How to telecommute / work from home effectively?

What is telecommuting?

Telecommuting, also called working from home, remote work, telework, or teleworking, is a work arrangement in which employees do not commute or travel to a central place of work, such as an office building, warehouse or store and work from home, coffee shop or a place of their choice. Below listed are a few points to help you telecommute / work from home effectively:

  • Take pride in your work.
  • Start early – you can get a lot done with a fresh mind.
  • At the home office, no one’s watching. You are responsible for what you do.
  • Communicate expectations with anyone who will be at home with you so that they don’t distract/disturb you.
  • Pretend like you are going to office. Don’t stay in the nightdress/pyjamas. Structure your day like you would do in office. This helps you to be focused and productive.
  • Choose a dedicated workspace – Setting your work space apart from your home space allows you to better delineate the two, and lets your brain know when it needs to be in work mode or home mode.
  • Set goals for the day, create a To-Do list and commit to doing things. Using a simple notepad and pen works better. Write down and strike off as you finish a task.
  • Set deadlines for tasks.
  • Work in Sprints – to allow yourself dedicated time to a task at hand, work in sprints of no more than an hour at a time before you take a break. This way, your main task gets your entire focus for the allotted time, and then you can take a break for a few minutes to recharge.
  • Save calls for the afternoon.
  • Use technology smartly, to stay connected. (Ex. Skype, Slack, Hangout, Microsoft Teams)
  • Communicate Deliberately. Remote workers have to be better at communication than their office brethren.
  • Communicate well and often. Check in with co-workers and the boss several times a day.
  • Find the team’s golden hour – it makes sense to find the time when the majority of the team is available, so that you can schedule daily standup or all-hands meetings or other important events during that time.
  • Be virtually present in meetings.
  • Every 1 hour, take short and clear breaks. Get up and get outside to the balcony, for a while. Coffee breaks and lunch allow for some respite and time away from the desk and screen.
  • Follow the 20/20/20 rule – look away from the screen, every 20 mins, to something 20 feet away, for 20 secs.
  • Don’t go to non-work appointments in the middle of the day.
  • Make it harder for yourself to mess around on social media and TV. Resist the impulse.
  • Resist the urge to snack often.
  • Set office hours. Pick a definitive start and finishing time each day.
  • Have a shutdown ritual – this could be anything, from writing up what you did during the day and planning what you want to achieve tomorrow.
  • Do not forget to update the status for the day with the team and the manager.
  • Follow a routine – waking up, exercise, breakfast, logging in to work, lunch, logging out of work, evening family time, dinner, sleep. Routines help you to be organised.
  • As a manager,
    • Be proactive. Reach out to your team members regularly to set clear goals and expectations, offer support and assistance, and show you care about them as people, not just employees
    • Provide the right tools for the employees
    • Communicate clearly
    • Set clear expectations
    • Track progress
    • Be transparent
  • Remember to stay healthy,
    • Exercise regularly
    • Clean home creates a positive environment and helps focus.
    • Drink plenty of water
    • Eat healthy
    • Maintain proper hygiene
    • Get some fresh air, take a few deep breaths
    • Maintain a good posture
    • Take short breaks, quick walks, and do a few stretches
    • Put aside your devices at night
    • Have enough sleep at night and feel sufficiently rested

Every remote worker can have their own version of this list that helps them work to their full potential and be 100% productive for their team.

PS: I had compiled and shared this with my team 2 years back, when we had to work from home for a few days. Sorry that I do not remember the exact links or the sites, to provide reference here. Re-sharing it now for the benefit of all those who are privileged to have an option of working from home.

Enhancing the Messages app for a better User Experience

One morning around 6.30 am, my phone beeped upon receiving an SMS. Usually, I get my office cab details in SMS around the same time every day and thought it might be the same. When I took the phone to check the message, I was shocked to see that someone abroad had used my credit card to transact around 900 GBP. My sleep went off in the shock and I immediately dialled my bank to notify that the transaction was not done by me. 

Of late, we have started receiving lots of spam and marketing messages/SMS on mobile. We receive transaction alerts from banks as SMS. It happens, we fail to notice these alerts as they get buried with the rest of the other spam messages in the Inbox. In case, any unauthorised transaction has been made and if we fail to notice the banking alert SMS, it could prove costly.

