TEDxMumbai – A Smashing Hit

So TEDxMumbai happened on 3rd April at Blue Frog – and it was a smashing hit!

We had 180+ attendants who were raving about the event. A lot of the speakers actually got standing ovations (a very rare thing in India)! And we had 17,759 views of the live online streaming video of the event!

Now that the event has been so successful, let me take this space to answer to 2 objections that kept on popping up during the days we were putting the event together.

Why go with the TED brand? Why not just create a new event and give it a new name?

Quite a few people have asked this. Most of them didn’t know what TED.com was. Its a legit question because a TEDxMumbai license does come with some restrictions. But the restrictions are nothing compared to the benefits the TED brand brings.

Apple took 18 months to sell 1 million units of their iPod. But just 1 week to sell 1 million units of their iPhones. By the time iPhones were launched, Apple had already built the traction they required to make big things happen quickly.

This is the big benefit we received from going with a TEDx license. TED has already done a lot of the hard work in creating traction that we could leverage.

  • Because we went with TEDxMumbai, getting an awesome sponsor (Cleartrip) became easy for us.
  • Getting kickass speakers became easy. We had to do very little convincing.
  • And I doubt that we would have received 17,759 views of the live streaming video if it weren’t for the TEDx brand name!

People weren’t impressed with the speakers before the event

Except Anupam Kher, none of the other speakers were very famous.  People didn’t recognize their names. And because they didn’t recognize the names, they weren’t impressed with the list of speakers.  We had quite a few folks complaining about the speaker list on twitter and facebook.  And we know of at least a few people who didn’t apply for TEDxMumbai because they thought the speaker lineup wasn’t upto the mark.

We couldn’t say much about it before the event except tell people that very few of the TED speakers were popular before they got on the TED platform too.  And that we were focusing on awesome people with awesome ideas.  Not famous people with mediocre ideas.

And so I’m glad that the speakers out performed everyones expectations. Quite a few of them got standing ovations.  Well earned standing ovations.  There was not a single person who said that the speaker lineup wasn’t good — after the event! The speakers rocked the stage. And hopefully soon they will rock the interwebs too – once their videos are put up on youtube.

Why Aren’t More Tech Startups Sprucing Up In India?


There are thousands of techies in India. But if you compare the ratio of techies-to-startups between USA or Israel and India – you’ll see that India lags far behind. Not a lot of innovative ideas come out of India. Why is this so?


History gives us a clue. Many people have pondered over why the Industrial Revolution originated in Britain – and not in China or Spain or someplace.

Trade, especially woolen trade depended entirely upon London’s port. And as trade grew over the years, so did London’s population. London’s population exploded from 50,000 in 1500 to 200,000 in 1600 and half a million in 1700.

And because of the explosion in trade, the standard of living of people in London increased too. The population just didn’t grow in numbers. They had money to spend too!

But London’s energy requirements didn’t grow as quickly as its population. The world relied on wood fuel because it was clean and cheap. The price of wood fuel and coal was the same. But coal was much easier to get than wood fuel. And so as London’s population grew, wood became more expensive because of supply problems, and so they started relying more on coal – even though it led to pollution. Where as, the rest of the world still stuck to wood.

In the 18th century, the French government actually tried to promote British technologies in France. But they failed because their economies of scale weren’t the same as that of Britain. In London, labour was expensive than energy. The opposite was true in the rest of the world. Energy was more expensive than labour.

Expensive labour + comparatively cheap energy = new innovations.


And that is why, even though there are more IT people in India than in USA, more innovations pop out from USA than from India.

Because in India, labour is cheap and energy expensive. While the opposite is true in USA.

And so Indian IT folks take the easy part of providing services. While US IT folks take more risks and innovate more.


How do we change that?

Some thoughts:

i. Increase the minimum wages in India.

ii. Invest in infrastructure.

iii. The IT parks in India could be converted into kick ass charter cities.

Magic Bullets – A Book by Mike Keesee and Ankesh Kothari

I haven’t really announced this out before except to a few friends.

I’ve bagged a book deal along with the awesome Mike Keesee!

The book will be called Magic Bullets and will be out in March 2010. Here is the sell sheet for the book:

Magic Bullet – by Mike Keesee and Ankesh Kothari – Sell Sheet

To pre-launch the book, Mike and I will be blogging on TheStrategyDaddy.com blog.

