Thursday, April 26, 2007

Probity in Public Life

The lack of morality in public life is endemic to India and it cuts across political parties . The recent case of human trafficking conclusively is probably the nadir of probity in public life. Violation of a moral code of conduct is rampant before any large election in India and as expected the media reported cases of use of money and muscle power in the run up to the UP elections . However in spite of bringing all of these into the public eye , nothing much has been achieved , and hence it would be fair to conclude that the people are becoming indifferent to these issues , which raises a very important concern for all of us – “ Does apolitical public activism in India have a place in its democratic process” .

The reasons for indifference could be many, the ones that come to my mind are :

a) Where do I get data on where the money comes from and how is it used. It’s an impossible task to get it from the governments records
b) What can I do? , and more importantly how does it matter
c) Things cannot be changed , so why bother

These responses do not augur well for the democracy, and while I am sensitive to the fact that data is incredibly hard to get in India, but in this post, I am trying to build a case for apolitical public activism against issues of transparency and corruption in public life.

In this context it would be interesting to learn from US, which uses a combination of websites to bring in this transparency

a) – A comprehensive website which reports the where the money is coming from, where it goes to, who gets the money, there is data on each state as well

b) –This website provides the connection between money and politics in the state of California

c) Congresspedia- A citizen’s encyclopedia on the Congress which anyone can edit

These new tools provide unprecedented levels of transparency, and also expose patterns of influence that otherwise would have remained invisible.

Most of us are aware that the US model cannot be replicated in India in its totality , because of legislative issues which do not ensure that data regarding funding gets recorded in a structured manner and collated at a national level , hence we maybe far away from implementing something like at this point in time . However if the judiciary can embark on a well meaning judicial activism and take the first steps towards ensuring that there are processes wherein every political party discloses its cash receipts and payments and then the data gets uploaded in a website , we would have started in our journey towards transparency .This could be followed by a detailed statement of expenses of the MP’s funds ….over time it possible to get the data in a central website like and then let the citizens use the data to make more informed electoral choices …

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Neelabjo and I -Our early experiences with the Flat World

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My son Neelabjo was born in March 2002..... he has been the center of my World , ever since .In this post , I trace back some early memories , in the context of the world that had since then started to become flat.

Ferrero Roche and Mysore

My brother in law , a PhD student in the University of Norte Dame , came down to meet his tiny nephew (31 December 2002) .We were based in Mysore , and for him it was a mini vacation in a city that he had not seen before. Like all US based NRI's , my bro in law (Raja) was carrying a consignment of chocolates (boxes of Ferrero Roche, Hersheys et al...) . My wife loves chocolates and she picked up more than a fair share of the booty. Just to give you a context , my in-laws are a large ( actually huge..) family spread across Uttar Pradesh , with a huge chunk residing in Varanasi , Raja had bought chocolates based on reasonable estimates of consumption (even for gluttons) ......but after the dent made by his beloved sister , his stock was in bad shape .....Raja stayed with us for three days , and on the second day (2 Jan 2003) tiny Neelabjo figured out a large shiny box ....and somehow picked it up and started walking . It was a box of Ferrero Roche chocolates -a jumbo pack ....little Neelabjo wanted it for himself ........he held it tight and even slept with it .....Raja was in a serious soup , what does he tell the innumerable aunts , and uncles ....who were waiting in Varanasi for chocolates from "Amreeka" a gift from their "Videshi Bhatija" . Well Raja was thinking of some creative excuses and planning to blame the customs officers for their greed etc etc ....he had mentally written the script which sounded reasonably convincing. That evening , I took him out to a supermarket (well not exactly one ,but a big utility store called Nilgiris..) , and i got busy buying grocery.Suddenly , I hear Raja's voice "Jamaibabu , peye gecchi " (Brother- in law , got it..!!!) for a moment i was stunned , what has Raja found ???......... , why was he so excited...the suspense was over in a second ..Raja had found a packet of Ferro Roche chocolates in Nilgiris Mysore at to top it up , at an Indian price . Raja took me to the confectionery section of the store which had all kinds of packs of Ferrero Roche chocolates .....Raja bought half the store to make up for the damage that his sister and nephew had done to his stock ....he left Mysore hoping that there was no Ferrero Roche outlet in Varansi , and later on he confirmed that there were none there , at least not till early 2003...... the world was beginning to get Flat

