Neighbourhood Chat Platform Belong Documents Day At Startup

Bangalore based neighbourhood chat app startup Belong (Earlier, Hey Neighbor) started a fun experiment called StartupDiary to document a day at a startup. They figured that their story wasn’t a one off, and a lot of other startups could relate with the same. So, they decided to share it with us. “Contrary to popular beliefs , a startup isn’t a bed of roses. If you’re associated with one, you probably know that already. Here’s to all the startups around us.”, says the team at Belong.

What’s it like to work at a startup (in no particular order)

Communication

When the team is small, most of the conversations happen over group chat like Telegram. We love using Telegram because hey, who doesn’t love stickers and sending cat gifs? After all, it helps increase our productivity. But as the team grows, we need to look for other alternatives that are specific to work and integrates well with other services. Eventually we decided to give Slack a try. You know your team is growing when you use a workflow management tool like Slack.

Food

Lunch time is usually when everyone gets hungry. When does one get hungry? No one can predict. But when they do, it’s a really tough time to decide where to order from(assuming you don’t have a catering service in office). Everyone has a different choice when it comes to food. Healthy food isn’t tasty and tasty food isn’t healthy. To make this decision making more complex, you have vegetarians! Some really productive time is lost when you have to decide(convince others) what to eat and order the food.

 

Office Timings

On the ‘Work with us’ or ‘Careers’ page of most startups, you might’ve already notice the phrase flexible working hours. A startup isn’t your average 9–5 job so expect to work on weekends as well(just a heads up)! The tech team is usually late to office. It’s probably safe to assume that their day begins at 12 pm.

User feedback

One thing that’s important for both product & service based startups is User feedback. For an app based startup, A-B testing is a great way of testing your on-boarding & UX. However, it is time consuming to implement this. What’s the “jugaad” way of doing this? Simply walk into a coffee shop and talk to people. Ask them if they can give some feedback & take part in this activity. What are the possibilities?

  • Yes-Awesome! Get this done. Be sure to document the activity- either take notes or a video of the entire thing (or both). Don’t forget to offer them a cup o’ coffee once you’re done.
  • No-Say thank you and move on.

 

Coffee

Priority wise, this should’ve been at the top of this post. Coffee plays a really important role in startups. Right from those billion dollar startup ideas that came off from a coffee table conversation to keeping coders focussed on their work. After all, we know that programmers are organisms that turn coffee to code. Employees spend a lot of time making coffee(unless you have a coffee machine). Here’s a pro-tip from us- Get 3 in 1 coffee that saves time and gives a consistent taste.

Team Meetings

Startups usually have meetings with everyone from all the team to decide the product roadmap. Usually the way this happens is the marketing/community team tells about features that users have been asking for & those that gives them an edge over their competitors (if any). The tech team gets into the technical feasibility & setting timelines for these features. This is the moment when the developers start talking Javascript, database schemas and continuous integration which the marketing team has little to no idea about! At the end of these meetings, it’s usually a practice to have the tech team explain all of these in “English”.

Alcohol policy

What’s a startup without alcohol! The fridge is always loaded with normal drinks for casual occasions, whiskey when you’re doing an all-nighter in office fixing bugs and beer for the rest of week. Oh, and one for special occasions as well.

Office furniture

You’re apparently not considered a startup if you don’t have a bean bag in office. It’s actually interesting that the culture of an office is defined by bean bags, to an extent where corporates try to embrace the “startup culture” by bringing in more bean bags over their ergonomic chairs.

Living in office

Remember those times when you had a server side bug fix? Or an internal hackathon at office? Or even an all hands during which the entire team pulls an all-nighter in office? Well, if you thought that’s fun, think about a co-founder who lives in office. What’s the best part? You’re never locked out of office no matter how early you come. You can leave as late as you want and will still have company. You don’t even have to worry about switching off the AC if you’re leaving last!

Pet friendly office

Most of the “cool startups” have pets. It requires a lot of convincing, but remember, unless all the employees are cool with the idea of having a pet, never have a pet. It’s a responsibility and usually since the co-founders are the only ones who are married and has kids, they understand the pain of having something that needs to be fed and poops all around. At home, this is easy, but in an office, no one has time to do this(unless you have an employee dedicated to do this). Unless you’re willing to take it up, don’t get a pet in office.

Employee happiness

This one is exclusively for the founders/co-founders of startups. In a startup, you literally have to go to any extent to make your employees happy. Even if that means making chai for the entire team. Apparently running the company isn’t your only responsibility.

Compromise & sacrifice

startup compromise

In a startup, you’ve got to make a lot of compromises and sacrifices. Even if it means losing the things that mean the most to you or pivoting from an idea you love. These are difficult times and this is when the team needs to stay together.

