Startup Founders Are Clerk -2- CEO

I have been thinking this ever since I met Kashyap of Inkfruit at the first Startup Saturday I attended in February 2009. Apparently the founders of Inkfruit have titles like ‘Maharaja’ and ‘Nawab’ instead of CEO and that made me think if a Startup founder should really use a CEO tag?

While it most cases it makes no difference to what business one does, but we do have people who would frown at a CEO tag used in a 5 people company. I wouldn’t care much on what a founder labels himself, but if I am to propose a title, Startup CEO’s are ‘C2C’ (Clerk to CEO). That’s what you really do. The day you have a CEO tag, you are probably a mid-sized company, not a startup anymore :)

PS: You can always act like a startup. No matter how big you are.

Startup CXO

E-commerce In India. Hey Ram.

Let me start with a question, a bad experience shopping online… how many of you have been there? In early 2000 (guess around 2002) I was a confident online shopper. Bought a cool college bag (single strap was trendy) online for Rs 199 and paid COD. Bought a coke bottle and deodorant spray and paid Cheque-on-delivery. Awesome time that was. Fast forward, its been 10 years since I started shopping and selling online. Quite a journey. While I don’t sell anymore, I don’t buy either (exclude ticketing on Cleartrip). My fears of shopping online came out today, when a friend of my tweeted this out:

Ecommerce In India

Got cheated for the first time of shopping online. Not very difficult to guess who this Sequoia funded company is.

Explains why I am scared of shopping online. Not much because of such buyer experiences, more because I have been a seller! More on that in a bit.

India would have been a different e-commerce economy if since 2002 the awesomest safe shopping experience was preserved. But that din’t happen. We have far too many bad experiences around us. Lakhs of online shoppers cheated, left with poor service and no after sales. Don’t expect them to trust a new poster boy of e-commerce in India, no matter how good they are. For the Internet medium has failed them :(

Ecommerce Scams In India

8i Mobile with 3D Sensor. Free Watch. Rs 2,799. No points for guessing which what they are doing here

The poor experience may be with a iPhone shaped cheap Chinese mobile selling for Rs 2999 or a digital camera at a fraction cost. Or perhaps just late shipment. And by late I mean several weeks. Add to that non responsive customer support. I have been a vendor on the old biggies of India’s Internet story. They were (probably still are) a heaven for sellers selling cheap goods with no service. They knew the CS was seller oriented. And we are not even talking about their email service users getting spammed like crazy with ecommerce ads. Forget privacy and spamming, the basic goods and service weren’t delivered properly. And the reason was not poor logistics in our country.

For a short term gain, quick profit, they have ruined the internet buying experience for perhaps millions of Indians. And now the fire is being re-ignited with deals, loss making ventures, but wait. A fraud again? Poor service? Just do a google for a few popular sites selling stuff and you will see complaint boards still filled with sad tales. I admire the ones like Baazee (now eBay) who maintained a good CS, disputes would happen there, but dispute resolution was effective. I respect the newer ones who are on social media, talking to their customers, resolving issues and delivering on time. But how do you undo the damage that the dinosaurs of Internet in India have caused? How do you weed out the multi-million-funded-donkeys-dressed-as-horses?

Note: Some thoughts as I now remember, are recalled from my Quora answer on “What are the biggest challenges facing eCommerce sites in India?”

The 1-10-50 Rule

Over the past few months a very important side of startup life has been discovered by me. For me and a number of folks around me the journey gets a boost from an Inspirational talk, either in person or YouTube. Yes, the billionaires speaking (or say any large entrepreneur) does give us a push, but the rule I want to put forward for a startup is: 1-10-50 (One Ten Fifty…)

If you are a 1 person company, the best advice and help you will get is from a person running a 10 person company. If you are a 10 person company, your best advice would come from a 50 people company. Go talk to them.