Saturday, 24 September 2016

Digital Desh 2.5 - When A Village Dweller Buys NowFloats

Roti, Kapda aur Makaan, this is what simple people in the village live for, but NowFloats is taking these three staple needs and turning them into more. Introducing the staple needs of the new age: Roti, Kapda, Makaan aur Internet! After cracking our first deal in a rural area and convincing a customer to jump the SEO wagon, we can happily say that we are contributing to the Indian dream of a digital revolution.

It all started when our talented NowFloater, Prashanta Adhikary, took charge and got the customer interested enough to agree for a demo. In the words of the sales guys:

“After convincing the customer to meet us for a demo, it seemed like half the battle was won but the hard truth was yet to hit us! We budged all the way from Budge Budge to the customer’s location, not knowing anything about this new place called Jhalkura that we were traveling to. We landed up in the southern most end of Kolkata and pulled our socks up for what was about to come next.

We finally reached our destination by 8.00 pm and set up for the demo. We had done this a hundred times in our lives but somehow, this time made us a little nervous. How do you convince someone who doesn’t own a laptop; not even a smart-phone? Two and a half hours of questions, answers, objections and rebuttals later, the customer was finally convinced about the potential of NowFloats. A sales person doubts their skill very few times in their lives, and this was one of those times because you are pitching to someone about a product which deals with hardcore technology and internet but this person knows nothing about either of the two. Our product and it’s results were strong enough to convince him to not only agree to sign up with us but also write us an upfront cheque of the entire amount in advance.

We got onto the last train taking us home and managed to deposit the cheque the very next day. It is usually a company that gives their customer an experience, but this was one of the few times when a customer gave a company an experience! ”

Mr. Manojit Adhikary is not just a customer, he is also the first difficult challenge that NowFloats took and conquered! Mr. Adhikary is a man of arts and culture. Apart from being a documentary film-maker, he also deals with a small organization called ‘Shilparghya Jhalkura’, which quite literally means ‘Cultural offerings to God from Jhalkura’! Mr. Adhikary taught us that just because people don’t understand technology doesn’t mean that they aren’t willing to. He is one of our many steps towards making India a truly #DigitalDesh. In the spirit of #deshruption, we wish Mr. Adhikary all the best in his ventures and hope to see more people like him believe in the possibilities of NowFloats!

Monday, 19 September 2016

This "Chief Happiness Officer" Gives Us All The #OfficeGoals Our Startup Needs

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In 2010, Rajkumar turned his back to an organization that pretty much most people want to get into at some point of time in their lives. His run at Microsoft had come to an end and he knew there was something else that he ought to do with his career. His two children were only toddlers and there was miles to go before he could call it a day. Rajkumar then partnered with a friend and ran a small business supplying electronic goods to households. For the first few months, all was well.

Like everything must come crashing and burning, one day Rajkumar found that his business was not exactly where he had envisioned it to be, and in the middle of fighting that uphill battle, his mother passed away.

When Rajkumar recounts that part of his life, there is a flicker in his eye, as if someone is trying to remove the batteries from his brain. You know who Rajkumar is- he's that one man in your life who doesn't stop smiling, no matter what. He's someone to look at so you can remind yourself that it's possible for you to do your work without caving under the pressure. And if there is pressure anyway, you can always count on Rajkumar for help.

Rajkumar joined NowFloats in 2014, which leaves some years' worth of struggle between his time at Microsoft and his time here. I persuade Rajkumar to tell his story further. This time I realize that I'm the one pulling out his brain's batteries- he looks at me and says "I lost everything."

"First, my mother left me to deal with everything on my own. Never before had I shouldered that much responsibility. And then my business was running at a loss. I was in debt by..." he quotes a figure. It makes me flinch.
"Then what happened?" I ask him. He says, "A friend from Microsoft called me."

Jas Gulati, now CEO of NowFloats, and Rajkumar have been friends since 2006. They were buddies back in Microsoft and they kept in touch even after they went their separate ways. There would always be that occasional phone call between them. It wasn't until Rajkumar hit his lowest low, he decided it was time to join the old friend in a new venture. In August 2014, Rajkumar went back to doing the job he always did. He became the "Office Boy" again.

