How Two Indian Students Took On WhatsApp And Facebook, And Won

Most Indians think twice before approaching the courts. Processes are long and complicated, and resolutions can take forever.

That didn’t stop Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi, aged 19 and 22 respectively, from going to the Delhi High Court when they felt that their rights were being infringed upon. And they’d planned to take on no ordinary opponent – they’d filed a public interest litigation against WhatsApp.

WhatsApp-ban-in-India-supreme-court
Source: DigiTalk

Last month, WhatsApp had changed its privacy policy and had planned to start sharing data with Facebook, the company that had bought it for $19 billion in 2014. This sharing of data would’ve allowed Facebook to access WhatsApp’s data to target ads and better understand people. For instance, this reporter saw someone pop up on their Facebook “people you may know” list after they’d had a conversation with them on WhatsApp.

The two students thought this was an invasion of their privacy, and rightly so – WhatsApp had long maintained, even after its acquisition, that it wouldn’t share any user details with Facebook. WhatsApp had said that it planned to ask users for consent before rolling out the changes, and hence what it was doing was fair. But Singh and Sethi contended that the term “user consent” is meaningless in India as most aren’t equipped to comprehend the consequences of the policy changes. WhatsApp attracted a substantial user base through its assurance of complete privacy and its recent changes were a breach of trust, they said.

The courts heard their stand, and last Friday ruled that WhatsApp has to delete all data on users who choose to stop using the service before Sept. 25, when the new policy takes effect. Also, it can only share data collected after that date. However, going forward, WhatsApp is free to share information on users who haven’t opted out.

Initially WhatsApp dilly-dallied, and the 25th September came and went. Until yesterday, Whatsapp had claimed that it was sharing information with Facebook as planned. It said the Delhi High Court’s directive hasn’t impacted its planned changes in WhatsApp’s terms and privacy policy. “The ruling has no impact on the planned policy and terms of service updates,” WhatsApp spokesperson Anne Yeh told Mashable.

But the company has changed its stance since then, and has issued a new statement in which it says it “will” comply with the order from the Delhi High Court. A WhatsApp spokesman said, “WhatsApp will comply with the order from the Delhi High Court. We plan to proceed with the privacy policy and terms update in accordance with the Court’s order.  The Court’s emphasis on the importance of user choice and consent is encouraging.”

That is sweet victory for the two students, who got a multinational tech giant to take their concerns seriously. Internet activism is fast becoming popular – ordinary Indians had launched the very successful Save Net Neutrality campaign earlier this year, and had prevented Facebook from rolling out its Free Basics program in India. And after this public interest litigation, companies should know that the ordinary Indian is now tech savvy and aware – and isn’t afraid to fight for his rights.

 

This Is Why Flipkart’s New 360 Degree Video For Its Sale Is Great Digital Marketing

The great Indian sales are nearly upon us, and the three biggest players are going all out to woo the Indian consumer. Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal all have their big sales at the beginning of October, and competition is fierce. And given that the sales coincide, what perhaps matters more than the actual discounts is the branding – the site that can draw the most consumers will probably rake in the most sales.

And the big three are leaving no stone unturned to make sure that customers land up at their doorsteps when the sales arrive. The push seems especially pronounced on digital – the internet, after all, is where a majority of the young, savvy audience of these sites hangs out. And while Amazon and Snapdeal have their share of gifs and images around the sale, one bit of digital marketing stands out – Flipkart’s 360 degree video.

Now 360 degree videos aren’t exactly a new technology. They were introduced by Facebook earlier this year, and allow users to see all 360 degrees of a scene – you can use your mouse to scroll all over, up, down and sideways. While the technology looks undoubtedly cool – it especially shines for panoramas – these videos haven’t really taken off yet.

But Flipkart’s gone ahead and shot one of these to promote its Big Billion Days sale. It involves a trip through the Flipkart office, where users are encouraged to find offers hidden in the video. Those who manage to find the hidden offers win prizes.

The response to the video has been great – within a day, it has been shared over 2,000 times and has garnered tons of comments by eager users looking for discounts. Here’s why the video is a big win for Flipkart’s digital marketing team.

