A Non-template Approach to Hiring

Posted in General

I recently interviewed a candidate for a position that requires quick learning ability on multiple technical area. I have to assess if the candidate can understand a given problem quickly, learn new technical concepts and apply them to debug a problem. The need is not so much to build a deep understanding but just enough to help understand issues.

I wanted to try something different during my interview process. So during the interview, I gave the candidate a sample problem to debug in an area where he had some familiarity. But instead of running a usual interview, I gave him a laptop and access to internet – a practical and real way that many of us use to find solutions to new problems. And my evaluation focused on – approach, learning ability, structuring and breaking down the problem etc. It was an open-book interview!

I feel there is a need to re-look at the way majority of job interviews are conducted by breaking a template approach to hiring and bringing more real and practical aspects in identifying skills, capability, competency and cope-ability.

The process of setting up the support team continues to provide me more opportunities to try out different styles of interviewing. I already shared some of the approaches that I tried out earlier in another article innovative approach to support hiring.

Most important functions of ecommerce solutions

Posted in General

A latest report from Econsultancy from a survey of 600 clients identifies the most important functions of ecommerce solutions.


via Econsultancy

As an ecommerce company, does this list fairly represent the most important functions? How about which areas are served well and which areas still have problems and challenges? For example, is mobile support a strong solution in your ecommerce solution? Are you satisfied with the search functionality?

The other interesting point to note in the report is that email database integration is the topmost area of integration (61%) followed by CRM (52%)

Which technology platform provides the best solution for critical functionality in ecommerce?

Happy Holidays & Crunchy Reflection

Posted in General

The holiday season has officially begun. I will be using the holiday season to reflect on many things around personal, professional, societal and polity front.

And the process has already started. I started this blog in May 2013 and I am very happy to complete a full calendar year in 2014 of active blog posting. Here are top 5 bog entries out of 33 from 2014 archives.

1. Snapshot of Wearable Device Market
2. What makes us feel good about our work?
3. How Happy Birthday is said on greeting channels today
4. Entrepreneurship is #1 career aspiration today
5. How to destroy an expensive marketing campaign – Cadbury story

Here wishing all of you happy holidays and a great year ahead.

Happy Holidays

Let 2014 be a year of hope!

Posted in General

If you follow Indian politics, the latter half of last year was fascinating. For the first time, millions of Indian are able to hope that they can bring about a real change in the political system that directly and indirectly impacts their life. An anti-corruption movement that started couple of years ago turned into a revolution where a new political party came to center-stage with the promise of clean and transparent politics. Let 2014 be a year where hopes and aspirations of millions of people are fulfilled.


What am I hoping from 2014? I hope 2014 will bring new and helpful innovation to common people in rural, healthcare and social space in India. I hope many organizations working in this field will finally be able to achieve the penetration and impact they dream of with the advent of technology in mobile, cloud and data sciences. Let 2014 be a year where technology can fulfill its promise to masses on a very large scale in India and around the world!

I am sure all of you will have more aspirations, hopes, resolutions and plans for the new year – I certainly do. As one of my friends posted – “Let 2014 be full of mistakes and surprises both pleasant & unpleasant. U turns and dead ends too… Just not the same ones as 2013 – OK?”

Wish all of you a happy new year, let 2014 be a year of hope!

FDA wants to ban genetic tests by Google-backed 23andme

Posted in Analytics, General

23andme is one of the companies I am always fascinated about from a BigData perspective as they have access to huge amount of data that can dramatically change the healthcare systems in the world and and I have discussed this in many conversations with my friends and colleagues.

About 23andme

23andme is a DNA analysis company and is backed by Google. How does it work? Well you order a kit and provide saliva sample and send your kit back to 23andme. The company runs a DNA analysis and then provides details about your health risk, carrier status and drug response based on a detailed genetic analysis. Why do you need it? Knowing your health risks will allow you to manage your health better and can make some lifestyle changes and take some preventive action. Additionally, you can find out fun stuff, like if you have ancestors in another country. For example, DNA tests reveal that Prince William has ancestor in India.


Why is FDA worried?

It all sounds great but then why is Food Drug & Administration (FDA) worried? FDA is worried about potential pitfalls of false positive and false negative about health risk assessment and drug response. For instance, a false positive on risk assessment on breast or ovarian cancer could lead a patient to undergo prophylactic surgery or chemotherapy. While a false negative could lead someone to overlook an actual risk that may exist. FDA is also worried if drug response test will lead patients to self-manage their treatments by dose changes or stopping certain drugs.

The real issue is not that the tests are bad – these tests bypasses a physician’s presence and his assessment of patients health and response and expose consumers to the risk of trying to self-manage their own treatment of serious diseases or if incorrect test results are reported.

What 23andme should do is to prove to FDA that the tests work and are accurate. Easy problem you data scientist, huh? It should also educate the consumers about the risk that are inherent in such tests and provide guidance to consumers on how to use the results.

