Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lyrics & Translation to Praan - The where the hell is Matt song

I have found myself humming the song from that video of a guy dancing all over the world, or rather trying to hum it, continuously over the past few weeks. In case you're facing the same difficulty, try the following:

Bhulbona ar shohojete
Shei praan e mon uthbe mete
Mrittu majhe dhaka ache
je ontohin praan

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
Shei shurete jagbo ami
(Repeat 2X)

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
dao more shei gaan

Shei jhor jeno shoi anonde
Chittobinar taare
Shopto-shindhu dosh digonto
Nachao je jhonkare!

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
Shei shurete jagbo ami
(Repeat 3X)

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
Shei shurete jagbo ami

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
dao more shei gaan

The lyrics of the song are from the poem "Stream of Life" taken from the Nobel-prize-winning collection 'Gitanjali' by Rabindranath Tagore. The translation for the same is as given below:

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death,
in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

Suits the video pretty well.

Thanks to Matt Harding, Gary Schyman (The composer) and Palbasha Siddique (For singing it so beautifully). And of course, Thanks to the late polymath, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, may he rest in Peace.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Welcome to Kgp - Where the hell in Kgp?

3 days, One campus, the true spirit of Youth!
Don't forget to comment!

Background music from "Where the Hell is Matt" : "PRAAN" - Lyrics adopted from the poem "Stream of Life" from Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore. Vocals by Palbasha Siddique.

This video , made by the Eastern Technology Music Society (ETMS) premiered at their annual Spring Fest production at IIT Kharagpur. The video was made over a period of 3 days and was shown for the first time with ETMS performing "Praan" live.

Gave me goosebumps! Couldn't help sharing it... Thanks ETMS, and thanks MATT!!

Next post coming soon!!!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Go for a REAL internship this Summer !!!

It's that time of the year... Spring is already here, and summer not too far away.

If you're an Engineering student reading this, the above is sure to have brought creases to your forehead. The spring-autumn inter-semester break is practically here, and you're still confused where to go, what to do?

Internship? Where? How do I apply? Will it be too abstract, the way tech-internships usually are? Will you actually be doing something productive, or just sitting around in offices gaping at the technology/corporate world in a confused manner ?

Or do you want to make a dent in the universe? Intern at a place that combines the best of Technology, Consulting and Social Innovation. A place where YOU can make an impact. Work with the best in the business, network with the experts, and join an outstanding cohort of young leaders, the league of pros. Attend leadership workshops at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, and pitch in your ideas for innovation to thought leaders, speak to the ones whose voices really matter. And know what..... GET PAID for it, at industry-competitive stipend rates.

Yes, all of the above is for real. Don't believe me? Well, it's happened to me , and them too . That's E4SI for you!!!

Engineers for Social Impact (E4SI) is a unique fellowship program that connects top engineering talent to credible social enterprises driving market-based solutions to development in India. It serves a dual need: matching talented students with worthy social enterprises and increasing awareness of for-profit approaches to development.

The partner universities include BITS-Pilani, BITS-Pilani (Goa Campus), the Indian Institutes of Technology at Kharagpur (IIT-Kgp), Mumbai (IIT-B), Chennai (IIT-M), Kanpur (IIT-K), Delhi (IIT-D), Guwahati (IIT-G) & Roorkee (IIT-R), IIIT-Allahabad, IIIT-Hyderabad, NIT-Trichy, NIT-Warangal, NIT-Karnataka (Surathkal) and Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT), Delhi. In case your university is not listed, you can get it on the map by suggesting it for future editions .

E4SI partner for-profit social enterprises (founded by alumni from schools such as Harvard, Wharton, INSEAD and IIT) are leaders in education, energy, health, microfinance and multiple bottom-line investment advisory services. They are: iDiscoveri (Education), Intellecap (Investment), Ujjivan (Microfinance), Vaatsalya (Healthcare), D.Light Design (Providing affordable Power), DhanaX (Person-to-person lending/ Microentrepreneurship) and Ethos (Multiple Bottom-line Investment Advisory). Given the entrepreneurial nature of these internships, the nature of work is quite flexible, and the interns enjoy a free-hand to innovate and apply their own ideas. The internship possibilities, or Immersion Experiences as they are called, have already been uploaded for Ujjivan and D.Light , and will be uploaded for the others in about a week.

The duration of the internship will be around two and a half months, for which a competent stipend will be paid, and a leadership workshop would later be organized, to be conducted by the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. Besides, the fellows would hence be inducted into a very exclusive cohort of outstanding young leaders.

Undergraduate students currently pursuing Engineering/ Dual degree/ integrated M.Sc. courses at any of the listed partner universities are eligible to apply for E4SI Fellowship 2009. To apply , first register on the E4SI website, and submit the required documents (CV and essays) as specified on the E4SI website. In case you're having a hard time choosing a single immersion experience to apply for, you may apply for more than one, three at max. Once the application procedure is complete and you've received the acknowledgment, just wait while the eminent panel of judges/advisors (with degrees from Harvard, MIT, Michigan, Yale) come up with the results of the first round, after which team E4SI will guide you through the subsequent round(s).

