Just Do It

10-05-2021, Monday.

The Blog: Just Do It

It’s 3:31 a.m., page 596, the line reads, “but perhaps the story you finish is never the one you begin”. My eyes move on to the next four and a half lines but my brain is still in tryst with: is this what Billy Bauer (Zuckerberg) meant in Smithereens (Black Mirror S05E02) when he said, “it was not supposed to be like this…… it was one thing when I started it and it just became this whole other f*#$ing thing….” Is this what happens to the start-up that fails? I don’t know why my mind is thinking negative when the story you finish could be way better than the one you begin, but that pessimism is a question for next topic. Why did Smithereen turn out that way? Why do start-ups fail? Why? However, Robert Kiyosaki says, “Use your emotions to think, not to react”, so did I. And the next line by Billy Bauer led my thought trail, “it got there by degrees”. Each moment matters yet none is precious.  It happens through every day. It happens daily. With every decision you take. In the way you communicate. In your dealings with humans. Oh yes! Humans, the toughest element in a start-up.

I wonder would the Macintosh have said ‘hello’ had Steve Jobs pleaded Andy (which one?), “Please Andy do it”, “Yaar Andy ek ghante me kar do”? May be not. May be his lash out was needed. May be that straightforwardness was needed. May be, had Jobs been polite to him this world wouldn’t have heard the ‘hello’. Hell no! That world doesn’t exist.  May be Jobs was so bothered about the hello that he didn’t bother about his manner. May be…. You see, I am so concerned for my strong opinion hurting someone that I have to use ‘May Bes’. May be my point is not expressed with that intensity, that urgency and that passion by using ‘May Be’. Okay! So no more ‘May Bes’.

You get what you were seeking. If you do not get what you were seeking , think again, you’ll realise that’s what you were (seeking). I am no fan of universal truths, and thus, each universal truth has to be understood in a context. While communicating within the team (at least), if you are more bothered about not being bossy or rude to someone than being incessant about getting the task done, if you are more bothered about hurting people by being on point rather than being bothered about achieving the goal, then congrats you have made good friends not good products. You don’t need to unnecessarily ask, “Can you do this?” when you can tell “Do this”.  But that’s a polite way to order. Do you ask your computer, “can you please do this?” or you directly input the command? But it’s a computer. So what? They do not have feelings. So you are bothered about feelings? Well…. So you are more bothered about not hurting someone than the end result? Can’t both co exist? Get those both down your……. Okay! It doesn’t sound convincing enough? No problem.

The year 2020 compelled humans to do lot of stuffs, that given a choice, they wouldn’t have. Staying inside, wearing masks, working from home, managing sans maid, etc. The year taught me what defines one is the limits to which one pushes oneself. Humans by nature like to stay comfortable. That comfort zone! Had the pleas and requests to get people out of that zone been successful, there wouldn’t have been any need of those in the first place. Humans need a push, sometimes a shove. That push seems cruel until the day they thank us in retrospect.  Talking about straightforwardness, the Do this vs Can you do this, the direct way of telling something vs indirect, humans, by nature, love straightforwardness. Rather, humans love when they don’t need to think twice. It gives them liberty and limitlessness. Or rather, when humans feel free and limitless, they just sound straightforward. Think of the people with whom you have the most profound, deep or crazy talks and you shall realise. This process of speaking straight takes care of the result. And Trust the process to take care of the result. Thoughts bloom when you feel free, untethered. One can argue that there is no harm being indirect, and thus, polite. But there is. A good habit attracts others and a bad one is contagious. Being indirect in just communication finds a way to leak into other paths as well. Soon, you’ll have designers incapable of coming up with simple and intuitive designs, marketing team devising a round-and-round campaign and the decks not clearly conveying the pitch. This sounds convincing enough.

It’s 3:33. The line following the overlooked four and a half lines, the line that finally ends the tryst and reunites brain to the eyes asks, ”if I begin again, would I, too, end in a different place?”  Yes, is my answer. And to the Midnight’s Children, the story (of the blog) I end is the one I began, as my founder did not ask, “Would you like to write an essay/blog and publish it?” rather he insisted, “I want you to write one”. That’s Hachimichi.

