Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Savor Bollywood on the move...

Bollywood is going all out to woo mobile owners. Heard of cinemas produced keeping mobile users in mind? Well, that is just what Bollywood is producing more and more of.

Pray For Me, Brother , an English album by A R Rahman, was shot on the 'mobile cinemascope format,' by Bharatbala of Vande Mataram fame exclusively for mobile users. Then there came a 25-minute movie 'Ctrl+Alt+Del' starring Rahul Bose that premiered recently, which was again made keeping the mobile user in mind.

Rediff reports that with the 3G coming up, video content on mobiles will get the required push to make its presence felt as mainstream content.

So don't be surprised to see your favorite movie being offered soon as a download on your 3G set soon. You can savor Bollywood on the move.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Technology and Educational Institutions

I paid a visit to a new school in my neighborhood today. Founded and promoted by a software engineer, the school boasted of using the best that technology could provide in taking the way education is imparted to the next higher plane. Accompanying me were my Dad and a lecturer from a different school.

The school indeed was an experiment in new uncharted territory.
  • Each class had 29 inch TV that beamed multimedia programs to the students.
  • The students were equipped with smart cards that held their entire profile and track record at school. It also served as their access card to the library and the laboratories. And not to mention their attendance was marked by their swiping into the school in the mornings.
  • The school had 14 cameras installed across the campus and each class room for central monitoring by the management.
  • Plans were on to rope in telecom providers to provide instant updates of class test results via SMS to the guardians of the students.
Quite impressive I must say, given the fact that the school is located in the middle of nowhere in a rural area along the Golden Quadrilateral between Bangalore and Pune.

While driving back, however, the debate that ensued was on the balance that needs to be struck between technology and traditional methods of imparting education. The following points of view emerged.
  • 14 cameras to monitor the classrooms would definitely make teachers conscious and inhibit their natural teaching style. Isn't it like having a private eye sitting all the time in the class and reporting
  • Wouldn't SMSing parents and guardians instantly about student results make a mockery of the students and amount to the school management raising question marks on the integrity of students?
  • Asking students to swipe in and swipe out through access cards hints at draconian disciplinary measures. Are these required at schools that mark the formative years in a kid's life?
Technology can only be used to assist education delivery, but anything beyond that is an area marked in shades of gray. One needs to be careful not to trample on people's sensitivities while turning tech-savvy. Technology should not be used to monitor and keep checks on core human values like faith, trust and integrity. More so in our hallowed educational institutions that impart the very same values to Gen Next. We would not want them to be hypocritical by using technology to keep tabs on students and teachers.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

YOU - The Person of the Year

Who is the Time 'Person of the Year' this time? It is 'YOU' screams the Time Magazine cover which has honoured as its Person of the Year in its upcoming year-end issue with a cover featuring a piece of mylar, mirroring the face of the reader and saying
"Yes you.
You control the Information Age.
Welcome to your world

An apt testimony to the Web 2.0 age that has evolved with people as its central pillar of growth. Give people what they want and they will give back to you the power of the masses, the power to hold sway over huge swathes of humans spread across the nations. This seems to be the sole driving force behind Web 2.0 applications. Be it video sharing sites like YouTube, MetaCafe or social networking sites like Orkut, Friendster, MySpace or Blogging sites like Blogspot, Yahoo 360, LiveJournal or shopping sites like Ebay, Amazon or bookmarking sites like Digg, Stumble the common streak across all of them is the driving force that has sustained them - People Power.

People create content, upload content, publish content, get content rated by other people and move up and down the popularity scale inducing more/less people view their content in turn. The net is truly turning democratic in nature. It is content 'of the people, by the people and for the people'.

What this also translates to, is the overwhelming power, that this spread out mass of people can exert on governments, public and private organizations. An example would be the kind of vocal protests over the Internet by a few hundred Indian bloggers a few months back, when the government closed down access to key blogging sites. The protests drew support from international bloggers who highlighted the episode and the government had to back down and restore access to the sites within 72 hours.

Truly, Internet is a better medium today for millions who want to express their feelings, their opinions, their talent and reach out to like minded individuals across the globe. Web 2.0 apps have provided the right platform for this and 'YOU & I' are making it possible.

Related Links : Mankind's Epoch Journey via Internet

Friday, December 08, 2006

Lalu on Orkut....The pic says it all.

Who else can give Orkut the kind of publicity that Lalu can? All by just opening an Orkut account... An excellent spoof. Not to be missed.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

WiMax ought to be priority #1

GoBroadband carried a story of India receiving a note of caution from the WiMax forum, of the possibility of getting left behind in the race to deploy WiMax solutions due to its non-allocation of the necessary spectrum in 2.5 to 2.69 GHz for these services.
WiMax is a wireless Internet solution that involves making use of towers similar to the ones for cellular mobile services and dispersing wireless signals that your WiMax enabled laptop or computer or any other mobile device could pick up and let you surf Internet on-the-move at broadband speeds.

TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has currently set aside 3.3-3.4 GHz for WiMax unlike the 2.5-2.69 GHz that is being set worldwide. This range has been reserved in India for applications like disaster warning, dissemination and radio networking.

Implications could be disastrous as WiMax deployment costs could spiral upwards due to customized WiMax transceivers that would be required if India operates WiMax at a frequency band different from what the world has embraced. We just cannot live with this kind of a situation in a fast growing country like India whose claim to fame rests on the fact that India is bypassing 'Industrial growth phase' and is directly moving into the 'Information growth phase' in its transition from a developing country to a developed one. Internet penetration, which is touted to deliver us nirvana from the rural-urban divide, cannot be sacrificed at the altar of bureaucracy and inappropriate decision making. The need of the hour is to quickly take pulse of the situation and make the changes necessary to ease India's movement into the WiMax age.

