Dec 30, 2007
We had some filler time after our trip to Sabarimala and before our journey back to Cochin to get to Hyderabad and headed straight to the Taj resort after a brief search for other options. They had a 2.5 hour trip through backwaters that was very expensive but we went ahead being a bit misled by the Arundhati Roy village story. We quickly realised early on in the trip that there was no separate destination and that all the nondescript things we saw were already part of it. Though our enthu was down, we went ahead but decided to cut short the trip by an hour or so.
The backwaters were idyllic with paddy fields on either side of the canals and lots of kids having fun in the water. I noticed several not-so-poor-kids asking for pens (used to asking the phirangis I guess). There were several houseboats of various sizes and hues. Some very four bedroom mansions on waters (costing 60-70 lakh rupees and rented out for Rs 30k per night) while others were more modest. We soon hit upon the open backwaters which was actually a huge lake that separated Kottayam district from Alleppey. The huge lake was like a sea and the boat sped like an arrow. We spotted sea birds too in addition to the cormorants and snake birds we saw earlier. The view here reminded me of the boat ride near Clearwater Beach in Florida, only thing missing was waterfront mansions owned by the movie moguls.
Once we were back the Taj staff were gracious enough to refund some of the money since we came back earlier. Overall it was a short and sweet trip leaving me longing to come back once more, this time to spend a leisurely day on a house boat.
We landed in Cochin on the night before and quickly took a cab to Guruvayur temple situated North of the city. There was a huge rush at the temple and it was reverberating with thousands of Ayyapa's devotees. The devotees were ecstatic chanting loudly and literally bouncing in the air. The darshan at Guruvayur was extremely brief and the light was very low, nevertheless my second visit to the historic temple was good.
We made a quick halt at Erimeli the gateway to Sabarimala hills on the way back from Cochin. It was 2 am but the place looked like what Paris would on a similar Saturday night bustling with devotees. They were dressed like tigers, kinkaras and ascetics and chanting loudly running across the town. Somehow this verve and bounce was not that much visible in the actual climb to Sabarimala.
We then moved to Pamba and reached there by 4 am and took some time to get the climb started. The climb to Sabarimala is done barefoot and is about 6 km long. It must have taken us 3-4 hours to climb and the crowds were huge with the wait time for darshan rumoured to have been 12-18 hours! We were in the 'civil dress' queue not having taken the 41 day deeksha (vow), and the advantage is that the wait time was hardly 15 minutes. I managed to make a couple of more darshans and felt the trip was worthwhile after that. Prasadam was scarce due to some artifical crisis created, undoubtedly by the corrupt temple administration there. So ineffective is the administration that, inspite of a reputed 20 million devotees visiting each year the sanitary facilities enroute were pathetic and even inhuman. Attempts to have a setup similar to Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) appear stuck (see yesterday's article in the Hindu).
After a good darshan, the climb back started and it was definitely much tougher than the climb up. Walking downhill barefoot hurts the feet due to the sharp stones and one is forced to control the impact pulling on the calf muscles over 2-3 hours. Finally it was a huge relief to get back to Pampa and the comfort of the vehicle. We headed to Kottayam our place for the night halt.
Kottayam is a quaint little town that reminded me much of Mangalore. We stayed at the Mali hotel (next to the railway station) which had a decent room but everything else about the hotel was a sham. The Multi-gym was nothing but a dingy basement, the dinner was stale and stinking (an 'Andhra meals' board was setup to attract the majority Telugu crowds) and contrary to the promises there was neither a massage center nor a Jacuzzi! I ditched the meals there ended up having a hot Chapati based meal at the vegetarian restaurant in 'down town'. The next morning we purchased a lot of Kerala plum cake (it was Christmas eve!) and some golden stuff (Kerala is famous for less adulterated gold) before heading to the famous backwaters of Kumarakom.
Dec 9, 2007
Nov 26, 2007
On the sidelines, the event also highlighted the many paradoxes that characterise India. While it attracted the young and upwardly mobile crowd in huge numbers, there were also several street boys busy collecting empty water bottles and left over food from the grounds. The Hussain Sagar lake venue was picturesque but also reeking of foul smell at several places, clearly lot of cleanup is still left. And at one part of the route, one could see a barber go about his regular business on the pavement blissfully unaware of the hungama around.
All in all, the event is gathering more and more critical mass and is setting the trend for future such events. Champion Chips were used for the first time. To me personally the fact that I finished a 10k for the first time was a big accomplishment. The event broke a myth I held, that completing a 10k requires one to be majorly fit. Fitness does impact the time taken, but finishing the 10k is something I now believe many people can aim for. I held a similar myth about 5k runs three years ago but that soon changed after I attempted my first one. I now hope to complete a 10k in under an hour, determined not to let go of this momentum. The goal after that is the half marathon version in next year's run.
