tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:/posts Karthik Pasupathy 2023-05-14T17:38:56Z Karthik Pasupathy tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1976084 2023-05-14T17:38:53Z 2023-05-14T17:38:56Z Don’t Make the Mistake AhaGuru Made With Its Logo

I saw the billboard advertisement for this IIT-JEE coaching center on my way to the coffee shop. I was waiting at the signal and saw the billboard at the back of a bus. The ad said plenty of things about the coaching center—100% attendance, the best teachers, amazing results and so on. But, one thing I couldn’t figure out from the ad was the name of the coaching center. The way the logo was designed was confusing.

I saw the billboard advertisement for this IIT-JEE coaching center on my way to the coffee shop. I was waiting at the signal and saw the billboard at the back of a bus. The ad said plenty of things about the coaching center—100% attendance, the best teachers, amazing results and so on. But, one thing I couldn’t figure out from the ad was the name of the coaching center. The way the logo was designed was confusing.

Brand name or a puzzle?

When I first saw this logo, I felt like I was looking at one of those Cicada 3301 riddles. I thought solving the riddle and guessing the name of the coaching center would be the first step to getting admission into the coaching center. After all, if you’re going to prepare for IIT, you’ll have to be smart, right?

At the first glance, I thought I figured it out.

The first letter of the logo was the symbol “Pi” (π) followed by the characters “haGuru”.

So, I read it as “PihaGuru”. But, it didn’t make sense.

I then thought, “The symbol pi looks like the letters T and H combined. In that case, the name of the coaching center is PythaGuru. Like Pythagoras Theorem. How smart?”

When I showed the logo to my wife, she omitted the pi and read it as. “ThaGuru”.

We already have three different interpretations for the brand name. But, the most surprising part about this story is all three interpretations of the brand name were wrong.

My “Aha” moment with AhaGuru

When I Googled “Pytha Guru”, I saw another coaching center in the results. The logo wasn’t the same, and they clearly called themselves “Pythagurus”, an MBA admission consultancy.

After a few minutes of Googling, I came to know that the actual name of the brand I was looking for was “AhaGuru”. The first letter of the logo was “A” masked as the pi symbol.

I was disappointed. The name didn’t make any sense. Why the name “AhaGuru”? What does it mean? I was so confused.

At that point, the name PythaGuru made more sense.

Now, let’s analyze what is wrong with this logo:

The major flaw is replacing the first letter of the brand name with a symbol, which I presume is the logo of the brand. This creates a lot of confusion.

If someone sees the advertisement for this brand, how would they describe it to another person? One might say “ThaGuru” and another might say “PythaGuru” (I seriously wonder if anyone would say “AhaGuru”). The brand name creates a lot of confusion, as it provides an opportunity for people can have different interpretations of the logo. This reduces brand recollection.

They should’ve kept the logo as a variant of the Pi symbol and could’ve added the word “AhaGuru” next to it. What was more baffling about all this was, the coaching center has so many brilliant students and teachers. And none of them thought that the logo looked weird?


Key Takeaways

There are two key takeaways from AhaGuru’s logo design. First, if you’re designing a logo, don’t make it look like a riddle. And, second, if you’re a founder, don’t design the logo yourself or use your relative’s kid to design it for you (I guess that’s what’s happened here). Hire a designer, or use an AI tool. Don’t do it yourself to save some money.

Liked what you read? Have a look at my analysis of Google Pay and Amazon.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1976082 2023-03-12T06:30:00Z 2023-05-14T17:32:09Z A Restaurant That Traded Its Customer Experience for $15

Takeaway: Most times, customer experience comes as a result of common sense. I realized it last week while sitting at a restaurant.

The Story: It’s been a while since I and Suba went on a dinner date. Pregnancy and the kid kept us busy for the last six months. Also, after my daughter was born, we were always too tired to sneak out and get some dinner even if we had the chance. All we had the energy for was a short walk and a cup of tea.

So it is natural for us to get excited when we heard about the new seafood restaurant that opened in the vicinity. We decided to do a proper dinner this time. So, we made careful planning two weeks in advance to squeeze 90 minutes of our time for a quick dinner. We were looking for the right moment and it came in on a Friday evening. We got buy-in from my mom who agreed to watch the kid while we were out.

As we entered the restaurant, a Tamil guy opened the door and said “namaste”. I don’t understand why! (Because ‘namaste’ is a Hindi word and we no way look like people from the North). But that’s not important in this story.\

The restaurant was a fine dining place and it looked the part. Fancy lights, a large seating area, props on the wall fitting the beach vibe, etc. Even the waiters wore bright floral shirts to fit into the theme.

The experience was great right from the beginning. A waitress saw us walking in, opened the door, and walked us to our table. She pulled the chairs for us to sit on and even suggested the best items on the menu. The food came in and it was great. The speakers were playing M.S. Viswanathan hits, which gave the place a different vibe. The classic playlist was effortless to listen to and we were having a good time. Everything was on point until I heard the ad.

I felt like I was snapped back to reality. Everything I was vibing to until then came to a standstill. The playlist was from YouTube and it started playing ads in the middle of the song. I only thought I had in my at that moment was “How much will it cost the restaurant to buy a YouTube premium subscription?

It’s ₹1250 (~$15 USD) for a whole year. I know it because I have a subscription.

That’s the average bill amount in the restaurant for a party of two. Even with all the math, we can certainly say $15 a year is not a huge expense for the restaurant.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to listen to YouTube ads on a fine set of speakers while I’m having dinner at a fancy restaurant. Probably the restaurant management would’ve thought “When we don’t have live music, let’s play songs from YouTube. It’s free anyway!

Companies should realize that even the smallest things matter when it comes to customer experience. I wrote about this a couple of years back, an incident where cutting a chole bhature in half before frying it gave us a memorable customer experience.

I can recall another personal experience from 2014. A bunch of friends visited a barbeque restaurant for lunch on a rainy day and our clothes got wet. The restaurant gave us T-shirts and took our clothes for drying. After our lunch, we got back our clothes neat and dry. The restaurant didn’t have to do that. But, they did, because they want us to feel comfortable right from the beginning. That is the key to a good customer experience.

The size of the brand doesn’t matter when it comes to customer experience. It is the mindset of the people who are running it that matters. The people behind the best brands understand how the little things matter and execute them in order to deliver an exceptional customer experience. I wish more brands understand the importance of customer experience and work towards it.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1976078 2023-02-25T06:30:00Z 2023-05-14T17:21:42Z AI has become the MSG of software

I’m not against AI. AI is amazing. I know this because I work for an AI company, and I’ve seen the impact it delivers to businesses of all sizes. AI is changing things for good and it will continue to do so.

I’m also not afraid of AI taking my job someday (I know it will eventually happen, and I’m fine

 with it. But that discussion is for another day). But, it is frustrating when I come across apps that come up with AI use cases that add no real value to end users.

I came across a tweet from a growing developer blogging platform about their latest AI feature. A writing assistant that helps users write content. Do you realize how dangerous that is, for the company and the users?

Let me explain. The whole idea of a blogging platform is for people to share their ideas on various topics, and learn from one another. It is a medium for learning from different people. If the majority uses AI-generated content for views and likes, then what benefit does it add for a reader like you and me? Instead of reading content from many individuals, we’ll be reading content that is created with a help of a single AI engine.

Why do I need a blogging platform for this? I can sign up for my own ChatGPT account and ask it to generate personalized blog content on any topic I want. It’s going to be the same. Why do I even have to visit the blogging platform then?

Another area I’m worried about is the signal-to-noise ratio of content. Introducing an AI-powered writing assistant removes the barrier to creativity altogether, resulting in a boatload of spam. The platform will see a thousand articles each day, all sounding very similar.

Lately, it looks like companies in the productivity and note-taking space are launching writing assistants only to compete with each other. But except for a few, most companies are not thinking about what value these features would add to the end users.

A writing assistant can help helpful in summarising or translating content and even in correcting grammar errors in content. But writing an entire piece of content? It doesn’t help the writer as well as the reader (should we even call them a writer? Or a writing orchestrator?)

Technology companies have a responsibility to make conscious decisions on how they’d want to use new technology. It should empower people to become better thinkers and creators. It shouldn’t provide them an option to outsource their thinking and creativity. I’m afraid of this scenario because I know we’re lazy and given a choice we wouldn’t think twice before taking up that option.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1936690 2023-02-03T01:52:39Z 2023-02-03T01:52:39Z Liabilities are good in low doses

I recently attended a financial planning workshop and the hosts kept talking about "liabilities" and how they're bad for us. There are two misconceptions about the word "liability". One is they’re always mapped to loans and other financial commitments. Second? Liabilities are considered bad and are asked to be kept out of one’s life.

I don't think it's that black and white. Liabilities fall in the grey area. So, I let my thoughts run their course and see what I think about "liabilities" in life. I ended up with two opinions. 

First, it is not a liability if it gives us immense happiness and fulfillment. I have my own example. 

A year after I got a decent job, I went out and took a car loan. The EMI was a quarter of my monthly salary, and the fuel costs took some more from my tight monthly budget. 

From the perspective of a financial planner, it would’ve made no sense for someone to pay a quarter of their salary on a "depreciating asset". But it made sense to me. I explored new places, met amazing people, and drove around the city at random times irrespective of the weather. I enjoyed every moment with my car. Was it a liability? Yes. Was it a depreciating asset? Yes. Was it a wise decision? No. But was it all worth it? Absolutely!

For some people, it is their lifelong dream to own a car or buy a house. They work hard to get to a point where they can afford to get a loan to buy their dream car or house. For them, it's more than numbers. They share an emotional connection with the goal. Those people won't see the loan as a liability, but will see it as their path to "getting settled in life". 

My second opinion is, liabilities are constantly changing. Let's say you finish off all your loans and start your own company. Does that mean you're free of all liability? Not really. You're now liable to your customers, investors, and the welfare of your employees (and you’re always liable for the welfare of your family members who’re dependent on you). The only thing that changes is that once you become a founder, you’ll be liable for different things. 

I personally feel that we need low-dose liabilities to keep us on track. In my case, I would quit my job any day to start something if I had no liabilities. I’ve done that twice in the past. And it didn’t go well for me. So, I always make sure I have a small loan on the side to keep me at my job. Whatever ideas I have, I experiment with them on the side. 

So, take any advice on liability with a pinch of salt. It’s not a framework that works for everyone. Analyze your priorities and decide what you need and what you don’t. 

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932719 2022-10-31T06:30:00Z 2023-01-24T04:21:49Z The ’30-day plan’ if you’re starting as a marketer in a SaaS company

When you’re interviewing for a marketing role in a SaaS company and when you’re in the final stages of the interview process, it is common for your hiring manager or the CEO to ask for a ’30-day, 60-day, or a 90-day plan’ to know what you’ll accomplish soon after you join the company.

It is kind of a tricky question. Since you only know about the company from what you’ve read and heard, most of your knowledge would be surface level. You won’t know their actual problems. So, candidates usually go with vanilla answers like ‘I’d revamp the website, write more blogs, be more active on social media, etc.’ But, the truth is, you can’t actually make a solid plan until you join the company.

But, after joining the company, there are a few things you can do to gather data on existing challenges, prioritize them and execute some of them (at least one) within the first 30 days of your employment.

Here’s an actionable 30-day roadmap of what you should do if you’re starting your career as a marketer in a SaaS company.

Week 1 and 2

You might think two weeks is long, but if you exclude weekends, you’ll only have 10 working days during the first two weeks. Use this time to get adjusted to the new environment and lay the groundwork for the upcoming weeks.

Connect with your peers

Introduce yourself to the team and set individual 1:1 meetings with every member of your team (people with whom you’ll be working closely). During these 1:1 meetings following the 60:40 rule. Spend 60% of the conversation talking about common topics and interests and the remaining 40% of the conversation understanding their role, experience, etc.

Understand their strengths to get a sense of where you can get their help in the future. On the other hand, tell them about your experience, skills, and what you’re good at, and tell them you’re happy to help whenever needed. This will give them a chance to reach out to you during future projects.

Meet the decision-makers

If you’re a marketer, it is a given that you’ll be working with multiple teams within your company. This will include the design, product, customer success, support, and sales teams.

So, during your first week, identify key decision makers in each team (by talking to your teammates) and set up 30-minute meetings to say “Hi!”. This will come in handy when you’re working on large projects that might involve these decision-makers.

