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Mindshare predicts platform and media trends in 2014

Mindshare, is one of the leading media firms in the world with offices across 115 cities. It handles media buying and selling for brands such as Unilever, IBM, HSBC and Volvo among others.

The firm recently released its digital outlook for 2014 to predict trends across platform and media, consumer technology and digital marketing. YourStory presents to you this indepth report in two parts. First up is platform and media trends.

Read on for indepth insights.

1. New building blocks of digital content

Constant experimentation with the new building blocks is key to winning in mobile Thanks to the shift in consumption of digital content towards mobile devices, increasingly digital content is being packaged in smaller ‘building blocks’ which can be routed across mobile networks and suited to smaller screens. Examples of these new building blocks include Twitter’s ‘Cards’, short-form social video (Vine and InstaVid), ephemeral content (Snapchat), and Buzzfeed’s ‘Listicles*’ – which have enjoyed massive growth across platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The one thing that all of these new building blocks have in common is their inherent shareability.

The opportunity : Many brands have already tested some features of Twitter Cards, but there are 8 in total so we recommend testing all versions, and supporting these with paid media. Similarly, many brands have tested Vines and InstaVids, but there is more experimentation needed – with support from paid media.

2. Clipping & sharing live TV/gaming video content

livesharingpostheadReal-time sharing of live footage just got easier. New technology allows the capturing and immediate sharing of live content from video-based entertainment (eg TV and Console gaming), either by broadcasters, or by users themselves.
Twitter launched their ‘Amplify’ product in the UK at the end of 2013 which enables sponsors of programmes to work with broadcasters to distribute sponsored instant replays and footage in real-time as the content goes out on air. This can all be ‘amplified’ using paid media in the form of Promoted Tweets which will allow this instantly-distributed live content to be targeted to the most relevant audience.
Similarly, Playstation and Xbox’s new consoles also allow in-game footage to be shared in real-time – eg the goal you just scored in FIFA14.

The opportunity : Be one of the first brands to do a Twitter Amplify campaign and join the small but elite cadre of brands who are leveraging live TV content across social.

3. Ecosystem integration
Making the most of Google. The power of the entire Google ecosystem has yet to be exploited by most brands. Over time there have been more and more integrations between Google products – eg a single sign in across all areas – and recently we have seen a step-change in the level of integration. Of course this is largely driven by a desire on Google’s part to create more connected experiences for their users, but these developments have the useful side-effect for marketers of being better able to join the dots between content, search and social.

The most recent development has been the integration of Google+ ‘commenting’ with Youtube comments – effectively allowing a conversation about a piece of Youtube content to live and grow across both platforms. This particular development has been beset by ‘spam’ issues, however we believe that there is a significant opportunity for brands in the medium term. The reason for this is that social signals are becoming increasingly important in Google’s natural search algorithm, so an integrated approach to the entire Google ecosystem across content, search and social is gradually becoming more important for brands.

The opportunity : Explore a true partnership with Google to leverage each area of the ecosystem and measure the incremental effect of bringing all elements of their portfolio together, using content as the glue.

4. Mobile social networks & messaging

Messaging-Apps-SMSPrivate messaging makes a fight-back. Dedicated mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat and Kik are growing at a rate not seen since the early days of social networking. WhatsApp now has over 350m users globally and is growing exponentially. Meanwhile, Facebook stated in a recent earnings call that it was seeing a “decrease in daily users, specifically among teens”. So, whilst teenagers are still on Facebook, it would appear that they are increasingly turning to dedicated messaging apps which are more focused on private messaging. Essentially, teens are looking for platforms where they can be less inhibited than they are on Facebook. On Facebook there is always a risk that your parents or family could see sensitive status updates.

The opportunity : When a big digital trend develops in the teen space it is always worth brands watching closely. The opportunity for brands is clearly limited by the fact that currently there is no available media inventory. However, Snapchat did just hire Instagram’s advertising development director so it appears they are developing an advertising-based business model. In the meantime, it seems the best brand use cases on these messaging platforms are in mimicking or taking advantage of current user behaviours and acting like those users – eg Absolut.

5. Special interest social networks
Whilst Facebook has been busy cornering the ‘social graph’ market, and Google has been focusing on the ‘knowledge graph’, there has been an explosion of new community platforms which aim to corner specific vertical interest areas. People with very specific interests are finding that their specific interests are better served by bespoke targeted networks.
There are already thousands of examples of these special interest-based social communities – eg Learnist (essentially a Pinterest for teachers), Letterboxd (film buffs) and styledon (fashionistas).

The opportunity : Brands need to develop an understanding of the opportunity for adding value to users within these specialist vertical interest networks. At the very least – the depth of interest-signal to be gained by authentically working with these niche vertical communities should easily outweigh the relative lack of scale.

6. Paid-for digital entertainment content increasing exponentially
Brands must adapt to the new premium landscape. A few years ago, piracy was king in the premium digital content world. Nobody paid for digital content. Nowadays – whilst filesharing sites are still popular amongst younger demographics – it is the turn of premium content to be king. Paywalls around news websites (eg News International), premium versions of social networks (eg linkedin), and an exponential increase in people who are prepared to pay for music and film (eg iTunes, Netflix, Blinkbox) are all evidence of a bright future for paid-for digital content.

