Mid-journey designer

About a week ago, good friend and head of design (of a leading edtech company), Hardik Pandya, advertised a position (on x/twitter) for a designer who needs to be comfortable using midjourney for design work for a new product.

This (quite obviously) got a lot of eyeballs and opinions – basically did what it was supposed to do.

At the root of this, this essentially validates something that I have been saying for a while. This whole generative AI thing (and I am not generalizing AI for this) is something that is going to enhance the productivity of specialists. Sure some mid level people who are either not competent enough or are not adapting fast enough might get affected. But the general rule of thumb is – if you are adapting yourself to latest tools, you should be fine. This is something that you should have anyway been doing all the while.

Let us take the example of designers in this specific context of the tweet.

  • A good designer’s competency is his way of framing a UI screen / graphic. The way the colour palette is chosen. The way copy enhances the visual. The gradients. The user interactions. The way by which you lead the users’ attention/flow. Once the designer has this nailed (or has the capability to iterate to nail), then its a question of using the right tool for the job.
  • A good designer has probably anyway evolved throughout their career – from photoshop to sketch to figma. This is based on my exposure to the tool chain for a limited use-case superset that I have been involved in. I am sure there are other tool chain evolutions that others can quote.
  • The latest is evolving to a way by which the designer describes all of the above by way of a good prompt. Most likely, the designer would get a 80% accurate outcome (or some similar high percentage), and then the designer iterates on a tool of choice to get the final outcome.
  • The better the designer is with generating the prompt, the quicker (and lesser number of iterations) they get to a high fidelity outcome close to the final. By the time, they are extremely efficient, they are probably close to 95% accurate through their prompting and just have to add finishing touches outside of genAI.
  • Do you see the parallel with extremely competent high productivity PMs <> designers combos?
  • If not, I will give you an example. At Travenues (early stage small team size startup), when I used to sit down with Das (Abhisek Das), our designer with whom I have worked with in the past, and work on a screen/graphic. I would keep rattling off my product thoughts, and Das’s hands flew on figma. It was magic watching the design come alive in front of me, as I iterated, gave feedback, gave more product thoughts, and it just evolved.
  • The expertise power shifts right with genAI. If the designer learns how to translate my PM thoughts into a design prompt, imagine the rate of productivity improvement.
  • Also, do notice here, that the designer cannot be replaced with the PM. The designer knows how to prompt way better, because he has the outcome in his mind, and he is getting the machine to churn that out as closely as possible to what he has in his mind.
  • The designers competency in this grows as he does this more and more (and the models become better and better).

Out of several fields getting impacted with GenAI, this is one of those where I can see first hand (in my mind and in real life recently), how this can practically increase productivity significantly. (The other one is of course code generation, which I am not that close to, but I see very similar parallels).

Mobile Jewellery Shop – Lalithaa

Disclaimer: Most of what I talk about below – are my observations from Southern parts of India, and might not be applicable to Northern parts, which I am not very familiar with.

Lalithaa Jewellery seems to have introduced a mobile jewellery shop in the form of a modified long chassis bus. I think this is a darned good innovation. There used to be a time when the predominant way of doing jewellery was to go to a jewellers shop, where you discuss patterns, weight, wastage etc, and then the jeweller would custom make it for you.

Some of these jewellers in Tier 1 towns (such as NAC etc), who had access to capital and fast business movement, had ‘some’ ‘readymade’ stuff – things such as small silver tumblers, chains, rings etc – which are mostly impulse buys. In recent times, large box format stores (mostly chains which have large capital) have started making their presence (Malabar, Jos Alukas etc). These stores started off in Tier 1 cities, and now started slowly moving towards Tier 2 towns as well. Accessibility to ‘readymade jewels’ is significantly improved because of this. A ‘trip to the city’ is usually saved.

While accessibility is improved, it is not economical for these large format stores to go to every Tier2 and Tier3 towns. I think this is the market that Lalithaa is targeting. For some context, Lalithaa is one of those hybrid stores, which does some custom jewellery, but has predominantly large inventory of pre-made jewels. This bus looks to be a modified shell with a proper jewellery shop facade, counters, staff etc inside. The bus is now stationed in Theni (a Tier 2 town in the border of TN and Kerala), in a fair ground.

These large box stores do a ton of advertising on main stream cable/satellite TV – whose penetration in India has just exponentially risen in the last decade (next only to telecom). With the brand visibility already present, with the store coming to you, I think it is a novel technique to increase the reach.

Couple of feature-y things that come to mind –

a) Some rough schedule of the bus (perhaps a loop), so that folks in towns know when the next bus would be here next. Maybe even a call center or recorded info about the bus whereabouts.

b) Some form of demand capture – phone perhaps, (and in the long run through learning from data).

If this is successful (or not), I see this as a model that should be tried across other verticals too. Very interesting. #SolveForBharath

The need for labs …

(img source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/89157267601160497/)

It is becoming increasingly evident that companies should be establishing labs inside their entities, for exploring new deep tech independently.

