GPRS and m-blogging in India

Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson are excited about the potential of m-blogging in the Metros according to this article in the Economic Times. The article is bullish about the future of m-blogging but does not really put across any hard facts.

Notice the fact that of the consumers who opt for a GPRS-enabled handheld, less than one in 4 opt for GPRS from their mobile provider. Only the carriers have themselves to blame for the current trend. I believe that poor support for GPRS services and awareness of applications for the service are to blame.

There are over 156 million mobile subscribers in India. According to industry estimates, around 10% of mobile subscribers in metros use GPRS facility and 2-3% in tier II and III cities have hooked on to GPRS facility, which allows fast internet access on mobiles. Approximately 40-45% phones sold in India are GPRS enabled. According to IDC, in India the sale of camera phones is registering around 25% quarter-on-quarter growth.

Globally there are 200 million bloggers. Industry estimates put 100,000 as the figure for India. (According to Blog Herald, there are 1.2 million bloggers in India). And the number is growing. “The number of m-bloggers is fast growing though the trend is just an year old,” says Nokiaโ€™s Mr Taneja. Nokia N series has m-blogging feature to capture the potential of this segment.

On business

I have reason to celebrate my blog today! has endorsed my blog for the keywords “business” and “gprs”. Thank you, whoever you are, bot or other wise.
The occasion reminds me of a quote I picked up from the movie Layer Cake.

The art of doing business lies in being a good middle-man“.

How do you interpret it? I would love to hear from you.

Other posts on business on Sukshma.

Other posts on gprs on Sukshma.

gprs feature
business feature

Trendy India defies the rest of the world – huh!

Click on each link to pull up the Google Trends report.

  1. In India, Movies have always been more popular than TV. The trend is almost always the reverse in all the other countries where both searches are popular.
  2. Rang De Basanti was a lot more popular than Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna.
  3. Blogs are more popular than newspapers with the online community in India. Only a few other countries exhibit this trend. Update: The trend report for the search term ‘blog’ versus ‘newspaper’ refutes this conclusion, look at the comments for more on using Google Trends reliably.
  4. BSNL and AirTel are the most searched of telecom providers in India. Hutch is a close third and is very popular in West Bengal, while AirTel rules the North.
  5. Searches for Naukri edge out searches for Monster by a close margin. Both trend lines reveal a lot more Indians are going online to look for jobs.
  6. Shah Rukh Khan is more searched than Aamir Khan by online users. Interestingly, more searches for Shah Rukh Khan originated from Rabat, Morocco, than Delhi, India. Amitabh Bachchan does not make much of a dent here. Update: Prateek also suggests that one take into account different ways of spelling – e.g. ‘Shah Rukh’ also becomes ‘Shahrukh’.
  7. Sachin Tendulkar beats Rahul Dravid as far as online trends goDhoni makes a surprise climb up the ranks.
  8. The online community can’t decide between Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. On the day of Singh’s appointment to the PM’ship of India, the trend was very different. Pervez Musharraf is eclipsed by the turbaned Indian Prime Minister.
  9. Only for a little while – Football was more popular than Cricket. You guessed it right, the timing coincided with the FIFA world cup, 2006.
  10. Searches for the keyword Matrimony outnumbered searches for Shaadi. Update: Prateek also suggests having a look at the report for ‘marriage ‘ and ‘wedding’ which are much higher than the other two terms.
  11. Mutual Funds are more popular than Shares. The search volumes are the highest in India. Update: The report on ‘stocks’ reveals one more story. In contrast to the rest of the world, the online populace from India still prefer Mutual Funds.
  12. Karan Johar will be happy to hear that he has finally overtaken Mithun as far as online searches go!
  13. IIM’s are catching up to the IIT’s in popularity.
  14. While global interest in GPRS is declining, GPRS interest in India remains just about the same for the last 3 years. Meanwhile, interest in AirTel keeps going climbing. Is India going to be over GPRS even before it can catch on?
  15. Tandoor is just as popular as Chaat or Halwa. Of course, Chaat Cafe (San Jose) has both Chaat and Tandoor, something you won’t see often in India! Update: Prateek points out that a report comparing ‘tandoori’, ‘tandoor’, ‘chaat’, ‘halwa’ would be more on target with tandoori coming out on top.
  16. Goa is much more popular than Himachal, search volumes predict a lot of tourists from the UK in Goa this year.
  17. Google searchers search for India more than its rival China. The pleasures of democracy ๐Ÿ™‚ or is this the Baidu effect?

