Archive for the ‘India’ Category
Good news for all the food lovers in Delhi! Palak has recently launched her first internet venture – Cuisine Check.
Cuisine Check is a website dedicated to listing and reviewing food and entertainment options across all major Indian cities. Starting with Delhi/NCR, the website will allow the users to search and find several thousand restaurants, night clubs, bars, chaat stalls and caterers. The site features menus, photos, budgets for most big and small restaurants in the city. You can also look for the upcoming events happening around Delhi and NCR.
The idea came about from our own inability to find good eating out options in Delhi. Even though there are thousands of restaurants and night clubs in Delhi, there is no central place to go and find more information about them. Most of us end up depending on word of mouth recommendations of our friends. The hope is that Cuisine Check will solve this problem and will become an authoritative source of information on anything and everything related to food, eating out and entertainment.
You might notice that the site seems to be a mix of web 1.0 and web 2.0. So while there is use of UGC through user reviews and ratings, some other things like AJAX or web 2.0-ish UIs are missing. The idea was to keep the site functional and simple to use. Focus has been on providing an efficient search – hence the city has been divided in to several regions and localities to ensure granularity in search results.
Do check out www.cuisinecheck.in and send back your comments and feedback.
The current global financial crisis is our generation’s first brush with “reality”. Growing up in 90s, we read, heard and saw the great Indian dream coming true. We saw the cable TV revolution happen in front of our eyes. We stood in long queues to buy our first Mc-burgers and we ordered our first pizzas on the phone. We saw our elders jubliantly discuss the stock market which could only go in one direction – up! We read in newspapers about the fat pay checks the new “MNCs” were offering to kids fresh out of college. While ourselves in college, we learnt about this place called “Silicon Valley” which was apparently dominated by the Indians and “every third company there was started by an Indian”. Yes there was minor blip of a “dot com bubble” but we quickly forgot about it as we ourselves joined the hordes of young educated Indians who were going to shape the future of the country.
Life was good. In contrast to the socialist 60s, 70s and 80s, 90s and the current decade were all about capitalism. Capitalism brought with itself growth, oppurtunities and wealth. In terms of making money, the new generation started where their parents used to retire. So, in the context of all this, the current financial crisis and the breakdown of large captialistic economies can only leave the likes of myself confused and bewildered.
But having said that, I feel almost thankful that this crisis happened when it did. As the first generation that grew up wearing rose colored glasses, we are still young and nimble to adapt ourselves. Had the utopia of past 15 years lasted another 10 years, a lot of us might have found ourselves too entrenched to dig ourselves out. Secondly, the shake up of the financial world is likely to create a recession like environment for at least the next couple of years. This will be a great time to build new companies. This will be an excellent time to identify and recruit top notch talent at reasonable costs. While raising capital for new ventures will certainly be hard, it might actually get easier to raise money for existing businesses that are relatively safe and established.
Personally, now more than ever, I feel thankful that Tekriti is a cash flow positive business. Our choice of starting with a core services business was, in retrospect, very much correct. Our conscious decision to focus more on domestic business should help us in these times. For companies that are cash flow negative and will need to raise money to survive, things are going to be very hard. This turn of events is completely unexpected and almost no business could have foreseen it or be prepared for it. So, as all of us gear up for the things to come, I only hope that this down turn will not dampen the entrepreneurial spirit that has just started to grow in our country!
If Tech2 is to be believed, then my plans of retiring my good old N70 might have to be shelved. I have been waiting for the iPhone to launch in India for a while now but at at a reported price of Rs. 31,000 it is simply not worth it. I find it hard to believe that a product that sells for $200 in the US (with a phone plan) would cost 4 times more over here. If that indeed turns out to be true, then shame of Airtel and Vodafone for not coming up with a better price plan. I am pretty sure that the device will come with a service provider lock in. In the US and elsewhere, service providers usually give steep discounts on the price of the device in such situations because it effectively binds the customer to them for a long period of time. However, it looks like that the Indian service providers want to have their cake and eat it too!
Cricket, they say, is a game of glorious uncertainties. Unfortunately, when it comes to Indian cricket, life is predictably certain. It was less than 3 weeks ago when India had won the T20 world cup. The excitement, ecstasy and media hype was predictable. The showering of awards and cash on the players by state governments was also predicable. Comparison of Dhoni’s mane to that of a lion’s was also something not unexpected. Comparison of Yuvraj’s sixes to the rising stock market was somewhat amusing but not inconceivable. And then Australia came to spoil the party.
