Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Back Office of the World - Part 1

Somebody in business world had once quoted "Just as China has qualified to be called the Manufacturing base of the world, it is India that is emerging as the Back Office of the world". Quite on the mark, my friend. Business Process Outsourcing centers ( BPOs )or Call centers, as they are called in the common parlance, dot the premier cities/towns across India. They form the second major division of the IT sector after the software companies.

And what do they do ? One thing for sure. Take calls from around the world and provide solutions to customers of the major corporations across the globe. The services they offer over phone vary according to what the corporation which has outsourced work offshore, does chiefly. Call centers catering to Toyota might be helping Toyota customers in the U.S. get road side assistance. Call centers catering to Hersheys chocolates might be providing nutrition information to concerned customers. Call centers serving Apple computers might be assisting a customer to get his IPod working. Well, the possibilities are limitless. And so are the job opportunities. The information technology market in India is flooded with them.

That brings to the mind two questions.


1. Where from are the jobs flowing to India?

Should be an easy one if you keep tabs on world economy news avidly. Jobs are flowing in from America and the European bloc chiefly due to intense competition among companies. The economic slowdown in these economic powerhouses has been forcing CEOs to indulge in cost cutting measures. And most importantly the currency strength of these countries vis-a-vis the Indian rupee has been key factor. Contributing factors definitely have been the huge English speaking youth work force available in India and the tremendous strides that the world has taken in the sphere of telecommunications and digitization. India has utilized the opportunity to the hilt. To sum it up, it is harnessing all the back office jobs* that form a major chunk of all big corporations and companies.


2. What effect are these new job opportunities having on India?

This one is more interesting. The macro effect is the flow of wealth from the richer pockets of the globe to India. This in turn has led to the emergence of the burgeoning middle class in India with greater purchasing power.

The micro effects are discernible only on a closer look. Educated Indians with a even a smatter of English are moving away from the traditional low paying jobs in rural and semi-urban areas to the metros to get into a call center job that pays 10-15 times more. To quote one example, my Dad who is an educational consultant keeps mentioning, "The chief complaint in almost all the schools I visit these days in non-metro towns is the lack of good English teachers. They are all moving to Bangalore where they easily get into a call center job". I persisted,"What about the teachers who have spent several years in the job. They definitely will stick around ...". He quickly cut me short,"No, Not even them !!! After having worked for years for a measly 2000 or 3000 Rupees a month, these call center jobs are providing them the much needed economic respite". I was speechless. My mind had already raced to the question of whether we are placing the future of Indian kids at the sacrificial altar of greater immediate economic gain ? Only time can tell.

Coming back, it is quite easy to see how potent an economic factor offshore outsourcing** is turning out to be in a developing nation like India. Though the benefits of BPOs cannot be undermined, attention needs to be focussed on how to address the imbalances created as a result of a new player on the Indian economic stage.

More on the socio-political-cultural effects of offshore outsourcing in next part in this series.

Footnotes

*Back Office Jobs - Jobs that do not require huge knowledge skills and do not bring in major revenue to companies, yet form critical segment of corporations striving for customer delight.

**Offshore Outsourcing - The process of moving back office jobs not just outside the company ( outsourcing ) but also out of the region ( read 'outside country' or off-the-shore of one's own country ) to some other region where it can be done at a cheaper rate.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Bangalore Unwired

Power has changed hands in Karnataka, the IT state of India. Power changes bring in a wave of freshness. New government installed. Eagerness among the ruling party politicians to show the prowess of their government in the ability to get things done. Dormant project files are dusted and re-scanned. Strong statements by the new Chief Minister(C.M.) in the making, Mr H D Kumaraswamy ( the son of the erstwhile PM Deve Gowda, who was painted anti-progressive by the media ) that made headlines , "I'll prove that my father was not anti-IT or BT". Though all these do paint a rosy future, the Indian public tends to take them with a pinch of salt. However, this time I have an inkling that the young C.M. means business.

