From the war zone that is e-commerce to criticising with kindness

The next turn for Indian e-commerce, Aadhaar and Budget 2017, listening deeply, and how to criticise with kindness

Founding Fuel

[The Knight at the Crossroads, a painting by Viktor Vasnetsov [Public domain]; photograph by Kalyanigudimetla (Own work) (CC BY-SA 4.0), and  Ramank257 (Own work) (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia Commons]

Hello there!

How has your week been?

For most parts of the previous week I was with a group of senior HR leaders at a programme called “Strategic Human Resource Leadership Journey” under the auspices of the National Human Resource Development Network. As the Program Design Head, it was fascinating to see senior HR professionals take the time to share perspectives with budding professionals who came with their questions, dilemmas and ideas.

Even as senior leaders shared their ideas, approaches and thoughts, I thought it incumbent on me and my role to get participants to be aware of their own biases and preponderances as they listened in to different perspectives. Passive acceptance and cynical rejection of ideas and arguments, depending on which corner of the court it comes from, is dangerous for the times we live in.

Post-truth and "alternative facts" have been making the news or booming hard in our echo chambers. As these new terms arrive on the scene and dance the real conversations into the beyond, we have to find / make / discover new ways to survive and thrive. These times require us to draw more ability to listen deeply, and discover more of our innate capacities to search for, find meaning and scale new walls. 

It is easy for us to think that these are far away patterns in distant lands. A cursory look beneath the surface will point to how true these are closer home as well. Take the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem. Despite the breathless frenzy of all the noise that pervaded the ecosystem, at Founding Fuel the first sombre alternative voices established the ground clearly. Haresh Chawla had predicted the turn of events at Flipkart, while the rest of the world was still in a hazy fairy-tale dream.

This week, Haresh returns. He says 2017 promises to be a defining year for Indian e-commerce. In his two-part series, he places the big changes in Flipkart in the broader context and explains why Indian e-commerce is at an important crossroads, the big shifts that are underway and how 2017 may well turn out to be a year of the Chinese internet giants hunting bounties in India. Given his uncanny accuracy and depth, it is a fantastic piece to read. Do give it a read. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

As I sign off and invite you to stay connected, I would leave you with a thought: The need to constantly learn and stay ahead has always been omnipresent. Now, more than ever. That reminds me, have you had the chance to read Indrajit Gupta’s ‘A new cheat sheet for learning’? If not, do it right now. The difference between what was, what is and what can be, are chasms that can be traversed with learning as its best bridge.

There is plenty happening at Founding Fuel. You will find the best of curated work here. Curated with love and a penchant for finding the person with a keen eye. Please do share the newsletter with your friends and colleagues and ask them to subscribe to it. Come by and say hello on Twitter, Facebook! We are charting a course for some good platforms and opportunities to connect. It would be lovely to have you with us. Stay tuned.


Kavi Arasu
On Behalf of Team Founding Fuel

Featured Stories

Why Indian e-commerce has hit the fork in the road 

Indian e-commerce is entering a critical phase, as founders and venture capitalists give way to strategic investors. And that’s why 2017 will be a defining year. The first in a two-part series. By Haresh Chawla (Read Time: 10 mins) 

"Our unicorns are caught between a rock and hard place. They’ve run as fast as their investors asked them to, they’ve used capital to buy out competitors and companies they probably did not need to or wish to—and they’ve done admirable jobs of scaling companies. And with funding drying up, things look bleak. But things will work out for most of them. Why?...Suspend your judgement for a moment—and think about Flipkart as two entities. Flipkart, the brand. And Flipkart, the business."

2017: The year of the Chinese internet bounty hunters

[Photograph by Johntorcasio (Own work) (CC BY-SA 4.0), via Wikimedia Commons]

The Indian market frenzy has cooled down. And it is the perfect time for the Chinese internet giants to make their big moves. As they go head-to-head with the Silicon Valley giants, it could change the Indian internet landscape forever. The concluding part of a special two part series. By Haresh Chawla (Read Time: 11 mins).

Three Aadhaar-related budget announcements that you should take note of 

In the #AadhaarEffect series: The push to BHIM, Aadhaar Pay and formal credit to micro entrepreneurs. By NS Ramnath (Read Time: 3 mins)

Kiran Karnik: Things to read, do, experience, listen to, and ponder over

Kiran Karnik shares his favourite sources of inspiration for innovation and entrepreneurship. This is part two in a three-part series, #MeetTheAuthor. In part one, we carried an exclusive extract from Karnik’s book ‘Crooked Minds: Creating An Innovative Society’. In part three, we will engage with him in a conversation around the ideas presented in his book. Stay tuned. (Read Time: 5 mins).

Must Reads: On Listening to People Not Like Us

Over the week, I was speaking with a senior futurist and got talking about essential skills that the world needs but aren't taught in formal courses. Bullshit detection and being able to discern patterns from layers and layers of muddied water came up very early and stayed all through. Discernment and drawing patters is so key!

I will point you to Arun Maira’s pieces. Take this piece for instance: Listening to them—and shaping our future together

Here he makes the case for an interesting array of work that we all need to be stretching our sinews to create. The story of Mandeep, a carpenter from Mashobra is his invitation for us to dive in. But after that, he makes a few compelling arguments that you can’t agree with more.

People like Maira are the ones that I turn to get another dimension to all what’s happening around us. The contributors to the Founding Fuel ecosystem have been chosen with that end in mind.

Disagree with me? With us? With any of us? Of course, you can. And you must, if you have a different point of view. But it is important to engage in civil conversations, where we can disagree without being disrespectful.

What We Are Reading

How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently

[Image by Gerd Altmann under Creative Commons]

Maria Popova quotes game theorist Anatol Rapoport's list of rules formulated decades ago. Dennett synthesizes the steps:

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way."

2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.

4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

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