Monday, December 17, 2012

My new startup

I've started a new business called SwitchMe. Also check out our blog where we write about consumer choice and how we make it convenient to switch.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

My first Podcast

My first podcast came out last week. It has Gaurav, Veer, Aditya Mhatre and me talking about startups and mobile advertising. Gauravonomics has done a good job summarising it so I'll just point to the link.

BarCamp Mumbai 3 (and BCB6)

BarCamp Mumbai 3 seems all set to rock. With almost 600 people on the list, we can see over 400 turn up. We had some initial worries about the pace of topic registrations, but putting the topics onto the main page seems to have made a big difference. In addition, there will be several additions at the venue. Quite a few people have mentioned it in the registration list, in mailing list or even offline.

I'll have two sessions at BCM3. First is a FireTalk. Details only at the talk but it has something to do with unconferences. Second will be the launch of Startup Saturdays in Mumbai. Do drop in and add your views.

BarCamp Bangalore 6 meanwhile has been announced on 19 and 20th April at IIM Bangalore.

Its interesting to see these two events shape up side by side. Both have a very enthusiastic planners team. Both teams have seen an increase in number of folks who want to be planners. In fact, we've had people add themselves to the Google groups or crib on the general list about being left out from the planners list. In the end, all got included in the true spirit of BarCamps. The confusion arises since each edition has a different planners' mailing list. This allows for new faces to come up and olds ones to recede. The only criteria is demonstration of some degree of commitment for doing things. Usually turning up for a planning meet is enough. This time all commited folks got into the planners list and I guess more would be getting in.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Calacanis controversy: What happens in India?

Jason Calacanis' recently wrote a post on ways to save money. It quickly became controversial when others such as Jeff Nolan responded indignantly to it. A good summary is here at Techcrunch. Essentially, Jason said Fire all those employees who are not workohlics and the rest fired him for such a ruthless and casual approach to one's own people. Jason seems to have missed the obvious: A start up aims at making money and not at saving money. It saves money to last longer to have a better shot at making money. Make cost cutting a priority by itself and you've shot your self in the foot. He seems to get it in his chair tip but missed it when it came to people. Maybe Michael Arrington got it right in his post that Jason didn't mean it.

Later Gauravonomics asked an interesting question:

"Has anyone read an Indian perspective on the "startups need workaholics"
controversy created by the @JasonCalacanis post ?"
"Especially because part of the controversy was about "family vs work"
& Indians are supposed to be both more hard-working &

The answer is a bit complicated actually when it comes to India. I thought of providing an overview of what's happening today rather than my views (which are not very different from others! Relaxed mind produces better and more).

In silicon valley, one quits a large company and takes a cut in salary for stock/stock option. However, in India one joins a start up for a higher salary plus stock. This is in an extreme form in the Indian Mobile VAS industry where the average life span for an employee is about an year before s/he hops to another VAS player for higher cash. This means that the bosses do demand more work and results. This also means that the future holds little incentive and doesn't drive people. Only the founders and very early employees tend to motivated by the future ahead.

On the other hand, the Indian family man (or woman) doesn't have the same concept of work life balance as in US (and certainly not Europe!). Almost everyone here works long hours without any protest; start up or not. Its common to sit around in office even without work because it doesn't look nice to leave early. Amongst younger folks, the real reason is that there is nothing better to do at home. Older folks just can't say no the boss who asks for one more thing at 6 PM.

The end result: Long hours almost everywhere. But some are working hard for the extra cash, some because they are too timid to say no, some are not working at all!

Its not all bad at office though. Most of the early stage startup offices that I've visited seem to be a bunch of friends or a family. They get along very well and have fun together. They also have pizza parties, siesta time, movie outings etc. Later stage ones may compromise a bit on location for saving money but offices are quite plush and comfortable inside. People are taken care of.

Monday, February 11, 2008

E-Summit 2008

I attended the E Summit for the first time. According to the people who attended the earlier ones, this is the best so far. The turn out was good - estimated at around 350 to 380.

I attended the panel discussion between Sharad and Ashish. The initial talk was something I had heard from both albeit in different settings. Both of them were very candid and frank in the Q&A. Sadly the questions were pretty bad. The worst was when a NITIE professor got into a self promotion mode by asking a question: why can't entrepreneurship be taught from LKG? And then he told us about how they are very successful at doing so at NITIE where all MBA students have 30% grades dependent upon the performance of the company each has to start when they join. Not a bad idea. Just that success is measured using 30 parameters! He should probably refresh his corporate finance basics.