Golf Kits and Mumbai

In October 2003 , I visited Raja in South Bent , a University town 120 miles off Chicago . Raja was joined by his fiancee Supriya (now his wife) for the weekend. On one Saturday , Supriya took me shopping to a nearby WalMart store . I went to the toys section and picked up a golf kit for Neeelabjo for USD 25 . It was a pretty neat thing , and i liked it very much .....i thought that if Neelabjo takes to such fancy sports , it would help him to become a CEO ...(I am told most CEO's play golf ) like a proud father of a future CEO , i took the golf kit back to Mysore ...and started giving Neelabjo golf lessons , he was big enough to walk unaided and I must confess that I was holding the golf club as a cricket bat ......We had a couple of golf sessions in the tiny play area of my apartment block . One day I was late from work and I saw something interesting , Neelabjo, his mom , a Coorgi kid and his mom were having a ball of a time playing a weird version of golf (but with two golf kits...) ....where did the next kit come from , surely this was not Ferro Roche that Raja could buy from Niligiris ...I went across to Mrs Carambaiah and asked her politely " has Mr Carambaiah been traveling lately ..", she said , "Yes , he had been to Mumbai and that's where he got the kit from ... and it cost him Rs 600.."

I lugged a golf kit across the Atlantic and thought that my son would be the sole proud owner of such a novel toy in all of India ....alas it was not to be in the Flat World ......

Jamaican Tiger

I am a slow learner , after the golf kit episode , I went to Jamaica for a consulting assignment . On my way back , I bought a Jamaican tiger ( a doll) for USD 30 . This was Feb 2004 , the same was available in Mysore for Rs plight with the Flat world continued

In conclusion

I love smoking , and i bought a lighter for 15 bucks a couple of weeks ago . I generally don't use a lighter , but i thought , why not buy those fancy ones....I used it for sometime and then it stopped working .....I went to the shopkeeper and complained to him and he without using the phrase , Flat World , said "China item sir , at China price, China quality.." , which essentially means enjoy it till it lasts .......I have stopped traveling abroad after I left Infosys which was three years ago and I am really happy that I am not buying stuff in US or Europe to find that the same stuff is sold in Mumbai or Bangalore for an India price ....Long live the Flat World ...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Yahoo vs Google - Yahoo earnings falls by 11%, Google expected to do well !!

A regular reader of my blog would know that I have been tracking the Yahoo vs Google story since April 11 , it all started with the announcement of the Yahoo-Viacom deal ....and this is the fifth post on the subject in seven days . In my post of 11 April , I had asked some strategy questions and and possible options that Yahoo had to challenge Google's supremacy . Yahoo's top brass has been focuses this year on Project Panama which is a overhaul of the company’s search advertising system, which would be similar to Google Adwords and hopefully increase revenue and close the growing gap with Google . Project Panama is a strategy implementation project and the others elements of its strategy were the content partnerships with Viacom and the collaboration with McClathy group of newspapers . If one were to look at the Q-1 results Project Panama has not delivered (not at least for the time being ) the net income for the first quarter fell 11 percent from a year earlier, while revenue, was up 9 percent. The Yahoo top brass in their guidance have said that the positive effects of Project Panama on Yahoo’s bottom line would begin to be felt later this year as the system is rolled globally. Is Project Panama, unique ? is it a good enough competitor to Goggle Adwords , these are million dollar questions .

On the contrary analysts say Google will do well in Q-1 ,

It seems round one goes to Google.......

Update on 20th April , Google profits go up by 69%

Outsourcing slowdown-Point -Counterpoint

Consulting firm TPI came out with an interesting set of statistics today ,that build on the outsourcing backlash theory. According to TPI the first quarter of 2007 has started with softening of IT outsourcing awards .

Contracts more than $ 50 million in the US has come down in number and value terms as compared to quarter one of 2006. The 27 contracts awarded in the Americas during the first quarter represented the lowest awards since 2001.According to TPI the trend in the Americas mirror a global slowdown . In this quarter 68 outsourcing contracts (more than USD 50 million) were awarded down from the 99 deal in quarter one of 2006.In addition to this the Total Contract Value (TCV) in this quarter was the lowest seen in any first quarter in the past five years , with the value of deals getting smaller in yearly USD terms . However the good news according to TPI is despite a slow start the overall projections of do show a modest growth in the annualized revenues for 2007 , as compared to the last year .