And with increasing numbers of users prepared to pay for streaming or downloads it means there is a corresponding decrease in advertising opportunities around the most premium content.
So how can brands reach these ad-free premium content audiences?

The opportunity : The long-term opportunity for some brands is to publish premium quality branded content themselves. But this is not suitable for all brands and also requires proper sustained investment over time.
In the short term there is an opportunity for all brands to advertise at the point of entry in to premium paid-for content – eg within Xbox Live – or to develop more integrated promotions with streaming partners like Spotify or Microsoft – eg to subsidise free streaming of movies.

7. The Internet of Things

iotPhysical objects become internet-enabled and connected. Gone are the days of computers, smartphones and tablets being the only objects to connect to the internet. Today, nearly everything around us from fridges to light switches & TV remotes to cars has the ability to become an inter-connected web object. Today there are 12 billion devices across the world that can connect to the internet, but by 2015 Cisco predicts that there will be 25 billion – jumping to 50 billion by 2020 (almost 7 times the number of people of the planet). As an example, UPS fitted trackers to all their delivery vans then analysed the route data. They calculated that vans sat waiting to make left turns equated to 206 million minutes of idling time. As a result, they re-routed their delivery routes to minimize left turns and saved more than 1.5 million gallons in fuel.

The opportunity : The opportunity is in using the data produced by internet connected devices to enhance consumers’ lives, making tasks quicker more straightforward or adding genuine value. Additionally, there is an emerging opportunity to create branded apps which tap in to connected objects (eg branded recipe app for connected fridges) For brands there is also potential to work with partners who are taking a leadership position in this space. For eg Telefonica/O2, who in 2013 signed a £1.5bn deal to deliver smart meter systems in the UK. Their aim is to install 53m smart meters in UK homes by 2020 which could become the predominant platform for ‘the internet of things’ in the home in this country.

5 Ways to Boost Innovation

Creativity and innovation are often stymied because there just aren’t enough resources.

One of your responsibilities as a pragmatic leader is to make sure you remain within budget while ensuring your team is performing at its peak. You can’t throw every dollar at a project. You can’t get people all the support they would have in an ideal world. The sad truth is that supporting one project often means diverting resources from others.

You have to cut costs, save resources, and keep in step with a budget, all while trying to sponsor creativity and fuel innovation. It’s no easy juggling act.

Here are five strategies that will help you do it.

1. Forget about the bells and whistles

While Google and other tech companies have in-house chefs and ping pong tables, there’s no need to follow suit. You won’t be able to inspire much more creativity or innovation with expensive toys, nice workplace amenities, and other small perks.

In fact, employees may end up taking advantage of all the gifts and, worse, get used to the office luxuries. Too much of a good thing can even demotivate your team. Improving their equipment and adding little perks become the main goal, rather than the work they’re supposed to be doing. This happens all the time.

2. Don’t sew your wallet closed

Leaders often err on the side of too much cost-cutting. Too much belt-tightening can undermine the progress of your most important projects. When people feel they don’t have access to the resources they need to do their job, their enthusiasm will weaken. They may start rethinking whether they really want to stick with you and your agenda. To sustain momentum and move ahead, you have to make sure, as far as possible, that everyone has the tools they need or at least the possibility of attaining them in the future.

3. Don’t use more resources as a goal

Some leaders tempt teams with the promise of more resources if they can meet certain goals. That’s fine if the team can meet the goals, but it’s a different story entirely if they fail. Then they’re missed their goals, they don’t get their resources, and they end up feeling disappointed and resentful. And they can always argue that the reason they failed is because you didn’t give them enough resources to start with!

4. Educate and listen to the team

During projects, leaders should be very clear about the size of the budget, what’s going where, and why. If your expenditures aren’t transparent, team members may see certain purchases as wasteful or grow aggrieved when their bid for new resources is turned down.

The best way to figure out if your team is happy with their access to shared resources is to simply ask them. You may wish your team could work on vapors, but they can’t. You cannot afford to be insensitive to their needs.

5. Balance the allocation of resources

Don’t vacillate between feast and famine. Find the sweet spot where your team has the resources it needs to move ahead, but isn’t kicking back on your welfare system. Facilitate what they need, and scrutinize what they want. Don’t slam on the breaks and then hit the gas. Find a steady pace.

As a pragmatic leader, you need to make sure your group’s access to organizational resources doesn’t fall below a certain threshold-;from “hungry” to “discouraged.” There is no science here. There are no quantitative metrics. You have to be intuitive and sensitive to your group’s level of motivation and creativity.

Mobile Startups: Insights from Mobile India 2014 conference

The Mobile India 2014 conference, held recently in Bangalore, showcased a range of opportunities in the space of Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC). In addition to SMAC, there are also opportunities opening up in security and smart sensors, leading some speakers to joke that the acronym SMAC should actually be SSMACS!

In an earlier article, we looked at the top trends in enterprise mobile as identified by speakers from the 2014 conference. The 2013 edition of the conference also featured a panel on mobile startups (see my coverage here).

