The Temptation Equation: A look into Amazon's Checkout Process

This blog post will talk about Amazon's checkout process and how it is designed to tempt you into buying something.

For the last few days, I was so tempted to buy the Sony WF-1000XM3 earphones on Amazon even though I own an Airpods Pro and 6 other pairs of earphones. I clearly knew I don't need the earphones, but the offer was irresistible.

After a lot of self-questioning and analysis, I decided not to buy them. But, I was curious. I've shopped on other websites during their sale days. But, nothing hooks me like Amazon. Their shopping experience is designed in such a way that at every stage of the checkout process you'll be reassured that you're making the right choice.

This made me wonder "What is so unique about Amazon's checkout experience?"

During sale days like "The Great Indian Festival", Amazon's entire checkout process is designed to mimic a bargaining process. Yes. At each step, you'll receive a reward (discount/delivery time/no-cost EMI) that will make you think "I can't get a better deal than this! Let's buy!"

In this blog post, I'll take one product (Sony WF-1000XM3 as it troubled me for a few days) from Amazon and analyze its checkout experience during Amazon's sale days.


Price and Reviews

The first thing you'd see while you're on the product page is the price and reviews. In this case, you can see that a product with 14,338 ratings averaging 4 stars is being offered at a 50% discount. If you're someone who's been wanting to buy this, you'd already know that this is a good deal. It caught my eye because the Sony WF-1000XM3 is one of the best wireless noise cancellation earbuds out there. Better than Airpods pro. So, if you're a consumer who's aware of the product, you'll already be hooked on this point. The next step is where you will receive your first reward.

The Coupon

When you're thinking about whether to buy or not, you see a small coupon right below the price of the product. A coupon for Rs.1000. When you apply, the final price of the product is Rs.8990. At this point, you're an inch closer to buying the product. You'll be thinking "A discount on top of the slashed price? Oh yeah!". But, there's more.

Delivery time

Right below the coupon code, you'll see delivery details. It says "FREE Delivery by Tomorrow". For some products, it would say "FREE Delivery by Today 10 PM". Instant gratification. One more reason to buy the product. 

Bank and EMI Offers

Right below the delivery information, you'll see the bank and EMI offers. In this case, you'll get an additional discount of Rs.500 if you use a RuPay card. But, when I checked out the product, HDFC was offering a 10% additional discount which brought down the price of the product to Rs.8091. And, I also got the option to convert this into a 6-month no-cost EMI. What a deal, right?

(Note: A no-cost EMI is technically not no-cost. There are hidden costs like taxes and stuff. I'm mentioning it here to talk about user temptation)

When you look at Amazon's product page, you get all the essential information including warranty, replacement policy, etc. right on the first fold of the page. You don't have to scroll down to learn more about the product or make a decision. Everything you need to know is right in front of you. Now, let's take a look at how the same product is listed on Flipkart.

You can observe the following differences.

  • The title of the product on Amazon mentions key features right away, whereas on Flipkart it is put under the Highlights section.

  • There is a countdown timer on Amazon that says how long the deal is available compared to how many are left in stock. 

  • The delivery option is well below the bank offers and the warranty info

  • The color options are mentioned along with the product info on Flipkart. Instead, they could've placed it below the images on the left side of the page. On Amazon, the color options come in the second fold of the page.

Overall, I personally feel that the layout of a Flipkart page had too much information. But, in reality, it has the same amount of information as Amazon (in fact less). The way the information is structured on Amazon makes all the difference.

At this stage in the buyer journey, you'll hear Amazon saying "This is a great product! We've offered you a discount, an Rs.1000 coupon, and free delivery by tomorrow" - enough reasons to click on the "Buy Now" button and move on to the next step.

Payment Page

The next step is the payment process. On the payment screen, you can see how much discount you can get for each of your saved cards. You can enter the CVV code of the card of your choice and make the payment.

A similar experience can be seen in Flipkart as well.

But, the difference (or at least I think) is, I can't choose the tenure of my EMI on Flipkart. For example, the screen says Rs.1534/month. But, it doesn't say for how many months? 

Also, on the right side, you can see the total. 16990 including 1412 bank interest is still 16990, which was a bit confusing.

But, on Amazon, when you choose an EMI schedule, you can clearly know the interest rate, percentage, and the amount you should pay every month.

Amazon's checkout process is designed to give you rewards and answers. Rewards to move further and answers to your questions to help you reassure your buying decision. The 'Buy Now' button on Amazon will be small and on the right side compared to big buttons placed in the center. That's the trick. When you're tempted enough to buy a product, you'll click the 'Buy Now' button anyway irrespective of its size and placement.

I'm not sure about you. But, I found this really intriguing. Hence, I thought I'll write about it. If you resonate with me or observed other such nuances in Amazon or any other eCommerce platform, share it with me via Twitter or send me an email.

The Biggest Problem With Indian Crypto Exchanges Today

I stumbled upon the problem with Indian crypto exchanges by chance. 

It was a Saturday. A strong cup of coffee at 10 PM isn't always a good idea. But, I had one anyway. It kept me awake like it did and I started browsing the internet to burn off the caffiene. I kept switching between multiple things until an article about cryptocurrencies caught my eye. One thing led to another and by 12:30 AM I was having FOMO. I realized that I'd missed out on so much that was happening in the crypto space.

So, I decided to start investing. Like any other greedy crypto noob, I wanted to identify and invest in the next bitcoin and become a millionaire. I did a bit of research and came to know that I can buy cryptos from India. I told myself that I should open up an account in one of the Indian crypto exchanges the following day.

But, I couldn't.

It took me a really long time to create an account in one of the available exchanges. So much trouble, so many processes and numerous roadblocks. 

I became successful after a while because I was patient and went through the process despite the difficulties. But, I immediately imagined an average user. They would eventually lose interest, drop off, and might never come back.

This blog post is my observation of the user experience of Indian crypto exchanges. I'd also added a few suggestions on how they can overcome these roadblocks and acquire users faster.

Don't think about current users. Think about potential users

I don't know much about cryptocurrencies. I am interested. So, I should be the ideal target persona for a crypto exchange. Not someone who already knows their way in the crypto world. This is what every crypto exchange is getting wrong. They focus on building and shipping the product for pro crypto traders and investors instead of designing the experience for someone like you and me.