Why would anyone want to invest in Hachimichi?

A word of Japanese origins, Hachimichi (八道) means “8 Roads”. You might have heard about Hachiko, an Akita dog that is now famous all over the world for his loyalty. Also, the Japanese word for honey (sweet) starts with Hachi. Furthermore, the Japanese character of Hachi is depicted by a long road leading into the horizon, which symbolizes the future.

Although purely literal, these are some of the characteristics that I have always associated with Hachimichi; to bring forth the future by being loyal to innovation while forming sweet relationships with all the stakeholders. But interestingly, every now and then, somebody quips in an entirely new perspective to our name. One perception: number 8 resembling a tilted infinity and so, that must mean that Hachimichi is an abode of infinite possibilities. Yet another perspective is that Hachimichi means 8 paths to success.

Some questions are just really difficult to answer. Why do we discuss and debate topics like the meaning of our name? Why do we keep refining our methods and ways?

All these questions further open up avenues of thought and it led me to think, “Why would anyone want to invest in us?” Now, THAT is a question that we could easily answer.

So, why would You want to invest your time, energy, and money into Hachimichi? Why?

1. A physiological desire

Hachimichi’s business satisfies a physiological need and not one of self-actualization.

As long as humans continue to eat, they are going to excrete. Toilets fall into Maslow’s basic desire category. Simply put, it is a never-ending business. Hachimichi caters to the human desire of having a comfortable experience at an unavoidable place.

2. Validated demand

The demand is real and is validated through our traction.

We started with SeatO’fresh. It is a simple yet effective B2B solution that gives 100% hygiene to every new user. We have heard feedback like “This is a blessing, I would definitely buy this” so often, it is rather rare to find naysayers to SeatO’fresh. But then, we have also realized that these may be fluffy promises which without payment, turn into false commitments. Luckily in our case, we were able to convert those promises into long-term commitments. For the last six months, we have had paying customers. A customer who frequently pays is a cherry on top and a huge confidence booster.

3. Mass sentiment

#toiletrights

Feminism and the voice against disparate social structures have been a sinusoidal wave. The recent #metoo movement was a trigger to all the pent-up emotions across the world. We see similar pent-up emotions in the case of hygiene and sanitation. Ignoring 40% of the population who has questionable access to sanitation, the remaining 60% seldom feel comfortable using toilets outside of their homes. Women especially, move the seat up or down, clean it with a jet spray, spread tissues, and only then, do they sit on it. While traveling, all the women from my family hold their pee till they get back home. Be it schools, hospitals, railways, offices, malls, or restaurants, the situation is pathetic. People understand this and actively demand some solution. Hachimichi can ride this wave of mass sentiment.

4. A catalyst to behavior change. Can become a norm.

There exists a future in which Hachimichi is the missing link.

SeatO’fresh has the potential to become a norm in public sanitation. We have witnessed it in our initial focus market. India has barely witnessed any technology in its washrooms. The likes of Cera, Jaquar, Kohler, Parryware, and Toto did try to bring in-built bidet/jet spray seats, but they all failed miserably. This failure can be attributed to their approach towards the market. With deeper pockets and a nationwide network, they had preferred mass production to flood the markets. This sets unrealistic expectations upon a product for which the customer is barely ready. Indians yet have the mindset required to accept technology into their washrooms.

This mindset and acceptability can only be built gradually through successive experiences. SeatO’fresh does exactly that. Through SeatO’fresh, consumers would be exposed to the possibility of technology and the comfort it brings in washrooms. A simple tech that is harmless, that works, and that solves a problem they frequently complained about.

