MAGIC BOX

Friday, February 26, 2010

Great response for Pi

There is excitement all around our office because of the great response we have been seeing for Pi, for example, see the hands-on review by our customer Chirag Patnaik which has real nice snaps of the Pi displaying India Today magazine!

In fact, the response has been so good that our first batch of Pis are sold out, and we have started shipping the second batch (as seen below)!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Delivering the first Pis ourselves

One of the biggest pluses in a startup is that you get to experience, first-hand, the delight of the customer - after all, that's the foundation of any business.

The downside of being an online startup is that we do not see our customer at all.

To remedy this, we have a tradition of everyone taking turns to interact with customers.

This time, we delivered the first Pis ourselves.

That moment of wow expressed by the customer after opening the packaging was worth it :)

 

 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Photos of Pi ready to be shipped to you!

Today marks a milestone in our company's history, and hopefully for your reading as well - Here are the Pis in our office about to be delivered to our eager customers!





 

  


 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Struggle

Continuing from Building a Company, Vishal says:

"There are so many things that can go wrong in a startup. We had no experience of running a business beyond being employees. One of our partners quit due to personal reasons and the remaining team had to regroup. It was disheartening but we were patient and worked on rebuilding momentum. But, then, our office neighbour was drilling a common wall and hit a water pipe which flooded our office. Most of the equipment including our servers were soaked in water. We rescued much of the office; and our website still runs on the salvaged servers! :).  Similarly, to create digital product catalogs, we made significant investment in getting expensive automated cameras and related gear just to realize that we did not need to spend so much on the hardware in the first place and a simple camera would work just fine with software processing.  Such is the startup life.

"We learned that things will not go smoothly and that you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and get the job done. You can't have a specialist to do everything that you don't know how to do yourself. If you go in with that attitude, then you will get paralyzed because you will run into things that you don't know how to approach. More importantly, you will make mistakes, and you have to learn and try not making the same mistake again.

"We worked day and night to create the software infrastructure. We wanted to create an experience which would exceed customer expectations. Launching with an automobile store was one way to fund our growth as there was monetization associated with generating leads, while we continued building our retail software infrastructure. We launched the automobile store in October of 2007. Literally, in the first few days, we had interest from customers across India and we were totally unprepared to handle volumes. We were shocked to see that customers showed interest in purchasing new cars and bikes online in India. While there was offline customer follow-up required in closing a transaction, we had tied up with dealers and, in some cases, manufacturers across all major cities. To take a step towards closing the transaction online, we launched a gift voucher program for major car and bike brands that could be redeemed across any dealer location across India. 

"One of the hardest things about the Internet is that you don't see your customers. When you don't have a store to go to, you're trying to find ways to understand what they're experiencing. So we made everyone on the floor take customer calls. The day job for everyone was to do customer service and the night was spent fixing software to make customer experience better. I think attending customer calls during our early days was a blessing and our company culture to care and obsess on customer requirements grew from there. We started fixing hundreds of small but annoying things that made the customer experience better. We still continue the tradition of answering customer calls.

"While we worked very hard in early days, the income from leads and advertisement was not significant. The first problem was that customers who showed interest in purchasing were genuine but closing a transaction was not immediate (at a physical dealer location). The other problem was that customers who registered interest in vehicles almost never returned - people do not wake up and think of buying a vehicle everyday if you have recently purchased. That's when we started thinking of services tied to products and added a car rental section which started generating leads and additional revenue. We also started understanding buying patterns, analyzing information, and formed business decisions based upon this information. So that is where data warehousing and data mining and that sort of thing became very important to us, to help us build a strategy for our business. That is how we realized we needed to quickly build more online retail stores and develop a superb supply chain, because customers started asking us about music players for cars, navigation systems, bike helmets etc.

"There are a thousand little things that impact the customer, and we wanted to be at least 10 percent better than anybody else. I think that's exactly what we continue to do: stay focused on all the tiny little details that matter to customers."

Stay tuned in for more stories behind-the-scenes at InfiBeam, by subscribing to our RSS feed or via email.

