Finding symmetries in an unsymmetrical world ..

[In hindsight, everything falls in place, everything.. ]

No matter how good I perform, I am never satisfied with my performance in the “Blue Book”. One reason for this, is that my handwriting has always been so bad, that if asked to read it myself- it would take me an hour to decipher my own letters. (Thankfully I now type all my assignments.)

So taking you back in time to 2006, and one of this, “Blue Book Blues Chapter” . As always I was not happy with how I had performed.  And I found myself sitting before the head of my department, Prof. Nitin V Pujari and in tears for a mark- to which he asked- “It is just one mark, does it really matter enough to weep?”

Sulking and clearing my chocked throat, I replied, “Yes Sir, because I have worked for this extra mark.”  He not only did give me that extra mark, but also told me something that I will never forget, and it all comes as Déjà vu to me, even to this day.

“Tomorrow you will graduate and today you are more than willing to work (in Industry). But day after tomorrow you will want to come back and go back to study again. That is life, but you will not understand it today.”

 

Like everyone else, while at college I always considered myself to be a hard working student. But life that it really is, I seldom ever looked at opportunities to grow beyond as a person, to collaborate with network of researchers, or passionate fellow students who were then building software to remotely manage their Personal computer’s , or rewiring the bus(es) in their computer with their new found knowledge of Integrated circuits. As for my version of 2006,  I never understood how to apply my new found knowledge, one that consumed 4 years of my life, and which I got by securing an All India rank of 188, something I am proud of, to this day.

     So we know there is a Gap, with something amiss, “something” we expect “somebody” to give us “somewhere”. Our parents and often we ourselves come to think of this “something” as “Education”, “somebody” as “Teachers”, and “somewhere” to be the “College”.    The question that then comes is three-fold – One,  How to apply and Two, how to make most of your Education and Three, How did I change, and How can you evolve, too ? (Hopefully for better) I will try to answer all these questions sequentially, borrowing ideas from my forthcoming book.

   The reason we don’t apply is because we either do not know, or that we focus too much energy on escaping the rat race, rather than building our skill sets and grooming ourselves. Anyone who understands the basic Demand-Supply , can intuitively understand that if there is a high supply of a skill, a neck to neck competition will follow towards supplying the limited demand.

   Unless you really know what you want to do with your life –  when you leave the college, you will really be Generalists, certified to be moulded into organizations.  And , as the organizations start to demand plug and play workers – this will mean that you will be judged in your respective jobs on what you bring to the table and this will eventually impact how to shape your career and how soon you grow both personally and in your careers.

How to make most of your education – really is much personalized blue print, that I wish all students to develop while still at college. In essence this links to the “Application of ideas“ I mentioned above,  and would require expanding the “eco-system of your skill sets” in the direction of where you really want to grow.  This means to plan your dots backward, you will have to CREATE those dots in the first place.

  And lastly, How do you start – well, knows no one answer, in fact there is no one single answer. It is about stretching yourself and then stretching a little more – for willpower is like muscle that has to be exercised every single time you are faced with something you think you can remotely achieve.  The organizations and their needs are changing, and with that a you have to evolve too, and fast enough – and most importantly, continue to invest in yourself not for a job, but for a life-long process of learning and growing as a person. 

When you really look at life, it is just a series of actions that we consciously choose to do that shape our perceptions, and thought processes – and in these formative years it is this thought process that decide how soon will you get there.  Your mind, can achieve truly miraculous feats, if you let it. It is learning the difference between information,  which is just rapidly aging facts –and to that truly learn we must make sense of this information and use it to build knowledge .

When I was a Bachelors student, I had never imagined I would change lanes completely from Computer Science to Quantitative Economics, my current Masters, which I shortly finish. In between this time, I have travelled 6 countries across  2 continents, failed another exam, and rebuilt myself all over again in a completely new culture and language , I knew nothing about.  I have found in myself the courage to shut up that voice that tells me why I can’t do what I set to do, and to re-evolve and compete with my international peers in a Ph.D. program, when I did not even have a Bachelors Education  in Economics.

I have matured as person, learnt how our inactions count as much as our actions and most importantly –  I have learnt how to listen and express gratitude for all that I have. And for who I am today, I have to thank my teachers, for telling me all this even when I was I was not receptive, for otherwise, I would have missed this boat ;  I now call life, altogether. 

ekta

[On applied economics in business models, revenue growth & blue ocean strategies for the passer-by customers]

 

And then, there was a “Google” with its much coveted page ranking algorithm, but the users and the companies betting their money & resources on the web wanted more, and they wanted it fast.

 

So was born the Big data wave (well there was a lot more in the space between.. ). So what is this Big data wave, and what is the ecosystem behind it?

