Jawwad Farid is auctioning his time over lootmaar — any bidders? Why not?

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Lootmaar is getting more creative about the ways in which they are raising attention for their auctioning platform. After a brief foray into trying to sell Tshirts of forgotten celebrities, they are apparently now auctioning the time of the celebrities themselves to raise charity.

First up is Mr. Jawwad Farid – the winning bid gets to have a 2-hour lunch with him, but more importantly gets to donate money towards the Book Group social uplifting projects such as the CAS school. According to the auction page, Mr.Farid’s time starts at Rs.1000.

Things like these are interesting bait for analysts like myself – if we dont write glowing reviews people are likely to come back and say that we’re bad people for not supporting activities that are "changing the world". They are likely to challenge us by asking us when we ever did something that tried to make society better.

I’m doing it right now – I’m giving you FREE solid objective advice on making Lootmaar better, and hopefully the society and economy as a result. Note: this advice easily applies to all of the dozens of startups and entrepreneurs trying to build online businesses. I could even claim that this advice will do more good towards economic and sustainable development for the right reader than Ahmed Butt’s TShirt will.

I have been impressed with the creative ways in which Lootmaar is running marketing for your venture – it goes well with your brand of thinking differently and being an empathic, small team. The Rs.1 iPod bid was fun, celebrity auctions are noble. All of these are creative, fun, interesting, intriguing, curious… but they’re not remarkable.

As Faisal said, we are still not using Lootmaar. I check the site about once a month and so far every time I have been there I only see overwhelmingly zero bids. We – the people – are still not using Lootmaar. Whats worse, I know of atleast one startup who could completely kill you in the next 4 months (and its not Nilaam or B4Bid).

You need to focus on – and by that I would mean do nothing else but – getting mainstream people to take the platform seriously and adopt it by increasing traffic, allowing for flexibility and create a network of sufficient trust that overlooks cultural barriers. You need to focus on getting the very deep fundamentals right – why would I want to buy a used item in Pakistan when its not a cultural norm? How can I trust the credibility of the online seller? Who actually controls and influences the purchasing power or behavior in this market? What is auctioning and why should I bother with this technical way of doing something simpler? Why should I consider Lootmaar leaders in this space and follow their insights?

If you’ve got zero bids for the majority of auctions, you need to ask this; if traffic isnt doubling organically every quarter or so, you need to ask this; If every one of your blog posts isnt flooded by 15 or more comments from different people from your consumerbase (not just other bloggers or friends) you need to seriously ask his – why arent people trying to connect with Lootmaar via its blog or product? Why is the blog still just a broadcast device instead of an active hub for its users to get together and discuss their excitement?

There is a difference between personal-scale and web-scale in online ventures.

Personal-scale is where you’re always only limited by the number of people on staff – where you can only deliver in Karachi at the speed it takes X number of people times Y mins per processing / Z time available. You need to find a way to isolate the number of people you have with the number of orders you can process and dispatch, whether its through process or automation.

Personal-scale is where you will only discuss new ideas or plans with friends or with people you can physically meet or know or get advice from, and when one of them says "Why dont you…!?" you take it seriously…. where YOUR team decides how to take Lootmaar forward and just ANNOUNCES what you’re doing to your userbase.

You need to stop doing that – because web-scale is where you ask your actual consumerbase or community or people who deeply care about your existence from the value you’re providing to them about your next steps and just do that only – where you absolutely refuse to listen to friends.

At G&W – we always only ask the community about how to take it forward, and so far not once – NOT ONCE – have they let me down. We realized long enough ago that our community of people who deeply care about G&W is a lot smarter than we can ever hope to be when it comes to figuring out what G&W should do.

Personal-scale is where you’d email or call your friends hoping for people to use your technology – where people would just suggest you reach out to students because they’re "active online" (the worst reason humanly possible). Web-scale would be to figure out WHERE are the people who would ACTUALLY WANT to use my platform and HOW do I get to them – are they searching online (SEO)? Are they asking on forums (guerilla marketing)? Do they have monthly tea parties in Interior Sindh… get to them. The website is just an excuse for you to reach people and serve them.

