July 02, 2004

Mobiles outstrip India landlines

Cellphone mania continues. BBC reporting that mobile phone number will be outstripping landlines in India. Where 1.5 million Indians are signing up for mobile phones every month.

The trend is seen worldwide: mobiles are outstripping landlines as people by-pass often slow state-run firms to sign up for cheaper cellular services.

In India, rickshaw drivers and domestic servants are among the new users.

Life on the road has become all the more exciting. Previously you have to pray for the road safety and now you have to deal with drivers talking over the cellphone on their two wheelers.
On the positive side, people have more sense of safety in the day to day life. Specially women and thats a great social change.

July 2, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 30, 2004

Hanuman Bridge

This simple observation can jump start many political careers in India. How about starting with the issue of renaming this to Hanuman Bridge.
Impressive discovery if it can withstand scientific scrutiny.

June 30, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sun is a relaxed company!

That according to my friend who works in Sun Microsystem's Bangalore division. This is insider's view that lot of Wipro engineer's jumped boat to join Sun because both work pressure and work quality was too intense to handle in Wipro.

Who would you pick if you were a shareholder?

June 30, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Is Reliance The Next Telco Tiger

Promod Haque is on a road-show in India. Seeking new venture opportunities and also declaring India as a big market opportunity for NVP's portfolio companies (mainly Virtela Communications and Veraz).
While giving a keynote speech at Tie Bangalore session, he strongly emphasized that Indian call centers should invest in latest telecom infrastructure in order to have a differentiating offering. Behind all this preaching is the lucrative $12billion worth of Telco gears market which Indian call center market will be needing in next 4 years.

Most of his slides were covering the obvious points such as low-cost offerings, capital efficiency, networked and Global economy, coming wave of always-connected smart-device environment, mobility etc. Two trends were clearly missing - Rise of publish-subscribe model generating new business models in the media sector and the overall impact of open source movement on the Enterprise software economics.

Though from this boring presentation one prediction stands out - According to him in next 5-10 years either Reliance or Bharti Telecom (Both India based Telco upstarts, who are seeing tremendous growth in India) could buy one of the leading carriers in US ! Though nobody will shed any tears on this deal if it really happens.

I will put my money on Reliance, These guys really know how to define the market (by creative bundling and pricing), change the market (by changing the scale) and lord over the market (if not by aggressive pricing then by befriending every politicians out there in the North and South block).


Spending some time inside their Reliance WebWorld retail outlet gives an idea of how these guys use scale, bundling and combine that with aggressive retailing to make a huge impact. Think of this place as a combination of Kinko's, Starbucks, and possibly Sprint PCS retail shops. Once the price point becomes attractive, lot of mom and pop shops doesn't need to own lot of office gear. Just walk-into the nearest WebWorld.

Judging by the crowd this place sure seems to be doing a great business. Other technologies which Reliance is working on includes Tivo-like device( at a fraction of the cost since this is India!), Comcast type content bundling (again at the fraction of the cost).

June 30, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2004


"Nationalism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. You wave the flag if you need financial assistance, because maybe you're not able to compete." That according to Duncan Clarke managing director of BDA China Ltd Consultancy. Apparently a consultancy firm whose clients are at the wrong end of this development.

China is charting a new path here. Just a quick scan of technologies which they are influencing will give an idea of how innovation and market moves can be manipulated by the power of market size. Want a new DVD standard - EVD, Want new CDMA - try TD-SCDMA, new wireless standard WAPI, separate Linux kernel - Red Dragon Linux and many more such go-native initiatives in the pipeline.

As technology is becoming integral to society and provides the biggest leverage in achieving market share superiority, using captive market size to drive and manipulate market will pose an unusual threat. What if every country (with sizeable internal market size - BRIC countries and other developed world) starts following this approach. Then very soon you will have (like domain names) country specific variant to every conceivable standard out there. If you want wireless standard then you will have choices - 802.11x.us, 802.11.x.Ch, 802.11.x.In etc.
And having more choices in standards can be really debilitating, according to the book which I just started reading. More on the book in later posts. It's a real eye openener.

Note: BCG in collaboration with Wharton is running a series on Chinese economy. Painting a dual picture of go-slow but can't ignore the long term growth prospects. Good high level overview.

May 25, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2004

Learn to trust people

I see similarity in what Jarvis is referring to and what is happening in India, where so called intellectuals were taken by surprise with stunnning blow to their political predictions.

If you do not trust and respect the people, then you don't -- you can't -- believe in democracy... or capitalism... or education... or art... or reform theology... And if the people don't read what we write, then maybe we should find a new way to write it

It's absolutely fatal to democratic theory to believe the public is incompetent

May 20, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I will see what my biases allow me to see

CSM's news headline strengthening my belief that mainstream media is increasingly becoming dull, stereotyped to the extent that they are not worth your time. If only Google news can start providing user selection in their news page.

Who gives a hoot if he is Non-Hindu ? Actually I was hoping that this hack will also provide details on the number of elephants and bullcarts Manmohan Singh has back in his Ludhiana home and how their family still eat on the floor! Probably thats coming in the sequel.

One simple instruction for all the western journalists out here- shed your stereotypes. World is changing and in many parts of the world it has already changed.

