Monday, December 28, 2015

A Solution to reduce pollution and traffic in large cities..

This video presents a solution to reduce pollution and traffic in large cities. Delhi Govt has introduced a new rule to reduce pollution and traffic that odd cars would run on odd days of the month and even cars would run on even days of the month. Many thinks that it is not a feasible solution and would add inconvenience to Delhiites and NCR residents.

Please do watch this video that it does provide a believable solution in fun way. People can carpool or bikepool to their workplaces and for all other tasks and emergency situation, we can also depend on neighborhood..

RideAlly (a Carpooling app) has launched a "Know Your Neghbor" Campaign to connect odd-even car owners in Delhi/NCR region.  It enables People without vehicle also to get ride. Females can share rides with only females. It has 10+ security features to ensure safety and security. Overall, it provides a perfect solution to pollution/traffic issues in large cities.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

An open letter to Kejriwal Ji and Delhites on odd-even day car rules

Just learnt that due to high court order about reducing pollution, Delhi Govt is planning to try an odd-even number formula for cars, means, Cars with odd/even number would ply on alternate days. All recent studies have indicated that in cities, major source of pollution is vehicles on roads and its no-brainer that we need to reduce number of vehicles on roads in order to reduce pollution. I live in Bangalore and it has 3-4 times more vehicles than its capacity. I think that Delhi is not any better.

My 10 year old kid coughs almost every night. I have heard that air-borne diseases are on rise. We may agree or disagree with this odd-even arrangement but we HAVE to agree that we collectively need to do something about air pollution. It is not just Govt's duty but it is us, our kids, parents, siblings, friends who are breathing harmful air every second. Its easy to criticize everything but lets understand the intent and take action now.

I do own a car and quite used to the convenience it offers. I have an odd number car and feel quite threatened that I cannot use it on even days. How do I reach my office on even days? I run a small business and travel a lot within city, how do I do that?  How do I drop my daughter to day-care everyday? What happens in an emergency etc etc? I see that there are many others who have raised similar questions and worried.

Many have taken it in humorous ways and lots of jokes, tweets are in the air. One such is below and I hope you get it.

odd-even number_delhi

Not sure, how Delhi Govt is going to implement it?  There are some concerns mentioned in this article on firstpost which seems to be valid. Our main purpose is to reduce pollution and traffic. If we reduce number of vehicles on roads than we reduce traffic, we reach faster, we consume less fuel, we are on roads for less time, we pollute less and we spend more time with family or at doing something productive and overall, economy/environment improves.  Can we reduce pollution and traffic using any other ways?

Long term solution would be population control, more public transport, more CNG vehicles, more metros, last mile connectivity with feeder mini buses, more over/under bridges, widening of roads, better town planning, etc but all these would take time/money and may be, we, mortals, dont have that much time and money to realize all above.

So, are there some better and immediately possible ways to do that?

Here, I would like to appreciate the effort put by Bengaluru Traffic Police who has started promoting carpooling quite aggressively. Do check their facebook page, twitter page and media coverage to understand more. They are supporting many apps who are enabling carpooling/bikepooling in safe and secure way. There has been so much happening in this space that we must take it seriously now. We can reduce 50% vehicles on roads if we just add one more person in the car or bike. However, people dont do it due to various factors but that's changing.

I started my carpooling initiative, RideAlly, almost 4 yrs back and it was a failure until recently. Many other startups are also struggling. We have added significant users in just last one month who have shown interest in carpooling and shared taxis. Many corporate are talking to us to enable carpooling/bikepooling for their employees.

Can Delhi Govt look at Carpooling and bring some legislation around carpooling so that people start doing it? Govt can take many steps to encourage carpooling, like, provide insurance for carpoolers, preferred parking, make it mandatory for organizations having more than 500 employees at one location, allow people to earn (tax free) from personal cars/bikes, promote/support apps who are enabling it, encourage taxis/autos to take more passengers and some incentives for them to do so etc.

Also, if Govt can bring some legislation with parking of cars than we can control vehicles on road big time. Except parking at home, rest all places should be governed by the parking legislation, such as,

1.  Free parking for cars which has min 3 people in the car at all public places, like, markets, hospital, Govt offices, airport, railway station etc
2. Clear instruction to all private place-owners for allowing free parking for cars with 3 or more persons, such as, Cinema halls, Tech Parks, Malls, Companies, etc.
3.  Heavy parking charges for single person occupancy cars, e.g. 100 Rs per hour. Even if they park in company premises, companies should be instructed to do so.