Nov 16, 2007
Now those familiar with how this goes in the US or other Western countries, all kinds of runs 5k, 10k, 22k, 44k, 50k and even 100k are common events. The processes to organise the runs, canvass participants, publish results (check this site) are highly streamlined. Hyderabad 10k aims to do exactly the same for Hyderabad; though the whole affair seems to be taking a lot of time, effort and money, eventually this should reduce. One of the leading organizers Padmaja Reddy when asked if she is running the 10k remarked I run the rest of the year so that Hyderabad can run on this day. Among the other organisers, Pullela Gopichand is an amazing individual - he is one of the greatest Badminton players India ever had but is so down to earth.
Though I did run a 5k in the summer of last year at a not so bad speed, this 10k will be a challenge being my first. Looking forward to finish it at the least!
It felt good to see a lot of people from all over India and abroad congregate here at Hyderabad. People from Bangalore, Coimbatore, Mumbai, Kalyan, Ahmedabad, Gibraltar, London, Silicon Valley, New York etc landed here. A friend from Bangalore was yet again impressed with the infrastructure in Hyderabad which allowed him to travel 33 kms to the event venue from Sainikpuri in less than an hour (compared to two and half hours in Bangalore).
The event is proving to be a lodestone for the best business minds all over and what more can a Hyderabadi expect!
Sep 25, 2007
Cricket is generally considered a non athletic game, with most people on the field stationery at any given time, much unlike soccer. The duration also drags on for an entire day and the drag on productivity of the country is sizeable. With Twenty20 the game can go on and so can one's business for the day!
Sep 23, 2007
I had an opportunity to get a peek into this thanks to my cousin Chintalapati Arun Sharma whose Team Acumen was one of the contestants. It was heartening to see Arun and his team first qualify among 100,000 participants and then make it to the finals (only 8 teams in his category did so). It was very impressive to see this bright young man slog hard and put in several night outs on the project. On the final day of the project report submission, he was zipping around the city coordinating things, even though there was a major bomb blast just the previous day.
Their project titled TWIST (The Way I See Things) created a device that can help the visually challenged perceive images through touch. From the device's memory any requested image is translated to a set of 36x36 pixels which are then projected onto a tactile pad. This pad consists of pins which vary their height to create the perception of depth making it a Braille like language for pictures. The Hyderabadis happily travelled to Seoul all paid for by Microsoft of course! The kind of exposure they got was tremendous interacting with teams from across the world. I was reminded of my own horizon-broadening experiences (though much smaller in scale) when I first visited New Delhi for the KV National Games as a Class IX student, and later for my first interview for an IIM. For the generation of youth today, the opportunities to network and play on a global canvas are much more than ever before.
Eventually the six winning teams came from Thailand, Korea and Jamaica in software design and Brazil, Romania and China in embedded development. India could have perhaps done more considering that these winners were also not from Western nations.
Check out The Week's coverage of the event here and the Imagine Cup website.
Sep 22, 2007
Even now several days after the tragedy there are no findings on the root cause not any action taken on guilty personnel. The same dirty politics that dogs the construction is holding back any remedial action.
This is perhaps one of its first kind of ads that explicitly encourages Indian youth to leverage their talent and skills for India. Ads usually mirror what the public feels is cool or is the 'in thing'. And it sure feels good to see an ad like this run over and over again on the telly set.
Aug 15, 2007
This is a paradox: after all technology is available, manpower is abundant and all required resources are plentiful. Then why these huge delays? I guess the answer lies in the regular approvals required by the government agencies and sub-contracting done to small parties which inevitably have the local politicians involved. Sometimes the flyovers have to be built over statues of some venerable (and many dubious) leaders. Removing them becomes a huge hassle. These squabbles lead to most of the delays, never mind the huge trouble commuters and the common man have to undergo.
For those whose youth has coincided with this phase, the experience of India is vastly different from their parents' who witnessed a youth of shortages, high unemployment and denial of basic goodies in life - telephones, cars, air conditioners etc all due to the government wanting to regulate supply. Governance and politics is still not very good but hopefully with the new generation knocking on the doors, things will change soon. Business Standard has a nice editorial today, aptly titled Chak De India.
I wistfully imagine what would have been possible if India had not undergone partition. A freedom struggle that was by and large non-violent thanks to Gandhi culminate in gruesome murders of five million Indians. A more assertive freedom struggle early on would have perhaps taken a far lesser toll of lives, and realised freedom faster. And in the process the manipulations of the British to divide India would not have succeeded. A United India could have emerged faster sans the Kashmir, Bangladesh turmoils. Enough has been said about the personalities and egos of Nehru and Jinnah, the chief players at the time of Partition and Independence.
