Immediate reactions to the banning of Rs 500 & 1000 notes

As Anshul & I sat listening to the PMs announcement and then all the experts on CNBC, we couldnt help discussing what all must be happening around the country in the next 72 hours.

500-1000-note-banWe are surely living in interesting times.

Managing high denomination notes:

  • All secret saving places in the homes/offices/godowns will be cleaned and reviewed today.
  • Piggy banks of kids will be broken tonight. And parents will have a hard time telling the kids why they cant wait for the kids bday
  •  Many would queue up at petrol pumps to get their cars tank-fulled.
  • People with blackmoney would already be approaching hospital owners and petrol pump owners to help them convert their black money into white.

Getting cash with lower denomination:

  • Ppl would queue up infront of ATMs for withdrawing Rs 400/- . Multiple times. Confirmed.
  • People would watch their cash spends like never before.

Moving away from cash:

  • Payment apps will see a sudden spike in downloads and activation over tonight tomm.
  • Wallets will be topped up. Card activation rates will show a sudden spike, esp on the debit cards
  • Uber and Ola will have a field day as autos & kaali-peeli wont be preferred. Pls expect surge pricing.
  • Most small merchants will see a dip in transactions next 2 days. They will teach themselves how to accept cards.

Banks & Payment Providers

  • Opportunistic Banks would send SMS & emails to customers to activate their debit, credit prepaid cards.
  • The CASA books will see a sudden increase as the rate of deposits will be higher and faster as compared to rate of withdrawals from the account. Few dormant savings accounts may become active.
  • Merchant acquiring teams will suddenly be seeing incoming pull business rather than push.
  • Jandhan account activation rates will be very high.

Ripple Effects

  • Like Future Group, many merchants will be open almost till midnight tonight. Grabbing whatever opportunity that exists in this situation.
  • Zomato & food ordering apps will see a growth in business. Their market share of each partner restaurants overall revenues will increase.
  • COD rules will now need to incorporate not just pincodes but the order amount too. COD may be suspended for the next 2/3 days.
  • Property deals would be on hold till the new norm of the market emerges. Or till enough of the new notes find their way into the parallel economy.
  • Odd jobs at home will be postponed. Big hit to the daily wages skilled earner. They would be forced to ask their clients to deposit money into their Jandhan accounts.

Funny Thoughts

  • Patanjali would need a new theme for their campaigns. Kaala-dhan (black money) story would just not fly
  • Marriage season gifting needs more innovative ideas. Envelopes don’t cut it any more.
  • How will the rich temple trusts manage the shift towards less-cash?

Big Data, medicine and Dr Gregory House

I am a big fan of House. BIG FAN !

I guess what I really like is the infectious curiosity of Dr Gregory House and the very extreme personalities of the characters at this clinic.

In my overly simplistic understanding of medicine, there are two parts to it – diagnosis and treatment.

And our Dr House excels at the former. He is able to connect the seemingly unrelated symptoms with behavioral patterns, genetic history and what not. And it is fascinating how the power of inference and hypotheses testing leads his team to find the true nature of what really inflicts the patients.

dr-gregory-house

What I wonder is that this might have been a super impressive set of scripts way back in 2004-2012 (yes the series is that old), but would it be as impressive in today’s age and time.

Experts say that Big Data or analytics is effective if the 3Vs are encouraging – volume, velocity and variety. In case of healthcare they talk about a 4th V – veracity or data accuracy.

Increasing number of our records are getting digitized – so the volume surely is exploding.

Wearables that track real time pulse, Blood pressure etc are already an expected norm. Patient specific information is definitely flowing at a very high velocity within the healthcare eco-systems.

Variety of data, might get addressed when data-sets from individual data-networks (like EMR co’s, hospitals, health insurers etc) are purged for confidential and individual data and insights shared on a common platform/network.

Given all these indicators, do you see a time when Big Data scientists will put a Dr Gregory House in every hospital that can afford such systems? The trick might be to find the best set of tests to conduct to confirm the existence of disease(s), and this is something that machine-taught algorithms can do nicely.

Would machine learning really help connect dots in the medical outliers?

