Does Winner take all the World?


—by Shabab Khan

September, 2014, after investing in a ride-sharing company called Sidecar, Richard Branson declared that it was “early days and, like a lot of other commodity businesses, there is room for innovators on great customer experiences.” He added that he was not putting his money into a “winner-takes-all market.”

Lots of ride-sharing companies, he was arguing, would survive and thrive. Yesterday, though, a mere fifteen months later, Sidecar’s co-founder and chief executive, Sunil Paul, announced that the company is turning off its ignition. As someone who has felt, first-hand, the agony of shuttering the doors of his startup, I feel Paul’s pain. But I want to focus on what Branson, a self-made billionaire, who is more often right than wrong, said about ride-sharing not brings “winner-takes-all” market. What Branson says is generally true for companies that sell analog products, such as packaged goods or soda, or analog services, such as air travel.

Coke isn’t going to drive Pepsi out of business, and Toyota isn’t going to eliminate Honda. But in today’s Internet-always-on world, that maxim increasingly doesn’t hold true. Most competition in Silicon Valley now heads toward there being one monopolistic winner. And that is why it is hard not to see that, right now, the only competition that matters in ride-sharing is between the two largest companies: Uber and Lyft.

In the course of nearly two decades of closely following (and writing about) Silicon Valley, I have seen products and markets go through three distinct phases. The first is when there is a new idea, product, service, or technology dreamed up by a clever person or group of people. For a brief while, that idea becomes popular, which leads to the emergence of dozens of imitators, funded in part by the venture community. Most of these companies die. When the dust settles, there are one or two or three players left standing. Rarely do you end up with true competition.

In 1998, when Google was born, search was a competitive market with one clear leader, Yahoo, which had identified the need for a Web directory. Others, such as Infoseek, Lycos, and Excite, were falling behind. So the only way to beat Yahoo’s old, directory-style search was to do something different. That’s exactly what the Google co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, did. They correctly identified that the Web was going to grow exponentially, in size, scope, and usage. It would need a new, faster, simpler search engine that would update as quickly as the Web itself. And they would make it super fast—the faster you received results when you typed in a query, the more likely you were to search again. It was a perfect behavior for a world that was going slowly from dial-up Internet to always-on broadband connections. Of course, to make this happen, they would need to build and own their own infrastructure, from networks to data centers to servers.

As Google started to grow, its new, more algorithmic approach to search attracted new competitors— Simpli, Dogpile, Northern Light, and Direct Hit are some of the doomed companies that came out around that time. Another was a company called Power set, which ended up getting acquired by Microsoft and eventually became a core part of what is now Microsoft Bing, which currently runs a distant second in the search-engine sweepstakes.

Looking back, Google’s success came from the fortuitous timing of being born at the cusp of the broadband age. But it also came about because of the new reality of the Internet: a lot of services were going to be algorithmic, and owning your own infrastructure would be a key advantage. The infrastructure— networks, storage, and computers— allowed Google to crawl the Web and rank the results cheaply. As Google got more money, it built better infrastructure, which allowed the company to serve up results more and more quickly, in the process training of people to use Google whenever they wanted to search. The more people searched, the more data they gave Google to make its index better, smarter, faster, and, eventually, more personal.

In short: as Google got bigger, it got better, which made it bigger still. Google is a winner that has taken it all.

This loop of algorithms, infrastructure, and data is potent. Add what are called network effects to the mix, and you start to see virtual monopolies emerge almost overnight. A network effect occurs when the value of a product or service goes up with the number of people using it. The Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe called it Metcalfe’s Law. Telephone services, eBay, and Skype are good examples of the network effects at work. The more people who are on Skype, the more people you can call, and thus the more likely it is that someone will join. While in the early days of networks, growth was limited by slowness and cost at numerous points— expensive telephone connections, computers that crashed, browsers that didn’t work—the rise of the smartphone has essentially changed all that.

Facebook, which historically was one of the main beneficiaries of network effects (a social network becomes more valuable to you as more of your friends join it) has grown from two hundred million users to 1.2 billion in the past seven years, as phones have become the primary devices we use to get online. And that’s not the only way that Facebook has created a near monopoly in social networking. In the past decade, it has ramped up spending on new data centers, hired a lot more engineers, and turned its news feed into a powerful algorithm. The more we use it, the more data we give the company, and the more it is able to control where we turn our attention.

The company has more than a billion users around the world, and it has figured out how to become a dominant source of our mobile addiction. Facebook, thanks to this loop of algorithms, infrastructure, money,and data, is a winner-takes-all company.

Twitter is a distant second in the social web, about a fourth of the size of its rival down Highway 101. And now Uber is building this tight loop of algorithms, infrastructure, and data, too. In June, 2014, in a column for Fast Company magazine, I pointed out that Google and Uber aren’t very different. Broadband was Google’s sun god; the smartphone is Uber’s.

