A booming WhatsApp posts mixed message as strong rivals emerge in Asia; War of the Apps heats up in China



What’s inside WhatsApp?

WhatsApp: A booming smartphone message service

SAN FRANCISCO – WhatsApp was launched five years ago as a shot at doing to text messaging what Skype did to telephone calls.

If Facebook’s move to buy the startup in a cash-and-stock deal valued as high as US$19 billion (S$24 billion) is any indication, the California-based WhatsApp may have hit the mark.

The firm founded by former Yahoo employees Brian Acton and Jan Koum in 2009 took its name from a play on the phrase “What’s Up,” according to its website.

They also devoted themselves to a credo of “No Ads. No Games. No Gimmicks.”

A note stating just that and signed by Acton remains taped to Koum’s desk, according to venture capital firm Sequoia, which invested in the startup early and stands to cash in big time on the Facebook take-over.

The “contrarian approach” of gathering no information about users for targeting ads was shaped by Ukraine-born Koum’s aversion to tactics of secret police in communist countries, Sequoia partner Jim Goetz said in an online note.

“Jan’s childhood made him appreciate communication that was not bugged or taped,” Goetz said.
“When he arrived in the US as a 16-year-old immigrant living on food stamps, he had the extra incentive of wanting to stay in touch with his family in Russia and the Ukraine.”

Koum remained true to those ideas when, after working at Yahoo with his “mentor” Acton, he turned to building WhatsApp, according to Goetz.

The stated mission was to build a better alternative to traditional SMS messaging in a world where smartphones were clearly becoming ubiquitous.

The founders jokingly described themselves at the website as “two guys who spent combined 20 years doing geeky stuff at Yahoo! Inc.”

WhatsApp is a platform for sending images, video, audio, or text messages for free over the Internet using data connections of smartphones.

The application is free, but after using it for a year, there is an annual subscription fee of 99 US cents.

“We feel that this model will allow us to become the communications service of the 21st century, and provide you the best way to stay in touch with your friends and family with no ads getting in the way,” the startup said in a blog post discussing pricing.

WhatsApp is reported to have grown stunningly fast to more than 450 million users and said to handle 50 billion messages daily.

As of the start of this year, WhatsApp had 50 employees, more than 30 of them engineers. While the company has its headquarters in the California city of Mountain View, where Google has its main campus, most of the engineering work is reportedly done in Russia. – AFP

In Asia, WhatsApp posts mixed message for Facebook

Singapore: WhatsApp may be hugely popular but its forays into Asia, the world’s biggest mobile market, have had mixed success, raising questions about whether it can sustain the explosive growth Facebook Inc cited to justify its $19 billion price tag.
Data from app metric company App Annie, for example, shows that WhatsApp ranks as the top communications app in only three of 13 Asian countries tracked – Hong Kong, India and Singapore.
“WhatsApp has been a strong player in Asia, but in the past year has faced strong competition from LINE and WeChat,” said Neha Dharia, India-based analyst for Ovum, a technology consultancy. “WhatsApp has not been displaced by these players, but has seen stiff competition in growing its market share.”

Facebook said on Wednesday it would buy WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock, in a deal worth more than Facebook raised in its own IPO. [ID:nL3N0LO52J]

For sure, WhatsApp has been phenomenally successful. For many users it has replaced sending costly texts, or SMS messages. Since its launch in 2009 it has built an active monthly user base of 450 million users.
A survey by marketing and research company Jana found WhatsApp to be the most used messaging app in all the countries it surveyed – India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico – beating competitors by a huge margin.
The reason: users most prize the basic functions it offers – ad-free chat and photo sharing.
WhatsApp subscribers sent 18 billion messages a day in January. The overall market is growing rapidly: According to Ovum, 27.4 trillion such messages were sent last year; this year that figure will be close to 69 trillion.
CHINA CALLING
By hooking up, Facebook and WhatsApp may be able to take on those markets that have been elusive to Facebook so far. With Facebook blocked in China, and lagging Twitter Inc and Naver Corp’s LINE in Japan, WhatsApp “is a potential avenue for Facebook” into those markets, said Vincent Stevens, a senior manager for telecoms consultancy Delta Partners.

Forrester, a consultancy, forecasts that China will have more than 500 million smartphones this year.

And in the fast growing smartphone market of India, says Neil Shah, research director of devices and ecosystems at Counterpoint Research, local users now account for almost 9 percent of total active WhatsApp users around the world – some 40 million of them.

But Facebook and WhatsApp face formidable foes. Where once messaging apps were simply about messaging, now Tencent Holdings Ltd’s WeChat, LINE and KakaoTalk offer a slew of additional services, from icons and games to buying goods and services.

“LINE and the others are very different to WhatsApp. They’re much more innovative in the business models they engage in,” says Michael Vakulenko of VisionMobile, a UK-based consultancy. “They are innovating much faster than WhatsApp and going in a different direction.”

This could prove decisive in Asia – the biggest battleground for social messaging apps – where no single player dominates.
Data from market research company Nielsen, for example, showed BlackBerry Messenger as the most downloaded messaging app in Indonesia last October, the latest data available, while Viber, bought by Japanese online retailer Rakuten Inc for $900 million last week, was the most popular in the Philippines, and LINE in Thailand.
WhatsApp was third in Indonesia, second in Malaysia and not in the top-10 in the Philippines or Thailand. And while locals say WhatsApp remains the default messaging app in Indonesia, some notice a shift.

FICKLE FORTUNES

Jerry Justianto, who runs a radio station network in Jakarta, says he’s noticing fewer of his friends using WhatsApp than before. “I think it’s reached a plateau in Indonesia,” he said. “I see a lot of WhatsApp accounts in my list are inactive.”

A survey by market research firm On Device Research late last year found that while nearly two thirds of Indonesians surveyed had installed WhatsApp, less than half used it at least once a week, compared to three quarters of Brazilians who had installed it.