Even days before the new C.M. is to be sworn in, and just a day after the bold statement by him, the new Karnataka government has unveiled plans for the most ambitious of all IT projects till date. Project 'Bangalore Unwired' aims at creating a city wide wireless infrastructure to provide seamless integrated wireless digital environment both for government and private users. The entire wireless network would be spread across a radius of 50 km. For the full story go here.


This definitely is music to the IT industry. Assuming this step takes off and the government goes about it on a war footing, it would not only provide an untethered fast network access to millions of users but also further the image of Bangalore as an innovative and progressive hub in the days to come. It would mean newer wireless applications, services and a gamut of new possibilities for Bangloreans.

It reminds of the last few days of my work stint at Detroit, USA working for General Motors. The city municipal council was planning to setup wireless network by the end of 2007. I was wondering when Indian cities would catch up. Now I think I need to alert my former colleagues in Detroit that their city would soon have to do some catching up with their Indian counterparts.

There was also this joke that was doing the rounds in Bangalore last year when there was huge uproar triggered off by the IT bigwigs about the traffic congestion that was causing delays in ferrying their employees to and fro between the work places and residential areas. The complaint was that the employees spend 2-3 hours of their day in company buses being ferried across the city. The government was insisting that in spite of all the infrastructure improvements that they are performing, there is bound to be some delays and the IT companies would have to put up with it. Some smartie suggested in one of the online discussion forums that the only solution was to setup wireless networks across Bangalore and, the IT companies equip their company buses with Wi-Fi enabled laptops. This way the moment the employees board the buses, they can log into their company accounts and check their e-mails and start getting work done. Smart, eh ?

I think time has come to make a reality of the joke and maybe even go a step further.....Did anybody just say "Work from Home" ?. I just did.

Useful Links : Wireless Networking in the Developing World.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Gods are a mouse click away

Temples in India have come a long way in catering to the needs of their devotees in the IT era. IT has come as a boon to our places of worship to cater to their devotees scattered all across the globe.

E-darshan, e-hundi facilities are commonplace on the websites of the famous temples like the Tirupathi temple, ISKCON and Akshardham temples. E- darshan allows devotees to glimpse the presiding deity through the website via live pictures or a web cam. E-hundi facility can be availed by devotees to send in their offerings in the form of money or material via the Net.

Some websites even allow devotees to do puja to their deity over the web, offer flowers, light incense sticks, break coconuts to the sound of hymns chanting in the background, all thanks to Flash applications. ISKCON website has some innovative applications that show a different name of Krishna on the welcome page along with the meaning of the name, on each visit to the site. It also hosts a online Bhagvad Gita edition for visitors to read. The Tirupathi website offers devotees the opportunity to book accommodation in and around the temple environs.

The Hindu today carried a news excerpt of a new offering being made by the Tirupathi temple administrators. They have tied up with cellular operators that allow people to book their darshan timings via SMS. Now that should bring a smile on the faces of thousands of devotees who could queue up for hours together to get a 30 second glimpse of the presiding deity of Tirumala hills, Lore Venkateshwara.

IT will definitely go a long way in changing the way devotees and temples have been associated with each other.

If the article has brought out the devotee in you, follow the links below to get one step closer to salvation

Telugu Torananam - http://www.telugutoranam.com/devotional/balaji.html
Tirupathi - http://www.tirumala.org/
ISKCON - http://www.iskcon.com/
Aksharadham - http://www.akshardham.com/

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Holy Spam

Even in this age of e-mail, I somehow have retained the interest of eagerly waiting for the postman to see if he has any letters for me. He did have one for me today. It was from a distant cousin of mine. Well, I was perplexed. Why in the world did he feel like posting me a letter after God knows how many years or maybe even eons. Well, whatever it be, a letter is a letter, I told myself and hurriedly opened it.

The contents read like this

OM Ganeshaya Namaha

This is a blessing from Lord Ganeshji that has already traveled 12 times around the world. Please make 5 copies of it and send it to your loved ones. Good Luck will follow. Otherwise harm will befall you....

( followed by 2 stories of how some people ignored it and they ended up overnight paupers or even worse met with an accident....blah..blah..blah )

I was wild with rage. I cursed this cousin of mine. Threw the letter into a corner. Huffing and puffing, I returned to my laptop.