With Android rolling out RCS (Rich Communication Services) messages, I thought I can share a suggestion to organise the messages in a better way so that we don’t miss out any messages that are important. Besides, too many spam messages are annoying, which keeps me away from opening the messages app and there certainly should be an option to filter these spam messages. Google has implemented tabbed messages in Gmail and thought why not we have a similar option for the messages too with four tabs. The first tab can be for Important alert messages like bank alerts, ATM withdrawal alerts, credit card spending, OTPs, stock market trade details, online wallet transfers and purchase receipts …etc. The second tab can be for the messages From Contacts. All other messages which might not be important and might not be spam too can be in the third tab, Updates. The marketing and spam messages in the fourth tab, Spam.

Below are a few layout suggestions to organise and display the messages. They are the candidates to experiment and understand which serves the users best and which the users love. The layout can have grid, list and tab views to display the messages. This UI presentation makes the messages to be organized and well presented. More importantly, it helps in noticing important messages and making decisions quickly, which is missing today in the messaging app. The time to act upon a required message will be less here when compared to the current message inbox.  Apart from the layouts suggested, it would also be helpful if the user has feature to sort unread messages, follow-up messages and add reminders to the messages. All these improvements can eventually make the experience of using the messaging app much better.  

Mock-up of grid view
(Designed using Marvel)
Mock-up of list view
(Designed using Marvel)
Mock-up of tab view
(Designed using Marvel)

References:

A Plan for Spamhttp://paulgraham.com/spam.html

Better Bayesian Filteringhttp://paulgraham.com/better.html

Filters that Fight Backhttp://paulgraham.com/ffb.html

Mobile UX Design: List View and Grid Viewhttps://uxplanet.org/mobile-ux-design-list-view-and-grid-view-8f129b56fd5b

Web Layout Best Practices: 12 Timeless UI Patterns Analyzedhttps://www.uxpin.com/studio/blog/web-layout-best-practices-12-timeless-ui-patterns-explained

Thanks to Pari & Ravi for reviewing the draft and the feedback 🙂

Addendum:

These days, after shopping at stores, very few people save the physical receipts, which would be used in case of exchanges, warranty or for any other tracking purpose. It would be of great help if the messages app also has options to categorize and store receipts, that are sent as messages after billing through POS machines. Additionally, these receipts can also be useful to redeem loyalty points. Gradually, shops can eliminate the necessity to issue physical copy of receipts. If the Messages app can summarize all the spends for a month or year that would be an added delight, which would help us manage budgets.

Also, I m interested to have Google pay integration with Messages. If I receive my monthly notification for credit card payment or phone bills, I should be allowed to pay directly from the Messages app.

A common man’s wish list for good governance

The newly elected government in India has just assumed office and here is a common man’s wish list for good governance.

A website with information on various government services – A lot many people find it difficult to figure out how they or their family can avail various government services or schemes. It would be better, if the government can create a website like howto.gov.in and posts instructions either as text or videos in English and other prominent Indian languages, on how someone can apply for a birth certificate, new gas connection, enrol a family member for Aadhaar, open a new bank account, apply for health or life insurance, submit grievances to government offices…etc. With almost everyone having a mobile phone, these instructions should be sharable so that many people can be made aware of the various procedures.

Reference: https://ashokprabhu.com/2013/03/30/creating-a-better-nation-with-well-informed-citizens/

People help desk at government offices, run by private agencies – When I had to apply for a passport in 2006, after I graduated from college, I had no clue on how to do it. I was told, I need to go to the collectorate and apply for it. I was anxious, as getting it done in a government office is not an easy task without bribing people. However, I noticed something good that time. I was told, there is a helpdesk and upon paying Rs. 40 service charge, they would prepare my passport application and inform me what all needs to be done. I paid just Rs. 40 service charge and they took care of everything and finally provided me an acknowledgement slip. Creating such help desks in all government offices and setting time frames for every application like birth/death certificate or any other official documents would help the public to a great extend besides reducing corruption.

To improve transparency in government tendering process, the government should publish all tenders online on a website like tenders.gov.in

To increase transparency and reduce corruption, various government departments can voluntarily submit the statement of accounts online for which the government can commission a website like fundsandspends.gov.in

To track and audit donations made to government and non-governmental organisations, the government can create and maintain a public repository, donations.gov.in, where all the donations made and how it was used are reported and maintained, and can be under the watch of the government auditors.

