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Saturday, April 30, 2016

PERSONAL TOUGH SPECIAL ........9 Things Mentally Tough People Always Do

9 Things Mentally Tough People Always Do
Talent is important, but success is also based on persistence, focus, and standing fast in the face of criticism. Fortunately, mental toughness is something you can develop.

Let's get this out of the way: Mental toughness is not a quality you either do or don't have.
Sure, some people may have greater self-discipline than you possess. Some people may be better at resisting temptation than you are. But that's probably not because they were born with some certain special something inside of them--instead, they've found ways to develop mental toughness and use it when it really matters.
They're mentally strong because they've learned how to be--and you can too.
Here's how:
1. Always assume you are in complete control.
There's a quote often credited to Ignatius: "Pray as if God will take care of all; act as if all is up to you." 
The same premise applies to luck. Many people feel luck has a lot to do with success or failure. If they succeed, luck favored them, and if they fail, luck was against them.
Most successful people do feel good luck played some role in their success. But they don't wait for good luck, or worry about bad luck. They act as if success or failure is totally within their control.
If they succeed, they caused it. If they fail, they caused it.
By not wasting mental energy worrying about what might happen to you, you can put all your effort into making things happen. (And then, if you get lucky, hey, you're even better off.)
You can't control what luck does for you, but you can definitely control what you do for yourself.

2. Make a lot fewer choices.
We all have a finite store of mental energy for exercising self-control.
The more choices we make during the day, the harder each one is on our brain--and the more we start to look for shortcuts. (When you're tired, you're a lot more likely to say, "Oh, the heck with it.")
Then we get impulsive. Then we get reckless. Then we make decisions we know we shouldn't make, but we just can't seem help ourselves.
In fact, we can't help ourselves: We've run out of the mental energy we need to make smart choices.
That's why the fewer choices we have to make, the smarter choices we can make when we do need to make a decision.
Say you want to drink more water and less soda. Easy: Keep three water bottles on your desk at all times. Then you won't need to go to the refrigerator and make a choice.
Or say you struggle to keep from constantly checking your email. Easy: Turn off all your alerts. Or shut down your email and open it only once an hour. Or take your mail program off your desktop and keep it on a laptop across the room. Make it hard to check, because then you're more likely not to.
Or say you want to make fewer impulse purchases. Easy: Keep your credit card in a drawer. Then you can't make an impulse buy. Or require two sign-offs for all purchases over a certain amount, because you will have to run those decisions by someone else (which probably means you'll think twice and won't even bother).
Choices are the enemy of mental toughness. So are ease and convenience. Think of decisions that require you to be mentally strong, and then take willpower totally out of the equation.
3. Put aside things you have no ability to impact.
Mental strength is like muscle strength--no one has an unlimited supply. So why waste your power on things you can't control?
For some people, it's politics. For others, it's family. For others, it's global warming. Whatever it is, you care, and you want others to care.
Fine. Do what you can do: Vote. Lend a listening ear. Recycle, and reduce your carbon footprint. Do what you can do. Be your own change--but don't try to make everyone else change.(They won't.)
4. See the past as valuable training and nothing more.
The past is valuable. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from the mistakes of others.
Then let it go.
Easier said than done? It depends on your perspective. When something bad happens to you, see it as an opportunity to learn something you didn't know. When another person makes a mistake, don't just learn from it--see it as an opportunity to be kind, forgiving, and understanding.
The past is just training; it doesn't define you. Think about what went wrong but only in terms of how you will make sure that next time, you and the people around you will know how to make sure it goes right.
5. Actively celebrate the success of others.
Many people--I guarantee you know at least a few--see success as a zero-sum game. To them, there's only so much to go around, so if someone else shines, they think that diminishes the light from their star.
Resentment sucks up a massive amount of mental energy--energy better applied elsewhere.
When a friend does something awesome, that doesn't preclude you from doing something awesome. In fact, where success is concerned, birds of a feather tend to flock together--so draw your successful friends even closer.
Don't resent awesomeness. Create and celebrate awesomeness, wherever you find it, and in time you'll find even more of it in yourself.
6. Never allow yourself to complain. Or criticize.
Your words have power, especially over you. Whining about your problems always makes you feel worse, not better.
So if something is wrong, don't waste time complaining. Put that mental energy into making the situation better. 
So why waste time? Fix it now. Don't talk about what's wrong. Talk about how you'll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself.
And do the same with your friends or colleagues. Don't just serve as a shoulder they can cry on. Friends don't let friends whine; friends help friends make their lives better.
7. Don't try to impress others; impress yourself instead.
No one likes you for your clothes, your car, your possessions, your title, or your accomplishments. Those are all things. People may like your things--but that doesn't mean they like you.
Genuine relationships make you happier, and you'll only form genuine relationships when you stop trying to impress and start trying to just be yourself.
And you'll have a lot more mental energy to spend on the people who really do matter in your life.
8. Consistently review your long-term goals.
Say you want to build a bigger company; when you're mentally tired, it's easy to rationalize that you'll do your best tomorrow, not today. Say you want to lose weight; when you're mentally tired, it's easy to rationalize that you'll start changing your eating and exercise habits tomorrow, not today. Say you want to better engage with your employees; when you're mentally tired, it's easy to rationalize that you really need to work on some report today; tomorrow you'll worry about your employees.
Mental fatigue makes us take the easy way out--even though the easy way takes us the wrong way. That's why it's so important to maintain tangible reminders to pull you back from the impulse brink.
A friend has a copy of his bank note taped to his computer monitor as a constant reminder of an obligation he must meet. Another keeps a photo of himself on his refrigerator taken when he weighed 250 pounds so he's constantly reminded of the person he never wants to be again. Katheryn Winnick, the star of Vikings, keeps a list of goals on her computer desktop so she's forced to look at them every day.

