Word of Caution: Questions to Ask Before Joining an eCommerce Startup in India


A word of caution for job seekers in India. I do get messages from time to time in LinkedIn – with people asking for advice. Should I join this startup? Should I take this offer? Will this eCommerce startup survive? Is this Daily Deals company worth joining and so on. I try answering all – in fact, always make it a point to reply to each and every message that I receive.

This blog post is NOT against eCommerce portals in India, or, written against any one specific portal, or against the eCommerce Industry in India. Its a simple post – a few words of advice for job seekers seeking or thinking of taking a position with an eCommerce company in India.

e-commerce_e-bankrupt_261125If you’re currently actively seeking opportunity, or currently interviewing with an eCommerce company, then first of all – best of luck. Having said that – what I can advise is – if you have been selected for the position – and the company makes an excellent offer with a huge salary / perks / bonus / vested-stock options etc. make sure to ask these questions and understand what they all mean -

  1. What are your current markets?
  2. How good have you penetrated them?
  3. What are your current expansion plans?
  4. What are your *near future* expansion plans?
  5. What are your *far distant* expansion plans?
  6. How good is your SCM systems?
  7. Are your monthly order cancellations/returns – better/worse than industry average?
  8. Which VCs/Angel Investors/PE players have backed you?
  9. How would you define your core offering/business in 1 line in less than 5 words?
  10. What’s my future in this company, say, in 1 year?
  11. What’s your exit strategy – acquisition / IPO?
  12. My ESOPs – could I get a yearly performance bonus instead?
  13. How passionate are you (if its the Founder/CEO you’re talking to) about the core offering?
  14. If the core offering doesn’t work out, are you ready to stick to the plan, re-work on a new strategy, and reposition yourself in the market?

These are extremely important questions to ask.
Don’t just jump ship from your current company – to these so-called *super-star* eCommerce portals without proper research.

ONE VERY IMPORTANT WORD OF CAUTION: Its a common trick used by HR managers/executives – from Recruitment firms – when they call you for the first time – they mostly start by saying – “Hey, I’m calling from XYZ. We’ve an excellent opportunity with WXY, which is backed by A, B, C and received around $50 million funding recently……. blah blah blah”. This is what I call the “funding-trap”. These $$$ mean shit – since if they are pledged – like Jabong.com has $300 million pledged for a forth-coming few years, it means, its a bit safe, since till the company runs out of this money, your salary would at least come. On the other hand, if its not pledged, and just part of an initial funding, then if the company fails to live up to its initial hype or expectations, the VCs will force an exit. So make sure you delve deep and ask as many questions as you can ask.

Out of the 200 or so eCommerce startups founded in India in 2012 – 100 so far have gone bust. Most of them finished (read burnt callously here) the amount of capital (funding) received from the VCs, a few decided to close down and not play the ‘last man standing’ game, whilst others were forced by VCs/Angel Investors to ‘get acquired’ and merge with a category leader (of some respect) which has a higher chance of survival in the near future. 2013 will be the year, wherein, 80% of the currently standing eCommerce companies would be wiped outBoys separated from the Men. Was always predicted since end of 2012, now, confirmed by the report from investment bank Allegro Capital (the report can be accessed here).

52 eCommerce companies have raised around $700 million in VC funding in past 3 years.
With around 80% of the total number of companies including these above mentioned 52, in dire need of additional money; and high chances of going bust.

The question then comes up obviously is – Why this bust? We’re hearing so many stories on eCommerce all day long, then why this suddenly.
Click here to read WHY.

I discussed in detail in one of my earlier blog posts - Grow a Thick Skin Before Launching Your eVenture – my interactions with a CEO whilst interviewing for a Senior Marketing position with them. Here’s the excerpt from my post – you could ask the same questions (mentioned above) to the management if you’re interviewing for a Senior position.

I recently interacted with a pretty famous ex-CEO of one of the first startups in India over the phone – whilst waiting to catch a flight at the Bangalore airport. Over our conversation of over 45 minutes, I asked over 25 questions – since the eComm startup he was proposing to float practically didn’t have any USP; didn’t solve any need; and practically had no revenue model to it. Since I had just been out working for an Accel Partners backed eComm startup, SherSingh.com (part of the Exclusively.In Group) in New Delhi, which quite didn’t go down well as expected with the company being acquired by Myntra.com a few weeks back; I was reluctant to join another one which didn’t have a solid business plan and a revenue model in place. Anyways, we spoke at length about the offering (another Western-styled chic lifestyle offering for young women in India), the USP, why this brand name, the expected marketing plan, expected channels to target, CPAs for first-time buyers and so on. When he finally asked me – “What do you think? We’re are pretty well funded“. My blunt but honest answer was – “Looks good. But a NO. I don’t feel the need for another western-styled chic-n-sexy womens apparel brand in India. Not convinced about the revenue model – you would struggle to make money. And funding is not a necessity, its a requirement when you wish to scale up!” The person on the other end was quite upset – got angry – and could feel it. Anyways, we bid good bye, and since then never heard from him again.

Was I being too rude to ask so many questions? Maybe YES. But was being honest.


Grow balls.
Ask questions.
Be honest with yourself.

It is your career. The eCommerce player doesn’t bloody care if they close down – the top Management would exit anyways, pocketing millions of dollars in their bank accounts.

So play it safe when receiving a job offer – doesn’t matter how much money they have received in their funding – make sure ALWAYS – that the company has a USP in the market, a good team, has growth potential. Otherwise, don’t join.

Simplest and most honest advice I can give.
Thanks anyways, for reading.

Fight Off the Bozo Explosion; Hire for Attitude


Steve Jobs had an apt saying. “One bozo gets another bozo. Soon, you’re surrounded by bozos. This is called a bozo explosion”.
Till Steve was alive, the best of the best of the best worked at Apple.
Still does; and thus, its one of the most valuable and respected companies (read: Global Brands) worldwide.

Bozo was a term Steve would use to describe someone that just didn’t get it. A bozo to him was someone that was more interested in the bureaucracy of business rather than innovation. A bozo was someone that was ineffective and someone that wasn’t authentic. A bozo was someone who focused on what wasn’t important. Basically a bozo was anyone Steve didn’t respect. (source: URL)

If you’re running a company, or just started your own business; make sure you invest in the core component for success. People.

Yes. It may sound a bit strange – shouldn’t it be in computers, processes, rules, laws, maybe, the swiping machine trying to monitor people closely?
Or maybe time-tracking and management tools like Intervals wherein your employees can enter every minute of what they are doing – from sneezing, to going to the loo, to saying hi to the person in the next cubicle.

Does it all help. Fucking doesn’t. Seen it happen too many times already.
The top companies that scale fast, quick and make a brand out of themselves when others are struggling have a few things in common.
Let’s see what those are -

1. They value people. Their choices. Their issues. Their problems.
People – respected and valued, always go the extra mile to outperform even the highest of client/management expectations.

