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Archive for April, 2014

The Devil is in the details

21 Apr

The second week of internship turned out to week of learning, surprises, games and fun.

The paragraph has some surprising facts but if you are not the one for them, skip them (Please don’t). In the initial part of the week, I had been working on a market-entry strategy of our company in Singapore. And during the research, came in surprises. We all know that Bangalore is the IT hub of India. But how many know the number of IT professionals in it. Its 3.5 lakhs (To put things into perspective, it’s more than population of some small cities of the world, my home town Vadodara has a population of 6 lakhs). Well they are there for a reason. India has touched $114 billion in IT revenues in 2014 and most of it from Bangalore. Impressed? Well I was too. But then you know as I said surprises are in store. Singapore with an IT workforce of only 1.5 lakhs had $80 billion in revenues in 2012. (I couldn’t access the latest revenue number but take a growth rate of 10% and boom you are near $100 billion in 2014). You know the total workforce strength of IT in India – 10 lakh and higher. So the Asian tigers are way above the elephants in revenue per employee. Reason you ask – well I had the same doubt. I realized during my research that most IT companies of world have major R&D centers there and we know all that is where the money is. Come on Satya Nadella (Microsoft’s new Indian Born CEO), Google, Oracle, IBM and many more – why this discrimination – let us do R&D, we will give great products.

So that is the first part of my week. On Friday I had to attend a conference organized by UNICOM in Bangalore at the Atria on UX/UI design. Now from here comes the title of my new blog. We had done all the necessary preparations on Thursday and I had the confidence that nothing can go wrong. Well we missed out on one small detail. The backdrop of story is that after organizing everything we had kept it in the company training room. And the people who were given the task of handling the stuff – were me (the intern) and my Bengali roomie turned buddy Shambaditya. The detail we missed out on was who will keep the key to training room (Bad, right?). The CEO was supposed to pick us up in the morning from the office with the stuff and leave for conference. So we “assumed” that the keys will be with him. In the morning when he arrives at the office, surprise (or shock) – they weren’t with him. We turned the office upside down but they were nowhere to be found. So to start the conference on time, we leave office without any stuff (okay the stuff is delegate kits, certificates, etc.). We were able start it bang on time and distributed the stuff later on during the conference, and thus I learn my first lesson in disaster management.

Also I had designed a disguised market research game (sounds cool?) for the conference to help me in my internship project and also give the delegates a chance to have fun and network. An interesting thing about introverts (like me) is that we don’t open up easily but once someone starts the discussion we are all in. So that is what I saw during the game, everyone was talking – different companies, different designations and so on and so forth. I won’t discuss the results of my research (Company privacy 😉 ) but yes it was a learning experience for me. Ohh yes, one more surprise was in store for me. After I explain the game and get everyone playing a guy walks up to me and introduces himself as an IIM-C alumnus too. We had a good long chat, he asked me about the institute and I got biggest reaction from him when I told him that girl students will now be living in LVH too from 2014. (For all, LVH or lake view hostel is like the 5 star hostel of IIM-C campus and girls generally didn’t stay there earlier).

Also during the conference, I used to get so immersed in some of the talks that I used to shift from organizer to audience and then someone would bring me back to being an organizer by some request or another. An interesting talk was on Bangalore metro and how it could have been designed better. (Guys, just Google for pics of Bangalore metro and Shanghai metro, it’s like copy paste). I was like wow we are at China’s level in infrastructure. But don’t be impressed if you are like I was. The speaker explained how countries across the world have inculcated their culture in their Metros and how have we missed on such a wonderful opportunity, for example Moscow’s metro entrance looks like a museum and I am no fan of museums but it was truly amazing.

Another Surprise was in store. Sometime during the middle of week I was visiting my roomie’s profile and found his birthday was on 12th of April. When I told him I knew, he had a look of horror on his face. For some personal reason he didn’t want to inform anyone in office and prayed to me to keep my mouth shut. But it was his birthday, my first roomie’s birthday; I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. So I knew the right person to inform, so that the information reaches every office mate, it has to be the CEO himself. And yes, to my delight, sir informed everyone and all wished him; said good things about him and he was actually very happy. I couldn’t imagine how could he have spent his birthday without letting anyone around him know. I am now glad I sometimes visit (not Stalk 😛 ) some of my friend’s profiles.

And yes, do Bangaloreons like to watch movies. I visited a nearby multiplex to watch a movie on Sunday. Not available. Fair enough. I asked them to give me any show of the day of that movie. Not available. I asked them to give me any show of the day of any Hindi/English movie. Not available. They were happy to inform that not only are all Hindi/English movies house full, all regional language films are too. Surprised? (I was). Lesson – Book in advance if you want to watch a movie in Bangalore on a Sunday.

