Bomb Scare in Boston

Adult Swim Ad in South Boston

Originally uploaded by Vanderlin.
The tiny LED sign below the overhead bridge in the picture caused a huge bomb scare in Boston on the 31st. The LED signs were promoting a Cartoon Network Show – “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and had been put up in several cities including Los Angeles and Boston.

In the subsequent hours, the police issued bomb warnings, without evidence or an investigation, and shut down parts of the city. The warnings also resulted in wide-spread panic and chaos as major roadways were blocked.

On understanding the intent of these devices, the authorities began prosecuting the artists and the Cartoon Network.

Such are the times we live in! I don’t think anyone in Mumbai would have taken much notice of the device. I could be wrong.

BlackBerry Internet Service is a hit with T-Mobile

Trends are clearly indicating a device with data (connectivity) is just as precious as a device with voice for many different reasons!

T-Mobile customers in the US are trading up from ordinary phones to the BlackBerry pearl. The BlackBerry Internet Service is a primary driver of this trend. It allows users to receive their personal e-mail instantaneously on their handhelds. It is very easy to setup and works well with GMail, Yahoo! and other free e-mail providers.

How repeatable is this trend in India? Yesterday, as I walked with the crowds in Mumbai, I could not help notice the number of folks who were carrying data-enabled handsets, for example – the Nokia 6030, 6230 and so on. I promise more on that later. It looks like there is a sizeable customer segment just waiting for the right spark to flip the demand for mobile data services.

At the Dadar ST bus stand – vendors (street) were selling cheap versions of mobile FM receivers with headsets. This is an oh-so obvious prediction – Mobile Entertainment, Television, Movies will be the next big wave to carry mobile data services into India. Perhaps not e-mail.

Bollywood films are now a click-away.

Regional content to drive rural mobile market.

3G GSM Summit Held in Mumbai with a Focus on Ecosystem around Mobile Value Added Services.

BlackBerry pearl proves consumers want smartphones – Fast Company.

T-Mobile has this to report about it’s BlackBerry Pearl users:

  • Nearly 3 out of 4 T-Mobile customers who upgraded to a BlackBerry Pearl traded up from a regular phone, rather than another converged device.
  • The majority of T-Mobile customers using the BlackBerry Pearl are using it for personal e-mail rather than staying connected to corporate servers.
  • Approximately 80% of all T-Mobile Blackberry Pearl customers to date have signed up for BlackBerry Internet Service only, to take advantage of personal e-mail accounts like gmail, Yahoo! mail, etc. (rather than Blackberry Enterprise Service for corporate e-mail).
  • 96% of T-Mobile Pearl customers send personal e-mail from their device weekly.

More trends on Sukshma.

Indiagames sells 51% for over $14mn

UTV Software communications ltd made a huge purchase – 51% stake in Indiagames, a mobile gaming company and also a 70% stake in UK’s Ignition entertainment, an online gaming company. More details on Indiagames financial past on Contentsutra.

Writing and exporting games from India still seems to be a very serious proposition.

What does the UTV acquisition mean?
It’s a large deal. What we are trying to do is to create a large gaming entity out of India. The acquisition of Ignition brings in the console gaming capability. We bring in the online and mobile gaming capability. It’s also a sign that how serious gaming business is becoming. UTV is launching a channel for youth, and from that perspective their investment in Indiagames is very strategic. UTV is also very strong in bollywood space, and they are going to help us a lot on creating great content. They understand the broadcast technology and the youth market. So there is a lot of synergy.

UTV also has a very large animation business. Adding Indiagames and Ignition to this portfolio, it gives a complete picture of growing a very large company in gaming. And UTV is known for delivering shareholder value.

Quotes to begin the Hindu New Year

While scanning the papers today, I came across some excellent quotes from the current generation of Indian entrepreneurs.

One needs to be “obsessively passionate”, as passion can vary, but obsession can’t. It’s the distinguishing factor. One must be restless all the time to do what one wants to do.

