Would you hold a phone or hands?

Ergonomics, product-design flaws, safety-worries, or the good old phantom-limb effect. Researchers are scratching their heads to work out some numbers that came up in a new study.

Active Phones; Inactive Brain?
Active Phones; Inactive Brain?

In ‘The Phone Walkers: A study of human dependence on inactive mobile devices’ Laura Schaposnik and James Unwin from University of Illinois dug in a clear pattern of mobile phones being carried in people’s hands (3000 people on Parisian streets) without the person using it (that is, not looking at it).

So we hold our phones when we aren’t actually using them. Big deal! It is, when we see how as soon as individuals join members of the opposite sex there is a clear tendency to stop holding mobile phones whilst walking (just 18 per cent). Else, 38 per cent of solitary women, and 31 per cent of solitary men touch their phones (via).

Hmm. It’s just a phone. It’s not the ring, Frodo.

Lessons learned running a bootstrapped startup for 4 years : Never growth hack before achieving product market fit

[Notes from NextBigWhat : Bootstrapping is extremely under rated. We invite bootstrapped founders to share their experience. {Get started} ] 

This is Raxit, founder @ SmartMumbaikar.com, which runs carpool in Mumbai. Strong believer of bootstrapping since last 4 yrs – sharing some of my learnings bootstrapping over the last few years.

1. Try to validate idea asap & achieve product market fit. (For product startup)

Either you directly jump start after college, during college or after few years in Job, this is the most important aspect.

We built one feature and solved three problems

Originally published on Reprime blog.

Here’s the scene —

A small team working out of a room; launches an MVP; gets more than 50k people using the product.

What comes next? Feature requests. Lots of them.

We’ve built a couple of products previously and in pursuit to make something people love, we built everything that our early users requested. Need an option to download an invoice as PDF? There you go. Need a feature to manage business expenses along with the incoming cashflow? There you go, sir. Need us to take your son to school? Yes, sir. That taking-son-to-school never happened exactly but you see the point. To have us do something, you just had to tell us once. We were young. We were the makers. We were yet to evolve into people who could say ‘No’ to someone. We were yet to learn the art of building products.

Before we built our first product, we used to do client projects. Unfortunately, we carried the habit of saying ‘Yes’ with us when building products. Eventually, we learned that in the 101 book of building products, the very first rule is to learn to say ‘No’. The sure shot way of killing your product is to make it do everything for everyone.

After learning the lesson, we tried to apply it on our latest experiment — Reprime.


Since the private beta of Reprime, we’ve been getting amazing messages like these.

Making something people love

But along with these, we also started receiving solid constructive feedback to help us build Reprime better.

Things we need to build

Among all these constructive feedback that we got, there were three things that we always had in the “ASAP” list in Trello.

Three Problems


In the first glimpse, it seems there are three different problems and therefore there’ll be three different solutions. We thought so, at least, to be honest.

  1. Search Solution to first problem was to put all of our data in a full text-search search engine (eg ElasticSearch) and let people search the schedules we maintain using the title and description of the schedule.
  2. Suggestion Box Solution to second problem was to put a big box on our website where people can put in suggestions on what they want to follow that we currently don’t have.
  3. Modify relationships between schedules and events: Our proposal to the third problem was to make events belong to more than one schedule. At first, one event belonged to only one schedule. Our idea was to make it able to belong to many schedules. Nothing tricky.

Three problems. Three solutions. All we had to do was work for 80 hours for two weeks and we’d be ready to announce three new things that we built in three different blog posts. I announced to the team — “It’s time we do it.” The whole team nodded. I, too, pulled up my sleeves and sat with a mug of coffee to begin coding.

In the evening, when everyone wrapped up and left for the day, I decided to take a 15-min nap in the office before continuing the work ahead. And like all the good ideas I get in sleep, I got another one.


For half an hour before going to the nap, I read Jacob Bronowski’s “The Ascent Of Man”. In it, I read how people believed Earth to be at the center of the universe. All the heavenly bodies including the sun and the moon, which humans could see, moved across the sky in no fixed pattern.

To keep track of the movements of these throughout the year, people had developed clocks where Earth was depicted at the center of it and there were arms for each heavenly body — the sun, the moon and the planets that we knew about then.

The catch was that the arms didn’t move in circular motion around the around. Each arm had multiple gears that made it move it weird fashion around the center of the clock. People spent years recording the motion of the heavenly bodies and then perfecting the clock. It was a nightmare.

Then, came Nicolaus Copernicus, who said – “Hey, what if we move Sun at the center of the clock and then everything moves in a fixed circular pattern around it, including the Earth.”

