Lessons of life!

So, i was talking to my dad the other day about philosophy and related things when he narrated this story to me. Trying to reproduce it as near to the original as possible, but considering its me, i have surely added my own dramatic flavor to it.

PS: My dad is a theatrical guy too 🙂

 The story goes…

“Long time ago, when my dad was just entering his twenties. He’d taken a few weeks off to visit Haridwar. Those were the days when he was this young active debater, well-read philosopher, someone who always won an argument.

While at Haridwar, he’d fill his bag with biscuits and some necessities at dawn, pick a direction into the forest and walk to return back to his base by evening.

One such day, while on his way, there was a sudden thunder & hail storm. He looked around to see a door, walked in to find shelter in front of an “ashram-like place”. As he stood there waiting for the rain to subside, a mid-aged charismatic man walked out to talk to dad. He was a sage.

The man spoke fluent English, was charming and well-learned. He invited dad inside his “kuteer” for some black tea and boiled potatoes. A few minutes into the conversation, my dad was talking to him about the philosophers of this world, the philosophies he believes in, whats right and wrong, etc. The man, just listened on.

After about 90 mins of what was almost a one-way communication, with my dad rigorously trying to prove his philosophical & spiritual prowess, the rain had subsided. So, my dad stepped up to take his leave, thanked the man for his company & food. The man walked my dad to the door to see him off.

When dad turned around to leave, he called out to him and asked, “I’d like to say something, will you listen?”

Dad said, “Yes, most definitely”

The man said, “I am really  happy that at such an young age you are well read, versatile with many great philosophers and their works & have achieved quite a lot!”

“But”, he said “Don’t you think instead of following various philosophies and thoughts of others, it’d be best if you imbibed all of them to make a philosophy of your own?”

My dad stood there staring at the wise-man, who very quickly walked in and locked the door.”

Dad narrated this story to me and said, I learnt a very important less of my life that day. And truly, that’s the most important gift my dad has given me – this essence of life that i took on early in my life.

“Understand, question, debate and know various things, phenomenon and philosophies in your life, but never blindly follow any. You always have to make one that you believe in and is best for you!”

What does it take to get started today?

Well, if you have an idea that you have been ruminating for a while now, then it just takes making up your mind to get started! That is the most important thing to get things rolling. As they say, the first step is the toughest but the largest.

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Image Courtesy: Hurdles Start. by Robert Voors

In a day and age like today, there are far too many things that favor the prepared mind to get started and at low costs. Consider a few things:

  • If yours’ is an internet venture, then your initial setup costs are almost zero
    • You can work from your bedroom (or anyplace you choose!)
    • You will incur basic internet costs
    • There is the cloud to host your website and park your data
    • There are very many productive tools online which offer you free + pay as you go options!
    • You can code as much as you want and achieve quite a bit & rope in like-minded friends to help you by offering pizza and some equity
    • You put your product out onto the relevant social media channels and get those early adaptors to use your product and spread it via word of mouth, thus reducing your marketing budgets to almost Zero!
    • There is a buzz about entrepreneurship in India today and so there are quite a few bright youngsters exploring to get started or join a startup, so that’s an opportunity to chance upon
    • If your venture requires offline presence too, then:
      • Lookup how much of money you can afford to invest yourself in the venture (it is important to have your skin in the game)
      • You can ask the Friends, Family, Fools pool also for some investments to get started!
      • Do a backward calculation of what all can you achieve with the money you have and how you can optimize it
      • All of us have a “Grand” plan, but that needs to Start someplace, so think of a minimal viable product (MVP) to start with or if yours is a multi-location idea, think of starting at one location that you can achieve with the initial money you have
      • Today there are multiple variations of shared workplaces to get you started on your physical presence, some that offer just space, some that offer an end-to-end space, connectivity, housekeeping, et al.
      • In all cases think “BootStrap”
      • Think “Innovative ways of making your money work hard for you”

In the end, this post may list things that sound easy. But, you will know what it takes only if you stop thinking about doing and ‘get started’! Nothing is as easy as it sounds, but luck favors the prepared mind. So, what are you waiting for? Get Started Now!