Mobile FI

“Mobile is the centre, cloud is the backbone and analytics is the nerve centre of digital business,” said Manjunath Gowda, CEO, i7 networks. Here is my pick of the Top 15 tips for mobile startups, based on the discussions at the Mobile 2014 conference.

1. Focus on solving real business needs

We are living in an age of realtime information overload. $300,000 is spent on online shopping every minute; 600 videos are uploaded to YouTube each minute; Facebook has over 700,000 updates each minute; and Twitter generates 12 terabytes of data daily – and this is just the tip of the proverbial data iceberg. However, for analytics to make sense of this data  is much more than just statistics; it connects realtime occurrences to the big picture and to pressing business needs and insights. Many startups are going after the low-hanging fruit, but there is much more value in sensemaking and decision support.

“The key challenge today is the inability to think big and ask the right questions to make a difference to businesses,” observed Venkatesh Vaidyanathan, VP, Product Management, Business Analytics, SAP Labs.

For example, true benefits arise when startups connect Big Data to predictive maintenance, brand sentiment, threat detection, product recommendations, fraud detection, realtime risk mitigation, realtime demand/supply forecast, personalised care, and resource optimisation. In this regard, Bangalore company Ramyam Intelligence Lab is rightly positioned by offering analytics and Big Data solutions to telcos to help address their needs of personalisation, churn reduction, loyalty management, and cross-selling of services.

2. Tell a story

The business opportunity lies not just in crunching data and unearthing patterns but building a larger narrative, a compelling story. “There are stories lurking in data. Analyse it, capture it, tell a story from it, make it actionable,” urged S. Anand, Chief Data Scientist, Gramener.

Fields like analytics are as much art as science, and players entering this space need to mix analytics skills with IT. Winning customers will depend not on technical skills but on the ability to deliver insights, discovery and new business knowledge – and thus clinch deals with powerful stories.

3. Address enterprise mobile

Much attention understandably focuses on consumer apps, but there is a world of enterprise and productivity apps also fast emerging. Startups can show how SMAC can be used to improve field worker productivity, for white collar and even blue collar workers. Services offered as “also mobile” will become “mobile first” even in the enterprise environment.

More than 50% of employee devices are purchased on their own. 70% of professionals will use smartphones by 2018, said Archana Kamath, Manager, Mobile CoE, EMC Software and Services India. BYOI (Bring Your Own Identity) is the next wave of consumerisation of IT in enterprise space.

Mobile cloud and workflow tools are now becoming available for SMEs too, and a new wave of value is being unleashed. Mobiles give companies not just deep consumer insights but continuous consumer insights, according to Alwyn Lobo, Senior Mobility Solutions Architect, IBM.

4. Offer security solutions

The increasing digital nature of the economy is also creating chaos, and the ‘attack surface’ of businesses is increasing via mobile. This calls for tools and companies who can provide better monitoring and governance of enterprise networks. For example, Misys GeoGuard uses customer location to reduce fraud for banks. The SnapChat hacking incident shows API vulnerability in world of mobile. API security will play centre stage as mobiles become gateways in the Internet of Things, predicted Shreekanth Joshi, Vice President, Cloud Practice Head, Persistent Systems.

“Look out for Trojans like mRats, host-based jammers, and tunnel borers,” cautioned Manjunath Gowda, CEO, i7 networks. 71% of mobile devices have OS/app vulnerabilities, and there has been 600% growth in mobile malware over last couple of years. 90% of BYOD enabled Indian businesses had a mobile incident in last 12 months, according to sources cited by Gowda. This opens up new markets for security products and services.

5. Watch the competitive space

Startups should aim for a ‘blue ocean’ strategy and enter fresh waters – or else figure out a way to do things better, faster, easier and cheaper than existing players. Several existing players and case profiles were highlighted by Dr. Sanjoy Paul, IEEE Fellow and Managing Director, Accenture Technology Labs India: such as blippar (mobile ads with augmented reality), and use of analytics by Walmart to predict product demand and by Google to forecast ad keyword demand. This reflects the overall trend of increasing real time bidding (RTB) exchanges; static models are declining. Reach.ly mines Twitter to help hotels reach potential guests in real time. Coursera is using analytics to better serve learners. FitBit and OnStar are other good examples of realtime analytics in action.

6. Address the “Four Vs” of Big Data

Big Data is important because there is too much data and too little time for businesses to take informed decisions in realtime. Hence startups should find opportunity in one or more of the “four Vs” of Big Data: volume, variety, velocity, value. In other words, they should show business leaders how they can help tackle data overload, data diversity, realtime data, and mining of insights.

7. Watch sensor networks, M2M and IoT

The Internet of Things (IOT) is currently at early hype stage, but will soon become mainstream, as the recent Consumer Electronics Show indicated: this ranges from wearable devices to smart tennis rackets, and also opens the door to a new range of analytics products and services. Mobiles are cumulatively becoming sensor aggregators, said Shreekanth Joshi, Vice President, Cloud Practice Head, Persistent Systems.

