted on his own web server from home. Called HackerSource, the forum, over a period of three years, transformed into a community of 6,000 active users and 300 moderators.

An innovation spree

But the hacker forum couldn’t maintain much of Ashrith’s attention for long, as he went on to build an automated bar in the ninth grade, designing its complete software, with the hardware provided by a German company. This snowballed into other inventions around punching attendance during college and designing a couple of utility apps.

Having a family in the hospitality segment caused him to look into that segment closely.

After Pre-University, it was time to get serious, and Ashrith was looking to start something more real. It was during this time, in 2014, that he met his cousin’s flatmate, Shirish Narsepalli (24), who was experimenting, looking to start something in the home automation segment.

But what changed things was a trip to the airport. Travelling to the international airport in Bengaluru, both Shirish and Ashrith saw how seamless it was to connect to the WiFi there.

The simplicity and scalability of the idea struck them as interesting, and led them to the notion of bringing this solution to retail outlets. Thereafter, Ashrith dropped out of college and started building the solution.

Looping in through WiFi

The development of the idea started two and a half years ago. To get more perspective and feedback, the duo started making sale pitches to lounges, accelerating the process.

Their product, WiLoop, was finally taking shape, and Ashrith’s uncle’s pub, Beer Republik in Bengaluru, became the perfect testing ground for the product.

So, how does WiLoop work?

The food and beverage lounges, such as bars and restaurants, plug in the device to their WiFi devices, which beams out the WiFi. While the hardware of the device is outsourced, the software is proprietary. This is rented to the outlet by the firm, while charging a setup cost of Rs 4,000 for every action point involved.

Through the plugging, a layer of service is dumped over the access points of these WiFi devices. This essentially is the login page where the customer has to input his or her details for logging into the free network.

After registration, the customer is mandated to watch a 30-second advertisement, which is just one of the revenue making streams for the startup.

However, the customer is automatically logged in the second time they come near the WiFi enabled zone.

What’s in it for the outlets? 

For the outlets, what they get is a bird’s eye view of the demographic data of their customers. The dashboard stores data of new and repeat customers, and throws up age demographics and preferences, helping lounges know their customers better.

Not only does this reflect on their business insights, but it also helps these outlets target their audiences better for marketing.

At present, the startup claims to have tied up with some top food and beverage outlets in the country, including the likes of Harry Singapore and Arbor Brewing Company in Bengaluru, and Social and Smoke House Deli across cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai and, very recently, Delhi.

WiLoop currently has 120 clients, with their solution live across 280 outlets in the country. The venture, incorporated in April 2015, has already completed six million user logins, with 800,000 unique users until now.

According to Ashrith, he assesses the business by the impact. He says that, on an average, every hour, 200 GB of free data is consumed by customers over their solution layer. If we take 1 GB of data as worth Rs 200 through a telecom operator, the firm saves its overall customer base Rs 40,000 on an hourly basis.

Shirish and Ashrith with the WiLoop team

Minting money

WiLoop at present works on a SaaS-based business model, where they charge businesses on a subscription basis.

Starting from Rs 999, the subscriptions go all the way to Rs 2,500 per month, based on the number of footfalls the outlet sees during that time. The higher plan also has options for targeted marketing, including more features like better filtering.

The firm bills these customers on a quarterly basis.

The second business model for the firm is the 30 second advertisement space, which is shared between WiLoop and the other businesses. This means that the lounges can use the space allotted to them when required for marketing a certain event or gig.

The company also has other advertising spots on the registration page for advertising campaigns. The firm can charge third parties more than a lakh for running advertisements. However, according to Ashrith, the pricing for third party advertisements remains dynamic in nature.

The team of 12 also claims to be earning monthly revenues upward of Rs 4 lakh every month, and has received a funding of $60,000 as a part of their angel round. They hope to be cash positive between February and March next year.

Moreover, the bigger aim for the founders is to make WiLoop an app-based loyalty programme where, based on a certain customer’s visiting patterns, he or she might get loyalty points to disburse for services at the outlet. The firm plans to roll this out by the end of the second quarter next year.

Next year, WiLoop is also looking to enter the retail store segment, and plans to partner with 3,000-5,000 outlets by the end of 2017. It is also aiming at touching 8-10 million unique logins while piloting with the government to bring public entities like bus stops under coverage.
What’s the issue?