Anyway the story of India's growth is now sixteen years young and holds as much promise as our last tryst with destiny in 1947. I will any day prefer this sweet sixteen to sixty!
Aug 4, 2007
I enrolled for a proximate education program with the NALSAR University of Law Hyderabad, one of the Top 2 Law Schools in India. The course is a PG Diploma in Internet/Cyber Law and funnily out of the 50 people who turned up, only two persons were from the IT industry - a Security Specialist from Wipro (who was also a lawyer) and myself. There was a third person, a lady who just completed her MCA and took the course because her husband was in Law; so I wouldn't count her. There were a considerable number of women in the group, about 40% - a reflection of the growing presence of women in Indian academia and soon industry too!
Coming to the point, a law graduate may earn Rs 5000 per month in Hyderabad at the entry level and perhaps upto Rs 25000 per month in a place like Delhi which is the legal capital (being the political capital) of India. Graduates are choosing between a cushy private sector job in non-litigation vs. the rough and tumble of litigation in courts, which pays less (numbers mentioned before) but hones the person much better for the long term. A litigation expert will go on to then earn huge sums once he is established and makes a name for himself, say Rs 2.5 million for a mere appearance in the court. Corporate jobs on the other hand pay more in the beginning but the career path usually hits a glass ceiling. Now in the US that need not be the case, there are several corporates especially in Insurance Industry where lawyers have gone on to become CEOs.
India is catching up in the legal space now and both the academia and industry are abuzz now with all the growth. Number wise, we still have a long way: 1 judge per 180 people (US has 1 per 30 and Europe 1 per 60); it still take 3-5 years for a case to settle (8 months in US and 18 months in Europe).
Jul 28, 2007
All because the ruling establishment wants a spineless character doing their bidding when election time comes two years from now. It feels really sad to see a great man leave Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Jul 4, 2007
The reason was not too difficult to discover; today is a holiday in the US on and consequently most of the BPO offices had a holiday. Most of the IT folks also would have left office early with no late evening teleconferences holding them back. As a result there was far less cacophony on the roads, the BPO cab drivers all had a day off leaving the roads less of a battle field, and traffic in general flowed smoothly.
We should encourage the US to declare more holidays in the interest of more peace on the Indian roads.
Jun 30, 2007
The place is very busy in the mornings with people of all ages thronging the place for their morning walk. A lot of children heavily use the play area. Evenings is when the park has less people with a few lover-pairs dotting the landscape. The park also has some tennis courts and two skating rinks for kids. I have also seen some kayaking in the lake in addition to the regular canoes. An interesting side bar is a series of natural rock sculptures that resemble various animals.
The action outside the park is no less interesting. A variety of hawkers vend their health/fitness friendly foods ranging from herbal soup, sprout mixes, berries, fruits, vegetables etc. Sometimes (out of job) politicians and other activists make the road opposite the park their venue for protests.
All in all a great place right in the heart of the city, to spend a few hours and come back rejuvenated.
Each time I see a construction worker building yet another swanky glass building hosting an IT company, I am reminded of the first phrase; where did this man/woman/boy/girl come from? The same person with some education and exposure would have easily blossomed into an average blue/white collar employee.Instead she is stuck in a menial job with a bare minimum wage, no insurance, no benefits and in fact there is some risk to life.
A few days ago, I came upon an accident scene on the Gachibowli highway, four auto rickshaw passengers lost their lives as a truck zoomed through the median gap in the highway. Couldn't the gap in the highway been placed away from a direct street entry point? On the health care side there is a litany of such stories all speaking of massive avoidable suffering.
For some reason these two phrases have stuck in my mind, and summarise our country's state in simple terms.
Jun 29, 2007
I have often quizzed myself on what makes me blog? The fact that many readers open the posts and read them is exciting; but it is not just for recognition that I blog (a blog like this doesn't get too many readers anyway). Neither am I claiming a thought leadership space in my area of profession.
Then what is it? I guess it is pure venting i.e, whenever something bothers me too much or excites me, I pick up the key board and start typing. Such moments regularly happen; the challenge is to get straight to the key board. Also when I start writing about a topic I am passionate about, it engenders introspection (forcing me to clarify things to myself), and makes me a bit more humble since whatever I write is for the sake of it and not because huge numbers are are reading it. Seth Godin clearly articulates this as Respect and Clarity (link below).
The other major trigger is that the blog gives me a sense of identity apart from what I do for a living. That in itself is liberating!
Seth's Blog: If no one reads your post, does it exist?
