Tech entrepreneurship events in Bangalore

The San-Francisco bay area of the US is popularly known as ‘Silicon Valley’. Its wealth generation story is well known, where it created umpteen numbers of billionaires over the past three decades. Companies started from the valley literally rewritten the technology entrepreneurship, thereby creating history. The amount of contributions by valley based technology entrepreneurs to the bigger world is unbelievable. Starting from Hewlett-Packard to latest Google every other company has changed the world to a larger extent. These valley based world class product companies, literally created the term Multi National Company (MNC), which is a house-hold name today. It was mainly due to the valley entrepreneurs and their ability to take risk, identifying the opportunity and tapping the correct market had made all the difference. Added to that, world class universities, access to venture capital and world class minds created the ideal ecosystem for entrepreneurship.

India is in the similar growth trajectory what US was in the 1960s and 1970s. It needs more and more technologists to take become entrepreneurs. As known to all of us, the first wave of tech entrepreneurship came in the form of software service companies like Infosys, Wipro and HCL. These companies showed that there is a country called India exist in the world map and high quality, low cost software can be delivered from there. The second wave of tech entrepreneurship is been emerging in the past four years, where young technologists primarily based out of Bangalore are joining the entrepreneurial bandwagon. Many of these emerging entrepreneurial ventures are mainly focusing on Mobility, Software as a service (Saas), Social networking, Web based services and education. With having more technology professionals than Silicon Valley, Bangalore is catching up well with entrepreneurship.

However the entrepreneurial system has got a long way to go in India. To start with these ventures would be limited by the size of the local market, which happens to be a huge challenge. Added to that access to venture capital, mature mentorship and incubation facilities are still growing up in a reasonable phase. This ecosystem plays a very critical part in nurturing ecosystem for entrepreneurship. Apart from the points mentioned above, there needs to be a set of forums where entrepreneurs, investors and technology enthusiasts can meet up and exchange their thoughts. This story talks about such entrepreneurial events and forums in Bangalore


Inspired by the popular ‘unconference’ concept, Barcamps are very informal, vibrant and contagious. Any individual can nominate to provide a talk about his interested topic. These ideas may or may not have any business aspects associated with it. In facts typical topics in Barcamp can be starting from IEEE specifications to Kama Sutra. This forum is conveived, moderated and run by volunteers without any financials associated with it. However many big corporatations, like Yahoo, Google, sponsor the event management expenses.
This event acts as a platform to bring the geek community in a common forum. In Bangalore it typically happens over a weekend in IIM-B. These sessions are organized under multiple tracks, where an individual can choose depending on his interest. There is no cost associated with attending the event and happens across multiple cities in India. If you are interested in latest technology happenings, review the latest gizmo in the town or interested in meeting some energetic individuals, Barcamp is the place to go.

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Mobile Mondays (MoMo)

The Mobile Mondays are typically are knowledge sharing sessions, focused mainly on mobile industry. Majority of discussions happens around the mobile Value Added Services (VAS), which are driven by individuals running entrepreneurial ventures to big corporations. Many mobile industry leaders like Nokia sponsor the event. This typically happens once in a month in one of the IT company premises in Bangalore, which keeps changing depending on the availability. This is an ideal forum to network with mobile industry folks and keep updated with happenings in the industry. This event is volunteer driven, with participation at free of cost. In order to keep up with the name, the discussions are organized on Mondays to break Monday blues. This is a worldwide forum, happens multiple cities in India.

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This Proto is a more mature forum with more focus on business, which operates out of IIT-Madras campus. This forum is primarily aimed at creating the startup ecosystem in India by bringing in entrepreneurs and investors in a common platform. This forum organizes road-shows in multiple cities, where entrepreneurial ventures can showcase its product or service to prospective investors. In order to participate in the forum, one has to pay a nominal amount and register their organization. This forum is operating in a non-profit mode, where the membership fee is spent towards organizing the events. The audience brings in good amount of experience in the technology business. Some companies got funded by participating in the forum.