[This post was submitted to OfficeChai by neighbourhood chat platform Belong under our ‘First Person’ series.

You too can share stories from your workplace and life at a startup. Write to us.]

Ola Gets License And The Nod To Run, Becomes 1st App-Based Ride Hailing Company To Be Licensed

Ola can finally ply on the roads without a worry, as it’s on its way to becoming the first app based ride-hailing service of its kind to be licensed according to the government rules.

Ola-raises-million-fundin

Ola had been playing a cat and mouse game with the government, due to lack of possession a valid licence by its drivers, as per the latest directive on the app-based cab aggregator policy by the government. Under this rule, while the business models of cab-aggregator companies like Ola and Uber are recognised, they’re required to comply with certain requirements. Presence of tamper proof GPS, driver details, and a cap on surge pricing is the most important of them.

While Ola was complicit to furnishing the former, a cap on surge pricing had kept it from gaining the license, which would imply compliance with all the requirements.  In the last few weeks, Ola had its hand full with the government intervening in the operations, putting a cap of Rs. 19.50 per km on its pricing, and seizing cabs due to the lack of the license. Last week, the Karnataka govt. had put a blanket ban on operations of Ola and Uber until they acquired a proper license. Ola had temporarily taken off cabs off the roads following the latest order.

Ola, seems to have finally given in to the government’s demands, and after furnishing 100 of its driver detail and a security deposit on one lakh, is about to get the license to ply on Indian roads.

Ola’s acquisition taxiForSure, and rival Uber, on the other hand are yet to get this license and continue to run into trouble with the governments. 

Ola may have needed to compromise on its free riding model, along with a hit in revenue from a cap on surge pricing, but looks like it’s all set to operate, all cylinders blazing, without the fear of its fleet getting impounded or its driver up in arms against the uncertainty.

How We Are Building EduRev

[This article is a part of our First Person series, in which people share their stories and thoughts about their startups, lives and careers.]

EduRev, which means Education Revolution, is more of a vision than an idea. EduRev began with the motive of bringing tech into the tech-deprived Indian education and revolutionizing it in this manner. We say it is more of a vision because even though the idea or the means to achieve it changed, the central theme or the fire to bring a change through EdTech remained.

I started with selling ERP to schools with a young heart and a mission to change. But as we jumped into the field we realized that Indian Education was more disorganized than imagined. A simple ERP could never achieve the ultimate mission.

edurev

So after a small hiatus and the fire to change still burning bright, we jumped into the startup arena again but this time we weren’t naive but we were rather prepared to tame the untamable Indian Education.

With disruption the only thing in head, we started with a simple hack. A platform for teachers and students to share notes, ultimately building a common crowdsourced educational library for all. To put it in an analogy, a youtube for documents of Indian Education.

Even though the goal was clear, the path was not. Teachers even the ones who liked the idea were apprehensive for sharing content for free. The logic was simple, we work hard for something so it cannot be given for free. We agreed.

This became the genesis of our first model, a crowdsourced marketplace for courses of Indian Education. For building the structure we were working closely with the teachers and as it happens after spending a decent amount of time being entrepreneurs, you naturally get into the knack of solving problems.

So while building initial courses with teachers for selling on our platform, we started solving other problems we could for them via intervention of IT. And from one thing leading to another we built up a complete SaaS based white label solution for teachers which solved in house problems of institutions.

After that teachers were testing their students on our platform, using our algorithms to analyze students automating things which required personal attention before. They started getting almost futuristic replacing printing and distributing of papers by sharing notes via the EduRev app and web platform. And even auto generated reports and notifications were going to parents and students via emails and SMS.

Now within a year of our incorporation we have over 40,000 students registered on the platform with 70,000+ docs, videos and tests available. We get over 2,00,000 hits a month with total hits till date more than 1.5 Million. We have 300+ teachers registered and also have 25+ institutions who have purchased our SaaS based White Label Platform. This has been our journey and story so far.

We are now venturing into implementing our SaaS model in Schools and are also in discussions to implement this across a complete State of India. In Parallel we are also ‘secretly’ working on a model which will make the complete basic Indian Education available free of cost on EduRev with monetization via our technology and data generated.

EduRev was lucky enough to be initially backed and funded by Jaarvis Accelerator where we were actively groomed and nurtured. Now we are raising a Pre Series A round to prove profitability of each model. Last weekwe were joined by Pradeep Reddy Kamasani who is an investor from Hyderabad Angels, he will be helping EduRev in expansion to South India.

To conclude, I personally feel that EdTech is the most disorganized and problematic sector out of all but that also makes it the one with maximum potential and scope. We are now able to build something after finding a pattern in the erratic behavior. The way in which we differentiate is that we are not replacing any entity of the Education System but facilitating each of the present one. We intend to stop only when the ‘Edu-Rev’ goal is achieved.

