Category Archives: outsourcing

How to train today for tomorrow’s IT skills

Simplilearn‘s session on skilling the IT workforce was held on 2 Feb in Bangalore in association with Economic Times. There were L&D leaders, HR practitioners, and company executives in the audience. It started with Alok Goyal, who until recently was senior partner at Helion, a VC firm, making an opening note. He painted a good picture of the future of skills required for IT referring to it modestly as defining the problem rather than solving the problem. Driverless cars are coming sooner than we expected; old human jobs getting replaced by machines are happening at a quicker pace. There is a farm in Japan completely run by robots, which produces quintillions of produce. Intuitive Surgical has robots doing surgery. Re-skilling is a necessity.

Takeaways: General-purpose robots like Baxter can learn by watching humans. Boston Dynamics produces robots to take on human tasks. Briggo has no humans and can deliver personalized coffee at any chain by sharing preferences of you. Emily Howell, a computer program can produce music [Musically inclined, intrepid soul should read Computer Models of Musical Creativity written in 2005]. European Commission’s Human Brain project has a lot of research in regard to understanding brain. Quill could build out narratives from data and charts, which is the bread and butter of so many KPO’s. Just like we no longer need as many horses up until 1950’s, we will not as many humans soon! World Economic Forum’s 2016 Future of Jobs (Warning: 12-page pdf) predicts a loss of 7m jobs by 2020 and an increase of 2m resulting in a net loss of 5m. During previous industrial revolutions, it often took decades to build the training systems and labour market institutions needed to develop major new skill sets on a large scale. Given the upcoming pace and scale of disruption brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution led by convergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology, however, this is simply not be an option. Without targeted action today to manage the near-term transition and build a workforce with futureproof skills, governments will have to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality, and businesses with a shrinking consumer base. IT services companies have reduced hiring in 2015 in response to increased automation – Cognizant hired only 10,200 which is 74.6% less employees in 2015 than previous years, while HCL Technologies hired 3465, which is 71% less compared to 2014.

A panel discussion around how organizations can work towards building talent pools to meet the challenges brought by the changing wave of technology trends was moderated by Vinod Mahanta, Sr. Editor, ET. Nishant Rao (Global COO, Freshdesk, ex-MD Linkedin India) weighed in with his layered approach (5 E’s), first three of which are visible parts and the last two are hidden:

  1. Classical education : Lecture driven either in-class or elearning over web/mobile
  2. Experiential : By doing things, role-playing in a contrived environment or in real-world
  3. Exposure: Different ideas and types of people
  4. Environment : Manager, mentor, buddy program
  5. Ego : Self-driven learning.

Ashutosh Vaidya, Chief Delivery & Operations Officer at Dell Services took a business approach boasting 4-times revenue generated per employee compared with other IT services organizations. He emphasized customer-driven approach to training. While Nishant opined unstructured training to spur creativity, ambiguity (which has made Freshdesk get 70k customers, 1/2B revenue with the efforts of 600 employees, Hariraj Vijayakumar, Global Head, Learning and Development, Cognizant opined about methods with neuroscience underpinnings. Adults learn better, when the training is better; though they feel that they learned more, when taught consecutively, something referred to as massing effect. It’s an evolution for training materials too. CTS took 2 years to get it right. They started with just splitting the original material in contrived chunks. Slowly, the material evolved to be more effective. I have felt that I can connect things better and retain more, when learning over a period of time. The panel then discussed about lateral hiring vs training own personnel. It’s a delicate balance to tread. Alok was of the view that we should get outside professionals at all levels. Whereas the standard practice in several organizations, notably large services companies has been to get a large number of freshers (Unrelated to this concept, Hari mentioned that 20k freshers get inducted into CTS every month).

audience

Audience

We (yes, it was an interactive, small group) discussed about failure. Nishant having spent 20 years in the US talked about a societal change needed in India, where excellence is revered, but failure scorned at. There is a need to take constructive feedback sportingly in the company culture. During first 3 months at Mckinsey, Alok got so much feedback about his dress, presence etc, that he thought everything is wrong with himself! There needs to be an emphasis on learning agility among individuals. In the end, Simplilearn’s CEO Krishna Kumar summarized the panel discussion. I will end the post with technological drivers in next decade staring at us.

FutureTechDrivers

Economic Times coverage can be seen here.

Advertisements

TastyKhana receives strategic investment from DeliveryHero

TastyKhanaDeliverHero

[Updated on 13 June] So, Tastykhana has announced on their blog about receiving 5m reportedly valued at 15-18m.

