iPhone cases from STM

I have a fetish for laptop bags and iPhone cases. Last I counted, I had a dozen bags and 15 iPhone 5 cases . Yes, you read it right!

While I *wish* to continue using a bag and an iPhone case for 6+ months, I often get bored with the one I am using and decide to lookout for something else. I know, that’s so stupid – I told that to myself, every single time I swiped my card. ;)

Talking about iPhone case brands, I’ve tried the famous BookBook Case (I <3 TwelveSouth), Griffin, Belkin, Case-Mate, Capdase, Speck, Incase, SGP and many more. Wondering why don’t I have Otterbox in the list? Well, I hate the bulkiness.

For the last few months, I have been using STM iPhone 5 cases. I already loved their bags and when I saw their cases at an Apple Reseller Store, earlier this year, I wanted to try using them. Fast forward 5 months and I decided to share my review.

I must say that the build quality and the eye for detail that STM is commendable. Harbour Case is has more rugged look and feel – something I am not very fond of, personally. I look at it as an Otterbox replacement, while being easy on your hands. :)

Here are some pictures;

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My favorite is the STM Grip Case. It’s one of the lightest iPhone cases I have ever come across, yet, it doesn’t have a plastic-y feel to it. The svelte design and texture makes it feel good in your hands. I was impressed with the choice of colors it comes in and I was crazy enough to try out the mint color. It looked pretty cool!

It’s been over 5 months and the case is still in good shape, with nothing more than the usual wear & tear, which doesn’t make it look any bad. I washed it once when it got dirty and it was shining as new, within minutes. One good thing about this is, it’s easy to take off and snap it back on to the phone – for days when you’d want anything between you and your phone. ;-)

For 899/- it’s a complete value-for-money case. Here are some pictures;

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Which are the cases you’ve used and what do you have to say about them?

How does ‘Showrooming’ help eCommerce?

Have you ever walked into a store – looking for a pair of shoes, headphones or a microwave oven – and popped out your smartphone to compare the prices online? Well, I have started doing that way too often – experience offline, research and buy online.

My friend Annkur, who runs PriceBaba.com targets customers who research online and buy offline. But that doesn’t work for me, much. However, the fact that he’s doing well for himself shows that there are enough people who choose this route!

I am a fan of Tom Fishburne’s marketoons and earlier this year, he published one titled – Showrooming.

130121.showroomingThat’s exactly how I am when it comes to experiencing retail. I know it’s sad, but I look at it in a different way. It’s an evolution and retailers need to address this in a better way – offer a better experience offline, if not a better price. More than anything else it’s a marketing problem!

In India, it’s very rare that the in-store experience is good enough to swipe my card at the store, unless of course there is a dire sense of urgency, or a better price available (which is rare). For a lot of things including electronics, clothes, groceries and books (for gifts, I use a Kindle for myself – I prefer to shop online. The reason are pretty straightforward – better pricing, great return policy (esp. with Myntra and Flipkart) and convenience of ordering it online.

Additionally, one great thing about online shopping is the availability of discount coupons. I usually find them at one of the coupon sites. Recently, I tried Flipit for recharging a mobile connection on Paytm and I liked their interface. In the past, I got some good discount coupons for eBay on CouponDunia. There are bunch of such sites that let you save an additional 5-15% when you use the coupon.

Having said that, I still prefer to buy a Bose or an Apple product off the stores (In India, they’re apple retailers, not official stores but still!) – just because I like experiencing these products at the store and it’s difficult to resist the urge of walking out of the store with the product I am sold on. Ordering it online and waiting for another 2-3 days to get it is a clear no in such cases.

On a related note, here’s a nice deck on The Zero Moment of Truth -

ZMOT: Zero Moment of Truth from Douglas Karr

It’ll be an interesting trend to watch how offline stores save themselves from showrooming. What’s your take on that?

