Time and loneliness in an endless fight

It has been nearly 3 months of mine in a start-up environment. I’m the person who always look for challenge and growing opportunities since I’m easy to get bored from repeated and tedious job at which there is no chance to grow and reach your unknown potential. Sometimes, during hard time at which it seemed impossible to reach deadline, or it seemed no hope as deadline was closed, but there still more works had to be done, I felt a bit of hopeless and exhausted. At that moment, I asked myself whether I was a stupid or a stubborn person who tried to wear such a big hat that it barely fitted my head. I could have stay with my stable job, and felt content with everyday life. In stead of that, I quit and started in my desired environment of start-up. Through those glamor articles about overnight success of tech start-up, it motivated me to be in this harsh and hectic environment to learn, work and grow. Occasionally, it was hard to accept that those stories only reflected a small piece of real stories. To be success and build a legendary empire, such as Apple or Google, it was a pile of no name job and hard work of those passionate people, also known as geeks. It was not all sweet candy a long the way, but it was more about bitterness and sour.

Today, I learned a valuable lesson of timing and priority. I underestimated the time for the paper work for applying sub-certificates. To run a restaurant is not an easy job, not alone having all proper permits to open just a small restaurant. Thus, being an entrepreneur to coordinate and manage everything all at once is the most exciting, but tiresome job. The glory always comes with bitterness and scarification. Sometimes, there was only you on the race while most of your team left home at the end of the day. There was time when you achieved your goals, but it was too short to celebrate as you had to get back on the race after a minute or two to refill and repair tires. It was absolutely no time for resting. It was an endless marathon as I would put it that way. You had to keep your strength as every tomorrow is a big day for you to deal with unexpected things, such as breach contract from suppliers or constructors, robbery at factory sites or frustrated neighbors coming to complain about all the dust in your renovation site. Besides of being more smart in using your time, it is also crucial to stay fit and be optimistic to consume all the lemons which life could throw at you.

What is the hook to keep someone coming back to buy from you?

Nowadays, customers have more choice and can access to an abundance sources of information, ranging from product promotion from product review. One question for marketer is how to keep your customers coming back and shop from you. How to establish a strong and reliable brand inside your customer’s mind? How to engrave your brand into your customer’s head and how to make your brand pop up at customer’s mind when they want to buy something in your product range? A ton of questions need to be asked, but finding the answer for all these questions shall take time, and it requires a lot of hard for searching and assessing the solution.

One way to get your customer’s attention is to provide the best service in one area and acceptable services in other areas. If you are good at something, and your customers satisfy with your product or service, they could be a volunteer and reliable salesmen for your brand. Besides, they could be an effective brand ambassador. Furthermore, people tends to have high trust with word-of-mouth reference or recommendation from friends. Thus, it is how you reach out to your potential customers through their social channel. Gradually, when using the circle of trust, for example recommendation from friends or positive shopping experience shared among an open social network, the effectiveness and the impact on customer’s buying decision are rather high. Again, an old question, how to make this happen? How to compete in a blue ocean market where you are still new to customers? Or how to compete in a red ocean market when you grow big as a corporate? Let’s figure them out together.

How long can you reach?

Recently, I have just started to work at a start-up, probably nearly a month. One thing did make me a surprise. For all these years, I thought craving for more knowledge would made me success and reached my dream easily. However, I was totally wrong. The more time you spend with a community who has the same interest and expertise, the stronger network you have.

This might be called the power of connection.

A short tour at the market

A morning full of sunshine, and it happens to be Sunday, so I took a quick trip to the other town market. Arriving at the market around 9 o’clock in the morning, I saw people going around and searching for fresh vegetables to put on their table for lunch and dinner. At first sight, some middle-age women wearing light coat to prevent sunburn were selling any kind of noodles. Next to them, another women wearing a big, torn hat covered half of her face sole all kind of fresh vegetables. She was weighting and packaging some vegetables for her customers, during that time, she was mumbling a complaint for having to sell her fresh-picked vegetable from the garden with low price. Anyway, the customer ignored her word and went deep inside the market to buy some meat. Outside the market, along the gate, there are sellers with big baskets full of rice papers of yellow, white and orange color – those are a kind of tempting street food for all-age of people. Besides, noise are all around. It comes from those gossiping ladies standing in a shade corner and talking about their neighbor newborn child. Or, the noise comes from those metal tank crashing from one another while people moves them from here to there. Still, it comes from those fashionable and stylist bikes with angry riders who tried to go through the crowded place.

I noticed an old lady with a big leaf hat, frying some cakes. The smell was so irresistible that I would have come to buy some myself. However, my stomach could not bear those oily food. Hence, that thought vanished just in a second. Suddenly, I heard a terribly scream right behind me. I looked back and saw a young lady in her pink sweater and a short who was still terrified at that time. She was robbed because some bad guys noticed her expensive black purse. The market is not a very safe, though.

A new opportunity in real estate: Co-working space

In the past, when your company grows and unable to fit in a small space in your living room or your garage, it is time to move out into a real office. Yet, the price is not cheap for renting a comfortable place, set up everything from decoration to operation.

