August 11, 2010
Let me get straight to the story –
Here is an extract (super summary!) and synopsis from one of the chapters (Yuddha Kand i.e. the 'War Episode', which describes the war between Rama and Ravana) of Ramayana.
Having received Hanuman's report on Sita, Rama and Lakshmana proceed with their allies towards the shore of the southern sea. There they are joined by Ravana's renegade brother Vibhishana. The monkeys named "Naal" and "Neel" construct a floating bridge (known as Rama Setu) across the ocean, and the princes and their army cross over to Lanka.
The incident goes like this:
The challenge in building the bridge was to make the stones float (as all stones will sink the moment it is thrown into the ocean). It is said that a solution was offered by supporters of Lord Rama, i.e. inscribe the name "Rama" on the stone and then throw it in the ocean. The same was done and it worked!
Lord Rama was watching the progress and Naal and Neel progressively built the bridge.
At one point, Lord Rama decided to extend a helping hand. So he picked up a stone and threw it in the ocean (i.e. which an expectation that it will flow). Surprisingly it sank without a trace!
Because the stone was not inscribed with "Rama"
Lord Rama was confident that he do not need to use his "brand" as he was THE "brand" and tried to repeat the magic. But it did not work. It was not "branded" with "Rama".
Moral of the story: Brand is bigger than the "owner" of the brand.
Subtle Moral of the Story: Feel good, when people recognize you by the name of your company i.e. brand. This means, your brand is becoming bigger than you. And this may stay beyond you.
August 31, 2009
I had precisely three envelope entrepreneurial ambitions! I call them envelope as each of them encompass several small ambitious projects. All three are aimed to change the world in my small way and make it a better place:
- To build a successful Internet technology company which can enable millions of businesses
- To bring mass scale change in education system in terms of quality, content, reach and cost
- To become an investor with a difference!
To make sure that my journey at least start off to fulfill all the three ambitions, I (along with my partner Pallav) started up a technology specific angel fund and incubation center called Seeders. This is our attempt to bring finances, infrastructure, resources, connections and mentoring (technical + business) to the aspiring and daring ones.
For the more curious ones 😉 –
We will be investing in technology companies which uses Internet as a strategic enabler. These can be software product companies, SaaS projects as well as niche knowledge services. Any wild idea that makes business sense is also welcome! And yes, the venture must be based out of Kolkata or must be willing to shift its base to Kolkata (at least for incubation phase).
More on this project will be soon posted on http://www.seeders.in
So keep tuned in.
I have always felt that India today stands at the cross road of supremacy and oblivion. The final result may not be as dramatic as the two superlatives I have used, but they will surely have a major impact on the world.
The main reason for this paradoxical feeling is its education system. A proper education system can be the difference between both. The biggest advantage India has its population dividend. This can propel or backfire based on the direction we set. Education and cultural upbringing plays a very important role in setting the right direction. If set wrong, the momentum will be so high that changing the direction will be a monumental job – a project which will be nothing less than the Indian freedom struggle.
This opportunity (or problem) compounds in the global, connected and highly unpredictable world that we live in. Call it World 2.0 if you want! I recently came across a presentation, which explains the world which we live in:
There are many battles to fight, there are many fronts to be won. But, how can we set our aim on something which is constantly moving – so rapidly that it outpace our thought.
Where will we be by 2020? Any idea?
March 27, 2009
I recently shared few ideas with fellow IT companies about braving the downturn in a NASSCOM event.
The takeaway from the presentation was –
Stick to fundamentals. Business is simple. If we complicate it for the sake of some buzzwords, we will see more such tough days!
Here is the presentation for you:
Earlier in the day, our Industry stalwart, Mr. B. Hari did a small workshop on Wealth Dynamics (the Roger Hamilton one) and how entrepreneurs / executives should adopt the path of least resistance to succeed.
A great day out!
P.S. A few days back, I shared some random recession strategies. You might like to check them out as well.
P.P.S. Thank you Nasscom, for such a wonderful event.
March 12, 2009
There are so many people working to get a new technology out to masses – a new invention to make things better. However, in my experience I firmly believe that:
Technology is as good as its implementation.
