Tag Archives: tips

Mavrix Blog – Completed 1 Year, 200 Posts

The first post on our blog was published last Diwali, on November 3, 2010. Today we complete 1 year of the Mavrix blog and we are extremely kicked that we have published 200 posts as of today. That’s one post every other day for 1 year!

We stepped up our posting frequency in the last few days deliberately to meet the 200 post milestone because a round number sounds a lot nicer! I must also admit that about 50 of these are auto-generated weekly Twitter digests, i.e. a weekly summary of all tweets going out from the @mavrixin account. Still a big deal, won’t you say?

My original intent to start the blog was to give some sense of assurance to potential employees that I was not a fly-by-night operator. Over the last year, I’ve realized that a blog does a lot more than that:

  1. It helps founders create an online, public identity for themselves. This is specially important if you happen to be an introvert like me, because your blog will help you open up and put yourself out there.
  2. It helps you think through what you want your company to be about, what kind of team you want, what market you want to reach out to. It essentially helps you think through and adjust your business plan as you build your company. Blogs are also a great way to communicate all this thinking to your team, potential employees, users and business partners.
  3. It helps develop the identity and voice of your company. I am not proud of some of my early posts. Some were too personal, some off-topic. With feedback from the team and our followers, we’ve adjusted the type of content we post. We continue to learn and adjust.
  4. Blogs help you find customers before you’re ready to launch your product. We found a small but loyal set of followers through the blog. Many of these people were among the first to sign-up for MySwar.
  5. For you and people in your team, your blog is a good channel to express yourselves and develop additional skills (writing, social media, HTML, etc.).
  6. Blogs help develop Google love for your product before you launch. A fair number of the visits to our blog are through Google searches and a number of these visits translate to a visit to MySwar’s teaser page. Not bad, eh?
  7. The power of social media is evident but unless you’re delivering content, your presence on these media is pointless. A blog is a great way to generate that content.

I could go on and on.

Many people have said it before but given that I still see many small businesses without blogs, I don’t mind repeating – If you’re starting a company, specially one that targets the consumer internet, one of the first things you should do is start a blog and post actively.

MySwar Beta Announcement – Reactions And How We Are Responding

I announced the MySwar beta a few days ago on this blog, on our Twitter account, our Facebook page, directly to a few people who I view as early adopters and music geeks and also a forum called RMIM. All of us at Mavrix also shared the announcement with friends and family.

While I haven’t actively promoted MySwar yet, the responses I have received so far have given me some inkling of how MySwar will be received at launch. I also feel that the initial response has helped me prepare better for the launch.

Here’s a summary of the initial reaction and my assessment of how I should address them at launch.

We hate the idea. This response completely blind-sided me. Music is one of those things that evoke extreme reactions and I should have anticipated some of these responses. But it’s one thing to watch people flame others and completely another to be at the receiving end. You can read the gory details in this thread but to summarize – I was called stupid, a liar and also a “pig” among other things. After my initial attempts to reason with these people, I realize that I was engaging in a pointless exercise.

Ignore. While this constituency is very vocal, it’s also fringe. They’re best ignored because they’re not the kind of customers I want anyway. To take these reactions in stride, it’s essential to develop a thick skin.


Sounds interesting but can you deliver? Many people were skeptical because they felt that the scope of MySwar was very big/complex/difficult. I am sure my ambitious analogy – “digitized Geet Kosh on steroids” – also contributed to the skepticism. Some people wondered if I should have avoided the Geet Kosh reference. [For people who haven’t heard of the Hindi Film Geet Kosh – it’s like the Bible for Hindi film music geeks. Uh oh, will the people who revere the Bible come after me now?!] I stand behind my decision to use the Geet Kosh reference – I view the analogy as a tribute and I see nothing wrong in setting a high bar for MySwar. In fact, I take the skepticism positively. It tells me that people appreciate that the effort behind MySwar is not trivial.

Deliver. Delivering what we’re promising is the only response. We’re putting our heads down and focusing on wrapping up the work we’ve done in the past few months. Sure, we’ll make mistakes but I believe our passion and effort will shine through in what we deliver.


Sounds great! Can’t wait to get our hands on it. This response obviously came from friends and family. I was pleasantly surprised that it also came from some complete strangers.

