Saturday, November 05, 2011

Aakash is the limit

Aakash - the sky in Hindi, is the name of the new andriod power low cost tablet built by DataWind. It is supposed to be cheapest in the world at $35. Aakash has Wifi connectivity, GPRS access point and USB ports. Most importantly the tablet has the blessings of the Government of India. There are talks of the device being made available in schools and colleges across the country. There have been lots of comments and review about the device in the media, people have rubbished the minister who launched the product and have generally relegated the tablet to the thrash bin.

For any technology product to become ubiquitous it needs to have universal acceptance which means that it has to be in the hands of the common man who is NOT digitally savvy.  The last time something like this happened was when mobile telephony came into India. It is not uncommon for the lowest denominator on the street to have a prepaid connection and use the cell phone ( assembled in China ) and consume content.

The government has made a good start by earmarking a bulk of the tablets for school kids. My point is that there is hope on two fronts:
  1. The dismal education system in India needs a boost and the tablet can do that by making technology, internet and content available to the kids who have to otherwise wait till they get to the college levels to have access. Self learn modules using the touch screen would let the children explore the topics they want from their syllabus and around them. This would mean that there can be teacher less classrooms and a uniform quality of knowledge that gets imparted.
  2. Eventually the tablet screen can become personal infotainment option leading to the broadcaster directly being able to talk to the audience without the interference of the middle men. It creates a new dynamic two way relationship which only a true consumer friendly organisation would understand.
It is not going to be easy to get the first point going, with mutiple languages and cultural biases, it is a complex situation. But not impossible. There are several experiments in the past like the 'hole in the wall' project by NIIT's Sugata Mitra that have shown that if given a free hand the children from varied backgrounds can evolve into expert users even when they do not have a clue about the tech behind the device. The kids are not scared of experimenting like us adults and learn very quickly. Now think what is possible with self learn modules being provided via a wifi or a USB drive to the government sponsored tablet. In ten years we might actually have a whole generation of free thinkers instead of the 'rote learning' mass produce that the school system churns out every year. The returns of the investment will be its weight in gold. The problem is that there are too few who are focussing on this area. Most investment in education in India is aimed at the moneyed top end of the market while the middle India languishes with indifference. And this creation of solutions cannot be based on the aided models - those are normally shoddy and lack definitive edge that paid models have. Maybe the solution lies in creating something that is funded by media or ad funded. I am not sure at this point what that model is, I lack the imagination of a startup in this space, but logic makes me think it is possible.

An educated market is far ahead of a semi literate or illiterate market. The aspirations of the people who are aware are more aggressive than that of those that live closeted. The market that would get created by the Aakash tablet is likely to drive consumption far beyond what we can imagine. The sectors impacted would most probably be banking, ecommerce and entertainment. Imagine a 5 million market base that has access to this tablet, to education and then imagine what it would be to communicate with them in their language. The only way this can happen is if there is a paradigm shift in ad spends in India. And not for the luxury car segment but for day to day use fast moving, small pack size items - soaps, toothpaste, oils, masalas, banking services. I get a feeling that this new medium would be the equivalent of the wall painted ads that one sees across rural and semi urban India.

If I were the deciding factor on the business side of things at a broadcaster ( I work for a broadcaster!!!), I would try to get out there and embed apps that provide my content to this market that has access to the tablet on an ad funded model. Short format meaningful 3 minute episodes that can be created out of the existing soaps on TV or source content / create content for this category. Trust me when I say this - there are enough people out there who watch videos on their mobile phone using the crappy 2G connections using youtube or aggregators like Vuclip.

There will always be a savvy English speaking, willing to pay top rupee for subscription model in India for quality content. A tablet like Aakash can change the equation drastically. Hopefully there are enough of us to start preparing for the massive tsunami coming our way.