NEW MAIL !!! announced my email software at the bottom right hand corner of the laptop screen. It was from another of my friend. The subject line read "Don't ignore - Please read". I opened it to face the same useless stuff again. Phew !!! It was all the same stuff except that the deity was Lord Hanuman. Gods who were sowing luck across the country through letters have now taken to e-mail as a way of reaching their devotees faster.

Gosh !!!! I suppose it is only Indians who can contribute such spam unto themselves. With e-mail, you are not limited to 5 copies. Make as many as you like. Pollute as many a inbox as you can. Even the messages have directions of how soon luck will come hunting for you....

  • 5 people ( minimum ) - Good news in 10 days
  • 10 people - Good news in 5 days
  • 15 and more - Within 1 day.

Mails are not restricted to Gods/Goddesses from the Hindu pantheon. I have seen Jesus Christ, Buddha, Mahavira all floating in e-space waiting to shower the most consecrated of the email forwarding devotees with boundless luck. I guess if I had forwarded all such mails since my college days, when I opened my first e-mail account, I should have been a millionaire by now, enjoying holidays in the Caribbean or Switzerland, with the loads of accumulated luck doing all the work for me.

Friends of mine (who are geniuses in their fields) on receiving such mails, stop work and diligently forward such emails to their friends. I am amused at times. At other times frustration creeps up and I shout, "You are a well educated Indian, you know how e-mail works. Then how the hell could you believe that forwarding 15 mails that are totally useless can bring you good luck. It all stumps me. Visiting the temple 15 times would be more advisable. Maybe its calm environs would have had a healing effect on your frayed nerves and mental acumen". "Well Vijay, I know all that, but then why take risk... after all I just need to press the forward button", I get the reply. For a person whose myopic vision misses the bigger picture, I have nothing more to say. May his e-mail Gods bless him with better sense.


With as many Gods as there are Indians, I fear the day when every Indian is e-enabled. Our Gods will be jostling with each other to acquire some e-space. I am seriously considering writing to Google, Yahoo and Hotmail to introduce a new button "God Spam" to dump such mails. Trust the Indians to use technology to their maximum benefit and also abuse it to the maximum extent.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Scene 101, Take 1, Lights... Camera... Blog..................CUT..CUT

An Aamir Khan fan to the core, I am waiting for the chance to watch his latest flick 'Rang De Basanti'. Amidst the hype surrounding the film, the controversies that dogged it in its pre-release days, the marketing strategies being used by Aamir which include partnering with IT players like LG & Microsoft India, my brother surprised me by mentioning that Aamir had even taken to blogging to promote his movie.

I was flabbergasted. When did Aamir's "B for Bollywood" change to "B for Blogging"?

I did a bit of Internet combing and eventually lay my hands on the site link from India Uncut, another of my favorite blogs. I directed my browser to his blogspace that was hosted on MSN Spaces with lots of anticipation and zealousness.

Booh !!! It turned out to be a fruitless exercise. Not that the site was not there. There was no Aamir Khan posting at the site. A few pics of Aamir, the film cast, et al. I was sorely disappointed. Well, as some consolation there is a third-party written bio data of Aamir. If after all this Aamir bashing that I have done, you are still interested in visiting the blog, here it is.

While I was analyzing why Aamir had embarked on and thrown water on the thousands of his fans who might be visiting his so called 'Blog', it occurred to me that Microsoft India was using this as a way to promote their MSN Spaces, a free blogging site. After all they are this film's promotional partners. "It deserves to be called a Bulletin and not a blog", says Rajesh, my friend and editor of AlooTechie. Rightly said so, Rajesh.

If things are twisted out of context to this extent by misleading fans, what more could we expect from the others. Hopefully LG does not start sending out messages like "Sms 'AAMIR' to 7827 and receive personalized replies".

Thursday, January 26, 2006

One Billion People: One Vision

It is 57 years to this day since India became a Republic.

