Category Archives: India

Coffee with Ram Shriram

Ram Shriram (Shaerpalo Ventures profile) was in Bangalore for a day. He packed in 2 events at [24]/7’s new campus on Outer Ring Road. At the first event title In Conversation with Ram Shriram – Managing Partner, Sherpalo Ventures organised by iSpirt, he answered queries from scores of entrepreneurs. He wants more higher education institutions to come up, as it is tougher to get into IIT’s than Stanford. He cautioned against copy-cat mentality and app being the core of business, rather than actual revenue-based offering. You may get more details on Techinasia post – When the big daddy of startup investing Ram Shriram talks, you just listen!.

Tech stack at [24]/7

Tech stack at [24]/7

I was in the next event – Coffee with Ram Shriram. It was a more intimate setting. First, we were subjected to the mandatory and brief introduction about the company, its value proposition and strengths from a business guy named Brooks (who joined them post their Microsoft Tellme acquisition) and another head of technology. They talked about how [24]/7’s omni-channel approach for retails, backed by big data and prediction to provide a personalised and intuitive experience to the customers. We got a great demo of personalised experience based on web activity and intent. It showed how call center agents will be replaced by voice agents, leading the a lot of self-service by customers. They are coming up with exciting products in partnership with Facebook and Microsoft. If you want to know more about their work with Facebook Messenger, tune in to Facebook Messenger – The Most Disruptive Customer Support Channel Ever? on Dec 3. AS of Dec 23, you can hail Uber using Facebook Messenger in US.

Coffee with Ram Shriram at [24]/7

Coffee with Ram Shriram at [24]/7

Nags, co-founder of [24]/7 introduced Ram. Ram’s monologue was brief, where he touched upon technology evolution and future opportunities. This was followed by an interesting Q&A round. Responding to an audience question about he cherry-picks his angel investments like he did with Google he said – When he put in money, it was just 2 guys with a dream. He made sure that the dream was not short-lived looking at perseverance and talent of founders in addition to the market and incumbents. he used the same criteria, when he invested  in [24]/7. He provided clarity on [24]/7’s strategy and projections. [24]/7’s web, chat and voice offerings are disrupting the BPO business of incumbents, like Convergys as well as pure-product offerings, like Genesys, Oracle CRM etc. He also mentioned that they are starting to integrate with COTS (Commercial Off-the shelf) solutions like Dynamics CRM, etc soon for customers like Capital One. Varadh from [24]/7 then shared a thing or 2 about company culture, how they are applying the principles of delightful customer experience to an employee-friendly policies. He stopped short of asking us to check out the careers page of [24]/7’s Innovation Labs (direct link on Jobvite). We then continued the Q&A to the terrace with a great view of 10th floor.

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ELK intro and Elasticsearch lessons from production

ELK stands for ElasticSearch, Logstash and Kibana. I had become acquainted with this during MongoDB Day – Bangalore on 19 May 2014 by Susheel Zaveri’s excellent talk. So, I was overjoyed, when the Elasticsearch Meetup Bangalore’s First Meetup coincided with my trip on 27 Sep 2014. Elasticsearch has got an open, RESTful API that makes it easy to build applications on top of it. It can process both structured and unstructured data, so you can derive insights from log files to Tweets to plain old CSV files, all in near real-time. Best of all, you can ingest data from all these disparate sources easily into Logstash, then search and analyze across all of these types of data with Elasticsearch, visualizing the results using Kibana. This stack makes these insights available to anyone in an organization through Kibana’s dashboards, which are share-able and don’t require programming know-how to use effectively.

These features – plus many more – make the ELK stack so flexible that it meets the big data challenges of a wide variety of verticals. A major financial company uses the ELK stack to do anomaly detection and root out credit card fraud. Another one performs analytics and sentiment analysis across social media data. Yet another one detects hacking on their networks, and yet another for full-text search across e-commerce sites with billions of entries.

Suyog Rao starts the talk while Drew sitsThe meetup was held at SpringPeople Software Pvt Ltd, Sector 7, HSR Layout, Bengaluru, Karnataka.  It had 2 speakers: Suyog Rao, Vedang Manerikar. It was free of cost, but required registration in a Google Form. Suyog Rao (@suyograo) started with an introduction to ELK. He started describing ElasticSearch as a schema-free, REST and JSON document store. The salient points of his talk were:

 

 

 

 

 

  • The popularity of ElasticSearch can be gauged from the total number of downloads, which stands at 10M in last 2 years.
  • An Elastic Search cluster can contain multiple Indices(databases), which in turn contain multiple Types(tables). These types hold multiple Documents (rows), and each document has Properties(columns). [Terms in bracket are relational counterpart]
  • It uses replication for high availability and performance. For horizontal scalability, it uses sharding.
  • It supports:
    • Unstructured as well as Faceted, structured search
    • Enrichment and sorting
    • Pagination and Aggregation

IMG_2731

He covered Logstash and Kibana next.