Lack of learning module

User education is key to bringing in new users into a platform. This applies to crypto as well. People might have heard about it through their friends or on social media and would have decided to invest. But, they would be hesitant because they's want to learn more about them. But, where do they start? They try to watch a YouTube video or read an article on the internet.

This is a golden opportunity for crypto exchanges. They can have a dedicated learning module on their homepage to educate people about cryptos and handhold them into creating an account. But, most exchanges don't have a section that teaches you the basics of cryptocurrency.

WazirX doesn't have anything on their home page. They have a blog that was regularly updated. But, I doubt if people would search for it and read it.

Coinswitch Kuber has a blog section that leads to sections like Crypto 101 and Invest 101 sections on their blog. But, it doesn't have information in chronological order.  For example, when I click on Crypto 101, I'd be expecting to see something on "What is crypto?" and not an article on Polygon.

CoinDCX has a learning module, but they have too many clicks and it requires a sign-up to access the free content. Why make the user suffer. Make it available for everyone like a video playlist!

Zebpay is the only player who got this right (but they have a very bad onboarding experience). Zebpay has a Learn section on their homepage where the content is segmented for users with different levels of expertise - beginner and intermediate. They also have a crypto glossary and a video series. The content is not gated. You can instantly access the ebooks.

I loved Cointelegraphs's content for each cryptocurrency (Bitcoin for beginners | Bitcoin 101 | Cointelegraph). Crypto exchanges should try something like this.

Users should be educated on the following areas:

  • What is crypto?

  • How does cryptocurrency work? What are their real-life applications?

  • Why is it beneficial for someone to invest in crypto?

  • How to choose a cryptocurrency?

  • Things you should consider while evaluating a new crypto token

  • The advantages of having a wallet etc.

Onboarding is a Pain

The onboarding is messy on most of these platforms. They let you sign up using your phone number and an OTP. And, within seconds I was inside the platform. For a moment, I thought "Wow! That is awesome". But, the actual trouble started during KYC verification. The KYC verification is hard and if it fails, you won't be able to get to the good part like adding funds or buying large volumes of crypto.

Here's how the onboarding experience looked like in different apps.

Coinswitch Kuber

I used my phone and email to create an account at Coinswitch Kuber, but my KYC got rejected since the picture on my PAN card and my passport don't match. My PAN was taken when I was 20 and I got my passport when I was 27. I had become bald and put on weight. Of course, the photos wouldn't match. But, the name and other particular do. So, why reject! I reached out to them on Twitter and raised a ticket as suggested. Got a generic response in return. Not cool!


I signed up for an account on the web app, and it told me to install the mobile app to complete the KYC. I installed the mobile app and used my registered mobile number to log in. But, I couldn't as it asked me to create an account instead. I came back to the web app and the account I had created was gone. It asked me to register again. That's it. I was done.


It allowed me to register, but when I tried to buy it said "The facility is not available for your country." Then why let me sign up! They could've simply said "Coinbase doesn't allow you to buy cryptos from the exchange. However, you can use it as a crypto wallet" or something like that.


Probably the easiest onboarding experience of all. I was able to create an account easily and the KYC verification was smooth as well. But, I got stuck in the next step, which I'll talk about in the next section.

I understand that these companies would want to give users the experience of the platform, but offering that experience without KYC verification is like giving them too much hope and taking it away when the verification failed.

An ideal flow should let the user sign up and submit the necessary documents for KYC. Once it is verified, you can let them in. This could be a bit hard, but users wouldn't mind doing it in the beginning rather than struggling with it later.

What's with the Mobikwik wallet!

Well, the KYC is done. Woohoo! The next step was to add funds to my crypto account and buy crypto. But, the problem was most crypto exchanges only allow Mobikwik wallet integration. You'll have to have an account with MobiKwik, have to log into your account, and you'll have to add money to the wallet in order to add funds to the exchange. I bet there is a KYC for Mobikwik as well if you want to add more than 10,000.

There are options for Netbanking and UPI, but they're often greyed out with a message saying "we're working hard to bring this feature"

WazirX has the option but is very unpredictable. Sometimes, it is available and sometimes it isn't. Yesterday it said that my bank account is verified but the bank is not supported this deposit mode. Weird because the mode was 'Netbanking.

I'm not against using a Mobikwik. But, users need to be given a choice and not an ultimatum. You can have all options, but show Mobikwik as an ideal one due to lower fee or cashback instead of saying "This is your only option".

Warn People in Advance about Selling/Withdrawing Cryptos

At times, exchanges like WazirX blocks the selling of certain cryptos. They call it the 'rapid listings initiative' or something along those lines. I guess they do it to minimize too much volatility in buying and selling. The point is, you can't be 100% certain that you'll be able to sell your cryptos and get the money.

So, while buying certain cryptos, exchanges can show a warning message mentioning this scenario and ask them to subscribe to WhatsApp alerts to notify them whenever the rapid listing is imposed or lifted on certain crypto. This way, users will be updated about the status of crypto at all times.

To sum up, the experience of crypto exchange platforms isn't designed for a modern user. The experience is similar to stock trading in the 90s and early 00s. You'll have to read about the domain, fill out paperwork, and deposit a cheque in order to buy a stock - so much trouble.

Lack of customer education at each step and a cumbersome onboarding and buying experience are major roadblocks that would prevent a user from actively using these platforms.

These companies should do extensive user research, analyze product usage patterns to understand adoption and drop-offs and most of all should spend a considerable amount of resources to educate the Indian audience. (like the 'Mutual funds sahi hai' campaign).

And, no - I haven't bought any crypto yet. Hopefully soon.

What Do Tea Shop Butter Biscuits Teach Us About Product Design?

In India, a tea shop isn't one if it doesn't have a glass jar full of 'butter' biscuits. Even though it doesn't have butter in it, the name 'Butter biscuit' is synonymous with small brown sweet-and-salty cookies that taste wonderful when dipped in a hot glass of Chai tea. If you're wondering if this is a blog post about food, it is not. It is about product design. Butter biscuits are a classic example of good product design. Wondering how? Let's check it out!


