Thursday, November 26, 2015

How important are you?

We think about it but never ask it out loud. Do I matter? Am I important enough for something I feel I am but am not sure?

There's a simple philosophy I follow. To figure out if or if not you matter for a particular situation, picture yourself being away from it. Analyze the impact then. Do I matter in my job? Simple, think what impact would be made if you're away from it. Will nobody notice or will all hell break loose? That will surprisingly also help you analyze your strengths and weaknesses. If nobody cares, you're probably not very good at it. If all hell breaks loose, that's probably your strength.

Let's apply that to relationships. Give it a thought, would the person in consideration be really affected by your absence? How much of their life would be impacted if you're gone? I know you're thinking about someone specific when you are reading this right now. Now think exactly the opposite, how much of your life would be affected if they are not there. Would you sail through that nice and easy or would you find it hard to even figure out where your socks are in the house? Gives a whole different perspective to dependencies on other human beings and independence both, doesn't it?

Let's get back to the work topic and reverse the scenario. How much of your life will change if you switch from your current role or, simply stop working? Forget the social criteria. Again, think, how much would a social hurdle really really affect your life? A lot of us are scared to change our current statuses because of what society will think. But then again, most of us do not stop to think about why we should give a damn. Will it affect your life in any way really? How much time do you as an individual really have to think about the life of others? Hardly any. Then, what makes you think others will have extra hours in their life to do a PhD about you?

People pleasers, here's your cue. Learn when its time to take a stand. Learn when its time to put your foot down. Learn when its time to stop thinking about others happiness and start thinking about yours. You know, just saying. :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Why customer feedback is important

By nature I'm a fearless person. I've always been appreciated for that, sometimes criticized too, but that is how I am. Although the one thing, and probably the only thing which literally scares the wits out of me is an angry customer. Not death, but an angry customer. At Work Advantage, any time a customer issue turns up, all hell breaks loose. Thankfully it doesn't happen frequently, touchwood. But when it does, I lose my cool. I do not believe in the concept of mitigation plans, because why should there be an issue to mitigate in the first place? If not perfect, can't you establish a nearly foolproof system which would sustain on its own?

Let's face it, the customer is the king. I have always and will always stress on that. It's not the guy helping you earn revenue, it's not the big brand partner you can show off to sell your product. It's the end user who can either make or break your company. Being active in the startup community, everytime I hear about a failed company, 90% of the times there is a single reason for the same: it failed to engage customers on its product/platform. As an entrepreneur you are so hung up with processes, revenue gen, funding, dev, marketing and sales, that you tend to forget about the small piece of the stack who is holding all that up, that is the already-acquired user. Hence I always take customer feedbacks very seriously, sometimes more seriously than I should take. Are you capturing the user-attention right? Are you just spamming him/her or actually pushing relevant details? Are you taking customer ratings seriously or the rating feature is just for the sake of it? How good is your IVR if at all present? Does it actually help with some feedback or is blocked on truecaller as spam? And most importantly, is your product actually usable? What can you add to the product to make it more usable and embraced?

I love Oyo's IVR. A human being calls you (not an automated voice) and asks you just 2 simple qns: 1) was your stay satisfactory? and 2) will you recommend that particular oyo room to others? and once you answer these two, they just thank you and hang up. That's it. Simple and sweet, doesn't even take one minute of your time. Something I do want to implement eventually at Work Advantage too. Till that happens, we've started the 'rate your experience' feature. Just a 1-5 star rating with an optional comment section. And everytime a new user rates, I send him/her a personalized email from MY email ID. It properly has my email signature at the end of it, making the user feel special and hence rate the next time too. And that works like magic. The ratings have started increasing exponentially since I started doing that. There was no gamification, no incentive for the user to rate. It's just that knowing that the company really cares about your rating encourages you to keep giving feedback. Simple and sweet.

Grievance resolution is equally important. In our initial customer service days, we had no idea what to do with the customer who has been denied the deal. With time you learn, and we realized that if we take our agreement with the vendor lightly, the vendor does too. The moment you create a hue and cry about it, the vendor will also take the same seriously the next time. We started apology-redemptions for dissatisfied customers who were wronged. And once apology offerings started, the results were amazing. People who claimed 'I will never again use this product' became regular users of it. Because they knew we screwed up initially because we were new to the system. The whole concept was new to the system. But we care and want to improve the process. Customers are human too, they understand if you make them. They'll be patient if you're empathetic.

