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Jeff Bezos- One reason why Flipkart, Snapdeal will never be Amazon of India

Amazon is the fastest company to reach $100 Bn in Annual Sales and is cruising along to gain leadership position in the Indian Ecommerce Space. Meanwhile AWS reached $10Bn in annual sales, even faster. There primary reason why Amazon will be the Amazon of India is Jeff Bezos clarity of thought and leadership- Very well articulated in the letter to shareholders-

1. “Customer Obsession”
Both were planted as tiny seeds and both have grown organically without significant acquisitions into meaningful and large businesses, quickly. Superficially, the two could hardly be more different. One serves consumers and the other serves enterprises. One is famous for brown boxes and the other for APIs. Is it only a coincidence that two such dissimilar offerings grew so quickly under one roof? Luck plays an outsized role in every endeavor, and I can assure you we’ve had a bountiful supply. But beyond that, there is a connection between these two businesses. Under the surface, the two are not so different after all. They share a distinctive organizational culture that cares deeply about and acts with conviction on a small number of principles. I’m talking about customer obsession rather than competitor obsession, eagerness to invent and pioneer, willingness to fail, the patience to think long-term, and the taking of professional pride in operational excellence. Through that lens, AWS and Amazon retail are very similar indeed.

2. The culture of Failing Fast.
One area where I think we are especially distinctive is failure. I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organizations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there. Outsized returns often come from betting against conventional wisdom, and conventional wisdom is usually right. Given a ten percent chance of a 100 times payoff, you should take that bet every time. But you’re still going to be wrong nine times out of ten. We all know that if you swing for the fences, you’re going to strike out a lot, but you’re also going to hit some home runs. The difference between baseball and business, however, is that baseball has a truncated outcome distribution. When you swing, no matter how well you connect with the ball, the most runs you can get is four. In business, every once in a while, when you step up to the plate, you can score 1,000 runs. This long-tailed distribution of returns is why it’s important to be bold. Big winners pay for so many experiments.

3. Amazon is in India to win.
India is another example of how we globalize an offering like Marketplace through customer obsession and a passion for invention. Last year we ran a program called Amazon Chai Cart where we deployed three-wheeled mobile carts to navigate in a city’s business districts, serve tea, water and lemon juice to small business owners and teach them about selling online. In a period of four months, the team traveled 15,280 km across 31 cities, served 37,200 cups of tea and engaged with over 10,000 sellers. Through this program and other conversations with sellers, we found out there was a lot of interest in selling online, but that sellers struggled with the belief that the process was time-consuming, tedious and complex. So, we invented Amazon Tatkal, which enables small businesses to get online in less than 60 minutes. Amazon Tatkal is a specially designed studio-on-wheels offering a suite of launch services including registration, imaging and cataloguing services, as well as basic seller training mechanisms. Since its launch on February 17th, we have reached sellers in 25 cities.

4. Amazon is it’s own competition
Just over 10 years ago, AWS started in the U.S. with its first major service, a simple storage service. Today, AWS offers more than 70 services for compute, storage, databases, analytics, mobile, Internet of Things, and enterprise applications. We also offer 33 Availability Zones across 12 geographic regions worldwide, with another five regions and 11 Availability Zones in Canada, China, India, the U.S., and the U.K. to be available in the coming year. AWS started with developers and startups, and now is used by more than a million customers from organizations of every size across nearly every industry – companies like Pinterest, Airbnb, GE, Enel, Capital One, Intuit, Johnson & Johnson, Philips, Hess, Adobe, McDonald’s, and Time Inc.

AWS is bigger than Amazon.com was at 10 years old, growing at a faster rate, and – most noteworthy in my view – the pace of innovation continues to accelerate – we announced 722 significant new features and services in 2015, a 40% increase over 2014.

Many characterized AWS as a bold – and unusual – bet when we started. “What does this have to do with selling books?

10 Life Hacks from The Rickshaw Challenge-2016

Last week  I was part of a super awesome road trip with Mukesh Jha , Janardan Prasad, 19 other teams and the support staff & team of The Travel Scientists. What is Rickshaw Challenge – Malabar Rampage?  You can read all about Rickshaw Challenge here, however very simply put an incredible ~1200KM ride on 3 wheels ( Rickshaw/ Tuk Tuk) on Indian Roads.