The last date to submit completed applications is February 22, 2009, but don't wait that long. Apply NOW!!!

In case of any queries, you can visit the FAQ section. In case it still remains unfulfilled, you can send your question to the E4SI team, or put it up here as a comment.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

E-Summit 09: Day 1: Epilogue (Part XII + I)

We all applaud Mr. Jobs for his innovative work at Apple but even he has made mistakes. He launched the first iPhone with a faulty price plan. He has struggled to get television shows and digital movies to the mainstream. He was probably 10 years late in getting Windows on the Mac. There is no doubt that he is a creative genius who produces top notch products but the scoreboard shows that no Apple product, beside the iPod, can claim even 10% global market share.

What Steve Jobs has done is laid the foundation for Apple to grow, with or without him, for the next generation. Nobody who buys this stock should be buying it because of Steve Jobs. This story is much larger than one man. Apple is protected by rigid barriers to entry. Do you realize how difficult it is to crack into the computer operating system market? I'll use the word impossible.

Microsoft (MSFT) has created such an OS monopolistic ecosystem that it has become impossible for any competitor to get compatible software written for their start-up. Apple was smart/lucky enough to maintain a niche group of loyalists who used the Mac OS through the generation of Microsoft's growth phase. That was so vital to their success because there were always just enough users to warrant software development for the Mac platform. Good luck to any company who wants to try and launch a new OS, there won't be any software to run. We happen to live in a time when computers and phones are more than just gadgets; they have become essential elements of business and social society. These devises are more of a necessity to us than cars, clothes, and according to the latest data, even religion. Not a bad era to have the only OS in town.

Microsoft's folly with the Vista release has allowed Apple to become a mass market share player. In the most recent Net Applications Survey Apple's share of the operating system market grew 5.69% in May to hit a record 7.80%, while Windows in all its flavors dropped half a point to 91.17%. That's a record low for Microsoft, which nonetheless still runs on 9 out of 10 computers on the Internet. This trend has taken years to develop and Apple is about to reap the rewards, with or without, Steve jobs. He has set something very powerful in motion that not even he can stop.

Apple's use of Leopard on the iPhone will cause every $199 iPhone user to become comfortable with the Mac system. If you thought the iPod had a nice halo effect for Mac Computers just wait for the iPhone halo. Apple's OS provides the solution for modern day touch screen technology and mobility.

Apple is the next Microsoft but they will be even bigger because they dominate the hardware as well. Legendary investor Warren Buffett says, "In business I look for economic castles protected by un-breachable moats." Thanks to Steve Jobs' reluctance to outsource the Mac OS, Apple is perched in the protected castle. His company will live on much longer than he. It's time to come to terms with the fact that Steve Jobs won't live forever and that doesn't change the fact that Apple has the best fundamental growth story in the world.
-- Dominique Trempont

With this, E-Cell concluded first day of the E-Summit. The audience stood up in applause, visibly dazed after such an enlightening session. We, here at IIT Kharagpur, remain truly indebted to the respected speakers for giving us their valuable time. The day was far from over though. Sramana Madam and Dominique Sir were surrounded by budding entrepreneurs from the audience, whom they were gracious enough to answer despite their tight schedule. They were also very generous in allowing E-Cell to use/distribute the slides freely. Sramana Ma'am also left us with a copy of the first volume of her series on demystifying Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneur Journeys, which I hope to get my hands on.

Till then, lets just call it a day and continue with our present journey, with E-Cell, IIT Kharagpur. The Summit has just begun... see you on Day 2!!

E-Summit 09: Day 1: The audience asks...(Part-XII)

There was a very interesting round of questions from the audience. As expected, and as seen during the rest of E-Summit, one of the first questions asked was on the effects of Global meltdown, on Apple, and on budding entrepreneurs. Dominique replied by saying that the recession was way overdue since long, and thinks it might continue for another year or so. This calls for major reshuffling.

For start-ups, this is actually a good time. In fact, in Dominique’s view, the next 2-3 years should be excellent for new ventures. The down side could be a bit less VC funding, but the start-ups stand to gain quite a lot once the market correction phase enters. If you have an idea, come up with a venture soon. If only some people would listen!

Another interesting question asked was “What next after the iPod?”

Answered with an extremely quick “I’m not gonna tell you!” :D

On a bit more nudging, Dominique just remarked that it will be very interesting, and we’ll see for ourselves in due course of time.

Then there was this question straight from Pirates of the Silicon Valley, asking Dominique to compare Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Dominique replied that the two are simply very different as people, and have different skills. While Jobs is the more creative minded, Gates is gifted with a good ability to market and to do business. Without venturing further, he simply remarked that the two are actually quite good friends outside of the business world.

And there was the biggie: OPEN SOURCE!!!

Dominique said that he personally was not a great fan of the movement. For one, the open source movement has gone to virtually destroy entities like SUN and other enterprises from the Silicon Valley. Besides, there have been concerns over quality as well as sustainability of the idea. So while it may all be very romantic and revolutionary today, the future of open source is quite uncertain. He concluded by saying that open-source movement, free culture etc may all be “good things”, but he’s all for proprietary.

