An Entrepreneur’s Mountains

I got a nice email from Anand (Aeroprise): “It’s amazing how entrepreneurship seems to the only way that otherwise well educated and talented people can consciously stop themselves from getting stuck in a rut and solve problems that lead to quantum leaps rather than incremental progress…How it gives us a chance to make differences in technology and in the lives of people that linger long after we are gone.”

Many times, we think about the financial gains that an activity can give us. In entrepreneurship, it is just the opposite. The focus needs to be on doing something different, something to change some aspect of the world. Monetary benefits, if they occur, are a by-product. We have to do something we strongly believe in. It is that inner passion that drives entrepreneurs.

Personally, I have not known any other life. I spent two years working in the US, and that was it. If I look at the past 11-odd years since I quit NYNEX, most of the years have been an uphill struggle against the odds. Sometimes one manages to climb a mountain (only to find another one ahead), at other times one falls and realises that one has to take a different path. This is what one has to enjoy and like as an entrepreneur.

On a related note, Pradyuman Maheshwari writes about the interactions we’ve had during the past decade, in response to my post on 4 years of the IndiaWorld deal.

Microsoft’s Next Frontier: Cars

Cars will get Windows! WSJ writes on Microsoft’s move into the 650 million car market, growing by 50 million each year:

Cars with the Microsoft Corp. software will speak up when it’s time for an oil change. They’ll warn drivers about wrecks on the road ahead and scout alternative routes. They’ll pay freeway tolls automatically. The software running their brakes will upgrade itself wirelessly.

Microsoft’s “TBox,” which he said will be available in 12 to 36 months, can connect them all and make them hands-free. “The idea is to make it easy to bring phones and laptops into the car and connect to networks around it,” said Dick Brass, vice-president of Microsoft’s automotive business unit.

The device has a processor, memory and a hard drive with no moving parts, said Peter Wengert, marketing manager for Microsoft’s automotive unit.

Mr. Brass said drivers could use the system to create 21st century vanpools and help reduce congestion. “It’s possible to imagine setting a system in place with 5,000 to 10,000 vans and have a dramatic reduction in traffic,” he said. “With GPS and TBox, we have the tools we would need to put this all together.”

Accelerating Acceleration

Andrew Anker writes about how the standard technology adoption model (influential pioneers, fast followers, mainstream masses, laggards) is changing:

– The product uptake curve is accelerating
– The laggard market is disappearing
– New products will either open big or get killed early
– It’s not about technology any more
– Early adopters will become a big enough group to serve on their own
– Consumers will be the real winners

Blogs for Enterprises

eWeek has an interview with John Patrick on weblogs and their use by businesses. Some excerpts:

Knowledge management wasn’t overhyped. It was underdelivered. Blogs can potentially deliver the grassroots discussions and knowledge-sharing that top-down, corporate-sponsored efforts never could.

There is no question in my mind that blogging is already beginning to reshape how information is created, published and shared. Blogs have the power to introduce new voices into the mix, which will enrich the quality of information available. Voices not necessarily heard before, thanks to limitations of money, access or hierarchyyou’re not the CEO, you’re just a guy with a big ideanow you can bridge those gaps. Say you’re a CIO who wants to develop some thought leadership around the need to rethink the company’s approach to mobile workforce strategies. Blogs can give you access to the grassroots and to your peers that you might not otherwise have had.

Today, employees have their intranets, but the intranet is the data dumpster. Everything is there but you can’t find what you want. Much of the content is old and no longer relevant. What employees want is a current view on a topic. They want to find what the experts are thinking so they can leverage that experience. Corporate blogs will become the source. Companies will also use blogging to share their news and views with their customers and suppliers.

The goal is to improve the leveraging of the expertise within the department and across the corporation…[Blogging is] a way to energize the expertise from the bottomin other words, to allow people who want to share, who are good at sharing, who know who the experts are, who talk to the experts or who may, in fact, be one of those experts, to participate more fully. We all know somebody in our organization who knows everything that’s going on.

People won’t go to the company intranet to search for information. Instead, they’ll look in blogs see what people they trust and respect have to say.

