Buying prescription spectacles is a tedious job globally. I remember a friend of mine in France who had to wait for a month before she could get an ophthalmologist appointment so that she can get the right prescription. Then she had to wait for a week before she got an approval from her student health insurance for reimbursement of the expenses. Only after that she could go to the store & order her glasses. The whole ordeal cost her 6 weeks and €200/-
Surprisingly, things are much more affordable and faster. You could walk into any store without any prior appointment order the glasses and collect it the next day. Also a decent looking prescription glasses could be purchased in 1,500/- ($25/-)
Yesterday I purchased my new glasses from Lenskart and was utterly delighted by the whole experience.

  1. Convenience: I live in the outskirts and taking time off for 2 visits was difficult & expensive (time & fuel). Ordering online and getting it delivered at home via courier was the perfect.
  2. Technology: It might be small, but I liked their tool which uses the laptop webcam to capture the face, then size it right using a credit card (for the dimensions). This way I could virtually try various frames and how I would look in them.
  3. Price: I paid almost half the price (where else could you get the same pair of spectacles at $10). I googled and found that almost perpetually they have some promotional/discount scheme or the other running.
  4. Promptness: I got the frame delivered in 30 hours flat, all this without even moving a finger
  5. Service: I was very skeptical ordering prescription glasses online. Hence I logged off midway. However their representative called me up and explained the entire process. They even offered to send their ophthalmologist at my residence for measurement & trial (250 trial spectacles) for a nominal price of 100/-. What more could I ask for.
  6. Packaging: The entire look & feel of the box, packaging, the website was professional. They had a welcome to Lenskart family card also in the courier along with a plastic card printed with my prescription etc.
  7. No-Cross selling: Unlike the physical stores, they were more interested in providing me with what I want, rather than selling contact-lens, cleaning fluids and other junk that I never asked for.

What they can improve on:

  1. T.V. Ads: I must say their TV ad puts me on “Stalker Alert!!!” How creepy will it be if a guy tries to introduce himself with a girl wearing 100 different spectacles & sun-glasses
  2. Pricing & Positioning: Spectacles, like watches are fashion accessories. Hence like the luxury goods, people feel good when they shell out high prices. HMT (Indian watch maker) faced a lot of trouble when they tried to create economy/popular brands. Giving too many discounts often damages the company’s bottomline and creates wrong expectations in the mind of the customers.
  3. Intuitive UI (user interface): Their cart did not load properly because of which I had an issue with check-out. Also who needs so much pop-ups, banners etc.
  4. Real-world & online connect: There is no way to check & confirm the precision of the glasses. Hence a connecting with the physical world would be welcome to address anxious first time customers.

Back to Future: Doc’s Letter

I was viewing this old classic “Back to Future” where Emmett Brown had sent a letter to Marty McFly in future. This reminded me that while growing up we often made bets or tried to forecast how the future would be. Won’t it be amazing if I get a mail today stating:

“Ankur, in August 2003 you had forecasted that even after 10 years Bangalore will not have a functional Metro that can solve the traffic & mass transit problems of this alleged ‘Silicon Valley of the East’”

I will love to show this mail/statement/certificate around and gloat.
Similarly I might also get a letter:

“Ankur, in 1991 when P. V. Narasimha Rao got elected, you had forecasted that this is the end of the Gandhi Dynasty and people will start labeling ‘Indira Gandhi’ as the Dictator which she truly was”

Clearly I would be wrong on both counts and it would serve as a lesson to not make such rash & bold predictions.
Apart from being amusing, these letters could serve a valuable service. I could send a message to my daughter for her 16th Birthday. Unfortunately I am yet to find a website which provides a secure reliable service serving this need.


8 years of blogging

When I started blogging 8 years ago, I had a simple 2 point agenda

  1. Improving my writing skills esp. in English (which is not my mother tongue)
  2. Better articulation of thoughts and refining them through sharing

During April 2005, Blogs were nothing more than personal diaries. Penning down the thoughts was important and assuming a pseudo-pen name allowed us to share at a deeper intimate levels. Online was a perfect medium, as it allowed people who would probably never meet to connect and exchange ideas.