Every new machine installed creates an average of 3-4000 new impressions every year. In a gradually built and optimistic business, we would have cumulatively generated 20Cr impressions over the first 5 years. In the 6th year alone, we would be adding 16Cr new impressions. A simple product that works and delivers an extraordinary experience arithmetically creates a whole new segment in which technology is brought into a place they never imagined. This also opens their mind to newer possibilities. A premium car has over 100 chips and a budget car would have 50-60 chips. How many chips does your toilet, a place that you must visit on daily basis, have?

5. Business can reach profitability relatively sooner.

C’mon, we are talking about hardware. Your investment will be utilized in visible things. Tooling, production, packaging, supply chain, and marketing. Cash-burn in millions will not bring results. In a normal scenario, we can expect to reach operational breakeven in 13 months. Over the period, you can witness the transition from a niche to a major market segment people will associate with Hachimichi alone.

6. Long-term ethics and vision of the Company.

Technology in toilets is not new to global markets. What we are doing at Hachimichi is to identify the right technology and make the product for India. We are curious about Indian customer psychology. Tons of features can be added to SeatO’fresh. However, finding the right ones which our customer values the most, is what it’s all about.

I remember ad-man Piyush Pandey once telling that you should never tell people how to brush their teeth, instead tell them how your toothpaste makes brushing more effective. When you speak about your personal toilets, >35-year-olds will probably imagine going in and going out quickly. This is an act they have been doing since childhood and it would not be wise to tell them otherwise about their daily habits. On the contrary, if you look at the younger generations, the time they spend in the washrooms is quite higher. Some consider it the only space where they can get solitude and peace of mind. Others take it as an escape and an excuse to binge on their smartphones. Thus, there is a rising trend where people seek better tech inside their washrooms. We do not have all the solutions. Not yet, but we are one of the few that think about such problems.

Tomorrow it is going to be a much hotter competitive space with more players in smart toilets. So, grab your spot at Hachimichi, while it’s still early.

The Hachimichi Equation

Every now and then, you come across a start-up. They are so commonplace now that 3/10 profiles that you see on LinkedIn have a “Founder” tag on them. The hard pill to swallow is that most of them fail too. Chances of success are low and yet, they still pop up every other minute… just like those annoying YouTube ads.

In this crowd, how are we… different?

We are at a stage where this question is meaningful and needs to be answered every day. And every day, we try to answer it through consistency, which will help us unravel who we are and reinvent what we can be.

Let us turn back the pages a bit. Do not worry, I do not intend to give you a lesson in History. Although I have started to enjoy History, I reckon most of you don’t. So, 2016. There I was in Japan, leading an extremely comfortable life. Happy family. Decent job. Heavy wallets. Yet, something was missing. There was no sense of fulfillment, no purpose but worst of all, there was nothing to look forward to other than longer titles and fatter paychecks.

I cannot trace it back to a single ‘eureka’ moment but the inception of Hachimichi, even in my mind, was a gradual process. There you go. Our first point of difference. Most start-ups today are built from an ‘aaha’ moment, some even in a drunken stupor with your best buddies. Somebody quips in, “Hey, why not sell this masked as that?” and bham! While that is not a bad way to start, ours was more of a butterfly effect.

The first time I stepped foot in Japan, it was a cultural shock to me. And a bit of disappointment as well. You see, I was literally hoping to see some ninjas and samurais roaming around. Anyways, Tokyo was like being dropped into a video game set in the distant future (Cyberpunk, anyone?). Everything was so… purposeful, sleek, and modern. Even after half a decade in Japan, every time I stepped out, I managed to find something new and fascinating. Most often, these things were enabled by technology. Some were prevalent in Japan for decades and are coming to India today, e.g., food/drinks vending machines, electronic toll collection systems, GPS maps in cars, and so on. And some other technologies that were in Japan when I left, may take another 5-6 years to make its way to India. For instance, robots. Can you believe that my Fuso office in Kawasaki had a robotic receptionist? No human presence! Visitors would greet the robot and tell them whom they wanted to meet. The robot would notify that person while guiding the visitor to the meeting location and about the available drinks like tea/coffee.

