Blockchain is bringing Intelligent Technologies to Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises

Chatbots

As Blockchain technology is getting into the mainstream of large enterprises, I have been contemplating on how micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME aka SMBs) can benefit from Blockchain. Let me explain below what I mean from this.

I looked into the data on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in United States at International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group) website (http://www.ifc.org ). As per IFC consideration Micro enterprise has <10 employees, small enterprise has 10 to 100 employees and medium enterprise has 100 to 500 employees. The latest data from IFC totals to more than 6 million MSMEs in United States. Based on the scale and size, the technology adoption in MSMEs is driven by three factors – lower costs, ease of usability of technology and more importantly demand and advantage from new-age technology to their consumers/users. I would like to describe few scenarios before landing on to Blockchain advantage for MSMEs.

  • Scenario I: Chat bots have made a progression to successful use cases at large enterprises. Look at examples of  Allstate Business Insurance Expert (ABIe), Capital One Financial’s Eno, Domino’s pizza chat bot, a real estate bot like Apartment Ocean and list goes on. But I never come across a chat bot in interacting with a local restaurant, a childcare center, a mom and pop shops to state few examples from MSMEs. The reason being an initial capital cost and annual maintenance costs difficult to break-even with MSME financial models. Adding new-age advancements in AI, NLP and Machine Learning further enriches the power of chat bots. There exists a real opportunity in bringing efficiency of chat bot to MSMEs by taking over tasks for which humans are not essential
  • Scenario II: Mobile Apps and monetization opportunities. Both Google’s android and Apple’s mobile apps got exploded in recent times (7+ Million total apps as Aug 2017). According to the Small Business Mobile Apps: 2017 Survey by Clutch, 85% of micro enterprises with fewer than 10 employees do not have a mobile app and whereas for SMEs in lowers fifties. There exists a significant business opportunity enabling MSMEs access to mobile apps.
  • Scenarios III, IV, & V: SMS/USSD messaging, ecommerce/direct-to-consumer websites, and instant messengers are other scenarios that would enhance MSMEs capability in addressing gig economy consumers. The technology is available to MSMEs in these scenarios, but development & customization needs, and costs are slowing down the adaptability.

Blockchain backed Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) offer real opportunities enabling multiple channels like chat bots, mobile apps, SMS/USSD messaging, ecommerce/direct-to-consumer websites, and instant messaging to MSMEs and as well enable Omni channel capabilities. Blockchain decentralized autonomous platform (BDAP) can connect MSMEs, technology providers, developers, marketers, crypto ecosystem, and market place offering minimal transaction fees, competitive prices in open and transparent marketplace, ensuring secure transactions, easing the channel access and simultaneously create Omni-channel customer experience.

  • First, Blockchain (BDAP) platform takes-out the initial capital investments to access new-age technologies enabling multi-channel capabilities, establish a distributed ledger technology offering peer-to-peer financial system, smart contract to execute secure transactions and an exchange for MSME tokens, and platform that enhances exceptional customer experience.
  • There is an opportunity for sellers (tech providers/developers/marketing firms/startups) to play Business Integrator role creating MSME tokens and made available in the marketplace for MSMEs, Developers, Marketing & Content Firms, and Technology Providers.
  • MSMEs buy tokens for fiat and crypto currency. Developers, Marketing & Content Firms, and Technology Platforms decide the price of channels and determine token equivalents. This gives an opportunity for sellers to form a partner syndicate for creating Omni-channel AI Agent experience as an additional value add.
  • Once tokens are received sellers of various forms (developers, marketers, media firms, technology partners etc.), MSME channels (chat bots, mobile apps, ecommerce/direct-to-consumer websites, instant messengers etc.) gets launched per purchased token volumes.

What MSMEs get out of BDAP is an asynchronous participation of ecosystem players offering decentralized platform to access channel capabilities otherwise tied to higher capital and ongoing costs. Another key advantage to MSMEs from Blockchain enabled decentralized ledger is while MSMEs ensures their product quality building a trust/brand evaluation system, BDAP helps MSMEs scale to reputation evaluation system leveraging the platform.

You can reach me @ kishor.akshinthala@gmail.com for a deeper mindshare on this topic.

