Thinks 101

20+ Top Email Marketing Influencers You Should Know in 2021: includes Netcore’s Matt Vernhout.

Email is 50 years old, but there’s life in the old dog yet: from TechRadar. “According to data from Statista, roughly 306 billion emails were sent and received each day in 2020, which equates to more than 110 trillion across the course of the year.”

Bangladesh at 50: TN Ninan. “Dhaka’s justification for breaking away from West Pakistan is now self-evident. If it has done better than New Delhi in 50 years, it has completely outpaced Pakistan on every metric.”

United Voters of India: Constructing the Collective (Part 4)

Freedom First

What I will outline next is a vision of what can be done. It is one possible future for India. It is definitely not an extension of the default path we are on as a nation. As such, I want to state a few things which will help provide the wider context of my ideas.

What I propose is at this time just an intellectual exercise. The fundamental question I have tried to address is: how can Indians become prosperous? There is nothing deficient in our genetic makeup that condemns hundreds of millions of Indians to a life barely better than subsistence. Wealth in the world is not a zero-sum game that we need to impoverish others to enrich ourselves. There is a proven path to prosperity and it is simple: freedom. People need to be free before they get prosperous. If the government indulges in predation, there is no incentive for wealth creation. In the ideal situation, economic freedom needs to come with political and social freedom. But as we have seen in countries like Singapore and China, economic freedom by itself can go a long way to create prosperity. The American ideals of individual, social and economic freedom laid out in its Constitution is what we must strive for in India.

I am not a politician and have no desire to be one. I am a successful technology entrepreneur who was luckily exposed (albeit a bit late in life) to the world of economics and works of Adam Smith, F. A. Hayek, James Buchanan and Milton Friedman. I had the luxury of time and a curious mind. Over the past decade, I learnt from mentors, books, conversations and conferences.

Having understood that countries are rich or poor because of the political choices that they make, I decided that I must do something to try and transform India’s future. My first hope was that a wise leader would do the needful – as we saw in Asian countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, China, South Korea. That hope has been proven false, and therefore there is a need for a different solution. Instead of relying on a leader who will do the right things, we need to construct a collective which will get into power and do the transformations India needs. What I will outline is one possible path for making this change happen; there can be many others. While I did try a few independent initiatives and failed, I am not dissuaded. The prize is far greater – unleashing the potential of a billion free who can accelerate human progress even as they simply search for betterment of their own lives. If more of us start thinking about the problem and possible solutions, we can indeed make it happen.

Thinks 100

Why Opposition must not only oppose: by Ruchi Gupta. “The Opposition needs to find ways of making politics a site for community, an avenue for public service and a source of intellectual stimulation. The role of the Opposition in a representative democracy is to provide an alternative, not just to oppose. This requires serious deliberation to come up with an agenda and political programmes which can meld people’s identity and aspirations with their grievances. Traditionally, civil society has played a role in generating ideas, which were adopted by political parties but civil society too has boxed itself in the “resistance with capital R” box and is unable to move beyond rhetoric and protest.”

The 5 Purchases Every Entrepreneur Should Make: by Jodie Cook. “The products in your life directly affect how you present yourself and spend your time. Making purchases that result in you doing better work, reaching more people and being propelled faster into greatness can result in happiness, prosperity and wellbeing.”

How to Think Like a Successful Entrepreneur: by Per Bylund. “Successful entrepreneurs think about their business in value terms, and they recognize that they do not themselves determine the value of their offering — the consumer of the final good does.” [via Atanu]

United Voters of India: Constructing the Collective (Part 3)

Exponential Change

As a generation, we have seen a lot of technological disruption and innovation. In 1995, we connected to the Internet on 14.4 Kbps dial-up modems from a computer. We now routinely get speeds 100-1000 times faster with the smartphones in our hands. We can summon goods, foods and cabs with the click of a button. We have the world’s information available with a click. We are no longer just passive consumers; we are also content producers – our wit, tweet, photo or video can be spread to our tribes or across the country with the same ease. We have harnessed the power of solar and the promise of AI. We went from virus to vaccine in less than a year. In the midst of a pandemic, many of us can do our work and manage our businesses from the safety of our home – something unimaginable just a few years ago.