2. Hire A players. A players bring in A+ players, B players bring in Cs, and C players bring in Ds, and so on.
Soon, your A players have left the company; and you’re left surrounded by what Guy Kawasaki calls – “industry rejects”.
Mediocre people who can’t secure a job anywhere else, and stick with you on the pretext of saying, they are loyal to the company. Steve Jobs used to say, ‘One bozo gets another bozo’. Soon, you’re surrounded by bozos. Make sure you hire A players always – whatever the costs – for preventing this to happen.

3. Invest in People. Identify A players in existing groups – promote them – provide them with faith, trust and hand over responsibility to them.
If they are A players, they will NOT fail.
Hire for attitude, and then train them for skill(s).

4. Allow people to Experiment. And fail. If required.
The more people experiment – and have an entrepreneurial attitude, they will be more satisfied with their work, the projects they work in, people they work with; and most importantly, have a more positive outlook on their work lives.
Click to see what Steve Jobs says about failure.

5. Allow people to Grow.
Some of the Indian companies that I worked for in the past – had amazing people – who soon left. They were extremely well paid, but they left, cause they didn’t see any final aim/goal/vision for the company as such.
Good people thrive on Best Ideas.

6. Last, let BEST IDEAS WIN always. 
Steve Jobs when once asked – he said, “You have to let the BEST IDEAS win“. Some ideas will be good, some fucking amazingly good, some dopey, and some fucking horrible. Let people be honest, debate, and let the best ideas win always. I worked for some companies in the past – wherein to question someone in a meeting was considered derogatory; management often said, ‘hey man, you’re putting down people! They feel rejected – sad!!’. I was like – dude, what the fuck? If the person felt put down, maybe he needs to read up before a presentation, or have a depth of understanding before a debate. If its a presentation for the sake of one, then, you’re thriving in a company full of bozos.

Check out the following clip on HOW TO GET THE BEST TALENT and keep it. Fucking simple. As Steve Jobs mentions.

Here’s the amazing welcome card you receive when you join Apple.
Do your employees BELIEVE, LIVE IN & RESONATE the core values of your business?
If you’re a business owner, its time for you to sit and think.
Don’t get bogged down by too many bozos around; its the crazy ones that push the human race forward.

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The Honest Advice.


Whether you’re a CEO of a Fortune company, or a startup, or of a small Unit, or just a professional trying to move up the career (and monetary) ladder, here’s a simple advice. Straight from the Heart of Steve Jobs to the newly become President & CEO of NikeMark Parker in 2010.

Easy to say, but tough to do.
Most people and companies that fail; fail not because of the lack of ideas, or funding, or innovation, but because of LACK of vision; and failing to focus on what is important, and cutting the crap.

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If you’re a key decision maker – try to separate the good from the bad; focus on building what is good, and cut the crap. Which is also extremely important when it comes to Focusing on a single (or couple of things), prioritizing things, and most importantly, completing them to perfection. Its the art of SAYING NO, as Steve Jobs used to say. Learn to say NO to a 1000 things.

Recently, I was at a 10-minute lunch with the CEO of India’s finest Cloud Computing and Consulting Tech company and within Top3 in the world in the same category – whilst he ate his 2 parathas for lunch, we discussed many things. Our discussion turned to a web development and digital marketing agency they have, which for reasons {unknown} have not lived up to its expectations. Question was – Would I be interested to take it up as a challenge and turn it around? I humbly refused giving the honest advice of Steve Jobs. Web site development and digital marketing is NOT the company’s core competency. It’s not even in their list of priorities to do for the future. Selling websites in India and competing with dime a dozen agencies would not only be non-beneficial for the net margins, but would harm the brand in the long run – which is a more dangerous thing. Thus, if I were you, as I told him, I WOULD immediately shut it down. I said, “Do what you Love. You’ve got to find what you Love. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it; as said by Steve Jobs”. Whilst saying this, I knew very well, this could cost me a very handsome and a Senior level job with them. Anyways, the Head Marketing of that company is a friend of mine – and as it turned out, they really shut the agency (that unit) down. It was in his plate of things to do for a long long time, which for, again, reasons {unknown}, had been postponed. Was it a good solution? I would say, 100.1%.

Focus is key, as Steve Jobs always used to say.
Focus on your company’s key financials; shut down ‘cost center’s over time, and focus on ‘profit centers’.
Focus your company’s best resources to it as well.

If still not convinced, see the above clip again.

Most importantly, if you’re seeking a career change, ask questions; lots of questions before accepting an offer.
. Is the core competency of the Unit or Company’s Vision in line with your career aspirations?
. If you’re deciding to make a change, and stuck in a rut, before making the final decision; ask – is the company focused overall? Is yes, what is its core competency? And is the competency aligned with the best people on-board with best tools with the best vision to make it happen? If yes, stay on. Otherwise, quit, then, find a company aligned with your vision, and join them.

As Steve Jobs said,

“Do what you love. You’ve got to find what you love. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it”.

To read, Apple Most Valuable Public Company of All Time – Lessons for Entrepreneurs, click here.
To read, Things About Business & Life That Steve Taught Me: Tim Cook, click here.

Yahoo! A Case study in Lack of Focus.


Yahoo!”s main problem has always been the lack of FOCUS.

It’s a common joke – what is Yahoo! this year? Is it an internet company, or an internet portal, or internet media company, or media company, or aggregator of news? Only God almighty knows.
Wait. Fucking Christ. Marissa Mayer calls it, “global technology company focused on making the world’s daily habits inspiring and entertaining“.
Its like calling idly-sambhar the staple dinner of Indians all over India.

Means everything, yet nothing.

The best *worst* definition of what your company stands for – was given by ex-Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, in her interview with Michael Arrington at Tech Crunch Disrupt New York, NY in 2010. Shortly afterwards, she was fired.

Anyways, Mayer is making news. A lot. Not sure how she impacted the bottomline, since Yahoo! is struggling.

A comparison between share price for “max” period shows the decline of Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Nokia; and the meteoric rise of Apple.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 10.32.21 PM

 

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 10.33.12 PM

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And the soon to be closed down services of Yahoo! include: (source: http://allthingsd.com/20130302/what-is-yahoo-this-year-a-technology-company-some-of-which-it-dumps/)

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 10.36.12 PM

 

I read on some blog post, Mayer was expected to turn Yahoo! around, like Steve Jobs.
You must be fucking kidding me! Comparing Mayer with Steve – that’s a fucking disgrace to Apple and Steve himself.

Hope Yahoo! survives. If it doesn’t, it would be an excellent case study of how lack of innovation could kill off a Category Leader of yesterday.

Indian eCommerce Bust – Why has it come so SOON?


e-commerce_e-bankrupt_261125It was always predicted.
It was always on the cards.
But it would come so soon – probably, no one had predicted. Anyways, out of the 200 or so eCommerce startups founded in India in 2012 – 100 so far have gone bust. Most of them finished (read burnt callously here) the amount of capital (funding) received from the VCs, a few decided to close down and not play the ‘last man standing’ game, whilst others were forced by VCs/Angel Investors to ‘get acquired’ and merge with a category leader (of some respect) which has a higher chance of survival in the near future. 2013 will be the year, wherein, 80% of the currently standing eCommerce companies would be wiped out. Boys separated from the Men. Was always predicted since end of 2012, now, confirmed by the report from investment bank Allegro Capital (the report can be accessed here).

