Our projected personalities, tone and narratives change depending on whether we are on Facebook, G+, LinkedIn and Twitter. In that context of understanding, Microsoft has to realize that there’s a place and time for everything.
“Most, if not all of us, use our smartphones and tablets for different purposes than a PC or on a Mac,” clarifies Danish Ayub of MWM Studioz, “however big you make the screen of the devices, nobody’s going to do serious work for long hours on a tablet, never mind on a phone. There will always be a place for PC at work, but in the consumer space? Not so much.”
Certainly, giving away software to achieve market penetration has worked before. Yet, giving away software after the market has rejected is a Hail Mary Pass. The Microsoft Office mobile suite has never been successful by its merits alone. It could not compete earlier on against other competitors, when these weren’t free, and unless the product improves, it will not compete against competitors now that fully or practically free.
True cloud-centric solutions, like Google’s and Salesforce, are likely to dominate this market until a true piece of software, that nobody has invented yet, makes Office-like labor (composing complex documents, editing large spreadsheets) actually more productive in tablets than in the desktop (not referring to frameworks like CX Cloud). At this point nothing beats Word’97 or Excel’97 on a dual monitor desktop for data entry, writing business emails, etc.
Frankly, the only appeal of Office in mobile, is that it still reigns the business desktop. But unless Microsoft makes Office substantially better in the desktop, this is also a last gasp. Most users will probably say the last useful improvement of Office occurred in the Office 97 version –all other changes basically have been moving menus and icons around to the detriment of usability.
Is it really that people need to try out using Office while they’re on the go because they never use Office? Of course not. For MS to even put that as a end goal, it’s laughable.
MS should take a leaf from Oracle whose focus (and bread-and-butter) remains in the corporate sector. Oracle never pretends to know or even try to get in the consumer space because that’s simply not their target customers. MS should need to keep that focus.
If MS wants to tackle the consumer space, they need to have new offering to a brand new audience. Trying to retool its current offering won’t work. MS should have learnt from its past mistakes of trying to retool windows OS (aka mobile platform) for phones. Same goes with Office. Those are cash cows and huge success, but those were past glory. MS should use these cash cows to fund new initiatives to charter new waters if it really wants to corner the consumer markets which is where the growth is.
Ever wanted to walk around looking like you belong in the Museum of Modern Art?
Described has a “fresh, fun, yummy fashion & lifestyle brand”, 9Lines merges art, fashion and design in its first season, with the aim of taking audiences through the lives of pop icons & make them accessible in daily life. The founding team follows the leadership blend of creativity and numbers, with Hasan Iqbal Rizvi and Saad Shahid respectively, both with half a decade of relevant work experience between the two of them. As the brains behind the business, they design everything from T-shirts to stationary, posters to jewelry, mobile phone accessories to bags; almost anything you would want a quirky and fun design on. They take pride in producing unique products with a major focus on print and illustration with bold and colorful designs.
It’s the brainchild of Hasan Iqbal’s love for creation and Saad Shahid’s fondness for pop art. The idea behind this was to create a label that shouted fun, quirkiness, edginess, and creative originality. People are consumed in popular culture but still 9Lines were very intent on exploring classic Hollywood, and drawing inspiration from the very many mass culture inspired visuals that have been long forgotten. They made pop culture even more visually appealing and accessible to people of Pakistan. To say necessity is the mother of invention wouldn’t be totally wrong in 9Lines’s case. Unable to find a small keepsake like a decent stationery compelled the founders to combine two things they loved to do–write and design. With the idea of creating notebooks that celebrate Pop Art, 9Lines transformed into much more.
Based in Lahore, they primarily function off of their Facebook page, the occasional exhibition and a snazzy little website where you can have a look at everything that they have in stock and get ordering. If the item’s in stock, it can be in your possession in about two working days. And if it’s a customization, then in about three days, obviously once you’ve approved the design. Delivery across the country is absolutely free and comes with the beautiful option of cash-on-delivery.
In the consumer good industry, your best bet is to be contextually relevant and meet the customer half way. I like cross selling like anyone else, but complimentary sales strategies are doubly effective.
TROJAN (condoms) next to baby food, as in “While you’re in this aisle, how about this mistake prevention mechanism?”
M&M’s in the feminine hygiene aisle, as in, “You might want to get here these as well and get bonus points for caring.”