If you’re new, you might think you’re wasting their time. Don’t worry. From my experience, people are happy to meet new people and even happier to talk about their experiences. So get to know the decision-makers during the first two weeks.

Pro tip: Set regular meetings (at least once a month) with decision-makers to get insights on new challenges and to avoid surprises.

Understand the product

As a marketer, you’ll be spending a lot of time with your product. So get familiar with the product. Watch product demos and read the help documentation to get started. Reading the help documentation is a great way to understand the nuances within the product and also helps you learn its limitations (what the product is or isn’t capable of).

If you get a chance, be a silent spectator on a couple of sales calls to see how the product is being demoed to a prospect. It will also give you an idea about the characteristics of your target persona.

Another great way to get familiar with the product is by answering support tickets. When I joined Zoho as a technical writer in 2015, I spent the first month answering support tickets. It helped me learn the product in and out. Even after that, we had the practice of handling support tickets once a week. It helped us stay updated on the latest issues. If your company doesn’t allow you to answer tickets, at least add yourself as a watcher to interesting tickets and go through support tickets every now and then.

Set up Google Alerts for keywords

This is an important step to stay on top of what’s happening in the market and with your competitors. Set up google alerts for your competitors and specific keywords related to the domain in which your product operates. You can also set up an alert of your own product to see who talks about your product.

Get access to the right tools

Get access to the tools that you’ll be using frequently. This can include Google Analytics, access to your company’s YouTube channel, access to social media scheduling tools, Adwords account, etc.

Week 3 and 4

This is where you get into action. These two weeks are your window to make the best first impression. The reputation you build during this time will go a long way.

Identifying the problem

Talk to your manager and other key stakeholders in the team to understand problem areas and challenges. For example, if you’re a product marketer, you need to speak to your sales team to understand what kind of collateral they need to close more deals. If you’re a content marketer, talk to the SEO and web performance teams to understand problem areas.

List down the challenges and see which section of the marketing/sales funnel they affect.

Prioritizing the problem

The problem you’re trying to solve should check the following boxes:

High impact - should have a significant impact on conversion, revenue, or team satisfaction.

Low dependency - You should be able to solve 80-90% of the problem on your own (with your skills). Shouldn’t rely too much on engineering or design teams. Don’t take up large projects in your first month as it can be a project management nightmare (especially if it involves multiple teams)

Time to completion - Can you complete it within 2-3 weeks?

After choosing the right problem, make a list of key stakeholders who will be involved in the process.


A few pointers to keep in mind while executing your first project.

Get buy-in from key stakeholders - Convince them by pitching the value. Set expectations on what you need from them and how long will it take to see results. Don’t commit to hard deadlines. Give them an approximate timeline.

Keep key people in the loop - While executing the project, keep your team and other key stakeholders in the loop.

Don’t panic - When you’re executing a project, things will go wrong (irrespective of the project size). Don’t panic. Everybody on your team would’ve faced such moments. Communicate the problem. Learn from them and move on. If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask.

Pro tip: Don’t launch anything on a Friday. If things break, you might ruin the whole weekend for you and your team.

Show your work

Apart from marketing the product, you should also market yourself. So, success or failure, don’t forget to show your work.

If you succeed, people will appreciate you. If you fail, your team will know that you’ve put in your best efforts and also understand what you learned from things that went wrong.

Be open to feedback and learn from your peers’ experiences. Don’t be too stubborn to change your opinion. It wouldn’t let you learn anything new.

And, Keep a work journal. Keep a month-wise note of what you’ve worked on and add a tag ‘milestone’ next to important projects where you think you’ve done really well.

This journal will come in handy when you’re filling up your performance appraisal form. You can exactly point out what you’ve done and the impact you’ve had on the growth of the company.

Next steps…

Based on your learnings, make a plan for the next month or quarter. The periodic 1:1 meetings you had set with key stakeholders will keep giving you new and interesting challenges.

If you’ve come this far, it means whatever I’ve written so far has made sense. I appreciate you taking the time to read this blog. Please share this blog with your friends and colleagues who’re early in their marketing careers or is an aspiring marketers.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932721 2022-10-27T06:30:00Z 2023-01-24T04:21:28Z How much AI is 'too much' AI?
Photo by Eddy Billard on Unsplash

Today, AI can do pretty much anything. It can write stories, create images, mimic your voice in a video or a podcast, generate summaries, etc. You name it and AI can do it. AI tools made life easy for so many content creators and businesses. Apart from being used in businesses, AI has also found its way into our day-to-day lives.

We're increasingly becoming dependent on AI for all our tasks. AI completes our emails, recommends us movies and music based on our likes, provides suggestions while we write our masterpieces, and sometimes co-writes our masterpieces.

When you look beyond the awe of what it does, you can see that AI is slowly taking over our ability to make decisions. Now, some of you might argue that "I don't want to waste my brain power by making all these small decisions in my day-to-day life. I'm destined for bigger things."

Think about it for a second. Making these small decisions each day, throughout your life defines your taste, shapes your consciousness, and makes you who you are.

I guess it all started with spell-check software. Sometime in August this year, I came across a paragraph in David Perell's weekly newsletter where he talks about software has made writing more sterile these days. He says, 'The rise of homogenous writing began with Microsoft Word. First, spell check corrected our spelling and grammar. Then, as it became more advanced it started correcting our sentence structure, suggesting certain words. Now, with recommendations in Gmail and Google Docs, the age of prediction has arrived.'

Another thing is that using too much AI might take away change and serendipity from our lives. Let's take an example of an app that summarizes books for easy understanding. It reads every line of a 50,000-word book and gives you all the important takeaways in less than 3,000 words. Sounds amazing, right? But what you're missing out here is a chance to stumble upon that one sentence that could change your life. An AI algorithm may summarize a book based on readers' highlights, quotes shared on social media, and its own summarization algorithm. But, what if you find abundant meaning and perspective from a single sentence or paragraph that depicts the personal life of the author (which was ignored by the AI considering that it was not important)?

Those surprise moments make our lives interesting. That's also how our brain works. It thrives on serendipity. We stumble upon new stuff and our brain takes a completely new route to puts in the effort to develop our taste toward it. And outsourcing that and giving control of that serendipity to a machine learning model doesn't sound right to me.

A lot of people today blame the education system saying it was a scheme created by the governments of the past to make people think alike and it is dangerous for independent thinking. How is that different from the AI tools that try to control every decision in our lives? Not to mention that these AI engines are governed by a few large tech corporations. I'm not saying these companies are forcing us to use AI. It is a choice, but a tempting one. So, being lazy beings, we choose the path that makes our lives easy.

I'm not against using AI. The applications of AI are mindblowing. I work for an AI company. I believe that AI absolutely necessary to solve problems in business, logistics, governance, healthcare, power, agriculture, and defense sectors. It is empowering millions of content creators across the world to run their businesses. My only concern is the limit to which one uses AI to perform their personal tasks.

For example, if you're a blogger or an online writer, you can use AI to generate research-based ideas for your blog, generate images for your blog posts, convert your content into image and video formats, etc. But, you can't write entire blog posts using AI. Because the reader who subscribed to your blog did so because they enjoyed your writing style. Handing it off to a machine won't do justice to all those subscribers.

Enjoy the benefits of AI, but be on the watch for how much decision-making you give off to it. It is still uncharted territory.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932722 2022-08-10T06:30:00Z 2023-01-24T04:26:31Z Web3 Doesn’t Have a Future Unless It Excites People Like You and Me
Image generated with Midjourney

The success of any technology lies in its adoption numbers. For that to happen people should see value in it - even from the initial days. Also, the excitement of the early adopters should be contagious to the people who come after them, and the crucial part is the people who come after should also feel the same excitement for a technology to succeed. This happened with the internet, smartphones, WiFi, AI, and every other piece of technology we use in our day-to-day lives. But, unfortunately, this is not happening for web3. 

Why Web3 isn’t able to cross the early adoption barrier?

When countries started laying lines for the internet, people were excited about the possibility. Because they knew they can use the internet to shop, watch movies, send emails and attachments, interact with their friends, and search web pages from across the globe - all without spending money. Thanks to the advertisement model, the internet became a major phenomenon. Today, we can’t imagine a world without the internet. Right to internet access is deeply tied to freedom of expression today. 

The same happened with AI. People are excited about the possibilities and are reaping the benefits of the technology like driverless cars, low bandwidth video calls, computer-generated images, personalized movie and music recommendations, etc. 

But, people aren’t seeing such possibilities with web3. A small group of enthusiasts are really vocal about the benefits of web3 and are building some phenomenal solutions on the blockchain. 

But, when I tried some of these services, I couldn’t feel the same excitement. Instead, I found web3 to be even more confusing. Since all web3 services are built on a token infrastructure, they have a steep learning curve, confusing terminologies, and a discord server that is too overwhelming for anyone. 

Let me give you an example. But, before that, let’s see a bit about what is web3

What is Web3?

Web3 refers to a decentralized internet powered by the blockchain and token economy. The information and services are not centralized i.e. no single organization has control over the data. The information is hosted in a network of computers owned by users who’re part of the web3 ecosystem. The incentive for those who host and manage this information is provided in the form of tokens like Bitcoins, Ethereum, etc. 

You can learn more about Web3 from here. A three-part podcast series on Freakonomics radio is also a great listen if you’re new to Web3. Now, let’s get back to that example. 

I almost paid a $163 USD transaction fee for a $5 product

During the beginning of this year, I saw a lot of Twitter profiles with names ending with “.eth”. When I dug deeper, I found out that you can get your decentralized website domain (they call it “ENS”), from a website called ENS a.k.a Ethereum Name Service. If you have an ENS address, you can use it instead of the lengthy wallet address to send and receive money. I also read that I can use such domains to host a webpage on the blockchain using IPFS. It was a really cool idea. It still is. But, how’s the experience for an end user like you and me? Let’s look into it. 

I tried to buy an ENS address in my name and the website said it would cost me $5 USD per year. It was affordable. I was excited. But, when I tried to buy it, I realized there were so many restrictions. You’ll have to have a set amount of Ethereum to complete the transaction. You might think that it can be $10 or 20. But, the total price came to $168 USD. It said $5 for the domain and $163 was the gas fees. A gas fee is the transaction fee required to execute a contract on the blockchain. That was crazy! When I looked for answers, many mentioned that since the price of tokens keeps changing the gas fees will too. One has to look for the right time to execute the contract at a nominal rate. Since the price of ETH has dropped 2/3rd of its value, the total cost comes down to $13 dollars (as on August 9, 2022).

Everything costs you money on web3. Loading tokens, withdrawing tokens, swapping tokens - you can see the numbers decreasing in front of your eyes. I loaded $50 into my wallet and I paid $20 in transaction charges for a failed transaction. It was crazy and painful to watch. 

My point is that things like this are a huge barrier for early adopters. When the cost, terminologies, and process scares them off, the chance of them coming back are really slim. That’s what happened to me. Another confusing thing I’ve come across in web3 was DAOs. 

DAOs or chaos?

Decentralized Autonomous Organizations a.k.a DAOs are communities of like-minded people with a shared bank account. The members get voting rights on important decisions of the community, which makes it a community powered by decentralized governance. But, I don’t see anything significant coming out of DAOs, at least for the moment. I came across a couple of DAOs which made me ask “Why? What’s the point?”. 

Nation3 - Nation3 is a sovereign cloud nation. They are building a community of like-minded people by creating a nation on the cloud. To become a citizen you’ll need to have 2 $veNATION tokens (~$2126 USD). If I am a citizen I can mint an NFT passport. But, what will I do with it? To even be part of a community, I’ll have to spend $2126 USD. There’s no trial. There is no sneak peek of what I’ll get, and most importantly, what if I don’t like being a citizen? So many questions. 

Constitution DAO - A group of people came together and raised $42 million dollars to buy one of the original copies of the American constitution. They lost the bid, but the question I had on my mind was “Why buy it in the first place?”  

I also came across DAOs with meaningful applications like the Ukraine DAO which managed to donate $7 million to Ukraine during the war and they help in fact-checking and documenting the events of the war. They could’ve done it in web2 (the current version of the internet), but the decentralization concept works here because it prevents them from getting shut down by any government. Kinda makes sense. 

