Five Factors that forcing every brand to become Media Company

Information Technology growth has gone beyond all imagining in the last twenty years. Whether you call it a Moors law or it all started from mainframe computers,  now we are talking about wearable technology like the Apple iWatch and Google Glasses. More precisely, if we look back on hardware side, for the masses it was all triggered from the Apple Mac and then Compaq and Dell. Windows made it easy to operate computers, and on the software/Internet side I think it all started with Netscape and Yahoo, who made World Wide Web access a household commodity. Thereafter, Amazon, eBay, Google and now Facebook and Twitter are taking it to the next stage.

Anyway I am not writing this post to look into the history of technology growth but have discussed below how these changes have made businesses review their marketing and business development campaigns, or in other words why every business, from big FTSE 100s to start-ups to individual professionals, is becoming a media company regardless of the nature of their business, and forced to produce digital content in order to thrive in their area.

Surge in Mobile and Social Media Use means continuous content production

The main factor causing companies to produce content continuously is a surge in mobile and social media platforms, which means if businesses really want to reach their audience they have to produce social media and mobile friendly content, which should be more frequent, engaging and easily available than before, due to mobile and social network’s real time and community-driven framework.  Businesses cannot sit on one piece of content like the old days of TV advertising, print media and to a certain extent websites, and then apply techniques to promote them; rather, they should continuously produce more and more content so that they have their digital presence in the right time and right place for consumers.

And to substantiate my thoughts on how content is consumed these days, I have linked to the latest BuzzFeed analytics report, which shows the increasing influence of social media and mobile devices on content distribution and consumption. If we summarise, the main findings are that most referral traffic now comes from social media networks, more than Google, and is largely consumed on mobile devices. People are watching videos on channels like YouTube, and more on mobile devices than TV.

More Mobile and Social Media means 24*7 Content monitoring/Creation

Another side to the surge of social networks is that people talk 24*7 on any topic from all around the world, which means brands have to be vigilant in out of office ours to make sure their reputation remains intact.

For example recently Sainsbury’s charismas ad launched primarily for TV but also got over 14m views on YouTube with over 17k mentions across various networks from social media to blogs etc. The Guardian post alone initiated over 900 comments. The ad got traction because of its controversial content and attracted some criticism from analysts for its insensitivity to WW1 veterans, but the point here is that Sainsbury created an ad which become the talk of the whole world wide web, and then to manage reputation Sainsbury has to keep track of all the networks via comments and reviewing.

So for the company, work don’t stop at creating an ad and broadcasting it on telly, and then issuing a press release to deny any wrongdoing and pull the ad from television networks, because the ad is already out there on YouTube, people’s Facebook and Twitter feeds and embedded into online blogs. The work, in the form of producing more content to manage reputation, continues until the dust settles.

Product development too has become a media exercise

Product development now has become a public event. These days companies release beta versions as soon as they come out of their labs and in fact crowdfunding sites have taken this one level above, where businesses pitch their ideas to get funding and feedback, and it’s not limited to start-ups now, as recently Sony’s rumoured Smartwatch was cited on a crowd funding site to not only raise funds but get instant feedback from various interest groups. And we all know that putting a project on crowdfunding sites needs a substantial content production.

The days are gone where companies (with exception of Apple) used to develop their products behind closed doors and launch to consumers with a big hoo-ha. These days companies including electronic giants like Sony (and especially start-ups) usually come up with ideas and prototypes, create how to videos and graphics, get some focus group recommendations or release beta versions and ask their audience if they’d like to buy or endorse their upcoming products i.e. Product Development via Crowd-Sourcing means more Content Creation;

To Lure Potential Investors, Employees and Pre-Emptive Damage Control

One can argue that the above two examples belong to the retail sector, which is always prone to customer engagement, and the recent surge in social media and mobile platforms has obviously caused a natural progression and shift towards becoming a media company.

But, we can also look at hard-core enterprise businesses that have no direct engagement with consumers in their day-to-day operation, like Petrofac and BG Group. Both are oil exploration companies and they are not household names, but I was looking at their websites and social profiling and these companies are also working rigorously to build their digital footprint with their own Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn pages. Their analysts write rigorously on industry forums and become influencers on LinkedIn. The reason for their content creation is to attract the best talents from industry, and also pre-emptive damage control for things like oil spills, share price hiccups etc.

Entrepreneurs and Start-ups need Digital Footprint to Progress

digital footprintA digital footprint has become a prerequisite for any start-up or entrepreneur to take their proposition further, because from VCs to consumers, their continuous communication via various social networks is expected. This means you see start-ups and entrepreneurs continuously blogging, publishing articles on LinkedIn and their Facebook and Twitter feeds, engaging and broadcasting nonstop to ensure their noise is being heard and that they are noticed by the right people.

