Few weeks back when I started blogging, there was mention about my old online lifeline – JustDial. Most of us who are online more than half the time always rely on mediums like Wikipedia, Google Maps, JustDial etc for information. The advantage is you have ready-made information which comes free of cost & MOST of the times it is proven and might be CORRECT.

Let me start off with a terrible incident with JustDial which made a repeat customer like me to walk away from the service !!!

Before the delivery
The episode started when I called up JustDial for Packers & Movers [M&P] in Hyderabad. As soon as I hung-up the call, there was a series of calls from different small to big M&P. I got a good deal with a P&M named DG P&M, Hyderabad. Though it is a small M&P, they gave a great deal as well as promised an on-time delivery[i.e within two working days the luggage would reach Bangalore]. After I reached Bangalore, there was no trace of the luggage for more than 4 days. I spoke to close to around 4-5 guys from DG P&M & 2-3 drivers who told me that the luggage is very close to my place and it would reach in few hours.This continued for more than 5 days and finally I received the luggage[though it was not in the state in which I gave to them].

After the delivery
Once my fearful moments were over, I immediately called up JustDial and there were number of lessons learnt about JustDial[and in general the mis-information floating on the internet]

Authenticity of information
When I asked the customer care executive about the authenticity of their huge database, she had no clue about the same.In fact, even as an anonymous user, I was able to change the mobile number of the DG P&M which was a complete security breach in JustDial !!! JustDial has an interesting Terms Of Use with a special mention to it’s authentication – While every attempt has been made to ascertain the authenticity of the site content

Customer is NOT the king
JustDial would be definitely serving lot’s of people daily[considering it is a Rs 500 cr enterprise] so it would not bother about every single customer but what if the customer has called back with a grievance.Even on my narration of the complete incident, the executive completely denied to transfer the call to the right person. In fact, she told me to read the Terms of JustDial & further added that they cannot remove any company listed in their database [even if the customer says that they had a horrible experience after using their service].

Why care about Media/Social Media
After I got a bad response from one executive, I called back again after some time. After completing my narration, I informed the executive that I have decided to share this message on TV through CNBC Pahredar , she was least bothered & argued with me for a long time. Not to mention that social media tools like blogs, Facebook were not new to her but she never cared how much it would affect JustDial’s online reputation.

Is Internet just for FUN ?
Like me , many people rely heavily on the information available on the internet but this incident made me wonder – Can we trust this information [even if it comes through a reputed service like JustDial]. Or should we say- Information can be used as long as there is no serious motive attached with it [ i.e we can use it to find Theaters, Pizza corners but not if you are looking out for something which may turn your life upside-down….

If you have any such mis-incident to share, please leave them in the comments section and it would be added to the main article.

Photo Credit
Movers and Packers

Important Update
A similar complaint raised against DG Movers and Packers

Have you ever tried conversing with a small bakery owner about his expenses & his approximate savings at the end of the day ? If you haven’t than better try it out biggrin The conversation would teach how a single rupee becomes thousand rupees at the end of the day. Though small bakeries sell cold drinks, juice, other eatables; chai[aka tea] is what yields them the maximum returns[Rs . 2 profit on a single cup of Rs. 3] which shows that it is all a QUANTITY GAME !!! The current issue of Dare contains an interesting list [shown below] of things which retail for Re. 1 or less
  1. Matches
  2. Confectionaries – Toffees, Gums …
  3. A glass of water at roadside vendors
  4. Stationary – Erasers, Sharpners
  5. A phone call
  6. Kites
  7. Shampoo Sachets
  8. Vegetables – Coriander, Lemons etc.
  9. Candles
  10. Paper cups/ plates
  11. Stamps/Postcards
  12. Use of roadside weighing machines
  13. Photocopying
  14. Some medicines
  15. Waste paper
  16. Balloons
  17. Golguppas
  18. Bindis
  19. Stickers
  20. Greeting Cards
  21. Holograms when bought in bulk
  22. Screen printing in bulk
  23. White paper sheets
  24. One mosquito coil
  25. Loose flowers
  26. Small coconut pieces at roadside stalls
  27. Some crackers
  28. Rangoli/Holi Colors
  29. Thread
  30. Needles
  31. Marbles
  32. Chalk
  33. Nails/Screws
  34. Used bottles
  35. Some local cigarettes such as Rustam available in Patna
  36. Blades
  37. Ice
  38. Perfume samplers
  39. Loose beedis
  40. Paper Caps
  41. Digestive tablets
  42. Chewing tobacco
  43. Buttons
  44. Salt/Sugar sachets
  45. One impression of an ad
  46. Jam sachets
  47. Oil sachets
  48. Whistles
  49. Toothpicks/earbuds
  50. Use of public urinals
After going through the list, I easily could co-relate to the conversation that I have with the chaiwala in my locality … Definitely lot’s of things can help us build a bulk business with Re. 1 !!!

