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).

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.

Making it For India

A couple of months ago the streaming music service Spotify was launched in India with great fanfare. I had tried Spotify about 7 or 8 years back but then they started to block IP addresses from India so I quit using the app. At first I wasn’t planning to try it again but I did and I’m so glad I did, their recommendations are spot on…no pun intended.

What really caught my attention during the launch was their pricing matrix. Yes, the monthly price is cheaper in India Rs. 119 (USD$1.70) vs the US at Rs. 693 (USD$9.99). But they also offered daily packs at Rs. 13 (USD$0.18) and weekly packs at Rs. 39 (USD$0.56) as well, almost like the FMCGs offer sachet packs of their products. Sachets – a single-use, a simple flat pouch or stick pack for powders and other runny liquids and gels.

Spotify took that concept and turned it into a digital sachet. It’s a great way to get people to try the product. This is a great example of localization of a product.

When building an app or platform and going to other markets, there is always talk about internationalization (i18n) and localization (l10n) within the technology team. 7 or 8 years ago foreign companies would sell their products in India and only focus on internationalization. For example, if an app requires a login via a phone number then they enable +91 for Indian mobile numbers.

But the trend is to go one step further and localize the app or platform for the Indian market. And that is where Spotify just nailed it with it’s very Indian pricing matrix. I’m seeing more and more companies localize for the Indian markets because that’s where the growth is as other markets are mature and growth has slowed or stalled.

UPDATE: I’ve received many emails about the confusion about internationalization and localization. For me and the teams I work with, I break it down as:

internationalization – the backend technology to enable the use of the app or platform in another country. For example: language, phone numbers, etc…

localization – the frontend that the consumer will see and you. For example: pricing, localized content, specific features for a country, etc…

Kids, I’m Back on Twitter

In early 2018 I switched from an iPhone to Android and in the process decided not to install some of the apps on my new phone. One of those apps was Twitter.

I felt it was too distracting and it wasn’t really adding any value. However, I would still use Twitter from the desktop but I wasn’t very active in conversations and just shared a bunch of articles I found interesting. One of the things I truly missed about being on Twitter was the vibrancy of technology talk and hearing about new technologies or use cases.

I decided it was time to revisit Twitter on the phone and make some changes to the way I would use it. First thing I did was unfollow EVERYONE and get to zero. Then I added people back that were from the technology field, all the way from deep technology people to product managers.

I made a conscious effort not to follow any news organizations or breaking news accounts. I can’t be bothered by the latest crap from Trump or what Modi is up to. This time around with Twitter, I want to learn from it and hopefully interact with people on the technology front in a constructive way.

Okay, I did cheat a little bit and added a couple of automotive related accounts. So far it’s been a couple of weeks and I’m pretty happy with how things are progressing with using Twitter on the mobile phone. Let’s hope it continues to be useful and doesn’t turn into a cesspool of useless crap.