Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SMB integrator experiment - Zero sum game

We are acquiring customers organically via inbound-marketing for our workflow product Postoz (http://www.postoz.com).

We wanted to accelerate customer acquisition inorganically & were talking with few SMB solution integrators for partnership deals.

Typically integrators earn their revenue via,
  1. Business consulting.
  2. Technology consulting and implementation.
  3. Support services.
Since our product is SaaS hosted; do-it-yourself; no-coding required solution, it eliminates need for step 2 and 3. Our partnership deal has to be purely based on revenue sharing.

There are other big SaaS vendors playing zero-sum game with these SMB integrators. These vendors are spending multi-millions upfront to acquire large customer base. We don't have such large financial leverage to spend millions on customer acquisition.

Fun part of startup is creating greater economic value out of nothing rather than corporate style 5-8 year break-even period to recoup invested millions.

We have to make ourselves more reachable for customers world wide & we should find direct path to customers.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fun starts after release of the product

Like other dev-entrepreneurs i hated marketing/sales at first time, i guess because programming is much more quantifiable than marketing/sales.

In programming you deal with machine, tell it how to behave & when something didn't work you know how to fix it.

In marketing/sales you are dealing with other human (customers, bloggers, partners etc). It is more of psychology play. You will certainly don't know why certain things didn't work/worked in particular way.

Productizing an interesting problem/idea is just start of the journey. Real fun starts when you selling it. You get lot of energy when,

  • Your product is being used by customers (uhh, finally built something people need)
  • You receive love letters & support requests from customers and hate mails from competitors (few meaningful emails in your Inbox).
  • Revenue generation (allows to on-board new hackers to experiment exciting ideas)

Ship your product quickly and start selling. Your excitement will grow exponentially with every customer acquisition.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pattern of human centric business processes

Many SMEs use email for workflow management. Email based workflows are best examples of "human centric" business processes. The flexibility of email allows enterprises to structure their workflow system with ease. But email based workflows are painful when the team size is not small and business process requires,

  • Transparency among team members (who is working on what & how long).
  • Traceability of work item across various departments.
  • Quantitative data to analyze existing process structure for improvements.
In enterprises, pattern of "capturing data via web form (or) email that flows among group of people in an orderly sequence", repeats for many human centric business processes such as "IT helpdesk", procurement and employee on-boarding etc. We recently released Postoz (http://www.postoz.com), a SaaS hosted, web based solution for this common pattern.

Postoz enables enterprises to create and deploy business processes in few minutes. With Postoz, enterprises can build automation solution for business processes the creative way they wanted and deploy them over internet, instantly.

Here are the links to get started and know more about Postoz,

Sign-up free demo url : http://www.postoz.com/demo

Tour page : http://www.postoz.com/info/tour

3 mins demo video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWnu6RIUQaA

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Postoz - Public beta launch.

We recently launched our latest product "Postoz" in limited public beta. You can access it at http://www.postoz.com

Postoz is focused on an issue, most enterprises are coping with - "Using email for workflow management".

Email has proved as wonderful communication medium. The flexibility of email allows enterprises to structure their workflow system with ease. But monitoring, tracking, measuring & optimising email based workflows are tough.

At one end, there are expensive bloatware workflow/business process systems that requires multiple months of customization and at other end, there are one-size-fits-all ready-made solutions that kills operational innovations & effectiveness.

Postoz is SaaS hosted, web based business process system that lets organisations craft automation solution for business processes
the creative
way they wanted & deploy them over Internet, instantly. Build business process in 5 minutes.

You can try Postoz at http://www.postoz.com

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Postoz - Build email driven apps

We are preparing for beta launch of our new product - Postoz.

Postoz empowers enterprises to create, deploy, monitor email driven business processes.

Postoz = Email routing + Workflow + Web app for business logic

Epitome of postoz :
  • Automate business processes that are driven by inbound or outbound emails.
  • Control execution of business process with DSL based email routes and workflow steps.
  • Use web development skills for business logic implementation.
  • Get started at no cost.
  • Deploy at our hosted cloud environment or at your own infrastructure.

You can find more info and/or signup for a private beta invite at : http://www.postoz.com

Feel free to send your feeback/thoughts to feedback@postoz.com

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Freebies, incentives & education.

It is election time in Tamil Nadu, India. To allure voters, political parties released their electoral manifesto with promise of various freebies and schemes. There are lot of debate in TV channels and new papers about socio-economic impact of these freebies & incentive schemes on government, society and individuals.

I knew one area that freebies did a wonder - Education. I grew up in rural Tamil Nadu, India and did my primary & pre-university education at govt sponsored school. During pre-economic reforms, liberalization era, to attract students to schools & reduce ownership/cost of education for parents, there were freebies & incentives for school going kids, particularly in rural India (where illiteracy, poverty was prevalent). Here i list freebies (that i could remember) distributed in my school

Primary School.
  • No school fees.
  • Tooth powder (Distributed first week of every month).
  • Mid day meals (Every day, free lunch).
  • Vitamin food balls (Every month, last Friday)
  • Note pads, pencil (Twice a year).
  • Geometry boxes & school books (Once a year).
  • Stitched school uniform (couldn't remember distribution frequency)
Middle & High school.
  • No school fees, Mid day meals, Note pads, books & school uniform.
  • Bicycle (For students who passed 8th grade. This was major attraction).
If you pass 10th grade, you are
  • Eligible to apply for limited bank loan without capital asset (This was major attraction).
  • Eligible to apply for heavy wheeler driving license (Lorry, Truck, Bus etc).
India's economic reforms, liberalization started in mid 1990, had reduced need of these incentives. Today incentives like "Free tooth powder" are no longer exist & not many people depend on these schemes for their education.