Part of the problem, Justianto says, is that WhatsApp’s approach of linking accounts to a phone number doesn’t suit Indonesians who change their SIM card frequently. “Some of my early adopter friends are moving to Telegram messenger, where you can activate multiple devices with one number.”

Telegram, which offers much the same features as WhatsApp, is evidence of the fickleness of users. The app is free and heavily encrypted, and is popular in some countries. In Spain, for example, it has risen from its launch last year to be the No.1 communications app in Google’s Play store, at the expense of WhatsApp, according to App Annie data.

This, said one executive at a handset company in Spain, was partly because of a viral campaign among users to switch, and partly because many users dumped WhatsApp before they were charged at the end of their first, free year.
GETTING USERS TO USE MORE
Across Asia, the fragmentation is evident to users such as Martin Tomlinson, Asia Pacific director for On Device Research, who says he has installed at least six messaging apps for work: “I need to have at least three of these on my phone because that’s how my clients communicate.”
LINE, for example, considers its top markets as not only Japan but also Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. Now, says Simeon Cho, general manager at LINE Plus, which handles LINE’s ex-Japan business, the goal is less about winning new users than getting existing ones to use the app more frequently.
Kakao, which started the KakaoTalk messenger service in 2010 and has since grown rapidly to 130 million users, said it was also focusing heavily on Southeast Asia, where there is relatively low smartphone penetration and no dominant messenger service.
And for China’s Tencent, KakaoTalk and LINE are more of a threat overseas than WhatsApp, as the company’s WeChat expansion is focused on Southeast Asia.
WhatsApp would only pose a serious threat if the likes of Tencent were to expand farther west. “This means it’s now going to be more difficult for LINE to win in North America and Europe,” said Serkan Toto, a Tokyo-based technology consultant.

 - By Jeremy Wagstaff Reuters

Facebook deal sends message to WhatsApp’s Asia rivals

HONG KONG – Facebook’s stunning US$19 billion (S$24 billion) deal for messaging service WhatsApp places the social network in an arena where competition is fierce, particularly in Asia, where fast-growing chat rivals dominate their home markets.

The multi-billion dollar valuation of WhatsApp is based on expectations that its 450 million monthly users will eventually pass one billion, powering the social network’s drive into the fast- growing mobile space – particularly in emerging markets, where the simplicity of the messaging app can thrive on less expensive phones.

But it is not the only service gaining traction around the world, particularly in parts of Asia, where players such as WeChat in China, Kakao Talk in South Korea and Line in Japan dominate – and, according to analysts, show greater potential for making money given their different products and strategies.

While WhatsApp, which is free to download but charges users US$1 per year, is popular in some Asian markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore, services such as Line, WeChat and Kakao have also expanded around the region and beyond.

“Mobile-messaging apps are growing fast in Asia,” noted Elinor Leung and Seung-Joo Ro in a report for regional brokerage CLSA.

“While Facebook dominates the US, mobile-messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Line and WeChat have rapidly taken over Asian SNS (social networking service) markets, especially in the emerging markets.”

WhatsApp currently has a larger base than each of the three Asian services but they are growing fast, particularly when it comes to emerging markets, where smartphones or less expensive “feature” phones are seeing explosive growth.

CLSA noted that “Asian mobile-messaging apps like Tencent’s WeChat and Naver Corp.’s Line should be valued at a premium to WhatsApp with their wider service offerings and higher revenue potential from games to e-commerce and payment.”

WeChat is currently valued by CLSA at US$35 billion and Line at US$14 billion.

Global social messaging volumes are expected to reach 69 trillion and subscribers to such services 1.8 billion by the end of 2014, according to data from market research firm Ovum.

“In SouthEast Asia there is a huge tussle for market share,” Neha Dharia of Ovum told AFP.

“WhatsApp will be able to claim the Facebook share of those markets as well, making it hard for these other guys to grow.”

WeChat

WeChat, or “Weixin” in Chinese, is a free instant messaging and social media mobile application developed by Chinese Internet giant Tencent and officially launched in January 2011.

It has not only become a popular mobile communications tool in China – where Facebook is mostly blocked and WhatsApp usage is comparatively low – but has also attracted tens of millions of users in overseas markets.

The Facebook deal values active WhatsApp users at US$42 a piece. According to analysts with Japan’s Mizuho bank, WeChat is worth twice that amount “on the back of its gaming, [commerce] and mobile payment potential”.

WeChat’s number of monthly active users worldwide reached 272 million by the end of September last year, more than doubling from a year earlier amid a drive to attract more users in countries such as India, Spain and South Africa.

WeChat provides text, photo, video and voice messaging services on major mobile platforms. It also offers games, online payments and taxi booking.

Line

Launched in 2011 as an instant message and free voice call app, Line – whose parent company is South Korea’s Naver Corp. – has grown to 350 million users worldwide and aims to hit 500 million this year.

Its user-friendly interface and voice communication capacity have helped it become one of most successful apps in Japan, while also seeing popularity in Thailand, Taiwan, Spain and Latin America.

The app is best known for “stickers” – cartoon-like images purchased by users, sales of which are core to Line’s revenues.

Kakao Talk

Launched in 2010, Kakao Talk is used by 95 per cent of South Korea’s smartphone users and boasts 130 million users worldwide. It is reported to be preparing for an initial public offering next year that could value it at US$2 billion.

The free app allows users to send messages, pictures, soundbites and video via the Internet, either on WiFi or through cellphone networks.

Gifts can be bought using Kakao’s online shopping facilities, a feature that helped push revenue last year to 230 billion won (US$215 million) from 46 billion won a year ago.

It is eyeing Southeast Asian markets including Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia where it is fighting for market share against Line and WeChat.