I avidly follow the current Indian President's Republic Day Speech every year. Especially so because of the technology laced content that accompanies the tech-savvy Dr Abdul Kalam's speech.

This time around, he donned the role of a leading light to the thousands of scientists in various sectors. His speech envisioned a 5 point mission. Two points caught my attention as an IT student. For the full speech go here.

Increasing the Solar Photo Voltaic Cell efficiency from 14% to 45% using nano technology

Nano technology is a budding field and the President's thrust was to see if we could use this technology to increase photo-voltaic cell's efficiency from 14% ( where it has stood stagnant ever since the first photo-voltaic cell was invented ) to 45%.

A breakthrough here would be reap dual benefits the country

  • It will bring about a massive switch over to the use of the Sun's energy by our citizens negating the huge dependence we have on fossil fuels currently.
  • If India can patent the technology, it would mean earnings of billions of dollars.

Core research is on in different countries across the world to attain a breakthrough in increasing the solar cell efficiencies. It is a race against time and huge monetary benefits await the country which succeeds in pulling the magic wire first.

Immediate benefits would be
  • Unlimited Power to propel a Developing economy like India.
  • Applications in Defense technologies
  • Space applications that entail India to launch inter-space ventures that solely use solar-power.

Developing the products in the health care, electronics and materials to meet the national requirements using the convergence of nano, bio and info technologies

The second point put forth by the President is even more exciting. He calls upon new indigenous products that could jointly make use the Nano Technology, Bio Technology and Information Technology spheres. Here again the possibilities are endless. Nanobots that could cure AIDS, human replacement parts that could be synthesized to be attached to humans who have lost limbs, software that self corrects bugs and squashes viruses.

Truly the speech opens up the inquiring mind to explore a plethora of super-ideas.

Wish all readers in India a Happy Republic Day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Thanks to Pakistan, South India is an IT hub

"Why did the IT boom happen in South India and not in North India first ?", asked a family friend of ours who follows IT passionately. I mentioned several factors like the dulcet climate, presence of institutions of higher learning like Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore and the numerous engineering colleges that feed the voracious appetite for talent of the IT industry in South India. He seemed convinced. That was a month ago.

However, I was not satisfied. The question still ringed fresh in my mind. Not that the factors, I had mentioned were invalid, but there was this gnawing thought that there must have been one or two decisive factors or decisions by top administrators of the country that have led IT companies to pour into South India first before branching out to other states across North India. Even to this day, any world MNC in the IT sector puts its first foot in Bangalore, Chennai or Hyderabad ( forming the Silicon triangle) and only after consolidation, do they plan to expand.

Waking today afternoon after a short siesta, I happened to lay my hands on the latest issue of the Week. The cover page article was on '25 days that changed India'. Yummy !!! Sounded delicious reading material. It mentioned 26th July, 1986 as one of the 25 Red Letter Days in the history of the country. It was on this day that India's first rural Automated exchange was set up at Kittur, in Karnataka's Belgaum district. Just outside it was setup a bright yellow box, with the 'PCO' imprint on it. India's villages were on the fast track to the communication revolution. The advent of the STD booth, it says, marked the kickstart of the IT revolution in India.

This kick start was provided partly by Texas Instruments(TI) setting up shop in Bangalore, which was soon to become the Silicon Valley of the East. As an answer to why TI chose Bangalore, lay a beautifully analysed piece that I reproduce below :

Week, Jan 29th, 2006 :
What lured TI to Bangalore ? Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had ensured that many of the nation's strategic defense and space installations were set up in and around Bangalore, off-limits to Pakistani fighter jets. The city had a sound educational and research set up to feed these installations, with higher seats of learning like the IISc. The same pool that fed the government's key establishments became happy poaching grounds for mushrooming IT institutions. TI was soon joined by Siemens, Motorola, Synopsis, Philips, Nokia and Samsung. Infosys and Wipro became home-grown success stories, leading to start-ups in the rest of the country.


