Fortune at the top of the pyramid

I should make a product a lot of people will use, or better still, everyone will use “, answered the would be Entrepreneur.   This got me thinking and wondering.

As a person starting up , should you go broad or go narrow ?

When you are trying to please all, are you able to please all or disappoint all?

The biggest fortunes on earth have been made by people selling to top of pyramid or bottom ?

Apple, the most successful company ( Market cap U$ 826 Bn on 13 Feb 18)  is selling to 0.1% of top population  or to the bottom ?

Those frying Pakodas which serve the bottom 10% of population, are they likely to grow BIG?

Is Nike which makes shoes for the richest on top of pyramid  a more successful company or a Sri leather creating cheap footwear for masses at the bottom?

Its often misguiding to look at Facebook and say, here is one example where a product has been made for all. However, if you dig into history, you find that even Facebook was built only for Harvard campus male students at inception to let them ogle and lech at pretty faces  of girls on campus.


What are the challenges of starting up and looking for a large, diverse audience in the beginning  ?

  • Heterogeneous acceptance : For the same need, different humans have different quality, shape, color, experience, price at which people will accept
  • Very low HCF for positioning :  Different positioning of product appeal to different people and its impossible to create a  marketing message which appeals universally at start to everyone.
  • Huge customer acquisition cost and low profits:  When you are aiming wide, the messaging needs to travel very very wide and there is huge cost to just reaching an audience. Then comes the cardinal law that a normal user must hear good things about your product/ service from 7 different sources before she decides to give your service a try.  Its impossible to have a high NPS ( Net Promoter Score) in early stages. Being a mass product, the margins have to be kept low.

These principles can be well understood if you look at the philanthropic cause Ratan Tata took up to make Nano.  He target the bottom of pyramid, kept the margins low, thought a multitude of people will pick up this car for various reasons and did multiple bets on it ( Singoor, Gandhi nagar, integrated plant etc) .

Think about this. When a product backed by enormous financial muscle of Tata, despite a large market failed Nano as a product,  how far can a  mass aimed product from an entrepreneur travel?

So what should an entrepreneur do ?

Who am I to sermon the brilliant ?  Andrew Chen , the early investor of Facebook had once shared a hack.  If you are creating a digital product, do just this one thing :

a) Create a Google Adwords account and  run a search keyword tool. Now,  try to find the search volume using sentences normal people use to find your offering in the geography you are targeting.

If  ( Search volume is < Few millions )

Either the need for your offering doesnt exist or its too small to make your business viable.

One of the  better strategy is to look at a niche but rich homogeneous segment who are in a state of dislocation/ disturbance and are concentrated in one physical or digital location. Examples : New mothers in Grade X hospital, Fresh batch of students at College, Tourists arriving in peak season, Youth flocking to Game of Thrones 😉


What are the exceptions to this hypothesis where people targeting at bottom through fair means have survived and won the startup battle ?

Pied pipers on social media

Months before  DeModiapa (Demonetization) happened, I had written an article on Nibor Doohs ( Robin hood spelled reverse).  This post dealt with how the crooks actually rob the poor and reward the riches while fooling the poor.

While we do have deal with such political scoundrels and fraudsters, there is another class of people we deal with in position of eminence due to ancestral inheritance. We all know instances like is Rahul Ghandi , other such vermins like  Jay Shah, Jyotiraditya, Tejaswi Yadav, or Abhishek Bachchan.   These folks are often into prosperity by parental influence or by collusion with wicked politicians. Many a times, their endeavors are ill intentioned to drive the honest but stupid rats down the cliff just like a Pied piper.


For those who have not read Pied piper,  he was fictional hypnotic musician  hired by mayor of in Hamlin to cure the city of pestilent rats. He plays a flute tune which hypnotizes all the rats to follow him. He goes to the cliff and then drives the rats down in the sea to drowns and die.   Well, that was for a good human cause

Lets look at a Pied piper who drives innocent people to sea.  A scion from a business family, the Mahindras.  Sri Anand Mahindra, the Pied piper has approx 6 million twitter followers. Here is a tweet from him


Why am I calling him a Pied piper ?