52 eCommerce companies have raised around $700 million in VC funding in past 3 years.
With around 80% of the total number of companies including these above mentioned 52, in dire need of additional money; and high chances of going bust.

The question then comes up obviously is – Why this bust? We’re hearing so many stories on eCommerce all day long, then why this suddenly.

The reasons are many. But here’s the top reasons -

1. Be conservative when it comes to spending money. Whether bootstrapped or VC/Angel Investor funded, go easy on:

. don’t waste too much money on infrastructure. Have a small office, don’t show off too much.
. don’t waste too much money on models/parties/drinks/incidental expenses.
. don’t waste money on fat-ass actors, models, celebrities and most importantly, sportsmen. I worked with one fat-assed bowler, he was more interested in eating parathas sitting at home, rather than actual playing on the field. We burnt crores on him, promoting him, meeting him, and wasting precious time, resources & money; which practically counted for nothing.

2. Do branding, but measure the bottom-line. Measure spending vs. CPAs every hour. Flipkart, which has raised about $250 million till now, is still burning cash and is not yet operationally profitable. This means, at the unit-transaction level, its still not making money. None is making money, in fact in India. Jabong, Deals&Your, Fashion&You and others had once spent around 10-15-20 Crores per month on branding, CPC ads, Banner Ads and so on; bringing millions of total visits, and clicks, and sales per day. But since CPAs went through the roof, and kept rising, most of these companies have lost millions and sitting bust. Most e-commerce start-ups follow ‘the last man standing’ approach in a potentially large and under penetrated market. But one cannot keep losing money on unit sales,said K Ganesh, a serial entrepreneur with investments in smaller rivals of Flipkart.

3. Build up a brand slowly, but steadily. Work hard, focus on the right things, and build your product/service such that, CPAs are low, and at least some measure of unit-level transactional profit margins are maintained. Over time, this is extremely important, otherwise you will be like Flipkart – huge like a mammoth, but no one wants to invest anymore, since chances of them breaking even in forth-coming 10 years looks low. Which in other words mean – the VCs are fucked, cause if there’s no exit for Flipkart, how on Earth will they get ROI on their investments? Overall, its a completely fucked up situation for all. The biggest issue in the India eCommerce space is ‘lack of loyalty’. Customers come, shop and then go. Never come back. Or, if some one else is offering the same product/service for a mere 10/- off, they switch boats. Avnish Bajaj, managing director, Matrix India, explained that e-commerce in India has a lot going for but most customers are coming in because of the low prices, there are no loyal buyers.

4. Logistics fuck up. Most of the eCommerce companies selling some stuff online – whether baby diapers to chocolates to books, suck in delivery timings. Logistics and SCM was a real pain in the ass – 2 years ago. Still is.

5. Strategic fuck up. Have spoken to CEOs, Marketing geniuses, Board Members on boards of 10 Public companies, Harvard educated Investors, and practically anyone and everyone. None has any fucking clue as to what strategy one can use to “increase basket size or move to segments with higher ticket size or margins, without increasing CPAs, yet building loyalty over time”. Have spent hours and hours and hours, weeks and weeks and months discussing, brain storming and debating ideas – but none could ever provide any solution. A few tactics here and there, yes; but long-term strategies, no.

On the good front, India’s 150 million Internet ready people is growing. But the eRetail basket of 10 million is extremely low compared to China, US and UK. In fact, penetration levels are so low, and not improving, which is hurting the cause further.  A few other things that you can do RIGHT, if you’re launching your new startup is here.

Conclusion is simple. Unless you have deep pockets, or can stand out the ‘last-man standing’ theory; chances are you’re in for a long haul. “Building a brand like Amazon.com is not simple. Experts cited in media reports have reiterated that for some brands, the cost of customer acquisition can touch Rs.4,000-5,000 while anything above Rs.350 per customer is not sustainable. Add to this the high cost of inventory since most online retail stores store goods in warehouses that increases their real estate costs in a weak economy when unsold goods pile up.” (source)

Types of Social Media Adoption in Companies


Caught up with Goldee Udani, Founder & CEO of Social Media monitoring and Insights platform, Beevolve earlier today at the Ulsoor CCD for a chat. Beevolve aspires to become the Constant Contact of the SME/SMB Social Media realm. Not many are competing in the SME space – and the ones which are competing with Beevolve, especially the VC funded ones, are either running out of steam or getting acquired – mostly via consolidation effort(s) from Investors. On the other hand, Beevolve is going strong; and using stealth marketing to acquire SME/SMBs around the world. ‘We’ve clients from over 16 countries worldwide. Though we are not focusing on Fortune clients, but we have a few, but the cream of our share are mostly SME/SMBs worldwide‘, says, Goldee.

We discussed many things. One of the things that we were discussing was – types of social media adoption across companies in the US and how it differed in India. I believe, we can portray it as -

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1. MNC/Fortune companies in US -

. enterprise social media involves mostly community management across channels, listening, monitoring and escalation of queries/brand related questions/issues.
. analysis of influencers in the space.
. branding campaigns across geographical locales & languages.
. re-targeting influencers with special offers/discounts/vouchers etc. to make them brand ambassadors.
. most commonly used Social CRM platforms: Sprinklr, Radian6, Spreadfast
. clear cut focus on how & why to capture insights
. clear cut focus on how to calculate Social Media ROI.
. have dedicated ‘Digital Marketing’ team(s), SVP/VP – Digital Marketing, Digital marketing strategies & policies in place.
. tapping such clients require process/infrastructure & outstanding pre-sales/sales team(s).

2. SMB/SMEs in US -

. involves mostly user engagement at very specific locales, listening, and answering queries.
. branding limited to specific East or West coasts.
. offers/vouchers/discounts mentioned on pages/accounts
. ORM (online reputation management) actively for the brands
. limited focus on how & why to capture insights
. limited (but increasing) focus on how to calculate Social Media ROI.
. usually don’t have a dedicated ‘Digital Marketing’ team.
. tapping such clients require showing value proposition to clients, and how the solutions will help them increase revenues.

3. MNC/Fortune companies in India -

. involves just creating social media accounts on platforms & channels.
. not serious about ORM
. not serious about active user engagement (barring a few exceptions)
. branding very limited to special products & offers (few times of the year)
. no clear cut focus on how & why to capture insights
. no clear cut focus on how to calculate Social Media ROI.
. usually don’t have a dedicated ‘Digital Marketing’ team (barring a few exceptions).
. tapping such clients require too many high-level negotiations, meetings etc.

4. SMB/SMEs in India -

. involves just creating social media accounts on platforms & channels.
. not aware of ORM
. not serious about active user engagement (barring a few exceptions)
. branding very limited to special products & offers (few times of the year)
. no clear cut focus on how & why to capture insights
. no clear cut focus on how to calculate Social Media ROI.
. usually don’t have a dedicated ‘Digital Marketing’ team.
. tapping such clients require ‘patience’.

These are the types of social media adoption I feel we can make out… do you agree? Share your comments.

Blogging: Art or Science?


Bloggers. They are everywhere. Writing on every topic under the Sun.
Have met some awesome ones.
Have met some terrible ones.

