सीख

बचपन में सिखाया था
बुजुर्गों ने
कि बूंद-बूंद से ही
घड़ा भरता है।

कहीं और ये सीख
इतनी काम ना आई
जितनी बैंगलोर के ट्रैफ़िक में।

आखिर इंच-इंच खिसक के ही तो
हम घर पहुँचते हैं।

High Rises, High Season and Handicrafts (More Notes from Cambodia Trip)

Some missing stuff from the previous post.

  • The government doesn’t allow construction of anything higher than Angkor Wat in the nearby areas. So Siem Reap is pleasantly free of high rises. Even if it is some coercion on the part of the government, the outcome is not bad.
  • Online research led me to believe that as far as the tourism season is concerned, October is the border month, and the high season starts from November. But going by what local people in the business said, November is more of a border month and December is when the high season starts. So, pretty much by accident, we landed at a good time. It rained a little and sometimes relieved us from the heat. But not so much as to disrupt the plans. Tourist places were not shut down, but the crowd was not at its peak. And so on…
  • A curious difference between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. They call out to women as “Lady” in Siem Reap, but as “Madame” in Phnom Penh.
  • Cambodian food is rather bland. As if to compensate for it, a Thai restaurant we went to had overdone the chilies even for Indian taste-buds.
  • They don’t seem to believe in using salt in food. It was practically missing, not just from the Cambodian cuisine, but also from things like Pizzas we tried.
  • Most restaurants, quite annoyingly, do not serve water. So you end up buying packaged water.
  • In one strange case, we were not served water when we ordered the main course. But two glasses came when we ordered desserts later. I wonder if there was a minimum bill value constraint!
  • For some reason, I had a better time understanding people’s accent there than Abhaya and I was better at adapting my language and accent to theirs as well. By the end of it, I was pronouncing dollar as “dollaaaar”. In a proud moment, I even managed to negotiate the taxi prices down while talking in single words and short phrases on phone. The key was to ask “best price?” with suitable interrogative emphasis.
  • The middle-class penny-pincher in us was having a difficult time shopping there. Because handicrafts (or claimed handicraft) is what you can majorly shop for as souvenirs. And they looked so much like what you would find in India that we had a hard time shelling out dollars for them, even though prices might have been comparable to those in India.
  • Still, we did pick up some souvenirs and gifts including a couple of bottles of Sombai. Those who to our Christmas party can have a taste 😉

More/Zopnow Cash Fiasco

On a recent trip to More Hypermarket, I figured that they have an online shopping option too. I decided to give it a try and ordered some grocery. I paid online, as I usually do. Because scrambling for cash at the time of delivery is usually bad enough. And in these times of demonetisation, one doesn’t even want to think of it.

Now, as it turns out, More’s online delivery partner is Zopnow. When they came to deliver the product I was asked for pay Rs. 26/- in cash. I didn’t have anything other than a 2000 Rs. note on me. I had paid online precisely to avoid this. They won’t let me pay later, or pay online. If I didn’t pay the cash, the delivery will not be done.

I complained about it online and they sent me an explanation that the in-store price had changed. And I hadn’t been made to pay extra.

Sure, but I had something to tell them. And since the mail had come from an email id that didn’t accept the e-mails back, it has to go public. Here is the mail I sent them (which bounced).

When somebody has chosen to pay online in advance, not being ready to deliver the product because of your backend problems is outrageous. It isn’t about 26 Rs. so much, but consider this.

  • I didn’t know I had to pay cash (because in my mind I had paid online).
  • I didn’t have the cash on me (because in my mind I had paid online and hence did not need to pay for it).
  • When I asked to be allowed to pay online, I was told that was not possible. I must pay in cash. I can’t even pay later. They would take the product back if I didn’t pay.
  • Sure you would have refunded if you took the product back, but why I had ordered it online in the first place? Because I needed it by a certain time at a certain place. I didn’t want the money, I wanted the product.
  • So what did I have to do? I had to scramble around the office to get cash. And when I got 30 Rs. the delivery guy didn’t even have the change to return (Again, it isn’t about 4 Rs. but given the experience, I suppose you would excuse me if I wasn’t exactly in the mood to pay a ‘tip’)
  • So then I have scramble around the office again to get change.
I had paid you 886 Rs. in advance for the product. And you won’t trust me to pay 26 Rs. later. Especially when the entire fault lay with your system. I hadn’t asked to pay less, had I?
No need to send any further explanations to me. If you care, forward it to your management or tech teams if want to fix things.
I already avoid ordering on zopnow because of these cash collection issues especially while ordering vegetables. This time I had ordered on More, hadn’t even ordered vegetables and you spoiled that too.

