Online Restaurant – Difficult Problem to solve!

Last week we had news of SpoonJoy shutting down operations in parts and also of Dazo (Tapcibo earlier) shutting down its operations due to lack of  ability to make a profitable business.

Having closely  been observing Food/Restaurant industry during the last 5 years in Bangalore ( <Starting a restaurant >)and also deeply involved in starting up an online food delivery startup around 7-8  months back  for a friend. I think i am qualified enough to comment on the major problems which need to be solved in having a successful Online Restaurant and why its is not very different from running a typical restaurant.

Online Restaurant – Great Food + Convenience 

The online restaurant though seems like a novelty it is still essentially a restaurant which is driven by the quality of food and then followed by timely delivery  , payment options , mobile apps etc. So it is still a food play where you need to be able to convince the customer to order your food as frequently as possible (ideally daily , but we will come to that later).  The solution and the odds of getting this mix right is the same as you would have in a traditional restaurant , but we will talk more about that later.

The second part of the online restaurant is the convenience of delivering food to the customer. We are facilitating and adding a convenience to the user  by delivering food to him.

Problems to be solved : Delivery

As mentioned earlier the big draw of the ‘online restaurant’ is the amount saved in real estate costs . But what is saved in realestate will come back to haunt in terms of delivery boys. The biggest problem of food delivery startups is that while they need to pay for the delivery boys salary (12k-15k) they have only a small window of time to use them. Let me explain , most of the food delivery would be restricted to 12:00 – 2 pm time window and 7:00 to 10:00 pm window in the evening. A typical delivery takes 25-30 mins (even Domino’s guys tell us that this is best they have been able to acheive). Thus in each delivery boy can make a maximum of 8-10 deliveries (lets take 10) per day but his monthly cost is 12k (least) , thus each delivery would cost Rs 40 !. This means that if you have to deliver food daily to a consumer and hope to have him order daily we need to have food cost at Rs 60 and then factor in Rs 40 towards delivery to make it Rs 100/meal.  This is quite a challenge as you need to address other costs which i will explain in my next section apart from just food cost. According to me with such high costs of delivery only gourmet food which have larger margains can sustain or you have to find a way to cut the delivery costs.

  • FreshMenu has taken the route of Gourmet food by charging a premium so that they can easily absorb delivery costs.
  • NutriTown has done a bit of  both by going on the platform of health foods and having a semi-premium service along with a subscription. Subscription service allows them to deliver 20 food packets in 2 hours due to better route planning.

The reason for SpooJoy , Dazo etc to close down lies here , cost of delivery is way too much for their price of food costing ~ 100 Rs per meal.

Problems to be solved : Food 

The second end of the problem is ability to create food choices which encourage users to order your food as frequently as possible. Many entreprenuers in this section  believed that the lure of the online restaurant is because we can get the user to order food more frequently due to the convienance factor of delivery. This is quite a challenging affair because the only food which you would not mind eating regularly is your own home cooked food , else with a restaurant food you tend to get bored with the same flavoring and cooking style. Thus even if you make fantastic food at your central kitchen the user is going to get bored soon and is less likely to order the same kind of food. To solve this many online restaurants tried to increase their inventory by having many types of offerings which left them handling unsold inventory at the end of the day thus eating into their already precarious position in terms of margins.

According to me one way of solving this issue of boredom of food would be to get home made food made by entrepreneurs at their own homes  and then serve them to people. But this has its own problems of scalability as sourcing of food becomes a challenge. So solving the food problem by trying to be a replacement for daily food is quite challenging. The other route would be going the Gourmet route which means serve specialized food at premium prices which is the route which FreshMenu has taken and be happy with being ordered once in a while.

Problems to be solved : Packaging

The 3 rd problem which needs to be solved is that of packaging. The typical packaging used for serving a meal  costs ~ 20 Rs ,but even with this high expenses  one is not able to serve the food to the user so that it is hot after he/she recieves it at his place. The warmth of food is something which we have always associated with fresh food and we often make a fuss at restaurants if the food is not warm.  Thus even after accounting of costs  of 20 Rs towards packaging it still close to what a restaurant serves you because it is not warm.  Many online restaurants have gone the route of offering microwavable food packaging which adds to the cost of the packaging as microwaveable packaging is more expensive. Despite attempts by many startups we are yet to see a solution which makes a cost effective way of packaging while keeping the food warm.

Solutions ?  – Possible ways to solve them.

The above are all the problems which need to be solved? But what could be the solution to this?  I believe that there are many ways to solve this problem, couple which spring to my mind.

