Problems over Problems… Repeatedly…!

In running a company, you can face problems. but what if you work in a problematic company?

For the past two years, i face problems every now and then running a company. To run a company, you need a good infrastructure. Infrastructure by means, good power source, computer systems, printers, office setup etc which are required to run a online tamil book store.

I am listing down some of my routine problems

  • internet not working if power is there.
  • internet works but no power
  • internet works but very very slow.
  • computer systems dont work if power is there
  • some times computer systems work but suddenly power goes off.
  • if internet, computer systems work, then no power.
  • If internet and computer systems work, then your printer wont work.
  • If printer works, then it will have fuser problems or no carbon in it. it has to be refilled.
  • if all these are in working condition, there wont be any human resources using them.
  • if there are human resources, then one of them might fail.

This is the true case in the life of an budding entrepreneur. in order to start a business, he/she needs to take care 90% of things that is required to kick-start the business. not the business itself.

for to run a online store, rather than talking to vendor for products which is business talk, i need to get these things done well before

  1. get company registered with GOI. it takes its own time with all restrictions
  2. get bank accounts (only if the mgr likes you)
  3. get payment gateway (only if that company likes you and if the sales person is in good mood.)
  4. get office space at home or outside. all house owners think that we are going to do multi-crore biz because it is online. For them, Being Online is luxury category.
  5. converting residential to commercial power from EB if we are going to use our own terrace or top floor in our house.
  6. sign up with courier. beg India post – post office to get your parcel booked cheaply.
  7. hire people for low cost (if possible). everyone thinks most people start business who have lot of money.
  8. If it is in TN, then power problems have to be faced.  high real estate cost coupled with low productivity due to bad power source.

these are the things where we interact directly. there are also other factors that influences your business operations.  we have to sort out all the above things before we talk business with vendors who supply things.

  1. They expect like how big the order is!
  2. are we trust-able?
  3. are we big enough to run the biz or company?

after all these, we have to explain things to our friends & family members so as to convince them to get their support……!

you got to convince your girl friend or would be or wife –  V VIP

finally, need to convince customer, vendors to run the business smoothly.

running it to successfully has its own set of problems to be faced. I can’t comment on it now!

Envelope 2.0 – can it be upgraded?

Traditionally, we have seen envelope – white or brown or orange. With no details in it. I have been going to post offices and courier for posting parcels for chennaishopping.com

I found that people waste lot of time there waiting in queue at the booking counter. most of the post-office have electronic booking of speed post. only few courier companies booking centre have electronic booking.

The long queue is due to the data entry like name, address, pincode into the system. There are few drawbacks in this.

1. What if the name / address / pincode does not match in the receipt / proof of delivery? since this is entered by human. Many times, i have seen that at the booking centre, they don’t type your full recipient addresses / pincode / name properly.

2. They use their own tracking number shipping label.

i have seen huge letter covers being booked, atleast in courier offices. Error #1 can occur most frequently and there is a inefficiency.

How can it be improved?

I have been thinking about this for some time and i kind found some basic solution i guess. why can’t india post or courier provide their own shipping barcode enabled envelope to their customers? This way it is easier to scan and send at a larger scale which solves #2 problem. this also increases revenue for these companies by selling envelopes.

what about the problem #1?

The sender details and recipient details can be embedded in the form of QRcode.

Automatic Posting Machine:

Imagine like a ATM kiosk wherein you can type in your address and get the envelope or a label sticker with

  1. Address printed clearly
  2. Tracking number enabled

You just pay the amount mentioned in the envelope or label at the counter. This can reduce the queue size.

I am sure there are lot of ways to re-imagine the post office operations.  If you got, please do add your suggestions….! What do you think?

No Looking Back…!

Last year 2 days ago, It was my last working day at Amazon. Since then, my life have been the way i want it to be. After that, I have relocated to Chennai city to (re)start www.chennaishopping.com which is the only dream for me since 2003.

History:

After my HSC, I some how got into B.Tech IT in 2004 and got a Desktop too at home. Since then, I was very much fascinated with computers, Internet. because it was the only thing which listened to my commands (sometimes not!)

It showed my creativity. so, I learn’t HTML with notepad, then ASP with Personal Web Server in Win 98, then ASP with IIS,  Javascript and many more.  While at college, I was inspired by my friend whom we call “website” (actually his name is karthick. we call him website because he has created website for our class). Inspiration from him, I too learned Flash, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, PHP, XML, Linux etc.

Insoft CD:

In college, me and my friends even sold a CD called “Insoft CD” which contains all software’s necessary for new desktop system, new wallpapers etc. CD was sold like hot cakes for 30 Rs :) we sold around 100+ I guess. We together even repaired our friend’s desktop, assembling new desktop for friends and known people. It was good old days but we hardly earned much.