    Thursday, November 03, 2011

    Exploring Chit Funds

    This Diwali, my father in law finally decided to take me seriously.  He wanted to discuss a new business he was planning on investing into - a chit fund as a major promoter of the business. I was a bit surprised at the nature of business, because for me chit funds were what women did at kitty parties. It was the investment method of choice for hundreds of Gulf widows in Kerala. They joined 'chitties' with small amounts saved from the money sent to them by their expat husbands from the deserts of Arabia and bought flashy appliances and gold with the money they saved or paid dowry for their daughters.

    In her working paper for Institute for Financial Management and Research, Small Enterprise Finance Centre, Preeti Rao classifies Chit funds as the Indian equivalent of the Rotating Savings and Credit Associations
    (ROSCA) that are famous throughout the world. ROSCAs are a means to ’save and borrow’ at the same time. It is considered one of the best instruments to cater to the needs of the poor.

    According to her paper the concept of chit funds originated more than 1000 years ago.2 Initially it was in the
    form of an informal association of traders and households within communities, wherein the members contributed some money in return for an accumulated sum at the end of the tenure. Participation in chit funds were mainly for the purpose of purchasing some property or, in other words, for ’consumption’ purposes.

    She explains that a chit scheme generally has a predetermined value and duration. Each scheme admits a particular number of members (generally equal to the duration of the scheme), who contribute a certain sum of money every month (or everyday) to the ’pot’. The ’pot’ is then auctioned out every month. The highest bidder (also known as the prized subscriber) wins the ’pot’ for that month. The bid amount is also called the ’discount’ and the prized subscriber wins the sum of money equal to the chit value less the discount. The discount money is then distributed among the rest of the members (or the non-prized subscribers)
    as ’dividend’ and in the subsequent month, the required contribution is brought down by the amount of dividend.

    To illustrate the above, let us take the example of a chit scheme with the following characteristics. Chit Value = Rs.500000, Duration = 50 months and Members = 50. The contribution in this case would be initially Rs.10000 per month per member. In the first month, the collection would, therefore, be Rs.10000 multiplied by the number of members i.e. Rs.500000. This amount is called the ’pot’ which is auctioned out at the end of the month. Now let us assume that the highest bid in the first month auction is Rs.100000. This is called the ’discount’. The highest bidder now gets the amount equal to the chit value, Rs.500000, less the discount, Rs.100000, i.e. Rs.400000. The discount amount of Rs.100000 is then divided among the other 49 members equally (the dividend for the 49 members work out to roughly Rs.2040 each). For the subsequent month, therefore, the contribution of these members reduces by the amount of dividend (i.e. the contribution in the second month for the 49 members would be Rs.10000 less Rs.2040 which is equal to Rs.7960). This process gets repeated for all months till the end of the scheme.

    My father in law thinks that there is a need for a Chit Fund that caters to the huge very small enterprise sector. MIDC Bhosari is home to almost 100000 plus such fabrication and job work establishments which do not qualify for institutionalised support in the form of loans or line of credit. My maternal uncle is one such fabrication shop owner who over the last 25 years has done well to establish a series of 'factories' all over Pune district. He says when he started, it was difficult to get a loan and the only way to buy equipment was to join a chit fund and bid for the 'pot' right at the begining and repay it over a 12 to 24 month period. To date there are small operators who run unauthorised chit funds. Many are fly by night operators and people get conned into losing small sums that they invest.

    The reputation of the chit fund depends on the ability of the person managing the business. While there have been large organisations like Peerless and Sahara in India which have run chit funds and have used the money to spin themselves into multi crore companies, it is the small fly by night operators that have given the business a bad name. The personal integrity of the team and the adherence to systems and timely audits are the key to the success. The new chit fund that is being proposed is supposed to be a private limited company with some big names in Pune as promoters, a good audit firm on board and a desire to follow the rules.

    The economics of the business are sound. When they reach 10000 members who participate with an average of Rs 2000 per month they expect to start making money. They plan to expand into other industrial cities which have similar needs.

