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Showing posts from January, 2006

E-education

There is a raging discussion on Ryze business networking forum – What is the next billion-dollar idea? There are many ideas which got discussed, including a science of communicating with the dead. But, on a more serious note, someone mused – ‘e-education is the most under-funded idea of all time’.

Precisely, it is. I mean in the context of the huge possibility that electronic delivery of education opens up, it got nowhere so far. If you compare the idea with similar education ideas like Evening Classes and distance education, and see it in the backdrop of the accelerated era of the internet, it is actually going nowhere so far. It is still largely in the domain of training, largely as a training manager’s toy, an intellectual fancy and confined within a few pioneering projects.

Well, no denying that there are great companies, cool technologies and the University of Phoenix. But, where is the amazon.com of e-Learning/ e-education? Where is the billion dollar Expedia of Online Learning? W…

The Idea of India

Was secular India a colonial dream? Thought up by an English educated elite with no connections with the people on the ground? Were these thoughts impractical, artificial and merely an empty rhetoric?

Time we revisit this, and ask ourselves these questions again and again. The last 20 years have put the Indians in an unique position – with a sense of power and confidence in front of the world, but ever more insecure and confused about their own identity, and what they stand for.

Recently, I have re-read that brilliant essay on Modern India, The Idea of India [by Sunil Khilani]. An wide array of Indian Intellectuals have also written extensively, each trying to reach a definition of Indian-ness. We had various visions and representations of India’s past and its present, and dreams and plans for its future. But, today, it needs a clearer answer – on the wake of the carnage in Gujrat and spreading High Technology industry in Bangalore, the global buzz on India and the decay in its inner ci…

After The Vote

Today, very interestingly, every single British Newspaper, I mean the kinds you see people reading on the tube or train, have pushed their usual diet of sob stories or scandals to Page 3 and beyond – and screamed ‘Guys with the bomb win the ballot’!

Well, Hamas winning the Palestinian election has shaken up everyone a bit, not just the government ministers. I am surprised that they are surprised. Remember, I have no first hand knowledge of the Middle East politics, but knew just what the same newspapers were feeding me.

So I knew that Palenstinian Authority under Fatah was corrupt, ineffective, a bunch of politicians who are completely out of touch and unashamed money-grabbers. I knew that Israel send tanks to West Bank and Gaza whenever they want, or bomb whoever they don’t like. Also, from the same newspapers, I learnt that Hamas is a social organisation in Gaza, running schools and hospitals – and from my knowledge of other ideologue parties elsewhere in the world, I guessed while th…

To Vote Or Not To Vote

Did I not vouch not to disclose my political opinion? Especially if they are not exactly conducive in the uni-polar, post-9/11 world! Lo, I almost told you!

But, on our republic day, as I read the US Ambassador putting India’s vote on Iran on balance with India’s access to civilian nuclear technology, I had to think. I think everyone in India should start to think - what’s going on?

Let me clarify. It is not about India should vote for the resolution. Yes, we should – not a question. Politics of the world has been conducted with little consideration to what one would call ethics, and the consequences so far have been disastrous. We need to inject a little consistency and value above our naked self-interest, and it is in no one’s interest to have another state going nuclear.

So, India should risk its ‘deals’ with Iran and vote against it.

But, for the sake of getting its ‘deal’ done with US? I think we should be very careful before thinking that way. Two reasons:

One, it will be foolish to …

Google, China & Orwell

There is a huge uproar as Google said they will self-censor their Chinese search engine. While it is giving in to the Chinese government, some of the criticism in plainly cruel – like saying Google’s message ‘Don’t be evil’ translates into ‘We are greedy’ in Chinese.

Particularly, Sergei Brin is on the receiving end – I am not suggesting that there is a racial bias and his Russian origins are not forgotten in this controversy – because he happened to justify the action saying “I didn't think I would come to this conclusion -- but eventually I came to the conclusion that more information is better, even if it is not as full as we would like to see”.

There is indeed an Orwellian feel about that! But I still love Google and the way it organized my life, and changing it. I love the simplicity, the freeness, and the innovation – if you are challenging that, look at Google Maps or Google Local!

Far from being Orwellian, I think Google represents what is good about capitalism – innovation,…

Arctic Monkeys and Another Thought

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am no music buff – much less rock music – and will wonder why I am talking about a rock band suddenly.

Because, I celebrate the Internet!

I am keenly watching what Internet is doing to the ‘copyright’ industry.

