August 30, 2007


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Statutory disclaimer about my love for animation movies applies.

I love Ratatouille. I love Pixar. I love Ramy. Brad Bird? Oh, I love Brad Bird.

There are great movies and there are movies which survive the test of time. Here is the movie which will easily mesmerize the cine lovers even after 50 years. (Come back in 2057, and check it out, if don't trust me.) This movie is distinctly better than the colourful and vivid Finding Nemo, one of most favourite animation films and benchmark for excellence. Of course, only Pixar guys could pull off a Sergei Bubka - improving own record. Pixar epitomize one of the Google's philosophy - "Great just isn't good enough." If iPhone were to be announced in 2008, instead of Nemo, you could have found Ramy on all the promotional material.

The great feast of Ratatouille, was topped with an exquisite dessert, not appetizer as Baradwaj Rangan says, of short film - "Lifted".

Oh, I loved Ego, the food critic, who wrote killer reviews sitting in a coffin-shaped office!

The ulterior motive of this post, if you haven't got it already, is to induce you to watch the movie and give Pixar opportunity to do a Sergei Bubka. I have watched the movie. Twice. On the same day. And if 2 guys watch the movie based on my recommendation, that is a whole 40% of my readership.

Image taken from NYT.

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August 29, 2007


Are nukes the only solution?

On my previous post about India's moronic response on acts of terrorism got a comment - "So what do you propose?? We start nuking those foreign hands??"

Since the commentator is anonymous, I don't have any clue about him/her. But from the tone of the message, my gut feel senses this person's close proximity to the top leaders of Iran and North Korea. "Got a problem? Let's nuke."

We've already had two nukes in last century, and I believe, it is two too many for one civilization.

To put the matter straight, I was/am not proposing a solution. That is not my expertise. My intention is to think loud about the problem. The problem which our leadership wants to believe is non-existent. The problem which is corroding the social fabric of the nation. The problem which claims the innocent lives. The problem which doesn't let citizens of this country sleep with peace.

Check the list of terrorist attacks in India and then try figuring it out how many of them have been solved with guilty brought to the justice. The incompetence of the Govt can't be more evident when terrorists don't have to invent new weapons and techniques. Check how the one-third of the country has been affected by Naxalism. Check how North-East is burning. And, of course, Kashmir.

If Govt is not able to protect right to life, the most fundamental one I believe, then what's the purpose of having a Govt. We may as well have a dictatorship or an anarchy.

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August 28, 2007


Cry baby

One more blast claims many innocent lives. And Govt response is outrageously stereotypical - "This is a handiwork of cross-border terrorism."

For once, can we please stop blaming the rogues from neighbouring country? If they are able to carry out their activities with such an alarming regularity and ease, it highlights serious security lapses by the Govt, law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It is the Govt's failure realize the Himalayan proportion of the security problem. The Govt representatives should tattoo "We are incompetent idiots" on their foreheads when they conduct a press conference to enlighten us about the "foreign hand" behind such gruesome act.

Ironically, we don't miss a single opportunity to call ourselves next superpower at jamborees like World Economic Forum at Davos .In the light of that, we look like a bunch of losers when we blame others for terrorism. It's our freakin' problem and we have to fix it. Begging to US to scold neighbour for its support to terrorism just diminishes our dignity, if there is any left.

August 16, 2007


Business Headlines for Saturday

"Black Friday"
"Blood on the Street"
"Sensex's highest ever fall in a day"

Well, I'm not at good at predicting stock markets, but according to the Gods of stock investing nobody is, including themselves.

There is no harm if I go wrong. But, I'll earn few bragging rights if I'm right. I expect index to touch 10% lower circuit tomorrow, resulting into one hour shutdown of the market. BTW, my vocabulary is increasing nicely. Here are two words I added in last 18 months.

2006: Yen Carry trade.
2007: Subprime


Pride and Respect

Ramesh Ramanathan's article in Mint makes a wonderful and thought-provoking reading. He says, we, as a country, accept mediocrity without any protest. We never demand excellence and neither do strive for it. We don't take pride in our work and are unashamed of ubiquitous shabby quality. As we celebrate our 60th Independence Day, Ramesh wants the country to take pride in our work and push the bar for excellence higher.