Sincerely thank them. Forget about other people’s cynicism, I myself have been racked by periods of doubt several times over the last few months. So when people offer encouragement and support, I lap it up happily. My own conviction has helped but Mavrix couldn’t have made it this far without the love it has received from some very kind people.

My First Media Interview

I provided an update yesterday about a Mint Lounge story featuring me. I thought some might find the story behind the story useful. So here goes.

After my initial interaction with Sidin (the writer), the process running up to this piece was a little scary since it was my first interaction with the media. Developing a severe case of coldfeetitis, I tried to get out of it but Sidin was persistent. Later, I realized that a little attention was probably good for Mavrix. Generally an introvert and a private person, I had already gone out of character by writing on this blog, tweeting and publishing my various online identities for the world to see. Opening up for the interview was a big but logical next step. I needn’t have worried. Apart from being a funny guy and a good writer, Sidin also happens to be a good listener and conversationalist, and put me at ease immediately.

While the interview ended up being a pleasant experience, the photo-shoot was anything but. After what seemed like a hundred odd clicks, I became very conscious of my plasticky, artificial smile. [Note – This was not the photographer’s fault. It’s me – I am the opposite of photogenic.]

After all this hoopla, I fretted and wondered if I had blabbered too much. Despite reassurances from friends and family, I secretly wished that the interview would be swept aside in favor of a bigger, juicier piece. Or that it would be a small piece, buried in small type, deep inside the newspaper.

It was anything but that. On the morning of the August 13, Google Analytics showed a spike of traffic on our website. My friend Google also informed me that the article had indeed been posted. I clicked the link and browsed through what seemed like a rather long piece (“Did I say all this?”). My mind went blank and I read the words without registering their meaning. I posted the link on my Facebook wall and went on to attend the business of the day. On my way back home, I bought the newspaper. When I opened the page that had the feature, I almost fell off the chair. Staring at me was the most ginormous photo of me I’ve ever seen. And the article was a full-page feature (“Did I really say all this?!”).

This time I actually read the article. And as I read it, my vital signs got back to normal. It was OK. I hadn’t made a complete ass of myself. Sidin had not written an exposé about me. A few congratulatory phone calls, Facebook comments/likes, emails and LinkedIn messages later, I actually began enjoying my 15 minutes of fame.

Now that it’s all over and I am back to the comfort of obscurity, I’d like to share of my takeaways with fellow start-uppers who are yet to go through their first media interview:

  • Put yourself out there. Social media, specifically Twitter, is probably the best way to have access to people who are otherwise not easily accessible. A very important part of putting yourself out there is about discovering interesting, cool people who are related to your field. I have been active on various social media platforms for just about a year now and I am still keep coming across fantastic people.
  • Trust your instincts. Once I got comfortable with Sidin, I shared a lot more with him than even I’ve shared with some friends. I don’t regret that.
  • Be honest. Or stay away from topics that you don’t want to talk about.
  • Don’t force your agenda. Some of my well-wishers told me that I should have spoken more about Mavrix. I respectfully disagree with them. This feature was not about Mavrix. It wasn’t even about me. It was about how liberalization impacted careers in India. I would be really ticked off if I were a reporter and someone blitzed me with information I was not interested in. Mavrix’s day in the sun will come.

Oh, and if you still haven’t read the post, it’s here.

5 Factors To Consider While Buying A Guitar

It could be the funky groove in the song. Or the catchy riff in the chorus. Could definitely be the powerful solo building the crescendo.

For what ever reasons we have, we can no longer deny ourselves the passion.The decision makes itself.

To finally get yourself that  guitar. Or that  keyboard, the drums or that blues harmonica. It’s an awesome feeling, expecting to give life to your favorite songs with your own hands. To feel what it must feel like, to know and play the notes,chords and produce sweet, sweet music.

But the journey must start somewhere, like it did for a friend who asked me to accompany him to purchase a new acoustic guitar. We walked into an impressive music store in Bangalore to look for a companion for his lonely fingers. Music stores today stock an intimidating lineup of instruments and accessories ranging across all levels of musicianship and are increasingly digital and sophisticated compared to instruments of yore.