And then for the conclusion...
(Last part to come...)

E-Summit 09: Day 1: Risk it! (Part-XI)

The greatest risk one can take is not to take risks. This can be seen as a direct result of the need to innovate for entrepreneurs. To innovate, one needs to take certain risks. If one chooses not to do so, that’s probably the easiest way to make the enterprise obsolete, which, in fast times like these, is the road to certain death for the startup.

Simply put, it’s necessary to take chances from time to time, to look away from the actions which result in the obvious, and dare to discover the unexplored. At worst, one can fail. And who says that’s bad.

To hear from the horse’s mouth, just tune in to Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement, if you haven’t already. Steve Jobs has made some great mistakes, no doubt. But he learnt from them, and subsequently (and perhaps consequently) rose from them. The important thing here is not to repeat the mistakes over and over again.

This is especially true for start-ups, to take risks earlier, so as to exhaust the mistakes. You would rather make your mistakes when small, than big.

And then, there was this very interesting round of questions from the audience....(contd.../)

E-Summit 09: Day 1: Why two heads are better than one... (Part-X)


As soon as the slide saying “The Power of the Duo” came up on the screen, glances were once again exchanged amongst the students sitting in the audience. But more on that later.

Dominique and Sramana are serial entrepreneurs. In fact, Dominique has partnered in enterprises that are spread out across various sectors. It is quite impossible for him to have an expertise on all those fields. And how does that work? Simple. He has partnered with the right people. It’s all about forming the right duo.

The power of the duo should not be underestimated. There is a long and pretty obvious list of examples -- Bill Gates & Paul Allen (then Steve Ballmer), Larry Page & Sergey Brin, Niklas Zennstrom & Janus Friis, Chad Hurley & Steve Chen & Jaaved Karim, Pierre Omidyar & Jeff Skoll, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak ,... In fact, I’ll write a post exclusively on the power of the duo later... The point is, people that complement each other, say, one with the technical skills and other a marketing mogul, or any other coupling that suits the startup, and who share some common traits as well, so that they may be good friends too, make good entrepreneurs when working together. I myself hope to come up with such a partnership, just have to convince the other guy. I hope to convince him to take the risk, since it is all about taking risks anyway...


E-Summit 09: Day 1: What NeXT? (Part-IX)

A major mistake made by NeXT was in understanding the market. You can upload/view the relevant slides  which may need to be referred.

The Computer Industry Circa 1980 was Vertically integrated – Value Proposition: ”The Best Computer”

In this vertically integrated model, the objective was to come up with the “best” computer: best own chips, best own computer, best own operating system, best applications (Visicalc was the killer app that gave its fame to the Mac).

This proprietary model produced tremendous stickiness as it was difficult and costly to switch vendor.

However, things were bound to change with time. The scenario in 1995:

The microprocessor appeared and combined several previously proprietary chips.
Then IBM made the mistake to rely on DOS then Windows from Microsoft.
Then the whole industry switched to mass production of interchangeable parts, hence lowering the cost of each.

In this horizontal model, no one company can afford its own stack. Each company picks one microprocessor from the chip bar, one OS from the OS bar, one manufacturer from the hardware bar, a set of apps from the apps bar.

Tremendous economics of scale and lower price for the customer. A $10,000 PC now costs $2,000 and keeps decreasing in price and increasing in features/functions.
Competition is horizontal as well as vertical.

So maybe NeXT was just too ahead of its time. But it’s still a mistake then. It’s all a matter of correct timing... and luck, or crossing the chasm, as Dominique puts it. This is inspired by “Crossing the chasm” be Jeff Moore, which Dominique recommends as a must-read. The chasm being talked about is the apparent “ditch” between the early adopters and the mainstream adopters (the biggest market-share holders) of technology. Making the leap across this chasm is what the real challenge is.

There is also every chance of the danger of thinking “inside the box”. The markets are dynamic, and like never before. What holds today may not hold true tomorrow. Hence, there is a need to constantly change and grow. There is a need for constant innovation. Any extrapolation made from past success is an illusion. It’s just invalid. This can be also seen as another example of 20/20 hindsight. Thus, the key is to innovate, and “truly remarkable innovation is driven by talent and freedom to think [very] different.”

Speaking of talent and freedom, how can we forget the power of the DUO. (Something I’d been waiting all evening for!)


E-Summit 09: Day 1: Steve Jobs as a Leader (Part-VIII)

Steve Jobs is universally known for being a perfectionist. Dominique, with all his experience, discussed the pros and cons of the same.

He recollected how he used to guide the company’s engineers about how to downplay themselves initially and to come out with the best of innovations at the right time, so as to pleasantly astonish Steve. This reminded me of the way Steve himself introduces the major innovations by Apple in his keynotes at the MacWorld and Apple Expos, famously known as Stevenotes. An archetypal Steve Jobs Keynote starts with Jobs presenting sales figures for Apple products, and a review of Apple products released in the past few months. He then moves on to present one or more new products of moderate importance. After that, he feigns some concluding remarks, turns to leave the stage, then turns back and says "One more thing…", finally revealing products which go on to define the Expo.