  1. Go the premium way (Rs 150+) in offering and then get entrepreneurs(house wifes/chefs) to make Gourmet foods to offer a decent variety every day. By going premium, we can tackle the high cost of delivery and packaging and getting housewifes/chefs into the mix addresses the boredom part of the mix. Would like to mention that  InnerChef   is using this route by having entreprenuers to make gourmet offerings.
  2. The second appoarch  would be to offer a niche product which enables the user to sign up for a subscription at a unique product. The niche offering is something for which the user yearns for  and values so much that he/she is willing to subscribe to this by paying in advance comes to mind as it offers health food for diet concious people looking to wieght. I think there is scope for offering regional specific food which people would yearn (Bihari/Oriya).

Do leave your comments below if you think  I  have missed some aspect of this problem. The above article is a summary of  findings during the creation of the food startup and wanted to share this because many of my friends  are still evaluating to start a restaurant or getting into it. In the last couple of months have got calls from 4-5 friends regarding the same hence this article to help them.

How to hack your next job via LinkedIN?


Being in the Digital Marketing domain I have been asked by a couple of friends if this knowledge of Digital Marketing techniques can help a candidate land a better job. Heck the answer is yes ! :) .. I will reveal the secret to hack your way into your next job .Do you want to share this with your friends :)

Understand Market Scenario

As explained in my previous posting post <Reskill or Perish> , the market is changing where for every advertised role we have 1500+ applications which are received .No this number of 1500 may seem like an exaggeration but i have seen that both LinkedIn and IIMjobs posts having such numbers. I have seen a good position or a opening in a reasonably large / well known company does receive an average of 1000 applications. In effect there is no way that the Talent Acquisition guy can go through this long list of applications to come up with a shortlist. So i have observed that many companies are now refraining from posting jobs and instead asking Talent acquisition to reach out to candidates who fit the profile and then make a list of 10 candidates for final interview with the hiring manager. So the situation has changed , instead of calling for applications the companies are now seeking out the right talent which suits the job. This is a major shift which one needs to understand while looking for a job.

LinkedIn SEO and why ?

Given that it is turning out to a race to be in the list of shortlisted candidates , there are limited tools with Talent Acquisition guys can use to make this shortlist . LinkedIn , AngelList(mainly startup) are the only tools which can be used by them to lookout for the people who will match their job opening. This is where the keywords come into picture. Given the limited understanding the Talent acquisition guy he/she uses a set of keywords to look out for candidates. This is why having the right profile on LinkedIn/AngelList(for startups) makes sense. Because if you don’t have the right keywords your profile will never show up in the search results of the Talent Acquisition guy. So need to get a good profile with all the relevant keywords.

Optimize your profile on LinkedIn to be found

But what are the keywords ? This is a tough question for most people who don’t understand how these things work. But fortunately there is a good solution which LinkedIn offers , but this is not very well known to many of the guys in the market. LinkedIn offers what is known as a Job Seekers premium login which comes up a whole host of features. The two most important features which will help you to crack the profile optimization are

  1. KeyWord suggestion tool: This is called as Optimize your profile to be found , where LinkedIn shows up 10-12 keywords based on your existing profile and domain in which you are working. Just use these to revamp your profile.
  2. Profile ranking tool : It shows a rank of your profile against similar ones in your domain. This acts as a feedback channel to show how well you rank against competition :)

Using the above tools one can revamp their whole profile so that they rank better. Having an optimized profile is like having an unfair advantage in this race for jobs.

Sell Your profile on LinkedIN

In the previous section i talked about how your profile needs to be optimized for it to be found. But that is only 1/2 the job as you will still need to stand out amongst the various other profiles. This is a job of how well you can sell your profile to the the Talent acquisition guy who is now looking at your profile. Some of the obvious things which i notice are

  • Good Picture: Having a good picture on Linkedin profile. This sends out a message to the recruiter. Preferable to have one in formals.
  • Completed Profile : Have a complete LinkedIN profile which lists all your experiences. Can tailor this as per what sort of position/job are you aspiring to look for e.g if you want to join a startup then showcase your roles where you played roles of wearing different hats.
  • Build a story: The profile should tell a story rather than just list out of what you have done. Stitch this into a nice story so that the Talent acquisition guy sees you as a candidate. This means you must have made up your mind on what kind of role/domain you would like to have your next job. Without this your story will fall flat !!
  • Participate on various LinkIn forums: On Linkedin there are forums of all types on different domains. All your activity is showcased on your profile , so your participation would be a iceing on the cake for the profile.
  • LinkedIn Premium Badge: Once you get a LinkedIn premium profile it shows up as a small badge on your profile. This is seen by the recruiter as a signal that you may be looking to change the job. So having the LinkedIn premium job does help in sending a subtle signal that you are looking for a change.
  • Write a blog on LinkedIn: A well written blog in your domain goes a long way in adding credibility to your profile. Be sure to pick a blog post which showcases your ability in the area or domain in which you are looking for a job.