Then, there were the yearly vacations to India where nothing changed in decades. Well, they did change but they could have changed much faster. Japan, like any other developed country, gave me an opportunity to experience India’s future, although partial but probable. We may, no doubt, jump certain points on a standard developmental path. But such an exposure opened my mind to new business possibilities and that excited me a lot. I could see untapped potential in so many sectors and I felt that it was the opportune moment to capture it. I wanted to do it myself. I was fortunate to graduate from India’s top institutes and I should be the last person to avoid taking risks. If not me, then who? I felt incomplete. Deep down, I knew that I had a moral responsibility to the country that brought me up and not slaving away in another country to make an already big corporate, even bigger.

Thus, I started hunting for ideas. I had a little notebook dedicated to this that I carried around everywhere. Every time I had a thought (some were just downright crazy even) I just jotted it down. Hachimichi was born out of this notebook, a million thoughts and a thousand ideas later.

Today, most start-ups pop up in the IT sector. A lower requirement for capital, more room for error and a much easier form of deployment are the primary causes of attraction. In a product-based start-up like ours, we do not have as much room to wiggle in. For us, every day is a new learning experience. 2 years down the lane, we still learn something new with every new customer that gets added to our fold. Our flagship product, SeatO’fresh, solves a very prevalent problem of unhygienic toilet seats in public washrooms. Moreover, having a product that the customers can touch, feel, and interact with is quite an advantage. It creates more of a human connection with the customer than a software ever could. The biggest challenge though is that a product such as ours cannot be perfected overnight with a few lines of code. What helps us most is the feedback from our customers on what more we can do for them.

The way we approach our customers is different as well. Instead of a traditional sales pitch, we try to onboard them as our partners. We lay stark naked in front of our customers. Today is still day one and therefore, our aim is to sound genuine and ambitious. We assume a transparent position and convey the values our customer could derive. We see a potential partner in ever stakeholder we speak with; a partner who believes in us and is ready to invest their time and energy to help us grow. Because of this, we do not simply look for the volume in orders. Instead, we look for customers that can offer value to the product in terms of development. Most of these early adapters despite knowing that product is still rough-edged, took a leap of faith. This because they believed in our determination to solve inherent problems and improve continuously.

We are lucky to have a handful of such believers as of today. They have contributed to our growth and for that, we are forever thankful; because without them, we would not grow. 5 years down the lane, these early customers-cum-stakeholders that helped us on our journey will always be most valuable to us. Acquiring such stakeholders is what makes the journey interesting.

Our products are fairly new to the market and thus, no one knows the best possible supply chain, business and service model. Hence, with every piece of the puzzle that we crack, we develop a unique market understanding. This will help us to always stay a step ahead. We are continuously unraveling what our customers want, how they want it and how best it could be delivered. The road ahead is…well, we do not really see any road laid before us. But that is what makes it exciting. We are fighting against the odds of making a tech-savvy product start-up successful and with every step we take, we pave our own paths. We realize our constrained resources (time, money, and knowledge), and we are taking our steps accordingly. 2020 had its hardships. 2021 will also have its own challenges and we look forward to facing them head-on.

Begone 2020; Welcome 2021

Toilet etiquettes

Just like you have to follow table manners on the dining table, there are certain etiquettes to be followed inside a toilet – whether it’s public or private. How a person uses the toilet can reveal a lot about them. Bad aim? Reckless and insensitive. Forgot to flush? Careless. Hogging the cubicle for longer than necessary? Selfish. If you don’t want the person who uses the booth after you to secretly wish ill on you, hygiene brand Hachimichi brings you a few habits you should inculcate before your next pee break.

 

1. Seat up, seat down

 If you’re a man and you’re confused about the mumbo-jumbo around lifting the toilet seat, we’re happy to simplify it for you. If you’re standing up, lift the seat and then aim. Once done, put the toilet seat back down again. And if you spot Hachimichi’s Seat O’ Fresh in the restroom, you don’t have to worry about this formula, because the plastic covering the seat will protect it from any kind of ill-aimed dripping anyway.

