Sunday, 31 July 2016

Outsourcing: Where to stop?

Outsourcing is a direct result of the processes of globalization and technological advance, and both the forces are here to stay. With companies going global, corporate houses tend to reduce costs by hiring foreign workers at a lower price than what they would have to shell out for using workers in the West. Advanced technology in the form of internet access has made it easier for companies to hire workers globally. Although there are some workers who are losing out in the bargain, there is no doubt that consumers are benefiting because of the lower costs of production. Anyway, there are bound to be some sections clamouring for more protection. But that does not mean the process of outsourcing can be or should be discontinued.  However, on an individual level, blind outsourcing may lame!
Often, we are told to outsource our customer care, HR, and so on. One may wonder where to stop. Outsourcing is actually not a new concept. It is part of the division of labor and specialization which human civilizations embraced since time immemorial through barter system that involved exchanging one set of goods/services for the other like I exchange my one bag of rice for one bag of wheat since I have only the time and resource to produce rice. The introduction of money only strengthened the concept.
With facilities like easy real-time data transfer, cheap voice technologies, and teleconferencing, outsourcing took specialization one step further. Delegating services like payroll to a firm situated in another part of the planet can give you advantages on vivid parameters like reduced cost, better work because of expertise of distant outsourcing payroll firm. For an individual, it is important though not to be overwhelmed with so many vendors lining up for seeking burden of your work. Outsourcing is not running away from your own part of innovation and hard work. You decide your core area and excel at it. You still should be ready to bear stress that comes with any business.
For instance, as a freelance online content writer willing to establish your own portal, you outsource your website designing part by hiring a website designing agency while continuing to produce original, informative contents yourself. Although you may still learn about the nitty-gritty of web programming given the ease one can pursue online learning today, there is a limitation because of constraints of time, educational background, or personal tastes. It makes sense to opt for paid plugins for your website instead of learning to write the software code yourself even if you are an active software programmer. The bottom line is that you do not outsource your own contents for the website which is your core area (there can be exceptions like your blog/website gaining a lot of traffic and you just want to keep the momentum going without putting your own hours of work).
There is a common sense here. As the owner of a shop, you outsource fooding to a catering agency, hire receptionist... But would you delegate someone to sign your personal check just because you are too busy or want to have more leisure time? The same can be stretched for a society and the nation. Blind outsourcing may lame!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Selling accounting software to retail shops in India

https://unicenta.com/about-unicenta-opos/Installing accounting software in retail shops is happening at a fast pace in India. Still, there are tens and thousands of retail shops from local hosiery retailers to groceries yet to be computerized. It is either ignorance or cost that holds owners back. They are worried about data loss, backup and think that existing manual system is rather serving the purpose well. From sellers of accounting software point of view, the important thing then is to convince shop owners how implementing accounting software would be hassle-free and bring efficiency. 
Here are the expectations that one can strive to fulfill for retail shop owners:
  • Low installation cost.
  • Low cost of training.
  • Portable, occupies less space in the shop.
  • Customized billing format.
  • Barcoding and stickers facility.
  • Can be integrated with final accounts of proprietors.
  • Can be integrated with the filing of tax returns.
  • Local tax rates visible.
  • Online updating of software with changes in tax rates and other legal formalities. 
  • Easy to take and restore backups. Fear of losing data deters new computer users implement accounting software.
Accounting software in cloud is perhaps not suitable for the target retail shops under discussion as operations like generating sales invoice ( an essential part of any retail outlet) cannot be postponed because of poor internet connection availability at times so frequent in India. The cost of internet connection by itself may not match the budget of a section.
Also, when it comes to cost, the fact remains that many shop owners will not agree to pay for a yearly license fee that comes with proprietary accounting software like Intuit. For a seller of accounting software, here is a tip: help shop owners implement computerized accounting system using free POS (Point of Sale) accounting software like Unicenta. Charge one-time fee making sure your clients understand that you are charging for help in free installation, training, and time devoted to customizing accounting software for their use and that accounting software by itself is free which clients could download by themselves.
Many retailers are already having PC in their shops/homes but not computerized accounting job. So, your unique selling proposal would be automating clients' accounting system utilizing existing infrastructure of PC and printers. You need to meet retail shop owners and demonstrate how you can computerize their accounting platform by sheer strength of know-how. Once your expertise is established, you can generate additional revenue from existing clients by offering other value-added products like selling barcoding machine under an affiliate relationship with a barcoding manufacturer going forward.