Friday, February 19, 2010

PicSquare receives Star Entrepreneurship Award


Congratulations to our sister company PicSquare for receiving the Star Entrepreneurship Award at the 3rd International India Innovation Summit at Mumbai held on 11th Feb, 2010. The winners were chosen by ICEM, Pune.

We are proud of Kartik and the rest of PicSquare team for this award, and to be chosen along with Tata Motors, MindTree, Toyota Kirloskar, and other innovators in their respective fields.

P.S. Our new products at PicSquare include personalized traveller mugs, kids' tiffin boxes and laptop skins. This is a great way to personalize items that you use daily with your favorite memories, favorite stars or even your favorite slogan!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Building a Company

Continuing from The spark that started a company:

The five partners in the company had a vision - to build an excellent ecommerce platform. It was a huge vision for online retailing in India. It included both building world-class ecommerce software as well as building a vast catalog of products and services that can be sourced and fulfilled for retailers in India.

So what were the main hurdles in achieving this vision? Vishal says "There were three main business problems to solve. First, we did not have the technology infrastructure ready to show to retailers and brands; Second, we did not know much about retailing products in India and there was no digital catalog readily available. Lastly, we needed to fund our growth, and hence time to launch and making some income was important. We decided to build our own online retail presence for the consuming India after which, we can offer software as a service to retailers and brands."

Those sound like huge things to accomplish. How did you guys start? "Well, the first thing you do if you want to start a company is you write a business plan, and so, I did that. I wrote an 18-page business plan."

But... many startup people today say that writing B-plans are for wimps and it hardly survives reality? Vishal adds "Writing a B-plan was super helpful. You know that the business plan won't survive its encounters with reality. The reality will never be the plan but the discipline of writing the plan forces you to think through some of the issues and to get mentally comfortable in the space. Then you start to understand that if you tweak this knob, this will move over here, and so on. So, that was the first step."

But... where did you get the money? "The initial startup capital for infibeam.com came primarily from all my personal savings and from my family. This is one of the biggest strengths for an Indian - the support of family. My parents invested their savings in what is now infibeam.com. That was very bold and trusting of them, but made me anxious about making good on their investment! But you have to take risks when you want to chase your dreams, and we got started. We decided to start in Ahmedabad because I was familiar with the city living from my early days and the cost of living is reasonable. We also had some office infrastructure available at very attractive rental and moving to a city where there are some fine institutes like IIM, IIT and many other local engineering colleges proved to be a great decision."

Okay, now that you had some initial idea of the business, how did you tackle the required technical infrastructure? "We went to Bangalore which, in my mind, qualifies as one of the world's capitals for great technical talent. We interviewed many engineers and spent a lot of time on that because that was going to be an important investment - we needed to build the technology that would run the store. Over several trips, we found the best people, who turned out to be the most important colleagues and partners in our history of building Infibeam. I consider ourselves lucky in attracting the best talent at such early stage of the company. From day one, we wanted to build a business and not just earn a living. It's like this: If you get people who are focused only on earning a living, they will pull every bit of money they can out of the company. For me, it is about making something of value. If you want to build a business, take as little out of the company as you can to live on, and plough it back into the business. When the year end comes, if you’ve done well, then you get dividends. We were lucky to find people who understood this."

So what was the initial phase of the company like? "The early blank sheet stage is one of the hardest stages when there is no one in the office but yourself. A lot of work has to be done, just like building a new home -  finding affordable office furniture, initial hiring, getting the company incorporated, and all such simple but several pedestrian tasks. That's how we started - one step at a time. Everyone wants their house to have a good foundation, right plumbing, working lights, etc. right? In this stage of the company, you have to be willing to work hard, and you have to be willing to do a lot of the work yourself, even when you don't know exactly what to do. You need to have enough experience to draw on, especially related to how to build a successful product, how to organize a budget, and how to do those fundamental aspects of running a business."

