The road towards smart mobility is undergoing a profound transformation, driven by advancements in big-data analysis, Artificial Intelligence [AI] and the Internet of Things [IoT]. Today, digital natives are looking for a superior travel experience through omni-channel interaction, single payment interface, contactless travel, and integration to social media. This is fueling the need for PTOs [Public Transport Operators] to look at new ways of driving efficiencies by making operations more intelligent. For instance, integrated payment systems such as London’s Oyster smartcard and Singapore’s EZ-Link allows users to opt for different modes of public transportation through a single smartcard.
With an aim to cater towards addressing the needs of digital natives who are looking for superior travel experiences, Sasken is enabling Transportation ISVs and Public Transportation Operators to provide efficient & connected back office solutions and superior customer experience through digital enablement. Some of Sasken‘s key services include fare collection and revenue management, mobility as a service, real-time passenger information, asset management, and passenger safety. Today, we have a chat with Raman Sapra, Executive Vice President and General Manager – Digital, Sasken Technologies Limited about Mobility-As-A-Service, Intelligent Transportation, etc.
With the increasing demand for multi-modal transport from consumers, can you please share some details about omni-model ticketing and digitization of fare management systems?
Public transit is moving towards a fully-connected ecosystem of public transit agencies operating on different transport modes, rider sharing services and urban mobility services. Towards this, for enabling omni-modal ticketing, fare management system providers are providing APIs. This will help urban mobility services and rider sharing platforms to integrate ticketing from other providers onto their applications. Many market players are starting to adopt mobile transit ticketing.
Currently, smartphones are ubiquitous and mobile tickets on smartphones help to improve commuter convenience. They can easily purchase ticket from a mobile transit application for different legs of the journey, through different modes of transport rather than waiting in long queues.
How is Sasken using the concept of ‘Mobility-as-a-service’ to service its customers in the transportation industry?
Millennials want to build their journey by leveraging different available mobility services and do not want to use private vehicles. Sasken’s customers in the transportation segment are fast embracing this trend. We are enabling our customers with development, productization and field deployment of end-to-end solutions for enabling ‘Mobility-as-a-Service’. Our contributions touch all aspects of a platform for enabling MaaS.
These include API enablement of automated fare collection, real-time passenger information systems for easy integration with ride sharing platforms, developing mobile ticketing systems, mobile-based validation solutions for contactless tickets, developing advanced trip planning solutions, and developing advanced analytical solutions for improving planning, scheduling and operations.
Blockchain as a technology is seeing more adoption in the enterprise mobility sector. What are your thoughts on how Blockchain can be leveraged for this sector and how does Sasken’s association with Enterprise Ethereum Alliance help to solve critical problems in the Public Transport Domain?
Blockchain as a technology is seeing more adoption in transportation sector/urban mobility segment. Blockchain is suited for solving business problems when multiple parties are involved in the ecosystem and the trust barrier among them is very high. An inter-modal transportation network has many transit agencies, urban mobility providers operating and some of them are competitors to each other. Commuters prefer to buy ticket from one party for the end to end travel and revenue sharing and reconciliation becomes a necessity. At present, it takes multiple weeks for revenue reconciliation.
We developed a revenue sharing solution for multi-modal transportation network by leveraging Ethereum to expedite transactions and make revenue sharing near real time. Public transit agencies and ride sharing platforms are participants to a consortium blockchain network in this case. The participants have full visibility to all transactions in the blockchain network and revenue sharing logic is developed as smart contracts in the blockchain.
Recently, Sasken became a member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. Going forward, we plan to contribute to working groups in the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance focused on solving problems in public transit.
What are your thoughts on Parallel Transportation Management Systems [PtMS] and how can blockchain become a central component of every block in Intelligent Transportation System [ITS] i.e. Ride-Sharing, Logistics, Insurance, Smart Contracts, etc.
Classic Parallel Transport Management Systems [PTMS] was perceived as a framework for managing complex urban traffic by leveraging ACP approach which is based on Arti?cial systems (A), Computational experiments (C) and Parallel execution (P). PTMS will slowly pave way for new generation Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) systems that incorporate components perceived in PTMS such as real time scheduling, incident alerts etc.
Blockchain can be leveraged in transportation and logistics for expediting payment settlements, helping in dispute resolution, improving administrative efficiency, improving traceability in supply chain, and easily identifying proof of provenance. I mentioned expediting of revenue reconciliation in multi-modal transport systems as a use case in an earlier response. Similarly, in logistics, blockchain can be used to reduce paper processing and approvals and customs clearance can be quicker and more efficient, reducing processing times for goods at customs checkpoints. This will help in improving administrative efficiency and help faster flow of goods in the supply-chain.
In the grocery supply chain, disputes arise due to spoilage of food items that require temperature monitoring. Temperature of perishables can be monitored and critical temperature excursion events and hand off events can be registered to blockchain. This helps to improve traceability to point of origin in case of spoilage and helps for legal dispute settlement.
Can you comment on some of the latest offerings in the Digital Transformation services by Sasken and how it is utilizing the power of Cloud, IoT, Sensors, Transportation, Data, etc. to come up with PoC/MVP for its customers?
We leverage the power of Cloud, IoT, Sensors, Digital Platforms and blockchain to develop multiple solutions for our customers. As a case in point, by leveraging IoT and sensor data from vehicles, we have developed an Asset Performance Management [APM] solution for predictive maintenance of connected vehicles. In this case, we collect vibration data from wheels of a vehicle. The data is aggregated at an IoT gateway and eventually transferred to the cloud. By leveraging Machine Learning and AI, we generate multiple insights for proactive servicing of the vehicle and thus reduce the downtime of the vehicle.
There are a lot of interoperability issues when we talk about IoT, Connected Solutions; how do solutions from Sasken address these concerns?
For developing IoT solutions, we typically consider standard, widely adopted IoT platforms such as PTC Thingworx or Microsoft Azure. Platforms such as PTC’s ThingWorx support multiple short range and long range connectivity options and help us to manage industrial device interoperability using solutions such as Kepware. Leveraging out of the box device interoperability, help us to solve customer’s business problems faster. In addition, to ensure software flexibility, we use standard protocols for communications between edge and cloud and leverage APIs and micro-services for developing the back-ends. This helps us to easily integrate with other systems.
While developing front ends [either mobile or web] of the IoT solutions, we consider support for device diversity, diverse form factors, browser interoperability, multiple OS versions as critical requirements from the design phase itself. Applications are developed and verified by considering the interoperability issues with different devices, OS versions, form factors and browsers.
What are some of the opportunities and emerging technologies that India can expect soon, with a focus towards omni-channel interaction & contactless travel?
With omni-channel interactions increasing, there will be opportunities for Mobile and Web Transit Ticket booking systems, in addition to Ticket Vending Machines. Moreover, there will be opportunities for customizations and field deployment of transportation systems and integration with secure payment solutions and digital wallets.
We thank Raman Sapra for sharing his insights with our readers. If you have any questions for Mr. Raman about smart transportation, how your startup/enterprise can leverage capabilities of blockchain etc. please email them here or share them via a comment to this article.
Moving to a new city, a new house or a new office always seems exciting; but it comes a whole new set of unanswered questions. Though you might try your level best to select the best packers & movers for the relocation job, there is a chance that you choose price over quality. Another problem that consumers face is there is no way to track their belongings in real-time. ShiftKarado was founded with an aim to eliminate these challenges and offer a stress-free and transparent shifting experience by introducing a technology-enabled platform. Created by the promoters of Star Worldwide, the leaders in international relocations, ShiftKarado seeks to create a disruption through its transparent and real-time solutions for the domestic packing and moving industry.
ShiftKarado is focused on providing superlative, reliable, time-effective and simplified solutions to consumers looking to relocate a home, an office or a vehicle. With its services launched in late 2016, ShiftKarado was rolled out to plug the gap in the highly fragmented and unorganized Indian relocation segment which often leaves consumers stressed and perplexed about process and charges. The promoters of Star Worldwide observed that the pricing and relocating process was opaque, time-consuming and challenging due to the lack of reliable movers and packers in the city at affordable rates.
Catering primarily to B2C – House & vehicle relocation and B2B – office relocation, ShiftKarado crafts customized packaging options from start to finish without customers worrying about anything. Today we have a chat with Sahil Mithal and Mrs. Aulina Mithal Sood, Co-founders of ShiftKarado about the business, technology behind the offerings, competition, etc. & much more. So let’s get started with the Q&A….
Can you please walk us through on how did you come up with the idea of ShiftKarado and details about the core team behind the startup?
Our Founder, Mr. Atul Mithal saw a huge gap amongst the demand and supply of efficient packers and movers in the Indian market as compared to the international standards. He witnessed the problems of lack of rules and regulations, costly and poorly managed services and least to no security of cargo prevailing in the nation. It was then he started working on the idea and was later joined in by the company’s co-founders Sahil Mithal, Aulina Mithal Sood and Ashish Mullick.
While Sahil helped in technological aspects of the company, Aulina’s role is more customer-centric and training, while Ashish helped the organization in setting up of its initial structure, administrative and operation aspect. Then the employees kept coming on board and from being a newbie, the company has now become one of the crucial players in the industry leading in the race with its technological aspects.
Does ShiftKarado cater to the B2C segment only or it also caters to the B2B segment ?
ShiftKarado is not restricted to the B2C segment; it caters to businesses and institutions also and has a good clientele base in the B2B domain. Companies like Dainik Bhaskar, Prop Tiger, and CIANS & OYO frequently hire ShiftKarado for transporting and relocating services.
Movers & Packers [in general the relocation market] is highly unorganized, how does ShiftKarado brings in more transparency and makes the sector more organized [than earlier] ?
In 2015, when ShiftKarado stepped into the packers and movers industry of India it was cluttered by companies that were providing unreliable services and ambiguous costs. An estimate for a move typically involved 2-3 days with the packers and movers wanting to first perform a home visit to conduct a Survey of the Items to be moved.
ShiftKarado simplified the entire process with its years of experience in international moving & a well-organized management system. The ShiftKarado Android App and Web Application were launched in August 2016 to provide a standard and simple interface for instant pricing, trouble-free bookings, and secure payments. This was a first one of a kind application in India and ShiftKarado had to rethink the pricing model that existed for decades to create an algorithm that would deliver prices to the customer in seconds not days.
The company makes use of the latest technology and analytic data to tailor their packing and moving services as per the customers’ requirements and engages with its customers in an interactive way with quick information and updates. With a full-fledged team of analysts, ShiftKarado works on a data-driven algorithm to calculate the distance between the two relocation sites, the volume of goods to be shipped and the time required for packing.
There are many startups in the logistics sector [either catering to pure B2B/B2C/only e-commerce shipments] that are also solving the similar problem, what are some of the core USP’s of ShiftKarado over these companies [in terms of technology, pricing, customer support, etc.] ?
It’s the technological aspects of our company along with our understanding of the international standards that primarily set us apart and give an edge over the competitors. Other than that, we also offer our clients, be it households or corporate with the instant booking, instant quotation, urban mobility, security, as well as transparency in our services.
ShiftKarado is currently operational in how many cities in India ?
The company is headquartered in Gurugram and has branches in New Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Chandigarh, Mohali, Gurgaon, Greater Noida, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Pune, Navi Mumbai, Jaipur, and Kolkata. ShiftKarado has also joined hands with OYO rooms for the Pan India relocation of their employees.
Does ShiftKarado work in the marketplace model or it has its own team of Movers & Packers ?
Being part of the Star Group Company, ShiftKarado is utilizing a mix of fleets, their own in-house fleet services and outsourced. Depending on the peak season & availability, they either use their own in-house fleets or outsource it from the third party in case of high demand, but always ensure quality is maintained throughout the move process.
How does ShiftKarado leverage technologies like Machine Learning, Deep Learning, AI and other emerging technologies, in order to provide deeper tracking of client’s belongings [thereby ensuring that there are fewer customer complaints] ?
