Date archives "October 2009"

Unexpected Connections

I was helping a friend out by getting him some quotations on certain products he wanted to import from China. During my conversations with some of the suppliers, I was referred to a person who was based in Singapore and could be of help to my friend. When I got in touch with the person in Singapore, it turned out she was planning on entering the same business as my friend, and was looking for people to partner with! I got both of them in touch with each other and wish them the best of success in future endeavors. It is really fascinating how a cold enquiry could turn into so much more.

The world has a uncanny way of responding to our thoughts. It all depends on how badly we want to achieve the goals we set for yourself. The stronger our desire to push ourselves to reach them, the easier it becomes! This is not the first time something like this has happened. As it so happens one of my portfolio companies InnovoGS was established through such unexpected connections as well.

What it all comes down to is, we do have to know what we are looking for in life. You must at least have a vague idea even if you have not been able to crystalize it fully. Once we have this powerful image in our mind, it becomes easier to chart a path and come across people who will help you in this journey. The power of networking must never be underestimated!!

Living in Fear

I met with three individuals today. All three were extremely pessimistic in their views of the way their life was progressing. They felt powerless, and had convinced themselves that there was no way that they could possibly bring and make a difference to their lives. They had essentially given in to their fears, and thrown in the towel. Life’s problems had won, and they had openly accepted defeat. Given that none of these three gentlemen were particularly young, they had also developed internal mechanisms to block out all alternative views on their current situation.

It was very sad to see. I am generally a very optimistic person, and do my best to always see the glass half full, rather than half empty. I refuse to give in to fears of the “what if’s” and “I can’t”. Life is too short to live in a state of fear and thus miss out on making each moment in your life count. I do believe everyone has their share of problems, as also that everyone has choices on how to deal with them.

It is easy to give up. It is easy to complain. It is easy to give in to your fears. To be able to stand up for yourself, live the life you want, takes courage, determination and patience. To stand up to be counted is definitely not the easiest of routes to take. However, it is one from which you will most likely derive maximum internal satisfaction, regardless of the outcome! We have to free ourselves from imaginary crutches we create for ourselves, which in turn paralyze us. If there is something that is limiting you from reaching your true potential, find out how best you can overcome it. Perhaps, the changes you bring to your life may end up freeing many others who need it as well.

Retaining Customers

If your product or service appeals to a large demographic of users, it is more than likely that many of them value the features and benefits of your product/service differently. For example, if you sell an enterprise software to both schools and banks, I am sure the emphasis the bank pays to the security aspect of the software, is far greater than what schools may require. When situations like this arise, we cannot develop across-the-board customer retention and management strategies.

The first step you need to take in such situations is, list down the types of industry verticals you cater to currently. Next, if possible, do a brief survey of samples within each vertical regarding the features and benefits those customers value most. This will help you create a definitive list of items, which will in turn help you develop specific customer retention strategies. I have seen this simple step do wonders for companies in helping them boost returning customer rates.

Customer segmentation forces to you to drill down to the specifics of what your customers truly need and value. By placing one blanket over all of your customers, creates massive holes through which defection takes place, often, at an alarming rate. Remember, it costs a lot more to get a new customer than to maintain a better relationship with your current one.

How Much Longer?

For my business to succeed?

For me to achieve my goals?

To realize my dreams?

Patience is a virtue commonly found in entrepreneurs, luckily! I read the story behind the Success of Guitar Hero recently, the story seems to be a repeat! I was under the impression that it was developed by a young company who found early success with their first game title. However, after reading the article linked above, I realized that overnight success stories are actually very rare. Most things one views as lucky ‘first time hits’, are usually the culmination of years of work and struggle.

There will always be exceptions to this, as is the case with everything else in life. These exceptions to the rule is what fuels enthusiasm, and willingness for us to explore different avenues. More often than not, the journey of an entrepreneur is one of hardship and struggle, until, they place themselves in the right place at the right time. As I have written in previous posts, to find and reach that special spot and niche takes years of experience , which then has to be addressed with a solution that is currently unavailable.

Eventually, only those with the patience and perseverance to succeed, last. Many become disillusioned along the way, and retreat to safer comfort zones. In the end, it is not about how much time it will take, it is about how much you want to achieve something extraordinary in your life.

Keeping it Consistent

The business world is full of consistency measures ranging from ISO certification to six sigma implementations. In essence, we have to do our best to develop systems that enable us to provide a certain level of service or product, that is consistent in the long term. When a startup has reached a stage where it has released it’s product, or offered it’s service, an effort to standardize the processes involved must be worked at . Creating consistency and standardizing a product, is relatively more straight forward than bringing standards to service based businesses.

Running a service based business requires standardization processes to be created based on customer experiences. For instance, say your business provides consulting services in the realm of marketing. In this scenario every new customer has to be taken through similar processes to understand their needs and requirements. Next, the level of service that is delivered to the client, during and after the sales process should be meticulously tracked and paid attention to. Processes such as invoicing, feedback, reports, follow ups etc must all be standardized to a certain degree. This helps create an internal structure for your business which will be of great assistance when your business begins to scale.

Setting business systems and structures into place is not the most exciting of tasks. However, huge benefits will accrue from them after they have been created, for the long term. They also help create benchmarks which can continuously be improved and expanded upon.

Want it or Need it?


