Archive for the 'International' Category

Laptop with wings please

It’s been such a long time since the laptop got a game changing feature. Except for form factor and design (and to some extent the trackpad!), nothing seems to be changing in the laptop world.  >90% of laptops are manufactured in Taiwan and quite a large extent of the design and innovation (or the lack of it) also happens there.

I decided to ask for more.  How about if we had a laptop that could do the following?

1. Print – I’d love for my laptop to print out my flight/train tickets (yeah, I hate having to buy and maintain printers just for tickets. I’ve stopped printing much else now a days)

2. Scan – I’d love for my laptop to scan things I come across quickly and store, categorize them for later references (scanning is on the up move but all the same, I don’t want to buy a separate device to do this)

3. Project – I’d love to be able to project my presentations without having to connect it to any external device, just click and shoot!

And while we are at it, can it please also have wings? Talk about advanced mobility solutions! Acer, Lenovo, Dell, HP, Toshiba – are you listening?

Readers, what are your demands from your laptop?

Aryan’s Mom

I rediscovered a very old and good friend of mine along with her creative spark recently!Introducing to all of you my friend who blogs at – http://www.aryan-mylife.blogspot.com/.

I was amazed at the fact that she decided to take up blogging as a hobby, the fact that she could write well was a given. When I started reading, I could not stop at one. She is chronicling her journey with her son since the day he was born from his perspective. What started as a simple pass time has, in my mind, morphed into a very deep and humourous way of a parent’s discovery of a child’s world.

Kudos to her for the great job she is doing….keep up the good work and a must read for the rest of you.

Come Festivities, Come Offers

Festivities – xmas, new year are all round the corner. All the malls and shops are decked up, waiting for the massive footfalls that would happen over the shopping season that will prevail over the next few weeks. Frankly, I love the buzz, it is a nice warm feeling…as if the world can go to naught but I will continue to shop till I drop!

Anyway, the point I was coming to was the “offers” being offered to lure customers to visit malls, stores and spend their money on certain items vs the others. While these work most of the times, I do wish that our retail grows beyond this cycle of limited quantity, cheap offers. What I would really like to see are a lot of variety and reasonable prices. When I compare any international retail store to the ones in India, these two things stand out as sore thumbs. In any category, there is always insufficient variety and the ones that are reasonably good quality are unreasonably priced. I wonder why my money or hardwork is worth less than the ones anywhere else in the world? Why should I get to choose from any less of a variety? Why should I pay for a “lesser experience”? Why should I waste my time browsing aisles that have “insufficient” depth on any given brand? And, most importantly, why should I pay more to get an item off this limited variety?

Our retail cycle will boom when it goes to the level of lot of variety (thereby adding depth in category as well as a given brand) and reasonable price, only to go down the next cycle of offers to get people to buy from those categories too..but I do want to be able to experience that boom part of the cycle to feel like a pampered customer come festivities and then….wait for the offers 🙂

What say guys? Innovation in retail…India is calling. Will Bharti + Walmart be the first answer?

Shifting Gears From Semiconductors to Education

I recently made a career shift from Semiconductors to Education and I’ve been asked why I made such a radical shift in Industry. For those who want a quick answer – I wanted to do something related to India and something that would be meaningful to me in some way. (Now, I’m not saying that semiconductors do not make an impact, they are at the heart of the digital revolution we are seeing today and will continue to remain so, for some time to come). For those with a patient ear, please read on, I promise not to dissapoint you.

I’ve been working in a strategic marketing role in the semiconductor Industry, located out of India. My short bio – I’ve a bachelors in Electronics Engineering and worked as a Systems Engineer for a couple of years before pursuing an MBA from ISB, Hyderabad. The strategic marketing role was my first job out of MBA school (You can read more about me here). Now, come to think of it, it is a weird place to locate a strategic marketing group for the semiconductor industry. For those who are new to this party – semiconductor market in India is very small in comparison to many other sunshine sectors like healthcare, media, education, financial services and so on…as well as, in comparison to other larger semiconductor markets worldwide – China, US, Europe, Taiwan, Japan and Korea (and the order has a reason to it…go figure!)