This is when my mind grinds to a halt. NowFloats prides itself in being able to help small businesses gain more customers. Everyday, a new customer comes back for a multi-year renewal and tells us how much more they've been able to earn since they began using NowFloats' technology. And here was a failed entrepreneur who came back to a job that he originally wanted to leave behind for good, and stayed for over two years.

Later in the day, when our team heads out to catch a drink, I ask some people what they know about Rajkumar. Surabhi jumps to tell the first story- "Yeh jo Rajkumar hai na?  He's not a person man, he's a job description!"

"There was a time when I was looking for someone who could help me out with work. And ask me if I found one decent person for the job? I was driven mad!" Surabhi says "And Jas asked me what kind of person I really wanted. I told him that I wanted someone exactly like Rajkumar."

"No, no" interjects Samir Majhi "Let me tell you something else. There was a time when Neeraj (another co-founder) told Rajkumar that he should join the Dev team because he fixes most of our problems more efficiently!" 

More people tell me stories that begin with "That time when..." and ends with Rajkumar saving the day- That time when someone asked him where the nearest cosmetic store was, and ended up receiving a package with basic make-up stuff before she could take that extra break; that time when Rajkumar was more efficient than Swiggy, bringing all the different things that people needed in the office, in half the time; that time when nobody showed up at work because of a thunderstorm except for Rajkumar, who punched in at 9.30 am. 

When people talk about him, their tone suddenly changes. You can get a hold of anyone at NowFloats and ask them to tell you something about Rajkumar, and you'll be able to hear the warmth in their words. Nobody describes him, but everyone is willing to offer a testimony. 

Calling Rajkumar an "Office Boy" is a misnomer on so many levels. He doesn't live the life of running errands at all. He runs his own team of housekeeping and support staff. From inventory management to stress relief, Rajkumar provides everything in an office that is tripping over its own excitement- which begs us to consider if "Office Boy" is the right designation for him.

Startups are awesome in many ways but the one thing you find in common between startups and any other run-of-the-mill office is that the support staff always lead mechanical lives. Learning curves and appraisals don't apply to them. They stick around for a few months, and eventually leave for a fancier office (with the same designation), or sometimes run away with the office petty cash. Then there is Rajkumar, who doesn't fall in that category in any angle. 

Here is a man whose LinkedIn profile will not contain the keywords you're looking for, yet any department in this office will be happy to have him for themselves. That is because Rajkumar has figured out something that we're still trying to vaguely understand. In a world where the norms of the industrial revolution still apply, Rajkumar blazes through his workplace with an intangible weapon- Emotional Intelligence. 

NowFloats is THE PLACE where traffic cops would run for cover. Everyone's working at a hundred miles an hour. Sure, there are such things like team-work and co-ordination, work-wise but how are we to guarantee that none of us implode and fall apart? One way to do it is have an internal counselor or have weekly laser-tag sessions. Another thing to do is hope to God that everyone has at least one completely dependable, entirely non-judgmental, not at all back-stabbing best friend. While we figure out how to solve the evolving emotional needs of our employees, we still have Rajkumar. 

Intuitive, dependable, and sensitive to subtle changes, Rajkumar has a finger on everybody's pulse. We never underestimate how the fridge never seems to run out of beverages or the coffee machine never breaks down, because if tomorrow the office sinks under a flood, Rajkumar would still be floating us to safety. 
Rajkumar has had a steep and uphill learning curve in this company, having to learn from the exponentially rising data points of over 100 employees in the HQ alone, and optimizing his performance to be there for all of us, while not letting us wait in a queue while he gets something done (someone needs to take a look at the RAM space in his brain). To top it all off, he never lets the stress show and he never under-performs. 

He's our Man in Black. He's our Batman. He's our Chief Happiness Officer. 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Onamvannu Onlinenumayi: All The Things You Need To Make Nammude Keralam Prosperous

When the harvest is done and the Sadya is served, you celebrate prosperity. Your family is satisfied and happy- after all, the payasam was excellent. The ages old tradition of celebrating Onam after reaping all the good crop still makes us just as excited.

Today though, not all of us are farmers. We earn our food, rather than grow it. But no matter what we do, there is one tool that we all have in common- the mobile phone. There are 1.3 billion people in India, out of which, TRAI has already recorded 1 billion mobile phone subscriptions as of 2016. Almost everyone is online.