We looked at some good brands and he quickly decided it was up to me to find the right guitar for him. I list here some of the key factors I considered while picking his guitar:

  1. Guitar Body: The popular  three types of guitar body construction are Classic, Dreadnought and Jumbo. Technical specifications to distinguish them across various brands are beyond the scope of this post. But simply put, they indicate the size of the guitar body. This directly impacts the tonal qualities of the guitar. Larger bodied guitar have a better bass response as the resonance cavity is larger. Smaller bodies are usually more “trebley” in nature.If you like playing solos, then a guitar with a cutaway allowing access to the higher range of frets will interest you. Purists claim the missing chunk of wood will adversely affect the tone. The counter argument is that the upper bout is structural in function while it’s the lower bout that is acoustic.
  2. Wood: Materials used in constructing  the guitar body/neck affect the timbre or quality of sound. The tonal signature  of  an acoustic guitar is heavily dependent on the wood (density, strength). As opposed to commercial wood, quartersawn logs are used. The top surface of the guitar which is called the soundboard traditionally has  spruce/cedar wood ground to 1.5 to 2 mm and fixed in place with tubular bracing. The vibration of the soundboard transmitted via the saddle resonates in the cavity. For the back and sides, hard woods like mahogany, walnut and oak with their distinctive grain and color make for a good guitar. The fingerboard usually has ebony/rosewood glued over the neck. Nowadays though, it’s not uncommon to use alternate material like graphite or carbon fibre for the back, sides and neck.
  3. Action: Upon holding your first chord on the guitar, your left hand starts becoming aware of the kind of effort required to fret notes. This may be rendered more difficult if the ‘string action’ is set high. This simply means the space between the fretboard and the strings parallel above it. The thumb rule is that the string height at the 12th fret should be around 3mm – 5mm. Further tweaking is subject to personal choice. What I did notice at the store was that the saddles are much higher than they should be. I would suggest removing it and  filing down the opposite side to set it right. Medium gauge strings are the best for acoustic guitars allowing for greater  sustain and a crisper tone.
  4. Craftmanship: It’s difficult to discuss this since all guitar brands nowadays manufacture in China. There is still something to be said about the way guitars need to ‘feel’  the minute you hold one.  In my opinion, this is the single most important factor deciding a guitar’s quality.
  5. Electronics: Almost all guitar brands come with an onboard pickup for a premium. The electronics will allow your acoustic  guitar to be plugged in via a 1/4″ jack sending a signal to a mixer for a live show as opposed to mixing it live. Let this be the last of your concerns while picking up a guitar, if your intention is to learn.  The flashy tuner and three-band equalizer may not be the first thing you need to occupy yourself with. Although it’s a direct passport to join a band later!

How do I know so much about guitars? I spent the last ten years researching for the purchase of my first acoustic guitar!

Setting Employee Goals In Startups – Our Story

During the first few weeks of our productive work at Mavrix, we did not set any goals for ourselves. This was simply because the work we were doing was very different from anything anyone of us had done before. There was no baseline information on effort, productivity, duration, etc. for this kind of work available in the public domain either. After a few weeks, we sat together as a team to talk about what a reasonable goal might be. Note that I used the singular “goal” – we decided to keep it simple and stick to one metric that we considered most important – productivity. This is what happened next:

  1. Started with comfortable goal. There was a sense of discomfort all around when we started discussing goals. People did not want to get stuck with a goal that they could not deliver to. Although it seemed low, we agreed on a goal that everyone was “comfortable” with.
  2. Gathered data. A week after setting our “comfortable” goal, we beat it by a huge margin. We decided to measure ourselves for another week before deciding if our goal needed revision.
  3. Determined periodicity of the goal. We were surprised the next week, when we missed the “comfortable” goal. After some analysis, we concluded that given our work structure, we needed a two-week time period to measure ourselves against the goal, not a week.
  4. Review goal at team or individual level? When I proposed sharing each individual’s measurements against the goal, I was surprised when everyone pushed back. They said they’d rather look at the goal at the team level because individual goal discussions could put people on the defensive instead of motivating them. Some of them told me that in their experience, reviewing goals at the individual level resulted in people “gaming” numbers or doing shoddy work in order to meet goals.
  5. Baselined goal. After 6 weeks of measuring ourselves, we reset the goal to a value that was much higher than our initial one but also lower than the best we did in a given period. This is the goal we are measuring ourselves against now.
  6. Adjusted business plan. Our measurements showed that the productivity assumption I made in the business plan was not valid (Surprise! Surprise!). While we have adjusted the plan to reflect our current productivity number (same launch date, smaller launch), we are committed to finding ways to get faster and better. If we can change the business plan once, we can change it again.

