How Reliance Jio Disrupted Digital India

On a recent business trip to New Delhi, I was out for lunch with colleagues when conversation turned to the price of mobile data. Us foreigners at the table bemoaned the price-per-Gb in our home countries, meanwhile, the locals could barely contain their laughter…

Overnight Success

An overnight success in the world’s 2nd most-populated country is nothing short of breathtaking.

In June 2015, IDC estimated there were 5.8 million 4G LTE subscribers in India. In a country with a population of 1.3 billion that’s a rounding error.

Yet, as I type this now in October 2017 India has 81.56% 4G LTE coverage, better than most countries in Europe and snapping at the heels of city-nation, Singapore.

Isn’t that a huge waste of bandwidth?

Well no… Just months after the IDC estimate was published a new service, Reliance Jio, was launched, and everything changed.

Reliance Jio

Reliance Jio launched commercially on 5th September 2016 and… *deep breath*… acquired 50 million subscribers in 83 days.

That’s 400 new subscribers every minute.

That’s a faster user acquisition rate than any consumer company in history, including Whatsapp, Facebook and Skype.

They hit 100 million subscribers within 6 months.

How did they achieve this?  Continue Reading “How Reliance Jio Disrupted Digital India”

The Rise of the Blockchain

knights_ni
Not the Knights Templar, yesterday

Within a few short years we could find our banking system is bankrupt. No, I’m not trying to predict another subprime mortgage collapse, and this isn’t another anti-Trump message of doom (although his lack of understanding of ‘the cyber’ and affinity with traditional business models will not help the United States of America weather such disruption). Instead, the rise of the ‘Blockchain’ simply renders banks unnecessary.

Why do banks exist?

Banks exist because storing your cash under your mattress isn’t very secure. But what is it about banks that makes them a safer place for your hard-earned wedge?

According to legend, the the Knights Templar invented the first form of modern banking in the 12th century. They would take in money from Christian crusaders, pilgrims and travellers in return for a slip of parchment that detailed their deposit. Further along their journey they could swap their parchment at a ‘Templar House’ for gold, silver and whatever-the-hell-myhrr-is up to the value they had deposited. Sound familiar?

As for security, the Knights Templar were some of the most fearsome warriors around. They didn’t need to chain their pens to the desks, if you nicked one you’d do well if you only lost a hand…

The first Templar banking system relied on low literacy levels. Basically, the hope was that the parchment could easily be overlooked by groups of medieval chavs rifling through your pockets looking for gold coins. Eventually, the parchments were written in code (encrypted) to avoid them being tampered with. Ironically, it is encryption which is the basis for Blockchain, which may end up destroying this old-style of banking.

By the way, the legends are all bollocks because the Chinese Yuan dynasty had banknotes in 1000 ADContinue Reading “The Rise of the Blockchain”

Why do people only read things that back up their way of thinking?

Remember when the internet was in its infancy? We all had to put up with little 468 x 90 banner ads everywhere you looked – and sometimes we clicked them because we didn’t know better.

As time went on we grew smarter, we were able to tell the bad adverts from the good, and the emergence of online advertising  bumped the ugly out of the marketplace entirely. And now, our brains automatically blank out adverts to keep us focused on the content we went to the site in the first place for. Many of us use ad-blocking tools so our brains don’t even need to perform the mental airbrushing.

But what if those adverts were trying to tell us something really important?

What if the Emergency Broadcast System was hooked into those banner ads trying to give us forewarning of an avoidable cataclysm?

Social Engineering

Social Engineering refers to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information.

It is becoming increasingly common by malicious actors (bank and identity fraud, for example), but is also becoming a core part of many companies’ business models.

It all started innocently enough with the Social Graph. The ability to link people with other people, events, photos and products via rich, meaningful relationships turned the one-size-fits-all internet into a personalised window where the chaos suddenly started to shape itself into something we recognised and could engage with on a more emotional level.

Instant social gratification through ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ became our norm, information relevant to us started to travel at a speed that made some high school students, even back in 2008, say “email is too slow“. The relevancy-engine that is the Social Graph began to play on our most base motivations. Continue Reading “Why do people only read things that back up their way of thinking?”

Google Watch: Time to DuckDuckGo

You can't spell
You can’t spell “Don’t be evil” without “evil”! Coincidence?

