Posts Tagged 'new ideas'

Laptop with wings please

It’s been such a long time since the laptop got a game changing feature. Except for form factor and design (and to some extent the trackpad!), nothing seems to be changing in the laptop world.  >90% of laptops are manufactured in Taiwan and quite a large extent of the design and innovation (or the lack of it) also happens there.

I decided to ask for more.  How about if we had a laptop that could do the following?

1. Print – I’d love for my laptop to print out my flight/train tickets (yeah, I hate having to buy and maintain printers just for tickets. I’ve stopped printing much else now a days)

2. Scan – I’d love for my laptop to scan things I come across quickly and store, categorize them for later references (scanning is on the up move but all the same, I don’t want to buy a separate device to do this)

3. Project – I’d love to be able to project my presentations without having to connect it to any external device, just click and shoot!

And while we are at it, can it please also have wings? Talk about advanced mobility solutions! Acer, Lenovo, Dell, HP, Toshiba – are you listening?

Readers, what are your demands from your laptop?

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Call taxis should introduce loyalty programs

I have had a chance to use call taxis on too many occasions in India now and day before yesterday as I was reaching Bangalore, I wanted to hire one so that I could get home without having to squabble with the auto fellows and not end up paying through my nose. So, I tried calling all the major ones. I noticed that many of them had introduced IVR (Interactive Voice Response Systems, the kind of ones that greet you when you dial toll-free numbers for customer service). I was aghast! Not only that I was thrown out of the system of a service that I’m a heavy user of, I ended up holding their call for more than 5 minutes before that happened.

I’ve a lot of reasons to be angry and a suggestion for them too…so here you go

The truth is, I loved the fact that when I called a human voice immediately answered with – “XYZ cabs, how can I help you?”, I mean it really showed that my query will get attended to immediately. IVR systems cost money to implement and do you no good if you cannot prioritize your queue with some form of pin code/loyalty number and leaves a spate of angry and dissatisfied customers! (Who will tell the call taxi owners this!)

That brings me to my idea, if the call taxis did want to do something hi-tech and advanced in marketing, they could launch some form of loyalty program that would guarantee stuff like “just 15-minute prior booking time”, “priority/emergency calling”. I’m sure people would even be willing to pay a premium for it. Although, offering it for free will get you the necessary customer sign-up and then you can prioritize your queue according to the value of the card holder. And, by the way, using the loyalty program doesn’t require the costly IVR implementation and will help them segment and serve the market better, while making more profits. What say people? All game for loyalty programs from call taxis?

Movie Theater On Board

Long time ago the bus operators (especially the luxury kind) figured that they had a bunch of captive (and bored) audience making a long distance journey and one must keep them entertained by showing them movies or atleast playing some songs. Now, I’m not a big fan of their movie/song selections and they are not smart about the way they use the undivided attention of the travellers either, but there is something to keep you occupied (I’ve ended up watching almost all the movies shown to me in buses – whether I liked them or not!). That brings me to the point of railways.

When I was a kid, my dad used to be posted in locations far away from our hometown and every year or half year or so we did our 3/4 day trip across the country back to Kerala. We did our best to keep ourselves entertained, played games, sang songs, told each other jokes, befriended fellow travellers – but it was monotonous for sure with no other avenues of entertainment. I shudder at the thought of long train journeys today even if I have time – mostly because it is extremely boring. One can carry a lot of entertainment devices on board, but sooner or later your power drains out (not all of the trains are equipped with power points either)

Now, what if Railways decided to put a movie theater on board the long distance trains? Would that change the equation? I’m not saying it should be anything fancy – for starters, it could just be a coach converted into a seating-only arrangement (like the shatabdi) and facing towards the movie screen, have show times allocated and only passengers with valid tickets should be allowed based on a fee to watch the movies. Not a very difficult thing to do! In fact, based on the regions that the train passes through, Railways can even consider getting hold of some advertisements from the companies to show the captive audience!

In our country where services like the railways is very utility-driven, will entertainment hold its ground? What do you think?

Ideas come dime a dozen…

I recently took a session on Ideation at SIMB (thanks to Nandini!). We both believe that the entrepreneurs need to realize the potential of thinking big and start looking around them for ideas. More often than not when participating in entrepreneurship workshops we tend to look upon it as another course and turn to traditional sources of information (read Internet) to get ideas. When starting up a company/thinking of starting up a company it is as important to look within yourself as to look outside. It is somewhere in the intersection that the magic lies…

Here’s the slide deck that I covered at the session. It is just pointers to different ideas that people have had over the past few years – some successful, others not as much, but great ideas nevertheless and that is where great things begin to happen.

 Ideas are dime a dozen

One of the myths I wanted to dispel was related to the statement many people used “ideas are dime a dozen”. I asked the students to come up with a few business ideas – I got less than 5 from a group of 50 and later I heard about 3 more  – thats all. While it is easy to dismiss this statement, I take the following stand – what the statement really means is that “talk is cheap”, it really doesn’t mean that “ideas are easy to come by”. Also, an idea in itself is not going to execute itself and being an entrepreneur is a tough job. One needs to brace oneself for the roller coaster ride and not delude oneself that a “cool” idea is going to see you through.