There are other techniques which can be used and what i have covered above are a few tips which can help you jumpstart your profile in this race for the next job. As usual comments are welcome and should any of you need personal advice , will be happy to share it with you. If you know me personally you can write to me , else please send me an email at and would be glad to help you withe personal tips & suggestions

Avinash MB

Reskill or Perish :Writing is on the wall

Note:The thoughts expressed here are distilled from my leanings of running a full time start-up and the followed by my experiences of getting back into a job. Do read this i hope should provide answers to many people who are in a similar situation i.e mid-career blues.

Some of the thoughts presented here are also beautifully explained in Deepak Shenoy’s article “The Inflexion Point for the IT Service Industry” . His article is more from the industry perspective and mine is would be from a person who is in his mid-career.

In the last few month  every-time i speak to a colleague of mine the common thread which i can distill is that they feel stagnated in their career and that they  are not finding enough opportunities which are allowing people to grow in terms of skill set development and career progression. This is because people have been used to blazing growth in their careers over the last 7-8 years and now suddenly they see that they are doing the same job/role for the last couple of years and all efforts to change over to another company does not seem to paying off and interview calls are far and few between in the traditional IT roles.  So what is really happening ?

Changes in Technology

One of the main drivers  which is changing the job market is changes in technology , mainly driven by powerful frameworks which take out the complexity of building complex applications by replacing them with simple coding stuff replacing them instead of  stitching of  different modules written by other developers into a business logic which you need to solve your unique problem.  As an example using Ruby On Rails i built a full fledged  backend with an awesome looking dashboard  for a product which was supposed to automate workflows inside a retail store. The backend would talk to an Andriod app which again was developed by Santosh is less than 2 months. The overall lines of code in the product was 400 lines for backend and 500-600 lines of code for frontend.  On Android one of my colleague told me that what would take him 1 month of development earlier can now be achieved by him in 2 days using Iionic framework !.

On similar lines AWS is flattening the job of people needed to maintain servers . Massive automation and power of cloud is simply ensuring that what was a job which was to be done by a team of 100 people can now be achieved by 5 really good dev-op guys.

Basically automation and frameworks is bringing down the cost of development , so you dont need so many developers  and once number of developers is reduced  you don’t need so many engineering managers , project managers, quality managers, tech managers  etc.  So the message is clear we will see a massive shrinkage in the number of employees need to do a project but also we would need different type of employee to get the work done. Someone who is capable of seeing big picture of business need and understand technology well enough.

Not having the right skills 

Over the years many of us  as we have  moved to up in career  have moved into jobs which take us away from actually doing work to managing , auditing  etc.  While this was a good thing in the earlier industry as IT was growing at a breakneck speed  and there was ever increasing need for Engineering Managers, Project Managers and the likes. Thus people were moving up the ladder. But skills like Project Management , Engineering Management are becoming commodity skills in the market due to supply vs demand mismatch, so essentially it means that in the market we will have Project Mangers who have 7 years of experience and also the ones who have 15+ years of experience. Without any differentiation in the basic skill set the people who are more experienced will simply wiped out of the market because the 7 years experienced Project manager is simply cheaper and more hungrier to grow up the ladder. The hunger and drive to move up will ensure that in the market the younger project manager will simply push out the older one. The Younger one has more advantages as he would have less unlearning to do compared to the more experienced one . This unlearning is essential because of the changes in Technology which i outlined earlier.  This is a double whammy , shrinking jobs and competition from younger guys . All this when you have skills on your resume which are getting outdated in the market.

What is the way out ?

Hopefully the previous two sections must have provided a perspective on why many my friends and colleagues are unable to find jobs which offer them that growth in their careers.  So lets discuss , what options which you have.

Relocate to another Country

One of the most obvious one which many of my friends are exercising  is relocating to other countries but with the same role . As an example if you are a project manager then take up the same role in another country. This option is good , but is a temporary relief . In these countries like Malaysia , Thailand or even Poland , the IT industry is just starting to boom and they need experienced professionals. So people are able to find jobs which offer good compensation and the life is great because you tend to get contracts which include accommodation , car + trips home.  This would be an option which can be exercised in the short term , but does not solve any of the underlying issues which were discussed earlier . This is about postponing the squeeze by a few years. If you think that is a good option exercise it.