I can't agree more. The mediocrity is visible in every walk of life. The plumber fixes the bathroom flush which breaks down exactly on 8th day. The cab drivers of Mumbai have no remorse in running those stinking metal boxes. The condition of suburban trains is appalling. (Apparently, that doesn't stop the management geniuses from IIM Ahemdabad and Harvard to offer endless praise for Railway Minister.) The newly paved road wash away whenever the it rains more than 40mm in 24-hours. Private businesses listen provided you have reasonably deep pockets. You surely have more to add to the list.

In my opinion, this - not taking pride in your work - is only one side of the coin. The other missing side of the argument is lack of respect for work. We don't believe in dignity of work - any work, however important or trivial it is! "You are an air hostess with SpiceJet or Air Deccan? You need to get out of the rat hole and join Kingfisher or Jet" is our attitude. People think, as they are charged exorbitantly at five-star hotels, it is their birthright to curse every single thing and all the staff. We show respect (or pretend to) only to the people in the socio-economic strata higher than us. (And then we cry foul when we are at the receiving end of it and confirming that we are hypocrites.)

We always notice the absence of quality (and fail to do anything about it, thanks to our indifference), but we don't notice good work done by our watchman, traffic cops, or auto-wallah. Here are a few anecdotes.

Couple of months back, I reached Mumbai from Pune at 1 am and had to take auto to reach home, more than 10km away. The auto-wallah replies with a polite "challo." When I reach home, he calculates the normal fare as Rs 110, adds 25% night charges (Rs 28) and asks for Rs 138. When I handed Rs 150, he promptly returned Rs 12. We may use heavy words like professionalism and integrity for that, but for him, he was doing what was just right. (And just two months back, in Bangalore, the auto-wallah asked me for 25% extra during day time saying he won't get passengers on return journey.)

Rajdhani serves great Gujarathi thali in Mumbai and their khichadi unparalleled. I was not very keen on adding ghee to it, but the waiter offered explanation about how khichadi will taste even better with it. He was polite yet persuasive. Frankly, he could have just accepted my "no" and walked away. He epitomized the corporate jargon "going an extra mile."

In another case, when I got PUC (Pollution Under Control) Certificate for my bike, the owner asked me to write my address on a post card. He told that will be useful to send reminders when the current certificate expires. 2-weeks before the expiry date, I get the postcard in perfectly good English (a lot better than seen on Orkut) reminding me the same. When I didn't turn in that week, I received another postcard! I don't think any CRM software can beat that.

The crux is most of the time we fail to acknowledge and appreciate that somebody has done a damn fine job. And this is as bad as, if not worse than, accepting shoddy quality. May be we are plain indifferent. Unfortunately, this is a vicious cycle. Nobody takes pride in their work as nobody appreciates their work. And nobody bothers to appreciate even pockets of excellence as mediocrity is what we mostly come across. We must break this cycle.

To rephrase Ramesh's slogan - "Take pride in your work. Respect others' good work."

August 11, 2007


First Mover Advantage is dead

Some background information to set the ground for this post.

Shyam wrote a scathing review of, business networking site aimed at Indian users. is the product of Info Edge, the owner of most widely known jobs site According to Shyam, the site lacks even some of the basic functionalities he would take for granted. Sanjeev Bhikhchandani, CEO of Info Edge, responded to the criticism, the kind-of first I came across. Sanjeev's rationale is that the site is "good enough" and needs to capture the early mover's advantage.

"In early stages of product category evolution on the Internet aggregation will beat bells and whistles hollow - so long as the core required features are there." - Sanjeev

I disagree. I am in the technology industry for barely a decade when I started as a student. But, in last few years industry has thrown up some prime examples which prove that First Mover Advantage (FMA) is non-existent. In fact, it can be called as First Mover Curse, if you go through this list.