 

1 . It natively uses 360 degree video

Lazy digital campaigns can often simply transplant a video shot for TV on the internet. While videos work great in all formats, Flipkart’s 360 video could’ve only happened on Facebook. And the video leverages the 360 degree format well – the idea to find hidden offers within the video by looking around is a great way to use a technology that’s native to Facebook.

2. It poses a challenge

Psychological studies show that people value things more when have taken some effort to acquire, as opposed to things they have received for free. This is why FreeCharge asks users to pay Rs. 1 for its coupons – founder Kunal Shah says that charging a token fee for the coupons causes usage rates to skyrocket. Flipkart too isn’t giving anything away for free – finding the offers in the video is genuinely challenging. But it’s very doable, and once you spot an offer, you’re awash with a warm glow of satisfaction. Definitely feelings you’d want to arouse as a company.

3. It has virality built in

No amount of marketing money can have as much of an impact as something that goes viral organically. And Flipkart has virality built into the concept. Getting people to comment on the video when they find an offer will help the video propagate on Facebook. Each time someone comments, the video will show up on their friends’ timelines, who will see the video and perhaps comment. The cycle will thus propagate, without the need for high marketing budgets.

4. It uses a sense of humour

The video is fast-paced, and crams in a lot in four short minutes. And it’s packed with quirkiness and humour – there’s a segment with Rajnikanth looking down from behind the host, and there are easter eggs that prod you in the right direction as you’re finding clues.

Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 2.32.59 PM

5. It shows off the Flipkart office

Flipkart has one of the swankiest offices in India today, and it forms a great setting for the video. In addition to being a promotion for the sale, the video could well be a great recruitment tool – it gives prospective employees a virtual tour of the office, and drives home the point that Flipkart is a cool place to work at. And the smiling employees in the video give the promotion a human touch – to see the people behind the sale makes the whole thing a lot more real and likable.

While only time will tell how Flipkart does in the Big Billion Days sale, one thing’s for sure – as far as its digital marketing efforts go, it’s already winning.

This Was AirBnb’s First Pitch Deck When It Raised Money In 2008

Airbnb is a massive global company today, with thousands of employees and a net worth of Rs. 2,00,000 crore. But not that long ago, it was a startup struggling to raise funds. And it had an unusually rough time as a new startup. “If you launch and no one notices, launch again. We launched 3 times,” says CEO Brian Chesky.

Nearly a year after starting up, Airbnb (back then still called Air Bed and Breakfast), was trying to raise money from investors. The idea might seem simple now, but there were plenty of hurdles – no one was sure if people would be ok with letting strangers into their homes for a fee.

Airbnb dealt with these challenges and more in its pitch deck.

 

Airbnb’s pitch deck kept things simple. The deck is just 10 slides long, and instead of being crammed with information, focuses only on salient points. The problem is succinctly explained in just three lines, and then the founders laid out the solution. Since Airbnb operated in a space where lots of competition existed, that’s where the deck delves into details – it breaks down the competition along “affordable” and “online/offline” axes, and attemped to place Airbnb among the competition. That’s a clever device, because it lets you know at a glance how it compares to the competition.

All this clearly worked. In April of 2009, less than a year after it launched, Sequoia put in $600k into the company. The rest, as they say, is history.

These Charts Show How Amazon Is Quickly Zooming Past Flipkart In India

It’s the million dollar question – or perhaps the 15 billion dollar question. Over this year, funds and investors have repeatedly snipped Flipkart’s valuation from its high of $15 billion in July 2015. Flipkart’s been facing a slew of challenges – e-commerce growth in India is slowing, there’s a general bleakness in the funding scene, and the company is battling its own set of leadership challenges.

But there’s probably a bigger reason why investors are bearish on Flipkart. It’s Amazon.

Now there are conflicting reports about how the two companies are actually doing. GMV, or Gross Merchandise Value numbers are often not revealed by either company, and they’re prone to approximations such as returns and discounts. User surveys have divergent results, and are often commissioned by the firms themselves, making their results suspect. And firms are cagey about people carrying out their own surveys – Flipkart had once initiated legal proceedings against a blogger for using its logo on a simple question on his site which asked users if they preferred Amazon or Flipkart.