Customer relations is also a huge part of retention. Putting a face to the name, a voice to the brand. Assign a brand manager, a relationship associate to each partner. Not only does that help in maintaining long term relations, that also builds a trust among you and the other brand, plus people have contacts which they help you with. After all, the whole entrepreneurial ecosystem works on the funda of favors. You do good unto others and what goes around always comes around. Peace out. :)

Monday, May 11, 2015

The top 4 people I have met the past year

You know you own a startup when first you feel its an earthquake, but later you realize that its just you swaying left and right with exhaustion. (If you ever quote this, give me proper credits)!

Having a startup is no cake walk. The wild imagination people have about startup owners is far away from the reality a founder goes through everyday. Although, the best thing about having your own venture is that not networking is not an option, you have to, simply have to meet lots of people. In the span of the last one year, I might have met at least 500 people purely to network. 500 seems less, I usually meet 25-30 people in one single event itself, and I have been to gazillion events since I came back from the states. It was as if I hated my life in the US because people were so anti-social, and God heard me. He put me in a position where I would keep chatting with people for at least 10 hours every day. At the end of a typical day at work, when I come home and through God's grace if I have some spare time, I prefer 'listening'. I would listen to music, or watch a movie or my favorite series. I'm not complaining though, I love my job. I love being an entrepreneur. I've finally found peace with life, and sometimes its funny that I find solitude among company. I also have met a bunch of super interesting and uber intelligent people in the past one year (I complete one year in India this month), some of who I would like to mention here.

The top of my list would be Ankur Warikoo, the CEO of Groupon Asia. I have read about him so much, seen his videos, prep talks, that when I actually got to meet him, I was just thrilled. That one hour meeting with him was undoubtedly one of the most awesome meetings of my lifetime. The kind of questions he asks, the approaches he takes and the solutions to those approaches are very inspirational. Although I was careful not to tell him that meeting him was inspiring, since from whatever I have read and heard about him, he hates it if people call interacting with him inspiring. "Don't talk to me for inspiration, if you want to get inspired, read self-help books, watch videos. Meeting someone should only happen if both of you are actually worth each others' time." I'm not quoting him directly here, but in all his blogs and videos, this is what he actually projects. He's a firm doer, he's not a guy who would sit around and discuss approaches, he would rather have people try all approaches and have a foolproof answer. Check out his blogs and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Next would definitely be Rohit Prasad, the author of Startup Sutra. A friend of mine recommended his book once, and being the bookoholic that I am, I bought the e-book off Flipkart and once I started reading, I couldn't stop till I finished it. I'm not a huge fan of self-help books, but this one's different. Very different. It runs stories of different entrepreneurs through the eyes of one Moo Jin, and consists of real stories of real struggle and real success. 4 hours and few hundred pages later, I was immediately his number one fan. Meeting him for a few hours was hence a huge honor for me, to shake hands with the man behind all those inspirational words was enthralling. I wish to write such a book someday myself, and if I do, I will definitely make one of my dedications to him. My favorite part of the book is how first he defines a sutra saying that successful entrepreneurs are persistent, and later defines another sutra saying that successful entrepreneurs know exactly when its time to let go and don't hang on to expirational things forever. Mindblowing logics, amazingly down-to-earth inspirational person.

The third would be Suchi Mukherjee, founder and CEO of LimeRoad. It's always inspiring to see women, especially Indian women, start their own ventures and make it a million dollar company. I met her very briefly, but I loved the stories she mentioned in her talk about her initial startup days. One story struck me very deep in which she mentioned that once on a Sunday evening her website broke and she called her CTO who was at a close relative's wedding at the time. The guy arranged a laptop from the bride/groom's place within 15 minutes, and was working fixing the live site issue in the middle of the wedding. You must be someone amazing to have employees dedicated so much towards the company. This is one example I till this day give to my employees and I wish and hope that I will have many such stories myself to tell to others in the future.

