Wednesday, December 28, 2005

999 Lifetime No-Recharge …

I was on leave for few days as I had informed earlier because I was into something. I was away from my laptop, today am back from my break. During my short break managed to read something and the commendable work done by Indian Advertisers especially those from the telecom wing impressed me. With a sudden growth in the telecom sector and un-countable models of mobile handsets entering the market week after week, the services rendered by the telecom service giants such as Airtel and Hutch are no far behind. Every month, week would be better to say they come with some new schemes and offers.

So there is a chain reaction happening triggered by telecom service and added features, which ends up with some innovative adverstising. Airtel has introduced the "Lifetime" prepaid card with life time validity. This plan allows users to take a pre-paid connection with lifetime validity for a one time payment of Rs 999. The user can then continue to receive calls throughout their life without having to recharge.

The move is reportedly aimed at stopping the churn in the pre-paid subscriber base - once a subscriber takes this plan,s/he will remain an Airtel subscriber whether the mobile is in use or not. The "Lifetime" prepaid card also offers the user full talk time on every future recharge of any denomination and can be availed by all existing and potential mobile users.

Airtel aims to take affordability to a whole new level and maintains that this offer will open up new segments of the market. There is no change though in the airtime charges. All local calls will be charged at Rs 1.99 a minute and all STD calls will be charged at Rs 2.99 a minute.

So after a day when I flipped through the newspaper, I found a similar programme launched by Hutch and the terms and conditions are almost the same and may vary by a point or two in all. Hutch has named it “Hutch Chalta Rahe”.

Leave apart the services part, what impressed me most was the turn around time, the consummate ease and dexterity with which both the camps turned to this competitive market. I don’t feel all these happened over-night infact the strategists and planners would have done their homework before but the presentation in the end was perfect each trying to overtake the other.

The world is awash in advertising clutter. For decades marketers have been spending more and more to try to get their message out, only to find their pitches drowned out in a sea of noise generated by countless other marketers trying to do the same thing. In effect, companies have been paying big bucks to be ignored. Now, inspired by the feel good factor wave running all over India and wide usage of mobile phones by youth , advertisers are dreaming up new ways to break through the clutter and connect with potential customers at a lower cost.

Hope you have seen a fundu ad by “Hutch”.It goes like this..

Sorry Recharge khatam ho gaya
Girl-friend ko I LOVE YOU bolna hai or Recharge khatam...
Ab kya karoge????
Main batata hu kya karnaa hai...
Kabutar ke galle mey ghanti bandoge???
Thekke pe jao, daru ka choota pauch kharido,chaar
Peg maro or
Girl-friend ke gar ke bahar khade
ho ke jor se bolo...
ishe Kabutar mehanga pad jayega......

This ad promoted by “Hutch” is perfectly addressed by Irfan in his true classy style. The best part it conveys what it wants. The tone is a bit badwy surely but good enough for the young buds who are always out of money and need the small recharge card. The market for small recharge cards is no doubt big in India.I personally feel Irfan has done the right justice to this ad with his rustic heavy voice which the sophistication of a SK or childish voice of Sachin would not have achieved. Irfan lost in his own thoughts dilemma is used smartly. The message is crystal clear. The brand value is the key focus and also the target market and this is presented in a smart and subtle way.

Well all this doesn’t mean that “Airtel” is far behind, their ads are also innovative and have freshness, rawness and originality("Bhar Lo Duniya Apne Muthi Main"). The crux is that the Indian Advertising stage is going great guns…

Remain connected and more to come…

Monday, December 19, 2005

Who is responsible and for how long ???

The rape and murder of a business process outsourcing (BPO) employee Prathiba Murthy has provoked many questions for women employees working in late night shifts in the information technology (IT) and BPO sector. It has caused a furore in Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley. Twenty-four-year-old Pratibha Srikanth Murthy, employed with a renowned BPO firm, was driven to an isolated spot instead of the office by the cab driver who allegedly raped and murdered her last Tuesday.

Apart from the taxi driver who deserves the most severe punishment, as per me the employer is no less guilty.

The BPO boom has also brought with it a set of disadvantages such as odd working hours. Employees, both male and female, are ferried to and from the office often in the wee hours without proper security arrangements.