But there’s an unbiased source that could give insights into how these firms are really doing – Google.

Google’s search trends can serve as a solid proxy for the mindspace that these firms occupy amongst the general population. These are e-commerce companies after all, and Google is the most popular website on the internet. There’s no reason to assume why searches on Google would diverge very significantly from actual revenues for these firms – Flipkart and Amazon have nearly identical product offerings in India, and have similar brand recall values. Most importantly, the Google search trends confirm what lots of other sources are saying.

This is a chart that shows the relative number of searches for “Flipkart”, “Snapdeal” and “Amazon” over the last five years in India. Flipkart had a sizable lead over Amazon and Snapdeal until 2013. Then Amazon launched, and was neck-to-neck with Snapdeal until late 2015. Since then, things have changed though – Amazon powered onwards, and is currently marginally ahead of Flipkart, while Snapdeal has tapered off.

But what makes this graph even more illuminating is breaking down the searches in India by state. In 2013, before Amazon had launched, Flipkart was the top searched site in all of India, ahead of Snapdeal and Amazon.

2013

In 2014, the map hadn’t changed much. Flipkart still held sway over most of India, apart from tiny Mizoram, which was searching the most for Snapdeal.

2014

 

In 2015, Snapdeal made further progress – it was the top searched site in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttrakhand, Mizoram and Tripura. Amazon still didn’t feature on the map, though it was making steady progress, climbing towards the other two.

2015

2016 was the breakout year for Amazon. Jeff Bezos flew down and handed India head Amit Agarwal a mandate to spend $2 billion in India. And the impact has been immediate. From being the top searched site in no state in 2016, it’s made a grand entry – it led in a whole 9 states. Snapdeal was ahead in three, and Flipkart led the rest of the country.

2016

But perhaps what’s most startling is the pace at which Amazon is gaining ground. Over the last 90 days, or the months of July, August and September, Amazon was the top searched site in India. It had pushed Flipkart out of most of north, west and south India. Snapdeal had suffered too, and was back to being on top in a couple of north eastern states. India had turned into Amazon’s signature shade of orange.

July, August, September, 2016

The speed and extent of Amazon’s India charge has been exceptional. But it should’ve been expected. Amazon is the world’s biggest e-commerce company, and in global terms dwarfs both Snapdeal and Flipkart. With its 20 years of experience, and $2 billion India warchest, it’s managed to turn things around very quickly in the Indian market. Flipkart and Snapdeal have some serious competition on their hands – they need to act quickly, or this recent surge might just turn into a full-blown rout.

This Was Youtube’s Original Pitch Deck When It Raised Money In 2006

YouTube is the third most visited site in the world today, but just 10 years ago, it was a startup looking to raise money. YouTube was founded by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, who were all early employees of PayPal. Their goal was simple – video as a communication format was just beginning to emerge, and the founders realized that having a single source of the web to store all videos could be a great business idea.

They activated the  domain name www.youtube.com was activated on Monday, February 14, 2005 at 9:13 P.M. The first YouTube video was uploaded on 23rd April. Six months later, the founders wanted to raise money, so they sent this pitch deck to Sequoia.

Apart from now being a piece of internet history, there’s lots of lessons to be learnt from the deck. What stands out in the deck is simplicity – there’s no snazzy graphics, there’s no pictures, no inspirational quotes. In fact, the font even looks a incongruous – it’s a little too large, and the bullet points are not particularly easy on the eye.

But it works. The facts are stated simply without hyperbole, and they key aspects – market size, competition, and potential are addressed. It also helps that they had good traction by the time they’d started pitching to VCs.

And Sequoia bit. YouTube received a funding of $3.5 million from them initially, and eventually Sequoia put in $11 million. Nearly a year later, in October 2006, YouTube was purchased by Google for $1.65 billion.

This Is What Being Jobless In India’s Silicon Valley Looks Like

You put down your papers at your current company with half a smirk and a “can’t touch this’ look to your boss. You’d had enough. You’re qualified enough to land a better job. In fact you’ve almost got the hottest job at the hottest startup in the Silicon Valley this side of the globe. You’re not scared of being jobless in India.

