Thursday, May 31, 2007

Park Belapur@ Navi Mumbai

I came to Mumbai in June 2004 to work for the Aditya Birla Group . Prior to moving into Mumbai , I lived in a Mysore . Mysore has and very special place in our lives , our son Neelabjo was born there and the city was wonderful , calm , serene and away from the hustle and bustle of a metro. The city completely spoiled us and made us incapable of living in a big city. While I was contemplating the Aditya Birla offer , the thought that struck me and Sona was whether we could survive in the mad rush of Mumbai , soon to realized that I would be working for the Group's Corporate Learning Center based in Navi Mumbai . I made a short visit to Navi Mumbai and was impressed by the civic amenities , the roads and the green zones. I took up the job and decided to stay near my place of work , I started living next door to my office and in 2005 moved to my own place in a nodal town called Nerul 5 kms from work .

My upwardly mobile friends and acquaintances refer to Navi Mumbai as a "Gaon" (village) , the thoroughbred Mumbaikar looks at me quizzically , when I proclaim that I am a proud citizen of Navi Mumbai -to them Navi Mumbai is a remote outpost of humanity abode for losers like me . Most of my Mumbaikar friends (some wannabes) live in extremely populous areas in the Western suburbs and enjoy that ....each to his own I guess

At times , I had felt a need for a good hotel or a disco and if I ever had a complaint against Navi Mumbai , it was that it did not have a classy joint to hang-out on weekends . Not any longer .....the Park Belapur is a wonderful solution to the only grudge that I had ....

The five-storey Park is metropolitan and modernist. The grounds are small - a stylish terrace with dip pool.It takes a fraction of a second, walking into the Park Belapur to register that the place is chic. Only later do you realize that it has seduced all five senses subtly . Tucked away from the main roads and a frontal view of hills , Park Belapur leaves you de-stressed the moment you walk in . I decided to celebrate my wedding anniversary in the Park , they have a very good buffet package. Knowing Renu Kakkar (VP- Communications and Technology) helped, Renu put a good word for me and family . The people in Park was amazing , Neelabjo loved the dip pool and like daddy wanted to drink Bacardi by the poolside (he settled for coke ...pic above) , he watched a kid movie in the makeshift theater and now he wants to go there every Sunday . Kanupriya and team sprung a good surprise for Sona and me , they had a cake , a huge card and a bouquet for my wife . The food was good , and am sure it will get better ...overally a world class experience in a "gaon"...I would urge all Mumbaikars to come by on their way to Lonavla and check Navi Mumbai and Park Belapur out ......

Read Google Offline !!- Google Gears

While loading Google Reader tonight , I noticed that a link called "Offline New" (see screenshot above ...pointed arrow) , as I clicked on the icon , it discovered that Google has been working on new open source program called Google Gears which allows web applications to run offline . I can see myself using it when I travel to read my RSS feeds offline . The company believes that in the long-term, Google Gears can help the industry to move toward a single standard for offline capabilities that all developers can use. Google Gears is a fantastic idea which addresses a major user concern, the availability of data and applications when no Internet connection is available, or when a connection is slow or unreliable. Google Gears works with all major browsers on all major platforms such as Windows, Mac and Linux....keep going google ....

Enhancing Competitive Advantage when the going is good-Google Universal Search

Yes , yet another post on Google ...however the context is slightly different . We all know the absolute supremacy of Google in the search business, 65% of the market share (its nearest rival Yahoo at 28%) , and its competitive posture threatening the very existence of the core business of Microsoft . From a strategy standpoint one would argue that Google's top management bandwidth would entirely be diverted to building the online advertisement business , so that it can gradually consolidate its current leadership position and gain a significant market share of an industry which is growing at a CAGR of 25% . Most companies don't revisit winning strategies when the going is so good (in cricket most captains don't like to change winning teams ..) . However Google has launched the "Google Universal Search" which is the largest revision of their search engine in the last 2-3 years . One understands that search is the core of the existence of Google and therefore revisions to the search process is part of their technology strategy , but there are only a few cases in business history where an organization pays so much attention to a service or product that is already far ahead of its competitors . That's what makes Google such a special company........

Additional Resources : Google universal search implications

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bheja Fry-Movie Review

Bheja fry literally means the “racking brains” which aptly describes the state of arrogant businessman Ranjeet Thadani (Rajat Kapoor) when he met wannabe singer Bharat Bhusan (Vinay Pathak) .

