Category Archives: Pondi’s Book of Business Ideas

PBBI: Twitter for Project Teams

For each project that you are working own, have a twitterish project group where people can post project updates – so you know at a snapshot what’s happening.

According to Kani, these start-ups are serving that need:,

They offer the above and much more.


Pondi’s Book of Business Ideas : Amazon Anywhere

A while back I was at Landmark, shopping for books and I felt really handicapped by the lack of relevant information. There were so many books and I hadn’t done my research about which one I wanted to buy so I was just ‘browsing’ – which is always fun – and I can spend hours in a bookshop – but on this occasion I could not. I wanted to find something nice and then head to whatever I had to attend to afterwords. There were the blurbs, there were the endorsement style reviews – but I so craved for an Amazon rating, or a third party review or the ability to find similar titles based on what I had read, or new titles based on what I might want to explore.

So I thought a great business idea would be to have something like ‘Amazon Anywhere’.

Amazon Anywhere LogoConcept: Pick out your phone, scan the bar code using your phone camera, hook on to GPRS/EDGE/Wi-Fi or perhaps an in-store BluZone (The bluetooth zones which found limited  popularity in malls for sometime – I don’t see them now perhaps because there might’ve been too much spam advertising!) and get some information about the title you are looking at.

Infact, when Android came out with it’s app challenge, I thought that would be a real cool app to make. Some issues were apparently the inability of camera phones to read regular bar codes (I believe they need 2-dimensional bar codes to work).


Then today I saw a video which showed me how limited my vision was. Limited because I couldn’t think beyond the available infrastructure and limited because I wasn’t thinking beyond books.

Guys, This is how the ‘relevant information’ will be delivered to you in the future – becoming a ‘sixth sense’ to your existing quintet. Watch Pattie Mae from MIT media Lab describe the sixth sense to you – her research student Pranav Mistry is the genius behind it.

six_sense1 six_sense2

The guy got a standing ovation at TED! Man, that must’ve been something (Matlab, main ek baar TED dekh aaon to apne aapko dhanya samjhoonga). I’m very VERY jealous, and yet very proud..

A Bollywood Stock Exchange

Sometime back I read a fascinating book called the Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. The book talks about how and under what conditions crowds can be wiser than the individual. It makes for an engaging read and is packed with interesting anecdotes (though some arguments are not entirely well supported – the author relies a lot on stating thoughts which may intuitively appeal to the reader rather than defending them with evidence or logic – can’t help it – Freakonomics spoilt me).

Anyway, a very interesting concept in the book is that of decision markets. You can learn more about them here on Wikipedia.

Apparently the likes of HP, Microsoft, Google use it internally, and there are several other projects which rely on the same.

One such example mentioned by Surowiecki was the Hollywood Stock Exchange – who actually sell their data to Movie Studios.

Which got me thinking – how about a Bollywood Stock Exchange – in our stocks-crazy movie-crazy nation wouldn’t this do exceedingly well? As usual, that called for a logo:


Turns out some guys have already come up with a similar service for India – and they are not just covering bollywood, but sports and current affairs. Haven’t gotten a chance to slice-and-dice their business model – but at any rate a promising site. All the best guys!


For a counterpoint, read the ever eclectic Taleb who says decision markets are for suckers!

Blogathon: Carpool your way to solve the Traffic Problem in Your City

Five years ago, it used to take me 40 minutes to reach IIT Gate from Gurgaon (even in a Roadways bus) in rush hour traffic. Today – it is at least 1hr 15mins or upwards to traverse the same distance.

Let me first make an appeal first – we should try and figure out what we can do to help the traffic condition in the city instead of whining about what the government should do to solve the traffic problem in the city. Whether it is (a) the public transport system b) Introducing a road tax  c) Better Roads d) Fining errant drivers – all these processes are basically time-consuming because of either infrastructural requirements or political and systemic issues. Thus, till some of these actually do come to pass, we should look for solutions within our current set of constraints.

An interesting poster from Wikipedia
I think one great way to do it, is to enage in carpools. In my perspective – and I might be underinformed here, carpooling is not terribly popular in and around Delhi (simple empirical evidence includes the sheer number of cars with lone drivers) – whatever car pools there might be – are probabaly within the domains of a college or organisation – which is hardly car pooling because in that case you are just sharing rides with your friends.


