People I’m grateful for

There are so many folks at Adobe who’ve contributed to my growth.

Naresh Gupta – who started the company but asked me to move back to India before he would even interview me for a job at Adobe. I did not get selected after the interviews, which is another story. In 2003, lots of non resident Indian’s were shopping for offers and wasting his time. Naresh also encouraged me to invest in property, which turned out really well for me.

Lekhraj Sharma – He’s been my manager for about 10 of my 13 years at Adobe and was the only reason I got selected at Adobe after I could not get selected as a software developer. Lekhraj has had the biggest impact on my career and l have a lot to thank him for. His kindness, his sense of fairness and commitment to the work is uncompromising. He also supported me leaving his org to move to Product Management.

Barry Hills – Its 2005 and I’m trying to figure out how to really make program management work at Adobe India. Barry led program management at Adobe for the creative products. He is perhaps the most encouraging and positive manager I’ve met. He told amazing stories over expensive bottles of wine about the counting crows and Julia Roberts. I still remember them 12 years later. Strange.

Erica Schisler: The one person who really believed in making Adobe India work from the get go. I actively sought her mentorship and she was generous. She put with accents, cows mooing, stomach infections and bad connections over Indian landlines to make the Adobe Media Encoder and the Premiere and AE extension teams work at Adobe India. She also took interest in developing people. She brought enormous energy and follow through to everything she did. Cut through the bullshit and politics and just got shit done. Taught me everything I know about program management and working with people.

Raman Nagpal: Was my first manager at Adobe. Helped me understand how to navigate Adobe and integrate and add value. Very astute observer of people and their motivations. Taught me how to read people. Encouraged me to invest in property in Gurgaon. Both these things worked out really well for me.

Ashish Agarwal: My sounding board on everything we were doing to build a program management organisation at Adobe in 2003-05. He worked with challenging people at Adobe and was able to keep his head straight through everything. He was very clear about his goals and he taught me how to look out for yourself and how to manage things when the going gets tough.

Amit Kumar Singh: My second sounding board at Adobe on program management. Unfortunately he worked with some of the worst people at the company, who got personal, seemed difficult and unnecessarily demanding. He worked through this mess and left Adobe on a high. He taught me how there can be a great life out of Adobe. He also taught me the value of being an honest, dependable ally.

Pankaj Mathur: Taught me about people. He demonstrated how differently motivated people are. He taught me how easy it is to misunderstand people and how lack of vocabulary to express your true intent can hurt you. He also taught me how not be afraid of asking hard questions, uncomfortable questions.

Rajesh Budhiraja: A fantastic leader. No one at Adobe is more dedicated to the success of Illustrator and more passionate about making a difference and building world class products out of India. He’s been doing that for the last 15 years. He also understands “ownership” better than most people. He knows how to drive engineering organisations and get shit done. As my partner in engineering, he’s always pushed me to be a better product manager and a better people manager.

Anurag Wahi: A leader with polished and considered opinion. Anurag taught me what to say and when to say it is much more important than just talking because you have the floor.

Rahul Vishwaroop: I’ve worked with Rahul for a long time. I’ve not seen a better people manager. He genuinely looks after his team and encourages the team members to grow and find their calling. He knows how to set goals, monitor them and get things done. He taught me how to manage bad performers. He taught me how to read people and have the conversations that needed to be had.

Shamit Kumar Mehta: Stoic and Calm. Shamit taught me how to keep calm and work through the madness to get things done. He also impressed me by the way he sought mentorship and friendship in the company. He is the only person who moved from a program manager at Adobe to an engineering manager to a Sr. EM. Fantastic accomplishment. I haven’t met anyone who has a low opinion of him. He knew how little his product managers knew, he knew the politics but it never let him stop contributing beyond what was expected of him.

Neeraj Nandkeolyar: Taught me about Art. Taught me about life. Taught me about passion. Taught me everything I know about Illustrator, InDesign, Print and introduced me to many interesting people and experiences.

Yogesh Sharma: Taught me how to communicate clearly and use design to your advantage. He taught me empathy.

Michael Ninness: Taught me how to value my own self and my needs. He taught me how to tell stories and how to have many difficult conversations everyday without blowing a fuse. He taught me the value of a great presentation. He probably made more of a different to my quality of life than any manager I’ve had at Adobe. He’s also asked me better questions than any manager I’ve had.

Paul Gubbay – Storytelling, Alignment and strategy. Paul’s amazing at all these things. Lots I can learn from him. I don’t think I learnt as much as I could have from him, which is mostly my fault.