Well, there lay the answer to the question that was bothering me. Indira Gandhi, to keep Pakistan at bay, had unwittingly sown the seeds for the IT revolution in Bangalore. Surely, South India needs to thank Pakistan for granting it an upper-hand over North India in the IT revolution.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Goodwill Gestures by IT Giants

Exactly six months back, a colleague of mine and I had a lengthy discussion at tea-time on computers being donated by industry biggies like Infosys, Wipro, etc to schools. While I was showering praise on the industry for such magnanimous steps, my colleague questioned the wisdom of this step by counter-arguing on what use would these computers serve if the schools do not have able teachers to impart computer education to the students. He went on to add, " These days every Tom, Dick and Harry who knows a little bit of HTML coding or can scratch the 'Hello World' program in Java or .NET dreams of milking the cash cow as a software programmer. How then would you expect to train and retain talent in our schools to teach the Gen-Next of the country?". It was a valid point and I had suggested then that the best way to overcome this Catch-22 situation would be to train teachers themselves, who had served in schools for a minimum period of 8-10 years. This way there would be a lower possibility of them switching careers at that late a point in their life. The next question that arose was who would teach them, give them the right up to date education. The government was a strict no-no. By the time government came up with a blue-print, decided on the syllabus and enforced the plan, the whole content would have gone past its expiry date, given the rate at which computer technologies are changing.
The discussion ended rather abruptly as we were summoned by our module lead.

Yesterday, while I was perusing the TimesOfIndia online, a brief news excerpt caught my eye. The story went as below :

CHANDIGARH: For this group of 27 teachers from various government schools learning about the use of computers in classroom has acquired a new meaning.

Undergoing a five-day training module of Intel corporation as part of the new initiative to upgrade the skills of educators dealing with children from underprivileged sections, they are learning to involve the children through a community approach.

Said Gurdip Kumar, a teacher, ‘‘I knew about the use of computers but this programme has informed me about how to relate technology with the lives of children.

..We would ask them to identify a problem affecting their lives and then involve them in
finding solutions to it through the use of the internet. A project will be done by the students who will learn about the use of technology through the process.’’

For the complete story go here.

The excerpt answered the question that had been left unanswered during our discussion. I was elated.

The press excerpt also mentions the whole exercise as a joint collaboration between IT giants like Intel and education schemes of the government like the 'Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan'. The best part was the mention of projects that would be jointly taken up by the computer trained teachers and students. These projects would be live social projects targeted at the poor and backward classes of the society.

Good will acts like these , I am sure, will go a long way in ensuring that the benefits of IT percolate to the lowest levels of the Indian social strata. What do you feel ?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Indian Blogging Scene

"I am the only one who does not have my own blog", cried out my friend Mahesh.

He was venting out his frustration when he learnt of my blog. In the hindsight, thoughts raced across my mind of how strongly the netizens in India had taken to blogging. Well, for most, it might be a passing fad. However, for the rest the feeling of having a blog where you could scribble your mind, sculpt opinions, get a fan-following and most importantly have a self carved space whose sole landlord is you - is quite liberating.

I have been following some of the wonderfully written and regularly updated blogs by Indians on the web since the last year. Some of the best blogs are India-Uncut by Amit, Just A Little Something by Anita Bora ( more of a photoblog ), Kartik Kannan's Space by Kartik, Kamat's Potpourri by Vikas. For a full listing of Indian Bloggers who have carved a niche for themselves in the overcrowded e-world, go here. Though the list is a bit outdated, it still provides links to some great blogs.

Enjoy some Desi content.....Signing off for now, VJ

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Mobile Mania

India is reeling under massive mobile sales pitches these days. Not surprising, given the fact that India is the fastest growing mobile market in the world. With the figures crossing 50 million users last year, there is no debate on that one. Indian mobile users too are having a field day.

Among the god-knows-how-many schemes, the one that is feverishly being marketed and also being subscribed is the 'Lifetime SIM' scheme for pre-paid mobile users. Touted as the mother of all schemes, it promises the buyer of the SIM a lifetime of free incoming calls. Every cellular service provider worth his salt is announcing this scheme, albeit with slight variations. "Pay Rs. 999 and get a lifetime sim free", announces one guy. The other shouts "Pay only 950 and get a lifetime SIM free". TV ads too are getting crazier and are targeting the lowest segment of the service class that include taxi drivers, milk men, etc.