Despite all the improvements, DAOs have to go a long way in order for them to be used by the general public. 

Services that excite me about web3

Sia Coin - The decentralized data storage service is one of the most practical web3 uses I’ve come across. Their file upload service Skynet (name kinda scares me) is fast and easy to use, it makes you wonder if it’s really part of web3. The data you upload is stored as chunks among a network of computers and can be accessed by the user whenever required. Those who maintain data on their computers will be rewarded with Sia coins. This is similar to Limewire - a software I used to use in the early 2000s to download movies and music. To put it simply it is similar to downloading files via torrents. 

Arweave - A web3 version of the Wayback machine. You can store documents and applications on a blockchain permanently. They also offer free credits for you to start using the service. Something that every other web3 service should start doing. 

Unstoppable domains - You can buy crypto domains for a one-time fee. The prices of the domains start from as low as $20 and you can buy them using your credit card or using tokens. The practical applications are quite nice too. You can map your wallet addresses to your domain, you can upload your personal web page in IPFS and link it to the domain, and you can also create a private email address to receive and reply to emails from others without revealing your personal information. 

Mirror.xyz - A web3 publishing platform where you can write and publish your content on the blockchain. It is fast and easy to use. I’ve tried it myself and its nice.

I tried Audius, the web3 music streaming platform. But, I never got to the listening part. The website was too slow (both the web and the mobile app).

Services like these are a good start. The ecosystem needs more of this. 

What does web3 need?

  • A simplified user experience. People should be able to use it right away and see the magic. Kinda like DALL-E. You don’t need to know about AI or machine learning. Type what’s on your mind and you’ll see a computer-generated image. Web3 should build that kind of experience. 

  • User education. The early adopters should simplify concepts and terminologies. And, token ecosystems should come up with uniform terminologies to promote better understanding among potential users. User education should answer questions about the loss of data, consequences of losing funds, data privacy, the possibility of retrieval of funds in case of losing it, seeking support, and more. 

  • A sneak peek. Most web3 services are just a website and you don’t get to see or experience how they work. Every user should get at least a few token credits for them to experience the service. If they love it, they’ll definitely be part of your DAO or service. 

  • Better real-life use cases. Web3 builders should think beyond NFT marketplaces, virtual real estate, and DAOs. They can solve a lot of problems like censor-free newspapers, bring transparency to traditional government processes, and even elections. 

  • Support. People should move out of Discord servers for support. I don’t want answers from squeakyboss4567 when I’m panicked about my missing tokens. 

Internet for all vs. Internet for few

The cost aspect of the technology will definitely be a barrier. It will bring the benefits of web3 to a selected few instead of everyone. Sometimes, it makes me wonder “has decentralization, data ownership, and privacy got more expensive with web3?”. But, that’s a topic for another time. 

Web3 is great on paper. It is. And, it has got potential. But, it doesn’t excite end users like you and me. And, it won’t become a thing until it does.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932810 2022-06-26T06:30:00Z 2023-01-24T12:25:45Z How to Sound Smart on Twitter? 6 Proven Lessons From Top Twitter Profiles

"How to sound smart on Twitter?" - the question popped in my head when I talking to a friend who lives in the US. We had an interesting conversation about building side projects and the conversation quickly delved into influencer Twitter.

He told me how a lot of influencers these days use content to build a Twitter following and later leverage the followers to amplify their products (which is a different form of the same content they've tweeting) and make money. But, in order to gain those followers, the content they share should be smart (or should at least look like it is). 

To find answers I followed a bunch of influencers to understand their strategy. I observed a lot of patterns - some brilliant and some silly. In fact, I was surprised to see the number of followers some influencers get and the amount of money they're making through strategies that I assumed wouldn't work! It was not that difficult to get this data as they themselves post screenshots of their payment dashboards 😜

But, that was not the most interesting thing.

The biggest finding of all is that all these influencers follow a similar formula when it comes to tweets. They use the same set of syntax/format to create their tweets to grab the attention of their followers.

But, before taking a look at this syntax, let's take a look at the 4-step approach these influencers employ to make money out of their Twitter followers:

The 4-step Twitter influencer formula

  • Become the journey - You set out to do something big. Build your own one-person SaaS app; Become a productivity master; Become financially independent by 30, or even gain 2000 Twitter followers every month.

  • Document your journey on Twitter - As you're progressing, document your process in the form of tweets and generously blog about your experience.

  • Position yourself as the Expert - Become the go-to person for those who are setting out on a similar journey as yours. This comes with time. This way, you become the influencer in the space. People who are interested in doing what you do or are looking for guidance will follow you on social media.

  • Sell stuff! - Create useful content and products for the niche audience. It can be books, consultations, a paid newsletter, a video course, and so on.

Note: These are NOT something I deciphered after going through thousands of tweets. Most of these things are posted by the influencers themselves. Again, they all follow a similar approach in terms of their monetization strategy as well.

How to sound smart on Twitter? : The Influencer ‘Tweet’ Formula

Now, let's come to the juicy part.

What do all these Twitter influencers have in common? The answer is the way they construct their tweets. It follows a couple of syntax/formulas that anybody can make use of

To explain this, I’ve picked a few tweets from a couple of famous Twitter influencers: David PerellNaval, and Jack Butcher. 

1. The 50:50 formula

These types of tweets will have two sections to it and each section will contradict the other. A good syntax would be something like this:

"If you're not <action>, then you're not <outcome>"

Add anything here, and it will look like an influencer tweet.

Example 1: If you're not achieving your task, then you're not crazy enough

Example 2: If you're not able to finish your work on time, then you're not productive

Example 2: If you're not able to chew your sandwich, then your bread is not fresh enough

Here are some tweets from real-life influencers.

how to found smart on twitter article template 01

2. The 'bigger-more' formula

This is another version of the 50-50 tweet formula. This also has two sections, but instead of contradicting the first statement, the second statement will complement the first.

Here's the sample format:

"The bigger <something>, the more it <action or outcome>"
"The more <something>, the better <action or outcome>"

But, it can also be contracting at times. Here are a few examples,

how to sound smart on twitter 05


3. The 'Obvious' Gyaan

This is the most easiest way to sound smart on Twitter. This is where the obvious things that many of us know are posted as tweets. They're short, well-known common sense stuff, yet they are attention-grabbing.

how to sound smart on twitter 07


4. Unpopular opinion

A major part of the influencer game runs on controversial tweets. And, sometimes, to make it deliberate enough, influencers tweet something under the title "unpopular opinion."

Example 1: Unpopular opinion - I love physical hard drive than cloud storage.

Example 2: Unpopular opinion - I love popular opinions.

how to sound smart on twitter 10

5. 'Over the head' Tweets

Short tweets that make us go "Wait...what!"

how to sound smart on twitter 11

6. Threaded Advice

Professional or self-improvement advice in the form of tweet threads is also something that worked really great for these influencers. It keeps the audience engaged and serves as a great tool for engagement and reach

A few examples of threaded advice:

How to Get Rich (without getting lucky):

How to create your personal monopoly: 


I'm sure the above-mentioned techniques would've given you enough ideas on how to sound smart on Twitter. Try these out and see if you’re getting more traction than usual.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932726 2022-02-20T06:30:00Z 2023-01-24T04:33:40Z Why Readwise is a great example of user-centric product design?

Apps with great User Experiences (UX) aren't talked about a lot. Reason? One, the number of apps with great UX is quite scarce. And two, the UX in some of the apps is so good, that it misses our radar. Readwise is one such app.

I came across Readwise a year back through my friend Sanjeev. Until I came across it, I had no idea I'd want such an app. I tried it out for a week and have been a paid user since then.

What is Readwise?

For those who don't know, Readwise helps you bring all your book and article highlights from various tools and sources into one single location and helps you revisit them frequently.

How Readwise changed my thinking process?

Before getting to the design part, let's take a quick look at how Readwise helps unify your knowledge consumption process.

Before Readwise

My knowledge consumption workflow was siloed. I used to read a lot on Kindle and the iBooks app on my phone and make highlights whenever I come across something interesting. Apart from books, I read a bunch of articles each day which I usually discover through Reddit, Hacker News, and publications I subscribed to via Substack. Whenever I come across an interesting article, instead of highlighting portions of it, I bookmark the entire article on Raindrop and add a tag to it.

And, being part of the startup ecosystem, I also spend a lot of time on Twitter. So I bookmark tweets and tweet threads.

So, I read and I highlight what I think is important and I save them for future use. Sounds good, right?

But, there is one problem. I don't revisit my highlights. Like never. Reason?

  • All my notes and highlights are siloed.

  • I don't know what I am looking for as I would've forgotten what I had highlighted.

  • The highlights and bookmarks aren't easily accessible - The kindle highlights are buried somewhere in Kindle and the Bookmarks tab on Twitter is not the best place to categorize and find the information you had saved for later.

But, Readwise changed it all.

After Readwise

Readwise helped me bring highlights from all the apps and devices under one roof. Within a few minutes of signing up, I was able to pull in highlights from my Kindle, iBooks app, Medium, Goodreads, etc.

Also, instead of Bookmarking Tweets, all I do now is add a comment to a tweet saying @readwise save and the tweet/thread gets saved into my Readwise account.

And, that is not the best part.

The best part about Readwise is, it collects those highlights and sends them to me via email at frequent intervals (you can set how frequently you'll like to see these emails.)

This way I am exposed to my highlights frequently and it triggers a thought process when I come across a sentence from an article or book I read a while back.

Readwise played a key role in helping come up with topics for my Atomic Essays Project.

The UX of Readwise

Over the past year, I've made a few observations while using Readwise.

In-depth understanding of user persona

The end-user of Readwise is an avid reader. Someone who reads a lot - across multiple devices and services. In order to create an app that provides value to them, the folks at Readwise should really understand their user's habits. 

From what I've seen, they've excelled at learning how users consume knowledge in different forms (books, articles, and podcasts). Here are a few features from Readwise that tells us how well the product team understood their users.

  • Highlights from physical books - The mobile app has an option to scan text from physical books and it lets you snip the portions of highlighted text and save it to your account.

  • My clippings.txt - The highlights on Amazon Kindle get synced only for the books you buy from Amazon. Highlights from epubs you copy into your Kindle device are usually saved in a 'My Clippings.txt' file inside your Kindle. What about those highlights? Readwise has an option where you can upload My Clippings.txt to capture those highlights as well.

  • PDF highlights - Reading and highlighting portions of a PDF file. You can upload the PDF to extract those highlights as well?

  • Browser extension - With the extension, you can highlight portions of articles you come across and save them in your Readwise account.

And not just that! Borrowing ebooks from your local library via Libby? Buying and reading books on your Android device using Play Books? or using an RSS reader like Feedly or Inoreader? Readwise has integrations built for all of them.

Helps you think with Daily Review

An app delivers the best experience when it delivers the value to where the users are instead of making users visit the app or the service often. One of the reasons support through social media and sending updates via Whatsapp became famous among users is because it brings users what they need to where they are.

Readwise does something similar with Daily review. It randomly picks highlights and tweets from your account and sends them to your email or surfaces them in the mobile app. You don't have to log into the app often to go through your highlights.

And since it directly comes to your inbox, it is easy for you to consume, reminisce, and think about why you had highlighted a certain portion. It can help you come up with a new perspective, give you a new idea or it can simply make your day.

Discovery of new apps and services

Apart from storing your highlights, Readwise provides you with an opportunity to get to know about new apps and services that could add more value to your current process. For example, I came to know about apps like AirrInoreader, and Hypothesis through Readwise. The discovery process also helps complementary apps acquire new uses. A win-win for all!

Readwise also enables knowledge discovery by bringing highlights from books you haven't read. The review email contains an additional highlight at the end which is often picked from a book we haven't studied. If we like the highlight, we'd end up reading the book. Here's how it looks on the email: 

Export Your Data (No Strings Attached)

I'm paranoid about my data. I want my apps to provide me with an option to export all my data in a simple, readable format. In fact, this was the reason I stopped using Evernote. Despite all the amazing features, it becomes really hard to migrate all your notes out of Evernote.

The folks at Readwise really understand this. Their export option allows you to sync your highlights with all your favorite note-taking apps - Evernote, Notion, Obsidian, and Roam. (I have synced highlights with all the apps except for Roam)

You can also export all your highlights in markdown format.

