Friday, October 26, 2007

Will housing trigger Iran war?

Sub Prime is a huge mess; and housing prices are down and are likely to keep going down. The forecast of the US economy growth rate of Q4 this year was recently downgraded by Maroeconomic Advisers to 1.6% from 2.7%

A US recession appears on the way.

Each time there has been a housing crises, the US has slipped into recession, except 2 times: 1951 and 1967: Korea War and Vietnam War. Defense expenditure triggers the money multiplier which pulls an economy out of recession.

Will the US goto war in Q2 of 2008 with Iran to pull out of recession?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My 3 other blogs

You've probably noticed that I have posted anything this month. That's because I have been busy with 3 other blogs which I have been contributing to both in content and in strategy for growth.

Flora2000's Blog. This is the blog of my company. The blog keep customers and suppliers uptodate with what Flora2000 is upto behind the scenes. For example, we recently participated in a large trade fair in Florida, so all the pics and details are posted here This is a community of people who are out to inspire people to look beyond their cubicle. We post and discuss various offbeat happenings in the world and have a whale of a time. Check it out, its sure to bring a smile to your lips.

VentureWoods. This is the hang out for the Indian start-up community, with both entrepreneurs and investors featuring as contributors and commentors. We have recently been having a very interesting discussion about whether VCs should invest in companies earlier.

Blogging is a terribly exciting place and I'm taken in by it 200%. I'm visiting BlogWorldExpo in Vegas on 8,9,10,11 Nov so if you're gonna be there, leave me a comment to this post and we'll get together.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Belgium's new national airline: Jet Airways

Thanks to some good old mismanagement and corruption, Sabena, Belgium's national airline, stopped existing in 2001. Leaving Belgium with no major airline flying international routes.Thus making Belgium a rare 1st world country with full fledged national carrier.

Along comes ever expanding JetAirways fueled by massive demand from India and manages to make Brussels it's European hub. A first by any airline from Asia. From here JetAirways will send flights to all over India: Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, etc and will also connect major cities in North America New York, Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco, etc.

Further Jet Airways forges a tight alliance with Brussels low cost carrier, Brussels Airways, which flies all over Europe. Creating a perfect hub and spoke system for connecting all of Europe with 2 important regions: India & North America.

This gives Jet Airways the same power as a European national carrier like Lufthansa or Swiss Air or KLM. Truly remarkable because all over the world the airline industry is highly protected and international airlines cannot set up a base. The commercial implications of this for Jet Airways can't be imagined and will be felt very deep into the future. Jet Airways, Indian government and Indian business will be able to capatalise on this in many ways and Belgium is sure to become India's beachhead into Europe.

I would even argue that Jet Airways is better positioned than Lufthansa or KLM to reap benefits from having a European hub, because Brussels has fantastic train connections to London (under 2hrs by Eurostar) and air connections into Africa where the French and Belgians were active colonists.

To begin to understand this, one has to look at the numbers. To start with, by Dec 07, Jet Airways will operate 10 flights a day from Brussels. This will soon be stepped up to 35 flights a day. Brussels Airways operates over 90 destinations out of Brussels which are now tightly connected into Jet's flights. Simultaneously, Jet Airways is making arrangements to operate daily flights from Brussels to Shanghai, Dhaka & other Asian destinations. When those come through, its going to be even more flights out of Brussels. The target is to soon handle 1 million passengers and 60,000 tons of cargo out of Brussels.

How much can Jet Airways grow from here? Last year Lufthansa handled 55M passengers and in 2008 this will go upto 60M. There is absolutely no reason why Jet Airways cannot grow into an airline of Lufthansa's size, especially since it now has 2 hubs: India & Belgium, something which even mighty Lufthansa does not have.

There is one small problem: Belgium may break up into 2 states as the Dutch and French speaking population can't seem to get along. This will cause all kinds of economic difficulties for Belgium and may cause Jet's careful plans to spin out of control.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The 9 year life of an Internet application

Ok, I'm quite over Facebook. I think their killer feature applications with feeds has actually turned into the latest form of spam. My feed is full of junk and nothing useful.

On the plus side I am connected with tons of friends and I never have to worry about losing contact. But that's about it. Status is passe, because everyone's updates are so boring. Photos is passe, because have ODed on them. Wall is still OK and good way to notify the whole gang.

For the last few months I have been using Smallworld. And now everytime I meet the slightly older, slight better off individual, they automatically ask me "are you on Smallworld". Not a word about Facebook.

Its not just the exclusivity of Smallworld that's appealing. Its the trusted opinion. If Facebook users rate a nightclub, you're never sure what its all about because the users are such a mixed bag; but if Smallworld users rate it, you can be sure that its more or less in line with your tastes. Ditto with questions and answers. Ask a question and Smallworld answers tend to be normally what you're looking for.

Is this the beginning of the end for Facebook? Could very well be. Smallworld will be the 1st community catering to high end lifestyle needs and a small but important group will split from Facebook to Smallworld. Then we might find that another community catering to under 21 with lots of gaming breaks off another chunk from Facebook. And so on.

