Why did PayPal buy a Chrome Extension for $4B

Everyone must have read the current news of PayPal purchasing Honey which is a chrome extension that applies the best coupon codes on e-commerce websites. It operates as an aggregation for the top coupon codes available. The deal is very similar to one where Rakuten purchased Ebates for $1 Billion in 2014. Ebates was very similar to Honey where it tracked deals and cashback schemes and was acquired by Rakuten as a means to expand in the US network. Rakuten later renamed it as Rakuten Rewards and the all-cash deal has largely paid for itself. Why is the interest in coupon code websites so strong still? You can look at it through the view of a marketplace where shoppers and e-commerce websites are the two sides of the equation.

Shoppers are always hunting for a discount and using Honey, they are quickly able to find the best coupon code which results in a discount of them. What about e-commerce websites? Why do they partner up with Honey? Discovery, lower commissions, improved retention & lower cart abandonment for the customer.

Why lower cart abandonment? Basic human psychology on why e-commerce websites issue discounts, coupons & cash-backs. It is instantly attractive. But the proliferation of hundreds of coupon codes has now created a worry among shoppers that they are not getting the best deal and delays their purchase while they search online or on other stores for better deals. When the shopper uses Honey, it ensures he gets the best deal and ultimately leads to purchase decisions quicker.

Why lower commissions? All e-commerce stores run an affiliate network that ensures when the website through which helped you discover your product earns a commission. Overall it is much cheaper for e-commerce stores to run an affiliate network rather than spending thousands of dollars on advertisements. So overall, Honey ensures lower commissions.

Coupon Codes are still very big business for e-commerce. In 2019, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to $3.53 trillion dollars whose revenue is expected to top $6.54 trillion dollars soon. The famous flywheel model also applied to Honey when it launched in 2012 when the founder was just searching for coupon codes. It expanded quickly every year where it kept on getting users as it kept on adding more merchants. It now had 17 million users and 40,000+ partnering websites. It had close to $100M in revenue in 2018 and was growing 100% annually.

Working out the financials, PayPal paid 20x revenue and close to $235 per user. This makes it a very pricey acquisition. So why did PayPal pay $235 per user of Honey?

  1. Addition to their Value Chain: PayPal already owns the payment processing for e-commerce stores. It can integrate coupon discovery right to its network of e-commerce stores. This will work both ways, PayPal can ask its huge e-commerce stores to integrate Honey as well for deal discovery. It is already one of the most popular payment providers, it won’t take long for it to become a top coupon code aggregator as well.
  2. Behavioral Data: Honey collects behavioral data about online shopping and can quickly create patterns. Such data is very valuable because it can improve the targeting activities of their advertisement. The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity has estimated that the average revenue per user in digital advertisements reached $59 in 2017. According to Paul Benno, a lecturer at Columbia University, the additional revenue that PayPal can expect can easily reach $1.37B
  3. Wallet Integration: PayPal can additionally integrate (question of when not if) Venmo with Honey so that all rewards can go into their wallets directly as a cash-back. This would increase the usage and members of Venmo, a huge win for PayPal
  4. Additional Commission: PayPal can renegotiate with the e-commerce stores for a higher commission from its improved power position or provide a complete deal for payment processing and deal discovery for the store.
  5. Revenue & Profit from Honey: Obviously, the current revenue and high margins from Honey will add to PayPal’s coffers significantly in the future as Honey is growing at 100% and is cash-flow positive

Note: San Francisco-based Ebates offers a website that offers customers a way to earn cash back when shopping online at over 2,600 stores including Amazon.com, Macy’s, Best Buy, Home Depot, and others. In 2013, 2.5 million members spent over $2.2 billion on shopping through Ebates. With the acquisition, Japan’s largest e-commerce firm now has a new entry point into the U.S.’s growing e-commerce market, as well as a means to offer similar products, including online e-coupons, back home where they could complement Rakuten’s own online shopping loyalty program, Rakuten Super Points.