Why are we becoming more insensitive

Are we really becoming more insensitive?

I usually have my breakfast at office and the TV in the cafeteria is typically tuned into some news channel. On quite a few days I end up watching “100 tez khabar” or something with a similar name on one of the Hindi news channel.

The other day it just hit me that I had been having my bfast without stopping for a moment, without battling an eyelid even when the news was showing stories about some murder and another accident where people lost their lives. I am not proud to say this, but I found that I was very low on compassion for the victims. I just could not relate to their pain. And I was shocked with myself.

I am not this insensitive.

Then why is it that I am unable to feel the pain of “others”.

How do we feel or experience emotions?

Over the past few years I have read a few essays and notes from some of the leading thinkers and scientists and it seems that our emotions are trigerred by some bio-chemical process typically initiated by specific glands. This was exactly what they said in Vipassana too.

What we feel, how we react is essentially some enzyme secretions.

So why are we becoming insensitive?

InsensitiveAs I looked to connect the dots, I came upon a hypothesis.

We are connected to more people now, which means more scenarios for us to have an emotional response. But our body has not evolved to handle this increased emotional stress.

Our generation is more connected than ever before. Thanks to Facebook, Mobile phones, Watsapp etc – we have made it easier than before for us to be connected to a larger group of people. We not only get regular updates from close friends and family, but we are also exposed to ups and downs in the lives of our old batchmates, colleagues etc.

And this in my opinion is where it all begins.

Do you really feel the joy of your school friend’s kid getting his yellow belt in Taekwondo. Maybe you do.

How about your ex-colleague’s buying the new iPhone?

Or the fact that your neighbor just checked into The Taj in Mumbai.

While we are now exposed to more triggers that expect an emotional response, our body’s capacity to handle it has not grown significantly.

If all emotionals have their origins in some gland or enzymes, there must be a limit to how much of that enzyme can be secreted. How much load can that gland handle. I am not a biology student but I think such drastic changes in capacity would need a mutation probably.

And that needs time.

While technology has changed our lives in last 7-8 years, our bodies need much much longer time to re-adjust to the new scenario.

So what does the body do if it cannot cope?

It tries to choose which ones to react to and which ones to ignore. I am not sure which part of us does this?

Is it a rational process driven by some specific areas in our brain?

I remember a study by Robin Dunbar where he laid out our social network in the form of 3 concentric circles. The inner most one consisting of close family and friends according to him can have a max of 5 people. The next one made up of people who we want to spend time with is limited to 15 people and so on. Very interesting if you note the limit he places on both the circles.

Could it be that this limit is due to our body’s constraint in generating an emotional response.

So my hypothesis is that when faced with a tsunami of updates, our body just cannot cope up and the way we adapt to it comes across as insensitive.

And if this is true, then one of the biggest negative impact of the social media revolution would be a fundamental erosion in human ties, coz the emotional depth would be missing.

So how do we cope?

I don’t know. But what I have started doing is reducing my exposure to updates (by blocking posts from people whom I can barely remember, by not watching or reading too many news updates, by choosing what I read for most part of the day).

For a digital enthusiast like me, this is tough, but I feel it needs to be done. Now.

Are commission based channels low on trust

In US car salesmen are amongst the least trusted professionals. On digging deeper one finds that they share these low rankings with advertising professionals, stockbrokers, insurance salesmen and surprisingly politicans too (Members of Congress, Senators and Governors). Have a look at the Gallup report summary below:

Gallup Sruvey Trusted Professionals

While there must be multiple reasons for people to trust certain professions and mis-trust few others, I am sure that the commission structure in a specific industry does lead to a low levels of trust.

My guess is that if consumers know that the middleman involved in the transaction could be motivated by goals that clash with theirs, they try and look at each conversation from the point of no trust.

Take for example, an online advertising agency which typically charges you 15% of what you spend on ad-networks. I remember, doing a detailed review with my agency and discovering that they were far away from optimization basis the Click-thrus and bid-rates. My first reaction was that this team is knowingly trying to jack-up the media spends and hence their cuts. It was some 3 hours later that I realized that they were not competent enough to make sense of the numbers and reports that the ad networks shared. Their intentions were ok !

