Remember your english exams?

One of my cousin sisters told me a while back that she had our final term examinations in her school, and because I write a bit, she asked me for tips on how she could score better in her English exam. But before I went on to give her advice, I thought to myself on the kind of advice/perceptions I used to get from people (friends, teachers, parents and padosis) on how to score better in an English exam. Do you remember them, particularly the 10 mark essay that we were to write in the exam?

1. The 10 mark essay question was to be written in less than 250 words, and you had to fill a minimum of 180-220 words to score well in the 10 mark question.

2.  Good vocabulary (read: ‘difficult’ words, ‘impressive’ words, words that other students wouldn’t understand) would fetch you more marks.

3. An impressive beginning and end would get you good marks.

What I did to cater to all of this was mug up a few ‘difficult’ words from books like BBC, Together with English, Golden guide etc., learn a generic beginning and end that would fit in most article topics so that I was ready with at-least 70-80 words before-hand. All I now I had to do was fill was just a hundred more words to reach an 8 out of 10, smooth!

I used the exact same strategy till my class 12, and I ‘thought’ I knew how to write articles. It was later that I actually started reading in my college days where I was exposed to some pretty articles/content which made me realize that a 50 word article, without one fancy word, but just an interesting opinion that made me think on the topic made a great read for me. Do you think such an article would get a 10 on 10 in an English school examination? No.

I really wish the education system moves in a direction where the thought is give more importance than the number of words, where a student pays more attention to the flow of the article than counting the number of words in it, where an article like the one I mentioned gets a 10 on 10. We’ll have so many better writers in our country that way.

And wait, what did I tell my sister? “Go read BBC and Together with English, teachers waheen se topics pick karti hai :P”

But I did give this perspective to her too 🙂

All the best if you’re giving your school exams right now!

Understanding the iOS and android user better

For the past one year, I’ve been working really hard on building and scaling the android app for TravelTriangle and have done a reasonably good job at it. As a company, we recently decided to build the iOS app to improve on our business perspectives, and I was given the responsibility of being the product manager for the iOS app.

Being a hardcore android fan, it was hard for me to understand what an iOS user really thinks like. Because honestly, I thought that an iPhone user doesn’t really think. “Touch achcha hai” and “Phone se selfie achchi aati hai” were the reasons I’d heard from the iPhone buyers for purchasing one afterall.

So I decided to completely move to an iOS device, from my Samsung Galaxy S6 to really understand the iOS user interface better, and to better understand what an iOS user thinks like. Sometime into using the iOS, I did find a few exclusive goods(The global search feature, Siri, the amazing camera quality among various others) and a few bads(Some essential UX issues, limited number of apps compared to android, the poorly built push notifications etc) .  But that’s not what I’m not what I’m going to deep dive on, because I’m sure you already know about it enough, and there’s plenty of content about it on the internet already.

The major difference that I actually observed was in the behavior of the folks around me. People, I realized actually look up to the iPhone as something that a rich person possesses, despite me having an S6 prior to this which too was a pretty amazing, and an equally expensive device. They ask you to click a selfie because you have an iPhone, and they stare at the phone because it’s a bloody iPhone! But wait, why is that so? Why does an equally expensive android device find it hard to feel like a rich phone?

Because that’s exactly how the iPhone devices are built and marketed. They are made to make you feel rich and exclusive. That’s the user persona that apple has always targeted.

There’s a reason why iPhones have such high buyers from day 1, despite the exorbitant prices.

Most android devices, on the contrary bank on the number, and the quality of features they push on their device. Don’t believe me? I’m sure you must’ve checked out the iPhone 7 advertisement a few months back, check it out again:

What are the most important takeaways that as a user can remember from this advert? That this is a black phone, has an amazing camera, and of course the wireless headphones. The amount of  time the advert gave to the number of new features was hardly a few seconds. HARDLY A FEW SECONDS to the the essential features of the device that the developers, designers spent sleepless nights on! Why? Because they exactly know what their target group. Achcha touch, camera and an irresistible black color is all the Apple wants you to remember.

Now check out the advert of the Google pixel, a competitor to the iOS device.