Find a new role  or Reskill

Though the relocation to another country seems like a good choice but in the longer run , the factors will catch up and you will soon face the same situation which you are doing now. The other choice is that you find a new type of job by learning a  new skill. This may appear like a bitter pill  but would be inevitable if you ask me as the change would come sooner than you expect because this is driven by technology and economics. Remember till last year we were not using Whatsapp ! , now can you live without it :). To find a new skill means you need to start off from the ground , so the best ally that you can have in this step would be your own passion. So find a new role which is in line with your passion. Having worked for 8 to 10 years i am sure most of you would have found some area which is of your interest . You could love food so open a restaurant , could love marketing get into new area of Digital Marketing or if you love numbers then get into a statistical analysis ! . Basically start working on a side project while you are working in your existing role.  If you are looking to be in a job (which is what most of us would be) then choose the next profession based on demand in the market and your own passion. A look at LinkedIn <The 25 Hottest Skills That Got People Hired in 2014> will reveal all the hot tech skills which are in demand , so based on your passion pick one of them and start developing skills in them.  From my experience  in areas where there is mismatch in supply and demand (example digital marketing , UX/UI, Data Sciences ) smaller companies and even medium sized companies don’t mind to experiment with people who don’t have the skills on the CV but can demonstrate the same skill on the side projects or hobby projects.  This would be the best best to crack into a new role.

Doesn’t that mean that i starting of my career again ?

By choosing a newer domain it may sound like you are settling for something less than what you are worth. Because you may be  starting off in a role which is junior to your role e.g a project manager can start of as a tech lead in a data sciences project , but one needs to see it with a different eye.  Remember in the last section i explained the the kind of skills need is changing and the fact that fewer people are doing the same work. What this means is if you have those skills then you can command a premium. As an example

–  A good full stack engineer  having 2 years of experience can command a salary of 15 lakhs/annum. This is not some number which i am pulling out the sky . This is based on my experience of trying to hire such people in the last 3 months. Good ones who can build a whole product end to end are the ones in demand and they can ask for the moon.

–  A product manager at a startup with an MBA plus 1-2 years of experience in the Online world can easily command a salary of 20-25 lakhs/annum…

Basically companies are saying i need fewer people doing the work , so are willing to pay more salary.  So essentially it may mean that from a hierarchy point of view you may start off at a lower point , but from a financial point of view it is not all that bad. Remember you dont have a choice !

My parting Advice 

Apart from all the above factors , on the lower end of IT services spectrum i am seeing that the squeeze is going to be even harder as other destinations like Philipines , Malasyia , Lat-Am are all slowing waking up and offering competitive rates. Whereas Indian staff is becoming expensive and also less effective as younger people are not working as hard as people say 10 years back !,so productivity is also a question. I know of an MNC which moved back its product dev work back to US because of productivity and attrition issues.

My dear friends , the writing is on the wall , the changes that are happening the IT industry are happening due to many reasons which are beyond our control. So instead of waiting for the the inevitable squeeze in job when you may find yourself without a job , you better take corrective action now !


Comments , Brickbats , Feedback … are welcome and would be happy to share my own personal experience should you have questions on the same topic.

Avinash MB

Paradise Experiences : Lean Experiment Result

One the things which i did some time back was  working on validating an idea using the lean experiment appoarch. This is  for a start up which is run by my friend Ravi Hulliyapa called as Paradise Experiences and i helped with it during the weekends with my experience of Digital Marketing and understanding of Lean Experimentation.  This article attempts to showcase the approach of validating the hypothesis .

Geneisis Of  Hypothesis 

The hypothesis  was the result of a chance conversation with a couple of friends in the restaurant business . One of the ladies in the group suggested that it be nice if there was a service which offered custom dining experiences in a five star restaurant to celebrate their b’day or anniversary. This got the conversation into what else can be done and soon a package which consists  a) Candle Lit Dinner b) Ride in Luxury car was thought  as a good option. But i started questioning them that what we think as a nice option would be an option which appeals to a very small segment. The challenge was made to see how we can prove if the concept works or not without spending more than Rs 35k.  We decided to have lean experiment to prove and validate if there is demand.

Lean Experiment – Hypothesis

The hypothesis was that there exists good demand for such service. The only way was to offer a service like this to the general public and conclude that if there is real demand out there.  As we had no real idea of how to access the demand , we agreed that if after spending 35k Rs and we manage to get 20 people(essentially 1 lead at Rs 1700 ) to signup for a service then there is demand for this service. This number of 20 people  off-course may or may not be a good number , but since we could not agree on a method to access demand we thought we put a number to this else even after the experiment we would have no means to access if demand is there or not.Once the Hypothesis was choosen , we also chose some segments for which we thought that this offering can be useful.

