Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Long Tail of Consultancy

How many times have you felt your neighborhood shopkeeper could do with some better marketing and operational skills ? How many times have you felt the restaurants you visit would do much better business if they just if they hired better people or simply showed you a better menu ?

There is a small Indian restaurant near the AIM campus called Swagath. The way they treat customers makes us wonder if the owners put in atleast some thought before making business decisions. A case in point is the bearer told us we could use the chatni only for samosas and not for parathas. Why could they not understand that spending five bucks more on chutni could easily earn them 100 bucks in paratha sales. The fact of the matter is they made awesome chutni and they didnt knowhow to make money out of it.

If this is the case in the business district of Metro Manila, you imagine the situation in India. The moral of the story is most of these small entrepreneurs just dont know anything about marketing or finance or operations. They dont need an MBA degree. But they could do much better with some inputs from guys with MBA degrees.

The issue here there is no one actually providing consultancy of any type to these guys. But these small shop-owners are at a high riskof being wiped out with the emergence of organised retailing in India. I believe this is where the the Long Tail opportunity for the consultancy business lies.

It should be a pretty good money-making opportunity trying to consult these guys. The obstacles might be in trying to impress people into paying consult fees. But may be the consultancy can identify small businesses with good potential and offer to buy equity stakes at a discount in return for consulting and actually walk the talk.

The opportunity here is huge because of two reasons. One, there are just millions of small businesses that need consultancy support. Two, as India opens up more and more, these guys better do something or they will get wiped out in no time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Yahoo announces Shoposphere

Yahoo has announced its advanced shopping search Shoposphere. It also has a feature called Pick Lists which sounds like Amazon Listmania. The blog entry says this featire will help tap the Long Tail of shopping better.

For a quick comparison with Froogle, try running a search for 'Apple Laptops' in both engines. The difference you see is because of divergent search ideologies.

Froogle results: Totally computer-generated. Result: Filtering possible only in terms of price

Y! Results: You give the job to humans and they can give you filter options in terms of processor, memory, size etc,. !!

Now which one would you prefer ? Does it matter how brilliant the geeks are who write great algorithms ?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Where are you on your career graph ?

Read this really good post from Seth. Gives you a good framework to re-think your career strategy, but like all frameworks, almost impossible to find out where you are on the graph.

Read this follow-up too ...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

See Thru Skirts

This fashion was introduced as a new product in one of my marketing classes which captures the need for induviduality in the minds of Japanese people.
But apparently it looks like an e-mail hoax !!

Laser Keyboard

This keyboard looks pretty cute. There is a small device which can project your keyboard onto any flat surface.

Apart from the obvious convenience it provides, I think it will give lot of flexibility in terms of adding features to the keyboard since there will not be any hardware bottleneck.

And may be add some good security features too.

Should be interesting to see how this product evolves.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Why are Internet browsers not personalizable ?

With many browsers coming out with powerful bookmark and feed tools, why aren't we seeing personalisation features in browsers. With the general move in the industry is seen towards accessing applications/services from different devices and some kind of uniformity expected, why can't we just login to a browser using a unique id and see all our settings, bookmarks and feeds from any computer/device ?

There should be incentive for browser makers too in this feature. They just lock in the user and have a history of what the user's browsing habits for life. You cannot ask for more than that for a better targeted advertising that works.

Btw, I am trying AOL Explorer to see if I can get a better experience than Firefox. It has some 'cool' features, but mostly none are much useful. One irritating aspect is there is no way I can import bookmarks from Firefox. If you are looking to get users from competitors, why would you not make the transition easier ?

Corporate Espionage

In HBR Nov 2005

The latest issue of HBR carries an article on Corporate Espionage. The moral of the story is simple: 'If you are dealing with something good enough, be sure you are being spied upon'

Some of the possibilities are really scary.
  • The WiFi in your favorite business hotel is an easy channel for spies
  • If you argue that you transfer official data through a highly encrypted VPN, there could be cameras on the ceiling tracking your keystrokes
  • The shredder available in hotel rooms could actually have scanners, which scan your secret documents before shredding
  • If you leave your laptop behind in your hotel room and go shopping, be sure your hard disk would be copied
  • If you leave your cellphone unattended, someone could replace your battery with a special one that records your conversations and transfers them
Sure, this is paranoic. But the examples given are happening right now. But you could do the following things to be safe
  • Never leave your laptop/cellphone unattended
  • Try not to use the 'free' WiFi at your faborite hotel. If possible use it from an obscure public connection

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Web 2.0 or Bubble 2.0 ?

There are already signals to believe that people are overplaying the Web 2.0 hype. Consider the following two posts for example :

Dion's Top 10 issues facing Web 2.0 , top of the list is this :

1. Excessive Hype: Nothing will hurt Web 2.0 more than people loudly proclaiming Web 2.0 is the solution to every problem in software. It's surely not and saying so is a credibility killer. We heard this with object technology, we heard this with components, people said it about dot-com, and too many other silver bullets in the last twenty years. Nobody believes there is a overall panacea to the creation of software. Web 2.0 is merely a powerful way of thinking about the design and construction of effective Web experiences. Bloviating is the term I hear the most from Web 2.0 hype complainers. Let's agree to stop it.