In a recent report by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB International, the total number of mobile internet users in India was expected to grow by over 55 percent to 371 million by June this year.

Although promising, when mapped against other developing markets, which seem to be reaching saturation, India still seems to have a long way to go. Moreover, it is said that at present, a little over 36 percent of the Indian population might be under the internet network, still leaving a sizeable portion of the population devoid of access to the web.

Hence, the responsibility is indeed on the private players, and not just on the telecommunication networks, to work on technologies to increase this penetration, fostering the next wave of growth for internet users in the country.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

On plastic and a prayer, travellers sticking to New Year’s plans despite demonetisation

The demonetization move threw a spanner in the works for year-end travelers. But armed with hope and the weapons of the cashless economy, many are going ahead with their New Year plans.

This New Year’s, the festive spirit seems to have been dampened by the demonetization move, with many cash-centric tourist destinations losing a bit of their sheen for travellers.

Those who had been looking forward to trips to their favorite destinations have either had to shelve their plans or stock up on cash and prepare themselves to forgo the small pleasures of exploring the local surroundings and getting those little keepsakes to return home with.

Ashok Kumar, a techie travelling to Goa to celebrate the New Year, says, “After a little indecision, my wife and I decided to go ahead with our trip as planned. High value notes ceasing to be legal tender has thrown things off a bit, though. We’re stocking up on cash, and I fear we will have to give our favourite dhabas en route a miss.”

There is no doubt that demonetization has discouraged and hassled several people looking to travel for the New Year; however, it appears that most are still going ahead, albeit armed with cards, mobile wallets, bundles of cash, and a whole lot of hope.

A highly planned affair

Sandeep Sahadevan says that his group, comprising four couples and six children, has made advance NEFT payments to hotels which include breakfast in their charges. “We checked with many hotels in Thekkady, Kerala, on whether they accept cards and negotiated a cost that includes a set number of mineral water bottles, lunch, and dinner too, as we are not sure about whether we can explore the local outdoors with cash in such short supply. As we are driving down with kids, we also did research on petrol pumps and food joints that accept cards. We are away for three days, and we have scheduled our pit stops at plastic-friendly locations,” he says.

Sandeep and his gang are setting aside Rs 10,000 in cash to take care of unforeseen emergencies like accidents and tire punctures. With a 1,000 km trip usually entailing about Rs 1,400 in toll, he is hopeful that toll plazas will accept cards.

Accepting the new norm

Dilip Chengappa from Kabbe Holidays, a remote homestay in Coorg, says that in the initial weeks after demonetisation, business was hit, with several cancellations. However, between December 23 and 31, the homestay is at full capacity. “People are getting used to the new cashless system. I have also installed a point of sale (PoS) machine with a 2G connection. It’s a bit slow, but serves the purpose.”

The local cash-centric economy of Virajpet, where he is located, was initially hit, but now, Dilip says that people are busy installing PoS machines. According to him, it’s only those who want to remain outside the system that continue to have cash transactions.

Bengaluru-based Rakshita Tours and Travels has had to change the way they accept payments from customers. “The first thing that most people ask now is whether we accept cards. The conversation starts from there. Only then do they ask for the type of vehicle and tell us their destination,” says Srikanth MK, owner of the travel agency. While they did see a drop in business in the immediate aftermath of high denomination notes being taken out of circulation, things are starting to pick up with the approach of the end of the year. What was primarily a cash business now has PoS machines in the office and accepts NEFT transfers and cheques as well.

Still merry times for startups

Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO of OYO Rooms, says that while demand was initially hit post demonetisation, especially at more popular destinations, things have bounced back. “While there was a negative impact in the second week of November, year-end travel demand is not so elastic; people like to go out on a holiday during this period, even if for a weekend. Hence, we expect it to peak closer to the New Year,” says Ritesh.

“Demonetisation has resulted in flat airfares and hotel tariffs in this traditionally peak-travel season – so, this is great news for smart travellers,” he adds.

Hotel and homestay aggregator Stayzilla seems to be ringing in the holiday cheer. A spokesman for the company says, "We have been encouraging online payments since the beginning of this year as it is a secure and more convenient means of transferring money. For a company like ours, which provides homestays for travellers, we are aware that carrying large amounts of cash and finding ATMs could be a huge inconvenience and hamper the travel experience. Hence, the demonetisation initiative has been good for us. Our online prepaid booking for this Christmas season has gone up fivefold compared to last year.”

