On Marketplaces

While growing up in a small town, we used to have Thursday markets in outskirts. Local sellers as well as sellers from nearby villages would come to sell their stuff – vegetables, groceries, home decor, kitchen utensils and almost everything one needs in a town. Later, I realized that all the towns had dedicated days in a week for setting up markets. “Setting up markets” is what marketplaces do.

After an unsuccessful attempt at setting up a marketplace (Eduflix) as well as working with a successful marketplace (Flipkart), I have realized that there are three very important things needed to set up marketplaces.

Hampi Marketplace
Hampi Marketplace


Liquidity implies there is enough supply in the market to meet the demand and vice versa.

Setting up a day in a week makes sure all buyers and sellers come together on a single day and generate enough “liquidity” to make it interesting for buyers as well as sellers. Spreading thin across the week would result in lower choice or unavailability of required merchandise for buyers. On the other hand sellers will be left with unsold inventory. By bringing liquidity in the markets, marketplaces remove the inefficiencies from the markets as well as add value to both the buyers and the sellers. Thanks to those wise men who found this “liquidity” hack to create weekly marketplaces. Some marketplaces also leverage geography to generate liquidity – they gathers buyers and sellers together at one place (malls, commercial streets etc) to generate sufficient demand and supply.

Lets move to the Internet. The concept of marketplace fundamentally aligns with Internet (which itself is a marketplace in one sense). And similar to physical marketplaces, liquidity remains the most important success criteria of any marketplace. On internet, network effects drive the liquidity. Travelers visit TripAdvisor because it provides trusted reviews from real travelers, while real travelers prefer writing on TripAdvisor because most of the travelers visit TripAdvisor. The same logic applies to all the social networks including Facebook. Imagine logging on to Facebook and not seeing any update from your friends (something that happened with Orkut) or booking a cab from TaxiForSure (or much hyped Uber) and no availability?

We can safely conclude that “liquidity” is the single biggest contributor to the success of a marketplace. What drives liquidity? This is a million dollar question or rather a billion dollar. There are some usual tricks to drive liquidity in a marketplace, however, such tricks don’t apply to all marketplaces. Here are some such known tricks

Fake it before you make it 
Reddit founders created fake accounts to seed the content. Even Paypal faked it by creating bots to buy from sellers and insist on paying through Paypal. You can find more examples here.

Start as a one-sided marketplace
Marketplaces need buyers and sellers, however if marketplace can be seeded either by one buyer or one seller, one can get the ball rolling. I cannot think of any marketplace with just one buyer and many sellers except for (may be) government buying from multiple sellers in a marketplace (FCI procures from multiple sellers in the market). However, there are many examples for marketplaces starting with a single seller, building consumer traction and then opening up to multiple sellers. Both Flipkart and Amazon are examples of the same.

Get big shots as participants
This is more of a social proof approach to building a marketplace. Etsy leveraged founder of Crafster as explained in this Quora post. LinkedIn created and aspirational brand by starting with successful and influential friends of Reid Hoffman (How LinkedIn got its initial traction). Similarly StackOverflow was promoted by influential founders Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood who had huge following on their blogs.

Leverage the existing networks
Lot of niche marketplaces started leveraging the liquidity of Craigslist, AirBnb being the most prominent. And many others started selecting verticals from eBay. On a different note, lot of niche marketplaces are being formed by unbundling of services from large and generic marketplaces.

There are many more liquidity hacks (just search on google) but every marketplace solves a different problem and these cannot be applied to all marketplaces in generic way. The key is to have absolute clarity on customer-needs marketplace is trying to meet and devise the hack accordingly.

Some more examples –


Rules of the Game 

The problem of marketplace is not completely resolved after solving for liquidity. The second most important thing after liquidity is managing the quality of service of the marketplace. Liquidity drives the marketplace but quality helps it stay relevant. And marketplace rules (as defined by policies or algorithms) help in maintaining the quality.

Google’s page ranking algorithm maintains the relevance of the content you are looking for. If it fails, you would lose the trust with the search result and move to another search engine. And so would content writers start optimizing their content for another search engine. Similarly Facebook uses edge ranking algorithm to show what you see on your feed. In spite of the complexity of the algorithms, they simplify the interpretation to content creators to create meaningful and engaging content. This simplification is done using simple rules (e.g.,googleFacebook ). These apps are so good that one never cared to read the rules.

