Friday, September 7, 2018

What next for OTA apps?

So the question MMT very much struggles with, the one thing GoIbibo tries to change in their customer's habits, the problem with Indians still heavily depending on offline travel agents for booking tickets and making travel plans.

Why? Cant, they do this online? After all, MMT or iBibo are killing the middle man and in turn offering better discounts and offers to its customers! So why do people still book from travel agents?

MMT thinks (having worked on the brand) that middle class Indian is still very conservative and feels uncomfortable with online travel booking or using the internet for travel-related purposes.

Stat as quoted by one of these OTA's:
More than 80% of hotel bookings in India still happens offline via agents, calling the hotels directly or by walk-ins to the hotels. 

Major barriers being:
1. Lack of Authenticity
2. Fear of loss of Money in Advance Payments
3. The concern of spending a large sum of money online
4. The complexity of OTA Site
5. See no Advantage of booking through an OTA vs offline

That a typical uncle (Sharma ji) will lean on the society's youngsters (Rohan from SRCC) for guidance on how to use his smartphone better for shopping or learning how to use mobile banking on his phone.

That Sharma ji feels that there are hidden charges that he wouldn't anticipate and the same will come up at the last stage of booking.

The Sharma ji somehow believes that he will get a bad deal online or money will get deducted online while booking won't go through and hence considers an offline travel agent as an authority on the subject matter of travel booking and hence relays on him.

Correct, but this is half the truth. (and again I fail to understand why no one hires me as a product marketing manager) 

If you go out an investigate, ask a few different Sharma ji's in similar but different colonies, without pushing the agenda of a particular MMT or GoIbibo on to them will tell you this:

"The Raj Travel Agent who's shop is in the local market, who makes you wait and doesn't pick your calls sometimes is a better option because he is able to take care of your travel booking 'end to end'.

And quite literally at that.

Wait, wait, wait. before you say - Flights + stay is quite the definition of 'end to end', might i remind you that unlike you, Sharma Ji, who makes up for the larger chunk of the audience in and outside the top 10 metro cities of India is not used to booking himself an Uber or Ola at the airport or railway station casually as a means of self-service.

He thinks its a hassle and that the taxi stands at these respective locations overcharge the passengers as they are the only option for them.

Not to forget not having an itinerary of places to visit or things to do in a new city or a holiday that the travel agent otherwise arranges for along with a driver and car for all the days of the holiday or travel for Sharma Ji and his family.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that Sharma Ji feels a bit lost about what to expect or where to go for good food? While you narrow your eyes and pout and think of Zomato, trust me, he doesn't.

Which brings us to the root cause of the actual problem.
THE FACT THAT OTA's ARE SO CAUGHT UP IN PROVIDING FASTER APP / WEBSITES, CLEANER INTERFACE, MORE OPTIONS OF STAY OR PROVIDING CHEAPER FLIGHTS OR MORE BANKING OPTIONS etc, THAT THEY HAVE FORGOTTEN THE OTHER ENHANCEMENTS THEY ACTUALLY NEED TO MAKE TO TAKE ON AN ACTUAL OFFLINE TRAVEL AGENT!

I mean will it kill them to try these three things? 

1. Provide an option to pre-book your cab inside the app post confirmation of flight and/or hotel ticket? Tie up with an Ola / Uber or Meru's and integrate them at the point of confirmation. Full day hire exists in these options by the way.

2. Provide an option in mail or post flight and/or hotel booking in a city basis the number of days booked for options around the area for fine dining, budget meal, quick bites etc? Tie up with the likes of Zomato / Swiggy / Easy diner to be able to provide the same. Maybe even an option to book your meals and reserve a table for two at a restaurant worth trying apart from offering restaurant offers.

3. Local sightseeing recommendations basis the number of days the hotel is booked or between the dates of the round trip flights to choose and take a print out of? Trip advisor / Google guides integration at the point of confirmation.

I mean really, creating a lot of SEO friendly content and articles about places worth visiting etc are great, but what happens to this OTA'a intent after someone has gone ahead and actually made a booking through them? Where is the 'end-to'-end' experience being taken care of?