Because, there are 2 interesting things in his tweet

  1.  Dancing on the pronouncement by a fraud and cheater organization named Moody’s  :  Why do I find it stupid ?   Moody’s is know to sell ratings for money. They have been penalized my European courts for lack of ethics and giving ratings on bribe. Please read this wikipedia article on various cases against them. Also read how Moody’s cheat and fraud ratings led to housing meltdown in USA here.
  2. Calling Bank Recapitalization as a reform :   This is a real case of sycophancy and misinformation combined. Lets decode what Banking recapitalization of 2.13 lakh crore of PSU banks meant.

PSU banks are managed by Govt appointees and on most occasions have money of people who are poor. This is because private banks do not go to villages and remote areas where they are not financially viable.  Once these banks amass money , political pressure makes the managers of these banks give large and often collateral free or risky loans to folks like,  and also to fraud business groups like   , Adani etc.

Why do the politicians pressurize bank manager ? 

Because these business folks either fund their election campaigns giving them black money or their luxury trips. No, the political parties like BJP are not expected to reveal their donors and the amount they get from them . No Aadhar or cashless transactions for their incomes.

Folks like Gadkari go to France and enjoy the luxury Yachts of Essar  folks. Anil ambani travels in Modi jets to click fraud Rafale deals..

What if the bank manager do not yield ?

They are transferred from their current postings in Bombay/Delhi to forsaken places Jhabuwa, Jhaad gram or Baliya where their wives may likely get raped or their children abducted.  Which Bank manager has the guts to offend these politicians ? Their replacement who come, comply and sanction loans.

Is it always political pressure ? 

Not always. Most of the PSU bank managers are corrupt and under a quid pro quo ( Mutual benefit or commission)  disburse bad loans to businesses.

What happens when these loans go bad ? 

These banks suffer losses, they have the NPAs ( Non performing assets as loans) , the losses shoot up. This affects their balance sheet. Their share prices go abysmally low. Their working capital dries up. They go down on verge of death or closure.  They need lakhs of Crores just to be alive.

What did Modi and Jaitley do in bank recapitalization? 

They took 2.13 lakh crores from our money i,e public exchequer ( All the TDS, GST, income tax, Excise and Service tax we and poor people pay).  They paid it to the banks as recapitalization.

This in net means :  Poor and middle class were robbed in 100s and 1000s and the corrupt PSU managers and cheater industrialists got reewarded in lakhs and crores. This is a deadly scandal running in lakhs of crores.

So, on the basis of this logic ,

Why do you think Pied piper Anand Mahindra is calling fraud by Modi,  i.e bank recapitalization as REFORM !!!!  ? 

 Please leave your views in comments 

Curious cases of trimmed beard crooks

A tight slap landed on the cheek of my elder cousin. It was my grandfather’s solid right hand with a 120 degree swing. He was all rage when he looked at him. An imprint of 5 fingers appeared on his cheek which was stylized like this



My cousin had just returned from a barber shop after getting his beard stylized and trimmed. I couldn’t fathom the reason for my grandpa’s raze and I didn’t have courage to ask him the reason for the assault.  The cousin went back to the barber shop and asked him to shave off his beard, leaving a clean trimmed mooches.

The question bugged me for days. I wondered about the extreme vexation of my grandfather but couldn’t reason it out .

