The Haja Sheriff Blog

Business Innovation- Amazon Kindle in India

Posted by in Bangalore, Business, India, Innovation

 

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Innovation has several synonyms- Change, alteration, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis etc.

 

Great companies constantly keep updating themselves- and discovering new ways of doing things.  Kindle is one of them.  Amazon Kindle has a free run in India as the only eReader company in India. Despite being in a unique position, they continue to innovate, and find new ways of reaching their target audience. It is important for any company to constantly look at ways of differentiating themselves –and find ways of creating new markets and new customers.  

 

I was having coffee in Cafe Coffee Day and I saw this there. And I was stuck with this amazing idea!  While people drink coffee, and look around, they can ask for a Kindle, and read something in it.  Getting them hooked to reading and experiencing a device like Kindle while relaxing, is a great idea!   Great job, Kindle India Team! 

Of course, to land anything in India, you need to be prepared for the unexpected!  That will be interesting to see.  More on it later.

 

 

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How Forrest Gump, Don Corleone and James Bond helped our Startup

Posted by in Motivation, StartUp

 

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Note : This article was published on LinkedIn. 

I am hazarding a guess that most people would have watched The GodFather, Forrest Gump, and at least some of the James Bond movies. Either when they were young, or for the younger folks, as classics.

I continue to watch them now and again. But over the years, I have started to view them and see messages that are relevant to us in many walks of life.  And once we were a Startup, I picked some messages from the dialogues in these movies, that made a lot of sense to us. 

Here are 3 famous quotes from these movies that I thought, fit the Startup DNA.

Actually, it applies to any company or employee as well.

 
Attitude

“Life is a box of chocolates, Forrest. You never know what you’re gonna get”
Mrs Gump/Sally Field in Forrest Gump (1994)

 

Attitude is everything.

Remember, the things you planned before you set out? The blueprints, the business plans etc.?  Most probably, you will throw them out (or threw them out) once you started running your business. Your plans constantly evolve.  Your customers change. The Segments you are addressing may evolve to include more or go deeper into a niche.  But change will happen.

And change follows challenges. Challenges, that you will invariably face in the early days of your startup. 

Don’t have a closed mind about the purpose of the business. Keep your options open and evolve with the business as you go along. You never know what you get next. Where your next order comes from. What your future holds.

Have a positive attitude. Irrespective of what hits you.

Just remember.

Life is a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get next.

 
Branding

 

“Bond. James Bond.”
Sean Connery in Dr No (1962)

 

What is your brand?  Do you have a brand at all? Are you just one more of those startups or companies or employees trying to get by?

Are you working on it? If not, you should.   How you position yourself and carry yourself and your company makes a huge difference.

Everything about you that touches your customers, clients, or other people should carry your brand- and make it stronger.

And it is not just the Logo.

The presentations you do. The communications that go out of your company. The mails. The proposals.  The Website.

How do you carry these off? Are you seen as a “me too”? Do you see anything “different” about it?

Look at every communication as an opportunity put you and your company as being “different”. 

If it does, you are in the right path. If not, it is time to look at it and start the rebranding exercise.  

Bond. James Bond.

You are not just another Agent.

Remember, you are not just another Startup.

 
Offer

 

I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.
Don Corleone/Marlon Brando in The Godfather (1972)

 

For a Startup, the first chance you get to tell your story and offer a solution to a customer, is the window of opportunity to blow his socks off.  To do that, you need to do your homework. Understand the challenge the customer is facing, get into his boots, and then work on the solution from inside out. You are not bound by any restrictions of having to follow their rule book.   You have the opportunity to show a bigger, broader vision to your client. 

Design a proposal and an offer that makes it compelling for the client. Something by which he transitions from a “do I need this guy” to “how do I get this guy to help me”.

Make an offer he cannot refuse.  Remember he has problems for which he is seeking solutions.  Make the offer compelling. Make it relevant. Make it memorable.

Make it an offer he cannot refuse.

All the best.  The journey is exciting.  The opportunities tremendous.  There is an opportunity behind every desk.   Start somewhere and start making those changes today.

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The 1 thing you should do before you quit your job and become a full time entrepreneur

Posted by in StartUp

 

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When the bug bites, you want to quit the job and move on and set up your business immediately.  Every day counts. The road all set out. The world of fortune beckons.

I know the feeling. Been there, done that. 

Before you start, hold on a bit!