Dominique Trempont making a point
Steve is also known to be a great leader in very High-pressure situations. If you haven’t already, then you must go on to watch/read Steve Jobs famous Stanford commencement speech. Jobs left the company he started, his dream venture, Apple, only to start another company that would ultimately bring him back to Apple, as the CEO. Amidst all this, he also started up another big company, Pixar, which is now the leader in animation. An Entrepreneur has to be driven, by something, to be able to handle this. It could be philosophy, it could be motivation to succeed, it could be anything!

Being a perfectionist, however, has its downsides. Being a perfectionist means always demanding everything to be perfect, whatever be the conditions. While it sounds great in theory, it might lead to missed opportunities due to the wait for the perfect moment. Dominique recounted that NeXT had been offered to buy Mosaic, the first popular web browser, and the deal appeared to be good. Mosaic was the final link in the chain of technologies (TCP, IP, ftp | nntp | gopher | http, URL, HTML, etc.) which Tim Berners-Lee had earlier brought together to invent the World Wide Web. After the appearance of Mosaic the concept of the World Wide Web took off globally at an explosive rate. However, Steve felt that Mosaic was lacking in many ways, and was too far from being perfect. Ultimately, he turned it down.

Mosaic was born very mature. Fifteen years later the most popular browsers, Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, retain many of the characteristics of the original Mosaic graphical user interface (GUI) and interaction experience.

Mosaic's direct descendant on the coder line, via Marc Andreessen, was Netscape Navigator. There were brief discussions between Netscape and NeXT on investing in each other, which, however, did not materialize.

NeXT had awesome server software and a killer application development environment, called WebObjects, that would have strengthened Netscape's lead on Microsoft. NeXT proceeded to very successfully launch WebObjects on its own, while Netscape became a casualty of the First Browser Wars. While the product was good, Netscape lacked the technology that NeXT had. Though this could be subject to the 20/20 hindsight argument, it can be said that had NeXT not turned down Mosaic, the present would’ve been very-very different. Dominique discussed more of this in his concluding words.

For entrepreneurs, while it’s great to be a perfectionist in terms of quality and customer satisfaction, one does not always need to wait for the perfect moment, the perfect combination of favourable conditions to come up. This is the time to make this realization. If there’s any time you want to start, it’s now... Your call!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

E-Summit 09: Day 1: Dominique speaks (Part-VII)

Following Sramana’s lecture on Entrepreneurship Opportunities in India, which included a presentation by Dominique focussed on the the WATER crisis as an area of Entrepreneurial opportunity, was perhaps the most awaited lecture of the Summit, ironically on Day 1 itself. Dominique Trempont stepped on to the stage to acquaint us about his experience with Steve Jobs at NeXT.

NeXT, Inc. was started by Steve Jobs in 1985 after his resignation from Apple Computers, a company he founded, following an [in]famous boardroom coup. NeXT unveiled its first product, the NeXT computer, at a gala event in 1988.

Dominique was recruited by Steve Jobs to turn around NeXT, first as chief financial officer and later expanding to lead all operations. He led NeXT’s shift from hardware to software and brought the company to profitability. He successfully restructured the company financially, organizationally and strategically, and finally sold NeXT to Apple in 1997 for $462M.

NeXT was instantly recognised for its competency. McCaw Cellular, Inc., the first Mobile Telephony company, was entirely powered by NeXT computers. Major Stock markets began using NeXT computers for trading and analysis. The American intelligence agency, CIA, also preferred NeXT for dealing with highly sensitive data. The computer used by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN which became the world’s First Web Server was also.... you guessed it... it was a NeXT. But that was just about it.
The NeXT computer used by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN became the world's first web server

NeXT had a very limited commercial success. In fact, it is estimated that in totality only about 50,000 units of NeXT Computers have been sold ever. However, the company had a profound impact on the computer industry. Object-oriented programming and graphical user interfaces became more common after the 1988 release of the NeXTcube and NeXTSTEP, when other companies started to emulate NeXT's object-oriented system. In fact, the GUI used on Apple computers now is actually a descendant of the one used by NeXT. There is much to be learnt from the successes as well as failures of NeXT.

Since we were talking about a company founded over 2 decades ago, and discussing its failures and successes, Dominique started by pointing out the fact that Hindsight is indeed 20/20. This carries a bit of sarcasm in it, since it says it’s easy to be critical of an event that happened in the past. This is because one judges the wisdom of decisions made then, in the light of new information and AFTER knowing the outcome, which is unfair since that info was not available when the decisions were made. While lessons may be learnt from experiences, they are definitely not indicators of bad decision-making abilities. This is especially true for the IT industry, characterised by rapid changes and a highly dynamic environment. This can also be seen as a philosophy which asks not to look at the past with suspicion/guilt but for the sake of mere reference.

Talking about philosophy, what should actually be the philosophy of any startup, any company, any enterprise, is the focus on Customers. Anyone who as ever used an Apple product, especially an Apple computer, even once, will understand what Dominique was talking about when he emphasized Steve Jobs’ keen eye on user experience. Using a computer should not be rocket science for the user. Jobs ensured that the user was always pleased to use an Apple product. Even today, while Apple may not have a very large share in the market, Apple customers are extremely loyal to it simply because they are just too comfortable with it. I don’t remember the last time I heard a Windows user say that!

