Saturday, March 26, 2016

The ever changing perception of entrepreneurship

The French word entrepreneur first appeared in the French dictionary in 1723 to describe a person who organizes and operates a business by taking a financial risk. Someone who takes risk has always been revered in history. Sadly, we have more memories of the successes than failures for these risk takers. 

Entrepreneurship has evolved since then. It's truly about the attitude, the approach one takes towards any problem. It doesn't necessarily have to be about creating a business or building an enterprise.  

Shankar Das Babson
Entrepreneurship means paving the way for yourself and for the world behind you. Entrepreneurship is not inherited but developed. It then becomes an addiction, a state of mind, and a way of life.

It could mean less about taking risk and more about your ability to navigate through risk, mitigating risk, even finding ways to avoid unnecessary risk.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

My 2013 Paper/Essay on Self-Driving Cars

Phase 1:
‘Cars when you want it, Cars where you want it’
End User: Individuals
Individuals will be able to use a car when and where they want it. The GPS receiver in the user’s phone will allow Google to send its service (self-driving car) to the user where they need it. This eliminates the requirement of the car ownership while it still gives the flexibility of using the vehicle when and where people want to use it. This service will be limited to a few cities where the service can be implemented based on the current government regulation.
This service also empowers physically disabled individuals by enabling them with mobility in the same way as any other individual.

Phase 2:
‘Travel and explore places like never before’
End User: Travel/Tour Industry, Companies
This will disrupt the travel industry by providing a highly optimized end to end travel solution. The vehicle will have a dashboard that can display every known and possible point of information that can add value for the travel experience. Close knit integration with Google’s other services such as Google Search, Google Hotels, Google Flights, Google Places, Google Traffic, Google Goggles, Google Voice, etc. will not only make the travel experience much better but also optimize the trip to make it the most efficient one.
Integration with Google wallet will also make the service cash-free.

Phase 3 :
‘Your vehicle, customized for you’
End User: Individuals
For individuals and families who would own the self-driving car will be able to have a seamless integration with their work as they move between their houses, their work place and while they travel in the car. This will also provide a different kind of security as authentication will be managed primarily by the individual’s Google account. All the features in the previous phases will be present in this phase as well and there will be incremental services.

Phase 4 :
‘Redesign the way people travel. Introduce ‘Self- flying passenger pods’ and ‘Self-navigating boats’
End User: Individuals/Governments
The 3D positioning ability of the Google Earth will allow Google to locate and navigate ‘flying objects’ (passenger helicopters, flying cars). This extrapolation can also be extended to self-navigating boats.
This can completely change the way travel is perceived in many countries where there’s no basic transport infrastructure such as roads.

A clear and deeper description of the service:

Phase 1 :
‘Cars when you want it, Cars where you want it’
End User: Individuals
This phase will include the basic offering of the service using most of the other offerings that Google already has. Lets take an example to explain a basic use case.
John Smith (an user) has to go from his house at Cambridge, MA to his company headquarters in Seattle on Thursday. He can look up for all the possible options using Google maps for these conditions. This will also include flight and hotel suggestion using Google’s services such as ‘Google Flights’ and ‘Google Hotels’. Based on the most suited result, John Smith can select one of the results and authorize his Google account to make payment using his ‘Google wallet’ account. With this, John Smith will have his self-driving car outside his house to take him to the airport at the right time. Bluetooth or NFC technology available in his phone can be used to authenticate him when he boards his vehicle. The car will take the most efficient route based on ‘Google traffic’. Based on the arrival time of his plane, Google can send another self-driving car at the Seattle airport and take him to the hotel that was booked for him.

The self-driving cars will be managed by a car rental service company such as Uber. Uber is the closest to providing similar service as of now. So they understand this business very well. Google has already invested in Uber ($258 million) for 7% stake in the company. This strategic alliance makes Uber a great fit to manage the self-driving car rental business that is required in phase one.

Phase 2:
‘Travel and explore places like never before’
End User: Travel/Tour Providers, Companies

Travel and tour providers will see a disruption with this phase. A well-coordinated and organized travel plan can be made and executed with Google’s self-driving car. Let’s take a use case to explain this further.
John Smith wants to go from Boston to Niagara Falls with his family. He can include some or all of his family members in the plan he makes on Google Maps using Google’s private social network - ‘circles’ in Google plus. He can start his journey at the time he chooses and all along the way his dashboard can tell him all he wants to know about the places around him by using Google’s own services such as ‘ Google Voice’, ‘ Google Local’ and other third party services such as ‘Wikipedia’ and ‘Lonely Planet’.
Note that this phase is an incremental offering on top of the offering of the first phase.

Phase 3 :
‘Your vehicle, customized for you’
End User: Individuals
This phase brings along a very high level of personalization that would come from owning a self-driving car. Let’s use a specific use case to see its implementation.