When i look back 15 years, always amazed by opportunities brought by economic reforms & liberalization.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Using web skills to create product catalog / brochure

update : Brochure we created using below discussed points, for Postoz - SaaS hosted business process system is accessible at https://s3.amazonaws.com/postoz/postoz-brochure.pdf

In this blog we discusses about creating professional looking product catalog / brochure by leveraging web development skills.

You need,
To outline steps involved, we will create simple brochure.

Create brochure layout with Blue print CSS

if you haven't used Blue print CSS before, have a look at this tutorial

Apply necessary styles

Download and apply Cufon fonts

For this demo, i used vanilla font from Cufon fonts.

Export your webpage as pdf

You can download files associated with this blog entry at github repo : https://github.com/selvan/sample-brochure

update : Brochure we created using above discussed points, for Postoz - SaaS hosted business process system is accessible at https://s3.amazonaws.com/postoz/postoz-brochure.pdf

Monday, January 10, 2011

Good Team + Interesting Technology + Great Vision = Investment

Few weeks ago, on my way to office, noticed advertising hoardings from VBHC for 1BHK apartments at $13,500 (5500000 INR) & 2BHK apartments at $27,000 (1250000). Price tag of these apartments was big surprise and as an entrepreneur i started wondering about their business model.

I decided to spend some time & understand their business & economics behind it. Here is my analysis.

1) Builders.

Like in many cities, real estate business in bangalore too has strong links with not so good people (Unethical, Greed etc). So first thing i looked at was,
who is the promotor of VBHC ?. I found that "Jerry Rao" is the promotor and HDFC investment arm holds minority stake in VBHC. As i work in the software industry, i knew that jerry rao was the founder of Mphasis (He sold Mphasis to EDS) and he was also served as chairman of NASSCOM. VBHC project was launched by HDFC chairman "Deepak Parekh". When multi billion dollar satyam scam emerged, Minister for Corporate Affairs constituted new board for satyam and "Deepak Parekh" was one of the three board members. I am convinced that i am dealing with good builders.

2) Business & economics.

Lets understand how typical real estate business works in India.

  • Builder purchases land - With his own money or via loan.
  • Builder starts construction using conventional methods - Most builders take loan for construction to mitigate their execution/business risk.
  • Builder completes 60% of construction. - Interest incurred on the loan during this period will be passed on to consumers.
  • Builder starts marketing. - Interest incurred on the loan during this period will be passed on to consumers.
  • Builder couldn't sell (as the market is competitive) or Builder didn't want to sell (expects demands will be high) - More interest incurred on the loan, again it will be passed on to consumers.

Based on various parameters (number of units being constructed, capital strength of the builder, market demand etc) typical construction duration is between 2 to 3 years.

Lets look at how VBHC is building,

  • VBHC purchases land.
  • Constructs model houses, starts marketing.
  • Completes more than 95% booking before actual construction starts. Construction cost is paied by consumer in chunks along with progress of the construction. VBHC completely avoided their major business risk - "selling to consumer", even before the construction started.
  • Construction completes within a year.

In their current project, VBHC is building ~1800 units. This large volume of units allows them to bargain more from their raw material suppliers. VBHC is clearly trying to distrupt conventional housing business with "Build large number of units & Build quickly."

3) Technology

When VBHC told me that they will construct all ~1800 units with a year & 3 months, i was surprised as i thought it is nearly impossible with conventional construction method (It is equivalent to thinking "5 ladies together can deliver a baby in just 2 months"). They showed interesting method for construction - "Western Forms". As i wan't aware "Western Forms" way of construction elsewhere, I questioned about usage of the same technology elsewhere. The sales guy replied that the technology provider has successfully used the same construction methodology on multiple hosuing projects in mexico and many commercial projects in NA.

VBHC is targeting urban middle class with their vision of "a million homes in 10 years". Affordable 2BHK flats along with in-campus CBSE school, grocery shops & primary health center, certainly the valuation (based on location of the project, price tag, team, amenities, safety, community living, return on investment) of VBHC Vaibhava project looks attractive.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Salary structure - multiple options

Instead of having single salary structure, we started offering multiple options to our new employees,

  1. Pure stock option => X number of company shares.
  2. Stock option (Major portion) + Cash amount (Minor portion) => X number of company shares + Y amount of cash.
  3. Cash amount (Major portion) + Stock option (Minor portion) => Y amount of cash + X number of company shares.
  4. Pure cash amount => Y amount of cash.
We also allowed him to switch to other option within three month from the joining date.

Primay key look up : NOSQL vs SQL

To demonstrate this usecase, we retrieve bunch of columns for a primary key. Typical SQL would be,


Lets analyze what happens when we execute above SQL,

1) Query passes through SQL engine.
a) Lexical analysis & Parsing of SQL statement (Exception will be raised if any syntax error found).
b) SQL optimization to choose optimal execution path for the statement.

2) Searching the index for primary key
Most databses store table indexs on tree structure. B+ tree is most commonly and widely used indexing structure. Even with, highly optimized B+ index structure, some form of tree search is required to locate the primary key.
3) Primary key is located, perform data retrieval.
Primary key is located, corresponding row is returned for that primary key.
Is SQL way of retrieving data based on primary key effective?. Lets see how we implement same usecase with NOSQL,


In NOSQL, primary key and corresponding columns are stored as Hash (key => primarykey, value => column values as string/jason). With NOSQL, looking up primary key is performed in constant time and there is no need for lexical analysis, parsing and optimization. Does this pattern sound familer?. Many large websites use MySQL with Memcached. Memcached will serve as in-memory NOSQL.

NOSQL is better for fast retrieval of data using primary key. MySQL + Memcached combination could be used to achieve the same.