In healthcare, for example, the ‘digitised patient’ will become the hub for measuring, modelling and predicting treatments based on instrumentation and on-body sensors. Typical M2M scenarios encompass energy and water meters, cars, cranes, vending machines, fridges, air-conditioners, and ATM machines. The ATM attack incident in Bangalore shows the importance of monitoring all locations via M2M, said S.Girish, COO, ConnectM.

8. Move beyond location to context

Location and context are blending together to create new kinds of mobile-powered services and advertising. For example, a Tokyo company recruits drivers for two-hour time slots in different neighbourhoods; the matching is based on proximity of available drivers. Analytics coupled with mobile is a powerful combination.

9. Choose cloud for scale

Cloud computing drastically reduces barriers to entry for infrastructure improvement for startups in the growth curve, as shown by the acceleration of companies such as Animoto. The costs for launching a startup and promoting it are much lower these days than before, thanks to cloud infrastructure and social media. However, it should be noted that the business fundamentals of team management and financial models remain unchanged.

10. Evolve from being aware to becoming smart

“Tomorrow’s enterprise is hyperconnected, super-aware, and borderless. Will it be smarter?” asked Ramesh Adiga, AVP & Head, Global Delivery, Mobility Unit, Infosys. The next stage of mobile evolution is ‘superphones’ driven by platforms and lifestyle devices.

Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas is using Big Data in blackjack tables to figure out how to make gamblers comfortable and stay longer. Designer shoe store Meatpack in Guatemala uses realtime analytics to ‘hijack’ customers from competitors. “Analytics is changing the face of what we usually think of as mundane business,” said Sanjoy Paul of Accenture Labs. Startups need to go beyond ‘the usual suspects’ and identify opportunities right at the street corners and not just main street, and help clients move ‘from dashboards to decisions.’

11. Track emerging business models

The acquisition of Bangalore-based app optimisation company Little Eye Labs by Facebook for an estimated $15 million has shown that app infrastructure and ecosystems are also ripe targets for startup activity. An interesting model to watch is MBaaS – mobile backend as a service, as shown in app cost estimation and cloud models (Kinvey, Appcelerator, FeedHenry). Nicira can reconfigure physical network into multiple virtual networks.

12. Think big

Startup founders should not just look   at the idea or product but also the overall context, customer needs, scalability, UI/UX, andMobileIndia222 viral effects, advised Bharati Jacob, Founder Partner, Seedfund. For example, Limo service Uber may work well in Bangalore, but not have as much impact in Bombay where there are reliable taxis everywhere, she observed.

Many startups with good models focus largely on the local market and are not thinking global from the early stages. A few are, such as Zomato from India. “Maybe the Indian education system does not encourage us to think big and aim high,” added Jacob.

13. Make mobile marketing more targeted

Mobile marketers should stay away from the ‘spray and pray’ model of mainstream media, advised Ashvin Vellody, Partner, KPMG. There are numerous ways in which startups can help marketers experiment and refine ways of segmenting users and messages right down to, for example, passengers stranded  at airports and train stations.

14. Focus on social discovery and not social shopping

For a range of reasons, social shopping online has not worked well, but mobile social media has accelerated the discovery, inspiration and validation of online shopping, according to Kaushal Sarda, CEO, Kuliza Technologies. Social media is about conversations, so digital marketers and advertisers should figure out how to be part of or stimulate conversations, he advised.

15. Multiple mobile payment models will co-exist

Mobiles accelerate consumption of content and commerce, according to Ravi Pratap, Co-Founder and CTO, MobStack. “Multiple kinds of m-payment models will be needed in India, including via mobile operator billing as in the US,” said Pratap. Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities are takeoff markets for e-commerce in India, for everything from the latest books to lingerie sales, said Ashvin Vellody, Partner, KPMG. Retailers in India are executing their marketing campaigns on mobile social media now, not just PC-based Facebook, added Hrish Thota, Senior Manager, Social Computing, Happiest Minds.

In sum, mobile is pivotal to sense, influence and fulfill demand. “Mobiles will be ubiquitous and pervasive,” said Adiga of Infosys. But only an estimated 15% of Fortune 500 organisations have a concrete mobility strategy, opening up a wide door of opportunity for players in mobile space.

“Every business is a digital business, thanks to mobile, social, cloud and analytics. This is happening on a scale not possible before. SMAC helps companies simplify, accelerate, adapt and make better decisions,” said Accenture’s Paul.

Interesting questions to ponder – possibly at next year’s Mobile India conference – would be whether Facebook will be eclipsed by the next generation of social media, how cross-pollination between sectors will throw up new opportunities, and whether regulation and government may dampen the enthusiasm of the tech sector.

These 7 Trends Will Make You Incredibly Optimistic About The Internet Business In 2014

JP Morgan analyst Douglas Anmuth and his team are incredibly optimistic about the Internet industry in 2014.

In an email he just sent out to clients, Anmuth says that Internet stocks increased in value 78% during 2013 thanks in large part to seven “key” trends.

He says, “We believe those underlying dynamics should continue in 2014.”

Here are those key trends:

Mobile revenues will catch up to mobile usage.