Implications for the Indian IT Industry

As I had reported earlier , the Indian IT industry is buoyant about its prospects and none of our leaders see outsourcing softening in the near term. However if the data that TPI presents is true , the implications on the industry , the stock market and the Indian economy is pretty severe and according to me they as follows :

a) Deals greater than USD 50 million are extremely important for the survival of the Indian IT sector ,the reason being , that these are multi year contracts and provide the stability and growth of the industry . One could infer that reduction in these deals would mean that
organizations are engaging in shorter-term deals with smaller contract values because they want best-of-breed solutions,” and TPI Managing Director Peter Allen says.....“We are advising our clients to strive to align their sourcing needs with their business strategies and to consider the maturity of the service provider marketplace.” This is a pretty significant change in the customer mindset , implying :

1. Need to start ramping up best of breed solutions (an area which is probably the greatest weakness of our industry...) , we have focused on scale and cost for too long and if the sudden shift happens from scale to IP lead solutions it might affect our ability to deliver and consequently revenue streams .

2. Global Delivery is not about delivering from multiple Indian locations a point I made in my post of 9 April , time to market and providing efficiencies (other than cost arbitrage is also important ..) . Infosys recently announced its multi million dollar expansion plan in Mexico which is a step in the right direction , but is Infosys a rare exception in creating a truly global delivery model ??

b) The Indian stock market as we are aware has a high weightage of the IT sector , an under performing IT sector would be disastrous for the economy as a whole and the Resurgent India story can come to a grinding halt.

As an Indian I hope things would improve from the next quarter and the confidence of the Murthy's , and the Ramadorai's of the world is reflected in the next quarters results ....and Alan Binder is proven wrong this space ....I am going to track this story as well ........

US Slowdown- Part 2

On 14 April , I had written about the possibilities of an outsourcing backlash , a point of view exposed by Alan Binder and Co and the same being negated by Friedman and the Indian IT services industry . Today Surya Surendran reports on the same issue in Moneycontrol . Surendran reports that the head honchos of the Indian IT services company think otherwise .His article mirrors the buoyancy of the Indian industry and the mood has been even more upbeat after HCL beat the markets expectations . I joined Infosys in the middle of 2001 and i remember that the market was very positive at that time and soon thereafter there was a great slump , we can simplistically attribute it to 9/11 , but am sure there were more factors to it.......are we reading some signals wrong .??.........

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Online Advertising - Yahoo responds

The battle for online advertising hotten's up every day . After Google's buy out of DoubleClick , its was interesting to see Yahoo respond today (17 April) with the announcement of its alliance with the McClatchy Newspaper chain and four other companies to its recently formed online ad-sharing network, this strength of the alliance includes 12 publishing companies, representing 264 U.S. newspapers, that are all set agreed to collaborate with Yahoo in selling advertisements and will feature Yahoo's search engine on their online editions, locking out Internet rival Google.

The recent war for online adverts started with the Viacom-Yahoo deal which I reported in 11 April , this was followed by the Google-DoubleClick deal on 15 April and the Microsoft anti trust motion against Google on 16 April . Within a week we have had 3 major deals and one anti-trust motion ...whoever though that the world was a dull place ....was WRONG.!!.... Frankly I was looking for a response from Yahoo particularily after the DoubleClick deal ...but was not anticipating it so fast ....seems like Yahoo has a well defined strategy to match Google blow by blow,..... which makes the story really fascinating . Now we have two sets of alliances (Google-DoubleClick combo vs Yahoo-Viacom-McClatchy) fighting for the USD 10 bn Internet advert market , I will definitely not hazard a guess on who will win eventually , but have a limited point to make ....the Google-DoubleClick deal gives Google a distinct advantage with introducing flash banner and video adverts while the Yahoo alliance is primarily strong in the text adverts arena ......whats next ....a billion dollar question ....whats Microsoft going to do it going to push the anti-trust issue against Google to nullify the DoubleClick deal this space for more updates ......

Monday, April 16, 2007

Online Advertising -Miscrosoft responds to the Google -DoubleClick Deal

Yesterday , I had reported about the Google-DoubleClick deal which was soon after the Viacom -Yahoo deal was sealed . Today Microsoft Corp has raised antitrust concerns...Brad Smith, General Counsel for Microsoft quoted in the Washington Post today .."By putting together a single company that will control virtually the entire market . . . Google will control the economic fuel of the Internet," .The response from Microsoft (... a losing participant in the DoubleClick bidding process) itself a veteran defendant of epic antitrust battles in the United States and Europe is indeed ironical ...does Microsoft has different standards for itself and others ...!!!

