Reversal of fortunes

Boxing was a huge affair at St. Peters. Every kid enjoyed cheering the boxers on until their voices were hoarse. St. Peters, like any other respectable school, divided their students into 4 competitive houses – Reds, Greens, Blues and the Yellows. The houses met annually at the boxing ring to duke it out for medals in the various weight classes. The sport was second only to Soccer in popularity. Watching the mass of boys sing in unison before every bout undoubtedly raised the boxers courage. Their loud, strong voices struck just the right note – Boxing was a gentleman’s sport at Peters. Don’t be misled though, after the bell rang it was each house for themselves as the two boxers fought. With every solid punch that found its mark or after a technical knock-out, the winning house cheered loudly. The boxers were a significant part of this act – sparring for about two minutes that seemed like an eternity, across 3 rounds. The bouts then played themselves out again and again, through the day for 2 days.

Did I mention that the Peters honorary referee – Shroff, was an ex-Peters boy? Shroff managed the fights like a professional would, never allowing a match to get out of hand or violent. If a boy clearly had the advantage, he would make sure the other boxer did not get into harms way. After all, there were parents to answer too. And yet, Shroff never called a fight too early – if he saw a spirited and even fight, he would keep it going. It was necessary for the boys to understand that victory, as well as defeat never came easily.

Not all Peters’ boys had the courage to enter the ring. It was really voluntary. Parents fretted after some boys. Other boys ignored their parents encouragement and chose not to fight. There were all kinds. Harsh was somewhere in between. He was not sure if he wanted to box this year. Last week, just after lunch, Harsh weighed in with all the other boys from his house. He was slated to fight in the heaviest category in Peters. To him, that meant he would be fighting the seniors for the first time. That intimidated him. He wished he hadn’t eaten so much curry and rice at lunch. Had he weighed in a few pounds less, he would have stayed with the welterweights.

On Monday, Harsh woke up feeling like he wanted to box but was still scared. He knew he would have a talk with Brij today, his senior. Brij, short for Brijmohan, headed the house with pride and Harsh looked up to him a lot. Brij would definitely follow up with every boy from the house who could box. He would want to know why Harsh wanted out.

Harsh went straight up to Brij’s class at the lunch bell. Brij had been standing outside the class for the last hour by virtue of not having done his Biology assignment. Harsh looked straight at him “I’m not sure if I want to box”. “And I did not want to do my Biology homework, now look at me!”, Brij replied with a mischievous smile. Harsh was serious though, “I’ll be pulped you Idiot. I can’t box the seniors, they’re just way too good”. “Stop whining and focus on who you’re fighting. Your house needs the participation points. That’s what you ought to box for. If I were you, I would get into the ring and think about slimming down next year. I am a little surprised by your attitude – are you going soft or something? If you’re thinking about failure already – I am not going to keep you on the other teams”. Brij’s direct threat had had the desired effect, Harsh went ahead and put his name down. He could not afford to lose his place on the other teams.

When the draws were announced, Harsh was drawn against Sergio one of the better boxers from Brij’s class. It was not going to be easy to beat Sergio. Sergio’s reach was a lot better than his own. Harsh began practicing for boxing day with his disadvantage in mind. He had consulted with Brij and decided that his best strategy would be to compete with Sergio on movement and agility. He would have to work hard to stay out of the way of the punches and try to win the fight on technical points.

On the day of the first round of bouts, the school rock band took over the boxing ring. They played “We are the champions!” with gusto, followed by a rocking rendition of the school song. The boxers waited in anticipation for their turn. As Harsh got his gear ready with the other boys of his house, he looked out at the ring, Shroff was already there announcing the bouts for the day. The match ups were under way soon.

As Harsh prepared to climb into the ring, he waved at his house supporters. They had been doing well that day and the spirit was infectious. He stepped inside and focused on Sergio. They were both ready to spar. Shroff got them together from their respective corners, shared a few words and began the fight. Before he knew it, Harsh was in the thick of it. Sergio had come out in a belligerent mood and was determined to use his reach to end the fight early. Harsh weaved confidently between the flurry of punches and moved quickly to return with a jab and a nasty cut across Sergio’s chin. Harsh was going to take a few risks even if it meant coming in closer to Sergio. Shroff stalled the match while Sergio rejoined the fight, trying harder to land some good punches in. Harsh’s supporters were going berserk – they were thrilled to see Sergio on the back foot.

At ring side, Harsh tried listening closely as Brij prompted him to stay cool and focus on the technicals for the next round. The blood and adrenalin were now rushing straight to his head. Harsh felt as if he could hear lucidly, but as soon as he stepped back into the ring he began trying to penetrate Sergio’s defense. Sergio, calmer of the two, got in a solid punch to Harsh’s forehead. Stunned, Harsh stepped away and irrationally attempted to weave back in and test Sergio’s guard again.

It was apparent to all that Sergio had a clear advantage now. Sergio let loose a devastating combination that knocked Harsh down. As Harsh collapsed on the canvas, he felt as if he had crashed into a soft pile of snow. As he remained disoriented on the ground, Shroff stepped in and checked. On understanding Harsh’s position, Shroff immediately awarded victory to Sergio. The bout was over for Harsh.

In the weeks that followed all the way to the end of the term, Harsh’s fight was discussed with the very best. It was definitely a tall order for a junior day boy to gain popularity with the boarders and the seniors. He had put up an amazingly spirited fight against a clearly superior opponent. It had been his decision at the time to match punch for punch. He did not regret it. After all, he had all of next year to stick to plan.

Quotes for this week

Don’t let the method distract you from your message.” – A mentor in the past, he may have been talking about e-mail ;-). But I heard what I wanted to hear.