Especially when actual platforms already exist to integrated into OTA apps. There is no reinvention of the wheel needed here. Sure the OTA's might say that their penetration or reach is far beyond the top 10 metros and sometimes in cities where an Ola / Uber or Zomato may not yet have market share. But why deprive the markets where they do exist of these experiences?

Wouldnt it at least help in case the market share in the top 10 cities to being with?

(Or maybe I believe in a more connected and integrated world where tech giants are able to benefit off each other instead of only compete with each other)

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

What next for Myntra, Jabong and Nykaa

So cash of delivery is great. (thank you Flipkart)

But since then, how have e-commerce really made things more convenient for shoppers in India?
There's this phenomenon that currently prevails - which is called causal browsing on e-commerce sites. Especially true to Apparel, Cosmetics, Gadgets or Electronics and furniture.

To explain this phenomenon; it is the aspiration to buy but lack of funds to actually make a purchase.

The TG this phenomena most works with is young jobbers in tier 1/2 metro cities who have the spending capacity on such purchases and hence the 'wishlist' is a big deal for them.

They see the rising and falling prices of the items they wishlist and if possible make the purchase.

Now, not everything can be based on creating the intent to purchase for users. Because while the discounts and schemes may be unlimited, the user funds are not.

So how do you translate an active wishlist into a phenomenon using cash on delivery as a means to deliberate a purchase?

----drumroll----

By creating an option to schedule selected wishlist items to be delivered on a certain date for cash on delivery!

Silly right? But it should work! If you liked something in week 2 - 3 on the month and as a responsible adult decided to not make a purchase right away due to limited availability of funds, nothing really stops you from scheduling the same to be delivered for COD one day after your salary comes in the next month now is it?

And then I wonder why no one still hires me as a product manager. 

I hope this idea reaches the right eyeballs and someone benefits from this idea!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The next big steps for AI personal assistants

We’ve all seen the recent Google assistant video that makes a call to a restaurant/hairdresser for reservations on behalf of a user right? That’s really how AI is shaping the future now, isn’t it?


But I believe only Google is the winner at the end of the day, or the ones really working on enhancing the AI-based personal assistant in that space.

Because really; what happens the day Google services start restricting third-party integration with their apps and platforms to make other AI personal assistants as capable?

Like Google maps, business listings, weather, jobs, flight, hotel bookings etc?

The true winners that day will be an app like Zomato, Just Dial, Practo, Ixigo etc, that have data or data pulling capabilities of their own and are able to fulfil AI based user requests by letting them access their data rather than heavily relying on Google products!

Two examples of a smart query that can work this way are:

E.g.: Like Zomato + Alexa / Siri / Cortana is stronger than Google for food and restaurant search (in India at least!)

Which basically uses the data from Zomato + data mining and human interactions capabilities of Siri / Alexa / Cortana

E.g.: Just dial + Alexa / Siri / Cortana are stronger than Google for business listing in India (or can be)

They should ideally do this before these players develop their own AI bots (which will be a bad move and a waste of time in many cases, unless you’re JustDial and offer almost everything)

If you look at it, this is why AI right now is not progressing beyond a point.

Because we aren’t we making apps that integrate with apps on smart devices with Siri or Alexa or Cortana and enhance their knowledge when someone is on devices and browsing through content.



In short: “We’re all only contributing to making Google stronger!”

On the other hand, why isn’t Google working on second-degree search queries?

E.g.: Tourist places around Delhi that have weather below 30 degrees right now

Query: Tourists places + kms range + weather

Places around my house that serve risotto and delivery food below the value of 250/- under 45 minutes?

Query: Location service + radius + dish + Order value for free delivery


This is also probably the point when Amazon, Yahoo and Microsoft should up their game with their own search engine listings / digital properties for similar products such as weather, maps, listings etc and enable Siri / Alexa / Cortana to integrate with them as well in place of Google products!

I guess this is probably why Apple launched its one maps a while back? Or why Amazon continues to buy smaller technology products across the world. But they haven’t really done too much with it in places like India at least where Siri or an Alexa are still dependent on Google to throw up search results. That’s technically Siri / Alexa doing the bidding for Google assistant now, isn’t it!

Hence making consumers more likely or adaptable to Google assistant in the future? What say?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Making ends meet - Natural Progression of Technology and Ideas

There are some great tech products on the market today. Products that offer very focused content based solutions for people in different life stage. 

