Seasons change, times too.
8th August was such a day – witness to changing seasons – blessed with small raindrops.
It was also the day when Nasscom Emergeout was happening at Gurgaon.
I got an invite to attend, and decided to join.
The conference venue was Leela Kempinski Gurgaon which stands next to the Delhi-Gurgaon Toll plaza.
For me, a conference is less about condensed ‘gyaan’ and more about the little nuggets in the sessions. It is also about new connections and interesting discussions in hallways.
My experience at Nasscom EMERGEOUT was no different. I went for connections and learning – and came back with both.
Here is a brief account of who I met, what I heard and what I learnt.
Hope you enjoy reading.
Reached early and one by one met – Abhinav Sahai, Anandan Pillai (Anand penned a brief key takeaways post, so if you are short on time go check it here [If you are looking for real crack stay here ], Sairee Chahal, Jyoti Makhija, Siddartha Hegde and Rahul Dewan. We discussed about the details of the day and after a quick cup of tea – entered the hall for opening session.
Som Mittal, President Nasscom opened the Conclave with “Welcome address and Opening remarks”.
He talked about Indian tech companies is transition from the IT Services to solutions and now in the products space – and uncertainty across the global economy.
His long years of experience in domain as an entrepreneur and later at the helm of affairs of national’s numero uno body for software – added a lot of weight to words
He said, ”What happens in the back doesn’t matter, what you deliver in front that matters.” message was clear -0 despite the chaos.. Indian IT companies and innovator needs to build and deliver quality and be remarkable.
He also talked about mobile penetration being high and people using mobile phones everywhere.
As per him digital literacy shows big promise. I agree. That is why I am betting big on this space with my new start-up. More on that in one of the future posts. For now let us stay at EMERGEOUT.
He then, shared (good) news for small businesses struggling to provide insurance to their employees because of their small size.
Now every Nasscom member co, however small could get insurance cover for its employees.
Already 12,000 members are using this scheme.
Inaugural session was hosted by Krishna Kumar Natarajan (from Mindtree) fondly known as KK.
In this sessions Aditya Ghosh, Presdident – Indigo Airlines and Venky Mysore, CEO Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) were to present. They did present and shared tons of little nuggets that I came for.
KK started the sessions by talking the large untapped opportunity in mobility. He introduced Aditya as a lawyer turned entrepreneur. and that businesses can be built on simple ideas and passion.
As soon as the intro was over – Aditya got into groove with his presentation titled a “In Pursuit of excellence”
He joked that he is a lawyer who knows litle about tech and that because of being among geeks and tech entrepreneurs he brought his VP of Tech along – to answer any questions which he may not be able to answer.
He started by sharing insights about a channel and important question – “Why start a business?”
In his case the question was - Why start an airline?
His reason - Opportunity - tons of it.
In his words – India has a large, growing population with low aircraft penetration. US has 7,000 commercial aircraft for a much lower populations.
Clearly there was room was a large carrier. So much so – that If aviation industry can convert 1% of train passengers ( to air – the industry will need to double the size – overnight.
[Just to keep things in perspective - IR carries about 7,500 million passengers annually or more than 20 million passengers daily (more than a half of which are suburban passengers)]
Then he talked about the origin of the company – which Started in 1989 as Interglobe Air Transport. Indigo Airlines stared in 2006.
In June 2005, Aditya – 29-year old then – signed the largest ever order of 100 aircrafts with Airbus – worth 6.5 billion.
Indigo started operations in 2006 and in March 2007 had 1 million passengers. In March 2012 – flew 35 million passengers with a fleet strengths of 55 planes.
He then talked about creating a competitive advantage. He created it by taking lead in ordering planes in large numbers, before anyone else did.
[Airplanes have a long build up time. If you order a plane today, it will be delivered years late.]
In Aditya’s (Indigo’s) case – competitors could only get their planes once the large order he placed is delivered.
1. Indigo’s Big Objective
Low cost ≠ low quality.
He is proud to be Low Cost Carrier (LCC) and wants to remain that way.
As an LCC indigo is committed to provide – spotlessly clean interiors and widest variety of food.
Interestingly, Indigo only spends 1% of its revenues on advertising. Whereas others airlines – his competitors – spend up t 11% of their revenues on advertising. That is one reason why Indigo is the only profitable airline in India.
2. Focus on product.
Product is the biggest differentiator for Indigo.
1 out of 4 air travelers in India fly Indigo. 60,000 customers a day fly Indigo.
