How You Can Exploit The Tolerance Level of Users To Increase RoI – Some Examples

When pricing a new product, understanding the tolerance level of the user is important. Knowing what is the maximum you can charge for a product without turning down your customers helps you maximize your revenue. This tolerance level theory applies to every feature optimization. The idea of exploiting tolerance level in product design is to move away from being a purist and keeping interactions clean to finding the right balance between clean product and clean product that makes money.

To be able exploit tolerance you need to understand what your true product is. Example – For most of India, a flight booking OTA’s true product may be booking the cheapest flight easily. Cheapest is the real product, easily might be exploitable for tolerance. A food delivery companies real product is food quality and delivery time, interface of app might be exploitable for tolerance.

Here are some examples that will help you understand what negotiables can be exploited for tolerance. Some product managers might want to call it a Growth Hack.

  1. Way2SMS – A free SMS sending website. From the time of landing on homepage to sending the SMS, a user is shown about 15 ads. You might call it too much but if you understand the users’ profile you will be less worried about interface and more worried about delivery time of SMS. Way2SMS’s delivery time is under 2Seconds, even in peak hours.
  2. Akosha –  A freemium dispute resolution system for consumers. Akosha has pivoted to being Helpchat. Akosha used to send a notice to the disputing service provider on behalf of the consumer for free. If the dispute isn’t resolved, they charge the consumer Rs.500 to follow it up. I and friends have used Akosha thrice to solve disputes worth Rs.13K, Rs.30K, Rs.1K successfully. In all 3 cases Akosha did not charge, because the free service was good enough. Was there room to charge a fee/tip after the service? Absolutely.
  3. GoZoomo: A friend used Gozoomo recently to buy a second hand car. They are doing a lot of offline work with the RTO for him, all for free. Charging for actual expenses borne on behalf of the consumer wouldn’t hurt.
  4. Pinterest – If you land on Pinterest from Google, the first 2 folds are visible without login but when you scroll down further, you are asked to signup. Good balance of freemium.
  5. Quora– Like Pinterest, Quora only allows you to read the answer that you directly landed on, everything else requires you to log in. Sometimes the user has no problem signing in, it’s just that you haven’t asked him well enough or you have given him a “Skip for now” button.
  6. FindYogi – At FindYogi, we ask the user to login to see coupons applicable on a product. Most of our signups come from that 1 feature.
  7. Coupon sites – They open the destination site before showing the actual coupon code. Does the user have a problem with that? Well, their growth doesn’t suggest that.
  8. Insurance sites – Most of the sites ask you for contact details before showing a quote. If you are really serious about buying  insurance, you may not mind it. Afterall, what’s the use of spending so much marketing money to bring the user on the site and not even creating a hook to contact them again.
  9. GoDaddy – From the time of selecting the domain to buy to actually finalizing your order, they try to upsell you 3-4 products viz. SSL, Hosting, email, related domains. Does it hurt? Well what are the chances that he will bounce from step 2 and go to a competitor to buy a commodity product like a domain? Low revenues hurt more.
  10. BigBasket – Untill recently, the earliest delivery slot that you would on BigBasket would be atleast 36hrs away. What really worked for them is the fullfillment rate. They were so good at getting what you ordered that they were ready bet on it with a 50% premium on refunds made for non-delivery. And when they promised a time-slot they really delivered then. Delivery slot is a negotiable, partial fulfillment or delay is not.

Not exploiting tolerance is like leaving money on the table. And once you know what the negotiables are, you will work harder to improve the non-negotiables. A lot of times maximizing the negotiable tolerance actually helps you discover a sustainable business model.

The important thing with tolerance level is that your margin in the tolerance exploitation is the opportunity for a new player to get it. BigBasket vs. Grofers is a good case here.

The Overload Of User Interfaces – Who Should You Develop For?

Back in 2005-06 the world had almost come to working with browser apps only. This was after we had started giving up on Yahoo chat as a desktop downloadable tool. Soon after mobile started picking up and WAP sites got popular. Later in 2007-08 iPhones were launched and all hell broke loose. Web developers now had to develop for environments that were different from the traditional web. Nokia’s symbian was still popular in developing economies. And then Android also caught up.