Think of moments when you are most likely to give in to impulses that take you further away from your long-term goals. Then use tangible reminders of those long-term goals to interrupt the impulse and keep you on track.
9. Count your blessings.
Take a second every night before you turn out the light and, in that moment, quit worrying about what you don't have. Quit worrying about what others have that you don't.
Think about what you do have. You have a lot to be thankful for. Feels pretty good, doesn't it?
Feeling better about yourself is the best way of all to recharge your mental batteries.


BOOK SUMMARY 111 The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World

BOOK SUMMARY 111 The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World

·         Summary written by: Peter Nakamura
“Look at yourself in the mirror. If you like what you see, capture the same positive energy every morning of your life.”
– Selling in the Real World, page 21
Harvey Mackay is a world-renowned business speaker and sales guru. He’s written multiple New York Times best-selling books and his work has been recognized by sales leaders the likes of John C. Maxwell and Jeffrey Gitomer. In his latest book, The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World, Harvey shares with his readers the keys to becoming a top performing salesperson and lessons that he’s learned from his life starting as a newspaper delivery boy to becoming the CEO of a $100 million company.
The book isn’t so much about the latest sales tactics and strategies. Harvey is pretty old school when it comes to his approach, but the core of his message is about the intangible aspects that makes a sales superstar. His book comes in highly digestible, bite-size pieces so you can pick-up the book from anywhere you want and there’s always a nugget that you can easily apply to your life and career.
To me, this book was all about the mentality of what makes you successful in sales and in life. (Aren’t we all in sales after all?) Chock full of inspirational quotes like “make a second effort your second nature” and stories with a powerful message, this book will give you a greater sense of confidence and motivation to be the best salesperson you can be.

The Golden Egg
Be a Hungry Fighter
"If I had to name only three traits that make a great sales representative, they would be: hungry fighter, hungry fighter, hungry fighter."- Selling in the Real World, page 1
Right from the get-go, Harvey stresses the importance of being a hungry fighter. I love the term hungry fighter because it captures so much of what it means to be in sales. According to Harvey, being a hungry fighter means that you’re driven and have a passion for what you sell. It’s about having a strong work ethic and a high energy level. It’s about being willing to work longer and harder than your peers especially when the times are rough or the economy is poor.
The theme of being a hungry fighter appears throughout the book and for good reason. Sales is a contact sport and being able to handle rejection and maintain a positive attitude is something that all salespeople need to be able to do. Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers once said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get up again” and a hungry fighter always gets back up.