[The author of this post is Kunaal Satija, the founder of EduRev]                     

Fired Helpchat Employee Writes Open Letter To CEO Ankur Singla

Helpchat has had a few avataars during its short journey so far. It had started off as Akosha, a platform where consumers could voice their complaints against companies. Then it became Helpchat, and moved to a chat led model where it aimed to take on a personal assistant role. In October last year, it had fired 150 members of its chat team. Last month, it moved away from the chat model completely, and had to let go of its entire chat team. Rakesh Nadakuditi is amongst those who were let go.

In an open letter to Helpchat’s CEO Ankur Singla, Nadakuditi acknowledges that business exigencies could’ve led to their removal, but blames the company for its mismanagement.  

Hello Mr.Ankur Singla,

Let me introduce myself. My name is Rakesh Nadakuditi. I joined your company on 3rd august 2015 as brand expert for which I chose the work-from-home option. I was told if I wanted I could shift to the office in future. I knew I was working as consultant but not as employee. I attended training for 1 week from 3rd august to 10 august 2015. Within 2-3 days of training my trainer said I was most suited to the tech support sector looking at my knowledge about things. I finished training and cleared exam and got selected. I started working from 13th august 2015. To my surprise, I was put into jobs sector. I spoke to my team leader asking if there had been a any mistake. He said no mistake, we have to work in job sector as there are lot of queues in that. So 3 guys from my batch who got selected for tech support got shifted to jobs sector without any basic introduction about how jobs sector works. We started working as told by TL. Lets talk about my TL Mr. Javeed. I was happy with him as he was not like the other TL i got to know from my friends. He was calm and relaxed . Not very pushy. Things i hated most about him was he was not available whenever we needed him. Most of the time he is offline on slack when we really need fast solution. I was sick one day and couldn’t work so i called him for day off but his response was surprising. Instead of asking what happened or how bad is it, He asked see if i can somehow work if not then if you are taking leave then you have to work on the day you got officially off. I agreed to it thinking may be because i was consultant. so i worked that day and next day with stomach pain and on third day i went to hospital and got admitted in KIMS Hospital as that day was my off.

helpchat-logo-with-tagline

Your team said we will be receiving upto Rs 5000 as incentives depend upon performance report. But your QA team started sending wrong fatal error report to avoid paying us that incentives but when few of us fought for it then your team said there was some misunderstanding so that errors are cleared. If you were not ready to pay our incentives then why promise something like that in first place. And your QA team is so incompetent that they couldn’t find that error in first time so we had to point out all this and this is from more than 4-5 people i know who shared that something like this happened.

On 8th September 2015 we received mail saying that Work From Home will be stopped and last working day will be 7th October 2015. People who are interested to shift from Work from Home to Work from Office needs to fill the form and will be selected based on performance report and we will be informed before that. Till 6th October 2015 TL had no idea when i asked about status. So company thinks that they will fire us on 7th october 2015 and we will find job next day? Till where i understand they have to provide prior notice regarding this so that will find another job in meantime. Who is responsible for this? You got incompetent fresher’s staff from top to bottom. You don’t have any correct process for anything(again i can give you so many examples). Ok we know you are start up so it takes time to organize things in such a big company. But thats not our problem. Now back to me. TL said on 6th October that there are enough staff in Work from office batch so they are not gonna hire us.

I FEEL LIKE YOUR COMPANY USED US. They knew if they told this that time itself then we would have stopped working. They wanted us to work till 7th october thats why they lied that they will shift us to office batch based on performance. In my batch (we all got training in same batch) 4 of us applied for Work From Office Me, Nandhini, Purnendu, Raghuvendra. Funny thing is we all didnt get selected where as we all are best performers in that shift in jobs. My first week score was(without any training) 9.2/10 with 1 error and as QA Mohammed Ayub sent a mail on 1st october regarding my performance report. my average score is 9.6/10 and no errors. If you are selecting based on performance then we should be selected but we didnt.

After one month while invoice was generating, Your invoice department by mistake instead of only my invoice they sent me all 100+ work from home guys invoice with personal details . Thats leaking every bodies personal data. Now i have 100+ people name, phone no., address, bank details, pan card details. Who knows who else received that details. What if somebody misuse that details. Unintentional maybe but people can sue you for that till where i understand. You didn’t run into any legal issues yet i guess. how about 100+ of them. Invoice department called and ask me to delete that mail and not to tell anybody.   But before that i told this to my TL and he asked me to be quiet and asked me to forward that mail to him and then delete it reason only known to him. Why he wanted that mail in first place. I forwarded that mail.