Reference:https://ashokprabhu.com/2013/03/30/tracking-and-auditing-donations-made-to-government-and-non-governmental-organisations/

Increasing transparency in hospitals – Some hospitals and doctors take patients for a ride, taking advantage of critical situations. Make hospitals, nursing homes and clinics display the charges levied for various procedures and all the cost of consumables used during treatment, at the lobby, prominently visible to patients and also on the hospital’s website, online.

Exercise India – Poor health cost people peace of mind, besides making them financially poor. Like how the government launched Swachh Bharat Mission or promoted Yoga, the government should also launch campaigns urging people to exercise daily or at least go for a brisk walk for 20 minutes every day, which would make them people healthy and happy. Besides, the government can also fund building walking tracks for every locality in the towns and cities.

Of late youngsters are losing motivation to join the armed forces. Sainik Schools are considered to be feeder institution to the armed forces. Sainik Schools can be further improved to attract talented youngsters, and also students from economically weaker sections of the society, by means of scholarships. To enable this, it would be ideal to bring all the Sainik Schools under the full purview of the ministry of defence and provide full scholarships for 50% of the students from the rural and economically weaker sections of the society, in each Sainik School, from the budget allocated to the armed forces. On my alma mater’s (Sainik School Amaravathi Nagar) website, I see that the full fee per year per student comes to around Rs. 1,55,000/-. Each Sainik School has a strength of around 600 and there are around 25 Sainik Schools across India. So the cost to the government per year would be approx. Rs. 233 crore to cover for the entire students or Rs. 117 crore for 50% of the students, which is much less than 0.1 % of the budget allocated to the armed forces in India.

Renaming of airports and railway stations – While some airports and railway stations are named after the city or town they are located in, a few are named after political personalities. For ease of use and to remove biases, let the emphasis of naming the airports and railway stations be on the location or the city rather than personalities. A good precedent is the renaming of all the districts and transport corporations in Tamil Nadu in the year 1997.

The government had earlier mooted the idea of ‘One Nation, One Election’. However, in the event of not conducting one common election every five years, the government can look at one election every year for all the states scheduled for election in that year, to be held during the summer holidays.

One elected representative per family – If someone wants to contest election, his/her direct blood relatives i.e parents, spouse, children or siblings should not be an elected representative. Let there be policies which prevents more than one MP or MLA from the same family. India might be a democratic country and everyone might have the freedom to contest elections. However, people take undue advantage and this only leads to family politics. Also with a population of 130 crore, there should be no dearth of good people to contest elections.

Digitise all police stations across the country and build a robust Case Management System that is integrated with various investigative agencies. Below is a suggestion for a Case Management System specific to Child Protection:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TIkG8ae409ETrcyh1079w79a_c3PKXjirzZvY4QNAtw/edit?usp=sharing

Need for more smaller states – Currently, many Indian states in terms of landmass or population are larger than many countries in the world. Create more smaller states in India, which in turn would bring the government closer to people and make administration more efficient.

References: https://www.firstpost.com/politics/logic-of-telangana-is-sound-why-india-needs-small-50-states-999325.html

https://qz.com/india/513927/is-it-time-to-restructure-india-into-smaller-states/

This year we will be celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who stood for non-violence and suggest we celebrate by focusing on one issue, that is, bullying at school, which when addressed will help bring up kind and polite students, who will go on to be good citizens and in turn build a better society around them.

Reference: https://ashokprabhu.com/2019/05/28/150-years-of-mahatma-gandhi/

Jai Hind!

Originally submitted at https://mygov.in

150 years of Mahatma Gandhi

This year we will be celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who stood for non-violence and suggest we celebrate by focusing on one issue, that is, bullying at school, which when addressed will help bring up kind and polite students, who will go on to be good citizens and in turn build a better society around them.

Bullying in school is a significant problem worldwide and is one of the most common antisocial behaviors among children. It is a public health problem and can threaten students’ physical and mental wellbeing at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn.

The victims, in the short term, may feel depressed, anxious, angry, have sleep disturbance, excessive stress and nightmares, have a significant drop in school performance, or may commit suicide. The consequences include missing classes, avoiding school activities, playing truant or dropping out of school altogether. This in turn has an adverse impact on academic achievement,  future education and employment prospects. Being bullied is also linked to a heightened risk of eating disorders and social and relationship difficulties.