Bheja Fry is a story of a group of high society men who organize talent dinners every Friday night. In these dinners, the rich men get idiots whose naiveté is in display , the group of men derive joy from the performances of these idiots and the best of the lot (most idiotic performer wins)

Bharat Bhusan is one such idiot who Ranjeet Thadani discovers and wants to bring to the Friday party . He invites Bharat to his house for a sampler of his talents and is adequately amused by his (Bharat’s) antics. Ranjeet’s wife Sheetal (Sharika) detest her husbands nasty ways of deriving fun and leaves the house in disgust and protest . Further to complicate matters Bhusan has to manage complicated human processes when a lot of unexpected guests drop by. The guest list included Ranjeet’s girlfriend (Bhairavi Goswami) , Sheetal’s former lover (Milind Soman ) ….and the drama that unfolds is fascinating and humorous .

Overall Bheja Fry does not impress by its technical finesse , the screenplay is reasonably shoddy and the work of all the actors is pretty pedestrian . The entire essence of the film lies in its well thought out script, this film is a great example of how a well conceived script and wittily penned dialogues can make an average film look good

For me , Bheja Fry belongs to Vinay Pathak (Bharat Bhusan) . In this film he emerges as one of the finest comic talents of the country . His demeanor , vocabulary, dialogue delivery and his goof ups make up for uninspiring performances of his co-actors . Overall an average "time pass" film

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The battle for "Search" , Microsoft vs Google an online technology magazine reported in March 19, 2007 that Microsoft has decided to leverage its global base of Windows users and to give cash incentives to switch from Yahoo or Google search engines to Windows Live Search . These cash incentives are however not available to individual users , but to companies who have thousands of installed PC's . Microsoft’s new program is called “Microsoft Service Credits for Web Search has already been rolled out . At the time of the launch of the scheme Microsoft had a minuscule 6% share of the search business wherein Google commanded more than 50% . Microsoft believes that the new scheme would make a big difference to its fortunes in the search business. However according to another report recent , Microsoft lost ground in the search business in April this year. Its market share slipped to 9% to 10.1% in the month of April (though it grew 4% approx in the first quarter of 2007) . Correspondingly Google witnessed a growth of 1.5% and Yahoo 1% . Google now commands almost 55% of the search business , clearly a leader ....... . As we know Google is continuing its onslaught on the Microsoft citadel with Writey and Spreadsheets growing in stature .It would be worthwhile to examine whether Microsoft's recent aggression in the online advertisement business and its focus on the Windows Live search engine is good enough to put brakes to the great Google story ....

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Battle for Online Advertising -Microsoft makes its first major move

Since April this year I have been covering the battle for the Internet advertising market in this blog . I started the "Yahoo vs Google" section of this blog in April 11 with the Viacom -Yahoo deal , wherein Viacom chose Yahoo as its Internet advertising partner . Soon thereafter came the Google-DoubleClick deal which threatened to change the dynamics of the industry . This deal ensured that Google -a leader in the Internet search and text advert business build strategic capabilities in the graphic and banner advert segments. Yahoo responded soon enough through alliances with the McClathy newspaper group and acquisition of Right Media . While Yahoo and Google have been in the media for acquisitions and alliances for the a month and a half , Microsoft has not been sitting quite either . It was one of the participants in the DoubleClick sale process , and there has been talks of a Microsoft -Yahoo merger to try and halt Google's juggernaut .

The core objective of this frenzy has been to "build relationships (alliances) or invest in technology that can deliver the right advert to the right person at the right time across myriad online sites" . 18 May was another new height in this frenzy when Microsoft announced its intention to buy online advertising company aQuantive for a staggering USD 6.1 bn . This is the single largest Microsoft acqusition and signals its intent to build an Internet advertising business on its own . According to estimates the online advertising market in the USA is expected to be in the range of USD 29 -31 bn by 2010. The Microsoft -aQuantive acquisition is a deal which not only signifies Microsoft's serious intent to build its Internet advert business, but is also a very critical strategic move to protect its core software business . Google, the current leader in the online advert business is making inroads into traditional Microsoft territory by offering word processing and spreadsheets (Google spreadsheet, Writey) free . Therefore it is critical for Microsoft to de-risk its portfolio by getting into a new line of business and also protecting its tradional castle from the Google onslaught.

Keep watching , perhaps its time to start a separate section in this blog titled "Microsoft vs Google- The Clash of the Titans"......Yahoo has been left far behind.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Blogs Enhancing Customer Experience

Yesterday , I had an opportunity to be part of a short lecture session delivered by Prof Venkat Ramaswamy co-author with the celebrated CK Prahlad of "Future of Competition " . I had met Venkat before and was fascinated with his concept of Experience Co-Creation . The central idea of Experience Co-Creation (as i understand it ) is :

1.Businesses build processes to service the customer better , ...however these processes often become so rigid that instead of serving the customer it becomes counter productive .

2. Customer engagement is important in all businesses , its important to recognize it and proactively engage the customer to create pragmatic processes which are contextual and customised .

