Juggernaut experiment, a few weeks later.


Juggernaut

In one of my previous post I mentioned about the wonderful publishing experiment ongoing under the project name Juggernaut. A few weeks into the experiment I am here to share my thoughts and my experience so far.

First things first, the Content Delivery tool (the mobile App) is excellent in terms of content discovery (by virtue of simple yet unique categorization of content as per the reading habits and genre choices), reading interface (friendly & easy to read fonts along with proper brightness and colour combinations),  effortless navigation, and flawless order flow. The App is class apart, and the whole team needs to be applauded for achieving this class so early into the journey.

[Praise for the Juggernaut App is also important for one simple reason – It looks like a well researched App, instead of blindly copying from multiple other Apps. The research team’s work is impressive. 9 out of 10 Apps these days forget to do their basic homework, this App is unlike those 9 useless Apps.]

Juggernaut Team

When the App was launched a few weeks ago, they rightfully adopted the mass media to talk about their product to gain some awesome audience interest. I would say, the founders are wonderfully leveraging their media experience and connections. Full marks for adopting such a strategy. But what made me impressed was that the moment you got hold of their App and even before you wondered what next to do you saw the face of Sunny Leone (who has written a book for Juggernaut). I bet, most of the Indian readers couldn’t have just ignored the App and would have got enough kick to go ahead and explore the App. No wonder, the Android App has been downloaded more than 50k times, something which remains a dream for most of the companies.

In continuation to the adopted strategy, the team understood one of the realities pretty quickly – A user needs a push to start using the Juggernaut platform. They needed something for free to experiment and spend some time using the product. Hence they periodically gave away some of the books for free. Even I got two books, one by Khushwant Singh (who doesn’t like reading Khsuhwant Singh), and the one about Mumbai Mafia (I so wish to read it as quickly as possible). I am sure many people would have started to get a hang of the platform and the kind of content it aspires to deliver.

But one question got hooked in my mind – Is it possible to keep an audience base of around 100k reader hooked with so little content? I know they have just started and they are really pushing content at a pace quicker than the rest of the market, but it still not enough. Like I am purposely delaying the next book because I know that I don’t have anything to read until these guys release those promised books by Prashant Kishore and Sankarshan Thakur. (Yet again, I really like their strategy of keeping a reader in waiting mode for the upcoming books. Just like people wait for the movies after watching the trailer.)

Sometimes, a user will have to wait for his kind of content, and that would actually make the customer go back to his old means of consumption and if that happens, he might uninstall the App (which would make it another challenge for the company to earn the customer back on to the platform).

Next thing, what if I want to read the content on some other device? The company has not developed that solution as of now. But they will have to.

Thinking about the cash-flows, what if people don’t buy stuff? Because I doubt if Indians are really interested in reading books. Most of the times they are happy to read smaller articles and hence ignore the awesomeness of reading an elaborate script. This could be turn the whole idea towards futility. And in such a situation, the company needs to come up with alternate plans to monetize the platform. (I have a little fear that this platform will need to adopt those monetization sooner than I believe.)

Do they face any competition? Yes and No. Publishing & Content distribution business is dependent and divided by only two factors – Content and Medium of distribution. In this case, Content being distributed is mostly exclusive, and the medium of distribution is also exclusive in terms of App/Devices. So, in essence Juggernaut’s ideal audience is the one who wants to read ebooks, on a mobile screen, and he is capable of paying for his exclusive reading genre. The competition comes from two sides – Content Exclusivity (who all create exclusive content?) and the Devices which are already have enough content to keep the audience hooked. The obvious answer comes from those tabloids and article churners who have their own Apps (or are content aggregators) and the Devices (like Kindle) which have millions of ebooks behind them. I hope the company knows how to sail through this competition.

As of now, I am absolutely hopeful that Juggernaut has the potential to keep us hooked and away from stray content available over internet. But they need to really strive hard to keep us away from our Kindle devices.

 

 

Amazon 2.0 : Private Labels!


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A recent report by Recode.net suggests that Amazon will soon start selling its own brand of snacks, diapers and detergents. And it is just a matter of time when Amazon Prime members will exclusively get the first taste of Amazon’s brands like Happy Belly and Mama Bear. And prima facie, this move by Amazon can not to be taken lightly by any of those companies who are going to turn into competitors of Amazon pretty soon.

Two factors which actually intensifies the situation are – a) The increasing penetration of online buying for daily needs across the globe; and b) The impressive reach of Amazon in the major markets, including more than 50% of US e-commerce market. This move is sure going to be a trend-changer, or a trend  maker.

While it might not be anything new for a company to adopt Private Label route to increase its effectiveness in the market, the timing of doing so is what makes the whole difference and brings the impact. In past, we have seen companies adopt this route to cut costs, or increase its profitability, or to eliminate their dependence on specific brands. But how many times have you seen a company adopt private label route to establish an increased ‘dominance’ in the market? Probably none so far. I have little or absolutely no doubt that this move by Amazon is certainly going to impact the revenues of several companies, including the ones who are selling on Amazon platform since years. And this also enables Amazon, at least theoretically, to expand its presence beyond the online arena and compete with these consumer brands on their home turf – the offline retail.

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Having shared my thoughts on the Amazon’s masterstroke, a question which remains in my mind – Is it an ethical move? As a platform whose primary goal was to enable retailers/manufacturers sell anything and everything from a single outlet, wasn’t neutrality (towards all its sellers) the founding pillar of the business? Will owning a brand and selling it on the same platform not translate to conflict of interest? To me, it certainly appears like overriding the very founding principles on which the whole company flourished. And some repercussions will soon appear from different segments with-in the market segments.

What is most interesting is that now, it is going to become de-facto strategy for most of the marketplaces across the world (including Indian e-commerce marketplaces) to adopt and promote private label items on their platform to meet the profitability and penetration targets. Like, I can imagine Flipkart racing towards its own line of Fashion & Accessories brands (apart from what it already owns at Myntra), or SnapDeal employing Chinese companies to manufacture SmartPhones for them. All this is bound to happen.

[As a side note, its not that Indian e-Commerce companies were not trying similar things earlier. They approached this problem by incubating suppliers like WS Retail, CloudTail etc. Which was another form of Private Label. However, the recent regulatory move by Government of India has restricted the role of such incubated private label sellers. However, now the chances are very high that private labels floated by these e-commerce biggies will open the floodgates.]

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But how will Amazon India benefit from it? Well, that depends on what Flipkart & SnapDeal (and others like ShopClues & Jabong) choose to do. Let’s say, all these home grown brands adopt the private label route and flood the market. In such a case, Amazon India will become a de-facto platform for selling those originally popular brands to Indian consumers, and hence making Amazon India attract a more price insensitive consumers, and hence lift the company towards profitability & dominance. [If they adopt private label route, Amazon India won’t take that route for sure.]

And what if the e-Commerce biggies of India do not take the the private label route and continue to operate as always? Amazon India will have to suppress its itch to adopt private labels in India, and continue playing its patient game while watching Flipkart & SnapDeal bleed every day.

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Is there anyone who remains unaffected by Amazon’s private label adoption strategy? Well yes, the Chinese e-Commerce companies. They were anyway playing the game behind the secured boundaries provided by the Chinese government. They will continue get ideas from Amazon to up their game in the domestic as well international markets, but remain absolutely unaffected when it comes to serving those 1.3 billion consumer at home.