The Rise and Rise of Office Collaboration Tools

What is the typical workflow in any corporate office environment? In most companies, it is heavily run by the ubiquitous and familiar service that we all know about. Email. Want to share some files – email, update a weekly report – email, escalate an issue – email, drop a note quickly – email, remind someone – email, etc. But is it the best possible tool for collaboration

Email remains Swiss Army Knife for online communication, but not the most effective tool for collaboration

An example below of a weekly meeting working

Email Workflow: Employee A receives a weekly report from a vendor or analytics service. He forwards it to his manager who looks at it the next day. He asks Employee B for additional metrics and information for the same. Employee B takes a day to compile and resend it to the manager. The manager realizes there is a problem and forwards it to Employee A to take action. Employee A sends it back to the vendor for correction. The vendor updates his service (A date issue) to resend the correct report.
Time Taken: 4 days

Slack Workflow: Slack App from vendor automatically shares an excel report on a shared channel with Employee A, Employee B, and manager. Employee B notices the date discrepancy and replies on the same channel marking in red the problem. The vendor acknowledges and shares updated.
Time Taken: 4 hours

The shortcomings in email for collaboration are many – lack of history, lack of rich integrations, lack of shared platform, lack of file management, lack of quick feedback and the list goes on. Another issue which then arises is the large number of people whose inbox keeps flooding because they are kept in a large number of email communications. Don’t get me wrong, email is great as a tool, but office communication now requires a much faster, quicker and more collaborative tool. It has become the leading team collaboration tool in the past few years with 12+ million daily active users

Take a look at the excellent published demo here of what slack does

What are some great uses of Slack (or Microsoft Teams) that excites people ?

  1. Quick Video Call or Screen Share – Do you require a different tool other than email for a quick video call or screen sharing when it can be done right from one app
  2. Knowledge Management – Every team and company struggles with maintaining good documentation of processes, workflows, error management or just plain information about whom to contact when something fails. With the right app, you can ensure that all communication (including files) get saved for future employees to peruse
  3. Slack Bots – Utilize Slack Bots to inform Software Developers for new errors or server errors in their deployed software. Similarly, notify sales on new leads and proposal updates, notify marketers every time your brand gets mentioned on social media, remind finance in case weekly report not being sent out, notify HR about a new resume that got uploaded. There are 1500+ apps which is growing exponentially for every use case you can think of
  4. Scheduling, Calendar and Time Management – Set automated reminders to yourself, teammates, get informed about meetings every morning, automate reminders about your leave plan, you got everything under 1 roof. You can even add a message to your to-do list right from the app
  5. Shared Channels – What excited me the most was shared channels. Rather than keeping a hundred people in cc every time two companies need to work together, you can just use a shared channel to discuss, get clarifications, get approvals, all in one easy to use app
  6. Integrations – Do you use Google Drive, Asana, Google Suite, Slack has hundreds of integrations you can use and get started quickly.
  7. There are apps available which allow you do quick pollsremind you on birthdayscoordinate team lunchessubscribe to RSS updatesdirectly communicate with website visitors, it’s worthwhile to have a look at the Slack App Directory to see what people come up with
Slack Screenshot

As employees gradually move towards more remote roles, tools like Slack become critical for collaboration. According to research firm IDC, global “team collaborative applications” market is currently worth $3.5B and growing by an astonishing 75% every year. Consulting firm McKinsey said workplace communications technologies can increase employee productivity by up to 25%. It can get different parts of a company to work together, break hierarchies, spark chance interactions & innovations and get things done faster.

But whatever the critics say about the higher number of distractions due to slack, you cannot deny the wide variety of integrations Slack has managed to launch. All dominant video tools – Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Webex are available, same for project management – Trello, Asana, Jira, Confluence, same for developer tools – Github, Jira, GitLab, Jenkins, CircleCI, Sentry, Datadog, etc. The shift towards dominance of Slack as the central collaboration platform for every type of office communication is happening, which is why it’s now valued at close to $13 Billion. Although it won’t be possible to replace email, but it will be possible to replace office communication through Slack

Digging in the financial metrics, Slack is worth about $25 for every dollar of revenue it brought in over the last four quarters. Other SaaS companies are worth around $10 for the same revenue dollar. Both metrics are rich valuations; some SaaS companies trade at far lower metrics as does nearly every other market segment. Its only rival – Microsoft Teams which already has a larger base (165M) than Slack as it is bundled with Office 365 offering a significant amount of growth. Slack also says many of its users are already Microsoft 365 customers but prefer to pay for its superior service instead of Teams

I would love to hear about what you think about Slack or Microsoft Teams

Website Personalization for non-FAANG companies

You must have seen several websites especially news requesting a login either voluntarily or making it mandatory. It might be a mobile website that you are visiting after clicking on some link shared on Whatsapp or Facebook. Or a website like Medium or Reddit which you regularly visit which keeps prompting you for logging in. Have you ever wondered why do companies sacrifice good user experience by keeping on nagging you for logging in?

