How Rivigo is contributing to the future of internet!

Posted in Hot, Leadership, People & Culture, Technology

For many of us Internet is all pervasive. It is essentially a medium without which we cannot imagine our present day lives. What started as a mechanism to connect several machines has grown to break political and social boundaries of the physical world that we live in.

And it has a profound impact in India too. The impact can be seen in all walks of life – banking, travel, social, politics, entertainment etc. The list is endless. However, the reach and penetration of internet is still limited to the big cities. Not surprisingly, lot of new application development is biased towards places where internet usage is already dense.

internet-rivigo

At Rivigo, we are changing that. Our business model involves thousands of people who are part of the logistics value chain to deliver business benefits to our customers. These people are connected to Rivigo technology platform from many remote places in India. Learning, understanding and using new age technology is how they go about doing their day’s job. And that is mandatory. Rivigo is making technology accessible to people in such remote places and creating a real need for them to be part of the internet.

This is what I believe is the future of internet – connecting people who are already not connected! And Rivigo is just doing that with its technology platform.

Building Data Architectures

Posted in Technology

At Rivigo Labs, we are building the next generation of data acquisition, processing and visualization tools that will drive changes in the logistics industry. This essentially means building a data architecture that can cater to the needs of this complex system. Here are some of the considerations that I have for data architecture that we are building –

1. Scalability – Can handle growing amount of works
2. High availability – Allows continuity of work
3. Performance – Responsive within reasonable time
4. Maintainability – Ease of making future changes
5.  Comprehendible – Easy to understand

Now, there are several technology that can fit the bill for any type of architectural considerations. But how do you select the right technology?

And, I believe this is a wrong question to ask at the initial stages of designing the data architecture. The right questions to ask are – What are the requirements? How the information and data will flow through the system? What are the events in the system and how they will be generated? Who are the consumer of the data?

The idea is to be able to draw a simple diagram that represents answers to the above questions. This will help understand the functionality and complexity of the system. And at this stage, it is essential to introduce discussions on the scalability of the system. I feel this approach is extremely cost effective because the cost of changing anything is as good as changing a diagram to represent new assumptions and flow.

data2

Once this stage is hashed out after considering exceptions and important edge cases, the time is right to think about what is the right technology to be used to build this system?

This way you are not forcing yourself to adopt to a particular technology but opening up to evaluate multiple technology that meets the design.

Action based framework for Better, Faster & Cheaper features

Posted in Decision Making, Ideas, Technology

While working on a recent project, I prepared a list of following questions that helped me identify tasks that can lead to features with better, cheaper and faster characteristics.

– Repeatable tasks that can be minimized
– Mundane tasks that can be automated
– Challenging tasks that can be simplified
– Unnecessary tasks that can be removed or hidden

Once these tasks are identified, the next steps was to decide on what actions can be taken to minimize or simplify them. The table below summarizes a simple framework where tasks can be listed with appropriate action to solve them.

Better_cheaper_faster Model

The framework allows you to create new categories of task by adding a new row, or defining new actions by adding extra value in the Action column. Finally, you can define the characteristic of each solution (Better/ Cheaper/ Faster) that you have identified for a given problem. Since this framework focuses on finding problem tasks, there is greater flexibility in defining, modifying and reaching a cheaper, better or faster solution.

For example, a common task that many of us do is to interact with phone while walking. Now if this is a problem that you want to solve, you can define a new category called “Hazardous task” by adding a row for it. An action that can “Minimize” the hazardous nature will be to build a proximity sensor in the phone. And you can classify this solution to be “better” than what is already available on phones or what user do today to avoid bumping into someone!

Learning Scalable Systems

Posted in Leadership, Technology

One of the key facets of personal leadership is the ability to adapt and learn. It allows one to stay ahead of upcoming challenges, help the team and engage in proactive leadership. I just started working on a new project to design highly scalable architecture and here is what is helping me to build learning in this space –

1. Hands on building SaaS based application

I started designing and building a SaaS based application as part of my weekend project. I did few long coding sessions and the time spent was well worth it. Most of the mistakes were done when I succumbed to the temptation of just making it work. The exercise provided me deep insight into issues and challenges of building a SaaS based application.

2. Meeting startups

Many startups are formed as a proof-of-concept product and cannot really afford to over engineer the product till they see traction in traffic. Once they see traction and funding, they make leap and bound progress in their architecture and are very aware of cutting edge work. Hearing their technology journey and how they are identifying and resolving initial design flaws was a great learning experience.

3. Meeting technology advisers at venture capital firms

I met senior technologist from couple of top venture capital firms. Their perspective on building scalable SaaS products was invaluable – how to bring scalable practical thinking in the design process, how some of the successful companies are implementing scalable strategies and how some of them have avoided redesigning their system by staying ahead of potential problems and issues.

4. Online resources

There are several online resources but these two are my favourite presentations on this subject –  7 Stages of Scaling Web Applications provides a very good overview and Scalable Web Architectures: Common Patterns and Approaches provides a very comprehensive coverage on scalability. And you can never run short on interesting reading at All Time Favorites at highscalability site.

5. Leveraging past training

After moving past design philosophy, I also started looking into some of the past trainings that I attended on building blocks for highly concurrent design and other from an application programming perspective. Many of the concepts started to make sense.

6. Books

I recently bought a copy of Scalability Rules: 50 Principles for Scaling Web Sites. It is a reading in progress. I may buy another book or two to keep as a reference. Having written a book myself I know how challenging it is for a book to keep pace with rapidly evolving technologies. Suggestions are welcome on any good books available on this topic.

