A Fresh Start

It has been an extraordinarily long break from blogging. After six years of daily updates, I took a break last June-end, necessitated by a bout of influenza which left me bed-ridden for a couple weeks. Around the same time, work became very busy. Also, my son, Abhishek, (growing from 2 to 3 years) made sure that mornings and evenings were his time with me. And, I had just gotten bored of the format of one weekly Tech Talk series (which was becoming repetitive) and giving links to interesting articles. So, I stopped – hoping for a magical makeover and some inspiration! That never happened – until now.

This time around, I will blog more on what I think – rather than giving only the links. So, the posts will be less frequent, but hopefully more meaningful. I have also migrated the blog from MovableType to WordPress. All in all, time for a new beginning.

There’s lots to talk about, so let’s get started!

Will be back in September

Thanks for all your emails. I will re-start the blog in September. Meanwhile, take a look at the right panel on the blog and perhaps you will find something interesting in the archives! — Rajesh.

Blog Break

I will be taking a short blog break. Spent the past 5 days in bed with a severe viral infection. So, there’s a lot of work to catch up upon. Have also been thinking of doing some innovation on the blog itself…this break will help me think that through. Back soon!

Microsoft and Wireless

Ed Sim writes following Microsoft’s acquisition of Tellme:

I remember when I started in the VC world over 11 years ago, the question we always had to ask ourselves before we made an investment was “what is Microsoft doing or going to do?” As I reflect on the last decade, I never really did think that as an investor in software and the Internet that the question would become almost irrelevant and would change to “what is Google doing or going to do?” Given all of the discussion about Microsoft being dead, I must say that while they are still a distant third in the search space, they did make a brilliant move in acquiring TellMe. While most of the revenue does come from TellMe’s hosted speech applications for customer service, the big value in the long run will be Microsoft’s ability to incorporate TellMe’s mobile search and voice-driven search through the mobile handset. In other words, it seems that while Microsoft is not conceding to Google in search, that it does recognize that the mobile opportunity is potentially much larger and that this acquisition will clearly give it a big lead in the mobile space. Think about it – when you leave home, you grab your keys, wallet, and cell phone. The opportunity to reach and market to this third screen is huge and just in the first inning.

Free SMS Updates for Emergic

Mobile users in India can now get free updates via SMS on the blog posts that are done on Emergic. All you have to do is to send START EMERGIC to 676787. You will receive one SMS every morning after I update my blog with the titles of the posts. You can stop updates anytime by sending STOP EMERGIC to 676787. Hope you find this service useful!

Note: The only applicable charges are for the START and STOP messages – they are charged by the operator at premium SMS rates, which are typically Rs 2 or Rs 3. There is no charge for receiving the daily Emergic SMSes.

Here is a sample (today’s SMS):

1. Mobile Conf. Manifesto
2. Entrep. Learnings
3. Adobe’s Apollo
4. User-Gen Content
5. Forbes: Games
6. Blue Oceans + Black Swans

Three Years of Blogging

Three years ago on this day, I began blogging. Blogging is so part of my life that I cannot imagine not doing it! Much of what I wrote in last year’s series “Two Blog Years” still holds true. Look forward to another year of blogging, sharing ideas, reading your comments, and interacting with you.

Indian Express Mention

Join the Dots is a story in the Indian Express about Indian bloggers. It has a small excerpt about me:

[A self-contained, indulgent space] is the last thing one can call emergic.org, entrepreneur Rajesh Jains two-year-old web log on emerging tech, enterprises and markets.

Jain, founder of Indiaworld, the countrys first portal that was sold to Sify in 1999 for $115 million, prefers terse e-mail replies supplemented by appropriate links than one-on-one meetings. He says everything one needs to know about him or what he has to say about technology is there on the blog, real time. In fact, the blog is Jain, in HTML.

Today, I can imagine being without an email or a cellphone for a day, but not without blogging, says Jain, who blogs every morning for 30-40 minutes, with one column, and about 4 to 5 links with abstracts to other articles/blog posts.

The blog reflects his latest thinking, built on the minds of many others. The comments that I receive from many of the readers (and other bloggers) help in refining and getting the best from a community smarter than any single individual.

