Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tweet your ire, you become the sire!

This is as late as last two weeks.  Fresh off the shelf.   And from my twitter handle.  I have been using my twitter handle with increased interest, as more people connect with me  ( I am not a Shashi Tharoor, Chetan Bhagat, SRK, Salman, AB though, far away from it, if followers is a measure)- favoriting my tweets etc., But I have been using twitter to purchase, and as a tool of customer service, so here the story goes.

What excited me was the fact that Facebook acted as a vent for followers, when the status got posted as a Tweet, the results were dramatic.  And there are twitter watchers.  When you shout from the twitter-top, they listen.   They respond.   And action follows.   And results.  It has worked for me.

How?

I had applied for a Reliance Netconnect data card about two months back.  And I had applied for Vodafone connection ownership change about a month back.  The story of both substantiates the headline.

Vodafone:
I gave the phone connection letter with NOC to Vodafone store in Manpada.  An excellent treatment, all done, counterfoil given and back.  I was told that the connection would be changed, with a verification in two working days.

But what happened? Nothing.  Why?  I landed up in a store nearly, and I checked out.   I was surprised that the entry never happened in their system.  I was asked to go to the same Vodafone store in Manpada.
Missing papers on ownership change 

As I beat the queue and investigated, I met a lady, who again was courteous, came and told that there was no entry in their system.  This was the second visit.  I became hot under the collar - and it became only hotter when I discovered that they told that the guy is not around, and the papers are lost.

I left disappointed gravely, then I resorted to what I do best. Write about in social media.  I took to facebook, actually, as a crib.  But the status of facebook appears as a  tweet.   In facebook, few sympathetic friends posted in response.

But it was on twitter, that Vodafone India  twitter handle responded and said I would be called in two days.   They called me after one more crib tweet, now that I had found a response.

I visited the store again few days later, and the manager walked upto me and took me aside. I dare mention her name, as she was kind enough and said that she would be the single point of contact for the issue resolution, and they already have the NOC.

Two days later I gave the documents, and then the service request was raised, and calls from the call center started pouring.

Reliance:  

Then the turn of Reliance.  I had taken this data card connection some two months back.  A week back I could not go to office. Coincidentally, that Saturday, when I was shifting house, the data card stopped working.  I was riled.   I ran to the shop where I had bought it, and he asked to reinstall the software. I did, but the stuff would not simply work.   Then another story came out.
The papers of the data card went missing

There is a 'reverification' of the submitted documents, apparently, and this can be verified only at the customer care.  So, I ran to the store - with address proof and all.  The Reliance store guy told me flatly that the documents are just missing, and I had to visit Reliance customer care.  It was just round the corner' they said.  I ran there, and it was just about closing - and they told that the datacard wont be active for the next three days, as they will have to start the process all over again.   I decided to visit my shop guy, and thanked the customer care rep and went home.

On the way, I ranted on facebook, and got a tweet in.  The Reliance Comm twitter handle followed me promptly and asked for my details.  I shared. Nothing happened.  They said, they have called me, and unable to contact.  This merry go round happened for more than couple of times, and then suddenly, they seemed to connect.

But nothing happened.   But I was saved, meanwhile, by a standby card given by the shop keeper, and it saved grace, time and my work.  But for Reliance, they finally got it work.  Five days later, when I visited the shop, and tested it out accidentally, it worked.  And I returned the standby.

Again the Reliance Comm team followed up and ensure that it was a closure.

Now, may be, more of you, dear friends, might have gone through this ordeal.  Two inferences, I could draw, though.

One, which I am worried - is that in both the cases, there was mishandling of my identity - my address, ID proofs and photographs.  In this era of so many cases of identity thefts and results that can't be spoken of, this is utterly irresponsible and grave on the part of the processing chain of telecom companies.