And now consider the following post on Bnoopy's Entrep Blog:

So What?
It’s nice that it’s cheaper, but what does it mean to entrepreneuring?

More people can and will be entrepreneurs than ever before
A lot more people can raise $100,000 than raise $3,000,000.

Funding sources explode which enables more entrepreneurs
The sources of funding capable of writing $100,000 checks are a lot more plentiful than those capable of writing $3,000,000 checks. It’s a great time to be an angel investor because there are real possibilities of substantial company progress on so little money.

More bootstrapping to profitability
With costs so low, I think you’ll see many more companies raise angel money and take it all the way to profitability.

Higher valuations for VCs.
And, for those that do raise venture capital, I think it means better valuations because you can get far more mature on your $100,000 before you go for the bigger round.

Combine the above two posts and you can see clear signals of a bubble in the making !!

P.S.: If you are not sure what Web 2.0 is, read this article. It is leangthy article. If you dont have the time to read it, in short, no one knows how to define it. But this is not considered an issue with Web 2.0, it is apparently a feature which does not confine the boundaries of what Web 2.0 could turn out to be. To get a quick idea, just have a look at the following table :

Blogger's Dilemma

There seem to be many definitions of 'Blogger's Dilemma'. A quick web search yields a lot of results. My definition of Blogger's dilemma goes like this :

"When a Blogger knows he has a bright idea, an idea which he could actually use in future and make money (even an idea which he believes has the slightest chance of blossoming into something useful) , would he go ahead and post it ? "

Can the blogger actually use his blog entry to prove his patent claims in future ?

A more basic question is, if all the posts on the Blogosphere are useless pieces according to the person who posts it, what on earth do people reading reading tens of blogs everyday hope to gain in life ?
(Of course, this would not hold true for blogs with entertainment/news/propaganda content.)

Windows Live

MSFT last week launched Windows/Office Live which moves the platform on which access Microsoft products to the web. The following are the immediate implications:

  • Microsoft accepts 'Software as a Service' is the way to go for the future. This is significant because of its huge user base and could actualy affect all its offerings in future.
  • Microsoft believes ads will the future revenue driver. Many services on Live might be free.
  • Microsoft wants to put Live on a perpetual Beta. What it means is will keep releasing/adding features as and when they appear testable by users. This is a radical shift considering the Vista scenario where competitors claim to offer features which Vista will supposedly offer year end 2006.

In terms of future possiblilities, the possible scenarios (if MSFT's point of view is right) are interesting, some actually scary for some companies in the industry. The assumption is that the future world will be something like this:

Prophecies of a WebOS will become a reality. The Operating Systems running our applications will be hosted by big servers run by companies across the world. Our laptops/desktops will be no more than terminals which support only an Internet browser. Of course, you will need powerful machines for 'Entertainment' needs.

Intel/Dell: If all we do moves to the web, the current desktop machines with their powerful configurations will become obsolete. We will actually need only skinnier machines which at least only support a web browser. No one is going to pay extra for that 'Intel Inside' and actually margins on desktops should disappear. If Intel/Dell have to survive, they would have to sell home computers as 'Entertainment Centers', which actually they have already started doing.

Microsoft-Vista: What will be the role of Vista in such a scenario ? Vista as a packaged/bundled software will not make sense. MSFT might try and tie-up many Live features with Vista. Given the current move, it looks more like a hedging strategy from Microsoft, not being ready to get left behind.

Geo-Strategy: This is actually a crazy scenario, but imagine all our data and all our applications are on Servers run by big US multinationals and all these servers are in the US. And, one fine day the White House decides to impose a software embargo on Iraq. It can effectively turn off all software services to Iraq !!

IPR: This is more of an obvious change. You can no more use Office XP for free in India. You would have to pay for all features you use on Live. You cannot walk across the hallway and borrow that Windows CD from your friend.

Big Brother: Of course, all this is another step towards exposing more of what we do to the people running popular applications and effectively to the government. Web Search, Desktop Search and now Software Services on the web.

(P.S.: I had actually predicted MSFT could offer such a service during a conversation with my friend a coulple of years ago.)

Im Back !!

Finally posting after a long time. Main reason is that I was not sure how to use this space. Initially the idea was to use this space as a log of all items I read on the web. But that that need was totally satisfied by Yahoo's MyWeb2.0 (I will talk abt it in a future post).

So, why have I started blogging again ? Basically, the idea is to try some sharing of my own thoughts and future gazing with my network. Apparently, the future is all about social networking and knowledge sharing (blah blah ..) ;-)

It would be great if the audience turns out be enthu about what I write and basically, I write sensible stuff. It would be really nice to have some real discussions on the blog. I think I would also have to do some marketing of the blog.

Welcome Back !!