India Inc. Budget 2006

When searching for “Budget 2006“, the second link thrown up by Google is The Government of India: Union Budget and Economic Survey. You can watch the webcast here.

From the NASSCOM statement on the Union Budget 2006:

We are, however, deeply concerned about the increase in levies on packaged software and on IT hardware. These will result in higher prices and have an adverse impact on millions of customers and on the domestic IT market. It will be a setback to efforts to promote IT utilization in the Indian economy and for vital applications like education and health. At a time when technology and market demand were driving down prices, we see this as a retrograde step. We feel this is an intended consequence of adjustments of excise, countervailing duty, etc and hope that the Finance Minister will correct this aberration.

The increase in service tax and broadening the net to cover some previously excluded IT-related services will not only raise costs, but will act as a deterrent to outsourcing work to SMEs.

Interesting. So this implies Windows XP Pro, which costs the Indian consumer INR 6200 (~USD 140), will now cost more? Not sure how this will go down with the Industry. IT hardware also includes routers, equipment that and other basic equipment that impacts the bottom line. I have not been able to find the information NASSCOM is quoting from. If I were to wait another few hours, I am sure the leading dailies will have something up there. I am also not clear on whether the SEZ scheme has changed (for the worse or otherwise). NASSCOM also has a Webinar on March 2nd, might be worth tracking.

Update: I am not sure how much the new Windows XP Starter Edition will be priced at. I am also unsure as to how the new Vista will change this offering. Purely from the Indian budget perspective, IndiaTimes has the reactions of several key industry figures. Hindustan Times says the IT Industry is indifferent.

What name is the best name for your business?

I followed emergic.org to another of Guy Kawasaki’s articles. This one is on the Name Game. Guy provides fundamental advice on how to name your company appropriately. His piece advises entprepreneurs to,

  • Your name must begin with an early alphabet. (A, B, C perhaps)
  • Avoid names starting with X or Z.
  • Embody verb potential.
  • Try to sound different.
  • Embody Logic.
  • Avoid the trendy.
  • Avoid the commonplace and generic.

Name your business after your product: To add to his article, think about naming your company after your product and whether it might benefit you. When folks ask me who do I work for, only the well-versed in the business world realise that Research in Motion makes the excellent BlackBerry. I like to get people a little excited when I talk about my employer, so I always start with – “I work for the BlackBerry firm, Research in Motion”. Amazon.com folks don’t have this problem. I am sure that makes for easy conversation, whereas A9 does not. For a long time, Google was what Google did – they built the search engine. It was only later they started naming their products differently. Certainly, it helped to have a name that was applicable generically. Apple on the other hand, has succeeded in making its products synonymous with its own name.You really cannot say for sure that one way is better than the other. The real benefit is, being able to walk into an investor meeting wielding the clout of a brand name under your belt – we own it, because we are it. (Forgive the hyperbole :-), I am very excited about the future).

Try to be different, but also think big: My domain – sukshma.net, would probably not make a good product name. Over dinner, Vishal and I decided that the word Sukshma is a powerful enough word to be used synonymously with precise and subtle information. The word was easily enough picked up by other Indians who knew their Hindi. I felt, even otherwise – that an Indian would remember it and punch out the domain from memory. Unfortunately, thats not how it works – it turns out, you could transliterate it from the Hindi language in at least 3 different ways (Sukshm, Suksm, Suksma), and the name holds no appeal to someone who is not familiar with the language. I wish I could come up with an instance of a name, derived from Hindi that has made it big the worldover. And yet, the name Ubuntu, a very popular Linux distribution, promises to be adopted with ease by geeks globally.

GMail Feature Revision: We no longer want you to archive all your email

It looks like the Google’s Gmail team have revised their user guidance on deleting email. The delete action has now moved from the drop-down of possible user actions, to its own button over your view pane. In my opinion, the change signifies that GMail has stopped trying to educate users to archive all their email. Perhaps they found it was silly to keep those daily stock ticker notifications of their own stock wildly fluctuating, archived in their Inbox.

There is a lesson somewhere here for me. The lesson is not that you cannot educate your users into behaving differently; the lesson is – you have to give your users what they want! If they want to delete their old email, do not fight it by obscuring the delete button into a drop-down.

If your reading this and going “old news”, you have to forgive me for being so slow to catch on. I was trying out different locale’s on GMail and it seems the new web features were not available to me on English, UK. I thought it was a bit odd to tie the user selected Locale in with the actual regional deployment features (I might be wrong about this). I thought they would use my registered location (US) and give me the new features anyway. Then again, the new features just might not have been localized yet 🙂 a common problem with all web applications.