How I registered chennaishopping.com?

Days went out and I thought that there should be something done on the web. I was thinking about “Flash your ads” where people place ads on website. but then “website” told that people hate seeing ads. Remember how ads would be at that time…..! Then after many thoughts, i thought about online shopping. So i registered Chennaishopping.com on 11-mar-2003 with Net4Domains for 500 Rs.

Mean while, I was learning php, html, linux, mysql, apache and other web technologies apart from college studies. I was not good at subjects in college. Nothing interests me except the web. Because of the interests in web, I even won I & II prizes in many of the web design competition in various college symposiums. so Web and its design had began to mix that time.

meanwhile, i need money to host chennaishopping.com. so i signed up for reseller program and resold space so that i hosted chennaishopping.com for free. It worked for me :) Its another venture – Vazhangi.com,  a web hosting company :)

Life in Sify:

During this time, there was only Dial up. Broadband came home in 2004 provided by BSNL. I joined sify as an intern and almost spent 16-18 hours in Sify. Because it had the fastest net connection i.e 2mbps :) i tried many things with my linux desktop i got there. i even did few projects there. Later joined Sify as Engineer trainee for the same project. Sify provided the major boost for my learning for the first two years but economically not good.

Into Selling:

I got good friends and mentors there. Learnt tremendous amount of stuff in Sify Technologies without internet. Side by side, i was also exploring oscommerce and other free tools for chennaishopping.com. somehow i was able to convince the local flower vendor for bouquets, baskets etc after meeting 15+ within city. Then tried selling linux CD’s, Printed T-shirts :)

Spikesource, Paypal and Fraud:

I still have one of google printed t-shirt which i did of my own. It was great running the website online with paypal, Netbanking transfer. No indian payment gateway integration was done. After so much struggle, i used to deliver 1 or 2 orders in the morning and then leave to day job at sify. Days passed by and i relocated to bangalore to join SpikeSource.

I happen to meet great people like Dhandapani, Mugunth who have turned my perspective about startups and Tamil. Mugunth inspired us lot about Tamil and its heritage. Mugunth is one of the person who created e-kalappai, the first free tamil unicode typing tool used by many around the world. somehow got addicted to Tamil and wanted to do something related to Tamil.

It was good initially, but the company slowly drifted its direction. Due to some issues internally, i left it and somehow got into Amazon. During that time, Paypal fraud bounded me with 1000$ for shipping 3 handycams. Though i  submitted the proofs, it suspended my account and took my balance 50$ something. then i decided to stop chennaishopping.com because i need to be physically present in chennai for delivery.

Life at Amazon

I learnt about paypal fraud in Amazon. which is nothing but, its called Chargeback. Since i joined Amazon Payments, I learned much of payments, its processes and much more. Four years passed in payments domain. Amazon payments developed tools for merchants and offered many great products to integrate with. I got a chance to work on Checkout by Amazon osCommerce Plug-in which yielded good amount of usage among the merchants. Checkout by Amazon Zen Cart Plug-in has been downloaded 2000+ times till date. So i was very much happy with my time in Amazon.

Post-Amazon era

Usually, people from Amazon has entrepreneur spirit mixed in their heart. People at amazon usually talk about innovations, patents, technologies, businesses, table tennis and lots more. Many have left Amazon and started and running successful ventures like Infibeam.com, Flipkart.com, BankBazaar.com and many more. If i have left, please update them in comments for others. Being Amazonian is a great feeling. Everyone has that feel even after they leave Amazon. Because of its founder and the famous tag line “Work hard; Have Fund; Make History”.

This sparked me inside and kicked my heart to look back chennaishopping.com for the third time. Then i did some research related to online shopping and its trend. I also thought about Tamil books, although i have never had an habit of reading books. even tamil books. but i felt that selling tamil books online has a market even though it is small. I wanted to get into this and now its happening since last 367 days.

What did i achieve?

My life

  • Relocated to Chennai and (re)started Chennaishopping.com – an online Tamil book store
  • Got married :)
  • Staying with parents, having great home food, in Chennai, meeting friends.
  • Got MacBook Pro

What are all the challenges?

  • I have burnt cash from my personal savings for the company, marriage and other miscellaneous activities. Although the company is in (little) profitable mode, i haven’t taken salary for last 1 year. Hope to get the same salary soon from my own company!…
  • You have to convince publishers, logistics service providers, buyers and provide them enough information to do business with you.
  • You got to do all the job. Delivery, Procurement, software solutions, website, security, customer care and what ever it is.
  • Take care of my family. Convince relatives, uncles and aunts and who ever questioning about my career.

These are my experience in bootstrapping a company and life. Share yours in the comments below.