    The second market they plan to target are the women who want to save but do not get good return due to low rates on FDs and do not have the knowledge to explore other options. These women use the chit fund route to fund their immediate needs and sometimes to support small home based businesses to suppliment their home expenses. A market that RangDe has been successful with.

    I was expected to look at the business plan and suggest changes and whether something like this can attract an investor. My honest answer was that I am not sure. I see not differentiator to allow the business to scale up. The business is very locality based and cannot reach a large audience without legs on the ground. To scale up the investments are very large. Having said as much, it potential is mind boggling. Back of the envelop calculations say that they can be profitable within a year of operation in Pune itself. If they use technology - internet and mobile to make payments easy, the target market can move from the lower end to bigger ticket customers. The entire middle east is open to a tech savvy option where the tech savvy Indian can log into and invest without having to involve money transfer and impossible to verify operators.

    A few friends on Twitter called Chit Funds a form of Ponzi scheme. My take is that any money related scheme can turn into a Ponzi scheme, there are enough respectable businesses that one reads of who inflate valuations for an IPO and then go bust within few months of the gulliable retail customer investing their saving in the scrips. Fiscal discipline and the ability to play a neutral and honest role in the management team is important. But then this applies to any business.

    I will update this blogpost as the business matures, not because I have anything to gain from this venture but because I feel that ventures of this kind if run well have the ability to bring about crucial social change by making capital available when one needs it.

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Fortune at the bottom of the mobile phone user pyramid


    There is this young man who works for the apartment block I live in as its security guard.  Like most security guards in Mumbai, he has a uniform and lives mostly in the small cabin housing the water pump, using the toilet built for the help who work in the 32 flats in the building. It is not as bad as many might think; it is much more than what people like this young man get in Mumbai with its sprawling slums and forgotten poverty.  Most late evenings when I return home from work, he is seated on his plastic chair, holding fort, listening to old Hindi songs on All India Radio’s local channel via his mobile.  Like many users that comprise the supposed 850 million mobile phone users in India, this man buys talk time at Rs 50, a onetime charge per week – he uses it to call the building manager, the water tank which delivers water to the building when the Municipal water fails and to call back home in Nepal once a week. He gets Rs 30 as reimbursement from the building management.  I asked him if he uses value added services (VAS) like music downloads, ringtones, or videos.  He explained that at one time he would do it, but now does not because it drains the Rs 50 within 3 days instead of the week that it is supposed to last. 

    Most of the Indian mobile phone user falls into this category of people who are users of the service but cannot afford more than the basic voice call service.  Sure there are students and a large body of population that is on prepaid and can afford VAS, am sure the ratio between this population and the one like my security guard is overwhelmingly in favour of those who do not use VAS because they don’t want to spend precious rupees on entertainment.

    These are the people who despite their limitation buy soap, shampoo, oil, and aspire to buy clothes from a proper shop. This is the population that is catered to by the kirana corner shops in all urban and rural India.  These are the very same people who are targeted by outreach programs run by global MNCs like Unilever, P&G, Airtel, Reliance and so many more. It is a huge and potentially the fastest growing market in the world.
    I wonder why this market is not targeted by the broadcasters in India. It is a very identifiable media that goes beyond the TV screen and extends itself by making the media free to use or in media parlance – ad funded.  Am sure the millions mobile phone users would be happy to consume this content, like they do on TV, without needing to pay any money or very little money (market intelligence says that most cable operators charge around Rs 50 – Rs 100 for unlimited channels, this leakage is one of the reasons that broadcasters continuously look at owning distribution, and to my knowledge they – the broadcasters are losing the game.) Am sure that every advertising brand catering to this mass would get wet dreams on the possibilities that exist here.  The big question is, why is no one doing this yet?