Inspired by: Micro Persuasion: 25 things I learned from Google Trends.

Disclaimer: Google Trends is only a tool. Any conclusions you can draw from the trend reports is at your own risk.

The 5 minute WordPress installation on GoDaddy

Update: If your looking for a detailed step-by-step tutorial, head over to Mel’s page, (thanks Mel). There was also a question on which theme to use. The themes that are updated to take advantage of the wordpress platforms dynamic nature are the best. Start with the list of featured themes and try out “Connections” – Patricia Muller, or the themes by Becca Wei. Install the updated versions that the designers host on their home pages – this is if you would like to minimise your own changes to the theme.

By way of introduction, WordPress is a user-friendly, “state of the art semantic publishing platform“. My blog is currently powered by WordPress and is hosted by the folks of on their own servers. Choosing this route meant that I lost flexibility. For example, the current theme the blog is based on cannot be changed extensively. Since is hosting this blog, they have very clear and valid reasons for not allowing users to edit the internal mechanics for serving content.The other route is hosting your own blog for maximum flexibility. The requirements are easily satisfiable by most hosting providers. We had a GoDaddy basic plan to work with. Going by my previous experience with Movable Type (I tried installing a version 1.6 way back in 2002), I thought the installation would take up the entire weekend. I did some homework, and was mentally prepared to mess with the PHP internals if required.

None of that was necessary. It took me 5 minutes to install it and get it running. Disappointed? The speedy install meant that I could then focus my energy on getting the presentation right. That is what I call Great Software.

(I did have to tweak the database server location in the wordpress configuration file wp-config.php, you can get the correct location of the MySQL database for your host from your control panel. Look for the MySQL icon).
The WordPress developers are amongst the best with PHP. Their code is worth understanding. The template engine isolates the presentation well and makes manual editing of the templates simple. The blog administration interface is also usable. The interface does not require ‘building’ content if you ever decide to change the presentation. If your not interested in touching CSS/PHP/HTML, you can get a very large number of themes for the WordPress theme engine.

I was disappointed by the fact that some of the themes don’t take advantage of the dynamic capability of the WordPress framework. I had to work on those themes by hand. Of course, the blame squarely lies with the theme developer. Secondly, I could not find a way to gear WordPress to serve a custom-page by default instead of the blog page. Has anyone ever tried this?

If your interested in installing WordPress on your host, I highly recommend you do so. If you would like an invite to join the current group of blogs on, send me an e-mail and I will respond with an invite.

Great Software lets you enjoy your weekend :-).

On giving the customer what they need

Seattle debates corporate blogging: The major companies in the greater Seattle area include Microsoft, Amazon and Google in no particular order. A recent flurry of activity was sparked off by Werner Vogels, Chief Technology Officer at Amazon. Amazon played host to two A-list bloggers, Shel Israel and Robert Scoble (Microsoft). Robert and Shel were there to present their point of view on why Amazon should promote blogging. Unfortunately, they were greeted with an antagonistic CTO who railed them on their approach. Offline, both parties felt that their patience was tried by the other. Werner urged that that Shel and Robert were adopting a rather fuzzy approach and should have been prepared for hard questions. Robert and Shel on the other hand were satisified with the conclusion that Werner had been rude in his approach and had tried to set the guest speakers up. Other observers were deeply divided on what exactly was the lesson from this toss up. I want to try and understand if Blogging can directly assist in growing a business.