Cars, stocks and insurance policies are all complex products with multiple features and specifications. This means that there is no single correct recommendation for any given customer. 

When the customer seeks the agent to play an advisory role (whether implicitly or explicitly) and the agent himself is paid the sales commissions, the mind starts playing scenarios. And in most of these scenarios, agent has either shortchanged or duped the customer.

 Look at the top spectrum of Gallup’s survey results. Doctors, Nurses, Engineers are all selling a service rather than a product. A doctor might give us any medicine but we feel its our symptoms/ailment that got cured. Doctor is not in the business of selling medicines but of curing.

And here’s an opportunity for the Financial Services industry – can we find a way to be percieved as selling services rather than pushing products and eating commissions.

Mobile Payments Security – concerns, issues, threats, models and measures

One of the biggest reason why cash has still reigned supreme for purchases is the percieved safety it brings. It limits the potential damage to the hard currency one is carrying in her wallet. For many late stage adopters of plastic payment systems, secuirty has been a concern. Same is happening right now for Mobile Payments.

Why is security a concern in Mobile Payments?

Any financial transaction involving out-flow of funds without over-the-counter transactions typically weighs heavily on consumer’s mind due to the risks involved. Mobile payments are no different.

The security concerns are aggravated in case of mobile payments, because the ancillary infrastructure is something that the consumer uses for many other purposes. And in many instances the consumer has seen a part of this infrastructure break. E.g. consumers would have experienced first hand their mobile phones conking off, or heard of virus attacks which erased or corrupted the phone’s memory. In contrast for debit or credit cards, the consumers would have rarely heard or experienced wire-tapping or cloning first hand.

Inflection point in Global mobile sales – Q2 2013

The latest Gartner Mobile sales reports are clearly saying one thing – the 2nd quarter of 2013 has been the inflection point in Global Mobile sales.

Smartphone sales data

  1. Feature phone sales were lower than Smart phone sales for the first time ever. This is big, as it is a sure sign of how mobile usage trends would look like. Mobile operators across the developing world must be cheering this report as it is a strong promise to them that the data-usage and hence non-voice revenues might increase. The gadget is no longer the bottleneck.
  2. Micorsoft Windows overtook Blackberry for the first time to be 3rd biggest Operating Source.
  3. Android is now almost 80% of new shipments (up from 64% last year) where as Symbian is down to o.3% from almost 6% last year. Symbian was what Nokia’s feature phones ran on.
  4. Lenovo is now the 4th largest Smartphone supplier and the 7th largest across all categories of mobiles. Interestingly, almost 95% of these sales are domestic sales within China. If Lenovo can crack the international markets, they would be a serious player to reckon.
  5. As expected Samsung took the biggest pie – 25% of overall mobile market and 32% of the smarphone market.
  6. While Apple saw an increase in its number of units shipped, it saw a serious drop in its average sales price. Mainly due to the heavy sales of its now-cheaper iPhone4 especially in markets like India. Many are saying that this is yet another reason why Apple might want to consider a low-price-iPhone.

Bell Curve and the Appraisal Process

Imagine that a football team needs a manager/coach, someone who can motivate the players and help them deliver much more than they ever imagined they could. Now imagine that a seasoned HR manager somehow lands this job, someone who has been a big fan of bell curves and the other smarts we have grown so used to while managing teams at workplace.

Would this new manager/coach go about tracking each player as per their performance on a balanced scorecard (hell if Moneyball is to be believed, he could optimize the success by handpicking the players with the right kind of stats)?

Would he go to the players at the end of the season and say, well you managed the mid-field really well but given that the center-forward and the goal-keeper had an amazing season, I am afraid I would not be able to mark you in the top category? You know, I have a bell curve to fit.

Would he still use a bell curve when the team comes up with a record winning streak. Would he still internally want to build a bell curve for the individual performances or would he be happy to see that maybe these individuals are now coming together as a team.

Football team managementIn a team where every guy has a different role to play, do you really want to track performances and benchmark it against the best in the field (across all other teams) or would you want to benchmark them against different players within the same team?