Meanwhile, Bengaluru-based redBus, an online bus and hotel booking platform, is reaping the rewards of its integration with mobile wallets earlier this year. A source in the company says, "Recent developments have actually benefited us. With several of our competitors relying on transactions in cash, our facilitation of digital payments has seen a boost in bookings over the past month."
The fun is still on

“I had planned a New Year’s outing with friends and saved for it. We are going ahead despite the tough times as we had planned three months in advance,” says Karthika Raju. She and her friends are off to Puducherry by bus and return by train. She is not unduly worried as Puducherry has a relatively high density of PoS terminals. She claims to have got this information on the town from the internet and jokes that she heard from friends in Chennai that even wine stores there accept cards.

N Chandana is looking forward to her trip to the Western Ghats, and says, “The year has been filled with a lot of hard work, and I’ve been looking forward to this break for a while. The cash scene is not encouraging, but my friends and I are not going to let it deter us. Some things will have to be given a pass, like the fruits and vegetables sold by villagers along the way, and ellneer (coconut water), of course. That’s a shame, but we just can’t afford to part with cash cheaply.”

The cash crunch may give the holidays a slightly gloomy look, but the party is far from over!

Monday, 26 December 2016

Touch, shake, drag, swirl ads –MCanvas bids adieu to banner ads with this new wave in mobile advertising

Reports surfacing in late 2014 suggested that banner view ability on mobile was under 27 percent. Out of those, 86 percent are simply ignored, because the user’s brains tune them out. Another report suggested that over 60 percent of the clicks on mobile banners are accidental. Imagine the wasted resources behind that! Now, when you put your marketer’s cap on, you will realize that the banner does not even give you enough real estate or creative flexibility to tell your brand story. Plus, you’re putting your brand’s burgeoning message in a box that is not only criminal to your cause, but also something that consumers detest so much that they’re installing ad blockers. It was thus time to bring a paradigm shift in the mobile ad space, decided “Madmen” Lavin Punjabi, Vishal Rupani, and Nikunj Soni.

Lavin and Vishal, and Nikunj, all in their thirties, were coworkers and buddies at Directi’s Skenzo. And when Lavin left Directi to setup Affinity as an advertising network in 2006, Vishal and Nikunj didn’t hesitate to trust his vision, and got on board, and are now part of the leadership team at Affinity. The three have thus been working together for over eight years, dealing with the daily ups and downs of the adtech business, and have established a Domain Parking network, PPC Network and a Display network.

In 2014, they studied the alarming statistics about the engagement of banner ads, and put their heads together once again to address the mobile ad monetisation problem for their publisher clients. Upon reviewing the state of the industry, they learnt that the biggest source of revenue was banners, but our senses and sensibilities have been numbed to these intrusive presences.

“That was our cue. We wanted to make mobile ads the way millennials would like them. Let’s create ‘storytelling ads for millennials,’” says Lavin. That’s how we began our journey. And when they decided to fill this gap in the mobile advertising space, their investors were kind enough to infuse more capital to fund this idea, saving them a lot of time in getting it up and running under the umbrella of Affinity.

A more vibrant canvas

Coining the name MCanvas for this brand new entity, the platform empowers brands to tell more effective stories. Creating ads on the form of non-intrusive “fun-sized” pop-ups, these race onto your screen, prompt you to tap them, and hold instructions that can be carried out through mobile sensors (motion, touch, location, compass, etc.) and features (haptic, camera, microphone, calendar, etc.).

For example, for one of India's leading jewellery brands, their in-house creative studio created an augmented reality ad. Users were encouraged to take a selfie and drag and drop various nose pins on the selfie to understand how they would each look. One could even share the selfie on social media to get their friend's opinions. “Compare all of this with a static traditional banner that the brand would otherwise use and users would ignore or accidentally click on,” Lavin notes.

Now creating the ads is one thing, but where will these ads show up? For that, Mcavas partnered up with the largest names in content publishing in the country - The Times group, The Hindu, India Today, specialty websites like SanjeevKapoor, MomJunction, StyleCrazeand a few others. Mcanvas pays the publishers a revenue share of what the advertisers pay them.

