Buddha in Business: The joys of building a product


Can an entrepreneur create a business model within the Buddhist framework? Here’s the second in our twelve-part series...

Is it possible to dovetail Buddhist framework into the ten building blocks of the business model itself and build a robust entrepreneurial practice?

This was the question we raised in our introductory column last week. Starting today, we will address each of the building blocks within the Buddhist ethos by illustrating with an appropriate and interesting use case.

But before we get down to it, let’s understand two things. Firstly, what is a business model? And secondly, how is it different from a business plan?

Alexander Osterwalder, the Swiss business theorist defined business model as ‘the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers and captures value’. He created the Business Model Canvas (BMC) with nine building blocks to ‘show the logic of how company intends to make money’.

How is the BMC different from the Business Plan? Very simplistically, the building blocks are the key implementable elements of the Business Plan. If the business plan is your wish-list, the building blocks of the BMC describe how you plan to make your wish list, a reality.

Discover the satisfaction of building a product together

Osterwalder’s BMC was more applicable to mature businesses as he developed it for them. We have modified the BMC to suit startups as well and instead of nine building blocks, we have ten. 

And over the next eleven Saturdays, we will walk you through each of our building blocks to demonstrate how you can build them within the Buddhist framework.

Today we will address the very first building block, which is WHAT IS MY PRODUCT?

Last week, in our introduction, we said that the Buddhist framework comprises four truths. 

• What is pain

• What is the origin or source of pain

• How to put an end to pain

• How to embrace a path where pain can be avoided

Let us take the use case of a very young and happening media company called Pocket Aces, founded in 2013, headquartered in Mumbai. The founders, Ashwin Suresh and Anirudh Pandita, and co-founder Aditi Shrivastava envisaged it as a digital entertainment company that leverages technology to create and distribute engaging content for the Indian millennials.

Let us now see how the four truths of Buddhism can be used to describe their product.

What is the pain that Pocket Aces is trying to address?

In today’s times and climes, the smart phone has become every millennial’s (a millennial is a demographic term to indicate those born in the early 80’s up to mid-90’s) device to engage with his habitat.

Pocket Aces was a prime mover in the space of producing content for the millenials’ consumption, on the go. The company not only identified the sweet spot but very quickly moved into all the adjacencies of both format and content to seduce and engage with their customers. Let us see how.

First came Filter Copy. These were short videos and their purpose was to create relatable, shareable, snackable content for the millennials. Obviously on the go. Therefore, obviously on their mobiles. Let’s understand each of these product descriptions. Relatable as in, it should speak the language and lifestyle of the millennials. Shareable as in, the customers should be able to populate their universe with this content, easily and conveniently. Snackable as in, the videos were in small bites, under five minutes and they were vignettes of some aspect of life. Then came Dice Media. These were videos too, and they were relatable and shareable but they were not small bites. They were episodic web series and a full-fledged hearty meal.

This is what we meant when we said adjacencies in formats. The short and long of it!

Having explored themes of relationships, pangs of growing up, parenting, and the like in both Filter Copy and Dice Media, they explored other kinds of content. Gobble was created to showcase cooking and related activity on videos. Loco was created as an interactive quiz, live stream, game show, video.

In summary, the pain point Pocket Aces was trying to address through its multiple offerings was absence of engaging content for the millennials to be consumed on their smart phones in an interstitial fashion.

What is the origin or source of pain?

This was clear. The millennials were bored because there was no interesting content that they could consume on their smart phones. And Pocket Aces articulated this in their tagline: Solving boredom.

How can Pocket Aces put an end to pain?

Pocket Aces told its customers, watch our content on your smart phones on your social media (Facebook or YouTube). Watch them on Ola Play in the cab. Watch them as inflight entertainment on international airlines. Watch them on TV and OTT apps. Watch them and tell your friends to watch them too. None of you will be bored!

How can the millennials embrace a path where pain can be avoided?

Buy a smart phone. Download OTT apps. Watch our shows - short formats and web series, cooking shows and game shows. Banish boredom. Stay interested.

How did Pocket Aces implement its vision? Let’s understand this with the help of the eight guiding posts of the Buddhist doctrine.

Right View: It offered different kinds of content and in different formats, making it both diverse and inclusive. Millennials now were spoilt for choice! And their customers responded with a unanimous thumbs-up. Pocket Aces is ranked #1 in all categories!

Right thinking: Pocket Aces set out to solve the boredom problem of millennials. They did so by ‘grabbing attention minutes.’ Their content engages their customers – across geographies, major languages and India/Bharat cultures.

Right speech: Whether it is the crisp and small bites on Filter Copy or the chemistry-filled banter on Dice’s main courses, it got the language of its audience right.

They offered bespoke strategies to their brand partners with their content. Short videos to create the right buzz around campaign goals. Web series to promote repeated messaging for instant recall. Food videos for product placement and brand integration. And LOCO for interactive engagement. Certainly, they designed the right action for different marketing goal for the brands partnering with them.

“We’re constantly striving to build an army of first-principle thinkers and zealous risk-takers, so we've also built a creative environment for young minds to freely bloom.” Autonomy, mastery and purpose - the company seems to have aced the key elements of right livelihood!

Pocket Aces’ narrative to solve boredom shows the right diligence in bringing content, talent, technology, analytics and distribution algorithms together. Their data-driven and iterative content hits the bulls-eye and engages the millennials.

Can engagement happen at scale and branded content? In using metrics beyond just views and reach – and doing deep dives on shares, comments, and average watch, Pocket Aces has shown the right mindfulness of what true engagement is.

And finally - Right concentration. Leader in social entertainment. 17x surge in minutes watched in the last two years. The only digital company in India to have a multi-show partnership with NETFLIX.

Soichiro Honda spoke of the joy of producing way back in 1951.If you are an entrepreneur, use the Buddhist doctrine and create this joy!


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