As if all the fragmentation wasn’t enough, browsers like Opera and UC web were running their own standards of HTML and no-JS sites. Google Chrome was lagging in mobile web story due to low bandwidth in developing economies so they started re-directing traffic through Google Web Light. They recently introduced AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) as a standard for content sites on low bandwidth. In a bid to reduce bandwidth overload for extended usage some developers took to Single Page Applications (SPAs) as well but that had it’s own challenge in terms of first time load and SEO.

With the whole fight around apps/no-apps, Google is now introducing app streaming for users with high-bandwidth access. So what does a developer do?

We tried to do a break down of all potential interfaces. Here’s what we got. Might be useful to think around this.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 6.30.08 PMWeb interface break down for India. (Click to expand)

Facebook’s Copy Writing Change For Events RSVP Is Small But Magical

Facebook’s events’ RSVP earlier had 3 responses – Going, May Be, Not Going. Lately, I have started seeing the responses as – Going, Interested, Can’t Go.

  • The change from May Be to Interested may not mean much as both are non-confirmatory but Interested is more positive than May Be. 
  • Changing Not Going to Can’t Go is a major change. Can’t Go already has a sense of willingness to go but declining due to uncontrollable circumstances. The aim of the event RSVP is to capture data for the host in the most positive way, and this change will enable more people to respond without hurting the host’s sentiments or feeling guilty about it. Facebook has done this earlier also.

The UX of Social products has a lot to do with copy writing. Those little changes will make all the difference in engagement rates. Read more here.

Update: Facebook has 2 sets of responses depending on whether the event is public or private. This makes the detailing all the more interesting.

FirstCry’s User Generated Content Strategy For Reviews

FirstCry, ecommerce company for baby products, is asking shoppers to upload pictures and videos of their child with the product. These pictures would be showcased on the product page.

first cry

This feature is a win-win-win for existing users, potential new users and the site.

1. Rewards – For the reviewer. Seeing your kid featured on a popular ecommerce site is a huge ego boost for the parents. This is almost like a mini celebrity stature. This is lesser effort than writing a 200 word review.

2. Testimonial – It’s a proof that someone else has bought the product from this site. It is more than just saying “Genuine buyer”.

3. Better Decisions – Since these are genuine non-paid pics, shoppers are more like to trust them and can easily visualize real world view of the product.

In the days of selfie, expect this trend to catch up with other ecommerce portals.

Cleartrip Activities: More Than A Product Vertical

Cleartrip has launched Activities. As the name suggests, the section lists various activities that you can take up on weekends or otherwise. While it might look like a new product vertical for travelers, there is more to this product vertical, or rather engagement strategy.

There are 3 things to note about this feature:

1. It is app only.
2. The launch cities are not where people go to travel but where the Cleartrip’s audience lives.
3. The activities chosen are for locals, not for travelers visiting the place. Most of them.

For a segment like travel booking, which happens couple of times in a year, most people would uninstall the app after a use. This feature gives the users a reason to keep the app and open it every week. I would expect Cleartrip doesn’t limit itself to paid activities only.

It is very important for transaction systems to have an engagement feature else the acquisition cost is not limited to every new user but for every new transaction. And with transactions being a commodity, the product might just become very difficult arbitrage game.

Your product always needs to do more than just the feature that makes you money.

Incase you like this feature, Explara and Townista are doing this decently.

Flipkart had recently promoted an engagement tool on its app, albeit short lived – Read about the #ThumbThing.

Beyond Google Search – The Platforms For The Internet of Actions

Cross posted at iSpirt

The rise of Mobile is a big shift in the way Internet is used, thereby influencing commerce over the Internet. In developed economies it is the desktop based users who have started spending a significant amount of time on mobile. For India specifically, mobile is bringing in lot of first time Internet users.

Given that Google Search is not the default starting point on mobile, there is a void waiting to be filled as the platform of the mobile internet. No, Android/iOS is not it. There are 3 services that I believe can be the platform of the mobile internet viz. maps, payments and delivery. Before looking into each of them, the hypothesis here is that the Internet of mobile is no longer about serving information but it is about enabling actions. So what happens to information related stuff? They will move to a Chat like app with a command prompt like interface. It is already happening with Wechat, Line etc. Search would be easier over chat with results showing bite-size info in cards, the blue-link click is only required to dive deeper. Why chat and not current Google search? Because the current Google search is a state-less communication. Two consecutive searches do not relate to each other. The command prompt type interface serving bite-size info will need to be state aware, just like human communication.