Many a time, little imagination is put into implementation of the technology which is existing. If the existing technology is properly explored, understood and implemented in creative and innovative ways, I think it will do a lot of good to the mankind than decades of new inventions. For billions, the usage is falling behind the rate of discovery.
Let us implement the available tools and technologies properly, because poor implementation will not make any difference to the mankind and the guy next door (for the sake of simplicity).
Thoughts are welcome…
February 9, 2009
I have recently taken an entrepreneurial pledge led by National Entrepreneurship Network (nenonline.org).
Please go ahead and take this pledge at http://nenonline.org/eweekPartner.do?method=fetch&businessFn=eweekPartnerRegister
January 27, 2009
The hype around Slumdog Millionaire hit me and I ended up in the theater to watch the Anglo-Indian movie which bagged the Golden Globe and is nominated in several categories (ten nominations to be precise) for the Oscars. To be honest, I went with high expectations. But it turned out to be a sadistic satire.
There was no takeaway from the movie:
– No entertainment
– No message
– No reality
If the movie is all about its technical excellence, I did not see anything exceptional (as an audience).
I found the story line to be a sadistic satire, which picked up the the 'worst' of the slum life and has portrayed on a large canvas to tell the world that India is not only a country of snake charmers and call centers, but also a country of slums!
It seems the movie follows Murphy's Law – "If it can go wrong, it will go wrong".
I was also shocked to see the nomination for Mr. A. R. Rahman. It is not that I don't like his music. Undoubtfully he is one of the greatest musician in India. But he has done better scores than the ones that have been nominated. The ones he has done for Slumdog Millionaire does not come close to his best. If he has to be honored, then why not honor his best work. Why was he ignored in past? Only because he was part of a Bollywood production house?
These nominations leave a lot of questions unanswered.
I wont be excited if they win the Oscars. It is unfortunate.
January 14, 2009
Satyam fiasco was a shocker for me. I have been closely monitoring it for quite some time as a scam of this magnitude can have a ripple effect in the Indian IT industry. There has been thousands of reactions from all over the world. I logged in to twitter to see how the story unfolds, as it is supposed to be the real time micro-blogging media to tract instant reactions.
Not to mention the micro blogging platform was teeming with activity and tweets about satyam and the term #satyam was the highest referenced term on twitter.
There were few comments that caught my attention.
And this is why these comments were very shocking. I immediately thought of two possibilities (but I was not convinced) –
Possibility 1:It was a casual remark
It is understandable.
However with the influence that Thomas has on Internet, I feel such casual remarks (at least something which has negligible probability) should be avoided. It will not only result in a hype, but also spreads negative vibe about an industry in general which employs more than over a million professionals.
Possibility 2: Thomas meant it!
In this case, first of all, I am deeply hurt, because I never expected such comment from a global visionary who wrote the book "A friend in every city".
Second, let me emphatically say that this is not the end of an industry. Also generalizing an industry due to some events is not a mature way of looking at things. And, if a scam of this magnitude can 'finish' an industry, then we would not talk about:
- Power business after the Enron scandal.
- Banking / Investments business after Lehman Brothers fallout.
- Bandwidth business after Worldcom went bust.
The culrpit is not an industry. Then why talk about the industry. The culprit is the greed which is driving few professionals with extraordinary power to misuse it. In my opinion this is just another scam driven by personal greed and peer pressure. We should not read much into it and move on.
Again, the losers have been shareholders, who are aware of that they are investing in a risk based equity model. At least this is better (comparatively) to the scams where companies went down with savings, debt instruments and required bail-out from taxpayers money. And yes, those industries are still there!
Software outsourcing industry is here to stay, since it has proven benefit model, which is resulting in solid growth for every stakeholder involved. It is balancing the work-compensation balance in the flattening world and resulting in an inclusive growth of the global economy.
So, I very much disagree with Thomas on this.
What may be the aftermath of the Satyam fiasco:
- I think the Satyam scam will lead to major improvement and overhaul of regulatory framework which will plug the loopholes that has resulted in this scam.