Internet Search: "As long as we're 80 percent as good as our competitors, that's good enough." That's what somebody from the then online portal told Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In the early days I recall using Yahoo, Altavista, Excite, Lycos, AskJeeves, Infoseek among others. Less than a decade later, only Yahoo is a competitor to Google. The story of how ruthlessly Google killed its competition with the technological firepower is well documented.

Email: My first email account was with Hotmail. I simply loved its clean, fast, usable and fast interface. I also got Yahoo mail account primarily to access Groups. For five long years, there was very little to no innovation in this space. (Hotmail in Microsoft's fold had 200 million users.) In April 2004, Google launched Gmail with prime feature being 1GB mailbox (250x of its nearest rival, Yahoo.) Now, who needs that amount of space, I thought. But, then going ahead with such bold statement again required huge technological innovation. (It took Microsoft more than a year to match that.) Now, 95% of people in my contact list use Gmail.

Online Photo Sharing For sharing photos, till 2005, Yahoo Photos seemed far ahead of its lousy competition (most of the belonged to camera manufacturers.) Flickr out-innovated Yahoo, and ended in its lap. Recently, Yahoo officially shut down its photo service, even though it had a staggering 1.5 billion photos in comparison to 500 million of Flickr.

Personal Music Player iPod was the nth personal music player to be launched in the market. "It's freakin' expensive" people reacted at its launch. 5 years down the line, they have sold 100 million iPods.

Browser Netscape Navigator's earlier versions were remarkably better than Internet Explorer (IE), which was built on NIH technology. IE's market share at that time had just crossed double digit percentage. After IE 4.0, it seemed they will stop only at 100% market share (Non-Windows OS don't count.), which they were close enough. Ironically, Firefox is playing the same game with IE now.

Social Networking Friendster was one of the first companies which launched the idea of Social networking. Today, social networking is dominated by Myspace and Facebook (valuations of which are astounding) with some other sites popular in certain geographies.

Cell phone It's 2007. More than a billion people in the world have a cellphone. One would expect that no major innovations are left and having a more powerful camera in phone than a standalone camera is not even an incremental innovative. The market leader Nokia launches dozens of new models which we don't even notice. And ONE new model of cellphone from another company has taken the world by storm. Right! iPhone from Apple.

I'm sure there are more such examples in technology industry since 70s.

The epitome of this long list of example is simple - if you can offer a product/services which is 10x better than competition, you can decimate the competition. That is true even if a service has high exit barrier (Email, cell phones have a very high exit barrier for obvious reasons.) Again, here the key is an order of magnitude improvement. Think of 250x mailbox size, or 100 albums on music player instead of 10. Tiny features don't count. And if tiny features are all that marketing has to talk about, nothing kills the product faster that huge marketing campaign surrounding it. [I should not be saying this here, if you know what I mean.]

So, should the company wait to build a great product or just go ahead with good enough service and get early adopters on board? My take is the decision varies with each company. If two guys out of garage are coming out with some innovative product, it just needs to be good enough. On the other hand, any service launched with blue-red-yellow Google logo on it, has to be "great enough". Users will not accept anything short of that. Coming back Sanjeev's comment, as they are a large player, users' expectations are already set (high) with their popular site -

On a side note, Sanjeev refers to development of refined product as building Taj Mahal. In my prior company, this term, Taj Mahal, was used for technologically superior products/ideas which have either been shelved or completely killed for varied reasons. It was not pejorative, but it, definitely, was not a compliment.

August 10, 2007


Marketing ahead of IT.

"Indian Cricket League's official website launched" was the news on home page of I thought, this is supposed to be 2007 and launch of a website is not something one can/should really boast about. The news story helpfully informs us that "Indian Cricket League has done something which the BCCI, the world's richest cricket Board, has not done in 77 years -- launch its official website."

Business Head of ICL, Himanshu Mody, was caught saying "With the website, a single point of information and application of interest will exist for all."

When I pointed my browser to the said URL, here is what I saw.

Then I tried the ".com" version.

I am surprised not ONE person bothered to check out the site before releasing and publishing the press release.


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