Gem #1
Maintain a Positive Attitude
"Success may not be predictable, but its achievement nearly always relies on a spirit of positive thinking."- Selling in the Real World, page 153
Maintaining a positive attitude is critical for sales success. When faced with a sea of rejection, the salesperson that is able to overcome the self-doubt and pressure always comes out on top. Winston Churchill was famously quoted saying, “I am an optimist. It doesn’t seem too much use being anything else.” A hungry fighter is one that can appreciate the realism of a challenge but is willing to do whatever it takes to overcome it.
Optimism pays off as well. A psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania found that optimists are more successful than equally talented pessimists in business, education, sports and politics. The study showed that optimists outsold pessimists by 20 percent the first year. During the second year, optimists outsold pessimists by 50 percent!
Harvey is an eternal optimist and he believes that there is nothing we can’t do if we set our minds to it. It helps to be realistic but not when it limits your potential. Most of us will not pitch in the World Series but we can still set an ambitious goal to achieve in our lives. A hungry fighter with a positive attitude starts the day getting pumped up about the day and spends the rest of the day fighting the self-doubt and worries that might paralyze action. How are you developing and maintaining a positive attitude each day?

Gem #2
Embrace failure and learn from it
"People are successful because they face adversity head-on to gain strength and skill. They don’t take the path of least resistance."- Selling in the Real World, page 132
Just as important as maintaining a positive attitude is the ability to embrace failure and learn from it. Four hall of fame coaches in the NFL – Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, and Jimmy Johnson – earned a total of 3 wins in their first seasons coaching combined. All four of them also failed to make the playoffs the following season. But when all was said and done, they won 11 Super Bowls between the four of them by the end of their coaching careers. Some might say the adversity that they faced during the first couple of seasons set them up for subsequent success.
Harvey believes that there are three key ingredients to success: don’t quit; don’t quit; don’t quit. Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Suess), author of The Cat in the Hat, didn’t write his first book until he was 33 and had to go through 28 publishers to finally get his book published. Failing is the admission to success and hungry fighters look for adversity to challenge them to get better. I really appreciated this piece of advice because some of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned in my life came from my failures – not my successes.
So how does one become more resilient and seek out challenges? Prepare yourself mentally and physical to grind it out. Professionals dedicate over 10,000 hours (that’s about 10 years of their lives) of diligent and purposeful practice that separates them from the amateurs. Find out what gets you in the zone.Getting in the zone is about committing yourself to excellence and looking for coaching/mentorship to get you better. Practice perfect. Learning from a failure is great but if you continue to practice the same technique that led you to failure, you’re just practicing a flaw. Identify the flaw, change it, and then practice until it’s perfect.

The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World is a great book for salespeople – veterans and rookies – to pickup and study. I have no doubt that I’ll be sifting through the book again for some inspiration in the future. Lou Holtz – legendary coach of at the University of Notre Dame – wrote the forward for the book and summed the role of a salesperson beautifully: “You don’t sell anyone. You help people get what they want.”



If you have just a day to go around this Flemish city, here's a map to help you make the most of it...

The diamond city of Belgium is blooming in a million forms ­ from cuisine to culture, art to architecture, ideas to innovation. The infrastructure here makes it easy to reach most places on foot or bike; and to uncover the city's true essence. Here are the 5 stops you need to make.

For a gorgeous start to your day and a grand first impression, arrive in the city by train. With its soaring glass ceiling, massive stone walls, elegant hall, palatial stairway and ornate turnof-the-century architecture, the dimly lit central station is an architectural gem that finds mention in books and guides.The station looks more like a palace or church than a train terminal. Dubbed as the `Railway Cathedral', it is the fourth-most beautiful station in the world. Once you are out of the gate, to your immediate right is the animal kingdom ­ a zoo that shelters some exotic species, and to the left is the diamond quarter with shop windows packed with glittering gems and precious metal.