Fourth would be Sanjay Sethi, CEO of ShopClues. I met him post one of his talks at IIT Delhi, and he was the first person who ever said that free offerings are useless offerings. In ShopClues, he said, they charged from day one. Nothing in life is ever free, and even Indian population is aware of it now. In fact, making something free reduces the seriousness of a vendor towards you. Of course a free model is the easiest way out, but then again, the easiest way is never the best way, is it?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Being cold is never good, but being manipulative probably is

My husband and I are a weird couple in many ways. Being co-founders and fellow entrepreneurs, we certainly share a bond beyond the standard husband-wife norms. We sometimes have long discussions over philosophies and business making decisions till wee hours of the night before we both realize that its time to sleep. Today he read this somewhere and hence posed such a question in front of me: What is the one thing that you strongly believe in but most of the people around you do not?

I started thinking, because there are so many things I do and think differently, but maybe they are not strong enough beliefs to mention. I asked him what his answer was, and he said, "It's my belief that I can do everything on my own. If I had infinite time in the world, I do not need anyone for anything. I believe everyone is smart enough to figure out everything on their own, and categorization is just existent in this world because we are constrained by time."

Fair enough, I thought. For starters, I did not agree to his views myself, so there obviously were others with me as well. There is no way a single person is capable of doing everything, time or no time. Aptitude and attitude, both matter after all. Then I gave my answer to the same question. "I believe that everyone in this world can be manipulated to do your bidding. Provided, we get to spend the right amount of time with them."
"Nah, I don't agree," he responded.
"So there you go, most people around me will not agree." I said. "But deep down, I believe that even though we have different personalities and different beliefs, we're all the same person. Every human being is the same, wants the same things out of life, craves the same desires everyone does. All you need is time, to bond with that other personality type and make him/her understand how similar you both are, and that solves all your sales problems in the world."

I am a huge fan of the television series "The Mentalist". Patrick Jane, the main guy in the show, is like my ideal. A calm, soothing personality on the outside, yet with an uncanny ability to make anyone do anything, spill out all the beans in split seconds, that character blows my mind away. In many ways, I associate myself with that character. Not that I am a sociopath like he is, obsessed with Red John and all, but I do enjoy reading people. "People-watching", I call it, my favorite pastime. As a kid, whenever I got bored, I would sit at my balcony and observe the people in my building. I would judge them by their behavioral patterns and make predictions based on those behaviors. Maybe that is also what contributes to me bonding with people really fast, I actually observe and listen to them. One week with a person, and I can figure out what they love and what ticks them off. Hence my strong belief which many would not agree with me on.

There's a personality test called '16 personalities' I make all my close friends take whenever I catch hold of them with a laptop and some time in their hand. You can check it out at It's amazing how accurate it is, if you honestly take the test. I'm an ENFP ( and there is not a single word in that entire assessment I disagree with. But I love it when I predict people to be a certain personality type and post the test, I turn out right. ;)

People often ask me how after 2 degrees in computer science and a super-high paying job at Microsoft, one of the biggest software giants in the world, I ended up doing sales. The answer is, how I could end up getting the 2 degrees, getting through UCLA and Microsoft in the first place, because I probably never deserved it. I have always and always been a people-person. Always been the first one to take part in anything that required me going on-stage or being surrounded by a group on students, selling them a concept, an idea or even a membership/product. Always been the drama queen among my friends, loving acting on stage, doing street plays, singing, going out on publicity drives or debating. Hell, I was also always this person who's vivas used to go the longest because I would get into intellectual chats with my viva examiners. Always the chatterbox, always a sales person through and through, although I never realized it. When I left Microsoft, I had three farewell parties simply because I had so many friends in so many teams there it just never seemed to end. Now, in my own venture, when I go on sales, people often end up asking me where I did my MBA, and when I tell them I'm from a hard-core tech background, they're not even able to hide the obvious surprise on their faces.

Bonding, that's what every single human being in this world wants. We're all social animals, nobody likes to be lonely. In one of my conversations with Rajneesh Kohli, ex-director of Fidelity and SSP, he said, "Why do people nowadays go to Domino's for kids' birthdays and not to Mc Donalds? Because the Domino's staff will gather around and sing a happy birthday song for the kid while McD doesn't take that pain. And it's just that simple song which makes all the other kids want to go to the same place for their birthday party again, because they feel good about it. It's not the food, its not the quantity, its not the quality, its not the ambience. It's that freaking 1 minute happy birthday song."

That's what the customer is. A human being. Everyone wants to feel special, everyone wants to be given that extra leverage to do your bidding. Everyone, including me, Including you. You get the bonding point, you get a new friend. That's how the world works. So I would conclude this loong post by saying hence proved. QED. I rest my case. :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Women and Their weird Quirks!