In the long term, they may feel insecure, lack trust, develop a mental illness or develop further health challenges. They may also desire vengeance, sometimes leading them to torment others in return. Involvement in school bullying can be a predictor of future antisocial and criminal behaviour and both bullies and their victims can later fall prey to alcohol, substance abuse and violent behaviour.

The best way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts. Training the staffs of schools and educating students to prevent and address bullying can help sustain bullying prevention efforts over time. Governments should advice schools to implement comprehensive bullying prevention programs and help in developing and enforcing curriculum that is culturally responsive and sensitive to all. Governments along with NGOs can produce educational programs, class lessons, videos, anti-bullying posters and educate students, teachers and parents on the effects of bullying and pave way for a peaceful co-existence. Governments and schools should also help students to connect better by helping them  develop skills in conflict resolution, problem solving, negotiations, listening, communication, and decision making. As a society, we should teach children kindness and empathy and help them build understanding of those around them.

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Unpluggd 2019

It was insightful to be at the Unpluggd 2019. With my experience during the previous editions, I was confident that the Unpluggd team would pick up speakers with great quality and they didn’t let me down. Below are the notes I made:

Sachin

Sachin Bansal (Founder of Flipkart) had a chat on building Flipkart, Thinking Big and Next India Opportunities. He said growth hack for the first 1000 customers at Flipkart, when social networking was just picking up was SEO and word of mouth. They gave ESOPs to people which they didn’t appreciate that moment but only  later when it grew in value. He said he learnt management skills as he built Flipkart, learnt from mistakes and moved on. Cash on delivery, returns were easy because Flipkart had its own logistics.

When asked on what the other Indian competition missed, he said, they could have built better tech. He also said that technology changes break monopolies.

In his opinion, spaces which has opportunity for technology to transform are grocery, healthcare, education, and electric transportation. When asked, what Sachin looks for while evaluating an opportunity, he said: market size, is the market available for disruption, people and their commitment. He advised to think big to build a big business, build a great team, keep the bar high and create trust.

Praful Poddar’s (Head of Product, Olx) talk was very appealing. He spoke on how to fail fast, early and cheap and gave the BIRA mnemonic for product experiments. 

B

I

R

A

Recap

Final

Kunal Shah (Founder of CRED & Freecharge) in an AMA session gave some great insights:

  • 95% of credit cards or car loans are by men
  • Only 5% of credit card users have enabled auto debit enabled
  • Only 12% of women in India are part of the workforce
  • Instead of fail fast, research and plan well
  • Easiest way to know product market fit is the measure of organic growth
  • People want to pay for content if they are short of time, which is not the case is here. Ex. when Tiktok and pubg are being banned means people are doing nothing all day
  • In India people have the tendency to give sugar coated feedback.
  • People who understand applause or crowd empathy, training pets are good at product management
  • Any product that is of high value and infrequent purchase needs high trust building
  • In India people buy education like insurance
  • Nobody enjoys fueling the car or working out but enjoying vacations or playing with kids
  • Boring transactions to interesting transactions
  • Countries with multiple ethnicity have trust problem
  • Education, dating have a premium scope, where Indians can spend money.
  • There is not a great platform for investing in fixed deposits, which Indians love
  • Apartments, apparels have foreign names because we trust less of Indian
  • Most customers didn’t know the interest charges on their credit cards

Anuj Rathi (VP, Products at Swiggy) while speaking on effortless prioritization and how to focus on what really matters, gave the below framework:

  • Focus on customers 50%
  • Focus on competition 10%
  • Focus on economics 20%
  • Focus on future 20%

He also advised on how to prioritize using ICE- Impact, Confidence, Effort.

Anshuman Bapnaa (Chief Product Officer, Goibibo at MakeMyTrip Group) while talking on Scaling Products beyond product-market fit phase said Alignment eats strategy. You want autonomy. You earn that through alignment. How do our partners, customers feel about what we are doing. goCash, a wallet which earned when you upload your address book and you earned money when your friend travelled is an example of alignment.

  1. Be explicit about your beliefs. Ex. Spotify Rhythm: Taxonomy
  2. Choose the right metric and then obsess about reporting it.
  3. Set up autonomous, x-collab teams & give them missions
  4. Overlap missions so teams reinforce each other
  5. Finally, create an alignment rhythm that works for you.