Chances are, you have already done a lot of reading, and all those books of how people made their millions is not just making your impatient, but also giving you a sense of urgency of time being wasted doing nothing.

Before you jump in, consider doing this one thing before you jump in.

Invest some money-

– and buy some stakes into one start-ups that is new and struggling for money and guidance. In today’s start-up world, there are a number of companies that need both a little investment and a lot of guidance and advice.  Both are difficult to come by unless they are willing to part with some stakes.  With a little money, you can get a stake (and I am not talking of 50% kind of stakes- but more like a 10-20% of stakes) in return for guidance/ support.    

I say invest money instead of giving time – because by putting your money in, you secure a seat in the table as a stake holder- and enforces your commitment to get a return on your investment (apart from just the learning) while ensuring the company also looks at you as a partner instead of a coach or a guide. Most start-up’s are quite averse to parting with stakes – and it is important they see the value of what you bring so that they are willing to give you some stakes.  In return you help them with your skills that will enable them to grow faster (hopefully). 

This will help you in many ways.

· Gives you an inside view of how a startup actually works (or tries to work).

· Support the Founders in a number of activities that may be your speciality. You will go beyond the scope of your “job description” and discover new skills (we all did). 

· Learn the concepts of cash-flow and how the company works & how they grow.

· Understand the challenges regarding hiring and managing a team.

· Decide on processes you need to put in place to make a company run smoothly.

· Work out various marketing programs that you can design on a bootstrapped model and understand ROI.

· Help the founders in making proposals for investments. This could include making a business plan & a pitch document (significant learnings).

Most importantly, you learn how to manage your money better- and learn while you work.

The list can go on. 

You super-charge your learning of how a startup works and after a period of 6 months to a year, you are better positioned to know how to really start and run a company.   

Also, as a bonus, your stake in this company could help you as a cushion when you start your own company.   

The benefits are numerous. And your learning is significant.

Don’t give up on your dreams of starting off on your own. I am just suggesting you give it a bit of time, and effectively learn what you will anyway have go through when you start a company – while you are still earning a salary.

It could be one of the best decisions you take.  

We learnt this after we started 🙂 Sharing this with you so that you could learn from this – and optimize your investments- and maximize your learnings. 

Get moving Tiger!

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3 things you should do today to become irresistible to employers

Posted by in Attitude, Career, Hiring, Leadership, Motivation, Personal Effectiveness

Posted in LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/3-things-you-should-do-today-become-irresistible-haja-sheriff

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Recently, A close friend spoke to me about a job that he was pitching for. This was a fantastic opportunity for him – and I got excited with the possibility of what he could do. To get this “once in a lifetime opportunity”, he was working on a pitch that could help him “blow the CEO away”. To be fair, I did nothing more that give him some tips, but the activity opened up some interesting thoughts in my mind.

Do you realize how many people actually do things that could help them differentiate themselves from other potential candidates applying for the same job?

Very few.

This applies to people who have many years of experience. Also Senior Executives making a move to other bigger opportunities in their career. For the majority, a pitch for a new role is printing out a resume (in many cases, not required anymore because of email) and reading up on the company (briefly) before getting to the interview.

Does that make you any different from the others?

No.

Here are 3 things that are required to make your brand IRRESISTABLE.

· Research

This is simple of course. Right?

Actually no.

In today’s world, where information is available on the click of a key, it is easy to collect information on the company you are pitching for.

Which you should. No doubt.

Also research the manager you are going to meet. Find out their background. LinkedIn is a great place to do that.

But think for a minute.

How does that make you irresistible to the hiring manager?

You are now, at best, on par with some of the other candidates who would have done exactly this.

Here are some tips that make your Research on the company relevant-

o Think about what the hiring manager is actually looking for. Look through the Job Description to see what the role really requires.

o Understand the problems they face. Most probably, you cannot know the issues internally- but you can look at the problem as a customer of theirs. For example- if you are pitching for a sales job, find out how they are selling the product today. If through partners, ask for a quote, talk to a few partners and get an understanding how it is done. Find out about the experience- and share that feedback with the hiring manager- as a pitch document.

o Speak to some ex-employees (and in today’s world you are all connected to each other through LinkedIn and other social media) and understand the challenges they face. See how you could solve the problems. Think about what you would do to solve their problem.

· Create a killer Pitch

Why should a pitch be made only by Startups to VC’s?

