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Power of being specific

One of the most important lesson I learned during my recent trip to Burma came from an unknown old man-Being specific always pays‘, and I mean it in literal sense as well.

Burma is still a place somewhat stuck back in time. People have mobile phones but it is a relatively recent phenomena, and thus not many have it. I was waiting for arrival of my Burmese friend at a local ice-cream parlor. It was about 3:15 PM by my watch. For me the wait was not very pleasant, partially because the parlor had some funny smell, and partially because I had nothing to do.

Mi Mi lay ice cream

Mi Mi Lay Ice-Cream Parlor, Yangon, Burma

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Such a big Deal!?

It all started when groupon came up with an idea to provide self-grooming and beauty services at a discounted price. They were targeting females working in offices behind the desk who are bored of work and unlike males donot want to goto a sports/adult website to cheer them up. But what started as a tiny little convenience and a way to save few bucks in pocket has now become a big pain in ass now. To my surprise, today so far I receive 10 emails and all are of some deal site or the other. And all of them are equally good as spams.

Comeon! no more deals for me

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Product Portfolio and consumer behavior: Are product variants confusing the target customers?

I’ll directly come to the point in this post. I believe that companies who follow the strategy of viral reproduction of self-competing products are actually digging their own graves. Their move to reincarnated  a variant do two things in the market. First, it conveys a message “what you bought is inferior and outdated” to the newly engaged customer. Secondly, it drastically reduces the resale value of the product. And the end result is unhappy customer.

Limitations: Here the idea is only applied to consumer products for whom the demand is generated and may not be applicable to ‘survival products’ such as soaps, bread etc. Thus, the products we talking about are all lifestyle products—Smartphones, Cars, Clothing, High-end TVs, DSLR Cameras, etc.

What I meant when I said ‘self-competing’ products is introduction of products which are similar but with slightly advanced or improves features. Also, these products which have relatively very little difference in introduction age (or time).

Let’s start with smartphones. Apple announced that they’ll come out with an iPhone in 2007. From 2007 to 2011 (4 yrs) they came out with 4 variants in total–1st generation, 3G, 3Gs, and 4. So in total 4 models came out in about 5 yrs which means an average gap of 1.25 yrs between the variants. This 1.25 yrs age difference brings in amazing advantages. Few of them are as follows-

1) 1.25 yrs is a good period for a consumer to cause decent amount of physical and aesthetics damage to a phone. Interestingly, 4% of the customer broke their glasses within 4 months[1]. Thus by the time a new variant is released, consumer is ready and willing to buy the new one.

2) 1.25 yrs period closely matches with recontract eligibility of 1.5 yrs for many telecom operators. So you make a small upfront payment and you get a new phone! Isn’t it lucrative? And again Apple gets a share from the operators.

3) And the most important part, 1.25 yrs is a good period for an average individual to get well-versed with the exiting technology and can easily move on to the to newer technology.

On the other hand for Android OS, Samsung came out with 13 sets within 1.5 yrs, Motorola 18 in 1.5 yrs, LG 11 1.5 yrs. On average they were  launching a new set every 2 months!![2].

Hardware wise most of them are similar, and the only difference other than the OS is the screen size, button placement etc. Although it may sound a good move to cover the whole spectrum to meet people’s needs, if one looks at it from customer’s need perspective then there is more confusion than convenience in these many choices. For e.g., I could spot 4 models with the flagship ‘Galaxy’ brand when I visited a Samsung store yesterday here in Singapore. It was quite a mental exercise to figure out the difference between them. In Samsung’s case the average difference in time of launch can be easily be taken as 6 months. Considering Samsung and Apple as a competing hardware manufacturer and iOS and Android as equally good OS, the only factor which is contrasting is the mean-lifespan of 1.5 yrs vs 0.5 yrs.

Could this also be the main reason for such a huge difference in brand image of Apple and Samsung?

Apps for Business (wo)Men

Until Sept 2010, I was yet another conventional mobile phone user carrying around so called communicating ‘brick’ in my pocket; Those simple 13+ key phones which alternatively could be used for playing a tossing game with your friends in your living room. I was also the one who use to laugh at a crying friend coz his(er) smartphone accidentally received a scratch at a beach. However, now I’m one of them carrying an Android phone and a subject of laughter for my other ‘brick’ carrying friends.

My motivation to write this post was the article on inc.com -’Best Business Apps in 2010‘. The article highlighted some interesting apps which came out in 2010 and helped businessmen around the world. Out of all the highlighted apps, I found the following apps useful for early stage entrepreneurs (which also means free apps only).

1. Dropbox [Android|iPhone|iPad|Desktop]
Dropbox is a new ‘in-the-cloud’ storing environment. It is a good replacement for box.net however the nice thing is that unlike 1GB free space from box.net, Dropbox provide 2GB free space along with a provision for receiving 250MB free space once you refer it to your friend. You can use a web access to download/upload file anywhere on the go (However the login function miraculously vanished from their website when I urgently wanted to print a document stored in the dropbox and end up installing dropbox at cyber cafe’s desktop client). Check out this article by Amit Agarwal if you want to remotely print file from your smartphone. Again, you can also remotely monitor you PC using Dropbox. Overall, its a great software and a free replacement for box.net, Microsoft Groove etc.

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