Connectivity with ‘Universal’ way

The Consumer Electronic (CE) market is in a revolutionary phase now. Because of the changing needs of consumers, organizations are forced to come up with new set of products in a very short span of time with more features and less price. Broadly the CE devices are used for Communication (Mobile phones), Storing personal information (PDA) and for Entertainment (Digital cameras, music players). At one end CE devices are marching towards ‘Convergence’ phenomenon, where the above said three elements are integrated into a single device (Say iPAQ) and on another end devices are marching towards ‘Divergence’ phenomenon, where each CE device is produced with a unique purpose in mind. For example latest Sony T5 cameras are having very high resolutions (5 Mega pixels) which are aimed at pro-sumers or photo-enthusiasts. This Convergence and Divergence (C & D) has created huge variety of devices which is making the consumer confused. Irrespective of the type providing connectivity to the Personal Computer (PC) or Internet has become the necessary requirement for all these devices. After working in the consumer connectivity domain for about five years now I am able to see the ‘Universal Serial Bus’ (USB) is emerging as a technology which is addressing the need for connectivity and truly living up to its name ‘Universal’. The reminder of this write-up will compare USB with other technologies and talk about some of the limitations of USB as well.

The Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a serial data transfer technology which can transfer data up to 480 Mbps. Apart from the data transfer rate that USB is very ideal for CE devices because they support the ‘Plug-and-Play’ functionality which is the true differentiator. Because of this PnP functionality there is no need for the consumer to install any additional device drivers for communication. By design USB is a ‘Bus Powered’ and external devices can draw current up to 500 mA. Because of this feature CE devices can be charged using the USB cable itself without any additional power supplies. For example Apple’s iPOD can be charged by connecting it to the PC. Added to that USB is more ‘Compact’ for CE devices. Invention of mini-A, mini-B USB interfaces have become ideal for digital cameras.

The USB technology can be compared with Bluetooth (BT) and intra-red (IR) technologies. But BT and IR operate in the ‘wireless’ whereas USB is in the ‘wired’ technology. Even though BT and IR became popular because of the wireless nature they lack the speed and the security that USB is providing. As mentioned above USB can transfer data up to 480 Mbps whereas BT can transfer only up to 1 Mbps and their signals are highly susceptible. In order to bridge this ‘wireless’ gap the Wireless-USB (WUSB) is being introduced which I am sure will be a ‘killer’ technology. This has advantages of USB and other wireless technologies like BT and IR.

Having said that, the USB has its own disadvantages. One of the main problems is ‘Interoperability’. There are roughly about 2 billion CE devices and making them work with each other is a huge challenge. Even though USB forum imposes strict certification tests in order to have the official logos on it, lot of vendors are selling their USB devices without getting certified by the USB forum. These devices are cheap in nature but may introduce serious interoperability issues in the future. From a consumer standpoint it is always better to buy certified USB devices.

With more and more CE devices are introduced on to the market and changing consumer needs are making the competition for ‘Connectivity’ more intensive. But at present USB is truly living up to its name and all set to face the competition with WUSB.

Real estate: Where it is heading?

In the past 18 months alone Indian real estate market has witnessed unprecedented growth. Especially in metros residential property prices has soared as much 70% and in some cases 100% according to Outlook magazine. For a common man living in metros ‘Apna ghar’ is becoming a day-dream because of atrocious pricing. Apart from that home loan interest rate is heading north because of increase in global interest rates. Major Banks like HDFC, ICICI have announced another 50 basis points increase in the home loans. Where all this is heading to? Is the real estate industry in India is in ‘Bubble’ stage which will burst soon? After thinking in this direction I came out with the following observations. Please read on.

Compared to other investment vehicles (Stocks, Bonds, Mutual-funds) real estate is different because ‘home’ is more to do with individual’s emotions. For evaluating this vehicle we need to look the ‘Macro’ (Top-down) as well as ‘Micro’ (Bottom-up) economic factors. Coming to Macro economic point of view the real-estate sector is looking ‘bullish’ at least in the 3-5 years point of view because of the following reasons:

1. From 2005 government of India has allowed 100% entry to Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) which was not the case some years ago. Since India’s economic story is fully yet to be explored FIIs are flocking into this sector with huge amount of investments. According to PWC report on real estate Indian real estate is going to get 7 Billion USD investments in the coming 18-30 months. Recent real-estate meltdown in counties like Singapore is making India as a better place to invest.

