Dec 30, 2007

The Backwaters of Kumarakom

Kumarakom is considered to be the epitome of Kerala's backwaters. I always had a fascination for Kumarakom: having read about the time former Prime Minister Vaypayee spent there penning his famous muse, having seen nice pictures of the Taj Heritage resort and having heard about Arundhati Roy spending time there getting inspired for book 'God of Small Things'.

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.


Last week I had an opportunity to go on a short but intense pilgrimage to Sabarimala, the abode of Lord Ayyappa. Ayyappa is known to embody the two divine aspects - Siva and Vishnu. What I did not know was that there is a Masjid in the foothills involved in the story of his avatar; devotees pay their respects there as well before trekking to the main temple.

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

The Running Bug

Things kind of cooled down after the recent 10k I completed. However couple of days back I was in Mumbai and saw a banner for the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon. That planted a seed in my mind which kept growing and this morning I was flush with excitement at the prospect of going to Mumbai again on Jan 20 (about 6 weeks from now) to run my first half marathon. After checking a few websites about training schedules, I figured that I need at least 10-12 weeks of training before the attempt. That cooled down the enthu but then I saw several other cities hosting running events in India. I am now looking forward to the Chennai Marathon whose date is yet to be announced.

Nov 26, 2007

Hyderabad 10k - What a Run!

Last week I wrote about the then planned Hyderabad 10k sponsored by Radha Realty. Well the run is done and what an event has it been! About twenty five thousand people turned up and it was like carnival time. All along the route one could see several bands play live music of all kings: Jazz, Rock, Metal, Telugu Film Music, Hindi Film Music to name a few. A few people sky dived from 6000 ft in air, dodged the thousands of colourful balloons let loose to land at the venue. After the run, there were a series of onstage shows blasting more Hindi Film Music. There were movie stars, sports celebs and politicians all hogging the limelight, but the true winners were the thousands of young men and women who woke up early in the day for the cause.

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

10K Run in Hyderabad

Hyderabad gears up to host a 10k Run about a week from now. This is the fourth time this annual event is being held and this year the expectation is that it will have about twenty thousand participants, an all time high. A half marathon is also being included, hopefully we will have the first marathon ever as well at Hyderabad next year.

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!

TiE-ISB Connect 2007 at Hyderabad - It Rocked!

The TiE-ISB Connect event concluded at Hyderabad today. It was a wonderful gathering of some of the best minds in innovation, entrepreneurship, government exploring the latest and greatest happenings in various sectors of the economy - Internet and mobile, health care and life sciences, retail, infrastructure, emerging technologies etc.

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 Right-sized

The recently held World Twenty 20 Cricket championship has finally produced a form of cricket that is intense, glamorous and doesn't consume an entire day. India winning this championship is another bonus! One hopes that the newly launched Indian Cricket League will further contribute to this trend by discovering more talent and launching even more spectacular shows. Corruption within the BCCI and all the money makers there will also hopefully reduce with the increased competition.

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

Microsoft's 'Imagine Cup'

Microsoft organises an annual event, The Imagine Cup that aims to bring together the best of technology innovation amongst students onto a global forum. This year's theme was 'Imagine a world where technology enables better education for all' and the nine categories ranged from software design to embedded development, algorithm, web development, photography and short film. For Microsoft the benefits are huge - locate some of the brightest global talent many of whom may go onto join them, and also leverage their innovations into its products.

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

Flyovers wreaking more havoc

Last month I had posted about the long pending flyovers in Hyderabad. Unfortunately tragedy struck earlier this month and a portion of the one of the flyovers under construction at the busy Punjagutta junction crashed after heavy rains. Two persons perished in the incident which was caused by nothing but the gross negligence by the authorities.

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.

Main Aaraha Hoon India!

Hero Honda is running a new TV ad on its fairly established bike model the CD 100. It starts with a young man pondering about what is there in America that is not present in India. This guy seems to have a job offer from one Mr. Richards as a building architect. He rides his bike with these thoughts, and then turns it around deciding that his designs will help him build a new India! Main Aaraha Hoon India (I am coming India!).