We are on the cusp on even more exponential change. A chart from Balance Point Ventures tell the story of our immediate past and near future:

One very interesting innovation (predictably banned by India’s politicians) has been Bitcoin. Look at its astonishing rise over the past 8 years:

Bitcoin’s rise has in part been driven as a safe haven against the debasement of fiat currencies by central banks which keep printing more and more money, especially after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and then on steroids in 2020 during the pandemic. Bitcoin’s idea was first proposed as a set of rules laid out in a white paper by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. The first bitcoin trade happened in 2010. The current market cap of bitcoins is $600 billion. All of this has happened with no single person or entity in charge – in a single decade.

Can something similar happen in politics? Can the combination of a contract (agenda), constitution (rules) and code (software) create a disruption in India’s politics? I believe so. The triad of United Voters of India (UVI), Nayi Disha and Dhan Vapasi can, in a thousand days, build on the power of P2P to launch an irreversible virtuous cycle of freedom and prosperity (Lakshmi) for 1.3 billion Indians.

Thinks 99

Graphene and Beyond: The Wonder Materials That Could Replace Silicon in Future Tech: from WSJ. “Researchers on the bleeding edge of physics, chemistry and engineering are experimenting with exotic-sounding substances to be used in microchips. They include graphene, black phosphorus, transition metal dichalcogenides, and boron nitride nanosheets. Collectively, they’re known as 2-D materials, since they are flat sheets only an atom or two thick. Largely unknown just 20 years ago, they are now regularly fabricated in labs, using methods as mundane as a blender and as tricky as high-temperature vapor deposition.”

Economics 101: from IEA (UK). “The first in a two-part series, providing 33 films in total, will cover everything from basic economic theory to important historical case studies; guaranteeing viewers will receive a comprehensive understanding of the fundamentals of economics.”

United Voters of India: Constructing the Collective (Part 2)

United, We Can

We can of course blame the politicians for our current state of affairs, but few of us do. For most of us, politicians are the do-gooders. They give us the freebies – never mind that they extract many times more from us to dole out those goodies. We turn to them when we have a problem – which is exactly what they want; a favour given now is a rent to be extracted over and over again. We cannot easily measure their performance and hold them accountable; instead we are swayed by words they say days before we vote. Elections are about deciding between the lesser of the evils. Our limited attention span for anything political is less than that of goldfish, which of course they know so well.

Just around the time when the US got its Constitution, Indians became colonised – first by the whites and then by their very own. The British were allowed to rule over us for 150 years; after that under the mirage of Independence, we have let India’s politicians continue that legacy for the past 75 years. A rule that exploits and extracts, a rule by kakistocrats. But we don’t care. The bar of the acceptable behaviour of politicians keeps lowering and our tolerance of that keeps getting raised to the extent that we simply tune off and focus on the next video on our app. And then as dutiful citizens delighted with being able to exercise our democratic right, we go out and vote them (or their variants) back into power every few years.

There is no point blaming a single political party or politician. Each one of them in the course of their tenure in power has shifted the Overton Window of what is now seen as acceptable. The definition of tyranny is revised and redefined by every action of the powerful; it is the voluntary servitude of we the people which lets it happen. But what can we do? Individuals, busy with our daily lives, in a constant battle of survival, in perpetual crisis mode, singletons in an ocean of humanity. We were as helpless when the British took over; 100,000 of them commanded 300 million Indians into submission. We are as helpless now when an even smaller number commands 1300 million Indians into obedience. We just feel free now because we have our own flag, and the skin colour of the rulers and their accent matches our own.