VSNL, the Tata controlled Internet service provider, has already indicated of plans to start rolling out its WiMax services in 6 months time provided the necessary spectrum was allocated to it by TRAI.

The willingness on the government's part to take the necessary strides in the right direction to assure businesses and NGOs will be key in determining how quickly India can see the dawn of the WiMax age that shows tremendous promise
  • One in terms, of boosting business in India as city wide WiMax zones are rolled out
  • Two, in terms of achieving last-mile connectivity that would be imperative to bridge the rural-urban divide in India.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Glocalization - The Infosys Way

Infosys is going global in a big way and one way of going global and sustaining global operations is to hire foreign talent who would guide the company in their local markets. Infosys had hired 10 US students last year as part of its pilot program. Riding on the success of the program, Infosys rapidly expanded the program and has about 126 students now getting trained at it Mysore campus, Karnataka. These students come from diverse backgrounds. Infosys also has plans to expand its hiring engine to recruit talent from the Europe and Australia. These students would be posted across Infosys's different global office on completion of their training to serve as guiding lights to the Infosys teams working in these markets already.

Check out this video at CNN IBN that gives an insight into this new development that might soon catch up across other IT majors in India like Wipro, Satyam , TCS, etc.

This definitely marks the coming of a full cycle for a company that was blamed as a stealer of American jobs earlier on. It is now showing how globalization not just takes but also gives back.

From the Infosys point of view this move is a crucial step because it marks the beginning of what Thomas Friedman of the "The World is Flat" fame likes to call "Glocalization". Going Global and Local at the same time. Going Global by leveraging on Local talent in foreign markets. If harnessed properly, this single step of the company will reap rich dividends for the company in more than one way
  • It will integrate seamlessly with local cultures
  • People would be less hesitant to work in a company that gives importance to local talent
  • Local Businesses would also be less hesitant to outsource work to Infosys as it would have local people who can better relate to the local business markets.
  • Each local unit would be better able to act as an engine of growth for further penetration of local markets.
I am looking forward to see what other benefits this step would accrue to Infosys. 'Zooming-out' to look at the big picture and 'zooming-in' to make alterations in the machinery of the company to achieve the behavior of the company in a way that would be well received in the bigger picture is what globalization is all about.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

From IIM Students to IIM Aspirants

Indian Institute of Management (IIM) aspirants in India who plan to take the Common Admission Test (CAT) have online help now from the people who matter: IIM Students themselves.

A group of four final year students have launched www.tenaday.co.in, a website that promises to help registered users continuous practice sessions all-along the year leading to the CAT in November to give them the necessary skills and confidence required to crack the CAT, regarded world-wide as the toughest B-School admission test ever administered. Of 200,000 aspirants who appear for the tests, just 1200 are finally admitted into

The web site has recorded close to one lakh hits in the first four days of its launch. Moreover, it already has over 1,500 registered users.

Launched by retired army major Devashish Chakravarty, IT and research professional Bhushan Dabir, Vineeta Singh, a fresher from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IITM) and an IT professional Vishal Prabhukhanolkar, the site offers ten fresh questions every day for IIM-aspirants to try and hone their skills. Definitely a site worth a visit by any CAT taker.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Impressions of a Busy Indian Orkutian

The longest gap since I began blogging must have left my readers wondering. Well, not to worry, I am back.

These days Orkut keeps me busy: Google's popular social networking tool that allows you to connect virtually to friends, pass small messages, share photos and even talk with your fellow Orkutians. People who had long receded into the dark alleys of my conscious memory suddenly pop out of nowhere and drop me a scrap. (A scrap is a small message that you scribble in your buddy's virtual scrapbook, for all you non-Orkutians). The last 100 days have not passed without me getting back in touch with a old friend or acquaintance of mine every 2 days once. Hardly any time to get a sketch of all the water that has passed between us during this time that another one pops up. Orkut literally has taken my world by storm.

However one thing seemed very strange. How come so many friends sense I am on Orkut? I dug through Orkut's official knowledge repository and came up with something that exactly pinpointed at this kinda odd feeling that lingered with me.

Nearly 11% of Orkut's 31,727,243 people are Indians, which is close to 3.5 million Indians. Whoa !!! Indians form the 3rd largest group among Orkutians, after Brazilians and Americans. No wonder all my people are there on Orkut.

I would say that these 3.5 million Indians are just the early adopters in a product's normal distribution curve. Imagine the day when Indians start thronging Orkut gates in swarms. Maybe Google anticipated it and changed the model from a "by-invite" only to a "free-for-all" model. I dread the day India overtakes Brazil in terms of Orkutians. Better get back to polishing my Orkut skills.

Problems abound too with certain features like hate communities, viruses, and open architecture of Orkut creating problems to users of the service. Recently, the Bombay High Court's Aurangabad bench served a notice on Google for 'allowing a hate campaign against India'. This referred to a community on Orkut called 'We Hate India' which carries a picture of an Indian flag being burnt and some anti-India content. Then there are problems of an Indian social site called Gazzag that is viral in nature and uses Orkut's open API architecture to invite all users of a new person who has signed up to Gazzag by soliciting him/her for their Orkut username and password.

Inspite of these problems, Orkut, I feel, is poised to turn into one big online social virtual world in India given its rising popularity. The sheer reason being that its popularity is driven by a heady cocktail of emotional satisfaction, the pride of a 3 digit friend count and the need to have all your folks online so that it makes your Orkut existence a meaningful one. All these result in each of the existing Orkut users calling other people online.