May 20, 2007
"The most remarkable thing about the first quarter of 21st century will not be the 9/11 attacks in US, but the rise of India and China. In the year 1750 most nations of the world were more or less equally well off (or worse off). The industrial revolution bought tremendous prosperity to the West in the 19th century; something similar happened in the Far East during 1950 to 1990. But by 2025 the wheel would have started turning full circle for India and China with their economies achieving critical mass.
"The Middle Class was about 8% of the total population in India in 1990. Today it is 28%! And NCAER predicts that by 2020, it will cross to about 50% of the population. This will happen in about two-thirds of India and the rest (the likes of Bihar) will take some 20 more years to catch-up. You could draw an imaginary line from Kanpur to the southern tip of Andhra Pradesh - the areas west of this line will fall in this 2/3rds (you may have to cheat and swap Coastal AP with Telangana). Now such regional disparities are bound to occur as you have Gujarat's economy growing at 12% compared to Bihar at 1.1%. In the USA too, the American South was dirt poor till the Second World War but the invention of air conditioning drastically changed everything with cities like Houston, Dallas and Atlanta booming. Similarly Italy and Spain were also poor compared to the rest of Western Europe till the First World War. Obsession with only inequality is misguided as it risks pulling back everyone; what is needed it creating an environment to lift the poor. In this context internal migration will perhaps be our safety valve - the Indian Railways sells about 4.8 billion tickets a year, that is almost 4 journeys per person per year!
"The net result is that by 2025 the number of poor in India will reach a manageable proportion! Of course all the above will need good institutions that ensure law and order, stable governance and property rights".
Now there is a S-curve relationship between prosperity and governance. As governance improved in India beginning 1991, prosperity increased and now we have been seeing 8%+ growth rate in the GDP for past several years. But as the size of the government has decreased in relative terms to the size of the economy, the quality of governance has dipped with politicians seeking as much 'rent' as possible from their positions before getting voted out in the next election. This has an adverse impact on further growth of prosperity. For more growth, a reform in governance has to occur and the hunch is this will 'automatically' happen as the middle class becomes sizeable. Then we will truly see an acceleration in India's growth and we will be well on our way!
"One is the idea of selflessness and how it does not help making a nation prosperous. The likes of our Communists, Medha Patkars and even Mother Teresa, are at times condescendingly presumptuous that their acts help bring the nation prosperity. Their attitude ridicules people who espouse self-interest as not self-less. Our politicians too romanticise heroic acts of selflessness rather than encourage enilghtened initiative which stems from self-interest.
"Take an example of a carpenter using a cellphone - he is able to take more customer calls and plan his day better and make more money. The cellphone as a technology device increases his productivity and hence adds to the nation's wealth. Neither Nokia, nor Mr Mittal (of Airtel), nor the cellphone dealer, not even the carpenter is engaged in selfless behaviour here - yet their combined actions have resulted in a massive revolution in the nation's productivity and wealth! As Adam Smith said about this more than 200 years ago - 'The invisible hand that transforms self-interested behaviour to the good of society and the prosperity of the nation'.
"Selfishness and Self-interest are two different things with the latter being guided by principles of wealth creation. Perhaps Bhishma was wrong in The Mahabharata, when he took a self-less vow to remain celibate. Had he demonstrated self-interest by growing the clan, the history of India would have taken a different turn!"
May 6, 2007
What is more important is to understand the massive opportunity cost involved in these humongous delays the government is creating in closing the SEZ decision. We are losing crores of rupees by the hour and I am not exaggerating. Taking an example, Times of India reports that Infosys is being shown an alternate site for a new campus at Hyderabad; this is an year after they were originally allotted land at a site near the new International airport, but the government bungled big time and did not close the decision quickly. It is also reported that this new campus will accommodate 25,000 employees. Now a typical IT Services major can generate at least Rs 2500 crores revenues on such a base (being conservative). Take into account the multiplier effects, that is 100,000 more downstream jobs in the economy delayed by an year! Sheer profits wise that is at least Rs 500 crores in an year. The opportunity cost is criminal, which our politicians will not understand. They will be only too happy to take small time bribes to facilitate decision of much lesser consequence.
Apr 27, 2007
IT Services Biggies have just announced another round of stellar results but the rupee movement must be throwing a spanner in the works. In the long run a strong rupee is good for the economy. IT Service exporters will need to get used (and overcome) the impact of an appreciating rupee and dwindling tax concessions as the Software Technology Park tax holidays come to an end.
Apr 15, 2007
Now in the Olympics, a gathering as multi-national as possible, National Anthems are always played in instrument for all the medal winners. Hence his feeling is not entirely misplaced given that Infosys is now a company were people of several nationalities come to work. The problem is this topic falls in a gray area and there is no set precedent or a law about how the National Anthem should be played, unlike in the case of the National Flag.