  • Logstash is a ruby app, which runs on JVM.
  • It allows one to collect, parse, enrich and store logs and events.
  • Kibana allows one to have beautiful visualization on top of Elasticsearch index with zero code.
  • The new version makes use D3 library.

He showed a quick demo. Actually covered a lot of stuff in short time.

 

 

 

Vedang Manerikar (@vedang) works with Helpshift, a mobile CRM company based out of Pune and San Francisco. [It’s a company, which has unique hiring practices. Refer my earlier blogpost on Building Silicon Valley culture in India]

IMG_2734The customer-facing side of Helpshift product is a simple chat feature within the app using the Helpshift mobile SDK. The business-facing side is a complex agent dashboard that helps the agent in processing as many issues as quickly as possible. This business-facing side is built on top of Elasticsearch. He shared the following nuggets of wisdom with us:

  • Elasticsearch does not have a book on it, although it will soon be solved. There are good references and videos, but nothing structured like a book yet.
  • Don’t use Elasticsearch as a primary database. The data should first go into mysql, MongoDB or other transactional datastore.
  • Though ES allows one to have a mixed mode node with both meta data and data, it is best to separate master and data nodes.
  • For multi-tenant index like Helpshift’s usecase, an index per customer is not a good idea, but something based on the index size.
  • He said helpful steps about bulk loading like controlling replica count etc, but I did not catch it fully.
  • Rolling upgrade of ES is fraught with risks, so it is better to spin up new cluster and decommission old one. [This was contested by Suyog and Drew]
  • Benchmarking is hugely important and should be done at staging and development phase to prevent aches during production. He mentioned about a tool called Tsung, which helped them benchmark percolators. Percolators allowed live notifications of new issues.
  • During runtime, a lot of debugging can be done using cat API’s, so make use of them.
  • Tune JVM parameters, like allocate more memory for young generation.
  • ES uses Lucene under the hood, so some troubleshooting might require understanding its working as well
  • RTFM – Basically read manual carefully. Pay special attention to the unit, whether a particular number refers to ms or seconds.
  • Advanced ES users make use of filters to make complex views.
  • There were many others, but I guess we have to wait for the presentation to arrive.

Bangalore top Indian city for professionals to move into among Indian cities

Linkedin had announced in June 2014, that it had a base of 26 million professionals in India, which is 2nd largest after USA – Hindu news article. Linkedin analyzed (original post on Linkedin blog) movement of technology professionals between Nov 2012 and Nov 2013. If we compare just the Indian cities, which appear in top 10 cities globally, Bangalore (or Bengaluru) comes to top in both absolute and percentage terms.

Linkedin Moving professionals

You may view the chart directly on Tableau public site.

Mumbai MongoDB Meetup’s first session

Mumbai MGauravAtMumbaiMUG1ongoDB Meetup group started late last year and had it’s first meetup on Feb 8th, Saturday. The speaker, Anand George, a MongoDB and Node.JS professional gave an excellent introduction. A MEAN (MongoDB, Express.JS, AngularJS, Node.JS) user for past 2 years, he showed a presentation and then went on to show CRUD in front of audience in Mongo Shell. The audience had prior experience in relational databases, like postgres, nosql like neo4j as well big data technologies like Hadoop. There were folks from Ugam Solutions (analytics), IBM (SI and product), Wipro (SI), Open Solutions (now a part of Fiserv), Exa India etc etc. Later we were joined by Gaurav, VP, Engineering, ScaleArc (the sponsor of the event), who asked generic questions on nosql. We even touched upon git.

 

 

 

 

 

At the end, we had informal meeting and snacks. We discussed that we could meet every 2 months. We collected what are useful topics for different people.MUG1Snacks

 

MongoDB Afternoons in Delhi and Bangalore

MongoDB held its 1st set of events, 10 months after opening its offices in heart of Cybercity, Gurgaon.

