Saturday, December 16, 2017

What On Earth Is Cryptocurrency?




There is a buzz around the term cryptocurrency these days and apparently the most popular kind of this strange new currency goes by another esoteric term- bitcoin! But what on earth is cryptocurrency and what the devil is a bitcoin? For all the news that is being generated about cryptocurrency and bitcoins, one would imagine that there would be many who would understand what the fuss was all about.

Here in India, there is even more confusion about the whole hoopla surrounding bitcoins. Ever glued in to news about newer ways of getting a fair return on their investments middle class India has begun to look at bitcoins with a fair amount of interest and curiosity This is largely on account of the fact that one hears so much about the fantastic returns that one makes by investing in this new age wonder.

But ask someone if they know what these terms signify, chances are you will draw a bank. For all they might know this could be currency that settlers on Mars might use. After all wasn't their talk of settling people on Mars?! This kind of abysmal ignorance about cryptocurrency is not restricted to India. An overwhelming majority of people around the world don't have a clue either.

So let us try and understand the nature of the beast over here and try and gather a basic understanding of what one means, when one says cryptocurrency. A lot of people think that cryptocurrency is a form of digital money and they are bang on. Add to it the fact that it is extremely secure and anonymous, you begin to understand its allure.

The way it works is that it leverages  the power of the Internet by using cryptography that helps transform legible information into a codified one, with which to track any purchases or transfers. As many would know cryptography has its origins in the secret method of communicating by code that was evolved during the Second World War. The digital era has seen it transform further into a foolproof method of online security that encompasses not just data, but communications and money as well.

Bitcoin was the very first cryptocurrency and was launched back in 2009. Being the first off the block it soared in value from zero value in January 2009 to more than $11,000 in November 2017! No wonder everybody wants to know more about cryptocurrencies. It is not surprising therefore to discover that there are more than a 1000 cryptocurrencies available on the Internet.

Understanding Cryptocurrency

 If one were to define or explain cryptocurrency you could call it a process which entails making limited entries in a database that cannot be altered by anyone unless certain specific conditions are fulfilled. If you think that there is nothing extraordinary about this, think again.

This is exactly how real money functions.  The money in one's bank account is represented by certain certain specific entries in the bank's database that can be altered only when certain basic conditions are met. Money is basically  a verified entry in some kind of an accounting database.

A similar principle operates in the case of  the databases of a cryptocurrency. Take the case of  bitcoin where every member network of peers keeps a record of the entire transaction  and balances pertaining to every account. There is a seven stage process that explains the entire cryptocurrency concept and how it functions.

1. Someone makes a transaction request which travels via a P2P (peer to peer) network of computers, which is called nodes.
2. The network of nodes validates both user status and the transaction.
3. The verified transaction now becomes part of all the other transactions, thereby  creating a new block of data in the ledger.
4. The new block becomes a permanent and unalterable part of the existing block chain
5. There is a complete transaction.

Cryptocurrency has certain unique characteristics that make it new and revolutionary-

1. It does not possess any intrinsic  value and as such cannot be redeemed against any commodity which has that kind of value.
2. Unlike conventional money cryptocurrency is entirely digital and does not have a physical form.
3. Unlike conventional money, the supply of cryptocurrency is not regulated by any central bank with its network being totally decentralized.

In India though there is heightened interest in cryptocurrencies, most people are extremely wary of investing in these till the time that the concept becomes better understood and more mainstream. Though the Reserve Bank of India has not banned cryptocurrences outright, it has cautioned people against trading and creating virtual currencies because of the inherent risks involved.

However more than cryptocurrency it is the block-chain technology that has the conventional banking sector interested as it can be used for functions other than creating cryptocurrency. These include tracking of ownership and origin of documents, physical and digital assets and so on. ICICI Bank actually went ahead and used block=chain technology to execute India's first banking transactions on block-chain.

As for cryptocurrencies, notwithstanding all the hype surrounding it, most Indian investors would likely steer clear of investing in it until such time the concept of cryptocurrency has official sanction. A more or less similar wait and watch approach has been taken by governments and investors worldwide.