Also can a team with top players in their own leagues be the most successful team? Not really. Time and again we have seen dream-teams fail, not because the players were not giving their A game, but because all the A games still added up to a B or even C somehow.

Corporate performance appraisal processes incorporate this by giving a certain weightage to the team or division or the company’s performance. This is expected to factor in company’s performance and temper the ratings accordingly. But does it motivate the employees to deliver as a cohesive team?

I do see the difference between a football team and a corporate and maybe the smaller size of the football team helps and you need a “process” for a corporate so that the whims and fancies and biases of the individuals are minimized when it comes to rewards. Its easier for managers and employees alike to aspire for a “score” – a number on the rating grid that helps them know how they have performed. Its easier to compare performances within the team basis the score. Easier to justify the quantum of raise that each one gets.

But we miss one simple point.

There are times when a lot of high performers would be concentrated in one team. Say a rockstar senior in the company is asked to launch a new business and he is allowed to hand-pick his team. If he gets some of the other rockstars and they have an awesome run, do you imagine him telling his team that he needs to fit in a bell curve?

Mobile Money Facts and Figures

Opportunity Scale

  • 1.8 billion people globally have mobile phones but no bank acocunts (World Bank)

 

Success Stories/Adoption Figures

  • 20% of Kenya’s GDP moves on mPESA (2013)
  • 20 nations in the world where more than 10% of the population has used mobile money in the past year. 15 of those countries are in Africa (Global Financial Inclusion Database). Quoted in EY Mobile Money Report
  • Square’s Growth in terms of payments processed : 2012 – $10 billion a year, 2011 – $2 billion a year

Automobile recalls in Indian Market

May 2013: Updated  with the new Nissan Micra & Sunny recall data.

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Aug 2012: The recent and much covered recall of the Ford Figo, sparked a lunch debate  – which is the most re-called brand of car manufacturers?

We did some quick Googling and here’s what we could find out:

Manufacturer Brand Year/Month Issue # of Units
Nissan Micra/Sunny 2013/May Brake System 21,000+
Ford Figo 2012/Aug Steering & Suspension 120,000+
Maruti Swift 2012/May Petrol Leakage 100,000+
Toyota Etios/Liva 2011/Dec Faulty fuel inlet pipe 40,000
Honda City Sedan 2011/Sep Power Windows 71,000
Maruti Swift Dezire Diesel 2011/Apr Connecting Rod Bolt 13,000
Honda City Sedan 2011/Feb Valve Train Component 58,000
Fiat Punto 2010/Nov Faulty AC
Maruti A Star 2010/Feb Fuel Tank 100,000+
Honda City Sedan 2010/Jan Power Window Switch 8,000

Ford Figo. (09/23/09)
Disclaimers from our Googlers:

  • Does not include Global re-calls where Indian market was un-affected
  • Maruti recall numbers are way higher than the true impact on domestic market as some of these were global recalls.

So which is the most recalled brand? Maruti/Honda/Ford 🙂

Obsessing over finer details

I have heard way too many stories about how some of the most iconic brands were built by obsessing over details, by ensuring that the customer was kept at the center of it all.

And I am sure that this has over the years been documented, researched and made its way into the board rooms . Hopefully many a strategies revolve around better experience than the competition or incumbent.

McKinsey-Quarterly And with these assumptions in mind, I was kind of disturbed to see the world’s #1 consulting firm’s most distributed/visited inventory containing such non-friendly/un-intuitive form elements.

At McKinsey Quarterly, most articles can be read in their entirety after a user has logged in. Which means, that most people would use the login form (maybe excluding those where its remembered by the browser etc). Also since the repository of articles is so compelling am sure, many come to McKinsey Quarterly to search & re-search.

Why then do we see “undefined” in these two forms which are probably the most used interface on the site.

Also the text doesn’t disappear if one just clicks on the text box (the way it does for the “password” element) . You need to actually select all of “undefined” and then write your emild id or the search string.

Small issues you might say. But do remember Steve Jobs obsessed over the translucency of the glass and the packaging of each gadget Apple sold.

I have been seeing this for the last 5+ years. I thought maybe someone would notice, but I guess its upto me now to bring this to their attention.