“Now technically, that would make us a network. We used this business model to start and prove that the business adds value to the ecosystem. In the next six months, we aim to become an open exchange (for rich storytelling ads), facilitating transactions between advertisers and publishers with complete transparency on pricing,” says Lavin, clarifying.
Paradigm shifts all the way

Advertisers typically pay in CPM - Cost Per 1,000 impressions, or CPC - Cost Per Click. But, Lavin feels that these models are flawed. “Paying on CPM means that 73 percent of your budget is paid for banners, which are not viewable. Paying on CPC means that 60 percent of your budget is wasted on accidental clicks. To solve this problem, we created a new metric called Cost Per Engagement, where the advertiser only pays when we engage a user on mobile for over three seconds,” he explains.

They started out officially in October 2014 by building all the relevant pieces of tech – until they grappled with a crucial decision: building for mobile web or mobile apps. At that time mobile app was huge and most ad budgets were allocated to mobile app. “We knew that the best environment for our storytelling ads was on article pages. But, most article pages were on mobile web. We decided to put our bets on mobile web and built our tech around that,” he says.

In the first month, they ran dummy campaigns for brands and paid the publisher partners out of their own funds. The first few campaigns set the foundation and answered the fundamental question about its engagement power - for engage, they did! 57x higher than standard mobile banner ads, claims Lavin.

Impressions and engagaments

They now sold their concept to a few brands and agencies, shipped a 'quick and dirty’ piece of code to publish a pilot with the content partners by January 2015.

By February 2015, they got their first paid campaign. There on out, it’s been a constant improvement cycle on the product - from targeting, cross device compatibility, sensor integrations into creatives, responsive ads, UX. “Big data analytics kept feeding us answers to what consumers wanted,” he explains.

“It’s an enormous task to get a Rs 1,500-crore market to take note that one of the biggest spends has some holes in it. But we’re fortunate that we have been able to speak to decision makers at various brands and sway their opinions,” he explains.

A milestone in their journey was getting telecom major Idea on board, just a year after they started. They came up with the idea of incorporating a live slot game into the ad, allowing users to win and share data packages. The campaign delivered stunning results and also helped the brand win an award.

Up and up

They now reach out to over 60 million connected, mobile content-consuming Indians. And from selling one lakh engagements in the first quarter, they are now in their eighth quarter selling over a 10 lakh. Consumers have rated their ads 4/5 on an average, and have been spending between 10 to 30 seconds on them.

By the end of this year, they will have clocked Rs 5 crore in total sales revenue.

The market size in India is Rs 1500 crore, and is expected to grow to Rs 9,500 crore by 2020. They are benchmarking themselves against international names like Celtra, Kargo and Opera MediaWorks.

Plans to scale up include enabling the programmatic buying and selling of this inventory via their own marketplace. And on the supply side, the team intends to give the publishers access to a marketplace, which allows them to control pricing and the ads that show up on their sites.

Apart from that, they have signed a partnership with IAS media in Dubai, which will take their business to the GCC market.

Friday, 23 December 2016

This former railway clerk has rescued over 120 underprivileged children who beg and steal on platforms

It doesn’t take a blood-tie to become a father. Sometimes, the primal instinct to protect, nurture, and care for others is all it takes to receive the same kind of revered adoration reserved for a paternal figure. Such was the case with Nellore’s Sarath Babu. His stint as a former railway clerk gave him his life’s purpose – to become a ‘father’ to over 120 underprivileged children. These ill-fated little ones had resorted to either begging for alms on the platform or skilfully picking the pockets of the everyday train-goers with an almost military finesse.

Sarath Babu had observed the abject misery and helplessness that made these children embrace such decadence. Some of them hadn’t even hit the double digits yet. Overcome by a need to help improve their situation, even by a little, he began providing them with food. Some hadn’t eaten in days. With the long-term in mind, he approached the elders of the Gollapallem village of the Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh. Requesting them for a spare piece of land with the intent of rehabilitating these children, he managed to procure the same on a temporary basis, thus enabling him to go ahead with his plan. His first step was to build a makeshift shelter, which he did by borrowing available materials and support to create a 30 x 15 feet hut.

The second, and much harder, step was to actually carry out the process of rehabilitating these children. Since most of them were victims of a fate created by the world of adults, they harboured a distinct distrust of the entire operation. Some ruled by old habits pick-pocketed Sarath Babu himself, while the more aggressive ones once even tied the man to his sleeping cot and ran away.