Aakash Dharmadhikari (Director Products, GOJEK) spoke on takeaways from 100x growth and the challenges for that are growing team sizes, complex market dynamics, broken communication, and frequent misalignments. He also said lean works, even at a unicorn and told to treat your company as product, and internal stakeholders as customers. He also stressed on the importance of everyone sharing the big picture, transparency around prioritization for which dashboards and showcases for teams helped. He advised to use OKRs.

Reference: GO-JEK OKR FAQ

Rahul Malik (Head of Product, Atlassian, Bengaluru) said, we should learn to set up OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) in your company. Clearly articulate company strategy, communicate. There should be a sense of belonging in team.

David Zabowski (VP of Engineering, NerdWallet) on going from 0 to 1, 1 to N. The 4 stages of 0 to N

  • Finding initial product market fit
  • Scaling the discovered product
  • Expanding to adjacent product areas: 1 to N
  • Scaling, iteration and leverage

Ranjeet Pratap Singh (CEO & Cofounder, Pratilipi) born in a small village in UP, looked inspirational.

Ashish Sinha (Founder of Nextbigwhat) spoke on 7 Sins of Product Managers

  1. Lust – strong desires. Obsessed with PR, cool tech no one is using, desire to be seen as disruptive business.
  2. Gluttony – over consumption of anything to the point of waste. More features, more options, more options. Reverse example- Why Netflix does not have short films.
  3. Greed
  4. Sloth-stay in the comfortable a/c office and build what you think is right, without talking to the customers.
  5. Wrath-when launch fails, blame game.
  6. Envy-too obsessed with competition. Competition driven. Reactive.
  7. Pride-too obsessed with self.

To be a good product manager, one should have business and analytical skills, customer understanding, influencing skills and the ability to criticize your own ideas. 

Arvind Pani (CEO, Reverie) which was acquired by Jio said, not every startup needs to aspire for billion dollar valuations.

Vivek (Cofounder of BOUNCE) was full of confidence when he spoke on finding Product-Market Fit in a Brand New Category. He said behavioral shaping is happening in India and shared mobility will pickup.

Anandamoy Roychowdhary (Director – Technology, Sequoia Capital India Advisors) while speaking on how to hire and grow team as you scale said, look for passion and grit

Design

Mobile Sparks 2017 by Yourstory

Have been a regular reader of Yourstory and a fan of it flagship event TechSparks. This time wanted to witness and learn from mobile entrepreneurs and went in for the MobileSparks, also hosted by Yourstory. The theme of MobileSparks 2017 was “The New Billion”. Over here, I would predominantly be focussing on the session, “Building habit forming products” delivered by Pramod Jajoo, CTO of Big Basket. Here is what he had to say on the 7 principles to follow:

1. Use user-centric design philosophy

  • UCD is a design process that focuses on user needs and requirements
  • Most commonly a four step process
    • Understand the user context
    • Develop user requirements
    • Design/develop
    • Evaluate
  • UCD heavily involves users in all design and evaluation phases
  • Examples of UCD at Big Basket
    • We tend to buy the same product over and over again – smart basket
    • Show available vouchers in the big basket voucher flow
  • Anti example of UCD
    • Online bus site missing the itenary details
    • An ecommerce site showing, you may like similar phones even after purchasing a phone only recently

2. Keep things simple

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” – Albert Einstein

  • WhatsApp signup is a good example
  • Remember, most users do not have an engineering or an MBA degree.
  • Keep user flows simple
    • Remove frictions
    • Contextual actions
    • Consistency in nomenclature
  • Use intuitive iconography and fonts
    • Quote and Forward icons in WhatsApp is quite confusing.

3. Imbibe data orientation

  • Make “data actionable”
    • Measure everything
    • Draw insights from the data
    • Take corrective actions based on what the data tells you
  • Make application smarter with smarter notification, personalisation…etc.
  • Few example of internal analysis
    • Cohort analysis
    • Scores of NPS, CSAT, CES (Customer Effort Score)
  • Experiments
    • For any non trivial changes, experiment and measure.
    • Have a representative sample for different experiments
    • Have a baseline or control group

4.‎ Optimize performance and non-happy flows

  • Performance makes a huge difference in user experience and adoption
    • Google found that and extra .5 seconds in search page generation time dropped traffic by 20%
  • Make user actions responsive and (instant if possible)
    • Take action first and then send to server in async mode
    • Tweak the flow to design for performance
    • Image compression, prefetch, HTTP 2…etc.