An Afternoon in New Delhi

The event started with a welcome note by Rajnish Verma, Director Sales, MongoDB India.

I went next with a talk on Schema Design in Document NoSQL World discussing about Blog System.

Before tea break, Anil N from Techgene covered Pelica Migrator and Ashish Mittal, Daffodil Software showed ERP system, namely Applane. Latter went on to win MongoDB innovation award that evening!

Matias covered new features of MongoDB 2.6, released on April 8.

Nikhil Nayab, Cignex showed scaling using sharding using effective shard key selection emphasizing on benchmarking to collect empirical evidence rather than any other method.

Matias came back to demonstrate MongoDB Management Service (MMS).

Abhishek Tajpaul, from Intelligroup described his experiences during building of social media analytics.

Next up was Jabong’s usecase of MongoDB, before the innovation awards were announced.

An Afternoon in Bangalore

Next stop was Bangalore, where other Matias, Abhishek, Anil N., Uday Kumar (different speaker from Cignex) and I repeated our talks (Well, audience was different 😉 ). Susheel Zaveri, [24/7] talked with a lot of love for MongoDB about storing user behavior logs in MongoDB and its integration with ElasticSearch for beautiful charts for insights!

Rediff News Publishing’s use of MongoDB was described by Subbu.

After this, Livingtree won the innovation award! We had a gala night afterwards with audience.

Bangalore::Hack 2013 organized by Sequoia had Justdial sponsoring Web track

Sequoia Capital organized 24 hours’ hackathon in Bangalore to connect with developer eco-system in the following categories: mobile applications, web apps and systems and cloud infrastructure. The web apps category was sponsored by Justdial, a Sequoia portfolio company, my employer. Kadam Jeet Jain (Linkedin, @kaddyiitr), an IIT Roorkee graduate, head of engineering, mygola and Samyak Jain (Linkedin, @saammybwoy) who formed a part of team, called Seinfeldfans, won the web track. Their product is called IMDBGraph, Facebook Graph search-like interface for IMDB.

mygol engineers

Sienfiledfans hard at work

Sandipan, Justdial presenting Web track winners

Sandipan, Justdial presenting Web track winners

Sandipan Chattopadhyay, CTO Justdial presented Web track award to Seinfieldfans for their work. Many many congrats to the participants and winners!

Organized foodservice industry

Foodservice includes the following formats.

  1. dhabas
  2. restaurants
  3. kiosks
  4. express counters
  5. food stalls
  6. ice-cream parlours
  7. fast-food joints
  8. casual and fine dines
  9. juice bars

The organized players are the following and their presence is shown in the table below:

Retailer No of outlets No of cities
Haldiram 20 1
Yum! Restaurants India 507 50
Barista 310+ 26
Cafe Coffee Day 1350 185
Baskin Robbins 425 55
McDonalds – North 130 32
McDonalds – West 140 13
Costa Coffee 17 7
Domino’s 500 110
Mad Over Donuts 38 4
Nirula’s 72  
Speciality Restaurants 91 24
Subway 250+ 50+
Sagar Ratna 70+ 30+
Yo! China 50 14
Lite Bite Foods 65 7
Blue Foods 120+ 6+

QSR Revolution in India

While global biggies, like McDonalds, KFC, Subway have entered India in a big way, there have been desi startups, who jumped into the bandwagon as well. Global biggies have modified western menu to accommodate Indian palette – KFC selling vegetarian products, pizzasselling tandoori variants etc. I will cover the journey of Jumboking (Vada pav), Subway, Mast Kalandar, Faasos (next post) etc and lessons one can draw from them based on their own account at Startup Saturday Bangalore and Startup Summit 2013 Mumbai edition by Franchise India.

Jumboking

Jumboking Schezwan Cheese combo

Jumboking Schezwan Cheese combo

Dheeraj Gupta is a 2nd generation entrepreneur based in Mumbai, who set out to start a vada pav chain in 1998. He was inspired by Mcdonalds: Behind the arches book, esp how they started a new price point of burger. He made a visit to UK to learn the nuances of fast food, chain business. He stayed with a Burger Chain franchise owner during his stay and even worked in a Mcdonalds for 10 days – talk about dedication! The vada pav market, mostly unorganized is Rs.20Cr per day in Mumbai and Thane alone. That translates to 7,300 Cr per annum!! He priced it at Rs.5 against street food price of Rs.2. He signed up Bharat Petroleum, HP, IRCTC in 2007 for setting these at their premises. [If any reader has spotted them at these, please provide it’s address, photo in comment or email prasoon DOT kumar AT gmail DOT com]. Jumbo King has 38 outlets in Mumbai and Thane (20 self-owned and 18 franchises). This compared to 20,000 vada pav stalls is only about 2% marketshare of the business in Mumbai.

