Thursday, September 21, 2006

Small fish innovating to survive amongst sharks

Rediff has an interesting read on the kind of tactics the mid sized and small sized software firms in India are adopting to sign deals while working in the shadow of the biggies in the market like Wipro, IBM, Infosys, TCS, Satyam, HCL, etc

While this sheds light on the heavy competitive structure of the industry, this also opens up insights into
  • How first mover advantage has given the biggies a size that the smaller fry are not able to attain.
  • How players in this industry can sustain only if they differentiate sufficiently from their competitors.
  • How dollar flow is what will prop up a company and not the local currency.
  • How dollar flow decides what kind of a talent you have working for you.
  • How the industry is yet to mature to a point where attrition falls to acceptable levels.

Posts with an attempt to throw more light on each of these questions would be forthcoming. Watch out for this space.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

India IT News Capsule - Sep 2006, Issue 2

  • Dell Plans its First Facility in India: Dell has announed its decision to open the first manufacturing facility in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. Its new facility and related operations would be located on a 50-acre plot of land in the Sriperumbudur Hi-Tech Park, outside of Chennai.
  • SaReGaMa to enter music aggregation business: SaReGaMa, the entertainment content provider of the RPG group, has decided to enter the music aggregation business for different kinds of digital media. Aggregation requires music to be present in a format suitable for downloads by mobiles so that they are set as ringtones.
  • 3G testing on by mobile service providers: The country’s telecom regulator TRAI has allowed Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd., Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd., Bharti Airtel and Hutchison Essar Ltd. to use 3G spectrum to test 3G equipment in anticipation of a launch later this year.
  • IBM develops Business Finder technology at its India labs: IBM has revealed the Business Finder Technology, a location-based mobile resources management technology developed at its India Research Laboratory. The technology has the potential to offer a mobile yellow page for mobile users, who will be able to locate the most highly rated and available service vendors like plumbers, electricians, carpenters or doctors in the vicinity.
  • President Kalam sees bio-implant solution to aid mentally challenged children: A bio-chip implant or some other mechanism can in the future be used to transfer certain functions of the damaged portions of the human brain to the healthy one, says President A P J Abdul Kalam, who is carrying out a research on mentally-challenged children. The President said his study also focused on use of stem cells for increasing the quality and quantity of neurons in the brain system.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Elephant , Tiger and Outsourcing

With so many newspapers and news magazines these days focusing on the emergence of the Asian Tiger (China) and Elephant (India) as major economic power-houses of the 21st century, I frequently get thought provoking questions from my readers about leading businesses that are forming the engines of such growth. One question that was making me scratch my head was from a certain Mr. Dinesh. It went like this...

"If India and China are competing so intensely for a share of the outsourcing pie, will not one of the countries eventually win out?"

At first glance, the question appears a trivial one. However as you try to look for a definite answer, the "What ifs...", "How abouts..." and "Why sos...." start popping up.

My line of thought led me to the fact that India and China have their own distinctive advantages while offering cheap outsourcing services. India has a huge English speaking population that offers the incentive for North American and European countries to outsource to India. China on the other hand offers much cheaper labour. That brought the next logical thing of whether China and India are actually competing for the same slice of the pie at all? I doubted it.

Why then are Indian companies like Infosys, Satyam and Wipro rushing to establish call centers in China? What is available there that is not already available in India? Did the Chinese manage to force feed English overnight to a substantial section of their Mandarin speaking population? Does not make sense, right?

The answer to this part was beautifully presented in a piece titled "Global Sourcing is not Olympics" by Stephen Lane of Infosys Technologies. He says:

"Companies have elected to outsource IT functions and business processes and/or established captive centers there (China) primarily for the following reasons.

  • Support operations in China that require local knowledge as well as IT or business process skills;
  • Serve Asia/Pacific markets that are culturally, linguistically, and economically linked to China;
  • And, Avoid over-dependence on other low-cost sourcing locations such as India or the Philippines. "
That answers the question succinctly. Indian companies are rushing to set up their BPO operations in China to support mainly their Japanese and South East Asian clients.

The missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle was finally in place. Clearly countries do not need to engage in a "win-lose" kind of, zero sum games that give birth to a clear winner while the other is left biting the dust. The outsourcing pie is too huge and its slices are too varied for every portion of it to be appealing to everyone. While the Indian companies need not be worried that the curry laden part of the pie is being eyed by China, the same holds true for China too. China just has to dig its teeth into the slice stuffed with schezwan noodles. Just enjoy the pie as long as it lasts !!!

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Social Shopping - Will India catch the craze?

Online Web 2.0 explosion sometimes gives me a sheer high. Every time, I think that technology has hit an upper limit, there it jumps a notch higher to scale never before heights, encompassing a new dimension of human life, promising yet more comforts and providing new highs.

I came across a very unique E-commerce website that was named Wists. The site was all about a concept that is termed "Social Shopping". Wow !! You had "social bookmarking" and "online shopping". Now you have the next big wave "Social Shopping" hitting World Wide Web. Social shopping sure is a fancy term for a genre of Web 2.0 sites that try to bring together online shoppers at a single point and allow them to bookmark their favorite shopping sites, shopping sites that they just stumbled upon, etc all for the benefit of the other social shoppers. Each one draws from the experiences of millions of others.

As I was researching more on sites like these, I happened to come across at least two others StyleHive and Kaboodle mentioned at Emergic.

How would such a model affect Indian online shoppers? With Indians taking up online shopping in a big way it won't be long before we see similar Indian clones coming up with a desi touch to them. I believe this model is going to be a big hit in India. Indians in general are quite averse to shopping at new places they haven't heard of from a people. They like to be trend adopters rather than trend makers. What would tip the balance in this case would be a site like Wists or a StyleHive that would help people to exchange, rate and recommend shopping sites to their friends and relatives. People would be more willing to make a purchase at a site that has been recommended by 20 people even if all of them are anonymous. The web brings us closer in ways we least expect and networking sites are a unique example.

The other strong reason that compels me to believe in the feasibility of such an idea in India is the rise of the Indian middle class. A huge market that comprises of 241 million people belonging to who make up for 23 per cent of total population and account for Rs. 3,02,534 crore (USD 64.37 billion) of total consumption (42 per cent) in the country. Shopping online for a majority of this section of the Indian community is becoming a habit rather than an exception. The non-availability of chain store unlike US in India also means that shopping online erases the distances involved between potential customers and shops that sell the items being demanded.

Social shopping is an idea just waiting to be unleashed on Indians and I would be surprised if Indians do not embrace it in a big way.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Indian Temple WebCasting its Prime Festival

Come August end and September, it marks the beginning of a cycle of yearly festivals in India each of which have a significance of their own and have millions of followers across the country. One such event that has over the years transformed itself into a festival is the annual Brahmotsava festival at the world famous Venkateshwara temple at Tirupathi in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Extending over a period of nine days, this festival is celebrated by millions across the world who congregate at this sacred venue. However these people form just a fraction of the people who are actually celebrating the festival worldwide. As a part of its efforts to reach out to these people, the TTD ( Tirupathi Tirumala Devasthanams) Trust which manages the affairs of the temple plans to webcast the live proceedings of the Brahmotsava festival over the 9 days across the net. This webcast would be viewable real time from any part of the world where people could hook up to the World Wide Web.

The Brahmotsava festival starts from September 25th.

Digitalization of temples in India have brought the Gods a lot closer to the large Indian diaspora across the world.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Indianizing Google Desktop

Google Desktop is proving to be an ubiquitous tool that I see on most laptops and desktops these days. The open API structure that Google has thrown open for developers to create customized gadgets that stay put on your desktop is proving highly efficient. These nifty little utilities are hidden till recall them by hitting the "Shift" button twice. Lo !!! You are immediately shown the entire gamut of gadgets you have installed and you just go about using them. No application launch required. Once done, just hide them by pressing "Esc" key.

When I was recently searching for a laundry timer gadget, I was surprised to find 3 Indian gadgets that made me wonder how I could have done without them all these days.

Desktop Yoga: A gadget by Ravi Ranjan that targets the computer geek who spends long hours at the console. Uniquely crafted, a Yoga Guru starts waving and dancing to attract your attention at the end of every 30 minutes (customizable). He then goes on to teach you a simple Yoga based exercise that helps stretch and relax those immobile limbs of yours. After you are done, the Yoga guru goes back to meditation for the next 30 minutes. I just fell in love with this gadget.