There are some parts of the semiconductor ecosystem that are very robust in India, thanks to the outsourcing wave. Those include design (both captive units and services organizations), applications and even R&D (to some extent) but there are large chunks missing – which include the customers, manufacturers and in turn, strong distribution networks and sales and marketing organizations. Those working in the design, R&D and applications in the semiconductor industry aspiring to move on to marketing roles in the same industry post an MBA in India, I have dissapointing news for you. Those roles are very few and lack the growth opportunities that you would dream of, when you go to an MBA school. I get quite a few calls every month from people working in this industry wanting to make the vertical shift and I never cease to get amazed by the sheer kind of talent that this industry attracts in India. So, if you are in one of these categories or an aspirant, consider yourself warned and feel free to reach out to me for more industry dope & specific options…

So, is there a chance we might be catching a market at its nascent stage of development? After all, you can look at the glass as half-empty or half-full, right? This is a question one of the aspirants asked me, while I was explaining my above analysis to him. Here’s my answer. Well, semiconductors is a mature B2B market. For it to grow in India, the customers – the electronic design and manufacturers – should be a large industry, which has not happened so far. And, with the overcapacity in electronics and semiconductor manufacturing in other APAC regions, the likelihood of a large electronics design & manufacturing base out of India seems bleak. (This is not to say that Indians are not innovative or brilliant at electronics design. In my own previous job as well as in the startup circule, I’ve seen quite a few brilliant designers and I also come across brilliant product ideas on a regular basis from students and professionals alike). But, there is a vicious cycle in action here, unless someone manufactures their creativity and makes a big success of it, the ecosystem will not kick in and unless the ecosystem kicks in, the “big success” will always be yet to come (and I’m not even talking about Govt. sops here). Of course, there are always cheap manufacturing houses available in China, but how many people have access to it at their tinkering and bootstrap stages? That brings me back to my point about the need for “tinkering shops” and more so, in electronics business for innovation and ecosystem growth in India.

Over the past few months, I had to make up my mind to continue in my cushy job (knowing that it had nothing to do with India and was not meaningful enough for me)  or take some risk and do something directly relevant to the Indian market. I’ve been interested in the education sector for sometime and finally, I’ve decided to take the plunge . I’m joining a startup, Ariem Technologies, based in Bangalore as their Director for Marketing and Business Development. It is a new journey for me and I’m really excited about this role. You can expect to hear more about my interest in the education sector (some of it you can read here), my learnings on my previous job (thanks KK for asking this question) the company, role and their solution in the next few weeks…

Stereotypes galore – The danger of a single story, Chimamanda Adichie

For those of who haven’t heard this ted talk – please do so here. A shoutout to Nandini, for pointing this one out!!! The talk is about how we stereotype people based on a the different versions of the single story that we hear about them, over our lifetime. Chimamanda walks the fine line between incisive comments and skepticism, very well. Her observations shine a light on your own personal experiences, without making you feel angry towards those involved.

1. The India story in the US – The story of a unique “Indian Identity”. Questions range from – “What do you Indians eat for breakfast?”, “What is your traditional dress?”, “What are the traditional festivals?” and were surprised to know that the answers varied depending on the region that a person belonged to in India. Of all things, we Indians can identify with her irritation at Africa being identified as a “country” ( in her case, it is even factually wrong). In India, except that, in spite of being one country, we could be as well different countries for all we care. Our identity is so rooted by where (or where all :)) we grew up in India that it is hard to capture in generalizations . However, are the others aware of it? Are the stories we tell as multi-faceted or as representative of our diversity, as we are? Is there an opportunity to better spread this awareness around?

2. The US story in India – I was equally guilty of falling into this “one story” trap. Of assuming that, all the people in the US were “experts” in their fields and was in for a shock to find that they were all as human as we are and as prone to “not knowing” something despite years of experience in a field. To their credit, my experience, so far has been that they acknowledged it and figured out what to do about it!

3. The Indian story in China – Now, this was a complete shock to me. Beyond the huge media barricade and censorship, the only “real” connection that the Chinese have of India is through “Bollywood” . This innocent question of theirs proves the point, “Where is that round thing you put on your forehead?, Are all Indian women as beautiful as Ayshwarya Rai?, Do you all dress so elegantly and richly, all the time?” I cannot help but acknowledge that the questions mildly amused me and also that, I never figured how to answer that question without feeling like I was both the winner and the loser!

3. The “Regions” Story in India – My growing years were spent travelling across the country, from school to school, across regions and I cannot for my good heavens understand, how a punjabi can be different from a delhite but all south-indians be “madrassis”? Have we thought of what stories we can tell our fellow countrymen that they learn to better appreciate the differences, while not differentiating?

4. The story of how “only” regional languages preseve the culture in India – There are several “save the regional language” campaigns running across the country, in India, at any given point in time. Again, having grown up in different parts of India and used to speaking a medley of 4 different languages, I could never appreciate this. However, something dawned on me as I was listening to Chimamanda. It was a fact that we are impressionable by the kind of literature we read, we think in the language we read, we want to write what we read and more often that not, we desire (romanticize?) what we read. So, in the heads of those running this campaign, people reading English books are thinking “like” a foreigner or to be even more precise, thinking in “English”, which hits at the core of “alien-ness”. They want people to be more “regional”, instead.

