Aug 1, 2013

about : 401k-investments


P.S. - I've only enrolled once in 401k at my current employer.


Purpose: To increase returns on your 401k investments without any investing knowledge.

You may ask, how the hell can someone do that? The answer is by sharing your 401k portfolio to the community and of course without showing the actual contribution or total portfolio balance.

AssumptionsYour employer offers 401k plan for all of it's employees and this is for employees who are already enrolled or would be interested in enrolling in future.

How does it work? There are three parts to this....

1) Categories of People: There are 3 categories of people. One - who know nothing about investing, Second - who knows a little bit about investing and are semi active and Third - who are very active in investments in general

2) Sharing: Any type of online medium (see below) will give any and every employee an option to share what funds, bonds, etc. they have chosen in their portfolio, what is their allocation in percentage and what is their return since enrolling in 401k and return in last 3 or 6 months. It's up to the employee as to how they would like to share this details i.e. anonymously or using their name.

Once this is accessible online (private to the organization's employees only), anyone and everyone in the company can read the details and make suitable decisions.

3) Making Decision: Now let's say you found top 5 employee's with highest returns. You can choose two paths from here:

i. Easy approach: Just pick the employee you like the best and change your portfolio to match their portfolio. :)

ii. Not so difficult approach: Among top 5 in the list, you analyze the funds they have invested in, their returns and their reason as to why they have invested in such funds. If you agree with their approach, you can either change your portfolio to match their funds or you can mix and match from among the top 5 and balance your portfolio that way.

So for example, if an EmployeeA is new to 401k and investing world, they can take a baby step and go with the Easy approach. If EmployeeB has done 401k for some time and are looking for a decent change but not too aggressive then they can go with Not so difficult approach and take an easy path i.e. just match the highest return made by an employee i.e. the top candidate. And lets say EmployeeC who would like to be little bit aggressive but also take a safer approach then in that case, they can follow the Not so difficult approach but mix and match funds according to their needs.

I believe in sharing and if there is a way you can help someone achieve higher returns without any compromising then why the hell not. It's a win-win for all.

Online Medium: This can be a subscription based product or a cloud based software that the company pays for and keep their data private to just themselves or even a software built by your IT team as I don't imagine it being anything difficult to create.


Thanks for reading....

Jul 1, 2013

about : building-effective-tools


- Twitter launched Vine
- Facebook has Instagram
- LinkedIn integrating weather forecast & is trying to become a robust social network
- Microsoft can't stop bashing Google with different marketing tactics
- Google launched Google+ and shot down Google Reader

So why are this big corporations building such products?   Money!!!

Pretty much every single product/feature such companies launch, they do it for the sole reason of attracting customers and making them slaves of their products (free or paid). Some of those products (listed in previous blog post) are extremely useful and makes your life easier while some are just useless (at least for me).

Before launching Instagram Video, Facebook users had to either use Vine (which was still new), Vimeo or the most popular video sharing site YouTube. There is nothing wrong with YouTube or Vimeo but Twitter and Facebook both launched their own video sharing apps. Why? Just so they can their make customers stick to their product the whole time and not navigate away to a better 3rd party app.

Please stop making products that will increase customer interaction or avg. visit duration on your site but rather make something that's useful for the general public, something that will have a real world impact. There are so many areas of opportunity where you can not only make money but do something good compared to launching such useless tools. Twitter rather than launching Vine could make a paid platform to share tips about agriculture or any such area, help government reduce poverty, help companies by analyzing their twitter feeds, etc. Rather than launching balloons to provide internet, Google should use their massive data and help developing countries do better & grow faster, help wind turbines go to next level and produce steady and consistent clean energy, etc.

Don't become another $100 billion empire, keep launching helpful products & even if you stay as a $50 million company, I think it is worth it.

I do get the fact that competition is healthy but in certain cases, it is a lame excuse. And I also realize that for any company to grow, you need Money but at the same time there are other better ways to earn revenues than creating something that already exists in a great form.


This are just my views.....   Thanks for reading!!

Jun 19, 2013

about : free-products


I've realized that I use a lot of free services and I thought it'd be nice to appreciate all of them.

Free services I use:

Pandora: An amazing music recommendation service. Believe me, I've tried Grooveshark, iTunes Radio, Rhapsody, MOG and few indian radio services but I haven't found anything like Pandora. It just works. Thanks Pandora.

Hulu: Hulu in it's free version is quite amazing especially for replacing your cable television. I'm a long time Netflix subscriber and the combination of Hulu, Netflix and YouTube is all I've ever needed. I don't miss watching TV at all. Thanks Hulu.