3. Customer surveys generate a lot of data , but not necessarily insights , and therefore its imperative to build direct channels of communication with the customer

The theme of this post is based on point 3 above , and elaborates how blogging is a great medium of creating a channel of communication with the customer

Jeff Jarvis and the Dell Story

In early 2005 an irate Dell customer Jeff Jarvis resorted to blogging to tell the world about his harrowing experience with Dell .His quest to fix his US 1600 Dell machine , included countless unanswered e-mails and lengthy phone calls to the Dell helpline . An agitated Jarvis started his blog Buzz Machine in July 2005 to tell the world his story and build support for his cause against Dell. As you would expect a large and successful corporation like Dell would believe that this would be one of those freak cases which would they could get away by simply ignoring it . The blog stuck a chord with other Dell customers and according to Intelliseek by August 2005 his blog had approximately 10,000 daily visitors .Matt Gallaway documents the extent of blog bitching in his post after Jarvis complained about his Dell experience . He got a refund August 22 , but from then on Dell started in its journey of transformation using blogging as a tool .

The Dell Blog

Dell realised that for a custom build product , its important to have a structured channel of communication with its customer community and launched its own blog called Direct2Dell. The blog is a process where Dell understands its customers better and uses the data received from its customers to enhance the customer experience. It has appointed a Chief Blogger and has also invited Jeff Jarvis as part of their advisory committee.

The Take Away

Most organizations do customer surveys and brand studies and at the end of it all build processes to delight the customer . Unfortunately these processes become rigid over time and do not produce the desired results . Venkat talked about a very simple experience which many of us must have had with Jet Airways . Often when I take late night flights back to Mumbai , I prefer taking a close nap after dinner is served , its a personal preference ...However within approximately 5 minutes of dozing off , I am woken up by a air-hostess saying "Sir , tea or coffee..." and there goes my hope of a peaceful nap . Now if Jet was sensitive to the fact that some of its customers may not like to be disturbed in night flights , they could simply ask and leave the poor customer alone......but alas the in flight customer service process does not give that freedom to the crew.

As I mentioned earlier customer data often gets misrepresented in surveys , and surveys are not good to capture qualitative feedback......blogs are journals of real experiences of customers which are frank , forthright and direct. Blog entries are not like numbers which can be interpreted in multiple ways most of the blogs you will find customers giving the company , pragmatic and easily implementable solutions the company gets free consulting . In addition , the company creates an engagement process with the customer community which helps build brand loyalty and brings in more customers ........blogging makes great business sense .....India Inc are you hearing ...!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Internet Captures 50% of Spare Time

Broadband users spend almost half their spare time in a typical weekday online, according to Media-Screen's "NetpopPlay" report.

read more digg story

Gains in US Education ??

The US system of public education was founded with the twin goals of preparing each generation for the workplace and active citizenship . A report published today demonstrates that the system has lost sight of educating the citizen in favor of the worker.

read more digg story

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rising Wages not the only threat to Indian offshoring economics

The debate in the Indian IT off shoring world has been the impact of rising wages . This post debunks that argument and opines that the wage differentials are still high not to impair the whats the real on .....

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Talent Trap -The Cost of India's Development

This article describes how best of India's college grads are being attracted to KPO jobs and not pursuing higher education. As a consequence of this phenoumena the county is losing its talent pool to the KPO industry. To make matters worse the KPO industry is yet to develop good Talent Management practices and thereby these young kids do not have long term career prospects

read more | digg story

Spider-Man 3 Earns $622 Million In First 10 Days

Spider-Man 3 took in another $60 million domestically (4,252 theaters), for a worldwide total of 145.5 million. That’s a lot of cash, not enough to break the record, but instead coming in at the fourth biggest biggest second weekend and fourth fastest movie to hit $200 million in the States.

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Yahoo Sued for defective Ad System

A class action lawsuit has been launched against Yahoo claiming it mislead investors that its new ad system would make more money.

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Orgoo - The Web Email/IM Replacement

If you are looking for a service-independent webmail/IM service, you’ll want to check this out.The key difference between Orgoo and the major Internet webmail services (Gmail, Yahoo, Live Hotmail, AOL) is that it also integrates instant messaging from all major providers.

read more digg story

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

US Military blocks popular websites in war zones soldiers forced to cut ties from home

On 5 April , I had written about the convergence of technology and politics and how websites like were being used as potent communication tools by the US Presidential poll candidates . At that time accounted for 37% of the Internet traffic of the US and more than 64.4 million unique American users . Since then has continued its consolidation as one of the premier social networking sites . While the context of my post of 5 April was as a channel for distribution of political content , it also fulfills a very important social connectivity need . Today , the Washington post reported about the ban of and 11 other such sites , by the US military in war zones . The American Defence establishment's rationale was to free up precious bandwidth in the battlefront for mission critical operations . One really cant fault the military rationale of this argument however it is also important to consider that networking sites provide a great medium for the war torn soldier to connect with friends and family . In its attempts to optimize bandwidth the US Army is perhaps insensitive to the affective needs of its soldiers there a need to balance two conflicting needs ....bandwidth optimization and the social needs of the soldiers........... Hillary Clinton has more than 30,000 friends in Myspace , and am sure Uncle Sam's soldier is also entitled to remain connected with his friends ,a perk that he rightfully deserves for fighting mindless wars for Bush Jr !!