Areas that need improvement

Better Mobile Experience

The mobile app could be a lot better. For example, the highlights feed in the mobile app doesn't let you filter highlights based on type, time, or source. For now, it is just a barebones list. The app can have a quick capture button to jot down thoughts via text, photo, or voice notes. Right now, the option is hidden behind the Add Highlights section.

Voice notes are a more natural way of adding notes when we're on the move. We already use them on apps like WhatsApp and it feels natural. Readwise can support voice transcription similar to Otter Notes. Imagine someone reading a passage from a book and you can quickly transcribe that and add them to your Readwise account. Or someone giving a speech and you're there taking notes. Voice transcriptions would be really powerful in these scenarios. 

The mobile app could also use speed and performance improvements. 

Better UI for web app

The web app also needs a lot of improvements. 

For example, The moment you log into your web app, you see a screen that has options for import/export, settings, and browsing the highlights. As a user, I am not getting any value from this screen. Everything is either one or two clicks away.

Instead of showing the settings-like screen, there could be a dashboard that has widgets to show the newly saved items, highlights for daily review, new book recommendations, etc. 

But, despite the flaws, Readwise stands out due to its deep understanding of the target persona and designing features to import data from literally any app. The core functionality of the app is so strong it masks all the other flaws. Also, the flaws on the web and the mobile app can be ignored as users hardly log into the app and receive their highlights mostly via email.

But, they'll have to strengthen their app experience and fill in the UX gap because the knowledge management space rapidly expanding with the entry of new apps.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1933485 2021-11-18T06:30:00Z 2023-01-25T22:42:05Z How Arrogance Led Aggregator Startups To Conquer India

How Arrogance Led to the Rise of Aggregator Startups In India

If you're in India, chances are you would've experienced the following at least once

  1. An autorickshaw driver asking "where do you want to go? Pay me the same amount as the app"

  2. A hotel manager requesting "Please cancel the booking on the app, ma'am. We'll give you a discount instead"

  3. A plumber or an electrician saying "There's a lot of work on top of what you had mentioned on the app. Pay the shown amount on the app and pay me the remaining. And, here's my card. Contact me personally if you have any more requirements."

But, the situation wasn't the same five years back.

What Happened?

Autorickshaw drivers charged Rs. 500 for a 10 km ride. Hotels charged us exorbitant amounts for an AC room and plumbers and electricians dodged our calls and came at their own will.

Hospitality, private transport, and home services were huge, unorganized, and independent sectors. They understood the demand. So they made their own rules.

They became arrogant. They decided to get more money from every customer. They never thought about recurring customers or bothered about customer satisfaction. They always thought "Where else are they gonna go?"

Instead of robbing people in broad daylight and causing them frustration, they could've charged the customers a reasonable amount, catered to more customers, and made a lot of money.

The arrogance and mistreatment of customers by a few of these people led to the rise of the aggregator startups.

The Dawn of Aggregator Startups

As the arrogance of independent sectors rose to new heights, a few smart minds watched it all. They saw their parents and neighbors suffer. And, they leveraged the opportunity.

Coming from an engineering and technology background, they were tempted to find a solution. They thought "Why not build services that connect people with genuine service providers!" And they did. The first sector to see such disruption was ride-hailing services.

When Uber and Lyft were becoming trendsetters in the US during the early 2010s, a couple of folks started to replicate a similar model in India. Within a short span of time (2014-2015) there were several such services to choose from. There was Ola, Meru CabsTaxi for Sure, and a few other small players. It came at the right time because India was undergoing a massive technological shift back then. With the influx of affordable smartphones, most people having access to 2G or 3G data, and the interest among various institutional VC firms to invest in India.

The aggregator startup economy started flourishing in India.

Attracting Both Parties

When they started out, these apps offered attractive benefits to both the users and the service providers. This eventually created a landscape where it has become a habit for the users to use only a specific app as a preferred mode of getting services (be it hailing a cab or booking a plumber). On the other hand, service providers started relying on these services for their livelihood. For example, cab drivers stuck to working for ride-hailing services as they get consistent income. Also, cab drivers who operated independently heard what other drivers are making through ride-hailing apps and joined these services eventually. The companies that were closely monitoring this behavior decided to make profits. Result? Service providers had to give a significant portion of their income as commission to these aggregator startups and users had to pay a premium to use the service.

The service providers who once enjoyed seeing so much earnings slowly realized the reality of being part of an aggregator model. But, they couldn't do much. The sectors that were once filled with arrogant service providers are now filled with anxious, helpless people who can't set their prices or take 100% of their earnings home.

The Anomalies

But, a small subset of these sectors tries to stay away from all this. They formed a union and tried to run things on their own. For example, places like Goa still don't allow Ola, Uber, or any other app-based services in their state. They still operate taxi services and the prices are decided among the union. This way they charge fair prices, make enough profits, and take them all. Even places like Jammu and Kashmir do the same.

I'd want to write about this in the first place because the rise of aggregator startups has taught us an important lesson. Never take your customers for granted. Whenever a sector goes rogue without any rules and treats its customers badly, they present a business problem and a market opportunity for new startups. Everything the sector disagreed to implement for decades will be achieved by an app within a couple of years.


Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1933486 2021-10-16T06:30:00Z 2023-01-25T22:43:46Z 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.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1933487 2021-10-08T06:30:00Z 2023-01-25T22:45:52Z The Biggest Problem With Indian Crypto Exchanges Today
The problem with Indian crypto exchanges

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.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1933488 2021-04-26T06:30:00Z 2023-01-25T22:47:08Z What Do Tea Shop Butter Biscuits Teach Us About Product Design?
Butter biscuit and 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!😄

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1933489 2021-03-25T06:30:00Z 2023-01-25T22:49:08Z Are Middle-Class Families Teaching Their Kids To Give up in Life?
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.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932932 2021-01-07T17:37:00Z 2023-01-24T17:38:40Z 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.
Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1933164 2020-12-17T06:30:00Z 2023-01-25T04:00:19Z 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.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1933492 2020-12-08T06:30:00Z 2023-01-25T22:51:36Z 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.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1933495 2020-10-28T06:30:00Z 2023-01-25T23:01:08Z This is the best career in an AI-powered future
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😄

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932727 2020-08-17T06:30:00Z 2023-01-24T04:35:01Z My Dad's friend Who Did Not Have A Name
My dads 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?

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1933494 2020-07-22T06:30:00Z 2023-01-25T22:53:49Z Visualizing a Note-Taking Feature Inside Zoom
Note-taking app 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 Otter.ai and Fireflies.ai 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.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932718 2020-07-09T06:30:00Z 2023-01-25T22:42:35Z Google Pay is missing the one thing Google is famous for — a UX case study

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

A sneak peek into the redesign of Google Pay Indias most famous payment app

When Google launched Tez (now 'Google Pay') in India during 2017, their primary goal was to design a simple payment app to replace cash. And, thanks to their rewards program that went viral among the users. The rewards program that involved the scratch cards, became a conversation starter. (You might have come across someone asking you "How much did you win in Google Pay?").

During their 3 years of existence, they've worked on several iterations to make the app better. They tried new technologies like the Audio QR code (AQR), which uses audio frequencies to communicate with nearby devices to enable payments, but later moved on to using traditional QR code.

But, in the process of making the app simple, the product team has made a few compromises on usability. For example, a product that has 67 million monthly active users does not have a search bar on its home screen! They missed adding some very basic features that could have enhanced the user experience by several-fold.

In this blog, I have analyzed the shortcomings of Google Pay from a user's perspective and have also designed mocks to show how we can overcome those shortcomings with subtle design changes.

What's missing?

Before getting to the solution, let's take a quick look at what's missing in the current version of Google Pay.

Too much Negative space

When you open the app, the first thing you see is the GPay logo followed by a subtle, minimal illustration of a landscape. The top 30% of the app screen which could've been used to house a ton of key features and functions is left blank. Why!

The most basic thing they could've done is added a search bar (something Google is good at since their launch in 1998).

Areas of improvement portrayed in this screen This includes too negative space and inability to add favorites

No Favorites

The next section after the landscape is where you see the contacts to whom you've sent money recently. But, the issue with this section is the arrangement of contacts.

There is no way to pin or favorite the most frequent contacts or businesses for quicker payments. And, when you click on the 'Show more' button, the list is endless. And, you can't search or alphabetically sort your contacts. It is messy and confusing for a user like me.

New Payment Button

The '+ New payment' button, which is the primary CTA, hovers over the contact icons which makes it difficult to see sometimes. And, Google did not make use of the 'long press' feature, which they've pretty much had everywhere on Android and some of their apps.

Imagine long pressing the '+ New Payment' button and you get options like 'self-transfer', 'scan QR code', 'money transfer', etc. That would've taken the user experience to a whole new level.

Other areas of improvements shown in this image This includes the mentioning of a primitive payment activity page

Referrals and Payment Activity

Google Pay focuses a lot on the referrals. I came across three CTAs on the main screen that nudges you to invite or refer your friends to Google Pay. Another area that I felt lacking was the payment activity section. The payment activity section doesn't give you an option to search for a specific transaction by month, date, or category. And, the option to share the receipt of a transaction is positioned behind another click. Instead, they could've had a share icon next to the transaction, or a share option when someone long presses on a transaction.

The Biggest Usability Issue

The biggest issue with Google Pay is, being a search giant, Google did not make the best use of search within the app.

The Solution

After considering all the usability issues, I asked myself

"How would I redesign the home screen of the app so that it is easy for a user like me!".

I put on my thinking hat and started designing the solution.

Search Bar and Shortcuts

First, I made a list of all the frequently performed actions in Google Pay and it came down to a short list. They are,

And, in the current version of the app, the home screen is blank and you find payment options like bank transfer, QR code, etc. only if you click on the '+ New Payment' button.

Keeping that in mind, I decided to redesign the first 30 percent of the screen that was left blank in the app.

I added a search bar and a couple of key shortcuts that we use more frequently. I added other frequently used options but hid them under an expand/collapse menu. The search bar allows users to search for a contact, business, or a vendor for bill payment.

This image shows how I came to a decision of creating the redesign of Google Pay

I placed the rewards icon on the top left corner making it easy for users to access their rewards. After the redesign, it looked something like this.

Highlights of the redesigned homescreen shown here


The second thing I worked on was the contacts section.

I want this section to allow users to pin their frequently used contacts as favorites. They can see up to 7 of their favorite contacts on the home screen. If they want to see more favorites and other recent contacts, they'll have to click on the 'Show all' button.

A mockup of the redesigned screen

If you wish to add a contact to your Favorites section, you can choose the 'Add to Favorites' option when you're sending money to a contact. Another way is to have a star icon next to each contact (like how we bookmark webpages) would also do the job.

An illustration showing how you can favorite a contact by clicking on the options screen

You can add or remove contacts from the Favorites section by clicking on the More icon (three dots) next to the Favorites section.

This way you can quickly send money to your frequent contacts.

I removed the 'Businesses & Bills' section from the home screen as I wanted it to be subsumed under the 'Show all' option.

Instead of 'Businesses & Bills' I have added the Promotions section followed by payment activity, checking your available balance and the banner to promote rewards for inviting your friends to use Google Pay.

Payment Activity

I've also made a few enhancements to the payment activity section.

The 'smart search' bar at the top of the page will allow you to look for a transaction based on the month, vendor, or the amount paid.

You can long-press on a transaction or select multiple transactions to share their receipt via WhatsApp, or email.

I've also tried to display the UPI ID of the transaction in the list making it easy to share them with vendors (some ask for the UPI ID after the payment).

Monthly Spend Report

When I sent this blog post to a couple of beta readers, one of the suggestions I got was, it would be nice to have a spend report inside Google Pay. A report that gives you a monthly overview of how much you've paid as bills, how much you've sent to your friends and family, rewards earned, account balance, and so on.

If you think about it, it need not be an extensive expense report like you get from Walnut or your bank's mobile app. It can be a simple report that tells you how much much you've spent through Google Pay and what's the balance left in your account.

If you're someone who uses Google Pay, then you will have all your transactions in one place. It could also refrain users from using other UPI apps and stick to Google Pay as it helps them visualize their monthly spending in one place.

I took the liberty to design a very basic mock of how this would look.