In 2013, it finally happened: people use the Internet more through their mobile devices than they do through their desktop computers. But even though mobile usage was up, popular mobile products still did not have as much sales as desktop products. Anmuth and his team think this will start to change in a big way in 2014. He says users will become more savvy and comfortable with mobile devices. Apps will become more functional. More desktop sites will become mobile-optimized. This trend has already started, as mobile shopping on Cyber Monday was up 28% year-over-year to $5.8 billion.

 

jpmorgan2014chart01JP Morgan/Comscore

 

 

The kinds of ads you see in you Facebook News Feed are going to start showing up everywhere.

Facebook makes the majority of its advertising revenue selling units that appear in its “News Feed” – that center column of photos, status-updates, news stories, videos, and ads you see every time you open a Facebook app or go to Facebook.com. Twitter also makes almost all of its money through ads that appear in-stream. Anmuth and his team believe that in 2014, more companies will start to make such “Native Ads” their primary ad unit. Yahoo and LinkedIn will make the shift first. This is a positive trend for the industry because in-stream, “native” ads have “significantly higher click-through rates than traditional display ads, which leads to higher pricing over time.”

 

How Popular Are Native AdsJP Morgan/eMarketer

 

 

Advertisers will pay a lot to reach you on the right device at the right time.

Smartphones and tablets aren’t making it so people get on the Internet less through the desktop. They are making it so that people are on the Internet more during the day. Studies show that people use their tablets in the morning, their desktop computers during the day at work, and their phones at night. Companies like Google and Facebook are busy making tools that not only allow advertisers to specifically target you with an ad – but target you when you are using a particular device at a particular time. This will allow advertisers to target consumers when they are in the “right mood” to see a product and complete a transaction.

 

When people use which Internet-connected deviceJP Morgan/Comscore

 

 

Advertisers will finally be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons between Internet ads and TV ads, and Internet ads will prevail.

For a long time, Google, which owns YouTube, did not allow the companies that measure how popular TV shows are to use the same tools to measure how popular online videos are. In 2013, that changed. And then, when the apples-to-apples comparison between YouTube and cable channels finally came out, it was revealed – in a language that TV advertisers understood – that YouTube is massive. For example, among males aged 18-54, it is bigger even than ESPN. Now that TV advertisers can see this, they are going to do two things. They are going to spend more on Internet advertising to reach audiences on the Internet, and they are going to spend more on Internet advertising to convince the audiences there to turn on the TV – where they will see TV commercials.

 

YouTube reach versus cable networksJP Morgan/Nielsen

 

 

It will become more common to buy goods like food or wallpaper online because shipping will be more immediate.

Right now, 10% of all retail spending is done online. That number is going to increase in 2014, Anmuth and company believe, because e-commerce companies are getting better at shipping goods the same day they are ordered online. Companies are doing this two ways. Pure e-commerce companies like Amazon are building more local distribution centers. Traditional retailers are allowing online shoppers to buy goods currently held in inventory by local stores.

 

The 2014 ecommerce opportunityJP Morgan/US Census/Forrester Research

 

 

Amazon and Google have lots of spare computers, and more Web companies are going to pay to use them in 2014.

Google and Amazon have massive server farms located all over the world. These server farms aren’t even close to being maxed-out by Amazon and Google products and services. So, Amazon and Google sell some of the spare capacity to other Web companies. Netflix, for example, is powered by Amazon computers. The JP Morgan analysts think that more companies will buy Internet computing capacity from Amazon and Google this year. Anmuth says this will create a “virtous cycle” in which businesses pay less for infrasctructure, charge consumers less, and bring more consumers online.

 

content stored on Amazon's serversJP Morgan/Amazon

 

 

The insanely competitive online travel industry is expanding to mobile and overseas.

Anmuth and his analysts believe four factors will drive consumers to use online travel agencies more in 2014. 1) Heating-up competition between big companies like Priceline and Experdia will force them to buy more ads and offer more deals. 2) Sites that sell tickets to consumers and sites that help consumers find sites that sell tickets are becoming the same thing. 3) Online-travel booking is getting more popular in international markets. 4) People are starting to book travel from their mobile devices, and for more than just that same day.

Innovations For Sustainability

In India, this quote by Yunus continues to be relevant even today as a majority of its population battles poverty. Socially focused ventures that provide innovations for low-income markets and create opportunities for a better lifestyle have however made significant progress in fighting this battle – especially since India got independence from colonial rule in 1947.

As India celebrates its 67th year of freedom it seems poignant to therefore pause and reflect on eight milestones that have played an important role in shaping India’s social enterprise landscape and the lessons they teach us.

1. Founding of Amul Dairy Co-operative (1946 – 1950)

The founding of the Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers Union in 1946 and the Amul Dairy in 1950 has over the years given thousands of dairy farmers access to a wide range of domestic markets and spurred India’s milk revolution. The diagram explains in detail how the Amul co-operative benefits numerous dairy farmers across India.

 

Amul demonstrated that the elimination of middlemen and the professional management of milk procurement could result in low-income farmers getting access to new markets thereby lifting them out of poverty. While Amul was not conceived as a social enterprise, it is a historic example of supply chain management that is relevant even today.