As i said YOUR COMPANY USED US. As you mentioned in your blog, that “Despite several attempts at bringing accountability among WFH experts, we saw that it was extremely difficult to control their behaviour (attendance, training, response times etc.) “. As i said above that we 4 were best performing guys in that shift. With full attendance. Our Quality scores are proof of that. So either your QA(quality analyst) is wrong in analysis or you are lying.

ankur singla helpchat
Helpchat CEO Ankur Singla

As you also said ” We decided to do the right thing – communicate clearly with the employees, figure out outplacement by talking to other companies/startups and give proper notice and an additional month’s pay. In addition, we extended all help in terms of introductions / recommendations etc.”. Again you lying to prove your point. TIll today we didnt receive any such notice for us as you mentioned and one month’s pay? Don’t make me laugh. You didnt pay even single penny like you are claiming. Above that incentives i got was Rs. 2250 from upto Rs.10,000(5,000 per month) we can earn. When i asked for clarification from TL Javeed. He started saying something about eligibility criteria and company policies and stuff. So in 2 months of work i get Rs.2250 as incentives with Quality scores of 9.2 in first month and 9.6 in second month out of 10(confirmed by TL).

Your comment on WFH women completely sounded like unnamed politician talking about women empowerment in an interview and it was not an experiment. They interacted with live customers of the your company and did better job than your so called WFO guys.

I have seen lot of brand experts working from office( WFO ) making big big mistakes and we took all that abuses after them when we picked up that chats later. But they are still in office and we are not even considered. I can confirm that from real people who faced all this and can provide you 100+ examples. And you spoke about our behavior. I have seen how WFO guys worked in your office multiple times. Guys playing songs out loud on their laptop speakers , some using headphones and watching youtube videos, putting legs on top of desks and leaning back on comfortable chairs like a boss, girls sitting on desk and shouting at each other, throwing tissues at each other and so many other things were happening. If you call that discipline then i am sorry that we were not well disciplined as you claimed.

When i joined your company, we had a queue of 100+ anytime but after 2 months i see queue of 20+. You are losing your customers fast . And thats not because of us. My batch got some of the best brand experts in different channels and out of 20 members none were selected. You fired some good guys from delhi team and paid them 2 months salary but you didnt do anything like that for us. Nandhini from my batch got average rating of 10/10 every week and she got most positive responses from customers in whole jobs sector combined together. But she didnt get selected and your company said that you will select us based on our performance. Tell me Mr. Ankur Singla will you join a company if you know that you gonna work there for only 2 months? You may argue saying that you company paid salary for that. But i think you are smart enough to understand thats not the point i am trying to make. Now tell me you fired us on 7th october without any prior notice from your office regarding our WFO status and when will i find other job now. You know how difficult it is to find job in bangalore? If i dont get job soon then how will i pay rent and all next month. This all because your staff didnt do their jobs properly. All this time i was hoping they will let us know soon. I asked TL every alternate days in last 2 weeks but his answer was he dont know yet. So Tell me Mr. Ankur Singla if i am wrong anywhere here. Your company fired lot of people recently. I heard some 150+ got fired. Everyone knows it. My TL said there are enough people in office so we are not selected. Some say its due to over staffing, You cannot fire employees for some unknown reason so you removed all who were working from home( WFH). That’s more convenient right? We were not daily labors that get paid on daily basis, no work no pay. You hired us on contract basis. When you cannot afford people you hired then where is our mistake. It’s your company problem, why they hired so many in first place. Your Hr department problem that they didn’t know how many to hire. I heard somewhere that sometimes 100 positive response doesn’t matter but few negative reviews will affect you in bad way. Now your company managed to upset good number of them. If company is successful then its not only because of top guys who make big decisions. It is because of hard work of lower guys who runs the company. I guess your company don’t value this employees. I get it if you are running a business or a company then you can’t keep everyone happy but now you have lot of unhappy ex-employees. I am also interested in starting my own start up someday. I joined your company to learn about how start ups work(as i donno anything about it, slowly learning) and all and earn some money too. If i ever start my company then your company taught me things i should not do.

Some of the employees got to know that their personal information was leaked and they wanted have meeting in your office. Your Team (Miss Charu Seth) threatened me to delete data i received of all personal details of your ex-employess or else she will take me to court. Thats what happens when you hire amateurs for some responsible post. First you screw up and then you threaten the person to cover up your mess. And now i heard you fired another 150+ employees (reported by tech blogs on 26 may). I am sure their also all details will be leaked. I have a feeling all personal details ( phone no. and e-mail id) of who downloaded your app is being sold outside as databases.

I heard this somewhere that most important thing in human life is time. Not money or not health or relationships.  Lost money can be earned back, health can be regained, relationships can we improved with communication but time you cant get it back. And your company managed to waste our 2 months of time.  All the best for your future.

Regards,

Rakesh Nadakuditi and 19 others whose time you wasted.