JustDial and InMobi are Leading the Indian Startup Scene

Indian startup scene

More continent than country, India is home to 17.5% of the world’s population. One of the emerging economies, it has no shortage of traditional entrepreneurs who have been part of the family business for ages, but the new wave of startups is still at a nascent stage.

The hottest sectors for startups seem to be E-commerce and Online Travel, with many companies having a valuation of about 1 billion dollars. Native companies like Flipkart, Jabong and Snapdeal are giving strong competition to Amazon, which is such a success story in the US.

India has its own Silicon Valley – Bangalore. About 41% of the startups are in Bangalore and 33% of them are ecommerce businesses.

The biggest advantage of starting up here is the sheer number of young people with access to online opportunities. Also, in a developing country, an organization that can develop unique solutions for its problems will be a sure success. For example, JustDial, a company that gives information to people having no internet access by sending it via SMS or InMobi, a startup creating waves in the Mobile Advertising sector.

There are an equal number of challenges to overcome too. The major cause for the slow growth is poor infrastructure, although much improvement has been made in recent years. Government regulations, risk-averse consumers and an overall lack in basic facilities are hampering further growth. It is said, that any organization that can take on the complexities of India may well be equipped to tackle the world!

In recent years, there has been just one Tech IPO (JustDial), while other startups have gone through successive rounds of funding. At the end of 2013, Zomato, a restaurant recommendations app, successfully raised funding from Sequoia Capital India and entered the 1,000 crore club (approximately 160 Million dollars).

India is attracting a steady flow of foreign investment because of its immense potential and fewer market entry barriers in comparison to China. With no dearth of talent and a passion to excel, India’s ‘Startup Age’ is just beginning.

Five quick tips for start-ups and entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship

Being involved with two start-ups and working through the nitty-gritty of daily operations to ensure that both ventures can survive another day makes me wonder if there is any light to end of tunnel, where I can reap the benefits of the problems we are solving and the pain of building solutions from scratch. This start-up life is a very vicious circle for any entrepreneur. We usually fall in to this out of sheer love of what we are doing and the gap we’ve identified in the market. However, taking an idea to a successful conclusion is altogether a different kettle of fish, and if we believe the stats over 95% of start-ups failed to see their fifth birthday!

In between the madness of taking these start-ups to the next stage, I scribble some notes whenever time permits, and that helped me to write my earlier blog post on highlighting critical factors to develop a product. For this one too, I have jotted down some additional factors or reconfirmed old factors that have become quite prominent and inspiring in my current start-ups’ journeys.

Luckily in this very social-media-oriented world, I can easily find and embed some references to reconsolidate my thoughts, which I have attached to each point to summarise my findings.

1 . Focus, Focus, and Focus

It may be an old cliché but the internet has made this world very small and resources have become readily available and inexpensive, which means that distractions are easy to come by, especially things are not going their way. For example, after the success of Eventbrite, we (i.e. tikbuzz.co.uk) could have been lured into becoming ticket suppliers rather than remaining a price comparison engine for the entertainment ticketing industry. But we stayed focussed to make sure that we develop a product that can help fans to find the best deals among the many already existing suppliers. Result: we are now one of the top three price comparison sites in the UK.

2. Create convenience for users

From Google to Facebook to Microsoft, mission statements categorically say that we want to make world better place and that basically means making things accessible and simple to use, and this is very true for start-ups too i.e. whenever, you envisage a product or service, always make sure that it will create convenience for your target audience. Like they say, build what you like to use, not what you’d like to leverage for a fat bank balance.

3. Learn to say no

Start-up life is all about long hours and doing things which you don’t do in a 9 to 5 corporate job. You might have to do all the jobs from receptionist to CEO, so there might be some distractions that you try to avoid in order to save some quality time for business development. For example, Dharmesh and Naval don’t take any business phone calls, communicating only by email, which means they can save lots of time on exchanging pleasantries or topics that they need to confirm via email anyway.

4. It’s never too late

I know, early successes from Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and then Mark Zackenberg, all in their twenties or early thirties, have given an impression that youth is the predominant factor for successful entrepreneurship, but if we look at the following Infographic, there are many examples where success came later in life, so don’t give up until, you achieve your goal.

5. Set Short Terms Goals & The Journey is J Curve

Having a vision is very important, as this confirms where you want to take your company. However, when it comes to execution, the focus must be on achieving short term goals. Richard Branson summarized this really very well in his LinkedIn post!