Lightweight laptop backpack for those on the go – STM Impulse

I am a sucker for productivity apps and tools. As much as I love carrying over a dozen tools, cables, adapters and my 11K mAh (yes, you read it right!) battery pack with me, I try to make sure that I have the right laptop bag before I step out. Yeah, I have a fetish for bags – if there is one store than I’d stop by in a mall, it’s got to be the one which has bags on display!

For the past few months, I have been alternating between STM Revolution, STM Velo and a backpack from Samsonite. While STM Revolution is my all-time favorite backpack, I was looking at something which is smaller in size and lighter in weight – for days when I do not need to carry a lot of stuff. Something that is good enough to throw in the *must haves* and step out without much load on the back. I quite liked STM Impulse Backpack and thought of checking it out.

Fast forward a few weeks and I received a STM Impulse Backpack. I decided to go for the black, medium size bag. Packed in a shiny cellophane wrap, the tag & branding caught my attention, once again. The bag is lightweight – perfect to carry your Macbook Air, iPad, Kindle and a bunch of cables without hurting your back, while you’re on the road.

Continue reading

Group-buying is not just about Spas, anymore.

The fact that a lot of group-buying websites that mushroomed in 2010, either closed down or changed their model, doesn’t really reveal the current shape of online-deals market in India.

After my experience with 2 of the worst eCommerce websites in India, I was doing some study on the evolution of group-buying sites in the country, the kind of products & services which are doing well online and the ones which are not. Some of the information I found was fascinating.

There was a time when most of the group-buying sites were selling cheap deals for Spas and Restaurants. The problem with the approach was – focus on the customer and not the merchants. Most sites started to charge a token, which meant – the customer pays a fixed amount to the website and may or may not avail the product / service by paying the balance to the merchant. It’s interesting to know that only 8-10% customers actually availed the vouchers. This was a step towards losing merchants’ faith or getting those merchants on board which did not bother about their brand. Continue reading

Mailbox for iPhone didn’t impress me much!

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Today morning, I was lucky to get access to the MailBox app. There’s so much that a queue to get something and good reviews for the same, can do to you!

Mailbox is a nice email app, but nothing revolutionary, as I expected. After having used it for a day, I realise that it’s better marketed than built or conceived as a product! Early access to a ‘few’ folks, brilliant idea of reserving the app in advance and all that topped with the icing that allows you to download and keep looking at the ticker! This game looked very interesting, in a good sense.

However, while there was so much noise about this app ‘changing’ the way we’ll handle email, I realised that it is for a certain ‘kind’ of users. They’re definitely not the ones who have considerably high volume of emails coming in.

Not just that, it tries to mix the task app and the email app, which for me, serve very different purposes. I would instead wish for an excellent integration between the two. Not a replacement of either.

Reminds me of John Gruber, who rightly said that this app has a different target audience, those who are very gmail centric and have one email address.

I would agree with John on the fact that this won’t replace the Mail.app on iPhone for me. I love labels, folders and the ability to ‘manage’ email.

Bryan on Pandodaily correctly calls it a ‘feature’, not a product!

If you love giving away the control of your email and hide behind the curtain of procrastination fabricated within a good UI, you must try this app. :-)

Here’s an interesting conversation I had with Tim Van Damme (@maxvoltar) of Instagram and Chris Herbert (@hrbrt) from MacWorld, on what they feel about Mailbox. Turns out that Tim is liking it for his personal email!

Twitter conversation - Mailboxapp

Delivering Un-happiness!

Last year, a friend of mine recommended me a book – “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh. Entrepreneurs who run an eCommerce business would have read it at least once, if not more. But I know of some, who I guess, haven’t.

I want to order a copy each for those who run Zoomin and FloraIndia!

In the last 4 years, eCommerce stores have mushroomed in India at a never before pace, supposedly making our lives easier. Personally, I love this shift and believe that it’s a solution to multiple problems (We can talk about them, some other time).

