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Its not Consumer Affair, Its Consumer Relationship, stupid!
Entrepreneurs born out of problem faced: Post numerous interaction with the entrepreneurs and being a serial entrepreneur myself, I firmly believe that a quest to solve a persistent problem that has been staring at ones face it the first stage when the entrepreneur’s bug bites. Such problems may not be critical in life but it is something that everyone faces sometime or other, either frequently or once in a while or even once in a life time. There are many examples and I am sure readers can figure that out. Uber is one great example where the founders decided to solve the daily commute problem for people who do not wish to drive every day to work.

Born out of unfulfilled need: Since life is ever demanding and the needs of an individual are growing with the time, there are so many needs that remain unfulfilled leaving a void in ones life. An Entrepreneur is born as one decides to fulfill those needs for self and many other around the world who face same or similar problem. The process, the tools, the execution, the strategy and the way to fulfill the need becomes the venture and an individual becomes the entrepreneur from a normal human being. Facebook is example where the need to connect to friends and family in real time got resolved as a Facebook member.

Born out of better solution found: it is given that there are many ways to solve a problem and many a times a new solution is better than existing one in more that one ways. Mainly it is more relevant that already existing solution. Thus both, the venture, along with the people involved as entrepreneur, are born. Google is one such example where the founders created an algorithm that could search internet faster and better thus creating a better than existing solution and the founders, who were researchers, were reborn as entrepreneurs!

Born to disrupt: Not all ideas are disruptive, however, some people who are extremely passionate and committed take it upon themselves to change the way things are done just to make everyone’s life better. These people are there to disrupt the way people live, behave or conduct their life as they are on mission to deliberately change the world for better. Their aim is to challenge the status quo as it leads to inferior or sub optimum living. Tesla is one such example. Ion Musk not only challenged the exiting automakers but created a vehicle that is set to change people’s mindset on automobiles as now they can help reduce carbon footprint.

Born out of curiosity: There are individuals who are continuously looking for way to generally improve way people live. They observe and keep looking for challenges faced by people and how to overcome them. There motivation is simply to create product and services that futuristic and to address the needs that are hidden and if given a chance to use better products and services, people at large will lap it up even if the world wont stop without them. iPhone or smartphone is one such example. People were living fine without them and Steve Jobs decided to change the way the phones should be. He did not face any problem but always thought consumers need better phone instrument. Well this was not his first as he had done it many times before iPhone and continued after that too.

Born out of social fabric: As the world shrinks due to internet access, the social inequality becomes more visible. Individuals get motivated to bridge this gap by finding innovative solution that can be percolated to lowest level of society and help them bring up to a respectable level. These social entrepreneurs are born out of their compassion towards humanity and their venture can impact people globally despite of their non commercial nature. Khan Academy is one such Impact venture other than Gates Foundation. Well there is also strong argument for Entrepreneur’s being made better and it is thru continues learning .

Hey you, listen to me, know me better, so we can have a meaningful relationship! Does that sound like your love interest talking to you! Well online customers are like love interest. Relationship based on physical attractions are doubtful to last. There is more to a love relationship than Physical attraction. Similarly, for a more deep-rooted meaningful relationship with customers, one has to know & understand them. I am sure some have figured this out, but I doubt that Indian E-commerce companies have got this at all! I bought lot of stuff online this festive season and I can easily say that although the buying was seamless, none of the e-commerce companies could catch my attention for next purchase. I wondered why are they so lethargic that even after knowing my purchases, there was no effort to understand my needs beyond what I had figured out myself! Oh sorry, I forgot this is festive season and for all e-commerce companies it is more important is to have highest GMV ever! Right! Who cares about what I may need. You have bought, we delivered, you are welcome next time, story ends! Will I come next time, may be but only if they offer me higher discount than their competitor! Else why would I visit any of them? Isn’t that the only thing they offer, HIGHEST DISCOUNT! Well well well, I will see them to next time if they are still alive and somehow manage to get my attention with loudest shout for “highest discount on things I figured out I need”! Meanwhile, they, will sit there and keep shouting on top of their voice in News paper, TV, in my mail with a only marketing communication they know, HIGHEST DISCOUNT ON THIS & THAT! Sure, I may hear them & ignore them or flip pages or skip their TV commercials or mark their email as junk as I haven’t figured out the “what I need”!