But, there seems to be a stagnation in the natural progression on these platforms... 

I wonder why that is, maybe there is a lack of 'need analysis' or too narrow a view of looking at the tech and start-up ecosystem since new startups seem to be popping up filling need gaps in place of these existing companies diversifying their brand offerings?

Let me state a few observations based ideas on the existing Indian ecosystem at least; 
  1. PopXO should think about offering a pregnancy and parenting councillor on chat/call for women. Work that audience base! Be its best friend.
  2. PopXO should also think about offering peer counsellor for women and girls on chat/call. Tap into its 85% audience base that is outside its top 10 metro cities and needs this kind of support that currently brands are becoming custodians of giving. 
  3. Hyperlocal players like Grofers / Big Basket should push the agenda like Zomato/BigF/ Food Talk India are doing in the food space for 'in hotel dining' to increase 'in-store footfalls' in retail brand store in key cities. As marketing competition is already high there and the option of malls is available. 
  4. Same way, eCommerce sites like Amazon / Flipkart can also offer in-store shopping opportunities with local mom and pop stores / big bazaars, west side gourmet etc. Feel this will / can work out well with measuring sales/footfalls in offline stores during campaign duration or as always-on components for consumers to avails better discounts in store (in turn helping build stronger brand preference). Also helping e-commerce companies capture a larger number of people from offline to take them online. This will work majorly for electronic brands and CPG / FMCG brands? 
  5. Myntra / Jabong / Nykka should integrate with Eleve/Plixxo for user-generated photos/videos of wearing their products in exchange for redeemable points. (For UGC Submission.) Help create mini infomercials to help retailers turn their Insta / FB / Snapchat stories into sales leads. 
  6. Practo / 1MG / Parentune - option diversify their product offering as a solution to new parents / young or old couples. They can do this by starting gifting options on e-commerce sites which can be gifted. These gifts can be in form of a set number of doctor consultation on chat/video call / phone call. 
Isn't this the role of a good product marketing manager? Whats the use of only upgrading current features when the overall intent and purpose of trying to be category leader is defeated in the broader sense? 

If you find these interesting, comment below and let me know your views and takes on the same!

Friday, May 4, 2018

These great platforms ensure that your learning never stops

If you’re like me; “In between jobs” then this is defiantly for you. Otherwise also, if you have this constant desire in the back of your head to learn more, do more with your free time, to look for ways to gain that competitive edge, then here’s the thing for you. 

I’ve been accessing and going through these bunch of new websites and apps, (because what’s more convenient than your phone?) that help build up skills for the job industry, giving you certifications that you can add to your LinkedIn and sometimes even PG certification! What's even better is that some you can complete at your own pace! 

So without wasting more time, here’s my list of Top 8 apps/sites that are truly awesome for learning: 

1. Simplilearn; want to learn the basics of programmatic? No problem. And get a certificate for it while you’re at it. Paid but inexpensive. 
Website Link: https://www.simplilearn.com 
App version available: Yes

2. Instareads; Don’t have time to read books? Still, want to know the gist? Here’s your answer. Free is good, the paid version is even better. Pocket-friendly. 
Website Link: https://instaread.co/ 
App version available: Yes

3. Khan Academy; well, this is good for you and good for your niece! Polish up those basics physics and math skills again, only this time with animation and examples. And it’s free! Also has courses on entrepreneurship as well. 
Website Link: https://khanacademy.org 
App version available: Yes

4. Primer; Google's gift to every CMO/CXO/ Marketer and entrepreneur! In a bite-sized app that’s constantly updated to help you keep up with the times! It’s free! Download now, never delete it! 
Website Link: https://www.yourprimer.com/in
App version available: Yes

5. CreativeLive; learn from the masters. Short courses by industry experts, some free. Some paid. But alternative learning doesn’t get better than this! 
Website Link: https://www.creativelive.com/
App version available: Yes

6. GradesDontMatter; it’s new, it’s the Indian version of CreativeLive and The Master Class! But very relatable. The courses are cheap (199/- all access is being offered at the moment) no completion certificates thought. 
Website Link: https://www.gradesdontmatter.in/  
App version available: Yes