This was also emphasized when Dominique spoke about “Brand=Trust”. This is especially important for entrepreneurs. The focus should first be on developing a brilliant product, about great innovations. Once you have a product, you may advertise it all you want. But while marketing is important, no Brand image is built on a defunct product, no matter how it’s marketed. Once the product is experienced to be satisfactory by the market, the brand name goes a long way after that. Dominique also talked about Indian Entrepreneurs lacking in marketing skills. A product may have great deal of innovation in it, but it most-definitely needs to be presentable as well. Apparently, Jobs lays great stress on the aesthetic beauty of the product as well as user-end satisfaction in general.

This brought us to the topic of Steve Jobs as a leader.
(To be continued...)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


As blogger publishes this post at the time and date specified, which would be 0001 hrs on the 7th of January 2009, my batchmates here at IIT Kharagpur are probably fulfilling the ancient rituals associated with the anniversary of one’s birth. Yes, 7th of January is indeed a special day, it’s Eastern Orthodox Christmas... and it’s my Birthday.

So here I am, two decades old, all of a sudden. Well, not quite all of a sudden you’d say... But so it seems.

Everybody loves their birthday, and that should be especially true for a self-centred narcissist like me. But it turns out my previous few Birthdays have not been that special for me, as much as this one is. It’s not just the fact that the most-significant-digit of my age changes today. It also so happens that I “take stock” of my life on my birthday. [I know it’s getting boring... just bear with me... it’s my Birthday]

So to wrap it up, I think I’ve grown up and matured much more in this past one year, than any one-year period. To quote something I mentioned to a friend this morning, I was surprised last year on my birthday to observe I’ll be 20 next year. Now I no longer am... Of course, not really THAT mature. In fact, as I was writing this and went outside leaving my laptop on, some of my other “mature” friends showed up and played a prank on my G-Talk status message. Some of those on my G-Talk must’ve noticed. I would’ve mentioned the exact message, but my blog might just get flagged adult. I guess I always will remain a kid at heart. [Which, I guess, is the most oldy thing to say] :D

OK, enough of my Birthday mumbo-jumbo. A Birthday is one day of the year one gets to have all for themselves. One day that the world deceives them to think that they are the most special people there are. And today’s mine.

Go ahead, make my day.

And of course, a merry Eastern Orthodox Christmas to you!

Friday, January 02, 2009

E-Summit 09: Day 1: Visioning (Part-VI)

Sramana Mitra and Dominique Trempont give points for effective visioning:
¡  Start a journal
¡  Write out the vision for your life
¡  In present tense, as if you have already achieved it
¡  Taking into account your unique gifts, talents, passions, dreams, and expertise
¡  May include expertise you plan to acquire over time
¡  Keep updating as you go along
¡  Keep your journey focused
What did you learn from this series? Your comments are more than welcome.

Coming up: "My Days with Steve Jobs" by Dominique Trempont

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E-Summit 09: Day 1: Guest Lecture by Sramana Mitra (Part V)

Now comes the big one.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY. Sramana started off with the perfect example to demonstrate her BoP point of view. SELCO, started by Harish Hande, provides solar energy services for villagers without electricity. Solar energy has enabled them to double their productivity by enabling them to work after dark. Can there be a better example of a social enterprise that successfully gets past so many goals, solves so many problems, causes so much social upliftment, and yet, is for-profit. Kudos to Harish Hande!!

Other examples that may be explored include: AdiShakti (Solar Utility), Wind Energy, Nuclear Energy and BioFuels.

The RETAIL sector holds great promise as well. She exemplified this with Urja, an initiative in fashion. The idea here is targeted marketing, i.e., personalisation in retail. Thus, a customer does not have to go through thousands of samples and catalogues, but is offered the products based on their preferences.

Another similar idea is behind Oishi, but with Gifts. Besides these, retail has great space for innovations. For example, Indian artisans can work in tandem with designers from France and Italy. The resultant product will have both quality and innovation, and great marketability. Such products can do well on the export front, and could be tied with Global Brands.

For India, Sramana saw great potential in the TOURISM and HOSPITALITY SECTOR. Examples of good execution would be Tea Tourism in Darjeeling and Renaissance Luxury Hotel Rentals. The tourism sector in India needs to be aligned to serve Higher-End travel. Think High-end tourists, and the cash registers are already ringing in my ears, plus it’s great for the economy.

Similarly Sramana covered ENTERTAINMENT, which needs to go beyond Bollywood in India. She sees great promise in Framed Ivory (which produces period films) as well as Elixar (Animation Studio). Also, Non-Cricket Television Channels and Sports academies (NCTV) have got a great scope for entrepreneurship too.

The fields of REAL ESTATE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT and TRANSPORTATION, LOGISTICS & INFRASTRUCTURE hold great potential as well in India.

Now time to do some Homework!!