  • The labs should have the autonomy to go far-out into futuristic new deep tech without having to worry about current limitations.
  • The research function should be independent and should encourage creativity.
  • To a large extent the labs work should not have time pressures.
  • Productising these research ideas would be the key to differentiating the companies offerings in this hyper-competitive space.
  • These labs should not be led by architects or EMs. They should be led by people who have experience in doing research, preferably PhD.
  • Research rigour is important.

Some companies have been doing this for a very long time – Mercedes, Airbus, Sabre etc. Ixigo Kitchen Sink is a classic example from a few years ago. I am hearing of more newer companies starting to do this – Amadeus Labs, Rivigo labs etc.

It would be refreshing to see this happening in all the unicorns. For instance, I would imagine Swiggy would benefit immensely — so much funky stuff can be done on IoT, route planning, kitchen optimization etc. Similarly Go-MMT does a lot of research along with the day-to-day work. I believe that this is not the right approach. You should separate these two out – for best optimality. Else, engineers and PMs are permanently at a conundrum to see which is more important – long term research drivers or short term revenue drivers.

What do you guys think?

IoT in the Kitchen?

This idea just struck me today evening. This is in close heels to the IoT usage with the gas cylinder post that I had done a few weeks ago.

Problem to be solved: Get an accurate state of groceries that is stocked in the kitchen and potentially order them (online?). This is a very common task that is done on a fairly regular basis in most households (typically on the day when ‘monthly shopping’ is done,

Initial setup/infrastructure:

  • All grocery items to be stocked in identical pre-calibrated clear jars.
  • Item stored in the jar is bar-coded.
  • Threshold for ordering is to be set initially – by a sticker or using marker pens.

kitchen_iot

UX:

  • User invokes a smart phone app.
  • Snaps a picture of the shelf with the stacked clear containers.
  • App automatically figures out the jars with groceries lesser than the threshold set by the user.
  • The details of what is stored in the jar is obtained from the bar code.
  • User either adds the list of items to buy to his to-do list (Google keep? Wunderlist?) – or – directly adds it to his grocery list on the Bigbasket app.

Bigbasket? Zopnow? Anybody listening?

Hyperlocal for daily milk?

The current proliferation of Hyperlocal is awesome. I love it because of at least 2 reasons:

  1. I get stuff from my local area – a lot of times I am used to getting stuff from nearby where I live. These goods may or may not be available elsewhere.
  2. I get it from the local grocers and shopkeepers – so they are not affected by the so-called “e-commerce boom”. In fact hyperlocal enables ecommerce for these local guys who cannot afford to go and sell online.

Now, with that, out of my mind, let me get to a problem that every household faces. The problem of getting milk (and related items) every morning.

Daily home delivery of milk can be categorized into a couple of types:

  1. People who always order the same type of milk (full cream or toned or slim) and the same quantity every day.
  2. People who have coupons given by the milk guy for different quantities and types of milk. They drop these coupons in a bag outside the gate, and the milk guy delivers per the coupon dropped.

Even the first category guys have an on-demand requirement for other dairy and other bakery products such as curd, ghee, and bread (which, ofcourse has varieties – sandwich bread, milk bread, wheat, brown etc).

If you notice, one thing that is uniform across all the requirements is the fact that, in most times, the requirement is remembered only at 10PM the previous night and is required the next day morning. 

This is the official pain-point that is to be addressed.

Mockups courtesy the awesome moqups.com

mock1  mock2  mock3

This is not an extensive mockup, but you get the drift.

Additional features could be:

  • Location could either be the address that you signed up with, or can be configured using the GPS in your app.
  • The Date screen could have a way by which you can add recurrence. This would make it slightly more complicated, but might be useful for those who order the same thing again and again.

For best ease of use, I would recommend an online wallet. The delivery is most likely going to be very early hours in the morning, and hence could be cumbersome for COD.

Need for a new special logistic solution 

The one thing different about the logistics of this delivery problem is that, in most cases, the delivery would need to be drop into a bag/basket tied on the gate and leave. If the delivery is going to be at 5AM, this would probably need to be the case. This goes against the traditional delivery logistics of getting an ack from the customer.

This could be potentially be solved using:

Trust method. The customer trusts the hyper local delivery guy completely that he would delivery what he had asked for. He would just get an SMS or a push notification that the goods have been delivered.

Proof method: The delivery guy has some kind of a proof method that he did deliver the goods at the appropriate time. Perhaps he could place the goods in the appropriate location, click a snap with his logistics app which would imprint date/time on the snap and send it to you as part of push notification. More sophisticated RFID technologies could also perhaps be used Рbut I cannot think of any at the moment.

Well, @grofers, @amazonIN are you listening? Can we see this happening any time soon?

 

On adapting successful UX methods

I notice User Experience (UX) differences and how they affect my productivity. I love products who focus on great UX. I love products who continually evolve their UX to become better and better. You know what I love even more – products who recognize good UX behaviors and adapt it to their own. And I recently came across a fine example of the latter – Twitter.

