The Rally that Left Manpasand Behind

Friday, Sept 20th, 2019 will hopefully go down in Indian financial markets as the day the economic boom for the country got re-started. The markets zoomed over 1,900 points or 5.3% for their biggest gain in a decade. The fuse was lit by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman when she announced several economic measures that should help companies. The theory is that by helping companies they will invest and create more jobs which the economy sorely needs.

One company that completely missed this rally was Manpasand. In fact, it fell below Rs. 10 for the first time ever which is also it’s par value or face value.

I’ve been tracking this stock for a couple of years now. And I got to watch it go up and down and so glad I never invested a single Rupee in it.

The company has been around for 30 years and is a Gujarat-based juice manufacturing company. In 2011, it got private equity money from SAIF Partners a well-respected PE fund. (SAIF is a acronym for Softbank Asia Infrastructure Fund). Then in early 2015 it started a roadshow to build up enthusiasm for its upcoming Initial Public Offering (IPO). You can read the Red Herring prospectus here (PDF) to see how they pitched their offering. What is a Red Herring prospectus? click here.

In mid 2015, Manpasand finally got listed on the National Stock Exchange (NSE) at Rs. 150 a share. All was good and it looked like another example where PE money helped a company grow and everyone benefitted.

Then in May 2018, the wheels fell off when the auditor on record – Deloitte Haskin & Sells resigned. It’s pretty clear from the above chart where the stock ended after this revelation. The brokerage firm Motilal Oswal quickly issued a statement (PDF) saying it’s recommendation for the stock was “under review”. Let me be clear, when the auditor bails on a company that’s a very clear indicator you need to bail on the stock.

Had you sold when the auditor resigned, then at the worst you would have broken even from it’s IPO price. But, if you held on thinking the auditor resigned because they didn’t like the Gujurati food while auditing the client, then that’s on you.

Creators, Consumers and Commenters

I’ve had my YouTube channel going for about 10 months now and the experiment is going well, my goal was to create 1 video a month. For the past 10 years I have been a consumer of videos and I wanted to see what it’s like from a creators perspective what the YouTube platform is all about. I really thought it was about creators and consumers (people that consume the content), but there is a 3rd category…commenters. Let’s talk about these 3 categories of users.

  1. First up are the creators. I thought it would be easy to create content for YouTube but that’s just not the case. Video production is not easy and it’s one of the main reasons I stayed away from having a vlog but as I saw more and more content on video, it was clear that’s the future. Once you get past the video production drama you have to have interesting/compelling content and a style that people like. Now just upload content on a daily basis or every 2 to 3 days and you have a winning formula to monetize your YouTube channel. I would say 5% of the people are creators.
  2. The consumers. As with any property on the internet, you need people to view the content and also to view the ads that are inserted into the videos to get paid. These consumers are fickle, what’s hot one day can be dropped like a hot potato for another YouTube channel. This group makes up 80% of the overall audience and this is what most content creators are focused on.
  3. The commenters. Or as some creators call them…tormentors! This group makes up 15% of the audience and honestly it’s the one group I didn’t really think about till I started my own channel. Luckily my target audience is pretty sane but I’ve seen some channels where the comments section is a complete shit-show.

The comments section is a great way to get feedback and also get user engagement but it can also turn dark very quickly. In India, the YouTube comments section can be boiled down to 3 things that people end up fighting about if it gets heated:

  • BJP vs Congress (politics)
  • Hindu vs. Muslim (religion)
  • India vs. Pakistan (nationalism)

I’ll probably continue my YouTube experiment till the end of the year and then stop. It takes too much time to create quality content and I rather just blog here instead! Oh and I’m pretty sure no one wants to hear me talk about cars since there are 1000’s of channels that do the same thing.

Jio is Unstoppable

Reliance Industries (RIL) this past week held its 42nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Nariman Point. Mukesh Ambani broke the meeting into 3 parts:
1. Oil & Chemicals
2. Jio
3. Reliance Retail

The Oil & Chemicals division is the money maker that allows Reliance to expand into new unrelated markets like Jio.

Jio was the star of this AGM and rightfully so, they have 350 million paid connections and on a growth path to 500 million connections. Their GigaFiber service is what everyone is waiting for. I’m on their free GigaFiber trial service and it’s been an absolute delight – 100Mbps download AND uploads. Because of GigaFiber we have cancelled our traditional coaxial cable connection and now watch everything via OTT apps like Amazon Prime, Netflix and YouTube.

When I used to work at Cisco Systems 20 years ago we talked about the Triple Play – Voice, Video and Data over the same connection. Here we are in 2019 and Jio is finally delivering the holy grail of connections. The connection speed will be upto 1Gbps to allow for the large amount of data that is required for broadcast quality high definition TV. The amount of traffic that is taken up by a single voice call is next to nothing and hence Jio is willing to say voice calls are free for life.