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Kick start is initiated by the spirit of MoMo and Barcamps, by having tie-up with IIM-Bangalore’s NSRCEL. This forum typically organizes Startup saturdays, where companies need to nominate themselves to present their plan to a set of panel. Not much information is available about the list of companies that got funded thro’ this platform.

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The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE): Bangalore chapter

This is the oldest forum created to promote entrepreneurship in India, started by Indian origin entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley. In order to participate, there is a paid membership. Very senior members from the industry offer mentorship under this umbrella to prospective entrepreneurs. For members, the TiE organizes regular sessions, where stalwarts share their experiences with entrepreneurship. Unlike Barcamps and MoMo, it is more Formal forum.

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India Layoffs

The famous dialogue “welcome to the real world!” from the Movie Matrix hit my head yesterday. I was watching all major news channels covering news about Jet Airways laying off 800 employees on a single day. Clearly the global financial crisis has hit India, starting with Aviation Industry.

Going forward I see it affecting multiple industries, which would result in major job cuts, downsizing and salary cuts. For yuppy Indians, who earned five digit salaries from day one need to face the ugly face of capitalism in coming days. No amount of crying, cribbing, protesting or complaining to political party would help during turbulent times. This is not a typical governmental setup, but the reality — let us face it! Only who has the capability to adapt will survive during difficult times. Its high time we say Good bye to double digit salary growths and frequent job hopping.

BOOK REVIEW : Games Indians Play (Guest post by Sai Madhav)

This is a guest post by my friend Sai Madhav. I have been trying to pull him into blogging 🙂

Title: Games Indians Play review

Author: Raghunathan

Vocabulary of the book: Very good

I initially thought the book is about consumers–traders who try to maximize their rewards/returns in this pragmatic world. However, I realized soon, that the book is about social life in conjunction with psychology and philosophy.

Raghunathan believes that we, the Indians, need self-regulation in the fist-place rather than regulation by external factors (i.e. law/government). He proved that behavioral economics, Game theory etc are nothing but the phenomenon we encounter in our daily lives, from which we fail to grab positive results.One interesting aspect which the author highlights is, Intelligence is not about quick returns but maximizing rewards by sustaining relationships. His analogy between Gita and Game theory is commendable.

With the examples he quoted (about Indian politicians / executives / administrators / common people / legislators), one cannot deny the fact that we, ‘the Indians’ has to self-regulate and self-realize too!!

To mention few of them

– Overt lies by politicians , but people believe it every time

– Irregular Speed-breakers

– Crabs in the bucket attitude of Indians and Indian Government

– Circumventing law

– Traffic dead-lock at Railway crossings

– Ministers over-riding Judiciary (Supreme Court !!) orders

The excerpt that captivated my attention, in particular, is,

“Our corruption is so unique that we must be the only country in the world where even giving away money can involve graft!!Why else would we need to grease the palm of the officials in the land registration offices? “

The above fact is absolutely TRUE. The most intriguing part about land registration process in India is, despite multiple payments (the official and unofficial (understood!)), there is no stipulated rule that the same land WILL NOT be registered to others. Guess what!! Multiple claimants for the same land! Registration doesn’t verify Authenticity of documents!! I don’t understand the rationale behind the Registration process. One cannot rely on our Judiciary system either. It takes years together to solve a land dispute. Whom to blame!!! There are myriad instances in Bangalore, one being, 200 plots getting registered to nearly 2000 people.

To conclude, after reading this book, I cannot claim I am morally cleansed and enlightened, but definitely there is a paradigm shift in my thinking process!! I started self-regulating!! I hope this persists.

iPhone – Not India phone?

It’s been a month since Apple’s much hyped iPhone launched in India. In midst of huge expectations the product hit the market on Aug 22, with Airtel and Vodafone taking up the distributorship in India. In order to boost up the initial sales, both service provides kept their shop open throughout the night. More importantly India’s ‘tech’ city Bangalore was all geared up to welcome this popular Gizmo, where many technologists lined up in the showroom to pickup their phone before their friends. The next day’s local newspapers flashed pictures of proud iPhone owners from the city. The first say sales numbers were pretty good and everybody believed iPhone will take off in India in a big day, given its one billion population. Much against the expectations and media hype, the iPhone sales started taking nosedive in subsequent weeks and it has not even crossed 1500 handsets throughout India. It clearly proves that iPhone is a big failure out here.