BarCamp Mumbai 6 on Oct 11 2009

BarCamp Mumbai 6 is happening on Sunday Oct 11.

Venue: SP Jain, Andheri

Time: 9am (but things usually pick up from 10pm onwards)

I’ll most likely be holding a session at the BarCamp.

The tentative topic is:

History Lesson: What can history teach us about prospering in the tech age.

Its going to be fun!

So attend if you can.? Sign up for BarCamp Mumbai 6.

Is Blue The Colour of Success And Riches?

The colour survey: Sandtex Paints surveyed 3,000 households in UK. They check the colour of the homes. And then ask questions about how successful that household is. The survey results?

Colour = Household income on average

Blue = 38,000 pounds
Red = 23,500 pounds
White = 23,400 pounds
Magnolia = 23,100 pounds
Beige = 20,800 pounds
Orange = 20,000 pounds
Purple = 19,600 pounds
Grey = 19,000 pounds
Yellow = 18,500 pounds
Brown = 18,400 pounds
Pink = 14,500 pounds
Green = 13,100 pounds

But does that really mean that if you paint your home blue, you’ll become more successful?

That is highly doubtful. Just because there is a correlation doesn’t mean that the colour of your homes cause your success or failure. There could be various other reasons that lead to such numbers.

Eg: Blue paint could be more expensive. Leading to only rich folks indulging in it. Or that the decor and furniture that goes with blue is usually more expensive (silver goes very well with blue…)

Because otherwise, Jodhpur would be the richest city in the world!

Jodhpur – The Blue City*

I love reading such random surveys. But its even more fun if the folks conducting the surveys dig a bit deeper to find the cause and effect.

* Legend says that Jodhpur is painted blue to keep the mosquitoes away. But even that seems far fetched. Any colour + history mavens have time to find out the real reasons?

How To Manufacture a Hit

A post by me on NonToxin.com: How to manufacture a hit
(The last story of the article is one of my favorite ones!)

How to Beat the Catch-22 Situation (Or Dealing with the Chicken and Egg Problem)

1. Chicken And The Egg

You can’t have chicken without eggs. And you can’t have eggs without chickens who grow up to be hens. So which came first?

2. Catch-22

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”

From the book Catch-22 (page 54 – 1985 paperback.)

So how does Orr manage to beat the Catch-22 situation and escape the war? Simple: he doesn’t listen to any rules. Crashes a plane. And then rows all the way to Sweden – a neutral country to escape the war.

Action Summary:

To beat the catch-22 situation, you have to stop heeding the rules. And make your own path that changes the status-quo.

You have to row your own boat to where you can escape the situation.

3.Real Life Case Study

Steve Samartino starts Rentoid.com. He is faced with a catch-22 situation. Customers won’t visit his site if there are no products listed there for rent. And people won’t list products for rent if there are no customers on the site.

How to break this vicious circle

Steve rows his own boat quitely but diligently. From his must-read post “Inventing Demand

I went out and got myself a copy of the Harvey Norman and all the major department store catalogs. Scan through and them and picked off what items I thought would be suitable to rent. For the purposes of rentoid that meant items that were “hot” in market (their placement in the catalogue was proof enough of that), items which had a purchase value of over at least $200, and had a low likelyhood of damage. I then proceeded to gather photos of the specific items off Google images and listed each of them on rentoid. The rental prices I placed at 5% of item value for a week, and 10% of item value for a month. The bond I made 50% of the cost.

When people rented the items, I went out and bought them, first hunting for the lowest price on line. Then rented it to the new rentoid member in good faith and gave them an exceptional user experience.

After the rental I sold the item on ebay for around about 80% of the retail price. I pretty much re-couped my costs doing this.

Further reading: Six Strategies for overcoming the chicken and the egg problem

The One Change Necessary to Succeed

This post is on another website. Click on to read the story: The one change necessary to succeed

The Perils of Overthinking Your Problem


There is a factory that manufactures soap. They are faced with a problem. Out of every 1,000 soap boxes made, one always ends up empty.

So the company always gets one complaint per every 1,000 sales!

The executives try a lot of ideas to solve this problem. They implement elaborate checks and balances in place. They go through their entire manufacturing line up slowly and steadily. They hire expensive consultants to analyze the problem of the empty soap box. They upgrade their machinery. But even after spending a ton of time and money on the problem, one out of every 1,000 soap boxes remains empty.