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So what’s the difference? What differentiates a Blogging rockstar from a dud?

Believe it or not – a good blog post has nothing to do with style of Writing. Your level of Written English and so on. Most bloggers get caught up in this and thus fail to write a blog post that can stimulate passion.

What an excellent blogger can successfully do, is replicate the following 4 things, repeatedly, over and over again…

1. Be Passionate – Brilliant bloggers choose a specific topic, and become thought-leaders in that space. Say, I love Apple. Steve Jobs was my first corporate love; almost read every printed book and article under the Sun on Steve Jobs and Apple. Thus, when creating a blog for myself, I decided writing on news/events/product launches on Apple & Steve Jobs. Another passion of mine is – Digital Marketing, and more specifically, Social Media. And finally, the startup space in India. Thus, my blog posts are mostly restricted to: Apple, Steve Jobs, Social Media & e-Commerce in India. Be passionate about something; and choose to write on that something. Just don’t create a blog for the sake of creating one.

2. Be Honest – Have met good bloggers, who failed to mature into brilliant ones. They lacked ‘honesty’. Be honest. Whether good or bad, be honest. And write – straight from the Heart. Your readers can quickly understand the difference between – “praising a product” versus “blatant promotion”. Be direct. Be honest.

3. Provide Value – This automatically follows from being passionate and being honest. Personally, I know, I can stand on any podium anywhere on Earth, anytime of the day, and speak about Apple and Social Media, non-stop for 5 hours. Cause the knowledge comes from within, and I’m passionate and honest about these topics. Similarly, whilst writing content – write content which provides value to your readers. They should wish to come back and read your blog posts every day – if not, at least once a week. This comes from delivering value repeatedly. Is tough to create content that satisfies this value proposition week after week, but is possible.

4. Research Judiciously – Excellent bloggers are researchers par excellence. Comes owing to a combination of the earlier 3 points. They research, read, analyze reports etc a lot cause they are passionate, they do so cause they wish to be honest whilst writing, and thus, they provide value. In fact, the point (4) is a resultant factor for them becoming brilliant bloggers.

I recently met the Head Marketing of one of the finest IT Solutions Provider companies in Bangalore; their in-house content team is rocking; clocking over 10,000+ visits per month on their Corporate Blog. That’s the hard work of 10 members in the In-bound Marketing Team. Whereas my personal blog, wherein I write blog posts once in a while, sometimes, once in a month, clocks over 7,000+ visits in a good month. The difference is in – quality of content written, and value proposition. As I mentioned this to the Head Marketing – there’s nothing wrong with the team, or in the style of writing. But what is needed is a more focused approach, understanding the buyer persona, creating a main writing persona, and then making it a more personal experience for the readers. It shouldn’t be a Corporate Blog, but an end-user interaction style – via a Persona. Writers write focused, direct, honest and value provided posts using this Persona.

If you have a personal blog, or you’re in-charge of your Corporate Blog, and visits are stagnating, it’s time to get a move on. Build a content team, a focussed agenda – what to write on, then an editorial calendar, and leave the rest to the Bloggers. If they follow the 4 points mentioned above, chances are you will be clocking 10,000+ visits in a month soon. If you’ve any tips, please do leave comments. Will include them in the above list.

Personally, I believe ‘Blogging’ and building and nurturing a community around a Blog, whether, personal or corporate; is more of an “Art” with some elements of “Science” in it.
Do you AGREE? If, disagree, WHY?

Social Media ROI. How to Measure It?


Social Media ROI. Every CMO’s nightmare. Lots of things happening – but where’s the ROI on this? – Is the million dollar question. Whether you’re a B2B, B2C or C2C portal – Social and Mobile is the future. On the Social front, there are 2 ways in which the efforts of a company could be classified and further studied in detail:

  1. Qualitative Efforts, Strategies & ROI
  2. Quantitative Efforts, Strategies & ROI

Ignore meaningless metrics like ‘number of followers’ etc.

A successful social media campaign includes:

  • Building online brand presence
  • Strengthening online brand presence with already existing customers/clients (via Royalty programs)
  • Repositioning the brand (e.g. Myntra.com starting out as a Custom-Gift-E-Retailer to Apparel & Fashion e-Retailer now)
  • Community Management

Thus, a campaign objective should be defined when conceptualizing a campaign; and corresponding success metric(s) should be defined, which helps us in achieving a bigger Goal.

Measuring Qualitative Efforts:

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Measuring Quantitative Efforts:

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Different Social CRM platforms like Sprinklr, Radian6, Spreadfast and others could be used to dig deep into Social Media campaign parameters and figure out Branding and Brand Identity Key Performance Indicators (KPI)s or metrics. See a few screenshots to get an idea.

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2012 Gone… Welcome 2013


sher-singh-02may-detail2012 passed rather quickly. Had moved to New Delhi to work for Exclusively.In Group (for Online Lifestyle brand, SherSingh.com) in first week of Jan 2012; took a few weeks to settle in South Delhi; met some amazing, talented and senior professionals whilst in Delhi… but found out that the Delhi heat ain’t for me… A good place to live and work for a while; but not secure enough for women, kids and definitely, NOT a place where I could live and thrive. Anyways, decided moving back to Bangalore in July. Thus took an offer with TOBOC International in Bangalore; and moved back. Was an excellent decision over all – since living and working in Delhi could make me understand – what I was missing… and why Bangalore is what it is – *special*.

Have had some amazing time with folks at TOBOC. Also a great time with the love of my life; as she’s visiting India. Future plans coming soon; and so is my plan to get a small cute car.

Look forward to 2013. For having a great time – professionally, personally and definitely with honey bunny.

2013 – Welcome with both arms.

And before I sign off – sincere solidarity with the parents of the Delhi gang-rape victim – a fighter who fought a battle with death for 13 days and passed away a few days ago in Singapore. Delhi was – and still is – the worst place for women in India; and till ‘hanged till death’ punishment is handed out to all rape convicts; am sure this would continue. Anyways, my heart goes out to her parents. All I can say is, as it says in the Bible – “Don’t loose faith. Even in the deepest of your doubts, have faith”.

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Grow a Thick Skin Before Launching Your eVenture


Jugez un homme par ses questions plutôt que par ses réponses, Voltaire once said. In English, ‘Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers’. Unfortunately, many Indian eCommerce startup CEOs have crucified Voltaire at the alter. Too many probing questions are never entertained; and they loose temper and calm at the slightest of chances.

I recently interacted with a pretty famous ex-CEO of one of the first startups in India over the phone – whilst waiting to catch a flight at the Bangalore airport. Over our conversation of over 45 minutes, I asked over 25 questions – since the eComm startup he was proposing to float practically didn’t have any USP; didn’t solve any need; and practically had no revenue model to it. Since I had just been out working for an Accel Partners backed eComm startup, SherSingh.com (part of the Exclusively.In Group) in New Delhi, which quite didn’t go down well as expected with the company being acquired by Myntra.com a few weeks back; I was reluctant to join another one which didn’t have a solid business plan and a revenue model in place. Anyways, we spoke at length about the offering (another Western-styled chic lifestyle offering for young women in India), the USP, why this brand name, the expected marketing plan, expected channels to target, CPAs for first-time buyers and so on. When he finally asked me – “What do you think? We’re are pretty well funded“. My blunt but honest answer was – “Looks good. But a NO. I don’t feel the need for another western-styled chic-n-sexy womens apparel brand in India. Not convinced about the revenue model – you would struggle to make money. And funding is not a necessity, its a requirement when you wish to scale up!” The person on the other end was quite upset – got angry – and could feel it. Anyways, we bid good bye, and since then never heard from him again.