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Throughout our startup journey, I have been constantly reminded of how lucky I am to have the friends and well-wishers I do. Here’s what my friends helped me with so far:

  1. Got excited with me when I took the plunge.
  2. Reviewed my business plan. Some were critical but only in a constructive way.
  3. Told me about their experiences (in startups and otherwise). Invaluable!
  4. Provided help and guidance through a myriad of things a startup has to go through.
  5. Encouraged me.

Know who your friends are (this is more difficult than it may seem). Cherish them. Be there for them. It will make you feel a little less guilty when (not if) they go out of their way to help you.

Google Docs Follow-up – We Are Sticking With It

A few days before our Content Analysts started joining, we revisited our Google Docs decision (finally!) and agreed that it made sense to continue with it. Here was our rationale:

  1. It’s free. (Yeah, I can’t emphasize that enough.) The alternative is expensive.
  2. In the few weeks that we used Google Docs, we felt that it could do almost everything we wanted. The one thing we couldn’t do – merge cells vertically. (Horizontal merges are allowed).
  3. We did have the option of getting a couple of MS Office licenses when we enrolled into Microsoft’s BizSpark program but we decided not to use it. We didn’t want our folks to get used to the goodness of MS Office!
  4. We really like the Google Apps integration. In a few browser tabs, we have easy access to Docs, Email, Calendar, etc and collaboration is a breeze.
  5. We like the fact that we do not have to invest in a file server or even an extra desktop to store our documents centrally. We understand that this comes with the risk of being completely dependent on our internet connection. We plan to offset this risk by exporting our key documents to the desktop on a regular basis. Also, we are trusting Google Docs to roll out offline support soon like they promised.

Auto-tune For The Common Man

It all started with Cher’s hit song, Believe. Actually, it started before, but the producers of Believe overdid it (deliberately) and made people sit up and go “What the heck was that?”.

I am talking about auto-tune, of course. The instrument that magically polishes off vocal blemishes and even adds embellishments that are not humanly possible. If you have listened to a recent song and marveled at the extreme vocal refinement of the singer while hitting a particularly difficult note – I hate to burst the bubble – he or she may have had help.

And now similar technology is available to the common man. I recently tinkered around with a web application called UJAM and in 30 minutes flat produced this masterpiece. If I could do this with my limited talent and lazy-ass attempt, my guess is that more accomplished musicians should be able to get remarkably better results if they spend a little time on UJAM.

However, if your singing sucks, UJAM or even professional grade auto-tune equipment will not make you sound as good as this:

Startups – Be Prepared For Spam After Registration

Since we registered, we have been hit by spam from various national banks congratulating us on the registration and imploring us to open an account with them. (Oh, the gap between aggressive sales and lazy servicing!)

But the latest spam we received was outrageous and, I would contend, unethical. It was a package of books (mug shot above) arriving as VPP or Cash on Delivery. At a price of Rs 2088 payable by cash, we were offered by United Book Company, a company I had never heard of till today, three books telling us how to fire employees (and here we are trying to figure out how to hire people!). I don’t know if United Book Company is trying to squeeze money out of gullible newbies or if they’re just dumb. Assuming the latter (a charitable assumption), here is what’s wrong about this method of sales:

  • It is unsolicited
  • It causes disruption and confusion at the recipient’s end. (Where did this come from? What is it? Did any of us place an order?)
  • It puts the burden on the recipients to refuse something they never asked for (which is what we did).

Something tells me the United Book Company does not really care. All I can say is – Startups, beware.

Mavrix Monthly Update Dec-2010

  • Company registered. We finally registered as Mavrix Infotech Private Limited. The process took 4 weeks after we decided to switch from LLP to company registration.
  • Enrolled into Microsoft’s BizSpark program. It is a fantastic program which makes a whole lot of Microsoft goodies available to startups at NO COST. There is no reason why a startup would not join this program. Thanks to friend/advisor, Praveen Srivatsa, who told us about this program.
  • Interviewed a number of candidates for the Technical Architect position. With the IT outsourcing industry picking up, we always knew it would be difficult to fill this position but we were not prepared for such a long and arduous process. We did like some of the candidates we interviewed and hope to select the best person for this role soon.