stuff etc

Musings about the world of tech, cricket, and some personal stuff

Facebook buys Bangalore startup Little Eye

Facebook taps India start-up scene with acquisition of Little Eye

Facebook acquires Little Eye – an Indian startup for $15m, as reported in the FT. Now this is important for many reasons:

  1. Indian startups have not been known so far as acquisition targets. So this is good for the start-up economy in India. This also means that companies will keep an eye out for new and world class products that might come out of Bangalore or somewhere else. This is seriously good. I knew there have been a lot of small product/app companies brewing up all over India, and its about time they are recognized.
  2. This also means the image of the industry in India (mobile apps in particular,  IT in general)  will improve and we can think of moving out of being ‘just an outsourcing’ destination in another 5-10 years (my bet is it will be sooner).
  3. This is good news for Android. Facebook is giving a big push to mobile, as most of its activity is generated from mobile. Android in particular is going to be big, in my opinion.

Other links: Yahoo/Reuters

Here is another article on Forbes India that lists 5 Indian startups to lookout for in 2014.

Its 2014

Another new year , and another blog post. Not just to welcome the new year but also to show my commitment (sort of) to this blog.

Bottom line – I am alive, and so is the blog.

Free coffee and other incentives to attend class

I was wondering if I would have attended more classes in college if there was some free beverage on offer ?

After doing a one year full time course in the UK, I have emerged wiser, and of course almost bankrupt. The course (I did an MBA from Cranfield School of Management), was very nicely designed and I was very comfortable in setting a good pace against it. Exams were not a major headache and obtaining grades were just a formality.

 

And now I know why I hated studying while I was doing my bachelors degree in engineering in India. Yes, laziness played a major part in it. But there were many reasons for us (at least a lot in my cohort) to hate studies at college.  I am no way implying I had a bad 4 years at NIT Nagpur, oh no . In fact the time was awesome, spent mostly on non – academic stuff. Now, coming to why I hated studying  – reasons were plenty, and here are few of them – outdated syllabus, and outdated mode of teaching, lack of good content, lack of connection between profs and students, exam (grade) centered culture and so on.

And these were the same reasons I loved studying in the UK. In fact, just after being in the university for a few weeks, I knew why I hated going to classes back in India.

And there is one more reason – free tea/coffee at the Cranfield SOM. While it might not matter that much, but it was much of an incentive to at least turn up to the college building, hangout with fellow students, profs etc and also attend classes for a change. I remember waking up during my undergrad days, and rushing straight to the mess/canteen to find some tea or grab something to eat, before rushing off to attend the 11am lecture (classes used to start at 9). Having a vending machine to serve tea near the classroom would have definitely helped😉 Now, don’t ask me the practicality/operational-plan of such an idea.

Now, one might argue that college is not for fun, relaxation and comfort, but a place for hard work in spite of challenges and to get the max out of it. Well, I agree, but I am also a lazy person, a Bengali by heart , and I love to live a slow paced life with as little hiccups as possible. So a degree on a sliver platter served with minimal effort from my side, while I was sleeping (and occasionally playing cards) in my dorm was exactly what I was looking for !

HBR Article: Common Language Doesn’t Equal Common Culture

Common language does not mean common culture, and it is so true. A nicely written HBR article explaining exactly that, in the context of the US and the UK.

I have observed the same, especially when it comes to being ‘enthusiastic’ at workplace and also how certain typical responses differ when you talk to colleagues.

A typical response to ‘How are you doing?’ in the UK would be ‘not bad’ as opposed to the ‘Great !’ (note the exclamation mark) in the US.

In the UK (as the article rightly suggests, not all Britishers are typical Brits), people do behave conservatively and it spills over to how they behave in workplace, their mannerisms and conversations.

However when it comes to partying, or binge drinking, the pubs are overcrowded and noisy. Well, I would blame the weather for that, mostly !

 

Credits: Andy Molinsky, HBR blogger

 

Bribes, Kickbacks, Lobbying and more…

“India threatened Wednesday to cancel a deal to purchase 12 helicopters from the Italian firm Finmeccanica if an official inquiry proved the contract worth nearly $750 million was secured through kickbacks.”

Source: AFP. (link)

India’s Cabinet approved a retired judge to probe claims that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) broke rules as it lobbied to enter the country’s retail market.