No wonder, I had always refrained mentioning any names of people I am writing about, shared my picture/location or shared information about my work-place etc. I also refrained from using any meta-tags or SEO needed to make the post prominent. The blogs were followed through RSS readers/weekly website visits by fellow strangers (again whose name and identity I did not knew)

However today the very definition of blog has changed dramatically today. Google Reader was shut-down a couple of months ago and today’s blog is rarely about following the reader, but mostly about searching for a topic.

It’s all about SEO, Digital Marketing, tag-words. Most popular blog sites have more pictures/multimedia and less text. Blogs are used to generate traffic and create a buzz.


Breaking Bad & Silk-Road

In the fiction soap “Breaking Bad” a 50 year old, penniless, high school teacher Walter White, without any drug background, could make this statement:  “Do you know what would happen if I suddenly decided to stop going into work? A business big enough that it could be listed on the NASDAQ goes belly up.”
Silk road’s 29 year old owner Ross William Ulbricht handled a billion dollar worth of transaction in drugs in mere 2.5 years. He was an average geek who operated out of a public library, and perfectly blended with the crowd.
These 2 people completely changed the popular perception of a flourishing drug empire. Unlike what is depicted godfather or mafia movies, they did not carry guns, or had a huge network 50-100 of sworn, loyal followers who are willing to die/go to prison. They did not have an elaborate international logistics network to source and distribute, neither had they had the state of the art technology & intelligence network needed to run the empire. They did not have a pool of corrupt DEA/law enforcement agencies to tip them off.
These 2 stories are stories of 2 outsiders, newbies in an otherwise organized industry. In the industry that was considered stable & mature, they infused fresh sparks of ideas. Sometimes a little hard work and a lot of passion is all it takes to turn the dreams to reality.
I am sure most of the readers have neither consumed drugs nor know how to access silk-road/ Tor network or have a bitcoin wallet. I am not glorifying this industry, rather am trying to extract few words of wisdom & analogy from this ocean of sin.


US Shutdown & Indian Currency

I just read this article from Bank of America Merrill Lynch stating that US Shutdown might lead to a default by US Treasury on its bonds. However this default will lead to debasing of Indian Currency by 12%.
I am no macro-economic expert, but it does not need a PhD to question why the hell will India be punished and USA be rewarded?
In plain simple terms, if USA is unable to fulfill its debt obligations, the world would punish it by dumping the currency. As a result rest of the currency should appreciate. However it seems that when it comes to India & Rupee, no logic works.
Update: While I was waiting for my partner to finish editing this post, I came across a second article. This has a beautiful map

Work financial risk preparedness
Work financial risk preparedness

The gist being: USA & Western countries are most prepared to mitigate the impact of a financial risk while Africa & India are not. The irony is that USA is under shutdown because the federal government has no money to pay for the non-essential services & employees. Western Europe has repeatedly defaulted on its debt. India is not in the best of shape, but I don’t remember a single instance in the past 60-70 years when Indian Central government  could not pay its employees in time.
But then again, I am an illiterate village idiot with no fancy degree or brand to flash.