5.‎ Go beyond metros and English speaking audience

  • Mobile first (or may even be mobile only)
  • Mobile web is super critical. Progressive Web Apps.
  • Supporting variety of devices.
    • Screen size
    • Spotty networks (Use caching, buffering, compression, prefetch …etc.)
    • Battery load, push notification reliability
    • App size optimization
  • Natural Language Processing and voice would play a huge role
  • Vernacular support

6. Tailor solutions for cost/value conscious users

  • Most Indians are cost/value conscious
    • If you are competing on price, then benchmark prices regularly.
    • You need to win on price perception and not just on price.
    • Communicate on the value proposition
    • Look at “cashbacks” as repeat purchase incentives. But keep it simple.
  • Win the trust
    • Explain value propositions clearly
    • Explain the rationale for fees (and do not make them hidden).
    • Provide value – lower cost should not mean “cheap or shoddy”.

7. Behavioral science and psychology

Lots of techniques for creating an emotional connect, effective storytelling, satisfying an itch and designing habit forming rewards. Understanding this well can have a profound effect on product success. A few techniques,

  • Nudge

Made popular by 2017 Nobel Prize winner for Economics – Richard Thaler

“A nudge, as we will use the term, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”

Example of Nudges at Big Basket:

On the basket page of the first time users without fruits and vegetables in the basket; to nudge the customer to buys F&V, we could say “More than 90% of our customers purchase fruits and vegetables. Great quality. Sourced and packed for freshness.

On the basket page, to nudge the user to qualify for the next offer, “Shop for Rs. 220 more and avail 10% off.”

  • Paradox of choice
    • Abundance of choice paralyses the user.
    • User’s attention is fickle and user’s time is precious.
    • Make smart defaults for the user.
    • Bundle options whenever possible.
    • Limit choices based on personalisation.
    • Smart recommendations. Ex. Facebook’s smart feed.
    • Less is more.
  • Decoy effect (cognitive bias)

One of the many cognitive biases that most humans have. Lets look at an example of decoy effect. Say, we as a seller can afford to give 20% on bulk purchases of a product. Option1; Buy 1 at Rs. 100. Option 2: Buy 5 at Rs. 400(20% off).

Just by adding a decoy choice makes customer choose our option much more. Option1; Buy 1 at Rs. 100. Option 2[Preferred choice]: Buy 5 at Rs. 400(20% off). Option3[Decoy]:  Buy 4 at Rs. 380(5% off)

“The decoy effect (or attraction effect or asymmetric dominance effect) is the phenomenon whereby consumers will tend to have a specific change in preference between two options when also presented with a third option that is asymmetrically dominated.” -Wikipedia

He also advised not to overuse this.

Here are the book recommendations by Pramod:

  1. Design of everyday things by Don Norman
  2. Predictably irrational by Dan Ariely
  3. Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
  4. Hooked by Nir Eyal
  5. Paradox of choice by Barry Schwartz

Sanket Atal, Group Vice President, Oracle while talking on rethinking mobile paradigms said the three fundamental things necessary for startups to thrive are an addressable market, talent and technology.

Jason Wang of SHAREit India while talking on the journey of scaling to 300 million users said,

  • Understand what is the opportunity, what are the users pain points.
  • Share it was designed for areas with poor connection but people looking for entertainment.
  • The app should be super simple and super friendly.
  • Have people to answer questions 24/7.
  • Execution matters.
  • Focus organic growth and word of mouth.

Amit Somani, Managing Partner, Prime Venture Partners, while talking on How data can be used to understand the new billion users, and ways for startups to spot the multiple opportunities in India, quoted the below slide:

Maslows-Hierarchy-of-Startups

Special mentions to Arun Babu ASP from Uber India, for making his talk more lively.

Spring cleaning the physical wallet

Wallet3

A fat wallet  is terrible looking. It gives you that big bulge that’s just ugly. The smartphone can lighten up a heavy wallet. We’ve seen mobile phones displace cameras, music players, books, credit cards and a lot many and we can also digitize stuffs in the wallet like business cards, receipts, ID cards, loyalty cards …etc. Here is yet another suggestion from the Google fanboy on digitizing business cards and eliminating them from your wallet.