- People will look at their bottom line more often and work on improving the efficiency there. (Considering that Ramalinga Raju did not siphoned out the money and inflated the figure only to sustain the peer pressure)
- There will be temporary 'loss of faith' of retail equity investors, which may elongate the bearish trend on Indian stock markets for a slightly longer period. However,these may change overnight!
- It also reminds that new companies need to continuously emerge. The companies who are stalwarts today may not be like that forever. There is a life-cycle and to remain on the top, India need to throw up interesting growth oriented companies at regular intervals. They cannot remain dependent on the "fab four".
Of course there are more implications than what I can get together in few minutes. So feel free to add your views..
December 4, 2008
As per latest news Kolkata is up on the terror radar.
But I feel Kolkata is relatively safe from a mass scale terror attack. Two reasons that come to my mind –
Kolkata is a safe heaven for terrorists operating from Pakistan and Bangladesh. They come here to lay low till the next assignment and prepare for the same (mentally and logistics wise) . If you track most of the terrorist strikes in last five years, most of them had some or other logistical link to Kolkata (or West Bengal). The reason they have selected Kolkata to do the same are:
- Big metro city with 12.5 million people. So it is easy to hide!
- Excellent connectivity with the rest of the country through the rail network.
- Very lazy and indifferent police force.
- Excellent hideouts! Even police is scared to raid some places.
And the most important reason is – Close proximity to Bangladesh from where terrorists smuggle themselves into India for few hundred rupees with their weapons of destruction through the porous border.
Terrorists have never taken Kolkata seriously because an attack here does not result in any political or financial impact on national scale.
So, Whats the conclusion?
Therefore they are less likely to attack Kolkata on a mass scale anytime soon. This will throw open their hide-out to major hunt-and-shoot operations, disrupting their major operations in the pipeline! They will surely send terror-mails about their planned attacks in Kolkata, since their main weapon is terror and not rifles and grenades. If people in this city gets terrorized, changes their lifestyle, live in a state of uncertainty – their mission is accomplished!
But, this does not mean that the security be relaxed here. You never know!
November 13, 2008
I was reflecting upon last one year and how IT industry has changed in this duration from HR perspective. Among many thoughts, the most visible one (and the most concerning one as well) was the all-time-low employer-employee trust level.
One year back, we were looking into an industry where attrition was the biggest concern. Even the FAB5 (Infosys, Wipro, Satyam, HCL, Cognizant) of Indian IT industry felt the heat as employees jumped ship at the drop of a hat. It was difficult for them to understand as "What the youth want?". The HR honchos from all over India were hunting for answers even less than six months back. Employers were finding it very difficult to trust an employee. The question was – "Will he stay with me long enough to complete this project?"
And suddenly, the situation has taken a u-turn. Companies are laying off their "talent bank" for which they fought so ferociously. The guy who walks out of office today is not sure, if his job is here to stay when he reaches office the next day. The morale is at all time low. Employees are finding it difficult to trust an employer. The question is – "Will he sack me today?"
This is an environment of extremes and uncertainty. This is an environment of relationship without trust. And, this is going to worsen with every cycle on up-and-down.
So, Who is to be blame? And more importantly, how this cycle can be broken? OR, Can this be at all checked?
In my opinion,
This environment is a result of a number of social-commercial factors, like:
- Employee side:
- Desire for overnight riches and i-want-to-retire-young mindset
- Career objective not properly defined. (Corollary: Objective=money)
- Peer pressure. Comparison of lifestyle. Increase in jealousy.
- Spending more than the earning!
- Gaining experience without gaining competence (i.e. 12 years of experience looked like 1 year of real experience repeated 12 times over! – which eventually remains 1 year of experience)
- Employer Side:
- Inexperienced and poor management
- Unavailability of proper HR professionals (Hint: NOT those people who think HR = headhunting)
- Treating employees as commodities
- Not sticking to the basics
- Lack of strategic insight into one's business
Currently, the problem is in a virtuous cycle, and it is difficult to break it, since it is not based on a tangible outcome. It is purely based on emotions! And, if this cycle is not broken soon, it will intensify and re-occur more frequently.
However, it is very important to solve this problem. Otherwise, it will result in more bankruptcies, more stress, disturbed lives, social crime and poor results. To resolve this, both sides need to take corrective actions (read: be logical in their approach).