On a happy day when he was in a playful mood, I asked him about the incident.  He told me that it was apa sanskriti( blasphemy) to keep a beard like that. Its not part of our ethos. I asked why. He said its against Hindu culture to trim and keep a beard like that. Either you let it grow naturally or you cut it off.  Only cheats manipulate it and keep it like that (trimmed) . As an upright Hindu, either you are clean shaven or keep a mouche or a beard in its natural state. He cited Tagore, Vashisht, Aurobindo as having natural untrimmed beard. Never trim it like an ugly crook if you have a character

He further showed me all the scriptures and books in his collection. From Vishnu, to Shiva to Indra to Ram to Yudhisthira to Parashuram to Ashoka to Chandaragupta, to Prithviraj to Rana Pratap to Shivaji to Chandrashekhar azaad to Bhagat Singh to Subhash Bose to Lal Bahadur Shastri . He said no man worth his character, ever kept a trimmed beard. As per him, it was a sign of a lout, a traitor or a treacherous jackal/wolf

I jogged my memory hard and was trying to find one icon who was adorable Hindu and kept a trimmed beard but couldn’t find even one. Some of the most repulsive characters in history books were shown to have trimmed beard and they included Alauddin Khilji and Shaista Khan. I finally gave up and accepted it as my grandfather’s hypothesis or pseudo science. A trimmed beard has little to do with misconduct.

Later in my life, my father got cheated by 2 folks and as matter of coincidence both of them had trimmed beard. I am curious if there ever has been a righteous Hindu who kept trimmed beard. As a rationalist, I do not see strong correlation between treachery and trimmed beard .

I  now realize that there is a filmstar who keeps a trimmed beard who owns a fleet of Mercs but cheats the govts by claiming that he is a farmer. He siphons of money from India to Panama and launders money big time. He has his name on paradise papers.

I know of a  liquor baron who has trimmed beard . He looted Indian banks and was nudged to fly away with 7 suit cases before he could be arrested. He has been a traitor and cheat of highest order.

I still believe that there may be very loose correlation between being  a Hindu male with trimmed bear and being a fraudster or a cheat. I have seen , only from a distance, a   trimmed stylized bearded politician  making ass of a billion Indians. He  has been selling   hallucinations of Achchhe din  and just making ass of a billion Indians.


Apple’s usability and information architecture blunders?

I was on the 7th km of my run when, suddenly the left speaker of my Bluetooth headset went almost inaudible.  I tried to adjust volume and on headset and on my iPhone but nothing worked. I just hated this predicament.

Just 15 days ago, I had got my headset replaced because the left speaker of my headset had died.  It was a pain arguing with Reliance retail that it was their responsibility to get the headset replaced. I didn’t want to argue with those dolts again.

I was contemplating buying a new Bose headset or a Samsung Active but suddenly on a footpath I saw a person selling A copy of Sony headset ( An A copy is a Chinese term which represents that the counterfeit item has same BoM as the original product).  I tried that headset but again the sound on left ear was low. He offered to let me try the LG one and once again the left sound was low.  The seller guessed that the damage may be in internal socket of my iPhone but I disagreed. The socket damage won’t affect the Bluetooth headsets.


I was sure by now that this was the speaker balance system problem. I came back and checked my iPhone settings.  I went to sound settings and saw nothing which could tell me how to fix left and right balance problem.


  I concluded that there was no balance setting and was wondering how to fix this problem. I tried almost all other settings tabs and found it nowhere.


This was the time, I shared this problem with my wife.  She being an avid programmer asked me whether I googled this problem.  I said, “NO! Why for such simple stupid things I should Google”. She nevertheless did and told me that this setting exists deep down in the “ACCESSIBILITY” settings tab. I exclaimed #WTF, why on earth will any designer or an Information Architect burry a simple Left –right sound balance deep under accessibility?  To my dismay it was there.  It’s one of the biggest usability and IA blunder from Apple.

Accessibility L R

Why do I think Apple made avoidable blunder?


Let’s look at the stated goals of Information Architecture   by its world body:

A good IA helps people to understand their surroundings and find what they’re looking for – in the real world as well as online



This is where the designers at Apple failed.


What could they have done differently?


Use Information Architecture synthesis technique like card sorting ( ). With this they could have figured out where most humans would look for when they try to adjust the left –right settings. The most appropriate method for this could have been closed cart sorting as top level grouping for this already is Setting > Sound

What could we as individuals learn from Apple’s blunder?


