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Ma. RIP. 1932-2011.

December 25, 2012

Near, far, wherever you are,
I believe that the heart does go on.

We’ll stay forever this way,
You are safe in my heart,
And my heart will go on and on…

Mrs. Manju Bhasin May 3, 1932- Dec 25, 2011

It’s taken a year… to get myself to photo blog these few precious moments with Ma.
Remembering and celebrating a beautiful life, well lived.

Rest in Peace, Ma.

-.-

Credits: Will Jennings (lyrics), James Horner (music), put to song by Celine Dion

Tablet and iPad Catalog Apps Revolutionize Shopping

June 8, 2012

A good, balanced article written by Julia Wilkinson for eCommerce BYTES.

RIP Jagjit Singh

October 11, 2011

No words to offer. Just my blog post from 2009 as a simple tribute.

Over time, I’ll add a few of my favorites here with a key line, or three:

T-commerce — carving out and extending e-commerce on the tablet platform

September 13, 2011

[Essay I wrote for the book published at Mobile Future Forward 2011 conference]

The tablet explosion: Consumers have been shopping for them, but how will consumers shop on them? With consumers gobbling up tablets – an expected 60 million units will be sold in 2011 – what kinds of apps are likely to be the winners for t-commerce?

Consumers are rapidly adopting tablets, mainly the original iPad and the new iPad 2. There are also a slew of Android tablets gaining traction, despite less than stellar market introductions of the earlier models. In addition, offerings from RIM, HP (still born, largely) and Microsoft are nipping at Android’s heels.  With iPad 2 leading the way, and improved models from Samsung, Sony, HTC and others, consumer adoption could reach 60+ million units during the 2011 holiday season.

Since the iPad was first introduced in April 2010, consumers have been seeking and finding plenty of new ways to use this versatile device. What stands out, as a theme among the most successful apps, is that they are built around media consumption. In addition to email, gaming and social networking, popular uses of the iPad include browsing websites, reading books on the Kindle or iBooks apps, reading newspapers and magazines via dedicated apps, and watching videos on apps from YouTube, ABC, BBC, Netflix, and Hulu.

It is no longer a surprise that consumer usage of tablets is starting to take time away[1] from desktop computers and, interestingly enough, from TVs as well (though there are also studies which indicate that tablets are being used while the TV is turned on in the background). While PCs have historically been used for almost everything, they really excel in task execution and content creation. In contrast, tablet usage is more focused on content consumption[2] – a very key and perhaps pivotal point, as search gives way to browsing and serendipity. In fact, in a study conducted by Resolve Market Research, 49% of users said they would buy an iPad and not an e-reader, and according to a JP Morgan study 1/3rd of PCs beling sold are being largely used as media devices and are potentially the addressable market for tablets)

Who’s buying iPads?

This foretells a market that is growing dramatically, yet is only in its infancy. There are three contributing factors for someone buying an iPad – trendiness, utility and affordability. Needless to say, Apple’s marketing machinery has pulled a coup as far as labeling the iPad as cool. Utility is now indisputable (especially for media consumption), and the $499 price point has opened up a whole new genre of consumers. This easily explains how 37% of iPads are being bought by consumers as their first ever Apple product purchase.

According to a Nielsen survey, most iPad users are between 25 and 55, and make at least $50,000 a year. However, the really interesting part is that over 40% are young adults (25-36), and 35% have household incomes of $100K or more.[3]

Who’s shopping, and who’s shopping on iPads?

Let’s examine a few huge markets in the US.  E–commerce. Even at its present $170 billion, it still represents only about 7% of US commerce in general. The vast majority of shopping is still done offline in conventional ways. Of particular interest is the $100 billion (printed) catalog shopping market. This revenue is derived from the 20 billion catalog mailings consumers receive annually.

In looking at the ways consumers are using tablets as media consumption devices, we believe that tablets could rejuvenate and grow the catalog shopping market dramatically. We posit in this article that progressive retailers will blur the lines between catalog, retail, and e-commerce.

The Tablet Advantage

Tablets’ devices and their use cases are quite distinct from laptops’.  They don’t have dedicated physical keyboards.  Despite being smaller, lighter and thinner, their displays have extraordinary resolution and color depth, and image displays on them are striking.