Similarly, stock markets are governed by very complicated rules and policies for traders (check BSE india for instance). However, i can say that very few people have actually gone through these details. Most of the traders / investors would know may be 5% of simplified rules that might be applicable to 95% of the transactions.

E-commerce marketplaces also define the rules in terms of various policies like return policies or payment policies. These rules make a marketplace as managed marketplace. Some marketplaces are going extreme when it comes to managing the marketplace, creating rules that make marketplaces almost homogeneous experience no matter who is the seller (the new marketplaces). These are almost on the verge of being aggregation services than being marketplaces. It is very hard to say whether Uber is a marketplace or just an aggregator. On the other hand, open marketplaces leave a lot of levers for differentiation for sellers.

Most of the marketplaces fall in between open marketplaces and aggregators. Some use libertarian paternalismto nudge participants for desired behavior.

Whatever be the case, these rules define the marketplace. These rules define what is allowed to sell, how transaction occurs, what happens if transaction fails and so on. I see these rules are no different from rules of any other game. Participants play the game following these rules to win. And that’s why, designing a marketplace is no different from designing a game. The rules of the game drive the quality of the services on the marketplace and also govern the engagement levels of the marketplace.

Participants succeed when a transaction happens (buyers succeed in buying desired product at desired price while sellers succeed in selling).


The Third Problem: Platform

The third problem is relatively simpler. While rules of marketplaces define it but you need tools and capabilities to enable participants to follow these rules. The third problem is just about building the platform to enable the liquidity and gamification of marketplaces. Platform provides capabilities to list products, enable transactions and fulfillment, generate feedback mechanisms through reviews or ratings, avoid fraud etc. The value transaction is not possible without this platform. For an ecommerce marketplace, an order management system between buyer and seller is a platform and so is the actual implementation of ratings and review system.



1. Marketplaces need liquidity to generate value
2. Marketplaces are defined by rules that manage the service and engagement levels
3. Marketplaces are built on platforms that provide capabilities to generate liquidity and follow rules

Here are some examples of some (successful) marketplaces

Marketplace Value emerging out of liquidity(not comprehensive) Rules of the game (some representative examples) Platform capabilities(some representative examples)
Google Relevant search results Generate engaging content, Search using keywords Search Engine
Facebook Find what are friends sharing Add friends, Share, Like Social Graph, Feed
Twitter What is the latest? Update in 140 characters, Follow People Social Graph, Timeline
LinkedIn Resume of everyoneConnections Update your profile, Connect with people Social Graph, Profile, Content
TripAdvisor Discover places Write reviews, Upload pictures Ratings and Reviews, Fraud detection
Stock Markets Trading of listed stocks Bid for stocks to buy or sell, Settlement in T+3 days, Circuit filters at 20% Stock Exchange, Settlements, Fraud detections
Reddit Front page of the internet User generated news links, Votes promote stories to the front page Content Sharing platform
StackOverFlow Get answers to your tech questions Questions and answers are voted by the community, Users earn reputation when people vote on your questions or answers, The person who asked can mark one answer as accepted Q&A platform with voting
Quora Learn / know from others Be nice and respectful, Make a page more helpful (Quora’s rule are slightly vague but they make up for it by imbibing the rules in user’s subconscious mind. Heres link to Quora policies) Q&A platform with voting
Über / TaxiForSure Connects you to a cab Book from point to point, Cancellation charges Mobile App for Booking, Driver Assignment,  Cab tracking
eCommerce (Flipkart / Amazon / eBay) Product Selection, Low Prices Buyers can return products, Cancellation charges, Shipping policy Order Management,Product Listing,Ratings and Reviews

3 Trends To Watch In Education Technology

I think these are the top three education technology trends that need attention (short term perspective for 2 to 4 years) –

Improving the Retention in MOOCs

In year 2012, we saw a deluge of online courses offered by Ed Tech companies like Coursera, Udacity and edX. The number of students enrolled in these courses is a proof how online education is in great demand across the world. However, of the millions of students who enroll for online courses, only a small percentage of students actually complete the course. Coursera founder, in an interview last year said that courses at Coursera have retention rates of 7% to 9% depending on the course. The retention rates are of similar order or lower with other MOOC providers. Very soon, we would see solutions coming out to solve this problem and hopefully see improvement in retention rates. Some attempts would be in form of providing more structured education around MOOCs, especially in countries like India. We would also see some startups focussing on bringing the web product principles and improving the engagement of courses offered by employing personalization, gamification techniques etc.