Personal-scale is where you would convince one person to do the personal charity via your platform, and then announce that on your blog, then get another person, set up the account, announce that, and more. Web-scale is where you would create a platform where any number of people can propose themselves to the charitable cause without having to go through you.

Personal-scale is where your brand tells me that you’re just two people in a garage, and hence cute. Web-scale is where your brand tells me that you effectively remove my barriers of participation – the blue bubbly color scheme and web20-esque about section doesnt help me feel like Lootmaar is a reliable, trustable marketplace with a mature network of participants who take our attention seriously – the barrier of participation in your case.

Personal-scale is where you’ve built the technology and are encouraging people to learn HOW to use it, whereas web-scale is to study HOW people are already doing things and build the technology to support that. Auctions just arent part of this society or culture as a norm (in the mainstream). Online auctions are even more confusing.

Personal-scale is where you will have to physically meet and set up every activity and solution you create around the platform. Web scale is where a simple blog platform you created would be virally spread to 1.2 million people nearly overnight, where many of them would then decide what to do with that platform (WordPress and professional blog-based businesses and hundreds of plugins). Where your web property becomes a prepetual motion machine (wikipedia) NOT requiring your immediately actions to keep it running.

Personal-Scale is where you maintain the technology and also are actively figuring out what solution it is and for whom – web-scale is where you are just an application platform provider… and you stay the heck out of everyones way to let PEOPLE figure out how to use your technology and for what solution for where.

 

Most importantly, personal-scale is where you build a solution to remove technical barriers to usage; web-scale is where you remove cultural barriers of progress using technology.

Let’s take a few examples now to refine this last point.

 

Every major celebrity who already owns a charitable foundation wants to be able to create events on it – what if a system existed to create fund-raising drives whenever, say, Imran Khan wanted to do the next SKCM Hospital fund-raising… lunch with him against bidding for SKCM… but not by going through you. Where, whenever they were doing a fund-raising drive, they automatically think of [platform name here] as a great channel to complement their telethons, and where they could completely control the brand, the value offered and the charity… and lootmaar was just the backend powering it at no cost?

What if this person of insight Adnan appeared on Faisal Qureshi’s Ankahi Show to talk about how our society lacks a sense of faith in each other – how smart would he seem, when he talks about how he’s solving that problem, by creating a trust network… a place where people put "virtual trust bids" into other people, and then those bids are used for further transactions (business deals, hiring and firing, and more)… powered by lootmaar tech?

Even if none of us are bidding on auctions, we are — as a culture and society — comfortable about hiring real-estate agents to rent out our properties. A brokers role is essentially to drive up value and prices for our property as much as possible. Why cant this happen without the middle-man via direct people to people bidding on rent? I’m not saying create an auction on lootmaar.com – create a completely new way for people to rent property which doesnt involve hefty fees to middle-men, powered at the backend by lootmaar tech.

Do you know about the hundreds of middle-aged home-makers women entrepreneurs who are working as independent fabric or clothing designers via hand-painted works? (I know about 4 in my immediate family) They all take orders from friends, but the more successful ones are able to hold exhibitions at hotels and sell goods there. Their sales proposition is the same as art – its the designs that make people pay a premium. What if these women entrepreneurs were able to find a portal that lets them build thematic showcases of their designs and price up the premiums (because of limited supply)? Wouldn’t it enable them to better distribute their goods and create greater circulation of wealth from the super-rich to the middle-class?

Wouldn’t that be remarkable?

Have you studied how vegetables move from farmers to your local sabzi walla and how lack of information is crippling the farmers’ ability to negotiate, and how the first-line distributors have the biggest margins in the whole process because they exploit that lack of information? Have you heard about how telecos are trying to help the farmers by providing access to daily market rates via their cellphones?  What if a way existed for farmers with particularly good yields to have multiple front-line distributors compete with each other and drive down their margins just to get their hands on that premium yield – especially in times of shortage? What if a system like this completely disrupted the existing chain and enabled farmers to live a life of more self-esteem.