There are many more ways to reduce pollution however I'm sure that with carpooling/bikepooling and parking control, we can control it to large extent. Do share what do you think. Lets debate and take actions and do not rest till we and our next generations can at least breathe fresh air.

Regards, Hariprakash Agrawal, CEO,

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

10 Takeaways for StartUps from Bihar Elections

I followed Bihar elections quite closely and as part of that, read many articles, talked to many friends (including Biharis), agreed/disagreed with them, followed Media (their hypes, sensations and facts) and saw/listened how various politicians spoke, strategized and worked day and night to have election results in their favor.

Bihar Election (Courtesy: India Today)
Election Results (Courtesy: Times of India)
Election results baffled me and it made me wonder what happened and why? My tiny entrepreneurial mind was looking for some analysis that what can a startup learn from this, what went well for whom, what could have been done better by someone and I could come up with the following:

1. Thorough Preparation before hitting market.  Elections reminded me of days of my engineering education where we used to have exams with 2-3 days gaps and it used to last a month. There were 2 kind of students, one who studied through-out the year and another who usually found it enough to study during the gaps of each exam and even few times, passed with distinction. JDU+ did a thorough study and worked from long time to build unprecedented tieups while BJP kind of relied on period between polling days. JDU+ had gone to villages, worked at grass-root level and campaigned while BJP relied on big rallies during polls.

Takeaway: We at StartUps, need to understand our market, prepare well with our unique positioning, understand our competitions with the limited resources we have. Whole marketing effort may go waste if we go to market and cannot serve on time with best quality.

2.  Its best to collaborate than going solo.  We see a clear trend that from multi-parties contest, it is becoming 2 coalitions contest.  Politicians have realized that its difficult to win even a state election alone hence they do make gathbandhan (coalition) to share resources, get more local updates, organize gram-sabhas, reach out to people in smaller rallies, get votes of each other etc.

Takeaway:  I do see that there are way too many startups in some domains, like food delivery etc. If two or more startups are trying to solve almost same (or similar) problem than at times, its wise to merge or collaborate with someone to be ahead of many other startups. If not done than the chances are that startup may run out of cash.

3.  One may collaborate with past competition as well to beat bigger opponent. This was one of the main highlight as 2 bitter rivals came together. They together understood Bihar Janataa (public) like no-one else. It would not have been easy for 2 rivals to come together but it did happen and results are remarkable

Takeaway:  If your opponent is quite big than even for big companies, it is wise to merge or have joint-venture or get acquired. At one point of time, Ola, Taxiforsure and Uber were competing with each other but to sustain against Uber, Taxiforsure got acquired by Ola and it became bigger to compete with Uber.  Startups can never say never. Do a good competition analysis.

4. One needs to be hyper-local to succeed. Knowledge of locality/region is critical. People have their local/regional problems and they need them to be resolved for daily life. When someone is struggling to earn 100 Rs per day, he/she is ok if someone can just offer that much. It was a state election and people understand that someone from state who understands their basic needs, can help them better. BJP+ top management seemed to not listen to local/regional leaders somehow and lost key insights to ground realities.

Takeaway:  Startups need to offer their services within a small region first, make customers happy and keep growing steadily. Develop local leaders who has best knowledge of that territory. Make it hyper-local with terminologies, language, clothing style and blend in local culture to get connected. E.g. Its not easy to make a sale in a village while talking in English.

5. Study your opponents well. If possible, get their key person on your side.  JDU+ got hold of Prashant Kishor, the person, who strategized the election campaign for NDA during National election and now, he was sharing critical tips with JDU+ leaders. JDU+ knew how to tackle large rallies, social/print/digital media etc. JDU+ successfully used the slogan of 'Bihari Vs Bahari'.

Takeaway:  Try best to not loose your key person, co-founder, CTO or even a junior employee who can be potential asset. Same time, Do have clauses in contract and ensure that your employee should not start working for your direct competition. Keep an eye that where are they joining.