Most Butter biscuits are small. There are larger ones too! The ones that cost two rupees and three rupees. But, the ones that you see the most in tea shops and supermarkets are small. The idea is the size of the biscuit should be small enough for someone to dip them into a glass of chai. Also, most tea shops in India don't have a seating arrangement like restaurants. People will have to stand outside the shop and drink their tea.

In those cases, they'll already be holding their chai in one hand and the biscuits in the other. If the biscuit is small enough, they can dip it in their chai and eat them without any hassle. And, not just that! They can hold one biscuit between their thumb and forefinger and hold the rest of the biscuits (around three) between the rest of the fingers. If the biscuit is too big and doesn't go into the glass, they'll have to use the other hand to break the biscuit. Too much trouble, right?

Another advantage is when the biscuits are small, people eat more. So, more sales for the shop!😄


The cookie dough and the hardness of the cookie also play a major role in the design of the Butter biscuit. We've seen cookies that break into several pieces the moment you take a bite. So, the dough should be soft enough to absorb chai when dipped into the glass, and hard enough not to break into several pieces during other scenarios.

The 'Pinch'

If you observe the Butter biscuit, it will have a small pinch on it - like someone created an impression with their finger. I call it 'The Pinch'. Whoever came up with that idea is a genius. The Pinch tells how much the creator understood their users. (The butter biscuit is not manufactured by a single company. It is made by several small local vendors. So, we wouldn't know the name of the person who actually came up with the idea). The biggest worry of a tea drinker is the biscuit slipping and falling into the chai glass. It creates one hell of a mess. The pinch helps avoid that mess. When you hold the biscuit in the pinch area, it adds more grip while you're dipping the biscuit into the chai glass. Ingenious!😄

Are Middle-Class Families Teaching Their Kids To Give up in Life?

A couple of weeks back, I wanted to eat chapati for dinner. My mom and wife decided to make dosa for themselves as they thought it would go nicely with the fish curry they made that afternoon. Since I don't eat fish, I decided to get some ready-made chapatis and eat it with Mayo or pressure cook a small bowl of dal to go with it.

I went to the grocery store near my house to get ready-made chapatis, but they didn't have any. I went to another shop on the same street, but the ones they had had expired the day before. So, I came back home to take my motorcycle so that I can go to the nearby supermarket to check if they have ready-made chapatis.

When I was about to step out of the house, my mom said "Why try so hard for a pack of chapatis? If you're meant to have chapati today, you would've gotten it by now. I don't think you're meant to. Be home and I'll make some dosas for you"

I nodded my head but told my mom that I want to give it a shot. I went to the supermarket and came back with a pack of ready-made chapatis. That evening I had chapati for dinner. 

If I had stayed home and not made that extra effort, I would've thought that I wasn't meant to have chapatis for dinner and ended up having dosas. A small incident made me realize the difference between giving up and going the extra mile.

When I look at it now I can't help but wonder why we were always told it is okay to give up if something doesn't go our way.

The Fox and the Grape - the Only Story We Remember

A lot of times we give up and compromise when we're on the brink of achieving or getting something we wanted. Reason? Could be due to parents, relatives, or friends telling us that we're not meant for it or we ourselves are too tired to try out even though we know that there was only one last thing that was left to do before giving up.

I think a lot of that comes from the way we're brought up. A lot of the kids who belong to middle-class and lower-middle-class families often told that good things happen if they're destined to happen to them.

Since our childhood, we've been conditioned to believe that. I guess even Paulo Coehlo said something along those lines. Maybe I saw a quote on the internet that said he did. Maybe Paulo Coehlo was brought up in a middle-class family. Who knows!

And, we cling to this specific life lesson because it indirectly tells us that giving up is okay. Even now, of all the stories we came across in our childhood, we only remember the "Fox and the Grape" story from Aesop fables.

The Middle-class Rule book

As kids of middle-class families, we were asked to put in all the hard work only when it came to studies. Nobody encouraged us to take up art, writing, or entrepreneurship. Starting a business is considered taboo but my parents always admired the hard work of billionaires and used to say "See! This is hard work" when they read about Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.  For some weird reason, our parents believe that one can become Bezos or Elon by working in a 9 to 5 job.

I'm not against a 9 to 5. It is one of the greatest inventions of mankind. Good money, great benefits, and predictable growth. Everything our family wants for us is bundled together in a neat little package.

As kids and young adults, we're always encouraged to get jobs and asked not to think about anything else. You might remember them saying "Work hard. Get settled. And, then do whatever you want."

we were never taught to chase our dreams, or go the extra mile, or give it our everything before giving up. We were quoted Bhagavat Geetha - "Do your duties and don't expect anything in return - do your karma" or sweet proverbs like "do your best. God will do the rest".

Looking back, I realize that proverbs like these are so believable they made us too comfortable and stopped us from taking risks. Maybe I am wrong.

As a kid, I strongly believed  "If you don't get what you wish for, it the universe's way of saying that you're not meant to have it." It made me give up one of the biggest opportunities in life.

A missed opportunity

In 2013, I quit my job as a junior software developer in a big corporation to pursue a career in photography. I was not good at being a software developer and I felt that I'm taking up the space that could use someone who is really good at frontend development. Also, I was getting some wedding and travel photography assignments that gave me the confidence to quit my job and do something on my own. My parents were hesitant about the idea and after a bit of convincing, they agreed to it.

For the next five months, I was busy. I shot at a bunch of weddings and was making decent money to justify my decision. One of my lecturers offered me money to help me set up my own studio and told me that I could pay back when I am making good money. But, I denied it as I strongly believed that I could pull this off without external support. Another friend sent me an external flash from the US and refused payment for it. People loved what I did and they supported me. Not long after that things started going downhill.

I stopped getting orders and the sales cycle got longer. In Tamilnadu, there are a couple of months where there won't be any weddings. Wedding photographers usually prepare themselves by taking up other assignments such as baby photography, maternity shoot, and travel assignments. I didn't know that back then. I was new and was trying to figure my way into the business. Two months without much income and my parents were worried about my future. They started convincing me saying they were afraid this would happen and this was the reason they were hesitant from the beginning. They started telling me to find a 'secure' job with a monthly paycheck. They said maybe I wasn't meant to be in the photography business.

