Why Tweet?

twitter_logo-200x46When Twitter was created over three years ago no one seemed to care, but in the past 6 months it’s gone from obscurity within the tech community to mainstream overload. I’ve struggled over the past month to write this post, because I’m not sure if Twitter is the next big thing or just a temporary distraction. With each passing day I find myself leaning towards the next big thing as I see and hear more people jumping on the Twitter bandwagon.

What makes Twitter different from the rest? Two big factors that are helping Twitter at the moment:

  • GDP is contracting worldwide and hence there is less “stuff” happening.  This gives people more time to try new things and hence Twitter and Facebook are enjoying a “hockey stick” growth pattern. Thus, many users entering random thoughts into “the matrix” as I call it.
  • The Twitter API is simple to use. The guys at Twitter have made a platform that can pull data and allow people to aggregate, repackage and reuse the content.

From a business model perspective, Twitter seems to have all 3 segments rolled into one platform.  Quick refresher course in dot.com lingo, C=consumer, B=business.  Sorry to take you back but it was the easiest way to break it down:

  • B2B – Currently, there is no fee for using Twitter’s API but at some point they could charge based on how much data you want to pull and how quickly.  If you are StockTwits you would want millisecond access to the data, others might need hourly access.
  • B2C – Many companies are using Twitter for customer support, press releases or to disseminate other information.
  • C2C – Allows people to have an open conversation and allow people to jump in if the topic is interesting. This is where search.twitter.com comes in handy to find content.

So, how do you benefit from Twitter? That’s the beauty you can use it any which way you want and not feel confined. I know some people that tweet every waking hour and others that tweet once a week. I mainly use Twitter to share links to business articles which others might find useful.

How are people in India using Twitter?  It’s not as widespread as it should be considering over 400 million mobile users and over 8 million being added monthly. Since the founder of Twitter, @jack, designed the architecture around an SMS type usage, I’m hoping within a year the uptake will be much more as people become aware of the service.  Anyways, the people that are using Twitter in India are doing some great things for different markets.

?? – If you know of anything that is targeted for the Indian market, tweet or e-mail me

@DeskAway –  SaaS project collaboration tool. They are using it to for support, product announcements, etc…

@missmalani – According to her Twitter profile she is a Radio DJ, Party Animal and Mumbai’s Gossip Girl. In essence, she is a one person marketing machine
@gulpanag – Actress based in Bombay, tweeting about random thoughts
@deepakshenoy –  Based in Delhi. All things related to the Indian equity markets
@kaushikgala – Based in Pune. Tweets about Indian equity markets and the venture capital field
@sm63 – Based in Bombay. social networking and most recently was Twittering the IPL finals match
@pjain – Based in Delhi. technology, finance, apple, etc…

Some others that are using Twitter only for input and not following others, which is such a waste:

@Rahul Gandhi – He is following nobody, but has over 1,900 people following him. Fail.
@ShashiTharoor – Following 3 people and over 3,300 followers. Fail.

I’m surprised that no big tech exec is tweeting from Bangalore or a big Bollywood star. The CTO of Cisco, Padmasree Warrior tweets and of course everyone knows Ashton Kuther does as well.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m @mrjain.

Green Shoots Appearing in India?

green_shootsBased on what the Indian equity markets did on Monday everyone now sees green shoots appearing in India. Yes, the markets roared 17.7% on the back of the Congress party win, but we all seem to forget it’s not an event but a process.  I understand how people feel about the election and the future of India, it’s almost identical to how I felt when Obama won the election.  I was delusional thinking Obama would walk into the Oval Office and clean up the financial mess, broker peace in the Middle East and make American cars cool again on Day One.  India has some large scale issues it needs to address beyond coming out with policy statements one day and then yanking them the next day – think 3G auction. The biggest issue I have yet to hear anyone talk about is India’s national debt. The US has an insane amount of debt but has a secret weapon – a printing press.