6.  Customize products/services as per market size and target segment. We have been seeing the trend that voters are able to make difference between National vs State vs Panchayat election. We do see contrast when voters choose one party in National election and another party in State or Panchayat elections. Caste, religion does have its influence in Bihar politics and JDU+ had realized it well. BJP+ did not seem to care for that as their few leaders spoke out of turn. Many Biharis work outside Bihar and they could not vote and JDU+ did succeed in influencing actual voters in Bihar. There was big hype on Social media but they were not going to vote.

Takeaway:  Its easy to start anything but difficult to sustain over time. Satrtups need to carefully understand customer base and keep refining it. We usually start thinking keeping large market but actually find that we cannot offer many variants of products or services hence its critical that we refine ourselves to address minimum viable customer base first.

7.  Be connected and have an edge over others.  Indian voters have been giving decisive mandate from last few elections. They have understood the adverse impact of hung assembly hence they want clear winner. People are more connected than ever due to social media, like, facebook, whatsapp, twitter and once they understand the X party has an edge, they vote to that party so that there is clear winner. We saw that BJP got more seats than expected during National Elections, AAP got more seats than expected in Delhi elections and now, JDU+ got more seats than expected in Bihar.

Takeaway:  As a product startup, you need to keep an edge over your competitors all the time. Try to sustain for longer time as many startups may fade away by the time ecosystem wakes up for your kind of offerings. What may become viral, one may not be able to predict. Out of 1000s of videos, something becomes viral and gets 1 Lakh+ hits in no time and it closes down rest all by big margin.

8.  I am more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than an army of 100 lions led by a sheep. People seem to have literally understood this quote and implemented it well. Its the Leader who is more important than the party. Ideology keep changing on the basis of who are the leaders in the party. JDU+ chose Nitish Ji as their unanimous leader much before elections while BJP+ could not select a name. BJP+ could have called for a meeting of all Bihari leaders before election and democratically selected one. After-all, It was a state election and state leader was more important than national leader. 

Takeaway:  I think that everyone knows it but its important to remind that CEO and core team is the one which takes startup (or a company) forward.

9.  Decentralize. Have local Leaders. People understand that giving absolute power to anyone can be detrimental hence they keep everyone in check. One party cannot depend too much on one leader as Democracy is about everyone's participation and giving chance for everyone to grow. Also, Star performers should make their presence felt few times and continue focus on bigger things.

Takeaway:  In a startups, one need to realize that when CEO needs to make a pitch and when anyone else can do it. If junior staff makes mistake, CEOs can correct it but what if CEO is directly exposed every time. A human, even if he/she is CEO, can do limited work, after-all there are only 24 hours in a day. Its important to decentralize and develop leadership to accomplish many things in parallel.

10.  Consistent messaging over time. JDU+ had a strategy and they stuck to it while BJP+ kept changing it. JDU+ hired 5000 cycles and went door to door with their 10 slogans and delivered consistent messaging to each villager, towner and urban folks.

Takeaway: We at StartUps, cannot do everything as we have limited resources hence need to focus on our unique offerings and keep sending that message again and again. It takes time to reach to many people and if you keep changing your offerings, users get confused.

Last but not least, Many Congratulations to Nitish Babu and Lalu Ji !! Bihar has given clear decisive mandate to you to lead from front and fulfill its aspirations and I hope you would do so.

Hariprakash Agrawal (Hari)
RideAlly  - Earn or Save Money by Sharing Taxi, Carpool or Bikepool.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Are we tolerant?

Intolerance has been the buzzword nowadays. We are bombarded with this word by print and digital media. High pitch debates are happening and views are being shared in intolerant way. Although, I have not had any debate with my friends and we all seem to be living peaceful but I am wondering that have we become intolerant suddenly?

I could not hold myself as I have been reading, listening a lot on this matter. I thought that its time that I also penned my thoughts. My heartfelt apologies that you need to read another piece on this.

Where do I start? I thought that why dont I look at the past for examples of tolerance. When I look at history, I find that it is full of wars. It is full of incidents where brother has killed brother to gain some physical attractions. Does it show tolerance? Most of the family fights are due to intolerance. Intolerance does have a short-tempered mind which must seek peace.

Tolerance is a virtue not everyone can master.  In history, very few people really showed the true meaning of tolerance and who mastered tolerance are treated as great men/women but society at large, does not seem to be tolerant.  These few great persons are the ones to whom people followed in abundance and made religions/sects out of that.  I believe that when people cannot agree to disagree than that is intolerance. When we cannot get along even with friends after having a fight than that is intolerance.