With a mobile app and website integrated with Artificial Intelligence (AI), ShiftKarado keeps the entire relocation process transparent and instantaneous. ShiftKarado’s mobile app will have a live feature very soon which will enable the clients to track the status of their consignment. When the goods are packed, loaded, shipped, unloaded, and delivered, clients will get timely updates. Currently, ShiftKarado uses AI and data-driven technology to give out the exact quote for relocating any volume of goods between any two locations instantly. This includes parameters like destination, route map, nature of goods being transported, and the volume of the goods, as well as the floor on which the drop-off is to be made and whether or not a lift is available for higher floors. The initial quote, therefore, remains the final amount to be paid. ShiftKarado also has a feature of providing insurance protection which enables the customers to reduce the shipping stress while their office or household goods are in transit.
In the past, estimating the value for the potential insurance claim was manually done by the customers according to their estimate. This process was too inaccurate and time-consuming. However, development in the field of analytics has helped the industry to opt for insurance quickly and in the most efficient way. The data-driven suggestive pricing offered by relocation service providers nowadays helps in calculating the value of goods, which makes the whole insurance process smarter, more personalized, and much simpler.
What are some of the unique challenges that your team faced while servicing the B2B customers [either for complete office relocation/employee relocation, etc.] since B2B segment is very different from the B2C segment ?
True that serving B2B customers is different from B2C customers because the material handling, logistics and audit requirements is more challenging for the former. When it comes to office relocation the equipment is often large in number and specialized. In the early stages of our venture, we had to take extra measures in packing and moving the equipment such as desktops, servers, furniture, heaps of necessary papers and documents etc., for relocations.
However, we focused on designing an effective office relocation plan with new packing and moving methodology tailored to the requirements of the various departments. We also have a Records Management company within our group which partners with us when managing large volumes of documents. As far as the employee relocations are concerned we closely work with the HR and Admin departments to manage the relocation budgets yet ensure the employee of the company is not burdened by the relocation process.
Being an offering from the promoters of Stars Worldwide, how those learning’s were helpful in scaling ShiftKarado ?
Star Worldwide Group has been a leader in International Relocations, Fine Art Handling and Records and Information Management Services, for over 30 years. They have been serving top MNC’s, embassies and other international organizations for decades. Star is also an ISO 9001, 14001 and 18001 certified company. Our Head office, along with branches in Mumbai and Bangalore are verified by FAIM auditors, Ernst and Young, to ensure compliance with the rigorous FIDI-FAIM quality standards. The standards cover the end-to-end moving process including, but not limited to, packing material, trucks, warehouse, and safety and are bench marked against global best practices.
Star Worldwide is also one of the most reputed names, globally, in fine arts packing and transportation. Due to its reputation, the company is the only one in India to be accredited by both, ARTIM and ICEFAT, which set the highest standards in fine art shipping. The standards involved are very scientific and the greatest of care is taken to ensure the movement of priceless and rare artifacts. This work culture and attention to detail is also carried into ShiftKarado. Star Worldwide guidance helps us ensure that our clients get the best learning and experience accumulated and refined over decades, built into our systems.
Thus, ShiftKarado, apart from the benefits of the vast Group infrastructure, also have the privilege to learn and incorporate the same highest standards of professionalism, client servicing, seamless work processes, and safety measures, as followed by Star Worldwide.
One of the major issues in relocation is parcels getting missed/material being damaged in transit, etc., how does ShiftKarado ensure that there are zero such issues for its customers and does it also provide any transit insurance ?
For each relocation consignment, we have project coordinators along with the full-fledged team of packers and movers who keep a complete check on what goods has been packed and loaded and what is unloaded and relocated. Before packing the goods, we develop plans in which the location of all office equipment, household furniture, telephones, computers, crockery, machines and everything else is charted out as a checklist. A packing inventory is shared with the client that contains the details of the goods to be moved.
Our operations mobile application and internal dashboards also help us track the activity, duration and the team members involved and take stock of the packages during its movement. To prevent the goods from any damage, high-quality packing material such as cartons, corrugated sheets, and bubble wrap etc., are used for packing. Our crew and partners are trained to handle packages during the packing, transportation and loading/unloading as per their handling labels.
Though security and safety of the goods and materials are paramount in our services, however, we do offer risk cover to the clients. We have partnered with top reputed insurance company and offer ITC A and ITC B risk covers. You may get more information about risk cover and insurance here. Yes, we have our own customer support team which remains active in responding to the customers’ requests and queries.
Since ShiftKarado does not have its own fleet for relocation, please name some of the prominent partners of ShiftKarado and how does ShiftKarado ensure that there is a fair-pricing policy with its partners.
Being part of the Star Group Company, ShiftKarado is utilizing a mix of fleets, their own in-house fleet services and outsourced. Depending on the peak season & availability, they either use their own in-house fleets or outsource it from the third party in case of high demand. We only deal with trusted partners that have been associated with us for a number of years or have gone through our audit process. All prices are benchmarked with our existing providers within our application
We should have asked this question earlier, how did you come up with the name ShiftKarado [since it does not have a mass appeal due to the usage of a Hindi word] and what were some of the other names that had popped up during the discussion ?
Though the name ShiftKarado does not have a mass recognition as of now, it does trigger a sense of Indian-ness in the minds of first-time customers. When we were brainstorming for a name for this new venture, we did research on what kind of queries and responses the relocation service providers encounter.
As we are focused on the Indian market, we had to build a brand that is easy for Indian people to emotionally connect with and simple to memorize. The questions such as “Hume apna ghar shift karana hai!” helped us coming up to a conclusion that ShiftKarado would be a right choice to name our brand because “Hum Shifting karatey hain.”
Please walk us through the funding of ShiftKarado and whether you are open to external funding ?
ShiftKarado is a completely a bootstrapped company since its inception. We have the benefit of the strong financials of our Group.
Technology has been rapidly evolving at a rapid pace [with the advent of wearables, smart connectivity, IoT,etc.], where do you see the entire ‘Logistics sector’ evolve with the fast-paced technological changes ?
Versatile customer expectations, the burgeoning of relocation service providers, and technological advances will disrupt the industry as innovative ways to outrank the competitors would be brought up. But, digital technology is one of the major challenges that the transportation and logistics sector must deal with. Though many logistics companies are planning to invest at least 5~6% of their annual revenue in the blooming digital culture, those who do not adapt themselves until 2020 are vulnerable to business failure.
Also, Machine learning and Artificial intelligence integrated with data analytics help greatly in scaling the dynamic routing. Even the package delivery culture is being digitally transformed through the autonomous vehicles and drones which result in quick delivery and a reduced workforce. Augmented Reality (AR) may also make the drivers more efficient by giving them complete and detailed information about the environment, climate change, route planning etc. Using the Internet of Things (IoT), the inventory and warehouses can be safeguarded well. Safety alarms and sensors which use IoT can help detect and neutralize hazards remotely and/or automatically.
Can you share some tips for building an effective team for startups [especially the initial core team] ?
Startups success depends on the strength and commitment of its team and failure on the founder’s negligence and unawareness of his people. In any startup organization, a solid team calls for expert industry professionals who are not only best at their work, but also competent in self-governance and self-motivation. The initial core team should be built, not simply to fill the empty seats in the office, but to expand the office through the means of hard work and commitment to only one vision—the company growth. For this, individuals should focus on getting expertise, experience, and exposure corresponding to the requirement of the startup firm.
Entrepreneurs must create a productive work environment where each team member realizes his job role & the contribution expected. The team should be continually motivated by appreciating their small efforts and guiding them to rectify their blunders. Members should be given the liberty to take the road less travelled by; the approach never before is taken, to challenge their own capabilities. It’s also important not to slide into a comfort-zone within the first few months. Start-ups need to keep exploring, tweaking and questioning their game plan as often as weekly to ensure greater chances of success.
2017 was a tough year for startups [especially from a funding point of view], how according to you should entrepreneurs deal with such adverse situations ?
Entrepreneurs can seek expert advice from financial advisors who have a sound knowledge of startup culture, their needs, and functional dynamics. Will crowdfunding be the right choice or bootstrapping, the financial advisor can rightly assist the entrepreneurs in having a backup plan in case of hard times.
Situational analysis and short-term strategic planning should be given prominence so as to be prepared for the challenges which startups usually face in the inception stage.
How important is it for early-stage startups to pivot their business model [in case things are not working out as per their plan] or when is the right time to pivot ?
Pivoting in start-ups is key to survival. Entrepreneurs who are initially enthusiastic about their Plan A, may need to pivot to Plan B or C within a year, when the results are underachieved, or the market has greater potential. Switching to Plan B or C may open new revenue stream and growth opportunities, to push through giving 100% efforts, dedicated time, and right resources to Plan A is often a smart choice.
Pivoting involves group discussions, analyzing failure, looking at competition, redefining certain key positions, incorporating new ideas, and challenging your initial idea.
As per your entrepreneurial experience, when should an entrepreneur look out for external funding?
External funding definitely gives you a large canvas to work on and a lot more flexibility. When the startup has proven customer traction and now needs to expand its reach and double its sales exponentially, tying up with the giant investors for external funding can be a profitable deal. However, entrepreneurs should avoid investors when a strong and large base of customers is already funding the company’s growth.
Some books that you highly recommend for entrepreneurs ?
I enjoy reading books that tell a story of struggle and hardship. The ones that left me feeling motivated are ‘Zen Garden‘ by Subroto Bagchi, ‘The Buck Stops Here‘ by Ashutosh Garg and ‘Losing my Virginity‘ Autobiography of Richard Branson. There is no success story without failure and there is a need for successful business to use their means and participate in building society and work towards greater well-being of all.
Some closing thoughts for our readers!
Don’t over think, don’t over plan! There is no such thing as a perfect moment. Most of us miss the train waiting for the perfect moment. Believe in yourself, don’t doubt your capabilities and imagine yourself achieving success… Your thoughts will turn into action and action speaks louder!
We thank the co-founders for their time and sharing valuable insights with our readers! If you have any questions for the team at ShiftKarado about the company, starting up, scaling up, etc., please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your question in the comments section.
Technology is playing a major role in today’s times and it has touched every aspect of our lives. Areas or domains that were once untouched can now be explored with the power of technology. It has enhanced the overall experience of banking, communicating, shopping, learning, etc. and one sector that is currently witnessing the change is Education. E-learning or Ed-Tech have been the pioneers of change in the field of education. Long before ‘technology’ and ‘internet’ became mainstream, the only way to learn & gain knowledge was by learning from tutors, schools, and coaching institutes. But now, you can learn any skill or language from the internet and that too at your own convenience.
The online Education market In India is expected to touch $1.96 billion by 2021 and witness a 8x growth in the next 5 years according to a recent report by Google, KPMG. The reason for demand of online education has been the growth in Internet penetration and easy accessibility to affordable and quality education online. Though there are many ‘Educational Apps’ that are focussed towards the early-learning, handful of them only focus on improving your kid’s control over the English language. This is the problem that serial-entrepreneur Mr. Cristóbal Viedma wanted to solve after difficulties he faced while finding a good English teacher for his sister Marieta’s 2-year old daughter and thus Lingokids was born!
Lingokids is the best way to teach kids languages in a fun and natural way. It offers an adaptive language learning platform to teach English to children from 2 ~ 8 years of age, designed with Oxford University Press content. Lingokids is a complete language learning course, with activities that adapt to the child’s learning style. The curriculum includes exciting educational games and a recommended playlist of activities based on the child’s level in a 100% ad-free and safe environment. Today we have a chat with Mr. Cristóbal Viedma, a serial entrepreneur with a background in Computer Science. He is passionate about technology, education, & intercultural communication. Prior to launching Lingokids, Viedma worked as Head of Language-learning Platform at Viki, acquired by Rakuten in 2013 for $200M. He discussion revolves around Lingokids, plans for the Indian market, competition, etc. So, let’s get started with the Q&A…
[Note – ‘I’ in the Q&A refers to Mr. Cristóbal Viedma]
Can you walk us through the team behind Lingokids and how did your team come up with the idea ?
