Note: I no longer work with IonLab since Nov 12 of 2009.

One of the many parts in the creation of
ion
was the designing of the look and
feel of the product.

We do very limited direct selling (we sell mostly online) and from
what I’ve seen, people just see the finishing and packaging of the ion
and instantly buy it. My understanding is that based on how the
product looks and feels, we assume that the same level of “attention
to detail” has been maintained even in the internals of the product.
In other words, “if it looks good, the product must work good”. Heck,
we even apply the same logic to boys and girls, we obviously go for
the good looking ones… must be something in the genes.

As I was saying, good look and feel increases the “sellability” of the
product as well as the desire of the customer to buy the product. It
so turned out that we were lucky to arrive at a combination of both
good packaging and a solid product (thanks to Vikram’s electronics
prowess).

We sought help from a friend Diwan
Babu
(of Guru ColorTech) who did some
“amateur” designing for us and it came out really well. He made some
four designs (well, actually three since two are variations of the
same basic design):

ion_blue_vertical
ion_red
ion_blue_horizontal
ion_black

All four were good designs, and we didn’t know how to choose between
them.

My view was that I didn’t like the black one because the long ‘i’
makes it look like ‘j’ and the red one was too bright. I was biased
towards the blue horizontal one, especially because I remembered what
Philip once
said
:

“Light blue is a universally neutral colour in that all other
colours that exist are either offensive or have negative
connotations in some religion, or culture.”

We happened to be sitting in front of a Nike showroom thinking about
what to do, and this crazy idea of asking real people came up (okay, I
admit it was me who suggested it, but catching random people and
talking to them is not my thing, so those two did most of the hard
work). Several people, who tried to walk in to the store, were
bombarded by us asking about which logo they would prefer. Just to
make sure we were doing a proper survey, we changed the order of the
logos (so that they’re not biased towards the one in the center,
etc.), we asked people of different age groups, and so on.

It was a clear decision – the blue (horizontal) logo was going to be
the look of the ion.

After that, we used the blue logo as our basis to create many more
designs such as the posters, the
banner and the final box design:

ion_box_front

It was “too blue” all the way, heh.

Note: I no longer work with IonLab since Nov 12 of 2009.

The past couple of weeks has been a rollercoaster ride for
us and for ion.

Sales has been very good so far, but our observation is that people in
India are still hesitant to buy online from reasons such as credit
card security concerns (understandably so) to recently Paypal changing
their UI making it more difficult for the average person to understand
what to do. So, we started accepting offline payments and that has
worked out well.

What’s the response to ion? Simply amazing. I mean if you think about
it, it’s just a charger
(<marketing-pitch>and works really really
well</marketing-pitch>), and yet people are so appreciative and
supportive of what we are trying to do. The clincher is that it
solves a real problem. I’ve often heard the phrase “I just needed
something like this.”

As we say in our about page:

Moral of the story : “See a need, fill a need” — ‘Robots’ movie.

The three biggest points about “ion” (both the company and the
product) that people like are:

  1. We took the idea to execution. This alone amazes people. I still
    remember what Jace once said: “Ideas are
    cheap. Execution is everything.”

  2. The statement we make : “Made in India. Available only in India.”
    and “We are just Indians who want to make products for India.”
    Nothing much to be said here, except that we mean it and it’s not
    something we say lightly or say it for the sake of it. And no,
    we’re not going to rephrase it as “I’m just an Indian who wants to
    develop products in India for everyone in the World” as someone
    suggested.

  3. We have a very good finishing – the ion itself and the packaging
    looks very good and has a professional presentation. At the right
    price point.

Another aspect is how word-of-mouth has helped ion and we were banking
on that because we do not have a marketing budget other than the
posters we are giving to our friends to put up in their company notice
boards. Most people came to know about ion through emails, and it’s
surprising how effective email forwards are – the chain just keeps
going on and on, and many times my friends had come to know even
before I sent it to them because someone had already forwarded it!

Processing all the ion emails is both a chore and fun…

The worst mail we’ve got is:

first time in india single click orkut programs launching a
product,website,service etc. but dont have enough money to market
your product,service,website etc.

there are more than 3 crore registered resident indian on orkut out
of 8 crore indian internet user.noboby can question the potentional
of orkut.

orkut single click tools can help u to reach 3 crore indians at
cheapest price possible.

the features of orkut single click program are as follows:

1)Single click to scrap all your friends. 2)A Single click can
directly take u to a user’s scrap book or album 3)A single click
directly creates a topic in all the groups u have joined 4)A Single
click helps u to join a community. 5)IDEAL for people who
frequently use ORKUT,people who want to market their product.