Education Content Consumption on Internet

English: Online Learning

Content plays a key role in education but the methods currently used in online education are still old and somewhat linear. Going forward, we will see a lot of innovation happening in how education content is presented to students and how it can be made more engaging. One good example from year 2012 is Edmodo, that is bringing social aspects in the way content is consumed with more than 19 million students and teachers on board. We might also see startups coming up with technologies to bring more interactions in video lectures and other rich media. The core learning experience would depend largely on the way education content is delivered and consumed online.

Use of Mobile in Education

Mobile is increasingly replacing PC for lot of activities including education. In addition, higher penetration of mobile in some countries makes it a preferred medium over PC. For instance, in India with population of 1.2 billion, there are just 15 million broadband connections but more than 850 million mobile connections (source)

The learning experience over mobile is still in infancy and in future, we will see a lot of attempts in improving the same. With the changing perception about mobile usage for certain activities, education would be a key contender and we would see Ed Tech companies working on mobile experience.


Other than these, I also think we will increasingly see more “teacher” involvement in EdTech instead of just bunch of techies solving education problems.

Notes on Behaviour Design

Recently I got a chance to see a very interesting lecture by Dr. BJ Fogg on Behavior Design. He is Director at Persuasive Tech Lab, Stanford and runs tinyhabits.com. On the other hand I have also been following Nir Eyal’s blog and his concept of Desire Engine. Here I am trying to do something I usually not do – that is, write down some notes and try to compare these two different models. All credits for this post goes to them, all mistakes are mine. It would be even more interesting to try bringing in perspective of “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg – a book I am currently reading in these notes. Maybe Later.

My interest in behavior design comes from designing new products. Whether we are designing a web application or a mobile application or a physical product, we aspire to change the user behavior in some manner. And above all, we want to inculcate habit in users to use our product. And heres where behavior hacking starts [Hacking has been the buzzword lately from program hacking to growth hacking to now behavior hacking].

Behavior Design 

1. Types of Behavior changes

There are 15 ways behaviour can change. Here is the grid that Dr. BJ Fogg puts down to simplify the behavior design

The Behavior Grid
The Behavior Grid

Now for each type of behavior change, we need a different strategy. And according to him, a strategy befitting one type of behavior change might be completely different from the other. If he is right that this grid makes our life a lot easier by focussing on one type of behavior change or set of behavior changes for designing products. Another interesting point is that sometimes, one may want to move to a particular behavior change with a two-step process (eg. first going for Span Behavior to Path Behavior)

2. Motivation, Ability and Trigger

Behavior change is initiated by a Trigger and there are two things that determine whether user pulls the trigger – Motivation and Ability. Let me come up with a simple example – Lets say a user is looking to buy a smartphone (motivation) and somehow lands up on the relevant webpage (ability), she presses the call to action button (trigger). As a product designer, one’s job is to maximize the motivation to use the product, make it extremely easy to use the product and design an appropriate trigger. Dr. Fogg puts this in a very nice model as shown below (from his website) –

The behavior model
The behavior model

The point he is trying to make is very understandable – For behavior change to occur, one has to be above the Activation Threshold. A good user experience design can make up for low motivation and that is why user experience design is one the most important thing in product design. On the other hand, if motivation is too high and even when behavior change is hard to do, a trigger can lead to behavior change [to use the product]. An anti-UX guy can think that one can always build products that have high motivation value without an easy way to use them. Here comes the third point.

3. Motivation Curve

Practically speaking, our users and human beings and their motivation does not stay the same forever. For instance, a student who is preparing for an exam goes through ups and downs with his motivation levels to get good marks. So if your product is hard to use, the trigger might not always work. And this might hamper the habit formation – the most important thing we want with our products. The motivation curve can vary across people and the behavior change solicited. The point is that with Hard to use product or bad user experience design, one can risk product adoption in lean periods of motivation. And it is difficult to change habits if user goes on and off with the product.