As a Spanish engineer and entrepreneur, I have been able to witness first hand the benefits of knowing English fluently, both in my personal & professional life. This is why there was no hesitation when my sister Marieta asked for my help to teach English to her 2-year old daughter. As an expert in early child development, Marieta understood the importance of acquiring language skills in the early stages of life to order to master it in the future.
However, after doing some research, the programs we found online were either unaffordable, not fully safe, or simply inadequate for early learners. There was clearly a void in offering quality early childhood language education and my vision was that through technology we could offer a simple and attractive solution.
We moved to San Francisco and launched Monkimun Inc. with funding from early-stage venture 500 Startups and began experimenting with educational games released as individual apps only to realize that the best solution would be an all-encompassing platform that would group various games, songs and stories into one comprehensive English learning course targeted at early childhood learners. We returned to Spain to build our team and launched Lingokids in early 2016. Now we are already over 6 million registered families worldwide, and there is still a lot of ground to cover. We’re excited.
There are many reports that mention about kids [especially in the age group of 2~5] having issues with concentration, etc. when exposed to tablets/phones, how did your team convince the core USP of the app to the initial set of customers ?
This is completely understandable. We know there is a world outside screens and it’s important that parents set limits so that children are not exceeding the maximum screen time recommended for their age. Yet, if we assume that these limits are respected it then brings us to a more important question – Are we paying close enough attention to what contents these children are being exposed to? Our proposition is – Instead of using your child’s screen time on pure entertainment, why not combine that entertainment into something that has educational value? Embracing ICT affords infinite possibilities for the development of new teaching methods, which allow for engagement, interaction, and recreation in the learning process.
Starting from the age of 2, well-designed and age appropriate programs with educational goals can provide added value as a route for early language and literacy. With Lingokids we provide a platform that combines interactivity and gamification into a structured learning process allowing us to improve both motivation and engagement for the task at hand.
With technology learning outcomes are enhanced. That is, technology can help children acquire more information and at a faster rate. In a series of studies, we found that children who used Lingokids learned double the amount of vocabulary compared to those who used traditional methods. With technology, we can actually free up time for families to be more physically active or for other activities that do not require screens.
Since Lingokids is available for customers/parents across different countries, how do you make the experience tailor-made for different audience [especially for different countries] ?
Our customers are in over 180 countries so for now, our priority is to building a universal platform that can have both educational and entertainment value to families everywhere. We make some minor tweaks here and there to tailor to cultural differences where it can be sensitive, but we try to keep our content uniform across all markets. We are aware that this could change in the future and as we look to deepen our presence in specific markets the need to localize will increase.
Can you name some of the potential competitors of Lingokids and some of the core USP’s of Lingokids as compared to its closest competitors ?
ABCMouse and Yogome are among the most popular early childhood learning apps, although they tend encompass a broader spectrum of subjects and are probably not what you would go for if you want your child to learn English. Duolingo, Babbel, and Busuu, and other language learning apps could also be seen as competition since they are specialized in language learning but with a focus on adults. Video streaming platforms such as YouTube Kids and Netflix Kids which also use up children’s screen times are seen as substitutes, however, their main focus is on entertainment and less interactive learning formats.
Lingokids is the only major player that specializes in English language learning and early childhood audiences which make us the best at what we do. Our customers really appreciate the quality and educational value of our contents which are designed by experts in early language acquisition. There are five distinguishing factors which work together to make our offer unbeatable
Self-directed activities – The learner is in control.
Adaptive technology – Contents and difficulty adjust to learning speed.
Parental involvement – designed to help parents be a part of the child’s learning process.
Structured – The activities are organized and shown in a specific order to allow for the most effective learning experience.
The Lingokids’ research-based program is repeatedly enhanced based on ongoing research.
What is the business model of Lingokids and you touch upon some of the plans for the app [in case if there is no flat pricing model] ?
Lingokids is subscription-based. We offer 2 plans – The Basic version, free of charge, with access to up to 3 learning activities per day and the Unlimited plan that includes access to all educational contents, offline usage, multiple profiles and additional learning materials for under 500 rupees per month.
Can you please comment on the association with Oxford University Press and the future plans of Oxford University Press with Lingokids [something further beyond Lingokids app] ?
We have two parts to our collaboration with Oxford University Press [OUP]. Firstly, OUP bundles access to Lingokids with its “Jump In!” and “Mouse and Me!” English course books for per-schoolers. We worked together to create a special selection of content within Lingokids that supports the needs of learners using these courses.
Secondly, we feature OUP digital content in the Lingokids app. We have a great relationship and are currently exploring different ways we could deepen our collaboration.
Apart from English, Lingokids is available for which all languages and how do you ensure that the content quality is very good for other languages [something on the lines of association with a notable brand like Oxford Press] ?
We have chosen to focus solely on teaching English language for now. English is the most widely spoken language in the world with figures estimating that by 2020 there will be over 500 million children aged under 7 learning the language. In addition, English proficiency is correlated with higher income, higher quality of life, greater ease of doing business, and more innovation.
We assure the quality of our contents thanks to a very dedicated and specialized in-house content team. In addition, our curriculum and methodology is guided by a world class Education Board made up of experts in literacy and ESL instruction, vocabulary development, educational technology and child psychology.
While using mobile/tablet, attention span is pretty less, what are some of the methodologies used by the Lingokids team to ensure that there is stickiness in the app, it’s content [for the parent as well as its students] ?
With Lingokids children are immersed in a virtual world with recurring characters and story-lines developed by experts in early childhood education and entertainment. Our experts make sure our contents are fun, challenging and engaging to learners and some of the ways they do this is through guided learning elements [i.e. introduction and recap videos with real native teachers that guide students from one lesson to the next], interactive formats, and by making sure the parent is involved through constant communication of the child’s progress [such as ‘number of words learned’, ‘activities completed’, etc].
Please comment on the overall EdTech Market for language learning [for pre-school students], especially in emerging economies like India, etc. ?
The EdTech market is thriving globally and according to a recent report by Google and KPMG, the online education industry in India is poised to grow 8x to a $1.96 billion industry by 2021.
With ~1bn kids worldwide in our target age groups, 9 out of 10 children suffering from language barriers globally and a ripening ELL market in the US where 25% of K12 will be ELL by 2025 with a strong concentration in the pre-k age group, there is a huge opportunity ahead of us to help democratize access to quality learning solutions. We estimate our total serviceable market to be $5.5bn with ~10% expected growth rates over next 5 years.
Do you have any plans of venturing into India [thru’ India specific languages like Hindi, Telugu, etc.], since the next level of disruption w.r.t content is happening with non-English speaking audience [and tier-2, tier-3 cities] ?
We are definitely planning on localizing our app to more languages than we have now. We currently support the app in 15 languages and for India specifically, next steps would be to add Hindi and eventually add Marathi and Telugu.
We are excited by the growth we’ve seen in families that are using Lingokids in the market which increased over 400% from 2016 to 2017. However, we are seeing similar growth figures in over 10 different markets.
Can you please talk about the Educator’s Program and the feedback that your team received from them that helped in shaping up the product ?
We launched our educators program just a few months ago. The idea stems from the fact that there is a need for quality resources for teaching English to young learners. On one side, teachers can use all our materials at no cost and through that we increase awareness of our product, but most importantly learn from their feedback which we find extremely valuable. We speak to educators every week to understand how our materials can be used on a day-to-day basis in classrooms.
A piece of feedback we received a lot at first was the need to make the product more compatible with smart/electronic boards, something we were very quick to solve and will be implementing in the next few weeks.
We also consider educators to be influential brand champions. One example of this is a teacher in Mexico who dedicated en entire classroom to learning with Lingokids.
Please share some metrics on how Lingokids has helped kids in improving their vocabulary, concentration levels, etc.
The key factor in the quick acquisition of vocabulary in children is fun. Videos and interactive games, in addition to being a means of entertaining learning, greatly increase attention span, providing motivation and effectiveness in learning vocabulary through participation and interaction with the word.
We also run AB tests and focus groups regularly which allows us to test our new contents and quickly figure out what work better.
Is there any plan to cater to the ‘Special education market’ since there is shortage of apps as well as teachers in that category ?
The app tends to be well-suited for children with special needs. We have received tons of feedback from parents with children with autism, attention deficit and other learning disabilities who have found immense value in Lingokids some even commenting on improved social skills and improved ability in keeping up with their classmates.
The well-researched content, interactive nature of the app, and the adaptive technology that allows the child to learn at his or her own pace along with parental control makes it’s a very effective learning tool for any child.
Please comment on the India market/South Asia market and which are some of the cities/towns who have adopted Lingokids for learning ?
For us, the regions with the most opportunity are Latin America and South Asia, mainly emerging economies where the need for an economic solution to early English language learning is most valued. Within Asia; India, Philippines, China, Thailand and Malaysia are our focus. In India itself, we are serving over 400,000 families, with over 40% of them to be within Maharashtra, Delhi and Karnataka regions. Both Mumbai and Delhi are strong local markets for us.
We’re excited for what the future holds both for us and for families in India who are benefiting or could benefit from a service like Lingokids. In the mid-term we will begin looking at plans to deepen our activities within this very attractive market.
How has been the feedback about the app from the parents who have been associated with the platform for a long time ?
This is probably the driving force of our motivation here at Lingokids. Parents notice the progress of their child’s English and say things like “Now Bobby will have a better chance at life.” Sometimes we are talking about families who live in remote areas of the world with zero access to English academies and native teachers, other times we are talking about families who aren’t able to afford the $100 a month to sign their kids up to an academy or private classes.
Other times it is parents worried about the fact that their child cannot keep up with the rest of the kids in class and that Lingokids, through it’s adaptive methodology, has allowed them to improve and be at the level [sometimes it’s the opposite where kids are too advanced and Lingokids allows them to improve further]. Sometimes it is just feedback on how parents surprised in seeing how their kids enjoy themselves while learning.
On the other hand, we also take constructive criticism very seriously and are always ready to make changes and improvements to the product based on any comprehensive and substantial feedback from our customers.
Please share some metrics on how Lingokids has helped kids in improving their vocabulary, concentration levels, etc. ?
We measure effectiveness of our digital contents on all levels and we’re consistently AB testing different content types and formats to allow for further engagement and improved learning outcomes. We look at average session time, frequency of usage. Although the web is full of content that only focuses on entertainment, it is also true that there is pedagogical material for children to acquire all kinds of knowledge while playing. In addition to providing a fun learning, they are ideal to consult at any time and from anywhere via mobile.
Being a the global platform for learning English at an early age, Lingokids, shows that children retain twice as much vocabulary with the use of these applications as against the most common learning methods. The key factor in the quick acquisition of vocabulary in children is fun, since preschoolers do not have the impression or the burden of studying or receiving more material. Videos and interactive games, in addition to being a means of entertaining learning, greatly increase children’s attention span, providing motivation and effectiveness in learning vocabulary through participation and interaction with the word.
Can you please comment on some of the core features of the app & future expansion plans for Lingokids ?
We already are the world’s #1 digital solution for parents when it comes to early childhood English-language learning with over 6 million families around the world already trusting in Lingokids. Our focus over the short term is to continue building the home learning experience with more learning formats, more interactivity and more support to promote parent involvement.
Lingokids seeks to become the most trusted, effective and affordable home learning platform and is democratizing access to quality early childhood learning. The Lingokids platform would essentially help to bridge classroom learning and home learning with customized teacher playlists advanced reporting and parent-teacher communications. In terms of content creators, we aim at providing them with tools to upload and manage their videos, songs and games using our SDK which would be used by parents and teachers for their child’s learning.