Economic Times asking you to log in

The short answer is higher profitability achieved through user segmentation. The premise is simple – Tracking enables companies to track you across devices – home/office laptop, iPad, app & mobile, when considered at scale, they can better target you and improve their top-line and bottom-line. Google, Facebook &Amazon store massive amount of data tagged to you so they can create a better identity based on what sites you visit, how much time you spent, which device you are on, while the consumer (websites like economic times) benefit from verified email address and name. Which is why every time we visit amazon.in we get a different set of personalized results

But let us talk about the smaller companies – how do they achieve such personalization for their website ?. E-commerce companies know that only 5% of users are ‘known’, the rest 95% are anonymous users which offers a huge amount of improvements. For example, Fjällräven, the Swedish outdoor gear giant served multiple video-based Homepage hero banners for every type of weather condition, with multiple variations per each weather condition which is continuously being optimized all year round. This single-use case resulted in a 79% uplift in CTR vs. that of a non-weather-based static banner. According to research from Invesp:

  • 53% of online shoppers believe that personalization is valuable
  • 45% of shoppers prefer to shop on sites that provide personalized recommendations
  • 57% of shoppers will give personal info if they benefit from it.
  • Personalized ads convert 10 times better than ordinary ads
Difference between website landing page

Even doing basic optimizations like matching headlines, content, and CTA to the one in advertisement can give surprise gains. The Pardot post-click landing page is a great example of this. Optimizely has around 26 variations of their website for different audiences based upon named accounts, industries, geography, customers and engaged visitors. This is all great, but how does a small company kick-start this? I will start with the easiest option first

  1. Recommended Products (E-commerce websites) – This is the easiest way to start off with personalization utilizing technology powering your e-commerce store. There are hundreds of plugins available for Shopify, Bigcommerce or Woocommerce which let you insert your recommended products right inside your website. You can customize them to a large extent without heavy effort required.
  2. Google Optimize: What better than a free tool that can plug into Google Adwords and Google Ads to tailor your landing pages for you. A part of the Google Marketing platform can offer all the basic and advanced features which you require to get started with website personalizations. You can use various data available from Google Analytics live for personalization
  3. Segment + Hello Bar/Appcues: A quick solution for people looking for notifications/popup (not website content). The solution enables non-technical website owners to create and install custom announcement bar scripts on their websites. I would recommended this solution for everyone if you want to experiment with personalization.
  4. Instapage Page Personalization: A paid service to alter your landing page based upon advertisement, demographics or firmographics. One of the simplest solutions available which justifies it price tag of $150 per month. The only downside to not using it is the tight integration which would be required between your website and Instapage in order to get to work seamlessly
  5. Logic-Hop (WordPress Sites) – If you have a website build on WordPress then you can utilize this $100/year plugin to quickly customize your landing pages based upon various user attributes. Based upon your needs and requirements you can utilize this
  6. Optimizely, VWO and Mutiny– Optimizely and VWO are visual website optimizers which allow you to personalize your website landing page by a huge number of variables as well as allow you to run A/B Tests as well. These are slightly more advanced as they require a larger engineering effort, but the returns are justified as well. MutinyHQ is a purposefully built for personalization of your landing page through dozens of data integrations already available
  7. Custom Coding – Based upon your website back-end you can do basic personalization based upon geo-location, data providers, user session etc. These can provide you with high level of customization but you would require dedicated resources to manage the additional engineering effort. On-page personalization can be achieved through basic javascript as well
  8. Marketo/Salesforce/Oracle Bluekai (Large orgs) – Larger Organizations should consider using Marketo or Salesforce which can offer hundreds of features for personalization and reporting. Its always better to have one marketing platform which can integrate across all the services and Marketo & Salesforce are more suitable candidates for them

Q. Where do we get the personalization data?
Ans. Companies like Clearbit, Zoominfo gave you large amounts of data of any user visiting your website through easily consumable API. You can see the value of the data based upon their pricing, a cool $100 for every 1000 requests where as Zoominfo charges $4.9k for 5000 contacts.

The above reasoning also applies why websites want to implement social logins. Social Logins have been around for a long time. It makes it easier for us to login without remembering the user ID-password combo every time. But companies can utilize the data from Facebook and Google to build a better customer experience around you. I am sure I must have missed hundreds of other small ways you can implement personalization but I hope I have covered the easiest ways. Let me know your thoughts either way.

Analysis of the Online Courses Economy of 2019

Recently, I came across an article on TechCrunch of Knowable, an audio course creator launching $100 for 8 hour audio courses. It was not the concept of an audio course but rather than the rate, $100 is quite steep for an audio course to help you sleep better. But do online courses or specialist podcasts or newsletters sell ? Teachingguide estimates an earning of $4.7M of Jose Portilla for her super-famous course ‘Complete Python Bootcamp’, while the top writer on paid newsletter platform Substack earns $500K a year from reader subscriptions. Masterclass charges $1300 annually for access to courses taught by Penn & Taylor, Natalie Portman, Gordon Ramsey, Hans Zimmer, well-known names in their particular field. Byjus (a $3.6B startup in India) is another big player in India offering courses for children but is mobile first and catering to students heavily.