A two-minute walk south will take you to one of the city's most celebrated landmarks ­ Cathedral of Our Lady (entry: 6 ), which stands tall, gleaming golden in the night lights.It took 169 long years (1352-1521) of labour to raise this 123-metre heavenward-reaching steeple of grace, the highest Gothic building in the Low Countries (coastal region in western Europe). Feast your eyes on its art and architecture, which includes models by some of the greatest 17th-century Flemish masters.

Near the Cathedral is Grote Market, the heart of the old city, rich with twisted cobblestone streets, immaculately-restored guildhalls dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, and pretty art galleries and antiques shops. Beer lovers will absolutely love this area that houses many qui et as well as bustling terrace cafes and bars. Some of them pour around 1,000 different kinds of beer. Order a mug, bask in the wafting aroma of strudel and let the splendid sur roundings work their magic!

Treat yourself to culture and shop ping at the Meir, the wide, traffic-free shopping boulevard that links Central Station to the historic city centre. At the street level, you have enticing win dow displays of famous brands and designer boutiques. Look up and you the Art-Deco Torengebouw ­ Europe's first skyscraper built in 932, the New Stock Exchange re constructed in an intricate Neo Gothic style and some handsome Rococo-style buildings. Don't miss the Osterrieth House, Napoleon Bonaparte's Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace) and the former royal resi dence of the Belgian Kings! Walk a little more and you reach a square known as Wapper that connects the two shopping areas. This was where Antwerp's greatest Baroque painter, Peter Paul Rubens, spent most of his life. Travel back in time by visiting his former mansion and studio, now called Rubenshuis (entry: 8 ), which functions as a mu seum filled with brilliant pieces by the artist and his pupils.

When you are at a place where beer is cheaper than water, you can't miss visiting the speciality brewery that makes this frothy drink. Explore 10 interactive rooms and discover the history De Koninck Brewery. Learn what happens behind the scenes and sample `bolleke'­ local slang for a glass of ambre-coloured ale served in goblets. You can register for a private tasting session and learn the art of pairing beer with some amazing arti sanal foods ­ cheese, meat and chocolate. It's a deliciously educational way to end a perfect day.
shikha shah


COMMUNICATIONS SPECIAL............. How To Ace Your Presentations

How To Ace Your Presentations

In the age of the Internet, delivering killer presentations seems to be more important than ever. Those who can do it well get ahead. However, for many, it can be totally daunting. It’s not that the ideas aren’t there. It is the ability to produce crystal-clear content that is interesting and the anxiety around communicating it that is the blocker. If you want to improve your level of skill in this area, check out the eight points below.

1. Engage About Expectations

Whether online or face-to-face, it is important to devote some time to discussing expectations before getting started. Be upfront with your audience so that they known what to expect from your presentation.

2. Keep It Compact And Be Clear

Neuroscientists say that the human mind can only absorb three to seven points in short-term memory. The inspirational visionary Steve Jobs knew this. His product descriptions were all short, to the point, and described the product in one sentence. He also sometimes used the rule of three: “Thinner, faster, lighter” and “The world’s thinnest notebook” are some of the most memorable definitions. Think concise and clear when writing your content. You will feel more positive in your approach, more comfortable about the delivery, and you will also have more impact.

3. Get Creative

Who doesn’t love a good story? The best advertisers are fully aware of this and use narratives all the time to connect us emotionally to the brands they represent. Top brand Nike doesn’t even mention its products in its ads. Instead, we, the consumer, are the star of the story, as they help us to achieve our dreams of doing better.
Stories have power! Get creative in your communication and spin a good tale. Concretely, this means finding real-life experiences that you can use to illustrate your points. If you feel you lack creativity, why not try meditation? Research shows that mindfulness promotes divergent thinking.

4. Be A Facilitator

Understand the level of knowledge of the group and don’t underestimate their insights. Ask some open questions and note the individual responses on a whiteboard. Reinforce good responses and link them to the main points you are making. Sometimes there will be “outlier” responses that are of little interest to the rest of the audience. Demonstrate sensitivity and respect here. Inform the individual that their issue is outside of the contents of the presentation, but there will be 15 minutes at the end of the presentation for one-on-one questions.

5. Wrap Up Well

Make sure to spend time wrapping up your presentation. Address whether people felt their expectations were met. This is the mark of a true client-focused professional.

