Thinks 215

Prediction: The future of CX: McKinsey on customer experience. ” Today, companies can regularly, lawfully, and seamlessly collect smartphone and interaction data from across their customer, financial, and operations systems, yielding deep insights about their customers. Those with an eye toward the future are boosting their data and analytics capabilities and harnessing predictive insights to connect more closely with their customers, anticipate behaviors, and identify CX issues and opportunities in real time. These companies can better understand their interactions with customers and even preempt problems in customer journeys. Their customers are reaping benefits: think quick compensation for a flight delay, or outreach from an insurance company when a patient is having trouble resolving a problem. These benefits extend far beyond the people typically thought of as “customers”—to members, clients, patients, guests, and intermediaries. Early movers in the world of customer-experience analytics herald a fundamental shift in how companies evaluate and shape customer experiences.”

Chidambaram on the 1991 reforms: “We discovered we always had wings, but we had forgotten to fly. Thirty years ago, this week, we took to the skies.”

Nitin Pai: A Brief Economic History of Swadeshi. “This paper traces the history of the swadeshi idea from its origins to the present day, identifies its political trajectory, assesses its impact on the Indian economy and outlines how it could be interpreted in the context of an independent, liberal democratic republic. It shows that swadeshi has always been a political project cast in economic terms and its empirical track record is far less impressive than its exalted place in the popular narrative. It concludes by arguing that India’s national interest is better served by acquiring capability than self-reliance and most importantly, by embracing an open economy. “

Community Organising: The Art of Grassroots Campaigning (Part 4)

Self-Us-Now

Central to the persuasion process that is at the heart of organising and relationship building is the concept of the public narrative. Marshall Ganz refers to it as “an exercise of leadership by motivating others to join you in action on behalf of a shared purpose. Although this worksheet focuses on your “story of self”, the goal is to identify sources of your own calling to the purpose in which you will call upon others (story of us) to join you in action (story of now).”

More from Ganz on telling one’s public story:

Stories not only teach us how to act – they inspire us to act. Stories communicate our values through the language of the heart, our emotions. And it is what we feel – our hopes, our cares, our obligations – not simply what we know that can inspire us with the courage to act.

By telling our personal stories of challenges we have faced, choices we have made, and what we learned from the outcomes we can inspire others and share our own wisdom. Because stories allow us to express our values not as abstract principles, but as lived experience, they have the power to move others.

A good story public story is drawn from the series of choice points that have structured the “plot” of your life – the challenges you faced, choices you made, and outcomes you experienced.

  • Challenge: Why did you feel it was a challenge? What was so challenging about it? Why was it your challenge?
  • Choice: Why did you make the choice you did? Where did you get the courage – or not? Where did you get the hope – or not? How did it feel?
  • Outcome: How did the outcome feel? Why did it feel that way? What did it teach you? What do you want to teach us? How do you want us to feel?

A public story includes three elements:

  • A story of self: why you were called to what you have been called to.

  • A story of us: what your constituency, community, organization has been called to its shared purposes, goals, vision.

  • A story of now: the challenge this community now faces, the choices it must make, and the hope to which “we” can aspire.

This graphic from Ganz captures the interlinkages in the story:

These ideas were applied to great success in Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign.

Thinks 214

Ethan Young interviews Richard Epstein about his book “Simple Rules for a Complex World. “What Epstein argues for in this book is a return to a classical liberal model of governance, where the government simply sets simple ground rules and allows a natural order to arise from that foundation. Today the government has entangled itself into countless areas of private life, spewing regulation and red tape as far as the eye can see. This has come at a drastic cost, not just to our checkbooks, but to our innovative spirit. Such a system is also contrary to the basic tenets of sound economics and a recipe for further decay. ”

The Internet Is Rotting: By Jonathan Zittrain. “Too much has been lost already. The glue that holds humanity’s knowledge together is coming undone.”

Suprio Guha Thakurta: So, you have an idea. What next? “Pretotypes, MVP, Product-Market Fit, and Customer Journeys.”