While Google can teach us how to say "Onam Ashamshagal" correctly, it can also tell us every other thing in the world- including how to find you. Whether your small business sells fish or fine silk, one Google search can bring the whole world to you. Only one question remains- are YOU online?

To make this New Year even more prosperous, NowFloats brings to you "Onamvannu Onlinenumayi"- a unique event for Small Business Owners to find out how they can become more discoverable for their potential customers.

On the 23rd of September, Friday- NowFloats is coming to Kochi to meet you and help you get more customers by increasing your visibility online. So, clear your calendars and come over to The Dunes, Cochin for the opportunity to network with hundreds of other small businesses in your city, and explore the easiest ways of acquiring more customers with NowFloats. 

Everybody understands why it is important to be online, and we're going to help with showing you how to get online and help you understand how your customers look for you online. What's more, our CEO Jasminder Gulati himself, will give you unique insights about the process. 

After all, our goal is to make sure we get you enough business to be able to take a few days off and enjoy what matters most, family and traditions!

Monday, 12 September 2016

"I'm An Extremist": A Day In The Life Of A Startup Bad Cop

"Er, Shastry ji?" I ask "Are you sure you want to call yourself that?"

The closer we get to Dussera, the more Ravan-like Shastry ji looks. That moustache has never been more conspicuous on anyone else. His left hand clenches and a tattoo of a scorpion dances on the skin, "I'm an extremist," he says again, this time even more reassuringly "Because you'll find that I'm always right."

True- several eavesdroppers around the office involuntarily nod their heads- Shastry ji is always right. Not politically, nor morally, but by an overuse of common-sense. Shastry ji is not only the most perceptive individual in our office ecosystem, he also does that thankless job of enforcing the light of logic into our lives.

Ask anybody what they know about Shastry ji, and you'll hear only one thing. In the unforgettable words of one of our employees Sabista Khan, "Shastry ji is very strict," and her good friend Akansha Khandelwal adds "And he's also strict." As you can very well guess, he doesn't have many friends at work.

"Look madam," he says "I can give you a list of people who have a problem with me. Why don't you go and ask them what kind of a person I am?"

Now, I know for a fact that several people in the office have always had a bone to pick with him. People have fought with him on their first meeting, and some people just can't handle him. And here's why- Shastry ji is always right. His objective view and foresight makes him an asset to the company, and he ensures that he's always the bad guy who puts the best practices in place, even though people around might not like it. He'll force feed you the medicine you need, if it's the last thing he ever does.

"Madam," he says again "When I wake up in the morning and think of all the dirty work I do, I don't feel like doing it. But when I get started, I think- if I can finish this much, then I can finish everything". Saying so, he opens an Excel sheet. The number of rows and columns in front of me gives me type-blindness. I blink fast about two dozen times before my eyes can properly adjust to the screen. I see some phrases that make my dimaag ki batti light up. There's a whole list of things fixed- operational, logistical, legal, you name it. 

"How long have you been working here?" I ask again. The answer is 7 months. This man basically sanitized the foundation for 486 employees in 21 offices and 3 business centres in 7 months. If someone put that in my job description, I'd go blind with panic. No wonder people talk about him like he's some kind of headmaster.

But obviously, he hasn't done the world's best job in covering up his good side. Ask the CEO- Jas Gulati's eyes crinkle and his face lights up in a semi-goofy smile "Shastry is a sweetheart, man!" he says.

Supriya Sharma, his protégé (who also got off on the wrong foot with him, to begin with), attests to the finesse of his guidance. Supriya and her mentor Shastry ji, share a relationship based on trust, a passion for the work they do, and their shared love for serving society. 

"Wait, what?" I ask, "Shastry ji is big on philanthropy?". Never have I met anyone with so many teddy-bears hiding in their closet. Proving Mr. Gulati right, Sweetheart Shastry ji is indeed the kind of man he doesn't show himself to be- when the day is done and nobody is looking at him, Shastry ji thinks about the various ways to put an end to women and child trafficking. "Are you doing anything about it?" I ask, to which he says "I don't want to do it before I can do it right."

"What do you mean?" 

"Let's say I save a child today- do I have the resources to protect them for the foreseeable future? Or do I know someone I can absolutely trust to care for them? Not yet. So I'm working on it."