Wouldn’t that be remarkable?

What if people who had a reasonably impressive credit rating wanted a loan – lets say a business wants a working capital loan. Rather than going through the banks, what if a system forced banks to compete each other in driving down their margins just to get that A-listed premium client, thus invariably disrupting the way banks engage with customers.

Wouldn’t that be remarkable?

But you’re just asking me to buy books over a 7 day process, when I dont want to do that!

Remarkable is something that makes the head of state or of the industry call you up and tell you he’s speechless about the profound impact this could have in the way people work. Remarkable wins the Noble Prize.

 

If you want to change the world, then go out there and CHANGE it. Find a way to enable people to lead richer lives via your technology that only your technology can enable, dont just use it to raise money and donate it to some random charity.

Without that, "What if an online marketplace could be used for social good?" is still just hyperbole. Lootmaar.com is not remarkable yet.

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30 Comments

  • Darkest blend of coffee I’ve ever written – even reading it back is a bit of a headache!

  • Also apologies – the previous post title was unfair.

  • some excellent insight there!

    btw, i just started visiting this blog and am finding it to immensely resourceful. keep up the good work!

  • my God Osama! now that’s what i call a powerful piece! you’ve put forward some really really really amazing ideas on how disruptive ideas can surface as well as zeroing in ON those idea’s!

    Kudo’s!

    This is the kind of stuff i (for one) surf blogs for!

    adnan: listen up dude! some of these words just might propel you into stardom!

  • A well rounded insight!!!

    I agree with your idea of building trust in direct buying and selling but our society has been brought up like this. We have been fed with information like fraud and credit card issues when buying anything on internet. In 2002, We (a bunch of college guys) created an internet shop for traders and it hit us really hard as people were afraid of using credit card at that time and it is still true.

  • I was really excited about seeing startups in the auction domain. The recent marketing efforts by Nilaam and now those of Lootmaar make me think whether we truly understand the viral and WOMM phenomenon.

    One can understand that Lootmaar is perhaps trying to build a core base of influential evangelists. I have to question though, how many people from the target consumer base will like to bid for a 2 hour lunch with Jawwad Karim; not that I am taking any thing away from him as he does maintain a subscriber base including myself. The effectiveness of influencers is still not an established fact. This is even more so when the target market does not find resonance with the person.

    I would understand this tactic if the winning prize was with some one who resonated more with the masses. Having such an incentive to learn the auction process and take the trusting leap in the system may work for Lootmaar.

    My final point is very simple. I subscribe to this belief that if your target market is not tuned in to, or is reluctant in conforming to your business model, then it needs to be changed.

  • Kudos’ to Adnan’s Point!!!

    Yeah, i’m really going to bid on a lunch date with this guy. Come on people, I don’t think you understand the concept of driving traffic to a MEANINGFUL consumer based website. I want to see products, i want to see bidders on those products. I want to see a real auction site.

    Let’s see how the others do which are to go live soon.

    Lootmaar is dieing a slow death.

  • Well I wouldnt go as far as saying Lootmaar is dying a slow death…

    … but they’re in the “beta” painful phase of finding product-market mix (read Mark Andreessen).

    Once they can find out how they can really influence cultural norms in a large way adoption will happen. If they’re expecting us to eventually all start auctioning it will not.

  • So how long does “Beta” phase last?? Or does it go from “beta” to “buried”??

  • @Asif … I’m not sure why you’ve got such bleak expectations from lootmaar. I’m sure you realize that they’re wading through untested waters … it’s hard to forecast the future since there’s no concrete historical data to base your decisions on.

    So it’s a tough position to be in, and even nilaam.pk will face similar problems (but they might be able to resolve the issues quickly due to their seemingly deep pockets)

    Like Osama said, it’ll take several iterations and tweaks in their strategy until they finally get it right. Until then, lets wait and see how things turn out … and maybe offer some constructive criticism (like this post itself)

  • oops .. I mean to say ‘@Aziz’ not Asif 😀

  • Afreen,
    You’re right; I got alittle excited in my pervious post. But reality is that, if 6 or 12 months later you are still trying to get off the ground, you got some serious issues.