Community Organising: The Art of Grassroots Campaigning (Part 3)

Mobilising vs Organising

Marshall Ganz explains the difference between mobilising and organising: “Leadership in organizing is based on relationships. This is a key difference between mobilizing and organizing. When we mobilize we access and deploy a person’s resources, for example, their time to show up at a rally, their ability to “click” to sign a petition (or their signature), of their money. But when we organize we are actually building new relationships which, in turn, can become a source not only of a particular resource, but of leadership, commitment, imagination, and, of course, more relationships. In mobilizing, the “moment of truth” is when we ask, can I count on you to be there, give me $5.00, and sign the petition. In organizing the “moment of truth” is when two people have learned enough about each other’s interests, resources, and values not only to make an “exchange” but also to commit to working together on behalf of a common purpose. Those commitments, in turn, can generate new teams, new networks, and new organizations that, in turn, can mobilize resources over and over and over again.”

Here is more from Hahrie Han in her book, “How Organizations Develop Activists”:

Mobilizing [is] transactional activism. A transactional approach to activism focuses on the quantifiable indicators of the numbers of people who take action—how many people clicked on a link, looked at a page, attended a meeting, made phone calls, or contacted an elected official?… Because it focuses on achieving transactional goals, mobilizing conceptualizes the relationship between the activist and the civic association as an exchange relationship. Exchange theory says that the relationship between activists and associations is based on exchanging resources that each has to offer the other… In this framework, the job of an association leader is to maximize transactional outcomes by creating volunteer work that is as costless as possible. Because time and effort are the most valuable resources activists have, the goal is to make the work quick and easy so that more people will do it… When associations are focused on making activism as cost-free as possible for the volunteers, they tend to provide only the technical and material needs activists have.

Organizing [is] transformational activism. In contrast to transactional outcomes, transformational outcomes focus on the ways that collective action changes the affects, outlooks, and other orientations of individuals and groups. Examples include the increasing ability of people to see beyond their own self-interest, shifts in beliefs about their own agency, or changes in public opinion. Organizers focus on transformational outcomes because these changes make it more likely that people will become leaders within the association, working not only to achieve associational outcomes, but also to recruit others to do so.  In transformational organizing, the goal is not only to get work out of the activist in   the short term but also to invest in developing the activist’s capacity to act… A key assumption in transformational organizing is that the interpersonal relationships activists have are the locus of leadership development and transformation… Transformational approaches to organizing, in contrast, conceptualize participation as the product of dynamic social interactions and seek to create participatory opportunities that maximize the quantity and quality of those interactions.

Here is a nice comparison from Advocacy Iceberg:

Jason Mogus connects organising and mobilising: “Organizing is building your power. Mobilizing is spending your power.”

In other words, mobilising is about transactions and organising is about relationships. Central to the idea of organising is the idea of self-us-now.

Thinks 213

The Great Game of Risk Played in Category Creation, and Why the Winning Strategy is Aggression: by Tom Tomguz. “Imagine a big map of customers, a huge game of Risk. Each time a customer buys software, its color changes and it’s off limits for 3 years. Marketshare in the first 1-3 years dictates marketshare for years 4-6 at least. The more customers you convert to your company’s color, the stronger the brand, the greater the awareness, the more reference customers, the more capital to raise, the easier to hire and grow. There’s a flywheel spinning in the background that isn’t obvious until the latter stages of category creation. The winner takes most of the spoils.”

Pew India Religion Survey. One of the findings: “Indians value religious tolerance, though they also live religiously segregated lives. Across the country, most people (84%) say that to be “truly Indian,” it is very important to respect all religions. Indians also are united in the view that respecting other religions is a very important part of what it means to be a member of their own religious community (80%). People in all six major religious groups overwhelmingly say they are very free to practice their faiths, and most say that people of other faiths also are very free to practice their own religion.” More from Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Rama Lakshmi and Devangshu Dutta.