What I perceive as a carpool is something that I experienced in Germany, when I had to take a ride from Dresden to Berlin. There you have a website called [I know, no point trying to pronouce it]. The premise is really simple – say I have a car and am driving to Berlin from Dresden – I post that on the website, interested people can call me, and then join me for the ride upon sharing the fuel cost.

Here, as an occasional commuter – I have hardly had the chance to carpool.

I think there is a definite opportunity there which has not been fully tapped.

Some top-of-mind issues which a carpooling service will need to tackle:

1] Besides round-the-week travel which is more structured, it should also be able to cater to occasional commuters.

2] Security is of utmost concern – especially for women.

3] A way for the concerned parties to communicate easily.

4] Finding coherent routes. Say if I drive from Gurgaon to GK-II, I can have people who might want to get off at intermediate stops

5] Coordinating time: With the Indian Standard Time ruling supreme, impunctuality on one person’s part can ruin it for the other person.

So far I know of two variants of carpooling services that exist online. One is a general format where an Auto Classified website also has carpooling as a section. For example, Indimoto carpool section. Here you can post whether you want a ride, or can give one – which are chronologically arranged as forum posts (they look like cheap ads). Issues: the postings are few and extremely infrequent, they primarily cater to round-the-week travel. 

Another much more sophisticated variant is KoolPool. It’s membership bases – so secure and uses SMS to communicate (and even match routes I think). Though they seem to have not signed up very many people (764 in all – assuming 3 per car now and 1 per car before – that’s only about 510 vehicles off the road), even though I first heard of them launching in 2006. But so far it’s only in Mumbai and Pune.

So, I think there is much to be done here: How about a KoolPool variant for Delhi/NCR? How about a Facebook app which enables carpool within a network? How about a variant?

Whatever it might be, carpooling can definitely be a faster solution than government reforms to at least reducing the traffic problem in our cities if not solving it.


Pondi’s Book of Business Ideas: Idea 5 – What Job?

Back in IIT, during our recruitment days, the burning question used to be (and probably still is) – career choice. Should I get a core job or study further? If not a core job, should it be Business Research, or should it be Finance? Should it be Consulting or Sales & Marketing? Or if nothing works out, should I get the worst-case-scenario IT job or take the CAT to make up for past CGPA sins?

Two years after graduation, I am glad and quite content to have founded a company, but had I been doing a job, I would have been none the wiser. What’s worse is that, when my juniors ask me for advice, it saddens me to see them going through the same motions. The professors on the other hand, rue the fact that students are much more interested in joining Finance and Consulting jobs than their core departments – I hear people are doing certification courses from the National Stock Exchange while at IIT. (I guess I have no locust standi to whine about our ‘engineering talent’ getting wasted – considering I wasted no time in switching job profiles). 

A part solution to this problem is to increase the amount of information available and its dessemination which is where ‘What Job?’ comes in.

Product Name: What Job? [The inspiration for the name comes from Manoj Jhanwar]



One-Line Description: ‘What Job?’ would be a blog, podcast and wiki about careers.

Long Description: 

At the very outset, the blog and podcast would comprise interviews with people in all kinds of careers and at all kinds of positions – asking them about their sectors, their profiles, their educational background, the pros and cons of the job, and what someone should do if the want to make it there.

Another aspect could be to serve as guide to the recruitment process in different companies and sectors. So one could have audio recordings of mock (or even real) interviews [recruitment interviews] , Recruitment data from colleges (if it can be provided) etc.

We can also have workplace videos – an attempt to understand what kind of work culture do different sectors and different companies entail.

The wiki would be a ‘job wiki’ and will take care of the chinks in the blog/podcast till the content there is built up. We will have wiki articles on careers, companies, b-schools, educational programs, degree courses, important people within an industry and so on.

How will it make money?

Again this is one of those ideas where money isn’t the primary driver – it’s public good. However, it never hurts to make an organisation self-sustained so it’s worth thinking about how this thing would make money. Besides the obvious first answer to all content-driven internet businesses (advertising), what else can we do? a) We can do slightly smarter advertising. For example, imagine at the end of every post puts in contextual links to, ‘apply for this job’, ‘hire for this position’, ‘apply to this company’ etc. b) Another could be having an associated job board – though I am not entirely sure how the publisher makes money in the case of a job board.