Just like a twenty20 game, our delirious celebrations were fervent but short lived. The Aussies landed in India even before the Indian team had managed to take off the garlands off their necks. The rest, as they say, is, history. And boy, does history repeat itself! So after having lost the series pretty comprehensively, we still have one more match to go. Once more, like so many times before, India will be playing for pride in this last match. Ironical it is to play for pride immediately after having lost all of it!
Today morning traffic was blocked off on many major roads in Delhi resulting chaos and many people not being able to reach their work place. A few people in our office also called in to say that they are stuck in traffic jam and wont be able to get to work. I didn’t know the reason for these road blocks but I assumed it must be something really important to cause such a huge loss of productivity to so many people.
Well, it turns out I was wrong. VHP (the radical Hindu organization) had organized a chakka-jaam (road blockade) across the country today to protest against the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project which will dredge a channel in a narrow strip of sea between India and Sri Lanka, reducing distances and cutting costs for freight traffic. Now you may ask why would VHP have a problem with something like that? Were they worried about environmental effects on the marine life? Nope. VHP claims that this project will destroy a bridge between India and Sri Lanka which was built by Lord Ram. Firstly, there is no concrete evidence to validate this fact. Scientists claim that is actually a natural structure that developed from sedimentation. Secondly, even if it was indeed built by Lord Ram, who gave VHP the right to protest by disrupting traffic and causing problems to millions of people across the country? Protesting thousands of miles away in Delhi makes no sense. Maybe they were too lazy to go all the way down south to actually protest onsite?
It is surprising and both funny and sad that even today it is possible to get away with this kind of anti-social behavior. I am sure Lord Ram will not not have approved of it!
It always surprises me how much fuss is made about these agreements that India signs with US and other countries. The recent nuclear deal is a good example. One thing that we got to remember is that a deal or agreement between two nations is only a piece of paper and that’s it.
If US was to break the agreement, you can’t really put their president in jail for that. Likewise, if India was to tomorrow violate some clause of the nuclear deal, what is going to happen? Say, we conducted nuclear tests. Would the deal be off? Would US stop supplying the know how to us? Perhaps but maybe not. That would depend on the position, power and weight that India holds at that point of time. If we are a strong nation with a strong economy which has impact on the US interests, or if the world political situation requires US to align interests with us (maybe to counter China or contain Pakistan), US will be happy to overlook some “minor” infringements of the deal. Another way to look at it is that if we weren’t important to US interests in the future, they will anyway try and force us to curb nuclear tests AND stop us from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel (which the current agreement allows) AND impose a sanction or two for good measure. India never signed the NPT and on top of that publicly conducted nuclear tests few years back. But we came out alright at the end of it.
So maybe we should just stop crying ourselves hoarse on how we have sold off the national interests to US (unless you are a politician in which case you should, by all means, gain maximum mileage out of this juicy opportunity to oppose the government policy). World politics is like a capitalistic economy. Market forces and not signed agreements decide the future course of nations. So let me finish off by quoting a famous sher
Khud hi ko kar buland itna ki har taqdeer se pehle
Khuda bande se khud poche bata teri raza kya he
Reading this article made me wonder why we spend so much time glorifying “product companies”. It is a peculiar phenomenon of the tech industry in India to consider services company as completely devoid of innovation and thriving solely on labor arbitrage. I was myself guilty of similar thinking for a long time. However, after over 2 years of doing services and product development side by side, I have realized both have their own unique challenges and it is not at all fair to put services companies on a lower pedestal than product companies.
Firstly, there aren’t really any true product companies. No company can simply build and sell products without providing services around them. Microsoft - the epitome of software product development – has a very large fraction of its work force providing support and associated services around its products. Apple, IBM, Sun – you name it – all develop products and provide services around them. If anything – many of these companies (notably IBM) have realized that services is a much more profitable business to be in. IBM Global Services is probably world’s largest software services company.
Secondly, unlike common perception, services companies constantly innovate to remain competitive. The innovation may be in the form of better processes, better hiring strategies, or in developing complex technical solutions for their clients. It is true that many large software services companies do routine incremental maintenance work for systems that were architected elsewhere. However, that is true for large product companies as well which need to invest majority of their resources in maintaining and updating previous versions of their products. If anything, a services company has better chances of doing interesting work in varied technologies as against a product company which is likely to be tied to a single platform and a single product. For a services company, every client and every project is an opportunity to pick up a new technology. The portfolio and technical breadth of services companies is undeniably greater than those of product companies.
Finally, doing software services is a great first step towards building software products. The greatest advantage of providing software services for us has been that we have learnt to listen very carefully to what our customers are saying. On the shoulders of its clients, a services company gets an opportunity to look closely at varied business models, ship varied products and learn from mistakes and successes of others. All this is great experience that readies an organization to venture in to product development when the time comes.
