BAL = Back at Ask Laila
OK, so that sums it up. Starting another inning at AskLaila. It was fun creating this brand long time back and I still feel that there is a lot more we can do with this. Over the years, we have done few things good, few things bad and few things outright ugly. The idea is to increase the percentage of good things. I can’t spell out the entire agenda here, but certainly will be happy to listen to your inputs. Coffee is on me if you have any feedback on what we can do better.
And as part of this, I am looking at rebuilding the team. So if you are passionate about the internet and startup scene, just ping me. Looking at building a short and sweet team. Ooops, we can’t call ourselves startup after 7 years. So we call ourselves a restartup ( Thanks Rahul for coining this word ).
A lot more things coming up from Asklaila soon….. Stay tuned.
I know it worked if you have come here. Learnt this trick from a friend. A catchy subject line ensures that you do read rest of the stuff. Anyway I never had a religion so no chances of changing it. I lost my religion long time back when I went through religious texts of almost all religions. Anyway that is not the topic here. I did adopt few more relegions and some of them are changing.
I became a restauranter on 1st Jul, 2006. That was the date when I decided that I will get into building a restaurant. I had no idea at that point what it takes. I was edgy, nervous and lost. But then we did make it live on 10th Mar, 2007. We went through opening 3 restaurants although we had to close few of them due to various problems faced. It has been a very interesting journey although I can not call it very successful from a financial perspective. But the experience has been so enriching.
Another journey I started was Asklaila in Oct, 2006. Over the years we build a great business on Internet as well as mobile. Building a brand in consumer Internet space has been a very rewarding experience. Indian Internet space has grown by leaps and bounds and it was a constant challenge to keep up the pace.
These two journeys come to an end for me as I move on to do more things in life. I am closing my last restaurant in BTM and also moving on from Asklaila in terms of active responsibilities. I will still be open to cooking teaching assignments and also continue to be adviser to Asklaila.
Now few things about the new venture. The first task I did was to find a partner who is 10 times smarter and can work 100 times harder compared to me. I found a very capable company in Mukri. We worked together in Amazon and he was certainly great inspiration as well as source of knowledge for me. OK Mukri dude, now remove that Bihari gun from my head. This is the most I can bullshit about you.
Let us talk more about our new venture. The name is ZopNow. If you didn’t click on the link, let me tell you we are building a startup in grocery ecommerce space. We realized that this is a space where customers are willing but businesses have not been able to get their act right. And obviously we do feel that we are the right set of guys to get the act right.
Big business is built on a customer pain point and somebody’s ability to solve it with an interesting and innovative solution.
Get back to building stuff dude…..
Let us start with disclaimers first….. I claim no expertise ( although I might have some ) in the areas I am trying to put fundas about.
So here is my research topic, people across the word are trying to figure out, what works for their customers who come in different shapes and sizes. What are the aspects of a product which makes them click and what makes them not click. So I thought let us learn from something which appears to be totally related in the first view but I am sure you will realize the inter links soon.
Food, yes all of love having it everyday and we have been doing it for ages as a species. Even before languages developed and society became so complex that you needed to hire a consultancy company to tell you common sense. Human food habits have developed over ages and some of the food items have become more universal then others. What I will try to understand is that what makes a food universal and how we can use that knowledge in other domains.
So let us start with the first universal food. French Fries. Let the french and belgians fight over it’s origin but that is the way word knows it. Why has french fries become so popular across the world. In my opinion the reason is simple, health and taste do not go hand in hand. Most of the tasty things are not healthy and combining potatoes with oil is a very unhealthy ( and therefore tasty) combination. This is a dish which appeals to basic instincts of each individual to consume unhealthy and tasty food. Obviously I can not take anything away from MacD for making it popular across the world but ability to appeal to basic instincts of mankind has been one of the primary reason for making this popular across the world.
My next stop is in Italy. Yes I am talking about Pizza. Across the world Pizzas sell like crazy and are loved by kids and adults. So what is there in Pizza which makes it so universal. In my opinion it is due to the flexibility offered by the Pizza to mean so many tastes to so many people. I am sure 90% of the world eats a version of Pizza which most of the italians will not even call it a distant relative of original Pizza. But every one is happy with their own Pizza. My personal favorite is Wooster Street Pizza with jalapenos and pineapple as toppings. What makes pizza great is that it means so many different things to so many people.
Just to summarize my learnings from food for other businesses….
- Build something which solves a fundamental problem. In a complex societies like ours we have a multi tier hierarchy of needs but the closer you get to the bottom of the pyramid, better the probability of scaling it to a larger audience
- Be adaptable and flexible on the product content if your goal is to reach out to a large audience. All your users will not perceive you as the same product but an ability to adapt to their needs and perceptions is an important aspect.
So here goes live my other venture – www.asklaila.com – local search engine. The Laila journey has been just amazing. We started the journey approx 9 months back and at last reached the D day ( D as in delivery ) on 3rd Aug, 2007. It is such a great feeling to write some code where you can see the usage happening in front of your eyes. I have spent 12 years of my professional career writing code for so many alien societies that doing something desi was so much of relief.
The biggest challenge was to build everything from scratch and still keep a focus on the quality of things and timelines. Finding good quality of people has been one of the biggest challenge. When I see so many young kids driven by pure monetary benefits instead of bigger challenges, I just feel bad for them. Tough to find people who love challenges and enjoy the sheer joy of solving something which no one has solved before.
Being part of startup is always about finding the right solution smart way within limited time and resources. This is what drives much more innovation. I wish how large companies could let go their desire to keep a tight control and instead spawn many more smaller companies. I am sure they will end up creating much more business that way. I guess someday large corporates will evolve a distributed model of operation and will reduce inter unit dependencies to maximize organizational efficiencies and reduce avoidable red tape.
Coming back to the launch, lot of people ask why another one when there are so many in the market. This always reminds me of how some generic search engines are not good for specific verticals because they are trying to be good in too many verticals. As in life sometimes when you try to be good to too many people you end up being good to none or end up compromising principles. Life is about believing in principles and not bothering about rubbing few folks on the wrong side in defending them.
I hope to get lots of feedback from all and work towards improving the quality and user experience. That is what will keep driving me for next few months……