    The answer lies in the non-existent ecosystem: TelCos see no value in ad funded VAS – they cannot make money selling the services at exorbitant revenue shares and prices. The media buyers have no way to measure effectiveness of their ads on this free model and so it remains a largely ignored area while they keep selling really expensive TV and print campaigns.  The advertisers do not want to experiment beyond the safe cookie cutter plans which have been recycled for the last 15 years.  And finally the old excuse that high end phones are simply not there in enough markets numbers. My counter is that even if 5% of the existing mobile phone users are using phones capable of supporting some form of entertainment, the numbers are larger than the audiences of most TV channels in the country. 

    Lets tackle the last issue first, lack of phones capable of playing entertainment defined as music and videos: we must be kidding ourselves, any self respecting cell phone owner, however low end his phone is has the ability to play music on this phone, and a sizable (my guesstimate is 70%) have a way to watch video! These phones are not manufactured by the big names but by the numerous brands that have come up in the last few years.  If one works closely with all these cell phone handset brands, it would be easy to pre burn apps that are easily accessible, just give them a part of the revenue ( a small part nevertheless) for the platform they provide for the service.  The second issue is that of lack of connectivity to the internet which is easily addressable by focusing on voice driven entertainment. The same user will progress naturally to the next level of getting GPRS services active if the Telcos reduce or do away with the access charges by subsiding it with the ad revenue that they would earn.  Which brings us to the cost of content – an initiative can be only by a large broadcaster or a content owner who has the depth to wait for a couple of years to get the mass audience required making business sense. What I am proposing cannot be done by a startup that is normally pushed against the wall to prove business models and bring in revenue from month 6 into the business.
    My suggestion is that a broadcaster should look at the latent potential of the huge audience, work with the media buying fraternity to build business cases and business models across voice and video on mobile phones, coordinating with TelCos and manufacturers to build a strong ecosystem that’s self sustaining in 18 – 24 months of operations. 

    The market in India is no doubt maturing at a blistering pace; the new frontiers are Africa and South America which are slowly becoming hotspots for mobile operators and television broadcasters.  Over the next 5 years I expect that by allowing consumers to access their entertainment on their mobiles without making them pay for it will earn more money than business models that truncate the consumer base, simply because your consumer who is likely to buy essentials for his day to day life has very little money for entertainment.  If you don’t give it to him, he will find a way to get it without paying for it.

    Having said all of the above, there is a large market even then for a paid service that is ad free for people like me, who do not mind spending for content that they want and can choose. 

    Both models are sound. If you still want to hit me with a brick please comment here on the blog or follow me on twitter @spuriousmallu

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    The Quora Bandwagon.


    I have been using Facebook for a long time to keep upto date with all the cool stuff that we marketers get excited about. Of the 465 (as of last count) people on my friends list, a majority are from the media, advertising and social media space and between them post enough to give me an idea of whats going on around my connected universe.  So when a curious ‘Q’ started appearing like a rash on Facebook it perked me up like nothing before. I discovered the great www.Scobelizer.com  cat fight (those who follow tech and media will know what that means)  and the many versions of what actually Quora does online. I must confess, I have been on the tool for around a week and am no where close to using it to its fullest potential. But here is a list of this that one can do with Quora - These are things that have come from random searches and cannot be attributed to any one article or source. Some of it have been discovered in the last one week.
    Quora can be used for marketing or for self promotion. It is rather easy – set up your ‘bio’ for all the topics that you know about – in effect you can choose from hundreds of topics you think you know and then interlink it to websites and so on. You can ask questions anonymously for topics or search for questions related to your areas of interest and follow them.  You can also answer some of the questions that you have genuine answers about them or pretend you have an answer. The correct relevant answers are quick to rise to the top and your reputation is based on how many times you have risen to the top of the heap.  Quora allows all kinds of questions to be asked – suppose I wanted to know more about the Kizashi from Maruti, I can look for a question relating to the same and then follow the question for as long as I want. Consider that Google made huge moneys on the intentions of people by placing ads when they were looking for information relating to a topic, Quora has a potential to have advertising in some new innovative form placed along side questions and answers. In case that does not happen, very soon we will have brands creating questions and answers and then reach out to people who follow these – logic being that these people are interested in the topic or the product to which the question is linked.  It is also possible that you will get all kinds of information about a product or a company from the people who have been linked with the company or brand in the past. Quora can then become a great research tool.