2. Apart from that Asset Management Companies (AMCs) and Mutual-fund houses are launching ‘Real estate sector funds’ and lot of these funds are in IPO stage now. These AMCs will now look for investments which is pushing the need for real-estate.

3. The raising numbers in knowledge workers (IT Engineers, ITES and BPO employees) and their huge raise in ‘disposable income’ are fuelling the growth even further. According to Times of India Bangalore edition the average age of a person opting for apartments is 26, which is really mind-blowing.

While the above mentioned macro economic factors are looking really positive the ‘Micro’ factors are really concerning me. Compared to the equity market the real estate market in India is not regulated at all. There is absolutely no system in place which is controlling the prices and prices are always going ‘Up-up-and-up’ for the past three years. Residential layouts are developed without proper approvals and apartments developed without following the government rules. The ‘Mad-rush’ of knowledge workers is making the ‘Ever-greedy’ property developers become millionaires overnight. Instead of using this boom to develop country’s infrastructure (People who traveled abroad can very well say where we stand in-terms of infrastructure) this is becoming more an ‘under-table’ dirty political stuff. Unfortunately countries like ours we need to swallow this bitter pill and see what we need to do and make smart decisions.

The western world also witnessed the similar situation during 1990s. Because of the ‘Dotcom-bubble’ property prices in Silicon valley Bay area went up like anything. I remember reading a Wall-Street-Journal (WSJ) article on this but unfortunately not able to get the link for the same. Even after the bubble even today Silicon Valley continues to be one of the costliest areas in-terms of real estate prices. What we can get for $400K in pacific north-west part of the US will cost couple of million dollars in Silicon Valley. Even though there is a huge difference between India and US in-terms of real estate the pattern of behavior is same. So even if the so called ‘Real-estate-crash’ happens places like Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad are bound to be costly. Unlike the equity market, the crash in real estate means prices will stabilize of come down by 5% but not more than that.

At the point of time the alternative option in India is to move to Tier-II cities like Mangalore, Mysore, Coimbatore, Ahmadabad, Cochin and Pune. These cities are not completely affected by the ‘Real-estate-virus’ and still we can get a good deal. I am following this Tier-II market for the past 6 months and it is showing a good potential. Even IT companies are planning their next level of expansion in these cities.

Technology, Society and Business

There are numerous definitions for the word ‘Leadership’. One of the definitions says ‘The ultimate test of practical leadership is the realization of intended, real change that meets people’s enduring needs’ and my mind cannot think of a better person than Sam Pitroda who is the best example I can ever think of practical leadership. The man who demonstrated for the first time to Indians what technology means and how it can change the whole society. His leadership brought ‘Technology-Business-Society’ together and being a tech-industry professional I have only one word for this person: ‘Hats-off’

For people don’t know who Sam Pitroda is, look into the nearby STD booth in any small ‘Ghalli’ in India. He is the man behind ‘conceptualizing’ the STD booth based business model and made it possible in India’s ‘Ever-challenging’ environment using technology. He founded Center for Development of Telematics (C-DAC) in 1984. He along with his colleagues ‘invented’ the telephone time measurement and billing machine which we can now see every ‘Ghalli’ of India. This is ‘low-cost-high-robust’ machine, produced in large volumes and operates well in adverse climatic conditions of India. Also he did all these things when Indian economy was closed and there is no support from any foreign entity for this simply because of the tight trade regulatory environment.

