Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sunday, April 23, 2006

YouTube, Myspace, Blogger, Wiki....

Love the entire self publishing phenomena thats going on. Blogger kicked it off, where bored guys like me could pen down their advise for the whole world. Then MySpace brought a whole new twist to personal pages and expressing yourself on the web. Wikipedia was the intellectual's contribution where anyone could go contribute their knowledge on any subject. And now YouTube allows you to post your home videos and share it with anyone, confirming your theory that there are a lot of wired people out there. Click on the image above to watch this hilarious video posted on YouTube

Cool Service: Streamload

I recently discovered Streamload, which gives you 25GB free online storage! You can back-up/store any files you like. You can then download the files when and where you want. Far better than storing them in your Gmail account :)

File emailing

Instead of emailing large files and clogging office email systems, Streamload allows you to upload the file to their system and it then sends a link to the recpients. Very nice for those large 5MB attachments. This is a free service.

File Sharing

You can even share selected files with anyone you like. For example, I can upload a presentation to streamload and then email a link to those I want to share it with; or I can post the link here on my blog and users can download the presentation.
Checkout this WorldCup 06 file I've uploaded and am sharing - click here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

India needs: to consider it's export markets

PayPal, Netscape, Blogger, Google, Friendster, Ebay, Amazon, Cisco, etc., as one looks around the Internet landscape, we see it filled with companies with roots in Silicon Valley. Infact, one would be hard pressed to find a major Internet company that does not have some form of linkages with the Valley. Or another way of looking at it, there would be very few cool new products and companies if the Valley wasn’t around.

Secret of the Valley

One thus has to ask, what got the Valley started. And why do other parts of the world not have the equivalent of the Valley? Is it the technology, the ideas, the capital? Or is it something else. There appears to be ideas, capital, technology all over the world, so why isn’t there the equivalent of a Valley elsewhere? Or is there? In Taiwan, there is the equivalent of the Valley for consumer electronic companies; in Israel, there is the equivalent of the Valley for defense products; and one could even stretch and say there is the equivalent of the Valley in India for spiritual products (show me a modern spiritual product without linkages to India). So what is it that drives the creation of a Silicon Valley?

It is market that drives the creation of a Valley. Once there is a market, capital, technology, ideas all converge to capture it. In the US, the size of the domestic market and ease of accessing it has led to the creation of the Valley. In Taiwan, the strong OEM market has led to a flourishing consumer electronics industry. In India, the strong domestic market for spirituality has led to the creation of an eco system supporting spiritual products (why do all the Gurus come from India?). Similarly in Israel, constant struggle with Arab neighbours created a market for defense products and with the government allowing the private sector to participate a robust industry sprung up producing innovative defense products.

Getting your market

So how do you get your market? You can sit and wait for a domestic market to arrive. Or you can look at the greater picture and factor in the export market, like Korea, Japan, Taiwan have done so successfully. Why be constrained by borders? Why do people get scared of international markets? Israel’s Foreign Minister said “We produce defense products for 1.1 billion people, 0.1 in Israel and 1 billion in India”. But I never heard an Indian CEO talk like that.

What Indian CEO & Brand Mangers are afraid of

India is scared of export markets, especially in the consumer space. That is why we don’t have a SINGLE consumer brand abroad. Not even one. Not tea, not beer, not TV, not furniture, not software, nothing. Even Sri Lanka has Dilmah tea. But India has nothing. Speak to marketing managers and brand managers in India about creating products & brands in export markets and they look at you as if you should be in the mental ward of Breach Candy hospital. It’s the classic story of the frog that never ventured beyond his pond to the ocean. Indian managers will go on telling you about how to tap the domestic market, about how cool India is, and about how much progress we are making as a nation. Ok agreed, but please go and see the ocean beyond your boundaries.

This psyche is possibly there because of 2 reasons:

  1. India is a large country with a historically decent domestic market, so, unlike Japan, Korea, Taiwan, one never really had to go abroad to get a market.
  2. Indians have never really traveled overseas much, especially in their youth. This was due to governmental constraints. This is changing fast, but the formative years of the current generation have been inward looking.