[The views and language expressed here are those of the author and not of OfficeChai.]

14 Indian Startups & Projects That Are Helping The Country Go Green

Indian entrepreneurs are looking to disrupt everything right from the way we shop, to how we order food, to how we get a leaking tap fixed. However, along with excessive consumption, come problems of waste, pollution and environmental damage.

But fortunately, there are startups that are looking to mitigate these environmental hazards. Combined with a love for social good and a technology-led product, they are helping the country become greener.  In India, where corruption and public apathy usually put environmental causes in the background, it’s heartening to see private players coming out and focussing on this sector. We bring you 14 such entrepreneurs and activists who have started ventures towards sustainable development focussing on waste management, alternative sources of energy and awareness platforms.

1. Digital Green – Multimedia solutions for rural education

Digital Green Videos to create awareness
digitalGreen

Digital Green is a not-for-profit organization which brings together technology and social organisations to improve agriculture, health and nutrition. They  build innovative platforms to enable rural communities to create and share videos for wider adoption of locally relevant practices.  They partner with local public, private and civil society organizations to share knowledge on improved agricultural practices, livelihoods, health, and nutrition using locally produced videos.

2. Waste Ventures – Waste management

Waste Management Startup
Waste Ventures

Waste Ventures India averts up to 90% of waste from dumpsites and produces nutrient-rich organic compost. They sign multi-year contracts with local municipalities and employ waste pickers at their processing units to segregate waste. The Delhi-based startup, launched in 2011, has 44 projects lined up this year. Two of these have been kickstarted in Andhra Pradesh villages.

3. EnCashea – Collecting waste in exchange of cash

EnCashea
EnCashea.com

Bengaluru-based Encashea collects scrap waste for cash in select areas of the city. They pay you for segregating your recyclable scrap properly, lowering its environmental impact. Encashea has an Android app that makes it easy for users to request for a pickup. EnCashea has the prices for trash listed on the website. While books can go for up to Rs. 6 per kg, e-waste can be sold for upto Rs. 10/kg. 

 

4. Fourth Partner Energy – Making solar energy accessible

Fourth partner energy
fourthpartner.co

Founded in 2010 by Vivek Subramanian, Saif Dhorajiwala and Vikas Saluguti, Fourth Partner Energy (4PEL) focuses on financing and building rooftop solar projects for commercial, industrial and residential clients. It recently raised $2mn in funding. 

5. Banyan Nation – Recycling plastic

Banyan nation
Banyan Nation

Banyan Nation collects plastic wastes from industries and recycles it for further use in the industry. “We have come a long way on the engineering front and are now adding performance enhancers to the recycled plastic in order to ensure that the recycled plastic has a greater lifecycle,” says Mani Vajipey, co-founder of Banyan Nation which inaugurated its recycled plastic bags manufacturing unit at Patancheru in Hyderabad. The company recycles more than 300tons of plastic every month.

6. SayTrees – Tree plantation drives

SayTrees TRee Plantation
SayTrees

SayTrees is a professionally-run group of people that are determined to protect the environment not just by themselves, but also by sensitising others towards the importance of environment conservation and goading them on to participate in tree-plantation campaigns. The group consists of passionate nature lovers, who juggle corporate jobs during the week with their love for trees over the weekends. Though it started off as a weekend pursuit in 2007 now it does more than 50 tree plantation drives in 4 months of monsoon.

7. Priti International – Ecommerce for products made out of waste

primitive-pic_1432909176

Hritesh Lohiya literally found his fortune in a trashcan. His startup Priti International recycles industrial and consumer waste into useful products. This $10million firm designs and manufactures handmade products out of waste materials, like handbags from old gunny bags, cast off military tents and denim pants. They also produce furniture from waste tins, drums, old military jeeps, tractor parts, waste machine parts and lamps from old scooter and bike lights.

8. HelpUsGreen – Recycling waste flowers

Helpusgreen
helpUsGreen

Kanpur-based HelpUsGreen makes “flowercycled” natural and certified organic products from flowers. They collect flower waste from places of worship and even the Ganges river and repurpose it into vermicompost, luxury incense and bathing bars through proprietary methods.

9. Jhatkaa – Campaigning platform

Jhatkaa
Jhatkaa.org

Jhatkaa is a new campaigning organisation committed to campaigning for environmental issues. They collaborate with civil society to engage citizens to hold corporate, cultural and government leaders accountable through digital communication platforms. They came into the limelight after their video highlighting poisonous mercury levels in Kodaikanal left behind by a Hindustan Unilever factory went viral. Hindustan Unilever recently agreed to compensate the affected workers after Jhatkaa’s efforts.

