May 29, 2013

My way of assessing professionals

The tough question is: What is your assessment of Mr. X? Do you think you can work with him?

I have always answered it from the "gut". However, there were always few fundamental principals behind them. With time, I have been able to identify them better and hence this small post.

I call it the 3-way test. Does the person in question have:

  • Integrity
  • Commitment
  • Capabilities

Everything else comes after these fundamental characteristics. A little bit more about them.

1) Integrity is paramount. It goes without saying that there is no value in working with anyone who does not have integrity. It can be defined as (as per wikipedia) "Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulnessor accuracy of one's actions."  So, in brief, someone who believes in "Do to others as you would have them do to you".

If someone does not have integrity, I cannot work with him/her. This is the first and foremost test.

2) Second comes commitment or responsibility. It is important to be responsible and committed towards a given task / job. If someone is not responsible, there is no assurance that the job will be done. It is great to work with someone on whom you can rely and be rest assured that the job will be done.

If someone does not have commitment, he can be mentored. It needs a lot of effort to adapt to this change as it is a behavioral change where the person believes "the job must be done" instead of "i have tried my best".

3) Capabilities are highly over-rated. If someone has self-belief, intelligence, commitment and is hard working, he / she can develop any capability. It is actually the easiest thing to acquire. And, in the current world, people need to cross-skill, up-skill and unlearn all the time. However, as we are starved for time and every minute costs us a lot, it is increasingly important to work with people who have the right skill set for the given job.

If someone lacks in skill, he can be trained. And therefore, I will surely try to make the relationship work.

Therefore, the simple formula is: 0-1-2. Integrity issue – the relationship deserves 0 chance; Responsibility issue – the relationship deserves 1 chance; Capability issue – the relationship deserves 2 chances. It is not that I am able to follow this rule religiously. But, the closely I have followed it, the more I have benefited. After all everyone (including me) deserves to have good company.

Whats your thoughts on this?

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April 23, 2012

Technology Trends for 2012

I was thinking of writing this post for quite some time. But, @twitter has made me lazy. However, I have finally taken out time to summarize some technology trends that I see emerging and strengthening in 2012.

  • Mainstream adoption of mobile web – It seems mobile web is finally here. The tablets has fueled the growth and has also increased the horizon of mobile web from essential info search to default information consumption device, which opens doors for a lot of interesting innovation in days to come. With tablets overtaking the production of laptops and desktops in number, this trend is set to grow.

    We, at Indus Net Technologies has adopted a mandate that we will design sites for tablets and then make sure that it renders well on laptop / desktop resolutions.

  • Mobile Transactions – With mobile payment infrastructure, regulations been put together and advent of NFC, mobile payment (or wallet) is a reality. It is however to be seen, who vests the power – the network providers, device manufacturers or the app developers. The collaborative competition will be interesting to watch.

    It shall also gradually replace visiting cards and catalogs / brochures. I have increasingly felt less anxious when I meet people without my visiting card in my pocket. I know, we can connect through mobile (will become easier with NFC / Bump) and social networks.

  • The OS / browser war is ON – With Android (from Google), WinMobile (from Microsoft) and iOS (from Apple), the old OS and Browser war is back. This time it is not separate – it is integrated, as web has emerged as the new platform.
  • Interactivity is changing – Interactivity has moved on from keyboard to mouse to touch (the last one literally turned around Apple's fortune). And now it is set to move into the domain of voice and gesture. Innovators are working hard to make them mainstream.
  • Convergence – Though, there has been talks about convergence for quite some time, but it will be visible in consumer use this year. TV, Internet and Mobile will finally blur with the advent of Smart TV, Android PC and Android based tablets / mobiles. All these can run same apps, which will bring in integrated functionality and give us access to content and functions irrespective of the medium.

    This will have path-breaking impact in the verticals of entertainment, education, home automation, productivity, etc.

  • Cloud (IaaS, SaaS and PaaS) becomes mainstream – IaaS, SaaS and PaaS is rapidly becoming mainstream. Though IaaS seems to remain under the reign of the big boys, SaaS will remain a favorite for technology start-ups! However, this year will see the growing popularity of PaaS, which provides a middle path to the enterprises who are averse to adapt SaaS.

    This paves the way for wide adoption and growth of XML based 4GL and 5GL languages. From application development perspective, does it mean the end of the tedious coding cycles, which has fueled the growth of offshore outsourcing industry so far? Only time will tell.

  • Social media gets mainstream – From the fancy muse of technology enthusiasts, social media is set to become mainstream. The rising concern among the political circles about the freedom of speech due to the social networks like Facebook and Twitter is a clear indication that they have proven their importance.

