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Year 2020 - Week 3 - Learnings

Balkrishna Agarwal 19 min read

Have moved to substack so that people who want to subscribe to this as a newsletter on email.

This week is going to be all links I guess. Didn’t have any kick-ass meetings. Hmmm :|

Lets get on with it.


  1. Well all my life I have been in the Textiles & Garments business, so any news in this sector catches my eye. So whats special in this one? Public often questions why businessmen get so many tax subsidies, also the general mood today that Businessmen are thieves & exploiters & what-not. Read this thread on how one factory uplifted so many people connected to it. Businessmen are job creators, up-lifters of the economy, public has to value this before the drain from our country reaches serious levels. [ Read this-week & last-week newsletters from theken.com to understand how bad the problem has become]

    2. See this tweet

    & then see this thread on the process of learning guitar.

    It takes time to learn something new & change life’s default trajectory. I have done this a few times in the past but the biggest push is coming now when a non-tech guy like me is pushing himself into tech business with the ultimate life’s purpose of helping mankind reach mars. Will need a lots of patience & persistence. Keep on it. (I am talking to myself). Paronia is a entrepreneurs friend. Its emotionally draining though.

    The ultimate lesson.

    1. Indians don’t value efficiency & time-value of money. If you can succeed in India, you can succeed any where in the world. India’s average income needs to increase for the situation to change. Unfortunately India is already going on the digital/technology wave before the people raise above poverty line. I fear this has potential to widen the income gap.

  1. More power to entrepreneurs. The force is strong with this one.

  1. Some gyaan on Product Management. The experiments Uber-Eats is doing on its apps. The thing is Uber-Eats & Food-Panda(Ola) has to understand is that they are in Food delivery business & not in mobile-app business. [Read the detail blog here]

  2. See what the best are doing. Innovate on that & try an entirely new approach in that.

  3. From the above point, see how the whole world was working on dating & failing, but a completely different prespective used by soul app. The thing is that I had a very similar idea, but just a bit different approach/prespective.

  1. Measure your growth every week. Monthly growth targets are for corporates & the oldies. Not for startups.

  2. I just love articles from the startup world in China. The difference of cultures & thought process is just mind-boggling. How do you balance between being data driven & giving random ideas a field-run? Crazy! - The answer is do A/B testing & go with the data. One of the biggest learning is you cannot discount user experience for vanity growth metrics. I wonder if a high-end-fashion community like P1 work in India, when it didn’t work in China. China has way way more smaller middle class & the wealthier class too. In games, 1% of the users generate 90% of the revenue by buying various virtual & physical merchandise. Any business which taps into such revenue model, will unlock a pot of Gold. How can you make your top users generate infinite revenue & still deliver value? Keep learning, be patient, be persistent & fail fast. Have a Global prespective, don’t be limited to your local maxima, it should be visible in your words & actions. [Read podcast transcript here]

  3. ROI framework for a Product Manager to choose which feature to prioritize. The factors to consider. Probability of success, Amount and Time Investment required & Level of Impact. For high probability features, focus more on quality. With low probability features focus more on speed & launching & iterating based on user feedback. [Read this awesome article by Brandon Chu here]

  4. Business is all about hiring the best talent. Your moat is to know what you want & act fast. Even before the competition has the time to blink.

  5. In the spirit of the above point. See this crazy thing. iPods, The product which literally changed the whole music industry went from pitch to launch in just 8 months. Speed! Speed Matters! Speed is your biggest competitive advantage.

  6. When targeting for speed, don’t forget trust is more important than speed. Lack of trust only slows you down. Focus on building trust first.

  7. Last week we saw how NinjaCart ventured into a high margin business & uses tech to revolutionise it. The same is happening across industries. Businesses with high margins are the low hanging fruits for Internet & Tech to disrupt. Here is an example of Mattress industry getting disrupted.

  8. I am a big fan of Kunal Shah. Companies are like species & they fight for resources. The company with more resources can multiply faster & wipe/limit the species with lesser resources.

  9. See this amazing post by Manas on his process for preparing & negotiating for a job/interview. The thing I’m most impressed with is, the amount of research he does for the job. 100+ pages of research for one job. If you are so fucking serious, how will the company ever let you go! [Read the blog here]

  10. Pricing a software is one of the most difficult thing to do. Finding the sweet spot which gives maximum revenue & not the maximum price is the secret sauce. Its important that you are perceived as fair, it depends all on your positioning. [Read the pdf here]

  11. “Apple, Google, IBM don't require undergrad degrees for certain jobs - Apple states there is a mismatch between skills learned and skills needed on the job.”

  12. This is just awesome. Be kind to your eyes, watch this.

  13. What you need a customer insight not exactly solution/product. Why marketing & positioning is so much more important.

  14. “Failure is the stepping stone to success.” - Heard this saying ever. See it in practice here, which has lead to invention of Google Maps. Something we can’t imagine live without today. The lesson being, when trying a new product, go for something completely different rather than improvising on the existing solutions. [Read Bret Taylors experience on he end up building Google Maps here]

  15. When young or if you are earning comfortably, always choose better “Rate of Learning” rather than “Rate of Earning”. [Read here about the difference in Rate of Learning between startups & corporates.]