4. Tiny Habits

Dr. BJ Fogg further suggests a way to make behavior change “Easy to do”. This is what he terms Tiny Habits. In his words – “I created a new way to tap the power of context and baby steps. Over 6,300 people have since joined in. The results are the best I’ve ever seen in any program.”

My understanding of this is that desired behavior change can be broken down into mini behavior changes with set of contexts around that can nudge one towards these mini behavior changes. From product design perspective, we can apply it in many different ways. One way clearly I can see is that instead of shoving off a full blown product on the face of the user that require GreenPath change [Do new behavior from now on], we start with simpler things that require smaller behavior changes.

The Desire Engine

Nir Eyal’s Desire Engine is different to some degree. His examples relate more with web products. These two figures (from his website) describe his model.

Desire Engine Path
Desire Engine Path
Desire Engine Steps
Desire Engine Steps







1. Trigger

It starts with a trigger. External or internal trigger. Habits are created when internal triggers become part of routine. And internal triggers are formed with frequent external triggers.

2. Action

Trigger initiates action and it depends on two things whether action succeeds – motivation and ability.

I think these two points are same as the behavior model of Dr. Fogg.

3. Variable Reward

Nir Eyal’s point is that a feedback loop with predictable response does not create desire. The expectation of a reward to certain action create a dopamine surge but if there is variability in reward, the effect is much more.

4. Commitment

Once user is in the action, some kind of commitment improves the experience of the user in the next usage cycle. Although he does not mention it, I interpret it similar to what Robert Cialdini talks in his 6 principles of Persuasion – “If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image.” Commitment can be in any form – talking or endorsing the product or paying for it.

The Two Models

I think both the models start with the same three elements – Trigger-Motivation-Ability – that initiates the product usage or behavior change.

However, the two models diverge after that while dealing with enforcement of habit formation. While Nir Eyal talks about variable reward and commitment as two important steps to complete the desire cycle. This desire cycle is then frequently presented to users with improved experience and thus creating an internal trigger and hence habits. On the other hand, Dr. Fogg suggests tiny habits with the power of context to lead to bigger behavior change.

I would love to discuss any other such scientific models we can use to design user behavior.

A Case For Ugly Applications

Reddit Sticker
Reddit Sticker (Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg)

Ugliness level is definitely a subjective criteria. But I can take liberty in generalizing it in the similar way we generalize beauty. Website of Apple is beautiful, Reddit is ugly. If you agree, we are on the same page. Till few months back, design aesthetics was one of the primary consideration I had before working on any application. But then things changed with a simple understanding – the beauty of a website or an application is not always relevant to its functionality. And then there are live examples – Amazon.com, Reddit.com, Coolmath.com, Craiglist.com, berkshirehathaway.com, HackerNews and to some extend Facebook. Also Tally (accounting software), Google docs and Wikipedia.

Unless, the purpose of an application itself is to look good, which can be a good purpose for selling say lifestyle products, it need not be aligned with a good-looking website. If the purpose is to increase sales, the primary design decisions should be derived from the sales metrics. Amazon would have come with their design after millions of split testings and optimizations. If the purpose is engagement, that should be the primary purpose and Facebook is a good example. Coolmath website conveys that they are not marketing their products and probably their target customer is more comfortable with using such website. Similarly Reddit and HackerNews meet all the test in usability and functionality for their target audience, the look and feel does not matter.

A nice look and feel of your application or website is neither a necessary condition nor a sufficient condition. Aligning it with the purpose is more important. And the only way to do it is using real metrics based on user testing. What looks cool or beautiful can serve no purpose and your target audience might not care about it.

Startup on Cloud – Part 2

This one is continuation of my earlier post – Startup On Cloud (Or 9 Cloud-based Tools For Startups). I came across some more tools that startups can leverage. We, at Eduflix.tv, are either already using some of these or plan to use in future.

1. ClickTale/ Userfly

Image representing ClickTale as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

ClickTale tracks the user experience on website and helps in improving the user experience and conversion rates. Userfly is another alternative and I am sure there would be many such services available. These services track the mouse moves, clicks, scrolls etc and create videos of customers’ browsing experience. The heat maps generated can also help in making some important design decisions.

2. ClickDesk

We use Clickdesk to provide live chat service on our website. Being a consumer service company it helps us in having inbound interaction with our users. We have multiple ways in which users can reach us – feedback form, email, phone number and live chat – and it seems that users prefer live chat more than anything. The experience has been good so far if we discount the irrelevant or junk messages we get sometime (no fault of Clickdesk).