But was the Pratibha episode not waiting to happen?

When companies outsource work where security is an issue, they invite trouble. Transporting employees involves security at various levels. But to avoid fleet maintenance and hiring drivers, companies thought it fit to outsource transportation to travel agents. Companies have little control either over the drivers or the way the vehicles are driven. Over 20,000 trips are made every night in Bangalore to transport employees to their work centre and back home.Yet, there are no standard operating procedures. The police had formulated guidelines for late night pick up and drop. But many companies dismissed the valuable suggestions as just a piece of paper and courted danger in the night.I don't see the firms,police and law and order system working in tandem at any point of time.

Pratibha’s unfortunate end should be the beginning of some soul-searching by companies that know only to see the colour of money and not the danger lurking in the dark. There must be strict guidelines in picking up and dropping employees at night.

Few points I could think in this direction (many have already been addressed in most of the national dailies though).

1. Verify the entire history and the background of the drivers and have their identities in a database, which are accessible to all the police stations, and check centers in the city.

2.Women constables must be part of this squad. And use technology to track every vehicle plying in the night. According to rough estimates, the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector employs nearly 3.5 lakh people across the country of which nearly 40 percent are women. For survival of BPO and prevent bad overseas publicity, I think the Private company-helped by NASSCOM and State govts, should form Private Security guards of both sexes and they should work like marshals, escort the BPO staffs every after-hours. This action will go a long way for security and good reputation of the BPOs.

3. The women employees should not be the first to be picked and also not the last to be dropped. The entire onus should be on the firm for the safety of its employees. Give strict instructions to the employees that a particular driver is assigned for a particular route and he should not be changed at all under any circumstances and if the same happens then the entire group of commuters needs to be informed. The HR team of the firm or the department, which handles transport, should be responsible for this.

4.I also pity when human resource managers “camouflage work as fun” in these BPO’s when the bare necessities like security of the employees are not taken care of.“Companies have to realise that the people working in BPOs are not made of nuts and bolts. They are human beings and should be treated well too.” (as told to
Take the case of Govt Firms in Bangalore such as HAL and HMT, they also employee quite a number of females but we hardly get to hear anything from that part of the sector. Why why???

The answer is simple they have their own buses which plies across the length and breadth of the city during the required hours. The best part is it is manned by a driver who is an employee of say (HAL/HMT) and are not outsourced employees. I personally feel all the MNC’s and the Indian outfits, which have of late invested colossal amounts of money for BPO, are bothered about their profit margins and in the process they have outsourced the maximum they can which they feel are not directly work related. They may talk tomes stating they are bothered about the employee security and blah blah but the ground reality is that they are not. They are not and they are not…

Time has come that they need to change and also something needs to be done with immediate application with regards to Points 1,2 and 3,I have stated above (my views though). Else why will any Maa allow her daughter, daughter-in-law or for that matter someone allow his wife, sister to work ‘graveyard shift’ for few thousand rupees. The crowd, never afraid of the dark or working late, now has to live in the fear of the unknown.

We blow trumpets that we have advanced and done this and that and we are growing as one of the fastest economies in the world today but at what cost.
A recent survey by a leading Indian magazine the “India Today” showed one in every two women in leading cities felt unsafe and more than one in three was skeptical of police handling of cases.

More to come keep reading and remainconnected.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bill enters into many Gates in his four-day trip…

Bill Gates visit to India was looked upon with great expectation from one and all. I happened to keep tab of few points of his short and action packed visit to India.

One morning he meets the Finance minister, Chidambaram and I was deeply impressed by one quote in one of the leading newspaper of India. It said, “ An ex-Harvard grad meets his old college mate who dropped out “ (the quote may not be the exact one but this is what it meant in short). The two shared the breakfast table and spoke on a wide spectrum of topics. Bill this time ignored his English breakfast and liked the upma and he lately went ga ga about that…

That very night I saw a head to head discussion between Bill and Murthy, on NDTV and the anchor being the smart and debonair Prannoy Roy. The discussion was interesting with regular dosages of humor and all the three were in full flow. To one of the questions, Murthy said that his firm “Infosys” has produced a lot many billionaires on which Bill pounced immediately, saying there’s a correction here, its not billionaires but millionaires with a smile. But the best part of the discussion to me was when Murthy quoted “The power of money is in the power of giving it”. This is because both these visionaries have walked their talk in this direction. The philanthropic gestures of Bill duely supported by his wife Melinda is worth appreciation. He expressed his plan of investing a greater chuck of his $1.7 billion booty in the development of health services, prevention of AIDS and eradication of many other maladies. He plans to put aside funds for computer education and training, including adopting 100 schools, and support an Indian program to offer computers and training at 100,000 centers across the country.

