The answer to the chicken and egg question

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Over the last few months, I have been working on a new business idea and in the process I have interacted with a lot of entrepreneurs – new, aspiring and budding. It has been a fantastic learning experience for me. I will write about that later.

What I find most common among all of them is a perennial conflict between the investment required in creating demand (customers) and building the supply (service levels / operational strength / production capacity etc). The metaphor of the chicken and egg question was a recurring theme across this bunch of people struggling to make it big.

Over the last few days, when I was personally stuck with this problem and was going through this decision making crisis. As it often often happens, some of the best insights in life is found when you are pushed to the corner. I realized that the attempt to answer this question is often answered keeping the physical ingredients in view.

To my euphoric realization, I will decide what will come first. Since the question is mine, the answer will also be mine. Leaving the question hanging owing to philosophical / physical arguments will not get me anywhere. What will get me going is my decision.


Since the question is mine, the answer will also be mine


Hence, it is my decision to invest in creating demand or invest in having a robust supply back end which will further fuel the demand. Like the chicken and egg, the demand supply question is also cyclical in nature. One will follow other, once the cycle starts. I need to decide the starting point and move on in life!

Stress and Positivity

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There is a very cheesy bollywood line which is quite widely used – “Tension lene ka nahi, dene ka” (loosely translated as – Don’t take stress, give stress to others). It often does help in easing a stressful situation and may make the distressed person help ease off a bit.

However, in most situations, it is not so easy. It takes us a long time to calm / collect ourselves and take action. The time will vary for each individual. However, the time lapse can cause some damage in the form of uncalled for reactions and negative mindsets settling in.

A lot of research has been done to figure out ways of negating stress or reducing it. However, this Ted video by Kelly McGonigal turns the stress theory on its head. Stress may or may not be good. But a conscious reaction to stress, if channeled correctly can be have quite a productive (I am not saying just ‘positive’) impact on one’s life (and here, I am not just saying ‘work life’).

I am not usually not one for self help strategies, but I believe this talk does make sense. I do hope I am able to apply the concept explained here in my own way. Suggestions on other ways of managing stress are always welcome 🙂

 

The idea that may see the light of the day

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Billion-dollar-idea

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend on what do I do in flights / long journeys I undertake when I cannot sleep. My prompt response was that I write business plans on tissue papers provided! And I realized how frequently I do that! No, not writing business plans on tissue papers on flights: just thinking about ideas which can be potential million dollar businesses. The only problem is that I discard them as “potential” within 24 hrs

Then I came across the HBR article by Doug Sundheim What’s your 1 billion dollar idea?

The author explores in a simple and lucid language, seemingly inspired by our day to day thoughts, whether these day to day thoughts can be streamlined in a way that a coherent pattern comes out. A pattern, he believes will actually demonstrate which problems our minds work better at and where our energies should be directed at. What struck me was the simplicity of this idea. Is it not true that we will excel in those things only which challenge us to be better and which will solve our problems? If there is some thing that bothers us so much that we need to find a solution to it, we will eventually find one.

What is more interesting is that Doug has gone a step ahead and got together people to exactly do this. People like me can take to note down and share our ideas / questions which bother us. We do this for 52 weeks during which we jot down those issues every week at least once and at the end of it see if there is a pattern in our problem finding. I believe and it seems the intention of Doug as well is that once this pattern is found, we can well be on the track to converting that idea into a profitable business: as that idea will be backed by true and honest introspection.

I have become part of this google group who are sharing their thoughts. Hopefully by then end of this year, I will be able to have some direction!

It would be great if the readers could let me know of their thoughts on this!

Getting things done

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How often have we come across situations when what we have asked of has not been done by our colleagues at work (peers, juniors and bosses)? I have faced this situation innumerable number of times in my short career. Since most of my short career I have had the responsibility of getting things done from others, I have reasonable reference points to figure out why this happens. I have had my share of failures on this and have managed to overcome issues occasionally.