3. Intercom

Intercom is clean and simple CRM for tracking users and communicating with them. Intercom helps us to know when our users log in and to message them inside the app itself. It is not very feature heavy application but the its simplicity makes us always logged on to it in spite of having our won in-house CRM system.

4. Workflowy

After trying out tens of tools, Workflowy was an end to the search of a good project management tool. Like Intercom, it’s the simplicity of Workflowy that makes it so usable and worthy of occupying one permanent tab in my browser. A to-do list can grow to be very complex, specially for startup teams since there is too much multi-tasking (and lot of things to do!). Fortunately, there is workflowy that makes all the lists look simple. “One list to rule them all”, rightly quoted in Lifehacker. With simple collaboration tools, now it is not just a personal to-do list.

5. Google Website Optimizer

My earlier post covered tools from Google but I missed out this one. There are many other A/B testing tools available but nothing beats “free service” for startups running on shoe string budget. Google website optimizer helps in split testing landing pages or other important pages in web app. Sometimes, taking empirical is better than taking decisions based on past experiences or gut feeling.

6. LaunchRock

For creating a good “launching soon” page. We used this to create a launching soon page for our QnA platform and it saved us lot of time by not worrying about hosting, css, html etc.

7. Wildfire

Image representing Wildfire Interactive as dep...
Image via CrunchBase

When we set up the fan page for Eduflix, I did not know about Wildfire or Wildfire-like services. It took almost a day or half a day to create a welcome page. This time could have been easily saved had we known that there are services to create such pages. Wildfire came in handy when we redesigned the welcome page [although now we don’t have any welcome page]

8. Unbounce

For creating the landing pages and A/B testing the pages. We have around 10 landing pages for our website and creating a new page and creating variants to split test it always take up lot of extra work. Although we havent used it yet, in future we plan to use some service like Unbounce to make this process faster.

This completes the list as of now. Would love to hear more about such services that can speed up processes in a startup.

After writing this post, I realized that all the tools discussed above are for marketing. In part 3 of this series, I will cover technologies and frameworks that can be used in product development.

5 Resources to Learn Programming

In last few years I have seen an interesting paradox first hand. While there are so many companies looking for good technical talent, there are also thousands of engineering graduates looking for technical jobs. And what explains this paradox is the skill mis-match between what companies need and what these grads own. Unfortunately, most of the engineering colleges are failing to impart these skills required in Industry. Take for instance, programming skills – I have met many computer science grads in last one year who do not know programming. I am not an expert in programming, but being a geek, I have been able to aggregate some resources that might be of some help.

1. Udacity – Udacity is an interesting startup offering free courses from the greatest teachers. One of the current course running is CS101: Building a search engine and Udacity claims to teach enough programming in seven weeks that you will be able to build a web search engine like Google. The best thing is that this course does not need any prior programming experience. The programming language used is Python. Although the course started on 20th Feb, you can still join it or join in next session.

2. CodeAcademy – Yet another startup, but the approach is different from Udacity. Instead of using videos, Codeacademy provides an interactive web application to learn programming. The app goes in step by step manner through each lesson and exercise. As of now, Javascript courses are available and this is a good start. The web app also keeps track of your progress. In addition, there is very engaging QnA platform in case you get stuck. The UI is clean and now since they have made it as a platform [means other can also create lessons], I think many more courses will be available very soon.

3. Khan Academy – Salman Khan has been in the limelight for some time (I had written about him earlier here). Surrounded by lot of hype there is some substance in his style of teaching. The best thing about this videos is the simple and casual language used. However, these videos are not enough if you want to pursue programming seriously but can be a good starting point. Heres the link – http://www.khanacademy.org/#computer-science

4. Project Euler – Project Euler is a series of problems in mathematics and programming. A good collection of problems to solve and the problems range in difficulty level. An example problem here –

Find the greatest product of five consecutive digits in the 1000-digit number

There are 366 problems I can see (without logging in) – enough number to keep you busy for a while.

Image representing Stack Overflow as depicted ...
Image via CrunchBase

5. Stackoverflow – If you are a geek, it is almost certain that you would have stumbled on Stackoverflow. With more than 2.8 million questions, and growing, this has become one of the biggest library of programming questions. There is very high probability that you will find the answer to the exact problem you are looking for and in case you don’t find, you can always ask.