Randy Barnett: “The Constitution is the law that governs those who govern us. It’s not the law that governs us. The Constitution is the law that governs those who govern us.” [via CafeHayek]

Community Organising: The Art of Grassroots Campaigning (Part 2)

What It Is

Britannica on community organising: “In community organizing, members of communities are organized to act collectively on their shared interests. Saul Alinsky is commonly recognized as the founder of community organizing. Alinsky emerged as a community organizer in the second half of the 1930s. His thinking about organizing was strongly influenced by the militant labour movement in the United States emerging at the time. Alinsky’s approach emphasized democratic decision making, the development of indigenous leadership, the support of traditional community leaders, addressing people’s self-interest, use of conflict strategies, and fighting for specific and concrete results.”

Dave Beckwith and Cristina Lopez write: “Community organizing is the process of building power through involving a constituency in identifying problems they share and the solutions to those problems that they desire; identifying the people and structures that can make those solutions possible; enlisting those targets in the effort through negotiation and using confrontation and pressure when needed; and building an institution that is democratically controlled by that constituency that can develop the capacity to take on further problems and that embodies the will and the power of that constituency. Heather Booth, founder of the Midwest Academy and legendary community organizer, expressed the fundamentals in this formula: OOO = Organizers Organize Organizations.”

Hahrie Han: “I’ve always thought about the challenge of pulling people off the sidelines into public life in a way that makes them real agents of change, realizing their own interests – as opposed to consumers of something else. And that can happen through elections, or through traditional community organizing, or through unions, or elsewhere.” More: “Democracy is a muscle. Just as babies have to strengthen their leg muscles to walk, we all have to develop the skills we need to act collectively to achieve our common interests. We must invest in the organizations and movements that can equip people in that way. Only then will people become the source of resilience we need to protect democracy.”

Michelle Oyakawa: “[Organising] begins with people building relationships with each other and learning to transform those relationships into power to make the change that they want…People are not only struggling with powerful institutions and social forces, they are also wrestling with themselves to find the courage to take action. Organizations can help leaders navigate this and provide them with support and a vehicle to make their voice heard…When people come together, build connections with one another, take action repeatedly and reflect on it together afterwards, they can create a better world for themselves, their families, and their communities.”

A final quote from Marshall Ganz: “Leadership is accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve purpose in the face of uncertainty. Organizing is leadership that enables people to turn the resources they have into the power they need to make the change they want.”

Thinks 212

Inside the direct-to-consumer wave sweeping India: from Mint. “A frenzy of new-age brands…are trying to sell directly to the consumer (D2C), bypassing traditional marketing and sales channels. You mostly won’t find these brands in stores and you will rarely find a celebrity endorsing them, which means you are not footing the bill for sales commissions or marketing spends. The margins saved on these expenses allow such brands to deliver high-quality products. They then add in a layer of sharp and digitally promoted narrative—around the quality of ingredients, or the community that the produce comes from or the family that owns the business in a way that appeals to the sensibilities of an aware, quality-conscious customer. Throw in sustainable packaging, customized products and prompt delivery and you have the recipe for the consumer trend sweeping India. In categories ranging from electronics, furniture to personal care and lingerie and coffee to cosmetics, D2C brands are shaking things up.

What if everyone’s nutrition was personalised?: from The Economist. “How the mass adoption of personalised nutrition is changing people’s health—and the food industry. An imagined scenario from 2035.”

David Perell: “Writing effectively raises your intelligence by outsourcing your working memory to the page. It’s a little like math class, where teachers rightly tell students to put their ideas on scrap paper. They know that the more you write things down, the more your mind can tackle hard problems. By writing, you outsource your working memory which helps you explore nuance in a way that you can’t do with only your mind.”

Community Organising: The Art of Grassroots Campaigning (Part 1)

The Need

I have written earlier about United Voters of India (UVI), as the mechanism to mobilise the NANVs (non- aligned and non-voters) to build a bottom-up movement to create a Lok Sabha of Independents in the next elections as the first step to transform India into a free and prosperous nation: The Logic of Collective Action and Constructing the Collective. In this series, I want to discuss how we can mobilise a few lakh people in every Lok Sabha constituency to create the collective that can defeat candidates from the mainstream political parties. The big idea: community organising.