Another self congratulatory question was on how well have the IITians done in both India and abroad. Both panelist shot it down. In summary, IITians of an earlier generation made it to IITs and continued to do well later too because they were hungry. Training at an IIT had little do to with it. Today's IITians don't have the hunger and still have a big attitude problem. As Ashish put it, he doesn't hire from IITs anymore. Pretty damning statement coming from someone who holds a Gold medal from IIT Kanpur.

This is something I completely agree with. The problem at IIMs is even worse. Lot more people with an attitude but not enough competency. I remember giving a project to 5 IIM students (will not name which IIM). Out of the 5, one did well, one was ok, rest three were bad. Sadly the three who didn't do well had more attitude! Similarly, in tech projects given to 5 IIT B students in the same time frame, only one guy had some attitude. And one could even justify it given that he did well.

I would take an IIT guy over an IIM guy anyday given my personal experiences. But the experience of Sharad and Ashish who have seen it for far longer makes me think if I should just look at RECs.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Barcamps Mumbai and Bangalore

Looks like Mumbai and Bangalore Barcamps will be very close to each other. Bangalore planners met this morning while the Mumbai ones met in the evening. Given the usual lead up time needed, both are likely to end up being close to each other.

This will be very interesting for me; being on both teams. Bangalore one is the larger, older and more mature one while Mumbai one is just starting out. Also Bangalore is a city where one can't throw a stone without hitting a techie. In Mumbai, there is an mazing variety even though the financial world dominates the mindscape. With the schedules matched up too, it'll be easier to observe and compare.

This also seems to be the time when techies reassert themselves. We've already had a Devcamp. Now both Barcamps are highly likely to have a codecamp as well.

I attended the Mumbai planners meet. The planners group has expanded to include several BCA1 folks and some folks from BCM2 participants. Looks like an awesome party already.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

DevCamp Bangalore 1

Just left DevCamp Bangalore 1. Its another offshoot to the Barcamp movement that is sweeping across India. As Sidu put it at the begining, there have been many focussed *Camps but not a Devcamp yet, so here it is. I thought it was quite appropriate that it happened at Thoughtworks where we had revived Barcamp Bangalore with BCB2. I too spoke a bit about Kickstart and the upcoming Startup Saturdays.

While I couldn't stay at the camp the whole day (I'm in the plane waiting for the flight to take off), it already felt like a great camp. Content is good. I liked participating in the "Is facebook an Enterprise App" slot. We didn't reach any conclusions but was nice to be hearing from Martin Fowler himself on this. He stayed away from most of the things but did comment that "enterprise grade" tends to be more of a marketing statement than anything else. Sadly, our time came to end just as we were warming up.

I missed Rajiv's product launch. He caught me later and gave me the due lashing. Sounds like an interesting product to check out.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A forward

We get email forwards each day and most die in the mail box. This one didn't.