10. D&D Ecotech – Rainwater harvesting

D&D Ecotech rainwater harvesting India
D&D Ecotech

Most cities in India face a water crisis today due to irregular rainfall, a growing population and rapid urban development. Excessive groundwater usage has led to a sharp decline in the groundwater levels across India prompting the government to pass strict regulations against the usage of the same. Enter D&D ecotech, a startup that helps households and organizations adopt rainwater harvesting.  D&D Ecotech also designs its own rainwater harvesting recharge structures based on clients needs and specifications.

11. The Ugly Indian – Citizen activism platform

top 10 green startups In India
The Ugly Indian

Ugly Indian is a collective started anonymously by a group of Bangaloreans who came together to do ‘spot fixes’ they carried out in the city and started a Facebook page to highlight the same. Today, they have spawned a whole generation of activists across the country who self organize these spot fixes, which include cleaning up specific areas in the city, and beautifying them with paint and installing plants.

12. Feeding India – Taking leftover food to the poor

feeding india
Feeding India

Feeding India is a social enterprise that tackles two rampant and interconnected problems in India, that of food wastage and hunger. This is done by helping the needy get access to excess cooked food from restaurants and caterers.

13. The Living Greens – Rooftop farming

LivingGreens rooftop farming
TheLivingGreens

Founded by Prateek Tiwari, an agriculture engineer and an MBA from Indian Institute of Foreign Trade,  Living Greens Organics is a Jaipur-based startup that helps to set up rooftop farms and kitchen gardens. Their aim is to grow organic vegetables on every roof and to convert every building into a living green building, thus generating the largest number of urban carbon credits in the world.

14.  Green Ventures – Sustainable energy solutions

Greenventures
Green Ventures

Green Ventures creates green technologies and innovative business models to create sustainable energy solutions. Their solutions include large-scale renewable energy generation projects, improved energy efficiency schemes, and rural social energy initiatives. 

Roadrunnr’s TinyOwl Acquisition Complete; New Runnr App Launched

Roadrunnr acquisition of TinyOwl acquisition is officially complete, and a new entity – Runnr – has come into existence. At around 9 am today morning, the TinyOwl app changed into a brand new avataar.

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 1.30.01 PM

 

TinyOwl had a protracted period of strife last year during which it had fired over 200 employees and had seen its founder being held hostage for over 36 hours by irate employees. TinyOwl had also fallen behind on the food ordering game with Swiggy and Zomato making large strides and starting operations in several new cities. TinyOwl, on the other hand, had shrunk its operations last month, and was only operating in Mumbai.

But following its acquisition by Roadrunnr, the combined entity hopes that the synergies between Roadrunnr’s logistics expertise and TinyOwl’s food delivery experience will help it get a leg-up over the competition. “We’ve recently acquired the food delivery app TinyOwl and are pumping its service with our technology and logistics”, says Runnr’s blog. “With a fleet of over 5000 Runnrs across 10 Indian cities, several teams dedicated to constantly bringing in upgrades in technology, we’ve mastered the product delivery game over the year.” it says.

We gave the app, which currently delivers only in selected areas of Mumbai, a spin. Runnr has a full stack solution with its own delivery boys, which it says will help it deliver better customer experience than its competitors. The app has a modern and clean interface, and like with other delivery apps, is image-heavy with lot of pretty pictures of food. It runs smoothly though, and ordering food seemed pretty straightforward. Food apps seem to have gotten really good at making food ordering easy, and Runnr seems to continue the trend. With a few taps our order was placed, and delivered within the stipulated time. Like Zomato, Runnr also offers a live chat with its support team.

The app seems solid, but Runnr needs to be careful of not falling into the traps that other food delivery apps did. The food delivery model can’t run on discounts alone, and players will need to differentiate on services and branding, and most importantly, focus on unit economics. Runnr charged a delivery fee of Rs. 30 for the order, and there didn’t seem to be any promo codes available. If it can keep its economics in place, Runnr can once again hope to be a major player in the food delivery space.

This Startup Lets You Rent Bikes And Scooters In 3 Clicks

Transportation can be a hassle and unpleasant experience in the big cities in India. The buses are too crowded, the cabs too expensive and the autos are just a pain to travel in. Two-wheelers on the other hand, are economical and convenient, and are the easiest way to travel in and around the city. The problem is not everyone has a scooter or a bike. Bike taxis, while attempted by the biggies Ola and Uber as well as smaller players, and lapped up by customers, have been under regulatory troubles.

This is where Wheelstreet zips in.

Wheelstreet is an aggregator for self drive bike rentals that provides two-wheelers ranging from gearless scooters like the Activa to tourers like Royal Enfield, superbikes such as Harley Davidson, Kawasaki Ninja and Suzuki Hayabusa. Wheelstreet does not own a fleet but instead they connect customers to vendors across the city through technology which ensures convenience and complete transparency so that their renting experience is nothing short of perfect.