Another, which I am happy about, is that these telecom companies are listening to us, on twitter - and atleast responding more responsibly, when you visit their stores.  May be it is easier to push of when you are an individual client, but through social media, whatever the reason, it works.   When you tweet your ire, you become the sire!

What say you, dear friend?

- Ashok Speaks











Thursday, August 15, 2013

Independence Day Blog - 2013 : Free, as in free!

Waking up, it has been a lazy and a slow start August 15th for me. And I just realized that it was our independence day.  Unusually active, my kid rushed to the bath.  He told me that he would wear the Blue India Jersey ( has flag in it) and his muddied white trouser.  I insisted he dress up in white and white, pristine - in kurta etc.,   He felt a little baffled by my chastising him.   And then I let him go.
Too much of self criticism and intolerance!

Then in the silence, I thought, was I too wound up and strung?  Was I too critical of myself and him, that I did not see the little kid's self thought, desire?  Was I curbing his freedom to think?

So, was he really enjoying his freedom?  Well, he was responsible enough.  On time for the flag hoist.  Dressed in India colors, and white.   All of his own thoughts and imagination?.   Then why did I criticize him?

As Indians, are we being too self-critical?  Has this seeped into every walk of our life?  Do we really enjoy our freedom?   A truly free nation, society or people, should never kill such pure, simple thoughts of creativity, originality - irrespective of where it originates.

So, what is that fundamental thing I realize today?

Tolerance and appreciation of individual characters, deeds and innovation.  Appreciating privacy.   This could be personal, lingual, religious aspects of life.  Giving space and appreciate each little thing, is the true essence of freedom.  And we are missing these, big time, these days.
Let us be positive and build self esteem

We may have our indiscipline, unhygienic stuff.  I hate jumping of signals, spitting on roads, like most Indians.   I hate corruption.  Everyday,  the national television hosts multiple personalities and high strung anchors hollering how bad everything is.   The newspaper headlines scream one bad news or another.  But amidst all these, we are beautiful people.   Like my kid.   And we are too high strung, like me.

It is time for us to step back, enjoy those little things of personality, appreciate and tolerate some of those uniqueness of personality - in religions, society and many other ways.

WISHING YOU ALL A GREAT INDEPENDENCE DAY!   JAI HIND

- Ashok Speaks

Picture copy rights to respective owners

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Early Entrepreneur: The final blog

This is the final blog in the Early Entrepreneur series.   The earlier blogs are listed below for a quick look-back.

The fundamental question : Funding!
The Tailor and the Sailor
Evolving the Early Entrepreneur
Or a Freelancer?
It takes two to tango! 
Better sorry than safe!
Garage Gangs! 
The Dropout Kid!

An inspiring entrepreneurship story!

Now, over the last two months, I have spoken to a few entrepreneurs myself.  I found that the interest in starting of a venture to support early entrepreneurship, as they have agreed, is the need of the hour.

Now, there were typical questions about the tangibility of the idea, the type of organization, and more over, most importantly people want clarity on revenue models - there are deep pockets and we need to get across to them.   We have identified the revenue models, and it will be put across to investors on a one-on-one basis.
The idea needs a champion CEO
.
The need is to reach out to tier II and Tier III colleges, and impart upon both the students and the management about the power of the 'Early Entrepreneurship' story.   This itself is a educational-social- business venture, where we will stay put with the interested students.

How is this different from other people?  We have seen 'workshops' conducted, where students are taught about what is entrepreneurship, and we have seen investors waiting to see how good their returns would be.  But we intend to do is to create an association that discovers, fosters and grows with the idea to startup, and stay invested in that growth.  We have factored failures.

I don't intend to let the cat out of the bag, yet.  We have already identified what we can do, and what is the market and how it will work.   And the firm belief that this idea will work.   And therefore I intend to put the situation in front of prospective readers.  If you are interested as a consultant ( who can offer time), investor ( who can put in money), or an employee ( who can be part of operations), please write to me.