The D day is here, and some part of you would like to see a cake, a bit of a hype around your last day, a lil farewell jig maybe? None happens. The HR emails you a ‘gentle reminder’ about returning the laptop and ID card, and collect your experience letter. You’re too validated about your decision to quit and too excited about the good things in store to care.

being jobless and happy

No stressing over metrics and ROI for the next few days, an exotic vacation, a coming-anytime-now offer letter from awesome company, and 2 new countries on your already chock-a-block passport? What could ever go wrong?

The email “Thanks for interviewing with <x> We enjoyed talking with you. I’m afraid at this point we won’t be able to go ahead with your application.” as you’re sipping expensive beers at a hip bar in a foreign country.

You can’t tell if it’s the alcohol or the ground has slipped from beneath your feet. You also wish that WiFi wasn’t available everywhere.

And then it starts. You’re at a night market on the last day of your holiday and your basket is full of the choicest of souvenirs the place has to offer. As you extend the freshly-exchanged foreign currency to the seller, it hits you. Every bit of the cash spent on “non-essential stuff” right now is being dug out from your savings.

Oh it’s okay, that’s what you’ve saved up for all these years.

The vacation comes to an end. You come back exhausted but grateful that you don’t have to get to work ridden with post vacation blues (or get goodies for colleagues.) You pull the blanket over your head even harder as you see your partner scurrying to make it to office barely hours after you landed. Schadenfreude.

You log in to Facebook to upload your travel photos, end up seeing one of your ex-colleagues sharing the news of your (freshly-ex) startup just having been funded for a few million dollars. Of course the company is throwing a ‘success party’ in Phuket. All those months in the company and not a trip to the next door CCD. It’s okay. You’ll find better, you tell yourself.

You begin making a mental checklist of how you’d use this golden time to look for other jobs, while also working on your holistic development. Yoga, art, literature, music, Coursera: you’ll be even awesome-er after this period.

But you can’t wake up early enough for Yoga, because come on, you won’t get to sleep in once you have a job again. You want to ring up long-lost friends and meet them during the week because you *can*, but everyone’s busy at work.

Coursera won’t load because the internet at your home works at 512kbps.

You begin to finally embark on your job hunt. (albeit like a jilted lover looking for a rebound.)

All those “dream companies”, you go to their careers page, and hit apply.  Come on with THAT resume? First job at Fortune 10 company, manager at 25, and 6 years of solid work ex in the hottest field in this side of the century?  It’s only a matter of time till you’ll be flooded with offer letters.

Days roll by, no calls come. It’s ok, you have worked long enough to have *earned* this sabbatical you say to yourself.

Weekend arrives, or does it? You’re beginning to lose track of which day it is, every day feels the same.

You wake up, check your empty inbox save for “Monday special menu” emails from your once go-to-office-saviour food startup, you click on the ad not to order a meal, but check if they have openings, (only delivery boys), read the papers, eat, sleep, walk your dogs, peek at your inbox (still no offers), sleep.

This one friend agrees to meet over the weekend “after work”. They hold forth about what they’re working on, aside from pouring out their gripes at work. You have none to share. There’s no bad colleagues to bitch about, no boss from hell to bemoan, and no goss on the latest office scandal.  Suddenly, all those things you hated about your job are the same things you begin to miss. The bill comes and when you realise you just paid 500 bucks to listen to someone else’s office stories, you even begin to miss that god-awful filter coffee from your ex-office.

It’s been a month now, and you’ve had enough. You’d like to get back to work now. You begin pinging every friend of yours who works to have them refer you at their company. “Hey Rahul, I was wondering if your company has an opening in digital marketing.”

*Message sent*

*Message seen*

*crickets*

That job opening you just got an email about from Naukri came to naught because the company was on a “hiring freeze”, or so you learn after 15 days of radio silence from the friend who was at a “senior influential position” at said company.

Heck, even those pesky “People <Insert Any Word>” consultants who’d call nonstop when you were in the thick of employment are now drawing blanks.

A startup that almost offered you a job has (un)expectedly shut down yesterday.