2. Beginnings of Fabindia (1960)

Founded by John Bissell to market the diverse craft traditions of India, Fabindia started as a company exporting home furnishings. By linking over 80,000 craft based rural producers to modern urban markets, Fabindia impacted rural artisans at a scale similar to that of Amul for dairy farmers.

Fabindia’s unique ‘community owned company’ model that promotes inclusive capitalism can be credited for the impact they have created. By providing a minimum 26% shareholding to companies co-owned by artisan communities, Fabindia not only offered artisans a regular income but also dividends from the company’s growth. Today, with a pan-India presence, Fabindia is the largest private platform for products that derive from traditional crafts and knowledge.

3. Founding of Ashoka in India (1981)

Ashoka laid the foundation for the concept of social entrepreneurship around the world and started working in India in 1981. Their yearly batches of Changemakers – a community of social entrepreneurs that work to launch, refine and scale high potential ideas for low-income markets – has proven to be a successful model that has been adopted by several accelerators globally.

 

Ashoka’s establishment in India highlighted the importance of non-financial support in the form of networks, mentors and beyond to accelerate the growth of entrepreneurs working with innovations for low-income markets. Since inception in India, Ashoka has identified and worked with more than 350 fellows with innovative solutions from diverse fields and provided them access to funding, expertise and the global networks necessary to grow operations and scale impact.

4. Establishment of SELCO Solar (1995)

SELCO Solar was established with the mission to dispel the myth that low-income communities cannot afford or maintain sustainable technologies. SELCO resolved this challenge by not only creating low-cost solar solutions for lighting, water pumping and computing but also by providing a complete package of product, service and consumer financing through grameena banks, cooperative societies and micro finance institutions.

In a time when only a limited amount of financial and non-financial support was available to socially focused entrepreneurs and affordable solar power was a distant dream even in developed countries, SELCO not only sold and serviced solar lighting systems but also developed and scaled a business model for bringing rural services to poor families. In the past 18 years, SELCO has sold over 1,35,000 solar home lighting systems.

5. India’s First Impact Investments (2001)

It was in 2001 that Acumen Fund; a powerful catalyst for socially focused ventures internationally, brought its approach to India and made its debut investment in Aravind Eye Hospital. Acumen went on to open its India office in 2006 and has since invested USD$36 million in 26 different social companies in India.

In the same year, Vineet Rai also founded Aavishkaar, India’s first for-profit impact investment fund. Aavishkaar now oversees four investment funds and over 25 portfolio companies across sectors such as agriculture, dairy, healthcare, water, sanitation and beyond in India.

The introduction of both Aavishkaar and Acumen in India showcased the demand for early-stage investments in socially focused enterprises to scale both operations and social impact.

6. Social Enterprise Reaches Indian Universities (2007)

Education has often been seen as a stepping-stone towards positive change. The introduction of the Masters in Social Enterprise at one of India’s leading academic schools, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in 2007 heralded a small but growing trend to provide formal training for entrepreneurs aspiring to create social change.

The founding of this masters program raised the academic profile for social enterprise as a career and created a viable pathway for the next generation of socially focused leaders.

7. Introduction of the Sankalp Summit (2009)

Sankalp Forum’s annual summit in 2009 was the first such event of its kind in India that brought together multiple stakeholders such as entrepreneurs, investors, experts and development partners to review the progress made within the sector and to set course for the future. It was initiated with the vision of catalyzing impact investments into social enterprises globally and has today evolved into a community of over 350 socially focused enterprises, 300 investors and 300 sector stakeholders.

The popularity of Sankalp Forum brought to the forefront the importance of local and regional events for the convergence of global knowledge and investment dialog necessary to further the inclusive ecosystem in India.

8. Passing of the Companies Bill (2013)

The passing of the Companies Bill and along with it the mandatory 2% of profits spend on CSR activities is a historic piece of legislation. While the impact of this spend has been a topic of much debate, including criticism that CSR is simply a public relations exercise, the new bill is an opportunity for Indian corporates to embrace a few large social problems that government benefits have been unable to resolve satisfactorily.

Moreover, the bill is aimed at providing important financial resources to NGO’s, social enterprises as well as incubators and accelerators with the ultimate intention being for corporates to play a greater role in eradicating social problems such as hunger and lack of education which continue to fester in India.

Steve Jobs – though unrelated to social enterprise – said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future.”

Similarly, not only do these eight milestones define India’s social enterprise landscape but they also act as important opportunities for reflection on the way forward – for entrepreneurs, investors, accelerators and governments alike.

Small Business, Big Vision

There is so much written these days about how to attract investors that most entrepreneurs “assume” they need funding, and don’t even consider a plan for “bootstrapping,” or self-financing their startup. Yet, according to manysources, over 90 percent of all businesses are started and grown with no equity financing, and many others would have been better off without it.

According to the book, “Small Business, Big Vision,” by self-made entrepreneurs Adam and Matthew Toren, it’s really a question of need versus want. We all want to have our vision realized sooner rather than later, but it can be a big mistake to bring in investors rather than patiently building your business at a slow, steady pace (organic growth).