Network effect and User created content is all that is there at this site. Google stands to benefit from all this due to the sheer brilliance of their Turkish engineer Orkut Büyükkökten, who developed Orkut during his spare time at Google. Does "advertising potential" for Google strike a bell?. Just wait and see as the future unravels.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

India's own Eye in the Sky - GPS Navigational System

India's speak of withdrawal from the EU backed Galileo Global Positioning System (GPS) project must have come as a surprise or even evoked concern among most of my peers who have been keeping tabs over the rise of India as a global power.
Understandably so, because the European developed GPS system was supposed to
  1. Provide huge technology prowess to a marching India: The GPS system is expected to be so precise that it can zero in on a vehicle, ship or a herd of cattle and help distinguish and locate objects just 1 meter in resolution. A true "eye-in the-sky", this system has applications for it that lie in many civilian areas with huge commercial potential like route-mapping, speed control and guidance, aid for the elderly and disabled, in justice systems for location of suspects and border controls besides search and rescue operations.
  2. Breakfree from the US backed GPS system: An opportunity to switch from a US military operated GPS that has been opened up for free for commercial use across the world. You don't expect US to keep its GPS system open for the general public in case of a event that threatens its own sovereignty.
However India recently cited security concerns and planned to pull out of a project that has been the cynosure of most European Union (EU) powers as well as India's backdoor neighbour China. The reason put forth were security related. What framework does Galileo GPS system have in place to prevent one country's data from not not falling into another country's hands? India definitely is concerned at this stage given the enormous interest and investment that China is pouring into the essential services in India like infrastructure, telecom, ports.

India however has backup plans just in case the plan to partner with EU based Galileo GPS system falters. One, India is pouring money into GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System), the Russian constellation of GPS satellites which Moscow is trying to renew and bring back to life.

The other option that should come as a surprise to most of us, is the fact that India has drawn up board plans and conducted preliminary tests to come up with its own GPS satellite navigation system spanning the globe called GAGAN (GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation). At a cost of Rs. 30,000 crore, it will be ISRO's (Indian Space Research Organization) most ambitious project after plans to reach out for moon (Chandryaan project). This would serve more than one purpose as spill offs from this single major milestone would bolster developments in other fields.
  • Underline India's advanced technology provider capability
  • Make India free from dependence on US and European systems
  • Civilian projects would massively benefit from the system ranging from aircraft/ship based navigational systems to extending reach of law enforcement authorities
  • Unlimited flexibility for India's defence forces in their seek and destroy operations
GAGAN if completely deployed and operational by end of 2007 as is being speculated would be a massive leap for India in more than one sphere of progress. Withdrawing from Galileo project does not sound that bad, right now, does it?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Google Earth Images Rescue Farmers in India

Farmers in Pen Taluka in the Raigad district of Maharashtra state have produced Google Earth pictures as evidence of their stand in the case currently filed against the Maharashtra government seeking higher compensation for their agricultural lands.

The Maharashtra government had targeted lands in 45 villages of this district to embark on its Maha Mumbai Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project to give industrialization a jump start. During the process of acquiring land, the government claimed that most of the land in the areas surrounding the villages were infertile and and that some parts of it were submerged by salty creek water. This claim, translated to a lower compensation for the farmers.

That's when an activist of the SEZ Hatao Virodh Samiti (Remove SEZ Committee) , Arun Shivkar, logged on to Google Earth. What Google Earth showed were clear high resolution pictures that indicated that most of the land was indeed fertile and actively covered by crop. This single act has also united the farmers in their stand seeking a higher compensation than that being given currently by the state government.

Amazing what technology can do when harnessed for purposes like these. Clearly, Google might not have even envisioned itself as the saviour of these farmers who had been pushed to a corner and appeared to be fighting a losing battle.

Click here to watch the video by CNN-IBN

Monday, October 09, 2006

Online Job Websites Wage War of Words.

India's two biggest online job companies are engaged in a war of words these days. What's the issue of contention? You may not believe me if I say that it is as simple as the size of each of them. Well, it is.

Naukri.com and MonsterIndia.com, two of India's biggest online job websites are shouting hoarse about their sizes and why a potential job seeker needs to register with them and not with anybody else. MonsterIndia started off by saying that it has more one-week old resumes in its database than Naukri. "We have got 72,332 resumes versus 67,208 for Naukri (on September 19)", said president and managing director Arun Tadanki. Naukri.com's Sanjeev Bikhchandani, co-founder and chief executive officer, shot back mentioning that Arun Tadanki had omitted mentioning certain facts in his interview with Business Standard. Claiming Naukri.com to be twice as big as MonsterIndia based on Alexa rankings, he went on to add that a recent on-purpose manipulation of the way new resumes on site are taken into account by MonsterIndia, was the reason behind its false claim.

The online job website has been booming in India given the booming economy. The ongoing war speaks of the enormous pressure that these site owners are under, to attract and retain customers. Statistics, skewed or not skewed, can have a tremendous bearing on the general trend among job seekers to make beeline to one jobsite over the other. That is a pointer on why neither one is taking the other's claim sitting down.

However what's missing is the innovations to garner greater market pie by differentiating oneself from their competitor. Rather than wash dirty linen in public, the two companies might be better off on making hay while the sun shines.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Blogging to Rev up Traffic to Parent Sites

Blogs are quite a wave these days in India. We had individuals blogging, ladies getting blog power to work for them then celebrities blogging, followed by news channels that started blogging. Now we even have Matrimonial sites blogging. Call it 'riding the wave' or the 'hip-n-hep' factor, matrimonial sites have leveraged blog power and popularity to attract more customers to their core business - hooking up strangers in wedlock.

Bharat Matrimony has started a Relationship blog that it terms as the 'Matrimony Express'. The blog has a set of fixed writers from its panel who blog on a variety of subjects ranging from Etiquette, Grooming, Travel, Romance to exotic topics like Tips to improve one's sex life, customs and rituals, even marriage termination tips. The articles are well written and offer more than decent information on the subject being sought.

How does blogging help the site? Traffic generator to the main site is the obvious answer. With competition hotting up between the various Indian matrimonial sites, blogs would be one more weapon in everybody's armoury. An interesting point not to be missed though is the way Bharat Matrimony has leveraged the interest in its blogs to raise brand awareness among its potential clientele.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

XBox Ad - Microsoft has hit the right note

Microsoft XBox 360 launch in India has been accompanied by a dedicated website launch plus some amazing advertising.