So we have five different ways of learning programming. Khan Academy and Udacity are based on Video learning, Udacity is more structured and comprehensive. While Code Academy and Project Euler are based on problem solving. Codeacademy walks you through step by step , perhaps good for beginners and Project Euler throws a good problem and its all on you how to solve it. Stackoverflow is more like reference where you go when you get stuck with something. All said and done, as some of the programmers say, the best way to learn programming is by doing it.

Popular Programming Languages In India

A selection of programming language t...

Google Keyword Tool can provide good insights sometimes. While I was playing with it, I just compared the ratio of keyword searches for some programming languages in India vs Worldwide –

Keyword Global Monthly Searches Local Monthly Searches (India) Percentage of Local Searches
.net 506000000 20400000 4
c 226000000 9140000 4
php 101000000 4090000 4
java 83100000 6120000 7.4
html 55600000 2740000 4.9
javascript 24900000 1830000 7.3
asp 20400000 2740000 13.4
programming 13600000 1500000 11
python 13600000 368000 2.7
ruby 11100000 246000 2.2
perl 7480000 368000 4.9
coding 4090000 550000 13.4
actionscript 2740000 135000 4.9
software programming 2240000 60500 2.7
objective-c 1000000 74000 7.4
lisp 1000000 27100 2.7
groovy 823000 22200 2.7
Total 1074681100 50411800 4.7

Python and Ruby are not very popular in India compared worldwide, while Java, Javascript and .Net are relatively more popular.

Also interesting to note that local search is only 4.7 %age of total search for these specific keywords.

Startup On Cloud (Or 9 Cloud-based Tools For Startups)

Starting a technology company has been becoming easier day by day [though same does not hold true for it’s success]. With the availability of so many cloud solutions, startups can save lot of money that was otherwise spent on expensive physical hardware. Here I have listed down 9 such tools that might be useful to you if you are starting a company.

Google Docs - Toolbar - Without icons

1. Google Docs – The best thing about google docs is that multiple members can edit the same doc at the same time. One can actually see what the other person is editing in real time. In addition you can organize your documents into folders and subfolders. Easy integration with Google forms help in building surveys/polls. One can also chat with collaborators while editing the doc.

Image representing Dropbox as depicted in Crun...

2. Dropbox (unto 2GB) – Dropbox has become a verb now – people are dropboxing their videos, files and photos. Although 2GB worth of space is free on dropbox, it is so addictive that you will soon paying for it to get more space. The best thing about Dropbox is that you can work on your documents even when you are offline.

3. Unfuddle – You can either set your own svn server and worry about managing it or you can start unfuddling. Unfuddle provides 200MB free space for one project to host your repositories. Free version supports unto two members. Code always comes with bugs, so there is also bug tracking mechanism in place. The best thing – you can request backups of your project.

Image representing Basecamp as depicted in Cru...

4. BasecampBasecamp is a project management tool from 37signals, a pioneer is designing simple and useful things to make life easier. Enough of tracking things through excel sheets.

5. Linode – Amazon Web Services may look very expensive if you are working on shoe string budget. Before you move on to a full-fledged cloud platform, linode provides bang for your buck at a very good performance. With higher number of linodes, you can also scale your startup to a good extend before moving on to AWS.  Best thing – gets you started in few minutes. Can be scaled up. Customer support is great.

6. YammerFor internal social networking, specially useful if you have geographically distributed teams.

7. Read It Later – Consider this – you come across some interesting webpage, you copy paste the link from the browser and send it to your colleagues. Now consider this – you come across some interesting webpage and you just press “read it later”. Although “read it later” was meant to read pages later, but we got accustomed to use it for sharing links among ourselves. How? – We use the same account on all our browsers.

8. Zoho / Sugar CRM – The free account of zoho will last you enough longer before you move on to your own crm server or paid version of other crm software. Alternatively, you can install community version of Sugar CRM on your hosting server.

9. Gmail Google Apps have good collection of free apps for your business, and the best among them is gmail. We all are accustomed to use gmail and have no doubts about credibility of google’s server. Gmail allows unto 10 email ids free on your domain. So instead of setting your own mail servers, one can delegate this task to google.

Any more tools to add to the list?