I am sure some people reading this may wonder what more do you need man! You Purchased, you got it quickly & safely, why are your whining? I am not whining! All I am saying is that these companies are never going to become great as they are not even bothered to find out “what I my needs based on what I have just purchased”! Their entire focus in on ‘here is the lowest price of this product, just buy it now’! Well that is good for now but what happens when there is no festive season and I they don't shout! They think I don't have to buy anything anymore? Well there could be an event, a bigger sale or some other so called "triggers" to buy, advertised heavily and that could incite people to buy. Really! No way! They need to get me to buy all year round and for that they need to know me better so that can we have a deep long term relationship that is not based on “discounts” only. They need to understand me better. They need to know my needs better that me! Then only they can get my attention. And if they do, they will have my attention which will encourage me to interact, engage and respond ! So stop shouting, dancing and messaging me unless you know my needs!

Make no mistake, I am on the same side as these e-commerce companies, however I find it ridiculous that they are still “spraying & Praying” where as the opportunity here is connect one on one with each user as and when they become “customers”! All they need to do is Listen to their customers, inside and outside their shop! Yes outside their shop as the customers are living their digital life on internet and not on one particular site/portal/app. They live on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and on whole lot of other destination that can be seen, heard and connected to. One can meet them there, converse with them there, listen to them there and know hence them better! Yes they can and that is going to be the key to understand users social behavior, which will lead to understand the users better, which can help in providing the users better information, which will ultimately lead to users making well informed decision as customers. By combining users social behavior to purchase behavior as customers, one can read more into the customers personalities, their environment, their lifestyle, more importantly their needs. This can help companies to provide product and services that can fulfill the needs that otherwise are not understood or even thought about.

All I am trying to say is that the need is to understand each and every customer in totality. Customers browsing habits, purchases, feedback, sharing, social interaction, conversations, lifestyle, happening, joys, sorrows etc can help understand them a lot. This is what Big Data analytic is about. Handling millions of customer (Volume), interacting in real time (velocity), treating them as individuals and not as Target Group (Variety) on an App or website are the 3V’s that creates Big Data. Combining this Big Data attributes with the customers social behavior, creates a very evolved profile of a customer. Once analyzed in detail, it can predict the future needs of the customer. For example, I had just whole lot of office equipment from various online stores and if someone had looked at my social posts, they would have realized that I had started a new office and that I need more stuff than I bought. I realize “my needs” as I went along, however, a predictive platform could have seen all my needs much earlier and would have provided me with list of products that I would need in next few weeks! Now that would have been awesome! However that would have possible if these e-commerce guys would care about me. Had they looked at my buying behavior, studied by social behavior, analysed my present & future needs and then made some suggestion/recommendation, I would have considered going back as user to look at those recommendation and may be, may be bought some more stuff right upfront rather then discover on my own. But that is yet to happen and some startups are at it to do accomplish it in near future.

Here I would like to mention a Big Data tech startup that we are incubating called Neuron (neuron.me). They have built this whole new platform that would help e-commerce companies to build more comprehensive profile of their users/customers to make prediction for future purchases for their customers and make recommendation via in app notification. The process is in real-time and can provide users very relevant recommendations on the fly. While the social profiling is being done at the background, the browsing & purchase behavior is tracked on website/Mobile App in real time. A comprehensive profile is built in few seconds. While some primary recommendations are made in real time, the marketing personal can later apply more data points as well relevance to make further prediction and make specific recommendations. The platform has Social Media Listening, NLP, Machine Learning and Big Data Analyses capability along with communicating with the customer instantly via in-app notification. This, we feel is the future of customer engagement that will go beyond “Highest Discount” strategy.

The company just one an award for their work by Zone Startups India, a joint venture of Toronto-based Ryerson Futures Inc. and the Bombay Stock Exchange Institute, to visit Canada to leverage their presence in Canada for launch and expansion into North America. Zone Startups picked them in a contest involving over 300 startups. The main criterion for selection was the potential of the business to go global. All the best guys! They have also been selected by Startup Grind to present their platform to investor in Bay Area in February during Startup Grinds Global Meet. They are among 40 companies selected globally and only one from India.