I was surfing Rediff and happened to view this XBox 360 ad that features Akshay Kumar and Yuvraj Singh. Together they pull off the intended message across to the target audience. Even Yuvraj's home village's got the hang of Xbox 360. Nice advertisement. Beautifully done with the village chorusing in at the end to "GAME ON"

With the launch of Yuvraj Singh International Cricket 2007 on Microsoft XBox 360, the company is betting big on the Indian market.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

India IT News Capsule - Oct 2006, Issue 1

  • ExpressIndia Joins The Blog Movement: The Indian Express Group has launched Express Blogs. By doing so they are the 3rd newspaper group in India to launch blog services for their readers in addition to Indiatimes and NDTV. Employees of the Indian Express Group have kicked things off. Readers can also submit posts. User submitted posts will be moderated to avoid any frivolous posting. Podcasting and webcasting are in the works.
  • India to have indigenous CDMA phone manufacturer: Himachal Futuristic Communications (HFCL) plans to start manufacturing CDMA phones and other mobile devices in April next year. Following a licensing deal announced Monday with Qualcomm, the Delhi-based company plans to make 4 million units in the first year, of which about 3 million will be mobile phones and the rest fixed wireless phones and CDMA modules, such as PC cards for computers.
  • ABN-AMRO call centre to ramp up numbers: ABN Amro Central Enterprise Services (ACES), the BPO arm of ABN Amro Bank, is set to boost headcount to 5,000 by June 2007, across its three locations in Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi. ACES is also planning to set up centers at tier-II cities and State capitals. The Chennai centre has a 1,400-seat facility. In Mumbai, it operates out of two centers with 1,300 seats and plans to add 600-700 seats through a third facility. In Delhi, it has a 600-seat facility
  • World CyberGames held in India: Indiagames recently organized the Indian leg of the World Cyber Games 2006, with Samsung as its main sponsor. The semi-finals and finals were held in Mumbai on the 26th and 27th of September respectively. The games that participants had to deal with were - Counter Strike, Warcraft III, Need for Speed and Fifa Soccer 2006.
  • Yahoo launches Search Marketing in India: Yahoo! India has launched Yahoo! Search Marketing,a new search marketing solution for Indian marketers. This service is targeted at businesses and consumers, allowing them to connect to each other through an advertising model, called Sponsored Search. The Sponsored Search model allows businesses to bid for highly visible placement within the Web results that are served in response to the user’s search for a specific product or service. Yahoo! Search Marketing will also offer content match, allowing for listings on content sites, newsletters, blogs and online publications.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Travelling back in Time

Why was I not posting for the last few days? Well, call it "Online information fatigue". Because that was exactly what I suspect I had been suffering from. Stopped blogging, stopped reading blogs, stopped reading news online, restricted Internet usage to only e-mails. Why so? Well, I told you...."Online Information FATIGUE". Yes. You read it right.

I switched to reading actual newspapers that come with news printed in them, for a change. Read the matter written by traditional bloggers, the newspaper columnists. Enjoyed Dilbert on on newsprint rather than on my laptop LCD screen. Solved Sudoku with a pencil rather than my tablet stylus.

In the process, I also discovered how cruel time can be on the traditional media. Time ensures they print what we netizens regard as stale news. No instant gratification on solving the daily crossword cryptic clues. You ought to wait for the next day. No 15 minute self updating stock tickers. You gotta wait for a full 24 hours before the next apprisal on the market health.

However I was also thankful that I did not get distracted by the animated ads doing their jig while I try to concentrate on the thin news column that is broken a few dozen times by another ad or a "Next Page" link. No half naked models swimming around as I read an article on India's stupendous GDP growth. No annoying pop-ups promising you free cursors and free screen-savers every next minute.

You should try it some time and distance yourself from the uber medium that is the Internet for a few days. Go back to experience how it was when we all grew up. A self-imposed trip, back in time, that will leave you enriched anyway. When questioned, you can always say, "Online Information Fatigue". :-)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Small fish innovating to survive amongst sharks

Rediff has an interesting read on the kind of tactics the mid sized and small sized software firms in India are adopting to sign deals while working in the shadow of the biggies in the market like Wipro, IBM, Infosys, TCS, Satyam, HCL, etc

While this sheds light on the heavy competitive structure of the industry, this also opens up insights into
  • How first mover advantage has given the biggies a size that the smaller fry are not able to attain.
  • How players in this industry can sustain only if they differentiate sufficiently from their competitors.
  • How dollar flow is what will prop up a company and not the local currency.
  • How dollar flow decides what kind of a talent you have working for you.
  • How the industry is yet to mature to a point where attrition falls to acceptable levels.

Posts with an attempt to throw more light on each of these questions would be forthcoming. Watch out for this space.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

India IT News Capsule - Sep 2006, Issue 2

  • Dell Plans its First Facility in India: Dell has announed its decision to open the first manufacturing facility in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. Its new facility and related operations would be located on a 50-acre plot of land in the Sriperumbudur Hi-Tech Park, outside of Chennai.
  • SaReGaMa to enter music aggregation business: SaReGaMa, the entertainment content provider of the RPG group, has decided to enter the music aggregation business for different kinds of digital media. Aggregation requires music to be present in a format suitable for downloads by mobiles so that they are set as ringtones.
  • 3G testing on by mobile service providers: The country’s telecom regulator TRAI has allowed Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd., Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd., Bharti Airtel and Hutchison Essar Ltd. to use 3G spectrum to test 3G equipment in anticipation of a launch later this year.
  • IBM develops Business Finder technology at its India labs: IBM has revealed the Business Finder Technology, a location-based mobile resources management technology developed at its India Research Laboratory. The technology has the potential to offer a mobile yellow page for mobile users, who will be able to locate the most highly rated and available service vendors like plumbers, electricians, carpenters or doctors in the vicinity.
  • President Kalam sees bio-implant solution to aid mentally challenged children: A bio-chip implant or some other mechanism can in the future be used to transfer certain functions of the damaged portions of the human brain to the healthy one, says President A P J Abdul Kalam, who is carrying out a research on mentally-challenged children. The President said his study also focused on use of stem cells for increasing the quality and quantity of neurons in the brain system.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Elephant , Tiger and Outsourcing