Do you notice the difference?

They’ve spent a good amount of time on the features they’ve built, want their users to know about them, and bank on the features for the purchase of the phone!

How does this essential difference matter to product managers/startups? In our case, the average ticket size( the average value per purchase) for an iOS is significantly higher than the android devices(of the similar price range). An android user, atleast in Indian context makes a purchase basis the value add on it’ll have to his daily life, while the iOS continues to be a brand that the feel riches want to continue getting associated with. Not that iPhones are bad, I’ve honestly quite enjoyed the experience of using one! But that’s just how the iPhone has been marketed as.

It matters because the way you present content has to be very different for both the devices and personas, you can take your cues from here on 🙂

Aye Product Manager ki honda hai?

At a usual evening at a Punjabi wedding, where random aunties are scouting for their next eligible damaad or bahu I was spotted and probably liked by a Punjabi aunty from a distance; she stared at me for long enough till the time I took notice of her, came to me with a smile so bright as if she just brushed her teeth and wanted to show off, asked me “Puttar tusi kya karde ho?”(What do you do, son?). I politely replied, “Aunty I’m a product manager”. Aunty hadn’t ever heard of this term before, as the only profession she’d probably of was an engineer. Perplexed, she asks me “Puttar aye Bank manager taan suniya si, Aye product manager ki honda hai?” (Dude, heard of a bank manager before, dafuq is a product manager, really?!). I died laughing the moment I heard her say that. Though I did try to explain what we do, she seemed quite dissatisfied while I explained. Since none of her neighbors knew what a product manager was, I was immediately struck off from her prospect daamad list.

But when I came back home, I did realize that most of the people in some of the best engineering colleges, and working professionals don’t quite have a clue on what a product manager really does! Sadly enough, one of the major reasons is the lack of literature around, and the difference in the definition of Product management in every article you read, or every product manager you speak to; since the definition of this profile varies quite a bit in different product companies, and the kind of the product you own. So what does a product manager do, really? Ai Product manager ki hunda hai?

A simple Google search ‘What does a product manager do’ would very likely land you on an image like this:

A broad highlight of what a Product Manager does
Definition of a Product Manager

But hey wait, there’s LOADS more to it! A product manager works with Engineers, designers, business and marketing people, the customers, legal and finance folks, and the analytics teams to build a feature, or a product. Wait, what?! How does one PM be in touch with so many teams? There’s a reason why this is a super hero role, needs so much experience to be good at and why a PM is called the CEO of a product!

How does the work of a PM feel like on an average day?

Any Product Manager, consciously or subconsciously tries to figure out the what, why, how and when of the feature/product (s)he is building.

What: A PM tries to understand what is the problem to be solved, and by what means. It could be by speaking to the customers and doing a user study, by doing an elaborate analytics of the current feature to see what and where the flow of a feature is broken, by doing a competitive analysis, and by speaking to the stakeholders within the company who shall be impacted through the feature. Basis this, he decides on what is the feature that needs to be built.

Why: While a PM decides on the what, he tries to focus on the why of the feature being built, in the process of his research. Why this feature? What metric will it solve? Will this increase the retention of the product, or will it lead to more people paying on the product? How many people would adopt to the feature? What is the target audience of the feature like? There are some of various questions that are catered to in the process.

How: Once the ‘what’ is decided, the Product manager will work with the designers, engineers to move on to detailing of the feature/product. This shall involving wireframing of the feature, deciding on the flow of the feature, think of hacks that need to be applied to launch fast and understand the constraints of building the feature from the engineers and designers, if any. He then writes the elaborate specifications to the feature which are consequently picked up and built for execution. You’ll also need to setup the analytics that is required to validate the success/failure of the feature, and at times understand the financial and legal aspects of building the product.

When: Basis the how, the product manager decided on the versioning of the feature, and what shall be the timelines like for building the feature.

Phew! That’s a lot, isn’t it? But what are some of the traits that you’ll see in all good PMs?