While he was in Bangalore, he said some part of money would go towards improving the software giant's research and development capabilities, including the creation of a new facility in the city known as India's technology hub. The company also said it plans to release an edition of its Windows operating system designed specifically for India and available in nine Indian languages a move that could be aimed at fending off challenges from cheaper open-source operating systems, like Linux. He also announced that company would add 3,000 jobs over the next three to four years to its existing work force of 4,000 in India.

What does all this mean – To me he is a true business man and he knows the art of tapping the market at the right time and at the right juncture. Consider a country like India with each state similar to the size of a country in Europe and if he is able to create new users of his customised software in each of these states. It serves dual purpose he generates business and secondly the product will have variety as it caters to a wide spectrum of Indian states. Microsoft has long viewed India, a country of 1 billion people with a robust economy, as a potentially huge market, and the investment always means a smart move as it is keeping a steady growth rate of 7% consistently. But Microsoft has found itself contending with the fact that many Indian companies are increasingly turning toward open source operating systems, particularly Linux, as a low-cost alternative to Windows. Infact the penguin population is exploding at an alarming rate. Open source operating systems allow users to copy, distribute and modify the program's code, and are relatively cheap compared to proprietary systems like Windows, which does not allow users to modify its secret code. Bill’s visit comes at a time when Microsoft's domination is very much being eroded.

The best part, which I liked, was Bill’s announcement of a unique contest aimed at finding the best student technologists in India (3rd year and final year grad students). The winners of the contest will get Internships, Cool Jobs, and an opportunity to work in Bill Gates Technical Assistants Team (Yes, that’s true!).
Here’s how:The contest comprises of a series of online tests followed by a face-to-face interaction to identify the top 20 student technologists.The contest will run from January 2006 to March 2006 followed by a 2 month internship for the top 20 contestants at Microsoft Research Center & Microsoft India Development Center in India. What’s more students successfully completing their internship will be offered a job at Microsoft India. And these jobs will not be just any job, these will be cool jobs where you might just change the way we work, communicate and live.The numero uno, the chosen one, the best of the best will be selected on the basis of project submissions & final presentations to a selection panel. The winner will work with Bill Gates Technical Assistants team in Redmond, USA for a period of one year.For more Details on the Contest and to sign in to get more info visit:

If I sit and analyse in his short trip he touched almost all the pillars which drive an economy : health care and sanitation (mentioned first) , information technology (second point as this is one of the major economy driver in India today) and finally education (in my last part). No wonder why he is rated among the top 50 management gurus in the world today scoring an easy and convincing second place.

More to come and remainconnected…These days am juggling with many a things and am fighting for time as am into something I will let you know in few days…

Friday, December 09, 2005

Globalisation for a few or for all ....

The world is getting closer and flat and is in fact true. There are many positive facets of globalisation and they definitely outnumber the negative ones. Had it not been for globalisation and open market, the scenario and feel good factor that pervades in India circa 2005,would not have been possible. I am a total supporter of all this positive changes but there are few things I am totally not in favour of or don’t share my views with in totality.

Today the whole world is wired and plugged into the TV programmes, movies, news, music, lifestyles and entertainment from all over the world. Satellite cables, phones, walkmans, VCDs, DVDs, shopping malls and retail giants and other marvels and wonders of entertainment technology are creating the mass marketing of culture. People in India today of all ages are exposed to the same music, the same sporting events, the same news, sitcoms, soap operas and the same glamorous lifestyle as is witnessed in any other country. Young people in India aspire for the kind of adult relationships found in ‘Friends

