2012 Review

One of the main reasons why I do these reviews (have to force myself a bit at times) is that it gives me a good reference point to go back and look at how far I have come (or not). The 2010 review makes for interesting reading. At that point I thought I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do, but looking back, it is clear that I had only a clear idea of what I did not want to do. It has taken a good two-years since that time to figure out what do I want to do – to build the best digital consulting firm in India. Nothing more, nothing less.
I don’t ever remember a year passing by as quickly as 2012, but it has been a good year. The main agenda for the year was to stop dealing hands-on with technology and build an offering around strategy for products, people, processes and technology. The critical part of this plan was to transition the clients who stood by me since 2009 and other than for one client that part has been completed. Revenue was good, even though I did not hit the outlandish target I had set for myself, I managed to take the first watchful steps into the domains I wanted to get into a year-ago.
In the rest of this post ‘ll try to summarize some of the learnings and changes from this year:
Traditional Industries/SMEs
I had taken a swipe at this in 2009, but failed miserably in trying to approach it with a ‘know-it-all’ attitude. Backed by better experience, in 2012, I revisited this domain and instead of trying to re-architect entire organizations, a low-friction approach using minimal disruption was used. This approach seems to deliver better results and a deeper understanding of the domain being addressed has also changed my perspective of what a solution would look like for an SME client. The  opportunity to add value here using mostly commonsense and decent tooling is immense and I hope to do much more business here.
If you know any vendors or start-ups who have the Indian SME/SMB space as their focus please point me in their direction. I am not looking at accounting products, I’m looking more in the direction of CRM and Business Intelligence for Indian SMEs. You may laugh at how realistic is to roll out a solution for the traditional ‘laala companies’, but look at their numbers and you’ll understand that it is a massive sector.
This was a blind spot for me and there’s no hiding that fact. 2011 changed a lot of that in trying to put together a mobile ad network for a client, 2012 brought in a lot more of understanding and perspective. The mobile ecosystem is a different and unique beast compared to either traditional web or television. The execution opportunity (becoming a success by bettering what’s already being done) is immense here, but sustaining a leadership position and growing a global audience is a significant challenge. In the Indian market the gaps are gapingly huge at every part of the ecosystem and only the extremely foolish will take anything for granted. If you are foolish in the domain, you’ll always stay hungry. And I don’t mean that in a nice way.
Another interesting aspect for me is the fact that I’m still using the same phone I bought in 2010, but with the latest build of Android. The phone still does 100% of what I would want a brand new top-of-the line phone to do for me, with more than acceptable levels of lag. My secondary phone is a sub Rs 7000 Android phone that does 90% of what I want it to do, albeit somewhat sluggishly. There are new phones in the market that cost around Rs 10000, which can give some of the flagship phones of both iOS and Android a run for their money. It is incredible how quickly this market has matured since 2010 and in the process decimated some of the big players.
The tablet revolution still does not find me as a consumer in 2012. This has little to do with how good the products are on both iOS and Android these days and it has more to do with my growing gadget-aversion. It is hard these days to travel anywhere without resembling a human bomb with wires sticking out from everywhere. Chargers, connectors, cases, storage media, USB hubs — the list is endless of the things I need to carry on me these days and I don’t like it one bit. I had resisted the touchscreen revolution till late 2010 (in fact, I was more or less forced into it) and I find the same happening for me with tablets. They don’t make my life easier yet, when they do I’ll sign up for one.
This was somewhat a lesser blind spot for me, but I have managed to cover most gaps in understanding the domain in 2012. Ideally, this is the real first wave of e-commerce in India, even though we have had various forms of it online since 1999 in India. In 1999, e-commerce was a solution looking for a problem, in 2012 it is a solution that actually addresses a problem. There are many fundamental issues with the domain, but that’s to be expected when you are growing markets that are very change-averse. The next 2-years will see both operations and customers mature a lot and it is then the real fun will begin. The biggest change for me here is the gradual demise of transaction starvation and the growth of the market. Second biggest change is the commoditization of the nuts-and-bolts parts of selling online.
Ideally, I should say more marketing than social. Social is just another channel for marketeers. Having set aside a lot of the traditional hype related to anything social, it was an interesting concept for me to attempt to measure social at par with various other business metrics. It is still a work in progress and my opinion of the domain has undergone a drastic change because of that.
2013 will be a big year. The years since 2008 has been a slow buildup towards this year, everything else along the way has been a process of trying to learn just about enough to understand what I really want to do. It will call for changes that are very much out of my comfort zone. It will call for an ability to learn and adapt at a pace that is far beyond what I have ever done so far. If I were to say that there is no fear in plunging into all that, setting aside what is now an extremely comfortable position, I’d be lying. I’m scared, but I’m not apprehensive and I am fairly certain that I can accomplish what I have set out to do.
Meanwhile, here’s wishing all of you a great and successful 2013.

Never mind.