Plus, Life is a roller coaster when you run a start-up; one day you reach the ecstasy of ultimate success and the next day you might get so depressed that you feel the world has come to an end. I have found a quote from my LinkedIn contact that summarises this journey. Have a read and be prepared to smile in the end when you reach to your ultimate aim of setting up a start-up. Good luck!
entrepreneurship journey

Common Cloud Computing Problems and How To Solve Them

cloud computing

Cloud computing is a fairly new concept to many people, although it has been around for several  years, that has attracted the attention of many small businesses, large corporations and productive individuals.

There are a lot of advantages that come along with cloud computing, especially in companies where multiple employees need to access the same files from multiple computers or locations.

Cloud computing abolishes the need for servers or physical hardware within your office space and essentially cuts down the expenses cost to your company or yourself.

For this reason, a lot of individuals and companies are using cloud computer systems within their business.

However, whilst using the service, you may find that you come across a number of problems.

Some you can solve yourself and this article will outline those problems in which you can. However, some cloud computing problems require you to enlist the help of IT and Hardware Support specialists.

The threat of security issues

One of the major problems that put some companies off migrating to a cloud computer system is the circulating issues of security flaws within the system.

Due to the nature of a cloud system, where by you access your files and applications through an internet connection, it opens it up to several attacks from hackers that may want to corrupt or use your data.

However, you should find that most cloud service providers offer optimum levels of security and risk management to ensure that all of your programmers and documents are kept safe and secure.

You can also ensure that you choose sufficiently secure password for you and your staff to use as well as a protocol for employees to follow when using your service.

Compatibility issues

A problem that some companies face when it comes to migrating their servers to the cloud is the issue of compatibility.

For example, your computer software may not allow you to use certain cloud computing systems or allow you to use service fully.

To ensure maximum compatibility, always keep your software up to date. The latest Windows software is; Windows 8  for Windows computers and OS X Mavericks for Apple computers (as of April 2014).

Streaming media

If you chose to download files, pictures or watch videos through the cloud then you may be placing a heavy burden on your bandwidth speed and general performance.

If a lot of your employees are downloading files or streaming videos through your cloud service, you can find that performance and the speed of downloads will suffer.

Although, this can be resolved by implementing guidelines for what staff can or can not download or stream, or by upgrading your service to a larger and faster package.

To sum up, cloud computing has been around for several years now, but it is only until recent years that companies are starting to realise and utilize its potential, however some companies are put off using a cloud service due to some of the potential threats that come alongside with it, these threats however are easily remedied by either yourself or by your cloud hosting service provider.

About the author:

Bradley Sheldrick is a blogger that has interests in many topical fields. This article looks at the typical problems that businesses may have when using cloud computing solutions which was sparked by his recent work for NT Sols.

 

 

Will Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft reach their 100th Anniversary, like IBM?

IBM 100 YearsIn 2011 IBM celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a bang. The company was a merger of three companies: the Tabulating Machine Company, the International Time Recording Company, and the Computing Scale Company, and since then it has gone through many changes from high tech product manufacturing to a service-based company. But despite all these ups and downs, company survived and now employs over 450k employees, has a 100bn turnover and operates in over 170 countries!

In hindsight, two reasons stand out for IBM’s success. First, their ability to reinvent themselves time and again, and that includes change in the business model, new products and services, geographical expansion and becoming a more agile firm by cutting resources or selling off their business units, such as selling their hardware business to Lenovo. Second, focusing more on the enterprise market than business to consumer, as the enterprise market is more long lasting and cash rich.

Now the question is, will tech giants from the current age such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft exist 100 years after their inception, like IBM?

And like IBM, the answer will lie in their ability to reinvent themselves and rebound at every tipping point they will have in their 100-year voyage. In fact, these giants have already gone through some rough patches and managed to negotiate them so far.

However competition is getting bigger and stiffer day by day, and the reduced price of infrastructure has levelled the playing field between big players and start-ups such as Dropbox and WhatsApp, which have recently disrupted and created their own space in the already established cloud and private messaging industries.

We have looked into some factors these companies are focusing on to survive longer.

Buy Start-ups with a huge user base or serious IPs

The big cash companies are not shying away from buying start-ups and already are on a spending spree. Microsoft bought Yammer, Skype and Nokia; Google bought Next, YouTube and Motorola ( which it then resold); Apple bought Topsy; Facebook bought Instagram, WhatsApp and Opus. However this is a very high-risk policy. Recently Google took a hit when it sold Motorola Mobility at half the buying price.