Young people in India are the largest consumers of the global culture and global corporations are racing to get a piece of the market, even children are not spared (the other day I was reading a blog by my friend Aketa @ Foreign pop brands and local versions and renditions of the same synthesised beat is imitated here with the same stage sets, manoeuvres and costumes.The penetration of global music has resulted in the marginalisation of traditional music. Today, allotropic versions of western music and its local variations can be heard in all social settings from weddings to religious festivals and birthday celebrations. Young people have lost touch with traditional harmonies and traditional tunes; songs and dances, which are specific to the particular region. Transnational sound has destroyed cultural diversity everywhere. Ironically, as Indian artistes consciously imitate their western counterparts, western musicians and pop bands as free global commodities have hijacked indigenous music and genres. Global entertainment is addictive to the young because it is selling an experience and an image. It gives the illusion that we are all connected in this global world. Last weekend while I was rushing home saw a performance of local artists near “Big Bazzar, Koramangala” on occasion of “Bangalore Habba”. There were hardly 50 people cheering the performers but next day morning when I opened the newspaper, I came to know that there was a concert by “Rasmus”, the Finnish band at Palace Grounds and the crowd was close to 20,000. Well well.. I am not advocating any side, I am just citing a simple scenario in my day-to-day life where in I felt the way we are influenced by globalisation.

In India, globalisation has served to heighten the stark contrasts between the poor majority and the rich few. The opening up of the economy has benefited the elite further. Increasing westernisation of the Indian elite, the rat race for personal wealth and glory has contributed to the loss of equilibrium. The stress on material values rather than moral or spiritual values, increasing consumerism, fuelled by myriad satellite TV channels so that the rich now ‘drive around in foreign cars, wear branded clothes and patronise expensive discos and five star hotels have contributed to the suicide frenzy in the economically deprived communities. Dazzled by the riches of the Indian elite, the poor take increasingly to crime. Some 44 percent of the population is under the international poverty line of US$ 1 per day. In the midst of this, corporate food chains vie to capture a dedicated following among the rich and the young, for the new tastes and lifestyles that Pepsi, Coke, Pizza Hut, McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken offer. There are lot many malls coming up in the cities, Bangalore which two years back never had one today houses atleast three as far as I know and from daily newspaper scans have come to know that few more are going to hit the Bangalore landscape soon.

All this is fine but we need to preserve our culture, our people and not be swept by the current of globalisation.

Remain connected and more to come.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Do I connect to someone.

Let me start with a simple scenario.
Suppose you are on flight from Paris to Bangalore via Mumbai and happen to meet someone from Bangalore but you have never met before. You first intorduce yourself and then start your conversation but not on a open box mode but on a closed lower tempo. Then say you feel that there is something common in you and that individual and you can strike chords at similar notes then the friendship/companionship grows.Then you start exchanging mails and calls and often you dont hestitate to talk personal.The stories you exchange varies from the good to the the bad, from your hopes and dreams to your failures and shortcomings.Slowly this relationship goes to a new level and the box which was opening with a bit of constraint is now free without a lid.

Each one of us has a story in us and it is interesting. You have a story and your friend has a story. The question is - have you both exchanged your stories at the deepest level?I finished my engineering degree in mechanical sciences in 2002. Today, as you would expect my classmates in engineering are in various parts of the world doing very interesting jobs and few studying in areas I always wished to. When I travel onsite out of India for business assignemnts (courtesy of course, the firm I work for), it is not difficult to find many of my classmates in any of the cities. I have one of my classmate who comes to Mumbai airport everytime even if it is late night and waits till I board my flight. Sometime when I was in Scotland, I had my weekends chilled out as one of my friends used to come on the weekends and we used to go out to places. I feel it’s nice to have someone to whom you can just say just anything and everything and that too at a frequency that matches both. One of my classmates took the initiative to setup a mailing list so that we can all keep in touch. A few years passed by and the mailing list was active and going well. Once, we decided to do an experiment to share "our story so far." to the group. About half the group shared their stories in great detail - their journey from the day they left the college - their successes, their failures, about their family and their new friends (crushes/failures/new found love) and hobbies (someone I connect to very closely now owns snakes as his pet) and so on. It was a phenomenal experience to read every single story that was posted.Thanks internet for making us remainconnected....... I was able to connect with my classmates in ways that I could not imagine after reading their stories, few even went on the extent of talking about the days when I was sharing the same last bench when we were in primary school. There was an instance when someone who across the ocean even tells me what she is making for dinner and runs me through the entire preparation cycle of her dinner over phone. It’s just thrilling and yummy to listen that...