More importantly, tablets are personal. They are as much a lifestyle experience delivery platform as a productivity platform. This fact was not lost on Apple in its initial launch campaign back in 2010.

When you look at the iPad’s most popular applications and its unique physical and psychological attributes, you begin to understand why the dominant tablet apps are lifestyle-driven and browsing-centric. The most striking example of these is the “tablet magazine.”

Tablets are about the same size, thickness, and weight as magazines.  They aren’t quite as portable as magazines, but are much more so than laptops (and TVs, of course).  And they show full-color images with the same brilliance as glossy magazines. But unlike magazines, tablets can update content constantly.  They are live magazines!

So what about t-commerce?

Magazines and e-commerce have two primary features in common: browsing and advertisements. Online, magazines have a clear advantage over search marketing when it comes to discovery shopping as readers discover new items being advertised. Similarly, catalogs promote commerce by sharing characteristics in common – buying, while browsing in a natural way. You might call it relevant and contextual advertising, and catalogers realize a solid payback from the investment they made in merchandising their products.

Tablet-based magazine and catalog apps can take advantage of the speed and convenience of the network to access live data that is constantly being updated and refreshed. This results in always-up-to-date prices and in-stock products, a combination of browsing and search, the helpfulness of product and price comparison, and (like e-commerce) the ability to purchase immediately. Moreover, tablet-based catalogs can be personalized in a way that was simply not feasible with their printed cousins.  Apps that can deliver catalog-shopping experiences with curated pictures produce a potent draw. Beautifully and professionally laid product pictures can tap into the aspirational needs of readers. They can promote impulse buying. Catalogers that can personalize experiences for shoppers will promote increased engagement and browsing as they deliver an entertainment value similar to that of shopping at a brick-and-mortar store. Such apps will create a win-win for both retailer and consumer.

Shopping, however, is not yet a primary consumer use case for tablets. We believe this is because of the lack of shopping apps that truly tap in to the lifestyle delivery potential of the tablet.  Some shopping-related apps, like eBay, Amazon, and GILT, get a reasonable amount of usage on iPads. GILT’s app[4] (shown here) combines current content with great visuals. Consumers liked it enough that it drove over 4% of GILT’s total sales[5]. According to Bill Siwicki of Internet Retailer, “when 4% of your total revenue is coming from one device—not one type of device, such as a tablet PC, but one singular device, an iPad tablet PC — you should be currying favor with these device users, and then some.”

Pure catalogers such as Cornerstone Brands now derive 57% of their revenue from e-commerce; while even multi-channel retailers/ catalogers such as Williams-Sonoma claim 30% of their sales from e-commerce. There is a lot of potential here from the growing base of tablet using shoppers to drive more catalog inspired sales on to e-commerce. It is progressive retailers, like these that will blur the lines between catalog, retail, and e-commerce by making their catalog materials and product information available in elegant new  ways on innovative catalog tablet apps. It may appear to be a nascent market at the moment, but with a slight “future forward” view, it is quite clear to us that – in 2011, t-commerce has indeed arrived!

Catalog shopping apps rev 1.0

Early generations of electronic catalogs (even on the web) were largely based on downloading and viewing PDF versions of printed catalogs, and were built as separate apps for each and every catalog title. Using these apps posed two issues for consumers:

The first was that, after opening any of these apps, all you could see were catalog cover thumbnails. You then had to tap the cover and wait for the catalog PDFs to download before you could start shopping. In the worst case, downloads like this could delay your shopping by several minutes, even on a fast Wi-Fi connection. Spontaneity is lost. Downloading catalogs using cellular networks could take much longer and tax your monthly bandwidth limits.

The second was that most consumers liked to shop across multiple catalogs. They had to find and download all the corresponding catalog apps (if available) and get familiar with the different controls and features of each of those apps. It was definitely not an ideal user experience for browsing catalogs on tablets.

In addition, for many catalog retailers, building and maintaining an app for each of their catalogs was quite burdensome.

What is coming in the next generation of t-commerce apps?