But as a man who spent many years professing the faith of the legendary Sai Baba, Sarath Babu refused to be daunted by these unfortunate incidents and never lost his faith or temper with the children. Instead, his patience and dedication won them over and soon enough, they were complying with his wishes. At the same time, the village elders were noting Sarath Babu’s breakthrough with the children and the single-lined dedication with which he was pursuing his dream – to give these children the chance at a better future. The village thus donated four and a half acres of land to develop a school and living space for the children, which came to be known as the ‘CHILD ashram’.

Today, this ashram is a haven for over 120 underprivileged children, all of whom look at Sarath Babu as their ‘Daddy’. Refusing to call this shelter an orphanage, Sarath Babu prefers to view it as a developmental home for children in need and considers himself as a mere ‘enabler’. The home works itself as a school in some ways, where all the children are encouraged to reach maximum levels of self-sufficiency.

Each child is put into a group and each group has a different function in the ashram. For instance, while one takes care of cleaning, the other takes control of bringing food from the market for another group that is in charge of cooking. At the same time, there are also groups of children who are given the task of teaching other children as well. Their education is a priority for Sarath Babu and today, several of his students have reached the far ends of the academic world as doctors, scientists, and engineers.

One of the children, who, following his father’s suicide and his mother’s helpless depression took to petty thefts for survival, went on to pursue his M.Sc. in organic chemistry under Sarath Babu’s care, which he passed with distinction. Today, he is now working as a junior scientist at the National Institute of Technology, Suratkal, Mangalore. Another, who fell into the throes of bad company, has not only completed a polytechnic course in civil engineering, but is serving as a work inspector in the Panchayat Raj Department. Another, who used to beg on the railway platforms dressed in nothing but ragged underwear, today serves as a sub-inspector in the Andhra Pradesh Police Department.

Sarath Babu always encourages his children to go out into the far reaches of the world and make something good and honourable of themselves. His dream is that someday, they will help others like he helped them, and turn their lives around for the better.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

From earning Rs 4 per month to owning 22 restaurants across the world; the success story of Suresh Poojari

It was in the early 1950s that a 10-year old hailing from Padukone, a village in Udupi district, Karnataka, arrived in Mumbai (then known as Bombay), aspiring to make it big in the city of dreams. Starting off as a casual helper at a small eatery near a temple is South Mumbai for Rs 4 per month, he later moved to the Bombay Port Trust canteen, where he earned Rs 6.

Soon enough, he went on to open up his own food joint, where he sold fruit juice and the famous Pav Bhaaji. He started it off on a small cart in the Chowpatty area, and with a distant relative assisting him financially, he opened up a second joint on Lamington road, which was a hub for electronics in Mumbai. Serving sandwiches, idlis and fried rice, he affectionately named it ‘Sukh Sagar’. This venture became very successful in the city, and after a lot of struggles and success, Sukh Sagar now has 22 joints in total, with eight in Mumbai, seven in Bengaluru, one each in Mysore, Chennai and Saudi Arabia, and two each in Dubai and Qatar. There are still a lot of prospective joints about to be opened up, making Sukh Sagar a magnificently successful franchise.

This is the story of Suresh Poojari, 76, a successful man who has gone from rags to riches.

Starting out with a small wooden cart and going on to shaking hands with Amitabh Bachchan, Suresh has seen it all. Ex-Defense Minister George Fernandes, who often visited Sukh Sagar in the early days, made it a point to visit Suresh's joint even after he emerged as a figure of importance in national politics.

There was even a time when the food from his cart would find its way to being served at star hotels. In an interview with Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) three years ago, the humble Suresh said, "This was my real learning ground - understanding people as customers, their tastes and affordability. I worked hard for nearly 18 hours, attended night school up to Class IX, but could not complete my SSC. I loved reading, and compensated by becoming a voracious reader. Now, I have a personal collection of over 1,000 books, each of which I have bought and read thoroughly."

Sukh Sagar also provides education and food to underprivileged children through their Corporate Social Responsibility. Providing employment to over 1,000 people, Suresh now owns 22 eateries, a shopping mall, an ice-cream factory and a three star hotel in Bengaluru.

He was married to Santoshi in 1976, and has three sons who look after various operations in India and in Sukh Sagar's international ventures. Despite his fortune, Suresh continues to be humble and down-to-earth, giving back to his native village Padukone by assisting the children there in terms of education. He even decided to have a free community hall and takes care of his staff's entire medical bills, apart from being generous with them on paid leaves.