Dilip Chhabria, Promoter – Dilip Chhabria Design. Dilip turned down a lucrative offer from GM, USA to satisfy his desire to design cars. He has worked relentlessly for an entire decade to establish his design studio. I remember seeing his early concepts in auto-shows back in the late ’90’s.

How can one confirm that spark of passion in entrepreneurs? Last night at a family get-together, a close relative of mine explained in the following inexact words,

I want to see if he is passionate about his immediate family. Experience teaches me that a deep sense of passion and attachment towards family is a very positive indicator of passion, commitment and therefore success in other areas of life, including business.

Unlike academics, where you know you have a fixed time window to acheive success in the form of a degree – life offers you a misleadingly long window; you have only your own lifetime to succeed. Indeed, commitment is crucial.

Finally, better believe it – your TIME is now! Doesn’t matter who or where you are.

Various degrees of violence

The events of the past week reveal the rot in Maharashtra. On 9th July, the Shiv Sena (also written as Shiv Saina, literal translation “Shiv’s Army”, a very strong political party in the state) went on a rampage in Mumbai tearing apart a private bus as vengeance for an insult to a statue of Meenatai Thackeray. The same evening, as the rioting got worse in Mumbai, Pune experienced a spill-over effect. I will admit, I would hesitate before even driving through the areas where they had rioted. My relatives and friends who had business’ in the affected areas thankfully closed early and left for home after receiving reports of violence.

On the 11th of July, Mumbai was struck by 7 bomb blasts. An additional 8th bomb was defused elsewhere. As I write, as many as 200 people were reported to have been killed. The unfortunate targets were mainly middle class working men travelling by first-class coaches in the Mumbai section of the Western Railway at rush hour (equivalent to city and suburban metro). They were returning home. I was lucky to be able to get in touch with most of my friends in Mumbai that evening. The communication networks failed to keep up with the surge in traffic.

The Shiv Sena then condemned the blasts and quickly blame the Goverment for not averting the attack. It was interesting that the two events were so close to each other. The images of the burning tourist bus, train compartments ripped apart, injured and dead commuters, and finally of rioting shiv sainiks have left a deep impression on my mind.

In both cases, the common working man was impacted – to different degrees (also see “It could have been any one of us” – India Uncut). We are still not sure who attacked Mumbai (It wasn’t SIMI as claimed earlier- NDTV).

It gets worse. CNN-IBN demonstrated on television (as part of what they call Operation Water Rat) that it still is ridiculously easy to land 100kg of RDX on Mumbai’s shores from international waters. In fact, they landed their pseudo-RDX at Shekhadi, the exact spot where Dawood was purported to have landed RDX in 1993. Truly, we have not learnt from our past mistakes.

A month after the 7th July 2005 attack on London, the UK police were able to make arrests related to the attack. I am sure I speak for many Indians. We all are awaiting justice.

Earlier on Thursday, I realised that this was a sensitive issue to blog about. I almost did not. My point is – violence cannot be the answer. It isn’t that we are soft, I think we stopped caring. All that is going to change, we promise.

Guide to Business etiquette in Mumbai. cities guide – Mumbai: Business etiquette.

Never thought I needed one until I actually read the article and realised I did.

A handshake is the most common form of greeting, but some women prefer to press their palms together in a traditional namaste greeting. A man should wait for a woman to extend her hand before extending his, particularly if she is wearing traditional Indian clothing.

Bring plenty of business cards; you will be handing them out frequently, and not having enough is considered rude.

Encouraging Entrepreneurs in India

I ought to be watching the NASSCOM newsline page more closely. India has it’s own set of incentives for entrepreneurs in IT. While I cannot think of a reason why the incentives would change in the near future, I would still watch it closely.