6. Be Confident

Beforehand, find a quiet and peaceful place to relax and visualize being adequate. Don’t imagine suddenly being your favourite star on stage — this is more like wishful thinking. Focus on being calm, with a steady voice, relaxed body, and the confidence that you are prepared. Also, take some time to visualise something you already love to do with ease. This could be cooking your favourite dish, serving it up to family or friends, and explaining how you created such a delight. Now, transfer the feelings you are experiencing and see yourself presenting. Believe the tools are within you! You are already confident in other areas of your life and you can have confidence when presenting too.

7. Be Calm

Practise “ratio breathing.” If you don’t know this powerful tool, make sure to Google it. Basically, watch your breath and let it travel all the way down to the base of your spine, relaxing the belly and letting the diaphragm move into it. On the out breath, breathe all the way out of the top of the head, constantly maintaining your focus on it. Think of it like a barometer. Breathe in for 2 seconds and out for 4 seconds. You can change the ratio to whatever works for you. When we feel anxious, this is a guaranteed tool to calm the body because it switches the parasympathetic nervous system on and switches the “fight or flight” reaction off. So practise it and use it as needed on the day.

8. Take Control

Notice the area around you — this is yours, so own it and fill it. Research by Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy has shown that when we adopt “power poses” – that is, manipulating our own body language so that we feel more poised and confident — testosterone increases and cortisol decreases, so our bodies really can trick our minds into believing we are confident. Practise this at home in front of the mirror so you can get comfortable with your new style. Also, notice any thoughts and keep the feel-good messages, such as “I can do this,” flowing.
Finally, remember you are giving it your best shot and bear in mind that your realistic aim is to give a “good enough” presentation, not to “raise the house” — although, with practise, you very well may!

STUDENT GADGET GIZMO SPECIAL ..Best laptops students can buy 

STUDENT GADGET GIZMO SPECIAL Best laptops students can buy

When it comes to notebooks for students, most seek value for money. However, considering the variety of laptops available, that is no mean feat. Karan Bajaj lists the best options in the sub-`45,000 price bracket.

PRICE: Rs `45,000
Weighing 2.3kg, the Asus notebook offers a 15.6-inch display in a stylish two tone finish. It is one of the cheapest notebooks to offer the latest 6th gen Intel core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 2GB dedicated Nvidia 930M GPU and a 1TB hard drive. You get three USB ports, HDMI, Ethernet, DVD drive and a 2-cell battery offering up to 4.5 hours backup.

PRICE: Rs `40,000
This is amongst the cheapest notebooks available today to come out of the box with 8GB RAM. Other specifications include 5th gen Intel Core i3 processor, 1TB hard drive, dedicated GPU and a 15.6-inch HD display.It comes preloaded with Windows 10 OS and Lenovo claims up to 4 hours of battery backup from a full charge.
PRICE: Rs `35,000
Inspiron series of notebooks from Dell are known for their sturdy build and excellent performance. The Inspiron 15 3000 series is available in various configurations with choice of Intel processor, 4GB RAM, up to 1TB storage and Windows 10 OS. The screen size is 15.6-inches and Dell says the battery lasts up to 7 hours.

PRICE: Rs `15,000
If you prefer a compact device with great battery life, the X205 from Asus is recommended. You get a 11.6-inch display in a device weighing less than 1kg. Hardware includes quad core Intel Atom, 2GB RAM and 32 GB flash storage which can be expanded. The best part is the battery life--a claimed 12 hours' backup.

PRICE: Rs `32,000
If graphics performance is priority, the Aspire V5 offers a dedicated Nvidia 920M GPU with 2GB memory. The 15.6-inch notebook runs Windows 10 on a 5th gen Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB RAM and 1TB hard drive. It weighs 2.4kg, offers 3 USB ports, Ethernet, webcam, optical drive and a battery with over 5 hours of backup.

PRICE: Rs `22,000
Looking for a value for money offering for basic daily use? The Aspire ES1 checks all the boxes. It gives you a 15.6inch display and runs an AMD dual core processor. Other specifications include 4GB RAM, 1TB hard drive storage, AMD Radeon graphics and a 3-cell battery. It comes preloaded with Windows 10 OS.