Was I being too rude to ask so many questions? Maybe YES. But was being honest.

Good CEOs should NOT become agitated when asked a lot of questions. Don’t take the questions personally – the questions are NOT directed to make you sound miserable and sad – and doubt your ability – but directed towards the business. Towards the business model of the eVenture. Towards the validity of issues like – CPAs, brand loyalty, order fulfillment, and most importantly, making money at the unit-level transactions. If you’re making money at the unit-level economics, chances are you will make it; irrespective of the valuations in the market. There’s a fine line which when you cross – the ‘reasons for failure’ eventually stop mattering; for most companies – its becoming a Senior VP or SVP or CEO level.

Over the past year or so, amongst the best & worst interacted – I think these are my favorite CEOs/Founders in the Startup space – they are cool, calm, honest, sincere and never take questions to heart – however blunt I’ve been -

  • Narinder Mahajan – CEO of popular womens apparel & lifestyle website, ShopNineteen.com. Recently launched another brand, Pehraan.com targeted towards the Ethnic market. From the very beginning, it has been a pleasure to interact with Narinder – exchange views about the eComm market in general, strategies and so on. A friendly CEO, this is what every CEO ought to be. Committed, straight-forward yet always smiling.
  • Amit Rawal – Founder/CEO of Premier Style Lounge for men - Elitify.com; the place where the stylish & successful Men of India shop online. Elegant, friendly and open-minded whilst discussions, Amit is a perfect CEO for all settings; and moreover apt for the volatile Indian eComm industry. His calm essence is significant for a fast-paced environment where most companies are currently struggling. In all my interactions with Amit thus far, he’s the perfect CEO for an eComm startup in India.
  • Sunjay Guleria - Co-Founder/CEO of Exclusively.In & SherSingh.com; recently acquired by Myntra.com. Sunjay is friendly, super cool, trendy, and probably one of the “friendliest” CEOs I’ve worked for thus far. Takes care of his employees like family; and always there for them. Overall, excellent to work for him.
  • Sandeep Singh – Haven’t worked for FreeCultr – but Sandeep (or Sandy) is the Co-Founder/COO of one of the hottest and most successful lifestyle brands in India, thus far. FreeCultr. Always honest, straight-forward in communications, Sandy is always a pleasure to talk to. Practical with great sense of happenings in the eComm industry; he has a wealth of knowledge that he never hesitates to share with. Always a pleasure to interact with, Sandy is the perfect CEO material for me; and would be a pleasure to work with some day.
  • Shantanu Mathur – Former Managing Director, Incubation Unit – Smile Group that manages some of India’s finest and well known eComm brands - FashionAndYou.com, DealsAndYou.com, BeStylish, Juvalia, Freecultr, Tyroo, Quasar. A buddy with an open mind, excellent eComm Industry knowledge and always a pleasure to interact with, Shantanu is definitely one of the guys to work for in the eComm startup space in India.

If  you’re thick skinned, one doesn’t take the questions to heart. Otherwise its always painful to deal with a barrage of questions.

3794_file_Black_rhino_Balfour

The English boss of my first company in London – a self-made billionaire, CEO & Founder of an Investment & Hedge-fund firm where I worked after passing out from Oxford, taught me a few invaluable lessons of life. From being able to clean up cups of all employees to being precise in calculations whilst calculating investments – one of the most important things I learnt from him was – ‘Ask Questions. Ask a Lot of Questions. Ask a Lot of Questions that dig for the truth. The honest ones will survive, the weaker souls will perish‘.

Thus, if you’re thinking of launching of your next eVenture, be prepared to be asked a myriad of questions. By your friends, foes, competitors, VCs and most importantly, by your employees. Questions that will rip you apart. Otherwise, you can always take the easy choice – launch a company, and make sure your wife and employees use it only. That way – you’re safe – your better half and your employees wouldn’t ask many questions. Of course, till you go bust.

Mashable – The New Look: Love OR Hate?


Was always on the cards. Finally happened. Am glad it happened. A cleaner UI and an infinite-scroll from Mashable.com.

Clean. I like clean things – websites, UIs, a form, or my iPhone. To me – “less is more” rather than “enough is more“.

Mashable has made a good effort to clear off unwanted waste from the homepage. Their new ‘homepage’ (re)design suggests that a lot of thought on user-experience has gone into it. With a more-or-less – ‘Pinterest’ look and feel; infinite scroll is the future and the web’s own slot machine.

1

In most of the recent implementations – I find, most companies are choosing either “auto-loading” or “triggered-loading”. Both has its own set of pros and cons. Personally, I love “triggered-loading”. Especially, in my previous organization, SherSingh.com, we used this “triggered-loading” approach whilst redesigning the entire website. Result was excellent. Faster loading time, and greater UX for end-user, thereby resulting in more time on site, lower bounce rate and eventually, more conversions.

2

Auto-loading on the other hand, on lower bandwidths can cause endless problems. Especially encountered endless Firefox crashes on Mac.

Another excellent example of triggered-loading is the TOBOCDeals.com website – which was released just a few days ago.

Screen Shot 2012-12-08 at 12.55.19 AM

Which one is your favorite infinite-scroll loading style – “auto-loading” or “triggered-loading”? Why?

Thanks Amit@ELITIFY; for the Surprise Birthday Gift


A pleasant surprise from ELITIFY. Indeed. On 24th November – my birthday, received a surprise gift. Had a lovely leather card holder, courtesy of Amit Rawal, CEO & Founder of ELITIFY.com, based out of New Delhi.

One brand that is making a sincere effort to stand out from the current eCommerce clutter in India and create a niche for itself and its community is ELITIFY. Before moving to Bangalore for work in August; I met ELITIFY’s CEO & Founder, Amit Rawal at his offices. Founded in April 2012, ELITIFY prefers keeping things simple. Simple offices – less number of people – extremely important to keep costs down. The driving force behind ELITIFY is passion – to create something unique – something niche – something extremely chic for Today’s Successful Man. In fact, ELITIFY is not targeting that 75-80% of the bargain hunters of the eCommerce basket size. Rather the extremely posh, niche, HNI class of Indians; who aspire not only for the aspirational items from International Brands; but wouldn’t mind to save time to buy their favorite items online rather than visit showrooms and shop for these items in malls.

The packaging is absolutely lovely… loved the THANK YOU card… thanks Amit & Anahat for such a wonderful gift.