Source : Boolmberg (link)

In the Italian chopper case (or scandal as we love to call it), the Italian government has even termed it ‘OK’ to bribe or provide kickbacks of some kind for getting such deals ! Well, there is nothing to be surprised at, is it ? Not for them, but it is for us. As we somehow regard this way of acquiring business ‘unethical’ and’illegal’. I know there is a thin line between bribe and lobbying, but who draws that and who decides whats right ? Especially difficult when there are different cultural beliefs in play of the way business is done.

Read this news published in Firstpost.com – ‘… about 20 US-based companies and industry bodies spent more than $200 million (over Rs 1,000 crore) during 2012 on lobbying in India … .’

We will be probing a lot of these 20 companies in the future for sure, especially if there is a big deal down the line, which will be given that there are big players involved.

Lobbying is certainly an alien concept in India. We do not like to spend time and money partying/networking, throwing out for lavish dinners for the sake of clinching deals. We believe in merit, and a fair tender process. However flawed this concept may be, it is how we like to operate (well, most of the times). This so called ‘western’ concept of ‘Sifarish’ (Reference) or of putting a good word for somebody to get something done favorably is difficult to digest. No wonder we are agitated when something of this sort happens.

Could this explain our inertia of reaching out to others when it comes to networking and (extend  this to Lobbying) finding new opportunities ? To me it certainly does.

The great FDI debate

We are having the great debate on FDI going on in both houses of parliament. And looks like the government is going to win the vote on it and its going to be passed, finally as a bill. By doing this, we welcome the Walmarts, Tesco and Ikeas of the world. Key things which differentiate the entry into Indian space for any foreign retail giant are to be noted here. The first being, every state in India has the final say in it, so inevitably, the ones who see this as too-foreign, and job-destroyer will not allow it. Secondly, such retailers can only be opened in large cities with greater than 1 million population. This is important, as it makes sure that there is enough space for both the local grocer and the big malls, as due to the inherent nature of our society and economy, there will always be people shopping from local ‘kirana’ (mom and pop) stores. However, the ugly ones, and ones which do not add any value to the economy, by hoarding whenever possible, by cheating on excessive prices/faulty weighing machines will definitely be off streets. We will also see some of these people (and people working for them), moving into other jobs likely to be created by the big supermarkets (directly or indirectly).

I think this is a good move by the government, especially because we are not going the whole hog. Cautious steps , like the ones which prevented the over-indulgence of domestic banks in casino activities of the foreign banks (which led to the crisis, remember ?), saved us from going bust like the EU. We will never see a Tesco in every city if we go this cautiously, at least in the next 10 years, and we will get a chance to better this model as there will be a lot of learning generated. Our retail sector as a whole will gain the much needed expertise as our middle class economy grows (burgeons), and there is no reason why we can not see a successful domestic retailer (big bazaar) grow as mammoth  size as Tesco ($64 Billion Revenue & more than 500,000 employees worldwide).

There are many arguments which have been presented in the media , both for and against, and I do not think any of them hold ground. The fact that we are not allowing the foreign players a complete ‘hand’, I think we are playing it safe. In this time of fiscal crisis, lower growth, falling USD revenues, shrinking EU , when our balance of payments could go for a toss in less than 6 months (cant verify the source), we definitely need to move swiftly. One remark made by leader of the opposition who is vehemently opposing this move demands attention. She says that to keep prices low Walmart etc will source materials from China and we will in turn be helping Chinese manufacturing sector, instead of creating domestic jobs. Well, that is narrow thinking, and looks like an argument made just for the sake of it. If there is such demand for Chinese goods, I am sure there will be companies that will start competing with them by producing them domestically at lower cost and better quality. Also, a booming Chinese economy will only help the global economy (and ours in turn too) in the longer run.

One of my friends pointed to the post in The Hindu about the waste that the supermarkets create because of their quality standards. It is true that undersized onions, and bananas not curved to right degree are rejected by supermarkets in many countries. But its an exaggeration, if not anything else. We already waste a lot of grains and vegetables. Consider this an additional refrigerator in the house which will hold more food items that you buy from the market, and keep them for longer.

And because we can not afford to (not allowed to) have Tesco/Walmart in every nook and corner, there will always be enough demand for even the so called ‘substandard’ produce. But, waste, like we do now, is inevitable. Why can’t the government make sure it invests more in cold storage facilities (modern ones) by the money it generates from FDI so that it can give fair price to the farmer, so that the farmer can get a better buyer to look forward to and not forced to sell to middleman (now) or Tesco (future).