Today ‘Roti, Makhan aur Mobile’ is the latest buzzword in India. Wherever we go we can see people using mobile phones, landlines and Broadband Internet connections. For most of the telecom companies in the world India is the hottest market and investment is pouring in from all directions. Ranging from Singtel (Which holds 31% stake in Bharthi telecom) to Verizon I can see every global player in this field now. Apart from service providers handset manufacturing firms like Nokia are setting up manufacturing facilities in India. According to the latest statistics India has 49 million fixed telephone line users and 76 million mobile phone users, which is 12.5% of total population. This also shows that there is remaining 87.5% of population who don’t have telephone connections and opens up a huge opportunity for telecom companies. India is one of the very few countries in the world where incoming mobile calls are free. Apart from this the ‘Connecting’ India, telecom industry is acting as the backbone of IT industry. Without this strong telephony infrastructure off-shoring an out-sourcing would not have been made possible.

No one can deny the fact that Sam sowed seeds two decades back because of which India is benefiting today. He stands out as an example for vision, demonstration of leadership, enabling less privileged people using technology, building business and generating employment in India and of course acting as a inspiration for lakhs and lakhs for young Indians like me.

Electronic window dressing: Impression management with websites

The World Wide Web (WWW) has become a commonly used and one of the most effective mediums for businesses. One of the major steps towards e-enabling businesses is to have websites hosted in a public domain. These websites should use the latest technologies and create and maintain a good impression among prospective customers, partners and employees. Lot of tools, technologies and off-the-shelf packages are available for website building. Businesses should leverage these technologies and use them effectively in order to build an impression. This write-up covers the technology perspective of building websites and what are the general contents that can be hosted in the website so that it creates and maintains a good impression among its prospective customers, partners and employees.

When any person visits website of a particular firm, he/she goes through the contents in the websites by browsing thorough the links. After going through some of the links the user gets a collective experience, which in turn translates, into the impression. Websites should host contents that are useful for its various stakeholders in an easily accessible, experience rich. It should project what exactly the organization as a whole stands for and how doing business with the firm will end up in a win-win situation for both the firm and the customer. Following are some of the important areas which the website should contain:

  1. Core value system: The website should contain and clearly explain the core value system. This basically answers why should anybody need to do business with the firm compared to other similar firms.
  1. Simple interfaces: The interface should be very simple when somebody tries to access the website. For example Mindtree consulting (http://www.mindtree.com/) is one of the well-designed interfaces whereas Brian consultants (http://www.brainconsultants.com/) is one of the bad interfaces. All the successful businesses in the world have a very simple interface to their websites. Example: eBay, Google
  1. Knowledge management and knowledge sharing: In this knowledge era, the knowledge needs to be constantly managed and shared. The firm’s website should contain some of the knowledge that it has got over the years and should be readily in a form to read. This gives the user that the firm is interested in sharing the knowledge.
  1. Creating a “sticky” feeling: The website should create a stickiness among the users. It should make the users to visit the site and often read about the contents in the site. The user might have got to know about the firm recently and might not be in a position to do business at this point of time. But by creating a sticky feeling makes the user to come to the firm for a specific product or service after a long time. This stickiness can be created among the user by asking the user for feedback after the website visit and create a newsletter and e-mailed to the user promptly.
  1. Social responsibilities: It is important for the firms to become a good “Corporate citizens”. By taking up some of the social responsibilities it creates a general “feel-good” factor among normal people, which will in turn result in impression building and new business opportunities. The website should highlight what are the social or charity work that the organization is involved and how it is transforming people’s life by being a firm. Example Infosys foundation (http://www.infosys.com/infosys_foundation/index.htm)
  1. Eagerness to listen to customers: The website should contain details by which it can demonstrate that it is eagerly inclined towards listening to customers. Having the past customer testimonials help the new or prospective customers to know more about the company.
Shortcomings:
  • Bad interface design
  • Some of the links not working
  • Un-availability of important information
  • Outdated information about the firm
  • Cluttering the website with too much information that the user gets confused

BOOK REVIEW: Yoga and Pranayama for health

Author: Dr. P. D. Sharma
Price: INR 35

This is a simple book for learning Yoga and Pranayama. Yoga and Pranayama are very ancient but powerful techniques which were invented in India. The ‘Yogis’ who were living in the Himalayas are the originators of these techniques and it came across multiple generations. Today Yoga and Pranayama techniques are scientifically proved that they cure all diseases in a ‘Natural way’. Apart from curing the diseases it also prevents body from getting new diseases. By following these techniques it is believed that ancient Yogis lived for hundreds of years.