 

 

 

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Amazon Effect

Amazon EffectI am publishing this post to highlight few aspects of combined effect of Amazon’s supremacy in online retails sales and its recent acquisition of Whole Foods. Amazon is undoubtedly a retail disruptor and eying for dominant role in pretty much every consumer segment. Based on recent analyst reports, Amazon’s wallet share is about 44 cents out of every e-commerce dollar spent in the USA, followed by eBay (6.8 cents every e-commerce dollar), and Walmart & Apple each at 3.8 cents every e-commerce dollar. Highlighting below Amazon’s impact on CPGs and counter measures

Amazon E

  1. Amazon fueling CPGs Direct-to-Consumer (D to C) channels going forward: Amazon being brand agnostic, promotes them all and let consumers decide the winners and losers. What’s relevant and important, though, is to give consumers the best prices possible. Amazon looks at itself as working on behalf of the consumer. If a CPG company has the resources and patience to work through their D to C strategy integrating with Amazon (probably the largest CPGorganization in the world) it will benefit. Furthermore, if brands are willing to play ball the consumer-oriented way, they’ll win. The losers will be those that don’t know how to play D to C tactics with Amazon, or don’t have the resources.
  2. Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods impacting CPGs: High cost has been Whole Foods’ biggest obstacle to the fresh concept. With Amazon in the picture, more consumer-friendly pricing is already on the horizon. Secondly, along with entry into “fresh” play, Amazon is trying to get a “bite” out of Millennials’ shopping habits. Amazon is looking at grocery as the next step in consumer satisfaction and Whole Foods enables Amazon to have 450 brick-and-mortar locations and multiple distribution centers to enhance its online delivery to the customers who want it.
  3. Combining Amazon online supremacy with in-store experience: We can foresee that Whole Foods in-store experience will evolve as Amazon uses consumer purchase data to reduce inventory levels at Whole Foods making space for Amazon to use Whole Foods stores as showrooms for Amazon products (Books, Kindles, Alexa, etc.) and pickup locations for Prime purchases. CPGs will have to prepare for tighter inventory management, faster shipping, and possible packaging changes to adapt to the new format.
  4. Leading to “Click & Collect” dominance: Amazon can leverage Whole Foods physical stores as pick-up locations for Amazon Fresh Pick-up. CPGs will have to ensure that they achieve full distribution in Amazon Fresh and invest to ensure strong platform visibility.

Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods could influence consumers shift away from pre-packaged foods and center of store items so be prepared for volume declines on brands that aren’t able to be positioned as healthy and all natural. The shift towards healthier, more natural food and personal care products will accelerate. CPGs will need to shift their product portfolio accordingly.

Future of Mobile App Monetization

AP1

App monetization has created fortune for many gaining momentum over last decade and profoundly in last five years. News like “$240 million in customer purchases makes January 1, 2017 the App Store’s busiest day ever” is hitting the headlines. Apps revenues are more than doubled compared to 2014 levels, clocking $58 Billion in 2016 and estimated to reach $78B+ in 2017. In the backdrop of significant market opportunity, I would like to offer deeper insights on App marketplace, monetization business model and key trends evolving in this space.

App Market Insights

First let us look into the current App market landscape and key analytics with a deep dive into this opportunity space as presented in the info-graphic above.

App Monetization and Business Models

App developers can monetize their Apps in many ways. For example, Play Store and the App Store offer the same revenue-sharing terms to developers, ~70% of the amount paid by users goes to developers. Choosing a context specific business model plays a critical role in sustenance and growth. The following are key business models and their characteristics.

Business Model Key Characteristics
Free Model
  • Zero Price.
  • Increase User Base.
  • Generate Revenues with Ads.
Freemium Model
  • Zero Base Price.
  • Optional In-App Purchases (premium features, additional content, subscriptions, or digital goods etc.)
Paid Model
  •  Pay to Download App / But App Bundles for Discounts
  •  One Point of Monetization at the time of initial buy
  •  Outstanding design, functionality, and marketing
Paymium Model
  •  Combination of Paid & Freemium Models (Can Combine in App Bundles)
  • Pay to Download & Options to Buy Additional Features
Subscription Model
  •  Buy In-App Purchases (to access content, services, and experiences)
  •  Auto-Renewable or Now-Renewable (User Driven)
  •  Subscriptions can be offered in Freemium / Paymium models

App Trends

The following trends will continue to evolve in App development in perfect alignment with digital age.

  • Apps are becoming Artificially Intelligent
  • Embedded AR / VR technologies in Apps
  • Faster web page loading on mobile devices with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
  • Cloud enablement of Apps with an ability of fetching data & analytics from cloud
  • Business processes and workflows are getting on Apps with the help of Micro services and componentization
  • In digital driven economy, m-commerce is becoming a new standard
  • Internet of Things is exploding Apps socialization
  • Location based services are gaining more traction
  • App security is becoming paramount

There is a promising future for value adding Apps. The current and future start up communities have to focus on developing high quality and contextual rich Apps and building tailored business models to succeed in next evolution of App marketplace. Reach out to me at Kishor.akshinthala@gmail.com for a deeper discussion on App Monetization.