[LingoKids for Android can be downloaded fromhere, LingoKids for iOS can be downloaded fromhere].
We thank Mr. Cristóbal Viedma for sharing his insights with our readers. If you have any questions for him about Lingokids, how it can help your child, EdTech in general, etc.; please email them here or share them via a comment to this article.
The biggest challenge enterprises face today is dealing with fast-paced change in all spheres of business. There needs to be a fundamental shift in thinking and dealing with disruptive changes in the business environment.
Given that, ‘agility is to enterprises what health is to humans,’ there are some foundational principles of good health that can be broadly applied. But, the specific definition of ‘being healthy’ for a specific individual can and will vary. Enterprise Agility puts forward a similar approach where foundational practices can improve the overall health of the ‘body’ – read, culture, mindset and leadership, and the health of its various ‘organs’ – read, people, process, governance, structure, technology, and customers.
Enterprise Agility discusses how to avoid the mechanistic construction of existing enterprises, that focus on predictability and certainty. It also delivers practical advice on responding and adapting to scale, and disruption. The book goes on to suggest a practical framework with which leaders can create a plan to enhance agility. Today, we have a chat with Sunil about his book and his work with ThoughtWorks. So let’s get started with the Q&A…
Please talk about yourself, your association with ThoughtWorks [which is considered a leader when it comes to paired programming and other agile methodologies] and the learnings from that association ?
I have been with ThoughtWorks for eight years now. I have 28 years of experience, with 18 years in the IT industry and 10 years spent working with traditional businesses and startups.
My passion has been solving client problems. I am happy when I am working with leaders, understanding their problems and working at solving them. At ThoughtWorks, as a consultant, I have the room to do what I love. And, what’s interesting is the company does not expect me to accept a business issue as stated – I have the freedom to question and really dig deep and discover the true problem vs. symptoms of a business issue. Which lets me be extremely effective in my role!
I would say, ThoughtWorks’ niche is solving clients’ mission critical problems. And, my role in this process allowed me to learn about ‘Being Agile’ and ‘Business Agility’.
There are obvious learnings when one is working in an environment that believes in the power of its people; the knowledge workers and their knowledge work. Here, people pursue their passions [like myself] and are empowered. Also, ThoughtWorkers are true client partners and not people sitting on one side of the table. There is openness and transparency when working with clients, and all these progressive ‘habits’ are focussed on ensuring value to the client relationship.
Kindly give a small glimpse about your newly released book ‘Enterprise Agility’ and how can enterprises [SME’s, startups and huge corporations] incorporate the learnings into their development culture ?
The book, Enterprise Agility talks about how an organization needs to build capabilities that sense the fast changing environment and adapt, and respond to it. And, that means the organization needs to function like a living entity – a Complex Adaptive System.
Today, most organizations have converted into or have become machines and are rooted in Frederick Taylor’s philosophy of separating the thinker and the doer – focusing on efficiency and specialization. And, while that may have worked in an era when the market was stable, when the organization’s primary constraint was capacity, when everything that was produced was consumed. Clearly a seller’s market. But today it is very different. An organization has to adapt to change, when one cannot always and accurately anticipate the emergent future.
For SMEs, startups and large corporations, the principle to ensuring agility stays the same – be focused on the customer and have an overarching purpose. By purpose, I mean the organization should enable a win-win with every stakeholder in the ecosystem – employees, customers, vendors, society etc. Once this purpose is defined, then we identify capabilities and draw out the strategy.
Businesses are changing at a breath-neck speed and in order to adapt, they need to be more agile [and same is applicable for their teams]. How can ‘Agile Methodologies’ be adopted in companies with large-scale teams [business, development, testing, etc.] since they are more resistant to openness and change ?
Agile has its origins in software development, and the underlying methodologies are designed to improve effectiveness and efficiency of software delivery. What is often forgotten is that agile is not just about ‘doing’ the practices, but about ‘being’ agile, i.e. about a mindset and culture which is focused on achieving the desired outcomes. And, practices which lead to collaboration, timely and effective communication, ensuring visibility and transparency support this culture.
Let’s look at an example of distributed development which has its pain points depending on where the teams are sitting – different floors, geographies, time zones, across different cultures or even across organizations. The complexity increases alongside the increasing variables. Here, agile practices, processes and techniques can help alleviate pain points by enabling the needed mindset or culture change.
The wrong way to go about things is ‘doing’ agile without understanding why or its value. That leads to no sustainable benefit, not unlike the waterfall methodology which requires following a preset process. Agile, in comparison has more to do with ‘knowledge work’, and places prime importance on the people on the ground – the most powerful in the hierarchy. This means, while the traditional model has a worker and a manager to manage the worker, and a senior manager to manage the manager, and a vice president to manage the senior manager – it’s actually the information the worker is sending up that defines business strategy. Now, this requires that the manager should stop [traditionally managing or] directing and be a facilitator and enabler.
Whether a business is large or small, it must create cross functional and autonomous teams that are organized around outcomes and supported by the right mindset and culture across the entire enterprise.
How can companies already following ‘Agile approach’ take the next leap and move to ‘Enterprise Agility’ for better productivity and employee management [and engagement] ? Also, how can an enterprise agility mindset help get the most out of distributed teams [that are spread across different countries with time-zone difference] ?
Agility is a set of capabilities that help an organization deliver value. Agility can exist at enterprise level or even within smaller units of the enterprise, where people work on input to create something of value. [In comparison, agile is more focussed on the software development process].
Expanding on agility, there are three basic capabilities [in no particular order] it is defined by. One is the ability to sense the environment, second is the ability to adapt and third is the ability to respond. However, enterprises may need additional capabilities which enable their agility. For example, Apple, also considered a master of innovation would call ‘being innovative’ a desired capability. For an organization that produces something in mass numbers, efficiency could be a capability.
This is also a key takeaway from my book where I talk about how every organization has to come up with a set of capabilities [specific to their context] that improves agility.
Please walk us through Complex Adaptive Systems [CAS] model and how the model can be used to enhance enterprise agility ?
Let me begin with an example. Nokia was a leader in the mobile handset space. But, Apple’s iPhone, a smartphone with apps came to market and changed the status quo. Evidently, Nokia had become complacent and had failed to sense the change in the environment, in customer mindset/expectations and failed to respond to it. A similar story is of Kodak’s and the digital revolution – when they were the ones that invented the digital camera. But, the technology was raw and they had failed to sense the potential opportunity.
In comparison, natural and socio-economic systems have been adapting and evolving. For example, transportation was predominantly animal-bound, then came vehicles that run on fuel and now, we are moving into an age of electric vehicles and soon it will be self-driven cars. Another example is human beings. We began as apes and today, we are a jumble of several races. We had a tail that we gave up as part of our physical evolution. And, like all Complex Adaptive Systems, we are still evolving and geared to improve the chances of survival.
Some characteristics of these systems include having agents that are autonomous in nature – mostly free but bound by some basic rules. For example, the traffic system is bound by some basic rules like red means stop, drive on one side of the road, use an indicator when making a turn and more. And, the ‘free agents’ are the make of the car, the route you take, the speed you drive at etc. The objective is to get from one place to the other with a fair amount of freedom.
When such freedom exists, there is value created from the interacting between agents. This calls for flexibility because detailed plans can quickly become obsolete in such environments. Meaning, something new emerges and the CAS has to figure out what to do next – evolve and adapt.
How can your book ‘Enterprise Agility’ be of help to an entrepreneur leading an early-stage or a growth stage startup ?
Startups by definition have greater agility, are usually based on a purpose that the founders passionately believe in, and are smaller during their initial stages. I would advise startups is to avoid scaling the based-on-enterprise principles of Taylorism, and ensure their purpose creates the ‘win-win’ for all stakeholders. Another key advice would be to build teams that are outcome driven.
Many companies have stringent policies, mindset, culture and once they adapt to change [by embracing agile], there would be a tendency to measure the ROI [either in terms of bug inflow, man hours reduction, etc.], how can ROI be measured for adoption of ‘Agile’ or ‘Enterprise Agile’ approach ?
Let’s explain this with an analogy – how would one measure the ROI of being healthy? One can’t. The investment could be calculated on gym membership fees, organic food etc. But, how would one calculate the returns of feeling healthy and having avoided disease?
That is how it is with agility. Agility is the health of the company and it’s hard to calculate the returns. How would one calculate the cost of something that has not happened or the benefit of something bad that has been avoided.
Enterprises continue to practice such anti-patterns. For example, if the company is doing financially well, the assumption is that they are successful. But, the fact could be that the enterprise is slowing drowning because they are not ready for change. And, eventually, it’s only when organizations are in crisis are they ready to embrace change.
Can agile approach be applied to Product companies/Startups [Products which are in the Hardware space e.g. mobiles, e-scooters, etc.] where dependencies are on hardware, software, OEM’s, board manufacturers and what are some approaches that leaders can follow in order to bring-in agile mindset in product organizations [not pure software/SAAS based products] ?
Being agile ensures an environment in which people are given the most importance, because they are the thinking, living and breathing free agents who do the knowledge work. And, this is applicable to all types of organizations.
Toyota is a great example of applying agile principles to a manufacturing activity. Every worker is free to validate a problem that they see in the production line, with their manager, but they are equally empowered to pull the cord that stops the entire production line when they see an obvious problem on the line. This is an example of having a process but empower the people to break that process, if needed, in pursuit of the right outcome.
And, this is connected to one of the agile principles that talks motivated individuals, and that’s especially important when living in the knowledge world. This is because, a lot of jobs that we used to do can be done by machines. Software has so many tools that has automated several parts of software development. And, this has freed up the human brain for bolder creativity and expression.
In effect, I believe that agile principles can be applied beyond the scope of software development. The processes, techniques, standup meetings, MVP etc. are all about delivering an outcome that pleases the customer and harnesses the potential of motivated employees to the fullest, within the framework of appropriate governance, and intelligently planned innovation and experimentation.
Before we sign-off, please let us know the intended audience of the book ‘Enterprise Aglity’ i.e. whether it could be engineers, team leaders, team managers, CXO’s, etc. ?
Enterprise Agility is intended to be more thought provoking for leaders, rather than a step-by-step prescriptive playbook. My goal is to make a leader or influencer say, “Oh, I didn’t think of it like that! And, I see it’s relevance for my enterprise.”
We thank Sunil Mundra for sharing his insights with our readers. If you have any questions for him about agile programming, his new book, application of agile for distributed teams, etc. please email them here or share them via a comment to this article.
How many of us have faced a situation where we visited a doctor based on some symptoms and later on realized that the visit was not at all necessary. Also, there is a huge amount of difference in the healthcare services available in metros [tier-1 cities] vis-a-vis non-metros [tier-2, tier-3] cities vis-a-vis rural areas. However affordability of smartphones, increased mobile penetration, improved data speeds [with 4G]; are playing a critical role in improving the overall healthcare industry. Along with the advancements in the healthcare industry, Indian healthcare sector does face a plethora of challenges.
For entrepreneurs, with huge challenges comes ample opportunities to create business that could solve the problem at a ‘larger scale’. With technology, there has been an emergence of ‘frugal innovation’ in the healthcare sector where entrepreneurs have come up with business models that has made accessibility to ‘quality healthcare services’ available to all [irrespective of your city/town of residence]. This is where serial entrepreneur Ashutosh Lawania [Myntra Co-founder] and Prasad Kompalli [former business head at Myntra] came across an opportunity and came up with the idea of mfine – an end-to-end doctor consultation app which would make it convenient for patients to access high-quality healthcare services at the click of a button.
mfine brings in instant and continuous connectivity with top doctors of the best hospitals. The startup has partnered with leading hospitals and senior consultants are made available for online consultations always and anytime. mfine‘s app for doctors boosts the efficiency and effectiveness using standard medical protocols and AI. mfine‘s AI driven platform helps improve the quality of diagnosis and promotes better outcomes with better engagement.
