Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Operating Systems for all Needs

I remember how constrained we were back in the 1990's when it came to choosing a "usable" operating system. My tryst with OSes started with Windows 3.1, the first GUI based OS from the Microsoft stable that gained worldwide popularity. Even the OS was installed via 3.5" floppy diskettes, about 15-19 of them to be inserted one after the other in sequence.

How dramatically things have changed in 16 years. Today there are hoards of choices.

Linux is available in a dozen or more flavors today: Ubuntu, SuSE, RTLinuxPro, RedHat and the list goes on. Richard Stallman plans to release a OS specifically engineered to serve the engineering fraternity in India. e-Swecha, a variant of Linux and front ended by JNTU (Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University), Hyderabad. The e-Swecha Operating System, has software dealing with the various streams of engineering in it.

Windows is available in about four variations still in vogue. You also have BeOS and few other OS kernels from lesser known names in the market each addressing a specific need.

Richard Stallman plans to release a OS specifically engineered to serve the engineering fraternity in India. e-Swecha, a variant of Linux and front ended by JNTU (Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University)

Now the move is all towards Web based OSes. EyeOS, G.ho.st, Google Chrome are steps in this direction.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai's cyber citizens unleash their power

It has been curtains on a nightmare in Mumbai. Terror attacks that not only inflicted heavy civilian casualties, but took unawares the security infrastructure of the country. So much so that CNN-IBN dubbed the live action that unfolded day in day out for 3 days on TV, 'The longest running Live Horror Show on television'

While the Mumbaikars' resilience was being highlighted by the TV, very few media channels covered the role that the Internet and cyberspace played. Blogs, Twitter, Google Maps, Flickr all went into hyperdrive to cover the events unfolding, providing an emotional help line, linking victims to hospitals, connecting blood donors to blood banks, inviting comments from cybernauts and providing an untainted, unbiased view of the situation clear of all the dramatization being used by TV channels to attract more eyeballs. (One TV channel was advertising Sony Handycam at the right hand upper corner while showing scenes shot from citizen handycams. Long live morality !!)

Even BBC was relying on cyberspace for most of the news, given the stickler it is for unbiased news content. Such is the power of citizen journalism. If only we could effectively harness its power !!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Recession - Indian IT firms stand ground

Humpty dumpty had a great fall !! 8 weeks after the big bang announcement by banks in US that recession has finally descended on the globe, Indiann IT firms are yet to bat their eyelids. I am not sure if this is another lull in the storm or that Indian firms have really grown in resilience over the years to take a blow of this magnitude and still do business as usual.

Though all IT firms have announced cautious spend cuts, not one has made a move hinting job cuts and pink slip disbursements. The top 3 IT firms in India have a significant BFSI (Banks and Financial Services Institutions) exposure in US and Europe. That surprises me beacuse if anybody anticipates this recession to dissipate soon, I would disgree 100%. It would be atleast a year or two before we have normalcy restored. So when companies are in for the long haul in a recession like this that can raise eyebrows.

Atleast, I have heard rumors of Infosys announcing options to its employees to go on a 1 year holiday wherein they need to serve NGOs (non govermental organisations) and still take home 50% of their pay. That's something to cheer about during hard times like these !!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Asia Pacific's fastest growing domestic IT services market is India

While the IT service markets in US and Europe are slowing down in the face of a relentless onslaught by rising oil prices, the sub prime mortgage crisis and the toll of the war against terror, the opposite seems to be the case in Asia Pacific. And it comes as no surprise that the fastest growing IT services market in APAC is India.