Shastry ji seems very conflicted when he talks about problems that are not work-related. And this is something that I'm unable to translate into my notes. I put my notepad away and I mull over my conversation with him for a while. As I walk around in the office, I spot Arpan Ramtek, who happens to be #2 on Shastry ji's "People Who Want To Fight With Me" list. Now I feel like I have a bone to pick with him. 

"Hey Arpan?" I interrupt him while he's working "What do you think of Shastry ji?" 

Arpan looks caught out- like he is supposed to look for a politically correct answer. But then he admits "I used to have lots of problems with him. Not anymore, though." 

"What changed?" I ask. "I realized he was right," Arpan says "Our perceptions aligned. When we were a startup, we did things differently. Sometimes, we did things even if we didn't know how it would play out in the long run. When Shastry ji came in, we switched gears. He came in to help us consolidate the way we did things, and that meant I had to change a lot of things. But now, I've come to trust him because I know he always calculates the risks for us."

What Arpan said reiterated Shastry ji's inclination to think ahead. If holding himself back from saving trafficked children right now makes him a thoughtful and good-hearted man, exercising control and precaution in business can NOT make him a bad person. People may not want to hear what Shastry ji has to say because they are hard pills to swallow, but there is nobody else a startup like NowFloats can count on to tell them right from wrong. For a company that defines itself by the passion that it has, Shastry ji's pragmatism is like a parent's advice to a teenager- nobody's going to listen to him unless he exercises force. 

I look at Arpan and say "Fight it out with him anyway," and there was only one way to do it. Shastry ji and Arpan found a very NowFloats-like solution to resolve their differences. They had it out in an arm-wrestling match. "Go easy on me," Shastry ji says "I have two children at home!", and as the expressions of fun, delight, and victory change on their faces, one thing is very clear- You can't beat Shastry ji at anything!

Men of Steel

While a fantasy world craves the touch of a fictional Superman, we have a duo of two brothers who work as the real 'Men of Steel' to churn out quality aluminium/steel products for the world. No, this is not a promotional post. We are not advertising a business, so you need not look for the 'you can skip after 5 seconds' button here! The Kukreja Brothers hopped on to the NowFloats bandwagon in 2014 and have been using us as their primary promotional tool since then. If you look up 'aluminium sheets in Delhi' on Google, you'll find their website beaming with pride on the first page and this is probably why this dynamic duo decided to take the leap and stick with NowFloats for a little longer.

The deal was initially closed by an ex employee of NowFloats but was soon assigned to Amit Kumar (NowFloats, Delhi), who managed the account for a year before he approached the Kukreja Brothers for a renewal. In Amit's words, “They purchased our product mainly because of the features and promotional values. Being self made and independent men, they chose NowFloats because of the independent quality the product consists of.”

Mr. Sumit Kukreja, who handled the entire transaction, was genuinely impressed by the results of NowFloats. 
You don't need anybody else to handle your digital presence for you anymore! NowFloats makes it as easy as sending a text message! I can control the promotion of my business on my own and don't need to deal with a third person to deliver. They say that destiny is written but with NowFloats, you can control your own destiny (your online destiny, at least!).”

The Kukreja Brothers have established a long term bond with NowFloats by signing a contract of 3 years and for us a contract is as good as a 'bandhan' that we strive to protect and strengthen! We've made a commitment to our 'Men of Steel' that we'll keep their business going and since we at NowFloats are big fans of Salman Khan, “Ek baar jo humne commitment kardi, toh hum apne aap ki bhi nahi sunte!”

Friday, 9 September 2016

In Her Blood: One Woman's Brave Journey Into The World's Biggest Problem

There comes a time in every woman's 20s when she gets the most tempting opportunities from life- this is her prime and the biggest shark wants to snap her up for a fancy job, some good looking wealthy man wants her all for himself, and she's sparkling at the altar of adulthood, with the energy of a waterfall. Let's say she does take that job at a big company and marries that man, nobody holds their breath, everyone is technically happy. In short, her life is sorted. 

Supriya Sharma's parents want nothing more for her. Her quietness, intelligence, and radiance makes her too precious a daughter for them to gamble with. She's got a job she's great at, and she stands on her own two feet. With so much going well for her, they just want her to go on with her life that they know is safe for everyone. If they could help it, they would have her stay at home in Jammu, but Supriya's talents need a larger platform and she took them out to the world with her. 