It made sense. So, I joined as an academic writer for a salary that was one-third of what I was earning at photography. I gave up photography because I believed that I wasn't meant to succeed in what I decided to do. How stupid! Looking back, I would say this is one of the very few decisions I regret in my life. I should've stayed around. It was only six months since I started! If I stuck around, I would've figured something out. I would've bounced back. The sad thing was I was made to believe that I was not meant for it and what was even sadder was I believed it. I took the easy way out. I gave up. If either my dad or mom or a friend had told me to stick around, maybe I would have!

When to Give up?

Giving up is okay. But, it shouldn't be your first option. As parents, you should teach your kids to exhaust all their options before giving up and as individuals, we should learn to follow your gut feeling. If something tells you to stick around even after exhausting all your options, you should. You may be right. It is time for us to stop teaching kids the Fox and the grape story and teach our kids the story of Robert the Bruce and the Spider. Always teach your kids to go the extra mile. That's where life's valuable lessons are hidden.

Waves and Still Water


It was almost six when I parked my car near the road that faced the iconic French building painted in yellow and white. The one that you see in most Tamil movies. The one that screams Pondicherry.

Why was I there? No reason. This is kinda my routine whenever I visit my in-laws in Pondicherry. I wake up early in the morning, drive to the beach, sit there, and look at the sun coming up over the shores of the Rock beach.

I was doing the same that day. Except it was colder than usual. But nothing stopped the uncles and aunties from wearing their first copy Nike T-shirts and the Adibas shoes and walk the length of the beach road playing suprapatham and kandha sashti kavasam on their mobile speakers.

I walked along the giant rocky shore of the beach and found myself a spot a few meters from Le cafe to witness the sunrise.

I stopped the music that was blasting through my earphones and looked at the waves crashing into the rocks. It looked like they will never get tired or back off. They did their best to reach past the man-made barrier, but the rocks didn't budge. For a minute I felt invincible. Because as a race we've stopped the ocean.  What a stupid thought!

I guess moments like these gave humans the idea that we can do anything. We can control nature the way we want.

As my mind wandered in all directions, I noticed something.

Amidst all the waves there was a rock a few feet away from me with a puddle of water on it. The water was still and reflected a piece of the dull, morning sky.

When I saw it, it struck me. The sea and the puddle of water on the rock were made of the same elements. How come one exerts so much force whereas the other one is still?

The scene reminded me of a Zen saying

"We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see."

For a moment, the waves resembled our current state of mind and the puddle of water reminded me of our ideal state of mind.

We were constantly bombarded with information from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. We never have time to be with ourselves and reflect on our day, year, and life. We're always connected with the world that is slowly robbing our ability to spend time with ourselves.

I recently went to the park early in the morning, but I forgot to take my phone. I was a bit pissed about not having my phone to listen to music. I walked around for a bit and then went and sat on a bench. Since I had nothing else to do, I started looking around. The people, the grass, the sky, the sound of crickets, and everything around me. I realized that after several months, I was being part of the world around me instead of living in a virtual one. I sat there enjoying my own company. It was the best thirty minutes of 'me' time I had in a long time.

With COVID-19 and working from home, we lost the small moments of 'me' time we used to get when we go out. It could be the short walk around the office building after lunch, the bike ride to and from the office. The evening walk to a nearby tea shop and a peaceful lunch in a corner of a crowded lunch hall and so on.

And, we've been thinking we didn't miss a lot as technology offered us everything and kept us from getting bored. But, with all those series, podcasts, audiobooks, videos, and ebooks, we didn't have time to process what we've been consuming all this while. Sometimes, we'll have to take a step back from all the noise and spend some time with ourselves like the puddle of still water that was only a few feet away from the waves. Do this and you'll be surprised what the reflection shows you.

Your Family Is Like a Startup. It Should Show Growth Every Year.

silhouette of man standing beside shore under brown sky during daytime

Your family is like a startup. It is made up of a lean team that works hard and looks out for one another. You add headcount at a point. There is recurring revenue. There is an operating cost to keep things running and crucial decisions are made to avoid any obstacles.

And, similar to how growth is the ultimate metric for a startup, growth is also the ultimate metric for a family.

Reason? Growth is an indicator of well-being - be it a company, individual, or family. 

Successfully running a home is a key skill to have as it teaches you a lot about managing finances, making life-changing decisions, and facing uncertainties (like COVID-19 or a health crisis).

If you're an aspiring entrepreneur whose personal finances and family are a mess, the company you're planning to build won't be any different. It will become a mess too!

So, before heading out to build your next amazing idea, set things right for your family. Make them comfortable in terms of finances, health, and emotional well-being.

During the last couple of years, I've followed small but effective techniques that helped me create and maintain a decent growth in the quality of life of my family. I'll break them down one by one.

Set The Foundation Right

Before going into how to set your monthly and yearly budgets or how to invest your money, let's get the basics right.

A good home - This might sound silly, but a good home plays a key role in the emotional well-being of your family. It is where you spend most of your time. A home is where you create memories. My first advice is don't cut corners when finding a home. Make sure it is spacious (considering kids and their private space), well-lit, and is located close to all the necessary amenities. If it costs you 10-20% over your intended budget, go for it if you think the new place meets all your requirements and could make your people happy.

Insurance - Insurance had personally helped our family in several critical situations. If you're an earning member of your family, get term insurance for you, and a health insurance package for your family (a floater). If the company you work for is providing health insurance for you and your family, I would still recommend you to take another policy. Reason? The insurance your company provides will be valid only as long as you're employed. If you're planning to take a break from working or planning to move jobs, it will be a while until you get your insurance back. The secondary health insurance will get you covered during those times.

Health - You can save a ton of money and be in a better emotional state if you're in good health. So, perform some form of physical activity for at least 150 minutes a week (~20 minutes a day). If you're not up for working out at a gym, go out for a brisk walk, do some shopping and come back. You can also take up to 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation every day. It is calming and gives you mental clarity. You can make use of free apps like Medito, or freemium apps like Headspace for meditation.

Emergency cash reserve - Have a rainy day fund that equals 30-50% of your annual salary and keep adding small amounts to it whenever you have extra cash. Don't use this money to buy stuff or plan a vacation. Just let it be. Use it in case of a personal emergency or if your relative or friend is in dire need of money. Life is uncertain. You never know when you'll need money. Having an emergency fund will get you covered.

