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Bitcoin and ICO Mania: How to decipher it

ICO (Initial coin offerings) wave has truly caught up in 2017 — more than $1.7 billion in cryptocurrency has been raised through ICOs so far in 2017.

If you have not heard about the term let me give a simple primer. ICO is essentially an unregulated way to bypass the standard fund raising procedure used by some of the cryptocurrency startups. Coin essentially then becomes a vehicle to own some kind of stake in the venture. Coins were essentially designed to be an integral part of the product or protocol offering, but have been abused by many startups to raise quick money.

As an entrepreneur or businessman should I be investing in the Crypto wave?

Cryptocurrencies or the crypto wave has taken the world by storm. There has been a slew of ICOs (Initial coin offerings) accompanied by astronomical increase in prices of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple and other cryptocurrencies. It seems like we are creating a new world everything built on top of a blockchain.

Prices of Bitcoin has risen from 0.008 Dollars in 2010 to more than $7000 dollars today. In fact some of the Indian exchanges now quote prices in Satoshi where one Bitcoin = 10^8 Satoshis. You can track Satoshi to INR price 

So as a businessman and an entrepreneur if you are sitting on the side-line and wondering if there is a revolution happening or it is all just one big bubble please keep reading in on. In this post I am outlining a few key indicators you can use to assess an ICO or for that matter any crypto asset.

Team (Founders and early developers)

For any Open Source crypto project expertise of the team is most critical. So if you are looking for investing in ICO the first thing is to look at the team. Check their expertise. Go beyond LinkedIn profile, look at their publications and other credentials. Look at their code contributions in the past and the peer review of the protocol they are proposing. Check up the advisory board and early backers of the ICO.

Utility of the Coin (token) to the Product or Protocol

Whenever a new Initial Coin offering is announced first thing that you should look up is does the proposed product or protocol require coin (token) sale or not. If coin (token) is not native or intrinsic to the new product or protocol proposed then it is not a great sign. Ideally such products/ offerings should to go through normal venture capital route to raise funds. ICO in such cases is nothing but a shortcut to raise quick money. If you look up any of the successful Altcoins in the market like Siacoin or Filecoin , they are intrinsic to the protocol they are enabling .

Review code or at least check reviews of code from experts 

For any new protocol ultimately what matters is great code backing it up. While all of us are not experts at reviewing codes, what we can definitely do is check what other experts are talking about the code. Please go to relevant forums like bitcoin talk threads to look up what other people are saying about the code / scalability and security issues. Read up their whitepaper or look for a review / feedback on the whitepaper.

Are developers enthused by the protocol/ICO?

For any protocol to develop and flourish, early adopters are the key. And in most cases, early adopters can be developers or other folks on the online communities. So do look out for developer interest – are lot of developers enthused by the project are they contributing to the project?

Early Backers 

Quality of early backers can also help you understand the quality of ICO. For e.g. Blockstack whose ICO is open now is backed by YCombinator, Naval Ravikant and a bunch of really smart people in the valley. This can be a good way to look at the quality of ICO.

Transparency of the core team

For any open source project to succeed, a key factor is how transparent and forthcoming the team is. Are they open to hard questions? Do they communicate openly with the community and other stakeholders? Do they publicly share progress? Are they open to be grilled on choices they are making?

Block chain and distributed systems present tremendous opportunities to build a new kind of technological landscape. But as it is with every boom there are too many fakes around. For every bitcoin or ethereum, there will be a bunch of worthless tokens. So before you jump in, do your research and you can use some of the suggestions we discussed in this post.

About me: I am Sarabdeep Co-founder of Sipacoin.com – a service which helps you set up price alerts for your favourite cryptocurrency.

 

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Role of Board of Directors: Do you have competence and excellence at the top?

An Effective Board!
An Effective Board!

I was recently invited by one ‘Fitness company’ to advise them on how to cut the losses. One of the ways devised by them was to appoint franchisees so that they can have economies of scale for buying equipments and marketing expenses. Now that the company had decided to expand through franchisee route, the whole focus of the said company was to find people, though acquaintances or any other other means who would be their potential franchisees. I had no problems in this strategy, which perhaps was a good and viable option. However, I was my concern was they were missing an important piece when you are expanding your business. In my assessment, they needed to expand their bandwidth at the top and it was necessary to think about composition and functioning of the board. The kind of milestones the company intended to reach would be near to impossible to achieve without a proper board.

In India, the board is plugged mere for regulatory network, in case of private limited, the number of directors required is two and in public limited, the number should be seven. Most of the time, the board is comprised of friends or families, irrespective of their qualifications. Board doesn’t meet often, and whatever transactions it does, it mere does for regulatory considerations. In India, there is a dire need of sound board, but the importance of board is not at all valued in India, let alone talk of actual functioning of board.