John Smith’s self-driving car alerts him on his phone that he should leave for office at 7:43 AM today to avoid any delay due to traffic and reach his office for his 8:30 AM meeting. He hasn’t completed his work that he started on his home computer so now he can continue to work from where he left on his home computer in the dashboard of the car (with keyboard integration).
This phase will also include new agreements with car insurance companies and financing companies to abide by the required rules that would be mandated by the government.

Phase 4:
‘Redesign the way people travel. Introduce ‘Self- flying passenger light planes’ and ‘Self-navigating boats’
End User: Individuals/Governments

This phase will essentially change the perception of travel altogether. There are lots of attributes that will come into play before this phase is implemented. New laws, among everything else (technological change) will have to be drafted to set this up. With self-flying light pods/helicopters, there will not be a need of traditional travel infrastructure such as roads, particularly at places where there are no roads to begin with.
This phase will also demand a number of advancements in the technology. Specially designed flying pods and boats will be a technology feat in itself. There are quite a few options now but getting to a point where it can be used commercially will be difficult.
This phase will also require changes in the current regulations and also create a few of them to address the new system that this phase will create.

An Analysis of the Value That Will Be Generated for Various Stakeholders in the Ecosystem

The Google self-driving car in its ecosystem is the center of a two-side platform with multiple technology/service providers on each side. It creates values and positive impacts to each of the stakeholders along with potential risks and negative influences. We have selected three key stakeholders on both demand side and supply side and have analyzed their values and potential risks.

External Value Analysis  -- Demand Side

1. End Consumers -- Individuals, Families, Corporations / Campus Shuttles
Positive Things
  • By providing self-driving car rental service, Google brings safer, more efficient travel experience to individuals.
  • Fewer road accidents, due to an autonomous system's increased reliability and faster reaction time compared to human drivers
  • Reduction of parking scarcity, as cars could drop off passengers, park far away where space is not scarce, and return as needed to pick up passengers.
  • Removal of constraints on occupants' state – in an autonomous car, it would not matter if the occupants were under age, blind, distracted, intoxicated, or otherwise impaired.

Negative Things
  • This new product will enforce the fact that humans will have heavier reliance on machines. Thus human senses may be used to a lesser extent.

2. Automotive OEMs (Commercial Car Manufacturers)
Positive Things
  • The next level of car technologies will be developed to accommodate the new self-driving function.
  • While the big car companies are doing prototypes of advanced cars for themselves, Google takes care the software research and development that will reduce the R&D cost for manufacturing cars in future.
Negative Things / Risks
  • It takes time for customers to adopt and purchase after the revolutionary car models are introduced to the market.
  • The learning curve of manufacturing cars with new specifications will also be steeper than before.

3. Travel Service Providers (Tour providers/ Travel Companies)
Positive Things
  •  With less reliance on human factors, the travel services company can provide 24 *7 services.
  • The model of delivering service becomes highly scalable with fewer operations and fewer human involved factors.

Negative Things
  • The highly automated solutions reduce job opportunities as drivers and providers of other basic services.
  • It will reduce the likelihood to have human interaction in the service providing process, which may not fully cover all the potential customer needs and create the best user experiences.

External Value Analysis B -- Supply Side:

1. Government / Regulation Solutions
Positive Things
The technology will require government to redesign the regulation and to find new solutions, which will reduce cost and increase efficiency. Here are a few example of the positive value the new technology will bring to government:
  • Increase roadway capacity and reduced traffic congestion, and the ability to better manage traffic flow.
  • Higher speed limit for autonomous cars.
  • Reduction of space required for vehicle parking.
  • Reduction in the need for traffic police and vehicle insurance.
  • Reduction of physical road signage – autonomous cars could receive necessary communication electronically (although physical signs may still be required for any human drivers).
Negative Things
  • It will take long time and great amount of effort for governments to change and impose new transportation regulations. The self-driving cars will increase the complexity of scenarios, which would bring challenges for government to execute the new transportation regulations.

2. Hardware Components (Sensor, etc.) Providers
Positive Things
  •  The new car technologies create great market demand for all different hardware components, such as sensors, GPS receivers, etc.
  •  It will create more job opportunities for the whole industry.
Negative Things
  • With more hardware components created and more out-of-date hardware components replaced, there will be more e-waste generated.

3. Technology provider for navigation / high speed computing / seamless connectivity solutions
Positive Things:
  • Because of the huge market opportunity, there will be a concentrated effort from various companies in the space to develop more commercialized technology.
  • This commercialization will also create more job opportunities.

Negative things:
  • The advanced technology requirement increases the barriers to entry in the market for entrepreneurs.