In 21st century, renting an office doesn’t sound so much trouble. Actually, I think it is a new perspective to look at real estate. In stead of renting out a free space, space owners can make it become something ready-to-use for companies from as small as a start-up of one person or big companies of several to hundreds of employee. If you don’t have financial constraint and look for a great place to settle your business, Regus could be a wise choice.

Some people find that working alone at home is unable to activate their creativity. Locking yourself in front of your laptop isn’t bring new ideas to mind. Then, the concept of co-working space emerges in the time of financial recession, approximately in 2007. Independent workers, freelancers and small start-up firms are the first pioneer. They could share an open work space with others, especially like-minded people. Although they can work on different projects, occasionally communication and social hangout among co-workers in shared space might be an innovation push for them. It is a kind of social-gathering, yet people are here to work not for networking.

When the wave comes, and brings in an abundance of fish, there shall be fishermen here to take the catch. I notice some giants offering a service of office sharing and coworking space, such as Regus and Sharedesk. When choosing the former one as your partner, you can access to 1500 office centers worldwide. All you need is at a finger tip, and the only thing you have to do is to book a place and then move in. About Sharedesk, they are far more advanced to Regus as you can search and book a place through your mobile app. They help office owners to completely make use of their work space. How to differentiate two of them? Think of Regus as a formal adviser for office renting, and you can work with them online or in person. They have a varied location of offices for your choice. On the other hand, Sharedesk is a match-maker; it means that they will connect the office owners with the tenants. It is a free platform for you to reach customers globally, and they only take a small fee for making a connection.


  1. https://www.odesk.com/blog/2012/06/why-coworking-fresh-look-growing-trend/
  2. http://www.inc.com/adam-vaccaro/coworking-space-growth.html
  3. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/news/2010-03-18-coworking18_ST_N.htm
  4. http://www.forbes.com/sites/karstenstrauss/2013/05/28/why-coworking-spaces-are-here-to-stay/

Critical mass in a network market of taxi-booking app

In strategy thinking, especially in network market, it is essential to gain critical mass and become a market dominant. For taxi-booking app, there is no standardization. For example, you can find GrabTaxi or EasyTaxi on Android, iOS and Window phone.

It is about changing human behaviors, to use technology to make their life more comfort and convenience. The question is how to change? When you start small, of course, few people know about your existence. To be recognized, it is better to form a strategic alliances with a strong reputation partner. In Ho Chi Minh, Vinasun and Mai Linh are the big taxi operators, yet the former has a bigger market share. Why would they prefer to form a partnership with a small taxi-booking app? They can operate more efficient and stay ahead from the market with the help of technology. More and more people own a smartphone with 3G connection. The digital age generation is the demanding and impatient customers who want to control time and get access to resources quickly. That is what a taxi-booking app can do because it connects customers with drivers just a click away. Everything is operated based on data and numbers, so it is easy and cost-saving to hand over the customer service job and operation job to a taxi-booking app. Both Vinasun and Mai Linh could focus their capital on investing in recruitment, training and buying new cars.

In addition, imagine that you can see taxi running around the city with logo either GrabTaxi or EasyTaxi on their doors, it makes the app become more visible and gradually increase awareness among users. The more you see and heard about something, the more you remember. It would be fun and curious to know about how frequent the logo of Grab or Easy appears on the cab’s door. Next time, when you want to a cab, you just remember whether it is a Grab or an Easy. Don’t have to remember a long list of phone number, for example (Vinasun) and 38 38 38 38 (Mai Linh). On the top of that, an app is free to download and only Internet connection is required to do the booking, no more fee for calling.

What is behind the curtain of merger and acquisition?

In business world, to be a competitive player in the field, once your company shifts from a start-up phase (an infant phase) to a mature phase, you should consider whether it is time to grow organically or inorganically. Organic growth means that you grow slowly from the inside while inorganic growth, also known as merger and acquisition, is another way to make your company become big and powerful by forming a partnership or acquiring other firms.

Growing should go together with profit. It is unwise to expand your business without making profit. Growth and profit are two terms that go hand-in-hand together. However, the profit driven from merger and acquisition of biggest technology companies is a hidden treasure. Looking closely to those incredible big acquisition, you might wonder where the profit is.

The acquisition of Whatsapp in the beginning of 2014 is a concrete example. When the news first leaked out, every title of newspaper was mostly about the purchasing price that Facebook paid. How lucky Whatsapp was to be acquired with 19 billion dollars! What a big price to pay! Then, it is time to question about why Facebook should acquire Whatsapp. To stay ahead from the competition, it is crucial to acknowledge the trends and make your competitors to be your partners instead of a threatening rival force. On the other hand, the pricy acquisition will help Facebook become a powerful player in even a mobile platform. It is a shortcut to be a big brother in another field without spending much time to develop the technology or platform. Moreover, it is an easy way to get access to the latest technology of your ex-competitors.

For technological companies, when deciding to grow through acquisition, it is the culture and vision, not the earnings and revenue, that are of paramount importance. Is that the story? Of course not. It is the matter of staying ahead and recognizing future trends so that you could take a first jump. That is the Eureka moment for most tech companies, to be a leader of trend instead of a follower.