IT end-user spending in India is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.8 percent from 2007 through 2012 to touch $110 billion (Rs 484,000 crore) by 2012, says research and advisory firm Gartner.
In the current year, IT end-user spending is on way to reach $64.7 billion (Rs 2,98,345 crore), a 17.2 percent increase from 2007.
This surprised me a tad bit since traditionally growth in Asian markets has been fueled by US-EU markets. Things have changed a lot since the last 2 decades when India specifically opened the doors of her economy to world market and took a giant leap in getting integrated closely with the world growth engine.
1. The bustling Indian GDP that is growing at 8%. The enormous demand created by a burgeoning middle class means that Indian businesses will continue to invest in IT in order to drive operational excellence and innovation. Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in turn will drive the growth of various IT-related industries, with the critical involvement of value added resellers, distributors and retailers.
2. Inward focus by Indian IT vendors towards servicing the domestic market due to slowdown in traditional hunting grounds like US-EU-Australia. TCS is the largest domestic market caterer and Infosys has spelt out clearly that its strategy is to have more focused approach in going after public deals. "We will be participating in the bid for BSNL, Indian Railways and for the e-commerce platform of the Ministry of Commerce", states Binod H R, Senior Vice President, Indian Business Unit, Infosys
3. Best of breed practices that have been picked up by Indian IT vendors while servicing international clients is being utilized to serve the demanding Indian client better. Availability of talent to provide IT services in the business language of the world adds on here.
These three points have rolled out a positive spiral in place with supply and demand chasing each other to create the fastest growing IT services market in Asia Pacific.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Decrypting Teenage Jargon

I came across this UK site - Teenager Jargon. What it had was a list of words that forms a part of today's teen vocabulary in UK and 90% or more of which the parents or grown ups have no clue as to what the words mean. My curiosity tickled, I explored further.... Wow. It was a small knowledge session I went through myself. Words I thought I knew had totally other meaning s associated with them when used as 'teenglish'.
Taste this - 'BadBoy - term to describe something good "did you see that bad boy shot"...It was awesome!!

Wondering what a similar exercise in India would throw up !!. I am sure something equally interesting.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Does globalization promote localization

Lot of discussions over a cup of tea throw up scenarios that you are unlikely to have visualised by yourself. A discussion began highlighting how the concept of globalization was making the world flat, breaking up national and international boundaries, making the whole globe a big village, providing a common marketplace, etc. What enabled it? Technology. Just within India, goods and services are today exchanged across states. Thanks to mobiles, thanks to better transport and IT systems that make it possible.

On the other side of the coin, technology has also enabled localization.The sheer amount of power and flexibility that technology thrusts into our hands has enabled us to have mobile phones that send smses in our regional languages, have Internet giants like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo clambering over each other to provide support for regional languages across their software applications. Google has gone a step ahead and even included custom calendars for each region of the world in its Calendar application. Nokia has released phones with Dravidian languages as the input interface on the number pad.

Why did this not happen before? We did not have players in India with the clout of these MNC giants to provide the quality of services and products that would have mass appeal. Now that we have them, they are hungry to grab more market share which is leading them to target the local non English speaking sections of various societies.

So what's happening? Globalization promotion localization....I don't see otherwise.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Technology Adoption - The Indian way

If adoption of technology brings with it the blessing of greater productivity, it does not come without its share of teething problems. The distinction however when it comes to technology adoption is that the teething problems are beyond those visualized by an engineer with the wildest imagination. And what better place than a country like India to see such instances happen day in and day out, where every technology from the west has to be re-cranked and re-designed to suit the 'desi' lifestyle.

One such instance happened during the travel that inspired my previous post. A young lady of about 26-27 boarded the bus sometime after the bus left Bangalore. She passed 60 rupees to to the conductor knowing very well that the fare for her destination, which incidentally was also the last stop, was 56 rupees. The conductor collected the money and forgot to issue the ticket. The lady too got engrossed in a book.

As the bus left the penultimate stop, the lady voiced out the need for the ticket. The conductor exclaimed that he had already issued one for her. She claimed otherwise. After a heated argument the conductor finally agreed to issue a ticket. Now came the real twist. The electronic ticket vending machine he had, had already ticked off all places except the penultimate stop and the final destination. What that meant was the conductor could only issue tickets between the most recent stop and the next stops. The machine was programmed to behave that way. So the conductor came back, "Look here, I can only issue you a ticket worth a maximum of Rs 13 and not more. This is the fare between the last two stops for this bus."

