Category Archives: Startups

Event report (Understanding the Logic of Consumer India)

Here’s my post-event summarization & ramblings on last week’s TiE event, Understanding the Logic of Consumer India:

But, before that, a random observation during tea-break: Majority of the glasses that were used for drinking water, had around 20% of drinking water remaining in each of the glasses (sorry, wasn’t carrying my camera with me that day)! On the sustainability side, that’s around 20% of the drinking water that the five-star hotel buys going to a waste. And on the business side, the hotel is spending 20% more than they should be!

Anyways, onto the event notes:

  • Thankfully it wasn’t a powerpoint-presentation oriented event. It was an informal, open discussion facilitated by Vinita Bali. The topics that were discussed ranged from…predictable questions like, why she wrote the book, “We’re like that only!”…to interesting debates around…do businesses (especially entrepreneurs, given the fact it was a TiE event) really need to understand what their consumers’ needs are before going-to-market (this question did become a strong point of discussion among several in the audience)…to how do you know whether “that” is really the consumer’s need…to how one should spend time observing consumers at the point-of-sale/usage…to whether Reliance has got their retail business model correct or not (?), etc.
  • Scarcity & Abundance: I forget whether it was Vinita or Rama who made a very subtle, yet powerful & interesting point about how Indians are fundamentally oriented towards (or come from) scarcity rather than abundance. The context to this discussion was around the need for competition in the market, without which a business can pretty much do whatever it wishes (without taking into account consumers’ needs) and many times, get away with it.
    Vinita/Rama made the point that Indians have traditionally been shy of competition because there is a tendency to believe that, if there is competition, then one’s share of the pie is at stake. And that comes from the cultural background where Indians are so oriented towards scarcity rather than abundance…meaning, there’s this nagging worry/feeling that…what’s there, isn’t enough for everyone.
  • Do businesses really need to understand consumer’s needs: A question was put forth about why businesses don’t want to, don’t like to spend too much time/effort/money on understanding the consumer’s needs. Several people had varied (also, weird) responses to that.
    My take (or hypothesis):

    1. Most of the folks who run businesses are usually the left-brain-thinking, logic-oriented folks. That doesn’t mean they don’t use their right-side at all…it’s probably relatively underutilized when it comes to making business decisions.
      And, why that’s significant is…understanding & decoding consumer’s needs, I think, requires a considerable amount of right-brain-thinking (in addition to the left-brain as well)….which they would much rather not deal with, because it seems to be so “hard to get”.
      And that’s probably why the general attitude towards end-user research has been of “Let’s-do-it-when-we-have-the-time-and-money”. Thankfully, not all clients think that way and people like me do end up putting our right-brain-thinking to good use.
    2. The other side of the coin: Researchers haven’t done a good (enough) job of translating research findings into tangible/measurable business recommendations or solutions. World-over, there seems to be (in my experience) an innate skepticism that research just ends up in a report that one files away, hardly ever to use one’s business decisions. So, researchers need to start talking business and the language of business to be able to really deliver the value that research often promises.
  • While making a point during the discussion, one of the women in the audience talked about a conversation she once had with the store manager of one of the large (departmental/lifestyle) stores in Bangalore. The store manager said that only 40% of the store was allocated to women’s products and almost 60% was for men! The logic being that, women don’t actually buy as much as they spend so much time at the store!!!
  • On a related note…and this I don’t recall so clearly…there was also a point about how some (traditional) business practices & approaches are so different in different parts of the world. In India, the conventional approach to pricing coffee would be to charge more for coffee with sugar (‘coz you’re having to spend on more sugar). But in the west, the practice is to charge more for diet drinks!
  • Unlike most other TiE events (in Bangalore) that I’ve attended, this seemed to have the least participation from the techie crowd. There seemed to be several CEOs and heads of small-medium-enterprises in the crowd. Does it indicate the lack of interest among the techies about creating user-centered products & services? I guess that’s too harsh a conclusion to draw, but this phenomena didn’t seem like something to not make note of.
  • The discussion (especially between the audience and the panelists) kept going back to the unresolved issue about connectivity to the new Bangalore airport that’s coming up in March 2008. One had to be there to experience the irritation, anger, frustration and complete resignation about the state of (infrastructure) affairs, surrounding the connectivity to the new airport.
    Of course, Rama did touch upon the fact that there are people who actually get to benefit from such poor connectivity or infrastructure, the cellphone companies to start with. If you aren’t getting to the airport on time or are even avoiding the travel, chances are you’re using the good ol’ phone to communicate with your business associates or your near & dear ones! Interesting.

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Buy online to avoid embarassment

Heard about this online startup based out of India (from Plugged.in), ShopImagine. Their claim to fame — “India’s largest luxury lingerie selection”.

Their About Us page says –

“Of all of the complaints that men and women have about buying lingerie, the embarrassment of having to go into a store and buy sexy undergarments that would otherwise be kept private is the number one complaint. At shopimagine.in you can buy babydolls, teddies, camisoles, corsets, bustiers, clubwear, sexy bras and panties in the comfort of your own home at any time of day or night.”

I can understand men having to deal with this embarrassment, but it is rather surprising that women (apparently) feel the same way.

Also, the models used seemed to be all non-Indians and I’m now really curious:

  1. Was this intentional? Or was it more of convenience, as in, using the catalogs of the companies that these guys source from rather than having to organize an exclusive photo-shoot in India with local models?
  2. Does it make a difference to the target audience (both men and women)? Does it influence their purchasing behaviour at all (either ways)?
  3. And, is there an “aspirational” aspect to this at all (like the “Fair & Lovely” phenomena)?