We are our biggest problem – and also the best solution. The greatest and most powerful force in modern times is not that of a politician in power, but P2P – peer-to-peer. Each of us is connected to hundreds of others. Technology has linked us into a network where words and videos can spread at the speed of light. We don’t need a director or designer; each of us can become a decision-maker and emergence can do the rest. But we don’t know the superpower that we have – individually and as a collective. Unlike Superman’s ‘S’, it is not immediately apparent. But if someone or something can harness this, the change that is seemingly impossible today can become inevitable tomorrow.

We. United. Our support, made visible by technology. Spread P2P via our smartphone. Identity hidden because no one else needs to know. Finally, the vote, in secret. Put it all together and we can rid India of the biggest cancer that has destroyed our past, is eating away our present, and limiting our children’s future – the politicians and their parties. It took 5 years to go from ‘Quit India’ to ‘Independent India’. It can take even less to go from ‘They, the Powerful’ to ‘We, the Free and Rich.’ This is the revolution India needs.

Thinks 98

Morgan Housel on Investing: “Investing is a broader field than it looks, and there is so much to learn about it outside of the narrow lens of finance…There’s a graveyard of companies and investors who tried to grow too fast, attempting to reap a decade’s worth of rewards in a year or less, learning the hard way that capitalism doesn’t like it when you try to use a cheat code.”

Alex Nowrasteh: “Humans, as economist Julian Simon long argued, are the ultimate resource. It is human creativity that turns nature into natural resources and raw materials into valuable capital and new technologies. Unfortunately, much of humanity, by accident of birth, lives in countries where human creativity is constrained. Though not the only reason for low productivity, lousy governance is often what prevents humans from making the most of their creativity and potential.” [Via CafeHayek.]

Atanu Dey: “A country deserves the government it gets. A nation of sheep begets a government of wolves. That’s so in some cases. In other cases, a nation of immoral citizens begets a government of the most vicious thieves and crooks. It’s a kakistocracy...Indians of today are as tolerant of the oppression they suffer as their forebears were of the oppression of the British they suffered in turn. It is British Raj 2.0. The skin color of the rulers have changed but not the basic nature of the master-slave relationship.

United Voters of India: Constructing the Collective (Part 1)

Can We?

Politician-police nexus. Money paid to politicians for appointments to official positions; money that is then connected via ‘subscriptions’ from hapless businesses who are tortured by rules and regulations they can never fully comply with. Money then spent by politicians to buy votes. Politicians who switch parties just before elections. Elected representatives who resign to bring down the government and then defect to another party to contest by-elections to undermine the mandate. MPs and MLAs who are toothless – rubber stamps for the whims of the party bosses. Ministers who are in power to not serve but get served – money and other favours. Sedition and jailing used by the rulers to scare and silence. Politicians in partnership with some business people to hurt competition – Indian or otherwise.

It is not necessary to be in power; even being in Opposition can be profitable – money can be extracted for silence, favourable contracts can still be cleared, cases can be suppressed. After all, today’s Opposition can be tomorrow’s Ruling Party – and vice versa. So, best to milk the system together and continuously. In fact, which party is in Opposition is itself in doubt as former competitors at the time of elections can combine forces for power after the election. Confusion for the voters who also don’t care as long as some goodies and freebies are thrown their way. This is the way it has been and this is how it will be.

At the centre of all this is the political party system and the politicians who control these parties. Thanks to the Indian Constitution which mandates deep government intervention in the economy, their power and ability to extract wealth has risen enormously – not very different from how the British Viceroys and their associates did it when they ruled over India. Everyone else gets the crumbs that the party leaders decide. Nominations for elections are handed out not based on competence and citizen choice but on caste calculus and connections. Discrimination based on religion and every other attribute possible is the norm. Speeches name and shame the opponent – no holds barred. The bigger the slander, the greater is the glory amongst one’s core base. Social media armies, the equivalent of Hitler’s SA (brownshirts), defame at will.