Digital Revolutions

DR

Markets have been constantly evolving from pre-internet era of viscous state through fluid state over last decade with internet democratized access to information, reducing buyer-seller information asymmetry. Digital Revolutions with the advent of AI, Blockchain, Robotics, AR/VR, and hyper connected driven IoT technologies are forcing companies to functioning in a state of super fluidity in recent times.

Fortune 1000 organizations and VC backed startups are applying AI, ML, AR/VR, Blockchain and IoT to empower enterprises to make intelligent decisions, prioritizing and driving next-gen innovations improving the success rates. As an enthusiast envisioning the success of superfluid markets and with know-how of recent technology developments, I would like to summarize below the driving forces of Digital Revolutions

  • Key characteristics of Digital Revolutions: As businesses are trying to become intelligent enterprises with real times responses, there is an increasing demand for dematerializing their physical assets with digital touchpoints. In these times, business operations, supply chain, supporting infrastructure and technology, and enormous volumes of data becomes software driven making enterprises become hyper connected seamlessly and derive proactive insights. This is leading to Digital Revolutions offering a rich user/consumer experiences.
  • Blockchain and IoT are expediting the pace of Digital Revolutions: We have now entered the age of superfluid markets, which represents the convergence of multiple forces. While many transaction costs were reduced during the fluid market period, costs around contracting, trust and the policing and enforcing of contracts remained high. The maturation of blockchain technology as a transaction engine in which trust is “built in” will reduce even these costs. With the Internet of Things, physical goods are being sensed, tagged and linked to the Internet, with the promise to better match supply and demand. Intelligent agents will soon anticipate buyer preferences before buyers themselves. The intersection of blockchain and IoT will create autonomous markets that run themselves cheaply and efficiently. The gig economy implies increasingly superfluid labor markets. And these developments may just represent the tip of the iceberg. Examples include,
    • Blockchain potentiality to offer intrinsic business value in integrated utilities management with a reliable, low-cost way for recording validating financial or operational transactions across a distributed network with no central point of authority. Peer-to-peer energy trading, Billing of AV charging stations, Power Ledger and Smart grid management systems are few use cases.
    • Visa’s IoT platform designed to bring the point-of-sale everywhere by allowing businesses to introduce secure payment experiences quickly to any device connected to the IoT. Visa’s vision and belief is to securely embed payments and commerce into any device—from a watch to a ring to an appliance or a car.
  • Robotics and Bots are first steps of organization in taking advantages of Digital Revolutions: Robotics are emerging to pick up precision heavy activities and “bots” leveraging AI is taking customer service and experience to the next level. Take a look at inVia that is introducing “robotics-as-a-service” to the new economy with first “goods-to-box” warehouse packing system. This new robotics system that put goods directly into shipping boxes. Instead of investing in a fleet of robots, customers pay a monthly service fee.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are big boost to Digital Revolutions: AI combine with machine learning is paving ways to new business models. AI technologies already pervade human lives progressing beyond simply building systems that are intelligent to building intelligent systems that are human-aware and trustworthy.
  • AR/VR is becoming a driving force of Digital Revolutions. Let us take examples of retail industry transformation. Virtual reality (VR), along with its sister technology augmented reality (AR), offers retailers the opportunity to transform how people shop. One customer might try on shirts without having to travel to the store. Another might order furniture on the spot, confident that it’s right for the house. Applications using either technology stand to eliminate customer pain points, elevate customer service, and create a differentiated, personalized customer experience. The successful incorporation of VR and AR into retail models also has the potential to vastly change the way retailers are thinking about stores of the future

Digital Revolutions are leading to superfluid markets which will continue to evolve differently across different industries and companies. These transformations are what we continue to explore into future. There is a pressing need for companies to collaborate exchanging ideas, trend spotting, and tap innovations to succeed in  future frictionless markets.

Predictive Maintenance Value for Process Industries

PM

Process industries are undergoing digital transformation building and integrating Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) in their strategic path to enabling business models, services, customer experience, operations, and workplaces re-imagination. What I notice across process industry segment is application of industrial internet concepts in creating predictive maintenance models that are yielding advantages including – greater machine availability, superior process quality, easier to plan service intervals, longer machine service life, safer and more sustainable operation, lower service efforts and decreased costs. I am highlighting few aspects demonstrating thought leadership in this space.