3. Thoughts on innovation.
180 passengers are deplaned in less than 6 minutes. It takes clockwork like precision. Turn around for every plane is 30 minutes. And there are 50% repeat customers – mostly because keeping the promise of on time.
He laid emphasis on getting the basics right.
4. The promise.
Indigo for him stands for – Low fares. On time. Courteous hassle free service.
Indigo achieves this by creating hassle free environment for employees (has been voted one of the best places to work for past many years).
It has close to 6000 employees and the lowest number of employees per aircraft in the industry.
For 50% of its employees aircraft is the office. They should feel connected and stay grounded to make it happen.
Indigo does this by instilling the sense of ownership.
Indigo does not give stock options. For them it is more about personal connection.
Indigo flies to fewer destinations than competition.
More Destinations are good for ego but bad for business.
(Note to self: beware of such decisions!)
They are obsessed about ON-TIME and use technology for being transparent.
In Aditya’s words – Indigo is the only airline in India that uses – AUTOMATED TRACKING SYSTEM to measure on-time performance (as per him other airlines uses manual system to report on-time – where it is possible to report a 10.12 am landing as 10.06 am landing.
Set yourself few goals when you start. (In August Indigo celebrated 6th Anniversary.)
How Indigo is winning through innovation? and What is innovation?
Everybody pays same fuel prices – then how to compete.
Indigo is using the scale and fast decision making as competitive advantage.
Innovation is to create unique structural advantages that can’t be copied for few years.
In Jan 2011 – to keep the competitive edge – Indigo placed a $15 billion order for a320 NEOs AIRBUS – which has better fuel efficiency In Aditya Ghosh’s words – we took risk by putting our money behind a new thing but also created an advantages. [If today a competitor places an order for an Airbus Neo - it will be delivered in 2021 (9 years later).
Till then Indigo will pay same fuel prices - but will pay for less fuel.
Interesting discussion during Q & A.
Q: How Indigo keeps costs low in a price sensitive business?
A: By efficient use of capital. By not listing and maintaining focus. In building phase it is important to look long term than Quarter on Quarter that a listed company needs to pay attention to. Indigo focuses on sucking cost and removing inefficiencies
Q: Should a company cut salaries to reduce costs?
A: Indigo does not do it. It may work in very short term but very bad for employee morale and hence for company productivity.
Venky Mysore, CEO KKR was up next.
KK introduced him as someone who he plays golf with.
Aditya (Ghosh) was all about numbers, simple business ideas and execution.
Venky was less about numbers and more about emotions, planning, connections and discipline.
He also personal experiences turned into insights, with a good dose of humour.
Venky started talking about how he came from after spending years in US to India, starting working in Insurance and then his move to sports entertainment.
“Ignorance is bliss” – came to be true in his case.
He shared a small story. That he was born in a Madrasi family and despite having played for Madras University Cricket Team and Madras Ranji Trophy team – his Father pushed him to study – which he did and in the hindsight thought to be good decision.
Soon after he moved to Mumbai from US, he became part of Young President Organization (YPO). Then as luck will have it, connected with Jay Mehta (better half of Juhi Chawla) and part owner of KKR. Soon he found himself at Shakrukh Khan’s home discussing about KKR.
He said that KKR’s poor show in past 3 editions of IPL had made the owners tired and they let him roll in his style – which worked eventually.
He chose to keep himself away from camera based on his wife’s advice. In his words, “I sticks to what she says”.
He said that it is difficult to decipher a formula about success but if there was one in his case – it was passion, vision, preparation and execution.
At this point he shared the story of CLIFF YOUNG, an Aussie farmer – who at 61 decided to run an ultra-marathon (1000 miles) trying to break a world record.
He failed but next year (1983) attempted another world record (600 miles run between Sydney and Melbourne).
Earlier in life, he has never trained for a marathon and his conditioning and preparation from running after cattle on his 2000 acres family farm – and continued work spells – lasting 2 to 3 nights without sleep.
What is surprising is that he won the ultra-marathon – believe it or not – by a margin – of 1-1/2 day.
Reason: the professional ultra marathoners – who are obviously very fit run for 18m hours and sleep for 6. But Cliff Young went on for days without sleep and this worked as a boon for him.
1. Not knowing about a new venture/space is OK. You can still do it.
2. It’s all in mind.
3. Ignorance is bliss
Not knowing enough was a big bonus for Venky. Because of his ignorance of this space – he delved deep into the act
Moving ahead, he shared a FORMULA.