We need to change

But we need to change fast. We have a unique opportunity ahead of us. Thanks to a large number of Indians that immigrated to the US in the 70s, 80s & 90s, and made it big, India commands respect and connectivity in the Valley and other circles that matter. And we have strong domestic talent to back this up. We have great managers, engineers and vendors; we can roll out products faster & cheaper than our friends in the US or Europe. Given this combination, India can be at the forefront of new & innovative technology & media products.

We now need the market; and we can’t wait for the market for technology products to reach 50 million Sec A users (5 – 7 years away). We need to go out and get this market from the Asian region. India + Middle East + South East for example, easily gives us the needed market. Or India + Australia gives us the needed market. It’s a question of tweaking our products and designing them ground up for these international markets; and undertaking a marketing roll out. All the other ingredients are there.

So will Indian CEOs & Brand Managers wake up? I sure hope so. Because if they keep waiting for this Indian market to arrive, they are going to disappoint a lot of our NRI supporters in the Valley & elsewhere. And more importantly, they will do injustice to the opportunity ahead of them.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bombay, managing the next 8 years

In the excitment of India's new awakening, the fact that Indian cities are woefully underequipped to handle the pressures of growth, is being left out. Everday I meet people who are commuting 4 hrs a day to get to work and back, in conditions that guarantee a fast burnout. Everyday I hear from people about how they are facing chronic shortages of water in their apartments. And evey other day newpapers carry stories on how Bombay like the rest of India might soon face severe power cuts. On the flip side I don't see the political leaders taking any serious steps in addressing these issues. Yes, things are happening in pockets, like privatization of airports and a series of flyovers; missing are greater steps like building a metro rail system, overhauling the city administration processes, agumenting water supply, etc.

There are NO major projects that have gotten off the ground that can assit Bombay in water, power & commuting for the next 8 years! What is the city going to do in the meanwhile? How do businesses stay productive?

As the captain of my ship, inorder to survive the next 8 years and ensure that productivity does not take a majot hit, I am:

1. Stopping recruitment from areas beyond 8 KM. If my HR can't recruit from a catchment base of 5M people, it can take a hike!

2. Moving key officers into the 8 KM radius zone

3. Considering reloacting the office to a more central area so that more officers come into the 8 KM radius zone

4. Installing power backups in the office

5. Increasing office water storage capacity and arranging for water supply by tanker

6. Increasing the strength of the "property management" team

One ofcourse wonders what the politicians are upto. Instead of taking up non issues like shuting down dance bars and acting as moral police (when scoiety needs none), they need to become better leaders ensuring that Bombay and other Indian cities keep climbing up the livability charts instead of going in the opposite direction. But I'm not optimistic that they can see this. After all, most politicians hail from rural areas and their exposure to city and world living is weak. They also do not seem competent enough to focus on the greater picture of livability (as compared to money). So the going will be rough.

The bail out will come from the huge private cities coming up in the SEZs by companies like Reliance. These privately administered cities promise to be infrastructure complete and well run. The 1st one is expected to start by 2009, reaching maturity by 2015, providing relief to much harried Bombayite.

Party Over?

- 3 record months of Mutual Fund collections

- Property prices 100% up over August '05

- Gold, metals and commodities at record high

- Housewifes turned day traders

- Taxi Drivers buying stocks

- Stock market increasing 25% in 3 months comes the headache

- Oil at $70... and predicted to rise

- Looming war in Iran...Attack in June (the US always starts a war in June)

- Falling Rupee...with oil zooming, the rupee has to tumble

and the hangover...