I was on the receiving side of the dotcom bubble bust. But always believed the Internet was far from dead. I still remember a very skeptical friend told me that the day I buy grocery online, that will be the age of the Internet. He said that no so long ago – in 1996. And, here we are, every time I order my month’s supplies from Tesco online, I do recall the statement.

So, what is there about Arctic Monkeys?

They are a Sheffield Indie band, which has gone onto release the fastest selling rock album ever in history! The buzz is – 2006 is going to be the year of the monkey! Wondering why you have not heard of them yet? They are the first mega-band [brand] of the download generation – and promoted themselves on the internet to start with.

The dotcom bu…

Ethics in the post 9/11, post WTO world

I am reading ‘One World’, by Peter Singer. Professor Singer is one of leading thinkers in Ethics, and this is a significant effort revaluing ‘ethics’ in the context of a post-9/11, post-WTO world.

A surprisingly balanced work, and a very good read – survived the Croydon-London Train test, and I could read it straight through. Despite the complexity of the subject, it is a pleasurable read.

While it does not question the world order, and only attempts to interpret it, Professor Singer tends to show how the modern capitalism, and more practically the current US administration, is working against itself – its core ethical foundation, the philosophies of Adam Smith and John Locke, or the principles that established a rule of law.

It is no globophobic [to use Ernesto Zedillo’s term] work, but one that embraces the modern world for what it is, but also evaluates it against its fundamental ethical principles.

If you believe in modern civilization/ capitalism, but wondering whether this is a sust…

Looking at the Top of the Pyramid

I return to the Bottom of Pyramid concept yet again.

Of late, I have been engaged in creating business models for a training company, which wants to enter India with an offering of English training courses.

I was excited because it is indeed a huge opportunity – the largest population in the so-called Anglo-sphere [a political concept dear to heart of conservative political thinkers in Britain and United States, a super-commonwealth], millions of people with some English knowledge locked inside and a changing educational environment – the business made so much sense to me.

We drew up a business plan and the following were key observations and ideas for the market entry:


The thriving BPO industry makes training English a big business opportunity.
There is a huge market in metropolis, especially Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, and the largest training centres must be located there.
The product offering – and the global brand – must be positioned as niche, priced at a premium, and must be seen as…

Montmarte

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Scarlett Johansson - more on MatchPoint

Here is Scarlett Johansson - on relationship - in the context of her role as Nola. The short interview is here - as long as MSN does not change or remove the page.

I shall preserve the best bit of this interview in case they do.

Q. In your opinion, what’s the difference between love and lust? A: Lust is very selfish, and love is very selfless. You just think about the passion inside you, whereby with love you are really thinking about the other person.

Interestingly, in today's paper, I also read Woody Allen has given an interview saying that Scarlett - who is regarded as a Fashion Icon and one of the best dressed woman around - dont know how to dress. Taking a dig at her fascination for 50's style gowns, Woody Allen says that he did not want her to dress like 'My Aunt Minnie'! Ha ha.. As Scarlett Johansson commented - if she follows his advise, she will be wearing the white wrap-around all the time [which she wore almost all through the movie!].

MatchPoint

I saw MatchPoint yesterday, the latest movie written and directed by Woody Allen.

As I was warned, it is not a characteristic Woody Allen movie. It is a very absorbing black comedy – very disturbing and very real.

Like all great movies, it had a personal message – as a character in the film puts it, “Hard Work is mandatory, but it is luck that makes the difference.”

Like all great movies, it builds the story around characters. It runs on a central powerful theme, and connects an array of characters around that – all stories lead to that the same key story.

What did I think of in the end? A good Cartier-Bresson photograph, where many elements connect to a central message, and communicates very personally to the viewer.

The story revolves around Chris, a tennis player who gave up after the ball hitting the net and dropping the wrong way. He comes to London, and starts as a tennis instructor, before he meets Tom, a wealthy man of an aristocratic family.  They become friends, he visits …

France - Symbol of a Nation

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What does it stand for? Aspirations to touch the sky? Freedom? Or a presence - artistic and masculine? But this moment in Paris captivated me.

Flights of Fancy!

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Experimenting with my camera! Fly towards light - higher, higher, even higher - beyond sight and into imagination. Such moments occur - they are special. It is difficult to preserve the droplets of rain on my window-glass, lit up against the full moon. So I tried preserving it here.