1. SUCCESS = Desire + Acting Knowledge* + Action
*Acting knowledge – learn enough to be the best you can.
[This reminded me of Marc Cuban.. who read every manual , every magazine in - then emerging computer hardware market space when he was trying to make a mark.]
Venky Mysore is a big fan of MONEYBALL – the book which has been made into a movie of the same name. It is about decision making.
2. Preparation is very important.
Venky hired a Chennai software firm to create bidding software and created lost of decision trees. Decided to bid for players around a player – not like 4 batsmen and 4 bowlers..
Did extensive research on players and asked advice about emerging stars who no one was noticing. decided on players and took risk and bid high and – spent $5 million of $9 million purse of for first 3 players. Because of the research KKR was able to hire — now star player f- or base price of $100,000 and $50,000.
People like JAMES PATTERSON who now plays for South Africa – in all 3 forms.
3. Culture and Promises.
KORBO, LORBO, JEETBO.
Realized that – with this he can’t make a promise to the fan or customer; because in sports it is not possible to win every match.
A change was required – which he did.
KKR’s promise - It’s about attitude (ZIDDI/ZID). We may fall down but we will get up again.
4. Show discipline to get others in groove.
Shahrukh has said in a documentary made by Munni Nasreen Kabir, “I am always late in life”. Venky Mysore also shared that Sharukh is always late. He is late for everything
Venky shared that for an 8pm IPL match bus has to leave with players at 6.00pm. Shahrukh came to greet and hug players at after 6.00pm. Later when saw everybody reaching early he also starting coming at 6.
5. Relationships/ People are VERY Important.
Before IPL finals KKR created a video with messages from the family members of all players of KKR and managed to show it at the team meeting. Voice over was by Shahrukh.
Everyone was moved.. and this obviously crated as connect.
6. UNDERSTAND winners takes is all – 2nd place – no one remembers.
Question and Answers
Q: How did you mange ego with superstars in team? How did you make sure that stars didn’t outshine others?
A: He said that they left some players because thought that they won’t fit in. When you have - QUIET LEADERS – like Jacques Kallis in team who are super humble even after being legends. When others see them they also behave.
Before the break into there are a small ceremony to facilitate Emerge 50.
Over tea I bumped into my friend Paras Chopra, and also briefly connected with Indus Khaitan and Prashant Singh.
After tea break we went in for panel discussion.
There was two concurrent panel discussions scheduled. I sat through the one focusing on CLOUD, didn’t like it much and moved into other panel discussion.
This was titled The Tipping Point: The Big Business Decisions by successful new-age CEOs and how they made a difference.
Following entrepreneurs were part of the panel.
- Prakash Rane, CEO – ABM KnowledgeWare India (moderated)
- Sharad Sanghi, CEO -NetMagic Solutions
- Rammohan Sundaram, CEO – NetworkPlay
- Suresh Sambandam,CEO – OrangeScape, were on stage.
I found this interesting.
Some of the most valuable insights came for me from Rammohan Sundaram – who in his own words “quit yahoo in Sept 2008 and started on oct 15, 2008.”
- They started as brand Ad network
- Rechisrtened as “performance network”
- Got acquired in 3 years – by Bertelsmann one of world’s largest media group.
- Now known as fastest growing media company in the country.
The panel members also talked about “Sabeer Bhatia Syndrome” – [how much you lose - when you sell?]
Ram’s reason to sell – we sold because I was not the only one involved but there were 40 other families (of NetworkPlay team members) also involved.
At one point it was a make or break decision for Network Play – when they had 3 months of cash left – and LinkedIn has own its own entered into ad sales – then he reached out to adtech to become their partner for India. The deal took 7 months to come through. But network play was saved.
HOW I HIRE
Do you have the urge to prove
Figure out who is the dark horse
Rammohan -> Do not be scared. (You will fail if you are scared)
Started netmagic in 1998.
Didn’t have access to capital then rode the dot com boom to land investment from Exodus founders.
How we saved during the crash – “.. because we did not blow money on billboards in 2001.”
Focused on providing value and maximizing revenue per square feet (of data center).
Later (2008 – 2009) entered into — INFRASTRCUTURE AS A SERVICE – and became India’s market leader.
NTT acquired 74% stake in Netmagic.
Started OrangeScape in 2004.
We used to have enterprise customers like Unilever paying 25 lakhs for a license then took a bet on going “platform as a service” on top on Google’s platform.
For that we had to take short term hit in revenue – and rewrite 0.5 million lines of Java code into Python.