Think of this as an opportunity to showcase your strategic thinking, your ideas, and your approach to the business opportunity. An opportunity to change the discussion from being a dull “tell me about yourself” to a discussion between equals. Talk about the challenges and opportunities you see for the business. Share candid feedback with the hiring manager on what you have heard with details of whom you spoke to. You rapidly evolve from a “potential employee” to a Consultant, a partner, who gives precious insights while explaining why you would help them in the role.

This, if done well, could differentiate you from every other person who pitches for the role.

Why? Because this is hard work- and most people don’t do it.

Remember, the pitch document need not be very accurate, because you don’t know the real story on the inside. But it showcases your enthusiasm, your strategic thinking ability & your drive to make a difference.

Key ingredients to get any job.

In an instance a few years ago, I was approached by a headhunter for a role in Apple India. Considering I had no background in Consumer Sales, I went ahead and did my research including walking into a number of Apple Stores, where I asked questions to them like a customer. I consolidated that and gave the feedback to the Apple team when I went for the interview.

Did I get the job?

No. But I went right to the end of the line and met their entire leadership team before losing out to someone from Cupertino. For someone with no consumer background- it was great- and the learning has stuck since then.

· Feedback

Ask for feedback after the discussion. It is a great closure to the interview. Most of the times, the hiring manager, would respond with some thinking on what your pitch was. It will give you some insight into his thinking, and gauge where you were right and where you could do better. Also, more importantly, it will give you an insight into the Manager’s thinking and his willingness to listen to new ideas. It also gives you the control to then decide if you want to work with that manager or not.

By doing these three steps, you assure yourself of a discussion where you are seen as being different, a great prospect, and if your pitch is perfect, the best candidate for the job.

All it takes is to spend the time & take the effort.

Do I think my friend will get his job?

Absolutely.

Why- because he has a story that is brilliant -and an attitude, that is not easy to find. He will get it because he leaves behind his pitch document with the CEO, which will remind them, just what difference he could bring. If he does not get the job, it is not from want of trying. He has learnt so much more about the company, and the business they are in- and an opportunity to perfect his approach in his next discussion.

Make an effort to make a difference. It could be all that you need to get the job you have been dreaming of.

I am happy to help if you need any inputs on this.

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The ONE reason Uber will survive in the long run

Posted by in StartUp

India is a battleground today. Between two of the taxi giants who are fighting tooth and nail to gain the market share leadership in India. It is a battle of equals, or is it?

While they both have investors pouring money into them- and they are waging a battle of epic proportions, both on the technology front and the infrastructure front.

Think about it.. The way the industry has changed in less than a year –

· App – The Uber app is an experience. But the others are not too much behind. Though they may lack the finesse or the sleekness of the Uber App, their apps are fairly nice and usable as well.

· Building a franchisee of cabs– Instead of investing millions in buying cars and then making them run- as would have been the case otherwise, they have created a new opportunity for these drivers who used to struggle to make ends meet.

· Created an ecosystem of budding entrepreneurs from these drivers, who now, make as much money or more money, than the professionals they ferry around.

But having been on all these cabs over the last few months, I believe, Uber, is going to succeed in the long run.

The reason? Not the technology or the infrastructure they have built. Only this! 

The Customer Experience.

The company has thought through every single step. Both from an App perspective, as well as the entire experience the customer goes through in his journey with Uber. 

· “Remaking”  of the Indian Taxi drivers– This is one of the most difficult challenges to overcome. How do you take people who drive taxis for a living, most of whom have never been through a complete education- and train them to be nice to customers. To be friendly and wish them when the get into the car. Uber has managed to make that happen. Not all drivers, but a better part of them – and that is one of the biggest changes required. Their regular trainings (this I heard from the drivers themselves), is looked forward to by the drivers- and is making an impact. Many speak in English, are more polished, and more importantly, keep their cars fresh and clean.

· The Customer Support team– they blow you away. For a company that is managing so much of business, the speed at which the customer support team responds has been outstanding. And it is usually with a Resolution – instead of asking for more clarifications. And if money has to be refunded, there is no doubt in their mind, and they seem to have been given the authority to take the decisions locally – which allows for instant closure- and delight the customers.

The customer experience has been awesome and something that most companies struggle to provide in their early days. Let alone, sustain it.

If Uber is able to sustain this over a longer period of time, they will be able to carve out a significant niche for themselves.

Of course assuming there is profitability in their business model 🙂

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