The company helps people make informed choices about their health with patient needs as a top priority. mfine is effectively creating a ‘cloud clinic’ and follows an unique model of partnering with leading and trusted hospitals instead of aggregating individual doctors on the platform. It acts as a virtual centre for the hospitals, rather it is a new OPD center on the cloud bringing in more patients and offering premium services, long-term care programs, super specialties without any upfront investments. Today we have a chat with Prasad Kompalli, Co-founder & CEO – mfine about the app, healthcare in India, why cloud clinic, etc. So, lets get started with the Q&A…
[Note – ‘I’ in the Q&A refers to Prasad Kompalli]
Please walk us through the core team behind mfine ?
Every idea is born out of a problem, what is the problem being solved by mfine and how did you come up with this solution ?
mfine comes from the idea to make access to quality healthcare easy and simple. We strongly believed that technology, in particular mobile internet and AI can transform healthcare delivery in India leading to better quality and experience for the consumers. When you look at Indian healthcare industry, it is characterized by very low doctor-patient ratio [1:1700] and more than 70% percent of medical bills are paid out-of-pocket by patients. Not much is being done at the primary and secondary care level to prevent further expensive and life threatening complications.
Tech is an inevitable solution to this problem. mfine leverages on the massive adoption of smartphones and mobile Internet to dramatically change the access and reach of specialists doctors. We envisioned and are building a one of its kind virtual hospital that brings the best care providers and state of the art tech together. We have built an AI powered diagnosis engine that can be infinitely scalable assistant to those top specialist doctors. The combination of mobile tech and AI solves for access and quality.
Looking deeper at the Healthcare sector, we understood the complexities with the overall space being vast with many different players, different economic models, incentive structures and varied consumer behaviors. We zeroed in on high quality and on-demand access to be at the foundation of what we would build. To bring in the much needed trust and quality, we partnered with hospitals as providers and these hospitals are trusted and premium institutions such as CloudNine, Femiint Health and Aster CMI Hospitals. With technology we are able to take the high quality care beyond the walls of the hospitals.
The entire healthcare ecosystem is still broken [with some parts being organized and some being unorganized], how does a startup like mfine solve this problem and make the sector more organized ?
The healthcare sector is actually getting organized pretty fast. Several reputed institutions are setting up pretty high standard hospitals and existing ones are expanding. Mfine indirectly contributes to the acceleration of markets movement towards organized sector – as we work with branded, accredited hospitals and increase their reach beyond the physical boundaries of their hospitals. This will lead to more and more consumer spending towards organized sector that has senior high quality specialist doctors
Startups [as well as hospitals] are exploring newer avenues to engage with patients [even after they are done meeting the doctor at the hospital] e.g. Apollo Hospital has Ask Apollo app, Aegis has a similar app, etc. and other startups like Portea are looking into Home health care services, Practo acts more like an aggregator, how does an app like mfine solve lingering problems in the healthcare sector in India ?
We have a very unique take on the problem statement and solution approach as far as healthcare delivery in India are concerned. We are building the most sophisticated healthcare delivery channel for primary and secondary care – a category we call ‘cloud clinic’. The Cloud Clinic is designed to deliver high quality care from the biggest and the best in healthcare via an always-on, on-demand service. Our differentiation also comes from the fact that we are creating a digital assistant for the doctor and at the same time building a robust mobile health companion for the patient.
Firstly, we are focussed on bringing trusted, reputable and high-quality hospitals with top specialists into digital space and are not a marketplace of individual doctors. Secondly, our AI powered tech system can scale quality care and make it reach millions of people. Thirdly, hospitals look at mfine as a new centre they are opening without any upfront capital and marketing investment. They see mfine expanding their services to cloud so that they can serve more new customers and also retain existing customers better. These three aspects make us very unique in the way we build mfine as a tech-led and consumer experience focussed business.
Can you please list down the treatment areas currently being covered on mfine ?
mfine currently covers nine specialties: pediatrics, general medicine, fertility, gynecology, dietetics, orthopaedics, gastroenterology, and cardiology.
How many hospitals are there on-board on mfine and is there a provision where a patient can select a particular doctor on mfine ?
The patients can choose top doctors from more than 45 leading and reputed hospitals such as CloudNine, Aster, Rainbow and Ovum.
When it comes to medical treatment, most of us plan to visit the doctor first [irrespective of the symptom and the density of the problem], how is mfine building that trust in it’s customers [that they might not need/may never need to visit the doctor unless and until required] and how has been the overall response from the early adopters ?
We have done more than 30,000 consultations and aim to reach 100,000 consultations by the end of the year. We have partnered with 35 hospital brands in Bangalore and are expanding our network continuously.
There are some patients who have written to us about their experience with mfine. For example, We once had a user from Trichy, whose infant needed to consult with a pediatric endocrinologist. It was difficult to find one in such a small town and he used mfine to find a pediatric endocrinologist in Bengaluru, who treated the baby through the app.
There was another incident where a 70 year old woman was diagnosed with Dengue by mfine care team. From then on, the son used mfine exclusively for his mother’s treatment and with constant monitoring and help from our doctors, she was cured while being at home throughout.
Use cases are plenty and there are many more such examples. We believe that mobile can be a game change in the delivery of primary health care. From access, to diagnosis, to preventive healthcare, technology can disrupt the future of ‘visiting a doctor’..
How seamless is the overall process of registration, payment, consultation and doctor visit [if required] via mfine and can you comment on the O2O [Online-to-Offline] or vice-versa experience [i.e. Patient visits the doctor, reports gets uploaded and than again moves to mfine after the offline consultation] ?
With mfine app, one can easily reach the doctor that they select instantly, on demand. The process to get diagnosis and prescription online from a top doctor doesn’t take more than 30~40 mins. If the doctor decides that you need to a physical visit, mfine organizes the visit with the same doctor at the same hospital without charging extra and the appointment is pre-booked in the hospital system as well. When the patient is going for this physical visit, the experience is smooth no registration, no payment is needed to be done.
Similarly, when a patient chooses to follow up with the Doctor (s)he met at the hospital, (s)he can login to mfine and give the code of the Doctor/Hospital (s)he got along with the visit file and start follow up consultation with the doctor. (s)he can upload any information [test reports, etc.] and get the complete consultation done and get advised on the further treatment plan/actions.
How big is the overall healthcare market that mfine is trying to address ?
Healthcare sector in India is $280B dollar market. We are catering to a massive $50B market of primary healthcare and secondary healthcare in India. We see a huge opportunity to bring the much needed, tech-driven transformation in the $50B primary healthcare delivery. Coupled with the spread of mobile and smartphones in particular, along with dropping bandwidth costs, we expect services like mfine to take-off across the breadth of the country; starting with early adopters in metros and tier 1 cities. We see that solving for access is the most important first step in this journey.
Access to high quality care, access to super specialties and access 24*7 are going to be key levers of growth at this point. In parallel, we are also building the tech that can standardize and in turn scale the quality of healthcare delivery. This will help us reach millions of families and deliver better healthcare to all. We would like to be the trusted place for managing one’s own health be it preventive or curative. We believe we can scale this across the country and beyond and help people gain much more control over their health.
Many doctors might not be tech-savvy, what is overall learning curve involved in getting well-versed with the mfine Doctor app ? Also, please let us know if you have an in-house team of experienced doctors [for at least first level of consultation] ?
Doctors are very keen to adopt digital medium and they are excited to partner with mfine. The app is very simple to use and very structured for doctor to be very efficient. A new doctor gets comfortable with the app, typically in 1~2 days of using it. We have in-house team of experienced doctors that serve two purposes – a. They prepare the case sheet in detail for the Sr consultant and also follow up with the patients proactively and b. They define the triage protocols and implement medical standards in capturing data of the illnesses, suggesting treatment plan and also ensuring quality of communication.
Which are some of the best experiences [case studies] that customers have gained via mfine and how mfine has bridged the gap of bringing best level of healthcare for Indian citizens located outside metro cities?
Most people might have this notion that acute conditions always require a hospital visit. This isn’t the case for all medical conditions. Non-emergency health concerns can be addressed through digital space. One such medical condition that we treated on mfine was ‘Dengue’. The patient was 64 years old, female with a known history of hypothyroidism and arthritis. She had high fever, chills, loss of appetite, and complained about frequent, dark urine. Our team of doctors advised her to get a blood test done.
The results showed that she was dengue positive. Through mfine, doctors were able to monitor and manage her condition closely while she rested and recuperated at home. This was one example. There was another example where the patient [from a 2nd tier town in South India] needed Pediatric Endocrinologist and we could deliver the right care for the child with one of the doctors on our panel.
Which are some of the technologies being used in the development of mfine and how does your team leverage emerging technologies like AI, ML, Data Mining, etc. in enhancing customer experience and bridging the gap in the Healthcare market ?
We leverage AI/ML systems in combination with standard medical protocols, to make high quality care reach consumers across the country. We designed the system that can assist doctors in their diagnosis and treatment, not just business workflow automation. We are able to create a standard reference system for doctors in each specialty, that’s powered by a combination of well-established medical protocols and our AI system’s algorithms.
In a unique way, the same expert system is used to power the experience on the consumer app also, be it structured and effortless data collection, reminders for follow up based on signs/symptoms and execution of care protocols for chronic conditions.
So far mfine has tied-up with how many hospitals in India and it is currently operational [in terms of doctor engagement] in how many cities in India ? What are the future expansion plans, either in terms of offerings and cities in which it currently has doctor tie-ups ?
We are currently operational in Bengaluru with 35 hospitals. We will be expanding rapidly across India and will be having hospital network in 5 major cities by end of 2018. We will continually expand the specialties that we will offer and make mfine a comprehensive care platform for families and individuals. We will also be introducing long term care programs for consumers to be able get the required help in managing and recovering from chronic conditions
Can you comment on the overall funding of mfine and how has entrepreneurial experience of Ashutosh Lawania [w.r.t Myntra], your stint at Myntra and the experience of PrimeVp team helped in building & scaling mfine ?
Our seed round was closed in 2017 where we raised $1.5 million from Stellaris Venture Partners, healthcare entrepreneurs Mayur Abhaya and Rohit M.A. We recently closed our Series A, with $4.2 million led by Prime Venture Partners, and participation from our existing investors; Stellaris, and Mayur.
Overall we understand and feel deep passionate about ensuring high quality consumer experience. We also learnt how to set up operational processes, people processes to ensure we can scale the company and the product without breaking. Coming from successfully building a consumer internet firm earlier, we understand the importance of being data driven, developing deep domain expertise, creating systems and processes that can scale massively from the very beginning.
How has technologies like AR, VR, data generated from sensors in wearables, etc. helping in building a better healthcare experience, reducing stress & pain, remote surgery, etc.
Within our company’s focus most immediate relevance would be of wearables. Sometime during the next year we will be integrating with state of the art devices that can collect vital parameters of the patient and pass it on to the doctor he/she is consulting with. Heart rate monitors, pulse oximeters, glucose monitors are all relevant for us to integrate with.
If you can some insights into the DAU/MAU/other relevant details about mfine and how it plans to keep the customers more engaged [either with good content on healthcare/home remedies/etc.] on the platform ?
We will be focussed on providing personalized, clinically accurate information to the user. We will be building digital health tracking tools that consumers can use to track their various health parameters.
[mFine for Android can be downloaded fromhere& mfine for iOS can be downloaded fromhere]
We thank Prasad Kompalli for sharing his insights with our readers. If you have any questions for him about mfine, healthcare, etc. please email them here or share them via a comment to this article.
Internet of Things [IoT] has become one of the most popular terminologies, especially when the discussion is about creating an overall connected eco-system. As per a report by Gartner on IoT, there might be around 20 billion connected things by 2020 and it is already having a profound impact on every business segment, be it automotive, energy, transportation, etc.