Invest in conversion* marketing, points of sale data and shopper marketing. Raise awareness by engaging your target customer around a common cause or interest point – all positive.
Got any more ideas?
New York Magazine calls it “the yogurt that started it all is on its way… Reeks of authenticity; the thinking man’s yogurt.”
Born and raise in Pakistan in a military family, Taimur Butt walked the talk on Wall Street with JP Morgan after graduating from Georgetown University in 2001 and gained an experience that offered him the mindset for high stakes negotiation skills that contributed to his ability to serve a family business – Area 51 – with new revenue streams and a refreshed positive image in Karachi. In 2007, he armed himself with a MSc in Real Estate Development from the coveted Columbia University and was later named Chairman of Georgetown University Alumni in Pakistan. He stays true to his roots and was always interested in exploring new opportunities; this year his family business – TMN – was awarded Master Franchiser for Red Mango in Pakistan and launched Zamzama Mall in late 2014.
Taimur approached the regional directors for Red Mango in Seoul and secured a deal whereby 10 outlets would be launched in the next 10 years. Unlike other players in the fro-yo business, he has no interest in franchising Red Mango to interested local parties (as yet) – for the sole purpose of quality control – something competitors have steadily lost control of and Taimur values relationships. In 2013, he launched an outlet a Nueplex and will progress with further outlets in Lahore and Islamabad (Safa Mall and Bahria Town).
Red Mango is a QSR – Quick Service Restaurant and one of the fastest-growing retailers of all-natural nonfat and low fat frozen yogurt and fresh fruit smoothies. Unlike its competitors in Pakistan, it is recognized by numerous health & fitness experts as having the highest nutritional value per gram and has earned numerous awards, including the prestigious Nation’s Restaurant News’ “Hot Concepts!” award and the industry-recognized SupplySide’s “Scientific Excellence Award,” as well as best frozen yogurt honors in Dallas, Seattle, Las Vegas, Chicago, Utah and New York by highly-regarded independent publications. Winning the Zagat award in 2011 and 2012 for being #1 in frozen yogurt placed the brand at the center stage of taste and health excellence.
According to various independent sources, Red Mango serves uniquely delicious frozen yogurt that is all-natural, nonfat and low fat which helps support the immune and digestive systems when consumed as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. As the first frozen yogurt retailer to earn the National Yogurt Association’s “Live and Active Cultures” seal for meeting the required criteria for healthy frozen yogurt. The market demand for fro-yo in Pakistan has boomed rapidly in the last decade, with imitators cropping up alongside international franchisees, and the consumers are steadily experiences the drop in taste, quality and health value. Red Mango has swooped in to claim those customer bases for itself and has retained a healthy following online and in-store.
Awareness on this fresh market entrant is gained by a strong online & offline presence:
- 8-10 billboards strategically placed within 20 minutes of the outlets
- Social & digital media presence (managed by Symmetry Digital)
- Public relations and events (managed by CatWalk)
The current challenged faced are operational in nature and are in the process of becoming streamlined as key players hasten their learning curve:
– Inventory management, having to source by importing key products
– Shortage of experienced talent in F&B industry, with exposure in frozen desserts
– working in a country that is used to a dine in culture as opposed to place order on counter and get served.
– satisfying requirements and climate expected by HQ
The business boasts a wide range of consumable options, from fro-yo’s to smoothies, panini’s, cookies and shakes – so there is something for everyone – all its all healthy & fresh. The targeted customer profile – health oriented women in the 18-35 age range – is heavy on spending, noted for consuming multiple items from the menu range due to its calorie count provided (allowing them to track their diets) and enjoy the outstanding taste. With a small cup at 140 calories and a filling taste, it meets the target markets’ need precisely.
The Zamzama outlet has a maximum seating capacity of 35 to 40 customers (depending on understanding of personal space). Based on my teams observations during peak seasons and from a survey with 30 current and 14 present customers:
– Average time taken between order placement and completion is 8 minutes (an average that is decreasing everyday)
– Average time spent in the outlet was 55 minutes (including the 8 minutes fulfillment time) per customer or group of customers.
– Average value consumables were PKR 1,525 per head (exclusive of taxes).