The USP for ELITIFY lies in the fact – Indian middle class is definitely increasing, but Indian upper class is getting richer as well. And with more people moving from the upper middle class to the HNI class; the desire to own something aspirational always increases with time. E.g. you’re a Senior Consultant at KPMG; recently promoted to Partner; wouldn’t you mind wearing those Gucci shoes you always aspired for? Or maybe, go for the Rolex you always desired for. That’s where ELITIFY comes in; and helps you become chic, sexy and feel gorgeous.

So which brands are currently being showcased on ELITIFY? Categories currently under display include – ACCESSORIES, SHOES, CLOTHING, GADGETS & GIFTS. Some of the world’s most chic, luxury & premium brands are included. Cufflinks from Paul SmithStriped Tie from BurberrySnake Skin Patterned Wallet from EtroWhiskey Flask from Neiman Marcus, timepieces from Hugo Boss & Emporio Armani, Jack Daniels, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tod’s, J Crew, Apple, Jawbone, Sony, Bose, Burberry, Prada, Versace, Cole Haan, Bvlgari and others, to name a few.

So, without further ado – if you’re passionate about Quality rather than price and quantity; make sure you do check out ELITIFY… Trust me! Amit’s team wouldn’t disappoint you.

A Lesson in Accountability: Difference Between the Janitor and the Vice President


I’ve often wondered the reason why some people make it to the top; and a few don’t, eventually, I mean. Is it the lack of qualifications, degrees from top colleges, or is the interest level in their professional lives that eventually dies out, or is it lack of ‘do what you love‘ Steve Jobs philosophy… or something else. One thing that is sure is – you can easily identify the ‘stars’ from the ‘duds’ in your team from ‘the level of accountability’ they take in their personal, professional, team and overall company wide organizational hierarchical development cycle. Duds are always giving excuses, the ‘stars’ try finding out solutions to *real* problems.

Star: I couldn’t sell our membership to prospect A for Rs. 12,000/- annual. So I proposed him to tell me what is the level of investment he is willing to risk to get CPL leads over a year. He agreed to Rs. 2,000/-, so I sold him for 2 months; and promised to come back after 2 months to ask him how he was doing; if it worked well for him, to sell him more; if it didn’t, promised to give him back a cheque of Rs. 2,000/- to return his investment.
Dud: I couldn’t sell our membership to prospect A for Rs. 12,000/- annual. I always felt our pricing was wrong and customers wouldn’t pay for it.

Star: While testing home page loading, we figured out that 2 of the new social media plug-ins that we had recently incorporated makes separate HTTP calls; one of which hangs, thus, massively affecting the loading time. We removed one, replaced with a faster client based web app with the same functionality; and replaced the other one completely.
Dud: While testing home page loading, we figured out that 2 of the new social media plug-ins that we had recently incorporated makes separate HTTP calls; one of which hangs, thus, massively affecting the loading time. I have passed the issue to the QA team; hope they will come back with testing results; and we will rebuild the page and pass to QA again.

There’s a level at which reasons, eventually, stop mattering.
What matters is – whether you can deliver, OR not.

Old photo of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs holding a brainstorming meeting with his product design team at NeXT.

Old photo of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs holding a brainstorming meeting with his product design team at NeXT.

The most famous case study here worth mentioning is from Apple. Read on.

One such lesson could be called the “Difference Between the Janitor and the Vice President,” and it’s a sermon [Steve] Jobs delivers every time an executive reaches the VP level. Jobs imagines his garbage regularly not being emptied in his office, and when he asks the janitor why, he gets an excuse: The locks have been changed, and the janitor doesn’t have a key. This is an acceptable excuse coming from someone who empties trash bins for a living. The janitor gets to explain why something went wrong. Senior people do not. “When you’re the janitor,” Jobs has repeatedly told incoming VPs, “reasons matter.” He continues: “Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering.” That “Rubicon,” he has said, “is crossed when you become a VP.” (Apple has about 70 vice presidents out of more than 25,000 non-retail-store employees.)

Whilst interviewing candidates for different positions, I always make sure – they besides intelligence, a solid CV, IQ, education and skill set(s), have that X-factor. The measure of accountability, passion and ‘fear of failure’ which are so very important to be successful in the corporate world of today. Reasons matter – as rightly pointed out – when you’re someone who empties trash cans for a living. As you progress through life, it stops mattering. I expect my team members to be passionate, accountable and completely self-driven for achieving success – which in turn, determines my personal and professional success and/or eventual, failure as a Manager and Leader.

iOS App, eCommerce Store OR Digital Agency?


If given a choice of becoming an entrepreneur and opening your company, which one would you opt for -

- an iOS app that makes an effort to solve a problem in a known domain; and commercialize it OR

- open an eCommerce store selling (say, CD/DVDs, books, mens/womens/kids clothing) OR

- open a digital marketing agency service clients for digital marketing solutions – SEO/PPC/Social Media/PR/Online Reputation/WAP/iPhone-Android-Windows app development and so on.

Which one would you opt for and why?

Some Terrible Decisions by Apple in 2012


You may say – some terrible decisions by Apple. Or, some terrible decisions by the CEO himself – Tim Cook in the past few months. As a long time Apple follower and fan; simply put, this is quite hurting. And most disturbing of all – not sure Steve Jobs would have permitted any of these. Let’s look at the top 5 *worst decisions* of Apple in 2012:

1. Hiring John Browett – One of the first hiring decisions after Tim came to office. Why on earth would you hire a Dixons retail executive as the head of Retail for Apple – which boasts of one of the most enigmatic and supreme retail experiences in the whole wide world? Dixons? Are you kidding? Its like hiring a toilet cleaner for the Chief Operations Office position for a company. What did he do? John thought of a botched plan to cut staffing at Apple’s retail stores – which led to a lot of employee dissatisfaction and finally, when fired, John walked away cool with shares worth $3 million for his work for 6 months. Will definitely go down as one of the *worst* hiring decisions by Apple, ever. An excellent article – Why Did They Hire Him in the First Place?

2. Firing Scott Forstall – Either Tim was smoking too much w**d, or don’t know what to say, but firing the ‘most innovative’ inventor in Apple’s history, removing his bio from the Management page onsite, and redistributing the ownership of iOS to other Senior management members – too much to read here. If reports are to be believed, Scott was the ‘divisive’ and ‘corruptive’ influence at Apple; thus, most other Senior management members – Mansfield & Ive didn’t like him much – in fact, didn’t have meetings in the same room, unless Tim was around. Also, Apple looks to create a more simpler interface in future versions of iOS and Mac OS X, and closer (correct word is “tighter”) integration of the software-hardware ecosystem with most likely a hybrid A6 micro-processor (from the current mobile platform) replacing the currently used Intel CPUs on Macs; thus, Scott was forced out. Personally, I FEEL this decision will hurt Apple the most. “He’s one of, if not the most prolific inventors at Apple,” says Erin-Michael Gill, Managing Director and Chief Intellectual Property Office at MDB. “If this guy is who the data seems to imply he is, letting him leave is a huge deal.”

3. The iPad Mini – Did Apple really need it? As the sales numbers show – this instead of putting pressure on Google & Amazon & Samsung – has put pressure on Apple itself – with more and more users/families opting to choose the iPad Mini instead of the usual bigger ‘iPad HD’? This product / segment cannibalization should have had been expected by Apple long time ago.