    www.Mashable.com recently had a great article suggesting that people use Quora for job related searches.  The easiest ways to attract people who are looking at talent in specific areas is to show up as the expert with you answers.  You could also follow the people who matter and their topics and once in a while when you know what you are saying can answer a question to a topic and create a following. When that HR guy comes looking for a relevant position you will feature as an expert.  What is important about Quora is that it will never be able to solve your problem at any instant but over a period of time it can be used as a sounding board for ideas. It is great in finding the collective intelligence of the masses to any problem and like any solution to a problem it will take time for the answers to give results.  Small businesses and startups and eventually anyone in the world should be able to get answers to issues that are relevant to your life. In the last few days itself I have found people getting answers to natural child birth to parenting to marital issues on the site. In time this single system has the potential to give Google a run for its money in the race for being the knowledge repository of the human race.

    Trust me when I say this – the site will become mainstream sooner than what is predicted. If Google became mainstream in 7 years and facebook in 4, twitter in 2, I would assume that given that everyone is connected more than ever before, Quora will be mainstream in 18 months. It will grow at a pace that will encompass facebook, twitter and Wikipedia.

    What I am truly worried about is the pressures the team will face from the people who have backed the venture to create a revenue mode and the propensity of the social media experts to milk everything as a tool for shameless peddling of goods and services.

    This article first appeared on trak.in

    Wednesday, February 02, 2011

    Television Viewing Audience - Three generations

    The Past

    Back in 1982 just after the Asian Games, my dad decided that it was time for us kids to have a TV set. We got for us a Crown Black & White TV, that evening we played host to our entire community of neighbours. It was fun, mom made snacks for everyone, when that got over, people got their own dabbas. Slowly the entire neighbourhood got their own TVs. Over a 3 year period television viewing in my neighbourhood went from being a community experience where people commented, hooted, whistled, laughed, cried, poked to a more private experience – atleast we could eat dinner without the entire neighbourhood being witness to the event.
    black-and-white-tvINdia
    Television became the centre point of our family lives. The Saturday, Sunday movies and the film songs and the stray English serials were all mish-mashed into one government run channel and served hot. The family that watched TV together, commented, and laughed together it seemed stayed together. It was the time when intimate scenes required the younger lot to get out of the room to get a glass of water or take a loo break ( how can you watch the ‘hot’ scene when your parents were around).
    Eventually we moved to a colour tv set and then we had two sets – one for me and my sister and one for the rest of the family. TV watching became selective and personal. Your family did not define what you watched, your sister and you compromised on what each wanted to watch. From being largely driven by what was available on one channel to the VCR to the cable Tv change was inevitable. Advertising funded programming started created aspirations and fuelled a generation of people to move from socialist India to the new bold consumerism.