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

Long Pending Fly Overs

A common scene in Indian cities is construction of flyovers at busy road junctions. Though the contractors claim to use new technology (precast segments and all), these seem to take years to get built. Hyderabad seems to be slightly better off than Bangalore in the pace of flyover construction but that is hardly a consolation.

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.

Smooth traffic on I-Day

Last month I had posted about the smooth traffic in Hyderabad on the US Independence Day which happened to be a week day. Today on the Indian Independence Day (another week day) the traffic at Hyderabad is even more easy with most people cooped up at home watching their favourite blockbuster movies on television. Driving is more comfortable and no where near the cacophony on the roads. One wishes we had more weekday holidays or a judicious distribution of holidays across the week to give more such breathers!

India: 60 yrs old or 16 yrs young?

India celebrates its sixtieth year of Independence today. While the first few decades were kind if sleepy, India really took off post 1991 when the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao launched key reforms that liberated the economy. PVNR in that aspect held fort for give good years and did more good for India than any other Prime Minister before him.

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

Business of Law In India

As the Indian economy integrates more and more with the global economy, the demand for skills in the Legal arena is sky rocketing. I got to see this first hand yesterday.

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

India Gets A Slavish President

Indian legislators elected a lady as its President for the first time last week. While this should have been good news, the unfortunate reality is that this was perhaps the first President elect who had several cases of impropriety raised against her. And she replaces a man who set one of the highest standards of honesty and propriety in public life. What a contrast!

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

Indian Traffic Flows Smooth On US Holiday

The traffic at Hyderabad is usually bad and a journey of about five kilometers from Mehdipatnam to Liberty takes about 20-25 minutes. However today the traffic flowed very smoothly and the distance took half the usual time.

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

Hyderabad Places I - Indira Park

Indira Park has fast become one of my favourite places at Hyderabad. I have been on the lookout for a green place near my residence. Indira Park was the perfect answer - lush green trees, a 1500 metre jogging track, large lake all spread over 76 acres! So weekend mornings and some rare weekday evenings are spent at this beautiful place.

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.

Unfulfilled Potential & Avoidable Suffering

Jayaprakash Narayan, the founder and head of the Loksatta Party speaks of two cardinal sins widely prevalent in our country. One is unfulfilled potential and the other is avoidable suffering.

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

Why Do I Blog

I guess the title should rather read 'When Do I Blog?'. Of late my frequency of blogging has reduced and a blog without regular posts goes dry as garden without water.

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

Prosperous India by 2025!

Here is what I took away (in my words again) from Gurcharan Das on his predictions about future growth in India. This in continuation to my previous post on this topic.

"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!

Selflessness Vs. Self-Interest

Last Wednesday I jumped on the opportunity of listening to Gurcharan Das in person. Gurcharan is the former CEO of Procter & Gamble India and is a leading thought leader. I make sure I read his bi-weekly column in the Sunday Times. Though the occasion was the eve of the International Telecom Day celebrated by the IEEE at Hyderabad's Viswesvaraya Bhavan, he chose to expand the scope and cover what is bogging India today.

"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

SEZ Land Travails & Opportunity Cost

There is a heated debate going on in India about securing land for industry. There are those who really need land for setting up an industry, and there are also allegations that some are grabbing land in the name of industry. Business Today had a good piece on this in their latest issue. I have no comments yet on how much land an industry really needs. However I will hold as in an earlier post that we need to kick start large scale manufacturing that can employ millions. If a 50 sq km patch of land with no red tape and hassles lets us have it, then so be it!

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

One Trillion Finally

Indian economy hits the one trillion mark finally! Yes that is a huge landmark and how did we get there? Part of it is the searing growth the economy has seen in the last 3-4 years but some of it is also due to the big jump the rupee has had in the last 3-4 weeks. That should do good for our import bill but our exporters are not too happy.