With so many newspapers and news magazines these days focusing on the emergence of the Asian Tiger (China) and Elephant (India) as major economic power-houses of the 21st century, I frequently get thought provoking questions from my readers about leading businesses that are forming the engines of such growth. One question that was making me scratch my head was from a certain Mr. Dinesh. It went like this...

"If India and China are competing so intensely for a share of the outsourcing pie, will not one of the countries eventually win out?"

At first glance, the question appears a trivial one. However as you try to look for a definite answer, the "What ifs...", "How abouts..." and "Why sos...." start popping up.

My line of thought led me to the fact that India and China have their own distinctive advantages while offering cheap outsourcing services. India has a huge English speaking population that offers the incentive for North American and European countries to outsource to India. China on the other hand offers much cheaper labour. That brought the next logical thing of whether China and India are actually competing for the same slice of the pie at all? I doubted it.

Why then are Indian companies like Infosys, Satyam and Wipro rushing to establish call centers in China? What is available there that is not already available in India? Did the Chinese manage to force feed English overnight to a substantial section of their Mandarin speaking population? Does not make sense, right?

The answer to this part was beautifully presented in a piece titled "Global Sourcing is not Olympics" by Stephen Lane of Infosys Technologies. He says:

"Companies have elected to outsource IT functions and business processes and/or established captive centers there (China) primarily for the following reasons.

  • Support operations in China that require local knowledge as well as IT or business process skills;
  • Serve Asia/Pacific markets that are culturally, linguistically, and economically linked to China;
  • And, Avoid over-dependence on other low-cost sourcing locations such as India or the Philippines. "
That answers the question succinctly. Indian companies are rushing to set up their BPO operations in China to support mainly their Japanese and South East Asian clients.

The missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle was finally in place. Clearly countries do not need to engage in a "win-lose" kind of, zero sum games that give birth to a clear winner while the other is left biting the dust. The outsourcing pie is too huge and its slices are too varied for every portion of it to be appealing to everyone. While the Indian companies need not be worried that the curry laden part of the pie is being eyed by China, the same holds true for China too. China just has to dig its teeth into the slice stuffed with schezwan noodles. Just enjoy the pie as long as it lasts !!!

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Social Shopping - Will India catch the craze?

Online Web 2.0 explosion sometimes gives me a sheer high. Every time, I think that technology has hit an upper limit, there it jumps a notch higher to scale never before heights, encompassing a new dimension of human life, promising yet more comforts and providing new highs.

I came across a very unique E-commerce website that was named Wists. The site was all about a concept that is termed "Social Shopping". Wow !! You had "social bookmarking" and "online shopping". Now you have the next big wave "Social Shopping" hitting World Wide Web. Social shopping sure is a fancy term for a genre of Web 2.0 sites that try to bring together online shoppers at a single point and allow them to bookmark their favorite shopping sites, shopping sites that they just stumbled upon, etc all for the benefit of the other social shoppers. Each one draws from the experiences of millions of others.

As I was researching more on sites like these, I happened to come across at least two others StyleHive and Kaboodle mentioned at Emergic.

How would such a model affect Indian online shoppers? With Indians taking up online shopping in a big way it won't be long before we see similar Indian clones coming up with a desi touch to them. I believe this model is going to be a big hit in India. Indians in general are quite averse to shopping at new places they haven't heard of from a people. They like to be trend adopters rather than trend makers. What would tip the balance in this case would be a site like Wists or a StyleHive that would help people to exchange, rate and recommend shopping sites to their friends and relatives. People would be more willing to make a purchase at a site that has been recommended by 20 people even if all of them are anonymous. The web brings us closer in ways we least expect and networking sites are a unique example.

The other strong reason that compels me to believe in the feasibility of such an idea in India is the rise of the Indian middle class. A huge market that comprises of 241 million people belonging to who make up for 23 per cent of total population and account for Rs. 3,02,534 crore (USD 64.37 billion) of total consumption (42 per cent) in the country. Shopping online for a majority of this section of the Indian community is becoming a habit rather than an exception. The non-availability of chain store unlike US in India also means that shopping online erases the distances involved between potential customers and shops that sell the items being demanded.

Social shopping is an idea just waiting to be unleashed on Indians and I would be surprised if Indians do not embrace it in a big way.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Indian Temple WebCasting its Prime Festival

Come August end and September, it marks the beginning of a cycle of yearly festivals in India each of which have a significance of their own and have millions of followers across the country. One such event that has over the years transformed itself into a festival is the annual Brahmotsava festival at the world famous Venkateshwara temple at Tirupathi in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Extending over a period of nine days, this festival is celebrated by millions across the world who congregate at this sacred venue. However these people form just a fraction of the people who are actually celebrating the festival worldwide. As a part of its efforts to reach out to these people, the TTD ( Tirupathi Tirumala Devasthanams) Trust which manages the affairs of the temple plans to webcast the live proceedings of the Brahmotsava festival over the 9 days across the net. This webcast would be viewable real time from any part of the world where people could hook up to the World Wide Web.

The Brahmotsava festival starts from September 25th.