It has been almost a month since the last update on this blog. Past few weeks have been pretty bad where I had an incident which made me realize “How search agents like JustDial can lead to mis[information] instead of providing information“…More on that in a separate blog article.

Just came across an interesting audio presentation which touches on The art of evangelizing oneself , hope you find it useful too …

Sometimes, it is better to leave our normal path & do something different.You might have read lot of articles on Startups, Technology, Book reviews & some of my small achievements;but this time, ThoughtsPrevail has something different/hatke to offer smile Readers are always smarter & as you might have observed the title of the article “We have a contest !!!”

As a part of the contest, answer one/both of the following two questions[ as a comment in the article with your contact details] & win some cool goodies from Virgin Mobile-Indian Hatke League

1. Suggest a hatke name for one of the existing IPL team(s) with a valid reason for the same.
2. You have seen FakeIPLPlayer blog rise to popularity; on a similar lines, Suggest a Hatke title for the official IPL Blog.

Rush your entries before 29th May,2009.

* It is an open contest & you can compete against yourself by submitting unlimited entries.
* Creativity is the only key for being “Hatke/Different”.
* If you are one of the lucky winners, you would be contacted by either email or phone number provided in your comment.
* If you would like to spread the message of this contest, please use the following link.

Hope you guys have a Hatke time !!!

All of us know about the famous saying “Birds of a feather flock together“, needless to say that all of us are always in search of like minded people i.e. the guys with whom you can share your passion & interest;be it anything- Technology, Movies, Travel etc.The search for the very first like-minded person becomes very critical since (s)he would be backbone of the entire group a.k.a Tribe.

My current read is a short interesting book- Tribes by Seth Godin.As explained above “Tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea.A group needs two things to be a tribe – shared interest and way to communicate.

The book has some great case studies on the so called Tribal Movement and focuses on “How either a Single person/Tribe or a small group of Tribes or a large group of Tribes can make a significant difference.

Every Tribe has a leader but a Tribe needs followers too.But a follower can be a person who is eagerly following[eg. every blogger would be passionately following Techcrunch since,it has changed the complete blogosphere] or is compelled to follow[eg. A person who has less interest in technology is forced to follow Techcrunch ], a single word compel makes a HUGE difference.The book had a short paragraph[quoted below] on how a single word- Compel can create a difference in an organization.

Any organization needs people who aren’t just willing to follow, but are eager to follow.It’s a mistake to believe that the best tribe recruits are the blind sheep.Folks who do nothing but mindlessly follow instructions let you down in two ways –

First, they are not going to do the local leadership required when the tribe members interact.They are going to be so busy following the playbook that they will hesitate about engaging in the interactions that make a tight tribe such a vibrant organization.People don’t engage merely to remind one another of the status quo.Instead, they eagerly engage when they want something to improve.This micro-leadership is essential to the health of your organization.