  A Management Discussion of How To Actually Roll Out the Implementation

Implementing this innovation into the ecosystem would involve a step wise integration of the attributes into the ecosystem. With the vision in place, I would get started with getting more approvals from states so that self-driving cars can be driven in more states. A lot of government regulations required for this product are non-existent. So helping states/regulators come up with the rules would also be very important and would eventually fasten the process as well. Getting the product even better in what it claims to do is another area where Google’s primary focus should be. In the words of an engineering lead at Google, Chris Urmson - "To provide the best experience we can, we’ll need to master snow-covered roadways, interpret temporary construction signals and handle other tricky situations that many drivers encounter".

From the end consumer point of view, ‘raising awareness’ among consumers and gaining their acceptance would also be as important in the success of the product. This can be achieved by regular coverage of the product in the media and introducing the product at major car expos around the country. Google’s own media properties can be used to run campaigns for raising awareness about the product.

Working with car manufactures to get a scalable production of self-driving cars would also be crucial to get the vision implemented. Japanese car manufacturers such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan among others have plans to come up with self-driving cars in Japan by 2017. The distribution of cars would be managed in more or less the same way as it is done now except that there would be improvements in the current distribution. Car insurance and car financing would change as well. Dealership can act more as partners for regular car servicing.

Working with an existing service provider of car services such as Uber would be necessary to effectively roll out the service to consumers-at-large. This becomes very important when self-driving cars are launched as a service and not sold to the consumer.

Google would also provide continued support to any company for research and development of both hardware and software technologies that are used in self-driving cars. At the same time, Google would also be fairly aggressive in acquiring companies that bring any strategic/technology benefit to the success and improvement of self-driving cars.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Getting Started with R ( simple first 5 steps)

Here are a few steps that can get you started with R. This is assuming you have installed R on your computer. If you haven't, download it from here (

Before you do anything else, you need to define the working directory for R. By default, R will have its own working directory. It is a good idea to change the working  directory based on the project you are working on.

1. Check the current working directory:
> getwd()

 Change the current working directory:
> setwd(C:\Users\ABC)

Note: Notice the type of slashes used in writing the directory. Using a different slash is a common issue.

2. Load your data file:
1. Although you can load your file in various formats, I would recommend creating a csv file format of your data.
2. Place the file in the working directory. You can place it anywhere else on the computer as well but in that case, you have to enter the full location of the file.

> a = read.csv("file.csv")

This is assigning the name 'a' for your file in R.

3. Get column names:

> names(a)

4. Know the data type (gives you the structure of your dataset):

> str(a)

5. Summary of the dataset:

> summary(a) 

At any point, if you feel the need of knowing more about the command you are using, you can use help in R.
> ?command
e.g. > ?read.csv

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What’s in the name?

We all have filled up online forms at some point in time. These forms, more often than not, are the major component of revenue generation for a website. For a website, you are essentially the product and one way for the website to make money is to sell your information to someone who needs it. E.g. when you fill out a form to get quotes from multiple insurance companies, the website sells your contact information (as a prospective customer) to the insurance agents/companies.

From a customer perspective, the internet has increasingly become the easy-to-get information base for just about everything.  A user looks at multiple websites before he/she reaches out to the vendor/store to make the actual purchase. Google calls it ‘Zero Moment of Truth’.  People want to gather as much information as possible before they take the final decision.

This means that there are hundreds of millions of leads (prospective customers) being generated every year. There just isn’t enough capacity in the industry to deal with all the leads. So the industry runs advanced analytics to filter down the good leads (potential buyer) from the bad ones (window shopper).  This post will discuss the significance of ‘your name’ in deciding whether you will be a good lead or a bad lead.

Case 1

John Smith

john smith


These are three ways of writing down your name. When you type out your name in an online form, you could use only small case, only capital case or a combination of both. The way you type your name gives out a signal to show that you are really interested in buying the actual product or not. A serious buyer, more often than not, will type out his/her name in mixed case (John Smith).

Case 2

Bruce Wayne

Peter Parker

Ronald McDonald

Although all the above names sound like a genuine name but there is a very high probability that you will not be considered as a serious buyer since these names sound fake. For people not familiar with the above names – Bruce Wayne is Batman, Peter Parker is Spiderman and Ronald McDonald is McDonald mascot.

Case 3

Nu Li


Elizabeth Alexander

The number of characters in your name could also play a role in deciding whether you will turn out to be a serious buyer or not.

I don’t want to cite examples for cases where gender, ethnicity or religion can be inferred from the name and hence those can be used to decide your propensity to convert as an actual sale.  Consumers like you and I aren’t aware (or rather we care less) about the implication of every word we type in the internet. Truth is companies track (can track) everything from “what you type” to “when you type” and “how you type” to figure out “who you are and your intentions”.

Disclaimer – The contents of this blog are my personal thoughts and ideas. They do not reflect any position held by any organization. Have any questions? Please message me directly.