Does any religion teaches intolerance? Intolerance, for sure, does not have a religion. Some of them took religion so seriously that it lead to a journey to intolerance rather to tolerance and at times, intolerance leads to violence with adverse consequences. A small incident shows us the mirror that we can become intolerant in some seconds.The line between tolerance and intolerance is becoming thin.

Many of us are tolerant by chance but not by choice. If someone can kindle our feelings and make us lynch someone by just speaking on loudspeaker than it does mean that we are not tolerant.  If someone can incite riots (or fights) by speaking some words, it does mean that as a society, we have miserably failed on tolerance. Has society ever been tolerant including intellectuals? One can look at the articles on 'Communal violence in India', 'Riots in India' 'Massacres in India' on Wikipedia to understand tolerance level of Indians. Almost every year, there have been one or other riots. I dont want to sound negative but one can also check the number of court cases to understand the intolerance.

When a country boasts its arsenal which includes thousands of nuclear bombs than are they tolerant of world? When there are tax heavens and that money can be used for all kinds of illegal activities than are they tolerant of others? When a country sponsors terrorism in another country for a small piece of land than are they tolerant? When we have our jails and hospitals full due to violence, hatred etc than are we being tolerant? When a girl is burnt alive due to dowry or not allowed to even take birth than are even the families tolerant? When someone is killed or issued Fatwa for having difference in opinion than who is tolerant here? By returning the well deserved awards and highlighting carefully chosen incidents, are intellectuals (or conscience-keepers) being tolerant or intolerant?

Whether it was Kingdoms, British rule, Congress rule, BJP rule or any other Government, we have been constant and consistent in intolerance. We need another god or saviour to teach us tolerance and may be, there would be peace for some time and than another religion will born and earthlings will have one more reason to be intolerant. I might sound cynical but there seems to be a cyclic process which would stop with extinction of human beings. Gladly, animals show much better behavior and Im hopeful that they would finally live in peace on earth.

Same time, all is not lost. I do have many Hindu / Muslim / Christian / Sikh / Jain friends with whom I interact on daily basis either in person or on social media. Friends are part of my life like my body parts and soul. I cannot imagine a life without them and rarely, we discussed on these matters. We are so busy with our lives, trying ends to meet, caring for our children, caring for little we have and taking care of business as usual that we do not get that why so much hype?

Now, you may agree or disagree on above thoughts. Do share it either way. Lets see whether we together can increase tolerance in each other and the chain may continue..

Hariprakash (Hari)
RideAlly  - Earn or Save Money by Sharing Taxi, Carpool or Bikepool.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Challenges of Small Services (& Product) Companies

My Good friend, Amarinder, asked on OCC googlegroup that what are the challenges one faces while running a pure services company, or doing services to sustain yourself and your product development?

I just realized that we kind of fit in this category as we are developing products and surviving by providing services. I started OpCord abt 3 yrs back (in fact, we celebrated our 3rd birthday on 22-Jun) with trainings, services and also thought that I could develop products in future.  Services / Trainings are surviving us from last 3 yrs. I got an idea of a product worth pursuing (as I am crazy sometimes) about 2 yrs back of a mobile app which enables rides sharing (much more than car pool) and we are working on that as well. We are also working on test automation framework for web / desktop based applications and intend to make a product out of it.

After setting the background, the challenges we faced are:

1. Focus on product misses unless your services business revenue is so high that it can take care of both.You tend to make product team members billable if revenue is not good enough which breaks the flow. We are delayed on our product "RideAlly" by 6 months because we made key people billable.

2. Cash flow is a challenge. In our case, out of 35 members, 8-10 are dedicated to product development hence cost of these has to come from services. We are bootstrapped and able to manage without any loan/investment hence if some services gets stopped, we are on our toes.

3. You cannot hire high class talent required for product development due to high cost hence more mistakes, more learning time and more cost.

4. Out of 10 proposals, one gets 2-3 projects and each proposal takes considerable bandwidth. Whomsoever senior is available, participates in analysing feasibility, estimation and we dont care whether product development is taking a hit. We have worked for 2 months with 3 persons to get a project and still, we could not get Because customer changed technology itself, HTML5 over flash.