 

Quite simply it is this – given a piece of information, how likely is it that this behaviour will be “consistent” – or that given that I see a response A , what is the probability that it will continue to be (in some confidence intervals) , still A ? At it’s heart, Bayesian classifiers and the whole lot of Quantitative Econometrics & modelling tries to do just this – except the fact – that the data that we indeed have- is just NOT enough to MAKE scientific decisions. Now let’s understand why this is so –

 

Simply because  the NEED of capturing so many dimensions of data have only evolved very recently, and thus given that we cannt really back test the models, is as good as saying, well , look we have a CLO \ CDO instrument ( the ones that got the 2008 Global Financial meltdown)  – bu we do not know whether we can really bet on it – and now , surprise ! Companies value it like they value money – since everybody does, this must be WORKING .

 

Then is this picture true/not true ?

 

Well it depends, yes,  having an additional way to triangulate / benchmark the Business decisions must be  good , having a deep insight into customer buying patterns, and knowing how best to facilitate his decision making must be good too, but the fact remains simple –

 

“ Given that that information becomes a commodity, how do we price it ? ”   – how do we know the price points that this information can be “traded at”. This question was originally raised in a Big data talk at the Churchill club, but it has stayed on. Ever since, I have asked this question to the CEO’s of Research Analytics firms, marketing & PR firms and to people in the Big data wave. They say, well right now, we are beginning to understand to measure different dimensions of the willingness to pay of the consumer, and the more and better insight we have into this , the better will we be able to “classify this information” – it is like the intelligent filtering , the more intelligence pumps in, but more is never enough , since it is so qualitative.

 

On top of this wave rides another wave, which is with Social media listening tools, trying to draw trends and analysis, and adapt before being lost in the over social- connected- spilling wave. This wave relies on trusting that (Thus if you throw in an assumption that people put their best foot forward, most of the quantitative models would collapse , on the predictability count – and they, like money  is valued, solely because “everyone buys this currency” –  so while the consumers get more and more aware of the “listening” they would get more “probabilistic-ally sophisticated”  – though it is hard to say , whether it is good, or bad – surely that evolution will happen in my career trajectory, and would be wonderful to ride this wave, and not just be another “passer by” . So welcome again, to the new evolution , which si essentially “inside out” of the consumer needs, but just with some frills attached , may be because  “the consumer himself does not know what he wants ” .

 

There is one more thought that I want to leave you with – ” Those that make the choices, simpler, faster, more guilt free, and use rewarding schemes, will get there first- and ofcourse cascading through the choice paradigm of the consumer has never been as challenging as this.  So knowing I love coffee, only when it rains, and only in the evening, is a powerful information – This is the goal – knowing, when, what, how I like to consume the goods & services – this is the future of personal marketing. 

 

( I used to write a lot about Permission marketing, but I think the loyalty gets all time low, and so does the ROI on the same)

 

So, Modelling has evolved, so has revenue metrics , “customer satisfaction” and the “needs of the customer” – the age of good to have, but why pay – but the good news is though the customers spend a lot of time with differing services, they are getting less price sensitive when it come to anything digital/technology ( Controlling for the business cycle affect) . In my previous post, I also described, how passer by’s are being tricked in consumers (pun-intended) – This in my opinion is the evolution of economics – and this evolution is VERY PROMISING, indeed !

 

So welcome to a world where all sciences come together in this one world ! 

And businesses always want more, they value growth & blue oceans, that’s where the meat is , afterall !


 

Ekta Grover

 

 

 

  

(Dead God, Where ever you are, please tell my Mom that it was the best for me to change lanes from Computer science to Quantitative Economics , and now understand the world more completely 🙂 )

[Includes excerpts from the “Alternative Payment methods” Workshop with Kai Boyd, CEO Deal United , March 2012 ]

We know the stuff about digital games, tracking our trends and the Big data, and the conversation starts exactly from this “How can make money in the ever increasing distributed e-commerce world ?

I attended a workshop with Kai Boyd, CEO Deal United a firm that invented Pay-By-shopping. Now virtual currency has been there for long, with Paypal being the market leader by far (by Revenue)

These are some of the statistics he mentioned   (**Please see disclaimer)

Virtual currency constitutes $.5 Billion of the $1.5 Billion dollars of the Facebook revenue.

Of the 850 million users, 20-30 % of the users play games online 

Of this the majority of the users are 22-55 (female) 

Consumers “bought goods” worth as much as physical/real $ 10 in the virtual garden . Could you believe people buying virtual pigs for $ 10 ?? 