When setting up a startup, the above is one of the first few questions that should be answered. Is the product/service that you plan to provide, addressing a customer’s want, or need? We do all however have our own vision of the customer’s wants and needs. This is really not something that we should presume to know and this important data should be obtained directly from prospective customers. This discovery process will help us to understand where a customer’s wants are originating from. For example, when a customer says he wants access to all his customer’s information on his mobile phone, we need to explore the why. It is in these follow up questions that we learn about the actual needs of the customer, which get subsequently translated into wants.

It is imperative that as a new business we address actual needs, rather than the “nice to have products/services”. When there is no urgent requirement that is being fulfilled by your product/service, it is that much harder to convince your prospects to buy it. This also places a massive burden on the limited resources a startup has to work with, and can be detrimental to it’s success. It is hence advisable and important before starting any new venture, to determine whether your business is actually catering to a need in the market place.

Are you Getting Distracted?

Getting distracted is easy, I used to do so a lot. Over time however, I have manged to drastically reduce my distraction time ! The key factor for this change has been clarity of my personal goals. This was the missing component in the struggle. I had goals, but they were not clear and specific enough. Such goals become a challenge to maintain focus on. When you do actually find that purpose and clarity of purpose, one begins to see life in an entirely different and new light.

Now, whenever I find myself getting distracted from my primary goals, I ask myself… “Am I doing something that moves towards my goals, or away from them?” This applies to new consulting assignments, investment opportunities, networking opportunities etc. The inability to focus on core objectives does tend to leave one lost about the purpose and direction of life and half hearted attempts result in average, or below average performances.

If you have committed to something, and it is aligned with where you want to go, then do your best to bring a laser like focus on making sure it gets done to the best of your abilities. This is advice that is passed out fairly commonly, it is solid advice, however, it is extremely difficult to follow. The first step is the challenge…..figuring out what you want in life….

Managing Touchpoints

With the internet and technology proliferation, businesses need to manage more customer touch-points than they have ever had to before. From websites to facebook groups, to twitter, to more traditional ones such as retail outlets and sales representatives, there is a lot to manage. A while back I spoke about the need for consistency in the service we provide our customers, touch-points are specific areas which need concentration. The power of the internet and technology is a double edged sword. It gives us a huge levels of exposure, at the same time, it can be the reason for our downfall.

Customers expect more, and have the ability to switch vendors, products or services, at the drop of a hat when their expectations are not met. All this points to ensuring that a business identify each one of it’s touch points, starting from your website to the phone and email, by far some of the most visible and accessible touch points in the world today. Attach certain metrics to these touch points, and constantly ask for feedback on improving them.

Do your best to control the number of touch-points you open up to customers. If you start a facebook page, twitter profile and a blog, make sure that you have thought it through, and that necessary resources are allocated towards bringing them up to the standards of the other points. Given that first impressions are formed quickly and often strongly, do everything you can to meet and exceed potential customer expectations.

The Lowest Price Always Wins

This is one of those myths that prompts many startups to create incorrect pricing structures right from the word Go. This in turn has a domino effect on the rest of the business, since it does not have the capability to produce the level of profit required to make the business viable. The fact of the matter is,  having the lowest price does not always guarantee success. That is very far from the truth.

Think about it yourself, think about your personal purchasing decisions in the recent past. Were you presented with opportunities to purchase a lower priced product, but opted to go with something at a higher price? What were the reasons behind not choosing the lowest priced product?

Factors such as product design, quality of after sales service, purchasing experience, feedback from your peers, budgetary constraints and many other factors that culminate to form our final decision come to mind. All of these factors can be leveraged to provide a business with a substantial premium on it’s product/service as compared to the competition’s that is priced lower.

Lowering your price, and planning to make a profit by increasing sales volume, is in most cases not an optimal strategy. It position’s your business in the mind of the customer as a low cost vendor, along with the negative associations that come with this positioning. Think carefully about your pricing strategy. Remember, it is far easier to bring down prices rather than raise them in the future.

Broken Macbook Air Hinge



Today started off as just another day. I opened my laptop in the morning, answered some emails, got my itinerary for the day and got ready for some meetings. As I closed my laptop, I heard a crack. I opened my notebook again and though everything looked alright, upon closing it again I noticed it was not closing completely anymore. Quite disturbed I immediately started to search online for some answers & details, only to find that this is a common problem and has occurred on many of the early 1st generation versions of the notebook.

There are a ton of great resources out there. This blog post really helped:

MacBook Air – Damaged Hinges – A little too fragile….

After reading it however, I did not feel too good, I had recently experienced exorbitant Apple after sales support costs with my Macbook Air Fan Issue, a few months ago.

Subsequently I came across this Apple Knowledge Base Article and breathed a sigh of relief.

Heading over to the Apple support center now. Will keep this blog post updated on the developments about how they are going to solve this problem.


13/10 2pm: Dropped my laptop off at the service center Epi Center @ Orchard. They confirmed that Apple was recalling broken hinges but only on certain lots.  Mostly first generation ones. My fingers are crossed that mine will be in one of those lots. 4-5 days without the notebook is going to be tough. Will keep this blog updated on the developments.

16/10 2pm: Picked up my laptop all fixed and was included in the recall program. So my laptop now is essentially new since they replaced the entire LCD component. Great service by Sapura Technologies who was the authorized service provider which I used. Apologies for the delays in meetings and emails over the last few days. Aim to get on top of things by the end of today.

19/10 2pm:  LCD started flickering and needed to be given back for repairs. This is going to be another tough week.

23/10 4pm: LCD replaced yet once again. Fingers crossed that all stays well.