  16. We have seen people come together by Social-Media during calamities. In future people are collaborate in a much more broader way, thanks to SM & crypto. Look out for work & teams & organisation structures to be redefined.

  17. This article has to bookmarked over & over. So sad that my imagination fails me at this critical moment to come with metaphors to define a article on metaphors. Did you know Unknown-is-up & Known-is-down? You cant miss reading this amazing piece by John Saito.

  18. If you are on the wrong bus, get off it. Even if its dark outside, even if you don’t know the right route. Can’t be put in a better way

  19. Some learnings from Kunal Shah on instagram. I have to make account there now. “Focus on more experience every year, rather than more years of experience.” (Read pt. 21). “Travel alone.” (There isn’t a better advise actually). “In the world of unlimited choices, choosing & sticking to good ones is the only good skill needed.”(Everyone else is distracted already). “A person seeking Olympic Gold rarely gets bored with their routine”.

  20. This has been eye opening for me. I had always wondered why so many companies focus on discounts & offers, esp in the retail space. This thread tells me how Discounts, repackaged as Retention/loyalty bonus gives value to a completely new product category worth Billions of Dollars. Highvalue & Airmiles based credit cards.

  21. Is google trading off User experience for growth / economic reasons? Can Google be disrupted? You listen to a lot of complains or displeasure around Google search these days.

  22. Already writing just 2 versions of these weekly summary is bringing in new connections for me. Writing & being out there on Internet can never be over-stated. Do it! Today!

  23. Don’t forget that you just need 1000 true fans to actually make big in life. I have met some awesome people online, just because they write. Writing online is the way you find & grow your tribe. [Read more about in detail here.] Dont miss to read “The Reality of Depending on True Fans.” & “The Case against 1000 True Fans.

  24. Thinking in terms of bets/probability has completely changed my prespective about life. If nothing else, it helps to answer the question, why me? [Have to read this book by Annie Duke]

  25. See the difference between the Man caves from past to now. One can argue that this selective viewing, but regardless.

  26. Getting into a highly valued succesful group has so many unknown benefits. Always try to get into the group of the top 0.1%, its impossible to list all the benefits. Also 10/10 points to HDFC Bank’s marketing team.

  27. Another amazing lesson from founder of SuperHuman. Remember PMF post in the week 2 post? This one is about how do you make emailing feel like a play. It isn’t gamification like levels, badges, etc… in the traditional sense. Work has to fell like play. [Listen Rahul Vora talk about it.]

  28. How companies are using content & community to increase the frequency & relevance of a product which is otherwise low-frequency. The concept is probably being overdone now? [How Two Companies Hooked Customers On Products They Rarely Use]

  29. People are just amazing & so talented. Read this to see how using one picture, one can determine a US spy satellite & so much more.

  30. I have read quite a few posts where people complaint about the various problems they face in US. Whether its the Roads or community. This is something people who aspire to leave India & settle in US, should read. If you think Europe is better, many of European countries have mandatory Integration classes for immigrants & foreigners, so you learn their culture & how to act/behave in the new country.

  31. The best thing I have read so far in 2020. Following this is going to have the highest impact in ones life. Sitdown & reflect on the week gone by & take decisions, review the earlier decisions taken. Put things into systems & frameworks. Structure & Simplify your life. [Build Measure Learn - For Self]

  32. Ending this list with something good. Something kind. That’s what keeps the world spinning :)


So have started reading the book “Who” by Geoff Smart. Its an amazing book. Hiring is the most important function of any business, this book really helps in structuring the thoughts & streamlining the process.

  1. Most problems happen because of hiring wrong & it happens because managers are unclear about what is need in the job. The first failure point of hiring is not being crystal clear about what you really want the person you hire to accomplish.

  2. Define the Mission, Outcomes & Competencies for every role. It has a very OKR type system.

  3. Communication within the organisation & prospective employees about the requirements are not clear, so people have different Goals.

  4. Trusting solely/highly on the gut instinct, rather than a throughtout frame work. Decisions based solely on gut feel, end up giving stomachache.

  5. Don’t optimise & always go for the A-players.

  6. Have a clear scorecard & hire with competencies that fit with both the culture of the company & role. Overlook the culture of the company at your own peril.

  7. Don’t expect every member do everything. A VP of sales should only drive revenues. He isn’t responsible to build channel sales or seek new industry verticals or serve as an administrator. If they contribute more, fine but the basic agenda should be clear & they should be evaluated based on that primarily.

  8. Hiring generalists or all-around athletes rarely works. Only leads to dilution of responsibility & culture. The mission should help you find not the generalist but the very best specialist.

  9. Most of the jobs for which we hire should have three to eight outcomes, ranked by order of importance. Focus on outcomes, not activities. (Not how many sales calls but on the Revenue targets)

  10. Socrecards not just help in finding A players but also helps A players in delevering A performances.


Some blogs & newsletters that I recommend you to follow & subscribe to.

  1. The very first edition of SlipStream!

    Starting this week, each week, we bring to you the best of resources, podcasts, links, videos, articles, interviews and other superTexts from entrepreneurs, business leaders, teachers, mentors and others that we look up to.

  2. Best of the Web Newsletter

  3. Curation of some really cool posts here.