The splitting off phenomena is known as divergence. As a product matures, new products emerge catering to a more specific group within that user base. In the old days this took decades, but in rapidly moving Internet times, the cycle is down to 9 years:

Year 1 - 3 Product emergence
Year 4 - 6 Product's best years. Emergence of new divergent competitors
Year 7 - 9 Product's decline. The rule of the divergent competitors
Year 10+ Product stays and can be kept profitable, but its difficult.

Moral of the story: Best time to launch a new product, when the competing product is doing its best. Needless to say the new product must be divergent and highly innovative.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Britney Spears and Filmfare awards

The papers this week were full of the horrible and embarrassing performance that Britney Spears put on. So when I received a link in my email to check out the video, I couldn't resist.

I watched the whole video and kept search for the embarrassing moments when Britney was awkward and made a fool of herself. There was nothing. Then it struck me: Aah, as per International standards she was plump and a bit out of tune, just a teeny weeny bit. But I had been watching Indian live shows at things like the filmfare awards where all the actresses are FAT and completely out of sync and wear the most ghastly clothes.

If this was India and this was Britney's performance, it would have been hailed as the greatest Indian live performance ever.

So its Indian standards vs US standards; and its only when you watch US standards impartially do you realize how low Indian standards actually are.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The world wants to fly to India these days

Cheapticket's blog says "seems the world wants to fly to India these days" and announces that Delta is offering low fares of around $1200 return from anywhere in the US.

Delta was the 1st airline to fly New York - Bombay direct, though the 1st to fly direct to India was Continental into Delhi. Now Air India has joined the fray flying NYC - BOM direct and will so offer a direct from Delhi as well. Add to this Jet Airways direct to the US (2 hr stopover in Brussels but same plane) and Toronto and suddenly there is a surge in capacity to the US. This is reflective of the rapidly growing relations between the US and India, be it strategic, business or personal.

I recall I also read that a San Francisco - Bangalore direct is coming up as well.

In a year, the seat capacity between India and the US is likely to double. Imagine that: 60 years work in 1 year!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

India Reality Check 3: no legal recourse in India

Yesterday's newspapers carried stories about a political party in Bombay rioting and burning vehicles; the papers of the week before carried stories of another political party's leaders physically attacking a female author. Everyday there are stories of these kind of serious criminal offenses with no action taken against them.

On the civil side its even worse. Every business knows that it is impossible to enforce contracts in India as it just takes too long (15 - 20 years). And every Indian knows to never ever take on any government official or body through the legal system because they will do all kinds of nasty things to you using the government machinery (tax raids, police lockup, etc).

In short the legal system is broken.

While there exist strong laws both on the civil and criminal side, the implementation is non existent. This is chiefly due to three reasons:

1. India has only 13 judges per million people, whereas the US has 150 per million. This results in millions of cases backlog at any given time. The average time it takes to settle non criminal cases is 20 years.

2. The judicial infrastructure is extremely weak. Many judges are not well trained and many are not provided with support infrastructure like typists, fans, desks, etc. Goto any court in India other than the High & Supreme court and you will find crowded claustrophobic rooms, where the poor litigants and even sorrier judges have to operate.

3. Judges are very poorly paid, thus keeping the better talent away. Did you know that the monthly cheque of a High Court judge is $600? I bet you can't even believe this. Do you expect the best and the brightest to apply? Or anyone to apply?

How will there be economic progress in India beyond a basic limit? There is only so much economic progress that can be achieved without a decent legal system. I think we are about to hit our economic growth plateau very soon, maybe 10 years at the most. After that growth may slow or there may even be negative growth.

The way out: private legal system. There is a great opportunity and need for a private legal system. Parliament has passed the Arbitration Act and this opens the way for a private disputes resolution mechanism. If private dispute resolution happens (and there is no reason why it should not happen) we will see massive continued growth of the economy.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

India US nuclear deal: good for Inida

Ok so India has signed away its sovereignty and will now forever remain a puppet to be tugged at by the US or anyone who supplies nuclear material. But what option did we have?

We don't have our own nuclear technology to produce energy in large quantities. All the years of research have led to a very poor nuclear program. I suspect mainly because it's government run, and like everything government run it limps on all four legs.

Oil & Gas aren't gonna last very long, especially that now the whole world is guzzling oil & gas instead of just Europe & US. How long before oil is at $200 a barrel and then runs out after that? 10yrs, 20yrs, 30 yrs maximum. What then? Solar, Hydro, Wind and other alternate energies haven't come far, so the only option will be nuclear.

Oh but what does it matter that we have given the US and others an advantage over us, anyway all their calls are answered here and all software too is made here; if they bully us too much, we'll just shut their systems down :)

What amazes me is that we got a deal at all. Why would the US or anyone else give India a special deal? They know that we need nuclear and can't get it. The obvious answer is that the great game is being played between the US (including NATO), Russia and China, and India is an important win.

For India it great news, we are in the US camp, a nation we can relate to and do business with. Good move by Indian politicians for once.

India reality check 2: 13.5% is the current rate of home loan interest

Yes you've read the headline right, 13.5% is the current fixed rate at which you can take a housing loan. And many are doing it. This means the smallest slowdown in the Indian economy and salary growth slowing down will cause a lot of heartburn to a lot of people and the default rate will be huge.