Financial runway - COVID-19 is a perfect example of uncertainty. We've seen companies shutting down, and laying off people. Having a financial runway will help you fight uncertain situations and give you peace of mind. The ideal capacity of your financial runway should be six months' worth of your monthly expenses. This should also include EMI payments and other small expenses that you incur every month.

You can also go further and save up money that could last you for one or two years if you're planning to work on a startup or if you're planning to take a break. I read recently that the best thing money can buy is freedom. Even if you got laid off or quit your job, you don't have to rush into a job or company you did not like. The financial runway you have will keep you covered until you find the right opportunity.

Okay, now that we've seen the basics let's go a little deeper. Now that you're at the end of the year, let's see how you can plan your expenses for the whole year, invest wisely, and improve the quality of life for your family.


How to plan your finances for the upcoming year?


I know you're immediately thinking of creating an excel sheet with your monthly expenses on it. But, there is more to budgeting than adding your routine monthly expenses. Here's how proper budgeting can give visibility on your finances and prevent you from scrambling for money at the last minute.

Prepare a yearly expense overview - When you begin a year, create an excel sheet that gives you a holistic view of your finances for the upcoming calendar year. This includes your routine monthly expenses and recurring yearly expenses. When I say recurring yearly expenses, it includes the premium you pay for term insurance, health insurance, car, and bike insurance; Renewal of subscription services like Amazon Prime, and Disney+; And expenses for festival shopping. If you sum all your recurring expenses, you'll be surprised by the number.

Plan vacations - Decide where you'd want to go and how much will it cost your family (or you if you're planning to go solo). Open up a recurring deposit for six or nine-months and use the funds to go on your vacation.

Gadgets and home decors - If you want to buy a new couch, a 4K TV, or the next iPad Pro, plan ahead and see how you can pull it off with your salary.

WARNING! - Don't plan your expenses assuming you'll get an X% salary hike in the coming year. That is the biggest mistake you could do in financial planning.

Doing all this before the beginning of the year will give you visibility on how much of your yearly income will go into routine expenses, how much will go into yearly recurring expenses and how much into a vacation or/and buying the next iPad pro. You can invest the remaining amount to grow your wealth.  Please make sure that the remaining amount you're about to invest equals 30% of your yearly income (the more the better). If not, you're spending too much!😄 See if you can cut some corners.

Now that you're done with budgeting, the next step is investing

How to invest your money?

Similar to how a startup invests in its growth, you should also invest considerable money and time in increasing your wealth. Creating wealth puts you in a better spot at the time of a crisis. I'm no investment guru. But, I would like to share a few techniques I use and the philosophy behind my investment practices. So, don't follow my advice to the T. Take it with a pinch of salt. 

Don't jump into the stock market because it looks cool - Investing in the stock market needs a good understanding of the market, the economy, and a ton of other factors. It takes time to learn and master it. You can't simply open a DEMAT account and buy off stocks that look cool to you (You can, but it is too much of a risk if you're a beginner). Start with something safe like mutual funds.

Invest in mutual funds - Identify one or two good mutual fund schemes and invest your money in them. I would suggest investing 50-60% of your investment amount in mutual funds. To begin with, you can invest in large-cap, blue-chip, or index funds and later invest in aggressive funds once you acquire enough knowledge in the investing space. The simplest trick is, to visit Value research online or groww, look for a five-star rated fund and set up a SIP (systematic investment plan).

Note: You might get recommendations from your bank about ULIP plans (a combination of investment and term insurance). It will be attractive. But, it would be great if you could pay for a term insurance policy and continue investing in mutual funds.

Increase your investments every year - The amount you allocate for building wealth should increase by 10% every year. Imagine you started investing Rs.10,000 in mutual funds this year. The amount shouldn't be the same every year. You should increase it by 10% every year or once every two years. This will gradually grow your money and help you build wealth. The best way to do this is, to invest the amount you receive as the salary hike into wealth creation.

Tax saving funds -  It is a common practice to invest in Equity-linked Savings Scheme (ELSS) to save tax (up to Rs.1,50,000 every year). The catch is, investing in this fund will lock your money for three years. You can invest in such plans in the form of monthly installments. But, I suggest you do it as a lumpsum amount.  Do this every year and after three years, you'll get a lump sum amount every year which you can use for paying for your kid's education, buy gold, go on a vacation, etc.

Invest in gold - The only piece of economy that hasn't changed for centuries. Investing in gold is the best option as it will grow at a steady rate. A piece of advice is don't buy digital gold. Buy physical gold and keep them in a safe place or in a bank locker. Gold is the only asset that grows with time and is also easy to cash in.

Other forms of investment - Other forms of investments include stocks, real estate, PPF, and the National Pension scheme. Evaluate the pros and cons and invest wisely. There's a ton of literature on the web about each of these topics. Read up before making a decision. 

How to improve the emotional well-being of your family?

Spend quality time - Meet your friends, family, and loved ones. Meet them often, and call them up.  Do whatever you can to stay in touch. Even great minds like Epicurus understood the importance of friendships. Good friends help you wither the hardest situations in life.

At home, practice small things like having breakfast and dinner together, cooking together, or simply sitting and talking about random things over coffee and cookies. Go out with your family and have a good time. We can be busy and run behind growth, but nothing trumps family time.

Take a break - Working all the time is not going to do any good. You'll be exhausted and burnt out. Take a couple of days off every quarter to refresh your mind. It will give you mental clarity and will help you work efficiently.

Read books - Reading makes you smarter, and happier and keeps you away from the negative vibes we're exposed to through news and social media. Read a blend of fiction and non-fiction to keep you from being bored. Read at least one book a month. Start with something small (like the ones I published) and gradually head to reading the works of other famous authors.

I know it is a lot, but all the points I've mentioned above are actionable and easy to follow. I've been doing this for the past couple of years and it has put me in a good spot. Always remember that it is never too late.

Premium Instant Coffee Brands Are Turning Us Into Workaholics

three person holding beverage cups
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Instant coffee is a lazy man’s beverage. Throw a spoon of instant coffee powder and sugar into a glass of milk, microwave it for a minute and you get a glass of hot coffee. No wonder the younger generation is drawn toward instant coffee.