HP 15-AF001
PRICE: Rs `29,000
The only notebook in the sub-`30,000 range that comes with dedicated GPU and Windows OS. You get a quad core AMD A8 processor, 4GB RAM, 500GB hard drive and AMD Radeon M330 graphics with 2GB dedicated memory.Weighing 2.1kg, it has a 15.6-inch display, full size keyboard and runs Windows 8.1.

PRICE: Rs `31,000
If you want a notebook that can be used in multiple modes, then the Yoga 300 is the answer. It has a 11.6-inch HD touchscreen and runs Windows 10 OS. Inside you get 6th generation Intel Pentium processor, 4GB RAM and 500GB SSHD for optimum performance.It weighs just 1.4kg and has battery life of up to 5 hours.

HP 14-AC108TU
PRICE: Rs `32,500
This 14-inch notebook is sleek, stylish and lightweight at 1.9kg. You get a 5th generation Intel Core i3 processor with 4GB RAM, Intel HD graphics and 1TB of hard drive. The display has a resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels and the notebook comes preloaded with Windows 10. You get 3 USB ports, HDMI, Ethernet as well as a DVD writer.

CAREER SPECIAL................. TEMP IS TEMPTING And No One's Complaining

TEMP IS TEMPTING And No One's Complaining

FINDING THEIR FEET Given that the pay gap between temporary & permanent salaries has been reducing, more people are encouraged to take the leap. However, these options are not available for every role or in every industry.

When investing, it is often said, higher the risk you take, more are the chances of a higher return. The rules seem to be the same for the job market. Many freshers are spurning (or even leaving) permanent, stable jobs to take up temporary roles in bigger firms which could give them the first big break or help them climb the ladder faster.
Getting a temporary position in a large multinational company is actually easier than landing a permanent role. “Many at the entryto midlevel are choosing temp roles to get a chance to create an opening balance to propel to a better career which otherwise will be elusive,“ says Rituparna Chakraborty, cofounder, TeamLease.
The good news is that the pay gap between temporary salaries and permanent salaries have been narrowing (see table). This reduces the risk and encourages more to take the plunge. “Being the ecommerce and IT hub, sectors which recruits temps in large numbers, Bengaluru is one of the most favoured cities for such positions. Startups too need temporary employees,“ says Sairee Chahal, CEO,, a flexi-jobs site focused on women.

Since employment contracts are for the short-term, companies are more flexible in hiring. But if you perform well, chances are high that you will get absorbed by the same firm in a permanent role. The average contract is for 12 months. “Our experience show that almost half our temp attrition are on account of the temp getting absorbed by the companies where they have been deployed,“ says Chakraborty . However, it is always on the basis of performance.
For a fresher with fewer qualifications or of mediocre merit, the tempjob route is good for the CV and an excellent learning opportunity too.“The exposure makes them highly employable,“ says Chakraborty.Many are choosing a temp job over a permanent role just to work with a big name, which could imply permanent jobs and higher pay later.
Another category of temp employees are those who plan to study fur ther. Even though in a temporary position, a stint at a major is more valued than a permanent role in a small firm. “This experience adds immensely to their CV and someone with a not-so-impressive graduation degree can use this as a tool to make his profile look better before applying for higher studies in top colleges.“ says Chakraborty .
The ideal temp candidates are usually graduates or with professional degrees, 20-30 years' old and with three to four years of experience.However, all big companies have huge openings for consultants who have skill and expertise in their respective fields. This makes temping relevant for not only entry-level jobs but for even mid-level hires.

While temping offers a quicker entry into the job market, the ability to move up depends on one's performance. “Temping will get you an opportunity but the company would like to retain high performers only ,“ says Chahal. If you do not get absorbed you will have to switch from one temp-role to another, which can result in irregular income. There is also a risk of losing job without a notice period since as you are not on the payroll. But that may not happen often since demand is high.
Chandralekha Mukerji




Online marketplaces are increasingly depending on algorithms to crunch data on customer behaviour and turn profitable.