IoT has been instrumental in the creation of new business models, transformation of businesses to the digital front and helped enterprises improve the overall operational efficiency. Though there has been a lot of discussion about the growing usage of IoT in the consumer devices, it is playing a very important role in the transformation of the Manufacturing industry, also called as Industrial IoT [IIoT].
Indian enterprise Sasken has deep-rooted expertise in industrial analytics, building scalable solutions in the wearable, AR/VR space, automotive solutions, etc. Today, we have a chat with Mihir Kumar, Global Head of the Industrials Segment , Sasken Technologies Limited about Industry 4.0, IIOT, trends & challenges in IIOT, future of IoT & IIoT, etc.
Can you comment on the ‘Industrial’s BU’ that you are heading, and what are some of the ways in which Sasken is helping its customers in this segment?
With the advent of Industry 4.0, the industrial’s space is transforming, with machines becoming intelligent and digitally managed, plants becoming dynamic and data-driven, and operations getting augmented by Analytics, AI and AR. We are leveraging our Chip to Cognition expertise to deploy Product Engineering and Digital Transformation solutions for customers in the Industrials, Heavy Machinery and Rugged Devices space. We are enabling their Connected Product strategy and helping them design next-gen products that are connectedand intelligent.
We are also helping our marquee customers with IoT enablement of their legacy installed base through sensor engineering, edge engineering, and industrial connectivity solutions. In addition, we are partnering with Industrial companies to build intelligence across machines, devices, and plants by leveraging data analytics and machine learning. We are also addressing the complex needs around deploying IIoT platform, cloud enablement and enterprise mobility to enable Smart Manufacturing, Remote Asset Monitoring, Condition-based Maintenance, and Connected Field Service.
Can you throw light on the future of industry wearable technologies like smart helmets, body cameras etc. that are worn by factory employees, and more on what Sasken is doing in this field?
Technologies for smart wearables, AR/VR are fast becoming the next computing platform by fundamentally shifting the way information is relayed to the user and offering immediate access to critical data. Industrial sector, with the high labor cost or high cost of mistakes, has the great potential to achieve a significant return on investment with the adoption these technologies in use cases such as quality inspection, diagnostics, remote asset monitoring, equipment installations, field service and maintenance, work instructions, workforce training, and worker safety.
Sasken is enabling customers to build smart wearable products with varying form factors equipped with cloud-based analytics and industry-best low power technologies such as sensors, connectivity, and tracking solutions. In addition, we are focusing on deploying the solutions using AR/VR and wearables to enable a multitude of use cases such as
Expediting the product design using AR/VR solutions
Use of AR and wearables to improve quality and first-time fix ratio
AR-based Field Force Productivity Solutions that are used for service equipment/installations and for diagnostics by delivering real-time information at the point of use resulting in greater end-user satisfaction and lower cost of service
Why do you feel traditional Industrial companies are moving into the software & services business? How does Sasken as a ‘solutions provider’ keep up with the rapid changes in technology?
The recent emergence and confluence of disruptive software and technologies in the Industrial Internet space is blurring the lines between physical and digital in the Industrials sector. It is creating profound opportunities for traditional industrial companies with the disinter-mediation of value chains, opening up entirely new horizons for efficiency and productivity gains, transforming products into services, and bringing consumers closer to the manufacturers. This transformation is enabling incrementally transformative value for Industrial companies by optimizing their operations for greater performance, increasing asset utilization, predicting failures before they occur to avoid unplanned downtime, and enabling them to offer new business models [e.g. Product As A Service].
Our differentiated Chip to Cognition solutions position us uniquely to help our customers with their digital industrial transformation. We are working proactively with our partner ecosystem of leading semiconductor companies as well as leading technology and Industrial IoT platform firms such as PTC, Microsoft, AWS, Google and GE Digital. This enables us to get early access to emerging technologies and platforms from leading software OEMs and chip makers. Also, we leverage our world class hardware and software R&D labs in Finland and India, as well as our IPs and solutions for rapid prototyping and experimentation in emerging solutions.
What are some of the sectors where you feel IIoT is observing a sharp increase? Also, can you throw light on the overall market size, growth and relevant use-cases?
The adoption of Industrial IoT is currently led by large product manufacturers and asset heavy companies in industries such as industrial products, automotive, transportation, utilities, and oil & gas. This is because they have complex manufacturing processes and operations along with high-capital equipment that can benefit greatly from IIoT solutions and data-driven insights that drive more predictable, sustainable, resilient, and efficient processes.
Based on the collective insight gathered from the analysis of estimates from various market reports, our own research and the insights gathered from our customers and partners, I believe, the estimated size of current IoT market is around $120-$150 billion [inclusive of hardware, connectivity, applications, analytics, and services revenue]. I also expect a sustained growth over the next several years and the market could reach over $250-$300 billion by 2021, with an estimated CAGR of around 25%.
As far as usage of Industrial IoT is concerned, they are split between use cases for improving efficiency in internal operations and creating differentiating products and services. The majority of early adopters are pursuing use cases aimed at improving manufacturing operations, field service and predictive maintenance, and product design innovation. As industries move toward service-oriented business models, industrial companies are looking to leverage the same capabilities to monitor and optimize connected devices with their customers the same way they do internally. Companies are recognizing that reducing downtime [with predictive maintenance, remote service, etc.] continues to be a top priority for their customers. As a result, they are looking to capitalize on the opportunity to extend their footprint within the customer’s operations and monetize this highly strategic outcome.
Apart from US, which are some of the emerging markets where you feel IoT/IIoT is seeing a huge growth and what is your analysis on the core reasons for growth in those markets?
Currently, there are several regional initiatives that are underway, which are accelerating the adoption of Industrial IoT. For instance, in Germany, there is Industrie 4.0 which is focused around hardware and smart machines required to enable digital manufacturing. In the United States, there is the Manufacturing USA initiative, which employs a more balanced approach of creating public-private partnerships aimed at overcoming technical IoT challenges. Regardless of their different approaches, these initiatives represent a worldwide push for standards and a continued adoption of industrial IoT.
Outside of US, currently Asia Pacific is rapidly adopting IIoT, owing to the rapid digitization and automation. Emerging economies such as China are investing massively in the R&D of industrial operations automation and has implemented IIoT in various industries. Japan is also a key contributor to the Asia Pacific market, led by the digital transformation in the manufacturing and automotive sectors.
How important is the role of security, power consumption, sensors, being hardware agnostic, etc. while developing IIoT solutions?
The architecture of an IIoT solution involves a large number of end-nodes [e.g., sensors] connected to aggregating devices [gateways], which in turn are connected to remote cloud platforms, applications and services. The functions of sensor nodes, their form factors, and target applications vary considerably and hence create the need for specific characteristics and requirements for the IIoT systems, such as
Energy Efficiency – Sensors nodes are characterized by low power draws and are often battery powered. Also, it is often difficult and costly to replace batteries. Hence IIoT solution needs to be highly energy efficient.
Hardware Agnostic solution – Owing to the diversity of hardware platforms available for various IIoT applications, it is important that the IIoT solutions support a variety of platforms to simplify inter-connectivity, drive standardization, and lower costs of ownership.
Network Connectivity & Protocol Support – Continuous connectivity to the network and to devices in immediate proximity is critical to IoT device operation. This requirement is achievable by providing support for a variety of connectivity protocols like Wi-Fi, Cellular, Bluetooth, etc.
Security – One of the biggest concerns in an IIoT solution is the cyber security and having everything linked to IoT is going to monumentally increase the vulnerabilities. It is imperative that the IIoT solution adhere to strict security expectations and meet stringent requirements imposed by deployments in sensitive and critical settings.
Small Memory Footprint – Sensor nodes are typically small and have limited memory available
Real-time Capabilities – Most of the IIoT applications are time critical and hence IIoT solutions need to perform similar to real-time operating systems that are deployed in industrial settings.
Where do you see the Industrial IoT sector heading in the future [in the next 3-5 years]?
The Industrial Internet of Things [IIoT] is set to become a multi-billion industry in the next three to five years. We are at an inflection point in terms of affordability and availability of IIoT, enabling the movement of IIoT from experimentation to business scale and making IIoT adoption and innovation more pervasive. With rapid advances in technologies, we are expected to see a few disruptive trends in the coming years such as:
Momentum for edge analytics and edge intelligence in the Industrial Internet of Things [IIoT] will accelerate. Edge computing will reduce security vulnerabilities for IIoT assets.
With the industrials space rapidly transforming and machines becoming more intelligent, operations will get augmented by AI, analytics and AR/VR.
Adoption of Advanced Analytics, Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence will fuel IIoT growth
Lower cost of technologies and IIoT will enable the acceleration in the adoption and growth of Digital Twin
Cloud adoption by factories and industrial facilities is expected to become imperative
With the increased deployment of IoT technologies, concerns around security, compliance, and privacy will become critical. As the IIoT environment explodes to create all of its anticipated benefits and competitive advantages, organizations will also need to adopt strategic approaches and innovative architectures that foster reliable, safe, secure work environments.
We thank Mihir Kumar for sharing his insights with our readers. If you have any questions for Mihir about Industry 4.0, IIoT, how your startup/enterprise can leverage capabilities of IIoT, etc. please email them here or share them via a comment to this article.
There is a famous quote – ‘Risk & Rewards are two sides of the same coin’ and the same is applicable for monetary investments. However, the investment portfolio would differ from person to person since it is dependent on many factors like risk appetite, assets, liabilities, dependencies, etc. and hence, it becomes virtually impossible for any investment firm to cater to varied investment requirements of such a large audience.
There is a wrong notion that investing in Mutual Funds or SIP’s is similar & equally risky as investing in the stock market. Due to this, less than 1.5% of the Indian population invested in equity markets and only 2% of India’s household savings were exposed to equity [as per a report from Bloomberg]. However, times are changing and more & more people are willing to invest in SIP’s for long-term benefits, given that they get proper guidance.
This is the problem that many new-age Fintech companies are trying to solve using Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, etc. by giving investors more personalized tailor-made portfolio suggestions based on their persona, long-term & short-term goals, etc. As it is said, you learn from your own mistakes and the 2008 market crash resulted in an Aha moment for entrepreneur Arjun Sarkar. Though he lost a significant amount of money in the crash due to misguidance, he soon realized that it was a ‘larger’ problem that required to be solved. Arjun Sarkar, along with Anup Abhonkar co-founded Everguard Life Ventures Pvt. Ltd. and came up with their first product named SIPtm with the aim to make equity investing simpler by taking investor’s persona and various other data points into consideration. In this episode, we have a chat with Arjun Sarkar, Founder & CEO of the Pune-based startup. The Q&A revolves around the core product SIPtm, fintech, persona-based investing & more. Let’s get started with the Q&A…
Note – ‘I’ in the interview refers to Arjun Sarkar.
Can you walk us through the idea of SIPtm and the team behind the same ?
Idea of SIPtm came to solve the problem of investing for retail investors i.e. answering the questions – Where to invest?, When to invest?, and How much to invest? Because the investor does not know what to do, they invariably go for the default option i.e. trust their friendly neighbourhood bank which is the worst decision they can make. Personally I lost a significant portion of my net-worth in the 2008 crash because I was misled by my relationship manager and invested in the wrong product, that’s when I started taking this subject seriously.
The team comprises of myself – Arjun Sarkar, CEO & Founder of Everguard Life Ventures Pvt. Ltd., the parent company behind the development of SIPtm. I have an MBA from University of Toronto. I have personally managed money for CXO’s and NRI’s in tens of crores for close to a decade and 80% of my personal wealth is invested in mutual funds.
Anup Abhonkar, CTO & Co-Founder has over 18 years of IT experience across domains like Banking, Insurance and Securities. He has worked for leaders in the industry like, Accenture, Barclays and Wipro delivering business critical solutions for Fortune 500 organizations like Aviva and Charles Schwab.