Google do a lot of good things. They host free webfonts to make the web a nicer place to be. Their cloudy PaaS service, Engine Yard, gets rave reviews. Their maps are better than anyone’s, their mobile OS is the most popular in the world, and their photo hosting offer is second to none. But they can be very evil sometimes too.

Remember when Google forced you to sign up to Google+ to comment on Youtube videos, or stole your email passwords while they took pictures of your house and then “forgot” to delete it after they got found out and all the Governments told them to, or made you type extra characters to include all your words in their search, or when their CEO said there was no place for privacy and anonymity on the Internet?

* big breath*

Well they are at it again.

And I’ve had enough.

The Devil’s In The Detail

For the last few days I’ve been seeing this ‘privacy reminder’ popup whenever I go to Google (including by searching in Chrome’s address bar). And it stops you dead in your tracks. You have to read through all the legalese before it lets you search for pictures of cats. Well I just don’t have time for that, I need instant cat gratification now!.

That sounds so wrong.

Anyway, I had a quick scan through the privacy reminder and immediately smelled a rat… It all seems really un-evil at first, you can choose to switch off some of Google’s invasive behaviour by following the handy-dandy links in the privacy reminder itself. Wowzers! What a nice thing to do. I opted to switch off all the weird adverts-following-you-around settings. They’re here, in case you’re wondering.

But then I noticed it says these settings are just for this browser. Your other devices and PCs will still track the living crap out of you. Continue Reading “Google Watch: Time to DuckDuckGo”

Things I learned at my last job

Today I closed a chapter in my life. After nearly 4 years tenure at a company I wanted to reflect on the things I learned over that time.

I have been very lucky to have a few excellent – world-class even – mentors here who have taught me things that will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I wanted to share the reflection process with you in the hope you gain something valuable too.

Individual Success Isn’t Success

For a long, long time I  adopted the ‘aircraft oxygen mask’ approach to my career: I’ll get to where I want to be first, then I’ll help others. This company has taught me that isn’t the right thing to do.

ubuntumeme

My thinking was always “I’ll be in a better position to help others” once I hit my objectives, but that simply doesn’t work in practice: without respectful, cooperative development across your team(s), you risk yourself hitting your goals at all, and if you haven’t helped others hit theirs too, nobody wins.

Dare I use the management-bullshit-bingo term ‘synergy’?

My current role here is a technical leadership role – that means I don’t have people reporting to me but I do have authority over technology direction and a remit to ensure conceptual integrity of the solution. I have led project teams before, I have even run small businesses before, but being a leader in a larger company was new to me when I began this chapter of my life, and I wanted to be good at it.

I’ve seen all the memes about the difference between a boss and a leader but for some reason I struggled to enact the differences. However, after some time spent being (in retrospect) a terrible boss, some sage advice from one of those mentors made everything ‘click’, and I was given the mental tools to develop the techniques required to become a good leader instead. (Note, a good mentor won’t give you the answer, but the means of finding it on your own!).

boss-vs-leader

“Take people with you.”

So what does that look like in practice? Last year I was offered the chance to travel to our American HQ to present some new work to 1,500 customers. ‘Prestigious’ isn’t even close – this is a huge event, so compelling that our customers pay us to listen to our plans and roadmap. The trip dripped with a significant amount of attached ‘kudos’ and the opportunity to rub shoulders with the highest of the high in the business. Not only that – the opportunity to ask probing questions to 1,500 customers about our technology direction is such a rare occurrence it was unmissable. The old me would have started packing immediately. Continue Reading “Things I learned at my last job”

The Sharing Economy

Your house, yesterday. Probably.
Your house, yesterday. Probably.

The ‘Sharing Economy’ is disrupting established industries and sending huge, powerful incumbents into a tizzy. Uber and AirBnB have shaken the taxi and hotel sectors, shifting power, control and profits from the RadioCabs and Hiltons of this world and into the hands of ordinary citizens armed with nothing more than a smartphone and a mobile data plan.

The question on everyone’s lips is: which industry will be disrupted by the Sharing Economy next?

A couple of years ago, I was in Portland, Oregon, for meetings with some colleagues. One lunchtime, our discussion diverged from work topics to an issue plaguing our home-lives, an issue common to both the US and UK: the reduction in bin-pickup frequency.