The decisions like navigation and placement of important control should not be left to the gut feel of inarticulate designers. There are proper techniques to make such decisions which make the OS or application more usable and intuitive to use.


If you are trying to discover where your application sucks in terms of usability or Ux , do get in touch with me.

Philips- Death of a brand : Why I will never buy its product ever and you also should not

I bought my first music system 27 yrs ago in 1990. It was a Philips Stereo set DR 481. It was special because when every other music system was making 8 to 12 W, this was a 32W power house which could blare mind boggling sounds of Oye- Oye, Jumma or Hawa hawa with panache. It looked something better than this


PhilipsStero set  After the initial glee was over, I found that the songs started crying.  I figured out that the rubber belt Philips used to couple the motor with cassette driver had gone loose. After the first repair, I figured out how service the set myself. I could notice that Philips with all its glamour had poor attention to reliability of its components.

I moved out of Calcutta city in 1994 and thereafter, I just had some small emotional weakness for this brand. In the economically emaciated state of Bengal, Philips was the only international brand manufacturing. The only other brand was Britannia. I held a belief that I must support the economy and jobs of my state by buying their products.


In 2004, I got married and some of the friends gifted us a 800 watt Philips audio system. As usual it delivered good sound for few months and then

  • The cassette player stopped working. I took it to Philips authorized center . They charged Rs 1000/= for repair which worked only for 15 days
  • The CD player stopped reading CDs in another few months.
  • The remote failed in an year and
  • The physical buttons on the system are a pain to operate.

Fast forward to 2016, I was looking to buy an LED tv for my parents’ room.  I had considered Samsung, Sony, and Haier and suddenly the shopkeeper started pushing a Philips model.  I was not sure that I should. Philips in electronics had become an obsolete brand and no one would trust them to deliver reliable products in the age of Chaebol (Samsung, LG) and other global products.  The regional head of Philips was in the shop and he tried to convince that I should bet on the TV set. However, the arguments he made were not convincing. I decided to buy a more trusted Samsung for a higher price.

April this year, I was flying out to Minneapolis, USA for a critical business assignment and I had an irrepressible need to buy a sport Bluetooth headset.  The wired headset which came with my iPhone 6s+ were hopeless. I spent more time putting back into my ears than focusing on my runs (8 to 10K every day).  I went to a Reliance mart and suddenly saw a Philips sports headset (SHQ6500).


With black and fluorescent green it reflected good European design.  I checked the price tag of  Rs 3000 and it appeared reasonable.  After some thought, I decided to buy it oblivious that it will give me nightmares.

First few days, it served well as it paired well with my iPhone instantly and the quality of music was good. The frustrations of dealing with a bad product was just about to begin.

  1. If it paired with iPhone, it didn’t pair with my iPod touch
  2. If I tried to pair it with my iPod, after 10s of install, uninstalls, it won’t pair with my iPhone.
  3. If it got detected on iPhone, it will not pair with my Windows 10 Dell notebook or with my Mac Mini.
  4. I started having low expectations from the product and started using it exclusively with my iPhone. I felt cheated. Bluetooth pairing with eligible devices is not a rocket science.
  5. Suddenly in the third month, during a workout, I heard a lot of white noise on the left speaker and it became persistent. After a day or so, the left speaker was dead.
  6. I went to Reliance store and asked for replacement. They argued with me for 3 hrs on why it’s none of their responsibility to replace the headphone. I argued strongly and finally, they agreed to work with Philips to replace it.
  7. For a month and half, I was without a headset and finally a replacement came.
  8. I was happy for few days as my jogging routine resumed.
  9. Few days into usage, I suddenly realized that the sound on left speaker disappeared. There is nothing I can do for it.  I do not have energy to go all the way to Phillips service center in Bangalore.  The cost of my 2 hrs is more than the cost of headset. I can’t even throw this piece out…
  10. The only thing I can do it: Resolve never to buy a Philips product again and urge each one of you to never buy a Philips product. The frustration of following up is not just worth it.