Lean Experiment Setup

To validate the experiment we need to reach out to the target audience with an offering. As this is a lean experiment , no actual service or product was built , instead we built a simple website landing page for the mobile and desktop <Surprise Wife>  and then advertised to the target audience via Facebook.  As part of the workflow people could either call us on a number or leave a number so that we could call them back.  Essentially we would talk to the users who were interested in the service and walk them through the process and then once they are interested in sign up , we would say that the service is yet to be fully launched and this is a test marketing . A lead is qualified lead if  he/she is willing to avail the service , but the service did not exist during the validation phase. That is why it is called a lean experiment.  So overall effort was to build a landing page , market the concept to the target audience via Facebook and then get the results

Targeted Advertising

One of the real advantages which we had was that, we could do  great targeting of the ads via Facebook. Essentially the service was a luxury service , so did not see a point in advertising in general via Google Ads as we really wanted fine control of the audience. This is where Facebook shines as we are able to fine tune to a great extent . As an example one of the segment was married men in Bangalore having income higher than 15 Lkhs/month.  We could not get this from Facebook but we chose  answer the income question via targeting to Iphone4s+ users only . Thus one  the segments we chose looked like this

a)   Male  Age- 29 to 40 years

b) Married

c) Users of Iphone 4s and above (iPhone 5,iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPhone6)

Experiment Results

We ran the campaign in Bangalore across various segments spread around a month ! . During this time we  experimented with Rs 1k as the Facebook budget for the day  and here are the results.

–  Rs 17k on Facebook Advertising

– Got  708 people of the Target audience to visit our page

–  Average Cost per click was Rs 24

–  Got 10 sign-ups  , whom we has to apologize as we really did not have the service ready during the lean experiment.


After spending 1 month and Rs 17k on Facebook advertising we figured that there is demand for such a service in Bangalore . Ideally we should have spend all the money i.e Rs 35K and got 20 leads , but we decided to call off the experiement because of the positive response which the experiment managed to gather during the 1 month.  The whole concept was validated in around 2 months time frame as we spent quite a bit of time on building the landing pages , brand name , website etc.  But as you can see the whole idea was validated without actually having to offer a service or build a product or service. This is the magic of lean experiments . Lean experiments can be done in every phase of the product , but this was an usecase where we used to validate the business idea . Ravi has now launched the service  based on all the feedback gathered during the 2 months of experimentation. Those of who are interested in the service can check it out at <Paradise Experiences>

Do leave your comment below should you have comments on the experiment . You may also get in touch with Ravi Huliyappa for further details on the business.

Why Google will buy Outbrain/Taboola ?

Adsense is now more than 10 year old product powering most of Google’s 22 billion dollar revenue , however i have been noticing a subtle shift in user behavior over the last 3-4 years. I have see than users are becoming smarter and tending to develop ‘ad blindness’ . This is a phenomenon which makes the user ignore the ad slot and just focus on the content.

The effect of this is that we are seeing continuous drop on adsense CTR ratio for the ads. This number was at one point as high as 1% in 2009-2010 for several of blogs which i was managing with traffic from India , US and other countries. With the same design we are seeing a drop in engagement rates and is now somewhere near 0.5%. This means that user is learning to ignore the ads. At Sportskeeda i see the effect even more pronounced as the majority of audience is younger than 19 years and these guys know how to get past the ads to reach the content which is of their interest.

New breed of content driven ad networks

Along the same time we see the emergence of a new breed of ad networks which show up as ‘Around the web’ , ‘Recommended stories’ from different companies like Taboola . Outbrain and Gravity. These are often designed to appear at the end of the content and have a visual way of showing content in the form of widgets which have large pictures which attract the attention of the users.

These ads masquerade as content which is made interesting by selecting great pictures and great quality headlines. User does not see them as ads but sees them as content which has been recommended by the brand , this does now show ‘ad-blindness’ towards these ads. We have seen engagement rates of 1- 1.2% with such ads while google adsense struggles to get past event 0.5 % in terms of the overall engagement rates. By way of such higher engagement rates now such networks are contributing more money to us than Google adsense . This has slowly happened over the last 3 to 6 months and i can clearly see that Google adsense as a product is loosing out . Given this i am predicting that Google would soon role out a product like this or could even buy out the companies.

Outbrain Widget

Outbrain Widget on Sportskeeda,comn

We have tested out various widgets and are particularly happy with their peformance and my guess is that it is only a matter of time that Google makes an buyout offer to some of them !

Lean Product Development in Offline Business

During a conversation yesterday with an entrepreneur friend of mine i came across this argument that Lean and Iterative product development is a very good concept but is use in Offline businesses is not possible at all .  I understand that it is much easier to test a product development assumption online because with little money (adense money) and some research it is easy to indentify a hypothesis and test the same within a short period of time.