What is ironic about this episode is that politicians (many of them with criminal records) are questioning the patriotic credentials of a man who has done far more for the country than many of them combined. It is a clear case of the politicians for whom patriotism is a profession, ganging up against a professional of the highest order.
Apr 6, 2007
Yesterday I gave my car for servicing to Malik Motors, a dealer for Tata Motors at Tolichowki, Hyderabad. Obviously they offered all sorts of additional services beyond the basic oil check, fluid refills. And after servicing the car billed me a fuel performance product without even checking with me, the customer. They just assumed that I will buy it given its touted benefits since it just cost another two hundred rupees. Now rolling back that transaction in their billing systems took them another 30 minutes when I was really hard pressed for time. The added assumption here was given the difficulty of reversing the transaction, the customer would meekly accept it and fork the additional money.
I noticed they were using a sophisticated real time customer relationship system deployed by Tata Motors to track the history of each car that has ever rolled of its stable. However the aggressive and preemptive billing behaviour was anything but sophisticated. There is a thick line dividing proactive customer service and extortion. Too bad they found it an easy jump across.ps: This happens to be my first post from a mobile phone (edited later on Blogger)
Apr 1, 2007
It is now a well established fact that the downstream impact of the IT-ITES industry on the Indian economy is manifold. NASSCOM recently released the results of its study on the multiplier effects. Here is a quote from the indianeconomy blog:
* For 1 job created in IT-ITES, 4 jobs are created in rest of the economy
* Re 1 spent on OPEX generates additional output of Rs 0.9 (Multiplier 1.9x). Re 1 spent on CAPEX generated additional output Re 1 (Multiplier 2x)
* Re 1 spent by IT-ITES professionals generates additional output of Rs 1.1 (Multiplier 2.1x)
* In terms of potential impact on the economy by 2010, total economic output could be as high as $120 billion, while jobs created (direct+indirect) could cross 115 million
While the case for IT products is also undeniable, India first needs more of labor intensive industries, preferably the manufacturing types that employ low skilled labor more than it needs IT products. That alone will establish a large industry base that when maturing will generate demand for IT products - yes, you need to first serve local markets before taking on global ones like every successful product major. Look at who the successful Indian companies are buying IT products from? If you take the case of India's incredibly successful telecom sector as an example, most of the top players (Bharti Airtel, Idea, Hutch Essar) have engaged IBM for its products and platforms (services too).
In addition to the direct contribution to GDP a manufacturing base will also generate demand for Indian IT products. Most companies often cited (the likes of Microsoft, Nokia) catered to local markets first before going global and increasing their revenues per employee (Microsoft is more than half a million per employee and Nokia is closer to a million per employee). A solid manufacturing industry base will also guarantee that more low skilled people will get lifted out of poverty and thus ensure political stability leading to continued reform which will in turn create the right ecosystem for generating Intellectual Property. Today's well known constraints that inhibit this include a hamstrung archaic labour laws, VC ecosystem, overloaded judiciary etc.
Once you have sufficient milk in the vessel, churn will automatically happen to produce cream! As Indian industry matures, IT product companies that cater to them will mushroom and then blossom to take on the world! So let us first help by pushing the Indian establishment to organise reforms that spur low skill intensive manufacturing. Products will take care of themselves.
Mar 31, 2007
Crossword a leading bookstore hosted the author for a talk on the book today evening at Hyderabad's City Centre Mall. The author spoke in glowing terms about Dhirubhai, his vision, audacity to dream big etc. The book may not be voluminous but it has fifteen short and simple chapters each explaining Dhirubhai's remarkable work philosophy in fifteen bullets ('Roll up your sleeves to help', 'Think Big', 'Change your orbit constantly' etc).
To a question on whether the movie Guru really reflected Dhirubhai's life, the simple answer from the author was: "Guru is a sh*t film". RK Narayan the celebrated author also had similar feelings about the film version of his successful book 'The Guide'. Now both Guru and Guide were reasonably big hits at the box office. Wonder what happens when an original work gets crafted into a film version aiming to appeal for the masses.
Mar 28, 2007
Infosys founder NRN advises the cricket establishment to follow processes and not mock it (referring to the massive political interferences plaguing selections and engagements). The system is so riveted by indiscipline, greed and corruption that it does not let good players emerge. Even the so called stars take it easy once they begin to enjoy power and money. Finally there are some calls for big and struggling stars like Sachin Tendulkar to retire. These stars are resting on past laurels and pulling along to keep their batting averages against minnows like Namibia, Kenya and Bermuda [see Shekhar Gupta's editorial in Indian Express and Ian Chappel's call to Sachin to retire]. Real performers like VVS Laxman who have won tough matches against strong teams have languished for not playing the political game.