In fact, most of the rich entrepreneurs you know actively turned away early equity proposals. Too many founders are convinced they “need” equity financing, for the wrong reasons, as outlined in the book and supplemented with a bit of my own experience:

  • Need employees and professional services. Of course, every company needs these, in due time. In today’s Internet world, enterprising entrepreneurs have found that they can find out and do almost anything they need, from incorporating the company to filing patents, without expensive consultants, or the cost to hiring and firing employees.
  • Need expensive resources up front. Many people think that having a proper office and equipment somehow legitimizes their business, but unless your business requires a storefront, everything else can be done in someone’s home office, or a local coffee shop, on used or borrowed equipment. Consider all the alternatives, like lease versus buy.
  • Need to spread the risk. Some entrepreneurs seem to get solace and implied prestige from convincing friends, Angels, and venture capitalists to put money into their endeavor. If nothing else, these make good excuses for failure – no freedom, wrong guidance, etc.

On the other hand, there are clearly situations where your needs call for investors. Even in these cases, all other options should be explored first:

  • Sales are strong – too strong. If you are not able to keep up with demand due to lack of funds for production, and your company is too young for banks to be interested, you will find that investors love these odds, and are quick to go for a chunk of the action.
  • Your company has outgrown you. Some entrepreneurs are quick with creative ideas, and even excellent at managing the chaos of initial implementation. That’s not the same as instilling discipline in a larger organization, where most the challenge is people.
  • You need a prototype. When you have invented a new technology, you need expensive models and testing, including samples for potential customers. If you don’t have the personal funds to make these happen, investors might be your only option.
  • You need specialized equipment. If your solution depends on high-tech chips, injection molding, or medical devices, and you can’t get financing from suppliers, giving up a portion of the company to investors is a rational approach.
  • General startup expenses are beyond your means. Investors are not interested in covering overhead, unless they are convinced that you have already put all your “skin in the game” (not just sweat equity), and have real contributions from friends and family.

When deciding whether and how an investor can help you, remember that finding outside investors requires a huge amount of time and work, perhaps impacting your rollout more than working with alternate approaches and slower growth. Perhaps you really need an advisor rather than an investor.

Even under the best of circumstances, working with an investor requires give and take. More likely, you now have a new boss – which may be counter to why you chose the entrepreneur route in the first place. Maybe that’s why bootstrapped startups are the norm, rather than externally funded ones. You alone get to make the big decisions on your big vision.

[Book Review] Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup

Many believe that entrepreneurship cannot be taught, but it is possible to teach people how to make great products and thus create a successful startup, as clearly illustrated in the insightful and actionable guidebook, ‘Disciplined Entrepreneurship.’

Bill Aulet is the managing director in the Martin Trust Centre for Entrepreneurship at MIT and also a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He has launched initiatives like the MIT Clean Energy Prize, Energy Ventures Class, Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP), “t=0” Entrepreneurship Festival, Beehive Cooperative, Entrepreneurs Walk of Fame, Corporate Innovators Sponsor Group, and Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator.

Bill has had a 25-year track record of success in business himself. He has directly raised more than $100 million in funding for his companies and led to the creation of millions of dollars in market value in those companies.

Many of the case studies in the book feature the company he founded, SensAble Technologies. The other case profiles in the book are from Aulet’s course, with startups in sectors such as footwear, water filtration, furniture shopping, baseball fantasy games, wind turbines, bio-sensors, landfill technologies, silent alarm clocks, arts education, skin care, digital marketing, and e-commerce for handicrafts.

The book also has a companion Web site (http://disciplinedentrepreneurship.com/) with case studies and other resources. Entrepreneurship is a team sport which can be taught and should be considered a legitimate profession and discipline, according to Aulet.

The book covers many iterative loops along the startup roadmap, and the steps are illustrated by Marius Ursache. It is not knowledge that sets you free, but action, Aulet explains. To begin with, entrepreneurs must have an idea, a passion, and preferably a tech breakthrough.

One chapter is devoted to each of 24 steps in the startup toolbox, and I have summarised them briefly in Table 1 according to six themes; each chapter makes for a superb read and is backed with references and resources.

Table 1:  Steps to a Successful Startup

Theme Steps Activities and Items
Customer identification Market segmentation, beachhead market, end user profile, TAM size, persona; next 10 customers Primary/secondary market research (users, benefits), word of mouth channels, qualities of customers, top-down and bottom-up determination of total addressable market
Customer offering Full life cycle use case, product spec, value proposition, core definition, competitive positioning Product acquisition/installation/payment, brochures and mock-ups, USP (‘secret sauce’ – eg. network effect, UX), meeting customer needs better than existing offerings
Product acquisition by customer Customer’s decision making unit, acquisition process of paying customer, sales process mapping Decision makers and primary/secondary influencers, budget cycles and times, adjacent customers, sales activities over near/medium/long term
Monetisation Business model, pricing framework, lifetime value (LTV), cost of customer acquisition (COCA) Models to capture value from customer (eg. subscription, licensing, ads), price points and ranges, charges and recurring fees, top down costs of lead generation and conversion
Product design and development Identifying key assumptions, testing assumptions, minimum viable business product (MBVP), proof of purchase List assumptions in the market and customer mindset, test through observations and polls, design basic product which customer will pay for and give feedback, demonstrate intent to purchase and engage
Scaling the business Calculate TAM size of follow-on markets, develop a product plan Determine product features for beachhead market, determine adjacent markets and product changes needed

Aulet distinguishes between SME entrepreneurship (more focused on non-tradeable jobs such as running a restaurant, with linear growth rates) and innovation-driven entrepreneurship (with investments, more risk, and potential of global exponential growth and profits).

