Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Killed a Billion Dollar Startup Idea!

How do you define, What is right? What is wrong? What is Legal? What is Illegal? Is it possible that what was once a right thing was wrong at a later point of time and vice versa?

Well, my point is always it depends and it is not always that simple and straightforward as we think it is. Once "Sati" the practice of burning women after her husband died was a standard practice and even celebrated with folk songs in praise of Sati Devi. ( I won't talk about Galileo and LGBT's)
Why am I talking about all of these when the title is about killing about a billion dollar idea?

Last week, was part of the jury panel for the startup weekend at Anna University. One of the pitches was to be the market place for the Airline luggages. Premise is there are sizable number of business class travellers and others who don't utilize the luggage limits to the fullest or don't utilize it at all. Also there are lot number of people who are in need of it and end up paying the airlines for that space.  The airlines also end up selling the unutilized space to the cargo companies. Yeah, apparently seems they are selling the same space twice! (and still they are not profitable! sigh!)

We, the jury said it was illegal for you to carry the luggage of other and outrightly rejected it. [Before the judging we were also talking about Zenefits] Well of course the other pitches were better. Though I thought it was one good helluva idea and more unique and innovative than others, I never made the case for them. Somehow, I still can't get that idea out of my head and how we people look at things and evaluate new ideas.

Yeah, the numbers need to be validated, need to see will passengers be comfortable carrying the luggage of others, will the incentive offered be something that would interest the business class customers, Airlines may completely clamp down or alternatively do it by themselves,(offer extra miles if you carry less on a business class and so on)

I was much intrigued by how we look at things, how we perceive and interpret them.

How many times have we paid the exorbitant extra luggage fee to the airlines? How many times have we asked one of our friend to carry our luggage? How many times have we carried the luggage for others? So why not make a business out of it?

Lets go beyond and look at other things. While at abroad, How many times we have asked someone, I will pay you (or pay me in local currency) and I will ask someone to settle the equivalent amount back in India? (Isn't it hawala in the smallest scale and how many such transaction happen and what if we can bring it online and create a marketplace for it?)(This I still do think it is totally illegal!)

Before we scream about legality and right and wrong, let's take a hard look at ourselves.
We hate the local auto guy cause he never runs the meter or charges exorbitantly and want the government to rein in them. Yet we talk about supply and demand and think surge price for Ola and Uber is perfectly fine. If charging above the meter is illegal, isn't the surge price illegal? Or are we going to call it a market price (as in how land value is higher than the government guided price) Point is how we think it is okay for Ola/Uber to do it but not for the auto guy.

While we would happily go to court or at least threaten to go to court, if someone sells beyond M.R.P, we are more happy to hunt for discounts and go and buy from the online site that sells for the lowest. One could say it is maximum retail price but not the minimum retail price so why not buy it at the lowest price.  Let's worry about consumer behavior and the irrationality of it some other time.

Coming back to the legality of market place for airlines luggage, take a look at airbnb! If I am letting someone stay at my home and charging them for it, shouldn't I be subjective to the same laws and compliances to that of a hotel? What if AirBnB was never given a chance?

Point is most of big billion dollar bets started as crazy and impossible and never can be done ideas!


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