Related:  Just recently, Guy Kawasaki talked about trying to simply “Sell”, instead of trying to enable “Buying” – “The Art of Rainmaking“. I thought this was very related. I feel, in the long run, Google’s GMail will be remembered more than Hotmail will. They were the first to realise the potential of giving away very large Inbox’s to their users in return for the right to show them targeted ads. I thought that that was a very smart move on their part. At that time, other email providers were struggling to bring users on board with paid email models. Perhaps somewhere down the line GMail folks decided that they would convince their users to stop deleting messages, which would be very beneficial to them. The basic premise behind that thought is, the more email the user stores, the more precise the advertising. While GMail did find the market – they couldn’t stop users from deleting their messages, atleast I did not stop doing so. At this point its useful to quote directly from Guy’s website,

Many companies freak out when unintended customers buy their product. Many companies also freak out when intended customers buy their product but use it in unintended ways. Don’t be proud. Take the money. 

Justice, truth and everything else, for Manjunath

Today, Gaurav announced on Vantage Point that Manjunath’s case will be taken up by a trust being formed by IIM alumni and well-wishers. I encourage those who want to help to head over there and contribute in which ever way they can. I certainly will do so myself. If your following current affairs in India, your probably aware that the Jessica Lall case has run its course and the accused have been let go for lack of evidence (as Gaurav also pointed out). Your also probably aware that Salman Khan has been awarded a one year jail sentence in his ‘Black buck’ affair while the others involved have been let go. Indeed, I do feel that justice may have evaded those who were affected or hurt. However, I am also torn inside about something else.

And yet, I am torn. Like the US which suffers from the “Missing white woman syndrome“, I am starting to worry that India could soon be suffering from the “murdered whistle-blower graduate of IIM/IIT syndrome”. I guess at this point I have to declare, I am not a graduate of either institution so yes – that could indicate a prejudiced viewpoint. But at no point should the astute reader assume that I want to deny justice to Manjunath’s relatives and friends. My concern stems from the worry that no one would bother about justice for me, if I were to be in Manjunath’s shoes. Resolute do I stand by that concern and am not embarrassed to sound it out.

Please do not misunderstand, this is not about me in particular. I only realise that resources are finite and that life is not fair. Manjunath’s case may get a larger share of the resources while someone else’s might not. There are so many who might have died anonymously under similar circumstances. We could never tell the extent of the problem, or it’s specific mechanics, but we can fight it one at a time – and this is our chance and place to begin.

Also, this is also not about the Manjunath’s friends and well-wishers who are pooling in their resources to ensure he gets justice. I do not want to imply that their act is selfish or superficial, instead it is selfless and originates from their concern for his family and for the general well-being of the nation.I don’t doubt that the IIM folks involved are resourceful and really want to make a difference, they want to show that crime should not go unpunished.

This is about balance. This is about our perceptions, and about our belief that only the IIT’s and IIM’s define the nation, about the fact that we have begun to perceive ourselves as ordinary. I wish every single Indian institution of learning was as good as an IIT or an IIM. I wish we Indian’s were all as strong as the graduates who now stand behind Manjunath.

NewDelhiTimes.org: Barcamp, Delhi

I have been thinking about how many conferences in the past year I have missed because I have been too busy being a corporate drone. Considering that I am going to be broke soon (while trying not to be a corporate drone), I hope I might have the opportunity to attend a barcamp instead! Gaurav of NewDelhiTimes.org has announced a Barcamp in Delhi. The theme is around the “Next Generation Internet: web 2.0, mobile computing, and a lot of other cool stuff”. Since the camp is to be held on Saturday, March 4th, I am going to have to miss it. I will be in India only after April 10th. If I could help it, I would definitely not want to miss out on it. Head on over to Gaurav’s blog and read the introduction.

Great work, Gaurav, now we know the sudden silence on your blog only means your working really hard behind it.

Computer Science course books for sale

Update: I no longer have these books on me.

The following C.S. course-books:

1. Code complete. Steve McConnell. First Edition. $3.
2. J2EE Anti-Patterns. Wiley Publishers. $5.
3. Java NIO, Ron Hitchens, O’Reilly. $5.
4. Introduction to Algorithms, Cormen, Rivest, and Lieserson. Second Edition. $7.
5. Computer Architecture – a quantitative approach. Hannessey and Patterson. Second Edition. $3.
6. Data Mining. Jiawei Han and Michelle Kember. $5.
7. Distributed Systems Concepts. $5.
8. Computer Networks, Third Edition. Aaron Tanenbaum. $5.
9. Data Structures in C and C++. Aaron Tanenbaum. $5.
10. Lisp, 3rd Edition, Winston & Horn. $5.
11. The practice of programming. Kernighan & Pike. $6.
12. Java 2. Third Edition. Naughton and Schildt. $2.
13. Database System Concepts. Korth. $3.
14. Operating Systems. Milenkovic. $5.
15. Introduction to Languages and the Theory of Computation, John C. Martin, Second Edition. $2.
16. Distributed Systems Concepts and Design, Coulouris, Dollimore. Third Edition. $5.
17. Test your C++ Skills, Yashvant Kanetkar. $4.
18. Computer Networking, Kurose and Ross. $5.