Its a mystery that drives everyone crazy.

And then one day, a low level clerk hears about the problem. And solves it in a jiffy.

All he does is places a fan at the end of the line up. The fan blows away the empty soap box. Problem solved.


Credit card fraud has always been a problem. Especially online. Fortunately, its not that big an issue in India yet. In India, only 0.16% of all transactions are fraud. Which is amongst the lowest in the world!

But the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) thinks that 0.16% fraud is still a big issue.

To solve the issue, they come with an elaborate plan. They enforce a rule that adds an extra layer of verification and authentication for online transactions in India. Consumers have to create an “ipin” with their bank account from whom they’ve gotten their credit card or debit card. An extra password which they are asked for during an online credit card transaction.

All banks have to spend time and money and upgrade their systems to support this ipin verification process.

All ecommerce websites have to spend time and money to implement this ipin loop into their order pages.

Any single order now requires participation from 2 websites: the credit card details are filled out on the vendors website. While the ipin is filled out on the banks website. And both these websites have to work in perfect sync. Or orders are lost.

What has this led to?

This ipin step has solved the 0.16% fraud issue. But in exchange, it has meant a 25% to 35% drop in payment completion rates!

Its akin to using an atom bomb to kill an ant!

(Source of my numbers: RBI tightens online card use)

What could RBI have done instead? How could they “place a fan” so to speak?

  • Tighten the current system by using address checks a bit more prudently (like American Express does)
  • Make sure that all the banks that issue credit cards get insurance to cover the 0.16% fraud
  • Ask the credit card issuers to be a bit more pro-active and call consumers if their system flags an order above Rs 3,000 or so as “possible-fraud”

Action Summary:

  • Don’t over think your problems. Don’t spend unnecessary time on creating efficiency.
  • Get to the root of the problem before trying to solve it.

Deconstructing Hype: Why Do People Hype Up Products


This past couple of weeks, the most repetitive conversations I’ve had are about:

i. Michael Jackson. Admittedly, the first tape I had bought was a MJ tape. But I was surprised by the reaction of folks to his death (Michael Jackson almost takes the internet with him) – seeing how he hadn’t released any new music since 2001!

ii. Google’s Chrome OS. Folks are excited by something that isn’t going to come out till another year!?Folks are going bonkers with speculation of how Google is going to pull down Microsoft once and for all (Google drops a nuclear bomb on Microsoft)… without even having a look at the software first!

So why do people over-hype such celebrities, products and events?

Why do more people buy Nokia phones than iPhones. But more people blog about iPhone than Nokia?

Why are celebrities like Victoria Beckham still so popular and in news when Spice Girls peaked ages ago?

Why are folks like Paris Hilton still hitting the magazine covers regularly?


Nathanael Fast – who earned his PhD in Organizational Behavior from Stanford University conducts a test. He gathers 89 people. And shows them a list of 8 baseball players and their past years statistics. Some of these players are obscure players but who put up some amazing numbers on board. And others are very popular players who underperformed in the last season.

Each of these 89 folks is supposed to select one baseball players name from the list – and send a short email about him to someone else from the group.

  • When the participant is told that the person she is going to send an email to is an avid fan of baseball and somewhat of an expert at it – she would select an obscure player who has fantastic statistics.
  • But when the participant doesn’t know anything about her correspondent, she would select a popular but under performing player!

Conclusion of the experiment

People select topics of conversation based on their understanding of what the other party will be able to grasp. We converse to build connections with others. And nothing helps in building connections than talking about something we both are aware of.

As a result – we talk about things that are already popular. And thus fame begets more fame. Popular products and people stay popular longer than they should because they serve as conversational fodder.

Hype is nothing buy a by-product of our need to connect with others.

3. Why is Laughter Contagious?

Did you start laughing by the time the above 7 minute video ended?

The above video is awesome. It shows how laughter spread virally. It shows what we do to build connections with strangers. We will laugh for no good reason other than just because others are laughing. This is a deep rooted need of ours and we have very little control over it – because we end up laughing by just seeing a video of other people laughing too!

So how does this post help you?

Action Summary:

  • Unless you’re famous already, tag with products and people who are famous. Its an easier way to show up on people’s radar.
  • Start your posts and articles with a common idea – something people can connect with.