Life in a Metro-Film Review

"Life in a metro” is a conglomerate film , it is an amalgamation of 4 distinct love stories put into one , integrated by love , lust , sensitivity and deceit which runs as common themes in all 4 sub-stories

Director Anurag Basu proves for the third time (after Murder and Gangster) that he's an extremely engaging storyteller. The complexities in relationships, the shortcuts one adopts in life to attain the goals and the decadence of ethics and values have been portrayed lucidly

In spite of the drama, the concept and the music, Metro falls short of being what I call a best selling movie (if there was a phrase like that) , thanks to the choice of Dharmendra and Nafisa Ali as one of the couples in the love quadrangle.

Neha (Kangana Ranaut) and Ranjeet (Kay Kay Menon)

Ranjeet is a typical upwardly mobile Mumbaikar who is in this unending quest for money and success .He has forgotten his loving wife Shikha (Shilpa Shetty) and has found solace and physical gratification in his colleague Neha .Neha uses Ranjeet to scale the corporate ladder in a very short time and, using his lust for her as a lever . The physicality of the relationship and the commercialization of values stand out as an important lesson for the viewers, and conclusively prove that success can be achieved through short cuts.

Shikha (Shilpa Shetty) and Akash (Shiney Ahuja)

Akash a struggling theatre actor, chances upon Shikha and they bond very soon. Shikha neglected by an indifferent husband Ranjeet and bogged down by the drudgery of household chores finds a soul mate in Akash . There love story is one of sensitivity, caring, mutual respect and understanding, and when Shikha almost crosses the limit, her values pull her back……..

Shruti (Konkona Sen Sharma) and Debu (Irrfan Khan)

Shruti, in her early 30s and still a virgin, she's desperate to get married. She is dreamy eyed about her RJ, Wishy K [Gautam Kapoor]. She meets Debu through a matrimonial site. Debu is a typical wannabe, unsophisticated, loud, vernacular male who is best described with his crassy jokes and lecherous glances …..Shruti hates Debu and as the drama unfolds gets to know him better and finally falls in love with him

Amol (Dharmendra) and Vaijanti (Nafisa Ali)

Frankly had it not been for Dharm paji , this film would have made it …… I fault Anurag for his choice of actors like Dharmendra for complex roles like these, after all the great Jat is not exactly cut out for sophisticated acting that the role demanded.

METRO is boosted with the brilliant performances of Shilpa, Kay Kay, Irrfan and Konkona vying for top honors. According to me this is the best of Shilpa that I have experienced. Kay Kay is exceptional. You hate him; detest his very sight, all thanks to a terrific portrayal. Konkona’s brilliance is never in doubt and Irrfan is the livewire of the movie. He appeals to a large spectrum of the audience and I could watch the film only for Irrfan.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Field Guide to the North American Bikini

Blogger "The Bachelor Guy" has written an amazing post on the North American Bikini.
A well researched , well documented and very well presented piece of information .The summer is here ,and in some parts of India, gaudy bikini's are out ,they come in all shapes and sizes ....... unfortunately the Indian woman has not developed a taste for the bikini ........ for the Indian male , with an upwardly mobile girlfriend , here is your chance to impress her with your nuancical understanding of the bikini.....this is a classy piece of information will be of immense help to you ......the lucid narration of the different kinds of bikin's available can go a long way to develop a taste of these things. My favourites from are the polka dotted and the banded thong bikini (pics above) .Whats yours .......write in

Saturday, May 12, 2007

BJP losing its ideological constituency as Maya sweeps UP

As the 2007 UP election results poured , it was evident by the noon of 11 May that Ms Mayawati and her BSP were all set to form the government in Lucknow . I am not a Mayawati supporter and hence there was nothing much for me to feel chirpy about and more so with the BJP being decimated

I am a BJP supporter and I pride myself of being a member of what the party calls the core ideological constituency-“the upper caste, right wing, educated Hindu”. The reason of the party’s attractiveness during the mid eighties to the early nineties was the clearly defined and sharply distinct right wing, pro majority, anti-appeasement agenda. The politics of BJP is based on solid ideological moorings, and like the Left parties over the years build a support base and a dedicated cadre which would stand by it in good times and in bad . The Ram Janambhoomi agitation catapulted the BJP into a position of power in UP and subsequently to central politics. In this process , its ideological constituency expanded manifold from the traditional Chitpawan Brahmin RSS support base to the broader section of Hindu’s .Prominent leaders like Kalyan Singh ensured that the OBC’s were firmly behind the party . BJP managed to create a solid social base amongst Hindu’s of all castes and therefore the setting was perfect for it to consolidate its position and deliver a pan India agenda (both economic and political). However, the myopia of the party’s leadership coupled with the complex caste dynamics of Indian politics has reduced the party into a spent force in UP within a decade