I think one of the main issues will be that the content could end up being too politically correct. Who would like to publicly state that their company sucks/job sucks? The wiki pages might be edited to portray companies in a positive light. Plus, I wonder if any of the things described here would effectively aggregate the varied opinions of people on different things.

Off-topic: Came across another site which posts business ideas – at the rather ambitious rate of 1 everyday –

Pondi’s Book of Business Ideas : Idea 4 – Indiscover


Product Name: Indiscover

Logo (first draft):

Short Description: A community (web-enabled and physical) of college students across India, learning and sharing the history and heritage of India, and and then reusing that knowledge as part-time tour guides to make some money.

Long Description:

Indiscover marries three things.

a) The ignorance of youth about India’s heritage, culture and history. True for some, not true for others but definitely true for me. And yes I do give a damn about it.
b) The thriving travel industry is bringing in the tourists – sure. but is the ‘content’ matching up to the demand – are there any well qualified tour and travel guides – not Lonely Planets but real people? I had taken a trip to the Taj Mahal back in my college days – in our group were two firangs who decided to hire a guide to tell us what the Taj was all about. This man clearly seemed a lot more interested in urban legends and unconfirmed fables than telling us anything useful about the Taj.

c) We all need pocket money :)

Perhaps they can even meet some interesting new people in the process.

How will it be enabled?

It would make sense to start it as small local communities first in areas with thriving student populations (such as Delhi/Mumbai). Get some historians/teachers willing to participate and conduct “heritage trips” where students travel around learn about a city and “heritage sessions”(on topics where actual locational visits are not possible). Back it up with a web portal where these people can interact, share – not just with their own local community but with others as well. This portal also becomes the resource for travellers to look for “Indiscover Buddies” (that at least sounds better than part-time tour guide).

How will it make money ?

It may sound like a non-profit organisation, but it shouldn’t be (because I think those are inherently unsustainable). Also, unless it makes money – for itself and for the students – it will just fizzle out. It may seem all nice and patriotic to learn about history for a bit – but then everyone will find something else to do.

The question is that do we leech off a small fraction of money that the students get paid or take a different approach. It probably be worthwhile to explore the latter. Can the Indiscover portal provide paid content such as audiobooks, or video tours taken during the heritage walks? Need to give this a little more thought.

Issues: Mindset – The reservations that the youth has about “petty” jobs. While in western countries working at a McDonald’s is probably the first job youngsters do – here such jobs are inevitably for the lowly. Limited Availability and Accessibility – This is a BIG one. Part-time automatically implies limited availability. Accessibility will become an issue as soon as we try and expand beyond the student rich areas. Will a tourist ever find an ‘Indiscover Buddy'(am I overdoing the buddy bit already?) in Khajuraho? Or even in popular places like Agra. Can Indiscover be that grassroot? Perhaps vella college students might be more than willing to actually travel all the way – which poses more problems – who pays for their travel – and whom do they travel with?

Existing Stuff:

Around putting a layer of content on travel. Vertical Social Networking services like OkTataByeBye (A MakeMyTrip initiative), Geobeats – a service with professional travel videos from around the world.

Around learning about India. The only organised thing I can think of are the India Habitat Centre walks (none of which I have taken – but have heard about them).

Pondi’s Book of Business Ideas: Idea 3 –

Well, time for another business idea. This is something I have been dying to work on – if only I had the time.

Product Name:


bookish logo

For now the dot in i is a dog-eared page, and the text in all its web-do-point-do-ish goodness has a reflection.


Bookish is primarily an aggregator with three things in one: a) A local book metasearch engine b) comparison site for books c) a platform for physical bookstore owners to sell books online.

The Interface

A Google-simple search box where you can search for a books. It searches through all the physical bookstore catalogues in the vicinity (say Delhi NCR) and comes up with a list of results with price comparisons. Subsequently, depending on what all distribution methods a particular bookstore offers, you can either call them/pick the book up/order it online.