Collaboration: No, a Product Manager’s role isn’t a leadership role. It’s a collaborative one. You’re going to speak to various stakeholders in the company, and will try and align them to your line of thought. But you have to take into account the impact that it shall have on them, and what their perception is of the product being built. Though your stakeholders don’t have a direct call in the product, their say in the product cannot be ignored.

Decisiveness: You’re going to be taking decisions everyday. There are going to be a few Yeses and a lot of Nos. There are going to be truckloads of opinions that you’re going to get everyday, and though you have to, and should listen to them, it’s going to be your call to give direction to the product. There are going to be good decisions, and there are going to be bad ones. If you take the bad ones, you need to accept them fast and iterate faster.

Prioritization: There’s going to be loads on your plate everyday, and you have to learn the art of prioritizing what you do in a day, one task at a time. There are a gazillion improvements that you can think of on your product, but you need to prioritize the ones that’ll bring the maximum impact.

Numbers/Analytics: This is something that most Product Managers need to be good with. Whether it’s making a top down story of how a feature is going to perform, or validating a feature, or speaking to any of the stakeholders, you have to know your numbers and metrics really well. Without the numbers, your talk is just going to be loose talk.

If you’ve come this far, I hope you’ve been able to get a broad sense of what a product manager does, but it is one dope role to work in 🙂

That one common thing in all great startups!

That one common thing between all great startups
Funny how about 5 years back in school, I would press the ‘7’ button on my keypad four times to reach the letter ‘s’ in my phone, and how life has changed now. Amazing how I’m not a stranger now in a stranger city through Google maps, how I book a cab, recharge my phone, buy my grocery and what not by a click of a button through technology.
But there’s one thing that I’ve observed about all successful companies around me – time, they help you buy time. In countries outside India, where people work on hourly wages, people know how expensive their time is and hence know what the worth of their time is. And people in India are slowly beginning to realise this too; and that’s what the investors flooding their money on startups are waiting for, for us to realise how expensive our time is.
Two learnings –
1. Understand that your time is expensive. Work, invest in, taught to, laugh with people who are worth your time.
2. If you’re a company, or a startup building a product, ask yourself if your product/company is helping your users buy their time. If the answer is yes or so you believe, you’re heading the right path.

If you think you don’t need analytics, you do need analytics!

I’ve lately spoken to a large number of early stage startups to see, and understand on how they build their ideas to execution, and product. Every conversation has been a learning experience and has only given me better perspective on technology, business and life.

A few common traits that I observed on all of the founders was the great emphasis on the pace of execution, the zeal and passion in how they talked, a detailed understanding of their customer, and depth of why they’re trying to solve the problem that they’re solving; traits that excite me to bits!

But there was another common trait that I noticed when I went a little deeper in the conversations was that the emphasis on analytics in most of the startups was minimal; which was alarming, but not surprising for me. Most of the founders, though broadly know that they need the analytics in place in their product, but don’t put it to execution. But wait, why is that so?

  1. Because we don’t exactly understand how getting the product analytics in place is going to impact the business, and hence the ROI doesn’t seem worth it. It isn’t the founders to blame either; before working in Product, it didn’t intuitively occur to me either that just improving the positioning of a call to action would actually improve business.
  2. Because viewing the numbers, learning the analytics tools is a job of patience. Because getting those events in place, and trying to drive conclusions can at times take time and practice.
  3. Because getting traffic/building traction is subconsciously more important to us than engaging, and converting the ones that have landed on our product.

But why should one spend time on doing the analytics?

It’s the cheapest means to building better business right from the start

Let me give you an example here. Let’s say you’re an e-commerce company that sells products in various parts of India. You probably know that the maximum traffic comes to you from Kerala, you know this data.

But your drop down which asks for the user city/state shows Kerala in the 7th – 8th position. You’ve just added extra friction for that Kerala user before he could even move to see your product; just by hard coding the top 3-4 traffic/searched cities, your business could have increased significantly.

Now say user finally does the search successfully, but the load time of the page is so slow that the user doesn’t actually reach your product page, which is your actual offering. There can be a gazillion examples like these, but we don’t spend time recognizing them.