This is the Blog Post i wrote for L-Pad, as a Guest Writer, see original here.

Breaking News: 1 year and MVP is still growing (& strong!)

A little over a year ago, when Sameer & I quit our jobs (again!) & set out on our journey called Morpheus Venture Partners, I could hear whispers in the sidelines…. Some shouted out loud on our face (I love the sorts who are upfront!) Many of them supported us of this decision and thought early stage eco-system in India badly needed something like this.  A few thought we were fraud & just trying to take advantage of innocent entrepreneurs; some thought that there was not much value in what we were doing, a lot of them thought entrepreneurs need money not advice… and so on…

I’ve always done what i have strongly believed in & so was the case with MVP. Not that we had the entire thing  planned out in our heads. We started with a loose model; something that could be of value to start-up entrepreneurs, we were open to learning, tweaking as we learned and executed. But our focus was and will continue to be to give the best and excel in what we do!

And now, one year later, we’ve just announced 10 start-ups as part of our Third Batch and expanded our team. Read Release Here What does it mean to me, as a Partner and one of the founding members of MVP? A whole freakin’ lot!

Indus is a super cool dude, who has entrepreneurship in his blood. The match in attitude, wave length between the team is superb! [Picture this – Indus lives in Bangalore, travels in the local bus, walks some distances to get to a meeting and yet he has all the energy to deliver!]

Thanks to Ankit of Instablogs via whom met Indus & engaged him as a pro-bono Subject Matter Expert for MVP companies. At MVP we had no plans or thoughts of expanding the team in any which way, partly because we ourselves operate like a frugal start-up & partly also because we were unsure about the role of a new team member. But, the guy he is Indus – we just could not, not have him on board! 🙂 Superb human being, great attitude, exceptional humility! With him on board MVP has grown stronger by bounds and leaps! Indus, Thank you! 😉

We were 10 companies strong till June 2009 and the learning with them was immense. Each one of them – Ankit, Nandini, Sumit, Lalit, Sahil, Siva, Rajnish, Varun, Namit, Himanshu, Rakesh, Waqar, Riz, Jay, Sarab, Vaneet & Ishu – are rockstars in their own right. Thinking big, executing fast, fearing not to fail, fighting and fighting through! Thanks guys for giving me an opportunity to associate with you. (okay this does not mean you’ll not see anymore of me!)

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Collage Courtesy: S P Hari

The Current Batch now has 10 companies and I personally believe each one of the founders is exceptional. They have a passion, they’ve dared to dream, they are focused.

Adscoot‘s Suyash, stands for hours in the major junctions at mumbai to learn traffic patterns and measure footfalls!

EasySquareFeet‘s Ashu & Snehesh are the most positive people i’ve seen! I can see their smiles through the phone when i talk to them (serious!)

Viv & Hari of InterviewStreet are two rockstar techies who are consciously & fast learning other skills to take their product to market. They have the passion & drive to make things work!

Shashank & Abhinav started on Naabo right out of college – the freshness in approach & the passion they bring with them is infectious.

Arjun of Picsean is an engineer, but his passion towards photography is amazing! He’s a good friend & i’ve seen his focus and smart work in his past ventures. His attitude to learn is commendable!

Robin of ReachTax is a star CA, but i love his humility and the motivational skill he has to make his entire team perform month after month!

Pankaj & Gaurav quit their fancy paying jobs to work on Retail Vector. Focus, quick work and frugality of life is what they are committed towards as they scale this venture!

The first thing that stood out when i met Abheek first was such an young guy and such maturity & humility. (Often age and humility dont go too well). This guy was 7 years old when he started putting Lego pieces into perfect ensemble & several years later, he’s using them at RobotsAlive!

I loved their designs and the quality of tees – Rahul & Mohit of Scopial have their focus completely on “Quality” “Design” “Niche”! They sell tees one could die for! Check a sample out here

I read about these guys in a print article & the next time we were in Mumbai, we met Jayesh & Karthik of VeriCAR. Two guys crazily passionate about automobiles & trying to solve a problem i was once a victim of! I love their attitude and their approach to things. They love getting down to basics and doing things themselves.

