Monday, June 6, 2016

Will business books get replaced by abstracts/summaries anytime soon?

As a subscriber to book summary service Blinkist( and a past one of Getabstract), I believe in the view that one can get the maximum out of business abstracts rather than read the full book. Reasons for this are

  1. Much crisper-5 pages vs 300-500 pages
  2. Cheaper-Perhaps not in emerging markets where the price($10) is enough to buy 2 or more business books to keep, but certainly for developing markets
  3. Time-Saves a lot of time
  4. Format-Digital format and mobile/tablet friendly-easier than paper

Cons against this is
  1. Usually 'Cloud' and unable to download-so you lose access after subscription ends-you do NOT own the summary/asbtract-Access is not permanent
  2. The vivid stories/anecdotes which help remember otherwise dry concepts/lessons are not captured in the summary, so retention could be lower
  3. Gradually one might lose the ability to read longer text, and therefore lose the pleasure of classics or books like that of Adam Smith/Mises
  4. Book summaries may not be for the 'long tail' which one may still need to buy
While the market is up for disruption, the services may not continue in their present subscripton based form due to competition from Kindle Unlimited-This allows you to read the entire book. Also, many enterprising folks are creating unlicensed(?) summaries of popular non fiction books which are included under Kindle Unlimited, and hence at zero marginal cost for the reader

I would say overall that the business book market is inefficient, but if the prices are lowered or if unlimited book libraries continue, then people would still prefer to skim/speed read the book than resort to an expensive summary. 

Meena Ganesh 100% successful serial entrepreneur tag fading away with Portea?

'Able was I ere I saw Elba'-this quote attributed to Napolean, indicates that every successful person eventually meets their Waterloo. In this case, Portea seems to be the one crack in the success story of Ms Ganesh, who otherwise has a great record( They purchased the firm in 2013, and scaled it up getting capital from Accel even as late as Sep-15. However, this did not halt them from being among the firms who withdrew campus offers as reported widely in the media( While the other companies here may be run by first time entrepreneurs or have burnt through funding, that is not the case for this firm with such excellent management. The couple have ensured profitable exits for all their portfolio firms so far.

However, there were indications that this was coming. For example, when my aunt needed a full time medical attendent, another aunt(a qualified MD) thought to use Portea, but given the quality of the attendants and the shoddy customer service, she repented her decision since the service did not even match basic standards, forget justifying its premium pricing. So given the operational issues in the firm, cancellation of offers is just an outcome, indicating underlying business issues.

One hopes that the company can be salvaged, however present situations do not seem good. Read more about the company at the below link
Meena is MD & CEO of Portea Medical, India’s largest and fastest growing home healthcare company, which she co-founded in July 2013. With 4500+ employees and operations across 24 cities in India and 4 cities in Malaysia, Portea ( brings in-home to patients the full range of geriatric, chronic, post-operative care as well as allied healthcare services. Meena is leading the charge as the company expands to 50 cities over the next 2 years providing affordable and convenient healthcare solutions.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Why Indian startups suck at customer service compared to Western peers

In these days of Startup India, homegrown startups can do little wrong-except maybe when they delay joining offers to students hired from campus. So this

Let me give a few examples

  1. Flipkart vs Amazon: Amazon is WAY easier to contact using multi channels-you can write an email after logging into the account, or call or chat. They respond quickly and helpfully. It is not that they are pushovers or that they bend policy-for example when I wanted to convert an ongoing monthly subscription into an annual subscription to save money, they said I need to cancel the monthly one first and then take the annual one. But when it comes to resolving a genuine customer grievance(as opposed to a wish), they are unmatched. For instance, I ordered L'oreal Kajal eyeliner for my wife, which got over in 2mths vs normal usage of 5mths. When I pointed this out through email, Amazon did not reply but directly placed a free replacement order. This is customer delight indeed. In contrast, Flipkart takes time to respond to emails, and is not too well known for timely or helpful resolution. While Flipkart's hiring of people from customer centric industries may change this trend, I believe Flipkart has a long way to go here
  2. Uber vs Ola: While Ola is more tuned to the Indian marker(for example Launching Ola Share before Uber Pool in India, and launching Ola Outstation), 
    1. its customer service is slower than Uber and can be reached through a NON toll free number. Whereas Uber has a super helpful drop down menu where customers can select their grievance category, and drill down to the sub type. In case of a common complaint of overcharging/poor route/wrong distance, Uber compares the fare to its database and estimate of the best fare, and adjusts if any difference. For example, the fare from my home to Mumbai Airport Terminal 2 is around Rs 220 by UberGo. When a driver missed a turn leading to a detour of ~5km and 15min, Uber corrected the fare by ~60. However, they do not do this for cases where the distance is small, or the best route was not taken. For the same complaint type, Uber can resolve it faster and better than Ola, who seem wedded to a manual process itself. 
    2. However, Uber is NOT free of murk-it has introduced a long distance surcharge in Hyderabad where distances over 15km are charged at 2x the normal rate. This is quite unfair and not shown on the app, still they have done this. Still, considering it is an aberration, I can forgive it. 
    3. Credit Card integration has not yet happened in Ola, so if the wallet balance runs out, one needs to pay in cash which is an irritant. I suppose this is a business call to minimize credit risk, however this is an irritant and does not leave the option to dispute fare components such as toll. 
  3. Quikr not getting involved into post delivery complications such as refund or escrow balances. I had ordered a sofa set which was delivered to the society watchman(hence I could not reject it on the spot) however this was a kit involving assembly which the seller had not mentioned, and refused to help in. While Quikr initially said I need to solve it with the seller, when I raised the threat of credit card chargeback, they started getting involved and trying to persuade the seller. However, they STILL released the payment to the seller, who thankfully saw the light and agreed to refund the amount. Lesson learnt: Make payment through credit cards so that you can chargeback the amount in case of fraud. This is where bank accounts and wallets are absolutely of NO use. 
  4. PAYTM nearly non existent customer care-Very tardy to respond to emails/tickets, and no phone number worth the name. One of the worst customer care processes I have seen-if your problem does not fall within their defined types, you wait 4 days for a response, and then some drone on the other end dutifully raises a query(instead of calling), and then extends the whole loop again. 
How can you protect yourself in this scenario?
  1. Transact preferably through credit cards so that you can chargeback if needed
  2. Prefer websites who offer an escrow mechanism-for example fulfilled by Amazon
  3. Be comfortable writing detailed emails to minimize to and fro