Category: Uncategorized

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

Transitioning to a Product Management role from a software developer

Ok. I’ve done it. Here is how I went about it.

When I was working in the US as a programmer, I realized that most of the coding I was doing did not require a lot of technical chops. For every DSP/Algorithm guy, there were 3 UI/general app developers. I also missed not being in front of customers or not representing a company. I also want to make more important decisions for a business than which data structure to use when coding a particular feature. So.. as you can see, I did not really care for the art of programming and hence I was not very good at it.

I was however, very good with people and in front of customers. So.. I decided to move into a applications engineering position, which put me in front of customers who wanted to license technology from the company I worked for. I did this by:

  • Finding people in this role already.
  • Doing any project I could do for them – in my spare time
  • Finding a hiring manager and impressing my skills on him.

While this put me in front of people, this was still not a real business role. I decided to move back to India and started as a project manager at my current company. I interviewed for a programming position but I was not hired as a programmer, they offered me a program management position instead – luckily they saw something in me that I did not. And, frankly, I was just looking for a job to keep me busy. Moving back to India from the US is hard, especially if you are unable to find a fulfilling job back home.

I spent a lot of time learning in this role and saying “yes” to new things. I socialized over lunch with different team members. I filed bugs and feature requests, which very few program/project managers did and I wrote utilities in java and Konfabulator to track bug stats and shared these with other teams and PM. I also wrote scripts to batch process bugs in our bug data base that saved other program managers a lot of time. I eventually started to manage a team of program managers and new responsibilities kept coming to me. And, I started a customer advocacy program where I set up customer visits for the engineering teams to acquaint them with customer issues.

So… the lessons here are:

  • Share freely
  • Always be learning
  • Default to “yes” than “no”
  • Build relationships across teams and geos.
  • Expand your role at every opportunity you get
  • Present often – stand up in front of a group and present ideas and status often.

Around this time, I felt I was peaking and there was no where else to go. I did not have an MBA from IIM or an engineering degree from IIT and felt that I needed atleast one of these to succeed in India. You know – educational qualifications are the new class system in India. So.. since I was doing well at work and wanted to move into the business side of things, I decided to pursue a part time MBA from IIM Lucknow’s Noida campus. My experiences there are in captured in this blog.

The MBA was great. I learned new skills and developed greater confidence in my ability to analyze data and dissect strategic mumbo jumbo. I also made new friends. Its hard to make friends as you grow older.

I continued in my existing job but was eager to move into product management. All the relationships I had build over the years with colleagues in India and in the US came in handy as when I applied for an internal opportunity in a product that I was project managing. The MBA helped. The connections helped. My experience on the product helped. My experience with the product team and their votes helped. The customer advocacy program helped. The hiring manager in India was supportive once  he saw everyone else’s support. The lessons here are:

  • Develop business acumen. You dont have to do an MBA but it helps
  • Do more than your job demands
  • Demonstrate great communication skills.

I’ve been doing this for a while now and I believe that this is the best role for my skillset. Write to me if you have questions.