If I can design a better, usable version of Google Pay putting myself in the shoes of a user, imagine what product teams could do when they start listening to feedback from hundreds of users. Distilling them and putting them in action would be a great way to deliver an amazing product experience.

And, for a company like Google, if they made use of the elements and interactions that worked for them in the past (things they've learned while improving apps like Google, Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, etc.), Google Pay would've created a far better user experience.

I'm not sure if they'd see it, but I am happy to have learned a thing or two about product design and user experience while working on this case study.

I hope you like it!


I've sent this blog to 23 professionals as part of the beta reading program and I got some amazing feedback. Special Thanks to Vishnu VardhanRohit ViswanathanGanesh, and Smriti. They have a huge part in how this article came into shape.

One Last Thing...

If you like what you've read, subscribe to the blog, and share it with your friends.

You can also follow me on Twitter to get updates on what I'm working on :)

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932707 2020-06-22T06:30:00Z 2023-01-24T03:28:21Z What Makes a Sitcom Funny?

Sitcoms are great!

They’re the perfect choice of entertainment if you need to watch something short and funny. You can start or leave the show pretty much at any point and you’ll still end up having a great time.

And, if you’re from the Eastern part of the world, sitcoms are a great way to learn a thing or two about the western culture, especially American.

Sitcoms helped me a great deal in learning spoken English when I was in college. I even wrote a blog post a couple of years back where I talked about how watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S landed me a job in writing.

After watching a lot of sitcoms, I can’t help but see a common pattern among the shows. The way they’ve written, the type of characters, the theme behind episodes, and so on.

When I started thinking about this, I asked myself “Are sitcoms formula-driven?”

And, after digging around for a bit, and making observations from some of my favorite sitcom shows, I would say that the answer is “yes”.

Sitcoms follow a formula to keep us entertained.

How Sitcoms are Written?

According to an article in the Atlantic, a sitcom follows a template, and every episode is written based on that. It is similar to the ‘three-act’ structure that is commonly used while writing a novel or a screenplay.

According to the sitcom template, each episode will comprise of the following sections:

To explain each section of this template, let me take an example. I’m taking Season 5, Episode 11 of F.R.I.E.N.D.S (‘The One With All the Resolutions’)

The Teaser

This makes up the portion that comes before the title, i.e. the first 2–3 minutes in an episode. This section usually sets precedence for the theme of the episode or sometimes can also be a series of events/conversations among the characters written to evoke laughter.

In the Friends episode, the teaser shows Chandler and Monica telling Joey that they would want to kiss each at midnight of the New Year’s Eve. So, Joey makes arrangements in such a way that he kisses Rachael and Ross kisses Phoebe and Chandler kiss Monica and they wish each other a happy new year. The intro comes on after this part.

The Trouble

From minute 3–8, we get to see trouble or challenge faced by one of the lead characters. This can be anything from a long queue at the mall where a mom has gone to pick up a birthday present, a teenager being grounded but badly wants to go to a party, or a young man struggling to ask a girl out on a date. This portion also features subplots involving other characters.

In the Friends episode, everyone comes up with their new year resolution. Ross says that he will try one new thing every day. That causes a series of incidents later in the episode. This forms the main plot of the episode. Subplots include Chandler keeping himself from not making fun of anybody, Phoebe teaching Joey the guitar, and Rachael trying her best to refrain from gossiping.

But, the actual trouble that highlights the episode is when Ross buys a new pair of leather pants and goes for a date.

The Muddle

This is where whatever plan the character had in mind, goes for a toss. This usually happens between minutes 9 to 13.

In this specific episode, Ross is on a date and realizes that the pants are hot and makes him uncomfortable. When he goes to the bathroom, he can’t put his pants back. He calls Joey for ideas and it further messes things for him.

The Triumph/Failure

From minutes 13–18, the lead character(s) either succeed or fail in overcoming their obstacle. In this particular episode of Friends, Ross, Rachael, and Joey fail to stick to their new year’s resolution

The Kicker

The small funny portion after the credits. This is where Chandler comes to Central Perk and says every comment he’s been holding up. The episode ends there.

Common elements across sitcoms

For this section, I’ve analyzed three sitcoms: F.R.I.E.N.D.S, The Big Bang Theory, and Modern Family, and tried to find common elements among them.

The ‘Holiday’ Episodes

These episodes make 25% of an entire sitcom

No matter what genre a series belongs to, sitcom or otherwise, they will have episodes based on famous days and public holidays in the US. They are,

  • Valentine’s Day
  • Fourth of July
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas and
  • New Year’s Eve

Episodes based on these holidays are part of every season. If a sitcom has 240 episodes (10 seasons, 24 episodes each), roughly 60 episodes are written based on these days. That makes up 25% of an entire sitcom.

The ‘Less Common’ Episodes

Here is a list of less common episodes that you come across at least once in every sitcom. They feature scenarios,

  • Parents visiting the lead characters
  • Car breaking down somewhere
  • Football game
  • Trip to a cabin or a beach (Miami, Vegas, or some cabin)
  • Trying on wedding dresses
  • Bachelor party
  • Baby shower
  • Trip to Vegas
  • Childbirth
  • Hearing a baby say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’
  • Appendicitis
  • Objectifying firemen

Now, let’s get down to the fun part. Scenarios that are common across sitcoms. I’m taking F.R.I.E.N.D.S, The Big Bang Theory, and Modern Family as examples.

Somebody shaves their head

By accident or purpose, somebody shaves their head or other characters’ head.


  1. Bonnie, Ross’s girlfriend shaves off her head after listening to Rachael. This happens when they all stay up at the beach house. (F.R.I.E.N.D.S)
  2. Penny accidentally shaves off a part of Sheldon’s head when she is giving him a haircut. (The Big Bang Theory)
  3. Gloria shaves off Luke’s head in an episode where Luke wants to try on a Mohawk (Modern Family)
  4. Bonus: Marshal shaves off his head on the day of his wedding! (How I met Your Mother)

Grand wedding turning to a simple one

Another common theme among these sitcoms is, the characters spend so much time planning their wedding (for some reason they all want a wedding on a cliff overlooking the sunset. Is that a thing?).

They fight for the wedding dress, do an insane amount of thinking to choose between Roses, Tulips, and lilies; Think too much while choosing the best man and the bridesmaids; And, have a huge discussion about where to seat their parents at the reception. But, at some point, all of this would go to dust! They’ll be broken and miserable and later realize that wedding is not about the place or the grandeur, but about the person, they’re getting married to. This is every sitcom wedding ever!

Here are some examples:

  1. Emily wants a wedding at this old place, but the authorities tear it down and their whole plan goes for a ross (I mean toss!). But, they somehow manage to get married in what’s left of the place. Another example is Phoebe getting married in front of Central Perk. (F.R.I.E.N.D.S)
  2. Howard and Bernadette have big plans, but they get married on the terrace of Leonard’s apartment before Howard leaves for the International Space Station (The Big Bang Theory)
  3. Cam and Mitch have big plans, but they constantly run between wedding venues as they face several issues. Finally, they get married at Jay’s club! (Modern Family)

Petting Birds

I think Sitcom creators have a thing for birds. There’s always an episode where the lead character(s) have a friendly/fearful encounter with birds.

  1. Chandler and Joey have the ‘Chick and the duck’ which spans across several episodes. There is an episode where a pigeon flies into Monica’s apartment when Rachael is alone. (F.R.I.E.N.D.S)
  2. A Blue Jay flies into Sheldon’s apartment. He’s afraid of it, but later loves the bird and takes a picture with it. (The Big Bang Theory)
  3. Phil brings home three duck eggs and they hatch in one of the episodes. (Modern Family)

The Prom Connection

Prom plays a major part in Sitcoms. The lead characters either attend prom or asked for one later in their lives (when Mitch asks Cam to be his prom date on Modern Family); Organize prom when they’re grown (The Big Bang Theory) or think about their prom which is shown as a flashback (F.R.I.E.N.D.S).

There are a ton of other similarities like one of the lead characters get married or find out about their pregnancy in a season finale, they stand in line for hours to watch their favorite movie, have an issue with a newly moved-in neighbor in the apartment, one where there is a blackout, etc.

I could’ve found more, but I don’t want this post to get super-lengthy. The point I’m trying to make here is sitcoms have a lot more in common than you could think.

But, despite their similarities, sitcoms always make us forget everything and laugh our hearts out. If that’s based on a formula, I am happy somebody had cracked it!


  1. Cracking the Sitcom Code — https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/12/cracking-the-sitcom-code/384068/
  2. How to Write a Sitcom That Sells — https://nofilmschool.com/how-to-write-a-sitcom
  3. A Basic Sitcom Episode Plot Template For TV Screenwriters — https://thewisesloth.com/2017/09/29/a-basic-sitcom-episode-plot-template-for-tv-screenwriters/

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932706 2020-06-08T06:30:00Z 2023-01-24T03:26:04Z Have Cities made Us Insensitive?

Last week, I thought of tweeting about what happened to George Floyd. It was heart-wrenching to see someone getting killed in public. I wanted to point out and say how cruel it was, to take a human life for granted.

But then I paused for a moment and asked myself,

“When have I ever raised my voice against something cruel that happened in my country or in my city?”.

The answer was never.

I was quiet when there were occurrences of caste-related violence, honor killings, rapes, the CAA-NRC protests, etc.

The only reason I wanted to write about George Floyd was because it happened in a country that is thousands of miles away.

Whenever I felt like writing something that happened in my country, I let the thought slip because I say to myself “What good is this going to bring?”

There is also this other question that pops in my head.

“Why talk about it when you’re not affected by it?”

I know it is sick. Maybe it has got something to do with my upbringing.

It is Okay to be Selfish

I remember my parents saying, “It is okay to ignore something unless it affects you directly.”

Once, my dad told me “If you see someone getting hit or get into an accident, it is not mandatory to go and help. If things get serious, you’ll have to go to the police, court, etc. It is okay to let it go. Somebody else will help them.”

I bet he wasn’t the only parent who said this. Most of the Indian households preach the same.

The mantra is “It is okay to be selfish sometimes.”

The word “sometimes” is very subjective. And we were never taught when does this “sometimes” applies.

In a typical Indian family, being selfish is considered a good trait.

People were graded as good and respected when they say “Naan undu en vela undu nu iruken” (It translates to “I have done nothing, except minding my own business”).

“Study well. Pray to god. And take care of yourself and your family” are words by which we’re living by. Caring for a fellow human who is not family and caring for society were not part of the commandments.

But, when people read the headlines in the newspaper or watch the news, the first thing you hear from them would be “The world is becoming such a bad place…”

I had come across many uncles in tea shops making statements like “People have become heartless and everyone is acting selfishly”. This would be the uncle who would’ve told his kids that it is okay to take care of themselves and not help others.

We’ve also been taught a lot of other things.

“Study hard, get a good job, and then watch TV! Now is not the time; Why do you want to go on a trip? Get married and explore the world with your spouse”.

There was a time my dad read the newspaper and said “Look at this kid! He’s got the first rank in the state. And, in the interview, he says he has no friends. That’s how you should be”

I was like “What does having friends have to do anything with marks?”.

Also, I knew that even if they’d locked me up, I wouldn’t have scored more than what I was capable of

I got good breaks, landed a good job, and got some great opportunities only because I went against the advice my dad gave me.

If all those people who had helped me had been selfish, I wouldn’t have become a product marketer. I have this career because some people went out of their way to help me.

If you think about it, we’ve become a generation of people who have been taught to not care about anything until we’re directly affected by it.

Cities have made life Transactional

It might look like I am blaming my parents. But I am not.

I’m sure it wouldn’t have started with them. It goes way back. This phenomenon started when large groups of people started settling in cities to make a better living.

Cities make people perceive everything as a competition. It gives them the idea that one must be selfish to move ahead in life.

I came across a fantastic essay “ Metropolis and Mental Life “ by Georg Simmel when I was doing some research.

In his Essay, Simmel talks about cities and what it does to the individuality of people. He says that,

“Modern mind has become more and more calculating.”

According to Simmel, as a city grows, it starts to depend on the economy and everything we could think of becomes transactional. He also mentions that this behavior is very different from the small-town life which rests more upon deeply felt and emotional relationships.

In cities, everything around us is designed in a mechanical way making us more calculative and less instinctive.

