ideas

April 23, 2012

Technology Trends for 2012

I was thinking of writing this post for quite some time. But, @twitter has made me lazy. However, I have finally taken out time to summarize some technology trends that I see emerging and strengthening in 2012.

  • Mainstream adoption of mobile web – It seems mobile web is finally here. The tablets has fueled the growth and has also increased the horizon of mobile web from essential info search to default information consumption device, which opens doors for a lot of interesting innovation in days to come. With tablets overtaking the production of laptops and desktops in number, this trend is set to grow.

    We, at Indus Net Technologies has adopted a mandate that we will design sites for tablets and then make sure that it renders well on laptop / desktop resolutions.

  • Mobile Transactions – With mobile payment infrastructure, regulations been put together and advent of NFC, mobile payment (or wallet) is a reality. It is however to be seen, who vests the power – the network providers, device manufacturers or the app developers. The collaborative competition will be interesting to watch.

    It shall also gradually replace visiting cards and catalogs / brochures. I have increasingly felt less anxious when I meet people without my visiting card in my pocket. I know, we can connect through mobile (will become easier with NFC / Bump) and social networks.

  • The OS / browser war is ON – With Android (from Google), WinMobile (from Microsoft) and iOS (from Apple), the old OS and Browser war is back. This time it is not separate – it is integrated, as web has emerged as the new platform.
  • Interactivity is changing – Interactivity has moved on from keyboard to mouse to touch (the last one literally turned around Apple's fortune). And now it is set to move into the domain of voice and gesture. Innovators are working hard to make them mainstream.
  • Convergence – Though, there has been talks about convergence for quite some time, but it will be visible in consumer use this year. TV, Internet and Mobile will finally blur with the advent of Smart TV, Android PC and Android based tablets / mobiles. All these can run same apps, which will bring in integrated functionality and give us access to content and functions irrespective of the medium.

    This will have path-breaking impact in the verticals of entertainment, education, home automation, productivity, etc.

  • Cloud (IaaS, SaaS and PaaS) becomes mainstream – IaaS, SaaS and PaaS is rapidly becoming mainstream. Though IaaS seems to remain under the reign of the big boys, SaaS will remain a favorite for technology start-ups! However, this year will see the growing popularity of PaaS, which provides a middle path to the enterprises who are averse to adapt SaaS.

    This paves the way for wide adoption and growth of XML based 4GL and 5GL languages. From application development perspective, does it mean the end of the tedious coding cycles, which has fueled the growth of offshore outsourcing industry so far? Only time will tell.

  • Social media gets mainstream – From the fancy muse of technology enthusiasts, social media is set to become mainstream. The rising concern among the political circles about the freedom of speech due to the social networks like Facebook and Twitter is a clear indication that they have proven their importance.

    The multimedia part of the social media will continue to evolve and improving intuitiveness of interaction will bring more users contribute / consume content. If my 18 month old daughter can hook on to Youtube for her favorite video, there is no reason why 70 year olds (most of those who found it difficult to adopt to technology, as they had to learn it) cannot.

  • Video will emerge as the most popular and common content / media for mass communication replacing text and images as we have on most websites. It stimulates all senses and gets the message across quickly and precisely. In a world with such low attention span, who has got the time to patiently read a 1000 word brief of how a new gadget works or how Company A is changing the world.
Whats the next big thing? It may not happen right now, but they are not very far either:
  • The idea is to reduce improve the signal vs. noise ratio. Something that will allow us to focus on the essential and stay away from the bloat in the age of information overload. There seems to be several attempts, but no product seems to be the "winner" yet. This may be a little far away, but "objectiveness" will become a more and more desired skill.
  • After network of sites (Google) and network of people (Facebook), it will be time for network of objects. Technology / platform to leverage the same and get the most of it, thrusting us in the machine age is not far away.

    Several companies are already working on prototypes and proof of concepts and it is not far before innovators will start putting business models around them. Technology is already available – it is about making it easy to use and show the best possible use of the network of objects, so that it becomes a "need" for masses from a "aspiration" or "sci-fiction"

  • On a sad footnote, the print publishing industry has been pushed to brink at a faster pace than they (or even I) expected. Try to reflect on yourself – do you really find it difficult to stay away from newspaper. If you have not tried, its worth giving a try.

Beyond doubt, the rate of change in technology is accelerating at a pace that is unprecedented. It will be exciting to see how this post / trend spotting matches with the real result in a years time.

It was summarized by a statement made by a friend of mine who is in corporate debt finance –

"I have to work harder, I have to keep reviewing the companies and their state every couple of months now. Gone are the days when companies used to take 10 years to be built and same amount of time to be killed due to mismanagement. 10 years has shrunk to 10 months, if not less"

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September 4, 2010

Bootstrapping 101

In a follow up to my previous blog post about "Bootstrapping Myths", here are some tips for those bootstrapped startups. I have applied many of these techniques myself, and hence suggesting the same:

1) Speed is critical

When you run a business, your expenses are ON. Your revenue is OPTIONAL (i.e. only available when you close deals!). And, you need to self-sustain within the given means. Therefore speed is critical. You need to experiment fast, learn fast and earn fast. If you don't, you will run out of the little cash box that you have, and the venture will be hit.

2) Start small

Do not hesitate to start small.

There is a fantastic concept called – "compounding". If a number keep doubling itself for 25 times, you will have a big scale. Therefore keep a goal to keep multiplying in a sustainable way. Remember the chessboard problem!