India is such a diverse nation, both socioeconomically and geographically that we will always have a place for all types of businesses to run their shops. We just can not have a single formula (FDI for all , no-FDI for all) for every problem. Allowing FDI in retail is that cautious step in the right direction.

Samsung Galaxy note 2, Google Nexus 4 and more updates …

A lot has happened since Apple launched its iPhone5. Most intriguing is the failure of Maps on iOS6 and Apple firing its executives and project manager in the Maps team ! Are the iOS maps really that bad ? Well, they might look visually good, apparently they are not accurate. I have not personally used the maps on my ipad but I do miss the google maps which disappeared after I upgraded from iOS5. I now use the browser version of google maps on my ipad, the best alternative for apple users.

Mobile space has heated up with Samsung Note 2 doing incredibly well, and also by the launch of nice-looking Windows 8 based Nokia Lumia Phones. Google Nexus 4 by LG has made its appearance as well, (finally, was much awaited), but it sold out even before it went out for sale (literally, if some tech journals are to be believed). With the Blackberry 10 coming up next year in Jan, this is going to be exciting.

And since I am in the fray to get a new mobile phone after my blackberry curve contract ended few months back, I am interested in the seeing how the market responds to the new handsets, all of whom have good reviews and are ‘best-selling’ (!). I have my eye on the iPhone5 but its too pricey (and even out of my budget, apparently, as suggested to me by one of the phone gurus from phones4u !). Well, to be fair, yes it is too pricey, especially after paying a meager £25/month on my blackberry contract for the last 2 years. It appears that the cheapest iPhone contract I can get is for £39 / month. An unlocked one in the UK costs £529, and after doing all NPV calculations etc, came to a conclusion that a contract worth 35 or below will be cost-efficient, and for anything more than that I will be better off buying an unlocked one ! As price-sensitive I am, I decided to wait and watch the market for few more months. The iPhone prices have come down, from a min of £42/month to around £38-£39/month now.

Also had a look at the Samsung Galaxy note 2, and found it really smart ! Its big, on the look and feel of it, but its quite easy to use, responsive and full of features. After using it for a while, I thought I could handle it ! The stylus adds an extra bit of weight to its already huge list of features. So this phone is definitely another option which is worth exploring.

Another phone I am looking for is the Nexus 4 from LG, which is a powerhouse of an android device with Jellybean 4.2 and a powerful processor, high RAM etc. It lacks 4G LTE, but in the UK I don’t think its going to be affordable in the near future (at least for me). However, its hard to get hands on, and sold out everywhere (tried the US and Canada stores as well). Carphonewarehouse are selling it at a premium over its advertised price of £279 (16GB) on google play.
 

 

iPhone 5 Launched !

Whoa ! Finally its here !

Let me be frank. The only reason I have added this post to my blog is to generate some traffic to my blog, or rather to see if this really works.

If you are in the UK and want to buy an unlocked iPhone you can do so from 21st September. Details on the apple uk store:

Am I buying it ? Well, no. At least not for another 6 months. When it comes to phones I am one of those wait-and-see-how-this-goes types. Definitely not the early adopters, and I like to press buttons than touch. But the iphone is a good product in general, and will consider buying one when my current phone (yes, you guessed it right, blackberry) dies.

Pricing: You can buy the unlocked version from the apple store for £529 (basic one), but prices on contract are not yet out. Samsungs and HTCs have a tough time ahead, as I have already seen them dropping prices. Just saw a £29 a month contract on Galaxy S3 in today’s daily, which is much less than when it was launched. I don’t think the iphone5 will be available below $42 (close to iphone4s launch price I believe), and will give the android makers the run for their money.

Until then I will sit back, see other people use it, read reviews, compare tariffs (Oh! I love doing that) and enjoy.

 

Updates:

  • Sept 14:  Apple iphone 5 sold out on first day, 20x times faster than iphone 4s ! (Techcrunch link). Despite reports claiming that iphone5 launch was a damp squib and it did not live up to the expectations and hype, fact of the matter is that the iphone still is the most popular phones in the market.

 

Oracle vs Google : Lawsuit of the decade !

Oracle is suing Google over Google using the Java framework in Android without license.

This presentation released by Oracle gives a clear picture of what it is suing Google for. It definitely presents the picture from Oracle’s part, and on first look paints a very dark picture about Google’s use of android. Oracle claims that the Android framework is copied from Java, without paying the due credit, and of harming the bigger java community. Some example (of code) do suggest that Android is based on Java, a lot of it is just taken verbatim.

