Banking in a Jifi!

First off, this was one of my first Indiblogger meets in Mumbai. I have been blogging since the last 1.5 years, so thought i might as well venture in to the meet and see what’s it all about. Let me put it this way, if you thought bloggers are a bunch of nerds/geeks with awkward social skills, then you are wrong! This meet was a tri-city event and we were patched up with Bangalore and Delhi through a live feed. What’s more, they had Chetan Bhagat in the house who made the session interactive and joked about the upcoming movie Two States which is based on his book.

The event was basically organised to launch a ┬áKotak Mahindra Bank product called Jifi. Now i have worked in a bank prior to this and i must say they are breaking new ground here. Jifi is targeted towards the millennials and basically for anyone who is social media savvy. The concept is based on social banking. People who sign-up are free of balance woes, as they have no minimum balance requirement. The point i liked is that you earn lucrative interest for money above Rs. 25,000 as the bank automatically creates a term deposit for you. So for someone who doesn’t really care to invest and make their money work, this is a pretty good deal. The social media part is plugged in on Twitter. Basically anyone with this account can run a few activities like balance inquiry, historical statements and others. Some of the bloggers inquired about how safe this could be in case someone withdraws or transfers money from their account. To this Mr. K.V.S Manian (Head of Consumer Banking) replied that the services offered do not include transactions. So for the average user like me, i could tweet to Kotak asking about my balance and i will receive a Direct Message with the details, hence keeping my banking details private. Now, though the service is new in India something similar has been done abroad years back. American Express has a service called AMEX SYNC that lets people buy stuff using Twitter. However, from an Indian perspective this service from Kotak is a first. They also have a Kotak MoneyWatch service thrown in to help people like me track their expenses. Plus the more friends you refer, the more social points you stand to earn. These can be redeemed or transferred to friends later.

Adoption levels for a product like this will depend on how people approach social media in general. Many people are bogged down with privacy concerns, so i reckon it may take a while to catch-on. However for people like me who are pretty much online most of the time and breathe social, this is a pretty cool service to try out. I do hope though that they take care of two-factor authentication on twitter. One of the other issues, they should address is people having different email addresses when they sign up for twitter / facebook / banking.

All in all, this was a good event to be a part of. I met a lot of cool new bloggers and got some solid tips from them. Plus the event was hosted at Cafe Zoe which is one of my favorite places in Lower Parel. Now, let me get back to exploring Jifi !



PS: Thanks to Indiblogger and other bloggers for re-tweeting and sharing the photo on Twitter ­čÖé

Flappy Bird Away!

This addictive yet frustrating game had me intrigued since i first saw it mentioned on Twitter. Not on to be left behind, i thought let me check this out. But tap, tap, tap its really hard to get a good score. Most of the time i kept thinking that “Darn, this is so simple.. How can i not crack this?”. That’s precisely where the hitch lies.

Flappy Bird was such a simple game (it kind of reminded me of 8-bit games). There’s a hopeless bird who can’t fly and all you have to do is to keep it flapping away. My best score: 1. Like, seriously! I could never get past the second pole. At times, i was seconds close to throwing my phone in some random corner. Only to pick it up & try all over again. Simplicity is the key to getting users hooked. People tend to think that its so simple, i have to crack this.

What was most surprising was the announcement by Dong Nguyen to take it off the app stores. His reasoning was that the game got him too much attention and he didn’t seem to like it. It’s baffling to note that the game had nearly 50 million downloads and the Vietnamese fellow made close to $50,000 USD a day through the game. Then why pull the plug? I reckon this is just another gimmick. Probably, he wants to keep people guessing what could he be coming with next. I mean, frankly if you have played the game, there really isn’t much you can add on to basic one like that. All you got to do is save the cursed bird who can’t flap. I think Dong is hardly done yet. He has amassed enough media attention to keep people guessing what the next game could be. Like all other trends, i sure hope he beats himself to whatever he come up with. If not, then well we can just pass it off as another trend. Like the harlem shakes or miley at the VMA’s or back in India, the number of times Arvind Kejriwal has threatened
to resign!


Why should you ‘Check-In’ on Foursquare?

Chances are, that you’ve heard of Foursquare: the location based social networking platform. Almost every social media junkie you’ve met is right now, at this very moment checking in to his/her favorite spot. I like the fact that on social, you’ve got platforms that are specific to the purpose. While i may not want to share my coordinates with everyone in my Facebook friends list, Foursquare let’s me share it with a select few.