Twitter: I was very jaded at first about Twitter and it's intentions but after using it for several months, I've come to realize that it's currently the most powerful medium to share anything and everything. If you follow the right people, Twitter can become the best resource to consumer information in the market i.e. even better than CNN, Google News or NY Times. Thanks Twitter.

PriceBlink: A browser extension that treats itself like a shopping assistant. Whatever product you are buying, this extension appears automatically on top of the web page and gives you the best price available for that product across many websites and if any coupons that are available. It has saved me lots of $$. Thanks Guys.

Clipix: Organize your life! Clipix is an online service for marking articles, images, tutorials, etc. for later access. After using Evernote/Read It Later/Instapaper, I've realized that Clipix works like a charm. Thanks Team.

Mint: One of the best tools available in the market for personal finances. It helps you set budgets, goals and recommends ways to save money. I've been a customer since day one and still loving it. Best tool for keeping all your finances in one place.

Credit Karma: An online service that provides credit scores for free. It keeps track of your credit scores and alerts you of any bad activities or changes. Also it provides some features for personal finances like Mint app. I'm a big fan of this tool as I can keep track of my credit scores easily and without any fees.

Google (Gmail, Reader, Analytics, etc): What can I say about Google... It is the king of all. Gmail is my only email client. Reader has been my only news feed. Analytics and Maps is one of the best free products out in the market. There is no comparison as to how much insights Analytics provides for free. I can keep naming more services offered by Google but I think you get the point. Big Thanks.

Notepad++ & Sublime Text: A simple utility but so damn helpful. The basic notepad tool that comes preloaded into Windows can't do much but Notepad++ has become very useful for editing txt, csv or even programming files and same applies for Sublime Text. Thanks Guys.

And many more....


Thanks to everyone involved in making this products amazing for everyone. Your determination and dedication seems to have paid off very well. I can't thank you all enough!!

Jun 14, 2013

about : rewards


Majority of the companies in America at least provide rewards in one way or another. No matter what, where or how you buy a product, a customer looks for a coupon and/or some type of a reward to either bring down the cost of the product or collect points for future discounts. The economics of loyalty program has grown so much that it's difficult to run a business without it. Customer always wants something in return or else they will go to your competitor who provides better rewards. There is some kind of a satisfaction when you get a reward in return even if you can't use it right away. Similarly companies have rapidly integrated Gamification into their products which increases customer retention by tempting them with lots & lots of rewards they will hardly ever use.

Types of rewards: Loyalty Rewards (e.g. cash, points or gift cards), Airline RewardsHotel RewardsEmployee Rewards, etc.


My point: 

The business of rewarding a customer is fantastic (I secretly love it). Although one thing that I wish existed was a whole different suite of rewards. For example, Helping Children, Supporting Families, Improving Communities, Fulfilling emotional needs, etc. etc. I'm sure getting cash in return is amazing and will make you happy but imagine how much satisfaction you'll get and how many good deeds you'll get to do if you contributed that cash or just your time for above such rewards. Spend a day with an autistic kid, Recycle your electronics and help communities too with recycling, Help communities create programs for not wasting food etc etc. Now if only there was an easy way to be part of this.



"Technology is ruling our lives & We can't seem to find time for others"


Thanks for reading...

May 23, 2013

about : simplified-extreme-couponing


Sole Purpose: Bring items you want to purchase within budget without going bankrupt.


Everybody loves coupons.....right!! Well I do. Extreme couponing has become so popular in last few years that some people just CAN'T live without it. Now with daily deals businesses (Living Social, Groupon, Google Offers, local deal sites, etc.) growing & competing against each other, it just doesn't make sense to pay ridiculous prices for certain things. One thing I haven't seen in my shopping experience is a service similar to what Priceline offers i.e. Name Your Price but for products. I'm not an extreme couponists so I might be wrong here.


"Create, Choose & Conquer!"

Imagine an enhancement to the existing coupon sites as well as the purchase process at any online or retail store. Lets say you are looking to purchase a nice pair of jeans from Nordstrom or sunglasses from Macy's or pretty much anything you can think of. What if the item you wanna buy is unfortunately out of your budget. Your first instinct will be to check if there are any coupons available that would make this item cheaper. Let's say you found a coupon but it's still out of your budget. Next thing you'd do is walk out of the store and find similar item at some other store or wait for it to get cheaper....right?

What if I tell you that I've a solution for you. Any ideas what it could be? Come on....I know you can do better than that.