In the following paragraphs, I attempt to analyze the steady decline of the BJP and to me the most critical reason for it is:

Mis-management of political growth and dilution of the core ideology

The party suddenly tasted power in 1989 after being a marginal political force for many years (remember 2 MP’s in the 1984 Lok Sabha ….Rajmata and Pramod Mahajan). The inability of the party to manage the growth through a structured process lead to opportunity seekers joining the party in hoards, while these elements were required for the party to scale up politically, it also started the process of dilution of its core ideology. People who could deliver results at any cost rose to positions of power within the party hierarchy and the flag bearers of its core ideology were gradually marginalized. People like K Govindacharya and Jay Dubashi were no longer relevant in the new scheme of things .The dilution of its ideology made short term growth easier, but had far reaching consequences which the party has not recognized till date ….

a) Its inability to deliver on the Hindutva agenda lead to an erosion of its support base , people who were attracted by its pro-majority stand were soon disillusioned . When I asked this question to a certain section of the leadership within the party , I was told that to remain in power one has to make compromises ……but the cost of the compromise was the steady decline of the support base ……alas the party think tank continues to think differently

b) The party with a difference suddenly looked no-different, it had the same political gene pool (read the Congress...) which was the malaise of our society, it was the same wine in a different bottle ….

c) The party used the same tactics to remain in power and often resorted to improper means to stay in power , it had lost its moral authority over its political rivals , a consequence of not sticking to its ideology

d) Elected representatives of the party were charged of cases of corruption, brand lotus had not been able to deliver a clean administration.

The BJP has faced the nadir of its political achievements in UP in the last 2 decades , lets try and understand what really happened and is BJP going the Congress way in the UP

The 2007 UP Elections and the decline of the BJP

This elections saw the worst ever performance since 1991 , the BJP managed to garner 50 seats (down by 43) since last time , with its vote share falling 4% which one would imagine was transferred to the BSP ( vote share increase by 7%). Initial analysis says that Mayawati was able to successfully create a grand caste alliance of Hindu’s, though its Sarva Samaj Abhiyan – an all inclusive caste coalition. Mayawati was able to sell the concept of an inclusive society "Sarva Samaj" as against her traditional vote bank the "Bhaujan Samaj" . The process of building this coalition started a couple of years ago with her deliberate strategy of wooing Brahmins and other upper caste Hindus, to the extent that she gave more than 100 tickets to Brahmin candidates .The BSP caste coalition was so compelling and well designed that the party was able to get solid electoral support from all the Hindu castes and the thereby completely erode the core constituency of the BJP. The BJP Chief Ministerial candidate Kalyan Singh - the iconic OBC warrior in the Ram Janambhoomi agitation was not able to stem the migration of OBC votes from the BJP to the BSP. East UP with a Brahmin population of 20% , an area which has been a traditional stronghold of the BJP has voted overwhelming for the BSP. Rohilkhand and the Doab (Muslim majority areas) which are traditional vote banks of the Samajwadi Party have seen a huge migration of votes towards the BSP, so its safe to assume that the Sarva Samaj Abhiyan also include Muslims …..making it a deadly combination

In Conclusion

Still pretty much a BJP supporter and hopefully one for many more years , I am pained with the developments in the party and I hope that the party will go back to the drawing board and build the cadre from ground zero , rather than being bothered about short term gains . Advanji /Rajnath ji are you listening …….??

Monday, May 7, 2007

President of India -Somnath Chatterjee !!!

I have tried to steer away from politics in this blog (though I do have a strong views on the same )....barring some posts on reservations ...this blog has been apolitical. However when I came back from work today , an article in the Mumbai mirror provoked me to write this post .....which has political content and lashes out at Somnath Chatterje's candidature for the President of India .

The Context

In order to understand this post in its true spirit it is imperative for the reader to have a context of West Bengal and its polity. I was brought up in Kolkata ,.....we migrated to the city in 1977 and I lived there till 1995 . In these 18 long years , I have many experiences with the politics of the state -the good ones being :

caste free society

empowerment of villagers

the implementation of the land ceiling

However with this came trade union aggression , lock outs , strikes , depletion of employment opportunities ,scientific rigging , an aggressive and arrogant CPI(M) cadre etc . It did not take the Left many years to decimate the economic fabric of the state .When I qualified as a CA in 1995 , I found it very difficult to find a reasonable job in Kolkata and soon had to migrate out of the as an expat Bengali (Probasi Bangali) and with the current state of economic progress , I reckon the doors of the city are closed to me for ever ....