Don't distract yourself: Respectfully, Werner played the bottom line and piqued my interest in Amazon's approach. The visiting evangelists claimed that corporate blogging would help Amazon tune into customer feedback better. Werner retorted (and I don't quote) that Amazon were already doing a great job of listening to the end customer. Werner also pointed out that Amazon does more than any other company on the planet to harvest customer feedback. I believe, Werner's point is that Robert and Shel had not presented a strong enough case to show that an Amazon blog would do better than what Amazon is already doing.

Excerpts from Werner's blog:

…We have a long history of promoting customers to use their voice about our products and our operations, so if you come to Amazon to tell us our business is going to really suffer if we do not blog, you better be prepared to defend your ideas with very strong arguments and hard evidence. We expect that from anyone, externally or internally, who wants to promote an idea within Amazon...

…I have been a promoter of weblogging for a long time, so I didn't feel particularly bad to challenge these two authors to tell me why customers would get a better Amazon product if we would institutionalize blogging at a wider scale around Amazon. Beyond "a more human face" and "conversations with individuals from Amazon" there was no real response how blogging will make the product named better for our customers given all the techniques we already use from soliciting customer feedback to discussion forums to snooping weblogs and comments sites, etc,. In my mind they had no solid data-driven answers to these challenges, which I would have expected from two seasoned evangelists. I myself actually knew some of the answers to my questions, but I was surprised to see that these guys were not prepared enough to slap me around with solid answers…

…If it does happen at a wider scale than it happens now, it will be because our customers have given us feedback that they think blogging is an excellent approach to interact with Amazon. Amazon will continue to innovate with involving customers with our sites, some of those may be weblog or wiki related techniques, many of those will be completely new approaches as people have come to expect from Amazon. We will do this because our customers want us to, not because "everybody else is doing it"…

Innovation at Amazon: I will admit, really do try hard to build a profile of the customer. This is not borne out of an altruistic need to do so, Amazon believe that if they are to survive in the marketplace, this is what they need to do. I wish they would not call their feedback gathering snooping. For example, if someone from were reading this to gather feedback, I would love to keep the credit. Amazon bring several innovative techniques to their site, try them out and retain the ones that work. Since I have begun buying from them, I can list at least 5 new incentives (failures and successes) initiated by Amazon to help me get more from my experience with them.

  • The golden box (annoying).
  • Recommendations (click-stream mining).
  • User-driven lists and reviews.
  • Amazon sponsored Author blogs
  • Wish lists and personal inventory tracking.

I don't claim that these features were brought into the marketplace by Amazon first. But Amazon has them all under one roof. They get an 'A' for effort. Lets think about the next logical question, do they really work?

Amazon don't get it(?): This gave enough time for the evengelists' to come up with answers to Werner's points. They claim (and believe them) that blogging has helped Sun and Microsoft to be better solution providers for their customers. Unfortunately, from their comments, I feel they are beginning to project blogging as a soft-ROI item, something a startup will be very reluctant to take up right away. Imagine sipping single malt in the evening when you can't afford your morning cup of coffee. In fact, many evangelists have been citing successful small companies who use blogs for customer feedback.

Shel writes on his blog,

…There's the example, I published of my own experience, of having Amazon recommend books for nearly 10 years from categories that are not my reading tastes…

…In our book, we discussed a Japanese online bookseller called BK1, who old us they had increased book sales by 20 % by encouraging employees to blog about books they did or did not like. They found a direct correlation between favorable blogs and immediate sales. I believe this is absolutely applicable to Amazon. It also lets you compete with the one compelling reason to shop at small, independent bookstores, where the selection is smaller and the prices are higher than at Amazon. What they have that you don't have are "book buddies" employee and owners who read books, who share their enthusiasm for books, who ask customers how they liked their books. In short they have passion and authority for books that Amazon does not yet display…

…You have forwarded the argument that blogging may be okay for some little unknown company, but because you are Amazon, you don't need this stuff. That is the attitude of incumbents whenever innovation disrupts their agenda. They dismiss the new stuff. You may be the most powerful incumbent in the world, but if you ignore innovation–particularly innovation that puts you closer to your customers, you will eventually be disrupted. If I were an entrepreneur today, looking for a market opportunity for a new startup, I would be exploring points of vulnerability in large incumbents. I would be looking for kings of the mountain who are s certain of themselves that they will ignore me for a prolonged period, until I can get my foot in the door. That's what Amazon did a decade ago. That's what Yahoo did a decade ago–opening the opportunity for a young agile company to use innovative technology to take over the Search category…