Thoughts?

    Upcoming in Nov/Dec

    Next couple of months seem to be jam packed with events, many of which I plan on attending*. Here’s a quick summary…

    1. *Nov 15, 16: TiE-ISB Connect, Hyderabad
    2. Nov 16, 16: India Innovation Conference: 2nd Conclave on Innovation and its ecology, New Delhi
    3. *Nov 17, 18: Bar Camp 5, Bangalore
    4. *Nov 30: World Usability Day at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad (I’ll be speaking at this event; details to be finalised, but the topic will ‘Design Research’ related). Among other things, I’m looking forward to visiting ISB’s awesome campus.
    5. *Dec 12, 13: CII-NID Design Summit: “Leadership Through Design”, Bangalore

    If you know of other interesting events, related with Innovation/Design/Entrepreneurship/Research, please do let me know (email param[at]onwardresearch.com or please leave a comment here).

    Job Opening: Business Development Head/Manager at Onward Research

    Job Opening: Business Development Head/Manager at Onward Research:
    The role of a Business Development Head/Manager is to drive the customer acquisition process by identifying and creating opportunities with potential clients. This role will also require working closely with the management team in defining, refining and meeting the overall company/business goals & targets.

    He/She will need to be highly proficient in engaging with CXOs, Product Managers, Marketing Managers, Operational Heads, etc. of top organizations; understanding their business needs/challenges and translating these into research projects that would add value to their business.

    We are looking for highly talented, skilled and passionate individuals who would drive the growth of this company. More than the qualifications, we’re looking for the passion and excitement to grow a startup company, that is breaking new ground in user research in India.

    About Onward:
    Onward Research + Consulting is a user research consulting organisation based in Bangalore, India. Our vision is to empower and enable organisations in developing highly usable, effective and innovative products/services for their end-users.

    We use observational research techniques to identify unmet and unarticulated needs of users, leading to deep insights for our customer’s business. In the few months since we started up, we have been working on exciting projects for technology, mobile, retail and healthcare organisations that deliver products/services in India.

    Please email your resume to jobs(at)onwardresearch.com, specifying ‘Business Development Head/Manager’ in the ‘Subject’ of the email.

    Socially notworking

    A dozen social networking sites coming up every other day, supposedly “India specific”. This reminds me of the dot com craze! The most recent one I heard about, takes the cake — Yaari.com!!

    First of all, their website sucks. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I’ve received emails that seem to be from my friends, inviting me to join Yaari.com…but the truth is, that friend doesn’t have a clue about Yaari.com and he/she didn’t ever send an invite! Heights of spam!

    BigAdda.com and Fropper.com (among several dozen others) promised a lot with heavy marketing…but their “most popular” groups/networks/addas seem to be infested with desperate & wannabe “cool dudes”. Here’s a sample from BigAdda.com…

    Hi this is XYZ from Varanasi, any female wana friendship or want to share their emmotions please contact with me or mail me at 09X242XYY42 or XYZ @ yahoo.com, I am a Software Engineer posted in Govt Department and also I am running my Software Company sucessfully, I have big project of state govt. Please feel free to contact with me

    Excerpts from Fropper.com’s mission statement…

    Fropper’s mission is to allow everyone to frop (“friend hop” apparently) in a convenient, clean manner so that they can eliminate loneliness from their lives (here’s where you fall off your chair!), succeed and find happiness.

    Time to get back to Facebook!

    We’re hiring!

    Finally, we’re hiring! Please do spread the word around…

    About Onward

    Onward Research + Consulting is a user research consulting organisation based in Bangalore, India. Our vision is to empower and enable organisations in developing highly usable, effective and innovative products/services for their end-users.

    We use ethnographic research techniques to identify unmet and unarticulated needs of users, leading to deep insights for our customer’s business. In the few months since we started up, we have been working on exciting projects for technology, mobile, retail and healthcare organisations that deliver products/services in India.

    We are now looking for highly talented, skilled and passionate individuals who would drive the growth of this team. More than the qualifications, we’re looking for the passion and excitement to grow a startup company, that is breaking new ground in user research in India.

    Job Description

    • Researchers will design, plan and conduct ethnographic research; and would especially drive the fieldwork including observations and contextual interviews.
    • Defining and refining research intentions, correlating them with the client’s business needs.
    • Analysing and interpreting research data, and eventually reporting & recommending key insights about the end-users, the client’s business and products.
    • Supporting business development activities including creating proposals for new projects.

    Required skills

    • Proven experience in ethnographic research, qualitative research, user research or design research projects.
    • Those with Bachelor’s/Master’s/Ph.D in Human factors, Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Design or similar would be ideal.
    • Strong analytical skills. Effective verbal and written communication skills.
    • Experience in technology, mobile or retail projects would be preferrable.
    • Strong interest, passion & willingness towards growing a startup.

    Contact
    Please send your resume to jobs(at)onwardresearch.com with ‘Researcher’ in the ‘Subject’ of the email.

    Nokia’s satellite design studio in Bangalore

    “Breaking news” now all over the blogosphere…Nokia partners with Srishti School of Design to setup Nokia’s first satellite design studio in India

    Nokia designers will work with students at the Bangalore-based Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology to conceive new handsets for India and global markets in the Internet era.

    The studio will explore design trends and themes including research into colour and material trends in India, mobile use of the Internet and its implications for design, including new features and uses for mobiles.