I am already having a lot of fun interacting with the current batch and looking forward to more fun, chaos, fights, fails, wins & whole lot of late nights!

Now, with all this happening – a whole lot of learning, association with the best of the lot, new challenges, lots of sense of humor & innovation. I don’t really have the time to think if MVP is a success or failure. But what i do know and will continue to focus on is “work harder”, “create more value”, “excel and achieve mastery”. And for evaluations of where we stand – let that be for the skeptics to comment on, while i play on….  & spread the madness!

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monstersessay.com

The bitch is back, welcome bombaybitch!

There was once, not so long ago from now, a breeze of freshness – a new perspective, fearless opinions & unbiased bitching!.. it was all this and more@ BombayBitch. Sooner than i had gotten hooked and addicted to the Bitch i got news of this wondrous startup shutting shop!

I mourned and sulked for a while about this loss. Rizwan and I even spoke about approaching Webchutney (BB is/was an incubatee) folks to let us volunteer for BB, failing which we had our PlanB of starting something like BB on our own. In all, I just loved the way these guys presented films related information, reviewed movies and all the jazz. You know with some brands its the connection that comes naturally and BB had that going right for them!

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I currently have my dancing shoes on, party cap in place and am “Cha-cha-ing” away in celebration. Why? ‘Coz I just found out that the Bitch is Back!

Just as i was thinking if BB is back as part of WebChutney or not, I chanced upon this post by Nikhil Pahwa of MedianamaWebchutney Launches Mobile Agency; Bombay Bitch Shuts Down where Sidharth Rao, CEO & Co-founder of Webchutney mentions that BombayBitch would be back in a different avataar.

Different avataar? ohmy! i hope its not a change in the writing style, writing to please the sponsors… i hope not. Guess time will tell or the bitch will, as she speaks some more over the next few days.

For now, i have my fingers crossed and i want to get back my daily doze of unadultrated bitching on BombayBitch!

Influencing the influencers

The following writeup was written for I.T. magazine. Here is the published link – Finding and Influencing the Influencers

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In today’s world, with over thousands of advertising messages reaching out to us and with attention spans decreasing rapidly; with the lines between PR and Marketing blur; with the entire Social Media buzz and Social Marketing coming into play. It has become very challenging for startups and new products to reach out to the initial users and influence them to create a brand recall and recognition in their minds.

For a startup, company or brand (for ease of read I will use the word startup to mean all these three entities) it is an on-going, ever evolving process to build its identity, increase recall and recognition. With increased clutter in the world around, it is very important for startups to clearly identify who they are reaching out to, what the message is and the impact of the communication.

How does one reach out?

In the current market scenario, for any business, it makes sense to look for channels that have high viral effect, has low customer acquisition cost, has the potential to build high degrees of trust and awareness.

1.       Founders as Brand Ambassadors:
It is important for founders to channelize their efforts towards constantly building an identity for their startup and themselves as ambassadors. Constant interaction and discussion about the startup and business offering, candid sharing of opinions and thoughts on varied topics, communicating the USP and key messages about the startup – all these come a long way in helping the early adopters identify with you as the founders and the brand at large. This also helps in building awareness and trust towards the startup.

Vijay Mallaya of the UB, Kingfisher group and Richard Branson of Virgin are great examples of founders as Brand Ambassadors. These two have worked their way up in building and expanding their business empire, constantly promoting their products and offerings. Appearing almost naked for a key business announcement at the New York Times Square, flying gas balloons that are Virgin branded, personally sending out messages to all their travelers on Kingfisher and living a lifestyle that reflects the brand – these guys have done it all and constantly re-invent themselves to reach out to and make an impact in the users minds.

2.       Reaching out to the initial users to build trust about the startup:

For startups, it is important to engage in constant dialogue with the early users. The initial users, called the “early adopters” are creatures that associate with your offering for varied reasons. It could be because:

a.       they try everything that is new

b.      they are curious about the offering as it’s a related domain they are working on

c.       the startup is their neighbor

d.      they love to give their opinion on various things

Just about any reason. But, interestingly the “early adopters” are those that take on to a new offering easily, are candid about their feedback, have more patience than the normal user to try & test the product or service, help fine-tune, and most of all these are the ones who talk and propagate the startup.  Therefore, it is important to reach out to these people fast, create a feedback channel, interact with them regularly and improve on the offering based on their inputs.