Things weren’t smooth for Copernicus to hold and preach the thought of Earth not being at the center of the universe – not just the solar system, but it gave me enough food for the thought.

With this story in my mind, I went to the nap. And I kept asking myself – “What if the solutions to our problems are not hundred different things but just one simple thing that we need to figure out.”

I woke up from the nap and spent the rest of the whole night wondering of a better way to store and manage events. Until then, I was thinking of “schedules” to be center of the architecture and now I moved my focus to “events” being the center of the architecture and “schedules” being just a mechanism to define a collection of events.

Sometimes you’ve to give up your pride and really think what is it around which everything revolves.


The next day, we came up with a new architecture to think of the events that we are maintaining. Earlier, each of our event belonged to a calendar. Now, each event is defined using a list of labels.

Example: A football match between Team A and Team B is defined using the labels – “sport”, “football”, “team_a” and “team_b”.

And there’s a similar list of labels for each schedule too, i.e. “Schedule for all matches of Team A”. We made a quick script that would produce the potential labels for each of the 100,000 events and 9000 schedules we maintain. Everyone in our team spent a day verifying all those labels and then we imported this labeled data in Algolia.

And we were done. The work that earlier amounted to two 80-work-hour long weeks was reduced down to two days of labeling data. That’s it.

1. Search

Using Algolia and its powerful open source tools, we were able to ship the Explore page on our website with just a couple of hours of development.

For users, it removed the effort of digging into the sea of sub categories to find something. Having something in mind? Just type in.

2. No Suggestion Box

Solution to the second problem came bundled in with the first one. In our Algolia dashboard, we started paying special attention to one report – “queries returning zero results”.

This list worked as proxy for suggestions, that too, without explicitly asking users to suggest something. Everyday we compile this list and start working on collecting the required data.

Suggestions without a suggestion box

Looks like, people want something for yoga and dance.

3. Single copy of an event

Now, because our events are not defined using a schedule but by a list of labels, we have removed all the duplicate events and maintain only a single copy of an event. If you want to know the exact architecture of our labels on schedules and events, highlight this sentence to let me know. I’ll be happy to share in followup blog posts.

This change in the architecture also allowed us to offer a few more things to our users in next few days. We are exploiting this architecture of labels to it fullest – till it breaks.

Breathe & Build: Can Mindfulness Help You Build Great Products?


Scores of excellent articles have been written on building great products: start with the “why”, product equals team, build to solve rather than indulge, the “cupcake strategy”, build-ship-iterate-repeat, reincarnate as Steve Jobs, go on a “feature” diet, and so on and so forth.

And yet, only a very small percentage of products “succeed”.

This got me thinking. In the art & science of it all, is there something else we are missing?

Can mindfulness help the product manager further each of these roles and build great products, with joy? I examine this in a three-part article, drawing upon mindfulness wisdom, psychology concepts, and my own experiences building multiple digital and physical products.

Part I: Countering stress with mindfulness to sustain “flow”, build masterpieces

Part II: Is flow enough? Going beyond, with a Beginner’s Mind, avoiding ego traps

Part III: Yin and Yang. Yang and Yin. Cracking the code with a Balancing Act

Part I: Countering stress with mindfulness to sustain “flow”, build masterpieces

The Agony & The Ecstasy

“This was his most glorious experience in working marble; never had he had such an expanse of figure, such a simplicity of design; never before had he been so possessed by a sense of precision, force, penetration or depth of passion. He could think of nothing else now, could not bring himself to stop for food or change of clothes,” writes Irving Stone of the great Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo, his masterpiece, David, and of a passion and focus so intense that it was sustained for over two years.

This state of complete immersion in an activity, so deep that one loses their sense of time, of themselves, of their problems, has been termed as flow by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced six-cent-mihaly).During flow, a person experiences a great sense of clarity, effortless concentration and focused attention, feelings of ecstasy, serenity and timelessness, a feeling that goals, even if challenging, are attainable. Most importantly, in flow, the state of flow itself is its reward.

Flow, Creative Ideation & the Product Manager: Clearly, flow is crucial for the product manager to “ideate” – to see possibilities where others see none, to presciently visualize a sculpture in all its glory within a block of marble.

Not only does some of the best, most inspired and creative work emerge from these moments but they leave one with a sense of satisfaction, a sense of joy that becomes a motivator for overcoming troughs in the product building journey. Even hard-nosed business publications acknowledge the connection of flow to productivity, like this McKinsey study.

The neat part? The creative genius that emerges from flow may not be the sole dominion of brilliant sculptors, musicians and scientists – it may be accessible to the humble product manager, to all of us.