With a brief background on the online retail in gaming and other goods , we  discussed the monetizing opportunities in the digital goods  space.  We moved over to the case studies & each team had to make piches on strength of the Business model, and every metric we could consider for the growth of the Business model – which could be customer growth, Merchant growth per month, facility of paying in local currency for transparency, Double layer security, No block up fees like Paypal . (more on this later )

The following were the case studies we had to perform :

SupersonicAds  , Pay by Shopping  , Click And Buy  , sofortüberweisung , Amazon payments and ofcourse Paypal

As for Pay.by.shopping and other players in this space – their model is simple :
Track the users using the sophiticated analytics tools that we have, to know what a consumer would be “willing to buy”. Through this, you have a panel data of consumers and a matrix of things he might want to buy. All this could effectively be tracked via Socil Media Analytical solutions such as semantic listening/research tools like crimson hexagon , radian6 .

[ Super hintQuora  pretty much cover very detailed crowd-sourced answers – please check them 🙂 There is a super amazing post on Zynga’s analytics and(early) success again at Quora, check it out . ] 

Now pause for a moment, and think about the last time you went online to play a game, and quit just before you had to pay for an “advanced round” to buy sheep, or goat or whatever and you quit (Who buys Virtual sheep) Now, you see why they say, “your actions are as important as your inactions” – which is to say that by declining you are still giving the Analytics algorithm, if you would, an opportunity to know about your preferences.
Next week is your Girlfriend’s birthday, and facebook prompty reminds you of flowers, or expensive jewellery, or a dress (you get the point) – But here’s the trick –
You get to pay for the flowers and keep the “game” for free in a virtual world.

While according to Behavioral Economics and Neuroscience, you kept the “game” or software, or whatever it is you were willing to “try”, but not “buy” – you get an extra ulility from the free-seemingly-no-strings-attached .

EXCEPT that –
According to what we know from “Influence” and Gaming – once you keep something, the mind’s natural tendency is to continue using it, ven though after sometime you would have to pay for it. Like, Free copies of newspaper, like 3 months trials (cancellable afterwards) , and the list goes on .

Where is the OPPORTUNITY ?

There is a BIG space, that all Analytical companies are trying to harp on, develping relaible means to interpret this “Big Data”. It is HUGE money and a very recent way of making scientific decisions in revenue growth, sales, customer segmentation – across Telecommunication companies for tariff plans and Online retail companies & supermarkets for customer segmentation for premium & commodity products
(The telecommunication sector and Online retail are two main spaces where the Big players have virtually killed most margins to boost volume growth)

The  Workshop 

Later in the workshop we were divided into teams and we had to compare various “digital currency’ payment companies , like Paypal,Pay-By-shopping etc.  I think I did a fair job by crisply pitching why click&buy was better vis a vis paypal.

The seemingly innocuous comparison between the Click&buy vs. Paypal just reduces to this —

1. Double layer of security – SSl coding & the security from normal bank registration processes

2. No fixed sum of money that rests in your account and verifical procedures – A new account is directly piad for by the debit card (unlike Paypal that “blocks” about $1.95 in your account.

3. The possibility of paying in your local currency – directly from your card , or the conversion which is transparent (paypal got on to this )

4. The huge Growth rate of new customers each month , new merchants and finally ..

5. Creating an eco-system of “local relevant offers” – that can be used to increse revenue streams from existing customers. Thus, capturing on the “localization” is a fair trend to bet on.

One more thing, we were given just 15 minutes 2 teams each of size 6 , and our team hot 3 topics and the other one 2. I broke down the team into subteam of size 2 to use the 15 minutes more effectively (so , teams of 3*2 = 6  with one topic each) . At the end of the workshop, the other team said it wasn’t fair for us to divide the team internally.  

     Well, welcome to the corporate, and getting things done. Point.
Think different.

Ekta

** All views, unless in Italics are my understanding or synthesis from the workshop. Please quote with discretion.

Back in the last 2 decades as I was educated I had no clue about the decisions taken by my parents for “me” – the schools I had been to, the activities I did – “Crowd sourcing” back then meant, depending on our local spheres of influence, rather your parents, who were wiser than you were.

Now tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin exist- are shaping how we leverage and tailor make your career path , schools to go, internships to choose and position yourself in the global Market– even before taking a course of action. So as the information becomes a commodity good – all of this then brings with it another facet –What should we tell the “kids” – because of so much of information inflow – and so much of conflicting messages pumping in from each direction ?

I think the answer to this lies in the flexibility that we have come to encompass — adapting when it is required.This will be the core skill we will be taught by the globally connected world– In this “facts but no truth” world.  And that is the goal – for it will make us more tolerant of other perspectives. This is where we should be heading.

The door is open, Please come in .

Ekta Grover


[Lessons from the best Persuasion pitch ]

Ok , if you have got this far , you should know where I come from. I come from a small city in India – and  this I how I like to introduce myself –

“From where I come from , there were hardly any public libraries ,and I remember substantial part of my childhood commuting between the private book lenders, often times many a day- to save money on rent .