People in India are going crazy taking loans because till 7 - 10 years ago it wasn't easy getting loans; and since the economy has been booming last few years, they haven't been hit.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

India reality check 1: less than 250 aircraft in India

For all the hype surrounding India, the fact is that all the airlines and private owners of aircraft put together do not have more than 250 planes on lease or ownership.

  • Air India has 50 60 aircraft
  • Indian Airlines about the same
  • Jet Airways around 40
  • all others together couldn't be more than 50
  • so its not even 250.

There are airlines in the US that each own 1000+ aircraft. Go figure what the India boom is all about.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, August 05, 2007 - great way to create profile photos

See this nice photo of mine on the right? Its thanks to Earlier, I never bothered uploading any well cropped profile photos because it was just difficult and the results were poor. however makes it super easy to crop your photos cause it has a neat zoom feature (you'll understand when you use it). Go get it.

(Almost) Bullish once again on India Internet

Read today morning in one of the dailies that Reliance now has 5000 WiMax customers in Pune. Which by Reliance standards means 5000 very angry people. Jokes apart, this is good news for India, because lack of last mile has held back the Internet all over the country. Lets hope WiMax succeeds.

Also found this very bullish report on India, showing what the sentiment in the US is about India:

What do you think about India's future? Do you think that Indian will overcome it's severe infrastructure handicap to maintain its 9% year on year rate growth, or do you think things will slow down, even crash?

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Govt of India: god save the Internet

Yes that picture above is of the website of the President of India on 2nd August 2007 (rather 3rd August 12:51am), which has been down since last night. Why? Because it rained in New Delhi and the building that hosts all government websites (known as National Informatics Centre or NIC), such as defense, income tax, President of India, Prime Minister, Railways, and 3000 other government websites, flooded and had no back-up or proper disaster recover system except for the neighborhood bucket shop...

Now we really know and how serious the Government of India is about the Internet. So much for their announcements of 100 Million broadband connections by Dec 2007 and WiMax across India.

Friday, July 27, 2007

US trip in pictures

Was on a quick trip to the US last week, covering New York and San Fransisco in 4 days and weekend. The US is a changed place since my last visit in 2005. The mood is upbeat, the paranoia with security is lower (airports are more relaxed), everything has a nice resurgent energy about it with airlines looking brighter and staff friendlier; and the economy is doing well.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Alright! 120 posts up

Ok I know 120 is not a traditional milestone number, but I just happened to realise that ITS 120 POSTS !

Started on March '06 with no mission other than to kill boredom, BombayCurry has come to be, well, nothing more than a bunch of rambling posts with spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, and no particular direction, but a small but loyal readership

According to Google Analytics 167 people from all over the world visited in the last one month, and nearly 1500 since the start of 2007.

What I've been most pleased about is the fair amount of photos I have been able to post here. This is thanks to my great little Sony Ericsson K750i mobile, which in my opinion has the best digital camera built in; and I mean THE BEST, because it even puts my Nikon Cool Pix to shame.

What has been most disappointing since I started blogging is that global blog readership is growing much too slowly. I blame this on the poor design of blog reading tools which in my opinion are still much too complicated to use. Blogs have remained confined to techies and savvy Internet users. All average users have no idea about how to set-up RSS feeds and subscribe to blogs. I need to do something about that...

Thanks for regularly stopping by and reading, please keep commenting....I'll make sure I post atleast as regularly as I currently do.

Bank accounts then and now

I opened my first bank account in 1989 when I joined St. Xavier's College in Bombay. The bank was located within my college itself, in a tiny room next to the Chemistry lab. It was called Corporation Bank St. Xavier's Extension Counter (Extension Counter because it was too small to be a full fledged branch). Opening the account was a 2 minute process where I wrote my name and my campus address on a small slip of paper and signed it. I was given a pass book in which all my transactions were recorded by the clerk; and I had to produce the pass book each time I needed to withdraw money. There was no cheque book for some reason.

I'd visit the bank once or twice a month to withdraw on the allowance my parents sent me. I first had to fill up a counter slip with a pen attached by chain to the counter and present it to the bank clerk, who would give me big brass token with a 2 digit number on it. Then I had to wait till my number was called by the cashier (who would be sitting inside a wooden cabin enclosed in steel wiremesh), take the cash and surrender the token.

Just as I was leaving college in 1992 the bank introduced cheque books, so I decided to keep my account there, as I didn't really need any other facilities like ATMs or loans; it also gave me a good excuse to visit my college once in a while. I have been using it ever since as my only bank account.

A month ago our company finance manager insisted that I get another "professional" account and build a "relationship" with a "good" bank, incase I needed loans; and most importantly that I should get a credit card because it was not good practice going to shops and restaurants and asking them to send the bill to the office to pay by cheque (seems perfectly fine to me).

I fell for the pitch and got very excited about getting an account; so decided to straight away get two new accounts: one with Kotak Bank and one with ICICI Bank, both of whose billboards' I could see everyday on my drive to work and back.

First I noticed that the forms were considerably longer than 1989 and they required 6 photos each, plus all kinds of ID proof. Plus I had to sign in atleast 10 places on each form. It took me a very long time to fill out both forms. I also had to open 2 accounts in each, one fixed and one savings, to avoid paying "bank charges".

