Gap Analysis

August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Here’s a thought provoking term called ‘Gap Analysis’.

According to Wikipedia,

In business and economics, gap analysis is a tool that helps companies compare actual performance with potential performance. At its core are two questions: “Where are we?” and “Where do we want to be?” If a company or organization does not make the best use of current resources, or foregoes investment in capital or technology, it may produce or perform below its potential.

Technically, it refers to the gap between current state and end state. While, I have often done this in the recent past with respect to my life, it is nice to put a name to it! 🙂

Another reason why I think an organization and an individual can be governed using the same set of business theories/strategies!


– Arun Vallappan


HBR Notes : Disruptive Innovation for Social Change

November 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

A personal review of an article titled – Disruptive Innovation for Social Change.

In 140 Characters

Disruptive solutions (ones that are simple, convenient and cheap) are sufficient to address big problems both in private and social sector.

What are Disruptive Innovations

Disrupting innovations as the name suggests are innovations that disrupt or create a dent in the market via products, services, etc. Normally it is via simpler solutions that have been overlooked previously. Or taking advantage of emerging consumer needs. It may not offer all the features/benefits of the current practice. But, they are convenient, cheaper and simpler. This makes disruptive innovations appealing. An example quoted in the HBR is that, South-West Airlines did not offer in-flight refreshments and their initial target market was leisure travelers who did not want to pay huge ticket costs. So, basically the services offered by South-West Airlines were a subset of what was available for air-travelers before their launch. But, they were successful!!

Why incumbents do not score a Home run on Innovation
Incumbent firms, in most cases, never come up with/implement disruptive innovations. This is true in a high number cases and the author makes a very good point on the why part. An incumbent firms’ resources are tailor made to suit their survival. So, pursuing a break-through innovation means neglecting its existing investments. In other words, incumbents choose continued usability of their resources over market/customer needs. This ultimately leads to the demise of incumbent firms.

Simpler solutions unlock new markets
There are several examples of organizations doing this kind of innovation, but most noted and easy to grasp is Micro-lending by Grameen Bank. Another one was brought about by Arvind’ eye hospitals in India. The eye hospital manufactured their own lens at $10 per piece instead of using the ridiculously expensive $140 per piece. More on that can be read here.

Catalytic Innovations and How to identify them

When Disruptive Innovations are applied to Social Sector, they go by the term Catalytic Innovations. As per the HBR piece, few signs could be used to identify such innovations, 1. Whether a new firm is offering low-cost, but high-convenient product/service, 2. Solution sustainability & scalability across geographical regions.

Five qualities catalytic innovators (image credit:hbr)

That’s pretty much what I got! 🙂 Anyone, feel free to correct my opinions! 🙂

– Arun Vallappan

Knowledge Brokers

March 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

You know, sometimes, we cherish and value something (say browse more on something, call up a friend, buy a gift or publish a interesting concept) very closely and for thousands of reasons (from 200% urgent happenings, project delay, parties, etc), that something gets lost in our mind. Only to be stumbled upon later and that evokes a “Shit, how did i forget that”! guilty feeling. 🙂

Today I stumbled on one such thing – Knowledge Brokering by Andrew Hargadon and before I lose it again to outer space, let me write it down. 🙂

While I was preparing for my B-School essays, i happened to read up on this concept. In the simplest terms Knowledge Brokering means – Applying knowledge gained from one area in another entirely different field leading to innovation. For example, the online bus ticketing solution, RedBus did that. IRCTC was already into booking tickets online for trains and was a proven success. But, no one implemented it for buses, which was largely an unorganized sector. Redbus implemented it and made it a huge hit! Why did no one think of that before? That’s the way brokering works!

To highlight the importance of the concept, we all know how big an inventor, Edison was. He has over 1000 patents to his name. But, researchers say, the reason why Edison was able to invent so many things was that his position, interests and work allowed him to be in touch with diverse fields from mechanical to electrical and diverse business lines – Communication, Automation, etc. Basically a cross-pollination of fields!!

[Image] – An innovatively designed pencil with a pen-hook!! Some knowledge broker’s effort!! 🙂

My guess is that – a modern day inventor, creative thinker might need to graze stuff available in diverse fields, observe happenings and probably, if he does not have a great memory power, record everything. In the future, as and when a need arises he would be in a position to leverage his observations!