This lead to an interesting discussion where i was arguing that it is possible to apply lean methods even in the offline world with some effort and some smart thinking. So a challenge was thrown at me … and here is what i proposed could be done to apply lean methods of iterative development.

Challenge -> Changing the positioning of a Biryani Chain 

Background : My friend runs 3 small quick service format Biryani chain serving local (Bangalorean/Karnataka ) style Biryani. The problem which is being faced by my friend is that with his product offering and initial positioning he is attracting a clientele which is lower middle class to middle class. This segment is extremely price sensitive hence he is unable to charge a high premium for his stuff . The business though profitable is no where compared to ‘Ammi’s Biryani’ which has made Biryani into Pizza equivalent with great packaging and positioning.  So my friend wants to change his offering so that he can appeal to different segment of middel to upper class customers and charge a higher price. The dilemma is how to test the same without effecting business in any one or the 3 outlets. Business now is profitable and has good traction so he does not want to risk existing business to try the new positioning. This means he would now have to  setup another outlet to test the positioning and new offering. Setting up a new outlet is expensive because of high real estate costs and setup costs of the basic outlet would cost anywhere between 10lakhs – 15 lakhs.

Approach Suggested by me

List out the assumptions which needed to be validated, so below are the 2 main assumptions which needed to be validated

a) Position Local Flavour of biryani in better package and see how consumers react to the offering

b) With this positioning can i charge a price of 140 Rs / plate of Biryani (instead of the current 80 Rs).

So i told him to look for a small outlet in high traffic locality like inside a mall , inside a large super market etc and explore the possibility of shop in  a shop. Upon detailed enqueries it was found that such a place exists in RT Nagar . The place is Foodworld at RT Nagar and one can rent a small space having a 4×4 counter just in front of Foodworld. The place has a rent of 20k/Month  and we need to setup a good quality kiosk inside this space of 4×4 , this would cost around 1.5 lakhs. Now we can simply offer the same biryani at increased pricing with better package and test market the concept !

Yes it is not as cheap as online hypothesis testing but is surely cheaper then setting up a new outlet.! Overall we can test market this offering for 6 months to see what is the repeat uptake of the biryani. To facilitate repeat uptake measurement i suggested that he introduce a coupon which provides 20% off for the next order.

Thus my friend was convinced that he can look at using lean approach in offline business , and he is now planning to setup the experiment. I would be helping him to required changes !

NPC-13 – Selling for Engineers – Geeks Turned into Sales Honchos

As part of Nasscom Product Conclave-2013 , we wanted to make sure we come up with interesting sessions which are insightful yet give you practical tips which you can implement in your startup.. One of the more popularly requested session by the startup community  is the  Selling for Engineers because most start-ups in India are started by engineers and have no exposure to sales process.

Selling for Engineers is meant for engineers who have a great idea but know they don’t have sufficient sales skills.  This session is about understanding and building the mind-set and the skills of a Sales person and is a must for most co-founders.

The session would be moderated by Manjula  has been through the transition from being a CTO to leading a sales organization in India.  Deobrat would be the speaker in this session and would share his story on how he made this transition in his start-up Gazematrix.

The aspects that would be covered in this session are 

  • Overcoming the psychological and functional changed needed to fit into a sales role- Apart from understanding the functional process of a sale , one also needs to adapt once self at the psychological level because engineers are very logical while sales is not!
  • Pricing you product – We would be covering the challenges associated with the pricing your product during the initial stages of your startup .
  •  Selling to People and not to organizations – How does one establish a ongoing rapport with the customer ? How to keep the conversation with the customer active ?  We will offer some practical tips to do this straight from the battle field.
  • Closing the deal – How to ask for your order? . This is where we have seen lot of startups fail and we will give you practical tips on how to do this.


The session would be conducted by

Manjula Shridhar

Director Software Engineering, CA Technologies
Manjula Sridhar is Director Engineering with CA Technologies. Previously she was head of Sales, India and spent an year in APAC as solution strategist for sales with Arcot (Acquired by CA Technologies). Manjula was the founder and CTO of Aujas Networks. She has been a Techie for most part of her career and spent few years with Lucent in US.

Deobrat Singh

CEO & Co-founder, Gazematrix
Over the past several years he has worked with startups and big corporations a like building scalable systems along the way. His specialties: Product development, Team building, Technology.





A/B Testing – Increased Ad clicks by 40% !!!

A/B testing is a simple way to test changes to your page against the current design and determine which ones produce positive results. This is made famous by Google as 1 % test wherein Google would test changes to their websites by driving only 1% of the traffic to the new design and then  measure the impact for changes. The impact is then compared with the conversions for existing  designs and then the new design is implemented on the live website.