I hope, both sides get it right soon.
September 12, 2008
I will not wait for your answer. I know you cannot see a child die when he can be saved with medical intervention.
But the fact is that millions of newborn infants die worldwide due to Congenital Heart Defects (CHD). These are a lethal constellation of birth defects of the heart. Eight of every 1000 children born alive (0.8%) will have some form of congenital heart defect.
CHD affects not only patients, but entire families. Along the winding, tortuous road ahead, with major surgery and continuing medical care looming, most families need a helping hand, a friendly shoulder to cry on and peers they can count on for support and encouragement in difficult times. Here is a list of some wonderful resources to find such assistance.
More info about CHD can be found at CHDinfo.com
So what can you do?
There are thousands of families below poverty line, who cannot afford the medical expenses when CHD strikes them. You can help them by donating at (http://www.chdinfo.com/chdaware/donate.htm). You can also help by donating some valuable time by spreading a word about this problem and the noble work Dr. Mani is doing to help people who are suffering from CHD.
Now who is Dr, Mani?
I was told about Dr. Mani by my colleague Arun Agrawal. I was curious about this person who is an expert heart surgeon, an Internet marketing professional and someone who find enough time for social cause. It encouraged me to dig deep into his profile and this describes him very well:
Dr.Mani is a heart surgeon. He lives in India. He treats little children born with congenital heart defects.
Heart surgery is expensive. Many of his patients, from poor families, cannot afford the cost of treatment. So Dr.Mani decided to try and help sponsor the operations.
This was the simple concept behind an online adventure that started in 1996.
Ten years later, Dr.Mani's team has raised over $100,000 and funded heart surgery in 23 children, with many more to follow. He's well on his way to achieve an ambitious mission – make high quality heart health care accessible and affordable to every Indian child.
More information about Dr. Mani can be dound at http://www.drmani.name
So friends, come up with an open heart and help Dr. Mani in every possible way for the cause he is so committed. Donate for those poor children who cannot afford heart surgery and medication on their own. Give them the right to live. Save them.
I will be off to participate on my 4 hour tweet_a_thon which Dr. Mani is doing to raise awareness about this noble cause. If you care, do follow us there and tweet about it to spread the word. My twitter feed is available at http://www.twitter.com/abhishekrungta
Have a great weekend!
August 13, 2008
Today, Abhinav Bindra won the 10m air rifle gold and became the first ever individual from India to win a gold medal at Olympics.
I think this is the most joyful event in the history of Indian sports. More so because, it was a painful thought that a country with more than 1 billion people does not have one athlete / sportsman who can win a gold for India at Olympics. But today it has changed.
And, I wish, it has changed forever. And I am sure the pride and recognition that will be showered upon Abhinav will change the face of Indian sports forever. Also, the fact that Abhinav had to arrange for all the infrastructure himself, should be a lesson for the sports authority who provide sub-standard infrastructure to our athletes and expect them to fire at Olympics.
BTW, I am really at my wits end – if a guy can arrange this sort of private facilities (However rich his dad may be – I am sure he is not richer than Indian Government), why this facility cannot be arranged for all Indian athletes.
Today was an interesting day at the NASSCOM HR Summit 2008 in Chennai.
There was a session on HR Leadership: Paradigm shift from process recruiters to business leaders. When the Chairperson of the panel, Mr. Pratik Kumar (EVP HR, Wipro) asked the speakers as what would they like to request from their business leaders, we had some *really cool* answers (read: CEO bashing)!
Nandita Gurjar (VP & Group Head, Infosys) would like to see a recession, so that things cool-off a little bit, giving her the most deserved respite from managing change and pushing growth initiative at the same time – definitely not an easy job by any standards. I understand that she said it on a lighter note, but if you have a serious thought on this issue, it is actually not a bad idea!
Elango R (Chief HR Officer, Mphasis) in his witty style wants CEOs to stop reading books and attending conferences. He feels that there is a new "clone it" idea brought in by the CEO everyday, which makes life really difficult for the guy. I know he does not mean it. But does it really matter. It is not going to change anytime soon.
