Category Archives: Business

8 priorities that shape your career decision

My decision to leave L&T was reactive. While I evaluated the opportunity using some criteria, the move itself wasn’t planned. As overwhelming as career planning is, it is important get started. Start with a long-term vision, break it down to define short-term milestones, and then come up with an action plan. I did this exercise with my entire team and it was all worth the effort – everyone had found enough challenges and was working towards a personal goal. It also lead to 0 attrition. Action items will usually be along the lines of enhancing your toolkit, business acumen and people skills. It could also mean updating your resume. And it could well demand getting out of your comfort zone to meet those goals.

I feel associating ranks to one’s priorities and analyzing quantitatively really helps trade-off between opportunity cost and risk. I’ve used it not only with job offers, but also when looking at houses, and funny enough, my life partner. Remember, everyone has different needs and priorities. The list below is how I look at choices – not necessarily in that order. You might need to tweak it for yourself – download or view the spreadsheet online.

1. Opportunity & Toolkit

  • Enhances your toolkit?
  • Offers challenges, opportunities to learn?
  • Novelty*? A new domain / technology / vertical / market
  • Gives access to good mentors & a network?
  • Opens new avenues in the future**?
  • Offers better title***? Consider position in the organization hierarchy, competition
  • Offers a better role? Influence v/s Authority, Leadership
    * Novelty alone shouldn’t be a driver
    ** Don’t overrate future prospects when starting your career
    *** Opt for a rationalized, industry-wide title

2. Goals & PassionSource: runnersgoal.com

  • Makes best use of your passion?
  • Gets you a step closer to a future goal?
  • Aligns with personal interests – wealth, network, travel?
  • Gives a meaning, purpose to your life?

3. Risks

  • Leaving your comfort zone?
  • Chances of failing in the new role?
  • Relocating to a new country/city?
  • Could this be short-term? Changing jobs too often?
  • Employment contract? Notice period?
  • Is your gut sounding an alarm?
    * Answering No means low risk, high score
    ** Taking no action also has its own risk

Continue reading 8 priorities that shape your career decision

#RELOOKUP – Rationalizing Housing’s emotional appeal

Ever since I’ve had a wifemy only one – from the advertising arena, I’ve developed a keen eye for commercials & hoardings. If you’ve been in Mumbai in the last month or so, there is no way you have missed the myriad of Housing.com banners extending for miles. Touching emotions is the magic bullet to successful campaigns in the Indian market. Housing did just that, and I feel it succeeded. But when I visited the portal, I felt it lacked the means to realize the dreams the hoardings had shown me, albeit a slick user interface.

Here is what I thought would’ve helped kick-start the #LOOKUP journey and rationalize the emotional appeal.

See nothing? View the presentation on SlideShare
Header image: Sharad Madiman / Gaurav Prakash

 

3 reasons for e-commerce to go mobile-only

A couple of weeks back, Myntra announced it was closing its web-shop to focus on a mobile-only strategy. With Myntra’s app-based sales already at 60%, it is now aiming at 90%. Soon after, its parent and India’s largest e-commerce site, Flipkart, confirmed similar plans for the next year. Why are  eCommerce giants moving from a mobile-first to mobile-only strategy? Here are the top reasons for having users on the mobile platform – all of which directly impact the bottom line.

1. Customer acquisition & retention

With penetration in India expected to reach 45% by 2020, mobile-only is a flawless strategy to tap into the next generation of eShoppers. A single page m-site is enough to redirect (or force) users to move the existing user base to an app. Comparing products across individual apps is painful. Unless someone comes up with a comparison app, that can launch individual apps for detail, users are likely to stick to a single app. Achieving such a mindshare and stickiness is much harder to do on the web.

2. Insight for direct marketing

Once an app is installed, keeping track of consumer behaviour – usage, shopping times, interests, conversion, etc – is very easy. With registered users, additional demographic information is available which together with predictive analysis can be used to generate personalized suggestions. Push notifications allow strong, direct interaction with the user. In addition to suggestions, it can be used to communicate offers and remind inactive users of abandoned carts, without the fear of getting stuck in spam folders. With direct access to the user, spend on ads & affiliate marketing can be reduced, which otherwise shrinks margins by 8-20%.