Both of us are passionate about our field. Ask our wives and you will find that we spend most of our time talking about the subject.
What does ‘tm’ stand for in SIPtm ?
TM stands for Through Mobile.
What are some of the data points that you take while recommending a particular SIP or Investment to a particular customer ?
We follow a thorough process backed by research, where we consider multiple quantitative and qualitative factors across domains like Economics [Macros and Micros] and Market and also take customer specific inputs like time-horizon and quantum of investment before suggesting a fund. Research further shows that some categories of funds are better suited for SIP mode of investments so we take that in to consideration as well.
In other words, it is not a cookie cutter approach of following ratings of funds or just looking at the past performance of funds. We are talking investments here, not buying e-commerce products where customer can buy just based on reviews and ratings, they may do well in the short term but will not able to sustain it for a meaningful period of time.
Please talk about ‘Persona Based Investing’ and how can millennials use a platform like SIPtm to plan their investments and maximize their savings ?
‘Persona based investing’ is a concept which maps life stage of investors to priority goals which then helps to filter the optimal investment mix for them. SIPtm is a great product for millennials as it is prescriptive in nature i.e. it is like a doctor listing out the medicine and the dosage which makes decision making very simple. More importantly, the dosage or SIP amounts are in the range of typical monthly savings which can be channelized in a disciplined manner thereby earning much higher returns than other traditional saving products like recurring deposits or insurance products.
Which is the target market segment of SIPtm and can you share some details about the customer demographics of SIPtm ?
Target market segment of SIPtm is people with regular income as SIP mode of investing is a good fit for them.
There are lot of Fintech companies like Scripbox, Sqrrl, etc. that are into goal-based investments, what are the USP’s of SIPtm over their competitors ?
SIPtm is a vehicle to achieve goals but takes a different route than its competitors to reach the goal faster, more predictably and with less volatility. The USP is in the name itself, the app is built ground up for SIP investments only i.e. no lump sum investments which makes the journey less bumpy and more predictable.
The other differentiator is that SIPtm offers a complete solution, right from prescribing the monthly SIP amount, to selection of funds, to distribution of monthly amount between the funds. More importantly, it re-balances the portfolio at appropriate times during the journey i.e. It does not take the fill it, shut and forget it approach.
We are a fintech company i.e. a financial services company that leverages technology to make life easier for our customers. Not the other way round i.e. a technology company that has built a financial app? The nuance is very important as you are suggesting an investment solution not a consumer commodity like laptops and mobile phones where ratings work.
As per a report, there is very small percentage of investors/would be investors who plan to invest in the Equity market [or MF], how does SIPtm plan to change this ‘resistant’ behavior from investors ?
Resistant behaviour is because of fear of loss – The answer is SIP mode of investing as SIPs manage volatility better and as a result, give higher returns at lower risks. Also, SIP amounts are small, so you are not putting a lot of money at risk at any point in time. In case of SIPtm there is another level of assurance, as the suggestions are coming from experts based on 5000+ hours of research. There is also a visible change in the behaviour in the recent times, as per latest figures, India is raking in over a billion dollars in SIPs per month now.
What is the Total Addressable Market [TAM] that you are trying to address with SIPtm?
20 Million SIPs with average investment of Rs 5000 per month
How is the response from the early adopters of SIPtm and what are some the best features that are liked by the community ?
The response from early adopters is great with SIP values ranging from Rs. 5000 right up to Rs. 20,000 per month. The best feature liked by the community is the prescriptive investment suggestion and the overall simplicity of the investment experience.
Currently how many AMC’s are syndicated on the SIPtm platform and how frequently the data is updated on the app ?
This is one more differentiator for us, we have shortlisted only the top 5 AMCs of the country based on some key criterion’s, one of them being the staying power and that is a conscious decision. We may add a couple more in the near future if they pass the criterion’s that we have laid out.
Once the user has created an account on SIPtm [and all his investments from various AMCs are under one window], what other services does your team provide to the investors so that they can get more returns from their investments ?
The most relevant and important service provided is the rebalancing of the portfolio and timely interventions to ensure that the customer goal is achieved in time.
Can you give a small glimpse about the tech behind SIPtm ?
SIPtm App has a very simple process flow and UI only because, underneath lies a network of multiple systems, including the App back-end, payment gateway, our back-office tech and RTAs and these systems talking to each in a secure and efficient manner through APIs.
What is the on-boarding process for customers on SIPtm and how has initiatives like IndiaStack, Aadhaar, etc. helped Fintech companies like SIPtm in on-boarding & other services ?
The Customer on-boarding process is very simple and totally paperless. We take minimalistic information from the customer as a one time setup. We know paper work is boring, however this basic information is a part of the Regulatory requirements. After verifying the Customer information, we activate the customer. The customer then goes for the eMandate process. Here is where we use the Aadhaar based e-Sign process that is very simple and reduces the manual 15 days process to just 3 days. So yes, Aadhaar helping immensely in reducing the cycle time as well as going paperless.
SIPtm is currently limited to MF’s/SIP’s, are there any plans/timeline on whether it would be expanded to cover other financial instruments ?
Not in the immediate future as we want to focus all our energy in one area that we are really good at and an area that is under penetrated.
With growing investor and entrepreneur interest in Fintech, many wallet companies like Paytm via PaytmMoney, FreeCharge, MobiKwik, etc. have launched a boutique of finance products on their platform, does this growing competition have an impact on a startup like SIPtm and how it could result in expansion of the fintech ecosystem ?
We do not consider wallet companies as competitors as they do not have the expertise or experience in mutual fund investments. It is like going to a pharmacist who just stocks different products and asking them for a recommendation on medicines to treat a serious disease. But the fintech ecosystem can benefit if the wallet companies tie up with players like SIPtm as, as they can generate an incremental revenue stream and actually add real value to their users by helping them generate wealth vs earning cashbacks.
Does SIPtm charge any commission from the investment that is being done on the platform ?
Not directly from the customer but through the AMCs we have partnered with. That being said, we do not push mutual funds suggested by the asset management companies as a typical distributor does, just position funds shortlisted by our algorithm.
What is the revenue model of SIPtm and does it follow the Freemium model & do you plan to be a preferred investment partner for enterprise customers ?
As of today our revenue model is commissions. Yes, we plan to partner with enterprise customers in the future but the value proposition for them has to be worked upon.
There is a growing demand of products like SIPtm in Tier-2, Tier-3 cities [and beyond], what are some of the marketing initiatives that your team has taken in order to penetrate into that particular market ?
Yes, we are in talks with potential partners who have a strong existing network in the Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.
SIPtm is backed by a very experienced founding team and there are very experienced domain-expert mentors behind SIPtm, how has the mentorship helped your team in building the ‘right set’ of features on SIPtm ?
The mentorship has helped us focus on the essentials and cut out the noise. Some of our key decisions on the product road-map have come through the regular calls we have with our advisors. The right set of features has come through a market research project we conducted for our target segment before developing SIPtm and we continue to collect feedback from our live customers.
Can you touch upon the funding of EverguardLife Ventures & are looking for institutional funding in the near future ?
Everguard is internally funded as of now, but we are looking for institutional funding this year for product development and marketing.
The app is currently present on Google Play Store, is there any timeline for the app to be released on the iOS platform ?
We are currently focussing on building traction and incorporating valuable feedback into the Android version. Work on the iOS version is underway and we shall release it shortly.
Do you plan to follow an app-only strategy or there is a plan to open-up a desktop version of the SIPtm platform [since it would definitely be useful for users who log-on the platform from their work location] ?
SIPtm is an app as mobile phones are the preferred mode for our target segment based on our customer research. That being said the algorithm that runs SIPtm is based on our earlier desktop platform called Finanswer which we plan to develop further for other target segments.
After demonetization, there has been a huge demand for payment apps [including UPI], wallet providers providing investment options like Digital Gold, etc. do you see that trend working in favor of apps like SIPtm [that makes an investor’s life smoother] ?
Absolutely, as users get more comfortable using and moving money through Apps it will help apps like SIPtm. We however, do not see payment apps as serious competitors because of the differentiators we touched upon earlier.
2017 was a tough year for startups [especially from funding point of view], how according to you should entrepreneurs deal with such adverse situations ?
Entrepreneurs should always be prepared and focus on their customers to earn revenue. Also, look out for investors who understand your domain well and who can help raise money when it is required, so that the team can focus on the product and business development.
SIPtm team is currently working out from a co-working space in Pune, what are some of the advantages for a startup/growth company while working out from a co-working space ?
You grow your network and get a chance to test your ideas quickly since the target segment is around you and more accessible.
There is lot of talk about implementation of Blockchain, AI, etc. in Finance & Fintech, what are your comments on the same and where do you see the tech moving ahead in the next 3~5 years ?
The ‘Blockchain’ and ‘AI’ landscape looks promising in delivering value to businesses and thereby increasing customer service levels which is very important in Finance. Organizations currently are trying to get a hang of it in multiple use cases and it will be a mainstay in the near future.
Some books that you highly recommend for entrepreneurs and some closing comments for our readers ?
We work really hard all our lives to earn money but do make our money work hard for us, by the time we realize this, half our working life is over. I would advise your readers to start investing early as time in the market is the most important factor and it is totally under our control. Investing is a process, boring maybe, but definitely life changing if taken up seriously.
SIPtm for Android can be downloaded from here. We thank Arjun Sarkar for sharing his insights with our readers and walking us through his journey. If you have any questions for him, please share them via a comment to this article or email them to email@example.com
Technology is the single greatest reason for man to believe in a better future. But technology is complex and messy and every time it makes progress, it seems to leave many behind. At this precise juncture, lies the role of design. It has the ability to make technology as palatable to human beings as is possible. The role of design is to humanize technology so that the complexity and the mess is hidden from the users. The users then just have to keep in mind what they want to achieve and not worry about the complex ways in which that objective will be achieved.
The objective of the field of design is to help a business achieve its goals. Therefore, if it doesn’t contribute to the bottom line, it cannot be considered successful. This is where Redd, a specialized design studio can come to the rescue of startups as well as large organizations. Redd specializes in developing version 1.0 products which is the holy grail when it comes to UX design. Redd develops wire-frames, perform user studies, produce visual, web and graphic designs, icons, content and illustrations and perform analysis on already implemented designs for brands. Ancillary services like branding and copy-writing are also included in the process. At the core, Redd excels at developing version 1.0 applications – a huge challenge in the UX field. Today we have a chat with Sharan Grandigae, Founder & CEO – Redd about essentials of design, aspects of design development, work being done by Redd, funding, etc. So, lets get started with the Q&A…
Can you please walk us through Redd and its core team composition ?
Redd was founded by me, Sharan Grandigae, and I am the CEO of the company. We have two Senior Partners, Abhilash K V who heads the design function and Priti Srinivasan, who heads marketing. Apart from this, there are two Lead Designers, Akshitha Praveen and Ashwita Palekar who head the different teams that are formed for executing the projects that we undertake. Interestingly, 73% of our employees are women and one of the leads is only 24!
Redd is a specialized UX Design Agency. How can Redd help early-stage as well as growth-stage start-ups by partnering in their product design and development ?
Early stage start-ups have the challenge of answering two vital questions: first, whether the product or service they are offering is useful, and second, how much are people willing to pay for the product or service. While these are straightforward questions, they are incredibly hard to answer, and many entrepreneurs have a tough time figuring out what it is they can offer or who is their customer. By taking a user-centric approach in designing their product or service offering, we can help answer these questions first before packaging them correctly for higher conversion or beginning to address ancillary revenue streams.
For example, a client came to us to help design a system aimed at the construction industry. While they came in asking us to design an application aimed at making it easier for the customer, the trouble was that there were so many services that the platform could put a potential customer in touch with, right from architects, plumbers and electricians to earth movers and scaffolders. This would undoubtedly overwhelm any user and they would simply drop off. Thus, we helped them create packages of services under the headings ‘For new home buyers’, ‘For re-modelling an existing home’, etc., which easily explained which package a customer can choose.