Let us give credit where it is due. The Indian IT industry is what it is because the few big IT services companies which mastered their art. To compare with Silicon Valley is not only incorrect, it is also irrelevant. To deride services companies as doing low end labor intensive work is being ignorant. To assume that product development can’t happen here because we are not innovative is naive. If we were not innovative and smart, the IT services success story wouldn’t have happened as well. Lets get over the fixation with product development. It is happening and will happen more when the need arises. Meanwhile, lets raise a toast to all those services companies which have put India on the world map!
There is a saying in Hindi – “laaton ke bhoot baaton se nahi maante”. This roughly translates to “force is the only option to cure some”. The original idiom is much more colorful but I am unable to capture it in English!
Anyway, I bring this up today because it looks like some “laaton ke bhoot” on Delhi roads have been cured almost overnight! Ever since traffic fines were increased 6-folds in the city, drivers (yours truly included) seem to have started behaving. Cops have gone in to overdrive in the last few days. You can find them on every intersection. Some even peer inside cars stopped at traffic lights to check if they can nab somebody talking on a cellphone or not wearing a seat belt. Its interesting how immediate the effect of increased traffic fines has been. Of course, it still remains to be seen how long this effect remains.
I think one of the reasons why people follow traffic rules more in the US (ok, I know they break rules too but we are talking in relative terms here) is because traffic fines are very heavy and have long term consequences. Each offence shows up on your driving record and can cause your insurance rates to go up. Moreover, 3 offenses in a year and you lose your license! And God help you if you get caught for DUI (driving under influence of alcohol). Delhi needs something similar. It is just too easy to get away committing traffic offenses here.
Traffic follows a classic “me too” pattern. You can observe this for yourself if you happen to be lucky enough (?) to be driving on Delhi roads. Approach a red light which people usually don’t stop on. You can find many such intersections in Noida, for example. Now as you approach the red light, make sure to stop well before the stop line. You will notice a couple of cars zip by jumping the red light anyway. But then, almost certainly, everybody else will stop and wait for the light to turn green. This happens for me every time. I find it pretty amusing. The fact that you stopped on a red light sends out a signal to everybody else that perhaps this guy has spotted a cop somewhere around here. I doubt if it occurs to anybody that I might just be following the traffic rules!
It gives me great pleasure to showcase the efforts of the Tekriti intern team in the form of LetsCricket.com LetsCricket is perhaps first social networking community targeted towards Cricket fans. Its built on top of the PeopleAggregator platform, which of course Tekriti develops with Broadband Mechanics. I had this project in mind since a very long time and I had registered the domain name more than an year back.
With the interns coming in and the world cup being just a few weeks away, we felt it was right opportunity to build LetsCricket.
LetCricket is targeted towards the typical crazy overzealous cricket fan (like myself). Indians love to talk about cricket (no matter they might have never played ever in their lives). So clearly disusing cricket is a very social activity. On LetsCricket, users can create groups, participate in discussions, vote for their favorite players, maintain cricket blogs and find other people with common interests.
LetsCricket is very much a work in progress. It has been put together in less than 3 weeks by Pankaj and Santosh (with generous help from Gurpreet and rest of the PeepAgg team). We are adding new features in to the site everyday. We decided to make the URL public in the spirit of open development approach. Do give it a look!
This year’s budget is going to have a significant impact on the functioning of software service startups in India. The government is introducing a 12% minimum alternate tax (MAT) that needs to be paid by IT companies even if their actual tax liability is nil (as is the case of 100% export oriented units). MAT is adjustable against future tax liabilities so as such it doesn’t affect the profit and loss statement of a company. But it does affect cash flow.
What really irks me is that IT bigwigs like Narayana Murthy have been advocating introduction of such taxes since the IT industry has enjoyed tax free status for “too long”. Well, truth be told, it is the Infosys’ and Wipros of India who have enjoyed this status for a long time. Secondly, since most big IT companies anyway are not 100% export oriented, actual increase in their tax payout is in the tune of only 1-2%. So for all practical purposes, these companies are unaffected.
Now consider a small software startup like ours. Because of the tax exempt status of export oriented work, it makes sense for us to focus our energies on acquiring overseas clients. So being almost 100% export oriented, our tax liability suddenly goes from 0 to 12%. That is a direct hit on our cash flow. What is worse is that our pricing and billing is based on the assumption that the income will be tax free. That means, now to maintain same cash flow, a lot of startups might actually have to hike their billing rates a little. That makes them less competitive.
It is very disappointing that people like Narayana Murthy are now taking the seemingly high ground and advocating taxes when they have themselves flourished largely because of these very tax sops.