Everyone must have heard about Coursera, Khan Academy, Udemy, EdX or dozen other MOOCs as they were something of a range back in 2015, which was declared as an year of MOOC. During its peak, LinkedIn (now part of Microsoft) acquired Lynda to offer renaming it as LinkedIn Learning offering their own courses. Now MOOCs are making a comeback after experimenting with multiple business models to find the right fit – Nano-degrees, university tie-ups, creator courses, job-seeking, certifications, audit fees, all-access monthly fees. Is it working ?

CompanyFY18 Revenue*
Udemy $140M
Coursera$100M
Udacity$90M
EdX$60M
Khan Academy$44M
FutureLearn$40M
Estimate obtained from various sources

$330M by the 3 top players in video course creation fee is quite significant. But MOOCs are not the only way creators have to design and sell online courses, hundreds of smaller players have caught up which offer creators more flexibility in terms of designing the course as well as selling it on their own domain. Teachable, Teachery, Skillshare, Podia, Ruzuku, WizIQ and Thinkific are the niche players which do not target learners but target creators offering them more flexibility, more control, custom domains, custom videos, integrations and more. The business model for them involves charging a fixed monthly fee to creators allowing creators more freedom to set pricing, course structure, certification, quizzes, affiliate management etc.

CompanyAnnual Revenue*
Teachable$14M
Codecademy$5M
Podia$2M
Thinkific$2M
Unacademy$0.7M
CompanyMonthly charges
WizIQ $                                 25.00
Teachable $                                 29.00 + 5% transaction fees
Podia $                                 39.00
Teachery $                                 49.00
Thinkific $                                 49.00
Ruzuku $                                 75.00
Learnworlds $                                 80.00
Kajabi  $                              150.00
Academy of Mine  $                              500.00

Obviously, in all the companies listed above, I have not mentioned the 800 pound gorilla which commands the lion’s share in e-learning. YouTube. But it has discontinued support for paid subscriptions on it’s channels leaving a huge gap in the market which all the MOOCs and above companies are trying to fill. $50/month (INR 3500/month) is a decent price for the features and the exposure for any experienced out there creator. Depending upon how many learners you are expecting to sign up with amount you are charging, you can either go with Udemy or any of the dozen platforms I have listed.

Patreon is another player which deserves a special mention due to its considerable size and influence. Patreon caters to podcasts, writers, artists, coders, which lets anyone create membership programs as a way of supporting the artists. It’s very customizable targeted towards the creator to create a membership plan who will pay a monthly fee to support the artist and get access to special shows. Who is the highest earner in Patreon ? Chapo Trap House, a political comedy podcast has close to 21,400 patrons paying close to $1.1M annually. CreatorHype has listed the top earners on patreon with the different activities being undertaken.

Self Hosted Solutions: There are various other ways in which creators can deploy their own learning management systems. For example – LearnDash is a plugin based on the popular CMS WordPress which costs only $160 and lets creators deploy LMS on their own website. Open EdX is another option for universities to deploy their own LMS. There are various other open source learning management systems for creators who want more customizations.

Niche Courses: There are even niche offerings like egghead.io which offers screencasts by web developers to web developers generating revenues close to $3.3M. They have built a complete custom platform to cater to their needs. Treehouse, Pluralsight, Codecademy are all companies with a very niche audience and market but have been very successful so far.

Audio Courses: Knowable is the only platform which I could find spearheading audio-only courses. Its currently invite only and could not find any data on revenue sharing between creators and the platform. But $100 is the average price to register for a course on Knowable. They have an impressive list of courses by recognized leaders in their space

Personalized Online Classes: Juni Learning, Outschool, Classgap, Walden, Codementor and a dozen others offer 1:1 mentorship and private virtual classes. It goes by many names – virtual tutor, personal coach, small group video classes but the premise remains the same. Walden is pretty interesting as it promises 24×7 chat with an expert for anything.

Passion Economy or the Creator Creator Economy as I like to call it has been seen increasing investor funding and interest. It is one of the driving forces behind freelancing and monetizing your unique skills in multiple ways. One of the best ways to capitalize your creativity is through creating courses but as with most online businesses, the top 5% will make celebrity money, rest 20% will make decent while the rest 75% will only have scraps.

