To Uber, or not?

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I remember the first time I came to know about radio cabs, I felt an instant connection. The ability to call for a cab, anytime and anywhere, and with a promise of well behaved English speaking cab drivers, it made everything feel so good. I think Chandigarh was one of the first few cities to experience radio cabs.

Even though they were more expensive here, it felt like a convenience no one else could offer. Fast forward several years into the smartphone-filled scenario, taxi apps like Uber, Ola, Taxi for Sure, and others took things to the next level. Being able to call for a cab right from the app itself, to tracking the current location, and even getting a decent discount on the whole trip — it was just too good.

But then we’re not really living a perfect world. Are we? This happened, and all hell broke loose. The incident shed light on how taxi app companies had discovered a major loophole, and were operating without following proper legal procedures. Delhi, and now even Chandigarh, have started banning these app based taxi services.

The Delhi Police officials claimed they didn’t know about the app before the incident. To make matter worse, Uber doesn’t even run a call centre necessary to ensure proper customer support. The cops had to install the app, demand a cab, and then asked the cab driver to take them to the company’s offices. That’s sad.

Uber isn’t new to controversies in the country. Earlier the company was accused to bypassing the mandatory two-factor authentication according to regulations laid down by the Reserve Bank of India. Uber did manage to get a lot of attention that time, and even some support from users who claimed that it was a dick move on other radio cabs’ part to accuse Uber.

The latest incident, and the subsequent ban has put Uber, and other taxi app based companies in the limelight. These companies have put in a significant investment across the country, and they will do their best to comply by the regulations. But when they do, after some time, will people still trust them? Will you trust them for a late-night ride while all alone?

The Indian National Television Is Dead

indian tv

Finding a decent TV show on the Indian national television is like finding a criminal on FBI’s list of most wanted. But they could still find, and hunt down Osama. TV shows in this country, however, suck huge pre-historic dinosaur balls.

I understand watching TV means different things for different people — some just want news, while others just watch music videos, and so on. But TV shows are like the backbone of cable television.

So where are the TV shows that we deserve? Will we spend the rest of our lives sitting on proxy servers, accessing Netflix and Hulu, downloading TV shows from American television and elsewhere? I sure seems that way.

From where I see things, I think TV channels in the country go to these big market research firms each year, and they recycle their market research. They probably tell the channel producers to keep making the regular saas-bahu BS that they’ve been doing since eternity. After all, the TRPs speak for themselves.

If those stinky TV soaps weren’t enough, reality shows made the national television suck even more. While there were a few decent seasons here and there, we have to agree that the national soil for talent has now turned infertile. We’ve shipped most of our talented folks abroad, and others are busy doing their shit elsewhere. The Indian edition of the TV show 24 was a pretty decent thing to watch. I’d love to see something more along those lines.

So what do I want? And why am I crying while surfing channels? I want a decent feed on TV that’s worth watching. I don’t want to shed tears when I hook up my computer or a multimedia box to my TV when the bandwidth horn goes all FUP-y on me.

I’m even ready to pay for an international feed. Currently I find HBO Hits and HBO Defined as the only two channels worth subscribing for, but even they’re on the expensive side of things. Or just give me an Indian Netflix with US shows, and I’ll shut up.

Doing Twitter Contests Right

dealsforgeeks

Of course, I hate Twitter contests.

I hate them because they pollute my timeline, force me to do stuff I normally wouldn’t, and result in a terrible user experience for me and my followers. But as I said earlier, there’s got to be a right way to do it.

The primary reason why Twitter contests, or for that matter any typical contest on a social platform, has now turned out to be as irritating as a character on a daily soap is because agencies like to show off big numbers to their shiny clients. From, “look we got you trending” to “oh mah god a million RTs bro”, they’re doing it all.

But let’s not talk about the dark side.

For DealsForGeeks we wanted to do something lighter, cleaner and more rewarding. All in such a way that it doesn’t hamper the user experience. For our first giveaway (a small one), we wanted user feedback so we planned a small contest where users would just fill up a form to give us some feedback, and that’s it.

For our second giveaway, and our first major contest, we wanted to follow the same principles.

1. Not necessary to follow/like our social accounts.
2. No RTs/likes required.
3. We wouldn’t RT any participant’s entry (tweet) from our official count. This is probably the most irritating thing in the world when I see brands doing it.

So we rolled out the red carpet, kept the terms and conditions to the bare minimum and simple to understand tone. All that the participants needed to do was interact with us, share feedback if they like, a joke maybe, or even a simple hello.

We decided to keep the Motorola Moto G (8GB) as the top prize because we thought it’s something we could afford, and something users would want. So the next couple of days we waited, as responses started pouring in. In the middle of the week-long contest we realized it’s going to get bigger.

Each interaction a user shared with us was treated as an entry. So every tweet became an entry. Since interacting on Twitter and Facebook was optional (user could do either of these), it would eventually become harder to track entries. But we got around with a bunch of handy analytics tools available in the market.

Here’s a little something we learned now that the contest is over.

1. People will ultimately follow you, if they participate in a contest even if you don’t make it compulsory.

2. Making RTs mandatory sucks. It may give you slightly bigger numbers in terms of interactions but in some way or the other it defeats the purpose for the product.

3. Stick to the goal — in our case it was spreading the word around. Our visitor count increased by 400% since the contest was launched. We’re still seeing a consistent visitor base, not only on the contest page but also on deals.

4. Don’t stick words in users’ mouth. I personally hate brands that want you to tweet in a specific format or use a stupid hashtag. We didn’t use any. What we saw was positive feedback in the best way anyone would normally express themselves. I do understand for bigger campaigns it becomes easier to track tweets using a hashtag, but it can be done in nicer ways. Also, not re-tweeting users’ tweets helps.

5. Do you want eyeballs for the contest or real users? It’s pretty easy to bump up your follower count — be it Twitter or Facebook — but the real question is – wouldn’t you rather have real users? At DealsForGeeks we might just have a little over 300 followers, but they’re genuinely interested users. We’d rather have 300 real followers on Twitter than 30,000 egg-head profiles that lead to nowhere.

In the future we plan on sticking to our mantra of no-nonsense contests on various social platforms.

An Update For DealsForGeeks

deals for geeks

Sometime around last month I thought I’d use of the domains lying idle in my basket, to scratch a personal itch. So DealsForGeeks was born as I teamed up with my wife to take the idea for a spin and see how things turn out.

It seems people did like the idea, and that got my brain cells going.

We received positive feedback on Twitter and Facebook. We weren’t alone when it came to hunting and sharing decent deals on the web, especially the ones we geeks love. As a result, DealsForGeeks turned profitable on day one.

The word profitable isn’t a lot tricky here because the project didn’t involve a lot of investment. At least not initially. It was more about breaking even in terms of the cost of the domain name and hosting.

Moreover we’re sharing a lot of deals where we don’t even have any affiliate hook-ups with the sellers. While that may happen eventually, we don’t want to miss out on sharing a decent deal if we think users could use them. We’ll continue doing that no matter what.

While there are an awful number of websites that do the same thing, we’re keeping DealsForGeeks different in the way it works — from handpicked deals to finding strings attached to a specific deal, we have you covered. Let’s just say we won’t list something we wouldn’t buy ourselves.

Having said that we’ve pretty much given away what we made initially in the form of a small giveaway. We used it to get some feedback that would help shape our product in the near future.

So where does it go from here? We’ve got a pretty solid pipeline — a complete redesign, partnerships with e-commerce companies (whoa!), mobile apps, better notification systems, and moreover better deals. We’re going to take baby steps, but we’re going to get there.

Scratching A Personal Itch, For Deals

deals for geeks

I’m a sucker for deals. I’ve been a big fan of e-commerce ever since I first came to know about the concept. Back in the days I used to setup simple e-commerce stores as a freelancer. I wished one day we’ll have decent online stores in India. And then it started raining online-stores.

We went from a few to a few too many online stores in India. Almost every chunnu-munnu is now selling something or the other online. And why not? It’s a great medium. Customers, like me, love it. Sellers, well to an extent, love to sell online too.

And here comes the problem.

At any point of time I’m looking for decent deals on the web. There are things I’d buy at full price if I needed them right away but then there are things I’d put off because I would like to wait for a decent deal. Or in other words things I’d buy only if they were discounted.

So I thought why not share those deals with everyone else. That’s when DealsForGeeks was born. For now it looks like an ugly baby but in the coming few weeks I’ll be working on a custom WordPress theme. For now it’s more about finding and sharing great deals, especially ones that fellow geeks would really want to use.

In the long term I honestly don’t know where this will go. It’s more of a personal itch than a real product. But I do have some crazy ideas in my mind on where I’d love to see this go.