Viber

Developed by Cyprus-based Viber Media, which was founded in 2010, the service boasts 280 million users and was recently purchased by Japanese IT firm Rakuten for US$900 million – or roughly US$3 per user. It allows free text messages and phone calls as well as video messaging. It recently launched a service allowing desktop users to call non-Viber users’ mobile phones, in a challenge to Skype, owned by Microsoft.

Analysts have questioned whether it can make more money from customers in the same way that the likes of Line and WeChat have, leading to Rakuten’s share price plunging as much as 13 per cent on the first trading day after it announced the deal.

- AFP

War of the apps heats up in China
In the Battle between the two Chinese Internet giants Alibaba and Tencent, the consumers are the real winners.
AlibabaTencentRAISING a hand to flag down a taxi by the streets could be passé in China, or at least in the eyes of the taxi booking app developers.

Two popular mobile apps, Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache (“dache” means taking the taxi), make it possible for passengers to hail a cab without flailing an arm, but just tapping on their smart phones.

The war between the two apps, which are backed by Chinese Internet giants Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings Ltd respectively, has gotten more intense this week.

On Monday, Didi Dache announced that it was going to revive its 10-yuan (RM5.42) rebate programme for users who book a cab and pay via Tencent’s instant messaging app Wechat.

Every passenger is entitled to receive a subsidy of 10 yuan each trip, for up to three trips a day.

For taxi drivers in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, a reward of 10 yuan awaits for up to 10 bookings they successfully respond to through Didi Dache.

Cabbies in other cities will receive 5 yuan (RM2.71) for the first five trips and 10 yuan for the next five trips.

To prevent users from cheating, Didi Dache said it would block passengers and drivers who reach mutual agreements to use the app only after the passengers get into the cabs, with the motive of earning the rebates.

Didi Dache reportedly poured in 1bil yuan (RM542.18mil) for this round of subsidy.

Kuaidi Dache was quick to follow up with an “always-one-yuan-more” reward.

Users who hail a cab through its app and pay via Alibaba’s mobile payment service Alipay Wallet were promised that they would always enjoy one yuan more than users of its competitor.

It is not the first time these two apps are using these tactics to entice users.

In January, Didi Dache rolled out the 10-yuan rebate promotion, prompting Kuaidi Dache to offer the same rebate in response.

When Didi Dache reduced the 10-yuan incentive by half on Feb 10, Kuaidi Dache seized the chance to announce that it would retain the 10-yuan offer.

Now that Didi Dache has readjusted the rebate back to 10 yuan, Kuaidi Dache has decided to have the upper hand by pledging “always-one-yuan-more”.

However, just a day after these announcements were made, Didi Dache upped the rebate once again. Passengers would now receive between 12 yuan and 20 yuan (RM6.51 and RM10.84) per trip.

Kuaidi Dache followed suit to offer a subsidy of at least 13 yuan (RM7.05) per trip.

While Didi Dache offered 10,000 free trips a day to lucky passengers, Kuaidi Dache pledged 15,000 free trips a day.

It appeared that there was no end to this intense price war.

This “war” between the two apps is only one segment of the fierce rivalry between the two Internet companies, Tencent and Alibaba.

Tencent owns Wechat while Alibaba has developed a similar app known as “Laiwang”.

Alibaba bought 18% stake of the popular Twitter-like service Sina Weibo last year, which is the contender of Tencent’s Wechat.

Last week, Alibaba offered to purchase mobile mapping app AutoNavi. Tencent, meanwhile, already has a mapping service that boasts a similar function to Google’s Street View.

This latest contest in the taxi-booking app was seen as a tactic to encourage smart phone users to adopt the habit of using mobile payments.

During the just-concluded Chinese New Year holiday, Wechat users went gaga over the electronic angpao.

They had to first link their bank accounts to Wechat before they could give or receive money among their circle of friends.

According to Beijing Times, from the eve until the eighth day of Chinese New Year, more than 40 million angpao were handed out in the activity participated by more than eight million people.

Even Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma described the phenomenon as a “Pearl Harbour attack”.

In a poll on finance.ifeng.com, 70.42% of some 5,600 respondents felt that the war of taxi booking apps between Tencent and Alibaba was not a vicious competition.

Almost half of them believed that what mattered most at the end of the day was the product experience.

They were of the opinion that the company with the better service would prevail, in contrast to only 23.38% of the respondents who predicted that the one with bigger financial capability would eventually be declared the winner.

With the two giants locking horns and trying to outdo each other, many believed that the consumers are the biggest beneficiaries.

The rebates did not have a reported deadline. Until the cash rewards are withdrawn, users can continue to enjoy the subsidies to save some pennies.

Contributed  by Tho Xin Yi The Star/Asia News Network

Related posts:
1. WhatsApp deal dwarfs other high-profile Tech acquisitions 
2. Tech players race to widen reach !

Tech players race to widen reach !


WhatsApp_fb2
WhatsApp_growth
Facebook goes the distance to widen reach 

IN the age of connectivity, what sells a technology company is not its system nor its employees, but the reach it has throughout the world.

Making news over the past few days has been the Facebook-WhatsApp deal, sealed at a whopping offer of US$19bil.

It is the biggest deal year-to-date and has set yet another stratospheric benchmark in the arena of tech deals. The deal pushed 2014’s total tech deals to US$50bil, the highest since 2000.

Google, which contended for WhatsApp as well, lost the acquisition battle with an offer about half the amount Facebook was willing to fork out – US$10bil.

Facebook is hungry for reach, and it has proven in the tech arena that it is willing to go the distance to get it.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was reported to have told a conference call that it was Facebook’s explicit strategy to focus on growing and connecting everyone in the world over the next several years.

“And then we believe that once we get to being a service that has one billion, two billion, maybe even three billion people one day, there are many clear ways that we can monetise.