Unacademy is the Indian challenger in the race with an educator app for creating courses but it heavily caters to Entrance Exams. There are a dozen smaller startups in India catering to smaller niche segments. But a massive opportunity still exists in India as very few platforms exists uniquely catering here.

The Creator Creator Ecosystem for different types. Sourced from a16z

Interesting time to be creator with so many companies trying to get their attention 🙂

Sources
https://iblnews.org/coursera-edx-udacity-grew-their-businesses-by-over-20-in-2018/
https://teachinguide.com/blog/how-much-do-udemy-instructors-make/
https://a16z.com/2019/10/08/passion-economy/
https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/7515570?hl=en
https://creatorhype.com/top-patreon-creators/
https://entrackr.com/2018/12/unacademy-revenue-loss-fy18/

Live Demos of Artificial Intelligence

Live Demos of AI

We have all read that one article which says that AI is going to completely transform the world, these articles are becoming increasingly common now. Most common examples when people interact with AI are while using Google Search, Beautify Faces, Snapchat filters or Gmail autocomplete. Google Trends show a rather different view where it showed high interest in AI from 2004 to 2008 but dipped between 2008 to 2013. Around 2013, everyone started talking about AI.

Artificial Intelligence – Interest over time

But if we start focusing whether its hype or reality, based on the demos of AI which I have seen, AI is already here. Not something in a computer lab from Google but real-world which you can use today. A recent project from Generated Media led to this blog post.

1. AI Generated Faces

1,00,000 faces generated by AI. Where can you use it ? All types of projects -> In your decks, sample websites, presentations, mockups & mobile apps. The global stock photo & video market size is estimated to be $4B. This represents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and everyone. Just looking at a sample face makes it difficult for a normal person whether this is generated by AI or a real person. Don’t believe me ? Browse through their Google Drive .

Forecast – Stock Photo on Demand.
Seeing the rapid speed of development, the day is not far where you will only describe the stock photo you require to generate it.

2. Remove Objects in a Video

Quickly remove any object

Not a new demo you must have seen, as there are plenty of apps available already which remove objects from photos like Touch Retouch or Adobe Photoshop Fix but the github project sure looks interesting as it can remove objects from videos. Just draw a bounding box over the object and it gets magically removed. The entire source code is available on Github.
Forecast – Standard feature in all video editors

3. Deep Style Phototransfer

The examples showcased in the github repo are pure amazing !!

One of my favourite project available right now, you can transform entire tone, style of your photo through this project. The nature photographs taken look breathtaking. It even has a python script to run the transformation for your own images. One of the most popular open-source AI repos with close to 9k stars on github.
Forecast – More Filters available on Instagram & Snapchat

4. Google AutoDraw

Google Autodraw

One of my most used websites – Google Autodraw – Doodle Icon Recognition.
AutoDraw pairs the magic of machine learning with drawings from talented artists to help you draw stuff fast, but it can be used for almost all types of presentations and projects. Not able to find an icon, or forgot the name of what to search for, use Google Draw to quickly doodle something and find the corresponding icon.
Forecast (or Why isn’t this feature there yet) – Available on Photoshop & Powerpoint to quickly get icons from Doodles

5. Deoldify – Color Old Images

A Deep Learning based project for colorizing and restoring old images (and video!) – very useful to transform black and white photos. The project does what is says – color black and white pictures and videos.

6. DeepFakes

DeepFaceLab and Faceswap are the most popular projects available

DeepFakes, although controversial, remains one of the most popular examples available of AI. There are countless videos (some very funny!) available on reddit with some of them looking very real. For those who don’t know about Deepfakes – Replace faces in a video with an actor model or your own choosing. When it was first published it was groundbreaking, machine learning available at the click of a button to all. There are pre-built windows app available now.
One real-world application would be in movies similar to how VFX artists were able to bring Paul Walker back in Furious 7 with the help of his two brothers kept him in 350 scenes.
Forecast: (Might be a reality already) Replacing faces in Hollywood stunt doubles scenes

7. Talk to Transformer

Story generator – Link to website

AI not only operates on photos and videos but also can operate on text. GPT-2 is the largest model trained on 40GB of Internet text just to predict the next word. GPT-2 is a large transformer-based language model with 1.5 billion parameters, trained on a dataset. You might have seen this in action in Gmail where it presents you with options to complete the sentence. Talk to transformer is an online webapp that creates small stories based upon the a given string of words. The following input of text :

I went to a lounge to celebrate my birthday and

gave me a result

I went to a lounge to celebrate my birthday and I came across some girls who were doing all the karaoke of that night. I thought, hey that's weird," he says.

There is another strange thing about the relationship. "I think they're more than friends," he adds, but they still hang out when he visits the hospital for a few days where he works.