My accounts opened and I got a large package from each bank with a letter from the "relationship" manager welcoming me to the bank (whatever happened to good ol' bank manager?) and informing me that I was eligible for all kinds of privileges and facilities, from holidays in Taiwan to emergency cash anywhere in the world.

I also got my credit cards, atm cards and a variety of privilege cards

Then the phone calls began.

In the middle of a meeting, a strange number would flash on my mobile and a marketing pitch would begin. In the first 20 days I must have received atleast 15 such calls, plus a few smses. If you hung up on them they would just call back a few minutes later. They just wouldn't stop despite calling the "relationship" managers and telling them strictly to stop calling me.

Finally, I let go of one of the two new banks, the one making the most calls and I am having some serious thoughts about shutting down the other one as well.

Meanwhile my banking continues with Corporation Bank St. Xavier's Extension Counter, who has never sold to me, never troubled me, never glamorized themselves; but just quietly keep doing their work. Isn't that how it should be?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

How to easily take & edit screenshots

I used to use Snagit, but somewhere in my comuter upgrades I lost my key. And because I didn't feel like paying for it again I figured out how to manage without it. Its quite easy.

1. Take a screenshot with using the Prt Scr (Print Screen) button on your keyboard

2. Open a PowerPoint slide

3. Hit Ctrl V and the screenshot gets pasted on your PowerPoint slide

4. Right click on the screenshot and use Save As to save it on your desktop

5. Goto the desktop and open the screenshot in Picture Manager

6. In Picture Manager you can crop it, resize it, covert it, compress it, etc. Save it after you are done

7. After you are through with 6, you may still want to add blurbs or make edits to the image. Locate the image on your desktop, right click and open with Paint. Here you can do all this. Save after you are done

Its all very easy and effective and free

Gspace - store files on Gmail via Firefox

If you use FireFox browser (which you MUST because it's way better than Safari & Internet Explorer), then you should get Gspace. This is a nifty little Firefox addon them equally easily. If you are working between home pc, laptop and office pc, like me, then Gspace is an absolute necessity. No more carrying (or rather forgetting) flash drives and having to email self important files.

The image above is the Gspace interface which opens within Firefox itself. On the left are the files on your computer and on the right are the files uploaded via Gspace to your Gmail account. This dash in addition to allowing storage and retrieval of files on Gmail, allows you to easily manage and maintain and synchronize all computers.


Saturday, June 30, 2007

Should India levy import duty on Google?

Today Hillary Clinton made a statement that outsourcing is a problem and that some tax adjustments needs to be made to keep jobs in America.

As far as I am concerned Silicon Valley is stealing 1000s of jobs from India. SV is producing products like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, this very Blogger, etc which are freely being imported over the Internet into India. These products are then being "sold" in India, with their owner companies either charging end users for using these applications or by way of Indian companies advertising on them and passing on costs to Indian consumers.

India too should then tax software imported over the Internet. If these products were being made in India, then these jobs would be India. It can easily devise a whole new method of measuring all foreign currency payments for software and media. Infact with all software & media slowly and surely being delivered over the Internet, it is inevitable that a new definition of Imports will soon come about.

Why can't politicians stay out of a domain they don't understand, instead of forcing a global trade war?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Web 2.0 - Now in India

VCs all over the world are proclaiming that web 2.0 is over, so what's this all about a Web 2.0 conf that you are inviting me to speak at I ask? Well it's in India my inviter explains, as if to mean "everything in India happens a few years later".

Jokes apart it was a good conf. I was really glad to hear how even giants like Citibank had woken up to the web and are consciously listening to bloggers; and they realize the pitfalls of starting hoax blogs and blogs promoting products.

Also very encouraging to hear that many publishers stated that advertising revenues in India have climbed quite a bit. Still bit too low for me, but good for the others.

Here is the webcast

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The best kebabs of the Veda

I'm in Delhi for Band of Angels' monthly investor presentation. After my work is done, my aunt takes me out for dinner to Veda, which is apparently a trendy restaurant opened by a celebrity (she didn't know who; but knowing Delhi its probably a fashion designer or a criminal, as Delhi doesn't have any other kind of celebrities). Whats the food? Indian she says. I protest! Its supposed to be very good she says defensively and almost remembers the name of the celebrity.

So we are there for our table at 9pm sharp because she was threatened on the phone that if we are even 15 minutes late our table will be given away. The decor is, well, Moulin Rouge, red and black with lots of mirrors, kitsch, Indian lamp motifs, candle lit feel. Lacking imagination, but not a bad feel, quite calming, relaxing and even trendy.

However the reason I am writing this in my blog, and why an entire post has been dedicated to it is because of the kebabs at this place. The best I have ever had, and trust me I've had 1000s of very high standard kebabs in my life. Order the Lamb Chops and the Mixed Platter and then await a divine experience. The flavour and melt in the mouth is simply the best.

Warning: While you're enjoying the kebabs, beware the Delhi "family" crowds which turn even the most upmarket places into noisy Indian bus terminals with their numerous children, crass manners and non stop arguing with waiters.