Well, regarding the “terse email replies supplanting one-to-one meeting” — Murali Menon, one of the two writers, caught me on an exceptionally busy four-day period and so I had to decline a meeting. Anyways, I have no real penchance for photos in newspapers and magazines! Email replies and links to things I have written about why I blog can work just as fine.

Overall, a nice story — hopefully, it will get more Indians to start blogging. And more importantly, sustain it over a period of time.

Pixar’s Pinnacle

Wired has a cover story on Pixar, Steve Jobs’ other company:

By any standards, Pixar Animation Studios has reached infinity and beyond. From 1995’s Toy Story – the world’s first all-CG feature – to last year’s Finding Nemo, Pixar’s five hermetically crafted movies have grossed a staggering $2.5 billion at the box office, making it the most successful film studio, picture for picture, of all time. “You have to take your hat off to them,” says Neil Braun, head of CG-animation company Vanguard and former president of the NBC Television Network. In the history of film, there’s just one precedent for this level of economic triumph, this ability to add to the American childhood’s beloved cast of characters: Disney Animation Studios.

Pixar hasn’t just turned into the new Disney. It has out-Disneyed Disney, becoming the apprentice that schooled the sorcerer. Pixar’s most talented animators grew up admiring Disney, worked at the sketching tables in Burbank, and went on to crib the company’s DNA. Pixar’s story development process as well as its internal lexicon – including sweatbox, when the director critiques individual animations, and plus-ing, heaping more and more good ideas on a structure that’s already working – come directly from the House That Mickey Built. Both companies are technical pioneers: Disney imbued 2-D cel animation with comedy and heartbreak; Pixar coaxed empathy from digital effects. Now the flipbook animation style that made the Magic Kingdom a powerhouse is fading to black: Disney’s Home on the Range, released in April, is the last fully 2-D production for the studio, and competitors like DreamWorks are retraining illustrators to be 3-D mouse jockeys. Pixar’s digital animation is the wave of the future.

As Disney did in its heyday, Pixar has created an assembly line of wonder: Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo. While the rest of the film industry depends on inherited properties from popular media (Mystic River, Starsky & Hutch, even The Passion of the Christ), each Pixar story is sui generis. “What Pixar is so great at is developing wholly original ideas,” says Chris Wedge, the director of 20th Century Fox’s Ice Age and next year’s Robots. “And it’s not just the idea – it’s the story, beat by beat, and the characters and relationships. That’s the real hard part.”

Blogging Discipline

Anil Dash writes about how it is getting harder for him to blog (the lengthier posts). “I suppose some of it has to do with wanting to leave the day job behind when it comes time to writing for my site, but mostly it’s a change in attitude about what I’m doing and how it relates to my audience.”

Well, Anil has been writing for much longer than I have been, so I don’t know how I will feel a couple years down the line about blogging. But for me, blogging has opened up a new world – of people and ideas. It is a non-linear way to increase both. Blogging also requires a discipline – now, for me, it has become part of a day’s activities. I hope I can continue to do this.

2003-04: A Personal View

The end of one year and the start of another is as good a time to become a little more contemplative than normal. For me, 2003 was a year of strengthening of our core vision of affordable computing, especially for SMEs. We did not make as much progress business-wise as I would have liked. But I expect 2004 to be very different. More on that in a moment. 2003 was the year I also met Atanu. His dream of bringing about an economic revolution in rural India is one which I now share.

So, if 2003 was a year filled with Envisioning and Experimentation, I expect 2004 to be a year of Execution. We have to now build on the ideas we have developed and make them a reality. My two basic goals are: creating an affordable computing platform the next billion users, and transforming rural India. 2004 will be the year we start to take the first significant steps in this direction. A lot of elements need to be put in place, and I can slowly see that happening. Id have liked it to have happened faster, but the slow pace of fast change is something we have to accept.

Ours is a long march. My approach is one of learning-by-doing. I figure out things as we go along. This is not necessarily the best approach, but the only one I know. I do make mistakes, and have to course-correct periodically. I have an overall goal in mind, and as long as we are headed towards it, I am fine. This is because most of the time we are traversing over unchartered territory we dont have maps, only a compass.