Vineet Batra – Engineer par excellence. He taught me how single handedly a strong engineer or two can completely change the game for your product. He also taught me how no nonsense execution works. He reminds me of principal researchers and scientists like Mark Davis and Ken Gundry at Dolby Labs. They knew their stuff just like Vineet and stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Bert Bischoff, Joe Bibbo and folks at Nemesys: My first part time job in Austin was at Nemesys music technologies. Bert gave me the chance to work for Nemesys. I would not have been able to pay my tuition at University of Texas at Austin without Bert. Bert, Joe Bibbo and the Van Buskirks taught me what it meant to work in a start up. It learnt a lot at Nemesys and I’m forever grateful to them.

There are so many others that I’ve failed to mention. My team members that I’d managed out of Adobe and folks that left my team taught me a lot and in a short amount of time. Its better they remain unnamed.

–Anubhav

Traveling alone for business

I’ve traveled alone a lot. Probably more than most people. I can tell you that it’s not fun. Especially when you can travel with other people. There is no one to talk to. No one to share experiences and no face to look at as I laugh at a good joke at a comedy club.

Everywhere I go, I see what I don’t have. Other people with company. People holding hands, kissing, talking and enjoying the simple pleasures of company.

Everyday I test my motivation and try to stay in action and do things instead of reading a book or just pursue passive ways to pass time. I also have to be ok not talking to anyone for six to twelve hours everyday. This is strangely meditative and not calming at the same time. I continually wrestle with my thoughts. I entertain fantasies where I make a real breakthrough and get clarity on life changing decisions in such times of loneliness. This never happens. Often the best decisions I’ve made are by talking to other people and not while engrossed in my own thoughts.

Often I have to actively stop thinking about work problems or problems at home so that I dont lose my mind away from home. I also have to find ways to fight depression as I settle to familiar patterns while traveling:

  1. Get up – search for places for breakfast on yelp
  2. Talk to the family
  3. Walk to work
  4. meetings ++
  5. Walk back to the hotel
  6. Search for places for dinner on yelp
  7. Eat (sometimes with local friends or customers)
  8. Watch TV or listen to comedy on YouTube
  9. Talk to the family
  10. Sleep

So yeah, its not always fun. Especially when you travel to the same place all the time.

–Anubhav

Practical issues with money when you choose to work in India

If you work for a multi-national company in India, you probably have had the chance to work outside of India. Actually, most Indians working in software can probably go work outside of India. They’ve either fantasised about moving out of India or have actually done so. Some, a very few, like me have moved to the US, worked and then moved back to India.

This means that’s at one point, most of us have had the opportunity to earn in a currency other than the Indian Rupees. I knew that I was not going to make more money by going to India but I did not realise the penalty I pay on my savings my keeping them in INR. Here is a table that shows that just in the last 5 years, I’ve lost over 50% of my savings just by keeping them in INR against keeping them in USD assuming the same rate of return on the savings. 

The latter is not entirely true though. The rate of returns on good equity funds in the last 5 years offsets against this loss because large cap equity funds in India have returned between 13-22% in the last 5 years. 

So you make an absolute return of 100% on your money while losing 50% to currency losses. This means you have to take a lot of risk in India to make up for just the currency loss, but it is possible. Also, if you invested your US savings at a similar risk in the US, you would have made 8.5% annually in a DJIA ETF, giving you 50% on your dollar savings. 

Thus, if you are equally invested in equity funds in the US and in India over a 5 year period, you would net out even.  

Even if you don’t take the risk, guaranteed return on your money in India are between 7-9.5% thus giving you the 50% loss due to the currency. But, this is the worst case scenario. You net out better than UK, JPY and Euro if you were invested during the last 5 years.

Plus, salary rises in the other goes were not as high as they are in India. So, your net savings would have been less in the last 5 years if you were in the UK, US or any other geography. So, working in India in tech is better and your savings are better if you invest wisely. 

I’ll try to post a table with this info in the coming days.

Ofcourse, past performance may not be carried forward in the future. 🙂

–Anubhav

2015 Book and Podcasts list

Here are the books and podcasts that I’ve read and enjoyed in 2015. Surprisingly, the podcasts were a lot more entertaining.

Title Rating
Honest truth about dishonesty 9
Money: Mastering the game 8
Mastery 6
Influence 10
4 hour body 10
Small giants 10
HBR on Teams 8
Bad Science 10
Flash boys 8 – did not end well
Surely you are joking Mr. Feynman 7 – bit much to read
Mindless eating 10

I will add reviews for each of these books later.