The real issue however could be that the online internet advertising market is witnessing a healthy 17% growth , making it a USD 10 billion industry today .The deal is definitely going to provide more completion and make the Internet more vibrant and content rich

It is interested to note the comment of Jordan Rohan an analyst with RBC Capital Markets quoted to the New York Times ....“Keeping Microsoft away from DoubleClick is worth billions to Google, .....Yet again, Microsoft is on the sidelines and away from the action.”

So is Microsoft genuinely interested on issues of monopoly and anti-trust ? or has it been completely outmaneuvered by Google .....only time will tell....

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Yahoo vs Google -Google buys DoubleClick

On 11 April , I had written about the Viacom-Yahoo deal and how it could potentially impact the online advertisement market . In the post I had analysed (to a certain extent) the implications of the Viacom-Yahoo deal and how the twosome were poised to take on the Google ecosystem . While writing the post , I was not aware that the online advert scenario would change so fast with Google announcing the purchase of Double Click for a sum of USD 3.1 bn yesterday -14th April . DoubleClick is primarily engaged in the delivery of Internet advertising with the provision of mobile marketing activities.This acquisition is in line with Google's strategy to expand its foothold in online advertising ,and transforming Google from a search engine to an advertising powerhouse . This deal is an interesting twist in the battle between Yahoo and Google for supremacy in the online advertisement market . The Google buy out of Double Click would mean that users like you and me would get more advertising tailored to their online habits, especially if DoubleClick and Google combine some of their huge databases of information on Internet use to direct specific ads to different Web surfers’ tastes.

Google, traditionally , has made most of its money in the online basics: the text-based search engine and small text ads , DoubleClick’s core strength, by contrast, lies in flashy banner ads and, more recently, video ads that are more like high-end magazine or television ads. This synergy is expected to up the quality of advertising content that Google was known for and hopefully enhance revenues .

As expected the sale of DoubleClick involved a complex and long negotiation that included at one point Yahoo, AOL and, most prominently, Microsoft, which has been trying to position itself as an advertising rival to Google.

The New York Times reports "....The acquisition will also strengthen Google’s position with respect to Yahoo, its chief rival in Internet search and advertising and a leader in the sale of display ads...".

How is Yahoo going to respond to the new challenge.........whats Yahoo's next move...keep watching this space for updates .....

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Outsouring Backlash- A Myth ? Friedman explains ...

About 3 weeks ago , I had an e-mail exchange with a former colleague and CEO blogger Basab Pradhan on online tutions . The context of the e-mail discussion was my first post on online tutions titled "Extending the Offshore model-Tutorvista .Basab had written to me about the possibilities of an offshore backlash creeping back in the US lead by noted economists like Alan Blinder (former Clinton economic advisor ) ......the notion of the downturn brought me back to 2001 -02 when the IT industry in India was hit it going to happen again was the question that I asked myself...I read up press clippings and interviews of Nandan Nilekani and the top brass at Infy and they seemed to say it was "Business As Usual" .....were we missing something !! .....i searched the net for possible clues which would give me a better handle of the situation and in this quest I found an interesting interview of Thomas Friedman by Yale Global editor Nayan Chanda. Chanda expressed his concern about Alan Binder's comment in the WSJ saying that 40 million American jobs are going to be lost due to outsourcing.....

Friedman opined that Binder knows that jobs will become fungible and flow to the point where it can be delivered most efficiently....this is bound to happen in the flat world ...The key question is how does the US cope with the job loss ...the answer partly lies in the interview that Friedman has given to Chanda and more details would definitely be available in the third edition of Friedman's book ...

For the time being it does not seem that the backlash is something that Indian IT services is really concerned about , Nandan , NRN , Kris and Shibu seemed perfectly calm in the CNBC boardroom interviews after the quarterly results of Infy were declared yesterday....despite Friedman's theories , and the buoyant mood of the captains of the Indian IT industry...I sincerely hope that we are not missing something here ......

Welcome to blogosphere my darling

Neelabjo, my 5 yr old darling , while watching an NDTV program on blogging tonight told me that he wanted to blog like daddy.......he said "baba ,we will have a blog together..." i was overwhelmed by his thought !!