If you watch CNBC-TV18 or any other Indian financial channel they talk about all the sectors that will get a boost from the new government matter of fact. The one theme I constantly hear and read in the paper is the amount of money that will NOW go into infrastructure, all I can say is Whisky Tango Foxtrot.  Since people love to hear about the “infrastructure story” I’m going to dissect this fairy tale. This story is not new and has been around since the 1990’s when then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said

Our roads don’t have a few potholes. Our potholes have a few roads.

Since then, the only large scale national infrastructure project implemented is the Golden Quadrilateral road project.  For all that talk about national infrastructure spend there is only ONE project for about Rs. 60,000 CR (USD 12.5 billion) too show for it. Yes, I know India is fragmented and each State is almost run like a fiefdom.  The bigger issue is having the States work together, a clear example of where the whole (India) is more than the sum of its parts (States). To fund these projects the government will most likely have a Public/Private partnership,  the public piece will be financed by government bonds and the private piece is a mystery.  Many of the private parties such as Macquarie Bank, DEPFA, HypoVereinsbank and Lehman Brothers are either out of business or have significantly scaled back their infrastructure business. Of course, someone forget to tell the Indian news media about that. In the mean time, any company that has anything to do with infrastructure is the talk of the town…the “infrastructure story” continues…

A Reboot for shaadi.com?

shaadi_logoEver since I sold shaadi.com back in early 2000, I’ve been tracking and watching the social networking space grow beyond belief. shaadi.com was started and still is a quasi social networking site focused on one thing – getting hitched.  Lately, the press has focused on Facebook and to a lesser extent MySpace. To compare shaadi.com to Facebook would be unfair but I do believe shaadi.com has lost a bit of it’s steam as of late and could learn a thing or two from Facebook and other sites like it.

My analysis will start from a macro view of the business then talk about distribution, the “cool” factor and innovation. This post is strictly about their online business model and hence I won’t get into their Shaadi Point (aka Shaadi.com Centre) offline franchise business.

The first area is the business model, shaadi.com currently has a “walled garden” approach to member profiles. That means you need to be a paying member in order to fully utilize the website, no pay no access. Another side effect of this approach is that search engines like Google are blocked from the content. I agree that some people might not want to be searchable via Google, but that should be a choice left to the consumer.

Next up is traffic distribution deals.  If you decide to flood the internet with matrimonial profiles that means you have to look at other ways of generating revenues instead of the monthly membership fees. One way of generating revenue is via traffic distribution deals such as MySpace has with Google. There are a couple more I can think of that I’ll save for another post.

The “cool” factor. Let’s be realistic no one wants to admit they are on shaadi.com, in fact some of my cousins in the US call it shady dot com.  However, many of my single friends on social networking sites such as Facebook, Friendster and Orkut are looking for friendship either short term or long term. Shaadi.com has the brand name to make it “cool” once again. An example would be an offline event in Spain for Sindhi’s or Marwari’s and invite speakers from those communities and make it a business/personal mixer. Another option would be to leverage the film production unit People Pictures as well.

The last area I’ll cover is innovation. I have yet to see any tech related innovation coming from the People Group, the guys that run shaadi.com.  Look at Facebook, it announced last week it’s the largest photo sharing site with over 6.5 billion pictures. Did they buy a bunch of servers and throw more bandwidth at it? They probably did some of that but the heart of the photo sharing system is a home grown technology called haystack (more info on haystack). Innovation usually occurs when there is a business need to accomplish a task without throwing more money at it. But, another division within the People Group is Mauj Mobile which is responsible for mobile content to many of the top mobile carriers around the world, I can think of several ways to build synergy and innovation between the two divisions.

Overall, as more users jump onto sites such as Facebook it becomes more difficult to get the mind share of the target audience that shaadi.com so desperately needs. If not, then it will be relegated to parents using the site to find someone for their kids – not the ideal way in this age of social peer to peer communication.