How could GrabTaxi stay ahead of the competition using gamification?

When talking about taxi-booking app, there are 3 big names coming in to mind. Uber, GrabTaxi and EasyTaxi. Of course, they are in a harsh competition for growing and surviving. As for Uber, this app is aimed to provide a luxury ride in expensive car. On the other hand, GrabTaxi and EasyTaxi are for the mass who have a high need of using taxi with a reasonable price and convenience in their ride. Who would stay ahead in the competition? Actually, these two apps are almost the same, even with their promoting campaign in Vietnam. Is there any fresh idea to make the game sound more exciting to play?

Absolutely yes! These apps intend to change human behaviors, firstly driver’s attitude. To sit in a car driving customers around the city all day long, to work under pressure when the gasoline price escalate like sky rocket, or to drive around desperately to look for customers, these are things faced by taxi drivers. Why not make their life a little easier by making their work like a game?

First, for one good behavior or a nice experience with a particular ride, customers could give a driver a yellow star, otherwise, the driver will receive a red star for warning. Three red stars mean “Game over”. That driver will be forbidden to be in GrabTaxi community for 6 months, for example. So, when you do good, what can you get? The more yellow stars, the more incentives you get. For 5 yellow stars within a day, you can have 10% discount for a car wash or car maintenance in a good garage. Taking care of drivers as much as you can.

Besides, don’t forget your dear customers. Most of the time, I don’t have any redeem or discount for being a regular taxi-taker. I will be happy to get a discount of 5% when i use GrabTaxi five times a week. If I spend time give customers feedback about taxi drivers, with each comment, i will earn a point which i can later use as a discount. With a constructive feedback which is upvoted by a large number of people, I will get an incentive.

Everyone knows using an app to call a taxi is more convenient, faster, and safer. Still, it is hard to get drivers sign in and customers get in. Perhaps, it is the question of switching cost. How attractive is your utility and goody which can make customers and drivers switch from EasyTaxi to GrabTaxi?

Grabtaxi: A smooth or challenging international growth strategy

GrabTaxi is a growing taxi-booking service in South East Asia. They use a unique model, a simple mobile application to connect drivers and consumers.

Currently, they have expanded their business to about 16 countries in South East Asia. At a first look at their business, personally I think, they use a global strategy at which they focus more on gaining efficiency due to the pressure of lowering cost while the stress of local adaptation is completely ignored. It is not completely true because they have to adjust their algorithm, writing a new map when they go to a new country. Although it is a minor change in technology, they have to adapt their mobile application in a new market. Thus, it is more transnational strategy at which more concentration on efficiency and local adaptation. However, to survive in a new market, it is an essential key to know your customers by hand.

Why it is matter to know your local customers? Different people living in different places have a different requirement for a same service. GrabTaxi aims at changing human behaviors, the same greatest challenge for all Taxi-booking apps. How to move the drivers to a street hail to an e-hail? Currently, GrabTaxi has an only function for customer’s feedback about their drive. I wonder whether the feedback is sufficient enough to increase customer experience. I’m thinking about a gamified add-on, for example, one good comments will add one point for a driver. Those drivers who accumulate highest score on the leader board of each month will receive yellow stars. With each star, the reliability of the driver will increase, and it means getting more customers. 

Although they are in rapidly fast growth, they are not making money in all the markets. Anthony Tan, CEO of GrabTaxi disclosed on a CNBC show that they only make money in some mature markets, such as Kualar Lampua and Manila. This might be considered as an advantage of growing big because GrabTaxi can spread risks to other markets.

What is on your worry plate?

Everyone has their own worry plate. By the time, you wake up because of a loud noise of your alarm or because of the warm sunlight outside your window; it is the moment that you will be flooded by things on your worry plate.

For parents who have small children, things on their worry would be how to complete a report in the last minute and send to their manager, how to make a quick and nutritious breakfast and get their children to school so that they could come to work on time, how to avoid a heavy traffic this morning, how to spend more time with their children while struggle with a bunch of new responsibilities from work, and the list will go on and on.

For unemployed and single people, they worry about how to polish their resume, how to learn new skills quickly, how to be more competent in the job market, and how to land a job quickly. Their only worry is getting a job, fulfilling their duties, learning new things at job, and being able to pay the bills.

For managers in all level, they worry about how to make their personnel more engage and more productive, how to create an operational excellence or an efficient customer care, how to update themselves, how to be known and increase their network size. Of course, the list will never end.

For entrepreneurs who have just start a new business, they worry about how to constantly improve their business, how to differentiate their products, how to compete in the market, how to grow their business, and how to make their company gain high performance. Growth is good when it brings profit to your business, and it will not overwhelm your people, process and controls by growing too fast. If growth is not properly managed, it will become a destructive growth. It will be as dangerous as a tornado which will suck you into its eye and tear you apart. A realistic question to be asked is how much growth you can afford at this moment? Should you grow horizontally by merger and acquisition or grow organically by focusing on internal development?

So, what is on your worry plate? How do you deal with them?