I am no exception. Even though I am a tea person, I can’t start my day if I did not have my dose of morning coffee.

Our love for coffee

Coffee is still a staple among several Indian households. India as a country plays a significant role in coffee production and consumption. India produces 4.5% of the World’s coffee and 78% of the coffee produced in the country is exported as coffee grown in India is considered one of the finest coffees in the world.

We also rank high on coffee consumption, especially the South Indians. India consumes 1,20,000 tonnes of coffee every year of which 80,000 tonnes are consumed by the Southern states (Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra, Telangana, and Karnataka). The country also boasts 2,50,000 coffee growers, of which 98% are small vendors.

From a commercial and a business point of view, coffee hasn’t changed much for several years. It was either filter coffee, which is still the preferred way of coffee for the previous generation, or instant coffee which is quite popular among young people who live alone or with roommates as it is easy to make. And, if an industry hasn’t changed in a long time, it is normal for businesses to get into that space and try something new. The Indian coffee market entered that phase last year.

The new-age coffee companies, which we’ll see about in some time, came into the market with the hopes of bringing something new to the instant coffee market. With new flavors and bold marketing campaigns, a new segment of instant coffee started getting visibility – premium instant coffee.

The target customer base

The target persona of these coffee brands are youngsters who enjoy coffee and are inclined to try something new like dark chocolate coffee, hazelnut coffee, and so on. And, they should also be willing to pay a premium price. So, it narrows down to a niche of people who are working in IT jobs and startup companies who wouldn’t mind paying 2 – 2.5x more for their coffee. (Note that a large part of middle-class families still buys coffee powder on a daily basis in the form of Rs.2 sachets.)

If you think ‘who would pay so much for coffee?’, you’re wrong. There was a significant boom in the instant coffee market during the beginning of the pandemic. This reminds me of the arrival of cafes in India. When cafes started in India, people thought they will never take off. Their argument was ‘why pay a hundred rupees for a cup of coffee if you can get it for ten rupees in a normal roadside coffee shop?’. But, cafes stayed and have become a huge thing now. Every Starbucks outlet is crowded these days.

We’re seeing similar growth in the instant coffee space. Thanks to marketing and powerful storytelling by new-age coffee brands.

The story behind every cup of coffee

The marketing of premium instant coffee revolves around creating a story behind a cup of coffee. Every pack contains information about the type of coffee it is (100% Arabica), where it was grown (something like ‘along the slopes of Chikmagalur’), and at what elevation it was grown (3124m above sea level) by a family that is into the coffee business for several generations, the flavor note in each blend, and so on.

The details and the story behind a cup of coffee make it more of a conversation starter among friends. I can see people discussing coffee flavors, where it came from, etc. With subtle storytelling, the new-age coffee companies made coffee a cool thing among the younger generation.

If you think about it, it doesn’t matter at which elevation your coffee was grown or whether it is 100% Arabica or not. In fact, we don’t even know other types of coffee! But, we still believe in the story. We feel exclusive and special when we open a box of premium instant coffee.

This reminds me so much of Indian youngsters talking about cars. They talk about how long does it take for the car to go from 0-60 km/h, despite knowing about our traffic and driving conditions and the fact that we can’t drive past 40 km/h in city conditions.

But, it is good to see that the storytelling pays off. There are over 30+ coffee companies selling premium instant coffee in India. And, the competition among them has brought an alarming trend in how coffee is being marketed.

Coffee brands are marketing coffee as a supplement to working around the clock.

The alarming trend

The ads and marketing campaigns I came across were normalizing the concept of overworking. Being a workaholic is portrayed as a cool thing. I saw one particular coffee brand running campaigns with slogans like “Drink this coffee before pulling an all-nighter” and “new perk of drinking coffee: faster promotions”. I was surprised to see it because, for several decades, coffee was always portrayed as a morning drink – something that prepares you for the day. But, I never thought it would be used to normalize sacrificing sleep for a faster promotion (as if that happens!).

But, people love it. And, they spend 2.5 – 4x more than what they spend for a regular instant coffee (this is very similar to how customers pay 2x for a glass of tea in fancy tea shops). A 50g bottle of premium instant coffee is sold for Rs.350 – Rs.500, whereas the normal instant coffee cost Rs.90 – Rs.100. This happened with chai a couple of years back and is now happening in the coffee space.

There are also other trends that are becoming popular. This includes cold brew coffee, drinking black coffee, making coffee in a French press, and so on.

Love it? Hate it?

Is this a healthy trend? Honestly, I am not worried. A huge portion of coffee consumers in India are still middle-class families who resort to conventional filters and instant coffee brands. The trend I see might attract only a very small portion of this consumer base to try a premium instant coffee. And, I personally don’t think people are looking for flavored coffees. A lot of them (like me) want their coffee the normal way. But, the one thing I am worried about, is the normalization of working around the clock and pushing coffee as fuel to stay awake.

Coffee brands who are working on their marketing campaigns should also think about the long terms effects of what they stand for.

This is the best career in an AI-powered future

But, the software industry is facing a new problem. The rise of AI. AI today is dominating the world. It does everything - writing blog posts and making it to the front page of hacker news, suggesting product copies, driving cars, optimizing package delivery routes, monitoring stock market transactions, providing customer support, and a zillion other things. 

Every time we say 'wow' looking at an AI system at work, we should also ask ourselves "What if it takes all of our jobs?"

If you're telling me "Don't overthink!", let me give you a scenario.

Imagine you're a developer. You used to use a text-editor like Notepad++ to develop web pages. Then there were frameworks to make your job easier. A couple of years later, a new software product comes into the market that promises to further reduce the time taken to create a web page by auto-completing code for you. You're excited. So are the other developers. Now, twenty different companies come into the market and offer similar tools that help you autocomplete code with the help of AI. The next big company in the space would then come into the market with the message "Automate your development process with a virtual developer". It pitches a product that develops and deploys code without human intervention and all you need to do it upload the UX prototype into the system. Some other company would come forward and say "We have designed a supercomputer that can perform the job of ten developers - an ideal solution for every startup". Even if they price it at $1 million USD, companies would be happy to spend their VC money on it.

