Entrepreneurship Technology

How to build the unimaginable?

Get started…

Those were my thoughts when I took up the challenge of building Maven (then known as Project Andromeda).

There were so many reasons not to do it, unfinished and continuously evolving specs, unknown complexity, several dependencies, no development team in place, no clear target user, unproven market, extremely aggressive deadlines, fear of running out of money etc. But there was one important reason to do it: it hasn’t been done before.

Having decided that I want to do it, how do I go about it?

Well there is only one way to build software, to start building it. It cannot be done by sitting on the side-lines and waiting for things to fall into place before you begin. It needs a team to be built, need analysis, write specs, design, architect, code, test… and building Maven meant that we were doing all of these at once.

And then we celebrate…

The thrill of seeing the thoughts of several people in bytes and pixels is difficult to articulate. We know that we have just scratched the surface, and there is a ton of work to be done, but we also know that the journey ahead is much more manageable than what we have went through.

Why copy-cats don’t keep me up at night.

It takes a special type of environment to achieve something like this. You need people who are willing to suspend disbelief, embrace chaos, put their careers on the line and work with single minded focus to make it happen. Maven could not be built in an enterprise environment. It would take over 10 person-years to complete, and will be way behind what Maven would be by then. But to ensure that Maven is years ahead of competition, we cannot rest on what has been achieved and continue to innovate and create new benchmarks.


Beware of rediff small biz

While visiting today, I was intrigued by the home page promotion of ‘Biz Solutions’. Clicking through, I was surprised to see an unbelievable price for .in domains. This sent me hunting for the fine print, but I found none. Here is a screenshot of the offer.

.in - Rs. 125 for one year

Not ready to give up, I decided to test the offer by trying to purchase a dummy domain.

Still Rs. 125, still no fine print or renewal rates. Only when I changed the registration period to 2 years, could I tease out a probable year 2 rate.

So there you have it, rediff advertises a low-low price of Rs. 125, and never discloses that it will cost you Rs. 800 to renew.

I looked up 2 more alternates that target customers of similar skills, bigrock and yahoo. Both had the first year fees lower than renewals (industry trend I am fully aware of), but were upfront that the renewals rate differs. Yahoo was very upfront, whereas bigrock needed some digging.

Yahoo's offer
Bigrock's offer

Interesting new business ideas for India

A short post about interesting business ideas, I came across in the last week or so.

Lost-key drop service

A service, that sells numbered key chains, which has something like this written on it:

When the key is lost, the owner will contact the service hotline to ascertain if the key, with id number 123654789 in the above example, has been returned. If yes, he can pick it up or have it mailed for a fee. Works best if the operation is distributed having franchise operators in each city. Thus the turnaround time between losing the key and regaining it can be minimised.

A customer can register the key code online, to get an email / SMS whenever the key is returned.

Help and advice to DIY farmers

About 6-months ago, I discussed with a friend on, how I am interested in growing a vegetable garden, but have no clue where to begin. I was interested if someone will give me advice on what to grow, when and how as well as supply the needed materials. Six month later, I read about sproutrobot, on techcrunch. Sproutrobot, is a US based start-up, pretty much doing what I described above. Now if someone can replicate this for India.

DIY greeting cards

Create an online service that allows users to create a greeting card selecting the paper, design and wordings. This is then handmade and either mailed to the user or distributed to the list provided. There are a few similar services, but none having the refinement and social integration of the “new web”.

This is the one I am most likely to try out, just for the technical kick. I also intend to concentrate on a very specific niche to be able to provide templates to best match what the user might want.


Hausmeister service for India

Hausmeister Service Tauer in der Allinger Strasse, 2006 by gumtau.Thanks to the company I keep, online and offline, the only entrepreneurial ventures I see are tech related. Everyone wants to be the next viral sensation and make pots of money. Hardly anyone wants to add real value to the life of others and improve the community as a whole.

Rant aside, I recently came across a very interesting piece from Vivek Wadhwa titled Replicators, Innovators, and Bill Gates. The form of ventures I described above might be of innovative type, but there is no harm in starting a replicating venture. Especially if it brings in a steady stream of income and gives stable employment to a few people.

One such service I see in Germany which can be easily replicated in India is the ‘Hausmeister’, literally a house master service. For a fixed fee from each resident, a company takes care of all the common issues with a housing apartment. Whether it is cleaning, sanitation, repairs and other forms of maintenance.