Gap opens in India, almost

GAP is here, um, not quite...its being made in India, but officially not sold in India. So what does one enterprising guy do, he opens his own GAP store with the Indian made clothes, which are naturally cheaper than those else where and appropriately calls it GAPL or Gap for Less. Well done. Its right opposite my office if you want to do some shopping.

Monday, June 18, 2007

LinkedIn profile makeover

Happened to stumble upon Guy Kawasaki's post about how its important to have a great LinkedIn Profile these days and how he gave his a makeover.

Done the same to mine.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The art of hype

A colleague in our office recently underwent Human Factors' usability imporovement ceterification. She proudly published the link to her certificate on MSN Messenger.

A software company in Bangalore that I was dealing with was very excited about their Human Factors certification.

A colleague in the US who was part of the Flora2000 usability redesign team in 2004 also went thru Human Factors training and told me how her market rate has increased.

And recently the no. 1 newspaper in India, The Times of India, proudly advertised their newly redesigned website in their print ed
ition boasting how good it was and that Human Factors had redone it.

Want to rush in for Human Factors' training?

Hold on.

Now the fact, the sad fact, is that Human Factors' own website is extremely poorly designed, something that both my colleagues who underwent the course agreed. The Times of India is also a very poorly de
signed site, cluttered and with space wastage. Ditto with the company in Bangalore whose own website at that time was poorly designed.

Look at the New York Times site and compare it to Times of India; NYT is a clean, readable site, with attention paid to details such as spacing between letters to improve readability; TOI is extremely cluttered with everything shouting: click me 1st.

Who are these Human Factor people? Well they are experts at hype. They have published reams of papers and given seminars on their usability improvement techniques, they proudly label their technique the Schaffer- Weinschenk Method after their founders and pitch it as the leading usability improvement technique in the world. Unfortunately, whatever that technique is, it does not produce stylish, uncluttered, easy on the eyes websites. Their websites all have the look from sites we used to see in 1999 - 2000 with only a focus on information rather than the readability of the information.

This is what happens when you fall for hype instead of using your common sense.On one side is Human Factor's own poorly designed website and their poorly designed flagship projects:;, etc, on the other side is their own hype about how good they are. And you go fall for the hype.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Look at what we have done

You wanted it, you got it: prosperity. You evolved as a species and developed your mind, thru this mind you developed yourself, you developed your race, you upgraded your living standard. Now you don't have to be insecure anymore, now you don't have to worry about the wind outside, or diseases affecting you. Your future as a banker, lawyer, manager, entrepreneur, scientist, professor, model, actor, singer musician et al is secure.

But look at what you have done.

You have destroyed the poor innocent speechless creatures around you, you have orphaned the trees and the beasts. You have ruthlessly exploited them and thoughtlessly used them as entertainment and to serve you.

Here is the story of a small baby elephant called Laxmi, in this so called great world of ours, in this so called great country, where 100 million IT engineers bloom and everybody speaks in high fly intelligent speech using words like processes, disruptive, model, evolved, etc. This baby elephant has been a slave captive from the day it was born, it was taken away from its mother and its siblings and kept in chains.

But a baby is a baby, so at 4am while all of Mumbai (Bombay) slept, this baby bound in chains, got the urge to play, she slowly made her way to a nearby tree and frolicked with a few branches lying by. Can you imagine it: born a slave in captivity, with no mother, living in chains, and yet having the urge to play. Though we tried, we could not kill this in her, some small part of her was still alive.

No but we must not allow this to live, we must not allow this baby to have any joy. So soon enough her mahout got up and severely reprimanded her, for playing.

This my friends is the world we have built, which we are so proud off. So carry on with your ambition and your fighting and your drive and your high standard of living. Carry on with your designer car, designer house, designer clothes, your branded girlfriends and boyfriends, your high society life, your spa holidays, your Turkish carpets and your French wines...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

2.0, 3.0 and all that

Here is Orielly on Web 2.0 and how its all about "user data", quite a good listen

This got me thinking, are we still in Web 2.0 or are we moving even beyond? What are, Pageflakes and They are channels, for which anyone can create content (Widgets) and these are then made available to the users of these channels.

Is this beyond 2.0? This is now no longer just about user data and sharing user data. This is about providing a channel and allowing anyone to broadcast to the audience.

This has been happening in a chaotic fashion the last 3 years with widgets on MySpace and the like, but now when it happens in an organised fashion, deeply integrated with the channel, then we move onto a whole new era....

all hail 3.0

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The $22,000 Leopard Cat

A breeder in California (where else) has bred a cat by crossing African leopards and with a cat. The result: a domestic cat with the print of a leopard/cheetah. Click on the image below to visit their webiste and order one for yourself.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

S3: Amazon's Secret Weapon

As a web entrepreneur, data storage has always been my nightmare problem. Dreams of critical data wiped out, or just not being able to manage all those servers that store the data, or not being able to serve data fast enough, or...or...

Then along comes Amazon S3, Simple Storage Engine, completely managed storage at $0.15/GB/month storage, with a simple interface that takes literally minutes of programming and wallah you have headache free unlimited storage for your web app.

Already this service is being used by large and famous internet sites, such as SmugMug and WebMail.