CEO's: Are you listening?
It just resonated in my own ears! After all, I am also one of the culprits.
Just wanted to share some light moments (read: CEO bashing).
Today, Finance Minister P.Chidambaram presented the Union Budget for FY 2008-2009. A full copy can be downloaded by clicking here.
Some highlights of the budget are listed below with my comments:
- New tax slabs for Income Tax: No tax for earning less than Rs. 150,000, 10% for Rs. 150,000 to Rs. 300,000, 20% for Rs. 300,000 to Rs. 500,000 and 30% above 500,000. Corporate tax remains unchanged at 30%. Income tax surcharge and education cess remains as it is. This is a clear step to win the fan following of the middle class employee segment where the majority earns below Rs. 500,000.
- Five year tax holiday for businesses a) setting up hospitals in tier II and tier III regions for providing healthcare in rural areas, and b) for businesses promoting cultural tourism. This clearly shows that private sector needs to play a major role in rural healthcare and promotion of tourism. Since no mention of SEZ was made in the budget, it seems that SEZ tax sops are here to stay. The much demanded extension on STPI scheme for export oriented IT & ITeS companies did not appear in the budget, which indicates that the scheme might be withdrawn from 1st April 2009.
- Short-term capital gains increases to 15%. The Securities Transaction Tax remains in its place and now it cannot be claimed back. In fact commodities Transaction Tax will be introduced on the lines of Securities Transaction Tax. So the quick money that people make by speculating stock market and commodities market will be taxed more! So stop speculating and start investing.
- Thank God! The Banking Cash Transaction Tax will be withdrawn from 1st April, 2009. I still cannot believe that this government taxed us for withdrawing money from our bank accounts!
- Cut in Customs Duty, Excise Duty & Central Sales Tax (CST) for some items to bring inflation in control. General CENVAT on all goods will be reduced from 16% to 14%. This has been done to control inflation and bring down the cost. We all look forward to some saving.
So where are they spending all this money!
- Farmers' debt to be waived at a cost of Rs. 600 billion. A target of Rs 2800 billion for agriculture credit set for the coming year.
Besides this the rural India gets a bag full of goodies:
- The corpus for rural infrastructure development has been raised to Rs. 140 billion.
- Rs 200 billion for irrigation projects under AIPB, showing an increase of Rs 90 billion over last year.
- Rs 750 million to be given to Agriculture Ministry for providing mobile soil testing laboratories in 250 districts.
- Rs 6.440 billion for National Agriculture Insurance Scheme, which will be continued pending evolving an alternative crop insurance scheme.
- NREGA scheme to be rolled out in all the 596 rural districts in the country in 2008-09.
- Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission to get Rs 68.65 billion this year against Rs 54.82 billion past year.
- Education has got a very special treatment. However the application of last year's budget allocation for education leaves much to be desired.
- Twenty per cent hike in education budget this year from Rs 286.74 billion to Rs 344 billion.
- Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan will be provided at a cost of Rs 131 billion
- Secondary Education Scheme at a cost of Rs 45.54 billion.
- 410 additional Kasturba Gandhi Vidyalaya to be set up in backward blocks.
- Rs. 1.30 billion allocated for opening Navodaya Vidyalayas in 20 districts with special focus on regions having SC/ST concentration.
- Rs. 7.50 billion more to be given for merit scholarship to students up to 10th and 12th class.
- Rs 850 million sanctioned for scholarships to students pursuing science education.
- Mid day Meal scheme extended to upper primary level in 3479 schools. Mid Day Meal scheme to cost of Rs 80 billion
- Allocation for NRHM increased to Rs 120.50 billion
- 16 central universities to be opened in 2008-09.
- Three IITs to be set up in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan.
- Schools of architecture and planning in Bhopal and Vijaywada. More institutes of higher education to be opened.
- Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research to be set up at Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram.
- Rs 1 billion to be given to Information Technology Ministry to set up national knowledge centres.
- Rs. 2 billion for potable water in schools.
- SC, ST and minority students to continue to get special attention.
- Defense expenditure has been increased by 10% to a staggering Rs. 1056 billion.