3.       Influencing the Influencers:

While interacting with the early adopters or the influencers, it is important to constantly communicate with them and ensure that they see constant evolution in the business offering. Keep the influencers interested and influence them by way of fine-tuning the offering, making it sticky for them to talk and promote the offering further. These early adopters have a very wide circle of influence in the society. There are a section of people who are constantly observing the early adopters to try and test something, give their verdict for them to start using the products.

While at madhouse (Madhouse Media, one of the first organized movie rental services which was acquired by Seventymm in 2007), the one important task I had at hand was to continually seek out avenues and opportunities to reach out to, and establish a feedback loop with the end users, by way of direct interactions or through other mediums of communication.  Sameer (co-founder of Madhouse Media) and I did this to establish trust among the users about the founders – the people who are executing the idea. We did this to spread the word about our business. We did this to ensure that people saw us as authority in movies, recommendations and movie rental business. As founders who knew what their business was about. As a business that ‘cared’ and did everything to make it easy for the users.

Where & how does one find these influencers?

1.       Media: This has been a vehicle for over ages to reach out to a large audience, no doubt. But what this channel does is to interact with the early adopters first, who have influenced the rest of the society! The messages sent out via these channels have successfully created brands, heroes, patrons and most of all trust in the world.  This channel includes print media, radio, online media – blogs, news sites, social media tools like Twitter, Facebook,LinkedIn, etc.

Many people recognize Basecamp of 37Signals, because of their blog signalvsnoise. The founders wrote about things that mattered to them on their blog and started sharing their experiences with a set of readers, who would later become the early adopters of their business offering. Their blog and their presence in the online world helped in creating a strong recall factor among the minds of people who were in the online world, the early adopters for Basecamp.

2.       Public Interactions: This tool is one of the oldest and is deemed successful since Aristotle’s time. Public representation of the brand and its ambassador has a long lasting impression on the end users, increasing the chances of recall, recognition and loyalty. The channel includes Demos, Presentations, Talks, Mixers, Meets, Tweet-ups, Other face to face communication

The more you interact with people face-2-face, the better it is for you to make a lasting impression.  Interact with the early adopters, the opinion leaders, the influencers. Engage with them intellectually, challenge their notions, allow your views to be challenged. Many successful personalities are people with good interpersonal skills, presentation skills, with the talent to reach out to and convince people of their thoughts – Hitler, Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Obama, to name a few…

So, how exactly does one influence the influencers?

1.       Timeliness: Repeated updates that reach out to the early adopters, via:

a.       Announcement of important progress in the business offering or startup

b.      Reiteration of what the startup stands for and what the founders, promoters vision is

c.       Constant updates on relevant business related topics

As part of madhouse, Sameer and I continuously kept in touch with many people – people in the media, people who are early adopters, people who are bloggers, people who are influencers in the society. We made it a point to interact with everyone – big and small, as we believed that there is learning from everyone. Specially, with the early adopters – we kept in constant touch, informing them of our progress. Involving them in discussions specific to madhouse and otherwise. Connecting them to others. We entered into long-term relationship – not inferior or superior, but as equals. This worked well in creating a long term relationship. And our keeping in constant touch was – informal regular mail interactions, commenting on the writers articles, blogs, placing that friendly call once in a while – with an update, question, connection or just simply “Happy New year”, meeting them up when we were visiting that part of town or city or for that Friday evening beer. Bumping into them and spending quality time during mixers, conferences, bar camps, etc.