But more than that, the client wasn’t thinking of the business from the perspective of a digital platform and this didn’t allow them to see the ancillary revenue streams available on the platform through the ads, building pages to showcase work that vendors had done, etc. We were able to identify these because we had done it for several other clients before.
Clients that come to us in the growth stage have typically been through the first round of figuring out what the customer wants. They are looking at optimising their presentation and processes so as to increase conversion and scale their businesses. They may have one or several goals to achieve, such as increasing their user base, the total billing per customer, time spent on the site, and referrals or frequency of purchase; generating sales leads or any other such key performance indicators.
Once they define the goal of the design process, we examine their existing system, analyze their traffic data, customer profiles and conversion patterns and begin finding the right solutions to the problems we identify within the system. We help design simple and efficient systems that help the user achieve their goals while simultaneously achieving those of the company.
In how many different business verticals does Redd have expertise in? Can you now list down successful case studies in those verticals ?
At Redd, we have stayed away from specializing in just a few industry verticals as that’s a recipe for disaster for a creative agency. Instead, we take on projects from as wide a range of industry verticals as possible. Our team is currently working on the pregnancy experience of a mother-to-be while figuring out the best ways to sell steel even while finishing up a project related to core banking! We learn something new every day.
And this isn’t just us staying generalists because it is interesting for us, there are clear business reasons for doing so. Many companies can hire design teams in-house, but the problem is that these become entrenched in the systems that they are developing. This entrenchment can cause them to only be able to see the next stage of evolution of the product or the stage after that. But how does a client’s business achieve evolutionary jumps that can induce spikes in the company’s growth? That jump can only come from lateral thinking and that’s the one reason clients who have design teams in-house still come to us.
For example, we learnt something while standing in jewellery stores observing customer interactions when we were engaged by BlueStone to redesign their e-commerce site. That learning stayed with us and sparked a new idea that found application when we were later engaged by Lenskart for their mobile site redesign. Who would have thought that jewellery and glasses were related? And if you think about it from Lenskart’s perspective, many cycles of design-development-research-analysis were saved because of this!
Since you have worked with a range of clients, can you tell us what are some of the misconceptions that a few start-ups [or companies] have about UX Design and how Redd hand-holds such start-ups in their design journey ?
Misconception #1 First and foremost, people think UX design is about beautification. It isn’t. It is essential to the core functioning and profitability of a business. You would have noticed so far that I have not mentioned aesthetics even once. The reason is that we no longer live in a world that tolerates bad-looking products, so beautification and aesthetics are a base-level requirement. Design goes beyond and examines the efficiency of an entire business system and helps tune that to achieve the best that it can.
Misconception #2 Second, the right time to engage a UX agency is after the product is built and functioning. People seem to think that this is the cheaper approach but that’s a matter of perspective. If you are an early stage start-up, you want to know whether you have a product that people will spend their money on. What if your offering is good but the way it is presented is below average, or it’s not easy to use the product, or if the payments for the same were difficult to make? If these points resulted in poor conversion, would you write off your offering as bad? There are many reasons why a business fails but the reason you work with a UX designer is to provide the business the best chance it has to succeed.
Misconception #3 Third, it’s cheaper to hire a designer in-house rather than an agency. While different agencies charge differently, hiring the right design talent is hard and retaining them in the long run is harder when you take into consideration the fact that most designers revel in working on a variety of things rather than on one thing for a long time. It’s better to own the technical development team in-house and outsource the design function to specialized agencies.
Please share your engagement policy with companies and how does Redd act as a co-enabler rather than just being a design partner [for them] ?
We work in two ways: on fixed-bid projects and on retainers. For most first-time engagements with clients, we work on a project basis for a fixed scope of work. This keeps expectations clear for the client. We work on the retainer model when clients want to work with us like an internal design team, providing us tasks every week. We set aside a specific number of hours that the client can use, and they can assign us any task related to any of the services offered by Redd for a simple flat monthly fee.
Whichever way we engage with clients, we make sure that we do all the work necessary to create the right experience from market and user research, to creating the communications materials that are going to be required post the UX design stage.
There are many design agencies catering to web, mobile design; what are some of the core USPs that Redd brings to the table for its clients ?
Most UX design agencies’ DNA is in graphic design but Redd’s background was in the development of custom software that run various business operations. Through this, we have developed a keen sense of not only development methodologies but also of how businesses function at a core level. Redd can move fluidly between discussions on front-end frameworks and version management systems to EBIDTA and the four P’s of marketing!
With User Experience and Seamless design across devices becoming increasingly important, what can you share about some of the best practices in design and how start-ups can leverage the same to design well-crafted products ?
A pattern we are seeing across the board is that a customercs experience is not only delivered on one medium, such as mobile websites, but occurs across the desktop website, mobile apps and also with walk-ins at stores. For example, one common pattern we’ve seen across clients is that their browsing is high on mobile web and apps, but purchases tend to be made on desktop websites or at stores. So we’ve adopted a ‘universal commerce’ approach which allows us to design experiences that begin on one medium and end on another.
This is the paradigm shift that we see happening and one that we would prompt other entrepreneurs to take into consideration when thinking about their user experiences.
Can you share some details about the funding status of Redd and are you open to institutional funding ?
We have been bootstrapped all along and have been building based on our own revenues. We are looking for funding only to launch some products being developed in-house.
Which according to you are some of the beautifully designed Indian as well as global products ?
Bangalore’s own Ather Energy’s electric scooter is a fantastic innovation in the field of product and service design. Not only have they succeeded in designing a very well-thought-out scooter, but they have also considered the ownership experience and designed the right sales packages. On the global front, unsurprisingly, I see what Tesla is doing as the new benchmark for how products and services need to be thought of, planned and executed.
There has been a significant rise in the number of product [read hardware] start-ups in India, are you looking to venture into product and UX development for such start-ups ?
Every field of design has the same underlying principles and thinking methodologies for producing the outcomes in their respective fields. We see the design of products as a natural extension of our current capabilities, so yes, this is something we intend to do.
You have been in the business for a couple of years. What has been your overall learning experience running a bootstrapped enterprise like Redd ?
I think we have learnt a lot already. But the funny thing is that while one would expect to have learnt something new and unique, the number of things that fall within that category are very few and rarely impact your business in a meaningful way. The single most impactful lesson I’ve learnt is that everything, even the most complex of ideas, can be understood by breaking it down to its principles.
So, along those lines, I would phrase the fundamentals of business with the following five principles:
You have nothing if you don’t have a customer who is willing to pay you for what you have to offer.
Put together a great team who can share in your passion.
Pay attention to finances, especially cash-flows.
Build processes that can scale when your business does.
You need a think-tank that has people with whom you can discuss business ideas on an ongoing basis.
Though it is late to ask, what is the overall target market of Redd and do you service global companies as well ?
Our target market is technology or technology-enabled companies that are looking to build something innovative. We typically deal with start-ups wanting to scale and enterprises that want to be more agile. Some examples of global companies that we’ve worked with are Infosys, L&T Infotech, FIS Payment Solutions and TopUniversities.com.
There has been lot of buzz about chatbots, at least their usage is exponentially increasing in the fintech, healthcare, edtech sector. What are your thoughts on the same and how exactly should start-ups [as well as growth stage companies] make use of chatbots effectively ?
There are many stages of interactions between customers and a company. The early stage interactions are more general, repeated and substantially vast in number compared to later stage interactions. These early stage interactions are best handled by bots and there needs to be a smooth hand-off to a live person when the discussion gets more specific.
We have developed our own chatbot called Cruz and use it on our website. It manages many of our conversations with prospective clients, candidates searching for jobs and students looking for internships and has handled a lot of these smoothly. It has, in fact, become better over time.
Redd has a string of clients [ranging from start-ups to huge companies like L&T]. What are some of the learnings while dealing with such a wide range of clients and how agile [and open] are big companies to suggestions and change ?
Our job, in a way, is to understand the vision of the promoter and express that in terms of an app. With start-ups, we are typically working directly with the founders and this process is relatively easy. With large enterprises, a special team may be assigned to work with us, but the decision maker is rarely in the room. So, it is like us making proposals and then waiting for them to run the ideas up the decision chain and get back to us.
While these are indicative of the behaviors of majority players within each group, we have seen start-ups with many decision-making layers and we have worked with enterprises that make decisions and move faster than start-ups! So, it’s not like these stereotypes are always played out.
Does Redd also deal with clients in emerging economies since the entrepreneurial talent is blooming in places like Vietnam, Chile, etc. ?
We are open to it, but haven’t worked with clients outside of India, the UK, the US and the UAE yet.
Effective UX does help in user engagement and conversion rates [at least for e-commerce kind of sites]. Please share some learnings from Redd on how it helped clients in these two areas [or any areas in retention] ?
For us to design better experiences, we need to really understand the concerns and constraints users go through during the purchase of or engagement with a product or service. This helps us frame our client’s offerings in such a way that their customers consume them. This usually helps in engagement first and consequently in conversion.
For instance, when we were engaged by BlueStone.com who sold jewellery online, we stood in jewellery stores and observed how customers purchased jewellery. The first thing we observed was that when customers came into the store and asked to see, say bangles, the salespeople would bring not one, but several trays of jewellery at a time. This seemed like such a waste to us because so much effort was being spent in bringing out the trays and then restacking them after the customer had left, so we asked the salespeople about this. What they said changed the way we thought about selling jewellery forever.
They said that customers rarely walk into a jewellery store with the intention of buying one particular piece of jewellery because this purchase is driven not by utility, but by emotion. So, there’s no way to ascertain through questioning what the customer has in mind specifically because they rarely do and even when they do, it’s not like they won’t change their minds if they see something better. The only thing that the salespeople could do to increase conversion was to bring out trays and trays of jewellery, thus increasing the chances of the customer seeing something they like and purchasing them.
This was the core learning around which we designed BlueStone’s e-commerce store – to increase the number of items seen by clients in each session. The way we went about doing it was complex and intricate, but it’s based on such a simple learning!
There has been a surge in the number of conferences on Design [DesignConf], Technology, IoT, etc. How do such conferences result in the blooming of the eco-system and is Redd a part of any such consortium ?
These conferences show how big the field of design is becoming. These kinds of conferences are usually great forums to share and exchange ideas from each field of design. But interestingly, the number of sessions being conducted on ‘design thinking‘ has specifically increased over time and is being subscribed to by non-designers more and more. This is a great indicator to me that design is gaining acceptance outside of the design world and is here to stay.
For start-ups, the core team is very important. How did you as a founder deal with hiring for Redd and please share some effective tips from hiring in start-ups ?
Redd is composed not only of people who are trained in design as a part of their education, but also those that came to it from outside [like me]. We’ve been extremely lucky in having been able to hire great people right from the beginning. I have met and hired everyone myself and don’t anticipate that I will ever hand this function off to anyone else in future. But to make my process a little easier, I have an automated system that sends back a set of four questions to anyone applying to Redd. The answers to these questions tell me a lot about the people even before we meet them.
We are able to weed out a huge number of applicants right at this stage and the ones that make it past this point are typically only met with to assess skill and culture fit within our company.
Some ideas on UX and Design that can be used as an effective tool for growth marketing ?
Improving the UX of an offering makes it 16% more likely to be recommended to others [Forrester] – that’s probably the only fact that I can quote about the effectiveness of UX. We don’t have more data other than the fact that all our clients are continuing to grow in size after our engagement with them.
Books or resources you highly recommend for Design Aspirants as well as entrepreneurs?
Guns, Germs and Steel, Sapiens, The Consolations of Philosophy, and Good to Great. The first four seasons of the TV show The West Wing are a must-watch.
We thank Sharan Grandigae for sharing his insights with our readers and walking us through his journey. If you have any questions for him, please share them via a comment to this article or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org