Top Point of Sale Software Products

Four reasons why Google AdSense underperforms with interest-based ads

Many publishers complain that Google AdSense is not getting enough clicks for them. This may be due to following four reasons with default interest-based ads.
1.  Because ads are based on previous search history, users find it invading privacy. Imagine what happens if you dictate someone your password and he/she remembers the same after few months as you dictate your username!
2.  Because ads are based on past searches, buying decision regarding a topic at present may be already made. Last month I was obsessed with mutual fund and I have already made an investment in the same after opening a new account. Now, I am no more interested in fresh mutual fund ads for the time being.
3.  By not making ads limited to the current web page, there is a missed opportunity to cash in where user interest is maximum right now. Right now, I am interested in equity and will like to be introduced with firms dealing with equities rather than anything else.
4. There may be a change in user's taste making current ads shown irrelevant/boring. Last month I was interested in a particular cartoon character but after watching so many, I no more like the same. Any more ad regarding the same cartoon character only makes me feel nauseated. 
Although Google allows the option to opt out of interest-based ads, many of us are either unaware or do not bother to change. 

Two types of affiliate marketing programs: One tilted towards display ads and other direct selling and how SFI stands out as a hybrid business opportunity



While terms and conditions of each affiliate program may vary from company to company, there are broadly two types of affiliate marketing ads:

1.  You display ads on your blog/website/social media account but not allowed to push sales one-on-one through these ads as in the case of Amazon. For instance you own a website MySite.com. If your friend intends to purchase a product from Amazon.in, you cannot invite him to your home, open your website, click Amazon ad placed there before the friend start placing order on
Amazon. They had a referral program for the same which is now discontinued.

As per Amazon's Associates Program Participation RequirementsYou will not purchase any Product(s) through Special Links for use by you or for resale or commercial use of any kind. Similarly, you will not request or encourage any of your friends, relatives, or associates to purchase any Product(s) through Special Links for use by you or them or for resale or commercial use of any kind. Further, you will not offer any Products on your site for resale or commercial use of any kind.

You are not allowed incentive for your own purchase/relatives/friends. If Amazon comes to know that it is through your IP address purchase made (which can happen if say you operate an Internet Cafe), they will not allow incentive. In other words, you are not allowed direct selling. This severely restricts the scope of earning big money and brings this affiliate program closer to display ads where you are paid for the number of page impressions/clicks though in this case number of sales generated. You rely on good contents, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Optimization (SMO). 

2.  Other affiliate programs like the one by GoDaddy allow pushing sales through word-of-mouth/direct selling. As per GoDaddy: Just place one of our banners or links where your visitors, customers and friends will see it and you'll earn cash on every qualifying sale made through your ads. However, as per their terms, "You are not eligible for commissions on purchases made by you, your employees, agents, representatives, or contractors." They have a different referral program for the same.This can be confusing as at times there may be a thin line of difference between so-called customers and friends on the one side and employees, agents, representatives or contractors on the other. Also, cj.com, the affiliate network that manages GoDaddy affiliate program, stresses "the important part is to not run GoDaddy activity through the same computer or computers that you use," which may further complicate a situation. Neverthess, by entering into aggressive marketing (online/offline), you can make big. You can make things happen here by your offline efforts instead of remaining a silent spectator after posting contents and doing your own bit of SEO/SMO.

In between pure display ads (Amazon Associates program) and direct selling (GoDaddy as cited above), there is SFI. Suppose I introduce Amazon Associates to one of my clients. There is no way to sustain this move except one-time fee income that I may charge from the client. Now, welcome to the world of SFI where you are given credit for introducing that will last up to 12 levels.

As an SFI member Ben N points out, "SFI is a Hybrid of MLM & Affiliate Marketing. On the one hand the more people we recruit as affiliates, and train them to duplicate our efforts, the further we progress up the different levels of achievement and income levels, ditto MLM. The affiliate side of things is referring people to our TripleClicks store, and if a sale of a product occurs as a result of our referral, we get paid a commission for that sale. So on the one hand we're sponsoring new recruits, and train them to duplicate our business building efforts with the goal of achieving long term "residual income," ditto MLM. At the same time, we're also referring others to buy products from our TripleClicks store, and hopefully they will purchase products on a regular basis, thus we'll continue to earn more and more commissions. So as you can see how the two have been married, grafted into a hybrid business opportunity."

