Spent a couple of days last week at the Charles River Ventures conference. (CRV is the lead investor in Gridstone). The attraction of the conference to me was to meet other entrepreneurs and to meet a great roster of speakers. As it turned out, the former objective wasn’t quite fulfilled, for good reason. But the speakers made the trip more than worthwhile.
Last year I posted on “Indian websites haven’t earned my trust“. What had annoyed me enough to write that piece was moneycontrol.com. Once it got hold of my email, it started sending me an email a day with an inane “Sensex was down 89 points, your networth?” Unsubscribing hasn’t worked so far. Eventually, I relegated it to “spam” in my email client where it finds company with all the Viagra and penny stock spam. I wonder what they’ve done with my email though. Probably sold it half a dozen times already, along with those of a thousand other unsuspecting subscribers.
Dear Mr./Ms. Music Executive,
First of all, let me compliment you on your pricing strategy so far. You have aced the test on how to price information products. Information products like music are tricky – the content is all in digital form, the fixed costs are high and marginal costs approach zero. How do you price such a thing?
Your current strategy seems to be working well. You have segmented the market according to the listeners’ ability to pay. To each segment you offer a different product (or sometimes the same product) at vastly different prices. I checked prices at different places for the same album – Don. Here’s what I found:
Last week’s post on YouTube and Viacom got some great comments. If you get a moment go read them. Ram Medury brings up the case of VAS content providers in India, who get a small fraction of the revenues. The rest is kept by the Indian mobile service provider. Senthil says that it’s about the quality of the content. If the content is compelling it will pull in the dollars. Also, Robert Young at Gigaom has a very thought provoking post on the subject of Google and old media companies.
Onward ho! As promised, this week I take up another interesting space where the “Content vs. Distribution” battle is being played out – digital music.
Taking up from where I left off last week. Based upon the analysis it appears that the dramatic growth in the IT Services industry in India is the primary force in shaping the Indian techie. The Indian techie is a bright person who did well in college, but even after a few years in the industry, is low on technical depth. Before he can really sink his teeth into something, he is pulled into project management. Not because Indians or Indian companies don’t care about technical depth, but because if they have to meet demand and grow, they have no choice. And to paraphrase Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street – Growth is good.
A study in contrasts is that other techie – the American techie.
I hope you got a chance to play around with the spreadsheet that I posted last week. I finally got the embedded spreadsheet to work, so you can make changes and see the outcomes right there on the blog post. Isn’t that just a thing of beauty?
The model in the spreadsheet is quite simple, but it can explain a few things – for example, why in India ‘experienced developer’ has become an oxymoron. You simply don’t find developers with more than 5 years of experience. The Valley stands on the broad shoulders of seasoned developers who can weave magic with their keyboards and relish being individual contributors. Try finding these guys in Bangalore.
Last week’s post on IndiaPost raised quite a storm of comments. Some of them were supportive of my central thesis that for Indian citizens to get better public services the issue of labour flexibility within public service organizations is the most important one to address. Many were not. Of these some thought that IndiaPost has actually done well, given the circumstances, and that I was looking at the glass half-empty.
So for a change, let’s look at the glass half-full. Let’s talk about some Indian startups that are being noticed.
TechCrunch recently posted a link to GoToWeb20.net, a self-proclaimed complete directory of Web 2.0. (I would recommend you try the link only if you have broadband) It is quite a nifty AJAX web-site with a logo-listing of a whole bunch of Web 2.0 startups, which are organized by date and tags.
If you haven’t had enough of the whole AJAX-social networking-folksonomy-long tail thing, this website should cure that for you. There are 283 startups featured on the website. That doesn’t tell you much. But when you find out that there are 26 companies working on some form of bookmarking, you know there is kool-aid being drunk in large quantities somewhere.
A few months back in a post on ‘Paperbacks in India’ I had talked about how information products have some interesting challenges when it comes to pricing in the developing world. I believe that in what is called Software as a Service (or SaaS) – basically web-based hosted software like your internet banking software or even Yahoo Mail – there are significant opportunities for Indian technologists.