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Uberization’s new frontier: Auto Sales?

Uberization’s new frontier: Auto Sales?

teslaDisclaimer: I don’t own a Tesla (yet!).

Much has been written about the disruptive business models by companies like Uber and AirBnB. Having used their solutions successfully in three continents, I am a big fan of their services. (Apparently others are too, as we see new terms like “Uberization”, “Sharing economy” and “Peer to peer economy” on a daily basis…)

In fact, there was a recent article about Uberization of air travel, but that is a much more complex undertaking, at least at this point…

I came across an interesting article by Marion Manekar on what the Uberization of the economy is about. The 5 word summary of the article is described in a tweet – “To Uberize, remove the middleman”…

As Maneker puts it, “I don’t think of Uber as a force that dis-intermediates—as we olds used to say—transportation, but one that creates value for itself, its drivers, and its users, by developing a new layer that integrates them all with maximum utility… To me, uberizing meant trapping a series of innovative processes—phone-enabled geo-location, payments and driver management and distribution—into an app-accessible service...”

If you break down the above thesis, the key points are innovative processes riding on existing and new infrastructure, glued together by ever-updating software. In the case of Uber it means using technology like geo-location and smartphone apps, existing government rules around taxis, and financial incentives, coupled with convenience for drivers and riders.

The same software-led revolution is disrupting other industries too – good examples being Apple Pay, Nest and Sonos. All these are taking advantage of our increasing reliance on our smartphones, and their constant connection to the cloud to put less focus on the supporting hardware – resulting in most hardware manufacturers focusing more on software enablement.

Amidst all this comes a new experimental disruption by Tesla – itself a pioneer in the software-enabled car – around auto sales: “Tesla is launching a referral program, where current Tesla owners can create a referral link to share with their friends. Anyone who buys a Tesla via a friend’s link will receive a $1,000 discount on a new Model S. (Used models are not included in the program.) On the flip side, those doing the referring will get a $1,000 credit applied to their account, which could be used to buy service, accessories or put toward any future car purchase.

It goes a bit further. If you manage to sell five Model S sedans, you’ll get an invite to the opening party at the Gigafactory in Nevada, which is sure to be a good time. Sell 10, and you will have the option of purchasing a Founders Series Model X…”

Tesla’s founder Elon Musk calls it a guerrilla battle against auto trading associations – since Tesla is not allowed to sell in every State, they can have their owners “refer” friends, thereby totally bypassing the traditional auto sales channel. But just like Uber, they can use the existing governmental checks and balances in the auto trade transaction to their advantage.

It is yet to be seen how successful this experiment is, but if it is successful, it could be a pre-cursor to tremendous change in every facet of our daily lives.


Four lessons for selling IT services from a Bazaar

Four lessons for selling IT services from a Bazaar

bazaarA man walks into a bazaar…

No, this is not a setup for a joke, but observations from a person forced to sit on the sidelines of a Bazaar – and the lessons learnt from that experience.

First of all, most of you know what a Bazaar is – essentially a network of streets lined with small stalls and shops, selling a variety of products. In fact, I found out that there is a term called the “Bazaar Economy”“… in which a new kind of entrepreneur gathers people and teams together as needed in a business environment that more closely mirrors the fast-moving give and take of the bazaar than the institutions of old. In this Bazaar Economy, the former free agents – who merely sold their individual services – will become a kind of ‘Extrapreneur’: part CEO, part Recruiter, part Partner, part Business Developer, they buy and aggregate the services and goods of others, focusing their efforts on select partnerships with other entrepreneurial groups. By doing so, they create more value, not only for themselves but also for the community around them…”  Interesting.

Most of you have probably been at a Bazaar – be it a middle-eastern souk or your local Church’s fundraiser – and would recognize that there are several common characteristics of Bazaars:

  • They always seem to be bustling
  • Even though there is a mix of vendors and products, there are always several vendors selling similar products
  • Most of these vendors know what the competition is selling the product for – so there is a level of price transparency
  • Some vendors selling the same product are more successful than their competitors
  • Most buyers seem to be satisfied or happy with the purchases they made at the successful vendors – and will give them repeat business

I observed all this while waiting for someone at a Bazaar recently, and with the mind in overdrive with some street masala chai, tried to equate that to what I do – sell IT services…and found that there was a lot of similarity.