"No, I need the full ticket for all the travel I have done. How can I pay you Rs 56 and get a ticket for Rs 13. You will enjoy the balance 43 which will never go to the government", cried the lady. After much squabbling, the conductor agreed to take only Rs 13 and issue a ticket of equivalent value. This too did not satisfy the lady. "I do not want to deprive the government of the money that was otherwise due to them for the travel I have done", said the determined lady. There was no way for the poor conductor to get the 'stupid ticket vending machine' to spit out a ticket of Rs 56. He was cursing aloud his lot, "This is not the first time I am getting into such problems. Which dumb guy designed this thing?". For a moment he forgot all the benefits the machine had brought him. He even issued a dire warning to all passengers, "Look here, everybody make sure you ask for ticket immediately the next time you are travelling, else not only will you suffer, you also end up making our lives miserable". I loved this part the most.

Finally the lady and the conductor had to approach the ticket collecting office at the final destination to get things sorted. So much for technology adoption.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Technology - The ticket to better lifestyle

Technology has helped ease lives of many in India. The fact is more evident in India where the masses have adopted to technology late and seen drastic improvements in their lifestyle. Be it the adoption of the mobile by Indians, the acceptance of online railway booking system or the flex board in lieu of the hand painted banners. The examples are numerous.

One of my favorite examples has been the digital ticket vending hand units that all bus conductors in Karnataka State owned transport unit (KSRTC - Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) use to dispense tickets. My generation has grown up seeing the conductors having a nightmarish time lugging the two sided tin box with tickets of various denominations, trying to disburse tickets to the passengers. A request for a ticket meant opening the tin box at least 2-3 times, tearing out the tickets of the right denominations from the wads so that they add up to the total fare and then punching a few holes through the whole lot at carefully chosen points. Each disbursement took close to 30 seconds on a average ( I speak of experienced conductors who knew the tin box ticket layout better than the back of their palm :-) ) If the buses were packed full with people hanging by the doors, the conductor's job would be totally a torture. The abuses from passengers who have had to bear the brunt of the job conscious conductor jostling his way through them, stamping a few feet, bruising a few elbows with his tin box and hurting a few egos. I remember many a time when the conductor had to request the driver to stop the bus mid way between the route so as to give him a chance to complete the ticketing process for all the passengers, some of whom would happen to be scheming on a ticketless travel.

Then came the new generation ticket dispenser hand held unit. The conductor presses two buttons indicating the passenger pickup and alighting points and Voila !!! A ticket mentioning the amount to be paid is printed in a jiffy on the machine. The passenger pays and the conductor moves on to the next passenger. Isn't that neat? No lugging around a 1-2 kg ticket box all around the bus. No mistakes in putting together tickets of different nominations together, no need of unwarranted stop requests by conductors.

Well, things have turned quite hunky dory for the KSRTC conductors. However as in any technology adoption, the wrinkles need to be ironed out. One such queer incident pointing this out happened the last time I took a bus from Bangalore to Davanagere. More on it in my next post...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

iPhone in India - Hefty Price sans Service

I had pre-resgistered at the Airtel website for an Apple iPhone due for launch in India through Airtel and Vodafone on Aug 22, 2008. At $199 which translates to approximately 8678 rupees, I was of the opinion initially that the iPhone price would not cross the 16K-20k range with all surcharges, duties, tariffs, etc thrown in.

However my expectation came a cropper with Vodafone spelling out that its iPhone pricing stands at 31000 rupees. This immediately puts the iPhone out of my reach, not just from the affordability issue, but from 'Huge price tag for features I won't be able to use' viewpoint.

Two things glare out.....

  1. 3G iPhone with no 3G service in India
  2. No gurantee of any bundled data plans with iPhone.

Which means I am shelling out 31K for a hyped up techno gadget with two of its much vaunted features unlikely to be of any use to me.

