Paulo Coelho Interview

Shekhar Gupta has an interview with Paulo Coelho (author of “The Alchemist” among other books). A quote: “there is only one thing I really treasure in a human being. You can have your fears, you can have your moments of doubt, but you can never be a coward. You have to face your fears, you have to overcome your moments of doubt, you have to believe that if you look for it there is always a solution. If you really want something, the whole universe is going to conspire to help you. But to do that, you have to be brave. Brave enough to fight for things that are meaningful to you. Not meaningful to A, B or C, but to you.”

The Cheap Revolution

Rich Karlgaard of Forbes writes:

The Cheap Revolution, as I have written, boils down to three factors:

1. The incredible power of low-priced technology… Google’s server farm, Skype’s free phone services, etc.

2. Emergent global talent pools, from Eastern Europe to India, from China to Southeast Asia.

3. The Internet, which connects technology to talent at transparent prices.

The Cheap Revolution is good for China and India as well as newer, clever companies in the West, such as Google, Skype and Craigslist.

But is it good for older Western companies with higher cost structures and lots of legacy? That’s an open question…

As I see it, the only path available for older, high-cost companies is to innovate… innovate as if their lives depended on it… which would be the truth.

Gladwell Profile

The New York Times has a profile of the author of “Blink” and “The Tipping Point.”

With a writerly verve and strong narrative powers, he leavens serious social science research with zany characters and pithy, easily digestible anecdotes. Gladwell selects his anecdotes from a wide range of sources the military, business, food, music, romance and diverse locales, a tactic that broadens his books’ appeal.

Although pitched as descriptive, Gladwell’s books are essentially prescriptive. Trust your instincts! You too may be (or can become) a connector, maven or salesman! Gladwell’s dazzling arguments ultimately offer reassurance. Indeed, he seems a contemporary incarnation of a recurring figure in the American experience, one who comes with encouraging news: You can make a difference, you have the capacity to change. Gladwell may be the Dale Carnegie, or perhaps the Norman Vincent Peale, of the iPod generation.

Disney, Jobs and Pixar

Cringely writes:

What if, instead of having to accept the board presence of Steve Jobs as a cost of getting Pixar’s animation talent and film library, Disney actually views the transaction as buying Pixar TO GET Steve Jobs and then gaining the animation bits as a bonus? If Disney CEO Robert Iger is really an exceptional leader, he’ll see it exactly that way.

For the entertainment industries, the next 10 years will be the most revolutionary in a century. Broadcast TV as we knew it is going away, replaced by a Chinese entertainment menu of such complexity that even knowing what’s “on” tonight will be beyond the abilities of most viewers. At some point, too, movies will be subsumed into television and recorded music will find its own new place with new rules. This will be Steve Jobs’s world and we’ll all just be visitors. It’s obvious to me and, evidently, to Iger, too.

The trick here is in knowing how to get the best product for the least money. Jobs is not opposed to spending money, but he is determined to get more for his money than anyone else. Look at the books of Apple and Pixar to understand this concept. Against a century-old tradition of corporate bloat, Jobs successfully preaches (and proves) that smaller is really better. How else can Apple compete with Microsoft AND Dell and HP, and still have $8 billion in the bank? Because smaller is better and cheaper, too, when it comes to creative development.

TECH TALK: India Internet and Mobile: Mobile Challenges

It is somewhat ironical that commercial Internet and mobile services were launched in India at the same time August 15, 1995. Today, the mobile industry is way ahead of the Internet. With calling rates amongst the lowest in the world, Indian mobile operators have been forced to adapt their business models to make money. The result: a user base of 75+ million users growing at nearly 5 million a month. The mobile industry is the big success story in India. In other words, it has been a win-win situation: for consumers and for the service providers.

The mobile industry started off with a killer app already available: the desire of people to communicate. Compounded with the fact that for various reasons, the phone was seen as a luxury in India, the mobile gave people in India an independence and freedom that that they had hitherto not experienced when it came to interactions with others. The entry of Reliance Infocomm helped spark off a price war which has led to rocketing growth in the industry.

In India, ringtones, ringback tones, wallpapers, games, voice-based services and SMS infoservices have done very well so far. But they still address a very small segment of the market. There is an opportunity to grow the usage of mobile data (or mobile value added services) beyond the 2G to the 2.5G domain (WAP, MMS and Java) and 3G (streaming services). In India, the mobile has the potential to become a credible alternative for accessing the Internet given the slow growth of connected computers. But for that to happen, a number of things will have to change. With regards to content and value added services, there are three challenges facing mobile businesses: closed publishing systems (walled gardens), operator revenue shares for content providers and mobile data pricing.

The walled gardens that mobile operators run limit the options for publishers. They have to go the operators directly or work through intermediaries who have the operator relationships. While the walled gardens are good for operators who can maximize their revenues through the services, it limits the options that users have and, over time, it will also limit the revenue-generation potential.

In India, the content providers get a much smaller fraction of the transaction and subscription fees paid by users compared to that in other markets such as China and Japan. While the operators have a great advantage with their billing relationship and platform, they tend to keep a very high percentage of the revenue thus limiting what content providers keep. In Japan, NTT Docomos i-mode pays out 91% to the content provider. In China, the mobile operators pay out 80-85%. In India, the content providers tend to get 10-30% of the revenue only.

Mobile data pricing in India also needs to be reduced dramatically. For example, one of the leading operators charges a fee of Rs 49 ($1.10) per month with an additional charge of 10 paise/10 KB. This works out to about Rs 10 (22 cents) per megabyte of download. This encourages more one-time download applications rather than online usage. In addition, in the GSM world, activating mobile data (GPRS) is also not easy. (By comparison, most CDMA handsets come pre-configured for data access, even though they are limited to the operator walled garden.)

Tomorrow: Connecting Indians

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