“But the right strategy we believe, is to continue focusing on growth and the product and succeeding in building the best communication tools in the world.”

Yes, pay for your customers first, then ease them into paying you.

To depict how valuable a company’s reach or user base is, take a look at Viber’s valuations when it was sold to global Internet services company Rakuten just a week ago.

With 105 million monthly active users, the messaging app company got acquired at US$900mil or US$8.57 per user.

In comparison, WhatsApp was bought at the price of US$42 per user for its big pool of 450 million monthly active users. And this number is expected to grow over the next few years.

As tech website CNet puts it: Facebook (has) demonstrated (that) valuations can rise or fall dramatically based on how large a base of users you command.

In the meantime, game company King Digital Entertainment is also looking to list on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company behind addictive mobile game, Candy Crush, said on Tuesday it planned to raise US$500mil from an initial public offering. In the last quarter of 2013, the game had 12.2 million monthly unique players.

Going public is said to be gainful for the company’s founders, as they only raised US$9mil of funding since it was founded in 2002.

Some tech deals have been bungled too, such as in social game company Zynga’s case.

Zynga, which is also listed, rose with meteoric success in its first years of business buying as many as 11 companies when it turned a profit in 2010. However, its success fizzled out as it failed to move into the mobile gaming space, even with its acquisition of the once-popular Draw Something game app.

While Zynga focused on developing games for Facebook (names like Farmville and Mafia Wars come to mind) and the desktop, games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush outran them on mobile devices.

There are also older examples of missed and misused opportunities like Yahoo! overlooking the competition from Google or MySpace losing its appeal under the wings of NewsCorp.

An extensive reach or user base creates the pulse in the economy of the virtual world, and the pulse is sustained by being in touch with user experience and trends.

As the entrepreneur spirit demands a courage to take on risks, technoprenuers like Zuckerberg have to surely keep an eye out for competitors worth bagging to expand their social network empires.

The race for reach continues.

Contributed by Liz Lee The Star/Asia News Network

Related post:
WhatsApp deal dwarfs other high-profile Tech acquisitions

WhatsApp deal dwarfs other high-profile Tech acquisitions


  WhatsApp_fbWhatsApp with Facebook’s $19B offer?

http://money.cnn.com/video/technology/2014/02/19/t-facebook-whatsapp-19-billion.cnnmoney/WhatsApp_fb1

In a play to dominate messaging on phones and the Web, Facebook has acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion.

That’s a stunning sum for the five-year old company. But WhatsApp has been able to hold its weight against messaging heavyweights like Twitter (TWTR), Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) and Microsoft’s (MSFT, Fortune 500) Skype. WhatsApp has upwards of 450 million users, and it is adding an additional million users every day.

Referring to WhatsApp’s soaring growth, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on a conference call, “No one in the history of the world has done anything like that.”

WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app for smartphones, according to OnDevice Research.

Buying WhatsApp will only bolster Facebook’s already strong position in the crowded messaging world. Messenger, Facebook’s a standalone messaging app for mobile devices, is second only to WhatsApp in its share of the smartphone market.

Related: 5 key moments that changed Facebook
 
Similar to traditional text messaging, WhatsApp allows people to connect via their cellphone numbers. But instead of racking up texting fees, WhatsApp sends the actual messages over mobile broadband. That makes WhatsApp particularly cost effective for communicating with people overseas.

That kind of mobile messaging services have become wildly popular, with twice as many messages sent over the mobile Internet than via traditional texts, according to Deloitte. But most of the messaging industry’s revenue is still driven by text messaging.

On the conference call, Facebook said it is not looking to drive revenue from WhatsApp in the near term, instead focusing on growth. Zuckerberg said he doesn’t anticipate trying to aggressively grow WhatsApp’s revenue until the service reaches “billions” of users.

WhatsApp currently charges a dollar a year after giving customers their first year of use for free. WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum said on the conference call that WhatsApp’s business model is already successful.

That indicates Facebook bought WhatsApp to add value to its existing messaging services, as well as for the long-term potential of the company.

Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 for similar reasons: As young social network users gravitated towards photo-sharing, Facebook wanted to scoop up what could have eventually become a big rival.

Like Instagram, WhatsApp will function as an autonomous unit within Facebook, with all the existing employees coming in as part of the deal.

Facebook (FB, Fortune 500) said it will pay WhatsApp $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in stock.

WhatsApp’s founders and staff will be eligible for for another $3 billion in stock grants to be paid out if they remain employed by Facebook for four years. Koum will also join Facebook’s board of directors. To top of page 

-     @CNNMoneyTech

Internet addiction taking toll on health !


Internet addiction has become a new threat to healthy living for Malaysians, depriving them of sleep and exercise, a survey by a global insurance group has found.
Internet addiction
A whopping 73% of Malaysian adults who took part in the 2013 AIA Healthy Living Index survey admitted that their online activities and social networking were getting addictive, putting the country a­­mongst those with the highest addiction rates in the Asia-Pacific region.

The poll by AIA Group covered over 10,000 adults in 15 Asia Pacific markets.

Of some 900 Malaysian respondents, 81% stated that spending time online prevented them from getting enough exercise or sleep while 80% claimed that their posture was affected.

The survey noted that this addictive trend would continue to be fuelled by children growing up with the Internet as an integral part of their lives.

On healthy living, 67% of adults in Malaysia felt that their health was not as good as it was five years ago.
Overall, Malaysia scored 61 out of 100 points in the survey.

Malaysia also fared poorly in the area of healthy habits, with 32% of adults admitting that they did not exercise regularly.

On average, Malaysians spent only 2.5 hours on exercise a week, below the regional average of three hours and below the ideal recommended by most experts.

Sufficient sleep was rated the most important driver of healthy living in Malaysia and the region.

While adults in Malaysia desired eight hours of sleep, they only had 6.4 hours on average, leading to a sleep gap of 1.6 hours, the third highest in the region.