I have already put my iPhone purchase plans on hold. My investment will go into a Nokia or Samsung if I do not see any improvement in the next 6 months.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You may flaunt an IP phone soon

The top news item in ToI almost had me jump with joy today morning. With TRAI mulling leveling the playing fields for ISP telephone providers and traditional telephony players, the stage is set for the biggest percentage fall in prices of long distance calls. ISD calls that cost an average of 7 rupees per minute today could fall to 1-2 rupees a minute. STD calls within India could cost as cheap as 30 paise a minute.The difference this time around in terms of the TRAI trying to create a level field is that it is planning to allow the origin and termination of Internet based calls (that have streaming data packets rather than dedicated lines) legal. That frees people hooked onto IP phones from the clutches of cyber cafes , PCs and laptops. Now you can buy a IP phone and flaunt it too.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Indian IT going green

Going green is the mantra I often hear among Indian IT companies today. Patni Computer Systems constructed a 175 crores worth IT/BPO campus that got certified as green. Cisco has adopted the "Let's Talk Cisco Green" program that aims to spread awareness among employees to keep the green aspect foremost on their minds. CSC spearheaded a car pool initiative that avoids the AC for six months a year and its ‘Save Trees, Go Green’ campaign which recognizes employees who save paper by minimal use of printers. Several Indian IT companies are adopting "Going green" as a integral part of their corporate wide policies. Why and what in the world is prompting the IT industry to go green?

Going green is all about "Sustainable Design of Products and Processes". The official definition of green engineering is
Green Engineering is the design, commercialization and use of processes and products that are feasible and economical while minimizing:
• Generation of pollution at the source.
• Risk to human health and the environment.
Launched as a program by Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT), USA in 1998, t goals of the Green Engineering Program are to incorporate “green” or environmentally conscious thinking and approaches in the academic and industrial communities regarding the design, commercialization, and use of processes and products.

The recent news clips on global warming, climate changes, recurrences of high intensity hurricanes, breaking of ice shelves at the poles and the ultra rapid growth happening over a wide swathe of the planet have all induced an element of urgency in inculcating the green aspect into the DNA of every major corporation and institution. Just hoping we are not too late !!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Outplace your emplyees; Don't fire them

You recently changed jobs. You got a better package. You are settling into your new job. Just when you thought you had made a great career decision, comes the revelation. Your former boss in the previous company was hand in glove with the the head hunting company that helped you find your new job. Your former boss didn't want you and did away with you in the easiest possible way. No firing, no handing out pink slips, just get the person a new job.

Does the new package look all that great now? Can't even pat yourself for a great career decision, can you? Feel cheated? Or feel fine that it was win-win for all parties involved?

This is exactly what IT companies in India have started doing as per a report in ToI. Why fire or hand out pink slips only to earn unwanted media attention and a bad name? Isn't this a truly innovative way to get rid of unwanted employees? Just use the head hunting firms, the same channel used for hiring employees to also get rid of them. They even have a name for it - "Out-placement".

Monday, July 21, 2008

Inflation - Why are we worried?

One of my colleagues was asking me the other day on what is the surest indication of inflation happening around us? With all this talk of 11% and 12% inflation, where can I see it? A common colleague of ours replied, “Don’t you see prices going up?”. “Yeah, I do, but any more obvious signs?”. I said, “Remove all the coins from your pocket and count the number of 1 rupee, 2 rupee and 5 rupee coins you have”. He had 2 one rupee coins, 6 two rupee coins and 4 five rupee coins. “Well, remember the time when you had more of 1 rupee coins and less of the other two?”. “Man, you are right buddy”. “That’s inflation happening right in your pocket, my dear”, I concluded.