  • There are a lot of small and large vendors selling similar IT services
  • Some of these vendors are more successful than others
  • For non-routine services, price is not really a differentiator

So what lessons did I glean by observing people going about their normal way of life for centuries – and applying that to IT services sales in 2015? Most of these are common sense, and we do it unconsciously, but I thought it would be good to publish them for my own benefit…

  1. The more successful vendors used marketing effectively – be it location, presentation of product or use of gimmicks – to attract the buyer’s attention a few seconds longer than their competitors. Equating that to our business, buyers already know what they are looking for, and they would be looking for qualified vendors to satisfy the need. Vendors who figure higher in searches, or add value by offering valuable information or expertise through their web or social presence will get a chance to play.
  2. The more successful vendors had a differentiating factor other than price – for example, there were five vendors selling fruit sitting close to each other. The fruit looked similar, and their prices were similar – then why did one vendor have more buyers than others? That vendor was more confident about his product, and was offering a taste test, as well as a money back guarantee. Lesson learnt – be confident about the skills of your delivery team, and be ready to back up your promises all the way.
  3. The more successful vendors had a repeat clientele – some buyers were walking directly to some of their preferred vendors, ignoring their competitors – even those with a better presentation. Possibly these folks had been buying from these preferred vendors daily or weekly, and had built up a trust factor. They could now go directly to these vendors for their purchases and save time – knowing that they were getting a fair deal and a good product (or if they were buying for someone else, they could be sure that there would be no issues). Key takeaway: relationships matter, and it is easier to win repeat business if your performance is above and beyond expectations – with superior customer service.
  4. The more successful vendors understood the customer needs better and created creative solutions – being in a Bazaar setting, there were a variety of buyers with different needs for the same product. The successful sellers understood what the buyer was looking for, and used their experience and expertise to come up with solutions to satisfy those specific needs. This is key for selling IT services – understand the scope fully, know the timing and focus on how you can make the buyer look good in his or her superior’s eyes.

Needless to say, every moment is a learning experience…



Using #facebook to contact your #physician?

Using #facebook to contact your #physician?

getty_465291919_970647970450054_52432When was the last time you contacted your physician through facebook?

Don’t worry – you are not alone.. a recent study found that of a sample of 2,500 CVS Pharmacy customers, 37% reported contacting their physician via email and 18% through facebook.

As the study quotes, Patients were interested in using Web-based tools to fill prescriptions, track their own health, and access health information (37–57 %), but few were currently doing so (4–8 %)…”

So why is this the case, when patient-physician communications are so important, and have shown to have a direct impact on outcomes and patient satisfaction?

There are several reasons which the study cites: policy, security and patients’/physicians’ comfort with social media.

“This study tells us that for most patients, healthcare isn’t quite ready for the future,” Joy Lee, one of the study’s authors, told The Huffington Post.

In fact, there’s something of a patient engagement paradox in healthcare, Lee said.

“On the one hand, doctors, policymakers, and researchers often talk about the need to engage patients,” she explained. On the other hand, many patients are already engaged — in Facebook and other online communities. Yet instead of embracing this connection, medicine is preoccupied with confidentiality and drawing professional boundaries.

However, with the recent trends towards telemedicine and connected health, a lot could be changing in a short period in this arena from a provider and payer perspective.

Telemedicine is being promoted as the next big thing in healthcare, with a saving of almost $100 per routine visit, and some projecting it to be a $5 billion business in the next five years. In addition, several technologies are helping bolster the trend: faster networks, powerful connected devices, IoT, and patients’ expertise with messaging. In addition to multiple startups, established companies like NEC have jumped into the field, with telemedicine offerings geared towards specific industries like education and hospitality.

Connected health is defined as “Connected health aims to maximize healthcare resources and provide increased, flexible opportunities for consumers to engage with clinicians and better self-manage their care. It uses technology – often leveraging readily available consumer technologies – to deliver patient care outside of the hospital or doctor’s office. Connected health encompasses programs in telehealth, remote care (such as home care) and disease and lifestyle management, often leverages existing technologies such as connected devices using existing cellular networks and is associated with efforts to improve chronic care.”

Which brings us back to the use of social media in patient-physician communications going forward. A very interesting infographic in Adweek (calling it “Peer to Peer Health”) may provide clues: “More than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health…”. 

Add to that the fact that more payers are now moving towards outcome based payments, it is logical to assume that we should see an explosion in the use of social media for patient-physician communications, using newer apps or solutions built on foundations of established platforms like facebook and twitter.

As Lee says, “Many patients are interested in [these services] but few are actually using them — possibly because patients don’t know they’re available,” Lee said. “Doctors and health care organizations should take steps to publicize and educate patients of these opportunities. Either way, it starts with a conversation between patients and doctors on how they prefer to communicate online.”

Google, others take on human trafficking using big data tools

Google, others take on human trafficking using big data tools


Google, others take on human trafficking using big data tools.

Data analysis, image recognition and mapping programs are helping anti-trafficking nonprofits not only locate victims in real time, but predict their victimizers’ next moves. Going into 2014, the companies and their partners are exploring how to share information to develop global prevention strategies based on traffickers’ behaviors.

Palantir’s software, which sifts volumes of unrelated data for meaningful connections, is key to many of those efforts, including speedy response to victims who call hotlines. It instantly pulls information from disparate sources such as license plate numbers, online ads and cellphone records to locate trafficking victims and connect them with help.