The weblog and you, dear readers, are constant companions. I write what I think. I document what we are doing. This sharing has helped increase in a non-linear increase in the people that I know. Best of all has been the interactions with many of you. Keep the ideas and thoughts flowing as we welcome 2004. It is now time to take the show on the road.

Wish you all a Very Happy New Year!

2003-04: Feedback Invited

I will be doing a Tech Talk series at the end of the year on some of the important technology developments of 2003 and looking ahead to 2004. Your feedback is invited on what you think are the most important technologies that are shaping up. I want to take up two contexts: one is of course the global view, and the second is from the vantage point of emerging markets, especially what we are seeing in India.

4 Years Since the Deal

Today is 4 years since I sold IndiaWorld [1 2] to Sify. I don’t contemplate much about it, because I’d rather look ahead. But anniversaries are such things – they do make one think a little.

So, how have been the past 4 years? They can be divided into 3 phases: the first 18 months or so which I spent with Sify, the next year was spent thinking on what to do even as I managed Netcore, and the past 18 months or so have been spent trying to work towards realising the vision of making affordable computing solutions for the next billion users (with a specific focus on SMEs in emerging markets). To this, there is a second goal which I have added: how can we transform rural India.

It has been a struggle for the past year or so, as I have realised (slowly) that the transformations that we bring will need a much greater effort. For example, with SMEs, it is not good enough to just create low-cost software based on Linux. One has to think in terms of an affordable computing ecosystem, and co-ordinate the efforts of many to bring about the change. Rural India too is very similar. So, the paths that I have embarked upon are going to be long and challenging – with “mountains beyond mountains” (as Tracy Kidder puts in, in his book of the same name).

When I meet people, they still remember the deal and how it changed mindsets towards entrepreneurship in India. For me, it was perhaps the hardest decision of my life – to sell the company I had created. Sometimes, I imagine how life would have been had I decided not to sell. The Internet revolution in India has been slow and incremental, which has been disappointing. Hopefully, the computing revolution that I want to bring about can be faster.

I like to work on one or two things at a time – which are large and complex enough so that they occupy all my time. Entrepreneurship (as I have often written about in these columns) calls for total involvement. There are things I could have done a lot better in the past 18 months, but one learns. That is perhaps the best part of life – being able to reflect on one’s actions and course-correct. I am working with a compass, not a map.

If there is one change that has happened in the past four years, it is that I have learnt to accept success and failures as two sides of the same coin. So, both don’t sway me dramatically either way. I accept uncertainty as part of a day’s work, rather than becoming rattled. I have realised that to bring about change (the two problems I want to solve) will require long-term multi-year efforts. It will mean doing things I have never done before – building a bigger team, for example (IndiaWorld had all of 20 people, we are already double that size now).

The blog has perhaps been the best thing for me personally in the past four years – it has given me an outlet for my thoughts, and introduced me to some wonderful people. As I look ahead, I will continue to document my experiences in these columns. The journey has just begun.

Best Indian Blog, says Mediaah

Pradyuman Maheshwari says I have the best Indian weblog. “Hands down winner…Rajesh Jains Emergic.org is by far the best. It covers issues on technology and technobusiness like no one else does not just in India, but I wouldnt hesitate to say across the world. It is also evident that Rajesh puts in a helluva lot of time and personal time into the site. If youve got even the slightest interest in technology and want to keep abreast of the latest, bookmark Emergic.”

Thanks, Pradyuman – who himself has an excellent blog on the Indian media.

On a related story, it was nice to see one of my other babies – Samachar.com – finish in the top 5 in the News category. Samachar is now 6.5 years old. Just for the record, Emergic is 1.5 years old.

1,000 Unique Hosts

The last couple of days, this blog has reached another landmark – more than 1,000 unique IP addresses daily. So, here is how the timeline looks:

– May 9, 2002: I started blogging
– Feb 12, 2003: 500 unique hosts (9 months from start)
– Sep 11, 2003: 1,000 unique hosts (16 months from start)