Amazon has solved one of the biggest problems on the web today. And they have kept a very low profile about it. I predict that Amazon S3 will go onto to becoming the world's largest data warehousing business, taking away business and revenue from traditional hosts like ThePlanet and Rackspace.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"Stubborn Entreupreuners"

Finally a success story validating what I do. I am stubborn, I have conviction in my beliefs, but when you are trying to grow by raising finance you are always pushed around to alter your strategy or business plan. People tell you "build to sell", "build for compatibility", "show less cash burn", "bring in CEO", "reach profits faster", "go more aggressive", etc etc.

What is a poor startup entrepreneur to do?

Here is a story about a successful 35 year old VC who actually likes stubborn entrepreneurs, who have conviction in their beliefs. He is the one that funded Facebook and look how well they are doing:

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Is India independent?

My uncle in the US sent out a bit of trivia about the how the 1st war for independence against the colonists was lost in 1857. My reply to him was:

the war of independence in India is still lost, because India still does not appear to have a fair, fast and mature judiciary:

1. Alister ran over and killed 6 people in Bombay, the court acquitted him. Now the High Court has reopened the trial and the judge who acquitted him has resigned

2. Some of MF Hussain's (India's leading artist) paintings were complained of to a small court in Haradwar, which already had 13,000+ cases pending before it, some over 15 years old; and the court issues summons to attach MF Hussain's properties, and now MF Hussain lives in exile in Dubai

3. Richard Gere does volunteer work for an AIDS show in UP; and someone complains to a local court that he behaved obscenely on stage and the court immediately issues an arrest warrant in his name.

So what independence are we talking about. Just removing the Brits is not independence; independence is being able to secure your freedom through law, order & justice.

Why does all this happen in India? Well, the salary of a high court judge is $450 a month, and they politicians want to keep the judiciary weak so that they have power.

And who votes these politicians in? NOT US, the rich in India do not go to vote, you cannot expect them to leave their AC rooms and stand in the poor go and vote, the illiterate go and you are seeing an India of the illiterates, by the illiterates and for the illiterates.

In the recent municipal election of Delhi, out of 1300+ candidates, 850+ had not graduated past class 4; and over 1100 had been booked for a criminal offense. Don't even ask me what is going on in the UP election...

Monday, April 30, 2007

Why is the dollar falling?

I can't believe that the US Dollar is now Rs. 39.90... just a few years back it was Rupees 50 and then it stayed in the Rs. 44 - Rs. 47 range...

So why is the Dollar falling so sharply against the Euro, Pound, Rupee et al? Methinks its because Iran has been steadily selling oil in Euros; so many countries now need to hold less of the Dollar. Will this continue? it sure looks like it...

So what is the correct price of the Dollar? I think the Dollar still my fall another 12% - 14% in the next 12 months. After that it will stabilize as it will be at its correct level. Ofcourse many factors could derail this prediction, such as increased US exports due to weak Dollar, or Iran takeover Iraq style. But I think all this won't happen in the next 12 - 18 months, so here is to a cheaper holiday for us Indians to the US, Dubai (Duabi's Dhiram is linked to the US Dollar) and many other places.

LTTE air attacks in Sri Lanka

While Sri Lanka were playing the final against Australia, Colombo plunged into darkness as the LTTE attacked from the air. This being the 3rd air attack by the LTTE in a month.

The result was that Colombo plunged into darkness and chaos. Emirates Airlines & Cathay Pacific immediately suspended operations.

This is the 1st time aircraft are being used by any liberation organisation anywhere in the world. Its a huge step and creates a lot of questions. There is an article here in the Outlook that asks these questions and makes an interesting read.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Great News: Computer population to double in 7 yrs

He was the original one with the vision of a "computer on every desk in every home", and now in his closing hours at Microsoft he's taking that vision one step ahead by rolling out ultra low cost operating systems worldwide and aiming to double the world computer users population to 2 billion users in 2015 from the current 1 billion users. Read about it here:

This is indeed great news for the world, because with MS they will make a big push towards educating schools and governments around the world to adopt computers. Simultaneously Linux is on a roll and that big push is happening these as well.

"But Linux is Free" I hear you say, so what's so great about low cost Windows & Office? The great thing about MS as compared to Linux is that they support many more languages, so they will get regional usership down to the villages.

Anyway, regardless of Windows or Linux, I am confident that we will now indeed double worldwide computing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Building a lawless India

Everyone already knows that the Indian judicial systems is weak and any prosecution or dispute resolution takes forever. This pathetic state of affairs often causes people to take the law into their own hands and leads to lawlessness.

Now instead of strengthening the judicial process, the politicians are doing their best to dismantle it. Last week the Prime Minister came out against the judiciary and warned them about interfering with the political process. Just yesterday political parties broke into the offices of newspapers and tv channels and thrashed them...why? Why not respect the law? If you have a grievance with someone, take it up in court. Political parties are bypassing the law by taking the law into their own hand and keeping the judiciary weak by starving it of funds.

Is this anyway to build a safe and secure India? No it is not. Law and civil resolution is the foundation of civilised society... they were created so that instead of beating up and shooting each other, one goes to a court and gets relief.

Comeon politicians, strengthen the judiciary.