Following that the conversation turned to how inflation might be eating into IT margins. Employees feel the pinch on their pocket and ask for hefty raises. With a 12% inflation, a 15% salary hike is a insult because you are effectively getting a 3% hike in very rough terms. Customers squeeze margins because they try to make up for what they have lost to inflation. Multi year contracts are up for re-negotiations much earlier than anticipated. Quarterly results turn topsy turvy because companies that predicted rosy results by resting on the assured cash flow from multi year contracts suddenly find the tap drying. Inflation has a dampening effect on the stock market. Foreign Direct Investments(FDIs) are being retracted. Exclusive offshore development centers (captive centers) which bloomed in part as result of FDIs are no longer an attractive proposition to MNCs outside India. So all this brings the 8-10% GDP growth to a grinding slowdown. A low GDP growth means low spending power among the working class. A slow GDP growth results in bringing down inflation as the demand from people for goods goes down. So the whole cycle is self adjusting. Why then are we worried? We are worried because nobody wants to be part of the slowdown having enjoyed the fruits of an economic flurry. No generation wants their golden years in life spent in waiting for the economy to take off again. Isn’t it natural human psychology?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Of Stem Cells and Contextual Advertising

I had just settled into my armchair to check my personal mailbox. I clicked on the 'logout' button of my wife's mailbox. The screen transitioned to an online advertisement that I usually ignore. However, this time around it was an ad that caught my eyes, not just for its uniqueness but also for the way contextual advertising had been tapped to the hilt.

It was unique because the advertisment was from a biotechnology company named LifeCell offering stem cell preservation services in India. The service they offered was to preserve the umblical cord of your newborn. In case at a future point in time when the kid/adult gets diagnosed with a life threatening ailment and needs a transplant, the cells from the umblical cord are harvested and grown into a organ fofr your child. Absolutely no issues in terms of compatibility. The patient's body will accept the new organ like a fish to water. I was amazed to see and Indian company offer such services.

My mind then shifted to why was I seeing this ad? It so happens that my wife had changed her marital status to 'married' in the profile before I clicked on 'logout'. I guess that some program in the background sensed that the user being an Indian, a female and a newly wed, the interest aspect in such a service would definitely be high. Wow, that's a called targeted bombing. And the point is that you haven't asked the end-user a single survey question yet to identify his/her interests.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We can SaaSify for you...

Back in the industry after my MBA, I realize that the industry jargon I was used to 16 months prior to embarking on my MBA journey has been completely replaced by a whole new set of jargons thanks to the Web 2.0 revolution that picked up pace during this periods.I was attending a teleconference when one of the technical people remarked, “Don’t worry, we can saasify that in no time”. I was confounded. What in the world did he mean when he said “Saasify”. What I initially dismissed as a wrongly pronounced variation of ‘satisfy’ turned out to mean ‘We can convert your product into a SaaS enabled product – a software that can be offered as a service to the client’. Phew !! A verbalized word to describe in simple terms the capability we possess.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reverse Outsourcing is Official !!

The reverse outsourcing trend is not a phenomenon being predicted anymore. Its here and it has found its share of clients. The recent Black Book of Outsourcing has in very clear terms stated that the Indian offshoring (Outsourcing to other geographies and countries) success story will require greater onshoring strength to support it. What this means is that Indian IT companies that grew big by successfully placing their bets on the offshoring mantra and drastic cost savings for the clients will now have to wake up to the fact that they will also need to have physical presence closer to where their clientele is located. Why was this in the prediction books all along and materializing now? I can pin point a few tactical reasons why this would be the trend for the immediate future.
  1. The first wave of offshoring is nearing an end: All the low end, ‘immediately off-shorable’ components of work have been offshored (Ex: Testing). The next wave of offshoring (if at all it happens) would involve the upscale work which would involve high end consulting, end to end project execution would require the customers to repose complete faith in their vendors. This would requires substantial confidence building measures to be taken by Indian IT companies. This would require close working proximity with clients.
  2. Global Economy is facing a crunch: With crude prices shooting up by the hour, the wheels of the global economy are slowing down. The US downturn and the stalemate in big decisions till the new government in the US gets elected next year mean we will be seeing an extended period of cautious IT spending. Nearshoring (outsourcing within geographies or within the country) and insourcing (Outsourcing to other departments or subsidiaries of parent company) are buzz words that are picking up speed in corporate circles.
  3. Entering the Era of Big deals: Companies are consolidating and deals are getting bigger. Multi vendor deals are drying up and are being replaced by single vendor mega deals worth billions of dollars. MNCs, given this backdrop, would award the deals to vendors whom they trust, whom they can feel close to in the working proximity.
I think this is a big opportunity for the Indian IT giants to expand their global footprint faster while retaining the cutting edge that the Indian talent pool provides them. However for companies that fail to see this trend setting in, it is going to be tough times ahead.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