This is a statistical and scientific way of testing your designs and making the changes based on data. I read that made  50 changes in their website design in the last 1 year alone and they constantly evaluate and test different varaints to find the best approach. This is a new way of design thinking where every change that is made in the system is validated by data alone !

In the past i  have been doing this to test for conversions in Ad clicks as it was generating revenue for one of my personal website. But the tests earlier were done using crude tools which means we had to write loads of code to test the different variations. But recently i discovered the wonderful too called as which allows you to conduct A/B testing on your website without having to write code.

ALL You need to do is to include the Optimizely code snippnet in your HTML and then inside the Optimizely you can create different UI by visually editing the existing layout inside the Optimzely editor to create a variation of your design.

Results :  I ran several A/B tests on my websites to modify my ad placement and sizes on my main traffic website to lead to an increase in Ad Click Through Ration (CTR) from 0.96  to 1.34. This simple move ensure that i increased my ad revenue by 40 % !!

Original Design of the page

OldDesign -Page


Modified Design of the pageNewDesign

As you can see the changes are very subtle ..

a) Move the whole bunch of links on the original design to the top so that there is lessor space before the content is shown.

b) Reduced the Google Adsense ad size from 386x 280 into 300x 250 .

c) Removed the grey color background for the Social Share buttons.

To arrive that this final set i tried 10 different design combinations to finally get this. Thanks to Optimizely  S/W i did all the 10 different testing without writing a line of HTML/CSS code.

Note : This design approach works only when you have 1000-2000 visits for each test . Which means that the new design is seen by 1000 people on your website . Before this it is not wise to conclude on the winning design as the results are not statistically significant !

Have your A/B Tested your website yet ? If not you are missing something !!

Avinash MB



SUV or small Car : What makes sense ?

One more article in the series which highlights difference between emotional purchases versus rational purchases..  Just got off the phone with a friend who wants to upgrade his car from Alto to SUV/MUV(Innova or XUV 500) and i had a hard time explaining him that it does not make sense because you dont buy a Innova if all you do is to ride it in Bangalore .Because i know he is the sort who prefers a train journey any where outside .. But i got several justifications like

a) Whole family can travel together->  He has a single kid , so did not get this logic. On further questioning i understood that once in a year his in-laws or parents will come down and he can take them all together in the MPV !.

b)  Go on long drives ->  Innova is better on long drives no doubt but i think the incremental benefit is not much since most hatchbacks these days offer equally drive quality.

c) Status symbol :) -> No answer for this .. but this is surely not rational reason it is emtional reason ..

Now look at the overall costs of this emotional decision which my friend wants to make .

1) Cost of a good hatchack (i20 CRDI) => 7 lakhs on road  (approx)

2) Cost Innova MPV (Mid-range) => 11.5 lakhs on road (approx)

So the delta is 4.5 lakhs right ?? … No if one were to consider the fact that the car is bought on EMI the overall cost comes to 5.8 lakhs over 4 years.

So the question is if this 4.5 lakhs(current value) is worth it for all the non-emotional reasons. To calculate this lets see how we can overcome the cost of going on long drives and cost of taking the whole family together.

Lets assume we will go on 2 long drives in a year and 1 single day drive in a year we  can have an occasion to take family together.

Cost of 2 long drives  and 1 single day drive apart from cost of  fuel which you need to spend even if you had a innova=>   Rs 2500 x 3 Days = 7.5K (COST of hiring a  Scorpio .

Compare this versus what you can earn from Rs 4.5 lakhs in 1 year . At 9 % interest one can easily earn Rs 40k/year in a Fixed deposit…

I have not yet mentioned the hassles of driving a big car in City … parking is such a hassle and driving in general is more tedious compared to a MPV/SUV.

So you guys decide now !!!

Find out the secret sauce of Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Foursquare

One of the questions which come to mind while reading about the stupendous success of Instagram is “How a company which has only 12 employees built a product which hooked up 30+million users in a short span of time?” What is the secret sauce which makes Instagram drive its 30+ million users to use the product frequently?

During my search, I discovered the concept of ‘Desire Engine‘ by Nir Eyal which takes a fundamental approach to explain success of consumer products by linking it to consumers’ psyche. Nir has managed to create a fantastic framework to explain habit formation which can be used to create products or validate product features towards habit formation amongst its consumers. Once you start seeing popular products through this lens, you can appreciate why Instagram was successful despite many clones in the market.