How business models like subscription impact innovation culture

Posted in General, People & Culture

I was recently reading an article by Steve Blank on how startup is not a smaller version of a large company. One of the important points that he mentioned was around value system and the differences in a way a large company evaluate business opportunity than a startup.

Now think about a business model like subscription. A subscription based business model increases predictability in revenue on an ongoing basis. This is because subscribers pay for the duration of subscription and if they like the services, subscribers are highly likely to renew their subscription. This typically happens in advance as subscribers provide payment information in advance. Wikipedia says –

“Businesses benefit because they are assured a predictable and constant revenue stream from subscribed individuals for the duration of the subscriber’s agreement. Not only does this greatly reduce uncertainty and the riskiness of the enterprise, but it often provides payment in advance (as with magazines, concert tickets), while allowing customers to become greatly attached to using the service and, therefore, more likely to extend by signing an agreement for the next period close to when the current agreement expires”

too risky

This is unlike perpetual/one-time transaction model, still uncertain. Now business managers can predict quarterly revenue with increasing accuracy with subscription. This means that the value system being built is one to reduce uncertainty and riskiness which is what a new product idea does not have. A new product idea by definition is in a phase of discovery and building sustainable business model. And hence unpredictable and risky.

This conflict can have serious negative impact on innovation culture of an organization – more so for large organizations as they want to reduce risk and have smaller variations in their quarterly and annual results. Subscription is a new business model and many large organizations are experimenting with it. It will be a while before this value system gets deep rooted and impacts innovation culture. Organizations need to watch out!

In my next article, I will describe what companies can do to leverage this change and still be innovative.

Do customers live on Mars?

Posted in General

I recently posted a survey on how well customers are understood in an organization. There were some very interesting replies depending on who was answering the question.

Surprise – Startups are as guilty as large organizations!

The first question was – Do you think “who our customers are” is uniformly understood at all levels in your organization?

I was expecting small organizations (startups, <35 employee) to consistently answer ‘Yes’ because of small size, ease of communication across all employees and sharp focus area. But the answers were equally split between yes and no. A startup typically begins with a solution to a specific or focused problem. Is it that frequent pivot or broadening the problem/solution space starts to create the gap in customer understanding?

who are your customers

As expected increase in organization size leads to larger variations in employee’s understanding of the customer.

What can organizations do?

I don’t think this is surprising. But what is perhaps important is what organizations can do to create a common understanding of their customers. Startups can consider a good communication strategy when they change their strategy and secondly, ensuring that new hires are on board with their understanding of the customers.

It may seem a losing cause for large organizations as they start to build pockets of different offerings based on large product portfolio, geo-locations, multiple departments and integration of acquired companies. At least within those pockets, at the department level a common understanding must be built.

The other interesting question is if having multiple perspective about customers can actually help large organizations in achieving higher customer satisfaction and larger business. And hence is a necessary evil.

On the other side…

One of my very knowledgeable friends Ramakrishnan pointed out that there is another perspective about customers. It is just not sufficient to know “who the customers are”. It is also important for organizations to understand the value that customers bring once organization starts engaging with them and change in the value during the  lifecycle of product or service.

iPad Mini is Apple’s priced possession

Posted in General, Marketing & SoMe

Someone recently pointed out to article mentioning Gartner report titled Apple’s iPad Mini makes up 60 percent of iOS sales

Are you surprised?  As a value buyer, I am not surprised. I always thought of buying iPad Mini as it provides the greatest value for what premium tablet can provide.


It will be interesting to know if this trend started in 2013 or earlier. Will there be pressure on Apple to provide higher value for every $ that customers are spending? It can perhaps consider three options –

1. More features & no price change
2. Same features & less price
3. New model (like Mini) with less features and less price.

Interesting time ahead for Apple 🙂

Can your product or application talk? It can be good for marketing!

Posted in General, Marketing & SoMe

When you develop a software product or application, a major concern is if users will adopt and use the product or application. Many startups have mastered the art of elevator pitch that can be delivered effectively in person. But when you are targeting a large user base, how can you deliver this pitch? How about making your product or application talk the pitch?

An important question then is why make it difficult to write the first demo or test application? Here are top three reasons why first application should take less than XXX minutes to develop.

1. Overcome fear of learning
This is one of the biggest reason that creates resistance to adoption If a user knows he has to spend an entire day or even more to write the first application. That day may not come (not till there is a major push or incentive).

2. Instant gratification
Being able to write an application (even if it is “Hello World”) and seeing the results quickly can be very satisfying and lead to quicker adoption.

3. Improves decision making
A user can build a better sense of value that your product offers by quickly trying it out. Even the marketing materials, customer quotes and case studies start to make much more sense. Better understanding leads to better decision making.


I explicitly left out recommending any ideal time. What do you think should be maximum time for first trial usage? Does it depend on type of product or application? If yes, what are those parameters? How can you overcome them?

Is there a bigger challenge for large, matured products with update cycles where core product is already built? How can such products make it easy for users to try out new features?