Based on these estimation from our team, the Zamzama outlet alone has the earning potential of USD 5,000 per day and it operates at 90% of capacity from Asr to Isha timings according to staff and outlet guards. Within the next 8 years, 10 outlets will be added in Pakistan, with 5 coming in a 30 months cycle. While determining the margins wasn’t within reach nor the franchisee fees, the growth and insurgence of fro-yo in Pakistan spells a positive note for this industry – more so in fact – due to the superior taste quality & healthy value maintained by Red Mango Pakistan.
Jean-Jacques Borie, chief technology officer of Carmudi, recently spoke to Babar Khan and shared how his knowledge has allowed him to go from global architecture as well as helping developers in deep coding issues. His role, as we will learn more, goes beyond engineering and Jean contributes to corporations’ strategic visions and alignment with IT. Edited excerpts of the discussion follow.
Please describe the scope of your role at Carmudi.com and the impact of your work.
My role is to manage the technical teams to have a scalable platform that is reliable, fast, secure, easy to maintain and cost efficient at a global scale.
My teams are composed of experts in the field of web and mobile development as well as infrastructure. It is my role to ensure that the entire IT is aligned with the strategy and goals of the enterprise, to remove blockers that could slow the company down. I also need to make sure that current decisions don’t evolve into problems later.
A CTO in a start-up like Carmudi needs to have a solid knowledge of global scalable architecture. He needs to share his vision and then ensure that the team is committed to achieving it. However, it also needs to have great coding skills to quickly fix issues and make the right decisions when there is an emergency situation.
Building a project like Carmudi can be complex. You want to have a platform that is faster than any competitor’s in any country you are present. The internet connection quality can vary a lot. You have to optimize your application as well as to find the right connectivity solution for your markets. You need to work closely with your product team in order to challenge, optimize and simplify new features.
What advice do you have for aspiring tech entrepreneurs in terms of scaling companies to be globally successful?
Rocket Internet’s approach is very good and I suggest following their 4 pillars:
• Unparalleled experience in scaling world-class Internet businesses globally
• Deep technical and operational expertise
• Strategic partnerships and framework agreements
• Highly structured / best practices
• Centralized IP with regional execution
• Repeatable and scalable
• Founding 10 new companies p.a. on average
• Consistent returns across network of companies
• Proprietary technology platforms allowing rapid global deployment
• Comprehensive KPI analytics driving continuous optimization
• Provision of shared services to jump start new businesses at low cost
To conclude, what would you like our readers to know about the culture at Rocket Internet and what fresh incumbents can expect to experience?
On your first day working as CTO for Rocket and also the following days, you are immersed in their culture. You have an internal CTO’s channel of communication where every venture shares its experience, gives feedback and explains the problem it is facing and are trying to get rid of.
You have to understand that every venture is growing at a very fast pace, which from time to time can lead to some technical challenge and can count on help of an internal network. Rocket shares best practices with their ventures therefore minimizing risk. You have a standard process methodology to handle production. We have KPis defined on every team with target to achieve thus at central level as well as local level.
Venture’s start with a first release of a product done by Rocket-Internet that you have the freedom to adapt it and re-factor once is endeavor to you.
Thanks for sharing your time with us, always a pleasure.
Mr. Simons recently spoke with Babar Khan, the entrepreneur in residence turned managing editor in the Dubai office of Ephlux Insights and the former CMO of Application Services with Ephlux in the MENA region. They discussed strategies to detect and develop ideas that have the potential to impact how companies think about competitive advantage. Edited excerpts of the discussion follow.
What are the key drivers of successful innovation-driven entrepreneurial (IDE) ecosystems?
We operate from our global Headquarter in Berlin, Germany. In fact, one of the reasons why we do this is because this city has developed into some sort of ‘European Silicon Valley’. A historic city, lots of free time activities and low living costs have attracted many young international professionals. They tend to be more innovative and hence we have seen an incredible growth of small and medium sized tech firms.
People are one of the major drivers of innovation if they get the right environment to work and foster in. What also helps are flat hierarchies. Many established companies have failed to reinvent themselves because the same people that have been there for years have been trying to control and manage progresses too tightly. Only if it is part of the company culture that going against the stream is worth a try, it will lead to innovation. In conclusion: Bringing together the right, young and ambitious people and motivating them to try and make mistakes will give an innovative edge over your competitors.
What digital capabilities does Rocket Internet focus on?