The Need

Relevance to a consumer: There no one-stop-shop for books in India. Either you have to visit 2-3 bookstores to find the book you want, or you crawl through online bookstores pretty much all of which suffer from a lack of good collection of books (by the way I had this view for a bit which it appears has been challenged – to be explained later), and have really trashy websites (This seems pretty chronic). Also some people may not be inclined to shop online and wait for a few days for their books to arrive. Bookish solves all these problems by a) collecting data from multiple stores (so good collection of books – which can technically cover all possible books given enough participating stores) b) best prices (through comparisons) c) consumer chooses mode of transaction (go and pick it up from the actual store/home delivery via phone/online purchase)

What will make or break it?

Of course it has no relevance if you cannot convince physical bookstores that this is a good idea. What’s going for them is – an online presence, increased possibility of purchase and a new sales channel (if they choose to sell books online – By the way, Bookish makes this easy for them by introducing standard packaging methods, courier relationships and customer support. Thus they just need an inventory of books which they already have).

On the flip side they may choose not to share their catalogues – as they may not be too keen on making their prices comparable and thus visible to all. They probably can’t exercise differential pricing then. Or they may prefer an individual web presence rather than a collaborative one (especially us Bhartiyas). Some may even have some sort of a rudimentary or extensive web presence and would rather not be a part of this project.


a) It can also search through the catalogues of online bookstores and give you the results for comparison – in a much better interface. I don’t know how feasible is this though – most of these sites probably don’t have a formal method such an API to integrate with them and scraping results off them might be illegal – for example, I remember Bixee had some issues with Naukri. (Link)

b) Each book search also links to book reviews on Amazon, popular book blogs and newspaper book reviews. This will be more efficient than Google. Also all book review sources can be voted up or down by users – fine tuning the best set of resources on the web for book reviews.

c) A used book listings area where people can add books they are willing to sell or exchange and even these are indexed in the search results. By the way you may be interested in reading about Alibris when it comes to the used books market. A good analysis is done in the book The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. Meanwhile you can read what it is here and book notes on the relevant chapter in the Long tail here – pretty good. It also mentions LibraryThing by the way – one of my absolute favorite web-based services – just learnt on Wikipedia that they also have a book swapper feature. Here is my page with some functional tags (have to add more books here). (Link)

d) A “Me is a Third World Sucker” feature whereby, people who are travelling outside the country post their trips and other users can request them to buy the books that are not available in India. (Guess I am inspired here from – an online hitch-a-ride system in Germany which works rather well). Come to think of it, this “Third World Sucker” thing can probably stand on its own as a Pondi’s Business Idea.

How will it make money?

As far as costs of running Bookish are concerned a bunch of things can help – it can keep it’s costs low by not maintaining an inventory at all. Second it can recruit college students to help digitise physical bookstore catalogues and sales (wishful thinking?). It can make money through internet advertising (don’t they all), but also referral fees from participating bookstores and a fraction of the sales done online.

Links and some thoughts on existing online/physical bookstores in India.

Online Trashy website. Bad search. “If it’s in print it’s with us!” – Searching for “art of the start” in Books>Title gets no results. Also for the books they dont have, they probably order them from Amazon and then ship ’em to you – which is why they are as expensive as their dollar price and take 21 days to ship. (Link) This is where I would like to retract my statement about online bookstores not having a good collection. Looks like after Fabmall rebranding itself as Indiaplaza they have done some serious rejigging in their books section. I found pretty much all the books I looked for (though the search can get better). Also they have an annual membership program for Rs. 500 – and you get 25% off on ALL books (plus a free book for Rs. 500 or less). I had gone there looking for something else and ended up buying the membership. Oh and the “Price Challenge” is a sham by the way – they don’t even reply to those emails. Well, I know the site is nothing to talk about – but you get some 20-25% discount and I did get the books I had ordered once.

Also, if you wish visit, (this site is quite unfortunate considering how amazing the Landmark bookstore otherwise is)

Also an article on online book sales in India here.


My personal favorite is Midland, Aurobindo Market. Amazing collection and you always get a 15-20% discount. They have just opened in Ph I market DLF. Yay!

Also noteworthy, as per some of my friends (though I haven’t shopped here much), is Bahrisons in Khan Market. Browsing around bookstores in CP is a lot of fun – especially the old/used books’ seller near Nizam’s.