Social Capitalists

Every January, this is one subject I return to. As you would guess, because there is this Social Capitalist award Fast Company gives out. But, in the core, it is an intriguing concept - worth exploring for anyone seeking to pursue a business career in our time.

So, what is it? Fast Company defines this as business with social impact, though that is a little vague, as any business has some social impact - positive or negative. Another definition attempts to define these as businesses which address a vaccum in the society, but i would think any innovative business attempts to do just that.

I shall rather try a definition by example. Grameen Bank in Bangladesh [and in the world thereafter] is a Social Capitalist kind of a business. It works at the BoP [I hope C K Prahlad had finally managed to take over this acronym and changed it from good old 'Balance of Payments' to 'Bottom of Pyramid'] - providing credits to poor people who are not credit-worthy for most banks. It stand…

More On New Disney

The big news today is that Disney will buy Pixar for $7 Billion. Now one can understand Steve Job’s enthusiasm about Bob Iger. In fact, Disney and Pixar were almost parting ways before Bob Iger. Surely, Michael Eisner and Steve Jobs did never get along well.

But, anyway, that is not the news. It is an indication how things will move in Disney now. I did have a Wow! feeling when I saw ABC TV shows will now get distributed through iTunes, to be downloaded $1.99 an episode. Well, we all knew it was coming, but then we could all see it was NOT coming. The copyright thinking, which was a last century paradigm, based on an 18th century invention, was coming on the way of technological progress, and would have clobbered Hollywood the same way it destroyed the established music companies.

So, what everyone was expecting a bit of creative destruction. The new business models already were being talked about - as in this set of Fast Company articles. But then Disney moving in to buy Pixar, and tr…

Covent Garden!

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Poetry - on the Northern Line

I stepped from plank to plank
So slow and cautiously;
The stars about my head I felt,
About my feet the sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch,--
This gave me that precarious gait
Some call experience.


Nothern Line had 'severe delays' today, yet again. That's quite normal though: I am now used to service disruptions, minor and severe delays, and the infamous 'Northern Line Minutes' [which is approximately one and half times as long as minutes-as-we-know-them]. But, truth be told - I also picked up these lines, current favourites and one on my workstation, by Emily Dickinson, on a Northern Line Train. Perfect for a traveller's, or an entrepreneur's, soft board, but why do you find these on the Northern Line? You can see God has only kind of humour - irony!

Simplicity

I loved Linda Tischler’s cover story on Simplicity [Fast Company, November 2005]. And, this month’s magazine carries a feedback, from none other than Al Ries. And, he goes on saying - “May be it takes a woman to see what’s really happening in Consumer Electronics. All the articles written by men have focused on ‘convergence’, a concept that is making products more complex." I am one of those who are scared of manuals and remote controls, so three cheers for SIMPLICITY!



The Mystery of Capital - Reading Today

I started reading a very interesting book today - Mystery of Capital - by Hernando De Soto. It had a very interesting proposition, hence a pull on me. It is quite a task reading a book on morning 7:54 Croydon to London Bridge train, and of late, I am using this journey as a screening period for books to read. If any book survives the journey and still keeps me interested, I would try to read it till the end; otherwise, change the book when I get back home in the evening. Mr. De Soto’s book survived this test today.

Whatever I read so far, it makes a very interesting point. The research and observations are aimed at answering that never-ending question - why poor countries are so poor - and attempt to develop a rather unique thesis. It rubbishes the claim that poor countries are poor because of its culture, lack of entrepreneurship etc. Mr. De Soto, rightly, points to those thousands of entrepreneurs driving a taxi, selling food on roadside stalls, vending titbits on the street corner -…

The New Disney & A thought

My Sunday agenda never works – two weeks into 2006 and it already looks like the infamous ‘New Year Resolutions’. So, I am changing the model a bit and will try to post every now and then, as I feel like.

I did two interesting things today. One, read a very interesting article on the New Disney under Bob Iger .. great to know that they are already licensing ABC TV shows to be downloaded from iTunes site [and of all shows, Desperate Housewives] - $1.99 an episode, which can then be viewed on an iPod. Exciting, because this will lead to more such innovations. Arcane licensing laws have been standing in the ways of progress for far too long. The demise of music industry, finally, is getting noticed and people are changing their business models. This article about Disney and how Steve Jobs is now all praise for Bob Iger points to a new realization inside Disney.

Second, I went over to a local meeting of Chartered Institute of Marketing today, first time but liked it. This session was on e-M…

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