No one told the young guys it couldn’t be done, so they went ahead and did it anyway.” – Another mentor, at an Udupi restaurant, before I left for Pune.

Don’t let the competition or difficulty bother you, stay focused on solving one problem and solve it well.” – Founder of 2 respected startups and also in a mentorship role.

On anti-reservation protests and students dying

"Sorry for giving a very bad news, it may be one of the worst news after the Independence. Subhash Srivastav an AIIMS student died at 6:44 pm on 20-05-2006, because of hunger strike, protesting against reservation. The media is not allowed to cover it. Please pass this to all…."Sounds familiar? Many such messages have blinked on mobile phones and on e-mails not only across the country, but the entire globe. Till date however, striking doctors at AIIMS have vehemently denied the existence of any such person and categorically stated that such messages must have been started by those with evil intentions.

"When the horses lie" – The Times of India.

In my opinion, the media is pro "anti-reservation" and you can bet that a number of people will raise a stink if the government does something stupid. Are we not already raising enough of a stink with the quotas?


Internet travel industry in India experiences churn

Original Article: "Here is Another Travel Portal" –

The travel industry is starting to look a lot like "bhel puri" (mixed up dish). is taking an interesting position. They want to provide the ability to Pick, Pay and Print. The author on ContentSutra emphatically claims that this is nothing unique, that it does not change the position of either startup. I agree, they definitely are going to be competing with each other. They are targeting the same market, professionals who travel often, use the Internet and credit cards.

Don't be fooled though. has moved quickly – they have their portal up and running. Unlike some of the other startups that the article mentions, they are not in stealth mode. I was able to pick a Jet Airways flight from Pune to Bangalore without much of a hassle.

What do the signs say? I would think neither of the existing operational portals have got it right just yet. Over the next year, the portals are not going to be competing on functionality. So what if I can pick my meal online? How important is that to me? All portals will be able to match the best of standards out there (see related links). They are going to be competing on size of the market – find and explore new dimensions first. Price – on the other hand, not so much, I would think their overheads will be similar.

For those who think the opinion is a bunch of crock, consider this, none of the portals offer cash transactions, or pay by cheque schemes. To put it lightly, πŸ™‚ where does all the Black and Grey money go if the rich Indian businessman can't spend it on a plane ticket? Nevertheless, feedback is always welcome. Note that this is not to suggest that cash/cheque payments schemes encourage tax evasion. Neither do I want to recommend this as a method for tax evasion. Tax officials in India are known to be a lot smarter than that. If you have been buying a number of plane tickets lately when your disclosed income is just that of a fresh graduate of arts – expect a friendly note from them ;-).

Related Links:

Quotes to start my week

β€œFar better it is to dare mighty things to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered with failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that know not victory or defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt. Thanks to –

β€œThey are not going to look at how hard you fall – they are going to look at how well you can get back up.”

– Vivek Makhija, my class-mate and fellow team (debate) member in Bishop’s (1994), needless to say we won.

Negative sentiment over IT Export businesses

Could this be the precursor to nervousness in the software export market? With the incentives out the door, Pune's eco-system could be impacted, on March 31st, 2006 Pune recorded Re 9100 crores in Software exports.

The hope is that the focus will switch to understanding which Indian technology products company is a real long-term success story. A systems survival is guaranteed if and only if there is a balance between opposing forces.

From the Hindustan Times, May 19th 2006:

Kamal Nath’s efforts have failed to cut much ice with Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, in spite of his having written to the PM. Nath had stressed the need to continue income tax exemptions for export-oriented units (EOUs) and software technology parks (STP).

He had also raised the issue of exempting from central sales tax supplies from direct tariff areas to EOUs.

In a detailed response to Nath’s contentions, the Finance Ministry has said the tax benefit in respect of export profits of STP and EHTP units under Section 10 A and EOUs as per Section 10B is available only upto assessment year 2009-10.

“The issue of extending the sunset clause existing in Section 10B was examined by the PM’s Economic Advisory Council which has recommended that there is no justification to extend the period for which the deduction is available,” it stated. In fact, as part of its review of 162 exemptions posted this week on its website, CBDT has included both Sections 10 A and 10 B providing incentive to exporters. This clearly shows the Finance Ministry’s intent to prune select exemptions.

Moreover, the Finance Ministry said the tax benefit under Section 10 A had been placed on the same footing as Section 10B. The matter was considered by the committee of secretaries, which decided against re-visiting the issue in view of the recommendation of the PM’s economic advisory council, it added.

As you can probably guess – I am convinced that India ought to and has the ability to produce complete solutions. Solutions that better world standards, that improves lives here in India.

Related Links:

UWash Colloquia on Startups and Technology

University of Washington colloquia now includes a startup track – you can view these talks from their archives.

Some of these talks will be archived for download on the colloquia site. In the past, some of the significant talks at the University of Washington were:

You can also search the archives for other talks.

Protests in Mumbai

Front page of Hindustan Times - 14th May, 2006

Originally uploaded by Santosh Dawara from the Hindustan Times – May 14th, 2006.

Mumbai: Anti-Quota protests spread to the business capital, where doctors on a hunger strike were lathi charged outside the Governor's house on Saturday. The original article can be found here.

Barcamp, Pune

Vinod let us know that Barcamp Pune was on the cards this May. Everyone πŸ˜‰ in our startup will attend the event for sure.

Topics could include:

  • web 2.0
  • rich internet applications
  • tagging
  • mashups
  • mobile computing
  • podcasting
  • blogging
  • indic blogging
  • ruby
  • Entrepreneurship

Update, 14th May – 2006: Barcamp Mumbai is underway today. You can view the live photo stream on flickr here.