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E-Summit 09: Day 1: Guest Lecture by Sramana Mitra (Part IV)

Sramana then went on to have a look at the opportunities in the Education sector. In her opinion, the education system in India is highly overrated. I, personally, agree with her completely. While we have the IITs, IIMs, BITSs and a few good NITs and other colleges, the higher education industry is not in its best form. And the school level education industry stinks!! Giving up on my temptation to further pursue this debate, let’s move forward with her ideas:

MIT India: An idea for an Engineering School Franchise. India needs a huge number of engineers. And good engineering students make good teachers as well. In India, outside of a few premier institutions, the people who teach are themselves no good at the subjects. It’s a blind-leading-the-blind problem. And it’s not only India, but pretty much universal. Maybe if teaching could be made more attractive as a profession... A similar suggestion is a Medical School Franchise: Harvard Medical School India.

Then there was an idea about a knowledge base for teachers to consult: Lucid. The ideology is to implement central planning on pedagogical techniques. Speaking from my own experience, this is an excellent idea, and has quite a few players in the market. I had the opportunity to work with one of them , and believe me, this is going to go places.

Talking about sensible ideas, edutainment takes the cake. Sramana suggests coming up with educational games that are addictive as well. WOW!! For once parents and teachers will be worried if their child is NOT hooked on to the game. This is truly a million-dollar idea, and I never use this expression loosely. All one needs to do, in Sramana’s words, is to understand “The Psychology of Addiction” (Expression of the day).

If you thought Social Networking was old hat, meet Educational entrepreneur Edward Fields. His initiative, Hotchalk, aims to provide support through social networking between parents, teachers and students.  Community and Content!

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E-Summit 09: Day 1: Guest Lecture by Sramana Mitra (Part III)

Sramana Suggests Healthcare to be the next big thing. And how so? Healthcare facilities, while abundant in urban India, are pretty scarce in rural India. Now how do we capitalize on that?

One brilliant idea is Doctor-At-Hand: A pharmacy based healthcare franchise for rural India. It makes sense because while enough doctors and nursing staff may not be available for all the half-a-million villages in India, pharmaceutical availability can go a long way in improving the health situation, while cashing on the Base of Pyramid market.

A corollary to DAH is Doctor-On-Wire: Regional healthcare franchise with tele-medecine facilities. Regional hubs may be created for doctors, which may be immediately dispatched on call. Proper planning is required to perfectly execute this plan.

After all this is Doctor-For-Sure: Health Insurance for everybody. In the villages of India lies a huge untapped market for Health care services.

Home-Based healthcare: It’s an idea about providing healthcare services to the elderly and the disabled. This has great potential in India since service is very cheap here, and the need for care for invalids is also huge.

After these suggestions by Sramana, some brilliant ones were to come from the audience too. One member of the audience enquired about the future of psychology/psychiatry in India. Sramana was highly positive about it, since at present there’s said to be one psychologist for one lakh people in India. While seeking psychological therapy in India has been a taboo in the past, outlooks are changing, and a huge market with almost no players may be created instantly for psychotherapists.

Another listener suggested providing paramedic services in epidemic-prone areas. Again, it was something that made perfect sense. Another huge market to tap, another million dollar opportunity. Some audience members were though sceptical about running profitably in poor rural India. Sramana, at this point, made it very clear that non-profit should be the last option. Besides, this is what the Base of Pyramid concept is there for. BoP says that the lower the strata of the society, the greater its population, the higher their collective wealth, and consequently, the larger market to tap.

Another question, though unrelated, was asked regarding the future of the tertiary sector in India, the consulting market. Sramana was very sceptical about it, and did not see much of a market in the immediate future. Her experience had taught her that it’s very difficult to sell consulting serices in India, since people do not accept that problems exist. Well, fact is, Indians are cheap. I suppose it’ll take years before people realise the value of consulting in India, and then again, an instant Boom. But there’s time...

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E-Summit 09: Day 1: Guest Lecture by Sramana Mitra (Part II)

After WATER, Sramana took us to the next area of opportunity: IT & TELECOM. Her suggesting IT & Telecom as a sector which required more innovation and had a lot of potential came as a surprise to some initially. After all, wasn’t India already a leader in IT, and hadn’t the industry reached a saturation level which left no room for innovation? Apparently not.

She began by exemplifying her assertion. She took the example of bootstrapper Sridhar Vembu of AdventNet|Zoho. Sridhar developed an online office suite, the Zoho Office Suite, which includes tools for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, note-taking, wikis, CRM, project management, invoicing and other applications.  While the company has over a 100 people working on its software in Chennai, there are just seven in the Silicon Valley, mainly to market it. This leads to dramatic price undercutting. Products and Services offered by AdventNet cost less than one-sixth of similar offerings by rivals. AdventNet makes use of Software Concept Arbitrage to cut its costing.

Her point is, India can be in software what China is in manufacturing. After all, India has the expertise as well as labour that the west lacks. While the IT sector is already quite developed in India, it is nothing if you look at the future prospects. As of now, India is a haven for outsourcing. By 2020, India, instead of helping their western counterparts make products through BPO, should start creating its own products. This calls for a paradigm shift.

