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 !

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

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Why are tech firms buying out smaller start-ups?

Consolidation in the technology space. It’s happening. Much has been said, heard and analysed when it comes to the recent Whatsapp acquisition by Facebook. Valuations were being tossed around and here’s an interesting graphic on whether it was worth $19 billion to start with.┬áThat being said, i’m looking at bigger forces at play in the technology space. As textbook economics will tell you, consolidation is a phase that kicks in mature markets when the big players begin to swallow the smaller and more active ones up.

Acquisitions have been happening for quite sometime now. But some of the interesting one’s in recent times have been Google buying Motorola and then selling it off to Lenovo. Microsoft buying out Nokia and they did give in to market pressures by releasing an Android phone just yesterday at the Mobile World Congress’14. Microsoft also bought Skype nearly a year back and killed its own messenger. Software firms have been increasingly snapping up hardware companies. It’s clearly about building capabilities to have more integrated software and hardware. Apple has been doing this for decades with a very closely knit user interface that has been winning customers over for years. Pretty much like them, the other companies are also trying to tightly integrate services to have the customers locked in for longer period of time. Look at Google, that is trying to foray in to nearly every possible nook of our life as it builds its inventory for the internet of things. You’re using maps, gmail, search and docs for starters. As any marketeer will tell you, its always cheaper to retain customers than to go out and acquire new ones.

Here’s a drill-down of what i think about the entire consolidation bit:

1. Customer stickiness: Companies want customers to buy a product and integrate it so tightly that they are unable to breakout.

2. Eat the competition: As start-ups have more breathing room and flexibility for innovation, let them build great products as the big cats will swallow them up to eventually kill the competition if any.

3. M&A industry: Who else is laughing all the way to the bank? Consulting firms. In fact software acquisitions made up nearly half of the deal value in this space as per PwC.

4. Increasing usage: Big tech players are always looking for means to increase usage and as Metcalf’s law says, the value of any network lies in the number of connected users on it. Hence you see why software services have been aggressively merging or finding new ways of driving usage for their platforms.

5. Start-ups don’t always need an IPO: It’s increasingly difficult for a small company to go public and put itself under the scanner. Investors and analysts will slice and dice not only excel spreadsheets but also any single move that key people make. By cashing out and selling themselves to a larger firm, they can avoid all the pain. All of this when they might have not even achieved the vision they started out with.

6. Hide failures better: The chances of a start-up making it big are rather slim. In fact, the odds seem to be against them. Once they have generated enough buzz and got a fancy valuation. The small fish can then afford to dissolve in the system and chances are if they were going to fail, little would anyone get to know about it.

With all of this in place, we can only hope for better products and services. While some of these partnerships may have benefited the firms, what remains to be seen is how innovative they can really get. For now, the entire space has become a playground for many small firms to pitch their products and see how quickly they can go to market or gain more funding. At the end, the customer stands to benefit the most from this!

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*Image source: Flickr (labelled for reuse)

Quitting Your Job. In Style.

Most people think about it. Some talk of quirky ways they would resign. Those of you who have seen Jerry McGuire would recall the scene where he makes a speech and leaves with one lonely fish “flipper”. But, when you have had one too many coffees and pushed the gate beyond 1am to your office door (of course not when you choose to moonlight), there is a greater grit to display when you find the option to leave.

Now you could find quirky ways to do this, like sending a cake to your boss / writing a book / writing a poem / citing a funny inspiration as your trigger. But if you really want to make it viral? Make a video out of it. That’s exactly what Marina Shifrin did. On a much long night at work (Next Media Animation) she decided to do an interpretive dance to Kanye West’s “Gone”. Marina doesn’t say anything in the video, its just interlaced with dance steps and text. She’s dancing at every possible area she frequents in her previous work place in the short video. She’s edited it well too, since her job was to come up with viral videos that lacked quality but were high in quantity in her opinion. Here’s the video that actually did go viral and has more than 5 million hits:

But her ex-work organisation did not just leave it at that. They came up with an equally quirky video showing her boss and other work members dancing to the same song. They funnily are at the same work areas Marina dances in her video and look really happy (albeit we know why since its a video response). What’s more they show the swankier parts of the office and wish Marina all the best with a ‘We’re Hiring” message at the end. Here’s the video response:

This made me think about how easy it is becoming for individuals / organisations to put their perspectives out there. Take this case where an employee is making a video that could be brandishing for the company’s reputation. But, they choose to respond in a fashion that’s similar to the way Marina expressed her outrage. Countless people quit their jobs every year and some of them do rant about it on social media. In certain cases, former employees have started blogs / websites to portray their hatred for the work they did or the policies their former workplaces had. But rarely has an organisation responded back or clarified their stand. Now, there seems to be a change sweeping in. In my opinion this will not be a trend or an event to look out for. But, it does throw light on the power of social networks and how it is changing the hiring landscape. It also show how important it is to value the opinion of employees when it comes to organisations. You never know if they would choose to group up and make a quirky video about it so that the world at large gets to know. I think while the outrage may not be relevant to others, but in some aspect people tend to connect with it at some level and that’s what makes them share it. I’m sure Marina has become a viral celeb overnight and may have a lot of videos coming up where she could be more vocal than she was in the video she made. Whether this proves to be a win for Next Media Animation (her ex-employer), I doubt.