The CPI(M) and Somnath

Somnath Chatterjee, the MP from Bolpur was the Chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) during the tenure of Jyoti Basu. I will never forget those days , when almost everyday, leading Kolkata based newspapers would carry stories of innumerable overseas trips that Mr Chatterjee made to promote FDI in West Bengal. His penchant for signing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU's), many of which never came to fruition earned him the nickname Mou-da. The industrial climate was so despondent that industries closed down ............Dunlop, ICI , Bharat Metal Box, Hind Motor ...could not withstand the rage of the communist labor unions . It would be fair to say that our Presidential candidate was a one of the key facilitators of this regressive process , West Bengal once a leading industrial state was converted seamlessly to an industrial waste land courtesy people like Jyoti Basu , Pramode Dasgupta and of course Mr Chatterjee included . It is ironical that the current Chief Minister says that the process of industrialization of the state is irreversible .......building a few shopping malls in Kolkata is not exactly industrialization.

Here is why according to me Somnath does not qualify for the job at Rastrapati Bhavan

a) He represents a political interest group which has always worked against the development of this nation , in the garb of inclusive development the Indian Left has been a show stopper to the nation's development and neither have they been able to deliver as is evident in West Bengal , a state that they have been in power for about 3 decades now .Can we have a President from a political party which is not exactly buoyant with the 8%+ growth that we hope to achieve as a nation

b) His track record as WBIDC Chief is appalling and if that man could replicate the same performance as a President , our national anthem can well be " God Save India" !!

c) His views on Judiciary ,post the Supreme Court's stay on the OBC reservation issue , mirror the myopia of his party's top boss Sitaram Yechury , the least said about it is better......It truly amazes me that a lawyer by profession, Somnath has not learnt to value the independence of the judiciary.

d) In 2005, our pompous Mr Chatterjee was caught in a controversy over his statement on the Supreme Court orders related to the vote of confidence in the Jharkhand Assembly. He accused the Supreme Court of encroaching on the rights of the legislature

e) On a lighter note , as a President he would only go down well only with a Bangladeshi audience (courtesy his English with a thick Bengali accent ..) , I fear that his global trips ,(given his love for international travel -as displayed during his stint in the WBIDC) would be great occasions to erode the growing brand India

In conclusion

Have there been Presidents who have been worse than Somnath -the answer is a resounding yes , but the larger question to ask "can we afford a person like Somnath as the Head of State at a juncture of our history when the nation is poised for unprecedented growth" ...definitely not ..what say you ?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Spiderman 3 -Movie Review

I went to see Spiderman -3 , in the sparking new Palm Beach Galleria today morning . My five year old Neelabjo is a crazy Spiderman fan , we have DVD's of both the movies, innumerable CD's of the cartoon version and often watch them to kill boredom.

As one would expect , there are digital effects galore to remind us that Sony is a high-tech company and getting better in what it does everyday. The three hours was full of interesting digital effects particularly when the new villain the Sandman is transformed into a sandstorm and pulverizes half of Manhattan . Sandman provides more than a serious challenge to Spiderman and in course of the movie learns of a connection with the murder of his Uncle Ben with the Sandman . To make matters worse a mysterious black alien substance turns his Spiderman costume black . This black thing is an alien parasite which feeds on a host body and brings out the darker side of Spidey that nobody has seen before. The central theme of the movie is how Parker deals with the darker side of him when he was actually enjoying it and manages to overcome it .

However if I were to critique the movie , I would say the "evil" side of Spiderman is hopelessly mild mannered . The audience is exposed to a tableau of his Mr Hyde exploits. His hair droops over his eye , he flirts with the women in Queens and Manhattan , he is rude to his girl , dances like a Travolta in a night club before making an ass of himself ......not exactly a horrifying sneak preview into the nadir of the human soul . Spider manages the struggle with his evil self well and soon comes out of it and in the end copes with Sandman the process he loses his childhood friend Harry Osborne.

In conclusion a well thought through story line , very well executed digital effects contribute to make it a great viewing experience .

Saturday, May 5, 2007

To your dream destination with Katara Travels

I wish to dedicate this post to all our elected representatives who are part of a newly discovered business -"Travel anywhere , anytime, without papers ..... for a premium" . Sadly this business has not received media attention in spite of being in operations for quite sometime . The post is titled "Katara Travels" in recognition of Shri Babubhai Katara -BJP MP (picture courtsey Vikram Nandwani), who was one of the first entrepreneurs in this sector to have been discovered by the national media . Other prominent competitors to Katara Travels are "Mayawati Darshan and Tours" -operated by Team BSP , and the recently discovered "Go Anywhere Destinations " lead by the TRS chief . I am hoping this sector has some more players like the "Milano Agenzia Di Corsa" blessed by the fist lady of Indian politics ......who will be discovered soon ....