In Hyderabad, Supriya's blood hums with the pace of the city. It's got all the space she wants and all the chill she needs. When she reaches her desk in the office, a small smile turns up on the corner of her lips as she slides her bag off her shoulder. Even though she's made a few best friends in the ten months she's been in this job, she keeps to herself during the day and gets her work done in a steady, rhythmic pace. All this time when she wears her everygirl veneer and does nothing out of the ordinary to attract attention, she is up to something that not many people know. 

The people who think in terms of moving pictures would be disappointed to find that Supriya isn't a secret spy agent, neither has she built AI technology that can take over the world. Supriya's secret is one that not many people will ever need to know, but those that do chance upon it, find out because she saved the lives of their loved ones- Supriya devotes her time to find blood donors for patients battling for their lives. 

Far removed from the eyes of her peers, she runs a small service called MyBlood and helps out families that put up a fight for their beloved. At first, her parents were entirely disconcerted by the prospect of their daughter taking calls from strangers and emotionally investing herself with them. It wasn't until someone in their own family was in a medical predicament and she stepped up to help with her significant resolve and resourcefulness, that they fully understood the impact that Supriya was capable of having on the world. 

Many of the things that Supriya does may not come across as completely logical. Since joining NowFloats last year, she has coordinated with various partners to help them reach out to small local businesses and strengthen the common man's income. A job that doesn't sound fancy might not make a lot of sense to anybody else her age. What nobody has noticed, however, that what she does from the love of her heart and what she does for a livelihood share the same philosophy- make the unheard man found, give him fresh blood to live, make his life better. That is just who she is. 

Ask her WHY, ask her HOW she makes the time to carry the world's weight on her shoulders. Why would a young and successful girl be any less care-free than she deserves to be? She looks at you like it's a non-negotiable concept. She opens her mouth to answer, "The thing is...," her voice snags in her throat, her breath gets caught in her chest, she blinks fast. "The world is such a selfish place," she says "I just want to make it a little better for everybody."

You can't treat everyone to the things of the world. They'll only shine in the unknown side of humanity- you let them find it and then you be grateful that you found them. And no matter who they're with, everybody goes a great way ahead. 

Thursday, 8 September 2016

The New Girl!

Do you remember your first day in college? You were nervous, jittery and worried about how you'd fit in and all these fears are justified because let's face it, college in real life is nothing like a Karan Johar movie. Nobody is going to break into song and dance to welcome you in. Well, jobs are kind of similar (except for the fact that month ends come with a rush of extreme joy over the temporary deposit of moolah in your bank account!) in terms of first days. And we have our New Girl, Sneha Bazar, telling us her first day story:

The idea of working in a start up was always exciting to me and soon enough, the opportunity came my way and here begins my learning journey! Excitement, nervousness and challenging; I could feel every bit of these emotions the moment I entered the office. Surprisingly, I reached before the reporting time of 9:30 am and was just wondering how my first day would be. Meanwhile, Paras Sharma (HR), walked in and guided me through the system.

People started coming in and started off with general introductions. There was an Online All Hands session on Google Hangouts with over 400 employees across the nation chatting at once. The session lasted for over an hour, wherein Jas, Nitin and Mukesh were sharing updates and addressing queries of fellow Floaters. Must say, it was very impressive to be a part of and a great initiative! I could see that everyone was so involved and motivated during the session.

This was followed by my on-boarding formalities and then came the best part of the day; the Ganesh Puja. New joiners had a special opportunity to inaugurate the Puja! Starting your day at work with the blessings of God was totally worth it! After this, I was all ready to explore my role and begin the product training conducted by Paras (Reporting Manager and Mentor). To add to this, there was a little fun at work with a Best Dressed contest during the afternoon. It was an amazing refresher, which lightened the mood and was very enjoyable to see at a workplace.

They say the people of a company represent the company and they are responsible for building a great culture and this holds true for NowFloats. Overall, it was a good experience on my first day!”

We welcome Sneha to the NowFloats family with a lot of warmth and good wishes and wish her best of luck with her role. Keep floating Sneha!