No prior permission of Government of India is required to set up IT/ Software units in India. Moreover, to encourage units in this sector, Government of India has announced many schemes:

* Domestic Tariff Area: When the primary focus is to sell in the domestic market in India. This unit can be set up anywhere in India. All normal laws apply. No concession is available on import duties. Exports are permitted. A special Export Promotion Capital Goods (EPCG) scheme of Ministry of Commerce can be availed. This scheme allows import of capital goods against export obligations at a concessional duty rate of 5 percent.
* Special Economic Zones (SEZs): SEZs are areas where export production can take place free from plethora of rules and regulations governing imports and exports. Units operating in these zones have full flexibility of operations and can import duty free capital goods and raw material. The movement of goods to and fro between ports and SEZ are unrestricted. The units in SEZ have to export the entire production. The first two SEZs are being set up at Positra in Gujarat and Nangunery in Tamil Nadu. At the same time, Santacruz Electronic Export Promotion Zone, Kandla Export Promotion Zone, Vizag Export Promotion Zone and Cochin Export Promotion Zones have been converted to SEZs.
* 100 Percent Export Oriented Unit (EOU): This is similar to SEZ scheme. But in this scheme, there is no need to be physically located at SEZ. All other incentives are same as provided to SEZ units.
* Software Technology Park (STP): This is a very special scheme under the Ministry of Information Technology. STPs are located at Noida, Navi Mumbai, Pune, Gandhinagar, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Bhubaneshwar, Jaipur, Mohali and Thiruvanathapuram. This scheme offers zero import duty on import of all capital goods, special 10 years income tax rebate, availability of infrastructure facilities like high-speed data communication links, etc.

I do wish the government would identify software for Indian markets for special incentives. The outlook for software development for the Indian market is upbeat as this story suggests [“The Indian Software Products Sector: a Slow, Yet Steady Rise To Prominence”].

From the story, according to Professor Madanmohan’s study, there are at least 346 indigenous companies involved with product development. While I am unable to locate the study itself, the article optimistically suggests that the market potential is around US $7bn. Phew! The article goes on to identify key challenges to indigenous product development and what incentives would be nice to have. I am just going to paste that down here.

Facing The Challenges
While the product software segment in India is currently constrained by multiple factors and challenges, it is the young start-ups within the industry that face the toughest hurdles. For these companies, internationalisation and developing new revenue streams are the biggest roadblocks. Funding and access to capital is the other constraint these young organisations face, reflecting the fragile nature of their cash flows and nascent stage of venture capital. Being small in size and not so well known, these companies also had problems in attracting key personnel (especially developers with product orientation).

For software product firms in their expansion phase, the key challenging is managing growth and retaining leadership.

Organisations operating within the product domain are also challenged by the lack of industry-institution linkages, the absence of a consortium approach to R&D and the paucity of global-class talent.

Some of the other challenges facing product companies include the following:

* Access to capital and key technologies
* Lack of a domestic market to experiment and develop product capabilities
* An acute shortage of equity (risk) capital, to support the development of the industry (both large and small) and infrastructure outside of the government
* High entry barriers, including relatively larger investment and resources, a gestation period, technological complexity and endmarket and marketing knowledge
* Lack of resources for brand building

Providing The Growth Drivers
Clearly, the industry and the government have to work closely to provide a fillip to the product software segment.

A host of initiatives can be jointly undertaken to catalyse the growth of this emerging industry. These include the following:

* Improve the level of seed funding and encourage networking between the
* seekers and givers
* Increase the talent pool of target areas and initiate higher degree programmes at the IITs, IISc and institutions of higher learning
* Increase the access to test and development facilities at Defense and other national scientific organisations
* Increase tax and other incentives to develop and market ‘Made in India’ software products and standards
* Introduce policies that foster a balance between innovation and facilitate technology diffusion
* Encourage innovation to ensure global competitiveness
* Make investments in frontier technologies such as nanotechnology, SOA, Seamless mobility, bio-informatics and others.

Clearly, a lot can be done to place the Indian product software companies on the global map. By overcoming challenges related to funding, brand building and talent availability, the government and industry can ensure that the software product business become a viable growth opportunity for Indian companies.