"It's a bit of a weird relationship," says Kim. "I think they're just like friends. We're friends with our partners. We like to have fun together."

But not everyone likes it.


"I hate it because I think it's weird. What is a two-hour karaoke session?" asks Alex.

But it has a different effect on each partner.

Mum is an artist and also likes to karaoke and hang out. And Dad is an IT worker and sometimes karaoke too, but doesn't really enjoy it because he likes to enjoy his home. They are best friends, but he says they are just friends. If they get into something 

The above sentence, although not very coherent but is still correct in terms of grammar and has some amount of small coherence built in. A reason might be due to the model in talktotransformer is trained on a small dataset of 700MB, but you can see the rapid advance possible if trained on the real model of 40GB.
Forecast: (Reality already?) You might already be reading news & articles written by AI without realizing it

8. Deep Voice Conversion

Text to speech API are already available from Microsoft, Google and AWS which can simulate real human voice. But deep voice conversion takes it a step further where you can covert the tone, modulation and style of your voice to someone else’s voice. They implemented a deep neural networks using more than 2 hours of audio book sentences read by Kate Winslet. You can listen to both the audios above and see for yourself the potential of the technology.
Forecast: Real audio and AI Audio will be indistinguishable

Have I missed out any project ? Do reach out to me over twitter or comment below

Startups disrupting Uber

Cost vs Convenience

The above tweet about Bounce achieving 80,000 daily rides in a day led me to this blog post. You travel everyday whether you love it or not, even if you are working remote. A recent study says that 7% of average work day in India is just spent on travel Depending upon the location, distance and your mode of travel, be it metro, e-scooter, boat, (helicopter for Mukesh bhai), you would love to cut down on travel time. India is notorious for its congestion being out of control as showcased by below

Mumbai, the land of finance and Vadapav still tops the list

Uber, with a market value of $74B has changed travel as we know it. 10 years back, it would have been crazy for someone to even consider getting a cab through a mobile, but now it has become ubiquitous to use daily. Ola, Didi, Gett, BlaBlaCar & Lyft are all part of the same equation where you use an app to get a cab. For this blog post, I would be more focused on Bangalore, considering the innovations in travel happening over here.

Cost vs Convenience

Uber might have started the disruption of the personal transport industry, but a different company is going to disrupt Uber itself

If you think Bird (e-scooter startup) is the peak of transport innovation in Silicon Valley, wait till you hear about India’s Silicon Valley. Every resident of Benguluru can now actually travel through 8 different ways for reaching his office. Why is this important ? Because it is disrupting personal transport as we know it, changing customer habits and preferences, ultimately having huge implications on the trillion dollar automobile market in India.

What are the most important dimensions to personal travel ? Cost, Convenience and Distance, but for practically, I have only chosen cost and convenience and tried to map them on the below scale. It vaguely represents a line with cost increasing as per convenience. (To ensure brevity, these travel options are not mentioned: Waymo’s Self-driving Taxi, Cycling/Jogging/Skating, Waterways, Trams, Local Trains, Bike Taxi)

DriveU: The only thing that can be more expensive that owning a personal car would be having a driver on demand. A friend has used this once while travelling and it is a godsend for people who travel a lot. One of the few services who just does one thing quickly, securely and efficiently. A startup that is bound to disrupt this personal travel space for millions of people in India, especially useful for outstation travels, but can be used inside the city as well
(Another example of this would be Hopp)

Personal Car/Bike: Extremely expensive considering the rising cost of cars in India. Add to it the rising cost of petrol, maintenance, insurance, taxes, parking costs, etc), personal cars are still at one end of the spectrum. But owning a luxury car is still a status symbol for most of us, although still not financially advisable as its a depreciating asset of high expenses

ZoomCar: Zoomcar was one of the first players in India’s self-driven car ecosystem and it does give a pleasant experience. With 32% YoY growth to 158 crore, while losses growing at a robust 10% to Rs 116 crore. (Competitors are Drivezy, Myles, ECO rent a Car … ) Zoomcar is heavily used for weekend / vacation travels in India, although it remains to be seen whether its cars can achieve high utilization to achieve profitability. Zoomcar also has a monthly rental plan

Ola/Uber: Both of these companies are the 600 pound gorilla and are now rhymes with taxi / auto / rickshaw. Its second nature for most millennials to call an Ola/Uber. Ola has approximately 59 lakh users in India and does 15 lakh rides daily. Although both companies are facing driving issues, but it appears it has it under control now.

