Favourite Websites

One of the publications recently asked me for my five favourite websites. This is what I wrote and sent them.

My favourite sites represent my interests: technology, business and politics, books, India’s development, and India news.

Techmeme.com

This is an aggregator of the best of all the latest news, blogs and the buzz in the tech world. On a single page, I can see all that’s happening in the world of technology. I check a couple times daily. I wish something like this were available for Indian tech!

The Wall Street Journal and New York Times

I go to these sites for the global news coverage, technology reports and their op-eds. WSJ offers good tech insights, and also has very good centre-right leaning op-eds. They now also have an India start page. On the NYT site, I go on to the Books section, the Op-eds (somewhat centre-left views) and of course, the technology page. Much of my viewing of both these sites happens on the mobile.

Continued tomorrow.

One Reason Why Companies Fail

I was thinking about this the other day, as I was chatting to a friend about my experiences as an entrepreneur and investing in early-stage companies.

I mentioned to him that one of the reasons companies fail (and I have also gone through my share of failures) is that we do not reset starting assumptions against the market realities. Let me explain.

We start off with some ideas, and assumptions about the market. Once we take the product out into the market, we get feedback – about customers’ expectations and market size. It is at that time that we need to think about some course alteration – in case there is a mismatch. Many times, we don’t do that – working under the principle that our efforts will accelerate the market’s response towards our product. That rarely happens. What follows is disappointment.

It is never easy changing one’s assumptions quickly, especially when one has been thinking about them for a long time. But they should be exactly that – just starting assumptions.

Life in 5-year Chunks

Over the recent Holi holidays, as I sat thinking about life past, present and future, I realized that I could take life in five-year chunks and think of a dominant theme for each of these chunks. So, here goes:

  • 1984-1989: Education (IIT-Bombay and Columbia)
  • 1990-1994: Work and Error (NYNEX, and failed efforts at doing a startup)
  • 1995-1999: IndiaWorld (India’s first Internet portals, sold to Sify in Nov 1999)
  • 2000-2004: Experiments (tried a number of digital ideas; none of them worked)
  • 2005-2009: NetCore’s Growth (put the company on a growth path)

What will the next five years bring? Two things that I would like to do are: ensure NetCore can grow to a dominant consumer mobile data company, and help bring about a change in India’s political and policy climate.

Revival of Friends of BJP

I was part of a small team from Friends of BJP that was invited to attend the BJP National Council meet in Indore in mid-Feb. It was quite a gathering – over 5,000 people brought together from all over the country.

Among the announcements made was that of the revival of Friends of BJP.

Here is what Nitin Gadkari said in his Presidential Address: “We are also planning to revive Friends of BJP, an associate organisation of the non-member Well Wishers of the party. All patriotic citizens, especially all young professionals who look forward to BJP as an instrument of making India a resurgent republic are welcome to join this forum.”

We will be back with more details soon. My hope is that we can help bring about a change in India’s political and policy climate in the coming years.

Blog Past: Ideas for India

From a 2-part series I wrote a year ago with Atanu Dey (Part 1 and Part 2):

India’s economic growth and development poses challenges that are clear but fortunately are solvable. The hard part is not in the figuring out the solutions but in the implementation, and more specifically in the prioritizing and sequencing of the implementation. The elements that require immediate and sustained effort relate to “infrastructural elements” which are few in number but form the absolutely necessary foundation upon which any functioning economy is based. These elements are interrelated in complex ways and if present simultaneously, they enable that emergent multi-dimensional phenomenon we call development. The elements are: Education, Energy, Urbanisation and Transportation.

Weekend Reading

This week’s links:

  • 5 Innovative Online Business Models: Woot,Groupon, Hotwire, Blippy, Dubli.
  • Platform Shifts: by Don Dodge, on why leaders fail to make the shift.
  • Fragmentation in Mobiles: by Rich Wong. “The smartest entrepreneurs will not wait for these fragmentation issues to be solved but are figuring out now how to pick a use case, a core platform, and geography to bound their problem and get going.”
  • The New Rules of War: from Foreign Policy. “Every day, the U.S. military spends $1.75 billion, much of it on big ships, big guns, and big battalions that are not only not needed to win the wars of the present, but are sure to be the wrong approach to waging the wars of the future.”
  • The Future of Money: from Wired. “It’s Flexible, Frictionless and (Almost) Free.”

