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Geeky Times: The best of Indian entrepreneurship ecosystem news on your mobile

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I love reading Indian startup news. everything about them — what’s the latest startup getting launched, who’s got funded, who’s trolling who, who’s sharing their learning’s & story etc.  However, I had to wade through more than half a dozen websites & apps to read all these. On top of that, the experience on mobile was not what I would have wanted.

My love for android programming & the need to read startup news in a convenient manner on my mobile got me to create Geeky Times. The app is a feed reader that fetches Indian start-up content on mobile and get’s me to read news at one place without having to go to different sites or open different apps.

Sharing it here so that people can try it out in case they have similar needs. The app is a weekend project/side project of mine and hence could have a few rough edges. There is no rocket-science-big-data-backend or high-funda-technology used in the app. It’s just a plain & simple app that does one and only one thing — help me in my reading of startup news 🙂

The download link is: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.startup.news.magazine

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OffRoad Thrills: India’s first mobile app for the 4×4 & off-road enthusiast, available on android playstore

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4×4 off-road is one of the fastest growing adventure motor-sports in the country and there is need for people to learn different aspects of off-road; such as safety, vehicle modifications, and off-road driving styles in a concise and easy to understand manner at one place on a mobile device.

As an avid off-road enthusiast, always wanted to create something for the off-road community in India and created OffRoad Thrills mobile app as part of the Bangalore OffRoad Drivers Association (B.O.D.A) initiative to bring 4×4 off-road closer to everyone.

OffRoad Thrills provides users with quick tips on off-road basics, 4×4 technology, off-road driving, modifications & recovery. There is a section with hand-picked off-road videos to learn about various off-road aspects. Users can view listing of prominent 4×4 clubs across India and join them. A calendar of popular off-road events is provided and the app also features listings of prominent off-road modifiers/garages, accessories & equipment suppliers for off-roaders to modify and prepare their 4×4 vehicles for off-road.

OffRoad Thrills is now available for free download worldwide on the android play store and an iPhone version is planned later.

To download the app: http://bit.ly/offroadthrills

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Mobile app to find toll plaza/toll booth list & toll rates on Indian Roads & Highways

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NHAI TollsDownload the mobile app here

Finally an app, TollPlaza, that gives you ability to:

  • View detailed list of toll plaza/toll booth on Indian National Highways
  • View information about 350+ tolls on Indian roads & highways
  • Find toll charges for single, return & monthly pass on tolls
  • View distance between your current location & the tolls across India
  • Search for tolls by toll name, operator, name of state (for example, all tolls in Karnataka, tolls operated by L&T)
  • Find out number of tolls & the total toll charges between any 2 cities of India

NHAI Tolls ListNHAI Tolls Places1                  Download the mobile app here

Kharcha – The No Frills, Simple Expense Tracker Android App

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I am fasKharcha Expense Trackercinated by mobile apps & the way they have become an integral part of our lives. Not many things in technology has touched our lives like mobile (& mobile apps) — much more than internet or anything before in technology.

As part of my mobile apps usage I wanted to use a simple expense tracker to keep track of where I am spending money. Needless to say, I found 1000’s of expense trackers in playstore and I used quite a few expense trackers but somehow found them to be overly complex. I wanted a no frills expense tracker — something which is plain & simple. No complex goal settings, money sources etc. Just plain simple add expense, expense done on what & paid through. No complex reporting. Just simple reports that you can use.  Few of the expense trackers I tried were good but they wanted too many permissions on phone. I don’t understand why an expense tracker should have access to my contact list, dial numbers, read SMS, or ask me to register with email etc.

Keeping that in mind, I thought of creating one for myself — a simple expense tracker for daily expenses. Bare minimum features & usable in place of writing expenses in a book. My reference was my mother who used to just write the expense, date & amount in a notebook at end of everyday.

Thus Kharcha (Kharcha in hindi means Expenses) was written over few days with the focus on simplicity over complex features. No permissions on your phone, no sending data anywhere or  access to any information on your phone. Kharcha expense tracker will be very good for people who prefer simplicity over complex features. Especially markets like India where for example say housewives & people from tier-II/III cities are starting to use smartphones & mobile apps

Usage — as easy as saying 1 – 2:
—————–
Step #1: Setup your own categories for expense types. (For example: Utilities & Bills, Monthly Provisions, Shopping & Eating Out…)
Step #2: Start adding expenses. That’s it.

You can use the various easy to use simple reports to see your expense history & at any time add more categories.