Stay tuned in for more stories behind-the-scenes at InfiBeam, by subscribing to our RSS feed or via email.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pi in a box

If you're curious on how Pi will be delivered to you, here's a sneak peek into the nice little packaging that Pi will be wrapped in:

The front of the packaging:

 

The back of the packaging:


We hope you will like the Indian touch we have given to the packaging, as well as the clear description on the capabilities of the device.

The Pi on the NDTV Gadget Guru Show

The NDTV Gadget Guru Show reviewed our Pi ebook reader recently and they loved it.

They covered a broad range of aspects, so check out this video to get a good overview of the Pi:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why read books?

So why is InfiBeam focused on books? Because we believe books are an important part of every person's culture and development.

Let us explain.

The well-respected Tehelka magazine conducted a survey about reading across India in the 30 Jan 2010 issue, and there were some really interesting statistics.

Take the reading habits of an average Indian:


It is interesting to note that books are not considered an integral part, but people are open to reading as soon as they are convinced about the value of the book (regardless whether the value is self-development or entertainment, etc.)

The survey goes on to talk about many interesting aspects, such as the motivations for Indians to read books, especially in English, favorite genres as well as about that one single author who has revived the interest in reading in India (can you guess?). This issue is a must-buy if you're a book lover, because you'll get to understand the motivations of other book readers around you. Oh, and you'll definitely never guess the second most favorite author in India (at least as per the surveyed population).

It is sad that books are not being read as much in India, because we truly believe in the importance of books:

The lack of reading is becoming such a pandemic that even the CEO of Google is worried! :
The boss of US Internet giant Google on Friday expressed concern that youngsters growing up in the mobile instant information age will develop a "deep reading" problem.

"The one that I do worry about is the question of 'deep reading'," said Eric Schmidt, the 54-year-old chief executive and chairman of the internet giant, referring to the term used to explain reading for greater comprehension.

"As the world looks to these instantaneous devices... you spend less time reading all forms of literature, books, magazines and so forth," he told the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"That probably has an effect on cognition, probably has an effect on reading."
If you're still not convinced, read about why Seth Godin writes books in spite of writing one of the most popular blogs around:
Out of context, a 140 character tweet cannot change someone's life. A blog post might (I can think of a few that changed the way I think about business and even life). A movie can, but most big movies are inane entertainments designed to make a lot of money, not change people. But books?
The reason I wrote Linchpin: If you want to change people, you must create enough leverage to encourage the change to happen.
Books change lives every day. A book takes more than a few minutes to read. A book envelopes us, it is relentless in its voice and in its linearity. You start at the beginning and you either ride with the author to the end or you bail. And unlike just about any form of electronic media [1], you get to read the book at your own pace, absorbing it as you go.
Closer to home, Tehelka quotes Naseeruddin Shah and Shahana Goswami:




We hope that we have convinced you about the value of books even though the average readership in India is low.

However, the bright side in the survey was the results of this question:


The survey results were:



These are amazing numbers, and glad to know that perhaps, it is the medium of reading that is changing, if not the actual time spent on reading.

Regarding the second part, we are happy to fill in the void by creating Pi, India's first ebook reader.

It looks like the world is going digital and InfiBeam is taking a lead and playing a part in making it happen.

[1] We believe that having a dedicated ebook reader solves the problem of narrow attention span :)

Friday, February 5, 2010

At the World Book Fair, Delhi

We're at the 19th World Book Fair at Pragati Maidan, Delhi. We are located at stalls 274-275 in Hall 1, and we are showcasing Pi, the ebook reader and our eBook store.


 
Demonstrating the Pi

  
Crowds browsing the collection and getting to know about eBooks!

  
Om Puri, the famous actor, checking out the Pi ebook reader 

Om Puri showing off the Pi to others!

  
Star status of Om Puri... and of Pi 


Please do give us a shout if you have visited our stall at the Delhi World Book Fair and let us know your thoughts, comments and inputs.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Monk and the Pi

Many people have been asking us about why they should consider an ebook reader rather than carrying printed books, so we decided to creatively explain it with the help of a monk :)

Here it is:



You can also view the same as a single page or as a video.

Now, if you ever get into a debate about ebook readers, you will have sufficient ammunition to explain the advantages!