According to ‘Pathanjali Yoga Sutra’, yoga consists of eight-stages (Yama, Niyama, Asana, Prayanama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi).For normal human beings (like me) practicing various asanas would the best thing to follow. Performing asanas helps an individual to bring ‘Mind’ ‘Body’ and ‘Soul’ into control which is the unique advantage. Various techniques like Aerobics, Gym exercises focus only the ‘Body’ aspect.

Pranayama is all to do with breathing. Following various Pranayama techniques (Brasthika, Kabhalabathi, Naadi-shodhan, Brahmari) after performing asanas is proved to give profound benefits in human being’s life. These techniques can be followed by any age group but the important point is it needs to be practiced regularly to get its full benefits. In this book various asanas and pranayama techniques are given with diagrams and the diseases they cure. I have also heard about very aggressive yoga techniques by BSK Iyengar and Shivanandha Yoga which I am yet to explore. But to start with I found this book is very helpful.

Customer experience: Way beyond customer satisfaction


Apple computers announced their second quarter results on April 19, 2006. During this Q2 Apple’s revenue grew 34% YoY and 41% increase in earnings. The interesting point is Apple has sold 85,2600o iPods in Q2 alone. My mind started thinking ‘How on earth any company can sell so many music players in a single quarter given the fact that iPods are costlier than other digital music players? What makes iPod so unique?’ Now cut to Bangalore, India and walk into MTR restaurant near Lal Bagh. Every customer need to stand in a huge queue or book an appointment to get into the restaurant because it is very crowded. Most people who walk into MTR order for ‘Rava Idli’ (A spicy south-Indian breakfast item).But the same Rava Idli is available in every other restaurant in Bangalore with cheaper price and similar quality. Now my mind is again thinking ‘Why on earth people stand in queue and eat the MTR Rava Idli and ready to pay more?’

Even though examples given above belongs to totally two different industries and happening at two opposite corners of the world there are two startling similarities. First the traditional ‘Low-cost-high-quality’ mantra for products and services is changing. Second customers are willing to pay more as long as the product or service offered is providing them a ‘Unique experience’. The iPod and the MTR Rava Idli are able to provide this unique ‘Customer experience’ because of which they are able to constantly attract and retain their customers.

This word ‘Customer experience’ is similar to the ‘Peak experience’ term coined by American psychologist and philosopher Abraham H. Maslow (1908-1970). This term is used to describe nonreligious quasi-mystical and mystical experiences. Peak experiences are sudden feelings of intense happiness and well-being. Accompanying these experiences is a heightened sense of control over the body and emotions, and a wider sense of awareness, as though one was standing upon a mountaintop. Put in simple terms any product or service that is offered by corporations should get under the ‘Skin-of-the-customer’. This is making corporations to constantly re-invent themselves for providing the best of customer experience. Now that the plane of competition is changed, the future looks even more interesting 🙂

BOOK REVIEW: Guide to Investing

Title : Guide to Investing
Author: Robert Kiosaki
ISBN: 0446677469

This book is written by ‘Rich dad poor dad’ famous author Robert Kiosaki. This is the third book in the series and mainly talks various aspects of Investing. Robert has his highly educated dad whom he calls as ‘Poor dad’. He calls him poor because all he did was worked for somebody and remained poor during his retirement time. Robert’s calls his friend’s dad as ‘Rich dad’ because rich dad built a huge amount of wealth by building businesses.

In the year 1974 Robert takes comes out of his marine-cop job in Vietnam and starts learning his investment lessons from his ‘Rich dad’. The book consists of three parts. The first part Robert discusses about four major elements of personal finance. They are ‘Income’, ‘Expenditure’, ‘Assets’ and ‘Liabilities’. He explains how rich people make their ‘Assets’ generate the ‘Income’ and how poor people spend their lifetime by paying up for the liabilities. In the second part Robert explains his ‘Cash-Flow-Quadrants’ in which he classifies people into Employees (E), Small Business Owners (S), Business Owners (B) and Investors (I). He clearly shows how people take the E path and remain poor and how his rich dad took the B path and built wealth. He also talks about personal financial statements, tax and other legal aspects.