    I like competition, it benefits all, importantly, the consumer!

    And your comment about untested waters, that’s what makes or breaks any startup.

    If you were to enter a market with EBay already dominating, do you really think that a Lootmaar.com or Nilaam.pk would even consider auction platforms?

    This is the best time for them to shine and take advantage or get off the pot!

    I personally think, I will register on Nilaam.pk and auction off the Lootmaar.com site. That would be some real excitement!

  • Osama should run a new article! “Asif Chaurdy to Auction Lootmaar on Nilaam.pk”

    Put the begining of the End of Lootmaar! hehehehe :-)

  • the first time i talked to adnan about lootmaar, this is what he said to me: its about building trust in this society, its about providing people with a platform they don’t have, its about integrating them together.

    i’ve worded it loosely ofcourse, adnan is more eloquent than i.

    if lootmaar fails, so be it. we all know failure is a learning step. but i would not question adnan’s intentions. the boy is sincere.

  • hmm ..first of all, I don’t really understand what all this hype about nilaam.pk really is … from what I’ve seen and heard about them really doesnt tell me that they’ve figured out how to resolve the main issue that plagues lootmaar, i.e consumers’ buying habits and perceptions.

    I hope nilaam.pk is able to figure this out and make online auctions more common in Pakistan. I personally don’t care if it’s nilaam or lootmar, I just want to have this functionality available to me in Pakistan.
    But until nilaam.pk breaks the ice, I think both have equal chances of getting their act together and make it work for them but I’m not ready to pick a winner yet.

  • oh and do you seriously think that 6 months is enough time to get a startup up and running … which coincidently requires creating a brand new medium to reach your customers (auctions platform coupled with the lack of e-commerce infrastructure) AND also requires changing the way people have bought and sold stuff for years.

    To me that’s one hell of a task to undertake .. and there is a chance that lootmaar will fail .. but you’ve got to atleast admit the enormity of the task they were against…

  • It’s good to see the GW community getting passionate about something; 15 comments and counting. Thank god for a world of contrarian success; this augurs well.

    Osama,
    Firstly, that’s a solid, substanstive post, like the first one you did on us. The problems you’ve pointed out keep Nomi and I up at odd hours of the night. When we founded Lootmaar, we thought we only had to contend with the critical mass problem; the infamous 2-sided dielamma that plagues catalyst businesses. That is a real problem, but it’s compounded by internet consumer behaviour in Pakistan.

    But is it possible to crack it? Absolutely. Is there a silver bullet? No. What that means for us is that we have to try a dozen things until one clicks.

    About web-scale versus personal-scale. The point you missed is that personal-scale becomes web-scale. It takes time, trial and error. Unless you have 5 million dollars in the bank, and a conventional marketing budget to rival Unilever’s, you have to start with personal-scale. If you find a way to deliver real value, then web-scale follows.

    Finally, about competition. I welcome Nilaam with its “deep pockets.” It’s a fun space ;).

    -Adnan

    ps. Osama, I think we need to get the GW community to bid on you. Now that should raise some serious cash.

  • Adnan,

    I (and we perhaps) dont really think Lootmaar is going to wrap up, but you’ve got to keep the conversation flow going and look at directions to make a profound impact, not lots of minor ones.

    I disagree with you however the idea that personal-scale leads to web-scale. Absolutely wrong, and whoever’s teaching you that clearly has no idea about the internet.

    First, with web-scale I mean you need to try to tackle problems that have a profound impact on culture and society…. tackling lots of unrelated smaller problems wont lead to that – you have focus on adn declare that goal.

    Secondly, if you dont design your system to encourage better user integration and participation, they often wont.

    If you dont design an interface that allows charities to automatically set up their fund-raising drives for free with a rebranded interface, they wont…. they’ll come to lootmaar and say “this isnt for me, these guys are selling ipods”.