Apple’s full-sized iPad is now a $40 billion business.  It seems unlikely that normal Apple users are likely to buy BOTH a full-sized iPad AND an iPad Mini. Rather, they’ll likely choose one of the two. And based on the initial reaction, the choice for most is likely to be the iPad Mini. iPad Minis will likely have an average price-point that is about $200 less than the full-sized iPad. So, on a per unit basis, Apple’s revenue will take a hit.

But this loss of revenue on a unit basis will likely be at least partially offset by some additional sales–especially next year, if Apple releases an upgraded version of the Mini and the current version gets cheaper. This could help increase the velocity of iPad sales, even though revenue per-unit decreases. (source: http://www.businessinsider.com/steve-jobs-was-wrong-about-tablets-2012-11)

4. Release of Apple Maps – a botched up software. Did Apple really need to release it? Apparently NO. Instead they did – didn’t work – and then Tim Cook had to issue a public apology. Could have all this been avoided? Definitely yes, by giving the software more time – and testing and releasing it later. A botched up software app led to the downfall of Scott – who was just made the ScapeGoat.

With the release of the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 6, Apple ditched Google Maps for its own mapping system.

The result has been a half-baked app that produces less accurate results than Google Maps. After its release, the new Maps elicited such a strong backlash that Apple apologized and offered a list of alternatives for users to download from its App Store. (source: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2012/11/07/2003547070)

5. Promoting Bob Mansfield as Head of “Technologies – He retired in June, then came back to work on contract for Apple, and then with Scott Forstall’s departure, he’s now the head of Technology at Apple. What non-sense is that? A guy retires, is brought back on contract, and then gets a full-time offer and gets promoted? Only God almighty knows whats happening at Apple. Anyways, overall, its a bad move – since Bob has 2 more years at Apple – then what? Again God almighty knows. Looks like Tim Cook has no clue of what succession role planning in Senior management is all about.

There are both – positives and negatives to every decision. In fact, a very wise man recently told me – “There is no right or wrong decision. Take a decision, and prove it right”.
On similar lines – hope Apple can prove these mistakes “wrong” and prove the decisions “right”.

JustEat.In – Horrible User Experience & Customer Service


Hungry we were. Very very very hungry. Earlier today. One of my colleagues and myself. Having worked on a project for a long long time, finally, we decided to take a break – and enjoy some good Chinese food. And since its raining here in Bangalore since past few days, cause of a cyclone build up, we decided – lets check out JustEat.in – which one of our co-workers had recently recommended. Anyways, I visited the site, clicked on the special offers currently running, and it led me to this page: http://justeat.in/specials/op/bangalore

Checked the list of restaurants…

Picked GREEN CHILLYZ and clicked on it to see details.

Ordered 5/6 items, crossed Rs. 300/- for minimum order value (exact order value: Rs. 360/-), received Rs. 100/ off on this, so paid Rs. 260/- online using my credit card; filled in our delivery address and was so happy – cause it was so smooth. Also received an email with order confirmation + received SMS on my mobile number with order confirmation.

So Far, So Good.

Then, after a few minutes I received a call from a LAN number, which couldn’t take cause was on another call. Here’s what happened next -

a) Received a SMS saying – couldn’t reach your number, so order put on hold.

b) I called the call center number – 3 times – couldn’t get through.

c) Finally, someone picked up – hardly could hear him speak. He was nearly inaudible.

d) Finally, after checking the customer rep said – “Sorry, we can’t process the order!” I was like – why? Reason – the restaurant you chose, is outside the delivery area of the restaurant. I was like – “Dude, you must be fucking kidding, right?” A few questions -

  • How the f**k on earth do I know – as an end-user which area is under delivery area of which restaurant? Shouldn’t you put a slider OR do an input area match in your website – e.g. I entered “Ulsoor” and “pin code”, match that with the coverage area of the Restaurant which I’ve chosen – and represent – “Sorry, restaurant chosen is OUTSIDE delivery area”.
  • How the f**k on earth do I know – as an end-user the restaurants which are in my delivery area – which delivery area is specific for which restaurant? E.g. cafe A delivers in 3 Kms, cafe B delivers in 4.5 Kms; both of them being in Ulsoor.
  • The customer rep’s reply to my 2 questions was – “Sir, its mentioned in the Conditions – “Info & Reviews”. I was like – are you f**king serious? You expect your users to read the entire conditions; and then calculate the exact Kms and then place an order?

e) I told him – “Ok – no issues. Your product manager / or whoever designs the User Experience sucks – but can we get the order delivered – and we pay by cash”. We got reply – Sorry, this restaurant doesn’t do delivery under X amount.

  • How the f**k on earth am I supposed to know – this restaurant doesn’t do delivery by cash? Where is that written? Do I need to read the ‘Condition’ for this as well?

Anyways, issues like these show why Indian eCommerce companies still are struggling to understand the market, break-even and more importantly, retain customers; i.e. loyalty is A BIG FUCKING ZERO cause the customer service and user experience is horrible. Simply terrible.

Will I ever visit JustEat.in? Never in a 1,000 years. An eCommerce company that expects its users to read ‘Conditions’ before placing a basic food ordering and calculating the distance themselves before ordering food – am much better off without such companies.

iPad Mini – Did Apple Really Need It?


Apple iPad Mini. Priced at $329. Understood – Apple wishes to compete with Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and Google’s Nexus 7; but the question is – ‘Did Apple really need this one?’

I believe this is a terrible decision by Apple. And Steve Jobs if alive, would have had been extremely mad.

Before he died, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs referred to the problem in a conference call with the media, saying: “Software strategies always come first, as we know developers aren’t going to deal well with all these different-size products”. Not sure app developers would love iPad Mini at all.

Essential iPhone Apps


10 iPhone apps that you should have.
See complete article here.

> Bing
> Dashlane
> Evernote
> Facebook
> Find My iPhone
> Flipboard
> Onavo
> Snapseed
> WebMD
> Yelp

Which one if your favorite iPhone app?

Personally, I’m a big fan of:

> Facebook
> LinkedIn
> Pinterest
> QRReader
> viddy
> Instagram
> Y! Messenger
> Skype
> Find iPhone
> BeerShooter
> Beach Moto
> WhatsApp
> Angry Birds

These are the ones on my iPhone 3GS 32GB.

“Double Face”


Double Face. Literally in English means – “A Hypocrite“.
A bastard who says something, and means or does something else.

Am a typical Sagi by birth – born 24 November; so yes, have all the traits of a typical Sagi – extremely ambitious, career minded, focused in work, life and relationships; but also reckless, impulsive and at times, short tempered and egoistic. But one of the traits that I do possess – and have been reinforced over the years – is am honest, direct and straightforward. Have lost a few friends owing to this nature; but has benefited me rather than being the backbiting, backstabbing nature that a lot of other Zodiac signs have. In fact, Sagis are known for their bluntness; and thus its said – if you’re to marry a Sagi, you ought to be extremely thick skinned as well.

Anyways, one thing that I’ve never ever ever been called is – Hypocrite. I consider this word more derogatory than the worst of abuses – cause it takes away from me, my own self image and self esteem the core basis of living; i.e. self respect; and purpose of living.