Digitalization of temples in India have brought the Gods a lot closer to the large Indian diaspora across the world.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Indianizing Google Desktop

Google Desktop is proving to be an ubiquitous tool that I see on most laptops and desktops these days. The open API structure that Google has thrown open for developers to create customized gadgets that stay put on your desktop is proving highly efficient. These nifty little utilities are hidden till recall them by hitting the "Shift" button twice. Lo !!! You are immediately shown the entire gamut of gadgets you have installed and you just go about using them. No application launch required. Once done, just hide them by pressing "Esc" key.

When I was recently searching for a laundry timer gadget, I was surprised to find 3 Indian gadgets that made me wonder how I could have done without them all these days.

Desktop Yoga: A gadget by Ravi Ranjan that targets the computer geek who spends long hours at the console. Uniquely crafted, a Yoga Guru starts waving and dancing to attract your attention at the end of every 30 minutes (customizable). He then goes on to teach you a simple Yoga based exercise that helps stretch and relax those immobile limbs of yours. After you are done, the Yoga guru goes back to meditation for the next 30 minutes. I just fell in love with this gadget.

Indian Stock Price: Developed by K Gopalakrishna, this simple but much sought after gadget fetched stock/script prices of Indian stocks from Yahoo onto your desktop.
This does away with the need to log on to financial websites. You need not be a Yahoo member to get the data. Clicking on the stock to get some details like previous close, current day trading details and so on.

Live Cricket Scores: Another of those much needed gadgets when you are away from the TV screen. Developed by Bijoy Thangaraj, this gadget has been designed to fetch live cricket scores from officially matches across the world right onto your desktop. A must have for every cricket buff.

Google has really done a wonderful job by providing a platform on which individual developers can engineer nifty applications that are not just useful, but cater to regional interests too.

By the way, for those still wondering what happened to the laundry timer... I did get my laundry timer and now I just dump my clothes, start the timer and get back to some other work. The timer alerts me when done.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Voice for Bangalore Tomorrow

Surfing to catch up on some late night breaking news, I happened to hit upon an ad for a site called BangaloreTomorrow.com. Interest evoked, I decided to explore what this site was all about.

I came across a bright Flash based map of the Bangalore city on the home page. The map was interactive and allowed people to complain, suggest, praise, reminisce and mull over various aspects of civic life in their part of the city. Each kind of activity was denoted by an appropriate flashy icon on the map. Subsequent users could 'Vote-for' or 'Vote-against' the aspect put forth.

I was really surprised by the amount of active participation the site was registering. A TimesNOW news channel venture, the model aims at using the clout of the channel to get each citizen's voice across to the government. The amount of trust the public reposes in such ventures also gets enhanced by the fact that it is a private enterprise.

The site also has a people talk feature that captures feelings of celebrity Bangloreans on video and what they feel about the city that has been their home for years. A very absorbing section, I must confess, given luminaries like Arundati Nag (wife of late Kannada film actor Shankar Nag, Dr. Devi Shetty, renowned cardiologist, etc.

There is also an SMS feature that allows you to send your say via SMS.

It is sites like these that harness the networking power of the Internet to boost citizen participation and provide a platform for netizens to voice their say on matters that would help speed up e-governance imlementation in India. I hope that the model gets replicated across states in India..

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

India IT News Capsule - Sep 2006, Issue 1

  • Accenture opens tenth software centre in India: Consulting firm Accenture Ltd. opened its tenth software development centre in India with a capacity of 1,100 seats. The centre, located in the tech-and-textile town of Gurgaon on the outskirts New Delhi, joins others in Pune, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad -- cities that have emerged as India's IT hubs over the past decade. Accenture, one of the leading IT employers in India, has a staff exceeding 19,000 people in India.
  • XBox India website goes live: Microsoft India has launched the XBox website and plans to make the XBox available in India by Diwali, which usually marks the start of a spending spree in the country. The site can be accessed here.
  • Pharma sector facing human resource crunch: Pharma industry in India is facing a human resource crunch due to heavy recruitment by the BPO and KPO industry in India. Pharma companies are faced with high attrition rates of about 25-30%.
  • GSM Carrier Spice in expansion mode: Indian GSM carrier Spice Communications plans to raise up to $2.5 billion via debt and a public offer to expand in India, the world's fastest growing mobile services market. 49% of Spice is owned by Malaysia Telekom and currently offers services in only 2 of the 23 telecom zones in the country.
  • Reliance launches new submarine cable: Reliance Telecommunications, the country's premier CDMA carrier inaugurated a 2.56 Terabit undersea Falcon cable connecting India and the Middle East. The cable will be part of Reliance Communications' Flag Telecom Global Network which already has cables running through 35 countries spanning four continents.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

10 million cell subscribers in Delhi soon

The Times Of India reports that New Delhi, the capital of India is soon to have about 10 million cell phone subscribers by October, 2006. It happens to be a feat because of the 25 cities in the world that boast of 25 million people each, very few cities have a mobile penetration of 10 million or over.
The other cities in the list are London, Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, New York and Mexico City.

All this is just 10 years after the cellular phone made a splash in the world market. I would say even less in the India as real mobile demand picked up only about 6-7 years ago when the mobile call rates fell from a steep 17 rupees a minute to Re 1 a minute. This was also supported by fall in prices of handsets from Rs. 35000 when they were introduced to Rs. 1500.

