Of engineering and its under-rated value

Yesterday my friend @arunsdevine was lamenting how some of his friends make twice or thrice what he makes (income). Obvious professions that came up were banking and law, and we wondered why one would ever want to do a software engineering or product management job.

Either one works 80 hour weeks and earns millions. Or one keeps it sane and lives a healthy life (and probably earn a little less). It is of course a personal choice. Some of my friends apparently love the banking lifestyle. I thought about why I never found it attractive going after banking. I had all the access I needed, yet I chose to become an engineer/entrepreneur. Just thought of putting it into words and the answer came to me as quite simple.

If earning a few million dollars is your aim, then you might be better off doing investment banking. The probability of success might be higher than say starting up your own business and making an exit / earning that much income from it. But there’s also a more fundamental difference as to how you want to acquire money. Do you want to acquire money by cutting a percentage out of the existing pile. Or do you want to create money by generating value. I think bankers, lawyers usually do the former, while engineers, designers, creators have a higher potential to do the latter (not that we necessarily do).

I just feel that it is an under-valued skill to be an engineer. I often notice a lack of pride for their profession in many engineers. And if creating value beyond a few million dollars is the dream, it probably gives creators an edge. The mindset is different – acquire vs create.

Birthday trip to the Taj Mahal

Had a memorable birthday this time. We planned for an unplanned trip to Agra. Left Delhi at 2:30PM and reached the Taj Mahal just in time before tickets closed at 4:45PM.

Made possible by one of the best highways in India I’ve seen so far.

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And ofcourse the Taj Mahal..

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I’ll have to admit though, despite claiming myself to be otherwise, this place has the aura to inspire the romantic in anyone. Hence the couple photo to end the post :)

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Startup Idea: an ecommerce account aggregator

The problem
Ecommerce is ubiquitous in the developed world, and is fast gaining the same status in the developing world as well. Obviously, all ecommerce sites are not equal. Order tracking and customer support experience varies by a lot. And logging into each website to track your order is cumbersome. There are times when one is expecting multiple orders, but it is ‘work’ to keep a track of all of them and request for support.

The idea
All your ecommerce order history, all your order tracking information, all your customer support via one app. The global ‘Your Account’.

Why is it good for customers
Easy to keep a track of all your orders from one single app. Customer support tickets can be raised, tracked and replied from within this app. The app can automatically raise customer support tickets to the respective site if an order gets delayed. Potentially it can handle site specific return policies as well.

Why is it good for ecommerce companies
Instantaneous touchpoint with customers for gathering feedback and updating about order statuses. Order tracking integrations with popular couriers to reduce customer support costs. By automatically raising tickets for order delays, the company can respond early and prevent possible customer anger management.

Challenges
How to get stored to go through the trouble of integrating/supporting this app. The quick approach could be to get access to transactional emails of these stores and by parsing order information from emails to start with. Deeper functionality will only be possible with API level integration. I haven’t really figured this one out though.

Opportunities
Can be a CRM channel providing companies with a targeted messaging platform for feedback, surveys, promotional offers etc. Can scale globally.

Next time you want to get a message across – try snail mail

Here’s an A/B test we did..

A random set of customers, who have been inactive since the past 6 months were selected. A letter was drafted, that talked a about how we’ve improved in the last 6 months and a personalized coupon code was included with the letter to incentivize them to give us one more shot. This letter was delivered via email to one half (of the inactive set) and via snail mail to the other half.

We decided to measure the efficacy by seeing how many people actually ended up shopping using the coupon codes sent. The result was counter-intuitive to me – snail mail converted 5x better.

Is it just the amount of spam that people receive everyday, rendering email much less effective (or attention grabbing) than receiving an old fashion letter? Perhaps it is Gmail’s new tabbed interface to blame to some extent.. we have seen our open rates go down since.