And, within a flash of a second, all the dev jobs would be endangered.

If you think the day is far, check out GPT-3 and Azure-powered tools that code UI components based on text-descriptions. It's just a matter of time until someone figures out how to do it on a large scale.

And, a majority of non-technical functions in software teams were already replaced by some form of AI-powered technology. A major portion of customer support functions is handled by bots. Algorithms are powerful enough to identify keyword trends, market sentiment and suggest relevant headlines for blogs and landing pages (thanks to GPT-3). AI algorithms can translate language in real-time, analyze data faster than before and can even work as your front-office assistant, and make calls on your behalf (remember the Google Duplex demo?).

So, we're kind of in a 'Hyper-acceleration wave' toward an AI-powered future.

What will happen to the software economy?

The economic growth in most developing countries is due to their contribution to the software economy.

Software has become the most prominent trade in the past two decades, and the economy has grown so much because of software professionals. It made middle-class families into upper-middle-class families and lower-middle-class families into middle-class families. Many (including me) got their lucky break by finding their place in the software landscape.

But,  in an AI-dominated software world, what will happen to a majority of these people? I am not saying all of us will lose our jobs. But, new companies will develop AI-driven solutions to replace a portion of their workforce to optimize cost and other factors involved in managing a workforce. A company that would ideally hire ten people would only have five people as many of these operations would be overseen or done by an AI system.

If a bulk of the software is developed by small teams and AI, the majority of us would be nothing but consumers.

In a world driven by AI-generated software, anyone apart from those who own a business would be forced to take up sub-standard jobs. But, in my opinion, these AI-driven companies would pay anything to those who excel at one thing - sales.

Sales = Goldmine   

Despite an AI creating a complete SaaS application, the end result is always selling it to an organization. And the person who would be making that purchase decision will always be a human. So, the future will have a high demand for salespeople, because, at the end of the day, a person has to be convinced about the usefulness of a product in order to bring revenue.

And, if you look back, sales is the only function that hasn't changed with time. The adoption of every new technology is the work of millions of talented salespeople who convinced us that we badly need this thing. They bring change. And, they'd be trusted even more in the future.

In the near future, we'd spend a huge chunk of our day with smart AI systems. we'd be pushed to a situation where we'd have to learn to co-exist with AI.

I don't have thoughts on how we can co-exist with AI systems and what impact they will have on our lives. But, when I think about it, I am certain that that day is going to arrive sooner than we anticipated.

P.S.: If you're trying to pick up a new skill, learn about sales. It might come in handy when AI takes over😄

My Dad's friend Who Did Not Have A Name

In 1999, we moved to Chennai from Pondicherry. I was 11. My dad was excited as he was back to the house he built during 1979. He was excited to be back at Ambattur after 14 years. As we were settling in, he got a chance to reconnect with old friends and colleagues. It was during this time, he met his long term acquaintance - a thin old man with disheveled white hair. His name was 'Uppu', which meant 'salt' in Tamil.

He wore shirts that are at least a couple of decades old. The previous generation including my dad was obsessed and took immense pride in owning and wearing an aged fabric. My dad used to say "You see this shirt? I stitched it in Vellore before twenty-five years. You don't get this stuff today."

I think Uppu would've shared a similar sentiment.

He wore shirts with a white base, but it looked far from its original color. He also wore a checked towel around his neck and a dhoti that's always folded up till his knee.

When I asked my dad why his name was Uppu, my dad said he used to sell salt on the street during the 70s and the 80s. Before packaged salt, people bought salt from sellers like Uppu.

But, during the late 80s Indian government launched a huge nationwide campaign on Iodised salt to prevent malnutrition in kids. This led to the ban of non-iodized salt that severely affected the livelihood of people like Uppu.

As far as I knew, Uppu spent a major part of his day walking aimlessly in the streets of Vijayalakshmipuram, the area in Ambattur where I spent a good portion of my teens and early 20s.

I often used to wonder what he did to make a living. The answer was labour work.

During the early 2000s, most of the houses in Vijayalakshmipuram were independent properties. There were hardly any apartment complexes. And, each house had a huge backyard. The owners needed someone to clean it up and Uppu was the man for the job. He was familiar with everyone who lived in our area (during his time as a salt seller), so they had no trouble in giving him work. And, despite his age (he was in his late fifties when we moved in) he was fast and completed his work on time.

He used to get 25-50 rupees (sometimes even 100) for two hours of work and he used to work one house a day and made enough to take care of his needs.

Despite being known by the whole area, nobody knew his actual name, where he lived, and whether he had a family. They'll find him sitting in front of the newspaper shop and they tell him where his next job is.

He used to visit our house once a month to clean up our backyard and sometimes to add crystalline salt to the coconut trees (my dad used to add it once every three months to get the trees more nutrients).

After he's done with his work, my mom would make tea for Uppu and my dad and they used to talk about the old times. (My dad was 'old' when I was born. He was 42 to be exact. So, he was in his mid-fifties when I was in my teens.)

Several times, I've asked my dad if he knew Uppu's real name, but he said he didn't know and he was also not keen on asking him either. Maybe he liked calling him Uppu.

If I think about it now, the constantly evolving society pushes several jobs to the verge of extinction. Several jobs I came across during my childhood either went extinct or is at the verge of extinction.

The people who sell Kola Maavu (the powder used to draw rangoli), salt sellers, coconut tree climbers, people who sharpen your knives ('Saana' they call in Tamil), people who carve small groves for large mortar and pestle to give them more grinding power (it was a real job! they used to call the process "Poluva").

My dad and Uppu constantly stayed in touch until 2014. It was when we sold our independent house and moved into an apartment in a nearby area.

Even though our apartment was 2 km away from where we lived before, we hardly saw Uppu. Maybe he was sick, or maybe he would've thought he had no reason to be around an apartment that won't offer him work, or maybe he was intimidated by the apartment culture.

After my dad's demise, we moved out of Ambattur and I hardly go back there. I completely forgot about Uppu.

But, a couple of months back, I took a walk in my area and came across an old man who was selling kola Maavu (rangoli powder) on the streets. He was not Uppu. But he reminded me of him. The disheveled white hair, the faded shirt, a checked towel around his neck. He made me think about Uppu and several others like him.