7. Swayam; this one deserves a special mention and a standing ovation. An initiative by Ministry of Human Resource Development of India, in collaboration with everyone from IIM Banglore to IIT Bombay! This form of Education is called MOOC's - "Massic open online course". It’s free! And courses offer certificates and PG diplomas! Can life get any better? Why the heck isn’t this advertised more? 
Website Link: https://swayam.gov.in/ 
App version available: Yes

8. edX: Similar to Swayam, this is an international MOOC platform, here you can obtain certifications in a verity of interesting courses from everyone from Berkely to MIT. For a small fee, you can then give an online test and obtain certification from the said university or college.
Website Link: http://edx.org
App version available: Yes

Download them now! And if you find them interesting, share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

PS: More interesting apps, that didn't make it to my top 8 list:

  • Blinkist
  • Audible by Amazon
  • AudioBooks
  • EDUCBA
  • Mimo 
  • Coursera 
  • CreativeLive
  • Lynda
  • Udamey 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Dfaq with Zomato! - Part 1

They say you should keep your friends close, but your enemy's closer! Especially true - when you're out to run an empire! i.e.: Case and point - Zomato

Off late, the battle between Zomato and Swiggy has been steaming up. 
They were in talks on merger a while back but my best guess is, it was an attempt to look at each other's books and processes. After all, if Zomato is the King of the North, Swiggy is the Empress of the South. (and heck women have always proven to be more efficient rulers throughout history! But more on that later)

I'm a long-standing user of Zomato. Probably a 'whale' amongst users; like they say while defining mobile gaming user type. But its far more out of necessity than out of actually liking the app now. Its become an evil I cant do without. At least for the time being.

As an outsider, even a customer with one eye closed (looking at any form of digital screen connected to the internet) can tell that both Zomato and Swiggy have up the ante on new user acquisition. And from the looks of it, Swiggy is dominating this fight right now. 

But lots of users and F&B brands seem to suddenly be favouring Swiggy in North India. And Zomato's greatest weakness right now is not being able to address their concerns. i.e.: the concerns of its biggest stakeholders - its existing users!

To my understanding, either their brand team is trying to do everything at once, (like trying to eat all the french fries, the burger and drink the entire soda can in one big gulp) without any prioritization of agendas or clear focus. 

Whatever be the case, if they continue this way, they will definitely be going down as a case study in Indian business history soon; as 'The leader who lost the right to its opinion holders'.

No, I'm not going to give any 'gyaan' on what they can do better (no one is paying me for it), but I'll like to gently point out notorious things that they are doing off late; 

1. They have taught their CRM team the art of lying and defending their position instead of addressing customer issues. 
- CRM team responses are also very fake and repetitive (like banging your head against the wall an expecting a different outcome each time)
- Their social media team is far more receptive than their CRM and PR team; post something on Twitter to the founder and people get in touch with you way faster. (even if they don't take adequate action ahead of that) 
- The PR team or whoever the hell it is sending sorry packages to customers, which doesn't even care if the wrong sorry note is sent to the wrong customer.

2. They decided to take on new challenges, i.e.: Zomato delivery, and now they are causing business losses to F&B owners. 
- Reducing delivery radius so that they can deliver food quicker
- Quietly switching restaurant ordering off when they don't have staff in an area to pick up delivery in a certain area
- Creating new features like kitchen hygiene ranking and asking F&B partners for money to rank high up in them for a year. 

3. Not being intuitive enough in developing and launching new features on the app like they used to
- I'm not able to use the rating filters under subcategories 
- I'm not able to find half the items as they haven't been tagged to restaurants 

4. Doing dumb things like turning the app clour blue for people who pay them for Zoamto Gold service where all they do is highlight the BOGO offers. 
- Have they taken a look at their selves in the mirror off late? I think not. Plus they haven't been looking at what other competitors have been doing either. 
- Food Talk India - is able to partner with brands and curate interactive events that Zomato hasn't been able to do. 
- Big F and Food talk India have been giving far better in restaurant dining offers than Zomato by a MILE! Why the heck will I avail a BOGO on a single food dish at a restaurant when I can opt for 15 - 20% off on entire bill or 1 + 1 on the buffet instead? 

I'm not done yet. Part 2 coming soon.