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

Patriotic Professional Vs. Professional Patriots

The politicians in Karnataka are up in arms against NR Narayana Murthy, for his alleged stand on the National Anthem. At a function in Mysore in which the President of India participated, the National Anthem was played in instrumental as NRN felt it may embarrass the non-Indians in the audience if it had been played as a song with lyrics.

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

Pre-Emptive Billing = Extortion

After the first sensual appeal of a new glittering car, everything financial about it after the purchase is murky. Have you ever dealt with a used car salesman or a glib car mechanic? We all know how much of a rip-off these encounters are.

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 Services Or IT Products Or Something Else?

There is an interesting debate going on a couple of blogs about what India needs most today to power economic growth. Is it IT Services Or IT Products? Which one should the enlightened pursue harder and which has the potential to contribute better to economic growth? Sramana argues for products while Basab defends the IT Services story.

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

"Guru Is A Sh** Film"

'Dhirubhaism' a book on the late Dhirubhai Ambani (founder of the Reliance group) authored by AG Krishnamurthy (founder of Mudra Communications) has been recently released. Mukesh Ambani provides a foreword. The book is a short swift read and is excellent value for money.

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

A Billion Blues

The media is now crying hoarse about the dismal performance of India's cricket team. All the while the media and the marketer's greedily loved hyping up the 'Blue Billion' (Pepsi's pet phrase), but all went in vain as the team lost twice and failed to make it to the next round (Bangladesh and Ireland are two notables who made it).

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.

HYSEA's Technology Day

Today at the Hyderabad Software Exporter Association's Technology Day, there were a few interesting talks.

IT Services
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.

Web 2.0
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.

'Let a Million Markets Bloom'

IBM in collaboration with the Economic Times organised a session titled "Let a million markets bloom: How Innovation is Fuelling India’s Growth Engine” last week in Hyderabad. It was ostensibly aimed at CEOs and CIOs but the audience had just a few of them. However it was impressive to see first hand IBM continue its juggernaut in India, reinforcing its branding around the Innovation theme. No wonder IBM is snapping up huge billion dollar plus deals with Indian Telecom Companies (Bharti Airtel, Idea and now even Hutch). All this while the Indian IT service players still struggle to strike large ($100+ million dollar) deals in the global arena. And did you know that IBM shares revenues with Airtel? It is accountable for its client's business outcomes! Something that the Indian IT players are only now talking about for their Fortune 1000 customers. IBM is coming into India in a big way, building a huge Indian work force and winning Indian business.

IBM showcased its recent study on innovation trends across the globe and a speaker shared the findings which were threefold:

  1. Business model innovation matters (focus on products, services, markets & operational innovation). CIOs should plan for scalability of IT to match and promote business growth.
  2. External collaboration is indispensable. CIOs should plan for applications which facilitate internal and external collaboration.
  3. Business & Technology integration is imperative.
I was surprised to see the distribution of priorities assigned by Global CEO/CIOs between various kinds of innovation to be exactly as the Indian counterparts voted. One would think that in an fast emerging market like India, a CEO would be focused on building scale and market presence; whereas in a developed market the focus would be on optimising the business model and wringing out cost efficiencies.

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

Geni For Your Family Tree

Last week I wrote about the 10x factor in the price to cost ratio for service bluechips. Now a different 10x struck more, one much more exciting: Geni an internet startup that raised $10m of venture capital in late-February was able to take it itself to a $100m valuation. Obviously some seed and angel money went in before that $10m but what an amazing rise!

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

Pushing Startups To The Fringes

In his latest Budget the Indian Finance Minister has proposed Fringe Benefit Tax on stock options that employees exercise starting April 1, 2007. Now it may appear a great way to collect additional taxes (assuming FBT = Marginal Tax of 33%), but the long term impact will be stifling innovation and increasing employee churn in the Indian economy. Startups will find it even more difficult to attract/retain talent with ESOPs as the net gains post exercise are diminished.

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

10x For A BlueChip Service Company

Last evening after a dinner at an upscale restaurant (part of a blue chip, publicly listed firm), I was surprised to see a line item in the final bill. Now I rarely visit a five star hotel for a personal appointment, but this was one of those rare occasions. So the matter of surprise was this - a plain bottle of mineral water, normally available in the market for Rs 10 was being charged almost Rs 100 tax included. The rest of the food was fine and I can make myself to understand value pricing and all that stuff. But 10x times for a bottle of mineral water?

