As a start up, you are often willing to go to any length to please your clients. However, doing right by the customer means having to say NO to a customer request which may harm them in the long run.
At Canvass, we recently had a customer request for uploading an email list into their account which had not been acquired organically (using an opt-in form). This is a common issue with businesses in India because of the proliferation of companies selling email databases and the general lack of online privacy governance. There are a 1000 other email marketing service providers who would gladly allow businesses to send emails to these lists.
The thing is that email newsletters sent to such emails can cause high unsubscribes and SPAM complaints.
After some back and forth, we decided to say NO to this customer with an honest and clear explanation about the harm this “dirty” email list can cause to their “sender reputation score” with ISPs.
Fortunately, the customer was very understanding and willing to work with us to clean up the list.
Its a simple, easy and powerful way to drive loyalty and sales from current customers. Check it out:
From most counts, GOSF (http://www.gosf.in) was a success. I applaud all those who participated and all those who organized it. The key milestone it achieved was the large amount of buzz around online shopping and potentially high conversion of offline to online shoppers. Having personally experienced the US shop-pah-loza called ‘Black Friday’ for several years, I cannot help but feel that 12/12 needs to be thought along the same lines as it’s US equivalent. Offline brands should also start offering exclusive one-day only deals on 12/12 every year. This will help every stakeholder involved, including our economy.
I am hoping (no, actually praying) that Apple brings innovation into the TV space in the same way they have done for phones. The modern TV has a few major issues, the way I see it:
- The UI sucks. Period. Its cumbersome and nearly not as snappy and user-friendly as our other screens. If I had one wish for the TV, it would be for someone to fix the UI.
- Its not connected. I know, I know, most modern TVs have wi-fi built in and there are apps. But try using the apps and you will know what I am talking about. Connectivity for the sake of connectivity is just a pathetic cover for lack of innovation. We need ‘always-on’ connectivity. We need apps that make TV browsing easy and fun, not cludgy and outdated. The Youtube App on my TV feels very very ancient, which is not acceptable.
- The TV needs to be smart enough to enhance your viewing experience. This does not mean simply adding 100 apps under some menu item. ‘Smart’ needs to learn from your viewing habits, suggest content and shows you might like. Content and schedule search needs to be quick and evolving the way web search has evolved over the past years.
The iPhone ushered in a whole new wave of phone innovation. Dear Apple, please show us that you can repeat the magic act.
At Canvass, we speak to tons of retailers and small business owners to understand how they run their marketing campaigns. A consistent message we hear is that at the end of the day, they resort to the time-tested technique of giving price discounts to attract and convert customers. While this is a fine strategy, it would be dangerous to make this your only strategy. Here are a couple of simple but valuable insights:
- Customers love discounts, but they also love rewards, however little those rewards are.
- Given a discount and a reward of equal monetary value, a customer will likely perceive the reward to be slightly higher value than the discount
These consumer insights can be used by retailers to create a powerful rewards scheme which gives people little rewards in exchange for actions of value, such as sharing a review, or referring a friend. One should design an award scheme which has little cost to the business but much higher value to the customer, hence giving the business a value arbitrage when the customer bites on the promotion.
Everyone has stories about the highest and lowest moments of their professional lives. An entrepreneur faces highs that are incredibly ‘high’ and lows which are incredibly ‘low’ everyday, often taking him or her into emotional territories never experienced before. If you have not yet felt this, trust me, you will feel it soon.
The fact is, you are working very very hard to fulfill your vision by building and selling products which are close to your heart. You can repeat the same pitch 100 times a day and not get tired. Yet, despite all your enthusiasm, energy, attitude and willingness to serve each stakeholder, you get hit from all sides: landlords, customers, vendors, prospects, and team members.
An entrepreneurs challenge is to stay focused on the goal in the midst of all this ‘distraction’. Problems will not stop, they will only escalate. Either you learn how to juggle them or your drown in the constant stream of failures that come you way. The choice is yours and yours only.
Recruiting is one of the hardest things that a startup needs to do in the early phase. This activity cannot and should not be underestimated. This challenge is even larger if you are located in a city which has a relative shortage of the relevant talent pool. Canvass, my startup, is located in Mumbai which is not known to have large technology and software talent pools. We are facing immense difficulty in acquiring the right people for the company.
My advice to startup CEOs, FWIW, start recruiting early and make it a weekly activity. Spending 2-3 hours per week on shortlisting candidates can help you avoid last-minute hiring crunches and avoid situations where your product development is suffering from a lack of people.
I love learning. I cannot imagine how life would be if I did not learn something new everyday. There is so much to learn from the people who surround us everyday, customers, partners, team members, family, the list never ends. The day I stop learning, is the day I die.
In the last 15 days, I have traveled by the Indian Railways on four occasions (Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad). This is in contrast to the last 15 years, when I had not made a single train journey in India. Almost with a child like curiosity, I boarded each train with an excitement unlike anything I have felt in recent times. I can happily say that my excitement was well justified by the actual journey. Each of the journeys I made revealed some very eclectic characters and landscapes.
I met a young guy traveling from Delhi to Mumbai for the first time for his first every job. He was visibly excited about the prospect of starting an independent life in Mumbai, and at the same time he was sad about leaving his home and dear family members behind.
I also met a mid-age couple who made a trip every 2 months from AP to Mumbai to consult a homeopathy doctor in Mumbai for their kid born with cerebral palsy. This mother had suffered a car accident while she was pregnant and giving birth to the kid was a critical decision they had to make in front of a panel of doctors. The couple decided to give birth and fight for the kids life.
Another train journey brought me in close contact with a radar engineer with the Indian Air Force and his family, who were traveling to Pune to ensure their daughter gets settled in her new educational institutions.
Given the length of the journey, one has ample opportunity to meet a diverse set of people in the train. This environment cannot be recreated in other forms of long distance transport, be it Air or Road.