“Punctuality, calculability, exactness are forced upon life by the complexity and extension of metropolitan existence and are not only most intimately connected with its money economy and intellectualist character. These traits must also color the contents of life and favor the exclusion of those irrational, instinctive, sovereign traits and impulses which aim at determining the mode of life from within, instead of receiving the general and precisely schematized form of life from without.”

He says that people who are living in the city get agitated for the smallest things, they run out of energy to gain strength and often feel the incapacitated to react to things with appropriate energy. I was able to relate to it.

We get irritated/agitated about the smallest issues on social media. It could be an actor saying something in a movie, or the latest movie trailer. But we never show that level of agitation when it comes to important issues.

Everyone who is speaking about George Floyd on social media, I appreciate you raising your voice against racial discrimination. But do you know how much discrimination exists amongst us! If you have no idea, check this page that has a chronological timeline of all the incidents that happened due to discrimination. And those are just the tip of the iceberg.

Our generation has shown immense progress in a lot of areas. We’re achieving a breakthrough in technology; we’ve embraced sexual orientation of all kinds, and we have developed an open and broad mindset towards dating and relationships. But that’s not enough.

We should be more vocal about the social issues that shake the foundation of our society. We should set an example for the next generation. It is our responsibility to teach them to raise their voices against injustice. Imagine your kids saying, “Back then, my parents raised their voices in whatever way they can when something went wrong” instead of saying “They used to share memes and mock each other on social media all day.”

The last few lines of Simmel’s essay say,

“The metropolis reveals itself as one of those great historical formations in which opposing streams which enclose life unfold, as well as join one another with equal right. However, in this process the currents of life, whether their individual phenomena touch us sympathetically or antipathetically, entirely transcend the sphere for which the judge’s attitude is appropriate. Since such forces of life have grown into the roots and into the crown of the whole of the historical life in which we, in our fleeting 12 existence, as a cell, belong only as a part, it is not our task either to accuse or to pardon, but only to understand.”

That’s what I am doing here. I am not accusing anyone. What I have done is, tried to understand what made us who we are today.

And, I felt that the least I could do is embrace my cowardice for not raising my voice against all the issues in the past.

I know it is not easy to overcome the inhibitions as I’ve been living with them since I was a kid. But, I consider this as my first step.

I express my heartfelt respect for those who are fighting for all the right causes. I aspire to be one of them someday.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932715 2020-05-18T06:30:00Z 2023-01-24T04:02:23Z Pen to Paper: The Benefit of Offline Productivity

When I worked as a Technical Writer, the biggest problem I faced was I couldn’t write product copies when I was away from my computer. I was able to think and write only if I had access to a word processor or a notes app. Several times, during meetings, I would often run to my laptop or ask the designer for his laptop so that I can type in the product copy.

Spending so much time documenting my thoughts on a computer has minimized my ability to formulate my thoughts when I don’t access to a device.

Somewhere in between the classic Notepad and the modern apps like Notion and Google Docs, we’ve lost the habit of formulating our thoughts without relying on a device. For many of us, it would’ve at least been a decade since we wrote something using pen and paper.

I am not saying that it is a bad thing.

Writing has evolved in the best possible way. We now have apps that help us document all our thoughts in a structured way and provides us access to them no matter where we are. And all it takes is just a few seconds to take these thoughts directly to your target audience. It is fascinating.

But the downside of this is, we become too dependent on our devices and we end up spending too much time looking at our computer or mobile screens.

Last week I did a personal audit of how much time I spent on my laptop or smartphone each day and I found out that it was around 12–13 hours (combined). Assuming I slept 7–8 hours a day, I spent 80% of the time I am awake looking at a screen.

With every aspect of our life getting digitized, it is hard for us to not look at a screen. Be it reading a book, or writing something, we spend a big part of our day looking at some sort of a screen. But, how come nobody is talking about this?

Ignorance is Marketing

Despite knowing the ill effects of increased screen time, we are not spending enough time to discuss this issue. Instead of encouraging people to reduce their screen time, some companies and startups are coming up with new ways to promote products that increase our screen time.

One good example is blue-light filtering glasses. Despite these glasses having minimal impact in protecting us from the harmful blue light emitted from the screens (proven by studies and advised by ophthalmologists), these glasses sell like hot cakes. And there are a range of other products that convey the message that it is okay to use smartphones as much as we want.

Two years back, I went to Bangkok, and on the train, I saw a commercial for a Vitamin A undereye cream that prevents dark circles that arise to due to prolonged exposure to mobile usage.

Instead of telling us to throttle down our screen time, we’re often shown that it is okay to spend that much time on our phones and computers.

So, what should we do? How can we stay productive and at the same time reduce out daily screen time? We need to go old school. We should learn to be productive in the old pen and paper way.

Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword (I Am Not Kidding)

The old school way of documenting your thoughts on a paper, or reading a physical book stimulates the learning centre of your brain compared to typing or reading something on a gadget.

According to a 2015 study, people who wrote using a pen were better at recalling the words they had written. The practice of physically documenting our thoughts increases our ability to remember them.

Another study conducted in 2014 concluded that students learn better when they take notes on paper. Slower speeds while taking handwritten notes helps students to process and retain new information. When students who used laptops were asked to consolidate information in their notetaking, they used more words and did not reap the benefits of the handwriting group.

According to a CBS news story, “In an experiment conducted in Norway, people were given a short story to read either on a Kindle or in a paperback book; when they were quizzed later, those who read the paperback were more likely to remember plot points in the right order.”

So, the best way to stay sharp and remember more of what we learnt is by practicing offline productivity.

Offline Productivity = Limited Screen Time

The term ‘offline’ is often related to working on the computer without the internet. But being offline should be about being completely off the computer.

Identify everyday tasks that could be accomplished without the help of a computer and start doing them offline. This involves reading a book, taking notes, planning a monthly budget, making an itinerary for a vacation, outline for your next book, etc.

You can also partially switch to offline productivity when you’re performing certain online tasks.

For example, if you’re on a Zoom call and if your video is turned off, turn away from the screen and take notes using a notebook and a pen (Don’t tell me Apple pencil. It attributes to screen time again).

If you are planning to write a blog, work on the outline of your blog on a notebook. I used a notebook to write the rough draft of this blog post.

Use a physical journal like Benjamin Franklin's (he carried around a journal with him to track his thoughts and habits) to document your thoughts and whenever possible read a physical book than buying a digital copy. (I still could not come out of this one).

Even getting as much as 1–2 hours off your daily screen time would improve your health, help you remember more of what you’ve learned, and will keep you away from distractions.

Try practicing offline productivity for a week and let me know how it is working for you.

Liked the blog? Show some love by sharing it with your friends. Every week, I write about productivity, product management and technology. Follow me on Twitter for more content.


Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1933502 2020-04-27T06:30:00Z 2023-01-25T23:05:29Z Zoom Score: A Metric That Could Define the Future of Remote Work

Last week, I spent 21 hours on Zoom meetings. 

Lately, I realized that I am spending a lot of time on Zoom, so I decided to track it. I used Toggl to track the number of hours I am spending on Zoom meetings. At the end of my work week, I found out that I spent over 21 hours on zoom meetings with an average of 3.75 hours each day. That is almost half the time of my entire workweek (considering a 45-hour workweek.) 

As every IT organization moved remote over the past month, employees spend more time on video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Webex, Jitsi, etc. Off all the video conferencing apps, Zoom is making headlines for good as well as bad reasons. Despite their security and privacy concerns, Zoom is growing at a rapid pace. As of April 22, 2020, the platform reported a user base of 300 million participants each day. 

In my opinion, Zoom has the resources and the potential to monopolize the entire video-conferencing market. If they do everything right, in a few years, Zoom will be a synonymous name for video conferencing like how Google is for search.  

This situation made me think of a crazy idea. What if organizations start evaluating candidate profiles based on their behavior and the number of hours they had spent on Zoom! 

If you’re surprised, I must say this is not uncommon. The number of hours you spend on doing something is taken as experience in certain sectors. One good example is flight hours. The experience of an aircraft pilot is measured based on the number of hours they spent in the sky. 

But, that’s not it. A lot of other industries also use a similar approach to evaluate people. Let me give you a couple of examples. 

Credit Scores and Car Insurance

If you’re a credit card user, you must have come across the term credit score. 

A credit score is something that defines your creditworthiness. Based on your historical credit spending and repayment behavior, you’ll be given a score out of 900. This score is considered when you’re applying for new credit cards, loans, etc. The higher the credit score number, the better are your chances of getting a loan or a fancy credit card. Companies like Experian, CRIF, etc. specialize in reporting consumer credit scores. 

Similarly, in the US, insurance companies have started using Telematics insurance or Usage-Based Insurance(UBI) for automobiles. The insurance premium you pay every year will be based on your driving distance, mileage, location, time, and driving behavior. 

If you are a rash driver, you will be paying a higher premium because the insurance companies will know that the probability of you getting into an accident is high. On the other hand, a disciplined driver who follows all the rules will end up paying a lower premium. The cars today have enough technology built into them to track driving behavior and communicate the same to car manufacturers and the insurance companies. 

The amount of data available on something can change the way a business works. Now imagine! With a ton of audio and video data collected with each Zoom call, it can change the way organizations recruit people. 

The Theory of Zoom Score

Similar to a credit score, what if each professional is assigned a Zoom score. Each person is given an aggregate score out of 100 based on various parameters such as, 

  • Hours spent on Zoom calls that had more than three people (to track collaboration)

  • Number of times you have initiated a team meeting

  • Number of times you’ve turned on the video for meetings

  • Eye contact during a meeting when the video is turned on (an AI model can track and see if you were using a phone during the meeting)

  • Facial expressions

  • Parallel tasks carried out during a meeting

  • Number of minutes on mute

  • Number of minutes you speak during a meeting. (To know if you’re an initiator. Can also track voice and tone)

  • Number of times you interfere or interrupt another person during a meeting. 

Collecting all this information is fairly simple. I am not a techie, but I am pretty sure building an AI model to track these things from Audio and video data is highly doable. And, the model can be made very accurate as there are 300 million active users on Zoom every day. 

Imagine every LinkedIn profile with a badge for the Zoom score, and you need to have a specific Zoom score if you wish to apply for a job in a remote-first company. 

This would totally change the game. Your potential employer would know more about you the moment they see your profile on LinkedIn. They can understand what kind of person you are and whether you a culture fit or not even before they establish the first contact with you. 

And, companies have already started figuring some of this. In fact, the Zoom marketplace has a couple of apps that track user data for better business insights. 

For example, People.ai has a Zoom integration that can help organizations track the total time spent by their sales reps on customer meetings every month. 

So, the day when you’re asked for your Zoom score might not be that far. 

Soon, companies will build apps and integrations to display your Zoom score. These apps can also go a step further and offer you an analysis report of what kind of a person you are! 

Another thing that might happen is, these apps might also cross-reference your Zoom score and personality traits to compare with the employer database and show you a list of companies you could get into. It can also offer you the probability of you getting into an organization when you tried to apply it. 

Even though most of this sounds like something right out of a sci-fi book, the possibility of this happening is not very far. 

Maybe I’m imagining too much. I should stop now!

Take care and have a great day!

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1933501 2020-03-24T06:30:00Z 2023-01-25T23:04:39Z I Was Making Someone Rich by Allowing Them to Cryptojack My PC
Photo by Stillness InMotion on Unsplash

Two weeks back, I came to know that my PC was secretly being used by somebody in the US (could be a proxy location) to mine cryptocurrency. What started out as an unexpected PC shut down on a Saturday morning, quickly snowballed into me knowing the fact that somebody hacked my computer.

Let me rewind a little and tell you what happened

I was spending my Saturday morning the usual way. I woke up at 6:00 AM, got freshened up, made myself a cup of coffee and started watching a movie on Netflix.

When the movie was over, my wife walked into the room and asked me to set up a VPN on the computer so that she can work from home the following week.

I was working on setting up the VPN and my computer shut down without any warning. My OS threw me an error and started rebooting.

At first, I thought it could be a glitch in my OS. But, when the computer rebooted I got a pop up where the Windows Firewall asked me to provide public access to file in the System32 folder. It looked a little suspicious. I quickly Googled the file name and found out that it was a malware.

What is malware doing on my computer! I should run a virus scan!