Having learnt the struggle himself the hard way, Suresh now offers loans to his employees who are in need and even encourages them to start up their own businesses. Being a true selfless entrepreneur, Suresh is an icon of simplicity and humbleness, certainly an inspiring personality to look up to.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Curofy storyline — highlighting entrepreneurial lessons of 2016

The name Curofy has become synonymous with the healthtech boom in India. Founded in 2014 by three engineering graduates from IIT Delhi, Pawan Gupta, Mudit Vijayvergiya and Nipun Goyal, Curofy is a medical networking app that enables communication between doctors.

Learnings from 2016:

Nipun Goyal, co-founder, Curofy, told YourStory, “2016 has been a great learning curve for us. With the industry on the verge of a digital makeover, acting fast and making our product ready for the wave has been an outcome of our learnings in 2016. Doing fast iterations has been the key to moving rapidly as a product company, and we have significantly accelerated a typically slow-moving healthcare industry’s pace to adopt digital as a mode of communication to connect with relevant stakeholders. Pharmaceutical and devices companies have started allocating good chunks of their marketing budgets to digital.”

He further added, “We also realised that both engagement and monetisation have to go hand in hand, one driving the other; else, it might be an opportunity lost. However, 2016’s biggest learning has been our understanding of the industry. We have always believed that offline behaviour needs to be replicated online for sustainability. And with the industry still taking baby steps, the onus was on us to spread the word and to understand the aspects of the healthcare industry that can go digital.

Nipun hopes to further understand their capabilities and make the necessary product iterations accordingly, and 2017 will be another learning curve for the company. The lessons of 2016 will play a great role as they embark on their 2017 journey. And with the government’s push towards taking India digital, they are game for any challenge that lies ahead.

Key milestones till 2016:

Reached a user base of 2,00,000 verified doctors
Reached a user generated case repository of more than 80,000 cases
With 300 cases being posted every day, we are the most engaged platform for doctors
Started monetising and have a pipeline of more than Rs 2.5 crore worth of projects today, including one worth a significant Rs 55 lakh. Roped in more than 30 big clients, including Abbott, GSK, Boston Scientific, Boehringer Ingelheim, Dr Reddy's, MSF ,and Cipla.

Among the top seven Indian startups selected for 3rd Google Accelerator Programme in Silicon Valley (only Indian healthcare startup).

Featured among the five best Android apps for doctors by Times of India.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Hybrid technology: 3 engineering PhDs and a finance guy go Altigreen

Mahadevpura, a suburb of Bengaluru, is an extension of the traffic congested Whitefield area. While primarily known for its malls and IT parks, it is also an industrial area where commuters have to face gravel roads. It is in one of the corners of a bylane here that a hybrid technology startup called Altigreen Propulsion Labs resides. Like the name suggests, this is not a company filled with pseudo-green activists who go out on the road and ask the world to go green in the day while drinking several bottles of beer and making snide remarks on capitalism at the pub by night.

That being said, Altigreen does make the world greener, retrofitting conventional fuel-guzzling cars with hybrid technology, saving both the environment and money for the driver in the form of fuel costs.

The company has over 37 engineers calibrating their software box to make the batteries assist the drive train, which transfers power to the wheels of the car, and reduce the fuel consumed by the engine to propel the drive train. Remember that these are additional batteries installed in the boot of the car, and Altigreen’s systems do not tamper with the engine or the existing battery, factory-fitted in the bonnet, at all. At their facility, they are testing a sub-one ton truck and cars of several makes on their speed rollers, to check their ability to perform on retrofitted hybrid platforms.

Altigreen’s core team consists of people who have expertise in finance, controls engineering, aerospace, and software. It’s a deadly combination indeed.

“We are using our skills to solve a business opportunity. We are building cost-effective hybrid systems to assist fuel-based powertrains. This is the future of automotive technology in developing regions,” says Amitabh Saran, Founder of Altigreen.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Delhi tops the list of most polluted cities. The WHO continues to add that India is in the group of countries that has the highest particulate matter (PM) levels. Its cities have the highest levels of PM10 and PM2.5 (particles with a diameter of 10 microns and 2.5 microns). At the level of more than 150 micrograms, Delhi has the highest level of airborne particulate matter PM2.5, considered most harmful. These figures are six times more than the WHO “safe” limit of 25 micrograms. Uncontrolled vehicular traffic seems to be the primary reason.