StartUp Idea #5: Forms online

Back in Dec 2010, i have written few posts related to StartUp Ideas. It took me one year to write a new one. 2011 was a great year for me because I finally quit my job at Amazon and (re)started my company http://www.chennaishopping.com/

Let me write about the new start-up idea which i had been grinding in my mind. It may exists or may not. i am not sure. most of the ideas i have written are problems that exists currently.

Now,  Forms  Online

What are forms?

Forms is a document which you use to fill up with pen and apply form some thing. checkout out Forms at wikipedia. I am not talking about HTML forms here.

what is the problem?

The problem is simple. collect all these application forms and provide them as pdf downloads to get it printed or make an HTML form out of it and present a printable form with customer data in it. You can store customer data for later use.  This solves the following list of problems

  • user will not type / write duplication information like name, address, phone etc etc etc.
  • user will just type the “new-not found information” that are asked in forms.

This gives the following advantages

  • user knows exactly the form to use to apply for certain things. need not search here and there.
  • all forms at one location. saves time for the user.
  • user is not frustrated to fill the same details, 1000 times.

Different types of Forms

I am going to list the types of application forms available in general public.

  • School/College Application forms
  • Government Application Forms
  • Job Application forms
  • Bank Application forms
  • Applying for Gas connection, ration card, DL, passport
  • so and so…. hell a lot of it.

School/College application forms:

there are around 1.6m schools in india as per SchoolofEducators.com. see if you can help these schools, get their application forms online for just download for that academic year.  some schools / colleges do make money even in these application forms. you can make a cut out of it.

Government application forms:

Hell a lot of it. just browse through various states respective .gov.in website and collect their PDF link and provide them for download at one location. provide a easier way to find and download.  I spent lot of time in figuring out marriage certificate registration form online. Even though i found the site, i am not sure whether it is updated or legitimate. if you can assure it, your website is a HIT.

Job Application Forms

I am talking about Non-tech jobs. Get the job application forms for non-tech jobs that comes in paper or what ever and get it filled

Bank application forms:

Check deposit slips pre-filled or what ever loan application or what ever. Do tie-up with major banks and get their forms in pdf format to be downloadable at your site. List it by category, banks etc.

Gas connection, ration card, passport, DL:

Just get the gas connection form online. or what ever it is.

Miscellaneous forms

  • BB plan change letter for BSNL
  • BANK letter format for update of any information to ICICI, SBI et all.
Note: Do add more in comments if you have any.

Hell a lot of forms:

There are lakhs of forms to be filled by a user. every time he/she fills the following information multiple times

  • Full name – first, middle, surname
  • DOB
  • Father’s / Guardian name
  • Permanent Address
  • Residential Address
  • PAN
  • Passport

and many more

Privacy issues and Trust factors:

what ever the information forms online get its, it will be too personal information. one should take care to protect the user’s privacy and get user to trust the website. It’s very difficult to achieve the trust factor in short run. but overtime, if you provide good service, users will trust these kinds of forms service, because it saves their time.

Business model:

More downloads. More Users. Your traffic and download is your source for revenue. you can get sponsors for various form channels say bank or get the advertising revenue. You can also get a revenue share with school/college application.

You can add premium service by providing few forms at a paid price etc. may be this will work or not. not sure though.

Conclusion:

whether this idea will work or not, the problem of filling offline forms exists. the problem of searching forms to apply for certain things exists. You have million opportunities to solve for the main stream users….. do share your thoughts at the comments below.

Update 1: there is a startup nopaperforms.com which is trying to solve this. Do give a try.

Please understand India…

I read a blog post titled The real reason behind India’s lack of startups/innovation.
I wanted to respond little later but it seems the comments are closed. I have crafted my responses

>>>> And now let me clarify that how I qualify to answer this question. I am founder of http://closest.in it’s now a 11 month old web startup. We started working on it right after college, so I am a young startup founder, with very radical ideas, inspired by silicon valley culture and what not. So I have 11 months of experience in this arena to back my answer.

Congratulations on running your start-up all these months.

>>> Now, why there are no web startups from India, because there are no early adopters. That’s not in our blood. Web startups come out of USA because Americans love to try new things and we Indians don’t.

I think the author did not understand India and its people’s mindset. His product is addressing USA and not India. As far as i have known, many great products like Google Finance came out of India. There are many web startups like InterviewStreet.com, Muziboo.com, Tenmiles.com that came from India. They have been developed targeting Indians in mind. Not the USA.

>>> What are early adopters? Early adopters are those people who actually use new services and accept them or reject them. I am not saying that early adopters always accept new products, they actually give their opinion. So if a product is doomed to fail, it fails early. That’s how it works.

when orkut came, people accepted it. when facebook came, people accepted it because facebook was better than orkut in many ways. now its happening for Google+ i guess. If your closet is good enough, it will get adopted. Try to look for the reason why its adoption is not upto the mark. Glad, you have found out how a Product works….