5. You are lucky if you get very tech savvy partner who understands product life cycle, architecture and fully committed (do or die kind). I have talked to almost 10 part time senior people (< 15 yrs exp) who wish to take plunge but ultimately could not. Its not easy to leave >20Lakhs/Annum job when you have EMI commitments, single salary, particular lifestyle (car, flat, kids going to school, maids etc), status etc.

6. Services business means you are always on hunt. You may have done great work for one customer but it does not mean that customer has repeat business for you. We get lots of 3-6 months assignment and once these people become non-billable, you just take a nosedive. Every year, we have 2-3 very bad months and 2-3 very good months.One needs to be very cautious in spending when earnings are good.

7. Being small company, we work with many small companies and they come to us due to cost advantage than large companies which necessarily means even you provide resource better than large company, your margin is less.

8. Many a times, we work with large companies through a middle partner and actually they earn, not us. I am not complaining as I also become middle partner nowadays.

9. Getting high performers on payroll is tough and retaining them is even tougher.

10. In India, we have so many taxes, service/professional/TDS/ESI and so many acts/laws with different CAs giving different interpretations. We spend lots of time in finance and marketing time reduces. E.g., we pay professional tax always on time and one month out of 2 yrs,  it got delayed by 2 days (due to weekend) and we got about 1200 Rs penalty. Person, who delivered, asked for bribe which we did not pay and later, our CA got it waived as well but it took unneccessarily my time.

11. Late delivery of invoices payment just kills you. I have to admit that I had to delay senior persons salaries just because invoice payment is delayed. Junior persons are always paid on time irrespective you take loan or sell yourself or whatever.

Challenges are many (above list is just top of mind and some points can be repetitive) and rewards are also many. Whatever it is, we are there and someone said that if one can survive for 3 years than they are going to be in business for forever. Amen!!!

Hariprakash Agrawal (Hari),

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What's going in CEO's mind?

Before we talk on optimizing business, I think that its apt to talk about what is going in CEO or MD or Business Owner's mind? What do they want? Are they interested in any of these frameworks? What outputs they wish to achieve for their organization?

Below, I am trying to list some of the parameters (list below is not exhaustive but indicative) which they might like to measure, track and improve for their organization:
  1. Profits (YoY, QoQ)
  2. Revenue (YoY, QoQ)
  3. Customer Satisfaction (YoY, QoQ)
  4. How many new products or its variants launched and market response?
  5. No of new customers added or retained
  6. Attrition or ability to retain best talent or employee satisfaction
  7. Best Recruits or Ability to attract best talent or how industry perceives us?
  8. Awards or recognitions in the industry
  9. % of market share compared to competition
  10. There are more depending on nature of organization

If top management wishes to address above parameters than what approach should they adopt? or which framework should they deploy? Should they invest in circle of principles? If yes, how? How much?

We will discuss more on approaches and their mapping to business critical parameters in next discussions.

Note: We encourage you to participate in this blog and add your comments on what parameters interests CEOs/MDs/business owners? and Which approach do you prefer to address them?

More later,

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Circle of Principles (CoP) for High Performing Teams (or Businesses)

We all know that to grow the business and to sustain the growth over time, teams need to continuously look/measure customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, revenue (top line) and profitability (bottom line) as a bare minimum.

If anyone of these goes down, it will be just matter of time that business or organization collapses and it may take significant time and effort to bring it back to its glory.

To achieve above business parameters, we need many high performing teams. High performing team is the one which keeps their commitment (on-time delivery), with best of quality, with right set of features or requirements, keep it in budget and with every project, teams becomes even better.

To do that, businesses/teams needs to adopt Circle of Principles (CoP) as mentioned below:

Quality over Time
Mentors over Managers

Innovation over Compliance
Team Spirit over Individual Excellence
Leading Indicators over Lagging Indicators
Lean Documentation over Comprehensiveness
Measurement of Goodness over Defects
Face to Face Interactions over Emails
Collaboration over Competition
Automation over Manual
Facts over Intuitions

CoP has 11 principles which enables the teams to satisfy its customers, reduces overheads, increases interactions, keep them focused/accountable/happy and in turn grows revenue/profit of the business.

To understand these principles better, have "Prefer" as prefix e.g. Prefer quality over time or prefer measurement of goodness over defects etc. Items on both sides of 'over' are important however businesses/teams which chooses items on left side have more chances of success over a period.

We can discuss each one of these principles in our talks with ample examples whenever we meet.

Hariprakash Agrawal,,,