It’s objective

We all have our biases in who, and how are customer is and we build our product basis that. Doing so in the first attempt, but iterating on your product just by this understanding isn’t the right approach, which is what I observed a lot of startups do.

Taking the previous example, the founder had a bias that users from North India, primarily Delhi are more likely to make a purchase from his e-commerce product, which later turned out that Kerala visitors used the product more.

Disassociating your association with the bias is what data helps you do.

It’s time saving!

Though it’s absolutely important to understand your costumer, speaking to them on a regular basis, analytics is probably the quickest means to understand how your user is interacting with the product! It helps you take product and business decisions quicker, saves you time and hence saves you money. Your time is expensive afterall 🙂

So as founders, the number of users going deeper in your product funnel should be just as important as tracking those GMV/install numbers. Spend time reading, and understanding them!

The tinder algorithm

I don’t know too many young people who don’t know about Tinder, or haven’t ever used it before out of curiosity or genuinely wanting to date someone. In this article, I present to you on how the tinder algorithm works, and how you can get more matches just by knowing how and when the tinder matches your profile with somebody 🙂

What are the two major points we all know about tinder?

  1. It is a dating site.
  2. The number of guys on the app is significantly higher than the number of girls. And hence only a few guy cards actually end being viewed by a girl, let alone be swiped right, unless she uses the app very often.

Why should tinder show a guy’s profile to a girl? You should either be attractive, and/or a conversationalist and importantly, not a creep. How does tinder judge you on these parameters? It ranks you.

Some obvious metrics become your age as received from your Facebook account, your interests, the number of people you’re friends with, your profession and your geographical location and needless to say, the number of matches you get on the app after a point of time. But that’s just the initial part. Tinder judges you on various parameters on how your activity is like on the app.

As a product manager of a mobile app, I’ll give you a heads up how features are built. We make use of a lot of data; we track every button that a user clicks, every page he/she views to track the user behavior towards a feature, and basis that we build a feature. We call every activity on an app an event.

So every time you swipe right or left, view a picture, write a description, remove one, an event is fired corresponding to your account. What are the prime events that form the basis for tinder to judge you to show your card to a girl?

  1. If you’re crossing the cap on the number of right swipes everyday, tinder would consider that negatively against you. Why? Because you don’t have a choice, and you’re pretty much swiping right to every person you stumble upon hoping to get a match. That is just desperate for normal people, and for the algorithm.
  2. What is the average amount of time that you’re spending on a card before taking a decision to swipe right or left? If you take a decent amount of time to consume a profile and then make a right/left swipe, you’d be rated higher by the algorithm. The reason is obvious, you’re making a slightly more informed decision to like a profile.
  3. Continuing on point 2 – When would time be consumed in viewing a profile? When someone actually opens a card to view more pictures. A more logical explanation would actually be a funnel, which is the series of events a user performs on the app. Open the card -> Scroll down to read the description -> Spend time on the portion of the card that actually has the description of the girl. But how are points 2. and 3. justified?
  • This is how the previous version of the app used to look like:
A card screenshot of a girl on the tinder app
Tinder app screenshot
  • And this is how the current version(5.3.3) looks like:
New design of the tinder app
Updated tinder design
  • Noticed the difference apart from the super like feature? In the previous version of the app, you would see cards stacked one after the other, while now you get to see one card at a time. In the previous version, a user can have a tendency to swipe quicker since he subconsciously knows there are more cards coming his way. But now that he only sees one card at a time, he spends more time on that card, subconsciously thinking there aren’t too many left. (Despite the fact that the number of cards probably coming his way is still the same)

4. Writing a description on the app, highly rated by the algorithm. The algorithm I’ve observed parses the sentences you’ve written and picks up meaningful words called ‘stop words’, and shows your card to people who’ve written same/synonymous stop words. This, needless to say results in more meaningful conversations.

5. If you uninstall the app after a good amount of time, and reinstall it after a few days, it is very likely that you will have a match or two. Tinder shows your card to a few people and gets you matched immediately after you uninstall. Reason? It wants to hold you back, and make you feel there is a chance of finding someone. It basically wants you to stay, like every other app does.