Mast Kalandar

Another great promising QSR is North Indian food serving joint, Mast Kalandar. Pallavi Gupta is co-founder and COO of the company. She worked in IT company as business analyst in Bangalore and abroad with long hours and would live on pizza. Her husband, Gaurav Jain was in sales function at IT company as well. They came up with an idea that even hot and piping paratha should come in a box. They started their first outlet in Bennarghatta Rd in 2004. Next outlet was started in Indiranagar. By 2008, they had 8 outlets and VC started showing interest. Post 1st round of funding chaos ensued and things did not go as planned. They were able to grow from 7 to 11 from that instead of the target of 30. By 2011, they had 25 branches, growing to 40 in 2012. As of July 2014, they have 47 branches in Bangalore, 7 branches in Chennai, 2 in Hyderabad and 5 in Pune.

Conclusion

Within the Rs 8000-crore organised eating out market in India, QSRs are witnessing the fastest growth of nearly 25% annually. Key reasons for this growth include a high number of nuclear families and urban migrant population, a growing preference for vegetarian food, especially, North Indian and a spike in the number of people “eating out”. We have seen Ammi’s biryani and Box8 (earlier Poncho) getting funded as well.

Rise of rural India

Rise of rural India

Neelkanth Mishra, a classmate of mine from DPS Bokaro and IIT, Kanpur opines on India’s rural growth story, provides some recipe for betterment as well in an Indian Express article – Rethinking Rural.

Rural roads, cellphones and electrification lead to better
productivity, phone penetration, electricity usage and vehicle ownership

He currently serves as India Equity Strategist for Credit Suisse. I have seen him being quoted in newspapers, TV channels many times earlier, but a great full article.

Offline Product Search Engine into Junglee

Amazon had forayed into India as online product comparison avatar, Junglee. Online shops had listed the product prices over there. Now, it has started showing offline shops for mobile and TV products in the following cities: Bangalore, Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Gurgaon. It just lists store addresses and phone number, but doesn’t show the availability or price.

Shops selling Samsung Phone in Mumbai

Shops selling Samsung Phone in Mumbai

It is an interesting route for world’s biggest marketplace Amazon and a different model as well. Amazon USA, UK etc have 2 models:

  1. An inventory-based model, where they sell, what they have in their warehouses.
  2. Additionally, it has a marketplace model, where they allow sellers to list their products in the marketplace and the website visitors can buy on the platform.

The latter is very successful in emerging markets esp BRICS (Brzil, Russia, India, China) as well as Korea, Indonesia etc.

The 3rd model, wherein a location-based price comparison sites show prices from offline stores near you is interesting one in country like India. As a first cut, Junglee Nerby aims to drive web users to make a call to the stores and drive footfalls. I can not find any monetization built into the product as yet.

Comparison of services

Portal Launch Year Products Cities Shops USP
Junglee by Amazon Feb 2012 (site launch). May 2013 Nearby Launch 2 categories, mobile and TV Bangalore, Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Gurgaon Handful Coming from Amazon
PriceBaba 2012 Electronic Items Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune, Gurgaon, Noida 400 Stores are listed post personal visit by verification team
Wicfy 2011 Multiple Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata Lots Patented iso-pricing technology and interesting retailer-crowdsourcing model

Competitive Landscape

500 Startups recently funded Pricebaba.Another player is Pune-based Wicfy, which takes crowd-sourcing model to find cheapest price for a product and had raised money from Eco System Ventures. Naaptol have an Android app listing prices of product from stores, which never expanded beyond Mumbai. MySmartPrice also lists products from e-retailers. A yet-to-be launched portal, IndiaOrders will launch with 60 stores of Mumbai showing their wares for online buying. It takes slightly different route of enabling a buyer to get the products delivered to their homes. Interesting twist here is that a buyer can go to the store for queries, refunds, exchanges as well. It is an interesting segment with increasing middle class of India, but getting constantly updated price from retailers is a challenge. IPO-bound Justdial had a portal called Quick Quotes in works, which they had announced in Feb, 2012. That got coverage from Medianama in Sep and other portals as well. But, that page has been taken off Justdial website since.

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