…7. The ROI Question

Werner, I suspect you already know that this is a Sphinxlike riddle. When something is new, and as dynamic as blogging, it is impossible to forecast the ROI. There will come a day for companies that blog when they look backward at historic data and can make honest assessments of increased revenue or other benefits. I think Microsoft and Sun for example, have been blogging long enough to say that perceptions of them have improved because of bogging. They could not have told you that when their toes were at the base of the mountain and they were just beginning their journeys.

I would add to this a second observation. Sometimes, the quest for ROI in all corners of the corporation has caused the problem with customer relations that most reasonable people agree exists. We wanted better ROI from customer support, so we lowered the quality for the support. Marketing was historically to touchy feely for financial reviews, so we started adding ROI requirements to each project, forgetting that the essence of marketing is relationships that improve the ROI of the sales department. Companies still know this. They realize the ROI of a press release, an employee health club, a three-day trek to a conference where an executive speaks for 45 minutes, a donation to Katrina survivors and so on. Those are soft-ROI items, but most companies see their values…

To feature or not to feature: Shel offers great feedback to Amazon. There are many features in the Amazon marketplace that just do not work as they are intended to.

To step into the technology, it appears that Amazon's profile mining system is based on an over-generalized approach. When studying Data Mining problems back in school, we always tried to find a best-fit algorithm for the problem at hand for a high success rate. I suspect that Amazon on the other hand have taken a very large problem (guessing the needs of the consumer) and have designed a solution ignoring the inherent heterogeneity of the problem. As a result, their recommendations are often skewed and may instead be perceived as annoying.

I am sure Amazon are already taking a hard look at the gap between present customer demand and potential demand through impulse buying, recommendations and identificiation of thier needs (I wish I had some numbers here to publish). At the end of the day, Amazon will guarantee greater sales, and I, the consumer, will read more books (they are still a book retailer at the core).

Blogging is not the (only) efficient solution: In my last product company, I experienced first hand how users adopt a frank atitude on neutral forums dedicated to company's products. Developers who I worked with followed customer feedback closely. We learnt what customers thought of our products and what they felt was missing or broken. We also learnt about how customers were using our product in exciting and unintended ways. A great example are the forums for a PC digital video recording technology startup. So, blogging is definitely not the only possible solution for small/medium-sized and large companies.

37Signals is a success story worth investigating. Could intensive blogging helped them close down the feedback loop well? Shel is definitely on the right track, recommendations from a credible source helps promote impulse sales. I still remember being introduced to Monty Python movies by a young RIT student working at the local BlockBuster. It is sad that Shel offers anecdotal evidence on existing problems within Amazon's marketplace and then immediately succeeds the evidence with an argument on how blogging will solve the problem. In doing so, Shel and Robert don't get Amazon.

Give the customer what they want: Today, those with a startup mentality will never romance the solution for the solutions sake. The first question every new solution provider is posed is "Is there a market for this?". The originator of the proposal is then required to present qualitative and quantitative data on why he or she thinks his solution will work. Shel and Robert failed to understand the Amazon startup mentality by attempting to run around this first hurdle. Instead they painted the question as rude (and therefore unanswerable). They failed to pitch blogging to Amazon.

This week has been a fruitful one for me. I met up with a possible business mentor over coffee. A father of successful startups, he left me with basic advice "At the end of the day, do a good job of what you have set out to do. Understand the needs of the customer, satisfy them. Don't worry about what the other guys are doing and try to spread yourself too thin".

On employee blogging: Employees do stupid things. Even the smart ones. If it is not in your job profile, you don't publicly represent the company. That is a privilege earned and not a right. Your blogging for yourself. And remember you signed an NDA.

An update: Werner shows that he has a sense of humor: Amazon Gets IM