  • Companies are sponsoring proof of concepts and pilots for creating models to monetize predictive maintenance. As Predictive Maintenance and Condition Based Monitoring directly impact equipment uptime, by offering Predictive Maintenance as a service, the manufacturer can guarantee equipment uptime to their customers for a fees, i.e. selling value-added services which promise recurring revenue.
  • Process manufacturing is leveraging integrated utilities to reducing electricity consumption with just-in-time energy management with a dynamic platform delivering energy performance improvement with ‘as-a-service’ through edge connectivity of various assets, data acquisition and gateway, cloud-based technology, and analytics. Also include tracking people movement and asset utilization.
  • SRP performance monitoring center using Industrial Internet is another classic example. Since starting the GE Digital’s SmartSignal program in 2012 and through to 2016, SRP identified more than 1,900 issues, of which 800 were “catches” – a problem that the plant was not previously aware of and, with the new alerts, was able to take corrective action. With time and improved training of the algorithms, the rate at which the company identifies true issues and catches has improved.
  • One use case of specific interest to Food and Pharma industry’s glass packaging quality control and improvement is Wi-NEXT IIoT that drives major changes in glass container quality improvement reducing non-conforming products by 7%, which equals 5% extra line productivity, better process control, and higher customer satisfaction
  • Lastly sustainable business models of predictive maintenance includes – bundling within basic service agreement framework, a freemium offering during warranty with downstream revenue potential, offer value added service with pay-per-use model, and gain-sharing with partner ecosystem.

Process manufacturing winners are those who identify best in class practices for developing business models for predictive maintenance of equipment. Win-win scenarios for manufacturers arise from enabling collaboration of experts in this space to exchange ideas, spot trends and drive innovations.

New IT enabling Superfluid Markets

Super Fluid

 

 

Digital forces like AI, Machine Learning, IoT, Robotics, VR/AR, Blockchain etc. are reimagining business models transforming goods, services and labor markets at unprecedented pace enabling the superfluidity of the markets. Two fundamental characteristics of superfluid markets are shrinking lead times making the interactions seamless and near realtime, and second is extreme focus on cost-to-value ratio. I will discuss the evolving nature of markets with few use cases below.

1) Goods and Services in Superfluid Markets:

i) Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: AI combine with machine learning is paving ways to new business models for example, changing the landscape of online ads by connecting shoppers to goods using images. Take a look at an AI platform called The Discover Machine, created by the startup Z Advanced Computing (ZAC). This new machine learning backed platform is changing the landscape of online ads. ZAC claims to offer something unique by producing online ads generated through images, not text. The machine-learning platform can be applied to searches from shoppers that will lead to the product on a merchant’s website, or to serve merchants by generating targeted visual ads based on a customer’s browsing history. The intended users of the platform include shoppers, merchants, and bloggers or other publishers.

ii) Internet of Things (IoT): As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow and drive a more connected world, it is changing the way we live, shop and pay by moving data and the point-of-sale to wherever the consumer wants it to be. Take a peek at Visa’s IoT platform designed to bring the point-of-sale everywhere by allowing businesses to introduce secure payment experiences quickly to any device connected to the IoT. Visa’s vision and belief is to securely embed payments and commerce into any device—from a watch to a ring to an appliance or a car. Experts estimate there will be 380 million connected cars by 2021. Visa is working with a number of car manufacturers (and other companies from across the car ecosystem) to build and test prototypes for car-based payments. By connecting the car ecosystem to the Watson IoT Platform and enabling the car with secure payment functionality, imagining the many possibilities becomes easy. Drivers could be alerted when their smog certification is about to expire or if a specific car part needs replacing, responding by either scheduling a service appointment or ordering the part that has the combined lowest cost and fastest shipping time. The range of other options is virtually limitless, extending to insurance offerings, paying for gas without a physical card or zipping through the drive-thru that much faster because the payment part of the transaction no longer exists.

iii) Robotics are emerging to pick up precision heavy activities and “bots” leveraging AI is taking customer service and experience to the next level. Take a look at inVia that is introducing “robotics-as-a-service” to the new economy with first “goods-to-box” warehouse packing system. This new robotics system that put goods directly into shipping boxes. Instead of investing in a fleet of robots, customers pay a monthly service fee.

