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2020 — Week 2 — Learnings

Balkrishna Agarwal 12 min read

I have started documenting my reading & learning in these blog posts. My first post for the year is at [New Year, New Learnings — Week 1]. People liked the format & one of my friends might start something similar. Great!

The idea is to document my learning, that’s why there are not pictures. The reason there are so many links because they are reference points for future me & also any body else reading this & wants to dig deeper. Expect a lot of Twitter. Twitter is an amazing place where high intellect people hangout & voice their opinions, its my best gateway to knowledge. Love it! Direct me to awesome people there. Let me know of any other medium that does this in a better format.

This is something I have done over the week, so expecting yourself to go through all in one sitting would be a unfair. The best way to use this (if-at-all) would be to use this as a default reading list for the coming week, whenever you have time.

On with the learning. This is going to be a long one.


  1. Awesome how the dots connect when you are conscious about your learning. Remember Don Valentine talking about choosing big markets last week in pt#14. In the Podcast#1 below, Thirukumaran talks about the same. Between these 2 videos, it takes Steve Jobs, 5 years to understand his TAM & User-Persona for NeXT. [Video 1 –1985][Video 2–1990]

  2. Have you ever wondered why did they teach trigonometry in school? See this video on how it becomes useful. After seeing this video, co-relate it to maps & how maps finds the shortest route for you. All my life I kept wondering whats the exact benefits of Maths-Scientists, after seeing this video it becomes apparent to me, how none of todays tech would be possible without the Mathematicians. Its an awesome world. To be honest, I don’t understand more than half of whats being discussed in the video, but just love the process of problem solving. Spoiler alert: Errichto was onto something when he considered pair of any 2 points to be a diagonal of the rectangle. So if you consider this line to be hypotenuse line of a Right-Angled-triangle, you can easily deduce the corresponding possible points of B & then of-course D. Do you have a faster & easier solution? [watch video here]

  3. We wonder why India is not progressing. We need to promote & celebrate the right things, the things that we want to promote, the vision of future will be made by our actions today. On prominent scientific days we give students extensive projects & on religious days we have Music, Decoration, Sweets & celebration. Its clear what we are promoting. The thing is that the International world recognizes & values India’s scientists way more than we do. A Tweet by Dr. Karan Jani on NASA dedicating its most powerful X-Ray Observatory on Chandrasekhar.

  4. Think about it. The kids of this generation have born into this world which is hyper-connected with Internet. A kid learns using a phone/i-pad before almost anything else in this world. Now think of a world where everything is connected by IOT & cloud. What will be their view of the world? IOT will be the water they swim in.

  5. Interesting business. There is value everywhere, are looking properly. A Star-trader talks about how he trades electricity.

  6. I have always struggled with if writing is the best means of communication for internal communication within a company. Everyday I’m getting more & more convinced that this the best medium of communication. People who don’t understand this are either not team players or will find it difficult to scale beyond a point. If you want to skill, writing is one of the most important skills. My views on public writing — Write to build your tribe & Read to find your tribe. [Tweet on various companies cultures around writing]

  7. How Sam Altman got all of his predictions almost right about why there wasn’t a bubble in tech 5 years back. This would be the most interesting bet of the decade probably. [Tweet here]

  8. RIP ease of business. Goes on to prove what Kunal Shah says about we being a low trust society. Does anybody in the government thinks about the second, third & following order of effects? [Govt plans quarterly & half-yearly financial statement norms]

  9. Content marketing is the new Marketing & Advertising unfair advantage a business can have. Helps in building a community too. [How YNAB uses content marketing efficiently]

  10. Look for challenge. Challenge is what keeps you alive. [How a engineer misses challenge & now wants challenge]

  11. Startups that play defense lose. -Brian Norgard.

  12. One of the best things you will read this week. You can’t miss this. Important != Popular. Can you work on something that’s important for long periods of times without getting trapped in validation or traction. “ If there is a single key to success, it is the trait of being able to make things happen in the world — willfulness, determination, execution focus, not giving up when you hit a roadblock, the ability to solve any problem that comes your way, and self-belief.” “ It’s really helpful to get someone to take a bet on you (hire you, promote you, invest in your company, whatever) early in your career. The best way to do this is to first do whatever you can to help them.” [Here is the thread]

  13. Be aware just not about the competition but also about becoming obsolete or irrelevant. Constant innovation & willingness to cannibalize self is the way to stay relevant for a company. [Read Tweet here]

  14. Understanding the process of building a Indian Tech Startup. Posts by people who are doing it. [List to-read]

  15. Trust based un-manned vending machines in Manipur. ID-Foods also tried something like this way back & their founder in an interview/podcast somewhere. [See pics here]