    The present

    Over the ten year period from 1982 to 1992 advertising funded television in India with generous dose of government subsidy. The first Gulf War brought a sexy new avatar of television to India via the cable and satellite model and it changed the way people perceived competition. Over 200 TV channels later, a incomplete model of monitoring and measuring exists which does not take into consideration the real audience but relies on approximations and adjustments.
    Sir Martin Sorrell – the high priest of media and advertising recently forecast two paces of advertising growth: rapid growth in digital media and slow growth in traditional media. He adds that TV has the opportunity to be part of the digital future, but the industry needs to evolve if it is to compete effectively. The model that has underpinned the ad industry for the past 50 years won’t safeguard it for ever.
    Viewing habits are changing already; high-value consumers – people like you and me watch less TV and are even less predictable in what we watch. Channel V and MTV have reported that most of their audience is no longer in front of the TV sets. The youth has their world has fit into their pockets through a plethora of devices which are convenient to use and play with. Their audience is their larger social network. They connect and share and comment much like what my neighbors did in the real world in the 1980s.
    The demands for content is much different from what used to be default broadcast standard fare. It is now personalized and each one has a take on what their needs are. The more mature audience is moving to their portable devices, their carry along entertainment streamed live or available when they want in sizes they want.
    No one has worked out how TV will be funded in the future. Content delivery via broadband is a reality and more homes will eventually have broadband than satellite. The eventual rollout of 4G services will make bandwidth available on a tap at prices that will make it as low as the cost for cable tv or a DTH service.
    With more and more choices, on demand and otherwise. The ability of shifting time and device seamlessly will mean that the audience could be anywhere. The consequence is further fragmentation. Yet the ad industry has not resolved how to attach commercial messages in an unregulated market and make it accountable. While the digital audience is connected and trackable.
    The question then is how are we in advertising media measuring the audience? Are we still talking about the television audience or are we factoring in the audience that’s consuming content wherever they are. Are we still talking about a primetime and hence the premium rates for ad inventory or are we talking prime content? And hence prime audience attached to that prime content. Will we be measuring the audience on the basis of the interactions they have done on a piece of content – the number of times they shared, commented etc or on the basis of what a people meter told us.
    These are going to be interesting times and for an industry that has not evolved in the last 20 years in India from a cookie cutter model, we might see a lot of shake up happen. The ones that realize and change their game plan will be the ones that will survive and have an audience that brings value.
    Thoughts welcome…

    ( this blog post appeared first on Trak.inhttp://trak.in/tags/business/2011/02/01/television-viewing-audience/)

    Thursday, December 02, 2010

    Groupon deal – Google 1 : Facebook 0

    This column first appeared in Trak.in on 24 November 2010


    The deal has not yet been announced, but like any Google acquisition this one is making waves on the in the media. Before we analyse the implications of this deal lets understand the players in the arena:
    google-groupon

    Google:

    A media company that enables consumers to get content in various forms for free through its products like internet and mobile search, email, maps, videos, and so on in exchange for relevant advertising placed alongside the content. Google makes money only when consumers click on the ads while consuming the content. Increasingly, the company seems to be losing traction to communities on the net where consumers want to hang around.

    Groupon:

    A marketplace that allows local businesses to offer huge discounted deals to groups of people who buy them online. It makes sense to the local businesses because Groupon sends people their way who otherwise would not have bought anything in the first place.

    Facebook:

    A social [^] networking [^] platform where people hangout to get connected to their personal, social and work circles. The platform allows people to share comment and in effect influence each other’s decisions on a wide range of subject. In other words Facebook is a media platform that allows advertisers to map their products to the needs of their consumers using the trending of the consumer’s social graph of needs. Facebook launched FB Places and FB Deals a few weeks ago – this has the potential to become a platform where local advertisers can place ads based on the consumer’s physical local presence.
    Ok then, these three hugely valuable companies are the players in the media / advertising space. Google’s dominance is being threatened by the stickiness of Facebook and the only way to counter was to start looking at businesses that allow consumers to stick around longer. Groupon is a fantastic fit. It sits on top of the search+maps+adsense+admob+videos reaching a large audience who are increasingly buying on the net. It’s a perpetual motion machine – local businesses can offer deals on Groupon , advertise them locally using any of the Google options. That’s value and a huge scalable business as time goes by.
    In the battle for owning the local advertising space now Google has an edge over Facebook. Groupon already has a huge traction with deals in over 150 cities across mostly US. Facebook is just getting started. If this were a punch-up for the Olympic Boxing Goal then I could shout out loud that Google has won this round with a knockout blow to Facebook’s chin. It will be fun to watch what Mark Zuckerberg does now to bait Google.
    There are a number of Groupon clones in India and am sure all of them would be rubbing their hands with anticipation of suckering a few VCs to invest. And am sure there will be a rash of new ventures that will try to create some value by having some differentiator.
    To be honest in India, I see Rediff as the only company that can truly go local. They have a great story as part of the folklore of Indian Internet and have had experience [incidentally, they completed 15 years today] in creating a local ad platform / product. If Rediff can quickly come up with a Group discount product, then Indian game would have truly started.
    While we revel in the 6 billion dollar valuation for Groupon lets also keep an eye on the other erstwhile king of tech – Microsoft. My final take is that in the cat and mouse between Google and Facebook, Microsoft might spring a surprise.
    This coming year will be exciting for all of us.