    The multimedia part of the social media will continue to evolve and improving intuitiveness of interaction will bring more users contribute / consume content. If my 18 month old daughter can hook on to Youtube for her favorite video, there is no reason why 70 year olds (most of those who found it difficult to adopt to technology, as they had to learn it) cannot.

  • Video will emerge as the most popular and common content / media for mass communication replacing text and images as we have on most websites. It stimulates all senses and gets the message across quickly and precisely. In a world with such low attention span, who has got the time to patiently read a 1000 word brief of how a new gadget works or how Company A is changing the world.
Whats the next big thing? It may not happen right now, but they are not very far either:
  • The idea is to reduce improve the signal vs. noise ratio. Something that will allow us to focus on the essential and stay away from the bloat in the age of information overload. There seems to be several attempts, but no product seems to be the "winner" yet. This may be a little far away, but "objectiveness" will become a more and more desired skill.
  • After network of sites (Google) and network of people (Facebook), it will be time for network of objects. Technology / platform to leverage the same and get the most of it, thrusting us in the machine age is not far away.

    Several companies are already working on prototypes and proof of concepts and it is not far before innovators will start putting business models around them. Technology is already available – it is about making it easy to use and show the best possible use of the network of objects, so that it becomes a "need" for masses from a "aspiration" or "sci-fiction"

  • On a sad footnote, the print publishing industry has been pushed to brink at a faster pace than they (or even I) expected. Try to reflect on yourself – do you really find it difficult to stay away from newspaper. If you have not tried, its worth giving a try.

Beyond doubt, the rate of change in technology is accelerating at a pace that is unprecedented. It will be exciting to see how this post / trend spotting matches with the real result in a years time.

It was summarized by a statement made by a friend of mine who is in corporate debt finance –

"I have to work harder, I have to keep reviewing the companies and their state every couple of months now. Gone are the days when companies used to take 10 years to be built and same amount of time to be killed due to mismanagement. 10 years has shrunk to 10 months, if not less"

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July 18, 2011

How to improve marketing?

This is an impromptu blog post in response to a question asked by Abhinaba Dey on a Facebook forum. Though the question was addressed for start-ups, but I feel this can be extended universally. Will love to know your thoughts on this:

Question: How to improve marketing for start-ups?

Do while (endless) {
Observe results;
Re-execute successful experiments;
Analyze root cause of failed experiments;
Unlearn old concepts based on experience;

I will be happy to improve this no-brainer algorithm with your inputs! So do post your comments 🙂


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January 22, 2011

My interview @ Mixergy.com

Recently, I was interviewed by Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com. Here is the video for you. Please post all your reactions at Mixergy only (link given below), so that the conversation stays in one place and everyone can relate to it.

P.S.: The positive emails after this video interview has inspired me to do a detailed video story of INT. It is not the biggest story ;), but I am sure there will be few takeaways and I will be happy if it helps anyone.

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September 4, 2010

Bootstrapping 101

In a follow up to my previous blog post about "Bootstrapping Myths", here are some tips for those bootstrapped startups. I have applied many of these techniques myself, and hence suggesting the same:

1) Speed is critical

When you run a business, your expenses are ON. Your revenue is OPTIONAL (i.e. only available when you close deals!). And, you need to self-sustain within the given means. Therefore speed is critical. You need to experiment fast, learn fast and earn fast. If you don't, you will run out of the little cash box that you have, and the venture will be hit.

2) Start small

Do not hesitate to start small.

There is a fantastic concept called – "compounding". If a number keep doubling itself for 25 times, you will have a big scale. Therefore keep a goal to keep multiplying in a sustainable way. Remember the chessboard problem!

3) Execute, then plan

One common problem I have seen in most startups (or even bigger companies), that make them un-viable (read: un-sustainable) is excessive planning and very little execution. Things are changing faster than before, and therefore many ideas / thoughts get obsolete by the time they are executed. Therefore, prepare a gut based on some "core concepts" or "thoughts" that define your way of doing things (warning: be flexible about changing these core beliefs, if proven wrong!), apply this gut to the sketchy plan that you have on the paper-napkin, and take a call. Then learn from the outcome, feed the gut new info, and repeat the process.

If you do not go out and do things, you will never understand how it works. If you are putting together an assumption that you can get X number of customers by sending a blast mailer to 1 million users, then do a trial on 1000 and see if you get 1/1000th of the estimated numbers? If not, then re-validate your theory. If you keep thinking and guessing and planning, you will end up being in a dream land – with no fundamentals.