  • Digitizing physical business cards

Business cards help us share contact details and make use of it over a long term for mutual benefit. It is pretty much a necessity for networking. But how do you deal with a bunch of 100+ business cards when you return from a conference or trade show. Stuffing the cards inside the wallet or maintaining a box of cards or a rolodex is burdensome, occupies physical space and cannot be carried with us wherever we go. I propose a solution wherein, Google, which also has apps like Google Goggles and PhotoScan, should come up with a mechanism to integrate business cards with contacts by provisioning users to scan business cards using the phone’s camera, transcribe what is written on the card and save or merge it to contacts. From the digitized card, the user should be able to contact them via call, e-mail, SMS, or add them on LinkedIn.

Once the user captures the business card on the contacts screen, it should display the image of the scanned business card followed by the below fields, which should be fetched from the transcribed text on the card and the user should be allowed to edit/enter the missing information manually.

  • Title
  • Name
  • Job Title
  • Company Information
  • Address
  • Phone – with options to add multiple phone numbers
  • Email – with option to add multiple email addresses
  • Website – with options to add multiple URLs
  • Blog
  • Birthday
  • Social Media – (LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Others)
  • Label/Category
  • Option to add a note like how and when they met

In some cases, business cards are printed on both the side and hence there should be an option to capture the rear of the card too, which should be displayed at the bottom. When the user taps on a saved card, an expanded view of the card should be displayed with the front image of the card on top, followed by the details, followed by the rear image of the card.       

  • Design, store and send electronic business cards to other mobiles

Your business cards are something that you may need, especially if you are in a profession that needs to build contacts. Handing out your card is a much useful way of making new contacts and it should be just a swipe or flick away with your mobile device. Converting business cards as digital  entities and making them shareable peer to peer using NFC or any other wireless contact sharing would save a lots of physical space and also a few trees. The user should be allowed to capture and save his/her own card or create a customised card, which can be shared over phone to phone wireless sharing or over email.

My card section on top should show the captured image of the business card along with the editable contact details below,

  • Title
  • Name
  • Job Title
  • Company Information
  • Address
  • Phone – with options to add multiple phone numbers
  • Email – with option to add multiple email addresses
  • Website – with options to add multiple URLs
  • Blog
  • Birthday
  • Social Media – (LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Others)

Alternatively, if the user wishes to create/design his/her card rather than scanning it, the user should be provided with a create option in the My Card section. Upon clicking create, the user should be displayed a form to fill in the above contact details along with option to upload the company logo under company information. Once the user completes entering the details the next screen should prompt to select from a few available templates of business card. In order not to confuse the user too much and to keep the creation process simple, only limited templates should be provided with options of background colour limited to White, Grey and Blue and prefixed text colours complementary to that of the background. The text font should initially be limited to only one, which looks professional and pleasing. Once the user selects the template, a preview of the user’s card should be displayed with options to finalize the card or to go back and change the template or edit the details. The finalized card should be displayed in the My Card section of the business cards tab in the contacts screen, with options to share wirelessly to others.

Design

Mock-up of Contacts screen with an additional tab for Business Cards. (Designed using Marvel)

 

Using Google Maps to Improve Safety on Roads

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Improving safety on the roads helps road users, prevents accidents and saves lives. It secures people while traveling on the roads. Improving and maintaining the road infrastructure can ensure on its part, safety on roads and give a great travel experience.

Impediments on roads such as  potholes, unmarked speed breakers, unmarked road turns, fallen signages, malfunctioning signal…etc can cause drivers to lose control over their vehicles and cause  accidents.  Such accidents can be prevented to a significant degree, if there are proper caution signs/marks and when the roads are properly maintained. However it is difficult for the civic agencies to monitor all the roads for maintenance issues . My suggestion would be to crowd source these to bring it to the notice of civic agencies using Google maps. Civic agencies should tie up with Google maps, where Google maps provides an option for the users to earmark locations where there are potholes, unmarked speed breakers and unmarked turns on roads. These markers done on Google maps can be seconded as authentic issues by subsequent users who pass through the same locations. Upon taking confirmation from a few users, Google maps should send notification to the civic authorities, who can in turn address the issue. Such notifications can also be utilised to point out broken/leaking public water pipes, damaged electric poles, unsafe electric cables lying on the roads, or anything which compromises the safety of the road users and which needs to be addressed.