 

Four Things Our PM Could Learn From Entrepreneurs

four-jason-blackeyeSince I’m tired of the articles that want entrepreneurs to learn X things from Y, here is one that goes the other way round. Four things our PM could learn from entrepreneurs.

  1. Ideas are cheap: It is the execution that matters. Every rookie entrepreneur zealously guarding his idea is told that by the community. Even if you have to go stealth, you do it for the execution’s sake, not at the cost of the execution.
  2. Don’t go at it alone: Have at least one partner, ideally with complementary skills, ideally someone who can challenge you. Don’t start with a bloated team, but take help of specialists for specific skills.
  3. Draw up a (business) plan: Even if you don’t want to raise money. It helps in clarifying your own thought and plan better for circumstances that are inherently risky.
  4. Know when to quit: Persistence is good, but so is knowing when to quit. Know when to gracefully exit instead of continuing to pour money and effort into an idea that is not going to work.

Decision-making

At Pothi.com we allow authors to publish their books in print. Among other things, they can choose from one of the many page sizes available for their book. The books are printed-on-demand; so we keep the PDFs in our system and print them as and when the orders come.

Now suppose one day I figure that there are too many page sizes on offer and I should discontinue one of the sizes. I pick up a size that is not very good for book production from cost as well as aesthetic point of view and decide that we should withdraw the size.

Shall I go ahead and withdraw it? No. I am more likely to look at some data and ask some questions. For example how many and what percentage of books do we receive in this size? How much money do books of this size make us? Can I expect to motivate authors using this size to use some other more suitable size? Can there be people preparing their books in this size right now and will they be disappointed when they come to upload it on my site later?

Then I will go ahead and talk to a developer in the company. They might tell me that if we want to withdraw the size it will disappear from all the books, including the existing ones. That would be problematic because the PDF files in our system are prepared for that size. I will ask them if it is possible to keep the existing books at the same size for the time being and disable the option only for new books. They might then say that it is definitely possible, but it will take some time to make the code changes. How much time, I will ask. Say, one month, they may reply. Mentally I will keep two months in hand for the task, although I will not tell them that they have two months to do it. Else they will take four months.

Then I may go to my author support person and ask their opinion. They might tell me that this size is the default on people’s word processors. Hence we get books in this size more often than we should. When I talk to them a little more, I might discover that people using this size may not be very savvy on technology and design front.

So I will talk to my designer to figure out if books of this size can be automatically scaled to some other nearest size without making them look weird.

I might also ask my author support person to talk to some of these authors and figure out what  it would take for them to voluntarily shift to a different, more suitable size.

Since I am planning to withdraw a size, and not introduce a new one, I don’t expect a problem from the production. But I will discuss it with them anyway. And I might find that they have some paper and packaging material purchased specifically to support this size. So if I withdraw it immediately, that inventory may go waste or may not be efficiently utilized.

After knowing all this, I can take a decision on whether to withdraw the size, and if so when, and how to prepare the affected authors for this.

I am talking about one decision about one small aspect of a rather small business.

What should be done if someone were planning to withdraw notes carrying 86% of total currency value from a country of 1.25 billion people?

Even if you were taking the decision alone and you didn’t know that ATMs need calibration for new notes, and you couldn’t think that housewives may have substantial savings from white money which they may not want to disclose, and you couldn’t divine that limited cash access will create problems in weddings and for farmers, you would ask at least one fundamental question. Do we have enough currency printed to replace the ones in circulation currently?

How on earth was that question not asked?

What was he smoking?