The Altigreen team

A made in India story

Post his PhD, Amitabh had stints in NASA and HP. He also started two startups in the technical and online fields, and successfully exited both. Shalendra Gupta, the CFO and co-founder, has worked with engineering companies and capital markets for the last 25 years. Dr Lasse Moklegaard has a PhD in control engineering and is an expert in hybrid systems, and Dr John Bangura has a PhD in electrical engineer and has worked in large corporates in the aerospace industry. Both of them were working in the US when Amitabh invited them to join the company in 2013.

Amitabh stumbled upon the idea of building a hybrid for India in Gurgaon, at a golf course.

“I was unhappy that the only hybrid launched in India, in 2011, was an expensive Japanese make. But I then realised that these systems could be built by us,” he says.

Amitabh discussed the idea with Lasse, who was more than happy to build a platform for the Indian market. Next, Shalendra, who was an old friend of Amitabh’s, jumped in. Lasse then convinced Bangura to be a part of the startup, post which the two of them moved full time to India.

Amitabh moved the company’s base to Bengaluru because it had the best battery technology and engineering talent. “I studied various clusters across the country before placing my bet on Bengaluru,” says Amitabh.

Market size

Amitabh and team have caught on to a global trend, one that has not caught up in countries like India, or even in Asia. The world over, hybrids are becoming popular. Most hybrid cars in India are unaffordable, priced over $40,000. These expensive cars also have a battery that needs to be charged constantly.

According to PwC, sales of electric, plug-ins and hybrids will grow 433 percent to 2.2 million units by 2021 in Europe alone. This, the consulting and advisory firm says, is driven by a number of factors, including regulatory pressure. PwC adds that alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) — including hybrids and pure electric — are gaining consumer acceptance in the European Union (EU), even in the face of decreased fuel prices.

Future Market Insights, a research and consulting firm, says that a hybrid vehicle uses two or more distinct power sources to produce motion. For example, distinct power sources can be a combination of diesel and electricity, fuel cell and diesel, or gasoline and electricity. The usage of the battery reduces emissions and improves utilisation of fuel.

The patented motor that does the trick to save fuel

The business model

Altigreen’s business model is to retrofit the software and the hybrid system into fleet vehicles. There are over three million fleet vehicles in India (sub-one ton trucks and taxis), and if you include passenger cars, there are over 10 million vehicles that are less than five years old. Altigreen charges Rs 60,000 to retrofit a vehicle. But in this, there is a government subsidy of 15 percent. “We are going after the B2B market and are creating a roadmap to also offer B2C services in two years,” says Amitabh.

The company has filed several patents. The USPTA has already approved one patent for the motor. This brings exclusivity to the company and the IP becomes valuable in case the company will be valued by automobile or technology companies,

“Going after the right market segment is very important for such a company,” says Naganand Doraswamy, Founder of IdeaSpring Capital.

According to ReportsNReports, a total of 549,000 electric vehicles were sold across the world last year. However, the total number of hybrids that sold last year was around 2.2 million vehicles.

Altigreen works with five corporates and has several fleet cars piloting on their hybrid platform. The company has plans to set up a factory to assemble their hybrid systems onto cars when their business scales up. The capacity of the plant is to be 20,000 units per month. Altigreen’s founding team has raised a total of Rs 20 crore from Jupiter Capital and Chetan Maini, the founder of Reva.

It has been a hard four years for the team as Altigreen is constantly in R&D. It is only now that they are going commercial.

More importantly, it is not one of those CNG systems built by a small-time mechanic, which connects to the car engine and destroys the driving experience. These are serious engineers building a system that works for car owners to bring down the usage of fuel. The average fleet car travels 150 km a day, which means that the driver spends close to Rs 600 per day and around Rs 20,000 per month. The hybrid saves at least Rs 5,000 on this total monthly cost. Altigreen guarantees their product for three years.

Other Indian companies in the space spending on R&D and yet to launch a product are Ather Energy, Tork and Ulraviolette. However, Altigreen sets itself apart because the plugin hybrid works best, not requiring the customer to buy a new car or bike. Just fix the product with the system and save on fuel. Keep in mind that the system does not touch the engine or the engine management system of the car; it is a separate system that will assist the vehicle.