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.


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

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


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

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

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


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

The 'Pinch'

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

Visualizing a Note-Taking Feature Inside Zoom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This made me wonder.

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

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

Design Criteria

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

  • It should support distraction-free note-taking

  • Provide a better way of organizing notes.

  • Allow you to bookmark/favorite frequently used notes

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

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

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

  • Should be accessible from the Zoom web app.

  • Ability to filter their own and shared notes.

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

Feature Placement

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

Accessing Notes

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


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

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

The users can perform the following functions on this screen:

  • Create a new note

  • Add a title to their note

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

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

  • Perform basic text/paragraph formatting

  • Option to delete a note

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

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

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

Recurring Meetings

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

Organizing notes

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

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

Sharing Notes

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

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

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

Notes Pop-Out Window

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

Notes in Zoom Web App

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

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


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

Major Use cases

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

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

  • Access to past notes during recurring meetings to get context

Lessons Learned Today

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

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

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

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...

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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, 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!