The 3 platforms:


In the long term, Maps are going to be default page for most of our local needs, like movies, cabs, handyman or anything related to offline commerce. Different reports suggest that about 40-50% of all mobile search is local. Instead of a page with blue links, maps will become our search engine on mobile. China is already seeing this change with Baidu Maps driving all-things-local. Google Maps also recently integrated Uber to show estimated pickup time if you have uber installed ( When you have more than 1 cab app installed, Google Maps will influence which one you choose. In the long run it will also mean that you will not need to install the app but the app will just be backend integrated with Google Maps.

Users currently find it easier to search for “Zomato Pizza Hut” on Google and then go to Zomato’s Pizza Hut page, as compared to first going to, and then searching for “Pizza Hut”. In the same way, people will not look for a cab on a map inside Ola or Uber’s app, instead Ola and Uber’s cabs will be visible together on a single instance of Google Map.

The future of mobile local search is Apps on Map, and not maps inside apps. Just like now we don’t need to bookmark every restaurant site on the web browser, in future we may not need to install every cab booking app. This is the most important and defensible product of Google in the long term. Individual Apps as an interface is an intermediary stage of the mobile evolution until platform level aggregation and deep integration does not come into action again.


We do not see payments as a platform because it is generally not the starting point or in most cases we don’t even realize if it has an interface. It just happens, and that is how it is supposed to be. Apple and Samsung are working towards that. In India, the wallet feature in apps is being accepted. Mobile carriers and large banks are trying to get into the space. Paytm seems to be moving fastest in this space though. There are still licenses to be issued in this space by RBI and rightly so because this space is more about enabling trust and insurance, the core of commerce, than anything else.

Indian consumers do not relate to payment systems and insurance directly, but in developed economies one can ask their credit card company for a complete refund if the service by a vendor is not satisfactory. So they not only act as a credit and payment company but also an insurance company. Being on a universal trusted payments platform will mean more business. Micro-transaction will happen over a payments app and each little vendor need not have their own app with payment gateway. I should be able to use a plumber’s service and pay via a payments app that both of us use.


Delivery of physical goods is a big platform opportunity. What we generally see as an ecommerce company is a delivery company. A lot of commerce, new and used, B2C and C2C, is being limited by the physical movement of goods. While intercity delivery is controlled by large courier companies, the hyper local delivery of goods is still an unsolved problem. Uber is dominant in this space for people movement and now starting for food but their platform doesn’t yet allow movement of small goods from B2C or C2C. In India, Delyver and Grofers are trying to capture this space. Entering the C2C delivery space will be a big move for them. It’s human delivery network now but from what we see, it will evolve into a drone network.

How SpringRole Might Put A Dent In The Recruitment World

SpringRole is referral based hiring tool. Companies post a job, you discover it and refer a friend, through a Linkedin message, who might be a good fit. If the candidate agrees to talk, you get paid a small referral fee.

In a world where attention in scarce, getting a friend’s mail for a job not only gets the attention but also endorses it. This model has been tried before in bits and pieces though the key to such incentive based programs is spam check and reputation control. SpringRole is addressing both this in priority through a strong data driven algo that works silently in the background.

The whole tool works on top of Linkedin and will hopefully integrate more platforms. Though the profile pages seem more usable here.

Wishberg’s “You have inspired” Mail Alerts – Why Copywriting Matters

Wishberg, an app for maintaining and sharing your wishlist, sends out email alerts with a subject line that reads like this:

You have inspired Pravin Jadhav for a new wish!

The mail is basically an alert for saying someone wished for what you wished. In Twitter analogy this is something like a Retweet. What’s important here is the heading does not say “Pravin wished for what you wished” but it says that “I ‘inspired’ Pravin”. The earlier message sounds more like the follower is same as you and does not make the earlier user superior but in the latter case the original user is made to look intellectually/socially more superior because he has now “inspired” others.

I don’t have the statistical details on the open rate of these mails, but I am assuming it must be pretty high. I have gone to check Wishberg everytime I get these mails.