Business Model
Pretty simple , pay a hefty sum of money anywhere between Rs 15- Rs 25 Lakhs and get dropped to the destination of your choice accompanied by a Member of Parliament of India ....can it ever be better.....and as expected , no papers required will be travelling as his/her brother , sister , spouse etc (these guys have diplomatic immunity, by virtue of their status..)
Anyone interested the local travel agent in Punjab , Gujrat and Andhra ...that's where the services of these tour operators are presently concentrated....Happy Journey !!

One Laptop a Child (OLC) for USD 100 -India to do better

In one of my earlier posts , I had talked about my bias about discovery based learning for school children . According to me the malaise of our education system is the overemphasis on rote learning to the extent that constructivist/discovery learning is completely ignored . However the question was how do we implement discovery learning across a country like ours . In another post I had also mentioned about technology based applications for learning and the presence of technology based classrooms in rural Karnataka , but it did not seem to be a scalable model . In the absence of a plan , I would assume that it would be interesting to implement the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project which is being led by Nicholas Negraponte of MIT Ad Labs .

The One Laptop per Child association (OLPC) is a not for profit organization set up to oversee The Children's Machine project and the construction of the XO-1 "$100 laptop". The objectives of the OLPC is to facilitate learning in developing countries and to provide a children's machine at approximately USD 100 . Wikipedia has documented the details of the project including the hardware of the machine . As per plan the laptops will be sold to governments of developing countries and distributed through the respective ministries of education willing to adopt the policy of one laptop per child . At this point in time 13 countries (including Pakistan) have committed to the project in various ways , India does not feature in the list and the reason being that our HRD Ministry believes that it can manufacture the same laptop for US 10 . Considering the fact that as a nation our capabilities in computer hardware manufacture is quite limited , I fail to understand how the HRD Minstry is planning to execute the project at this price . According to me the OLPC is a great way to kick start the process of technology enabled education at a grass root level and hopefully the myopia of Arjun Singh will not come in the way of making use of global synergies (ie the OLPC laptops ..).... lets see when the USD 10 laptop of the Minstry of HRD takes off , if at all .....or is this another missed opportunity !!!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Breaking News - Microsoft pursuing Yahoo for merger

New York Post and the reported today (4 May 2007) of a possible merger between Microsoft and Yahoo to combat the growing influence of Google . The rationale of the merger would be to compete with the scale and the search capabilities of Google and the failure of the Panama search engine ,which has widening the gap between Yahoo and Google and coupled with Google's plan to develop web based software which directly competes with Microsoft Office , makes it imperative for Microsoft to react now .

Charlene Li analyzes the possible implications of the merger and opines that while on paper there are synergies in the merger , but the combination (Microsoft+ Yahoo) may not be able to deliver the goods that are the strategic intent of such a combination

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Google could be one of the bidders for Dow Jones

Rupert Murdoch's $5 billion takeover bid of Dow Jones and Co has sparked of an auction for the 125 year old publisher . This first leg of the drama has been reported by Bloomberg

Michael Chren, managing director of Allegiant Asset Management Co. in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida quoted that other bidders would include General Electric (owner of the CNBC network) , Washington Post and even Google Inc .

Jon Murchinson, spokesman Google, declined to comment, Washington Post Chief Financial Officer John Morse wouldn't comment, while Jack Immelt of GE negated the news .

Google watchers , will keep you updated on this from Google's perspective.......

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Khosla ka Ghosla-The Indian Middle Class Strikes back

Readers of my blog and my close friends would find it surprising that I am writing a film review . People close to me know that I am not a film buff ......and my wife is quite an opposite , she loves Hindi films , is a die-hard Amitabh fan and I am exactly the opposite....(though I like to dance to the tunes of filmi music with pretty women...) Hindi films are at times the cause of matrimonial stress....but more on that some other day .

A couple of weeks ago my dear wife got me tickets for a film called "Kholsa ka Ghosla" ....and my first reaction was "Oh my God , not another one"....I was sure that this was one of the variants of "Mehne...XYZ...Kiya", while I have nothing against such kind of films but neither do they particularly excite me ....but I decided to go along to the theater with an open open as I could keep it ....... It was a three hour film and I must say it was an amazing experience . Kudos to Director Dibakar Banerjee, who in his first outing presented a social problem with a delectable blend of comedy.