In case you need to delete an expense, you can do so from the summary view by long pressing expense detail

You can download the app from google play store here: Kharcha

Screenshot_2014-04-30-19-09-09kharcha summary expense reportkharcha monthy expese report

 

 

 

 

Making Enterprise Gamification Work – Part 1: Get the definition of enterprise gamification correct

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You would have looked at the definition of gamification if you are responsible for implementing gamification in your enterprise systems. Chances are, more often than not, you would have come across a definition that reads like the one below:

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems.[1][2][3] Gamification is used in applications and processes to improve user engagementreturn on investmentdata qualitytimeliness, and learning.[4]

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamification

As a person who will be implementing gamification, you will be required to give a 1-2 line pitch of what gamification is to people who may not know what it is. Now, you will have few choices to make:

  • Use the above definition to explain what is gamification and then be prepared for questions & responses like “games”… “what games” “….oh you mean create games” and so on or even looks which convey “.. that went over my head” .. i don’t understand a word of what you just said…”.
  • After your experiences with above definition, you will quickly fall back to using terms like ‘adding badges, levels, awards to systems’ . This will be a sure shot way to trivialize the impact of gamification even before you embark on the journey.

The above definition may work or make sense to people implementing gamification in consumer facing applications, research scholars, academia but there is very little chance of the above getting traction in an enterprise context. The reality is that people either can’t understand the connection between terms like games (or terms like game-mechanics) to serious enterprise work  or they will equate it to something trivial.

In case of enterprise gamification, the envelope containing the message is as important as the message itself. As they say, the first impressions/perceptions of many things can make or break initiatives. Your choice of definition on what gamification means is one of those.

Why organizations need 2 different Social Media Policies

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Dion made an excellent blog post on the subject of connecting employees to social media where he elaborates the need for a comprehensive social media policy. I agree with his thoughts on this subject and firmly believe that organizations, who want to start their journey towards social enablement need to critically think on the SM policy that they need to create. Starting the SM journey without a sound SM policy is like driving on a road with no defined destination.

While most SM efforts are targeted towards the enterprise engaging in & leveraging external social channels, I firmly believe that organizations need to be socially enabled internally and then only they can be truly socially engaged externally. Going forward, it just can’t be let to a select group of people (in marketing, sales, customer service) to be socially enabled externally without they tapping into the internal social enabled enterprise.

Towards this, I think that the dynamics, context & implementation nuances within the enterprise are different from the external landscape and hence there is a need for a differentiated internal & external SM policy. This doesn’t mean that they differ at the concept level but just the implementations, rules of engagement could differ and clearly articulating it though separate SM policies would reduce confusion & give greater clarity.

For example, the external policy could have rules of engagement in external channels, do’s & don’ts, workflows, roles & authorizations, NDA’s etc aspects covered; while the internal policy could focus on tying internal social initiatives with work, collaboration, KRA’s, objectives, culture, rewards, acceptable norms of engagement, IP etc.

What do you think? do you also think there is a need for separate internal/external SM policies or just one will do? What’s been your experience?

Social Customer Care – 101 | Cookie Cutter Responses vs Engagement, Dialogue & Conversations

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A vital component of owning a product or consuming s service is Customer Service. In-fact, how good/bad customer service is, has a major influence during the buying decision of a product/service.

As part of using customer service, most of us would have had an experience interacting with a human being — either over phone or through emails/systems. Many a times I have wondered if it is actually a human being at the other end of the phone line/email or some programmable robot spewing out canned responses.

Just have a look at numerous customer review websites like mouthshut.com, consumercomplaints.in, community portals, twitter etc and you will get the drift.

A recent post Efficiency vs Effectiveness had highlighted this aspect of customer service and how organizations in today’s social eco-system need to take an effectiveness based approach. Social Monitoring & Analysis tools, like Radian6  Visible Technologies etc can get you a sense of what your customers, in social channels, are talking about your products & customer service. Now, while technology can get you all this information, the key challenge is how organizations respond & engage with customers.

Organizations have 2 choices:

Cookie Cutter Approaches  == Efficiency, Repeatability, Consistency, Productivity, Scalability, Mass rollout, Can be outsourced, Traditional measures, Easy trainability etc.

Engagement, Dialogue & Conversations == Each transaction is new, Customer of one, Extreme Personalization, Empathy, Human Centric. New age organizations are realizing this and are in the process of creating roles like “Community Managers” to interact with consumers in the social channels.

Let’s understand the differences in the above 2 approaches through these sample responses

“Thanks for sharing your problem. I’ve looked into it and have taken the dealer to task. The problem lies with your head gasket. Please take the car to the dealer and we’ll sort it out ASAP. “
OR
“Greetings from XYZ Company. Our cars are the most reliable and this is proven by 5,00,000 customer cars on the road today. We cannot be held responsible for the way you have used your car”

“Looks like your low battery is due to bad sensor, or a loose connection. Please bring it to the service station and we will glad to diagnose & help”
OR
“The ABC battery has been officially certified for 35 hours backup by CERCI”

“Yes, we realize that our dealers from the northern part of country need a severe ramp-up and are in the process of doing so. Existing dealers are being taken to task, and newer customer-focused dealers are being shortlisted”
OR
“DEFG India prides itself on the No.1 position in customer satisfaction survey. Our dealerships provide industry-leading after-sales service“

Which one do you think is more human, engaging & conversation centric? Which one would you prefer? Do you have some views & experience to share on customer service?