May 20, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 19, 2004

India-Flickering Not India-Shining

Foreigner, Gandhi, Inexperienced And add Reluctant to that list which characterizes Sonia Gandhi, according to all her critics. There is lot of Sonia-worship. Sonia-bashing and Sonia-mania going on in India right now. Having gone through few intense discussions with friends (who are in India) this topic of whether she-should or should-not become PM has acquired a life of it's own. Now that she has rather melodramatically stepped down from that contention. It begs a deeper scrutiny of this strong outpouring of Sonia-bashing. And later in the day when ex-colleague asked for my 2 cents on Yahoo news related to the same topic , I thought of elaborating on this topic bit methodically.

There is intense cynicism and frustration in India right now specially among the segment which you can safely label as "better off and better educated " about how Congress and other "retro" parties have spoiled the "India-shinning" party. This has caused so much anguish that even rational voices have started dreaming of benign dictatorship and some people are nursing their bruised nationalistic pride on anticipating the possibility of some Italian-born lady becoming their prime minister.

Though not everything is as clear as one would like it to be. Frustrations are coming along two lines, first one relates to the lack of confidence in the "India shinning" project. Though there is no strong indications to that effect except some careless remarks by the pathetic Communist party members, market has already zig-zagged to make some historical dips. Second one relates to the growth in conservative political ideology among "better off and better educated" which is used largely to justify their economic goals. Though this second phenomena is ironically more global in nature.

Suffering a stunning defeat on these two fronts and finally seeing (as if to rub it in) the prospect of having yet-another-Gandhi acting as a PM really made all the political fence-sitters run to their online petitions and blog sites to vent out. Though I agree to some of the arguments related to shameless investment in Gandhi-name and Sonia's political inexperience. what really bothers me is the utter silence of these same Sonia-bashers and other India-shinning advocates on the issues of Gujarat riots, economic disparity within India and the actual reasons why voters went for this result. Why are some states still caught-up in the class-struggle which in Indian setting invariably means caste-struggle ? Who is paying the price of their neglect of social and political reality. It makes for a lame excuse to just say that few Indian states don't get it because of their caste based political inclination.

There are no easy solutions, no matter how you spin it all parties are similar in their power grab struggles. Only way they differ is in the definition of their core audience. Though it's extremely difficult for all BJP supporters to do (I would say impossible !) but if they really want their party to come out as a national party with national issues then they need to act on following points -

- Close all RSS, Bajrang Dal and VHP operations and make a clean separation from their divisive ideology
- Invest in issues based politics built on the secular platform
- "Steal" class/caste initiatives as currently championed by state level parties by convincingly building a diverse support base
- and develop a portfolio of deep-impact projects comprised of primary education (this is most important, atleast it will stop all intellectuals to stop acting as if they know too much about the illiterate masses), infrastructure, and secular social fabric.

Problem with this model is that it calls for investment in future. With less than 20% of Indian population now plugged into the global market - which is extremely impatient of slow moving political and social processes (their patience is a function of their bandwidth speed !) - for them future is getting invented at breakneck speed. It seems nobody has patience and political capital to push these big rocks.

On the Congress party side, Sonia Gandhi factor will be exploited by few spineless politicians. Her stand on most of the issues is still enigma to me. If they really want to come back as the Congress party of yesteryears then they need to act on few areas -

- Give complete autonomy to Manmohan Singh. He is the true initiator of this India-shinning project and has good macro-level economic understanding to solve pressing problems
- Parties which are supporting Congress should make sure Manmohan Singh has enough "operational freedom" to do the right thing and not get pushed around by vested interests from within Congress party

In a situation where every party is focused on the short-term goals, you get India-flickering not India shining.
If it has to shine then India needs to make sure that the beacon lights are angled at a fairly high height so that the majority can see it's light not just those who are plugged-in.

May 19, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 13, 2004

No full stops in India

It was BBC's Delhi-based journalist Mark Tully while working on his book - No full stops in India commented about the maturity of common Indian in political matters. Only in Indian villages you can sit down and get a comfortable critique on why Chinese communism survived whereas USSR collapsed. Though in media and other expert hangouts you will find plenty of India-should-do-this-versus-that but in every election Indian electorate (largely rural) has surprised pundits. There are instances in recent history that whenever any political party has taken an extreme stand on any issues - be it V.P. Singh's backward caste issue or BJP's stubborn stand on the temple issue or Congress's shameless investment in Gandhi dynasty - electorate has punished them severely against all the popular predictions. At the same time for some strange reason same common man keeps cycling these issues and the same leaders every 5 years !

So what's going to happen now besides the obvious anti-incumbency shakeout ? 5 years of Congress and 5 years of communal politics. "India shining" movement wont go away but in it's place you will see more belligerent and angry BJP party without the middle-of-the-road puppetry of Bajpayee. One should be scared of that part now. BJP's real base is not known for open dialog oriented politics.

This is a crucial point in India's economic future. It has to be seen if the new government and hopefully it's young politicians can drive the growth of India from it's rural base without unfairly penalizing the new economy. Though I will be cynical about that since it was the same Gandhi family who had plans one after the other and they were all named after one of their family members - Jawahar Yojna, Indira Vikas Yojna, Rajeev etc etc. Obvious point to add here is that each of these plans were billion dollar worth bureaucratic heists.

I will be optimistic in the meantime.

May 13, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

House where nobody can be saved

Watching Thin Red Line. Sean Penn in his usual stellar performance -

Just runnin' into a burnin' house where nobody can be saved

This movie reminded me of Remarque's classic - All Quiet On The Western Front. It's sad to see Google page ranking system messing up the search listing for this great novel. I guess the result page tells us how our generation treat the war novels and it's utility only as a term paper material.

Overall war is a sad story. Doesn't matter which side you stand.

May 13, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack