Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Billion beats

Recently, Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam has launched fortnightly e-newspaper 'Billion beats'. This is a welcome initiative as the internet medium is reaching every corner of India. Got a chance to read the first edition yesterday and it is very good.

Check out this link for the latest edition.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

India - A 'garbage' land ?

Recently came across couple of interesting experiences, which prompted me to write this post.

Scene 1: Bangalore Airport

I was waiting in a long queue for checking in and came across Cafe coffee day joint. This is supposedly an exclusive one inside the airport, where the coffee is priced higher than their outside joints. There was a dust-bin kept outside the shop and I was totally shocked to see the state (see the picture below).

This is the behavior of 'so-called' -- educated, elite, urban, upper-middle class people who are engineers, doctors, businessmen by profession. They can afford to pay 50 INR for a cup of coffee but can't think of disposing the used cup properly; They are representatives of new India and popularly known as 'Global Indians'; They visit multiple countries but just don't have basic civic sense when it comes to their own country; They make the westerners believe that the world is flat but still throw used coffee cups in a reckless, irresponsible way; They write software for Fortune 500 companies but can't even think of behaving properly;

Scene 2: The cafeteria at my workplace

I work for extended R & D arm of a global MNC and all the engineers sit in my floor work on next generation products. In the cafeteria the facility team kept three different bins (see the photo below) for disposing different kind of wastes -- tea-bags, organic and general waste. But still I haven't seen a single engineer placing right kind of garbage in appropriate bins. By end of the day, nobody can make out which bin is kept for what kind of garbage.

The idea of keeping different bins is to apply proper disposing methods. This is imposed by my organization worldwide to be a good corporate citizen by taking care of the overall environment. But still when it comes to India, everything goes for a toss due to the irresponsible behavior of these 'Global Indians'.

If the scene is pathetic in the so called 'Silicon Valley' of India (Bangalore), we don't have further discussions about the rest of India.

I now call India as 'garbage land' -- consisting of educated idiots!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

BOOK REVIEW : Only the paranoid survive

Author: Andrew S grove

Price: 600 INR

Andrew is one of the famous CEOs, who lead Intel into the path of microprocessors. In this book he shares his experiences, which can be applied to individuals’ career as well as organizations. Andy introduces a term called 'Strategic Inflection Points' (SIP), which has got equal probability to make or break any business. The businesses who adapt these SIPs (paranoids) will go successful, failing which will make them to shut the shop. He explains about how the businesses are affected by many factors which he calls as '10X' forces which primarily drive the organization beyond the SIP. These 10X force could be in the form of new technology, innovation, economic reforms, business model etc.

Throughout the book, Andy explains his SIP and 10X concepts with the PC business as an example. In 1970s the PC business was a 'vertical' one which was heavily dominated by companies like Digital Electronic Corporation (DEC). By 'vertical' he means that the hardware, OS, software, support will be provided by the PC manufacturer himself. Companies like DEC where pioneers of this vertical business model and no-one could even question their domination.

However the 10X came in form of two major innovations:

  1. Micro-processors: This innovation brought the computing to become de-centralized and the power shifted from mainframes to Personal Computers (PC). The cost of computing came down tremendously and lot of component manufactures (like memory, keyboard, disks etc...) emerged in the eastern world (Singapore, Malaysia, Japan etc..) from nowhere. Fueled by system integrators (like Compaq) the computing industry was going through 10X amount of change.
  2. Software revolution: The first innovation lead to the change in the way people perceive software. From the 'processor-tied’ approach the software became more of 'usage-tied' and Microsoft rode this wave big time. The perception of seeing software only as a 'freebie' with the hardware changed totally.

Now the only chance to stay in the business is to adapt to this change. Initially Intel was into memory chip manufacturing. When the 10X change happened in the computing industry, Andy made Intel to exit from the memory business and move to the microprocessor business. This caused what is popularly known as 'WINTEL’ phenomenon (Windows + Intel) and the rest is history.

After explaining this 10X, the author extends his discussion into people side. When such chance is going in the industry, its extremely challenging to change the mindset of the people and make them work in the new technology. This is mainly because people still 'perceive' that the old technology (say mainframes) will be alive and PC cannot change the world. Taking people through this change is very challenging for any leader and he calls such changes as 'death-valley'. He also talks about how important it is to listen to lower level employees, who he calls as 'Cassandra'. These Cassandra’s would bring informal but important information about the 10X well before it is understood by the top management.

I would rate this book as one of the classics which mixes Technology and Business very well. I would strongly recommend this book to anybody who is in the technology industry.

IT.India Part I : Offshore R & D

For the past month or so the Indian rupee is getting stronger against the American dollar, which has come down to 39 INR compared to 45 INR. This is already bleeding Indian services companies and their Q3 numbers speaks for that. When the rupee was getting weaker these service companies used to make 4-5% of their margins just by keeping their money in dollars and converting them back during the results announcement. Nowadays Indian service companies are mulling multiple options to resolve this problem -- six day working week, reduced hike for employees, productivity improvement, moving to lower cost geographies (like China and eastern europe) etc. With STPI tax sops are getting withdrawn by 2009, Indian IT companies are having challenging times ahead.

Let me take the example of product R & D happening in Indian companies as an example. Of course value creation can be done at multiple levels apart from R & D as well. Majority of MNCs which are having their engineering centers in India are working in the 'Offshore R & D' or 'Engineering services' model. In this model, the offshore team owns majority piece of the SW that goes as a part of the product and take the complete 'delivery ownership' from India. This is slightly better than the 'pure-vanilla-service' model which Indian service companies (like Infosys, Wipro etc..) are offering majorly.

To understand this slightly better, let me take 'Core vs Context' framework introduced by Geoffrey Moore's latest book 'Dealing with darwin'. Let us understand the four quadrants with
some new definitions:

Core: Processes that enable and amplify your chosen vector of competitive differentiation
Context: All other processes

This Core and context can be again classified on 'Mission critical' and 'Non-Mission-Critical' which leads us with four quadrants. See the picture below to get a better idea:

Indian service companies, which are offering 'pure-vanilla-service' come under the bottom right side of this model, which is popularly known as 'outsourcing'. There is very little value addition can happen here as it falls under 'non-core' activity.

The offshore R & D organizations are operating under the top-right quadrant. This means the activity is 'mission-critical-but-non-core' portion. For example: if a company is working on a enterprise router, the offshore R & D team can work on adding new features, maintaining the existing code and do some level of program management. From the business point of view this is critical, because the product is generating revenue for the company at present. In a way this quadrant is higher in the product value chain, but still it is not coming under the 'core' portion of the company's strategy. Because the work the offshore entity doing is not providing any 'competitive differentiation' to the parent company. On the other hand, the parent companies will place all the resources into developing core portion of the product.

Sitting in places like India, contributing into the 'core' portion is extremely difficult. Following are the major challenges Indian companies are facing now:

  • The offshore team is totally un-aware of the customer needs. They are far away from the customers and most of the technology products won't get deployed in countries like India. I won't see this changing in the near future because these 'emerging markets' need to mature a lot before they start adapting any new technologies. Except for the areas mobility I don't see any technology has taken off in countries like India.
  • The local job market is over-heated where retaining talent has become uphill task. Engineers jump jobs every 1-2 years and its very hard to build the product building expertise with this mindset. I have personally seen engineers dedicating 30 years in a same product and understanding 'nuts-and-bolts' it. Its very very hard to such stuff here.
  • The offshore leadership team is primarily grown in the engineering domain and lack business acumen. For example a second level manager don't have much idea about the big picture of the overall product. They only possess expertise in areas like: resource management, delivery management and to certain extent program management.

Now, how does the future looks from here on?

At one end its hard to imagine any US/UK based company to offshore the 'core' work because it doesn't make business sense.On the other end the offshore entity can't do much because they don't know the customer. In a way the 'offshoring' is stuck in top right portion (quadrant-III) of the Geoffrey Moore model. In my perspective, it will continue to stay there for a long period
of time until the local market gains significance. The local market growth will mainly depend on multiple factors like: Good governance, robust infrastructure, litracy and technology awareness. I would say the 'india-offshore-story' has just begun and it is foolish to start celebrations at this point in time. These companies have got to cover much more distance before they really achieve 'value creation'.

Monday, November 05, 2007

BOOK REVIEW : Wise and Otherwise

Author: Sudha Narayanamurthy


This book contains collection of short stories, which the author wrote in many newspapers and magazines. The author has traveled extensively to the rural parts of India where she met different type of people in India. She explains how people in rural India are having very high value system and leading a self-contained life. This book contains almost 50 small stories. Written in very simple English, this book explains the author’s experiences. Reading this book also gave me the background information of Infosys able to contribute to the society. Basically the author experienced everything, which made Infosys as a good corporate citizen.

However at some places, the author mixed too much of sentimental stuff which I didn't like it. Also at some places it became boring as it had similar kind of stories. I would strongly suggest to read this book if anyone is interested in doing charity in India.

BOOK REVIEW : Straight from the Gut

Author : Jack Welch
Price: 750 INR

This is autobiography of Jack Welch one of the very well known CEOs of the world. Initially the author talks about how he became the CEO of General Electric (GE) and talks some thing about his personal things as well. Things like 'Fix,sell or close' policy, which he applied to each and every divisions of GE, 'Churning bottom 15% people' has became alltime favorite of the business world. One simple lesson, which at least I learned from this book, is neither the organization nor the technology, will give lifetime employment for anybody in any hi-tech industry. Only working in a focused way for the customer will give that.

I got impressed with this book so much that I gave the same name to my blog :)

BOOK REVIEW : Count your chickens before they hatch

Author: Arindham Chaudhuri
Price: 200 INR

This is one of the best selling books in India. This book consists of two major sections. The first section is more of a ‘Self development’ stuff where the author talks about the ASK paradigm (Attitude, Skill and Knowledge) in order to raise any individual. The second sections talks about the theory ‘I’ management. The ‘I’ stand for ‘India Centric’ management. Particularly I liked the second section where the author mentions that the management policies in any country should be based on the social architecture. He compared the western and Japanese management and gives a proposal for India,which is quotes lots of examples from Mahabharata.

Tech/Biz Magazines

Here is some of my favorite magazines!

These mags are targeted to a specific audience, providing vital information. I started liking these type of stuff as they are catering to my interests. They also give altogether a 'positive' outlook of India.

1. Dare (http://www.dare.co.in): This is published by cyber- media completely focused on Entrepreneurship. They started the print edition from Oct '07 and the website is yet to be populated. Got a chance to read their Nov '07 and found it very interesting. It covered various aspects of Entrepreneurship -- new business ideas, VC/private funding, value creation and guest columns by successful Entrepreneurs. I also learned that their advisory committee consists of stalwarts like C.K.Prahlad, N.R.Narayana Murthy, Kanwal Reiki etc. Welcome effort from cybermedia!

2. Smart techie (http://www.thesmarttechie.com): This is a technical career magazine launched from Bangalore, which is a sister concern of Silicon India. I found this magazine provides very deep insights into interesting work some of the Indian companies doing. Also comes with loads of career related articles. Considering the young nature of technology industry in India, this magazine is very vital to bring in the proper exposure.

3. Mint (http://livemint.com): Launched as JV between Hindustan times and WSJ, this provides crisp business update. I got a chance to read their print edition when I visited Delhi during May, but recently they launched in Bangalore too. But I subscribe to their RSS feeds, found it pretty good to read. In a way this magazine lives truly up to its name 'Mint' -- Just digest it.

4. Business Gyan (http://www.businessgyan.com): Excellent magazine published out of Bangalore targeting small and medium businesses. I have read printed edition (digest) as well as RSS feeds. The 'classifieds' section of their printed edition gives very useful information about all contact details (legal, real-estate, website building etc...), which are the first set of elements to build a business ground up.

Friday, November 02, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Think and grow rich

Author: Napolean Hill

Price: 150 INR

Its been long time since I stopped reading motivational or self-help books. I used to read them during my school days to 'pep-up' myself during examinations.Recently one of my mentors requested me to read this book 'Think and grow rich' by Napoleon Hill and found it different from typical motivational books. The Author Napoleon came up with this book based on his 25 years of experience in studying success philosophy, inspired by Dale Carnegie.

This book consists of thirteen principles for becoming 'rich'. The author describes 'rich' not only in terms of accumulating material wealth but also in-tangible wealth -- in terms of success, accomplishment, love, peace, courage, purpose, happiness and contribution. To be very honest, I found the initial chapters as boring and it was covering typical motivational topics -- imagination, auto-suggestion, having a purpose in life, daily to-do list etc.

The later chapters got much more interesting when the author started focusing on real life examples and some philosophical explanations. In the chapter on DECISION, the example of Richard Henry Lee and his famous proposal to congress on June 7, 1776: 'That these United Colonies are,and of right ought to be,free and independent States' was good. The story followed after this proposal was quite inspirational and makes is really interesting to read. Followed by that I liked chapter 10, which talks about 'power of master mind'. The author defines the term of 'master mind' as: 'Co-ordination of knowledge and effort in a spirit of harmony between two or more people for the attainment of a definite purpose'. As the world is becoming more and more interdependent, it makes sense to collaborate with like-minded people to accomplish anything significant. In this chapter the author covers the power of coming together as each one in the team positively influence each other to achieve the common goal. Followed by that the author covers the 'infinite intelligence' which he defines it as: 'The source of knowledge experienced through creative imagination'.

The highlight of the book was chapter 13, THE BRAIN, which talks about the scientific aspects of human brain as follows:

'It has been determined that there are from 10,000,000,000 to 14,000,000,000 nerve cells in the human cerebral cortex and we know that these are arranged in a definite patterns. These arrangements are not haphazard. They are orderly. Recently developed methods of electro-physiology grow off action currents from precisely located cells or fibers with micro-electrodes amplify them with radio tubes and record potential differences to a millionth of a volt.

It is inconceivable that such a network of intricate machinery should be in existence of the sole purpose of carrying on the physical functions incidental to growth and maintainability of the physical body. It is not likely that the same system, which gives billions of brains cells that media for communication one with another, provides, also the means of communication with other intangible forces?'


This is one of the points where the author interfaces with the philosophy, from the motivational landscape. In my previous blog about 'personal experiences with yoga' I have experienced somewhat similar stuff the author is talking about.

Overall it pretty good motivational and philosophical book.

Yoga part II : Personal experiences

Its been two years I have been practicing Yoga. Typically I spend about 45 minutes which includes about 20 asanas followed by some pranayama breathing techniques. In this post I am sharing some of my personal experiences.

Its completely 'Experiential'

The first point I learned about Yoga is -- its completely experiential. No matter how many books, articles, blogs anyone read, it just can't even come closer to the real experience one gets while performing Yoga. Its hard for anyone to believe this as we are more used the traditional way of learning (reading/writing/sharing). For example, if somebody some information about a book, I will at least get 20% of what he is trying to say. The 20% can be "quantified" because the knowledge a book provides itself finite. In case of yoga, the paradigm is totally different as the performer is connecting to infinite knowledge within himself. I know I am sounding abstract and confused -- thats what I call it 'experiential'.

Out of the body experience

When continuously performing yoga over a period, I feel 'out of body' experience for a brief period of time. During this short duration I experienced the following:
  1. Breathing pattern comes into a particular rhythm
  2. The body becomes extremely light and feel as if I am a thread
  3. A very light amount of vibration/current throughout the body
  4. I could see myself as an external person and watch myself
These experiences are very much 'personal'.I don't want to give a philosophical or scientific explanation at this point in time (more on this later).

Feeling the 'oneness'

In my engineering days I have learned about Finite Automaton (FA) as a part of the computational theory. Basically the FA is a state machine consists of a finite number of states. On a state when a particular symbol acts, it transitions to a different state. This finite automaton is the basic model for computers and the brain also works in a similar model. According to my perception, I imagine brain as a Finite automata with 10 to the power of 15 states. When any external evenets (stimuli) occur on the brain, it moves to a different state by reacting. By doing yoga, it prepares us to react 'better' to these stimulis. This better reaction is seen in the forms of reduced stress, better concentration a nd higher energy. When I am in that 'better' state, I feel complete 'oneness' with the environment.

Learnings do happen internally

It is general view that we can only learn/perceive things though our five sensual organs. As a yoga practitioner I can definitely say, learnings do happen internally apart from the sensual organs. When an individual is connecting to his inner self tremendous learnings happens. This is mainly because one connects with the infinite world of inner imagination which normally we don't get oppurtunity to explore. I work as a firmware development engineer and couple of times I found solutions during my yoga session. I could really see the exact line in my C code and where exactly it needs to be fixed. Its hard to believe but trust me -- it happens!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Randy Pausch's last lecture

Want to get inspired? Watch the video of CMU professor Randy Pausch's last lecture below.