I don't see it would be long before we have all the major metros in this list soon.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Indian Web Startups Quiz - Answers

Ok...ok....I am posting the answers at the fag end of the day following some requests to delay my answers as long as possible as the efforts were still on to track down all of the answers. I think the wait has been long enough. The original post is here
  1. Which online Indian startup focusing on the travel and hospitality industry, has the tag line "Great Deals. Always"
  2. Which 2 Indian startups are giving Google News India a run for the money in the area of news aggregation?
  3. What is the common area of interest between the Indian Startups HumDigg, IndiaVote, IndianPad, PutVote and IndiaGram?
    • They are all social bookmarking sites that aim to capture interests of Indians.
  4. Which Indian company has a offline search software - one that allows you to search the Web even when you are not connected to the Internet?
  5. An Indian startup took the world of Internet search by storm when it was launched in March 2006. The startup offered a search for visual information by actually matching your key search terms to traits of million of photos on the Web. What company am I referring to?
  6. Which Indian telecom company took to providing live 2006 Wimbledon coverage for mobile phone users in India?
  7. Which Indian startup is on the verge of releasing an Open Source Web Conference tool that allows people to host and walk though their presentations online to a distributed audience ?
  8. Which Chennai based Telecom company released a low cost wireless broadband system named Cordect in Nov 2005 that is expected hasten Internet connectivity in rural India?
  9. Presumably the first Indian startup to offer photo sharing, printing and delivery of photos across India. Which company am I referring to ?
  10. What Indian startup has an Uncle Sam imitating Indian asking "What do you have to say today?" on its home page?
    • Shunya.in - A community based tech news sharing portal.
  11. With what Indian online company do you associate this smiling face ? [ Hint : The company received extortion threats recently]
  12. Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman, both alumni of Stanford University set up a new search engine that rocked the online community, with some even terming it as the next Google. What search engine is being referred to here ?
  • Of the 30 odd entries I received, the one with the most correct entries is of Pooja. Amazingly she has got all of them right.
  • The next best entry got 10 right. It was from Kaps of Sambhar Mafia fame.
Congratulations to the winners and to the participants coz I considered the level of this quiz to be higher side and you all deserve compliments for having attempted the quiz. Thanks for the response. Till next time...keep tracking the Pulse of IT in India

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Technology & Innovation can end Monopoly

"Technology and innovation can be a monopoly killer". This statement made by one of the professors was still resounding in my ears as my thoughts raced across to the telecom sector in India. BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) in the socialist 70s and 80s was the state owned monopoly in fixed land lines and had developed an extensive mesh of lines that criss-crossed the country linking Assam to Gujarat and Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Competition never threatened BSNL as it had the blessing of the central governement to run its business in a way that profited it the most.

Then came the liberalization era in the 1990's and classic capitalist ideas started gaining the upper hand. Every sphere started opening up and competitive markets started becoming the norm of the day. A host of new players entered the market initially providing wireless cellular services which was an area that did not have monopoly players yet. Technology played its role too as it was the same time the world as a whole was facing a telecom wireless revolution in terms of mobile phone miniaturization, feature intensification and cost reduction.

Once these new entrants namely Airtel, Tata Indicom and Reliance gained a foothold in the cellular wireless market they embarked on a plan of diversification and this was when they used technology to topple BSNL from the distinct status it held of being the only firm to have land lines across India. Reliance and Tata Indicom used technology to lay high bandwidth optical fiber cables (OFC) across the country. BSNL was forced to adopt similar measures. However the gap between BSNL and the new entrants was still a chasm.
Enter Wireless Local Loop (WLL) technology. Reliance and the Tata group quickly jumped the wagon . This enabled them to lay optical fiber cables between major towns and villages and avoid last mile connectivity issues which incidentally is what requires the most capital investment. Instead WLL enabled them to erect towers in towns and villages and still issue the subscribers land line phones that connected wirelessly to these towers. The same door-to-door access that BSNL had achieved over a span of 2-3 decades by laying phone cables right till the subscriber's doorstep was achieved by the new entrants in a span of half a decade. Today the Tatas and Reliance groups boast of a network comparable in size to BSNL and still be proud of the fact that it was done at a fraction of the cost that BSNL incurred. And in doing so, it also marked the end of monopolistic market practices of one of India's telecom behemoths.

Truly "Technology and Innovation can convert monopolistic markets to competitive ones"

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Cutting the Cellular Pie in India

Attempt the Indian Startups Quiz
Last Date: 30th Aug 2006

It is no less than a bloodbath that is happening in the Indian cellular phone service provider scene. With about 5 players namely BSNL (the state owned enterprise), Airtel, Hutch, Tata and Reliance, who can truly boast of nationwide coverage and umpteen local providers, the fight that is on to garner the maximum number of cellular subscribers is only getting intense.

Two things are distinctly adding fuel to the raging fire and driving competition to dizzying levels.
  • India is credited with being the world's fastest growing cellular subscriber market
The Indian cellular service subscriber base especially on the GSM front has been swelling by about 3-4 million new customers every single month and has touched 82.4 million in July 2006. With this kind of a spectaular growth, it is a story of the golden egg laying hen that is surrounded by a host of farmers ready to grab the egg as it comes out.

The customers are equally finicky about the service they get and will not hesitate to switch given the slightest incentive. Quite understandable considering the economics of the market that is booming and teeming with players offering every service that you could name.

One of my professors was mentioning that it takes roughly about 2 years for a cellular company to extract all the cost investment that goes into acquiring a new customer. That set me thinking on whether the fact holds true in a volatile market like India that will surely not see stability anywhere in the near future. My take on the matter, given the fact that customer loyalties in India last just till the customer faces the slightest disruption of services, is that the large volumes that keep getting churned out in the market every day, more than offset the need for a hefty two years to recover investment costs on a new customer. The concept of the need for two years might eventually come to dictate the market dynamics of the mobile services market once the markets have stabilized and the companies get a chance to tone down their frequent 'at-war-rhetorics'
  • Technology driven industry + Highly tech savvy consumers = High volatility
Mobile companies in India are also one of the most technology focused companies anywhere in the world. With highly technology savvy consumers biting at their heels, Indian cellular companies are introducing newer and newer gizmos with ever more features and services packed into each device to satiate the Indian market. Airtel that dished out a $1 billion contract to Ericsson to setup new wireless facilities across the country is just one example.

Another thing to be observed here is that the Indian mobile market consists of about 85% of youth in the age bracket of 18 to 35 who just want the best that technology offers them. This keeps the mobile cos on their toes.