It might take him at least another decade to blog ........but this post is dedicated to you my son ....a formal welcome to blogosphere...Neelabjo


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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Online Advertising -Yahoo vs Google

Yahoo will be remembered as one of the first Internet success stories which pioneered the search engine and online advertising , however in the recent past it has been totally eclipsed by its younger and formidable rival -Google . To an average Internet user like me , Google is now part and parcel of my life , ....when Google introduced Gmail with features which was not available with Yahoo, I shut down my Yahoo account , and after buying off orkut and blogger , Google actually locked me in as a user . The relationship with Google became stronger with Google AdSense , Google Analytics (I track the page views on my blog through analytics ) , Picasa , Google Earth and Google Desktop . As a former Yahoo user (and I have been one for many years) , these integrated services made my shift to Google seamless (I use my Gmail Id to log into orkut, G-analytics , G-AdSense, Picasa etc...). As a reader ,you would now be wondering that this post is a small lecturette on Google strategy and how it overtook Yahoo .......that is not the intention.....I would like to draw the attention of the reader on the new twist to the Yahoo vs Google battle based on Viacom advert deal , concluded yesterday .

In financial terms Google has left Yahoo far behind by becoming the Internet's largest advertising network, Google last year earned $10.6 billion (Net Profit $3.1 bn), compared with Yahoo's $ 6.4 billion (Net Profit $ 751 million) the profitability of Google is at 29% and the same for Yahoo is 12% .... Google's market value is $145 billion, compared with Yahoo's $43 billion...... The gap seemed to be too large to be bridged ...... as you logged into , you would notice these small text adverts on the right of your screen , similarly for Gmail .The Google dominance over Yahoo on the Internet advert business seemed complete till yesterday when the Viacom deal was announced .Viacom said yesterday that it picked Yahoo as its online advertising partner in a multi-year deal that could help Yahoo become a more formidable challenger to Google . Viacom with its suite of websites (,, ...) will provide a platform for the text adverts which Google dispalys through Gmail or an Orkut .

The deal seems formidable on paper and promises to help Yahoo to increase it's pie in the online advertising business , howver an the key question that comes to my mind is -

"How will it lock a user" to click on the advert only from Viacom's websites ?

In the case of Google , it provides an complete suite of services which are based on a single login , and therefore a typical user is locked into the world of Google . These dedicated users click on the small text adverts and with Google's alliances with MySpace and AOL makes it an interesting eco-system to combat ...and this raises the follow up question , which is :

Does the Viacom-Yahoo deal make the twosome an advertising ecosystem which has the scale and muscle to take on Google ?

I don't have the answers but hopefully somebody in Yahoo Inc does , it would be interesting to follow the Yahoo vs Google battle and the dynamics of the Internet advertising industry .

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Blogging Facilitating democracy ??- Case # Pakistan

The Washington Post carried an article on March 8 , 2006, titled Pakistan's Blog Blockade. The reason for the blanket ban on blogs was ,that a few of them displayed the infamous Danish cartoons of the prophet which many Muslims regard as blasphemous. Amongst the sites blocked were which hosted hundreds of Pakistani blogs. To me the blogosphere is similar to a virtual democratic institution, wherein common citizens can express their point of view on topics close to their heart... . I would like to believe that blogging is a process which strengthens civil society and enables healthy exchange of ideas (provided blogs are not used to generate a hate campaign or treason ...) , .....what I failed to understand was the rationale for a blanket ban on the basis of the fact that some blogs might have contained objectionable content .I had read about this in 2006 and was of the opinion that nothing much can be done in cultures where freedom of expression is not valued.....however today I read another article which makes me feel much better....the article is a discussion with Mohammad Khan a local blogger . The discussion with Khan revealed that its now possible to openly critique the government; take stances against religious fundamentalists....... apparently Pakistanis were allowed to surf the net freely till early 2001 ....that changed in April, 2003, when the Pakistan Telecommunication Company began restricting blasphemous websites at the ISP level...things may have changed for the better and as Khan narrates its a freer press now .

As Indians we have many complaints about our nation, complaints about its infrastructure , about its civil amenities , its politicians the extent that we enjoy in bashing everything about India ....but after having read this blog post don't you think that we are blessed being Indians , at least nobody stops us from expressing anything in blogosphere ....and the next time when we complain about the lack of "blah...blah.." in India , think about the little mercies of our democracy ....and lets start to learn to value them

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Survival Mantra for Indian IT/ITES industry in the Flat World is Global Delivery and not delivering from India ??