The fundamental problem is that, overwhelming number of business people are ill educated about the need of Board. Management studies are bereft about the emphasis of what board potentially can deliver.

Board Room on a lighter note!
Board Room on a lighter note!

Few years back, most of the traditionally business house did underwent professional makeover but board remained untouched, somehow its importance has picked up.

Another misnomer about board is that people think only listed companies require it, whereas in my view the smaller companies need it more. It can provide direction, accountability and better guidance.

In this direction, I am glad that Omnizent labs is driving this educative as well as actually providing Directors for small companies. It will be a low cost exercise for small and medium companies.

For details about how to become a director or how to avail the services of director and make your board strong you may read this introduction page here and write to us at raj@bizvidya.com.

Author: Raju Moza has 14+ years of experience across various industries and domains like Telecom, Retail, Education, Electronic & Mobile Services, Travel & Hospitality and Manufacturing. He has been a turnaround leader with deep insights in understanding of diverse markets. He is regularly invited to speak at seminars and conferences. Besides the strong business pedigree, he is an ‘active writer’, has written some of the critically acclaimed pieces on diverse subjects namely Kashmir, Afghanistan, Political Islam, International Affairs, Political Economy and Short Stories. He recently shot a documentary as well.  He is an MBA in finance and has recently done a Venture Capital development program from ISB, Hyderabad, India.

BizVidya Guide: How Effective is your Lead Generation Process?

Often I see entrepreneurs or small business owners moaning about lack of “enough business”. Some are more crude – Can you get me a customer? Or, can you email our brochure to all your contacts? I try to be as polite as possible on such requests, but many are offended as to why I am not helping them! The thing is that if I am not convinced about their work, I have no choice but to gently decline. Interestingly, when I quiz them back on their sales or lead generation plan or process, their answers run on these lines:

  • Attending random events (some of which have same visitors coming repeatedly or the percentage of target customers is very low)
  • Calling up random people found on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or elsewhere on the internet
  • Participated in an exhibition many months ago

Dig further and you will find that there is no specific process or periodic targets (although, boldly they show revenue targets on business plans and pitches to investors).

When I suggest the word ‘process’, it lands on them as something that is needed by large organizations. Most startups and small businesses do not use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool – perhaps they do not need a CRM tool yet. However, that does not mean that they are excused from having an effective lead generation process.

If they are still around, I invite them to convert their revenue targets into a daily plan. Here is one way to do some basic calculations that are required to set-up a simple lead generation process that can be easily tracked on a spreadsheet:

[A] State your revenue target. For illustration, let us take a figure of INR 5 crores for next twelve months.

[B] Estimate the average size of an order. Say, INR 25,000.

[C] Thus, you need 200 orders to achieve your revenue targets. Taking a year as 50 weeks, this translates to 4 orders per week.

[D] In your experience, what percentage of your customer meetings or interactions lead to a confirmed order? Begin with an estimate and change as per experience. Say, 25 percent. So, for our example, you need to arrange 16 sales meetings / interactions / demos per week.

[E] What percentage of your Qualified Leads (QL) translate into (as a result of initial interaction) prospects agreeing to explore specific purchasing via demos or product-trials. A Qualified Lead is an entity that is a potential customer on paper (in terms of pre-determined parameters like business size, segment, location, etc) for your products or services. Say, 50 percent. So, you need to generate at least 32 QLs per week.

[F] Now, what percentage of your Raw Leads (RL) get converted to Qualified Leads? A Raw Lead is any valid contact details of person or organization which may or may not be interested in your products or services. Say, 10 percent.  So, you need to have at least 320 fresh RLs per week or 64 RL per day (taking five working days). If you are using a tele-caller, then this is the minimum (s)he should be calling everyday. If you are using your web pages as a lead source, then this is the minimum number of users that need to submit their contact details on your landing page.

Many have liked this approach and created a spreadsheet to track this. However, soon I found out that inertia has set in and no sustained action was taken to make the process work. Some eager entrepreneurs took this discussion to next level in terms of choosing market segments, identifying ideal customers and so on. The enlightened business owners took our help to convert this into a small but robust lead generation process on lines of a state-of-the-art Balanced Scorecard framework with KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) integrated with KRAs (Key Result Areas) of promoters and staff responsible for Sales Targets.

Since I am quite lazy to keep elaborating this repeatedly, I am sharing this here publicly with all, so that, next time, when an entrepreneur rues “no business”, I simply have to share the URL of this article!