Spending time online was listed as one of the causes of this sleep deprivation.

The survey mentioned that these not very positive health habits were aggravated by a preference for sedentary ways to relieve stress, such as watching TV or movies, playing computer or mobile games and spending time online.

Spending time with family and children or friends was also a popular way to de-stress for Malaysians.

Meanwhile, healthy food habits were still limited to the basics of drinking more water as well as eating more fruits and vegetables, although 56% of Malaysian adults were also trying to eat less sweets and snacks.

There was also much concern about obesity – 64% of Malaysian adults said they wanted to lose weight, above the regional average of 53%. Further, 93% agreed that obesity among younger people was a worrying trend.

Cancer, heart disease and being overweight were the top health concerns in Malaysia, with the former two being above regional averages.

Despite these concerns, only 50% of Malaysian adults had medical check-ups in the past 12 months.

The study found that 89% of adults in Malaysia felt that employers should help employees live a healthy lifestyle, mainly by providing free health checks, not subjecting em­­ployees to undue stress and ensuring workloads were not excessive.

AIA Bhd chief executive officer Bill Lisle said the company was committed to helping Malaysians live longer and healthier lives.

“Through this extensive survey, we are keen to identify and enhance awareness of the key trends that impact the health of adults so we can actively work with the community and our customers to promote more positive attitudes.”

Internet_HealthContributed  by Lim Ai Lee The Star/Asia News Network

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Five steps to business success for 2014


Biz Plan_2014Preparations: A well-crafted business plan is like a roadmap for the year.

How to develop a business plan for the new year

Here we are at the end of another year. For many business owners, it’s the right time to map out a strategic plan for next year. A well-crafted business plan is your roadmap to success and an easy way to stay on task for future growth, projected income and increased profits. Take one or two days now to develop a plan and you will save time, energy and maybe even a few dollars. Here’s how to develop a business plan for 2014 in five easy steps.

Set projected income

The very first thing you need to do when creating a business plan for the year ahead is to decide how much you plan on earning and what specifically you are looking to achieve. Setting these goals is only the first step, because outlining your plan for future months describes how you will get there and is the true blueprint for success.

Reflect on your current business models and income sources to help you determine your ideal income. If you’re having difficulty, evaluate these factors:

  • ·Do you need to identify a different profile that can spend more?
  • ·Would including a recurring element to your business increase profit?
  • ·Should your pricing be re-evaluated?
  • ·How is your marketing plan? How can you expand it to achieve more?

Set incremental goals 

The key to success in creating a business plan is detail and consistency. And every goal needs to be broken down into smaller tasks and objectives to ensure you are reaching your target audience and you have a plan for how to obtain your new income level.

Even the best plan is useless without milestones and success at reaching large goals comes from knowing how to create smaller, more attainable objectives. Simplify your income goals by this equation: Income per client x number of clients x frequency of clients = income. Clearly defined and manageable objectives- six months, monthly and weekly- will give you the momentum you need to reach difficult milestones while keeping a larger goal in view. Besides, this process gives you a bird’s eye view of exactly what income level needs to be reached within a certain time frame to stay on track for success.

Map out marketing

After determining what your income stream should be, it’s time to create a formula for acquiring the clients. The most effective way to reach a target audience and the only way to secure new customers is through marketing. After all, if no one knows you exist, no one will buy your products or services.

Take a long hard look at your current marketing activities and decide which strategies are effective and can be reused, even expanded, and which should be discarded. The right marketing can bring a steady stream of new clients, as well as build brand loyalty and solidify trust with existing customers.

Here are the most effective and commonly used platforms for acquiring new clients. Make sure to allocate sufficient time and budget for each:

  • ·Strategic Print Advertisement (Appear in front of your ideal prospects)
  • ·Online Marketing Strategies (Content to educate and entice)
  • ·Media Recognition (Position yourself as the expert authority)
  • ·Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+)
  • ·Networking and collaborations

Develop your team

Now that you have clearly defined, obtainable goals and a strategic marketing plan, it’s time to start thinking about how you are going to make it happen. It’s nearly impossible to achieve all of your goals by yourself and the best plans are always complemented by a strong team. Decide who you need and how they will help you achieve your milestones within your deadline.

Virtual teams are always an option, and can execute elements of your business plan simultaneously. On the other hand, you can also evaluate a current team or bring in someone new to free up time for you to execute growth campaigns.

Evaluate expenses 

Unfortunately, like everything in life — business costs money. However, by carefully evaluating all of your marketing activity and tracking return on investment stringently, you’ll have a better idea of where the money is going and how best it should be spent. Many business owners make the mistake of looking exclusively at gross profits, neglecting net profits. Make certain to record everything and be very clear about profits before taking on any new activities. This disciplined approach will help ensure that your ideal income is indeed profits.

Crafting an effective business plan is easy with a few good tips and the right information. By defining incremental goals, developing a marketing strategy, building your team and keeping an eye on expenses, you will be more than ready to charge into 2014 with spirited enthusiasm as you watch your business transform.

Contributed by Pam Siow

> Pam Siow is the founder of ThinkSpace. A renowned business coach within the region, Pam helps hundreds of business owners and corporations gain true success and profits with her knowledge and real-world experience. Find out more at ThinkSpace.com.my/ Internetbizownersclub.comnow.

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Educate public on changes in e-technology, CAP urged


e-technology

Warn kids against revealing personal information on FB, Govt urged

THE Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) has urged the Government to take pro-active measures in raising awareness consumers on the rapid changes in electronic technology.

“If Malaysia is truly to become a knowledge society, the citizens must be knowledgeable and be aware of the dangers and risks that come with new technology.

“It can easily be done if a part of the tax revenue from the profits of technology companies is used to educate consumers on the right use of the technology that most people have become dependent on today,” CAP president S.M. Mohamed Idris said in a statement yesterday.