Second, they are not going to do a very good job of recruiting new members to your tribe.That’s because evangelism requires leadership. Leading someone towards giving up one worldview and embracing yours isn’t easy and it is not always comfortable, consider any vibrant group-political activities, nonprofit volunteers or brand fanatics.In each case, it’s the microleaders in the trenches and their enthusiastic followers who make the difference, not the leader who is ostensibly running the group.

Tribes are meant to make a difference but the Tribe that really MAKES a difference is the one each one of us need/create !!! To summarize, the title of the book says it all “Tribes – We need YOU to lead US

Few months back, I had blogged about GMDesk – the Adobe AIR app that makes access to all your favorite Google services easy. However, the issue with the app was that it worked fine on Windows but on Linux, the app crashes when you type M/m in user-id/password text box !!!

Mozilla Labs came out with an interesting add-on called Prism which like GMDesk allows you to access your favorite sites as a standalone app.Yesterday, I gave a try to Prism and really loved it – some of the reasons listed below:

  • Firefox on my PC has lot of add-ons and few like TwitterFox make it really very slow since they have to poll for new messages every xyz minutes.
  • For users of Chrome, this would be one of the potential reasons to switch to Firefox since Prism does not share the memory with Firefox and hence Prism app continues to run even though your browser crashes/hangs.
  • Last but not the least, Prism enhances your productivity since you don’t have to switch tabs or open multiple windows to get to your favorite sites since, the desktop shortcuts to your Prism apps would do the trick smile

Though Prism apps take up lot of memory [snapshot below] yet they really make browsing fun as well as interesting.

Important Links :
Prism download page
Youtube channel

Do give Prism a try & definitely it would be a big productivity booster for you like it has been for me !!!

In this article, we speak to Tarun Bhalla,Founder & CEO of SimplyLearnt.SimplyLearnt is Learning marketplace having excellent salient features…so, let’s start-off with our Q&A

In brief, tell us something about SimplyLearnt

SimplyLearnt is a Learning Marketplace where students can buy courses, tests, test Series and even lectures from any of their favorite educational institutes or educators. You can think of SimplyLearnt as the Makemytrip of Educational world – with higher margins and a bigger market.

With so many services already into e-learning, what was your driving force to start SimplyLearnt ?
e-Learning is a very broad term and is used very casually. The only e-Learning that has been happening has been in the world of Corporate training. There’s no significant usage of e-Learning in the world of school/college education. So, on the whole there’s no credible supply happening as far as school/college education is concerned whereas if you look at the demand, its astronomical may be not realized but still astronomical.

So, what we see is that there’s a huge potential in e-Learning in the School/College education market that can be captured via a product like SimplyLearnt with its unique proposition and business model.

Is SimplyLearnt only restricted to the courses that are available online ?
Currently, yes! We are offering our partner’s courses only online either on our platform or on their website. However, very soon we will be launching a desktop version where students can consume these courses/tests offline as well.

If SimplyLearnt is also powered by UGC, how does a person become a tutor with SimplyLearnt ?
It’s fairly simple, the user can register here as a normal member. Further, the user needs to register as a tutor by populating their expertise information and their hourly rates as well.

How do you manage the revenue sharing with the tutor who provides premium service ?
First, let me clarify we work both with individual tutors/teachers and educational institutes. In the former case, the revenue share is very simple and flat 80% [tutor] and 20% [SimplyLearnt]. However, our partnerships, with coaching institutes or content companies, are always on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if we market a product for our partner, we seek a higher revenue share.

Can you let us know about some of the recent tie-ups of SimplyLearnt with the content providers especially coaching classes ?
We have done fairly well in the Engineering and Medical domain with strong partnerships with Sahil Study Circle, Narayana Institute and Quest Tutorials. We are in advanced stage of talks with couple of top nation wide coaching institutes in the domain of MBA test preparation [We will let you know when that deal is closed smile]

We have also tied with few star teachers of different domains to launch their content online. For instance, we are launching NTSE preparation courses by Vineesh Kumar [who is a NTSE top ranker].