2.       Quality: Communication that has value, creates trust and exhibits the brands and the ambassadors authority over specific areas of expertise

a.       Authoritative write-ups about the field of expertise

b.      Analysis, projections, predictions in the area of expertise

c.       Taking a ‘stance’, which the startup and the founders  will stand for and project

I love Jason Calacanis, Seth Godin, Paul Graham…. Why? Coz all these guys have a view point, are articulate about it and provide useful insights, challenge my intellect and give me more to carry away each time I read their blog,  writeup or an article about them. This is what we tried to do as part of Madhouse. Sameer particularly, as he was the external face of madhouse – practiced and still practices “Quality”. We had our view points and made sure we express them on various forums. Madhouse stood for “legal rentals” “stood for doing things the right way” “stood for organizing the rental business in India” “stood for quality home video experience” – we made sure we expressed our view point and what we stood for in our words and actions. We also wanted to share our experiences as entrepreneurs and so we did, each time we met an entrepreneur, a blogger or in our personal blogs, etc.

3.       Dialogue: Create a channel of dialogue exchange with the early adopters. Listen to them, question them, find out how things are every now and then, make sure you dig deep into what their impression is about the business offering, how they use it, what they think needs to be changed, show them your concern, show them you care!

At madhouse our goal was to never miss a movie delivery or deliver the wrong movie. We constantly kept in touch with our initial users to get feedback from them. If we missed a movie or slipped on our service for what ever reasons, we would send a small little cake with a sorry note. This came a long way for us, as these early adopters who saw us sweat it out and pay attention to detail, spread the word and helped us grow our customer base later.

4.       Innovative Methods: Find the most economical and innovative methods of reaching out, use smart techniques, but not overtly obvious ones.  Especially, these days with the social media channels, reaching out and creating a buzz is rather inexpensive, if done well. Be on the look out for venues to reach out, it could be the blogger you meet in a mixer, a journalist who is a friend’s friend or just you who’s active on the social media channels. Best marketing is the one done with no spend!

Who’s got to do it?

Of course YOU – as the founder, promoter, CEO, stakeholder – you have got to do this. It’s an ongoing task, it helps immensely and the returns are immeasurable. No outsourced firm, No internee, No management hire can do it for you. It is very important for a startup to have the main stake holders put in the efforts of spreading the word for their startup and build a social image for them. As an entrepreneur, among the many things you do, you do this too. If it does not come naturally, you lean to doing it. It is of utmost importance that the stakeholders interact with the influencers and early adopters. This established a connect with them, makes them build trust, helps you share the vision of the company with them and for all you know, you can find your potential investor, partner or employee in them!

When we started madhouse, Sameer & I did all the work ourselves, from taking orders on the phone, buying movies, packing them to delivering them to the users doorsteps, and this came a long way for us as a company. We knew exactly what it took to doing these tasks helping us build good processes and training the employees. It helped us establish a relationship with the early users; get first hand feedback from them. We were the ones who stood there in the mall and sold those initial memberships, interacted with people who did not take the membership and understood their concerns, fine tuned the sales pitch and re-sold to the apprehensive ones! We were the ones who were there in conferences, barcamps, mixers representing madhouse, talking about the concept and getting feedback. All this helped us establish madhouse as a brand among the influencers, who in turn became spokespersons for the brand!

However, above all this, it is important that as founders and stakeholders while doing all the work, we are:

1.       Humble, as humility disarms

2.       Honest, as it helps us win people over, build trust and create deep relationships

3.       Fair, as this is the best way to run a business

4.       Quick to accept mistakes, as this is another good trait that makes people like you. Everyone makes mistakes; the one who accepts it and changes is a winner!

In any society, the early adopters or influencers are the ones who have their antennas activated to receive and accept new things. As founders we must take care in building solutions that solve a problem or address a need, then it sure will get noticed by these early adopters who will give you the advantage of candid feedback and help you improve on your business. So, keeping your ears closer to the ground will help you improve and spread the word through these sneezers!

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Fast140 – their “Text” can be their revenues

I dabbled with Fast140 this morning. It’s a Twitter speed-typing game. It’s one of those games which makes you indulge and do better the next time around – an easy indulgence game for all ages and types.

Fast 140 is a typical “old time typing exam” format, where I look at the content in the box above and type the same in the box below. Simple!

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As I started playing this game a few thoughts crossed my mind, about the potential this game can have for marketeers and anyone who wants to send messages out to users.