What sorcery is this? Is this recession again? Is the universe conspiring against you?

being jobless in India

Tomorrow is another day.

You begin updating your Naukri profile almost everyday. You’re now more active on Linkedin (After realising you have a profile there) than Facebook and Twitter combined. You’ve even made an account on IIMjobs despite not being from the IIMs or an MBA. Despite hitting ‘apply’ on half the jobs in your daily feed that looks like an Excel sheet, standing with a “looking for a job” placard at Silk Board Junction might have been more useful than that website.

The rare job call that you get is from a company you wouldn’t have touched with a bargepole during your former professional glory days. You lap it up. “Yes, I can move to <Town whose name I can’t pronounce> for the job.” “Yes, I excel at Excel” as you hurriedly Google what concatenate means.

Another consultant calls one day, while getting your name wrong, telling you about this opening at a startup you’d vaguely heard of, and are not in the least kicked about. But you go anyway. “Just to have a backup”. You arrive for your scheduled interview in time, partly disinterested, partly desperate. “The interviewer isn’t free right now. ( Or for the next 48 hours apparently.) Can you come back on Monday?” the said consultant tells you. You lose your shit there, you tell them you won’t come back, they suck at the ONE job they have, and on your way back home, peer at a big hoarding of your ex-employer through almost tear-soaked eyes.

Your Uber driver decides that this is the perfect time to strike up small talk. “Where do you work madam?” “Nowhere at the moment”, you tell. “How’s yours? Do you earn okay?” you ask. “In good months, I can earn 80-90k Madam”. You shut up.

You’re bored and slightly depressed, some retail therapy would help. You take your time in putting beautiful things into online shopping carts. You put stuff, you remove stuff. You put some more. You’ll check out “the minute you have a job”.

You decide to use this “limited free time” to finish some errands. Renew your now-full passport for one.  One of the accepted and the easiest address proofs is a letter from your current employer. Thanks, you’ll get a gas bill instead, after registering for one first. The passport has arrived. But it’s unlikely to be used in the near future. There’s noone free to go with anywhere. You decide to travel solo to a music festival. The tickets cost double of your last drawn salary.

This is not what you’d signed up for. Where’s all the jobs? Where are all the people who could get you the jobs? (And earn themselves a great referral bonus.) Where’s your inspirational story on the “I quit my job to <x>”? Why’s your long-distance boyfriend in a team meeting all the time (YOU want to be in a team meeting all the time) and why’s your waist size exploding much unlike your self-esteem?

You go for a small walk to clear your mind, come back home. Even the dogs aren’t *that* excited to see you. You’ve dun goofed.

“In good months I make 80-90k madam” that Uber driver’s words echo in your head. Followed closely by the gnawing realisation that you can’t drive.

 

[Author’s note: This article has been contributed exclusively to OfficeChai by a guest author who wishes to remain anonymous, unless to accept job offers. ]

Domino’s CEO Of 11 Years Quits; Stock Is Down 37% This Year

It’s been the year of food tech. All manner of companies have raised money, given discounts, and promised faster and better home deliveries. And consumers have never had it better – they’ve relished in the variety of food on offer, and have lapped up the discounts. One casualty of this binge though, has been what was once the mainstay of food deliveries – Domino’s.

dominos veg pizza

Domino’s has suffered this year, and has seen its stock down by 37%. And more bad news had just come in for the company – its CEO of 11 years, Ajay Kaul has resigned. The move caused its stock to fall 8%.

“Mr Ajay Kaul has decided to step down as the CEO & whole-time director of the company to evaluate and pursue opportunities outside the Jubilant Bhartia group. Mr Kaul will continue in his current role till March 2017,” the company said in a notice to the BSE. Domino’s is now on the lookout for a successor. 

Dominos’ results haven’t been great either. In the June quarter, the company posted a net profit of Rs.19 crore, down 31.16% from Rs.27.60 crore a year ago. This is not surprising – Indian consumers now have a plethora of food delivery options, and Dominos, which through its pizza was once a mainstay, has been replaced by all manner of cuisines. 

And the company’s stock has reflected this. Its valuation recently fell below $1 billion, so Dominos is not a “unicorn” anymore, in startup parlance. 