3. Cost savings & increased sales

Once developed, apps are cheaper to maintain and can scale faster than the web front and avoid  scaling issues like with the Big Flipkart sale. It also helps deliver better user experiences, optimized to generate sales. With users connected 24×7 via mobile, apps allow users to shop on-the-go. It also makes bundling, up-selling, cross-selling, and generating repeat business much easier. Direct access to users saves 8-20% of margins otherwise lost on ads & affiliate marketing, driving the customer retention cost to a minimum.

Driving consumer passion to “Make In India”

MakeInIndia’s success at the Hannover Messe has been the talk of the town for a while. And truly so, it has made every Indian proud of the country’s vision. While the program is primarily meant to transform India into a manufacturing-driven economy, I do not see why it cannot be extended to everything we make in India – whether for export or domestic use.

All through my travels in Australia, I couldn’t ignore the promotion of products made in Australia, by Australian owned businesses – right down to bread and water.

Promotion of products made in Australia
Promotion of products made in Australia

Population is a double-edged sword. While population shrivels available resources, it itself is an important resource in industrialization. And India can use this abundant resource to its advantage, to make #MakeInIndia a reality. For this, I think it is key Continue reading Driving consumer passion to “Make In India”

Living in a metaconscious state

Each one of us keeps waxing and waning in the cyclic pattern called life. How we deal with extremes – the high and low points of life as we call them – is crucial to how well we get on to the next wave. The high points risk of making us rude, while the lows can be depressing. I’m not against emotions or letting them flow; but trouble is when emotions take over logic and lowers consciousness down to the individualist level.

I must’ve developed logical reasoning pretty early on. But I do remember becoming emotionally aware as I connected with more and more people over teenhood. More recently, I began training my mind to be self-aware – basically keeping a constant check on emotions to alarm the brain of a possible shift in the emotional equilibrium. Experts call this cognitive monitoring or being in the state of integral consciousness.

With this, my goal is to be fully conscious to count lemons as they come, and make my best attempt to make lemonade. I’m continually adding recipes of wisdom to improve the conversion rate. But at least, whenever a situation excites, perplexes, or angers me, I remind myself that the time has come! To Continue reading Living in a metaconscious state

Engage in one-on-ones & motivate your team with this Trello board

After a lot of reading & thinking, I came up with the idea of a simple Trello board to help me conduct effective one-on-one meetings with my team, and to plan each team member’s growth. This is the boilerplate that I could quickly replicate for each team member using  Trello’s “Copy Board…” feature. My team has been using it since last October and they’ve found it really helpful to communicate their achievements, issues and most importantly, to plan their growth.

Thanks to them, its now mature enough to help other managers better engage with their teams.  The boilerplate board is now public so you can easily copy & build on top of it. Here is a sample board showing real-world use. Get started by copying the boilerplate, and let me know how it works or how we can improve it.

Boilerplate (Get started by copying) | Real-world example

Motivation/Idea

My one-on-one pattern has greatly evolved over the last 4 years that I’ve managed teams. Starting naively by tracking work,  it now leaves the daily stuff out and instead focuses on the individual itself. When my travel increased, I felt the need for something online to retain the connect. I believe in transparency and I hate secret dossiers; I wanted a platform where we both have the same view of the relationship, which becomes the single version of truth for all discussion. Also, since it was their plan, I wanted my team to have access even when they decide to move on.

I’ve got inspiration from a lot of sources: blogs, surveys & talks I’ve participated in, etc. Thanks to all!

Board Structure

There’s enough on the board for either of you to take interest. It helps drive strategy, but still track tactical stuff; stuff that’s important for the individual’s growth, and the manager’s. Continue reading Engage in one-on-ones & motivate your team with this Trello board

The plight of business travel

I would usually write personal travelogues titled ‘A day in Thimpu‘. But I’d rather use something like ‘Singapore in a day’ when writing about business travel. The pun, only to demystify business travel along with the craziness & hazards that surrounds it. As soon as one steps in IT, the first thing they want is to get onsite and I felt the same way. But the excitement only lasts the first few trips. This one is about one such trip to Singapore last month, where I took a late night flight after a day’s work, and headed straight to a meeting on landing. I’ve done such meetings multiple times, in every direction, in every continent, and have kind of mastered it.