If serving up instant search results was Google’s goal, then Uber’s is to reduce the time to curb, or how long it takes for you to open an app, order a car, and have it arrive. The faster the car gets there, the less likely you are to think about Lyft or Flywheel or anyone else. So far, it’s become pretty fast, which is why you probably never thought about Sidecar.

Uber has also learned from Facebook: raise a lot of money and use it as a competitive advantage. Because Uber has raised about twelve billion dollars from investors, it has been able to flood markets around the world with Ubers. The more Ubers on the road, the more people are likely to use them. The faster they arrive to pick us up, the more we will forget about other modes of transportation. And the more we use them, the more data we give to Uber, which can then tweak their algorithms to optimize fleet usage and traffic routes. You start to see why food delivery and courier services are now part of Uber’s recent experiments. What was, at one time, an idea for an app to hail limousines for party-goers is now a company that is reimagining all kinds of transportation.

Meanwhile, Amazon has run away with online retail, leaving everyone else to fight over scraps. Microsoft, even today, controls the office-productivity business. Eight years into the smartphone boom, Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are the two dominant players, and even in chips it is still Intel and some others. There are two companies that dominate the public cloud— Amazon, followed by Microsoft’s Azure. Google’s G.C.E. is a distant third.

There are some competitive markets, such as mobile payments, where Square, PayPal, Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and Walmart Pay are some of the bigger players. But, if I were a betting person, I’d wager that this, too, will become a battle between two or three companies. Perhaps that is why it isn’t a surprise that Sidecar is part of the growing shakeout in the ride-sharing industry. We have seen companies such as RidePal and Leap Transit go under already. And we will see more failures on this road to transportation reinvention— after all, this is part of the technology cycle.

Google, Facebook, and, perhaps, Uber are indicators of something bigger: in our connected age, data, infrastructure, and algorithms give companies a distinct advantage. With all due respect to Branson, it is a winner-takes-all world.

Elitism Has Now Nowhere to Hide!!

Shabab Khan| Delhi | Special Edition | Friday, Dec 12, 2015

“. . . Odd-Even Rotation is, though not a successful formula we can, yet, give it a try. Just make sure traffic police do not encash even oddities. . . ”

I am very proud of the Indian elite. We may largely fail at everything else, but we are world-beaters in terms of self-pitying outrage.

First: a word about the “elite”. You, sir or madam, are a member of the elite. Please do not call yourself middle class. By no logical, ethical or mathematical principle can the top few percentiles of a country in terms of income call itself middle class. If you still try and do so, you are being dishonest.

Yes, if the Delhi government’s odd-even car regulation affects you, then you’re certainly a member of the elite. Only 10-11 per cent of Delhi, the richest state in India, drives to work in a car or van, according to the 2011 Census. Let’s just put that out there.

Second, on the facts: first, Delhi has the worst air in the world. We know this, as also the fact that poor air quality spikes in wintertime.

Second, in spite of rampant disinformation that number plate-based road rationing “has not worked anywhere”, pretty much everywhere it has been tried as a temporary measure has shown a 17-20 per cent drop in pollution.

Third, in spite of more rampant disinformation that cars don’t really count towards pollution in Delhi, most reliable independent studies show they do – between 50 and 80 per cent.

And yet Delhi’s elite is terrified at the prospect of having a spot of car trouble for a fortnight just in order to live a little longer thanks to cleaner air. It is outrageous to ask us to live for seven days like the other 90 per cent of our fellow-citizens! Outrageous to suggest we walk or take a cycle-rickshaw to a crowded metro station, like the real middle class! Tyrannical to make us pay a few hundred rupees for a taxi during a public health emergency!

Only the Indian elite would rather not breathe than be ordinary.

What deep cultural neuroses underline this panic at dealing with regular people’s realities? I can’t help thinking that our cultural attitude to public transport mirrors our attitude to public spaces, and arises from the same space. An odd characteristic of India is the startling contrast between its particularly pure private and domestic spaces – and its completely uncared-for public spaces.

Why is this? Perhaps because we have one of the most fragmented societies in the world, and always have half; solidarity, under these circumstances, is particularly difficult to build. And a certain degree of solidarity is essential for anything “public” to be effective – public goods, public spaces, public transport, public discourse.

In this case, we have a particularly amusing problem. The elite can secede from dug-up pavement, from sewage in drinking water, from litter-strewn public parks, from inadequate policing. But it cannot secede from murderous air.

Or can it? Certainly, one truly extraordinary statement of our cultural biases is that most people seem more willing to pay thousands of rupees for air purifiers for every room than to deal with road rationing for a few weeks. If the electricity goes off, no worries! The diesel gen-set will kick in, spewing more fumes into the air. This is my right; and it is a problem only for those with neither air purifiers nor electricity.