From the time when using credit cards on the Internet was a nasty affair, to having Cash On Delivery as a payment option, today – we have come a long way. However, the eCommerce companies that are making this a bumpy ride for customers are the sorts I just mentioned. (Oh, I am REALLY serious about getting their postal addresses, for a hard-cover!)

Last week, it was a birthday of someone in the family and I ordered a photo frame from Zoomin and some flowers from Flora India. Little did I know (as if!) these two will conspire together to give an unpleasant experience and hence, make me rant about them! Continue reading

Closing down Media Redefined – Why? and What’s next?

We declared Media Redefined as closed, a few hours ago. I was swamped with questions asking me – Why? and What’s next?  I decided to use long form of writing to put down my thoughts.

It has been a challenging and eventful journey of little less than 4 years at Media Redefined. Bringing on new business and delivering value, working with our favorite brands across domains, hiring & building some of the best talent in the social media space, making more friends than enemies and letting the waist size increase from 32 to 36 – it was a magical and enlightening package!

But, just as they say – All good things come to an end, so does the agency Media Redefined.

What started with 2 of my best friends I ever made on the Internet, moved on to be one of the known businesses in the Social Media fraternity. I am grateful to more number of people than I can possibly mention here. They all know it. But, Gaurav and Honey deserve a special mention.

Starting the business out of a garage and bunking college to mark my attendance at work, was not so funny. It was about time when I decided to let go the job offer I secured at the college campus placement to become a businessman. In case you’re a student and if you are getting carried away by this post, you must read this.

So, why did we decide to close it?

  1. I stopped seeing longevity in the business. We were clocking similar revenues for the last 2 years and it did not seem to change for good in the near future. The cost of entry to this business was getting lower every year and the ticket value going down.
  2. In India, social media continues to be just the icing on the cake when it comes to marketing, which I was always interested in. The way it is looked up by both – brands and agencies, the evolution is very slow and naive.
  3. No matter what, Social Media – the way it’s done in India, is monotonous and more often than not, executes in silo. Integrated marketing, Social web innovation, Influencer relations, etc. continue to be buzz words and only a few brands believe whole-heartedly in them. Most brands are afraid to ‘be’ social. Instead, they spend money to ‘do’ social media.
  4. For many, it’s just about content publishing on Facebook, Twitter and now Pinterest and Instagram. Of course with good creatives and images. It’s challenging for a social media agencies to showcase the power of social web across all functions – marketing, sales, customer service, segmentation, influencer relations, etc.
  5. We were strong at technology and understood metrics pretty well. That’s when we decided to build Dokito, a social media analytics product. We released that internally and have used it with our clients for over 6 months. However, due to infrastructure, scalability and resource issues – we couldn’t launch it for public yet. Yes, it’s difficult to ensure profitability in a service business and along side, ship a product.

What’s next?

It’s been a lovely experience of being unemployed for nearly a month since I decided to move on. It’s a great feeling. I wish I could live like this for more – may be not!

This was more like a rejuvenation before I get into a new role, very soon. The new hat shall have Product Marketing inscribed on it. More details, soon. I am hopeful that it would be interesting and challenging enough to keep me happy.

No matter what, I would miss all the fun and learning I had at Media Redefined.

P.S. For those asking about the assets associated with Media Redefined, we were contacted by a few buyers to buy the name and assets associated with Media Redefined. We decided to go ahead with an offer from a known internet entrepreneur in the U.S. who prefers not to be named as of now. Media Redefined and some of the associated digital assets are now sold.

Update: After exploring & evaluating all the opportunities, I’ve decided to join Zoho.com as Manager – Product Marketing. I shall be telecommuting from Delhi.

Zoho.com offers a comprehensive suite of award-winning online business, productivity & collaboration applications. Zoho.com is a division of Zoho Corporation, a privately-held and profitable company. With offices in CA, Austin, Chennai, Yokohama and Beijing, Zoho Corporation serves the technology needs of more than 6 million customers worldwide.