6. Are you a conversationalist? The algorithm takes this as a significant factor to show your card. It counts so basis the average number of ‘message send’ events that are triggered from your end, and your match’s end. This indicates to the algorithm that you’re someone who can make your match spend more time on the app.

7. With the recent launch of the Tinder social, if you go out with a female companion who is a Facebook friend, and she replies to your message on the app, your attractiveness score goes significantly higher. Reason – you have female friends who know you, and who is okay and open with talking to you on a dating app.

As far as the girls are concerned, you don’t get to see a major chunk of the guys that swipe right to your card. Feel cheated right? But there’s a pretty legit reason to it. If a girl gets a match on every right swipe right she makes, it would make her believe that the app has a bunch of creeps on it, and basically kills the suspense factor for the girl, and hence gamification on the app. Hence, tinder makes sure girls get to see the guys, who basis the algorithm can have the most meaningful conversation/date with them.

Hope you’ve got a broad sense of how the algorithm works, happy tindering 😉

What’s the hardest thing to do in life?

Moving on, that’s the hardest thing to do in life. And no ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t just have to do with moving on with from your exes. There’s much more.

Back in college, I was very passionate about theaters. Post college hours, I would invest all my time and energy in building that character that I had to play on stage, in getting that line, that emotion right. So much so that the character would become a part of me, and that would reflect on stage too. But once I was done performing the play and had received my share of appreciation/criticism, the hardest thing for me was to move on to the next play, the next character I had to portray on stage. The hardest thing for me was to kill that part of me that I’d worked on, built over weeks, months and move on to the next one.

And gradually over time, I realized that this was something that each one of us felt was terribly hard for each one of us to do. Moving on from the school/college friends who gave us the best time of our lives to our workplaces, moving on from the jobs that you worked so hard to get into because you don’t like it anymore, moving on from being complacent about that successful venture you built, that song you wrote, that act you did that everyone is talking about to the next one, from that failure has bogged you down and broken you into pieces to the next face of your life and of course, moving on from your exes. You know the last one pretty well, I’m sure.

And I use this lesson that I’d learnt from my experience in theaters, that like every good or bad act comes to an end, every high or low in life does too. And no matter how much our heart wants to stay with the part of us that we are presently, it is important for us to move on.

Learning business from Yo Yo Anda King

Egg Seller, Entrepreneur
Yo Yo Anda King
In the past 30 odd days, we’ve all seen the amount of buzz and ruckus the demonetization has created. We’ve all been in long queues, felt that sense of pride everybody we got rid of a Rs 500/Rs 1000 note, and felt miserable everytime we got one.
But what I’m going to talk about today is a ‘business case study’ of one of the thellas near my place called ‘Yo Yo Anda King’. Needless to say, he is a Yo Yo Honey Singh fan. But apart from the pretty obvious swag he has in his thella name, he does have some pretty awesome business sense to learn from, despite being not very educated.
The very next day after the decision of demonetization was announced, while everybody was afraid of the Rs 500/Rs 1000 notes, this thella owner had opened his own wallet where he was taking Rs 500 notes in advance from his customers for the andaas/omlettes they had in the coming days. But wait, what? Why would he do that? These were the metrics that he managed to solve!
Retention: People who had given a Rs 500 advance kept coming back to him for the next 15-20 days because:
1. They didn’t want to end up forgetting their balance if the money stayed with him for too long
2.They saw a prospect of getting rid of another Rs 500 note, just in case this advance got over quickly.
So people who would’ve otherwise tasted a poha, biryani or momos on different days ended up being only half boiled, bread omletted, half fry, and bhurji fans for the next few days.
Organic marketing/Referrals: People working in nearby companies ended up talking about him, and kept coming to deposit their Rs 500 advance. That’s some free marketing!
He obviously explained the above to me in layman terms. 😛
Though he had a pretty humble smartphone, he made sure he had Paytm on his phone, and the Paytm barcode on this thella the very next day! Don’t know what Paytm is? He’ll explain it, and market it to you so well that even Vijay Shekhar Sharma would go weak in his knees. The very next day, you’d see the same customer making a payment through Paytm.
Immediately after his Paytm wallet would elapse, you’d see him train people on the Justdial pay the very next day! Why Justdial pay, you ask? Because he knew the Justdial office was quite near to his thella, and the possibility of his customers using Jusdial was a lot higher. This was when the nearby thellas were finally considering having having a paytm account, but Yo Yo Anda King with all his swag and brains had already made a lot of money by then.
Learning? Speed, understanding the need of your customer, a bit of guts and adopting technology quick can take you places. “Tax customer ko bhi bharna tha, ab hum bhardenge. Fark itna, ab thoda sahi se dhanda karke bharenge”, is what he says. Oh by the way, don’t call out any other rapper’s name in front of him, he hates it.