4) CEO = Chief Everything Officer

If you do not believe in the above equation, do not even think of starting a business (forget about bootstrapping it!).

You got to do everything that the business needs. It can start from cleaning your office to negotiating a deal with the biggest retail outlet in your town, from calling prospective employees to installing the server.

5) Barter / Trade

You will be amazed to discover how many things you can barter – and save cost and build strong relationships. Look at opportunities with your vendors where you can swap services / products. It will not only save you money, but will give you new customers / clients / consumers. Make sure that you:

  • put a clear $$ value to your offering
  • are not too pushy
  • are offering something that is relevant to the other person

Barter / trade may not happen in the exact form as it used to happen in stone age. What you can expect is to get a "heavy" discount on your purchase bill from your vendor for the services you are offering.  Also, you may not get barter deals from very well established players. You may have to look for vendors who are good, but do not have a very big order book – difficult but possible.

6) Negotiate, then re-negotiate

It is okay to negotiate. Many-a-times, we just feel embarrassed to negotiate. There is always a better deal / bargain / price waiting for you. You just need to take the initiative to offer a price that you feel is fair for the product / service (or what you can offer). Sometime, you may have to start below your comfort zone, so that both of you can meet at your comfort zone.

And yes, do not feel embarrassed to re-negotiate, if need arise. There is no set rule and the deal is not finalized, till you sign the dotted line. You deserve the best.

Just be fair!

Note: I strongly advice that you research the prices (caution: compare apples with apples – specially while buying services). Sometimes this can result in big savings.

7) Invest in technology

If technology can be deployed properly, it can save a lot of money. It can also improve organizational efficiency, which can become an important differentiator and help you garner more business. Spend time to understand different technologies available, which can reduce cost, enable collaboration, improve communication and make you look / work smart.

Technology need not necessarily cost a lot of money. Adopt open source and free software. There is one for almost every possible business application 🙂 Cheer up!

8) Extra-ordinary income

There are some indirect avenues from which your business can generate cash.

  • Sub-lease part of your office space / give out desk space / invite others to come and work with you and share costs
  • Do garage sale – do not hang on to things that you may not near in near future (specially computers!)

9) Get your accounting right

Everyone will probably suggest that – get a good accountant.

I will say that – spend time in learning as much about accounts as you can. Accounts let you see and listen into your business. If you do not understand it, you will be at a loss of control over your business. You should know your numbers like the back of your hand. And you should be constantly analyzing ratios (over a time line) like turnover, profit, current ratio, acid test ratio, solvency ratio, debtors / creditors turnover, etc. This will let you know the direction of your business, so that you can steer it clear of accident prone zones!

Set up management information system and decide upon core organizational metrics to measure key parameters such as sales performance, customer satisfaction, customer distribution, product quality, etc. And, take action to streamline things which look out of place. Else, all the effort is a waste.

Imp Note: It need not be the most expensive software system on the planet. You can simply use spreadsheets to manage that!

10)  Sell without spending

There are several ways in which you can generate sales without spending a lot of money in advertising. You will discover your own set of tricks while you do business (relevant to your business). Some very common ways are:

  • Social media
  • Networking events
  • Word of mouth referral
  • PR / Media

These methods will result in lowest "cost of sale" and will give you your "most loyal customers". Keep your eyes (and mind) open to make deals. They will happen.

11) Hire for attitude / Appraise for performance

When you end up hiring – hire for attitude / talent. The degrees do not matter.

Spend time in developing them (I think this is why they call it Human Resource Development) – aligning them to company requirements / goals – and then measure their performance – and give feedback.

If you sustain the wrong people, they wont probably let your company sustain – hence killing the idea of "bootstrapping".


I hope these small random ideas about bootstrapping will help you in a small way. If you have an interesting tip to share, please post it as a comment, and I will be happy to include it. Feel free to share them!

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Bootstrapping Myths

Recently I was asked to speak about "Bootstrapping a Service Business" by Startup Saturday.  Though I knew (fuzzily) about bootstrapping as a concept, but I never knew the real meaning. Strange!

"Bootstrapping or booting refers to a group of metaphors that share a common meaning: a self-sustaining process that proceeds without external help. The term is often attributed to Rudolf Erich Raspe's story The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, where the main character pulls himself out of a swamp, though it's disputed whether it was done by his hair or by his bootstraps." – Wikipedia

This definition busted two myths that I had about "bootstrapping"

Myth 1) Bootstrapping is for startups

The keyword is "self sustaining" and "without external help". Since many startups think that they need external help, this term might be used to tell (some of) them – you are on your own!