According to Geoffrey Moore’s technology adaptation life cycle model, every technology product takes its own cycle to create significant business proposition. To start with, the ‘Early adaptors’ (technology enthusiasts) would start evangelizing the product who contribute to 13.5% of the total customer base. In order to create a successful business, a technology product should capture the next major chunk called ‘Early majorities’, who constitute to 34% of the customers. Even though iPhone was able to initially attract certain technology enthusiasts (especially in a city like Bangalore), it has clearly not impressed Early Majorities. Given the fact that India is one of the hottest markets for mobile operators and handset manufactures, Apple clearly missed a huge opportunity by not understanding the psychology of Indian customers. This exclusive story talks about some of the major reasons for iPhone not able to take off in India.

Cost, Cost and Cost

The first shock for Indian customers came in the form of cost. Apple priced their 8 GB model for 31,000 rupees and 16 GB model for 36,100. Every Indian customer felt getting ripped off by hearing such an atrocious price, given competitive handset prices. Added to that, there are no well designed offerings around the product. It’s a well known fact that India is a land of EMIs and installments, where people even buy clothes on installment basis. Even for a city like Bangalore, which consists of knowledge workers having good amount of surplus income, the 31,000 pricing has made the phone simple unaffordable. Apple should have worked on innovative offering methods, where it could have planned on recovering the cost over a period, after catching the initial sales volume.

In developed countries like US, Apple has done proper home-work by offering the iPhone at $199 (works out around 8000 rupees) by tying up with telecom service providers. On the other hand, Per capita income of US is 10 times more than India, which demands much smarter pricing strategy. This clearly shows that there needs to similar but much better pricing strategy should have been planned for Indian markets. The cost factor is been a major factor for iPhone not taking off in India.

The 3G infrastructure

The second point is about the mobile infrastructure in India. One of the major attractions of iPhone is its ability to provide mobile broadband connectivity using 3G technology. Unfortunately in India the 3G spectrum is still under negotiation and none of the service providers are offering 3G services to the customers. The applications in iPhone (known as “Apps”) become unusable with the existing low speed GPRS connectivity. Also every new iPhone has to have a brand new connection and number. For well networked professionals, it becomes very difficult to change their existing mobile numbers just to get the iPhone.

Mobile ecosystem in India

The third major point is the mobile ecosystem in India. The iPhone can be purchased only for post-paid connections, whereas more than 85% of the subscribers in India opt for pre-paid schemes. Even though about 9 million new mobile connections are added every month in India, still majority of them come under the pre-paid umbrella. Added to that, using mobile value added services has not yet caught up in India yet. Only now the mCommerce services are catching momentum and other “cool” iPhone apps would take a long-long time to catch up in India. The mobile phone is primarily seen as a device to communicate rather than accessing emails, playing network games or social networking.

Media hype

Before even the phone was launched, the India media had given too much hype for the iPhone. Many tech shows, pod casts, blogs and websites compared the $199 pricing in the US and believed that it would be offered for 8000-9000 rupee range in India. The Indian media failed to understand the mature mobile ecosystem in the US, where the service providers can afford to subsidize the handset to a larger extent and recover the cost over a period of time. In case of Indian service providers, their margins are very thin and they only make their profits due to the sheer volume of connections. They can’t afford to subsidize the handset, which will eventually start eating their pockets. The whole pre-launch analysis set “too-much” of expectations from iPhone, which it clearly didn’t live up to.

The lukewarm response for iPhone shows “How not to sell products in India?”. No matter how great a product or service is, it needs to be wrapped with innovative business model, especially for emerging countries like India. As per C.K.Prahlad’s “Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid” argument, the innovation needs to be even more profound for emerging geographies, in order to really leapfrog in terms of business proposition.