  16. Block-chain is the future. A Hands-on detail of progress by an Indian in this space , a summary of 2019. [Read here]

  17. What offline retail could look like in the future. A commercial arrangement which is inclusive of the Mom&Pop & Community stores is what will work. Also the elephant-in-the-room for e-commerce that nobody is talking about. Home delivery costs the company about Rs.150–200 per parcel on average. But then how does Amazon do it? [A nice blog in this space] [Blog on Logistics in e-commerce in India]

  18. Monopoly by App stores will end with time? How does government censor or control this? The Dark net of Apps? [Dream 11 is not available in App Store but has 5Mn DAU]

  19. Just figure out if 40% of people using your product would be very-disappointed if the product disappears & you have the Product-market-fit. [The process for PMF made by Superhuman]

  20. The words you use, show your world view & also your direction,et all. [ByteDance doesn’t use words like overseas, coz the whole world is the home.]

  21. An interesting chart about a social-media platforms relevance based on number of google searches worldwide. Twitter was on a downtrend but people seem to have realized its importance off late but see the trend of Facebook. Increasingly Facebook is losing relevance. Now link this with the second article which talks about how Facebook might be planning to take on Spotify’s turf. I would’nt be surprised if they do, already Facebook is becoming more of a business platform, rather than social-media platform. [Graphical representation of Googles searches for various social media platforms & how Reditt has the longest trend & doesn’t look like stopping.][Facebook might be looking to compete with Spotify]

  22. Here is the good post of the week. Australian forest fire is really depressing but see how life & nature finds its way. Be like this Aussie bush. [See the pics of bush growing after Australian Fires]

  23. Video/Live Streaming commerce has really taken off in China. People believe this is the next wave that will hit India. I am a bit sceptic around this though. China has eliminated poverty & has a really big middle-class, India just doesn’t have the bandwidth for this I think. Let me be clear, this will work but wont really be a wave mostly. Will be happy to be proven wrong. [See this awesome video]

  24. We need this. We need this. People just under-estimate the power of serendipity & unstructured/unplanned meetings. [Build car-less gated communities & get tech people & Artists live there.]

  25. The average population of the US has been moving from the east coast to the west coast at the pace of 12.8 inches per hour. Wonder about its implications on so many things. Whats does a similar map for India looks like? [See the map here]

  26. The importance of having a new perspective on the same data. Get interns to work with you, you will be amazed with the perspectives. A 17-year old finds a planet on 3rd day of internship at NASA.

  27. Two really sad tweets. Youngsters of the country losing faith in it. If you think that its too harsh, see this post about how the Vande-Bharat express, something India should be proud about is shunted & the people who developed it being vilified. Is this how we will become $5 Tn economy? I think the mix of Socialism & Democracy is just holding the country back.


    I am struggling finding the perfect name for my App. My friend Vivek Advani gave me some great advise. Though this was last week, this needs to be documented. What is a Brand? Brand just like any person, any human being. The logo is just its face. Just like a person makes friends & connections not for his looks, but because of their nature, values, action, etc… If people like what the Brand does, how it treats them & their experience when using the products/service, they will befriend the brand & search for the brand no matter how difficult & tongue-twisting the name is.

    I would just add one more thing to this. Focus on what emotions just your brand evokes.


    Attended this awesome Fireside Chat of Mr. Sanjay Chakraborty by eChai.in. What an awesome session & great stories, even awesome insights.

    1. What soft-drink does a guy order during a date? He mostly orders Thumbs-Up. Why? Because he wants to show himself has macho & adventurous.

    2. Whats the difference between saying “Here is a cold-drink for Rs. 5/-” & “Kem cho bakka? Ab Thumbs-Up sirf Rs.5/- mein”, esp when there are other drinks available at same price. You talk the language of customer and also say him put yourself as a higher/better brand.

    3. Know your customer in depth, that’s what helps you talk his language. By surveying what are the problems in the weighing-scales of a cement plant, Mr. Sanjay understood in depth how cement is manufactured & he learnt his customers language & that prepared him for his sale meeting with any factory manager of any cement plant.

    4. What does Axe fulfill? An unmet need. Its scientifically tested that Men are wired to woo women but then they also want to reverse this equation & that’s what Axe fulfills.

    5. Ask any lady what she does when she first sees a colleague & the answer would be that she wishes her with greetings. The actual fact is that she notices her dress & fashion, nobody says or admits to this. Often customer & market surveys are not upfront about customers needs & behavior, one needs to have a really observant.

    6. If you want to make a personal brand, what do you want to be known for? Do you want to be known as the most intelligent marketer/person? Do all your actions & communication align to that vision you are looking to project? Also be aware to create an image you can fulfill. The same lesson goes for a brand. Also make sure every member of the organisation understands this vision & image, also works to fulfill it.