Having covered some ground on that, I asked the students if they believed all of them had the capability to come up with ideas. The answer was a resounding yes – more confirmation to the fact that I was standing amidst potential entrepreneurs!!! It all starts with a belief that then gets tuned into your system that then constantly seeks for ideas or gaps in the current way of doing things that can be potential opportunities. So, it is very important to believe that you can do it and then start thinking and looking around for ideas like a habit (like breathing)

Lastly, we played a game together. I seed funded the 9 teams in the class and gave them one hour to make as much money as they can. What happened in the next 90 minutes was beyond my imagination! So, I will just narrate it. Each of the teams started with some idea and iterated through it quickly, with quite a few of them changing the initial idea that they had started with. One of the teams rotated their capital and did the same business twice over in the given time and the others realized that the customers will pay only when there is at least a chance of  them winning and hence, positioning matters. Most of them figured out a “good enough” market opportunity to address within the constraints of the “budget” and “time” given to them and set about their tasks. Some of them sold juice, some burgers, some bike rides to the nearest bus stand and a few others resorted to gambling (card games and sports bets).

The most interesting of the lot were two teams – one of who made the most money by throwing in a lucky dip contest and got about 90 people to sign up with them and the other team started offering an “internal services” to me for managing the various teams, their members, amount collected etc!

At the end of it all, we all had a lot of fun and made some money too! Loved the energy of the group and their enthusiasm to get going. Hope it was as much fun for the teams too…looking forward to more such interactions.

The Idea Ad Does It Again

Just when I thought it was impossible to better the “what an idea, sirji?” ad. The creative agency Lowe Lintas does it again! Unlike the other telecom companies in India that focussed on limited and neighboring concepts of connectivity, availability, creativity they took on a larger concept of “creating change” and so far have been doing it in style and have tackled topics related to fitness, education, democracy etc… 

With the new ad around “save paper” and “prevent deforestation”, they are continuing their theme in style. However, I admire them upping the ante on creativity with this ad. It is truly fresh and refreshing and I love the punchline where they put a spin on “paid” as the hindi word for “tree” and ask the tree that has Abhishek Bachchan’s face which is about to be cut whether it is a “pre-paid” or a “post paid”. Pretty innovative!!! I will not bore you with details  – here are the videos for you to watch.

And of course, congratulations to Abhishek Bachchan and Idea Cellular on winning the award for the “Best Celebrity Endorsement of the Year” at the first edition of NDTV Tech Life Awards. Well Deserved!!!

Bangalore Traffic Police Go Hi-Tech

Embarassed as I’m of what happened, I can’t help but write about the incident and the revelation. I broke a “u-turn” rule recently near Koramangala in Bangalore in order to avoid a huge traffic jam and got caught by the traffic police. Well, as notorious as they are for taking bribes they are there at all the places, you can’t really escape as much as you wish!

Anyway, coming back to the point, as I approached the officer to pay my fine I noticed that he had a blackberry with him and a small printer (like the ones that print credit card slips at retail stores). He asked for my license and I gave it to him, still puzzled at the hi-tech gadgetry and sophistication around him. He asked me for a few details, took a picture of my license and printed me a receipt for the fine! I was shocked, to say the least!!!

When I probed further, he told me that they have been using this for the past 2 years and that the blackberry application was indigenously developed by the Bangalore Traffic Police department. The photo of the license and the details get uploaded via satellite link to their server and it gets recorded as a transacion in his account. He felt pride in explaining this to me and I was literally dumbstruck!

What can I say, if they keep a tab on that account the corruption levels can definitely be monitored and controlled to a large extent and as to the technology adoption hats off to the department.

Warning SMSes, anyone?

I was pulling out of my office building when I saw smoke from slightly beyond I could see. I was worried, but had no way to know what had happened without taking a heavy detour and risking getting into trouble in the process. That is when it struck me. How great it would be if we had a service that pings me (SMS/email/automated call – I can choose the mode) when there are incidents, in or around where I’m, that could affect me. Since, it is mobile based, it can identify where I’m and really make the service local as well as real-time. Now, the company offering the service can define what warrants a warning SMS (nice name, huh?).

One potential candidate who can offer this service could be – Insurance companies. Why? One, it aligns well with their business model – life/safety of people that they need to pay for and secondly, it will be highly valued by customers. Heck, they can even offer it for free/with a small yearly addition to the premium, just for the sake of differentiation!!! What say? I still remember the unfortunate bomb blast incidents in Bangalore more than a year ago. I was indoors and got to know what happened, what if I was outside? The only way I would know is if by chance someone I knew was watching TV or listening to the radio or browsing the internet at that time and what are the odds of that? Let us take opt-in marketing to a new level and create services that add meaning to the life of people, not just spam!


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