In the third and most interesting part Robert talks about ‘Entrepreneurship’. He explains various aspects of building businesses. This section is excellent and inspired me a lot. Finally Robert concludes with stressing the importance of ‘Ultimate Investor’ where an individual builds a business and takes it into public. The first two parts are kind of repetitive and Robert tries to talk the same thing again and again. But I somehow feel in order to understand the ‘Financial-literacy’ this book is a must read mainly because it is simple at the same time makes the reader think a lot.

Caching in Google search

Very recently came across a scenario while searching in the web and got to know about the real usage ‘Caching’ facility that is provided by Google. While searching the web I found the information I was looking for and clicked the link. But the contents in the page were moved and the page was having something other than what Google search page showed in its initial page. So it means that the contents of the web page are moved. I now tried the ‘Cached’ button in Google and got contents which I was actually looking for.

In computing ‘Cache’ memory comes under the dynamic memory similar to Random-Access-Memory (RAM) and stores the ‘frequently’ accessed contents since the contents are frequently accessed the processor picks the contents from Cache instead of RAM. This increases the processing speed. Storing the contents in the Cache depends on various fundas like spatial, temporal characteristics. Also this Cache gets refreshed periodically.

In normal PCs the ‘Cache size’ is in the order of Kilo Bytes (KBs). With the kind of scale Google is operating, I am just wondering what would be the size of the Cache. I am sure it will be really huge size and maintaining that much huge cache is a really a very difficult task. I wonder how Google does that.

In the mean time can anyone help me to get the ‘Cache’ size of Google?

BOOK REVIEW : Success vs Joy

Title : Success Vs Joy
Author : Geet Sethi
Price : INR 95
This book is written by Geet Sethi the famous billiards player. This book is based on his thoughts and discussions with his friend Sunil Agarwal. Sethi started playing billiards when he was 13 year old and found playing billiards gave him extreme amount of ‘Joy’ than anything else. Till date he is playing the game and achieved great things in billiards. Sunil on the other hand was also interested in billiards but took a different path because of society compulsion and finished his MBA from IIM-Ahmadabad. He is a big leader in the corporate world now. He has achieved what the society calls as ‘Success’ but he is not having the ‘Joy’ feeling what Sethi felt by playing billiards. This leads to the main theme of the book: Which is important ‘Success’ or ‘Joy’?

According to Sethi ‘Success’ is doing things for other’s (Say society) sake whereas ‘Joy’ is doing things that individual’s inner self feels or in other words what an individual is passionate about. Throughout the book Sethi stresses upon following the activity which gives extreme amount of ‘Joy’ rather then doing something for what others perceive as ‘Success’. Most of us think that we need to be feel ‘Successful’ and they the ‘Joy’ part will follow and keep doing things which is not close to our hears in order to achieve ‘Success’ and never be happy in life. According to Sethi the reverse it true. By following the activity which is close to individual’s heart (In Sethi’s case its billiards) and doing it with extreme amount of ‘Joy’ the ‘Success’ will follow. He gives various examples from the sports world and explains this concept. The excellent point about this book is its very simple and easy to understand at the same time conveys an important message.

After reading multiple books on inspiration related topics I would rate this is one among the top. To read more book reviews please CLICK HERE.

Listen to PDF files :)

Kickstarting my ‘technical’ area of my blog with this.Got this information from one of my ex-collegues. Adobe Acrobat reader (Version 6.0 or later) supports ‘reading’ functionality.The key combinations is given below.I tried it and its really good.The voice quality is not that good but worth giving a shot.

Ctrl+shift+b : To hear the entire Document
Ctrl+shift+v : To hear the page
Ctrl+shift+c : To resume
Ctrl+shift+e : To stop