By the time u guys read this news, the body of Major Manish Pitambare, who was shot dead at Anantnag, would have been cremated with full military honors.
On Nov 27, this news swept across all the news channels 'Sanjay Dutt relieved by court'. 'Sirf Munna not a bhai' '13 saal ka vanvaas khatam' 'although found guilty for possession of armory, Sanjay can breath sigh of relief as all the TADA charges against him are withdrawn' Then many personalities like Salman Khan said 'He is a good person. We knew he will come out clean'. Mr Big B said "Dutt's family and our family have relations for years he's a good kid. He is like elder brother to Abhishek". His sister Priya Dutt said "we can sleep well tonight. It 's a great relief"
In other news, Parliament was mad at Indian team for performing bad; Greg Chappell said something; Shah Rukh Khan replaces Amitabh in KBC and other such stuff. But most of the emphasis was given on Sanjay Dutt's "phoenix like" comeback from the ashes of terrorist charges. Surfing through the channels, one news on BBC startled me. It read "Hisbul Mujahidin's most wanted terrorist 'Sohel Faisal' killed in Anantnag, India . Indian Major leading the operation lost his life in the process. Four others are injured.
It was past midnight , I started visiting the stupid Indian channels, but Sanjay Dutt was still ruling. They were telling how Sanjay pleaded to the court saying 'I'm the sole bread earner for my family', 'I have a daughter who is studying in US' and so on. Then they showed how Sanjay was not wearing his lucky blue shirt while he was hearing the verdict and also how he went to every temple and prayed for the last few months. A suspect in Mumbai bomb blasts, convicted under armory act...was being transformed into a hero.
Sure Sanjay Dutt has a daughter; Sure he did not do any terrorist activity. Possessing an AK47 is considered too elementary in terrorist community and also one who possesses an AK47 has a right to possess a pistol so that again is not such a big crime; Sure Sanjay Dutt went to all the temples; Sure he did a lot of Gandhigiri but then...........
Major Manish H Pitambare got the information from his sources about the terrorists' whereabouts. Wasting no time he attacked the camp, killed Hisbul Mujahidin's supremo and in the process lost his life to the bullets fired from an AK47. He is survived by a wife and daughter (just like Sanjay Dutt) who's only 18 months old.
Major Manish never said 'I have a daughter' before he took the decision to attack the terrorists in the darkest of nights. He never thought about having a family and he being the bread earner. No news channel covered this since they were too busy hyping a former drug addict, a suspect who's linked to bomb blasts which killed hundreds. Their aim was to show how he defied the TADA charges and they were so successful that his conviction in possession of armory had no meaning. They also concluded that his parents in heaven must be happy and proud of him.
Parents of Major Manish are still living and they have to live rest of their lives without their beloved son. His daughter won't ever see her daddy again. Finally Major Manish, to my generation is a greater hero, someone who laid his life in the name of this great nation.
So guys, please forward this message around so that the media knows which news to give importance, as it is a shame for us since this Army Major's
death news was given by a foreign TV channel!!!

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Its the second MMS for me and I'm enjoying it a lot.

My mind was drawn to a comparison of MoMo and MMS formats. MoMo format (as in Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad) usually has one presentation/theme a meeting and intense discussion about that one topic only. It also has a fairly high frequency with one meeting a month. MMS on the other hand has no theme and last at least one whole day. In fact, it is like a BarCamp around the theme of mobility. So, one sees a whole lot of variety in a single day.

In summary its depth vs width. Take your pick.

Jet: The response

Jet's response was slow in coming. Probably too involved with the abortive Sahara acquisition. When they did, it was essentially gap filling:
1. In flight entertainment introduced in selected flights. I haven't been on such a flight so no direct evidence. However, I've heard that its switched off the minute the landing announcement is made unlike KF where at least the audio channels continue even after landing!
2. premium treatment for the "super-platinum" customers. These are typically CXOs. jet treats them differently by marking them "MAAS" which stands for meet and assist. These people are met by an air hostess from the time they check-in to the time they enter the plane and then from the time dis-embarkation to time one leaves the terminal. These people engage you in a conversation while a porter carries your luggage.
3. The variety of food has increased in Jet's first class.

So has jet's response been inadequate? Or does its response say: I don't care?

Kingfisher: The Rampup

Kingfisher quickly ramped up its no of planes and routes. But the real innovative aspects were:
1. First Class
2. Cash frequent flyer advantage
3. King Club

The KF first class is really something. The experience starts from the time one enters the airport as the baggage is carried for you to the plane. The ride from the terminal to the plane is in a car or in a bus fitted with sofas instead of the usual coach. The seats are comfortable and adjustable. In addition to the being flatter compared to jet seats, the KF first seats have adjustable lumber support and foot support (though some of those haven't worked for me many times!). A TV screen can be brought out but is a bit painful to handle. The service is excellent with more choice in the drinks and food. The presentation of the food is great. As far as food and drinks are concerned, its like being in a 5-star in the sky. The experience continues on landing with the special bus and the luggage being carried to your car.

Kingfisher also realised that Jet's lead was essentially due to the corporate traveller who stuck with Jet because of the accumulated Jetmiles. Its attack on that aspect was fantastic. KF realised that most corporate travellers take the first flight out and are back the same day. So first they matched their flight times within 15 mins of Jet times. Second, they offered a thousand ruppees if one took a flight back the same day! Thus, one got cash of Rs 1,000 in hand instead of cashing the jetmiles later. It was of course controversial as the tickets were purchased by the company and the money collected by the employee. There were also tax issues. In the end, the scheme got dropped and a frequent flyer scheme introduced.