All books are low-price asian editions, paperback. They have been used/marked with notes. Nothing else wrong with the books. If your interested, please send me an e-mail. I am only willing to accept cash.

Entrepreneurship: a radical career change

Original Blog: Madhu Menon has posted a few tips (I followed Vantage Point) on managing a radical career change. He suggests the following questions for oneself before making a huge leap that might leave you vulnerable.

On a very technical note, what checklist should one follow before making a drastic decision to change career paths?

It depends on whether you plan to be an entrepreneur or get a salaried job in another industry. The latter option is a lot safer because you don't have to deal with so much change all at the same time. But a few essential things to ponder are:

1. Do you truly want to switch? Perhaps you're simply not in the right position, the right company, or both. If so, shifting to a new job in a new company might be a less risky option.
2. Are you sure you're fit for the new profession? Doing something just because everyone else is doing it is not a good idea, not only because you may not succeed, but also because you may be late to cash in on a fad. Being good at a business requires that you either know your trade very well, or have the ability to spot a business opportunity and then hire the best people to run it for you. Some people are great at getting work done, but it's not for everyone. Do your homework diligently. Make a proper business plan with numbers and chart out the most pessimistic scenario.
3. Are you willing to take the risk? A new business will not start making money for a while. Can you handle not having a stable source of income? Do you have a wife, kids, or family to feed? Do you have a backup plan if your venture fails? (And some ventures always will. It's the circle of life.) If you're not starting your own business and getting a job in a new industry, you might have to take a pay cut because you're not joining on the same level. Are you ready for that? Will the reward be worth it?
4. Do you have spare money to keep you going in the bad times? You should have at least six months of salary available for living expenses, preferably ten.
5. Do you see yourself doing this for the next twenty years? If that thought makes you pause for more than 30 seconds, consider whether it's really a good long-term decision.

Firstly, Madhu's questions maybe directed to managing the risk associated with a startup. Since that has been my theme in the past 3 weeks, I am going to post with that perspective. However, even when making a switch across disciplines, his question's are still very valid.

To add to the first question – Do you truly want to switch? – I have also been asked, "imagine that you decided not to take the opportunity, irrespective of whether the venture failed or succeded, (hindsight) what would be your regret factor on a scale of 1 to 5?". Also try to answer the question – "How will this opportunity impact your own life, assuming you succeed?". Then again, how would it impact you if it failed? Which then leads on to, do you have a plan B?

To answer the question – "Are you sure you fit the profession?" – My answer is always, "I don't know for sure". Try answering that question yourself. Two aspects will define any answer. I hope that you will not begin by listing your weaknesses and say that you cannot make it [Mediocrity by areas of improvement]. With that atitude, your not going to get there ever – even if you did have a chance. Instead, I would rather write down my strengths and think about how they would help me balance the equation. Sure, I will keep in mind that entrepreneurship requires guile, hard work and talent at spotting talent. In that sense, Madhu's advice is well-taken. I would definitely identify the weaknesses I may have in these areas, but I would never let it deter me from realising my dreams.

The other aspect is that you will never know for sure until and unless you have given it a shot. To a certain degree every professional has some clue about where they want to be in the next five years. How much of that belief is based on inspiration, and how much of it is based on actual capability? My thoughts are that the inspiration is usually a major portion.

Lastly, Madhu asks that you be financially prepared, I will add to that, be mentally prepared. Think about writing a short statement to yourself that you intend to stick to your plan no matter what. Of course, be reasonable, perhaps slap in a timeline and rationality limits – but follow your dream! Here is an example of how having a plan helped Gaurav [NewDelhiTimes.org]:

My reason was that I wanted to try out different things professionally – something that was not possible in US because of a slowing economy, lack of resources and visa issues. So when I came back, each time I wondered "What the hell am I doing in the 3rd most polluted city of the world sitting in a traffic jam in sweltering heat and earning 1/10th of what I made before?", I had an answer. You can have a different reason – personal or professional – but it should be compelling enough to keep you motivated and excited about being in India.

Economic Times: "Tips to survive through a career shift" – Viren Naidu, 14th February.

Shrikant's Blog: Shrikant captures the emotional essence of making a career switch. "Luck, Success and Skills".

India is headed for a full stop

Original Blog: India, Infrastructure and resistance to Globalization. Economist’s view.

To summarise, The author correctly questions the hype around India. Is the hype preventing Indians from solving the real problems there? Lack of infrastructure, lack of belief in reformist legislation can easily prevent India from converting the increase in global interest into fundamental growth.

On reviewing the blog (not the original article, subscription required), I was not surprised to see mass transit cited as one of the primary reasons why Bangalore is no longer the default city of choice when setting up a technology business. To quote, “The city no longer works in a way that unleashes the creative potential of those who live here.”

I could not have put the problems that folks face there in a better way. After inching along the streets of Bangalore at less than 20 miles per hour, spending thirty minutes at popular stop-lights, I am sure your way too tired to do anything spectacular.