iv) AR/VR in a classic example driving superfluidity is transforming the retail industry. Virtual reality (VR), along with its sister technology augmented reality (AR), offers retailers the opportunity to transform how people shop. One customer might try on shirts without having to travel to the store. Another might order furniture on the spot, confident that it’s right for the house. Applications using either technology stand to eliminate customer pain points, elevate customer service, and create a differentiated, personalized customer experience. The successful incorporation of VR and AR into retail models also has the potential to vastly change the way retailers are thinking about stores of the future

2) Labor Markets:
“On-demand and online talent platform” is a new labor model in the connected digital age. As per multiple surveys 1B+ people are unemployed in Developed & BRIC nations. According to McKinsey, online talent platforms serve as clearinghouses that can inject new momentum into job markets. By 2025, they could add $2.7 trillion, or 2.0 percent, to global GDP and increase employment by 72 million full-time-equivalent positions. Global companies are rethinking their talent strategies to tap Connected Transparent Talent Pool.

Part II: Direct-To-Consumer Business Model Innovation and Emerging Trends

D2C

“The Best Service Is No Service” – Picked from authors Bill Price and David Jaffe, the best way to satisfy customers is eliminate the need for service altogether. The need of the day for DTC seller is to progress beyond offering personalized service to true customer excellency with “No Need for Service”.

In continuation of last series, elaborating further on business model innovation and evolving trends in direct-to-consumer marketplace that are fueling the growth. The following is summary of few of trends.

“Direct-to-Patient” Model: For example Telehealth, is likely a strong area of interest due to its potential for significant impact on care delivery. While virtual visits may have the ability to shift significant volumes of care and expand access, uncertainty remains for many institutions regarding reimbursement levels, compliance standards and best practices for planning. Very promising D2C model to keep an eye on.

“Drone-enabled” Delivery: D2C can really be fueled by drone-based delivery. The ideal candidates are replenishment products where shoppers essentially repeat-purchase, building online channels makes a lot of sense for a brand, especially in the age of 1-hour drone-enabled delivery. Repeat-purchase models also help the brand get and remain entrenched with shoppers, often opting for convenience and loyalty over price

Brand experience via “Commerce-as-as-Service”: Consumers are demanding a enriched experience. Direct-to-consumer business model combined with a distinctive, compelling and focused public-facing brand experience, lets manufacturers control and cultivate relationships with customers that transcend retail channels.

Instagram Buttons: PepsiCo is one of the classic use case of leveraging Instagram Buttons for its D2C strategy. PepsiCo succeeded selling its IZZE – a range of carbonated drinks – aimed to sell online effectively to ‘hipster millennials’ by following e-commerce trends in Instagram buttons, links to Amazon and early adoption of Amazon Dash buttons

Hybridization: The hybridization of brick-and-mortar, e-commerce and pop-up retail is creating interesting new business practices. Chacos footwear is a classic example – owns its website and sells direct-to-consumer supplemented by a series of nomadic pop-up shops in cities, at music festivals.

Uberization of Payments: Uber and Airbnb have been at the forefront of integrated commerce, a trend that many in the payments industry refer to as the ‘Uberization of payments’. In this space, mobile is key to DTC opportunities because it reduces the number of steps between browsing and buying. In the case of Uber, the mobile app turns many would-be cash or card transactions into automatic digital payments. Apps such as these have introduced many first-time mobile payment users to the concept of mobile-enabled commerce. We know how quickly this industry is evolved.

Facebook AR Model: Facebook thinks the future of smartphones lies in AR and AR enables advertising and social hellscape. Ubiquitous and free-to-use AR built right into smartphones is fast approaching. That paves the way for aggressive advertising overlaid over every inch of our line of sight, and the kinds of public ranking systems that split society into the have’s and have not’s.

Amazon Algorithm: The core of D2C strategy here is an all-out price war between Amazon and Walmart. I would like to mention about “Amazon algorithm“ – as media reports say Amazon algorithm that works to match or beat prices from other websites and stores. It finds the lowest price per unit or per ounce for a given product — even if it’s in a huge bulk-size pack at Costco — and applies it across the same type of good on Amazon, even when the pack size is much smaller.

IKEA “Co-creation Platforms”: IKEA achieved double digit growth for digital sales with a user-generated platform engaging buyers from the design stage to purchase. This platform became a gateway for social commerce showcasing the homes of IKEA’s online community and transforming them into real life product showrooms.

Google’s Zero Moment of Truth: Unlike the earlier days of mass media advertising, zero movement of truth in DTC arena is often more peer- and social media-driven. Marketing channel that arguably is poised better than any other to both create that moment of truth. The customer becomes a co-creator in the creative process and consumers are evolving into prosumers.

Let us meet in Part III of the Series ….