Though surprisingly, its competitors aren’t doing much better either. Zomato, which has introduced its own food delivery service, recently saw its valuation fall below $1 billion too as per an HSBC report. Several food delivery startups have shut down and have laid off employees.

Overall, the last two years have been a period of churn for food delivery companies. Several companies jumped into the fray, few have survived. Incumbents have struggled against the onslaught. It’ll be interesting to see where the cards lie after this period is over.

Here Is What RBI Governors End Up Doing After Their Stints

A stint as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India is a great addition to one’s bio-data and can be a stepping stone for even bigger things. While Dr Raghuram Rajan has gone back to academics after completing his three year term as RBI Governor, we take a look at the post-retirement career paths of a few earlier Governors. Two things stand out: authorship and some very important assignments from the Government.

famous rbi governors

Dr D Subbarao, Rajan’s immediate predecessor (Governor: 2008-13) did not get any official assignment. Perhaps that’s why he chose to give a frank account of his years in the central bank in his book ‘Who Moved My Interest Rate?: Leading the Reserve Bank of India Through Five Turbulent Years’, which hit the stands in July 2016. In the book, he has described several behind-the-scenes efforts to address many of the problems he handled during his term as well as his relationship with the finance ministers he served.

After completing his tenure, Dr Y V Reddy (Governor 2003-08) authored three books and was conferred with India’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan in 2010. In 2013, he was appointed Chairman of the 14th Finance Commission of India. Dr Bimal Jalan (Governor: 1997-2003) penned two books and was nominated as Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha for six years, 2003-09.

Dr C Rangarajan (Governor: 1992-97) was appointed Governor of Andhra Pradesh, a post he held till 2003. He was Chairman of 12th Finance Commission from 2003-04, Chairman of PM’s Advisory Council 2005-08 and 2009-14 and member Rajya Sabha 2008-09. In addition, he too authored/ co-authored five books.

But perhaps the most famous ex-RBI governor is Dr Manmohan Singh (Governor: 1982-85). Soon after his RBI stint, his career took a dramatic turn when he was appointed Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission. Despite being a career technocrat and a reluctant politician, he was India’s Finance Minister from 1991-96, leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha from 1998-2004 and Prime Minister from 2004-14. Now that’s a meteoric rise.

Google’s Just Launched A New App That Takes Care Of Your Travel

There was a time when being on a trip meant carrying a bulky guidebook around as you traveled. Guidebooks were great, but the had a tendency to quickly go out of date – the world moves quickly, and prices and recommendations can change. They were also one size fits all – everyone basically had the same version, no matter what their traveling styles.

Now Google already has a wealth of information at its disposal – both about destinations and, thanks to your Google account history, your preferences. It has come out with a new app, called Google Trips, that’ll help you organize and plan your travel. And it understands that internet access might be a problem when you’re exploring the forests of the Amazon or the deserts of the Sahara, so it’s designed to work offline.

Google Trips is free, and already available on Android and iOS. It serves as a trip planner and travel guide. It tries to cover the entire travel experience, from organizing your plane tickets and hotel reservations, to providing your editorial recommendations to more than 200 cities. The offline feature allows you to download maps and walking directions to your phone before you leave, so that you don’t have to search for Wifi or buy an international plan when you’re on the move.

Trips requires you to sign on with a Google account, and if you have your flights tickets in your inbox, it automatically detects a trip and starts your planning from there. Once you’re at a location, it gives you suggestions of things you can do. Trips will pull in real-time information about which destinations are open or closed. It will also make adjustments based on time of day and weather — if it starts raining, for example, the app will recommend indoor activities.

Google trips

Now Google isn’t the first company to try to organize your travel trips. Traditional guidebook publishers such as Lonely Planet have their own (paid) apps that are designed to do the same thing, and apps like Maps.me give you free offline maps in every country in the world. But Google’s knowledge of your preferences could give it an edge over its competitors. Google knows whether you’re a 25 year old male interested in the outdoors, or a 50 year old retiree who’d appreciate art and culture. Tailoring the app to preferences could give it an edge over its competitors. And best of all, it’s free – would be certainly worth a test on your next trip.