Juggernaut experiment, a few weeks later.


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.




Are eTailers really challenging the Retailers?



Let us assume that there are just 3-5% people who are actually shopping online, rest either don’t have means or knowhow of online shopping or their location does not permit them to buy things online. So will still believe that Online shopping is changing anything in India, and specifically for the retailers sitting in their shops?

In the present market like India, two ways of buying is getting very popular – ROPO – Research offline, Purchase Online; OR Research Online, Purchase Offline.
And depending on what you want to buy, you choose your research method and then filter the purchase channel. Lets take a few examples….
1. You want to buy a mobile phone. Now a mobile is not something which you buy in a jiffy, at least not for 99.99% Indians. It needs a thought. You needs a price discovery mechanism. And even before going for prices, you want to understand which features do I really need. What is my peer group using. etc. Now, the easiest way to get this much information is to simply read online. And visit a few online stores and get a sense of what is being sold. So, you research online. And then, depending on the kind of phones you shortlist, you would sure want to get a feel of it. So you walk down to a store in your locality and have the product in your hand. You also get to know the store price of the products and then judge whether the online is cheaper or the store? You finally purchase it wherever its cheaper.
Lesson here – Price discovery is getting easier for a consumer. And this does matter a lot to the retail stores. Their margins have eroded like never before. And even if looks like 3-5% people who buy online, but these 3-5% have totally changed the way how retail stores work – They just can’t afford to charge more than an online store.
[As a matter of fact, electronics market is the worst affected by the online retailing.]
2. You want to buy groceries. For most affluent people (not more than 3-5% people in India), this is a daily hassle which they want to get rid of. I mean who wants to reach out to a vegetable seller and negotiate the prices. The mechanism for price discovery in this market is totally biased towards the cartel of vegetable sellers. So, chances are very high that you won’t be able to buy at your terms. What is the escape – Go to an online grocery store, and order the stuff. You also get the deliveries done at your home.
Lessons here – You just removed yourself from negotiating with the cartel. And hence reducing their pricing power. Instead you chose someone who is giving you an additional service.  And it does affect the sellers – they are losing customers rapidly, because the word spreads like fire in the jungle.
[Online shopping is slowly and silently eating-away the share of retailers, however the market is so big that it will take a few years to show some real impacts. But the impact will be seen for sure.]
Plus there are many more things which are changing day after day, like earlier if you wanted products or services which were not available with your retailer, you were forced to choose an alternative (which was solely the choice of your retailer), now thats just not possible – If you want something, you get it. Irrespective of whether you retailer has it or not. Earlier your retailer had the incentive to not sell the product of your choice, but the competitor’s products (because the margins were richer), but now he has no option but to keep it (even if the margins for him are lower) and hence impact the bottom-line.
Take for example…Every Indian household needs condiments to cook their food. Now this masala business is an interesting business – it’s highly correlated to the advertisements you see on the TV. The higher the Ad spend by the company, more is the demand, and lesser are the margins for the retailer.
So who do you think gives the least margin to the retailers? MDH. And which is the most demanded masala? Again, MDH. But go to any retail kirana store and ask for MDH masala, 60-70% stores just don’t keep it. They simply refuse to keep it, after all the margins offered by MDH are the least in the whole industry. And they keep most of the alternatives. But what if you want to have only MDH masala and nothing else? You force your retailer to keep it by not buying an alternative and ordering it online, and hence take away his recommendation power and fat margins.
That is how these 3-5% online buyers are forcing the retailers to change.

Next time when you visit a shop, irrespective of what it sells, ask yourself the same question – What might be changing in his life because of online shopping? Is is ready to compete with the online brigade? If not, what is going to change in his business? Or else what should he do to stay relevant to his customers. It would sure be an interesting exercise!

[I wrote this answer originally for a question asked to me on Quora, and you can read my original answer here.]