Another remarkable example she gave was Carol Realini, founder of Obopay. Carol realised that majority of the population in the world accesses technology not through computers but through cell phone. This is especially very easily understandable in India, where cell phones have infiltrated deep into the rural areas where there are no other signs of technology. So while banking has gone online, she realised there’s a much bigger innovation waiting to take place. She took banking to cell phone. So now Obopay enables you to make payments, and do all sorts of banking activities from your cell phone. Now that’s innovative thinking, bringing in millions of dollars. There still remains a lot of scope, say, integrating microfinance with mobile technology. Watsay?

She also talked about her rural BPO venture, Maya Ray. At times like these, Indian BPO industry is facing serious trouble. The problem is, the Indian BPO industry till now, is concentrated in urban India, and caters to large US enterprises. The US has approx 5 million small businesses which have a potential for small-scale outsourcing. Even with an annual budget as low as $5000, it adds up to a whooping $25 BILLION. The biggest problem with Indian BPOs: rising costs, can be totally avoided since Rural BPO means large number of people- simple demand & supply equations will lead to huge cost-cutting. It’s a win-win!!!

There are many other large markets to explore as well. The US healthcare market needs IT support, and it’s a perfect opportunity for Indian software industry to capitalize on. Similarly domestic security and defence industry is now a big money game, and needs IT support as well. The opportunities just don’t seem to end.

Sramana also discussed the driving force behind Entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurs are driven by PHILOSOPHY (Yes! Knew it!). Successful innovation may involve years of hard work and countless hurdles to clear before any sign of success. Lots of risks, lots of experimentation, lots of obstacles, before any fruits of success are visible. If one does not believe in the self during this time period, it’s very easy to give up. Sramana suggests reading up on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead (Yes! Knew that too!) for inspiration. Who’s John Galt, anyone?

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E-Summit 09: Day 1: Guest Lecture by Dominique Trempont and Sramana Mitra (Part I)

This is the first of my series of posts covering the events under Entrepreneurship Summit 2009 (2nd Jan – 11th Jan), organised by the Entrepreneurship Cell, IIT Kharagpur, and hosted by IIT Kharagpur. It is one of the biggest platforms in India for academicians, new-age entrepreneurs, eminent business personalities, venture capitalists, and students alike, to gather and share their entrepreneurial endeavours and experiences, and to pledge to take Entrepreneurship in India to greater scales. Keep reading the E-Summit diaries as I, the official Blogger for E-Summit 2009 (sounds cool, right?), take you through this Entrepreneurial expedition over the course of 10 days.

E-Summit 09 kick started today with a Guest Lecture by Dominique Trempont and Sramana Mitra.

Dominique is currently a member of the Board of Directors and Audit Committee of Finisar Corporation, a public company that develops and markets products and services for large enterprise storage networks. He also serves on the Board of Directors, and Chairs the Audit Committee, of Energy Recovery, Inc., a public company that helps water desalination plants recycle energy used in the desalination process. Mr. Trempont was CEO-in-Residence at Battery Ventures, a venture capital firm, prior to which, he was Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kanisa, Inc., a software company focused on customer self-service, contact centre and peer support applications. He has served as Chief Executive Officer of Gemplus Corporation, a smart card application company. Dominique was recruited by Steve Jobs to turn around NeXT, first as chief financial officer and later expanding to lead all operations. Dominique led NeXT’s shift from hardware to software and brought the company to profitability. He successfully restructured the company financially, organizationally and strategically, and sold NeXT to Apple in 1997 for $462M.

Mr. Trempont began his career at Raychem Corporation, a high-tech material science company focused on the telecommunication, electronics and automotive industries, including holding the position of Chief Audit Officer. Mr. Trempont received an undergraduate degree in Economics from College St. Louis (Belgium), a bachelor's in Business Administration and Computer Sciences from IAG at the University of Louvain (Belgium) and a master's in Business Administration from INSEAD.

Sramana Mitra has been an entrepreneur and a strategy consultant in Silicon Valley since 1994. Her fields of experience span from hard core technology disciplines like semiconductors to sophisticated consumer marketing industries including fashion and education. Her current focus, however, is primarily in the realms of Web 3.0 and Enterprise 3.0, and related infrastructure. She has a particular interest in Media and Retail companies and their transition to a Web-centric world.

Writings from Sramana's popular blog "Sramana Mitra on Strategy" are syndicated by Seeking Alpha, Yahoo! Finance, ReadWriteWeb, Cadwire, Emergic, GigaOm, and many other high traffic online business, finance, and technology publishers. Sramana also writes a weekly column for Forbes and syndicates her Vision India 2020 column to the Indian daily, DNAIndia.

As Sramana stepped on to the stage of a fully-packed Netaji Auditorium to deliver her lecture on “Entrepreneurship Opportunities in India”, she was greeted with a warm applause by the audience, primarily consisting of undergraduate and postgraduate students, potential entrepreneurs. She recollected how the scenario in IIT-Kgp today was at contrast with the last time she visited the campus 12-13 years ago with the aim of recruiting some Engineering graduates for one of her ventures. At that time, students stuck to the notion of working for established brands and were quite critical of job prospects in new ventures, and Sramana was not in a position to recruit even a single student. She reflected that the outlook towards Entrepreneurship has drastically changed over the years, and congratulated E-Cell for cultivating the spirit of Entrepreneurship amongst IITians.