For this purpose, Google maps should place an option on the map screen, to report a maintenance issue, by marking the location, adding specific details and upon submitting, a notification should be sent to the civic agencies.

“Be alert! Accidents hurt.” ~ Author Unknown

An officer and a gentleman.

*Proud to be an alumnus 🙂

SANJAY KAUL'S WEBLOG

 

Sainik Schools  are one of our best experiments with regimental learning. They have produced sterling candidates – both soldiers and citizens. In a time of growing shortage of officers in the armed forces, why are we so short of such schools? 

Just 86 cadets joined the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun in 2008 against a course strength of 250. And, instead of 300 applicants, just 192 turned up at the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, at Pune. Defence Minister AK Antony has admitted that the shortage of officers in the Army is around 11,500. In the Navy, the shortage is 1606. The number of vacancies in the Air Force is 1342.

There is an element of irony to the figures of shortage of officers that has been put out by the Ministry of Defence for some years now. The irony is that the shortage has only widened after the deficit…

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Apps to help during emergency – feedback to Google/Android

I am a great fan of Google and its ‘Do not be evil’ philosophy. I feel that the utility of mobile devices during emergency situations can be improved, if the below functions are added.

Emergency dialler

In a country like India, when a person meets with an accident and becomes unconscious, those who come to help or the police would want to find out the identity of the victim. They would also try to access the mobile phonebook to contact the family or friends of the victim. In most cases, mobiles are locked using passcodes, so as to protect personal data and hence is not of much help during such emergencies.

What can be done?

The screen 1 below shows the sample screen of a locked mobile, with an option for making an emergency call. When the ‘Emergency call’ option is clicked, screen 2 as shown below is displayed. However, screen 2 allows to dial only numbers like 911 or 112. The emergency contact for various countries differ and hence those too should be included. Now, to inform the family or friends of the victim or to find out the identity of the victim, dialing to a number on the phone book wouldn’t be possible as the phone is locked. So, when the phone is locked/passcode protected, the users should be able to access and dial a few numbers from the phone book. For instance, when the user taps on the ‘Emergency call’ option in screen 1, screen 3 should be presented instead of screen 2 as it is shown currently. In screen 3, the user should be presented with a list of 3-5 emergency contact numbers. These emergency contact numbers should be pre-selected from the phone book, based on a prompt from the device.

Ex. User should be able to map/assign the contact ‘Mom’ as Emergency 1, ‘Dad’ as Emergency 2, and so on, where ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ are contacts stored in the phonebook.

Screen 1

Screen 1

Screen 2

Screen 2

Screen 3

Screen 3

‘Track me’ app

What is this?

This app should help the mobile user to text, send a photograph of any person, place or thing or to send a voicemail, to a Google protected mailbox/application, which can only be accessed by Google and any investigation agencies.

Why is this required?

Case 1: When women in Indian cities travel alone in an auto rickshaw during night times, they are advised to send a message with the name of the driver and the registration number of the auto, to their friends or family members. This helps to track, in case of any unforeseen events.

Case 2: In the movie 127 hrs, Aron Ralston goes on a hike to the Blue John Canyon, without informing his mother. His mother was not aware of his whereabouts and files a missing complaint.

So, when a person is going somewhere without informing anyone, as mentioned in case 2 or if a person is travelling alone as mentioned in case 1, the mobile user should be presented with a track me button in the home screen. The user should be able to open the app and text, capture an image like the auto rickshaw registration number or record a voice on where he is going and for what purpose and click on save. This message should be saved to a Google server, which cannot be deleted by the user and should be auto deleted after 2-4 weeks time. When the person is found missing or does not return home for long, parents can file a complaint and the investigation agencies should be able to trace the whereabouts of the missing person using the message the user left lastly. Though the phone movement can be tracked using signals, this app would give an option for the users to relay his actual intentions of going somewhere or his whereabouts. Ex: Not all people are comfortable to disclose where they intend to go and what they intend to do there. This app would help to track them and at the same time protects their privacy.

PS:

1. The “Emergency Dialler” idea got implemented in Android N, released in Aug 2016.

2. Google has come up with Trusted Contacts app based on my app suggestion “Track me” which was sent to suggestions@google.com. Google’s new Trusted Contacts mobile app lets you connect to friends and family in the event of an emergency.