3) Execute, then plan

One common problem I have seen in most startups (or even bigger companies), that make them un-viable (read: un-sustainable) is excessive planning and very little execution. Things are changing faster than before, and therefore many ideas / thoughts get obsolete by the time they are executed. Therefore, prepare a gut based on some "core concepts" or "thoughts" that define your way of doing things (warning: be flexible about changing these core beliefs, if proven wrong!), apply this gut to the sketchy plan that you have on the paper-napkin, and take a call. Then learn from the outcome, feed the gut new info, and repeat the process.

If you do not go out and do things, you will never understand how it works. If you are putting together an assumption that you can get X number of customers by sending a blast mailer to 1 million users, then do a trial on 1000 and see if you get 1/1000th of the estimated numbers? If not, then re-validate your theory. If you keep thinking and guessing and planning, you will end up being in a dream land – with no fundamentals.

4) CEO = Chief Everything Officer

If you do not believe in the above equation, do not even think of starting a business (forget about bootstrapping it!).

You got to do everything that the business needs. It can start from cleaning your office to negotiating a deal with the biggest retail outlet in your town, from calling prospective employees to installing the server.

5) Barter / Trade

You will be amazed to discover how many things you can barter – and save cost and build strong relationships. Look at opportunities with your vendors where you can swap services / products. It will not only save you money, but will give you new customers / clients / consumers. Make sure that you:

  • put a clear $$ value to your offering
  • are not too pushy
  • are offering something that is relevant to the other person

Barter / trade may not happen in the exact form as it used to happen in stone age. What you can expect is to get a "heavy" discount on your purchase bill from your vendor for the services you are offering.  Also, you may not get barter deals from very well established players. You may have to look for vendors who are good, but do not have a very big order book – difficult but possible.

6) Negotiate, then re-negotiate

It is okay to negotiate. Many-a-times, we just feel embarrassed to negotiate. There is always a better deal / bargain / price waiting for you. You just need to take the initiative to offer a price that you feel is fair for the product / service (or what you can offer). Sometime, you may have to start below your comfort zone, so that both of you can meet at your comfort zone.

And yes, do not feel embarrassed to re-negotiate, if need arise. There is no set rule and the deal is not finalized, till you sign the dotted line. You deserve the best.

Just be fair!

Note: I strongly advice that you research the prices (caution: compare apples with apples – specially while buying services). Sometimes this can result in big savings.

7) Invest in technology

If technology can be deployed properly, it can save a lot of money. It can also improve organizational efficiency, which can become an important differentiator and help you garner more business. Spend time to understand different technologies available, which can reduce cost, enable collaboration, improve communication and make you look / work smart.

Technology need not necessarily cost a lot of money. Adopt open source and free software. There is one for almost every possible business application 🙂 Cheer up!

8) Extra-ordinary income

There are some indirect avenues from which your business can generate cash.

  • Sub-lease part of your office space / give out desk space / invite others to come and work with you and share costs
  • Do garage sale – do not hang on to things that you may not near in near future (specially computers!)

9) Get your accounting right

Everyone will probably suggest that – get a good accountant.

I will say that – spend time in learning as much about accounts as you can. Accounts let you see and listen into your business. If you do not understand it, you will be at a loss of control over your business. You should know your numbers like the back of your hand. And you should be constantly analyzing ratios (over a time line) like turnover, profit, current ratio, acid test ratio, solvency ratio, debtors / creditors turnover, etc. This will let you know the direction of your business, so that you can steer it clear of accident prone zones!

Set up management information system and decide upon core organizational metrics to measure key parameters such as sales performance, customer satisfaction, customer distribution, product quality, etc. And, take action to streamline things which look out of place. Else, all the effort is a waste.

Imp Note: It need not be the most expensive software system on the planet. You can simply use spreadsheets to manage that!

10)  Sell without spending

There are several ways in which you can generate sales without spending a lot of money in advertising. You will discover your own set of tricks while you do business (relevant to your business). Some very common ways are:

  • Social media
  • Networking events
  • Word of mouth referral
  • PR / Media

These methods will result in lowest "cost of sale" and will give you your "most loyal customers". Keep your eyes (and mind) open to make deals. They will happen.

11) Hire for attitude / Appraise for performance

When you end up hiring – hire for attitude / talent. The degrees do not matter.

Spend time in developing them (I think this is why they call it Human Resource Development) – aligning them to company requirements / goals – and then measure their performance – and give feedback.

If you sustain the wrong people, they wont probably let your company sustain – hence killing the idea of "bootstrapping".

Conclusion

I hope these small random ideas about bootstrapping will help you in a small way. If you have an interesting tip to share, please post it as a comment, and I will be happy to include it. Feel free to share them!

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April 20, 2009

FREE Website Clinic @ Internet World 2009

Hello Friends,

I will be holding a FREE Website Clinic from 28-30th April at Internet World (Earl's Court, London) at our booth.

I will be helping website owners improve their website one-step-at-a-time by giving them up to five actionable tips specific to their website after analyzing the same and understanding their online business goals.

Website Clinic is absolutely FREE of cost and there are no strings attached to it.

There will be a lot of rush as we have started getting request for booking time slots. So I suggest that you send an email to talash@indusnet.co.in and book your time slot in advance to avoid disappointment.

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