Is Open Office Setup A Fail? My View & Discussions

I recently wrote a Facebook post sharing a sentiment that open office setup / modern work stations is a fail.  At Pricebaba we have always had an open setup and I always considered it to be a good thing in the initial days. However as the team grew we started seeing occasional complaints of ‘too much noise’ but the underlining problem escaped my mind because most of us were on desktops. As we grew and moved to a larger space with most people shifting to laptops overtime, we realised that this setup is a big problem! Many people (including me) started to escape into meeting rooms with their laptops. One of our advisors even commented that finding a closed room / section for developers will up their productivity by 50% or more.

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Here is what my post read:

I am leaning towards agreeing 100% with this.

“The open office plan is a tyrant of interruption, a deep loss of privacy, and the death of productivity.”

The above quote is from a post by Yan on Quartz. He covers the Open Office topic and that sparked my search for more comments from friends about what they feel. Here are a few responses to this. Read More

As I Turn 30. Some Things I (Almost) Didn’t Learn

When I first read this awesome post by Rand Fishkin on his life learnings, I thought I should write one too. My immediate next thought was, may be I don’t need to write about my learnings. I haven’t learnt enough.

I just turned 30. Sometime in the past few months I realised that there are things I have learnt in this life so far and those are the exact things that I strive to live up to each day. Here are some of my learnings that still continue to challenge me … Read More

Empathy – Pricebaba

Pricebaba started with a ambitious online to offline approach, connecting consumers to local retailers. In 2016, we declared this part of our business a failure along with the reasons. However the amount of traction Pricebaba generated (at peak ~INR 60cr worth of leads every month), there were several interactions with end users & retailers that shaped our learnings. Back in 2014, at a time when we were growing very fast, we started encountering a problem that we had long anticipated – customer experience issues at local stores listed on Pricebaba.

We built out enough flags & intelligence in our systems to detect anomalies. A lot of this was smooth because the ops, business & tech teams were one small group working from the same floor (even at peak we were 30 people in the company). I sensed the need to get our teams to understand the gravity of any customer complaint that reached us. Below is an email I wrote to the team (alongside all the other processes & systems that we put). Sharing it just like the previous post on Commitment to Equality. Read More

Magical Mauritius! Here Are Some Things That May Help You Plan Your Trip

Mauritius Roads - Biking Around

An island country that is probably as big as Mumbai + some surrounding areas, Mauritius is THE Honeymoon destination. So much so that every third couple there might be on Honeymoon. So as it happened, I made a ~10 day trip (Yes, Honeymoon) to Mauritius. Here are some notes & postcards from my travel that may help you.

The Curious Case of Many Temples

Mauritius has a ton of folks whose family shifted base there from India many generations back. So Indian tourists are liked & locals will resonate with you. Many folks in Mauritius make an India trip to shop for weddings and carry back a huge list of stuff ordered by their friends! [Yes I Smell Business Opportunity Too]

Hindu Temple In Mauritius

Indian Temple @ Mauritius

The density of Hindus in Mauritius (while people keep mentioning different figures ranging from 50% to 90%) can be gauged from the no. of temples you see across the country. I kid you not, one temple seen every 10 mins when zipping across the country on a bike. Read More

Commitment To Equality – Pricebaba

Following is an email I sent to the entire Pricebaba team last year. Some of my friends have recently pushed me to share more insights from running Pricebaba all these years. So I would be sharing a few notes that I wrote to the Pricebaba team over the years. Please do note that this was written back in time and often impromptu emails sent out without much editing or at times much thought. I am open to feedback and comments on these 🙂

From: Annkur P Agarwal <annkur@pricebaba.com>

Date: Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 7:17 PM
Subject: Commitment to Equality
To: all <all@pricebaba.com>, “community@pricebaba.com” <community@pricebaba.com>

Dear Friends,

Every since I started working in 2002, I have had invaluable learnings from the people whom I met and transacted with. However my learnings in recent years has been far greater than the entire previous decade of work that I saw. A large part of these learnings are as a result of starting PriceBaba. I have had to break many barriers within myself, learn new skills every day and grow myself as an individual & leader. In our Super Saturday sessions and other leadership meetings, I try and share a lot of these learnings with you.

Today I want to share another commitment that I have towards the PriceBaba team and the society as a whole. This commitment is towards equality. So much so that we are adopting Equality as a company value today. In some forms, it has been around in our values as growing each other, but let’s be more explicit about it.

During my US trip with 500 Startups, Read More

Little Things That Make Me Stick To iOS

iphone 6 annkur

Its been a decade since I got a smartphone for myself. Right from the Treo 600/650, XDAs to the Nokia E series, I happened to use all the pre-iPhone era devices. But for a good part of this last decade, I have stuck to the iPhone. So far I have tried twice to move to Android with a lot of conviction. First with the Galaxy Nexus and second time with the Moto X 1st gen (I moved to a 5s from there as hinted here). One of my complaints from Android phones I owned always has been the poor camera, but that can be excused given that I never bought a top of the line Android phone for myself. May be my experience would have been different had I got something more mainstream like the Galaxy S5 / S6 or the Nexus 5x (priced Rs 26-30k – it fits my budget) today.

But the camera issue aside, I have been trying to figure what habits of using an iPhone has me locked down into this iOS world? There are a few small things, moving away from which would mean a bit of a learning curve on Android. Perhaps that’s what makes me fret every time I think of moving to Android.  Read More

Heavy Computer User? Here’s 7 Ways To Fight Repetitive Strain Injury

Originally written in 2007, this article on RSI / CTS by Ankesh Kothari was first written on the site DumbLittleMan. Since the same is no longer on the web, this is being reproduced by me with permission from Ankesh. Video at the end wasn’t part of the original article. 