Lets quickly look at how and when one is in flow. By measuring people’s self scores of the challenge level they were facing and their own skill (real or perceived) in facing those challenges, Mihaly concluded that for people to flow, they need to be in the high challenge, high skill zone.

But here is the catch.Building a product is challenging, to say the least – and most of us are skilled at what we do. So, why aren’t we all in flow – all the time?

Flow, meet your nemesis: “Noise”

Ok, quick question. What’s noisier than a heavy metal band?

A day in the life of the product manager, of course!

There is all the “external noise”: time and cost pressures, meetings, politics, divergent opinions, distractions (read: addicted refresh of email, Facebook, whatsapp). Then there is, perhaps even louder, the “internal noise”: unclear objectives, self-doubt, fear of failure. The result? Anxiety & stress taking the place of joyous flow.

The impact of all this “noise”, can be understood through the “Two System” theory by Daniel Kahneman. In his book, “Thinking Fast & Slow”, he introduces us to two modes of thinking: System 1 (the fast, automatic, creative, intuitive thinking), and System 2 (the slow, more deliberate, analytical thinking). System 1 can lead to biases, impulsiveness, misjudgements (at its worst), or can help create new patterns, help in associative creation, effortless thinking (at its best). Clearly, flow appears to be the intuitive System 1 working at its best.

Here’s how all the “noise” defeats flow:

  1. Flight, Fight or Freeze response, aka “amygdala hijack” Noise ? Stress ? Amygdala hijack. Like I mentioned, System 1 has two facets. The same system facilitates spontaneous, no-holds-barred, intuitive thinking and promotes creativity, but also triggers the flight or fight response when it perceives a threat. And noise is the modern equivalent of a snake in the grass for which the amygdala was designed.
  2. Overthinking, aka Analysis Paralysis Noise ? Anxiety ? Lower perception of own skills ? Over analysis ? Paralysis; Anxiety erodes confidence, causing us to doubt our intuition and making the more analytical System 2 take over. While System 2 is great for complex computations and logical, rational thinking – it is the antithesis of creativity and intuition, and hence inhibits flow.

Whatever be the mechanism, the conditions surrounding the typical product manager are not conducive to flow. Yes, you could lock yourself up in a room, block your calendar, with great resolve close all your browser tabs, shut off your phone too. But even so, what about the “internal noise”?

Product Manager <> The Monk & his Magical Robe

Say hello to mindfulness – your soon to be secret weapon. Wondering how focusing on your breathing can help you battle noise? Several ways, actually.

Calming the amygdala: By mindfully staying in the “present” and learning to “notice” emotions without reacting to them or judging them, we can become calmer, retain focus and attention, and avoid being hijacked by stressors. Here

Introducing Lalitesh Katragadda @UnPluggd, The Man Behind Google Map Maker #MakeForIndia

Lalitesh Katragadda
Lalitesh Katragadda

At UnPluggd, we aim to bring you speakers who can inspire you to think big and push you to go beyond the obvious.
Meet Lalitesh Katragadda, cofounder of Google India and the man behind Google map maker.

As of 2005, only 15 percent of the world was mapped.  Lalitesh was the creator of Google Map Maker. Google Map maker empowered people to map what they knew locally and it tripled the world’s digital maps corpus, mapping 2 billion people in 187 countries. The UN and aid agencies have used these user generated maps to assist and rescue millions.

Lalitesh co-founded Google India and was its founding Joint Center Head for two years and retired from Google as Head of India products having invented, led several products including Crowdsourced YouTube Subtitles, Crowdsourced translation corpus, Google Transliteration and Google Finance.

He is now focused on India’s nation building as the founder of Swaja Labs, Indihood, as an architect of Digital India’s Open API and AP Government’s Fiber Grid.

At UnPluggd, Lalitesh will share his insights and experience on building (and importantly, SCALING) products for the Indian market.

Be there. Book Your Tickets Now!

About UnPluggd
Date: Nov 25th & 26th, 2016
Venue: Park Plaza hotel (Marathahalli), Bangalore
URL: http://nextbigwhat.com

Limited Offer: Use Coupon code WE20 to avail 20% off (until 22nd November) or Book more than 3 or more tickets and get 35% off!


Is a Story. About Mobile Product Thinking.

Everyone’s talking about this now — being #mobileFirst. It’s a new strategy startups are adopting. Products are being tweaked considering 80% of users are thumb driven. This is a good thing, but the problem is, mobile strategies haven’t gone past “having a mobile app”. They haven’t completely embraced the mobile ecosystem.

A very interesting post on Mobile Product Thinking.