Once in power, hitherto independent institutions have to be tamed and subverted. Power has to be exercised for fear or favour. Money, media and muscle are combined together into a toxic cocktail to divide-and-rule in the exercise of absolute power that would make the British envious.

None of this is of course new. This has been happening in almost every nation since there have been politicians. We are shocked and surprised only because we do not read history or understand human behaviour, and therefore have a romantic view of politicians. Only in the rarest of cases when a country gets its rules right or a noble leader emerges does the grip of corruption, poverty and despair get broken and the nation rises.

For the average person, there is little or no time to think about all this as one goes through the daily motions of life. For the few intellectuals who can pontificate on social media or through op-ed columns, their followers do the customary ‘like’ and move on to others in the echo chamber. The masses are unmoved. Even being forced to walk hundreds of kilometres in the aftermath of lockdowns does not shake their belief in the rulers – because the alternatives are worse and so it simply doesn’t matter; life has been ‘nasty, short and brutish’ anyways.

So, is there any hope for a new dawn? For most of us, the answer would be either a don’t care or a No; what was will continue to be.

I don’t want to yet give up. As an entrepreneur, I constantly think of new ideas with a vivid imagination that constructs new futures. This is what I will do in this series – lay out a vision and roadmap to rid India’s democracy of political parties and their leaders, create a new government of Independents who can in a single-term free Indians who don’t even know they are serfs, and dismantle the anti-prosperity mission so future generations can experience wealth levels that people in developed countries like the US and Singapore have seen. A few of us can indeed change our nation and the world.

Thinks 97

Forget Customer Experience. Forget Employee Experience. Enter Total Experience: “Total experience is a strategy that connects multiexperience with customer, employee and user experience disciplines, as Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner, explained.”

150+ ways to use AMP for Email: by Jordie van Rijn. “AMP for Email allows you to use email in ways that were never possible before. Bringing  rich engaging experiences with modern app functionality into your marketing email. How cool is it to fetch real-time content, interact with forms, configure products, interact with the sender.”

Reading: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay.

Microns: Making B2C Emails Better (Part 6)

Micron-filled future

An entrepreneur has to imagine tomorrow’s world and make that future happen. I like doing that. So, I decided to look ahead to what is possible.

Microns could be a good complement to the long, rich emails that we get today. Short form mails could be either infinite period (a forever subscription with something new daily) or a finite period (a short duration relationship with a limited number of microns). I can imagine subscribing to many such microns – to know and learn.

We have discussed uses of microns for brand-customer relationships. It has applicability in many other scenarios. New employees in a company could get a 30-day micron sequence telling them the organisation’s history, reinforcing the values, and telling them more about their colleagues. While all this info can be packed into a single orientation session, giving it as a drip marketing in smaller chunks is likely to create a more lasting impact.

Imagine if I can create an agent that watches what I do and auto-subscribes me to the relevant microns. Just searched for the hydrogen energy economy? Here is a 15-day series that tells you more. Clicked on a link about capital allocation? Here is a 10-day series from “The Outsiders” with profiles of CEOs who delivered huge per share returns. Have an exam coming up? Here is a question series that will test you every hour. Just started writing a book? Here is a series with 10 tips which can make you a better author. Just remembered about the poem “Daffodils”? Here are 5 more poems from your childhood which will bring back old memories.

On a long drive or train ride in the countryside? The map starts a micron series telling you more about the places you pass. A bit of history, some geography and some photos or short videos to bring the world around come alive.

An election coming up? You get a micron series telling you more about the candidates, their track record (in governance, in changing parties), and their criminal cases (if any).

In almost all cases, the info is out there and can be found if one searches for it. But do we search? Do we know what to search for? And given the diminishing attention spans, will we read what is shown in one chunky sitting? That’s where the microns with their intelligence, brevity and context can come in. Right time, right place, right length, right info, right price (near zero). Microns are made for the modern world – someone just needs to bring them to life!