Of the big chains in Delhi (Om, Landmark, Crossword) Landmark is hands down the best – very well catalogued and an equally well informed staff.

To make this post even longer here are some sites I discovered which are doing PBBI kinda stuff.

1. //” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

A rocking idea – hope these guys do well. And I wish I can spend some more time on Ideawicket. They are based in Delhi by the way.
2. //” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Seems similar to what I am doing with PBBI (of course, with some minor readership differences :))

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Someone linked to this on the Ideawicket suggestion page. Couldn’t get time to look through much, though the site is designed well. It’s an Irish site.

On Music: DRM (or the lack thereof)

Well, looks like a letter from Steve Jobs is worth a a million consumers’ requests. In a landmark announcement today EMI and Apple have agreed to sell non-DRMed music through the iTunes store. This is literally a game-changing, paradigm-shifting, earth-shattering decision. Some details here and here.

In my last post on Music, I had said that I “hope that India might set a different yet successful example” by selling non DRM’ed music online. But now since it is too late to set an example, at least it can follow suit?

I had this post half written – I am so glad that I am rewriting about the DRM debate in the past tense.

Instead of delving into the topic myself, let me just point out some useful links. You can read the Wikipedia entry on DRM here , Nick Carr observes here how DRM is much less about copyright protection and much more a business strategy – also points out some early EMI attempts to sell DRM free music. Bravo EMI! Mike Arrington directs us to a story where a Music Tax was being recommended as an alternative to DRM. Ha! Though this might not be all that outrageous. In Korea subscription music is a successful business model.

A campaign in the 1980s against Home Taping as it amounted to copyright infringement here. Spoofs on the campaign logo should make for good T-Shirt material.
The original logo.

A Contentsutra article that says digital music in India has surpassed physical music sales. Digital music here refers to mobile music like ringtones which amount for a whopping 88% if the industry’s revenues. I find that VERY hard to digest.

My (Pondi’s Book of Business Ideas) solution to this issue was to have a flexible conditional DRM. The prime purpose of DRM is to stop illegal sharing. However, sharing is the most potent form of word-of-mouth marketing for the music business and by preventing sharing moderately popular and upcoming artists would lose a lot of their audience. Thus my solution was that when a song was new and not selling as much – it should be sold DRM free, and as it rises up the popularity charts, a DRM can be applied. Anyway, I am assuming that ab to na raha baans so no need to bajao the bansuri (Eggxactly)

Some articles on alternative music models trying to find a middle ground between copy protection, consumer rights and commerce are here, here and here. Amie’s Street was the most interesting among these where they sold DRM-free music for free! (Actually, as a song rose the popularity charts its price increased based on consumers recommendations – “RECs”)

I think music should always be Accessible (a music store can be found on every nook and corner in India and online music will be available wherever there is Internet access), Platform-independent (the CDs and cassettes I used to buy worked on all CD players/Cassette players. Digital music has the chance of taking that a step further – playable on music players, CD players and mobile phones) and Shareable (Music is so much more fun when you share it with your friends. I miss the mixed tape bonding days of my younger years. Living on borrowed music till you could save enough to buy the original CD full with album artwork and more.)

Also a round-up on what exists in India right now, at least what I could find.

Online Music Store(s)

Soundbuzz(Site does not open in Firefox.): Windows Media DRMed music. Hindi songs from Rs. 9 upwards. If you an Airtel broadband customer, you can buy music by logging into your Airtel account and it would be billed to you at the end of the month.

Social Networking Services

Saffron Connect (A site trying to be everything to everyone) Audio (Streaming music as well as downloads posted by members)

Music Downloads within a specific Genre

RSJ Online (Some real good stuff here)

Streaming Music

Split Magazine (Indian Rock and Independent Music)

Radioverve (Indian Rock and Independent Music)

MusicIndiaOnline (Bollywood, Indipop and Regional)

DesiHits (US based, Punju, Bollywood and Desi). Have VC backing as well.

Blogging via Email: Blogmailr

Another idea I thought of recently: Allowing Blogging via email.

There are so many people I know who would be completely lost navigating through the Dashboards for Blogger or WordPress. This learning curve denies them the joy of Blogging.

So, How cool would it be if you could marry the ubiquitous email with Blogging?