Screenshot_2015-04-16-11-37-48

This is the android twitter app. Do you see the “New Tweets” button at the top. This is very new. Facebook has had this for ages (it is called “New Stories” and it the button has a more oval structure to it). Clicking on the “New Tweets” button lets you know that there are new tweets and that you can click on that to scroll up to the latest tweets. This also saves you a pull down gesture, which is kind-of hard to do if you are holding and operating your phone with one hand (which is a pretty common use case).

My principal point here is that, if you recognize a good UX mechanism, it is my personal believe that, there is nothing wrong in adapting the mechanism to your product (unless it is patented ofcourse). It helps standardize UX across classes of apps. There is also a sense of sharing between the companies. I am sure FB spent quite a bit of UX effort coming up with their equivalent.

Request: As always, I have one request, which I am sure Twitter will not see, but that is fine, I will indulge myself. I would love to see the “New Tweets” button¬†enhanced with the number of new tweets ¬†– example – “132 New Tweets”. Twitter has the underlying algorithms for this, since it is present in their webapp.

Big Basket Features that I would love!

testimonialpage_01
image: bigbasket.com

I have been a big fan of BigBasket.com for quite a while now. While I love walking by the supermarket aisles and ‘discovering’ new products, bigbasket has taken away the stress of monthly grocery shopping for the family. To be fair, I should also disclose the fact that, we alternate buying weekly vegetables from bigbasket and our local HOPCOMS vegetable store (walking distance).

I had been thinking of a few things that bigbasket could introduce to make it even better. Having been a program manager (in a previous live at Microsoft), the first thing you do is to write a feature set / requirement spec. Here goes!

Weekly vegetable delivery. This is something similar to Amazon Fresh in select areas of the US. Most of India shops for veggies once a week, for a week. There is usually a preference on vegetables in most households. The vegetables could be a randomized set. (This is a common pain point when you buy veggies Рwhat veggies did you buy last week Рno one wants a repeat, leave alone several repeats). Ofcourse, no one minds repeats of favourite veggies (um, potato?). Send an email on Friday or Saturday listing a proposed selection of vegetables that would be delivered on Sunday. This would let the user to potentially tweak the order set. Guarantee freshness delivered at your door step, every weekend morning. I am sure you will get a bunch of customers asap.

Grocery is something that is fairly predictable too. Pulses, masalas, and other house hold goods are typically purchased at a roughly similar frequency. There is some infra that is already available with bigbasket for this Рin the form of smart basket. I got this idea from looking at my own shopping analytics that is available at bigbasket right now. If I can see it, so can the system, and make a prediction.

Festivals and Diets: You can incorporate all kinds of smarts into this too. Suggest more ghee and sugar during festive seasons like Diwali maybe? Suggest baking accessories during Christmas maybe? How about incorporating your diet plan into this as well? If you get broccoli every week, would you throw it away? Always suggest low sodium salt?

Recipes: Hey ! You are throwing in a bunch of veggies, and you know the other groceries that you have delivered recently, why cant you put together 2 recipes per week using these ingredients. Simple pictorial ones. Easy to understand, and prepare. Even better, add one or two more exotic ingredients (for free), which in conjunction with the veggies delivered and the groceries that you recently delivered, would make a super exotic meal. This is marketing for those two exotic ingredients. If they like this recipe, now, you have a regular customer for 2 more of your offerings.

Secret box: There are a few start-ups in the US that are attempting this now. For a monthly subscription, they will deliver a monthly surprise box containing cosmetics or snacks, or other similar consumable stuff. This is a great marketing tie-up opportunity with partners. Drop in a couple of satchets of the newest flavour of Saffola Oats – carefully concealed in some secret wrapping of course (to enhance the interest) for free with your delivery. Notice the delight in the customers attitude. You can also link this line item with the previous (recipe) for even more customer delight goodness.

Delivery: What if the customer does not really want you to deliver home? Get up early on a sunday morning to a doorbell? Really? I bet the idea of bigbasket kiosks are already running the rounds inside your org now. You should, and yes, I mean, you should, introduce kiosks for ordering and taking delivery of orders. Best place for these kiosks for the yuppie crowd would be malls and IT parks.

Well to paraphrase ‘Sound of Music’, these are a few of my favourite things. I would love Big basket to come up with these features. And I would be the first one to trial these out !! And well, yeah, to be fair, thanks BigBasket for letting me do some PM stuff that I had not done in quite a while.

PillPack – Another Great Ideo Idea

Another super idea from Ideo – the design firm. Basic premise is to help folks take their medicines correctly at the right dosage at the right times. Without having to sort through medicines by yourself and figure what to take in the morning, afternoon, or night, pillpack works with your prescription and gives you these small tearable pouches with the date and time printed on them. You just tear the appropriate pouch and take the pills in the pouch. Nice. Another real world problem solved.

(via fastcodesign)