This part of the presentation clarifies what is going on :

Do you need a license if you are building an application using Java : No. However, if you are extending Java, and providing an API specification or application framework of your own, you do need one, especially for commercial purposes. Android clearly (until court decides otherwise), in my holy opinion, falls under that category.

Here is what the presentation says about ‘When is a Java License necessary’ :

  • You are writing an application (say a web-application) in Java programming language : NO
  • You are providing class libraries on Java API Designs : YES
  • Downloading java software components: YES

Most of the developers of java fall under the first category, but some companies do need to use Java for the rest two and they thus purchase License from Oracle (formerly from Sun) and some also contribute to Java community. Several exampls quoted in the presentation.

I think Oracle has a good case, however the Google side of the story is interesting as well, as it claims that Java programming language, or any language for that matter is not copyrightable. Partly true, and remains to be seen how it is presented in court. Meanwhile, the hearing started in San Francisco yesterday (17th April) and the next 8 weeks are going to be really interesting.

And then remains the lawsuit about the patent/copyright infringements which will be heard soon after. More on that later.

References:

Oracle presentation (91 pages, takes a while to open) : http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/features/opening-slides-1592541.pdf

Bloomberg news coverage : http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-17/ellison-testifies-oracle-explored-dropped-making-java-phone-1-.html

BBC news : http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-17705873

Some more GMAT tips

Recently an acquaintance, one of my brothers buddies, emailed me asking about some GMAT tips. I noticed that I have not written anything on that topic so here it is. I will try to answer the basic questions people have when they think about taking the test (or when they think about taking the MBA plunge). Will write the same things that I replied to this guy.

1. How much time needed for preps ?

That depends ! ‘ on individual. Why not take a test now without preparation and see how you score. You will know exactly how much preparation you need (I know you are mature enough). You will find a lot of online tests for free  – try mba.com first.

2. Which books to refer ?

I referred to a limited set of materials as I had limited time. Depending on how much time you have you can refer to more. however, doing the official guide thoroughly is a must.

3. When should I take the GMAT ?

Check the university websites you want to apply to and note down the application deadlines etc. All of them have several rounds of applications (mostly starting from July/Aug) and its better to apply in Round 1. They sometimes also mention the time during which you should have taken the gmat (not too long back, and not very recent – like a month as well !, so check this first).
In general, for applying to schools which start their session in Aug/Sept 2013 (for example) applications will start July/Aug 2012 and for that ideally you should take the test before end of May (or stretched to June).  For Indian b-schools, deadlines tend to be later, so you can adjust accordingly, so check school websites individually.

4. Prep guidelines ? Mug Vocab, regular practice or what ?

Vocab is not so critical for GMAT as it is for GRE, so no need to mug. I believe for most of us Indians, Quants (QA) is also not an issue. Verbal is something which needs practice and tuning. So start early on that, and do that as often as possible. For grammar basics, buy a Wren&Martin English grammar book early on and go through it once.

5. What score is good enough ?

    Score is something which puzzles everyone. Remember that GMAT is only a necessary condition for entry and not sufficient. I would say its only 10% sufficient. This means that a good score would only mean you have fulfilled only 10% of criteria for admission. However, a poor score (less than 650 perhaps) would not take you anywhere unless you have an excellent academic record throughout + excellent career progression + extra curriculars.
For US b-schools, at least for the top 15, as an average Indian with engineering background, you must have at least 720-730. Check http://www.pagalguy.com, they have discussion threads on various schools and profile/GMAT scores of people who were admitted in prior years. I know people who have made it to good top 20 schools in the US with 680-720 as well, but they had excellent application/essays, recommendations, top-notch work experience and very good extra curricular to back it up. Also it makes a good case for scholarships if the score is good.
Also be aware of the average/minimum gmat score required for admission reported on school websites. You must add 20 to that score as they all put Indian applicants into a different pool where the competition tend to be (naturally !) intense. So the average GMAT score of Indians who get through is 20 more than overall class average.

Feel free to post any questions on this thread.

Here is my GMAT experience post – https://followingmydream.wordpress.com/2009/08/06/my-gmat-story/
Also there is a post about mba abroad in general – https://followingmydream.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/thinking-of-doing-an-mba-abroad/

Like almost every other thing in the world, read these with a pinch of salt !

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.