Indian Stock Price: Developed by K Gopalakrishna, this simple but much sought after gadget fetched stock/script prices of Indian stocks from Yahoo onto your desktop.
This does away with the need to log on to financial websites. You need not be a Yahoo member to get the data. Clicking on the stock to get some details like previous close, current day trading details and so on.

Live Cricket Scores: Another of those much needed gadgets when you are away from the TV screen. Developed by Bijoy Thangaraj, this gadget has been designed to fetch live cricket scores from officially matches across the world right onto your desktop. A must have for every cricket buff.

Google has really done a wonderful job by providing a platform on which individual developers can engineer nifty applications that are not just useful, but cater to regional interests too.

By the way, for those still wondering what happened to the laundry timer... I did get my laundry timer and now I just dump my clothes, start the timer and get back to some other work. The timer alerts me when done.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Voice for Bangalore Tomorrow

Surfing to catch up on some late night breaking news, I happened to hit upon an ad for a site called Interest evoked, I decided to explore what this site was all about.

I came across a bright Flash based map of the Bangalore city on the home page. The map was interactive and allowed people to complain, suggest, praise, reminisce and mull over various aspects of civic life in their part of the city. Each kind of activity was denoted by an appropriate flashy icon on the map. Subsequent users could 'Vote-for' or 'Vote-against' the aspect put forth.

I was really surprised by the amount of active participation the site was registering. A TimesNOW news channel venture, the model aims at using the clout of the channel to get each citizen's voice across to the government. The amount of trust the public reposes in such ventures also gets enhanced by the fact that it is a private enterprise.

The site also has a people talk feature that captures feelings of celebrity Bangloreans on video and what they feel about the city that has been their home for years. A very absorbing section, I must confess, given luminaries like Arundati Nag (wife of late Kannada film actor Shankar Nag, Dr. Devi Shetty, renowned cardiologist, etc.

There is also an SMS feature that allows you to send your say via SMS.

It is sites like these that harness the networking power of the Internet to boost citizen participation and provide a platform for netizens to voice their say on matters that would help speed up e-governance imlementation in India. I hope that the model gets replicated across states in India..

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

India IT News Capsule - Sep 2006, Issue 1

  • Accenture opens tenth software centre in India: Consulting firm Accenture Ltd. opened its tenth software development centre in India with a capacity of 1,100 seats. The centre, located in the tech-and-textile town of Gurgaon on the outskirts New Delhi, joins others in Pune, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad -- cities that have emerged as India's IT hubs over the past decade. Accenture, one of the leading IT employers in India, has a staff exceeding 19,000 people in India.
  • XBox India website goes live: Microsoft India has launched the XBox website and plans to make the XBox available in India by Diwali, which usually marks the start of a spending spree in the country. The site can be accessed here.
  • Pharma sector facing human resource crunch: Pharma industry in India is facing a human resource crunch due to heavy recruitment by the BPO and KPO industry in India. Pharma companies are faced with high attrition rates of about 25-30%.
  • GSM Carrier Spice in expansion mode: Indian GSM carrier Spice Communications plans to raise up to $2.5 billion via debt and a public offer to expand in India, the world's fastest growing mobile services market. 49% of Spice is owned by Malaysia Telekom and currently offers services in only 2 of the 23 telecom zones in the country.
  • Reliance launches new submarine cable: Reliance Telecommunications, the country's premier CDMA carrier inaugurated a 2.56 Terabit undersea Falcon cable connecting India and the Middle East. The cable will be part of Reliance Communications' Flag Telecom Global Network which already has cables running through 35 countries spanning four continents.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

10 million cell subscribers in Delhi soon

The Times Of India reports that New Delhi, the capital of India is soon to have about 10 million cell phone subscribers by October, 2006. It happens to be a feat because of the 25 cities in the world that boast of 25 million people each, very few cities have a mobile penetration of 10 million or over.
The other cities in the list are London, Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, New York and Mexico City.

All this is just 10 years after the cellular phone made a splash in the world market. I would say even less in the India as real mobile demand picked up only about 6-7 years ago when the mobile call rates fell from a steep 17 rupees a minute to Re 1 a minute. This was also supported by fall in prices of handsets from Rs. 35000 when they were introduced to Rs. 1500.

I don't see it would be long before we have all the major metros in this list soon.

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