- Falling Rupee means FIIs will pull out of India becasue market gains will be offset by the Rupee fall

- Because almost everybody in India has put money into stock, funds, property, or gold in the last 6 months, it looks like there isn't any more liquidity left

- Will the oil companies revise prices? Yes, within a few weeks, making all products a little bit costlier

- Iran war means OIL is in trouble and all big projects are postponed

Yours truly predicts the party in all Indian markets is over:

- Get out of your Mutual Funds

- Get out of your Stocks

- Get out of Gold (partially, though Gold is always good longterm)

- Get out of Rupee if you can and into Euros

- Get out of Art, your Jamini Roy has reached its peak

- Postpone all Property Purchase decisions

- If you have any Property that you have wanted to sell, start doing it ASAP

Safest things right now:
  1. Fixed Deposits
  2. Cash
  3. Euros
How bad will be the crash?

- Actually the fundamentals of the Indian growth story are real, but becasue of speculators, the markets are off, so expect corrections

- The stock market is about 20% off, so expect a correction to around 9500 to 10,000

- Property market is anywhere between 20% & 50% off, so expect some serious corrections there

- Gold has historically shown only an upward trend, so if you have sustaining power, hold on, else sell. I would say Gold will undergo a 10% correction

The best thing to do... start a new business or invest in the growth of your own business or a known venture. India is ripe with opportunity in almost every sector. Look for good management teams and invest in them, they will reap a great harvest and beat ANY gains you can possibly make by speculating.

...if you buy property, make sure its rentable fast. Don't buy for speculation, buy to earn from day one

...and please get rid of your Indian art. Thats an overhyped bubble of paintaings that no self respecting European gallery will even stock, only bought previously by Indians from each other because they couldn't afford real art. Now hyped by speculators who don't know the differance between a Tayeb Mehta, a sofa, and a Pablo Picasso (was Pablo the same as Picasso they ask;) )

Follow up note (16th April 06) The day I posted this the Bombay Stock Exchange fell 342 points and the next day it fell 118 points. While this may be profit booking, it could also be the factors mentioned above in play.

Follow up 2 (18th April 06) The market wiped out all its losses and even made a nice gain. The results of TCS, BHEL and other companies were extremely good and the outlook is bright.

Friday, April 07, 2006

CreativeCommons huh?

With the ever growing mass of user generated content on the web, the question of rights of the material and its usage, sharing, modification, etc have come into question. If you upload an image to FLICKR can it be used by magazine for profit? Can your contribution to Wikitravel or material from your blog be used? And how do you disallow the use of the material for commercial purposes while allowing general usage on the web (sharing, reference, etc) for non-commercial purposes? The recent Adam Curry vs. Weekend case has brought the Creative Commons license to limelight and has upheld the license which has been a huge boost to online contributors such as myself.

So what is Creative Commons again?
From Wikipedia:

"The Creative Commons website enables copyright holders to grant some of their rights to the public while retaining others through a variety of licensing and contract schemes including dedication to the public domain or open content licensing terms. The intention is to avoid the problems current copyright laws create for the sharing of information.

The project provides several free licenses that copyright holders can use when releasing their works on the web. They also provide RDF/XML metadata that describes the license and the work that makes it easier to automatically process and locate licensed works. They also provide a "Founders' Copyright" [1] contract, intended to re-create the effects of the original U.S. Copyright created by the founders of the U.S. Constitution.

All these efforts, and more, are done to counter the effects of the dominant and increasingly restrictive permission culture pervading modern society; a culture pressed hard upon society by traditional content distributors in order to maintain and strengthen their monopolies on cultural products such as popular music and popular cinema."

In the Curry vs Weekend case, Adam Curry (a well known MTV presenter) had published pictures of his family on FLICKR under Creative Commons. A Dutch tabloid, Weekend published these pictures in their magazine. Curry challenged this in court and won a ruling in his favour upholding the Creative Commons license.

Yesterday I released the above images (shot by me) to Wikitravel (See my contributions to Dubai & South Bombay) under the CC-by-SA license, feeling safe that they will contribute to user created content and can be shared liberally under a contempory license which uploads the GNU ideals.

Widely generated, mass contributed, copyright free ideas, creatives, techniques are in the ultimate self interest of mankind. They leverage the collective mind and promote efficient, high quality, low defect material. Go on become a contributor.