By the end of this year, m commerce-to-wallet com pany Paytm will have all its category pages made by machines. Paytm wants to respond to each customer who visits its website looking for fashion wear or sports gear or iPhone covers in a personalised way. The website will offer customer choices based on past usage and social media posts. For example, if you recently went to Goa on a holiday and posted photos of the trip on Facebook, you might get `beach-themed' iPhone covers.
The idea is to hook customers with what they prefer. Given that the choice of iPhone covers run into several hundreds, a customer visiting an online marketplace might not have the patience to browse through all the pages and options. But by throwing up just what he desires, the website might be able to coax him into buying.
Online marketplaces like Paytm call this conversion rates -the number of visitors who end up buying stuff. Helping them bump up conversion rates are algorithms. Algorithms are responsible for customers browsing for goods being greeted with shopping recommendations. Algorithms decide what to display for online marketplaces. They keep track of what customer are browsing and buying.
“The goal is to improve conversion rates and help the industry become profitable,“ says Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder, Paytm.
How does it work? Internet merchants are swamped with mind-boggling flow of data -for example, Paytm has about 30 lakh visitors every day with about 3 million page views daily. Algorithms help it crunch data on customer preferences and increase sales.
“Algorithms are the base for everything online -shopping, shipping, packaging, payments, price points etc,“ says Sandeep Aggarwal, founder,, an e-commerce marketplace.
The importance of algorithms becomes stark looking at the current online marketplace conversion rates. It is at less than 3% compared with that of offline retail at 22-25%.
Algorithms will also underpin the future of ecommerce companies. There was a time when these companies could live with that poor statistic. Not anymore.They are stacking up $150-200 million in losses every month, throwing good money at customer acquisitions and deep discounts. Profitability was not a priority. But now they face a funding squeeze and pressure from investors to show profits.
Pragya Singh, vice-president, retail, Technopak a retail consultancy, says the focus until now was on topline growth.“In the last few months it's about how to come out of deep discounting and show profits.“
Flipkart has been downgraded twice in the last four months by investors Morgan Stanley and T Rowe Price. In March, the Department of Industrial Promotion and Policy, the nodal agency for investments, while allowing 100% FDI in pure marketplaces banned deep discounts, predatory pricing and `big billion sales'.
With no room for manoeuvring prices to attract buyers, the route to achieve better conversion and reduce losses is big data analysis and algorithms.
Praveen Bhadada, partner and practice head, Zinnov, a Bengaluru-based management consulting firm, sees the reliance on algorithms as the second wave of ecommerce in India. “The first wave was about getting the model right, getting people used to the idea of shopping online. Now, a sizeable customer base is there (about 55-60 million internet users shop online) and in the second wave companies are using algorithms to improve profitability,“ says Bhadada.
Data as a Weapon
At any given time, there are 3 to 4 million visitors online. They spend an average of seven minutes viewing 8-10 pages. By the end of the day, about 15 million records are generated. ComScore data for February for all etailers shows 52.98 million unique visitors, 4.42 billion page views and about 55 minutes a visitor a month.
The minutes spent on e-shopping leave a trail and clues that companies want to dive into. What was the shopper looking for? What are his previous purchases?
What device did he use? How many times has he visited the website? “We have to use this basic data -what did a person do -for strategic advantage. So, if a user has not logged in for 3-4 days the listing might be stale and the algorithm refreshes it. If a customer does a lot of cancellations, the cash on delivery option for him is automatically disabled (the customer might be doing it just for fun),“ says Aggarwal.
Generating traffic is not the problem for etail ers. Getting customers to buy is. “We are super ambitious about using data to help a person find what he is looking for. This will increase conversion rate and improve profitability,“ says Rajiv Mangla, CTO, Snapdeal. “We want to detect patterns in user behaviour to improve conversion.“
A number of companies are already using algorithms to improve conversion rates. Ugam Solutions is a Bengaluru based data analytics company whose clients include leading ecommerce platforms such as eBay, LG and Staples. The company analyses data for clients and offers signals--what inventory to carry, what models are trending, what are users searching for and what competition is carrying. Say a marketplace wants to dominate luxury watches segment, should it carry the whole inventory from Rolex to Rado or focus on brands like Breitling or Chopard which have the more likelihood of sales.