The frequent flyer scheme was also innovative. KF realised that the immediate benefit for most people was the ability to tele check-in and hence they lowered the entry barrier. At jet one needs 10 flights to be able to tele check-in while the king club allows one to do that in 3 flights. Another expected response which did come was to give a Gold card to anyone who had a Jet Gold/Platinum. This was done through the employers to get a good coverage.

Overall, aggressive launch followed up with aggressive ramp-up. Paints a picture of a new boxer punching the older and larger guy into the corner. So the next post on how Jet has responded.

Kingfisher: A blast of fresh air

I've been absent from blogging for some time. Picking up today from we left almost a month back.

Kingfisher came in when there was a lot of talk of low cost airlines. With "all economy" planes and fares lower than that of Jet, KF was clubbed into the Low cost category to begin with. But the clear promise was that of "an experience that even other airlines are going to talk about".

And the experience was good: Planes were new, seats slightly wider, leg room slightly more. And all these counted as everything was benchmarked to pain-points of the leader: Jet. One also had in flight entertainment: 5 video channels and 10 audio ones. What also counted was the bright festive red colour compared to the conservative blue of jet. It did feel like being part of a more cheerful experience as the staff was very cheerful and friendly. Even the in-flight magazine was about fashion, parties and of course bollywood.

What I personally liked the best and made me take KF flights was its flexibility in check-in. Jet would not allow one in 30 mins before the flight even if one had a Gold Card. KF on the other hand took everyone even 15 mins before the flight!

After the first few flights, I remember thinking of Jet as a service provider with German efficiency. This was a lesson in many ways:
1. A great airline all of a sudden had a strong competitor which made it look in a bad light. "German efficiency" is not a great name recall!
2. The industry changed from airline industry to a service industry
3. The brand extension of king fisher was admirable

Mobile Monday Delhi 2

I'm at MoMo Delhi 2. With around 175 registrations, it promises to be an exciting one. Of course, it IS another MMS - Mobile Monday Saturday!

Monday, December 18, 2006

State of business air travel: pre Kingfisher

Jet Airways (9W) ruled the roost. Period. Shahara with its blatantly bad service and lack of punctuality was hardly a competition. State run Indian Airlines (IC) was really the second best. Almost all business travellers would travel on Jet Airways as first preference. The few I knew who preferred Indian Airlines prefeered it for its better food. having travelled on IC as my second preference, I would have to agree. IC scored over 9W in both taste and the variety of food. One aspect that many liked was serving of curd in all meals.

So 9W was effectively the de facto standard to which everything would be benchmarked. An airline that many would refer to as the best domestic airlines in the world! And these were people who had trevelled the world over!!

Airlines Comparison Series

I fly both Jet and Kingfisher quite regularly and also have heard a lot from other frequent travellers. A conversation today at Chennai lounge reminded me that even many frequent travellers (he has a platinum on Jet), do not have a good understanding of the pros and cons of the two airlines. So here is my lame attempt in the genre of serial posts. Here is how it looks right now:

1: State of business air travel: pre Kingfisher
2: Kingfisher: A blast of fresh air
3. Kingfisher: The Rampup
4. Jet: The response
5. Jet vs Kingfisher: Does Jet need to fear Kingfisher?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Barcamp Pune

Continuing with my Barcamp pilgrimages, I attended the BarCamp Pune this weekend. I came in weary from extensive travel over the past 2 weeks and was rejuvenated with the infectious energy at the camp. We had over 90 people attending three parallel sessions. There were also many enthu volunteers from Symbiosis managing the show and taking/attending sessions at the same time! As usual, many interesting people and businesses.

The high point was meeting Anjali and Santosh from Bookeazy. Both have returned from US to pursue entrepreneural dreams. Very clearly, they didn't have the best presentation. In fact, I came down on them very heavily with several questions. But in the end, I came away deeply impressed with the tenacity and enthusiasm of both of them. The discussion was one of the most engaging that I've had with any founders. Not sure of the answers but very sure that they'll get them right. The best was to see Anjali sit down immediately to look at the responses to the questionnaire they had circulated. certainly the team to watch out for. I'm eagerly looking forward to their Jan release.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Barcamp Delhi 2

I'm at the second BarCamp Delhi. As usual, gyan sessions are boring. Deep tech/product demos are interesting. Discussions start. I guess it has simply to do with the fact that insights/new thoughts make one think and thats where the connection is made.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Importance of mental models in Innovation

My own discussion at Barcamp was centered around Innovation in large IT services firms such as TCS. A bulk of the audience had exposure to IT Services but almost no one believed that there was any innovation in the large IT Services firms.