Do you plan to go into the offline mode where you provide your copyrighted online material through CD’s/DVD’s
Very soon, but the material/content would be not ours – again of our partners.

With low broadband internet penetration in India, how has been the acceptance of SimplyLearnt ?
Well, it has been very promising, our registrations already span more than five thousand users !!!

Can you guide us through a simple process on how a student can use SimplyLearnt for exams like GRE,GMAT etc.
Very Simple – just go to SimplyLearnt homepage and depending on which domain you are interested in – enter into the respective domain [MBA, GMAT/GRE, Engineering, Medical] and buy courses/tests from the respective coaching institutes. If you have a credit card then you can make the purchase online, else, you can buy a coupon code from the respective coaching institute.

According to you, which are some of the outstanding features of SimplyLearnt in comparison to the other services ?
Actually, I do not think a comparable product exists in the market currently. However, since you ask, I would mention some of the salient points of SimplyLearnt –

  • It is an aggregation platform for educational institutes–none exist in the market so far.
  • It has features like composite courses and test series–nothing like this exists so far.
  • All the content [paid/unpaid] on SimplyLearnt can be embedded in any other website– essentially creating a very powerful affiliate experience – again this does not exist in the market.
How are currently marketing SimplyLearnt ?
We would like to believe that we are smart about marketing. As a die-hard Web 2.0 believer, we do not spend a single penny on marketing until we have a clear ROI model. We do get a lot of promotional space via our content partners. For instance, check out this link at SahilStudyCircle – these solutions are present on Sahil’s website using our embeddable document player. This page has been hugely marketed in the print media.You can check out this as well, we get additional users when someone gives the above test on UptuPlus.

So, in a nutshell, we believe that the Web 2.0 treatment of our content, indirect promotion from our existing partners in addition to some social network apps that we intend to build would power the usage of SimplyLearnt. However, we will definitely do paid marketing for courses/test series that would have a clear ROI.

How can a content provider of SimplyLearnt share his/her content with the readers of his blog/website ?
SimplyLearnt has been designed keeping embeddability of all our content in mind. For instance, the courses, tests, test series and even lectures are embeddable. Again, check out the experience here, here and here.

After the drop in economy,the number of students applying for GRE has reduced quite drastically, how are you guys fighting these changing market dynamics ?
Actually, SimplyLearnt is insured in that sense because of our aggregator approach. If GRE goes down, we always have a good scope with GATE or CAT for that matter.

You started your career with Wipro and then studied & worked in US. What made you return back to India ?
Well it was a combination of personal priorities and economic opportunism that brought me back to India.

How is SimplyLearnt currently funded and are you looking out for more funding ?
Well, SimplyLearnt is personally funded currently, I was involved with another venture Building Blocks which has started to yield some results – so that helps. Our goal is to make the business cash flow positive before we look for outside funding – we may be close to that.

What are the key barriers you faced while starting off with SimplyLearnt ?
I do not think that we faced any barriers on starting off SimplyLearnt – I have personally run this kind of business in United States – Rhapsody and Yogita, our development head has an incredible User Interface background from Microsoft, Seattle and Adobe, India. So from a strategy and development standpoint – we have been very sound from the beginning.

Of course, There have been challenges with the partners not forthcoming initially, however, with a clear value proposition for them they have also joined hands.

Recession has come as a blessing in disguise for startups, how has SimplyLearnt capitalized on this ?
Indeed, our hiring has been much smoother and the quality of people joining in has been good.

Your word of advice for people who sitting on the shore and want to start-off ?
Honestly, I do not believe in the idea of sitting on shore – either you are an entrepreneur or you are just doing it to please the gallery. So if you are an entrepreneur, you may not need a push to start and in case if you are not – please do not come, the pressure would be difficult to handle.

In case you have any questions for Tarun Bhalla, kindly leave them in the comments and we would include them in our interview.