Khushi se itna pyaar kyun karta hai tu?

Khushi se itna pyaar kyun karta hai tu,
Ek baar gam se haath mila kar toh dekh

Jeet ke itne peeche kyun pada hai tu,
Ek baar zara saa haar ke toh dekh

Khushi mehsus karne kaa Mazaa hi kya,
Agar gam kaa aansu nahi piya.

Pyaar karne aur paane ki voh ada hi kya,
Agar tanha nahi jiya

Jab mausam chaar hai, aur phool anek,
Toh khushi ko gam se zyada pyaar kyun karta hai tu,
Uss dost ko khone ke bhay se, pyaar karne se kyun darta hai tu.

Buzdil ki tarah ghut-ghut ke kyun jeeta hai,
Ek baar apni awaaz duniya ko suna kar toh dekh.

Khushi se itna pyaar kyun karta hai tu,
Ek baar gam se haath mila kar toh dekh.

Things about TVF Pitchers that you shouldn’t be swayed by

27th May 2015 – the internet was welcomed with the trailer of an online series that portrayed the Indian youth slightly differently from how Bollywood/Roadies/Splitsvilla has over the past few years. It talked of the youth that is the entrepreneur, the youth that wants to solve problems that affect you and me, and not just party and get drunk on “Chaar bottle vodka”. Little did anyone know this series by the end would take the internet by storm, and be so relatable and inspiring to the entrepreneurs, and the aspiring ones.

TVF Pitchers

Similar to everyone’s unanimous view on TVF Pitchers, I too totally loved the series! It has easily been one of the best things that has happened to the Indian entertainment industry, and I’m sure has also encouraged a lot of people to startup! But if you’re too inspired by the series and wish to startup, and get funded and live happily ever after,  think again. Because life of an entrepreneur isn’t as rosy, glamorous as it looks like. Here are a few points that the you should keep in mind, if you’re too moved by the series and immediately wish to startup like Naveen Bansal and team.

1) Most of the episodes revolved around their startup getting funded. In fact, the season ended on a happy note with their startup getting funded.
However, that’s not how it is in real startups. The startup’s  success is determined by the quality of the product, or the kind of response the company gets from its customers.
Funding is a mere external factor that helps accelerate the growth of the startup, and it shall come if your product is good!

2) The product of work was not talked about at all in the entire season. This is not how startups work really. People do give a fuck about the “What”, which is the product/service that you’re building. Focus on the product and the funding, revenue shall follow.

3) Reality check – You will never get funded, or be able to impress the investors by giving a senti conversation about you, your friends and/or the hardships you’ve faced in the due course of building your company. The only thing investors give a shit about is growth, and how much will they be able to earn on their investment. If it had been an investor for real, he would’ve funded the other startup since it would reap him more profit, and as the investor put it, he could literally own the company.

4) It’s not always going to be a happy ending to your startup. It is very probable that your startup might fail, in fact the chances of failure are way more than chances of its success. You should only go ahead with the idea if you genuinely believe in it, and are willing to put your heart and soul in it, and more importantly be willing to fail. The learning through the entire journey, shall be insane however. 🙂

Again, I reiterate that TVF Pitchers was a beautifully put forth series, and I would love to see more of such content, top notch acting and direction like this on YouTube and on my TV Screen. Keep the great working going TVF. Cheers!