Over the last years, Rocket Internet has gathered significant experience and best practices especially in the eCommerce sector all over the world. Particularly from a technical perspective we are able to do things right the first time by looking at what Rocket ventures have done before. This includes scalability of the platform but also other important topics such as security.
Beyond that, Rocket has established an enormous global network of brilliant people. We as Carmudi benefit from this as we ourselves operate all around the world. Hence, there we have access to a large pool of first-hand knowledge and experience that we can utilize in all of our markets. For example in Pakistan we have direct connections to many of the major online players in the country.
What data is most critical to your people’s ability to work smarter?
For us customer data is absolute priority. We use a variety of tracking tools to gather quantitative data but also a lot of qualitative feedback to constantly reevaluate what our users like and don’t like about Carmudi. Of course this data needs to be 100% accurate. Only then it allows us to get a clear direction on what we want to achieve as a company. By channeling our effort on what makes a difference to our users, we work smarter and more efficiently overall.
How do you derive value from business complexity while keeping that complexity manageable?
Business complexity has never been something we are trying to achieve in any way. However, rapid growth and expansion automatically increases the complexity of operations. We counter this through clarity and simplicity in hierarchies as well as direct and to-the-point communication. We operate in Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The only way we can keep this young but global operation manageable is pulling it together as much as possible. This means communicating with each country at least once a day. Global calls also do not require a set meeting time. We are always reachable and mostly only a click of a button away.
What metrics do you use to track whether you are delivering customer satisfaction on a daily basis?
Although we are not an eCommerce business in the classic sense, we use very similar metrics. One of the KPIs we look at is the conversion rate of how many users that come to our website actually inquire with our sellers for any of the offered vehicles. Furthermore, we measure the engagement on our site, i.e. metrics like how long do people stay and how many pages do they view in one session. Furthermore, we gather qualitative feedback from our users. This is made possible for example through direct dealers (or more generally speaking, sellers), events but also through e-mail questionnaires we send to our valued users. We appreciate any feedback and we also spend a lot of time evaluating and acting upon it.
How have you gained a competitive advantage in the digital economy?
We benefit greatly from international synergies. With our global headquarter located in Berlin we have access to world class resources and people with a lot of international experience. We couple this with local talent in the countries we operate in, such as Pakistan. This a somewhat “glocalised” approach, which comes down to combining synergies from experiences and learning around the globe with localized knowledge in the countries we operate in. So far we have found that this is one of our greatest strengths in delivering outstanding value to our customers.
How does Rocket Internet create, identify, and evaluate new venture opportunities?
In our case it is actually remarkably simple. Car classified websites have been super successful in many of the developed markets around the globe such as the US and Germany. In combination with Rocket’s expertise in emerging markets, we are convinced that we can provide a great offering to our clients in Pakistan and other countries around the globe.
In your experience, how has the process of starting new ventures varied geographically and culturally?
Of course differences between geographies and cultures are huge. Our approach is one of Glocalisation. We identify international best practices to maximize synergies between different markets. With these best practices we enter the market in a relatively standardized way. However, as we continue to learn more about a specific market and regions within it we continue to localize our approach. From our experience this gives us a great competitive edge. We keep the speed up but build something our local customers want.
What’s your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs on navigating the venture capital investment process?
Unfortunately, I cannot share any details on this. However, one advice I can give to other entrepreneurs is that being convinced yourself of what you do helps a great deal in convincing other people that your venture has a great future ahead. Hence, always question yourself whether you are really on the right track.
How should aspiring entrepreneurs start enhancing and expanding their networks?
From time to time, networks can be incredibly helpful. Always remember that if you want something from someone you must always be willing to give in return. Approach people with an open and helpful attitude. Don’t think of it as building a network but rather as getting to know people. This way your relationships will be more personal and hence way more fruitful.
Thank you very much, Mr. Simons, for sharing your perspectives with us.
We learn about his role (and unnamed colleague) on how they helped Adobe respect customer depth and usage behavior with brand architecture for Creative Suite.
- TEDxUCIrvine – From Branding, With Love
- $100,000 of Brand Strategy Advice
- Think with Google 2013 Argentina – Branding in the New Normal
- Think Branding, with Google – Conference Keynote – “Branding in the New Normal”
Author: Babar Khan, Managing Editor at Ephlux Insights
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