As one would easily guess the setting of the film is in New Delhi (Khosla being a common Punjabi name)'s about a middle class government employee who wants to build his dream house (ghosla) . He lifetime savings went into buying a piece of land for a princely sum of Rs 30 lakhs. The members of Mr Khosla's household view this piece of land acquisition through their own filters -his younger son is indifferent, he wants to go to the US and already has a job in NY , so he doesn't care for dad's ghosla , the elder good- for -nothing son is amused ...Ms Khosla supports her husband in his Taj Mahal dream .....and finally on one Sunday when the family goes to do the Bhumi Pujan...they realize that their plot has been captured by land shark Khurana (played by Bomman Irani). His dream shattered ,Mr Khosla ,goes to meet Khurana who demands a hefty ransom to release the plot that was rightfully his . Mr Khosla approaches the police , the local politician and an NGO , all of them have a standard response , "we will negotiate with Khurana and bring down the ransom amount , you pay us our fees..." in this day and age , you would expect the police and the politicians to do this to you , but not NGO's......... a dejected Khurana loses all hope of getting back his land.......while the drama of deceit was unfolding , there was a transformation happening parallely........Khosla's second son (the one who wanted to settle down in NY) was silently feeling his father's pain and was plotting to pay back Khurana....he and his friends duped Khurana to buy a plot of land which belonged to the fisheries department and with the proceeds of the sale to paid back Khurana his ransom and releasde his father's plot .

The issue of land grabbing and harassment is quite common in India . My father was harassed by local CPI(M) and Congress goons when we decided to build a house in Kolkata in 1986 , and a middle class family like ours had no recourse's been two decades after that and still today the social evil not only exists but has been compounded , at least twenty years ago there were some checks and balances in society , there were avenues for the "aam admi" to be heard ....not any longer , the film brings out how the situation has become worse with the NGO's also doing their fair share to complicate matters ( I am not at all suggesting that all NGO's do it , but I am personally aware of many who claim to be NGO's but their objectives are not exactly what their MOA claim to be...).

This film shows the middle class how to survive , and if it means to pay back these corrupt elements in the same be it long can we the Indian middle class be harassed by our polity , our police ...

This brilliant theme and the script was brought to life by versatile actors like Bomman Irani , Anupam Kher , others like Tara Sharma , Ravin Shorey and Parvin Dabas form a perfect caste for a near perfect film......

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Google responds to Viacom's suit on YouTube

Viacom in a suit filed in March 07, alleged that YouTube was guilty of building a library of copyrighted video clips without permission and thereby blatantly violating copyright norms . Google's response has relied heavily on the of the "safe harbor"provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, enacted in 1998. The New York Times quotes ...."Those provisions generally hold that Web sites’ owners are not liable for copyright material uploaded by others to their site as long as they promptly remove the material when asked to do so by the copyright owners "

The Technology section of the New York Times carried a detailed article on the subject

This article is an interesting read for Google watchers and a negative outcome of this suit may significantly alter the fortunes of YouTube and impact Google's overall strategy adversely. More updates soon......

Yahoo buys off Right Media for USD 680 million

Yahoo announced in 30 April 2007 its decision to buy off the rest of Right Media Inc for USD 680 million (it had already bought 20% of the company in October 2006) . Right Media's business model is unique ..... for an advertiser the network facilitates buying media through a transparent process in an auction-based exchange. The model ensures that network barriers come down, giving the advertiser open access to the entire market of sellers and their inventory. Because the advertiser now manages all sellers in a common platform, it gives him a a clear sense of how his advert objectives have been served, where the best new users lie. Bidding for each impression based on the value it generates and therefore and advertiser never overpays .

This acquisition is a strategic move to bridge the gap between rival Google's pay-per-click advertisements that run alongside its search results and also the growing popularity of Google Adwords . It is interesting to note that Yahoo has been trying to migrate to a similar revenue model like Google for quite sometime now , Project Panama is also a step in this direction . However Project Panama has failed to deliver at least till now (as borne out by the Q-1 results of Yahoo) , therefore this acquisition could well be the last throw of the dice by Yahoo to get close to Google . It is also important to note that the Google -DoubleClick deal has been completed only recently and the impressive Q-1 results of Google do not include the financial impact of the deal . Google analysts say that post the deal , DoubleClick is working in creating an ad exchange (which is what Right Media also offers ...)

Financial Implications

At the time of acquisition ,Right Media had around 20,000 advertisers, publishers and networks to its online advertising exchange. In its advert network it has 1,000 customers on whose behalf it sells advertisements and its revenue is projected at USD 70 million this year and is expected to break even by the end of the year

Financially I don't think this acquisition is going to make a difference to Yahoo's results this year , because the deal is expected to be closed in Q-2 of this year . Analysts say that the valuation's are a bit pricey , however strategically the deal is expected to boost Yahoo's fortunes in the display advertisement business .

In conclusion

Considering the deal price and the fact that DoubleClick is creating an advertising exchange of its own , I am personally not hopefully that this acquisition would make a significant contribution in reducing the gap between Yahoo and Google in the display advertisement segment....however the Yahoo management is still bullish on Project Panama and what it can deliver lets wait and watch ......