When I clicked on the system tray, I was surprised to see that there was no Antivirus on my computer. It was shocking because I was sure I installed Antivirus software on my computer. That moment I knew something was wrong.

I knew this could’ve happened because of two reasons: First, one of us in the house would’ve mistakenly uninstalled the Antivirus program from the PC. Second, someone used a backdoor or a virus to gain access to my computer and disable any and all security measures. I struck off reason number one as I am the only person who uses the PC all the time. My wife uses her phone and my mom switches between the iPad and the Kindle.

If an Antivirus is already in place, how would someone snoop into the computer and uninstall/disable all security measures in my computer? Does my OS have something to do with it?

Until then, I hadn’t given much thought about the OS on my computer. The computer vendor (who is no longer operating shop), installed a version of the OS when I bought my computer. What if the OS on my computer was pirated?! I quickly tried to check and I was right. The OS on my computer was a pirated version.

Also, I found out that my PC name was changed from my name to some gibberish. This is a clear indication that my PC was hacked.

The pirated copy of the OS could’ve had a backdoor and injected malware into my system.

I quickly installed an Anti-Malware and an Antivirus software and ran a quick scan. The reports showed 132 malware infections on my PC. I quarantined all of them to the virus vault.

When I finally gave out a sigh of relief, I got a bunch of popups from the Antivirus software. It said some programs are trying to access an IP address. I ran the name of the program and the IP address on a lookup website and I found out that it belonged to a company that mines cryptocurrency.

When I did further research, I found out that it is common for websites to hijack your PC and use its computing power to mine cryptocurrency. The process is known as “Cryptojacking”.

Why do people need so much computing power to mine cryptocurrency?

The answer is simple. Mining cryptocurrency requires an extraordinary amount of computing power as it involves solving complex mathematical problems. In order to do that, hackers either use malware to take control of several host systems and later use them to compute smaller chunks of mathematical problems to mine cryptocurrency. The malware is usually disguised in the form of attachments, links in emails, and pirated software applications, OS and games that we download from the internet.

Another way people can exploit your PC for crypto-mining is by using APIs. When you visit certain websites, the site’s code will have an API or a piece of embedded JS code that will use up your computer’s resources as you browse the website. But, some companies and websites also ask for volunteers to share their CPU power for mining cryptocurrency.

This takes clocks up the CPU and RAM usage, which can lead to reduced machine performance over a period of time.

Cryptojacking is one of the fast-growing computer threats all over the globe.

In 2018, a crypto mining bot affects close to half a million machines and helped anonymous parties generate close to $3.6 million worth of Monero.

The first half of 2019 alone saw 52 million cryptojacking attacks all over the world. Crytojacking has become popular among hackers as it is the best and cheaper alternative to ransomware. Those who don’t know ransomware, it is a form of malware that encrypts the victim’s data and will restore access only when the victim pays a ransom. Crytojacking is preferred over ransomware because with ransomware a hacker might get money only from 3 people for every 100 infected computers. But, in case of cryptojacking, all the machines work for the hacker and helps them mine cryptocurrencies.

That’s enough details and stats about cryptojacking. Let’s come back to the story.

I took some quick steps to restore order.

In order to prevent my computer from any future vulnerabilities, I got a new copy of Windows 10 and did a fresh install on my PC. I also installed a new antivirus and an anti-malware system. I’m not entirely sure if it will protect my PC 100%, but I was happy that I took the necessary steps to overcome the current situation.

Even though I was a little shocked at the fact that I was making someone rich by letting them use my PC for mining cryptocurrency, I was not angry for two reasons.

  1. It was my fault not to verify the authenticity of my OS. It was my fault downloading and installing an unverified copy of software and games on my computer.

  2. The websites I browse and the social media platforms I use collect more data about me than the random dudes who were using my PC for mining some coins. So, if I’ll have to get angry, I’ll have to get angry with the entire internet ecosystem that thrives on user data.

All we can do as individuals connected to the internet is safeguard ourselves from the rising threats.

If you’re using a pirated copy of the OS or used to download a lot of software applications and games from torrent websites, it is essential that you run a system diagnostic to see if it is malware-free. Use free tools like Malware bytes, Avira Antivirus, or AVG, etc. to run a system-wide scan. If you detect any vulnerabilities, take a back up of your data and fix them immediately.

If a similar incident happened to me ten years back, I wouldn’t have worried so much. Back then, I wasn’t using the internet for everything. All I did back then was watch movies and listened to songs. But, in today’s world, we do a lot more on the internet. We share pictures, videos, buy stuff and do a ton of other things that contain sensitive user data. So, please be aware of the rising online threats and stay safe.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1933496 2020-03-04T06:30:00Z 2023-01-25T23:01:59Z Rebranded Tea Shops Are Increasing Tea Prices by up to 100%
Photo by Swastik Arora on Unsplash

How much impact can branding have on the price of a product? The answer is anywhere from 100% to 1000%.

The other day I went to Chai Kings, one of the fastest-growing tea shop chains with my friend and we had tea and two pieces of cake. The total bill came close to Rs.100! I was surprised because if I had had the same items in a normal tea shop, I would’ve paid 70% lesser. So, it got me thinking. I observed the shop and tried to understand what had changed.

The answer was simple. It was branding.

The whole place had a smooth finish to it. The walls and the background had a white and green theme. The guys who worked there wore a uniform. There was a touch screen POS system for billing and an illuminated menu board that displayed different types of chai you can order. Also, every glass they served tea in, was branded. I was amazed to see how a company had taken such great care in branding and creating a consistent experience for the customer. But, the size of the glass and the taste of the tea was more or less similar to the tea I have in my regular tea shop. But, the price I paid for that tea is 100% more than what I pay at a regular tea shop.

The tea shop I go to these days is not as fancy as that of a fancy tea shop. In fact, it is the exact opposite.

It is a small space with dull, paint-stripped walls. The space had two counters and the rest of the place is left empty for people to stand.

The first counter is where the owner of the tea shop sits. The counter is filled with huge glass bottles that had biscuits and tea cakes arranged in them. There is a rack behind this counter that has cigarettes, mouth fresheners, magazines, bananas, lighters, ball pens, shampoo sachets, Gillette instant razor and a stereo system that plays devotional songs in the morning, radio during the noon, and Ilayaraja songs at night.

The second counter is where the magic happens. The small stainless steel counter has a gas stove, boiler, and a few dozen tea glasses. A guy in his dirty vest and dhoti will hum to the song that plays from the speakers and his hands would be creating magic mixing decoction and milk into small tea glasses.

There is a third section where another guy who we refer to as “the vada master” will be slipping small chunks of Urad dal batter into a hot iron pan that has boiling oil. There will be an aluminum tray on a table where the hot vadas will be kept. The distance of this tray will be at the midpoint between the tea counter and the iron pan where the vada is fried.

The tea shops I know don’t just serve me a glass of tea. Instead, they serve me an experience. An experience I can get for just Rs.10!

Why Tea Shops?

Tea shops are the lifeline of our country. It is the equivalent of bars in western countries. It is a place for people to hang out, form friendships, discuss topics, close land deals (happens more often than you think!), look for jobs, etc. According to an analyst report, in a city like Chennai, there are close to 20,000 tea shops, each serving a minimum of 150-300 cups of tea.

An average tea shop makes 1.5 - 2 lakhs in profit every month. If they sell snacks like Bajji, Bonda, etc. they can make more than 3 lakhs a month.

Companies like Chai Kings and Chaiwaale have understood the market, and the potential it has if customers were offered more than tea. They bring more to the game by partnering with food delivery services like Swiggy, UberEats, and Zomato. They have special flasks for delivering tea and they also offer a range of specialty cookies, cakes, and Maggi to lure the audience. Even though it comes at a price that is a little higher than what you pay for a normal tea shop, people like that experience.

Result? An average Chai Kings outlet makes twice of what a normal tea shop makes. And, with 40+ outlets and $1 million in funding, they’re on a steady growth trajectory.

The Rebranding Fever

Brands like Chai Kings and Chai Waale are a classic example of how branding disrupts a largely untapped market. They identify the right niche instead of building a fancy coffee shop, and they identified the right persona to go after. The goal was to attract college, IT and the upper-middle-class crowd. And, within 3 years, they’ve become successful at it. They’re rapidly expanding to cities like Coimbatore and Hyderbad and have made a name for themselves in the market.

But, I have recently observed a lot of smaller tea shops following the path of Chai Kings. They change the name of their shop to something that starts with the word ‘chai’ and they remodel the shop into a fancy looking one. Result? The price of the tea they serve is now Rs.20 instead of Rs.10. This trend is more prominent in areas that are closer to IT parks and large gated communities.

I am worried about this becoming a trend in other parts of the city as this can increase the overall price of the tea that still satiates the hunger of several working-class people and people who are below the poverty line. I’ve seen people who live on just tea and biscuits. Several tea shops don’t increase the price of their tea even though there is an increase in milk prices. They believe in sales by volume and also make enough profits selling cigarettes and snacks. With the increase in prices, the amount that is spent on tea every month will double up and might burn a hole in customers’ pockets. Every fast catching trend also has a downside. But, businesses should try to understand the impact it will create on their customers before attempting for a renovation or a rebranding. They should ask a lot of questions like whether their customers really want such an experience? Would they be willing to pay the revised price?

I don’t know what the future holds for all the 20,000 odd tea shops out there. But, I’d not want to miss seeing a tea master make tea. It is nothing, but a work of art.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932703 2019-11-15T06:30:00Z 2023-01-24T03:23:35Z I ordered chole bhature and received customer experience in return

It was late at night when we were driving back from the beach. My mom and wife were hungry and badly wanted to eat something. When I suggested some places, they turned it down. They strictly said no to fine dining places as they take more time to bring what we ordered and is also expensive. So, they wanted me to look for something simple where they can have a good South Indian dinner.

I started looking for restaurants as I took a right at the SRP tools junction. After driving a few hundred meters, I stumbled upon a small restaurant that was decently crowded. It also had a decent amount of space to park my car. So, we went in and ordered dosas. It was delicious!

But, that was not the part where I was impressed. The incident that followed made me think about how some small restaurants think from the shoes of a customer and provide them a unique customer experience.

After having a dosa each, I and my wife were still hungry. But, ordering one more dosa for each felt like too much. So, we decided to order something and share it. We called the waiter. He was a tall, dark guy in his mid-forties. He was wearing a faded saffron shirt, a maroon-colored lungi, and a faded purple towel hung on his shoulder.

“Anything else, sir?” he asked

“What else do you have?” I asked

“Masala dosa, onion dosa, uthappam, onion rava, plain rava…” he said all the possible combinations of dosa.

When he came down to “Chola poori” I stopped him and looked at my wife.

She said “Let’s have Chola poori”

For those who’re confused about what a Chola puri is, it is the South Indian name for chole bhature.

In fine dining language, it is a handpicked dough made of wheat flour rolled into a thin sheet and deep-fried to golden brown perfection served with a lip-smacking chickpea gravy with a pinch of coriander.

In layman terms, it is a poori the size of an inflated car airbag served with channa masala.

I said to my wife “Okay, we’ll order one chole bhature and split it.”

The waiter nodded and went inside the kitchen.

After a few minutes, he came with the Chola poori that was already cut in half. He had informed the chef that we’re planning to share it among us and the chef decided to cut the thinly rolled dough in half before deep-frying it. Also, we might have looked like the couple who would fight over an unevenly split poori. So, the waiter didn’t want to give it that chance.

So, we were served two pieces of a perfectly split Chola poori.

I was surprised and delighted with the whole experience.

The waiter understood that it would be difficult and messy to tear a full poori in half. So, he told the chef to cut it in half and fry it to make our lives easy.

I thought it was a great example of how to nail customer experience.

Caring makes all the difference

The incident that night reminded me of several past incidents where I had experienced a delightful customer experience from small restaurants, tea shops, and street food joints. They don’t offer a great customer experience in return for a 5-star rating or an amazing review on Google or Zomato. Most of these restaurants won’t even be on Google.

They offer a great customer experience because they care.

Last month, I went to Yercaud with my friends. We visited a waterfall that was located seven kilometers from the city center. As we got down from the car, we saw a lot of shops outside the gate that led to the waterfall. They had bread omelette, lemonade, instant noodles, carbonated soft drinks and a lot more. But, they did not directly sell it to those who come to visit the falls.