You may request a free* initial Coaching or Consultation on your Lead Generation Process by sending an email to coach@bizvidya.com

*Conditions Apply

BizVidya Guide: The Ten Question Tool

Use this TEN QUESTION TOOL to Clarify Goals and Get Laser Sharp Focus in Achieving Timely Results

We had advised earlier to Clarify Your Goals in a previous post here. But then, temporary clarity using a few smart technology tools is not good enough in these “interesting times”.

Especially when you are in a critical business situation and decisions need to be made among a series of contradictions.

Often, we find ourselves overwhelmed with a large number of exciting options, immense possibilities, conflicting opinions, changing priorities, shifting bottlenecks, fluctuating market scenarios and unpredictable customers!

Test your situation with this TEN-QUESTION-TOOL to re-engineer and transform your situation into a workable strategy and a clear-cut plan!

1. What am I exactly doing?

List the tasks and intended results: List immediate desires, intentions and goals.

2. Why am I here?

My need or motivation: What is my intention? More revenues? More profits? More productivity? Better Lifestyle?

3. Where am I coming from?

Recent relevant past: What is my sponsoring thought for this? Am I launching this product because sales are declining? Or, because customers are complaining? Or, I need a higher margin product?

4. Why am I doing this?

Ask multiple nested Whys: Use the Five Why Tool recursively to break down answers to #1 , #2 and #3 above. Launching this product for more revenues or larger customer-base?  For new market segments? More customers in current market segments?

5. Where have I reached now?

What is working and what is not working: What are the good points, workable areas, benefits and strengths of the current situation? What are the threats and weaknesses?

6. Where do I wish to go from here?

Long-Term Results I would really like to create: Where would this ultimately lead too? Bigger Business? Best in the market? Most expensive in the market? Cheapest in the market? What is the long-term Brand Image desired?

7. How can I reach there?

Possible paths: What are the possible routes to success – Should I resort to cannibalizing? Should I explore a Blue Ocean? Should I spend on Research and Development? Should I use the Fail-Fast strategy on a series of products?

8. How would I know I have reached there?

Visualized Goal and Measurable Results: Convert goals into specific numbers and timelines.

9. What are the barriers?

What or Who is stopping me?: Put on the Black Hat and list all possible obstacles, barriers and whatever makes the project look difficult.

10. What is that One Thing that would make a dramatic impact on this area?

Who or What help can make a big difference?: Finally the juiciest part: What is that one big thing that can make this a big success – One Big Customer? Large Capital? Large Customer Base? Large User Base? Many Small Customers?

Decipher that (we are there to help) and Do That One Thing By Doing Which Everything Else Will Get Done!

 

OneTree Guide: Secrets of Branding ROI

Praveer Shukla is an advertising and marketing professional with 35 years’ experience in India, Hong Kong, the US, and Oman. His clients have included Dupont, ITC WelcomGroup, ITC Golf, Uncle Chipps’, DCM,Escorts, Star TV, Rajasthan Tourism, Kashmir Tourism, The Oberoi, Milkfood, HM The Sultan of Oman, HH Mahesh Maharishi Yogi, among others.

He is sharing some of his “secrets” here and introducing his company, Onetree Content.

There’s a practical reason why we exist at OneTree Content. But before that, some quick facts from the Canadian Council of Small Business and Entrepreneurship:

  • 85 million businesses start up annually.
  • 64 million small firm deaths in 4 years.
  • 16 million shut down in the very first year.
  • Sad truth – most entrepreneurs will never get to see their dreams come true.
  • In fact, in the next 10 minutes, as you read this, 1,522 new businesses will have downed their shutters for the last time. Talk about love’s labour lost.

Here’s my personal take on the business of entrepreneurship, as I’ve seen it over 40 years.

1. Its a winner-takes-all-world – so listen up.

Especially, if you’re a start up, an entrepreneur, or an SME, listen to experienced people, whether it’s professional groups or forums, your investors, mentors, or coaches. That way you won’t have to re-invent the wheel. And, when you fail – make no mistake about that, you will, at different stages – the people you listen to can be the difference between being stuck with failure and moving on to the next level in your enterprise. And, most importantly, you’ll cover the distance between Idea to Revenue in a much shorter time!

2. Money doesn’t buy products or services. People do.

Know your customers. At OneTree Content, we perform due diligence to know your service and your products cold. We get to know your customers like we know our own parents. We also get to know your product’s positioning in relation to your competitors—without repeated explanation from you which burns up your time and budget.

3. ROI

You’re thinking ROI = Return On Investment, right? Our take on this as specialists in market communications, is different. Unlike earlier times, today, a brand is not recognized by its trademark, mission statement, logo or slogan. That kind of branding went out of the window around the time that electricity was discovered.

Our kind of branding is recognized by the kind of conversations or content that our specialists create about your company, its products, its world, the people who use it, and also, the people who do not use it.