I first came across the term “community organising” when I was studying Obama’s 2008 campaign for new ideas in ground mobilisation in the run-up to the 2014 elections. Obama himself was a community organiser. He built a huge volunteer network across the US that transformed political campaigning. In India, we had seen mass mobilisation in the past few decades – Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 1990s and India Against Corruption (2011) come to mind. Political parties mobilise huge numbers for their campaigns in every election. The operative word is “mobilise” as opposed to “organise” – and there is a big difference, as we shall see.

For UVI to succeed, it will need to be driven at the grassroots level – neighbourhood by neighbourhood. This will require an organising model very different from the top-down approaches that we normally associate with movements. Without a single tall leader issuing diktats from the top, it will require a self-organising approach with a network of local leaders who focus on persuading people in smaller groups.

I had spent quite some time thinking about community organising during 2015-18 when I was working on Nayi Disha. But we never got it right and the project eventually failed. Maybe the ideas of freedom and prosperity did not resonate, maybe I did not do enough to spread them to a large audience, maybe our outreach was flawed. Post-pandemic India will be different – many speak now in hushed tones (WhatsApp and Signal calls!) about the need for an alternative to the current political dispensation – “anyone but them”. But as I wrote recently, the alternative we seek should not be another political party (or a coalition of the also-corrupt-and-incompetent). What we need is a movement that frees India from the clutches of all politicians and their political parties.

This is where UVI as the organising idea comes in. UVI will need an organising model to harness the power of people at the local level – this is where community organising (or just ‘organising’) comes in. It is an idea which is relatively new in India, but there have been variants in the shakha-based approach used by Shiva Sena and RSS. (I had discussed covered this in my series on Circles earlier.) Done right, it goes beyond membership and money; it can be the lever to transform grassroot politics and activism, and deliver the Nayi Disha Indians need.

Thinks 211

Not Buying It: When your biggest challenge is non-consumption: by Rita McGrath. “We’re used to thinking of competition as the biggest challenge for getting customers to buy from us. But a much bigger challenge is non-consumption – especially when the reasons people aren’t buying have more to do with friction than with what you’re selling.”

How do you ask good questions? by Tyler Cowen. A few pointers: “Highly specific questions are better on average. It is often better to preface a question with a confession of some sort, or with information from yourself. That sets a standard for the respondent. Set that standard high!  Demonstrate credibly that you are truly listening and that you care about the answer.”

Read: The Cellist by Daniel Silva

Business Standard Story on Netcore

Peerzada Abrar from Business Standard interview me about Netcore. Here is his story. I have reproduced it below since its behind a paywall.

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Creator India’s first web portals in 1990s aims to take his tech co public

Netcore Cloud today serves over 5,000 clients in 18 countries, delivering 12 bn emails and tracking 100 bn events a month for world’s top marketers. It is now planning an IPO in 15-18 months

Tech entrepreneur Rajesh Jain is a pioneer in Asia’s dotcom revolution, having created India’s first Internet portals in the late 1990s. He then started what is today India’s largest marketing technology company, Netcore Cloud. It offers AI-powered marketing automation and analytics solutions.

Making successful strides for over 20 years, Netcore Cloud today serves over 5,000 clients spread across 18 countries. These include India, the US, Germany, Nigeria, Singapore, Malaysia and UAE. It is delivering over 12 billion emails, and tracking more than 100 billion marketing events every month for the world’s top marketers. The bootstrapped company is now planning an initial public offering (IPO) in the next 15-18 months.

“We want to become India’s first B2B SaaS (company) going for an IPO by 2022,” says Jain.

Some of the leading brands that use Netcore Cloud’s services to power their customer acquisition, engagement, and retention goals include MaxLife Insurance, ICICI Bank, Standard Chartered and Flipkart. The other such brands include Myntra, Miss Amara, Airtel, Disney Hotstar, Canon, Puma, Tobi, Easemytrip, PizzaHut, and McDonalds.

“One of our goals is to double our annual recurring revenue (ARR) in the next two years to $150 million,” says Jain. “We’ve done very well in India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Now our plan is to grow very rapidly in the US and Europe. We are looking at both organic growth, and acquisitions.”