Stretching out
Stretching out

Since I don’t fly business (and luck never favors an upgrade), I try opting for an emergency row seat. I have a trolley bag that levels Continue reading The plight of business travel

1-page resume that says it all

The last time I redesigned (not updated) my resume was 2009. Since then, my understanding of ease-of-use, information architecture & win-loss has grown several fold. Late last year I realized that my resume looks archaic and needs a revamp.

The need was to create something that was:

  • information rich yet not cluttered
  • comprehensible yet not funky
  • likely to get past through the recruiter’s clutter.

Several opinions & tweaks later, I finally published a release candidate that I wanted to share. Yes, sharing definitely looses the competitive advantage at a PM opening, but what use is creativity that’s kept to yourself. I hope this bit on the design rationale helps all.

Single-page resume that says it all!
Single-page resume that says it all!

The importance of Page 1

It’s a no-brainer how crucial the first page is to recruiters, considering their daily swim in the resume swarm. The key was to summarize everything that mattered to them on Page 1, while deferring details to following pages. More importantly, it also acts as a printable summary  Continue reading 1-page resume that says it all

Don’t be desperate to crash time

Everyone in the software industry, has at some point of the other, been part of a delayed project. The result is often a war room where all the big shots put their heads together to save face. Imagine one such meeting where everyone is focussed on crashing time. Management is willing to compromise margins and the project manager has been given the authority to do anything it takes to deliver the project sooner.

All eyes are on the development team to see what they can do to expedite. Desperate, the project manager thinks he has an offer the Dev manager can’t refuse. He takes pride in offering to add more resources to the project. The Dev manager, however sane otherwise, goes ballistic on hearing this and yells out: ‘9 Women Can’t Make a Baby in a Month’. There is a moment of silence. Then, the noobs giggle, the big shots calm down and the PM walks out of the room.

9 mothers can't make a baby in a month
Courtesy: piedtype.files.wordpress.com

This is Brooks’s law, and every software engineer gets exposed to this mantra/joke – whichever way you take it – in the very first years on the job. If Pressman was as bold as Fred Brooks, he would’ve added it to his Software engineering bible. This is 100% true Continue reading Don’t be desperate to crash time

Things to carry when you quit your job

There is so much talk about how to go about quitting your job, but there is such little focus on what you should take with you after you’ve quit your job. I’m not asking you to violate policies or steal data; but just reminding you to carry stuff that belongs to you which is going to come handy in the future.

From the payroll system:

What to pack in your box?
What to pack in your box?
  1. Copies of last 6 salary slips
    If HR/Admin co-operates, get them stamped with the company seal. This helps if you’re still looking for a job. You should also look for any Loss-of-Pay (LOP) days in there (see below).
  2. Form 16s for the years you’ve been with the company
    This has to be on your file! It is mandatory to process loans, and also required for visas and insurance at times. If not available in your online HRMS, Finance or HR will surely have a copy.
  3. Copy of the Tax slip for the current year
    This highlights the heads under which you were paid and how much tax was deducted. This will be a life-saver when filing returns (if your old company delays/denies you a Form-16) in the following year, because your CA has to access salaries received from both companies.

From the leave & attendance system:

  1. Snapshot of leave balance in each leave category
    This will allow you to reconcile the balance days you’ve been paid for in the F&F (full & final) statement.
  2. Track of Loss-of-pay days
    Whatever your company calls it: leave-without-pay or loss-of-pay, keep track of these days by going over salary slips for the past months. If possible, regularize these days, get them approved and reconcile in your F&F.

From Finance/HR:

  1. PF account number/office OR PF deposit slips
    Good news! In India, your PF account is now online on the EPFO website; all you need is your PF account number & office/zone to keep track of the balance. You can get this info from your HR/Finance department. They would also have a deposit slip for each year Continue reading Things to carry when you quit your job