>>>>And I know the root of problem, it’s the faulty education system which is brainwashing innocent children and putting a belief in them that “your ideas are useless”, it’s such a small line and has such a vast impact on the whole nation. Students are literally discouraged to take forward their ideas, especially in the average engineering colleges, I can only talk about them because I was a part of them.

I too agree on this. but if one wants to do and have courage to do, he/she could have done it. if you have felt that education ruined your ideas, why did you take part in it?

>>>>Only solution to fix this problem is to destroy all the engineering colleges right now and convert them into “idea factories” let young people work on what they want. I cry seeing so huge human potential wasting. If anyone wants to fix something in startups ecosystem, fix the education system, that’s the root.

Glad you found the problem and asking anyone wants to fix it. Remember what Gandhi said “If you need a change, be the change!”. Please understand the audience on which your product is targeted. Do what ever it takes to satisfy that particular audience.

One small example. In a auditorium, its the responsible of the speaker to gain the attention of the audience… not the other way round.
That’s all i want to say.

StartUp Idea #4: Touch based Landline Internet phone for home use

According to Communications in India wiki, India is marching towards billion telephone (landlines and mobile) subscribers. Even though the mobile phone connections are exploding like anything, there is always a need for landlines exclusively for Broadband connection. In India, wireless broadband has not yet taken off and the speed is very slow when compared to wired broadband connection.
The Internet Usage Statistics in India is 81,000,000 i.e 6.9 % and is expected to grow more. Also major telephone operators in the subcontinent are taking advantage of this growth.

Even though Mobile phones can act as a modem for connecting to internet, it cannot withstand due to following reasons
1. Lack of Towers and hence low coverages
2. Battery will drain out.
3. you need to charge every now and then.. etc

Need for the new device…
Communication became the important part of our daily life now-a-days. we communicate via Facebook/Internet, phone, voip etc. For each of these, we are using a separate device like laptop/desktop computer, mobile phones or internet phones specically. we also required modem to connect our laptop to internet.

why not have a single device which can do this all?
We cannot call that device as Phone. As per TheFreeDictionary.com

Telephone is an instrument that converts voice and other sound signals into a form that can be transmitted to remote locations and that receives and reconverts waves into sound signals.

Phone can refer only things which can transmit sound signals. But today, we are transmitting data (voice, documents, videos) as bits and bytes. Hence we can call that a communication device.

What feature it should have?
A new Integrated communication device should posses the following characteristics
1. Easy to use with Intuitive interface.
2. Always be connected with Internet i.e ADSL+ enabled or what ever the latest.
3. Camera enabled – Speak with your friends / families using Video capabilities.
4. Text Enabled – Send and receive text
5. 1-Touch Call
6. Voice Recognition
7. a Wi-Fi / LAN enabled to get our laptop/computer connected
8. Digital phone book
9. Built-in Bill Payment facilities for Phone service, Electricity etc
10. Mic / Speaker enabled. Support for headset should be also available.
11. Wireless Handset so that you need not be at phone while talking.

Basically, it should be a blend of
1. Today’s Smart-Phone
2. Skype
3. Landline
4. DSL Modem
5. Camera

Every feature i specified here decribes the funtionality it can do. Hence i did not explain much about the feature.

The Demand…
Airtel, one of the biggest private telecom operator in India is getting revenue 50-50 between voice and data. The demand for this kind of device will increase as operators are trying to give Value added services to their customers.
Landline phone is the easiest technology product that people have learned today even before mobile phones. Every body knows to dial and make a call. The reach to the masses will surely be achieved with this kind of integrated device.

Business Model
This will be a hardware business. To start with, a prototype should be made and demo it to the largest operator in the country. At-least they will do trial run at few places and would see the response for such kind of device. the cost of integrated communication device should be very low compared to the combined cost of phone + wifi / LAN modem or any internet phones. If it is being accepted, they it will sell like anything. Telecom operator can bundle the device along with the package which is sold now. You can take the share of every device sold.

Who’s the target audience?
This device is *not* for the techie people who already use / learned to use the device. This is a new generation device which will go mainstream like the normal landline phone we have now. Most of the people in India will be connected via this device.

Prototype

Integrated communication device Prototype

what do you think about this concept? comment about it.

Note: The mashup is created using GIMP. I took phone picture and icons from Google Images.

Hey Google! dont force me to create public profile…!

Hey Google,

Why are you forcing me to create a public profile when i try to share the fotos from picasa website?

Stop forcing me to signup.

Today i noticed that google is forcing me to create a public profile in picasa. unless i do that, i cannot share the albums or photos.

any one experiencing this?