But for the first time, someone did call me that. Really? Yes. Interested how?
Read on.

I recently went for a dinner with 2 friends of mine – yeah, it was my mistake to have thought that they were my friends, when neither of them were. Which is quite an irony – in itself in fact. Anyways, one was brunette; the other one a typical blonde. Both typical ones. The brunette – fiery little thing, speaking and enjoying. The blonde – extremely manipulative, quiet and measuring me up. We were chatting about life, their travels in India and thus; the general discourse ran as thus -

Brunette: I love Kolkata. Have been there*.

Blonde: Yeah, I love the slums in Kolkata (quite elaborate discussion hereat on her experience in the slums in Kolkata).

Myself: Yes, Kolkatans are the nicest people on Earth. Have warm hearts. If you ask for directions in Delhi, no one fucking cares. In Bangalore, maybe 2 out of 10 people would reply. In Kolkata, average 9/10 people would guide you to the place themselves.

Brunette: And then we met a woman who showed us her house… it was so small but had a refrigerator inside… she was so happy, cause she wanted to show it… she was proud of the refrigerator…

Blonde: Yeah… and we went with her to see her fridge…

Myself: See? You girls complaining about finding 3BHK and 4HBK flats here in Bangalore; and some people are so poor, they can’t even afford a 10X10feet little hut…

Blonde: YOU’RE SUCH A DOUBLE FACE – YOU TALK ABOUT MERCEDES CARS AND OTHER THINGS – AND NOW YOU TALK ABOUT POOR PEOPLE…

I sat there for a few seconds – absolutely shell shocked, spell bound, looking for the right words.
Couldn’t find them.
Kept on asking – “Me? Double Face? Me? Double Face? Me? Double Face? No. Other things yes, but not even fucking God can’t prove this.”
Yes, we spoke about career aspirations – I wish to retire soon enough with a Merc S Class which is one of the things on my Dream lists. Anyways, it has got nothing fucking to do with slums in Kolkata. And yes, I do donate Rs. 5,000/- every year to ‘Save The Children’ for kids’ education – the blonde forgot this.

Anyways, we spent the next 1 hour trying to understand where that word came from.
The blonde & brunette pair’s justification was – “We’re not native English speakers. Blonde meant – “multi-faceted” but “double face” came out.”
I went through these sentences a few thousand times in my head – and felt – blonde meant to say – ‘double face’. Not multi-faceted.

My points were -

a) Her English is pretty good – written, spoken and in accent. How come she didn’t make a slip of tongue in any other aspects?

b) The way a person says a thing, say a lot. It was meant in the way – “hey! you’re a hypocrite” and not “wow! you’re such a kind man”… Even if a mistake of slipping of tongue could have happened, I agree. But not in this case. Its like coming to someone’s house to kill with a revolver, and then saying to the person – ‘hey, I came to see whether you’re ok?’

c) And lastly, what convinced me was – she’s a Scorpio. Scorpios are famous for being extremely manipulative and yes, try mending everything they say, but countering judgements and cross-examinations always.

d) Vino Veritas – as the Latin saying goes. She was a bit drunk, thus, came out the real truth.

Anyways, I bid them goodbye; and escorted them to their hotel (since it was past mid-night); and then went home. Sent a very strong SMS from home – and yes, when early morning next day called them for apologies, neither picked up.

WHAT hurt the most is – Its a fact Europeans are extremely cold-hearted; but didn’t quite expect this from 2 people whom I considered my friends; and helped so much for finding a house when they were on the verge of being cheated by all the house brokers in Bangalore. Anyways, either its that Blondes are dumb, or Europeans don’t have the power of self assessment; that this happened.

Anyways, am not on speaking terms with the blonde anymore; she sent a SMS saying – “she’s sorry, hurt and angry that this happened”. But when I look back – I still see – she meant it. And the calculative and selfish person usually Scorpios are; they choose words extremely carefully.

All in all, I learnt a few big lessons in life -

a) Do NOT blabber unnecessarily whilst drinking.
Many do – and then regret it later.

b) Do NOT help people unnecessarily. Its a major character flaw in Sagis, but I need to work on it. Either way its a fail.
Whom you help – he/she will think – you have a hidden motive.
Others think – scoundrel is helping cause has a hidden motive.

c) Do NOT go out drinking with people – who are NOT your real friends. This is one of the biggest mistakes I made. And this is one of my life’s biggest learning from living in Moscow from 2001-2005 during my engineering years: YOU NEVER ACCEPT DRINKING INVITATION FROM SOMEONE WHO IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.

I still remember those days from 2001-2005 – when my Russian friends stood in front of me to protect me from the ‘wave of hooliganism and Skin Heads in Moscow all those years. There were days when have picked up people from the streets – bleeding to death from clashes with the Fascists/Russian SkinHeads past mid-night. Always stood for my foreigner friends in Moscow – cared, loved, protected all of them – and eternally thankful to my Russian / Ukrainian / Armenian / Chechen friends – whether working for the FSB or the Russian bratva – who were always there – night and day to provide protection – with guys and arms – to fight back. We did and still am in touch with a few; and yes, one of the basic things of loyalty that I learnt was – ‘Blood is thicker than Water. But Loyalty in Friendship is thicker than Blood. Never let someone down, even if it means at the cost of your life‘. I still remember the person who told me this – will never forget it. He was my friend for 4 years – saved my life in 2004; and though I couldn’t pay back anything cause I never had much money during my education; but we’re still in touch.

Our Brigada of Lefortovsky Stadium… I owe my Life to the guys & girls here… the best group ever…

Thanks to Roman – my one of 1,000 Russian friends in Moscow. During 2003 troubled times; owe him eternal thanks for saving my ass multiple number of times. Celebrating a party with vodka shots – one by one, all to be completed in 25 seconds.

Anyways, still when I think back about this particular incident – I feel I was right.
The blonde meant it.
Do I really care? Fucking HELL no.
I really do miss my Russian friends a lot sometimes – wish all could learn, what the fuck the word ‘loyalty‘ means from the Russians.

I recently read a line on Facebook. It was apt.
Don’t expect LOYALTY, TRUST & FAITH from cheap people. These things are expensive. Cheap people CANNOT afford them.

*Sentences are put as essence and not in their actual form.

Best Revenge Scene – Sonatine // A Bittersweet Life // Ajussi // A Better Tomorrow?


Always thought of asking this to myself – and to people who have seen all 4 of these movies… Asia’s finest – probably the best of the best in the modern generation from Japan & South Korea. The movies include:

These 4 are the finest action dramas to come out from Asia in the past 25 years or so… out of the innumerable number of movies that hit the world stage.
These 4 are special. If you haven’t watched them, please do; you will love it.

Now comes the question – which one has the classiest or most dramatic and pictured to perfection “action OR revenge” scene. Here’s them in order:

Which one do you think is the BEST?

1. SONATINE:

2. A BITTERSWEET LIFE:

3. A BETTER TOMORROW:

4. AJUSSI (THE MAN FROM NOWHERE):

So which one do you think is the best? :)