… So this is how I am come to become Curious”

So in this small city , there were only a few good schools, and since my parents were  travelling all the while  that meant – I often had to change schools middle of the academic year –here is a story that I think will teach you – the power of “seeing all doors are open”

.. back to 1996

My father had always been very ambitious of me- so naturally he wanted to get me to the BEST school in the city . But the problem was

  1. The school was saturated in terms of pupils (The only way to go to the next class was a natural progression from the previous) So to mention making it mid-year was almost impossible. Let me be precise – you wouldn’t be allowed to enter the School premise if they could sniff out you had come for an admission.
  2. The school was trying to keep up the reputation by Supply-demand dynamics – i.e if you hear 30 people from your neighborhood who couldn’t make it – they must be REALLY special !
  3. Knowing someone very very consequential (politically)
  4. Coming up with a story one cann’t just refute (and having the talent to back it off)

So you should naturally know what my Father must have done, he made a persuasion pitch .

So this day, I clearly remember I had a few boubon biscuits (Later I had come to believe that it must be about the correlation between what Indians think about having “sweet” before any “major” test . ) and I clearly remember my father asking me “ If I were to tell you … and his pitch followed ..” I cann’t say if I liked it , but I do remember he worded it differently many times on our way to the school . Many times, yes .

When we reached the school, he told the gatekeeper at the main entrance that  I was having troubles in my academics (never did he mention that I was studying at THIS school already.. clever !! ) and that we needed to see the principal/head .

When we finally got to see the Principal ,my father started off the discussion with my sister’s progress , he then asked about the missionaries and the funds , and how the school was planning to grow in that city

Gradually , the conversation became seamless ..and then he did something totally unexpected !

He pulled put all my poems (in Hindi) – and started reading one of them . I do not recall what it was about , or how good it was – and then argued about how good it would be if my talents were to groom in THIS school , about how much my sister is improving , and about how I was being mentored by sister.  To top it all – he pulled out the grades across all the mid-year academics sessions I had studied , across all cities I had traveled – and said – If my daughter CAN do this at THIS age, I am CERTAIN  she can do MUCH BIGGER than THIS  years from NOW. With this,  I hope you would give her the  chance to EXCEL. 

The principal thought for a while, and then finally agreed to give me a chance to write the entrance exam – and I did clear that exam .

I have failed many times, at small things, big things, inconsequential things , material things, and every time I collect myself , and think about what my dad said years ago ..

Excuse me, the door is still open . And I am coming in .

Ekta Grover

“I agree with you, Well, the idea is that, I will show you in a moment, that the results hold true…”   the more the presenter stuttered the more the listeners shied away. Stuttering in itself is NOT such a blockade to selling your ideas,  but like a down-hill-trip  it gets you down – and before you know – The Show time is OVER, Thank You ! 

While it is clear that this is the last thing , you would want to EVER do to YOUR brainchild, Your IDEAS, why do people,  then Stutter  ? 

SIMPLE , they CHANGE THEIR MIND , while , before and during speaking .

[So , now, you get the background , hopefully .]

Ok, first let me admit that I am not an excellent communicator myself, but I have worked enough on the things that “can be fixed “

What we are not talking about is public speaking, we are talking about THEM , not YOU. And that is the difference . That is – grabbing your audience by their neck, and earning that attention, or better put “Permission to market”

I think in a pyramid manner – so here are some thoughts I will leave you away with – nothing mentioned here is that which you might not know, but like a self reinforcing loop- if we program ourselves to think about the audience we have just “sold” what we set to .

  1. When you don’t know the answer, and please say so. Over stated, under practiced. Point.
  2. Deck YOUR best CARDS , and play them FIRST .
  3. If people feel nothing, They do nothing .  You HAVE to MAKE them feel . (Idea credits , John Kearon CEO, Brain Juicer , @ TEDx RhineMain )
  4. The goal of persuasion is NOT the flowers in the PITCH but the GOAL is — that which sells.
  5. There is no TRUTH, just FACTS. Truth , is an interpretation of our view points .
  6. Getting emotionally attached to your Idea/pitch is the worst form of narcissism .
  7. LISTEN. CLARIFY . BUY TIME TO THINK , but do not open the mouth and remove all doubt .
  8. Re-learn, re-read, re-arrange , collect your thoughts. OFTEN .
  9.  HUMILITY wins you more ears than arrogant persistence , (almost) Always .
  10. MAKE a STRIKE when YOU have THEM.

It’s about THEM .POINT .

Ekta

Regressions , Huge data sets & Google

Why Google still trusts its “Manual”  Page ranking algorithm ,ie. why is it not trying to catch the wave of machine learning ? Into the Unknown , unseen and the unexplored . The Black Swan ..

Read more here .

And .. The Big data effect !

ekta

Hey there, would be nice to have you around !

That’s me

My live Rantings @Twitter

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