For a game that requires you to pay attention to what’s written and replicate it, you are performing the task carefully, but not paying “overt” attention to the meaning / content of what’s written. But at a sub-conscious level there is a huge impact it can make on the minds and retention of concepts.

After having played it for 30 mins, I remember the following terms out of the game: Nokia, Easter, Blackberry, Harry Kallas and the loss to NFL, Phil Spector and his murder case….

Also, its known that repetition helps retention of concepts / things in the mind better!

So, Fast140 text box can be used by news channels to give out timely news, large brands can do their brand building exercises here by sending out relevant messages, governments can send out signals of their desire to users using this platform, plain simple – any brand can use this text box to send out messages about their brands, businesses via this text box.

It can also be used as a teaching tool for kids, where schools can have their own version of Fast140, where kids can type text that pertains to their syllabus 🙂

For Fast140, it’s a way to monetize their application! Would be interesting to note what the Fast140 team does. Will update here as and when I find out their moves….

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What if the rest of India slapped and kicked Maharasthrian’s across India? What’s your opinion, Mr Raj Thackeray?

Mumbai, the city that never sleeps; the financial capital of India; the one place that, I have heard from times immemorial, let’s people be and live life the way they want…the city of dreams – that do come true.

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Alas! What Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Raj Thackeray and his men have done today in Mumbai is for me a shame. What with the MNS and its goonda’s getting on road and beating up people who were ‘outsiders’ (really wonder how many of these goonda’s were true breed Maharashtrians). Images where MNS were slapping people who were in transit, merchants who were apparently of Bihar and UP origin, taxis which were driven by non Maharashtrians – did anyone stop to notice that it has a MH registration? How could these loyalists beat up Maharashtra registration boards? Hey, Raj Thackeray – is that ok?

As I watched this piece of news, I was flooded with mixed emotions of grief and anger. Grief towards people who fall prey and indulge in activities such as these, grief towards ‘rape’ of democracy and the beauty of integrity in diversity which our nation stands for. Anger towards politicians who choose topics such as these, as their agenda to win elections. Anger towards people like me who elect politicians and give them authority to influence the governance.

Who gives one right to assault another? Who gives a politician and his party worke

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rs authority to vandalize and behave like criminals? Are we who have witnessed this crime, supporters of this crime against Human Rights? Is this the price a nation pays once in a while to maintain its integrity and diversity? Are these issues of caste, creed, origin and city really sensitive issues or are they ‘politically sensitive’ issues?

I am as much a part of the crime as Raj Thackeray, as you or that guy who belongs to MNS or that guy who got hit by the MNS. We fuel the terriorist/criminal instincts of people such as Raj Thackeray instead of helping them tune their energies and intelligence towards positive outcomes. I am ashamed of my electoral right, of my diversity which makes us forget our integrity for a while. Was it not the ‘outsiders’ who stood with the ‘insiders’ in the past, the past that was not so long ago, such as the blasts, the floods, the riots and many more such?

What do you have to say Raj?

Are advertisements that look good; advertisements that bring results?

Recently, we bought an ad. package of 4+4 (you buy 4 ads. you get 4 free) in HT city at Chandigarh. Almost 2 years into the movie rental business now, Chandigarh remains our lab to test and try things out. Our members in Chandigarh are the ones I really need to thank, for they have helped us in shaping our service and fine tuning it to suit the general population.

Coming back to the package we bought, we decided to publish one ad. each Friday. It made sense as that is the day when new releases are listed, and if our ad. was present beside the ad. of a multiplex, the chance of our ad. catching a movie buff’s eye was high.

We had 8 ads. in all, to publish over 3 months (almost). We planned a print schedule based on the inputs we had about what time during the month do people make purchase decisions, when are they pre-occupied with other things, etc. For instance, during diwali people have other things, such as buying Gold, preparations for puja, card parites, etc. on their mind and they may not bother too much about movie releases. Therefore, it made sense to skip an ad. during Diwali.

We thought we would plan an ad. series, with each ad. talking about one USP of ours and culminating with an ad. that highlights our features as against competition in the market. After some thought, I concluded that 8 different ads. spread over three months is too long a time for our audience to remember individual ads. Therefore, it was best that we chose specific messages we wanted to send across and repeat these messages over and over.