This sorry state of cricket reflects that of sport in general in India (see this list of the Athens 2004 Olympics medals per million population). And believe me this cricket loss will simply pale in comparison to the performance India puts up in the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics. China will leverage the platform to the hilt showcasing its new wealth and the tens of medals it will win to proclaim its rise in the World. Don't be surprised if they even overtake America's medal tally. Our establishment will be happy if we bag a single medal (like in the 2004 Athens Olympics), or may be not even bother.
Sudin Apte of Forrester opined about the rapidly polarising IT Service's industry. The Top 3 players are growing rapidly (40-50% CAGR) while the smaller companies are getting left behind. The rest of Top20 grew at half the Top3 rate and have profit margins in the 18-19% range compared to 24-25% of Top3. The rest outside the Top20 had margins in the 12-13% range. Three years ago the Top3 were 26% of the industry but now they are 41%. The ABN Amro deal made big news last year with TCS and Infosys winning huge chunks but it is a less known fact that six smaller Indian firms got kicked out ABN at the same time. The smaller companies look set to be vaporised by the bigger ones without even too many acquisitions owing to trends on the demand side and supply side!
The so called 'Billion Dollar babies' - companies which recently grossed $1B in annual revenues - HCL, Satyam, Cognizant will have an year ot two before they either graduate to bigger league or stagnate and lose industry position. A Tier-2 player just cannot aim to succeed by attempting to be a mini-TCS or a mini-Infosys, offering all kinds of services to a small set of clients. The IT services industry has just gotten tougher to enter and a startup cannot achieve unless it executes to a carefully nurtured niche.
Ramesh Loganathan of Pramati gave an excellent post-lunch talk on Web 2.0 and later ended up giving a pitch on his companies new Web-Desktop integration offering Dekoh ('look' in Hindi). The product sounded cool but there was nether a live demo nor a canned demo. Later I checked Pramati's website and they actually have some cool Web 2.0 demos but no mention of Dekoh.
IBM showcased its recent study on innovation trends across the globe and a speaker shared the findings which were threefold:
- Business model innovation matters (focus on products, services, markets & operational innovation). CIOs should plan for scalability of IT to match and promote business growth.
- External collaboration is indispensable. CIOs should plan for applications which facilitate internal and external collaboration.
- Business & Technology integration is imperative.
The subsequent panel discussion was a very good one. Sivaram Tadepalli (IT Lead for the GMR International Airport at Hyderabad) did a good job explaining how technology integrates with their business. He later explained how the new airport is rapidly getting built and was excited about the outcomes. Sangeetha Reddy of Apollo Hospitals made some good comments and IBM's India Head Nipun Mehrotra provided a good summary. So in all a good event despite the live cricket telecast they briefly showed of the India vs Srilanka match which India ultimately lost and got kicked out of the Cricket World Cup.
Mar 17, 2007
That prompted me to go to Geni and play with it - I found it really cool. I have been searching for a good Family Tree software for some time and Geni seems the perfect fit. The usability of the site is a real 'wow' factor. Any Internet business builder can learn several lessons in designing a simple and beautiful UI that rocks. I am curious to see how easily it merges family trees that two related people build out separately.
One funny thing on the My Profile page though - you get to mark a checkbox that says whether you are living or not and then enter many posthumous details about yourself!
Mar 8, 2007
Employees with vested options are now forced to exercise them which means no more exit (quit) barriers. Though an option grant typically takes 4-5 years to vest, the total lifecycle is much longer. Vested options take another 5 years to expire which means a manager conserving cashflows will tend to stick around that much longer, almost a decade. Now a decade is a long time, and often committed managers is all that separates a stunted SME to one that really grows wings to become a bluechip. Just look at the number of 'major' IT Services companies in the early nineties, that have now fallen by the wayside.
For now, look for increased attrition at mid and senior levels across industries, rising wage inflation (employers will have to compensate for unattractive esops) and one more setback to the nascent startup-ecosystem in India. Unless the government realises the total impact and pegs FBT at a reasonable 10-12% range.
Mar 5, 2007
Extend the argument to IT Services industry: new hires at entry level get paid an average of Rs 200,000 p.a. and given the offshore rates basically are billable at about Rs 2,000,000 (typical Tier-1 provider). So we have another 10x formula going!
Now I am not comparing fresh software engineers with mineral water bottles (some would argue both are commodities), but from a pricing standpoint we really have something going here. When you as a company, are able to charge customers 10 x times the input cost (thanks to all those intangibles), you have truly arrived as a Blue Chip!