Create a blog central, which might be On that Web page can be a list of the blogs of the experts or the representatives of those experts organized by subjects important to the companymetallurgy and Linux and CRM and so forth. They might find relevant information or links to other resources they didn’t know about.

Excellent ideas. We need to think how we can take the blogging phenomenon and apply it to organisations in India.

P2P Sales Model

Don Park has an idea which combines a bit of social networking and selling:

A sales person, no matter how carefully you choose them, will be cluess about most of the product he is assigned to sell. The first problem is that they lack the motivation to learn. The second problem is that they are not excited about the product. They are just clueless people who just wants to sell it and don’t care whether the buyer is making the right purchase or not.

The core idea is to let customers sell to each other in return for discount coupons.

The chance of me making a sales is arguably higher than a sales person because a) I am well informed about the products, b) I am highly enthusiastic about the products, and c) I am a peer.

This model is similar to the way BitTorrent works. While I am downloading something via BitTorrent, I am sharing what I downloaded so far with other downloaders in return for faster downloading speed. While I am making a purchase, I am sharing my knowledge and energy with other potential purchasers in return for discounts.

Something to ponder about in how we sell Pragatee…?

RSS and Handhelds

Dan Gillmor uses the Treo 600, finds an RSS reader for it, and envisions the future of “headline news – RSS style on handhelds”. What he now wants: “This is a great start, being able to read this way. But the two-way Web means I need better ways to write, too. My blogging software doesn’t give me an easy way to make a quick posting into just those two fields, with an extremely low-bandwidth page that’s easily readable on the handheld.”

I think I ought to get one of these devices. My cellphone is a 3-year-old triband Motorola L-series. I must be using one of the oldest cellphones in the world!

TECH TALK: My Mental Model: The Rural India Conundrum

Even as a shining India aims to reach China-like growth levels, there was one realisation which was clear to me: our growth will not happen unless something is done to bridge the digital divide. While we are now paying a lot of attention to the physical infrastructure of the country, not enough thought has been given to then digital infrastructure. It was this thinking that led me to put together some ideas on what a called India 3.0 a digitally bridged nation, not just in its urban locales but also in the rural areas, which is where 70% of the populace lives. My SME thinking had helped create a framework wherein one could also think of providing affordable computing and communications solutions for the other, languishing India.

My approach in solving problems has always been that of a technologist. I tend to put technology at the centre, and then see how it can be applied in different scenarios. For me, rural India offered yet another market opportunity for the ideas that I had been thinking about for the SME segment. But, I was making the same mistake that I did when I had started thinking about the solutions for SMEs. Technology could not be the end goal it was only a means to the end. This was made amply clear, thanks to a fortuitous connection made via my weblog.

As I was undertaking this journey of interlinked thought and action, I was introduced to Dr Atanu Dey by Reuben Abraham, who happened to be reading my weblog on some thoughts on transforming rural India. This series had come about as a precursor to a visit to Madhya Pradesh to see what role could technology play in rural development. My solution setting up TeleInfoCentres in every village seemed like a good way to sell a lot of computers! But I had missed out one key point: distributing the resources would make it very expensive (the cost of providing reliable power via battery packs could be as much as half the cost of the computers themselves), complex (providing support at the village level would be difficult), and at times, simply impractical (lack of connectivity would make it harder to provide updates).

This was the time when I read Atanus paper on RISC (Rural Infrastructure and Services Commons). [The paper can be downloaded from Vinod Khoslas web page.] Atanu had looked at the same problem of rural development but had a very different way to address it the solution lay not in providing computers at the village-level, but in concentrating resources and investment to create top quality infrastructure to service about 100 villages and a population base of 100,000 people within a bicycle-commute distance of about 15 kilometres from the centre. Essentially, it was about creating the equivalent of an operating system (the infrastructure of 24×7 power, broadband connectivity, air-conditioning, sanitation, water) so that various application developers (service providers) could use the standardized interface to offer their solutions (banking, insurance, agriculture extension, education, market making, healthcare, entertainment) to the rural population.

Tomorrow: Making Connections

Continue reading