A Google search revealed that such a service already exists – Blogmailr. Evidently it is quite recent, November 2006, founded by a company called Telligent.

And it solves most things which people would want with Blogging. Tags, Drafts (Save it as an email draft!), Formatting (will see with this post). The only thing it does not allow is editing a blog post.

By the way, I am posting this from Blogmailr, so let’s see how well it works.

Pondi’s Book of Business Ideas: Idea 2 –

In my extended family and my friends circle, I have the dubious distinction of being the ‘Bhaand’. So besides being expected to dance away at every potential moment (which honestly, is something I quite enjoy), another something which my bhaailog expect from me is to have the right music for a party. Unfortunately, practically all of my music collection these days is a combination of Alt Rock and Hindi Film music, and at any rate not enough of the fare you would need to have a dance party. So, second in the PBBI series is a idea which I thought of when last contacted by my cousin brother for arranging the music for his house party.

Product Name
: (The domain name by the way is unavailable, owned by someone in Mumbai)

Jab Bhi, Kuchh Bhi

Description: Q: Which is the one thing that house parties always seem to not have enough of, or of the right kind? A: Music. would be your Broadband DJ – a music streaming site specifically catering to people organising a house party, but in no mood and with no money to hire a real DJ.

Product Logo: Maybe the O can look like a drum, and the j like a martini glass. (Too banal?)

Details: The way it would work is this. Bajao’s servers host all the latest and greatest dance tracks on it’s servers. You have a party, you logon to, create a playlist with the tracks you want played, and have the music stream over your broadband connection during the party – making it a rocking success and you a perfect host. The Bajao technology also enables numerous DJing effects like crossfading, scratch, mixing etc. Integral to would be a social networking element where people not only can create and share playlists but also share stuff like cocktail recipes, food ideas and the like. Additionally it could have special playlists created and the music recorded by celebrity DJs bringing the Elevate experience to your own house.

Show me the money: a) Since there would an obvious cost of music acquisition, and possibly major copyright issues (will get to that later), one way to make money could be to charge a small fee for each hour of music played. This would seem justified because to get that music otherwise you either paid money to get it from the store (you’d say but I own what I buy from the store – will get to that as well) , or spent a fair amount of time acquiring it from your friends. b) Another obvious route (though, from what I hear, unproven as yet in India) would be online advertising – it will not compromise user experience, because of kind the service that if offers, allows it. c) One can buy a custom CD/Tracks from an online music store from his playlist. There could be a revenue share element between Bajao and the online store/custom CD maker. (You would say then why would I use Bajao again, if I already have the music? It might work, because you don’t have a party everyday, plus dance music is quite shortlived – there isn’t really a concept of ‘classics’ the way it it with other music styles.)

Pros: a) Since a party is a one-time affair, ownership is not necessary an issue. I am fine dancing to Jamelia’s Superstar at a party but I may not necessarily want to own it. It is inefficient for me to go and buy it. If I have a broadband connection and Bajao – bingo! I have it when I want it the way I want it b) Social Networking features – which party organiser would not want premade and well rated playlists with cocktail recipes to boot?

Cons/Bottlenecks: a) The obvious one firstBandwidth – which seems to practically non existent in India, and bandwidth is VERY important. I can’t stream music over 64kbps, because the bad quality would sound even worse on a high volume deck. Also, imagine the track stopping in between because of insufficient buffering – complete disaster. b) Copyright issues – as is always the case with music, plus the rhetoric around the whole issue has subconsciously affected all of us. It could jeopardise the custom CD part of the business. But the core service IS like radio so it should be feasible in some manner (though Internet radio, at least in the US, is governed by different laws than terrestrial radio, as a result of which they have to pay higher royalties compared to normal terrestrial radio) c) Does it address a broad enough market or is it a mere subset? Internet radio companies might see it as an addon for example.

Competition: Satellite radio companies could be a big ones, and they have no Bandwidth issues. Although it lacks the interactivity of the web as of today. (Worldspace by the way does not count – as it plays the same music over and over again, at least on all channels I hear). It’s quite possible that such a service exists, but I havent googled this idea as yet (a cardinal sin) – updates as and when.

Damn, I don’t have a quote to go for this one. Nevermind, shall add later.