    7. Communication for somebody who is buying a home & car for the first time (mostly low-ticket) is very different than for somebody buying one for the 3rd or 4th time(mostly high-ticket). Most focus on the ticket size, but focus needs to be on the emotion behind both.

    8. One should have compassion & empathy towards not just towards employees & customers but also towards competitors, esp when they are not doing well. Values matter! — Be ruthless in your execution but your communication shouldn’t be about rubbing it in their faces.

    9. The most important thing to look for when Hiring or Firing a Marketing team/agency is their attitude towards learning. How do they execute a contract & what do they learn from that. Also the best way to hire somebody for this domain is to give them a challenging task & see what insights they bring to the table & are not just yes-men.

    10. Figure when the recipient is open to listening, pitch only then. Why are Toothpastes, condom & kayam-churan ads displayed in night?

    11. Ophthalmologists example about how together we can have a better vision. Using fire crackers for Diwali greetings says together we can make a bigger bang.

    12. Sometimes, the problem is the feature. If you ask people the problem with Dettol, most users would say that it burns & its pungent. The thing is that nobody wants a solution which doesn’t hurt (Think Savlon). Somebody would say one of the biggest problems with raising a child is that they cry a lot but nobody wants a toy which would engage the kid by its own so that he doesn’t cry because then the child becomes a competition to the Mother.

    The most pertinent advise he gave me is that when creating a new category / segment, I should focus on advertising on the benefits of the service / category. Competitors will come as the category emerges & grows but focusing on growth of the category & not per-se the brand is what is important.


    Listened to an awesome Podcast of Thirukumaran Nagarajan, founder of Ninjacart. The guy has shut-down 5 startups before Ninjacart & is applying all that learning & more to Ninjacart. Its an awesome story. Click here to listen.

    1. Always get into businesses, which have high addressable market. I would add a point here, along with market, the business should have high margins/gaps.

    2. Ninjacart started with groceries & vegetables, later limited itself to just vegetables. Also they got of the HoReCa segment early on. The reason for this the founder suggests is cash flows. But nothing has a singular definition, one more reason could be margins.

    3. You should enjoy the process of being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle. Life doesn’t stop after being funded or becoming an unicorn or IPO. There is no fixed destination. The destination keeps moving with you. [ सफ़र खुबसूरत है मंजिल से भी ]

    4. Have goals like Sales Targets & the amount of customers liking the product. Revaluate actuals against goals periodically.

    5. After a while founder has to take backseat in running the business & become a cash. Enjoy the wins of the team. Invest in the team if they are slow & bring them up. Done by Aligning Goals & Robust Communication.

    6. Ninjacart faced bankruptcy 4 times. Being honest & straight-forward along with good relationship with investors helped.

    7. Scaling should happen once good unit economics are in place. Let go of sectors which don’t have feasible unit economics.

    8. Nandan & Subrato are investors who greatly helped.

    9. If you have made a mistake, acknowledge it, accept it & rectify it rather then hiding & ducking.

    10. Presently doing 1200–1500 tons of vegetables per day.

    11. Challenges: Quality assurance to customer & Pilferage (People behavior).

    12. Pilferage & behavior was improved by technology like RFID on crates, CCTV camera monitoring & Random audits. Whenever a facility shows spike in pilferage (Critical Violation), all operations in the facility is stopped, until the root cause of the problem is identified & cured (The Toyota way). Pilferage cost down from Rs. 4/- per kg to 10ps per kg.

    13. Once the company has higher influence in the supply change, it can educate, influence & motivate farmers to develop practices to grow safe food. The goal is to provide safe food to 130cr people.

    14. Fresh foods is a $130B market. Ninjacart is in just 7 cities. Lots of growth still on the table.

    15. Check if virality is linear or exponential. Proceed only if its exponential.


      Listened to this awesome presentation on Startup School by YCombinator on achieving Product-Market Fit. Its a awesome video. The question one should ask their potential users

      1. What’s the hardest part about the <thing you are trying to solve>?

      2. Last time you encountered the problem.

      3. Why was that hard? — Get marketing & product insights

      4. What have you done to solve this problem?

      5. What don’t you like in the solution you have tried.

      6. Stages when talking to users is most important — Idea, Prototype & Launch

      7. Take notes, keep it casual & be careful with their time.

      8. Identify best first customers & figure how frequent is the problem & what is their budget.


        So I completed “Hard Thing About Hard Things”. So Ben Horowitz started a VC firm called a16z & is to be complimented with bringing the Founder-First mentality into the industry.

        What is important is to have the right attitude & reasons towards your goals. This has to be permeated throughout the organisation. Like the saying goes “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Ben talks extensively about scaling the company the process & challenges. He talks about Fear & Courage, about how to approach various difficult decisions a CEO has to take whether it be about if to sell the company or go solo.

        I cant over-sell this book to a founder who is in the process scaling their company really fast.