Mihir Kittur, co-founder & CEO, Ugam Solutions, says India is a growth market where the belt has tightened.
To be sure, companies are looking at data with renewed interest. Saurabh Vashishtha, vice-president Paytm says his company “stores everything“.
“There's a huge push to dynamic content from static a year back.“
So if six months back all visitors saw the similar content on each category page, now Paytm has a better idea and displays content based on what the algorithm picks up.
Deepali Tamhane, senior director, product management, Flipkart, says the company is working towards achieving the next level of personalisation. “We want to provide our users with what they want, even before they know they want it, of course with their consent to use their data.“
Finding the Sweet Spot
Adds Bhadada, “in the small window the user logs in the goal should be to understand what she wants and not carpet bomb. At furniture e-tailer Pepperfry, if a popular product, like the Disney almirah for kids becomes too common, more people may not buy. “There comes a point when it should be moved out. That point is not determined by humans but machine learning software,“ says Sanjay Netrabile, CTO, Pepperfry.
Pricing is another aspect where algorithms become handy. Consultancy PricewaterhouseCooper's (PwC) leader data and analytics Sudipta Ghosh says humans decide on pricing products for offline retailers. In the online world, with millions of simultaneous transactions, this decision is taken by data analytics. “If price point is too low people might perceive it as too cheap to buy and abandon purchase. This point is determined by algorithm,“ says Ghosh.
According to Bhadada, all types of data is useful and outside the platform as well, in logistics, shipping, warehouses 5-10% can be saved if data is correct. Algorithms help a logistics firm to decide on the best delivery route.
Most companies use Hadoophbase (server software) to analyse big data, machine learning tools like R & Paython, which use data to create business models and web traffic data analytics from Alexa, Google Analytics or Adobe's Omniture. Besides the big data analytics tools, inhouse teams write codes for specific outcomes. Snapdeal has a 25 people data engineering team--which essentially determines what kind of data to collect and a 25 people data science team which analyses the data collected and tweaks the algorithm.
At a broad level, it could be to push cricket memorabilia or IPL gear in the current season and at micro level, it could mean wooing a Kolkata Knight Riders fan with a KKR T-shirt, a taste picked up from Facebook.
“We have to create that intelligence in conversion; else it could misfire,“ says Mangla of Snapdeal. For example the goal could be to maximise sales. So “shoppers see products from sell ers whose returns are lower. The software could also note that certain brand of shirts at a price point of `800 are selling fast, but all sellers are not getting orders. It could determine the reason as poor quality of the catalogue and alert the seller“, says Vashishtha. He says conversion rate has gone up 50% in the last six months due to better intelligence.
Adds Aggarwal of Shopclues, “Data analytics is science and delivers better return on investment than any other system like marketing or advertising.“
Shopclues transactions have improved ten times in the last 12 months thanks to algorithms compared with the traditional approach of mass advertising.
Pepperfy uses a sorting algorithm that detects a potential shopper in Mumbai or Delhi who have different needs based on the character of the cities they reside in. The former gets to see contemporary styles and space saving furniture while the latter gets options in solid wood, with less concern on space saving designs.“The goal is to get to know the sweet spot,“ says Netrabile.
Kittur of Ugam Solutions believes data analytics can lead to 3-7% improvement in bottom line and at least 40% improvement in conversion rates in the short term. At present there are 50-60 million online shoppers and 400 million internet users. With rising internet users, more shoppers are expected to come online.
Karthik Bettadapara, CEO, Dataweave, says, “The industry is shifting from blind discounting to targeted analysis.Now funding is tight, marketplaces have to be smart about spending money.“
Dataweave, funded by Google honcho Rajan Anandan, Blume Venture and others, looks at even external data to create intelligence--like what is the competition selling, at what price points, what products are people buying and so on.
As companies like Paytm move to completely automated systems, the goal is to be like Uber--do real time analytics to predict where demand is and multiply the chance of success. Sharma of Paytm says Uber has among the best data science teams in the business. “We would eventually like to do it real time--meet a buyer's demand at almost all times.“
Shelley Singh