“Children must also be informed on the dangers of revealing personal details on social networking sites such as Facebook and others,” he said.

Mohamed Idris said the Government should also provide facilities for encryption and decryption of data, and make mandatory for mobile phones, tablets and computers to be equipped with them.

“Encryption is the only way of communication secured enough for the military or banking, where a high level of security is de-sired,” he said.

Mohamed Idris was commenting on press reports that Singa-pore was a key partner of the 5-Eyes intelligence group that allegedly tapped telephones and monitored communication networks in Kuala Lumpur.


Is The Five Eyes Alliance watching you?

Based on information leaked by intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden, Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad reported that Singapore was a key ‘third party’ providing the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand access to Malaysia’s communication channel.

Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald cited documents leaked by Snowden alleging that Singapore military intelligence was helping the US, British and Australian spy agencies tap data passing through a major undersea cable that is partly owned by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd

Sources: The Star/Asia News Network

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Poor 3G services under MCMC scrutiny, a move in right direction


3G services under MCMC scrutiny – Telcos using 900/1,800 Mhz instead of 2,100 Mhz

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has issued a stern warning to cellular companies that are providing 3G services on lower-than-agreed bandwidth, causing a deterioration in the quality of 3G services.3G_4G

Most of the 3G players are using the 900 megahertz (MHz) and 1,800MHz frequency bands to roll out 3G services instead of the primary 2,100MHz band meant for 3G.

The regulator has given the players till the end of the year to come up with a plan to rectify the situation or face hefty fines, given the rise in the number of complaints regarding the capacity and speed of 3G services.

“We did an audit over three months ago and this has come to light. They have been putting up 3G coverage but not capacity and speed, and hence, the 3G services are slow. We issued the warning two weeks ago and have given them till the end of December to come back to us or action will be taken against them,” MCMC chairman Datuk Mohamed Sharil Mohamed Tarmizi told StarBiz yesterday.

He, however, added that “some of them have taken steps, but a lot more needs to be done”.

The rationale for telco operators to roll out their 3G on the lower bands is simply because it is more cost-effective to do so, according to telco experts.

Simply put, the higher the band, the higher the data capacity that can be carried on that network. However, the higher bands have smaller areas of coverage, and hence, the investment has to be higher.

“Some players have economised on investing in 2,100MHz to push coverage instead of higher capacity and speed. They are trying to compromise on quality. They may be stretching their dollar by not putting in enough base stations despite having made a lot of money all these years,” said an telco expert.

Another added that “consumers need more bandwidth for tablets than phones and this means the players may have compromised on the quality of service. Perhaps, some of the players had underestimated the tablet demand and had under-provisioned”.

The four recipients of the 3G spectrum are Celcom Axiata Bhd, DiGi.Com Bhd, Maxis Bhd and U Mobile.

The four players did not respond to queries from StarBiz as at press time.

“The concern is two-fold – first, there is concern about the quality of service of existing customers on the 900MHz/1,800MHz spectrum.

“Second, and more important, is the fact that rolling out 3G on any spectrum other than 2,100MHz could mean under-utilisation of the 3G primary band given to the players by the Government to provide maximum benefit of higher data capacity and speed to consumers,” said the expert.

“The onus is now on the regulator to find out if the Internet data rates charged for 3G services commensurate with the actual delivery of speed and capacity. If not, then consumers should not be burdened.”

Late last year, MCMC also dished out parts of the 2,600MHz spectrum band to eight players, including the main incumbent telco operators, to roll out 4G/ long-term evolution or LTE services.

Some of the players have asked to be allowed to upgrade on the 1,800MHz, on top of the 2,600MHz. Again, this would be a move to provide less capacity, but the regulator does not want a repeat of the 3G debacle.

Sharil said: “We have mandated that for every two base stations on 1,800MHz, operators will have to roll out one base station on 2,600MHz, as they have to provide adequate capacity and not coverage alone.

“The lower-bandwidth base stations are to accommodate for some handsets usage.”

MCMC has been making serious efforts at raising the quality of services for consumers in Malaysia.

Last year, it conducted a survey and found that the rate of dropped calls was bad among certain operators, and highlighted its findings.

- Contributed by  B K Sidhu The Star Nov 28 2013

MCMC moving in right direction – Operator must live up to their 3G claims!

KUDOS to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission or MCMC for checking on what the operators have been doing on 3G deployment.

The commission seems to be moving in the right direction in checking on the quality of services, which is a concern, and said to be lagging behind Hong Kong, Seoul and even China.

Over two months ago, the regulator did an audit check and came up with some interesting news. It found out that most of the 3G operators have not been using the 2,100 megahertz (MHz) spectrum fully to roll out 3G services. Instead, some have been using the lower bands, 900MHz and 1,800MHz, to roll out the services. It’s more economical to do so. They have been providing 3G coverage but not real 3G speed and capacity.

3G is meant to give you higher speeds just like 4G can give you super-fast data speed.

3G has been in the country for nearly a decade. The first two blocks of 2,100MHz spectrum were awarded to Celcom Axiata Bhd (then part of Telekom Malaysia Bhd) and Maxis Bhd in 2002.

Four years later, in 2006, Time dotCom Bhd (TDC) and MiTV Corporation Sdn Bhd got two more blocks of the same spectrum. MiTV’s spectrum is used by sister company U Mobile, while TDC, as soon as it secured the spectrum, sold it to DiGi.Com Bhd for a handsome profit.

To be fair, 3G has never taken off despite the hype. In Europe, operators paid hefty sums for the spectrum, while here, it was for a small fee.

But a decade later, finding out that the operators are still on a bandwidth that is lower than 3G and claiming to be offering 3G services makes us wonder if we have been overcharged.