For a system a click is an action but for the user the copy is the action. For example, earlier Facebook used to ask users to “Become a Fan” but that is now changed to “Like”. The end effect for the system is same in both cases but for the user a “Like” is less obligatory than “Becoming a Fan”. In the same way an endorsement button could be “Like” for FB, RT for Twitter, +1 for G+, Like/Dislike for YouTube or Agree/Disagree for a discussion. An agree/Disagree would not make sense on Youtube video. Similarly, someone Likes what you said is not as powerful as someone Agrees to what you said in a debate. The “share” vs. “recommend” action on Facebook is another one to think about.

A thoughtful change in copy can change the user activity manifolds.

Read more on copy change on Facebook Events.

The Inertia Of Staying In A Deal And Using That To Increase Conversion

I was talking to a traditional apparels retailer recently. He runs a large store in a tier-3 city. He recently changed the interiors of his store. The western style chairs were replaced with the Indian style seating, that requires you to remove your footwear and sitdown on a Gaddi (cushion on the floor). He reports the conversion rates are now almost 100%, earlier at about 80%. The casual window shopper is almost NIL. He believes the inertia against getting up, putting on the shoes and leaving without a purchase is high, hence the low bounce rate. But what about the inertia of removing the footwear and sitting down? Well, he says, “The cost of entertaining a customer is very high, you have to employ more staff for lesser chances of conversion. A genuine buyer will take the pain of settling down.” By making the efforts of sitting down the customer has already invested in the deal.

Last week, I wanted to get a phone repaired. The case was complicated, neighborhood service centers couldn’t solve it. I put up an ad on Sulekha, got a call from this one store that was 12KMs away, but he wouldn’t give me the exact quote on phone. He needed to “see” the phone to give the exact price. Since his was the only call that sounded confident enough of fixing it, I drove 12KMs. He saw the phone and quoted Rs.100 more than the upper limit he said on the phone. Did I pay him? Yes. I had already invested in this deal by traveling across half the city, I wouldn’t want that to be a sunk cost. Was he cheating? NO. He never committed anything on phone.

Let’s see some online examples: The secret to Freecharge’s (very) high coupon redemption rate is the Rs.10 “courier cost”. That Rs.10 doesn’t really pay up for the courier but by paying something for the coupon the user has invested in it, hence higher chances of him using it. It’s true that lesser people would order coupons because of this Rs.10 cost but in coupons business the only metrics that should matter is the redemption rate and that’s what the focus was.

The Amazon’s way of establishing inertia is Amazon Prime, the free 2-day shipping that you invested in by paying annually. $79 may be too much to invest for shipping but once done, one will spend more with Amazon to make it sound like a smart investment. Amazon is offering products with low marginal cost like movie streaming etc. to increase the purchase of Prime.

What are other equivalent of this inertia builder in the online world? How do you make the user invest in the deal before making the transaction? How do you make the user drive up your key metrics? Isn’t this required more for online world where travelling between shops is only a matter of click?

One example that comes to my mind is “add to cart to see final price?” that a lot of sites do. Although that feature was born of regulatory issues but can it be applied to the stores advantage? Like, “Add to cart and also enter credit card details” to see final price? I remember showed ‘price after applying coupon’ only when you have filled in your mobile number and email address. Is that enough inertia buildup? Is there something more that can be done?

Of Trade, Trust and Enabling Micro Production

[Originally published on]

The human race has been trading ever since it has existed, either through a tangible barter, a favor, an obligation to return a favor or through currency. The basic premise of all this trading was trust.  A typical trade revolved around trust that the buyer had about the quality of the goods and trust that seller had that what he got in exchange was worth. A favor was extended because there was trust within the community that everyone else would extend favor when needed.

Traditional Trade

With the achievement of traveling beyond the mountains and oceans, humans started discovering others of the same species but different culture. The products that were exclusive to a particular geography saw demand from far off places.

Soon, producers required travelers who could get their goods to far off land for higher margins. With time market dynamics skewed in favor of these travelers. They would act as locals to the producers and as well as to the consumers in the far off land. They added a layer of opacity in the ecosystem but for them everything was transparent and hence they made the most out of the trade. The traveler was not just helping with the logistics but also ‘making the sales happen’. He was now a trader. Even today most of the margin in farm produce value chain is made by the person who brings the produce from the farms to the mandi.