This bet played big time.
Organic growth is good but when you have repeatable short term cash flow.. it makes sense to acquire mind share and market share.
Mr. Prakash Rane moderated the discussion and brought out interesting points to weave it all together.
Of the next set of panel discussion I chose to witness “THE CHANGING FACE OF CONSUMER CENTRIC BUSINESS.”
- Troy malone – Asia Head, Evernote
- Manish Vij – Co-founder, VUN network
- Meena Ganesh – CEO, Pearson Education Services
- Aloke Bajpai – CEO, iXiGo (moderator)
The discussion happened in bits and pieces but for reader’s benefit, I have noted it one by one for each speaker.
His biggest challenges at Evernote was dealing with India’s culture. In India people call to understand how to use Evernote.
Business for them comes through recommendations and word of mouth. 50-60k new users worldwide every day. 1500 in India every day.
Evernote spends money on PR.
Focus on creating a solid product. Once you create an extraordinary product with mass adoption, platform owners will do free advertising for you. He shared an example - If you walk into an Apple store you will see Evernote logo around – Evernote does not pay for it. For him, marketing begins with a great product. I agree.
She shared the TutorVista story. Tutor Vista has 30,000 customers. Uses internet to acquire and deliver. All its customers are in US.
US Market is large with – 60 million (K12) and 20 million (Higher Education) potential customers.
Used PR to drive initial spikes and then SEO/SEM and UI iterations to hook consumers to its service.
She also talked about putting eggs in different baskets.
They have invested in Bigbasket.com – and are doing hyper local (BTL) marketing to promote it.
Also into jewelry ecommerce with bluestone.com – and using celebrity marketing for it.
He talked about – building an Indian customer brand.
Paid marketing is the easiest things to do. better to explore additional channels like building a brand through partnerships. Tie up with credit card companies and loyalty marketing companies.
He also suggested doing A/B TESTING and SEO/SEM based on analysis.
As per him, every company should focus on web analytics and business analytics.
You need to develop an eye for detail and analyze
Q and A
Revolved around – Life time-value of the customer.
In Aloke Bajpai’s words – give little taste of the game and charge upfront. People can turn off subscription they do not want
Q: How to find a good marketing channel?
A: Manish Vij responded that find inspiration, and do what is working for others to begin.
After a quick lunch.
We reached part of the venue where tweet up was scheduled.
Got to connect with Ajay Jain there and an interesting discussion came up – about PAY WHAT YOU WANT model.
Along with Abhinav, Sid Hegde, Myself – couple of others tweeps also joined the discussion.
Soon it was time for the next session of the day.
I had to rush for an important meeting – so missed couple of sessions in between but got back in time for,
Keynote by Google India MD, Rajan Anandan.
He started with exciting Google glasses video.
3 Key insights with inputs from my friend Abhinav Sahai.
- SAAS products will be driven by great design.
- Video, bandwidth, video analytics, social, are the 4 trends to look out for in the future.
- IT services companies, go hire mobile app developers, says Anandan. India is a mobile-first country.
He sees future of computing in use of visual computing and AI. It is not in customer feeding keyboard with data.
He suggested the audience to build products that are friction-less.
To quote him, “I do not want to go to your website and search. I just want to say – 8 pm dinner, restaurants.”
Next up was AppFame Awards Showcase. It recognized 6 apps. Details here.
The one i liked was Game your Video.
Rahul Shetty representing Global Delight, the makers of the app asked the audience, “Why photos aree more popular than videos?”
In his words – the answer was – because it is really easy to play with photos. Not so much with videos. The app “Game Your Video” is about solving the video problem.
It makes video editing so easy that even a six-year-old can have fun editing videos and create very entertaining ones. The app brings users a totally new way of interaction while treating videos. The UI is innovative and the technology used is seen for the first time in the space of motion and audio.
Then there was this guy who showcased TXTLater, for Blackberry users – it has got good press worldwide and has seen 1 million+ downloads.
I stayed back for the unconference about “Finding your co-founder”.
Rajaendra Pawar, Co-founder NIIT said that co-founders should complement each other and fill the gaps.
He talked about his co-founder Vijay Thadani, who has a keen eye for finance and that he himself gets excited by looking at new things. Now after thirty years they can’t do without each other.
One of the attendees Nalin Savara, said that your co-founder should also have same time horizon as you. If you are in it for the long haul then it helps that your co-founder think that way.
Once it was I said goodbye to my new and old friends there.
All in all an interesting day of learning and connections.
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