There are some leading voices who herald the ushering in of the era of cryptocurrency as the dawn of a new world financial order, while many others think of it as an inflated bubble waiting to be burst. Clearly one will hear a lot about both cryptocurrencies and bitcoins till the debate is settled one way or the other.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Are You an Old School Marketer Who’s Intimidated by Digital Marketing?

      




If you are, take heart, as you are not alone. For most people who started their career in the last decade of the last century, digital marketing is something that came as a rude shock. Many of these confounded people made their peace with it, not without their share of kicking and screaming though, and many never could reconcile themselves to it. This blog is addressed largely to the latter category of people and not necessarily of that generation, who consider themselves born marketers but for their inability to master digital marketing.

The biggest reason for people getting intimidated by digital marketing is the nagging feeling that you are not in control-everything that you thought defined marketing doesn’t matter a whit anymore.  That sure would scare everyone! Now this is a catch-22 situation if ever there was one. On the one hand you resist digital marketing as it negates everything you thought marketing was, yet you have the sneaking suspicion that digital marketing is the right way of going about things.

How do you resolve this impasse? Firstly acknowledge that digital market is indeed indispensable in today’s times. The digital revolution has brought about a paradigm change in the way business is carried out.  The situation today is akin to what it must have been when industrial revolution began to disrupt the traditional manufacturing processes. It was the same when air travel began to be the preferred method of traveling over very  large distances. So accept that progress can’t be rolled back  and the more efficient way of doing things will ease out the less efficient ones. This is truer of business and marketing than any other field of human endeavor.

Once you have that part out of the way, try and analyze what it is about digital marketing that you fear. Let’s check out the reasons that likely make people like you, perpetually wary of digital marketing-

1)    The known devil vs. unknown devil syndrome-Most people fear change-especially when you don’t know what the change entails. Adopting digital marketing might be akin to wearing a parachute and jumping off a plane, in that you don’t know how it will end.
            It might seem a lot like that to somebody new to it. 
           
           There are lots of new terms to get acquainted with and plenty of new information to take 
            in and process. With no idea as to whether one will get the hang of what the hell it is 
            that one is supposed to do with all the newfangled tools, one might well be excused
            for thinking- “Why not leave well enough alone and get involved with something that is 
            yielding fair results and not risk complete failure?”

            This is especially true if you have had a fair run of success doing things the old   
            fashioned way.
      2)    Imposter Syndrome- One of the most  intriguing phenomena that afflicts a surprisingly large  
            number of successful achievers is the so called imposter syndrome. These are  
            people who somehow feel that their success a fluke and they don’t deserve it. A fear 
            lurks somewhere in their minds that they will be found out and exposed for the 
            imposter that they are.

           This fear is possibly accentuated in some people when confronted with the seemingly 
            complicated and highly technical world of digital marketing. They probably tell
            themselves, “There is no way I can fake my way through this one. This is the real big 
            deal and now people will know me for the charlatan that I am.

          The irony is that they deserve every bit of the success that they have achieved and  
           their fear of digital marketing is likewise ill founded. Connected with the same 
           phenomenon is the fact that online marketing requires you to leave a digital trail of 
           your actions. You cannot be secretive or surreptitious the way you might be in the off- 
           line world

          3) The Belief That Digital Marketing Is Overrated- A surprisingly large number of 
              marketing professionals still believe that digital marketing is overrated and real 
              marketing  and selling happens off line. In their view real networking happens when 
              you meet someone in person and not the make believe virtual world- this when the 
              sheer efficiency and economic viability of digital marketing is obvious even by a 
              cursory understanding of its tenets.

Taking to Digital Marketing

What is it that one needs to do to stop being intimidated by digital marketing and leverage it to one’s advantage? There are a few steps that one can take-

     Take the bull by the horns- What is the worst thing that can happen if you fail at your attempt at learning digital marketing? At least you will have tried and not always wondered if you could do it.
           
            On the other hand if you do succeed in learning it, of which there are far higher chances  
            you would have set yourself on an exciting new path that would provide a massive fillip
            to your marketing and sales efforts. There will be a number of things in life which you
            are afraid of doing because you don’t know how you will fare. The only way of finding  
            out is doing it.
             
             Digital market is nothing other than the most cost effective and efficient way of reaching
             out to your target audience- really nothing more, nothing less. What is there to not like
             about it or fear? Besides, the online world is a great place to seek help and advice. 
             There are thousands of blogs that will tell you of the last intricate detail of digital   
             marketing.