Jain sees that the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated digitisation and customers need platforms such as Netcore more than before which can help them build relationships with their existing customers. “The trends that we are beginning to see on the digital side is that it has been accelerated by at least 3-4 years in the last 15 months,” he says.

Jain is also seeing the startup ecosystem in India becoming broader and deeper. There are massive opportunities in the area of software-as-a-service. The Indian SaaS (software-as-a-Service) community is maturing and has the potential to become a $1 trillion opportunity over the next 10 years, according to a report by SaaSBoomi, a community of SaaS founders and builders, alongside McKinsey & Co and Nasscom. It highlights that there are nearly 1,000 funded SaaS companies in India, of which 10 have unicorn status and are generating about $2-3 billion in revenues while employing 40,000 people. Entrepreneurs are also looking to solve local problems in areas such as healthcare, education and logistics.

“Indian’s don’t have to go to Silicon Valley to create deep tech,” says Jain who earned his B. Tech (Electrical Engineering) from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 1988, followed by M.S. from Columbia University, New York in 1989. He worked at NYNEX, USA, for two years before returning to India to begin his entrepreneurial ventures in 1992.

One of Jain’s early ventures, IndiaWorld Communications, was launched in 1995. The fledgling 20-person company was acquired by Satyam Infoway (later, Sifty) in November 1999 for $115 million in one of Asia’s largest internet deals. IndiaWorld was the largest collection of India-centric websites, comprising Samachar (news), Khel (cricket), Khoj (search) and Bawarchi (food).

“For IndiaWorld, everybody said that I made $100 million, but they don’t realise that during the 5 years of running that business, we had many near to death experiences,” says Jain. “Our goal was, how do you offer good services to customers, so that they keep coming back.”

He calls his ventures IndiaWorld (1995-2000) and Netcore (1998-now) as proficorns.A proficorn is a company that is private, profitable, promoter-bootstrapped and highly valuable ($100 million or more in valuation). Other such examples include broking firm Zerodha and tech firms, Zoho and Wingify.

A lot has changed since then. Jain is of the view that it is a great time to be an entrepreneur in India and he would dream of such a situation in early 2000’s.

“I would look at China and the growth there,” says Jain. “I always wondered when that would happen in India.”

He says now there is substantial risk capital available from multiple sources ranging from few lakh rupees to millions of dollars. “It really creates a virtuous cycle because entrepreneurs are then willing to take the risk,” says Jain.

One such example is the blockbuster listing of online food delivery company Zomato which is expected to set the stage for many technology firms and startups to follow suit. He said there would have been many instances when Zomato came very close to failure. But, either there were pivots or they did not give up and they figured out new business models.

“Now what’s happening is that exits have started to happen,” says Jain. There’s liquidity for entrepreneurs and investors. That is coming in the form of acquisitions and secondary transactions.

Also new ecosystems including supply chains are getting built in areas such as agritech, healthtech and edtech. The way the country leapfrogged in mobile and digital payments, Jain is expecting the same to happen in numerous areas including SaaS, where India can now serve the world. Earlier the country provided IT services. Now it is providing products that work for the global markets.

In between, from 2012-2019, Jain also worked as a political entrepreneur.His previous political venture, Niti Digital, was one of the key organisations that supported the 2014 BJP election campaign for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It had a 100-person team working for two years in the right-of-centre digital media space (NitiCentral.com), elections data and analytics (IndiaVotes), and volunteering platform (India272.com).

Also, Free A Billion (FAB) was started by Jain in 2015 with a focus to bring economic freedom to Indians. Its flagship initiative was Nayi Disha–to create a demand for prosperity, put an end to government interventions that destroy wealth and enable widespread wealth creation. But FAB closed in early 2019 because of lack of traction for its ideas. Jain had also spent a year on the board of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and spent two years as a government nominated director on the board of energy conglomerate NTPC. Jain says now there’s not that much of direct government interaction.

“We serve different government enterprises with our (Netcore) services,” says Jain. “But I’m personally not now directly involved with any (government) initiative.”