All I can say is that, they are getting it all wrong. The regional languages are playing catch up here, at best. English has become the global language of choice (if Chinese does not displace it that is!) for the coming decades. The sheer volume of books available is so large that they are ubiquitious. One, there is nothing wrong in thinking in “english”, if the stories of the local culture are also being trasmitted and made available in that language and second, there is no one single entity that defines any given culture/region in India, hence being open to your story being trasmitted through other mediums might preserve its multi-faceted nature, while reaching out as an entity in itself at the same time. In short, acknowledging that it might be high time to decouple culture and language, might help us crusade for causes that can make an impact – money laundering, poverty, illiteracy, pollution, waste management, for starters?

Moral of the story, a single view, a single version, a single meeting, a single experience point to judge people, state, country – creates stereotypes that can be dangerous and prevent us from exploring the true beauty of what life is all about and understanding how connected we are, in as many ways as we are different!

PS: This ran longer than I had anticipated and I have attempted to keep it coherent. Do feel free to comment/ping me if it resonates at some level with you too!

Dancing With The Elephants

I went on a vacation recently to Thailand and wandering through a new city (Patong and Bangkok) famous for its night life, “massage parlors”, cheap shopping and fleecing tuk-tuk’s, we couldn’t help but wonder…how at home we felt thanks to the extremely friendly nature of the Thai people.

Not to mention the strange but true facts – that the people in Phuket spoke much more fluent English than the people in Bangkok itself,  that no matter how hard we tried we couldn’t get lost, every single price was negotiable right from a handbag at the street store to the foot massage at a suave-looking parlor!!!

The Patong beach itself was not very attractive and moreover it was “too busy” for our taste…so we found a quiet corner in the Kata beach further south of Patong and had a whale of a time. On the third day, we even ventured out on a rented motorbike and drove up and down the entire stretch ranging from Patong to Kata beach 4 times, looking for food, fun and souvenirs…and not to mention baby elephants that were swaying their way to glory, as they ate their meal!

Food was costly and there were very few options to get a decent meal without paying up at least 100Bhat/person, going upward with addition of a beverage and any interesting experimentation with the dishes :). One can have a pancake snack with interesting combinations like banana and nutella for 50Bhat. Comparatively the massages were cheaper. One can get a good foot massage for 200Bhat and a good Thai massage for  300Bhat (and these are mid-range prices), they can get really low in cheap parlors that have girls sitting outside and shouting “Helloooooooooo! Massaaaaaaaage” to very high in well…high-end massage parlors.

While Phuket was a seaside and wandering experience, Bangkok was more of a shopping spree, for us. We went from one kind of market to another – night market (Pat Pong), street-side markets (near some subway stations), day time markets (Pratunam) and some of the larger airconditioned markets in full fledged buildings (Big C, Platinum Fashion Market) – comparing prices, haggling over 50Bhat price differences, snacking on fresh cut fruit on the street stalls and wading our way through the never ending shipping list – was a vacation well worth the price!

Why Japanese Phones Are Not Global?

Japanese are ahead of their times in the kind of phones and mobile services they launch and have been using 4G for sometime. They have the sleekest features ranging from internet browsing and e-wallets to pedometers! However, the Japanese phone makers Panasonic, NEC and are not globally popular, unlike LG and Samsung from Korea. One might only wonder, why so?

The Japanese phone industry is a good example of a few misguided assumptions that many global tech companies today commit…a few mentioned below:

1. The “market” is what I see – Making technical decisions based on a limited set of geographical/economic characteristics and worst yet, on limited market knowledge and thinking that “we build it, they’ll want it”. In this case, the Japanese market and their race to adding more and more advanced features on their phones.

2. Going it alone – Attempting to push the frontier while being a single piece in the ecosystem, whereas it is important to prioritize external dependencies and push the frontier an inch at a time , nudging other people along and building the entire ecosystem to support the advanced technology adoption. In this case, the advanced Japanese phone features being out of place in the 2/2.5G networks that many of the other countries continue to support. They will upgrade one day and the Japanese might have an upper edge, but isn’t there a time value to money?

3. Catering to “high end” with “high tech” – Not catering to the mass market with lower end offerings for fear of margin erosion, despite having the technological capability to do so – it requires a different approach to the market, one of understanding what it needs and aligning the technical features available accordingly. Again, in this case the Japanese phone makers could have defined a range of features on their phones that could well support lower end technology features and compete with the Korean, US and European phone makers.

The good news is that the players realize this and are working towards understanding the reasons of why they are not global favorites. You can read more about it here. Has anyone used the Japanese phones, what do you think?


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