How to save one-month rent while looking for new office to rent under constraints of money and time and why young professionals should opt for a rented home instead of buying a new property


You are looking for a new premise on rent for your small business. You understand that buying an office is a costly affair and means blocking a substantial portion of liquid cash which could otherwise be used for meeting other pressing needs of your business. Your need is urgent, and you want to accomplish your objective with minimal of cost. One strategy that you can pursue is to visit online property portals that are popular in your country, city and make searches that exclude brokers. For instance, you are fresh in Kolkata and want to rent an office within a week or two. Not a problem. Choose Google search engine by typing www.google.in (if you are from Australia, you type google.com.au). By default, Google opts the result for your region by itself and so you need not worry. You can just type www.google.com on the browser address bar. Next, type keywords like property portal, rent, office space, kolkata. You can obviously try other keywords based on your imagination and requirements.
You get ads (most probably on the top and/or sidebars) related with your search keywords by Google under heading:
Ads related to property portal, rent, office space, Kolkata.
There were three ads during a sample run (this will obviously change on different search instances):
1. 99acres.com
2. Makaan.com
3. Magicbricks.com

These three portals have paid Google for the keywords entered by you and must have something relevant to your needs. You can also click on the organic search results (10 by default displayed on the first page). You are advised to click on the ads first because of the commercial nature of the real estate business under which almost all established players spend money on Google AdWords, a kind of paid advertising. Also, organic search results may take you to the web pages that has little to do with a property portal. The point stressed here is that organic search results give priority to contents. While that may be good for someone say willing to learn more about the future of property business, real estate portals tend to excel in providing a platform for bringing together buyers and sellers. Many such portals prefer to keep their websites brief and to the point. In such scenarios, contents posted will be limited and so there is little chance of them appearing on the top pages of organic search results by Google. Consumers too have a tendency to click on ads rather than links that appear on the organic search results if they have decided to buy a product. In case they want to do a research before buying, then obviously reverse would be applicable: ignoring ads and clicking links on search engine results (most probably of internet forums).
Coming to the main discussion, once inside the portal, choose the option which shows that it is the owner who has advertised which means no middleman involved. For instance, magicbricks.com provides the option: include posted by owners, brokers, builders. Choose owners (You can also choose builders, but such results will mostly include construction houses who are more interested in selling a new property).
You are advised to sort results in terms of latest first. The reason is obviously competition. There will be many more like you with similar needs and so timing is important. Contact the owner directly over phone/email/SMS (phone is recommended) and set an appointment at the earliest. If you want to rent for the next three or four months (or rather not sure of the time duration), one month brokerage which appears to be a norm while dealing with a broker is quite a sum. This situation can be faced by someone new in a business with uncertain business prospects for the coming 12 months. By eliminating the middleman, you reduce around one month of rent which is really a smart saving under constraints.
These does not mean that brokers are a waste of expenditure. Being insiders, they can help you locate a property at location and price at amazing terms in addition to taking care of litigation needs. You need to do a cost-benefit analysis. If buying a property, yes do consider brokers as well.

Buying a new house like buying a new office means blocking a substantial portion of liquid cash which could otherwise be used for your business (if you are an entrepreneur) or invested in other asset classes like equity or even investing in learning. So, if you are young and willing to work hard making the best use of your skills, it appears you can postpone the decision of buying a house (Why Warren Buffett Didn't Want to Buy a House to Live In) in the greater interest of your life's pursuit by opting for a rented apartment.

Case study of an outsourcing firm from Kolkata

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We take an example of medical transcription (MT) firm Transvision (name changed) established in 2001. The promoters were already established in the manufacturing business. They initially had a modest work-facility-cum-training center at a remote area of South Kolkata. In March 2006, their 24x7 work facility shifted to a posh locality in South Kolkata. By October 2007, their training center, an important part of their revenue model throughout, too shifted along with the work facility.

It took a decade of planned work right from the creation of study materials (one-time cost) for training candidates for their medical transcription business which has to meet stringent US guidelines. What Transvision did is making training a part of the revenue model. They used to start two batches (15 candidates each batch, morning batch 8 am to 2 pm; evening batch 2 pm to 8 pm) each month charging INR 20,000 per candidate (1USD=50 Indian Rupee approximately during time frame under discussion). The six-month training was exhaustive that included typing, medical lessons, basics of computer operation, English grammar & punctuation along with sample audio transcription files for practice. In order for trainees to qualify for the job, there used to be an examination after the end of 6 months.