     Digital marketing is time well spent- If you are one of those who keep postponing the decision to learn digital marketing because you would rather spend the time meeting real people in the real world, you need to do a rethink. Digital marketing will free up time for you to meet up with far more committed prospects than is ever possible with conventional marketing outreach.
                      


      Inherent advantages of digital marketing- The reasons for digital marketing becoming so important for most businesses are found in the distinct inherent advantages that it possesses. These come in the shape of the very low cost of technology allowing unprecedented outreach, the ability to focus on a well-defined target audience and possessing the wherewithal to track every dollar spent. To top it all you are able to obtain instant real time feedback from your clients.
           
           
            Is there anything to not like in this?

     Performance and growth- In the highly competitive marketing environment of today, only those businesses who are able to perform and grow have a future. There is no place for laggards. That is why it makes eminent sense for all businesses to turn to digital marketing to help them achieve these twin objectives, if they haven’t already.
           
           The greatest contribution of digital marketing has really been in creating a level playing  
           field for businesses irrespective of size, scale and resources. This is evident in the  
            exponential growth in the global digital economy which is expected to touch a size of   
           $1.36 trillion in a little over two years’ time. That is more than the size of the South     
            Korean economy!

Considering that the so called digital economy (it is much more than that) is barely more than two decades old, that is no mean achievement. But consider this. We are only at the start of a major disruption of the global economy that is no less momentous than the industrial revolution.

With wave after wave of new technology upsetting and replacing long held notions of running and managing myriad industries, the economy world is in the midst of unprecedented churning. The Internet of Things, robotics, augmented and virtual reality, more perceptive algorithms and of course artificial intelligence are already working in tandem to create a world whose ultimate shape  we possibly cannot even fully imagine fully.

For one to stand on ceremony about whether to adopt digital marketing or not is really beside the point. It is not a question of digitization being inevitable. We are past that stage. It is where it will take us.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

  Why a mentor is necessary for a scale-up business.



A scale- up business is more often than not beset with a number of challenges. From knowing exactly how fast to go, so as not to get the company in a pickle and not erring so much on the side of caution as to lose traction and miss critical opportunity, scaling up ensures that John the man in the driver’s seat has his task cut out for him.

Upscaling disrupts the status quo in myriad ways. John will likely have to reconfigure processes pertaining to sales, finance and management information systems. Add to that the fact that most people are resistant to change and it becomes quite challenging for someone like John to inculcate the company culture created by a hundred people in people five times the number.

It is therefore important that decisions pertaining to recruitment and possible retrenchment are taken in the appropriate manner. Perhaps even more critical is putting in place the right management structure to manage the change.

Howsoever skilled and proficient John may have been in running a business at a certain scale, the decision to scale up means that he will now operate in unchartered territory, where he necessarily has to follow a learning curve to become truly proficient at operating at an enhanced scale. The critical part though is that he may not have the luxury of time.

It makes eminent sense for him to seek assistance from a business mentor. Such a person will prove an invaluable asset to John. Their professional expertise, years of experience and insight would help buttress John’s business against the shocks that are often the result of any restructuring that are inevitably the result of any scaling up carried out by a business.

As a matter of fact there are a number of direct tangible benefits that accrue from having a mentor guide the growth phase of any company. There are enumerated below-

1.    Saving Time- There is no point in reinventing the wheel. Your mentor is someone who has been there and has done that. Such a person can hand-hold John and guide him in carrying out the course-correction required for scaling up, saving him valuable time in the process.

 There is always a critical period of time within which any scaling up process needs to 
 be carried out. While John cannot afford to miss the bus, he also cannot afford to make a    
 mistake. That is why having a mentor by his side will be the best course of action for John  to adopt.

 2. Saving Money- This flows from the first point. Having a mentor guide him will ensure that John hits the ground running and does not waste anytime trying to learn the nitty gritty of scaled up processes.

This will enable him to commence delivery in double quick time, enabling him to optimally   
leverage the advantages of scaling up. The saving in terms of opportunity-cost on account
 of the mentor helping considerably shorten the lead time to come to speed will be    
 immense.