Feb 25, 2007
Let us hope Buddah-da succeeds for the greater good of Bengal and India. Making up a new Chinese saying here - Nothing succeeds like a reformed communist!
Feb 24, 2007
One was a Dance Ballet (Nrutya Rupakam) on the life of Bhakta Ramadas, a revered 17th century poet-saint. This was performed by Ananda Shankar Jayant (pictured), who drew upon many of Ramadas's immensely popular and moving compositions (kritis) in Telugu. Titled "Sree Rama Nee Namam Emi Ruchira" the ballet was based on the Bharata Natyam style of dance. One of the most impressive pieces was "Takkuvemi Manaku" in which all the ten avatars of Vishnu are alluded to.
The second was an amalgam of the three South Indian dance forms: Mohini Attam (slow tempo), Bharata Natyam (slow/medium) and Kuchipudi (medium/fast), based on the theme of Shanmatham propounded by Adi Shankaracharya worshipping the six divine forms of Ganesha, Karthikeya, Shiva, Ambika, Vishnu and Surya. The exponents were Gopika Nair for Mohini Attam, Revathi Ramachandran for Bharta Natyam and Deepika Reddy (pictured here) for Kuchipudi. Each is an amazing danseuse in her own right - erudite, widely travelled and perfectionist. When they came togther as they did for three of the six dances, it was an amazing scene. The Ganesha Pancharatnam was the most impressive piece, based on Adi Shankaracharya's composition. The last piece, a Thillana worshipping the Sun God, was also a magnificent confluence of South Indian dance.
Both were part of the ten-day long 47th Annual Festival organised by the South Indian Cultural Association (I got to see only these two). Unlike most programmes at Ravindra Bharathi these were paid programs, but the price was well worth it. It was interesting to see some young people in the audience too (though the majority were gray haired).
Feb 22, 2007
A good development of late in India has been the opening up of retail in a big way. Reliance, Bharti-Walmart, RPG, Birlas, Tatas, you name it every big corporate house is venturing bigtime. ET reports Retail will jump from $12B today to $200B by year 2016! In most developed nations, organised retail is the economy's backbone emlpoying more people than any other industry. This is about to pickup in India with these companies making $30B worth of investments in linking the farm to the mart, triggering a new socio-economic revolution.
And now the government has just announced incentives to companies in setting up cold chains with reduced import duties, interest-sops etc. That should reduce my wait for OJ (not from concentrate) considerably!
Feb 21, 2007
IT is no longer going to be the sole provider of these within the enterprise. In fact, my bet is that IT becomes a utility provider responsible for infrastructure services while business units take responsibility for business solutions. In this scenario SAP and Oracle are ill-equipped to win on their terms because for their entire history they have been solving CIO and IT problems, not user problems. "
Now Software as a Service (SaaS) is one disruptive trend that promises to offer Business Applications to end users without the hand holding of an IT department. So for a business user the vision is: 'I need an app, I go buy it off the Net from someone who hosts it and takes care of all the IT stuff (security, privacy, disaster recovery etc). Basically, I get the app on the tap.'
The handicap that Jeff articulated about SAP/Oracle is bound to impact the Indian services players too unless they evolve rather dramatically. So far they also have been solving CIO and IT problems, and attempts to connect to the business have not been very successful. To cite two reasons: IT feels threatened when they talk to the business, and Indian service players do not yet have the sales/engagement skills to talk to the business about their problems, leave alone solving them.
Now, Indian companies moves into SaaS have so far been revolving around either building the IP themselves (organic) or acquiring niche companies (inorganic). Basab Pradhan, a veteran IT Services Sales guy, in this latest post avers that it will be more of the latter.
But it is much more than just the product or IP involved, the desi companies will have to integrate different sales and product managment culutures into the services setup, compensate the product thinkers differently, allow for a different gross/operating margin play, invest in product lines much more aggressively etc. Ultimately the first S in 'SaaS' matters much more than the second which is increasingly a commodity.
Feb 19, 2007
Though I am great India fan, the talk of super power status is just way too premature. Indian politicans find it a favourite past time, gloating on recent rapid growth. In a recent corporate fire drill, the coordinator was using a loud speaker and pepping up a crowd of few thousand IT employees by asking them if they see India's super power status coming. I found it amusing.
Until some fundamental goals are met: such as per capita income of $2500 (Atlas method) by 2015, or 80% literacy, reducing drop out rate before high school to 50% (from the current 94%), or a unified and simplified tax system, are achieved such talk should be discouraged. Empty super power talk, especially by Indian ministers and officials in international forums is useless, boastful and just doesn't help. Especially if those ministers in a coalition communist supported government are doing nothing to address core reform issues, such as labour laws.