With the several million apartment complexes in India, this service could organise and streamline the ‘building maintenance’ nightmare and make decent money, while generating employment for several people of varied skills. People who desperately need a job that they can do with dignity.

The occupants also gain as they have one throat to choke and do not need to deal individually with a number of service providers. The last such venture I saw, was the greatly successful cable wallah. No reason similarly spirited individuals can’t make this service a success too.


20 Qs with Puneet of Young India


Q. In your own words, who are you and what is your business?
I am just a young creative mind, who feels that everyone can sell anything; but the only reason why everyone doesn’t become a businessman, is that they don’t have a product to sell. Since they don’t have anything to sell they sell somebody else’s product. All one needs is to be creative, a little passionate and definitely risk taking.
My business is It is a new and a creative website which give a purpose to networking. It is a place where creative minds will compete and get recognition. It may not be a very big recognition like any reality show that makes you an overnight star but it will make you realise the star potential in you.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Well a very less famous person once said that the best of business ideas come from ones own need. If you really want to start a business then just think is there anything that you want or ever wanted that you couldn’t get because of unavailability and that’s where you create a product.
My business idea comes from my own life. As a young guy I have many creative interests and dream, but I never could pursue them. May be because of lack of knowledge and may be ‘coz I never knew how good I am outside the boundary walls of my school and college. So I thought of giving the young generation something I did not get. It’s less of a business idea and more of an initiative.
By the way that less famous person is nobody else but me.
Q. Is this your first business?
Well definitely yes, it’s my first business. I would prefer to call it an initiative than business. It’s my way of changing the systems and things that are currently there in India.


Q. Who are your customers?

My take on iPad

Ever since the iPad was announced, the internet is clogged with updates, analysis and impressions on iPad. But I saw very little talked about what this means, or how this could affect the way we do business. The guys with the biggest megaphones are either reporters or tech gurus, who are far removed from the trenches of enterprise application development.

Full disclosure

The only Apple product I own is the iPod touch. It rocks, itunes sucks.

Initial impressions

I was a bit underwhelmed and I doubt I will acquire an iPad. But that does not stop me from believing that it will be a big hit.

What could be better?

Personally, I would have loved the device if it came with multi tasking and maybe a camera. But this post is not about it.

Then what is it about?

This is about the big disruption the entire tablet computing movement could cause to the current state of art. How the relatively low price, the interactivity and the right size makes it suitable option in a lot of never before situations. And about how, Apple could leave a gaping hole for another Microsoft to capitalise on.

How so?

By not allowing custom built apps from being installed on the iPad. This will rule out iPads adoption in the enterprises and also cool new ideas and mashups. Large companies could use an iPad for several clever niches, but needing to install custom IP on to the iPad via the app store is out of question.

Are there any examples?

Sure, several.

  • Team of financial advisors carrying a tablet for explain various insurance or investment options to average Joe. Imagine how good the apps could be made to look and how interactive they could be. It would go a long way in closing the sale.
  • A restaurant replacing the boring menus with interactive ones on a tablet. Hell, they could even just ‘add to basket’ then and there. If there is a waiting time, people can pre-order their food and also surf while waiting.
  • Replacing the dull and expensive kiosk with a 350$ tablet. This might still happen, but by playing a keynote presentation.
  • How about the classic ‘travelling salesman’? Does he really need a laptop?
  • Medical staff carrying a tablet instead of the physical patient files.
  • I haven’t even begun to think about industrial applications

I think you get the picture. Not only can the tablet replace a laptop, but also paper in several cases. People more creative than me will find several more creative uses of a tablet. This brings me to mashups.

What about them?

The thing about mashups, they are obvious in hind sight. But it takes a creative mind and an open ecosystem to dream and create one. But I can imagine a few hacks / mashups surly.

  • How about a tablet controlled robot or speed boat?
  • A tablet replacing the entire instrument panel of a car
  • Tablets used in performing arts
  • Tablets used in science and education
  • Tablets used by NGOs in rural upliftment

The possibilities are limitless. But the artificial limitations imposed by Apple, will leave the door open for a highly hack-able, maybe android based, tablet provider. Whether that’s a known brand like Asus, who spearheaded the netbook revolution; or an unknown startup like NotionInk remains to be seen.

Sure, Apple will sell millions of these devices and make tons of money, but saying that there is no room for another player is a false assumption.