It is the title of the new hit movie, the first Bollywood blockbuster on the stock market. The movie will have sufficient item numbers to ensure adequate level of disclosures and transparency, giving an entirely new meaning to the term “bare market”. The producer is seeking legal opinion whether the script needs regulatory approval, apart from the police and censors. Of late censors have been very severe on “bare markets”. It is expected that the price of the tickets will be “book-built” in the grey/black market by brokers before settling to a “fixed price” situation. Appropriately the release is slotted for a Black Friday. However it is expected that there will be no liquidity problems in financing purchase of tickets. Fake/unauthorized CDs/DVDs etc are also expected to be available.
The “red-herring” story, music cassettes/discs etc will be made available about 21 days before the movie is released. Analysts have put excellent reviews on the initial public offering of the movie. It is expected to breach all previously recorded circuit breakers. The Blockbuster’s Randy Lead Male (BRLM) and lead heroine (who usually has to bare and bear the post ‘issue’ responsibilities) will hold a special public briefing live on TV just before the release. A highlight is that international and domestic rights will be separately sold and the entire offering is only for retail viewers. The movie will be listed on all theaters and multiplexes. It is also contemplated, as a first in the history of not only Bollywood but also moviedom, to show the premiere of the film on stock exchange screens after trading hours.
The climax of the movie is regarded as the most sensexsuous hot scene ever shot in filmdom. Although the market is down, the hero comes home in a bullish mood as evidenced by his long outstanding position. The inexperienced debutante heroine, unable to read the market, is caught in a wide-open naked position, her fundamentals fully exposed. The bull decides to study her technically. He starts by analysing the ‘head and shoulders’ formation then moves down to the ‘twin peaks and valley’ formation, then to the ‘flat plateau’ where the chart dips suddenly and then develops the inevitable ‘rounded bottom’ recovery. This dip in the ‘bare’ market has always confounded chartists. The area is very fuzzy and it takes great expertise to untangle and unravel the underlying fundamentals. It may be noted that expert technical analysts call the “peak and valley formations” as a “Samantha Fox”, “Dolly Parton” or “Anne Nicole” depending on various dimensions and the finer ‘points’. The “rounded bottom” is universally called a “J Lo”. These terms have been devised so that even a stock market illiterate will understand them.
The bare does not respond at first. But the bull is not deterred. He has heard during several investor education programs that sen sexually derived returns are highest when they take a long term to ‘come’. He employs the time honored SIP strategy of small withdrawals followed by quick re-entries. The bare market’s private sector is already under the bull’s control and he broadens and deepens his long position in the pub(l)ic sector. Every time he exploits the technicals, there is volatility, with the bare market thrashing violently and the “twin peaks” and “rounded bottom” find newer higher and lower levels. Soon the bull’s outstanding position increases further and firms up as the bare market surrenders and prepares to go down.
The bare market’s position becomes weak, with all stocks exhausted and has reached a very liquid fully sold state. The bull too has run out of margins and his strong stock-holding capacity has no further options. Although “hold” messages are put out and they try to hedge by adopting new positions, the fundamentals are unable to withstand the pressure. The sexercise period of the transaction is nearing its end and since both agree that it is all over, suddenly there is a surge of liquidity thus causing the circuit breakers to get activated and all the screens go blank. As the bull and bare contemplate their futures and options while settlement is taking place, over the Dolby system comes the theme hit song – music “adapted” from a well known Hindi film.
Bechara bakra
Market me phaskar
Sochtha hai ab kya karun
Dhilli kuch bolta hai
Market usko tokhtha hai
Screen me jab bhi dekho sab hai lal hi lal
Oh index down
Down down down down down
Oh index down
Down down down down down!!
The audience goes home appreciating the central theme of the film – that both, investing in the stock markets and sex have no formal qualifications/exams stipulated and perhaps that is why ultimately, in both activities, some get screwed.
By T.R.Ramaswami


Maths = Engineering, Biology = Medicine

When I was in high school, there was a popular myth: If you are good at mathematics, then you should pursue engineering, if you are good at Biology then you should become a doctor.
Are these 2 the only career streams worth taking? Do engineers perform complex transformation, calculus and numerous calculations every day on the job? Nor do doctors spend all day going through the microscope and fat books.
We Indians spend so much time, effort & money in getting the child educated, but very little in making them aware of the options available and understanding their aptitude.