Keep innovating and launch new products and services

Another proven theory is innovate to keep going i.e. keep launching new products and services to remain ahead of the competition. Google and Apple are really ahead in this game and have huge future product pipelines ranging from wearable technology to renewable energy products to space programs. Microsoft and Facebook are more focused around mobile and cloud friendly technologies.

Expand aggressively into rapidly growing BRICS countries

Expanding business into emerging markets (Far East or BRICS countries) is a very popular option these days, as consumer spending is increasing in these markets and so is a craze for products and services from tech giants. This is therefore a great opportunity for these companies to leverage that market.

 

But there is problem with proven methods:

I am not sure if buyouts, geographical expansions and new products and services are enough to keep big companies going for another century, as product life cycles are shrinking. These days people discard their new phone in months, change cars in year or two, change jobs every three years and homes every five or six years. In this environment people don’t often remain loyal to one company’s products and services. Plus, in order to maintain cash flow sustainability, Google, Apple and Facebook, and to a certain extent Microsoft, have no serious products or services like CRM, ERP, DB servers or Cloud computing with which to break into the enterprise market. Finally, companies like Alibaba and Samsung from the Far East are also making inroads into the Western market and presenting very stiff competition.

Perhaps only the guardian of crowdsourcing might survive

I think, if Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft really want to survive that long, they have to create a worldwide cross platform ecosystem (not like their existing vertical App stores) to crowdsource any future product and service, so nothing slips under their radar. Otherwise they will perish simply because easy access to high speed internet, software infrastructure (e.g. cloud computing), and technical talent abundance far beyond their labs means new product and service creation won’t be limited to these giants.

Kabir , Frank Underwood, Mark Zuckerberg, WhatsApp – hey ho 2014

Facebook and WhatsUp

I have finally managed to get a moment or two to spend writing a blog post. Following birth of our first baby, the last few days were as hectic as I have ever known in my life, with no respite from changing nappies, reorganizing furniture and looking after both mom and baby, however, during all this madness, I also watched house of cards series two, which like season one is full of Frank Underwood’s antics around Shakespearean emotions to gain ultimate power and made me rank this soap along with Thick of it, and Yes Minister!!

Let’s rewind the topic to kid again, we have called our new-born “Kabir”, a name that caused some disagreement with my other half, family and friends. Kabir being an ancient Indian saint, some find the name too dated and others question whether such a name is controversial because it could symbolise a certain section of society or religion. But luckily, with some deep convincing and back channelling (Frank Underwood, #HouseofCards), I managed to persuade everyone that Kabir was the right name for this kid;

My reasons were very simple. 1) It has a nice, simple, easy ring to it, unusual but easy for everyone to pronounce. 2) The original Kabir (The saint from India) did rise above cast, gender and religion and showed society that humanity is the best thing going forward, which always inspired me and influenced me to name my son after him!

OK, that all was personal. It’s rare for me to post personal stuff but emotion is pouring out from me. Everyone says life takes different turn after a child and it may be that that is forcing me to show personal emotion on my tech blog!!Probably this is the first and last time I will talk about things other than tech and product development here!

Let’s get back to business. Looking back to when I last blogged, the main stub was that Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) bought WhatsApp for $19bn. Looking at the stats, WhatsApp has 450m active users with over 1bn of messages exchanged every day. Facebook is valued at almost $42/user despite the fact that per user revenue is just under a buck – as a result many questioned if WhatsApp was really worth that much. At MWC14 Mark replied to that question with some hesitant affirmation i.e. he thinks it is but he might be wrong for the first time!

So what does this mean for Facebook and especially for Mark Zuckerberg?

He Continues to Lead from the Front
I think Zuckerberg continues to show his astute foresight and strong leadership skills when it comes to social media or new age communication tools, because first he managed to buy Instagram and then WhatsApp, despite both Google and Apple (far more cash riche than Facebook) being on the lookout for new generation tools!

Most Respected Among 21st Century Entrepreneurs
It also show that Zuckerberg enjoys high respect among start-ups or 1st generation entrepreneurs because, if rumours are to be believed, Larry Page from Google tried to offer a higher price to WhatsApp before Facebook bought it. The same is believed to be true for Instagram, which Zuckerberg managed to grab despite Jack Dorsey (Twitter co-founder) being on the Instagram board!

Facebook won’t be vanishing in 4/5 years’ time
Despite promising that WhatsApp will remain as independent as Instagram after buyout, Zuckerberg has managed to expand the Facebook product inventory, especially when some reports suggest that Facebook has already reached maturity and a downhill path might now be inevitable.