Some of these traders were really smart. They hired local artists and celebrities to talk about their products and tell the consumers how the package that they sold had better goods than the other one. Goods went beyond fulfilling physiological needs. There was more demand created. Technology helped meet this demand but at times the mass production also created over excess capacity, which in turn created demand for more demand.

Birth of Communication Technology


Meanwhile, technology was growing fast and it went beyond production. Information was being exchanged between far off lands within a matter of days, then hours and now seconds. The producer was now finally able to see the huge margins that the trader was making but sharing very little of it with the producer. The trader was again being reduced to a logistics enabler.

The trader was being removed from the value chain but then it just wasn’t viable for the producer to produce, market and trade, all by himself. The producer was good at producing and nothing else. It wasn’t rewarding enough to learn new skills to monetize his micro production.

A new breed of connectors are occupying the value chain, they were fondly called Internet Startups. These connectors on the web realized the opportunity and are bringing a different kind of service to the value chain. They are enabling the producers monetize without worrying about everything else. That is making micro production viable enough as a business.

So why is micro production such a big deal when technology can mass produce everything?

Micro production allows you to add creativity and it’s efficient by design. Micro production is human. Most importantly everybody is doing what they love doing, entrepreneurially. Mass production as seen above is an outcome of greed that further creates the demand for artificial demand. Most efficiency and scale around mass production is not to make the production efficient but to make mass production manageable and profitable even when the product is commoditized. The buyer does not need to pay for the over capacity that is mass produced.


The fashion industry is a good example of success with micro production. Most designers generally have their own mini-production house that allows them to maintain a boutique of their best creations and keep all profits to themselves. Each creation is unique and customized for the consumer.


In the information age, Apple iTunes was amongst first to allow micro consumption of music. Paying for only the singles that you want and not the whole album was liberating. This also enabled music makers to produce just 1 song and sell it. The cost of distribution of magnetic tape cassettes and CDs did not make it viable to do so earlier. The same is being extended to utility and game apps by app stores. Today ofcourse, this ecosystem of app/music distribution has matured so much that one would find it senseless to having buy a suite of bundled apps or an album of pre-selected singles, unless subsidized.

Publishing and Distribution

This Industry has already seen disruption with the advent of blogs. Large media houses are facing stiff competition from independent bloggers. The very well-known news and content channels would soon be reduced to only a distribution network. The best of reading platforms like Feedly or Flipboard are helping us discover more of the kind we like and they are going to lead the way for micro consumption of content. Social media is helping discover new content, the dependency on a professional distributor is being curbed.

Bed and Breakfast

Watch an old Hindi movie or a mythological series, you would always have this traveler who needs to halt at an unknown village for the night before he can continue his journey through the jungles. He would knock at random doors to find someone offering him free bed for the night and breakfast the next morning before he leaves. Wisdom is exchanged over breakfast and this serendipity sometimes converts into long term relation. Of course, the world is not all that utopian anymore. But that does not mean that everyone is bad either. With services like Airbnb or Oravel it is possible to micro produce as little as just 1 bed night per month for travelers. These services are a great platform for the future of hospitality business.

Soon, it may not be economically viable to mass produce 100 rooms in a single building for this purpose that all look and feel almost the same from inside irrespective of what city you are in. The basic desire of humans to experience something new is not served by them. So what is the problem that these hotels solve? They are predictable in terms of service. You know what to expect at a Taj vs. a 1 star property. This is again defined by the service layer on top of the real estate. The hotel chains might soon be reduced to management services that help independent properties be better serviced.

Local Travel


Though services like Uber have made it easy to hire a cab for local travel, the real revolution of local travel lies in ride sharing. Services like HopOnZingHopperRidingo enable you to micro produce as little as 1 ride and still make money out of it. The other way to disrupt this space is to enable renting of cars that lay unutilized in office parking lots most of the day. Currently the mass produced local commuting lies underutilized and hence the user ends up paying high fees for the service. True liberalization of this space lies in enabling hiring of only the car, only the driver or only a seat in a moving car. All of these need to be owned by individuals and not mass produced to allow efficiency to prevail.