    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    In defense of Mark Zuckerberg!

    This column first appeared in Trak.in on 24 November 2010

    It is now almost a month since the seminal movie The Social Network released. It has been dissected and analysed and commented upon by everyone remotely associalted with Facebook, media or venture capital. I read the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich almost an year ago – it is impossible to believe most of the made up fiction that Mr Mezrich passes off for fact. I watched the movie a few days ago in the company of people gushing about the 26 year old billionaire and try as much as I want, I cannot bring myself to think of Mark Zuckerberg as a villain. In the past I have had problems when the media has compared him to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates but as time passes and the enormity of what Facebook is turning into becomes apparent, one cannot but admire the man behind the company.

    A few hours ago a good friend and successful entrepreneur spoke about the problems he has faced in the past from people who have been with his venture for a long time and how they have not been able to scale up to the vision needed to be a truly great company. It got me thinking – why are so many people calling Mark Zuckerberg a villain? The general feeling the book and the movie seems to give is that the founder of Facebook is a slimy guy who carries a sharp knife, willing to use it on people in a cold blooded manner.

    Fact remains that anyone who starts a venture has to be the way Mark is – ruthless in the singleminded approach towards achievement of greatness. While there can be ideas all over the place, any half decent VC will tell you it is not ideas that get you funding, it is the ability to execute and execute in a manner of a achieving in the shortest possible time traction to grow really big and be a game changer. That’s what got Google to the IPO, Apple its value and thats what will get any new idea reach its true potential. Mark got the idea of what was possible if you gave people something they really wanted when he created a ‘hot or not’ website. The trio of Winklevoss and Divya just fuelled that idea into a full blown project. Let us look at what Facebook became in the 4 years since that inspiration – I cannot begin to imagine what the Harvard Connect website would have been. It needs a manic kind of thought process to be able to see a 70 mm larger than life picture of what your business is about. It will make the person anti social and lacking in social graces. However the final result would be a work of art. I refer to books like Icon and Iwoz to emphasize this point. The greatest pioneers in this world have had a mean streak and it is unfair to single out Mark for special treatment.

    One wonders what would have happened if Mark had followed the path taken by Saverin – quite possible that Facebook would have been an also ran website that ran banners advertisements. Saverin had his role to play in putting in the money but beyond the semblance of being aware of what really was going on, he would have been a major pain in the growth of the company. In getting rid of Saverin at that point, Facebook’s founder did more for the company than all the algorithms he wrote or the coolness quotient he brought to the system. In following Sean Parker to where the action was, Mark demonstrated that he could take risks and jump into the unknown. And in forcing Parker to quit from Facebook when implicated for possession of drugs, Mark ensured that the venture grew.

    If you are someone who is starting up please take lessons from these incidents. Your venture will need you to be a hachet man, You will need to cut dead wood or you will be forever saddled with trying to explain your vision to a bunch of people who were good to start with but cannot see beyond their limited vision. You will need to anti social and seek people who can beee with you for part of the journey. As the venture grows it will attract people who can see beyond what you think and that’s when the game changes.

    In defence of Mark Zuckerberg I can say that if I had to do all of what he did to build a great company I could do it without regret and in the same manner that he did. I know I have in the past.