I first experienced RSI 3 years ago. Because I make my living online and have to sit at the computer 6 hours everyday, I couldn’t just take a long vacation and wait for my body to heal itself. I researched a lot and asked a lot of questions. With trial and error, I found some simple changes that could help decrease the risk of RSI.

What is RSI?

RSI is the dreaded abbreviation that stands for Repetitive Strain Injury. It occurs because of repeated physical movements and affects the nerves, tendons, muscles and other soft tissues. If you sit on your computer regularly, the repetition of thousands of keystrokes and prolonged use of the mouse can cause RSI to you too.

Symptoms of RSI

Most computer users experience tightness, stiffness or soreness of hands, wrists, fingers, forearms and shoulders. Many also experience burning sensations. It’s not life threatening but it’s very discomforting and painful. It can also prevent you from doing your work and enjoying your life.

Scary Fact: 10% of all computer users will suffer from RSI one time or another.

Scary Fact 2: Doctors can’t cure RSI. There is no magic pill that you can take which will make the RSI go away. RSI can only be cured by stopping the repetitive action that caused it in the first place. And even then, it may take weeks. Read More

Fear & Greed

A friend recently made me aware that a lot of our small and big life decisions are driven by fear and/or greed. Here is my attempt to capture how this plays out in real life, moment by moment. I write this post at 2AM on a terrace as another friend (let’s call him Mr X) sitting next to me watches.

I never write a blog post when someone is watching. Fear.

I don’t plan to sleep on the terrace today, because – Mosquitoes? Rain? Fear.

I want to listen to Mr X telling me about yesterday’s revenues. Greed & Fear.

I want to listen to what my colleagues are talking about near the gate. Because – Fear of missing out.

I don’t want to answer questions from Mr X. Because – Fear. Fear of revealing things before time.

Mr X wants to know if I am “high”. Because – Fear. (Because curiosity too ;))

  • PS: He just admitted it

Mr X wants to know if I own this piece of writing. Because? Reminds me if I will fear losing the copyright to it (or It will be revealed to the world before time) if he clicks a photo of it as I am typing this. Fear.

  • PS: He did click a photo.

Mr X wants to play a board game at 2AM in the morning and I am not okay for the same on terrace. Because wind. Because fear of losing the cards. Fear.

Now can you separate all these fears into two parts? Authentic and inauthentic? Mosquito may be a real danger or losing cards to the wind. But large part of what we are driven by is inauthentic. Get Present To It. Acknowledge It. And don’t be driven by it. 

PS: More on greed some other day. 

A Week With The MacBook Pro Retina – Everything I Wanted

Bidding Goodbye To MBP

I got my first laptop in 2010 during a trip to US. Having been a desktop only person and managing my college projects / work from home or cyber cafes until then, I was thrilled to be an owner of the MacBook Pro 13”. Back then my decision to go for the Pro vs the Air was influenced by several Mac lovers. While I really appreciate a light weight machine that the Air would have been, the MBP was a great choice for me lasting almost 5 years. I was a full time writer back then with a lot of video editing and typing being part of my computing. The MBP served more than well all these years. In fact, even today it is fully functional with upgraded RAM (8GB) and an additional 128GB SSD to support the 250GB regular HDD. Safe to say, Apple has a customer for life — at least for laptops.

Last week I treated myself with a new MacBook Pro Retina. Read More

Focused vs Unfocused – The Larry Page Perspective

The Vinod Khosla fireside chat with Google founders is great. My favourite part from the interaction is this:

 

VK Let me go back to Larry. As CEO of Google, a lot of these guys have board members who keep saying, Focus on a few things. Self-driving cars is one. You’ve done some things in health and others. How do you decide what’s focused and what’s unfocused?

LP I’ve been thinking about this change quite a bit over the years. I think it sounds stupid if you have this big company, and you can only do five things. I think it’s also not very good for the employees. Because then, you have 30,000 employees and they’re all doing the same thing, which isn’t very exciting for them. So I think, ideally, the company would scale the number of things it does with the number of people in a linear fashion. As far as I can tell, that never happens. It’s logarithmic with the number of people, if that.

I would always have this debate actually, with Steve Jobs. He’d be like, ‘You guys are doing too much stuff.’ And I’d be like, ‘Yeah that’s true.’ And he was right, in some sense.

But I think the answer to that – which I only came to recently, as we were talking about this stuff – is that if you’re doing things that are highly interrelated, then there is some complexity limits. It’s all going to escalate to the CEO, because you have things that are interrelated. At some point, they have to get integrated. A lot of our Internet stuff is like that. The user experience needs to make sense. It needs to feel like you’re using Google, not that you’re using something else. So I think there is a limit on how much we can do there, and we have to think carefully about it.

Everything about the automated cars is like– Sergey can do that, and I don’t have to talk to him. I like talking to him. But I don’t really have to talk to him about that, because there’s almost zero impact on the rest of our business. Although it does use some great engineers who we have on mapping and other things. Naturally, they move to that project, but that’s a scalable process. I don’t have to talk to those engineers. They just move magically.

So I do think companies usually try to do very adjacent things. They figure, “We’re going to know exactly how to do something that’s very similar to what we already do.” The problem with that is that causes a management burden. Whereas, if you did something a little less related, you can actually handle more things.