Some have claimed that it isn’t fair to talk about elitism in this context. After all, the concerns being expressed are just the same as anyone would have about commuting – the safety, the crowds, the difficulty. This is, in many ways, the most puzzling argument yet. It seems almost painfully clear that expecting money and status would insulate you from the problems that everyone else faces is the very definition of elitism.

Cultural biases blind you to data. It means that nobody is interested in the undeniable facts that I laid out above – that road rationing has been shown to work, that car commuters are a tiny upper crust, that cars are undeniably responsible for Delhi pollution. Similarly, cultural biases against solidarity means that nobody was interested in the undeniable fact that far more people benefited from a working bus rapid transit system than were hurt. Studies of commuters at the time showed that between 80 to 90 per cent of them approved of the BRT corridor; but the noise that the 10 per cent creates is too loud and privileged for the others to be heard.

There are other debates, too, where cultural biases against solidarity blind us to facts or logic; for example, the idea that a “creamy layer” of reserved-quota applicants take coveted college seats away from general-class applicants. When economists examined the question rigorously, they found quota applicants offered seats in the engineering entrance exam they studied had, in fact, family incomes much lower – 60 per cent of – the family income of those general-category students who would otherwise have been admitted. Creamy indeed.

Nor is this blindness a Delhi problem. It’s an India problem. Of the world’s 20 most polluted towns, 13 are in India. And most of the others are in Pakistan and Bangladesh, a moving reminder of our common cultural characteristics.

But this doesn’t matter. Our ñwhiny “middle class” would rather have sewage in their water, cancer in their air and death on their roads than ever accept that they share the earth they walk on with other, lesser breeds of human.

Twitter: @khantastix
Instagram: @iamshababkhan

(Author is an Export Entrepreneur, Journalist, and Social Activist)
Twitter: @Khantastix

Export/Import: Best Opportunity in India

Export Import

— by Shabab Khan

Are you searching for top profitable import export investment opportunity in India?

Import export investment opportunity can helps an entrepreneur to start a new venture or to grow his/her present business. Import export business also can be initiated as home based basis with a small startup capital investment. As your business grow, you will find lot of expansion opportunity in this business.

The most crucial factors are to identify the right import export investment opportunity and crafting a legitimate marketing plan to get success in this business.

Import Export business is highly regulated by Government Authority. Before starting, you must know which product is profitable for export and which one will generate more revenue from import.

I will soon post an article about a basic guide of how to start an import export business. What formalities you need to fulfill in order to be an Exporter/Importer.

I compiled 10 most profitable import export investment opportunity in India for your ready reference.

List Of Top 10 Import Export Investment Opportunity In India

1. Agro-chemical Import:
Agro-chemical including fertilizer, secondary nutrient, pesticide, insecticides are the products that you can import in India. As agriculture has the major role in Indian economy, these products have high demand in India.

Having contacts with the distributors and retailer you can start this business with proper planning.

2. Copper & Copper Article:
Import Export Copper and copper articles falls under HS code (HTS code) chapter 74.

In India Copper and Copper articles classified under ITC code (Indian Tariff Code) chapter 74.

Copper and copper article export is considered as a profitable import export investment opportunity in India.

3. Electronics Product Import:
Power Wire, fuse, capacitor, earth wire, rubber key pad, PCB board, row socket, screw nut, DIODE bridge, computer accessories are the popular electronics products, India imports in huge quantity.

Having proper contacts of foreign manufacturers basically in China, you can initiate this business with substantial capital investment.

4. Fruits Vegetables Export:
Fruits vegetables export business demands an adequate knowledge about foreign markets. If you are living in an area where fruits and vegetables production is good enough, you can consider to initiate a fruits vegetables export business starting just from your local growers.

The export import sector is hugely organized and you will get sufficient data in your hand. The most beneficial part of this business is, you can start this venture from your home location (will come up soon).

5. Leather Goods Export:

Leather is considered as a most widely traded commodity worldwide. The growth in demand for leather is driven by the fashion industry, furniture, automobile industry and especially footwear.

India is the fifth-largest exporter of leather goods and accessories in the world. Apart from footwear, some of most popular export oriented leather products are belt, handbag, key holders, wallet, folder and gift items such as handbook etc.

A large number of small medium and even large scale companies are involved in producing these products in India. With proper contacts you can tap this opportunity in India. You can contact with The Council for Leather Exports (CLE), which is an autonomous non-profit organisation and is entrusted with export promotion activities and the development of the Indian leather industry.

6. Medical & Surgical Equipment Import:
Different types of high quality medical, surgical and healthcare product can be imported from foreign country. These are very popular import product in India.

You can also make tie ups with foreign reputed manufacturer as an exclusive sales representative in India.