Started in 2014 in Delhi by Pranay Shrivastava (CEO), Moksha Srivastava (CMO) and Mritunjay Kumar (COO), Wheelstreet was a culmination of the founders’ own experiences in college.

wheelstreet bike rentals
image: wheelstreet.in

In Bhopal, Pranay had a bike which he used to rent out to his friends to make a quick buck. Meanwhile Moksha was at the other end of the transaction in Delhi. With no mode of transport she used to rent out a scooter on the weekends and the experience almost always was pretty disappointing. With unavailability of scooters, bad service quality and unexplained deductions she experienced a lot of trouble finding the right vendor and scooter. The next time the three of them met, they realized that there was a big gap between the customer and vendor in this sector. The whole bike rental market was highly disorganized with no set service standards. The idea of Wheelstreet was conceptualized to organize this sector and standardize procedures for a better experience both for the customer as well as the vendor.

There are plenty of people out there in the market who are renting out bikes, but Wheelstreet stands out because they are the first bike rental platform that is an aggregator and not a vendor in itself. Wheelstreet is a provider of technology and support to the bike rental industry and not another player in the market. The bikes you see listed on their platform come from various vendors at various locations. Rather than buying bikes and renting them out, they created a platform where vendors could list themselves and in turn helped organize this sector.

“WheelStreet is fairly easy to use. You get real-time availability updates, instant booking options and great vendor support for all bikes. The entire fleet is verified, with each bike being tested strictly for quality.”, say the founders.

Since the time it was launched, Wheelstreet has completed over 20,000 rides in both Bangalore and Delhi till date and receives over 3900 bookings per month. These rides especially been useful to many travelers who have successfully been on the solo bike trips to Leh & Ladakh, the ultimate travel bucket list.

bike to rent for Leh Ladakh trip

After this success, Wheelstreet now plans to expand to other cities across India including Pune, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Goa and Chennai.

How Patanjali Uses Modern Brand Strategy To grow Past Competitors

The news must have come through to you too: Patanjali reported Indian revenues of around Rs. 5,000 crores (~ USD 750 million) for the last financial year – and in doing so went past Colgate in India. Even more interesting is that Colgate is almost 8 decades old in India while Baba Ramdev’s brand is barely 8 years old.

The saffron-clad Baba’s forecast was quite eye-catching too – he thinks the brand will double revenues to Rs. 10,000 crores (~USD 1.5 billion) in India by next year, 2017 – which would effectively take them past two other-decades old companies – Nestle and Procter & Gamble – and leave Patanjali second only to Unilever in India, all in just about 10 years.So what helped them grow this fast? After all, nobody particularly thought that the Indian FMCG scene was ripe for disruption.

Sure, there will be many parts to this answer. Quality products, or at least the promise of these will be one reason. Reasonable pricing will be another. Aggressive distribution will be a third.

But I believe the true innovation is something that was probably done without much thought.

A single brand strategy.

The Colgate company sells brands under its name, Palmolive, Ajax and others.


Procter and Gamble go further – there’s Gillette, Tide, Pampers, Ariel, Duracell and so much more.


Unilever is the classic proponent of the multi-brand strategy: from Surf and Dove and Lipton and Lux and Ponds to variants like Surf Excel and Lipton Yellow Label and Lux Supreme and Ponds Dreamflower and far, far beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But take a look at the Patanjali range above – whether it’s toothpaste or rice, noodles or chyavanprash – it’s all under one brand, Patanjali.

Flying in the face of traditional brand theory.

Traditional marketing thought has held that one needs to build and nurture a portfolio of brands, each carefully positioned against a separate audience for a separate need.

Perhaps Baba Ramdev wasn’t the first to cock a snook at this dictum. Richard Branson was one of the first to get there, with his “Virgin” brand draped around everything from colas to planes, trains, mobile services and comics.


The thinking is straightforward – if you have heard of my brand and like the personality – then you might be comfortable buying something else I offer. No matter how different the product category.

The modern technology brand playbook.

Technology brands like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others follow this playbook.

The naming formula here is simple: Unique Brand + Generic Sub-brand/category name = Product Brand name.

Google and Maps makes for Google Maps. Ditto for Google Search. Or even balloons in the sky – Google Loon.


The word ‘Microsoft’ is a prefix that fits everything from Mouse and Keyboard to Windows Server.

Apple’s generic sub-brands are almost category like: Apple iPod, Apple iPhone, Apple iTunes, Apple iPad and so on.

So what Baba Ramdev is doing is not very different from the new thinking in the business world.

The undoubted benefits of a single-brand strategy.

How severe is this problem? Till a few years ago, Nestle marketed over 8,000 brands in 190 countries. Unilever had 1,600 brands across 150 countries and P&G was a bit of laggard with just 250 brands in 160 countries.