It was a free flowing discussion where I wanted to hear as much from the audience as to leave them with something worthwhile. We spent a lot of time talking about how mental models inhibit or foster innovation.

We asked ourselves questions like what exactly is IT Services? Are the lines as dictated by conventional wisdom really hard lines on the ground or mere simplifying mental assumptions that need to be questioned from time to time? Does innovation start by challenging conventional wisdom?

I firmly believe that one has to continually probe at the received wisdom of the day to really see what new can be done. At the same time, one has to respect the received wisdom because its established for a good reason. Let's take an example: Google is an example of business service enabled by strong IT. Is there something to be learnt for IT Services companies? At the first blush no, because the ad-driven revenue model is far out from current business. Not core competence as some would say. But does the basic concept of providing service to one party using strong IT and collecting money from a third depending upon the quality of service extendable to IT Services? At TCS, the answer has been yes!

Case in point: MCA21 project of government of India where TCS is directly responible for provision of service to customers and collects money from the government. The money collected depends upon the quality of service just as the ad revenue depends upon click through in Google's model. And this is not the first time this was done. A precusrsor to this with a slightly different model was APonline which provides citizen services on behalf of Govt of AP. APOnline is 80% owned by TCS.

Bottomline: Conventional wisdom challenged but in a more realistic way which is closer to the core business. No hard and fast rules but the best way is to try and learn.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Who comes to Unconferences?

Sandeep Singhal asked an interesting question at the begining of his talk: How many of you want to be entrepreneurs and how many of you are already one? A large number of hands went up on the first and very few on the second. Clearly unconferences attract aspirants. This is evidenced also by naivette that one sees in the questions asked etc.

The good news is that a lot of the aspiring entrepreneurs at least at Barcamp Bangalore were working at an idea or had a ready concept or were looking to launch. Good deal flow for VCs such as Sandeep.

Bangalore Barcamp 2 - Large Turnout

Bangalore Barcamp was over this weekend and we had great fun. Interest levels are best indicated by numbers: 382 registered, just over 200 attended day 1 and almost 100 on day 2. When you end at 6.30 PM on a Sunday with many people still hanging around and some speakers not getting a session, you know it was a great hit.

We all started at 7.30 AM so that we have everything in place by 8.30 when the registration was to begin. The first registrant appeared at 7.40 AM and we were still waiting for keys to unlock the conference goodies. By 8.30 AM we had 25 people in from the registered list and 4 in a the waiting list. All flood gates opened by 9.00 AM. But by 9.30 we were down to a trickle and still away from the 200 mark. Next I checked was at lunch and we had around 200 in.

Still a 50% dropout rate makes me think about the fate of the upcoming barcamps. As someone pointed out, this was bangalore after all!

The team behind the efforts including yours truely:

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mobile Mondays & BarCamps

I've blogged earlier about Mobile Mondays and BarCamps in India. I believe that such unconference mode forums are key to building Indian Innovation ecosystem.

The premise is quite simple. Upto a few months back the biggest obstacle to building an Indian Innovation Ecosystem was lack of serious risk capital in India. Sure VCs have been around for some time but most were busy doing late stage or pre-IPO deals. By some estimates, less than 5% of the PE money that got invested in India was into early stage deals. This is fixed given several funds such as IDG, Helion etc have announced $ 100 M+ funds for early stage investments in India. Helion partner Sanjeev Agrawal was recently in news for 3 deals he's about to close soon! So money is a problem of the past.

Now the problem is the lack of a ecosystem platforms; forums where different people can meet and gain from each other. Ideas seldom make money on their own. Great ideas in fact are good ideas built on top of other good ideas. Similarly, a single person seldom is responsible for a success. More often than not, its a team that wins. All these meeting of ideas and people are possible only if good forums exist. TiE has been doing a good job in this respect for some time. But more is needed to build a momentum and to attract aspiring innovators. IMHO, Barcamps and Mobile Mondays can play that role.