Consistently inconsistent – Auto rickshaw meters in Bangalore

Inside Bangalore city, autos were supposed to be the best mode of transport in a cost-effective way. Compared to other metros like Chennai, Bangalore had a well regulated meter system in place, which was hassle free. Especially for IT employees, autos used to be used to be viable alternative to commute to workplace, back and forth. There were numerous folks who use autos to commute on a daily basis without any worries. In fact many of them preferred auto journeys, given the city traffic conditions. Added to that auto drivers were friendly and co-operative, thereby making the journey comfortable. Unfortunately over the past three to five years auto rickshaw journey has gone from pleasure to pain, and getting worse day by day. After traveling in an auto, individuals end up having head-ache, tension apart from emptying their pockets.

Based on our recent study, many of the city residents experienced set of different problems with auto-rickshaws. First problem is about getting an auto to reach the destination. Majority of the auto drivers are not ready to take in any passenger even though they run empty autos. Upon asking the place to reach, many of these drivers behave very rudely by not even responding back in a proper manner. Nowadays in order to get into an auto, one needs to spend at least 20 minutes, after asking for at least 4-5 autos that are not ready to picking them up. The reason these drivers will give for not taking in a passenger is very simple: “We will not get proper savari from the point we leave you”. Given Bangalore’s volume of working population and city’s recent growth, its hard to believe that, these drivers will have any problems with getting passengers. However, this is the uniform response one gets by talking to any of the drivers on the way. Also one need to be happy if the driver responds properly even though he is not interested in picking up the passenger. Turning face on the other direction, murmuring in Kannada or giving a vague look are some of the behaviors exhibited by these auto-drivers, which makes an individual feel “Who is the customer? Who is going to pay whom?”

The problem gets even worse after boarding the auto. Majority of these autos don’t have proper meters and they jump like crazy. According to the latest official chart, seven rupees is charged per kilometer with minimum charge being fourteen rupees for first two kilometers. But one has to be lucky if the meter functions properly. Based on our observations for 11 kms, fare ranged anywhere between 80 to 120 rupees, whereas it is supposed to be 77 rupees. Even though meters are installed on autos they are not properly maintained. Some of them still have very old meter ,which just show up the fare information. Some show up kilometers traveled and fare and some are electronic. The latest electronic meters were supposed to be more reliable, but eventually end up showing incorrect numbers. To put in simple terms these meters behave consistently inconsistent. When auto drivers were asked more questions for the malfunctioning of the meter the response could be anything. Some accept it with a vague smile, some respond rudely, some even don’t respond. Eventually the customer’s heart beats faster every time they see the meter jumping in a disproportionate manner.

Here is another point that makes it even worse — extra charges. Asking for extra charges over and above the tampered meters has become the norm these days. Some years back drivers used to ask for 50% extra, only after 10:00 PM in the night, which is no longer true. During peak hours, like 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM, asking extra has become a day-today affair. On rainy days it becomes hits the peak, where these drivers straightaway asking for an atrocious flat charge without even thinking twice. Also if the passenger is not aware of the route or new to the city, these drivers take the longer route instead of proper one. For busy working professionals finding auto, paying extra charge and reaching their workplace adds stress to their mind. Many solutions, like booking autos thro’ SMS or phone were proposed, but nothing seems to work practically over a long period of time.

Which are the factors has made auto journey a pain? Is it increasing IT employees in the city? Is it increasing demand makes these drivers feel that they can demand any amount? Is the difference between haves and have-nots is increasing, which is making auto-drivers to find some way to make money from wealthy IT employees? What is the government is doing about it? There is definitely an optimization problem, waiting to be solved. At one end there is a huge need for autos and vast amount of people ready to pay proper fare. But where is the solution?