What we need now:
Need investors and consultants

The CEO:
What we need is a champion who can run with the idea, who can evangelize this across students and the college managements alike.   This champion will own the business plan, and structure and run the organization.  We expect this person to commit time, effort and a part of his/ her career in building this Consulting and Services venture.  

The Investor:
When you hear us out, you will understand how this is a powerful idea. We are talking to few people outside the laptop screens.  But this venture is large enough and needs all the support.   How will the returns be, we will discuss off-line, of course.

The consultant:
If you are a consultant in any area of financial services, incubation, soft skills, and commit certain amount of time per month, then we will put it up against the curriculum. 

For details, you can write to me at the1.speaks@gmail.com, or leave a message my facebook page ( Ashok Speaks). Look forward to your responses.  Meanwhile, I will keep talking to people.

 -The END

- Ashok Speaks


The Early Entrepreneur: The Heir of the Hair Raiser story

I was woken up rudely  I had to rush to the kitchen to prepare some dosas... and realized that there was already a nicely mashed flour( atta) in the fridge.  Now, that means that I need not have to reinvent wheel.  And as I was looking to narrate a inspiring story, a realization dawned that there is a story already baked, nice and ready.

The story in some parts a run-of-the-mill, but the inspiration came from real people. A bunch of young folks trying to eke out a living together.   A classical rural to urban, rag to riches ( minus the glitz), in the maximum city - a city that has inspired me to look for some character.
The heir of the hair raiser story was an emancipating journey

This HEIR OF THE HAIR RAISER story gave me a sense of completion, as I also got to participate as a character in the epilogue.  The three part story is now again referred back for those who might have joined late or looked the other way at my writings :) .
  • The first part covers the rural to urban movement.  Here is the link.  
  • The second part covers the birth of the entrepreneur... when the situation is literally back to the wall.  Here is the link
  • The third part illustrates the early days of the entrepreneurial journey ... how some simple and smart ideas made the endeavor tick.   Here is the link.
  • Finally, when the author, I , met them and walked through - reality meets fiction.  The epilogue was a emancipating experience.

Read this in conjunction, and enjoy.  Please do write to me your feedback - the1.speaks@gmail.com, is where you can reach me.

PS - this also is one of my first stories as an author, and I can talk about it ad nauseum.  Now fiction meets reality, which in turn meets my flights of fantasy about Early Entrepreneurship.

- Ashok Speaks

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Early Entrepreneur: The Fund(ing)amental question

The world is small.  Some people have money.  Other have ideas.  Other have talent and ability to execute.   Rarely do people have all three together.   When ideas marry ability to execute, that becomes a strong proposition for an investor.

Now, investing is like gambling.  Put money on uncertainty, with a belief that things will work out.   Now there are two ways an idea can blossom - slow and steady or big bang.   Most investors prefer the first part.   Unless you are a brand and have credibility,  the fist that finances will remain tight.  In most cases, it is the best possible approach.   I am a strong advocate of this model, where every penny that goes out is looked up as a reluctant expenditure, and a clear cost-benefit discussion is made.   However, this is still not fool proof.
MCFP is the fundamental achievement of a business

As a person who is more on the idea and execution side, I spend sleepless nights on how to meet the monthly ends meet.  Entrepreneurship can be a dream, but the risks of money expenditure are really high.   Even if you get a working capital, willing to break even - that is running at monthly cash positive, is something that I would want to achieve fast.  Why?  Because, the fundamental question of an investor - how long should I stay invested?

The monthly cash positive idea comes from the simple household idea.  One has to pay EMI's, salaries, utility bills on a monthly basis, and still be positive on cash - that will take any household, well, er, any company to the next levle. 

There are ideas that require long periods of investment and incubation.  Now those type of ideas may require a different level of evangelism both from the perspectives of time and money. 
Positive Cash Flow is the answer.