Loads of Fun, Lots of Challenges and Humbling Experiences. Here are the top 10 Life Hacks I learnt in this trip and credits to people, event, places for the learnings.

1. What’s in a name that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Read: It Takes a bad ass to run the show. Call him Luke, John or Aravind 🙂

Credit: Aravind, Princely and The Travel Scientists- Don’t reason with Indians, smile 🙂

2. Junk the Manual.  Ride, Break, Fix. Repeat!

Credit: Chennai Garage Team- you are amazing clockwork!

3. Journey of 1000 mile begins with a single.. Crank

Credit: Practice Run. Go Mukesh Go! Thanks for taking the lead, revving and doing the donut moves for The Autowale.

4. when in Rome do as the Romans do and in Kerela do the Malayali 

Credit: Team Autowale.

 

5. what the heck Rome! Sumos are Sumos, Rome, Sydney, Japan or Mars

Credit: Butt, Sweat and Tears ( Chris, Mark, Hugo). Chris, Mark, Hugo you deserve the Bonkers Award. Who else would put up the Sumo costume for every event when it’s 40 degrees?

6. Life is a Journey! Live the Moment

Credit: India’s Coastline.

7. Share the Little Joys

Credit: Round Table and  Goan Places (Sheila and Nic.) Sheila and Nic raised over $20K sharing their journey with friends to support Schools and Education in India.

8. When life gives lemon, make lemon mint iced tea.

Credit: Awesome Food of India

9. Consistent and Persistent Win!

Credit: Stairway (Paul and Alex).  Paul and Alex were always consistent, very friendly and never too loud. Cheers!

10. Work Harder, Party Harder

Credit:Flying Birds (Thomas and Waltraud)- While we took turns to ride the rickshaw, typically doing 60- 80 Km/ day/ person. Thomas did 200-270KM everyday on his own. We ordered 1 beer in the evening Thomas ordered 3!

 

 

Template for the perfect 5 minute Pitch

I have been working with/ mentoring some very interesting startups at ET Power of Ideas, helping them with their pitch and also working on raising funds for my startup.

Pitching is a magic, more than anything else, you have 3-5 minutes to convince  investors. Here’s the template for 3-5 minute pitch. You may want to use it, if that helps. 


Please note- team slide (the last one) has details of exec team- founders, advisors, investors. I usually begin the pitch with my/ my cofounders introduction.

  • Slide 1 (Pain/ Pleasure- Causes )
  • Slide 2 (Need/ Gap)
  • Slide 3 (Solution)
  • Slide 4 (Secret Sauce)
  • Slide 5 (Competition)
  • Slide 6 (Current User Traction)
  • Slide 7 (Success Stories/ Press)
  • Slide 8 (Business Model)
  • Slide 9 (Unit Economics)
  • Slide 10 (Revenue Traction)
  • Slide 11 (Market Sizing)
  • Slide 12 (Product/ Revenue Road Map)
  • Slide 13 (Fund Needed)
  • Slide 14 (Fund Deployment)
  • Slide 15 (Team)
Happy Pitching and All the best!!

10 Commandments to decide your Mobile App is ready for Growth.

 

-Bhaskar Thakur

To sum it up here are 10 Commandments to decide your Mobile App is ready for Growth.

You have identified the Core Product Value (CPV)- The dominant benefit the customer expects from the app.

You have the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)- Smallest feature set that delivers core value.

You have Product/ Market Fit (PMF)- Product satisfies Market’s needs.

You have defined your Growth Goal e.g. 5 Million Installs and 50{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} actives in next 12 months.

You have Attribution Tracking (ability to ascribe installs to source/ campaign) setup and tested.

You have Google Analytics configured and tested- Features for apps like Speed, Tag Manager, A/B tests.

You have tested and identified channels for app installs- start with a few channels.

You have initial idea of Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)- Net value of entire future relationship with a customer.

Your app’s  K factor is >0. If every Visitor that converts to member/ customer gets 1 or more person.= Product is Viral!

You have funds for the growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Commandments for Push Notification

To summarize,

Report from Kahuna suggest 60{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} users opt out of Push Notifications, and the opt out rate varies across industries. Here are 10 Commandments to reduce Push Notification opt-outs.