TastyKhana (website) is a food home delivery company having a presence in 6 cities across India. According to reliable sources, it has received strategic investment from either Global Founders Capital or directly from DeliveryHero, a European company having presence in 13 countries across 4 continents. DeliveryHero had raised 50m last year for global domination [Techcrunch news]. India will be their 14th country. Global Founders Capital is a joint VC fund by Samwer Brothers and ex-CEO of DeliveryHero Fabian Siegel having $194M in its warchest right now. As I pointed in the rear end of my blog post earlier, food home delivery is an increasing revenue generator for not just mom and pop food joints, but also fine dining like Speciality Group’s Mainland China, Mezzuna etc.

DeliveryHero

The journey of TastyKhana has been a long story of patience, conviction, determination, customer-focus, and pivoting like any start-ups. I had heard Shachin Bhardwaj speak at Startup Saturday Pune in Sep 2011. He had started TastyKhana during his tenure at Synygy in Aug, 2007. He quit his IT job within 3 months to focus on his start-up fulltime. For a year, they were experimenting before finding focus. So, in real sense TastyKhana started in Oct 2008. They had delivered food worth Rs. 3.5 Cr by Aug 2011 (8 Cr now) to more than 50,000 customers (now in 1.5 years it has doubled to 100,000). They had only 200 restaurants in Mumbai and Pune on-board at that time, which has swelled over 500 (348 in Pune, 108 in Mumbai) in Aug 2012 and then to 1000 in Pune, Mumbai, NCR (Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon) and Bangalore now Apr 2013 [Source: Restaurant Owner page]. They were receiving 5000 orders a month of an average ticket size Rs.700-800 in 2012. Shachin was able to get angel funding from one of his previous colleague, Chetan Shah to scale up. One of the learning he shared is to take funding in Lacs, not in Crores, so that you learn fiscal responsibility. Interestingly, TastyKhana was just 20 days away from bankruptcy during first 6 months’ of their existence, which is one of themes covered in an earlier blog post.They acquired Food On Wheels to get on-board 3-4 delivery boys, so that they could use own technology solutions to improve the operations. They focussed on solving the following problems of customer:

  1. Serve as aggregator of menus. No more do you need to keep paper menus stuffed in fridges, but have it online, when doing food order.
  2. A customer could use online payment options instead of just COD (Cash on Delivery).
  3. 3 channels to order available are: Online, mobile (using site at that time, now also mobile app) and phone (by calling TastyKhana helpline).
  4. Another convenience factor for a customer was increasing the radius of home delivery of a restaurant by paying a delivery fee, which the restaurant would normally not deliver. TastyKhana was able to achieve this because of its own delivery boys’ network in the city. The customer incurs cost according to delivery distance and order amount, e.g. if order is a small ticket-size and the location is far from restaurant, the charges are more.

For a restaurant owner, they had the following proposition:

  1. Zero overhead with great margins.
  2. Keep the bottom line low, as logistics is taken care of by TastyKhana. They only pay for orders, not for idle delivery boys’ entire time [I call it Operations as a Service, OAAS ala SAAS (Software as a Service)]
  3. Get alternate sales channel on TastyKhana website, phone line and also Facebook app for food ordering and reservation.
  4. In addition, there is valuable data, they get free statistics, feedback from customer on switching, churn ratio and spending capacity of the area’s customers.
  5. While dropping food orders of a restaurant, they are able to drop TastyKhana branded menu of other restaurants.

The technology differentiator has been built by CTO, Sheldon D’Souza and Senior Software Architect Pradeep Singh (First employee of the company).

  1. Focus on automation and scale
  2. Acceptance notification of food order from restaurant
  3. SMS to delivery boy

Once TastyKhana reached scale, they are able to deliver invaluable analytics like “Chinese food eating customers are spending more than Rs.1000/-“. This insight can help someone looking to start a restaurant.

Competition

It’s a crowded market for sure with Europe based Justeat (Jan 2011 investment into Hugryzone. Raised 41M afterwards), Foodpanda (launched June 2012 in India) and home-grown players like titbit, Deliverychef, Delivery, Bigbite etc. Some of these power local search engine like burrp (powered by JustEat) , while India’s leading local search engine forayed into food home delivery on its own. Most restaurants have a phone line for home delivery, while many take orders online and in mobile apps as well.