More fun than the books were the following Podcasts:

The Tim Ferriss Show

  • Derek Sivers on The Tim Ferriss podcast
  • Navak Ravikant on The Tim Ferriss podcast
  • Chris Sacca on The Tim Ferriss podcast

WTF with Marc Maron

  • WTF: Neil Strauss
  • WTF: Brian Grazer
  • WTF: Steve Albini
  • WTF: Lorne Michaels
  • WTF: Aaron Draplin. Draplin’s a friend
  • WTF: Fred Armison
  • WTF: Vince Gilligan
  • WTF: Jason Bateman

The Fizzle Show – Early podcasts upto Ep20

Serial Season 1

Startup Podcast: Gimlet media

A16z Podcast

  • a16z Podcast: The Year Mobile Began to Truly Dominate Tech
  • a16z Podcast: The Tiger and the Dragon — On Tech and Startups in India and China
  • a16z Podcast: What Comes After the Smartphone
  • a16z Podcast: Wall Street’s Most Hated Man — A Conversation With Overstock.com’s Patrick Byrne
  • a16z Podcast: Apple Has Lock on Luxury Smartphones, But Not Business of TV
  • a16z Podcast: Messaging As the Interface to Everything

The Food Chain

  • Chicken: Too much of a good thing

This American Life

  • #560: Abdi and the Golden Ticket
  • #504: How I Got Into College

Transitioning from an artisan to a business owner

Right after attending the four day business coaching workshop, cialis sale I went to the HOW design conference in Chicago and met some of the top graphic designers and printers in the business. One of these guys, buy cialis is by far the most authentic designer out there. He loves old American signage and logos and uses these as a muse for his creative work.

I was interest that even at the top of his game he was struggling with managing his time and growth. He complained about how he did not have time anymore to write back to young people starting out in graphic design and how he still felt that he was doing everything.

He was also realizing how the business realities were driving him away from creative work to operational crap. He said that he was making more from selling stationery in his brand than he made designing identities, plus printing more of the same items was a lot less work than managing clients who wanted new logos.

He was really having a come to jesus moment about his business.

This reminded me of a great book I read which covered the journey of an artisan to business owner and their struggles. This book is called, “The e-myth revisted”.  I am going to send him this book because it covers exactly what he’s going through and can really help him figure our how he wants to grow and manage growth. I learnt so much from that book I hope he can too.

Here is a summary of this book.

–Anubhav

Data analytics for desktop software products

Feature AnalyticsFundamentally, there is very little difference between data analytics for desktop or web based software companies. I’ve have worked on both kinds of software for my current employer. In large companies, you should work with your privacy lawyer to ensure that you can collect the data you need without violating any privacy guidelines.

Here are some of the  metrics to collect to manage your product

Business analysis metrics

  • Customer acquisition funnel
  • Active use and retention percentages weekly

Feature analysis

This is the area where we should get the “feature teams” or “Squads” to own the data analysis for their feature. This involves

  • Predicting feature usage (percentage of weekly active users using a feature) based on usage numbers for past features.
  • Deciding what usage means for your feature and logging that event
  • Measuring repeat use and defining what repeat use means?
  • Build the ability to report and record these numbers easily

Hopefully, the graphic below will allow you to understand feature analytics better

Also read this post.

Beyond mouse and keyboard, creating using touch in Illustrator CC

Here is a link to my session at MAX on creating with Touch in Illustrator CC

http://max.adobe.com/sessions/max-online/#/video/622

Getting this out there took a lot of doing. It’s clearly a highlight of my career as this work got a mention at Mashable as well as got Microsoft to give away Surface Pro 3’s to everyone at Adobe MAX.

http://mashable.com/2014/10/07/microsoft-adobe-partnership/

–Anubhav

Corruption in Indian e-commerce companies

So.. a little bird told me about what’s happening in Indian e-commerce companies.

While they are experiencing significant revenue growth, their corrupt employees are experiencing wind fall gains from corrupt practices.

Purchase managers at Myntra, snapdeal, Be Stylish and Fashion and U are taking kickbacks between 4-10% of the revenue given to each vendor. This is enough money that a lot of these purchase managers have left these companies and created there own entities. So.. a purchase manager responsible for a 10cr /year ($4M) category can take between 40Lacs to 1 crores a year from these kickbacks. This is easily between 5-20 times their yearly wages. So.. no surprises that it works the way it does.

Of course ,this will not surprise any body brought up in India. Bit is does shed light on lack of controls at these companies as they chase between 30-100% growth year on year.  Some ungodly big numbers have been mentioned here. Clearly there is a lot of money to be made on and off the books.

Lets look at the reported revenue growth being experienced by these companies. Please treat these numbers as ballpark estimates made by reading various news articles by me.

Revenues(USD) 2012-13 2013-14 2015 goals
Myntra $83,333,333 $133,333,333 $250,000,000
Snapdeal $100,000,000 $200,000,000

More information on these companies valuations can be found in this economic times article