Catalog apps are now focusing on scalable server-side database technology and on leveraging attractive product imagery and lifestyle photos from retailers. They are being designed to make tablet shopping and browsing by category simple and fun. In parallel, retailers are actively seeking new opportunities to showcase, promote, and sell their top products in a manner optimized for merchandising.

Apps with clean interfaces and striking visuals will emerge as winners. These will be apps that deliver an Internet shopping experience that seeks to inspire and excite the consumer, and are not just about comparison shopping and the lowest price. Users need to be able to browse or research products they like with ease.

What’s Catalogue?

Catalogue by TheFind transforms the paradigm of online shopping from one that is search and lowest-price driven to one that plays to the merchant’s strengths in merchandising and visual presentation.  At the same time, Catalogue draws consumers in with a more visually engaging shopping experience that draws on the latest trends and allows for more serendipity and discovery.  At the time of this writing, the app has been publicly available for three months and has been downloaded more than 250,000 times.

At its core, Catalogue has been successful because we recognized that the tablet is a media consumption device and we developed our app with a simple goal in mind: shop-ertainment.  Blending the best of catalog browsing with our world-class shopping search technology, we have delivered a comprehensive yet easy-to-use and fun app.

Consumers get the best of all worlds: they can browse through the same lifestyle photos in the print edition, click deeper in to product details, or better yet, they can click through to our partner’s site for that product that they must have immediately, and add it to their shopping cart – all in just a few clicks!

We believe that this kind of experience will become an integral part of the future of e-commerce. Though still very early, T-commerce is rapidly emerging as a vibrant growth segment in it’s own right as the functionality of tablets grows, and creative apps that take advantage of the platform appear, in the not so distant future.



whyPads – Are You Ready for T-Commerce?

June 9, 2011
Catalogue by TheFind

Catalogue by TheFind

Here is a pointer to my blog post in TheFinds’s newsletter to merchant partners (retailers). It’s from the horse’s mouth, as they say 🙂 …

whyPads – are you ready for t-commerce?

App Store == Application Store or Apple Store? Sheesh!

January 12, 2011

What does the word “app” really mean? Microsoft is challenging the US PTO to reject Apple’s trademark application 🙂 for “App Store” saying that the term is too generic, and similar to say a toy store or a shoe store. TechFlash writes succinctly that Apple’s case is largely based on the contention that “app” is not only short for applications, it is also short for Apple.

Now, that is splitting hair.

March 1, 2011 – Update on court proceedings – What they said: Apple vs. Microsoft on App Store

March 22, 2011 – Now on to Amazon – Apple sues Amazon – citing they’ve “called Amazon 3 times,” but got no response. I guess 3rd time wasn’t a charm either.

Jun 10, 2011 – For those following the saga – Apple slams Amazon’s Android e-store as ‘inferior’

July 7, 2011 – Apple loses bid for injunction against Amazon – Despite denying the injunction, the judge did not agree with Amazon that “app store” is purely generic.

Jan 2, 2012 – Amazon wins (narrow but significant) ruling against Apple – Customers were not misled by Amazon’s use of the term; but ruling does not cover Apple’s trademark infringement claims over Amazon’s Appstore. A trial over that issue is scheduled for August.

 

Personal Favorites from PanIIT 2009 conference

October 11, 2009
Bill Clinton - candid Q&A

Bill Clinton - candid Q&A

As expected, the PanIIT 2009 conference team put up a great show. Of the 30+ sessions, here are my personal favorites/picks:

  • Keynote – Bill Clinton Former US President
  • Former President Bill Clinton - keynote

    Former President Bill Clinton - keynote

  • Panel – Financing the New Venture
    Ramneek Bhasin, EIR Mayfield Fund;
    Lon Chow, GP Apex Ventures;
    Keith Crandell; MD, ARCH Venture Partners;
    Raja Krishnamoorthi, Candidate for Illinois Comptroller;
    Moderator – Arjun Malhotra
  • Financing the New Venture - Panel

    Financing the New Venture - Panel

  • Keynote – Aneesh Chopra, CTO US Government
  • Aneesh Chopra, CTO US Government - keynote