Besides this, bootstrapping is something that every business should practice. Even a Fortune 500 company can bootstrap! And it will be good for the economy. We will have a more stable economy, where people self-sustain without external help to the greatest possible extent. In my opinion bootstrapping results in self-check (real viability of the project) and makes the organization self reliant, result oriented (i.e. if there are no results – no profits – no turnaround, then you do not survive) and disciplined.

So, conclusion is – bootstrapping is for ALL.

Myth 2) Bootstrapping = cost cutting – low spend

Bootstrapping is NOT about cost cutting or spending less. It is about spending in areas, which get you best ROI. In other words – "Invest. Don't spend".

It is important to make clear demarcation between investment and expenses for your business. Choose your investments wisely and and be frugal with your expenses. Anything, which has a DIRECT correlation with increasing your revenues, or satisfying a set of clients, or getting better technology (to get you an edge), can be a good investment (in that order). Since you have to self sustain, if your cash reserves are low, do not look at long term revenue impact!

Anything that wont make a difference in your revenue (medium of travel, hotel etc.) is an expense. I do not claim this to be a perfect definition, but it should work in most practical cases.

Instead of "low spend", think of "being cash positive" – "being profitable" and "good ROI".

Last but not the least, bootstrapping looks less glamorous and exciting, but in my opinion, the returns are worth the effort. It helps you retain most of the control / ownership of the company, which you can later dilute to get better returns for the "bootstrapped" effort that you have put in. And, yes – it makes you wiser and a grounded professional for sure.

So, happy bootstrapping!

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August 11, 2010

A branding lesson from Ramayana

Interesting topic?

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.

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February 14, 2010

Winning Strategies – A career perspective from Arun Agrawal

Last week, my friend Arun Agrawal agreed to do a guest post on my blog. I found the subject interesting and aligned to the taste of my readers. So here it goes:

Winning Strategies

What is your formula for incredible success in any field that you decide to work in? Technical skills, right connections? If you ask me, I will suggest you try 'passion'. This is your secret USP for success. If you have a job and are looking for a raise, demonstrate your passion in executing your assignments and your team leader cannot help noticing your attitude and recommending you for that coveted promotion. If you have an entrepreneurial venture, develop some great products or deliver passionate customer service and you are sure to have lots of business all the time.

Remember – “One passionate person is better than 40 people casually interested!”

I will now do something that people don’t do on academic and business platforms. I will be sharing with you, 2 spiritual tips for winning almost any battle of life – be it studies, job hunting or business success.

1. Forgiveness:

Forgive everyone who has done anything bad to you. Yes, your girl friend who has ditched you, your friend who avoided you when you needed his help, your brothers and sisters who played loud music when you were studying – get rid of all the anger, frustration and resentment and you will feel a tremendous relief. Your mind and body will feel very light and you will be able to achieve your future targets so much more easily. This is an abstract thought – difficult to accept and act upon – but you will feel the difference in a day when you apply it.

2. Gratitude:

Be thankful to everyone around you. Be thankful to your institute which gave you the education that prepared you for a successful career ahead, to your parents who brought you in this wonderful world and your clients who ordered your services.

Think a little and you will be able to find ‘at least one’ reason to thank anyone you come across. And to follow my own dictum, I thank you – heartily – to have visited this blog and read my ‘tips’.

I will like to close with this parting message. We humans have great potential and are capable of achieving a lot. Believe in yourself and get on your job. Some French general once said “Difficult problems are no worries for us; it is the impossible that takes some time!”

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February 10, 2010

Interview on SEO Outsourcing by Kelvin Newman @ SiteVisibility

I was recently interviewed by Kelvin Newman @ SiteVisibility.

Here is the link:

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September 7, 2009

A short interview

I got a very interesting interview (questionnaire) from TiE Delhi. I think this is smart and I enjoyed answering it. So here it goes:

  • I was born in Kolkata.
  • When not in office, I like to be at home.
  • Favourite holiday destinationDarjeeling.
  • The quality that impresses me most in people is honesty and professionalism.
  • Book I recommend others to read Getting Things Done & My Experiments With Truth
  • If I were not an entrepreneur or professional I am today, I would be a mountaineer
  • My pillar of strength is my family, my integrity and my persistence
  • Top 3 ingredients that go into making a successful venture are hard work, customer focus and innovation
  • My leadership style/mantra is atomic fission – do not let organization become too big. Break when needed and get new leaders grow and manage each new atomic unit.
  • Entrepreneurship is a state of mind

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August 31, 2009

Seeders – Angel fund and incubation for the tech startups!