There might be many definitions of the Flat World, the one that I connect to most is “a flat world is a place, where goods and services are produced in location(s) where its cheapest and most efficient to produce and sold in locations which are most profitable…”. This definition would be the one that the Indian IT/ITES industry would be happiest about…after all we continue to be a low cost producer of IT and BPO services .

However there is a twist to the definition, ….as an Indian you might want to believe that offshoring to India will continue unabated because of the labor arbitrage.......unless we pay heed to the latest trends in the BPO sector . The research done by Sujay Chohan and Robert H Brown of Gartner opines that the distinction between onshore (services delivered in the country where the contract is signed) and offshore (services delivered from a country other than the country where the contract was signed) is increasingly becoming irrelevant as “offshore providers” move outside their home countries and set up global delivery centers and as “onshore providers” set up centers in low-wage countries. This trend is also driven by the need to outsource increasingly complex processes that are end to end, encompass several countries and touch the client's various locations. This would mean that the relevance of India as the best offshore location automatically comes down and the shift from offshoring to India to global delivery is distinct and is borne out by data. Indian service providers like Wipro , WNS, Infosys BPO(formerly Progeon) , HCL , TCS, Genepact, Hinduja -TMT and Transworks have acquired or set up delivery centers in several countries to serve their clients onshore and offshore . The Aditya Birla Group's take over of Minacs and consolidating its ITES business as a combination of Transworks-Minacs gives it an automatic global delivery footprint (Minacs had many non-US delivery locations)

According to Gartner by 2008, most successful BPO service producers will have service delivery centers (not just sales offices) in at least 3 countries

a)An onshore location (typically where the contract is signed)
b)An offshore location (country where the company is headquartered)
c)An additional delivery location independent of these two categories

Now that I have put the offshore versus Global delivery in some perspective, I would like to draw your attention to the parallels in the IT services space. Infosys takes pride in its Global Delivery Model (GDM) , which was for many years delivery out it's various Development centers in India , till it set up some small PDC’s (or Proximity Development Centers) in UK , New Jersey and Canada. This was pretty much the trend till 2004 (delivery primarily out of India , with a few PDC’s onshore ) ,but with the setting up of Infosys China which has a significant workforce is also a strong step in the direction of the “true GDM” . What is happening in the BPO space is also being replicated in the IT Services sector albeit a bit slow. Therefore it would be safe to say that the flat world is not a place where an Indian service provider can survive by delivering from offshore …it is time to go global ….. . The process of going global requires developing new mindsets and new skills …the automatic question is what are these? ….I did not have answers till I chanced upon a speech at IIM-B given by the leader whom I admire most ,Nandan Nilekani . In his speech at IIM-B,Nandan talks about the a new hybrid manager – the ‘Versatilist’.

I am not saying that this post is a wake up call for the Indian IT/ITES industry but I would like to leave my reader with a thought that global delivery is indeed a reality and it is imperative to look at it with a heightened sense of urgency and not be satisfied by servicing customers from Indian locations alone......

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Interview with K Ganesh-CEO , Tutorvista-Extending the offshore services model

On 27th March , I had written about Tutorvista and how it has extended the Offshore services business to education services . At the end of the post , i had promised an interview with K Ganesh -CEO and the conceptualizer of the education services business . Ganesh was travelling and in spite of his hectic schdule has given this interview exclusively for my blog .

Profile of K Ganesh

Ganesh is currently CEO and Founder of TutorVista ( ) – a new consumer Internet company in education services space that aims to bring twenty first century technology to education space by combining content, scientific pedagogy and on-line teaching.
He is in the panel of Venture Advisors of UTI Venture funds and a charter member of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs).

His last venture, CustomerAsset was started in mid 2000 to address the international Call Center / BPO Sector. In May 2002, ICICI (NYSE listed, India’s largest bank) acquired CustomerAsset for over $ 22 Mn Post the acquisition, Ganesh headed the Contact Center Business as President, ICICI OneSource handling over 4000 people and annual revenue of $ 30 Mn.The company now renamed FirstSource is publicy listed in India.

Apart from founding and successfully growing the three ventures, Ganesh has worked as CEO of Bharti British Telecom – a British Telecom JV in India and in HCL Ltd., where he held several key managerial positions.

Ganesh is a post-graduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta.

