Google’s Challenges

Business Week has a story on the challenges that face Google: “Competition is building at both the high and low ends of the market. Worse, some clients think the search giant is encroaching on their turf.”

Of course, who wouldn’t want to be in Google’s shoes, even though as the article says, “it may be facing one of the oldest maxims in business: Once you make it to the top, it can be mighty hard to stay there.”

DQWeek Lead Story

Own a computer for just Rs 5,000 is the title of a DQ (Dataquest) Week Delhi story on us. An excerpt from the story by Shweta Khanna:

How about a fully functional desktop at just Rs 5,000! No gimmicks, no frills, perfect display, complete productivity suites and a high-speed processor. Sounds like a dream? Yes, it has been a dream so far, but one man wants to change the rules of the game. Based on the conventional thin client desktop-thick client server OS architecture, this desktop can be affordable for a number of people who are still skeptical about buying a PC due to high price attached and higher maintenance cost.

Rajesh Jain, MD, Netcore Solutions Pvt Ltd, is spearheading this task. “It is all about understanding the customer and creating a market that can use it easily. It’s like a pizza, buy a pizza for Rs 200 and one that comes for Rs 20 only. I am trying to put together a unit that is affordable, practical in usage, works efficiently and a product you can rely on.”

The architecture is simple. It is about creating a software platform, which brings down costs of technology by a factor of 10, thus making it affordable for consumers and enterprises in the world’s emerging markets.

“It is going to become the computing platform for the next five million consumers and the thousands of SMEs who have not been able to adopt technology because of high pricing,” pointed out Jain.

Digital Identity

An interest conversation between Jon Udell (JU) and Ray Ozzie (RO) in InfoWorld:

JU: When asked to explain how Weblogs, Web services, and digital identity are jointly disruptive, I realized that the trust that exists in the Weblog space is related to digital identity. You know that authors have to authenticate in order to post, and you can see the reputations that people build up over time.

RO: The fact that I can recognize your writing, for example, is truly fascinating. We get caught up in the low-level infrastructure, but I don’t think that’s where the action is. We started Groove with the notion that there’s a distinct difference between peer-and enterprise-blessed trust. But if I’m going to let people work at the edge, I need them to understand who they’re sharing information with, so they don’t say something inappropriate. It’s easy to slap up a list of members of the space, but it’s also important to communicate who’s in your organization, who’s in another —

JU: And to be able to check out their history.

RO: Exactly. So we allowed enterprises to cross-certify other enterprises or domains within the enterprise, and the trust icon we display is unique based on whether it’s your enterprise, someone else’s enterprise, an individual whose fingerprint you’ve verified, or whether they’re untrusted.

Perhaps, there’s an opportunity somewhere there for BlogStreet…

Prahalad on India

It is always fascinating and extremely educating to read what CK Prahalad has to say. On his recent trip to India, he spoke about his vision for India. [1 2] A few excerpts:

It’s possible for India to achieve 10-15 per cent growth rate and add 10-15 million jobs a year. In 1929, we said ‘Poorna Swaraj’. Did it sound realistic then? We need to desperately want to solve the problems. If we don’t want it bad enough, it won’t happen…There’s an emerging sense of entrepreneurship, trapped resources almost to the tune of $1 trillion, market opportunities and emerging competence base. India has world’s largest food stocks, yet there are famines and malnourishment. We need to ask why?

Dont start from where you are (the fundamental fault in our planning process), but from where the future could be. Plan the desirable future and then fold it back, on what to do to get there. Run 400 metres at a time, but run the marathon.

Best practices never take you to leadership. It is the next practice that will. Gather courage to invent the next practice.

His mantra: “India Inside is for yours to take. If you dont someone else will and Ill haunt you.”

Prahalad’s “Competing for the Future” was the inspiration for me for IndiaWorld. Many of his “Bottom of the Pyramid” ideas are driving Emergic. We will invent the future, and we will do it from India. India first. Other emerging markets next.

Continue reading

TECH TALK: Entrepreneur’s Enigmas (Part 4)

Building a Management Team

No entrepreneur can do everything by himself. At some point of time, he realises the need to build a management team of people as good, if not smarter, than him. That also means learning to delegate and trust others to do the job. This doesnt come easily to most entrepreneurs.

This is because for the entrepreneur, his venture is all-consuming. It is life. There is little distinction or separation between personal and business time. Everything is related to the business. This same belief is not necessarily shared by others who become part of the management team. This is where the entrepreneur needs to respect their time and space. He needs to accept that while they may not share the same passion as him, they are also now part of the venture and as committed to its success.

Recruiting the management is a challenge in itself. Paying a headhunter to find these people can become a very expensive. More often than not, the entrepreneur will look for people he has known or worked with in the past, and shares some common threads with. The danger here is that the new team can become all too similar. It is necessary to introduce variety and get people with differing, even opposing, viewpoints.

People make the business. And people will also be the cause for most of the entrepreneurs heartaches, enigmas and delights. Even as the people come together to form a team, the entrepreneur needs to continue to be the motivator-in-chief. After all, he is the reason why the others are there.

Product Promotion

One of the dilemmas an entrepreneur faces is how much to spend on product promotion and how. Putting up advertisements is a great thrill, but there is a problem in the early stages, the venture is unlikely to sustain an advertising campaign. The entrepreneur will typically look for returns on each ad put up, and that may not be the best way to build a brand. At the same time, it may not be easy to allocate funds for a large campaign.

What needs to be done is that the entrepreneur needs to look at more cost-effective ways of promotion. Meeting people he knows, speaking at seminars and conferences, writing for publications, blogging are all cost-effective techniques to generate buzz. They have a cost only in terms of the entrepreneurs time, and not hard (and scarce) cash.

The entrepreneurs passion is the best advocate for the product and that needs to be visible. In the early stages, customers are making a bet as much on him as the product. The entrepreneurs infectious enthusiasm must be visible to everyone. He has to be confident about success, balanced with humility. The entrepreneur must talk to as wide a number of people as possible one doesnt know which connection will trigger off a chain of positive events.

The entrepreneur must be open and transparent. There is little to lose ideas can be copied, but its very difficult to replicate the entire thinking that the entrepreneur has. In todays world, entrepreneurs must think of sharing their ideas with one and all it will get them a lot of feedback from the outside world. Think of this as open-source company.

Tomorrow: Entrepreneurs Enigmas (continued)

Continue reading