This, perhaps, explains why there have been complaints about the 3G service; the speed and capacity have not been there, and it has been patchy and unreliable for most users.

There is no denying that the operators have been investing. It is not easy for them, as they have to deal with all kinds of challenges and authorities to get the service to the customer. However, when they claim it to be 3G service, it should be 3G service.

Two weeks ago, the operators were issued a stern warning to make the change or face hefty fines. One operator is rushing to do so, while the others are still waiting. They have till the year-end to face the regulator.

It is also unfortunate that it has taken the regulator so long to find out, as now the march is towards 4G and consumers will never find out how much extra they would have paid for the 3G service if it is not 3G speed and capacity they are getting.

But then, had the regulator not found out, consumers would not have found out, too. This tells us a lot about the state and quality of services, the promises and marketing pledges made, the pricing, the spectrum usage and all the money paid by consumers for what they had thought were 3G services.

However, as consumers, what do we benchmark our 3G services against? The onus is on the regulator to both set the benchmark and make sure it is adhered to. When we pay 10 sen for a product, we do not expect a five-sen product.

This is unfortunate, especially since our operators make among the highest earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation margins in the world. When they make so much, they should not compromise on service in the pursuit of profits.

Consumers should get a fair deal for what they are paying for. If indeed there has been any inconsistency, then the parties involved should be gracious enough to admit it and compensate the consumer.

Contributed by B K Sidhu The Star Nov 29 2013
Business Editor (News) B K Sidhu feels the local regulator should follow what the European regulators do; force operators to drop broadband charges.

Malaysian Crime Awareness Campaign


Crime AwarenessThe woman kneeing the ‘robber’ in the stomach as seen from a video grab.

PETALING JAYA: Many would be disappointed to find out that the viral video of a woman putting up a brave fight against snatch thieves in her house compound was, in fact, a mere re-enactment.

The video, which was shared on the Malaysian Crime Awareness Campaign’s Facebook page, clearly states that the video was a re-enactment for educational purposes.

The one-minute video showed a woman parking her car in her house porch, while a motorcycle is seen observing the car as she drives in.

As the woman gets out of her car, the pillion rider gets off the motorcycle and slips into the house compound just before the gate shuts.

He then proceeds to snatch her handbag, but the woman tries to cling on to it. Unable to do so, she retaliates and springs into action, kneeing the robber in the stomach and kicking him to the ground.

She then starts pounding on the man until his accomplice comes to his aid by threatening her with a knife.

She flees into the safety of her house as the crooks left after their failed attempt to rob the woman.

Several users commented on the video which was uploaded on YouTube, including Suraya Khan, who posted: “I salute this girl and wish to react like her in the same situation!”

Related:

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2 Malaysian Crime Awareness Campaign | Facebook

3.“Bangsar Village Kidnapping – Simple Self Protection Tips For Malaysian Crime Awareness Campaign”:
 

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MyDistress application

Youth addicted to computer games died in front of his computer!


Gamer slumpedOng Yee Haw, 23, (pic) was found slumped over the keyboard in front of his computer monitor in a room by his uncle at about 4pm.

GEORGE TOWN: A youth addicted to computer games died of a heart attack at his home in Bandar Baru Air Hitam here after apparently playing continuously for over 15 hours at a cybercafe nearby.

He was said to have been at the cybercafe from 10pm on Sunday until 1pm the next day before returning home to his own computer.

However, it was not known which computer game Ong had been playing before his death.

His mother Chew Qun Juan, 62, said her only son had been addicted to computer games ever since he stopped working at a restaurant five months ago following a motorcycle accident.

“He injured his right hand and had to stop working. I constantly told him not to spend too much time on computer games but he never listened.

“I single-handedly raised him after my husband died of cardiac arrest 15 years ago. Words cannot describe my sadness now. I only hope that others, who are also addicted to computer games, will learn something from this.

“I hope this will not happen to anyone else. My son was still so young,” she said in between tears when met at the Penang Hospital mortuary yesterday.

A post-mortem report, she said, confirmed that Ong died of a heart attack.

Ong was cremated at the Batu Gantung crematorium yesterday afternoon. The case has been classified as sudden death.

On Dec 27 last year, a 35-year-old broker was found dead inside his home, supposedly after playing video games.

A video game console was found in front of Liu Peng Han’s body. When his body was discovered by his uncle, Liu was lying on the sofa in the living room.

There had also been several media reports of deaths due to computer addiction in China, South Korea, Vietnam and the United States.

It was reported that in 2005, a man in South Korea went into cardiac arrest and died after playing StarCraft almost continuously for 50 hours. Two years later, a 30-year-old man in Guangzhou died after playing video games continuously for three days.

Contributed by Winnie Yeoh The Star/Asia News Network
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How To Launch A Startup Without Writing Code


There is an unspoken rule: to launch a startup, you need to build a product, and to do that you need someone that can write code.

Whether that means chasing down a technical co-founder, learning to code, or even building that “Lean MVP” – the conventional wisdom is that without tech abilities you’re nothing more than a dude (or dudette) with a Powerpoint.
Rocket take off from planet earth flames shoot out
A growing number of startups, however, are quietly disproving this assumption.

They’re getting their first customers with minimal technology, and often no code at all. Instead of building fancy technology from the outset, they’re hacking together inexpensive online tools such as online forms, drag-and-drop site builders, advanced WordPress plugins, and eCommerce providers.

They’re jumping right in to serve customers in any way possible – heading right for their first paying customers.

Most importantly, unlike the majority of their peers, by the time they start building a product, they already have a humming business.

How are they doing it?

Focus on Serving Customers Instead of Building a Product

Successful founders all know one thing: it’s more important to serve a customer than it is to build a product.

This is the mindset you must get into when you start out. Most entrepreneurs are narrowly set on building a product that they lose sight of the real goal – to solve a problem for a customer.