If you are looking for niche market and your go to market is taking a longer time - then there can be only two things - either your idea is too outdated or early, or you are too niche for the market to adapt.   So, work out a plan that addresses the fundamental question - break even at a monthly level as early as possible, that is the boost you can give an investor. 

My position on this is that, treat this investment as short term and make it work - that is break even at a monthly expense level at the earliest.   That brings credibility for the leader, and also sets the platform for a second set of investment come in.  But the fundamental does not change.  Monthly income, being greater than expenses, period - MONTHLY CASH FLOW POSITIVE ( MCFP) and that is the answer to the fund(ing)amental question.

If you are interested or knowing further - please write to the1.speaks@gmail.com

Earlier, in the Early Entrepreneur series:

The Tailor and the Sailor
Evolving the Early Entrepreneur
Or a Freelancer?
It takes two to tango!
Better sorry than safe!
Garage Gangs!
The Dropout Kid!



- Ashok Speaks

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Early Entrepreneur: The tailor and the sailor


Earlier, on Early Entrepreneur series:

Evolving the Early Entrepreneur
Or a Freelancer?
It takes two to tango!

Better sorry than safe!
Garage Gangs!
The Dropout Kid!

Now read on:

Now that it is one full month on board this ship, I believe that entrepreneurship is like being a sailor and a tailor, at the same time.  But these two roles go beyond mere rhyming.  One is about when to cut the cloth and another i is about the journey.

The Tailor :  When to cut, the classical dilemma:
Well, when we planned to start, it was always about what is the starting point.   When do we end planning and start to play.  In other words, it is the dilemma of a tailor - how much and how long would one measure, and when one would cut the plain cloth and start stitching a jacket or a robe.

There are hundreds of theories about when to stop planning and start playing.  But again, in a tailor's parlance, there is no 'straight jacket'.  It is about crystallization to the extent of conviction.   Because there are some people who are eternal planners, vs the type of just doers.  And most folks, mid-life entrepreneurs, advocate a middle path.

Because this is the unchangeable truth - once one cuts the plain cloth, it has started.  There is no going back.  Of course, unless you decide to take another piece of cloth and start afresh.  But if you had a customer, who had given you that piece of cloth, he would not give another one, would he/she?  So technically, there would not be a second chance.
Tailor: When to cut the cloth?

Some business ideas, give you another start, unlike others.  Hence you still might have another piece, for argument sake.  But in real life, there is no second chance, when you involve a customer.   Hence the dilemma rears its head.  How much would you plan?   And when do you actually put your scissors to the cloth?

I can leave this with a thought - it is a metaphor of one's risk taking appetite.  If you have to deliver a product that exactly what the customer wants - you are in the business of tailor-hood.   But like a craftsman, who can create what he wishes, or ends up making one that he can justify later and makes a sale, then it is a different ball game.   Now are you into the tailor business or like a craftsman?   Write to me about that.

The Sailor:  When to sail?

If you have read the old sea classics, or pirate stories, or remotely involved with any folks in the sea-faring business, you will know how much of preparation that goes into, before a ship sails for a voyage.  But the most important thing is the date.  A date is set for the voyage.  And a confidence to meet that date.  Similarly in entrepreneur'ship', the date for the voyage is very important.

Check your boat for holes, stock supply, medicines for sea-sickness, clothes, safe-guards - get all that done.  But at end of the day, these are only the tools that will help you meet situations that will occur in the high seas.  What if you are a fresh sailor?  How will you set your voyage date? 
SAILOR:  When to sail?

The best way is to put an actual date, and stick with it.   Check the weather pattern, check that there is enough time for preparation but let it not be too far.   Too far is eternal procrastination.   And celebrate that date, in your own way - but my personal opinion is that one should keep the celebration as muted as possible.   Because after the initial euphoria, the reality sinks in.  There is no more anchor, but only the high seas, and in its midst, its YOU ALONE, out to sail.

If you are interested in this topic or early entrepreneurship, please write to the1.speaks@gmail.com

- Ashok Speaks