He also highlights the unique nature of ‘two-sided’ markets which need two kinds of communities to succeed, for example buyers and sellers (e-Bay) or readers and advertisers (AdWords). This calls for multiple total addressable market (TAM) calculations and persona descriptions for each.

“Beachhead TAM calculation is your sanity check that you are headed in the right direction,” Aulet flags off in the beginning. It is a combination of customer base and estimated product price. Value proposition itself is a combination of how the product makes life better, faster, cheaper or less risky for the customer.

Entrepreneurs should stay out of the ‘reality distortion zone’ and not fall victim to their hope and hype; dealing with customer feedback – even from naysayers – will help focus on real solutions, Aulet advises.

‘Core’ aspects of the startup would be unique features such as network effects, outstanding customer service, lowest cost or best user experience. This will then need to be backed up with business models such as up-front charge, hourly rates, subscription, license, ad support, reselling of analytics, transaction fees, tiered models, shared savings and franchise.

Pricing should be flexible for a range of customers, example for early testers, lighthouse customers and co-creators. Lifetime value calculations are important to gauge the long-term viability of current and future products, and go hand in hand with calculation of customer acquisition costs.

Once a product has been launched, the startup founder then needs to address the challenges of building company culture for the long term, HR strategies, cash flow skills, and corporate governance.

“The world needs more and better entrepreneurs because our world’s problems are becoming more dire, complex and ubiquitous,” Aulet concludes.

The book has a number of witty and inspiring quotes, and it would be nice to end this review with some of them.

“Entrepreneurship is not only a mindset but a skillset.” – Mitch Kapor, Founder, Lotus

“While the spirit of entrepreneurship is often about serendipity, the execution is not.” – Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab

“Ideas are a dime a dozen but great entrepreneurs are what create value.” – Paul Maeder, National VC Association

Offline Retailers Launch Online Protest “We Will Act’ For Price Undercutting By Ecommerce Sites

I have heard this from number of my friends who run physical stores – This year they have experienced much lower footfalls from consumers, especially in the electronic and apparel segment. And many of them believe it is due to rise in ecommerce in India. People now increasingly prefer shopping online rather than going to physical stores.

And this trend will only increase…and why not, consumers buying online are getting much better deals, sometimes nearly half the price at which local offline retailer will offer you.

While this is great for consumers, have you thought how this is affecting lakhs of local offline businesses? Obviously, they now see online retailers as their biggest enemy.

So what do offline retailers do to overcome this?

These physical store owners are now getting together to protest against the undercutting of prices by online retailers. They have launched a website – We Will Act – that condemns the business practices undertaken by ecommerce sites (mind you, in very strong words). They have also written to the Competition Commission of India, complaining that their online counterparts are selling goods below cost and skirting Indian laws on foreign direct investment in retail.

We Will Act | Offline Retailers Launch We Will Act Protest For Price Undercutting By Ecommerce Sites

The website wewillact.com have put up Appeals to Government of India, Political parties of India, to consumers, to manufacturers and vendors and even to Venture Capitalists who are putting millions of dollars of investment.

Sample this – Here is what “We Will Act” asks consumers to do, in their own words:

?Let’s take some small steps

We will not purchase or supply anything to these unethical online retailers. ( XKart, Ydeal, KBong..)

?Lets boycott them.

Let’s now punish them:

1- Let’s place Cash on delivery orders for Rs.40000.00 rupees items every alternate day and cancel when delivery boy comes to delivery. This will make them to lose their fat by Rs.1000.00 at least.

2- Whenever you are free call to their customer care and waste their time. This will increase their customer care expenses.

Here is what they say about online retailers:

Some online retailers in India are like BIGDE BETE of their BIG PAPA of USA. They are getting so much money for doing so much of experiment in India and kind of playing GAMBLING. Every six months they are changing their business models, spending heavily on advertisements, selling everything to everyone at much below their cost prices, running business in huge operating losses and that is adversely affecting the traditional physical retailers.

There can be possibility if some enemies of our country or terror outfits giving funding to these MONKEYS to do so much drama and make lakhs of retailers loose their piece of mind and livelihood.

Will This Protest Help?

I really don’t think this it is going to make any difference. While they have a right to be frustrated with price undercutting, it is a business model which online retailers are following with a view of garnering consumer base in long term. I don’t think anyone can object online retailers’ business practices.

Rather than doing a protest like this, they need to accept the new world order and join the flow. They have to find a way to compete and probably move their business online.

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