7. Organic & Petrochemical Chemical Export:
India is recognized as a large producer of wide range of organic chemicals. Cyclic hydrocarbons, Acyclic alcohols and their halogenated, sulphonated, nitrated or nitrosated derivatives, antibiotics, Phenols; phenol-alcohols are the popular product for export from India.

8. Precious Metals Import:
Precious metals like gold, silver and gems including diamonds are the most profitable import opportunity in India. India Jewellery market is fully dependent on importing the raw material and the demand is increasing day-by-day.

You may consider starting precious metal and Gem import business in India.

9. Tea Export:
India is the second largest tea producer in the world with production of 1,197.18 million kg in 2014-15. India is ranked fourth in terms of tea exports, which reached 197.81 million kg during 2014-15 and were valued at US$ 619.96 million. Indian tea is popular in all over the world. Processed tea export is considered as a profitable one. You can tie up with the tea growers and make export arrangement of your own.

10. Textile Goods & Garment Export:
India is one of the large producer of cotton. Cotton yarn, textile fabrics and designer garments of India, are very popular in international market.

Currently India has overtaken Italy and Germany, and is now the second largest textile exporter in the world. China is the biggest importer of raw cotton from India. The other major cotton importing countries from India are Bangladesh, Egypt, Taiwan, Hong Kong among others. Textile goods &garment export is considered as one the profitable export investment opportunity in India.

You may contact The Cotton Textile Export Promotion Council (TEXPROCIL), which takes part in national and international events to enhance the visibility of Indian products, advertises and promotes Indian products in various media. EPCH (Export Promotion Council of Handicrafts).

(Author is an Export Entrepreneur, Journalist, Social Activist Against Animal Cruelty …

What If You Are An Underperforming Employee in Your Own Organization?


— Shabab Khan

This may sound like there will be a long list of how to fire your non-performers in a positive manner. However, there will be nothing of the sort here. Rather this article relates to how you can identify and deal with your worst employee, firing the zero productivity activities and not the employee himself. So the first part says about identifying who is your worst employee.

Not every entrepreneur will have the guts to say that they themselves are the worst performer of the company. Most of the Entrepreneurs give themselves a free pass even when they realize they are non-contributors to the organization. As an entrepreneur, you should first have a critical eye for the self before you start pin pointing others and their ways to work.

Have you ever analyzed about how much is your contribution to the organization, or how much time have you wasted while on work as an entrepreneur. It is in human nature to find faults with others and not judge the self and this is an offensive stupidity for the growth of the organizations.

Identify whether you are the worst performer!


It is an entrepreneur’s duty to become an asset for the organization and not a zero productivity leech. If you are doing the following things then you should consider changing before it is too late:

★ Are you avoiding business tasks and doing personal tasks at work?

★ Are you wasting a lot of time on social media?

★ Do you not take any action even if you have analyzed things to the death?

★ Do you stick your head in the sand when it comes about financial metrics?

★ Do you believe in avoiding conflicts even if this means loss in business, your business?

If the answer to all or even any of these questions is a yes, then you are harming the business. And with a yes to the above question, ask yourself yet another question that would you ever employee, or pay a person such as yours? The answer seems but obvious. When you are at work you cannot allow free passes, even if it is for the self, and even when you are the entrepreneur.

Question yourself regularly.

When you question yourself regularly, you are able to find your faults better. When you feel that your productivity as an employee to the organization is going low, pose yourself with the following questions:

★ Is this for what you pay yourself?

★ What would a pro do in such a situation?


When you act like an ostrich in financial matters ask yourself, is this for what you pay yourself.

Questioning the self always helps you commit to the right track. No, you cannot work for all those hours in the office. It is understandable that you cannot work for each minute in the office. You have to relax for a while; after all, you are not a machine. You have to find ways to keep yourself relaxed that helps you maintain focus on the task you are performing. You need to have little knick-knack breaks that have the potential to keep you all charged up. Make sure, you do not end up only relaxing. You have the right to relax only when you have reached the levels of exhaustion while working. Remember no work means no play.

In order to make your organization a profitable one, make sure you are the entrepreneur of real worth for the organization. If you are a zero contributing entrepreneur, you need to fire yourself, and evolve as a whole new entrepreneur, whom your own self would love to hire.

One more thing, do not compare yourself with xyz. And for pete’s sake never fall into the negative barren land, else inferiority complex will turn your well-nurtured cheeks into long dug holes, insomnia will visit your bedroom frequently.

Just be honest with yourself, and keep your sex life intact, no more no less (ROFL).

…shabab khan
(Author is an Export Entrepreneur, Journalist, Engineer and Social Activist Against Animal …

©Copyright 2014-2016. Shabab Khan, Allahabad. No Permission for commercial use of this article, however non-profitable purposes can be a cause to use the content but credit to author should be given.