 

2. Double check the locks

 Locking the door to the toilet should be pretty basic, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to do it, or think they’ve done it when they actually haven’t. For the benefit of your bottoms, double check the locks – it only takes an extra second.

 

3. Trash in the trash can, please

 There’s a dustbin in there for a reason, and it’s not to add to the décor. Kindly refrain from flushing your toilet paper, sanitary products, chewing gum, unpaid bills, hopes, dreams or unwanted goldfish down the toilet.

 

4. But do flush the important stuff

Nobody wants to enter a toilet to find a special package waiting for them in the toilet bowl. However busy you might be juggling the many thoughts in your head, forgetting to flush after doing your business is simply unacceptable. 

 

5.  Don’t be a chatterbox

 There’s many places to explore the socialite in you – a toilet is not one of them. Try not to engage in conversation with the people using cubicles or urinals adjacent to yours. And please, don’t accept phone calls when you’re already busy attending nature’s call.

 

6. Thou shalt not hog

 A public toilet, especially in bars, restaurants and malls, has to tend to the needs of a lot of people. Try and make your visits short, so that it can accommodate the other desperate people in the inevitably long queue. 

 

7. Conserve water

 A lot of water is wasted in toilets. The consumption can be minimized to a great extent by rectifying a few bad habits. All you have to do is turn off the taps when not in use, refrain from double flushing unless absolutely necessary, and report a broken flush or tap if it’s leaking.

 

With these seven toilet etiquettes and Hachimichi’s evolved hygiene products, toilets can be made better, safer and smarter.

 To find out more about Hachimichi and its range of hygiene products, click here.

Woman’s guide to navigating public toilets

Public toilets can be particularly frustrating for us women. From worrying about germs on the toilet seat to not finding toilet paper, hygiene in public toilets scares us more than all of Alfred Hitchcock’s horror movies put together. But here’s the thing: you’ve got to go when you have to go. Whether you’re in a bar downing drinks by the dozen or on a road trip with a limited number of bathroom stops on the way, holding it in is often simply not an option.

So, if you’re a woman who is perpetually wary of visiting the loo in public places, we’ve got some good news. Here’s a complete hygiene guide to help you navigate common toilets without a fear of catching a UTI – or something worse.

1. Carry your armour

You never know when you might have to use a public toilet. We say, always be prepared by carrying a mini toilet bag with you. We’re not saying you need to lug around all your hefty toiletries, but it can’t hurt to equip yourself with some tissues, a tampon or sanitary napkin, liquid soap and a sanitizer.

2. Check for water

 Nobody wants to be stuck on a toilet seat without water. Check the taps beforehand, and if there’s no water, carry a bottle with you inside. Whether you need to wash your hands or something else, it’ll come in handy and bail you out of an otherwise tricky situation.

3. Don’t keep your belongings on the floor

The floor is lava – or at least an invisible pool of unwanted germs. So, don’t dump your handbag on the floor when you’re doing your business. If there’s a hook inside the cubicle, you can hang it there; if not, hold onto it in your arms, where it’s safe and clean.

4. Inspect the toilet seat

To sit or to squat, that is the question. Sometimes, even when the toilet seat looks dry and fairly unsuspicious, it can carry a multitude of harmful infections. The safest toilet seats are the ones that have a plastic sheet on top, which you can refresh with a touch of a button. SeatO’fresh by Hachimichi is one such product. If you spot one like it, you know you’re in safe hands. If not, it’s best to skip leg day in the gym and squat inside the toilet instead, making sure your body is not touching the seat.

5. Wash your hands – thoroughly

We know public toilets aren’t exactly lounge-worthy, but don’t rush out as soon as you’re done. Do a mental recap of all the things you’ve touched that people before you would have laid hands on as well – like the flush and the door knob. Wash all of those germs away with tap water (or the bottle of water you carried) and soap. If you don’t have either, sanitize your hands on your way out.  

 

To find out more about SeatOfresh by Hachimichi, click here.