Autos: They are still huge in India and are not going to away anytime soon. I can’t imagine India with Autowalas, even after proliferation of all the transport apps, you will see them always running on the streets. Most Tier 1 & Tier 2 cities in India have millions of Autos driving daily and solve a very important part of commute.

Rapido: Ola for Bikes, not a new concept but gaining very high popularity in India. A very convenient and affordable option but with Ola & Uber almost in the same space, its sure to get crowded. With so many apps available just for point to point travel, its just a matter of time before there will be a good aggregator who can just give me a quickest option. Although I’ve never travelled by Rapido uptil now, I have heard good things about it.

Bounce: Self-Drive Bike Ride at just Rs3/km. The most simplest idea yet, Pick and Drop anywhere. I was surprised why has it not been launched anywhere yet, extremely convenient, easy and simple. Definitely an app on my phone which is next in line to Ola and Uber. It claims around 8000 scooters on its fleets, with 4000 dockless bikes and 1.3 Million rides in 3 months. I would not be surprised if it can surpass Ola in number of rides one day, its growing faster everyday

Vogo: Almost similar to Bounce, with the only difference of dropping and picking scooters only occurs at dedicated parking lots. Still a very inexpensive way of commuting around. Ola has invested $100M seeing its strategic importance. It has about 12000 vehicles in its fleet

Quick Ride: The biggest player in Carpooling in India right now. Unless you are living under a rock, you must have heard about Quick Ride, which is a big blessing for people who travel long commutes in Bangalore. You can quickly find people from your company travelling the same route everyday. A few people I know travel daily using this app. This app will indeed go a long way in solving the traffic problems in India

Yulu: Micro-mobility solutions or last mile solutions, India’s answer to Bird and JUMP. Very efficient for distances of less than 2km. These blue bicycles and e-scooters are now available across Bangalore. Quick to find and use. Future Potential – very hard to estimate, but considering the initial investment they have made in Bangalore

Shuttl: Very awesome idea where you can get a bus at your service. The app shows you shows Shuttle bus routes and timings which you book instantly. But I am more interested in Shuttle Enterprise which can be used by companies for employee transport. Imagine the improvement in traffic if all enterprise companies in Bangalore use the same platform for employee transport for bus. Watch out for this as it can get huge

Public Transport: This would be very different for Mumbai where it can be scored very high for Convenience but Namma Metro is getting complete only in 2023. Traffic congestion can only be solved through a well connected, fast and budget-friendly mass public transportation system similar to Singapore.

Image: Press-Office City of Müenster, Germany

If public transport is done right, you won’t require most of the apps shown above. Above image captures its importance enormously

I am yet to see an yearly rental from any company where you pay ‘X’ amount for a car or bike per year to use it. One of the crucial reasons behind the auto industry collapse other than economy slowdown (Maruti Suzuki sales down by 70%) is surely this app based personal services

What does the future of travel look like for you ? Have I missed out any startup ?

Failure of Open Salaries

Salaries

The annual reports published by public companies are a treasure trove of information: financial statements, auditor’s notes, future guidance, major risks, but the thing that will interest many the most is salary disclosures. The current SEBI norms state that Under the new rules, companies will only have to disclose salaries of 10 top paid employees in the director’s report or to the registrar of companies and those earning in excess of 1.02 crore. In 2017, SEBI also made it mandatory to disclose to investors remuneration of employees earning above Rs 1 crore per year.

Is government regulation the only way to obtain salary data ?

No, this is the only mandatory requirement to do so, but there are a couple of different ways – If you know someone working at a similar position in the company, via Glassdoor, social experiments like when techies publish their salary data online or someone collates salary data for techies, you have worked in HR or a higher position or finally open salaries

In this article, I have done my best to analyse whether publishing your company’s financial data – revenues and salaries gives a boost to the business. The usual answer is that it depends, but on what factors ? Buffer (Link to spreadsheet) , Whole Foods, and SumAll are the few companies who have tried open salary data all to a different extent. Lumarow & RethinkDB is one of the few companies which experimented with open salary culture, but quickly reverted back due to its high organizational impact.

There are a number of news articles in Business Line and Business Standard written on open salaries and financials of companies, but very conversely, very few companies have stepped up to implement them

Where has open salaries worked ?

1. Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey introduced the policy in 1986, just six years after he co-founded the company. He explains that his initial goal was to help employees understand why some people were paid more than others. (Don’t know status after Amazon’s acquisition)

2. Buffer: In late 2013, Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne listed staff salaries on the company website – including his own six-figure paycheck and the formula used to calculate those salaries. Buffer has been very successful so far with publishing its revenues, equity, diversity, code, product roadmap right on its website for everyone to see

3. SumAll has published its salary figures internally, and according to their blog posts written by them, it has been very successful so far. The company’s founder Dane Atkinson does admit that this unconventional policy does trip people up sometimes when they are expecting a salary negotiation. (Data only available to internal employees)

4. Netflix: The video streaming giant which we all love implemented an open salary for its top executives and directors. It did raise a lot of furor over social media over the sky high salaries offered to top level executives.