If a communist China can provide gainful employment to relatively 100 million unskilled people in manufacturing, why is our communist supported government failing to do so? Archaic labour laws, vested interests representing only the formally employed sector (though the non-formal sector employs 10x times that figure), agriculatural inefficiencies driving many small farmers to suicides (even while politicians fight to prevent manufacturing projects like the Tata small car, though it will generate more employment for these un-viable farmers) : ALL THESE SHOULD GO.
This topic about should we rejoice in the recent bout of growth and the fundamental shift in trend growth rate is being widely debated. But isn't that debate, besides the point? Aren't we getting ahead of ourselves? Shouldn't we instead set goals on various socio-economic parameters? Goals that put the government under pressure to initiate more structural reforms rather than self-congratulate. Pressure to initiate reforms need not be external like the last time in 1991 when there was a serious Balance of Payment crisis. While some celebration is justifiable, we cannot go overboard until our 'goals are met'.
Feb 5, 2007
However what has now set me thinking impromptu is this post by Shekhar Kapur on primary education. How about starting a network that taps the computer that exists in each of our brains. Kind of like the fancied grid-computing concept in computer technology? A grid of people, who will visit villages or slums to teach for half a day on weekends and holidays.
So what do we need to get this going?
- A team of half a dozen dedicated folks interested in teaching part-time.
- Algorithms to form virtual classes attaching teachers to specific villages and classes. Meet 'supply' of teachers (time slices) with 'demand' from the needy children leveraging technology.
- Course material (follow the 'prescribed syllabus of the regular school' or enhance it) or leverage some of the e-Learning material CDs that are developed
- Ideas on deploying technology (some old computers, some CDs with good material). One could later on leverage satellite communications to download study material real time or have some 'remote classes' during evenings of weekdays.
Jan 25, 2007
Too often we have heard the Indian cricket team doing a 'snatch defeat from the jaws of victory' - just like they did in the last two Test matches in South Africa and the series in West Indies before that. Given this, it is was heartening to read that headline.
Meanwhile I will continue to resist the temptation of watching India play international cricket to avoid the tension and later, the heart burn. But with the World Cup right around the corner, it will be a tough proposition.
Jan 23, 2007
Doesn't this sound insane? After all it is a fully wired world now, with monthly broadband bandwidth costs approaching that of an evening's worth of fine dining. The productivity loss of two hours of a single day's commute itself could easily pay for an entire year's bandwidth and electricity costs required for 'work'.
Before the Industrial Revolution, business was accomplished in close-knit communities that used to work and live together. Industrialization in the last two centuries gave rise to factories which necessitated workers to come to the shop floor to produce goods on a massive scale. Soon by the early 20th century, optimisation techniques thanks to the likes of Alfred Sloan imposed a 'modern workplace' regimen on the shop floor, of work package - time slice monitoring and time punch. Now time punches have 'technologically advanced' to time swipes.
However today with distances having been conquered by waves of tectonic transportation and technology developments (the latest one being the Internet), this model needs to be turned on its head. Unfortunately old attitudes die hard, and this modern-corporate-commute practice owes much of its identity to the century old regime. Corporates like the power they wield over the cubicled masses, and losing it to telecommuting may not be appealing. And how can desi software service firms addicted to hourly wages prove their wage bills are right without timesheets to back them up?
The future will eventually be one where technology gets us back to the olden (golden) times where people specialise in specific skills, the change being we are now globally connected. So one can enjoy a home view in say, Araku Valley and still participate in a sophisticated global supply chain. Technology will also enable people to meet co-workers on-demand and not all-the-time. In fact most co-workers will live around each other, just like the artisan villages of the past. New business models will evolve that will set up such a collaborate-on-demand infrastructure.
Indian firms are still mired in the Industrial Age mind-set and one hears about no new thinking, except may be some startups before they don the corporate avatar. IBM has done relatively well in having 30% staff (all are not just sales guys) working remotely. Best Buy has already started on this journey with its wildly successful Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) initiative. Getting there needs conviction and maturity. Let us hope the rest of the corporate world sees the light.
Jan 5, 2007
I have registered with Linkedin about an year ago and my network has just reached the magical number of one million people. No I don't know all the million, it just means I am directly connected to 166 people I know (colleagues, clients, classmates, friends etc) who know more people who in turn know even more. So it is a two-level connect. There is this well known saying that every person in this world is connected to another by seven links. Linkedin works on the same principle. At one point I was rapidly adding people to my network but now I am selective (Guy claims to have the largest 'pending invites' list on Linkedin). Like anything else, it is a choice of quality over quantity.