Its nice to be able to back up opinion with action and I've been able to do that for some extent. Today both Mobile Monday Bangalore and Mobile Monday Hyderabad were held with TCS sponsorship. The last MoMo Bangalore and MoMo Mumbai were both sponsored by TCS. Next up is Barcamp Bangalore where close to 300 people have already registered for 200 seats! Again, we are happy to extend support. Next up are Barcamps Delhi and Pune. Both will be supported by TCS.

Hope to meet more interesting people and have rich conversations all through December.


Last Saturday was Gaurav's birthday party where I bumped into many other bloggers including some "A listers". While I haven't bothered to figure what an "A lister" is, there are obvious connotations to the title. The lame introduction of "I too blog but ahem last I blogged was in sept" was well... lame. So I'm back. Let's see how long does this stint last :-)

A post on the party appears here.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Blogging for social responsibility

Something that did catch my attention in the last session at BlogCamp were two attempts on blogging for social responsibilty.

First was Osama urging people to blog about our villages etc as we travel around. He has a point. There is a lot of inequity in India. On one hand we have farmers committing suicide. And on the other hand we have the super rich in cities. In addition, there are billions of dollars flowing into the country for the poor. The attention of both the super rich and the donations etc is dominated by the mainstream media which covers the rural India only if there are suicides, famines etc and that too at a superficial level. Why can't bloggers attarct a more a continual attentions to the conditions before they become as extreme as suicides?

I travel a lot and fall somewhat in the category Osama talked about. But my travels are limited to the metros. Still, I'm going to talk more about the children that one sees begging on the streets of India. Don't think it'll have any impact but that's a bad excuse for doing nothing.

Second was Scott carney talking about Open source journalism. He has good intentions but the message was not clear. For a niche medium to emerge, ONE blog has to take lead and build readership. then others will converge around. IMHO, asking people to contribute early on invites the sceptics more than the passionate and kills the idea.

Tag: BlogCamp

What's going on!

The post lunch session at Blogcamp is either short on content and heavy on unrelated conversation or I'm just plain sleepy. Most of the stuff just didn't connect. Unrelated, insufficient depth etc. Bad enough for me to feel like taking a flight back ASAP!

For the time being, I'll plead mea culpa and get some coffee.

Tag: BlogCamp

Blogger Beta

The wordpress demo was followed by a blogger beta demo. Seems like most of the gaps between blogger and wordpress are addressed. So now I am trying both blogger beta and wordpress.

Trying the newbie section on BlogCamp was a good idea.

Tag: BlogCamp


Blogcamp has sessions for newbies also. The first one is on wordpress and the Tidel conference room is full. So lots of newbies.

Intrigued enough by wordpress to create an account and import this blog to here. Let's see if I continue with Blogger!

Tag: BlogCamp

Hindi Blog!

I have seen quite a few Tamil blogs but just learnt of a hindi Blog: Rajesh. He says there are several tools for hindi bloggers. Way to go. Hope he puts up a post on the Blogcamp wiki on how to do it.

The blog itself looks a little unlike the hindi typeface. But just the idea of hindi blogging is mindblowing!

Tag: BlogCamp

ICICI Bank - Moving with the times

Another personal anecdote from BlogCamp:
Two bloggers were contacted by ICICI bank after they cribbed about the bank's service on their blogs. The anecdotes invited laughter. However, I was left wondering about my own employer. Don't think we are that media savvy. Yet.

Kudos to ICICI bank certainly.

Tag: BlogCamp

blogging for women

From personal anecdotes at Blogcamp:
Neha started blogging because she hated her boss and needed an additional medium to crib! Interesting remark of "blogging is difficult for women as the personal life is online".

Tag: BlogCamp

Live blogging from BlogCamp

I'm at BlogCamp at Tidel Park Chennai. Live posts on way!

Tag: BlogCamp

Monday, August 28, 2006

MoMo Bangalore

It was great fun to attend the MoMo Bangalore. Rishit had an excellent presentation on VAS. He covered the intricacies of the VAS space with respect to GSM, reliance and others. It was great because he covered things in great details and had data to to share. The key take away was that big opportunity lies in reaching the B&W low cost handsets that comprise the rural/semi-urban users. I know its not a great insight but the detailed discussion made it an inescapable fact.

The greater fun was the interaction. This is how a unconference should be. We had a conversation!