  1. You shall remember Push Notifications is not SMS or Email or Tweet.

  2. You acknowledge Notifications and NO-Application is one tap away.

  3. You shall Personalize Notifications.

  4. You shall write Compelling Copy.

  5. On Sabbath Day phones are silent, motivation gotta be bigger.

  6. Image is worth a thousand words; You shall include Images and Audio.

  7. Every dog has his day- every app their Hour.

  8. Android’s Food is iPhone’s Poison.

  9. In data we trust. Test, Measure, Tweak.. Repeat

  10. If it’s done it’s no fun, try some new.

Managing App Churn with Segmentation and Notification

App Churn is the number or percentage of users that that stop using an app in a time period, in other words app users attrition.

For example, consider your app had 100,000 users end of April and you added 20,000 installs/ users in May and had 113,000 users end of May. The simple back of envelope calculation suggests that the churn rate is 7%.

Flurry’s research shows that apps usually retain 4% users after a year, that is approx. 8% churn per month. So the big question you would have – “Is 7% churn good or bad???? One would tend to think Yes! 7% churn is better than 8% however, there is more to the story. Here are a few questions that you should ask-

  1. What % churn was users acquired this month? Is the churn rate for new users going up or down?

  2. What is the engagement churn rate? Is it going up or down?

  3. What is the revenue churn rate? Is it going up or down?

Analyzing cohorts will get you insights into user behavior and the reason for churn. I will write about Cohort and detailed Churn analysis in a separate blog. In this blog I want to talk about one of the reasons for Churn and a strategy that has worked for me to fight churn.

In my experience “Notification Spamming??? is one of biggest reasons why people uninstall/ stop using apps. No one like their home screen full of deals that they do not care about.

Here’s the typical flow for app users. They discover your app from one of the app download campaigns you are running- the ad. has a context (media, content, creative) and the user builds an expectation “ Looks like this app will help me do that???. However, the experience is to the contrary. There is no onboarding, no personalization instead 2 hours after app install user starts receiving app rating/ sharing notifications e.g. “You downloaded our app, please rate us or share with your friends???.

No! this is not user lifecycle management and no wonder users uninstall apps on the first day.

Here’s what has worked for us in bringing down the churn rate-

  1. Smart “automagical??? onboarding- get to know your user asking no or few questions.

  2. Segment the app users- demographic, behavior, likings etc.

  3. Send personalized notifications and follow a user lifecycle management plan.

26 Tools for Growth Hackers who do not code.

For me Growth Hacking is all about finding the “unfair advantage” in customer acquisition- that one killer thing which lets you get customers, faster and disrupt the market.

Customer Growth is a 4 step process

1. Attracting Traffic- or Getting more people see your product/ website
2. Acquiring Customers- or converting visitors to users by getting them to the “Aha moment”
3. Retaining Customers- i.e. making sure users get the”Core Product Value” as early and as often as possible.
4. Reaping your customer’s network for Viral reach.

Here are 26 Tools Growth Hackers who do not code could use the become a “Growth Ninja

Tools for Attract Audience / Traffic
Colibri.io – Discover where your customers are and engage.
List Builder– Collect email address from site visitors.
Nerdy Data– Search Engine for Source Code.
Email Extractor– Email address Extraction software.
Pay with a Tweet – Get viral traffic from visitors
Mailchimp– Email Marketing

Tools for User Activation/ Acquisition
Bounce Exchange– Acquire abandoning customers
Google Analytics– Traffic insight
KISSmetrics– Deep customer insight and analytics.
Mixpanel– Action Based Analytics for Web and Mobile.
CrazyEgg– Visitor engagementAnalytics
Unbounce– Landing Page builder and A/B testing
Optimizely– A/B Testing
Visual Website Optimizer– A/B testing

Tools for User Curation/Retention
Nimble– Very light CRM for startups.
Rapportive– Contact/ People research inside your inbox.
Zapier– Cross platform automation.
IFTTT– Cross channel connections and actions.
Qualaroo– Website visitor surveys.
Polldaddy– Create surveys and polls
Vero– Lead curation through behavioral emails.