Conclusion: In this age,

a. Do not ever buy a product from a manufacturer who is not in Top 3 of its category.

b, Read blogs about a durable product before buying it. Getting after sales services is a pain and not worth in a traffic nightmare city like Bangalore.


Nation of stupids

Who do you have your national rivalry with ? ” I asked the tall Dutch man at our first dinner outing in Amsterdam. He almost looked like Tom Cruise ( Somewhat like this image)

I was expecting something to the tune of our angst against Pakistanis, but the reason he gave, shocked me. ” Belgians“, he immediately responded.
Belgians are stupid ” he said and gave no further elaboration.

Next afternoon, I met Mabeen, a 5’11” Dutch project manager who was wearing almost 4″  stiletto.  She, I heard was a fencing pro. A modern version of this lady


I do not remember the context
but I do remember she telling a joke . It ended with she lolling ” Belgians are stupid. ”

I recall that later in the night, our customer had arrived.  He was a Belgian. He didn’t have demeanor of a a suave person.  Our conversations veered over Amstel beer and cheese and there was a point where he exclaimed , ” The Dutch think , we are stupids

I was still wondering if a nation can be collectively stupid.

Few months passed. I was at SAP campus for a meeting of Ux( User Experience) leaders in Bangalore. The conversation was on – ” What can be a particular India Ux strategy? What is it which works no where in world but works in India?”

I heard something very interesting and here it is –

Indians are stupid. You ask them their cell phone number for anything and they provide it without even thinking “.

On the way back, I stepped into a general store More. I saw a man , approx 25, buying a chocolate. The counter guy asked for his mobile number.

98*** ***** “,  was the sound I heard.

Naturalist bows down

Continues from my last post 

My body has been medicine free for last 40 yrs “ boasted my father, while taking a sharp breath sounding like shoo, as the doctor injected the needle on his bum.

I have inherited this trait from my father. For the last few years ( 5+), I have gulped no medicine . Even when there was a 1.5 inch diameter wound on my knee, I trusted keeping it clean and open to facilitate natural self healing.  This time, however was different, a frozen spine and only 2 days left to fly. I had a choice to stick to my values or do something artificial to get going.  I tried various stretches, lying on the floor.  Pulling my knees towards the chest, on the same side and then other side. Crossing my ankle on other knee and pulling the knee again. Keeping the knees such that they made a triangle with ground and then twisting them side by side (Just as women do after child birth to get rid of belly fat). I tried touching my toes while feet outstretched but the gulf had grown to a feet plus. I just couldn’t do it. None of these could make me sit without pain.  Having tried balms, lotions, hot water bottle and cold pack, I finally decided to go and seek medical help.


The orthopedic did his routine check and found no evidence of bone injury and concluded that it was muscular. I was ushered into a room of a physio therapist. She was a petite, young beauty, well built, muscular but this was no time to appreciate or revel in it.  She sensed the trauma I was in and made me lie face down.  As she rubbed electrolyte at various places on my back and attached electrodes, I told her of my plan of glacial trek. I requested her to do whatever in her control to ameliorate. I was not giving up on this trip. As she increased the impedance of the machine, the electrodes started oscillating at manic frequency. I shrieked in pain, as those impulse sent all my back muscles from behind my lungs to bums in a frenzy. Those electric impulses hit me like a storm. She stopped increasing the intensity. Here, I was undergoing heavy impulse vibrations on all my muscles which had pain trapped somewhere in them.

You will have to get it 3 times today and tomorrow and gulp these anti-inflammatory tablets to get anywhere even close to travel.  I was in a meek surrender and agreed to do whatever it takes.  Next 2 days were spent oscillating between home and physio therapy center. The medicines did their own thing. At end of the day 2 , she examined my back . I had healed completely and was cleared to take off.

I was on my way to solo travel to mystic Himalayas, totally happy of having gone beyond my basic belief to do a pragmatic thing.