    Aneesh Chopra, CTO US Government - keynote

  • Panel – Business Leaders
    B. Muthuraman, Managing Director Tata Steel;
    Rich Lavin, Group President, Caterpillar;
    Subodh Bhargava, Chairman, Tata Telecom;
    Sanjay Khosla, EVP and President, Intl., Kraft Foods;
    Moderator – Mohanbir Sawhney, Professor, Kellogg School of Business
  • Business Leaders - panel

    Business Leaders - panel

  • Rounding it off was an excellent performance by Kailash Kher and his band Kailasa. I’m sure a few bootlegged video clips will show up sooner or later. In the meantime, enjoy one of their performances from a live event in 2008.

You might need to download and install the dyyno plug-in to watch.

 

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

October 5, 2009

 

IIT campus collage

An interesting coincidence indeed. I find myself on the panel addressing Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Pan IIT conference in Chicago later this month. Serving as a mentor on a class titled the same at the Haas School of Business at Cal Berkeley had nothing to do with it.

I have been thoroughly impressed with the energy and enthusiasm the students of the Fall ’09 class at Haas are demonstrating. That, coupled with structure they are being provided with, is certain to create a substantial enterprise or two. I hope to learn a thing or two myself from my co-panelists at PanIIT 2009 in terms of getting these ventures financed and off the ground. I’ll report back – stay tuned. [Oct 11. Blog post now available]

Onwards…

September 27, 2009

For the soul, there is never birth nor death, nor having once been, does he ever cease to be. Bhagvad Gita

Gautam Bhargava's speech at Mots' memorial

Gautam Bhargava’s speech at memorial

With an elegant memorial service for Mots, the final chapter was written this past Friday, September 25th, 2009. This post is dedicated to all those who had the great fortune of knowing him as a friend, relative, colleague, alum, investor, mentor, prankster, or, as Sergey Brin put it – with a “Motwani factor of 1.”

This is (and will be) be a compendium of links to articles that I find particularly meaningful in chronicling the life and legacy of Rajeev Motwani.

 

Private memorial concert by Indian Ocean at Stanford amphitheater

Private concert by Indian Ocean at Stanford amphitheater

A fitting finale with Indian Ocean singing Kandisa (meaning Praise).

Do you have a Dashboard for your Company?

September 21, 2009

Largely due to self-imposed constraints (as an EIR at Mayfield and a “mentor” for Carl Nichols’ EWMBA 295A class at the Haas School of Business), I can’t really blog about some of the really cool ideas I get to review and the bright individuals I have the privilege of working with. IOW, my blogging has been bogged down. That said, there are a few abstract topics I am going to jot down as time permits.

dashboardBoth at Mayfield and Haas, I’m frequently asked by entrepreneurs about objective criteria by which an investment can be evaluated. This is a very broad question and there are no easy answers for early-stage companies. It often comes down to intuition about the market, the team, technology underpinnings and proposed business models. However, mid/late-stage companies do have a variety of parameters one could review. Not surprising, the same tools that a CEO uses to run a company can be used for building an investment thesis as well.

Here is my “1-page” dashboard. Each line item is owned by someone on the exec team and serves as a living document that can be used for internal management meetings, board meetings and, of course, investor meetings. There is always the alternative – a wing and a prayer.wing_man

Market

  • 1-line market & industry description
  • Direct competitors
  • Indirect competitors
  • Outliers and/or market dynamics that could be disruptive

Business

  • Revenue & Forecast
  • Sales Pipeline
  • Partners and/or Channels
  • Regions (regional differences that can impact)
  • Legal issues, if any (patents, copyrights, other)

People (& Locations)

  • HR (headcount, issues if any)
  • Locations
  • External (Board of Directors, Board of Advisers)

Product

  • Current/shipping products
  • Roadmap 12-18 months out

Financials

  • Cash Flow & (if applicable) Zero-Cash-Date with & without revenue
  • Top parameters from Balance Sheet
  • Top parameters from Income Statement

Your mileage may vary, based upon your company’s unique situation and market it’s operating in. Feel free to adapt from here and leave ideas so others may benefit.