In the normal life it simply adds more proteins to your life (am thin need more of these) and takes you that extra mile .Its gives a feeling of fascination and new level of respect for each other, which I feel I have never experienced during my short tenure of 3 years in Bangalore. It's an experience worth experiencing, any day better than the people you meet in your office floor, in your professional life and stuff.What I meant was even in our normal simple lives, these stories are powerful. Your story is powerful, so is someone's else. Since you are the most important person in your life(don’t take me wrong,this is after caring for others), it is worth recording your story. Keep "Your story so far.." up to date and ready to be exchanged with your friends to take your relationship to the next level.So remainconnected !!!!!

More to come...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Namma Benguluru..

Bangalore is known as the Silicon Valley of India, well at least we Bangaloreans like to pamper ourselves everyday by reminding ourselves that all big IT and BPO companies are in Bangalore. Infact many argue that the roads have deteriorated after the BPO Qualis-Sumo army have been parading on Bangalore's roads 24x7 to spoil our roads further. It is time we Bangaloreans come to terms - our roads have valleys all over Bangalore. The city with its cosmopolitan crowd of late has been facing a lot of negatives because of the falling standard in infrastructure. Its high time that something needs to be done else the city will loose its sheen as the one of the “knowledge capital of the world”.

The city has lots of these: narrow bridges, dangerous curves, abraded surface, potholes, cracked cement, collapsed culverts, bulging parapets, uneven or missing sidewalks, bumps and caving, poor or absent lighting. That's what its citizens endure everyday and still life goes on. But the question till how long?

The outrage is masked in a paradox. Today, India 'tops' in the IT and pharmaceutical sectors and a major share is shipped from Bangalore. It makes software, computers, cars, chips, garments, bio-products and what not, yet the city at the threshold of the 21st century cannot make decent roads for its own people. A simple drive to office which used to take earlier 10 minutes now takes close to 45 minutes if all goes fine and you are able to snake through the long chains of traffic and through the bellies of half constructed fly over.

I sometimes wonder that the city, which has the highest concentration of, educated people in India from all streams such as technology, science, medicine, administration, etc etc still follows the primitive methods of edge road repair technology. The streets of which were laid one-year back get worn out soon and one can find a carpet of potholes. This is not the case with all the roads but with the ones, which have come up new to cater to the teeming population explosion in the city.

Bangalore is today the one of the fastest growing cities in the world and every day close to 200 individuals migrate to this city. In the global village a nation is judged by the roads it keeps. It cannot pretend to have both ways: bad roads and prosperity. Of late few delegates from the tech/banking/consulting firms based in US and Europe came to Bangalore to start their operations here. They were overwhelmed by the intellectual capital, knowledge base and the entrepreneur skills of Indians (apart from the main factors like cost effectiveness and round the clock 24/7 business). But what left a bad mark on most of them was the poor state of infrastructure, especially the roads and the traffic jams.

It's a bogus excuse to say that Bangalore cannot make good roads because of the lack of funds and monsoon and blah blah. The inhabitants of this city pay income taxes regularly and so this clarifies for the first reason and temperature in Bangalore is around 20 to 25 degrees centigrade all round the year with its regular share of monsoon for a short while and this clarifies the second point. The major problem is the lack of planning on the part of the government and most importantly the entire ruling machinery is devoid of people who lack foresight. They are good in raising voices when someone does something good, take for instance the NRMurthy and Deve Gowda episode. It is sad that NRMurthy, the doyen of Indian Tech and Software Industry responsible for driving the new age knowledge economy was questioned about his integrity and actions.

I have a few points, which can be implemented in a simple and lucid way, (am no hi-fi management guru or city planner but a simple engineer making the margins of a US based firm keep ticking :-)) and all it takes is a little change in the cushioned chair we all sit in Bangalore. Lets get up for a while and do something in our small ways, I feel can be done.