New Technologies
I can only imagine how the competition can drive the market nuts with a host of new technologies that are pervading the market. Consider WiFi and WiMax that allow citywide and district wide wireless Internet services to be operated. With Internet enabled phones, it won't be long before customers could access the Internet via these phones and maybe make a VOIP call to their friend halfway across the world and still incur only the data charges that their local cellular company levies on them. It definitely looks like a threat to cellular companies. The same can be iteratively applied to the local market and you suddenly have a market where cellular companies are no more cellular companies but wireless Internet providers who just have been left high and dry because no person wants to use their call routing services when the Internet can do it for them at a fraction of a cost.

Even the SMS model might dramatically collapse if people decide sending an email from one's mobile to another person who will definitely have access to his mail box over his Internet enabled phone makes more sense than a SMS. What if a company comes out with a killer app that marries off Email and SMS to inherit the best of both worlds. Quite scary if I am the head honcho of a cellular company.

I can only see two possibilities. Either the bloodbath goes into hyper mode and players get gobbled up by the big fish. Or the smaller fry just find the model unsustainable economically and quit the market giving more room for the other players to stretch out. Classic marketing principles would definitely win at the end though the path towards that point would be ridden with big time corporate foresights that might either send a company spiraling towards glory or towards a not-so glorious downfall, making up for some interesting case studies at the B-schools across the globe. 'Cellularizing' one sixth of the world's population is sure to resemble an action paked Bollywood movie

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Photo Courtesy: Hindu Business Line

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Indian Web Startups Quiz - How well do you know them?

Well, Quiz time again...After the overwhelming response to my first IT quiz, I was inspired to come out with quizzes that make it fun to follow IT news. This one's on Indian IT and ITES service based startups that have been making waves not just in the country but also across the world. See how well you keep tabs on the Indian IT Pulse...
  1. Which online Indian startup focusing on the travel and hospitality industry, has the tag line "Great Deals. Always".
  2. Which 2 Indian startups are giving Google News India a run for the money in the area of news aggregation?
  3. What is the common area of interest between the Indian Startups HumDigg, IndiaVote, IndianPad, PutVote and IndiaGram?
  4. Which Indian company has a offline search software - one that allows you to search the Web even when you are not connected to the Internet?
  5. An Indian startup took the world of Internet search by storm when it was launched in March 2006. The startup offered a search for visual information by actually matching your key search terms to traits of million of photos on the Web. What company am I referring to?
  6. Which Indian telecom company took to providing live 2006 Wimbledon coverage for mobile phone users in India?
  7. Which Indian startup is on the verge of releasing an Open Source Web Conference tool that allows people to host and walk though their presentations online to a distributed audience?
  8. Which Chennai based Telecom company released a low cost wireless broadband system named Cordect in Nov 2005 that is expected hasten Internet connectivity in rural India?
  9. Presumably the first Indian startup to offer photo sharing, printing and delivery of photos across India. Which company am I referring to?
  10. What Indian startup has an Uncle Sam imitating Indian asking "What do you have to say today?" on its home page?
  11. With what Indian online company do you associate this smiling face? [Hint : The company CEO received extortion threats recently]
  12. Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman, both alumni of Stanford University set up a new search engine that rocked the online community, with some even terming it as the next Google. What search engine is being referred to here?
Answers on 30th of August, 2006
Send your answers to vijayblogs@gmail.com

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India IT News Capsule - Aug 2006, Issue 3

  • AOL coming to India: America Online or AOL as it is better known is all out to set up shop in India and bring to Indians that have made it a household name in the United States. AOL has not revealed a foray into Internet service providing business but speculation is rife that AOL would try and acquire Sify, one of the largest privates ISPs in India to jump start its India operations.
  • Google looking for India Internet startups: Google is reportedly looking out for Indian Internet startups to be acquired as part of its expansion plan in the country. On its India site, Google has invited applications from people who can “identify and evaluate acquisition opportunities across existing and future market opportunities, drive management team decisions, lead deal execution, and help manage post-acquisition integration and performance evaluation in the South Asia Region.” Google’s ideal candidate would be “a top performer with proven deal management,” said the site. A hint about what Google might be seeking to do in India comes in the form of investment experience that the candidate must have: Internet, communications, or e-commerce.
  • Airtel offering MS-Office products on its mobile network: Airtel, the leading cellular phone service provider has tied up with Microsoft to allow its mobile users access to Microsoft Office products over their mobile phones. Airtel subscribers can access MS Word, Outlook, Excel, Powerpoint and Internet Explorer on their mobile devices. Beside, users will also get access to several other multimedia applications, including camera, video recording and MP3. The MS Windows Mobile 5.0 will be available to customers on the HP I-Paq and I-Mate handsets, priced between Rs 16,000 and Rs 65,000. Whereas, the service will be offered under plans ranging from Rs 399 to Rs 799.With this association Bharti Airtel thus joins 115 existing mobile operators who currently offer the Windows Mobile solution worldwide.
  • Indian Company launches Podcast services for corporates: Chennai PR Club, a PR professionals association, and Prime Point Foundation, an NGO, jointly launched 'Podcast' service for corporates on Monday. Podcast is the distribution of audio stream, which can be downloaded and played through any MP3 player.
  • NIIT - IIM to offer Management courses over Internet: NIIT Ltd., Asia's largest IT trainer, and one of India's top management colleges plan on offering management programmes through broadband.Content would be provided by Indian Institute of Managment, Ahemadabad while infrastructure would be NIIT's hold. NIIT will initially set up six computer centres in as many cities and the number will subsequently rise to 75. IIM will design two programmes meant for professionals having at least five years of work experience. They will be priced at 50,000 rupees ($1,076) for 60 hours of training and 180,000 rupees for a course lasting 150 hours.

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