School Memories – 4

  • Xaverian: I used to love writing for the school magazine. In the early years, I would excitedly open the latest issue to see if my article was published. In later years, I solved that problem by becoming one of the Editors!
  • LBW on Thursdays: We were one of these rare schools that had Thursday as the holiday (rather than Saturday). I remember joining Leaders for a Better World (LBW) in school, as an alternative to Scouts. We would meet on Thursdays in School.  The event I used to look forward to was the Camp.

A recent memory is of taking Abhishek to school. One of the teachers retired a few months ago, and a few of us got together in her honour in the School Hall. I took Abhishek to school and showed him around. There’s a memory that will stay on with me for long: Father and son, separated by 37 years, standing together in front of some of the nature exhibits, outside the Staff Room.

School Memories – 3

  • Martian Sandwiches: My friends still tease me about the ‘Martian’ (as from Mars) sandwiches I used to get to eat at the 11 am morning recess. The filling was a mix of butter, chutney, cheese and jam. No one who tasted it once ever asked for it again!
  • School Bus Rides: The school bus brought together kids of all ages. I remember it as something I looked forward to, since one got to chat with different people.
  • PT and Art/Craft Classes: I absolutely did not like these periods. I had a body that required an incredible effort to move around, and would always hope that the PT Sir would not ask us to run a few rounds of the ground. Art and Craft (imagine doing Baking!) weren’t my cup of tea!

Continued tomorrow.

School Memories – 2

  • Two Friends for Life: School gave me two friends who are with me even today. Even though we are all in different parts of the world (Narendra in California, Anand in New Jersey, and me in Mumbai), the strong bond of friendship created in school endures as strongly even today. Our happiest moment together was when we were all part of the team that won the Nehru Science Centre Quiz Contest for our school.
  • The Library: I wasn’t much of a sports person, so after finishing lunch in school, I would head off to the library where I would spend the next 35-40 minutes, discovering new worlds. There was no Internet and no computers. It was through the turned pages that I learnt about science and technology, and more.
  • Standing for School Captain: I contested for the elections for the highest student post in the school. I campaigned as “the Bearded Wonder.” I forgot half my speech at the all-important moment in the school assembly, and ended up losing by just 16 votes. That was my first experience in contesting an election – and learning to accept failure to win as part of the process.

Continued tomorrow.

School Memories

Continuing with the thread about my School Alumni Day, that night I sat and listed out some of my memories from the years at school. Here goes:

  • Unforgettable Teachers: As we think back to those who have helped shape us, it has to be our parents and teachers who probably have the biggest influence in shaping our character. At St. Xavier’s, it was the teachers who made the big difference. From Joan Soares to Rene Carvalho, from Father Aran to Father Carrasco, from Father Berkey to Mrs. Seshan, from Ms. Ladha to Mrs. Ghadiali, from Mr. da Costa to Mr. Raphael, from Mr. Rao to Mr. Choudhary, from Mr. Fernandes to Mrs. Savur, from Ms. Gandhi to Mrs. Khata (and many others), each one helped shape me in their own unique way.
  • Friends: Outside of the building where I lived, the School was the first place where I made friends. We shared many moments together. And then, at age 15, we all went our own ways. The connect that we had in school came back so quickly when we saw each other 28 years later. Suddenly, memories came alive. Even as many of us have gone our own way, those friendships at school were my first, and will never be forgotten.

Continued tomorrow.

Budget Blues

Following up on Friday’s post, the instant analysers of the Budget have proclaimed it to be a good, reform-friendly Budget. The market ended up 175 points, so it must be a good budget. In fact, expectations were that the Finance Minister would end up doing a lot of damage in the Budget, and when that did not materialise, everyone was relieved. (For an alternate view, read this commentary by S Gurmurthy.)

Anyways, these are small grouses. A few thousand crores here or there doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that India at this juncture of time needs Big Ideas – in areas like education, energy, urbanization, transportation and urban infrastructure. Of course, it is not the FM’s job to come up with these ideas. But that’s what the country needs and we are not seeing from the Government. We continue to proceed along with the target of 8-9% growth. Which of course seems great considered we grew in the low single-digits for much of our post-Independence life.

India needs a dramatic, disruptive change in its policy climate. And that is not something we seem to be asking for and getting.