Is it not?

SMS Short codes

November 22, 2009 § 1 Comment

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been interacting with SMS short code providers on the costs involved to buy one and usage for a particular mobile VAS application. Nowadays, short codes are used for VAS primarily (value added services-weather reports, stock market updates, news, ring-tones, wallpapers, marketing campaigns, product promotions, etc.)

Thought, I would present here what I got from those interactions. My interest in this is from an application developer’s point of view. Anyway, this as a FYI post which might help others looking out for same stuff. Information presented below is not specific to one SMS provider. That’s why some of the costs would be range than a single number.

Some terminologies

Short code: 5- 9 digits (56060, 5601234, etc)

Long codes: 10 digits (Just like our normal mobile numbers, but a national level number setup exclusively under short code usage)

Forwarding URL: Any SMS to a particular number could be forwarded to a URL, say a java servlet hosted on a server, with complete info, sender number, network, entire SMS content. This helps the application developer to use the keywords or ICICI bank staff to sort out into different buckets. From here, a reply could be sent back which could be a standard one like, “Thanks for contacting us. We will get back shortly” or a more customized one based on the SMS content like in downloading ringtones or wallpapers.

Shared code & Keywords: When a code is shared by more than 1 company based on keywords, say, if the SMS is ICICI Mumbai loan, then ICICI is the primary keyword, Mumbai comes as secondary keyword, and loan is the content part. Now, SMS provider would look out for those keywords and based on that, it is identified as one sent in regard to ICICI. In shared code, for each primary keyword, charges need to be paid.

Dedicated code: When a number say 56060 is used only by your company. Charges are higher than shared. Unlimited primary & secondary keywords. All the costs you find below are for dedicated only.

Cost & Time involved for setup, maintenance

  1. 5 digit short code: As per the service providers, it would take almost 1 year to setup with upfront payment over 1 crore. Maintenance cost also comes huge. Or you could read this simply as ‘Affordable only for national players, like AIrtel, SBI, etc’. For every SMS sent by customer, a minimum of Rs. 3 is charged to customer. Can be changed, but involves money.
  2. Long codes 6-9 digits: Costs 30k-15k for setup which could take 3-4 months and 30k-15k as monthly rent. For every SMS sent by customer, a minimum of Rs. 3 is charged to customer. If the sender is to be charged more than Rs. 3 then, setup costs goes up to 1 lakh and monthly rental of 50k.
  3. Long codes 10 digit: Costs 10k-7k for setup which takes 2-3 months, and 10k-7k as monthly rent.

Free reply sms

In all the above 3 plans, the product/application owner gets to send 1 free SMS reply for every incoming SMS received except with 10 digit short codes. But here, you could tie up with a 3rd party vendors. The rates could go down to 3-5 paise/sms for over 1 crore sms’s. Google, bulk sms providers India

Another interesting part is, our personal SIM cards can be inserted to a GSM modem and connected to a computer with RF serial cable and programmed to read the SMS’s sent to this number. But, not sure if it could be used for commercial purposes.

Deducting  money from sender: This is the most important & least regulated part in the whole process. TRAI should be doing something on this pretty soon if it needs Mobile VAS to gain growth.

  1. Charge to pre-paid balance or bill (postpaid): Revenue sharing with operator which could eat up as much as 75% of profits. Maximum amount that could be charged via operator is around 15-20 rupees.
  2. Using Java application: Connect online banking details for the 1st time and use the same subsequently. No revenue sharing. No limit to amount that could be charged
  3. IVR(Interactive-Voice-Response) technology: A SMS sent by customer/sender is followed up with a call where we punch in our credit/debit card info from which money could be deducted. No revenue sharing. No limit to amount that could be charged
  4. Mobile/Online wallet: Cost is deducted from a pre-filled wallet. It works in exactly the same way as a  balance top-up for pre paid sim cards.

As far as I learnt, there is not a single company which has deals with all 24 telecom operators (as of Nov 2009), so, the application developer needs to establish a contract with each one of them initially. Although, it should not be as tough as it reads like. Initially the product may be launched only in metros or single state only. So, work involved could come down drastically.

Following are the providers I spoke to:

Hmm, That’s it! I would update this post, if I go ahead with a service provider for my application 🙂

Arun Vallappan

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