Repetition is for recognition. If a person saw my ad. last week and it did not initiate him, if I repeat the same ad. this week, it will help him recognize our previous weeks ad. and will initiate him this week. Therefore, I proposed that we limit the number of ad. designs and repeat each of them over and over again.

Here are some stats related to the ads. we published:

  1. Ads that spoke of Madhouse as the largest video library in the region saw 35-40 enquiries with 50% conversion rates.
  2. Ads that had a message about our low rentals again saw 35 – 40 enquiries with 75% conversion rates.
  3. The one ad. that highlighted all our features, over the competition, saw 7 enquiries and 2 conversions.

Surprising, since most of us really liked the ad. that highlighted our features. Many friends and family noticed the ad., they commended its aesthetic excellence. We all thought we had a winner of an ad., expected enquiries to pour in. But, nothing like that happened. Contrary to all our assumptions, we hardly got any traction to that particular ad.

It is important that we identify the key features of our product, which our target customers relate to and use our communication to sell those features. In madhouse’s case, low rentals was a sure seller, leader in a particular region was a good selling feature too.

For any new product / service in a market, especially so a startup such as ours, it is of utmost importance that we use the marketing channels intelligently. One could spread themselves thin by indulging in expensive above-the-line channels and gain nothing from it, except for a burnt pocket.

Focus on the target customers, their profiles, means to hook them to your service and innovative methods to reach them are vital. Not glamorous Page 1 advertisements, no fancy campaigns, no frills. Just pure entertainment. By way of a satisfying movie rental service in our case.

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Finding good hires for a start-up

The last two years of my career, as a co-founder of Madhouse, a media & entertainment startup, I have interviewed and interacted with innumerable kinds of people across the organizational spectrum.

Personally, for Madhouse, it was a dilemma finding good talent to hire when we started the company. Considering the fact that we choose to work out of non-metro, smaller city, there were a few challenges to deal with.

Typically, in a metro or a larger city, one solution for hiring needs is an external agency. As I went about exploring that route, I realized that I had only a handful of agencies to liaise with. Three of which were large agencies with regional offices in my city. Two of them were local, small time firms.

While the larger ones demanded huge amount of deposits even before they could sit for negotiations; the smaller ones who were ready to work on per-transaction basis, were unprofessional producing below-standard candidates to interview. One of the local agencies I choose to liaise with also indulged in unprofessional, fraudulent activities. They encouraged a candidate to lie about her experience and pay package; to earn a quick buck. I was surprised at the foolish, yet brave act of this agency; I terminated our relationship with them immediately after and my word-of-mouth about them is definitely not positive.

One way to hire good talent, I found, was through reference, reference of employees, friends and family. People I hired through this route were dedicated and hardworking. This helped, but only up to a certain point. Soon, I was again looking for avenues to find good talent.

www.naukri.com was one good find. I was apprehensive about the results initially since we were in a smaller city, but to my surprise many of the local talent are present online. For us at madhouse, www.naukri.com is a trusted brand to hire good talent, today.

Currently, we are looking at hiring for positions higher up in the management structure. We floated the job description through friends and acquaintances as job postings in e-groups of top business schools in the country. We were apprehensive that the talent we are looking for may incline towards an established brand and may be start-up averse. Surprised, we were to see resumes pouring in from freshers to experienced top talents in the country.

For a start-up, especially those in the pre-funding stage (as we are), it is very important to be frugal and innovate in its approach. At Madhouse, we are now very used to thinking up innovative, cost-efficient, and effective avenues. For companies like ours it is important to hire talent that believes in the company philosophy and is in sync with the company culture. It is more important to have people who are aggressive, have the passion to think beyond the normal, innovators in their own little way.

When I see the madhouse team, as varied as they are in their backgrounds, all of them are vital stars in the constellation called Madhouse. Stars, those shine better by the day, to enhance Madhouse’s position in the vast Indian market. I am confident that as we expand we will add more such and better stars to the Madhouse constellation. And, I am also confident that there are avenues where I can find that talent.