The Indian telecom industry has been completely decimated because of Jio. Idea had to merge with Vodafone and many of the smaller players had to merge as well. Airtel is still the largest wireless company but I’m sure will soon be eclipsed by Jio. It’s clear Jio has become what it is because of Mukesh Ambani and Reliance, their on-the-ground execution is unmatched. If they want something done, they figure out a way to clear the decks to make the policy match their goals – not a bad way to work!

What’s unclear is how much money they have spent on building out the infrastructure and the overall cost of getting Jio up and running. But that has always been the style of Reliance, don’t ask too many questions and just watch the stock price continue to go north. Jai Jio!

During the AGM they did several demos of new technology and they were quite cool. The only funny part it is when they did a video conference to someone in New Jersey where it was 2am in the morning yet it was a bright as hell – maybe some new virtual reality stuff!!

A Better Approach to the Mumbai Parking Fines

By now 50% of my WhatsApp groups have messages about the new parking fines that have been implemented in Mumbai (Bombay) by the MCGM (BMC). The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) is the governing civic body of Mumbai that used to be known as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

haha, redius!

On Sunday July 7th, the new parking rules went into effect that basically raised the fines for illegally parking your car from a few hundred Rupees to thousands of Rupees.

The notice boards were plastered all over Bombay and don’t even get me started on how bad their grammar is. Words like hereby and radius were misspelled. Which I find ironic since for decades, Indian’s have been winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee every year in America. I guess all the good spellers are in the US.

Anyways, people have been talking about how bad the infrastructure of Bombay is and this is just another kick in the balls, I take a different viewpoint. I love that the fines are high, because that is the only way people will change their behaviour and make a difference in the city. I just wish they would had taken a different approach.

They should have launched an app for the city of Mumbai and one of the features would have been for citizens to report illegally parked cars. Currently, the police have to issue a ticket which is a bottleneck and unfortunately the CCTV system is not enabled for issuing violations for illegally parked vehicles. With an app, any citizen can take a picture via the app and it would be geo-tagged and then quickly determined if the car is within 500 meters of a MCGM car park and parked illegally.

But that’s not all, the person that submitted the picture would get 10% of the fine as a reward once the fine is paid. That reward amount can be used to recharge mobile phones and if the amount is above Rs. 10,000 then that person can initiate a KYC process to transfer the money to a mobile wallet like PayTM or a bank account. Imagine the entire population would be on the lookout for parking offenders and a great way for people to earn pocket money.

In addition, they should implement a “leader board” to see who are the biggest parking offenders and who submitted the most pictures. This would bring transparency to the process and also a great way to add “gamification” to the app. One thing is for sure, monetary fines are the only way to fix the problem.

Several months ago I took an Uber to the airport and the driver was speeding on Worli Seaface. But the minute he got onto the Sealink he was going the posted speed limit. I asked the driver why he was suddenly a law abiding citizen, he said “sir you don’t know? they have cameras that give fines.” Money talks.

Apparently, the first person to get a Rs. 10,000 parking fine in Bombay.

15 Years of the Blog

Damn, it’s been 15 years ago since I put up my first blog post.
Here is my 5 year anniversary blog post and
here is my 10 year anniversary blog post

At those intervals I waxed poetically about what I had accomplished and gave some stats. This time, I’m wondering if I’ll still be blogging at the 20 year mark. The current trend is video and even I’ve gotten into video by launching my own automotive channel on YouTube. Okay, that sounds impressive but with a smartphone anyone can shoot video and quickly upload it to YouTube.

Will videos completely replace blogging? I don’t think so, but I think more and more content creators will move to video since that’s where the users are. I was recently talking to someone who was going to write a blog post about creating an Android app and submitting it to the Play Store. He scraped the idea and decided to create a video instead. Watching the video I was able to understand when he says “click here” and clearly see what he is clicking on.

Recently, I was researching some information on how to use the Indian GST portal and the blog posts where okay but the YouTube content was amazing. And most of the content was in Hindi since that’s what the user base is speaking.

When I launched my YouTube channel everyone said I should speak in Hindi but my Hindi is fucking horrible. And now I’m paying the price, my videos are in English and the number of views is a fraction of what it would be if they were in Hindi.

Anyways, I’ll continue to blog even if the user base has moved on. Because for me this blog helps me hone my writing skillz (haha).

Incredibly Inept India

Last month I had the chance to visit the Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh (MP) for a tiger safari and it was quite amazing. Bandhavgarh is a 1,500+ square kilometer park known for its large population of royal Bengal tigers and other animals like monkeys, leopards and deer. Some of the pictures taken were stunning:

I could go on and tell you how fantastic the safari was but this is not a travel blog post.