To get an understanding of ‘Desire Engine’ I recommend viewing the two videos on Nir’s blog “FIRST VIDEO OF MY “BEHAVIOR BY DESIGN” TALK: CREATING ADDICTIVE PRODUCTS“. The rest of this article makes full sense only after watching these videos

Desire Engine a summary

In short, Nir’s framework shows an approach used by consumer web companies like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc to manufacture ‘Desire’ in consumers. Yes you heard that right ‘manufacture a desire’ in you to get addicted to using the product. To achieve this, these products attach themselves to frequently occurring internal emotions like loneliness, boredom, willingness to show-off skills etc. Whenever internal emotions like loneliness or boredom occurs, the consumer would feel the urge to login and check Facebook, Pinterest etc depending on the emotion. By repeating this many times, you simply get hooked to these products so much that you would use them even when internal emotion is not triggered. Hence you get addicted to them. Though I must admit I found the term addicted a bit too harsh initially, but think about what you feel if you have not checked your Facebook account for the whole day and you are suddenly reminded of it. Don’t we all feel a slight pain which magically goes away once you are done with browsing your Facebook friend stream, so I begin to accept it is a form of addiction.

To really understand how the ‘Desire engine’ can be used to build our next version of ShoutOut product, we thought we should first learn the fundamentals by applying the framework to understand how it is being used by successful products companies. Here goes the analysis for 4 products. Note that you should watch the 2 videos before you can appreciate analysis completely.

Instagram: The success of Instagram can be attributed to the fact that they were able to create this desire of  showing off  ‘photography’ skills in the users of the app and then slowly converting this desire into a habit by giving him variable rewards.  Instagram has not only used the desire engine to hook users, they have also excelled in the user action department by making the lower resolution pictures taken from a mobile phone look great and help the user quickly upload pictures to facebook or twitter. Here is the desire engine summary for most popularly used features on Instagram.

Pinterest: The phenomenal interest in Pinterest is the result of the service being able to form a desire and habit out of sharing interests with others.  Its meteoric rise can be partly attributed to the easy to consume and create content on Pinterest. Humans are wired to consume visual information more easily than textual information like Twitter hence Pinterest ‘s user base is raising faster than Twitter did at the same stage of its evolution. Pinterest has simplified the act of showing off your interests like no other product has done. Here is the desire engine summary for most popularly used features on Pinterest.

Foursquare: The analysis of Foursquare using the desire engine frame work is interesting because the App has recently repositioned itself. From being a check-in service, the App now aspires to be a recommendation engine for experiences near you. In the redesign, it has retained most parts of the check-in service while adding newer functionality in the explore tab. Due to this, the product is aiming to target 2 different internal emotions, one which is about showing-off where you are and what your doing. The other emotion is the hunger of  discovering new experiences around you. Thus in effect, Foursquare has two different desire engines implemented  into the same product. Here is the desire engine summary for most popularly used features on FourSquare.

Facebook: The analysis of Facebook using the desire engine framework is tricky one as  Facebook associates itself to several internal triggers like loneliness, showing-off, venting anger etc. To keep the analysis simple, i have tried to combine several desire engines into one for Facebook and kept only a few internal triggers and usecases of the service . The massive popularity and high usage time on Facebook can be partly attributed to the fact that many internal triggers are satisfied by Facebook thus making it easier to form a habit of checking Facebook multiple times a day.

Ability to do things quickly

All through this analysis, well again like Nir says, i noticed another common thread in all these successful products. They make the user action with as little friction as possible thus making the consumer do only what is necessary in the most effective manner. This helps in making the consumer to go through the desire engine faster thus aiding in quicker habit formation.

  •  Instagram: The product makes it really easy to take pictures from mobile phone and upload them to social networks like Facebook quickly. The UI is devoid of too many options with only few filters to add effects to photos. The uploading of pictures  is so fast that the Facebook’s app seems like a tortoise racing with a bullet train in comparison with Instagram. (with Indian upload speeds) :)
  • Pinterest: The product makes it very easy to consume and create content that we are left wondering why someone else had not thought of this easy way to share ones interests.
  • Foursquare : The app is designed to perform the task of check-in and leaving a tip for any local business a breeze.
  • Facebook :  The friends stream is the most intuitive piece of design ever as it solves the complex problem of keeping up with friends into a simple UI of flowing updates from your friends. The algorithm does a wonderful job to bringing the most relevant content up your stream thus ensuring that you get updated about friends quickly.

So the combination of using the desire engine to build a product/service and making the experience of the user as frictionless as possible makes products like Instagram, Pinterest, FourSquare and Facebook so popular. I hope this article is an eye opener to many of you to understand that you may have got addicted to one of these services already :)

We think that by using ‘Desire Engine’, we can effectively fast-track habits and manufacture desire in consumers to ShoutOut their experiences as it happens.

Note: ShoutOut aims at making it easy for consumers to say their experiences about products or local places as it happens. then and there.

What are your thoughts? Leave your comments below.