However, there is much more to Foursquare than just being another platform to engage bleary eyed students, tech – enthusiasts or common people. Recently it raised funds through debt financing to further propel its growth plans. While all of this may show that there is value to be garnered, I have some points to ponder:

1. ROI : Yes, its the ‘word’ for anyone in social media. Foursquare in its 4 years of existence has received $110 Million in financing. Out of these venture capitalists have powered up to $70 Million. But, if you look back at the total revenue for last year, Foursquare made just $2 Million!

2. Valuation: It’s paramount to check for decent valuations and projections/forecasts for the firm you wish to invest in. According to estimates, Foursquare was valued at $600 Million. This just baffles me.

3. Growth Life-cycle: Typically any platform such as this goes through the following stages:

  • Introduction: Pitch/Launch at a influential event. The way Twitter did back in ’07, Foursquare was launched in SXSW ’09
  • Steep Growth: Backed by early adopters and influential base, there is an exponential growth that is seen
  • Monetization: Logically, the next step where you begin to reap monetary benefits out of the base you have acquired
  • Quick Exit: If there is any hint/indication of the platform not growing further, the plug is pulled out quick enough for a painless exit.

From these stages, we can see that Foursquare has crossed step 2 in a sluggish way. They are still trying to crack monetization. The main playing field they have is 50 Million data points, through which they can get marketers to put ads and target users based on their location. I guess by using this as an API they should be able to reap some benefits. Currently the total user base is estimated at 30 Million (actual active users are unknown)

4. Funding Options: Now the reason why they had to go for Debt Financing? From my basic finance course back at the B-School, entities typically tend to go for equity/VC funding. The risk of paying back is much less, plus the valuations on sheet look good. Debt is the route taken up when all other modes fade. So, does this indicate at a lower valuation or estimates being revised downwards?

5. Gamification Vs Review App: The gamification part comprises of earning points everytime you check – in. If you’re a mayor, flash around your coin and earn goodies at your favorite restaurant. Else you’re engaged by earning badges. However, Foursquare wants you to leave tips which serve a tiny reviews for the place you’re at. Be it a tourist spot, restaurant, bus stop or the daily commute train station, you can simply leave your tip to guide others around. I don’t think Foursquare should take up this route as there are several other popular apps that serve the purpose. Its important to differentiate their offering here.

So my personal take? I think Foursquare is here to stay if they crack the monetization bit. It’s also crucial that they don’t take that objective to the hilt like Facebook. While its lovingly designed in NY and SF, it will take a lot more to get the love from users all across the world!

What you should know about Bitcoins (Crypto Currency).

We’ve all heard about file sharing P2P software. But how would it be to share Money?

This is exactly the basic idea behind Bitcoin. Keeping in line with all sorts of internet activity, bitcoin works on a platform which ensures cryptic transactions. This has also been popularly referred to as crypto-currency.

Started off in January 2009, by an individual/group called as “Satoshi Nakamoto” (identity yet to be ascertained) this currency works across the world with no country / existing financial board or committee having any control over issuing it. The only way of tracking the movement of bitcoins across the world is through timestamps. Simply put, each time i intend to pay you 1 bitcoin; I would be digitally signing off on a hash of timestamps for the previous transactions and your address (IP). Leaving out the technicalities of how transactions are processed, here some finer points to ponder:

1. Valuation: Since there is no central issuing authority, there is little control over how much should a bitcoin be valued at. It started off with a group of individuals setting a value which has fluctuated majorly in the past 2 years. Back in Jan’13 1 bitcoin = $13, however post the Cyprus banking collapse its value has inflated to $137. As of now, the total value is 21 million bitcoins. According to experts this represents a bubble in the making.

2. Purchase Analysis: Being an open platform, all transactions are open to be viewed by all. This would help organisations to run all kinds of analysis to better understand buying patters, industry trends and major deals being cracked with payments being made in bitcoins.

3. Code Loopholes: Hackers are waiting to exploit systems such as these. While frauds, phishing and snooping impact even the most secure banking systems, this could only become more easier to crack. An episode did take place in August ’09 where a high number of bitcoins were generated and siphoned off to 2 accounts. This was however tracked and the additional bitcoins generated were wiped clean.

4. Taxation / Economy: In the real world, the government has tax slabs and means of defining how much of an individuals wealth would be taxable. However, in a virtual system such as this it will be tougher to devise a system on similar lines.

Those were a few of the pointers that sprung up when i was reading up on this alternative currency. Many economists have written it off as an experiment and there is mass contemplation over whether bitcoins can even be converted in to real money. But there are a set of enthusiasts who are willing to receive their salary in the form of this currency! It would be interesting to see how big bitcoins eventually become or if these would just end up to be a fad. My take on it? I’d hold off till i hear my neighbors talk about it!