1. The city is home to one of the best Business Schools in the world, IIM Bangalore. I feel that a group of smart brains in these campuses instead of going to other places for summer internship can take up city planning and management for a short stint of 3 months. For their thesis topics, let the MBA and civil engineering students (again make use of IISc, which is of the league of Stanford and MIT and the 40 engineering schools in the city) choose lengths of some crucial public roads and pore over the records: the money spent, materials used, work quality, repair frequency, travel hazards and so on, to highlight the city's roads

2. The city has numerous firms from all over the world (you name it and you have it in Bangalore) and these firms have many smart managers. These managers can form small teams in the area where they live and on a routine basis work towards the civic and infrastructure development . They should execute this as a project with the same mindset and the dedication the way they work in their offices. Consider it as another time bound project. The point is our job doesn’t end by paying taxes only in the present scenario as we have seen that the government works in a tortoise like speed when the world is moving at a hare’s speed. So if we can take some extra responsibility then it can work out fine.

Outcome: Serving the society and teamwork is exhibited at its highest level as you get to interact with a wide spectrum of people.

3. NGOs can undertake projects like “adopt a road “ and enhance public awareness about roads. They should insist on a partial privatising the road building business. Some talented and foresighted people movement like “Janagraha” of course does this.

4. “Citizens Committees for Better Roads” can help manage the public road system. Spare two hours of your weekends to question the government body about the progress and the expenditure of the funds. All it needs is teamwork as it is done in office and shop floors. If a good chunk of people comes forward to work in this direction, one need not spend more than 2 hours a month that too on a weekend to make a change, since the responsibilty gets distributed among all.

So if it’s Amchi Mumbai, I should always feel proud to say “ Naama Benguluru”. So stop honking at the road junctions and cribbing while waiting for long queues at traffic signals and make a difference in your small way.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Just another day….

A blog before I start my day at work ...

A friend / colleague of mine used to say hello to me all the time . No matter what frame of mind I was in, whenever she uttered those little words I'd always crack a huge smile. The greeting never ceased to make me chuckle no matter what was happening at the moment. Today is her B’day, she is an absolute techie despite her very conservative, preppy and athletic demeanour. What wonders me is the great elan with which she manages her and kid.

Meanwhile back at my own farm of brain dust, in the midst of some excruciating technical difficulties while making some last minute solution designs, I took a quickie respite yesterday and had been out to have food as one of my friends is leaving for UK on an implementation project for a government firm. I am drawn to people who live in other countries more than those who reside in the same planetary unit and who make regular updates in my comments list. My cerebral drug of choice is international. Hmm... what does that say about me? It's not too obvious I think that way; just look at my blogroll. It's my own little United Nations of bloggers (desis + indians) :-)

Today good to see a mail from Manabendra after a long time and he said he is going to be in Arizona for long as he had some flop shows during the course of his grad life there. The mail was nostalgic in the sense anytime he drafts a mail it is peppered with the good old school days and his crush since standard six. I know old habits die-hard. Funny, I thought I was alone in that thought and was happy to learn I wasn't, and so-and-so. Hey don’t impinge of my personal domain.

I've a couple of friends who, after many, many years of friendship, are in touch on a regular basis via email and telephone. I am lucky that none of them suffers from allaboutmeitis and they are the same since the days I know them. Unfortunately or fortunately I happen to be a very good listener (most of the time) and can easily recite back something I was told 10 years ago. So I can't very well put 100 percent blame on the other person; okay, 98 percent is their fault. :-) Learning how to listen and doing it extremely well also has a detrimental effect. I tend not to talk about myself at all and if I do, its form is quickie sound bites unless the other person is particularly crafty about pressing me for more. Even if they try to get more, I'm quite adept at turning the conversation back to focusing on them. That's where my two percent of blame comes into play.

So, what's the point here? I suppose for myself it's a damned if you do/damned if you don't thing, but this post isn't about me. (Of course not. That would illustrate that, do I suffer from from allaboutmeitis?). Okay, I'm off to my work now and hope that nothing crops up for the weekend.

Seems Nandu and Prashant are having a nice time, one applauding the other and they are going in sync @Ohio. Prashant seems to be in hibernation with his old man type humor and gyan sessions and hope to see him here. More to come, remainconnected.
Good that at least the blog was able to start a conversation…

Weekends more to come...