Free stuff included : 1)orkut FAN FLOODing 2)DATABASE of 8 crore
email address 3)FREE orkut tweaks

i m gonna give this full package in a cd for 500 rs and shipping 50
Rs extra

plz call 098________(Editor’s Note: Full number not reproduced to
protect the guilty)

Some of the best mails we have received are:

I would like to congratulate all three of you for your New product – “ion |
power your music”. I wish you three develop more and more usable products for
all of us. I would like to buy it even though i don’t have any of the product
which needs usb charging.

and

If you are devising a marketing strategy for your company and this product, I
will be glad to offer any assistance. I have worked in pre-Sales Europe for
quite some time and my experience, given the remarkable nature of your product
may prove helpful.

and

I am a B.Tech-III Electronics student. Came to know about you through some
forward. I actually have few such ideas (related to electronics), but don’t
know how to commercialize them. Can you help me out? Though I can get placed
in some MNC easily, I am more interested in implementing my ideas.

I think this last mail was the best we’ve ever got. I’m starting to
believe what Vikram says that more and more of this generation are
thinking like this, and “want to do things for India”, and he/we mean
that in a non-political non-hyper-patriotic manner. It’s just that
simple “ness” in us.

And finally, some of the blogs that have written about us are:

All in all, there’s more work to be done, but so far so good. There’s
more to it behind the scenes, and perhaps I’ll write about it in
another post.

Note: I no longer work with IonLab since Nov 12 of 2009.

This incident happened about three weeks ago when the preparations for ion were
in full swing, and Vikram and myself worked all day long to create the posters
for ion
as well as the website itself. At one
point, we realized that we were spending most of our time in choosing just
the color and placement of text, and we spent some 20+ min just to decide
the font of the apostrophe in “plug ‘n play”!

At around 6 o’ clock, we were dead tired (at least I was, Vikram said he had
never seen so lazy before) and decided to go get the posters printed but I
didn’t want to, so he suggested instead to go for the new place that he went for
cycling to recently. We went by bike through a zig-zag maze of roads and after
3-4 km, suddenly ended up in a place which seemed to be deserted! It was a new
layout being formed by destroying the hill and the greenery, the signs of
urbanization marked by destruction, the green being replaced by the grey
(concrete).

We climbed up the rocks, just sat down there in the darkness and we had a long
discussion about random things and sometimes deep things. Then, we noticed there
was a huge reddish moon in the sky. Simply beautiful. I was taking photographs.

on the hill at night
on the hill at night

(more…)

For the past couple of months, I’ve had very busy weekends because I’ve been
helping out a couple of friends launch a product.

Why talk about it today? Because today is launch day!

I’m talking about “the ion” – a charger for your
iPod
. Get the ion, plug in the iPod and connect the
other end to the electric socket, and your iPod gets charged. No PC, no fuss, no
muss.

In fact, it works with any device that charges through USB, whether it is
your iRiver, or any mp3 player, or your mobile phone!

Some more cool features:

  • The ion is portable, you can carry it around anywhere, especially to places
    where you will not have access to a computer.
  • Do you really need to switch on your computer the whole night just to charge
    your iPod?
  • You can listen to your music when your iPod is getting charged by the ion,
    instead of staring at the ‘Do not disconnect’ message.
  • An awesome looking product. A great companion for the iPod.

All this for just Rs.399 only. As a bonus, you get solid reliability because the
ion has a voltage regulator circuit that protects your device from power surges.
Most existing charger products out there do not have such protection.

The ion poster

We’re going to get the product out in the stores soon, but* the quickest way to
get an ion is to buy it online right now!

We’ll also be trying to get the posters put up in all the IT companies so that
more people get to know about the ion. If you can help us with this, please do
drop us a line, we’d be glad to hear from you.
If you want to grab the posters yourself, you can get the digital
version
and set it as your wallpaper and help us
spread the word about ion :)

If you are curious about how the ion was born and how it was transformed into a
real product that we are holding in our hand today, you can read about the
interesting history of the ion.

Last but not the least, if you have any sorts of questions, doubts, queries or
feedback, please do write to us.

* Due to various circumstances, ion will not be available in stores, it will only be available online!

I was fortunate to attend proto.in in Chennai on Sunday. What was it all about? It’s about startups in India. It was the opportunity for an Indian entrepreneur to showcase his/her ideas and business plans, to look for funding, people to work with, partners or simply grab media attention.

proto.in 005.jpg

27 companies were showcased and they each had 8 minutes to present their product. Working prototypes and demos were encouraged, ppts discouraged. Companies were asked to focus on questions like ‘who are you’, ‘what are you doing’, ‘what makes you different’ and
‘what are you looking for’.

I had written down some notes during the entire day:

(more…)