Another surprise is the Bangalore weather. We all hear it is the AC city of India, well it truly is. You won’t even realize its summer if you are a recent immigrant in Bangalore from some other part of India. To top it all, it rains sometimes in the evenings. Yes, in mid of April, it rains here.
Well, so to sum it up, I made some mistakes during the week. We all do sometimes. But I have learned from them. We Make mistakes, we learn, we grow; we make new mistakes and repeat the cycle.

Ratan Sharan Rao

 
 

UX Design thinking Part 1

10 Apr
UX is like being a good friend UNICOM
– Nitesh Naveen, CEO, UNICOM Learning

UNICOM Learning has seen phenomenal growth since last few years and has emerged as one of the fastest growing Professional Conference Organizer (PCO) in global market, worth $25 bn as per a conservative estimate. We do lot of crazy things in a systematic way, one of which is our continuous improvement program. Here we seek advises from multiple stakeholders. We asked one of our past delegate who also happens to be CIO of a large bank, “What more can we do to do better?”

He suggested that UNICOM should provide better user experience on its website. CIOs usually answer in simple sentences, but this time it was complex for me. 🙂

“User Experience” was a new term to me and hence I could not really understand his suggestion. Later that week, I came across the work of Mr Donald Norman, a user experience architect, who coined the word user experience way back in 1995. He has written few books on the topic. As I had little intention to read the whole book then, I read its synopsis available on internet.

Then I realised that “User Experience” is not at all a technical term. It basically means how a user feels when meeting you, your company or when using your product or service.

Analogy – How a new employee feels when he joins a company? How a new bride feels when she moves into in-laws’ house post marriage? There can be many similar situations…which basically is what user experience all about.

Thus began our journey to revamp our website (www.unicomlearning.com; this gets 1000+ unique hits per day) to provide the best User Experience. As and when we started learning more about the subject, we were able to understand how difficult few experiences are for our customers, who visits our website. Our analytics team showed that we were not losing many customers because of this problem, but for me it was more than a business.

We would be designing a new website from this month and this is what we have suggested to our designers and developers, when explaining what is User Experience thinking? –

“User experience thinking is like being a good friend”

Won’t the new joinee or the new bride love to get a friend when they enter a new world?

In other words, our new design should not be over bearing; nor should it be neglectful. We have to basically use friendly tricks to provide the best user experience. These tricks are –

[1] Guide the users: We should not try to coach them. Unnecessary gyaan would make us look like a teacher rather than a friend. At the same time, we should not leave them hanging as well.

[2] Don’t confuse: Sometimes in our enthusiasm to win a customer, we confuse them by offering more than what is needed. It is something like when you visit an apparel store, you are handed a leaflet with details of all available clothings. I would think – “Do I like stupid where I need to be given so much information? Guess what I know what I need more than you buddy.”

Don’t make your users feel the same. Don’t frustrate them either with no information or help around when they need.

[3] Give feedback – Friends wants to know how they are doing. They like when you appreciate and love when you help. Basically they want you to be with them. In our context, a good ux design should let the user know (few examples)

3.1 that when they click a button, button’s color would change acknowledging the action tried.

3.2 that when they are downloading a brochure, they are made aware of the time left before they can see it

3.3 that when they are registering, they are aware that they are just 4 clicks away

[4] Be human – Users love when they know that they are talking to a person and not a machine. Hence a lot of focus should be given to the language, instruction sets, etc

[5] Set the users up for success – Nothing delights me when I see the following message after booking my air-ticket-

“Thanks. Your booking is successful. You have been sent a confirmation email and SMS. If you need to alter you plan, we would do it for you. Enjoy your flight and have a nice day”

After every milestone, we need to congratulate our users. They not only paid for it, but also spent their time and imagination in the experience that you provided.

We are also currently looking at the following top 5 trends in UX design for our new website.

– Skeumorphic Design Vs Flat design

– Multi Device Design

– Scalable web design

– Visual storytelling

– Typography

UX/UI DesignUNICOM

We shall be using India UXUI design summit to learn more about these trends.

http://www.uxuidesign.org/bangalore/program

See you at the event on May 23 at Hotel Atria


I am open for suggestions.

Cheers,
Nitesh Naveen
Nitesh Naveen

Twitter: @NiteshNaveen
Skype: Naveen_Nitesh

 

The Firsts of Many

10 Apr

The 1st week of April brought many firsts in my life. The biggie – first day at work in a corporate. But it’s not a job, an internship. And yes I have been to offices earlier during my engineering studies too but they were trainings. And let’s face it, trainings aren’t the real thing. So yes, I would prefer to call it my first day at work in a corporate. It was also my first visit to Bangalore, first time in a PG, first time in a Gym (I seriously hope I continue this one), first time sharing a room, first time washing my own clothes (Yes, in a washing machine but it is my first none the less :P), first time washing my own utensils and the list is endless.