Right before the presentation began, she urged the audience to first assume that they WILL each become important entrepreneurs. Beginning on a highly optimistic note, she went on to list the important areas/sectors which are as yet untapped and are potentially huge opportunities for our generation. The point was to pick important problems we are facing and find innovative solutions to them. Case studies, Role Models and Frameworks were presented to further stress the cause and to aid in the development of Entrepreneurship models.

The first of these areas of opportunity was WATER. At this point, Dominique stepped in to explain the seriousness as well as the entrepreneurial potential of “Fresh Water on a Shrinking Planet”. He explained that such problems need to be tackled the way it was done in Silicon Valley: Focus on one particular problem, find innovative solutions to it, and then gain profit by marketing the solution through a venture. He stressed on the fact that India not only has huge problems which need to be approached this way, but also has the creativity to find such solutions.

Dominique elaborated on the water crisis by stating that while the world population doubles every 40 years, but the demand for freshwater doubles in just 20 years, and by 2025, the demand would have outstripped the supply by 150%. Fortune magazine, in 2000, went on to say: “Water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was in the 20th century: the precious commodity that determines the wealth [and health] of nations.” In fact, the water crisis is already so acute in some regions, collaborative efforts have been made by nations like Israel and its neighbouring arch-enemy nations to deal with the problem collectively. So large is the problem, that feuds many millennia old have been forgotten in efforts to tackle it.

The problem is more acute specifically with regard to Ground Water. Water used for Agricultural, Industrial and Household purposes is comprised of 70-80% Ground Water. Importantly, Groundwater depletes 14 times faster than its replenishment. Can you guess the number of children dying from water-related illnesses EVERY DAY? 1600! It’s equivalent to shooting down 8 Jumbo Jet aircrafts full of kids every single day.
Looking from a pure entrepreneur’s point of view, water-related problems are a huge toll on the economy, on which 3% of India’s GDP is spent. Thus, it’s an unopened treasure chest. The water reserves are fast declining in India with the Gangotri glacier melting, existing reserves getting polluted, and most of the rain run-off not making it to the reserves, while the demand is skyrocketing with Agricultural Growth, population Growth and Economic Development.

In case you’re wondering where all the water is going, consider this: 1 kg of beef requires around 10,000 litres of water to produce, and even a seemingly harmless cup of coffee requires 140 litres of water. A pair of Jeans consumes 11,000 litres of water over its lifetime, while an average car guzzles over 4, 00,000 litres of water. Water resources could be subject to geopolitics in the future as well, with disputes over water rights, water dependencies and related conflicts. On a related note, the Siachen Glacier, which is at present the world’s highest battleground, could be a source of dispute in the future merely due to the fact that it’s a huge reserve of [frozen] water.

Potential solutions were also suggested for the problem. Protection of existing water resources could be one. Harvesting sources of Rain Water is another one, which needs innovative solutions. Similarly, maintaining water infrastructure requires innovations, innovations that engineering students from IITs and other premier institutes should indulge in. Another important step to be taken is management of ‘Water Footprint’. This is possible if technologies are developed to make the existing processes that consume water more efficient on those terms.

For example, one possible technological innovation could be the development of a better Reverse Osmosis system that could affordably and efficiently convert Sea water to potable water. To establish this, membrane technology needs to be explored. These are the kinds of innovations that IITians could do. Water desalination is a big problem, and any innovation in this field is sure to bring in huge profits.

Students sitting in the audience could be seen exchanging glances. The single area of opportunity suggested till then, WATER, could actually incorporate innovations from Mechanical, Metallurgical, Mining, Agricultural, Biotechnological, Chemical, Civil and other such engineering fields, and turns them into highly profitable ventures. Some of the technologies suggested to be developed are in fact being presently researched by the academia at IIT-Kgp, but no one had any idea there was such a huge potential in them. This universal water problem is a gold mine for entrepreneurs with an innovation.

Besides, the issues with other areas dependent/linked with WATER crisis could also be answered by these innovations, which translate to an even greater margin of profit. For example, huge amounts of Energy are required for water treatment. A better solution to water treatment could thus also help cope with another issue at large, Energy crisis.

Much of the audience was looking open-mouthed at the slides, completely in awe of what they were seeing. Some, perhaps, might have been sceptical about all this, feeling it all looks great in theory and fantasy, but will it be feasible? Sramana walked right in to the opportunity to present a role model: HP Michelet. Michelet is a Norwegian Entrepreneur, who came with the idea that formed Energy Recovery Inc. (ERI). ERI is the world’s leading manufacturer of energy recovery devices such as the PX Pressure Exchanger used for seawater desalination that reduces energy consumption of up to 98%. The idea of recycling energy in desalination was the simplest that could be, and ERI is slated to be a billion dollar company within a few years. India has huge opportunities for desalination plants along its huge coastline, an excellent opportunity. Are you listening?

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