Have guns will shoot

Another day, another campus shooting in the US...when will those guys learn? Just last week there is a story in the Indian press about an army corporal shooting his superior. The Indian army has a higher incidence of people shooting colleagues that the civilian population, going to show that it is the availability of guns that leads to these severe crimes.

But the gun control battle rages on in the US....I am really surprised how a society of highly educated people can debate on this. Ban guns without license NOW.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Importance of end to end quality tracking

Vir Shanghvi today moans about the bad quality of wine across India. Apparently this is because wines are poorly transported thus exposing them to temperature fluctuations; and because they are stored straight up (he says wines need to be stored flat inorder to be in contact with the cork and them preventing some sort of chemical reaction that makes them go bad).

I say its the fault of the wine brands who have not set up quality tracking processes that identify bad quality and the reasons behind it. It is the responsibility of every brand to ensure customer satisfaction....and if they don't do this, then a smart business can step in, map out the pain points, improve quality and steal business from the existing suppliers.

It is the responsibility of the manager of every function to put in place an end to end quality checking process, which includes reports, checks and feedback, and then strive to improve delivery/production. The best managers do this, and when all the managers in a business do this, those business become the best in their league.

Region gets increasingly unstable

Tigers in Sri Lanka, civil uprising in Pakistan and Maoist rebels in Nepal; India is surrounded by extremely unstable neighbors. These countries received their independence at the same time as India, but democracy has been uprooted each time it tried. How many more deaths will it take for the people their to learn that democracy is the ONLY path to peace?

The Pakistani suppression of the Judiciary. Last week President Musharraf dismissed the Head Supreme Count Justice, who refused to step down. When the law fraternity took up his cause, President Musharraf had them brutally suppressed. Many died and many more were injured. Now Pakistan appears to be on the bring of an uprising. What is going on? When are we going to see the end of dictators in Pakistan?

Sri Lanka is a total tragedy, a nice gentle people, held hostage by a small group of so called Tamil liberationists, who are using intense violence to gain their freedom. Why is violence required? Does Sri Lanka not have a democracy? Is their judicial system dead?

And this strife threatens to spill over into India. Did you know, India deploys over 350,000 troops in Kashmir to maintain stability? That other parts of India like Assam & Chattisgarh are facing constant militancy?

So why do people take to militancy? The logical answer is because they are unable to get justice or have their voice heard, so as a last resort their take to militancy. But India is a functioning democracy and has a judiciary (albeit slow), so why is this happening? My reasoning: It is because a few greedy people want to profit from the supply of arms, so they stir up violence and create causes that raise funds, so they can earn their 20% commission in the supply of arms. Or its because governments in their misguided power plays continually try and destabilise neighbours in the hope of I don't know what. Does India want to swallow Pakistan, Sri Lanka & Nepal? Looks like it, because it looks like they have been fingering these countries by assisting rebels. However, Pakistan's case is different because their democracy has been usurped by one dictator after another.

India too must strengthen itself by improving the judicial system to enable speedy dispute redress; without this people will take the law into their own hands. It must also continue to encourage more people to vote thus encouraging an active democracy. Last but not least, education helps improve people's knowledge of their rights and grievance redressal mechanisms.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Internet Explorer IS unsecure

I never believed it, I always thought it was hype...after all who do you really know that got virus infected by surfing the web. Virus' are supposed to come from spam emails, and from files that friends send, or through the office lan network; not by surfing the web.

But it happened today. I was surfing a website using IE (because I was doing some speed comparisons with Firefox) and suddenly my McAfee pops up saying there is a virus and its been deleted ! I was confused because I don't use Outlook email anymore, only Gmail and this is a NEW computer. I checked the path and it was a virus that had come through IE. The Virus had triggered when I had clicked on a link on the website; sure enough IE reported that it could not open that file or some error like that.

Years back I took the decision to shift my website from Microsoft Server to Linux and have been virus free ever I'm going to stick to Firefox and avoid IE.

Alexa's dubious rankings

After 7 years in the business I would have thought Alexa would have figured out how to improve the accuracy of their rankings systems. Below is hard cold proof that Alexa's system needs some serious fixing.

Flora2000's traffic and sales for Valentine's day were more than double in 2007 and compared to 2006. But broken Alexa 2007 shows lower traffic than 2006. Take a look and decide for yourself.

Agreed that Alexa is limited by the number of installs of it's toolbar. But shouldn't they have overcome this by making deals with other toolbars like Google, Yahoo, etc to expand their base and thus accuracy?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Feb 07 in pictures

Here are random pictures from my life in Feb 07. Yes, obviously nothing better to post...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

And the winner is: Indian Express

After Hindustan Times & DNA launched with huge budgets and much fanfare, I bet my friend that in 2 years HT would be the leading broadsheet from among the two. Well the story now is that none of them are in the lead and both seem to be flagging in content.

The surprising march ahead, atleast in content, has been by the Indian Express. Long written off as a poor second contender to Times of India, and considered by many to be a nice paper focusing on pessimistic news "Journalism of Courage", off late I have been happy to notice that the quality of content has improved to a New York Times level.

Today's (Sunday) edition is miles ahead of TOI, HT and DNA, covering indepth issues nationwide and worldwide, while the other three just seem to repeat the week's news in their "India Shining" narrative style.

IE definitely needs a new coat of paint, its antiquated layout and style hide the magnificent journalism lying underneath. Though its not much of a makeover and one done quite easily.

But is India ready for this quality of journalism? Probably not. India is still masala news country. Bombay & Delhi do not have even 1 cinema house showing Independent films, where, even cities like Columbus Ohio have one. And what about blogging, Indian bloggers are a rare lot, hardly anyone blogs here, or even reads blogs, showing the dismal state of reading & writing in the country.

But the day of Indian Express will come, not now, not in 10 years, but maybe in 50 or 60 years, but it will come. The good news is that we are headed in that direction, while in many parts of the world there is no hope even of that.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Wikipedia continues to remain at the mercy of donations

"Meanwhile, a Wikimedia staff member named Sandy Ordonez has posted a comment on Nick’s post saying “Ms. Devouard’s comment was taken out of context” and that “Wikipedia will not be closing any time soon. Ms. Devouard was simply referring to the ongoing, pressing needs for funds that Wikipedia, like most nonprofit organizations, face."

It really is shocking that a globally important project like Wikipedia will not take support from commercial revenue such as displaying Google text ads on the side. Look at Craig's list, they have taken limited support from commercial revenue and it keeps them out of danger of shutting down.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bombay's new dakdak service

You read it here 1st, Bombay's has launched a new inner city low cost dakdak (helicopter) service, that can take a 3 people anywhere for a low cost. It runs by meter and gets you across town in minutes.

Well.... that's actually an art installation at the annual Kala Ghoda arts fair.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The dance bar effect

One and a half years ago the Congress & NCP party ruling the state of Maharashtra (of which Bombay is a part), closed 3,500 dance bars, making over 500,000 people jobless. They took the moral high ground that Dance Bars corrupted people and heartlessly destroyed the lives of half a million families. It was a sham, a politically motivated untruth meant to weaken their political opponents, whom they believed received much of their funding from Dance Bars

When this happened, it was the darkest days of my life. I could not believe that such a crime could occur in Independent India. I could not believe that a functioning democracy could do something like this.

But last week, my belief in the Indian democracy has been restored. In the recently concluded Bombay municipal elections, the people, realizing the injustice of this Congress - NCP government gave them a huge thumbs down, vanquishing them and electing their opponents.

The victory for the Shiv Sena BJP came despite the fact that they have performed poorly in providing and maintaining civic infrastructure and they tend to play communal politics. But the people of Bombay realising the huge crime of the Congress NCP went for the lesser devil.

It is this Democracy that makes India the "superpower" that it is. Not an economic or a military superpower, but a superpower of individual right and voice.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I wasn't looking forward to Ahmedabad. I expected it to be another crowded, dilapitated and conjested city with chaotic traffic and blaring horns. Just like all the other nice quaint towns that have now grown into big bad ugly cities.

So it came as a plesant surprise to find Ahmedabad with a quaint and rustic air. Reminded me of Delhi in the 70s, large open roads, bearable traffic and a lack of materialism. Ah lack of material, what a relief that provides in today's world...

I was charmed by the camed drawn carts, which I
had never seem earlier. And by the colourfully decorated motorcycle 3 wheelers like the one here.

Put Ahmedabad on your list.

Bombay Islands

Here is a picture I stole a shot of at a recent exhibition. It shows Bombay as it was naturally, a group of 7 islands. The islands where initially linked by causeways and then later totally filled in to create the Bombay peninsula

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Marketing vs Customer Experience

Marketing is and has been for decades the poster child of enterprise. The subject is full of books, gurus, courses, awards, media coverage and what have you. Every CEO talks of marketing marketing marketing...and in MBA programs the lure of marketing draws millions of aspirants every year.

Then there is Customer Experience...what is that you ask? Customer Experience is the experience you have after you have fallen for the marketing and decided the buy the product. For example, after you have seen the Incredible India ads you decide to visit India; or after you received the free Yahoo T-Shirt you went and checked out the website. You'll be hard pressed to find a single book, course, expert or media coverage on this subject. It not considered important or glam.

Because Customer Experience has been neglected as a subject, it sucks in 9 out of 10 cases. You see the Incredible India ads and then you land in India where they screen all your bags upon arrival while making you wait in a 1 hr line. Or its the lousy experience you get after signing up for MSN Hotmail...

When Customer Experience is good, there have been amazing successes. Tourism into Dubai or Thailand, both which provide excellent Customer Experience has boomed. Receently Skype, Google & YouTube hit the jackpot because customers gave them 2 thumbs up and told all near and dear. The stories of good Customer Experience are many and we all know them.

Infact, I could go so far as saying, that every product with good customer experience has done well with or without help from marketing. More so in recent times where word of mouth through email, messenger, cell phone etc happens faster than ever.

So why is Customer Experience such a neglected subject? I have no idea. If it was upto me, I would do everything I could to further and better Customer Experience. I would design courses that teach the values of Customer Experience and in business reconfigure resource allocation 8:2 in favour of Customer Experience.

Till that happens, here is to more trash Marketing and even trashier Customer Experience.