These are conversations that enliven, delight, and empower users. They’re created with authenticity, to communicate the uniqueness of a product or service. By participating and engaging in these conversations, customers are created and references are freely provided by them to other potential customers.

At OneTree Content, our version of ROI is this: Return On Imagination.

Talk with us. You’ll enjoy the conversation! That’s why we created the company!

– Praveer Shukla, Co-founder, One Tree Content

Clarify Your Goals

First thing is to CLARIFY your goal. What do you exactly want out of your business?

Money for comfortable existence? Or, are you on your way to becoming a global tycoon?

Do you wish for a stable business? Or, a growing business? Or, an accelerating business which, perhaps, you can sell soon?

What is the most appropriate growth strategy for your business?

  • Higher Volumes? And/Or, Higher Margins?
  • More (any) Clients? And/Or, More Big Ticket Clients?
  • More Revenues? And/Or, More Profits?

Is organizational culture important to you? What kind of culture do you want?

For example, many small businesses in India find it cost-effective (often, inadvertently) to have low salary low retention employees, who may be damaging the internal culture and/or customer relations and business growth.  Would hiring the ‘Best’ make more sense for your business?

Should you allocate resources to enhance Business Processes & Systems?

Should you invest more in implementing Technology? Which Solutions? Why?

Whatever your questions, you don’t want to run around without CLEARLY articulated goals that are regularly communicated down to the last rung of frontline executives.

No fun in having all your people and resources run around in circles when they can actually deliver dramatic results with laser sharp focus.

Clarifying Your Goals is a recurring exercise because things change – business climate, technology, competitors, customer needs, your needs and so on.

One efficient way to do this is to categorize all your goals along TIME HORIZONS – from Immediate and near-term to long-term life goals.  In his book,  Getting Things Done, David Allen presented “The Six-Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work”:

  • Runway : Current Actions
  • 10,000+ ft:  Current Projects
  • 20,000+ ft: Areas of Responsibility
  • 30,000+ ft: 1-2 year Goals
  • 40,000+ ft: 3-5 year Vision
  • 50,000+ ft: Life

This is a useful first step to start de-cluttering your life and business. Another complimentary tool is a “Mind Map”.

Mind Maps help in creating a WHOLE business picture which can be drilled down to the “Runaway” level.

Created intelligently, it can be a powerful first step in organizing your business to clarify, track, and monitor business goals and results.

With Open Source around, freemind and xmind are great free tools to create Mind Maps.

You can maximize the power of Mind Maps by sharing Mind Maps with your team and asking them to contribute. Xmind, The “Social Brainstorming and Mind Mapping” Tool, allows users to share Mind Maps for collaboration.

Happy De-cluttering, Organizing and Creating What You Wish To in your business!

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BizVidya Guide: Create a Business Dashboard

A Business Dashboard is a single point, One-Integrated-View of the whole Business seen in Execution.

There are many Dashboard Solutions out there in the technology market and choosing among them is another discussion altogether.

At a fundamental level, what is more interesting is that a Business Dashboard can be used as a Tool to derive the Most Critical Measures that you MUST track in real-time to steer your business smoothly without any hiccups on a day-to-day basis.

Designing your Business Dashboard even on a piece of paper provokes a business owner to ask him/herself:

What do I need to know about my business, NOW, at this very moment?

For example:

  • Are all Pending Sales Enquiries being responded to proactively? Which enquiries are STUCK?
  • Have all Pending Sales Orders been scheduled to deliver across the entire supply chain (suppliers, transporters, warehouses, etc)? Where are the DELAYS?
  • Is my Accounts Departments taking care of all Legal Compliance Issues well in time? Is there a likelihood of penalty anywhere (especially, if it has already happened in the past)?
  • How effective is my Purchase Department? Are we taking all possible discounts? How much did we save in our purchases over the last month? Are we paying higher than the market rate? Are there new suppliers in the market who are offering the required quality at better rates?
  • Is my Production on Schedule? Are Raw Materials adequately stocked? Is regular Maintenance being for done for all machines (especially, if there is history of breakdowns)?
  • What is the percentage of Unplanned Absence (including unexpected ‘falling sick’) by staff? In which departments? How has such absence hampered work? During such absence, has the backup staff reported progress on all critical parameters?
  • Which customers are consistently paying late? Why? Is the follow-up adequate? Is the follow-up log being sent to you without your asking for it?

Each business owner will have his/her Pain & Gain Areas! Where do you want to focus now? How can Technology help you in this? Can a technology solution help you if you have not done your homework?

It is a great idea to start with a Pencil and Paper! List what all you would like to see on single A4-size sheet. You may have to fill many sheets before you get your “One-Integrated-View of the whole Business”.

Then, perhaps you may move on to spreadsheets before finally experimenting with state-of-the-art tools.

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