I had to prepare monthly reports and submit for review by the 8th. Usually, I would send a reminder by the 28th of the previous month, get the data by the 6rd, prepare a first cut by 7th and send by 8th after a review with the boss. One particular month, I had to submit it by 5th. In spite of reminders (personal and over mail), I struggled to get the data from 50% of the managers by 4th evening. Somehow, I managed to avert a mini disaster (blasting from the boss’ boss)

I have faced similar situations a number of times – many a times causing friction with people and getting an earful from the boss. Subsequently, I have also had the opportunity to think about why I get in these situations. In my dictionary, management requires effectively managing people. So, if the people you manage, directly or indirectly, do not end up doing things as per your authorized directions, there could be the following four reasons

  1. Disrespect: They do not respect you and either commit just to get you off their backs or intentionally delay your work
  2. Yes Sirs: They are in no position to do the task but do not know how to say no as well
  3. Genuine: They genuinely did not have the time and forgot to inform you
  4. Faulty expectations: You have been unreasonable with them either in terms of quantum of work or deadlines or both

Each of these situations can be handled differently. It requires an individual’s personality to adapt and get things done. However, the basic principal that I have learned is that one should always listen. Listening properly at the time of giving the task is quite obvious so as to ensure clear communication. However, when you know that the people who you are going to work with regularly, it is important that you listen to them even when you do not have formal transaction with them. That will help you understand a lot of clues about them, body language, tone etc. which will be useful at the time of getting things done.

Technology, Leadership and Education – Social Upliftment

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The case study on South Bend, Indiana’s water management systems is a classic example of technology and leadership coming together to solve a community’s problem.

It talks about how a group of citizens faced with an uncomfortable situation with an expensive solution thought together and used modern technology to resolve the problem at lower costs.

It is an incredible story and am sure there are many such instances in not just developed but developing countries as well. However, I feel that apart from technology and visionary leadership as key factors highlighted in the case, community maturity levels also plays a key part in the contributing to such upliftment.

Community maturity is about the willingness of the citizens to join hands for the greater good. It is not about them sacrificing personal goals but accommodating a bit to participate actively for the greater good. This attitude, from a larger proportion of the community, largely depends on the education level. The more educated the community, the greater the scope for collective growth. Although community values do play a great part here, academic education is what is being referred to.

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/04/a_smart_approach_to_fixing_cit.html?

What makes you tick?

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I came across this really fascinating TedTalk by Dan Ariely (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Ariely) on YouTube.

It is being said that more people from our generation  we are giving job satisfaction importance. I have always wondered how much truism is in it? More importantly, what exactly is job satisfaction? I think Mr. Dan Ariely explains this in a very articulate manner. Through the outcomes of a series of experiments, he divides the motivation to work into internal and external factors.

The internal motivation required to continue work is directly correlated to the degree of effort put in to complete the work. The more effort we put in leads to us putting more value to the output, irrespective of the actual value, and hence there is higher ownership towards it and increased desire to continue working.

The external motivation is dependent on, what is always known, the payment of effort. It need not only be monetary or material (but this is what is practiced mostly: the reward for good work is higher bonus, the incentive to improve performance is promise of higher bonus). Recognition plays a significant role. However, it is also true and proved through experiments here that there is always a gap between value (thus return) perceived by the maker and the appraiser.

 

You’ve got discount!

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I got a mail from Zovi.com yesterday.

They were very sad and were missing me. I felt good about that: in the $800 million Indian e-commerce industry a big player was missing me: a customer who had purchased 6 times in the last 12 months at an average price of Rs. 472 per purchase with the last purchase in October.

zovi-logo2

I read on..

They had assumed that I was away as I thought they were too expensive. So, they offered me a flat discount of 25% on anything I purchased.

Ooh! A BIG 25% discount! Should I be tempted? Honestly speaking, I was tempted.

However, the only thing I looked at their site was formal belts. I considered belts to be the least risky in terms of quality vs. price pay off. All my previous purchases, as I have indicated above, were on an average priced below Rs. 500. So I looked for a formal office wear belt. I was provided with just one choice. It was not bad at Rs. Rs. 374.25 post discount price.

But, I decided not to purchase it. Not because I considered the pay off as too risky, but because I realized that a belt required certain personalization (the belt hole has to be at an appropriate spot, rt?) which I am sure Zovi will not be able to provide.

And that was the reason I had decided not to purchase clothes online. Not because they are pricey, but they do not really provide the last mile convenience. Even if I eventually purchased it, the free return within 30 days with full refund would not make sense. I would have to bear the cost of return.

For the record, of all the previous purchases, I am not wearing any of them anymore.

And btw, they also thought that my address was also my name (instead of Hi Gaurav / Hi Raj, they referred to me as Hi “my postal address”)

Customer is the king. However, the e-commerce bandwagon is getting burdened with players who assume that the king has so enough cash on him and cares less about quality of service and product.