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:

  1. To build a successful Internet technology company which can enable millions of businesses
  2. To bring mass scale change in education system in terms of quality, content, reach and cost
  3. 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.

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March 27, 2009

Braving the downturn – More recession strategies

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.

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March 12, 2009

What's next? Social Media Fraud!

Over years, we have been subject to several frauds.

It can be a political fraud when someone do horse-trading of members of legislative assembly / parliament to reach the coveted majority mark in the parliament. Or cast their influence to get a contract awarded to his favorite business house.

Then we have been subjected to corporate fraud where Harshad Mehta brings down the market single-handed or highly recognized corporate teams bring down companies like Lehman Brothers, Enron, Worldcom and most recently Satyam.

So what's next?
I can see a high probability of a social media fraud!

This is very much probable due to the volume of social content that is being created and the level at which private data is getting exposed to the public (or is at risk of getting exposed). There are so many companies launching sites which collect and process personal and business information as Web2.0 web services or SaaS systems. Many of them claim to have solid privacy policies and data protection measures. However, I seriously doubt the claims of most websites and waiting for someone to come up and disclose that they have been funding their operations by misusing the copyrights or selling private information in sizable chunks to third parties.

I was just wondering at its probability and the consequences. Any ideas?

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February 21, 2009

Why am I enjoying the downturn?

I was wondering last day –
Why am I enjoying the downturn?

Today I got the answer at Seth Godin's blog.

Because it brings around change. Status-quo is being challenged.
Things will not work the way they used to work. Innovation and hard work will score over luck and speculation.

It is a problem for those, who were lousy in their work.

It has not changed anything for the fit entrepreneurs and enterprises. In fact, it has just opened new opportunities for them. They will survive, for they remained grounded to reality. But, unfortunately, thousands of people took the sunny days for granted. And I am sure those people will wake up to this new world and realize – "Someone has moved their cheese".

I feel much safer today – for I know that my adaptability and hard work is setting me apart from the vulnerable one. 

So, if you are a creator and someone who have always "been in action" and loves to be "in action", I bet you are enjoying these days!

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How to have an economical stay in the UK (mainly London)?

United Kingdom (UK) is an expensive economy with high cost of living. For business visitors, it is important to have an economical and comfortable stay. Based on my experience, I am putting together some tips for fellow business travelers.

Hotel / Stay:

Accommodation in UK can vary between GBP 10 per night (for bunker beds) to GBP 300 (for five star hotels).

I have stayed in four star hotels (Thistle / Holiday Inn) as well as B&B in various locations like Kings Cross, Earls Court, Edgware Road and Kensington Gardens. I found the services in hotels to be very cold and indifferent.  I found Bed & Breakfast to be much more friendly, accommodating and economical. They charge between GBP 35 to GBP 60 per night and tops it up with a good homely English breakfast in the morning.

A good place to search for Bed & Breakfast in the UK is http://www.travelstay.com/


Try to check if your Bed & Breakfast offers you free wireless Internet connectivity or not. Most of them do now a days. As a back up plan and to stay connected when you are traveling or in meetings, you can opt for 3G wireless broadband. I opted for 3-mobile and it works quite well. The dongle cost me GBP 60 initially and then I just need to top it up whenever I am visiting UK. Effectively I and up paying GBP 10 per month for connectivity.


You can get cheap Pay-As-You-Go sim cards at the airport. I have used Talkmobile which comes with long distance facility at very reasonable cost (the only funny part was that calling India was cheaper than calling a local number). They also have GPRS, so that you can access Internet through your mobile phone and check your emails on the move. I use it all the time and it works quite well. They have also started doing online-recharge after I ranted about it after my last trip on my blog 😉


Since, I prefer Indian vegeterian food, I find Masala Zone to be the best one. They provide a complete meal (the closest I have found to home cooked food in London) for under GBP 10. There are numerous eateries and restaurants. I do not think you can spend more than GBP 15-20 on your food unless you are in a mood to reward yourself for something!

Getting around:

The best way to get around London is its public transport system. Grab an Oyster card (even if you will stay inb London for a short duration), top it up with some money and use it everywhere. I find it most convenient and economical. If you plan to travel extensively on a given day, consider buying a day pass for less than GBP 6 and you will have unlimited travel on tube and bus (within couple of zones) for the day.

So, If you are smart, you can have a comfortable and enjoyable working stay in London quite economically. Try these tips next time you are around.

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