There were 5 full-time trainers. There were 2 full-time personnel in marketing when it comes to attracting new trainees. What Transvision did is adhering to standards which made them eligible for ISO 9001-2008 certification while expanding their business with leverage to not hire paid trainees in case they do not perform. The bottom line is that out of 15 candidates each batch, they used to hire only around 3 or 4 per batch, and given a system of an exam, no one could complain a foul play.

Let’s analyze their business model:

Monthly Income Estimate of Training Arm of Transvision


Revenue

INR
INR
   INR
No. of New Batch
2



Candidates per Batch
15



Total Candidates
30
20000 (fee per candidate)
600000

Revenue per Month


600000
600000





Cost




Trainers
5
15000
75000

Study Materials
30
500
15000

Marketing Personnel
2
15000
30000

Advertising


15000

Rent


25000

Other Expenses


15000

Expense per Month


175000
175000
Monthly Income



425000

It was a systematic approach right from preparation of copyrighted study materials to everything in between that gave them a good reputation throughout while building a successful BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) in transcription with most clients from the USA.

Question of Ethics 



Was it fair if it was apparent right from the start of a batch given the quality of candidates that only approximately one out of 4 would be assimilated? The truth of the matter is that most of the candidates used to come from remote areas of West Bengal lacking fluency in English and use of computer like the urban counterparts. The good thing is that they still used to learn typing, basics of computer operation (again computer was still a luxury during the time frame under discussion). They now could transcribe dictations though not with 99.9 percent accuracy mandatory for Transvision in its quest to retain the ISO 9001-2008 certification. Faculties were friendly, and there used to be some sort of emotional attachment by the end of six months. So, faculties used to refer trainees who could not qualify with Transvision to other local companies. In fact, after few months, all of them used to be employed.

Way Forward with Voice Detection Technology


Transvision is now more aggressive in developing its voice-based customer care center while operating its transcription business which relies more on voice detection technology for transcription work. They require only editors to give the final job a human touch. Nevertheless, the need for trained transcription professionals is still there in the industry, and since 2008, their training arm has tied up with Webel, the nodal agency of the West Bengal government for developing information technology, electronics and ITES (IT enabled services) in the state.

AdWords or organic search engine optimization and a problem with sponsored content

It is easier for an online publisher to rank high on organic search results of Google (or any other search engine like YahooBing) because of the volume of content generated being in the business of online publishing. Google loves fresh content, and the website should rank high in a large set of keywords. 
On the contrary, if say you operate a real estate portal that connects buyers and sellers, your strength is portal technologies. While you may also maintain a blog section plus generate additional contents with the likes of press releases, visitors' comments, still they do not form the core area of your expertise. To maintain a whole group of content writers and SEO experts may not be viable under constraints of money. Also, getting rank on top pages of organic search results takes time which may be weeks and months. So, it makes sense then to spend on paid ad campaigns like Google AdWords for generating leads and sales.
Many owners prefer to keep their websites brief. In such scenario, contents posted can be limited. Google AdWords in one way is the solution for keeping one's website neat and clean by not investing in producing junk contents, needless SEO, and just focus on core area. 

Now a quick word on the sponsored contents. It is regarding articles and news stories that you prepare in-house as part of your blog section. However, by paying a certain ad fee to Google, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, your contents appear together with organic contents that qualify on the basis of keywords or other organic parameters but with an exception that your content is marked 'sponsored content' so that audience is not kept in the dark. The problem with the sponsored content is that they tend to give a sense of being highlighted on the strength of money instead of merit. 

Ads in offline media for generating leads from first-time online customers


For selling computer software and web-based products to first-time customers, an effective place to advertise is traditional offline print media like local newspapers. This is because those who are computer savvy by this time would already have computerized their systems, built the online presence. 
In India, there are tens and thousands of retail shops yet to be computerized. Suppose, you are selling an accounting software to retail shops. Your target customer could be a local laundry shop whose proprietor is not comfortable using computers. Employees here might never have used accounting software before. So, in order to encourage them to implement your accounting software, it makes sense to build lead from offline channels because they will never get to know about your services from online sources in the first place and yet are your most valuable prospects.
Your target customers need to computerize their system badly yet do not have access to the right source. They seldom login to World Wide Web. You need to convince them from scratch how the implementation of computer software would enhance their productivity. In the process, you may get an order of sale of new desktops and operating systems and be asked to train manpower. The good news is that introduction of GST in India from July 1, 2017 wherein business houses need to submit returns online (no offline option) is helping propagation of accounting software in an unprecedented way. There is a big market for professionals who could help implementation of accounting software like Tally and Intuit which come with in-built support for filing GST returns.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Visual art in digital age, psychic automatism, and coming together of arts and commerce stream

Art is not produced by nature but manmade. In mathematics or the laws of physics, there is merely discovering what is already there. But a piece of artwork has application of human imagination and perceived differently by individuals. Art is thus subjective when it comes to liking by an audience.