5. Mish Guru: A small startup which helps you create instagram and snapchat stories easily. The New York based startup implemented open salary to address the pay gap in the US by making salaries of every employee known to every employee

6. Logic Supply: A small company (70 employees) makes computer systems for rugged environments like mining rigs, underground coal quarries or industrial environment. They implemented an open salary which has been successful for them, although with some compliants

7. ThreatCare: Cybersecurity startup that published their formula for open salaries inspired by Buffer. I could not find the public list of salaries although they have mentioned in 2017, that they will be publishing it soon

8. Vincit: A Finnish IT Contractor launched in 2007 which implemented the policy. Finnish law prohibits to open employees’ salary without their permission. Every six months Vincit asks employees for the permission. About 80% have already said “yes” and their salary information is available within the company

In conclusion, only Buffer & Whole Foods has been able to implement completely open salary information just available on the net with the formula while the rest only has made salary information available within the company. Out of the tens of thousands of startups and companies, why is the number of companies adopting this policy so low ?Is this failure of open salary ?

Yes, definitely.

Why – Salary Data is private information of the individual and not the company (although its a stakeholder) and being transparent can usually open up a huge can of worms. Its detrimental to both the stakeholders: for individuals, it creates a lack of privacy and can lead to jealously & resentment, for companies, as it leads uncomfortable discussions and higher chances of employees getting poached.

The same companies keep coming up always in – Buffer and Whole Foods since the past 6 years. No other significant company has implemented the same open policy. Not startups or large companies or any company outside US have gone ahead with it


You only need to see the discomfort apparent when salary topic comes up in a societal situation .

Important Reasons for Failure of Open Salaries:

  1. Hard to break free from tradition norms which involves salary negotiations behind closed doors.
  2. Products, Brands and companies succeed because of teamwork, be it within the department or between different departments
  3. Reduced job satisfaction among lower paid workers – pretty obvious but a depending upon the type & size of company it can have a huge effect
  4. A huge unknown dependent variable – performance (including past performance), which makes it difficult to compare income levels of individuals
  5. Past Credentials – A major factor if your current compensation depends on your past compensation and your past college, which would be very difficult to standardize across the industry
  6. Confidentiality – Any employee now has access to what every other employee makes, which is a big cause of concern whenever the employee leaves.
  7. Legal Hurdles – Finland currently prohibits the publication of employee’s salary without their explicit permission. Not sure about other regulations on this

A Better Approach than Open Salaries

One Phrase – Open-Book management. Open Book management is about empowering every single employee in your business with the tools, education and data they need to act (and take responsibility) like owners. In simple words, sharing all financial information with everyone who works within the organization. Zingerman is the best known examples which employs open-book management.

According to an article written in Forbes, companies register 30% increase in profitability and productivity in first year alone, if they implement the approach properly

How is Open Book Management effective ?

  • Bigger Picture – Front-line employees feel confident as to why a particular change was made and how it affects the company’s bottomline. A huge shift in ownership takes place for the particular employee as he also starts to think of the bigger picture
  • Decision-Making – An interesting case study on how a dishwasher give a recommendation that completely turned the fortunes of a company. He suggested to cut quantity in French Fries to half with free refills as French Fries are the biggest thrown items due to their large portion. Simple to implement, saved thousands of dollars in any store, plus the additional value for the customer to get free refills.
  • Higher Engagement – Open book management does leads to more commitment among employees, which is the primary factor now on what makes or breaks companies
  • Faster and more agile – All employees can keep an eye out for bigger level changes happening across their own company. Based upon solid data, they can course correct or stop bad investments or invent entirely new ideas to tackle existing problems

Besides, it introduces a fundamental transparency in the company where every decision is based on financial data.

GlassDoor (&PayScale) collect company reviews and real salaries of large companies and displays them anonymously for everyone to see. It has grown massively in size, which shows 41 million unique users and 5800 paying companies. Recruit Holdings which owns Indeed.com announced its intention to buy GlassDoor for $1.2B. (Note: LinkedIn has also moved in the space and can be more successful due to their wide reach)

Sources

Do you agree with what you have read over here, do let me know in the comments.
Shoutout to my good friend Shreyas Kulkarni for reviewing

Note 1 – Republished on Medium