Book review: A search in secret India

Author: Paul Brunton

Price: 450 INR

Understanding spiritual history of India is not all that easy. It traces back more than 3500 years in time and most of the contemporary interpretations exist in deteriorated form. The current state of affair is so pathetic — sometimes makes one feel spirituality is worthless. At the same time, developing deeper connection with spirituality is very critical in order to achieve harmony within. Especially in the current materialistic environment, human beings have become more cynical, thereby closing all doors of self realization. In the current setup spirituality needs to be approached from a western, critical perspective where it can be learnt by applying logic. The book ‘A search in secret India’ is one such spiritual account written by a westerner with an analytical approach. For present day Indians it provides a simple, logical but very insightful journey into spirituality.

The book starts with the author Paul Brunton, a British embarks on a journey to India in 1930s. His interest was kindled by his Indian friend living in England, who provides him certain insights into simple living by embracing spirituality as a way of life. Upon driven by this spiritual quest he reaches Mumbai. This book covers his experiences and memoirs about India and his search for spiritual Guru. Even though this book comes under non-fiction category, Brunton’s story telling style might make certain chapters boring. After landing in Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay), he first meets an magician from Egypt near the lodge he was put-up. The magician plays certain tricks thereby demonstrating his ability to make certain things vanish and come back again. This leaves Brunton with some amusement but he was not able to understand or feel anything spiritual about it.

Followed by Mumbai he continues to travel towards South. On his way he meets many holy men, some genuine and some are fake. He also sees people who can perform actions that can’t be explained by physics, like turning a seed into a plant in a minute and people who are not affected by poison. Of the former he discovers to be a mere magical trick while the later remains unexplained, attributed to Yogic power. In Adayar, Chennai (erstwhile Madras state) he meets up with a young yogi, who was able to provide certain analytical perspective of Yoga. The ‘anchorite of the Adayar river’, what Brunton calls this young Yogi performs certain breathing practices, thereby he could demonstrate Brunton the ability to control heart beat, bring down the pulse, remain in solace for hours together. Then he goes on explaining the inner workings of Yoga, which starts from understanding inner meaning of breath. According to this Yogi, the life of human beings is not controlled by the years they live but the number of breaths one takes. Upon learning certain breathing techniques, explained in ancient Yogic texts, one can reduce the number of breaths compared with time, thereby increasing lifespan. Many of the mystic Yogis living in Himalayas are able to master this technique and live for many hundred years. The Yogi goes on saying that how important it is for human beings to repose and take control of their breath.

There is been quite some amount of research happening about certain species living in extremely cold continents like Antarctica and how they are able survive and live longer. The study showed that the fishes in Antarctica activate a seasonal switch in ecological strategy – going from one that maximizes feeding and growth in summer to another that minimizes the energetic cost of living during the long, Antarctic winter. The research demonstrates that at least some fish species can enter a dormant state, similar to hibernation that is not temperature driven and presumably provides seasonal energetic benefits. Scientists already know that Antarctic fish have very low metabolic rates and blood ‘antifreeze’ proteins that allow them to live in near-freezing waters. This study demonstrates that Antarctic fish – which already live in the ‘slow lane’ with extremely low rates of growth, metabolism and swimming activity – can in fact further depress these metabolic processes in winter. The Yogic methods place human beings into a similar hibernation state by controlling their breath.

With the help of Adayar yogi, Brunton comes across another sage near Chennai who never speaks. By locking himself into a small room the sage remains in ‘Samadhi’ (the ultimate state where a human being in completely connected with the bigger universe outside) for days together with hardly eating anything. His eyes remain frozen for hours together without even blinking, which leave Brunton with strange experience. After waiting for hours together, the sage comes to normal stage and communicates with others by writing. Followed by Chennai, Brunton travel further south and gets an opportunity to meet the spiritual guru Shankaracharya. Based on his instruction, he further goes to Thiruvannamalai, where he meets Ramana Maharishi. Initially the Maharishi hardly gives him an opportunity to meet and never talks. After many attempts he was able to interact with him. The Maharishi urges him to start connecting with the spiritual plane by asking the question “Who am I?” to himself. This leaves Brunton with surprise, happiness and fulfillment. In the later chapters he explains about some other magicians and prophets he had met in Southern India.

This book is a very good read for anybody, who wants to start understanding India in a deeper sense. It also helps the reader to start thinking about spirituality in a step by step manner.