Instead, each vendor (mostly women) assisted visitors in whatever way they can. For example, the woman who ran one of the shops told us where to park our car. After we did, she said it is a two-kilometer walk from the gate and the path has steep staircases. She advised us to carry our water bottles. When we were about to leave, she said: “If you are thirsty or hungry when you’re back, we have lemonade, bread omelette, and instant noodles”.

We thanked her and went to see the waterfall. On our way back, we were hungry and ended up eating in the woman’s shop.

Instead of looking for a sale first hand, she helped us first. That made a world of difference.

Customer experience is not a tradeoff

Companies that are trying to build a loyal fan following can learn a lot of things about customer experience from small brands. How they take care of their customers. How they learn and understand the needs of recurring customers and how they manage to serve with a smile.

Sometimes, on the way to stardom, big companies often forget what drove them there. Companies that once focused on customer experience often shift their priorities to growth, revenue, competition, etc.

In Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog, so much was said about the early years of Nike. The salesmen who worked in Nike stores used to maintain a personal relationship with every aspiring athlete — be it someone who is part of the university running team or a professional athlete. They knew every athlete’s requirement, their upcoming races, etc. Some even send a postcard to the athletes to know about their race.

This was one of the reasons for star athletes to endorse Nike when they were at the peak of their careers. Nike cared and the athletes reciprocated it when they become famous.

But, we don’t know if it is the same with Nike now. Their shoes are still great, but aspiring athletes will miss the customer experience that was delivered a few decades back.

So, instead of focusing on things that would create a delightful customer experience, companies end up focusing on selling more and bridging the gap between the competition. Companies should try to grow and make money without compromising on customer experience. Companies like Amazon understand the importance of customer experience and continue delighting customers.

The key to delivering great customer experience lies in putting ourselves in the shoes of a customer, understanding what they want and delivering it. This will make them feel valued and will give them stay loyal to a brand like how I would always think of the restaurant when I eat a Chole bhature.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932466 2019-09-16T06:30:00Z 2023-01-23T18:12:35Z Baldness Survival Kit

I was thirteen when I knew I am going to be bald in my twenties.

It was a Sunday evening and I was sitting in the living room watching TV. My dad was getting ready for his evening walk in the park he usually meets his friends and talks about politics. I saw my dad get ready, and for the first time, I realized that he is bald. Not that I didn’t know it before, but that was the first time I realized I might become bald like him in my mid or late twenties. I also realized why my granddad was wearing a cap in the photo that hung in our living room for several years.

The thought of going bald was scary, but I started to accept the fact from a very young age. That had helped me a great deal in my twenties when I started losing my hair. I did not feel ashamed or feel bad about myself. I started to embrace the condition and made peace with it. But, that is not the case with other men who are going through or went through a similar situation. They’re often depressed and resort to drugs and drinking to cope up with the stress.

Baldness and Depression

According to an article published in the Telegraph, more than a quarter of men under the age 35 turn to drink and drugs due to hair loss. In a survey conducted by ASDA pharmacy, 41% of men said that they can cope up with losing their home or losing vision in one of their eyes than losing hair. Many reported that hair loss has had a huge impact on their social and romantic lives. And, men globally spend about $3.5 billion every year hoping to reverse hair loss.

Hair loss is really depressing and it puts those affected in a great deal of emotional stress. They start to feel less confident about themselves and often come to the conclusion that their social and romantic life is doomed. But, with the right support system and mental preparedness, you can make peace with it.

Confidence is the key

Even though I was prepared to handle baldness from a very young age, the actual sight of the thinning hairline and visible scalp did put me through a couple of sleepless nights. I googled about possible remedies and tried every natural recipe my neighbours and relatives had suggested. But, I never stopped going bald. That is when I realized that I should not try to control something that is beyond my reach. I understood that baldness in my case was hereditary and subjecting myself to treatments might improve the situation, but might not bring things back to normal. I decided to become the most confident bald guy out there.

And, I eventually became the most confident bald guy out there. I was not ashamed to address the fact that I was becoming bald. I did not do something to my hair or wear anything to hide it. I learned to carry myself the way I am and people around me slowly started getting it. People stopped making jokes because they knew it won’t have an effect. I was bald and proud.

Turn baldness into a trend

Like every other thing, baldness has also evolved according to the new age. When I decided to shave off my head in 2015, I was a little skeptical. But, I also did not want a lot of side hair as it made me look older than I was. So, I decided to shave off my head and have a french beard. To my surprise, it was well received among my peers and family. Everyone around me started looking at baldness as a style than a condition. It gave me a lot of confidence and made me think “baldness isn’t such a bad thing.”

Sometimes you’ll have to change the way people are used to seeing something. You need to package things in a better way. Presenting them with something new can get their attention and sometimes even get them to follow your style. I’m not kidding! After I shaved off my head, a few others in my workplace (who had great hair) shaved off their heads to try on the look.

And, this has also been validated by research. Shaving off your head can make you look attractive.

According to a study published in 2017, bald men are considered more confident and attractive.

When researchers at The University of Pennsylvania asked students (male and female) to rate photographs of men according to attractiveness, confidence, and dominance — and men who are bald trumped in all three categories.

Things have changed

Baldness is not a deal-breaker in today’s relationships. Things have changed. Studies suggest that women find bald men masculine and attractive. So, there’s no need to be worried about your baldness being a hindrance to your love life. Always remember to be yourself, and good things will follow.

If you’re looking to go for an arranged marriage, things are still a little old-fashioned, but it has started to change. When my parents started to look for someone (yes..you heard that right), a lot of families have did not get back after seeing my picture. Even though the girls were okay with it, their parents were not really into having a bald guy as their son-in-law. But, I did not do anything. I stayed the same and looked for someone who accepts me for who I am.

My logic was, “What if I had so much hair today and I go bald in five years? What if she had married me for my great hair?!” (just a hypothetical situation. Don’t take this seriously). If I let the world know I am bald today, my potential partner would know I will stay bald for the rest of my life. If she likes me now, she’s gonna like me for the rest of our married life. No surprises there.

And, when I met my wife, she knew I am bald. But, she wanted to know the person in me. As we spoke, she liked me for being myself, and we recently completed our first anniversary. So, be yourself, and the rest will follow.

Baldness is depressing. There is no doubt. But, the key to going through it, is confidence. If you pair that with a great support system (family, friends, girlfriend, colleagues, etc.) there’s nothing like it. Think of it as a new chapter in your life. A chapter from where you’re gonna look more confident, masculine, sexy, and badass for the rest of your life.

If you’re feeling low or depressed, feel free to talk to your close friends and family. Do not hesitate. Talk to other bald men. Or, feel free to send me an email. I am always here to listen.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran
tag:karthikpasupathy.com,2013:Post/1932453 2019-09-13T06:30:00Z 2023-01-23T17:56:43Z How my previous generation built and lived the Indian dream

When the old uncle said “one more vada and a coffee”, I knew it was his third medu vada. He already had two pooris and two medu vadas at 6:25 AM in the morning.

My intention was not to count how much he was eating. When I walked into Vanitha Tea Stall, all I wanted was a bit of nostalgia with a glass of hot tea and a sweet bonda. I left Ambattur four years back and I have a lot of memories tied with the tea stall.

But, I got curious seeing an old man in his seventies eating pooris at 6:10 AM in the morning.

When I was thinking “Does the shop serve poori this early? Can he eat poori at this age?” he ordered two medu vadas.

The uncle was dressed in a worn out, grey-colored shirt and a pair of bermuda trousers. He was thin, bald, and wore thick-rimmed glasses. His shirt pocket was heavy with an old mobile phone, some loose cash, and receipts for purchases that dated back several years. There was an old cloth bag that hung from the backrest of the chair he was sitting in, and it had freshly bought milk packets.

The uncle looked happy and content as he ate the vada.

When I looked around, I saw several old men eating vada, sipping tea, and having a nice chat about current affairs and politics. They did not seem to worry about the lack of money, regretting their decision to not follow their passion, or worried about their unpredictable future.

That is when I realized how the previous generation of Indian men are living the Indian dream, where they achieved everything in life before they retired from their jobs. Something we wouldn’t be able to achieve when we were at their age.

The Indian Dream

Most of the previous generation men, who are retired now, achieved everything that is believed necessary for a happy life. They worked hard for several years, built their own homes, saved up, educated their children, got them married, and now enjoying a peaceful retired life having vadas, occasional beers at clubs, talking politics during morning beach walks, and interesting conversations at the park.

This also applies to previous generation women. Some worked hard at their jobs, while a majority of others lived their lives as homemakers. Either way, they had a strong impact on the family and the society. They saved up gold, had a firm say in a family’s financial decisions, and went out of their way to support their kids’ education.

They imbibed principles and values in their kids and made our society a better place. And, after retirement, they spend their free time watching TV, taking walks in the parks, visiting friends in temples, and going on tours all over the country.

Both men and women didn’t seem to worry too much about money. They saved enough to live a content, peaceful life.

When I look into our future, I seriously doubt if we’ll be able to experience what retired people are experiencing today.

A lot of conditions favored them when they started their careers.

They joined a job and forgot about it

Previous generation men hardly changed jobs. They usually join a job and by the time they thought about switching to another one, they turned sixty. They hardly worried about job security. Also, they were able to predict their future. If a person got a job in Chennai, he pretty much knew that the rest of his life is going to be in Chennai. This allowed them to make a few bold decisions like buying a land, building a house, etc. Also, they forged stronger bonds with their colleagues and neighbors and a lot of them found friends for life.

But, today, we switch jobs every 2–3 years. And, people are hesitant to buy a flat because they’re uncertain if they’ll be living there for the next five years. Sometimes, they buy a flat with a 25-year EMI schedule and get a better job offer in another city. In such cases, they often move to the newer city, get a house on rent, end up paying both the EMI and the rent. This would not increase their savings, which would’ve been the first reason to move to the newer city.

Savings was paramount

Our fathers have started their careers at a very young age. Probably during late teens or early twenties. And, the best part is they started saving at a very young age. So, even though they made less than what they we’re making today, they were far ahead of the savings race than us. Also, the money they had saved helped them when their family grew bigger. They were able to address the increase in demand without going for a loan or EMI.

The newer generation on the other hand hardly have any savings. We believe in ‘carpe diem’ and were told that it is now or never. So, we often spend our salaries on stuff we’re attracted to. Most Indian men and women did not think about savings until they get married, which has now been pushed to 30 today.

And, it is a widespread fact that the age until one can work in IT is roughly till 45 (or less). So, the newer generation is posed with an impossible challenge of meeting the demands, saving up enough money for retirement and educate the kids that currently involve more money than what cost us our college degree.

What our dads saved us for 35–40 years have to be achieved in 15 years.

They believed in retirement

Our parents believed in retirement. And, since they managed to live a healthy life, they were able to successfully go through it. Us, on the other hand live in a world of uncertainty. The rise of lifestyle diseases such as obesity, cardiac diseases, diabetes, cancer, etc. play a huge role in our lives. Most people I speak to say they won’t live till their sixties. All they want is to live their lives bigger and care about the present and not the future. In spite of all the medical advancements, we might end up living shorter lives than our previous generation.

It is okay to be a little old school

I’m not saying we should stop living the ‘carpe diem’ lifestyle. I believe in living a life without regrets. Go to the country you want, find a job you’re passionate about, start the business you always wanted to start and live the moment. There’s nothing wrong in it. But, we can also borrow some old school principles from the previous generation.

Apart from seizing the day, saving for the future is also equally important. Because the job market is not as stable as how it was a couple of decades back. We can be out of jobs anytime. And, the amount of money one needs to take care of his family has exponentially increased in the past decade. The education and healthcare costs have increased so much and so is our monthly EMI payments. Only a proper spending and savings schedule can save us out of this.

Also, living a healthy lifestyle should also be part of our lives. We’ve seen a great shift in culture with an increase in social drinking, smoking, and eating junk food. As we keep doing that, we also need something to balance them out and keep our health in check. Create an exercise routine and follow it everyday. Because, in today’s world, living healthy is a great way to retain your savings. Because, one trip to the hospital can wash off your entire savings. So, don’t forget to go for a walk or a run.

And, forge stronger bonds and better friendships. Because at the end of the day, we all need a circle of friends to share our success of failure.

Karthik Pasupathy Ramachandran