Tools for Virality
Twilighter– Easy content sharing.
Pay with a Tweet – Get viral traffic from visitors
IFTTT– Cross channel promotion
Share This– Social sharing widget.
Pay with a Tweet – Get viral traffic from visitors

Launching Growth Hacking Coaching Program

Happy to announce that I’m launching Growth Hacking Coaching program in partnership with my friends at DigitalVidya.

Growth Hacking Coaching is a 12 weeks intensive, by invite and selection only program. Participants Learn to Grow Hack their own Products/ Projects coached by an experienced Growth Hacker. Digital Marketing Skill Ramp-up Trainings and Business Mentorship is provided as seen fit by the Growth Hacking Coach and needed by the participants.

The Program is conducted over 4 stages:

Stage 1: Growth Hacking Basics and Program Baselining
Stage 2: Pre-skilling in Digital Marketing Techniques
Stage 3: Growth Hacking Coaching
Stage 4: Demo Day and Certification

Here’s the key take aways/ learnings for participants:

Growth Hacking Orientation: – Learn the difference between Growth Hacking and Digital Marketing.

Setting Growth Goals – Learn to analyze your Growth Opportunity and set your growth goals.
Growth Hacking Framework – Learn to apply Growth Hacking to the A2R2- Attract, Acquire, Retain and Reap Framework.
Attraction Hacks – Learn techniques to get Qualified Leads and Visitors instead of unqualified traffic.
Acquisition Hacks – Learn techniques to get your users to ‘Aha Moment’- that moment when they know what your product is about.
Retention Hacks – Learn how to quickly Deliver Core Product Value to your users and get repeat usage.
Reap Hacks – Learn how to leverage your users network to grow and build a Viral Growth Engine.
Lean Iterations – Learn how to set up the process to run quick experiments and iterate product and customer development.

You may checkout the details of the program and sign-up for the orientation here. Appreciate feedback on the content and program structure.

The Growth Hacking Academy

I was part of the founding team of 3 startups between 1999 – 2012. I also helped 4 other startups with marketing  in that period. Between 2012- and today I have been advising startups and product teams of enterprises in US and India. I have worked with 12 great teams in this period and Customer Acquisition and Growth seems to be one of the top 2 challenges for these teams- perhaps for all startups.

For the last 12 months I have been mulling over the question “ Is growth an accident or method ? I tend believe that Growth is a method and am trying to put together a 6 month program based on the A2R2 (Attract, Activate, Retain, Reap) Growth Hacking process to help Entrepreneurs and teams acquire customers and grow. Here’s the outline of the program:

Who is the Growth Hacking program for?

This 6 months program is designed for Product Teams and requires minimum 2  members to own the following processes:

1. Product Development

2. Customer Development

Month 1: Growth Hacking Basics

 Session 1: What the heck is Growth Hacking

– What, How, Who of Growth?

– Growth Hacking Hall of Fame.

– Growth Hacking Funnel: Introduction to  A2R2 Growth Framework ( Attract, Activate,   Retain Reap)

 Session 2: You cannot fill a bucket that has a hole

– How to Identify the holes and develop plan to plug the holes before thinking growth.

– Identify the holes in your product and develop plan to plug the holes before thinking growth.

 Session 3: Cut the Umbilical Cord

– How to look at your product from your customer’s perspective.

– Customer Segmentation

– Product Virality

 Session 4: Think Unreasonable, Plan Practical.

– Everyone wants to ‘Disrupt’, few do

– Think where you could be in 18/24 months, Plan for next 3

– Set your Goals for the Program

Month 2:  Laws of Attraction- From Leads to Qualified Leads

Session 5: Laws of Attraction- Introduction

– Channels to attract: Real World, Digital ; Paid, Earned

– Things You should have done yesterday.

–  We often forget the real world.

Session 6: Expert SEO

Session 7: Expert SEM

Session 8: One-on-One

– Follow up on Month 1- Holes in your Bucket?

– Create plans to Attract Customers

Month 3:  Activate Customers- Get them to the Aha moment

Session 9: Aha Moment

– What is Aha Moment?

– Tools to get customers to Aha Moment

– How to discover Your products Aha Moment

Session 10: Basics of Web/ Mobile design and UX

– For Apps- Think Mobile First

Session 11: Channels FAQs, Videos, Community, Emails

Session 12: One-on-One

– Follow up on Month 2- Attracting Customers

– Create Plan to get to Aha Moment

Month 4:  Retain Customers- Get them hooked on.