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

WB - Welcome Back for West Bengal?

Gurucharan Das writes well on the heroic efforts Buddhadeb, CM of West Bengal to get the re-industrailisation initiative going. This is a state that once led the country intellectually - Gokhale once said, "What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow". But now it has unfortunately gotten into the ruts of de-industrialisation following decades of communist rule. Singur the battleground site where Tata Motors is building its new small-car factory, inspite of vehement and violent protests by the opposition political parties, will decide the future of this mother-of-all turn-arounds. The opposition perhaps correctly fears that if they could not win an election inspite of two decades of poverty all around, what will their fate be if some prosperity actually begins to happen!

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

Wonderful Dance Performances At Hyderabad

As I am beginning to explore the cultural and non-IT face of Hyderabad, I came across two cultural programs that were real gems performed at the Ravindra Bharathi .

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

Waiting for Orange Juice (Not From Concentrate) On Indian Retail Shelves

Ever since my R2I (Return to India for good, if you haven't heard this term before) last year, one thing I have missed is the sweet-tangy taste of Orange Juice. It was a staple drink in those years spent in the United States. The ad of Florida's Natural OJ which showed consumers literally pulling the juice cans straight from the groves was a big hit. In the Indian context though such a pull is not easy, with the severe lack of cold storage chains connecting the farms to the marts. You will find many variants of the 'from-concentrate' OJ which do not need any refrigeration, but those I avoid. Instead I have resorted to eating orange fruits whenever I find them, but then they are seasonal.

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

SaaS And The Future of Bloated Enterprise IT

How many times have Businesses complained that they are not getting the worth for Technology spend? IT departments have bloated in size over the decades and with the ensuing bureaucracy and entropy, have often failed in providing nimble and economical solutions to the business. Nicholas Carr famously said on this: "Does IT matter?" implying it doesn't. Jeff Nolan now CEO of Teqlo and previously with SAP, also writes..
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

Premature (And Sometimes Immature) Talk of Superpower Status

Some may find this article in Fortune's latest issue deriding India's superpower aspirations derisory (such as this reaction). Agreed the tone is unfortunately very snobbish but then the points it makes are also equally valid.

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

Grid Computing Funda For Education?

Of late, there is a lot getting published on the sad state of Primary Education in India, how neglected it is, yet how it holds the key to India's future growth etc. The Economist argues in its latest lead/cover article that unless major supply side constraints like Primary Education are not solved, increasing demand in the fast growing Indian economy will lead to overheating and even a meltdown.

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.
The IT industry is 1 million strong and using some 'Chinese Math', 1% of this million will mean 10,000 teachers. Even 1% of this 1% ~ about 100 teachers and will take this idea well past its critical mass.

Jan 25, 2007

India escape to victory

Rediff has an interesting title to their report on India's win in yesterday's cricket match with the West Indies. - "India escape to victory"

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

'Two Swipes And A Lunch' - Antiquated, Yet We Persist

Today on the bus to work, I was watching several young 'knowledge workers' stand in the bus for an hour, and thought, "They are all travelling tens of kilometres every day, only to converge in a place called 'office' where most will soon get buried in their own cubicles in desk work or telephone calls. After two swipes and a lunch that mark and measure this work-day, they will once again battle massive evening traffic only to reach home exhausted and frustrated. "

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

Linkedin Reaches Critical Mass

Linkedin the online networking site appears to be fast reaching a tipping point. In addition to growing number of users (has about 9 million members now), this Valley-Biggie-VC backed venture is also getting a lot of attention. Guy Kawasaki, wrote a good piece on his blog. I have liked and followed Guy since I read his book the 'Art of the Start' a couple of years ago. His blog reflects his thinking with its elegant design, easy to read fonts, easy-on-the-eye colors, simple layout, meaningful content and of course his witty remarks.

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.