3.Gaining Good Experience- While John may eventually complete the scaling up process on  his own, not having access to a mentor’s tremendous experience would mean that he  
would likely make many mistakes and his learning curve would be far from satisfactory.

Working with a mentor with a wealth of experience would mean that John would not only  
have access to that, but would be able to build upon that. This would do wonders to his own personal growth and ability to understand the intricate  nuances of the scaling up process-something he would not be able to achieve on his own  or take years to accomplish.

           
 4. Gaining Access To Mentor’s Network- While John would have access to his network of
people beneficial to his business, it would probably not be up to scratch on the scaled up  
level of business. These will have to be a whole new set of people operating in another
universe altogether.

Having a mentor on board means that John can now have unimpeded access to their
assiduously built up network of contacts that would prove extremely beneficial to John’s  
business.

5. Gaining Confidence- A scaled up business will put John in an orbit that is different from
one that he was used to. While this would be a great opportunity for John to put his
business on a high growth path, he may not feel quite up to the task and hesitate, thereby
putting the future of his business in jeopardy.

Access to a mentor however will cause a paradigm shift in John’s situation. He would now have the confidence to operate in the altered business scenario and not hesitate or flounder. Having a mentor is akin to riding a tank with armour plating. You can move
forward unmindful of the challenges on the way.


6. Financial Acumen- The dynamics of the financial process undergoes a qualitative
change with scaling up. Ensuring that the fund flow process is smooth and seamless at that
level does require some acumen.

A mentor could help John with this as well because of their intricate knowledge of the
process gained over the years that they ran successful businesses . Having access to this
expertise is again a great -leg up for anyone seeking to make a success of their business.

7. Marketing- Now that may not be something that John will directly involve the mentor in,
the fact of the matter is that marketing is the very life-blood of a business and any valuable
tips or advice that would come from a dyed in the wool veteran would always be welcome.

The mentor would in his time have likely  been through  entire product life cycles of several
businesses and would be well positioned to offer valuable advice to John.

8. Strategy- The whole driver of the scaling up process is strategy. Having a mentor with his
many years of strategic experience and familiarity with just the kind of scenario that John  
currently faces, makes it an eminently sensible decision  to requisition the services of an able mentor.

Strategizing and brainstorming are right up the street of a mentor, with them possessing years of experience doing just that sort of a thing for living. John would do well to have  such a person advise him and his core team on key strategic decisions that will help the business optimally leverage the advantages of their scaled up business.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

What’s all the fuss about Big Data?


Big Data is a term that gets bandied around a lot these days. What does it really mean and how is it going to make a great difference to the way business is conducted around the world? Well the thing is that it is possible in the digital age for most organizations to collect a gargantuan amount of data, but that by itself won’t amount to much, unless one is able to analyse it and derive whatever is useful out of it.

If one can do that, one will obviously be able to run the affairs of one’s organization far more efficiently with regard to both strategic management and day to day decisions. At the heart of Big Data are the three Vs propounded by renowned industry analyst Dough Laney-Volume, Velocity and Variety.

There are several ways in which data can be collected in today’s times-business records, various kinds of research and experiments and increasingly via the Internet of Things. Furthermore Big Data may be structured or unstructured. In order for one to effectively leverage Big Data, one needs to enhance the computing infrastructure. If one were to try and accomplish that by using servers those would have to number in the hundreds and thousands to achieve the desired velocity. This can obviously not come cheap. The more practicable alternative is to use public cloud computing to facilitate Big Data Analytics projects.

Though there is a lot of debate about the inevitability of adopting Big Data, there is also  underlying fear and confusion about what sort of monster might one be unleashing here. One would do well to go back to the basics and understand what Big Data really is and what it stands for.

Well Big Data is a sum to total of data of both traditional and digital origin sourced from both within and outside an organization that can be used for continuous analysis and discovery. That data comes in both unstructured (text, metadata and social media posts, etc.) and multi -structured forms (from myriad data formats) and is a mine of potentially extremely beneficial information.

Therefore it is incumbent upon all organizations to get their act together and understand the full implications of Big Data-what it is, what it can do for them and the sheer advantages of data oriented marketing. Once you get the hang of it with a little practise you will be able to witness a paradigm change in the way you customer engagement is enacted with immense benefits accruing to both the online and offline universe.