The mixing post the talk was good too. It was a lot better than Delhi as there were entrepreneurs everywhere. And there was huge qualitative difference. The entrepreneurs here had feet on ground and knew the stuff they were talking about rather than just unending optimism. Gives me a lot of confidence about India spawning start-ups and about us building a silicon valley like ecosystem here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

MMS (Mobile Monday Saturday!)

The first MoMo Delhi was held last Saturday. It was an interesting mix of people and companies.
There were two mobile based social networking start-ups: Linksurf and Neither were exciting and the homework seemed incomplete. is perhaps the better one. If one sets aside the mobile aspect which probably won't work, they may well create an Indian community on the web and set themselves up for sale to say MySpace who would want to catch up with Orkut. But its a very iffy proposition given the biz models in social networking are still scaling up and that its very difficult to transfer a community and to integrate two different look n feels. It'll be interesting to see how the look n feel of shapes up.

Another company was webaroo which allows for for offline browsing and search on a mobile device. I agree with the need for offline browsing but its easily met otherwise. For example, if I want to browse stuff offline I just open it in new tabs in Firefox and read them later, typically in a flight. I've never had heavier needs but I do remember leeching software from my student days that could download an entire site. Webaroo is better with its compression and web-packs for organisation of content. But will someone pay for it? Probably not and I guess Webaroo knows it and hence the software is for free. They intend to earn revenue through ads. That would kick in only when they have volumes which seems to be far off. But they seem to be ready for the long haul.

The gyan sessions were boring. Its the same things recycled again and again! I haven't kept close tabs over the mobile world and if I found the content recycled I wonder what the others thought.

The last was a panel discussion. I almost skipped it. Panels are usually insipid for me. However, I couldn't leave for some other reasons. In the end, it was great that I didn't. Manoj from Airtel was just awesome. He came out strongly in defence of operators with statistics and ground level realities that only an Ops guy can. One of the panelists Alok Mittal has captured this well, so I'll not repeat.

At the end of the day, I was:
1. Excited by the enthusiasm of the people in start-ups/looking to start one
2. Disappointed by lack of maturity among entrepreneurs. There is a need for education on the kind of plans that can get funded. Instead, there was frustration about some plans not getting funded without any realisation that the plan may be bad.
3. Disappointed by the plans/businesses that I heard. Except for one (and he didn't present), all were tweaks trying to ride the wave of web/mobile 2.0. But I guess its a good enough hit rate.
4. Happy with connections revived and new ones made.

Looking forward to more of these. Would attend the MoMo Bangalore at the end of this month.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Mumbai landmark

I have a confession to make and also want to expose the evil called landmark. I am a bibliophile. And the newly opened Landmark is to me what a pub is to a recalcitrant tippler.

For those who do not know, landmark is a book shop that started out of Chennai and is now spreading across metros. The most recent one opened at Infiniti Mall at Andheri Lokhandwala. It is small by landmark standards but already beats any other large Mumbai book store in its collection. And these people say that the collection is just starting out!

Let me paint a picture of Mumbai Book shops. There is the venerable Strand in the fort. Great books become available here ahead of any other store and that too at great prices. Its the smallest book shop amongst all the shops I keep visiting but it inspires awe with its collection and its dedication to book lovers. The only comparison I can draw is with Midlands in Delhi. But then, which other man has won a Padma Vibhushan for selling books than Mr Shanbhag! They have the best Indian collection that I have seen on fine arts and on chess. But they really are famous for creating trends. A freakonomics/world is flat etc are released at Strand simultaneously with the rest of the world while the other shops wait for market reaction and then follow. Strand knows what its readers want and goes out and gets it ahead of others.

Crossword is the large chain that everyone knows of. There are many branches and affiliates but only two are any good: kemps corner where the original Mahalaxmi one moved and the Powai one. Some are actually examples of how not to run a book store: Juhu one. This is the place where most ppl go first and caters to the mainstream. But there has been a stagnation in the Sriram recommends category and the emphasis is on the predictable few authors/books. Crossword has nice decor and allows browsing but where are the books!! The only one I'd recommend to a serious reader is the Powai one.

Granth is a new comer and they made a good start with their Juhu shop. Nice collection in a small space. Really challenged its Juhu rival: crossword. Nice ambience and very helpful people. Didn't have a loyalty program but quickly corrected it. The goregaon one is avoidable. The juhu one would have done very well over time but for the arrival of Landmark.