Elements of visual art are building blocks artists use to design their work. Formal elements are space, point, line, shape, color, value (light and dark), and texture. Using these as bricks, an artist creates a whole new world of visual experience.

While designing artwork, an artist selects his or her theme of dominance called ‘emphasis.’ To make artwork pleasant, visual combinations are used called building ‘harmony.’ ‘Unity of purpose' is maintained while depicting elements so that all parts appear related. 'Contrast’ such as using colors black and white in sequence makes artwork more dramatic or expressive.

Artistic mind refers to the natural ability of an individual to learn skills such as painting or photography. For some, it is easier to acquire artistic skills than others or are artistically talented. Painting of Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, sculptor of Pieta by Michelangelo, architectures such as The Hanging Gardens of Babylon and The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, printmaking such as Pablo Picasso's 'Minotauromachy' are examples of popular visual art.Although beauty is one of the major objectives, bringing into notice harshness of life is also frequently part of an artist’s work.
Performing art (note difference with Performance art) such as dancing has been there for centuries exploring emotions with body movements of a dancer. Magic is yet another performance art. In conceptual art, the idea takes preponderance over physical identity.

Today, there is a flux of visual images around us, be it print or audio-video sources. Interpreting ideas conveyed by visible actions or images is called visual literacy. A picture, after all, is worth more than a thousand words. One of the challenges today in the world of marketing is to woo customers by images in brochures and advertising materials.

The human way of thinking rotates around rationality and imagination. While rationality relies on systematic learning by effort of the brain and senses and applying reasoning, imagination relies on intuition. The human body itself function in two ways, some are automatic, such as beating of the heart, and some are accomplished by active human endeavor such as walking. Similarly, our way of inner conception and outside communication is also guided by a combination of both.

While traditional classroom teaching relies more on rational means, still many times it has been found that people not having them have been able to succeed more in their fields by applying intuition and following automatic hunches from their subconscious mind which is popularly called as “psychic automatism.” 

Throughout history, artistic works of excellence are always said to be achieved when its creator got in a trance state where he/she surrendered to inner god or subconscious mind. World’s best painters such as Picasso and Michelangelo, poets like Stevenson, and many more who do not disclose them publicly, have been able to achieve their masterpieces relying more on inner impulses of the soul free from reasoning than anything else.

In the modern digital age, such “psychic automatism” is increasingly being expressed in newer ways such as using computers where artist selects buttons in trance state and the output gets recorded on monitor. Some call it like scribbling on paper in a half dream state. In visual art, it has been practiced in religious imagery throughout human civilization. During the last few decades, there has been renewed interest in understanding the power of subconscious mind and artistic works under psychic automatism form find their place in commercial advertisements which is perhaps a good thing as the same brings pupils of commerce and arts streams together.


Build a Better Creative Website

Saturday, 16 July 2016

You are special!



We and I include "me" and so maybe selfish at times. "You" eliminates personal interest. Anyone opposite I needs to be respected. There is a decorum: ‘I and you like each other’ is not acceptable in English. It should be ‘You and I like each other.’

U and V-shaped costumes compete when decorating the neck of someone special. "V" is a sharp letter pointing down; "U" has a flexible and natural shape, which is like a garland.

You is also special in the sense that I say ‘You are special,’ in front of you, not ‘You is special.’

Ear balance


Ear bears the weight of upload of sound as we hear. The capacity to sense nearby tweets depends ultimately on our biological buildup and awareness. Nevertheless, the strain is always there reflected on burgeoning holes with the passage of time on those ears used to bear the weight of artificial cosmetics. To keep things in balance, though, there is not much fear to start with as initially sharp pierced holes take years to inflate after wearing and so should not bother those who celebrate theory of only today with tomorrow a myth. In the meantime, ear continues to soothe our longings for download of music leaving eye with tears.