Or, as Ben Yoskovitz eloquently put it,

“Customers don’t care how you get things done – just that you get it done and solve their pain.”

Replace Technology with People

Think about the hardest part of the business you want to build. The part that would require the most complex development – the true innovation that no one else does.

Can a real person perform these tasks manually?

For many startups, this was the secret to massive success:

David Quail is a super talented software engineer, with one exit already under his belt. He wanted to solve his ultimate annoyance: scheduling meetings over email.

David’s original idea was to build an artificial intelligence tool that could read an email chain and automatically schedule the event. But this would take months if not years.

His shortcut to launching a business ASAP? He simply set up an email address for his customers to “CC” that forwarded to him, and did the work manually at first to prove that customers were willing to pay.

Over time he automated more of the service – but not before he already knew there was clear demand and was making revenues.

Another example – a marketplace:

Tastemaker is a marketplace connecting interior designers with homeowners for small design gigs. They started by contacting interior designers and building a physical list of those interested in extra work.

They then asked their network who needed help with interior design – and made the connection, processing payment themselves.

The Tastemaker founders used pen and paper to solve their customer’s needs and prove the market. They then built their online platform in parallel (which eventually became their core business).

You’ve probably heard many famous stories like ZenLike and Tastemaker. They range all the way from companies like Groupon or Yipit (raised $7.3M), to Aardvark (acquired by Google) and Diapers.com (acquired by Amazon).

What did they have in common starting out? At the core of many businesses, instead of fancy algorithms, you would have found the founders themselves, like the “man behind the curtain” in the Wizard of Oz, working hard, acting as the secret sauce.

Use These Off the Shelf Solutions

While your core tech might in fact be a service starting out, you can wrap it with an online presence, digital interactions, and the administration of a true technology business.

In short, you can act, look, and smell like a fully automated online company that employs a posse of software developers and an in-house graphic designer.

* Use e-commerce services to accept payments and even subscriptions using “hosted payment pages” – requiring zero code.

* Let your customers interact with you through sophisticated online forms you can publish (and brand) using drag-and-drop editors.

* Build a support knowledge base and community forum with Zendesk, Uservoice, or GetSatisfaction

* Use copy-paste widgets from around the web like contact forms, Skype buttons, live chat, etc.

* Use simple-yet-sophisticated website creators to publish your central website and glue together all the tools into one presence. Strikingly and Unbounce are great for beautifully designed landing pages.

I could go on listing these forever (well, I did here). As you can see, the web is full of tools that let you conjure entire features with the click of a mouse.

The key is to always search for what you want before reinventing the wheel. Chances are someone has already thought of how to make your life easier.

The Hidden Treasures of WordPress

To most of us, the WordPress brand connotes a free blog, or a simple way to create a content website for non-technical folks.

But the true magic of WordPress is the ability to extend its functionality to create many kinds of web platforms – while keeping your hands (mostly) free of code.

WordPress itself is free, and you can purchase inexpensive plugins that automatically transform your website into a membership site, ecommerce portal, social network, and even daily deals site.

Instead of spending thousands on a designer, you can buy a high-end theme for around $40 and customize it to your brand. If you have a bit more saved up, you can hire a local WordPress expert for a few hours of their time for small custom tweaks and a personal tutorial. And, if you don’t want hosting headaches, you can use WPEngine (hi, Jason!).

WordPress is one of the most incredible tools on the web for non-technical entrepreneurs. There’s a bit of a learning curve, depending on how you want to use it, but definitely a faster option than finding a developer or learning to code.

It puts fate into your own hands.

Put It All Together

Go back to that core customer need, and think of how to satisfy it by any means. Now how can you make that solution accessible? What would the process be for finding you and reaching out? How can you charge and provide support?

Chances are good that you can pull it all off yourself. If not, consider starting a bit smaller than you originally imagined, if only to start generating revenues today and fund your development.

Once you have your first few customers, you’ll have a very good picture of where your business is going, and what technology you absolutely need to build – and very clear motivation.

Does working this way pay off?

Tech companies started this way have sold for between $50-$540 million, or have gone public. They are growing at double digit rates. And they launched in a matter of weeks or months - not years.

If this approach makes you uncomfortable – that’s great. It’s a sign that you’re learning to think differently. However, entrepreneurs presented with this approach often have similar gut feelings:

What Will Investors Think?

They will think you are clever, resourceful, flexible, persistent – and know how to focus on the right things.
To quote one of our investors, Len Brody, on his portfolio: “I call them the workaround culture… [they] just work around anything – and you have to.”

If for any reason they are put off by your creativity and resourcefulness, then you’re not talking to the right investors.

What About Scaling?

This is a very understandable fear. It’s a scary situation to think, “Great, we got our customers, and now we’re going to disappoint them.”

Don’t let that thought paralyze you. Growth is rarely if ever a black and white, rocket-ship-spike. It’s a steady process that leaves you plenty of time to transition between solutions.

In other words, there’s a spectrum between do-it-yourself and full-robot-revolution. You might hire a few people in the meantime (with the revenue that their hire would naturally generate) while also developing a scalable technology.

As most entrepreneurs will tell you the way you get your first 50 customers certainly won’t be the way you get your first 5,000.

For those of you feeling held back by your lack of technical skills – or deep in development muck  - ask yourself, what can you do *today* to get your first customer.

Give it a shot. In contrast to paying a developer, you don’t have a lot to lose. Do whatever you need to do to get your business going.

Remember: you’re not here to build a product – you’re here to solve a problem. And you certainly have the skills to do that.
***
Want more specifics, examples, and tools? Check out my newest Skillshare course, How to Launch Your Startup Without Any Code (use code ONSTRTPS for %15 off)

This is a guest post by Tal Raviv.  He is the co-founder of Ecquire.

[Change this text]Posted by Dharmesh Shah
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