My wife and I went to Bandhavgarh with several friends and we all came back with the same conclusion that the state could do much more to generate additional tourism revenue. Tourism is a big part of the revenue for the state of MP but like so many other things in India, they get to 80% of something and feel that’s good enough.

A very simple example involves the check-in process for every safari drive. You have to go to the safari park office to get a tour guide and show your ID. This facility as you can imagine is run down and a typical Indian government office which means its crap. While our driver entered the office we sat in the the open air Maruti Gypsy (think Jeep) and on average waited 10-15 minutes. This Park office was usually 20 minutes away from the safari park gates.

Why not turn this safari park office into an amazing tourist visitor center with a coffee shop. Sell trinkets like books, t-shirts and stuffed animals for the kids. The people waiting are a captive audience who have nothing else to-do and will most likely spend money since they are excited to begin their safari journey.

Another similar opportunity to monetize is at the actual safari park gates. Many of the vehicles would line-up 30 minutes before the gates open so they can be one of the first vehicles to enter the national park. Of course, we just sat in the vehicle but again they could have built a tourist center here and bring in more revenue.

Spell check anyone? Check out the spelling for Madhya Pradesh on the back of the bus.

When I saw the above vehicle in the park with the misspelling of the state, I just chalked it up to the mantra of “hey, at least we got 80% right.” Actually, they got 12 out of the 13 letters right, which is 92% but sometimes that’s just not good enough.

In another attempt at getting 80% right. The sign says “Zero Compromise Towards Safety” and the ceiling above the sign is literally a clusterfuck waiting to happen. This was at the Jabalpur Airport, JLR is the airport code. And yes, another missed opportunity for monetization…JLR…as in Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). JLR is an Indian-owned company and their Land Rovers are known for their amazing off-roading capabilities and ruggedness. Yet, over the 5 days I was in Bandhavgarh I saw only one Land Rover Discovery…I mean, how is that possible???

I get it, governments move slowly but when it comes to creating more jobs and adding additional revenue to the state coffers they should move quicker to capitalize on the opportunity.

The WhatsApp Ecosystem

Earlier this month Facebook held it’s annual developers conference and announced a couple of interesting developments for WhatsApp. Wait, what? What does Facebook and WhatsApp have to do with each other?

First let’s clear the air, Facebook has been getting raked over the coals this past year for a wide variety of issues. Then a couple of weeks ago, one of Facebooks co-founders, Chris Hughes, had an op-ed piece in the NY Times about breaking up Facebook. How many internet properties does Facebook actually have?

Surprisingly many people don’t realize that Instagram and WhatsApp are both owned by Facebook and the 3 properties together: Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are a social media 800 pound gorilla.

Back to WhatsApp and those interesting features they mentioned at the Facebook Developers conference. One of the biggest features is WhatsApp Product Catalogs, where users can see what products are available from a brand. This has an immense impact on SMEs that want to sell directly without going through an e-commerce platform like Amazon or Flipkart.

When I first heard about the upcoming feature I didn’t think much of it till a week ago when my wife purchased some products on Amazon.in from a brand she discovered called Pure Elements. Pure Elements is based in Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra and uses Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) service. Which means Pure Elements sends their products to Amazon’s warehouse and Amazon takes care of the warehousing, picking, packing and shipping of the product.

We received the order from Amazon and immediately realized there was an error in the shipment. Surprisingly, there was no easy way to tell Amazon that the wrong size of the product was sent. So instead, I sent an email directly to Pure Elements and they promptly fixed the issue and said that next time I should order directly. In the future with WhatsApp Product Catalogs and in-app payments via WhatsApp Payment, I could see myself contacting them directly and getting the products. And if there are any issues I can chat with them directly on the WhatsApp platform.

Currently, the alternative is that an SME needs their own company website with some dodgy payment gateway which invariably is a pain for an SME. Which is the reason why many SMEs in India prefer to use WhatsApp today for commerce even though it’s not as streamlined as it can be. These new WhatsApp features would work well for an SME such as a home baker who sells cookies and cakes.

This brings me to the ecosystem part, imagine if that SME is only going to sell via WhatsApp, then they would only need a CRM (customer relationship management) and a shipping partner. If they made it simple enough for an SME to connect to these external providers it could change the landscape. Yes, WhatsApp does have something called Business API but that’s for larger companies that have a tech team in-house.

I’m thinking something along the lines of WordPress and their entire plug-in community where users can add features to their WordPress website very fast and more importantly without any deep technical skills. A WhatsApp Plugin ecosystem could grow WhatsApp commerce transactions exponentially and spawn many new startups helping SMEs sell more through the WhatsApp platform.