SaaS Growth to Drive and be Driven by SMBs

While researching on the advances SaaS (Software as a Service) has made in India two things struck me hard in the face

  1. SaaS is not as naive to the Indian Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) as we in the tech field usually think
  2. The major SaaS providers in India are still North American companies, examples being Microsoft, WebEx in the area of collaboration, etc.
A recent survey by SpringBoard revealed statistics that predict jaw dropping numbers in terms of SaaS adoption in India. There is also news of Indian players slowly but surely waking up to the SaaS reality. While ASP ( Application Service Provider) concept failed, SaaS, a similar refined concept, was initially discarded as a old wine in a new bottle. However, it seems to have more than just teeth in its bite.

Indian Majors like NIIT, TCS are announcing SaaS initiatives. TCS announced a complete new model that they christened 'IT as a Service'. Infosys announced a 'SaaSified' version of their popular Finnacle financial product for banks and other monetary institutions. With former revenue taps running dry, it is just a matter of time before Indian IT majors announce their own SaaS initiative to tap the predicted $168 million SaaS market of India by 2010.

SaaS will affect Indian growth in a huge way. Its single most unique advantage of not forcing companies to produce upfront capital for their IT investment will mean that a slew of Indian SMBs will now embrace IT like never before. IT adoption in India will fuel SaaS growth and that in turn will fuel more IT adoption. Its a symbiotic cycle that's getting setup. Its only a matter of time before the wheel starts spinning in full vigor.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Indian IT - Looking out for business

Two news items caught my attention. One, where NASSCOM has predicted that India's IT growth is very well on its way to meet its targets for the year 2010. The other where Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan cautioning the industry of slow growth. While the industry trade body seems to predict a rosy future, the industry bell weather seems to be pointing at a grim one.

NASSCOM, predicts software and services exports to cross $40 billion and the domestic market ito touch $23 billion in FY08. "Positive Market Indicators" and "Strong Track Record" are being cited as the reason to safely predict that India will reach $60 billion in software and services exports and $73 to 75 billion in overall software and services revenues, by FY2010.

A careful observation reveals that while exports are expected to reach from 40 to 60 bln USD in the next 2 years, the domestic revenues which is expected to reach 23 bln USD this year are marked to fall to 13-15 bln USD in 2010. I find this a little hard to accept. I am more gungho about the domestic market being able to sustain the US slowdown and make up for a substantial portion of the fall in exports.

On the industry side, things are not looking up. IT stocks are getting battered, margins are being lowered, the Indian rupee is appreciating and the sub-prime crises that is plaguing the US financial markets does not seem to be going away. Add to that high attrition rates, spiraling salaries and shrinking talent pools and you defintely will empathise with the situation that the IT industry finds itself.

The message is very clear and loud. To sustain growth and reach the levels predicted by NASSCOM, IT companies need to look and build forts elsewhere while they wait for the world's largest economy to re-emerge from the recession it seems to be sinking into. But where elsewhere? Europe is already being tapped. Australia too is being tapped. Did we forget the burgeoning businesses in the new darlings of the global economy? China and India....Lots of medium and small businesses are growing at frenetic paces and they need software services support their amazing growth rates. Are we missing the fortune right at our feet? Hope not....

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