THE IDEA

Definition: Create a contest among users for the item you wanna buy, choose the best answer and conquer the item you dreamed of owning.
  • There are two kinds of users here: Customers & Couponers
  • Customers job is to setup a contest and wait for the results. Also reward the Couponer(s) for finding the best coupon.
  • Couponers job is to find the best coupon/way possible to win the contest created by a Customer.

Names: Some names I like 'Coupon Battle', 'Coupon Jungle', 'Coupon Mesh', etc.

Assumptions:
  • To demonstrate we'll use 'CustomerA' as one of the customers who is a user of your site.
  • And for Couponers, we can name them Couponer1, Couponer2, ..... , CouponerN.

How It Works
:

1) Create a Contest:
  • CustomerA found a specific sunglass from Macy's store and is looking to purchase them but at a cheaper price then marketed.
  • CustomerA comes to this site and creates a contest.
  • CustomerA enters all the required details i.e. Contest Name, SKU Number, Store Name, Product Category, Product Subcategory, Target Price, Target Date, Reward Increase. System then uses the SKU Number and Store Name to extract additional information from the store's online inventory i.e. Price, Color, Size, Name, Description, Product Image(s), Model Number,  etc. CustomerA is forced to select size, color, etc if applicable. For special requests, CustomerA has an option of increasing the reward for the best answer.
  • CustomerA then verifies all information entered and additionally pulled from the store before setting up the contest. Editing is allowed for certain fields. CustomerA can cancel the contest anytime.
  • Contest is finally created here if all is successfully verified.

2) Broadcast:
  • System creates a distro by selecting a group of users that belongs to the Product Subcategory and Category specified above. Meaning, if a user has ever purchased a product in that category/subcategory then they automatically become part of that category/subcategory distro. So it's very crucial to select proper category of the product when creating the contest.
  • If no users are found yet then system chooses a group of users that has ever purchased an item at the store mentioned in creating the contest.
  • If still no users are found then system chooses a group of users that have higher credibility i.e. have gained most number of rewards and/or are most active in the system.
  • Once the distro is created, those users will receive an email with contest details and a link that says 'Participate'. Participants here are also referred to as Couponers. Once they click the link, they now become part of that contest. There are certain rules that Participants will have to follow i.e. Participants cannot contact contest creator directly by any means. Any and all communications should happen via your site. Participants have to provide valid answers (no guessing or rogue answers will be accepted) if they are able to satisfy contest creator's requirements.

3) Research:
  • Participants/Couponers at this stage have all the detailed requirements for the contest. Each individual will now go out on their own and find the best deal possible that satisfies the contest creators requirements.
  • Participants/Couponers can use any type of coupon or special promotion to meet the end goal. They can use any coupon site, deal sites, special promotions, personal exclusive coupons, gift cards, free shipping, loyalty solutions, etc.
  • If and when they find a way to meet the end goal, Couponer will list down the correct steps to make the purchase happen for the contest creator i.e. CustomerA.

4) Purchase:
  • CustomerA who created the contest will choose few correct answers and perform the steps outlined in those answers.
  • If one of them is a suitable answer, CustomerA ticks that answer correct in your system.
  • CustomerA will be forced to make a purchase through your system, so you get the purchase data back.
  • Once it's verified that CustomerA has made the purchase, your system will charge the contest creator i.e. CustomerA a small contest fee as well as reward the Couponer with the reward setup when creating the contest.

NOTE:
  • A reward can be paid in cash or points.
  • If a customer after creating the contest, chooses the answer but doesn't purchase through your system, they will be charged a penalty. And this customer will be flagged in the system.
  • If no answers are found by the target date or the contest created was unreasonable, then the contest as well as the customer creating the contest are flagged.
  • Voting and commenting are allowed per contest basis.
  • A Customer or Couponer can only create or participate if they are a registered user.
  • Customers and Couponers credibility ratio increases based on number of factors i.e. Number of participants, making reasonable requests, getting multiple answers, choosing and purchasing based on one answer, successfully rewarding and finishing the transaction.

    "Coupon Contest = Auctioning With A Twist"

Mobile:

Same coupon contest functionality can be made available via tablet or smartphone web apps for easy access. Imagine how convenient it'd be if the CustomerA was able to create the contest right when they saw the product at a local store. And imagine how magical it'd be if the Participants find the answers within minutes so the Customer can purchase it while at the store. All can happen in real time.

Benefits:
  1. Both customers and couponers get rewarded for any successful transaction
  2. Social couponing
  3. Involving merchants in the mix can benefit users with special promotions, fulfilling special requests, having merchants act as Couponers so they can participate in the contests, etc etc. 
  4. If you are an expert on shopping at Target or have high credibility ratio for Target in this case, you can become a Target Guru.

Any feedback? And thanks for reading....