I happened to visit my local photocopy maker yesterday. He incidentally also sells SIM cards. I casually enquired him of the new scheme. He said, "Sir, This is one of the best schemes I have minted money with. My daily earnings from just selling this lifetime SIM card is easily hovering between Rs. 40000 to 50000. On days when customers come in asking for cards, I am already out of stock. Even the companies selling these cards are errant in their supply". I was shocked. Just one sales agent is selling 40-50 SIM cards a day. That translates to about 300 cards being sold in just my town that boasts of about 10-12 SIM card dealers. Now if I project the figure to get nationwide statistics, it sure will make you drop your jaw. 5000 towns multiplied by 300 cards per town gives a astounding 1,500,000 ( 1.5 million cards every day).

My interest aroused, I probed him further, "Who are your customer for this SIM card ?". "Mostly villagers, college students, especially girls, traveling sales representatives", he answered. I could see a pattern emerging. The population segment being targeted by the cellular companies was specifically the ones who wanted to possess mobile phones so that people could get in touch with them, but they themselves were not required to make calls frequently. India, sure has a huge chunk of people in this sector.

TRAI ( Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ) has raised objection to this latest sales gimmick by the operators on how operators can promise lifetime SIM cards when they themselves have been issued operational licenses for a 20 year period. All objections apart, it goes to show how vast and untapped the Indian mobile market still is. Cellular operators are laughing their way to the banks.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Squeezing IT for maximum benefits

Americans make technology work for them. Indians make technology hog and toil for them. They squeeze every ounce of utility from a new technology/service. I say this with conviction 'coz for every technology that saw the light of the day in the form of a gadget or service that evinced consumer interest, Indians have put it to more varied uses than anybody else in the world.

Let me illustrate my stance with examples. Take the case of the mobile GSM technology. It ushered in mobiles and sim cards into our lives. While America uses it extensively for making calls, they seem to have almost forgotten that you could also send Short Text Messages (SMSes) through them when the message to be conveyed is brief. In contrast, we Indians use SMS as through mobiles were meant for them. The story does not end there. We use it not just to send messages, but also one-liners, jokes, riddles, etc. The corporate world uses SMS to advertise new products. TV Shows use SMS to entice users to vote for their favorite stars and download ring tones, enter contests. News channels use them to conduct mass surveys and polls. We can book tickets to movies, cricket matches through SMS. Banks bombard us with SMSes asking if we are interested in credit cards, ultra-low interest loans that they promise to quickly disburse on our 'OK-ing' with a SMS. Even our politicians use them to send out messages to woo the prospective voter.( Remember the Vajapayee SMS that was selectively targeted at key audiences in cities ). SMS technology has diversified so much that one can even send SMSes in Hindi, the national language.

Not just this. BBC was showing the other day on "Click", one of its popular IT related programs, a new application for SMS technology. A electronic digital board linked to a SIM card is placed at prominent places in every village participating in the program. Agriculture tips, weather forecasts are sent as SMS messages to these SIMs and the message appears on the LED bulletin boards serving to keep farmers updated at all times.

Now tell me... with all this show here, Americans seem like novices when it comes to utilizing SMS technology.

Not convinced !!! Take the example of Linux. While tech geeks all over the world were going ga-ga over how Linux is steadily, but surely replacing Windows, scientists at IISc came out with the Linux powered Simputer, a low cost hand-held for the rural masses. And the cost...well within 10000 rupees.

Still bothered about this new thought... Take the case of STD booths. When the telecommunications revolution rocked India in the 90s, BSNL STD booths mushroomed all over India and they are to this day icons of shrinking a vast country like India in terms of connecting people. Then came privatization era and suddenly we are seeing booths of Reliance, Tata Indicom and other private players competing with BSNL. America hardly has STD booths except for the ones in cities.