Diye ke tale andhera

Tools and processes are there to facilitate people and foster productivity & compliance. An ideal tool would enable its users to create reports, submit forms, automate the approvals, track progress and check eligibility and get reimbursed without having to run around the office getting signatures of concerned persons/departments. They need to have a standardized interface that will allow the necessary person see a summary (with items relevant to them) while having flexibility of drilling down to details, statistics of similar claims & trends. It should guide
However today tools & IT/ERP systems have become counter-productive and have forgotten its original purpose. Tool down/ system down are common. Deviation/exception required to conduct normal business, manual intervention to expedite the process, manual follow-ups/reminders, paperwork should happen once in a blue moon. If their frequency is rising, then the tool has lost its relevance and should be scrapped in favor of a better process. Sometimes the whole process is so frustrating that you believe that a non IT enabled company with manual book-keeping is more efficient.
For those of you who are wondering the meaning of the title, it means “base of a lamp is always dark”. Indian IT firms are providing technology & ERP solutions to the world, but somehow they forgot implementing some of these best practices in-house. Could somebody educate them that for any tool/system the stake holders are not just the department that commissioned the implementation, but actual employees who are going to use the system & do the data entry.


Gaps that the tech restaurants could plug

My previous post confused some of the readers. Hence I am elaborating the various value propositions that any tech enabled online restaurant aggregator portal should address.

  1. Microsite & online presence: Most restaurants don’t have an online presence. Newspaper inserts and banners also are losing relevance making customer acquisition a problem. Linking with maps & online increases the reach & accessibility to new customers
  2. Delivery time: Most people order food when they are hungry. Hence making them wait makes them only restless & less appreciative of the food. Also small restaurants don’t have enough delivery staff and often tend to club 2-3 orders from the same locality before dispatch. Efficiencies, promptness and tracking are basic hygiene factors needed.
  3. Packaging & presentation: It is common to see food packed in newspaper. Hot cases are rarely used by delivery to ensure that food does not get cold & soggy in transit. Most small restaurant owners are not trained in latest culinary skills. Also they don’t understand that food is first enjoyed by the eye, then the nose and only then does the tongue/taste comes into picture.
  4. Payment: Credit card payments & printed bills are a luxury in India. So I am hoping you get the idea.
  5. Feedback & quality: The chef, owner, order taker and delivery person are different and often don’t interact much (even though they work in the same establishment)
  6. High operating costs: With high rentals, salaries, establishment/license cost, equipment, fitting etc. make restaurants a high risk venture due to the fixed costs. Any portal giving a minimum volume (100 plates per day) or buying during lean hours (say weekday lunch for a restaurant in a shopping complex or a weekend meal for one in business area) will be an immediate hit for the owners. If these volume discounts are passed on to the customers, then they will also be delighted.
  7. Real estate: Getting a prime real-estate is key to any successful restaurant, but its rental cripples most owners. Online delivery can enable reducing the prices by catering from kitchens set-up at homes or in not so expensive places.
  8. Phone numbers: Firstly it is impossible to ensure that all potential customers have your phone number handy. Secondly, in a land of 100 languages, communicating ordering, cooking instructions & delivery address is a challenge.
  9. Food Court: Typically when buddies gang up, they take poll to choose the cuisine and then select the restaurant. Net result specialty restaurants like Italian, Thai etc. often don’t get the required majority and multi-cuisine restaurants flourish. Can the online websites create a mini-food-court for me allowing me to order 1 italian dish, 1 thai, 1 biriyani & 1 tandoori Chicken without worrying about minimum order size from each of the 4 individual restaurants.
  10. Add-ons: Can we add Pan (beetle leaf), ice-creams, juices, chaats to the order. Things that we like to order when we eat out, but don’t constitute part of a typical home delivery.
  11. Loyalty programs & couponing: Most mom&pop stores don’t have a formal well defined mechanism for these.
  12. Segregation & variable pricing: Many restaurants charge a lower rate for students and higher for office delivery. However tech-portals have better online identity management system and should enable me to charge a lower rate to new-customers or people outside my immediate catchment area… without any threat of that price being revealed to my main customers.