Question 1: When was TutorVista started? How did it come about?

It was started in July 2005. The service for US went live in November 2005 , for UK in July 2006.It came about when I was in US in early 2005 and realized that one of the top two topics of maximum concern to US citizens was - education and healthcare. Everyday I could see in media and newspapers education crisis was being discussed at length. The need for a solution to the education problem coupled with the fact that advancement in Internet , broadband penetration made it possible to offer mass market , affordable solution to solve the problem.
There is a full-blown education crisis in US as evidenced by declining test scores, low global rankings of US students in Math and Science, poor graduation rates, lack of basic reading and writing skills, and other well-reported problems. This situation has been reached because of a lack of opportunity for students to get personalized help at affordable rates and convenient place and time.Lack by parents and students, shortage of teachers especially in Math and Science, inadequate funding at school level, etc. The federal government has woken up and realized that US cannot remain competitive globally unless education is fixed; thus the billions being pumped into the NCLB program. Private individuals like Bill Gates, Fortune 500 companies and others are also actively trying to mitigate this situation.

The topic is such a hot one that George Bush in his last State of union address talked about it, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation are spending huge resources in this area (latest Business Week cover story), Oprah Winfrey latest show was on education: all across various media – lots of articles about federal government funding for education, current crisis state of affairs in education…

Question-2 How did you ensure that the transfer of learning in an offshore model, is as effective as a face to face tutoring session

Right from Day 1, we hired a US expert who spent 6 months here in Bangalore, used lot of customer feedback, improved step by step. Lot of resources is available on Internet. Our President Dr.John Stuppy has over 15 years experience in US test prep and Tutoring field. He brings the domain experience and knowledge. Also unlike many other companies, we sue Voce over IP and not just text chat to make the experience a real one,

Question -3: From a learning pedagogy standpoint I would assume that yours would be different than the classical face to face approach, it would be great if you could elaborate on the differences

Actually main difference is in the US/UK and Indian system of education that makes the pedagogy different. In India we learn by rote, repetition while in US they learn more by example, experience. This is something we cover in the training with the Tutors who are all great but are used to the Indian system. For e.g. we start with a formula, define the formula, then the law or theorem and finally give examples. In US they will start with four examples or illustrations, warm up to the concept, then slowly introduce the principle and finally the formula.Face to face vs. online is also covered in detail in training – tutors are taught to use the power of technology, use animations, content, interactive to make the learning better

Question -4: How do you ensure that your tutors are fully aware of the requirements of the local school district and use appropriate teaching material during a session?

This is part of the training and certification we do.

Question -5: Your model seems to be an extension of the offshore model that the IT service industry in India has pioneered, however if there are some differences , would you like to highlight some of them

The business model at one level is similar but there are significant differences.

1. Unique example of creating an Internet company in education services space. The web has seen ecommerce, search, content and community sites but this is the one of the first services website where a valuable service (tutoring) is being done over the web.

2. TutorVista is the first B2C company focused on the US market from India. Till now, all successful business models were B2B companies from India focusing on US companies. We target the consumer directly; sell to them directly from India. Will this be the start of non-US companies using the web to sell to US consumers directly?

3. TutorVista is in the new wave of Web 2.0 leveraged start-up

So the fact that we use tutors working from home , can scale without having to build centers , bring people to one place makes scalability easier than T/ It services. But, compared to pure portal or content play scalability will be limited. But compared to IT/ITS/BPO etc this is far more scalable. For example when one of our students from US wanted to learn Chinese, we got him a tutor from Hong Kong within a week! We have tutors in 23 cities in India + a few in other countries

Question-6: Are there any US/UK government regulations that have an impact on your business and if so what are these regulations

No, there are no regulations. But for getting Government funded, supplemental tutoring contracts which are awarded through states – some state s have requirements like Tutors have to have a social security number, FBI background check etc which we cannot do. But this does not affect us since we do not go after Government funded market but focus on tutoring funded by the parent / student / school

Question -7 :What is the future of this industry? Any predictions on growth pattern?

The online education industry is huge. The size is over $ 16 billion. Of this we are addressing the supplemental education or assisted learning market which will be around $ 8 billion.
With advancement in Voice over Internet technology, higher broad band penetration, lowering of PC prices this is set to explode. of Technology and politics

I had recently written about the use of social networking sites as a potent tool for political campaigns . In that post , I had opined that technology would change the process of political campaigns to a large extent and also had done some crystal ball gazing on its possible implications in the Indian context . While writing the post , I was not alive to the fact that I would have to continuously sharpen my point of view on the subject (in less than a week) , this post is an update to the original post on technology as a flattner in the political campaign process .