Though in all this, we need to appreciate that demographic factors, economic factors and cultural factors all play a part in determining which country embraces what technology to what extent, we also need not forget the ingenuity with which we Indians have made technology toil for us. Three cheers to us. Hip Hip Hurray !!!

Friday, January 20, 2006

India Googled

Google is really driving Indian institutions nuts these days !!!

First, it published high-resolution images of several Indian metropolitan cities which incidentally included some key defense installations in Bangalore and other places. A hullabaloo was raised and prominent Indian personalities rallied along with our geeky President to blast Google on allowing sensitive data to fall into terrorists'’ hands. Other countries like Israel, Thailand too voiced similar concerns. Google immediately went on the back foot and managed to do some damage control by reiterating that its open to discussions with the respective governments.

Now it is the Indian film industry that has found itself being googled. Last week when Google showcased its new Video search, it threw open a whole new Pandora's box with Bollywood immediately feeling the heat. New movies that were yet to see the light of the day were available for download on Google. Its search spiders had acted too smart for once !!! Neal n' Nikki, Bunty aur Babli, Aitraaz were all available. While Bollywood started screaming its lungs out, fans were having the last laugh.

These two incidents tend to portray the image that the America based search giant cares little for the niggles its services cause to institutions around the world. While this may not be true, the public image of Google in India has taken a beating for sure.

Google does need to chalk out more elaborate release plans for its services to ensure it lives up to its credibility. It should act more proactively and try and shed the stance of acting only when an institution comes out crying hoarse. I, for one, back Google to quickly learn from its mistakes and be more sensitive to the privacy aspect of institutions across the world.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

IT cognizance among the Indian masses

Information Technology or IT for short is generally believed to be the messiah for deliverance of economic independence for the Indian masses. Though this school of thought borrows its followers largely from the urban areas, I find the semi-urban and the rural areas fast catching up on whatever this revolution has on offer.

On 8th of January, I had been invited to deliver a speech on the “Opportunities for the youth in the field of IT” at the 50-year celebrations of a prominent local community at my native. Once a vibrant industrial town, my native, Harihar, has been reduced to a sleepy taluq headquarters today with much of the attention being showered on its big brother neighboring town Davangere.

I prepared for my speech with lots of exuberance, researching on the net for all new job opportunities that had been pouring into India as part of the outsourcing demon that was driving Western governments crazy. BPOs and KPOs were all added to my ever-growing list of technical jargon.

D-Day arrived. Little did I know, I would be in for a shock. I was invited to the dais and gosh !!!. Hardly one or two youth were to be seen in the entire audience. It was all filled up with people aged 35 and above. I was later appraised of the fact that all college going youth had exams scheduled the next day and had not wanted risking that.

I immediately resolved to tone down the technicality in my speech and ended up giving a high level introduction to most of the job opportunities that lay open for the youth without venturing to elaborate on any of them. The fear of boring the aged audience to death also was poking me throughout my speech. I ended my 45-minute speech a bit apprehensively but then came the second surprise of the day.

Surprise…surprise…. the audience had listened to my entire speech spell bound. When the question answer round came up, the questions thrown at me were amazing. Amazing because the technical depth involved was something I least expected from the semi-urban audience of my town.

“What does the process of chipping involve in the semi-conductor industry?”

“What is a reliable checklist for setting up website hosting services?”

“Can I setup a website hosting service from the comforts of my home?”

“How is Knowledge Process Outsourcing different from Business Process Outsourcing?”

“If I make use of the Google advertising engine on my website, does Google actually send me money for all traffic routed to them through my website?”

I was FLABBERGASTED!!! An semi-urban audience whose average age was 55 and one that was devoid of youth was asking questions that would have driven the wind out of even Mr. Jeeves of the famed www.ask.com.

It is another story that the Q&A session lasted for another 45 minutes, leaving me panting for breath. Still the audience was not satisfied. They extracted a promise from me that I would address the youth of the community in a separate workshop.

This experience has definitely convinced me that IT has taken up prime space in almost everybody’s interest spectrum in India. IT is surely generating genuine interest among the masses and is all set to take the country and its citizens for a ride of their lives.

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