I was recently at my dressmaker (as cheesy as it sounds, I have found myself a dressmaker, she is a professional designer from Goa and I love her!) and while discussing on sizing I was giving her weird fixes for getting the right fit done because let's face it, I'm no size zero, and she started laughing at my weird fixes.
"Women and their weird..." she couldn't find a word to complete her sentence. "Quirks?" I suggested. "Women and their weird quirks?"
"Yes! Women and their weird quirks! And the weird solutions to their weird Quirks!" she giggled.
She's awesome though, you can check her out here. And if you do go to her, give her my reference so that I get a discount the next time!

So anyways, quirks. We all have them. I was at this really old friend's wedding today, in fact I met her after fifteen some years. We have been in touch over the years through phone and social media, but I never really got a chance to meet her even though she too lives in NCR. I'm usually either too busy or too lazy. So when she invited me and my hubby to the wedding, I was naturally super excited for it. One of the perks of living in India is the weddings after all! She also mentioned that there was another mutual friend of ours who was in the same class with us in third standard who was also coming. So when I saw my friend all brided up coming towards the stage with the Jodha theme song playing in the background, I saw a glimpse of this other girl with her who I kind of knew in third grade.
"Must be her," I told my husband, who told me to go talk to her.
But I couldn't. I just froze there, feeling weird about it. I knew her, I remembered her, and even though I saw her after all these years, I couldn't muster up the courage to go say a hi. Why, I wondered. It's not like I had to ask her out! I talk to new people everyday, networking with professionals comes naturally to me, and when I usually meet a person the second time, for an observer, it will look as if we are best friends or something. And I couldn't just talk to this one person? What could be the reason?

I met my friend at the reception, and still didn't ask her to introduce me to this mutual old friend. I just let her go down the stage and then post dinner me and my husband started driving back home, me pondering the entire route why I was so awkward. And then it occurred to me.

Fear of rejection. Fear of knowing a person, who doesn't even recognize you anymore. Maybe she did, maybe not. But just the idea that you were not worthy of being in someone's memory after fifteen years even though they were still in yours is frightening. The best way to save your ego is to just avoid the situation. Had she been a professional contact, it would have been different. Had she even been someone I knew 5-10 years back, I would be fine. But fifteen years is too much to remember a person, and its shameful that you have a better memory than them maybe.

That is one of my quirks, I realized. Maybe that's the downside of being a socialite, the idea of someone not recognizing you scares you to death. Maybe I should have talked to her, maybe the next time, no matter how awkward I feel, I will. Its a quirky jerky life.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - Movies last week!

So I'm a big movie buff, I watch all the movies (literally all the movies!) and naturally keep going out a lot for catching up on the latest hits and flops.

Last week we went to three movies which released: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Margerita with a straw and Mr.X. Yep, you read it in the correct order of good, bad and ugly. Here's my take on all the three:

Age of Ultron: A standard Avengers movie, although in my opinion inferior than the previous ones. But doesn't that happen with all series? You open with a kickass flick, create an inferior sequel to it, with the third sequel barely making the bar and the fourth one pissing off all the customers and destroying the entire franchise's reputation. Ultimately all you are left with is an option to make a prequel to monetize on the same. Let's face it, Avengers is one of such huge money minting machines, and Age of Ultron in my opinion was in the standard third sequel phase. So the movie starts with Iron Man creating 'Artificial Intelligence' (it's funny when people talk of AI as if its an alien from outerspace or something) and it ends up getting feelings and crap, and eventually wants to destroy the world even though in its head, it feels it is justified in doing so. And then the Avengers unite (adding some really cool additions to the group, I almost screamed in agony when they killed of my favorite faster-than-the-speed-of-light avenger in the end) and fight off the evil Ultron. At the end of everything my ever-favorite avenger Hulk takes Sanyas because he does the usual drama of feeling guilty about destroying a few buildings, overlooking the fact that he just saved the world, and that was the point I was done with the movie. Although overall, the movie would be in the 'good' category, although not in the 'awesome' category. One time watch maybe, and don't miss out on the after credits scene! Although chances are, by the time the next movie releases, you would've forgotten it anyway, and who cares about watching the previous release before watching a new sequel?