Any village in India has couple of people who travel to town daily for work. On most days this traveler would be required to bring back something that his family or neighbor asked for. He would do this happily without charging for the “courier” service. There are 2 parts to courier, the long distance carrying and the last mile delivery. Services like DeliverWithMe are solving the first part and there is still lots to be done here.

Ofcourse, anyone pooling in for such service will have to stop and wait but then the environmental cost that we are paying for moving fast is just not sustainable.


Food and cooking is still an unsolved problem for the urban Indian. Most men are yet to learn to cook, thanks to the upbringing they have received, and most working women find it difficult to cook for mini get-togethers. Restaurants have solved this problem partially but ordering for decent food from restaurants at the cost of dine-in is just not a viable option. Good food delivered from restaurant generally comes with the cost of ambience that you did not experience. Startups like Imlymealnut and HomeChef from Delyver are dis-integrating the cook from the eating place. There are wonderful cooks in every Indian home but it is not viable for them to set up a diner and employ staff for service and cleaning to monetize their ability. They can now micro-produce as little as 1 item on the menu and still monetize it.

Mass producing food the way restaurants do is neither healthy nor economically efficient given the over capacity that they create. This means that the mediocre places that neither have a great ambience, nor justify the prices with only food, are going to have a tough time. What’s going to survive in the restaurant business is the experience of eating out, not the utility of having food.

Loan, Investment and Banking

Traditionally, banks have not only played the role of managing transactions but also investments. The problem is that a typical deposit in the bank makes considerably lesser money for the account holder than what the borrower is paying to the bank. Banks get paid to reduce the risk by taking distributing onus of the loss caused by individual loan defaulters. All deposits to the bank get paid equal interest but the bank charges different interest rates for different loans. This does not quite sound liberal. LendingClub is changing that by allowing you to choose returns based on risk. Managing risk involves identifying potential loss and LendingClub does that well by checking borrower’s credit rating. Traditional banks on the other hand have been heavily underpaying lenders to account for the bad investments they made that convert into NPAs.



The changes in education industry that micro-production is bringing seems to be the most disruptive of all. For long, the society has given the power of imparting education to institutions. Writers for books are chosen by publishers and teachers are chosen by universities. Students are required to enroll into single university for all their education so that they can earn a well-recognized certificate of knowledge. One has to buy a full book even when only 1 chapter is useful. Both, students and teachers are limited by the capabilities of the 1 institution that they enroll into.

Coaching classes are a great example of micro-producing education for single subjects and they have been doing well for the teachers as well as the students. Most students do not go to higher education institution for knowledge but for the certificate. And for teachers the institutions have become a platform for marketing their coaching classes through subsidized content. Coursera is killing the need to have education institutions and there is Attano that is doing for course books what itunes did for music, by enabling single chapter purchases, instead of the whole book.

Are these transaction platforms doing enough to disrupt the space and make it big?

A recent report in Forbes suggested building a “transaction platform” as the surest way to achieve one’s goal of making a Billion Dollar Internet Company. While that has been true for Internet until now, it won’t be the case going forward. Enabling transactions was a new new thing until now but has been commoditized lately. Soon individual verticals of transaction will be commoditized as well. 2 sellers, 2 payment gateways, 2 booking engines are mostly different only in their price not in the ultimate value delivered.

The next big thing won’t just enable us to make transactions but save us from making a bad transaction. It should reduce my risk of trying. It should act like a guide against a bad transaction that I am going to make, before I make it. All this without reducing the rewards for the seller or increasing the price for the buyer.

How exactly will that happen?

redBus tells me to not take a certain bus because it is bad. Bus ticketing is a commodity but that cautionary message is my friend. Zomato has to stand up and speak when a transaction goes bad. Phone number of restaurants isn’t a value anymore, separating the good restaurants from the bad ones is what matters. All this because the community trusts these aggregator to reduce their risk.

As the world opens up to trade with anybody and everybody, trust is going be a big deal. If you are in the business of simply selling more, you are going to be out of business, sooner than anyone has ever gone before, thanks to the same web that brought you to the top so fast. If you are in the business of making sure I only buy the good, you are my friend. I trust you. I won’t let you die.

The trust that was taken away from the trade will need to comeback and then it will kill the mediocrity that greed brought in. The business that tells the trustable from the non-trustable is going to be a big business.