7. Brainstorming with smart people

White board discussion with smart people around you help you make great progress in learning and validating your learning!

Will eMail become a better channel for promotion & commerce?

Posted in Ideas, Marketing & SoMe, Technology

Google has already made some great progress with Gmail. The recent changes with Inbox further provides easy categorization of mails automatically.

Even before Google announced Inbox, Gmail started categorizing promotion mails under “Promotion” folder. Many thought that will make such mails redundant. But maybe not.

With Google experimenting Grid view for promotion mails, they can actually find more people looking at the promotion – people who are really interested in exploring . Plus these folks need not click a mail, a painful process, to see the details.

Field_Trial[1]

They have so far not made this feature available to all, so there is not much data available.

Another interesting possibility is to actually allow marketers to provide specific product promotion and buy button within the mail itself. If the offer is too good, why not let eager shoppers shop immediately?

Follow Hemant @khandelwalh on Twitter

The Math behind A/B testing to ascertain which site is better

Posted in Analytics, Decision Making, Marketing & SoMe, Technology

Assume you have two website designs – A & B on your eCommerce website, and you end up with 45 conversions out of 100 visitors for design A and 50 conversions out of 100 visitors for design B.

A_B_testing

What’s the chance that design B is better than design A?

10%? No, that’s wrong. Design B is actually 76% better than design A and to make the switch, this probability has to be > 90%. Part-2 above also provides a shortcut formula to make this calculation.

The below three part series provide very good English and Math explanation on how to evaluate results from split testing on two designs.

Part – 1, Part – 2, Part – 3

 

Education 2.0 – case for mass customization

Posted in Education, Ideas, Technology

I had a great lunch conversation with a friend and colleague on how schools kill creativity. A little bit of Google search points to several articles where people  have spoken about this topic. I found two interesting links on this subject.

A TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson where he makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. The Paradox of Creativity in Education says in an era of accountability and measurement, it’s more difficult to imagine advocating subjects that can’t be easily measured. And creativity is difficult to measure.

Mass Production Approach

If you have watched your younger ones grow, you will notice it is around grade 3 or so when they start to lose creativity because of “mass production” effect. Current education system makes you do what you are told, over and over, and over again. This mass production approach allows to serve education to large homogeneous market with consistent quality and standardization. It is also an efficient approach.

Education

Building a case for Mass Customization

Henry Ford famously said for his cars – “You can have any colour as long as it is black“. However, the need for today is one that serves specific needs of students. My daughter’s needs are different from other 30 students in her class. The question is how do we move to an approach that is based on customization — where customers can tailor a product’s appearance, features or content to their own specifications?

The paradigm shift to mass customization is mainly driven by three forces:

1) Market demand – There is an ever growing frustration with the current education setup from both parents and educators. Many industry expert believes in the disruption of business models established in the 20th century impacting education.

2) Market competition – I have not done extensive research about the competitive landscape but from what I know education is extremely fragmented with many players in a huge market. A different model may allow an existing player or a new entrant to dominate the market.

3) Technological revolutions – This is an area with most potential but perhaps undeserved. There are companies like mytwinn.com making customized dolls or tastebook.com providing customized recipes and differentiating themselves. And technology can play a big role bringing customization with new innovations. There are opportunities to co-innovate, co-configure and co-produce with the customers, namely parents and educators. And in some cases with the students themselves.

This is what will bring an era of Education 2.0 – private & personal classes for students that are delivered at a massive scale of efficiency. And may we remember famous song Another Brick in the Wall from Pink Floyd just for the music!

 

Snapshot of Wearable Device Market

Posted in Hot, Technology

The biggest trend from recently concluded CES-2014 is that the wearable device market is exploding. There are new entrants from everywhere and their rate of arrival is perhaps greater than the growth of the market itself.

I wanted to get my head around who’s who in the market and get a single page snapshot to keep track of majority of players in this area. The below picture is an attempt to capture existing and upcoming players.

WearableDeviceSnapshot

The wearable market is broadly divided into fitness, sports and health and there is a big concentration of players in fitness and sports sectors. Some brands are differentiating with advanced offering for professional athletes while few can be placed in me-too category. In the snapshot above, activity tracking includes statistics like calories burnt, steps taken, floors climbed, distance traveled, hours slept etc.

The second way of differentiation is based on how you wear devices – wrist, headband, ear-bud, carry, glasses, clothing etc with wrist devices in majority.The third way of differentiation is based on the social context in which the product is used – individual, family, kids, social, gamification etc. Maybe I should try to create an equivalent snapshot using these two ways of differentiation.

Well, the market is quickly moving towards commoditization, the real differentiation will be in terms of services and continuous usage of the product.

Till then, just go with price and looks and maybe good battery life!

Can you create a song on “How Bangalore inspires you” using crowdsource?

Posted in Ideas, Technology

I was hearing the “Empire state of mind” version of “New York” song by Alicia Keys & Jay Z. It is a good sound track and gives some glimpse of the famous city. If you have been there, and I have been there recently, it is a crazy city. Check the YouTube video with lyrics here.

As someone with a Bangalore connection, if you have to make a song on Bangalore that talks about how the city inspires you, or your experiences and encounters with it, how would you pen it?

To get started, fill in the line below – “In Bangalore … ” or share whatever lines come to your mind. It will be cool to be able to create a crowdsourced song on Bangalore.

Bangalore

And yes, there are problems with every city and I request you to stay positive!

Let’s hear for Bangalore!