Uppu is a classic example of how people kept themselves afloat even after losing the only thing they knew and been doing it for decades. In the case of Uppu, it was selling salt. But, you can't just attribute it to Uppu.

It was also the culture and people who made it happen. The culture of individual houses in small areas like Vijayalakshmipuram and Uppu's familiarity among people helped Uppu thrive and make a living. It was a good time.

If I could go back in time, I would ask Uppu for his real name. What could it be?

Visualizing a Note-Taking Feature Inside Zoom

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog post is purely based on personal experience. It was not influenced by any external factor.

Off all the apps I use on a daily basis, I love Zoom the most.

In my opinion, Zoom is one of the most minimal, yet amazingly functional apps built around its users.

It is designed like a TV remote. Anyone could figure out all the key features and start using it after playing around with it for a while.

They've carefully designed a ton of features such as the ability to chat among participants, run polls, the option to mark breaks, and so on. But, the one thing I wish they could prioritize is taking notes during a meeting.

As a daily Zoom user, I would say that as of now, there is no effective way to take notes when you're on a call.

Yes, you can have the notes app open on a minimized window during the meeting. But, what if you're sharing the screen! The experience becomes difficult. You either share the whole desktop and everyone can see your notes or you share one screen and if move on to another (in Mac), the screen sharing is paused which kind of makes the experience a little chaotic.

Of course, there are AI-driven tools such as and that transcribe your speech to text. But, the downside is, there is too much data to filter from.

This made me wonder.

What if Zoom had a built-in notetaking feature that allows you to take notes and share it with the meeting participants after the meeting?

So, last week, I spent some time drawing mocks to try and fit a native note-taking feature inside Zoom.

Design Criteria

Before designing the mocks, I wanted the "Notes" section to fulfill the following requirements.

  • It should support distraction-free note-taking

  • Provide a better way of organizing notes.

  • Allow you to bookmark/favorite frequently used notes

  • Support for sharing meeting notes with all the invitees, attendees, and selected members in the organization.

  • Ability to share meeting notes in multiple formats (PDF, TXT, DOCX)

  • Capture the timeline of notes along with date stamp (useful in recurring meetings)

  • Should be accessible from the Zoom web app.

  • Ability to filter their own and shared notes.

I did not include functions like thumbnail preview for links and videos; Collaboration inside notes (such as highlighting portions of a note or adding comments, etc.) as I thought it would compromise the minimalistic approach the tool currently takes and will make it look more like Microsoft Teams or Slack.

Feature Placement

The current Zoom app has a lot of space (if nobody enables the video) in the center which would be an ideal place for the placement of the notes section as it would be in the eye line of the user. However, the notes module should be a floating window if one or more attendees use video or if you're sharing your screen.

Accessing Notes

In order to easily launch and access the feature, I've decided the place the notes icon in the bottom toolbar.


The first thing I want is a simple, neat space for taking notes.

I wanted the editor to have basic text-formatting options as the user won't be adding an image or video in the notes section. All they can add are plain text, bullets, hyperlinks, and perform basic actions such as text/paragraph styling.

The users can perform the following functions on this screen:

  • Create a new note

  • Add a title to their note

  • Bookmark frequently used notes (by clicking on the ribbon icon next to the title)

  • Instantly switch between other notes or notebooks (I'll talk about that later)

  • Perform basic text/paragraph formatting

  • Option to delete a note

  • Share notes button to share the notes with the rest of the invitees/attendees

  • A timeline of when the notes were taken (useful during weekly/bi-weekly/monthly meetings)

  • Last saved info to denote auto-save on the system or on the cloud.

Recurring Meetings

A note is created by default when you set up a recurring meeting. This note will capture the timeline of notes taken over a period of time (can be seen next to the body of the note). You can disable this in the settings section.

Organizing notes

The notes are organized under notebooks under which you can add, edit, or delete notes. By default, your notebooks will be named with <month><year> as I thought it would be easier.

I've also added another default notebook titled "Bookmarked" to access all your bookmarked notes. The universal search to quickly locate a note and open it during a meeting.

Sharing Notes

You can share your notes with your invitees, attendees, or other people in your company. When you click on the "Share Notes" button, you will be shown the following options.

The advanced option includes choosing the format in which you would like to share the meeting notes and also add a custom message to those with whom you wish to share the message.

As of now, I've shortlisted three options for the note format: TXT, PDF, and DOCX as they're the most commonly used document formats. I've thought about adding Markdown (because I love it!). But, it is not commonly used by many compared to the other formats. So, I've kept it on hold.

Notes Pop-Out Window

During video calls and screen sharing, the notes section would turn into a pop-out window on the screen (similar to chat and participant list).

Notes in Zoom Web App

You can access all your notes from the sidebar of your Zoom web app.

You can also add notes from this screen, search for notes located in other notebooks and also share notes with others in the organization. I've also added a filter section on this page that allows you to filter bookmarked notes and the notes that are shared with you by others in the organization.


Since the function of the feature is minimal, I did not add a lot of options under Settings. I added an option to automatically share meeting notes when a user ends a meeting and the option to enable a timeline for notes that are part of a recurring meeting.

Major Use cases

  • Taking notes during meetings, conferences, online classes, etc.

  • Sharing notes among peers. In an online class setup, the teacher can share a note with all the students.

  • Access to past notes during recurring meetings to get context

Lessons Learned Today

  • Don't go all-in on features - Understand what is important for the user and keep them as the core of what you're designing. In this case, I don't want the notes section to have features like collaboration, comments, etc. That would have compromised on the user experience. I wanted to build a lightweight note-taking capability and I built it with minimal functions.

  • Consider all possibilities - Consider all possible use cases where a feature would be used. In my case, I asked a lot of questions. What happens when nobody turns on the video? What if one or more attendees use video? What if I share my screen? What if I log into the web app? I've considered adding notes to the mobile app as well. But, I decided to do it as a separate post as I realized it would involve redesigning a lot of moving parts.

  • Document your feature to realize shortcomings - Halfway into writing the blog post I realized I forgot to add buttons for adding a new note and creating a new notebook. I did not realize it until then. Writing about the feature and trying to explain it made me realize its fault. Maybe this is a habit I picked up as a technical writer.