Vegetarian Bengali Food festival backlash on Twitter

Oh!CalcuttaVegFestival

So, I saw an ad last week of Speciality’s Oh! Calcutta, Mumbai running on a vegetarian food festival. I had been to Oh! Calcutta in Shashtri Nagar, Andheri West a couple of years ago and had only tasted fish and rice. Nearby Hangla’s stall on Lokhandwala offered chicken biryani mixed with egg in a special style among other Bengali dishes. I was a trifle surprised with vegetarian Bengali food, because the term bordered oxymoronic. My mind still wondered – over recent years, there has been pro-vegetarian movement in West and even in India, so this move only felt proper to showcase vegetarian food and break the popular myth of Bengali food being primarily non-vegetarian. My food IQ is not particularly great, so I even thought that I might have been unaware about this side of Bengali cuisine. I did educate myself about vegetarian fares in Bengali cuisine – Aloo Poshto, Chorchori, Potoler Dorma, Dhokar Dalna.

As I started my commute towards work, this stayed in my head. I only wanted to figure out, if social media marketing engine of Speciality Restaurants were showcasing it over there in addition to print ad. In their investor conference call, the Speciality Group has mentioned food festivals being used to increase revenue (14% rise) despite discretionary spending of Indian consumer coming under pressure. I was in for a big surprise. Food connoisseurs of Mumbai were talking about it. Most of them, many Bengali were condemning such a promotion.

Sadly, there was no reaction from the official Twitter handle OHCALCUTTA1 of the restaurant. I did tag that handle in a tweet mentioning this scenario.

It would have been apt for them to engage with respected food bloggers and uber Twitter user, who could become their brand advocate on being educated about green aspect of the cuisine. I saw a really old, although quite apt tweet from that (either agency or digital customer service department. Neena and Bhavana from Speciality group are good at handling complaints as I found in blog posts and forums) regarding addressing a Twitter user’s bad experience, but then no activity since 1 Aug, 2012. Of course there were some enthusiasts mentioning about this in neutral fashion.

On Facebook, Oh!Calcutta did better in promoting this, as there were quite a good number of shares and likes. Although not responding to queries over there, like request for contest would make me give them minus points. The brand needs to engage and show the human side on its Facebook page.

Some other news bites about Oh! Calcutta in chronological order:

  1. ET reported on in the beginning of Feb 2013 that Oh! Calcutta along with Mainland China will house Italian and Mediterranean deli within their premises, called Mezzuna targeting 18-24 year olds, who “drink more and eat less”. As an aside, it also talks about the group tying up with Justdial for its logistics for home delivery.
  2. A Feb 25, 2013 news piece in ET talks about Oh! Calcutta’s parent company Speciality Restaurants is betting big on home deliveries for its fine dining restaurants including itself and Mainland China. It was reported that it will tie up with a local search service to provide backend-calling support for its delivery operations. If you put these 2 articles together it is clear that the company being talked about is Justdial. Nonetheless, we will mention that the Indian tech startup focussed blog TechCircle reported as an exclusive news piece on 8 March 2013 that the local search company being talked above to be IPO-bound Justdial. They have hired a logistics head and are outsourcing delivery backend. It does not mention if it is just backend-calling support or logistics including delivery boys. For former, Justdial makes perfect sense having established its name as a friendly call centre for providing business information. More on this in a separate blog post. Please note that Justdial has forayed into food ordering service with its restaurant listings earlier this year as I talked in an earlier blog post.

And, everyone thought Apple is going back

Apple closed down a Support Center, barely 3 months old. It came as a rude shock to the employees and pro-India bloggers and media alike, esp after a sound plan announced earlier. Apple had set itself a hiring target of 600 by the year-end. After a gala induction ceremony on April 17, the operations team went to Transworks for training. Some of the managers were about to leave for the US for further training when they were asked to stay put.

My friend and an enterpreneur, Gaurav Bhatnagar, lamented that “Apple has taken this drastic decision in too short a time“. Another one was supportive of Apple’s intended motive, as India has started its sheen as an outsourcing destination, citing rising wages and lack of liquidity in workforce as the reasons. I heard some more citing quality as the reason also.

I think otherwise. It reminds one of the November 2003 “celebrations” over Dell pulling back from India. Dell, barely 6000 something at that time, today has close to 15,000 people supporting its products from India.

I doubt if many know that it is not three months back that Apple started offshoring to India. The company had started outsourcing to a third party Indian service provider, Transworks, an Aditya Birla Group company way back in 2004. And that contract still stands valid. Simply speaking, Apple has not left India. It has just favored one offshoring model over another. My take is that,

The company stock has also been on a southward route. Apple has realized that it makes business sense to work through a third party route rather make more capital investment here in India at this point of time.

I’d say please pay attention to some of the recent news, like and chill:

  • Cannan Partners, an early stage VC firm is opening their office in Delhi, India. It is led by Alok Mittal, who know local internet space well.
  • IBM to invest $6 bn over next 3 years in India.

Update: Here’s slashdot discussing the news published in Business Standard.