    And I’d argue that it would take you just as long to put up that page as it would take for you to convince me to put myself up for auction. Its a weekend hack, but your focus and priority will determine what will happen.

    The total marketing for chartiies and event listings is about half a dozen emails and a marketing brochure and maybe some phonecalls to influencers. That doesn’t require P&G budgets.

    Your site needs to be structured so that people can find newer innovative users for it themselves, without having to require you to think about those solutions yourself. That’s what web-scale relates to.

    Your marketing really needs to involve influencers who can carry the torch for you because they feel the impotance of do so…. that doesn’t requrie P&G budgets…. Google didnt use P&G budgets, but they did each people’s trust and people sold google onto their friends.

    So personal and web-scale are apples to oranges, there’s no transition path between them.

  • The point behind the internet is that you need to get out of the way of the people on the internet trying to get something done – see “waves” by Ze Frank for a satirical piece on it.

    The challenge ofcourse, is also to train people to “get on the internet” so to speak. We’re facing the same issue sometimes with our core audience at G&W.

    But the point (again) – almost the whole point – is that you should be able to disrupt nilaam or even Unilever with their access and pockets at this space by being remarkable. If you’re remarkable, you’ll find influencers, evangelists, followers and more.

    Right now, you’re not. So you will always be compared to Nilaam and others, esp when Nilaam is doing nothing special.

  • P.S. Adnan its over 140 comments in 5 days – the G&W community is more passionate that you give it credit for :)

  • Arfeen,
    Please tell me what exactly you want from an auction site. Lets hear it!

  • Just one more thing about this whole space. Has anyone ever thought about what ‘auctions’ really mean to the masses?

    When was the last time (those from karachi raise their hands) anyone of us attended a local auction?

    If you’re thinking im talking crazy, allow me to explain.

    In pakistan, auction’s are other words for
    1) Con artists
    2) Moving Stolen Goods

    Dont believe me? Goto saddar and just stand outside one of the shops where the guy is ‘auctioning’ gold watches and TV sets.

    That is what auction is to the masses, and i believe anyone (lootmar, nilaam or whoever) wanting to break into that space should look at ways to overcoming that barrier.

    Aziz: If i were to answer personally, there are three things i would want from an auction site. 1) Guarantee’s that what i buy is worth it and i wont be ‘conned’, and 2) Things which ‘i’ would want to buy and 3)A track record.

    I’m sorry, but unless i see a see/hear a couple of testimonials from real flesh and blood people (and not just Brian A. or even George B.) i’m just not going to buy into the whole thing.

    Think over how shophive is working? And consequently how beliscity is working. I hear good things about the first, because i KNOW satisfied people from that site. However, beliscity is still pretty much of an online catalog, and all i’ve heard is you go online and see the prices THEN goto their brick and mortar store (located at Sasi Arcade clifton) to inspect and buy. I’ve yet to come across a satisfied buyer from beliscity.

    Lastly, as a nation we’re not really too afraid of using our credit cards online, think TCS, AirBlue (and im sure if you look at pr0n site transactions a lot of when would be from pakistan), we’re short of people we can TRUST to give out our credit card information’s to!

    *whew! sorry for the extremely long comment, but i needed to get it off my chest :))

  • beliscity: satisfied *online* buyer :p

  • Mansoor my friend I’m impressed

  • *slight bow*

    thank you. i believe it is the effect of being in the presence of great minds rather than much on my part.

  • Here are some further and different thoughts over auctioning in Pakistan:

    http://yaser.2scomplement.com/?p=47

  • the bid amount to have lunch with jawwad farid have exceeded 60,000 Rs. its great to see and somehow very hard to believe too.

    is it because of the charity factor? or is it because of jawwad farid? i think only the bidders can tell about this.

  • though this is an old post but well, this is full of wisdom. Hats off to Green & White for such a detailed review.

  • who won the auction? we don’t see any receipts on lootmaar blog either?

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