But what does this mean for the product development industry?

The Cross-platform Subscription Model has Legs!
WhatsApp is a cross-platform subscription-based messaging service which is not a new phenomenon. Similar services existed from the inception of dot com in the shape of Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL chat and then BBM brought that in on the mobile platform, but WhatsApp made the money. i.e. a lesson can be learned that a product which is better than anyone else’s and accessible from any device can leverage its success!

Eight Qualities that make a good Product Developer

Product Development Recently product development has become very intriguing career choice in computer science field. People like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Jeff Bezos have become household names and role models to aspiring entrepreneurs, and computing has, to a certain extent, replaced the oil and commodities sectors on Wall Street as a future investment bet. Many big universities have already introduced product development as a separate subject and unsurprisingly these courses are oversubscribed despite high fees.

However, having been involved in product development for both consumer and enterprise software and hardware, I am inclined to believe that product development cannot be learnt or taught over a relatively short time period as it is a continuously evolving process to find a solution for identified problems.

Based on personal experience, and after researching the thoughts and actions of many product developers from companies such as Facebook, Instagram, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay etc., the following characteristics have identified that might help product developers to become successful!

1.Passion:

Passion is about determination – finishing the job with calmness and confidence; it is not shouting and swearing.

Passion is the first characteristic everyone expects from a product developer, but I am not sure if all developers understand what passion stands for; some confuse it with obsessive aggression, argumentativeness and impatience, which can have an adverse effect.

In my opinion, the passion means a determination to finish what you start, regardless of pain and hurdles, and the work must be carried out with confidence so that you can remain focused, productive and immune to failures.

2.Drive:

There is nothing wrong with being driven by money or fame

Hunter Walk wrote a very good article and he emphasized the three most important things for product development: love, greed and fear. I must admit that the second one, greed, left the most lasting impact on me, as he rightly mentioned that greed relating to becoming famous and/or rich can potentially bring a focused and non-egoistic approach to developing a product quickly. 

3.Proving yourself:

Use personal grudges to motivate  yourself.

I was attending an event and one of the most experienced entrepreneurs in that meeting mentioned that he wanted to develop successful products  because, ”I need to prove many people wrong and rather than talk the talk, I like to do walk the walk and make things happen.”

Another example is in Nick Bilton’s new book Hatching Twitter:  Square is the byproduct of proving those people wrong that pushed Jack Dorsey out of Twitter.

4.Standing away:

Don’t get emotionally attached and learn every day.

Emotional attachment to a product can become hurdle to its development. Just because you want to shape a certain product in a specific way does not mean that everyone will buy in to your idea. As a product developer, you must be fixated on the problem you are solving but not on the way you choose to solve it i.e. if your product ends up completely different to what you first envisaged but solves the problem, you are winner!

5.Aptitude over qualifications:

You don’t need to be an engineer to build product.

Companies from Google to Facebook emphasize that product developers must be engineers. However, there are many examples in the technical world where people from a non-technical background become product developers. Steve Jobs was art school drop put was not a technical guy; he was a salesman at Atari and had vision to shape computer hardware in certain way to make it accessible. Working with the technical skills of Steve Wozniak, he developed the first personal computer and the rest is history.

6.Control the whole development cycle

Product development is not just about developing a piece of software and/or hardware; it needs a holistic approach.

As well as doing the things you love, you have to manage people, processes and technology.  You might have to be a tester one day and project manager or blogger or legal representative another day.For example, a developed product must go through legal checks to ensure that no copyright is infringed. As the product developer you can’t shy away from taking that responsibility and you will need to engage with non-technical people to ensure the whole product is ready.

 7.Build an honest team:

Surround yourself with people who can criticize.

Build a team that can identify issues with your product, not “Yes boss” colleagues, who are either charmed with your enthusiasm or have no clue about your product and therefore fail to pinpoint any issues. For example, I suspect that Microsoft’s failure to identify the internet opportunity and Yahoo’s inability to convert their content to context, losing the race to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, is result of this misinformation to their main product developers.

8.Step out of your comfort zone

Product development is a very time consuming activity and comes with huge responsibility and leadership. However, for greater productivity, and to remain in touch with the ground zero reality, every product manager must take some time out from their routine life and must involve themselves in activities that force them to think outside the box, such as become a volunteer worker at a sports club or charity, go to new places and work with people whose skills don’t match yours.

The key is you must work at something which doesn’t fall into your usual professional, social or personal domain and challenges you to step out of your comfort zone and broaden your horizons.