Margerita with A Straw: All right, this was undoubtedly one of the weirdest movies I have seen my whole life. All the movie revolves around is sexuality, bi-sexuality, infidelity, weirdness and more weirdness. I went to the movie expecting it to be a drama surrounding the issues disabled people face in their life and how they bravely overcome them, but what I got in return was simple soft porn. Although the movie has its set of jokes, most of them unintentional but they are so ridiculous they have you in hilarious giggles anyway, which kept me awake most of it. The guy sitting behind me woke up suddenly in the middle of the movie and exclaimed, 'Holy crap, this is still not over?' and the whole theater burst out laughing. His friend was like 'Just go back to sleep, man'... Yes, the storyline is that bad. But all in all, Kalki has really done justice to the acting, she is truly an amazing actor, probably was just never fortunate enough to get a huge platform to showcase her skills. The worst experience was for my husband, who hates dramas. Me being a lover of dramas, ganged up with his friends and convinced him to go, and he was truly pissed off. Margerita with a straw: Bad. Just sit at home, have your own margeritas and watch your favorite series instead.

Mr. X: Dude, seriously? What were you thinking? Can be the question asked to either Mahesh Bhatt, Imran Hashmi, or me who actually went to see it. I really don't know why TOI gave it 3 stars, maybe the editor went to the movie high on something. It was by far the worst movie I have seen after Jism 2. Mr. X was a clear cut example of how to get an amazing movie idea and defecate on it. The concept was so cool, more like modern Mr. India, but Mr. Bhatt had to ruin it, he simply had to! Cheesy Dialogues, Thousands of holes in the story, Ridiculous execution, no wonder Alia Bhatt has never acted in his movies, it will destroy her reputation as an actor. Ab khud ka hi sikka khota ho toh... Anyways, the storyline is about this good cop framed and nearly killed and converted into Mr. India types because the factory where he was tried to be burned alive was full of some chemicals, and he can only be seen in dhoop (our very own Jadooish Imran Hashmi). So the good cop gone bad craves for revenge and even though the the world has only seen him once, that too murdering a cop, they start calling him God and he is suddenly in everyone's dil, because of which the bad cop who framed him in the first place needs to find sly reasons to quietly kill him. Eventually after a very ridiculous and headache-inducing fight scene, the good cop gone bad video tapes the bad cop and puts him in handcuffs, eventually killing him though, because no hindi movie is justified with the bad guy alive in the end. Adding to it Hashmi's obnoxious girlfriend, who hates Hashmi as the bad cop ever since she 'smells' him, but never does she in the entire movie ask him how he became invisible in the first place! Some confidence that is. Mr. X, one ugly movie you would rather avoid if you don't wish to buy Disprin instead of Samosas in the interval.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Keep smiling!

Yes, that is exactly what my blog name means. Garder Le Sourire - Keep smiling. Despite all atrocities life throws at you, despite all the things that exasperate you, just keep smiling.

So anyways, this is my first blog post, so I'm going to keep it as a general one and bore you with some random thoughts. I'll start with my background. I'm originally a North Indian from Dehradun, married to a Marwadi now. Lived in Mumbai for around ten years and did my Bachelors in CS, before moving to Los Angeles and pursuing Masters at UCLA. Now that I think about it, maybe I should have started blogging when I went to the US, boy did I have so much to write then! All the culture-shock, the new experiences and the delight of being in an entirely different country does amount to a significant content material. UCLA was also the time I met the love of my life, my Maru soulmate. Post Masters, I joined my dream company, Microsoft in Seattle. That was also the time I married my husband, and after 4 successful years abroad, we decided we had seen enough of Amreeka and it was time to come back home, since both of us always wanted to start our own thing.

So here I am, back in my motherland, almost a year later, owner of my own company (, trying to make it big in Bharat. Its funny when people say that you were living the American dream, because I was actually always living the Indian dream. Its also a matter of perception probably. For instance, I know a lot of people like me who left high-paying jobs in the states and came back here, and I also know people who visit India no lesser than once in 5 years. Say what you will, but at the end of the day, nobody really gives a damn. As long as you're happy, all is well.

This morning my husband woke me up at 4am in the morning to discuss a business proposition. Downsides of having your partner as a co-founder, you never really stop working! So three hours and few cheese toasts later, after we were done with the plan and ppts, he went to sleep and I for some reason decided to create a blog! As an ending note, I'll just say, such is life dearies. :)