But even P&G thought that was a hundred too many, and announced a cull of its brand portfolio down to ‘just’ 150 in 2014.

But in today’s over-branded, over-communicated world, even that may be 149 brands too many.

Each brand requires its own marketing and promotional budget, its own brand management team.

But cutting it down to 1 brand makes life so much easier.

You were ready to try Google Maps – because you were used to Google Search. You eagerly waited for the Apple iPhone – because you love your Apple iMac – or were a fan of the Apple iPod.

Every product, in fact, becomes an advertisement for every other product made by the same company. Drastically reducing your required marketing spend by some 80% or more.

So, build just one brand. Let the positive rub-off of that glow on everything product you sell under that brand.

Any downsides?

Sure, one could argue that having different brands insulates you if something goes wrong with one.

If Maggi went wrong, it shouldn’t affect Nestle’s other brands. 

But it actually did: You know Maggi made for a small share of the company’s revenues – but one hit on one brand’s reputation side-swiped the entire company as you’ll see in this stock price  chart.:


So what else did Patanjali gain?

It’s harder for a sales guy to go and tell a retailer – listen, please stock Lux and Sunsilk and Dove and Lifebuoy and Close Up. And easier for one to go up to the man and say – hey just stock Patanjali – and carry our Salt and Rice and Shampoo and Soap and whatnot. The man believes he is doing you one favour, not five.

So distribution is easier. And that’s a key win.

Consumer recognition is much better too. The lady who goes to the shops says, “Hey, this is that Patanjali stuff. I tried the rice, it was okay. Let me try the shampoo too. It seems to be reasonably priced.” As easy as that.

Of course, the products need to live up to the billing. But in this day and age, that’s not very difficult.

After all, HUL and P&G don’t manufacture their own products – they contract it out to smaller firms. And you can be more than reasonably sure of quality of product in this day and age when you outsource it to someone who makes soaps and shampoos and toothpastes for all the brands.

So what should your brand strategy be?

The fewer brands the better. And ideally, just one brand, please. And don’t get creative with sub-brands. Be as generic and descriptive as you can when it comes to sub-brands or variants.

Don’t make it Lux Supreme if you want to say Lux Extra Creamy. Extra Creamy says it better than yet another word for the consumer to remember.

Tesla Model 3 is fine. It’s much better than Toyota Innova Crysta 2.4 GX 7 STR. (Yes, that’s really a name.) How much do you really expect the consumer to remember?

Sony Phone 6.4 tells me it’s probably a good big-screen phone much better than Sony Experia Z Ultra 4G ever will. Yes, that’s really a name too.

Doing one brand well in this over-communicated world is hard enough. Let alone you thinking you have the money and time to establish a second or a twenty-second brand.

And don’t worry too much about traditional thinking on line extensions too. If Google can do maps and going to space under the same brand, I’m sure the consumer will let you do rice and oil and toothpaste under the same name.

She’s already let a non-MBA in orange robes do that. So there’s room for you to follow in those footsteps!

[This post was originally published on LinkedIn.]

In A First, Mobikwik Offers 6% “Profit” On Wallet Amounts

Mobile wallets are often better than traditional banking systems.  Their app interfaces are smoother, it’s easier to make payments with fewer steps, and if one looks hard enough, always some cashbacks around the corner. But one area where mobile wallets lose out over traditional banking is interest – your wallet balance stays as it is, while money in your savings accounts grows at around 4% per year through interest.

But that seems set to change. Mobikwik has announced that its users can earn “6% annual profit” on their wallet balances. The profit will be credited monthly into user accounts. There’s a catch however – users need to maintain a minimum average of Rs. 5000 in their wallets through the month.

Mobikwik interest on wallet


“This announcement marks the revolutionary transformation of MobiKwik into a digital institution –to fulfil every Indian’s end to end financial needs by offering micro loans, profits on wallet balance and cashless transactions. Our mission is to enable users to pay, save, borrow and invest, all using their MobiKwik mobile wallet”, said Upasana Taku, the co-founder of MobiKwik.

Mobikwik is also poised to become a digital bank and aims to cater to the needs of its users through micro loans and cashless transactions, and its wallet has 30 million users. Paytm is currently the largest digital wallet in the country with over 120 million users. But Mobikwik seems to have stolen a march over its rival with its latest interest offering.

Mobile wallet firms typically earn interest on the money that’s stored with them, while not passing any of it on to their users. This acts as a source of revenue for these companies, who use this money  to entice users through cashbacks and offers. Mobikwik has taken a more direct approach by providing “profit” instead. It remains to be seen what the consumer response to this move will be, but one thing is for certain – with payment banks on the horizon and digital wallets offering interest, the lines between wallets and traditional banking are fast blurring.