- Sixth central pay commission to submit report by March 31, 2008. It is expected to announce a hefty hike in salaries of government employees. There is no proper performance management system for government employees and they take the public and tax payers for a ride in most cases.
But, what is this?
- What irks me is an attitude towards playing the political card of religion and caste by allowing special incentives / packages to minorities and specific castes. I do not see any reason for having this in a civilized, democratic society.
- Rs. 750 million sanctioned for Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship Programme for SC/ST students pursuing M.Phil.
- Rs. 2.30 billion will be extended as additional equity to developmental organisations looking after the welfare of Scheduled Cast / Scheduled Tribe, socially and economically backward classes and minorities.
- Allocation for Minority Affairs Ministry to be doubled from Rs 5 billion to Rs 10 billion.
- Rs 5.40 billion for multi-sectoral development plan for minority concentration districts.
- 288 public sector bank branches to be opened in districts having minority community concentration.
- Fiscal deficit is 3.1%
- Revenue deficit is 1.4%
- GDP growth slows down to 8.4 per cent during quarter ended December 31, 2007 as compared to 9.1 per cent a year ago.
- Tax to GDP ratio increased from 9.2 per cent in 2004-05 to 12.5 per cent 2007-08.
The budget is definitely a populist budget targeting the Lok Sabha Elections in 2009. It has given a lot of impetus for inclusive growth besides buying out a large vote bank for UPA Government. They have won the heart of farmers, employees and businesses! The badly hit has been the service sector and few manufacturing industries. But at the end you cannot make everyone happy! Unfortunately I have been on the other side, being an owner of an IT service company.
January 13, 2008
Offshore outsourcing – a concept that made IT & India synonmous with each other in the first decade of 21st century is loosing its glamour quotient consistently. It seems that by 2010, hundreds of software companies will run out of steam as they loose their competitiveness in the ever changing industry, since their business model has been worked around cost arbitrage alone.
Some hard facts which makes me feel so:
Increasing wages in India: Salaries are constantly moving skyward. Every year IT companies are forced to raise wages by 20-25% to remain competitive in the job market. Some hot IT destinations in India have become as expensive as Australia and Canada (if not USA and UK) in terms of manpower costs. With advent of offshore facilities of US / Europe based software companies, the trend will continue to move north.
Shortage of skilled manpower: Indian IT industry is facing a major shortage of employable skilled manpower. The education system has not gone through any fundamental improvement to fulfill the ever growing demand of the industry. Large companies are hiring semi-skilled and non-skilled professionals (not really) to fill in the positions that exists in their team. This is continually detoriating the quality and quantity of work that gets done resulting an increase in effective cost of production for the customer. At one point of time or other, this will pinch and will make offshore outsourcing non-competitive.
Appreciating rupee, depreciating dollar: With the economic upswing, the rupee is scaling new heights. On the other hand, due to economic slowdown in sight, US dollar is declining heavily. This is resulting in direct losses of revenue for most offshore outsourcing companies. There has been a 10-14% decline in revenues just because of currency appreciation. This is a net loss to the company since the effort / cost of servicing the client remains the same.
Increasing operational expenses: Cost of doing business is on a rise with zooming real estate prices, increasing fuel prices and towering living expenses. Companies are forced to spend a lot of money in the x-factor to impress prospective employees. All these put together are increasing the operational expenses and overheads for offshore outsourcing companies. In fact inflation is heading towards 10%, which is not making things better.
Companies are adpoting global-sourcing: Large enterprises in USA / Europe which were dependent on offshore outsourcing till date are now aggressively adopting global-sourcing. Many of these companies are directly setting up their software development centers in India (or a competitive location), resulting in a dent in the revenues of offshore outsourcing companies who used to serve them. The trend towards captive offshore development delivery will only increase in years to come.
New destinations: Several new offshore outsourcing destinations are coming up including China, Brazil, Ukrain, Ireland, Poland, South Africa and Russia. Many of them do not rank close to India in terms of the combo-punch of english educated, logically strong, hard working Indian IT worker. But they are making
But as it is said, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. I am sure many companies will evolve their business models, move up the value chain and give customers more than one way to outsource to them!
Afterall the outsourcing story has just begun!