In this post I focus on which is one of the most widely used social networking sites in the US . MySpace has launched MySpace Impact, a site featuring MySpace pages for 2008 elections. Candidates like Senators Hillary Clinton of NY, Barack Obama of Illinois, Joe Biden of Delaware, John Edwards of North Carolina, Rudy Giuliani and MA Governor Mitt Romney all have pages in MySpace. Check out Barack Obama's MySpace profile and meet his 13,710 online friends , sample his campaign materials and YouTube vidoes...try it , its really amazing ....

If Obama's profile amazes you , check out Hillary Clinton with her 33,373 frineds and her campaign materials (T shirts , bags & stickers al)

MySpace has 64.4 million unique visitors from the US and has the potential to play a major role in the presidential polls of 2008. MySpace users represent 37% of all Internet users in the US. In addition the site heavily attracts people in the ages 18-24, an age group which would hardly go to other political sites. In addition to this MySpace plans to hold a mock virtual elections .

Though the MySpace votes won't count for the official election, but results compiled from the social-networking site's millions of members would help the candidates to gauge their potential success in real voting booths next year. They also may provide a glimpse into overall public sentiment for the politicians.

The Indian context

Yesterday , I was watching an India TV pre-poll discussion which featured a prominent psephologist and Mr Amar Singh of the SP and Mr Arun Jaitley of BJP . The debate was around the pre-poll survey for the UP elections done by the IndiaTV team and the analysis of the same . Both the political leaders presented their points of view and were obviously defensive when the facilitator Rajat Sharma projected a dim future for both the parties in the forthcoming polls (based on the survey). In many such pre-poll survey discussions , I have heard politicans dismiss the methodology of the survey , the appropriateness of the sample size and the projections that the psephologists make based on a representative sample .Imagine if there was a option in India (and notwithstanding the fact that the electoral process in India is fundamentally different from the US) ,many of the complaints that the politicans have on the survey methodology can be eradicated and hopefully would a much better way to gauge the sentiment of the electorate .

I am sure one could argue that the PC and Internet penetration in India is too low to facilitate something like impacting the electoral process ...while there might be some truth in that argument ...but there is a work around for this as well. Yesterday I discovered that Orkut has a "Create Polls" option wherein community members and others can vote on a particular subject. A community member can create a poll say " Whats the prospect of the BJP in the forthcoming UP election" , and based on the responses , BJP can get a quick and dry dip stick survey on how it would be faring....and that too for free .....

Yet another example of the convergence of technology with the democratic process .....the world is really becoming Flat , isn't it !!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Flat World-It's unintended consequences

I have been thinking and writing about the Flat World for almost three months now , profoundly influenced by Thomas Friedman’s work . However , we the Flat-world types need to also explore the unintended consequences of the Flat World which has been captured rather well by Shreyasi in her post . The instances like the North Korean interception , the Bali bombings rightly exemplify the geo-political consequences of the Flat World .

In addition to her article , a similar post by Pashos Mandravelis draws the connection between technology and terrorism . I was alive to the consequences of the Flat World , but after reading these two articles (by Pashos and Shreyasi) , my concern over the consequences of the Flat World has been heightened and my key concerns are as follows :

The people who bear the consequences of technology applications for terrorism are in most cases those who are in the bottom of the globalization food -chain - "The Common Man". Does the common man have a say on what technologies are dangerous and can he prevent these technologies reaching the terrorists - my suspicion is a big NO , technology is after all knowledge and knowledge cannot be stopped with wired fences the common man has to suffer as new technologies and processes which are flattening the world also find some applications to spread terror and death ......

The developed nations are the early beneficiaries of the Flat World , and within the developed nations , the wealthy .......these are the people who put Podcasting to meaningful use , travel across the world and use google as an information mining tool et al ....but they are a very small fraction of humanity ...the question that I would leave you with is

If the Flat World does not lead to inclusive development ( I am sure it eventually will , but the process might just be too slow and the sharing of economic benefits maybe skewed disproportionately to the wealthy nations ...) , then why do we need a Flat World ...what good is it , if it cannot lead to common good for the greatest number .....??

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