It’s a hot topic.

Dude, Where’s My Trash?

We tossed around some ideas to solve our overflowing bins issues, to solve the problems caused by local authorities switching from weekly to two-weekly pick-ups, and to solve that awkward situation we have all faced: that middle-of-the-night walk of shame, bin-bag over shoulder, roaming the streets like a crazed, ferral cat to find a neighbour’s bin with a bit of space left in it to deposit last night’s curry leftovers and beer bottles.

What does this have to do with the Sharing Economy?

A lightbulb lit: why not create a location-aware, social app to help out? Share My Trashcan was born, $5 per bag, with a $1 kick-back to us, it scales and is simple. But then one of our team mentally cycled through a Lean Startup build-measure-learn cycle and developed the concept, discovering that communities can come together to buy a shared dumpster, which would provide even more space (some of which could be shared with other communities!) and would also be picked up weekly.

Share My Trashcan was dead, long live Share My Dumpster!

Later in the day (after doing some actual work) we revisited the idea and the real, Lean, magic happened: we pivoted.  Continue Reading “The Sharing Economy”

Bad Company: Plusnet

Incompetence-Incompetence-Everywhere“Hello, Mr. Stokoe, I’m afraid I have an apology to make – we spoke on Tuesday night but I forgot to save the comments onto your account, can you remind me what we were discussing?” said Mike from painfully incompetent ISP, Plusnet, a subsidiary of BT.

 

18 Months Earlier…

The adverts were full of it, Sky Unlimited broadband for as little as a fiver a month – so long as you had a Sky TV subscription – which we did. I gave Plusnet a call – reluctantly – I’ve been a Plusnet customer since 2001, I’ve had numerous home and business broadband connections through them and their service has been mostly good. I stayed with them through that nasty business of them giving their customer details to ACS:Law, the law firm whose owner was convicted three times of “conduct unbefitting a solicitor”, who has since been suspended from practising law and is now bankrupt. But on this occasion they just couldn’t compete with Sky’s unlimited package…

“We’ll match it,” Plusnet said. Oh, right, marvellous. “It saves you having to transfer everything over to Sky.”

 

Contractual Law

Many years ago I used to work for Orange Telecommunications PLC, at the time the UK’s 3rd largest mobile network, and this taught me lots of things about how organisations whose livelihood is build around monthly contracts operate. For example, everything is itemised on your account – from your line rental to your handset insurance, and everything has an ‘end date’. Perpetual items, such as your line rental, simply have an end date that is so far in the future that it unlikely to bother anyone alive today. But it’s there, sitting, ticking away waiting to expire.

And discounts have end dates too – especially those from the Disconnections department (“Retentions” as it was known when I worked there, but I think it’s now “Customer Options”). If you want to leave a phone network and they give you a great deal to stay then that deal will likely last for the length of your new contracted months and then drop off your account without warning.

It is a system that I am au fait with and I did not want to be stung by. To be fair to Orange, this is how practically all networks operate (or at least they did in the mid 2000s).

 

Plusnet “Unlimited”

I’m a very busy person, I work upwards of 60 hours per week (sometimes a lot more) and I don’t have time micromanage my utilities, so if this discount was simply going to fall off my account and double the cost of my broadband in 12 months it wouldn’t make sense – and I’d just go with Sky broadband instead and save myself the headache (and expense) in 12 months.

But no, they reassured me: this is a Retentions plan, it’s only available to “loyal customers like you”. I was further reassured that it was not going to drop off after 12 months, but the Retentions agent would put my name in “the diary” to call me in 12 months anyhow to discuss the package and see if there was anything else he could do.

Naturally, I signed up. Continue Reading “Bad Company: Plusnet”

Google’s Project Loon

Google Project Loon. Probably not evil. Probably.
Google Project Loon. Probably not evil. Probably.

Google are doing a lot of “10X innovation” right now. That is innovation that isn’t just incrementally better than the competition (like a 10% improvement) but a moon-shot, 10-times improvement. One of these initiatives is called Project Loon:

You can sometimes see these balloons being tested off the coast of Christchurch, New Zealand, on FlightRadar, which means these craft are equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) systems:

loon_168

Continue Reading “Google’s Project Loon”