Session 13: Core Product Value

– What is Core Product Value?

– Identifying your Core Value

– Delivering Core Product Value as early as often

Session 14: Behavior Segmentation and Automating Lead Curation

– A/B Testing

Session 15: The Science and Art of Email Marketing

Session 16: One-on-One

– Follow up on month 3- Get to the Aha Moment

– Create Plan to Retain

Month 5:  Reap their Network

Session 17: From users to Brand Ambassadors

– Why people love some products

– Identifying your Brand Ambassadors

Session 18: Advanced Social Media Engagement Techniques


Session 19: Customer Loyalty and Brand Ambassador Program

Session 20: One-on-One

– Follow up on month 4- Retaining Customers

– Create Plan to Reap their Network

Month 6:  Getting Lean- Learn and Iterate

Session 21: List and Analyze Product Learnings

– Group Session

Session 22: List and Analyze Customer Learnings

– Group Session

Session 23: Iterating Lean

Session 24: One-on-One

– Plan the next 6 Months.

– Feedback

Would love to get feedback on the program and the content. Do you think this program is needed and will work?

Hiring for Startups- Cash vs. Equity Compensation

I help startups with growth- and my job revolves around product, customer acquisition, creating and automating marketing process. The job is challenging, exciting and stimulating.

Over the last couple of years I have started seeing a pattern in the startup madness.  Startup founders have similar challenges and question and the opportunities and answers also have a pattern.  In the last 15 years of my startup life I have been asked same question multiple times by different entrepreneurs. These days, at times it feels like Deja-vu.

However, every once in a while founders pitch a question that puts me on back foot. Last week, in a routine growth strategy meeting, one of my advisee founders hurled one such question. This startup is addressing the urban commute problem in India.  They have raised the seed round and are preparing for Series- A. It is a 2 founder startup with a 20 people operations and they are now looking to hire a Head of Operations- a person who will be No. 3 in the organization matrix.  The question was- How much equity and cash compensation should be offered to the head of  operation they are planning to hire.

Hiring for startups is different as startups pay less than the market and compensate with non-listed (non-liquid) equity with a lock in period. I have hired for my startups in the past. However, to be honest, I have not figured out the formula to compensation structure, most of the times the compensation structure was based on ‘hunch’.

In this article I have tried to put a template for the cash vs equity decision. The numbers you arrive at with this formula are guidelines and subject the stage of the startup.

Let’s  assume you are trying to hire a person who is drawing  $ 40,000 per annum however, she is due for increments and her market value is $ 50,000 per Annum. You want to lock in  the new employee for 3 years and can pay $30,000 per Annum in year 1 with a 15{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} increment every year.

Step 1: Calculate the potential loss of  earnings:

(Here I’m assuming star performers get a 25{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} hike Year on Year in India.)

Loss of Pay year 1:  $20,000
Add
Loss of Pay year 2:  1.25 * 50,000 – 1.15 *  30,000 = $ 28,000
Add
Loss of Pay year 3:  1.25 * 62,500 – 1.15 *  34,500 = $43,625
Total Loss of Earnings: $91,625

Step 2: Calculate the cost of raising  capital  (equivalent to total loss of earnings) .

What percentage equity did you part with for $91,625 in the previous fund raising round. Say you are valued at $4 million in the previous ( angel) round, then $91,625 is equivalent to  3.05{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c}

Step 3: Compensate for the risk the employee is taking.

I do not have a foolproof formula for calculating the risk. However, you could try the probability of  raising next round method. Try to answer the question – what is the likelihood  of  you raising the next round before you burn the cash reserves. If you think it is 60{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} ( you are in advanced discussions with 3-4 VCs) then the risk is 40{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c}
Step 4: Compensate for complementary skill the new employee brings to the team.

This is another judgement. Try to answer the question-  what is the likelihood  of  you raising the next round without the new employee. If the answer is 30{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} then the compensation for complementary skill is 70{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c}.

Step 5: Calculate the Equity.

In this case- 3.05{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} + 20{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} (3.05{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c}) + 70{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} (3.05{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c}) = 5.79{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c}

The above formula is just a guideline. The key to startup hiring is “Great Teams makes Great  Products and Great companies.