In this setting came landmark. Anyone who has been to the Chennai one would attest to it being amazing. I've been to the usual suspects in Delhi, Mumbai, bangalore and Chennai and have had the help of bibliophiles in each city. So, trust me when I say that the best book shop in India is Chennai landmark. Where a cross word has a shelf on a topic, the Chennai landmark has a few racks and no cheap tricks of multiple copies of the same book. The variety brings me the the only word that describes it: Amazing.

The Mumbai landmark follows the same principal. Huge collection.
Strand has now no chance is the science section. Its a section it used to lead with good competition from the Juhu Granth. Landmark even has a section on Maths though its not very well stocked right now.
Literature: I once looked by Jorge Loius Borges in Mumbai. Found 2 books in Powai crossword. Others had not heard of it. landmark has many of them and two complete anthologies of fiction and non-fiction. It will be ages before anyone catches up here.
History: Crossword has nothing here. Granth led but now landmark blows them away with the sheer collection
Business & management: Huge surprise. landmark is worse than all except perhaps the Juhu crossword! Need to bring it to the level of chennai one.
Indian languages: Crossword kemps corner has a section but no one else. Its a pity that indian literature is not offered in India! Landmark had made a start with Hindi, Gujrati and marathi volumes. But the selection is not as extensive as its own other sections and lags behind the Delhi stores in the Hindi collection.

The landmark however has a huge disadvantage: no place to sit and browse. One can tolerate the narrow aisles where you have to brush against others as you pass but no place to sit and browse is a big pain. there is a small divan but its too little for the amount of traffic and frankly I like some personal space when reading.

But on the whole, landmark is the name of a increasing hole in my pocket.

Re-org:New Blogs

I haven't really blogged but I would start now and start big! There is a new blog on my culinary adventures . I expect this to be my most frequently updated blog. There will soon be another blog on my musings on the technology world. Vanity... will continue to be my center point for random musings.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Gypsy's trail back

Its certainly been LONG since I posted last! A no of things have changed since then not least of which is my job but what I want to focus on here is what I have learnt about blogging.

Blogging certainly is big. The close match between demand and supply of content provided by Blogs is unmatched. What is also very interesting is the creation of communities and the thought leaders. Some people have been publishing very regularly to make sure that they reach and retain the Guru position in their communities. But there is seldom one guru. So it leads to an interesting situation where one has to keep tabs on what others are saying and to respond to it in a simple yes/no or give an interesting perspective on it. This crunches the cycle time for any new thing to reach a height/rejection. Examples: AJAX, Web 2.0, Long tail etc. It probably also reduces the time for a new thing to cross over to mainstream as "mainstream" takes cognizance of noise being made by "those in the know". Its also very interesting how some other topics do not get that much attention from the community as a whole. Maybe because
  1. the traditional methods of marketing still dominate?
  2. the audience is not in the blogosphere?
  3. Subject too complicated for a unanimous opinion to be reached?
This is something that I'll keep coming back to at later points.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Starship Why-Name: Tyro's Blog 1

I don't know why anyone would want to write a blog. The simple and perhaps simplistic answer is that its for one's vanity. I start off in hopes of a better answer.

The first experiences are weird.

I don't need a pseudonym. I am perfectly happy with my own name. I don't have proclivities that induce people to adopt assumed names so as to prevent embarrasment or social censure in real life. Still, I don't have my own name on this blog. Because, someone already owns it. In fact, all variants of it that I have tolerated over 25 years. Its weird because yahoo allows some of these variants. So, is blogging bigger than yahoo already? I put a question to the Human Machine Interface in frustration and voila, I have a new net identity! In my rage I even forgot the question-mark!!

Why should I give ONE name to a log which is to contain all my thoughts? Why should I limit my thoughts to just one subject? But a name has to be given to this experiment. Hence, the hypothesis which I suspect to be wrong has become the name.

Should I expect this blog to continue beyond this day? I have attempted writing a diary in past. Mostly because many great people are supposed to have kept one. However, my shots at greatness never lasted for more than a few days at a time. Why should this be any different? I am similarly recording my thoughts. Style remains the same: disjointed. Still, I feel some responsibility towards my blog which I never did for a diary. I never expected anyone to read my diary in my lifetime but a blog can be read immediately after I hit "Publish". I am actually reviewing and revising my sentences more carefully than the reports that i send to my boss! Let me see when I return to this page.