Shift to the first day in office. So I, along with my roommate (who is also here for training for the same company UNICOM) reach at around 9-45 and we are met with a big surprise. The entry into office required an access card which none of us had and we couldn’t see anyone in office too whom we could ask to open the office. I missed a small detail there, the reporting time was 10 am. I had reached earlier due to my excitement of first day in office and he, well just because he likes to reach early. Well finally, one person came to our rescue. An office mate who was inside and who could hear the frenzied calls that my roommate was making (Yeah, not me!!!).

So I am in the office. Well, as the clock nears 10 am, more and more people start pouring in. And they all recognize my roommate Shambaditya. Why? Because he had joined their Kolkate office a month or two back and had Skype calls with almost all of them. And I am intern. It was a first for the company as well, the first intern joining them. So most of them didn’t know what to do with me but nonetheless they greeted me and asked me to sit. Well, one myth about South India which I found out to be true – they are very fluent in English. Yes, almost all of them were. Some doubts had started developing in my mind too, like is this how my next 60 days are going to go? But then a known face comes by, the sales manager of the company who was one of the persons who had interviewed me and hence knew me. I get a warm handshake and a welcome and the rest join in and I was set. So, the senior HR person comes by where I am sitting and informs me that my induction will be taken by the CEO himself and till he arrives I should read up about the company. (Well, don’t take me to be a geek, but being the first time at work, and looking to form a positive impact, I had already read a lot about the company before joining itself). So, I just sit there and play Candy Crush saga. Yes, that’s how I spent my first hour or so during my first day in office.

The CEO arrives. He also was one of the interviewers and hence knew me and so I again received a warm welcome. And also he is an alumnus of a different program of my college (IIM-C), so there was that connect too. He begins induction for four people. Me, my super excited Bengali roommate, an existing employee who was supposed to change roles and a new employee, who was reluctant to start a new job on Tuesday as it was bad omen according to him. So during the induction, we are informed about how he started the company, what are their goals in the long and short terms, how has the company done so far and the various jobs and processes. It was interesting not because I want to please him as he might read this blog but because he had actually implemented management funda taught in classrooms to run the company. So whenever he used to use a term which I had heard in my IIM lectures, I had a small smile on my face.

So after a short induction, we break for lunch. Oh, my PG provides food too but it’s horrible. So far, I have been surviving on the gujju snacks I had bought from home, later god help me. So post lunch break, the induction continues and we are given our roles and responsibilities. And a missile fell on me. He asks me to analyze the balance sheets of the company. You must be wondering why it was a missile. Because, finance scares me. Don’t judge me here. Try being a fresher engineer in IIM-C where around 40% of your peers are either a CA, some level CFA or actually have been investment bankers before joining IIM. All your love for finance will turn into fear when you attend that classroom. But I had to do it anyhow and do it well. So that night, I go back home and revise some finance knowledge learned at IIM-C. Day -2 at office and I am analyzing balance sheets of UNICOM. It started slowly but turned into a fun activity and when I turned in my analysis to the CEO and he liked them, I was on seventh cloud.

The work culture at UNICOM is intense. People are very focused on their jobs because it is a small team and each person has some big responsibilities. But there is a certain kind of warmth too. For example, I am seated next to the web designer. Always immersed in her computer doing some high tech stuff (I am a chemical engineer and not a computer). She is easily the quietest person in office. Rarely talks. But when I asked her for some help related to my work, she was more than happy to do so. And I was super impressed when I learned that she is a biotech engineer and not a computer, but learned all the computer stuff on her own.

So during the week, while doing my financial calculations and SWOT, I enjoyed two wonderful office parties. First was a farewell party for a lady who was leaving office for personal reasons. All I can say that it was a very warm party. Next was the Friday party which the company usually tries to have. We played Wolf (it is the office version of our college game “Mafia”, those who don’t know about it, learn it otherwise you will miss out on something in life).

Come Saturday (Yes, we work on Saturdays) and it was the first time I openly interact with my office-mates. And the discussion was about how to convince the CEO to give an off on Saturdays or at least a half-day. I wasn’t a keen participant in the discussion because I don’t mind working on Saturdays as probably I will get bored at my PG. So If you are reading this sir, don’t shoot me, I am just the messenger. And then I discover the worst thing about my Bangalore. Its frequent power cuts during the summers. I am from Gujarat and can’t remember when was the last power cut I experienced. So due to a prolonged power cut, we get an early leave on Saturday and I and my roommate were off to the movies. Saturday was Noah Day (it is bad people, don’t watch it) and Sunday was Captain America which was super awesome.

Thus ends my first week at office.

Also it is my first time writing a blog, so please be nice even if you don’t like it.

Ratan Sharan Rao